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.
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.