Growing up, my father worked as an EMT and then later as an ER nurse. One of my most vivid memories from childhood was my father going to provide emergency care to a gunshot wound survivor at the Woodman’s grocery. We were just buying groceries, having a regular day, and this guy needed lifesaving care. This sent the message to me as a kid that, if you have the expertise and commitment to your discipline, you will use it when your community needs you to.
In sociology, obviously we are not trained in emergency medical care. However, we are trained in understanding social theory and data. In a very different respect than healthcare, social science education is lifesaving. A competent understanding of sociology, history, economics, anthropology, epidemiology, political science, and others, is key to a higher quality-of-life for individuals, families, and communities.
We live in an era where people trust what they are comfortable trusting, rather than what the data tell us is true or not. “You have your facts, I have mine.” People believe the election was rigged, despite reports this past week indicating that this was actually a really airtight and secure election. They believe that masks don’t work, vaccines don’t work, the COVID-19 numbers are fake, that immigration is responsible for job loss, and other falsehoods which we know to be untrue based on data. Sometimes, it’s data I’ve personally seen researched.
The job of researching and making reports and educating is not very loud or sexy work. It’s a lot of sitting at a computer getting migraines and wrist problems, grading, and crunching numbers. It’s not pundits yelling at each other on TV or Alex Jones selling us creams or whatever. But it is, and I cannot stress this enough, absolutely vital to our well-being as a society, that people understand how society works.
Counties which went Trump this past election are responsible for less than a third of this country’s economic production. As someone who lives in Delaware County, which has seen economic shrinkage over the past several decades due to manufacturing job loss, I am unfortunately not surprised. This tells me two things. First, that it’s a myth that far-right policies are here to economically benefit us here in communities like Muncie. What, exactly, has been done for us in the past four years, if we are still reporting poor economic production? Second, and most important: it is imperative that places like Muncie have excellent social science education, so that people will learn how we can best advocate for ourselves.
This is why you will never, ever hear me say any of the following phrases when talking to people online or in the community:
“This is too much emotional labor for me.”
“Ugh, I don’t have the spoons for this.”
“Here’s my CashApp, you can pay me if you want me to keep educating you.”
Quite frankly, I’m sick of hearing people who understand theory and data say this to people. That’s not what I’m here for, and that’s not how my parents raised me. I was taught growing up that if someone needs lifesaving care, and you have the capacity to deliver it, then you fucking deliver it. I don’t know how to treat a gunshot wound, but I am learning how to help people learn about the greater society they occupy, and that is lifesaving care.
When someone asks you to engage with them in discussion about society, they might be looking for lifesaving care. They might not even realize they need it. And if they hear “Ugh, fuck you, pay me”, y’know where they’re gonna go find that lifesaving care? Parler. Breitbart. Fox News. Trump’s Twitter account. QAnon. And then it’s gonna be too late. Maybe they’ve already been on those sources and they need someone to undo the damage it’s caused.
I’m not saying that someone who is conservative is wrong and needs fixed. Not at all. I’m saying if your thoughts on society are based on bad information, and I have good information, then it’s my job to provide that. You can be conservative. You can support conservative policies. There is nothing “conservative” about believing that masks don’t work, and that COVID-19 is a myth, and immigrants come to commit crimes and simultaneously be unemployed and job-stealing. It’s just incorrect. There’s an obvious difference between the GOP now and the GOP when I was in high school, and social scientists need to adjust our behavior to accommodate for that, not alienate people further into believing falsehoods.
Not to mention: I hear plenty of people on the left buying into QAnon conspiracy theories and vaccine skepticism, too. False information is nonpartisan, and repugnant across the board.
This asinine narrative shift I’ve seen in the last, like, five years or so, where it’s just socially acceptable for people to be like “Ugh, this is so much emotional labor” when asked to explain how social theory or data work… it’s embarrassing. It solves nothing. And it reinforces longstanding stereotypes that people who have access to this information are elitist pricks who just don’t want to engage with anyone “beneath” them.
For the past several years, I’ve been watching communities like mine suffer with a gunshot wound… and the only people who talk about wanting to help us, are the ones who shot us in the first place.
Please think about this the next time you “demand” praise or money or whatever for your “emotional labor”.