I read the other day this Salon article entitled “From Stuff White People Like to #NotYourShield: How irony is killing activism”, and I couldn’t help but nod, then ask myself:
When did giving a shit about causes and advocacies (and I mean really strongly, not just in a slacktivist kind of way) become such a bad thing?
I understand that perhaps it stems from a fear that intense feelings remind one of crazy cults and sheeple brainwashed by propaganda.
We have become so afraid to be the tool that’s being used to advance someone’s selfish agenda, and we tremble at the idea that we could be accused of having savior-of-the-world tendencies, that we approach things with a hint of irony, of self-deprecating humor.
Granted that the world is full of paradoxes and that there are always two sides to a coin (for example, one’s passion toward “changing the world” could merely be a manifestation of internal struggles to affirm one’s self-worth), but would it be so bad if people just gave a damn?
Case in point: I am member of a Facebook group called Manila Vegans, and to be honest, things aren’t always bright and sunshiney in the group. Passions could flare up in there–strong emotions that often times could be scathing. I don’t agree with some of the things people post there, but I have to admit, I have profound respect for those people who fight for what they believe is right.
This is not to say that belief affects the validity or veracity of one’s argument. I don’t mean to give terrorists who bomb hospitals the license to do so because they feel strongly about their cause.
What I am trying to say is, I acknowledge the fact that to create change, someone has to give a damn enough to sway people to take their side.
We respond to emotions. That is human nature. I am not saying it is right or wrong, but it serves its purpose well at times. To deny that would be to deny what makes one human.
There’s another interesting Salon article which I also read previously (and you can hate all you want for my excessive reference to Salon), on how irony is killing our culture.
I’d like to quote these parts that I found interesting:
So where have we gone from irony? Irony is now fashionable and a widely embraced default setting for social interaction, writing and the visual arts. Irony fosters an affected nihilistic attitude that is no more edgy than a syndicated episode of “Seinfeld.” Today, pop characters directly address the television-watching audience with a wink and nudge. (Shows like “30 Rock” deliver a kind of meta-television-irony irony; the protagonist is a writer for a show that satirizes television, and the character is played by a woman who actually used to write for a show that satirizes television. Each scene comes with an all-inclusive tongue-in-cheek.) And, of course, reality television as a concept is irony incarnate.
Artists must take responsibility for finding the form to make our dreams real. They must assess a work as honestly as possible, seeking integrity. At one time, irony served to challenge the establishment; now it is the establishment. The art of irony has turned into ironic art. Irony for irony’s sake. A smart aleck making bomb noises in front of a city in ruins. But irony without a purpose enables cynicism. It stops at disavowal and destruction, fearing strong conviction is a mark of simplicity and delusion. But we can remake the world. In poetry, in music, in painting, we can reimagine and plot coordinates into the unknown. We can take an honest look, rework and try again. The work will tell us if it has arrived or not. We have to listen closely. What do we see? What do we hear?
Yes, perhaps we’ll do wrong. And in the end, maybe it won’t matter. Probably, all our best efforts would be in vain when the universe finally collapses and we are all dismissed into oblivion.
But now, fight for something to make the world a better place. I don’t know what that could mean for you: it could be rallying against child abuse. Or advocating to curb HIV stigma and discrimination. Or helping to make terminally-ill people happy, or empowering People With Disabilities.
In my book, it’s always cool to stand for something.