I’ve made a resolution I might actually honor: to post on FB nothing relating to political or sociological debate. Those in agreement don’t need it; those who aren’t, don’t listen. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be entirely faithful to my resolution, and I retain the privilege of (a) scribbling on the wall of my own timeline, (b) posting comic one-liners if they come steaming into my head, or of (c) honest questions that might deepen the conversation without provoking outrage.
We once did a performance at a community college for a large class who sat in dead silence for the 50 minutes of mainly comic material. It was only after the debacle that we understood: they spoke only the equivalent of grocery-store English. Mostly Vietnamese refugees, they were being exposed to us as a learning experience. You have to be listened to by folks who speak the language.
It’s not the fault of FB. It’s a familiar habit of life, in controversial dialogue, to spend more brain-strain preparing your own response than listening to what’s being said. But FB is a conduit for what I’d call “Facebook activism”—an illusion that something in the real world will actually change if you’re sufficiently vehement on FB. To me, there’s a radical difference between dialectic and primal scream.
It’s complicated by the fact that I rarely respond to stuff I think is radically wrong—they don’t convince me, I won’t convince them, so best to appreciate the photos of their cats, as there’s lots to life besides the issue at hand. I’m much more critical of my fellow travelers, those making a case I agree with but making it badly or with disastrous results for a cause we both support. Invariably, the response is that at best I’m ignorant of reality, at worst I’m an unenlightened old white male.
I recall my first childhood experience that male privilege doesn’t always work to my advantage. When I was quite little, on my mom’s vacation, she drove us across the wilds of Nebraska to Denver. That afternoon, en route, I told Mama I needed to stop and pee. She was always in a hurry and said, “Open the window and pee out it.” Normally, she was a very practical soul, but in this case there’d been no way for her to learn from experience. I did as she said and quickly learned what happens when you piss against the wind.
And I’ll see what’s possible in finding more active activism. I just don’t want to spend my remaining hours on Earth splattered with my own liqueur.