The women’s march – the fact that it is happening in so many places – is amazing. I love that there is now a day for this every year. So grateful for this solidarity.
This post is related, but goes in a bit of another direction. I have been reflecting a lot about anger and activism, identity and fear, facts and something fuller about the experience of humanity and how to speak about it and encourage it in each other. These podcasts have been good food for thought:
The difference between facts and quantifiable metrics, which are kind of corollaries – numbers and facts, they kind of go together for us – that, and truth. […] We have been building to a truth crisis of equating facts and numbers and truth. So now it’s full-blown. […] The truth of a human being and the truth of a community […] the truth of well-being, or the truth of despair, has always been – facts are relevant and numbers are relevant. But they don’t add up to the truth of a human being or of well-being or of healing or of the fullness of our possibility. That’s what we’re confronting – our measures, our metrics, what we are skilled at speaking about is too small.
Tippett (whose show, On Being, is also wonderful) also talks about the need to have a moral imagination (and this is all particularly interesting given her background before what she does now in working on international policy during the Cold War, as Klein points out). Which I think is lovely, and what I have been trying to build in myself – but feeling very uncomfortable about because it doesn’t include the numbers and measures that I have become so accustomed to needing to back up any thought that I have, the need to present everything as a well-articulated and evidenced stance. And I believe in evidence (I’m pretty sure she does too), but I also believe in the need – not just desire – to develop and work on this moral imagination that she describes.
When you’re angry all the time, all you’re doing is constantly looking for the threat. You’re not looking for the opportunity.
I’m adding this old episode, which I had blogged before, but I thought it was an important narrative to illustrate the importance – and the comforts and discomforts of – anything and everything that we call identity. I wanted to rehash it here because so much of what we all keep talking about is identity. Intersectionalities in them, socialization in developing them, anger between them, discrimination because of it. This episode did a beautiful job of delving in deep, exploring the chasms between different people’s understandings and biases of identities…and just illustrating that regardless of your identity, there is something deeper about our shared humanity that we can all relate to.
All of this said – Rebecca Solnit makes the important point about “complicity in humanity’s oldest historical cultural crime” – silence. So how do we engage, but not enrage, be activists, but not angry? It’s a question I continue to grapple with.
And a bonus on the theme of identity:
Long read from The Guardian – The Ungrateful Refugee, by Dina Nayeri
Remembering Kambiz Roustayi, a man who only wanted a visa, his family and his own corner of the world, I want to lash out at every comfortable native who thinks that his kind don’t do enough. You don’t know what grateful is, I want to say. You haven’t seen a young man burn up from despair, or an old man faint on a football field from relief and joy, or a nine-year-old boy sing the entire Marseillaise from memory. You don’t know how much life has already been spent settling into the cracks of your walls. Sometimes all that’s left of value in an exile’s life is his identity. Please stop asking people to rub out their face as tribute.
With the rise of nativist sentiment in Europe and America, I’ve seen a troubling change in the way people make the case for refugees. Even those on the left talk about how immigrants make America great. They point to photographs of happy refugees turned good citizens, listing their contributions, as if that is the price of existing in the same country, on the same earth. Friends often use me as an example. They say in posts or conversations: “Look at Dina. She lived as a refugee and look how much stuff she’s done.” As if that’s proof that letting in refugees has a good, healthy return on investment.
But isn’t glorifying the refugees who thrive according to western standards just another way to endorse this same gratitude politics? Isn’t it akin to holding up the most acquiescent as examples of what a refugee should be, instead of offering each person the same options that are granted to the native-born citizen? Is the life of the happy mediocrity a privilege reserved for those who never stray from home?
[…] a person’s life is never a bad investment, and so there are no creditors at the door, no debt to repay. Now there’s just the rest of life, the stories left to create, all the messy, greedy, ordinary days that are theirs to squander.