It’s Time To Leave Toxic Cancel Culture In 2019
As we ease our way into the new year, furiously flicking through everyone’s year-long Instagram stories and hastily throwing back the last of the Christmas chocolate before the ‘new year, new me’ diet is officially underway, many of us will be carefully plotting ways to better ourselves at the start of a new decade.
Whether it’s a new year’s resolution to educate yourself by reading more books, or you’re determined to finally make some use out of that £30-a-month gym membership, we’re all out here trying to be the best versions of ourselves.
But, while we – and I’m talking to my fellow ‘woke’ millennials here – preach to the older generations of how we should be more tolerant and accepting of people who are different from ourselves, there’s one toxic trait we need leave in 2019: so-called ‘cancel culture’.
If you’re a Twitter user, you’ll more than likely have seen the words ‘J.K. Rowling is cancelled’ in recent weeks, and jeez, if you were around during the UK general election then the Twittersphere sure was a sorry place to be for any Tory voters.
The Urban Dictionary defines ‘cancel culture’ as:
A modern internet phenomenon where a person is ejected from influence or fame by questionable actions. It is caused by a critical mass of people who are quick to judge and slow to question. It is commonly caused by an accusation, whether that accusation has merit or not. It is a direct result of the ignorance of people caused communication technologies outpacing the growth in available knowledge of a person.
In simple terms, if anyone with any clout says or does anything deemed to be problematic by *some*, their voice is silenced and their merit is discarded. They’re essentially done, in the eyes of the public.
But, is ‘cancel culture’ really a productive mentality to be promoting in an ever progressing society? Sure, a zero tolerance to racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and any other discrimination is essential in providing a safe living space for everyone. But, much like in our judicial system, should we not be giving people the ability to learn, grow and reform from their mistakes in the social media courtroom?
Disclaimer: It’s never acceptable to discriminate against someone, the point is whether that person is willing to take the olive branch handed to them by society and use it to educate and better themselves. It is not a case of giving someone chance, after chance, after chance to do the right thing, only for them to carry on hurting people with their words and actions.
‘Cancel culture’ is a relatively new concept that is borne out of new-found ‘wokeness’ and social media, but in 2019 it became so big even former President of the United States Barack Obama weighed in on the debate.
Speaking at the Foundation Summit in Illinois, Chicago in October, Obama expressed his distaste for ‘political wokeness’. He said achieving real change was far more complicated than simply being ‘as judgemental as possible’ – a trend any social media user will have picked up on in the past 12 months.
While speaking to activist Yara Shahidi, Obama explained:
This idea of purity and that you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke — you should get over that quickly.
The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.
He then said it would be easy for him to tweet about how someone had done something wrong, and then sit back and feel good about himself.
‘That’s not activism,’ he explained. ‘That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.’
Across the pond here in the UK, there has been a lot of chatter on whether the voting age should be lowered from 18 to 16. This is a discourse largely favoured by the left, on the understanding it would drastically increase the number of votes handed to Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party, thanks to the social and environmental conscience of our young people.
However, this idea has been pushed back by various different governments over the years. In fact, I remember being an enthusiastic and eager 17-year-old A-Level politics student and being told by my lecturer we shouldn’t get the vote because we – 16 and 17-year-olds – are too keen to make snap judgements on singular aspects, rather than considering all the wider issues.
At the time, I took huge offence to this, given my keen interest in current affairs and burning desire to make the world a better place. But thanks to the invention of apps such as Timehop, which allow you look back at your old tweets, Facebook statuses, and basically every other aspect of your past that will come back to haunt you at some point (thanks again ‘cancel culture’), I’ve realised there may have been some truth in what he said. A quick flashback on my social media shows some pretty ‘unwoke’ comments and some fairly strong opinions, which I certainly don’t agree with now, at the grand old age of 24.
The point is, I was a teenager with a small following and therefore a relatively safe space to make some pretty bad judgements without being condemned for them. I’ve since grown and learned from my mistakes – a privilege taken away from many people in the public eye as part of so-called ‘cancel culture’.
If you’re in any doubt about whether people should be given second chances after being called out for their mistakes, I invite you to learn about the heart-warming tale between Briony and her dad, who arguably experienced the greatest glow-up of 2019.
At the beginning of the year, Briony uploaded a video of her dad ranting that she shouldn’t ‘demean [her]self by pigeonholing [her]self’ for identifying as bisexual. He reiterated she could sleep with who she wants, but told her ‘you’re not bisexual, you f*cking idiot’.
After the video was posted, the Twittersphere was understandably outraged, but had he been a celebrity and not just an anonymous ‘dad’, he would – without question – have been ‘cancelled’.
Briony later deleted the tweet ‘for the sake of her family’ and said, looking back, her dad was disgusted with his comments and was desperate to make amends with her.
Fast forward to this Christmas, and Briony uploaded a picture of her dad looking adoringly at her while wearing an LGBTQ+ shirt which said ‘EQUALITY’ on it.
‘Merry Christmas.’ she wrote. ‘My dad has had a glo up’.
If that isn’t the biggest advocation for allowing people to grow and learn from their mistakes, I don’t know what is.
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