Thought I’d just share some thoughts about what I’m seeing over and over again lately. The first part was shared on facebook a few days ago, but I thought I’d just drop it here, since nothing’s changed. But let’s look at what’s happening internationally, and let’s look at it from our perspective, or the perspective shoved at us.
I think we’re seeing some interesting and uncritical looks at current events recently, which remind me of the KONY campaign from a few years ago. The situation in Ukraine and Venezuela are quite different than that, but the reaction is similar, in that people aren’t really looking at what’s happening, or what has happened, or the context surrounding the events.
Since the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, we’ve started looking at any civil unrest as a sign that change is necessary, but it’s interesting to look at the Arab Spring and Occupy Movements in comparison to these.
Ukraine’s teetering on civil war and the opposition forces have taken Kiev. These opposition forces appear to now be controlled by an extremely right wing group. An extreme fascist group whose influence has grown immensely. If you think the Tea Party is bad, Svoboda will shock you.
In Venezuela, the far right wing and hyper-rich are calling for a coup. Western media portrays Leopoldo Lopez as a peace loving activist, which ignores that he is one of the wealthiest men in the country, trained and educated in the US, or how he was a part of the US backed 2002 coup of democratically elected president Hugo Chavez. A lot of the issues Venezuela’s currently facing are caused by these hyper-wealthy families, who are manipulating the currency and stockpiling things like food. Make no mistake, these are not the faces of democracy pounding at the gates of a tyrant. The claim that the government owns all media there is also completely absurd, since the opposite is largely true. If you think Fox News is unfair to our President, take a look at what the news casters in Venezuela said about Chavez.
People should have the right to protest everywhere, and violence, in my opinion, is always incorrect action, but I’m also a young white american man living in the midwest. I didn’t live in a country like Venezuela, which had an 80% poverty level before the Bolivarian government was elected. I never lived in a former Soviet state and have to live through all those issues. My pacifism can, in a sense, be seen as a state of privilege because I’ve never had to literally fight for my life against a government that wanted me poor or dead, and I’ve never had to fight for my life to keep a democratically elected government in power.
I’m positive people in Venezuela and Ukraine have plenty of reasons to protest. I’m not an expert on either place, but I do know that there’s more going on than what gets memed around the internet. Not all revolutions are positive, and not all students are seeking a leftist utopia.
And now let’s turn that inward, and look at who we are.
Everyone’s angry at Alec Baldwin, which is justifiable but also a big who cares. An aging actor whose relevance slides away more every year goes crazy and is given a platform. Blah blah blah.
But then there’s this:
Broadway has changed, by my lights. The TV networks, too. New York has changed. Even the U.S., which is so preposterously judgmental now. The heart, the arteries of the country are now clogged with hate. The fuel of American political life is hatred. [. . .] And this is all about hate. It’s Hate Incorporated. But the liberals have taken the bait and run in the same direction—and it’s just as corrosive. MSNBC, in its own way, is as full of shit, as redundant and as superfluous, as Fox.
[. . .] People are angry that in the game of musical chairs that is the U.S. economy, there are less seats at the table when the music stops. And at every recession, the music is stopping.
It’s something I think about a lot. Everything is hate, everything is focused on our separation and differences. There’s no thought given to unity or celebrating how much we are the same. Everything is about containing people, cutting up their identity and lumping them into one group or another, and it doesn’t matter what the group is. What matters is that the group is not ME. We see lists of things blah blah blah can’t understand. We see essay after essay that mostly amounts to the writer and his/her group being correct and fair and everyone else being incorrect and horrifying.
This isn’t a liberal or conservative thing. I think liberals congratulate themselves and pat themselves on the back often for trying [often halfheartedly] to support and give voice to the marginalised, but then, in the same breath, spew vitriol at their generalisations about the religious or old or conservative or whatever group you want to call them. Everything is hate and everyone is constantly spitting on everyone else, because they dare disagree, because they’re audacious enough to not agree.
This version of feminism is wrong because of such and such a reason, or this version of multiculturalism is incorrect because of blah blah blah or white/black/chinese/hispanic/old/young/conservative/liberal/mustlim/christian/jewish/atheist/communist/anarchist/capitalist/gay/transgender people are destroying everything we know and understand because they’re not ME.
Everything is hate hate hate and separation, delineation, cutting up, and sectioning off. Just look at all the articles and essays coming out every day from Salon, The Atlantic, the New Yorker or New York Times or Huffington Post or any other media outlet of that stature or nature, and look at how many are about separating people and delineating one other. Critique is one thing, and I think it’s extremely valuable, maybe the most valuable thing [and I’m often probably too persistent and harsh with my own critiques of the world] we have, but it often seems that we have nothing else. We have no ideology of unification, or even kindness and support.
Everyone is not ME and everyone who is YOU is always wrong.
That sounds like the new mantra of the world, and it’s not just an american or western thing, though perhaps we’re inundated more here because we’re all constantly connected to this neverending festering pile of hate and loathing.
And so we’re putting ourselves in a hole that we’ll never escape from. We spiral in this hate and we drink in its intoxicating and festering feeling, because it brings us into these tighter, though splintered groups. Social media has made this worse, I think. Everything spirals so quickly because no one takes the time to examine what’s actually happening. With the KONY video from a few years ago we had the perfect meme. It was well done, articulate, had a definite purpose and goal, and it worked. People bought into it, because almost no americans understand anything about africa, let alone a specific country in that continent. I’m guilty of the same ignorance, but I also wasn’t convinced by this youtube video calling for the US military to invade a sovereign nation to catch a single man who may have died years ago.
We don’t stop to think, we just react. We react and we react and we react. There’s an injustice here! Post about it, pretend you know and understand the history of that country or region or the context of the situation because as long as you’re saying what everyone else is saying, no one can blame you. In fact, you might get blamed for not being compassionate enough! for not decrying this hate quickly enough!
We link to blogs that go viral but never look at who’s writing that blog. The best recent example is this blog post about the Venezuelan protests or this video.
It’s a well written article and a well made video. They’re clear and concise and direct. They speak to the youth of america about injustice in a country that most of us know nothing about, though american media has called it a dictatorship for the last fifteen years [despite being consistently re-elected democratically with massive support]. So we buy into this. We love it. We see these and we think that america should go in and fix the problems of this backwards third world dictatorship, this tyrannical power holding a nation hostage.
The problem with the video is that it’s absurd and full of propaganda and complete lies. The issue that needs to be addressed with the website is that it was started and is run and funded by supporters of the 2002 coup, and has a very antagonistic representation of the Bolivarian government.
A little history lesson about Venezuela:
Venezuela is a very wealthy nation in resources. It has the largest oil supply in the world. For centuries, South America has been exploited by western powers through the collaboration of the wealthy class. The super wealthy of Venezuela used to own the country. Venezuela had an 80% poverty level and most people couldn’t read or write and had no health care. Hugo Chavez mobilised these disenfranchised millions and won the election in 1998. Over the many years he was president [in my opinion, too long, though there are reasons for that], he worked to change that situation, which infuriated the hyper-wealthy, because he was taking the economy out of their hands. The poverty level has dropped dramatically. Everyone has access to education and healthcare, and children growing up under the Bolivarian government are the first people in the history of their family to even know how to read and write. In 2002 the hyper-wealthy, backed by US money, led a coup, ousting Chavez. The new ‘president’ repealed the democratically voted on constitution and instilled a dictatorship. Within one day, the poor and the young mobilised to bring Chavez back and kick out the usurpers. The US has spent millions of dollars every year to gain control of Venezuela and its oil by funding these hyper-wealthy and training them to destabilise the nation. Chavez died, and his successor won the following election. It was closer than any election since the Bolivarian government was first elected, but it was perfectly legal, fair, and democratic.
The commodity shortages are for a variety of reasons, but a big one is the hoarding of the hyper-wealthy, who are also manipulating the currency, causing massive inflation.
Now, these students in these protests are in fact students and they’re Venezuelan, but they’re predominantly the children of the wealthy class. They were educated abroad and they speak english, which makes them perfect for packaging the message to the western world. We hear the voice of a young woman speaking english and we immediately identify.
But who tells the story of the many impoverished people who support the Bolivarian government? Who tells the story of those who don’t speak english?
Well, no one here.
But I’m getting sidelined.
The point is that no one bothers to examine Venezuela’s history or even the context of the protests. We react. We react. We react.
But no one thinks.
And when we do think, it’s only to separate. It’s only to split up the world and society, to section people into different groups.
No one is allowed to simply be a human anymore. You need to carry flags marking what your social, religious, and economic beliefs are. It’s easier for us to dismiss you or agree with you if we know that your flag is the same as ours.
But I guess I wrote a lot of words to same something very simple:
That’s really all there is to say. Be kind. Love one another. Try to understand each other. Find the places where we come together, and tie us tighter. When you see cracks, work to fill them in, rather than actively chip away at them constantly.
This will not go viral. This will go largely unread. But I also didn’t write this for marketing. I didn’t write this for an audience in mind, and that’s why it won’t succeed in a meme market. If this were a real essay, I’d structure it better and cite all the sources I should’ve cited. Several months ago I decided to stop sharing everything political with the internet, because it seemed like no one cared or no one read. But if you care about any of these things I’ve said here, look them up. Do research on Hugo Chavez, and not just what mainstream western media has to say. Look at what’s happening in Ukraine, and actually look at the result we’re seeing there: Fascism–neoNazis. Take a minute to look at all the articles filling the social media world day after day. You don’t even have to read them. Usually the headline tells you everything: 10 Reasons Why this Group or Person is Wrong about Everything, 5 Ways Men will Never Understand Women, 20 Straight Things Gays Don’t Care About, 11 Ways White Feminists Don’t Represent Me, and on and on.
That’s not to devalue critique, and many of these kinds of articles are very useful for a lot of reasons, but if we never look at society or the world as a place of synthesis, we’ll never get there.
Be kind. Live well. Be kind.