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Ramblings

Extremes
Posted by Henry Meyerding on Nov 22, 2013 - 11:15:22 PM

UNITED STATES—If you make the round of Youtube commentators, you will find a great number of social reviewers complaining about this group or that group seeking to take over and get things to go their own way, at everyone else’s expense. In this article, I am not going to pass judgment on the accuracy or justice of their comments. I am going to relate the different groups together because they all pretty much do the same things. Very, very different groups can engage in very, very similar group behaviors for a very, very simple reason: these strategies have high success rates.

The groups complained about generally fall into one of several broad
categories:

  • Human rights
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Politics
In Human Rights, I put those groups who claim to seek social and economic equality (and an end to prejudice and dis-inclusion) that is based on race, physiology, sex, sexuality, mentality, or gender. So, we have feminism, androgenism, the whole alphabet of LGBTQ, able/disabled folk, and others whose self professed identity and community is the issue.

Culture can be black culture, native American culture, Jewish culture, pick a country/ethnicity> culture. It can even be quilting culture or square dancing culture.

Religion is normally Big Religion, Fundamentalist Religion, and then the Women’s issues of Contraception and Abortion. These last two were originally a medical issue and a matter of public health, but have been converted almost entirely into a social cause or moral crusade.

In the USA, politics is divided into two groups:  Democrat/Republican and everybody else.  A great deal of political effort is expended by the former to make the majority of the people as apathetic as possible. It is so much easier to sway and deliver a small group of zealots than to convince a whole electorate. The latter group generally fights apathy, so they have a long, uphill row to hoe.

Almost all of the Human Rights groups share a facet of their identity in common:  they are victims. Their group or community was persecuted and
ignored for centuries, usually until the 20th century, when suddenly people became aware of this disadvantaged status and began a long, virtuous struggle to wrest equality and justice from everybody else. And this assessment is almost always correct. Women have historically had a really bad deal, almost everywhere in the world, for most all of time, and for no good reason. The same is true for people with disabilities of all kinds. Nobody needs to review the many wrongs perpetrated against
LGBT people.

As with many crusades, the facts of oppression for most groups are a bit vague but the feelings are true. If you doubt that, then tell me how lesbians were treated in 13th century Poland and list a few examples based on the lives of real people. Most people just assume that their group was always treated badly, and the further you go away from the present, the worse the treatment. This may generally be true. Much is known about actual abuse and persecution of people long ago and far away, but much of what people believe has been partially exaggerated to make a better story.

Of course, people who were the subject of injustice and inhumane and arbitrary prejudice almost always feel like the rest of us owe them something to make up for this. And if you criticize the rationality of giving social or economic redress to countless groups of victims, you will be slandered with every negative attribute or evil epithet imaginable. And this tirade of verbal (and sometimes physical) antagonism will build higher and deeper until you are removed from the stage of the debate or you shut entirely up. The problem with redress is that everyone is owed for something, somewhere. As Mark Twain said, "There is not an acre of ground on the globe that is in possession of its rightful owner or that has not been taken away from owner after owner, cycle after cycle, by force and bloodshed."

There is truth in the views of most groups, but each of these groups has its own collection of entirely unsubstantiated and often irrational TRUTHS that has been agreed to by groupthink - these are the beliefs that we shall not challenge or question on pain of virtual assassination or actual ostracism. It is usually fairly easy for an outsider of normal intelligence and critical acumen to find internal contradictions in these beliefs in a single afternoon of study, but if they are socially savvy, they will keep any reservations to themselves.

Different cultures generally collect a set of mutually agreed to historical facts or traditions, for which little or no actual evidence exists. These also must be swallowed whole. Many cultural communities means test their membership: not usually on the basis of money, but more often requiring an accident of geography or parentage to allow membership. I could have been born and raised in the same neighborhood, in a house identical to many others, equal of education,financial means and work experience, but I will never, ever, be able to share the black or native American experience. I can never be accepted, regardless of circumstances, as a genuine Korean or Irish person.

The astute reader will note that many of the same human rights issues
attach to the culture groups/ Many cultures experience the same legal and social exclusions that are the bread and butter of human rights activism.

Religion is a special case, both socially and historically in most every nation on earth. It is a peculiar distinction of the United States to be the first and still today one of only a handful of nations that has codified the separation of church and state as a hallmark of their governmental organization. This is a good thing. There has never been a political state of any size that did not unjustly persecute and exclude people after adopting a specific flavor of religion as the true and only religion. All kinds of Christian states have done it. Muslims do it and are, in fact, proud of it. Even Buddhists did it in Tibet. State religions lead inevitability to human rights abuses, period. Always did and probably always will. It doesn’t matter which religion. By their nature, religions have lists of people who are included, and people who aren’t.

Today, we have the circumstance where religion is attempting to carve for itself special consideration - the legal right to commit immoral acts for moral reasons. In England, many Muslims want to implement special religious courts, which will be empowered to pass legal judgments on an equal basis with the British Crown Courts. This is something organized religions do, if given half a chance. They are large, powerful institutions. They are full of powerful people with powerful irrational prejudices, and just like big business and multinational corporations they don’t give a fig about equality under the law or individual human rights. They want the power to decide issues according to their irrational beliefs. The will of the people does not exist in their cosmos, except as an inconvenient PR expense.

And then there is the political arena where all these issues are played out. In the US and elsewhere, there are a few powerful and influential groups and individuals, who sometimes share, and sometimes dispute power between themselves, and sell the results as the will of the people. They keep the peace mainly, and provide for a mostly secure and predictable environment for people and businesses to make money. About half of the electorate in the US disbelieve vehemently in “socialism” but really have no idea what socialism is. When they are actually asked, most Americans lean toward socialism, at least for people like them.

Those who care deeply about politics are like many of those who care
deeply about issues like human rights or religious liberty. They typically
assume a great deal but know very little. Ignorance is the currency of extremism of every kind. Extremism requires an irrational belief in things that ought to be true and therefore are true. Extremists abandon critical thought and reasoning, often out of a sincere fear that the real and actual truth isn’t something that they will like. We are becoming a nation of ideologues, abandoning ideals for ideas. This is a road that eads to chaos. Globally, this chaos is extremely damaging and, if we can’t find a way to work together, will lead inevitably to the deaths of billions of human beings in the foreseeable future. The real truth is difficult, it is even inconvenient and it is frightening.


 

Cliffside Malibu

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