I’ve had a number of conversations lately about the re-energizing and supportive power of the social justice union work I’ve been fortunate to get involved in- even when it feels like the last thing I want to do is leave school to go all the way across town for another meeting.
I figured this power came from having a community other like-minded and inspiring people, who just by their presence help me to feel like my ideas and vision for education are worthwhile and worth fighting for.
But as I was reading one of my favorite folk philosophers this morning, I’m wondering if love isn’t really at the bottom of all this. Love is frequently associated with teaching (though it’s also too easy to forget), but personally I don’t usually connect it to unionism:
“The emotions that drain you are the emotions that come from fear; the emotions that give you more energy are those that come from love” (Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements Companion Book, 53).
If our everyday system is draining, then following Ruiz’s logic it’s because the system is based on fear. But fear of what? Fear of not having enough, that if you have something then that means I won’t? That I or the people I care about will lose out on what they deserve? There are more than enough examples from both education policy and everyday school life of fear, isolation, alienation.
In response to this system based on fear, it makes sense that unions have the power to re-energize us with love. This goes back to the original power of unions, of building a community that supports each other, of knowing that we are stronger and happier when we share our energy and resources and power. Even if the way this manifests itself is just by making it worth my time to go across town to that meeting.
Love also provides a useful lens for looking at current unions and union strategy: how often are our unions acting based on love, the kind of love that builds power and energizes us? Or have they also fallen into perpetuating a system based on fear- fear of losing our benefits, of ‘not rocking the boat’, of things getting even worse than they already are?
Not to say there’s not a legitimate need for concern. But in a [neoliberal] system based on fear and isolation, maybe more strategies based on love are what we need to push back against the status quo?