OUTRAGE!!! IT'S NOT HELPING!! NOPE!! DON'T COMMENT BELOW!! DON'T EVEN READ!
Outrage has two parts - there is the incitement, and then there is the bite. There is one who casts the line, and one who takes the bait. And once that fish takes the bait, it doesn’t stop there. The fish pulls on the fisherman’s reel, back and forth and back and forth they go. Resistance vs. resistance - a polar opposition. Meanwhile, at no time during this long and arduous fishing battle does either party acknowledge that the sea around them is rising and warming at an alarming rate.
Our outrage is becoming a cyclical distraction from the real issues that underlay them.
So, the Amazon is burning. Wildly. Remember that? That enormous surge all over social media. Thoughts, tears, prayers, & OUTRAGE!!!
OMG THE AMAZON PRAY FOR THE AMAZON!!
…so now what? Information about what caused this? Resources to offer aid? A history of wildfires in the South America? Will be be able to breathe by 2020?….Bueller?
BUT OMG these burning trees 😭 😭 🌳 🌲 😭 NATURE’S LUNGS ARE ON FIRE #AMAZON
Just more outrage (and the most incredible marketing strategy Jeff Bezos could have never come up with). Naturally, most of these were posted on quickly expiring Instagram Stories. This is the digital version of passing out a flyer to someone walking on the street. In the words of Mitch Hedberg:
Literally thrown away, in 24 hours. Until the next outrage. Oh wait..
NOTRE DAME BURNED DOWN AND WE RAISED 40 TRILLION DOLLARS FOR A NEW ROOF. EVEN THOUGH I DONATED…COME ON GUYS! AHH!! #CONFLICTED
This goes far beyond raising money. Wildfires are an annual occurrences in the Amazon and it has gotten worse due to climate negligence elsewhere the world. Slash and burn agriculture has been out of control for decatdes in Brazil and their government has chosen to prioritize short term economics over long term damages. What a surprise. The three previous Presidents of Brazil have all either been convicted for, or involved in, corruption scandals, and their current president Jair Bolsonaro is an incredibly toxic strongman and autocrat, continuing practices that supplant environmental responsibility with.…I’m sorry, have I lost you?
But this is not about Brazil. Though to explore the true issues facing Brazil and the Amazon and actual next steps you could take, Rebecca Cole lays it out wonderfully and thoroughly in this article. Read it.
Cole writes, “Awareness is important, but it is also passive.” Awareness is important, and in many cases is a critical point of beginning. Recent internet and media blackouts in Sudan and Kashmir desperately needed our awareness and outrage. But for some reason, we weren’t outraged enough. The people of Hong Kong have been incredibly outraged and have been relentless in their subsequent actions because of it; at one point, 2 of 7.2 million people were out on the streets marching. That’s 28% of the country. Protesting. Fighting. And for some, dying.
Now, we can’t speak about outrage without mentioning the elephant sized baby blimp in the room.
If you are still outraged by things coming from this White House, then you have not been paying attention. Sexual assault, self-destructive foreign policy, inadequacy, racism, general nonsense, and so much more - if these examples continue to outrage you then you are neglecting the present time that we live in. If you were truly paying attention, the fires in the Amazon shouldn't be much of a surprise. If that were the case, maybe the emotion of outrage could be transmuted into something more impactful. And that there is the true problem, that is the issue at hand. This is not about wildfires. This is not about money. This is not to about judging the value of social media. This is about how comfortable and satisfying a playground of outrage has become to us all. President Trump is a master at tossing the fishing line and we all grab the bait. He doesn’t need Russian troll farms on Facebook - he has you. Facebook debates are often only set up to garner support or trounce resistance. In that process, our outraged divisiveness is spreading much faster than the fires in the Amazon.
But let me be clear - it is critical to observe that racism in the White House does not fall in line with the tenants of this country or basic morality. Absolutely not. But how many more news segments can begin with “WAS WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID RACIST?!?!?!?!?!!?” The fact that that question is even asked should give us all the answers we need. We can't expect yes or no questions to offer any insight. We can't allow the success of 'activism' to be contingent upon likes and reviews. (Side note, racism in the White House is not something new. Even with the tiniest peek into US Presidential history, the fact that we’ve had some non-racist presidents is quite impressive).
And I get it. I'm a part of it. We’re all overwhelmed. We’re all overworked and underpaid and under-loved. Outrage is palpable, it's validating. Even when there’s resistance to it - especially when there’s resistance to it - it emboldens our need to stand strong. To yell. To resist. And it feels good. Even at the beginning of this post, I purposely used some loud and annoyed outrage to either ignite agreeability (which keeps people reading), or, to fire up some resistance and disagreement (which also keeps people reading). Either way, we’ve become more about the need to retain attention on ourselves, rather than the issues at hand. We should be outraged and we should be angry, but only as a precursor to real action. “This is not okay” is nice to say, but things don’t get better because we’ve aknowledged that they’re not okay. That's contextual. Things are just the way that they are. Our outrage distracts us and those around us from facing what is truly going on and what needs to be done
It’s going to be a very, very important 14 months ahead. If there’s ever a time to read more, investigate more, engage more, and react less - that time is now. We need proactivity, we need communal support and leadership - all these posts need to mean something. If not, then this whole thing is just going to keep on burning.
Dakota Lupo is a filmmaker, writer, teacher, and activist. He uses storytelling to bridge the gap between people, issues, organizations, and policy. He works with a wide variety of partners in narrative and documentary film, television, and digital media. He builds impact platforms and joint initiatives alongside some of the world’s leading humanitarian and human rights organizations. He is a decade long yoga instructor as well as one of the best hand models in the game.