There’s a thing about we humans, we modern beasts of blood and clay, where we often, so often, forget that it isn’t about us. This world and the people in it are not here for our amusement, for our enlightenment, or our acceptance and understanding. We forget that we may have come to the party alone but baby, there’s lots of folks here.
This Cancel Culture thing, for thing it is, is pretty…amusing?
Let’s go back, shall we?
I am a child of the eighties, though born in the seventies, and I remember very, very clearly the rancor over the evil role-playing game of Dungeons & Dragons, which, because it was about imaginary and mythical creatures and used your imagi-NATION it was clearly evil.
Because kids rolling dice and calling out FIREBALL in basements is always where evil starts.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Let’s look at it though.
It was the fear of people together, ‘in the dark’ thinking outside of the box, being creative, and looking at books that were not easily understood by the religious right.
Oh, then there was the fun controversy over music.
Heavy metal music was evil devil music – which wasn’t wrong per se, but they didn’t get that most of it was part of an act, something that rock music has always had – the showmanship. The devil is a lot more fun and interesting to sing about then, well, the opposite. It’s not as fun to sing about the GOOD in the world. Sometimes there is more to see in the dark.
Suicides, murders, rapes, and any manner of no-good badness was laid at the feet of heavy metal music.
Then it was rap music, which became overtly sexualized by some performers in the ‘80’s and clearly, we can’t have the suburban kids listening to music about being face down and rear up, can we?
This was as much about a clear racist double standard as much as anything else because rock music had ben a bit, ribald too, just not necessarily as, er, blatant, but it wasn’t singled out the same.
OH, then there was the fun of music labels, which had to put a label on music denoting there was a Parental Advisory to warn kids and parents alike which albums had ‘offensive’ lyrics and thus falsely driving sales of some music just for the sheer naughtiness of having music with lots of curses on it.
Video game trials.
‘Cancel Culture’ has never been new.
The thing is that the pendulum swung the other way and now folks who were once on the other side of things have a louder voice and are wanting to make it clear that some things that we once looked the other way about are not ‘ok’ any longer.
Casual racism, stereotypes, misogyny, on and on just are not part of the world we want to celebrate any longer.
This isn’t a NEW thing though.
We wake up from the miasma of the world around us and can want better.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
The PROBLEM is when we try to paint the world with the biggest of brushes.
When we LITERALLY try to cancel things.
It’s like we have learned nothing from the past.
When we take someone who had flaws, big, huge, GIANT flaws, but also created things of great power and beauty and we decide that one side outweighs the other and that they and their work should be erased from history.
We tend to forget that we are ALL messed up and damaged and slaves to this moment in time. Even the most progressive of us can be ignorant, foolish, and have huge blindspots that we only see years later.
I know for a fact I have a TON of things I have said and done I am not proud of, but it is part of who I am and I wouldn’t have learned to be better and do better and to TRY to cling to both things had I not gotten wiser over the years.
We are sinners surrounded by people who pretend not to sin.
That doesn’t excuse the lesser parts of us, nor the lesser things we do, or believe. It just sets the table to remind us that we ALL have things in our pasts (hopefully not our present) that would cause eyebrows to raise.
We need to keep moving forward as a culture and a society.
We need to do the hard work of celebrating all of us and not just a few of us. Saying that though, we cannot erase the past and its blemishes. Nor should we. We need to look at it, at these things that cause us so much consternation now and understand and teach WHY it is no longer appropriate. There can still be beauty and value in those things but like a rose, they have thorns, and we need to navigate them and do better in how we present those things.
A book with racist overtones doesn’t lose its whole worth because of its antiquated – what a swell euphemism for racist/troubling ideas! – views but it sure as heck isn’t something we need to celebrate when we can instead focus on works that better embrace personal and cultural views.
We can’t damn Lovecraft as worthless because he was a xenophobic racist who didn’t seem to trust women (phew, a trifecta!) but instead need to see those aspects of his work, see perhaps WHY he was that way (if we want) and see if there is still value with his work outside of those aspects.
Maybe there isn’t, TO US, but someone else may find a ton of great things in there still.
Ah, there’s the thing.
We can hold people accountable for the things they say and do but we cannot decide outright that they have no right to exist. The same goes with their work and art. Its troublesome and difficult but that’s life. That ‘sinners’ can still do the work of saints.
We don’t have to celebrate these people anymore, but we shouldn’t shame everyone that wants to hold their candle.
Which gets us to one of my two points –
This isn’t about you.
YES, be mindful, be vocal, and be honest but stop acting as if everything is an affront to you and your precious pearls you are clutching. The past is messy. People are messy. EVERYTHING IS MESSY! That doesn’t mean we bury it all in a mass grave but that we examine it and see why it was that way and learn from it.
If someone digs something that is offensive to you just move on.
Stop acting as if they need to think and act like you do.
Now, if they parrot the same ideals as something ignorant and ‘wrong’ then you can try to educate them but with the understanding that they just may not be someone who your values match up with.
Welcome to modern politics, friend.
We don’t need to suffer fools, nor things we don’t like or approve of, but that doesn’t mean we have some right to erase it.
Nor does it mean we can erase people who we don’t approve of or like.
We can hold them accountable, when its our place, and remove them and or their art from our lives but if someone else still connects with that person or art then that’s their right.
STOP SHAMING THEM!
We are a culture of nosy neighbors that want to legislate every last thing everyone else is doing while assuming we’re golden.
We are the villain of someone’s story.
We are an a-hole in someone’s eyes.
We are not always right.
That’s just how it works.
That doesn’t mean we forgive and forget everything.
That doesn’t mean we ‘just get over it’.
It means we inform ourselves and act in accordance to our beliefs.
And we stay out of people’s bedrooms and relationships and workplaces and out of their drama.
We don’t need to know the drama of celebrities.
Let they and their industry work it out and if their industry doesn’t then we need to empower people who are better and wiser to take the reins.
All of this takes time.
Change takes time.
We seem to forget that as we are building our woodpiles where we want to burn everyone that offends us in some way.
This isn’t always about us.
We need to stop making about us.
And hey, if you think I am wrong, awesome.
Ignore my opinion.
That’s the glory and joy of the world.
But know that someone does the same with your opinions and views.
Nothing is ever everything.
There are villains that need to be ‘cancelled’, for sure, but more often there are troubled people and trouble opinions and troubled arts that need to be seen, discussed, learned from, and ignored, not erased.
We are all learning.
Let’s keep learning and stop screaming people down.