Where a single word, issue or ideology is not an apt description for a whole human.
I understand the urge to dwell in easily defined spaces. I think it is a natural consequence of uncertainty in an era where facts are alternative, and opinion is the truth. I keep visualizing a tug of war, where no-one is willing to lose ground for fear the ‘other’ might overtake us. Yet out of our uncertainty comes rigidity as the possibility for growth or change diminishes. And solutions to our challenges become ideological fodder rather than real-world possibilities.
The only winners in this game are the ones that have a vested interest in our perpetual outrage. They maintain this carefully crafted illusion through algorithms and commentary masquerading as fact. To support this tug-o-war, they keep the story focused at the level of the group — the story of them.
Us versus the other.
When I hear people talking about ‘the Left’ or ‘the Right’, I want to cringe at the overgeneralizations and 1-D caricatures that will be coming next. It has become too easy to condemn others based on these broad strokes. The idea that the individuals found within these groups tick every box and, therefore, worthy of our condemnation, is unhealthy for our society. Humans are messy and complicated and rarely fill the boxes we put them in.
Someone asked the other day if I ever was a feminist. I said, “Maybe when I was little, but I’m not now”. The current incarnation of that collective story is not something I connect too. Mostly because it has never really occurred to me that I was less than because of my sex. I am grateful to the many women who came before me that had to challenge that idea continually. I’m also grateful to those who rejected it completely and opted for a new story. I was lucky, I had a mother and older sister who showed me how powerful women are.
Today, I plug into the story where we are standing in our power, not perpetually rising to it.
Groups can take generations to evolve and heal, but the individual can change choice by choice. If a man treats me poorly, I don’t have to assume its because I’m a woman. He could just be having a bad day. I lose more power assuming the victim than extending good faith. Most importantly, it gives people the opportunity and room for growth. He doesn’t have to overcome a label or box and neither do I.
When I think about any significant change that has happened over the last 150 years, it is because people decided to unplug from the collective narrative that maintained the status quo. They no longer took ownership of the story and chose, instead, to align with a new one, either individually or collectively. When we stand for something versus stand against something, we redefine our role in the story.
We move from the oppressed to the empowered.
I think that’s why I’m opting for the gray areas these days. It is not filled with stark ideological lines that limit the potential of all involved. This isn’t to say that I don’t hold values or believe that things are important. It just means I’m not willing to define my story by being in opposition to yours. I want to see the individual rather than just the group you belong too. It’s time to stop playing tug of war like this is a zero-sum game. What would happen if we all let go of the rope, took a seat in the middle, and listened to one another? I think we’d hear we are more the same than we are different. And the places where we are different, we give ourselves some space to make it better.