Friday, February 21, 2014

The Hypocrisy of Activism

I knew it ...

The minute I heard that fighting had gotten serious and the American media coverage began more closely resembling a never-ending series of titillated gasps, I knew I would start seeing it.  Somewhere, somehow ...

And then, there it was.  A few days ago, in a flawlessly edited video suspiciously perfectly suited for social network media, a young and attractive Ukrainian girl (of course) - looking a bit too stylish and done-up for having supposedly spent weeks amongst absolute chaos - begs the viewer to "tell their story" and help them "win the freedom that is in their minds" by sharing her video everywhere.  A message at the end exhorts keyboard activists to contact their representatives to help the Ukrainian people win their freedom.  Well - that was ... manipulative.

My reaction to this latest participant in the parade of social media "activism" that seems to be such an ubiquitous facet of my own generation was nothing short of cynical disgust.  Really?  Help you win your freedom?  By doing what, my runway-model "victim?"  By getting my country to interfere in the internal affairs of yours and dictate policy to your leadership?  Last time I checked, that's not what humanitarianism is - that's called brute power-politics.  And why?  Why do we need to automatically think of you all as the good guys - and not clueless puppets whose centuries-old hatred of Moscow is being shamelessly manipulated by Western elites who are simply seeking yet another hapless nation to join the ranks of the bloated, rotting carcass that is the European Union?  Call me heartless, but those motives seem incredibly suspect, at best.

And this is by no means the first time we've seen this.  Remember "Kony 2012?"  Oh yes, there wasn't anything that was possibly ignoble about that little State Dept-funded disaster.  Or the unbelievably two-faced narrative that kept rambling on about the Syria conflict - where Al Qaeda affiliates (fresh from blowing up US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan) were being lauded as "freedom fighters" against a regime that was conveniently anti-American and (even more importantly) anti-OPEC ... until the sheer hypocrisy became even too much for our current Administration to handle.

But this is the world we've created for ourselves now - a world in which the supposed underdog is ALWAYS in the right (as long as their interests align with those in Washington - something the Venezuelans are finding out to their dismay).  And the emasculated drones of the "feminocracy" of America swallow it whole every time - at least until the media itself decides that it's gone on for too long and we all need something fresher to focus on.  But the message is always the same, though - ewww, people just wanna be free, man, and wanna all live the way they want and peace and harmony, etc., etc., etc.   Our society's dual fascination and horror of violence of any real kind makes it all the easier to manipulate, along with our inbred sense of exceptionalism.  Suddenly, with the right amount of virtual "peer pressure" via social media, every keyboard warrior sitting on their ass half a world away can fancy themselves the next Gandhi or Mandela.  You are convinced by beautiful, stylish, or hip young faces that, by clicking the "like" button on something or sharing the latest piece of tear-jerking propaganda, you've accomplished something.  That you've done your part to change the world.

The sad truth is ... you haven't.

Nope, not even close.  You're just some fool sitting at your computer deluded by a talking sock-puppet who was in the employ of far less appealing political motives.  What's even worse is that you've been suckered into a mentality that is unique to the post-modern world - the state of mind that says how you have the power to change human nature and create a "better world."  That, somehow, from the comfort of your own ridiculously sheltered and soft existence, you can actually reverse however hundreds of millennia of fallen human existence and create a world where everything is as rosy, safe, emasculated, and comfortable as your own living room ... provided you "like" this page, share this video, or sign this petition.  Then sit back and bask in your own (undeserved) sense of accomplishment, you hero!

Perhaps the greatest lie Modernity ever convinced us of is the idea that we - fallen human beings - can undo the curse of sin and evil in our world.  You see it everywhere - only you can help end gang violence/domestic abuse/war/poverty/hunger/sex trafficking/etc.  Really?  We can end those things?  In perhaps the best piece of dialogue from one of my absolute favorite films, the science-fiction masterpiece Serenity, the antagonist keeps harping idealistically about "a world without sin" while blindly committing heinous acts in this pursuit at the behest of a corrupt and hypocritical political elite too cowardly to dirty their own hands with such deeds.  At the end, the refreshingly imperfect and rougish hero, Capt Mal Reynolds, incapacitates this villain and forces him to see the horrific error of his ways, uttering the most memorable line of the film, "Let me show you a world 'without sin'"(I'm not linking a full movie - go see it yourself).  The same sentiment could be uttered to everyone who buys into the post-modern mantra of "end the violence ..."  What always happens when we believe we can undo sin?  What would our world look like - really look like - without violence?  Without conflict, strife, or battle?  Can we really comprehend just how ... dead it would all be?  St. Paul spoke of salvation as "the fight."  The Early Fathers often used martial imagery to describe the Christian Life.  Soldiers and warriors were once upheld within Christianity - because this was the Vale of Tears, and the Christian needed to be a warrior to persevere in it.  Imagine the reaction any sermon such as that would receive in your generic American parish of "St. Self-Help."

Frankly, therein lies the true hypocrisy of post-modern "activism" - the utter self-absorption of it all, thinly disguised as compassion.  People didn't share that video because they were actually doing anything to relieve the suffering of Ukrainian protesters ... they did it to feel good about themselves, to tuck themselves in at night with the delusion that they "had done something for the world."  The real tragedy of my generation is that we view heroism as something so cheaply purchased and so utterly detached from reality.  True heroism is not found in many places anymore - and it certainly never gets any mainstream attention.  If you want to see the face of true heroism, true selflessness, true sanctity, then look past all the attention-grabbing rhetoric and partisan politics-disguised as humanitarian activism and seek out that Ukrainian priest, with a cassock splattered with weeks worth of mud and filth, standing vigil between both sides and hearing confessions no matter which side of the conflict they are on.

Those are the lantern-bearers - those are the real heroes.