I’m running out of ways to explain you should care about others

Yes, I’m talking to the leftists too

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ILLUSTRATION: Cliff Ebora / The Peak

By: C Icart, Humour Editor

Content warning: brief mention of genocide and forced labour.

I spend a lot of time in the “Am I the asshole” subreddit, and while I never leave any comments, I always think about my own verdict. One thing that comes to mind while reading posts is that this isn’t the “Am I in the legal right” subreddit — it’s the “Am I the asshole” subreddit. Those are two completely different things. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean it’s not rude, inconsiderate, or selfish. This online community of over 17 million people crowdsources ideas surrounding morality and ethics in our interpersonal relationships. Often, the discussions that emerge serve as a good reminder of the importance of foregrounding an ethic of care in our everyday lives. 

A year and a half ago, I wrote about what we can learn about care from radical disability justice activists. I touched on community care and how getting vaccinated and wearing a mask are examples of this. In a lot of ways, I’m arguing for something similar here. I’m saying our everyday actions are how we live out our politics. Do your daily choices reflect the fact that you care? Wait, do you even care? 

Recently, I re-read Everyday Decolonization: Living a Decolonizing Queer Politics by Sarah Hunt and Cindy Holmes. They draw on stories from their own lives to explore what allyship and decolonization look like in their “partnerships, families, and friendships.” It serves as a great reminder that social justice isn’t this big abstract thing you can only participate in if your name is Bisan or Greta. It’s part of your everyday life. You make choices every single day that reflect your politics. Don’t let anyone convince you that you don’t have agency or that your actions don’t matter. 

We need to bring back accountability and nuance in conversations about how we as individuals are complicit in injustice. The fact that “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” does not mean you should be upgrading your phone every year. Apple unethically sources materials from forced labour in Congo, and frequent upgrades are also environmentally detrimental. The fact that Taylor Swift’s private jet’s 2022 carbon emissions equate to “1,800 times the average human’s annual emissions” does not mean you shouldn’t compost or recycle.

“You make choices every single day that reflect your politics. Don’t let anyone convince you that you don’t have agency or that your actions don’t matter.”

It’s easy to point fingers at people who are harming the planet more than you. It’s easy to point fingers at people who are more bigoted than you. It’s easy to blame capitalism, the patriarchy, and white supremacy. And don’t get me wrong, calling out violence and injustice and understanding systems of power is incredibly important. But have we resorted to doing that so we can avoid looking at ourselves? Have we chosen to do that instead of actively working toward change, liberation, and justice? 

This matters because we can’t build resilient and sustainable communities if our actions do not align with that goal. If we’re four years into the pandemic and you’re not willing to wear a mask because you’re “over it,” what are you willing to sacrifice to save lives? Anti-trans legislation is being pushed across Turtle Island, but you’re not willing to confront your boyfriend who just made a transphobic joke because that would be uncomfortable? Then how strong is your allyship? You understand that there is a humanitarian crisis in Palestine, but the only thing you want to post about is how you don’t think it should’ve been brought up at your convocation? Maybe the gruesome images from this genocide don’t move you enough. 

It doesn’t have to be like this. You can make changes like forfeiting the ability to showcase your lipstick on the bus by wearing a well-fitted respirator so you aren’t part of why someone gets Long COVID. Or, you can skip ordering a 2:00 a.m. large fry from a corporation that supports the Israeli military. Individual decisions to boycott a genocide and support Palestine add up. Even sending $5 or $10 to a mutual aid campaign or taking advantage of the afternoon you have off to attend a rally makes a difference. Sure, some of these things are more accessible than others. There are reasons why someone might need to shop from Amazon or use disposable cutlery, such as accessibility needs or limited affordable options for essentials. But are you just bringing that up to distract from why you’re doing those things? That’s a question only you can answer. 

Deflection is an issue that is rampant in leftist or progressive spaces. I cannot even begin to count the number of folks who have started explaining the concept of food deserts or Indigenous hunting practices once they found out I was vegan. Those people have never lived in a food desert and are not Indigenous. Using other marginalized communities to justify your choices when their issues have nothing to do with your choices is problematic. Also, I didn’t even say you should be vegan — I said the steakhouse you’re suggesting for dinner doesn’t have any menu options for me.

Overall, this isn’t about pointing fingers and labelling people as good or bad. It’s about encouraging introspection — for myself, too. So please, leave the defensiveness at the door, you don’t need it here. When someone asks you to wear a mask, they are not accusing you of being a terrible person. They’re explaining to you a way that you can care for your community. Don’t worry about being perfect or getting it right the first time. Just continue to be open to learning and growth. Please try because you care.

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