Monday, 20 July 2009

Good will or ill

One thing that I've noticed, but can't in any way proof or assume to be a fact, is that in this lovely garden next to the sea (Portugal) things work exclusively out of good will or they simply don't. 'No one' feels bound to keep up their promises, or better, 'no one' feels like promising anything, 'cause 'they' follow the whims of the moment and hate nothing more than to commit to something or being held responsible.

When I've worked in the NGO here it was very obvious. "Let's see what happens" was sort of the major conclusion of all meetings set up to solve a specific problem. "Who does what?" was a tabu question. Volunteers might say "I'll try to do XYZ." But they would say it in a way like "I might have the generosity to contribute by doing XYZ", but giving no certainty that they would actually do it. Therefore it would be very impolite to ask next meeting "Have you done XYZ?". No, we would have to wait, talk about the problem and hope the person would by himself reveal whether he did XYZ or not. It was impossible to organize, because no one could be held responsible for doing anything, so tasks could not be shared effectively.

Quite common, very commonly, people help freely in the way they feel to be right, they might give generously all their harvest. But if you ask them for one single potato they feel cornered and that the impossible is being asked from them. In consequence they become defensive. "How do you dare to ask me for the poatato that is lying forgotten in a corner?" And they will pretend they are forgetful, they can't bend to pick it up and whatever, just to not do what you kindly asked them. They love being generous and doing things out of good will, and they do loads of things like that. But if you ask them to please do something, the good will evaporates as fast as frozen nitrogen in room temperature.

I remember that friends found it even impolite if, sitting in their car, I asked where they were driving to. One clearly always ignored the question, never replied. Maybe he felt this as an afront, that I did not trust him to drive to a good place or that I was trying to interfere in his decision to drive somewhere, when in fact he was being so generous to take me with him.

Am I making an elephant out of some minor and unrepresentative anecdotes?

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