Friday, December 5, 2014

Rage, not despair

It is hard to avoid the coverage of the protests in New York surrounding the Eric Garner murder case.  A police officer choking someone to death while arresting them for a non violent crime is a tragedy in any case but the fact that the victim was black and that the officer will not be charged reinforces a terrible trend.  Last night I was hanging out with The Artist and The Steward talking about this and there was a real tone of despair there, a sense that everything is wrong and getting worse.

There is no need for despair.  It was not so long ago that the idea of a black man as president was ludicrous.  It was within living memory that black people were officially segregated on buses, in schools, and throughout their lives.  Lynch mobs murdering black people with practically no official pushback were happening only fifty years ago.  Things have gotten better.  There is every reason to think that will continue, not least because a bunch of white people in Toronto know about these incidents individually and are really upset by them.  People know more, they care more, and change is happening.  Too slowly for my tastes, but it is happening.

We need to push these changes to happen more quickly and to achieve that we need to focus our rage into action rather than fall into despair.  Changes for the better do not happen on their own; they are forced through by brave people willing to scream and shout and make a scene.  Pursuing goals of widespread societal change requires passion and that passion can be found in anger, in fury.  Anger uncontrolled can be a dangerous thing but there is much that can be done with the energy we can harness from it.

We know that the world can be improved, that it has been made better, that change is possible.  We know that injustice is on the wane and that we are trending towards a brighter future.  But we will not reach that bright future with despair, with giving in, with deciding that the problem is just too big.  There is no denying that there is a mountain of injustice in the world but it is shrinking every day, slowly giving way to billions of tiny blows.  It may seem beyond any one person's strength to affect but we can clearly see the billions of tiny chips that have been removed from it have shrunk it mightily.  We can and we will grind that mountain to dust and we will do so by getting people angry enough to take one chip off at a time.

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