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Real Life Is Boring But Precious: Why Not Everyone Can Be An Idealist

Political ideology is often hypothetical. The clue is in the name: “IDEA-ology”. It can be exhausting. It exhausts people to live in ideological space for too long. We become disjointed, disconnected, unreal and out-of-touch.

It affects anyone who lives and breathes passionate ideology, whether you agree with them or not. Whether it’s a hypocritical triggered right-wing gammon or a confusing smug elitist liberal, the signs are the same.

 

 

You feel relentless, passionate, inspired, but tired. You look possessed, obsessed, relentless. Your relatives and friends dread discussing anything with you, lest they make a fatal misstep.

Isn’t passion meant to be a virtue? Isn’t idealism what is needed to bring people into the light, into a better world? Does it matter if you tread on a few toes along the way, if the way is the path to utopia? You are not alone, other people are fighting just as fervently as you are, and that gives you strength and comradeship.

When your passion begins to hurt you, other people become the enemy

Humans aren’t made out of ideas and philosophy. We have stress hormones, social needs, natural instincts, natural limits. You feel tired, burdened by your own awareness and passion, and the constant conflict this incites. If only other people would understand, and care, then your burden would be eased, right?

Not everyone cares. Many people (or should we say “sheeple”) bizarrely seem happy just living their own small personal lives. It’s mind-boggling how someone can look at the complexity and the struggles of our changing world, and simply turn their back on it with a shrug and “I don’t like to get involved in that kind of thing”. Not only is it confusing, but it’s frustrating, concerning, worrying. Surely this borders on sociopathic?

You have a responsibility to show this person the light. You need to make this person care. That’s how the story goes, right?

If the stakes weren’t so high, maybe you would be them instead. But to put yourself above the chaos and the mission seems intolerably selfish. It would be unthinkable to just give up.

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Does your life need to be dominated by politics to have meaning?

Justice warriors, on any side, are pushing themselves, often to their limits, in pursuit of their ideals. From the outside, it looks unhealthy, harsh, and unforgiving. From the inside, it feels like a calling, a passion, something that cannot be ignored.

That calling is normally for a better world and a fairer way, whatever that means to the individual. Against a whole world, individual limits are allowed to pale into insignificance.

Whilst you are inflicting your chosen philosophy on other people, that isn’t a problem. They make mistakes because they aren’t informed enough, and you inform and correct them. You enforce improvements. It’s a role to take seriously. As long as your energy remains directed outwards, there’s no problem.

Even directing your energy inwards is okay, within the limits of testing and improving yourself and your philosophy. You can’t afford to focus on anything else though, ideological purity must be maintained, even whilst it makes you isolated and single-minded.

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More at: http://skepchick.org/2012/02/seeing-the-patriarchy/

If this philosophical struggle is so worthy and important, why do people stubbornly remain outside of it?

1. They know their limits.

Caring about issues takes up an awful lot of time and energy. There’s a reason why there’s a stereotype about politically active students being “layabouts”. When people have other constraints on their time, like work or a family to support, it’s harder to make time for all the research, education and conversation that is needed to build and sustain your passionate worldview. It’s not impossible, but it might not be a priority.

2. Real life is central to actual politics.

In this ideal world you are pushing for, do people have work? Families? Hobbies and interests outside of politics? In which case, the people who choose to step back from engagement are also the people who populate your idealised world. Humans and wider society will always be a part of any philosophical ideal we hold, so it shouldn’t be surprising that for some people, it’s an easy choice to prioritise their own lives over a hypothetical ideology for the greater good. This choice shouldn’t be taken as a slight to your idealism, because this mundane normality is the basic fabric that you want to preserve or improve.

3. Not everyone can be a member of the thought-police.

A large part of what keeps the idealism motor running is improving other people and educating them. This cannot be sustained if everyone considers it their job, see: a group of feminists discussing whether high heels are good or bad. There is a natural limit to how many small-scale political experts your social group can sustain, so it’s probably for the best that a lot of people chose to step back for most issues.

Take a message from the masses; it will give you strength, patience, and make you more relatable.

Social change can feel daunting, insurmountable, and unforgiving. Every step you take can feel like it has to be right, has to move you further towards a better future, or else it will feel like a step backwards, doing damage to your cause. It can feel unforgivable to take some time to yourself, to not be informed, to not speak up.

But we all know that it is important. For people who believe in self-care, it should be obvious. For people who believe in self-advancement, it should be obvious. It’s still far too easy to put the greater good above ourselves. It is easy to be mesmerised by the greater future, and forget the present. We can forget we are part of the society we are trying to save.

By focusing all our efforts on improvement, we forget to appreciate the everyday life that we want to improve for others. This is how we become detached from the ordinariness which should be at the centre of our ideals.

Making sure we focus on an ordinary life, including our own, can help us to stay in perspective and be more effective activists. It’s harder for unrealistic extremist ideas to flourish when you embrace the messy reality of ordinary lives.

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Try thinking a little smaller instead, without letting go of your ideals.

 

 

 

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Why I Left Tumblr, And How It Saved Me

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This blog started as a way to put all my social justice energy somewhere it could stand apart from Tumblr.com.

This is the story of why I left it, and why I’m still forever grateful.

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What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is both a leftist Discourse hell and a positive self-love heaven.

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People who know of the site are either addicted to it, repulsed, or both.

It’s a self-loathing, sarcastic, special website. To me, nowhere else on the internet can compare.

Tumblr’s main reputation is as the home of the “SJW”; the social justice warrior, but luckily, I can’t find an image for that right now. It’s the inspiration for this blog name!

Continue reading “Why I Left Tumblr, And How It Saved Me”

Reformed SJW Thought Police? How I learned to be gentler with myself and others.

A popular image of the SJW is that of a self-appointed, brutal and totalitarian thought-policing dictatorship, completely opposed to free speech and any expression of dissent. It’s not a well-liked representation.

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However whilst student activists exercising their democratic right to protest is hardly an abuse of power, there is a grain of truth to this despotic representation.

I know this, because I’ve been there, and come out the other side.

First, let me acknowledge that it’s always clear that there is a problem.

Your well-intentioned policing usually goes down like a lead balloon.

It is obviously uncomfortable for others. They feel called out, challenged, judged. It is less obviously uncomfortable for yourself. You are the “villain” causing trouble, and that isn’t a great place to be. You run a real risk of social isolation for your beliefs.

At the time, I thought this was because I was so special and dedicated. It didn’t matter that I was tragic and misunderstood; all heroes of history are.

Nonetheless, it is lonely, and unlike heroes of history, you aren’t influencing people, only driving them away.

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Small victories did occur. I treasured them, like the time I very slightly got a men’s rights activist to agree with me after hours of hostile and calculated internet debating.

I didn’t realise I was looking at a dangerous habit as a worthy struggle. Nothing I did was enough, so certainly nothing anyone else did was enough. Everything was problematic, and it stung desperately.

I was deeply uncomfortable with mistakes and unfairness in the world. Social justice required constant pressure, was an uphill task, was an unpopular job. It was the perfect job for someone who was convinced that they and the world was not good enough.

Perfectionism drives the hostility of the social justice “warrior”. Well-intentioned and passionate, yet simultaneously brittle and unforgiving.

Perfectionism comes from being uncomfortable with mistakes and yourself. To try to quell the anxiety, you put more effort into correction, in a self destructive cycle. However, this does not resolve the anxiety, because you are a human in a human world, so you inevitably encounter more mistakes, resulting in more correction, and ultimately, an overwhelming power-struggle.

Changing the self destructive pattern of perfectionism was not obvious, because I was worried I would lose the only truly good thing I had; my ethics.

The narrative seemed clear; be a good person, or be a bad person. To me, the lonely perfectionism of the social justice warrior was the only “good” option. It appeared black and white with no other choices.

Being a keyboard warrior legitimately took a large portion of my time, including when I should have been sleeping, or eating, or studying, and it felt outside of my control.

It would be great to say that I saw the damage this was doing and the lack of progress and realised I had to stop, but that would have required self awareness I wasn’t ready for.

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At uni I’d been immersed in the liberal student union and loud yet ineffective activist societies, with tonnes of free time.

Suddenly, I was working retail, and there was no space for this side of me any more. Practical limitations stopped me in my tracks.

I didn’t have the energy any more to be that good person, defending justice every waking second.

But I still felt guilty that I should be doing more. I looked for hope, and for ways to change the world. I worked in ethical jobs, doing care and support, thinking that at least I was helping other people directly, even if I wasn’t stamping out worldwide bigotry.

It is very hard to navigate perfectionist space. Almost every step by definition is wrong. Moving forward is a treacherous sport; every step could be taking you even further into the wrong direction.

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For me, the witchy-unrealness of this depicts the black-and-white split pretty well. This is not the real world. Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140721191055-23732165-coaching-through-paradoxes-the-paradox-of-an-acceptance

In my (tired) perfectionist haze, I saw the same messages again and again: perfectionism is bad, pushing yourself too hard is bad, you cannot take responsibility for everthing.

I couldn’t move forward. I had moved sideways and let go of a lot of the policing, but I was still punishing myself. I needed to let go of that in order to truly start “winning” the power-struggle.

It was a slow year. I realised I needed professional help, which I’m still having, and still struggling sometimes with. I had to learn to accept myself as a whole person; letting go of childhood guilt and inadequacies.

I had to change my entire concept of “good” into something realistic, and attainable, that could include myself.

This works to quell the anxiety by refusing to perpetuate the cycle of correction. For different people, this might look different, but it is all about finding healthier coping mechanisms. That could be mindfulness, meditation, counselling, finding new interests, or any other form of holistic and kind self-improvement.

Ultimately, it results in looking internally for your barometer of “good” instead of externally.

Once you genuinely believe in yourself, then you do not need to blare out onto the world for validation and reassurance, or for punishment and atonement.

Instead of fearing flaws and mistakes, it needs to become acceptable to work through them safely.

Safety was the missing ingredient to my activism when I was peak “Thought Police”.

I was petrified of an evil, bigoted, cruel and unfair world, and petrified of not doing enough to “stop” it, even though that was an impossible task.

Being terrified did not make me effective. It made me hostile, aggressive and judgemental even though I was relentlessly fighting for the “right” things. 

Growing internally was not something I did in order to control my social justice demons, but it helped.

It is slow, but I’m learning to genuinely accept the “real world”, whilst still wanting to change it. Both are possible, and both need to be possible in order to allow ourselves reasonable forgiveness.

Giving up the fear of the big complicated imperfect world has been terrifying, but now I’m less scared than I have ever been.

With my new sense of safety, I can take more steps. I’m starting to make better connections with people around me, without fearing being an accidentally awful person.

I’m imperfect and complicated, by virtue of being human, but that this doesn’t make me or anyone else inherently “bad” or dangerous.

My decisions to engage in activism are now my own. I can put down a campaign that is too much for me.

I can practise kindness in the actions for myself, then others, creating a sustainable circuit that ensures I do not burn out.

I can be kind to other people’s faults, because I’ve practised being kind to my own.

High ideals are exhausting and unsustainable. Holding yourself to near-impossible ideals isn’t necessary in order to be a good activist.

Ideals should be something that can be reached that will make the world a better place, like being kind.

Being perfectly up to date on offensive terminology might help you to be kind, but the exhaustion and negativity of that awareness probably isn’t.

Being kind might start with yourself. Peace might need to come from within to have any meaning.

It is easy to judge those who judge others, and harder to just be kind. People are complicated.

With kind self-improvement people can change for the better without sacrificing their ideals.

In fact, being gentler is more effective activism and healthier than being harsh.

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Have you had a therapy journey that has affected your activism? I know I’m not alone in this, if you have a story like this please comment, I’d love to check out more blogs from activists who’ve had this journey!

 

Who’s In Control of Your Ad-Break?

Something I’ve been noticing a lot recently is the absurdity of the ad break in TV.

More specifically, the contrast in “entertainment”.

I go abruptly from watching something I have enjoy, to watching a series of seconds-long clips selling everything under the sun.

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Both will try to grab my attention and entertain me, but only one is explicitly also trying to sell me a product outside of itself.

It’s a bizarre power dynamic.

The advertising company needs me to be entertained because they need to stick in my head. When they stick in people’s heads, it becomes a brand, an icon, part of our culture. Can you imagine a world without Coke? You would if they didn’t advertise.

The flattery insists that the products are working in our service and trying to win our approval, yet the insistence of the advertising feels distinctively aggressive.

I need to buy things, because we live in a consumerist society, made up of brands. If I go to a shop, it will have a range of products, all of which are branded.

When adverts work, they make our decisions easier. We know what values that brand claims to represent, and what their product claims to be. We can decide to align ourselves accordingly.

Did you know that we are wired to see brands as socially, as friends?

Of course, the ugly side of this dynamic is that this is not purely informational.

Brands need to exist in public consciousness because they need our money.

Unlike most friends, they don’t mind being manipulative, flattering or calculating to win our attention.

Unlike almost all friends, they need us desperately. If you can imagine a world without Coke, Coke disappears. People stop recognising it, they may lose the positive association, and drink something else.

(It could even be tap water, a cheap and often plentiful resource. Apart from in places where mega-corporations like Coke damage and divert the water supply to create their more expensive and privately owned product.)

The impact of advertising is real. Even when we claim not to be affected, our brains will let the positive associations stick and inform our decision-making using our emotional or “gut” feelings. For better or worse, we aren’t escaping this.

Although we can’t avoid advertising, we can realise its desperation, and allow ourselves to step back from it.

I’m still going to make decisions partly based on how brands communicate with me, if I cannot avoid brands altogether, because to ignore information completely would be foolish.

However, this deluge of ugly, distracting, flashy bombardment by brands can be exhausting. We need ways to take the sting out.

The flashier and more urgent an advert, the more desperate and powerful the brand. They have money to spare on advertising at you relentlessly, and they chose to do that because their power will vanish if they don’t maintain their presence in YOUR head.

The more heart rending, the more gorgeous, the more insistent and clever, or annoying…the more the brand needs you.

Remember that, next time you are sitting through another frustrating 5 minute ad break for perfumes, baby products and energy drinks.

Ultimately, the power dynamic is more in your favour than the ads would have you believe.

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(And I’m sorry if there are terrible ads on this page. It is ironic, but it is how the internet works. More on that another time I guess!).

Late Post This Week: Should I post on Advertising or on Giving Support?

Hey,

So I’ve been busy, I’m buying my first car very soon and starting a new temp job tomorrow, so suddenly I find myself on Sunday evening with no post.

I’ve got two pretty developed ideas for a post, but as I haven’t written either yet, I thought it might be a good idea to ask anyone reading if they have a preference.

What sounds more interesting to you?

  • Advertising – the paradox of advertising, the power dynamics of brand awareness, e.gbrands appearing to cater to the consumer whilst trying to manipulate them into buying their products.

or

  • Giving Support – the friction between idealised recipients of services and the messy reality, the egos and paternalism of the support industry, and if this dynamic can be avoided or made more equal.

I’m also interested on any general feedback from anyone who visits my blog or has any thoughts…are my longer posts better, should I try to be shorter? Any major faux pas I’m missing? Let me know!

I’m aiming to post either of these choices on Monday evening, so watch this space!

🙂

Kindness by a Thousand Messages

This is a post about Recovery, the self-care and mental health process.

There is a parallel between pervasive social messages about equality and about self care. I think learning “self-justice” can be just as important as learning about justice for others.

When I discovered Tumblr in my late teens, I discovered an abundance of both. Posts about forgiving yourself and loving your body went go hand in hand with posts about how all bodies are equal and everyone deserves compassion.

Unconditional love runs the gears of both systems. Not everyone who believes in social justice has necessarily mastered it, and people might not love themselves whilst they defend the rights of others.

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It isn’t a secret that people who go through trauma can sometimes become the most giving. In psychology, the extreme of this is a Saviour complex. What doesn’t kill you, could make you stronger, or at least, kinder and more compassionate.

It isn’t easy to hear about self-compassion when you don’t have it, or you don’t have any compassion in your life. If you live in a tough, individualistic environment where strength is valued, you’d naturally be repelled by the saccharine notion that softness isn’t a bad thing. It would seem like a trick, not to be trusted. Letting your walls down would seem to guarantee an ugly defeat.

Being told that this is normal, that this is called trust issues, wouldn’t help. Your emotional defences would be raised, and further softness would fall on numb ears.

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This is how the conflict between individualistic right wing people and communalistic left wing people could play out, if everyone was ideologically pure.

However, people are far from pure ideology. Everyone has a background, everyone has been hurt, everyone has defences. Left wing people don’t actually run on pure love, and right wing people aren’t as emotionally invulnerable and disconnected as they’d like to believe. Reality meets in the middle, with messy defensive arguments on all sides, give or take.

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We are all humans, and we are influenced by the messages from our society. This can be in a messy, insulting, internet brawl, or it can be from articles on niche socio-political websites. To me, it looks like more and more messages about self care are appearing, as part of a more informed generation learning to respect themselves and the planet. To others, they might be receiving thousands of messages the other way, about self-supremacy, as part of a more desperate and disillusioned generation each trying to escape disaster for themselves.

Is Unconditional Self Love a Trap?

This is the perpetual question. Unconditional love and respect for others is widely taught in most major world religions, and most of us would hope to have unconditionally loving relationships with the people close to us, yet there is always doubt. Doubt that this actually includes us, when we maybe don’t have religion or maybe family support. Doubt that we will look foolish and weak for having tried to be gentler. Doubt that we tried hard enough to be strong and that if we finally do it right instead then the pain and isolation will be over instantly.

This doubt can’t be answered. In situations of conflict or war, being strong can be more valuable. In a lot of society, individualistic behaviour is encouraged and community efforts are seen as shameful, odd or embarrassing.

At the end of the day we all have to decide for ourselves. Will we listen to thousands of messages about positivity, love, and supporting each other and ourselves, or the messages about distrust, protection, and an endless race for supremacy? Will we combine the two? Ultimately, it’s always a human decision.

 

Justice Jargon Still Matters

This is part 2. For part 1, click here: Justice Jargon: You need to stop speaking it.

Note: I am not the best person to talk about sexist language. If you want a thorough in depth well researched blog about feminism and language, I recommend language: a feminist guide by Debbie Cameron, on WordPress who is a linguist and a feminist. Her blog is fantastic and informative and refreshingly insightful.

These are just my thoughts about the value of what I am calling “Justice Jargon”, the much derided vocabularly used popularly in sociology and activism.

The case for Justice Jargon

Last week I said activists need to stop using this language, because it alienates and infuriates people who do not understand it. I explored how the wider public perceive this technical language differently to specialists. Now, I’m defending why it is still important.

First, the elephant in the room. Jargon applies to experts. Whilst it is common to portray SJW’s as pretentious teenagers, much of the terminology is used in Academicia, and comes from Sociology.

Beyond the trivial understandings (such as these semi-accurate, semi-insulting ones in a glossary by a “libertarian”) there are accepted technical definitions of terms such as “privilege”, “oppression” and “sexism”.

This doesn’t give legitimacy, but illustrates that the language is not “made up” to be difficult or exclusionary. It is by nature that technical language is sometimes exclusionary and difficult, but it is not by design.

My experience is with the extreme left wing, however people on the extreme right also develop their own technical language that can be bewildering to outsiders. I would argue this is used more by independent figures than in academic fields.

My point is not about legitimacy but complexity. When you are exploring ideas in depth and with like-minded people you will naturally start to come up with new words to describe concepts and share ideas efficiently. It is a simple case of prescriptive vs descriptive language use.  For a clear example, the hated term “mansplaining” exploded into popular usage after it appeared in a comment on author Rebecca Solnit’s article about men explaining things to her. The phrase gave the problem (described as “something every woman knows” by Solnit) a name and hasn’t disappeared since, because it’s needed.

The PC Brigade

Other terms are less about conceptual communication and more about increased accuracy. These are the “politically correct” terms like:

  • hearing impaired vs “deaf”
  • visually impaired/legally blind vs “blind”
  • undocumented migrant vs “illegal immigrant”
  • learning difficulties vs “slow”
  • LGBT+ vs “gay”
  • person of colour vs “coloured” or non-white
  • singular they vs “he or she”
  • white vs “Caucasian”

This is about terms that have connotations that could be negative or misleading. My favourite and clearest example of this is visually impaired instead of blind. Many people think this is ridiculous and overly euphemistic. In reality, it is far more informative. For casual users, the word “blind” often means what is called “total sight loss” (absolutely no vision or light detection). Visually impaired is a term that includes people with partial sight loss such as blurriness, patchiness, or distortions. I think it is a surprise to many people that a legally blind person may still be able to have some useable vision or light sensitivity (such as this YouTuber, Mollie Burke, who has tonnes of videos about her condition and how she uses light in order to film).

The debate about updating words when they become used as a slur is tricky, and not something I feel comfortable going into here, but it is another reason by words that were once technical and accurate may fall out of fashion in polite or formal usage.

The LGBT+ word salad is often made fun of, and I mentioned it in my previous post. It is also a good example of how a community might not always agree on the “best” or most up to date terminology. Some people prefer the term “queer”, whilst others view that as an unreclaimable slur…although they share a community, opinions clash about what that community *is* and should be called.

Person of colour has been mocked for being clunky and overly serious, but has roots in finding a neutral way to talk about racism systems without defining a whole class of people as the absence of whiteness. Again, this is a process, and I’ve started to notice the phrase “racialised” coming up instead. “Coloured” was a term that was widely used, however became out of fashion over time to the point where some view it as a slur, whilst others still believe it is a technical and correct phrase.

Caucasian does not mean white, and has some murky roots.

This is often criticised in the press as prescriptivist language. However, the process of new terminology for existing concepts, as I hope I have illustrated, is also a natural process of talking about and improving understanding of sensitive issues such as disabilities, or social groups.

Why It Matters ….How It Feels

The common theme in Justice Jargon is that these concepts and experiences are sensitive, personal, and often stigmatised. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t be Justice Jargon.

I’ve tried to stay away from more controversial definitions so far here, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are concepts that are not widely accepted yet. Such as polyamory (having more than one partner, not being monogamous), autism and neurodiversity (different types of brains and thinking), asexuality (not having sexual attraction) or being non-binary gender (being neither male nor female, or being a mixture of the two).

For some people, these are accepted concepts and identities. For others, they are inventions or creations. This is where it gets dicey. This is where hate can easily come in.

For people who *are* those identities, having a word to describe their internal reality is often a huge relief. A wordless experience of being “different” becomes named. It becomes a shared experience with other people.

Not everyone embraces new labels. For some people, a label means isolation, being separated from the “norm” and marked out as different. Those people will not find relief in a label, even if it is close to their lived reality.

The dangerous part is when people assign malicious intent to people with new or unusual labels. It is easy to see that a fringe identity can be quickly stigmatised or misbelieved, and that the act of embracing and accepting a label can be harshly criticised as part of that.

Personally, I have travelled the line from “unknown weird” to “autistic”. In between that, I knew, and self diagnosed, but didn’t want to embrace a word I wasn’t sure I had a right to. Now, I’m on a journey of learning to accept it, and hopefully helping other people to as well. I’m aware of the stigma, but to have remained in the dark and continued to mask would have hurt my sense of identity. Understanding myself as part of a wider community of people is different to being alone with myself. Fighting the stigma feels different since I moved to *within* it. It is just a word that describes a deficit based symptoms list that I’ve been professionally deemed to fit, but it is also so much more than that.

Diagnosis stories are common with the theme of finding out “There’s a word for that?!?”.  Less popular are the stories of other forms of identity. People with fringe sexualities who are open about it are often open to ridicule. But the stigma doesn’t change the benefits of understanding yourself better, finding a word for what once was entirely nameless.

Jargon isn’t the only problem

People in the wider public can still have disdain for jargon when they hear it. People can mistrust “strange” new identities and feel baffled at the amount of diversity and disability that appears to be springing up. People can even deny that these words are real.

But genies can’t and won’t get put back in their bottles. Once people have words for who they are and what they are experiencing, they don’t let go of them. The words describe something essential, even if it is niche, or misunderstood, or disrespected. When these new strange words are part of *your* reality, they aren’t going anywhere.

Ultimately, the tide is always going to be in favour of new language, and language evolving over time. Language is perception, so using the right words matters in order to have good discussions about these serious, complicated, and emotionally loaded topics.

People are learning new terms and using them at different rates according to their interests and specialisms. There’s going to be some mucky moments where language becomes an obstacle, but only if we let it. Plain language is always an option. The jargon is not the problem if we are happy to translate and educate about it at a sensible pace.

The bigger problem might be what happens when people don’t want to hear about marginalised identities/concepts, or only want to marginalise them further. When that happens, our choice of words can’t overcome others intolerance or hatred. So be careful. Sometimes, a spade is just a spade, and there are no words to be had.

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Note: So this was really long! I hope to come back to this topic, because there’s a lot more I want to say about how we use language to protect our identities, but I really enjoyed getting this part 2 out here, I hope it makes sense! Let me know if I got anything wrong in the comments and I will try to correct it.

 

Justice Jargon: You need to stop speaking it.

Diversity terminology can be seen as a real rabbit hole, but is that a fair assessment?Is this complexity really necessary?

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This is not a test, just a visual. I don’t know all these flags or words. From: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/9-queer-pride-flags-that-you-probably-didnt-know-about

Let me use something I have come back into in the past week: the concept of the “squish”, to first demonstrate the layers at work here.

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  1. First, a squish is defined as a crush, but for friendship, not romance.
  2. Second, squishes are part of the aromantic terminology, one word amongst many used to describe an intense urge to bond that isn’t part of a romantic desire, which can be difficult for some people to comprehend.
  3. Third, this will all sound like gobbledygook to someone who’s never heard of aromantic.
  4. Aromantic is when you don’t feel romantic desire, Many consider it part of the LGBTQUIA+ umbrella, and consider that the A stands for Aromantic/Asexual, not “Ally”.
  5. Finally (for this example!), LGBTQUIA+ is just one of the acronyms that is used to describe the gay rights movement. There is a long complex Wikipedia page about the alternative acronyms that have been in circulation.

That’s quite a trip.

And it is understandable that for some people, it leads to frustration.

This is because the litany of new vocabulary can be difficult to keep up with if you don’t use it. If you do use it, it’s frustrating because not everyone is keeping up with it.

When a baby feminist first discovers and identifies the concept of patriarchy, the fact that she never knew the word or concept before is mind blowing. It suddenly makes the whole world make more sense. It gives form to a vague uneasy feeling when you walk at night and are female, or enter a room with only men who don’t know you. It can be an illuminating experience.

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More at: http://skepchick.org/2012/02/seeing-the-patriarchy/

But to the outsider, who doesn’t care to learn about the concept for their own reasons, it quickly becomes grating and cliched. Hence the stereotype about feminists blaming everything on the patriarchy. Hence the straw arguments about feminists blaming men for everything, as if they were synonymous. Hence further alienation for our baby feminist…

The same effect happens with socialist critique of capitalism. A wider understanding of the word (businesses, people being reimbursed for work and buying things with money) becomes conflated with a technical and political use of the word (a system in  which ownership and rents are put above people and needs) to diminish the arguments of activists who speak out against capitalism.

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Racism could be the most abused and poorly agreed on social theory term. Racism in activism is used to mean a hierarchal system of advantages and oppression of one ethnic group over other ethnic groups, which is currently the “white” ethnic group. Racism in the wider public is chronically misunderstood. It means “basic bigotry based on race” and is understood as “something which dark people are the main victims of”. This wider usage is not as connected as the social justice theory is. A concept of basic bigotry based on race doesn’t explain or legitimise why darker people are more often victims. This is why it gets seen as unfair, it is why people get accused of playing the “race card”, why people fight so adamantly that white people *must* be victims of “reverse” racism and also that the “reverse” part doesn’t make sense.

Privilege overlaps all of these. Privilege, meaning a comparative lack of certain systematic obstacles, gets understood to mean wealth, full-on bigotry, active oppression or greed.This is despite the fact the use and intent is about an absence of awareness of others obstacles, so to be “accused” of privilege is to be accused of ignorance, not wealth or cruelty. The wide use and misunderstanding is what led to it becoming so prevalent in Anti-SJ memes.

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From the “Know Your Meme” page. Amazingly, a lot of the memes are pretty offensive, so I didn’t want to re-post them here. This seems obscure and fake enough to be inoffensive whilst illustrating the phenomenom.

For there to be any sensible discussion, in any forum or place, about sensitive topics like race, sexuality and gender, first we must realise that we aren’t all speaking the same language.

Being fluent in justice-jargon can be fantastic when you are with others who speak it, but when you are around your mainstream parents? Not so effective. Your co-workers likely won’t speak it either. You will not be able to be better understood by wishing that others could use the words you do.

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You use those words because you have conceptualised inequalities and oppression enough to use them.

For other people to use or understand them, they need to first of all see what you can see.

It will need plain language. It will not need text books or glossaries. It will need to be humble and inviting, not braggish and alienating, in order to make an effect.

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Big concepts need small words, and small, slow introductions. In films, impassioned speeches work. Using technical language with fluency works. In films, people are baffled and impressed and won over with brilliance, but in reality, it often goes the other way. People are put off and feel alienated and ignorant. It is easy to direct that frustration at the dumb idealist kid who doesn’t know anything and their fancy made-up words. The words become a wedge between a SJW and their prospective audience, instead of the tool they were hoped to be.

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We want to avoid people feeling overwhelmed, belittled, and defensive.

The words have to come second to the concept. They have to grow naturally into people’s terminologies. You have to build up layer by layer. There’s no point starting five levels down at working what a squish is. By the time you reach ground level again you’ve lost your audience under a tonne of subjects they don’t know, and become confusing instead.

For example, a simple visual or graphic can sometimes be very effective and accessible. This one very simply illustrates the aromantic identity:

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So now I’ve explained that the complexity comes from the subject matter, and the vast differences in the understanding of sociological concepts. The language causes friction and can exacerbate those differences if not carefully avoided.

Why not do away with confusing language all together?

That is the question I hope to be answering next week, so please stay tuned.

This post kind of got away from me today, but I guess I had some strong feelings about the terminology turf wars that people have been having for so long. This might become a vein I go deeper into in the next few weeks in general, if I can keep my attention focused enough. I hope this was useful. If any of the descriptions are wrong or misleading please let me know in the comments below as they were my own interpretations and I am subject to bias and human error. I’m enjoying writing more and really hoping to build up the content on this blog this year! Thank you for reading this far! See you next week!

 

 

 

 

 

How deep are your ethics?

This post was going to be about the permanence of pollution, and how the whole world is connected and finite.

I was going to use the story from Blue Planet 2 about the dead pilot whale calf, and how it awoke many’s consciousness about pollution.

However, if you watch that clip again, you might notice that this specific calf’s cause of death is not known. It is being used to illustrate the impact that plastics could be having on sea life.

Our ethics are led by our life experiences and our values. I’m a fan of transparency, science, and facts…up to a point.

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Scientism is “the view that the characteristic inductive methods of the natural sciences are the only source of genuine factual knowledge and, in particular, that they alone can yield true knowledge about man and society”. I only discovered it recently, but find it incredibly apt. This describes a willingness to leave the hardest questions to science. Questions about whether to be racist, sexist, homophobic, sizest… all can be “answered” by studies of whether there is truly differences.

These topics, like global pollution, are far bigger than facts. They are about morals.

The idea that these decisions could be made with “objective” numbers alone should be repulsive to ideals of fairness and equality.

I appreciate scientific backing for more responsible plastic practises, and human action to limit climate change and CO2 emissions, but it isn’t making my decision for me. In the same way, whether this calf died from plastic pollution isn’t making my decision for me, because these decisions are subjective and depend on human values.

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Science can tell us that there is a rapid increase in toxic plastic in the ocean and harmful chemicals in the air, but it is up to us as individuals to decide that this problem matters to us, and that we want to take action about it. It takes courage to own a decision made on values. Values are internal, un-provable, subjective. They entirely clash with a scientific objective approach.

Yet when we look at a life with only rules, you get into the darkest most sticky areas of philosophy. If you could live inside a perfect experience machine, would you? If you could save the world by torturing someone, would you? If you could kill one person by taking action or kill 5 through inaction, would you?

 

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Philosophy is a soft science and doesn’t claim to have all the answers, only the logistical tools to explore these questions and values. Some of the most interesting questions I think you can ask are outside of the realms of the thought experiment; who tied these people to these trolley tracks anyway?

Similarly, in real life, dillemmas are often presented in a two dimensional way. Do you care about the planet, or don’t you? Do you want a wind farm on your island, or don’t you? Are you the enemy, or are you not?

 

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Our ethics are deeper than that, even when they appear not. Everyone has important  caveats and exceptions and explanations to their beliefs, if you aren’t afraid to explore that with them. These differences are personal, diverse, and infinitely varied. No two vegans have the same views exactly, nor two feminists, nor conservatives, nor bigots. This is often exploited as “feminists don’t agree on anything” or “the right will eat itself”, but there’s so much more depth to explore than that.

Beneath the surface level debates, in the complexities and exceptions, there are often important values being held and decisions being made. We sum them up in simple words, but these words reflect a wealth of variety. These values are what we live by. Within these complex views, there’s more room for significant nuance.

I can support ending pollution (because it seems wrong and unfair for one species over just a century to cause unprecedented damage to the Earth) and yet not feel strongly about the science that supports it either way. Others might be only feel convinced by what scientific evidence is out there, and build their views based on that. Both of us will share the same goal, and have a depth of resolve to fix this.

There is value in both approaches, and plenty of space for manoeuvre together, because our values are far deeper than we think.

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Further Reading: Doomsday Scenarios are as bad as Climate Change Denial: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/doomsday-scenarios-are-as-harmful-as-climate-change-denial/2017/07/12/880ed002-6714-11e7-a1d7-9a32c91c6f40_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fbd851b7ff44