Essay, Writing

Social Networks, Catholicism, & Social Justice Community

I am, according to critics, an SJW. My friends are SJWs. Every last one of us contributes beyond the keyboard. But we’re all here too, in online communities. I don’t have any trouble finding news, or jokes, or porn, and I don’t need social networks for any of those things. I stick around for the people.

I was raised Catholic, and we tithed. Ten percent of my allowance, ten percent of my babysitting money, ten percent of my Popeye’s Fried Chicken paycheck, had to be given away to someone who “needed it more.” No matter how poor we were, my mother always gave ten percent away. Growing up, that seemed so irrational to me. We couldn’t afford school clothes, but my mom was donating her money. I hated and resented it.

Now, it’s one of my most strongly held values. The most important section of the Bible, in my family, is the story of the Widow’s Mite. In that story, the Jesus is chilling at the Temple, and watching people offer their donations. “A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents” (Mark 12: 42). The Jesus’s rich-ass buddies were all bitchy about it. They talked shit about the widow, because she was poor. The Jesus said “this poor widow put more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mark 12: 44).

I’m a socialist. I believe in the Marxist principle of “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It fits with the principle of the Widow’s Mite, that you give to whomever needs more, at any given time. I often give money I don’t really have. I’ve given a lot this year. I trust that when I am in need, someone else will do the same. So far, it’s worked that way.

A lot of people are online for fluff and jokes and bragging about lives that don’t really exist. Some of you whine about how there’s too much politics and arguing and not fun. There’s nothing wrong with being here for that. Go for it. Just don’t pretend that you can leave social inequality at the login page.

I’m relatively new to social networking, and I accidentally made some wonderful friends. I like snarking and enjoy debating. The snark is just for fun. It takes the edge off of the racism, misogyny, homophobia, classism, and ablism that I encounter daily online and in meatlife. I value the debating, because I value discourse, and also, I believe that discourse matters. I believe that over time, it has a significant role in making change. Not just online, but in the world.

Some of you may disagree, but if history is any indication, you’re simply wrong. I abhor many things about social networking. It seems to attract the lowest common denominator of rapists, racists, and misogynists. I stay because, for the first time in my life, I’ve found the sort of social justice, redistributive community that I’ve always wanted.

I don’t value people telling me I’m awesome. I don’t value blind love of my posts and I don’t want blindly loyal “friends.” I value ethical people who hold me accountable, intelligent people who can debate clearly and make me think, and people who stand up to me, rationally and thoughtfully, without relying on catch phrases and vague, political accusations.

I’ve found a real socialist community online, whether or not y’all realize it. When my back problems disabled me to the extent that I couldn’t walk, local people, whom I’d met online, offered to bring me groceries. They offered to walk my dog. Since my disability, I’ve struggled with employment. A friend with contacts in my field asked me if he could help me network. Another friend shopped my skills and credentials around to her contacts. A friend with whom I’ve barely talked messaged me to say that if I ever needed a place, and was willing to come to where she lives, I could crash on her couch. A friend with a cabin said that if I didn’t have a place to live, and was willing to come to him, I could always crash there. A friend who recently bought a condo said I can always come and stay with him. A couple who are refinishing their basement said that I’ll always have a place to stay, if I need one. When a tire on my car disintegrated. I don’t have a budget for new tires. A friend with much more important financial issues suggested that she might be able to pay for my shredded tire.

So far, I haven’t accepted any of these offers. But they mean more to me than I can explain. They make me feel safe, and loved. They let me know that I have a community of people who care. They make me wonder if maybe I could trust someone, or something. Maybe, if I do get to the point where I really need help, I could ask for it. Because for the first time in my life, I’m part of a community that regularly distributes to one another, as needed.

I was raised to always give, every extra cent I had. Not what’s left over after buying a boat, and an SUV, and a house, and private schools. We didn’t own a house, and had one car that started with a screwdriver in the ignition. But we always tithed. For the first time, online, I’ve found a community of people who give to one another as they can, and as they need.

That’s so much more important, and so much harder to find, than fun times. Yeah, not to you folks with plenty of money, who have financial privilege. But for those of us who never had money, who never passed for straight or gender normative? Your desperate struggle to hang on to your unearned privileges is not surprising. But I don’t, personally, have any compassion for you. Fun is easy to come by. Friends who will really be there for you, and a supportive, socialist community, are a hell of a lot harder to find.

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