At my workplace, every year we (my team) organize an event on the occasion of ‘International Women’s Day’. The idea is to sensitize the colleagues and bring in new perspectives. We invite different guests and the program is generally only for couple of hours, on Saturday. So, it was yesterday, 14 March, in the afternoon.
We are 80 people working here. We send invitation to all through LAN. My team personally invites everyone (except for the few who have never attended in the last eight years). Our workplace cleaning task is outsourced; we invite all those ten workers for this program. This personal conversation gives us idea about the expected attendance and we make adequate arrangements. Some of my colleagues are traveling and some have deadlines to complete….. We know in advance that they won’t be coming, so we do not wait for them. The attendance is of course voluntary, the choice is with my colleagues.
I do not know whether you have observed how people enter into any program hall and how they choose chairs. Generally, they will try to occupy last rows. Some people come and like to sit in groups. Some people like to be left alone. Some people take this opportunity to exchange ideas (when the program is going on) and some are engrossed in ‘sms’ing! From the organizer’s perspective, bringing back row people to the front is Herculean task. With all the formal and informal appeals, some people do not move, some move only to the next row…. keeping all front row chairs empty.
I think occupying back seat is a safety measure. If the program is boring, one can just slip away without disturbing the audience and without the organizers noticing you. I appreciate such visionaries – it is a practical aspect of ‘happy living’.
The program went on well. After it was over, I met some of the colleagues who did not attend. I casually asked them why they did not attend. I was stunned to get the answer “We wanted to, we came, but the hall was already crowded and there was no place…so, we went back. Why don’t you have the program in a bigger hall?”
At least 15 people wanted to attend the program, thought that there was not enough space and so went back. In the hall there were at least 25 empty chairs…..
There was enough from one side, and there was shortage from the other end. This shortage was artificially created and it affected the benefit of few. What happened? I believe it has to with distribution, accommodation, and discipline. If everybody would have kept back row chairs empty, it would have helped. But the early birds use ‘choice’ as ‘right’.
Thinking about ‘those who are not here’ is an essential part of any equitable distribution… but the ‘haves’ do not generally think of ‘have nots’. They not only assume that others will come and get whatever is the benefit; they also comment, “Oh! But they should have come in time” forgetting that everybody cannot have enough access to and control over resources.
The ‘have nots’ are not assertive enough and/or interested enough, so at the first opportunity they withdraw. I do not know whether it a lack of motivation or from experience they know that ‘the best is over for them’. They complain for what they did not get, but mostly do not take that ‘extra step’ to achieve what they want. So, the gap remains, the artificial shortage (non issue) becomes a ‘real issue’.
Arranging the program in a bigger hall (increasing resources/schemes/facilities) seems to be an obvious solution, but with the present mindset what is the guarantee that we will not create artificial shortage in that situation too?
Creating artificial shortage by haphazard and selfish choices is one part of the problem. Not taking extra efforts to create a space for ourselves is another side of the same coin. Unless we tackle both these issues simultaneously, whatever we may have, some will always be left without it, even when they want it. We all seem to love ‘shortage’ in one form or other and we all contribute to creating it.
So, why complain?