Tuesday, May 24, 2022

We Need To Talk About Why "We Need More Love" Isn't the Answer

Warning that semantics are going to be tricky on this one. As per usual. The word "loving others" can, in spirit, mean so many things that it becomes an almost useless tool of precise communication.

Looking at what love can and is used for as a term I think reveals some interesting points about why "we can solve the world with love" isn't going to get the job done. 

Work in progress. Potentially controversial. Hypothesis of decently high likelihood of "agree on ideas, disagree on phrasing because I'm reading the words different than you". And some aspiration of humility that I probably haven't fully figured this out and my own thoughts need adjustment and tweaks, maybe even overhaul.

This piece is a response to this social media image sharing a passage by Jeff Brown. It's not, perhaps, the best example of "love is the answer", but it's close enough and this is a topic I've wanted to explore and critique for a while. This passage triggered me enough to get a first crack at writing that critique out. See below for passage and critical thoughts about the topic an why love is not all we need.

I'm starting to feel like we need less "love", because people disagree over what expressing love looks like. And instead need more self-accountability for questioning own opinion. Hearing out the other. And skill in not accepting "agree to disagree" but instead putting the hard work of truly understanding other.

- Gay conversion therapy is often done out of love. Misguided, but actual love.

- Calls for compliant obedience are often done out of worry, rooted in love, that harm will come from non-compliance

Maybe that can be labelled "doing love wrong", but I think it's something else. I think it's genuine and real love, expressed through an arrogant insistence that self has the facts right and the object of love has the facts wrong.

Jeff Brown I feel misses this and other points quite often. I support some of his ideas but think he has it wrong other times. I won't insist that I'm right, but I often feel Jeff Brown will insist I agree with him, or else face shunning and ostracization.

Which is then justified by a false narrative that I am wholly and totally self-empowered to love myself, which denies the harsh reality of dependence on at least some interaction with others.

Today's Instance of Myth of Self-Empowerment

 Possibly a series. We'll see. Yet another popular "wisdom nugget" circulating on Facebook, and yet more analysis on why it's problematic given the positions expressed on this blog.

Caption: Words of Wisdom from Jeff Brown
Picture of book text that reads "People-pleasing is a self-protective pattern. If we keep them happy, they won't turn on us. But it comes at a terribly high price. Because in our fixation with keeping others happy, we undermine our own happiness. In our desire to placate others, we deny ourselves. Perhaps it's times for a new way: PLease others, when it truly pleases you.

Problem: Limited power to walk away + myth of self-empowerment

Don't disagree with why the people pleasing is problematic. Missing from the discussion is the fact of dependence on others/systems. We can't go live alone as hermits, so we are forced to interact with others. If we don't placate them, resources and interaction can be denied.

Does not mean to normalize placating. It means to call out people and systems who make asks for their happiness that have an impact of profound unhappiness and pain from others.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Twitter Chatter: History of Labor Conflict Reporting

Today is May 1st, known to many as International Worker's Day. As such, social media has been awash with notes about labor movements. Want to discuss and analyze the tweet below, why it means well but was phrased poorly, and explore some other odds and ends along the way.

Spoiler alert: We're taking a rabbit hole dive into 1880's journalism!


Reading that tweet as currently phrased, my semantic alarm bells immediately went off. Something didn't feel right. Maybe to you as well? Here's what I was especially hung up on:

"The New York Times called the eight-hour workday movement 'un-American.'"

How we phrase and word things matters. I would argue that, as written, this sentence implies that the New York Times itself held this view of the labor movement. That this was an official position of the paper. It reads that way to me, and I was at least somewhat skeptical on that claim and went to investigate.

Looking at the full issue of the Times from April 25, 1886, I found a half-dozen articles covering labor dispute topics. Here's a partial list of headlines...

Connecticut Labor Troubles

The Struggles of Labor

Our Un-American Citizens

Labor and Capital

Strikers Hard at Work

The third article listed is the one being referenced in Mike Dunn's tweet. It is also very clearly and obviously an editorial from an unnamed source. Before 1900, newspapers did not often distinguish between editorial and news stories, and separate editorial pages were rare.

Looking at the other articles, several of them seem fair and neutral in tone, and are inclusive of pro-labor stances and views. It's fairly clear which are meant to be proper news stories.

Near as I can tell, the Times itself was not (at least not in this issue) taking a loud and vocal stance, as an institution, against the eight-hour work week. What Dunn is in fact referencing is an unnamed editorial article.

I'm not writing this to "call out" Dunn. We all make mistakes. For me, the lesson here is yet another reminder that phrasing can lead to unintended misinterpretation. It's how misinformation and misunderstanding spreads. Especially in an era where a tweet like this is making the rounds and being viewed by thousands across various social media platforms. 

I also want to support the underlying efforts of Dunn here. I am a huge fan of any work that analyzes how narratives are framed and constructed. The editorial he's referencing is a fantastic example of rhetoric. Specifically, it could be filed under "myth of the American Dream", and there's so much to write about that. Suffice to say for now, if being American means not speaking out against oppressive working conditions, I don't want to live in that version of America. 

Before we end, have a few other notes and tidbits from my journey today reading through this issue of the Times from 1886.

At item to mention is that this post is not meant to be a blind defense of newspapers. Not newspapers from that era and not even newspapers from modern times. The articles we've been looking at today fall squarely within the era of yellow journalism. Due to market competition forces, papers resorted to using all manner of questionable tactics including jingoism, sensationalism, and self-promotion. In that climate, can see where an intensely inflammatory "hot take" article calling strikes and unions un-American might fit right in.

We also see some rather strong language being pointed the other way as well. Below is a neat snippet from that same issue making a case much more in line with modern social justice values - attacking the role of special interest lobbying in Congress.

To bring our exploration of newspaper practice to a close today, I see some parallels in questions we can ask of both historical and modern news reporting...

Who do we trust to deliver "facts"?

Who's opinions are being elevated?

What power dynamics are influencing answers to those two prior questions?