Saturday, September 19, 2015

Skills Versus Wisdom

     Many a man, once he has demonstrated some skill we value, will thereafter assume a pose of superior knowledge, insight, and wisdom over those who have purchased his wares. This is particularly the case with those whom we can’t seem to eject from our living rooms no matter how forcefully we change the channel: entertainers.

     Celebritarianism has intensified the assault on our senses and sensibilities to an alarming amplitude. I've argued for quite some time that the skill of an entertainer should not cause the entertained to impute knowledge, insight, or wisdom to him, but to little or no avail. Does a day ever go by when we’re not slathered with the social, economic, or political opinions of some celebrity, who, whatever his demonstrated skill, has shown us no reason to care about his opinions on such things? I’m sure I’m not the only American who’s getting tired of it all – but I’m equally sure that the barrage will continue. Celebrities gotta celebritate, don’t y’know.

     Dystopic has presented us with another data point on the graph: fantasy novelist Tad Williams. Please read the article for the only sample you’ll ever need. This is the mark of the “social justice warrior,” armed and on the march. Sheathed in the armor of his assumption of differential rectitude, he sallies forth to tell us about all the ways that “Republicans are like Nazis.” Of course he provides the usual insincere disclaimer:

     Of course it’s an oversimplification, and it’s in no way meant to suggest Republicans are actually Nazis. (Although there is a curious area of Venn diagram overlap, especially when it comes to racist beliefs and unthinking nationalism.)

     That’s merely a sample of the contempt Williams displays for those of us on the Right. He goes on to employ every vile rhetorical tactic “social justice warriors” have deployed since the Left first arose. The sole pity of his remarks is that though he is a skilled entertainer, his remarks and the attitude they convey will prejudice readers, both current and potential, against his works.

     SJWs are like that. They insist on imposing their political and social opinions on everyone and everything. And of course, they know they're right, which is why they so often burst into tears or erupt into violence when contradicted by a person of other views. Thus they destroy whatever else of value they might have to offer.

     Some years ago, I had the misfortune to be introduced to Abe, an SJW – we didn’t yet use that term for them – by some friends who thought it would be amusing to see us strike sparks from one another. I was informed beforehand that Abe was older than I, well to do, and intelligent, but nothing more.

     Abe latched onto me from the moment we were introduced...and from the moment we were introduced I was desperate for an escape hatch. For Abe, a social occasion meant yet another opportunity to impart his political views to some poor benighted soul who had yet to receive the blessing of his wisdom. That evening I was the poor benighted soul.

     I did my best to restrain myself despite Abe’s many provocations – I was in someone else’s home, after all – but there came a point where I could no longer do so. It arrived when Abe contemptuously dismissed George W. Bush, then the president, as a person of no competence who deserves no respect, because to Abe, Bush’s Christianity meant that “he needs the comfort of an imposed structure.”

     That did it. “Are you aware,” I said, “that you’re speaking to a devout Catholic?” I turned on my heel and stalked away. I must have sounded pretty fearsome, for Abe cringed and backed sharply away. He made a point of staying well away from me during the short interval before Beth and I took our leave.

     Here’s the sad part: Abe was reasonably intelligent and engaged with the world. We differed sharply, but if you allowed him his premises, most of his positions were logically defensible. We might have had a nice exchange on matters of mutual interest, if only he could have kept his politics from displacing whatever else he had to offer. But as I said above, SJWs are like that.

     Ace once pointed out that, though we on the Right are the ones seeking to depoliticize American life and culture, nevertheless we talk politics almost constantly. The contradiction is more apparent than real, but it still disturbs many persons who’d rather have less political jabber in their lives. In this regard, the failings of the SJWs should be a warning to us. We’re as capable as they of driving people away, particularly if we initiate hostilities by comparing Democrats or their party to Nazis, Communists, Scientologists, Hare Krishnas, or fans of Sinead O’Connor.

     I must admit to having fallen short of that standard more than once. I have strong opinions – surprise, surprise – and there are times when they “get away from me.” Anyone who believes himself to be correct about matters where many others are incorrect can succumb to the temptation. However, there’s a worse pitfall, which I wrote about here.

     At the core of true wisdom is the virtue of humility. Dystopic reminds us of it with a quote from Socrates:

     I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.

     Keeping always in mind that anyone, including you, can be wrong about anything is the sovereign remedy for the offenses discussed here. It causes us to focus, when interacting with others, on what our demonstrable skills equip us to offer those others that they might value. It also elicits important information, according to whether the others respond in kind.

1 comment:

Dystopic said...

This entire thing was surreal for me. I mean, this man genuinely sees those to his right as Nazi-ish, despite no obvious Nazi-like characteristics.

Of course, as with Abe, this man has an intellect, and the capacity to reason. He as achieved a measure of success and fame for his work.

That he spends his time on the internet comparing Republicans to Nazis is just bizarre. I was surprised I got a reaction out of him at all, but calling him an imbecile for making the ayatollah comparison must have struck a nerve. To him, Republicans are THAT bad. The rest of the debate degenerated into Tad declaring that he was a smarter and wiser sort of man.

He and his supporters obviously didn't see anything wrong with this. The could not see why the comparison was a blatant category error. Celebrity worship is probably a part of that, for such people are often surrounded by sycophants, but it was still surreal.

One author I know saw the exchange and was surprised that Tad would be so open with such views, especially unsolicited, as it would likely cost him readers. But, like Abe, he could not refrain.

If anything, the experience has served me well, for I suspect I may have been on my way to becoming a Right wing equivalent. His clear lunacy, lack of restraint, surety of rightness, and contempt for those unlike him is a great example of the sort of man I do not wish to become.

God teaches us in funny ways, sometimes.