WHAT HAVE I ACHIEVED IN A LIFETIME?
Hal Pepinsky, firstname.lastname@example.org, pepinsky.blogspot.com
November 15, 2010
That’s about as heavy a question as one faces on retirement. The fact that people in the critical crim div of asc are giving me an award for my own lifetime achievement gives me pause, and does me genuine honor. I think the best respect I can give them back is to send a message about how I view my own achievement. Pardon me if I wax a little philosophical. I have a span of nine hours today when I don’t have to speak to another human being. I am cloistered. I want to tell those who have given me this award what lifetime achievement happens to mean to me.
One lesson life has so far taught me is that what works for me today will change tomorrow. That is why, so long ago, I began my recovery from elite legal training by renouncing the premise that I could solve any social problem by engineering. My mentor Richard Quinney helped me turn my focus to the quality of my day-to-day interactions, of how they offered me and my daily relations a greater sense of security, trust and safety or not. I have come to forgive myself for having no solutions to human problems, no recipes for success. Instead, I have come to believe that my own social security is (miraculously?) enhanced by attending to the quality of my relations moment by moment. I call this a peacemaking attitude. My best evidence is that it has worked for me and for so many others I have known. As my Norwegian mentor Birgit Brock-Utne has written, I don’t want to increase anyone’s share of the pie; I think greater personal and social security turns out to rest on changing the power-over-others recipe of the social pie.
This morning I was listening to BBC Newshour, where they had a segment on what to do about cyber-bullying, announcing a UK-centered global internet march for getting to the heart of what causes the phenomenon, as though to make schoolchildren safer. The poster child of this demonstration had hanged himself at 15. All his family knew of his being other than a happy socially successful child came from threats they found on his computer of his being beaten up the next day at school or at home if he decided to stay there. The poignant thing to me is the media’s attempt to help this child’s surviving brother profile bullies. It would be standard in bullying cases to speculate that such a child would be gay. I’m thinking that a more likely hypothesis that this young guy had failed to pay for an illicit drug deal at school, and couldn’t bring himself to tell his family how successful he was in reality an illicit drug user. Who knows? Whatever was happening, the most salient feature of the story to me is that his surviving family managed to believe that he was a perfectly happy person until he hanged himself. I am reminded of the enormous pressure on parents and children to make sure that children make their parents and siblings look good.
How many times as now does Walt Kelley aka “Pogo’s” voice sound in my head. Once again, we have met the enemy and the enemy is US. How can we remove barriers that make us keep deeply shameful secrets from our nearest and dearest relations? That is the question I keep asking myself as with growing intensity, elite journalists like those in the BBC keep trying to push interviewees into identifying and classifying enemies to fight in order to solve our problems. It’s a tragedy.
Luckily for me, I chanced upon someone 37 years ago. As I have repeatedly told Jill, I decided to call that relationship the center of my human universe. Happily, no matter how many other things change, I am secure with her and our own immediate relations. I think that focus on how to build trustworthy relations in one’s most immediate relations is the best path I have to commend to anyone in these times of profound global insecurity. To the critcrim folks, thanks so much for this evidence that my life has value to others as it does to me. Love and peace--hal