It’s easy when we feel passionate about something, say a belief or a cause, to become so invested in upholding that cause that we feel like we have reached some sort of moral higher ground. I don’t think it’s intentional in most cases and I don’t think we want to become adversarial but that is what often happens. And our interactions can become adversarial vs engaging and educating.
That passion and fire for something we believe so strongly in can develop into frustration and in turn anger when we feel we aren’t being heard or that our cause is not being understood or we are facing some kind of opposition.
Being someone that has turned into somewhat of an activist myself, I have gone through the range of emotions and feel like my evolution is underway when it comes to what being an activist means for me and how I represent that, and how to support what I feel so strongly about and ultimately how I engage with others about things.
What I keep telling myself is to meet people where they are, and to remind myself that I am where I am as a result of a journey, that I didn’t start off understanding what I know today and I in fact partook in and unknowingly supported the practices that I now despise and work to put and end to.
No one wants to be initially confronted with judgement or accusations of wrong doing, that most often results in immediate defensiveness and in our culture, all out conflict. And instead of helping educate and broadening someone’s perspective, the opposite results and you basically solidify that person’s opposition or rejection of your cause/belief before they even had a chance to consider the options. In many cases, that person may have been open to a positive interaction and a new perspective on the topic had the approach come from a place of love and understanding.
This is what I see happening day in and day out on twitter. Activists of all sorts basically challenging and creating conflict where there was none. Taking things out of context and pitting themselves against people that actually had good intentions of trying to understand, engage and participate in peaceful progress. When this happens, the activists have hurt their own cause.
Our culture seems to breed a need for being adversarial. We are groomed to pit ourselves against one another on just about everything from politics to what we eat to race issues to what sports teams we side with. Always picking sides, always choosing to be against someone or something vs standing together and reaching out in understanding. Like my baseball team is better than yours I fucking hate you and your stupid team!!! How about we all love the game of baseball first? How about we start of by working to find common ground instead of the default being reacting to every single thing by finding how we can put someone on the “wrong” side.
I saw people posting negatively about Common’s comments on Jon Stewart where he basically said, instead of the approach being “your ancestors did this to my ancestors,” try reaching out a hand to the ones you wish would understand, engage them from a place of love and folks were upset about that, choosing to take a position and an approach of an adversary vs that of an engager. And I get it, there is a level of ignorance and injustice happening sometime that is beyond reason and understanding but if we choose to engage in that, to react to it, to get distracted by it, we lose focus and take energy and power away from driving the change that we want.
Another example is like a hardcore vegan hating on a new vegan for still wearing leather shoes. That approach does nothing to help that person further their understanding and their perspective, instead they will feel judged and defensive and not want to participate, instead of furthering the cause, someone gets pushed away from it.
To me, by continuing to pit ourselves against something, anything as our first approach, we end up being sheep to a system that wants us to be fighting amongst ourselves so that we can be distracted from what’s really going on and therefore not gather enough support and union to drive real change. I see it in so many different parts of our society, culture, etc.
There is something to be said for fighting the good fight, fighting for our rights, fighting for justice, fighting for better. But if we only know how to do this by fighting AGAINST something else vs fighting TOGETHER FOR something, we won’t make any progress.
Everyone is on a different journey, everyone’s eyes are opened to things and their perspectives grown in different ways. We can either be an agent for change or end up getting in the way of that which we desire. It is our choice, we can choose HOW we engage. Let’s start from a place of what unites us vs what divides us. Together is the only way we can drive real meaningful change.