I will always believe in “The Revolution”. But I am becoming very frustrated with modern “activist” culture.
First of all, I’m tired of watching people turn into pretentious assholes who think their activism makes them better than everyone else, even those oppressed and marginalized groups with whom they claim “allyship”.
If you’ve ever worked in the shelter system, or any field that serves those deemed as oppressed or marginalized in any way, such as abuse victims, the homeless, or people who struggle with addictions and/or mental illness (just a few examples)…one of the first things you learn is that they usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University. For the most part, they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”. While many of these folks are directly impacted by class inequality and do realize it, they are likely not spending their days and nights reading Karl Marx, educating themselves on the intricacies of capitalism. They do not sit around pondering the effects of “problematic behaviours” in radical communities. They are not concerned with checking their privilege. No. They are busy trying to survive. Getting through the next day. Meeting their basic needs such as food, shelter and hygiene. They do not bother with policing their language and worrying about how their words might unintentionally perpetuate certain stereotypes. They are more concerned with their voices being heard in the first place.
And yet I witness so many “activists” who claim to care about those at the bottom of society ignoring the realities of oppression, as if being offended by a person’s speech or worldview is equal to prison time or living on the streets. They talk about listening, being humble, questioning one’s preconceived notions about other people and hearing their lived experiences…and yet ignore the lived experiences of those who don’t speak or think properly in the view of university-educated social justice warriors, regardless of how much worse off they really are. That is not to say that we should accept bigotry in any form — far from it. But I would go as far as saying that the politically correct mafia on the left perpetuates a form of bigotry on its own because it alienates and “otherizes” those who do not share their ways of thinking and speaking about the world.
I’m tired of the cliques, the hierarchies, the policing of others, and the power imbalances that exist between people who claim to be friends and comrades. I am exhausted and saddened by the fact that any type of disagreement or difference of opinion in an activist circle will lead to a fight, which sometimes includes abandonment of certain people, deeming them “unsafe” as well as public shaming and slander. It is disgusting that we claim to be building a new world, a new society, a better way of dealing with social problems — but if a person makes a mistake, says and/or does something wrong, they are not even given a chance to explain their side of what happened because the process of conflict resolution is in itself driven by ideology rather than a willingness to understand facts. Actually, in today’s activist circles one is lucky to be given any sort of due process at all, while everyone is put under social pressure to believe everything they are told regardless of what actually occurred in a given situation. This is not freedom. This is not social justice. There is nothing “progressive” or “radical” about it, unless you are referring to fascism.
Speaking of Fascism, there is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere. This is not only dangerous but it also works against us, because as leftists we are often labelled as threats by the state and at the very least, we are unpopular by society in general. Does this not mean that freedom of thought and expression are crucial to our struggles? That we should always defend our right to question what we’re taught, our right to be different? As Noam Chomsky put it: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Freedom of expression and the like does not mean we have to agree with what another person says…in fact, it means that when we do not, we certainly have the right to challenge it. But what myself and many others are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely, for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of world history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.
More to the point, the world is not a safe place. It is extremely dangerous, flawed, full of bloodshed and corruption. By sheltering ourselves from its harshness we are doing nothing meaningful to change it. If we are serious about confronting power we must throw ourselves into the danger and hurt that so many people have no choice but to live with. While self-care is necessary to sustain us in the long run, avoiding the darkness entirely is nothing more than a cop out.
Folks, do the world a favour…stop with the safe spaces and trigger warnings, and get serious about changing the world. It is not always going to be fun and pleasant. We are not always going to feel liberated. It is going to hurt. It is going to scare the shit out of us at times. But if the struggle is worth it to you, if activism is not just a trendy thing for you to be involved with so you can convince yourself that you’re not complacent in injustices, then you will step out of your comfort zone and finally understand that comfort is in itself a sign of the power and privilege you wish to challenge.