The weight of other priorities

In 2006, there was a television documentary titled The Root of All Evil? It was presented by Richard Dawkins, and the title refers, of course, to religion. Dawkins didn’t like the title, and thought it was ridiculous to say that anything is the root of all evil. Nonetheless, when I used to be an atheist activist, I knew many atheists who thought that religion was the root of at least a significant fraction of evil. …This made slightly more sense during the Bush presidency.

The idea that there is one root of most evil is a common affliction in many social movements and political viewpoints. In the world of social justice, there’s always this fight over the primacy of the patriarchy, white supremacy, or capitalism as the root of evil. A few people will argue that one form of prejudice is really just some other kind of prejudice in disguise, like saying that homophobia or transphobia are really just forms of sexism. Beyond the world of social justice, I get the sense that both the left and right think of each other as the root of evil. And then there is the purest embodiment of this idea: horseshoe theory, which asserts that contrary to appearances, both the far left and far right spring from the same source.

This is all to say, ace activism does not have this affliction. Nobody here believes compulsory sexuality is the root of all evil. Asexuality is just this thing we care about, and we think other people should care about it. It’s worth caring about even if it’s obviously not the most important thing to care about.

In 2020, we’ve faced increasingly forceful reminders that asexuality is not the most important thing to care about. This is why, when I hosted the Carnival of Aces on “Quarantine”, I accepted articles that had little or nothing to do with asexuality. Like the early months of the pandemic, this October is another one of those months, as we wait on tenterhooks to see if President Trump will receive the landslide defeat that he deserves, or if he’ll scrape out a victory via the undemocratic electoral college, voter suppression, and/or a coup.

I find it difficult to write in this state. The other day, I was looking at this month’s Carnival of Aros prompt (“prioritization”), and it asked:

do you have a different orientation you prioritize over your aromanticism?

I bitterly remarked that I don’t prioritize either aromanticism or asexuality. I prioritize fighting fascism. I considered submitting this essay as a hostile response but then thought better of it.

So I probably won’t write anything for Ace Week. And you’ll have to wait longer to hear more about Twitter’s misconceptions about split attraction models. Because what I really want to tell you to do is vote. And I don’t mean vote for Biden, although obviously you should if you can vote in US elections. I mean vote in every election you are eligible to vote in. Our political woes did not emerge in a day, they emerged from numerous political decisions, including little ones that seemed unimportant at the time. The ideal time to stop Trump is not 2020, it’s the decades preceding his presidency, when hypothetically we could have voted out every Republican and prevented them from creating this monster in the first place.

So this month I spent a few hours to research my whole ballot, and I wrote my little “go vote” rant… and that’s pretty much it? Still plenty of time for ace activism I guess. But instead of blogging more, I went and played video games and read about music.

Theoretically there is space for multiple important subjects at the same time, but in practice there are some psychological barriers.

I tell myself that even in ordinary times, asexuality is not always the top priority for ace activists. This space we have created, the exclusive focus on asexuality, it’s actually very artificial. For those of us who enjoy blogging, usually we enjoy blogging about all sorts of topics. Most writers for The Asexual Agenda, myself included, have our own personal blogs for most things, and then we only put stuff here when we think it suits the audience. I assume that if you really want to hear me talk about math or philosophy or whatever, you just follow my personal blog.

When ace spaces have a narrow topical focus, it’s important to remember that this is not necessarily a reflection of our personal priorities. Each of us is a unique individual with our own interests and priorities. We contain multitudes. The reason we build spaces with a narrow topical focus is not to confine us, but to enable us to mix and match content to our individual liking. If you care about upper-level asexual discussion, we’re here for you. If you care about other issues and interests–and you should!–then there’s nothing to stop you from participating in multiple spaces.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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2 Responses to The weight of other priorities

  1. I am probably going to be about as useless this Ace Week as I was in 2014.

    (Content Warning: Gun Violence)
    That year, on the Friday before the week started, some punk-ass teenager took a gun into the cafeteria of the high school I graduated from and shot up the place. One student died that day. Two more over the next week. A fourth the next month.
    It could have been prevented in so many ways. Why didn’t anyone do anything? Thoughts and prayers and reset the time for the next one.
    I only went there for a year and had barely even thought about the place for a decade and a half, but it hit me hard. It’s background noise on the news, just another unfortunate statistic, until it visits your town.
    (End Content Warning Section)

    I want to describe the feeling as numb or emptiness, but that’s not what it was. It was soreness and weight. It was like a black hole had opened up inside me, and I was being crushed in the implosion.

    I wanted to do more for Ace Week, I needed to do more, but I couldn’t. That made me feel worse. I couldn’t do anything about what happened, but I could certainly try to help other people. I had big plans, but I had to sit most of it out.

    I feel that again now. Except this time, it’s not a shock news report on the car radio after work. This is a disaster five years in the making. I’m trapped in the back seat of a car with a toddler at the wheel, heading toward a cliff. I tried to warn the passenger about the cliff in 2016, hoping that they wouldn’t let the toddler drive in the first place, but they didn’t listen. Since then, I’ve been screaming “Cliff! Cliff! CLIFF!” non-stop and I want to believe that that the passenger heard me and sees the cliff and will do something about the toddler, but I just don’t trust them. Not after last time when they faked me out and stepped on the gas.

    I’ve already voted. Everyone I know is going to vote the same way I did. I’ve put out my “Vote Like Your Lives Depend On It” messages. I live in a deep blue area of a deep blue state. At this point, there’s not a whole lot more I can do, except go on another ActBlue spending spree.

    So I should be able to do Ace Week stuff, but again, I don’t know if I can. The crushing implosion feeling is back. Even my teeth are sore and I didn’t even know that was possible. And the inability to do more for others is amplifying that feeling. Even my other interests aren’t really happening at the moment because of all that. Several of them had already been dormant for a few years now anyway. There wasn’t a lot left for me to shut down to conserve energy even before the Murder Hornets turned up.

    I know this should be one of those “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others” self-care situations. In 2014, it was. The issue I was having was local and personal, and I shouldn’t have felt guilty about stepping back and taking care of myself. But this year, it’s more like an explosive decompression situation, where some of the other passengers are getting sucked out of the plane. Right now, I’m still strapped in and if I hold my breath and just try, maybe I can help grab some of them, so I can’t put on the mask just yet. And I can’t tell if the pressure will equalize and everything will be fine or if we’re about to go into a flat spin that will take another four years and everyone holding together to recover from.

    Try to be a relentlessly optimistic, we’ll find a way through this, let’s go change the world voice of calm and stability…

    And then there’s the added element where one of my primary activism focuses at the moment directly requires a particular outcome to the election, and anything else renders it practically moot. But if there is that particular outcome, that effort becomes a sudden, urgent race against time. So piles of stress either way. (Although one of those piles is decidedly more preferable…)

    Anyway, for me, today was mostly install a video game to be able to play it later because it takes forever to download and install most games these days, and read about fish because I did not know that Steelhead and Rainbow Trout are the same thing and that entire concept seems weird and from that Wikipedia excursion I ended up learning that there are mammals that die after mating and of course they’re marsupials because marsupials are so weird.

    Where was I trying to go with this? I don’t know anymore. tl;dr: Everything sucks right now, so good luck all!

  2. luvtheheaven says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s important to keep in mind at all times. 🙂

    I was looking at the carnival of aros theme this month (prioritization) and thinking about the theme i plan to host for next month (commitment) and I was thinking about how I have so many commitments that have nothing to do with aromanticism and it’s been growing increasingly hard to figure out the best way to prioritize them lol…

    Sidenote: I always appreciate you referencing all these things from the atheist movement where I’ll usually be so familiar with exactly what you are referencing. 😉

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