Convincing the chickens

The above video is from Peter Rollins where he talks about what change should be in the Christian church. Take the ten minutes to watch the video before you read what I have to say. It’s the perfect lead into I want to talk about; what does it look like to have real change?

The title for this post comes from Rollins’ example of the man who thought he was seed and was worried about the chickens not knowing he wasn’t seed. This social self, this part of us that exists in light of the cultural input we get, often gets the final word on our actions. I found his account of the “slagging off” of your boss as being the perfect example of how our society interacts with us. We are allowed these little pockets of resistance to form so that we can continue to feed the industrial machine that we are in. This hits incredibly home with me as I’ve been feeling particularly normalized with my job lately. I won’t say what it is, but it’s about as far from a former death metal playing, English major stereotype as you can imagine (though it is still technically a “not for profit” organization). It is, by all definitions, a “good job.” However, I can’t escape the feeling that I am simply putting my passion, my desire to not be sucked into the “American dream, ” on hold so I can make a few bucks. What hit me with Rollins’ statement is that I still find ways to convince myself that I am doing something that isn’t so conformist. “At least I’m not working for a Wall Street corporation,” “at least we do help people in some regard,” etc. This all underlies the fact that I am still a cog in the corporate, capitalist machine. It might not seem as greasy as other cogs, but it is still a cog nonetheless. These are my release valves that allow me to show up, on time, every single day. The ability to complain about the occasional unhappy person who walks through the doors is another release valve. I have yet to convince the chickens.

If I had really internalized this, I would not have taken this job. I might still be a cog in the American machine, but I would be at a more noticeable site of resistance. Likewise, I don’t think I’ve ever fully translated this notion into my life as a Christian. What would this look like, exactly? I’m not sure, but I can only imagine I’d be far more upset and motivated to change the structure as it is than I have been. Like most people, I am kind of attached to the structure. In fact, I think most days I’m pretty happy with it. The societal machine moves on, I play my part, and I am content enough with that. But I don’t think I should be. I’ve always felt moved by radical critiques of society at play and I think I need to tap into those again. I don’t know how this will look exactly, but I do know one thing; a mortgage doesn’t feel like it fits in that picture.

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2 thoughts on “Convincing the chickens

  1. Daniel, thanks for the video clip and your thoughtful response. I know what you mean exactly. (Ditto the uneasiness about barely resisting the American dream, ditto about the uneasiness about the “norm” of getting a mortgage–a friend I passed on the street this morning literally tried to talk me into buying a house instead of renting–and ditto on being a college English teacher with a theory-orientation.) Have you had any further thoughts, since making this post, about how one goes about being a “site of resistance”?

    1. Thanks for the response Jon! Honestly, I haven’t, if only because I let life distract me. Plus I went on vacation, which was an excuse to do as little as possible!

      That said, I think to be a “site of resistance” would require an acute awareness of the limitations of your own resistance. For instance, my choice to be an adjunct English instructor comes with an eschewing of the normative structure of a 9-5, M-F job, as the hours are inconsistent, the pay is substandard, and there is no guarantee of future employment. This would, on the surface, appear to be a resistant stance by most people, but I’m supporting the structure as a whole, by requiring money to have a roof over my head, food, etc. Still, the reason that I would do this is because, I believe, there to be more value in teaching others how to write/communicate effectively and become critical thinkers, than to clock in somewhere, make some cash, and clock out. So, to maintain some form of resistance there, I would have to realize that I might not be fully outside of the structure at large, but I am using my position to do something that rattles that structure a bit (if you by my reasoning about being an adjunct as resistant and not just crazy!).

      I don’t know if I’m totally happy with this response, but that’s what I could come up with after thinking on it. Thanks again for commenting!

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