Friday, April 10, 2015

Fix It with Your Tiny Fist There


But where is the prescriptive element? I mean, I get that Ramsey wants white Americans to rise up and work to fix things. But how does he propose that we actually inspire them to do so? Sure, it should be enough to show them the reality to provoke them to fight for change. But should is a word of remarkably little relevance in the real world. 50 years after the most important Civil Rights legislation, it seems obvious that just pointing out that our society is unjust is not enough to provoke the white majority to create change.

In other words, the piece recounts in exacting detail a political problem but does nothing to establish a political solution. It begs for a next step– “here’s what I would do to convince white Americans to get on board with a political movement against racial inequality”– that it never takes. And in not taking that next step, it falls perfectly into line with the general, bizarre trend, the trend to say “it’s not the job of oppressed people to educate you.” Really? Then whose job, exactly, is it? I hear that all the time, and I find it such a bizarre attitude for self-described activists to take. To call yourself an activist is precisely to say “It is my job to educate you.” Change is active by its nature. The status quo doesn’t need activists. Change requires that you make it your job. So where’s the political strategy? I don’t pretend that it would be obvious or easy– in fact I think it’ll be incredibly hard– but, well, 200 years ago you could buy people, and the ability to do so was deeply embedded in the economy. Things can change, but you’ve got to make them happen and you have to motivate people who aren’t inherently predisposed to be motivated in order to do so.

Freddie is asking rhetorical questions, of course. He's patiently trying to lead some incredibly stupid horses to water. I, on the other hand, don't believe that these particular horses actually want to drink. That bumper sticker image up above (courtesy of Tom Tomorrow) perfectly encapsulates what they're all about. The "political" twitosphere is nothing more than a bunch of people complaining that "somebody should do something about this, that and the other fucked-up thing!" Not them, of course. They've already done their part by writing a multi-part tweet that went viral, dintjasee? They're the "ideas" crew. They just want to heave the ball of their righteous wisdom down the online lane and watch all the opponents of progress scatter like pins.

That's why I put "political" in scare quotes. These people are not activists, they just play them online. They're the political equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacks. Real activists are far too busy with the never-ending, thankless hard work required to make actual political change happen in a world where, honest to God, believe it or don't, three-quarters of the inhabitants don't even use Twitter, let alone know that some celebrity totally won the Internet with their post about gun control in the wake of another mass shooting (which continue apace despite near-unanimous opposition on social media, strangely enough). They don't have time to waste on social media posturing and performing for several hours a day.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not condemning a tabloid site like Gawker for failing to draft intelligent policy proposals, as if they're capable or willing. They're only playing their role as the cool kids' table in the social media cafeteria, just as they were designed. I'm merely underlining the point that the "political" web exists almost entirely for signaling and venting, nothing more. It's a way for people to yell at their TV in public. As Freddie keeps saying, if you want to win enough support for unpopular ideas to turn them into policies and laws, it's suicidal to act as if the truth and righteousness of your position is self-evident, and if your opponents can't see that, well, it sucks to be as stupid as them. And yet, that's the attitude you see displayed time and again. Even at a more intellectual site devoted to the history of ideas, where you might reasonably expect a post titled What Is The Left, Anyway? to offer up a more substantial vision of what it even means to be a leftist today, you get this kind of vapid rambling, where empty snark is about as close to a serious point as you come.

If you want to put your politics into action, put the computer to sleep and go find some activist groups in your area to get involved with. Spend your free time and weekends working with them. Or go find people who don't already agree with you, but are at least reasonable enough to converse with, and try to sway them to your way of thinking. Any of those things would be more meaningful than sitting on your ass reading yet another post about how awful and stupid your opponents are. What are you going to do with that information? Vote for Democrats? You were doing that already! Vote even harder for Democrats? Please. The "political" web is just another form of entertainment for people who are too status-conscious to be seen keeping up with the Kardashians.