The Infinity Gauntlet of Leadership
If you haven't seen the movie "Avengers: Infinity Wars" you can still read this blog. There aren't really spoilers other than to tell you that Thanos is a bad guy in the movie. I've been sitting with the movie for a week now, and I am wrestling with some concepts that I think might relate to other folx. One of the things I've been thinking about is the mentions about Kevin Bacon and the movie Footloose. You see, I identify myself sort of like Kevin Bacon in footloose. I want to fight the system. However, I keep coming back to somewhat identifying as Thanos in parts of my life.
As much as I want to be the hero, there are times where I engage and relate cognitively with Thanos. I am not saying I empathize with Thanos. I am, however, saying, I have the power and potential to be like Thanos. That scares me. Many times on my journey through life, folx have shared their stories with me. Their experiences. And many times (maybe 50%) their experiences don't match my own. They challenge my reality. And what I tend to do in the moments (at least for the first 30-35 years of my life) is basically ignore those experiences as being valid and real. Especially when those experiences made me feel bad about me. You see, I have the Infinity Gauntlet.
I can (and early on in my life often did) snap my fingers and erase folx. Ignore criticism of my praxis as a higher education professional. Ignore experiences of others I did not find normative. Minimize the pain and hurt of others because I meant well, and that is all that matters in my world. You see; I possess not only the Gauntlet, I have the Infinity Stones to go with it:
I have the power stone. Whether it's my legitimate power, or power related to my relationships, my expertise, my ability to reward or coerce, I have the power stone in my gauntlet. I have the space stone. I can choose how much or how little space I take up. I can speak or I can listen. Often, I choose to take up space. For various reasons. But make no mistake, I have the space stone. I have the mind stone. I can choose what to engage with in the cognitive places in my mind. When I am confronted with data that creates cognitive dissonance, I can engage in that cognitive dissonance or I can choose to ignore it and dismiss it quickly. I have the mind stone in my gauntlet. I have the time stone. I get to decide where my time goes. I can spend time listening to voices that reinforce my beliefs, or I can choose to spend time engaging with those who are different than me. I can spend time with those I both like and love, or I can spend time with those who drain my energy. I have the time stone in my gauntlet. I have the reality stone. I get to define my reality and the perceptions of the society around me. I can decide the impact of slavery and civil rights has no effect on our society today. I can choose to believe the 70s and 80s were just a "different time" and separate "art from artist." I can tell myself "everyone knew what was going on, the casting couch was a thing, and we all knew it." I can believe things like racism and sexism and homophobia are solidly in the past that we navigate each day from a blank slate, or I can choose to recognize that for others, their reality might be different than mine and has real impact today. I can engage in others' reality to come to a better understanding of what is truly real and what is purely my own fantasy reality. But make no mistake, I have the reality stone. And finally I have the soul stone. I can decide what I will say yes to, and what I will say no to. I can choose what to sacrifice externally to keep my soul in tact, and what parts of my soul to sacrifice or compromise to keep the world around me as it should be. I am safe. I have all the gems in the Gauntlet. And there you have it. I am Thanos. Not to say I empathize with Thanos, but to recognize his power in many ways is my power. And the question becomes; will I sacrifice what I love to maintain my idealism, or will I choose to care and have compassion on others to help discover what is real, and what is a figment of my imagination. Because I have choices. Not everyone does. Because my choices here are grounded in my privilege. They are grounded in my power. Not everyone has the power stone; at least to the levels I might have. They don't have the positional power, they don't have the relational power I do. They don't have as much reward power, or coercive power as I do. They have grown up in a society that has reminded them time and time again they don't have power. Not everyone has the space stone; because the space we navigate wasn’t designed for them. Most of the spaces that exist in America today were designed by white, heterosexual, cisgender men. That’s who designed them, and that was the goal of the design. Look at our educational institutions. When they were originally designed, they did not consider anyone other than white folx engaging. Of course, we have changed the house built on the educational system, but the foundation still is what developed hundreds of years ago. Not everyone has the mind stone; they are confronted daily with cognitive dissonance and they cannot ignore it. They don't get to convince themselves of a false reality, because when they walk down the street, others impose their reality on them. Not everyone has the time stone; Others likely spend their time each day less as of a function of choice but of need and necessity. Not everyone has the time to chew on and consider how Infinity Wars relates to real life. Some folx have to push harder because they won't be given the benefit of the doubt. They would get questions; where did that person have time to write that? Shouldn't they be focused on what matters? Not everyone has the reality stone; because people around them remind them that their reality is wrong; they are confronted daily with a world that tells them they don’t get to define their own reality. That their lived experiences are overridden by the experiences of those with power. Not everyone has the soul stone; our country has required that in order to be successful, many have to sacrifice their souls just to survive in it. That sacrifice isn't spread equally across all groups of people. Some have been required to sacrifice more than others. Compromising their ideals in order to feel "normal." So here is the question of the day, those of us who identify with Thanos; Will we snap our fingers and erase half the population? Or will we listen to those who may not have all the infinity stones and allow them to exist in our own paradigm? The next question then becomes; how can we give our power away? Space? Time? Our mind? Reality? Soul?
"With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility." This is the overarching theme of all the Marvel movies if you think about it. And we have been given power we did not earn. And maybe we don't need to give up our stones, but merely help others discover theirs. Maybe there are infinite stones out there, and EVERYONE can have them? Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself so I don’t have let go of my stones? We will have to wait for the next installment of the Infinity War to figure that out. Unless we do the work on our own before that.