(What’s all this then?
See Part I to catch up and uncover the secret of how I got this terrible scar!)
I broke this article in half because I thought it was too long all in one piece, and then it dang turned out all the too-long was in the second half anyway, I dunno, I am only as God made me: dumb.
6. The internalized racism, ableism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and generalized fear of the Other that we all carry are not natural in modern society, they are programming that was intentionally installed in us and we must consciously work to actively un-install and replace them with anti-prejudicial successors.
The easy thing–the Michael Scott thing, the All Of Our Parents thing–is to say “I’m not ___ist, I don’t care what ___ you are!” (or, if your parents are Actual Olds like mine, say “I’m not a ___ist, I hate everyone equally!” like a pigeon who shits on the chessboard and thinks he’s won) because we see these kinds of prejudice as moral failings of the individual instead of recognizing their deliberate, society-wide implementation by parties who stand to benefit from that framework; not to put too fine a point on it, by Whitey (here representing Straighty, Abley, and Maley et al). Furthermore, a key part of the framework is the denial that the cultural, racial, ability, and class divisions actually exist, leading to the “I don’t see color” or “disability is in the mind” horse-cabbage that prevents recognition of what makes people different and unique and assumes that their needs are identical to your needs.
Your ____ friends don’t want you to treat them like they’re white, or able, or cis, or rich; they want to be recognized and celebrated for what they are without being judged and punished for not being straight, or male, or born in the ‘right’ place.
As with the conversation regarding privilege, it is not a sin simply to have this programming that we never asked for; the sin lies in refusing to recognize it, acknowledge it, and work to undo it and replace it with something better, or at the very least with listening to the people it was designed to align you against.
I’m not qualified to go on much more about this; my final thought will be to tell you to banish from your head the constant worry of “Do all of my _____ friends know I’m trying not to be ___ist?” It’s important to keep trying but stop asking this question for three reasons:
First, it’s not about you. Remind yourself of this as often as you need to.
Second, if you actually HAVE friends who are _____, that certainly doesn’t absolve you but is a good sign.
Third, it’s a good sign because, if I may defer to my pal Marlon:
7. Bad people sometimes make good art, and there is no comfortable reconciliation between our desire to have the art and our desire not to support or celebrate bad people.
It’s a personal call and without getting into very, very fiddly details, I don’t think one person has the prerogative to tell another how to handle it.
For my part, it’s at least partially a question of scale: if there’s a movie I want to see but it has a Bad Person in it (for whatever definition), from my position it’s still permissible to see the movie because the Bad Person is only one (albeit possibly large) part of a production that created hundreds of jobs and those outweigh, morally and monetarily, the one bad person; people gotta work, man, and I can’t worry about whether every single one of those people deserves whatever fraction of my moviegoing dollar they’re going to get.
Smaller-scale questions are less fun; when an individual creator who has much more personal presence or influence over a project (and therefore gets a larger cut) is revealed to be a sex monster or similar, the only solution I can find is to stop giving money directly to them, and sometimes it’s too late. Night In The Woods is my very favorite video game and was key in putting the pieces of my head back together after a catastrophic mental breakdown; I can’t un-buy it and I can’t and wouldn’t remove my memories of playing it. Planetary is a comic that’s had an enormous impact on my creative and storytelling worldviews, and the only way I can recommend it to people is by specifically telling them to get a used copy, the same strategy that residents of the Whedonverse recommend for enjoying productions that bear the imprimatur of someone they’d rather not support.
It’s not great, and there’s no easy solution; follow your hearts and do what’s right for you, but be aware of the choices you’re making and why.
8. Participation in society requires accepting some degree of responsibility for the well-being of those around us.
In practical, relatable, modern terms, this often means simply considering and acting toward the best interests of other people, like putting your grocery cart back instead of making Clarf the Lotgoblin do it, making use of masks and vaccines during a pandemic, paying taxes, and other things that a great number of worrying weirdos are very mad about. Those weirdos are often obsessed with nebulous buzzwords like “independence”, “freedom”, and “strength” that translate in their minds to “not needing or being required to give a shit about anyone else”, and I think we can all agree that’s a weird thing to be that worried about and a weird way to live your life.
Listen: I love Little House On The Prairie probably more than most people, but we no longer live in an age where one can call living self-sustainingly alone or with family away from society a workable plan; instead, we call this “a militia compound” or “an upsetting future episode of Dateline“. Ultimately I’m not proposing that we go back to knowing everyone in your neighborhood’s shoe-size (my neighbors know to keep their eyes on their own fucking paper an I return the courtesy), just that we invest more in the idea of society-as-living-organism and in physical and ætherial infrastructure that will enable the most vulnerable of us to be helped and protected by the rest. (I recommend this episode of 99% Invisible on community resilience and how it literally, measurably improves and lengthens lives.)The entire idea of civilization is strength and support in numbers, structure, mutual aid, and defraying risk by making it a common cause, and these things are fundamentally incompatible with the isolationist weirdo brands of individualism.
The only thing we have that even comes close to an objective moral imperative is the principle of doing the most, best good for the largest possible number of people, and we cannot emphasize and prioritize that while attempting to remain separate from the system that would allow us to do so.
9. Dishonorable methods are incompatible with noble goals and invalidate any victory they achieve. There will come times when this means choosing between failure to reach one’s goal and betrayal of oneself; the former is always preferable.
This is related to but distinct from the problem inherent in democracy: if it’s working as intended, it means that sometimes your side is going to lose, and you will have to either accept that loss or admit that you only believed in the rules when they worked in your favor.
Sometimes it’s worth reevaluating the codes by which you live and seeing whether they still fit the life you want to lead and the person you want to be, and sometimes you’ll end up unburdening yourself of unnecessary restrictions that didn’t better or guide you; obviously that’s growth, that’s development, that’s healthy and good when your shell and its many chitinous plates have grown too tight and begin to put a crimp in your krampus. That, to me, is different than picking and choosing your principles and your decencies depending on the situation; no matter the goal or the stakes, the ways in which we conduct ourselves are as important as what we can accomplish.
This is as much of a surprise to me as to anyone but yes, I am contradicting Benjamin Sisko.
Of course, I don’t have a space station to run and a war to wage, and the map is not the territory, but until I have reason to believe otherwise I will hold that if you dirty your hands to win, all you’ll do is stain the prize when you hold it.
10. The most important step a person can take is the next one.
I have a bad habit of viewing accomplishment and development in stark, matter/antimatter terms, so every bonehead move I pull erases one thing I accomplished; it doesn’t matter that I singlehandedly fixed my wife’s car today with the help of a youtube video where a guy lit his workspace with a Bic lighter, because when I picked her car up and left her mine for her to use, I forgot to fill mine up first, so she had to stop and get gas on the way home, and now I’m a big dirty worthless garbage. This has been A TRUE TALE OF THE WRONGMOST WAY TO TREAT YOURSELF.
Progress is not linear, whether in your personal development, career goals, or journey through the ranks of the Priesthood of Domesticus, Small God of Home Maintenance. (Or, in my case, his garage-centric aspect Domesticus Automatopoeia, he who anoints with grease instead of spackle, and whose hymns are cussin’ and the roar of an engine instead of the songs of saw and drill.) Your failures–or forgetfulnesses, etc.–do not invalidate your achievements, and every seeming setback is simply an opportunity to learn and succeed next time; the only true failure is neglecting to value our past experiences and what they have to teach us. I sometimes feel that my Past Self isn’t always my best advocate–he sure seems to love signing me up for free trials of chess-training apps and assuming I’ll remember to cancel them1–but it would be a disservice to my past self and what he went through, a waste of his hard-won failure, if I neglected to learn from it and remember in the future.
Every stumble, every fall, every plunge into a foot-deep hole that had been covered with leaves by the Devil and fucked your foot up real bad for a long time, have all been in service of teaching you how to take the next step, and it’s the most important one you can take2.
Keep moving forward. It’s the only way to get where you’re going.
That was longer than I meant it to be! But my default position is and has always been: when in doubt add more words. I’m sure that’s not a symptom of anything.
Anyway what about you all? What things do you know to be true? Which of my things do you know NOT to be true? Are you still as astounded by Avery Brooks’ performance in that Deep Space Nine clip as I am, because MAN what an actor. Lemme know! Until then, good night, good luck, and Store-Brand God help us all as Blaugust descends with tomorrow’s dawn.
- I did not ↩︎
- (Please note before I get @s, this is not in regards to the garbage take of “your suffering/abuse/etc. was to make you stronger!”; that’s a different and often poisonous thing, I’m not here to tell anyone how to deal with that, I’m talking about fuckin’ up and using that experience to hopefully not fuck up next time.) ↩︎