I’ve been feeling alienated by the modern left lately.
This is strange for me, because I have always identified as a leftist. I’ve identified with their values of equality, liberty and compassion. Those values to me were always what defined its ideology.
But lately, I haven’t felt comfortable with it. And that’s for one main reason.
It seems at odds that a political movement that champions compassion, liberty and equality would also champion using shame to ‘convert’ people of differing perspectives. That shaming, an act of violence and oppression in and of itself, could ever be seen as an antidote to oppression. But it has, and apparently it is. And It scares me, some of the public displays I’ve seen.
I’ve seen Social Justice Warriors photographed to appear self-righteous and triumphant as they literally attack and mock the the current ‘wrongdoer’. Often even using the person’s real name. With hoards of comments either commending such a ‘bold’ and ‘courageous’ act or outright attacking the person. Someone who admittedly, isn’t perfect, but isn’t irredeemable neither.
When we know that shame is destructive. When we know it’s the absolute wrong way to negotiate with people in relationships. When we know it can quickly become abusive. When we know that the shamed have only a few realistic ways to react; that is, either to withdraw, to lash out or to lash out at themselves.
I want to be a leftist. I want to support those who are disadvantaged and/or oppressed. But I won’t do it if that means becoming the oppressor. Two wrongs do not make a right.
I’m tired of call out culture. It’s just another form of shaming. Social interactions don’t exist in a vacuum. Calling that person out, especially in front of other people, will always involve power dynamics. It can easily be used as a power ploy; as a way to feel self-righteous, superior while simultaneously casting the other as inferior. There are few things as cringeworthy as seeing someone’s dignity compromised.
And look, most people want to be good people. Most people believe themselves to be good people. So many of our problematic views have been passed on to us. We weren’t born with attitudes that are toxic and oppressive. It’s systematic.
So let’s instead be compassionate; that’s what the left are known for. Let’s be patient. Let’s talk it out; let them get it out. I know that taking the high road can feel tremendously unfair and taxing. And I acknowledge that not everyone can, for their emotional safety, take on that emotional toll. And that’s fine! That’s where our ally’s can show their support. It’ll be a process, but a lot more people will change that way.
And then, change will happen as it always has. It’ll trickle down. Those who have learned to see the error of their ways will impact the people around them. Whether that’s their future kids, kids they know or just other adults within their community and inner circle. It’ll save the leftist ideologies from being associated with resentment, anxiety, and shame and make them appear as they always have been: a movement towards equality.
And finally, when those people truly do try to change, let’s be forgiving and welcome them back into our communities. The future generations will thank us for it.