Advocacy and Self-Pity: How to Avoid the Latter While Doing the Former

Lizzie Velasquez, a well-known anti-bullying speaker.

                As an extrovert with an expertise in communications and politics, it is a civic duty that I represent my people and my best utilities to do that include my own personal experiences and using them means telling sob stories from my personal history. In doing so, I feel less emotional about them than I’m hoping the other side does and, emotionally, I’m somewhat disingenuous since I’m fairly inoculated and numb to the power or shock value of the stories. A few people have told me to my face that I need to get over what happened to me failing to comprehend that I have, totally, done that but that also advocacy for my people is one of my jobs in politics and those stories work better than stories I don’t know and way better than the abstractions of statistics. Also, when I work on other political issues, which I do a lot, I get less attention for it so the people who have complained about my focus on those stories or issues of which I am personally affected by should understand that I worked on housing policy, environmental policy, drafted statements about refugee policy in my political jobs and activism in the previous few months alone.

                On this website, I try to avoid the sob stories and try to stay emotionally neutral and as abstractly scientific while being engaging and fun for the entertainment of my audience. It is a fairly successful blog and I believe people like my personable and balanced style of writing. Still, Youtube channels I watch that make science and history documentaries like SciShow, the PBS channels like Spacetime and Eons, and the Simon Whistler channels wouldn’t make it on major television stations because when unable to microtarget one’s audience through the algorithms of the internet, it is difficult to build a base. I get my daily news from podcasts from the BBC and NPR that wouldn’t sell on TV stations either because they market to a niche audience of people who want wonky, objective, and thorough reporting about the dry but intriguing issues of the world and the nation. I am able to be more successful here, in part, because I tag my articles and send them in a direction where receptive people will see them. That is not a great way to build or maintain a political movement since those require public support.

                I count my blessings and am constantly aware how relatively good my life is to someone in Libya, Yemen, or Somalia. Again, I listen to the BBC and NPR every day and get very good briefings on the state of the world and have done things politically that relate to the sorriest people on Earth both professionally and informally. There isn’t much I can directly or indirectly do to help those people and the little that I have been able to, I have done. If there is a malnourished paraplegic widow and mother on the outskirts of Aden, they have the full assurances that I care about them and worry about them every day. I am under no illusions that my hardships or those of people like me compare to hers or anything like hers. As far as activists and political workers go, I have a very diverse pallet of what I dive into from gay rights to racial justice to fighting global warming to advocating for gun control. The typical member of Black Lives Matter or Moms Demand Action doesn’t do stuff about disability rights or union organizing or much beyond the purview of their own cause.

                 Any type of advocacy that doesn’t involve sex, murder of attractive people, or some exceptionally juicy and saucy human-interest headline is difficult and is an uphill battle for the eyes and hearts of people who are mostly apathetic toward the world and solipsistic in their worldview. The bullying sob stories are both literally and metaphorically trying to compete with Nancy Grace for sympathy and cognizance. Insofar as I have to market tragedies, especially involving myself, I internally am cynical as to the reasons why I have to turn myself into a posterchild and desirous to find another mode of operation but knowing that media science and social psychology require that I do this and that it is a sacrifice I have to make for a cause that, if successful, could reduce human suffering and increase human welfare significantly. To the people who have accused me of being self-pitied. I’m not. They need to realize that my activism in this area is inorganic and is consciously designed out of the need to keep and get people’s interest.

                Politics is a field of the synthetic, regardless of how organic and natural it may feel in a particular episode and item of media. My desire to help and do as much good for the world as possible is heartfelt and from the soul but how I do that is largely determined by market forces in the bazaar that is human society. Does that make me lose faith in humanity? Yes. But everyone in politics has to learn that lesson. People often have very suspicious feelings toward the contrived nature of politics but anyone who has spent time in the violent weather of social climatology would come to the sad realization that people are not mostly good but cruel, petty, and easily offended and over a youthful indiscretion uncovered thirty years later, an entire career of good works can be destroyed. Entering into politics, one has an avatar and a true person on the inside of it that never comes out knowing the public has the propensity to erupt in indignation at the slightest offence. The public doesn’t want honesty or earnestness, they want the vibe of honesty and earnestness regardless of the truthfulness of that vibe. Between the false pretense of perfection and someone honest about their flaws, the public will always vote for the former which is why Ceasar will always defeat Cato.

                There are plenty of people who go into this type of advocacy and do feel sorry for themselves but there are also many, like myself, who don’t. Yet, we’re put into the position of retelling our sob stories and would rather do something else. Especially in the Zoomer generation who has the tendency to be even more offended and begin lifelong grudges over slight offences, I have to be a politician in my personal life and am not the most successful since they spread gossip like it’s Q-Anon and slight grossness turns into disgusting creepiness over the course of a handful of reprocessings through multiple people. The landmines in politics now are even worse than they used to be. The sob stories of things like disability advocacy are the unfortunate reality of a social landscape dominated by and addicted to the wettest of media gore and sexiness. For many people, they are not how we want to do this.

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