Letter to the Editor
I’ve got a kid who just turned 20. I’m 40. We’re both still young and pissed off at the world. But how I channeled that rage, and how she can’t, gives me pause.
Born in 1976, I came of age in the late 80s and 90s, when people — even “good people” — still openly joked about gays. It’s hard to imagine now that when Ellen came out, publicly on air, it could have caused her her career. Friends. Respect.
If you were gay in my high school, you had fewer friends because of it. It was perfectly normal behaviour to call someone a fag, talk to them with a lisp, make fun of them in gym class. And so a guy in my class killed himself because his parents didn’t want him, his friends saw him as weird novelty, and his bullies made life a constant reminder of those things.
So Generation X — straights and queers alike — banded together and fought down the ignorance, by calling it out wherever they saw it — gay jokes, bullying, legal policies against gay rights. Strength in numbers de-normalized making gays feel wrong. (Accept among the ignorant.)
Cue to my daughter’s millennial generation. They’ve rightfully moved along to even more marginalized communities like transgendered individuals. I love it. If you can’t wrap your mind around a woman identifying as a man, and cutting her breasts off, then your mind is small, and you didn’t study broadly enough at university — take a few psychology or humanities courses. The Transgender community has always been among us, we just didn’t make them feel safe and welcome until now.
But the transgender community — or any modern cause, like US gun control — is never going to get the united rally of like-minded people that women, blacks, and queers got before them, mostly because the world has changed between the last great cause and these newer ones.
We live online now, so we see the world’s injustices at a length; We’re less directly affected by them. Worse still, we’re too bombarded — every single day — with so much information, that by the time we sort out what pissed us off today, there’s a new layer of shit in our phones to piss us off the very next day. It affects the amount and duration of attention devoted to any one cause, doesn’t it?
When I was my daughter’s age, 20 years ago, there was no internet. The 2 hours a day we now spend on the internet are 2 fewer hours we have to physically interact in the real world and change the place. All the bitching we do about city council is on Facebook, and Mayor O’Keefe isn’t reading your Facebook statuses. So it’s changing nothing. Say it to his face though, and he’ll listen.
And the 2 hours a day we now spend staring at our phones equate to 2 more hours of shit we know about, scattering our focus on any one thing in the real world. How much shit can we really process, and act on, and care about?
I’ve never smiled so big about my daughter as I did the day she marched at the local Slut Walk. I know that. What I don’t know, is how her generation is supposed to care about anything for more than a day. Or change anything.
In watching her and her friends, their fight is not what’s directly affecting their lives, but what’s “Trending Now” on Facebook and Twitter Hashtags, which feels like The Internet telling them their left-ist cause of the month.
The new populace, me included, is overwhelmed with too much information. What got a month-worth of media attention in 1997, gets a day in 2017. It really feels like Slutwalk (a march against blaming women for shit men did to them), was just a news piece, then gone.
Ultimately, breaking news outlets like VOCM or CBC will follow the people as they do something newsworthy. Like making a sign that reads “blame the rapist not her outfit” and marching down Water street. But if the people don’t do it for a second day in a row, and a 3rd, and a week straight, and a month, the news will move on to what is footage-worthy that day. And nothing will change. Producing the news is just a job afterall, not a responsibility. The responsibility for social change lays squarely on the people.
If you want a cop to never include “but what were you wearing” in a victim statement designed to help catch a rapist, it requires a sustained movement, demanding change, that the press will cover, because people draw the news and their camera crews. And it’s true that when we do whine, it works. The prolonged fuss kicked up over the levy in our government’s austerity budget made the levy go away.
On a global scale, January 21st was not a good day to be Donald Trump. But, he knows it was just a day for him to get through. That It’d blow over as soon as there’s a new celebrity death or violent crime.