Thursday, October 22, 2009

The THIRD Shift

There is a great book called The Second Shift (by Arlie Hochschild) whose main point (now anyway) is common sense, at least to me on a personal level. In a nutshell, it says that when women entered the workforce, thus contributing economically to the family outside the home, they didn't really get a break with the housework--so they really had TWO shifts to work.

Well, I now contend that women sociologists work the THIRD shift--we also have our motherly instincts that make us worry about, well, pretty much the entire world of humanity. It takes a lot of energy to think on these levels! We learn some pretty depressing stuff that is highly unlikely to get "fixed" because of the force field of society and its structures that we have created. I spend lots of time worrying about lots of things. I mean, worrying IS my specialty, but now I worry on a larger level. For example, what are we going to do when we have literally used up the resources of the earth? How are those not born into advantaged lives really going to get ahead for themselves and their future generations? How do I live in such prosperity while so much of the world struggles just to eat or have clean water? Then my worries start turning to anger. Why are things so unfair? Why can't we change anything if we don't have power--economic power? Why in the hell do people vote against their own best interests as well as the betterment of others? I shouldn't even get started on these types of issues because I won't be able to stop--or sleep since it will get my mind running and it's getting late.

WHY am I doing this to myself?????

And then I remember...(Also quoted in a previous blog)

“…the evident genius of the human spirit lies in the hard fact of life that we, like our dogs... [are] limited in all the important ways… We cannot do all that our powerful minds trick us into thinking we can. In a word, this is the mystery of being human. Our finest nature is not our ability to think and do. It is that we do and think as we do in spite of the obstacles…On average, the better ones among us continue to think and do what they can with no assurance that solutions will be found.” --Charles Lemert, from preface of Thinking the Unthinkable

And, might I add from the same preface of Lemert's book, "To think about social things is to think through the shell of resistance that cuts of off from the hard truths of life."

So what does this have to do with anything? I want to be one of the better ones among us. I want to cut to the hard truths of life, so that maybe, just maybe, I can make things better for me and for my family--for my daughter and her generation, and generations to come. We are all human, but this is something I CAN do.

In a moment of frustration in class a few weeks ago, I asked my professor how he keeps from going crazy. He had a few thoughts...One was about an old saying he had heard that dated back centuries--I think it was a Jewish saying or something like that. Anyway, it said that as long as there were 35 (or maybe it was 36) truly good men, the world would keep going (or not self-destruct or something along those lines). Anyway, he said that he calculated for population growth and figures there needs to be a lot more than 30-something now and he has decided that he was going to be one of them. He also said he hopes that there may be a time when politicians and public officials will realize that they need to look deeper into social forces--a window in history that will allow for the knowledge thay sociology has gained to become mainstream. And he said that, if and when this time comes, he wants to be part of the contribution of the discipline that can help develop a language to convey some of our important findings to a larger group--and maybe make some qualitative improvement.

What great perspectives! I am stealing them for myself. (I hope he won't mind.) Maybe, right now, it seems like I am reading and writing about things that only others in academia (who clearly have no push or pull in "the system") will share. Maybe I am frustrated when I find something important--like how necessary certain things are for military families that the military ignores or how there are huge groups of children whose needs are ignored because of their parents' low socioeconomic status--and no one knows except others who are as helpless as I am in "the system." But, if there isn't someone doing this work, what will happen if and when that window opens? And, isn't it better to search for knowledge than to ignore it's out there?

So I am working on turning my worry into something more productive. It's a lot of work, but I am going to run with the assumption that it's worth it. I will use my energy in the third shift--and hope the overtime will in some way, some day reach far beyond this computer in a positive manner.

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