social justice

Shouting-silence ‘just’ be-cause

I wrote recently about the diversity inquiry group and how humour works to disarm fear and create rupture points in cyclical self-perpetuating dualisms. Yesterday DIVINQ took on the Day Of Silence (DOS) with some curious effects emerging, most unexpectedly media interest. We took an alternative stance of being loud and overt about taking a stance about diversity and fear of difference in connection with bullying of LGBTIQ* young people (*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning).

The questions we were raising were only made possible because the DOS exists and I respect the initiative and what it stands for. I understand the intention of bringing awareness to issues through public action. But I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in schools hoping to develop social justice consciousness amongst students and I’m not convinced they necessarily create the change or move beyond the immediacy of the action on that day. Typically the gusto and energy swirls around a small number of passionate individuals. There is planning, ribbon cutting, poster making, assemblies, concerts, banner waving, and all other explosions of coming together. It feels good to take part in something powerful and joining the ‘in crowd’ of the moment is easy to do. In fact not it’s a little like Derek Sivers analogy of the first follower – once there is enough momentum you stand out for not joining in.

But what about the day after? And the day after that? What silence and shouting both do is make a statement – it draws attention. The uncomfortable difficult and ongoing work however needs a lot more than spontaneous combustion of injustice and emotive flashpoints such as ‘bullying’ ‘suicide’ ‘depression’. Worse than that, we can end up representing groups only in those terms of ‘victim’ ‘survivor’ ‘marginalised’ and inadvertently trap identity in these ‘cages of causes’.

DIVINQ is an ongoing conversation, not just a day of action so I hope if the media wish to lend a genuine voice to conversations about bullying that they put their own sensational agenda aside and engage in dialogue with schools or communities in a way that fully respects the context and commitment to the work people are doing.

Battle of the Sex-isms

Apparently it was international women’s day yesterday. Ok. So WTF – What’s True Feminism? Cut to the NZ herald today for a comment on sexism and this is why journalism needs a philosophical enema. Deborah Hill Cone takes a bit of a pot shot at Alison Mau about her concern around ‘casual sexism’ that there is ‘serious sexism’ to compare it to.

This is where the backlog of neo-liberalism and post-feminism really starts to bloat these kinds of debates and the constipated arguments keep being recycled. The arguing for a continuum of serious – non-serious issues of equality or examples of discrimination simply drys out the digested mass of assumptions and absorbs the complexities to leave ‘solid’ claims that just…well…stink!

Caring about how your daughter is positioned in the educational, social, and political world by noticing comments made is not trivial. The flow on effect of this is how she will access the economic world and so what income she will ‘earn’. Some will go as far to say these arguments pale in comparison to women in countries where female genital mutilation occurs and so the dangerous illusion of relativity flushes away any chance of re-defining what might be considered worthy of caring about.

Human rights needs a rebranding and a 21st century reboot. One that re-cognises the subtle power plays of language, privilege, social construction, and ditching some moralistic high ground typical of western/capitalist neo-liberal based thinking. Instead of splitting up rights into labels of have’s and have nots and taking some strange imaginary scale system to measure when ‘equality’ is finally reached we need to question the very measures of our definitions of what makes us Hue-man.

And if you need to regain your appetite or some pain relief after all that, just do mau cone.