I took a while to process this article, and I would encourage you to do the same. The news arrived that yes, the sci-fi community’s hatred of The Last Jedi was stoked by online trolls and bots. Just as in other communities, scifi is vulnerable to manipulation and deceit. If we care about ourselves and each other, we must defeat toxic tribalism within the scifi community.
In the past, I’ve had conversations about this but the community at large seems torn. Does toxicity exist? If it exists, is it possible to remove? If it’s possible to remove, is it my responsibility to do so? There are many different arguments for doing nothing. In the end, though, is that the world we want to live in?
Assuming we want to live in a culture that champions creativity, fosters connection, and embraces individuals, toxicity has to be managed. How do you go about it?
I found a really great article about defeating toxic tribalism on Medium, and am passing it along for consideration by the sci-fi community. If this is something you feel is worth changing, then these suggestions can serve as a template for individual action and change.
- Become An Individual — By becoming an individual and distinguishing yourself from the group, you ultimately own yourself as Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted saying above. Becoming an individual means following what interests you, becoming who you alone want to become and developing a quality of independence. Many people who aren’t independent or who haven’t become an individual get seduced by the context of a group. They crave the sense of community which is innate and get sucked into whatever the group dogma is. This comes with major consequences and can result in the worst of humanity such as the Nazi’s or the Soviet Union. Don’t be misled by the notion that you’re a “good” person and aren’t capable of evil because for most of history this was exactly the case. The majority of people within communist and fascist parties were normal people who had been swept up by the drug of community and the rest became history.
- Question Your Assumptions —Question your assumptions deeply. Look at yourself from an objective measure and take a bird’s eye view of your life and what tribes you find yourself in and get stuck in.
- Entertain Contradictory Ideas — Entertain ideas that go against your current beliefs and world view. This will help you become more open minded on your journey. Have discussions with other people, go to lectures, so on and so forth.
- Reading & Research — This will open your mind to new perspectives and allow you to step away from the subjective aspect of your life.
- Travel — Traveling is a great way to experience other cultures which just shatters your assumptions and ideas about cultural norms. The more you travel, the more experiences you have to gain wisdom from.
- Be Kind — This one seems ridiculous to mention but i think that it’s one of the most powerful things we can do to combat toxic tribalism. Approach everyone with kindness. Treat those around you how you, yourself want to be treated.
To wrap up, I’m not here to sell anyone on why toxic communities are bad, or why I think there’s an element of toxicity within the scifi community. If people can ignore things like climate change, they can ignore me, too. For those that are already aware of the problem and want to do something about it, this is meant for you. May it lead us all to a period of greater understanding, creativity, and connection. God knows, we need each other now.