Wednesday, October 11, 2017

“Not Like That”

WALKER: She's something, isn't she?

RACINE: (nods) A lovely lady.

WALKER: Yes, she is. I'm crazy about her. If I ever thought she was seeing another guy... I don't know. I'd understand how it could happen. Her being the way she is. I'd understand it. But I think I'd kill the guy with my bare hands.

RACINE: That's understandable.

WALKER: You wouldn't believe the dorkus she was with when I met her. The guy came to us with a business proposition. We're always looking for opportunities. If the conditions are right. We're willing to take an occasional risk, if the downside isn't too steep. But this guy hadn't done his homework, he didn't know the bottom line. That's how I knew he was full of shit. You've got to know the bottom line. That's all that really counts....He didn't have the goods, this guy. He was like a lot of guys you run into -- they want to get rich, they want to do it quick, they want to be there with one score....But they're not willing to do what's necessary. Do you know what I mean?

RACINE: I'm not sure. You mean, lay the groundwork? Earn it?

WALKER: No. I mean do what's necessary. Whatever's necessary.

RACINE: Yeah. I know that kind of guy. I can't stand that. It makes me sick.

WALKER: Me too.

RACINE: I'm not like that.

[Lawrence Kasdan, Body Heat]

     Most patterns do have exceptions. When the pattern is a negative one about people or a subgroup thereof, anyone affected by the pattern wants to be an exception. It’s possible that Smith, who’s part of the relevant group or closely connected to someone in it, and who wants that exception will have it. But what are the odds?

     Certain conspicuous patterns are receiving attention that make the affected parties unhappy. They greatly dislike the notion that because they’re Muslims, or illegal aliens, or left-liberals, or feminists, or politicians, they’ve been tagged with the negative characteristics the patterns attribute to those groups. Like seedy Florida lawyer Ned Racine, whom the beautiful, totally unscrupulous Matty Walker seduces into murdering her husband, they proclaim that “I’m not like that!” They want to be treated as exceptions. Sometimes they are treated that way...whether or not they deserve to be.

     Ned Racine wasn’t “like that” in one particular way – he was willing to kill to take Matty for himself – but he was “like that” in another – he wanted to “be there with one score.” The resolution of his ambitions worked out badly for him.

     Perceptible patterns among adequately defined groups are the basis of stereotypes. The late Joseph Sobran once called stereotypes “amateur sociology.” The bien-pensants are quick to denounce stereotypes, and to call anyone who makes use of one a bigot of some sort. But a stereotype that doesn’t prove accurate more often than not would not last. If the exceptions outnumber those who conform, making the pattern more illusory than real, they can’t fairly be called exceptions.

     In his “Ten Conservative Principles,” the late Russell Kirk, one of the godfathers of contemporary conservatism, expressed a sense that stereotypes and the prejudices they sometimes animate have a place we should not deny to them:

     It is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality. The individual is foolish, but the species is wise, Burke declared. In politics we do well to abide by precedent and precept and even prejudice, for the great mysterious incorporation of the human race has acquired a prescriptive wisdom far greater than any man’s petty private rationality.

     Despite the wisdom it expresses, there are some limitations to Kirk’s defense of prescription according to longevity of usage. It is unfair and unjust, for example, to judge an individual on any basis other than his individual character and merits – if one has the time and opportunity to find out what those are. But as is the case wherever it appears, the critical word in the previous sentence is if.

     If the pattern is sound, the exceptions will be fewer than the conformants. We may wish it were otherwise; indeed, in many cases it will be our fondest desire. But desire is not a basis for rational thought.

     Some patterns have a discernible origin point in time. Some have a discernible end point. If either or both of those can be determined, the pattern’s utility can be confined to the relevant interval. However, a pattern that is currently ongoing should receive the appropriate respect. The cautions it implies should not be dismissed.

     Consider contemporary feminism, sometimes called “third wave” feminism. Though only a minority of American women currently call themselves feminists, feminist convictions are more commonplace than the candid acceptance of the label. In other words, more American women hold feminist convictions than are willing to admit to a man, at least. The pattern among women who hold those convictions is to regard men as oppressors and enemies. More, those beliefs will inevitably express themselves in their treatment of the men in their lives. That makes it rather important for a man who’s considering a romantic entanglement to determine whether the object of his affections is such a woman.

     However, “third wave” feminism didn’t really get started until the Seventies. Prior to that, its defining premises were exceedingly rare. Romance was considerably safer for men in the previous years. Should “third wave” feminism burn out and become a memory of an unpleasant era in male-female relations, happy days would be here again.

     Meanwhile, a substantial number of women – the ones who aren’t moaning “Where have all the good men gone?” – must somehow convey to their current romantic interests that “I’m not like that.” It’s proving to be a tough sell, for two overriding reasons:

  • The pattern has many more conformants than exceptions among American women;
  • Actions speak more loudly than words.

     The second of those observations is one of the oldest maxims of prudence. Ralph Waldo Emerson phrased it most memorably: “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” The exceptional woman’s great obstacle is this: until he permits her to insinuate herself rather deeply into his life and affairs, she’ll have a very hard time demonstrating by her actions that she really isn’t “like that.”

     Analogous observations could be made about Muslims, illegal aliens, left-liberals, and politicians.

     These days, a member of a group that exhibits a negative pattern has a harder time establishing that he’s “not like that” than a few decades ago. The downside risk to the person(s) he’s trying to persuade is higher than it’s ever been. Identity politics plays an important role in this, but there are other factors, such as our greatly accelerated social atomization, that should not be neglected.

     If you identify with some generally understood group, the above is for you quite as much as for those you’d like to persuade that you’re “not like that.” Consider it in light of my exhortations not to be a “joiner.” The recognition of the relationship between those two subjects would do the people of this nation a great deal of good.

1 comment:

Reg T said...

"If he's not like that", he's not a muslim.

muslims define themselves by the qur'an, by their adherence to it, their observance of the commands of the qur'an. muslims speak - themselves - of the fact that they cannot be considered muslims if they do not obey the dictates of the qur'an.

So, a person from a muslim country, or who has been born to, and raised by, a muslim family, may consider himself/herself a muslim, but if they follow _some_ of the qur'an, but not all of it , they are, ipso facto, _not_ a muslim.

Those so-called moderates muslims, if they are not indulging in taqiyya in order to be safe, are not true muslims. They are apostates, and subject to a penalty of death for having known islam and turned away from it.

ISIS is the perfect expression of islam. Those muslims _are_ "like that" (most of them, at least, if not all of them). They are orthodox, fundamentalists. What they do and how they do it would indeed be "pleasing to allah", if that made-up, make-believe construct was real.

So, muslims differ from illegal aliens, although I think that left-liberals are about as disturbed and gullible as muslims, although they have a variety of gods: Anthropogenic Global Warming, Socialism, Abortion, Globalism, etc.

Politicians are similar to muslims, but their god lives in the mirror. Their version of the qur'an is rather short: Anything for money. Anything for power. Don't get caught. Blame it on someone else. Did I mss anything?