The Burden of Struggle for Justice

Not only are today’s activists enraged, they bemoan a state of constant fatigue (and in some instances, post-traumatic stress disorder) caused merely by existing in the world as it is currently constructed. Even privileged white journalists write (whether earnestly or cynically) of their “exhaustion” at the stream of psychic and spiritual assaults caused by racism, as well as by sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, fatphobia, ableism, capitalism, and myriad other “systems of oppression.” They profess to be tired in part from performing “emotional labor.” The term was coined to describe jobs, many done mostly by women, that require projecting or suppressing a particular feeling, the way a waitress offers warmth. It has come to be a vague catchall for the exasperating burden of being enlightened in a biased society. Until we reach a state of perfect social harmony, they suggest, anyone who is not blind to or willfully complicit in injustice—whether they like it or not—will be unable to escape this ever-growing weight. Defeatism has become a badge of righteousness. If you’re not despondent, you’re not paying attention.

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