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© 2015 mo'adore | Content and design by Morag Lee | Powered by Blogger.

How the fuck do we fight systematic oppression?

Unless you've been living under a rock (or don't have a Twitter timeline primarily made up of vegans) there's been a debate internet argument about whether it's people's individual ethical choices that are destroying the planet, or if its big evil capitalism with its filthy oil companies

It pretty much started with a study that claimed that we can save the world by giving up meat. But at the roughly same time, The Guardian posted a really good article pointing out that making people feel as though it's up to them as individuals to save the planet is actually very neo-liberal and stinks of capitalist rhetoric. Naturally, Twitter erupted. And it's still erupting because I started this post months ago and only just finished it.

Personally, I think both sides have a point. I do believe that people who are in a position to make ethical lifestyle-choices (read: mostly middle-class people) should do so. But I also believe that veganism (or recycling, or using a MoonCup, or growing your own vegetables) is not going to magically stop the planet from going up in flames when we still have oil companies drilling into the ocean floor and nuclear weapons in the Clyde.

Honestly, I think the reason so many of us focus on our own ethical living - even though, individually, we probably only make a 0.000004% difference to the earth's temperature - is because it's easier. It's more straightforward to buy a compost bin and start taking public transport than it is to dismantle a global system that has fucked us over for hundreds of years. Almost all inequality is society is caused by systematic oppression, with the destruction of the planet is no different.

I doubt any of the world's oppressive systems will be dismantled within my lifetime. Not fully, anyway. I don't know exactly how we go about it, but over the past few months I've been thinking how I can switch my activism from making positive individual choices, to actually causing a dent in the messed-up global system. Here are my ideas (which might not even work, but it's worth a try).

1. Educate yourself

Systematic oppression can only be dismantled if we can see it and understand how it works. Educating yourself on that alone takes time and conscious effort. And it's not fun. It means opening yourself up to the ways in which you've been part of the problem and actively unlearning behaviours that you didn't know where harmful.

To top it off, many of the resources that helped me re-shift my world view weren't even free (they were mostly books) however Every Feminism was a big part of my growth and is always the first place I point people in the direction of.

And remember, learning is never done. You never graduate from social justice school; it's a lifelong commitment.

2. Vote for a radical party

I'm aware that our voting system is part of the problem. We need to abolish First Past the Post, hold more referendums, have more transparency, increase the amount of unbiased media, and hand more powers back to local communities. But you should still vote and choose your vote wisely.

In the Westminster elections I vote for my second favourite party (Scottish National Party who, you know, aren't exactly radical and do have a few small-c conservatives in their ranks but they're better than most parties) rather than the party I am actually a member of (Scottish Green Party, who do believe in radical change) because, well, I'd rather keep the Tories out. And, yeah, that sucks.

But other elections with fairer voting systems do exist. Remember to always vote in your council, European and devolved parliament elections. These are a great opportunities to help get smaller but radical parties into a place of influence and power (and then work their way up: look at the SNP for inspiration).

3. Campaign for radical parties

The SNP are proof that with good campaigning and organisation you can beat First Past the Post at its own game. Even within my lifetime I witnessed Scottish independence go from a mere whisper to a loud roar, with the SNP emerging as a political powerhouse. I myself once said I would never vote for Scottish Independence even if you held a gun to my head, to someone who started walking down the street wearing a Yes badge.

One of the main reasons for this change in political discourse was because the SNP and mainstream Yes movement were organised to fuck and didn't piss about at the back of the class. The SNP are pros at knocking on people's doors, phoning people on the day of elections reminding them to vote, and using social media to their advantage. Learn from them, even if you don't vote for them.

In the 2015 UK Elections I was actively involved in campaigning for the Scottish Green Party and was at the electoral count in Glasgow. We stood a few candidates in Glasgow, but were primarily focused on our Glasgow North candidate. You know who got the most votes and actually got their 5% deposit back? Our Glasgow North candidate. Campaigning works.

If you want change, it's not enough to simply vote for a radical party and pat yourself on the back. You need to tell other people why they should vote radical too.

4. Support independent media

There is no such thing as unbias media. No, not even the BBC. In the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum Nick Robinson pulled off a little stunt where he claimed on BBC News that Alex Salmond (who I realise is problematic af right now, but this is one of the most ridiculous examples of BBC bias I have to hand) didn't answer a question - but then a video of him answering the question in full was shared by an international journalist. 

The big players in the world of UK journalism help keep the oppressive system in place (most of them work for Rupert Murdoch, or people who look like Rupert Murdoch). So if you want more variation in media voices, help independent media reach a wider audience. If you have the money to donate to some of your favourite independent content creators - please do so. If you don't have the money (and don't feel ashamed about that, because that's the system's fault) instead share some of their best content on your social media feeds.

And while we're on the topic of newspapers: stop treating media or journalism as Mickey Mouse degrees. Claiming that journalism is the kind of 'soft' job we could all do is why we're partially in this mess in the first place. If you wouldn't let someone with an accountancy degree loose on your teeth, stop allowing people who degree in chemistry loose with a newspaper column.

5. Pay creatives

Similar to the point above, but I just want to reinforce the idea that creatives should always 100% without-a-shadow-of-doubt be paid. Art isn't a lesser than a job in STEM. Plus the system fears creatives because artists/musicians/filmmakers/comedians/writers have the power to influence society's views more than many other professions. The art industry is generally a left-wing place. The powers don't like that.

And people should be paid a fair, period. No matter their job.

6. Let the people who face oppression lead the conversation

If you're close to the default member of society (male, white, heterosexual, middle-class, university-educated, able-bodied, neuro-typical, cisgendered, etc) then there's a high chance you've never felt real oppression. And that's okay: no one is asking you to apologise for your privilege or saying that's you've always had it easy.

But what you do have to do if you're in a privileged position is know when to stfu and hand the microphone over to the people who have lived experience of oppression. I'm not just talking about straight, white, men here either. White feminists who think they are a personified textbook on race issues: I'm looking at you.

I myself am a middle-class, white woman and I've been guilty of sprouting white classist feminist bile. I've been called out, and I've had to learn to hand the microphone over myself. That's why the activist content I create centres around women's rights and bisexual experiences. Because that's the only two forms of oppression I have real experience of. I show my allyship to other causes by sharing content created by people who actually fucking know how it feels to be oppressed in ways that I am not. I also donate money to issues that don't personally affect me.

7. Think outside of your own experiences

This is a mishmash of point one and six. But if you're activism centres around your own problems, then you're not going to change the world.

8. Stop volunteering for your CV

Stop with that white saviour bullshit (and I say that as someone who once did that white saviour bullshit).

If you really cared, you'd do something about the system. If you're bragging about that time you built a school in India to a potential employer then you need to go have a word with yourself. That's you benefiting from others poverty. Ick. (Again, I'm saying this as someone who once did this).

9. Think about why you make your decisions

Feminism should be about women making choices to suit them blahblahabalhagaa.

As true as that is, we don't make our choices within a bubble. We're all been subjected to societal conditioning (some more than others) and that can really make us think that we want things that we don't. Be honest with yourself: is there a big shiny thing that society tells you should want, but you feel iffy about it. Listen to that. Sit down with yourself and think about what you want (but don't go against the grain just to make a point, you do you boo).

Fuck, it was only last week I shared a long post about questioning the way I see romantic attraction. I'm still figuring shit out. But when something feels right, you feel it right in the gut.

10. Be a good person, always

I've met several Twitter activists who are jerks in their day-to-day life. I'm a firm believer that being a good, kind-hearted person who treats people with respect is a radical act. And that includes treating yourself with respect.

This can be messy. It means confronting your negative personality traits. And that can be a painful journey. But take it from someone who has gone deep into that journey: it feels incredible when you know you're better than the person you were last year and you're causing less harm in the world.

Knock out some self-help books, or even see a therapist who specialises n social justice.

11. Make ethical lifestyle choices

I might sit firmly in the "the system is the root of environmental destruction" camp, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in the power of ethical consumerism. Even though I've turned a lot of my activism towards deactivating the system, I'm still just as much of a self-righteous ethical-shopper as I've always been. I don't eat meat, I don't use slurs, I recycle, use re-usable sanitary products, buy second-hand clothes, heat my flat with green energy, and don't use animal-tested cosmetics

Not everyone can logistically and financially make ethical lifestyle choices but if you can make more ethical choices in your life, start today.

And tell your friends to, too. As one person can't save the world.

The system might hold us in place, but we also hold it up with our own actions. Stop holding it up.

So, I ask you: how do you combat systematic oppression? Because using a Mooncup alone probably isn't going to save the world. 

morag | mo adore
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