Nobody Cares About Your Feelings… And That’s a Good Thing

Our current obsession with avoiding offense and sparing people’s feelings is costing us a great deal as a culture. As a society of free and equal people we need to be able to speak frankly in order to make sure that good ideas thrive and bad pnes are discarded. When we are afraid to say what we think, bad ideas thrive.

3 thoughts on “Nobody Cares About Your Feelings… And That’s a Good Thing

  1. You spoke quite a lot about using feelings to manipulate/gain power. That people use their feelings to manipulate others. Is this simply an example of “asymmetric warfare” in action? If what those people were using their feelings to act against was something we thought was bad/morally reprehensible, would the reaction be so negative?

    Whilst I accept your point about people having a choice about how they react to their feelings, is it a fair thing to extend to children? At some point, children will not have developed sufficient control and understanding to act in this way? The Lego advert thing is a fair point, but I suspect none of us was born able to deal with and direct our feelings and so should what we expose children to be a slightly different question?

    While I agree that nobody ever really suffered physical hurt or lasting harm from being insulted, I’m not sure that simply accepting it is the answer either. OK, being called a bog trotter and a thieving pikey bastard didn’t harm me, but when you allow people to address others in this way, I think you blur the line between what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Where’s the line? What is acceptable? One person saying it? Someone shouting it at you? A mob of people yelling it? If it’s OK its own, how about if its accompanied by refusing to serve you in a shop or pub? Or if it’s accompanied by a statement like “get out of our town and go back home”?

    If those doing it see it doesn’t bother you there are usually one of two reactions: they give up, or they escalate until they get a reaction: spitting, a casual slap round the head, a bit of grafitti.

    Here’s a thing as well. You said that racism died out once it was discussed openly. I think that debate failed to reach a lot of people. If you go around the UK and poll university educated, cosmopolitan people and frankly wealthier people, you’d find pretty much everyone agrees with your view. Go into pubs and clubs and poll the less educated and poor, in both urban and rural environments, and you will find a very different story. That debate, had in the broadsheet newspapers and in parliament never reached them. You might have legislation that makes it illegal, but the fact that black footballers get monkey chants will tell you how that debate has entered hearts and minds.

    1. On the matter of civil discourse:

      This is simple, just because we must allow people to say what is on their minds, does not mean we have to associate with those people.

      A person who makes their presence odious with unpleasant opinions, expressed in an aggressive manner is no fun to be around, and we are under no obligation to deal with them.  We have every right not to go to dinner with them, choose not to cooperate with them, or come to their aid if their ideas get them into trouble.

      A boor, in other words, should be free to be boorish, but I don’t have to invite him to my dinner parties.  I have no right to tell someone what they can or cannot say, and if what they speak is Truth, then s a reasoning human being I should listen, but I also have every right to tell him to get lost if he won’t be polite.

      As human beings do not survive well on their own, it behooves us to be pleasant to deal with and choose to express our more radical opinions in a compassionate and dignified way. Otherwise we will find ourselves alone and friendless.

      And remember, human beings don’t do so well without friends.  In fact, if it were not for welfare and labour laws a person who acted like a truly incorrigible asshole would end up lonely, sick, and poor for his behaviour.

      On Racism

      Let’s start with a very simple definition of racism: Racism must be carried through action in some manner.

      Many of the oldest and simplest definitions of racism are along e lines of “fear or hatred of other people based on heir race.”  This is concise, but it lacks nuance.

      Firstly, I will argue that for “racism” to be a term with meaning or value it must explain something unusual to the human condition, or it cannot be considered a bad thing.  If we say that everyone or everything is racist, then racism itself loses all meaning. It is not worth observing or reviling.  In other words, if we are all racists, then racism is normal, no need to talk about it any further, end of discussion.

      So let’s instead look at racism as some other manifestation of human principle.  Namely, either a thought or an action.

      Every human being has intrusive thoughts and feelings that pop into their head at random. Sometimes those will include gross and unkind generalizations of others based on their ethnicity or appearance. We can have a sudden flash of hateful thought or feeling towards someone that is not in line with our character and does not represent our worldview in any way.

      To call anyone having those thoughts a racist makes everyone a racist.  It lacks any quality of the exceptional; ergo we cannot hold singular thoughts alone as making a racist.  gain that would lead to the end of discussion.  Therefore, to call someone a racist, their thoughts would have to be more than passing and unbidden ones.

      So let’s assume that we are dealing someone with consistent hateful opinions about one or more racial groups, and that these are representative of his character. But let’s imagine that he is also aware that these feelings do not serve him, are not acceptable in larger society, so he keeps them to himself.

      Does it matter to society that this man is, say, afraid of Irishmen?  Would it matter if he never said an unkind word to or about the Irish?  Is this pattern of thought in any way meaningful to him, or the Irish?  Of course not. His thoughts and feelings are his own, and have not affected the world one bit.

      I might dream of becoming the next great crooner… that means not a thing if I never sing.  Thoughts only have meaning if they lead to behaviour.

      I also reject the notion that thoughts and feelings should be classified as racism for another reason. Most humans fear the unknown by nature.  We are innately tribal once we are old enough to find some way of labelling “safe people” vs. “unsafe people”.  Race is only one way we organize human beings.  “Strangers vs. family is a common one we teach to children, and yet we do not scold the child for being afraid of strangers, only being rude to them.  Why should race sit in such an exceptional space?

      And if any tribalist thought is just as bad as racism, then we are all evil beings.  It smacks of original sin – a way to punish human beings for being human.

      The idea of “racist thoughts” reeks of “thoughtcrime”.  It’s a totalitarian approach that is not compatible with a liberal culture. To the true totalitarian, all human beings are inferior unless they conform to the state ideology, all deviations are to be punished.  A totalitarian calling a person bad because they hate another person for A is absurd; the totalitarian hates everyone for A to Y, because anything other than Z is intolerable.

      Ergo, let’s assume that racism must come in the form of behaviour.

      (caveat: I continue you to use the terms “fear”or”hatred” here for the sake of consistency.  I would also argue that actions motivated by a belief in the inferiority of a racial group should also be considered a motivation that ought to be considered racist as well.  One can believe anther is inferior and not hate them per se, but a belief in the inferiority of others tends to breed contempt and condescension that results in equally harmful actions.)

      In that case, is bellowing – or writing – racial slurs enough to call a person racist?

      Well, my first question is can we prove that the person said them out of genuine fear or hatred of another person?  When I was in university, my three best mates were a Jew, a Quebecois, and a man of mixed German and Miq’maw heritage.  We ribbed each other constantly any way we could to get a rise. That included calling me “white trash”, “redneck” and “cracker”, while my Jewish friend got called “easy bake”, “kyke” and “heebey”, our Quebecer was called a “frog” so often it was old, and our mixed-race friend got called “savage” and “wagon burner”, or “kraut” depending on our mood.

      None of us bore the least bit of hatred or fear for the other.  In fact we cared about each other a lot.  Our language was spurred with a distaste for the PC culture going on around us, and because e knew it was an easy and cheap  way to tease each other. None of us ere in the least bit offended or hurt by what was said.

      The words themselves ere therefore not meant, or taken as hateful or fearful.  Can we call it racist?

      If the answer is “yes” then we have another problem.  This makes t possible for a person to act racist on accident.  It requires no intention or volition.  A slip of the tongue is all that is possible to say something racist…

      …which brings us to an absurd question: how can you “act” racist by accident other than by using a word?  If I butt in line in front of a Black man, am I a racist, or just an asshole?  Does it matter if I would cut in front of anybody?

      I am sure that the problem with this is apparent.  Suddenly we are all guilty of racism until proven innocent.  “Racism” becomes “anything one person does that annoys another person of a different race.”  Again, racism becomes inevitable, mundane, and unfixable.

      This is similar to the reason why we demand “Mens Rea” in our legal justice system.  For something to be a violation of a law (which is different that being a violation of a civic statute) we must prove that the person in question had an intention to cause harm exploit another, or willfully ignored possibly harmful effects of their actions when they committed the act – and that they had to have chosen to act, rather than being forced to do so.  Under the principle of Mens Rea you are not liable for breaking a law when doing so at the point of a gun, when you had no idea that someone might be harmed, or when you were trying to be a good Samaritan and protect another’s person or property.

      We cannot label an action as racist unless it was indeed motivated by fear or hatred of another race.  Shouting an epithet might indeed come from hatred , it might be an in-joke, or it might just be an easy way to get under someone’s skin,  After all, if you want to be an asshole to someone that you just met, then going for obvious and immediately visible characteristics is a great way of being an asshole efficiently.

      So I would argue, then, that speech itself is not sufficient to be considered racist, unless it is part of a concerted effort to harass, harm, or defame another person.  t’s only when language is applied consistently and with malice that we can be sure that the intent matches the words.

      So then, racism must be an act that does harm and is motivated by fear and hatred of a group of people.

      At this point, I will also summarily reject the idea of “prejudice plus power” being an effective way of measuring racism, as well.  This is simple common sense – either behaving hatefully towards someone based on their race is wrong, or it is not.  If it is, then “power” doesn’t enter into it.  If it is not wrong, then why the hell should the people with the most power not use that power as they see fit with regard to people of other races?  The whole narrative of racism becomes a con game one “power” is introduced – it is a large number of people saying “it’s okay for me to hate you, but you are not allowed to hate me – in fact your forefathers hated me so much that you owe me money and power to make up for it – which I would never abuse, even though I hate you.”

      On top of that  power is not as predictably distributed along lines of race.  For every rich whit man sitting in the house of lords, there is a mentally ill hobo who sleeps rough and gets worked over by the police and bored youths.  Barack Obama is arguably one of the most powerful people in the world, does that make it okay for me to defame his character based on his skin colour?

      Of course, some proponents of this particular brand of Marxist thought will underline the idea of historical power – that Barack Obama doesn’t enter into it because whites have historically oppressed blacks.  This is a way of moving the goalpost – but only as far as it suits them.  How far back in history do we want to go here?  Because if you go far enough back in the history of the human race, there are no innocents.

      So what is left of racism then, that can safely and legitimately be called Racism? Simple: acts motivated by racial hate or fear that causes legitimate and meaningful harm of person or property. Denying someone a job because you hate them for the colour of their skin? Racist. Demanding – or forcing the end of a relationship because it mixes people of races? Racist.  Denying someone a place in an academic environment based on their ethnic group? Racist.  Engaging on a campaign of vandalism or intimidation against a person because they step “out of place”? Totally racist.

      And so what of institutional racism? What happens to this concept under a definition of racism that is based on action rather than thought?

      Again, let’s define terms: Institutional Racism is the phenomenon in which a cultural institution – a school, a law, a court system, etc., is heavily shaped by the racist ideology or attitudes of people in power who dominate or structured those institutions.  Individual people within those institutions – the officers of the courts, teachers at schools, administrators of a bureaucracy, etc. – might not be individually racist, but by conducting business as usual they often create racist results by proxy of the funders or leaders of that institution.

      I find that this concept works perfectly fine – and in fact, may actually be more prevalent than people think, but often not for the institutions that we consider.

      I would definitely argue that the Jim Crow laws in the United States, or the German’s treatment f its Turkish migrant population remain excellent examples of institutional racism.  However, if e continue to apply Mens Rea- like standards, other institutions do not.  Schools for example, are probably not inherently racist – they treat all students as being capable and hold all students to the same standards of behaviour, language skills etc.; they do not really hold the hands of any student; the institution demands that all students perform to a standard no matter their race or ethnic group  The results of this may not be equal, but the treatment is.  Ideally the students would be treated with equal compassion and be given equal opportunities to get the guidance they need to succeed, but the system itself is unable of sustaining such.

      On the other hand, some programs that were designed to “help” minorities often operate on the assumption that they are less capable and possess less agency than the majority.  Many affirmative action programs, for example seem to be based on the belief that racial minorities are simply not capable of competing with the majority of the culture, even with laws preventing racial discrimination.  These programs really do assume a sort of inferiority of the recipients, and usually have culturally catastrophic results, despite their supposedly “noble”intentions.

      In reality, racism may well be live and well in the actions of moral crusaders, social justice warriors, and many do-gooders, but it rarely shouts racial epithets at the top of its lungs or burns crosses anymore.  Most of the worst racist behaviour of the past is intolerable to modern society.  Engaging in it can lead to censure, sanction, suits, or public scorn.  If a man was really denied a job because of his brown skin, rather than a lack of qualification, there would be a violent uproar.

      Shouted epithets make you an asshole, but not necessarily a racist – and assholes get to reap the penalties of behaving like assholes; paraiahdom, or the company of the equally moronic in low society.  True Jim Crow era overt racism – overt actions based on racial hate, fear, or a sense of the Other’s inferiority – is often a crime where it is not socially unacceptable.  Where racism thrives today is behind the concerned ask of a certain brand of “progressive” who breaks the world into victim and victimizer along racial lines, and hates one while seeing the other as inferior and in need of his or her enlightened guidance.

  2. My own feeling has long been that the most effective way to deal with such behaviour is to remove the racist/sexist/religious angle. If you violently verbally abuse someone, or attack them, treat it as an example of the same crime it would be if no race or sex was involved: it’s threatening behaviour/common assault/whatever. Remove the labels Caveat: sexually-motivated crimes are outwith this.

    Maybe take the same view with bullying: don’t call it bullying, call it assault. Treat it like it would be treated in the “real world”.

    A curious situation seems to be where behaviour is illegal, but socially acceptable. It’s illegal to discriminate on religious grounds in the UK – laws were passed on it before legislation on race, specifically in Northern Ireland, but despite the progress it is still socially acceptable and even expected that Orangemen intimidate, frighten, threaten and attack people. Crazy.

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