Sometimes people don’t intend to be mean or do things that are not politically, ethically or environmentally correct, they just don’t know better. Those of us who do know better would be more helpful if we could explain our point of view and listen to theirs.
Over the past two days, I’ve witnessed two friends reacting passionately and somewhat negatively, to people who were doing things in contravention to social justice standards. Their blood boils, their tempers flare, they lash out and want to seek the justice they believe the situations warrant.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for social justice. I am also aware there are issues in social justice that I’m still ignorant to. Heaven knows I’ve learned a lot about it over the past 20 years and I am far from being the bigot I was then but I’m sure there are still things I don’t know about that are on other people’s social justice radar.
Those of us who are passionate are on the cutting edge of creating a new, and more compassionate world, where acceptance is the norm and respect is restored in a manner which is not threatening. Our grandparents demanded respect with an iron hand. This new world assumes respect and honours the differences in our society.
There is a bible passage which I refer to sometimes to remind myself not to be so critical. (My Bible is packed away and I can’t find the reference.) Roughly, it says, “When you go in to rescue your brother from sin, be sure you don’t fall into the same sin.”
I’m not sure what the theologians say about that verse but to me it means if you are going to tell someone not to do something because it is bad, be careful that you don’t something bad while telling them. When people spout on issues which fly in the face of social justice they are usually angry or passionate and most likely ignorant. When we fly off the handle at them for their ignorance we fall into the same category of intolerance and ignorance they portray.
Let me give you a simple example I experienced a few years ago. I was all on my new bandwagon about not drinking bottled water. People in the know understand things like: while producing of one bottle of water they use ten gallons of water, the water is usually being taken from the taps and put in bottles with no special processes beyond a simple taste filter, and the unbridled use of bottled water is depleting the fresh water sources at an alarming rate. There is more but I’ll spare you and get the point.
Someone I cared about was insistent on buying bottled water and I had purchased a couple of carcinogen-free, refillable, water bottles for him to use rather than wasting this precious resource. He tried to use them but his frustration became quite obvious. I didn’t understand what his issue was.
It turned out this person is a recovering alcoholic and every day for years he had gone to the same fridge he now liked to keep water in, to get a beer. Getting the water rather than a beer was supportive of his sobriety.
Needless to say, I never said another word about the purchase of bottled water. My ignorance to his need had been the issue.
Yes, I still promote the use of tap water instead of bottled when it makes sense but I learned a lesson about not jumping on people with my passion before I heard their story.
Please continue to be passionate about social justice and ecological issues. When you bristle at the misuse of a term or are angry with someone’s apparent prejudice talk to them about it in the manner which you would want to be spoken to about something you don’t understand.
Yes, another annoying Bible verse from Luke 6:31. It says, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
(Just for the record, similar sentiments can be found in the writings of most religions including the Koran).