*Sniff* I have to say, reading about Heywood’s loss of innocence made me so nostalgic for those long-ago days — you know, three years ago — when I, too, was similarly, blissfully ignorant. My ears were so wet, my eyes were so wide, and the world was so full of promise then, back when Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders were the fenceposts marking the edge of the political left from the unpopulated wasteland beyond. But now, oh, I have such wonderful, wonderful things to show you…!
I kid. A little, at least. For a long time, I thought “political correctness” was a term that told you less about the target than the person using it, i.e., that it was a right-wing dog whistle. I recognized that in the big scheme of things, a bunch of overzealous hall monitors in academia were petty criminals compared to the organized crime rings who controlled the political and corporate worlds. But then the online atheist environment got contaminated by a strain of fanaticism, in which the fanatics insisted that atheism must be made synonymous with their particular brand of intersectional politics, or else be cast out into the outer darkness of sociopolitical irrelevance. Suddenly, I focused on the rabbit instead of the duck, the vase instead of the two kissing faces, the half-full glass instead of the half-empty one. The basic facts of the matter didn’t change; I just realized there was more than one valid perspective here.
For me, that perspectival shift meant that I started dividing people along lines of personality and psychology rather than politics and ideology. I realize it sounds glib and trite, but ♫ I’ve been around the world, and I’ve been in the Washington Zoo, and in all my travels, as the facts unraveled, I’ve found this to be true ♫: some people are just fucking assholes. SJWs are merely a different species of fucking asshole from the right-wing Republican assholes, or the religious fundamentalist assholes. Assholes go out of their way to cause and prolong conflict. They are natural-born petty tyrants and aspiring authoritarians who are never happy unless they’re taking charge and ordering other people around in accordance with their vision. Today’s SJWs, who are busy being the most inflamed, hemorrhoidal assholes they can be in the fight against transphobia, microaggressions and pixelated representations of misogyny, will still be gratuitously obnoxious assholes in ten years when they’ve left all those childish things behind and moved on to climbing the corporate ladder or making partner at a law firm. At this point in my life, I’m not interested in making excuses for assholish behavior just because, according to some tribal calculus I don’t even subscribe to, the assholes are on my “side”. Many assholes, I find, are under the delusion that they’re grandmasters at multi-dimensional chess. They believe that by acting like assholes at the right time for the right reasons, they’re somehow reducing the overall amount of assholery in the world in the long run.
And that brings us to a fascinating thing about assholism from the memetic perspective. Almost everybody would agree, in the abstract, that being an asshole is generally a bad thing. In order to reproduce itself, then, the asshole meme has to convince the host that acting like an asshole is necessary in this particular instance. The cause is too important! My opponent is too stubborn! I revealed the truth to him, but he refuses to recognize it! He started the argument anyway! Collectively, we all think that people should stop being assholes. Individually, we all think we have a uniquely good reason to act like an asshole occasionally. Thus does assholism remain a thriving, vibrant force in the world for all time. Quite a brilliant strategy, really.
So, yes, I took a crash course in all sorts of ostensibly left-wing ideologies that I had only dimly understood before, only to come out of it convinced of their utter uselessness. Countless lectures on privilege-checking didn’t teach me a thing that I hadn’t already grasped from the old folk wisdom about not judging a man until you’d walked a mile in his shoes. I concluded that attempting to practice the universally-recognized virtues will do more to improve the world than mastering sociological jargon to feign scholarly sophistication. I don’t even really frame this as a political argument anymore. There are easygoing, reasonable people on both sides of the political spectrum. If anything, I see myself as an heir to the honorable tradition of the Taoists, who thumbed their noses and blew raspberries at those ancient assholes, the Confucians, who likewise believed that society couldn’t function without their wise oversight and strictly-regimented organizational schemes.
February 5, 2015 @ 7:28 am
Yup, that's probably the biggest legitimate fear with these guys — not that they get out in the real world and fail, but that they succeed, acquire positions of money, power, and/or influence, and channel their petty grievances into something more tangible and harmful.
They probably won't vaccinate their rinpoche rugrats, either.
February 5, 2015 @ 1:17 pm
Fortunately, I think, their lack of bridge-building skills tends to ensure that what happens in the cult compound stays in the cult compound. Eventually, they end up excommunicating each other for various thoughtcrimes, and only the twitchiest fanatics survive to pass their teachings on to the next generation.
February 6, 2015 @ 12:42 am
Heywood and Damian in the same comment thread!
I am not even worthy!
Except to agree! 🙂
February 9, 2015 @ 3:37 pm
It's being claimed that PETA steals peoples dogs and euthanizes them so that they won't have to keep suffering the indignity of being slaves to human masters. (I wouldn't give any credence to this claim except there is apparently some corroborating evidence.) If true, it would seem to be another example of the behavior Damian is referring to.
February 9, 2015 @ 11:23 pm
Seriously? I hadn't heard that. Like, PeTA themselves, not just people inspired by them? I know when I was involved in pibble rescue, a lot of people there didn't like PeTA for their stance that it would be better if the breed just ceased to exist (as if people wouldn't just use another breed for the same purposes).
February 10, 2015 @ 11:33 am
It's not clear what the deal is with them, but there seems to be some truth to the "service dogs are slaves" talk from PETA members and their aggressive euthanasia policy, and this looks bad :
February 10, 2015 @ 11:36 am
I didn't mean I believe every allegation, just that I can see how a PC sort of purists only atmosphere could take hold there and lead to nuttiness.
February 11, 2015 @ 4:56 pm
This reminds me just a bit of vegan purism. Not defending the horrors of factory farming, but 95% of cattle and pigs would not exist in the world if human beings did not eat meat and dairy.
I read a claim…don't know enough to validate it, that at least when it comes to grass fed beef, going to a vagan diet would result in MORE loss of life due to the intensive farming practices needed to grow all those ngrains and legumes for a vegetarian diet. This was an Australian context, so the corn fed beef system in the United States is more problematical. rease
February 11, 2015 @ 8:06 pm
I'm not seeing your point. What is wrong with not raising and killing so many domesticated animals? So those animals wouldn't exist. That would be great.
If land used to grow animal feed was used to grow human food, there would be a lot more food – plant to animal calories conversion is only about 10%. That's why meat is an expensive luxury.
February 12, 2015 @ 1:53 am
But that is assuming the land used to raise cattle could be used to raise grains and legumes. In countries dominated by pasture raised meat animals (i.e., not the United States) that may not be the case.
As for the existance of the species, I suppose I see your point. If we assume that slaughter for meat at the end of their lives negates a relatively ok life the rest of the time. Which again, given the horrors of the American Factory Farm and CAFOs, may make my point seem farcical, but…again, in some countries and some food systems, it may not be as untrue. After all, as a pray animal, the predecessors of the cow were subject to nasty predation. Predation is part of the web of life.
Meat should be an expensive luxury, not found in 99 cent Happy Meals. That I will agree on.
February 12, 2015 @ 1:54 am
prey animal. Although if a buffalo could pray, he might at the approach of a sabre tooth!
February 12, 2015 @ 4:24 pm
Nature is cruel, but that doesn't make it right for us to be. There are environmental issues, too, of course. Having fewer animals would help with both problems.
(I'm not a vegan or even a strict vegetarian btw.)
February 12, 2015 @ 10:18 pm
Does it always have to fall to me to bring up cannibalism?
February 12, 2015 @ 10:44 pm
We always expect the Descent into Night from you, Damian!
Although I'm sure there are some fine recipes for Long Pig out there!