Political correctness is the new opium of the people


Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. …Religion is …the fantastic realisation of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

These are the words of Karl Marx, written between December 1843 and January 1844, and published in February 1844. They are often quoted out of context and often misunderstood, as indeed, is the fate of their author. How poignant these words have once again become. The fight against religion is just beginning in one part of the world, when it has to be taken up all over again in another. It seems there is no better time than the present to rescue this profound insight from its vulgar sound bite, “Religion is the opium of the people.”

In my view, the most important line of this quotation is not the last one, but the first, for it contains all that follows: “Religion is …the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again, [my emph.].” How prescient that final clause, for we find ourselves in a world of free people who dare not be free, of unchained people who fight their way back into chains, of people who vocally silence themselves, and of people who say unto God, “Rest, oh Lord, for we are the oppressed creatures who oppress ourselves; we, the heartless, are the heart of the world; and we, the soulless, will shepherd the souls. Our ways are the opium of the people.” I cannot shake from my mind this haunting image:

Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.

It stands as a testament to how oppressed, how heartless and how soulless free people have again become. I shudder at recollecting a rabid sexist leading a women’s march. We live in a time when racist black youths can attack an old white man (an old white man who was single-handedly calling out an entire population for their complacency in the face of the steady erosion of their freedom), those youths then claiming the moral high ground for their conduct and getting it. When racism is hailed as a virtue, when a movement terrorising the world is embraced as peaceful, then the “inverted world” that Marx talks about is back. It is an inverted world in which God, the ideal human, is captured in a racially-composed photograph (right down to a religion masquerading as a race), and in which its context — oppressed, heartless, soulless reality — is purveyed as “intersectionality”. How bankrupt we have become.

When the free have abandoned freedom and taken on the role of God in oppressing themselves, in silencing themselves and in imposing conformity upon themselves, it falls to those still enslaved under God to free not only themselves from God, but also the free from themselves. The new religion of the free, multiculturalism, with its dogma of political correctness, finds its place very easily in the great fake war with the alt-right. Meanwhile, in the real world, the nightmare continues.

There is nothing “Eurocentric” about the Enlightenment, and it is only Western to the extent that it first occurred in that particular locality. It is also not a product of “our Judaeo-Christian heritage,” as is sometimes claimed. The Enlightenment, both in its conception and in its actions, espoused that ideal human that religion outsources to a supernatural being. Not only did it posit the ideal human, free of want, free of fear and in pursuit of happiness, it posited the ideal human in terms that transcended all difference, without sublating difference.

The formulation, “All men are equal,” (in the archaic wording then current), recognises that we are all human, above whatever else we may be, and presumes itself applicable to us all. Recognition of equality at any level below that of human must necessarily entail the erosion of equality. As soon as we confine ourselves to the equality of races, the equality of sexes, the equality of cultures, etc., as opposed to the equality of all human beings as human beings, we are on a slippery slope that leads inexorably to the philosophy of despair that is identity politics, political correctness, interfaith dialogue, diversity training, intersectionality, and all the other icons of the perplexed. It is a recipe for infinite fracturing as all must continually differentiate themselves from all in a struggle for resources that becomes increasingly attainable only through sectional identity and the greater claim on pathos. In this inverted world, the preservation of racism becomes more important to black people than even to white racists. The preservation of sexism becomes more important to women than to misogynists. When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair. When feminists dare not raise as much as a peep against the horror that is the lives of women under Islam, then we are in the pit of despair.

The Enlightenment recognised that the formulation “All men are equal” was also a battle cry. It expressed an ideal that has to be fought for. Indeed, it arose out of the eighteen million lives lost in the 125 years of war to the subjugate Christianity to humanity. Like all wars, it is one with many setbacks, many retreats and many regroupings. And now, beset as it is by a fifth column of free people bent on destroying their own freedom, humanity arrives at the gates of Mecca. It does so, however, from within, struggling to break out. It is to be hoped that it succeeds in time to save the free people from themselves.

Comments

  1. EveryZig says

    >When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair.
    Would you also say the same about “Feminist” vs “Not A Feminist But An Egailitarian”? Or if people were to seriously ask why there is an LGBT rights movement when All Rights Matter?

    >The formulation, “All men are equal,” (in the archaic wording then current), recognises that we are all human, above whatever else we may be, and presumes itself applicable to us all. Recognition of equality at any level below that of human must necessarily entail the erosion of equality.
    When people say “we are all equal”, there is always the question of “who’s ‘we’?”. Despite noble ambitions about it meaning “all people”, in practice a grand “we” means “everyone I can think of” with a frequent unspoken or unconscious addition of “and not THEM of course”. So if you are an American founder, “we” intuitively means “citizens who are white male landowners” since that’s what springs to mind when you think of people. After all, why would you think to include women, black people and so on when you have no experience thinking of them as being in the category “normal people”? Acknowledgement of specific levels of equality doesn’t erode broader equality; it brings attention to existing flaws in limited versions of equality assumed to be universal. The actual universality of a grand “we” only expands as far as it is pushed to expand, and for most people the result is going to be quite limited if there isn’t deliberate pushing. Your example of a photo depicting people of a mixture of races has an inauthentic deliberateness to it and is in isolation trivial posturing, but it also contributes a minuscule portion of a push towards a broadened “we”.

    >When feminists dare not raise as much as a peep against the horror that is the lives of women under Islam
    The difficulty lies in the ways that religion is similar to drugs. Like religions, drugs can easily become escalating feedback cycles that harm or destroy lives and entire communities. Fighting the drug epidemic is difficult, though, because many anti-drug policies end up mostly hurting the addicts while barely stopping or even increasing profits for the dealers. An example of this can be seen in the America’s War on Drugs which has itself wrecked many lives and communities (as seen in America’s absurd prison statistics). It is because of that sort of potential consequence that supporters of feminism are often very (and sometimes overly) careful about directly working against religions. (Also, I would say that religion is like a drug in that no amount is really good for you but there is still a blurry yet significant distinction between someone who goes to a bar every so often and an alcoholic. Though that is admittedly fairly speculative since I don’t do either.)

    • says

      When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair.
      Would you also say the same about “Feminist” vs “Not A Feminist But An Egailitarian”? Or if people were to seriously ask why there is an LGBT rights movement when All Rights Matter?

      You raise an important question. The relationship between the universal and the particular is often muddled in respect of this issue. I understand that the rights of the individual are lived out in particular contexts. They apply regardless of those contexts, but often need to be fought for within those contexts, having already been established as universal, where they also had to be fought for. Women’s rights, LGBT rights, the abolition of slavery, etc., all help to make universal rights real where they may initially be denied. But if such rights are pursued in contradistinction to those universal rights, as in multiculturalism, for example, not only do they undermine those rights in general, they also undermine the universal rights of individuals fighting for rights within those contexts. The rights of the individual to freedom and equality is enshrined at the level of humanity, but can easily be eroded if rights are assigned to cultures or religious groups per se. Women who find themselves in Muslim situations are the obvious case in point. So to your question about “Feminist” vs “Not A Feminist But An Egalitarian”, yes, the former offers no protection to woman beyond their being women, i.e., it has no recourse to the universal and as such ends up abandoning women to whatever contexts overlap with that of their being women. Their rights as women are whatever their culture, religion, ethnicity, etc., allows those rights to be. The latter position, “Not A Feminist But An Egalitarian”, avoids this trap, while recognising what is required for women to be fully women.

      Another, and potentially more serious, problem with this is that it compels us to stereotype. There is no reason to believe that any particular woman is necessarily oppressed. The same with any individual who seems to belong to a particular ethnic group, nationality or religion. But what stretch of the imagination is Robert Mugabe, or Sheikha Hassina, oppressed? How do you deal with your black dictators, your female autocrats, your Muslim misogynists and rapists, your gay gangsters, etc., if they are to be seen as Africans, women, Muslims and gays, all stereotypically assumed to be “oppressed”. What is the police to do when a Muslim woman seeks their protection from a husband who is beaten her? Is the police supposed to behave multiculturally and cancel her universal right to such protection because in “her culture” she has no such right?

      The marriage equality question dealt with one particular right already universally enshrined, but that in a particular context, was inaccessible to many. It is not that gay people do/did not have the right to marry. It is only that the right had not been claimed by same-sex couples until very recently. When the first couple did claim it, as the universal rights of those individuals entitle them to, it should’ve been a straightforward matter. Others then stepped in to remove from such individuals a right that they already had by insisting and attempting to enshrine that the right to marry only applies if exercised in the way heterosexual couples exercise it. That erodes a universal right, thereby compelling gay people to defend that universal right in the context of themselves facing discrimination not as human beings, but as gay people. Marriage equality had been in the US Constitution all along, and that Constitution did not change when gay people’s right to marry was recognised. But where the fight for gay rights is seen in contradistinction to a fight for universal rights, that fight can decay into gay people opposing marriage equality, or gay people opposing rights for transpeople (for a feminist equivalent, see Germaine Greer).

      For reasons I expound lower down in my post, Black Lives Matter cannot countenance All Lives Matter because it needs the racism that is its lifeblood. This is the same as Germaine Greer being unable to let go of the sexism that defined her feminism. Of course many a white racist is going to deny that black lives matter by hiding behind “All Lives Matter” while actually meaning “white lives matter more than black lives.” But are we so infantile that we cannot perceive that they are abusing a basic truth — that all lives matter — and that that truth stands. The truth that all lives matter has a better chance of recognising that all black lives matter than the racist Black Lives Matter has. The racists of Black Lives Matter and those hiding behind All Lives Matter are playing exactly the same evil game in which the only losers are black lives.

      • EveryZig says

        @ Anjuli

        So to your question about “Feminist” vs “Not A Feminist But An Egalitarian”, yes, the former offers no protection to woman beyond their being women, i.e., it has no recourse to the universal and as such ends up abandoning women to whatever contexts overlap with that of their being women.

        It is a good point that not all feminists are egalitarian, and that non-egalitarian feminism such as TERFs and Greer is a bad thing. (It is my opinion that non-egalitarian feminism is fairly fringe among current feminists, but I don’t have statistics to say that for sure.) A feminist should also be an egalitarian, and I would agree that working towards specific rights should not contradict universal rights. That said, I do think there is an issue of feminist egalitarianism vs egalitarianism that is explicitly not feminist. In my experience, people who claim the latter tend to have caricatured views of feminism (viewing it as man hating etc) or tend to downplay the reasons for feminism’s continued existence in a disingenuous way (like trying to argue that the pay gap isn’t real or is entirely voluntary).

        Their rights as women are whatever their culture, religion, ethnicity, etc., allows those rights to be. The latter position, “Not A Feminist But An Egalitarian”, avoids this trap, while recognising what is required for women to be fully women.

        Uh, what? Feminism is specifically about opposing a culture’s treatment of women. Feminism can be misused (as with TERFs), but something like that would be an extremely inconsistent application of feminism rather than a direct consequence of feminism in general.

        Another, and potentially more serious, problem with this is that it compels us to stereotype. There is no reason to believe that any particular woman is necessarily oppressed. The same with any individual who seems to belong to a particular ethnic group, nationality or religion. But what stretch of the imagination is Robert Mugabe, or Sheikha Hassina, oppressed? How do you deal with your black dictators, your female autocrats, your Muslim misogynists and rapists, your gay gangsters, etc., if they are to be seen as Africans, women, Muslims and gays, all stereotypically assumed to be “oppressed”.

        “Oppression”, as I use it, means “being treated in an unjust way by society” and is not a binary underclass/overclass thing. From this, the answers to the quoted questions are as follows: First, oppression is something done by a society rather than something inherent to the target, so a person might face oppression in one country where they are are a minority where they would not in another question where they would be a member of a ruling majority. Second, there are many different ways in which you can be unjustly treated, and most of them are statistical disadvantages rather than hard limits on how much you can achieve. So for example, I would say Obama has experienced oppression in the racism that has been leveled against him that a white candidate would not have experienced (birth certificates etc) while at the same time he has clearly having many advantages in his life in the circumstances that made becoming the US president possible (such as not being dirt poor or trans). While on the whole he has had more advantages than disadvantages, that does not mean that the disadvantages do not exist, or that some of them cannot be linked to systemic injustice. Third, the fact that someone is treated unjustly doesn’t mean they cannot do bad things, and the fact that someone does bad things does not mean that they cannot also be the victim of injustice. People can at once be oppressed and participate in the oppression of others.

        Black Lives Matter cannot countenance All Lives Matter because it needs the racism that is its lifeblood.

        I still don’t buy that. It sounds to me like the equivalent of “well of course those suffragettes don’t really want the vote, because then they wouldn’t have anything to march about!”

        The truth that all lives matter has a better chance of recognising that all black lives matter than the racist Black Lives Matter has.

        How many of the people shouting “All Lives Matter” actually support policies that protect lives, whether black or otherwise? Every time I have seen it used, All Live Matter has been used as a means of changing the subject away from specific injustices to a broad generic abstraction (which is then not actually furthered once it has served its purpose as a distraction). Its like how Men’s Rights Activists despite their name tend to in practice focus primarily on opposing feminism while doing little to actually address issues disproportionately affecting men like murder rates.

        @ A Lurker from mexico

        I’ve read up on several issues that arise from the exaggeration of the differences, even when done in the name of justice:

        Uh, what definition of “intersectionality” are you using? The one I am familiar with refers specifically to the process of trying to identify and avoid the cases where working against one form of oppression could . By my definition, the thing you are doing where you are examining pursuits for justice for unintended unjust side effects IS intersectionality.

        • says

          @EveryZig

          By my definition, the thing you are doing where you are examining pursuits for justice for unintended unjust side effects IS intersectionality.

          Yup, it is. I don’t have a problem with intersectionality on its own (I did say that in my other comment), I just think that discussing it is more of a situational thing. You seem to have a problem with switching “Black Lives Matter” for the more intersectional “All Lives Matter”. If it really is a problem, then my point is proven that intersectionality doesn’t really belong in all discussions.

          I understand that there is some controversy around so-called “White Feminism”, where feminists give all their attention to the problems that affect all-women-but-mostly-white-women (pay gap, objectification by the media, representation in politics), and completely fly over problems that specifically affect minority women.
          It is weird that one movement is required to be intersectional while the other eschews all calls for intersectionality, assuming them to be inherently malicious.
          And it’s weird that it is pretty much the same people demanding intersectionality from the first and intentionally neglecting it for the second.

          I also don’t have a problem with Political Correctness and Call-Out Culture on their own. On the most mundane level of human interaction, being PC is just being polite to other people’s sensibilities, call-out culture is just saying “dude, don’t say that” when someone crosses a line.

          The problem comes when situations such as that of Justine Sacco arise, where the one joke prompts a big, stupid mob of keyboard warriors to tear apart her life. When it happens to people like Mel Gibson or PewDiePie, it doesn’t really do much damage. Those guys are well-off, they can take it. But Justine Sacco was just a random person, without a major platform to explain herself, or millions of dollars to cushion the loss of her job.

          What is the big difference between the harassment of Justine Sacco and that of Anita Sarkeesian? They are both women who were placed under siege by thousands of complete strangers, Sacco for offending black people’s* sensibilities, Sarkeesian for offending gamers’ sensibilities.
          Both were attacked by people who think that whatever oppression they face gives them the right to destroy someone else.
          Both faced a treatment that was completely disproportionate to the “crime” committed.
          Both were doxxed and had their personal information leaked online.
          Both got rape and death threats.
          The people attacking all thought they did it for a righteous cause.

          At its worst, Political Correctness is a way of saying “MY sensibilities matter more than your livelihood and your mental well-being, and I will be merciless in attacking those who offend me”. And it is pervasive. As shown in the Sacco/Sarkeesian example, it’s one commonality between right wingers and left wingers. They get just a little butthurt by a particular joke or criticism and they ask for blood in return. The Charlie Hebdo attacks are an even more extreme example of disproportionate retribution at the people who offend others’ sensibilities.

          I don’t agree with Anjuli on these things being something inherently wrong and to be disposed of. But I do see them being used in the wrong situations, I do see them being taken out of proportion, and I do see them being applied hypocritically.

          *Not sure if black people or just some idiot white-knights getting offended in their behalf.

          • EveryZig says

            I think All Lives Matter”is a different thing from intersectionality because (as far as I have seen it used), it has not been a response to specific pattern of oppression done in the name of BLM but instead has been a response to the idea of focusing specifically on the danger to black lives. As for the comparisons with White Feminism, that is kind of like when people ask “why’s there a black history month but no white history month”? As with the history month, the mainstream status quo is weighted towards the interests of white people, so working against the direction of the unbalanced status quo is not the same as working towards furthering it.

            I would agree with you that it is definitely possible to go too far with political correctness and callout culture. While I would say that harrassment motivated by political correctness is missing the point, being misunderstood does not clear an idea of all responsibility for actions done in its name.

            • says

              being misunderstood does not clear an idea of all responsibility for actions done in its name.

              Could you say a bit more about this?

        • says

          the fact that someone is treated unjustly doesn’t mean they cannot do bad things, and the fact that someone does bad things does not mean that they cannot also be the victim of injustice. People can at once be oppressed and participate in the oppression of others.

          While both these statements are true, the second does not follow from the first. This is because being “unjustly treated” does not equal “being oppressed”. It is a curious notion that the most powerful person in the world may be oppressed — by whom? Yet there is no question that they can be unjustly treated.

          Feminism is specifically about opposing a culture’s treatment of women. Feminism can be misused (as with TERFs), but something like that would be an extremely inconsistent application of feminism rather than a direct consequence of feminism in general.

          This is manifestly not the case. I could construct a very long list of proofs, but simply point to the slippery notion of “a culture’s treatment of women”. Slippery because it allows feminists to be selective about the culture, for example, by saying to Muslim women “its not our place to oppose the treatment of women in your culture. That’s for you to do, if you perceive there to be oppression within your culture, which I’m of course not saying there is, you understand.” So guess where misogynistic Muslim women, such as Sarsour, and überapologist Muslim women, such as Wadud, end up?

    • says

      I’ve read up on several issues that arise from the exaggeration of the differences, even when done in the name of justice:

      -Bi erasure within the LGBT community. Since it differentiates itself from the rest of humanity by virtue of being non-straight, bisexuals often find themselves in the awkward position of being perceived as only “half” gay and therefore only “half” accepted by the community that is at least allegedly defending them. I recall watching a video from a Bi activist talking about the suicide rates of bisexuals being higher than that of homosexuals and pinning it on that lack of support, borne out of them not being quite the people they want to help.

      -TERFs. There is a portion of feminists that define themselves by their hatred of men just as much as they do by their search for female equality. That hatred for all things male shows itself when they extend it to women who committed the sin of having been male (even if only outwardly) at their time of birth. I’ve read up on some who also say that male victims of domestic violence either do not exist or don’t need any special kind of support. That level of vitriol pits them against trans-men (who they might view as “gender traitors”) and trans-women (who they regard as “fake women who intend to harass real women”).

      -Islam apologists. While muslims are persecuted in the context of the US and Europe, going overboard with cultural relativism gives them carte blanche to oppress atheists, women and LGBT kids in their midst. There is plenty of middle ground between “ban muslims” and “let muslims force their girls to wear hijab and starve to death during feast”, that is being lost because both sides of the issue keep casting the other as inherently evil and to be opposed at every turn.

      This to name a few…

      Unlike Anjuli, I believe there is a time and place for things like intersectionality, political correctness, call-out culture and identity politics. Specific problems need specific solutions, and those ideas can be exceptionally useful tools for arriving at such solutions.

      What I see as the biggest point of controversy right now is pretty much the situation of “When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”. People are going way overboard with these tools, using them in contexts where they are no longer useful.

      – Trying to view presidential elections only through the lens of demographic groups, and getting it wrong.
      Assaulting people because their haircut doesn’t conform to some identity politics situation.
      – Giving platform to an advocate of misogyny in a Women’s march, in the name of diversity.
      – Making people who are not public figures in any reasonable degree lose their livelihood over a single ill-conceived joke.
      – Being generally antagonistic to individuals belonging to the groups categorized as “the oppressor kind”, even when it’s clearly unproductive, or childish, or pointlessly rude.
      I could go on…

      As an outsider looking in, this seems to be very much the usual gringo problem. You guys find some idea, even a great idea, and you just beat the shit out of it. You put it into everything you do. You impose it on the rest of the world. You try to turn a single idea into The Idea, and presuppose that it’s the idea that will fix everything. It won’t. It never has.

      Capitalism, Globalization, Free Market, the War on Drugs, the War on Terror. It’s never worked. Some were always terrible ideas, some were actually pretty fucking good as long as they were used only in the context where they were useful. But all of them gave back horrible results when you tried to work them into everything. And Identity Politics, Political Correctness, Call-Out Culture and Intersectionality, all that good shit, will be no different if they keep getting shoe-horned into situations they weren’t meant to address.

      • says

        This is one of the most sober assessments I’ve ever read (that’s not to claim that I’ve read everything). Your point about “Bi erasure within the LGBT community” is one I’ve actually forgotten about, to my shame, as it is something I first learnt about from my wife, who’s been a victim of it. Your point about, “When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” can also be seen as a religious response. There may be no actual deity involved, but the psychology is the same, that of belonging to a “secular religion”, if such a construct isn’t blasphemous. Stalinism or Nazism may be seen in similar terms (of course, that isn’t all that they are). One dares not utter the wrong word for fear of falling foul of the Inquisition, the ulema, the NKVD, the Gestapo, etc., whether formally-constituted or not. Thought-policing is the inevitable child of heresy. Indeed, I’m not the only one to argue that the defining attribute of a police-state is not presence of the police on the street, but the presence of the police in the mind, and the ever-vigilance of that police towards infractions not only in the mind it occupies, but in all minds. It seeks it out endlessly, and to expose it is to affirm its own purity. This is the condition I see described in your last few paragraphs.

        • says

          Hi, thanks for listening.

          I see what you mean by it being a bit of a religious response. I have an uncle who’s one of those people who constantly jump from one epiphany to the next like “This is the one, the thing that will turn my life around”. And he did spend a lot of time doing religious woo in that manner, yoga, meditation, buddhism, and he also nonchalantly jumped from that spiritual mumbo jumbo to more secular woo like self-help books. In the past 2 years he did a complete 180 from pious catholic to militant atheist, it was a bit jarring. It’s like once you’re in that mindset, the specific nature of the thing you are putting at the altar becomes irrelevant.

          Having said that, I don’t think political correctness is quite at the point where its effect can be compared to the damage of Stalinism and Nazism, even though it has been harmful in many ways. And it’s unlikely to get there in the foreseeable future since the american left is likely to be out of political power for the next 8 years or so, more than enough time for them to outgrow the exaggerated version of something that is (when restrained) a pretty ok thing. I hope.

          The hammer is still useful when your problem is actually a nail. Making the effort to not misgender trans-people, avoiding slurs, not calling someone by their middle name if they’ve told you it bothers them. It’s all politically correct, and there’s no inherent problem with that. It’s just politeness.

          It’s just that the measured social punishment for failing should be more along the lines of “Dude, don’t say that”, “I’m not inviting that person to my party”, “I’m not shopping there anymore”, “I’m not voting for this asshole”. Not assault, not harassment, not random calls for job termination, not death threats, not a complete dehumanization of the offender.

          I think that calling out bad behavior is alright. It is an expected enforcement of the smaller rules of any society (smaller as in not enforced by the police or military and not punished by jail, fine or any of the big stuff). However I see that a lot of people have turned to calling others out as a bit of a sport. Quelling bad behavior (the purported objective) becomes second place to the act itself, even making sure that it actually is bad behavior becomes irrelevant to some.

          One of the things that make me nervous is a bit of an emergent pattern I’m seeing.
          -Justine Sacco was made a target by a Gawker journalist trying to get some outrage clicks.
          -The allegations that PewDiePie was antisemitic were made by the Wall Street Journal on very trumped up charges (one of their pieces of evidence was that PewDiePie’s glasses were similar to Hitler’s).
          -The idea that Bernie Sanders was somehow insensitive (or outright racist) to minorities was heavily pushed by a load of media corporations that had a vested interest in making the dog-whistle user, recipient of private prison lobby donations, supporter of the Crime Bill, also-wanted-a-border-wall, Hillary Clinton, look like the black and brown people’s best friend.

          Caring about black kids getting shot, caring about the historical oppression of the jewish people, the unfair conditions that women have to navigate, LGBT rights, violence against peaceful muslims, all of that. It’s just the conclusion of the innate sense of justice and empathy of the people who care. Caring is admirable.

          But right now I’m seeing two things happening:
          1- People who do this stuff for sport, and are unfazed by their actions and words being unhelpful or even harmful to the cause they are supposedly doing this for.
          2- Media companies who just found out what buttons to push to manipulate people into tearing someone’s life apart, either because that’s the intended outcome or the acceptable collateral damage of getting a couple extra clicks. They also, apparently, know what buttons to push to steer the political energy of a worryingly big chunk of the american left.

          I’m sorry if I come across as rambling on this one, it’s just that I can’t quite tell what is exactly the level of threat here. There are no laws being made to put the un-PC on prison, or death squads on the streets, so DEFCON 1 is ruled out. But people are getting hurt, and we are seeing dire, real-life consequences coming out of this, so DEFCON 5 (all is good) is not really it either.

          I’d rather figure out what is the appropriate level of alert to be had on this topic, since having a disproportionate response to disproportionate responses will only make the whole thing worse.

          • says

            having a disproportionate response to disproportionate responses will only make the whole thing worse.

            I agree with you, and in truth, I, too, am concerned with “the appropriate level of alert.” I’m just approaching the whole political correctness phenomenon from a different angle. In the Soviet Union and elsewhere under similar regimes, millions perished for falling foul of ideological correctness. Tens of thousands of Muslims die every year for falling foul of religious correctness. A total of 30 (I think) US states acted to ban marriage between people of the same sex to preserve moral correctness. I don’t know whether anyone lost their life as a result of that, but my problem is with an imposed correctness. I have some personal familiarity with totalitarian conditions, and correctness comes up everywhere. “Correct” behaviour (note, not decent behaviour or respectful behaviour or anything of that sort, no, approved behaviour. Approved opinions, approved words, approved thoughts… This is what “correctness” of whatever stripe actually means. Someone or some group takes it upon themselves to approve what the rest of us may do, may say, may think, etc. When you say,

            Making the effort to not misgender trans-people, avoiding slurs, not calling someone by their middle name if they’ve told you it bothers them. It’s all politically correct, and there’s no inherent problem with that. It’s just politeness.

            I very much agree that such effort is politeness, nay I’d even go further and say that it’s decency, respect, ethical behaviour. But politically correct, it ain’t. We’re basically ethical enough to avoid unkind, indecent or disrespectful behaviour, and generally respond positively to having such pointed out to us. For the big stuff, as you say, we have the law. Political correctness, like ideological correctness, religious correctness and moral correctness, is a catalogue of approved behaviours, speech and thought that is enforced with varying degrees of vigour and have varying degrees of consequences for the perceived perpetrator, real or alleged. It is an instrument of oppression. And, in the context of identity politics, it is a catalogue that grows by the day, as we learn of the latest taboos, and straightjacket ourselves further. The implications of conceding a need for such policing is to say that prior to political correctness, we were all cruel, heartless monsters devoid of all ethics. Political correctness didn’t come down to us on tablets of stone with a burning bush to draw the crowds, but it might as well have, for the psychological hold it has on otherwise sensible people.

            Political correctness, I’m afraid, is not about decent behaviour towards others. It is about not falling foul of approved behaviour. There is no other way to explain the utter silence of the politically-correct towards the oppression of Muslim women, or the hounding of ex-Muslims. In fact, the politically-correct will seek to enhance their political correctness credentials by pouring even more vitriol on those who speak up against the horrors and injustices of Islam, than they do against bigots who beat up Muslims. Political correctness has nothing to do with politeness, but has a great deal to do with making mindless mobs of us all. So have ideological correctness, religious correctness and moral correctness. So yes, what the appropriate response should be, I do not know. But I think we need to be really clear about what we’re dealing with here.

          • EveryZig says

            While both these statements are true, the second does not follow from the first. This is because being “unjustly treated” does not equal “being oppressed”. It is a curious notion that the most powerful person in the world may be oppressed — by whom? Yet there is no question that they can be unjustly treated.

            I feel like on this matter we are just disagreeing on terminology / definition of words. I was using a definition of “oppressed” meaning “experiences some amount of systematic injustice” where you were using a definition of “oppressed” meaning (as far as I can tell) “member of a societal underclass”. Still, whether you call systematic injustice “oppression” or something else, it is possible to view it in more finely grained amounts than “underclass vs overclass” and through that avoid (or at least greatly reduce) the stereotyping thing you were talking about earlier.

            “being misunderstood does not clear an idea of all responsibility for actions done in its name.”
            Could you say a bit more about this?

            What I mean by that is that if there is a widespread pattern of people misunderstand some idea X and doing bad things based on the twisted version of X, you can’t just say “well that isn’t doing X right” and free idea X of all responsibility. So I was saying that people harassing someone for a bigoted comment is a misuse of calling someone out, but acknowledging that the fact that callouts can be so readily misused is itself a flaw in callouts. Or, in your other reply about Feminism, I would say that not applying feminism to other cultures is doing feminism wrong, but the fact that more than a few people do in fact do the thing you are describing means that feminism (when not combined with other ideas at least) is flawed.

            I very much agree that such effort is politeness, nay I’d even go further and say that it’s decency, respect, ethical behaviour. But politically correct, it ain’t. We’re basically ethical enough to avoid unkind, indecent or disrespectful behaviour, and generally respond positively to having such pointed out to us. For the big stuff, as you say, we have the law. Political correctness, like ideological correctness, religious correctness and moral correctness, is a catalogue of approved behaviours, speech and thought that is enforced with varying degrees of vigour and have varying degrees of consequences for the perceived perpetrator, real or alleged.

            I am not clear what distinction you are making between speaking against bigotry and political correctness. Any time you criticize or otherwise work to prevent an action, whether or not you are justified in doing so you are inherently acting to suppress an action you disapprove of. Even preventing murder is an example of enforcing ‘moral correctness’ on society by suppressing the actions of others; just a very justifiable example. Whether or not suppression is justified then becomes a matter of degree rather than a categorical difference (in the balance between how bad the suppressed action is versus how bad the suppression is.)

            (As an unrelated note, this website’s reply comments template does not actually shift replies to the left, so it is getting hard to tell the order or the comments or to see new comments in this branching reply thing.)

            • says

              Hi EveryZig,

              I’ve tried to figure out the threading/nesting thing and eventually passed it on to FTB management. I hope there’ll be a solution soon. They’re very responsive with such things.

              (Also to Lurker) I think there may be another glitch in that your reply was actually to me, but shows as a reply to A Lurker from Mexico. Apologies to you both.

              Thank you for this feedback.

              I feel like on this matter we are just disagreeing on terminology / definition of words. I was using a definition of “oppressed” meaning “experiences some amount of systematic injustice” where you were using a definition of “oppressed” meaning (as far as I can tell) “member of a societal underclass”.

              I see what you’re driving at. The finely grained amounts of distinction that you’re looking for has to do with the distinction between being treated unjustly and being oppressed. I see oppression as systematic injustice, whether customary or enshrined in law, and regardless of whether the victims of such systematic injustice regard themselves as a class or in fact are a class. Being unfairly treated doesn’t imply oppression, such as being knowingly made to wait longer than someone who turned up after you, despite there being no need for it, or a teacher singling out a pupil for reprimand for no justifiable reason, although, granted, unfair treatment may be an expression of oppression. These range all the way up to actual crimes, but they tend not to get muddled up with identity politics, as happens with oppression. I see “intersectionality” as implicated in that muddle in that it attempts to reconfigure identity, something that’s essentially fluid and transcendent, into an assembly of rigid components, each component defined by whether somebody out there hates it. So your identity becomes like something of a bank account into which you can stack up your various oppressions and on the strength of that account, claim greater or lesser social privilege of some kind or another. It is a recipe for not only a slew of small-minded petty enmities, but also for perpetual social fracture. It’s nasty stuff.

              if there is a widespread pattern of people misunderstand some idea X and doing bad things based on the twisted version of X, you can’t just say “well that isn’t doing X right” and free idea X of all responsibility.

              I’m not sure about this. On the one hand, certainly, there are bad ideas, let’s say, Apartheid, and what people do with it can only be bad, since the idea itself is intrinsically bad. But a good idea, such as, say, gender equality, is intrinsically good and it’s hard to see how that idea can be responsible for its own abuse, such as by someone imposing unfair burdens under the guise of “equality”, wittingly or unwittingly. An everyday example of this is the “equal” provision of toilet facilities for men and women. If someone wants to abuse an idea or anything else, they’ll find a way of doing it. I think you may be hard-pressed to find an abuse-proof idea. But I think you’d be right in saying that some ideas lend themselves more easily to abuse than others. In that respect I think that feminism is seriously flawed.

              I am not clear what distinction you are making between speaking against bigotry and political correctness. Any time you criticize or otherwise work to prevent an action, whether or not you are justified in doing so you are inherently acting to suppress an action you disapprove of. Even preventing murder is an example of enforcing ‘moral correctness’ on society by suppressing the actions of others; just a very justifiable example. Whether or not suppression is justified then becomes a matter of degree rather than a categorical difference

              I’d say we wouldn’t be here today if ethical behaviour were not innate to us. It took a long time before we started reining in those who violated such ethics. But introducing morality, and later law, didn’t supplant our ethics, but merely refined its working, as perceived by the society at the time. What you’re essentially saying is that if it were not for morality (or the law), it wouldn’t cross my mind to stop someone from murdering someone else. I see political correctness as insinuating itself into the same space as morality, but for questionable reasons.

              • says

                @Anjuli
                Yeah, the comment was addressed at you. It does get confusing, I hope they fix your comment section soon. I had to reply to myself because the “Reply” button on your comment wasn’t showing up.

                When you say:

                Political correctness, […] is a catalogue of approved behaviours, speech and thought

                That’s pretty much the same definition I’m using.

                I think that part of what makes discussing political correctness so hard in the current context is that a lot of those approved behaviors are actually what you described as “decency, respect, ethical behavior”. And a lot of people seem to be having a hard time divorcing the behaviors themselves from their enforcement. They presume that by rejecting Political Correctness, you are also rejecting all the approved behaviors in the particular catalogue they subscribe to (remember that there are other parties frolicking around with their own independent catalogues).

                That is to say. Criticizing the disproportionate way Justine Sacco was punished over a “racist” joke is seen as criticizing the opposition to racism. The fact that right-wingers have very thoroughly poisoned the well when it comes to this discussion only makes it harder.

                Defining up-front that I’m against PC over-policing while still in favor of decent behavior is the best solution I’ve come up with, and it’s not perfect. People come to think that I’m either confused about the former or dishonest about the later. Some will immediately presuppose that I’m a right-winger for merely using of the term, similar to what happened the other day with you and the word “thuggery”. Not quite sure how to counter that one :/

                • says

                  similar to what happened the other day with you and the word “thuggery”. Not quite sure how to counter that one :/

                  Thanks for your support. My response to that sort of thing is to say, “go to Hell,” though not usually so economically 🙂

                  Thank you also for your take on BLM. That really helps. I was put right off by that racist attack on Bernie Sanders, and subsequent attempts to whitewash it by many who should know better. Can I say “whitewash”?

                  • EveryZig says

                    I see “intersectionality” as implicated in that muddle in that it attempts to reconfigure identity, something that’s essentially fluid and transcendent, into an assembly of rigid components, each component defined by whether somebody out there hates it. So your identity becomes like something of a bank account into which you can stack up your various oppressions and on the strength of that account, claim greater or lesser social privilege of some kind or another.

                    Identity is something that is fluid, but systematic injustices are related to how other people see your identity which is not fluid in the same way. I would agree that a form of interesectionality where you sum up oppressions is bad (though I have not seen many people use it that way), but I think there is still use in the general concept of keeping in mind that working against one kind of injustice can cause collateral damage in terms of another injustice if you are not careful (like with Luker’s examples of TERFs and so on). I (and I think a lot of people) refer to the latter thing when talking about intersectionality.

                    I’d say we wouldn’t be here today if ethical behaviour were not innate to us. It took a long time before we started reining in those who violated such ethics. But introducing morality, and later law, didn’t supplant our ethics, but merely refined its working, as perceived by the society at the time. What you’re essentially saying is that if it were not for morality (or the law), it wouldn’t cross my mind to stop someone from murdering someone else. I see political correctness as insinuating itself into the same space as morality, but for questionable reasons.

                    I’m not saying that without law (or formalized morality) it wouldn’t cross your mind to stop a murder; I am saying that deliberately stopping a murder IS by definition enforcing a morality (or ethics if your definition of morality refers only to formalized systems) in that you judge that something should not be (the murder in this case) and act to make the thing actually not be. That is a form of moral enforcement whether it is motivated by the instinctual and personal morality of empathy or some more formalized system. Law is just a way of making the enforcement of morality systematic and (hopefully) reducing the influence of biases.

                    • says

                      Identity is something that is fluid, but systematic injustices are related to how other people see your identity which is not fluid in the same way.

                      Sometimes, as in “No Indian shall rent property in…” it is true that systematic injustices may be related to how other people see your identity, but it’s a harder case to make in “Property shall be rented to Europeans only”. In this case, what is the identity of the oppressed?

                      I would agree that a form of interesectionality where you sum up oppressions is bad (though I have not seen many people use it that way).

                      This is done all the time. Social privilege (i.e., preferential treatment) is often claimed and granted (or presumptively granted) on the basis of a claimed or presumed aggregate “burden of oppression”. So a black, gay woman is presumed to be three times more oppressed than a straight white man, but only 75% as oppressed as a disabled, black, gay woman, and on the basis of these differences, often claims and is accorded different degrees of entitlement. In this kind of framework, it is in everyone’s interest to seek increasingly minuscule distinctions in identity as this is the basis for greater access to resources, whether such resources are funds, jobs or study places (as in Affirmative Action) or being given an easy ride when more severe criticism or sanction is warranted. I hasten to add that such social privilege/preferential treatment is not necessarily actively pursued by people with rich identities, even though it is often foisted on them by others who stereotype them as expecting such entitlement or liable to take offence at being denied it. If I may get personal for a moment, I’m often assigned a whole raft of sensibilities that people then avoid triggering by prefacing everything they say with endless caveats and clarifications – I now know that people have many more best friends than I had ever imagined – reinforced with fitting genuflection, awkward smiles and strengthened eye contact. To some people, I must look like a Christmas tree of detonators (if that wording isn’t stealing someone else’s culture).

                      I’m not saying that without law (or formalized morality) it wouldn’t cross your mind to stop a murder; I am saying that deliberately stopping a murder IS by definition enforcing a morality (or ethics if your definition of morality refers only to formalized systems) in that you judge that something should not be (the murder in this case) and act to make the thing actually not be. That is a form of moral enforcement whether it is motivated by the instinctual and personal morality of empathy or some more formalized system. Law is just a way of making the enforcement of morality systematic and (hopefully) reducing the influence of biases.

                      Leaving aside the ethics/morality distinction, I don’t think we have a disagreement here. But we’ve also taken the various forms of “correctness” out of the equation. While we don’t murder and we don’t steal, and we act to stop others from doing these (whether directly or indirectly), we don’t generally make it our business to seek out murderers and thieves. We don’t go out of our way to descend on murderers and thieves once they’ve been apprehended, and we don’t make common cause with complete strangers on the basis of our common disapproval of murder and theft. Now if the land were awash with these kinds of vices, collective action might become a necessary defensive measure, and there might well be outpouring of public anger, but that still does not imply political (or other) correctness. Ideological, religious, moral, or political correctness are collective measures that substitute mob intimidation for ethics, and thrives on the minutiae of transgression. They are essentially attempts at disempowerment through marginalisation, as all dissidents and heretics are well able to attest. Without these “correctnesses” we would still behave ethically and cause other to do likewise, but we won’t be setting out to destroy them. This leads me to suggest that political correctness might even be unethical.

                    • EveryZig says

                      Sometimes, as in “No Indian shall rent property in…” it is true that systematic injustices may be related to how other people see your identity, but it’s a harder case to make in “Property shall be rented to Europeans only”. In this case, what is the identity of the oppressed?

                      Identity is a shorthand that imperfectly approximates “group that experiences systematic injustice”. It would be more technically accurate (though potentially more linguistically clunky in a subject already overflowing with obscure jargon) to speak about categories of systematic injustice rather than categories of people effected. So your example would be anti-non-European bigotry, though non-European as a category only exists in the context of experiencing a common bigotry.

                      Social privilege (i.e., preferential treatment) is often claimed and granted (or presumptively granted) on the basis of a claimed or presumed aggregate “burden of oppression”.

                      Ok this part is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, though I can’t really blame people for reading a term using a common language definition instead of the obscure contextual definition. “Privilege” in the context of intersectionality and such means “not experiencing a systematic injustice that some other people do”. It isn’t something intersectional philosophies seek to give out, but an existing thing that they try to make people aware of. An example of a “privilege” in the intersectional jargon sense would be how cisgender people don’t have to worry about being legislated out of being able to go to public bathrooms. A claim to affirmative action or such is different from “privilege” in the intersectional sense in a similar way to how a claim to welfare is different from not being poor.

                      the basis for greater access to resources, whether such resources are funds, jobs or study places (as in Affirmative Action) or being given an easy ride when more severe criticism or sanction is warranted.

                      I would also object to the concept of affirmative action etc as categorically being considered an “easy ride” (though it can of course be misused) for the same reasons that I would object to welfare being considered an “easy ride”. Sure some people (whether deliberately or though luck) benefit unnecessarily, but there are also people for whom that support makes a huge difference in dealing with unfair circumstances and sometimes mistakenly helping the former is worth it if your methods actually help the latter. As for the argument of “why give some people special treatment instead of treating everyone fairly?”, that is theoretically ideal but easier said than done in much the same way as “why have welfare instead of just eliminating poverty?”.

                      In this kind of framework, it is in everyone’s interest to seek increasingly minuscule distinctions in identity

                      If you treat intersectionality as a matter of systematic injustices rather than a matter of identities, than this becomes a matter of seeking out more obscure systematic injustices to reduce (such as, say, injustices against trans people within the LGBT community, who are obscure in the sense of being statistically fewer in number than gay people). I’d say this can be a good thing as long as the response is kept proportional to the injustice. Sometimes the response does get disproportionate, but you are unlikely to notice an injustice effecting relatively few people without something actively bringing it to your attention.

                      we don’t generally make it our business to seek out murderers and thieves. We don’t go out of our way to descend on murderers and thieves once they’ve been apprehended, and we don’t make common cause with complete strangers on the basis of our common disapproval of murder and theft. Now if the land were awash with these kinds of vices, collective action might become a necessary defensive measure, and there might well be outpouring of public anger, but that still does not imply political (or other) correctness. Ideological, religious, moral, or political correctness are collective measures that substitute mob intimidation for ethics, and thrives on the minutiae of transgression. They are essentially attempts at disempowerment through marginalisation, as all dissidents and heretics are well able to attest. Without these “correctnesses” we would still behave ethically and cause other to do likewise, but we won’t be setting out to destroy them. This leads me to suggest that political correctness might even be unethical.

                      But society routinely does make it their business to do those things via the law. Murderers and such are generally captured after the deed by police hunting them down. The law goes through quite a bit of trouble to punish captured criminals (or at least to suppress future crimes they might commit). People make common cause with strangers when they agree to treat the law and police as legitimate (or at least agree that there should be legitimate laws/police if the current ones are lacking). It is wrong to do those things for their own sake, but they do have legitimate uses. So with that said, are you defining political correctness as the abuse of social pressure, or saying that social pressure will always (or at least overwhelmingly) be abused? If it is the former, condemning political correctness would seem kind of circular (this thing defined by the abuse of power is an abuse of power), and if it the latter I would disagree by pointing to justified uses of social pressure (such as criticizing overtly racist statements).

                    • says

                      Thanks for keeping this going…

                      Identity is a shorthand that imperfectly approximates “group that experiences systematic injustice”.

                      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. This is exactly where it goes wrong — by inverting reality. Identity is not a function of injustice, although injustice can be aimed at an identity. What you’re saying is that if there were no sexism or misogyny, women wouldn’t identify as women, etc., such as here:

                      So your example would be anti-non-European bigotry, though non-European as a category only exists in the context of experiencing a common bigotry.

                      Does such an individual then identify as “non-European”, as opposed to African, American, Asian, etc.? Also, the category non-European is independent of experiencing bigotry. It is a value-free designation of anything that isn’t European.

                      Ok this part is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, though I can’t really blame people for reading a term using a common language definition instead of the obscure contextual definition. “Privilege” in the context of intersectionality and such means “not experiencing a systematic injustice that some other people do”.

                      This is exactly why I’m using it. I refuse to have the word “privilege”, or any word for that matter, driven out of my language. Sure, words accrete new meanings, but what you’re saying comes perilously close to disapproving of my using “privilege” in its established, rather than its co-opted, meaning.

                      “not experiencing a systematic injustice that some other people do”.

                      That’s like blaming people for society not screwing them.

                      A claim to affirmative action or such is different from “privilege” in the intersectional sense in a similar way to how a claim to welfare is different from not being poor.

                      I agree, and it doesn’t even need to be in the intersectional sense. But this isn’t what I was talking about.

                      I would also object to the concept of affirmative action etc as categorically being considered an “easy ride”

                      This is a conflation of two different manifestations of the same point. My easy ride point has to do with soft-peddling or reluctant criticism where a more forceful response is appropriate. This tendency is actually doing blacks and Muslims, in particular, a disservice as they are allowed to get away with the most incredible twaddle where a white person might’ve been given a proper critique of their views or criticism of their actions — except if their straight white males, of course, in which case they’re more likely to simply be dismissed out of hand or even abused (there you go, straight white guys; a black lesbian is fighting your corner 🙂 ). So it is not fair to say that I consider Affirmative Action “categorically an easy ride”.

                      If you treat intersectionality as a matter of systematic injustices rather than a matter of identities, than this becomes a matter of seeking out more obscure systematic injustices to reduce (such as, say, injustices against trans people within the LGBT community, who are obscure in the sense of being statistically fewer in number than gay people). I’d say this can be a good thing as long as the response is kept proportional to the injustice. Sometimes the response does get disproportionate, but you are unlikely to notice an injustice effecting relatively few people without something actively bringing it to your attention.

                      But why go to all this trouble and invite all the abuse that has come to plague what will have been good intensions on the part of many to begin with. Will equality of all and human rights for all not bring these to light anyway, as individuals’ consciousness about their own condition and their confidence to challenge it and knowledge of how to do so grow? I know that there are probably flaws in the way I’m articulating it, but I’m inviting that critique.

                      But society routinely does make it their business to do those things via the law.

                      Come on. Do you really think I need to have this pointed out to me (especially as I’ve already dealt with this earlier in the thread).

                      BTW, I’ve not yet had a response from FTB Management about your feedback. I’ll chase it up. I hope you’ll persevere.

                    • EveryZig says

                      What you’re saying is that if there were no sexism or misogyny, women wouldn’t identify as women, etc., such as here: […] Does such an individual then identify as “non-European”, as opposed to African, American, Asian, etc.? Also, the category non-European is independent of experiencing bigotry. It is a value-free designation of anything that isn’t European.

                      Thinking about this more, I think there are two different types of “identity” that can bleed into each other but are not exactly the same thing. There’s self identity, which is what you think of yourself as, and assigned identity, which is what others think of you as. These are usually fairly close to each other (as the concepts making up self-identity mostly come from observing assigned identities), though sometimes they don’t line up. So for your examples, “woman” is in most cases both a self and an assigned identity (with trans or genderqueer cases being the exception), though the specific versions of the concept “woman” used by the self and assigned identities can vary significantly (as in questions about what being a woman entails). “Non-European” would be an assigned identity without being a self identity, though that could hypothetically change since people finding common cause in dealing with injustice against an assigned identity (or closely related group of assigned identities) can sometimes become a self identity (such as with “black” or “queer”). (And here we go making new jargon or possibly remaking half remembered jargon from somewhere else. Sadly nuance is difficult to impossible to discuss without jargon.)

                      This is exactly why I’m using it. I refuse to have the word “privilege”, or any word for that matter, driven out of my language. Sure, words accrete new meanings, but what you’re saying comes perilously close to disapproving of my using “privilege” in its established, rather than its co-opted, meaning.

                      I get where you’re coming from with jargon meanings being troublesome, but using words in their non-jargon meanings in a jargon context discussion can create unnecessary confusion (like if you insistently use “memory” to mean personal memory in a discussion about computer science). Co-opting words creates problems, but so does making new words (which can end up making technical discussion opaque with completely new words being potentially harder to keep track of than vaguely-similar existing words) or using ever-longer compound phrases (which tend to fold into acronyms for brevity that then have the same opacity as new words while also being potentially confused with preexisting acronyms).

                      That’s like blaming people for society not screwing them.

                      People shouldn’t be blamed for having privilege. When used correctly, the intersectional concept of privilege is not about assigning blame but serving as a reminder; to keep “I am not being screwed by the system in this way” from slipping into “I am not being screwed by the system in this way so therefore the problem is nonexistent or trivial”. When a problem does not effect you, it only exists to you only to the extent that you are reminded of it.

                      But why go to all this trouble and invite all the abuse that has come to plague what will have been good intensions on the part of many to begin with. Will equality of all and human rights for all not bring these to light anyway, as individuals’ consciousness about their own condition and their confidence to challenge it and knowledge of how to do so grow? I know that there are probably flaws in the way I’m articulating it, but I’m inviting that critique.

                      The problem with relying solely on “equality for all” is the one I described in my previous paragraph. “Justice for all” will always devolve to “Oppose the injustices that I personally am aware of”, since nobody is omniscient and you cannot oppose or care about an injustice you don’t know of. I argue that there are two general ways you can become aware of an injustice: either you directly experience the injustice, or you are told about it second-hand by someone else. Direct experience of injustice is limited in that some injustices only effect a small portion of the population, and that many injustices tend to effect segments of the population who have the lease social power with which to fight those injustices. Second hand experience is limited by limited contact with those effected (such as how much interaction the average white American has with black Americans) and by the fact that many injustices make those subject to them less likely to be taken seriously (such as the “hysterical woman” concept). These limits can result in approaches or policies that are seemingly equal in theory while being unequal in practice due to interacting (or intersecting as the jargon goes) with unconsidered injustices (such as the exaggerated example of “the rich as well as the poor are strictly forbidden from living under bridges and stealing bread” or a charitably non-malicious interpretation of the real life example of charging people more for health insurance if they let theirs drop temporarily).

                      This is a conflation of two different manifestations of the same point. My easy ride point has to do with soft-peddling or reluctant criticism where a more forceful response is appropriate. This tendency is actually doing blacks and Muslims, in particular, a disservice as they are allowed to get away with the most incredible twaddle where a white person might’ve been given a proper critique of their views or criticism of their actions — except if their straight white males, of course, in which case they’re more likely to simply be dismissed out of hand or even abused

                      Fair enough on not referring to Affirmative Action with that. On differing levels of differing levels of criticism, I think the logic behind it (which I have some sympathy towards but am not entirely committed on) is about the asymmetry of expectations of patience/civility. What I mean by asymmetry of patience is the idea that the someone showing the same amount of patience takes a varying amount of emotional work depending on that person’s circumstances. For example, if someone has been experiencing massive amounts of online harassment asking them to be patient is demanding more of them than it would be to ask for the same amount of patience from someone who has not. Where that gets back to race, gender etc is that you usually cannot directly detect whether someone has been receiving a lot of harassment (unless you are the NSA), so people tend to approximate that with demographics that are significantly more likely to receive harassment such as women on the internet.

                    • says

                      I think there are two different types of “identity” that can bleed into each other but are not exactly the same thing. There’s self identity, which is what you think of yourself as, and assigned identity, which is what others think of you as. These are usually fairly close to each other (as the concepts making up self-identity mostly come from observing assigned identities), though sometimes they don’t line up.

                      I would suggest that the two are distinct in that the first is what you know yourself to be, while the second is a name/designation you are assigned by those who wield power over you (which you can reject, accept or be apathetic about). The latter can be parents naming a child and designating it a member of their religion, a dominant group assigning their own choice of name to a dominated group and that becoming their accepted/official designation, or an assigned name is synonymous with a fixed oppressive relation, and if internalised, inseparable from the oppression, such as women in Muslim societies, who may very often actually identify with their own oppression before identifying with the designation “woman”. What we’ve come to dismiss as an “Uncle Tom” falls into the same category. They bleed into each other in perhaps a more unfortunate sense than you intend.

                      (like if you insistently use “memory” to mean personal memory in a discussion about computer science)

                      All you’ll get in such a case is miscommunication and perhaps irritation. You will not get attacked, ostracised or declared persona non grata.

                      When used correctly, the intersectional concept of privilege is not about assigning blame but serving as a reminder; to keep “I am not being screwed by the system in this way” from slipping into “I am not being screwed by the system in this way so therefore the problem is nonexistent or trivial”.

                      This suggests that “privilege” as in “white privilege” isn’t value-laden. The way I’ve seen it used is to apportion guilt (in a sons-of-the-fathers way) and to shut white people up. There’s no need to lay a trip on someone if all you want to do is raise their awareness.

                      “Justice for all” will always devolve to “Oppose the injustices that I personally am aware of”, since nobody is omniscient and you cannot oppose or care about an injustice you don’t know of.

                      Sure, I’d go along with that. But justice for all is consistent with this. Who “all” is and what “justice” is are continually broadened and deepened. people become personally aware as new and hitherto overlooked or even unimaginable demands for inclusion in “all” are brought before the law. I accept that material interest and organised prejudice may necessitate civic campaigns of all kinds, including targeted awareness-raising. Without the “all” as the frame of reference, there’d be no reason to stop at equality. The aim will have to be dominance.

                      Where that gets back to race, gender etc is that you usually cannot directly detect whether someone has been receiving a lot of harassment (unless you are the NSA), so people tend to approximate that with demographics that are significantly more likely to receive harassment such as women on the internet.

                      I understand this, but is the logic then that this warrants patronising them with affirmative nods because to treat them on the level would just be so unfair? Isn’t this the slippery slope to so-called “safe spaces”?

                    • EveryZig says

                      They bleed into each other in perhaps a more unfortunate sense than you intend.

                      That’s true; it wasn’t what I was thinking of at the moment ,but things including negative things people repeatedly say about you do tend to bleed into your self identity.

                      All you’ll get in such a case is miscommunication and perhaps irritation. You will not get attacked, ostracised or declared persona non grata.

                      Part of it is that people are often emotional when talking about politics (often justifiably when it affects their life). Also, some phrasing used in some contexts tends to get associated with certain ideologies. For example, use of “cuck” as an insult it gets associated as a flag for MRA stuff, though I have seen some someone online using it once or twice while not being otherwise misogynistic. (I think a similar effect is related to the “all lives matter” thing, in that it is seen as a flag for right-wing people counter-protesting against opposing police violence even though using the phrase does not actually guarantee you are in that group.)

                      This suggests that “privilege” as in “white privilege” isn’t value-laden. The way I’ve seen it used is to apportion guilt (in a sons-of-the-fathers way) and to shut white people up. There’s no need to lay a trip on someone if all you want to do is raise their awareness.

                      I see what you mean, and I think the problem is that “privilege” generally gets stated in the context of someone actively being oblivious to it. Sort of like how “what are you doing?!” is is not inherently value laden but most contexts in which you would use it are condemnatory.

                      But justice for all is consistent with this. Who “all” is and what “justice” is are continually broadened and deepened. people become personally aware as new and hitherto overlooked or even unimaginable demands for inclusion in “all” are brought before the law. I accept that material interest and organised prejudice may necessitate civic campaigns of all kinds, including targeted awareness-raising. Without the “all” as the frame of reference, there’d be no reason to stop at equality. The aim will have to be dominance.

                      I would say that justice for all is necessary for the reasons you describe but insufficient on its own for the reasons I was saying earlier. This gets back to the concept of intersectionality; of being careful while opposing one injustice to avoid feeding into other injustices. I think equality for everyone should be one of those intersecting factors to keep in mind.

                      I understand this, but is the logic then that this warrants patronising them with affirmative nods because to treat them on the level would just be so unfair? Isn’t this the slippery slope to so-called “safe spaces”?

                      I think the logic is that people are not always clear on what is fair criticism vs just piling on to someone inundated with unfair criticism, and in that situation a lot of people try to err on the side of being overly uncritical rather than the side of being a jerk.
                      Safe spaces are a different thing. The “slippery slope” to safe spaces is when a private space has rules, such as a blog with a comments policy or a bar has bouncers for rowdy patrons. Safe spaces are the application of the same principle to a policy against bigotry (though as always with methods of preventing bad behavior there is potential to go too far).

                    • says

                      I would say that justice for all is necessary for the reasons you describe but insufficient on its own for the reasons I was saying earlier.

                      Sure.

                      being careful while opposing one injustice to avoid feeding into other injustices.

                      By this do you mean something like being careful while opposing misogyny in Islam to avoid feeding into anti-Muslim bigotry? Or are you saying avoid opposing misogyny in Islam because you’d be feeding into anti-Muslim bigotry? The first I’d go along with, although I’m not going to preface everything I say with qualifications, either because the thought police are just waiting to pounce, or because the bigots are ready to copy-paste. As for the second, no bigot is going to stop me from opposing what needs to be opposed. For then you’ve just handed the bigots the keys to shutting you down altogether. I’m sure this is not what you have in mind.

                      I think equality for everyone should be one of those intersecting factors to keep in mind.

                      I think we disagree on this one. I see intersectionality as concealing an inherent propensity in each “section” for pre-emptive dominance. “Equality for all” must sit above intersectionality to protect intersectionality from itself. Whether there is intersectionality or not, there must always be equality for all. Without it, we’re just dealing with postmodern tribalism. If equality for all were just one of the tribes…

                      I think the logic is that people are not always clear on what is fair criticism vs just piling on to someone inundated with unfair criticism, and in that situation a lot of people try to err on the side of being overly uncritical rather than the side of being a jerk.

                      I see this a lot and I can see the motivation of not wanting to do harm. This is admirable, but it is also misplaced. I know we’ve touched on this before. Maybe I’d just like to add that surely it’s not that difficult to make a distinction between giving fair criticism kindly and being a jerk. I’m not for a moment suggesting that this is what you do, but one thing that particularly irks me is people who assume that because I’m black they’ve got to be extra “understanding” towards me (and this despite my being ‘kick-ass’, at least according to my wife 🙂 ).

                      Safe spaces are the application of the same principle to a policy against bigotry (though as always with methods of preventing bad behavior there is potential to go too far).

                      I’m not at all sure about this. From what I see of the whole “safe spaces” thing, it’s where “members of oppressed groups” are free to say whatever they want and behave in whichever way they want without challenge, while “members of oppressor groups” are silenced and sit where they’re told to sit. Even gender segregation is allowed, nay, demanded. It’s a form of colonisation that proceeds politely while unopposed, but grows quickly very violent and oppressive when opposed. Policies against bigotry and other forms of anti-social behaviour are nothing more than attempts at keeping spaces civil for all to enjoy. If this goes too far, it is recognised as going “too far”. “Safe spaces” lies way beyond this and yet, in its own terms, it’s exactly where it’s intended to be. There’s nothing “too far” about that.

                      (Warning: hobby-horse approaching) Lately, there’s also been a thing at universities where people claim a special place “where their feelings will not be hurt”. While I’m against gratuitous insensitivity, are these toddlers? Have universities become kindergartens? When are they going to demand that that great torture chamber, that great temple to emotional turmoil, the library, be cleansed of all books that might hurt their feelings? This is not to belittle the very real issues of distress that students can suffer from time to time, but for that universities have counselling services. I’d be the first to support students in distress. But for everything else, there are friends (who presumably still have shoulders to cry on), beds with large pillows, and chocolate cake. Am I just being old-fashioned here? — Sorry. You can ignore all that. I just had to get it out of my system.

                      Apropos of the comments template, I’ve now written directly to the FTB supremo’s email. Let’s hope there’ll soon be a properly-functioning comments area.

                    • says

                      Hi,

                      I also wonder what your thoughts might be on two very different groups of people laying claim to the same identity (and mutually denying each other’s claim to than identity). It’s the big question that’s been exercising me for years. Both peaceful Muslims and Muslim terrorists lay claim to the name “Muslim”. Both are subject to bigotry, both from non-Muslims and from each other, though only one, it seems, gets any real critique. The bottom line is that they both claim to adhere to Islam, a faith build on the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith. These three ostensibly shared points of reference make it quite clear what Islam is and what a Muslim is and is not. Unfortunately, the Islam described and prescribed within the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith is the Islam of the Muslim terrorist; not the Islam of the peaceful Muslim. More unfortunately, peaceful Muslims insist that those three points of reference are theirs. It is what anchors their identity. This leaves rational discourse, and thereby critique, in a quandary. How does one talk about Islam (i.e., the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad, the Hadith and the terrorists) without implicating the great many Muslims who, despite their claims, do not, in fact, subscribe to the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith? How does one talk about peaceful Muslims (leaving aside all the problems associated with that) without extending that consideration over terrorists and the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith. And more unfortunately still, current discourse has already taken sides and assigned the names “Muslim” and “Islam” to those Muslims who wish to live with all and whom we can all live with, while attempting to deny them to those Muslims who actually do comply with the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith. Those Muslims who do not comply with the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith will nevertheless not give up their identity as Muslims. This is completely topsy-turvy and the implications are many and catastrophic. Now that, finally, the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith are available for all to study and make up their own minds about, we have to first break through a wall of hurting and offending people who could be our friends, or even family. Critique of Muslim terrorists means critique of the Qur’an, the life of the Prophet Muhammad and the Hadith which means critique of all Muslims of whatever stripe. That’s how it’s set up and so, despite free access to all the information we need to make our own informed decisions, Islam is able to continue its centuries-long insulation from critique, albeit compromised. I have no answer to this. I’ve jettisoned my Muslim identity almost forty years ago. Many hundreds of thousands are doing the same today, especially in the Muslim world. None of us have our identities standing in the way of our honestly examining Islam. I’d really like to know your thoughts on this.

                    • EveryZig says

                      By this do you mean something like being careful while opposing misogyny in Islam to avoid feeding into anti-Muslim bigotry? Or are you saying avoid opposing misogyny in Islam because you’d be feeding into anti-Muslim bigotry?

                      The former. It also works both ways, with a need to be careful while opposing anti-Muslim bigotry to avoid accepting misogyny in Islam.

                      I see intersectionality as concealing an inherent propensity in each “section” for pre-emptive dominance. “Equality for all” must sit above intersectionality to protect intersectionality from itself. Whether there is intersectionality or not, there must always be equality for all. Without it, we’re just dealing with postmodern tribalism. If equality for all were just one of the tribes…

                      I don’t see intersectionality is being a matter of dominance or tribalism, since I view it more in terms of injustices it is opposing rather than identities it is supporting (kind of like I was talking about with the identity politics thing earlier). I would not be opposed though to a system where “equality for all” is an overriding priority to intersectionality as long as they are both there, since the flaws in “equality for all” are generally more about not considering things than in actively promoting wrong things, while intersectionality likely has more potential to be directly misused.

                      From what I see of the whole “safe spaces” thing, it’s where “members of oppressed groups” are free to say whatever they want and behave in whichever way they want without challenge, while “members of oppressor groups” are silenced and sit where they’re told to sit. Even gender segregation is allowed, nay, demanded.

                      Oh, I see what you are referring to. In another annoying linguistic thing, “safe space” is a fairly nebulous term with from two different types of use. There’s the general use of safe space (like in “this is a safe space”) and a more specific use (like “this is safe space for X”). The general use usually refers to just general civility, though they tend to be stricter about it than other civility policies. The specific use is the one where people not in X are expected to be quiet or not be present at all. I feel conflicted about this latter use, since exclusion is bad but I do also see where they are coming from with the argument of “the non-X majority dominates the discussion everywhere else”. (Also, while it does not apply to most cases of this use there are some cases where circumstances would make the people in a “safe space for X” literally less safe in the presence of non-X people, like in gay bars in countries where violence against openly gay people is common.)

                      I also wonder what your thoughts might be on two very different groups of people laying claim to the same identity (and mutually denying each other’s claim to than identity). […]

                      My general theory (though I have not had much direct experience with religion) is that religions have as many branches as there are believers (though the branches can be very close when believers are in close agreement). Religions generally deny this due to their investment in being the One Perfect Truth, but in practice each believer is slightly different in what they think their religion demands and prioritizes. I also think that the active ingredient of any one branch is the version of the religion in that believer’s mind, with the texts effecting how easy it is for the branch to change in certain directions rather than directly defining the belief. Any religion can support basically any conclusion with enough motivated reasoning and mental gymnastics, and while religions claim the source texts to be the foundation of the belief in practice they just give a head start to some potential directions of development for the actual belief. For example, even the famously pacifistic Buddhism has been used to promote violence when Buddhist temples in Japan supported militarization leading up to WW2, because the motivation of nationalist militarism was so intense that the penalty for the textual nonviolence barely registered. Similarly, the text of Christianity is pretty anti-rich (like with the “easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven” thing), but the motivations of greed and America’s wealth-revering culture have a much greater impact, resulting in intensely pro-capitalist American versions of Christianity. I would however expect that when non-religious motivations are smaller or conflicted the textual head start can play a bigger role; so someone on the edge of being radicalized would be more easily turned to violence by Islam than by Buddhism. As for critiquing Islam without being seen as critiquing all Muslims, I’d speculate the way around that would be to either go more specific (in attacking specific harmful beliefs that not all Muslims actually subscribe to) or less specific (in going after faith in general).

                    • says

                      It also works both ways, with a need to be careful while opposing anti-Muslim bigotry to avoid accepting misogyny in Islam.

                      You put that better than I could have.

                      I don’t see intersectionality is being a matter of dominance or tribalism, since I view it more in terms of injustices it is opposing rather than identities it is supporting

                      While I accept your caveat that, “intersectionality likely has more potential to be directly misused,” I think this misuse is central to the very concept, rather than a caveat. What intersectionality is saying is that equality is inadequate; some are more equal than others. It sets up a vying for constructing one’s identity in ways that can lay claim to greater oppression and hence entitlement to “greater equality”. Intersectionality is a corruption born of a reduction of our common human project, our immutable species identity, to competing sectional projects based on competing, and necessarily capricious, sectional identities.

                      the argument of “the non-X majority dominates the discussion everywhere else”. (Also, while it does not apply to most cases of this use there are some cases where circumstances would make the people in a “safe space for X” literally less safe in the presence of non-X people, like in gay bars in countries where violence against openly gay people is common.)

                      “Private” and “privacy” have always been sacrosanct for discussion. If you don’t want non-X people in your private space (for whatever reason or no reason at all), don’t invite them. If they attempt to gate-crash, call the police. But what we have here is a colonisation of public space by X ,thereby making it there private space and so entitling them to drive all non-X out of that public space. Whether it’s a university lecture room in which men are expected to keep their mouths shut, or a pavement where non-Muslims may not tread because Muslims have taken it over for an impromptu prayer. Once you allow this sort of thing to take hold, you’d be one step away from Muslim men standing up at a public gathering and ordering all Muslim women to leave. Right there you’ve turned the world into a private Muslim home. And the private home of anyone able to impose their sectional identity onto the public space.

                      With all respect, I don’t think you’ve addressed the crux question at the heart of Muslim identity. The issue of unavoidable hurt to Muslims in critiquing Islam is just a corollary. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Muslims’ feeling are hurt, we cannot make ourselves hostages to their unwillingness or inability to sort out their own identity.

                      I see identity politics as on trial here. Intersectionality is just one of the exhibits in the case.

                    • EveryZig says

                      I am writing my reply to this comment at the bottom of the page in the non-specific “Leave a Reply” box since WordPress stopped allowing me to reply to the most recent post in the reply chain a while ago and scrolling up 20 or so screen heights to find the “reply” button is getting inconvenient. I think that WordPress’s threaded comments don’t work that well for very long discussion chains.

            • says

              @EveryZig

              I think All Lives Matter”is a different thing from intersectionality because (as far as I have seen it used), it has not been a response to specific pattern of oppression done in the name of BLM but instead has been a response to the idea of focusing specifically on the danger to black lives.

              BLM was born out of a protest against police brutality. Since black people don’t have a monopoly on being killed by cops, it would be intensely callous of them to turn their back on non-black victims. Much to their credit (inasmuch as you can give credit to a loose collection of independent activists) THEY HAVEN’T.

              Several BLM people spoke out against the murders of Dylan Noble and Zachary Hammond (At times it seemed like BLM were the only ones talking about them), white kids who were murdered by cops in situations similar to that of Trayvon Martin or Tamir Rice. Giving their attention to victims outside of their stated target didn’t kill BLM. If anything, it gave them more credibility, more support, more goodwill.

              I don’t know if that goodwill will hold right now. Dylan Noble was killed in mid-2016, Zachary Hammond was killed in 2015. The election of Trump has brought with it a lot of people indulging in their resentment of white people. Black Lives Matter hasn’t turned their backs on non-black victims yet. Let’s hope they don’t start now, or ever.

              The fact that saying “All lives matter” has become something to be looked down upon is worrying, even in the context you describe. Making the phrase a taboo (even if the concept itself is not) will turn people off. If somebody says “All lives matter” and your first reaction is to groan and roll your eyes, there is no immediate way to know if you are rolling your eyes at the concept of valuing human life, or at the history of right wingers who used the phrase dishonestly to delegitimize blah blah blah.

              Also worrying is the fact that they protested Bernie Sanders and flew very unfair criticisms at him, while remaining virtually silent to Hillary Clinton. In effect, supporting the candidate least receptive to their cause, with the more questionable history. Also problematic is the fact that this came after George Soros funded the movement (part of the movement? one of the movements? it’s difficult to tell). It besmirches their credibility (inasmuch as a loose collection of independent activists can have a single credibility to besmirch).

              It feels weird criticizing BLM on these last two things, or giving it credit for the first. Knowing that it’s very informal by design, and that it’s members have ended up making statements or taking action in ways that contradict other members. Apparently anyone can make some BLM group, go out to protest, and it is automatically the real deal. Which is a problem when you got maniacs like Micah Xavier Johnson going as far as killing people in the name of the cause.

              I suppose that criticizing their choice of name is the only criticism that makes sense since the name is the only consistent element.

  2. tkreacher says

    When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair.

  3. says

    What do you mean by “political correctness” in this context? I see the term thrown around so much it doesn’t seem to have much meaning left, so it’d help to clarify it.

    For example, your example

    We live in a time when racist black youths can attack an old white man (an old white man who was single-handedly calling out an entire population for their complacency in the face of the steady erosion of their freedom), those youths then claiming the moral high ground for their conduct and getting it.

    begs the question: the black youths are already assumed to be racist (how do we know that? more information needed!) and seems to be giving the old man the benefit of the doubt that he was correct, then concludes that these racist black youths claimed and got the moral high ground. I’m not familiar with any particular incident but I certainly have not granted anyone any moral high ground, and I certainly haven’t done it on the basis of such flimsy information.

    When racism is hailed as a virtue

    Who is doing that? Not me. I must not be politically correct, then?

    • says

      I believe it’s this incident that she’s talking about. And it is bad.

      The fact that the rally they were disrupting was to Defend Social Security and Medicare, was consistently omitted or understated, but it was relevant. I may be mistaken, but isn’t affordable healthcare a life-or-death issue for vast swaths of people in the US? Yet, that life-or-death issue was seen as unworthy and easily dismissed by the BLM youths.

      Healthcare is one of the big intersectional issues. Be rich, poor, black, white, latino, asian, LGBT, straight, male, female, you will need healthcare in old age, you might need it earlier if you are unlucky, not having it available puts you at an increased risk of death. When BLM jumps the stage and threatens to shut the whole thing down in order to speak to their cause, they are spitting in the eye of an intersectional cause and making the plain statement “Our life-or-death issue matters. Yours, not so much”.

      Furthermore, when the crowd that took time of their day to support a life-or-death cause took issue (obviously) with getting hijacked by a pair of screaming, rambling women, they were regarded as racists.

      I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is, even with all of these progressives, but you’ve already done that for me.

      -Marissa Janae Johnson, lacking self-awareness.

      If you see a mostly white crowd boo a black person and, regardless of context, you automatically assume it’s because they are racist, well… then you’re kinda racist, since that conclusion presupposes that the black person could do no wrong because they’re black and the white crowd is racist because they’re white.

      And looking at what came right after. Disregarding intersectional issues as “white people problems”, potential political allies as “too white”, and dismissing those problems because yours are bigger is, in effect, disparaging other lives.

      I understand that Black Lives Matter is a decentralized movement. The only commonality is the general cause. Membership is by self-identification. Tactics are disorganized and even contradictory. So if someone who self-identifies as a BLM activist, sends a message on behalf of BLM, and that message is disparaging to other lives (as what happened here), then BLM itself would be disparaging other lives.

      I don’t think this is a common situation for the movement as a whole, but allowing it to happen, and absent-mindedly defending it, is damaging.

  4. says

    When “Black Lives Matter” perceives “All Lives Matter” as an existential threat, we have reached the pit of despair.

    Do you have a citation as to where/when “black lives matter proponents” have perceived “all lives matter” as an existential threat?
    I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, but it sure hasn’t happened with me.

    Personally, I see “all lives matter” proponents as a mix of naive or obnoxious, depending on whether they fail to understand what BLM means or whether they are knowingly setting up a false equivalence. I did encounter someone once who really didn’t understand that BLM is not disparaging or devaluing other lives – but that was a rare incident, mostly I’ve found that the people saying “all lives matter” are adopting a pose of believing that the BLM proponents are saying only black lives matter which is – to be generous – dishonest.

    • MG says

      Marcus, I agree. BLM is reacting to real brutality from authorities in their communities. The idea they don’t care about others is false, and a sort of smear.
      I also am aware it wasn’t the communists who sent me to Vietnam. It was the “anti-communists.” who knew we had to kill millions to be safe form an idea that would take over our brains like a parasite, no matter what we were before. Beware of those who would “save us” form the latest ideological threat. I’m sure many of the “anti’s” are happy to see the immigrant round up start. It’s gonna get interesting,

  5. ledasmom says

    There is an analogy I have used before, imperfect as all analogies by their nature must be but, nevertheless:
    I work at a vet practice. Cats generally do not get as much vet care – many clients who have cats and dogs have the dogs up to date on everything, but the cats haven’t been in for more than a year. If we promote vet visits for cats under the heading “CATS MATTER”, explaining that cats need regular care too, no reasonable person is going to take that to mean “DOGS SUCK” or assume we don’t think dogs matter. Where the status quo is a deficit of attention, insisting on attention for that group is not racist or sexist or species-ist; it’s correcting for the existing inequality.

  6. EveryZig says

    @ Anjuli at 2017-03-20 at 02:38
    (I am replying here because the comment threat was getting congested)

    I think this misuse is central to the very concept, rather than a caveat. What intersectionality is saying is that equality is inadequate; some are more equal than others. It sets up a vying for constructing one’s identity in ways that can lay claim to greater oppression and hence entitlement to “greater equality”. Intersectionality is a corruption born of a reduction of our common human project, our immutable species identity, to competing sectional projects based on competing, and necessarily capricious, sectional identities.

    There’s a difference between “inadequate” and “insufficient”, and I think it is comparable to the difference between our approaches to the “everyone is equal” ideal. Saying something is “inadequate” means that something doesn’t do the job because it is bad at the job, while “insufficient” means it isn’t enough to do the job without saying that it is bad or defective. There is no “necessary but inadequate”, since inadequate means it is an inherently bad solution, but there is a “necessary but insufficient”, since something can be a good component of a solution while not being a full solution on its own. You are saying that intersectionality calls the ideal of equality inadequate, whereas I am saying that it calls the ideal of equality insufficient; it is necessary and good for what it does, but it cannot do everything on its own (with the stuff I was saying earlier about the limits of “everyone”). Saying that some people face more oppression and that therefore society should do more to address those problems isn’t calling those people “more equal” any more than saying that some patients face more health problems and that therefore doctors should give them more health care is calling those patients “more deserving of health”. The statement that everyone has the same rights is not contradicted or undermined by the statement that not everyone has the same problems.

    “Private” and “privacy” have always been sacrosanct for discussion. If you don’t want non-X people in your private space (for whatever reason or no reason at all), don’t invite them. If they attempt to gate-crash, call the police. But what we have here is a colonisation of public space by X ,thereby making it there private space and so entitling them to drive all non-X out of that public space. Whether it’s a university lecture room in which men are expected to keep their mouths shut, or a pavement where non-Muslims may not tread because Muslims have taken it over for an impromptu prayer. Once you allow this sort of thing to take hold, you’d be one step away from Muslim men standing up at a public gathering and ordering all Muslim women to leave. Right there you’ve turned the world into a private Muslim home. And the private home of anyone able to impose their sectional identity onto the public space.

    Taking over a sidewalk is bad because it is dominating a public space designated for another public purpose (walking), and interrupting a public meeting would be similarly disrupting the purpose of a public space. The part about the preexisting use for the place is important though, as some public places are designed to be temporarily used as private spaces (like a picnic table, where someone would be intruding in a private space if they just walk into a picnic uninvited). So for the lecture hall example, those restrictions should not be put on a class (which is a public space for teaching) but a discussion group outside of class hours would be a private space.

    With all respect, I don’t think you’ve addressed the crux question at the heart of Muslim identity. The issue of unavoidable hurt to Muslims in critiquing Islam is just a corollary. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many Muslims’ feeling are hurt, we cannot make ourselves hostages to their unwillingness or inability to sort out their own identity.

    I think I missed the point you were making earlier and read it as being about the Islam in general instead of Islam as an identity. My thoughts on “Muslim” as an identity is that Muslims can’t sort our their identity as a group because it has become such a broad identity there isn’t much left to sort out or anyone with enough power to do the sorting. The broader an identity (with identity here referring to self identity) gets the less specific it becomes and consequently the less it says about anyone who has the identity. When people want an identity to mean more (and subsequently be more specific), their options are to either make a splinter identity or to change the larger identity by converting or removing people with incompatible versions of the identity. From what I have seen of Christians (which I am much more familiar with due to living in the US), “Christian” as an identity has become so broad as to just mean “believer in something they call Christianity that has versions of Jesus, God, and at least a nominal link to the Bible”, with the splinter identities saying much more about what someone actually believes (such as Catholic vs Unitarian). These groups still do frequently seek to claim the broader identity because they want the broader identity to ‘mean something’ (and/or they want the legitimacy people invest in the broader identity), but they usually aren’t able to get very far due to their splinter identity lacking the power to convert, expel or kill the many other splinter identities. From the significantly less familiarity I have with Muslims, I think “Muslim” seems to similarly be a very broad identity with very little specific meaning that many splinter identities want to make more specific in their own image. The difference between the two being that there are currently a lot more Muslim splinter identities using violence as a means towards specification or as a consequence of their specific beliefs (for all sorts of reasons that would be another discussion in itself).

    • says

      Hi EveryZig (also Lurker and others),

      My apologies for taking such a long time to move on the threaded comments thing. I’d actually forgotten that FtBmanagement is a discussion forum. Several people had already replied to my query a while back, most of them helpfully. So, as they advised, I’ve turned threading off and hope this makes things less confusing. Apparently, there’s no perfect solution.

      Please let me know whether there’s any improvement.

      * I’ll respond to your comment later.

    • says

      There’s a difference between “inadequate” and “insufficient”, and I think it is comparable to the difference between our approaches to the “everyone is equal” ideal. Saying something is “inadequate” means that something doesn’t do the job because it is bad at the job, while “insufficient” means it isn’t enough to do the job without saying that it is bad or defective.

      I agree with you. I wonder, though, whether you are perhaps being more generous towards intersectionality than may be warranted. Didn’t it arise out of a sociological attempt at buttressing identity politics with some semblance of theory? I’d give intersectionality more credit if it first showed equality for all to be insufficient (or inadequate) and then proceeded to fill that gap. But, in my understanding, it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t even supplant equality for all. Intersectionality is simply posited as if into a conceptual vacuum, when the space is well-filled with a very long tradition. I admit, though, that I haven’t spent as much time looking at intersectionality as you might have.

      Saying that some people face more oppression and that therefore society should do more to address those problems isn’t calling those people “more equal” any more than saying that some patients face more health problems and that therefore doctors should give them more health care is calling those patients “more deserving of health”.

      I understand what you’re saying, and am arguing that within this is concealed what is wrong with intersectionality. While different people need different levels of healthcare, the aim is for all to attain good health, or as close to that as is possible, and to maintain it as far as is possible. We do not actively identify ailments and defects with the aim of differentiating ourselves from one another so as to gain more healthcare. If the intersectionality idea were to be applied to healthcare, then good health would be irrelevant. All that would matter would be to get more healthcare than anyone else. The closer you get to good health, the more ailments you’re going to have to find in order to continue getting healthcare. The whole logic of intersectionality is not to end oppression, but to perpetuate it.

      I have to dash off now, unfortunately, but have a few more points to make here… till later.

    • says

      …continuing from response a few hours ago.

      The part about the preexisting use for the place is important though, as some public places are designed to be temporarily used as private spaces (like a picnic table, where someone would be intruding in a private space if they just walk into a picnic uninvited). So for the lecture hall example, those restrictions should not be put on a class (which is a public space for teaching) but a discussion group outside of class hours would be a private space.

      Sure.

      My thoughts on “Muslim” as an identity is that Muslims can’t sort our their identity as a group because it has become such a broad identity there isn’t much left to sort out or anyone with enough power to do the sorting. …From the significantly less familiarity I have with Muslims, I think “Muslim” seems to similarly be a very broad identity with very little specific meaning that many splinter identities want to make more specific in their own image. The difference between the two being that there are currently a lot more Muslim splinter identities using violence as a means towards specification or as a consequence of their specific beliefs (for all sorts of reasons that would be another discussion in itself).

      I appreciate your sharing your thoughts on this, and I’m not pushing you to discuss it further. I wish Muslims were in a similar position to that you describe for the range of Christian identities. Unfortunately, they’re not that lucky. Because “Qur’an”, “Islam” and “Muslim” define their identities, and the fundamental category of “Qur’an” (without which the other two become meaningless) is absolutely unalterable (this is not a matter of opinion or interpretation, but of mandatory death), what kind of Muslim you are is immediately an existential question. As long as there’s some kind of unspoken societal laissez-faire, the deviants from the Qur’an can all happily (and quietly) ignore one another’s deviations. The trouble returns when one of them gets it into his head to go back and read the Qur’an. This has happened over and over again down the centuries. Right now, we are witnessing just another of the “revivals”, if that’s not too misleading a term. Previously, these phases of true Islam affected the non-Muslim world in that swarms of sword-wielding horsemen would sweep through and mow down everyone in sight (sometimes “sparing” the women), burn every book and pull down every stature; raid across borders for slaves; raid ships on the high seas and caravans in the desert; etc. But in the Muslim world, it meant mass persecutions. The history of the Isma’ilis would be a representative example. The difference with the current return to The Truth is that the carnage in the Muslim world is far more widespread and devastating, the incursions into the non-Muslim world much more disaggregated, but also much more deadly (with nuclear potential), underpinned by rival claims to “leadership of the faithful” that spill out into the non-Muslim world (previously, the rival caliphates tended to vie for vassals), and enabled, or at least strongly facilitated, in the non-Muslim world by the behaviour and attitudes of sections of the population of the non-Muslim world, be they themselves Muslim or non-Muslim. I asked for your views because being Muslim is an identity that, by its very nature, cannot evolve, no matter how many “reform” experiments are tried. Ultimately, being Muslim is the mother of all fucked-up identities.

  7. EveryZig says

    I’d give intersectionality more credit if it first showed equality for all to be insufficient (or inadequate) and then proceeded to fill that gap.

    In terms of insufficiency, I refer again to the things mentioned earlier like slavery in the Constitution or civil rights movements throwing other minorities under the bus and the general idea of supporters of equality not considering everyone. It is true that these examples are problems with the implementation of equality rather than problems with equality itself, but when an ideal or policy repeatedly has the same problem with implementation it indicates a gap that the ideal or policy is unable to fill on its own.
    In terms of filling the gap things are harder to prove, but I would argue that intersectionality provides a useful framework for pointing out ways in which attempts for justice can cause tangential injustices (like in Lurker’s example of LGBT bisexual non-acceptance or TERFS).

    I admit, though, that I haven’t spent as much time looking at intersectionality as you might have.

    To be fair I have not seen any statistical surveys of intersectionality either; I am just describing the version that I support (which generally in my experience has been close to the versions used by other people who I usually agree with).

    While different people need different levels of healthcare, the aim is for all to attain good health, or as close to that as is possible, and to maintain it as far as is possible. We do not actively identify ailments and defects with the aim of differentiating ourselves from one another so as to gain more healthcare. If the intersectionality idea were to be applied to healthcare, then good health would be irrelevant. All that would matter would be to get more healthcare than anyone else.

    In healthcare, some people do abuse the diagnostic system in order to obtain ‘more healthcare’ in the form of prescription drug abuse. However, outside of ultra-conservative or big-pharma-conspiracy circles it is generally agreed on that such abuse cases are not the typical use of healthcare and are a flaw in the healthcare system while not defining it as a whole. I am arguing the same thing with regards to abuses of intersectionality, and I do not know what your basis is for saying that self-interested and disproportionate versions of intersectionality are the predominant or defining versions of it.

    Because “Qur’an”, “Islam” and “Muslim” define their identities, and the fundamental category of “Qur’an” (without which the other two become meaningless) is absolutely unalterable (this is not a matter of opinion or interpretation, but of mandatory death), what kind of Muslim you are is immediately an existential question. […] Muslim is an identity that, by its very nature, cannot evolve, no matter how many “reform” experiments are tried.

    I agree with you that a lot more violence is done these days in the name of Islam than in the name of Christianity, and while Christians still do some pretty gross stuff they are much less likely on average to go out and directly murder people in the name of god. That was not always the case though, with Christianity having its own long list of “holy” atrocities from hordes engaging in mass slaughter of nonbelievers (the crusades) to burning books and killing heretics (Constantine vs nontrinitarians) to slavery (mainstream Christian endorsements of slavery in America). My point, though, is that those historical Christians were using the same Bible (aside from minor transnational changes) as modern Christians. The Bible did not and could not change in any major way, yet as society changed Christianity changed with it despite numerous attempts to stop these changes through violence or other methods. Believers often insist that religion as they practice it based in scripture rather than opinion and intuition, but because of the above (and also the contradictions between “purely scriptural” positions) I conclude that this is not the case. I attribute this discrepancy to the nature of faith; because when you “know the truth in your heart” scripture is just as easily twisted, explained away or simply ignored as scientific fact.

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