this is what puzzles me: is there a point to social justice communities if they have always existed? what i mean is, there have always been minorities or oppressed groups of people, and they have always struggled for freedom from their oppressors. these two classes have always coexisted, historically speaking, as far as i can tell. the groups in particular change, the nature of the push for freedom changes, the nature of the meaning of freedom in these contexts changes, but essentially the conflict is the same: some people have the power to make social rules and guidelines, and other people push back against these structures of social alignment.
i hear mixed messages about this constantly: if you do not pick a side, you stand with the oppressor. but i do not understand the point of drawing these lines in the first place. and then i hear things like, happiness comes from within, true happiness can occur in any conditions if you find it within yourself to appreciate what you have, and i think about how this is in complete contradiction to this culture of oppressor/oppressed, that the entire nature of being oppressed is being unhappy, and that people who are happy will not worry about fighting against those who are oppressed.
my question then is this: if happiness comes from freedom from the oppressor, but also from within, is happiness from within freedom from the oppressor or a sort of self-guided brainwashing that allows us to convince ourselves we are happy even in the context of oppression (i.e. ignorance is bliss)?
i feel bombarded by messages on facebook, instagram, tumblr, etc etc every single day - all of these "inspirational" quotes that end up being as meaningless as those faded "inspirational" posters you find on classroom walls. we post them and share them and even talk about them but are we actually absorbing any of their meaning? do they do us any good at all? it seems to me that they serve to make us feel a false serenity for a passing moment, letting us think we have been enlightened, but true enlightenment does not come from a facebook page. it does not come from reading a blip of something potentially profound and then moving on to the next profound blip. we absorb nothing by doing this, we grow nothing at all as people by doing this.
i am struggling to find the connection but i can't help feel that these two things are related: this reliance on social justice, or freedom from the oppressor/desire for equality among people, the failure of this to ever succeed as oppressed groups just continue to be oppressed, and this habit people have of swallowing important ideas and not really digesting them. perhaps we have not attained any form of human equality because we do not yet really understand what that means. we have done the same thing with this immense concept as we do with philosophical ideas in pretty fonts on the internet: it has been reduced down to something that is very briefly aesthetically and intellectually pleasing, but lacks the consideration/contemplation on our part to give it any real substance. and so it stays in this realm of the theoretical, rather than expanding into real practice, because we cannot make it happen if we do not know what it means.
freedom looks different to everyone. equality looks different to everyone. as human beings we have a terrible habit of living in a bubble, where we surround ourselves with people who agree with us, and create barriers between ourselves and those who are in opposition to us, and never quite attach ourselves to those who straddle the line. of course we think we are right. of course we each think we are living upstanding lives, or trying to, otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. so what happens when everyone believes they are doing the right thing, and simultaneously believes that everyone outside of their bubble is doing the wrong thing? this is where conflict happens, and why it happens so often, because there is no real middle ground, and the desires of some people are often at opposition to the desires of other people. i honestly do not believe this necessarily makes either side inherently wrong, although it is extremely easy to reduce conflict in this way.
when i think about this, i have to consider the buddhist theory that human suffering comes from desire, that having desires, and those desires being in conflict with the desires of others, are inevitably what divides us. the more we want, the more unsatisfied we feel, even when our desires are fulfilled, because there is always more that is missing. i am guilty of this: getting what i want rarely actually makes me happier. it just makes me shift my focus onto something else i want, and the cycle never ends. is freedom to be found in the release of desire? are we capable, as human beings, of no longer desiring anything? if no one wanted anything, would we have anything to be conflicted about? here my brain hits a block, because it cannot fathom what it would feel like to desire nothing, to be happy with exactly what you have in any given situation and never want for more, regardless of what your context is.
which leads me back to the question posed at the beginning: if happiness comes from within, perhaps what we are meant to do is seek freedom from desire, because then it doesn't matter what happens to you, you are content with what you have, because you desire nothing.
but then, while that may be true, it seems unrealistic, especially when the playing field is rarely level. but then maybe that doesn't matter. maybe if you are free from desire entirely, it won't matter that other people continue to desire. if you are free from the desire to better your own conditions, and find peace in simply existing, whatever the context, then everyone else would look as children: constantly battling for the better toy, not realizing there is more than enough for everyone, or that there is joy found in every available option if you are willing to look for it.
what i am trying to say is that i do not see the point in social justice communities or various attempts made to restructure government systems to better protect those who feel they are oppressed by more privileged classes of people, because if it hasn't worked by now, when will it ever work? whatever small gains are made towards these supposed freedoms are merely illusions, and we all feel that in our bones as much as we try to deny it.
perhaps it is more important to be free from ourselves, from the structures and rules we use to shape our selves, than it is to focus on external power structures. if we internalize those power structures and use them to shape who we become, how can we ever hope to find peace within ourselves? as long as we continue to reflect the nature of the power structures around us in the ways we live and interact with each other, they will continue to make us miserable. this is especially true in the context of a social system driven by desire: our entire economy is literally held in place by human desire, by our want for object-oriented happiness. this is a message we hear all the time, that those shoes will make us happier, that hat will make us feel more ourselves, that trip elsewhere will define us as people who travel, and these messages of desire become so important that we internalize them as reflections of who we are, but the danger in this is that it perpetuates systems of power in so many different ways.
imagine the world if we all stopped wanting. if we wanted nothing at all. there would be no shopping malls, no television, media, hierarchical education systems. it would all crumble, because we would feel enough peace within to not need any of it. but this makes it sound like a band-aid solution and of course it is not likely. as much as i would like to give into blind optimism in the hope that some day we would be able to cast off desire entirely, i know this is not the case. our desires will always be at odds with each other, will always create conflict, because no one knows how to stop wanting things. we are trained from the day we are born to want, to feel unsatisfied, to never really have enough, to drive ourselves to become better, to make more money, to impress the people around us and anger them in doing so, resulting in our alienation. succeed, but not too much.
i am 25 and have no idea what steps to take from the position i am in now, because i feel inundated with all of these conflicting messages. happiness is financial security. happiness is a house, a car, a family, a good job. happiness is freedom from the desire for a house, a car, a family, a good job. happiness is within. happiness is love, happiness is a good relationship, happiness is travel, happiness is fighting against oppression, happiness is triumphing over your enemies, happiness is being right, happiness is getting what you want.
happiness cannot be all of these things, so which path do you take? which direction leads to a place where anxiety and depression do not rule your life? i have to ask these questions because i do not want to find myself still asking them at thirty and jumping off the roof of my parents' house because there still are no answers.
if we must live on this planet, consciously, with some element of free will, i want to do it knowing that i am making choices towards a life that has meaning for me. that i have done something worthwhile. i do not want to go blindly forward and live just because my body is alive, because it is just what you do. i want to fully utilize the consciousness that has been given to me, to find a way to make things better, for myself at least if i cannot pass it on to others.