Measles, Global Warming, Generation X tolerance and me …
A sobering truth is that an underlying attitude of my generation, that all opinions are valid, has taken on a weird life away from what it meant when I learned this ethos. When I learned it, the idea was in recognition of the primacy of the opinions of members of the white patriarchy, versus the lack of value placed in the educated opinions and lived experience of black women and other women of color, the LGBTQ community, women in general, all black people and other people of color, of so many people. But we accepted this weird idea of fairness, and adopted things like, “if you make fun of X you have to make fun of everybody,” and other ideas.
We became too tolerant of racism, sexism, homophobia and nonsense. Our ideas of validating all points of view, arguably to help neutralize the regressive nonsense of white supremacists (like the one who left a scar in my head) ended up facilitating their ideas, because too much of our small generation remained white and patriarchal. There was a refusal to stand up to this. So, I saw a lot of people of my generation play with ideas like “ironic racism” where the tropes, symbols and language of white patriarchy were displayed “ironically” to elicit laughs and reactions. It never seemed to occur to younger people then that when you say something racist “ironically” you’re still speaking something racist into existence. So many people in our generation took it as a virtue to be friends with “all kinds of people” which meant if you were friends with Nazis AND knew a Latino person by name, you are fair minded and even tempered.
Another truth is that for a lot of reasons, I never always fit in with my peers. I can remember more than one argument that turned nasty, over these kinds of ideals, which left me realizing over and over, “these people are not your friends, they benefit from and support too many things you know are harmful.” I did meet and befriend so many wonderful people, though, who helped me learn and grow, and I hope I did the same. Not for reasons of quid pro quo, but for no reason at all other than it’s a nice way to live.
Our ideas of toppling white patriarchy didn’t go far enough, and got co-opted by the very regressive people so many of us, but not enough of us, stood against.
We tolerated so many inane ideas in the name of free speech, while so few of us understood things like the Constitutional basis of free speech, how it was used, and what it meant. Free speech, something we didn’t understand, became our banner. So, if you had a friend who thought vaccination was a government pharmaceutical conspiracy, sure, that’s fine, everyone has a right to an opinion, what harm could there be?
We’re living with the harm now.
For all of our collective intelligence, it seems to escape people that sometimes we create laws because we’re trying to prevent stupidity from harming other people. If humanity was intelligent enough as a whole species to understand why vaccines work, why herd immunity works, and the science behind it all, there would be no need for laws requiring vaccination. But we tolerated stupidity, too much, and gave exceptions, and now as our planet has passed the critical point of stupidity due to global warming, multiple cities are dealing with measles outbreaks. Measles, a deadly disease that our society had eradicated, has come back due to our collective stupidity. We’ve contributed to creating a world where all rebellion is seen as virtue, and where kindness is rebellion. We’re living in a world where there’s an actual underground movement to help teenagers who want to be vaccinated find ways to get those vaccinations.
That’s insane. It’s the plot of a 90s dystopian novel pitch that would’ve been rejected for being too outlandish.
The state of the world isn’t all on my generation. But I can see my small part, and the part of my generation, that contributed to the right now in which we’re all living. The best I can do is my best, and hope that when I see the fire in people younger, I can help kindle it, even as I do my best to join the fights.
I’d just rather live in a world where the biggest problem people have to ever worry about is, “when is the next episode of Steven Universe available?”