drwex (drwex) wrote,

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In a month of posting, day 5

As Pirke Avot says, “It is not yours to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

beah quoted this in response to discussion around ursulav's essay "Unfixable". This essay addresses some of what I have been fumbling around in my last point on my day 4 post about my voice, one among many.

So this is what I'm going to talk about today, doing some of the work. And by "work" I mean "the work of making the world a better place" and maybe also "the work of fighting against the craziness and vile evil of things right now", too. This scares me, not least of all because I'm a white dude with white dude privilege oozing all over him who has a hell of a time controlling his own *isms. I open my mouth and the most awful things come out - sexism, racism, ableism, you name it. It scares me that I'll do or say the wrong things, offend people, speak out of turn, silence someone else by my speaking. My privilege shield means I don't have to fear for my safety except in rare circumstances.

Most of what I think I'm doing about this involves the people around me, as well as working on me. I am trying to raise kids who will have some awareness of this privilege soup we're swimming in. I've built a gaming guild whose main rule is "no harassment" and made it stick. I try to clean up my own act, and I try to put my money where my mouth is. On the other hand, there's the fallacy of "something must be done; I've done something; therefore, something has been done."

I remember a clip shown recently on some news compilation of an older black woman crying by the side of a post-Ferguson march. She told the camera that she had marched so you (meaning us, we, this generation) wouldn't have to. I felt her sorrow and at the same time I remembered the words we say at Seder each year, that not just once but in every generation evil has risen up. The arc of progress may bend, however slowly, toward peace, justice, and freedom but there are always forces and people who try to push that arc back. Thus the work is not (never?) finished, and each generation is called to carry on the work.

In her essay, Ursulav laments the fiction that portrays individual heroes as the problem-solvers and vanquishers of evil. Reality isn't like that. Sure, there are great and exceptional people who lead and carry on fights. But the real change happens, I think, in the crowd. At the ground level, one person at a time. If my voice becomes part of the chorus advocating change, bending that arc, then that's the work I'll do.

(After some waiting and some revising this post still feels unfinished. That may be because my thoughts are likewise unfinished. Hitting 'post' now or I'll stew on this for a long time. Oh, look, here's me editing the thing again.)
Tags: thinky stuff
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