How have the people around you reacted to the #MeToo stories? I've tried to read any that have crossed my path, but it is heavy going. It's hard because of the sense of powerlessness so many of these stories convey but perhaps harder still are questions relating to how we prevent similar stories from happening in the future.
Society in the mirror
There are times when I imagine these stories as our society looking in the mirror. The reflection coming back isn't good, we are an ugly visage. So many of our issues manifest themselves in social interaction. It seems that ideally we would have family and friends to support us unflinchingly when our dignity is being attacked.
Yet many people in our society stand isolated from anything like a family and we can not ignore that families of many varieties, such as the church, have been negligent in protecting members of their clan. Perhaps this is in part why turning to social media to find support from others as a victim has provided more significant social justice results in recent times?
A surrender to social media
While the rise of social media activism has certainly led some noble causes to success, it hides a cost which must be paid. This cost is the surrender of personal agency over the recourse for the actions which have wronged us.
Instead we hand over agency to a crowd and a third party whom acts as arbiter. This third party may be a court or perhaps a disciplinary board. Against the backdrop of a torrent of social media support for the self identified victim, an entirely just verdict seems unlikely.
Balance of justice
What hope do we have of achieving any level of true social justice?
I myself am resigned to the view that we will never achieve a truly fair and unbiased society in this creation. Our governments will always be inept, our religious institutions will be hypocritical, our families won't always be there for us and we will let ourselves down.
But does that mean we should just give up and accept the current state of affairs as the way life is? Certainly not! We keep a fragile grasp on our society and the justices, or lack thereof, with our collective efforts.
I do not expect to see us achieve a state of perfect balance as we struggle to uphold liberty and justice. (That is not to say that the two are in opposition but that their interplay is complex and requires great finesse in order to operate in harmony.) But we must try and must always try to do better as without our efforts our shared fabric of society will unravel and fall to pieces.
Opportunity for change
Where then should we start? Where do you have agency to enact change?
We must start with our families, biological and/or social. Some of us may be in a position to direct other parts of society but the groups of people we spend our time with are for each of us a major part of our lives. As a part of the interactions which make up these social units you have the ability to take action, you have some agency. Use the liberty you have in your social circles to uphold justice.
A call to action
#MeToo is a call for help which has transcended the family and the clan and highlights our failings.
Many cases of sexual assault are coming to light and in many cases legal process is now, at last, being enacted to bring a level of justice. Although in this case Facebook and Twitter seem to be doing a better job at being a family than real life relations, it doesn't let us off the hook.
There are many offensive behaviours which these events will not stop unless we make the effort to ensure that these behaviours are not OK in our families and our broader society. By enacting these cultural changes we work together towards preventing, not just punishing, sexually inappropriate behaviour.
Listen to the cry of the victims, pray and take action that they may have justice and strive to enact a change in our culture to prevent these stories from being repeated in generations to come.
Sam Gillespie is a composer, programmer and PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales.Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html