As much as the latest backlash against social progress disheartens me, the actions and attitudes of people who champion social progress which actually hinder that progress disappoint me as much, if not more. Yes, people who champion social progress can hinder social progress, chiefly by spreading misinformation and acting in ways which alienate people, many of whom may be potential allies. I call such people–I’m thinking, right now, about extreme and/or misandrist feminists, the vegan police, scientifically illiterate vegans and environmentalists, anti-war activists who blame Islamist terrorist acts entirely on Western governments–social-justice dogmatists.
Yes, it’s infuriating that it’s 2016 and sexism, racism, speciesism, classism, heteronormativity, and other forms of prejudice and bigotry still exist. Yes, it’s maddening that people who engage in any form of bigotry use any number of excuses–for instance, religion, culture, peer pressure–to, well, excuse it, or those among their number deny the prejudice and bigotry happen, or exist, altogether. But condemning the folks who engage in prejudice and bigotry, and don’t respond well to being called out on it, is not a constructive response, or reaction. Nor is turning social justice, or a positive attitude towards social progress, into dogma.
I understand the frustration of social-justice dogmatists–of all types and stripes–but lashing out at people, condemning them for what they’re doing and/or not doing, and adopting a holier-than-thou attitude don’t solve anything; nor does it help to harbour attitudes of ‘us vs. them’ or ‘with us or against us’–we have to at least meet each other halfway. This doesn’t mean compromising our principles or accommodating dangerous ideas, but we have to at least try to understand those we don’t agree with.
Social-justice dogmatists mean well, and I believe they have the best of intentions, but their actions, and even some of their ideas, ultimately hurt their respective causes, mostly by acting holier-than-thou, alienating those who don’t agree with all of their ideas, and trying to silence those who disagree with them. Negative, hurtful actions and ideas negate the best of intentions.
The urge to make a difference is strong–and noble. Idealism is fine, but we must live in the real world. In this day and age, skepticism is important–especially if we want to actually make the world a better place for all of its inhabitants.