I care about social change, but don't want to sound like an angry social justice warrior

kaboompics Bulgaria.jpg

Update: I wrote this before my book went live. You can buy today over here.


As I prepare to publish my book, I have been thinking about important concerns people might have with respect to its topic: social change and community development. Specifically, I was thinking about the thoughts and questions that may stop people from buying my book.

Last time I addressed issues regarding the question “I probably won’t change the world, so why bother doing anything at all?” Today, however, I discuss an issue that I not only thought was on the minds of my potential readers, but actually also troubled me so much that it almost stopped me from writing my book:

I care deeply about social change, but don’t want to come across as an angry social justice warrior.

Emotion versus Reason

We’ve all heard about the antagonism towards social justice warriors (SJWs) and the complaints about “everyone getting triggered so quickly” these days. I think that the source of this antagonism boils down to one thing: emotion versus reason.

Warning: sweeping generalizations ahead!

Namely, SJWs are perceived as being hyper-emotional, constantly-angry, and — oh boy do I hate this word — “woke” millennials that yell at you for being racist, misogynist, oppressive to minorities, or, well, not “woke” enough. Emotion, in addition to this burning desire to call people out for their lack of progressiveness, clouds their judgment and inhibits their ability to look at things rationally. People feel like they’re walking on eggshells when around SJWs because the slightest misstep will result in an irate lecture about how backwards-thinking you are.

Sidenote: there was a fantastic interview on the Jordan Harbinger Show with social psychologist Jonathan Haidt where he talked about the insidious effects of safe spaces and trigger warnings, how they’re making our society less safe and our people less prepared for the real world, and how dangerous our current “call-out culture” is. I highly recommend the episode.

As I’m sure you already know, my book will very much be about social impact, getting involved with important social issues in your community, and taking action to create change in your community. Hence, I realized that someone thinking about buying my book might be worried that it’s just going to be another angry social justice tirade about how terrible and immoral the human race is.

Don’t worry, that’s not my style, not at all.

Sometimes I’m in the middle of an emotion and I just look at myself and realize, I’m not feeling anything. I just like acting like someone who feels something.
— Will Gardner (Season 3, Episode 1 of “The Good Wife”)

Solutions

You can avoid the label of “the angry SJW” by always remaining loyal to reason and rationality. Social change is such a delicate issue that it is absolutely crucial that you a) never let emotion cloud your judgment and b) always speak from a place of evidence and data. Consider the following guiding questions:

What does the data say?

What verifiable facts are there to support my argument?

What preexisting biases could/do I have with respect to this issue that might undermine the validity of my argument?

How did I reach this conclusion?

Like I said earlier, the anger towards this group of people is a result of too many people allowing emotion — rather than reason — to dominate their judgments and perspectives. This was a key reason I split my book into two parts: the rational part (Part 1) and the emotional part (Part 2).

Emotions can grant you strength. But you must never let them overpower you.
— Winter Schnee (from RWBY)

If you’re a person that always speaks from evidence, data, and reason — and are willing to change your mind when someone presents an argument that is supported by better evidence than yours — then it’s almost impossible to be perceived as an angry SJW. You can argue with opinions, but you can’t argue with facts. Though it might turn out that your evidence is insufficient to offer a persuasive argument, it’s impossible for someone to attack your character if you approached the discussion from a place of rationality instead of emotion.

It may occur that two may meet with exactly opposite views and yet each thinks to have reason on his side, yet reason is always true to itself and never has two faces.
— Baltasar Gracián ("The Art of Worldly Wisdom")

When I wrote my book, I did my best to shy away from the shouting, the name-calling, and the guilt-tripping and tried to stay as close as possible to well-reasoned arguments (even in Part 2). My goal is to share my story and my insights, not insult my readers with all kinds of disrespectful labels. I’m not perfect, but I tried my best.

All that being said, if you’re like me and care deeply about social change but don’t want to come across as an angry social justice warrior, I urge you to maintain an unwavering commitment to reason and evidence.

I hope my book will help you do that.

See you, Space Cowboy.