A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
As I wrote on Monday, one of the things that scares the hell out of me is the current crop of high-powered maniacs, prancing around the planet, trigger fingers dangerously close to (and I know these words have been overused) Weapons of Mass Destruction. You can read about it here. However, as much as this makes me want to crawl back to bed, assume the fetal position and turn the electric blanket up to 9, there’s something that scares me even more. Now, honestly, I don’t wander around all day in my pajamas, chewing my fingernails and sipping Shmirnoffs, but when I do stop and think about it I wish I did.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the people in my society who should be outraged at the likes of Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-un, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Bashar Al-Assad and all the various other nutbars out there, don’t give a damn. The very folks who have taken it upon themselves to try and win friends and influence people, raise awareness, make a difference or whatever other euphemism we hold dear for acute activism, could not care less. This scares the bejesus out of me because it indicates that my society’s moral compass is so out of whack it’s now useless. To all intents and purposes we have abandoned any moral direction and are now merely winging it, in a shrug-your-shoulders hope that something eventually sticks. We are rapidly becoming the Seinfeld Show of history, with George and Kramer leading the charge. Confused? Of course you are. From my point of view, our whole society is. But you’re not specifically to blame. Let me explain.
Who, on this earth should be absolutely livid with rage over what’s been happening in Iran and the rest of the Middle East for the past few decades? One guess – women. I don’t even have to go into the gory details; the beatings, stonings, shootings etc., are all clear and common knowledge. Even as the men of the region decry the decadence of the West, they make no secret of legally chaining their (I used that adjective on purpose) women to institutionalized domestic violence. Frankly, to be considered a second-class citizen would be a step up for women in that part of the world, since they’re not actually considered citizens in the first place. In the face of this, every Women’s Rights, Gender Equality, Anti-discrimination and Feminist group from the Vistula River to Venice Beach, California (and all points in between) should be in the streets right now, demanding action. Every foreign minister, trade secretary and business leader should be buried in emails. Every company who does business with these repressive regimes should be boycotted. And no woman who enjoys sitting alone in a cafe, driving a car, feeling the breeze in her hair or who ever wanted her daughter to go to school should give these people the time of day. In fact, when Mr. Ahmadinejad shows up in New York City to speak to the world at the United Nations, every woman within a stone’s throw (yes, that’s an allusion) should line the streets of his motorcade route, shoulder to shoulder, and give him the finger.
And who should be right behind them? The Gay, Lesbian and Transgender lobby! And who should be right behind them? University students! And there are plenty more; activists against poverty, hunger and oppression should all be on the front line, but in reality, they’re nowhere to be seen.
This isn’t rocket surgery, folks. Even as North Korea is spending billions on nuclear weapons and a viable delivery system, their people are starving. Yet I have never seen one protest, one demonstration or even one person with a sign creating “awareness” of the situation in North Korea.
Furthermore, Gay people are routinely murdered in places like Iran (which, BTW, officially doesn’t have any gay people) yet go to any Gay Pride Parade (I’ve been to more than one) in any city in North America, and you won’t see one person protesting that godawful situation. Apparently, the real obstacle to gay equality is the weirdo opinions of some guy who owns a bunch of chicken restaurants. (I wish sarcasm had its own font.) I could go on and on, and I’m not going to even touch where the oh-so-political university students stand these days, but does Israeli Apartheid mean anything to you? (Or anybody else, beyond the clever marketing department who that it up?)
Our society has a very well-organized and powerful Activist industry. It throws its weight against some serious problems and does a lot of good work. However, its priorities suck. Chasing chimeras of oppression in a society as benign as ours, while neglecting even to notice the true nature of repression in the wider world, is a scary indictment of all of us. It frightens me that we are now so insulated and isolated from reality that every harsh word or social faux pas demands a media or legal response; yet, when young girls are shot on their way to school, we answer by clicking an icon on Facebook. Something’s wrong here. It literally scares the hell out of me that this huge apparatus we’ve created for activism, advocacy and awareness has become so morally spongy that they only fight battles they’ve already won.