Working in a virtual format has freed up a lot more of my time to read and reflect. It has also influenced how much time I spend on-line. One thing I have noticed is the emergence of the “cancel culture.” According to Kimberly Foster, “Cancel culture can include everything from people with the most money and privilege in our society getting push back for saying things others found distasteful to regular everyday people losing their jobs for relatively minor infractions.” It is another way to say no by refusing business, endorsement, or any other association with people that they disagree with.
Canceling, often used on social media, has grown into a way to call on others to reject a person or a business. This happens when the target breaks from social norms. For example, making racist or sexist comments. It can also happen when people express personal opinions on politics and other controversial subjects.
Cancel culture is not a new phenomenon. American Family Radio typically calls on its membership to boycott businesses that do not represent the organizations metric of moral values. The hope behind these actions is to influence a change of behavior by creating a negative impact on the bottom line or in worst cases a personal reputation.
Other forms of “cancel culture” are refusing business, swapping churches, practicing social-media distancing, or choosing the path of gossip and slander.
It is hard to argue that “cancel-culture” does not impact public debate. These actions of protest often spark a public conversation about important issues. Increased conversation and public debate about issues often move society beyond cathartic moments and influence substantive change. The positive impact of “saying no” and withdrawing from those we disagree with is influencing some level of change but at what cost.
The message of “cancel culture” suggests that I only should engage with people who think like I do. This flawed message will leave a long-term impact on future generations. Current cultural issues continue to go unsolved when we chose to dig in deep to support our position. Dialogue and compromise are sacrificed on the altar of religious and political affiliation. Future generations are learning that agreement on every issue is the qualifying metric of true friendship.
One of the impacts of a hyper-partisan environment is that we have lost our ability to disagree with one another and still maintain a level of mutual respect. Despite being well-intended cancel-culture seems to be fueling this divide. In an election season, the partisan divide is even more evident.
These micro-actions can also leave the protestor with feelings of empowerment and accomplishment. Saying “NO!” is empowering and as one who has participated in these types of actions, it is often cathartic. Saying “no-more” is only powerful if it leads to further conversations.
The constitution extends and protects these freedoms of speech and expression. We are free to shop where we want, worship and believe what we want, and express ourselves within the parameters of these rights. Society has forgotten that the practice of these freedoms are more effective when done in the context of mutual respect and humility.
We are not going to agree on everything. One thing we should agree on is that we are better when we lay aside our differences and learn to work together.