Today, BuzzFeed published a letter from a rape victim to her aggressor1,2. A warning, it is quite disturbing to read. And disturbed is just how I felt after finishing it, not only because of its contents, but because it got me thinking about another phenomenon that I’ve experienced much closer to home.
There’s a certain adult in my life (who shall remain nameless) with whom I’ve occasionally tried to bring up issues of social justice such as the one underlying the case mentioned, and the interactions would generally go as follows: I would express my feelings of dissatisfaction with the way a certain area is being handled in our country be it rape and victim blaming, race relations, support and education for the poor and disadvantaged, bigotry toward the LGBTQ community, or some other topic to this person, and although they3 never made any statement of disagreement, within seconds they would quickly dismiss my “idealism” as naive, uninformed, and, most discouragingly of all, utterly impossible. I won’t deny that I haven’t seen much in my short lifetime, but it seems to me that the group of people who are dissatisfied with the mainstream mindset toward these issues and those who express hopes for changes in that mindset don’t overlap each other perfectly – far from it, actually. That is, the adult I’m talking about is definitely not alone in their belief that the “system” is unchangeable and that we should focus on protecting ourselves from symptoms rather than attacking causes.
To me, this outlook seems depressingly bleak. I’ve written previously about my general optimism about people’s abilities for critical introspection, but the fact that people feel the results of their deep thought are meaningless, that their ideas lack efficacy, doesn’t sit well with me. After all, societal norms and ideas are ultimately made up of individual actions and thoughts, so while one person’s beliefs don’t necessarily change anything, discussing and advocating for those beliefs definitely has the potential to do so.
I haven’t done a lot of thinking about this efficacy deficit beyond what I’ve expressed, but what do you guys think? Do you know anyone like this or do you feel like your well-considered opinions sometimes aren’t worth expressing? The discussion is, as it should be, open.
1 This is related to the Stanford case that’s making national headlines – a lot of them. I avoided getting into my thoughts about the case too much because that would require a whole separate, very opinionated post. I’ll just say this: I hope that, after being hit over the head with these kinds of stories enough, people won’t be forgetting this issue after a news cycle or two.
2 Props to BuzzFeed for its attempts to grow into a legitimate news source.
3 Also remaining genderless. No, I’m not that uneducated or careless.