All along I have admitted that I come from a world of money and privilege. I am neither proud nor embarrassed by this fact. If I had the monetary wealth that comes with that position, I would be using it to promote what I view as the higher good and social justice. The power and privilege that comes from being a white, able-bodied, well-educated, dude in America comes with innumerable advantages. I do my best to recognize the power I have and to redistribute that wealth whenever possible.
Having this power isn’t stopping me from freaking the fuck out about losing my healthcare and the few fragile protections we queers have gained in the past 20 years. It isn’t saving me from cold-sweat nightmares about being dragged into the street and shot or screaming with no sound as I am forced to watch my friends tortured to death for creating subversive words (that was last night’s unconscious gift to myself), nor is it saving me from constant worry about where we as a country are going when we allow the demons of our base nature drive the bus.
Growing up in the world I did, I have a paltry gift to offer my friends and loves about the current state of the state. It is a simple message: the 1%ers really don’t care.
We’ll return to the gift part in a paragraph or two but let me explain what I mean here. The 1%ers really, truly don’t give a shit about who is caught doing what. Trump’s taxes, the DAPL, who is in bed with the Russians, who is buying power, the BLATANT lies, deceits, and total moral decrepitude that defines the modern nationalist movement, none of it matters to the people in power and the people who benefit from it. They will sit on their verandae drinking expensive booze and laugh about refugees being turned back at the borders and being forced to return to certain death. They willfully forget their grandparents and great-grandparents who came to the US as refugees, their parents who fought and dies in world wars to defeat nationalist parties. Why? Because nationalism WORKS for them. They literally CANNOT imagine a world where their wealth and privilege won’t both protect them from the “ugliness” and be increased by allowing the liars and the fear-mongers to drive. They cannot be moved to care about the Other.
These are the same people who go to church and temple and feel righteous when they put a big bill in the donation box. “See,” they think, “I’m doing my part. No one can accuse me of being stingy.” They will argue for a flat-rate tax not understanding that 10% of their annual income represents the choice between renewing the lease on the Lexus this year or next when a 10% tax on the rest of us means deciding daily between eating OR medications, between shoes or gas to go to work. Upon reading that sentence, the first thought a 1%er would have is, “well, if you stopped eating junk food, maybe you wouldn’t need those expensive medicines. My taxes pay for buses, take those,” not thinking about the food deserts that millions live in, the desperation to provide calories to their bodies, or the fact that the bus means being late to work and being fired. The 1% still buy into the concept of the welfare queen, and the myths which have been crafted to appease them.
“I’m not a bad person!” they will claim while denying the abundant science supporting global climate change. The truth is irrelevant. The stock in Exxon will bring in enough to pay for the vacation house, and besides, look at all the money that’s gone into the Gulf Coast since the Deep Water Horizon disaster. They want to believe in the beneficence of big business and they want it to be reflected in their immediate lives. When confronted by facts, they will lean on lies (what our current administration would like us to accept as “alternative- facts,” a term which makes my stomach churn). Scientists and artists alike are vilified unless they produce the results that soothe the tiny voice of disquiet which may surface from time to time. They want big government when it serves them and state power when it doesn’t. They are libertarians and pat themselves on the back for pushing individuals to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. And sometimes they’re just selfish and dumb or they are true sociopaths.
To be clear, the theo-political right has embraced one element of science to their great advantage- the biology of fear. When we are afraid, our amygdala hijacks the rest our brain and creates a flight/fight/freeze response; we have drunk the koolaid of fear. It’s not a direct causal response, but rather a corollary reaction. However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence supporting the social science observation that when humans are afraid, we are comforted by strong demonstrations of aggressive strength. It is hard to think rationally when we are in a constant state of fear and the more frequently we are exposed to fear inducing stimuli, the more hyper-reactive our brains become. In short, when our brains are constantly prodded into fear, we don’t think clearly, we want something strong to take charge, and we become more susceptible to the prodding in the first place. Congratulations evolving brainmeats, you helped us elect nationalist fear-mongers.
Back to my point, since the 1%ers really don’t give a rat’s ass about us, what we have to say, or, ya know, reality, there is a level of freedom we can achieve. Please don’t take what I am about to say as an endorsement of political apathy! If they don’t give a shit about truth, lies, or getting caught doing illegal or immoral things (and really, they don’t), we can stop giving a shit about what they think of us.We can stop trying to show them evidence of lies and deceptions. They know and they DON’T CARE.
Maybe this is just me– I haven’t tested this theory with others– but I have spent so much of my physical, mental, and emotional capital on convincing rich people in power to change their minds, to see issues from my perspective, to listen to science or even tiny bits of reason. For me, all this has done is wear me down to a little nub of despondency and frustration. Although I have often compared this action to rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic, I wasn’t listening to my own inner guidance. STOP moving the damn deck-chairs.
“But, Whit,” you might say, “they run everything. We can’t just stop,” and I agree, we can’t stop fighting and advocating for our rights, the rights of others, and the right of our planet to be healthy. Continue to be politically vocal and active. But stop spending your energy trying to get them to change their minds or to see the “right” in your beliefs and the “wrong” in theirs. At this point, they either will or they won’t. I’m not arguing that the people who hold power should be allowed to act with impunity. Far from it. There are many humans in the world who derive energy and power from fighting “the good fight” and speaking truth to power. I think of them as political and social justice extroverts. The extroverts will continue to push for impeachment and for equitable redistribution of voting rights. They deserve every once of my support and they have it.
I am a social justice and political action introvert. I don’t use this term as an excuse for apathy and inaction, far from it. I think of this as a way of best harnessing my potential for the most effective good and positive-feedback loop. After many years of operating in push back mode, I have come to the conclusion that fighting the old way is bad for me. What this conclusion has meant for me is to stop trying to share fact-based data with people who are firmly entrenched in the philosophies of fear and hate.
Where I put my energy these days is supporting my QTPOC family, my black and brown, Muslim, queer, poor, or ill friends. I put energy into my immediate community and I reserve my voice for times when it will be best used and for the moments when silence=violence.
I take the time to speak to those who truly are invested in the moral and ethical values our country espouses and claims to represent. This is the hard part of the work- sifting through what feels like so much crazy to identify where my voice will do good. Finding the people with whom a rational conversation is still possible is my goal because once you’ve drunk the koolaid of fear, it’s hard to come back from that place. It has meant walking away from some long-term friendships and family members for my personal self-care and has created some deep grief.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t find me on the front lines of social justice action because you will. If the Trumpban goes into effect again (thank you Hawaii!), I will be at DIA; if a black man is shot by the police, you’ll see me standing with BLM. What you won’t see is me burning my candle at both ends trying to convince the damned that they’re going to hell. I’m not in the business of saving people who are sailing their own wood-paneled yachts across the River Styx.