This is just to say . . .

That spending any amount of time judging the ethical, moral or ideological purity of your allies in struggles to cause change derails those very efforts. Let’s focus on the struggle itself, shall we? And not get bogged down kneecapping people on the same side. It never ends well.

This applies to pretty much everything from baking a cake, to running a bookclub, a government or fomenting revolution.


  1. Christopher on #

    I have visited
    my ally
    with an

    Educate, agitate, organize, J.


  2. Lauren on #

    Good point… definate issue in our bookclub/ even in our church too! thnx justine!

  3. Justine on #

    Christopher: So pleased my lame ref to a famous USian poem was recognised. See? I has spent so much time in your land that I now reference poems I’d never heard of before I went there.

    Lauren: Sadly it is an issue everywhere. If you find yourself thinking why am I arguing about this? What does it have to do with improving things? Then you know there’s ally icepicking going on.

  4. angharad on #

    I couldn’t say this. I’m glad you did. Thank you.

  5. HeatherL on #

    But isn’t there a limit to what you should, or can, ignore? How much misbehavior can you put up with from someone on your side before they start bringing you down with them (morally or otherwise)? Don’t you have to sometimes stop and analyze to make sure everyone is within reasonable bounds?

    I remember that poem too- makinglight has a really cute post parodying it somewhere in their archives, but I am too lazy to google for the link right now. Recommend it though.

  6. Justine on #

    Angharad: Tee. Anyone can talk this obliquely.

    HeatherL: I guess you have to start wondering about whether they’re an ally then.

    But what I’m talking about are the people for whom “purity” (of whatever kind) is more imporant than the actual struggle. After awhile you start to realise that maybe that’s all they care about, bullying other people into their idea of proper behaviour.

    Hmm, I guess that winds up at the same place, doesn’t it? Wondering whether they’re really allies.

  7. angharad on #

    True, but very few of us can say something like this and have it be a productive comment. Were I to pop in at a few threads and say just the same thing it would only be MORE DERAILING. Which is very frustrating. All I can do is conclude that someone is wrong on the internet and quietly withdraw even when I know that people retreating to safe spaces is movement in exactly the wrong direction.

    However, I think, just for this moment, when you say something like this it IS constructive. I guess from some of the things you’ve said that being at the center of the shit storm over the Liar cover was no fun at all, but I think it gives you the leg to stand on that you need in order to be heard when allies are bringing out the icepicks.

    For most of us, the struggle really is the thing, but we can all get derailed when we’re frustrated and any one of us can drift into being bullies and thought police.

  8. angharad on #

    Or for that matter sanctimonious like whoa. Sorry about that.

  9. Justine on #

    Angharad: I did mean this post to apply far more widely than that. I was thinking also of political events here in Australia and the US and elsewhere.

    But as for the cover thing. I’m so thrilled to see how quickly Little, Brown has responded and to see the groups that have sprung up to keep a vigilant eye out for other cases of white washing. The work of people like Ari and Susan has been very inspiring.

    I hope, as many of us do, that all of this will go even further. That these recent protests will lead to the publication of more books by and about people of colour. And more poc employed within publishing too.

  10. Brendan Podger on #

    Say your piece once. If people don’t understand what you are trying to say(even if they think you are wrong), move on. They will never get it.

  11. Mary Arrrr on #

    The most dangerous delusion is the belief that things can’t get any worse.

  12. angharad on #

    I want so much to believe that where LIAR might have been a one-off, MUG might signal real change for covers at least. That’s why I hate it so much to see people derailed by UR doin it Wrong posts. But it’s true that it’s easy to be disappointed by people online. It’s not just that people get snarkier, I think I get over-sensitive and think, hey, are you really my ally? And of course, that wondering glance at the people in the lines to your left and to your right happens in *many* venues.

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