Or do you live within your truth?

Chris Hedges recently wrote an article for TruthDig called Occupy Draws Strength from the Powerless.

In it, he quotes Vaclav Havel, the first president of the Czech Republic, a revolution that took only 10 days. And he posits an astonishing theory. That you need to embrace your powerlessness.

That’s right.

Embrace your powerlessness.

This permits us, as Havel puts it in his 1978 essay “The Power of the Powerless,” to live in truth. And by living in truth we expose a corrupt corporate state that perpetrates lies and lives in deceit.

Havel, who would later become the first president of the Czech Republic, in the essay writes a reflection on the mind of a greengrocer who, as instructed, puts up a poster “among the onions and carrots” that reads: “Workers of the World Unite!” The poster is displayed partly out of habit, partly because everyone else does it, and partly out of fear of the consequences for not following the rules. The greengrocer would not, Havel writes, display a poster saying: “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient.” And here is the difference between the terror of a Josef Stalin or an Adolf Hitler and the collective charade between the rulers and the ruled that by the 1970s had gripped Czechoslovakia.

“Imagine,” Havel writes, “that one day something in our greengrocer snaps and he stops putting up the slogans merely to ingratiate himself. He stops voting in elections he knows are a farce. He begins to say what he really thinks at political meetings. And he even finds the strength in himself to express solidarity with those whom his conscience commands him to support. In this revolt the greengrocer steps out of living within the lie. He rejects the ritual and breaks the rules of the game. He discovers once more his suppressed identity and dignity. He gives his freedom a concrete significance. His revolt is an attempt to live within the truth.”

This attempt to “live within the truth” brings with it ostracism and retribution. Punishment is imposed in bankrupt systems because of the necessity for compliance, not out of any real conviction. And the real crime committed is not the crime of speaking out or defying the rules, but the crime of exposing the charade.

Are you living within the truth?

Are you able to speak up for what you know is right?

A reader writes:

“What I think is missing in the dialogue about nonprofits is the role of the wealthiest people in directing their money as they please to support functions that the government covers in many other societies.  Is this fair?  Shouldn’t they just pay taxes and let us all decide what gets funded, democratically?  Are we really doing good by building the power of the rich to decide the fate of our country?”

Another reader says, here’s what is not being addressed in our sector:

“The utter sheer blind universal LACK of strong ED’s and CEO’s in the nonprofit realm.  Many come from for-profit to non-profit and think the same skills that earned revenue will translate into a non-profit frame and I don’t think they typically do…further, this for-profit mentality often comes with a “competitive” attitude b/c that is how one climbs the corporate ladder.  Frankly that puts EDs and Development Directors often at odds (we need collaboration and the egos to be checked at the door) and that leads to a lot of turnover. More today than ever.  Considering (in my opinion) it really takes about  2 years to make significant lasting sustainable increases to the bottom line as a DOD – it is no wonder that we experience the donor attrition rates we are seeing and the general disillusionment of being a DOD for yet another boss who “doesn’t get it and thinks it is all about them.” 

Live within your truth.

What does that look like? How can you speak out against the corruption or unhappiness that you see? What can you do, right now, to embrace your powerlessness and speak your truth?

How can you start to help other people around you speak the truth as well?

Where do you start?

Start with these blog posts about Rankism.
Rankism helps keep people down in our society, and in our nonprofits.
There is no excuse for it, and we all exhibit it to some degree. So fight back by making it a topic of conversation.

About rankism: 18 Ways to Demand Dignity at Work
About Rankism: Change your language, Change your Life

Identifying Rankists at Work

What about speaking out in your next nonprofit staff meeting about the injustices that you see?
What would you like to see changed?

If you don’t feel strong enough to speak out in public, create and circulate an anonymous survey to everyone who works at the nonprofit, to try and help people there speak up for themselves, even anonymously.

You can be a stronger voice for justice for nonprofit workers. For your own truth.

Respect your truth and speak it.