Friday, July 20, 2018

Finding The Middle Ground

     The news is mostly not very newsy, so for this morning’s tirade I thought I might venture into the currently underpopulated realm where contemporary political rhetoric doesn’t willingly tread: the imagined “middle ground” that harmonizes the positions of Left and Right without doing unacceptable damage to either.

     It’s a very small district, actually. Vanishingly small, according to the cynics. So small you could conceal it behind a cat’s whisker. It’s so small that it might not exist at all. A fair number of persons would say so.

     They just might be right about that. But was it always so?

     It’s easy to construct a gedankenexperiment in which the non-existence of a middle ground is obvious, whether on moral or on practical grounds. For example, suppose Congressional Democrats were to propose the immediate execution of all male American heterosexuals. Now, I don’t propose to speak for you, Gentle Reader, but I’d be against that. But what would a “middle ground” advocate propose? Execute only half of us? Phase it in over a five year period? Or maybe just take a limb from each one?

     Hearken to Robert A. Heinlein about such fantasies:

     Then there was the tertium quid, the flexible mind, the “reasonable” man who hardly had a mind to change--he favored negotiation; he thought we could “do business” with the titans. One such committee, a delegation from the caucus of the opposition party in Congress, actually attempted negotiation. Bypassing the State Department they got in touch via a linkage rigged across Zone Amber with the Governor of Missouri, and were assured of safe conduct and diplomatic immunity--"guarantees" from a titan, but they accepted them; they went to St. Louis--and never came back. They sent messages back; I saw one such, a good rousing speech adding up to, “Come on in; the water is fine!”
     Do steers sign treaties with meat packers?

     The “titans” mentioned above are sentient slugs with the ability to master a man’s mind and body through any sufficiently substantial connection to his nervous system. They want slaves. What middle ground exists between freedom and slavery?

     When the two sides seek outcomes that are morally opposed, or which for practical reasons cannot be simultaneously served, compromise is impossible. No middle ground exists. But what if the predicate condition above were not to apply? What if the two sides agreed both on moral principles and the ultimate end to be served?

     That would change the landscape dramatically, wouldn’t it?

     Consider prosperity / poverty and their simultaneous existence in American society. Imagine if the following web of conditions were to exist:

  • Left and Right agree on the objective conditions that constitute poverty;
  • They also agree that poverty is not the fault of the prosperous;
  • They also agree that the end to be sought is the elimination of poverty, as far as possible;

     Under those conditions – always assuming everyone involved in the matter is sincere about holding the postulated convictions – a middle ground might exist. Moreover, any proposed program for the reduction and/or elimination of poverty would have a built-in test criterion: Is poverty in America declining, or isn’t it? If the answer were “no, it’s increasing (or holding steady),” the program would be deemed to have failed...and both Left and Right would agree to terminate it.

     Unwillingness to terminate a program that has failed its stated objective is incontrovertible evidence of insincerity.

     All that having been said, is the American Left sincere about wanting to eliminate poverty? Has it ever been sincere? Are there any Democrats in Congress to whom we could impute sincerity on this subject with reasonable assurance?

     Here’s another one: transgenderism. This is an emotional disorder recognized by the mental health community. However, that same community has conceded that it lacks an effective therapy for the sufferer. For some percentage of those who claim to be “born the wrong sex,” the only alleviation available is to permit them to “transition:” i.e., to live as the other sex, whether merely in cosmetic matters or after some amount of surgery.

     There are hard-liners on either side of this. On the Left, there are those who claim that being regarded and treated as the sex you prefer is some sort of inalienable right, regardless of any other consideration. On the Right, there are those who claim that the desire to represent yourself as other than your birth sex is incontrovertible evidence of a serious mental delusion that mandates your involuntary commitment until you’ve been cured of it. Those two camps are at war over the matter.

     Yet a middle ground appears to be available: If you can “pass” as the sex you prefer to be, and commit no offenses against others in doing so, we’ll tolerate you. That is: we’ll treat you as the sex you prefer to assume. We won’t discriminate against you in any way. Why would we, after all? You look and act as what you want to be. The social cost of such an agreement-to-tolerate would be infinitesimal.

     The “bearded guy in a dress” obviously can’t meet the toleration standard. But Blaire White could – and does. So the matter is soluble without violating anyone’s rights or privacy.

     Today there isn’t much middle ground available between Left and Right, mostly for reasons of moral incompatibility. The Left is almost droolingly eager to eliminate what remains of Americans’ freedom and prosperity. The Right – by and large, anyway – is struggling to preserve both. (From that summary of the matter I’d imagine you can tell which side I’m on.) The return of a politics in which middle-ground approaches to agreed-upon objectives can be found requires that one side or the other prevail absolutely. Any attempt to compromise between those incompatible moral stances would be doomed before it starts.

     With that I yield the floor to my Gentle Readers.


Glenda T Goode said...

Compromise is when you share a pie or a cake. The stakes are not really important so the results of a compromise or, the middle ground, are not serious either.

The biggest problem with the middle ground is when it lies between two ideologies. Usually when there are two or more ideologies it means that there are distinctly different opinions/beliefs about something. In order for there to be 'middle ground' one or both need to abandon their strongly held belief(s). This is just not going to happen even if someone says they will do it. Beliefs or 'isms' are usually concepts that are trusted beyond question. Even when presented with 5 pages of logic why the 'ism' is not accurate, the holder of this belief will not relent. It is as if instinct has adopted the belief as fact regardless.

I have observed that the best way to negotiate with others is to try to assume a 'live and let live' relationship and by doing so, respect the differences instead of muddying the waters with theories of unity. Simply, these theories of compromise do not exist. What does exist is a huge gulf of difference that will not be bridged by soothing words or fanciful logic.

The middle ground is actually a void that represents the distance agreed to in order to respect that the other holds differing opinions. This empty space is used to buffer one party from the other to avoid encounters that will result in serious dispute. This is the only middle ground that actually has a chance to work.

As to gender/sexual preference and all other aspects of human behavior, I will agree not to judge anyone if they can keep their private business private. As eloquently stated by our host,

"If you can “pass” as the sex you prefer to be, and commit no offenses against others in doing so, we’ll tolerate you. "

This may sound like a compromise but in reality it is not. In essence, conform to our society and all is well. The flip side is do not make a mockery of yourself to others. You cannot ask people to tolerate that which they find unacceptable for any reason. People are entitled to their own beliefs and opinions despite what the left wing loons say.

Modern society has been, and will continue to be, a process of conformance. People naturally gravitate towards people of similar beliefs and values. Religion is both a symptom and an aspect of this. We are happier when our values, morals and preferences are reinforced by the presence of others of the same stripe. These values do not dictate that all members of a group adhere completely to a value set. They require the appearance of conformance. This hearkens back to the quote above. In short, if things seem normal, they are.

Middle ground is a myth and as long as people seek it, they will be forever in conflict.

jabrwok said...

Trans-sexualism is a lie made flesh. Doesn't really matter whether the trannie looks and acts convincingly like a member of the sex he is not, he's still not what he pretends to be. Your example of Blair White is a case in point. He's obviously spent a lot of money making himself look like a woman. How many children will he bear?

For any society to survive, a certain level of trust between strangers in that society is required. If one cannot trust that a person who appears to be of one sex or the other actually *is*, then one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity becomes questionable, and NO ONE who appears to be one sex or the other can be trusted to actually be such. Given the degree of surgical artistry available, how is a man supposed to know that any given woman is actually female and capable of bearing young? If a trannie, who's already displayed a profound neurological disorder simply by trying to present himself as being of the opposite sex, also has no compunction about lying about his condition, the the prospective mate is being lied to twice, and may find himself in a very unenviable circumstance, with possibly fatal consequences for the liar who created the situation. Who does this benefit?

daniel_day said...

I think pedophilia is a matter of very broad agreement between the sides, in spite of some publicized appeals for acceptance by pedophiles in partnership with other deviants.

Francis W. Porretto said...

jabrwok: Tell me how a TS who passes as well as Blaire White, and who doesn't hide his / her nature from anyone who needs to know it, infringes on your rights, or anyone else's, and I'll grant your point some substance. But the subject is tolerance, not whether you could breed with some random individual passing on the street. That would be a strange sort of "right" to assert.

There are persons wandering about freely who have all manner of delusions. But as Heinlein has written, delusions are often functional. If the belief that one was "born the wrong sex," followed by adequate measures to simulate that other sex, allows someone to be acceptably functional rather than confined to an asylum, I have no problem with it. I won't condone cruelty toward the innocent, whether deluded or not. I certainly wouldn't tolerate DNA testing at restroom doors. Would you?

jabrwok said...

Fran, I'm not saying that White is violating my rights, only that he's undermining social trust by violating natural norms. His self-expression, and that of other trannies, calls into doubt the sex of *everyone* and thereby weakens the trust needed to maintain social cohesion.

Doesn't the Bible condemn cross-dressing? Seems a trivial thing nowadays, but it's the same problem. By blurring the line between the sexes, cross-dressing and trans-sexualism both weaken the trust between strangers that's necessary to maintain a civil, and cohesive, society. Will trans-sexualism, in itself, bring about the end of society? Probably not, but it will contribute. There are some things that need to be obvious, and individual sex is one of the big ones.

I don't favor DNA testing at restroom doors either (unless the owner of the establishment wants to do so and provides the means, in which case I have no problem with it), but if someone were to invent a handheld, non-invasive DNA testing device I expect it would sell well, even if it only identified the target's biological sex.

I recall a story at, I think, Instapundit (no link, alas) from some years ago. A young man was dating a woman and started to get serious. The woman's sister notified him that he was actually dating a man. When confronted, the "woman" admitted that "she" was going to tell him about it after they'd done the deed. The relationship ended and the young man started dating the sister. The parents chose to side with their son, and as of the writing of the article, they were trying to reconcile with the daughter who'd married the young man and borne him some children.

Had the sister not notified the young man that he was pursing a man, the ending could've been much uglier. No guarantees, but the issue never should've arisen. He was basically a victim of sexual fraud.

Not everyone is as open about these things as White.

A related concern, if someone is so neurologically damaged that he's willing to go to Moreauvian lengths to pursue his vision, what *else* is wrong with him? How can anyone ever be confident that the individual will adhere to other social norms given how far he's already violated them? Possibly the sex-change is his only kink, but again, one cannot be confident of that, and demands that we assume otherwise are damaging to social trust.

To address your point about tolerance, I'm not advocating pogroms or cruelty, but I'm not seeing calls just for "tolerance" anymore. I'm seeing calls for celebration. Gays used to just want to be tolerated too. Now if one expresses dislike for same-sex marriage, or implies that there's something neurologically sub-optimal about homosexuality, one is condemned as a monster. Jobs are lost, and violence isn't impossible. How do we keep tolerance from becoming mandatory support *cough*Bradley/Chelsea Manning*cough*?

I pity those people afflicted with sexual identity disorder, as I pity anyone with any other kind of neurological, physiological, or psychological affliction which impairs survival or reproductive chances, but I'm not going to pretend that such defects are *not* defects, nor that mindless acceptance has no detrimental social consequences. I'd much rather see research into the biological causes of such defects and the means of curing, or at least preventing, them (aside from aborting the defective children). But even *that* is beyond the pale nowadays.

I apologize for the length of this response. It's a complex topic.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Be careful about “next demand / slippery slope” reasoning, Jabr. (I.e., “If I allow you this, next you'll demand that.”) Yes, it’s possible, and we’ve seen it with regard to several recent developments. But it’s not guaranteed. “How do we keep tolerance from becoming mandatory support?” By saying no, and being firm about it.

The Old Testament says a lot of stuff. But Christ's New Covenant supersedes it, and the Redeemer said nothing about clothing choices (unless you include “Consider the lilies of the field,” etc.).

The “social trust” argument is insubstantial. Imagine for a moment that you and I were to pass one another on the street. That’s all: just pass one another. You don't know me; I don't know you; and never again shall we meet. What need would you have to know my birth sex? For that matter, how would uncertainty about my sex be at all relevant to your life? More than 99% of your encounters with others will be brief, impersonal, and transient. I can’t see how you’d need to know the conformation of those folks’ genitals at birth, unless you're the sort who approaches perfect strangers and asks them out.

Social cohesion arises from uniform respect for rights, especially property rights, and from the ability to trust others’ promises. It’s unaffected by matters that arise solely in a private / personal context. Your citation of a blatant fraud:

— A young man was dating a woman and started to get serious. The woman's sister notified him that he was actually dating a man. When confronted, the “woman” admitted that “she” was going to tell him about it after they'd done the deed. — far from the order of seriousness of merely passing as the opposite sex.

Interestingly enough, I received the following recently in an email from a transwoman friend in Colorado:

— [S]he has to tell him at some point. That's definitely a question that comes up when transwomen date men: when do you tell your date about your unique past? It's kind of a “You dare not act too soon or too late” situation. If you speak up too soon, it can kill the guy's interest before any relationship gets off the ground....Yet waiting too long can cause even worse problems; men have been known to be driven into murderous rage by such revelations, and then manage to get off the hook for their actions afterwards by claiming the so-called "trans panic" defense. –

My own preference, were I still young and single, would be to know right up front. If “she” were to conceal the matter from me for even one date, I’d regard it as a reason not to trust “her,” and would not see her again. But that would not be a reason to condemn “her” or any other transsexual as somehow weakening social cohesion.

The topic is only this complex: Can transgenderism be tolerated given certain guarantees and constraints? I maintain that it can, but I’ll allow that more experience with the matter lies before us.

Pascal said...

You've done a nice job of laying out one of the subjects I've lamented with you over the years. You even did a nice job of using a variation of my examples on how insane some requests for compromise can be. Of course, you tend not to take it the extra step as I frequently do to arrive at an unpleasant conclusion. Unpleasant not because it's unlikely, but more because it admits to allowing ourselves to be repeatedly duped and/or display a bit of cowardice.

Well, you did say you were leaving it to your Gentle Readers. And, for reasons that are simmering in me, that adjective may not apply just now.

The most insincere are not on the Left. It is those in high position hiding out on the Right who come down like a ton of bricks on those who wish to stand by their principles on any issue. So insincere that they then may say they were wrong to insist on compromise when some program they put their weight behind later failed. That is because they will do it again and again when it's their turn in rotation.

See, it's rinse and repeat on subsequent issues, but with a different member of the GOPe jumping down the throats of, say, a TEA Party newbie.

This charade of "let's compromise or we'll get rid of you" that has aided the ever more intrusive thin-entering-wedge to incrementally advance "progressive" agendas over the last century has led to an immense bill that most likely will come due quite suddenly. And unpleasantly.

Those who wished to stand by their principles were the only ones who were mostly right. They saw us suffering today and did not wish on us this burden.

Faith in Justice may be all that remains because the worst offenders have already passed (today's are more dunce than villain) on knowing that sudden day would come after they would not have to endure it.

Is this conclusion that hard to arrive at Fran? I surely hope not, because it is going to be hard to refute entirely.

Amy Bowersox said...

I'm the trans woman that Fran just mentioned.

Like Blaire White, I also "pass" readily for my gender, not merely in appearance, but in mannerisms and even tone of voice. In fact, I have spoken at length to a number of people who had no idea I was trans until such time as I mentioned something, perhaps related to "my transition," that clued them in. Women and men who pass me in the halls of my office building often greet me politely, and I return the greeting, with no indication that they know my true origins, or that they are treating me as anything other than I am.

I have a partner, so I'm not in the dating market, and, even then, I prefer women over men. I have a friend, however, who is also a trans woman, and has tried to date men. As soon as they find out about her origins, they tend to lose interest. Very few people are open-minded enough to handle it, and it's better that she find out now, rather than after they become intimate (which she could do; she has had gender confirmation surgery, I have not yet done so). Still, I can sense the pain of her loneliness in every Facebook post she makes on the subject--but better lonely than maimed or killed.

My intentions have never been to deceive anybody, but only to live my own truth. I go to work on a daily basis, and do my job, for which I am well-paid; the fact that I do so now wearing skirts and dresses is not relevant. I spend a great deal of time with my charitable pursuits (especially lipsyncing and dancing on stage for tips), seeking to raise money for worthy causes...and not all of them LGBT-related either. I engage in many different minor interactions on a daily basis, at the grocery store, the drive-through, the hair salon, the bank, the computer store, even over the air on a local amateur radio repeater. At all times I have been treated with courtesy, addressed as "Ma'am" and "Miss" appropriately, or by my name as I give it, and referred to with feminine pronouns.

This is all I ask of the people around me: treat me as you would any other woman. Because that's what I am, and what I was fated to be, regardless of the circumstances of my birth. You don't have to like it. You don't even have to understand it, though it is my hope that you will. When I'm not around, you can stick pins into a voodoo doll of me for all I care. But just accord me the social courtesy of a woman...and I, in turn, pledge to appear and act in accordance with that social expectation of me. Which I do, because I am acting in accordance with my own self-image.

Not all of my sisters may pass as well as I do. They may have physical issues that preclude them from doing so. But, as long as they're trying, please also accord them the same courtesy; among other things, it helps act as a positive reinforcement, which helps them continue and improve their efforts to pass in the long run.

I'm always willing to answer polite questions about trans people and my own experience, because it has been my firm belief that the more people know us, and know what makes us the way we are, the fewer people will hate and fear us. And reducing the amount of unnecessary hate and fear in the world is never a bad thing.

Manu said...

For trans folks... I share your general opinion. If they make the effort to pass, I'm willing to just table the whole damned issue. And if their belief is correct - that they are really women in some mental sense (a 'female' brain or what have you), or have female souls - whatever the argument is - you would think that they would want to appear as female as possible.

In other words, you'd expect they'd be making a BIG effort to live as women.

So guys with beards in dresses trying to insert themselves into the women's bathroom... that doesn't square with the whole trans argument. Neither does this "gender fluid/gender queer" thing, where you make up random genders, or claim you're a boy on Monday and a girl on Tuesday.

But this goes down a long rabbit hole of how we define people - what they are.

For this I will have a long-winded post, I'm sure. But here's a quick preview of what I'm talking about. In the Lord of the Rings, there is a moment where Merry is called a "true knight of Rohan" for his service in the war. Yet he is also still a hobbit of the Shire. So which is he?

Vox sometimes refers to Sarah as Portuguese, not American. This is something I dispute.

To the extent that you can start out as one thing, and become another thing... this requires conscious effort and intent. Sarah intended (rather strongly) to become American and abandon her status as Portuguese. I believe she succeeded. Merry was a hobbit of the Shire, but also wanted to serve the side of good in the war, and fought as a knight of Rohan. We might account him both, though more truly the former than the latter.

None of this was easy or trivial. And that is why I generally consider Blaire White to be a woman - though not biologically female. She went through rather extreme effort to emulate women. Most SJW 'trans' folks do not go through effort of this level. There are few - if any - surgeries. Some don't even bother shaving their facial hair. They do not emulate the general attitude and outlook of women. It would be as if Merry, instead of going to great lengths to fight among the men of Rohan, had instead put on a plastic helment and brandished a plastic toy sword and said "look at me, I'm a real knight" and then fled immediately at the first sign of battle.

The point is, when we look at Blaire White, most of us see a woman. She looks like one, molded herself physically to resemble one (at great expense). Her attitudes, emotional states, and way of dressing and presenting herself are all strongly feminine. She is more feminine than a great many Lefty women.

This is like how Sarah went to great lengths to mold her manner of thinking and language to that of America. She has the convert's zeal for America and its culture and ideals. This could not have been an easy task.

Effort and conscious intent are what separate those who we do account as their claimed thing, and those we do (though with some memory of where they originated). That, to me, has always been the difference.

NOVA Shooter said...

I rarely respond to Fran’s blog entries as he consistently expresses himself much better than I do (go figure, he is a writer) but this entry (and the comments) drew me in more than usual. First off, the initial entry seemed to me to be more about compromise, sincerity, and strong beliefs than it was about the trans “issue”. However, the majority of the comments are about the transgender issues.

On the trans issue my take is the same as it is on almost any issue. If what you are doing does not infringe on my rights then I have to right (nor does government) to do anything about it. If an individual or government dictates that I have to address a transgender individual a certain way then they are overstepping. For that matter if I own a business and choose for myself that a transgender individual as an employee (or customer) is not something I want then ANYBODY telling me I have to hire one (or serve one) is stepping on my rights and is wrong. I might be stupid by adopting such an attitude but that’s my right. This applies to any criteria one might adopt. Nobody, I mean NOBODY has the right to demand my goods or services.

If I choose to not serve gays or transgender individuals or people with blond hair and blue eyes that’s my right. Just as it is their right to protest, publicize and raise up the public against me and put me out of business for my opinions.

One last thought and I’ll let this go. Some say that the transgender individuals are trying to trick people and they have a problem with that. What about people who dye or bleach their hair? Have their teeth straightened? Artificially tan themselves? Wear lifts in their shoes? These are all ways of fooling others about their genetic makeup.