The kyriarchy is like the Matrix.
(This was totally my metaphor first, and then Sinfest stole it and made it into a comic, and now hopefully it has been long enough that everyone forgot. Except, uh, I just mentioned Sinfest. Oops.)
This is the source of one of the most common disagreements between social-justice-y people and non-social-justice-y people. Non-social-justice-y people notice social-justice-y people getting mad at all sorts of things they don’t get mad at, and assume that the social-justice-y people are just looking for stuff to get mad at, presumably because they enjoy getting angry a lot.
But from the social-justice-y person’s perspective, on the other hand, it’s the exact opposite. The world is full of things to get mad about. At this very moment, I’m typing on a computer with parts almost certainly made by slave labor, listening to a misogynistic punk band. My other tab is full of news about the deficit of good jobs even as the American economy recovers, the increase in world population to seven billion and riots at Occupy Oakland. In a bit I’m going to go call my mom, who doesn’t want to hear about my girlfriend because she thinks polyamory is morally wrong.
I… can’t get mad at all that.
I mean, I could say it’s about activist burnout and self-care and all that jazz, but honestly? It’s because I don’t want to. I don’t want to spend all my time thinking about injustice and making the world a better place; I’m not that good a utilitarian. I want to write my Nano novel and eat bagels with guacamole and snuggle with my girlfriend. I don’t even want to give up all offensive media. I like the Lonely Island, and even if their songs sometimes make me cringe, a life without ever getting to sing “the boat engine make NOISE motherfucker” ever again is a life I do not want.
So I cheat. I shut up when someone I’m gaming with says something horrifically racist. I don’t look up the human rights records of the companies that make the shit I buy. I claim to be vegan but still eat sushi and Auntie Anne’s cinnamon-sugar pretzels. Because I can’t fight everything that deserves to be fought as hard as it deserves to be fought.
I don’t think anyone can. Everyone is complicit in this dirty rotten system.
If you aren’t a hypocrite, your moral standards aren’t high enough.
But that’s okay. Because we merry band of hypocrites and whiners are winning.
If you look at it, at the wide span of history– since the Enlightenment, we have ended every century freer and more equal than we started out. It used to be that poor people couldn’t vote. It used to be that people of color couldn’t sit in the same train car as white people in the South. It used to be that the Roman Catholic Church Church was allowed to ban books by Descartes and Defoe, Galileo and Voltaire. It used to be that it was legal to rape your wife in most of the world. It used to be that disabled people were regularly exhibited in freakshows, and non-neurotypicals placed in lunatic asylums. It used to be that being queer was always a crime.
This isn’t saying that classism and racism and sexism and ableism and all the rest don’t exist anymore. God no. And it’s not saying that we can just sit back and allow the grand scheme of history to carry us forward into utopia. All of these victories were the responsibility of millions of men and women who sacrificed their prestige, their friendships, their free time, their jobs, their physical safety, even their lives. If a better world is going to happen, it is only going to happen because lots of people work their asses off for it.
But I think it’s good to look at the past and realize that victory is possible. Victory has happened. Is happening.
Not everyone can do everything. If you left me in charge of organizing a march, I would vomit from fear; if you told me to write about racism, the taste of feet would never manage to get itself out of my mouth. But I can blog about masculism (and sex-positivity) okay, and I flatter myself that I’ve done a little bit to make the lives of some men and the sex lives of some people better.
So… educate yourself about the oppressions you’re less familar with. Stop doing really awful privileged shit, as much as you can (I am talking to you, Pocahottie). Question your assumptions. Give money to a highly leveraged charity (GiveWell can help you decide which). Write letters to your congresspeople. Wave signs at marches. Organize marches. Volunteer– at a homeless shelter, a crisis hotline, a political campaign. Hell, run for office. Create media that shows voices that are rarely shown. Provide health care without shaming people for their sexualities, genders or body types. Find ways to make your job more inclusive, if you can. Point out to people if they say kyriarchal shit that they’re saying kyriarchal shit. Raise awesome children. Support and accept your friends.
And love yourself. Loving yourself is, I think, a radical act. The kyriarchy is doing its best to make sure that everyone hates themselves– or at least, everyone who isn’t that conventionally attractive, able-bodied, neurotypical, from-a-functional-family, rich, white, vanilla, monogamous, cis, straight, Protestant couple from Ohio. Therefore, by accepting yourself and working to be the best you you can be– not what the kyriarchy thinks you ought to be, but what would actually make you happiest– you are saying a giant “fuck off” to the Matrix.
And that’s way cooler than not being allowed to listen to the Lonely Island.