For the longest time I’ve taken the sidelines in most arguments, both online and in daily conversations with strangers. I believed that trying to correct the facts or convince people of my own argument was futile and, in some ways, kind of self righteous. It wasn’t a case of being quietly smug though, I just thought: who needs to hear another white guy shout about civil rights or oppression, institutionalised sexism or the freakishly calm barbarity of a racist slur? There’s far too much talking and shouting and, for the most part, I just want to sit on the sidelines and watch everything quietly play out.
At a certain point I only discussed these topics honestly with close friends and over time they pushed me to speak in tones louder than a series of low pitched, quibbling murmurs. What I’m saying is that I used to be extremely passive, but consequently I was being somewhat dismissive and cold, without even noticing it.
But not any more.
I’m done with the collective, gawping sighs at dinner when a stranger announces their shock as to the sexual orientation of a relative, whilst the rest of the party continues to discuss ‘the problem’ as if it’s an ailment.
I’m done with my silence that follows public and brutally sexist tirades. No longer am I going to let those slip by. Likewise, I’m done with the private jokes men share with me about ‘girls’ or those that start a fantastically stupid and cruel conversation with ‘the thing about women is…’
As of today I’m going to loudly denounce those old habits and close encounters that made me clench my teeth and duck out of difficult conversations. Those moments when you remain silent but you know the right thing to do is challenge the scariest, most secure ideas around.
I’m done with my own lack of courage in these situations when I should fight harder for those that need help and kindness the most. I’m done listening to sociopaths casually talk about faggots and bitches as if I’m somehow complicit in their cruelty because we share the same chromosomes.
I’m done with Queens and Kings, established monarchies and their sniffling bureaucrats, as well as the lords and lairds and any other primate that believes their blood right gives them privileges over the rest of us – from now on I’m going to be unbelievably loud and snobbish around those that assume it was their hard work or intelligence that dropped success into their laps (and not the randomly generated doses of privilege that probably befell them instead).
I write this because I know there are those of you out there who have also backed out of tough arguments, too. But some conversations ought to be difficult and there are plenty of times during the day when you should raise your voice and say ‘this is not ok’.
I’m not encouraging everyone to start fighting against each and every possible moment though, and lord knows we don’t need any more critics, but nevertheless we’ll always need sharper, more loving criticism.
I also write this because friends don’t let friends hold back.