The God who brought you out of Egypt

I suppose part of what gets to me about Alabama’s harsh new papers-please law and its crackdown on Sooners is that this is the same state that spent much of the past decade boasting of its fealty to the (Protestant formulation of the) Ten Commandments.

The chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, Roy Moore, based his whole public career on refusing to remove a sectarian Ten Commandments monument from the state courthouse. He installed the thing there in the first place as a challenge — daring the courts to order its removal as he knew they would have to, and thus positioning himself to defy that order and to grandstand as the cut-rate Moses of Montgomery. Wikipedia provides a useful summary:

A month after his election, Moore began making plans for a larger monument to the Ten Commandments, reasoning that the Alabama Supreme Court building required something grander than a wooden plaque. His final design involved a 5,280 pound (2400 kg) granite block, three feet wide by three feet deep by four feet tall, covered with quotes from the Declaration of Independence, the national anthem, and various founding fathers. The crowning element would be two large carved tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. High-grade granite from Vermont was ordered and shipped, and Moore found benefactors and a sculptor to complete the job.

On the evening of July 31, 2001, despite some initial installation difficulties and concerns regarding structural support for the monument’s weight, Moore had the completed monument transported to the state judicial building and installed in the central rotunda. The installation was filmed, and videotapes of the event were sold by Coral Ridge Ministries, an evangelical media outlet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, which later used proceeds from the film’s sales to pay Moore’s ensuing legal expenses. Coral Ridge was the operation of the late Reverend D. James Kennedy, a staunch Moore supporter.

The next morning, Moore held a press conference in the central rotunda to officially unveil the monument. In a speech following the unveiling, Moore declared, “Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded. … May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”

So extravagant claims of obedient submission to the Ten Commandments are at the core of the very same conservative movement in Alabama that pushed for, passed and signed into law the nation’s harshest statute for the harassment, persecution and prosecution of the stranger and the alien in our midst.

And that shoots past “ironic” to land squarely on “obscene.”

The Ten Commandments, like all of the many laws contained in the Books of Moses, cannot be divorced from the basis for those commandments — the constant and relentless refrain that always accompanies the commandments of the Pentateuch: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.”

There are two parts to that. The first part is, partly, a declaration of authority — the ultimate declaration of ultimate authority: “I am the Lord your God.” Many believers treat this as nothing but an assertion of authority, as something like the equivalent of God the parent saying, “Because I said so, that’s why.”

But this statement is not only an assertion of authority, it is also an assertion of character. It is not simply, “Because I am your God,” but “Because I am your God.” You must not oppress the poor, this God says, because I am your God and this is what your God is like. You must welcome the stranger, this God says, because I am your God and this is what your God is like.

The commandments, in other words, are not merely edicts from God — inscrutable and ineffable rules to which we must submit. The commandments also teach us about God. They tell us what God is like. And what God likes and dislikes.

This Alabama law is not what God is like. And God does not like such laws.

The second part of “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt” makes an appeal to empathy.* That reminder of oppression and slavery offers a rationale beyond brute authority. Remember when you were oppressed? You didn’t enjoy that very much, did you? So let’s not go around oppressing others either, OK?

This divine appeal to empathy is rather interesting. God commands — those two words suggest that ought to be sufficient, that nothing more needs to be said. But then God says more. God offers reasons why we should heed these commands. God appeals and persuades and argues. God seems to want something more than blind obedience. God seems to want us to understand why these commandments matter, why we should want to heed them.

That reminder of past oppression is also, of course, a reminder of past liberation. It is thus not only an appeal to empathy, but also an appeal to gratitude.  It implies something along the lines of “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt” … so you owe me one. This is part of what Calvin meant by “ethics is gratitude.”

That reminder of liberation also reinforces and repeats the assertion of character. The Exodus was an expression of what God is like. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt” means also “I am like this — I am the liberator of the oppressed.”

One of the remarkable things about us humans is our ability to turn that which was intended to liberate into tools of oppression. We take a slew of commandments, all of which were presented as “I am the liberator of the oppressed, therefore thou shalt …” and we immediately begin concocting inventive new ways to turn them into devices for oppressing ourselves and others.

That also is not what God is like.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* That word empathy has, astonishingly, been turned into a partisan and contentious term. That’s astonishing because it required one group of people to surrender their claim to it — to voluntarily position themselves as being against the idea of our shared humanity. That stance is so outlandish that it leaves me gasping and grasping for a response. I’m not eager to accuse an entire political party of being sociopaths, but what can one say when members of that party, unchallenged by their fellows, rush forward unprompted to declare themselves proud enemies of empathy and proud advocates of sociopathy? They’re accusing themselves of something truly appalling, should we take them at their word? Or should we patiently attempt to explain that this isn’t really something that anyone wants to say about themselves, even while they push an agenda increasingly demonstrating that maybe in their case it is?

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  • Anonymous


    From my reading, the rants against the Irish immigrants a century ago were the same as against the Hispanics. You know the old song and dance – they breed like rabbits, they bring poverty and crime, they’re lazy and unproductive, they burden the charities and government services. I would be curious to know if the same things were said about the German immigrants 250 years ago. My theory is that this isn’t just about a belief in an ethnic hierarchy but also a fear of becoming a minority. I agree with the columnist who said that in 50 years, our descendants will wonder what the Hispanophobes were so worried about.

    Yep. The exact same ones. As a matter of fact, Prohibition was largely a backlash against the way that Irish, Italian and German immigrants loved their whiskey, wine and beer respectively, and we couldn’t be having with that.

    Of course, all those Scots-Irish immigrants that all the original REAL Americans hated never did anything. No one with a name like Lincoln,  Patton, Grant or Roosevelt ever did anything for this country. No, the bigots were right about the scots-Irish, they came over here for nothing. And of course, when everyone was ranting about those dirty Irish, they were totally right. Its not like anyone named Kennedy, Ford, O’Connor or Fulton every got anywhere in America.  And of course, those greasy wops in the 20’s! God, what a useless bunch! It’s not like any stinking Iacocca, Alito, Scalia, Fermi, Pelosi, or Lombardi every did anything notable.

    No, the racists have been right this whole time. The only real Americans are the original English settlers who fled their home country to find jobs and opportunities in the new world. Not like those dirty Mexicans. 

  • Mackrimin

    I just don’t think that “Never Again” holds much meaning for most people
    anymore; and can be as easily applied to “The other side getting
    elected” as “Standing idly by while our neighbors are systematically
    dehumanized, disenfranchised, and murdered.”

    To be fair, it never had any meaning to the very people who said it either, judging by Wikipedia’s list of genocides post WW2:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocides_in_history

    “Never again” was never anything more than a comforting lie. Does that really surprise anyone? After all, why do the people here read Left Behind Tuesdays – because they are honestly interested in debating Premillenial Dispensionalism year after year, or because it’s fun seeing someone be systematically mocked?

    That’s human nature, and it’s a bitch.

  • Tonio

    After all, why do the people here read Left Behind Tuesdays – because
    they are honestly interested in debating Premillenial Dispensionalism
    year after year, or because it’s fun seeing someone be systematically
    mocked?

    Neither! In my case, it’s because the philosophy that LaHaye and Jenkins espouse is thoroughly and appallingly anti-human, repugnant to anyone who has even a modicum of feeling for their fellow humans.

  • Tonio

    After all, why do the people here read Left Behind Tuesdays – because
    they are honestly interested in debating Premillenial Dispensionalism
    year after year, or because it’s fun seeing someone be systematically
    mocked?

    Neither! In my case, it’s because the philosophy that LaHaye and Jenkins espouse is thoroughly and appallingly anti-human, repugnant to anyone who has even a modicum of feeling for their fellow humans.

  • Mackrimin

    Neither! In my case, it’s because the philosophy that LaHaye and Jenkins
    espouse is thoroughly and appallingly anti-human, repugnant to anyone
    who has even a modicum of feeling for their fellow humans.

    Thus justifying the enjoyment of seeing them mocked. Which is basically what LJ are doing – “they” are sinners, so it’s okay to enjoy watching them burn. And everyone has a “they”, be it Jews, immigrants, or Premillenial Dispensionalists.

    Nobody’s immune to this, or at least I haven’t ever met or even heard of anyone who was. Just look at Fred’s absurd oversimplification that Republicans – which includes roughly half of America – are a party of sociopaths.

    That’s why I don’t really have any hope for humanity: when push comes to show, _anyone_ will treat other people as caricatures rather than real humans with thoughts, feelings and history that made them the way they are. After that, it doesn’t take much to jump into wishing these troublesome caricatures didn’t exist, and then to doing something about it. And so we have another atrocity.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    If the Republicans don’t want to be “demonized”, they might want to consider NOT STABBING PEOPLE WITH PITCHFORKS.

  • Tonio

    First of all, how exactly are LaHaye and Jenkins being “mocked”?

    Second, even if you’re right that the authors are being mocked, that’s not the same as mocking a “they” class of people.

    Third, such mocking wouldn’t even be close to equivalent to the authors’ contention that people who don’t share their religion deserve to suffer for eternity. At a minimum, the authors should apologize to the world community of Jews for how members of that religion are represented in their books, as proto-Christians in denial. The idea that the authors deserve pity for the criticism they receive is laughable at best. They’ve made fortunes from books that encourage a persecution mentality in their core audience. That’s like Harold Camping predicting doom and gloom while earning $100 million from followers.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    @Mackrimin:disqus  –

    The comparison you’re making is flatly incorrect; not to mention ridiculous.  You’re conflating snarking at badly written fiction based on a vile and corrosive interpretation of Christianity as somehow equivalent to the demonization of people.  Demonization that allowed others to consider them sub-human, to say that they at the very least would not miss them, and would probably be better off without them.

    Two things:
     
    1)  Deconstructing someone’s literary diarrhea is not the same as demonizing them.  Ridicule has long been a means to counter ideas one does not agree with.  It does not cross over to demonization until one begins to lie or grossly exaggerate in order to make the audience see a person or group of person’s as no longer human, as monsters to be destroyed or pests to be driven away or exterminated.

    No one is doing anything even in the same realm as that here.

    2)  Likewise, laughing at someone is only a problem if you’re laughing for the wrong reason.  Laughing at someone because they intentionally did something awful (writing terrible books for an example) is OK.  Laughing at someone because they’re blind on the other hand, is not.

    This only crosses into demonization if one decides that a bad author is thus so bad that they should be harassed  or killed for their terrible work, rather than just mocked for it.  No one has suggested that here.

    —–

    As to your assertion “never again” was a comforting lie – I disagree.  A lie assumes there was no intent to act behind it.   Some people meant it, and they worked (and do work) to prevent genocide and ease suffering as best they can.  Especially to raise awareness of it, because the second greatest crime of the Holocaust was the silence and complicitness of the average person.

    Has there been a significant failure by the international community at large?  Absolutely.  That doesn’t mean the words mean nothing though.  It means we have failed to meet their challenge.

    Thus my point:  People by and large do not understand the significance of “Never Again” to begin with, let alone why their lack of understanding is an issue at all.

    —–

    All told I find your pessimism regarding humanity rather unwarranted though.  We’re more complicated as a species than that.  We are at once virtuous and vicious, kind and cruel, generous and miserly – to say that there is one ‘human nature’ is, in my opinion, terrifically incorrect.

    We are tabula rasa; blank slates written in life’s experiences.  It is by those experiences and our choices in response to them we find the truth of human nature – that it is ultimately individual.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, that was supposed to be in response to Becka Sutton’s comment near the bottom of page 3. 

  • Anonymous

    Sorry, that was supposed to be in response to Becka Sutton’s comment near the bottom of page 3. 

  • Lori

    So I’m trying to catch up on this thread and it’s depressing the crap out of me. 

    I have a question about this: 

     In leaving Egypt, Israel was returning to their own land. To make the analogy work, you should refer to Latinos returning to their Latin American countries (something I am not necessarily recommending) as Israel returned to their homeland (Canaan). You have excluded the middle in your argumentation – perhaps you should consider the possibility that in between the extremes of Huckabee on the one end, and open borders on the other end, is a sane position in the middle that addresses ILLEGAL immigration with its HORRENDOUS consequences that come when illegal immigration goes unchecked and unhampered. 

     

    Are there Right Wingers who didn’t flunk civics and American history?  If so, where are they and what are their arguments? 

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Mostly the ones who didn’t flunk just lie about it instead.  That’s also the difference between the party leadership and the base.

    The base is ignorant, the leadership knows better but doesn’t care.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Are there Right Wingers who didn’t flunk civics and American history?  If so, where are they and what are their arguments?

    These days, they’re mostly in the Democrats.  

    (Only half joking here.  The Democrats are wayyyy more ‘conservative’ than most of their voting constituency, and Sane Republicans are kind of like Bigfoot these days.)

  • Lori

     These days, they’re mostly in the Democrats.  

    (Only half joking here.  The Democrats are wayyyy more ‘conservative’ than most of their voting constituency, and Sane Republicans are kind of like Bigfoot these days.)  

    This is a fair point. 

  • Anonymous

    I think some of the right-wingers who didn’t flunk history/civics believe that they were taught falsehoods in school due to liberal control of education.

  • Anonymous

     Does anyone remember when terrorists were mostly native-born citizens, and white ones at that? I can think of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh just off the top of my head, and I was a just a kid when they committed their crimes.  Then terrorists attacked us on 9/11, and since then terrorism only counts if the person is brown or Muslim.  Stopping immigration, even illegal immigration, won’t stop terrorism.  We have enough home-grown terrorists to make up for any that we keep out.

  • https://profiles.google.com/ravanan101 Ravanan

    I’m not old enough to remember it, but I remember that there was a time
    like that. But even back then, they were “deranged individuals,” not
    taken to be somehow indicative of a great trend among the groups to
    which they belonged (while we’re at it, a great many of the “home-grown”
    sort, particularly back then, were veterans; so clearly, the appalling
    conditions at Walter Reed were designed to nip home-grown terrorism in
    the bud, BUSH IS VINDICATED!)

    Re: Sane Republicans
    Well, there a re a few, but most of them are basically shunted off by the party and kept as quiet as possible.

    I had an interesting (read: wall-banging) discussion with someone who called hirself libertarian (always a good sign) with no understanding of globalization, and attributed the fall of many American industries to “unionization,” claiming that every time an industry unionized, 10 to 50 years later (oh, that’s a strong correlation) the industry went bust in America. I didn’t have the chance to point out the grocers union, and how auto unions lasted longer than 50 years before the American industry went bust, and how the real issue is that many of those unionized industries were outsourceable to countries where worker abuse was A-OK, while, say, grocers were not. And then, in the same breath as a tirade against unions and liberals destroying the economy, condemning all of the industries for basically just following libertarian policies. BLARGIBBIBBLEASDFKAJBFK

  • HawkerHurricane

    Banancat:
    “Does anyone remember when terrorists were mostly native-born citizens, and white ones at that?”

    Not only do I remember that, but the deadliest terrorist group in American history were all native born, white, Protestant and proud of it.  I speak of the “Invisible Empire”, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who murdered more Americans during each of thier two reigns of terror than Al Quida ever dreamed of.

  • Mackrimin

    The comparison you’re making is flatly incorrect; not to mention
    ridiculous.  You’re conflating snarking at badly written fiction based
    on a vile and corrosive interpretation of Christianity as somehow
    equivalent to the demonization of people.  Demonization that allowed
    others to consider them sub-human, to say that they at the very least
    would not miss them, and would probably be better off without them.

    Well, _do_ you consider LaHaye and Jenkins just as human as yourself? Do the others here? Because I suspect that if a friend of yours wrote an inane love scene involving cookies, and someone began posting pictures of half-eaten cookie men labelled “BDSM”, you wouldn’t find that quite as funny as when it’s done to someone you don’t like.

    I am, of course, referring to

    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/10/tf-tossing-cookies.html

    Of course I’m not saying you’re about declare L and J subhuman and kill them. But I _am_ saying that they aren’t really thought of as humans here most of the time – rather, they’re an enemy to be overcome.

    1) 
    Deconstructing someone’s literary diarrhea is not the same as
    demonizing them.  Ridicule has long been a means to counter ideas one
    does not agree with.  It does not cross over to demonization until one
    begins to lie or grossly exaggerate in order to make the audience see a
    person or group of person’s as no longer human, as monsters to be
    destroyed or pests to be driven away or exterminated.

    Look at what you wrote: “cross over”. That kinda implies it’s on the same spectrum.

    And really, “World’s Worst Books”? Isn’t that just a _bit_ exaggerated? And thus, by your own definition, demonization?

    No one is doing anything even in the same realm as that here.

    According to your own statement above, it is.

    2) 
    Likewise, laughing at someone is only a problem if you’re laughing for
    the wrong reason.  Laughing at someone because they intentionally did
    something awful (writing terrible books for an example) is OK.  Laughing
    at someone because they’re blind on the other hand, is not.

    They didn’t write terrible books intentionally. They wrote books intentionally, and they turned out to be terrible unintentionally. Which means you’re laughing at someone because they’re bad writers and (in this particular case) bad theologians. Is it really _that_ different from laughing at someone because he has bad or nonexistent eyesight?

    This
    only crosses into demonization if one decides that a bad author is thus
    so bad that they should be harassed  or killed for their terrible work,
    rather than just mocked for it.  No one has suggested that here.

    No, you have to be pretty far into the demonization process before you start suggesting killing people. In fact you’re pretty much done at that point.

    As
    to your assertion “never again” was a comforting lie – I disagree.  A
    lie assumes there was no intent to act behind it.   Some people meant
    it, and they worked (and do work) to prevent genocide and ease suffering
    as best they can.  Especially to raise awareness of it, because the
    second greatest crime of the Holocaust was the silence and complicitness
    of the average person.

    “Some people” have always tried to resist evil, and usually failed miserably. “Some people” is nowhere near enough. Most people didn’t lift a finger to stop all the other atrocities going on since then, so how am I supposed to interpret their intentions?

    Has there been a significant failure by
    the international community at large?  Absolutely.  That doesn’t mean
    the words mean nothing though.  It means we have failed to meet their
    challenge.

    There hasn’t been a “significant failure” – there has been a near-total failure. That’s hardly surprising, since there’s been a near-total lack of even trying. And yes, when you say “never again” and then promptly forget about it, it means exactly as much as the words of a drunkard who swears to never drink again and then opens the next bottle.

    Thus my point:  People by and large do not understand
    the significance of “Never Again” to begin with, let alone why their
    lack of understanding is an issue at all.

    People by and large see lots of words and little action to back them up. Thus they deduce the words mean nothing to the people who say them. So yes, they understand allright.

    All told I
    find your pessimism regarding humanity rather unwarranted though. 
    We’re more complicated as a species than that.  We are at once virtuous
    and vicious, kind and cruel, generous and miserly – to say that there is
    one ‘human nature’ is, in my opinion, terrifically incorrect.

    And none of that prevented the Holocaust, or all the other atrocities in history. None of it is preventing people from dying from easily preventable diseases right now – from damn _diarrhea_, that could be stopped simply by building a decent water infrastructure. Which means none of it matters. What matters is this:

    When you see someone being kicked around by a gang, will you continue on your way? Or will you help him?

    All evil needs to win is for good people to do nothing, and time and again enough good people have demonstrated their willingness to do nothing that evil keeps winning.

    We
    are tabula rasa; blank slates written with life’s experiences.  It is
    by those experiences and our choices in response to them we find the
    truth of human nature – that it is ultimately individual.

    And most people’s individual nature is such that they don’t stick their necks out for strangers, thus genocides keep on happening.

  • Anonymous

    And really, “World’s Worst Books”? Isn’t that just a _bit_ exaggerated? And thus, by your own definition, demonization?

    No,  I think that’s pretty much an objective truth.  I mean, I think I’d even rate them above something like “The Fountainhead” or “Atlas Shrugged” because those books are at least open about the monstrous ideology they espouse.  Not only are the World’s Worst Books poorly written but the ethical ideology they demonstrate is exactly the opposite of the ethical ideology they claim.  

    So not only are they basically xenophobic sociopathy manuals, they’re poorly translated from the original Demonish, and the book jacket says it’s about how to be nice person.

    I think the only way you could possibly qualify “World’s Worst Books” to be any more accurate is if you added “Outside of the Harbor Freight Air Sander Manual you got when you bought a Bandsaw.”

  • Anonymous

    Well, _do_ you consider LaHaye and Jenkins just as human as yourself? Do the others here?

    As one of the others here, I feel qualified to answer.  So here’s my answer: Yup.

    You honestly think I don’t?

    Because I suspect that if a friend of yours wrote an inane love scene involving cookies, and someone began posting pictures of half-eaten cookie men labelled “BDSM”, you wouldn’t find that quite as funny as when it’s done to someone you don’t like.

    I would indeed still find it funny, and I certainly wouldn’t go totally overboard and consider it an attempt to dehumanize anybody.  Incidentally, thanks for the link to Jason’s cookie pictures, which I’d forgotten about; they remain as hilarious today as the day they were posted.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I’m going to number rather than blockquote, it’s just easier for me:

    1) Yes I consider them just as human as I.  Here’s the thing:  Humans are often at odds.  I can consider someone an enemy to be overcome *and* consider their humanity at the same time.  This is complicated and I could write a whole post on why and how that works, so for now I’ll leave it at that.

    2) Your analogy as regards a friend’s piece of writing as opposed to L&J’s writing is severely flawed for two reasons.

    A) If my friend is a non-professional writer, then significant slack should be cut.  They’re just doing it for fun.  That said if they are a professional, (and in such a case I would hope to be one of their test readers), I would do everything I could to make sure such a scene never reached print; because I don’t want my friend looking like a goddamn idiot.  No writer, no matter how skilled, can avoid occasionally screwing right the hell up.

    B) L&J are professionals, they get paid a lot of money to write this garbage.  Thus snarking at them is entirely warranted – they expect people to buy this stuff.  More’s the pity that they in fact do so.  We’ll be revisiting this point further down so I’ll leave this brief.

    As to the bit about World’s Worst Books – You can’t dehumanize or demonize an inanimate object.  It’d be one thing if we called them “The Worst Writers Ever”; we don’t though, to my knowledge.

    The exaggeration I was initially intending to be addressed there was things like exaggerating a trait of a given group in order to demonize them.  For example “Jews have huge noses”.

    Again, I take responsibility for being unclear there.

    3) The point you are attempting to make here ends up reading like this:  “All dogs have four legs.  Iguanas have four legs.  Thus Iguanas are dogs.”

    This is fundamentally illogical. 

    Demonization uses Ridicule, yes, but Ridicule is not necessarily demonization.  I’ll add that the spectrum we’re working with is not a linear greyscale spectrum:  We’re dealing with a plethora of colors and hues in three dimensions.  The world is just that complex and what is appropriate and acceptable depends on a lot of variables and their relationships to other variables.

    So yes, Ridicule is on the same spectrum as Demonization.  So are a lot of methods of argument refutation and creation – Demonization is essentially the abuse of those communication tools.

    This is not moral relativism;  it’s moral realism.  The ability to understand just how complicated we humans and our relationships to each other are.

    4)  As a writer, this is insulting to me.

    Let me run you through something here:

    There is no disease that causes bad writing, nor is it a genetic condition.  Writing is a skill, you get better at it the more you do it and the more effort you put into it.

    What L&J show here is a phenomenal lack of care for their craft.  They consistently fail to do even basic research; and worse fail miserably at common literary techniques such as use of metaphor.  It doesn’t matter what they intended – no one sets out to write bad fiction,* however being lazy, and inattentive caused their books to be terrible.

    When someone asks money for a product, the consumer has a right to expect that product was at least the product of good effort, and really they should be able to expect a certain minimum standard.  L&J do not deliver this.

    Blindness on the other hand is something that the blind person cannot help.  There is no “working harder at seeing”.  Bad comparison is bad.

    5) You did notice the use of the word harassment there right?  My point was to give a shorthand spectrum of “various things which we might suggest if we were dehumanizing these people.”  No one is suggesting doing ANYTHING to either LaHaye nor Jenkins, merely deriding them for being awful writers and awful-er theologians.  This is not unreasonable.

    6) Of course it’s not enough;  I think we’re in agreement on that point.  The entire point of my first post on the subject of Never Again was that most people DON’T.  However I wanted to acknowledge that there are groups, like Amnesty International, who do try; and that not everyone has forgotten that charge.

    7)  Two things:

    A)  You seem to be ignoring places like Bosnia where intervention was quite direct.  I’m not even pretending it’s close to enough, but some effort is made.

    B) You’re lumping everyone on the entire planet together on this, when clearly there are people who do make an effort and thus for them, the words do have meaning.

    8 (technically 9)) Yes it did actually.  The Holocaust would have claimed even more lives if not for the actions of the people who did not just sit by.  People who took Jews and other victims into their homes and hid them, or helped them escape, often at peril to their own life.

    Likewise there are people who go around the world with the express purpose of improving the chance of survival in places where things like clean drinking water are preciously limited.  These people do this despite the expense and sometimes the very real risk to their own lives.  Even more people donate so that said people can continue the work.

    Is it enough? No.  I never suggested it was.  In order for it to genuinely be enough we need to get the people with real power involved – governments and corporations; and that won’t happen until we alter the thinking of the average person; which itself will likely require an improvement in that person’s condition so they have more freedom from worrying about themselves.

    The arc of history shows a slow and steady improvement in the world marred by setbacks.  It is however as inexorable as it is slow.

    9)  I think you missed the point of this digression. (Possibly didn’t see the line break? Sorry if it wasn’t clear enough (no sarcasm at all))

    None of the last portion of my statement was meant to say “This makes us good, righteous and has stopped evil.”

    My point was that we have a choice; and that choice means that the world can be improved and will be improved so long as people continue to try.

    That’s the point:  That human nature being mutable means it is worth it to try.  To give in to pessimism and bitterness (which is easy to do, believe me) will not change anything.

    *Unless they’re doing it for laughs, in which case if it’s successful it’s actually Good writing; it just happens to be done in a style that resembles awfulness for the purpose of amusement.

  • Anonymous

    I completely agree with you.

  • Anonymous

    Mackrimin, just out of curiosity are you as hard on yourself as you are on the rest of humanity?  Is this one of those exercises (like “Q” in Star Trek: TNG) where some jerk-off condemns humanity by reciting all their failings thus proving … what exactly? That humans do not meet some ideal standard of conduct which I have noticed is always a moving target?

    I also find it kind of hilarious that you are being so very judgmental while scolding us for … being judgmental. Perhaps you might try a little … (dare I say it?) … empathy.

  • Anonymous

    I’m now feeling the need for a “Patrick Stewart Speech.”  No, I’m not linking TV Tropes.  You’re welcome. ;)

  • Anonymous

    But then God says more. God offers reasons why we should heed these commands. God appeals and persuades and argues.

    Moving from politics to theology, I once had a Rabbi explain to me that the defining characteristic of the Jewish religion was that they were willing to have an argument with God, and sometimes they would even win.

    During this same conversation one of the other people who was there, an RTC of the at least quasi-reasonable stripe was asked what he would do if God – in the same vein as Abraham – asked him to kill his son.  He said he didn’t see as how he’d much choice but to obey.  Rabbi says “But if you were Jewish, you’d try to talk him out of it.”  From my reading of the “Old Testament” – Yahweh learns more from his followers than vice versa.

  • Mackrimin

    I can think of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh just off the top of my
    head, and I was a just a kid when they committed their crimes.  Then
    terrorists attacked us on 9/11, and since then terrorism only counts if
    the person is brown or Muslim.  Stopping immigration, even illegal
    immigration, won’t stop terrorism.  We have enough home-grown terrorists
    to make up for any that we keep out

    But both Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh _are_ children of immigrants. This is clear evidence that letting foreigners – especially those of different race – into the country creates these kinds of problems.

    :p

  • Hawker Hurricane

    “But both Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh _are_ children of immigrants. This is clear evidence that letting foreigners – especially those of different race – into the country creates these kinds of problems.”

    Citation needed.  I looked them up; Ted Kaczynski was NOT a child of immigrants, being 3rd generation American.  I found no information on Timothy McViegh’s status.
    And as pointed out, they’re both Europeans of the pasty white color type.

  • Anonymous

    Hey fearless son may I advise you to watch death note.

    The difference between light and L is that L never said about himself that he is a good person, when he first met the taskforce he described himself as somebody who is childish and hates to lose.

    Although L was hunting kira because of his pride he knew that he was only human and that’s why he looked after succesors before he even took the kira case.

    In contrary Light was somebody who could act normally and in the beginning of the story he was able to empatise with other people and has the same sense of justice.

    But then he got the death note and because he was so pure on the inside it managed corrupt him much worser than I believe would have ever happened with L who knew and understood his own dark side.

    you are not a sociopath because someone who is a sociopath would never ask that question to begin with.

  • Go_4_tli

    Mackrimin: Well, _do_ you consider LaHaye and Jenkins just as human as yourself? Do
    the others here?

    Um, yeah, sure.  The thing is, though, that we don’t see mockery of someone else’s efforts as an indication that we see that someone as less human than ourselves.

    We also know that we’re pretty bad at a good many things than a good many people.  Perhaps we even welcome mockery when we try.  Does that mean we see ourselves as less human than… I don’t know — God, maybe?

    Seriously, under what logic does mocking someone equate to evidence that I think they’re less human than I am?  If anything, mockery and humor are an acknowledgement of our shared humanity, with all our individual flaws and failures.  Without the ability to understand human weakness, something we all share, there’s no point to mockery; it then becomes something much, much uglier.

    Mackrimin: And really, “World’s Worst Books”? Isn’t that just a _bit_ exaggerated? And thus, by your own definition, demonization?

    Even if it is exaggeration, that doesn’t make it demonization.

    It would be exaggerating to say that I’m the world’s worst piano player.  I’m hardly demonized by that exaggeration.

    Makrimin: They
    didn’t write terrible books intentionally. They wrote books
    intentionally, and they turned out to be terrible unintentionally. Which
    means you’re laughing at someone because they’re bad writers and (in
    this particular case) bad theologians. Is it really _that_ different
    from laughing at someone because he has bad or nonexistent eyesight?

    Yes, because those books are touted by their marketers and fans as well-written examples of excellent theology.  They’re plainly terrible at both.

    Would it matter if I sat down and thought myself an excellent pianist?  Would it matter if my agent and fans thought I was an excellent pianist?  No crime is committed when mockery reveals rather efficiently and plainly that I clearly am not.

    There’s also a difference between mocking someone’s ill-advised actions and mocking someone’s hereditary characteristics.

  • Lori

     Of course I’m not saying you’re about declare L and J subhuman and kill them. But I _am_ saying that they aren’t really thought of as humans here most of the time – rather, they’re an enemy to be overcome.  

    There is a difference between believing that someone is doing something wrong or espousing a harmful or dangerous set of beliefs and treating them as subhuman. There is a difference between considering someone an enemy and thinking of them as less than fully human. Employing hyperbole =/= treating someone as subhuman.  

    If that isn’t clear to you then I’d say the issue lies with you, not with the rest of us. 

  • Go_4_tli

    Go_4_tli: We also know that we’re pretty bad at a good many things than a good many people.

    Urg.  I mean, “We also know that we’re far worse at a good many things than a good many people.”

    And perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be for people to call things I’ve composed the World’s Worst Music.  Exaggerated, perhaps, but I’m still not demonized.

  • Go_4_tli

    Go_4_tli: We also know that we’re pretty bad at a good many things than a good many people.

    Urg.  I mean, “We also know that we’re far worse at a good many things than a good many people.”

    And perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be for people to call things I’ve composed the World’s Worst Music.  Exaggerated, perhaps, but I’m still not demonized.

  • Mackrimin

    There is a difference between believing that someone is doing something
    wrong or espousing a harmful or dangerous set of beliefs and treating
    them as subhuman. There is a difference between considering someone an
    enemy and thinking of them as less than fully human.

    There is, but humans aren’t really capable of making that distinction. Someone is either your brother or your enemy. He can’t be both. Not when shit hits the fan, and you have to make decisions under pressure at an emotional level – at that point it’s one or the other. And it’s at that point that it starts mattering.

    Employing hyperbole =/= treating someone as subhuman.

    Actually, yes, it is. Hyperbole is all about turning someone into a 0-dimensional cartoon character. Exaggerating someone’s bad traits is pretty much the _definition_ of demonization.

    If that isn’t clear to you then I’d say the issue lies with you, not with the rest of us.

    The issue lies with every human being. None are free from it. Those who claim to be are lying to themselves, and will thus fall even faster than the rest. That was my point.

    Or, to put it in other words,

    “for all have sinned and
    fall short of the glory of God”

    and as long as that holds true, “never again” remains empty words. It _will_ happen again, and again, and _again_.

    But hey, maybe you’re right and I’m wrong. I certainly hope so. I just don’t think I am.

  • Lori

     There is, but humans aren’t really capable of making that distinction. Someone is either your brother or your enemy. He can’t be both. Not when shit hits the fan, and you have to make decisions under pressure at an emotional level – at that point it’s one or the other. And it’s at that point that it starts mattering.

    Honestly, I have no idea what the heck you’re talking about and I’m not convinced that you do either. 

    I’m human and I’m capable of making the distinction. Again, maybe you’re not. Considering the wild and counter-factual generalizations that you’re making I’m certainly willing to believe that you’re not capable of making critical distinctions.  

    Enemy =/= subhuman. The world is not binary. Brother or enemy are not the only categories in which one person can place another. Someone can be neither. Someone can also be both your enemy and your brother. 

     Actually, yes, it is. Hyperbole is all about turning someone into a 0-dimensional cartoon character. Exaggerating someone’s bad traits is pretty much the _definition_ of demonization.  

     

    Actually, no it isn’t. Hyperbole is about exaggerating a particular aspect of a person or situation. And no that isn’t all there is to demonization. As an aside, why do people in this thread keep throwing around “definitions” that aren’t definitions?

    “for all have sinned and
    fall short of the glory of God” 

    Quoting scripture isn’t effective with me, but even if I grant you the scripture you’re still over-reaching. The fact that all have sinned doesn’t mean that all have committed the particular sin you’re accusing us of. 

  • Anonymous

    “Someone is either your brother or your enemy. He can’t be both.” –Ever hear of sibling rivalry?

    “Exaggerating someone’s bad traits is pretty much the _definition_ of demonization.” “to turn into a demon or make demonlike” –uh.

  • Loki

    There is, but humans aren’t really capable of making that distinction.

    So you claim. Can you actually back that up with rigorous evidence?

    Someone is either your brother or your enemy. He can’t be both.

    Have you ever had a family? I’m not being sarcastic here, I truly want to know. Because it has been my experience, and the experience of every single person I have ever talked to about their families that this is the defining feature of those relationships.

    Not when shit hits the fan, and you have to make decisions under pressure at an emotional level – at that point it’s one or the other. And it’s at that point that it starts mattering</blockquote

    Let's back this claim up. Please show evidence of this statement explicitly (and not the Sophie’s Choice way).

    Actually, yes, it is.

    Actually, no, it isn’t.

    Hyperbole is all about turning someone into a 0-dimensional cartoon character.

    No, that’s caricature. Hyperbole is all about using exaggeration to make a point. Two entirely different concepts. And it is not clear that anyone is even exaggerating.

    Exaggerating someone’s bad traits is pretty much the _definition_ of demonization.

    No, it is not. Demonization is representing something or someone as evil or diabolical. It has nothing to do with “exaggerating someone’s bad traits.”

    The issue lies with every human being. None are free from it. Those who claim to be are lying to themselves, and will thus fall even faster than the rest. That was my point.

    Your point seems to be a series of highly suspect claims, and the mistaken belief that disparate rhetorical tools such as hyperbole, caricature, and demonization are all inexorably linked and always present together.

  • hapax

    The issue lies with every human being. None are free from it. Those who
    claim to be are lying to themselves, and will thus fall even faster than
    the rest. That was my point.

    Yeah, I remember sitting around wearing black, sipping Pine-Sol flavored liqueurs, affecting an attitude of world weary cynicism, misanthropy, and despair.

    Eventually I realized that informing everyone I met that they sucked, everybody sucked, and the whole human species deserved to be dissolved in its own acidulous urine-soaked effluvia was in fact a lousy way to get laid, and I grew up.

    *****

    Note:  the above was an example of MOCKERY and HYPERBOLE.  I am quite certain that the attitudes you have expressed are ones you have thought through carefully, hold quite sincerely, and are much more nuanced than the snippet I highlighted.

    You could fairly claim that I “ridiculed” you.  You could fairly claim that I “mischaracterized” your arguments.  Indeed, you could make a good case that I was being totally “irrelevant” to your main point.  And these are also possible claims that you could make about Fred Clark’s post — if so, I would like to see a cogent argument, with specifics.

    Yet, despite all the obvious flaws in the those paragraphs, nowhere did I “demonize” you.  Nowhere did I “deny your humanity.”  Indeed, I mocked and exaggerated precisely by appealing to our common humanity and assuming that you were capable of better things.

    Just like our host did in the original post.

  • Anonymous

    I logged in and my comment poofed. Argh. To summarize: (1) sibling rivalry & (2) “to turn into a demon or make demonlike.” != hyperbole.

  • Lori

    Exactly.

    For folks who don’t have a dictionary and whose Goggle is broken—-
    Hyperbole: Extravagant exageration  

    Demonize: To represent as evil or diabolic

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    Yeah, I think the whole exaggeration = demonization thing is kind of my fault.  I botched an explanation badly, now we’re paying for it (;_;) I am sorry.

  • hf

    What of one dedicated to ensuring human happiness and safety, and who entombes us all in heroine-drip-fed coffins deep under the earth’s crust?

    Ah yes, Reedspacer’s Lower Bound.

    *heroin

  • Rikalous

    Heroine-drip-fed coffins, links to cookie jailbait…This used to be such a wholesome place. What’s with all the smut all of a sudden?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Mackrimin:  Are you seriously trying to conflate MST3K with the Holocaust?

    O_O

  • hf

    You may recall that according to the story, the Jews entered Egypt willingly in search of economic and social  betterment. They weren’t captured slaves.

    This seems like the way the story goes in the J Text, one of several older versions running through the Bible. The J Text describes a flawed deity who (in my reading) slowly develops the power and confidence to challenge the Egyptian pantheon. Then someone we like to call “Ezra” or “the Redactor” combined it with a version of the story in which God seems to know all and have the power to do anything. This resulted in a nonsensical tale of an all-powerful Trickster deity who lured the Israelites into slavery before releasing them. (Somehow this unpredictable Cartman-like God has not destroyed our world yet, despite a penchant for killing people.)

    I suspect this accounts for a lot of the problem here. The Redacted version of the story, taken as a unified whole, makes a lot less sense and has less of a clear message beyond  ‘obey God’s authority’. Fred has talked before about the problem of God-as-slaver, and IIRC concluded that we can’t draw any clear message about our own behavior from that passage. (So, he thinks, we should focus on the parts that hold together.)

    It’s never the “fjord-dwelling raiders” and their pantheon, or the “highland sheep-herders” and their vindictive Olympian deities.

    I think it is. At least, I seem to recall atheists implicitly pointing out that these people’s environments likewise shaped their mythologies in ways that seem unlikely to produce universal truth. (You could say something similar about science, in some ways, but we’ve deliberately developed ways to reduce the problem in scientific fields.)

    The details of their environments seem less important than the fact that they had environments.

  • Mackrimin

    I’m going to number rather than blockquote, it’s just easier for me:

    Fine with me.

    1)
    Yes I consider them just as human as I.  Here’s the thing:  Humans are
    often at odds.  I can consider someone an enemy to be overcome *and*
    consider their humanity at the same time.  This is complicated and I
    could write a whole post on why and how that works, so for now I’ll
    leave it at that.

    You can do that _now_, when you’re sitting comfortably in your living room (or wherever). Can you do it when the next Hitler arises, on your side or theirs, and deems them – or you – to be a plague to be purged?

    Look, I’m not saying you’re some kind of monster. I’m saying that mocking people – for any reason – legitimazes the very same tactics that can then be used to demonize them, and makes them harder to resist.

    “But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

    Whether this was said by a man or a God, there’s a point there.

    A)
    If my friend is a non-professional writer, then significant slack
    should be cut.  They’re just doing it for fun.  That said if they are a
    professional, (and in such a case I would hope to be one of their test
    readers), I would do everything I could to make sure such a scene never
    reached print; because I don’t want my friend looking like a goddamn
    idiot.  No writer, no matter how skilled, can avoid occasionally
    screwing right the hell up.

    Suppose your friend _was_ a professional writer, and the scene reached print for whatever reason. _Would_ you snark him as much? Or, in other words, if your friend does something idiotic, _do_ you call him an idiot? Do you go out of your way to mock him and humiliate him on a public forum?

    B) L&J are professionals, they
    get paid a lot of money to write this garbage.  Thus snarking at them is
    entirely warranted – they expect people to buy this stuff.  More’s the
    pity that they in fact do so.  We’ll be revisiting this point further
    down so I’ll leave this brief.

    Jenkins is a professional writer, LaHaye is a professional doomsayer.

    As to the bit about World’s Worst
    Books – You can’t dehumanize or demonize an inanimate object.  It’d be
    one thing if we called them “The Worst Writers Ever”; we don’t though,
    to my knowledge.

    Calling the end product worst ever is just a circumspect way of calling the maker worst ever.

    The exaggeration I was initially intending to be
    addressed there was things like exaggerating a trait of a given group
    in order to demonize them.  For example “Jews have huge noses”.

    That’s not really demonization, since having huge noses is not exactly an evil trait. “Jews are greedy” would be a better example of demonization.

    Demonization
    uses Ridicule, yes, but Ridicule is not necessarily demonization.

    I don’t think I’ve ever once seen ridicule aimed at a person which wasn’t intended to humiliate him and strip him of his dignity.

    I’ll
    add that the spectrum we’re working with is not a linear greyscale
    spectrum:  We’re dealing with a plethora of colors and hues in three
    dimensions.  The world is just that complex and what is appropriate and
    acceptable depends on a lot of variables and their relationships to
    other variables.

    What is appropriate and acceptable is not in question here. I don’t disagree that these are awful books, describing awful people, and an awful God. I’m simply pointing out what I believe is a weakness in human beings in general, and how it manifests on this forum.

    So yes, Ridicule is on the same spectrum as
    Demonization.  So are a lot of methods of argument refutation and
    creation – Demonization is essentially the abuse of those communication
    tools.

    Yes, I agree. And it’s all too easy to start abusing the tool you’re using; as easy as sin. That’s why I believe we’ll never be rid of genocide.

    None of this is meant as an accusation; if it comes across as such, then I apologize, it was not meant as such. I’m simply explaining my own pessimism.

    There
    is no disease that causes bad writing, nor is it a genetic condition. 
    Writing is a skill, you get better at it the more you do it and the more
    effort you put into it.

    True. However, it has been argued on this very forum time and again that the biggest problems in Left Behind are not caused by lack of technical skill, but a bad understanding of humans and God. As such, they _can’t_ be corrected by practice; they are mental problems, usually described as moral… myopia. Or blindness.

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t imply that L and J are “stunted” (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2006/02/lb_the_real_sin.html) and then claim that laughing at them is somehow different than laughing at any other cripple.

    What L&J show here is a phenomenal
    lack of care for their craft.  They consistently fail to do even basic
    research; and worse fail miserably at common literary techniques such as
    use of metaphor.  It doesn’t matter what they intended – no one sets
    out to write bad fiction,* however being lazy, and inattentive caused
    their books to be terrible.

    They can’t very well use metaphor, if they think metaphor is the Devil’s tool, now can they?

    And they do plenty of research, it’s just that the results tend to be… weird.

    When someone asks money for a
    product, the consumer has a right to expect that product was at least
    the product of good effort, and really they should be able to expect a
    certain minimum standard.  L&J do not deliver this.

    And if you truly believe that, why haven’t you contacted a consumer protection office?

    Blindness
    on the other hand is something that the blind person cannot help. 
    There is no “working harder at seeing”.  Bad comparison is bad.

    This really warrants a longer discussion, but… no. Blindness is a common metaphor for someone who has a mental block of some kind. It’s an ancient metaphor, dating from at least Genesis. Such people can’t “see” the obvious, and they can’t help it. I’ve been blind in this sense (and probably still am), and I’ve known people who are or were, and believe me, the comparison is spot-on.

    5)
    You did notice the use of the word harassment there right?  My point
    was to give a shorthand spectrum of “various things which we might
    suggest if we were dehumanizing these people.”  No one is suggesting
    doing ANYTHING to either LaHaye nor Jenkins, merely deriding them for
    being awful writers and awful-er theologians.  This is not unreasonable.

    It is _very_ reasonable. It was also extremely reasonable for Germans to put Jews into camps, so they couldn’t harm them. Or at least it made sense to _them_. And any demagogue worth his salt can always make horrible things seem perfectly reasonable to his audience.

    Do you know what it would take to make “never again” a reality? To truly stop atrocities from happening ever again? It’s simple, really: never again accept even the tiniest infringement on anyone’s dignity. Never again call anyone a fool; if they’re wrong, point this out with respect and gentleness – love, if you will. And…

    …It’s too much to ask, now isn’t it? And so atrocities keep on happening.

    6)
    Of course it’s not enough;  I think we’re in agreement on that point. 
    The entire point of my first post on the subject of Never Again was that
    most people DON’T.  However I wanted to acknowledge that there are
    groups, like Amnesty International, who do try; and that not everyone
    has forgotten that charge.

    Yes, they do, and it’s nowhere near enough. We need more and more poweful people behind such efforts. And because such efforts are necessarily multicultural, we also need to clarify exactly what we’re aiming at: UN declaration of human rights, Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights, United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights, or what?

    A)  You seem to
    be ignoring places like Bosnia where intervention was quite direct. 
    I’m not even pretending it’s close to enough, but some effort is made.

    No, places like Bosnia is why it’s _near_-total failure rather than total failure.

    B)
    You’re lumping everyone on the entire planet together on this, when
    clearly there are people who do make an effort and thus for them, the
    words do have meaning.

    There is. Most people don’t. And the people who make the biggest noise about promises like that are usually those least willing to lift a finger to fulfil them.

    8 (technically 9)) Yes it did actually. 
    The Holocaust would have claimed even more lives if not for the actions
    of the people who did not just sit by.  People who took Jews and other
    victims into their homes and hid them, or helped them escape, often at
    peril to their own life.

    There were a few of those. That’s to their glory, and to the shame of those who just sat back. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Holocaust, now was it? Nor was it enough to even severly hinder it, really.

    Is it enough? No.  I never
    suggested it was.  In order for it to genuinely be enough we need to get
    the people with real power involved – governments and corporations; and
    that won’t happen until we alter the thinking of the average person;
    which itself will likely require an improvement in that person’s
    condition so they have more freedom from worrying about themselves.

    If they have more feedom from worrying about themselves, they will simply switch to worrying for their luxuries and amusements. No. _We_ will simply switch to worrying for _our_ luxuries and amusements. Exactly as we _have_ done. Or when was the last time someone starved to death in West?

    The
    arc of history shows a slow and steady improvement in the world marred
    by setbacks.  It is however as inexorable as it is slow.

    But it’s not really “inexorable”, now is it? Because it could all come stumbling back if, say, we fail to replace our depleting energy resources and plunge back to a dark age. And even our modern industrial societies are all too happy to visit misery to others.

    My
    point was that we have a choice; and that choice means that the world
    can be improved and will be improved so long as people continue to try.

    We have a choice. We have always chosen evil over good. The exceptions to this are the stuff of history books, precisely because they are so damn rare.

    That’s
    the point:  That human nature being mutable means it is worth it to
    try.  To give in to pessimism and bitterness (which is easy to do,
    believe me) will not change anything.

    Human nature is _not_ mutable. Human culture is. Human nature is rooted in biology, but it filters through culture, which _can_ be changed. But while that allows improvement, it also means that Hell on Earth is never farther than your own skin from you.

    *Unless they’re doing it
    for laughs, in which case if it’s successful it’s actually Good writing;
    it just happens to be done in a style that resembles awfulness for the
    purpose of amuse

    You are suggesting L  and J are epic trolls? That actually makes a lot of sense.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think I’ve ever once seen ridicule aimed at a person which
    wasn’t intended to humiliate him and strip him of his dignity.

    Clearly you’ve never seen the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. Or anybody engaging in self-mockery.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t think I’ve ever once seen ridicule aimed at a person which
    wasn’t intended to humiliate him and strip him of his dignity.

    Clearly you’ve never seen the Daily Show or the Colbert Report. Or anybody engaging in self-mockery.

    Or had an Australian friend. If I couldn’t show affection with a gentle pisstake, I don’t know where I’d be.

  • Lori

     

    You can do that _now_, when you’re sitting comfortably in your living room (or wherever). Can you do it when the next Hitler arises, on your side or theirs, and deems them – or you – to be a plague to be purged? 

     
    Are you genuinely this thick? Do you actually not understand that you can oppose someone without thinking that they are less than human? 

    Bad, bad person =/= subhuman. 

    Enemy =/= subhuman

    War =/= genocide

    I think your education on this issue is extremely lacking and you should probably do a bit more research before you consider talking about it any more.

    Look, I’m not saying you’re some kind of monster. I’m saying that mocking people – for any reason – legitimazes the very same tactics that can then be used to demonize them, and makes them harder to resist.  

    You can say it all you want. That doesn’t make it true. (I’m ignoring the Bible verse because IMO the Bible isn’t an argument.)

    Calling the end product worst ever is just a circumspect way of calling the maker worst ever. 

    No, it’s not. For one thing, author output is rarely of uniform quality. 

  • Anonymous

    Suppose your friend _was_ a professional writer, and the scene reached print for whatever reason. _Would_ you snark him as much? Or, in other words, if your friend does something idiotic, _do_ you call him an idiot? Do you go out of your way to mock him and humiliate him on a public forum?

    I don’t have to suppose. I am a professional reviewer for a website, http://www.tasteslikecomics.com. I mostly wind up reviewing movies and TV shows. In one of my reviews I viciously and brutally mocked all aspects of a cheesy Thor knock-off movie. It was a really bad movie. I made some rather unflattering comments about the lead actor. Here’s the twist, I’m friends with him (not close friends).

    I make fun of my friends all the time. They make fun of me. Most of us are writers, most of the rest are some form of artist, and we without a doubt go out of our way to “mock and humiliate [each other] on a public forum.” We refer to it as “workshopping” and “critiquing.”

    Calling the end product worst ever is just a circumspect way of calling the maker worst ever.

    Uhh… no. Creative, unique, talented people unleash artistic abominations all the time. Saying “this particular piece of artwork is horrible, horrible, horrible” is not saying that the creator of that art is horrible, horrible, horrible. Although in this case I am not sure if anything either creator has released has not been utterly horrible.

    I don’t think I’ve ever once seen ridicule aimed at a person which wasn’t intended to humiliate him and strip him of his dignity.

    Really? REALLY? Is this true? Because mocking, teasing and ridicule seems to be an intrinsic aspect of friendship. We recognize our foibles and laugh about them together.

  • Anonymous

    When someone asks money for a product, the consumer has a right to expect that product was at least the product of good effort, and really they should be able to expect a certain minimum standard.  L&J do not deliver this.

    And if you truly believe that, why haven’t you contacted a consumer protection office?

    People generally address a bad service or product by filing a complaint or asking for their money back.  People generally address a bad book by panning it in their reviews (whether online, in a newspaper, or in comments to friends).

    =================

    You really think that mockery is part of a slippery slope to genocide?  I disagree.  Sociology, psychology, personal experience, heck, even some of the snarky passages of the Bible show that humor and mockery are a way of making a point without resorting to violence.  Without these tools, I think we’d be much more violent as a species, not less so.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I’m not going to respond to the whole thing; for a lot of reasons.

    However I do want to note this: 

    You are suggesting L  and J are epic trolls? That actually makes a lot of sense.

    Not actually what I meant.  A rather hilarious idea mind you; but not what I was actually saying.  (Note this is quite aside from whether I buy that L&J believe what they claim to believe.)

    I was meaning more that some people deliberately set out to write “good-bad” fiction with the intention of making something in the vein of Plan 9 from Outer Space.

    Note that doing it intentionally, doing it accidentally, and claiming to have done it intentionally while having done it accidentally end up with similar end-products so sometimes it’s very hard to tell who sucked, and who was so good they could convince you they sucked hilariously.  (I apologize if this isn’t making sense, I’m very tired and going to bed now.)

  • P J Evans

     JJohnson, a good example of this is the novel Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea. It’s intentionally badly written.

  • Amaryllis

    @Mackrimon:disqus: have you read today’s TF post? You might find it interesting.

    @hf:disqus: I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the different sources for Genesis to say. But it’s interesting to speculate about the ways the story might have gone. If the Hebrews had stayed in Canaan, and developed their version of the law without the first-hand knowledge of oppression and  deprivation? What would the law have looked like then?

    Or if the Egyptians had said, “here’s a hard-working and successful group of people, it’s good for our economy that they’re here, treat them fairly”? And any Hebrews who wanted to return to Canaan had gone back as prosperous cousins instead of a hungry army?

    No years of slavery, no plagues of locusts or rivers of blood, no starving in the wilderness, no cities leveled, no dead babies. No dead babies, Hebrew or Egyptian or Canaanite.

    Would anyone have listened to the voice in the burning bush then? And what would it have said?

    @HawkerHurricane:disqus : I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, because I repeat myself a lot: as a descendent of Irish Catholics, few things embarass me more than anti-immigrant Irish-Americans or Catholics calling other people’s religions un-American.

    White male terrorists don’t count as a terrorist group, because white males are individuals. If one of them does something awful, it doesn’t reflect on the rest of them. But if a non-white person or a woman or an immigrant does the same thing, it’s evidence that “they’re all like that.”
    (Bitter? Who, me?)

  • Amaryllis

    @Mackrimon:disqus: have you read today’s TF post? You might find it interesting.

    @hf:disqus: I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the different sources for Genesis to say. But it’s interesting to speculate about the ways the story might have gone. If the Hebrews had stayed in Canaan, and developed their version of the law without the first-hand knowledge of oppression and  deprivation? What would the law have looked like then?

    Or if the Egyptians had said, “here’s a hard-working and successful group of people, it’s good for our economy that they’re here, treat them fairly”? And any Hebrews who wanted to return to Canaan had gone back as prosperous cousins instead of a hungry army?

    No years of slavery, no plagues of locusts or rivers of blood, no starving in the wilderness, no cities leveled, no dead babies. No dead babies, Hebrew or Egyptian or Canaanite.

    Would anyone have listened to the voice in the burning bush then? And what would it have said?

    @HawkerHurricane:disqus : I’ve said it before and no doubt I’ll say it again, because I repeat myself a lot: as a descendent of Irish Catholics, few things embarass me more than anti-immigrant Irish-Americans or Catholics calling other people’s religions un-American.

    White male terrorists don’t count as a terrorist group, because white males are individuals. If one of them does something awful, it doesn’t reflect on the rest of them. But if a non-white person or a woman or an immigrant does the same thing, it’s evidence that “they’re all like that.”
    (Bitter? Who, me?)

  • Mackrimin

    Eventually I realized that informing
    everyone I met that they sucked, everybody sucked, and the whole human
    species deserved to be dissolved in its own acidulous urine-soaked
    effluvia was in fact a lousy way to get laid, and I grew up.

    They do, and it does, and it is, and you did, and it’s still true.

    Note: 
    the above was an example of MOCKERY and HYPERBOLE.  I am quite certain
    that the attitudes you have expressed are ones you have thought through
    carefully, hold quite sincerely, and are much more nuanced than the
    snippet I highlighted.

    Not at all. “Humans suck and deserve to be dissolved in their own waste” is a spot-on summary of my view on humanity. The problem is that I’m a human myself.

    Believe me, if it was not for that thread of kinship, for all the rest of you have done to me, I’d lit your pyre in Hell myself and laugh at you burning. But blood is thicker than water, so I can’t. Life sucks.

    You could fairly claim that I “ridiculed”
    you.  You could fairly claim that I “mischaracterized” your arguments. 
    Indeed, you could make a good case that I was being totally “irrelevant”
    to your main point.  And these are also possible claims that you could
    make about Fred Clark’s post — if so, I would like to see a cogent
    argument, with specifics.

    I don’t. I won’t. You are completely correct: humans _suck_ and deserve all the _horrible_ things that happen to them. But the God who made us immature murderers and left us to kill and torture each other to death? He deserves something no human has ever even dreamed of. A crucifixion is not even a _start_ to what _He_ deserves.

    You know, there was a time I actually had faith in Him. That was before I learned just what His images are really capable of. Now I simply wish to muzzle humans, so they can’t harm me or each other, and keep the damn killer apes in a short leash so the society can function somewhat. It’s the only way any of us can have _any_ security whatsoever.

    People are dangerous animals – the sooner you acknowledge this, the sooner you can stop coming up with philosophies that do nothing to help, and can start thinking about how to contain us while still preventing any one person or group from getting oppressed. For that is all the hope we have.

    Yet, despite all the obvious flaws in
    the those paragraphs, nowhere did I “demonize” you.  Nowhere did I “deny
    your humanity.”  Indeed, I mocked and exaggerated precisely by appealing to our common humanity and assuming that you were capable of better things.

    Actually, _wrong_. You did demonize me with your oversimplification. You also demonized yourself. You demonized all of humanity. You did, to put it bluntly, Shai’tan’s job. But you are not the least bit wrong.

    Just like our host did in the original post.

    And in so doing he, too, did the Devil’s job for him. Isn’t it _wonderful_ how we all seem willing to serve His Infernal Majesty, despite our intentions to the contrary? It’s just your humanity coming to the fore.

  • hapax

    People are dangerous animals – the sooner you acknowledge this, the
    sooner you can stop coming up with philosophies that do nothing to help,
    and can start thinking about how to contain us while still preventing
    any one person or group from getting oppressed. For that is all the hope
    we have.

    I’m afraid this bit puzzles me. Where’s the “hope” in this?

    If people are all that awful, every last one of us just a Reichstag fire away from genocide… well, why not go ahead and commit genocide?  Why not do all the oppressing we can get away with?

    It’s not like the groups we are killing or oppressing are all that nice.  After all, *they’re* humans too, and according to you deserve whatever they get.

    Even those who hid Jews from the Nazis… they probably went out and poked hospital patients with sticks.  And the Jews that were saved, meh, they went out and oppressed the Palestinians.  Better they had all died in the camps.

    Isn’t this the logical conclusion of your worldview? 

    How can you bear living in this world you have created?  It makes me feel so sad for you.  May I send you you a picture of a baby aardvark or something?

  • Lori

     Not at all. “Humans suck and deserve to be dissolved in their own waste” is a spot-on summary of my view on humanity. The problem is that I’m a human myself.  

     

    Allowing for the “on the internet no one can tell you’re a dog” issue, you are human. That is very definitely not your problem though. You have a serious problem, but your humanity is not it. 

    People are dangerous animals – the sooner you acknowledge this, the sooner you can stop coming up with philosophies that do nothing to help, and can start thinking about how to contain us while still preventing any one person or group from getting oppressed. 

    This statement does not follow from earlier statements that you’ve made. You are making leaps of logic that are neither warranted nor supported. In fact, you’re sort of all over the place here and your thinking on this issue is nowhere near clear enough to offer any help in keeping anyone from being oppressed. 

  • Tonio

    When I read statements like, “Humans suck and deserve to be dissolved in their own waste,” I picture a James Bond villain ready to detonate the bomb that will wipe out the human race. Or at least holding a viewing party whenever news breaks about earthquakes or tsunamis.

  • Anonymous

    Not at all. “Humans suck and deserve to be dissolved in their own waste”
    is a spot-on summary of my view on humanity. The problem is that I’m a
    human myself.

    Believe me, if it was not for that thread of
    kinship, for all the rest of you have done to me, I’d lit your pyre in
    Hell myself and laugh at you burning. But blood is thicker than water,
    so I can’t. Life sucks.

    Demonize much? Your hostility seems to be an effort to distance yourself from the rest of humanity. Kind of a hopeless task given that you, as you acknowledge, are human.

    Really, this level of self-loathing cannot be healthy for you. I don’t know how you can have compassion for other people if you lack compassion for yourself.

  • ako

    Mackrim, you might want to go to your doctor for a depression screening.  Because seeing everyone and everything as horrible and hopeless can be a symptom.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Not at all. “Humans suck and deserve to be dissolved in their own waste”is a spot-on summary of my view on humanity. The problem is that I’m a human myself.Believe me, if it was not for that thread of kinship, for all the rest of you have done to me, I’d lit your pyre in Hell myself and laugh at you burning. But blood is thicker than water, so I can’t. Life sucks.

    I know some people who are so beautiful it’d make you cry–and I don’t mean physically attractive. And I’d be stretching things to claim I know one in a million people in the world. Unfortunately I also have too much experience of the mundane cruelty of the “average person” so I’m no starry eyed optimist. But I can’t share your assessment.

  • Guest-again

    ‘Overstaying a student or tourist visa is a pretty common way that undocumented immigrants get into this country.’

    In the past – these days, with the fingerprinting at the borders, it has become somewhat difficult. Fortress America is not exactly something people from other countries are no longer aware of – though strangely, this seems to deter no longer apparently legal travellers/students/tourists, while having no impact on illegal travel at all.

    Like as described in this 1997 incident, written by the U.S. State Department –
    ¶2.  Erla Osk Arnardottir left Keflavik Sunday evening December 9 in
    the first class cabin of a New York-bound flight.  Upon her arrival
    at JFK she proceeded to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) control
    where, after her documents were checked, she was removed to a
    secondary area.  CPB authorities told post that Ms. Arnardottir was
    denied entry under into the United States under the Visa Waiver
    Program because she had overstayed her visa by three weeks in
    December 1994.   Ms. Arnardottir claims that she had entered the
    United States several times under the VWP after the 1994 overstay
    without hinderance, and that she did not know and was never informed
    that she needed to apply for a visa to travel the U.S.
     
    ¶3.  According to CBP authorities, contacted by the Embassy, Ms.
    Arnardottir was held in the secondary investigation area of JFK for
    several hours and then transferred to a temporary holding cell for
    two additional hours.  Since the next available return flight to
    Iceland was not until the evening of the next day (8:00 pm, December
    10), Ms. Arnardottir was then transfered to the custody of the
    Detentions and Removal Operations Office (DRO) of the Immigration
    and Custom Enforcement (ICE) for overnight detention.  According to
    Ms. Arnardottir, her legs were chained and hands cuffed before she
    was transported to a detention facility in New Jersey.  At the
    detention facility, Ms. Arnardottir reported that she was
    fingerprinted, photographed, medically examined, physically
    searched, asked highly personal questions and placed in a jail cell
    for the rest of the night.  Although promised the use of a phone and
    the opportunity to contact Icelandic consular officials, her
    subsequent requests to do so were denied.  The next day she was
    transported back to the airport embarkation area in chains and
    handcuffs, and not freed until she arrived at the Icelandair gate.

    http://wikileaks.rsf.org/cable/2007/12/07REYKJAVIK336.html

    Americans living within the U.S. often have no idea what it is like to even attempt to enter the U.S. these days as a non-American. Including the fee now charged to support America’s image in the world as part of the mandatory application process people living in countries, such as those in the EU, which place no visa requirement on Americans at all, have to face.

    In case anyone is curious, a number of people I know in Germany who were formerly planning to visit the U.S. to spend money (buy a house, for example, or travel) have given up such plans.

    People in the rest of the world who would have no problem travelling to the U.S. legally simply aren’t interested in doing it any longer. And in the case of the well fingerprinted and documented Ms. Arnardottir, she is forbidden anyways, essentially for the rest of her life.

    Seeing as how she overstayed her visa in 1994.

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Americans living within the U.S. often have no idea what it is like to
    even attempt to enter the U.S. these days as a non-American.

    Yeah – I was thinking of taking a holiday to the US for a while, but have decided not to. At least not while getting into the country is so damn hard.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    While not nearly so severe, one of my favorite webcomic artists, Taroll Hunt (Canadian) was denied entrance to the US last year because he lacked a work visa.

    Note that all he was doing was going to a convention for a few days to sell collected editions of his comic (Goblins); something he’d apparently done several times before without incident.  From what I recall he was rather upset at how rude the people who stopped him were about it too, since they spent a lot of time being very insistent that he was somehow ‘stealing work from Americans’.

    Which is ridiculous, being the artist/writer of a webcomic is a unique position, no one else can fill it precisely the same way and Taroll’s work is a 2-person show (he and his wife Danielle); so if you want Goblins stuff, they’re the only people to see in the entire world.

    *sigh*

    I should note that he DID have a Visa – just not a work visa.

    What upset me the most about that incident was the way a few fans reacted though – They were upset Taroll was denied entry… and instead of blaming it on Fortress America mentality; they blamed it on “illegals”.

    Obvious double standard is obvious.

    Blergh.

    At least the comic remains awesome.

  • Tonio

    While I share your repugnance at stories like yours and Guest-Again’s, I also urge caution at how we treat them. They can easily be misinterpreted as meaning, “OMG, even white Europeans are being harassed.” I wonder if the more perceptive folks at INS know that the tougher policies originated in racist pandering by politicians, but use zero-tolerance enforcement just to cover their own asses. Years ago I read about massive corruption among the patrols at the Mexican border, taking bribes from the employers who exploit the laborers.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ JJohnson

    I’m sure that’s the case overall – but the way he was treated on a personal level suggests something a bit more.

    Which isn’t to say I’m saying “OMG it’s happening to white people!”

    It’s more “This is bullshit regardless of who it happens to, this is a story I am personally aware of.”  (The double-standard bit was in reference to that subsection of fans having a double-standard between a Canadian and Mexican/Central/South Americans)

  • P J Evans

    Because it makes everyone so much safer when you need a passport to leave the country for a few days, and you’re only going to Vancouver. /s

    I think most of the ‘Homeland Security’ measures are theater intended to make people afraid (or more afraid), rather than actual security (which might be better directed at cargo containers).

  • Guest-again

    Oops – not 1997, 2007.

  • Guest-again

    ‘I also urge caution at how we treat them. They can easily be
    misinterpreted as meaning, “OMG, even white Europeans are being
    harassed.”’
    Actually, I was attempting to show that the difference between them (everybody who wants to come to Fortress America) and us (well, the Real Americans among us, that is) has been growing.

    Someone from Iceland overstayed her visa in 1994 for 3 weeks – and the result is to haul her away in chains. From Iceland – where we don’t have a problem with illegal immigrants (let’s be honest – if all 450,000 or so Icelanders came to the U.S., we wouldn’t really notice it – that is less than the growth of 5 years in one county where I lived in Northern Virginia, after all).

    I do understand the point – but mine was something a bit different, if not explicit. Europeans, with their guaranteed multi week vacations, essentially universal health care, violent crime rates a fraction of those found in the U.S., among a number of other quantitatively measurable advantages to living in Europe, are not trying to overstay their visa to take American jobs away. And yet, that is how they are treated at the border. The woman from Iceland was flying first class, as noted in the State Department cable (unclassified cable, I might add), to go shopping in NYC.

    (Oops – here is the summary of the incident, which was a diplomatic incident in Iceland, actually, ending withh the U.S. ambassador apologizing to Iceland on TV, if I recall – which will make not a whit of difference in how Icelanders are treated at the border, I might add –
    1. Summary: Erla Osk Arnardottir, an Icelandic women traveling to New York for holiday shopping, was detained in New York December 9-10 by the Department of Homeland Security for a Visa Waiver Program violation. She was returned to Iceland on the next available flight after spending the night in a jail-like detention facility and being transported to and from the airport in shackles and chains. When she returned home, Ms. Arnardottir posted her unpleasant experiences on a local blog, which was immediately picked up by the media. With the press railing for action, the Minister of Foreign Affairs called the Ambassador into her office today to ask for an official apology. (reported SEPTEL) End Summary.’)We don’t care – everyone that isn’t an ‘American’ has become ‘them.’This is no longer theoretical at this point, part of what this post of Fred’s was attempting to show. Many non-Americans are actively avoiding the U.S. at this point, for reasons that are not really clear to people living within the U.S.

    Before, it was possible to excuse such behavior (if excuse can be the right word for the process) by pointing out that American tends to have problems with racism, just like Europeans, etc. That excuse does not apply to someone from Iceland – who, as an ‘illegal,’ was dragged away in chains. We have reached the point where the full power of the state is being used to make a point, and yet, we consider it nothing but business as usual.

    It isn’t. And still, we want to go further in dealing with all those ‘illegals,’ a term that lays bare what needs to be done with them – punish them mercilessly for daring to be ‘illegal.’ Blond haired or not, rich enough to go shopping in NYC for the holidays or not, who had visited before without a mention of having broken a law – 13 years before she was dragged away in chains, denied even the chance to talk to her embassy.

    We aren’t the same nation we were – and yet we believe nothing has changed.

  • Tonio

    To be clear, I wasn’t accusing either Guest-Again or JJohnson of using the OMG argument, but simply pointing out the risk involved in using stories where white Europeans were the ones victimized. I agree with the points they raised – this treatment is just wrong no matter what ethnicity is involved.

    I remember how the media turned Ryan White into an AIDS poster child, apparently hoping this would sway the bigots who viewed the disease as affecting only “undesirables.” But someone who believed that gays and heroin addicts deserved what they got was likely too mired in hatred to be swayed that way. Or the person would have simply dismissed White as an outlier. I want to avoid enabling the type of hypocrisy that Richard Pryor condemned – he pointed out that a drug epidemic “means white people are doing it.”

  • Guest-again

    ‘Attempt to be be honest; an adult cannot believe the statement  “an
    entire political party of being sociopaths” is “a simple statement of
    fact”.’
    Well, can’t say anything about adults (or how to recognize a bit of extrapolation being viewed as exaggeration), but someone with a more than passing familarity with 20th century history could probably name a few political parties/movements.

    For example, Hutu Power – which managed to kill as much as 20% of Rwanda’s population (the number of dead are estimated to be between 500,000 and 1 million) in 1994. This act was committed in part to ‘protect’ real Hutu Rwandans from the not real Tutsi Rwandans – here is a quick summary –
    ‘The assassination of Habyarimana
    in April 1994 set off a violent reaction, resulting in the Hutus’
    conducting mass killings of Tutsis and pro-peace Hutus, who were
    portrayed as “traitors” and “collaborationists”. This genocide had been
    planned by members of the Hutu power group known as the Akazu,
    many of whom occupied positions at top levels of the national
    government; the execution of the genocide was supported and coordinated
    by the national government as well as by local military and civil
    officials and mass media. Alongside the military, primary
    responsibility for the killings themselves rests with two Hutu militias
    that had been organized for this purpose by political parties: the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi, although once the genocide was underway a great number of Hutu civilians took part in the murders.’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide

    Also in the mid-90s, there was the violent expression of the nationalist Greater Serbia movement involving several political parties, all of which participated in war, and none of which opposed acts of genocide. For more history about this, another quick overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_Serbia#Yugoslav_wars

    Stretching back a bit further, there was the Khmer Rouge, or Mao, or Stalin, or … well, no need to Godwin this discussion.

    And as a note – it is delusional to suggest that half of Americans belong to any political party. However, I still remain confident that a deep and wide majority of Americans will reject any political party that has members espousing the idea that a raped woman has no legal rights after her papers are determined to not be in correct order (do read the post from our host preceding this one). That view is intolerable, un-American, and utterly vile. I also reject anyone’s beliefs that can hold such an utterly sociopathic view of how America functions. It does not require much discernment to recognize evil, at least when one has a historical perspective, one that often comes with maturity.

  • Tonio

    In fairness to William H, it’s very reasonable to read the quote as accusing all members of the political party of being sociopaths. But that still doesn’t justify the defensiveness of the response.

    Part of the problem may be that many people react to “sociopath” as though it was a synonym for “psychopath,” with all the attendant stereotypes about the mentally ill. I don’t know if Fred made this next point or if came from one of the Slacktivistas, but there may also be confusion between “empathy” and “sympathy.” My own theory is that the empathy-bashers are deliberately exploiting the word confusion, so as to straw-man their opponents into coddlers of career criminals and welfare cheats and any other race euphemism they can throw in there.

  • Anonymous

    It’s also quite debatable if HALF of the US is actualy Republican in party affiliation.  Most of the numbers I’ve heard used say one-quarter (with another quarter going to the Dems, and the remaining half being Independends, undecideds, or apathetics.)

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I thank JJohnson for the show of support.  In reference to some other comments, I am familiar with alexithymia and it is a trait I am certain that I possess.  And yes, I have seen Death Note.  I was wondering when someone would bring it up.  Keikaku dōri.

    I want to give a few examples of things that I have done involving empathy or the lack thereof: 
     
    A few years ago my father was on a ladder which had been secured improperly and collapsed under him, causing him to fall over two stories.  The fall broke his nose, wrenched his shoulder out of its socket, and fractured his spine.  It was a minor miracle that his spinal fracture was not serious (as far as spinal injuries go) and with a few titanium studs and some grafted tissue from a cadaver he was able to maintain full mobility and feeling.  The nose was a fairly routine fix.  His shoulder turned out to be the most serious damage though, as his muscles around it were shredded to bits.  He now has to do daily physical therapy to maintain flexibility in it.  In the period recovering from the fall, it was even worse because the shoulder was still healing, and the therapy was very painful for him since it was essentially deliberately pulling the internal wound back open every time it tried to mend itself together, lest it heal into a completely inflexible slab of muscle.  He needed help at this stage, because the pain of moving his arm that far was more than he could force himself to do on his own.  My mother tried helping him, but she could not stand to see her husband in pain, and could not bring herself to do, it was just too painful for her to watch.  Conversely, in addition to his physical pain, it made my father uncomfortable to ask his wife to do something that she was uncomfortable with, made worse by him feeling guilty that it was his condition that troubled her so.

    So I ended up helping him with his physical therapy. Lifting his arm slowly above his head, speaking calmly as he grimaced with the pain of it. Warming and loosening his shoulder with my hands before we began, then again after we finished. He said that was actually better for him, precisely because I could help him through that pain without becoming distressed by it myself. It made the pain a lot easier for him to bare, knowing that I would not be put out by it. That I could help him with compassion without letting his own feeling distract mine.

    This afternoon, I was heading out to meet a friend, traveling on foot into downtown. I was a little later getting out the door than I intended to be, and I had to skip lunch. Not having had breakfast, I knew that I should probably get something in my stomach before meeting my friend so hunger would not distract me. I stepped into a gas station convenience store a few blocks from my house and grabbed a packaged sandwich, cut in halves. I opened and discarded the package when I was out the door, stuffed half the sandwich in my face as I walked down the street. I had not gone a block when I saw a man on the street corner of a busy intersection, holding a cardboard sign. As I waited for the walk sign to change, still chewing the last of the sandwich, the man spotted me and began to approach. He started to ask me something, but I could not hear exactly what with my earphones in. Regardless, his intent was pretty clear, and before he could finish speaking, I held the other half of the sandwich to him. He accepted it gratefully and began eating it immediately. I gave him a little thumbs-up as I stepped into the crosswalk.
    Normally I am hesitant about giving money, in part because I am unemployed and I have no idea when I will be able to replace those assets, and in part because I have been taken advantage of before by people who were begging for food money who then turn around and buy drugs off someone down the street, not even bothering to preserve the social fiction by waiting until I am out of sight to do so. But this was not money, this was food. The money had already been committed, and I did not need all the calories from it anyway. Besides, I thought, “What if I were in this guy’s position? I know I would be grateful for half a sandwich.” Call it duty, karma, reciprocity. It is all of those things. I give to others when they need, with the expectation that others will give to me when I need. Maybe not the same people, and maybe there are people who will try to take advantage, but if through some little effort on my part I can give society a little push in the right direction, hopefully that little will be enough that when I am down on my luck others will support me. “Investing goodwill”, so to speak. I sow so that I may reap when I need to, and if others need to and I do not, then others may reap what I sow.
    It is because of this that I sometimes take offense at the idea that someone with low empathy cannot necessarily be a contributing member of society. Maybe I do not feel what others do, but an unhappy society tends to be an unproductive and chaotic one. But no matter how much I do to try and promote a calm and content society, people will still consider me a monster because I do not feel joy when attending a wedding, because the first though I have when I see a baby is “How fragile. Why are the parents so enamored of it?”
    Given that social outlook, sometimes I feel like the best I can do is to die in some socially productive way. That way society can benefit and no longer has to suffer my existence. I just wish that my family was not so attached. The fact that my death would cause them unnecessary emotional trauma is a limiting factor, no matter how irrational their attachment is.  My feelings are irrevelant, their feelings are not, because my death would cause them more trauma than their deaths would cause me.

  • Matri

    Sound logical and analytical thought processes with a touch of belief in karma and, despite what you say about yourself, some empathy as well.

    Personally, I find bouts of low empathy useful in certain situations, because it would allow me to look at things objectively instead of emotionally and decide on the absolute best long-term strategy.

    It’s the ones who have no empathy that are the problems. And you will have a hard time convincing me that the republican leadership aren’t prime examples of this.

  • Anonymous

    This, interestingly enough, reminded me of a book I recently read called “On Killing.” It was written by a military psychologist who used historical data and hundreds of interviews to compile a realistic view of what it really means to kill someone. Contrary to popular belief, almost no one can just shoot someone and be fine with it.  

    However, he discussed a small group, about 1-2% of the population, who could. He pointed out that these people were no more likely than anyone else to be violent. In civilian life, they seemed to fit just as well as anyone else. But for some reason, some people are just sort of- fine with it.  He pointed out that these people often made some of the best, bravest, and most reliable soldiers. So he was not in any way trying to point to this group as bad people, and distinctly separated this sociopath personality from psychopathic personalities, who usually make horrible soldiers because they can’t take orders and ENJOY killing.So basically, you’d probably make an excellent soldier. And further, a good doctor. The skill you have naturally, of not being bothered by other’s pain, is one that most doctor’s spend a lifetime developing.

  • Anonymous

    Imagining that you could be in the same position as a guy panhandling is a display of empathy. Understanding about the pain that your mother feels in causing your father pain and also understanding the long-term bad effects to your father of not getting the therapy he needs also show empathy.

    I think you are a big fraud. You have plenty of empathy … probably more than most.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Maybe I am just really good at rationalizing.  As mentioned, I have alexithymia, and thus my own emotions and I are rarely on speaking terms.  So what inclinations I do have tend to be heavily rationalized.  I do not “feel” it strictly.  Seeing another person in pain tends to motivate me to comfort them, but in the same way that seeing a leaky pipe motivates me to tighten its joining valves.  It is all about maintaining the social machine of human interaction to ensure its smooth functioning.  We all depend on the machine, and I have a sense of obligation to ensure the maintenance of the portion of it that I inhabit.  I do not have to “feel” for other people to understand that. 

    Which brings me to another point.  I believe that in any well-structured society, the moral option should always be the pragmatic option.  Take something like environmentalism.  Many people come to support that out of an empathy for nature.  A desire to perserve beauty, or make sure the habitat of cute little critters is not destroyed.  I can see the sentiment of it, but I feel that sentiment alone is insufficient reason to support environmentalism.  However, there are plenty of practical reasons to do so.  Consuming natural resources faster than they can be renewed and producing waste faster than it can be broken down is simply unsustainable, the mathmatics of it are determinant.  I am sure that society will come up with alternatives to a critical resource once that critical resource is exhausted, but that is irresponsible as well.  Removing a resource that we have use for now will deprive us of other optional uses of such resources we might find in the future.  Thus, finding alternatives to such resources before they are exhausted completely strikes me as a better option.  Recycling, alternative fuels, biodegradable disposable products, technologies with reduced emission footprints, etc.  The motivation is pragmatic rather than sentimental. 

    Yes, I have proposed some options before that are horrible in the short term, such as removing newborns from parents and raising them in state facilities.  I never claimed that anyone would enjoy them.  But it would be in the name of eliminating things like family privilege.  I think that a lot of things humans take for granted about “human nature” is more malleable then most people believe.  A generation of two of such institutions would hopefully allow for a more smoothly functioning society with less impetus for social disruption. 

    Another option I had proposed which would require a lot more medical and computer development would be the transhumanism of forced-sympathy.  Everyone having a chip inside their head that, when forming a strong opinion, will network in the perspectives of other people who have a difference to that opinion.  Not precisely mind-control, but deliberately tempering people to have more moderate and carefully weighed opinions.  In this manner, the needs and effectiveness of democracy change dramatically.  The morally questionable option is how to get everyone to participate in it.  Forcing a chip into everyone’s brain might be seen as an ethically questionable move.  It is something that I would be willing to do, but resistance would almost certainly be fierce, and that might defeat the purpose of doing it in the first place.  The most pragmatic option that I have been able to envision so far is the chip implanting spreading as a social movement, begining with small groups of people who allow themselves to be chipped to each other, and gradually expanding from there.  As more people chip into the network, their position as a voting bloc becomes more signifigant, which increases the effect they have on legislation, and more people will be motivated to join. 

    Sorry, this is getting a bit tangential. 

  • ako

    I would advise you to consider a few points about your plan:

    1) To implement the government-raised-children thing, you would have to send armed men to literally tear children out of their parent’s arms, and hunt down all of the parents who went on the run and hid their children.  This means that much of the society would suffer massive trauma, which is not a good way to make things function more smoothly.

    2) If the professional government carer “How to best raise a child” theories are wrong in some way, an entire generation could grow up seriously damaged.  And it is incredibly common for institutions to do a poor job of raising children, even when they are following what they consider best practices. 

    3) If the government comes to take away everyone’s children, most people will consider the government evil and an enemy to be fought.  This is not amenable to a smoothly-functioning society.  It would mean certain massive upheaval and damage in the short-term, in exchange for the possibility of a better-functioning society in the long term, and if you’re wrong, it would be massive upheaval and damage followed by a generation of deeply psychologically scarred institutionally-reared children.

    4) Humans are fairly malleable, but your proposal goes against one of the most basic mammalian instincts.  It’s like trying to solve the obesity crisis by outlawing eating and insisting people only take in nourishment from a stomach tube.  Yes, a few people will be able to adjust to that without too much trouble, but most will fight you, and fight you passionately.

  • Caravelle

    What ako said about the pragmatism of taking children from their parents and raising them in state facilities, with added emphasis on how terrible the government is at raising children right now. Frankly, while I can see a future where we know how to raise and educate children right, and I don’t think that having the government do it is totally crazy (although I suspect “raising children right” will turn out to require some kind of parental love, so I doubt things will work out that way), the future society that knows how to raise children perfectly and that has a government that can be exclusively trusted with that task is alien enough and far enough in the future that we can’t speculate on how parents will react to it.

    As for the forced sympathy chip, I can sort of see your intent with it but as described it looks to me as if it will enforce conformity and majority rule more than anything. And the problem is, the majority and the conformists aren’t always right.

  • Rikalous

    The most pragmatic option that I have been able to envision so far is
    the chip implanting spreading as a social movement, begining with small
    groups of people who allow themselves to be chipped to each other, and
    gradually expanding from there.  As more people chip into the network,
    their position as a voting bloc becomes more signifigant, which
    increases the effect they have on legislation, and more people will be
    motivated to join.

    Interesting idea. It would probably take a while before it had any real effect, since the kinds of people who’d want a sympathy chip are probably pretty sympathetic already. I suppose once enough people got chipped, abstaining would be seen as something only a selfish person would do, but you’d have to get a whole lot of non-technophiles comfortable with getting a chip planted in their brain first.

    Sorry, this is getting a bit tangential.

    Oh, we’re all about the tangents over here.

  • Anonymous

    Everyone having a chip inside their head that, when forming a strong
    opinion, will network in the perspectives of other people who have a
    difference to that opinion.  Not precisely mind-control, but
    deliberately tempering people to have more moderate and carefully
    weighed opinions.

    Suppose you have a network of two. One has a strong opinion that everyone is worthy of basic human rights, dignity, and respect. The other has a strong opinion that $group should be exterminated. What’s the moderate opinion? Kill only half of $group? Make it damn near impossible for members of $group to be known as such while retaining the ability to find and keep employment, housing, and physical safety? A-plague-on-both-your-houses gets us nowhere when one of the extreme opinions is the only morally acceptable option.

    Also, I loathe the idea of mucking with my brain chemistry, and altered brain chemistry is not permanent in the way that an implanted chip would be.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Not to derail too mcuh from FS’s main points, but this:

     I am sure that society will come up with alternatives to a critical resource once that critical resource is exhausted,
    Is as optimistic as assuming a drowning man will suddenly evolve gills.  A lot of the time, the ‘alternative’ will be ‘doing without it’.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Not to derail too mcuh from FS’s main points, but this:

     I am sure that society will come up with alternatives to a critical resource once that critical resource is exhausted,
    Is as optimistic as assuming a drowning man will suddenly evolve gills.  A lot of the time, the ‘alternative’ will be ‘doing without it’.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    (Argh, formatting failure.  Sorry, let me try that again.)

    Not to derail too much from FS’s main points, but this:

     I am sure that society will come up with alternatives to a critical resource once that critical resource is exhausted,

    Is as optimistic as assuming a drowning man will suddenly evolve gills.  A lot of the time, the ‘alternative’ will be ‘doing without it’.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Is as optimistic as assuming a drowning man will suddenly evolve gills.  A lot of the time, the ‘alternative’ will be ‘doing without it’.

    Oh, I doubt that a drowning man will ever develop gills, but one who is drowning will desperately clamor toward the surface with a strength and urgency he did not know he possessed. 

    The idea is develop some kind of scuba gear that will prevent drowning before it comes to the point that we realize that we are running out of breath. 

  • Guest-again

    ‘The ones from Europe do come in on visas and not leave. There are a lot
    of them – but they speak English and are sufficiently ‘white’ to not be
    conspicuous.’
    A lot less than there used to be though, for exactly the same reasons that apply to any person violating the regulations in terms of American residence and employment.

    There was a fascinating article about NYC and the Irish in the IHT (or NYT) – for the first time in American history, starting somewhere in the mid-2000s, a population of immigrants shrank (including bringing their American born children to Ireland). And the Irish are about as privileged as it gets when talking about illegals, not that the old INS didn’t try its best to stop such activity.

    But it is now very hard to overstay a visa and to get a job and then go home after a few years – and return to the U.S. for any reason, ever again in your life. The now routine fingerprinting for anyone entering the U.S. that is not a citizen helps ensure this, by the way.

    This subject really goes in any number of directions involving Fortress America, but I have known a good number of ‘illegals’ in my life that fit your description – but that was back in what feels like another time and place. They have become quite rare as a group – even including Canadians, who I would venture were the group most likely to be able to pull this off effortlessly in the past. Of course, it is no longer possible to cross that border without a passport (or a strange half breed ‘card’) or being duly entered in a database, so that advantage has also been overwhelmed in the construction of Fortress America.

     

  • ako

    It is because of this that I sometimes take offense at the idea that
    someone with low empathy cannot necessarily be a contributing member of
    society. Maybe I do not feel what others do, but an unhappy society
    tends to be an unproductive and chaotic one. But no matter how much I do
    to try and promote a calm and content society, people will still
    consider me a monster because I do not feel joy when attending a
    wedding, because the first though I have when I see a baby is “How
    fragile. Why are the parents so enamored of it?”

    I’m sorry people have reacted like that.  The pop-culture idea of a sociopath bears only a passing resemblance to clinical categories, and like most illness/disability related metaphors, it does no favors for people with conditions similar to the one described.  A lot of people like having a catchy one-sentence description to define wrong and evil, and don’t necessarily think through the implications.

    You’re not a monster, the world isn’t better off without you, and you’re clearly doing some real good for people.  Some of your ideas of what’s best for people seem skewed, and that may be for reasons relating to not having a normal sense of empathy (or it may be something else – I don’t know your life).  But if you’re coming to conclusions like “It’s a good thing to give food to that hungry homeless guy” you’re clearly doing something right.

  • Anonymous

    I think, FearlessSon, that you might be feeling more empathy than you realize. I’m not sure whether that’s the case, or whether you’re just using your intellect to work around an innate lack of both cognitive and emotional empathy, and I’m reluctant to tell anyone else what they’re feeling as if I know better than they do. However, I do think it’s a possibility that you are feeling empathy but experiencing it in a rationalist way because you’re not in touch with your emotions. 


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