The more unabashedly I state my views on Facebook, the more I get unfriended. I liken this to the natural process of sloughing off dead skin cells with a loofah and revealing new skin.
My new skin breathes a lot better unfettered, letting who I am come forth without past conventions and facades obfuscating my thoughts and actions.
For each unfriending, I have gained more allies and friends in my community (FB & otherwise) who share their work, ideas and lives with me. Now that I speak, we can find each other. And so the new skin grows.
If the skin analogy seems too visceral (or epidermal, rather) for you, I can only tell you that I look in the mirror these days, and I see a person there who is vastly different from even a year ago, let alone decades ago.
I was raised to be pleasant, or pleasing more specifically, and sociable. From both my family and society, I was conditioned to believe that conflict is detestable, and challenging the status quo ungrateful, rude, and frankly, unattractive as a woman. I was often asked why I couldn’t just let things go, be quiet about that, get along, have a good time. Be a good time.
Well to me, these days a good time means actively deconstructing the patriarchal, white supremacist, neoliberal/capitalist colonization of the world and working to disarm the systemic isms that make this domination possible by supporting local, national and global liberationist movements.
Consequently, you might see why my early family and social conditioning felt to me like putting a tiger in a little cage, a little cage in the mall, even, so that the tiger would be a good little tiger. Little, little, little. It all felt like attempts to make me smaller. Like telling that tiger that she should be a different animal than the one she was born to be, that she should be less than she who was born to be. Rawr. Needless to say, I didn’t like that.
These days, I rarely worry about people being annoyed with my discussions on oppression and systemic injustice. I am not fazed if some think that it is too negative and tiresome to bring these issues to the top of their news feed. I can’t be complicit in the silence.
The reality is there, in our faces, in our world, every day, all around us, every, every day. My meager contributions to someone’s insular universe are slight compared to what they would see by opening their own critical lens, by inviting more of the world into their minds.
Some people say that they intentionally avoid politics and critical discussion on Facebook and elsewhere. They call these things “serious” topics that cause conflict and they avoid them. They say that Facebook is not the place for that. Why not? Then what is Facebook for? To send out one-dimensional, individualistic narratives about our lives? To take selfies and post sentimental memes and lists about childhood, love and baby animals? Sure it’s for that. And it can be great for staying connected with people we rarely see in person. Facebook can be for all of that stuff, but life is not one-dimensional or solely individual, and the disturbing realities about our world have a place in all of that, as well.
I see this shunning of weightier topics as a quiet, seemingly benign bullying that prevents many from calling out the problems that exist clearly in front of us. They don’t want to be seen as too bold, too serious, or too radical, even. They want to be seen as happy and pleasant. They don’t want people to dislike them. They don’t want to be a downer or a pain in the ass. Yes, I know how annoying it can be to think about the problems of our world. And it’s a privilege to have the choice whether or not to think about them.
Look at your schools, workplaces, fellow parents, friends, associates, students, families, workers, people in power. Look anywhere around you. Do you see it without the influence of propaganda and marketing? Or have the prescribed narratives of childhood, love, and the capitalistic dream rendered it all a sentimental fiction? For some, utopian aspirations effectively block out the realities of life outside of their zip code. They have simply grown a taller hedge, built a bigger fence, contained themselves in a prettier neighborhood. While for others, a dystopian inertia locks them into their lives, both figuratively, and for many, literally as they live a life in prison.
Look at your movies, your shows, your songs, your narratives. Do they soothe your conscience about staying quiet? Do they convince you that just feeling bad about the serious problems is enough? Do they make you feel like your ennui is something that needs medicating? How do they lead you down your path? How do you find your truth?
It’s the way it’s always been comes out of the mouths of even some of my most conscious friends. How do we fight that, they say. Look to our examples in history, I respond. Every facet of your life, privilege and oppression both, connects to a thread in history that shows how we fight, or how they win.
Both activists and oppressors often characterize truth as bold, and lies and corruption as common, banal even. How is it that we are called outspoken and radical to speak the truth about injustice when it is the oppressors who are outrageous and bold in their criminal actions? How is it that we have normalized corruption and oppression?
I embrace the emblem of courage, but outspokenness against systemic injustices should be seen as natural to humanity, and the actions of oppressors seen as outrageous and bold.
Compassion and dignity should be the most well-lit, the best-lit, places in our minds. Why does it seem instead then, that many fight on the side of their own oppressors, and not with those whom live within the same plights as themselves? Why is there so much silence?
In recent decades we have seen some bold acts of oppression and white collar crime go down in this country with hardly a public uprising. Conceptualizing truth-telling as a bold, radical act virtually pardons the larger segment of the population, a population that often cares, but views the work of activism as a radical place for radical people. This work is the work of all people. This is the daily work of being human. May it be brave, but may it also be common.