Some days it feel like conservatives simultaneously claim ownership over the idea of “values” and “morals” while criticising “the left” as overly emotional. Equally a lot of alleged progressives have let them do this, seeing values as describing something backwards and irrational rather than what it is – prioritised ethics.
There are things I believe in. They are real and provable as significant. Fighting authoritarianism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism. Improving access and social wellbeing. There is scholarship and research but under and behind all of that is the fact that I believe they matter. I believe that opposing these things is the right thing to do.
I take these issues personally. Some of them effect me or my loved ones personally; and so my emotions and experiences are a lens for understanding not a veil over the facts.
I am both a researcher and an activist, a poet and an educator, someone who tells fantasy stories and communicates science. These are not contradictory because they fit with my internal values. When you know what you stand for, it is a lot easier to decide where to go and who to stand with. Because you can ask yourself “what am I doing?” “How am I living to uphold my values?”
And you can fail, will almost certainly fail at some point, and so long as you can still ask yourself the right questions – it will be okay. Having your internal compass will help you navigate this messy complicated world, of a hundred thousand causes and problems, and try to make the best decisions with the information in front of you.
I am at my most focused and happy when I feel like I am contributing to actions which support my values. But that can also be a trap. It’s easy to start a guilt-spiral about times you got it wrong, or feeling that you are not doing enough. Are you a fake activist because you were just too tired that week to go to a protest you knew was important?
You are not responsible for ending all oppression single-handedly. There are many different ways to support your values, art, community, advice, representation, giving a platform, listening to people and what they need. You are not responsible for whole movements alone. You are most responsible for how you act to those around you.
Ultimately, you are responsible for yourself.
It is not always easy. When I was growing up it did not make you popular. Being the person who didn’t “the joke” funny or who “made trouble”. I think maybe that’s changing now. I hope so. You cannot know how even your smallest act of compassion or solidarity will effect someone else. Compassion is not always nice or soft. Sometimes it is saying no to the powerful for someone who can’t. But being kind and soft can be powerful too.
There are so many ways to be someone you can be proud of.