Been thinking a lot lately about the distinction between sitting with your discomfort and wallowing in it, and how unfortunately the distinction between the two when viewed from the outside is that the latter is often more satisfyingly performative than the former even though it's the less healthy or productive of the two.

Distinction between "I want you to not make your discomfort my responsibility" vs "I want to see and verify your discomfort".


Which isn't a statement about motives: I think the concept that people do need to sit with their discomfort with e.g. their role in systemic oppression is a good and important one, that your responsibility is to grapple with the source of your discomfort instead of deflecting and externalizing it and making your discomfort the center of conversation. And that can be hard and, well, uncomfortable, but it's necessary and internal work to do.

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But as part of a public dynamic, grappling internally with your discomfort and the causes of it is not much of a display. And that can lead to a bad situation where the necessary internal work is...unsatisfyingly internal. And so the desire to verify you're doing the work collapses down to wanting to verify your discomfort. Which gets into some bad social territory, a paradox of needing folks to decenter themselves but then pressuring them to center their discomfort for evaluation.

This is all a few steps into the weeds, of course; the flipside of criticism of these second-order dynamics is that they in turn can be weaponized by people who refuse to do any work, and use the notions of "virtue signaling" and bad-faith performativeness to short circuit any need to take responsibility or sit with their discomfort in the first place. Cf. the overt culture war defensiveness of right-wing media about Cancel Culture, etc.

So it's a hard problem and a mess all around.

@joshmillard I think a big part of the problem is the way that social media has flattened social spaces, removed boundaries, and made everything potentially a public performance. Which coincided with the decline of face-to-face community networks and groups.

So it's harder to cultivate social networks where you can do difficult work without exposing yourself to the economy of likes and reblogs.

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