On the possible futility of writing this blogPosted: July 22, 2010
I just read a blog entry by Snarky’s Machine, entitled “Why I Could Give Two Hot Fucks About the Loss of Daria.”^ Which got me thinking: what am I doing, really doing, to make the world better? Am I like Daria, complaining but just marinating in my privilege and not being productive, or am I saying something that needs to be heard? In other words, am I using this blog space for anything even vaguely related to activism, or just selfishly spewing words out?
I didn’t like the answer I gave myself: this blog doesn’t do much. Yeah, sure, it’s valuable to have spaces to express ourselves and spaces for people who feel isolated to find some connection. But mostly what I write about is roughly the equivalent of etching LILY AND I WERE HERE on some concrete wall or piece of pavement. Maybe some anthropologist will wander by some day and see my graffiti and use it to try and understand who I was and what my society was like, but really, the blog itself isn’t all that meaningful. (You knew I was a scientist, yes? Ha, well, yeah – that really is the way my brain wanders.) Although I firmly believe that siblings deserve to be heard, especially by bureaucrats who overlook us, I’m an exceptionally well-off sibling, able to sit back and ponder my life while other people are out there living theirs. This is both a good and a very bad thing: I’m in a place where I can wave my hands and shout, “Hey, over here! You’re missing something!” to people who need to hear it. I want to believe I’m able to make my privilege work for me, even if I’m surely not doing that enough. (NB: a more comprehensive discussion of my privilege, and my and Lily’s identity politics and social situations, is forthcoming.)
And, actually? I think that’s okay. Disability activism isn’t my calling, and frankly, despite my disappointment in myself saying this, activism in general isn’t who I currently am. When I devote my energies to thinking about how to make the world better, I’m more likely to think of things that apply mostly to what I do feel is my calling: I want to help train scientists who will do good science, and communicate that effectively, and I want to be sure that every student whose life I enter comes away from the experience being science-positive and more scientifically literate. It’s not a completely unimportant job, although it’s not exactly the least privileged space to be. I want to be able to make a difference in the academy, to make sure the Ivory Tower is – and is seen as being – a little less smug, less cold, less “old white guys,” and, well, less of a tower. (We can debate the ivory part later.) I think right now it’s okay with me just be here, talking about the realities and fictions of life with Lily, just to bear witness to her existence and how it intersects with mine.
As I get older, I’m more inclined to want to be an activist. Maybe someday sooner rather than later I’ll get there.
Edited 07 Jan 2011 to add: I’ve been meaning to return to this post for a few days, because I read something that made me feel less cynical about “just” writing this blog. This post had a huge impact on me, especially this line: We object to the conversation, and we object with conversation. Changing how people think about the world is no small task, but it starts small. It starts personally.