There is a problem in the world at present and it is not just about a virus. Yes, there is a pandemic, and both the effects of covid itself as the wellness influencers posting false information are a danger to public health and wellbeing.
But it’s bigger than that. There are rampant racism and discrimination in queer matters (when I speak about queer, I speak about anything outside the cis-gendered, heteronormative and monogamous realms), health (immuno-shaming and fat-shaming, to name two examples) and politics in general.
It’s my belief that as a leader in a community of any kind, we have a responsibility to raise our voice and be visible. We have a certain power, wanted or unwanted. With that privilege, I believe, comes the responsibility to use our voices for a good cause.
It’s not up to me to try to grab people who fell into the QAnon-rabbit hole or any kind of racist or discrimination story (I believe they are all cultic conspiracies of some sort) by their necks and pull them back out. It’s pointless. When someone has subscribed to a cultic belief system, it’s pretty much impossible to get them out – unless they want to.
I speak up to give people who need it some shelter. I speak up for those who try to make up their minds and find themselves lost in giant smear campaigns of fear.
The Function of Conspiracies
Conspiracies are how people deal with a world they don’t understand, or that frightens them. It’s a way to get sovereignty over powerlesness. Times of great uncertainty make people more susceptible to conspiracies.
When we are faced with an uncomfortable feeling, the mind will try to find an explanation for it. You may have noticed it with yourself. You feel sad, and may catch yourself wondering why you feel sad. When I go through that process in slowmotion, it’s like noticing my brain going through a database of reasons to feel sad, and pick it’s favorite story (which is usually my relationship).
Faced with a set of circumstances which are too frightening or difficult to encompass people will choose the story that is most explicable and comforting. This is completely understandable, it’s a survival strategy – but a dangerous one as its absolving them of responsibility.
It can be much easier to believe that there is a corrupt government trying to take away our freedom of speech and acting, than letting the terror in that a potential lethal pandemic entails.
The Loss of our Tribe
Human beings are made to live in tribes. Tribes provide the essentials of what we need. In historical times that was food and physical safety. Current day tribes provide a sense of purpose, emotional safety, and a feeling of being loved.
In intense times, whether it’s a pandemic, an important election, or a positioning towards gay marriage, we may find people that we included in our tribes expressing ideology that is opposing to our values. We may believe in science, and find that our friends are against vaccinations and facemasks. We may be self-isolating while our friends are gathering for underground parties and medicine circles. We may be standing up for BLM while our families don’t see what’s wrong with the healthcare system, or don’t believe institutionalized racism is a thing.
Feeling betrayed by our tribe is devastating. It can leave us feeling alone, hurt, and desparate, not knowing where allies are.
When we have the privilege of people giving us power, we have the responsibility of using that wisely. As a facilitator, educator, or practitioner, people will see us as leaders in our fields and will give whatever we say credit, simply because we have that high place in a social ranking – like it or not.
There are leaders, sometimes called ‘influencers’, who spread misinformation, hatred, confusion. Right now that seems to come to a climax. Well-known influencers, authors, vloggers, self-proclaimed healers use their platforms to spread their ideology of covid-denialism, trans-hatred, encouragement of violence and more.
There are leaders going underground and hosting events – with no distance or masks. I have heard multiple stories of events like medicine circles, dance events, and tantric gatherings that have acted as superspreader events for covid.
Other leaders silent. They won’t raise their voices out of fear of being publicly attacked, or losing gigs and clients. I can only understand their choice. There’s not much fun in receiving hundreds of messages a day that are only partly in support of your opinion.
Spreading conspiracies, misinformation, racist content is problematic. But staying silent is problematic too, I believe. It’s like inviting people into your house, but leaving them in the cold when they need you most. In cult-dynamics, those who may not be creating the problem (those are the perpetrators) are called bystanders and enablers. They may not be actively causing the harm, but they allow it to happen and with that, are part of keeping the problem alive.
So I Speak Up
My strategy is to inform myself about global issues and political matters using the most trustworthy sources I have. To step back and try to understand the dynamics at play. I don’t claim I know it all or have the perfect truth in my hands, but I will take a position.
There will be backlash. Speaking up in the wellness communities isn’t easy. They have been very white-folk-focussed and heteronormatively wired (check the first tantra class in your neighbourhood and they will tell you about the purpose of the masculine, usually depicted as a slender white man), and, as it seems, prone to the curriculum of QAnon and covid denialism.
I refuse to let myself slip into the position of a bystander, or even an enabler, of matters that matter to me. I won’t let racist issues silently go by. I won’t shut up about how important I believe it is we take care about others in a pandemic that is impacting us all (and not just me and my business).
Yes, I lose clients (but I find others).
Yes, I lose invitations to festivals (but I trust there will be other festivals who will want me).
Yes, some colleagues have unfriended or blocked me (but I find new allies aligned with my most important values).
Yes, it’s pretty darn scary.
No, I won’t change the minds of those who don’t want to have their minds changed.
But you know what?
Many people have sent me a message of gratitude, of how important it is to them that someone they consider a leader speaks up. That my words bring them comfort and security. That they feel encouraged to find trustworthy sources of information instead fo fear-sowing conspiracies and hatred. That they feel less lonely.
It’s for those people I stand up and make myself visible. Creating spaces where people they feel they belong is what got me into this business in the first place. And now times are tough for us all, I believe we need our leaders stepping up more than ever, including the sex educators, intimacy teachers, and the rest of us.