Revenge? Reconciliation? Resurrection?

I.  Revenge?

Teachers talk about taking advantage of a "teachable moment" when an unexpected event makes students more receptive to learning.

The University probably took some actions in response to my tenure denial and appeal.  Mostly their actions must have been based on their perceptions of what happened. Perhaps a few who saw my appeal found something in it to consider in shaping the response.  I have no way of knowing.  

It has been my intention to create this web site ever since I accepted a settlement in lieu of an appeal.  But I chose to put some time between leaving the University and creating the site.  Otherwise, it would have been perceived as simply the anger of a disgruntled former employee.  Some may still perceive it that way. 

In the interim I have been building a new life - a rebirth if you will - that builds on my experience and expertise.  I offer the rest of my web site as evidence that I have not been sitting around moping about past failures. 

Many women in science that I talk to complain that they are required to spend all of their time on their work.  There is little room for a life outside of the lab.  Periods of intense concentration are expected, indeed can be thrilling when new discoveries are being made.  But time to pursue other interests now and then - broad ranging interests- are also needed.  And, time to clean house!

I particularly enjoy the diversity of projects that I have been able to work on now that I can define my life.  I am following my bliss.  It is more difficult to continue to include research in the mix of projects when one is not associated with a research lab, but I do the best I can.  And I very much appreciate those former colleagues who continue to interact with me as an equal.  

The Alfalfa Seed Parable is not about revenge.  If you think that I want revenge, you have missed the point.  I feel at peace toward those who were involved in my tenure denial, including myself. 

I do not blame others who were involved.  We all acted in good faith but from different paradigms.  The interaction was bad, the climate chilly.  Without understanding the difference in our paradigms, others could not have known how they were contributing to the interaction.  

If you are angry about what I have written, I regret that you have responded so.  But I thank you for reading what I've written.  I seek understanding.  Did you read everything?  If not, perhaps reading what you have missed will clarify.  Perhaps not.  

What stimulated me to launch this web site when I did was news of a continued chilly climate at the University.  The details are not relevant here.  But perhaps my experience and my insights could be helpful.  It is, perhaps, a teachable moment.  Teachable moments come at different times to different people, so my hope is that others will find this web site when they are ready for it.  





II. Reconciliation?

As I have been putting together the Alfalfa Seed Parable, I have been reading Frans de Waals book, "Peacemaking among primates" (Harvard University Press 1989).  In his acknowledgment he writes:  "For years my mother scanned Dutch newspapers for the word verzoening (reconciliation); I owe a great many human anecdotes to her."  Here are some excerpts from the Prologue, and from his chapter on Rhesus monkeys:

"We know a great deal about the causes of hostile behavior in both animals and humans, ranging from hormones and brain activity to cultural influences.  Yet we know little of the way conflicts are avoided, or how, when they do occur, relationships are afterward repaired and normalized…

"Our closest relatives, the primates, … have to face the fact that sometimes they cannot win a fight without losing a friend.  The answer to this dilemma is either to reduce competition or to repair the damage afterward.  The first solution is known as tolerance, the second as reconciliation. …

"Because my research concerns the principles of peaceful coexistence, I focus on sharing rather than on competition, and on how fights end instead of how they start.  Reconciliation is crucial…

"[Two] levels of making up are observable in humans.  I call them implicit and explicit reconciliations.  The first type, in which no reference is made to the previous conflict, is rhesuslike.  You meet your colleague, with whom you had a spat yesterday, and act as if nothing had happened.  You get him some coffee, comment on the weather, or start a work-related discussion.  The colleague does not mention the incident either, yet by responding normally - not too coolly and not too enthusiastically- he shows himself to be without rancor, or at least willing to act that way for the moment…

"An explicit reconciliation is one in which the parties do mention the previous conflict.  They apologize or try to eliminate any misunderstanding.  The exchange may look like a renewed conflict, for the old disagreement is never completely dead.  Typically, in an egalitarian relationship, a compromise is reached with both parties sharing responsibility.  In a relationship with a strong status component, however, the subordinate usually accepts most of the blame.  If not, the conflict is likely to escalate as the dominant sees his or her authority in danger…  

(A comment interjected:  If you come from a social system that minimizes hierarchy, as women's culture often does [Webs and Ladders], you will expect shared responsibility.    Consider the implications when the other party's self-identity is that of dominant status...  )

"It is evident that the highest degree of explicitness is reached in our own species, for we alone have language to discuss the matters that divide us…  

"Georg Simmel, a social philosopher of the turn of the century, pointed out that societies are not built on pure friendliness.  In order to achieve a definite organization they require both attraction and repulsion, integration and differentiation, cooperation and competition.  Conflict and its resolution serve to overcome these dualisms and reach some form of unity.  Simmel saw the peaceful termination of social struggles as a special form of synthesis - a higher process that includes both union and opposition."

A Conflict Resolved with Bananas




III. Resurrection?

First and foremost, the Alfalfa Seed Parable is about finding my voice.  The process of writing it and making it available to the world is all that I want from it.  Finding my voice has been important to me, because it was stifled for so long.  With the exception of Hug 'o War and Tug of Peace, which I recommended to a few relatives, I have not specifically advertised this part of my web.  If you have found it and read it, even part of it, if you have read this far, it is a surprise to me, and more than I expected.  Something about it must be of interest.  What?

If, on reading my parables, you have found some insight relevant to your life, I am pleased.  

But if someone experiences an "ah ha!" moment, a paradigm shift; if someone is released from silence by any of these ideas as I was when I first encountered them, if someone is beginning to understand why academia can be so chilly, if someone is learning to be empathic instead of defensive,  if someone who did not know how to empower others is now learning, or if someone who knew is now better at it, then my story, my sacrifice, will have been worthwhile.

back to Parables...

Copyright © January 27, 2003   Karen Strickler.  All rights reserved.