Taking No Sides Is Taking A Side

Taking No Sides Is Taking A Side November 8, 2021

I recently got booted from a Facebook group I was a part of for roughly 5 years. The allegations? There were a few.

Primarily, it was because I shared my latest article in the group. You know, the one no one will be able to disprove. In it, I simply stated that it requires some semblance of financial privilege to “go green.” Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t do as much as I can to help heal the world – using less plastic, riding my bicycle when I can, supporting green initiatives, and so on and so forth. It just means those on a fixed income are gonna have a difficult time filling an entire grocery cart full of non-GMO, 100% organic food. Prove me wrong. Fill two carts up, one full of non-organic items from a discount grocer and the other full of organic food from a local co-op. Note the difference and then admit that I told you so.

But in spite of the fact that what I said is entirely true, none of it mattered. This group, one that is run by a person whom I thought was a friend, now prides themselves on being the group of “taking no sides,” especially the side of progressivism (reminds me of the Animal Farm quote about all animals being equal, and some being a little more equal). They brag about being “non-dual,” so much so that they have become highly dualistic. And by me taking any sort of stance that the group’s head admin deemed inappropriate, I was out. Just like that. The side who “takes no sides” took a side. Dualism won the day.

Here’s the irony, though: The article in question was a critique of progressives, not conservatives. Conservatives aren’t the ones, by and large, who give a shit about the environment. They don’t shame anyone who has a ’94, gas-guzzling beater. This article was basically a progressive critiquing their own, it’s premise being that while we should do everything we can for the environment, we shouldn’t shame the folks among us who literally can’t afford it.

Digging deeper: As I just said on my Facebook page, to reject all dualism is itself a dualistic stance. In other words, to be truly non-dual is to place dualism in its proper place. Further, to take the “no sides” side is to take a side. I believe it was Elie Wiesel who once said:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Of course, we must find balance here. Because we are at a point in history where we are so divisive, we must remember not to divide over trivial matters. However, we must also not swing the pendulum too far and think we are doing anyone a service by standing for nothing.

Further, it hardly makes sense to call yourself the side who takes no sides, but then eliminate all those whom you deem “progressive.” To truly take no side would be to include all voices, from the most progressive among us to the most conservative.

Look, we all have blind spots. God knows I do. But we are never going to grow if we just ban everyone we disagree with. Certain beliefs are harmful, no doubt, and we should have healthy boundaries with people who truly want to cause harm. But so many of us have grown so accustomed to shutting people out every time we disagree about something that we’ve lost the ability to have rationale, respectful disagreements.

What should have been done is this: if I was wrong in my assessment, a dialogue should have happened. If it’s not true that it takes financial privilege to “go green,” then let’s debate it. Show me some studies. But no. In the name of keeping the group “pure” of anyone who is too right or too left (according to their self-pointing), it was their own version of cancel culture.

So again, take sides. But also be willing to talk to those who aren’t on your side. We’ve all probably changed our minds before, so if we continue to have the posture that we can change our minds again, we have the ability to grow.

Something to think about.

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About Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano is an author, blogger, podcaster, and social worker. He lives in Northern California with his wife and daughter You can read more about the author here.
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