No, this post is to not bash either patriarchy or clannish culture. I have not posted for quite a while and have been busy with my consulting work with organisations. As I was looking back at some of the experiences in the past, I was struck by certain themes that seem to be repeated in many organisations, in groups of people and in our daily lives.
theme number one is “Hierarchy” – Socialism or communism or many other isms may be spreading the word of classless system or society, the concept of hierarchy is exceptionally strong in people’s mind. Many people and organisations that I come across, do dislike the idea of hierarchy when they look at the concept on paper , at least they consider it to be less desirable over other qualities. However, in their own behaviour with their own people or even among themselves, the idea of hierarchy remains very strong and it is all pervasive. It is present in the way they control information, they way they compete with each other, the way they would seek or demand services of who they believe are service providers, etc … and the list is endless.
Hierarchy does provide us with a sense of structure and consequently the safety and security of a given structure. It also binds our freedom, movement and choice making as per the norms of the structure.
What I have been finding interesting is how people perceive hierarchy from an outside in location where most find it less desirable, and how most people are almost blind to it when it resides in their own psyche. It seems as though the safety and security of the hierarchy are internalised but the rigidity and the oppression are externalised or projected out. This way, others can always be blamed for holding us captive while we do not have to take responsibility of our own captivity simultaneously.
The second theme seems to be “benevolence”: this in a way is a by product of hierarchy – benevolence can be shown in many ways. In most work systems, some of the ways benevolence is shown are by being socially polite to people, by being supportive in times of crisis, by offering facilities and social stature and by providing a patient hearing to people’s complaints and grievances. Often, in many organisations and system I have experienced, these are held with high degree of positivity and pride and so they should be as these are well intended gestures and intentions. However, in many organisations and in many groups, there runs a subterranean culture which often demands in return of those above, absolute obedience and silent acceptance of lack of justice. Often people in this culture are treated like “less than” but they will rarely be dignified by stating that up front. Resultantly, people will sense the indignity but since the above ground culture is strongly protective and benevolent, they will feel confused and will have self doubt or would blame themselves for not being good enough for the system; because they believe a benevolent system can not be unjust. Hence the culture of “not being good enough” can be a strong stick to beat people with in a benevolent culture while “we will be there for you in crisis” or “we are like one big happy family” will be the carrot to keep people within the fold.
I am watching some of these processes with avid fascination as these keep people in a stronghold and consequently finding an identity for the self as also for the group becomes synonymous with betraying the system, be it family, be it work organisation and be it relationships. Finding an identity would mean that one has to simultaneously look at the self, its own need, potency, desires, sense of respect for self and at the same time has to take into account the systemic need for compliance, conformity, collaboration and respect for systemic authority. It therefore is not very easy to straddle both the horses and often many people, groups or organisations find it easier to ride one rather than holding the tensions of the opposites alive.
what are your views on hierarchy, benevolence, etc? what other processes do you see in your respective systems? I would love to hear your stories and insights.