Monday, September 08, 2014

Into the Land of the Molded

A lot was going on for me last week. One of the events that occurred is that I started a one-year volunteering program in the Netherlands. To celebrate it in a way, I thought of writing about volunteerism. It was fairly easy finding info which praises the communal and personal benefits of being a volunteer, but that's not the whole story. At least not the way I see it.

During the last couple of months, I had the chance to observe how people (at least those from the country I was born in) react to the idea of volunteering. Our worldwide economic system is not economical anymore and as such it shapes certain expectations we have in our lives. Let's call these conforming expectations social molds, which make us feel the need to shape everyone and Their lives (including our own) into a predictable sequence of incidents. One of the most recognizable and encompassing of social molds is probably the one which sponsors the following pattern:

1. Be born.
2. Learn. Go to school. Get molded.
3. Find a partner for life.
4. Get a job.
5. Buy a house, loan Yourself for life in the process.
6. Et cetera...

The list goes on, of course, but the rest is irrelevant for the purpose of this post. Anyway, when people asked me about my plans in life, I replied that I was going abroad. Then, without exception, They all got excited. There were two common questions which I received: "are you going there to find a job" or "are continuing Your studies there?"

The answer to both of those questions needs a bit of explaining, because yes, I did come here to work and also to learn and improve my skills. The problem is that these two questions have a molding agenda: they expect certain answers ("everything is going according to plan") with obvious contextual assumptions (that I'm getting paid and/or receiving a title along with a diploma here). Obviously, replying to these questions would have required higher efforts if I didn't want to mislead my conversational partners. I usually replied with: "I'm going there to be a volunteer." In the moments that followed my answer, I could typically see the sparkles of interest fade away from Their eyes.

By the mentioned social mold standard, the term volunteer(ing) can trigger an unwanted set of background ideas. This reaction is a part of our deteriorating societal structure. An important point of my life's manifesto is to give my best in abandoning this old system. I'm not a demolisher and I don't go against all tides only to prove a point. We are all a part of the world (dis)order and we cannot simply abandon it. Yet, there are opportunities that were born from our habituated ways. I see volunteerism as being one of the paths to put away with the old and start building a more altruistic society, where we don't do things (solely) for the money. Money is a medium, it shouldn't be the goal. A friend once told me: "today, when people do something, they don't tend to ask themselves whether there is common sense in what They are doing, but rather if there is any financial benefit to be gained from it."

The parents of my age group, who belong to the so-called generation X, grew up in a different World. They were promised a different result for Their hard work. This promise was broken by the incalculable laws of existence and immeasurable human ignorance. Generation Y was, however, born into a failing economy and society that is evidently devouring itself. After all I've seen, I feel it would be foolish to continue as we are expected to. The only way to pull ourselves out of this sorry state is to devise new social molds.

Our condition might seem irresolvable, yet I don't see any reason as serving this uncertainty as an excuse for giving up. I know I may have chosen a harder way of living. That's exactly what makes me want to learn and help people for the sake of socializing and computing ideological data to find solutions to our problems. Doing what we love to do, while surrounding ourselves with like-minded people is an amazing way to smoothly contribute to a "new" world, and with volunteering we can live just like that.

As I already mentioned, there is plenty of info about the benefits of volunteering, besides the two I mentioned (an efficient way to building a life and society we desire*). What about the downsides? There is rare mention of the amount of potentially unwanted strings that can be pulled by certain volunteering lobbies. Volunteering is not merely an ideology being built on a personal level. The organizations behind volunteerism have their own moral vision of the world, and thereby the volunteers' work is an extension of it. From the view of who is being helped by volunteers, their work might come off as an ideological invasion. This might happen especially if, for example, a certain organization or group needs aid and whichever lobby is sending the volunteers has some requests to make the volunteering possible. Subtle expectations can greatly influence the particular party's way of development. I'm mentioning this because if we possess the knowledge about intentional reality, we can examine the probable superior intentions behind our volunteer work, consider their possible impacts, act more considerately, and perhaps put our own ideas into effect more efficiently.

war through ages and history with weapons animated gif
* Another dear friend once taught me that: one needs not to know what one wants,
it's more important to know what one doesn't want.
With avoiding what we don't want, we can explore the rest and make sense of our passions.

Researchers categorized these influences much more neatly. They developed an approach for examining the contributions given and the standards promoted by volunteering organizations, called moral resources and political capital. Both can be divided into two groups. Moral resource one describes what morals do the volunteering organizations ascribe to themselves, while moral resource two deals with the influence of the accepted morality by a given society. Political capital one is the reputation which a volunteering organization gained throughout its existence, and political capital two is the strength of influence gained directly through the organization's own efforts. These elements are linked and can be arranged in different ways to bend each other.

All of this might seem a bit overcomplicated as people are capable of picturing great details into the state of affairs around them. We like to overestimate the effort needed to make a change. I mean, I don't really get what's going on higher intentional levels in my situation, but I immersed myself into the experience. I'm breaking my habits and discovering new thoughts worth of implementing into reality. I'm giving it a shot. Besides, it's obvious that most people are still not open to taking the responsibility for Their own fate back into Their own hands. With this in mind, I'll finish with a proverb I was greeted with when I arrived here:

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

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