An essay by a self-proclaimed social justice activist has crossed my social media feed 4 times in the last 2 days. It was shared not only by the expected, i.e. conservative-leaners who’d offer it as a “wow, look at what’s going on over there,” but by the unexpected, i.e. liberals who agree that their own movement may be going too far. It’s worth a scan, as insight into the thinking, language structure, and view-from-within if nothing else. But, the real insight is the glimpse into the realities of life as a social justice warrior. And it’s a frightening one.

A few years ago, I read a true-crime book called No Angel, about an ATF agent that went undercover in the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club/gang. The author noted a particular dissonance: that, for all their talk of being rebels, 1%ers, apart from society, and nonconformist, the bikers had a very rigid social structure and organization, with rules that governed behavior, attire, music, the membership and initiation process, bureaucracy, and so forth. Their veneer of anarchic freedom from a stifling and judgmental society masks a stifling and judgmental society of its own.

The social justice world comes across the very same way. Worse, actually, because the rules are constantly evolving, a “swiftly moving target.” It’s apparently a tremendous amount of work keeping up with the literature and being fully apprised of what constitutes “woke” at any given moment. And, worse yet, failure to do so, as exposed by even the slightest misstep, results in the equivalent of a hyena-pack attack.

One would expect that a societal movement that seeks to make a better world within a particular vision would embrace those who strive to be part of that movement, to help its members along as they seek the Social Justice version of Buddhism’s Enlightenment i.e. that perfect state of knowledge, wisdom, and compassion. Instead, it’s a jungle full of predators and scavengers, ready to attack anyone who strays even the slightest from the pack, and pick over his/her/their bones. It’s a place where screwing up sufficiently invites “social death,” the rejection from the nervous safety of the pack and ejection into the real world, a real world for which, due to a lifestyle inside an echo chamber and with “safe spaces” and due to an often-terrible choice of field of study, they are woefully unprepared for.

Then there’s this:

I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate- no questions asked.

That’s an utterly exhausting way to live. To be a member of that community is often to live in a perpetual state of fear, subjugation, trembling skittishness, and cringing cowardice. The alternative is to be an attack dog, to be the perpetually hunting predator, looking to pounce upon and eviscerate the weak. That lifestyle is fraught with peril as well, because it, too, requires perpetual perfection. One can only be an alpha until a more perfect alpha comes along, and with that perfection ever-changing and defined by a distributed swarm/hive process, even being an alpha in that herd seems exhausting and a terribly unsatisfying way to live. Even purity of intent, the “good heart” that would normally be how we judge character, is meaningless.

The comments to the essay show that there are many people in that world that share the author’s fears. Commenters mention how they’ve thought the same thoughts of inadequacy and trepidation in private or discussed it in whispered tones among their close friends and family, but never publicly. The essay’s author is not alone in experiencing discomfort, hostility, and fear from other community members. That’s not a way to live, and that’s not a way for a movement to be healthy and productive.

In sum, to live in the social justice world is to live in a perpetual state of fear. The fear can’t even be pegged to a target, to an individual who’s at the top of the pecking order and therefore attackable. A enemy with a name can be fought. The peril that invokes the fear is distributed, faceless, a seething black cloud of aggressiveness that can strike at any time and from any angle. A faceless, nameless, placeless enemy is truly frightening. It is the fear of being in a jungle at night, a fear deeply encoded in our DNA.

Since social justice, despite its ever-more-granular sorting of “identities,” requires conformist, collectivist thinking, its adherents don’t have the strength of individuality to rely on should they come under attack. If “social death” is a fear big enough to identify as the worst possible outcome for transgression, the need to conform can be overwhelming and crippling. If you cannot stand against the pack as an individual, you don’t stand a chance of ever being free to pursue your own happiness.

Will anything change? I doubt it. The lack of real individualism in that world (as opposed to the veneer that is the laundry list of “identities”) means that people who look to stand against the tide will stand alone, and probably suffer “social death” i.e. be cast out into the wilderness. In other words, members of the social justice community are not equipped with the fortitude of character necessary to change their movement from a brutal, predatory realm to a comforting and forgiving one. When people are taught to think like prey, predators will always win out.

The Black Sabbath song After Forever asks “is your mind so small that you have to fall in with the pack wherever they run?,” and the song Under The Sun offers “I want to live my life, I don’t want people telling me what to do. I just believe in myself ’cause no one else is true.” The great thing about a political philosophy rooted in individuality is that you yourself are the judge of whether you’re being the good person most of us strive to be. You can absolutely be of a common mind with the goals of the social justice movement without having to live like a quivering chihuahua. Better yet, you can reject ideas that don’t ring true without baring your throat to the pack.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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