A woman takes a solo walk in the woods


We’re Cancelling Everything These Days, So What Can I Believe In?

Mar 3, 2021

The past year has been the hardest I’ve ever lived through, for reasons including and extending beyond the pandemic.

During these challenging times, I’ve grown to appreciate why some people derive so much comfort from faith, whether that pertains to a religion, singular passion or even a specific identity.

The problem is, I don’t know what to believe in anymore, as institutions, religions, movements and respected figures in the arts, culture and entertainment worlds have been proven time and again to have failed in the basic tenets of decency and humanity. My anxiety over making choices of who and what to support is compounded by the responsibility of guiding and being a gateway for what my children are exposed to.

For a kid-friendly understanding of the term "cancel culture," check out this explainer from CBC Kids News.

It feels like a full-time job to vet any potential content that crosses our path, from books to TV shows, up to and including causes to support.

I read the Harry Potter books to my eldest, and now I’m conflicted over the thought of doing the same with my youngest. I had wanted to introduce my daughter to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series — one that I loved when I was younger — because the female empowerment message is so important to me, and now I feel uncomfortable doing so. Even the music I listen to sometimes fills me with doubt — am I aware of whom I am supporting and what they stand for, do or say?

One stance to take involves the idea that you can appreciate the art itself without agreeing with the creator’s actions or words, but my discomfort with such an approach is that my interacting with the content still supports the creator and thus does little to indicate that I am not aligned with their viewpoints.

I remember discussing a similar subject with a member of my family. We were talking about allegations about a favourite musician of ours, and how we weren’t comfortable with supporting their work if such charges were true, and thought we should take a break from supporting the artist.

"It seems like ignorance is bliss, because people unaware of the issues still get to do, say and participate with pretty much whatever they want without wrestling with guilt."

The conversation drifted to the rampant sleep troubles we were both experiencing, and mutually agreed  to stop eating chocolate and other forms of caffeine before bedtime.

A few days later, my family member called me to say that her partner had happened across her in the kitchen right before bedtime, tucking into a plateful of forbidden brownies and listening to the musician we had “banned."

She recounted the experience with remorse, but also with the acknowledgment of a truth we had both come to realize: giving up things we like is a huge challenge. Cancelling much-loved activities, artists and participation in groups, movements and religions isn’t easy, especially if they were the source of comfort, delight or entertainment.

It seems like ignorance is bliss, because people unaware of the issues still get to do, say and participate with pretty much whatever they want without wrestling with guilt. Although they might have to deal with judgment from others.

Introducing your old faves can be challenging these days. Here's what happened when Susan Goldberg watched Grease with her son

It’s too late for me on a lot of topics — I’m aware of the concerns and can’t pretend I don’t know what my tacit support means. When I do believe in something strongly in terms of my personal and family life, and raise my voice (I’m pretty liberal), I’m amazed at the lengths people will go to convince me that I’m wrong, or how incensed people get when they learn I have a different opinion. You’re overreacting, they say. Too sensitive. An easily offended snowflake. I really try to uphold equality, inclusion and diversity principles and wish that it wasn’t so challenging to do so. These days it seems easier not to say anything at all, for fear of the reaction. And that feels like a common reaction, regardless of political affiliation. (We've all heard of the so-called "silent majority.") 

These days, I’m doing my best to be aware of the issues and to seek out guideposts as I teach my children that what we say, and what we believe in, matters. It’s necessitated a simplification of life, so that comfort can be derived from a walk in the woods — I love that the trees don’t judge me, and they’re blissfully innocent of any transgressions. Being selective with my social media usage also seems to be a better choice for me personally. Going back to the basics of writing as a form of healing and growth, interacting with nature and avoiding rabbit holes of judgment and hate are all I’ve got so far.

Those are the specifics that work for me, but overall I’m also hoping that love, hope, kindness and respect will guide us all, giving the world something to believe in again.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes.