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Activism Future Building Personal Growth Relationships

Allow room for allies to make mistakes — because we all make them

Replied to we will not cancel us by AdrienneAdrienne (adriennemareebrown.net)

We hurt people.

Of course we did, we are human. We were traumatized/socialized away from interdependence. We learned to hide everything real, everything messy, weak, complex. We learned that fake shit hurts, but it’s acceptable…

Canceling is punishment, and punishment doesn’t stop the cycle of harm, not long term.

We will be accountable, rigorous in our accountability, all of us unlearning, all of us crawling towards dignity. We will learn to set and hold boundaries, communicate without manipulation, give and receive consent, ask for help, love our shadows without letting them rule our relationships…

Shaming and condemning mistakes simply makes others less willing to try or speak up, and less willing to admit their mistakes. This has a chilling effect to keep people in line with what the loudest have decided is right, even when there are valid arguments for other perspectives, and hardly encourages relationship building across identities and ideals. Righteousness is just as unhelpful from the liberal corner as it is from the conservative.

You can hold people accountable without being a dick about it. Not to tone police, but sometimes people on social media talk about others as if they aren’t a person too, and the intensity of condemnation feels greater than the sin. “Nice” is bullshit, but you can be kind and critical.

I guess I’m pretty sympathetic to the choices workers feel they have to make to survive under capitalism. I’m thinking of a disabled person who was cancelled (I think in 2022) when it came out they worked at a military research company for the health insurance and flexible work conditions. Some of the cancelling might have been because they had cancelled others in the past? But that’s just perpetuating the cycle. I’d rather see the conversation “and this is why you shouldn’t cancel people folks” than a dog pile of shame.

We talk about how there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, and I wonder how much that extends to our lives too. It very much becomes a judgment call of what crosses the line to be part of the progressive tribe: ok, working at military companies is out, how about tech companies? Is it only bad if you work on Google’s military contracting projects, or is the whole company tainted? What about working for social media companies that sell our data, if you’re in another department? Is working in anything involving marketing out? How about owning a house, knowing the land was stolen from indigenous people and our treaties with them not honored? How about owning an iPhone knowing that conditions are so bad workers commit suicide on shift? Is catching an Uber home from the airport ok? Is flying ok? Shopping at Amazon?

It is easy to judge others’ choices but defend our own hypocrisies and compromises, instead of helping people recognize the harm they are causing, acknowledging and making up for ours, and working to change the systems that force people into hard choices (like advocating for universal health care and fixing our disability qualifications). I’m not naming or excusing any choices here, and also not supporting social punishment.

The lines I draw for myself are different from everyone else’s, and may change over time with my perspective and circumstances. I have the privilege of owning a home, being married to someone whose job gives me health care, and having a good savings and no student loans; that gives me the ability to make choices others cannot. Physical ability, wealth, family support, obligations and debts, and mental health all shape our decisions.

Maybe some of my perspective here comes from years of being a vegetarian. Many people took my personal calculus to be a judgment on their choice to eat meat, but it really was a personal decision; all I wanted from others was for there to be literally anything I could eat if they hosted (I usually just brought something). Now, for a variety of reasons I’ve become pescetarian. Maybe one day I’ll go veg again, or maybe someday I’ll start eating meat 🤷‍♀️ We can’t necessarily predict how our circumstances will change our choices.

Systems of oppression and those in power acting unjustly should be the main targets of action, while we offer solidarity to workers doing their best to get by, even if sometimes they screw up. It’s easier to attack or ostracize a nobody than to speak truth to power — but it’s a poor outlet for emotional pain and frustration. Purity and ideological perfection are dangerous social concepts, and I would rather have people feel safe enough to make mistakes than withdraw from community for fear.

See also:

The addictive nature of Twitter

Cancel Culture