“…but, you know, you have that whole thing you do on Facebook where you stand up for women and the poor and different races and stuff…”
This was actually said to me quite a while ago; and it has bothered me sufficiently that it has stuck with me for several weeks. My first draft of this opening actually implied that I wasn’t initially upset by it, that it grew to annoy me; that characterization isn’t true, though. I was sufficiently off-put by it the first time that I heard it that it prompted me to whip out my notebook and jot it down for later review. We’ll see if enough time has passed for me to remain relatively dispassionate as I attempt that review.
Let me begin by describing what I perceive this “whole thing I do” to be. I dislike internal inconsistency and find blatantly hypocritical behavior to be profoundly irritating. I am annoyed by broad applications of injustice, but don’t usually give a shit about fairness. I hate a dishonest defense of a position whether that position is defensible or not.
I don’t stand up for women—I think that women are actively excluded in a variety of systemic ways in our culture and I try to make sure that I’m not directly contributing to those.
I used to think that the above was enough, but now I also try to call out when I see others directly contributing to those systemic abuses. As it turns out, my ability to turn a blind-eye to those things if I choose to because it doesn’t have an immediate impact on my life is ALSO directly contributing to those systemic injustices. Remaining silent is effectively giving consent to such behaviors.
I am of the opinion that you can substitute “the poor”, “people of color”, “immigrants”, “gays”, and dozens of other subjects into my first statement in place of “women” and have it remain true.
I do not believe that joking about these things means that I take them any less seriously—humor has many purposes, but shouldn’t be taken as diminishing the gravity of an issue. I do not think that my jokes about an issue suddenly make me a hypocrite.
I do believe in trying to make sure that when I’m joking about these things, I’m punching up rather than down. It’s not solely that punching down is weak comedy and shows weak character; it is more that the sort of people that find me funny when I’m punching down are the sort of people I don’t want finding me funny.
The most important thing that I believe, however, is simple: I believe that the majority of my actions should try to improve things in some way for those that would benefit most from improvement—and further, that all of my actions should strive to not make things worse for those same people.
These things that I “do on Facebook” are a natural result of the above points of view. I’m not donning a costume. This isn’t some kind of an act meant to gain me—I guess that’s the question—what would this gain me? What is the benefit? There are no social justice warrior ranks. There aren’t points, there isn’t a cabal of folks that assign jobs or prizes to people that are correctly outspoken. There is literally zero benefit to me to be loud about these things.
That’s not true—it implied an altruism that I don’t genuinely believe in. Let me try again…
Here is what I get from that: I get to be a person that I approve of more often than not. That person gets the respect of peers that I actually respect and wish to be more like. That person gets to help make the world the place that I want to inhabit. That person gets to feel as though he has made a contribution of value to those around him; not simply to himself. That person—one I want very badly to exist—gets to exist for just a little while when I am guided by these principles.
I guess the question I wish I had asked—the question I’m asking now—is “why don’t you have the same sort of thing? Why isn’t this your thing?”