Advice for Misfits: The Snobberies
My Curious Reading
Advice for Misfits
Change comes about when complying with a new idea is more rewarding than defying it.
The reward may be pure gain (spring-cleaning your closets to earn a few bucks at a yard sale). Or, procrastination may reduce reward to alleviation, of nuisance or suffering (hiring a dumpster to get rid of everything, so you can move on time).
But the stakes have to be fixed, before a personal goal becomes shared, before a debatable good can win the ascendency. A woman worried about ocean pollution who lectures a stranger sipping from a plastic bottle, may berate him into a change of position…
And this may be from using the trash can (even recycle bin), to tossing the bottle on the street, defiant.
Politics is a sly game; its practitioners can range from the crude to the criminal. To one dreaming of a world cleansed of lobbyists and back door deal-makers, the dance of promising and withholding, the tactics of negotiation, may seem like giving in to the enemy.
Of course the broadest category of idealism is easy to opt into. We should do the right thing…we would like to do the right thing.
But as with the above example, the person who is already trying won’t feel, introduced to a higher plane of “caring”, shamed into matching the effort. This is a mild unhinging, this slap in the face to good intentions. (As well, this assumption of bad will before intentions are known.)
The worst unhinging is scorn for, or disbelief of, traditional ethics. Upholding the law is important because my rights are your rights; and your rights are my rights. If you or I have learned to find some class inferior to ours, and to see our rights in conflict with theirs…the underlying principle that I protect your property and your liberty, because I respect my own property and liberty, has lost its anchor.
Our sympathies are limited to those we class in with ourselves. We see others threatening the rights of “our kind”, not by committing crimes against these rights, but by wanting them. And so we no longer generate protections in the manner of a democratic society, but in the manner of a fascist society.
In an earlier essay, I mentioned the weird capacity of the internet for putting people artificially at odds with one another. More to the point, with complete strangers. If you see an article headlined, “This Recipe Will Make You Love Broccoli”, you may skip reading it, but you probably won’t get angry, and feel personally attacked.
If you see, “Why Your Back Pain Is All in Your Mind”, you may.
Both are contentions; both directed towards “you”—but written for a general audience. You can disagree with the first, and pass it by, without fearing this implied threat to be a warning sign (of the Broccopalypse?); the other, assuming you have back pain, perhaps are out of work and relying on medication, may feel disruptive to you…that someone out there might campaign to make your life impossible.
The articles really carry the same weight. If one inspires you to write an angry comment, you have given its contention—not an authoritative one—more feedback, a higher rating in stats…and you’ve increased the chance of being offended by more of its type.
“Bogening” is my own individual term for this, derived from the above cartoon. It is a kind of defense, or ploy mimicking a defense, in which a person or group is given license both to act and be free of culpability for having acted.
The mad scientist will answer questions frankly, until he is asked to produce documentation, or recall specifics. At this point, he tells investigators that Mrs. Bogen is in charge of keeping all the records. He has already implied it would be unfair, and against a sort of localized patriotism, to drill Mrs. Bogen and force a truthful and detailed statement from her. A Mrs. Bogen serves this purpose—of being entrusted with responsibility, but too feeble, too put-upon, to be held accountable.
When of late we’ve seen this foisted-on-America notion, that large numbers of people can be too good-hearted, too hard-working, basically too burdened with the virtue of simplicity—too much the human incarnation of a rippling flag, or gingham tablecloth in an old-time eatery, not to be cruelly insulted by demands for rationality—we’ve seen Bogening in action. To vote is a sacred right. To anticipate that the candidate you favor will reflect in office his well-established track record, is a small and meetable challenge.
And yet, in true Bogening fashion, it is held snobbish and unkind to blame the Simple and the Good for not voting intelligently.
The A/W sequence.
(The above video contains salty language.)
Let us say the red barn is artifactualized. It is made symbolic of a set of values, representing all virtues of patriotism, true-Americanism, of older, more god-fearing times—such times as have been willfully trampled by the sin-embracing left.
Having been artifactualized, the barn becomes weaponized:
A couple from the city survey their newly purchased weekend property and decide, “That barn looks rickety, we ought to pull it down.” A normal concern becomes characterized as an outsider’s attack on local sentiments. These outsiders know nothing of “our” way of life (and will never be permitted to share it). It must be seen an act of arrogance, the arrogance of the elite. The city couple would be styled as “hating” the locals; the locals would hate in return…not a human being, but an artifactualized stand-in, who symbolizes the interfering ways of the educated…the spoiled generation, socialist-leaning types, those who haven’t worked hard enough to understand what hard work is.
(Now, you’ll note there are real issues with weekend properties. When the habit spreads into economically depressed areas, it drives up property values and harms the housing market for the people who live there all the time.)
Bearing in mind the first rule of honor is: You don’t say behind someone’s back what you fear saying to his face (though this principle is somewhat compromised in online debates with strangers)—what is fair, or almost a duty to call out, and what is unfair?
Fighting against destabilizing tactics, that if not routinely trimmed, tend to propagate themselves.
- Bad argumentation. 1) All ad hominem attacks. 2) Using a tangent to divert the point; to make the discussion a facile contest between a wrong universally agreed on, and a right difficult to define—free speech contentions often come under this heading. 3) A type of seeming advocacy that is at heart an impulse to stir trouble (making it a fault to complain of ill-treatment, making the perpetrator the victim), as in the “boys will be boys” dismissal of bullying.
- Damaging hypocrisies. Reaching back in time for something detrimental to the other person; wanting to make this the equivalent of your own or your party-mate’s present evil. Wanting the sin of another person to count differently from your own.
- Lies that promote injustice or criminal activity.
Those things once recognized as “foibles”.
- If a woman says, “I can’t find any jeans small enough to fit my waist”, you might call this self-flattery. You don’t need to call it anything out loud. It is a foible in its own right to suppose others who encounter such statements don’t understand the nature of them until you have pointed it out. You will make her feel bad; you will not have improved the world for doing so.
- Maybe you would rather not hear someone say brutum fulmen, or faute de mieux…but it’s easy to look things up these days. Maybe you’d grit your teeth if someone pronounced divisive: de-vih-zive. But consider how nuts it is to derive an entire character for another person out of a minor habit, then to despise her for it. Elitist snobbery? Social climbing? Why not just a shrug?
- Tiny hypocrisies. She says she’s a liberal, but she’s always buying things at Wal-Mart. He tells me to exercise…look at what a lard-bucket he is! And so forth. We always aspire to do better than we manage to do. Which, as Robert Browning would tell you, is a good thing. And again, to be that person past whom such faults never get, doesn’t make the world a better place.
Advice for Misfits
(2018, Stephanie Foster)