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Looking At People Who Do Harm From A Social Justice Lens


I think it’s interesting if we look at people who do harm from a social justice lens. We could call the oppression “niceism”, the way people who do harm are oppressed and people who don’t do harm are privileged.

If you think about it, it’s absolutely standard for people to use niceist slurs. “Asshole”, “Bastard”, “Douche”. It’s so standard that I can’t really think of a non-awkward way of describing People Who Do Harm (PWDH) without recurring to slurs.

The one difference between the oppression of PWDH and other groups (queer people, people of colour, etc), is that PWDH… do harm. So you can’t argue that what they do is harmless and for that reason we shouldn’t oppress them. But I wonder if we really need not doing harm as a reason for not oppressing people.

People think that harming PWDH is a way of getting them to change. (Interestingly the harm against PWDH is considered justified and therefore not in the same category as the actions of PWDH themselves). But if you think about it, some people think harming gay people is a way of getting them to change, too. And that obviously doesn’t work.


I don’t believe that we really change anything by harming PWDH. Instead, I think we just perpetuate the cycle of violence. I do think there might be place in an enlightened society for restraining and rehabilitating PWDH, though, just as it’s not necessarily speciesist to restrain a violent animal.

So, just as you work on your subconscious racism, sexism, and queerphobia (and I do hope you’re working on them, because it’s pretty much impossible to not be a little bit racist, sexist, and queerphobic in our society), you can work on your niceism. Try changing slurs such as “asshole” to more neutral descriptions: “This person is being hurtful,” or “That was a hurtful thing to do”. I think you’ll notice how this change in perspective reduces anger and hatred in you, and prevents you from feeding back into the cycle of violence. You might, for instance, notice how calling someone an “asshole” and telling them that what they did was hurtful have rather different results.

I’m uncomfortable playing the guru here because I’ve only just started putting much energy in thinking down these avenues. I’ve thought it necessary, because as a trans person a LOT of people act hurtfully towards me (often without even realising it) and if I consider them all assholes I end up feeling like the entire world is against me. Considering them PWDH should give me the chance to lower my anger and anxiety to safe levels. If I stop retaliating against them, they will leave me much more alone, and I’ll be able to mitigate their hurt towards me better.

Obviously, as I explore this stuff more I’ll come to new insights, so perhaps in the future I can offer a more detailed and less purely theoretical article on the topic. For now, these are my intuitions and feelings on the matter.

Related

Why Violence Is Not The Answer

Fat Positivity

Speciesism, Or: How I Saved My Relationship With My Cat

Practical Exercises To Overcome Sexism

Childism


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