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Where Microaggressions Really Come From

Jonathan Haidt recently blogged a summary of what he calls a:

most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood

Haidt’s summary reads like standard critiques of liberalism from Edmund Burke to Thomas Sowell.   The “culture of victimhood” is just a modern retelling of the liberal grand narrative of oppression of the weak by the powerful, and entitlement as compensation for injustice, that’s existed for more than two centuries. The tools and techniques used by that culture to work toward its ends have evolved along with society but other than that, and the fact that the paper Haidt summarizes comes from the liberal Tribal Moral Community of academic social science, there’s little about it that’s “beginning” or “new:”   WEIRD, narrow, single-minded focus on injustice and oppression, i.e., the liberal grand narrative and Social Justice Warriors. Check. Dependence on third parties, i.e., the government, to solve all problems. Check. Moral and financial dependence and the atrophy of self-reliance. Check. Campaigning for support, i.e., community organizing, i.e., “occupying”. Check. Dominance as deviance,. i.e., the one percent and hands up don’t shoot. Check. Social structure with ever increasing sensitivity to ever decreasing problems, i.e., the Overton window and/or the slippery slope of the entitlement mentality. Check. The evolution of moral culture from honor and dignity to victimhood, i.e., the conservative grand narrative about liberalism. Check.  Entitlement mentality? Identity politics? Culture of grievance? Do these phrases ring any bells?

A commenter named Doichin Cholakov on Haidt’s blog page observed “There is an excellent Pascal Bruckner book The Temptation of Innocence – Living in the Age of Entitlement, that traces the phenomenon of the modern fascination with victimhood back to the intellectual and biographical persona of Rousseau. It sort of puts the trend described here in a scary cultural context.

The mentality, the style of thought, the morality, described in Haidt’s summary has been around since the French Revolution.  Back then its tools were the cult of reason and the guillotine, now it uses micro aggressions, trigger warnings, and the legal system. But the thought process behind it and the goals it seeks have been consistent for more than two hundred twenty five years.

Do people really not understand that you get the behaviors you incentivize, or at least don’t discourage? Do they really not see that the instant you start giving special dispensations, positive liberty, to so-called victim groups or historically oppressed or whatever the heck the buzzwords are, that people will naturally and automatically compete for the title of most aggrieved?  Are they that blind? How is that even possible? Especially for the self-proclaimed morality of compassion and empathy for the human condition!

Do people really need sociologist to tell them “Where micro aggressions really come from“? Do they really not see that they’re the direct and practically inevitable consequence of the one-foundation morality of “care”? Also known as the the unconstrained vision? And correlated with Rationalism in Politics and with Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition? And also with the rationalist delusion, also known roughly as a type of thinking called Logos?

If so then the problem of flatland/spaceland – illustrated by my Venn diagram of the moral foundations, and described by my analogy of social colorblindness – is WAY worse than even I thought it was.
This problem is the elephant in the room that facts and evidence and reason and the scientific process prove is there – and that liberalism exists in denial or ignorance of – that we’re going to have to talk about and address if the human animal is ever going to have any chance at all of fully understanding itself, and through that understanding finding common ground, and from that common ground possibly answering “Yes” to Rodney King’s question, “Can we all get along?”


One thought on “Where Microaggressions Really Come From

  1. “Do people really not understand that you get the behaviors you incentivize, or at least don’t discourage? Do they really not see that the instant you start giving special dispensations, positive liberty, to so-called victim groups or historically oppressed or whatever the heck the buzzwords are, that people will naturally and automatically compete for the title of most aggrieved? Are they that blind? How is that even possible? ”

    Short answer: yes. I spent a lot of my life on the East Coast. I grew up around liberals and I saw them transition from childhood to adulthood. Even in non-political contexts I saw them repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot and use strange logic when it comes to social situations and to explain human behavior.

    Here’s an example conversation I’ve had with people like this:

    Me: “Jack & Jill just started dating. But Jack stayed with his last four girlfriends only about a month and then dumped them. He even came out and said he thinks he’ll only stay with Jill for a month. So I think there’s a high probability that Jack & Jill’s relationship will follow the same pattern.”

    Liberal: “No! You can’t know that for sure!”

    Me: “Ok, you’re right I can’t know that with 100% certainty but the odds look to be in favor of a short relationship.”

    Liberal: “No! You can’t know that! I once knew a man who acted the same way as Jack and said he wasn’t going to stay with his new girlfriend very long but they got married!” [ Another approach I’ve seen here is to give a hypothetical situation where Jack & Jill stay together. ]

    Me: “Again, ok yeah that could happen. But look at the pattern of behavior as well as what Jack has come out and said. The odds are still stacked in favor of a short relationship.”

    Liberal: *rolls eyes* “You’re being ridiculous.” [ One of the things I’ve noticed is that they seem to act like the past doesn’t matter. The only context that they think is appropriate to consider is the present. Or something like that. ]

    Me: “Let’s place a bet an see who’s right.”

    Liberal: “I’ll take that easy money.”

    Jack & Jill break up in three weeks.

    Me: “Look like I was right again.”

    Liberal: “No! You’re just lucky!” *rolls eyes*

    Honestly, I wish I could say I’m just making this up but I’ve had conversations like this way too many times. Notice too how I included the *rolls eyes*. Very often they would act with casual contempt or like I was stupid / crazy.

    I used to think if I just kept talking to them long enough I could convince them. As we got older I though life experience would change their minds. Nope. A few of them I still have contact with but I don’t bother having these kinds of conversations any longer, I just listen and nod. These men & women are now in their 30’s and early 40’s and they *still* do this kind of crap.

    Another conversation I had once with a woman I met in college who was a 35 year old liberal was… I am not making this up… because I had never tried eating human feces that I couldn’t know if it really tasted bad. But you can infer a lot about the tastes of most foods by their smell. So again I could point out that because of the smell of human feces there is a high probability is also tastes bad. Nope. If you can’t know something for 100% sure then you can’t know it at all… or something, I’m really not sure how this logic works.

    One of the biggest mistakes of my life has been to overestimate the intelligence, competence and perhaps sanity of those around me.


    Posted by Puzzle Privateer (@PuzzlePrivateer) | September 9, 2015, 11:55 pm

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