Ringing the bell

Picking up where I left off with my post on tribalism. Because I wanted to talk specifically about a recurrent kind of “broken” I am seeing in arguments all over the place — beyond the tiny halls of the Peoples Republic of Science Fiction. This “broken” is most commonly manifested among well-meaning straight Caucasian folk, but is often fostered and preached about by non-straight and/or non-Caucasians of a particularly aggressive “progressive” persuasion.

The “broken” goes like this:

● Any member of the majority group is always guilty of ism no matter what.
● The ism is a fatal character and moral flaw, from which the afflicted cannot fully recover.
● Members of the minority group can never be guilty of ism; because the minority group lacks power.
● Members of the majority group must be “shown” their ism and/or be made to confess their inherent flaw; en route to being reformed.
● Reformed members of the majority group will actively assist in pointing out the ism of unreformed people.
● Proof (of ism) is not required; guilt will always be assumed.
● The more a target denies or resists charges of ism, the greater the obvious culpability.
● The unreformed are “fair game” for all manner of actions designed to be personally destructive to the target(s).
● Lying (and other unethical behavior) on the part of the plaintiff(s) — against the target(s) — is forgivable, because the ends justify the means.

Folks, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is Witch Trials 101. There’s nothing new about any of it. All we’ve done is wrap the witch trials up in trendy 21st century politics. When people are automatically guilty of a crime, for which no evidence is required, and the accusers are permitted a kind of political immunity while the protestations of the innocent are merely used as “proof” that the innocent were guilty all along . . . that’s witch trials. Burning at the stake. Except, these days the stake and the village square are located on the internet, and the villagers — with digital pitch forks and torches — are anyone with access to Twitter, a blog, Facebook, or some other form of social media.

Some people who actively engage in the witch trials and witch hunts, are cynics using the process for pure spite, vindictiveness, or to take down enemies.

But many people are not cynics; they really do believe they’re doing a good thing. Or at least, they want to be seen doing the “good thing” so that they can (hopefully) avoid becoming a target themselves.

I call this behavior RINGING THE BELL.

Think of it like the classic carnival game. At the bottom of the pole you have the weight. The bottom of the pole represents the default state of existence, which (according to the “broken” narrative) is ism. Could be racism, could be sexism, could be homophobia, or transphobia, etc. Whatever terrible ism is hiding under our beds, that’s where the bottom of the pole is. And that’s where you are, simply as a matter of breathing air. The only way to “prove” you are reformed, is to take your mallet and thwack the lever, hurling the weight up the pole with the intent to ring the bell. The harder and more often you slam your mallet down — over and over — the more you will feel like (and be seen by others being) reformed. AKA: you are an “ally” in the fight against ism.

“See? *DING* See how I ring the bell? *DING* I am one of the good ones! *DING* I am making a difference!”

Again, ethics aren’t really part of it. What counts is how much force you put into slamming that mallet. Ergo, how many times others hear or see you ringing the bell.

Things that count as “slamming the mallet, ringing the bell” on the internet:

● Accuse others of ism.
● Self-denigrate and self-flagellate, for the sake of expunging your own ism.
● Public confessions of ist thoughts and ist feelings.
● Twitter-mobbing “fair game” targets.
● Social media gossiping and lying about “fair game” targets.
● Doxxing “fair game” targets.
● Threatening the family and friends of “fair game” targets.
● Threatening the livelyhood of “fair game” targets.

And so on, and so forth.

Really, it’s an alluringly toxic wedding of no-heavy-lifting slacktivism, with guilt-free self-righteousness — that doesn’t require a participant to get his or her hands dirty, can be done from behind the safety of a keyboard and screen, affords anonymity (if you want it), or allows you to self-valorize in front of spectators.

Is it any wonder this game has become so popular?

I tend to reject the “broken” wherever and whenever I encounter it. Mostly because I don’t believe in the model of the carnival game, where everybody’s default resting state is ism. This is just another kind of original sin, secularized and modernized. I’ve never trucked with people who espouse the “broken” doctrine. And it is a doctrine. Very trendy, and very popular — especially in the hothouse halls of university humanities theory. If you believe the theory, you can never escape your original sin, because you were born with it. And your only recourse is to adopt the hair shirt, set about decrying original sin in others, and trying very hard to make sure you’re one step ahead of the inquisition.

Which is — to my mind — not only morally and ethically wrong, it’s also futile; and exhausting. Nobody who is actually enduring a societal injustice is much helped by participants staging the kabuki “broken” theater. The kabuki is purely about dancing the dance according to the forms, so that participants can align themselves correctly — in order to not be seen on the wrong side of the political and social tracks.

Again, this is no-heavy-lifting slacktivism.

But who wants to have to keep ringing the bell? Sooner or later you’re going to run out of steam — not to mention friends. You can’t run around pointing your finger at the motes in the eyes of others, while ignoring the beam in your own. Eventually you will slip up and your “friends” on the correct side of the kabuki will throw you to the wolves — you will be declared “fair game” and all the tactics you formerly used against others, will come home to roost against you personally.

Better — I believe fervently — to abolish original sin. Stop the kabuki. No human being is born into a state of ism and no person should ever fear being counted guilty of a crime that has not actually been provably committed.

Yes, there is the question of tribalism, and it’s not a bad idea to keep on your toes in this regard. Because I believe tribal instincts run deep in human beings, and we manifest our tribalism every day. Often in very benign and harmless ways. Sometimes in less-than-harmless ways, too. But merely keeping your wits about you, and working against tribalist instinct that can turn destructive, is the hallmark of the thinking mind. It proves that you give benefit of the doubt to your fellow human beings.

The witch hunt is not the hallmark of the thinking mind. There is no benefit of the doubt. The kabuki is the activity of the unthinking — people who seek an easy path to the cheapest sort of binary absolutism, and an unearned self-elevation above others.

Presently, the “broken” is running rampant in our popular culture. Nobody is quite sure what to do about it, except more and more people are growing alarmed at the consequences. Lives and reputations are being ruined. Careers destroyed. Families attacked without warrant. And much worse still.

Every time any of us engage in ringing the bell — despite our best intentions — we cause the candle flame of the Western Enlightenment to flicker. We’re enshrining emotion, at the expense of reason. Placing inductive logic and argument above deductive logic and argument. We’re inviting back into our hearts (and our heads) the many centuries of Dark Ages philosophy, which shackled culture after culture throughout history.

And no, it doesn’t matter if you think you’ve got good intentions.

The road to Hell has been paved with those for countless thousands of years.

Hopefully a breaking point is reached — that we’re either near it, or at it.

Because the society we create today, is the society we gift to our children tomorrow. And right now, society is imperiled from within, by the witch hunters.

Innocent, until proven guilty. Beyond any shadow of doubt. With facts. With evidence. That is the precept upon which liberal Western law is based. It is the foundation of the polite society. It is the root of what makes us a great people. We’re presently edging away from what makes us great. We’re letting our good intentions take us down a path to perdition. Hopefully enough courageous individuals straighten up and realize what’s happening — with time to slam on the brakes, and reverse course.

We don’t have to do this — we don’t have to dance the kabuki and ring the bell — in order to make the world a just place.

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29 thoughts on “Ringing the bell

  1. I take it you would just as strongly disagree with the position that if there were a pervasive white supremacist force in our society, it would be the Democratic Party and the Left?

  2. I deplore the bell ringing and the blame slinging and the efforts to build up more walls. Having said that – IMO American society is vulnerable to this kind of toxic derailment because we still have unhealed wounds – which will be with us for some time to come. (Esp if people insist on continuing to beat on each other with hammers.)

    Two links for further thought and digestion:

    Slatestarcodex on Blame Theory: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/04/19/blame-theory/

    (Slatestarcodex is a “rationalist” community blog, but they are good at figuring out how to strip away excess emotion and (more importantly) assumptions from considerations of ethics.)

    And secondly: Jay Smooth’s TED talk on the social hygiene paradigm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

    (JS was briefly famous for an on-air incident where an African-American liberal type questioned his authentic “blackness”. I found his talk very accessible – mostly because he said WE all the time.)

    I find these sources helpful. I hope others do as well.

  3. Ever notice there’s a lot of resemblance to Scientology’s “Fair Game” and “Ethics” doctrine when it comes to internet warfare? I don’t think there’s much of a direct connection, just a lot of similarity when it comes to the _mindset_ and the TTPs.

  4. Bob,

    I look at the Democrats and I see self-selected “betters” who believe they (and they alone) know best how to order and run my life for me. Most of them are white and straight. A few of them are not. Most of them come from money, have money, and lots of education. Almost none of them possess that rarest of all commodities: wisdom. (grin)

  5. You’ve just exposed SJWs to two precepts which would break their filthy ideology were they to adopt them:

    People are people.

    Rules.

    In my opinion you have correctly identified the mechanism which is mainstreaming hate speech into the core SFF community as something noble:

    Hateful bigots driving well-meaning do-gooders who are naive and don’t get out much. Adding in power-privilege-punching up theory is nothing more than an historic civilizational excuse note from teacher. It is a con game hate hides behind.

    A dispassionate survey of rhetoric from SFF’s big-eyed innocent so-called “marginalized” reveals something more like a KKK than wanting a place at the table.

    Group defamation is always wrong. There are no excuses. I am not crazy – I understand why GLAAD and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League exist. I can read a history book. I also understand that in no way means I have ceded one iota of my right to not be similarly defamed. This is not a contest, it is not a sliding scale, this is equal protection. Demography is not an ism, yet that is the single great centerpiece of SJW thought and incitement.

    Unless you’re the right demography… then it isn’t.

    I think you hit these people right where it hurts this time. They’ll have a hard time arguing it away or denying it.

  6. Tribalism can be a very good thing in that humans are social animals and need to have social connections and social membership in order to be healthy. I think that the danger is when these true things are denied and instead of viewing your “community” as a tiny segment of people with similar interests and various overlaps with other groups that are different in some ways and similar in others… you view your “tribe” as something objective and universal and discount the legitimacy of the overlapping groups with multiple memberships that are different in various ways that are important to you. Then instead of being supportive and healthy, it becomes about denying those multiple memberships to others.

    Like someone said to me here a while ago and someone else said elsewhere to me today… “almost all nerds, geeks, creative people, sci-fi fans, blah blah blah are SJW’s and agree with what we do… are “liberal”… whatever.”

    So the tribe of “authors and artists” or the tribe of “science fiction fans and comic nerds” doesn’t exist as a venn diagram that overlaps with other tribal affiliations. It’s just a circle.

    With a great big fence around it.

    Is it any wonder that people seem so terrified of being thrown out?

  7. Keranih says, “IMO American society is vulnerable to this kind of toxic derailment because we still have unhealed wounds – which will be with us for some time to come.”

    I don’t think it’s that we have unhealed wounds; without the witch hunts and bell ringers, I believe America’s wounds would be far behind us. I think rather we have certain elements bent on making sure there are *always* wounds, because those social wounds validate their existence, and confirm their chosen leaders as Important People In Their Tribe. This is hardly a new concept:

    “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.”
    — Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (1911)

  8. Brad: Something that was pointed out a few elections ago, and I don’t know how true the numbers are, but it’s something to consider:

    90% of elected Democrats are either lawyers or journalists.

    50% of elected Republicans are lawyers or journalists, and about 50% are businessmen.

    That gave me this thought:

    Businessmen generally make a living by building something. You may not like what they build, but they build *something*, cuz that’s how they make money to stay in business.

    Lawyers and journalists make their living primarily from other people’s misfortune. Eg. defending someone in court or reporting them in the news. For a lawyer or journalist to make a living, other people have to screw up.

    It’s no wonder a lot of ’em see average folks as losers who need a Democrat to tell them how to live, cuz that’s the demographics that gave ’em a career. (And that not all Republicans are immune to that.)

  9. I have a shocking surprise for SJWs: people are people.

    It doesn’t matter whether they are in an all-black illegal after-hours club in south Minneapolis or a Mayan farmer in his cornfield halfway up the side of a volcano. It doesn’t matter if they are making tortora reed boats on the shores of Lake Titicaca or are a Polish forklift driver in a supermarket distribution center in Illinois. It doesn’t matter if they are a high school kid in Sumatra or lovers stealing a kiss on the old ramparts of Valetta in Malta.

    They have committed no crimes either civilizationally or as individuals. Nor have they committed great deeds.

    Leave ’em the fuck alone.

    Stop enrolling them in groups of millions of people and then talking about them as if they were a single angel or devil.

    The foul rhetoric I am seeing on Twitter in the SFF community is not the failure of an ethnic or sexual demographic, but of broken individuals sick in their minds and hearts. They have been given waaaaaaaaaaay to much traction and credibility in the SFF community. Time to kick them down the road.

    I’m proud of you for writing this post, Brad.

  10. Rez,

    I think it profit not egoboo. Those are the folks I think are the forces of pervasive white supremacism in our society, responsible for the death of Mike Brown, if any such exist*.

    It works too well as a business to just be salve for defective personalities.

    *Okay, they are one of several elements in my definition. Another is welfare, and here I would argue against Brad’s assumption of good intentions, because that quote of LBJ’s speaks to evil intent, and to him having a wicked genius. The third is where I drag in James May, due to an apparent political disagreement between him and I where he has the more mainstream view.

  11. The question probably ought to be… what are your goals? All the -ism thing, Original Sin, public confession, sack-cloth and ashes, followed by joining the ranks of the Sin Seekers… What are the goals? Good goals (if we allow “good goals”) do not automatically result in good tactics, good strategy, or good results.

    “I want to increase representation of under-represented groups in science fiction… therefore I’m going to “ring that bell” day and night about how much science fiction hates you and always has hated you and excluded you if you’re one of those under-represented people.”

    And this makes sense in which universe? It just doesn’t. Nor does the drum beat do anything but pound in the “truth” that it’s near impossible for you to “make it”. Who does this serve? Who gets some sort of benefit from that *particular* message?

    I had friends who gave up on me because I kept pointing out… this thing you think it is so vital for me to admit… explain how doing so achieves your end goals? The whole concept, explicit and implicit, is that there is no solution because the problem is not something anyone has an influence or power over. It *can’t* be changed. That’s the whole *point*. Not only did I feel that my public confession was worthless, I was and am still convinced that it’s *harmful* to the supposed end-goal.

    Who does confession serve? Who benefits from this public posturing? Who does it elevate? It only elevates and benefits the person making the confession. It gives them a public position of piety. It makes them *important*.

  12. The -ism-peddlers – call them SJW, or CHORF, or LibDem (Gay Men Are Appropriating Black Women’s Culture, Jazz Hands), or whatever other name they function under – will continue to run roughshod over people because they’re willing to use techniques their opponents abhor. When one of their primary tenets is ‘No Bad Tactics, Only Wrong Targets’, it’s tough to fight back without gazing into that Abyss, if you hope to accomplish anything.

    Watching the events in Calgary – less than 90 minutes from initial Twatter to Final Judgment, followed by calling the police when they didn’t leave the city fast enough – raise more than a few concerns for Sasquan.

  13. Julie,

    It seems to me that there are two possible ends. Either it is leftist and political because ‘everything is political’, or leftist techniques like the Leninist organizational weapon, have proliferated beyond the hard core, and are being used for private purposes.

    The left has a history of sometimes using methods that will never reach the ends they claim. Take random terrorism for example. The theory is that blowing up kids at the market causes immiseration (spelling?), thereby making the government unpopular and causing a successful revolution. In practice, people don’t know this, and instead end up hating the murdering commie nutjobs, and being happy when the government secret police make booksellers disappear.

  14. There are no real-world goals. Third Wave Intersectional Gender Feminism is an hysteric and psychotic anti-male, anti-white, anti-heterosexual cult. As far as I can tell their goal consists of hoping men stop acting like men, whites like whites, and heterosexuals like heterosexuals. This type of thing aimed at other groups has been known as white supremacy and anti-Semitism.

    Until the enemy stops behaving like the enemy, IntGenFem’s mechanism seems to be segregated safe-spaces and anthologies and in asking the world to deep-six reading straight white men for a year and in appeals to “de-white” libraries and convention panels. Plus they literally recommend literature according your racial and sexual classification, like a girly apartheid. There’s your plan; good stories, peace and love pop out the other end of it.

    And jazz hands. Don’t forget feminist jazz hands…

    … and sudden loud noises.

    “And the Hugo Award for Best Racial Revenge Fantasy of the Year goes tooooooo…

    … “What If Whites Were Slaves for One Billion Years?” by No’twhite Notmanio.

    Hahahahahaah.

  15. This does seem to be the only rational conclusion.

    It only looks that way because there are different groups with different multiple goals. Even worse, some of the goals are at cross-purposes (or would be if anyone was paying attention; the ‘gay men appropriating black culture’ is an example of someone realizing that not everyone shares the same goal). If TNH can make the world a ‘better place’ and make more money for Tor(or, better yet, BY making money for Tor), then it’s better than just making the world a ‘better place’. Never forget, these are individuals at work. Groups don’t have a mind.

    The left has a history of sometimes using methods that will never reach the ends they claim.

    Of course, the second problem is they choose goals by intentions without thinking how things will play out in the real world.

  16. Well written, Brad. I appreciate your wisdom and your willingness to stand in front of the rotten fruit as it pelts down.

  17. The other foundation of a polite society is that it be an armed society. You nailed it when you stated that the ringing of the bell can be done with anonymity. When one must account to the one you have slandered who has the means to harm you as radically as you have harmed him, a lot of this shit damps down.

  18. Brad,

    I hate to be a pedant here (oh, who the fuck am I kidding, I live for shit like this) kabuki is actually a style of dramatic play, not a dance, although it does sometime incorporate dance in the production. So you don’t “dance kabuki” per se, you sort of present it or play it or something. Not actually sure what the proper english verb is.

    David

  19. It’s all about RESPECT. That’s a word that’s deemed as too “old-fashioned” now. It’s been forgotten .It doesn’t mean that I have to agree with YOU or you with ME but in order for civilization to function it has to be practised.
    I still remember a very rousing “debate” between my dad and a college student about the Vietnam War circa 1968 . I was just 12 years old and had some knowledge about the war but wasn’t that informed about it either. There was my old man (a 50 year old WW 2 vet ,for the war) going up against a 20 year old university student (against) . They used all the facts as they understood them against each other – but no name-calling,no sarcasm,no insults.It got a bit loud but they kept it fair. It was the best debate I have ever witnessed !
    As we drove away that night I made some comment to my dad and he replied that while he totally disagreed with the college kid’s opinion , he still gave credit to him for having good arguments and respecting the difference in opinion.
    Whatever happened to that sort of attitude when dealing with others ?

  20. When it come to hate speech which obsessively attacks people based on their race and sex, probably statistical 0% of all Americans publicly indulge in it. That’s because the threshold to be eligible for such a thing is so high; almost no Americans meet it.

    When you arrive at the core SFF community, suddenly that all changes. The number of prominent SFF figures who either indulge in hate speech or openly support it is a statistical anomaly in American culture. In SFF that includes editors, prominent bloggers, Campbell, Nebula and Hugo nominees. By definition, that shows some sort of faddist cult is at work. By “faddist” I mean you couldn’t possibly have that many people who actively hate 1/6 to half the planet. Brad is right. You need a lot of wayward dupes – what Tom Wolfe once referred to in a 1970 book title as “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers,” though I’d say this 21st century edition is far worse than what Wolfe was referring to.

    The problem is that from the outside, since the merely naive parrot the hateful, it all looks much the same. What oddball mechanism which produced this cult of racial and sexual obsession and hatred in SFF and almost nowhere else in America today is probably something for a cultural sociologist to uncover. What ever’s the case, it’s a disgrace to the genre. I don’t believe it is liberalism at work here. Even leftism hasn’t thrown itself over to a bizarre cult of lesbian-centric psycho-sexual and racial hatred.

    SFF needs a frickin’ therapist, and probably an outside intervention.

    To me it’s obvious that without the intervention of Sad Puppies, we would’ve had a replay of last year’s jazz hands crusade against the white patriarchy.

    There is your “marginalized,” your “diversity,” your new core SFF community.

    This is from a Wikipedia entry on “Radical Chic”:

    “[Wolfe’s] subject is how culture’s patrician classes – the wealthy, fashionable intimates of high society – have sought to luxuriate in both a vicarious glamour and a monopoly on virtue through their public espousal of street politics: a politics, moreover, of minorities so removed from their sphere of experience and so absurdly, diametrically, opposed to the islands of privilege on which the cultural aristocracy maintain their isolation, that the whole basis of their relationship is wildly out of kilter from the start. … In short, Radical Chic is described as a form of highly developed decadence; and its greatest fear is to be seen not as prejudiced or unaware, but as middle-class.
    —Michael Bracewell, ‘Molotov Cocktails'”

  21. @Rez

    “I don’t think it’s that we have unhealed wounds; without the witch hunts and bell ringers, I believe America’s wounds would be far behind us. I think rather we have certain elements bent on making sure there are *always* wounds, because those social wounds validate their existence, and confirm their chosen leaders as Important People In Their Tribe.”

    I agree and I don’t agree. (See? I contain multitudes. :)) I think there are people who are subject to unfair treatment and that there are imbalances in our society that need redressing. I also think there are definitely people invested in milking the situation for all its worth – so that they as individuals profit, no matter what happens to society as a whole – and a much smaller group who are working on making making it worse. (Some of the people who are making it worse are actually trying to help. Others – the ones most acting out of lack of charity – are deliberately making things go down hill.)

    I will point out that a lot of the wounds (and scars) are hard to see if you’re not looking for them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. America’s an awesome place with great people – it’s not the end of the world to acknowledge that some of the time we’ve screwed up.

    (To play with that metaphor a bit – we are continually writing the story of Us as Humans – or Us as Americans or Us as Fans – and like all bits of writing, there are parts that are inspired, bits that just sing. And long boring bits, and purple prose. And some typos, bad grammar, and just plain crap presentation. Just because we are fighting with people who are telling us the whole thing sucks and it needs to be thrown out and burnt – that doesn’t mean we have grounds to get nasty with – or ignore- the people who are politely saying “dude, that their is supposed to be they’re and you still haven’t changed it. Also, Harry the caveman is still carrying an Inuit spear on the proto-Persian plains that you said you were going to fix three drafts back.”)

    (Back to the wounds analogy-) Ignoring those wounds is not the answer – but they should be treated, and whatever the social version of PT done, not paraded forth and used as a shaming device.

    To strain the metaphor a bit more – there is a difference between the man with scars from 3rd degree burns shopping in the store who makes us uncomfortable, and the guy on the corner talking up how he was hurt in the war and needs help as he begs for change. We need to be clear in our talk and actions so that both of these guys know that we can tell there is a difference between them. And no matter what these guys do, we have a requirement to be just, charitable, and civil in our own actions.

    Wow, I do go on.

  22. No original sins? Why, that sort of talk would only have people being punished for their own transgressions, and no one else’s. Hmph. Sounds like something a _Mormon_ would say.

    What’s next, that all fen-kind can be saved by reading and writing books that are fun to read?

  23. Keranih, compared to the rest of the world USians wallow in our wounds and sorrow. We let the world believe that our sack cloth and ashes represent real things and we even believe ourselves uniquely racist. Anyone who has lived overseas knows it’s not true.

  24. The worldview you are attempting to explain without ever having attempted to understand actually does not lend itself to unthinking, uncritical acceptance.

    On the contrary, to anyone who isn’t disposed to critical thought, it is so much easier to just reduce it to the obvious nonsense you have bullet pointed above, and then reject it as nonsense.

    Who could live like that? Who would? Maybe some overenthusiastic freshmen who are just grappling with these ideas for the first time, but it’s ultimately not sustainable.

    Which isn’t to say that the actual philosophy, practiced rationally, is easy. The thing about critical thinking is there is no end point. Do we have perfect information about ourselves or the world? No, we don’t.

    But how tempting it is to pretend otherwise! How attractive it is to say things like “It is not possible to live the life I have lived and be sexist or racist.” No thought, critical of otherwise, required!

    I can certainly see how on many levels this beats the alternative, which is to always question, always dig deeper, always ask one more question… a thinker’s work is never done, because no amount of feeling certain precludes the possibility that we are certainly wrong.

    But I for one would rather be in doubt about most things but certain that my questioning is leading me closer to the truth than be certainly mistaken.

    I’ll put it to you simply, Brad: in viewing this through the lens of sin in the Christian model, you are mistaking almost every element of the philosophy you disdain. People processing their privilege out loud in blogs and such aren’t expiating a sin or flagellating for points (awarded by whom? redeemable for what?) They are simply thinking critically about their lives, trying to be mindful of harm they may have done or been ccomplicit in, even if it was simply by benefiting (unasked for and unknowingly) from harms done to others.

    Now your reaction here might be “Bull! I am responsible for my own actions only! I accept no blame for actions I had no part in!”

    To which I would say: sure! Fair enough, and more than fair. Eminently reasonable, even.

    But not what we’re talking about when we speak of privilege. It isn’t blame that we assign, and we don’t demand you apologize or seek forgiveness for it because–and this is the important bit–privilege isn’t crime and it isn’t sin.

    As long as you process it in terms of a sin you aare being blamed for, you aren’t going to follow what people are actually talking about.

    I am not demanding that you accept the framework of privilege as a valid way of seeing society’s interactions. How could I? I can only point out that if you don’t understand it, you can’t even properly reject it.

    There is a story that a famous mathematician, looking over a student’s work, once said, “This isn’t right. It isn’t even wrong.” He meant that the assumptions being used were so far off-base the answer nore no relationship to the problem.

    This post, Brad… it isn’t even wrong.

    I won’t say there are no people who come to the philosophy you’re attempting to describe and–making the same mistakes you do–try to practice it that way. This kind of behavior has a short half-life. They burn out, or they learn better, or they decide that it’s all a farce and “switch sides”, riding out with the same fervor against what they are sure is an army of people who dedicate their lives to the same flawed methodology they acted out.

    But… well… simple logic would tell you that you couldn’t have a long-lived mass movement devoted to practices as self-destructive and exhausting as you are describing. Wouldn’t work. It would either evolve into something more stable or die. It would have to.

    (Seeing this as a mass movement in the first place is another fallacy. Consider for a moment how often you say or hear someone talking about “SJWs marching in lockstep” with how often it’s talking about us turning on each other, the snake eating its tail, etc. It seems to me the simpler explanation is that we are individuals acting out own consciences, in ways that sometimes align and sometimes don’t)

  25. Shorter Alexandra…

    “Because right thinking people are thoughtful and agree with me. People who don’t bother to think agree with you.”

    But I rather liked this one: “People processing their privilege out loud in blogs and such aren’t expiating a sin or flagellating for points (awarded by whom? redeemable for what?) They are simply thinking critically about their lives, trying to be mindful of harm they may have done or been ccomplicit in, even if it was simply by benefiting (unasked for and unknowingly) from harms done to others.”

    “Processing their privilege out loud on blogs.”

    They are just “thinking critically about their lives”… not expecting any expiation (good thing since that’s not allowed) and not expecting any points for their public bell ringing (as Brad suggests)… they are in fact DOING NOTHING, except focusing ON THEMSELVES and their public processing.

    In other words… since there is no expiation and no bell ringing and none of this public confession will change reality one iota… it’s pretty much just masturbation.

    Ultra privileged white upper middle class women…. talking about the most important person in the world… in public. Because watching a stranger “process their privilege out loud” is just a wee bit like chewing with your mouth open.

  26. simple logic would tell you that you couldn’t have a long-lived mass movement devoted to practices as self-destructive and exhausting as you are describing. Wouldn’t work. It would either evolve into something more stable or die. It would have to.

    Well, one can certainly hope that the kabuki goes out of fashion. I suspect we’re stuck with it for awhile, because it offers people the ability to a) invest almost no effort to become b) self-righteous about a moral cause they deem worthy. That’s a wickedly intoxicating brew. Which is why it’s most popular with young social media geeks right now. No effort? Self-righteousness? Perfect combo!

    Again, I reject the notion of original sin — however it’s padded, or cloaked.

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