Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Two Liberalities

Estoy en Soy Cafe, y .. oh, haha, sorry. I'm at the Soy Café in the West Village, and am overhearing a conversation between two of the other major kind of American Liberalism (what's behind this cut might make you grumbly), and am getting that impression again that Enlightenment Liberals, Multiculturalist Liberals, and American Conservatives as a whole are roughly equidistant from each other in perspective, or at least that the two tendencies in liberalism are pretty damned far apart. This person is going on about the importance of admiring other cultures, but making a very strong point that to appropriate elements from them is to devalue them, and also talking a lot about local truth and how there isn't any real one so all perspectives are valid and all cultures are wonderful. If irritation were heat, the area above my head would resemble the air over a summer highway. For me, the things to hold high are *not* approval; they are tolerance and occasionally tact. Holding approval that high prevents us from thinking clearly and making solid intellectual decisions; I might not need to tell people that their "I like bits of christianity but don't want to universalise it and everything else is valid too" is utter rubbish (I might say so if it comes up, or on my blog, but in-person, probably not unless goaded), but it is no more rude to express it than for them to express their beliefs (except as situationally appropriate; if I were attending a friend's life-event or in a house of worship for some reason, that's not the time), and it's certainly fine to try societal shaping in the same way everyone else does. And sure, they can say I'm going to hell. It goes both ways. A rigourous exchange of ideas and views can end up with hurt feelings, which is why a thick skin is such a high virtue. If what I says comes from malicious intent towards a group worth protecting, that's my bad, but if not and if you're offended by what I say anyhow, that's your problem, not mine. Intent is the only solid, reasonable, and non-intellectually rude basis for advocacy. A perspective that is excessively demanding on the behaviour of others, even in the guise of politeness, is like a pointless war.

Oh, hey, if you want to see an example of societies that go the wrong way on that front, consider India, where people can file complaints that lead to censorship, fines, and possibly arrest because they feel someone has insulted their faith/community/whatever. Or consider nearby Pakistan where insulting Mohammad has led to riots, burnt embassies, and deaths. Or, on a lighter note, consider speech codes in universities that simply censor innocent offense. Of course, those of you who've read my blog know that I'm not actually a free-speech absolutist. Speech that genuinely threatens a group of people or that seriously and systemically aims to lock a gender or a race into certain societal roles is something I might consider mildly censoring (meaning in some kinds of media where it can easily be done) or fining. And there's another division I do advocate in the lighter realm of notions of politeness and shunning: when things genuinely come from a bigoted heart. That is of course a judgement call; you do need to try to infer what's in someone's head. But we are adults, and an adult philosophy can require judgement calls.

Fortunately, Soy Café is a pretty hip place, with quite good sandwiches and tea, fast intarwebs, and good music. I actually heard some funk that sampled Gershwin, which was a wonderful thing. I am still utterly exhausted, but I'm thinking that has more to do with a poor sleep schedule and some health problems I'm currently struggling with.

I have been having dreams of amazingly expansive libraries; bigger than airports, each room bigger than a colloseum, with light rail moving people between rooms. Sad to think that a few large-ish server rooms would serve the same role. I have a cousin who is very grumbly about Kindles (she's really into letter-writting, classical education, etc), and sees the death of libraries and bookstores as a high tragedy; I'm a bit more tech-positive in that I like the idea of living and travelling light and living a digital life, but I sometimes get sentimental about books too. I think it's the shrine aspect of bookstores and libraries that appeals to me; having a place particularly suited to reading for me to slip into habitually, and to quietly share that experience with others, and to have librarians or booksellers around; people who have made access to information their life's focus, that's great. Raw access to the material I want is acceptable, but it's like eating the components to a sandwich unassembled. Likewise, I think I need to get a good comfortable reading chair in my next apartment (along with separate desks for computers and art/paperwork); not having one is not good for my habits.

Really looking forward to living here. There's a lot that's ridiculous about NYC, but in just the same way I was happy to attend Ohio State, if you put some care into doing the research, you can piece together an awesome set of elements from something that's on the whole pretty mediocre. NYC is a great pallete that might average to grey but specifise into a mural. I will have to get an extra battery and charger when I get my next phone though; I have the feeling I'll be relying on my phone a lot more as NYC is too big to keep in one's head.

I also find myself noticing shoes here a lot.


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