I sighed when I saw the title: “Why this radical leftist is tired of leftist culture.” I was afraid that I would know what the blog was talking about before I even read it.
I was right.
Invariably, such articles – which pop up with surprising and saddening frequency these days – are usually shared by my friends who are to my right on the political spectrum. They’re held up as evidence that my side has gotten away from things. That my side has gotten frivolous. That my side has gotten a little too extreme.
Of course, these articles have a large amount of truth to them. Things are bad in many parts of the world. The idea of a trigger warning is laughable to someone who is facing having acid thrown in thier face, limbs chopped off, being trafficked, or imprisoned for their political views. The idea that someone would worry about being merely offended by speech, when greater and justices are being done in the world, is seen as insane.
And that claim is itself insanity.
That argument itself, or at least how it is used, helps to preserve the very things that it argues against.
The underlying assumption with such an argument is that preserving oneself from any kind of offense is the responsibility of the person who is the victim. The problem is that that same argument is used whether the offense is a mere word or if that offense is something greater, something economic, something societal. That same argument is used to marginalize and minimize any complaint by any minority, or disenfranchised group.
That same argument is used to tell poor people that it’s their fault that they are poor, that it’s women’s fault that they are assaulted or harassed, that it is the fault of disenfranchised communities that they are experiencing the end result of years of systemic oppression and racism.
That same argument ignores the structures of power and privilege that exists in our society. it ignores that the ways that we talk about people impact the ways that we treat people. And it ignores that when we do not care how some people are talked about, that we systemically do not care how they are treated.
Of course, there’s also the reality that you can be outraged by things both large and small at the same time. You can care about vast humans rights abuses and microaggressions at the same time. On that point alone, such arguments in articles show a lack of consideration and compassion themselves.
But fundamentally, such well-intentioned (but often selectively quoted!) articles and arguments miss the larger point. The all of these are about the ways in which we pause to think about others. The these are about the ways that we consider others and how we treat them, regardless of scale.
And changing that – at any scale – is vital to changing the whole system.