A is for activist, and also asshole

I recently “liked” a page on Facebook called Das Racist, Brah. The page is intended as a discussion group on various forms of oppression, expressed in an irreverent, tongue in cheek style. It made me giggle.

I started posting there unaware of the social politics involved in using a discussion space not sanctioned by the Anti Racist Action (ARA). I noticed an intense amount of rage and vitriol aimed at the page’s creator. Like, cussing, fuming wrath which seemed a little extreme aimed a guy who just wanted a space of his own to talk about stuff that matters to him.

On the same page one woman mentioned that members of the ARA had told her she was “not invited” to the annual anti racist rally because one time two years before she did something that some people construed as racist. I’m sorry but what the fuck? She was not the only prospective participant that had a story like that to tell either.

It reminded me strongly of comments I would receive in response to blog posts and newspaper articles that I wrote on behalf of Occupy Calgary. People would point out that I had written them using a computer and thus rendered my own arguments invalid. Again, what the fuck?

During the Occupy days, which were really my only foray into political activism, I did notice a tendency toward all kinds of infighting and accusations. People seem to assume that caring about a cause means you must be an unfailingly virtuous person. And apparently communicate your message via smoke signals.

bullshit

Stolen from Das Racist, Brah. Hilariously apt in both places.

That’s bullshit because taking action on a cause you believe in does not require you to be perfect. If it did no one would ever do anything. The point of Occupy was never that computers and cars and stuff are inherently bad or that money is inherently evil. The point was/is that consumerism and blind greed are making slaves of us all and destroying the planet and the human race.

Cars and computers are good, useful tools and we have built a society where we essentially need these tools to function within it. Needing these tools is also not the problem. The problem is needing a new one every year. The problem is needing the newest, best, fanciest model and the monstrous waste of perfectly good but “outdated” tools being constantly replaced by new ones.

The problem is that this is what we value and work toward instead of love, happiness and more time for things we want to do. Our culture is all fucked up because our values are backwards. Owning a computer or working for a corporation does not invalidate this argument.

So, back to the anti racists. When I go to a rally do I expect to be greeted by a small group of people so enlightened that they have never told an off-colour joke or even subconsciously made a race-based value judgement? Is there even such a person? Maybe the Dalai Lama but I bet even he has at some point thought something nasty about the Chinese.

Being an activist should not require an individual to be spotless in mind and soul. I’d rather see a thousand imperfect people come out to a rally than the one guy who thinks he is better than everyone else. I’d rather see a guy in that crowd with a swastika tattooed on his forehead because this shows that he has had a change of heart and switched sides and therefore so can others.

Activism should teach people something. It should give them hope for positive change. It should educate and change minds. Why else do we go out and wave our cardboard signs around if not to raise awareness and support for our cause?

A person cannot be “not invited” to a rally that is open to all. That is bullying and power mongering and goes against everything groups like this should stand for.

Do you believe that pointing the finger at others who are putting their asses on the line for a cause somehow helps that cause? Or that discouraging people from participating in the cause helps that cause? Is anti racism some kind of exclusive club that only some people should be allowed into, or is it possible that simply being against racism and doing your best to fight hatefulness and oppression, no matter who doesn’t like you, is a good thing to do?

My advice to activists is this: stop being assholes to other activists and remember what the fuck we are all here for. Or if you can’t stop being an asshole, pat yourself on the back as living proof that one can be both an activist and an asshole, and that nothing more is required of you than your earnest efforts to support your cause. Just stop competing to be the best activist because it is obnoxious.

This was a revelation that has freed me from trying to be nice to people who piss me off, politically correct to a crippling extent and allows me to express myself as the opinionated bitch everyone knows I really am. Fuck anyone who has a problem with that. I won’t invite you to my party. But I will stand beside you in defiance of the Man and welcome anyone who wants to stand with me. And you would do well to shut up your nitpicking and let me stand there in peace instead of trying to undermine the reputation of someone who cares about the cause as much as you do.

No one is perfect. You sure aren’t. And bullying others does nothing for your own credibility, especially if you belong to a group that stands against bullying.

Plus it makes you look like a whiny, self-important idiot, and no one likes that guy.

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6 Responses to “A is for activist, and also asshole”

  1. I don’t think it was a matter of “not sanctioned by the Anti Racist Alliance (ARA),” as much as it singled out people right in its opening statement.

    A lot of this is pointed straight at me. I’m fine with that. I can disagree with you about this, and still admire and respect you.

  2. Honey, that is just paranoid but if you see your own actions reflected here then meditate to amend whatever you find distasteful in them. Or don’t. That is my point really.
    You don’t need to be a good, wise, intelligent or well-mannered person to be an effective activist. Many aren’t, and many who aren’t still want to denounce others for the same failings. The irony of this has struck me afresh during recent events, but we saw very similar phenomena during Occupy. Some crazy, rude, socially inappropriate people were ostracised by other crazy, rude, socially inappropriate people for being crazy, rude and socially inappropriate. Everyone can make a good contribution to a shared cause without being of spotless character and reputation, and all the while being a giant asshole. So what I am saying here is that if you choose to behave like an asshole to someone you think is an asshole (and I’m using you in the general, not the specific, sense) this does not mean that either you, nor they, is any less of an effective activist simply because they are an asshole. And suggesting otherwise is hilarious.
    In the end, it was the hilarity of that notion which inspired this post, because I not longer give a shit about the absurd politics of activism. This is me doling out scathing social commentary because it’s my blog and I hurt my knee and have nothing better to do and I can if I want to. End of story.

  3. you nailed it! once i was at an anti-racist rally here in calgary down at city hall. at a certain point, the person who was speaking — a well known figure, i might add — turned and pointed at two people who were on the edge of the crowd and singled them out as nazis. then an entire group of people moved toward the two who were pointed at, circled them, and yelled “shame” at them until they moved away. i was really appalled because they were just standing and watching. they had the right to be there and to not be molested. so yes, i always say, it’s good not to ever become facist in your anti-facism.

    • Hear hear! The most negative experience I ever personally had at an anti racist rally was waiting for the nazis who were 2 hours late to finally show up for the showdown. My friend and I got bored and finally went to the French Maid to play pool, drink beer and watch strippers. Apparently 5 minutes after we left the nazis finally showed up and violence broke out… with the first blow struck by someone on the anti racist side. Glad I missed it. When I went to England about a year later I was telling a Canadian expat who had been a London punk for 10 years about this and how I was disappointed that the anti racists didn’t keep the high ground. He said, “Fuck that! that is how you deal with nazis. Kick ’em in the head! They don’t understand anything else.” Hanging out in Europe it was a little easier to see his point.

  4. I was on vacation when you posted this and am just catching up… “I’d rather see a thousand imperfect people come out to a rally than the one guy who thinks he is better than everyone else.”
    Thanks… This imperfect human would like to give you a great big (hug) !!!

  5. Marilyn Says:

    im suffering from hurtism and confusionism!

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