Adding Your Voice to the Cacophony
“That’s the big question, the one the world throws at you every morning. ‘Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?’”
— Mary Oliver, Long Life: Essays and Other Writings
Just lately, I’ve felt myself a bit overwhelmed by all of the commentary in the world. It could be my state of constant connectivity, which I generally view as a net positive, as I read the thoughts of thousands of people via social media and blogs and articles. From Medium to Flipboard to Twitter, I tend to wade into the Great Pool of Ideas and get soaked without taking the time to quietly sit in the sun and dry my pruney fingers out.
Here I am, alive. Would I care to make a comment?
I wonder if all of the rage and hatred bubbling up to the surface of our society is a sign that we have become less tolerant of one another or if the dark abscess of bigotry and perpetual victimization is simply coming to a head, ready to burst in one last explosion in order to heal things. I read the almost non-stop vitriol leveled at White Men lately, and while I don’t take it personally, I recognize that the process of equalizing privilege can feel like oppression if you’ve been on the receiving end of it for a lifetime. I watch as white men across the country lash out at the criticism, attacking anyone who would cast stones their way, blinded by the obvious catbird seat they have enjoyed, as if by leveling the playing field, they lose something they earned.
I’m torn between my sincere belief that civil disobedience and serious systemic change must be accompanied by a rejection of civility and a violent response to oppression and my middle-aged perspective that understanding history and respect for those who fought before has its place.
As a white male, it isn’t my place to inform the strategies of marginalized communities in their approach to changing things, yet I see clearly how ineffective protest has become (unless it is fomented on a vast scale (hundreds of thousands rather than hundreds) and that the more exclusion proliferated, the less inclusion is possible. I feel a bit like the Narrator in Fight Club, at points a full on Tyler Durden, complete with the agreement that the system must be destroyed in order to be changed and the Narrator himself, balking at the sheer force of destruction necessary.
It is discouraging to see the routine flare up of women and POC in the arts outraged at the sexual harassment in the communities of artists and the marginalization of substantive work by blacks and browns only because, at the cusp of my fifth decade, I’ve seen these flare ups before and watched as life takes over and the fire of outrage becomes doused by the reality of the unsustainability of the flames of change. These changes are essential but our capacity for selfish needs so often get in the way of the kind of unrelenting forge required to combat the sexism and racism so baked into this society. The idea that the fire of youth is enough to destroy a thousand years of white patriarchy is folly; change must be vigilant and daily and in increments so pervasive it cannot be stymied by the need for the most volatile in the bunch needing to fucking take a nap once in a while.
I eat when I’m not hungry far too much. Is this a condition of myself or a microcosmic photograph of the culture of consumerism? And does my body kind of want to just be fat? In spite of my daily work outs and focus on maintaining my weight, the push/pull of the scale drives me fucking batty. Like laundry, the work is never really done but has to be attended to or you start to smell like Doritos.
Fixing a broken system feels about the same.
I’m awfully preoccupied on what that means and how I use it to be a better person.
If your rhetoric sounds like Trump’s, is as exclusionary as Trump’s, is as self-congratulatory as Trump’s, is as focused on placing blame on others just like Trump’s — maybe you’re not that different from Trump. And he’s a fucking capitalist sociopath. Yes, I’m referring to those on the Left, as well. Yes, I’m referring to my own, too.