It’s Time To Cancel Cancel Culture
We are individuals living in uncertain times. In a world that feels like we have little control, we grasp for every shred of tangible power. Unfortunately, our quest to enrich and fulfill our own lives often runs foul of the well-being of others. Social responsibility is a termed need now, more than ever. And yes wearing masks in public and social distancing to stave off disease are a crucial part of our new day to day, we are left with the time now to explore even deeper responsibilities with which we as a society are entrusted. For better or for worse, responsibility is directly correlated to and heightened by one’s personal visibility; the more you are seen, the more is expected of you as a person. What happens when this person, regarded as a celebrity or influencer, makes a bad decision? Says something that is offensive or does something inappropriate? The internet has created what we have come to know as cancel culture. “Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.” Has this affected real and sustainable change over the past few years? Or has it, rather, created new problems that dwarf the original issue?
The initial intent of “cancel culture” was admirable. Holding people accountable for what they say and do is a necessary and worthwhile undertaking, especially when we consider the deep seated issues that are behind much of what we deem offensive. When underlying issues of racism, sexism, classism, and the like spring up in modern speech and action, we as a society have a responsibility to explore, reprimand, and educate. Unfortunately, cancel culture has lost that initial intent and has turned instead to a problem in and of itself. Cancel culture is often played out in social media, a largely anonymous platform that is neither policed nor regulated. This “freedom” begets hatred and ignorance that rivals the original offense, essentially fighting hate with hate. The group shaming dynamic is simply displacing power, causing a different, ill-informed entity to pass judgement and wreak havoc.
Think,too, about the word cancel. You cancel things. By “canceling” a person you have relegated him or her to a subhuman status, a thing to be cut off as you see fit. But isn’t that often what the original offensive speech did to you? Hate speech centers around an us and them, a deserving and a less-than. You are group shaming a person and casting them aside like garbage (also a thing.) Too often we move to dismiss those we vilify. But that is not holding the guilty party accountable. It is alienating them. They are learning nothing. And nothing will truly change. By canceling in this way, life becomes a dispensable commodity. Life is not a commodity. Cancel culture is simply the latest way of rewriting and allowing this notion to live on, only now it’s under the guise of being socially conscious. It is not. Socially conscious is working towards a better reality for society as a whole. This involves time, understanding, and education. As Barack Obama said “easy social media judgments don’t amount to true social activism.” It is frankly a slap in the face for those who have truly fought social injustice before and those who will come after.
Let’s take this time when we are all slowing down and in the midst of a global crisis to take a step back and use dialogue and education the next time someone takes a misstep.