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Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles On The Outrage Era

"Being outraged by everything is simply impractical, pick your battles"

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the author of Outraged makes a case for channelling online rants into real-world resistance for meaningful change…

“Don’t boo. Vote,” said Barack Obama in 2016. Those simple words, spontaneously uttered at a convention, tell us everything we need to change about outrage.

The problem with outrage is that we wave our fists at issues instead of taking a swing at them. We intellectualise society’s faults, dissecting them on our Facebook pages, debating them on Twitter and untangling them in blogs – but rarely do we make the necessary strides to effect change in the real world. We boo but we don’t vote. We need to transfer our resistance from the internet to the real world and reignite the purposeful outrage that drove society forward in the offline era.

So rather than using our narcissistic apps simply to narrate our experiences in the 21st century social cesspit, it’s time to figure out how we’re actually going to get out of it. [And] there is still so much to be truly outraged by.

There’s the gender pay gap, racial bias, police brutality, homophobia, transphobia, misogynoir, gun control, and those absolute fucktards who think climate change is a hoax. The fact is this: worthwhile causes still exist.

If you insist on being outraged, why not try some of these on for size: in South Africa, it’s estimated that more than 1000 incidents of rape occur every single day, with one in four men admitting to having sexually assaulted a woman. Or how about the fact that abortion is still illegal in more than 50 countries?

Then there’s the small matter of stop and search practices in the UK, where black people are nine times as likely as whites to be randomly checked for the possession of drugs. Maybe you could also consider the 14 million young girls forced into child marriage every year, or that annually thousands of women are permanently forced out of their jobs once they become pregnant, and I’m sure you’ll concur that there are more pressing matters on the outrage agenda than Jamie Oliver’s jerk rice [accused of cultural appropriation].

By all means get angry. Get as angry as you possibly can. But do it with an ambition that extends beyond social media kudos. We stand on the shoulders of true social revolutionaries, those who lived lives of real resistance.

They afforded us the freedom to pick and choose our battles by fighting the fundamental ones so tirelessly. Women today can speak out about gender disparity because we now have a voice. Black people can now march against police brutality because the shackles have moved from our ankles to our wrists.

We can choose what to be offended by, but being outraged by everything is simply impractical. It’s like trying to single-handedly carry your whole weekly shop from the car to the front door in one trip. You’re gonna have to leave some bags behind, hun.

If we are to avoid becoming one embarrassingly ineffectual voice of dissent, it’s time to realise that outrage is not a novelty and to start treating it like the weapon of progress it once was. We don’t need to care less, we just need to care better.

Because if we pursued severe social injustices as fervently as we did every insignificant faux pas that wafts under our noses, our communities would be far better places.

Purposeful outrage can allow us to make headway in a world flooded with injustice. So I implore you to
be outraged with dogged ambition, with fervour and tenacity. Create constructive tension. Find your motivation in truths rather than trends.

I will never relinquish the power of my outrage. I am simply learning to use it wisely, and you should, too. Make outrage great again.

Outraged by Ashley ‘Dotty’ Charles (Bloomsbury, $29.99) is out now.

This article originally appeared in the August issue of marie claire. 

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the author of Outraged makes a case for channelling online rants into real-world resistance for meaningful change…

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the author of Outraged makes a case for channelling online rants into real-world resistance for meaningful change…

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