Monday, May 9, 2016

Social Justice Warriors?

Okay, we admit we’ve been out of SF&F for a while, were never BNF (or even LNF), never went to a Con(vention), and while we might admire the artistry and work that goes into cosplay, can’t help wondering, what if all that talent had gone into something just a trifle more, er, useful and productive?  Recreation is fine and healthful, but to live for it seems a bit much.  Are the code acronyms that separate the SF&F (Science Fiction & Fantasy) BNF (Big Name Fan) in-crowd from the LNF (Little Name Fan) sufficiently confusing?  Cosplay?  Don’t ask.
Not sure "warrior" and "social justice" go together. . . .
We’ll look at just one more.  We recently came across an acronym we hadn’t seen before: SJW.  We’ll even admit we thought it was something from a personals ad that wandered in from some other forum, e.g., “SJW seeks SJM for fun, frolic, and Seder” or something.  That didn’t make sense in context, though, so we googled it, and found out it means “Social Justice Warrior.”
That’s not a good thing, unfortunately.  We looked it up:
“A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will ‘get SJ points’ and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are ‘correct’ in their social circle. The SJW’s favorite activity of all is to dogpile. SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.”
Well, maybe it's not so bad, although the puppies look sad.
After that we had to look up “dogpile”: “A group of people jumping on one person and creating a tower of people while crushing the people on bottom.”  We used to call this “pigpile.”  Maybe the Swine Liberation Front got that changed.
First off, of course, we note that the implied definition of “social justice” is not consistent with the one we use in the Just Third Way or in Catholic social teaching, the source of many of the writings on social justice.  Oh, it matches the definition(s) used by a number of Catholics and others, but not the “official” definition used by the Catholic Church, the particular virtue having the common good as its object, or (to quote directly) “1943 Society ensures social justice by providing the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain their due.”
Translation: social justice involves making individual justice possible, not in making up for any lack of individual justice; social justice looks to the institutional environment within which individual justice takes place.  It is not a substitute for individual justice or charity.  As we put it in the Just Third Way glossary:
Social justice is the particular virtue whose object is the common good of all human society, rather than, as with individual justice, the individual good of any member or group.  It is one of the basic social virtues in the field of social morality. Social justice guides humans as social beings in creating and perfecting organized human interactions, or institutions. It is the principle for restoring moral balance and harmony in the social order.”
“Real” social justice involves organizing with others to correct institutions when those institutions stand in the way of people being able to take care of themselves through their own efforts and ownership.  It does not mean providing for people when they cannot take care of themselves.  That is necessary at times, but it is not social justice.  It is individual charity.  (We won’t get into the rare exception for extreme cases Leo XIII noted in § 22 of Rerum Novarum.  That’s a whole ’nother can of worms — but still isn’t social justice.)
CESJ co-founder Fr. William Ferree, S.M., Ph.D.
The “social justice” of the Social Justice Warrior appears to have very little to do with real social justice.  There is a limited role for what Social Justice Warriors think of as social justice, e.g., emergency direct aid, demonstrations, consciousness raising, and so on, but it should not be confused with actual, none-genuine-without-this-seal social justice.  As CESJ co-founder Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., explained in one of the manuscripts he left incomplete at his death in 1985 (the italics are his . . . this is from an unedited manuscript, after all),
The favorite “social technique” of our own time is the “peaceful” demonstration, especially when media coverage is likely or can be arranged. Subsidiary aspects of the demonstration are boycotts, sit-ins, organized lobbying pressures, single-issue “advocacy” and then — crossing an invisible line which is hard to define and harder still to hold — civil disobedience, violent demonstrations, and, ultimately, terrorism!
Despite the social intent of all such techniques, and their almost universal arrogation to themselves of the terms “Social Justice” or “Justice and Peace,” these techniques are all radically individualistic. There are several criteria which can be applied to test this:
1)     They are directed immediately to some specific solution already determined in the mind of the “activist”; they are never a willingness to dialogue with other and differing opinions on what the problem really is.
2)   They are always intensely concerned with the methodologies of pressure, not with those of competence in the matter in question.
3)     They all require “time out” from the day-to-day social intercourse of life, and raise the question of how many objects one can juggle at any one time without dropping some or all.
Al Capp's Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything
4)     Any “demonstration” is by definition a demand on someone else to do something. It takes for granted that whatever is wrong is the personal work of someone else, not the common agony of all; and it always knows exactly who and where the someone is.
All this can be summed up in the observation that the “social activist” as we have seen them so far, is an earnest amateur by profession.
This is not to say that such “professional amateurism” is always wrong. It is wrong as a normal methodology. If it obeys the same principals which would permit a just war, or the insurrection against an entrenched tyrant, more power to it! But it is a hopeless and hence unjust substitute for the patient and full-time organization of every aspect of life which we have seen in the necessary implementation of Social Justice and in the now defunct techniques of “Catholic Action.”
So, if Social Justice Warriors have the wrong idea of social justice, what is the right idea?  We’ll look at that tomorrow.

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