This phrase came to me today, I guess, because a couple of things I’ve heard lately have made me say out loud “You’re playing gatekeeper!!” (The concept of ‘the gatekeeper’ is not a new one to me.)
The person who twigged it last night was the neurologist interviewed on “The Current Review” on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Radio who seems to be resisting a “radical” new treatment for MS (multiple sclerosis). He claims his concern is for his patients’ safety – & I bet he even believes that! I suspect he’s mostly “playing gatekeeper.” It “works” for him to be the Big Expert with his patients – the one with all the knowledge & the expertise & the one who gets to pull out & write on that prescription pad & help keep those big Pharma boys (& himself) in business.
It isn’t just doctors who play gatekeeper, of course. I remember a small town I used to live in where I used to say the mayor seemed to behave as though he owned the town – had it all neatly tucked up in his back pocket. Of course we all know quite a few people who seem to think (they certainly act as though) they have God all neatly tucked up in their back pocket, hmm? Yes… I guess we could muse on that one for a while…
Nor is it just men in positions of power & privilege who play gatekeeper. I remember once encountering a woman who seemed to be an expert at it. At her wedding reception, I met & got along like a house on fire with her sister, who seemed very interested indeed in the project on cancer prevention I was then involved in. When I asked her later for her sister’s e-mail address, Ms. GK wouldn’t give it to me.
& that reminds me now too of another similar story, where a woman I’ve known virtually all my life would not share contact information for her sister – effectively cutting off the possibility of exchanges that might well have led to real benefits for several people – her sister chief among them.
Gatekeepers. They don’t get it.
They cling to their “power” – unaware that in a world characterized by openness & sharing & collaboration & inclusivity (instead of exclusivity), where nobody gets to be or has to be the Great Big Sheriff or the Great Big Expert – but rather, where we all put our heads & hands to the tasks – whatever our background, skin colour, age, sex, education, religious views – & work as an ensemble – we not only get the work done, we have a heck of a lot more fun!!
There is definitely some, how shall I say, gender politics in all this, of course. No need to go there…we just need to grasp that “power with” is a good deal more empowering & fun – for everyone – than power over.
So to gatekeeper types everywhere, female, male & otherwise – in the corporate world & in the world of politics & in the world of activism (Yes! There are even those in the environmental & social justice movements who play gatekeeper/power freak. Sheesh, eh?? Old habits really do die hard), I say, G is for “Get a grip!!”
Changing the world is for everybody.
It’s a team sport, dudes – not a competition! Enough of the darn turf wars (& the egos), already…
P.S. Folks who “play gatekeeper” are generally control freaks, basically. People become control freaks for a reason – nobody gets this way out of nowhere! For some of us, it takes a life-shattering, gutwrenching experience of one kind or another to relinquish our control freak-ism. (Some of us are pretty slow learners & very, very reluctant to let it go. This is painful to watch…& a regrettably very widespread phenomenon indeed. Some, of course, never do let it go).
It is actually such a liberating thing to get – right down inside our guts – the seemingly inconvenient truth that pretty much all of our notions about control – over our very own lives, even – are merely illusions. Once the shock of that realization subsides, & you stand back & take a new look & give yourself a chance to really breathe, you see that it actually opens everything right up!
Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Isn’t that brilliant??
P.P.S. A couple of other postings on this blog speak to the issue of control freak-ism: “Ditching the 2 x 4’s,” "2 x 4's: A few more thoughts," & “Control Freaks Anonymous.” I guess “What We Focus On, Expands” too.
‘Quote of the Day’ with this post: “Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in “The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community,” by David Korten