Everyone is wrong, unless they agree with me- Unknown

30 06 2011

As a writer, and a social worker, I’ve learned something very important: everybody’s a critic. Every damn person you meet will have an idea as to have you could have done more, done it better, and gotten it done faster than you did. Never mind that it seems that they aren’t really doing anything. Just commenting on why everyone else is wrong.

Back in Anarchy in the UK social work school, this was a common phenomenon.  Social work and the arts was a particularly good scene for this.

One day in class, we got on to the topic of child soldiers in Africa. I had just read a book on the subject, and people were eagerly exchanging ideas about how to incorporate the artistic methods we had been discussing and learning about into rehabilitating these children.

“I heard about an art program that they were using. The kids didn’t have photos of their families, so they were working with them to draw their memories and create new scrapbooks.”

Well that’s lovely. How non-controversial. Really, something everyone can enjoy.

Some asshole always has to ruin it.

“Did that idea come organically from their community?”

No, it was not organic. They used pesticides, you nitwit.

“Because what I heard was the UN workers went in and taught this model, and then African workers used it with the kids.”
“Oh, OK. I didn’t know that. I thought it had come from their culture.”

Yes. And if the crayolas were not made right there in Sudan, then it’s just wrong! Cultural genocide, I say!

What would have been better? Months of brainstorming so similar ideas could arise “organically” from these children’s fellow countrymen? The UN and international community in general doing nothing? Or is the most important thing that these kids were getting the help they desperately needed?

You have three guesses as to which I believe. I think you’ll only need one.

I’ve encountered similar nonsense regarding the It Gets Better Project. I’m a big fan of it. (And Dan Savage. Anyone who can do to Rick Santorum what has been done…you have my respect, sir.) It seemed pretty non-controversial. Who among us, gay, straight, whatever, wouldn’t want to go back to their high school self and say, “Relax, kid. One day you’ll be living the glamorous life of a social worker. You will have great friends, be stunningly good looking, and will actually like your family!” Or something similar. Considering that LGBT kids were choosing suicide as a better alternative to completing high school, because they saw no hope for the future, it seemed like a reasonable option.

Until I heard the criticism.

“Things don’t really get better, don’t lie to kids.”
My condolences on your cynical assholery.

“YouTube videos don’t make things better!”
I’m sorry, but have you seen that surprised kitty being tickled?

“Oh yeah, just adopt and travel to Paris with your committed partner. That doesn’t take into account racial discrimination or socioeconomic issues.”
Yes, how dare a successful man draw on his own experience to talk to young people dealing with something he’s already gotten through!

The most common sentiment seemed to be that this wasn’t enough. We needed laws, anti-bullying programs, mentors, allies. I don’t think anyone at the It Gets Better project would disagree. But what’s wrong with taking a half hour to make a video that might reach someone? Does it hurt? Does it take away thirty valuable minutes that would have otherwise been spent in direct service to an at-risk adolescent?

Because if you can’t do everything, it’s best to just do nothing. I think Gandhi said that.

On the topic of Gandhi, I was recently told, by a liberal blogger, that the man who led a non violent revolution against a great colonial power was no good, because apparently he didn’t like gay people. Seriously. He wasn’t perfect, so forget everything he did. Margaret Sanger too, because she was a racist. And early feminists were not inclusive of non-white, non-heterosexual women. Forget them all!

After a brief period of disillusionment, I was actually kind of happy when I learned that Martin Luther King Jr. was a chronic adulterer. It sounds strange, but it makes sense (in my head.) You mean he wasn’t a saint, but he accomplished all that he did? He was just a dumb human? I’m one of those too! Maybe there’s hope! I can do things too!

I get it about my work too. How I should be incorporating culture more, making more of an effort to track down uninvolved fathers, come in on weekends to meet the clients where they are, organize protests to address social injustice, because that always gets left out. I’m not doing my work perfectly, but I am doing it.

It seems like some people are looking for an excuse to not have hope. The system is so large, so flawed, there are so many -isms to combat, I don’t have the experience, I’m not of the oppressed minority…ok, cool. Guess I don’t have to do anything! I’ll just sit back and judge. So comfy up here.

Before we blindly criiticize the work that others are doing, let’s ask ourselves: can I do better? Am I doing better? If the answer is, “Um, sure. Just don’t feel like it right now” it might be time to shut up.  Recognize that you can see these flaws due to those who came before you. We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

And we should acknowledge that in our whiny blogs.

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22 responses

30 06 2011
Carolyn

Gotta say, one of your (or anyone’s) best blogs ever!

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Thank you! This is probably your best comment ever.

30 06 2011
Sheeps Eating Me

Love this. Have been thinking about this kind of thing regarding the argument that comes up every time a new state legalizes same-sex marriage: that marriage is for privileged people. [Quote pretty much what you wrote up in your last 2 paragraphs in response]. Great post.

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Thank you! I hate the same sex marriage argument. I can’t believe that some people can bring themselves to say it out loud and take it seriously. That was a big debate in the GSA (acronyms haunt me) at my graduate school.

30 06 2011
MaggieH.

Newly joined to read the ravings of this cool social worker. Write on, Social Girl.

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Thanks! I’ll try.

30 06 2011
Vetnita in MN

You’re preaching to the choir. Great blog and I hope that you keep fighting the good fight. Oh, and my mantra is that you can’t talk reason to addicts, crazy people, and idealists.

30 06 2011
socialjerk

I know, I wish I could reach out to more people who need to hear it! And I love addicts, crazy people, and idealists being grouped together (seriously!)

30 06 2011
SW24/7

Definitely my favorite post of yours so far! Isn’t funny how the nay-sayers, pessimists, and general pooh-poohers are always people not doing ANYTHING AT ALL to help a situation? I hear it all the time from people who want to criticize the child welfare system. Oh really? What are you doing about it? Are you helping the young single mom on your block? Are you volunteering at a DV shelter? Are you signing up to be a mentor, foster parent, etc? Nope, you aren’t doing anything. You’re waiting for the rest of us to “fix it”. UGh.

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Thank you! That’s so nice to hear.

And it seems that a lot of the cynics are so weighted down by all of their knowledge of how bad things are that they can’t bring themselves to fight it. Or at least, that’s what they want us to think. I think they’re mostly lazy 🙂

30 06 2011
mjfrombuffalo

I *do* reserve contempt for people who change their avatars to pictures of cartoon characters “to raise awareness of child abuse.” I mean, can what you do have at least a *teensy* bit of connection to the cause you’re touting? mebbe throw in a link to a “signs of child abuse” web page? But yeah, I’m with you 🙂

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Oh, I have nothing but contempt for them. One of the people who had the courage and decency to fight child abuse by changing their Facebook picture to Disney’s Cinderella told me and a fellow social worker who were mocking the effort that we were being close-minded and thought we were the only ones who help children.

I support people’s efforts when they are actual efforts. Money, time…not Facebook photos. I think a lot of the efforts to “raise awareness,” especially the Facebook related ones, fall under the category of “slacktivism,” which is my new favorite word.

Good point!

1 07 2011
Vetnita in MN

slacktivism, my new favorite word!!!

30 06 2011
Fi

Bravo!

30 06 2011
socialjerk

Thank you! I’ll be bowing and catching roses in my teeth if anyone needs me.

3 07 2011
Joanna

Totally agree with your sentiments in this post. You are amazing, as always! -prima

8 07 2011
socialjerk

Gracias!

4 07 2011
Carlos

Awesome post! But seriously, I’m never wrong, except when I’m wrong. ;D

8 07 2011
socialjerk

Thank you! Yeah, the title was actually not a joke 🙂

7 03 2012
K.

No one is “blindly” criticizing the KONY 2012 campaign. The articles that I’ve read made numerous extremely valid points about why one should be wary of supporting KONY 2012. Do you honestly not see anything wrong with the fact that KONY 2012 supports the Ugandan military that, like Kony, has committed numerous atrocities against its own people? Yes, let’s take down a monster while supporting & arming another oppressive force. If anyone is blind it’s the people who refuse to acknowledge the negative aspects of this campaign. Sometimes people have good intentions, but, as they teach us in SW school, intentions don’t matter as much as the hurt caused by your good intentions. It has nothing to do with “looking for any excuse to not have hope”. It’s about demanding credibility from helping organizations! Many people felt the It Gets Better Project had no credibility because it was run by Dan Savage. There’s a sheer irony in Dan Savage promoting an anti-bullying campaign when he himself has a history of transphobia & rape apologism. I’m not going to put my trust, support, and money into an organization that I feel lacks credibility. And it’s important to remember that a lot of the people doing the judging are part of the oppressed populations that these organizations claim to be advocating for, not just couch potatoes looking for something to do on a Wednesday night.

And it really really rubbed me the wrong way how you compared MLK’s adultery to Margaret Sanger’s blatant racism and pro-eugenics agenda. As a black woman and a self-proclaimed feminist I can honestly say that I don’t give a flying fuck about Margaret Sanger. If you were a poor woman, woman of color, mentally ill, or an immigrant than Margaret Sanger was not fighting for your rights. She was a eugenicist who wanted to take away the reproductive rights of “undesirable” women. MLK may have cheated on his wife, but he wasn’t a pro-adultery advocate. Margaret Sanger on the other hand made racism a part of her public persona. She spoke at KKK rallies and used their support to further her agenda.

8 03 2012
socialjerk

I believe that there are some thoughtful critiques of the Invisible Children campaign. The majority of what I’ve heard, though, has been either critical of their finances, which are quite transparent and pretty standard, or generic cynicism about how people don’t really care or will forget about this soon. Working with the Ugandan army is a major concern, if I may totally understate it for a moment. However, I don’t know the best way to go about bringing down the rebels without working with the army. I haven’t heard anyone else with any alternative suggestions, either. Invisible Children is the group that got this issue out to the world at large. I’m not ignoring anything that might be negative about them or their work. That is why I looked into them before reposting the video. Whether or not I agree with all of their tactics, I think their recent video is an extremely powerful, mobilizing force that should be seen by as many people as possible.

This is similar to how I feel about It Gets Better. Dan Savage has made some truly jackass, ignorant comments. But he also started a great movement that has clearly been embraced by many “in the community,” considering the number of videos that have been made. I don’t think the fact that he has his own prejudices should discount the movement he started.

As for Dr. King and Margaret Sanger, I was in no way comparing their transgressions. King’s were personal, you’re absolutely right, and it’s why they were mentioned separately. My point with him was about not becoming disillusioned when discovering that one’s hero was not perfect. Margaret Sanger had some deeply fucked up views, no question, but she also brought about access to birth control in the US and helped start Planned Parenthood. Anti choice activists try to discredit Planned Parenthood all the time based on Sanger, and I’m saying we shouldn’t let that happen.

I’m just saying that if we wait for a perfect person/movement/organization, nothing is going to get done. That’s all.

9 03 2012
Kony 2012 and its critics « nicbourbon80

[…] “if we wait for a perfect person/movement/organization, nothing is going to get done”: https://socialjerk.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/everyone-is-wrong-unless-they-agree-with-me-unknown/).  Also, Russell and this video are not the whole organization.  Judging by their website and […]

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