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Previous On Writing, Aside #1: The Difference Between Aspirations and Goals
I almost did something this morning that I have changed my entire life to avoid doing: I almost ranted on social media.
I know… Pretty boring confession, especially considering the climate of our current society. Everyone’s got something to rant about these days, and everyone has the means to do so to their hearts’ content. It used to be a daily thing for me. I even made a career out of it at one point. But ultimately, it was unhealthy and leaving it all behind has been beyond beneficial. I smile more. I appreciate my daily life. I produce books instead of trickling ideas into a never-ending stream of internet piss. I have stopped screaming into the void (for the most part).
But still, some current events get under my skin, especially those dealing with hypocrisy, and VERY especially those dealing with a particular religious group for whom hypocrisy is supposed to be a sin, and yet they indulge in it almost by the hour. And since quitting my job to write full time, I’ve found myself with much more time between writing chapters in my books and that time has been slowly allowing my walls around my social media behavior to erode.
When I caught myself mid-rant, I stopped and immediately texted my friend Casey (whom you’ve heard of, I’m sure, if you’ve read this blog for any time). We have a mini support group for former social media ranters, among other things. And when I told him what happened, he immediately came back with his own confessions. It turns out, you guys, that we are living in a profoundly toxic society, and it’s getting worse by the day. And neither Casey nor I are capable of ignoring this fact.
Of course, It’s not new and it’s not sudden, it’s been happening for a very long time. Our coping mechanisms work, but they aren’t iron-clad, and sometimes we find ourselves in a pure blinding rage at just how gross things have gotten. Our natural instincts are to fight tooth and nail against evil and oppression. We both dealt with bullying growing up, and we both have zero tolerance for bullies, hypocrites, liars, thieves, and very especially Nazis.
We’ve both dealt with some guilt around the idea of “not doing enough” to fight it, at various points in the past few years. In fact, going on two years ago, I deleted my Facebook account permanently in part because the days’ events had driven me to form an anti-facist group as a joke, and over seven thousand people joined in 48 hours. The conversations went from “Yay us, we’re going to fight the Nazis!” to “We need to show up at every event and fucking murder these peckerwoods” in very short order, and on the advice of no fewer than three lawyer friends of mine, I closed the doors and threw away the key.
I started a very unhealthy response to a very unhealthy facet of modern society. And something dawned on me at that time, and has stuck with me since: Nazis aren’t a new occurrence. They’re not “back.” They’ve always been here. We just took our boots off their neck long enough to get some air, and like cicadas emerging from the soil after decades of dormancy, they appeared in swarms and made a lot of annoying noise.
My instinct is to fight Nazis — not verbally or theoretically, but to punch these fucking pieces of shit until they swallow enough teeth and blood that they’re too busy puking to talk shit.
You see? That’s not healthy. That’s not something I need to be doing, not right now. It’s a tactic of the enemy. It’s becoming them. I’m the wrong guy to stand at the front and lead a movement against hate, because I have a TON of hate in my heart. I run the risk of doing more harm than good for any movement against bigotry, hatred, racism, and other things. I’m a bouncer. I’m the guy in the back guarding the door, not the guy out front telling people how to appropriately handle things like this. And neither is Casey.
And yet, he is feeling profound guilt that he’s not doing more to help. He’s not volunteering his time for political candidates who oppose these shitheads. He’s not spending time at the local food shelter feeding the homeless. He’s angry all the time, and feels like a hypocrite because he’s not dedicating his all to fighting these people and their disgusting, toxic, nauseating bullshit.
I reminded him that his entire body of work is in games and game art. He makes beautiful things people spend entire months with, which bring them profound joy and a much needed distraction from the day to day pain and poison of our modern society.
“That’s a spin,” he said. And I agreed that sure, it is. But, that work pays for him to keep a roof over the heads of two future adults, and keep those two future adults fed and raise them right, which is another huge slice of his “doing good” pie. So here we have a man who is raising children with a strong moral code, a profound sense of right and wrong, confidence to speak up when someone needs defending, and a general sense of how to be part of the solution — and he’s able to afford their raising by working in an industry on a top-tier game title that brings happiness and joy to millions.
If we’re putting numbers against it, all of that accounts for at least 75% of his goodwill pie. Add in the fact that he plays therapist to a novice cyberpunk author (me!) who is actively trying to be a part of the solution by writing novels that illustrate our current society in the framework of our inevitable consequences, instead of indulging in severely unhealthy and functionally useless social media ranting… That’s at least another 5%. So 80% of his pie chart is now full of good stuff.
“So, if you feel you need to do more to do good, tell me — what part of your current work and being a father are you looking to stop doing, so you can do something else ostensibly ‘good’?” I asked.
Of course, he had to laugh, because the answer is none of it. He’s already doing good, just by being himself. There’s still 20% of his pie that he could easily devote to more productive social things and maybe he will. But he cannot be so unfair to himself as to say he’s doing nothing to help. In my accounting, I’m seeing a balance sheet with far more “good” than “nothing” in the total columns.
I imagine you’re the same. You can’t not be. You have to be sitting there wondering what more you can do. The answer is, probably a lot more. I know I feel that way. But in that, you need to take account of what it is you already do, and honestly ask if it’s contributing to an overall positive experience for yourself, those around you, and the world. I imagine the answer is already a huge yes.
We aren’t bad people because we aren’t dropping everything to go man a picket line or punch Nazis at rallies or throw in full kitty with whatever political representative swears they’ll fight these folks. We’re human beings. Our only mistake was being decent to indecent people. We followed the Golden Rule and gave these jerks a platform to have their opinions, because that’s fair.
Only, it’s not, because Nazis and hypocrites and bullies don’t deserve fair. They’re already not fair. They’re not playing by the rules, so the rules do not apply to them.
The best way to beat these assholes is to be kind to one another, stand by each other, support each other, and EXCLUDE them. Exclude them from any podium. Exclude them from any microphone. Exclude them from your social media feed. Exclude them completely and totally. And if they force their way onstage or through a door you’ve forbid them to go through, THEN you call on a person like Casey or me, who are more than happy to wail the fucking shit out of them.
Not ignore; exclude. Exclusion is active. Ignoring is passive. You don’t pretend they don’t exist; you actively acknowledge that they do exist and then actively lock them out.
That’s our part in this. We are warriors. We fight. Sure, we know how to politic and theorize and postulate and discuss. But when someone pushes our buttons, we lose any and all ability to participate in those things, which is why we shouldn’t be out front leading this rebellion. We are incapable, in this instance, of being the kinds of leaders who should be out front. Our time, hopefully, won’t ever come. I hope we won’t have to escalate the war. I hope we can win with kindness and common sense. I hope we, all of us, can shove these fuckers out the door and lock it behind us and move back into a world where Nazi’s feelings aren’t being considered in thinkpieces and hot takes, because FUCK THEIR FEELINGS, THEY’RE NAZIS.
But just because my fists aren’t bloody and scarred just yet doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing. And the same goes with you.
Make no mistake – we are at war.The good of the world is under siege by selfish, manipulative, gross, lying, evil people who want to literally bring back Nazis — real, no kidding evil scourge Nazis. And we won’t win by becoming them. We win by beating them. Hate doesn’t kill hate, it just makes more hate.
We have to beat them with love. Love for our children, love for our community, love for each other. We have to unify against them not the way they unify against us, but in the way that actually works: by making the world a truly better place, piece by piece, individually. By doing good work that helps people, even if it makes you happy or doesn’t feel like sacrifice to do so.
You’re doing good. Keep doing good. And if things get to a point where Nazis need to be punched, trust me — there’s a bunch of us just waiting. But right now, there’s still time to win a better way. There’s still opportunities to shut them down and silence them before they can make things worse. There’s still a chance that we can win the right way.
If you want to do more:
Shut down sexists when they are sexist. Tell them what they said wasn’t cool, and they need to not do that.
Shut down racists when they are racist. Stand up for anyone and everyone around you who needs it.
Don’t be sexist, racist, or homophobic.
Do not tolerate hypocrisy. Point it out and highlight it when you see it.
Refuse to do business or support anyone who actively help and support racists, sexists, homophobes, or other evil people.
You don’t need an invite to a rally to start a revolution. Other people aren’t required for you to make your own stand. Chances are, there’s dozens or even hundreds of people you interact with in your daily life who are also scared to speak up, or feel they aren’t doing enough, or otherwise feel the world is completely fucked and don’t know what to do about it. Being a voice against hate when the hate happens is lighting a candle in the darkness. It only takes one.
And sadly, it’s not enough to tweet or Facebook or Instagram or post memes or whatever. It just fucking isn’t. You can keep doing those things, but they’re not the same as telling the racist asshole at Starbucks treating black customers like criminals that they’re being a racist asshole. It’s not the same as stopping the racist asshole at the public park from calling the cops because black people are trying to barbecue peacefully. It’s not the same as directly, purposely, and sternly confronting people doing bad, when they’re doing bad, and stopping them from doing bad.
Now, recording them and shaming them? Yes. Spreading the word about their bad behavior? Yes. You don’t have to yell and scream, you can easily make an example of them in thousands of ways. But what doesn’t help is basic armchair activism. It’s just ranting on social media, and it doesn’t do anything besides make you feel like you’re doing something when you’re not. It’s not enough to complain on Facebook about a dog shitting on the carpet and expect the dog to care. You have to catch it in the act, admonish it, rub its nose in it, and teach it what happens if it does it again. THEN post it on Facebook all you want.
And that’s the 20% that’s missing from all of our lives right now — the simple acts in your day to day life that confront and destroy the fascists. If you want to do more, there’s your opportunity. Grand thoughts of quitting your job and dedicating 100% of your time to fighting the current crop of bad guys are awesome, and if you have the financial and scheduling means to be able to do so, please do. But for most of us, these thoughts just perpetuate a feeling of helplessness and uselessness. They’re unachievable because they are grand, and the result is a pendulum swing the other direction into thinking you’re incapable of doing anything, and are a total piece of shit because of it.
It’s not true. You’re already doing good. You can be doing MORE good, yes. So be brave and do good when you have the chance. Stand up against the assholes when you see them, not later on social media. If you’re not a fighter, then record and post their batshit behavior. Yell for help. Scream FIRE! and get a swarm of people around the person being bullied. Vote against the shitheads in every election. Give them no quarter when they come to your town for a rally. If you run a business, shut your doors to them and refuse service. Teach your children that they are to fight these people, and never allow them space to breathe.
Of course, I don’t mean this to apply to anyone you disagree with. That’s what THEY do. Disagreements happen. Different political and social views are necessary in a healthy society. Remember, the far right wants to silence all these differences and eliminate them, literally. THAT’S what we can’t tolerate.
You already don’t tolerate it in your head, or you wouldn’t be thinking these things. Congrats: YOU ARE A DECENT PERSON WHO IS ALREADY DOING GOOD. You don’t need to change the good you’re doing. If anything, you simply need to show it off more, in places you already go and live and work and function.
This is how we win: not with grand gestures and massive life change, but with simply applying the good we already know how to do, when it needs to be applied — and not a second later.
It might sound brave to leave everything behind and run for office, or volunteer for someone running for office, or join a huge demonstration, or lead an anti-facist group, or whatever else. But real bravery is cutting in when the chortling frat boys are making fun of someone at work, or stepping between a pushy man hitting on a woman who isn’t interested on the subway, or standing beside a couple of black teenagers at a Starbucks who were doing nothing wrong.
Or, in Facebook or forum threads, make it clear that asshole behavior isn’t tolerated. If you run a group or a forum, excommunicate with extreme prejudice anyone who is overtly sexist, racist, bigoted, or otherwise evil on the first offense. Stand up for those who are being targeted. Make your voice heard, when it needs to be heard. Don’t simply add more noise to cacophony.
Or, apply your writing, artistic, musical, or performance talents toward telling stories that help people see what’s wrong and more, how to do something about it. Or, simply to bring joy to those who need it, in a time where we ALL need it.
You don’t have to throw punches to resist. You simply have to apply an equal and opposite force against the oppressors when it helps most: at the point of oppression.
Until then, keep doing that good work.
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