It has taken its toll, part two
Ok, remember back in the olden days when the web was unstable and you’d always write things in a text editor and copy them into a web form so you wouldn’t lose hours of blog posts to a technical hiccup? Yeah, gee I really which I’d done that. I just spent a couple of hours working on a post about activism, aid work, “us vs them” conservatism in activist communities, and cultural appropriation. And then WordPress ate it as if by magic. I could recreate it, but by the time I write something out once, I’ve gotten it out of my system and am ready to move on.
The cliff notes version is this: the lesson I learned from aid work, and which is not supported for me by activism, is the ability to live in the world and live my life in the face of daily atrocities. I think othering is a slowly spreading poison in activist communities and is the same kind of in-group/out-group structure that creates such popular paradigms as virgin/whore and the liberal/conservative divide. I do not call myself an activist specifically because of this difficulty of “paper cup policing” and rigid beliefs and behaviors that must be adopted to be a “real” activist as well as the fact that my aid worker days taught me the value of working with anyone who is willing to work with me. Change of the scale we need to see on this planet will require blurring all the lines and working across some pretty tenuous and surprising allegiances. In short, it saddens me to see activist communities make room for the same kind of parasitic growth of “us vs. them” that allows for insulation and abuse in BDSM communities, and the spread of misinformation in conservative circles.
Further, this ability to engage and then distance – bear witness and let go – relates back to my ability to have the kind of sex I want. The sex I have appropriates the language of oppression, dictatorship, and abuse for its own fun; unsurprisingly, this isn’t something I can do in the face of real abuse. I am hurt in this way not just by the injustice within the BDSM scene but by the larger context of abuse, oppression, climate instability, poverty and injustice. Working toward sexual freedom is unsustainable if it makes my own sexuality inaccessible to me, and this is another lesson I learned in the trenches: take care of yourself, even in the face of injustice. Take your medication even when children are dying because there is no one left to heal the healers. You can not judge the actions and choices of others, because you have not walked in their shoes and you have not sat with the choices they have held before them.
To me it is vital to find joy in the world. Without it there is no reason to do this work. A friend just shared with me her copy of The Lifelong Activist which I look forward to reading. So far the ideas look promising:
Manage Your Mission: so you can determine your authentic path and not act out of guilt, shame or obligation
Manage Your Time: so you can create a schedule that allows you to live your mission, and to achieve the most within that mission
Manage Your Fears: so you can follow the schedule without succumbing to procrastination, perfectionism or blocks
Manage Your Relationship With Self: so you can be the strongest, most empowered, and most joyful person you can be. (And why that goal is fundamentally progressive.)
Manage Your Relationship With Others: so you can leverage your energy, time, skills and other resources with those of others.
It is vital to be attentive to how our daily habits impact systems of oppression. It is just as vital to note when our activism becomes such a system.