I’ve been learning lately that there are two kinds of people around me: people who try to stay “up on” our culture, and people who, for myriad reasons, do not.
Really, keeping up with the times is nearly an impossible task, because as soon as you know something, it’s gone. It’s like a fighter jet going overhead. By the time you hear those engines screaming, the plane itself is probably out of sight. When you find out something or someone is cool, it’s probably not anymore. Finally hearing about Lin-Manuel Miranda? He was definitely last year. And wondering where Sean Spicer ended up? His 15 minutes were over before Melissa McCarthy got her wig off. And by this time, the majority of America has zero clue where their eclipse glasses ended up.
We’re short on memory around here.
The things that last a little longer tend to be conceptual, rather than tangible.
And right now, in our culture, the concept that is cool is social justice.
Hold up. I know some of you are feeling salty right now, and about ready to throw some serious eclipse my way for that statement. Tbh, I was scared to say it. But I’m p sure it’s true. So…sorry not sorry. (Pro tip: this paragraph will tell you which kind of person you are.)
See, I truly hope that the majority of people who are into social justice right now are in-it-to-win-it because it’s the right thing to do. But having lived among humans for some time now, I realize that’s not going to be true for everybody.
And just because something might be the right thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s got its own bandwagon going down the street. We are pro Black Lives Matter and we buy Fair Trade coffee, but when was the last time any of us took in someone off the street so they weren’t cold and hungry at night? Have you checked your clothes to see if they were made in a country that allows child labor? Yeah, me neither. Do I even know which countries allow child labor? Sure don’t.
Truth be told, we’re not all that committed to the social justice bandwagon, as a culture.
So we’re all talking about the same thing, let’s define justice real quick. According to the googles, something that is just is based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
Are we, as a culture, invested in what’s morally right and fair? Well, we do promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet things related to social justice. But the other people and things we promote, vote for, buy tickets to see, and retweet are not all that morally right and fair. People with personal integrity no longer do better than people without it. And actually, when it comes down to it, a good portion of America no longer believes in morals. Most Millennials and almost all of Generation Z believe that truth is subjective. So how could we possibly promote justice, if there’s no moral “right” to line up with?
So, what happens when you push for justice, but also emphasize that truth is subjective?
Don’t believe me? Think about this: the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made over $12 billion in the last ten years, telling stories about vigilantes. TWELVE BILLION DOLLARS. And that’s just the movies, not the shows. DC Comics is literally promoting the Justice League right now. It’s a group of people who bring justice, according to their own view of what is morally right and fair. Now, I love Wonder Woman, but even I can see that if she operates only from what she believes is right, it might cause problems.
Two weeks ago, a man drove from Ohio to Charlottesville to hurt other people, because he believed he was doing the right thing, that what he was doing was just and fair. This was just the next in a line of people acting out in violence in the name of their own view of justice.
And if we, as a culture, are not committed to rewriting the script on what actually is just and fair, how can we fight back? How can we truly promote and battle for social justice? Until we commit to establishing what justice is, aren’t we just riding on the bandwagon, until the next cool thing comes along?
I include myself in this. I’m on the bandwagon. And honestly, I’m not sure how to change from riding to fighting. But I’ve learned that when I don’t know where to start on a big problem, I just need to take one step. Do one little thing. And then the next little thing.
So I’m going to start by choosing to speak about these things, even when I am afraid that I am going to say something wrong, something hurtful. Even when I might make a total child-of-a-horse-and-a-donkey of myself right up here in front of y’all. Or when I say something insensitive and ignorant, because my privileged, middle class, American, white self doesn’t know any better yet.
I’m going to speak when I’m scared to speak.
What about you? What’s your first step?