Funny, growing up in a home where my mom worked as a housekeeper to a wealthy family never made me feel I was part of a separate class at all, neither did going to a private high school where 90% of the students in my grade could actually afford to live in Manhattan while all along I commuted from Queens daily. So why suddenly now, working as a teacher in a affluent community do I feel the affects of class and experience powerlessness?
Recently, I read an amazing, life-changing piece in New York Magazine, called Paper Tigers written by a young man named, Wesley Yang. The 10+ pages in this article made me allowed me to experience his life being unilaterally discounted by the people in power due to the fact that he was born to Korean parents. As a teacher in America and more specifically, as a teacher living in an affluent part of DC, I have been subjected to a certain level of powerlessness perpetuated by people who perceive themselves to be in control.
Instead of coming up with the general and obvious questions about class, such as why or how, I want to address how does one begin work alongside these divergent realities that essentially have a very powerful discounting or canceling affect on your own reality? How do you maintain a sense of balance when faced with complete and utter powerlessness? As someone who follows Buddhist philosophy, fighting back with the same type of energy just seems futile.
The solution that rises in me tells me that the power is not and will never truly be in the hands of the powerful; that it just appears that way. Another answer that floats up from within me tells me that no matter what happens, you still own your own power. That it's what you do with the sense of powerlessness that defines whether you have lost it or not. In other words, the feeling of powerlessness only happens when you actually give into the pressures of being placed in powerless situations. Therefore, by simply redefining our situation to ourselves we begin to free ourselves from the feeling of powerlessness.
Wesley Yang perfectly summed up the very solution I'm about to offer:
"There is something salutary in that proud defiance. ....we will need more people with this kind of defiance, willing to push themselves into the spotlight and to make some noise, to make mistakes, to become entrepreneurs, to stop doggedly pursuing official paper emblems attesting to their worthiness, to stop thinking those scraps of paper will secure anyone’s happiness, and to dare to be interesting."
Like Yang, the powerless could simply choose to continue on their predetermined path, strengthened by their own inner priorities and intentions, and being overtly unperturbed by the bold attempts of others to dispossess them from their voices. People who abuse their power usually have huge issues with differing opinions of any kind as well as differing realities that threaten their highly guarded structure. When people boldly guard their realities with such intense energy I immediately know they have an ego problem. In the Buddhist world, a person with an 'ego' problem is suffering. This person desperately needs a certain reality to be perpetuated in order for them to function and feel happy. Unfortunately, anyone with an ego problem cannot entirely be trusted, for their top priority is and will always be fiercely protecting their reality and nothing else. That being said, set your own sail, plan your own agenda, define your own world. FULLY accept that there will always be people who cannot live without being in control for no other reason than to just be in control. But also be assured that they are the ones suffering and that you can always choose to simply ignore their loud claims and carry on your own merry path if so you choose.