Thursday, November 21, 2013

I don't need to be jaded to do good work

In radical conversations I've had other activists let me know that they're shocked by my 'optimism' and that soon I too will become jaded like them. I am surprised every time this happens. I think I can sort of understand from whence this cynicism comes. It comes from burnout and overwork and years of frustration. Activism is frustrating work and doing it in unsustainable ways over the long term can create this cynicism.

Part of the reason I can't be jaded is because I need the work I do to be satisfying and sustainable. Now before you go calling me decadent and depraved for saying so I need you to know this: I have a non apparent disabilities that affect me whether or not I am working. I need my work to be satisfying and sustainable or else my personal disabilities will make doing them impossible very quickly.

So no. I don't need to be jaded.
I am dead set against being jaded. My long term survival depends on avoiding the repetitive stress of cynicism. 

I'm not going to be jaded but I am going to continue finding more specific and radical things to take issue with. This doesn't mean I won't be angry or that my anger will be worth any less or be any less powerful. I strive to apply my anger as strategically as possible. I recognize anger as a powerful tool to make change but the bitter of cynicism can make us insensitive to how it affects those we apply it to. This insensitivity can make work faster but it also makes it hostile and sloppy.

Being optimistic takes my time and my energy and it makes the necessary good work slow. But its the best way I've found to keep my compassion intact. I'm not going to do it faster if it means moving forward without acknowledging the humanity of those who don't work with me.

Whether they benefit or oppress us, we all live inside the same systems, to approach anyone as if they are not worthy and capable of your collaboration is elitist and needlessly divisive. 

What jaded people see (and perhaps misunderstand) as my optimism isn't as simple as they think. Before I begin any sort of strategic politics I accept the failure of that act before I begin it. I never feel entitled to the success of the things I write about or go into. I hope for it. I'm frustrated when I am misunderstood. I do fight my ground but I see that in the act of doing so I also give way my right to success. Bringing an idea outside of my head invites its failure and even while locked in a well reasoned argument, I try to remember and accept that such failure is a possibility. Because my worldview and brain function are different from everyone else's.

In my mind people who are jaded or cynical, just can't handle the failure of the things they believe. They aren't leaving room in their worldview for people to have have difference experiences and come to different conclusions. And believe me. I understand this I have been there and am there with them when I hear someone who is saying something or doing something I find absolutely atrocious and dehumanizing. My immediate reaction is to write them out of my world. But, when I can, I work to undo such erasures.

There is difference between accepting the possibility of failure cynically, or with an open heart. Someone who is jaded comes into whatever they are coming into with the full expectation and bitterness of not getting what they want. The person who accepts possible failure with an open heart comes forward with full knowledge that their efforts may fail, but in contrast to the jaded person, they are at peace with the idea that they might not get what they want and still view the endeavor as worthwhile and valuable.

If I can't ask for things to change without accepting that I might not get what I want then I am not ready to move ask. If I move forward without accepting the potential failure of my actions, disappointment can become toxic. It takes time to reach this level of acceptance. I don't work on all of the projects I want to because of it. But I take more time with my politics because they need room for optimism and failure. My politics need room for all humans and all possible humanities.

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