Thursday, July 06, 2017

Less outrage, more action

I'm not one for shying away from thinking or talking or writing about the bad things in the world, but I have really been struck in the last few days by both the seduction and the limits of outrage as a primary mode of engaging the world. Mind you, we should be outraged at the rightwing dehumanization of Omar Khadr. We should be outraged at Barbara Kentner's death. We should be outraged at how white journalists treated two Indigenous women during that Canada Day media conference. We should be outraged at Canada 150 in toto. We should be outraged at CBC welcoming that proto-fascist monster onto one of their premier shows. We should be outraged that he was allowed, unchallenged, to defend scalping Mi'kmaq people. Frankly, not enough people are outraged, which is partly what allows these things to continue happening. Our outrage is important -- an ongoing sign that we have not lost our humanity in the face of a violent, oppressive world. And I am certainly not going to criticize any expression of outrage by the folks most directly impacted by all of it.

But SO MUCH left social media content is pointing out the bad stuff and venting our outrage. SO MUCH. As important as it is, I wonder if the affective pull towards adding our two cents to commenting on how awful X or Y is might in some cases at least be demobilizing. Why is so much left social media attention devoted to "that's bad" outrage, and relatively less to stories of resistance? Why are we not able to carve out more space, more attention, for ordinary people acting in the face of oppression and harm? Not that there's none of that, of course...and some folks do a better job than others of carving out that space. But why don't more of us, more of the time, centre ordinary people taking action? Why do we so often centre elites being awful?

This isn't a call for ignoring the awfulness in the world. It isn't a call for feel-good fluff. Rather, it is a call to centre not the awfulness but what people are always already doing in the face of that awfulness. It is a call to put ourselves and other ordinary people at the centre of the story, to centre resistance, from the individual and everyday survival and thriving, to the collective and confrontational.

It is at heart, I think, a call to resist the tendency of social media to make spectators of us, to remember that people are constantly, of necessity, always always always acting, doing, making, resisting in response to what the world throws at us. I think we'll collectively go farther by centring what you're already doing, what I'm already doing, what she's already doing over there. So maybe, at the level of social media, let's each commit to sharing less "that's awful" outrage and more stories of resistance. And that includes everyday 'cult of the militant' worship of narrow forms of struggle here!

What will this accomplish? Hard to know. Maybe nothing. But centring our attention on efforts to make change feels like one small piece of supporting and participating in such efforts.

And, admittedly, I'm biased in this. With Talking Radical Radio, this is sort of what I do. But, still, I think it's important!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning that disgraceful lead item on PnP on the 5th. You and Kinsella the only ones to see it? Did Rosie have it on the national as well?
I am boycotting.

Lorne said...

A very interesting post. On a somewhat related note, I have recently been wondering whether social media, despite all of the useful information it can impart, has become a substitute,not a catalyst, for concrete action. I fear that too many people are content to write things like,"I stand with Manchester" or sign a petition about an injustice or ecological horror and feel that they have really engaged in issues. To me, if they become a substitute, such efforts are worth little.