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Let's Be Cautious But Not Fearful

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We as a species are much too cautious.

We’re too afraid of change, of those different from us, of trying new experiences. It’s a byproduct of our evolution, rather than fear, as some claim it is. We’re naturally terrified of things that confuse us. I don’t hold it against anyone; on the contrary, I accept it, and (to some extent) welcome it.

But evolution by definition means to change, to adapt, to leave the old in the past and keep pushing forward, to alter ourselves and grow.

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We cannot afford to use “it’s just how we are” as an excuse anymore. It may have worked wonders for the human race in the past, but it’s critical that we allow ourselves to be open to new territories as we plough forward with our development.

This isn’t some scary liberal conspiracy I’m promoting, despite how it may sound. If it is, then I’m sorry you feel that way. May we leave you in the past as nothing more than a stain on our past. This is how it has to be, and I apologize if you can’t see it that way.

Indeed, when I hear the tired excuse of “I was raised that way,” I can’t help but think, “So what?” So what if you were raised to hate the underprivileged, the marginalized, the just-plain-old weird and different among us? Should I have to abide by that? Should I have to sit idly by as so many among us suffer and die for the old institutions?

I won’t. Real activism doesn’t have to be marching, it can be as simple as standing up to anyone who doesn’t question the status quo. And, as such, just discussing those who get no attention or humanizing by the mainstream press – being reduced to a simple sensational headline or reality TV freak show about their body parts – effectively functions as political action.

I know plenty of people who just sit on the sidelines as their friends fill their days with pain and suicidal desire. This is a sick world, and we could all afford a little humanity.

It starts with us. Any of us who can erode the culture of fear as much as possible.

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But we have to be realistic in how we go about achieving this more utopian state. As far as how I see it (and I’m perhaps a bit more cynical than others), we’ll never achieve this heightened state of social and human existence. But certainly there’s no shame in trying, and it can’t hurt to make the effort. If it brings us closer, what’s the harm in going for it?

I’m lucky in that I have the privilege to try. I am somewhat more well-off than a few of the people I know. Even my mental health issues afford me an ability to challenge terrible people on the Internet and in “real life” (let’s admit it, the idea of the Internet not being somehow “real” is bullshit). So I go for it.

At the same time, I don’t have many privileges I see so many either abusing or not taking advantage of. The concept of “white privilege” is fraught with misconceptions – the major one being that it’s inherently “bad.”

In my view, these privileges should (to an extent, for the record) be viewed as neutral. It’s what a person does with them that determines whether they are good or bad.

If a person uses their privilege to undermine those of a lesser socio-economic status, then they’re bad.

If they use them to discuss and/or rally for the person who doesn’t have them, then good. This is obviously the optimum outcome.

If absolutely nothing is done, then we’ve arrived at a neutral position – and neutral often is bad.

But, regardless, these are just things. They’re up to the owner to decide what to do with them.

So if you’re someone with socio-economic privilege – or even just economic privilege, keep in mind economic privilege is the prevailing privilege in society – use it to tear down, to dismantle the status quo. We need it now more than ever. With fascism on the rise around the world, more are suffering than have in years past.

We need to be cautious in how we do this, though. I differ from many of my fellow leftists in my belief that going to quickly and cutting too hard against the natural fear of others will lead to an increase in fascist thought.

Now, of course, neo-Nazis and such types won’t take a second to think before murdering anyone they don’t like. I’m not saying to care about what they think or to care about their feelings. As has been said, a good fascist is a dead fascist. But one can only post about throwing bricks and breaking skulls so long as they’re willing to put that talk into action. So perhaps how we debate needs some overhaul.

That said, we as a species – if we’re expected to survive – need to be more open to change, and standing up to those who aren’t (and, thus, hold us back and keep us from moving forward).

This says nothing of our issues with climate change, but this is a separate discussion. And yet, it isn’t: these same folks often don’t agree with climate change science.

But oh well, let’s tackle that in a separate piece. Someday. Maybe.

By Stephanie Knar

Stephanie Knarr recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA from the Harrisburg, PA area. Her writing appears in Harrisburg's local magazine, The Burg, and her work will soon appear in Unwinnable and Five:2:One. Her favourite drink is RC Cola, and her favourite band is probably Animal Collective.

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