Keith Lowell Jensen, an atheist comedian, has a bit in a talk he gives, where he addresses the question of whether atheists should even bother to engage religious people, or whether it’s not worth it. After all, it never works, right? He responds by asking those in the audience who were once religious to raise their hands. Then he says, “I think we were worth it.”
The same idea, I think, can be applied to the question of engaging with people who don’t understand issues of social justice, of privilege, power, marginalization, rape culture, shaming, oppression and intersectionality. For people who are on the bad end of any of these societal problems and their allies, it can seem like a never-ending and pointless battle to fight with those who don’t get it. The same arguments come up over and over again, the same facts must be rehashed, the same exchanges get repeated. It’s basically like arguing with creationists.
But everyone who agrees with the extensive and intricate understanding of the ways that power is socially organized and allocated that falls under the Social Justice position came to that position somehow. Unlike atheism, it’s not really the kind of thing you can get born into. That means that they all started out not understanding it, possibly not agreeing with it. Most of us, probably started out that way.
So I ask you now: weren’t they worth it? weren’t we worth it?
And so, aren’t many other people? Aren’t they worth talking to?
Now, no one is obligated to engage and educate about social justice (or any other) issues. It’s hard and painful and frustrating and annoying. There are trolls and people arguing in bad faith. Some people are stubborn and ignorant and cruel. But it is worth doing; people are worth talking to.
Previous Posts About Better Arguing
Hopefully, working on making our arguments more effective will make the process of discussion and education a less frustrating endeavor.
- All-or-Nothing is All Wrong
- Don’t Make it About Identity
- Call Harm, not Foul: Being Careful About Language, Especially Calling People Racist/Sexist/Etc
- Acknowledging Counterarguments
- When to Consider Reconsidering Your Position
- An Example of Steelmanning: The Issue of Gay Marriage and Polygamy
- Being Charitable
- Charity is Totally Badass Activism
- When I Say Charity, I Really Mean Due Diligence