[Well not everything. I hope to write more posts going into detail on this topic. But this is the most general one I mean to make.]
I am not part of the Internet “social justice” community.
I am not part of the Internet “anti-SJ” community.
Both communities have, at different times, tried to claim me. At different times, I have joined in with both, knowingly and unknowingly.
But I can't be in either. Because they are both part of a larger pattern that does great harm.
Each one contains people who are there for sincere reasons. And also people who use these communities to play with power in devastating ways. But the way these communities work, even people's best intentions get turned around until they range from ineffective to destructive. I'm only going to be talking about people who join in for good reasons, because it's already obvious that manipulative power trippers and trolls are bad news, whether they're cloaking themselves in fake good intentions or not.
I can't be there. Not because I think I'm better than the very good people I know who are involved in both. Not because I don't care what is happening. I can't be there because I see what is happening, and if I join in, I will only be joining in with destruction.
I see what is trying to pull me in. I will not be pulled in. I will stand next to and apart from these communities. I will not fight against them, or, like Devil's Snare, they will only pull me in tighter.
The pattern works kind of like this: There is a monster. That monster runs around trying to devour everything in sight. When it can find nothing else to devour, it devours itself.
The whole thing is set up in a way where the only way to move forward is to find something to oppose and devour. There is never a point where the way you do things is good enough. You have to find more and more words and ideas to oppose. Words and ideas that mark who is in the know, and who is bad. These things constantly change. The monster never stops looking for more.
People are judged by how well they can keep up and remember these things. Even when people say it's a bad idea to just memorize everything by rote, that's what most people are actually doing, because that's what this culture encourages. Pretty soon, most people fall into a pattern of dodging and weaving, trying to say the right things, not say the wrong things. And above all not admitting it, because this culture simultaneously encourages this kind of behavior, and says you're wrong if you behave this way.
Within this culture, you stop noticing your surroundings. Instead, you see a network of lines representing various power dynamics, bad words and ideas, good words and ideas, and the way this community responds to them. You stop being able to see that this is not the only way to respond to injustice.
When people start noticing what is wrong, and wanting out, things twist around until they are absorbed into a different part of the same pattern. They fill the part of the monster that, in the absence of anything else to eat, turns around and begins devouring itself. And so people become part of the same thing they wanted to stop. And the fight between these two communities goes around and around forever, providing infinite food for the monster.
In this way, the pattern tries to pull in those of us who try and talk about it. It sucks people in until before they know what is happening, they are part of it. Few people intend to be sucked into either part of the pattern. People mean well, and are not stupid. But this is a whole pattern of connections between people, set up to perpetuate itself. And that pattern ends up hurting both the people caught up in it, and people outside of it, through the actions it encourages people to take.
It feeds on opposition of all kinds. It even makes things work so in the end, the only conversations that take place are arguments against this or that person, this or that action, this or that thing.
Which is why I will stand outside the pattern. I will describe the pattern. I will encourage more people to step outside of it.
But I will not set myself up in opposition to it, or else I will just be pulled in and become part of it. So I am outside of both pieces of the pattern, but I will not fight them.
And I will remind people, there is a huge world out here. There are other ways to do things. Not just my way, either. Lots of ways. You will always be welcome to step outside, to join me and many other people who live out here.
And, together or apart, we can find other ways to make a difference in the world.
[With credit to a friend of mine, who first characterized the pattern we were watching in terms of the self-devouring monster.]