So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

18 April, 2008

For Want of Community Or A Bowl of Rice

BFP has written an extensive, heartfelt, and powerful piece about why she is leaving the blogworld.

Belledame has commented upon it. And reading Belle's post, I had one of those oh-shit realisation moments, and now I'm writing.

Quoting BFP here:

I wrote what I wrote in response to all those feminists who, during the Full Frontal Feminism blow up, kept insisting over and over again that if “WOC” want book deals, they should “go get it them themselves.” That publishers weren’t skimming through the blogosphere looking for just anybody who’s a good writer. That you had to work for a book deal—you had to fight for it, show a little initiative, stop complaining, just do it. JUST. DO. IT.

And she talks about the nastiness of the whole JUST. DO. IT. as it gets directed in racist ways. Go read it. Please. I can wait.

Now Belledame:

Because, see, I look at this post by bfp, and what leaps out at me is not the business about "feminism" but the emphasis on community. Specifically, 1) she's got her own, she doesn't NEED a little corner office in the big bland white edifice, no matter how generous it thinks it's being, 2) the overwhelming evidence that as much as certain people might give lip service to the idea, in fact, they were never about community at all. They were about self-aggrandizement, and that's pretty much it. And the only reason they care about, for instance, "feminism," (or gay rights--hi, Andrew Sullivan! hi! or what you will) is because they see whatever-it-is as getting in the way of their rightful ascendancy to the top. Gimme my piece of the pie, OUR piece, OUR pie, excuse me, and make it a big one. What else matters?


Here's the illusion: that you can do it.

That's the illusion I was brought up in. You, yourself, you are one of the ones who will change the world. You have the power: you're smart enough, coming from a position of enough privilege, mighty enough in and of yourself, this weight can rest upon your shoulders.

This isn't "We are the ones we are waiting for"; this is a personal, individual burden laid upon people, often when they're very young, this sense that the thing we must be is special, world-transforming, earthshattering, Important.

I don't know how much this spreads into other cultural communities, but it's fairly common as a thing mentioned by people I know, a community mostly white, mostly educated, mostly left-of-center: "But I was supposed to save the world."


You can't do it.

"Never doubt that a small group of commited citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead


But ... 'a small group of committed citizens'.

That's not you.

That's -- maybe -- you and some other people.

You can't do it on your own.


Wait, what?

You can't do it on your own.

Changing the world, saving the world, whatever you want to call it, is intrinsically a matter of community. It's not something that you do. It's something that y'all do.

"If I have seen farther than others it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." --Sir Isaac Newton

Anything we can build, anything we can do, is built over foundations laid by those who came before us. The materials we use are drawn from other people, other strengths, collaborators or contractors at the best, but also often victims of theft. The labor for assembling each new floor may be shared and joyous or compelled from the enslaved or a wide range between. But it's not something done on its own, isolated, without the support of others.

And the most fertile things, the most productive and inclined to make progress, the rich wealth of cross-pollination, comes of actual living, thriving communities, people sharing their own things, enriching their work with the relections and support of others, sharing the burdens of caretaking and the efforts of labor and the costs and trials.

The best families do this. The best neighborhoods do this. The best communities do this. People pool their strengths, divide up their weaknesses, synergise, grow.

There is no JUST DO IT, which denies the necessity of support, of roots set in fertile ground, of the ecosystem of the mind.

There is WE'LL DO IT.

And a large part of my own falling-out with feminism was in the difference between the illusion and a community, because the illusion that JUST DO IT is real breaks so easily when what's needed is the two little hands, or when what's needed is the ability to bend a little and not hold out for the lonely impossible solitudes of the illusory notion that one is fundamentally alone.


belledame222 said...


and yeah, it's exactly the "you can and SHOULD do it by YOURSELF and get all the glory for it" that's a big chunk of the problem here.

Dw3t-Hthr said...


Some people think they have to do it themselves and get crushed.

Some people think, hey, they get all the glory if they just don't mention the necessary support to get where they are.

Both are failure states of the same damn problem.

Linden Tea said...

"It's not something that you do. It's something that y'all do."

Yes! This!

Anonymous said...

This is so, so, so, so very true. Alhamdulillah. Thank you for writing this.