03 July, 2005

More evils of organized religion

I have mentioned before that I volunteer once a month at Catholic Parish Outreach, where we hand out food to people who come with referrals. Last weekend was probably my last weekend, since I will be traveling in July, and from then on I will live in Rocky Mount, a little more than an hour away.

So there I am, innocently assembling client's food onto carts: two bags for a family of 1-2, two boxes for families of 3 or more, bread, dessert, eggs, meat, deli, and if necessary TEFAP. (Sometimes I ask myself if our clients eat better than I do — I who don't need assistance! Then I rebuke myself and try to put it out of my mind.) I assemble food according to a slip of paper that tells me the client's number, the family name, the number of people in the family, and any special requests the client may have.

Often enough, clients will request diapers, or baby food, or cleaning supplies, or "personal items". Since CPO doesn't order these things as a matter of course, our ability to supply them depends on people's donating them. As I understand it, all the money donated is used to buy food and pay the bills: lights, water, computers, warehouse equipment, etc.

Last week, two women came together, one of whom I recognized when I took her food to her. She had asked for "personal items", so I had given her some personal items. Her companion had asked for "cleaning supplies", so I had given her some cleaning supplies. Once we arrived at the car, the first woman saw that her acquaintance had received cleaning supplies, and asked, Howcome she got dish detergent? I answered, simply and honestly, She asked for cleaning supplies. The first woman asked me for some cleaning supplies as well.

Unfortunately, the dish detergent that I had given her friend was the last dish detergent in the crate. I pointed this out to her, adding, But I'll go check, maybe there's more.

That I did. We had a lot of clients Saturday; the orders kept coming back. While I was back there, I decided to prepare another cart of food for someone else.

Big mistake. Apparently, this lady became alarmed that I didn't return right away with a bottle of dish detergent, and she began pacing back and forth right outside the room where we prepare the carts, asking other people if they could give her some dish detergent, in what one might call a less-than-friendly attitude.

When I re-emerged without dish detergent (we had, in fact, no more) she became angry and made her accusation that we don't give [her] folk things we give others.

That's absurd. I have no way of knowing what someone's race is from the ticket...

...well, with one exception. If the family has a name "of Spanish origin", so to speak, then we are to give them tortillas and a special kind of Spanish bread in place of some regular bread. That's all the "discrimination" that we do, and if it's a crime, then our country has sunk to low depths indeed.

I don't know what to think about this incident. Maybe "thinking" isn't the right word anyway; only prayer will do.

Oh — the woman's acquaintance (who did receive the dish detergent) was exactly the same race.

13 comments:

Alessandra said...

My take: you got the short end of something that has nothing to do with you or anything you did. First, you did nothing even remotely wrong, quite on the contrary. The problem is with the woman, not you.

Second, maybe the woman has experienced racism in other situations before, so she has learned that a)it happens, and, as a consequence b) she will expect it in other situations and interpret other situations similarly (even those that have other completely different explanations).

Also, maybe she hasn't experienced racism much herself, but she has this "racism victim" culture in her head, and looks for racism as an explanation to anything that happens in her life that is not according to what she expects or can make sense of.

Sometimes people are acting on such an irrational level, that no matter what you say, they will not listen.

But other times, I think it's valid to try to explain and point out to her what you wrote a) you were out of detergents b) the other lady was of the same race c) anyone else would not get it either because there was no more, not a race issue d) if she writes it next week, she may get it if there is any (or however your system works) e) you will try to save one for her, since you now know she needs it (if that's OK). You know, calm and nice.

Even if she gruffs and puffs there, the explanations may sink in later. Or they may not. At least you tried. But don't count on it though, you're not dealing with rationality.

Richard Schugart said...

In my opinion, the only mistake you made was that you didn't finish addressing the requests of one person before moving on to serve another. You should have gone right back out, explained the situation and, if she had a problem, she could talk to the person in charge.

jack perry said...

Alessandra: The problem is with the woman, not you.

Well, as Rich points out, I probably should have come right back out and told her, "No, there is no more." That's courtesy to clients, and back when I worked at fast food restaurants, I learned how people appreciate that, and despise waiting.

Second, maybe the woman has experienced racism in other situations before...

It's possible, but...

Also, maybe she hasn't experienced racism much herself, but she has this "racism victim" culture in her head...

I think this is more likely. That's something we call jumping to conclusions, though, so I try to rebuke myself for it (as when I think, "Wow, these people eat better than I do!")

But other times, I think it's valid to try to explain and point out to her...

I don't have a good memory at all of these things; I quickly forget the details of confrontations of all sorts. I don't know why. I wish I could say exactly how I reacted, but I can't. You'll notice I didn't relate what I said or did after her accusation...

Rich:...if she had a problem, she could talk to the person in charge.

She already had talked to Don, I think while I was back there looking for more, or else assembling the next order. That was what we found especially entertaining: after she saw her friend get the detergent, she was on everyone's back about it.

Alessandra said...

"Well, as Rich points out, I probably should have come right back out and told her, "No, there is no more." That's courtesy to clients, and back when I worked at fast food restaurants, I learned how people appreciate that, and despise waiting."

Possibly that may have made a difference. Hard to know given how deeply she thought your actions were due to racism. She could have just as well assumed you were lying to her if you came right out and said there was no more. But, still, I think it's a good suggestion always to communicate as much as possible.

I have been in so many situations where you explain something to someone who is not listening because they have interpreted reality wrongly and are adamant about their interpretation that I don't expect much in these cases. Emotional dynamics ofter override rational cognition in human beings.

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"I don't have a good memory at all of these things; I quickly forget the details of confrontations of all sorts. I don't know why."

That happens to me at times too. The information is being repressed in your unconscious. It's a mechanism our mind uses to shield our conscious self from uncomfortable stuff or things that make us anxious.

jack perry said...

I have been in so many situations where you explain something to someone who is not listening because they have interpreted reality wrongly and are adamant about their interpretation that I don't expect much in these cases. Emotional dynamics ofter override rational cognition in human beings.

I know exactly what you mean. Actually, I think I've even been guilty of it myself a lot of times. Conversations between Patriots and anti-Americans might be examples (and I manage the miracle of taking both positions at times...)

The information is being repressed in your unconscious. It's a mechanism our mind uses to shield our conscious self from uncomfortable stuff or things that make us anxious.

You Freudian, you :-)

Sorry: I didn't express myself well. I'm aware of that from the general psychology, back in 1991 or so. What I meant is: I don't understand why my unconscious feels that episodes of conflict require sublimation (is that the right word?). I've been embarassed sometimes at how badly I remember an argument, and I discuss it later with people. It's one of the reasons I try to avoid arguments these days :-) I hate being wrong, but I hate even more that I don't remember that I was wrong (or right)... One can't learn from such a situation.

Alessandra said...

The information is being repressed in your unconscious. It's a mechanism our mind uses to shield our conscious self from uncomfortable stuff or things that make us anxious.

You Freudian, you :-)
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:-D

Alessandra said...

Thanks to your question I discovered a psych dictionary online! I was going to look for someone's already elaborated definition to answer your question.

"Sublimation

A defense mechanism where undesired or unacceptable impulses are transformed into behaviors which are accepted by society. "
http://allpsych.com/dictionary/s.html

So, Repression is the correct term in this case.

Repression

In Psychoanalytic Theory, the defense mechanism whereby our thoughts are pulled out of our consciousness and into our unconscious.

(it's not just theory :-P, obviously...)

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Now, why did you think Sublimation, eh??? (Freudian inquisitive gaze - if I were a man, I could even have been holding a pipe :-D

Alessandra said...

What I meant is: I don't understand why my unconscious feels that episodes of conflict require sublimation [repression]...

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well, now that you are on your way to become a millionaire academian, you will in the near future have money to pay a psychologist to investigate this question with you. I used to recommend to people that they do therapy, to learn more about themselves and/or to help them solve better their personal issues, but I find the therapist profession has been so corrupted and downgraded, that I think often nowadays the challenge is how to find a good psychologist in the midst of all the junk people that have come out of univesities en masse and have degraded the highly complex and difficult art of therapy.

Also, I personally detest the psychoanalysts, even though they have some very cool insights sometimes, they are often way out off their rocker and can be highly irresponsible.

So... who knows, maybe someday you will find out more of what's going on in your unconscious spheres...
:-)

It could be quite fascinating.

jack perry said...

Now, why did you think Sublimation, eh???

'cause I'm an idiot :-) There really isn't any deeper meaning than that.

So... who knows, maybe someday you will find out more of what's going on in your unconscious spheres...
:-)


I've been in counseling, due to some unhealthy, compulsive behavior, something a little more difficult than just my tendency to rub my fingers and touch and count them in a certain order.

The counseling sort of helped, but personally I think I ended up using it as an excuse not to reform. My counselor also suggested something to that effect. I was in the dark and couldn't find my way out to the light, and she could find me in the dark, or something. She did try really hard, though.

Alessandra said...

Now, why did you think Sublimation, eh???

'cause I'm an idiot :-) There really isn't any deeper meaning than that.
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You did get my joke, though, didn't you? :-)

Alessandra said...

There really isn't any deeper meaning than that.
----------------------------

Thank me for not being a psychoanalyst after hearing that... :-D

jack perry said...

You did get my joke, though, didn't you? :-)

I think so.

Alessandra said...

Freud was always trying to investigate the unconscious reasons for these word changes, he'd sit there smoking his pipe, thinking.

Current psychoanalysts will happily continue Freud's quest, charging you USD250/hour for at least 6 months to reveal why your psyche chose one word and not another. They perform such a noble service to society.

I once saw a very funny analogy to the above on a radio interview with a reknowned author, who had inserted a big, black dog in one of her novels. A grad std wrote *an entire paper* on the complex, multiple, esoteric and Freudian symbolic meanings of the big, black dog, and what the author was trying to represent with it. He sent the author his paper. When she got it, she laughed. She wasn't trying to convey any symbology whatsoever with the dog at all. She had put the dog in the story simply because her grandmother had exactly such a dog.