Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On sproinking, old warriors and turbulence.

The world today is full of people who have had good reasons for being mad as hell for a long time, and they are not taking it anymore.

This is a good thing. We still have a long way to go before this planet resembles the peaceful, egalitarian paradise depicted in Star Trek, The Next Generation. We had to wait for TGN. In J.T. Kirk's days a woman could not become captain of a star ship. (An episode was devoted to portraying a woman who resented that fact as a monster who lost Jim's love by denying her own feminine nature.)  I will never give up the hope we might get there one day. Right now the chance doesn't look great but let's leave that for another time. 

This post is about the trouble that arises because progress for social justice is made unevenly. Let's take being gay, or generally queer, as an example. Please don't get me started on the PC list of initials, and substitute your own oppressed group of choice.

In liberal cities like Vancouver, Toronto or San Francisco it is quite In to be Out. In some circles a regular man or woman may be expected to identify as 'cis'. The photo below is Canada's Prime Minister at the Toronto Pride parade. I love that picture, but does this look like oppression?
But wait! Before we declare this particular struggle won, imagine being the gay son of a conservative family belonging to a fundamentalist church. You love your family and your community but you can no longer deny your nature. Coming out takes courage. It may mean tough choices. A while back I was reading about Hutterites. According to their website a gay Hutterite faces three options: a deep dark closet, a lonely life of celibacy, or leaving the life giving community.
Meanwhile being outed in Uganda or Saudi Arabia can get you killed. See what I mean about uneven progress?

A metaphor. 
Think of the energy of an oppressed group as a coiled spiral, like a Jack in the Box. What happens when the lid that kept Jack down is removed? SPROINK! Don't stand too close, you will be hit in the face. I coined sproinking as a verb, to describe the energy of freshly liberated groups. Think also of the over the top zeal of the freshly converted. People tend to mellow out after a while. The SPROINK! energy is exhilarating for the members of the group, but may be bewildering, threatening or just irritating for others.  

Then there are the Old Warriors. The age refers more to the battle than to the soldiers. This is the folks splitting hairs and looking for microaggressions after a movement has been largely successful. They may overlap with sproinkers.

I am reflecting on this in the winter of 2018. The media have been buzzing with the news of one mighty man after another falling from grace due to past sexual misconduct. 
I did a blog on this topic a few years ago during one such scandal concerning a popular CBC man. Much of it is still relevant.

This vague term "sexual misconduct" can be used for a wide variety of misbehaviors. |

Should withholding job opportunities unless sexual favours are granted really be on the same page  as a drunken grope at the office Christmas party? 

While it is high time the former is taken seriously, I would like to think that the latter can be dealt with on the spot with a slap and a firm DON'T. I recognise I have been lucky in my personal experience and may be hopelessly naive as a result. I also recognise we are looking at the slippery slope. The drunken grope may be evidence of a toxic climate in which blackmail is possible. Many small acts can add up to a climate of intimidation. When does one make a fuss? And then there is the real danger that even the proverbial slap can have repercussions. I just stumbled upon this.

Margaret Atwood wrote a much discussed article in the Globe and Mail that I posted to Facebook with the comment: "I fear rule by mob, even if the mob consists of my kind of people. I fear orthodoxy and dogma, even if they originate in a philosophy I subscribe to."

I also worry about throwing out precious babies with the bathwater.
Yes, we need history books to include the stories that have been previously ignored. But I would hate to see the canon of Western civilisation tossed out because the texts were written by rich white men. In their time they were the only ones with the leisure to study and reflect.

More on the whole group/individual thing in the next post, but just this: When  previously disadvantaged groups finally get a measure of justice, there is always a danger that relatively harmless individuals of the previously privileged group get a rough deal. 

Here in Canada we just had a tragedy involving the shooting of a young First Nations man by a white farmer. The behaviour of the police who went to the young man's home to inform the bereaved family is without excuse. Racism is real. 

The white farmer who shot the young man was acquitted by the all white jury. At first glance it seemed like a clear cut case of outrageous racism. My first reaction was to post an item on it with the comment that this was Canada's equivalent to the Trevor Martin case and sign "Justice for Colten" petitions. Google Colten Boushie. 

But then my conservative friend Ken "buzzsaw" Cyr sent me some articles published in conservative sources that questioned the simple narrative of "drunk native kid blameless victim, white farmer guilty racist." It was not that simple. For the record, these articles were written by First Nations people. I finally told myself the world will keep turning if I do not have a firm opinion on the matter.

I am just hoping we can make social change without creating fresh victims in the process. I worry about a mentality where the end justifies the means. I hope more of us can keep a relatively cool head, keep trying to separate truth from falsehood, and continue to think independently instead of following a herd, any herd. 

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