PC couplet

A mental allergy, a social alchemy
A non-event into controversy

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Is “Diversity” an effective proxy for real diversity?

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about this 500-word Twitter thread from Jeffrey Sachs and I think it gets something important wrong. Not only is Diversity™ not a useful or effective proxy for real diversity, Diversity™ poisons real diversity and prevents it from growing.

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Lamb’s blood ideas

I’ve been thinking lately about something I’ll term “lambsblood” ideas. The name is taken from the Passover story in the Bible, in which the Israelites painted their doorways with lamb’s blood so the spirit of death would pass over their homes.

I wonder if certain patterns of argument and cultural displays subconsciously serve the purpose of making people feel like they will be spared from future harm that would otherwise affect them.

E.g.: “If I put a Black Lives Matter sign on my lawn then my house will be skipped over during the race riots”; “If I wear a pro-2nd Amendment t-shirt then none of those gun nuts will shoot me when they revolt about possibly having their guns taken away”.

While it’s easy to accuse people of this, it’s impossible to prove. But that doesn’t mean lambsblood ideas don’t factor into people’s reasoning.

Why SJWs SJW

Jordan Peterson and others contend that SJWism is an outgrowth of postmodernism. I don’t know much about postmodernist philosophy, but if I understand right (and I’m pretty sure I don’t) it sort of says “Anything goes, categories are as arbitrary as their labels, everything is relative, etc.” It would make sense for SJWs to be an outgrowth of postmodernism, and maybe its roots can be traced there somehow, but I just don’t think that’s what’s going on in everyday terms.

I can’t fathom that SJWs are sitting around reading and getting inspired by philosophy, postmodern or otherwise. Even indirectly, through postmodernist thought leaders or publications or whatever, I find that linkage implausible.

Instead, I think the Occam’s Razor explanation is that the most puerile impulses related to equality, fairness, and self-determination are being indulged and in many cases rewarded, if not by wider institutions (e.g. humanities departments in universities) then in carefully curated echo chambers online. These are not the lofty values of equality or self-determination the 19th century American transcendentalists wrote about, but the infantile version of them that preschoolers throw tantrums over: He got a toy, so I should have a toy! I’m a tiger, not a little kid! Etc.

Let a preschooler keep throwing tantrums over the same things, and when he reaches college age he will be a ripened SJW. Am I omitting something by simplification?

On arming teachers

I’m quite pro-gun, but I think asking teachers to carry guns in their classrooms is a bad idea: it isn’t obvious that a teacher would know what to do with a gun or do it effectively; a school with armed teachers might be an even more appealing target for a school shooter; arming teachers carries its own cloud of practical and ethical problems.

Allowing teachers who already have CCW licenses to carry at school is a less extreme version of this idea that should be tried in a limited way, though I personally don’t have high hopes for it either.

There is a strong urge to “do something” after every school shooting. This is a good thing, provided 1) we have good reasons for what we’re doing, 2) we know all the reasonable options we could be pursuing but aren’t, and 3) we know why we aren’t pursuing them. However, I don’t think these provisions have been met by nearly any proposal that followed a mass shooting crisis.

Seeing the alt-right more clearly

The alt-right gets talked about from time to time by people who haven’t really spent much time there and don’t really know what they’re talking about. As a result, it gets painted both imprecisely and inaccurately. In this post I will try to clarify things a bit, purely for clarity’s sake.

Including a break here so you don’t have to scroll too far to get to my next blog post. This is a long one.

How Confederate flags should have been taken down

Over the past few years there have been many calls to take Confederate flags (almost always the battle flag) down from places of public display, and most of those calls have been successful. (This also applies to likenesses of Confederate war heroes, famous slave owners, other Confederate icons and imagery, etc. but here I’ll just refer to it all in shorthand as the Confederate flag.)

The display of the Confederate flag has predictably become yet another point of contention in America’s culture war. Those opposed to the display of the flag express powerful emotional reasoning, claiming the flag is a symbol of slavery, hate, and oppression, and personally I have to say that’s hard to argue with. That’s what those people really feel, and those are powerful feelings. And let’s be honest, there really is a note of aggression in flying the Confederate flag.

An even more persuasive argument, but one used far less often, is that the Confederacy lost the war, so in the same way as we shouldn’t still have British flags flying in any of the original 13 state capitals, we shouldn’t have the Confederacy’s flag flying in capitals the South.

But the anti-flag people missed something important: to a pro-flag Southerner, the Confederate flag means other things. Important things. It is a symbol of resistance, at the state level, to Federal meddling — thus the nickname “Rebel flag”. It’s a memorial to ancestors who fought bravely and in many cases died for their homeland. It’s a symbol of pride in the unique culture and heritage of the South — only a small part of which involved slavery — one that is disappearing with urbanization and globalization. And it’s a symbol of love for the Southern land itself.

(An anti-flag person might respond that this sentimental portrait of the flag was only created in the last 100 years or so, which is true to some extent: there was a revival of Southern nostalgia at the turn of the 20th century, accompanied by a resurgence in display of the Confederate flag. But that was still a hundred years ago, so the nostalgia and pride many Southerners today feel when they see that flag is no less real than the horror and outrage felt by others when they see it.)

Whenever anti-flag people have demanded the Confederate flag be taken down, they are saying (inadvertently in some cases, deliberately in others) “You don’t matter. Your history doesn’t matter. Your regional culture doesn’t matter. Your heroes don’t matter. Go away.” And that has garnered the response anyone would expect it to get.

What they should have done was pay attention to people who display the flag accompanied with the slogan “Heritage not hate” and taken a cue from them. Offer a replacement symbol that could stand for all the good things the flag represents to people, while expressly omitting or disavowing slavery. The flag should have been taken down in a way that said “You fought honorably. You sacrificed for your homeland. History is troubled and slavery is evil but you have plenty besides that to be proud of. Let’s mend old wounds and continue on united.” The flags might have come down peacefully that way.

But of course I don’t think that’s what the loudest anti-flag people really wanted. They wanted the outcome they got.

Are there really no-go zones?

The “hard” definition of a no-go zone is an area of a city that is functionally sovereign, because law enforcement has more or less given up there. Instead, the area operates under some other system of law not sanctioned by government, with local unofficial enforcement structures. People who aren’t part of the subculture or ethnicity of the no-go zone are strongly urged not to go there and would likely be attacked if they did.

The “soft” definition is an area that has high crime, where police response time is typically slow, and where outsiders are advised not to go, at least not at night by themselves. Street gangs often dominate instead, and even sometimes offer protection services to locals. (This last phenomenon was described by Sudhir Vankatesh in his book “Gang Leader for a Day.”)

The evidence suggests hard no-go zones (as defined above) probably don’t exist, at least not in the West. Some news articles claim they exist there anyway, and then other news articles have a field day debunking the first ones, and then pro-immigration people have a field day Twittering about it and calling everyone who believed the stories paranoid and xenophobic.

Soft no-go zones certainly exist, and can be found in almost every city in the world. They have many common names: the hood, rough areas, blighted areas, ghettos, sketchy neighborhoods, etc. But “no-go” is a misnomer, since basically anyone could go there and, 99 times out of 100, not experience a confrontational incident of any kind. So they’re not really no-go zones at all. More like “don’t start a fight there” or “don’t go there and act a fool” zones.

But some aspects of hard no-go zones do exist in some of the soft no-go zones, and I suspect this is what people latch onto when they claim hard no-go zones exist in London or Paris or Stockholm or Dearborn.

For instance there are definitely areas where residents for whatever reason have more faith in, or loyalty to, their own local authority structures than the surrounding government. This was true in many black neighborhoods in the 1970s, and is part of how the Black Panthers rose to prominence. Some ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods have their own ambulances just for Jews and I’m sure the rabbis and their organizations there have a surprising amount of power.

Of course the most notorious example is Muslim enclaves that seem (to outsiders anyway) to basically be run by local clerics. Maybe cops can still patrol there, and maybe white non-Muslims can live or work there without being attacked very often, and this nullifies the “no-go” label, but operating behind the walls of those neighborhoods there is sometimes concealed a surprising amount of activity inaccessible to–or even sometimes at odds with the interests of–the wider nation. This is what we see from some of the sex slavery operations or terrorist recruitment organizations that have been uncovered over the years.

The above is the picture painted for me by many people who either live in or near those so-called no-go zones, or who seem to have read up on it and earnestly tried to determine whether no-go zones are real. My impression is that the most damning descriptions are simplistic exaggerations, but that those who scoff at the existence of no-go zones are naively discounting a lot of what’s really there.