Sunday, November 17, 2013

Do You Know That Feel, Bro?

On social media I saw someone share a post about a political topic (broadly defined). Someone else replied with a comment that - apparently - exhibited insufficient indignation, although the responding party indeed with in sympathy with everyone involved, against the case under discussion. For this insufficient indignation, and perceived lack of righteous anger, the original poster chastised the other person, saying - in essence: "If this doesn't make you furious enough to act out, you are no better than the people we're criticizing here." Keep in mind, there was nothing in the content of the respondent's own post to indicate a decisive lack of anger. It was simply a short message, and foregrounded an emotion other than anger. Also, as far as I am aware, all the original poster had done to "act out" was to share the post. Clicktivism, dudes.

What the topic was doesn't even matter. Exchanges like this are common, and I am allergic to their spirit. You can see it across the self-identified political spectrum, but I ultimately think of it as deep-seated and perhaps narcissistic authoritarianism - this impulse to demand and police people's emotional responses. "Your words and feelings do not mirror my own! You are not following through on the same actions that I am, or that I secretly wish I myself had the strength to do!" This all strikes me as a profound distrust of and hatred for the Other, even though sometimes it is cloaked in language that labels itself radical, feminist, socialist, etc.

I do not mean to say that other people's speech or patterns of thought can't be criticized. Far from it. But for some people, the impulse to police others' self-presentation, and to insist they know what another person is feeling and thus judge them on their perceived lack of righteous militance, becomes a more powerful motivation than actually to follow through on the activism they loudly proclaim.


Jaime said...

I wish I could find the pic of the "third world" people carting out a bunch of Facebook "Likes" as if they were food parcels, but I guess this will have to do:

Joel Bocko said...

Yeah, I see this type of thing a lot on Twitter (which has also disabused me of the notion that political correctness died off back in the 90s, but that's a slightly separate matter). So often what passes for "activism" seems to be more about stoking the "activist"'s own ego than actually affecting change. Reminds of how allergic to the organized left my own experience with university protests made me, even as my own politics moved subtly leftward.

ZC said...

It's very disappointing, and insofar as this is a problem for 'the Left' (though as I said I think it's a problem across the spectrum) it relates to the continued and under-recognized influence of Christian puritanism/protestantism on the thinking of many privileged progressives. It's tied to another thing I rail against every once in a while, the idea that radical left-wing politics is fundamentally about the strict regulation and presentation of one's own consumption habits. As if it's the wrongest wrong for a self-identified communist to, god forbid, ever possibly enjoy middle-class comfort or take pleasure in decent wine ... when the whole damn point is to combat the class structures which deny needs, goods, leisure, and pleasure to the masses of humanity for the use and wealth of a tiny minority.

Puritan-progressives who despise Marxism love to pin accusations on (a) leftists who are middle-class and aren't living in slums, and (b) The System, which is sufficiently abstract and absolves anyone powerful of any blame or agency. But they remain silent about ruling classes, actual capitalists, real corporate interests.

(Jaime, btw that's a pretty good pic itself!)