I recently came across #thisis2016 which is apparently some kind of ‘tell your own story’ about racism against Asian ethnicities. Admittedly I haven’t done in depth research on this ‘movement’ but as far as I can tell it was inspired by an editor for the New York times who, surprise-surprise, in walking among the 8 million people of New York experienced some verbal racism.
The suggestion is that others share their stories. This is the inane attention we now give to such mild experiences. If being told to ‘go back to China’ by an angry woman on the street ruins your day or is enough to anger you into starting a revolution, I have to wonder just how sheltered your life has been thus far.
It would seem that, given his extreme reaction, that this does not happen as often as the movement would suggest since he would otherwise have to spend all his time hashtagging about it.
I commented on this movement on facebook to a girl who seemed to support it and really believe in it. She was not happy when I said basically what I am saying here. She then commented that America is a country that ‘kills’ you for being different, highlighting just how exaggerated the problem had become for her.
Aside from young black men, I don’t really think there is a group of people in the United States that understands much about what it actually means to be mortally persecuted for difference. And even then, the numbers are not as impressive as the media would have you believe. In Saudi Arabia women are stoned for perceived adultery or even if they are the victims of rape. In Iran homosexuals are hanged. North Koreans cannot leave their own country and live in a constant state of inculcation.
These are real problems that require real solutions and are in fact indicative of what society at large feels about these groups.
I would argue that racial slurs at the hand of the odd pedestrian does not constitute anything abnormal when living in a large, multiracial society. When slurs, however, progress to systemic racial policy and practice, then we have a real problem. Until then, you’ve basically just been called a bad name.
My ultimate point here is that movements like these, which strive to act as a kind of wake-up call or barometer of society, fail utterly to do anything of the kind. They are not random, rather they are selected for, and they attract some of the most angry, self-righteous people; many of whom are time-privileged enough to sit around and think about how angry they are about name-calling and then make a video about it. It is like using youtube comments to gauge the frequency of profanity. Ridiculous.
A better barometer would be nation-wide polls in which people are asked what they think of Asian people or to ask Asian Americans themselves about the frequency and intensity of their experiences with racism, and whether it was at the hands of authority or just some rando.
Instead, however, we just get a bunch of self-righteous and indignant people whose worst experience is a taunt, discussing how awful it is to suffer at the hands of all these racists, many of whom don’t ever seem as frequent or present as these videos would like us to believe. Maybe because there is so much capital in victimhood in America today.
The most disappointing lesson any human being learns is the unfairness of life. Greed and ambition are usually the speedier stairs to success than meekness and modesty. A Muscovite friend of mine once remarked upon this truism, stating both wryly and aptly that the more democratic a society was, the slower its people were to acknowledge this reality.
In the United States we have a long history of taking what we know we deserve from our government. Some Americans very charitably depict the historical US government as having granted rights over time, some voting rights for women here, some civil rights for black people there. But the reality is that, as with all governments, we took what we wanted and we did it using a lot of time and moderate force.
Rights are a funny thing. In the West we talk about them rather academically and in condescending, entitled overtones that suggest they had been forthcoming since the inception of governance. As though we had always known these rights belonged to us and it was just a matter of heading to the lost and found to claim them. But the reality is, our rights were by and large thought up, discovered, witnessed in the hands of those luckier than us, and then viciously, desperately fought for and retained. Despite what we tell ourselves today, we were never entitled to them, and had we been we would never have had to fight for them, least of all consider which ones are fundamental to happiness versus just icing on the cake.
If rights were absolute and fundamental, the way we imperiously and pompously pronounce them to be, then why do we fundamentally disagree about which ones should be granted? Why does each country, even among liberal democracies, demonstrate such a variety of them? And if we’re entitled to these rights, how is it that they can be wished, washed, and whittled away without so much as a popular vote?
The answer is that rights are actually arbitrary. You are neither entitled to them nor owed them. Americans believe this because our fights for rights have often been successful. We have rarely lived with the aftermath of a truly failed rights movement. Though I imagine the Chinese, Russians, Iranians, Iraqis, and many South Americans and Africans could instruct us on what that is like. They may well wonder where the American and European notion of rights entitlement comes from.
They may also wonder where the new trend in American victimhood comes from. In countries where rights are not arrogantly presumed all-inclusive with the lease of life, victimhood has no capital. But in the United States it comes freighted with all manner of squalid privileges. The psychology of American victimhood is as teenage as it is self-gratifying; quick to establish a fast and loose binary of winners and losers and even faster to declare what the losers are entitled to, the largely middle-class and over educated proponents of this feminist fueled infantilism have declared any and all who are perceived as winners indebted to them.
If you have any doubts as to the validity of this claim then consider their vocabulary. What is a safe space other than an entitlement to an echo chamber? What are microaggressions other than an entitlement to another’s intent? I don’t care what you meant, I’ve decided for you that you acted maliciously. And what is cultural appropriation other than the entitlement to own, reserve, or designate for others entire cultures? But what all this really condenses to is an entitlement to a society that functions precisely as one wishes it to function.
In a University paper I read the other day a girl complained about feeling unsafe when, after a neighborhood shooting, she was not warned by the campus police of the event’s happenings. She felt entitled to this warning. She felt that she was owed constant updates despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans, and indeed the world, exist without such notifications.
It is strange that so many Americans of my generation clamor and with such ease for so intense an awareness of their personal feelings while at the same time insisting as loudly that they are deeply sensitive to the needs of others. The reality, however, is that today’s social justice warriors wallow in the capital of victimhood; entitlement. I have been wronged by society, thus you all must give unto me. It is not I who should change, but all of you. It is always difficult to make real change when you wait for society to do it for you and avoid doing any of the work yourself. Complaining, after all, is much easier than doing.
On September 6th of this year in California, Fay Wells locked herself out of her apartment. She would later do what anyone would, call a locksmith and then move on with her life. Shortly after doing so, however, Fay found 19 police outside her apartment, calling for her to come out and aiming their guns at her.
No one would answer this flabbergasted and unarmed woman’s questions until much later, only then did she find out that a neighbor had summoned the police, believing the black Ms. Wells to be a burglar of her own home.
In this instance of police hysteria, the unarmed black person wasn’t shot. But Fay very well could have been and all due to the racist assumption by a complete nobody that she was a vicious little negro criminal attempting to terrorize a nice white neighborhood.
When I heard this story, though I was in no way surprised, it did bring me to excogitate on the issue of priority. Between the citizenry and the constabulary, whose life is the priority? Let us consider firemen for a moment. When these noble creatures approach a burning building and find it poorly evacuated with people still inside, do they tremble with overwhelming trepidation or do they act, knowing fully that their lives have been made second to those they take risk to save?
Firemen do not merely ‘secure’ an immolating building, protecting only themselves and those already conveniently out of danger. Indeed, they prioritize the life of the endangered citizenry, putting their own lives at risk to rescue them. They have chosen this heroic profession, along with the concomitant dangers that saddle it.
Police, however, seem to take a different attitude to their job. They appear to believe that as agents of the state monopoly on force and life and death, their lives are the priority while the citizenry, most especially the black citizenry, takes second chair.
Maybe the police of America have forgotten that ancient maxim, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Maybe they have deluded themselves into believing they were forced into their jobs, as opposed to having actively chosen them. Or maybe their lot simply attracts craven individuals who, in the face of even the mildest threat, react with nuclear proportions. In a word, cowards.
The likeliest explanation pertains to training. The American constabulary is systemically and procedurally taught that their lives come first and that when a member of the citizenry does not cooperate with absolute obedience, they have vacated their right to life. The police are state actors. They are agents of the government which is paid for and elected by the citizenry. This means that the constabulary should be accountable to the citizenry, in other words, subordinate to us, the people.
When one chooses to become an officer they are given immense power but they should also understand that their life becomes secondary to mine when on the job. This is because the job of an officer is to protect the citizenry, including the accused, not gun them down when he or she is too incompetent or fearful to professionally resolve the situation.
If this compromise makes any member of the police feel unsafe then stop, turn in your gun, and become a florist. You should not have become a member of the police because you liked the idea of playing a cartoon’s version of a hero, waving a gun about, and shooting down every shadow that gives you goosebumps. You should have become an officer wanting to protect and defend people, even those accused by some idiot of having committed a crime – if this wasn’t your motive then the only thing you represent is a danger to us, the people.
Having a child is not a personal decision. Having an abortion is a personal decision but bringing a child to term and having it is not.
It may well be asked what the difference is. An unborn child, fetus, zygote, whatever stage it is and whatever you want to call it, requires the body of the mother to survive. Whether you give the fetus, zygote, whatever rights, does not change the fact that it does not have a right to the mother’s body for survival in the same way that a teenager has no right to her mother’s kidneys, even if we agree that the vast majority of mothers would enthusiastically hand them over.
There is also the simple matter of drawing lines. A line must be drawn somewhere with regard to when that mass of human potential is fully realized as a human being and it seems fitting that it should be only after the journey of gestation has been completed. To do otherwise would necessitate making women a hostage to pregnancy.
All that being said, people do not have a right to children. I actually think this is obvious but it goes without saying that multitudes would disagree and cavil to the point of revolution were ever such a concept enshrined in law. But before you disagree, allow me some time to limn this out.
Let us consider a newly recognized citizen of the United States and the remainder of her family abroad. In order to legally grant her family entry into America she must provide numerous documents, proofs, and pay much in the way of money and time to acquire the approval of the federal government. I myself underwent a similar process in applying for my husband’s greencard.
Not only was I forced to pay approximately two thousand dollars in fees, but I also had to negotiate my way through six or so documents which were inconveniently hidden among hundreds of similarly related applications which could easily have been mistaken for the ones I actually required. There was then the matter of proving my marriage was legitimate and not some sham. This cannot be done in a jiffy. It requires painstaking documentation of your travels, spending habits, living habits, and even social habits. Testimonials from family and friends are requested. Evidence of shared vacations and special occasions must be provided. Receipts, photographs, property, nothing is too big or small.
The greatest barrier may be proof of financial independence. In the United States you have to prove beyond a doubt that you can support the person in question. The standard is an income of 125% of the poverty level for your household size. That would mean for two people, the citizen plus the relative coming over, one would need to show proof of an income of at least 20,000 dollars if we round the poverty level income of two people to 16,000 a year.
In the case of adoption, another situation I have witnessed first-hand (my brother is adopted), even more rigorous stipulations apply. Not only are you stripped of your privacy by social workers but every detail of your existence is tabulated in order to discern if you are a fitting candidate for the ‘lucky’ child.
Since the government sets standards of support for existing family members or children through adoption, why not set a standard for new children by birth? What is the emotional, practical difference? How is one less entitled to their stranded husband, mother, sister, or daughter than to a child they plan on having? A child, I might add, with which no emotional connection exists because they do not exist yet.
Well, the conundrum is really quite apparent. Reproductive rights. In the same way removing the right to abortion holds women hostage to their pregnancies, forcing abortions on women who fail to qualify for parenthood would mean holding them hostage to the vagaries of intercourse; in other words, the same thing.
Just as it is unconscionable to refuse a person a necessary medical procedure, it is equally unconscionable to force an unnecessary one upon them. However, alternatives exist.
Let us imagine a world in which you must apply for parenthood, acquiring a license per child proving that you are financially and psychologically capable of rearing another human being. Now let us imagine that in this world people who have not applied or are obvious failed candidates, occasionally become pregnant, what then?
To begin you have the option to have an abortion, paid for by the state. You may also refuse that offer and bring the child to term so long as you sign a contract stipulating that if you ever fail to provide for your child and require the aid of state coffers, then after that child reaches 18 you must pay back with interest every dime used. I stipulate ‘after 18’ because forcing a beleaguered parent to pay during childhood only further complicates their already floundering status as providers. Fathers, married or not, will of course be legally bound to participate in this bargain with no exceptions and absolutely no legal recourse. If DNA does not exonerate the father he is bound. If the subject in question refuses DNA testing, he is bound. To do otherwise would unfairly burden women.
The argument that having a child is a ‘personal’ decision is a shabby one, as vacuous as it is platitudinous. Personal decisions affect only the person making them, but bringing a child to term affects two parties, not just one. Take the Duggar family. Here is a fundamentalist Christian family who has now produced some 19+ spawn. So incapable are these people of tending to their nidus of biblethumpers, that their eldest son managed to molest his own sisters right under their nose. Further, both parents essentially did everything in their power to avoid taking any sincerely preventative action, instead limiting their responses to ineffectual police reports and flaccid Christian counseling.
What kind of parents are these? How personal a decision was it to allow their son to continue to put their own children and those of others at risk? How personal a decision is it to produce so many children that you are incapable of providing each of them with the individual love and attention they require? This is not medieval Europe. We are not attempting to sire a workforce for the local lord’s estate here. In wealthy western countries it has long been established that we have children for their own sake, not for an ideology, not because we just can, and certainly not because we are too ignorant or lazy to practice safe sex. We don’t allow just anyone to adopt. We don’t allow just anyone to ferry over their family from afar. And we certainly should not let just anyone have children without some minimum level of accountability.
Such a policy would also force people to engage in a real dialogue about what the state owes families. Since under this system people would be forced to reconcile their finances and careers with the requisites of a family, people would be far more likely to demand a greater extension, or any extension, of family services from the government, such as federally mandated maternity leave and company provided or federally funded daycare. It might even get the ball rolling on free healthcare. Who knows. What I do know is not every Joe and Jane on the block should be allowed to pop one out.
I was driving my husband to work the other day and we were listening to an NPR discussion about the Pope’s visit to America. Somewhere in that deluge of religious fetishism there was a discussion about apologizing to indigenous peoples for wrongs done to them. This sparked an interesting discussion about how to effectively deal with past injustices.
At this moment I’d like to clarify that I’m talking about events in which no one, victim or oppressor, is left alive. And when I say victim I am not referring to the travesty’s legacy but the people who were actually done to. The question of how descendants are affected by the legacy of a conquest or genocide is another one entirely and one I will not deal with in this particular essay.
Personally, there seem to me to be myriad problems with creating a culture of apologies with regard to historical events. For one, in most cases the person issuing the apology has no real authority or even reason to do so. Secondly, in a perversely biblical way, the descendants of any given majority group are expected to bear the burden of guilt for all time. Lastly and most important of all, no one is the better for it.
One by one, I’d like to go through these contentions and detail why I think these sorts of apologies should be dispensed with and then what I believe would be a more effective way of addressing past travesties. Let us begin with what apologies are for.
When discussing this issue with my husband I asked if he didn’t see any value whatsoever in the attempt. He gave a definitive ‘no’. He went on to detail that there was no way that say, an ethnically European Pope or any person born a century after the event, could possibly comprehend or sympathize with a people whose culture had been utterly annihilated, much less actually feel contrite about it. How could they? They were neither victim nor victimizer. We might also ask the question, who are they apologizing for and how did they decide who is and is not culpable?
An apology in the usual sense is an admission of guilt. It is a way to verbalize one’s shame and admit regret for one’s actions. It can be a healing experience for the afflicted party when they sincerely believe that the apologizer acknowledges their actions as wrong. So if someone apologizes for a crime they didn’t commit, to a people who didn’t suffer as a result of it, then what is accomplished?
To summarize this initial point, apologies should be issued by the perpetrators, not by some Johnny-come-lately with a misguided guilt complex. Secondly, demanding that people take responsibility for crimes they couldn’t have committed, especially on the basis of heritage or similarity of appearance, is not only barbaric but laughably irrational.
If we were to take these apologies seriously though, believing that they were worth something and that descendants of various conquerors were just as guilty as their ancestors, what would the statute of limitations be on that, if any?
Do the Mongolians have to issue an apology to the Russians for their invasion in the 13th century? What about surviving members of the Aztec? By the end of the 15th century they had conquered and subjugated the vast majority of central Mexico, where is the shame? The Blackfeet Native Americans were notorious for their exceedingly violent raids on other tribes; so are they victims of Western expansion or did they just lose to an equally violent but bigger competitor? And what about the Arab slave trade which was still in force in the 20th century?
My point here is that human beings have been fucking each other over for a long time. More than that, it was and remains a very common practice. Many peoples who were violently subjugated or annihilated were equally vicious to their neighbors.
It should be said that when we depict victors as the one and only purveyor of conquest and cruelty, we infantilize their victims by portraying them as child-like innocents. The vast majority of human societies have been violent and insensitive to the well-being of their neighbors. Merely because one society dies under the foot of another does not mean the fallen party should be canonized.
I think the best way to make amends for travesties both long past and recent, is to tell the story like it is. While apologizing for these events may come to nothing, acknowledging their reality and doing so frankly and fully is important. It is imperative if we want to stop the train of human violence and disregard that has become such a familiar pattern among our species. History will always be important but it will only ever be helpful when it is recorded honestly, completely and free of politics.
Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire is a prime example of the importance of acknowledgement. Were an apology all that mattered, one could say it and move on. We are ‘off the hook’ when we have said the magic word, ‘sorry’. But when we are instead asked to acknowledge it, calling it what it is, there is no moving on. It is no longer just an admission of guilt or regret but a fact, and facts don’t go away.
Events like the American slave trade, the Armenian genocide and the annihilation of the Native Americans are not meant to be apologized for. It’s too late for that because there’s no one left to apologize to. They’re meant to be vividly remembered so that the next time around we can stop it before an apology becomes necessary.
This has been said about every minority that has every decided to grow a pair and voice their opposition to the mainstreams intolerance. There really isn’t a minority that hasn’t endured this accusation at one point or another.-Americans, long before even the civil rights movement, were often accused of being ‘uppity’ should they have dared to even suggest that white supremacy was morally questionable.
Suffragettes and the feminists that followed them also suffered this aspersion, the claim being that if only they were more patient, less aggressive and more understanding would they be taken more seriously. After all, few things are more unattractive than a hysterical woman.
The LGBT community too has been accused of being ‘too aggressive’ about their rights. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard conservatives and liberals alike bemoan gay activism for its flamboyancy and over indulgence in both political and social fanfare.
Current and copious examples can always be found in the comment sections of articles related to injustice against gays. Inevitably a story is run where some lesbian or gayboy dares to make a scene after being discriminated against and someone in the audience begins their comment with ‘I’m not homophobic but…’ and goes on to detail how this or that homosexual is being too intense, if only they would just calm down and let people ‘have their beliefs’.
It amuses me that, in the world of the mainstream and privileged, the ‘have nots’ are inevitably depicted as greedy and impatient while the ‘haves’ are coolly portrayed as rational and innocent bystanders to some group’s selfish need for political upheaval. The reality, however, is that the mainstream’s over-sensitivity to minority protestants is more a product of both their guilt and refusal to account for the status quo and how they disproportionately benefit from it.
Now it should go without saying that minority groups can make unreasonable claims and assert themselves in needlessly aggressive and plainly inappropriate ways. Feminists today are one such example of a group that unnecessarily depicts themselves as excessively beleaguered, even to the point of paranoid conspiracy theories and hustled statistics. Black activists have at times had similarly outlandish expectations, such as the notion that every institution or film represent the racial proportions of the nation as a whole.
But the reality is that in any nascent rights movement, or ideological shift, the minority is ineluctably depicted as abusing their air time. Atheists are particularly vulnerable to this. Believers both mild and maniacal popularly portray atheists broadly as impotent neckbeards with nothing better to do than call people stupid while arrogating an intellectual status to themselves.
If we’re honest, however, no one is louder, more aggressive, or more obnoxiously bumptious than the mainstream. Christians view atheists as caterwauling because they’ve never had to fight to have their voice heard in the forum of big ideas. Conservatives find gay marriage proponents annoying because it forces them to justify themselves, something queer people have been doing for centuries.
When you’ve been deprived of a voice, or in the least a readily receptive audience fully aware and likely aligned already with your viewpoint, it becomes important, indeed essential, to come on strong. The standard for minority positions will and always has been higher than for the mainstream, not least because the mainstream makes it that way.
Anyone reading this blog knows that I am vehemently contemptuous of cultural relativism; the notion that there are no absolutely right or wrong ways to govern or exist in a society but that instead it is all just a matter of one’s cultural consensus.
This notion, largely a far-left conceit, is not only demonstrably wrong with regard to the human condition but also a justification for all manner of grotesquery and moral turpitude. For example, a moral relativist would argue that western societies and those like it, such as Japan or South Korea, have no right to criticize the act of female genital mutilation since it can only be understood within its respective culture. In other words, what is true or right is determined by culture and not logic, reason, or even the obvious such as the human condition’s reaction to it.
Many times when defending the healthier practices of democracy and those nations which generally acknowledge Humanist values, I am confronted with some varietal of the far leftist, like a feminist who, while damning her own culture will compare its lowest points to some autocracy’s highest. The argument follows something like this: ‘Well, it was the West that dragged the world into World War II’ or ‘A ridiculously long time ago Arabia made some contributions to math which the Greeks failed to do.’
This tactic is a common one and almost inevitably involves the dredging up of a long finished and no longer representative past in a miserable state like Iran while comparing it with some past or current event in the West that is typically an exception to the rule. Either way, what is never acknowledged is the consistency of these faults or successes.
One of the most ridiculous attacks on the West’s moral superiority I’ve ever heard was when a French Muslim named Tariq Ramadan said the West had no right to criticize the treatment of women in Muslim majority nations since domestic abuse still transpired in Europe and North America. This is like claiming that because literacy rates in the West hover just below 100% they have no right to criticize nations where they exist at lows of fifty or even less.
I might also add, and this is a core difference, that domestic abuse in the West is illegal whereas in nations like Saudi Arabia it is most certainly legal or in the least, socially sanctioned. These distinctions matter.
It is demonstrably the case that when women are given equal access to resources in a society everyone in that society fares better. This can be scientifically measured and proven. I can guarantee that if you compared all the nations where women are practically equal to all the nations where they are undeniably not, you would find decreased poverty, increased literacy, lower infant mortality, and higher average lifespans. What is subjective or relative about that? Nothing. When women are equal the society is objectively a better one to live in. By what measure? Human well-being.
While no country on this earth is perfect and, for example, nations like the United States have much to answer for with regard to their clumsy and largely inhumane foreign policy, the reality on the ground of these nations is that the freedom to be and do exists and is taken seriously. The same cannot be said for many other nations, especially so in Muslim majority countries where de facto if not de jure theocracy reigns.
I you are going to compare two nations, like the United States and Iran, consistency matters. It is irrelevant who was more progressive several centuries ago. Anecdotes too are irrelevant. What matters is the legal system and how it is practiced on the ground. And I am sorry ladies and gentlemen, at least to those of you who disagree, but on that front and between these two nations in particular America is going to win every single time. Name whatever dictatorship America has propped up in the past if you please but in the end Iran maintains a theocratic psycho within its own borders and regularly threatens to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.
Nation states and cultures have to be compared directly. We can safely acknowledge the faults of democratic countries without submitting to the ridiculous notion that if a nation does one bad thing it is the equivalent of such sociopathic regimes as Iran or Saudi Arabia. Sweden engages in arms dealing, that hardly puts her on a par with Russia or China. The largely Humanist values of the West and her allies, occasional failings aside, are undeniably superior to the incessant system failures of their counterparts in such fascist states as Iran and that can never be understated.
I’ve gotten a little tired of the whole breastfeeding in public controversy. It seems that, as usual, people are incapable of finding that very reasonable middle ground between full-swinging tits-out with baby’s mouth and demanding that mothers pump ashamedly in the darkness of their homes.
I can never quite figure out what either side is so hysterically upset about. Do the naysayers, for example, really expect nursing mothers to just abstain everywhere save their bedroom closets? What exactly are they worried is going to happen when we see a suckled breast? Maybe it’s too glaring a reminder that we are animals, that motherhood can be as clumsy, wet, and sticky as baby-making. Or possibly it is that age-old desire to control women’s bodies in whatever way we can, even to the point of whimsy.
As for the pro-public milkers, the men and women that caterwaul in their support for indiscreet, topless anywhere-anytime suckling, I have to wonder what their arguments are. There is nothing sexist or discriminatory about the expectation of prudently choosing the venue for your baby’s feeding. Natural or not, I wouldn’t want to see one change their child’s diaper while I was dining and nor do I wish to see suckling while I sip away at my postprandial coffee.
There are plenty of natural behaviors and processes the human body requires, either with others or alone, that I think are best done in private or in the least, discreetly and without fanfare. I don’t like seeing people spit, scratch their balls or ass, nor do I want to see someone shit, masturbate, make-out, or fuck in public. These are all natural and entirely necessary daily necessities of the human condition. In the same way we don’t need to shame ourselves for engaging in them we also don’t need to politicize them, putting them on needless public display as though they are the equivalent to brushing one’s hair or cracking our knuckles.
Of course nursing mothers shouldn’t have to run to the nearest closet or restroom every time their newborn requires milk. But can’t we agree that a restaurant or café may not be the best place to do it? Or maybe, if one must, can we not be respectful enough of others to just throw a napkin over the shoulder?
It amuses me to consider how feminists expect people to police their language to totalitarian extents in defense of their fragile sensibilities while at the same time dismissing the concerns of others. These are the same people who created the concept of the ‘safe space’ where the uber-sensitive can hang out without fear of being intellectually challenged or hearing a word they don’t like.
Living in a society is as much about compromise as it is about gain. By living in a community I have an ease of access to resources that I wouldn’t have on my own in the woods. At the same time I cannot do everything I would like to do or how I would have it done, all the time.
Like so many other things in America, it seems breastfeeding has become a needless political issue around which feminists and others have decided to take a resolute stand for one reason or another. But merely because some people feel the act of breastfeeding, natural and necessary as it is, is beautiful does not mean it has to become performance art. Conversely, there are times and places where, distasteful as one may find it, breastfeeding will inevitably occur and the disdainful are free to turn their heads or change rooms.
My point here is that not everyone appreciates your body, behavior, or ideas the way you or others do. Further, we are not entitled to the love or adoration of strangers. That being said, we can be reasonable and wise about when we engage in bodily processes or intimacies, both respecting the sensibilities of others while delivering a resounding ‘fuck you’ to those who expect us to pretend it never happens.
I was recently engaged in a slight tussle with a relative on facebook which made me think about how easily overlooked the point of a statement can be when the audience’s mood is elsewhere.
This individual has a thing about educating people on menstruation and had just posted an article to this effect about ‘menstruation costs’ which accrue as a result of ignoring the female cycle. I saw this thread and in an effort to stop it from dying decided to post along a similar vein, stating how I felt about America’s hypocrisy when she courts Saudi Arabia while lambasting Russia’s human rights track record.
I then mentioned in the comment that Russia had a remarkably high percentage of women in managerial positions compared to the West’s average in an attempt to make a point about gender equality in Russia versus Saudi Arabia.
Now, this was in no way intended to detract from my relative’s article nor was it to make a point about menstruation specifically. It was just a commentary loosely related to the subject of gender equality and was meant to agree with the most general point regarding prioritizing human rights issues appropriately since her article highlights the lack of focus on women’s bodies and their needs.
Anyway…they quip back with this cutesy one liner about how no one should base the morality of a nation upon one statistic. And that is where we are going to begin my friends.
We’ve all done this at one time or another, missed the point. But it seems to happen more often with some people than others and those tend to be the people with a single agenda and team for which they fight tooth and nail for, even when it is in direct opposition with the truth.
Religious zealots, patriots, and social justice warriors are great examples of such individuals but really anyone intensely advocating for a single cause with a black and white solution in their hand is likely to fall victim to this kind of intellectual myopia.
Feminists are a particularly relevant example of such people in America today. They are very fond of distilling everything down to some obvious root cause which, were it addressed, would solve the problem in its entirety. These ‘solutions’ are further corrupted by a grievous misunderstanding of the picture at large so that in essence, the solution is to a problem that doesn’t really exist as they understand it.
An example might be feminism’s claim that patriarchy is the cause of sexism which is the result of too many empowered men and too few empowered women. Following this train of logic leads us to their simple solution; empower more women as compared to men to alter the institutional balance of power. This root cause and its simple solution, however, are based upon a few unproven and erroneous assumptions.
This first assumes that where any example of sexism can be made it is an implicit result of misogyny. In other words, confirmation bias. A prime example being the lack of female representation in engineering majors across America. Is this due to a conspiracy to keep women out of engineering or could there be other factors, such as preference?
Secondly, it assumes that men and women are absolutely equal, dismissing biology entirely. So if a man is chosen over a woman for a heavy lifting job it is because of patriarchy again, instead of a necessary requisite for physical strength which men as a group are better equipped for.
Thirdly, it assumes that what sexism does empirically exist is the simple result of too many men in power and too few women. This is problematic since it clearly implies that women are never and cannot be agents of sexism.
If, however, these assumptions are incorrect then feminism’s understanding of the problem is false, rendering the solution meaningless.
While ironic it is no accident that American feminists respond so hysterically to legitimate ideological critiques. Much like the intransigent religious zealot, because their entire ideological identity is built around a single, central premise from which all their beliefs ramify, it is of existential importance that they silence and pillory any and all oppositional encounters.
This brings me to the article’s point. For the reason stated above these individuals are not merely disinterested in the truth but diametrically opposed to it when and where it opposes the premise of their ideology.
In my relative’s case, small as it is, the threat is to the ridiculous notion that cultural views on menstruation can be specifically addressed and redound to any real, sustainable good for women. My comment, despite not in any way being targeted, did make a point about prioritizing the big picture and big issues over the comparatively small and inane. Suffrage, for example, over body image or equal access to education over no fault divorce laws.
This is not to say that something like menstruation taboos are unimportant. It is indicative of a larger problem but it is not the point.
For these reasons, knowing your audience is important when sussing out why it is they refuse to stay on topic. It is also a key to understanding why, when a person is invested enough in a cause, they will actually support its continuance as opposed to its resolution to keep themselves relevant. Note that many professional feminists today will speak less about progress while feverishly caterwauling about how much worse things have become. After all, so long as patriarchy is the problem they remain relevant and the same is true for many other cases.
Practitioners of critical thought understand that the empirical reality is what matters, not the words you choose to describe it. One can avoid these kinds of ideological biases and blindnesses by remaining loyal to the pursuit of truth and reality while steering clear of forming an identity around one cause. There is certainly nothing wrong with having a mission but there is something wrong with redefining the truth of that mission to meet your psychological needs.
Argument 1 [The Already Argument]
But we already have limits on free speech! What about libel? Slander? Or Holocaust denial laws?
This one is a non-starter since laws restricting the freedom of speech do not automatically justify further restrictions. That being said, let’s examine the restrictions that do exist in the free world so that we can see how they justify themselves.
Libel and slander do not pertain to the critique of ideologies but rather to reputations and grant people recourse in the case of outright calumnies issued against them. These laws, however, are much more complicated than most people realize so I am going to issue the most general summary of their workings.
In America defamation is a civil crime and not a criminal offense which means that the injured party may sue whoever is doing the defaming. In order to do so the victim of defamation shoulders the burden of proof in showing that the libel or slander was published, false, injurious and unprivileged. This scenario and the legitimacy of one’s defamation claims depends on several factors and becomes even harder to prove if the plaintiff is a public figure. To put it simply, defamation suits are not easy to win and the advantage, at least in America, is definitively in the defendant’s court.
Essentially, these laws mostly exist to protect non-public citizenry against invidious (and public) aspersions or misinformation about their person because of the measurable harm that can result. Note again, however, that it is the victim that must prove she has been wronged.
Why is this distinction between ideologies and reputations important? Reputations do not form political parties. Reputations do not form social movements. Reputations do not form the basis of or found governments and religious institutions, ideologies do. A person can be taken to court and forcibly be held accountable for their actions. Ideologies, however, cannot be taken to court. Ideologies are difficult to hold accountable which is why the freedom to criticize them is paramount if we are to protect ourselves from their sinister and extreme varieties.
Lastly, regarding the Holocaust denial laws such as those in Austria or Germany, this legislation pertains to an objective historical, scientifically and academically established truth. It is, to put it simply, a fact that the Holocaust happened and there is every kind of evidence to support it from eye-witnesses to video to documentation to common-fucking-sense.
Personally, I do believe that one should be free to make a fool of one’s self and reject the obvious while simultaneously being publicly ridiculed for doing so. But to conflate these laws with those found under such theocratic regimes as Saudi Arabia or Iran concerning imagery of the Muslim prophet is as obtuse as it is intellectually lazy. It is not a fact that Mohammed was a prophet, no one can prove that he was or wasn’t. Further, Mohammed is the cornerstone of a very bad idea called Islam which must necessarily be open to criticism. The Holocaust is not an idea. It is not the cornerstone of any ideology. To put it all simply, the Holocaust’s substance can be substantiated whereas Islam’s cannot be.
The remaining restriction that exists pertains to immediate harm done by hate speech. This, obviously, has nothing to do with the criticism of ideas but only rabble rousing. Calling for the death and destruction of a person or people should not be protected by law. It is neither constructive nor a critique of ideas.
It should now be abundantly clear that the legal restrictions on free speech in the free world do not pertain to the critique and open discourse of ideas which is the most significant and primary reason to exercise it.
Argument 2 [The Substance Argument]
I don’t support killing people over cartoons but they were racist weren’t they? People should only be allowed to exercise that kind of criticism when it is really meaningful or counterbalanced.
Incorrect. That is not how freedom of speech or the press works. Who decides if it is ‘meaningful’? Who decides when it is ‘counterbalanced’ effectively? To what degree of ‘meaning’ is necessary to justify the exercise? To what degree of balancing?
The problem with this argument is two-fold. First, it exposes the person for the latent authoritarian that they truly are because only an authoritarian mind would be so arrogant as to presume she knows absolutely what is substantial versus superficial. It also exposes the belief that feelings are more important than ideals. That is a breathtakingly dangerous sentiment in a world where open discourse is valued.
The whole point of a no holds barred approach to freedom of speech as far as ideas are concerned is that no one’s understanding of the truth is so absolute that they transcend peer criticism. Racists should be allowed to assemble and protest racial integration for the simple fact that if you detain them they and others will have precedent to detain their opposition should they ever be in a position to. It is simply too dangerous to allow any one person or group to escape the intellectual rigor of public scrutiny.
More importantly, bad ideas don’t go away when you silence them. Instead, their possessors become hard to identify and even harder to hold accountable when the campaign trial begins.
In a world where open discourse and freedom of the press reign supreme the public is free to lambast idiotic people like bigots and take them to task for their unsubstantiated beliefs. Good ideas will always defeat bad ideas in the coliseum of open debate and discourse where everyone has a voice, no matter how repugnant or resplendent. This is how free speech ensures itself.
Argument 3 [The Hypocrisy Argument]
But this free country or that free country limited free speech when they…
For some reason there are people who believe that citing hypocritical governments amounts to some kind of argument against the free and open critique of ideas. It doesn’t. It only proves that governments, as they’ve been doing since the beginning of time, always attempt to consolidate power, no matter where they are. Obviously we shouldn’t let them.
Argument 4 [The Harm Argument]
Speech is an act and acts that do measurable harm are criminal.
What kind of harm are we talking about? That question is relevant and bears answering. We’ve already noted that there exist laws which limit hate speech inciting imminent harm to individuals, as well as reputations. But that does not include someone’s discomfort over a topic nor does it include their hurt feelings when an idea they hold dear is held under rigorous scrutiny.
Freedom of speech cannot and should not be truncated to accommodate a person’s ideological insecurities. If the offended party sincerely believes they possess the truth then an environment fostering open discourse will allow them to defend it. It is not the fault of free speech that some ideas are better than others or that some people are incapable of defending their beliefs.
It is also worth mentioning that if we begin legislating on preference and feelings anything will become game for prohibition, including reason and objective truth.
Free speech only matters when it can confront the taboo. The freedom to speak out about recipes or linens doesn’t mean anything. Only when speech can be used for ideological reckoning does it have value.
Remember, we are not talking about absolute free speech here. We are talking about safeguarding the freedom we have to criticize ideas. In America at least and as far as I know, there are no federal laws that prohibit the critique of ideas and thus it should remain.