By Tyler Samuels
In an ever-changing society, we see the rise of the “Social Justice Warrior” – a warrior with no face or intended goal. In my eyes, they are a social activist just for the sake of being a social activist, fighting a cause they most likely wouldn’t care about if it wasn’t put before them by the news media. I have had various experiences with these argumentative people: personal friends, online with total strangers or in public places. In general, most of them wage their fight from behind a keyboard.
The Social Justice Warrior is usually a part of Generations Y and Z. It comprises of those who try to emulate their older and wiser elders in the movement. Malcolm X, MLK Jr, Angela Davis, Lily Montagu or even Edward Said. Their heroes are social justice activists who are different from social justice warriors. A social justice activist responds to situations of injustice to restore justice to those being affected. However, their activism has not transformed into the “I am right, you are the wrong movement”. The latter attitude characterizes the social justice warrior movement, founded by my generation and those entering high school and secondary education.
My interaction with the social justice warriors has always been negative. Perhaps this is due to my moderate views on specific issues or my utter passion as a Jewish Zionist. For example, the latter seems to enrage the social justice warriors to their core. During Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas, we saw a passionate outcry of anger from those who opposed Israel’s defensive actions in Gaza during Operation Guardians of the Wall.
Some of the criticism I supported was legitimate, however the social justice warriors were the loudest voices concerning that conflict. They burdened constructive disagreement about that conflict with absurd accusations such as “ethnic cleansing” or even more disgusting terms like genocide. The definition of genocide according to the United Nations Genocide Convention is any of the following acts with the intent to destroy, in whole, or a part of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Would this correctly describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
We have even heard Israel referred to as Nazi Germany or called Nazis throughout the war. One university friend of mine passionately asked:
“Why do Jews who endured the Holocaust, commit Nazi crimes of the Palestinians?”
It has become increasingly apparent to me that not just with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but with other social justice movement such as Occupy Wall Street, that these social justice warriors lack education around these issues that they so passionately argue about. Meanwhile, in compliance with the lack of media attention to the devastation in Syria or massacres from groups like Boko Haram, I find it astounding how silent the normally outspoken social media warriors are when it comes to these atrocities. Seemingly, when they perceive injustice between Israel and the Palestinians, they are enraged but are silent in the face of Syria or Nigeria’s large-scale bloodshed against innocents.
Like many of their counterparts, they only join in when the story is famous and focused on by the international media and celebrities.
“Social justice” is a term coined by the 18th century Jesuit philosopher Father Luigi Taparelli, misused today as frequently as used. It encompassed the idea of “generally used to refer to a set of institutions which will enable people to lead a fulfilling life and be active contributors to their community”, as quoted by John Rawls in his book, “A Theory of Justice”.
So, what does the social justice warrior hope to accomplish when they swear, insult or drown out the opposing view? An example would be a friend of mine who while not supporting the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed, stated that there is no possible way to agree to free speech by banning speech that offends a particular religion.
This friend’s opinion was verbally attacked and harassed over Facebook with comments like “bitch”, “white cracker” or “you should go to a concentration camp”. These comments were from those who disagreed with her. How can those who claim to stand for social justice use such unjust means of discourse to make a point about justice? Does the end justify the means? How can their approach accomplish anything, or is their manner of dismissing differing opinions reflective of a perception of their self-righteousness?
It concerns me that this movement of social justice warriors will be the new generation fighting for change.
About the writer:
Tyler Samuels is the social media coordinator for Hasbara Fellowships Canada. Tyler has been a vocal presence in Canada’s Jewish community, speaking out against implicit antisemitism and racism from both sides of the political spectrum and within the non-Jewish world.
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