SHOULD WE CANCEL CANCEL CULTURE?
THE EXTINCTION OF CRITICAL THINKING
I’ve written and re-written the intro to this story almost a dozen times. Some openings were too preachy, some were too pessimistic, some were just dumb. I’d love to say that I’m some artisan who cares deeply for his craft; that every sentence must sing and dance off the page, conjure thought and provoke action—and therefore every paragraph must be written and then re-written to perfection, or as close to perfection as I’m able to muster. But it was none of that. I just don’t want to be cancelled.
It’s a touchy subject, and I don’t want to sound like a right-wing boomer; which is what immediately springs to mind when I hear someone bashing cancel culture. It’s a meme because it rings true, the most recent Republican National Convention in the US was all about cancel culture, and how it’s supposedly stifling their freedom of speech—rhetoric spouted from a podium to a live stream reaching hundreds of millions. Their boogeyman is the crazed green-haired SJW college student who will stop at nothing and cry offended until the fun, life, and joy has been sucked out of everyone and everything. This, they believe, will spell the death of society.
And hey, the crazy SJW is a meme too because it also rings true. Have you ever been stuck in a smokers’ area trapped next to one of these ketted up ultra SJW freaks? Someone so completely unhinged that they base their whole personality on being angry at shit they’ve read on Twitter? There’s insane people on both sides of the political divide, and they’re usually the loudest in the room.
And that’s the main crux of the problem. Everyone is So. Fucking. Loud. Everyone is so damn sure about their beliefs; everyone is so damn angry. Or at least, that’s what it feels like if you spend more than a minute on social media. We’re just a bunch of (mostly) hairless apes on a giant rock spinning through space who have managed to evolve to the point in which we’re able to construct these little magic rectangles that we keep with us at all times, magic rectangles with the power to instantly pull up the entirety of human knowledge—the cradle of human intelligence—right at our fingertips, and so many cunts just use that power to whine.
And yet I totally get it, there’s plenty to whine about—the vast majority of the people on this planet are locked in an endless cycle of struggle, breaking our backs and spirits for the breadcrumbs that fall from the grand dining tables of oppressive systems of government and multinational conglomerates, dining tables built off the common person’s toil. Most people are stuck working a job they tolerate on good days and despise on bad ones, we’re stuck spending most of our week commuting to these jobs on packed trains, buses, or freeways, and every time we get a second of respite and have a little scroll online, we’re bombarded with another horrible event occurring in the world.
Tensions for most of us are already high, and then you turn on the news and see another innocent person killed, another victim of sexual assault, another greedy disgusting politician getting away with shit that would put a regular person in jail. For every laughable SJW freak-out there’s a legitimate racist, paedophile, rapist, or sexist who justifiably deserves to be cancelled. So what’s the solution?
What kind of world do you want to live in? A world with equality? Peace? A world where everyone gets along, where no one goes without, a world where we all work together towards the betterment of our species, and every other species on this pale blue dot? It’s a beautiful picture; a perfect utopia. So how do we get there? Us being perfectly imperfect beings—how do we manifest this dreamscape reality? What does peace even look like on a planet of almost 8 billion people? Do you have peace in your own family?
Do you have peace within yourself?
The fear of getting cancelled is innate, it’s intertwined deep in our DNA, because 100,000 years ago, getting shunned from your tribe—getting cancelled—was a death sentence. Humans are as miraculous as we are weak; frail little flesh blobs not much use on our own, but together we are strong, and we have the remarkable ability of working together, it’s what allows us to build on the knowledge of previous generations—to stand on the shoulders of giants. We’re the only species that has the power to read—to learn from those who walked the earth hundreds and even thousands of years before us. We’re the only species that doesn’t have to start every generation from scratch—it’s a blessing and a curse.
We have been given the gift of consciousness for the grand trade-off of self-consciousness. We’re forever curious and yet forever dissatisfied. Human beings are, at our core, imperfect creatures. We lie, we cheat, we steal—but we all grow, we learn through trial and error, we make mistakes, and we learn from them. Forever fallible but forever growing.
So how do a bunch of imperfect apes even stand a chance at achieving anything close to world peace? Fuck man, all I can think of is forgiveness. When someone strays from the tribe the best thing we can do is offer open arms; a safe haven back—a route to redemption. I realise this sounds haughty and naïve, but what’s the alternative? Cast someone aside as soon as they set a foot wrong? How is that productive when we’re all bound to put a foot wrong sooner or later, such is the nature of our being.
And yet, it’s undeniable that some people are beyond redemption. It could be argued that some people are born evil. But we have courts of law to deal with the big stuff—some people just cannot be part of society—the murderers and sexual predators, we have places for those. But what about the person who makes an inappropriate joke at the pub? Are they evil? Or did they lack a loving, supportive, and educational home environment growing up? Are their words intentionally malicious, or are they ignorant? Are we to throw them in jail? Plaster their name in the public square and advocate for their sole source of income to be stripped from them purely because their opinions differ from ours? Are these people beyond redemption? Who has the right to even make that call?
In the book Paradise Lost, John Milton essentially describes evil as a force which believes its knowledge is complete. Nazis were convinced of their dogma, Stalinists threw people in the gulags for their dogma. Evil does not negotiate, evil convinces itself of its good and then kills millions in the name of that good. This kind of dogmatic thinking is insidious, and it infects people who believe themselves to be entirely rational. People become more and more convinced that they have the plan, or the course of action, that will save the world and that if everyone would just listen to them, then they would lead us to the promised land—a line of thought which easily divulges into blind belief in dangerous ideologies. And then before you know it you start thinking shit like: man, if only X type of people weren’t around then we’d have the perfect world. I used to think like that about ultra-conservative bible-nuts, but where does that thinking lead? What are we going to do? Chuck someone in a gulag just because they think marriage should be exclusively between a man and a woman—what does that make us?
Forgiveness and love are the ultimate human virtues, without them we wouldn’t have made it to this point, and casting them aside now, after we’ve come so far, can only spell doom for us as a collective. And what a shame that would be. We tamed fire, built pyramids, pranced around on the fucking moon, only to tear each other apart daily over who’s the racist of the day on Twitter. Instead of cancelling, we should strive to educate. Instead of calling out, we should endeavour to call in. Call in a lost soul, help them see the light, instead of banishing them further into the darkness. Forgiveness and love are our only hope in the long run.
Social media and the rise of call-out culture has led to a society seemingly more divided than it’s ever been. More people have a voice than ever before, but never before have people been so afraid to speak their minds—this, in turn, leads to a formation of online echo chambers, people finding virtual sub-communities which only reinforce their own dogmas and beliefs. It’s dangerous; these are the breeding grounds of mass shooters and political extremists.
So why is it so prominent? If I was to put on my tinfoil hat, I may be inclined to suggest that perhaps cancel culture and the extreme online vitriol that surrounds it is convenient for the people in power. Because maybe, if the mass populous—the vast majority of humans on this planet—stopped fighting over issues that are literally skin deep and instead cast their collective attention on the 1%, the disgustingly rich, the ‘elite’ who run these oppressive systems in which we are forced to operate in, maybe then we would all stop fighting and realise that we’re directing our anger at the wrong places. We are all collectively oppressed by the ultra-rich, the giant multinational conglomerates, the central banks; and it’s in these players’ best interests that we keep our collective attention firmly fixed on fighting each other over dumb shit while they keep raping the planet, all the while getting richer and richer.
I can take my tinfoil hat off and state with confidence that a lot of the incendiary crap you read online is fuelled by bots and trolls. It’s been proven that Russian bot accounts organised countless BLM rallies in the US in 2016 and ’17, as well as a number of pro-Trump rallies, the organisation behind these bots doesn’t care about one side or the other, its only goal is to fan the flames of division. On May 21, 2016, a ‘Stop the Islamization of Texas’ rally was held in Houston, while across the road at the very same time the ‘United Muslims of America’ gathered in counter-protest. Both rallies were organised by Russian troll accounts. And yet real Americans took the bait. Foreign powers have a vested interest in planting seeds of internal divisions just as much as our own leaders do.
An ultra-left-wing freak and an ultra-right-wing conservative loser have way the fuck more in common with each other than they do with Putin, Biden, Bezos, or Zuckerberg. If we want to talk about evil, how about we start looking at companies profiting off of literal slavery instead of directing those accusatory glances at our brothers and sisters who may hold differing views—because maybe all they need is a fucking hug. This world needs unity, it craves peace, it longs for love—and we are the only masters of its destiny.
Throughout writing this, the story of American pianist Daryl Davis has floated in the back of my mind; a black man who has single-handedly converted 200 Ku Klux Klan members since 1983. He would attend cross-burnings and just talk to people, striving to fight racism through education. For many, Daryl was the first black person they’d ever had an actual conversation with. On the piece of shit tier, KKK members are fucking up there, and yet this regular dude chose humanity in the face of revolting hate—and in turn, his humanity awoke theirs.
So, what’s the conclusion here? Look, I still have no fucking clue. I don’t have the answer. And I tend toward being wary of anyone who claims to have the answers. It’s a nuanced issue, an uncomfortable conversation. Sometimes it can be used for good—sometimes the things that we are ‘cancelling’ need to be cancelled. Society as a whole, like people, grows, and so some questionable trends and beliefs of the past must be left in the dust, and that’s a good thing; a sign of progress. But the venomous nature of online discourse as it stands is unsustainable, every day adding more fuel to the ‘us and them’ mentality which has, and will only continue to, lead to avoidable real-world conflict.
So, I guess I’m just advocating for a kinder world; a more forgiving world. Although that may sound lofty and downright naïve, I’d rather direct my energy toward attempting to pursue that goal than to dissipate into cynicism. Heaven and hell are right here, and each and every moment you have the ability to move the world closer to one or the other. Your actions matter, you are so much more powerful than you can imagine. So next time you’re on Twitter or Insta or TikTok or wherever, and you feel yourself getting mad at some bullshit you read online, maybe try and think of Daryl Davis and choose kindness, or alternatively, just imagine it’s Putin posting bait while he takes his morning shit—don’t fall for it.
Each day we have the power to choose love over hate, and shit, imagine what the world would look like if we all strived for that.