Movement and Ideology. [Part 1 – The Right to Offence]

First of all, sorry for the lack of content over the past few weeks! University work, and preparations for my charity fundraiser in aid of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, have been exhausting.

Moving away from Undertale (sorry, people!), I did find time to jot down some thoughts on an important issue of this era. These thoughts became an essay, which is still too small to properly cover the subject matter.

So, instead, I decided to frame this as the foundation of an argument. I invite any and all to post their responses in the comments. I will try to address points you bring up in my Part 2 post. There’s no guarantee of when that will be, because a) Uni, and b) It’s a difficult topic.But by lending me your arguments, you can help guide us towards – not a solution, because that isn’t the point – but a more enlightened, balanced view of the issue.

If things go as planned, one of my fellow students will form her own response, and we can start a dialogue between our essays.

Anyway, enough about me.

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It happens to us all. We’re browsing. We come across a view that we find distasteful, a belief that attacks our own. We get riled up. This is wrong, we think. So far, so good. This is bigoted. Maybe; we’ll come back to this. At last, we reach the final solution that, in the modern day, most disagreements arrive at: This needs to be shut down.

And there’s the issue.

I got to it quickly this time, didn’t I?

To pose any social discussion, it is good to start with human nature. We are social animals, but there is more than one society. Maybe it’s more accurate to call us tribal animals: we unite in small groups, either to protect us from outside danger, to enjoy people we identify with (subcultures, clubs, etc), or to validate our own beliefs.

Here we come to movements, and their nature. Ideology naturally repels ideology, and we all exist within several. The ideologies of religion, science, nationalism, political party, fatherhood, motherhood, brotherhood. Ideology is a set of ideas that facilitate us, and that we facilitate. They tend to our needs, but naturally align us to a side: us versus them, the familiar versus the alien. If you are red, you cannot be blue – and if you are, then both sides will expel you.

A movement is ideology mobilised, with clear (claimed) goals and a clear (claimed) endpoint. Movements are even more volatile than other ideologies, actively suppressing them while creating an echo chamber for us. Walls of silence, kafkatrapping, strawman arguments; all dishonest tactics to make us seem loud and just, and to paint them as absurd. Even the slightest hint of disagreement is met with hostility. It has cost people their job prospects and social standing to say those simple words: I disagree.

And isn’t that the saddest thing? In these enlightened times, our first urge is to demolish discussion and degrade dialogue, and to lump our critics in with our most extreme enemies.

Us or them.

To be moderate is to be mute.

Of all these movements, the most precious, potent, precarious, is feminism. Precious because it is undoubtedly filled with people who mean absolutely well; potent because, after decades of pushing, it now has the Western world’s ear, and has achieved many great things. Precarious because, as a side-effect of the traction it has gained, it now promotes an idea that feminism is not a movement seeking equality, but the definition of equality itself. Now, when asked ‘Are you a feminist?’, most hands will raise without a pause for thought. It is no longer necessary to reflect on the question, to consider which of feminism’s ideological points and aims one agrees with; because feminism is equality, by definition, and equality is good, by definition. Therefore, to not identify as feminist is to believe in inequality. The show of hands is a form of value signalling: a tool forcing a reaction from people who wish to be feminist-equality-good, and not risk being seen as antifeminist-inequality-bad.

This has the unfortunate side-effect of granting many vehement, unreasonable people platforms to spread their own, well-meaning hatred; from the ideological standpoint that they are good and equal and right. Though a minority within the movement, these people are vocal, highly manipulative forces that threaten to reverse the very goals they claim to pursue: achieving ‘equality’ by silencing critics, making all ‘dialogue’ purely about their own side, backed by socially-accepted definitions.

Orwell, writing 1984, foretold that oppression would creep in via fear-mongering idealists in high social standing, allowed to do so by an apathetic populace made to focus on fabricated enemies, and so missing the crucial steps taken by those they believe are acting for their benefit, but are actually destroying voices, changing definitions, and painting critics as absurd monsters.

He could never have guessed how right he was, and yet how wrong. Communism cannot control thought half as well as feminism has the potential to. The Western world wants to do the right thing, to become change; and so it willingly gives power to shining movements for equality, justice, and respect.

Feminism, among other progressive acts, have created a climate where society wants to accept the diverse and different as equal members, parts of the whole. And this is fantastic! It’s amazing that so many people want to do the right thing, and I’m on-board all the way.

But it is the method, and the very nature of ideology, that risks disaster. Even writing this, I’m shivering, because I know I want equal opportunity for all. And I know that there are many areas where this has still not been achieved. My argument is not against feminism, but against its direction as an ideological vessel, and those people who, even now, begin to distort its message of equal voices, equal respect, and an overarching human kindness.

I think it is a writer’s duty to skirt the edges of ideology, to seek out where it fails, or creaks, or bends to allow nastiness in. On the topic of duty, and in regards to feminism, I believe that those in power have a duty to create platforms for dialogue; and to take an equal stance on hiring, rewarding, and listening. In the same vein, I believe those who identify with movements have a duty to attentiveness: to recognise when certain goals have been achieved, when pushing further would simply reverse the scales; and to oppose those who abuse their platform by spreading hatred.

But to silence someone? Never ever.

I’m offended sometimes, and that’s a good thing. It tells me who I am, what I believe in, and what I should write about. Being offended is a wonderful freedom, and should never be tampered with – nor should the ability to criticize those who cause offence.

It’s called a dialogue. It may be us versus them, but it’s still equality, or something that is very close to it.

So, no – I’m not a feminist, but I’m not an anti-feminist, either. There are foul people on both sides of the argument, influencing thought and spewing hate.

I identify as an extreme moderate. Above all else, I believe in the sacred value of personal belief, without subscribing to movements.

My ideal world is a place where people may express these beliefs without the tribal mind-set, each argument bettering both. In such a world, good people would win out.

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