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September 07, 2010

Comments

Hm, somehow part of my comment got eaten. Should read:

I'm saying--and have consistently said from the very first comment--that they ought to, which is a completely different assertion.

Hmm. Catsy, my question was just that - a question. You answered it. Will ponder.

As for my "almost" offensive analogy... well, no offense was meant. I was thinking about individuals and picked an individual trama (child abuse). It seemed to me that a Jew, persecuted for being a Jew, might naturally have a reaction other than the one you're looking for: instead of going the tolerance route, he/she goes the pre-emptive strike/safety through full spectrum dominance route. I know which I prefer, but I remain unsure I have some sort of right to expect Jews to reach the same conclusion at a higher rate than non-Jews.

It seemed to me that a Jew, persecuted for being a Jew, might naturally have a reaction other than the one you're looking for: instead of going the tolerance route, he/she goes the pre-emptive strike/safety through full spectrum dominance route. I know which I prefer, but I remain unsure I have some sort of right to expect Jews to reach the same conclusion at a higher rate than non-Jews.

I think there are plentiful examples of Jews doing exactly that. A few others above phrased a similar point as there being more than one means to the end of "never again".

My point was never--not ever, not from the very beginning of this thread--to say that "all Jews know better than to X". That would be a silly and somewhat offensive generalization.

My point was very specifically that they ought to. Gays ought to know better than to persecute other sexual minorities, but there's a very strong thread of anti-transgender bigotry in the gay community. Women ought to know better than to favor sexually discriminatory policies, but the Republican Party is filled with counterexamples.

The phrase "ought to" is an expression of idealism, not an assertion of fact.

Gays ought to know better than to persecute other sexual minorities, but there's a very strong thread of anti-transgender bigotry in the gay community.

I learned within a few months of coming out that my gay brethren could be every bit as racist, misogynistic, and all-around reactionary as their straight counterparts. It was not a lesson I was happy to learn, but it was a necessary one.

Catsy - I know what you said. You were clear.

Saying someone "ought to" know something is expecting/demanding that they do. I questioned that expectation. I still question it, but thank you for your responses. They add to my thinking on the matter.

That sounds sort of Borg-like, doesn't it? Your opinion will be assimilated into our collective...

I have a story similar to Uncle K's @ 3:26. It was an end of innocence for me -- not by far the only one, but a significant one.

Catsy -- "ought to" comes across as normative and judgmental, not idealistic. So does this:

I think it's entirely fair. Just as I think it's fair to expect gays to know better than to trash transgenders and other sexual minorities...

It's not "fair" to "expect" anyone to be anything other than the flawed human beings we are. What I've seen is that people rarely learn the things I think it's "fair" to "expect" them to learn. I'm sure the same goes in reverse.

It's not "fair" to "expect" anyone to be anything other than the flawed human beings we are.

I couldn't disagree more strongly. I think it's entirely fair to expect people to behave decently and show compassion and perspective. I think it's entirely fair to expect people from a disadvantaged group to be more conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group suffers or has suffered. I expect people to be honest with me, to not try to harm me or my family, and to respond to reason with reason. That doesn't mean that I think they all will do any of these things, and it doesn't mean that I let people take advantage of me. It means I have certain baseline expectations of what decent civilized behavior ought to be and am not in the habit of making excuses for bad behavior by chalking it up to the fact that people are flawed human beings. I'm well aware that I myself don't always live up to the same expectations, which neither excuses me nor makes those expectations any less reasonable.

This world would be a lot better if we all set the bar a little higher and expected better of each other.

I think it's entirely fair to expect people from a disadvantaged group to be more conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group suffers or has suffered.

I couldn't disagree more strongly.

Set the bar higher for yourself if you want to, but no one has to pay the slightest attention to how high you're setting the bar for the rest of us. If you think you're setting the bar for me, then you're whistling into the wind, is all I can say.

"Expecting" people who have been disadvantaged to somehow magically be more saintly than other people is really so over the top that I don't even know where to start in responding to it.

We are all flawed human beings. That isn't making excuses, it's just facing reality. The air up there on your high horse is too rarefied for those of us who are just muddling along the best we can down here on the ground.

I'm sure the world would be a better place if we were all something other than what we are. It would be nice if we all had a pony, too.

First paragraph of 4:35 should have been italicized....it was a quote from Catsy.

I was going to make the point that "ought," as used by you here, is aspirational: "The phrase 'ought to' is an expression of idealism, not an assertion of fact."

But "expect" has a different meaning: an expectation is something you impose on others, rather than hold out as an ideal you'd like others to uphold.

But I see Rob in CT and JanieM have already covered that ground.

However: "I think it's entirely fair to expect people to behave decently and show compassion and perspective."

I agree with this.

"I think it's entirely fair to expect people from a disadvantaged group to be more conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group suffers or has suffered."

I strongly disagree with this. (I do not disagree with your right to your view, of course.)

But these are two separate points.

I do think it's unfair to put greater expectations on individuals because they are members of a group.

If we put lesser expectations on individuals because they are members of a group, we tend to frown on that, don't we? How is putting greater expectations on people because of their inclusion in a group significantly different and less prejudicial?

If you were saying you hoped people would learn from the experience of their group, I'd be right there with you. But I'm not going to judge them more harshly than people who are not members of their group who haven't learned the same lesson.

Setting aside the entire issue of having different expectations of different individuals because of their inclusion in a group, we're specifically discussing "people from a disadvantaged group." Another word used for such people is "victims." And holding victims to higher expectations than others wouldn't be something I'd put in the "fair" column.

(Aka "blaming the victim.")

I don't imagine you'd think that's fair, either, so I'm apt to think we're not communicating our views well to each other more than it's likely we're expressing fundamentally different values.

And holding victims to higher expectations than others wouldn't be something I'd put in the "fair" column.

(Aka "blaming the victim.")

But doesn't "blaming the victim" normally mean blaming them for being victims (as opposed to blaming them for later victimizing someone else)?

If we're going to get into whether or not it's fair to have different expectations of members of groups, I guess I'd put it this way: Being the member of a generally victimized or disadvantaged group doesn't necessarily mean that one has personally been victimized or disadvantaged to the same extent or in the same way that the group has (in general). In that sense, I can understand not having expectations based on group membership.

But if the group you are a member of is defined as "the group of individuals whom I would expect to have learned something about tolerance based on their personal experiences," then it tautological that each member of that group is someone that I would expect to have learned something about tolerance based on his or her personal experiences.

But those groups aren't the same types of groups, necessarily.

Set the bar higher for yourself if you want to, but no one has to pay the slightest attention to how high you're setting the bar for the rest of us. If you think you're setting the bar for me, then you're whistling into the wind, is all I can say.

You appear to have gravely misunderstood the difference between expecting decent behavior of others and holding them accountable to your own standards. No one is accountable to me except myself. But that does not obviate my right to have an opinion about what is the decent thing to do in a given circumstance. We're not talking about judging other people's sexuality here, we're talking about the expectation that we treat each other with decency and not be bigoted. I can't believe that anyone here is actually arguing whether or not that's reasonable.

"Expecting" people who have been disadvantaged to somehow magically be more saintly than other people is really so over the top that I don't even know where to start in responding to it.

What's over the top is your hyperbolic paraphrase of my position. If you're having trouble figuring out where to start in responding to it, you can start be describing it accurately rather than caricaturing it. Nowhere did I express anything remotely close to an expectation that anyone "somehow magically be more saintly" than other people.

We ideally expect people to learn from their experiences and mistakes--it's how human beings grow and mature. They don't always, but it's inarguably preferable that they do. The expectations I've expressed here ultimately boil down to that.

We are all flawed human beings. That isn't making excuses, it's just facing reality.

A statement of fact can be--and in this case, is--an excuse as well. I've been saying, broadly speaking, that I think we ought to expect people to treat others decently. Your response has been that that's unreasonable because we're all flawed. That is, by definition, making excuses for the behavior.

The air up there on your high horse is too rarefied for those of us who are just muddling along the best we can down here on the ground.

Oh for fsck's sake, dial the passive-aggressive melodrama back a notch. Nobody's judging your life, your sexuality, your career, your religion, or whether you like cats or dogs or Macs or PCs. We're talking about whether or not it's reasonable to expect people to treat each other decently and not be bigoted, sexist, or what have you.

When did it become out of line to expect a certain minimum standard of decency and reason from others?

Doesn't Peretz's wife own the New Republic?

Or is that an suburban legend?

Marty Peretz.

"Martin H. "Marty" Peretz (pronounced /pəˈrɛts/; born December 6, 1938), is an American publisher. Formerly an assistant professor at Harvard University, he purchased The New Republic in 1974 and took editorial control soon afterwards.[1] He retained majority ownership until 2002, when he sold a two-thirds stake in the magazine to two financiers.[1] Peretz sold the remainder of his ownership rights in 2007 to CanWest Global Communications, though he retained his position as editor-in-chief.[2] In March 2009, Peretz repurchased the magazine with a group of investors led by ex-Lazard executive Laurence Grafstein.[3]

Maybe I'm thinking of the gossip surrounding the note (6) at the bottom of the page.

^ Turque, Bill (2000). Inventing Al Gore: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 51. ISBN 0618131604. "His 1967 marriage to Anne Labouisse Farnsworth, an heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune, helped him buy The New Republic from Gilbert Harrison in 1974." |quote = Marty Peretz bought the magazine in 1974 from Gilbert Harrison with $380,000 garnered from the wealth of his wife, Anne Labouisse Farnsworth, heir to one of the great fortunes created by the Singer Sewing Machine company. }}

I think US Americans have oversold the liberal democracies vs. all other forms of government argument.

Especially since most of the liberal democracies which grew out of European settler colonies were RACIST liberal democracies. And their racism was actually enforced by the state. So they weren’t polite socially bigoted country clubs, but had been genocidally racist “liberal democracies” and enforced racial hierarchies for most of their existence.

I agree with someotherdude's 9:56 post. Too sleepy to add more.

"and BB's and McKT's insistence that Islamic countries are nasty which means... what exactly?"

My point is this: Prejudice is irrational, because it treats individuals as though they were simply interchangeable examples of a group, rather than on their own merits. But it is not, generally, completely irrational, in as much as it's usually informed to some degree by statistical realities. You don't, for instance, encounter a lot of prejudiced people who think Zulus are short, or that Italians are blond. Even though there are, of course, some short Zulus and pale Italians around, as the saying goes, that's not the way to bet.

The reason the substitution of Jew for Muslim doesn't work in the Perez example is that that's not the typical prejudice concerning Jews. And it's not, because it really runs contrary to statistical reality.

It IS the typical prejudice concerning Muslims, and it did not, sad to say, become that typical prejudice by accident. It became the prejudice because there's some truth to it. Not a lot, given that there are a heck of a lot of peaceful, life affirming Muslims out there. But enough that the substitution really does not work.

A Jew trying to get his fellows to abandon stoning as a form of execution, murder of Jews who try to convert to other religion, and so forth, would probably be in need of medical attention.

A Muslim doing the same would be in need of a body guard, sad to say...

"A Muslim doing the same would be in need of a body guard, sad to say..."

Brett, exactly how many stonings do you know of that happened anywhere in on planet Earth, by Muslims, in the year 2009? Please provide cites.

Let me get out ahead, and let's say you find as many as five cases.

Let's double that, and say you find ten, although I'd really like to see some evidence of even five cases. But let's say it's ten.

Out of 1.5 billion Muslims, if there were ten cases of stoning on the planet Earth, how popular does that make stoning among Muslims?

Are there, in fact, bodyguards necessary for Muslims to say they're against stoning? Or would it actually be the case that most of those 1.5 billion Muslims oppose stoning, don't do it, and don't call for it?

Hmmm. Not to add extra fuel to the fire, but I have discovered that when people who I expect not to, for example, be verbally and even physically abusing my daughter in school (because they're members of my church), I'm extra disappointed when they fail to live up to my expectations. And extra pissed-off to the point of picking up and taking my church attendance elsewhere when the situation is not remedied upon request.

Whether that's a fair analogy of what Catsy is saying or not is up to Catsy, but I don't see that in any way as blaming the victim, just expecting people who really ought to know better to behave as if they do.

But one of Gary's points is a fair one: people are people, and expecting certain groups to exhibit better behavior because they ought to know better is just begging for disappointment.

[Emphasis added later, because I forgot to, and because I can - Ed./Slart]

So, according to Brett’s line of reasoning/logic(?), all non-whites should assume white men are inherently bloodthirsty and are prone to theft? That is, all white-men have no respect for life or property?

Considering Iberian-Catholics behavior in Latin America, Anglo-Protestant’s behavior in the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa, Russian and Georgian behavior as rulers of the Soviet Empire, and European Zionists’ in Palestine?

Slarti got to it first. 'to expect' can mean two things. If I say that I expect rain then there is no moral pressure on the weather to provide liquid precipitation but a prediction. If I tell someone "I expect you to..." then this does not mean necessarily that I take it for granted (quite the opposite in fact). But there are many ambiguous cases like "I expect Obama to reform...". This can mean that I demand that he keeps his promises or that I predict that he will. In case of victim groups and behaviour we have such an ambiguous case. I read it in the predictive sense (and agreed), Gary in the moral demand sense (and disagreed).

But one of Gary's points is a fair one

Which is not to say I don't think Gary's making any other fair points, just that I wanted to underscore (which I hope is a bit more useful than a me-too) as being particularly relevant to both what happens in the real world in general, when our expectations are not met, and something specific that happened to our family.

The majority of Muslim majority countries are totalitarian

Majority Muslim states, in descending order of population.

I haven't taken the time to check the quality of the governance of each and every one, nor have I have added up the sums to see if the "majority of Muslim majority states" claim holds.

But there's the source information if anyone cares to take the time to do so.

My money is on the unders.

And McTex, not to pick on you, but if you haven't actually gone and done the homework before making the claim, you are pre-judging the situation, based on your intuition or some other general impression, in the absence of actual information.

That is called "prejudice". We are all prone to it, so there's no room here for judging or name-calling, but it behooves all of us to get the facts about things like this before we draw our conclusions.

When did it become out of line to expect a certain minimum standard of decency and reason from others?

It's not out of line, IMHO, but it can be feckless, sometimes. First of all, expectation is active rather than passive. It can be very powerful both in a classroom and in a culture (no less in the latter than in the former). But it works only when the people being expected-of respect the former to some extent, and share at least some of the same basic cultural ideals - otherwise, 'Judge Catsy has made her decision, now let her enforce it!'. If the expected-of don't share them, not only will the expectation not have any effect at all, but persuasion and political efficacy have been forfeit. Expectation is an all-or-nothing thing.

My original objection was about effective politics. Maybe it wasn't quite germane to what Catsy said initially. If so, I apologize for that. But I can't get over a nagging feeling that it was germane, at least a little.

Our politics has become like a big game of Chicken. Republicans threaten to do something transgressive; Dems think 'Oh, they wouldn't go THAT far'. Repubs. DO go 'that far'. Then they push harder; Dems say, 'OK, the GOP is aggressive, but that's beyond the pale', and then the political GOP actually goes there. The transgressiveness itself is the source of their power. Their success is not in spite of, but because of this abrogation of norms of 'decent' or 'polite', or even fully rational behavior. And in that game, it takes two to tango.

It seems to me that it's a responsibility for opponents of this kind of Reaction to see things as they are rather than as they ought to be. I agree with Catsy that, for example, Peretz' disgusting comments *ought* to have negative social consequences for him. But I don't at all *expect* them to do - not for a minute. I would hope that Jews in Israel - given their own history all over the world - would be barely capable of inflicting racist oppression of another people. But my eyes tell me that they are perfectly capable of it. Expectation plays no part in my formation of an opinion of what US/Israel policy should be.

I'm not advocating for Liberal abandonment of its own ideals in order to fight its opponent. But you surely can't fight an opponent effectively if you don't see the latter's true nature. A lot of the GOP's sky-high rhetoric is effective (at least on the margins) because it contains bits of truth, albeit twisted. When they called Democrats 'appeasers' of Islamists, they were wrong about the subject, but right about the predicate: Democrats and Liberals appease Republicans and reactionaries. 'Expecting better' of them actually makes their strategy for acquiring power more effective.

Part of my lovely and delicious white male hetero privilege is that when I act like a jerk, it's not really a big deal, because hardly anyone expects better of me. It's one of the things I'm going to miss after the electric UFO lords transphase in from the tenth dimension and become the new hegemons. Or the revolution, whichever comes first.

Regarding the controversy over Catsy's comments, I share Gary's thinking as stated here:

(...)I'm apt to think we're not communicating our views well to each other more than it's likely we're expressing fundamentally different values.

I'd especially like to think that Catsy and JanieM don't really disagree as much as their respective comments would indicate. (It's like seeing two of your best friends suddenly getting into a serious fist fight over what very well may be a simple misunderstanding.)

Catsy: "When did it become out of line to expect a certain minimum standard of decency and reason from others?"

Nobody has, within my attention, disagreed with this.

What I, and I believe others, have disagreed with is this, different, statement:

I think it's entirely fair to expect people from a disadvantaged group to be more conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group suffers or has suffered.
Immediately prior to that you wrote:
[...] Oh for fsck's sake, dial the passive-aggressive melodrama back a notch. Nobody's judging your life, your sexuality, your career, your religion, or whether you like cats or dogs or Macs or PCs. We're talking about whether or not it's reasonable to expect people to treat each other decently and not be bigoted, sexist, or what have you.
But that's not what we're talking about: we're talking about your statement that you expect "people from a disadvantaged group to be more conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group suffers or has suffered."

It's the putting of higher expectations on individuals because of their membership in a given group that's at issue, and not "whether or not it's reasonable to expect people to treat each other decently and not be bigoted, sexist, or what have you" in general.

I'm sure you don't mean to imply the reverse of what you wrote, which would be that you "expect people from [the advantaged majority] to be [less] conscious of and averse to inflicting on others the kind of treatment their group [does not and has not] suffers[ed]."

Presumably you do not mean to imply or suggest that you hold members of a disadvantaged group to a higher standard than the majority, but what's at issue is that what you wrote did seem to imply that.

Possibly clarifying that that's not what you mean might help untangle this miscommunication. If all you are trying to say is that "[w]e're talking about whether or not it's reasonable to expect people to treat each other decently and not be bigoted, sexist, or what have you," than I doubt anyone will disagree.

Warning: wall of text. There is no tl;dr.

Actually, I think you've helpfully identified a useful distinction. For the sake of not having to tediously repeat descriptions and qualifiers, I'm going to shorthand the general expectation of decency as Expectation A, and the more specific expectation that people from specific disadvantaged groups targeted by X behavior be particularly cognizant of and averse to that behavior themselves as Expectation B.

My comments on this thread began with B. Along the way I noticed that some of the pushback I was getting was generalized so that even A was being rejected as legitimate. I pushed back on that by affirming my belief that A was legitimate. In the process the argument in many places became more about that than about the more specific Expectation B, and the two became conflated. My exasperation about "when did it become out of line to etc etc etc" was directed specifically at objections to Expectation A, but because that was expressed in the same comments as argument about Expectation B, it became confusing.

Clear so far?

I think--I would hope--that we've exhaustively settled that there's nothing out of line about Expectation A--having certain basic expectations of decency per se. Society depends on it, and the conflict occurs when there is a mismatch of expectations. There's no real way around that other than communication.

But I take your general point about having higher standards or expectations for members of a given disadvantaged group. I don't entirely agree, but I see where you're coming from. Let me see if I can restate this in order to clarify my thinking:

I think that if you (the general "you"--not you specifically):

1. are a member of a group that endures a particular kind of injustice for no reason other than being a member of that group;
2. identify personally as a member of that group;
3. can be reasonably expected to be aware of the history and nature of that injustice, and;
4. are neither mentally impaired nor a sociopath;

--then it is reasonable to expect you in particular--moreso than any random person who lacks that connection to and awareness of said injustice--to be capable of the bare minimum of empathy and perspective necessary to not visit that same injustice on others, and to understand why it is wrong.

That does not mean that everyone who fits the above description will be capable of that, or that they will make that connection even if they are capable of doing so. But they ought to, and not doing so is a failure of empathy and moral decency that to one extent or another is more egregious than the same failure from someone who does not have the personal connection to said injustice to aid them in putting themselves in someone else's shoes and understanding why it is wrong.

The reasoning behind this is similar to the reasoning behind laws against hate crimes. We classify hate crimes as uniquely bad and deserving of greater punishment because they are a crime not only against an individual, but against the targeted group to which the individual belonged. We recognize that hate crimes have an impact on all members of the targeted group who are aware of the crime, who cannot know whether or not they too will be targeted at some point by the same kind of hatred.

The flip side of recognizing that this broader impact has an effect on members of that group whether or not they themselves have been targeted is that this provides members of the targeted group with an experience that opens the door for them to place themselves in the shoes of someone who has been treated the same way. This is not the same as saying that they will. But it translates into a greater expectation for them to make the connection between their own experience and the experience of others, an expectation greater than what I would have of someone who did not have that experience. I think this is a reasonable response to basic human psychology.

To bring this back to the context that started it, Marty Peretz has no imaginable, conceivable excuse for being unaware of the history and nature of antisemitism, or of where the road leads when--as I put it earlier--a society decides it doesn't like a given religious minority. No excuse at all.

My original statement of "Jewish and ought to know better" was imprecisely general in that I did not describe the above qualifiers, but it was general in the service of brevity more than anything else. I'm not really sure how to articulate what I mean in a way that fits in a single phrase or clear sentence.

Presumably you do not mean to imply or suggest that you hold members of a disadvantaged group to a higher standard than the majority, but what's at issue is that what you wrote did seem to imply that.

I think that this description of my position--while superficially accurate--omits a great deal of nontrivial nuance and context, decribed above, that does matter.

I never objected to A. If I gave that impression, that's my fault for not writing clearly. I was only questioning B.

Also, though I failed to mention this before, until recently I was firmly in your camp on this. I just recently questioned the underlying assumption involved and now I'm unsure about it.

"Clear so far?"

Yep.

[...] The flip side of recognizing that this broader impact has an effect on members of that group whether or not they themselves have been targeted is that this provides members of the targeted group with an experience that opens the door for them to place themselves in the shoes of someone who has been treated the same way. This is not the same as saying that they will. But it translates into a greater expectation for them to make the connection between their own experience and the experience of others, an expectation greater than what I would have of someone who did not have that experience.
I'm good with the rest of what you wrote, and thank you for the effort you put into making yourself so clear, but the one point I'd make a suggestion on is considering whether "possibility" might work as well or better in your sentence I quote above, rather than "expectation."

It would then read thusly:
"But it translates into a greater possibility for them to make the connection between their own experience and the experience of others, a possibility greater than what I would have of someone who did not have that experience."

*That's* a statement I'd 100% agree with.

As for whatever tiny percent "expectation" leaves me uncomfortable, I think we've now sufficiently discussed this that we can bury the horse. Thanks again for the very thoughtful response.

I had my own "wall of text" mostly ready to post, but reading first Catsy's @ 2:04 and then Gary's conclusion that "we've now sufficiently discussed this," I'm scrapping it. Before I go, however, and mostly because of hairshirt's sweet comment from this morning, I'm going to add some parting thoughts/shots.

In relation to Catsy's "B," I was almost wooed by Gary's suggestion of changing "expectation" to "possibility." As far as that single passage goes, I don't think I'd quarrel with it if that change were made. Then I remembered this:

That does not mean that everyone who fits the above description will be capable of that, or that they will make that connection even if they are capable of doing so. But they ought to, and not doing so is a failure of empathy and moral decency that to one extent or another is more egregious than the same failure from someone who does not have the personal connection to said injustice to aid them in putting themselves in someone else's shoes and understanding why it is wrong.

A judgment like "failure of empathy and moral decency" does not fit with my idea of "possibility." My own opinion of such a judgment is that it is pernicious, destructive, and damaging to politics, interpersonal relations, and personal psychology. If Catsy had said that people always do learn such and such from being victims of injustice, then I would put it down to naivete and wonder about whether time and experience would change his mind. But he has now said explicitly, more than once, that he isn't saying that that's what people do, but rather that that's what they should do.

I'm not saying Catsy per se is destructive etc., at least any more so than the rest of us, but I am saying that such a way of assessing of human possibilities is destructive etc., and is itself a failure of compassion. It's a very common one, though, so it fits neatly under my entire theory, which is that people will be what they are, however much we may wish they would be something else, and however much we judge them to be egregious failures when they are.

In one of the conflict resolution workshops I attended a long time ago, there was another participant named John Shuford, who actually does conflict work for a living. It was from him that I first heard the saying "hurt people hurt people." I think this applies to victims of group injustice just as much as it applies to victims of interpersonal abuse. Not to say that some victims don't make the journey all the way to where Catsy thinks they "should" go, but just to say that -- IMHO -- it's pretty d*mned unfair to judge them as failures if they don't.

*****

These are parting thoughts/shots because this thread, along with other things that have happened here lately (another same-old argument about tax brackets?), and stuff that's going on in my own life have pushed me to where I have been heading for a while. I'm taking a break. Whether I will come back, as Gary has done, or stay away, as various others are still doing, I have no idea.

And I wouldn't even be saying this out loud except that I want to say to hairshirt (from whom this morning wasn't the first attempt at peacemaking in my direction -- and I have appreciated it each time) -- if you feel like dropping me a note at obwiboston at gmail, please do. I have a dear friend in Philly whom I'm always threatening to visit, and if I were to get down there, I would enjoy getting together.

Peace and constructive troublemaking to all.

I think Gary and I have pretty much settled our discussion. However, I need to respond to Jamie's last, even though I'm not sure if he/she will end up reading it.

If Catsy had said that people always do learn such and such from being victims of injustice, then I would put it down to naivete and wonder about whether time and experience would change his mind. But he has now said explicitly, more than once, that he isn't saying that that's what people do, but rather that that's what they should do.

Well, yes, in point of fact. I can't believe it's even controversial to say that people should learn "such and such" from being victims of injustice, where "such and such" refers specifically to the minimal empathy and perspective necessary to not inflict the same injustice on others.

You seem to have some kind of visceral opposition to judging anyone else's behavior or holding any opinion about what people "should" do. From what I recall of what you've said about your own personal circumstances in the past, it makes sense that you'd be averse to passing judgment on others. This, incidentally, is a perfect example of exactly the kind of dynamic that I've been trying to point out, and if that's accurate then I'm glad you have taken that lesson to heart: it is certainly true that there are many, many situations in which it's wrong to be judgmental of others.

But there are many situations in which it is not. It is not wrong to be judgmental of someone who lies. It is not wrong to be judgmental of someone who steals. It is not wrong to be judgmental of a bully, or a murderer, or someone who joins a Neo-Nazi organization. We do wrong by being judgmental when we are judgmental of the wrong things for the wrong reasons, and when we conflate the worth of a person with the wrongness of their actions. But we also do wrong when we refuse to chastise someone who commits a clear wrong. We do no one any favors when we refrain from calling out their misdeeds and exhorting them to be better than that.

If the term "judgment" has baggage for you, then substitute "disapproval" or any similar synonyms that fit. The point is the same: the disapproval of one's peers is how one learns that their behavior is socially unacceptable. Refusing to call out bad behavior and expect better behavior of others isn't respecting the unique snowflake-like qualities of every human being or a simple recognition that we're all flawed, it's conflict aversion that only enables the problem to continue.

As far as whether or not my disapproval carries any weight--it of course does not, unless you are someone who values my opinion and my judgment (in the other sense of the word). I am only one person. But if I tell you that it's wrong to do X, and your sister tells you it's wrong to do X, and your coworkers tell you it's wrong to do X, then sooner or later most reasonable people are going to get the idea that maybe it's wrong to do X. And every person who sees X happening and thinks, "well that's just Bob, he's only human" and says nothing--they are part of the problem, not the solution.

The issue isn't with passing that judgment, it's with the circumstances where X is not actually wrong and the judgment is the product of irrational biases--such as social disapproval of being gay or or black or Muslim.

"It is not wrong to be judgmental of someone who lies. It is not wrong to be judgmental of someone who steals."

It depends.

Do you have perfect knowledge of the lie, the reason it was told, and all the circumstances? Are there not many times it's valid and moral to lie?

Do you have perfect knowledge of the theft, the reason the item was taken, and all the circumstances? Even if you know for sure that one person took that which was in another's possesion, do you know the full provenance of the item?

And so on.

Judgment has to be on a continuum that shifts with, and is open to, new information, and is dependent on establishing sufficient minimal information.

Judgment has to be on a continuum that shifts with, and is open to, new information, and is dependent on establishing sufficient minimal information.

I thought that was implicit in my qualification that it should not be "of the wrong things for the wrong reasons", that it should be a "clear wrong", and that it should not be "circumstances where X is not actually wrong". There are of course circumstances that can mitigate many different things that we normally consider wrong, such as lying and stealing. But that does not make it untrue that they are generally considered bad to do.

In any event, you admit to a much more difficult than historical problem you: Totalitarianism is a phase that passed, many countries, a snapshot at any time and use this baseline does not make sense unless there is some feature of the current landscape, which they argue is permanent.

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