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Qualities That Keep You in a Sick System

The attention the sick systems post is getting is, ah, rather overwhelming. I'm so, so happy that y'all have found it useful in what clarifying what happened to you. I'm sad and astonished that so many people had the same experiences. When I wrote it I was thinking of a few extreme situations I've found myself in or watched friends flounder through, so I considered sick systems rare and deeply pathological. What y'all are saying, both here and in conversations around the net, is that almost everyone has gotten stuck in a sick system at some point in their lives, and that they're an inground part of life in some slices of the world.

Something is wrong.

This is where I'm supposed to follow up with What to Do to Fix the World, but the answer is: nothing. You can't fix a sick system from within unless you have power, and you can't fix a sick system from outside, period. You can't compel people to leave. You can convince them to leave, but the moment that convinces them is individual, like enlightenment striking a monk because his master made a joke about a spade. And when a stuck person chooses to leave, it will be long, long, long after they should have gotten out.

So instead I offer you a list:

Qualities That Keep You in a Sick System

A strong work ethic
A need to be useful to others

You don't need to lose these qualities to get out. But if you're stuck and trying to figure out what's keeping you in, remember that people rarely get stuck because of their vices. They're usually caught by their virtues.


Jun. 19th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
Reading this after the hefty dose of school reform research I've been reading for the past year makes me think that the entire US public education system is a sick system. Sadly, the government policies (NCLB, charter schools, etc.) that are being pushed as cures will just make the system sicker for many, many people...
Jun. 22nd, 2010 09:57 pm (UTC)
I don't know the background of the problem, but I can see how it's an easy setup. The core problem is untouchable: There's no way to legislate people into valuing education, and successful cultural approaches are small-scale by nature. Governments can't stand small-scale approaches. MUST FIX EVERYTHING AT ONCE RIGHT NOW! So they respond by tightening screws, on the theory that if hard work brings success and you can force people to work hard, then you can force them to be successful. Awesome. So you add massive stress to the system. If you can make everyone fear for their jobs, even better. Throw in some zero tolerance policies so you can force people to forfeit their judgement and violate their own consciences--and make sure the policies also have some good results so that people feel guilty about trying to bypass them. Add the low pay, burnout, and red tape of any low-level government job, shake well, et voila! Statewide sick system.

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