There have been some postings and discussions, as well as some nudges from ZCom itself, asking or wondering why people in general are not using this website to its full potential.
After thinking about it, I wonder…
From a personal point of view, while I am very much interested in Participatory Economics and political analysis myself, there is always this lurking feeling that for me to fully use ZCom as an alternative to Facebook, I would have to feel that I could express myself fully without having to worry about the potential flak it could entail, regarding my more "mundane" interests. This does not mean I believe that I should be able to do anything without some kind of social control by other ZCom users: posting content demeaning to women, minorities, and the poor should create a reaction, hopefully a strong one.
I for one enjoy japanese animation, black humor, electronic music and its associated culture (at least some facets of it) and many other things that would be considered as odd at best for someone labelling themselves "leftist", and horrible at worst by many people. Why is it then, in a place where diversity of opinions and views is something we agree is beneficial, there seems to be this fear of vitriolic criticism towards lifestyles which we have no issue expressing in "mainstream" sites, but would be rather caught dead than sharing it in here?
Maybe this is a personal issue. It could be that this is only a problem I experience due to a lack of perspective regarding leftist expectations. Yet, how hard is it to find content in here regarding stuff like social activities? Humor? Organizing around hobbies? I can’t help but feeling that one of the barriers to full participation on ZCom is related to the fear of being judged on the basis of one’s hobbies or personal tastes being considered "selling out", "participating in the oppression system", and so on. We are here to struggle , discuss, analyse and act, but what about the other facets of human life?
Let’s take electronic music. What is called "rave culture" by many brings images of consumerism, destructive drug abuse, and lack of musical creativity. However this is a cultural movement with progressive, constructive and even radical facets as well (the Underground Resistance techno label being the most prominent example). At least to me, I can’t shake the feeling it would be perceived as an unacceptable cultural expression for someone on the left to enjoy and discuss about electronic music or techno. Instead if I would be someone who enjoys punk or ska and would post such content…
Let’s take anime or japanese animation. Enough has been written about its excesses, where women are depicted in anatomically absurd ways, abused, raped, submitted to male control, and killed , to fulfill certain dark sexual fantasies expressed by men. However, there are also as many occurrences of strong female protagonists that are outspoken, confident, fighting against terrible odds in worlds controlled by men, and gaining the upper hand (pretty much anything by Shirow Masamune). Heck, there are even many such anime works where political themes such as criticism towards fascist dystopias (Okiura’s Jin-Roh), flexibility of gender relations and roles (Hoyo’s Family Compo), and even ecologic concerns (Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind) are also approached. How come we don’t see more of this? What are we scared of?
I can only speak for myself, I realise that. But for ZCom to become the all-encompassing community it should be, I think that we as individuals need to not only do our part to think and act regarding the ills in this world, but we need to allow ourselves to express our personalities and preferences without fear of being ostracized, in a climate of respect and understanding. Sharing what we despise, what we want to be different is one part of the equation of being an activist. Sharing what we enjoy is crucial though, and we don’t do this enough, dare I say for fear of being excluded as truly leftist?