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Sunny Jong
Noodle Expert Member

April 21, 2020

Political discourse on issues like social justice can be a valuable hotbed of deeply probing, philosophical discussions of discovery. Here's why you probably shouldn't engage in it (yet).

No matter where you are and which institution you attend, there’s a chance that there’s a sub community of student activists who rally and parade around campus, unanimously reciting incantations of social justice whilst holding signs and the like. While these behaviors are born from a spirit of well-intended values we are taught to embrace and socialized to accept, sometimes, this type of activism may actually be harmful in ways that aren’t so visible to people - politically involved or not. Particularly for college students who generally lack the pedigree to organize conducive dialogue about real world issues, the problem at hand isn’t just that they’re probing aggregate ideas for which they might not understand the repercussions of - it’s that most of the time, the types of interactions that their campus activism spawns achieves precisely the opposite of what they purport to fight for: productivity, constructivism, acceptance, and understanding.

Part of the issue is that American politics is so unconscionably divisive. In the U.S., politics is such a bimodal system that even those uninvolved in the scene can be stratified onto the left or right side of its issues. Unfortunately, social justice is no longer an exception. In theory, if you're a self-determined liberal, you must support the pro-choice movement, vie for proposals like the Green New Deal, and think that Fox News is a propaganda machine of sorts; on the other hand, if you’re a self-identified conservative, by virtue of selective peer review, you might think that transgender issues are a dead-end conversation that dries up under the exculpatory light of biology, and draw ideological validation from the scientific community like Christians do from the gospel. 

To many constituents of these two schools of opinion, that's a hyperbolic representation of their beliefs. Yet, there persists to be appalling instances exemplifying these interactions that occasionally circulate on media outlets in warrantable sensationalism (see most recent incident). The danger here is that when unexposed thinkers (college students) who don’t have the credentials from academia or much real-world experience try to engage in this type of discourse, it’s incredibly difficult for them to break out of the ideological framework that orators of their political allegiance have already laid out for them. In essence, it becomes too easy to regurgitate the talking points of political pundits that they’re exposed to. Chanting humanist tag lines or staking your beliefs in your ability to memorize and rattle off statistics might sound and look like activism, but the only result is an unintelligible cacophony of noise that tries unsuccessfully to drown itself out.

Both ends of the political spectrum are vulnerable to the same flaws, especially on college campuses wherein intellectual elitism makes its first point of contact. Perhaps it’s because there’s something to be proud of in possessing even a paucity of esoteric knowledge. It’s certainly because there’s something darkly pleasing about “winning" debates while being sardonically on the nose about it. Whatever the motivation, both sides of advocacy face the pitfall of becoming hyper-committed to their own doctrines. This is only exacerbated by the media, or even worse, the occasional on-campus public speaking events that college students are exposed to.

What happens in these outlets of information is that university students absorb the opinions of these speakers who, after penetrating the students' first mental line of defense with logically-sound reasoning, proceed to rail them with rashes of political opinions and cherry-picked evidence to ultimately drive them to the same conclusions as they. What these students don't realize, however, is the pseudo intellectual propaganda that they subject themselves to in ways that reinforce their latent prejudices. It's not necessarily a conscious thing, per se, given that the very concept of being open-minded has become the fundamental tenet of social justice progressivism. It is, however, a medium through which many students build upon their worldview in ways that aren't necessarily easy to notice the detriments of. After all, it certainly is easier to think that empiric data on the wage gap exemplifies institutionalized sexism, or that a (wo)man will always be a (wo)man despite the behests of cultural nomenclature.

People who come out of the dens of these popular thinks consequently have their prior ideological vacancies eroded. More often than not, the dialogue they initiate becomes reappropriated to clashes of familiar talking points, wherein moral capital is placed in being "right," or on the "victor" of conversations rather than on the interpretive clarity and educational value that can instead be achieved. It’s a shame, and it’s difficult to realize that it is because cogent arguments put forth by articulate people are too attractive to justify doing research on and employing the necessary structural analysis to. So, we sometimes let these people do the arguing for us.

It’s absolutely important for us as students to practice activism so that we will be more familiar with the process of instilling change the right way when the time comes to engage with that responsibility. Unfortunately, this process isn’t just as simple as putting oneself out there with a sign or amidst a mob, or equipping oneself with quotes from offhand studies. We must also remember to be vigilant of the types of influences that we are submitting ourselves to in this process, and to do a sufficient amount of bipartisan research. Ultimately, no one has the time in his entire life to be informed to the best of human knowledge about something to warrant being immovable in worldview, and in theory, even if s/he had, that still wouldn't be sufficient justification; nobody knows what there still is to know, and we should maintain an open mind on the things that we want to change in taking steps forth on our journey to make a better world.

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