James Agate’s New Year’s Resolution

“New Year’s Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.” – James Agate

Yeah, I think I’ll add this one to my list, too.

“James Evershed Agate (9 September 1877 – 6 June 1947) was an English diarist and influential theatre critic between the two world wars. He took up journalism in his late twenties and was on the staff of The Manchester Guardian (1907–1914). He later became a drama critic for The Saturday Review (1921–1923), The Sunday Times (1923–1947) and the BBC (1925–1932). The nine volumes of Agate’s diaries and letters cover the British theatre of his time and his non-theatrical interests, including sports, social gossip and private preoccupations with health and precarious finances. He published three novels, translated a play briefly staged in London, and regularly published collections of his theatre essays and reviews.” (Wikipedia)

5TtRT: Medicare for all, Facebook, facts matter, Tesla, & privacy

Today’s topics include working towards Medicare for All, Facebook being terrible, reality vs. facts in politics, Elon Musk and Tesla, and how advertisers track literally everything about you.

I’m on vacation for two weeks, and I’m having a nice, quiet day after Christmas. We’re gonna go see the new Spider-Man movie this afternoon and then I’m gonna spend the rest of the day being lazy and not looking at the trashfire of news. I may just go ahead and play Minecraft all day. If I get motivated, I might clean a thing, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up if I were you.

Here’s some stuff to read.

5 Things to Read Today

Hogfather, Terry Pratchett

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little -“

YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET – Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point -“

MY POINT EXACTLY.

Halfway out of the Dark

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.'” – Doctor Who, “A Christmas Carol”

“Amy and Rory are trapped on a crashing space liner, and the only way the Doctor can rescue them is to save the soul of a lonely old miser, Kazran Sardick. But is Sardick, the richest man in Sardicktown, beyond redemption? And what is lurking in the fogs of Christmas Eve?” (“A Christmas Carol,” Doctor Who (IMDB | Amazon)

Today let’s talk about ‘political correctness.’

NPR released a poll yesterday that said that most Americans were against political correctness and that Democrats should avoid a social justice platform for the 2020 election, but I don’t think that’s quite right.

NPR had this article yesterday, Warning To Democrats: Most Americans Against U.S. Getting More Politically Correct, and I have some questions.

The gist of the article is that America is against being “politically correct,” and that Americans feel like there are too many things they can’t say anymore, and like they can’t speak their minds anymore. That’s based on a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll (read it here). The article uses the poll data to warn Democrats against pursuing “identity politics” in the 2020 election.

In this particular context, the poll data and warning about “identity politics” means that Democrats shouldn’t try running on a social justice platform that centers the challenges that LGBT+ communities and non-white communities are facing, in 2020.

Which I think it wrong, personally. There should definitely be a few social justice planks in the Democratic platform in 2020. I think we’re also facing a lot of other important issues, too. Social justice probably shouldn’t be the only plank in the platform.

Also, running a campaign is basically marketing a product, and you don’t sell a product the same way to different demographic groups. Democrats need multiple planks in their platform.

But that’s not really what I’m thinking about this morning. What I’m thinking about this morning are these two questions from the poll:

  • In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?
  • Compared with a few years ago, do you feel you can speak your mind more freely, or not?

My first question is “What does ‘politically correct’ mean here?”

I don’t see it explained in the article, and it doesn’t seem like it was explained in the poll, either. So apparently the question was asked, and people were left to interpret and answer that in their own ways.

That feels like a pretty loaded question to me when it’s put that way. “Politically correct” as a term has been heavily politicized. Your impression of that term and its meaning is influenced by your personal politics, I think.

The term political correctness is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society. Since the late 1980s, the term has come to refer to avoiding language or behavior that can be seen as excluding, marginalizing, or insulting groups of people considered disadvantaged or discriminated against, especially groups defined by sex or race. In public discourse and the media, it is generally used as a pejorative, implying that these policies are excessive or unwarranted.

The contemporary pejorative usage of the term emerged from conservative criticism of the New Left in the late 20th century. This usage was popularized by a number of articles in The New York Times and other media throughout the 1990s, and was widely used in the debate about Allan Bloom’s 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind, and gained further currency in response to Roger Kimball’s Tenured Radicals (1990), and conservative author Dinesh D’Souza’s 1991 book Illiberal Education, in which he condemned what he saw as liberal efforts to advance self-victimization and multiculturalism through language, affirmative action, and changes to the content of school and university curricula.

Commentators on the political left contend that conservatives use the concept of political correctness to downplay and divert attention from substantively discriminatory behavior against disadvantaged groups. They also argue that the political right enforces its own forms of political correctness to suppress criticism of its favored constituencies and ideologies. In the United States the term has played a major role in the “culture war” between liberals and conservatives.

Wikipedia

I suspect that most people have a bad reaction to the term “politically correct,” regardless of their politics. I think when conservatives hear it, they associate it with the idea of censorship, maybe with a dash of wussiness, like the people who are “politically correct” are too fragile to hear some things. I think when liberals hear the word, they associate it with being browbeaten by conservatives, or they think of it as a word conservatives use to demean the idea of social justice.

The term “politically correct” is a punchline or an insult, not a way of making the world more fair and less harmful for everyone.

So I wonder if you asked “Should the world be more fair and less harmful for everyone” instead of “Should the world be more politically correct” how different the answers might be.

That’s not the only part of that question, though. The question also asks if you like when people are more sensitive in their comments, or if you feel like there are things you’re not allowed to say anymore. And that also seems like pretty loaded phrasing.

Most of us are sensitive in our comments as we wander around through day-to-day life. And most of us don’t like feeling like there are “things we’re not allowed to say.”

There’s a connotation to that phrasing that’s automatically about censorship, and Americans are conditioned to be very against the idea of censorship, to view censorship in very extreme ways. In America, censorship is always a slippery-slope argument. Any instance of even the most minor thing, like not being allowed to use one particular word, is viewed as an instant gateway to Orwellian Doublespeak.

Well. Maybe not that extreme. Not most of the time. But it’s pretty close.

So I feel like that first question, “In general, are you in favor of the United States becoming more politically correct and like when people are being more sensitive in their comments about others, or are you against the country becoming more politically correct and upset that there are too many things people can’t say anymore?,” is pretty loaded.

The second question, “Compared with a few years ago, do you feel you can speak your mind more freely, or not?,” seems more straight-forward, but again.

What does “speak your mind more freely” mean? Why can’t you “speak your mind more freely”?

What are you not allowed to say anymore? What is meant by “not allowed”?

I’m trying to think of what I might not be allowed to say, or say anymore, and I’m not really coming up with anything except various kinds of racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. language.

I think that, first, these poll questions are pretty loaded, and that they way they’re phrased is probably leading people to answer against the idea of political correctness, or social justice.

And I think that, second, the way these questions are phrased specifically underlines the fact that some people are mad that they can’t be racist in public without facing consequences anymore, and also that some people – probably more people or maybe even most people – are really worried that they’re going to be accidentally racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. in public and get called out on it.

So, I think NPR’s poll says a lot of interesting things. I just don’t think it actually says that Democrats should ignore social justice in the 2020 election.

Let’s talk culture wars, folks.

We need to talk about the ongoing culture war, and why you shouldn’t be sharing those stupid outrage-porn articles around.

We need to talk about the ongoing culture war, and why you shouldn’t be sharing those stupid outrage-porn articles around.

I’ve seen a few things making their way around the Internet lately, and we need to have a little chat about them.

To start off with, the Rudolph video/article from the Huffington Post that every rightwinger on Earth had their knickers all in a twist over? It was a joke. If you check the original article, you can clearly see it was labeled “comedy.”

People were joking about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because it’s a very old show and it’s full of stuff that probably wouldn’t fly these days.

Which brings us to the thing I want to talk about: Our understanding of all kinds of complicated issues has changed a lot in the last fifty years.

We have much better ideas about how to raise kids. We have better ideas about what being transgender is and how to help people who are. We have better ideas of what gender is and how it works. We have, in general, become more sensitive in dealing with some kinds of traumas and experiences that people face.

This leads to a lot of change in how we deal with things and talk about things in society.

We’re beginning to understand that “gender,” the idea of feeling “male” or “female,” is not the set-in-stone binary switch we used to think it was. We understand that gender, like sexual preferences and orientations, is a spectrum of feelings. And our language is changing to accommodate that.

Society is beginning to work towards language in all areas that is more gender neutral, because we understand that not everyone is “male” or “female” the way we used to think they were even 20-some years ago when I was a kid.

Look, I get it. The gender thing seems weird. I’m 42, man. When I was a kid, you were either a boy or a girl and you were born that way and you stayed that way, and if you tried to change it, there was something wrong with you. That’s what we thought. That’s what we believed.

Except, that wasn’t actually true.

It turned out to be a lot more complicated than that, which makes perfect sense because human beings are complicated critters.

It’s hard to change those old ideas. Humans are complicated in a lot of ways, and very simple in others. One of the ways we’re simple is that we are just super, super lazy about thinking.

Once we’ve established a way to think about something, we tend to want to stick with that, because changing how we think about a thing is difficult and hard work. So we established a way to think about gender, and we stuck with it for a good long time, and now it turns out we were wrong.

There are a whole bunch of us who don’t want to do the difficult and hard work of changing how we think. Hell, there are a bunch of us who are working on changing how we think, and still not getting it entirely right.

It’s hard to change patterns of thought. It takes work. It doesn’t happen instantly. And honestly? That’s okay, as long as you’re working on it and trying not to be a dick about it.

But here’s where the “culture wars” thing I mentioned, and those articles I linked above, come into play.

There are a whole bunch of us who not only don’t want to do the work, but are actively resisting letting others do the work. There are a whole bunch of us who think that the work of changing the way we think shouldn’t be done at all, even though the old ways of thinking about things like gender are harming people.

They would rather hurt people than change. And that is bad.

That’s where articles like the ones I linked above come from. They’re bandied about by people who would rather harm others than do the hard work of changing. And when you play into this crap, share those articles, you’re aiding those people and helping to harm others.

Look, man. Transgender people commit suicide at double-digit percentages more often than non-transgender people, because the world transgender people live in is actively hostile to them. We can fix that. Those people don’t have to die. All we have to do is not be assholes to transgender people.

And this isn’t just about gender. It’s about treating women like human beings. Yes, we get it, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is an old song and it wasn’t written about date rape. There’s even an argument to be made that the song was kind of empowering for its time.

But its time was 74 years ago, and shit has changed since then. Now it sounds a little rapey, y’all. Treat modern women with a little respect and maybe don’t play a rapey-sounding song anymore.

Or maybe do. Most of us don’t actually give that much of a fuck. But a certain segment of the American population would like you to think that there are tons of people out there who give a great big huge fuck about it, and they’re coming for your rights, or your way of life, or something.

Because they want you to be scared of change, too.

Here’s how the culture war works. There are, eh, call it three populations of people in the US.

One thinks, hey, we shouldn’t be dicks to women, the LGBT+ community, and non-white people anymore because that actively harms those populations and cuts our whole society off from what they have to offer.

One thinks we should, because they feel like elevating everyone to the same respected, human status somehow takes something away from themselves.

And one honestly isn’t thinking all that much about this stuff at all because they have bills to pay and kids to raise and they’re busy and tired.

The first two are fighting over that third population, and that’s the culture war. And even though you’re tired and busy and not thinking about this stuff very much, you’re still picking a side.

You’re picking a side every time you share an outraged article about Rudolph with a comment like “This is so stupid, Rudolph wasn’t about child abuse.” Because every time you do something like that, every time you play into that kind of outrage, you’re accepting and propagating the premise of the question.

You’re picking the side that wants to harm people because change is hard and scary.

Hey, I know. I’m busy and tired, too. I just want to pay my bills and walk my dog and watch cartoons on Netflix. But if I stick my head in the sand and only do that, people get hurt.

And because I’m not in favor of people getting hurt, I’m willing to devote what spare brain power and effort I have to thinking about this stuff and trying to make sure I’m not helping to create a world where LGBT+ people are killing themselves and non-white people are getting killed by cops all the time and women are getting raped and harassed all over the place.

That’s what this comes down to. One side, out of fear or laziness or hatred or some combination of all three, would rather hurt people than change. One side would rather change than hurt people.

Which side do you want to be on?

Photo credit: Buckley gingerbread men, U.S. Air Force photo. (Source and licensing.)