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05 June, 2020

OT: To my white friends. A few words on #BLM.

Hi all.

We all see what's going on in the US these days, so I'll cut to the chase. This isn't going to be a lecture, do not worry, nor I'm turning this blog into a political platform.

But, I realized over the years that I've not been always part of the solution for our ongoing social issues, and I hope some of the following can help others.

This is not about where to donate or what to do or not to do to help. 

This is about how to help yourself. It is our responsibility to solve our own conflicts, and only through that, we can be good to others.

Forgive yourself. Then move forward.

This is not easy. There is a reason why we minimize social issues, why our brains are always trying to see a justification. Yes, it sucks, but... But he shouldn't have done this. But let's see how it goes. We have to hear from both sides. But, but but...

You're fighting against yourself. We are all privileged in some way, we truly are.

To be open to that means shaking your foundation. We've been given something that we didn't do anything to deserve. But we do deserve things! We are smart, we worked hard, we have our issues, we have our self-worth. We matter!

Saying the word "privilege" is an attack, no matter if it registers consciously or not, it erodes some of our self-worth. Our brains, our very own humanity, is not built to accept it.
Have you ever looked at a person on the street and felt an idea forming in your mind, that perhaps they did something to deserve it. Perhaps their situation is a result of their actions?

That's the mechanism in action. We cannot accept that we are not the masters of our lives, that we don't have control. It's scary and uncomfortable, and we are built to resist it. What meaning does life has if the biggest differences between people are left to the toss of a coin?

This is not about justifying our actions or inactions. It's not about moral judgement at all. It's about understanding how ego and feeling work, understand that they are part of humanity and for a good reason.
But also, once you truly understand it, you can move past them, not by suppressing them, but by knowing they exist for a reason, and not having them dominate your choices.

This is not about judgment, it's not about being nice either. It's a continuous self-reflection that helps us live consciously. It's not easy, it's definitely uncomfortable, and there is no victory to be had.
It is, what some might call, a practice, or a philosophy. You cannot win or lose, fail or succeed, because judgment is not part of any of this. It's about being conscious of our own humanity.

All lives matter?

That said, I want to address a couple of issues that I think stem from our egos, maybe you will agree.

The first is the phrase "all lives matter", which is always uttered by us, white people. Now, given the above, you might know where I'm going.

Why do people say this? Are they racist? What does it mean to be racist anyway? Is being fair racist now? Let's try to untangle these things.

First, you have to realize that this is an emotional response, that your brain masks with rationalization. Wait a second, hear me out, don't get defensive now. I think you can see how the phrase is at face value, quite silly.
When an acquaintance faces a loss, we say, I'm sorry for your loss. We do not say, I'm sorry for all the people that lost others in the world. Imagine being on the receiving end of a similar rebuttal. You feel strongly about something, and someone feels the need for interjecting and shifting the attention. You see the problem?

And it's a rationalization. It's obvious that "black lives matter" does not subtract from the worthiness of others, but it shines a light to a specific imbalance of power. A picture is worth a thousand words:

The "all lives matter" crowd is not about good or bad people, shades of racism. It's a natural response that we have. The feeling is human, but it is not a justification. It is our own responsibility to learn how to deal with feelings, understand what are they telling us, and act after we observed them, not driven by them.

There are bad people on both sides.

Now that we got the easy one out, this is going to be a bit more of a challenge.

How do we feel about looting? Here we have a divide, the uncomfortable line. Should I say ACAB? Can I justify riots, destruction? What do they want to achieve! Don't they realize they're undermining the message, the mission? I stand for political change, for laws being passed, the bad apples removed, this doesn't help at all!

I understand. And you're right. But, realize this is a matter of perspective. And hold on! Because I'm not going to justify anyone here, just try to look at the problem from a different angle.

The reason why we want change, actual action, push for laws, make donations, perhaps even study the problem in papers and publications, understand how's best to spend money, de-fund police and prioritize social programs and so on...
All these thoughts I understand, I grew up in a middle class, intellectual, left-wing, progressive family. I get fighting the good fight, being involved, I get socialism and welfare.

What I didn't get, until recently, is how other people didn't see the same. How is it that even if we want the same objective, some people are looting and some people are reading?

In retrospect, the answer is obvious. It's because I believe in society. And why wouldn't I? It always worked great for me.

The thing I cannot see is the perspective of someone that doesn't believe in it anymore. That is not willing to fix the social contract, it's just ok to tear it up because it never worked. I can imagine the scenarios. What if my life didn't matter much anymore? Would I be thinking of what's best for the world, or just watch it burn?

Understand that you will never fully understand. That it is not the responsibility of others to explain either, nor it justifies actions. Actions will be the perspective of history, and what in the end did or not change society.
I think that looting will probably not help, it's actually a complex effect like anything real world is, that's not the point.

The point is that we cannot escape living lives from a given perspective. It's not because we're good or bad, it is yet another limitation of being human.
If we get that, then hopefully we can understand how we feel, understand that others feel, and have less a need to justify nor judge.

Lastly, when it doubt, take responsibility. You might think "butwhatabout... X", or "yes, but...Y". And you're right. X and Y matter, it is true, it's not crazy, it's not a lie. But check if X and Y are about others, other communities, other people's behaviors, farther from you.
Then, understand that responsibility starts with us, radiates from us. Again, this does not justify or diminish X and Y. They are still true, and important. But, as a great philosopher once said "I'm starting with the man in the mirror".

As all my posts are, this is improvised, and I might revisit it in time. Stay safe. Love you all.


Anonymous said...

Fuck off with your liberal bullshit and virtue signaling. This is supposed to be a tech blog.

How easy it is to lecture everyone while making $300k in SF?!

Talk about equality and equity? Donate your $300k salary and your job to a black person!
Then bend the knee and kiss their ass and boots. Ahh? no? black life don't matter suddenly?

Disgusting. Your silicon valley liberal echo chamber is unbelievable.
Self-hating liberal white people is the new mental illness craze of modern times. You people are seriously sick and need help.

Luckily this shit only flies in the US, outside we look at you liberals with laughter and contempt. How insane privileged tech workers have become, how dare you lecture anyone from your ivy tower.

Thank god there are still countries where not everyone are crazy ultra far-left terrorist-loving progressive cunts.

Can't wait for trump to win again, your progressive mental illness is frightening.

Unknown said...

I'm sorry you feel this way, it wasn't my intent to upset you. I won't delete your comment, I will though not allow this level of discourse to continue, on any side.

Discussion is welcome, but anger is not. And this is because, this blog is supposed to be a space that I own to write stuff. It is not supposed to be anything other than my own space. If you want to unfollow it, I'll understand.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

I appreciate the support, but I don't want to further engage on this. TBH I left the comment up because it makes me chuckle in a way, but let's pay no further attention. Thanks!

Christian said...

Thanks for sharing. It was a great read and helped me out words to a lot of thoughts and feelings I've been having.

Mike Garcia said...

You are in your echo chamber bubble.

"equality" is blind, just, fare, merit, etc etc
"equity" are bad theories from groups looking for power, money and "change".. ie intersectionalist, marxist, etc, etc.

BML is political activism for "equity", and not ALL black lives matter.
"equity" is always political, because it's inherently unjust and discriminatory.

Well the major "system of oppression" in black lives.. is their own.
Their lack of family unit, employment, etc, crime, glorifying gangster culture, this is not new!

Yeah, I'm blaming the "man in the mirror", the "victim" has to "want to change", not just "change the world".

You believe in society, but willing to change it on "feelings"?
And what is change without truth???

What if this is the new progressive "normal".... grievance, hate/anger/cancel, violence, riots, destruction, looting... repeat?

The grievance groups win with "lamb's blood" taxable donations.
The dumb poor win with stolen shit.
The corporations and the rich claim insurance and get new shit.

The looser are the "working class" normal people "capitalists"!
Indiscriminate of their privilege/race/sex/age/blaahblahhblaaaah

Who needs islamic terrorism, when we have young marxist willing to self destruct from within!

DEADC0DE said...

Sorry, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

Evgeny said...

You know, there is very good quote:"If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain."

When you say that you understand socialism and welfare, you are saying that you don't know or understand history. And that's ok, you just need to educate yourself on these topics. Socialism is not about people or your rights, it's about government enslaving you. And now they use this "black lives matter" bullshit narrative to introduce even more government, more regulation , more socialism and less freedom. That's why US was never supposed to be a democracy - people don't vote for freedom, they vote for free stuff. But when it is turned against them, they have no freedom or rights to resist Big Government.

So, when you are 16 you immediately appreciate all this "free" stuff government promises you: healthcare, minimum wage etc. When you are grown-up adult you better understand how expensive "free healthcare" is and how minimum wage hurts the very people it tries to help. It's not the matter of life perspective - it simply people who educate themselves and understand why socialism and all this liberal b.s. will only make things worse and those who don't and still believe in fairy tails.

I know you read a lot, so maybe try to read something more factual than leftwing b.s. (all politicians one can see on TV in the West are left even if they call themselves for some reason "right")? Economics in One Lesson is a good book, has pretty good educational resources.

If you are worried so much about poverty, homelessness (especially among blacks), maybe try to understand real cause of this? How government and Federal Reserve artificially inflated housing bubble, so people give away >half of the salary for rent or mortgage? Not only housing, but all assets - driving wealth inequality through the roof? Why savers get on their deposits in the bank near 0 interest rates, but pay double digit rates on credit cards? All these laws (e.g. minimum wage), taxes etc. making it prohibitively expensive for businesses to hire somebody and driving unemployment up? That's the government, central banks , central planning and socialism which ruins lifes of average people. But you know of course politicians blame everything on capitalism and "racism" and propose even more government regulations which makes things even worse and then it's blamed again on free market and free people, so more regulations are needed.. you see how it's going.

But it's good that you have an opinion on things - it seems soon in the West you want be able to have your own opinion, only what political narrative says.

DEADC0DE said...

I didn't mean the very brief and passing mention of socialism and welfare to be the point of the post.

The fact that this is what you got from it, or what you want to discuss, seems odd. I don't want to make inferences, but if I had to guess I'd imagine your experience is very different than mine, which is welcome, but does not make yours the final word on the subject.

For what it's worth, when here in the US people talk of socialism they do not refer to socialist states (e.g. Cuba) but generally social democracy (e.g. Blair's party in the UK, or what's referred to as Third Way).

FWIW I do have my ideas on the role of government, and I've been living and observing the policies of multiple countries, so I hope in the years to have gained a bit more perspective on this...

But, this is not at all what I wanted to talk about, so, I will not elaborate further here.

Anonymous said...

lol at these silly billies who think this post was somehow radical... such snowflakes

also funny is conflating socialism with authoritarianism, then having the gall to call you uneducated.

commenters: y'all know that authoritarianism exists under capitalism as well right? it's all a matter of how you concentrate the monopoly on violence.

funny how people are still regurgitating slogans from the mccarthy era. the intellectual rigor of a football hooligan

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your post, thank you. I did come here for the rendering post, but was surprised and saw this and it's a good thing. Right after the 13th Amendment that free slavery, slaves did not have any proper start to build their own economy. The US started Jim Crow, segregation, lynching, Black Wall Street massacre (attacking on the success of black businesses, a history rarely taught in school), the KKK, and entered the era of mass incarceration, from Nixon, Reagan, George Bush, to Bill Clinton, all heavily armed law enforcement with in the name of crime punishment, which heavily targeted black & Latino communities. With 400 years of slavery and not legacy left in this country, with the frequent arresting of people on minor crimes, stop-and-frisk, branding several groups of POC as criminals. On arts & cultures, movies and stories for years and years predominantly feature white protagonists, superheroes, romantic leads, the idea American image. Even small things like bandages and hair products are inherently produced with more traditional white skin tones.

The fact that many Americans do not lend voices to protect innocent lives taken away (murdering police walking away with no prosecution, often under the protection of qualified immunity and the police union's huge influence). People are easily mad about properties being destroyed, because again, I think most people don't think the victim of police brutality are innocent. They look different, they must not be innocent, because those centuries of stories, media, and racist law in the US have successfully enforced and entrenched that thoughts into many Americans.

In any case, I am non-white, non-black, and not American, but I see this as a human rights issue the US is infringing upon. So thank you for at least sharing a post like this, so that not all engineers are so disconnected with oppression.

Bo said...

What Anonymous said. This is a cool post. From a Canadian white dude, it's so easy to ignore these issues.
I've been through and noticed all those feelings/impulses to rationalize you're talking about.
And it makes me think about all the rest. The fight from women that is far from over yet. How we treat immigrants in general. And how we treat First Nations.
Not trying to go in 'all lives matter' mode, just using it as springboard to other similar issues. To take your example, less like 'all losses suck' and more like 'damned cancer!!'

ninesigns said...

“Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

“If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.”

― Thomas Sowell

Anonymous said...

"[...] We cannot accept that we are not the masters of our lives, that we don't have control. It's scary and uncomfortable, and we are built to resist it. What meaning does life has if the biggest differences between people are left to the toss of a coin? [...]"

Not quite that simple. We have limited control over our lives and fate. That is obvious. But we have some control over the lives of our children. We work our asses off to provide them education, possibilities and decent start. Some of us got the very same benefits from our parents, grandparents, ancestors...
Is it a privilege? Hell yes. It is. But is it fair?

Can we decline that heritage without letting down our parents? I don't think so.
Can we erase the fact our parents were working hard to provide us with everything we received? No.
Should we feel guilty for receiving help from parents? Really?

We can and we have to give back. We need to take care about our children and help those, who have no one to give them a hand. But helping means removing obstacles (like scholarship funding). But not setting new obstacles for those who were privileged by their parents hard work. We cannot betray those, who spent their lives for the better future of their children by flattening their effort with those, who didn't give a shit about it.