activism - a wall says stop complaining

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For every frustrating thing that happens here in the US, we may be rightfully upset, but are we justified in investing large amounts of time into social media to get the word out about how people behave? Is the outrage disproportionate or is it justified? Problems that hit close to home can make us passionate, and we can justify fighting against them because less harm is good, right? I contend that a better global understanding and activism could benefit the greater good much more than working only locally in our very privileged areas. Let’s get right into it.

activism - pantriarchy beth presswood matt dillahunty atheist experience

Beth Presswood fighting the good fight against what she dubs the “Pantriarchy”

Beth Presswood and the Outrage at the Pantriarchy

Beth Presswood is an outspoken activist who’s married to the most famous host of The Atheist Experience, Matt Dillahunty. I’ve always enjoyed her quips, and I generally agree with her. We’ve had disagreements and enlightening discussions, and I feel that she’s a very thoughtful person. That being said, the same day that this post was brought up (see left image), the following happened:

Now, am I saying that Beth Presswood should worry about all these things instead of her recent favorite cause, “the Pantriarchy”? No.

I think that Beth Presswood cares very deeply about how people judge women for what they wear because she likely sees it as representative of a greater problem of sexism in our society. Fighting sexism in our own country, even though worse crimes happen abroad, is still fighting for something good. If Beth were to stop fighting sexism in this country and do nothing else, the sum total of good activism would decrease by the amount she fights against sexism. I think we can agree that doing some good is better than doing no good. However, can we apply a maxim of “Do a good thing that would benefit society the most in place of a good thing that would benefit society comparably less” and come out reasonably with the idea that these are “little” problems that she is comparably wasting her time on?

Complaining about Legitimate Complaints is Hypocritical

I wouldn’t be able to criticize the causes for which Beth Presswood advocates without being a hypocrite. I make small complaints, too. Everyone does. I often post on my own Facebook feed about the United States political system, especially recently. Much of the time and money I spend on things I enjoy could be better spent on water charities, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or a local homeless shelter. My job would be better off quit and my time better used volunteering in poor nations. The problem occurs when we give so much of ourselves that we don’t get any enjoyment out of life. Wouldn’t the drain of heavy activism affect us negatively IN our activism? Would I have more money to donate if I stayed here in the United States and earned more at my job, or would the effects of donating my time elsewhere be more valuable?

This is a bit of an infinite regress. If you complain about the legitimacy of someone complaining about something, you are guilty of the very thing you are complaining about. So you shouldn’t do that.

It’s also hard to draw the line. If you attempt to give away all that you have, you run out of things to give. This is the argument for giving in moderation.

If you attempt to give all your time, having no time might negatively impact the effectiveness of the time you’re giving, so you should be sensible in understanding your own needs.

But where DO we draw the line?

activism - patrick stewart as jean luc picard in star trek

Patrick Stewart about to deliver a great line in Star Trek First Contact

“The Line Must Be Drawn Here! This Far, No Further!”

I say we draw the line at complaining about what other people complain about. It’s a useless act, and we should instead focus on the things that bother us, get them out in the open and discuss them freely. The world has enough shut-ins with unchallenged views of all kinds, though far fewer thanks to social media. Why encourage isolation of views through a shaming brand of activism?

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t challenge someone on their contentious points who you disagree with or devilishly advocate against. Healthy debate is important, but a key component of healthy debate is acting in good faith. If you object to a feminist or atheist for bringing up what could be classified as a “First World Problem,” not only are you guilty of that which you oppose, but you are doing nothing useful in the act itself.

At every point in history there is a country or region in each category of human rights that’s the “Best World Country.” This doesn’t mean progress needs to come to a halt. We should always question ourselves, even if the act may seem superfluous on the face of it. I’d like to encourage everyone to take a step back and realize that our time would be better used advocating for the things we deem truly worthy of outrage and disgust.

Written by Kevin Coleman
Kevin Coleman is an IT professional with a background in high volume restaurant management. A jack of all trades and a master of none, Kevin was born in Texas, raised in Southern California, and now lives in the Boulder area in Colorado, where he enjoys riding his motorcycle, competitive gaming, and tasting the greatest craft beers the area has to offer.