by Morgan Freeberg | May 4, 2013 10:43 am
People who think like adults argue like adults; therefore, people who want to think like adults, are obliged to argue that way. It can be tough to do sometimes. First thing to keep in mind is that you have to engage the ideas and not the people pushing them. What tends to get you bogged down here is pattern recognition: It is an entirely valid argument to say, for example, “I notice women who push the crappiest and silliest radical-feminist ideas have hyphenated names.” Certainly it is not politically correct, but if you think you’re noticing the trend because the statistics would support it, and not just because instances of the trend make a deep emotional impression on you, then it’s a valid pursuit to call it out & ponder what it might mean. But it’s teetering on a brink because the line between pointing that out, and saying some very silly things, can be fuzzy. “All women with hyphenated names have very silly and crappy radical-feminist ideas” would be an invalid generalization, clearly unfair to hyphenated-name women who happen to have sensible ideas. As well as a disservice to the person thinking it.
The salvation is to simply keep a decent and rugged tethering to the facts. Statements with “all,” “none,” “always” and “never” are to be viewed with deep suspicion, and upon receiving the inspection they deserve, will tend to wither and implode much more quickly than most others. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi said, only a Sith deals in absolutes. Of course, that in itself is an absolute statement, so…hmmmm…let’s move on.
For this reason, I don’t like observations like “liberals are stupid” or “liberals are mean.” It sounds like something a frustrated third-grader might say…and, there is the other matter that it isn’t true. Have I not met some liberals who are pretty darn smart? Of course I have. How about nice liberals? That one is a bit tougher, I’ll admit. Certainly I can round up for you a lot of liberals who like to think & say how nice they are, in short order and without putting much effort into it. But you would be well within your rights to say, Try Again Freeberg, it doesn’t count because the liberal is not as nice as he or she thinks he or she is. This would happen quite a few times, in fact you and I would eventually achieve some proficiency in recognizing this muted-down streak of effeminate-male anger, like Captain Hawkeye Pierce getting ready to explode into some self-righteous monologue about whatever. The “aggressively non-threatening NPR male” rage Harry Stein was writing about.
But, at least among the women, there are some liberals who are genuinely nice. One Aunt by marriage, on my Mother’s side of the family tree, comes to mind. These types do genuinely mean what they say when they indulge these fantasies about a “fair shake” for the latest fashionable minority/victim group. They just don’t understand the wretched ultimate effects of the policies they favor as they indulge these fantasies.
Here’s the thing about generalizations, though: Because generalizations fail so often due to their well-understood intellectual fragility, they are, in fact, extremely valuable. That would not be the case if they could be easily debunked all of the time. But contrary to popular belief, they fail often because they can be easily debunked — pay attention to this part, now, it is critical — almost all of the time. Almost. They are like the canary in the coal mine. Fragile, therefore first to expire, therefore there is meaning to be inferred from any situation in which they’re not expiring.
All too often, you take a large group and apply a generalization to it, which upon encountering reality & the facts, implodes almost instantly. But then you carve the large group into smaller groups, reapply, and after a few rounds of division you find the generalization works. Or, at least, you’re lacking in any facts that will vanquish the same generalization again, and you’ll have to allow it to survive, tentatively. This is possibly the beginning of understanding a cause-and-effect relationship. In our example of the genuinely nice liberal, who never seems to be a male, theory: It is more important to males to achieve cosmetic superiority to other specimens, than it is to females, because of the “peacock” attribute of the male psyche. And, the effort to achieve cosmetic superiority to other specimens is exactly where liberals lose their genuine nice-ness, as well as where their credo ceases to make any sense. I’ve criticized them for this many a time, and I’m not done yet: Making a perfect new world in which we’re all equal-equal-equal, to show how much more worthy you are compared to other people? The contradiction is completely devastating, completely unworkable — and not very nice at all.
All of this is a lead-in to my observation that the easiest generalizations about liberals, which crash and burn instantly when we review our factual encounters with real-life, real-smart, real-nice liberals…suddenly find new life when we divide the arithmetic set of “liberals” just a tiny bit. And my “didja notice” moment here is, the number of times we need to divide this arithmetic set in order to give the generalizations a new leasehold on life is: once, into two sets. A simple, clean bisection. I actually noticed this quite some time ago, and have since reviewed the generalization to see if it’s be knocked into the dirt by reality yet again. With that one bisection, the re-pulverizing has yet to occur. Perhaps it will later, but for now the newer set of generalizations seems to be like a good one, and it’s certainly durable.
From this exercise, I perceive two halves. I value this perception rather highly, for if it continues to hold up, it may lead in to a road-map to liberalism’s eventual defeat, at least within this chapter of American history.
You have the ones like the kindly old Aunt, along with the not-so-nice peacock males and all others who aspire to be like her. Somewhere in their hearts there are these good intentions. This is why I’m throwing truly nice people into the same pot as not-truly-nice people, melting ’em all together and calling it a day: They all have it in common that they sincerely want other people, strangers who they’ll never meet, to have an easier time in life. Some of them have mixed motives — “I’m going to look like a better person than that other guy, over there, because I said something positive about gay people” — and others don’t. They favor policies that ultimately hurt the people they want to help. But they know not what they do. One of my favorite examples: Raising the minimum wage. I’ve explained it over and over to them, you’d think the idea would manage to get across: This does nothing to actually “raise” a wage, what it does is outlaw jobs that pay anything below a certain amount, which is being increased. Can we agree on that? I’ve been genuinely surprised to find out the answer is, YES, we can agree on that, until such time as we have to form an opinion about an issue, then the typical response is to just keep clutching to the same opinion they had before. Like a baby to a blanket.
Other examples: Affirmative action in contracting and hiring, to soothe and cool whatever residual racial tensions there may be. The predictable effect is toward the opposite. Raising taxes to cover a city’s, state’s or nation’s tax revenue and budget woes. Showing those dirty, rotten companies how ticked off we are that they are “gouging consumers,” but smacking them with a whole new layer of burdensome fees and regulation. All these policies have a predictable effect more-or-less completely opposite from what was intended, and yet these types will line up to support the same policies over and over again, thereby bringing a lot of harm to the people they claim to be helping.
People in this group claim to care, and on some level they do care. They’re just not thinking things out all the way.
Now, the other group exploits the first group. These are vicious cold-hearted bastards who know perfectly well that Barney Frank caused the housing crisis, Fast and Furious would get innocent people killed, that gun control does nothing to make a city any safer, that when it costs companies more money to bring a product to market they just pass it on to the customer. These people know all about all of this. They just don’t care.
These people are usually employed in some capacity, such that they achieve a higher level of compensation, job security, or both when the wretched policies go into effect and innocent people are hurt by them. Hillary Clinton doesn’t really think it makes no “difference” who caused the attack in Benghazi. Joe Biden doesn’t really think you’re a lot safer if you fire your shotgun twice. President Barack Obama doesn’t really think more lives would be saved by His “extra background checks.” These people are just plain liars. They know the truth is very different from what they’re saying, but they don’t give a hang.
Those are your two groups of libs: The ignorant, and the apathetic. Evidence-impervious, and scruples-devoid. No, they’re not trying to be uninformed, or to hurt people; these are not their central motivations. That’s the whole problem. Both groups have bigger fish to fry.
From all I have observed, liberalism over the last few years has been making some great progress in moving, as they say, “forward.” Battle after battle after battle, in the congressional districts as well as in the nation’s capitol, is resolved in their favor, often with the “progress” locked in somehow so that their opponents can never reverse it, even if there’s a sea-change at some future date. The gun control thing was the first notable exception, at least in the last year or two. By & large, since 2007 or so they’re winning every single argument. And if there is one single reason for this progress of theirs, I would say it is this: The division between the ignorant and the apathetic is hard to pick up. We’re living in a time in which it’s become toned-down, and subtle. It’s so hard to see, that even people who watch politics all day every day won’t notice it’s there; instead they’ll insist on calling the whole movement “liberals.” That matters. Advancing liberalism is really all about sales pitches, from the apathetic to the ignorant. And it succeeds when the ignorant agree to the purchase. The feeling right now is that these two groups are one and the same, so the ignorant have no reason to decline.
I further perceive that the winning streak will come to a stop, and reverse, if and when this division is re-emphasized, highlighted so that it is easier to see. We’re all guilty of being ignorant now and then. But who wants to buy something from some shyster who is obviously hoping you remain ignorant? Isn’t that when you hang up on the telemarketer, car salesman, real estate crook or MLM crony? That’s when liberalism stops; when the ignorant-commoners realize they are not peers with the apathetic-elites, and that the two groups do not share common goals. From that, will come the realization that the policies that are being sold to them, are not conducive to the objectives they want to achieve. But it comes only from that epiphany, which may be sudden or slow. A smooth-talking smiley-faced Republican can’t explain it to them. They have to learn, from their own experiences, that they’ve been sold a bill of goods in the years gone by, and the attempted-fleecing is still taking place.
In other words, they have to learn on their own to start taking a sensibly jaundiced view of things. It’s part of growing up.
The problem is: Too many of them think they’re already doing that, by reciting ridiculous and useless homilies about “Oh well, all politicians are crooks,” as if they are magical incantations that can somehow make bad ideas into good ones.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes and Rotten Chestnuts.
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