Eroding Agency

When I open my door to a knocking Jehova’s Witness, does she see me as someone in need of “service”?

When she informs me of my spiritual poverty, is she rendering “service”?

When my son comes to stand by my side, does she see a child at risk?  Does she see spiritual abuse? Does she see another to serve?

We’ve been told that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” So,when she hands me her brochure, does she “lose” herself in her “service of others”?

Am I her “other”?

I wonder how she decided that.

I wonder if she ever considered the possibility that I don’t want to be her “other”.

Moreover, if she does “find” herself, what does she “find”?

How does she “find” it?

What role do I play in helping her “find” it?

Does my reluctance to accept her brochure, give her an opportunity to witness an alternative way of living? Does having to reconcile my lack of enthusiasm for her brochure allow her to critically reflect upon how she has chosen to live her life? Is it through this process that she “finds” herself?

Upon leaving my doorstep, does she tell her friends and colleagues that I seemed “spiritually poor, but happy”?

Alternatively, what if I readily accepted the brochure? Wouldn’t I only reinforce her perspective? If so, would she miss out an opportunity to “find” herself? What am I talking about? It’s not my job to help her “find” herself.

What does it mean to “find” oneself anyways? And, what the hell is she seeking to “find”?

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While we’re on this topic, what allows for the possibility of “service” from her to me?

Does she need to be in possession of something that she believes I need? Does she need to believe that I lack something of value that she holds?

That’s it.

I’m not just her “other”.

I may be her “marginalized other”.

Does she believe I lack or have actively been denied access to vital information and/or opportunities to live a life worth living?

I’m not “marginalized”.

Am I?

No.

I navigate the dominant secular system we both populate with ease. Hell, the system was built to accommodate my specific type of human. And, if I have power and privilege, she can’t “lose” herself? Can she? Is “service” still possible with an even distribution of power and privileges between her and me or one that tilts in my favor?

Moreover, what if she does not possess what she believes she possesses? What if she possesses something I do not value? Can she still “lose” herself through serving me falsely?

But, maybe there is something I cannot see or do not know. Maybe she is right.  It’s a big universe. Maybe, I am in need of the salvation she is offering.

Nah.

But, she keeps treating me like I am in need. Her words, her tone, her body language, her actions tell me that I am “marginalized” in some manner.

Is she trying to “marginalize” me?

She keeps telling me that I am in need.

And, if she keeps telling me, will I start believing that I am?

Am I “marginalized”?

Hmm.

Before she knocked, I was full of agency.

Now?

I’m not so sure.

Wait a minute…

Without the “other” she can’t perform her “service.”

And, without “service” she may not be able to realize the benefits of “finding” herself.

This is especially true if she’s unwilling to do the hard work of finding herself on her own. And, as long as I am “marginalized” she can utilize me to help her do the work.

So, without knowing it, she may be knocking on my door and introducing ideas that challenge my culture, history, and understanding of how the world works to actively erode my agency?

Is she?

I don’t know. But, she’s doing it in front of my son.

I wonder how much agency I have eroded in Honduras…

 

Shawn Humphrey, the Blue Collar Professor (@blucollarprof)
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