It was not very long ago that I thrived on debating on social media, whether it was about the existence or non-existence of a deity, politics, video games, or even about which was better- Marvel or DC (It’s always Marvel). But there comes a time, when you must recognize that toxic interactions do not help your depression, and you need to limit your exposure to them. Eventually you stop getting the compulsion to prove you are right or to have the last word, you learn to swallow your ego, you stop worrying that if you left an onlooker might think you lost the discussion, you become more liberal with blocking people.
With that, inevitably, there would be a handful of very helpful people, even your friends, scoffing at you and calling you an escapist. They’d patiently explain that blocking or ignoring people isn’t a solution. You can’t just run away from difficulties all the time and take shelter among whom you feel comfortable. There are no ‘safe places’ in the real world.
Ah, yes. There are no safe places in the real world. It’s true… well, except… hasn’t the entire history of the human civilization has been about that?
Just imagine for a moment. It’s the Paleolithic Age. Our ancestors are coming together and combining simple groups to form tribes and villages. They’re learning the use of more and more complex tools. Someone suggests that maybe they should try to build a structure- something called a ‘fence’ around their village, so that wild animals or enemy tribes can’t attack as much during the night. The prehistoric men and women look at each other. It seems like a great idea. Then a particularly grim looking individual stands up.
“Excuse me, but ‘fences’? What a ridiculous notion! There are no fences in the real world. We’re always ready for defending ourselves. That’s how we remain strong. Don’t infantilize our warriors by giving them security or time to rest and relax! As Darwin said, it’s the survival of the fittest.”
“Who the hell is Darwin?”
“My distant cousin, twice removed, it doesn’t matter. The point still stands. We need to remain fierce and alert all the time!”
I like to think that when the fence was finally built, he was thrown outside.
Human beings have a very unhealthy obsession with bravado. While it does serve our purpose at times, it doesn’t do us much good to rely solely on bravery and boldness, and foregoing caution entirely. Seeking safety and comfort is part of human nature, and for good reason. This instinct has been responsible for our survival through the ages.
The most basic of human structures, our homes, are the simplest forms of safe spaces. We don’t leave the doors unlocked all night because there are no walls or doors in the real world. When our immune system is compromised, we are taken to a clean room. The doctors don’t tell us that there are no clean rooms in the real world and kick us out of the hospital. Throughout history we have striven to make the world safer for us. Instead of adapting to nature, as most organisms do, we have changed nature to suit our needs. We have even modified existing animals and plants to serve us.
What many of us fail to realize, is that safe spaces are sought by the marginalized, oppressed, and distraught- those who are not given a voice in the real world and are attacked for daring to speak, like the LGBT+ community, women, victims of sexual assault, victims of psychologically illnesses, and more. They are not a threat. They are victims. It is not about establishing their ideals on others, but it is about their very survival. The moment a similar safe space is demanded by the un-oppressed majority, that’s a gateway to fascism and dictatorship, and that is what you should be worried about.
Safe spaces for minorities might seem absurd to you. If it does, good for you, because that means you’re not the one who needs them. You’re privileged enough that you don’t have to worry about your existence in the everyday world just because of who you are. Not all of us have that luxury. It doesn’t mean we are not open to criticism. It means we are not open to criticism 24/7, especially when the criticism is whether we should exist or not.
The world is huge, and in spite of our continued efforts over the millennia, it is not completely a safe place. And that is totally fine. It leaves a lot of room for us to engage in logical (or illogical, whichever you prefer) debates, duels, challenges, and Pokémon battles to establish our intellectual and egotistical superiority. But also try to understand why the less privileged of us might need places to feel safe and secure, to breathe freely. I promise you the result would be a much more tolerant and peaceful world.