Intersectionality is a term used by academic communities to talk about and understand how different identities interact in a specific person with their outside world. Of course, we all have to personally manage our different identities and their intersection by ourselves every second of every day in the real world. This includes our work within organizations and our advocacy. Advocate is as much an identity as family background or sexual orientation.
Identities are roles. When we advocate on behalf of an individual we interact with public roles as they are performed for the target system of our advocacy. Although we commonly treat the roles (and judge them) as though they were real people, they are not. Judging a person by how they behave in a role is an error even if the behavior is bad.
Any target contains roles that work as an interface with the outside and other roles as inside reproducers of the target system. Both sets of roles are performances, but the interface is constituted of public performances and the core roles as facilitators of the system’s reproduction.
The design (whether conscious or not) of any target system tries to keep the internal reproductive roles separate from and insulated by using the public roles as the mode of communication with the outside world. The manager role (including using authority) is first and foremost designed to protect the reproduction of the target, and a core of the manager role is to only interface with the outside world through the system’s public roles, making it very difficult for advocates to expose the processes of system reproduction to public scrutiny and change. This is also the practice that makes managers gradually lose contact with the core purpose of the system of which they are a part.
Even those who have the responsibility for reproductive roles are insulated from other internal roles by training and experience, reporting systems, politics, and all the other social paraphernalia of system life. We live in a time when these internal roles have become increasingly complex and specialized, and the reality that it is impossible to keep all the specialized roles needed for reproduction inside the target system requires outside contractors from highly specialized systems. The work of these contractors is also insulated from the rest of the internal roles through the specification of the contractual outcomes, and boilerplate that creates contractor liability for exposure of the system’s “secrets”. There is no better realization of this near-universal model than the modern system for making movies.
It is as though the secret societies of past centuries have been replaced by corporate systems which conspire to hide their brand of “self-maintenance” (i.e., world financial domination or whatever other goals a secret system might have) from exposure.
The recent call for transparency and the initiatives to increase it don’t eliminate this systemic secrecy. I think transparency is an effort to deal with the real possibility that too much secret complexity will grind any system to a halt. Insulated secrets are always less subject to evolutionary pressure and natural selection, and always more prone to that species of corruption that comes with controlling resources without outside scrutiny.
Hiding from competitive pressure (of which advocacy is one kind) preserves the core of the system, at the expense of its improvement or adaptation. Such hiding may benefit the people who abide in those hidden roles, but it degrades the system, both functionally and morally.
The basic technique of individual advocacy (threatening the reproduction of the core so that the goals of the individual will become a compromise solution) is based on this kind of understanding of the target system whether that understanding is explicit or implicit. But the companion of this successful form of advocacy is the failure to fundamentally change the reproduction of the target.
In my next post, I’ll give an actual concrete example of advocacy that started out using the basic technique but accidentally ended up changing a small part of the target’s reproductive roles.
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