Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

Not Quite a Dissent: On Solidarity [Guest Post, Response]

A friend and classmate offers the following anonymous guest post in response to yesterday's post on (empty) declarations of solidarity. Their post follows with no edits by me.

The internet is a great and terrible thing. I say this often. We are inundated with a dramatically larger \(N\) of events to process and, thanks to social media, a larger audience to say it to.

I don't claim that the UC does a good thing by spouting largely empty declarations of support. I agree that it's trivializing, condescending, and mostly devoid of meaning, particularly when we seem to stand in solidarity with every cause that comes our way to demonstrate that we are caring, compassionate, and informed citizens of this world. I remember back in April when the #bringbackourgirls hashtag in support of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls exploded on Twitter--for two days. We offer our solidarity when it is easy, convenient, and painless, and move on with our lives.

All the same, I think there is something valuable in the exercise of directing attention to events, causes, and ideas that otherwise would have slipped our notice. How many of us would have noticed, much less bothered to care for 30 seconds or 5 minutes, the shootings at UNC had they not blown up our social media newsfeeds? Maybe I am being cynical and underestimating my peers when I say probably very few. We notice because someone tells us to; we forget when the next new thing crowds for our attention.

So in some senses, sure. The UC does not stand in solidarity, the UC does not think carefully about what it means to be a Muslim in the United States or a post 9/11 word, and the UC does not speak on behalf of the student body in proclaiming an overwhelming outpouring of support. But is there not something to be said for the fact that they are acknowledging that this is something we should look at and discuss and care about? That, in between discussions of grant funding and nap spaces and whatever else the UC does, they claim we should at least pause in our own lives and acknowledge that a tragedy has occurred?

It is too easy and too cheap to voice that acknowledgement to the world these days, and I for one am a believer in a quieter, more private reflection. But the UC also claims to be a democratically elected representation of the undergraduate population, and for them to publicly and boldly claim solidarity, I'd like to think, is not a net negative thing. No, they do not understand. But in their considerations of language and passing of resolutions and doing the easy thing of jumping on the bandwagon of support, at least they are acknowledging that this event occurred, and I think that's better than not having acknowledged it at all.

We live in a world in which information comes too quickly and talk is too cheap, but I'm not sure that's so much worse than a world in which information comes too slowly and the ability to reach an audience much more limited. It remains a signal, though one diminishing (or devoid of) in power, for the Crimson editorial and Harvard Undergraduate Council to state an opinion, and maybe it is the case that we now live in a world in which these empty expressions of support are always too cheap and too easy. The world is a click away, and perhaps we don't think carefully enough about what we say to the world anymore. But at least we have the largely-unprecedented capacity to do so, and I think that's worth recognizing.