Friday, October 12, 2012

Different assumptions

An anonymous commentor took me to task this week for being shallow --which I certainly can be-- and a bigot. About which I have no opinion and don't really care one way or the other, the word having become, along with racist, meaningless.

Two points this person made that I want to correct.

First is that the commonalities between or among all human ethnic and racial and national groups are so much greater than our differences, that it makes the differences insignificant. The old Shylock speech. He did not use those words, but that was his point: that there is no point in highlighting differences negatively because the commonalities are greater.

Well, that may be. But it is not the right question. The question is about the weight of our commonalities and differences. The much lauded "common humanity" is the thinnest and least consequential of our actual connections and only given credence in wooly headed White Western cultures. Re our differences and commonalities, the questions are: are they significant? are they compelling? are they determinative?

My own thought is that it is our common humanity, our shared human nature, which ought to make us wary of each other. I try to deal with the human species as it is rather than how I'd like it to be.

The modern White liberal thinks that all of human history is a huge misunderstanding. If only we could see how alike we are --"Don't the Russians love their children, too?", sang Sting -- all this fighting and hating would stop.

Only a child could believe this. (And if you observe children, fighting and hating are big on the menu.)

The second point was that since groups contain unique and complex individuals, it is wrong to judge them by the group's characteristics. Fair enough. But I never talked about individuals in that post. Straw man. I have, elsewhere. To recap: liking or disliking a single member of a group and your attitude toward the group itself are entirely and rightly dissociable. You can love your wife and detest her family, without hypocrisy. Same goes for any other group, including races. "Some of my best friends are..." is an achievement, not a flaw. My point is that individuals do indeed usually require a different set of assessments and behaviors. But that does not at all dissolve the group's identity. One Thomas Sowell does not make of America's Blacks a 40 million strong group of conservative intellectuals. Nor does one Ex Cathedra effect a similar miracle for gays.

To add to my sins, I could see taking a reserved-to-dim-to-unfriendly attitude toward individuals because they are vectors, seeders, of a group. This happens all the time, without moral grousing, when White gays move into a poor neighborhood, for example, and start fixing things up. It's called "gentrification"...which is usually a code word for having a POC neighborhood turn White. And it's perfectly OK to be against it. Who would begrudge a low income POC his dislike of the new boyz on the block if they are the harbingers of the transformation of it from his shabby home to a place he can no longer afford to live?

I'd give the same benefit to a person of Whiteness on the arrival of a Latino or Black in their neck of the woods. They might be very nice, but when their numbers increase, good things never happen. That, however, is raciss.

I assume that my commentor is either an emotional/ideological liberal --and so we talked past each other completely-- or an Enneagram 9, a compulsive peacemaker who cannot tolerate conflict. In any case, it is groups who determine the messy, bloody and competitive course of history and they are rarely friends-you-havent-met-yet. And individuals are often different from their groups, but what weight you give to all this (important or not) depends on the situation.

In America now, in the West now, I think my attitudes are pretty clear.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"when White gays move into a poor neighborhood, for example, and start fixing things up. It's called "gentrification"...which is usually a code word for having a POC neighborhood turn White."

I b'leev that Jim Goad pointed out that if whites move into a neighborhood, it's damnable "gentrification", but if they move out of an area, it's damnable "white flight" -- whatsacrackagonnado?


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