Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cause Shaming

RANT MODE: Engaged

You know what really infuriates the hell out of me? This exchange or something very like it, which I see almost every day on social media:

Bob: Cause X is something I really care about!

Alice: Well, that's cute. Did you know there are {starving children in Africa|people dying of cancer|homeless people in the United States|<insert cause here>}? Did you ever think about that?

Why does Alice feel the need to say that? Is she trying to shame Bob for not thinking her cause is more important? Or maybe it's Alice's way of saying, "That thing you're really passionate about? It's not as important as these other things that good people are passionate about. Therefore, you are a bad person for not acknowledging that fact each and every time you mention Cause X."

What Alice seems to think Bob should say: "Cause X is something I really care about, in spite of the fact that there are a number of more 'worthy' causes I should care about, but I don't, because I'm a horrible, thoughtless person who hates {starving children|cancer victims|the homeless|<insert cause here>}."

There is literally no need for anyone to shame other people for being passionate about something. To try to change the world for the better, in whatever way they choose. Passionate enough to donate time or money. Passionate enough to try to spread the word. Passion is not a bad thing. And if Bob feels that passion, Alice should keep her yap shut about how unworthy she finds Bob's passion. If she's that petty, then she should double her support of her Cause Y, and stop shaming Bob and others for not agreeing with her priorities.

And on top of that, Alice has no idea what other causes Bob finds important.

Now, I'm going to switch from Bob and Alice to using myself as an example. No matter what I say, here, a certain percentage of readers will assume I'm posting this because I got butt-hurt by someone disagreeing with me. That's not the case. But, sure, believe what you want. I just see it happening a lot, and it makes me furious.

I'm passionate about science, education, space exploration, NASA funding, protecting animals, keeping religion out of government, and eradicating pseudo-science (especially medical pseudo-science, such as homeopathy) through better education. But I also give to a number of charities. Charities I never talk about because although I feel passionate enough to give them my money, I don't feel like I know enough about them to talk about them on social media, or that they need another voice. The American Heart association, The American Cancer Society, The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Stupid Cancer, and Doctors Without Borders are all charities/organizations that get or have gotten money from me either yearly or monthly. I also have active accounts on Donors Choose and Kiva, and give to teachers and budding entrepreneurs in need of microloans in other countries. I also financially support NaNoWriMo, a number of YouTube channels and podcasts via Patreon, certain Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns I find worthy, and give/have given to other charitable organizations as well. If you see me mention, for instance, Big Cat Rescue on social media (this is what I mention most right now), you may be tempted to think that's my only issue for which I have passion, and that it means there is nothing left for whatever it is you deem more important than the welfare of a bunch of mistreated tigers, lions, leopards, and cougars.

You would be very, very wrong.

I'm not saying all of this to make myself out to be a paragon of virtue or anything of that sort. I'm using it as an example, because I know me and my situation better than anything I could make up on the spur of the moment.

So when someone posts something in public about some cause you don't think measures up to whatever your vision of "worthy" might be, you shouldn't just assume that single issue is the person's only passion. It just happens to be the one they feel needs their voice at the time. And sanctimonious asshats commenting about how supporting Cause X literally means that I hate Cause Y doesn't help. A bit.[1]

But do you know what does help? Giving some of your money to help those causes you are passionate about. Feel angry? Want to yell at someone? Want to punch someone in the head? Good! Shut up, open your wallet and/or set aside some volunteer time, and put your money where your mouth is. For all you know, the person you're planning on yelling at has already done so. How does yelling at them reflect on you if that's the case?

All your bitching does is stroke that little part of your brain that gets off on trying to make other people feel bad, and feeling superior to someone else.

You don't have the right to tell other people what is and is not worthy of their time, money, and attention. Keep your unwanted opinions to yourself, and let other people attempt to change the world — their perception of the world, not yours — in whatever small — or large — way they choose. And you do the same thing. The world can't help but benefit from it.

Everybody wins.

RANT MODE: Disengaged

  1. This is all part of the False Dichotomy logical fallacy. "You're either with us or against us!" "If you vote for choice, you're voting for murder!" And it is demonstrably not true. Believe it or not, I can support Cause X and Cause Y. There is no mutual exclusivity, here. And if I do have to choose, because I have a limited budget to contribute? Then that is my choice, not anyone else's.