Archimedes‘ work on levers is astounding. Though he didn’t invent the lever, he did describe the principles behind it, explained why and how it worked. Archimedes, one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians of antiquity (and perhaps of all time), likely did not intend the sociopolitical application of his words. He was talking about natural physics, not social or political principles.
And yet… it fits so well.
As the television show on TNT Leverage tried to demonstrate, money and prestige offer a particular power that is beyond the reach of people with less money and prestige. When faced with such obstacles and odds what are we, then, to do? You’d think that the law is a means of providing some equalizing leverage, right? Unfortunately, that doesn’t always work.
While money and prestige are a type of sociopolitical leverage, the show also demonstrated that having faith and belief in people is entrusting them with leverage. That is, leverage in the sense of “a place to stand” in order to “move the world.” Shaking off labels can be very difficult. Though you may try to resist them, they inevitably leave their mark. Sometimes, you don’t even need others to confirm or deny the power labels have over you–generally speaking, you can more than capably fill the role ascribed to you.
This power over one is, in fact, the most insidious, damaging, and dangerous aspect of stereotypes. Combined with the categorization of people according to worth, stereotypes can be downright lethal. Nevermind that there are a few ounces of truth within each stereotype. Untempered, the bad simply outweigh the good.
This said, people who give others a place to stand, who provide others with leverage, should be commended. They are enabling others to move the world.
Personally, this is the sort of thing that I think about when I recall the opportunities given, and denied, to me and the people I know well. I make lists, actual and mental ones. Like Santa Claus. In no particular order, I write down and recognize who has given me a place to stand and who has denied me a place, a voice, an opportunity. I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this.
The goal is to keep the lists empty–pay debts, forgive, and move on.
While I work to keep these lists empty, I do remember. In either case, I am provided with fuel for the fire. Motivation.
To those who have believed in me: by giving me a place to stand, I recognize your faith in me and seek to make you rest easy. I know you gambled on me and I will repay. Loyalty.
To those who have thought it wise to not give me a chance, whether deserved or not: I won’t forget.