Doing what’s necessary

In my post about activism and the path of the Warrior, I said that to be a Warrior means to realize that something needs to be done, and then going out and doing it.

I’d like to elaborate further on that. In my last post it seems I’m saying that some sort of action is always preferable, in every situation. I’m not saying that at all. Sometimes inaction is the best response to something. The key is learning to differentiate between the times when inaction is the best response, and when I’m just feeling too damn burnt out to deal with one more damn thing.

Making that call can be hard. Sometimes it’s a clear sign from Them that I worship, but other times my mental voice is just doing a good acting job. And a lot of times, I’m wrong. That’s when I need to own my frack-up, shut up, and not do anything on that particular issue for a while. I have two ears, and one mouth, so I should use the former.

When it comes to anti-oppression work, there is the push in me to do some great big great thing. It was suggested by someone I know that this may be a function of privilege itself, and that makes a great deal of sense. As a member of the oppressor class (European descent, cisgendered, fairly well-off though technically below the poverty line, probably some other privilege I haven’t examined yet) I am constantly told that I must go and do Great Things with my life. This is a huge, pressing factor: go to school, go to college, make Something of yourself. In activism, this translates to “doing this and this and this and this and this and this and this so that my Activism Membership Card is all filled out and valid yesiree, no slacking here, I’m a True Activist(TM)” and when it becomes apparent that I’m doing more harm than good by doing this, it hurts. Because it goes against what I’ve been taught since the cradle (and what I’ve been taught is wrong, but it’s still ingrained in my noggin and entwined with my emotional responses and my own feelings of self-worth, so, you know, anti-oppression work can be really fucking hard in this respect, because there’s so much detangling to do).

So there are times when I have to consciously tell myself to shut up and listen, don’t just do something stand there, because whatever identity is speaking, it’s not mine, and it’s not my experience, and I must consider for just one second that I don’t know what the frack I’m talking about.

In those moments, I am choosing inaction. I am listening. Actually, as listening is an action, maybe instead of choosing inaction I am choosing passive action: I am acting by not acting actively.

I apologize if that gave you a headache. I’m still unravelling and detangling this huge clusterfrack mess that is my identity and privilege, and trying to find words to talk about what I do, when I do it, or what I don’t do and when I don’t do it.

Regardless: a big part of being a warrior is learning when it’s not your time to act. A battle is not won by one person — we are poisoned with this idea that our names must go down in history, like Ajax or Boudicca, that we must do something big. But sometimes it’s more useful to be a warrior by healing the wounded. Or serving the food. Or even just recording the battle. The history books may not remember your name, but that doesn’t matter, because history is written by the oppressor, anyway.