Agency

There are multiple meanings for the word agency, and the word is bouncing around in my mind for all its definitions. An agency is an institution, organized to carry out a specific purpose. The first time I read 1984, I thought “Ministry” was a term George Orwell made up. I would later learn that “Ministry” is what many European countries call an administrative division. The United States calls these administrations or agencies or departments or bureaus. Agency can also refer to authorization or jurisdiction. Perhaps most importantly to the individual, to have agency is to have freedom or control to take an action.

Agency is an important word to think about. There are so many factors involved in the agency behind every action. Stripping away the layers can boggle the mind…

We are robbed of our agency in more ways than I could list in thousands of words. Marketing teases our desires, while the drive to avoid destitution keeps us showing up to make more money. We have very little time to imagine a better world than the one we are living in. We are too busy living in it, running in its hamster wheels, turning the gears of the machine, consuming whatever teases our impulsive bodies.  

I don’t have agency over my personal decisions because I’m indecisive, distracted, compulsive, and avoidant. By some standards, I have a great deal of agency. After all, I work from home and make my own hours. By other standards, I don’t have much agency at all. As it happens, I am disabled and my physical pain and mental illnesses are unpredictable. I have to do what I can, when I can. Every day draws to a close and I feel that I have not accomplished enough. I live in terrible conflict, because I know I cannot control myself, much less the people around me, much less the whole world, yet I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.

The word “jobs” is loaded because it’s personal. We imagine our unique work settings. Our minds, our bodies, our time, our income. We trade our time and effort and energy and expertise for an income. This income, in turn, provides us with the means to survive: housing, food, internet, energy, necessities. There is a complex system of sub-levels, people providing services to each other in the most hellish, haphazard structure imaginable. It’s all about trading resources to feed the monsters on top, the ones who wake up to hundreds of billions of dollars in their possession and remain unsatisfied.

(Aren’t we all unsatisfied?)

What is the purpose of this little blog? It gives me the agency to speak about what is on my mind, and in doing so, I hope that I am making small changes. I write as if writing letters to myself, but it is too painful to read my own correspondences. My trauma is heavy, so I avoid it with distraction and dismissal. It’s not a conscious decision – something over which I have agency. It is my mind trying to preserve itself from what it knows is terrible to face.

I journaled recently, “To me, surrender means being beaten into submission. It means the battlefield is soaked with blood and the leader is begging his enemy to stop the massacre. It is the child apologizing to the parent after the parent hits the child until they cry. It is getting onto my knees and saying ‘thy will be done’ before being crucified. I don’t know if surrender will ever have a positive connotation in my mind. It is humiliating defeat.”

I could rant endlessly about how agencies should be run differently. The more I learn, the more I see that there is so much wrong with the world. My country is spending billions of dollars on police, on war, on weapons, on funding mass murder and starvation and destruction. All this, while it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat an illness, respond to a medical emergency, or give birth. News agencies are owned by the powerful, reporting on petty crime and ignoring the injustices inflicted upon the masses. At the same time, there is a war of misinformation. “Fake news” was a term used and made popular by Donald Trump, a liar and a crook, while it’s nearly impossible to tell what news ISN’T fake.

How can we have agency over our decisions when we are not informed about our options? What agency do we have when we aren’t questioning what our options mean? What are those massive agencies doing with the funding we pay for? Is life just about self-help, accepting that if we can’t control ourselves we must throw up our hands at the way things are? When will we come together and realize that with a group of dedicated people, we can act as one entity, an agency?

What risks must we take to imagine a better world?