Fight Fight Fight

Social media has become such a central part of how we conduct our relationships that its Consumerist-identitarian values, with their promotion of self-absorption, are bleeding back into the general discourse of activism and Social Justice, as I’ve said many times before.

Modern activists seem to thrive on conflict. It allows them to demonstrate their courage. If they’re not involved in an almighty row, they don’t think they’re doing their jobs. They are not “interrupting”[1] the easy habitudes of our unjust and unequal societies. They see reluctance to offend people as cowardly, as social conditioning designed to keep us all in our place. I suspect this attitude is a combination of the “no pain, no gain” principle combined with some form of Marxist belief that elites will always fiercely defend their privileges. (A fair assumption, I think)

Marginalised groups need to be more assertive than the majority, so they can be heard. However, self-assertion has become its own purpose. Activists are turning inwards, to assess their own performances, rather than outwards to evaluate their success. Robin DiAngelo is quite open about this, and advances an admirable reason for it. In the final, inspiring chapter of White Fragility (2019), she points out, “In the end, my actions are driven by my own need for integrity, not a need to correct or change someone else.”(p151) This comment exhibits an unusual humility for an activist[2], but it still demonstrates the awful isolation of modern life, and, in practice, the activists’ tendency to solipsistic cruelty and aggression. 

In the scenario I outlined before, Robin Diangelo seemed most concerned with successfully testing herself and her integrity. A communal experience was conceived of as one of individuals in contest, of dominance and defeat. Diangelo interrupted the woman and successfully over-rode a number of counter interruptions to hold the floor, eventually driving the woman to leave the workshop. DiAngelo seems to see this as a successful exchange, presumably because she has stayed true to her values and has triumphed, even though she has probably made this woman feel more vulnerable, humiliated and thus probably more resistant to her messages. 

[1] Note how “interrupting” has been changed from a rude demonstration of selfishness, to a noble duty.

[2] Although DiAngelo still knows best.

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