I saw an article today that describes how Western countries will not meet the environmental targets outlined in the Paris Accord. I'm not surprised about this at all.
I'm not surprised for multiple reasons. Here are the most basic reasons I'm not surprised in the slightest:
The reasons above are systematically solutionable. We can solve those issues in various, systematic ways. That's what makes it so heartbreaking that we can't seem to get past it.
Here's why I'm not surprised at all that we won't meet the goals lined up in the Paris Climate Accord: because my life hasn't changed. Not one bit. I still drive my car way more than I should; I still keep my apartment warmer than I should; I still buy products like I did before. The Accord hasn't affected me directly one bit.
How can we expect systematic change when it doesn't affect parts of the system? If the only cost to the accord is the rising price of gasoline, or a little extra inflation, how will we affect change?
I'd say we won't. Until the measures taken to meet those goals force me to change my ways, I can assume we won't meet those goals. As long as I'm insulated from the effects of the accord, Canada won't be acting in a way that lets us meet it.
The article reads,
Failure to slow the pace of climate change will inflict massive dislocation on people around the world, with expectations of prolonged droughts and fires in some regions, and more extreme hurricanes and rain storms in others, climate scientists warn.
All of those symptoms? Those are the most easy things to deny responsibility for. So until I learn to perceive my part in them, I doubt the entire country would be able to pull off a similar mindset shift.
[EDITED SEPTEMBER 19 in order to include the links to CANADALAND and The Current.]
This seems just plain misguided. Like, why?
This is the same sort of thing we find as Louis C.K. tries to make a comeback: men get a platform to speak and defend themselves.
But geez, like, don't we have other people to platform?
When I saw the article about Ghomeshi, an odd thought appeared in my brain: "Where's the shame?"
I don't believe that shame is a good mover of change; just because someone feels shame doesn't mean they will act appropriately afterwards. But I'm a little stunned at the severe lack of shame in these attempted comebacks. But these guys, they get defensive, they dig their heels in. It's ugly.
And I don't get why brands, such as the Comedy Cellar or the New York Review of Books, want names like Ghomeshi and C.K. associated with their products right now.
Just because they're famous doesn't mean you need to host their message on your platform. The New Yorker realized this when they misjudged their Steve Bannon speech. They reacted appropriately and removed him from that platform.
But Ghomeshi and C.K.? Nobody needs this right now. Let them wither.
I can think of a few times over the last few years when I've felt uncomfortable with the ways people "call out" each other. My impression is that the person who "calls out" injustice feels their explanation is witty and useful, but it can often come-off as a conversation-closer. Despite this, I usually try to give the call-out a serious listen, even if I can't do it on the day of confrontation. If I'm uncomfortable with an idea, I like to try to get to the core of my discomfort.
A few weeks ago, I came across this article, "A Note on Call-Out Culture," by Asam Ahmad after somebody posted it to their Twitter feed. I didn't read it for a few days, but when I did I found a couple touching passages.
Here's the article:
I think the article brings up some valid concerns, namely that "Calling-Out" is a performative act. When we call-out, the calling-out itself becomes the issue of importance. It's hard to keep one's aim straight on the content when the calling-out is so attractive in and of itself.
Most importantly to me, Ahmad writes,
There are ways of calling people out that are compassionate and creative, and that recognize the whole individual instead of viewing them simply as representations of the systems from which they benefit. Paying attention to these other contexts will mean refusing to unleash all of our very real trauma onto the psyches of those we imagine to only represent the systems that oppress us.
I believe in calling-out injustice, but I also believe that there are ways to do so that decrease damage and increase relationship. When we can confront people in ways that don't jade them or shift the focus of their concern, people have a chance to feel legitimized, even if their in the wrong camp. A successful call-out should allow the receiver of the call-out to feel as human as the person who performs the call-out themselves.
On October 24, The School of Life published this video, "Is It Better To Be Polite Or Frank?" which seemed to address some of my call-out concerns that day. The video compares "frank: and "polite" behaviours and evaluates their efficacy in different contexts. If you have 10 minutes, I highly recommend viewing it.
In relation to the video above, I would argue that "calling out" is almost always an act of frankness: the person wants to bring something to the surface and "tell it as it is." However, the combination of performance and frankness shuts down nuance. Once the performance of calling-out begins, once somebody highlights somebody's apparent indiscretion. Calling out creates opposition and debate where nuance might fit better.
When I was searching for the first article in this blog entry, I came across a second article with a different focus. Kitty Striker wrote this article for The Walrus: "The Problem with Callout Culture."
For my purposes, the most pertinent part of this article reads,
For some critics, it feels safer, and more cut and dried, to call out an individual for saying something racist, for example, than to dig into the root of why they felt it was okay to say it in the first place. It’s less overwhelming to yell at one person than to, say, go after institutional oppression.
Calling out is fine if you want to frankly bring something to the surface, but terrible at identifying the root problems that maintain injustice. If anything, I would think that effective call-outs would immediately be followed by some empathic conversation between both parties. Call-outs draw attention to a problem, but may be a bad method for changing the systems they confront.
I'm all for changing the system; I'm all for calling out injustice. However, I'm more interested in workable ways to change the system than I am in forcing myself into a position where my frankness and performance force me to try to be "right" when I could very well be wrong, or missing the target altogether.
Self-help, leadership, and motivational literature is all about getting out of ruts and expressing yourself authentically. Much like religious devotional literature, they all riff off of the same sorts of human truths. Also like devotional literature, what you connect with is often more a matter of tone than content.
I like these pithy outlines that I found on Pinterest today. They appear to be outlines from a "Crucial Conversations" workshop that Jami Breese put together in a creative and accessible manner. These notes have piqued my interest in Crucial Conversations, so I'll be keeping an eye out for potential future workshops.
I'm going to go through a couple of the ideas that I like here. Since it seems like the outlines are each in a specific order, I'll follow that order myself.
Sketch 1: #crucialconversations steps 1 & 2
This sketch makes me think of the following:
Sketch 2: #crucialconverations steps 3 & 4
Sketch 3: #crucialconversations steps 5 & 6
Sketch 4: #crucialconversations steps 7, 8, & 9
I've printed off a few copies of these for my classroom so I can keep them on hand. Perhaps I'll post them to my filing cabinet with all my other resources. And then, once I get this apartment fully set-up, once the girls are settled in their new place, I'll be able to pick up the book and possibly try to adopt some of this. Maybe just one of them. Maybe just one.
Because I'm a dork and I have two whiteboards to put up in my home so I can lay out these ideas and try to get my life back on track. Because, as much as I'd like to deny it, I'm likely a teacher through and through.
I admit that privilege is a thing: as a white, cisgendered, middle class, educated male, I have some privileges that others don't have to deal with. Even as I tentatively plan to go back overseas in a few years, I am keenly aware of the privilege I will carry with me, and chances are I will use that privilege to my advantage. My white, male forbears have set up the world for my success, and have even provided excuses for me if fail. Lucky me.
One of the most discouraging things about having privilege is the fact that there's no way to escape it. Once I've admitted to it, it becomes an immediate, abstract, indefinable burden. My privilege becomes a weak structural support for any argument, a fallacy that I can't escape. If ever somebody doesn't like what I have to say or think, they can make an appeal to privilege and I will likely shut up, not wishing to create a power imbalance. For a sensitive person, the "You think that way because of your privilege" is an effective silencer; I don't want to contribute to the social structures that put me in this position, but my inherent privilege makes it impossible to escape the attack. Silence is the only option.
I'm already feeling stuck in the cycle as I'm trying to discuss it and want to abort this post right now, but I'd like to try to explain the problem I find myself in right now:
I admit that I have privilege, but I'm getting weary of trying to find a way around it. There's a cycle of powerlessness associated with all "You're privileged" attacks. "Privilege" and "enabling," both legitimate, real psychological and social phenomena, can also be used to silence and disempower. I don't know how to articulate this without digging myself into a hole, but perhaps I can do it with a bulleted dialogue:
But I also believe that we need to hear individual voices, that understanding one another comes first. Accusations of "privilege" should not be used as an argumentative bludgeoning stick. Any accusation that decreases empathy and sympathy will breed resentment because they take away agency, take away a voice. Privilege is a real thing, but using is as a tool to derail arguments, to silence ideas, or to decrease the power of empathy, seems like a misuse of the term.
Of course, I'm probably using my own privilege to redefine the term in a way that benefits me.
And the cycle continues.
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