For this week in my ECMP 355 class, everyone was asked to “write a post reflecting on our class this week. You might talk about social justice issues in online spaces, your role as an educator in promoting social justice online, etc.”
This post will mostly be about my personal story. Some of it is about burn out, and most of it remains unsaid because I haven’t found the words to describe it all.
Since I was young, my family has always helped in every way we can in the community–neighbours, elderly, helpless, and fellow Christians. All six of us children grew up aware that social justice (under the greater umbrella of empathy and compassion) is a facet of all human life. But it is something we have to cultivate. If we don’t, it is easy to lose that facet of human-ness.
Social justice online (online petitions, youtube social experiments, donation campaigns, ezines, social media projects, etc.) has a different look than social justice offline (rallies, soup kitchens, protests, petitions, refugee housing, youth groups, etc.). And there is a big difference between the two. Online social justice allows for anonymous usership, quick and painless support, accessible meeting spaces, and data sharing. Offline allows for pressing occupation of a place, physical aid (think soup kitchens), group morale, and prolonged relationships.
I have been within social justice circles online (since 2010) and offline (since 2005). I have had quite a thorough look at both sides and prolonged involvement with both. And even though I believe that online social justice is helping, I am disillusioned as to its long-lasting impact.
I have see people who care nothing about the homeless in their own city, serving soup to hungry mouths, offering respite work, or vouching for indigenous self-efficacy, yet become monstrous when they see some injustice occuring in Ottawa, Ferguson, Syria, or anywhere else. They rally online through blogs, facebook posts, and article sharing in order to inspire social change.
But really, it’s a shallow form of justice.
This is because people who worry about problems in other parts of the world and fail to address the injustice (that they could probably help solve) in their immediate world are involving themselves in something impersonal.
They do not have to get up from their computer chair and smell the alcohol and vomit on someone’s breath as they drag that person into their car and rush them to emergency. They don’t have to worry about dealing with the vulnerable and helpless, who might accept help at one minute then lash out in self-protection the next.
Instead, online justice-seekers can easily access (at their leisure) whichever digital media they prefer at the time they like and talk about problems that exist tens of thousands of kilometers away from where they are enjoying a coffee and a witty facebook comment-reparte.
I’ve seen too much of this. It’s made me reconsider what should be classified as helpful social justice and what falls into the “gutless keyboard puncher hiding behind a computer screen” category.
Then look at me. I’m complaining in an online post. I haven’t participated in a direct act of social justice in a long time. I am a far distance from impeccable. But every day I hope I can grow in my capacity to seek justice for the oppressed and disenfranchised.
Featured Image: Blind Justice by Jenny Crawford