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   I’ve been hearing more about ‘Cancel Culture’ and recently found this article by Meghan Murphy giving her ideas on what Cancel Culture is and how it is affecting the popular discourse.

It would seem that the built in distance within Social Media has given rise to some deleterious effects that are working their way through the larger culture outside of social media.  The willingness to engage with others that do hold your opinions is diminishing and while the tendency to punitively ostracize others is on the rise.  The overall effect is to coarsen discourse and make communicating ideas much more difficult.

 

“Cancel culture” is a sort of addiction: the addict — outraged members of the public demanding someone’s humiliation and “cancellation” — gets a high, but only temporarily, and the desire creeps back once again and must be fed.

Yet this type of public ostracism is not exactly like other addictions — food, drugs, pornography, shopping or gambling – which involve private behaviours, albeit connected to social problems. Most addictions are about an individual escaping from some kind of pain or trying to fill an endless hole inside of them. Cancel culture is very much about public behaviour — a display of anger, power and virtue — as well as the self-loathing and emptiness in all addictions.

No healthy, secure person invests that much time and energy into destroying other people’s lives. No happy, fulfilled human enjoys seeing others – strangers – ruined, ostracised and vilified. Unless we are purely targeting violent, evil or dangerous individuals… but, of course, this is almost never the case. We target comedians, politicians, writers, friends, fellow activists, co-workers and former comrades. In a terrified frenzy, we look for any excuse — a verbal blunder, a politically incorrect opinion, a tacky 20-year-old Aladdin costume…

While Justin Trudeau — the wokest of leaders — may well be many things, I don’t believe he is a racist. No one does. While black or brownface is indeed racist, Trudeau’s poor costume choices two decades ago do not reflect who he is today: a boring, phony, political coward.

Plenty of things that seemed acceptable or funny 20 years ago are not today. And people change. I mean, 20 years ago, I was wearing a white pleather mini skirt and a mesh animal print tank top, reciting every lyric to “I’m a player”. And I just cannot wait for someone to dredge up all of our old Halloween costumes. (I must have co-opted dominatrix culture at least three years in a row. All you Pocahontases better have your CVs ready.

The worst thing about cancel culture is not even its attacks on others – it’s that the whole thing is a lie. I don’t believe that anyone thought, deep down, that they were better than Justine Sacco who infamously lost her job for a tweet. They just didn’t make the mistake of trying to be funny on Twitter, in a culture that would prefer not to take a joke.

I don’t believe that anyone thinks Kevin Hart is a homophobe, or that Al Franken is a dangerous predator. And I definitely don’t believe they think Sarah Silverman is a racist.

Cancel culture doesn’t actually want accountability. It doesn’t want an apology. It doesn’t want a conversation. It doesn’t even want the world to be safe from truly dangerous people or ideas. What it wants is to feel that boot on someone else’s neck – perhaps in order to avoid the boot itself.

What is the purpose, after all, of demanding an apology, only to say the apology isn’t good enough? (And the apology is never good enough.) What is the point of saying you want accountability, when no redemption is available? Do we want change or do we want flagellation?

The truth is that many people get off on sadistic, herd-like practices that thrive on platforms like Twitter. Who can be the angriest, the most righteous, and the most devout in their hatred of the Wrong? Who would Never Do Such A Thing, never mind think it?

I don’t think racist or homophobic comments are harmless, but I do think that we prefer punishment over change. And if we truly wanted people to understand other’s hurt and to change their behaviour, we wouldn’t write them off for life.”

I may have to pick up Murray’s book as it appears to have shed some light onto the nebulous core of identity politics.  I chose this excerpt because I like how Scruton frames some of the tenets of identity politics i.e. the hardware/software analogy is particularly insightful.

Id-pol may seem unreal and far away, but let me assure you it exists and people have really invested themselves into it.  Several boots on the ground encounters with zealots on twitter have left me with a new appreciation of how deeply ingrained this way of thinking has become for certain people.  It is frustrating and exasperating to argue with people who somehow have come to believe that they are the purveyors of the common shared reality we experience.

For instance, in dealing with the gender-self-id crowd, getting them to define anything is almost always impossible.  They seem to think that being a woman is merely the male interpretation of what what being a woman is, in other words a set of personal subjective feelings that, as long as one holds them, *makes them* a woman.  (wtaf, I know, I know…)

Back in material reality the place where, rightly, the term woman is coherently defined as an adult human female is somehow contentious.  The argument then always goes into insults and hurt feelings, even the threat of suicide (see abusive male controlling behaviours) for not complying with the notion that men, if they feel strongly enough, can be women.  It’s ludicrous.

Anyhow, folks, please continue to speak the truth and do not bow to the ideologues that would have you change your reality to meet the needs of their fantasy.

 

“More important, from the intellectual point of view, is the attempt to rewrite hardware as software. As Murray shows, identity politics, which insists that everything relevant to our sense of self lies within our power, so that nothing can be imposed on us without our consent, is at odds with the facts of biology. To get round this problem, sex has been re-written as gender, and gender defined as a social construct. In this way, hardware becomes software, and fate becomes choice.

And the result is the “trans” lobby, determined to make all those areas where one sex was hitherto privileged (for example, female sports or female bathrooms) available to whoever wishes to appropriate that sex as his own. The hardware/software confusion has now penetrated the culture, and Murray shows the devastating effect that it has had on our understanding of human difference.

Finally there is the new scourge of “intersectionality”, which encourages people to explore all the ways in which they have lost out in the pursuit of advantage, and to construct their identity accordingly. A kind of reverse hierarchy of privilege emerges, as you come to see that you are disadvantaged as gay man, and then as a black man, and then as a Muslim man, and so on. The result of this scramble for “virtuous disadvantages” occupies Murray over many partly amusing, partly distressing pages.

As he abundantly shows, the attempt to derive a positive philosophy from this assemblage of negatives leads to absurdity and contradiction at every turn.”

When the topic of post modernism comes up, I always brace for the onslaught of adherents who sorta miss the point of what PoMo thought is all about.  It’s been so long since I’ve dealt with an actual post modern argument, and not just people who want to replace authoritarian definitions with their own authoritarian definitions.

So perhaps we are arguing against a pale imitation of what a post modern argument actually looks like, because at least in this explanation of PoMo theory, it doesn’t sound as beyond the pale.

 

So, when postmodern folks claim subjectivity it is not that they are saying nothing, it is that they are acknowledging both their own flaws and the need for constant interrogation of the facts laid out before us. The idea that one must come to a conclusion in order to find truth is actually the definition of fascism. If a dictionary must appear in its final form, who says the human race must not also? And how would such a society deal with change—specifically that of cultural migration and economic unease.

So, hopefully, this at least establishes the urgent need to abandon the very concept of objective truth. Objective truth is anti-democratic. There is no such thing as an unbiased statement that has not been shaped by elements of power or hierarchy. There is no such thing as a random statement, and there is no such thing as a true statement. In fact, a random statement and a true statement amount to the same thing, and it is only by connecting them that we can give meaning to either.

I can hear the grumbles now. Saying truth is the same as randomness is actually saying nothing! Really? Then why on earth react to it at all? If this statement really said nothing, wouldn’t a more adequate response be: ‘what do you think?’ or even, just in case ‘can you speak up?’ No, but truth, in how we arrive at its exact conclusions, can only retain any meaning if we acknowledge how arbitrary it is to get to that exact spot of perfection. It is only then that we can begin to unpack the biases that got us to that spot, which of course aren’t random at all, and link throughout history, sociology, geography, physics and biology. It is only after we unmask the assumption that is in authority that we can dethrone it and restore democracy.

Now, there is nothing true about democracy either. Each person operates within their own distance from the truth but at least, to borrow Marx, implies ownership of the production of truth, rather than the blind following of it. Does such a philosophy naturally imply the free market, rather than Marxism? Not necessarily. The distribution of goods, the control over the means of production, those sorts of things are not the same as ideas, let alone people. It could be very possible to have a centralized form of economics that thrived for diverse ideas and people. In fact, such a neutral form of economics—pure in its democracy and lack of discrimination—would imply absolute blindness to differences and a replacement of this hierarchy of difference with universal human rights. That doesn’t mean that each difference wouldn’t get a say, it is to say that each would have a right, no matter their say.

It is fairly obvious that an economy that has no such tools to guarantee human rights would naturally create hierarchies to (re) order distribution and create profits. The idea that one must have an objective idea of truth to reject neoliberalism implies that the neoliberalism was a cultural, not an economic counter-revolution. This seems to apply a backward order of operations. Even though the neoliberal has assaulted the cultural and the personal, it a truly perplexing leap for Marxists to make the claim that as soon as the economic theory of their “objective” choice falls out of favor, we suddenly are not talking about economics anymore, but culture that drives the economy. Just dead wrong.

The goal of the lie of objective truth is to establish power for a certain group of people, so that they can therefore profit from and exploit the people whose truth does not fit the proper definition of normality. That’s why Foucalt saw prisons so clearly. What is a prison? And who decides it?

 

Just who is anti-authoritarian and who isn’t?  Like most topics, the devil is in the details, as the cleavages between the various sub groups of anarachists creates a great deal of tension within the movement as a whole.

“Some anarchists are upset by the idea of taking any authority seriously; however this does not upset anarchists who are familiar with Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876), one of the most famous anarchists in world history.

Bakunin wrote: “Does it follow that I reject all authority? Far from me such a thought. In the matter of boots, I refer to the authority of the bootmaker. . . . But I allow neither the bootmaker nor the architect nor the savant to impose his authority upon me. I listen to them freely and with all the respect merited by their intelligence, their character, their knowledge, reserving always my incontestable right of criticism and censure.”

While Bakunin rejects all imposed authority, he recognizes the legitimacy of the authoritative. Authoritative has a very different dictionary meaning than authoritarian. Authoritative means being accurate, true, reliable, valid, and thus trustworthy. However, some anarchists see a downside to giving an expert, even an authoritative one, any authority. Anarchist thinker William Godwin (1756–1836) believed it was a bad idea to place one’s confidence in the superior knowledge of others and to rely on them, as this can weaken our own capacity to think, reason, and make judgments, and thus disempower us.

Perhaps the most well-known modern American self-identified anarchist is Noam Chomsky. For Chomsky, every form of authority has to “prove that it’s justified—it has no prior justification.” Chomsky gives an example of justified authority: “When you stop your five-year-old kid from trying to cross the street, that’s an authoritarian situation: it’s got to be justified. Well, in that case, I think you can give a justification.” However, for Chomsky, “Most of the time these authority structures have no moral justification . . . they are just there in order to preserve certain structures of power and domination.”

Anarchism is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as: “a political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free associations of individual groups.” Among anarchists, there is no monolithic view of anarchism though there is generally agreement that the state is an illegitimate authority.

There are anti-authoritarians, however, who are not anti-state. Thomas Paine and Ralph Nader are two of the most celebrated and maligned anti-authoritarians in U.S. history. Paine was initially celebrated for refusing to comply with Great Britain and later maligned for refusing to comply with Christianity; and Nader was initially celebrated for refusing to be intimidated by General Motors and later maligned for refusing to be intimidated by the Democratic Party. But both Paine (who helped create and perhaps even coined the name “United States”) and Nader (responsible for the creation of life-saving governmental regulatory agencies) are not anarchists.”

It has to be rough for some segments of the Anarchist community since our society is so segmented and specialized.  Littered with authorities that are often very hard to verify if they are indeed, legitimate or not.

The term gender-neutral is a misleading term.  It is because gender neutral spaces almost always become male spaces due to the previously existing imbalance in society.  Because many women still rightly fear men in restricted spaces, many women avoid gender-neutral spaces because those spaces give males access to them.  These are cultural, as well as structural differences that need to be addressed first before simply slapping a ‘gender neutral’ sign over the ladies sign in public spaces.

“In April 2017, the BBC journalist Samira Ahmed wanted to use a toilet. She was at a screening of the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro at London’s Barbican arts centre, and it was the interval. Any woman who has ever been to the theatre knows what that means. This evening, the queue was worse than usual. Far worse. Because in an almost comically blatant display of not having thought about women at all, the Barbican had turned both the male and female toilets gender neutral simply by replacing the “men” and “women” signage with “gender neutral with urinals” and “gender neutral with cubicles”. The obvious happened. Only men were using the supposedly “gender neutral with urinals” and everyone was using the “gender neutral with cubicles”.

Rather than rendering the toilets genuinely gender neutral, they had simply increased the provision for men. “Ah the irony of having to explain discrimination having just been to see I Am Not Your Negro IN YOUR CINEMA”, Ahmed tweeted, suggesting that turning the gents gender neutral would be sufficient: “There’s NEVER such a queue there & you know it.”

On the face of it, it may seem fair and equitable to accord male and female public toilets the same amount of space – and historically, this is the way it has been done: 50/50 division of floor space has even been formalised in plumbing codes. However, if a male toilet has both cubicles and urinals, the number of people who can relieve themselves at once is far higher per square foot of floor space in the male bathroom than in the female bathroom. Suddenly equal floor space isn’t so equal.

But even if male and female toilets had an equal number of stalls, the issue wouldn’t be resolved, because women take up to 2.3 times as long as men to use the toilet. Women make up the majority of the elderly and disabled, two groups that will tend to need more time in the toilet.

Women are also more likely to be accompanied by children, as well as disabled and older people. Then there’s the 20–25% of women of childbearing age who may be on their period at any one time, and therefore need to change a tampon or a sanitary pad.

Women may also require more trips to the bathroom: pregnancy significantly reduces bladder capacity, and women are eight times more likely to suffer from urinary-tract infections. In the face of all these anatomical differences, it would surely take a formal equality dogmatist to continue to argue that equal floor space between men and women is fair.”

I do like me some socialism, as I do believe it is the tonic that will address some of the societal problems we are currently experiencing.  I think tackling the inherent problems socialism bring with it might be good for a change.  It’s like changing the government every so often, clear out the old graft and corruption and make way for a fresher, newer array of graft and corruption, perhaps even doing some positive governance things before bought off by the powers that be.  Chris Wright makes some good points by focusing on the alienation that people can experience in a capitalist society.

 

“The case for socialism is usually made, rightly, from the perspective of its justice. It would be just to have economic and social democracy, for one thing because it is intrinsically right that people not be forced to rent themselves to a business owner who exploits them for profit but instead that they collectively control economic activities and distribute rewards as they see fit. Moreover, economic democracy, whether in the form of worker cooperatives or democratic government control, would essentially make impossible the extreme income inequality that corrodes political democracy and ultimately unravels the social fabric.

But it’s also worth broadcasting the message that even from an existentialist point of view, our only hope is socialism. Certain types of conservatives (usually religious) like to complain about the demise of the family, the community, non-hedonistic interpersonal ties, and the sense of meaning in our lives, a demise for which they blame such nebulous phenomena as secularism, “humanism,” communism, and liberalism. That is, everything except what really matters: capitalism, the reduction of multifaceted life to the monomaniacal pursuit of profit, property, and power. So these conservatives end up in the realm of fascism or neofascism, which promises only to complete the destruction of family and community.

The truth is that only socialism, or an economically democratic society in which there is no capitalist class, could possibly usher in a world in which the existentialist howl of Camus and Sartre didn’t have universal resonance. Mass loneliness, “homelessness,” and the gnawing sense of meaninglessness are not timeless conditions; they’re predictable expressions of a commoditized, privatized, bureaucratized civilization. Do away with the agent of enforced commoditization, privatization, and hyper-bureaucratization-for-the-sake-of-social-control—i.e., the capitalist class—and you’ll do away with the despair that arises from these things.”

 

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