31 January, 2015

don’t be an accelerant | Fredrik deBoer

don’t be an accelerant | Fredrik deBoer: As I have gotten older, I have grown more and more convinced that the most important element of politics is stakes. Stakes. Skin in the game. And the accelerants demonstrates how a difference in stakes can render the most ardent allies into a part of the problem. For the urge to simply intensify every conflict demonstrates an indifference to political progress that can only emerge from privilege, from a lack of stakes. Why not throw gas on every fire, when you know you’re never going to get burned? Chait discusses the way in which burnout develops from these kinds of conflicts, the way people end up giving up out of exhaustion. And, indeed, I have observed in my life some of the more vituperative political voices I know grow jaded by the nastiness they themselves have helped create. But this is where stakes comes in most directly: because these people are white and educated and financially comfortable, they could withdraw from politics in a way that people of color and the working class simply can’t. A woman of color activist can cease to take part in activism, but the reality of racism and sexism will follow her wherever she goes. This is what I mean by stakes, the difference whether politics is a choice or an enforced condition. And it’s what I find most cynical about the accelerants; they have the luxury of engaging with maximum anger and ugliness, and then withdrawing when they run out of steam. For them, and for me, withdrawal is possible, and so the urge to engage in a vicious way comes without as many consequences. No such release valve really exists for the activists of color in whose name the accelerants trash others. This is what we mean when we talk about privilege.