The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Human Nature

I have on numerous occasions (e.g., here) noted that political correctness, while sometimes promoted by the Left with the best of intentions, has morphed into a near-oppressive and unforgiving ideology that is now the functional equivalent of group-think. Whether it's the accusation that any opinion about race relations outside the PC mainstream is "racist," or any view that women must take at least some responsibility for their interactions with men is "misogynist," or that any reticence in accepting that a trans people are exactly equivalent to their biological counterparts is a "gender crime," political correctness works very hard to control speech and thought. Violators are subjected to outrage and shaming—powerful tools that are at their core, mechanisms for control.

But it's doomed to fail—at least in controlling thought. Harvey Jeni describes a "Big Brother" reality TV show in the UK in which one of the contestants is a trans woman. The contestants go out of their way to be accepting to her, saying all the right things, but tension ensues. Jeni writes:
... The problem is that while you can perhaps legislate for speech and expression, you cannot legislate for conviction. In other words, you might be able to force people to say a certain thing, but you cannot force them to truly believe it. ...

The danger of course ... is that this level of pretense corrupts human relationships and ultimately causes more distress than it relieves. We cannot get along while lying to each other on such a fundamental level, and legislation that forces us to do so paves the way for more problems than it solves. There is no respect inherent in dishonesty and — more importantly — absolutely nothing at all wrong with the truth: that trans women are trans women; distinct from natal women by virtue of their biology, but entitled to live as they wish, worthy of the same rights, respect, and representation as anyone, simply by virtue of being human beings. There is nothing wrong with embracing the reality of being trans.

What is wrong though (and not only wrong, but a doomed and deeply flawed strategy) is to force people — either by law or social coercion — into pretending to believe something they do not, in the hope that they will eventually come to accept it. That way lies anger, resentment, and almighty, explosive backlash. There is space in this world for everybody, but living successfully with others requires generosity, open discussion, compassion, and honesty.
For far too many aspects of PC ideology, the Left contends that it's possible to force human nature to conform to PC dictates. Human nature resists, and as a consequence, we all must suffer the demand to reject reality, rather than embracing it.


Consider, for example, the recent character assassination of Aziz Ansari, a much-loved comedian who plays a VERY politically correct character in the popular TV series, Master of None. Ansari was effectively branded a predator by a female date who felt he didn't properly interpret her non-verbal hesitation not to have full-blown sexual intercourse. However, she did still participate in a variety of intimate sexual practices at his apartment. The details of this encounter can be found here.

More important is the manner in which some otherwise "woke" progressives have turned on Ansari—another progressive who otherwise meets all of their criteria for inclusion in a protected group: Ansari is a Muslim; a person with brown skin, and a person who plays a character with great sympathies for the progressive movement and political correctness.

Caitlin Flanagan, a contributing editor of left-leaning The Atlantic, voices the concern of some progressives as this feminist pogrom continues to sweep up some of their own. She writes:
Twenty-four hours ago—this is the speed at which we are now operating—Aziz Ansari was a man whom many people admired and whose work, although very well paid, also performed a social good. He was the first exposure many young Americans had to a Muslim man who was aspirational, funny, immersed in the same culture that they are. Now he has been—in a professional sense—assassinated, on the basis of one woman’s anonymous account. Many of the college-educated white women who so vocally support this movement are entirely on her side. The feminist writer and speaker Jessica Valenti tweeted, “A lot of men will read that post about Aziz Ansari and see an everyday, reasonable sexual interaction. But part of what women are saying right now is that what the culture considers ‘normal’ sexual encounters are not working for us, and oftentimes harmful.”

I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months. But we’re at warp speed now, and the revolution—in many ways so good and so important—is starting to sweep up all sorts of people into its conflagration: the monstrous, the cruel, and the simply unlucky. Apparently there is a whole country full of young women who don’t know how to call a cab, and who have spent a lot of time picking out pretty outfits for dates they hoped would be nights to remember. They’re angry and temporarily powerful, and last night they destroyed a man who didn’t deserve it.
Flanagan is correct in her concern, but she exhibits everything that's wrong with a PC movement that emphasizes victimization and condemns "privilege." Apparently, she'd be far more sanguine if the character assassination experienced by Ansari focused only on "college-educated white men" because they are not a protected group and therefore fair game. Instead, the #MeToo movement has morphed rapidly and now uncontrollably into something that makes even progressives think twice.