Social justice (n): a state or doctrine of egalitarianism
Egalitarianism (n): 1 – a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic affairs
2- a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people
Racist! Misogynist! Feminist! Call it what you will. When it boils right down to it, labels like these are given to people with one thing in common: hateful or harmful actions or words. In some cases, they’re deadly and wrong in every sense of the word. But, is silencing them the best plan of action?
Over the last decade or so, we, as humans, have identified many disgusting flaws woven into the very fabric of our culture such as racism, sexism, ageism, and many other “-isms”. Concepts like “make it awkward”, “political correctness”, and “name and shame” have become some of the biggest weapons wielded by warriors in an effort to guide society away from these social fallacies. Brutal, but effective and well-deserved, right?
What if this isn’t true? What if prejudices are like cancerous tumours that, left untreated and hidden away, silently take over our societal body, from the inside out, until there’s nothing left but a lifeless shell?
Equality Is Dangerous
Equal (adj): 1 – the same in number, amount, degree, rank, or quality
2 – having the same mathematical value
3 – not changing; the same for each person
What is all this fighting for anyway? I bet your answer is one of two things: Free speech or equality.
Whether it’s gender, race, age, ethnicity, or some other fight, one of the most common arguments is that our society demands equality. This isn’t true. If it were, we would have multiple official languages, no wheelchair parking, no home care, low income housing or many other important aspects of our society. No, what we want is a much different animal: Fairness.
Women don’t want to be equal to men. They want a fair chance to reach their full potential. Aboriginals don’t want to be equal to caucasians. They want a fair chance to have the same opportunities, lifestyles, and treatment we all want. People with disabilities don’t want to be equal. They want to contribute to society and build their lives in the way they see fit. Just like everyone else.
Fairness means that, sometimes, certain people need additional resources for physical, financial, social, or emotional support to have the same opportunities. And yes, sometimes this can be extremely expensive, but many times, it’s nothing more than simply giving someone a chance.
Equality also takes away the power that comes with being different. There are tons of studies on the benefits of diversity in the workplace. Differences give us a larger pot of ideas to pull from, the ability to take a multifaceted approach to problem solving, makes us better able to serve more people, and the list goes on. By making us all equal, we not only suppress these differences, and make many people miserable, but we also take away the very strengths they can offer society. And what purpose would this serve?
Arguing for equality is our first mistake. When you argue on the basis of equality, all of these little things and additional supports we rely on go away. It also forces us to compare ourselves to others even if we don’t want what they have. It fosters feelings of jealousy, greed, consumerism, and inferiority. In short, it forces us to define differences as “good” or “bad”, when in reality, we don’t want any of those things. We simply want to be treated fairly.
To make matters worse, we sometimes forget about the people we trample on to achieve “equality”. White men, for example, are often the fist group blamed when some kind of oppression is involved. And while some of them have certainly earned it, we inadvertently alienate allies by “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. And who could blame them? Getting repeatedly accused of something I didn’t do really pisses me off, too.
The Right to Free Speech and the Right Not to Like It
“I’m not asking you to be tolerant of each other. Tolerance is for cowards. Being tolerant requires nothing from you but to be quiet and to not make waves, holding tightly to your views and judgements, without being challenged. Do not tolerate each other. Work hard, move into uncomfortable territory, and understand each other.” – Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T
Free speech is a pillar of our society — a fundamental right. People have died defending it, but I think we’ve forgotten what free speech really is. Freedom of speech is the legal right to express one’s opinions freely. This means, like it or not — agree with it or not — everyone has the right to express their views and opinions. However, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from the consequences of those words. It also doesn’t require us to like what has been said. And that’s where we often falter.
In our society, we tend to either attack or ignore something we don’t like. We forget that we have the right to express opposite viewpoints. Or, we whine and complain in the hopes that they’ll stop, but guess what? They won’t. And in the meantime, you’ve lost all credibility in your opponent’s eyes. These cowardly interactions solve nothing. We change nothing.
Feminism Harms Women
Trudeau’s cabinet, businesses, political parties… Organizations of all kinds have committed to hiring a certain percentage of women, minorities, and people with disabilities. And while, this sounds good, it’s something completely different underneath. Let me tell you a story to explain my point:
As one of the only oboists within a four hour radius of my home, I didn’t have a private tutor or some way to learn more about music outside of a generic band class. I used competitions as my private tutor, but that isn’t how it always worked. Phrases like “It was good. Congratulations.” aren’t very useful.
You see, I didn’t go there to win. I was the only competitor. I knew I would be. If I didn’t get first place, I would have had to have a serious conversation with myself. Competitions were my only opportunity to get constructive criticism and learn. The only time winning mattered is when I was up against people I didn’t think I could beat. Why? Because it was the only time I knew I had truly earned the recognition. The gender lottery is just like that.
Handing someone a job purely because she’s a “she” demeans the position and her qualifications because she wasn’t the most qualified applicant. She got the job by default because she was fortunate enough to have two X chromosomes. And everyone knows it. Including her. Even if she did earn the position fair and square, she will forever wonder if she actually earned the job, or if she was simply given it to fulfill some quota. The organization suffers, and the woman may even be blissfully unaware until it’s too late. Then, her failure is blamed on her gender instead of a stupid rule that put her in that position in the first place.
I’m not saying women shouldn’t be encouraged to apply for jobs. I’m simply saying that, by limiting the process to women only, you’re selling her, and yourself, short. In fact, I believe the practice borders on misandry. If I haven’t point blank earned whatever job or award you’re offering based on my skills and expertise, do us both a favour. Keep it.
A Human by Any Other Name Is Still Human
Misogyny and bigotry were popular words in local politics this week when two women running for leadership of the PC Party suddenly quit. While Donna Kennedy-Glans left because she wasn’t willing to take the same hard right turn as her party has decided to take, Sandra Jansen openly admitted she quit because she the personal threats, insults, and general garbage that women in powerful positions face were taking a toll on her family.
Should she have said something about this type of behaviour? Absolutely. Should she expect to be treated that way? She absolutely, completely and 100% shouldn’t expect treatment like that, but the reality is that most of us deal with it on a regular basis. We KNOW that, as soon as we decide to “leave the kitchen” (as one observant gentlemen eloquently told me), we’ll get that kind of treatment. We KNOW that as soon as our opponents figure out they’re losing, they resort to personal or violent attacks in an effort to intimidate us. But why include gender in the equation at all?
Regardless of who is threatening who, threats of violence and vicious personal attacks ARE WRONG. Women aren’t the only victims of this tactic. They’re just one of the many, so why not deal with the issues that cause this sort of behaviour in the first place? Ms Jansen understandably chose to quit to protect herself and her family. She hasn’t stated what her next step will be, but what did quitting prove to her attackers? It shows their tactics, while brutal, are effective.
If nothing comes out of this, and the bullies continue to benefit from their childish behaviours, more will follow suit. Ignoring them doesn’t work. If the PC party doesn’t believe in this sort of behaviour — if the individuals responsible have failed to conduct themselves in a professional manner and have demonstrated that their beliefs do not align with those of the party — WHY ARE THEY STILL THERE? If I were to do that at my place of employment, I’d be fired. Instantly. If I joined a group for classic car lovers, and suddenly started attacking anyone who hates Fords because I don’t like them, I’d be asked to leave. If we all talked about the pros and cons of all classic cars, however, we could maybe learn a little something.
So, let’s pretend these individuals do, in fact, represent PC Party beliefs. Why do those who condemn these behaviours still hold a PC Party membership card? Why are these women and their supporters not joining together and either finding another party better suited to their beliefs, or creating their own political movement? If they want to be leaders, and they want to end this sort of childish behaviour, why not beat the PCs at their own game? Show them the benefits of being community minded, inclusive, and mature. Don’t run, hide, and allow them to get away with nothing, but harsh words. (Pro tip: if their behaviour towards you didn’t bother them, your harsh words are going to bother them, either.) Don’t allow their views of the world to become the new normal.
By verbally lashing a jerk, you are only providing them with a source of entertainment and ammunition. Don’t feed the trolls! Don’t allow them to use your words to build an army behind your back while they speak pretty words to your face. (You don’t let them do it in the dating arena. Why let them get away with it in the political arena?) The only way racists, bigots, misogynists, or other -ists will see the error of their ways is when they learn that their behaviour has no benefit. And to do that, you have to take the only two things that matter to them: power and attention.
Take it the same way they got it. If they won’t let you fight them directly, demand it if you have to.
Balls and Biases in Universities
Since 529 AD, institutions of higher learning have been cathedrals of societal advancement. These places are homes to academics seeking answers to various questions, openly and without fear, in an effort to learn about the world we live in. And while this may not sound important, consider the contributions of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and others. They were threatened, laughed at, or even killed because they believed the world was round when the rest of society knew it was flat. What would have happened if these great minds would have been limited only to the ideas and beliefs their societies believed in? Would we still be afraid to fall off the edge of a flat planet?
Thankfully, these early academics had the option to pursue their theories, share them with others, and engage in open debate until their theories were ultimately accepted or rejected. This principle was carried forward in the 19th century when we started to give our best and brightest professors tenure to protect them from persecution and censorship. Unfortunately, this doesn’t necessarily hold true today. Not only have we stopped giving professors actual positions (never mind tenure), they’re no longer protected by tenure.
There have been several cases in the news over the last decade where professors or researchers have been lambasted and fired for their views of society. And while I absolutely, 100% do not agree with any, all, or even some of them, I can’t help but be concerned and even empathize with these professors. They are being viciously punished for fulfilling the societal role they’ve had for centuries. And in my opinion, it’s now preventing the rest from doing their jobs effectively.
A professor is very different from a grade school teacher. Why? Because university students don’t need someone to tell them their ABCs and 123s. A professor is responsible for teaching students how to think, reason, and explore the world around them. They challenge what we believe to be true, open our eyes to new ways of thinking, and give us the ability to achieve a level of success limited only by our ability to dream. Professors are researchers, role models, experts in their respective fields, and should be treated as such at all times. (Unless, of course, they’re just plain jerks. In which case, I have no issue telling him or her so, but I still respect their education and knowledge.)
This process starts all over again when students move beyond their bachelor degrees. You see, whether its a dissertation, a board room presentation, a hostile take over, or a product innovation, students will eventually have to think for themselves and defend their positions. There will be times when they need to stick to their morals and values regardless of the consequences. At some point, they will need to argue with someone they don’t agree with (or like) to get something they want. In short, these situations, while sometimes uncomfortable, prepare you for the upcoming challenges you’ll inevitably face in some form or another. (Ever played “devil’s advocate” to prepare for a debate?)
Like it or not, academics speak to make a point. And just because they discuss anti-semitic or anti-feminist viewpoints doesn’t always mean they hate Jews or women. It means that they want to challenge a widely accepted viewpoint in an effort to make the world better even if it hurts your feelings. They want you to either debate it, or acknowledge and change it.
And even if they do hate a specific segment of society, what do we hope to gain by silencing them? If they’re clearly harming someone or doing something illegal, get rid of them. Instantly. But do you think that someone will stop thinking a certain way just because they lost their job or were publicly shamed? (Hint: they won’t.) If anything, it will make them angrier, more resentful, and more adamant about their beliefs. This phenomenon even has a name — the Backfire Effect.
Society Needs Bad Boys and Girls
“There is no society known where a more or less developed criminality is not found under different forms. No people exists whose morality is not daily infringed upon. We must, therefore, call crime necessary and declare that it cannot be non-existent, that the fundamental conditions of social organization, as they are understood, logically imply it.” – Emile Durkheim
Famed social theorist Emile Durkheim believed crime is a vital social function in a healthy society. Essentially, his theory is that you can’t have rules, or decide that something is a crime, if it has never happened before. Laws, morals, and other social constructs are formed, adjusted, and refined as we are faced with things we don’t like or don’t agree with. It challenges our view of right and wrong, and allows us to draw a line in the sand in a place where we are comfortable with. And this isn’t a new or unique concept by any means. A quick Google Search will yield a wealth of intellectual works on civil disobedience, dissent, and Mills’ Sociological Imagination exploring this very topic. And it’s an important one.
I grew up being taught that, if you plan to have an opinion, it had better be an informed one, and you’d better be prepared to prove it. This makes sense. After all, if your beliefs and opinions are right, you will have no problem defending them. And if they’re wrong, you have an opportunty to learn and you’ll be a better person for it. Essentially, win or lose, you’ll have risked nothing. And it turns out that, while my family has likely never read any major sociological or philosophical works, they were still pretty smart.
I am the product of my upbringing. I love a good, intelligent debate. (I inherited all the “nerd genes” in my family. Thanks Mom.) Unfortunately, I don’t debate topics as much as I’d like. Why? Because very few people debate anything of merit these days. As soon as you have a differing view point, you’re viciously attacked, or set upon by trolls, with no interest in real discussion. They simply want to argue for the sake of strengthening their own fragile egos.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
If someone is a murder, liar, or cheat, would you rather find out now or later? You’d rather know before they do any damage or harm you in some way, right? So, why are things like racism different? By labeling, attacking, and silencing a racist or other form of hater, you’re not changing the world. You’re not changing that person. You’re not even stopping them from behaving that way. All you do is anger them and convince them to hate you along with whatever group they offended or harmed in the first place. In other words, you’re further proof that they were right. Only now, they hate defenders of a minority group as much as a minority group itself. Don’t just silence something you don’t like. Change it.
By all means, tell that person they’re wrong. Bring attention to the issues. Fight against the injustices and debate or demonstrate why they’re wrong. Protect those who need it, and stand up to those who need it, but don’t silence opposing voices. Hire women, minorities, and those with disabilities. Join groups that promote women’s rights, community safety, or whatever other cause gets you fired up. Be passionate, resilient, and proud of every milestone. If you really want something to change, work hard and take concrete steps to make the change happen. Don’t just talk about it.
Source (Featured image)