May 31, 2013

Shithead fatigue

I don’t want to talk about this.

This is for a lot of reasons. I’m not an SFWA member (though I’ve considered it, and will consider it in the future despite this, for reasons I will explain at a hazy time in the future). Another is that some people have already done a really eloquent job of expressing some basic common sense on this issue. I also don’t think I can consider myself a full-on SF writer, nor do I think many other people see me that way. And I’m also not female, but that’s another issue entirely.

This is not a post about the Bulletin. The problem is, I don’t think I have it in me to make a post about the Bulletin. I’m not sure if I have anything to say that could matter. I’d like to think that the issue is that other people are better at fighting this fight.

But I know the real problem is Shithead Fatigue.

Shithead Fatigue is when a specific breed of blatant shitheaddery feels like it becomes so prominent, so unavoidable, so ubiquitous, that getting outraged over it is like getting angry over rain: this is what happens, you say, you do what you can about it, you get a little wet, maybe, and you move on. There are, it feels, anointed people who are here to fight this battle. Nod along, agree that you, too, dislike the rain, and be a passive participant.

And that makes me feel pretty shitty. Because I feel like I should say something, even when I can’t think of anything that would matter or be new. I feel guilty for being quiet, I suppose, but everything I could say has been said and is being said.

This is because, I think, outrage has a short lifespan, as far as action goes. Outrage induces a kneejerk reaction, uses up a lot of calories, occupies a lot of your thought. It takes work to be outraged. Outrage is overdrive, burning up your fuel.

The best comparison, as inspired by a brief chat with Seanen McGuire, would be the Democrats’ War on Women. I say it belongs to the Democrats, because it really does: the term has existed for a long dang while, but it wasn’t until March 2012 that it became a commonly-used phrase, chiefly, I imagine, as a campaign effort to increase fundraising – for the Democratic Party. (And if I recall, it was extremely successful. I don’t know how much, but it got me to donate.)

Now, just because this got used politically – to unify people, to generate donations – that doesn’t mean the intent behind it isn’t legitimate. After all, a huge, huge, huge bunch of horrible shit prompted it.

But it did get used. Used for good intent, probably, but it got used, used to keep people engaged, to keep them angry, to keep them willing to vote, and to keep them donating. This is how movements work: someone has to keep pushing, which means other people are getting pushed. So every time someone says something outraging, the people who are pushing for change must drag it out in front of you and shake it in your face to make sure you remember that you’re mad.

And this gets exhausting. It especially gets exhausting because it keeps happening, despite, it seems, everyone, even people theoretically “on the other side,” feeling wildly different about it.

So you keep hearing that you have to change things. And you hear that, yes, things are changing.

But it keeps happening. And you feel obliged to stay outraged, even if you don’t have it in you anymore.

I keep reminding myself of what Frederick Douglass told his grandson what the next step in black rights was. He said it was three words: “Agitate, agitate, agitate.” But how do you do it when shithead fatigue sets in around you?

Here is the thing I feel is the truth: rage is for sprints. Positivity is for marathons. And change is a marathon race.

When I feel like shit about stuff like this – because it’s happening, because I feel tired about it, because I content myself with well-meaning, weary silence – I try and remember something very basic, something very positive: that people are mad about this who, not many years ago, probably couldn’t speak up about anything at all.

I feel good because I am pretty sure that someday more people will have the opportunity to be people, fully people, to be themselves in ways that they never could before.

Then I come back, and try and do what I can, because I know that whenever someone realizes, “There’s no reason we can’t do this,” it can so often be a good thing. When they realize that what they can do is up to them.

Say, have a job. Fight in a war. Have a child. Build. Write. Or, I suppose, love. You know – things people do.

It is worth reminding one’s self, I think, not to be enraged because of what is denied, but to remember that what is being sought are very basic things. And that maybe one day people will wonder how these very basic, very easy, very simple things could have ever been denied to anyone.