I am spending more time on social media again, which is both good and bad. I get to interact with a community of like-minded individuals, I am exposed to new perspectives and points of view, and I learn from those more experienced and more knowledgeable than I am on a host of issues. Social media is everything great from early blogging, only faster paced and easier to navigate. Unfortunately, social media can also be a place of anonymous negativity and anger. For someone like me, who naturally worries and quickly slips into judgment, it is not always the healthiest environment. I am not breaking new ground; I wrote about this before.
The news surrounding the pandemic remains bleak, more so with the holidays coming. The election added more disquietude to a season already fraught with antagonism, and it seems like every intellectual I once admired from afar has become a cauldron of problematic opinions about to boil over. Twitter is the worst. The absolute worst. I have unfollowed so many people I once admired.
Yesterday, after the umpteenth rage retweet hit my feed, I reread a passage I find reassuring when I feel myself feeling righteously angry. The excerpt is from a book I received last year for Christmas called The Joyful Vegan: How to Stay Vegan in a World That Wants You to Eat Dairy, Meat, and Eggs. I am not a vegan, but I do find books on animals and compassion difficult to pass up. Who knows; maybe one day. Anyway, although this passage is all about the angry vegan, I like to replace animals/veganism with the hot topic of choice as a reminder to think before I react (or retweet/share/post).
Self-compassion should be reason enough to be wary of chronic anger, but many vegans and animal advocates cling to it as fuel. A popular axiom circulating in many social justice-oriented circles—not just among vegans—says that if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. Moral indignation becomes a measure of how much we care. If we’re not cynical about the past and pessimistic about the future, then we’re apathetic, delusional, or willfully ignoring injustice and violence. The world becomes a zero-sum game of offenders and defenders, victims and warriors, sinners and saints. The entire human population becomes an enemy to defeat, a scourge to extinguish. Operating within this framework, it’s no surprise, then, that well-intentioned advocates tell themselves that to let go of anger implies that they’re choosing inertia and inaction; letting go of anger becomes tantamount to betraying the animals who desperately need our intervention. The anger that would be a means for change becomes the end in itself, and being an angry vegan becomes a point of pride, a mark of identity characterized by misanthropy and disgust. What may have been someone’s primary motivating force for change—both their own personal change as well as the change they wish to bring about in the world—becomes the destination. As a result, many become addicted to outrage and mistake it for activism.Colleen Patrick-Goudreau
I hope this excerpt resonated with you as much as it did with me. Not a week goes by where I do not regret something I said in person or online, but such is the cross an imperfect, opinionated human has to bear. Good thing I believe people can change and grow, or I would be sunk right about now. Onward, Jules. Onward!