“Why do you think it’s important for society to allow trans women to enter the Miss South Africa competition?” This was a question in the 2021 Miss South Africa pageant, and Zimi Mabunzi’s viral answer blew me away.
She said, “I honestly think that shouldn’t even be a question. I think that as [a] society, we really need to release ourselves from the authority that we tend to exercise over other people’s lives.”
Now that’s an answer.
To emphasize: “We really need to release ourselves from the authority that we tend to exercise over other people’s lives.” Not just over the lives of trans people, but of everyone else. This is important.
This answer reveals the root of all this recent division, especially on social media. It really boils down to our strange obsession with controlling the lives of others. We can’t pretend we aren’t part of this, too. For a long time, we’ve all been trying to control how others think, what they should enjoy, and more relevantly, who they should vote for.
So we feel a mix of “anyone who doesn’t think like me is an enemy,” and “I’m scared of posting online because I might get attacked.” It’s a dangerous combination that recognizes a power play between sides obsessed with controlling everyone else, yet we take part in it. We forget that social media isn’t just a bunch of ideas talking. These are real people communicating with each other.
Here’s the thing: It would almost be understandable to some extent if our desire to control was rooted in genuine concern for the controlled. But what is currently happening is we attempt to force everyone else to think the way we do, for our own convenience and ego. It’s easier and it feels better when everyone agrees with us anyway. So we try to control the lives and the minds of complete strangers, and get frustrated yet more determined when they don’t budge. All this, under the guise of the common good, when it’s all really rooted in something more selfish.
There’s a difference between education and control. Education is good and honest. We present facts, contextualize, and allow others to form their own opinions. This means we allow ourselves to be educated, too, so we share and open our minds so we can all achieve what’s best for everyone. We want others to learn, rather than simply obey, because we recognize each other as equals. There’s no forcing of beliefs down another’s throat.
On the other hand, control is completely different. Here, we manipulate, intimidate, and brainwash so we get what we want. We silence everyone else. This is all over social media, which is full of fake news, bandwagons, and cancel culture—the modern-day weapons of dictatorships. So we criticize dictators but end up being one anyway. We become what we hate, and we don’t even realize it.
Thus, we really have to step back, relax our tense shoulders, unfurrow our eyebrows, and look around. Are we doing this right? Are we educating or controlling?
We’ve been fighting for equal rights, democracy, freedom, and the good of everyone. Why achieve that using iron fists, which we swore should never be used again? The goal was to educate, not to silence. Messages survive the messengers, but education kills false messages at their roots.
So let’s regroup and focus on the real goal: Educating real people so that harmful, controlling ideologies die out naturally. After all, people are not pawns, and we are not dictators. We are equals. Wouldn’t it be nice for social media to be healthy again?
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