Progressive, Liberal, and Left Wing activists have a severe problem. It's a problem I like many are guilty of at some level. We tend to have unnecessary infighting over purity tests, methods, and more. So how do we solve this dilemma? One recent activist's article says it best.
The infighting between Progressive, Liberal, and Left Wing factions must morph into a more productive stance where complete congruity is not the only license for entry.
My friend and fellow activist Eleanor Goldfield, publisher of "Art Killing Apathy" and host of "Act Out!" wrote a piece titled "Mind the Stop-Gap" that every Progressive activist should read. Her first few sentences say it all.
The Left loves to argue. Infighting and petty tiffs abound – purity tests and religious-style righteousness hang like smog over so-called safe spaces, suffocating collaborations. One wonders sometimes whether or not the goal for many leftist individuals and organizations is not to fight for progress but rather to fight about it. And this is not to say that there isn’t vital work that is being done. There are so many powerful initiatives to both fight and build; ones that side step the privileged place of theoretical mind space and get sh$t done. The problem is that because many people lack a feeling of urgency.
There are too many times at Progressive meetings where more time is spent discussing interpersonal engagement protocols and purity tests that by nature are subjective, instead of jumping into the problem at hand. That is not to say these are not important, but they should never supersede the task at hand.
She issues an example. She uses a cell phone. The net good of using that cell phone does not mitigate the oppression, environmental irresponsibility, and the economic degradation for many built into its manufacture, but it is sure a worthwhile and necessary compromise.
She points out importantly the compromises we have no choice making.
The purity test mentality is tied to the absolutist paradigm that suggests there can only be one path – one way of organizing, of fighting and of building. But that’s a fallacy. The fight for universal healthcare and the building of small autonomous clinics in Puerto Rico are not mutually exclusive. They’re different answers to the same problem – answers that may someday overlap, or not. Neither one is ultimate and neither one is perfect. Because again, even if you think you have the perfect path, it’ll never look perfect when manifested in reality. Sh$t happens – human folly and mistakes happen. Hell, our own hypocrisy happens. Indeed, our very push for anti-capitalist progress in a capitalist system demands a certain level of hypocrisy. I have a phone made from conflict materials. I pay taxes that go to war and destruction. Some of the plastic in the ocean is undoubtedly mine.
And then she mitigates those necessary choices.
I will always try to mitigate my damaging footprint but I have to also keep walking. So really, we all fail the purity test. All of our paths are imperfect, jagged and utterly human. Instead of arguing over whether or not someone who eats meat can be an environmentalist, lock arms and block some f$cking bulldozers. Instead of wasting time sh$tting on people who fight for what you consider to be stop-gap measures, show solidarity and continue on with your work – our work. Because really, the truth is that we need each other. And not in some kumba ya, ethereal way but in a really straight-forward, no-bullsh$t, this is a capitalist crisis and we have work to do kind of way.
And she poignantly concludes.
Debate, analysis and critique should always be welcomed and considered. Infighting should be shut down like a pipeline construction site. We should question our work and invite others to do the same – be it specific tactics or over-arching questions as to who will benefit from our work. We should be clear on what we’re fighting for so that we’re not just fighting for lip service or facade solutions. And if you feel that systemic stop-gap measures are facade solutions, let’s have that conversation. But let’s have that off to the side – and not in the path of progress.
Read the entire article. She hits the nail on the head.