System is not Kind

14 Nov, 2020

I thought a lot last night after I posted about being kind. There were some things that I wanted to follow up on because I think that the idea of World Kindness Day is important but might give an illusion that if we are just kind to one another that the whole world would change and I wanted to explore that here. I take issue with the notion that if everyone is just kind the world would be fluffy and happy, and all problems would go away. It suggests a personal responsibility that just being kind individually will change the world as we know it.

I quickly looked up the definition of kind and this is what I found…. “A good or benevolent nature or disposition, as a person (”  and benevolence meaning “desire to do good to others, goodwill, charitableness
( )“.

I want to share an example of individual kindness and how that does not fix inequalities and create a fluffy and happier world.

I have had so many lovely people show me kindness when I needed to access supports. They were well meaning and had goodwill when I needed to get food from the foodbank sometime someone would say just like I have said to others, “I can drive you to the foodbank to get few items until you are able to access again”. But does that kindness change the structure?  Sure maybe for that moment the person feels grateful because they received help (food security is a human right not a gift that the people should be grateful for), but there is no long lasting change.  Many women are likely to be in the same situation without access to the things they need to be well. This is not simply a matter of not budgeting properly or working a better job this is a matter of getting what you need access to in order to survive.

Someone kindly supporting someone in need of help does not change the fact that the structures that have created the hardships they have experienced are not going to be kind back. Women are not in need of support because of personal mismanagement of their lives.  Women have vast inequities that keep them down and put up barriers to succeed. Additionally, if you are a women of colour, differently abled, have precarious status in this country, are not english speaking, indigenous, from the LGBQT2s+ community, or are a member of any marginalized community, your chances of getting both individual and systemic “kindness”  goes way down because the systems we have that are charitable are designed to keep people down and  place individual blame and shame. If people are so busy blaming the person needing help and the person needing help is in surviving mode all the time, then no one is able to take a step back and look at the structures and say…..this is not kind. This is not good natured and does not have a desire to do good to others.

Don’t get me wrong there are so many people who have been able to end cycles of violence, poverty and despair for themselves and their families and I want to highlight that. However, there are still so many women who are surviving and being held in a cycle of oppression not because they weren’t being kind or an individual person was unkind to them (although there are many people  who individually participate in the oppression and harm of many women). But because of the system, the structures are kindly saying “I’m sorry we can’t help you with that although we would really like to” but that does change the outcome or the cycle that many folks are trapped in? No, no it doesn’t. 
So yes individual kindness does make a difference in someone’s life and someone’s day but simply being kind does not create the larger systemic changes to make the world a fluffier and happier place long term.