I’m super fascinated by how we tend to shut down things in our lives because of the bad they do while easily overlooking the good, but then simultaneously being able to embrace something for the good it does while easily ignoring the bad. I see people do this on a regular basis, while I also encounter and unpacking these entrenched and blind beliefs in my own reality. After going to Washington D.C. and beginning to work on my own belief that government is bad while overlooking the good it does, I’ve begun noticing more of these belief structures littering my reality, forcing me to confront them, educate myself, and work to change my behavior.
I prefer to work on these belief systems one by one. Shifting my views on government, startups, corporations, unions, non-profits, lobbyists, trade associations, and other entities that are ubiquitous in our lives. Part of the reason I dive into a single area all by itself is because I see many people who depend on many of these areas playing off of each other, and I want to be able to disconnect them. Like government is bad, and corporations are good. Corporations are bad, but startups are good. This black and white approach to defining our world fascinates me, and after working in the federal government, being exposed to more startups, and working higher up within the enterprise, I began to see more of the narrative(s) that guide us into these positions.
The most common of these areas which I have suffered from and encounter out in the wild is that government is bad and business is good. Without any awareness that many folks parrot this phrase daily, firmly believing it to be true. This was the fundamental reason I began my Knight Foundation funded Adopta.Agency after my time in Washington D.C., because after actually learning what a federal agency does, I began to change my anti-government tune—-I wanted to give others the same opportunity. It is easy to hate on something you don’t understand, especially when there are such powerful narratives out there influencing you. A little education on what government does and doesn’t do can go a long way in helping you see that government has a purpose, and makes a meaningful impact on many people’s lives.
After that I’d say that the anti-union rhetoric is similarly fascinating. You regularly hear how unions are bad from people who are regularly taking for granted the benefits unions have brought. Firmly stating that unions have done horrible things and are nothing but centers of power and corruption, while sitting at the bar after an 8 hour work day, or 40 hour work week. Unable to see any of the good while 100% focused on the bad of what unions have done, completely captivated by the narratives that have been handed down to them. I’m not doubting that unions have done some bad things over the years, but whenever I hear someone go on an anti-union stance, I can’t help think about how un-educated we all are regarding what unions have brought us, and the foundation they have laid underneath our feet.
What really gets me in all of this is that amidst all the anti-government and anti-union storytelling, many seamlessly switch to the good that startups, corporations, and markets do. Completely unwilling and incapable of ever acknowledging the bad that corporations have done. Firmly believing that all government and unions are predatorily in nature, and corporations are naturally good. Completely unaware of the powerful narratives they are caught up in. Completely incapable of seeing that all three of these forces have been locked in battle for over a century. That corporations have a vested interest in weakening unions and government, and that unions and government play a critical role in shaping corporations. I know many people who truly believe government and unions could go away 100%, leaving only corporations, and we’d live in a utopia.
I find black and white belief systems to be convenient tools for manipulation, so I’m always working to free myself of them. I despise everything global corporations stand for. Always have. However, I also understand that this belief system was fed to me, and was groomed through storytelling. Often very uneducated, unaware storytelling. So, I spend a significant portion of my time studying, understanding, and working within the corporate structure. I also regularly work to understand how city, county, state, and federal governments works, pushing back on my libertarian upbringing, and truly seeing how government impacts our life. One significant area of deficiency in my understanding is when it comes to the history of, and the contemporary state of unions. It is something I’ll be reading, researching, and writing about more. Pushing my understanding of both the good and the bad that unions bring, and hopefully continue to break myself free of the powerful narratives that swirl around me.
This article originally appeared here.