Disclaimer: In what I am writing, I am not being critical of Kaepernick’s original decision to kneel at the National Anthem. While I could personally imagine other ways that might have been more effective in bringing to the forefront issues of racism and injustice, I understand many of his sentiments and feel that people’s responses towards him
Unless you do not have a television or access to the internet (in which case, how are you reading this blog post?!), you are familiar with the following advertisement that came out this week, featuring hero to some,
The responses to this ad have been rather predictable. Cries for boycotts and some videos and pictures of people burning Nike products, all in some misplaced, worship of a symbol of noble ideals that has turned into an idol within someone people’s hearts. Then, there are those who valorizes Nike in some heroic for being on the right side of history, like this tweet in response to President Trump’s usual twitter antics.
Then, there are the usual cries against the capitalization whenever a corporation does something like this.1
We are living in an era of woke capitalism in which companies pretend to care about social justice to sell products to people who pretend to hate capitalism.— Clay Routledge (@clayroutledge) September 6, 2018
Embedded in these reactions to this basic narrative around Kaepernick and later Nike’s ad
I would suggest the Nike advertisement and the reactions to it has a basic ‘skeletal’ structure that exists in all societies that have a) basic freedoms of speech and b) mechanisms for broader communication to the population.
- Some behavior is valorized (occasionally, it can be
vilifiedinstead) on the basis for some other interest. – In this case, it is Kaepernick’s past against of protest against racial injustice that serves at least two interests: a) Nike’s association of their products with moral virtue and b) Kaepernick’s valorizing in the public eye.
- A notable proportion of population hears this message, reacts negatively to it due to
violationof some values they hold, opposing it throughcounter speech and demonstrations.
- This negative reaction itself becomes notable and known, activating the responses of other people who are inclined to support the valorized and valorizing persons/entities and/or oppose the type of people who are objecting. This increases the power of the original valorization.
- Because of the way the conflict gets directed at people on the other side, both directly and indirectly, it invokes the sympathy of like-minded people to support those who take a visible stand, giving everyone some sort of affirmation for signals of their own virtue even as they face opposition from outside.
- In the end, everyone demonstrates their own ‘virtue,’ as determined by specific communities, and the original message becomes more effective in its original purposes.
- Then, there are those who make commentary on the more hidden, veiled forces surrounding the events (this includes this blog post), creating a haven of people who feel they rise above the fray, providing justification for their intellectual prowess and insight.
My point is this: the historical progression of events like this where people’s virtue is
Here is what does not happen: those who oppose the original message do not defeat the message, but give it greater power. Those who oppose those who opposed the original message do not defeat their opposition, but through their own opposition of the opposition they provide the context in which people are supported and become more emboldened in their actions. Meanwhile, the cognitive elite do not provide anything substantial to change the way things are approached, but they peddle the same intellectual narrative that has been peddled in the past before with the same results.
Here is the more cynical point behind this: if anyone was actually successful in creating any real, substantial change, then all the other motivations and interests for each party will begin to fade or diminish. If people were successful in silence the ad, silencing the opposition, etc. etc. then the other motivations, particularly the opportunity to be valorized, profit, etc. will diminish.
Herein lies my point: in events like these, there is an inherent antagonism between the various goals, both expressed and unconscious, of the various groups. The more one is successful in changing things and getting things to go smoothly in your favor, the less opportunity for other opportunities. Put more simply, obtaining a valorized status within the population and their sub-groupings will not happen unless there is the
This in and of itself wouldn’t be the problem except in the sense of identity that forms based upon people’s valorization. People’s identities are formed based upon the structure of the events that defined them; consciously or unconsciously, we become accustomed to
So, do you want to change the world? Let go the possibility of status, don’t see the need to participate in the pattern of signaling virtue and commendation of those who express opinions consistent with such virtue, and cease to join in with the all too common responses that routinely maintain the status-quo of conflict even as people consciously express a desire to change the status-quo. Instead, recognize that the world changes often in silent and invisible manners, that people can not readily see, predict, or understand, and that we participate in that insofar as we are attuned to this work that is occurring in the background, far away from anyone’s consciousness and capacity to oppose it. To participate in God’s work of new creation that we have not vision, that we have not heard, nor that we can imagine on our own entails an often silent faithfulness, only occasionally coming to the forefront when something is deeply and truly important that entails a crying out.