“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

The hegemonic doctrine of micro-aggressions becomes particularly problematic, I think, when it appears on social media. The internet’s celebration of the individual, combined with the gladiatorial nature of online debate, forms a toxic brew when mixed up with this creed, expressed most commonly in the aphorism, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

I’m sure this slogan began as an attempt to form alliances with those nice, liberal, heterosexual white kids who support your cause, but don’t feel it’s their place to get involved. It is reaching out to them, saying, “Please do get involved. We can’t do without you. We are all members of the same community: we need to act together.”

Unfortunately, everything soon becomes a means of persecution, or of wounding, on the internet. 

Using an internet-enabled device is still a solitary activity. We are each shut up in our own little cell. In every moment of fellow-feeling, there is a pang of loneliness. knowing that your comrade is miles away and cannot reach you, that you are still alone. 

Evolving from this comes a sense that even mass actions online are profoundly atomistic. We add our individual voices to those of others in movements called “Me Too” and “Not in My Name”[1], as if our importance lay in our unique self, and our power lay in sheer numbers, the arithmetic of crowds, rather than in consensus and co-operation. 

The celebration of individuality makes the internet a fundamentalist meritocracy. Users believe they have complete existential autonomy and self-authorship. You create yourself spontaneously, and can take absolute, personal ownership of your successes. 

The flip side of this is the belief that it is your own fault if you fail to be enlightened. If you’re not woke, you must be actively resisting the movement: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” The emphasis has quickly changed from asking people to help solve a problem, to accusing them of causing it. Rather than making yourself and others aware of the conditioning forces that operate on all of us, you can blame them, individually, for being reactionary oppressors, and use their “micro-aggressions” as evidence[2]. They are complicit.

[1] not “We” or “our”

[2] Confusingly, this seems self-contradictory, at odds with the very theories of false-consciousness that underpin the thinking. If everyone could enlighten themselves, on a whim, hegemonies would be unable to function. 

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