Friday, June 12, 2020

Trying to Build a Better World and Burnout

I have been reflecting on the fact that for much of my adult life I was driven by a vision of how the world could be a better place. It was coherent, complex, accounted for a lot of details and potential problems, and workable...up to a point.

The breaking point, as it often is, was the ability of individuals to muck it all up, and people's general inability or unwillingness to resolve conflict or to deal with people who are operating in bad faith.

Understand, I put a LOT of energy into this. My first job was working for Greenpeace. I was involved with the environmental and anti-globalism movements, feminist activism around motherhood, and Occupy. On another track, I helped start and run various Pagan organizations and events, and ran a teaching coven for ten years.

 At some point, I gave up. I still do political work, but it's mostly damage control. I'm not trying to create anything new. I'm just trying to keep it from getting worse. Which is probably why I have less energy and enthusiasm than I used to.

Don't get me wrong; I show up for certain causes, like Black Lives Matter; but they are driven by other people. I resist getting too deep into any activist group, because neither trying to adapt to an existing organization with fatal flaws, or trying to build up something from scratch only to have it blown up by someone whose ego is a stand-in for gasoline and a match, are scenarios I ever want to repeat. It's not even that I've never succeeded in building something that lasts; I have. It's that the losses are too costly.

I don't want to feel this way. It's a serious problem. But I do.

Aside from the fact that some of them are friends of friends, I find the accounts of the activists in this story entirely plausible because I've known people EXACTLY like this guy. Grandstanding, co-opting group work, leveraging charisma (including sleeping around, and it's often the men who do it) to gain positions of power, running people off who don't agree with them, ignoring what everyone agreed to because they think they know better, starting fights with the police that other people have to finish...all of it. They are quite often some flavor of bigot as well, in a "but I'm one of the good guys" whiney-ass way. Those people are incredibly destructive. They don't have to all be informants, most of them probably aren't. Some of them are super-dedicated radicals. They're destructive nonetheless.

 I have quite frequently been the thorn in that person's side, the boring-ass consensus-process bitch who insists that we actually follow the rules we all agreed on that were designed to keep the group from being cetera. I have suffered quite a bit for it too. I'm angry, and I'm tired.

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