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Semiformalishmaybe

The Pleasant versus the Kind

This is a rant you probably have heard from me before, perhaps in a more emotional form. I do restatements of all kinds of things. This is a bit less philosophical in form; it should stand as a broad statement for a time.

I would characterise the offense fetishists as focusing on the wrong thing; they feel society is improved by people being pleasant to each other. I think that's not only tragically missing the point, it's actually harmful as a focus. If we can't tell each other we're full of shit, can't poke fun at ourselves and each other, can't do cultural criticm, and can't even pick among non-maliciously-inspired ways of looking at the world and defining things, we're making a lousy society. This fear of judgementalism, all these terms that rubbish interest groups have to insist that everyone give them a thumbs-up; "fat-shaming", "thin-shaming", "ableist", "neurotypicalist", and even misapplication of legitimate terms that describe real harms like racist or sexist, that kind of thing forms a dour, ugly, coherent whole, and it's one we should reject.

Outcomes matter. Concrete harms matter. Intent matters. Nothing else. Kindness comes mostly from good social structures, and we socialists (as well as the liberals who are not afraid of big, effective government) are the ones struggling to actually make a kinder society. Our kindness is the kind that puts bread on the table, that educates people and makes sure they have opportunities, that alleviates the actual and actionable harms in society. As for the rest, for those who are driven to tears when someone fails to call them hzir, who fails to accept that they're really a wolfkin, who get upset when things sacred to them are mocked by someone else, or who can't handle when someone pokes fun at them in a non-normative way, tough shit. They deserve whatever hell they've built in their mind for that kind of harm.

When they're ready to grow up and join a species that will always contain challenges to ideas, everyone laughing at everyone, a variety of language and frames from non-malicious people trying to make sense of the world, and the complicated real needs and concerns that people balance in everyday life with their idealism, their shitty concerns won't hurt them anymore, at least no more than it should in a messy, vibrant society.

They're not good activists. They're not actually pursuing social justice. They're not making society better. They merit nothing but pity and a strong rejoinder.

Let us be judgemental and understanding, kind but not always pleasant, careful but not timid, fiercely-independent seekers of meaning and definers of many things.

Comments

So do you think it was OK for John Boehner to tell Harry Reid to go fuck himself outside the Oval Office?
I'd call it incivil. People arn't always going to be civil, but they should probably try to be. I'm not sure if it's related to this post though.
"I'm not sure if it's related to this post though."

I think being pleasant to each other is indeed important. While Oscar Wilde said "A gentleman never offends unintentionally," I think a good activist or good leader never offends INTENTIONALLY without good reason. I don't tend to like the tactics of American Atheists, for instance, which tend to be more focused on deliberately offending for the satisfaction of it than on persuading anyone of anything.