Don't be afraid of your voice

By Mbulelo Maqungo
On January 31, 2020

Mbulelo Maqungo, Online Editor


Whether you found yourself on the receiving end of a family member’s rant about progressivism being out of hand or if you’ve stumbled upon a hashtag de­manding the “cancelling” of famous fig­ure, you probably are familiar with the term “cancel culture.”

Also known as “outrage culture,” JSTOR Daily defines it as a group of people “be­ing aggrieved against someone’s problematic behavior, and results in ‘calling out,’ silencing or boycotting the problematic behavior.”

Some people believe that this organizing strategy can be used as a tool for everyday people to hold those in positions of un­touchable affluence accountable for their choices. Others see it as an angry internet mob combing through an individual’s personal life until they can find enough dirt to destroy their livelihood. In an increasing­ly interconnected age, it’s important for individuals to use their voice where they would otherwise be voiceless.

According to the Philosophy Foundation, the Ship of Theseus, a 400 B.C. thought experiment, asks, “If a vessel is a new ship when all the parts are replaced then at what point does it become a new ship?” In other words, if we identify something as totally good, how many bad things would have to characterize it before that something becomes to­tally bad? Or vise versa?

People have a desire to categorize things into camps or groups. From a young age, we’re generally taught in school who the bad guys and the good guys are in history and eventually grow up to not under­stand how complex folks can really be. That becomes problematic in real life when the people we portray as good guys do horrible things or their enemies perform charitable acts or make commendable decisions.

As society progresses, behaviors that were seen as acceptable before sometimes aren’t appropriate now. Collectively, we need to come to terms with the fact that not everyone or everything from our shared past is going to be revered in the same positive or negative light forever, and that’s okay.

Historically, those in power rarely had a reason to listen to the concerns of people in the lower class because there was very little at stake for them. Now, whether you’re the CEO of a major company or the leader of a local PTA, we all share the same online platforms, mean­ing the communication gap between public figures who hold influence and their audience is virtually nonexistent. The power to decide what is okay is in the hands of the common citizen now more so than any other period in history, and that can’t be framed as anything else but a healthy democracy in action.

While it should be acknowledged that there will always be bad actors amongst groups publicly vocalizing their concerns, you can very well have whole groups who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, un­dermine the democratic process by faking outrage over trivial matters, the solution to this problem wouldn’t be to seal off public figures from any criticism. Do your best to have intellectually honest conversations with those around you and don’t be afraid to ask what your perspectives can offer to the topics that mean the most to you.

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