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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.