What’s MINE to care about and what’s NOT mine to care about?
August 26, 2021 11:55 AM   Subscribe

And yet, when I check social media it feels like there are voices saying “if you aren’t talking about, doing something about, performatively posting about ___(fill in the blank)___then you are an irredeemably callous, priviledged, bigot who IS PART OF THE PROBLEM” and when I am someone who does actually care about human suffering and injustice (...) it leaves me feeling like absolute shit. I am left with wondering: am I doing enough, sacrificing enough, giving enough, saying enough about all the horrible things right now to think of myself as a good person and subsequently silence the accusing voice in my head?
posted by snerson (68 comments total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
 
friends, I just do not think our psyches were developed to hold, feel and respond to everything coming at them right now; every tragedy, injustice, sorrow and natural disaster happening to every human across the entire planet, in real time every minute of every day.

Quoted for truth. It’s too much. Doesn’t make any of the tragedies less real but still, it’s too much for my nervous system.
posted by Bella Donna at 12:02 PM on August 26, 2021 [82 favorites]


This is exactly why I have sharply curtailed my use of certain kinds of social media (e.g., Twitter), and disconnected from a lot of people whose contribution to my timeline seemed to be mostly stoking fear, panic, shame, and outrage about things I have very little ability to actually do anything about.

The screwed-up nature of the contemporary internet makes it more important than ever that we practice careful mental hygiene. Avoid doomscrolling!
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:21 PM on August 26, 2021 [27 favorites]


I just do not think our psyches were developed to...
--
So my emotional circuit breaker keeps overloading because the hardware was built for an older time.


Our psyches weren't "developed" by anything but chance, that's always the tell that the analysis only goes so deep. "Somebody's got a case of the sposdas."

...aaand I've reached the end, and...yeah.

“if you aren’t talking about, doing something about, performatively posting about ___(fill in the blank)___then you are an irredeemably callous, priviledged, bigot who IS PART OF THE PROBLEM”

I think this undercurrent is worth thinking about: the use of black and white thinking against readers, news consumers, and the populace in general is the worst. It's another easy, but different tell when someone isn't accounting for any other view at all, not to mention dismissive "nu-uh" responses, presenting only a clear, simple, and incomplete conclusion, often as stridently as possible.

I honestly think the US right wing is attempting to spread bipolar disorder like an infectious disease, and everywhere I see polarization I see (more) parts of this problem.
posted by rhizome at 12:49 PM on August 26, 2021 [10 favorites]


It's cliche to the point of farce but I still find value in the "think globally act locally" mantra as a means of staying sane in an insane polity.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2021 [21 favorites]


The bumper sticker wording is trite, but we see it in effect everywhere, such as the ongoing right-wing and (what I see as) evangelical strategy in running for school board seats as a springboard to higher office while also molding curriculum.
posted by rhizome at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2021 [9 favorites]


Reminds me of when I was in junior high and this girl who was bullying me tried to convince me I had to stop buying the brownies they sold in the cafeteria because the brand name was "Plantation" and I was like I'm sorry but no, I'm sorry they're selling racist brownies here but I have literally no control over what food I buy at this time. Try some other way of making me feel bad to amuse you. These days I try to just be aware of what's going on and when it gets to be too much I switch gears and put it all away for awhile. I find it unbearable to feel disconnected for too long. I deeply want to know what's going on so I have to acknowledge that if you want the heat of the kitchen then you have to accept the heat of the kitchen.
posted by bleep at 12:53 PM on August 26, 2021 [5 favorites]


Plantation Bronwies! Here's a family member from the original family commenting on what happened. It is in the comments that I cannot link to. Basically they were shuffled around in the 80s from a Taiwanese holding company to eventually Kellogg's which killed the brand for reasons not related to the name.
posted by geoff. at 1:03 PM on August 26, 2021 [4 favorites]


Nadia Bolz-Weber seems like a great person. Thanks for bringing her to our attention.
posted by No Robots at 1:17 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


And yet, when I check social media it feels like there are voices saying [...]

Granting validity to the voices on social media is one of the most self-destructive activities you can engage in.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:31 PM on August 26, 2021 [13 favorites]


I feel like I've just sort of numbed out and lost my sense of self during the pandemic - a big, big part of my life was going out to do activisty stuff, but my partner's health is fragile and so I can't go to protests in case I get arrested and exposed to the virus in jail, can't go to anything outdoors that is more than six or seven miles away (ie, not the capital, where a lot of stuff happens) because it's outside my bike radius and I can't ride public transit and don't have a car, etc. And online is just this endless, endless string of needs.

With the needs - it's so many, many totally legit and worthy gofundmes/requests for money - for homeless trans people, for sex workers, for medical bills, for immigration and on and on, and they are all worthy and they are almost all really urgent. It's not even that I can say, "well, it's not mine to care about this homeless trans teen". And the thing is, I have a dear friend who was one of those people begging on the internet to make rent and get meds - they're doing a lot better but a few years ago, that was them with twitter and facebook asks. So I know from my own social circle how important and how real these are a lot of the time - I can't even tell myself it's all scams.

I feel like I've shut down a lot emotionally about this stuff because otherwise since I can't help most people and there are so many obviously deserving, urgent asks out there I end up freaking out.

I just don't really know how to deal with it because I basically feel like I am failing to be the person I thought I was.
posted by Frowner at 1:51 PM on August 26, 2021 [52 favorites]


TBH the loud muscle car guy was probably pretty chuffed to be yelled at by a heavily tattooed, attractive woman. Heck, if Nadia Bolz-Weber yelled at me I would dine out on that story for months! If dining out was still a thing.

There's been a lot out there lately about people hitting the capacity wall. This, the Parents Are Not Okay article, a lot of good reporting about healthcare worker burnout and other burnout even before the pandemic. It's useful to be reminded that some things are my job, but most things aren't. People who do activism one-upmanship like "but what about global warming, don't you CARE????" can go jump in a lake. All these problems are interrelated. Immigration policy reform IS directly related to climate change. Unless you're on opposite sides of the same issue, whatever you're doing to make the world better is supporting whatever I'm doing to make the world better. Overfunctioning is huge in the nonprofit/activist world (including churches), so it doesn't surprise me that one of the big-name public theologians of my generation is feeling it too.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 2:06 PM on August 26, 2021 [8 favorites]


I basically feel like I am failing to be the person I thought I was.

It's important to remember that you are not the one who has failed, or is failing, these marginalised people. That position belongs to people at the top of the heap, who are far more powerful and far wealthier than you (and likely far less over-stretched).

I totally get the feelings expressed here. Everything is fucking awful for so many fucking reasons. That's hard to deal with a lot of the time. Sometimes I fantasise about winning some sort of lottery and just wandering through gofundme and paying off as many fundraisers as I can, but even that feels like holding a sieve under a leaking tap.

I do wish more people cared and talked about the things that impact my own life. When I post about how my country is failing trans people like me, it hurts to see so little engagement. But I have to remember that my friends have their own shit going on, their own daily struggles, that I can't help with either.

Before the pandemic I bought some pins from an artist that say "resist" and "persist". The latter is about as much as I feel like I can do right now. In lots of ways my persistence in existing and having a life is a resistance. I think that's true of more of us than we think. I'm trying to focus on getting through today so I can reach tomorrow.
posted by fight or flight at 2:07 PM on August 26, 2021 [34 favorites]


I go through cycles where I am mostly okay with being on social media, then I'm like, "this brings me no joy, i am only scrolling and liking and retweeting or whatever because there is fuck all i want to do right now".

I'm getting my own business off the ground right now and I know that I will have to up my social media use to promote myself and what I do, but I am fucking dreading it. It will require me to have a public profile and after years as a locked account everywhere, I don't want to deal with randos.
posted by Kitteh at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2021 [8 favorites]


The idea that posting things on social media is 'doing something' is, to me, very, very weak at its core, a few degrees below putting a bumper-sticker on your car or wearing a t-shirt, so being worried about being judged for what you post or don't post is angels on pinheads territory.
posted by signal at 2:23 PM on August 26, 2021 [31 favorites]


a bumper sticker at least stays visible for as long as you leave it there... teh socials require constant re-posting to ensure ongoing visibility of superficial support.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:14 PM on August 26, 2021 [4 favorites]


I struggle with this a lot, because I feel like I've learned a ton from Twitter--and it's also often an actively bad place. And that whole feeling cited above of feeling an obligation to post and care about everything is real--because gosh, it's just a Tweet or a post! You don't even care enough to do that much??? Way to wallow in your privilege, I guess!

Late last year I said to my therapist, "At this point I feel like I'm doomscrolling all the time and I feel scared and shitty. But I feel like if I'm not doomscrolling, I'm... what? Sticking my head in the sand?"

She said, "Okay, but consider: if you don't stick your head in the sand, what would you be doing?"

Completely blew my mind. I've had a much easier time tuning out social media since then.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 3:16 PM on August 26, 2021 [13 favorites]


I was once part of a matched set of operations managers. My boss said that the other operations manager was his "happy little skull crusher," but "when I need the diplomat, I break out mph."

The other operations manager -- henceforth referred to as "The Skullcrusher" -- had wallpaper on her desktop that read "Not my circus, not my monkeys," and she pointed at it whenever Some Bad Thing Happened in a Meeting or Someone Said a Bad Thing to a Finance Specialist or whatever and I was already getting up out my seat to delivery quality diplomatic services to the aggrieved parties. She knew exactly which skulls were to be crushed and which were to be ignored, and I was pretty much a UN blue helmet battalion of one, always ready to go wheels up.

Initially, I thought she was an apathetic burnout -- callous and disinterested in the smooth operations of the organization, let alone people. I kept thinking that even after she eventually quit to go crush skulls somewhere else. When I'd make that observation, people I really liked and respected would correct me: Tell me about the little ways she was constantly being kind to them, or making things better, or sticking up for people who needed it. She was a fixture among local women in tech, too, mentoring and volunteering.

After she was gone, I kept on deploying to assorted corners of the business, and over time it got pretty weird. Like, "chief people officer gets so pissed off that I intervened in something to do with an executive assistant from a completely different department that I woke up to notifications indicating he had been up from two until five in the morning going through any open Google Doc I owned looking for ... no telling." Literally opening and sometimes copying dozens of them. (He got turned out before he could get me, but I hope those messaging briefs and blog posts about configuration management software were edifying. I'll always be part of him now.)

I've related this elsewhere here, but eventually I got to this state where I was "listening myself hoarse" every day. I got tired, then I burned out, and things dead-ended for me for a while because new management came in and was, like, "who is this meddlesome, lovable burnout?"

Part of putting myself back together involved coffee with The Skullcrusher, with whom things had gotten adversarial toward the end of her tenure, and letting myself be open to the idea that she knew something I could use. What had read to me as callousness or disregard, I have come to realize, was actually a pretty well calibrated instinct for keeping out of stuff where she didn't have a lot of leverage and couldn't really affect outcomes. She cared very much about those things, and sometimes she went home mad, but built the emotional infrastructure she needed to not do something when doing something wasn't going to be very helpful, or would take energy she needed to go do something where she did have leverage.

Years down the road, in a position where I would hire operations managers but am not one myself, I wish I had ten of her.
posted by mph at 4:02 PM on August 26, 2021 [71 favorites]


The excellent, famous sociology book Amusing Ourselves to Death talks about how prior to the telegram, we did not have “news of the day” that could be transmitted over any reasonable distance quickly and regularly. So we didn’t have it.

I think about that a lot. Like what’s going on 100 miles away? I dunno except what maybe someone finally brought news of later. I certainly have no idea about the coasts or other countries.

Now I can see anything in real time usually. Too much.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:15 PM on August 26, 2021 [14 favorites]


Whenever I, or someone else feels this way I always find it helpful to remember the backstory to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. People know the letter, but few recall it was a response to a coalition of clergymen who basically were demanding he (somehow) do more. His response is one of utter reasonableness -- that we all must, in the end, pick what battle to fight and fight it well.

I'm very civically active and do a lot of volunteer work, but potential burnout, compassion fatigue and overwhelm are real, ever-present threats. At some point, you must identify for yourself:

1.) What do you want to achieve (if anything; there isn't actually anything wrong with minding your own business; however, you've said you are concerned about humanity's welfare). Take some time to really hone in on this. What honestly impacts you the most when you read the news? Homelessness? Animal abuse? Climate change? These are all huge, systemic issues that are not for you or any individual to solve.

2.) Where do you think you can have the most (within reason) impact and efficacy? Is a direct impact, like Habitat for Humanity, important you, or would you rather cut a check (which again, isn't a bad thing).
Sending solicitation texts for an organization you can get behind for 30 minutes one weekday evening helps, too. And it can be a three-person nonprofit that gets poor kids backpacks for schools; it doesn't have to be the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.

3.) It is OK to do what you can, where you can, when you can. There is no Do Gooder Police that will come knocking at your door. When you wake in the morning, you have to make eye contact only with yourself in the mirror. Maybe you just get a bus pass for a homeless person. That's OK, too. Fulfillment from exercising compassion must come from within yourself; anything obligatory will not satisfy you.

This way, when the world is going to shit on your social feed, you can take comfort in knowing that you, at least, have chosen hope in the face dire inevitability and did what you could, where you could.

Thank you. Thank you for caring enough to do this introspection and create this post.
posted by CSE279 at 4:19 PM on August 26, 2021 [31 favorites]


I still use the Cyborg Deer Stress analogy all the time. We were never meant to know about the whole world's suffering all at once.
posted by JDHarper at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2021 [15 favorites]


It's a particuarly cruel element to the North American variety of Christianity—and its secular heirs—that they emphasise so powerfully the need for people to identify themselves, individually, as compassionate, to see themselves as good people, to physically feel the wrongs of others, to 'silence the accusing voice' in their heads. It's horrible! I've always felt that way about that famous Dr. Seuss line, that the world won't change unless people like you care a whole awful lot, as a direct moral imposition of the entire world of sin onto each individual. Of course everyone feels shit, if the existence of evil can be blamed on individuals not 'caring' enough. Different Christian traditions would sit down, and say, well, we're all imperfect, and sin and evil exist, but isn't the point of Christianity that Jesus came to solve that?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:16 PM on August 26, 2021 [7 favorites]


More than a decade ago I wrote down a Barbara Kingsolver quote which has come back to me again and again since: "Confronted with the knowledge of dozens of apparently random disasters each day, what can a human heart do but slam its doors? No mortal can grieve that much."

It's cliche to the point of farce but I still find value in the "think globally act locally" mantra as a means of staying sane in an insane polity.

Yep. Yesterday I was choosing between a protest against an oil pipeline at our state capitol and another event in my neighborhood which involved a few local officials talking to farmers. I chose the smaller event where the officials were most likely to see me and remember me. I've made that type of decision a lot in the last year and the upside is that community develops a lot faster that way. I've been to many protests by myself and the energy it creates in me is scant compared to going with friends, or going to a smaller event with neighbors. In this case it seems that results and personal momentum are both more likely from the small event, so I send my love to the big one and act at the little one.
posted by Emmy Rae at 5:27 PM on August 26, 2021 [21 favorites]


I think one thing a lot of people have forgotten, or choose to ignore, is this:

Just because you are for one thing, does not mean you’re automatically against something else. Likewise, if you’re against something, it does not always mean you are for the opposite.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 5:34 PM on August 26, 2021 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty much off social media, with caveats. Facebook is a hard no. My Reddit groups are carefully curated for things I'm actually interested in and things that amuse me (I'm looking at you r/idiotsincars and r/bitchimatrain). My one true holdout is Twitter, but I only read a few of the people I follow, via NetNewsWire; a couple of authors, who sometimes tweet about political things but mostly don't; a few people I actually know; my favorite comics creator, and a local woman who is into calling out the crazies once or twice a week but who mostly tweets pictures of her delicious-looking Korean cuisine lunches and pictures of her day at the lake. The only news-related newsletters I get are my local paper, Dave Pell's First Draft, and the NYT.

In other words, it's a careful balance between staying informed and staying sane. And taking most of this stuff via email or RSS feed means it's easy to delete something even before I read it. Sometimes I just don't have enough spoons.
posted by lhauser at 5:44 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


In case folks haven’t seen it, there’s another excellent MeFi post from yesterday on this same theme.

They’re good posts, Bront.
posted by darkstar at 6:10 PM on August 26, 2021 [11 favorites]


The problem with this statement, while completely genuine and heartfelt, is that it is making the situation about you (I say this as a general "you", not you specifically, of course!) rather than the situation itself... which can be rather self-indulgent and ultimately not so helpful. I say this not as judgment but rather share it as something I am working on, too. The new book Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm by Robin DiAngelo, who also wrote White Fragility, does such a good job at addressing this and similar sentiment.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:36 PM on August 26, 2021 [5 favorites]


Which statement do you refer to, smorgasbord?

From my reading of the piece and the title, it isn't about centring yourself, but recognizing that you, yourself, are the actor in the scenario. It seems a bit of a non-sequitur to call it white fragility, at least without some linking tissue.
posted by sagc at 6:41 PM on August 26, 2021 [8 favorites]


I was merely naming another title by the author that posters may recognize, and the linked book description has more information that pertains to the entire quotation. My comment isn't meant to sidetrack the conversation with a different debate but rather offer additional reading that looks at the concept of privilege, caring, and burnout from a meta perspective. It's a great book and connects so well to this great conversation here!
posted by smorgasbord at 7:37 PM on August 26, 2021 [1 favorite]


For a bit of context that might help a bit, 170 years ago Thoreau blamed his lack of attention on the fact that he had been reading the newspaper.
posted by PhineasGage at 8:06 PM on August 26, 2021 [4 favorites]


I say this not as judgment

INCOMING JUDGMENT STORM LEVEL 5
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2021 [17 favorites]


I went through a long arc about my responsibility to save everyone. Eventually therapy, philosophy, and meditation led me to a sleeping beggar girl in one of the most terrible places I know. I could see clearly the unspeakably shitty life she had now and I knew how much shittier it was going to get. I had the resources to change that.

I didn't.

Having the conundrum made real right in front of me clarified a lot, not about who I want to be but about who I actually am. It freed me of the aspiration/delusion that I was going to save everyone -- or even a single person -- because I simply do not have that in me.

Now I do what fits in my limits for the causes I've chosen. All of the other worthy causes may be getting what they need or not; worrying about that requires a lot more than I'm able to give.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:11 PM on August 26, 2021 [2 favorites]


This is about exactly where I am, down to the unnecessarily loud muscle car below my window…with the addition of a Mad Mad scenario that's been playing out on the nearby expressway every nice weekend since COVID started.

I'm sending monthly money to an anti racist group, a food bank and a social democratic political party. I ignore their emails.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:14 AM on August 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


Your responsibilities are, in order of priority,
- your well-being
- that of your children when they are children
- that of your spouse
- that of your grown children
- that of other family members, sometimes

If you have energy to attend to other concerns, and if you choose to do so, by all means do so.

You don't have to attend to anything just because some loudmouth on the internet tells you that you have to.
posted by yclipse at 6:10 AM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Early on in the Trump administration, I was talking with someone and said that I'd kind of adopted an attitude towards the presidency that was like the one the ultra-conservative Catholic Sedevacantists take towards the Papacy - I didn't regard the president as valid, and considered the Oval Office to be unoccupied. "And that means," I said, "that the federal government isn't around right now, and we kind of have to do things for ourselves, so I'm focusing local."

He was taken aback by that, and called me out on not paying attention to the larger world. But I hadn't been given a chance to elaborate on what I thought "focusing local" meant.

* I would start by taking care of myself and the people around me - me, roommates, family, friends, and neighbors. Fostering those connections and supporting those people.

* The next step, once that network was strengthened, would be to get the people around me as a whole to reach out to other surrounding communities to strengthen the connection between those communities, and building an inter-community network.

* And then when you have a network of neighboring communities solidly established, then that network can start reaching out to other nearby networks.

My focus was on reinforcing the foundation for the nation, in short, since we no longer had the leadership that would ordinarily have been doing that.

....Unfortunately I've only gotten to the point where I can start looking out into the wider community right now. But sometimes you have to focus on that local foundation before you can reach out to the wider world - because it is the foundation, and if your foundation is weak then the other stuff you do might be just as weak, and how much help is that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on August 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


Your responsibilities are, in order of priority

And this formulation is the basis of a lot of toxic thinking, head-in-the-sand localist approaches, NIMBYism, even racism and xenophobia. I’m not saying you shouldn’t start there, but, if you don’t expand out, you’re part of the problem. At least in part because doing your steps requires a lot more than just you and your family, it requires a community of teachers and healthcare workers and grocers and so on, and if you aren’t looking out for them (at least sometimes), why should they waste their resources on you?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:22 AM on August 27, 2021 [15 favorites]


"To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil." — Jack Gilbert, "A Brief For The Defense."
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:44 AM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


Cognitive dissonance sucks and I want to take people at their word that they're doing their best but after

1) canvassing at farmer's markets in my city, asking them to sign onto a simple pledge for Black lives, and being told 'MLK wouldn't march on highways but I support BLM', 'I'm dating a Black guy', 'I'm liberal but there is such a thing as going too far' etc

2) seeing various white-dominant groups with numbers in the tens of thousands self-organize around racial justice issues who then proceed to completely ignore local Black and POC-led groups when they ask for accountability

3) helping organize a mixed-race racial justice group myself that sought accountability that I threw myself into for two years during which I received dozens of DMs, calls, etc from white people who were insistent that I was being too strident (while at the same time getting DMs from POC who were thanking me for not tone policing myself)

4) seeing the chaos of Indivisible groups trodding all over the carefully drawn canvassing maps of non-profits and campaign managers for progressive candidates in my city

5) watching white people complain about their racist uncles/aunts/etc and not talking to them whatsoever while I've had intensely emotionally fraught conversations with my hyper conservative APIDA immigrant parents

6) watching white people go on and on about Trump and how he's the only reason this country is horrible, as if the legacy of a country that founded and defined so much of white supremacy and eugenics just started to break bad. And know that it's these same white people who live in renovated, flipped houses that are actively displacing the Black residents who've lived in those neighborhoods for decades and yet have a BLM sign plopped down in the green

7) and honestly, so so many more incidents, some of which are too personal to share

you get pretty jaded when people with privilege tell you that they're 'trying their best' and 'wow my emotional capacity is maxed out.'

Like, I want to trust you that you're living your values as much as you can but I also am pretty sure you're going to brush me off when I ask you 'hey, do you want to go canvassing to stop the development of a massive green space in the city with a history of what essentially is slave labor (ie federal prison farm labor) into a fucking massive police compound this weekend' because, hell, that's what you've been doing for the past month and I know you've been out having fun because I was there having fun with you.

Which isn't to say that there aren't exceptions to the rule but if I were to come up with a percentage of my friends and acquaintances who put their money or their actions where their mouths are when I do the soft-reach-out for volunteering/organizing/donations, it'd wouldn't be great.

I'm angry and bitter here, on a semi-anonymous internet forum mind you, and as goddamn kind as I can be when I'm in person because I'm a people pleaser and because I honestly do love my friends, as problematic as they can be, so it's not my tone that needs to be policed (at least in interpersonal encounters).

But whatever makes it so that people can't even stop eating at Chik-Fil-fucking-A or Waffle House (they're major funders of anti-minimum wage efforts in my state), that's the same shit that's keeping them from trying to make the world into the place they say they want to see. When you're on the other side trying to do the work as best as you can even when it sucks and it makes you tired and stressed out, it really really hurts when people who haven't mustered the strength required to sacrifice a few hours on a Saturday to do something that might be kinda hard keep coming to you and telling you how great of a job you're doing while also saying 'nah, not this weekend' when you ask them to get involved.

The most disgusting bit to me is when those same people come to me with stories like when they saw something racist and thought it was really bad but didn't say a word. I'm not here to grant you your indulgence for the guilt you justifiably deserve. The suffering you would've felt being uncomfortable by speaking up is minuscule to the person experiencing the act of racism and, in my heart of hearts, I really don't have the capacity to continue to hear about how fucking callous you've been.

Which is all to say - mega bleh on this and mega bleh on people failing to live their values granting penance to other people failing to live their values. Y'all hurt and feel bad, sure, but maybe it's also time to reflect on that and work on developing some insight into why you feel that way and what you can do to change it.
posted by paimapi at 7:49 AM on August 27, 2021 [25 favorites]


paimapi expressed beautifully what I was trying to allude to in my initial link & follow-up comment. Instead a bunch of people, mostly male-identified, got sarcastic and douchey. Which is exactly the point: so many people on Metafilter are trying to stretch and grow as we agree to disagree but it still feels like a lot of angry white cis men who identify as progressive trying to control the narrative.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


There is an child who is on the autism spectrum in my extended family. We're very close - we talk all the time - and this article and the comments felt shockingly familiar to how he describes in his daily struggle to manage his life. I don't want to presume this generalizes to others on the spectrum, but the conversation here feels like it helps me empathize better with him. Perhaps I can steal some of the philosophies that people are using to help both him (and myself) make things less overwhelming.

(On preview, I would ALSO and separately agree with paimapi's points.)
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 8:23 AM on August 27, 2021


Which is all to say - mega bleh on this and mega bleh on people failing to live their values granting penance to other people failing to live their values. Y'all hurt and feel bad, sure, but maybe it's also time to reflect on that and work on developing some insight into why you feel that way and what you can do to change it.

I completely and totally understand why you would be frustrated. At the same time I think it is a bit of a stretch to assume people who don't volunteer are being callous:

But whatever makes it so that people can't even stop eating at Chik-Fil-fucking-A or Waffle House (they're major funders of anti-minimum wage efforts in my state), that's the same shit that's keeping them from trying to make the world into the place they say they want to see.

Would you like to see the list of restaurants I refuse to patronize in my area? The list of companies I refuse to patronize? Chik-fil-A is on that list, I promise, and for several reasons.

When you're on the other side trying to do the work as best as you can even when it sucks and it makes you tired and stressed out, it really really hurts when people who haven't mustered the strength required to sacrifice a few hours on a Saturday to do something that might be kinda hard keep coming to you and telling you how great of a job you're doing while also saying 'nah, not this weekend' when you ask them to get involved.

Saturday and Sunday are the only days many people have to do things like laundry, unpacking after a move, physical therapy, taking care of elderly parents, taking care of children, getting packages to the post office, etc. I'd be happy to do door-to-door canvasing for you or whatever, but can you find me someone who can take my kid to soccer practice or take my Mom to her dialysis appointment or unpack and set up my washing machine in my basement while I do that?

Or - is there anything I can do that doesn't involve actually knocking on people's doors, because my social anxiety makes it so that actually knocking on a stranger's door scares the shit out of me? Maybe I could sit in the car and go through a list or something? Or do internet research for you? No, this knocking on doors and canvasing is all you have for me to do? I don't think I'm the right person for you, honestly....

I know that YOU know this can also be the case, and I am assuming it is your understandable frustration speaking. But that kind of "I want to help but I can't find a way in that would also fit with the REST of my life" is kind of what this article is getting at. It's not that people don't care, it's that they care but don't know about any way to help except for following this very specific set of actions that have been presented to them, and for which they do not have the spoons. In fact, that may be why "social media activism" is something people have jumped on as much as they have.

I suspect that a lot of the people who refuse to turn out and volunteer on a weekend aren't doing so because of a lack of care, though, and if they were presented with different alternatives alongside "'like' this post to raise awareness" and "canvass door-to-door" or "collect signatures in a park" - like, "pick up this stack of envelopes and these stamps on your way home from work, stamp them over the next couple days and drop them back off" or "save up vegetable peels over the next week and then drop them off at the youth garden to contribute to the composting drive" or something - participation and involvement would go up.

But I hear you on the "I saw a racist dude go off on someone and it was terrible but I didn't say anything" or "I think Hobby Lobby are bigots but they have the best coupons so whaddyagonnado" kind of stuff. I'd be more likely to speak out against a racist dude in the one place, though (possibly I'm foolhardy) and in the second case, Hobby Lobby is one of those places I boycott.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on August 27, 2021 [21 favorites]


When you're on the other side trying to do the work as best as you can even when it sucks and it makes you tired and stressed out, it really really hurts when people who haven't mustered the strength required to sacrifice a few hours on a Saturday to do something that might be kinda hard keep coming to you and telling you how great of a job you're doing while also saying 'nah, not this weekend' when you ask them to get involved.

Yes, and. *wry* The hurt you describe is real, so incredibly real, and so is the anger.

There is a great unmet need in (generic) your community, that you are trying desperately to meet with few resources, and everyone agrees that this needs fixing but almost no one steps up to help. So you ask more people around you for more, and you shape your exhortations for aid to strike and motivate the average person around you, who seems like they are mildly interested but really not very motivated to do much of anything. You eventually assume that most people don't really care, because no one is helping you, even though everyone says they do care. And--you extend yourself past your boundaries, because the need is endless, and you wind up burning out badly, and become angry.

(I'm talking about me, of course; I have been there and will be again.)

As the rhetoric shapes itself to try to goad people who are in fact in possession of resources--time, energy, money--to put their money where their mouth is and do just a little bit of work, something else happens. The people who are already primed to listen--the anxious ones who want to help and create justice, and the ones who are genuinely operating at the boundaries of their abilities--they hear "and you don't even care" and flinch, because they could probably be doing more except their resources are strained and exhausted, but really if they scrape a little harder maybe they can find one more hour of time--or maybe not--and push themselves harder into burnout...

I've spoken elsewhere about how I think Catholic theology, because of its emphasis on using negative emotions and signs of burnout to drive ever greater attempts to help produce justice in the world, can be incredibly abusive to people who are already listening and looking for opportunities to produce justice. I think social justice culture generally has absorbed some of the same lessons, in trying to create an ethos of work that primarily addresses an audience of presumed-abled, presumed-healthy, presumed-wealthy-enough people--and is most loudly heard by people who are already working themselves very hard.

The scope of unmet need is endless, and we need to be able to have conversations about sustainability, rest, and being able to trust one another to be doing our best. Which sounds very anodyne when stacked against the unmet needs of the world! But pushing people to work through burnout without allowing them to rest and replenish consistently produces toxic dynamics in which well meaning people slowly melt down into scenarios of real abuse.
posted by sciatrix at 9:38 AM on August 27, 2021 [14 favorites]


It's not that people don't care, it's that they care but don't know about any way to help except for following this very specific set of actions that have been presented to them, and for which they do not have the spoons. In fact, that may be why "social media activism" is something people have jumped on as much as they have.

This is what I find so frustrating about this entire discussion. Instead of actually doing anything about x issue, we are wasting time reassuring people who do nothing that they are good people who care about the world. What's ironic about all this is the way this plays into white supremacy - white people are judged by their potential (in this case, how much they claim to care), and minorities are judged by their actions. Social media activism does nothing more than elevate your status, but only if you're white.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 10:00 AM on August 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


It's interesting that people are reading the article as an excuse to do less, while I read it as something exhorting people to think about what they're doing, and where they can do the most good.
posted by sagc at 10:08 AM on August 27, 2021 [16 favorites]


I know this sentiment angers a lot of people, but there are those in the world who believe that peace and justice can only be achieved from the bottom up. That is to say that a true and lasting peace will never be imposed on others.
If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.
-Thich Nhat Hahn, "Being Peace"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:22 AM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


chernoffhoeffding, would it help to know that some people don't actually need reassurance that they're still a good person, but are instead asking "for the love of little green pickles give me something else to do that isn't just one of these two options for activism"? Because social media activism is stupid as hell, and canvassing for signatures is something you don't want me doing because I suck at salesmanship (I couldn't even sell Girl Scout Cookies for God's sake).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:23 AM on August 27, 2021 [6 favorites]


Appreciation for your comment, paimapi. I found this piece to be rather... absolvey? Everyone's circumstances, abilities, and needs are different and at the end of the day each person is the only one who can figure out for themselves what living right means, but the impulse for people to collectively absolve each other-- and the obvious sensitivity to external validation that prompts that-- is something I think really needs interrogating.
posted by dusty potato at 10:35 AM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


When activists ask for help with things like canvassing, it's because that's where they need help so maybe asking for something else to do isn't all that helpful. I get not having spoons. Our society repeatedly leaves people with very few spoons. But I'm hearing more excuses that betray a desire to be seen as a good person...which is absolutely on topic.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:37 AM on August 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


The flip side is that you're asking already exhausted, burnt out organizers who have lost tons of battles bc of general disinterest to specifically cater to your needs in ways that you wouldn't expect, say, a book club or something fun that you want to do would. The same organizers who already go way the fuck out of their way to make things accessible, who already do provide options that are literally a few Google searches and direct messages away from being visible.

As someone who is physically disabled (herniated discs) who is diagnosed with GAD and MDD, I honestly have such little sympathy for people who fall back on using mental health as an excuse. Do the work to get therapy if you can but I'll say that one of the things that helped me with my shitty self image the most was actually living my values, and this is something that I'm told is actually a really good therapeutic technique that ACT and behavioral activation is really keen on.

Either do the work or don't but don't kid yourself about your complicity.
posted by paimapi at 10:40 AM on August 27, 2021 [8 favorites]


This piece felt to me like a natural partner to the one featured in this FPP also on the front page right now, which struck me (to a greater extent than this one) as lightly reactionary. There's some thread running through both, at least for me, about the validation people seek, about the way people want to be assured across the board that however it is they're/we're living is right or is enough.
posted by dusty potato at 10:46 AM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Personally, I don't love going to meetings and I hate canvassing. But, holding meetings and having conversations with people (aka canvassing) is the essential work of organizing. So that's what most of us have to offer a movement, whether or not we choose to offer it.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:00 AM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


Some people do activism out of necessity and others by choice. For those in the latter category, it’s “ok” to choose what you do or don’t do. But it’s not the job of those who do activism out of necessity or by choice to reassure those who aren’t doing as much that their lesser effort or lack thereof is OK. Because it is… until you make it about you!

Yet again those with the heaviest burden are now expected to do the emotional labor of reassuring or validating others — and yes, these others are often white and progressive. It’s like we’re still looking for that gold star in life: maybe we can’t earn the high income or afford our dream house but gosh darnit someone can reassure us that we’re a good person because we did something small or nothing but simply profess to care.
posted by smorgasbord at 11:22 AM on August 27, 2021 [5 favorites]


The idea that posting things on social media is 'doing something' is, to me, very, very weak at its core, a few degrees below putting a bumper-sticker on your car or wearing a t-shirt, so being worried about being judged for what you post or don't post is angels on pinheads territory.

Social media, including metafilter, has made me a much better person. It has saved me money, given me great and valuable advice, brought me lots of new friends, opened me up to countless new things, brought me comfort in times of distress, made me more empathic at the same time as teaching me how to be careful and savvy about extending it, made me less certain and obnoxious, helped me live a healthier and fitter life and all kinds of other things. I owe a great deal of who I am to the casual social media influences you are minimizing. Those people who 'just posted things on the internet' have had a surprisingly huge positive impact on me and through me on my wife and some of my other friends. I'm frankly baffled by people who believe it is effectively doing nothing.
posted by srboisvert at 11:24 AM on August 27, 2021 [11 favorites]


The reason I appreciated this piece is because I am someone who does a medium amount of activism/social justice stuff. I also happen to be a woman of colour. I often feel guilt that I am “only” doing work around X and Y, and donating money to Z, and that I sometimes wait for white people to call out racism and men to call out sexism because I’m tired of doing it as a WOC.

But I am in danger of burnout, especially since the pandemic started, and this piece has reminded me it’s okay to pick one (or two or three) things and really focus on them. I don’t need to feel guilt about not adding a fourth responsibility. That doesn’t have to be mine. It can be someone else’s.

I’m surprised to hear people might take it as absolution to do nothing, when the author writes
I try and tell myself that It’s ok to focus on one fire.

It’s ok to do what is YOURS to do. Say what’s yours to say. Care about what’s yours to care about.

That’s enough.

If immigration reform is yours to do, if it is the fire you have water to throw on, (thank you! and…) that is enough. There will be voices saying “but what about climate change? You don’t care that the planet is dying??”. Tune that shit out. I mean, you could turn around and ask the environmentalist next door why they heartlessly don’t care about immigrants, but there is no percentage in that. Instead, we could be so grateful for the people who are called to work on and respond to worthy issues that are not fires we ourselves are equipped to put out.
But I readily acknowledge that there are people who may well read this and conclude “it’s okay for me to do nothing.” But clearly their guilt over doing nothing, pre-absolution, isn’t spurring them to action. So while it doesn’t need to be the author’s job to specify that she isn’t absolving these people from inaction and they should feel guilty, maybe she should. Maybe this piece should be retitled, “Activists: Don’t burn yourselves out by doing too many things. It’s okay if you focus on one thing. PS: White people who do nothing: this article isn’t absolving you of responsibility.”

But I want this article to be mine. I need it.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:51 AM on August 27, 2021 [20 favorites]


I honestly have such little sympathy for people who fall back on using mental health as an excuse. Do the work to get therapy if you can but I'll say that one of the things that helped me with my shitty self image the most was actually living my values

For the thousandeth time, that's not how that works. I'm glad your methods worked for you. They don't work for other people. Would you enjoy someone saying "well, yoga fixed my back problems, so just do some of that and stop making excuses"? Would that spark joy in you? No. Then don't fucking do it about mental health. Jesus goddamn christ on a pogo stick.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 12:11 PM on August 27, 2021 [20 favorites]


hurdy gurdy girl, I love this:
But I readily acknowledge that there are people who may well read this and conclude “it’s okay for me to do nothing.” But clearly their guilt over doing nothing, pre-absolution, isn’t spurring them to action. So while it doesn’t need to be the author’s job to specify that she isn’t absolving these people from inaction and they should feel guilty, maybe she should. Maybe this piece should be retitled, “Activists: Don’t burn yourselves out by doing too many things. It’s okay if you focus on one thing. PS: White people who do nothing: this article isn’t absolving you of responsibility.”

you are absolutely right, by my lights. There is no absolution here. Instead, you are invited to stop. Get your mental hamster off the treadmill. Focus on what is yours to focus on. Recommit.

In fact, I'd like to go a step further and invite white people who do nothing to take a moment and see where you can commit. My suggestion for action, to make your barrier to entry as low as possible, is a recurring donation to a diaper bank. Would you pay $5 to stop a baby crying? Yes? Set up a recurring donation here to help get a clean diaper on a clean baby butt.
posted by snerson at 12:51 PM on August 27, 2021 [3 favorites]


I would like to point out that just as racial justice is one of your great focuses, paimapi, disability and neurodivergence is one of mine. Consider, therefore, exactly what you're invoking by snarling that taking boundaries for mental health is an excuse rather than a sanity protection measure while a person does other aspects of justice work.

It's not even about sparking joy. It's about not deliberately entrenching other axes of marginalization to drive your own work. Which is exactly what "by setting boundaries, you are making excuses not to do the real work" is doing, just as stoking fear of black men in order to promote feminist legislation is entrenching racism with the justification of dismantling misogyny.

If you are so burnt out that you are furious when someone points out that you are doing this, you are going to make mistakes that undo or undermine the good work you are trying to enact. The work of creating justice will eat us all alive if we let it. We have to find a sustainable ground, and you have no way of knowing what other people are and are not doing to sustain their own efforts--but the people who are listening to you most closely are the ones most likely to be working at the limit of their own abilities and resources already, and that has to be taken into consideration when we talk about activism, burnout, and setting limits.

I am sorry if you are so deep into burnout that all you can read into that comment, or conversations about mental health limiting engagement, is a statement of not caring because everything then has to be done by you. That sucks, and it's a state I have been in, too. I'm not, however, going to apologize for pointing out that the great work of justice is a many-branching relay marathon, not a sprint, and that sustainable activism needs to keep that in mind.
posted by sciatrix at 1:03 PM on August 27, 2021 [27 favorites]


Thank you for being kinder and more eloquent than I could manage right now, sciatrix. paimapai, I apologize for snapping. That wasn't fair.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 1:06 PM on August 27, 2021 [1 favorite]


Either do the work or don't but don't kid yourself about your complicity.
posted by paimapi


This is the crux of it and so well put. Only YOU know if you're shirking more projects cause they aren't fun. Not going to that rally because you're lazy. Or...if you truly need a mental break from the world (we all do! Especially now!) But don't kid yourself. Be honest. Don't ask for permission from anyone else to do less.
posted by tiny frying pan at 1:09 PM on August 27, 2021 [2 favorites]


I got really burned out after years of activism in my 20s and early 30s. It felt so futile most of the time, and the back biting and infighting just made it feel like self-flagellation after a while. I'm back at it now, but I had to change how I approached things. I narrowed my focus to a few key issues and I block off regular chunks of time to spend on the work. I try not to doom scroll Twitter, but I do follow certain people whose voices and work I find inspiring and educational, and some whose calls to action I follow. I also try daily to find positive news and stories - it makes me feel like we really can achieve things.

I am a shy and anxious person (almost agoraphobic tbh), battling mental illness, and not very eloquent, but there's still so much that I can do to help out. Writing letters to companies and government representatives (and tweeting) is effective and easy. Sure it's just one letter, but if hundreds are doing it you will be heard. Most of the time I don’t even have to write anything, some talented soul has already drafted the messages for us. In the evenings I listen to music and help the K-Pop fans drown out any trending white supremacist recruitment hashtags. I've been slowly but surely picking off the Twitter accounts of members of a particularly violent and anti-Semitic group. Sure not all of them get banned, but they do go private, which reduces the number of people their messages reach. When someone tweets out that they need graphic designers to help make eye-catching flyers or infographics I do that. I knit lap blankets for seniors and solicit yarn donations. Am I making a huge difference? Not even close! But a small impact is better than none. Could I do more? Absolutely! I did not write out all of that to boast about how virtuous I am (I’m actually quite lazy), but to demonstrate that there is so much that can be done and most of it is not difficult, it just takes a little time. If you’re overwhelmed, pick a few causes you care about, a few key people attached to that cause, and follow their calls to action.

The idea that posting things on social media is 'doing something' is, to me, very, very weak at its core, a few degrees below putting a bumper-sticker on your car or wearing a t-shirt, so being worried about being judged for what you post or don't post is angels on pinheads territory.

I do not think it’s smart to dismiss the impact of social media. That’s where the people are. That’s where the information war is being fought. That’s where propaganda and conspiracy theories are disseminated and where harmful groups recruit people. Businesses, the media, and many government representatives pay very close attention to social media. So do white supremacist groups, Q followers, anti-vaxxers, and other chaos sowers - and all of their targets.

Also, white people, when it comes to activism against racism our part is really easy. BIPOC are doing all of the difficult bits (organizing, planning, writing, campaigning, educating, convincing…) and putting themselves in harm’s way - mentally and physically. They’re doing a lot of work and a lot of asking and we’re not doing a lot of helping. Interfering, arguing, minimizing, or making it all about us is not helping.
posted by Stoof at 1:47 PM on August 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


I'm not, however, going to apologize for pointing out that the great work of justice is a many-branching relay marathon, not a sprint, and that sustainable activism needs to keep that in mind.

So much this. I've seen countless organizations co-opted, deliberately or not, by white folks who recreate the same systems of control they know, simply because they have not addressed their own trauma, and their own part in the traumatizing of others. So they take their conditioned ways of being from one space and pour it into another, much to the detriment of those involved.

Until you know how to not hurt yourself (and abandoning one's own mental health needs is self-harm to me), I don't understand how you can know your actions will not ultimately bring harm to others.

Relatedly, I think everyone would be better overall if white people, specifically, did less, not more. The problem is, most white people in the states are not doing nothing. They're doing a lot. A lot to perpetuate the interests of supremacist capitalism. A lot to make the world believe the subjective world of their mind is somehow the objective world of how it is. If white people took a nap and didn't show up on the last several election days, for instance, we'd be in a much better place here in the states. When I extrapolate that fact out to all the other axes of relationships people have to meeting their needs and, ultimately, being liberated beings, oof, more helping is good, less hurting is even better imo. ymmv
posted by CPAnarchist at 3:30 PM on August 27, 2021 [7 favorites]


"Self-indulgence and severity towards others are the same vice"
Jean de La Bruyère
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:08 PM on August 27, 2021 [4 favorites]


I learned, from this awesome book and from the awesome sitcom "The Good Place," that the one of the biggest problems with utilitariansim as a philosophy is that it seems to require people to turn themselves into "happiness pumps" pumping their own personal wells dry to distribute happiness to everyone else. The greatest good for the greatest number. Any utilitarian who is not making themselves miserable is not a good utilitarian.

Lots of us atheists and agnostics are utilitarians/consequentialists of some flavor whether we call it by that name, or not. We believe that the more good we do in the world, the better we are as people.

In The Good Place, humans get points for good deeds and deductions for bad ones, and helping more people, to a greater degree, makes us better people (so long as we are also careful not to cause much suffering). This is appealing because it's about the only moral system that doesn't appeal to anything outside of human logic and emotion to distinguish "good" from "bad." It doesn't require us to be endowed by our creator with any specific rights or to consult a divinely approved list of virtues and commandments.

But in The Good Place, it becomes pretty clear that it's nearly impossible for most humans to ever be good enough under a utilitarian scoring system to deserve to be called GOOD.

And the awesome book ("Moral Tribes, by Joshua Greene) proposes a moral system the author calls "deeply pragmatic utilitarianism" which basically means, give until you feel a little uncomfortable, but not miserable. That's the most we can, realistically, expect of people. It's the most we can realistically expect of ourselves. We're only human.

And the best summary of THAT philosophy is the meme you have probably seen on social media, drawn from Jewish scripture:

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it."
posted by OnceUponATime at 7:05 PM on August 27, 2021 [12 favorites]


Some say do more. Some say do less. It’s confusing, but I have had an important realization because of this thread. *finger snap*
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:49 PM on August 27, 2021


It's a particuarly cruel element to the North American variety of Christianity—and its secular heirs—that they emphasise so powerfully the need for people to identify themselves, individually, as compassionate, to see themselves as good people, to physically feel the wrongs of others, to 'silence the accusing voice' in their heads. It's horrible!

It's weird because I was just thinking the opposite, about the church I grew up in. It feels like many white Americans who didn't come up in a strong religious tradition of one variation or another simply have no moorings at all. It's not that they're not people who want to do good, or who have no idea of what good might be, it's that they have no sense of structure or discipline around it. An activism or a commitment to justice that is underpinned solely by emotional impulse, or by the desire to think of yourself as a "good person," isn't going to weather the storm. There are a million ways it can go to pieces, but go to pieces it will. Whereas in a lefty church, you already know that you are not the moral center of the universe, that you do not have an infinite capacity as against a universe that was broken long ago, and that while you can strive for righteousness you are in fact perpetually falling short and in need of reconciliation with God. Indeed, to a certain degree it can be sinfully arrogant to think you must take on All The Problems. And compassion, especially that personalized, emotionalized kind, isn't...irrelevant, precisely...but it's not the reason you take on the tasks you take on. You're not serving your own heart.

I'm an atheist now, and I certainly don't think I do the work I do for justice perfectly, but the sense that I am a limited and fallible human being and it can't be my job to repair the whole universe has stayed with me. It helps when I'm grieving the latest suffering of the world.
posted by praemunire at 10:05 PM on August 28, 2021 [11 favorites]


Lots of us atheists and agnostics are utilitarians/consequentialists of some flavor whether we call it by that name, or not. We believe that the more good we do in the world, the better we are as people.

I just don't want to live in a shithole. It's not complicated.
posted by Stoof at 12:22 PM on August 31, 2021


It's complicated because you can't, by yourself, stop the world from being a shithole.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:33 PM on August 31, 2021 [1 favorite]


And now I have to post this...

Good Bones
By Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
posted by OnceUponATime at 1:35 PM on August 31, 2021 [10 favorites]


Flagged as fantastic, OnceUponATime. I highly recommend clicking on the link and then clicking through to hear the author recite her poem.
posted by Bella Donna at 5:23 AM on September 14, 2021 [1 favorite]


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