The Diminishing Returns of Social Justice

Have you ever been cleaning your house, sweeping the floor or vacuuming the carpet, and after hours of work, you put away your vacuum, hang up your broom, and chillax with a beer…

…and then you see it. A crumb that somehow missed the dustpan. A dust bunny the vacuum failed to suck up. A smudge on the baseboards that you just did not see until you put everything away.

What do you do?

Well, if you’re OCD about these things, as I can be sometimes, perhaps you break out all of your cleaning gear again, and go to town on the smudge, hit the floors one more time, and go through the whole process all over. Or maybe you just get up, and physically pick up the speck, or rub the smudge on the baseboard with your shirt. I’ve done that, too.

You return to your now-lukewarm beer. You got the speck this time. No more smudges. It’s time to relax after a job well done. And then you see it. Another speck of dirt… You sigh. But you’re not getting up again. No way.

This sort of thing applies to almost every corner of life. If you’re a car guy (as I also am), the small scratches and paint chips you accumulate on your daily driver can drive you nuts.

Social Justice operates like this.

If we imagine the various ills of racism, sexism, homophobia, and the myriad of other -isms and -phobias decried by the Progressives as a messy room, we can see how ending Jim Crow, passing the 19th amendment, and passing the Civil Rights Act might be seen as cleaning that room.

And the specks of dirt left in the room after we’ve cracked open that beer are the microaggressions, the privileges, and the various imperfections in the ‘level playing field’ that feature prominently in political discourse.

In many ways, I think the political Right has made a mistake in trying to say these privileges, microaggressions, and other such things do not exist. Instead, I wonder if the better approach is to point out that the carpet will never be entirely free of dirt particles. Your baseboards will never be perfect. You can break out the cleaning gear again and again, and only succeeded in rubbing the paint off the baseboards in your obsession to have perfect cleanliness.

Oftentimes there are relatively obvious things that can be done to address very blatant inequalities. Certainly, eliminating government-enforced segregation was a big one. And perhaps police reform is urgently needed in a lot of places. But after a while, you reach diminishing returns in the quest for perfection. How has affirmative action worked out?

Adam Corolla gave the example of how he wanted to become an LA firefighter, and had to wait years – in the process giving up on this desire – because he was white, and continually shuffled to the bottom of the stack. Somebody rubbed the paint off the baseboards. Even if being white is probably still a net gain in some situations, it is also a net negative in others. Imagine being the white kid trying out for the basketball team.

Intersectional privileges, in Social Justice parlance, are essentially infinite in nature anyway. That is to say each person will have a personal collection of advantages and disadvantages based on various attributes. What is gained by privilege A is lost by privilege B, and so on. I recall a debate on Twitter back in the Gamergate days, where an SJW ranted on about blue-eyed privilege. Theoretically, sure, maybe having blue eyes statistically means a 1% more likely chance of some good thing happening. But my brown eyes have never bothered me. And it is difficult to see what my brother’s blue eyes really bought him in life.

These privileges are specks of dirt on the carpet. And in some cases, a good pass with the vacuum will eliminate the worst and most visible effects – especially when those privileges are mandated by a hostile government.

But the SJWs do not know when to stop, crack open a beer, and just live with it. They keep scrubbing until the paint is gone. They keep vacuuming until the carpet is torn up. Knuckles bloody, beer expired, and angry, they just keep going.

A white woman in a kimono must be cancelled.

The Golden Girls with that mud mask stuff on is blackface, get rid of it.

To hell with Aunt Jemima syrup.

Tear down the emancipation monument.

All because there’s a speck somewhere.

When called out on this behavior, they point to the speck of dirt and say “see! Look! Racism still exists!”

Yes, it does. You’re never going to get rid of it all. Start from the assumption that humanity is a flawed creature, that individuals are full of biases you will never rid them of entirely, and that some in-group preference is unavoidable. Start from the assumption that every human has advantages and disadvantages in life, and you will not be able to level them all. There will always be a smudge or a speck.

At a certain point, crack open your beer and chill, damnit.

A different way of looking at it is defining what clean means to you. Does a clean country mean that no incidents of racism will occur? No. Does it mean there will be no monuments that offend anyone? No. Does a clean country mean every demographic permutation or ‘group privilege’ situation will be equally represented in everything? No.

Also, given that there are nearly an infinite number of potential overlapping privileges, what makes this particular speck you’re focusing on so much more important than the others?

Feminists gloss over atrociously bad male suicide rates and workplace deaths. Why is #metoo so much more important than men killing themselves, or dying in workplace accidents? It’s not so much that I want to obsess over the “men kill themselves” speck of dirt on the carpet. Rather, why is THIS speck so much more worthy of obsession than THAT speck. It’s subjective and emotionally driven. White privilege is a problem when it confers advantages over some other demographic group. But when the white kid is picked last for the basketball team, or Adam Carolla can’t even get an interview for the firefighter job he wanted, nobody cares about Non-white privilege.

Even if we conceded that, net-net, White privilege outweighed Non-white privilege (and I’m not so sure it does – SJWs tend to focus on the advantages of one and the disadvantages of the other with little balancing in the reverse direction), is the return on investment really worth it?

How much is complete fairness worth?

In Harrison Bergeron, it was worth bringing all of society down to the lowest common denominator. Is that what we want?

And let’s assume we finally figure out this one privilege in the infinite Social Justice Pantheon of privileges. Great! Only a near-infinite number more to go. What’s next? Height privilege? Blue-eye privilege?

Or maybe it’s male privilege, which is one I really find laughable. Progressives often focus on higher overall pay for men. Or the fact that women are often valued for their looks. The second one his kind of hilarious, because in many ways being valued for appearance is an advantage if you’re an even modestly attractive woman. This is a card most men can never play. It’s not in their privilege deck at all.

I ran a poll on Twitter – and let’s be clear, Twitter polls are for fun only, don’t take this as serious business – and 91.5% of folks rated “hot girl privilege” as higher than male, white, and straight privileges. Again, very biased sample set.

But if we ran that same poll out in the world and got real statistical data out of it, can anyone imagine hot girl privilege losing? I can’t. Can you?

Of course, like the others, there are disadvantages too, even there. A hot girl probably has to deal with a lot more creepers and internet stalkers than some random dude-bro.

The main point I’m trying to make here, is that SJWs and Progressives tend to be very arbitrary when it comes to selecting which privileges to be worried about, and furthermore, they tend to be very arbitrary when describing them, selecting only the disadvantages of one and the advantages of the other with little thought to a balanced comparison.

And they can never stop cleaning. There is never a point where something is good enough. The house is never clean. Nobody can ever relax, crack open a beer, and chill. Social anxiety must continue forever. Never stop cleaning. No peace.

But also, that privileges, microaggressions, and other Social Justice talking points do exist in some fashion. Saying they do not gives SJWs leverage in the argument. The speck of dirt on the carpet is real. It’s there.

It’s just that I’m not getting up from the couch second time over one speck of dirt. Oftentimes, it is not anywhere near as important or dramatic as they claim. I’m not going scrub the baseboards until the paint peels off for a tiny smudge. The ROI isn’t there.

I’ll keep a clean house, mind you. But we’re never going to have perfection. And eventually, people just need to stop, live with it, and get on with their lives.

Police Overreach, Rioting, and a Noxious Rhetorical Climate

Unless you’ve been living under a very impressive rock – like a bad Brendan Fraser movie about people stuck in a bunker for decades – you know about this George Lloyd business. I’ve seen the video. If you haven’t, you should do so. It is pretty incriminating for the officers involved. I’ve never been much of a thin blue line kind of guy, but I definitely check out here. I know two very good friends who have been screwed over by exceptionally bad police overreach. Francis, over at Bastion of Liberty, surely knows one of them – he is a friend we have in common.

Police petty tyranny has been growing worse in recent years, and we add to that a certain tendency of some urban police departments to engage in soldier-LARPing behavior, well the problem only gets worse. Add to that the condition of various inner-city black communities, the current political climate of race-baiting social justice activism, and the fact that COVID-19 lockdowns have surely driven people mad with boredom and lack of social contact, and you have a perfect storm for this rioting behavior.

It’s hard to blame it on any one thing, save that the poor behavior of the officers in question surely struck a match and stuck it firmly in a powder keg of epic proportions. Personally, I am exhausted of this repeating cycle, which has been a thing since at least the early 90s and the Rodney King riots. Questionable police behavior (sometimes not really so bad, and other times absolutely inexcusably idiotic) leads to racial animus, which results in barbaric looting behavior. We’re all spiraling toward a singularity of stupid, the gravity pulling us deep into a descending orbit, too strong for any of us to escape.

Political rhetoric has become absolutely poisonous. Sure, it was bad in 2016, but this year it grows worse, and I grow weary of it. Every discussion even coming anywhere near a political point is liable to turn into a land mine. Friendships are breaking. Families are cracking. America is burning and creaking at the seams. I don’t know how much longer this dysfunctional system is going to continue to limp along. We may be witnessing its slow death. Or maybe we’ll bounce back again, and our country will be undone at some unspecified point in the future. It’s hard to say.

With the election approaching, I think it’s only going to get worse.

Sadly, I think underneath all the nuclear-level rhetoric, the unleashed ids, the emotional appeals and post-hoc rationalization, both sides of the American political spectrum are clutching a piece of the truth. I’m not sure how many people want to hear that, but I’ve become convinced that it is true. I posted the following summary on Twitter earlier:

  1. In general, policing has gone very bad in many ways.
  2. Black communities in most major cities suck.
  3. At least some of the suck is self-inflicted.
  4. I despair of any of that changing in the near future.
  5. We’ll be here again. And again
  6. Racial profiling is almost certainly a thing.
  7. It is not without some rational basis.
  8. Both facts poison interactions between cops and blacks.
  9. White liberal race-baiting doesn’t help.
  10. Neither does ‘thin blue line’ garbage.
  11. No political faction wants to tell the whole truth because it will piss off constituents who don’t want to hear it.
  12. Both major factions possess at least some components of the truth.
  13. I feel like some character in Battlestar Galactica. “All of this has happened before.”

The black communities in most major cities are littered with problems. Violence, crime rates, economic depression – you name it. Rightists are right about that. Leftists want to blame white racism, but that doesn’t hold up to investigation. Surely, even if Leftists believe racism to still be bad even they must acknowledge that it is far less bad than, say, the Jim Crow era. Why do these problems continue? Why do we see so little progress? I was rereading Larry Elder’s Ten Things You Can’t Say in America today after a debate with a Leftist on this subject, and it struck me how little had changed since then on matters of race, saving that acrimony continues to worsen. The same issues from 20 years ago are little changed today. What gives?

Police officers know this as well as anyone. Let’s be real, they certainly do racially profile (the Left is right about this); stereotypes about violent crime have a basis in fact, and cops know it. And, from the other direction, blacks certainly are inclined to see cops as the enemy, the attitude leaks into police interactions all the time. Combine those two factors, and the chances of an interaction going bad increase dramatically. And when that happens, prepare for protests that, likewise escalate in severity. Riots, looting, mob interactions – all intermingling with the still-peaceful (but emotional and crazy) main element – while the cops either stay on the sidelines as Rome burns, or escalate the situation even more themselves.

In some ways, it almost doesn’t matter that this particular policing incident really was bad. If it had been a legitimate death, it still had the potential to flare up into what we have today. We are at the point that any police interaction with the black community has the potential of blowing up into a national orgy of combined protest-riots. This one is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. There is a protest scheduled down the street from where I live tomorrow – it is likely they won’t bother my neighborhood (it is known that a lot of military folks live around here), but even the potential is strange to me. There were burnings and lootings all over Tampa Bay, especially in the University Mall/Temple Terrace area.

Tampa is not exactly a city known for rioting behavior. I cannot imagine how bad it must be in other major cities.

And we’re not even halfway through 2020 yet. The election looms over us, while the COVID-19 pandemic continues (and may be exacerbated by the riots – we don’t know yet), and political rhetoric has reached levels that make 2016 look like a picnic in the park. We may solve the police overreach issue – though I really doubt it, now – but the broader issue about any police interaction with the black community potentially triggering national riots remains no matter what might be done about that. I think we’re well beyond the ability to solve this in any constructive manner.

I’d like to be wrong. I’d like for someone to pour some water on this fire, to rein in police overreach, to deal with qualified immunity, poor recruiting, travesties like civil asset forfeiture, etc… I’d also like to take us back from 5 minutes until midnight on the racial rioting clock. But I doubt either will happen anytime soon.

Like I said, I feel like it’s an episode of Battlestar Galactica, and I’m reciting the catchphrase. All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again. Again. Again. Again…

 

Fisk of the Week: White Fragility

So I’m mostly back from my self-imposed ascetic period. I needed some time to clear my head, and politics certainly has a way of muddying the religious waters. But I feel that I can safely return to my long-winded screeds and overly-involved fisks. And my friends, we have a whopper today. In fact, this is not just a fisk, it is a comparison of two viewpoints, one interesting and one a well-spun lie. Before we get into it, I have this observation for you:

One of the more penetrating questions to a liberal is “when is my duty satisfied?” It lacks the grounding necessary to recognize a success condition. It embraces its own form of original sin, but lacks the redemption method.

Think carefully on this. Leftists generally like to, for example, push taxes higher. What rate of taxation is enough, after which they must better allocate the funds instead of asking for more? With respect to racial grievances, how many affirmative action programs, how much money, how much tireless media spin is necessary before we can say that we have satisfied the duty they ask of us? What level of involvement in Social Justice programs is enough that, when satisfied, the person can proudly state that he is not racist/sexist/whatever?

If you cheat and look in the back of the book, so to speak, you will find that the answer is nothing. Nothing will satisfy them. Nothing is ever enough. Unlike Christianity, the original sin of Liberalism can never be expunged. There is no redemption, racist.

Don’t believe me? Let’s fisk some of this.

The New York Times bestselling author of White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism sat down with Teaching Tolerance to discuss why working against one’s own fragility is a necessary part of white anti-racist work—and why good intentions don’t matter.

And later in the article she expands on this:

I think intentions are irrelevant. It’s nice to know you had good intentions, but the impact of what you did was harmful. And we need to let go of our intentions and attend to the impact, to focus on that.

Intentions don’t matter. That’s a good place to start, and by itself explains a great deal about Progressive political thought. In a criminal case, intentions do matter. If you intend to kill someone, that is murder, and it is worse than killing someone by accident, which may be manslaughter or negligent homicide, or some other thing. Or, if the other person intended to harm you, your killing him in turn may be justified. Intentions surely do matter. What happens in the physical world also matters, of course, but to say good intentions don’t matter is already a lie.

Well, when I coined [white fragility], the fragility part was meant to capture how little it takes to upset white people racially. For a lot of white people, the mere suggestion that being white has meaning will cause great umbrage. Certainly generalizing about white people will. Right now, me saying “white people,” as if our race had meaning, and as if I could know anything about somebody just because they’re white, will cause a lot of white people to erupt in defensiveness. And I think of it as a kind of weaponized defensiveness. Weaponized tears. Weaponized hurt feelings. And in that way, I think white fragility actually functions as a kind of white racial bullying.

Fascinatingly enough, the author tells us that white fragility is actually a form of Weaponized Empathy, in so many words. It’s interesting to note this because this is a very clear form of projection. I’ve delved a lot into Weaponized Empathy as a concept here at The Declination. I am certainly one of the originators of the term. And so it is quite fascinating to see the author of this book, and the responses in this article, using a very similar phrasing. If a white person is defensive he is, by her own words, a kind of racial bully. The tears are offensive weapons. The hurt feelings are offensive weapons. But let’s explore a little more here.

We white people make it so difficult for people of color to talk to us about our inevitable—but often unaware—racist patterns and assumptions that, most of the time, they don’t. People of color working and living in primarily white environments take home way more daily indignities and slights and microaggressions than they bother talking to us about because their experience consistently is that it’s not going to go well. In fact, they’re going to risk more punishment, not less. They’re going to now have to take care of the white person’s upset feelings. They’re going to be seen as a troublemaker. The white person is going to withdraw, defend, explain, insist it had to have been a misunderstanding.

If you make an accusation, the accused gets to have his own say in the matter. Justice is not one person making an accusation, and everyone else immediately agreeing with him and not giving the accused an opportunity to defend himself. If I make an accusation, I expect the accused to defend himself. This applies even when I know he’s in the wrong! The author implies that a person defending himself, explaining his actions, and suggesting whatever happened was a misunderstanding is not engaging in acceptable behavior. Only admission of guilt is acceptable. But let’s continue.

There’s a question that’s never failed me in this work to uncover how racism keeps reproducing itself despite all of the evidence we like to give for why it couldn’t be us. And that question isn’t, “Is this true or is this false: Was the person’s intention good or not?” We’re never going to be able to come to an agreement on intentions. You cannot prove somebody’s intentions. They might not even know their intentions. And if they weren’t good, they’re probably not going to admit that. The question I ask is, “How does this function?” The impact of the action is what is relevant.

There is an interesting omission here. Do you see it? We don’t know a person’s intentions with certainty, that is true, though this has not stopped legal proceedings from finding evidence for a motive, and for ruling on such cases. However, note that the defender’s testimony is dismissed as irrelevant because intentions cannot be proven, but thus far in the article, we have not once made similar questions of the accuser’s motives! This is extremely important, because the demand for racist activity far outstrips the supply. This is why we have seen so many hate crime hoaxes of late, including the very public Jussie Smollett affair, but also lesser “crimes” like the Mizzou poop swastika, the receipt with vague racist crap scribbled on it, and others.

A person who claims to be a victim of such an affair is, like the receipt faker, often doing it for social media attention. Posts of sympathy are many. A person makes the evening news, and maybe boosts his failing career. The media eats these affairs up! It’s crack cocaine to a journalist, and people know this. But the author of this piece doesn’t even mention the possibility of a false accusation, and hammers homes a focus on the accused.

Foundationally [we] have to change our idea of what it means to be racist. As long as you define a racist as an individual who intentionally is mean, based on race, you’re going to feel defensive. When I say you’ve been shaped by a racist system—that it is inevitable that you have racist biases and patterns and investments—you’re going to feel offended by that. You will hear it as a comment on your moral character.  You’re going to feel offended by that if you don’t change how you’re interpreting what I just said. And I would actually agree with anyone who felt offended when I say, “It is inevitable that you are racist,” if their definition of a racist is someone who means harm.

Note the first sentence. We need to change our idea (the definition) of what the word means. Here we see Progressive thought laid bare: we change the definition of a word or concept. The author is not just admitting that they do this, she is demanding that we be complicit in this change. Note the dictionary definition:

Racism: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

Note the word “directed” used here. This implies intent, especially when combined with “based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.” So to be a racist, you must believe in the superiority of your own race, and direct some form of antagonism or discrimination intentionally toward a person of another race. The author is telling us to change this definition so that her entire book makes sense, because otherwise it’s a form of meaningless nonsense. For her position to be internally coherent we must change the meaning of our own language. She’s telling you this, straight up!

Change how you understand what it means to be racist, and then act on that understanding. Because if you change your understanding, but you don’t do anything different, then you’re colluding.

And now comes the threat. Change the definition, or you’re a traitor/colluder/heretic/whatever. Distilled to its most simplistic form, obey me, or I will call you a mean name. Now many Rightists will scoff and laugh at this. Don’t. Leftists use this tactic because it works on at least some people. Here’s the real weaponization. Obey, or I will apply social peer pressure to you, racist.

In fact, white people measure the value of our schools and neighborhoods by the absence of people of color.

I know exactly what a “good” school is, and I know what we’re talking about. We all know what we’re talking about when we say “good school” versus “bad school.” We use race to measure those things. And now, you take the product of that conditioning, that segregation, that narrow story, and you put that teacher in a position to socialize everyone’s children—and that is a critical piece of [the] school-to-prison pipeline.

The first portion of this bit is actually correct, to at least some degree. Let’s be more specific, however. She uses the term “people of color”, but this doesn’t really work. There are few people bothered by the presence of, say, some Japanese kids or something. Is anybody really worrying about Chinese kids, or Cuban kids? It’s not “people of color” folks worry about (and note that said Japanese, Cuban, and Chinese kids are just as worried as the white kids, if not much more so). It’s much more specific than that. It’s mostly blacks that people worry about. That is the elephant in the room here, that has both Conservatives and Liberals tied up in politically-correct tongue twisters like “people of color” and such, because they can obfuscate the truth behind the idea that people are running in fear from Chinatown or something.

Why is that? Racism? Jim Crow? Or is it rational behavior?

The statistics on black crime are staggeringly bad. And here I am using a source, The Prison Policy Initiative, that is not friendly to my political views (intentionally). People of all races – blacks included – know this. They see first-hand, in many cases, how bad majority-black schools really are. Has the author ever been to Detroit? Washington DC (outside the nice parts)? There is a wealthy black family in my neighborhood. I was told, in polite language, that they left the ghetto they grew up in for good reason. Deep down, blacks know this is true. This is after spending in Detroit schools was elevated to near the highest spending per student in the country. The supposed-racists threw a lot of money at this problem. I suppose they are still guilty, though, right?

Either the statistics are true, and blacks commit crimes at a much higher per-capita rate than any other ethnicity in America, or a lot of people are being falsely convicted. As in most of them. The latter is not very likely. Now, argue all you want on why these things are true. But do not spin this as a “people of color” thing when it clearly isn’t. It is much more specific than that. Tell me, how many of you – even Liberals who found their way here to drop me some hate mail – want to live in a majority-black neighborhood in Detroit?

I don’t call myself a white ally. I’m involved in anti-racist work, but I don’t call myself an anti-racist white. And that’s because that is for people of color to decide, whether in any given moment I’m behaving in anti-racist ways. And notice that that keeps me accountable. It’s for them to determine if in any given moment—it’s not a fixed location—I haven’t made it or arrived. …

Again she tells us that only the accuser’s perspective matters. This is a recipe for complete submission.

Read the rest if you like. But now let’s compare to another piece, this one recommended by Fr. Brendon Laroche. The title is instructive: Liberalism Is Failing Because It Rejected Orthodox Christianity. This piece is a reflection on a book The Lost History of LiberalismFull disclosure, I have not read this book, I have only read the rebuttal. But that in itself is interesting enough. Let’s begin.

A similar sense of gloom hovers over Helena Rosenblatt’s recent book, The Lost History of Liberalism. Rosenblatt presents her work as a history of those who have called themselves liberal through the centuries. More accurately described, however, it is her attempt to redefine liberalism’s founding in order to rescue it from the worrisome future toward which it seems to be headed. Liberalism was founded on commitments to duty, patriotism, self-sacrifice, and the other virtues that guide humanity’s use of freedom, she notes. But contemporary liberals are trading their birthright for an untenable pottage of rights talk and anarchic freedom that lacks solid grounding.

Rosenblatt foresees disaster at the end of that path, and her book is a call from within the liberal tradition to turn back. That alone is worth a cheer.

Indeed, I do welcome liberals who are willing to point out the flaws in liberalism to talk. There are flaws in conservatism, Libertarianism, and other Right-ish beliefs. I will readily admit them. Indeed, a friend of mine who is more Rightist than I am (he absolutely knows who he is) has frequently pointed out where I and others become too tribal in Rightist thinking. Certainly, it has irritated me on occasion, but he is correct to do this. That is Proverbs 27:17 at work. Also, Tom Kratman has frequently challenged my foundations as well, something I do appreciate quite sincerely. And so I do understand that it takes a certain measure to critique your own belief systems at this level. Let’s continue.

Rosenblatt’s central claim, however, is that the word “liberalism” has a strong historical connection to moral virtue. Although virtue has fallen into obscurity in contemporary liberalism, Rosenblatt argues that it needs to be recovered because it is essential to the liberal project.

I am not so certain of this. The idea of the Classical Liberal is a more Rightish thing. But again, I haven’t read her book, so I would need to see the claim in more specificity, and certainly the terms have been muddied and poorly-defined for some time, now. Nonetheless there is some kind of truth to this in the more modern sense. Liberals today are quite obsessed with signalling moral virtue. So it is possible their thought-lineage originates from a place where the moral virtue was more than just a mere signalling of tribal membership and a sort of assumed humility contest. Perhaps over time, the real moral virtue was replaced with the false one. It’s plausible, at least.

There follows a lot of exposition and rebuttals of Rosenblatt’s claim, which I will skip over for purposes of this post, but do give it a read. It is important.

Continental liberals believed that republican self-rule required the people to be educated in moral and civic virtue. In fact, at least in the early years, they seem to have agreed on little else. For many years, liberalism in France and Germany was a grab bag of political projects and policies. Still, these liberals always shared a commitment to republican forms of government founded on a civic virtue inculcated in the populace. They distrusted or even opposed pure democracy as little more than mob rule (although they recognized, especially thanks to Tocqueville, the inevitability of democracy’s rise). Only virtuous citizens, they reasoned, could navigate between the extremes of reactionary royalism and radical democratic revolution. A combination of democratic institutions with the more aristocratic emphasis on virtue would ennoble democracy and prevent the return of the exhausted ancien régime.

But how are citizens to be fitted with the virtue that republican government requires? This question brings us to the second important contribution of this book, and its most curious feature. Liberals concluded that the answer to this question was religion—Christianity, to be specific. Not the Christianity of the Catholic Church, which liberals regarded as the problem; and not the Christianity of orthodox Protestants, either: they, too, had often sided against democratic forces during the French Revolution. Early liberals needed a new theology for the new man at the dawn of a new age.

Here it is worth pausing to note what happened. Titanic figures in liberalism’s history, such as Benjamin Constant, explicitly asserted that liberal forms of government would stand or fall on the success of religion’s moralizing force. For liberalism, religion became good because of its usefulness for politics and not because of its truth. Liberalism instrumentalized religion, subverting it to “higher” political purposes.

Here is where things get interesting. Note that at the end we are given the idea, by the author of the article, that Liberalism used religion in a cynical manner. Voltaire famously encapsulated this with his quotation: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” The full text of the verse it appears in is below:

If the heavens, stripped of his noble imprint,
Could ever cease to attest to his being,
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
Let the wise man announce him and kings fear him.
Kings, if you oppress me, if your eminencies disdain
The tears of the innocent that you cause to flow,
My avenger is in the heavens: learn to tremble.
Such, at least, is the fruit of a useful creed.

Such, at least, is the fruit of a useful creed. If we account him a Liberal – and I’m not sure that makes sense in a modern context, but let’s provisionally entertain the idea that Liberal thought-lineage descended from something like this for a moment – this would mean that Liberalism found Christianity useful, possibly irrespective of whether or not it was true. Why is that? And, more interestingly, why would modern Liberals abandon this notion and, quite frequently, scoff at the “stupid Sky Wizard believers” and their antiquated, and potentially racist notions?

I wonder – and this is personal speculation – if it isn’t because Christianity posits that God knows your heart. He knows if your charity is sincere, or if it is for personal status signalling. He knows your intentions. If the author of the White Fragility piece believed in a neutral arbiter who knew your heart, your true intentions, that would change things, wouldn’t it? If her intentions are bad, God knows! And if the accused racist had good intentions, He knows that too! The avenger in the heavens, as Voltaire phrased it, is ready to deliver his righteous fury.

Consider the possibility that belief in God restrained Liberals from doing too much “good” in the name of moral virtue, and shamed those who “sounded the trumpets before them” as in Matthew 6:2. A useful creed indeed!

Rosenblatt’s discernment of this remarkable turn may be the most valuable contribution of the book, yet she does not emphasize it. In fact, she discusses liberalism’s treatment of religion in bits and pieces, scattered throughout the text for the reader to assemble for herself. The upshot of these disconnected observations is that one of liberalism’s greatest successes was to domesticate Christianity, very cleverly, to make it safe for liberal politics. Instead of violently confronting Christian believers, or co-opting Christian figures (tactics that had been tried throughout history by Roman emperors, medieval kings, Enlightenment democrats, and countless others), liberalism colonized Christianity itself.

Bingo! I don’t know that modern Christianity’s essence would be all that recognizable to Christians a thousand years ago because of this colonization. Certainly many of the rituals and catechisms would be recognizable. In fact, as I study Catholicism I am surprised by how little has changed, in that respect. But step outside the trappings of the faith for a moment and look at it from a cultural perspective.

I read a piece many years ago which I tried very hard to find today, but failed. Nonetheless, perhaps a reader of mine may have more success. It was about a historian studying the Black Madonna in France. He discussed the Christianity that created it. How Christ as a baby was wise, but harsh. This wasn’t a happy child, this was the child with the weight of the world on his shoulders. Madonna was a hard woman, focused. Brave. The culture of the time was forged in dirt, grime, and war. Their Christianity was illiberal. The Madonna of later periods was soft, the baby Jesus more child-like (though never fully so). The resilience and hardness was lost. In the end, the historian, who had been contemplating conversion to Catholicism, decided he did not care much for the softer modern church, though he noted the older church might have won him over.

I don’t know how true it really is, as it was one man’s anecdote (though the style changes of the Madonna over time lends itself somewhat to his position) and in this portion I am rambling a bit. But again, it strikes me as plausible that the form of nascent Liberalism present during the Enlightenment did indeed colonize Christianity, and to some extent change its essence in some fashion.

But one group of liberals deliberately set out to remake Christianity from within by developing a radical, new theology, new interpretations of scripture, new publications, and new churches. They succeeded remarkably in gaining adherents. Instead of trying to convert people overnight from Catholicism or orthodox Protestantism to secular humanism and its “pure light of reason” (as French historian Edgar Quinet called it), political liberals used liberal Protestantism as a halfway point from which to pry Christians away from dogma.

Now I don’t know how much of this occurred in Voltaire’s time, but this is definitely true of modern Liberalism, which has overridden tradition and dogma in many churches, including some particularly noteworthy examples like openly gay bishops and pro-abortion views from some churches (here’s an example).

The novelty of the liberal approach was the way it changed the Church from within, via its theology. Today’s young Christians practice what sociologist Christian Smith has described as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” a faith whose history stretches back to the French and German thinkers of the early liberal movement. They developed a new method to bring Christianity to heel and shore up liberal politics, simultaneously.

I’ve spoken on this matter before. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is a very watered down descendant of Christianity, though not really a form of Christianity itself. Consider it as an intermediate stage between fedora-equipped “brights” and skin-suited churches like the mainline Episcopalians.

They retained the parts of Christianity that spurred people to improve themselves and inculcate civic virtues, but sheared off the strong doctrinal claims that divided society and relativized the state’s authority. They wanted a religion that fitted their practical, political aims. The German Johann Semler coined the term “liberal theology” in 1774 to describe a way of reading the Bible that persuaded him (and other scholars) that Christianity’s core was moral, not dogmatic.

Here is where this piece connects to the first fisk. You see, from dogma – and my instruction in Catholicism – I have clearly-outlined duties, and there are clearly-outlined consequences for failing in them. There is a success condition, and repentance, and forgiveness. Modern Liberalism lacks all of these mechanisms. The White Fragility author talks of microaggressions as if they were grave offenses. Why? Because she lacks a success condition. She must always find new and ever more granular expressions of racism, because she has no defined success condition, nor does she appear to desire one (consciously, anyway).

The accused are guilty, and they are always guilty, and they can never not be guilty. There is no forgiveness. Repentance doesn’t matter, because your intentions don’t matter. Her desired definition for racism is, in effect, Original Sin, except lacking all of the dogmatic success conditions upon which your sins can be forgiven, and you can be made whole. She wants to define the word racism this way. But you can find similar arguments on sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc…

There is no set of duties to absolve you of the guilt. The guilt is forever, and constant, and neither your intentions (which are dismissed as irrelevant) nor your actions (you’re still subconsciously racist) absolve you.

What was designed as a political-theological project to modernize religion and moderate democratic politics has proven to be exceedingly fragile. The liberal political settlement is rapidly fraying, and its theological component has collapsed.

One can easily sympathize with Rosenblatt’s anxiety over the future of the liberal project, which once seemed so promising. However, because she overlooks the most important implications of her work, she misdiagnoses the root cause of the failure of liberalism: its rejection of the kind of Christianity on which it depends. From its earliest days, some of its strongest proponents have recognized that liberalism on its own lacks the resources to form the kind of citizens it requires.

Voltaire was wise enough to understand that, whatever his belief system really was at its core, he still needed God at some level. Humanity still needed God. Nietzsche told us that God was dead, and by implication, that it was the Enlightenment that killed Him. For one, I believe God is still there, but even independent of that thought, the first wave of the Enlightenment did not try such a deed. That was for the successors in the Liberal tradition to attempt.

And where they have succeeded, where they have stripped away the divine, removed dogma, and destroyed the success conditions upon our moral duties, they have left us with only an invented moral preening, a virtue signalling so bereft of meaning and utility it must openly rewrite our very own language to disguise its nature as futile nonsense. It features no redemption, no hope of success. Ray Bradbury warned us of the Autumn People, that they would “frenzy forth”, and now I take his meaning. They have no purpose but to signal their status, but in this they whip themselves into a frenzy. Cut those racist dreadlocks, white boy. You are guilty. We need no trial, no defense. Only the accusation ever mattered, and even there, the intent is meaningless.

One SJW explained that Elon Musk was a racist because he launched his car into space and didn’t spend the money on Flint’s water supply, as if it was his duty to attend to such matters, and not that of another, like say the duly elected government charged with the job. Why could she make such an absurd claim, and why would it stick with many Lefties? Because they have no success condition, no list of moral duties, nothing to benchmark anything against. Only accusations, which are proof of guilt, matter at all.

You, dear reader, did you donate all of your wealth to some Liberal political cause? No? You are guilty! All it takes is one accusation!

Sound your moral trumpets before you, for surely you are holier than thou, yes?

Ask a modern Liberal: “what duties must I fulfill, upon which I may be judged as having satisfied my moral responsibility?” Most will respond with vague platitudes. Save the world from Climate Change (I can’t do this, supposing their notion of what this means is even true), end racism (they told me this can categorically never happen), etc, etc… Their lack of dogma leads them to wander a twisted moral landscape with no compass, no grounding, until they are spouting absurdities about tri-gender gay 3 year olds, because somebody, somewhere, accused someone who was against it of unforgivable sin. Remember, only the accusation matters.

Liberalism disconnected with Christianity over time. And the more it did so, the more it lost that grounding. Almost none of it remains today. As such, we are all sinners – that is the one point which survived the ideological culling – but there is no redemption to be had. The guilt is forever, racist.

The misery of such an existence is hard to fathom. For the first time in a long time, I almost pity them.

What Do You Want?

Usually, when you encounter an item with no definitive price tag, it is because the item is significantly overpriced. When a customer must ask for the price, the salesman can estimate wealth, gullibility, and many other things before finding a way to screw the customer. It also provides an opportunity to sell the customer, rather than merely counting on the item and its price to convince the buyer.

In simple terms, forcing another to be open about his wants, and being closed off on your own, gives a man a decided bargaining advantage.

Lately, we’ve seen this at work with Antifa, BLM, #TheResistance, and other assorted left-wing groups. Grievances are produced, from slavery, to the plight of Native Americans, to American foreign adventures in the Middle East. Being honest with ourselves, some of these grievances have at least a historical merit to them. But for such leftist groups, the price for burying the grievance is obfuscated behind buzzwords and jargon. We must dismantle the cisheteropatriarchy, we must check our privilege, we must become a positive advocate for change. Everything from microaggressions to cultural appropriation are cited as examples of these things.

But I ask, what change?

Allow me to step into the shoes of one of Babylon 5’s villains, Mr. Morden, and ask the question: “what do you want?”

Well, leftists? What do you want? What is your price for putting away identity politics and your incessant portrayals of right-wing racism, sexism, homophobia, and islamophobia? These portrayals have silenced some of us, enraged others, and sent many conservatives running for the political closet. And once there, they still voted right-wing. Thus we now have one Donald J. Trump, despite all predictions to the contrary.

Some of us, like the esteemed Francis at Liberty’s Torch, have made peace with the incessant accusations and said something to the effect of “if you think that means I’m a racist then fine, I’m a racist. Now what?” Others, like myself, maintain that the portrayal of racism as the greatest of all evils is a mistake, dredged up because of the relative historical freshness of Nazi evil, and America’s own struggles with slavery. These evils most Americans are familiar with, but judging from the proliferation of Che Guevara t-shirts, the evils of Communism are less well understood.

And so racism becomes the number one evil in America, a sort of 21st century red scare, except there are even fewer to play the part of the reds (and many more actual reds).

All of that is immaterial, however. What is the end goal of the leftist? What does he want? What does his ideal America (or world, for those of a globalist persuasion) look like? Who gets to live there? What becomes of us and others who do not fit this progressive vision of the future?

When asked, leftists are often quite silent on the price. Just today, one explained that I should google the matter (never mind that I’ve exhausted google as a resource for this) because she didn’t want to “perform free emotional labor” on my behalf. Naming the price is now something that, in itself, costs money. Imagine if you asked the salesman what the price of a thing was, and he replied “you have to pay me to find out.”

Like the little psychological trick of decreasing sticker shock with slick salesmanship, the left understands that by hiding the price, they increase the possibility of ripping off some gullible idiot. Namely, us. And it works well enough on some. Enough that the thought of being accused of racism or prejudice is enough to elicit outright fear in many, not just an answer to the question.

Once an accusation of racism is leveled, very little is sufficient to dismiss it. Do you have many friends of the race in question? RationalWiki tells you that this is insufficient (after all, Hitler liked one Jew). You’re still a racist. What if, instead, you married a black woman, loved her and her family, and had a child with her? Well, you’re still a racist, because as some Puppy-kickers explained on Facebook (they have since deleted the posts in question, but I saved a screenshot, and Brad Torgersen can confirm it), black pussy doesn’t mean you aren’t racist. The Puppy-kickers even made this into a t-shirt. This argument was recently resurrected on Twitter by Talib Kweli Greene where he explained that if you marry an Indian woman, you’re still a racist, you just like Indian pussy.

So your friends, family, and relationships are dismissed. The accusation still stands. And remember, you are guilty unless proven innocent. And to prove your innocence, you must embrace leftist politics. That is the only accepted coin. And even by doing that, you would still have to abase yourself thoroughly and completely. Meanwhile, a woman who murdered her own 4 year old son applied to Harvard, and was denied. Naturally, this had something to do with racism, according to Vox.com. Of course it has little or nothing to do with being a convicted murderer of a child.

Ultimately, the choice is this: convert to leftism, or risk being tarred as a racist with no possible way to prove otherwise, because you are guilty until proven innocent, and all evidence except leftist political sentiments will be summarily dismissed as insufficient.

Meanwhile, a reasonable man might be inclined to ask the price of buying this weapon off the left. What would it take for them to put it away?

Their rants and raves on this matter are difficult to parse. Ta-Nehisi Coates penned a long piece in support of reparations, and when I first read it I expected a concrete answer to the question “what do you want?” Instead, we were treated to a historical lecture on the plight of blacks in America. We already knew this. Everybody knows about slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination against blacks. How can anyone not know? The media has been bombarding us with these things for as long as I’ve been alive. And if the media wasn’t, BLM sure has been making a rather more raw effort at doing so. We get it. These things happened, and blacks got a raw deal.

What I want is a price. What are the demands? What do they really want?

I suspect the reason the demands aren’t named is that the sticker shock is likely to be quite mighty. I recall reading some time ago (and I can’t remember where presently, but if any of my readers know, please reply in the comments) that one black leader suggested a one-time payoff of $1 million to each black citizen. That bill would come out to approximately $36 trillion, approximately double the GDP of the United States, and likely an impossible sum. But to be honest, I suspect the left’s real demands would be much more expensive, and involve something much more Marxist than a massive one-time payment. The left would probably want to ensure the racist right-wingers never got to express their racism again, and would need to be actively suppressed. Somebody has to be the kulaks when things go bad, after all.

In the end, it’s just like Barack Obama’s campaign of hope and change. What change? How much will it cost? Hopeful for whom? These are questions the left leaves unanswered. There are never any (accurate) price tags on their merchandise. And so, I’ve no interest in buying.

The Police State – Now at Your Local Hotel

This bit of news can really set a man’s blood to boil: Widower staying with his own daughter, 13, is accused of being a PAEDOPHILE by Travelodge staff and interviewed by police all because he booked a double room.

The story is pretty simple, a British father who lost his wife to cancer years before took his 13 year old daughter on a short little vacation. He booked a room at the Travelodge, and went to check in, and the only type of room they had left was a double room, so he said he’d take it…

…then a whole dramatic escapade ensues where the Travelodge manager interrogates the customer, calls the police, and accuses the father of being a pedo. Police take the child away from her father, and interrogate her as to whether not he is her father.

It’s absurd that a meddling hotel manager would do this, of course, but at the same time consider the blindness the British authorities had toward the Rotherham rape cases. If the supposed perp is a Muslim or non-white, the practice is largely ignored out of fear that the authorities will be tarred as racist. If a British man takes his daughter on a vacation, he is subjected to ludicrous accusations with absolutely no evidence whatsoever behind them. Then both father and daughter are interrogated by the police.

This is rather like the absurdity of old grandmothers being subjected to random deep TSA screenings.

I’ve taken to calling this phenomenon Reverse Profiling, insofar as whatever the common sense profiling might suggest, the authorities must do the exact opposite. If, for instance, purple Martians were known to be more likely to commit random acts of terrorism, those same purple Martians must be let in without any screening whatsoever. And if old grandmothers were known to rarely, if ever, commit said acts, the book must be thrown at as many of them as possible.

The hotel chain, meanwhile, crafts lies to try and justify their actions:

Mr Darwell complained and says that the company are now falsely claiming that he tried to pay by cash in order to justify their suspicion.

‘They say I insisted on paying cash when I arrived but its rubbish. I had already paid by credit card before I even arrived,’ he added.

The increasing involvement of companies in policing and politics is starting to become quite worrisome to me. They are becoming a cog in demands of the State. And meanwhile, SJWs make demands that companies embrace political correctness, that is to say Leftism. We like in a bizarre world wherein Capitalism is, itself, being bent to the will of Leftism. It’s beyond crony Capitalism and into some kind of bizarre hybrid not entirely dissimilar from Chinese Market Communism, or whatever they are calling their system these days.

‘Our colleagues are trained based on current national guidelines from the NSPCC, the police and other agencies and in the past, hotel team actions have led to successful intervention to protect young people.

The government said to jump… and even in a blatant case of obvious misjudgment, they jumped. A decree comes down from on high that hotels should do (x), no matter how ridiculous or stupid it may be, and off they go.

I bet dollars to donuts that the hotel manager wouldn’t have said a damn thing if the father had been a Pakistani and his daughter had been in a burkha. And just who do you think the odds favor in cases of kiddy diddling? After all, Mohammed himself was okay with the practice, so long as they were older than 9.

Imagine, even, that the father had been, instead, a mother. Feminists would have crawled out of the woodwork to make this an instance of sexism, and proof of the evil Patriarchy. But they’ll be silent for this. No outrage, because deep down, most of them would probably think the man deserved it because he was male.

But let’s be honest, if it were a mother and her child, nobody would have batted an eyelash anyway. Only white men are evil, after all, didntcha know?

Fear of the Stranger

Sarah Hoyt wrote an excellent piece this morning describing the Leftist view of racism as, in essence, fear of the stranger. Fear of the stranger contains a strongly rational component, in that, as she puts it:

In pre-human times, with many bands and tribelets living close enough for kids to stray, the name for a kid who thought that his family or strangers were equivalent was — at least if we go by how our closest relatives, the chimps, treat young from other bands — “dinner.”

Oh sure, in times of stress and famine, the chances that your own band would tuck in were fairly high, but still the chances that dear old mom would eat you were not nearly as high as that a stranger would eat you.

In other words, the in-group was more likely to protect and cherish you — and less likely to eat you — than the out-group. So fear of the stranger was rational, and selected for.

That isn’t to say you cannot regard someone of a different background as part of the in-group. Over time, as individuals prove themselves and you get to know them, the fear of the stranger will ease because the individual is no longer a stranger to you.

My in-laws are of Cuban ancestry, and their culture is somewhat different from the one in which I was raised. But having lived with it for near to a decade now, it is very familiar to me. It is not strange or odd.

But therein lies the distinction. You get to know someone first. And if they prove themselves, then they are no longer regarded as strangers.

Instead of rationally determining which individuals and groups are good, and offer no threat to you, then acting accordingly, Leftists demand that you display a knee-jerk reaction every time fear of the stranger comes, and immediately accept that person into your home, regardless of what they say or do.

The Syrian migrant/refugee business is a great case in point, as is illegal immigration. The Left thinks it a crime to ask the stranger what his business is, and why he wants to enter our community. They think it is a crime to not immediately give the stranger every possible honor, a seat at our table, a home in our village, a position of power in our councils, and then demand nothing from him in return. We don’t even demand that he obey our laws, or speak our language.

It’s absolutely insane.

Their position is beyond stupid. Any species that acted this way in the wild would be rendered extinct within a generation. They would be eaten by everyone. They would be gullible fools, easy snacks for any predators.

A Leftist sees a sketchy van roll into his neighborhood, and in order to virtue signal his moral superiority over us, he immediately dismisses his fear of the stranger, and offers his children to the sketchy van owner, heedless of any threat or danger (because recognizing any threat is discriminatory). He asks the sketchy van owner to come into his home, eat at his table, and give company to his wife. It doesn’t even matter if the van owner speaks his language. In fact, the more difference he has from you, the stranger he is to you, the better for the moral preening.

Any hesitation to do this immediately and reflexively is racism/sexism/homophobia/islamophobia/whatever.

It’s knee-jerk moral preening, and if it weren’t moderated by a fair amount of Rightist common sense, it would have already destroyed the country, and then the Leftists themselves, in short order.

There’s a reason, of course, why Stalinists shot gullible true believers. They didn’t want those idiots around either. They were useful for destroying the old order — because they bring civilizational extinction wherever they achieve power — but they are useless for any other purpose.

Leftist anti-racism is a knee-jerk reaction to a survival instinct. If the choice is dismissing the stranger, or doing whatever the Left is doing, dismissing is the superior choice, because it at least concedes survival. The best position, of course, is a healthy skepticism of the stranger, until he proves himself adequately, upon which he is no longer strange to you.

But nothing other than civilizational hara kiri is acceptable to the political Left.

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