It was meant to be something that was liberating.
But over time, it just felt like you were being dragged down. Bogged down by one thing and then the other. They told you that you had to wear this. Then they told you that you had to be careful what you said. Then they they let you know that this was how you were to behave in this setting.
You were firmly told that you should probably keep your views to yourself. It was suggested that you remind yourself of the unwritten conventions that kept things going long before you came and would be the case long after you left. You were informed not so subtly that you should know your role and let those who had been in the system longer than you ‘teach’ you.
Eventually they tamed you. Eventually those ‘rough edges’ were ‘smoothed’ which just meant that you learnt to keep your mouth shut. Eventually they didn’t have to come talk to you about values and behaviours. You impressed them so much with how you understood what was what that new folks who joined were passed to you so you could go about the same ‘taming’ process that you had been put through. You were sage. You would not upset the apple cart. You would not rock the boat. You knew what it was to abide by the system. They smiled when they saw you – you complied, you conformed – you were a success story.
It helped that a lot of it was surface stuff. They were skilled at deflecting, dissuading and distracting from those nudges, urges and prompts that suggested that the status quo was not liberating at all. It was stifling. It was suffocating.
This was not the freedom you were told about. This was not the freedom you read about. This was not the freedom that was initially presented. Indeed, this was not the freedom you had experienced in your quiet moments on your own at the start. This was not the freedom you saw glimpses of in little pockets and corners that were neglected.
Yet who were you to question what was the norm? Who were you to suggest that the way things were going was going against the core values? Who were you to point out that the very person behind the entire structure pointed to a way of life very different to the one being practiced as the conventional? Who were you to point these things out?
You saw what happened to those who had questioned, prodded and probed before. You saw how they were alienated, side-lined, made out to be trouble-makers and unruly rebels. The deal was the power brokers would not overtly criticise them. They knew that their defenders would do what was necessary to close ranks and reinforce their power base. Things would come to head and the rebels would see they were in the minority and would either have to shut up or get out.
You viewed all of that with great sadness and thought you could do without that whole hassle. It was just better to keep your head down and carry on the best way you could.
As the years passed, though, the gap became bigger between what you read and believed contrasted to what was practiced and advanced. The gap became too stark. The ambivalent approach was causing too much inner turmoil. You saw too many people forced into straitjackets of conformity that stymied them to tragic degrees. You saw too much light snuffed out in the bid to keep the status quo going.
The cry in your heart over this became overwhelming. You could not deal with the disparity any longer. You could not live with the inherent tension and blatant hypocrisy any more. You could not read about this life of liberty, this life of abundance, this life of joy, this life of peace, this life of grateful interdependence, this life of mutual edification, this life of hope and be faced with a lifestyle that only paid lip service to those eternal values and in reality choked any of that life from people.
Something had to give.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden