Friday, January 26, 2018

Inclusion Delusions

     Just as there are some subjects about which it’s impossible to say too little, there are some subjects about which it’s impossible to say too much. I return to those latter subjects often, convinced that no matter how exhaustively I think I’ve covered them, there will always be more to do: more evidence to survey, more analysis to perform, and more ranting to provide.

     One of those inexhaustible subjects is how the typical American – perhaps the typical man – arrives at his political opinions and positions.

     Way, way back in 2003, during the Palace of Reason days, a brilliant young writer named Greg Beatty posted an essay titled “Quarter Pound Opinions.” It was among the most insightful pieces of the PoR era. Using Mark Twain’s little-known essay “Corn Pone Opinions” as a launching pad, Greg explored a phenomenon of great significance to public discourse, but one which virtually no one had been willing to address: mass marketing as a tool for creating mass conformity.

     Mass conformity must perforce include conformity in political positions and opinions. Here’s Greg’s peroration:

     Recall, if you will, Twain's corollaries of his slave performer's corn pone text. He said that the average man "cannot afford views that interfere with his bread and butter." In the world of the Quarter Pound opinion, it is become clear that a man, a woman, or a transgendered individual can hold any opinion he, she or s/he wishes, so long as that individual does not interfere with the flow of beef and bread. Oh, s/he can choose. Choose a Whopper, over a Quarter Pounder. Choose a Vegie Burger over a Quarter Pounder. Be daring, and choose a (vegetarian) Boca Burger over a Quarter Pounder! In 1901, a man had to "train with the majority" in order to prosper. In 2002, one can choose from a nearly infinite menu of meals/opinions. You don't have to think like the majority, so long as you shop like the majority. Eat like the majority. Grow fat and apathetic like the majority.

     And relax. It won't be unpleasant. In fact, it'll be fun. You'll never have to choose between conforming like Twain's good neighbors or laughing at subversive wit like Twain with his slave. No matter what you choose, there will be a performer to entice you into the checkout line with greater wit and originality than Twain's old friend. Like a retro feel? McD's offers Ronald McDonald, the classic clown. More fond of cutting edge humor and ethnic backlash? Try the "Yo quiero Taco Bell" dog. Masculine culture and radio drama scripting? The Budweiser lizards. And in each case, the dancing bear/ talking dog / capering clown of the franchise will be as charming as the spectacle-loving Twain could wish, but, rather like the slave Twain converted into a rhetorical prophet of individual freedom, will serve to make us at ease in our servitude.

     In 1901, Twain, that grand and witty prophet of clear thought, ended his essay by reviewing a recent controversy that not one person in a hundred could now identify, the argument over free silver. Twain suggested that not one person in ten on either side had rational backing for his position, and suggested that we all "do no end of feeling, and we mistake it for thinking."

     Greg was certainly correct that personal economic considerations constrain our personal political postures. But that’s not the end of the story.

     I’ve been sitting on this Ace of Spades essay about political versus social persuasion for several days, letting my thoughts orbit it in search of a way to complete its semi-explicit thesis. Here’s the bit that most engaged me:

     While the left wing continues winning arguments by not even having arguments at all, instead simply demonizing those who espouse any contrary position, the #SmartSet (citation required) of the establishment right continues believing, apparently earnestly and definitely ridiculously, that if they just out argue their political competitors, they'll change minds.

     They won't. Or not enough to actually matter. Because most people don't really care enough about these issues to really engage with them on an intellectual level; they just want to know what to claim to believe so that other people won't think they're weird, and deem them unfriendable, undatable, and poor candidates for promotion inside The Corporation.

     Combine this insight with that of Greg Beatty’s essay. Then answer the questions that few political commentators have dared to ask and none have dared to answer:

  • Does the typical American acquire his political opinions on issues through:
    1. Rational consideration?
    2. Utilitarian calculation?
  • If the prevalent answer is #2, what’s Mr. Typical American’s likely aim?
    1. A better America?
    2. Personal gain or protection?

     Don’t answer those questions with your own postures in mind; that’s likely to bias you. Try to gauge the “typical” case from the people you’ve known with whom you’ve swapped opinions. Take your time over it. Meanwhile, I need to fix another pot of coffee.

     Never before in American history have individuals been so much at risk from those around them. I’m not talking about risk of physical assault.

     The ongoing cartelization of the American economy, a project initiated under FDR’s “New Deal,” has resulted in more than half of our workers being employed by a mere 3000 companies: the “Fortune 3000.” There are still many small businesses in America, to be sure, but the era in which the small business was the dominant mode of economic advancement is well behind us. Today, the entrepreneur who hopes to prosper greatly seeks to sell his small business to a larger firm.

     Those 3000 companies don’t exactly have their workers by the balls, but they can put an awful big hurtin’ on them, should they so desire. The more narrowly specialized the worker, the greater his vulnerability to his employer – and ever-narrower specialization is the tenor of our times.

     Where Ace cites “social persuasion,” I’d include economic “persuasion” — the sort that “persuades” by threat: “Conform or find a new job – and good luck finding a new job.”

     Two years ago, I wrote:

     Consider the Left: first operationally, then ideologically. Its demands are unceasing. It never declares itself satisfied; it perennially insists that “rights” are being ignored, that “justice” has not yet been served. When not yet dominant, it adopts every new complaint, however minor or fatuous, as a part of its overarching cause, and every new complainant as part of its coalition. When fully in the saddle, as it was in the unlamented Soviet Union, its principal efforts go to eliminating dissidents.

     What does this tell us about the Left’s true doctrines? What do its unending, infinitely varying demands signify about its core beliefs? Equally to the point, what does its habit of adopting any and every anti-American notion and representative thereof say about its attitude toward American principles and ideals? Is it credible that there’s a rational ideology under all that?

     I claim that the Left in our time has no ideology. The only intention consistent with its behavior as delineated above is a determination to achieve total and irrevocable power over all persons, places, and things. That motive cannot be reconciled with any conception of freedom.

     It was an incomplete statement of the situation. I counted on my readers to infer far too much. I thought the title – “Not On Your Side” — should give the game away...but there’s that word again.

     It’s time to round the thing out.

     One by one, America’s large employers are being infiltrated, colonized, and subverted. The usual ingress route is the “Human Resources” department. HR departments are so greatly feared, including by the ultimate masters of the company, that they get their way nearly 100% of the time. When I wrote, in Love in the Time of Cinema, about this phenomenon:

     “The country was deep in the grip of the ‘diversity and inclusion’ fad. It started before you were born, and was pretty much a bad memory by the time you were old enough to notice. Noisy minorities were at their noisiest—and since a history of oppression was the legal and social coin of the realm, every one of them claimed to be ‘oppressed.’ The one getting the most attention at the time was ‘trans.’”
     I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. “A transportation company?”
     She chuckled. “No, biological men who wanted to be women, or to be treated as women. A very few biological women who wanted to be men, or treated as men. They called themselves ‘transwomen’ or ‘transmen.’”
     I barked a laugh. I couldn’t help it. I caught hold of it quickly, and forced myself back to seriousness.
     She smirked. “You can laugh because you have no idea how bad it was. But there was nothing funny about it. Even though there were only a few thousand of them all together, they were unbelievably successful at bending governments and institutions to their whim. They won privileges that very few people can imagine today.
     “Tim’s employer’s Human Resources department was run by a gaggle of vicious women—real ones, not ‘trans’—who’d already succeeded in enacting weird ‘sexual harassment’ rules and rules about how to treat persons of differing sexual orientations. You could get fired for daring to defy the company naturally the company’s vicious women and vindictive homosexuals used the rules like a club to subjugate or flat get rid of anyone they pleased.
     “Well, these insane HR harpies needed new worlds to conquer, so they decided to make ‘trans tolerance’ their next campaign. But they didn’t mean ‘show tolerance for the deluded.’ They meant to make differing with a delusional person—calling a ‘trans’ person by his birth name, or referring to him as ‘he’ when he claimed to be a ‘she’—a hangin’ offense.
     “They rewrote the personnel policies for the company for the umpteenth time. Corporate management gave in without a fight. The new policies included mandatory ‘sensitivity training’ seminars for the entire company. Until Tim was herded into one, he had no idea what was coming.
     “He sat through about twenty minutes of their harangue before he couldn’t take any more of it. He felt someone had to take a stand against the lunacy. And Tim being...well, Tim, he wasn’t going to wait for someone else to do it. So he stood up.
     “He told them their nonsense had gone far enough. He said the ‘trans’ types are obviously detached from reality. That they need therapy to help them accept themselves as they are, not reinforcement for their delusions. That we should treat the mentally ill with compassion but that it’s wrong to cooperate in their lunacy. And he said he wouldn’t bow to any rule, from HR or anyone else, that compelled him to think or speak or act otherwise. And he walked out.
     “His supervisor fired him immediately after the seminar. He didn’t have anything against Tim. In fact, he agreed with him. He just didn’t want to tangle with HR.”

     ...I was making use of a real event in which a friend of mine had been the victim. Yet even after he’d been fired for expressing his opinion about an entirely non-work-related issue, he could not see past his own mistreatment. He styled himself a liberal. He maintains that stance to this day.

     I should have pointed out to my friend that had he been heard to express himself elsewhere, he would have received exactly the same treatment. It didn’t occur to me. May God forgive me.

     But there’s this to consider: Imagine that rather than firing him immediately, he’d merely been subjected to the corporate version of “re-education:” “sensitivity training,” a signed confession of his sins, and so forth, at the conclusion of which he would pledge himself to toe HR’s line about transgenders henceforward. What would have followed?

     He might have held onto his job...but what would his prospects have been? Would he be sent off with a pat on the head, now a trustworthy, conformant corporate citizen? Or would he have been watched, his every utterance recorded and scrutinized, and his progress at that company placed behind those the Leftists at HR regard as “more reliable?”

     You know the answer.

     Down in the street the wind flapped the torn poster to and fro, and the word INGSOC fitfully appeared and vanished. Ingsoc. The sacred principles of Ingsoc. Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past. He felt as though he were wandering in the forests of the sea bottom, lost in a monstrous world where he himself was the monster. He was alone. The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? And what way of knowing that the dominion of the Party would not endure for ever? Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back to him:
     He took a twenty-five cent piece out of his pocket. There, too, in tiny clear lettering, the same slogans were inscribed, and on the other face of the coin the head of Big Brother. Even from the coin the eyes pursued you. On coins, on stamps, on the covers of books, on banners, on posters, and on the wrappings of a cigarette Packet — everywhere. Always the eyes watching you and the voice enveloping you. Asleep or awake, working or eating, indoors or out of doors, in the bath or in bed — no escape. Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull.

     [1984, of course]

     You cannot purchase the Left’s good will. Once you’ve given even the faintest indication that you reserve the right to dissent, that your opinions might vary from whatever BS they’re pushing, you’ve become a marked man, to be monitored forevermore. They will never trust you. They will never allow you any personal latitude. They will never think of you as “one of us.” No, not even should you report a slew of your confreres to be sacrificed on their politically correct altar.

     Winston Smith knew it. The very structure of the Party, whose “Outer” members had to endure the telescreens, the Two Minutes’ Hate, and the constant scrutiny of their co-workers, their neighbors, and their neighbors’ children, implied that one’s inclusion in the trusted “Inner” elite was unattainable. Once unreliable, always unreliable! You might make good fodder for some street demonstration, but you would never be allowed into the reaches from which positions are dictated and tactics are disseminated.

     Greg’s and Ace’s analyses are consistent with this recognition. Yet they too refrained from an explicit statement of the implications. It’s long past time to complete the argument.

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