Something I’ve noticed a lot online is leftists treating other leftists terribly. I try to be nice to people online. I don’t of course always succeed. Some days I’m in a bad mood and I let it out on a random stranger whose wrong about the history of the Russian Revolution.
In my video ‘how should anarchists talk to liberals’ I argued that being nice to people online is important for actually having a worthwhile discussion and changing people’s minds. The likelihood that they’ll listen decreases in proportion to how much of a dickhead you’re being. But this isn’t the only reason.
Another reason is that existence is difficult, especially in as awful a society as ours. I don’t think my default setting in a social interaction should be to increase the difficulty of another person’s existence. This is only more true when dealing with a fellow leftist.
The reason for this is that when interacting with a fellow leftist you’re likely to be interacting with someone who cares as much as you do and experiences as much angst over the state of the world as you do.
I find that the knowledge that comes with being left wing results in a constant overwhelming sense of despair. The kind of despair that just gradually eats you alive. Each day you wake up and are confronted by a capitalist, racist, sexist, queer-phobic, authoritarian society. You walk around and see advertising everywhere. You overhear conversations between people whose ambition in life is advancing up a corporate job ladder or getting just the right t-shirt with just the right brand label.
You read the news and its just full of so much human suffering that you want to break down in tears. You want to cry not only because other humans are suffering, but also because of your own sense of powerlessness and inability to substantially decrease the amount of screams in the world.
This absolute terror only increases when you read a history book. You try to think positive and remind yourself that things aren’t as bad as they used to be. Women are no longer the legal property of men. Homosexuality is no longer a crime punishable by death. But this knowledge of progress is incredibly bitter. Bitter because you are confronted by a past in which generation after generation of fellow humans, who were as aware and sensitive as you are, went through their lives under amounts of oppression that you just can’t fathom. You had to deal with school and authoritarian teachers. A black child in the 18th century had to deal with slavery and the constant fear that they’ll be torn from their family and sold to a distant plantation.
Your knowledge of the past and present brings with it a further burden. Its not just that you’re aware of how terrible things are, you’re also able to see through illusions and lies that other people just don’t notice. You’re aware that Great Britain was never great; that the Democrat Party isn’t going to save us; that human extinction is an imminent possibility and that using renewable light bulbs and canvas bags isn’t going to stop the ice caps melting; that the racism of the police won’t be reformed away. But part of you wishes you were deluded, because the price of knowing is the inability to function.
Maybe this is just me. But I don’t think I’m alone. As a result, when I interact with another left wing person, I try to remind myself that perhaps existence is difficult enough already. I don’t need to make it worse by being a dickhead to someone and if I’m going to treat anybody right, it should be someone who shares my sense of despair and terror at living in a fundamentally hierarchical society based on domination, alienation, violence and death.