Monday, November 3, 2014

The Mechanics of a Category Five Social Justice Shitstorm

Apparently, a dissection of the word "pride" in the context of "[social group, especially one that is systematically oppressed, e.g. gay] pride" is harder to talk about than I might have thought. I have tried to be careful already, and so I encourage people to read those thoughts here.

Here's a point worth elaborating upon, though. In my previous essay on the topic, I included this statement, which I think to be of incredible importance to understanding the impact of the term "pride" in the given context.
Still, to consider "gay pride" in the context of celebration is bizarre because it is insinuating that gay people should be celebrating being how they were born for the sake of having been born that way (with the added implication that others, or at least certain others, shouldn't--the term "straight pride" is rightfully considered rather abhorrent). (bold added)
This is actually pretty significant, possibly the most significant point in the entire long discussion. I'd like to invite a thought experiment, then, to see why.

Imagine if in the first place, attempting to make the same point, Peter Boghossian had tweeted instead that he, in exactly the same way as (Apple CEO) Tim Cook is about being gay, is proud to be straight, white, and male.

Let the thought sink in for a moment. Try to picture that it really happened (which may require some of you to stop pretending it did). The result would have been even more predictable than the rage that followed his actual tweet. People would have went completely bonkers. Bonkers like berserk. Bonkers like a hiccup in gravity that would have sent Jupiter into the Sun and blown up the whole damn solar system.

And that's what's offensive to so many people about so much of what gets called "Social Justice"--to be specifically disambiguated from "gay pride" here.

(Before crucifying what I just wrote, bear in mind that in my previous post, I discussed at length the reasons I believe that all people who have faced social oppression and unfair obstacles have a legitimate right to be proud of having done so, survived, and come out to be the wonderful people that they typically are. Bear also in mind that I don't think "gay pride" is actually offensive to anyone except gay-hating bigots, although what tends to get branded "Social Justice" far too often is.) Additionally, though too few will believe me, let me try to make it as plain as may be that I understand the facts of social oppression as deeply as who I am and the total capacity of my experiences, empathy, and abstract reasoning capabilities will allow.

That said, when a message of "pride" carries with it an implicit understanding of "I can be proud to be who I happen to be, but you can't," there's a serious problem at hand. That problem exists for the movement based upon the claim to pride more than for anyone else. That problem, in fact, is like spraying rocket fuel on the already burning opposition to pride movements.

Here's the problem spelled out: "I can have pride, but you're an asshole if you do" is a message that is utter poison. Once that aspect of the sentiment is realized by anyone decent, it is resisted vehemently, and rightfully so. It's a huge part of the reason so many women and genuinely women-allied men reject feminism now--not because they're "gender traitors" or closeted "misogynists," but because they refuse to sign up for that kind of patent inequity, particularly under a banner of undoing social inequity.

Sadly, this toxic sentiment almost typifies the "Social Justice" progressive ideology that straight, white, and male have had their day in the sun and now it's time for them to get out, as if space in the light and warmth of an empathetic, equal society is somehow zero sum.

Even more ridiculous is the fact (pretending Boghossian even thinks such a thing make sense) that had he tweeted about having pride in his race, gender, and sexual orientation--as they just so happened to be by the accidents of his birth--the "Social Justice" angle would be to argue that as a straight, white male, he's not entitled to that feeling.

The argument is as predictable as it is presumptuous, that--as who he happens to be--he can't ever have been on the receiving end of anything remotely like systematic social oppression (never mind that had he ever lived in certain other areas in the world, he most certainly could have experienced just that). That they would make this specious argument while proceeding to systematically oppress him for who he happens to be, by telling him his opinion isn't sufficiently informed to be valid, would get lost in all the glorious righteousness--presumptive, ideological righteousness that itself engenders both more resistance and a doubling-down upon its own stinking assumption of irreproachability.

And this is the mechanics by which the whole toxic spiral of a Social Justice Shitstorm turns, sucking rational discourse into the black hole at its center and centripetally flinging shit as far and wide as its considerable angular momentum will allow. 

So a reality check is in order, as a worthwhile aside. Boghossian is a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences--in the humanities half of that--at one of the most liberal universities in the country, Portland State. I would bet my last dollar that he has routinely faced a very oppressive atmosphere of the kind that stymies him from sharing his opinion, or one that tells him outright that because of who he happens to be, his opinions (and opportunity) are rightfully diminished. He is, after all, a member of what too many "Social Justice" crusaders refer to as the "oppressor class," which they seem to be able to identify solely by looking at a picture of him. Not only that, he's utterly surrounded by and in many respects subject to the people who think that kind of thing about him.

I know this is very likely to be true because for years now I've personally been terrified to say so much as a word about any social leftist line of thinking, however unfair, lest I get vilified for it--having experienced every single one of the things in the proceeding two paragraphs without ever having said anything so obviously callous as that I'm proud to be who I happen to be (I'm not, actually--partly because I don't think it's the right word and partly because I honestly think that aspect of my psychology has been beaten out of me by my social environment.) I bear this fear as a compassionate, caring, empathetic, allied, left-oriented individual, and my money is on that I'm not alone here. (Ample evidence exists to back this observation up, in fact.)

To the central point, that cringe-worthy hypocrisy doesn't matter, though, not really. This blog post isn't a defense of being straight, white, male, or anything else anyone happens to be born as. This isn't a "oh, we have it bad too, boo-hoo" post.

This is a plain statement of two things. (1) The Social Justice ideology doesn't get to hijack social discourse any more than any other ideology gets to. That's what fairness means. (2) Any ideological position or social movement that bases itself upon a concept that can be read as being patently unfair, like, "I deserve self-worth, but you don't, these being simple facts of the accidents of our birth," screws itself, however worthy and noble a social movement it may be. Taking upon itself such an attitude and its defense sets the movement up for the hindrances of vehement resistance, including outright rejection by man of its natural allies. (NB: Self-worth is a big part of the operative and legitimate meaning of the word "pride" in the context at hand, cf. my previous essay on the topic.)

So, think again of the possibility that Boghossian had tweeted his pride in who he happens to be, especially had he dared to add that his open acceptance of his own self-worth constitutes pride in defiance of social leftist oppression to which he is personally and professionally subject. The explosion that followed the tweet he actually did make--that he doesn't understand how anyone can be proud to have been born who they are--would have been as a firecracker to an atom bomb, as would have been the predictable backlash that followed it. The casualties are rational discourse and an important aspect of the fairness pride movements seek to establish.

Now realize that he didn't tweet that at all, and he wouldn't have dared to even if he believed that it was the right use of the word.