Friday, September 16, 2011

Hitting a Slump

Sometimes it can be very easy, as someone with even the slightest interest in things like human rights, to throw up one's hands and give up. The problem with knowing about the horrible state of the world is that you can't un-know it. And even if you happen to be one of the incredibly fortunate people who are not directly suffering (or at least not in a life-threatening way), it is hard not to feel a terrible guilt about that (a guilt that hopefully doesn't fester, but instead mobilizes you to act). So once you start to care about stuff like social justice, you can't look away again.

I think every person who is an activist or works toward a "better world" (whatever that looks like to you) every now and then gets a feeling of despair about the whole endeavour. Especially if, like me, you have the option to walk away. I have this feeling sometimes. I find myself withdrawing from my usual activist stuff, not writing as much, tweeting more about the mundane shit going on in my own life than about what is happening in the world. Even when the two combine and the personal is political, sometimes I just can't bring myself to see the *point* of picking up that picket sign.

I am not completely idealistic. I know the revolution won't happen in my lifetime. And I feel sometimes like the small acts I do are not changing anything. Not even the act of mindfulness, of not being completely oblivious, seems helpful. Some days I honestly don't know if it would make a difference anywhere (outside of my own heart) if I fought for capitalism to win, or fought against it.

I know you've probably been there.

For me, I could very easily stop caring. Sure I'm not doing so well financially right now, but I am a white university-educated cis woman with straight passing privilege, a middle class upbringing, a supportive and functional family of university-educated professionals, who is going to marry a lawyer. I would be alright; the boot of the kyriarchy is not pressing down on my neck particularly painfully. But like I said at the start, once you know, you can't un-know. I couldn't live with myself if I was that kind of an asshole. If I'm going to be an asshole (and I assure you, I am) it has to be by accident when I was trying not to be.

Sometimes I think I don't have strong ethics, especially compared to the people around me - particularly my partner, who is ethical to a fault, and with whom I recently had a long, frustrating debate about whether it is ever ethical to lie (it is!). But I guess I do ok, ethics-wise, because I couldn't be a person who doesn't care. So that's something. Is it? Or is it the bare minimum of ethical behaviour? And maybe it's just the genetic luck of the draw; I have a great deal of empathy that I don't feel I came by honestly. So maybe unethical people just missed out on that through no fault of their own.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is: I'm going through a little bit of a slump in the caring department right now. But that's normal - probably very much so for people who work in the social justice field as well. So you'll have to forgive my social networking updates about dinosaurs, my aimless blogging, my in-person chatter about Jeff Goldblum and haircuts and feta cheese. I guess if you leave the activist switch on too long, it burns out a little and you need to let it recharge.

How do you get it going again? I'd love to hear about your experiences with this.

1 comment:

JeninCanada said...

To withdraw and come back as strong or stronger than ever is never a bad thing. I do this too; I've completely withdrawn from the #prochoice thread on Twitter for weeks now, partially because I dont' think it makes a difference to yell at the same stupid antichoice morons night after night, and also because it's exhausting. I'm happier and my home is happier for me not being there.

I think it's important for people in social justice of any kind to try and do things where they can see real results. It's not always possible, but that's my thought.