Do you suffer from delusions of petiteur?

solar_system

My very first “about something” post for little Galloblog was titled “Dismounting the activism high horse.” I wrote about how I had stopped feeling the need to use my social media accounts to change the world. I recommended shifting the focus from grandiose goals for world change (“I’m going to combat world hunger!”) to realistic goals for changing your immediate surroundings (“I’m going to bring dinner to a struggling family I heard about from a mutual friend”).

I still agree with that post, to a certain degree. But I also wonder if I’ve gone too far in the other direction. Should I ignore the ills of the world? Can I really do nothing positive to help people that aren’t in my immediate circle? Mais non! Consider the following brilliant points:

One, there is a circularity to this thinking. My former conviction to focus on those around me has also fostered a callousness and indifference to The World. I know I can’t stop poverty or racism or men wearing crop-tops, so I don’t let myself think or learn about those social ills. I hate knowing about a problem and not being able to fix it. I’ve convinced myself I can’t fix it, so I ignore it. But of course my astute readers can see the circularity here – we ignore problems so they persist, they persist so we ignore them. 

Two, occasionally one person or a handful of people actually do something that is good. Women and men did come together and advocate for women’s right to vote in the United States, and now women can vote. That didn’t solve all inequality and sexism out there, but it was a good thing. Something that was worth knowing about and fighting for.

Three, sometimes even meager improvements – in relation to the grand scale of the problem – are very impactful to certain individuals. Chemotherapy didn’t cure cancer, and many people still die from cancer. But the development of chemotherapy as cancer treatment has allowed some people with cancer to live much longer than they would without. Does more still need to be done? Of course. But chemotherapy was worth working on.

Finally, sometimes you have to do the best you can with what you know, all the while knowing that you are also going to introduce some new or different bad in your attempt to bring about good. The medical community has made great progress in treatment and prevention of infectious diseases, so now we’re much more likely to die from horrible chronic diseases. Still, I’m extremely happy that dying from diarrhea is no longer a major threat to our society.

Some big issues are worth caring about and working toward. And maybe different people are more prone to and qualified for working toward different scales of change – whether that be at the macro (world hunger!), mezzo (hungry children in my congressional district!), micro (one hungry family in my neighborhood!).. nano (hungry rats in my attic?!) level. But I doubt anyone’s off the hook.. so shake off your delusions of petiteur and do something grande. 😉

*awkwardly remounts the horse*

Jojo Fletcher Mount GIF by The Bachelorette - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

 

Fight aggressive activism with passive aggression!

As many others have said better than I have, fb has become near intolerable. We’ve been rolling our eyes at exhibitionists* and passive-aggressive posts for years, but throughout the 2016 election and – good Lort, especially after Trump’s inauguration – my fb feed has been inundated with self-righteous-apocalyptic-hyperactivism posts. I’ve already talked about dismounting the activism high horse myself, but I think now it’s time to take back our beloved fb feed by force.**

How do you fight against obnoxiously aggressive activism? By being obnoxiously passive aggressive, of course. Therefore, I have made reaction gifs that should fit each and every post. Because let’s be real, most people just want to impress people that they are modern, concerned peoples. So let’s give them what they want, as obnoxiously as possible. Instead of commenting, just post these gifs for each type of post.

1) For those “I’m going to write a 5 page essay to show you how right I am about this” posts

2) For those “All white people / males / straight people etc. etc. should just all go kill themselves and feel super guilty” posts
3) For those “Let’s all get depressed about some horrible social issue” posts
4) For those “I will rise above you dirty scumbags” posts
5) For all other self-righteous-apolcalyptic-hyperactivism posts, otherwise unspecified
I realize this is coming across as a bit snarky. Well, my feed has induced this snark. I don’t doubt that some of my friends truly care about these issues… but I don’t care that they care. Please post a pic of your cat. Thx.***
If THIS post has inspired YOU, please send me more suggestions! Let’s start a massive conglomeration of passive-aggressiveness.
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*Fancy term for “people who post too many pictures of themselves and think that we care what they ate for dinner every night.” I am a perfect example of this.
**I really do take life and issues seriously. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there is no worse place to discuss politics than on fb. Dr. Galloswag sez, “Discussing politics online shrivels every dendrite in our brains.” I have truly developed a deep dislike for so many of my “friends” now because of their SRAH posts. But I’m not advocating for a lack of action per se – I’m advocating against broadcasting every action you take. You go and change the world, little tiger. If you actually do something important, trust me, the world will recognize you.
***I have a feeling I will regret this post later. But rn, Claire Bear Don’t Care. All this endless barrage of profound outrage has induced profound apathy in yours truly.

Dismounting the activism high horse

It’s like we’re all running for office and have to put out a press-release documenting our official response to all trending topics. Why?? Are you actually in a position of power to change those situations? Do you actually have anything new to add to the conversation, and/or can you actually say something more clearly and eloquently that someone who actually is an expert has not already said?

The world sucks right now, y’all. ISIS is displacing millions of people, race relations in the U.S. seem to be regressing instead of progressing, the next U.S. president will either be an unhinged maniac or a calculating murderess, there are millions of people still trapped in slavery, U.S. veterans are not receiving adequate social, psychological, and economical support when they return from overseas, Blake Shelton’s and Gwen Stefani’s duet is being treated like legitimate music..

What to do? In the past I would feel compelled to read and post as many articles on facebook as I could to raise awareness, give as much money as I could spare to causes that fight against these atrocities.. if necessary, I would even duke it out with a complete stranger on my friend’s posts comment section just to make sure those creepily curious but silent Facebook readers were getting my side of the story. But more recently my online presence has consisted of Seinfeld-esque rambles, intermixed with Instagram shares so people don’t forget how adorbs and amazing I am.

What has happened to ol’ Galloswag? Well, to borrow from Hillary Clinton, I’ve ‘evolved’ recently in how I think about my personal involvement in these really huge, disturbing, meta-issues that are plaguing the world. A few points I’ve realized –

  • Never in any point in history have we had access to so much information. Although it’s great to have the ability to google ‘Sri Lanka government’ and get about 893,000 results in 0.51 seconds, the constant barrage of info is completely overwhelming. Instead of making me a more empathetic, conscious world citizen, it’s numbing me. I simply cannot get worked up about each and every issue. This says nothing about their worthiness of attention, but my own physical and emotional limitations. I would have a mental breakdown if I did.
  • As a PhD student, I recognize that there are experts in everything now… and almost all true answers are “Maybe/probably, but it’s complicated.” Almost all public knowledge is so dumbed down and distorted by various media sources that it’s almost impossible to know the real truth of the matter – especially when it’s a politically contentious issue. Basically, the “truth” comes down to which news source you like and what sort of assumptions you’re bringing into every issue. Now to borrow from Jeb Bush – although I’m not an expert in world or political affairs, “I know what I don’t know.” I’m not descending into moral relativism – I do believe in absolute truth. But I also believe absolutely that I don’t have the time, resources, and intelligence to diligently research and understand the truth of every issue.
  • There might not be any worse place to talk about important issues than on social media. No one logs into Facebook so that their world view can be radically altered. Readers are much more likely to misunderstand the content and tone of posts and tweets, and are more likely to respond with hostility instead of understanding. It’s not shocking that whenever I say “if you want to talk about this more, please private message me,” that no one follows up on that offer. It seems that practically no one wants to have a reasonable conversation. They want to share their thoughts and defend their stance publicly, not learn or be challenged.
  • I can’t speak for everyone, but be honest – are we REALLY ‘grieved’, ‘outraged’, ‘deeply saddened’, etc.  about *every* school shooting, racial riot, tsunami, government overthrow , genocide, terrorist attack — or do we just want to make sure everyone knows that we’re socially conscious people and keyed into relevant issues? It’s like we’re all running for office and have to put out a press-release documenting our official response to all trending topics. Why?? Are you actually in a position of power to change those situations? Do you actually have anything new to add to the conversation, and/or can you actually say something more clearly and eloquently that someone who actually is an expert has not already said?
  • “But Galloswag!”, you protest, “we could always give money toward different causes, right?” Sure.. except do you really have the time to research the integrity and effectiveness of all the organizations you support? I used to think, “I’d rather give money and it be used unwisely than not give money to a worthy cause.” But sometimes throwing money blindly at problems really can cause harm (see Robert Lupton’s Toxic Charity). And not to get all Marxist on y’all, but there are limited resources in the world, which means pouring resources into an ineffective or corrupt organization really is a sort of evil, because you’re stealing from the people, causes, organizations that actually are legit.

Here’s where I’ll pivot somewhat from the bleak and cynical. I’m starting to think that mayyyybbeee we’re given specific skills… put in specific times and places… around specific people… for a reason. Maybe I should focus on helping my lab-mate move to a new apartment, doing good science that actually makes a contribution (however small) to finding a cure for a devastating disease, and supporting local businesses, artists, etc. It’s not that I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend the big scary world doesn’t exist. It’s that I can’t stretch my poor little emotions so thin that I become a self-righteous maniac or a detached psychopath who responds to all evils with a moving fb status update or a disturbingly glib reaction meme, respectively. I’m beginning to think the best way to bring shalom* to my world is a be a good sister, help out in my own community, and save my money, time, and emotional energy for one or two causes/issues that 1) are particularly important to me and 2) are being combated by trustworthy organizations that I’ve taken the time to research.

This is a departure from my usual tongue-in-cheek, bossy-pants posts because I truly don’t know if this is good or right.. but this is where I’m at right now. So I welcome your thoughts. But of course, you can also just silently judge me and I will continue merrily on.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Shalom is one of my favorite concepts of all time. It’s a Jewish word that is sort of a synonym for peace, although it’s not just referring to the absence of conflict but the flourishing of a community. ❤