Tribalism isn’t about feelings, it’s about the zero-sum outlook

Change can be unpleasant.

Unless you’re down and out. If you’re down and out, then change is probably good news. When you’re down and out, then any change is likely to be progress.

But if you’re neither down nor out, then progress may be unwelcome. You’re on top. You’re in. Why mess with that?

The last 60 years has seen a lot of change. The trajectory of that change has been good news for many people who used to be intractably down and  out. For them, the trajectory of this change is clearly progress. But such progress has been unsettling for many people who used to enjoy an exclusive birthright to being up and in.

What I’m trying to talk about here is privilege, hegemony, implicit hierarchy. And about the lingering resentment and anxiety over every slight erosion of them.

This shows up a lot in pronouns — particularly in the ambiguous use of undifferentiated first-person plural pronouns. “We need to take our country back.” But what do you mean “We,” kemosabe?

Those pronouns are funny things. They seem to be inclusive and comprehensive. On its face, “we” means us — all of us. But we don’t always use “we” in that way. Who is the “we” in “we need to take our country back”? Who is the “our”?

It’s inclusive, but not comprehensive. Or, in other words, it’s tribal — inclusive of those within the tribe, but exclusive of those without it.

The tribal boundaries are implicit and unstated, but they are known. These boundaries are ethnic and religious and sexual, yet they do not necessarily entail any ethnic or religious or sexual animus.

There may be such animus, but it’s not necessary. No actual dislike or contempt needs to be felt. Personal sentiment and emotional antipathy are wholly optional when it comes to defending the interests of the tribe.

This can lead to some confusion and muddy things up. We can end up arguing about racism, misogyny, homophobia or religious hatred with folks who insist, sincerely, that they do not have any such feelings.

And for many people, that’s largely true. They don’t feel such dislike, and some of their best friends are, etc. Because this isn’t about feelings, it’s about tribes. Plenty of people who are driven by the desire to defend the interests of their tribe don’t feel any visceral dislike for those they regard as outsiders — as not “we,” not “us,” not “ours.” Those folks just happen to be on the other team.

And if our team is going to win, they imagine, then their team can’t.

I think that’s the key. That, right there, is the idea that makes personal feelings of dislike or hatred superfluous. Once you accept the framework of a zero-sum struggle between competing tribes then it no longer matters whether or not you feel any such feelings — you’re still bound to regard any advance for them as a loss for us. You’ll still imagine that “we” cannot be up and in unless “they” are kept down and out.

In that zero-sum tribal framework, it doesn’t matter whether or not you dislike the other tribe or view them an inferior. If you think of yourself as part of the straight, white, male, Christian tribe, then you’ll defend the interests of that tribe against anyone who is not straight, white, male and Christian. Whether or not personal sentiments of antipathy are involved, the effect is the same.

It’s very difficult, if not altogether impossible, to separate out the various threads of tribal identity as distinct factors. The tribal anxiety that comes from the idea of a zero-sum world is all of a piece. Antitribalism struggles to be “intersectional,” but tribalism has always been intersectional. Tribalism was intersectional before intersectionality was cool.

Look again at that amorphous and undifferentiated use of the tribal “we.” We need to take back our country. The anxiety there — the sense that we are losing, somehow, due to the advances made by others — cannot easily be separated into discrete elements of ethnicity, gender, religion or sexuality. The loss that “we” feel for “our” tribe arises from a host of changes that combine to form a single anxiety. The anxiety that perceives the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell as a tribal defeat is bound up with the anxiety that festers behind fear of the so-called “War on Christmas.” The tribal anxiety felt over every advance of feminism is intermixed with the anxiety felt over every advance in civil rights for ethnic minorities. The sense of tribal besiegement that perceives a same-sex wedding as some kind of setback is intermingled with the anxiety over the new neighborhood mosque, the ending of prayers at high school football games and “Press 2 para Español.”

This is part of what I was trying to convey with the Venn diagram I posted last night. State-mandated sectarian prayer in public schools is a theocratic idea, yet “school prayer” isn’t primarily a rallying cry for theocrats, but for tribalists. The 1962 decision forbidding mandatory sectarian prayers was perceived as a loss for the tribe, just as the desegregation decisions of the previous decade were. “We” were losing control of “our” schools.

Racial animus may play a role in that tribal anxiety, for some. And I suspect that for many who harbor such feelings of racial animus, “school prayer” is considered a safer, more acceptable-seeming way of expressing their objection to desegregation. But explicit, visceral racial animus is not necessary for such an objection any more than state Sen. Dennis Kruse needed to be a raging anti-Semite to introduce legislation allowing Indiana schools to mandate the recitation of the Christian Lord’s prayer. It doesn’t really matter whether or not Kruse feels any such feelings of bigotry — the effect is the same either way.

 

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  • fraser

    Now this one, I agree. I’ve tried saying similar stuff elsewhere, but you phrase it much better.

  • Carstonio

    State-mandated sectarian prayer in public schools is a theocratic idea,
    yet “school prayer” isn’t primarily a rallying cry for theocrats, but
    for tribalists.

    Except that theocracy itself is a highly articulated form of tribalism. In practice it’s a religious form of Jim Crow. (“Rev. James Crow”?)

  • LL

    Yeah, that “we need to take back our country” bullshit is perhaps the most ridiculous of all the bullshit spewed by the idiots on the “right.” Take it back from who? The rich white men who still run it?

    Surely not. 

    So are these people really under the impression that black people are running things now? Or the gay feminazis? Who do they think is in charge now?

    It’s amusing to me that old white people (because they are mostly old, though many are apparently middle-aged) can look at the leadership of America today and see anything other than male and lily white. One black male president in over 200 years of presidents constitutes some terrible threat. 

    Does anybody really doubt that the next president will be white? And male? I doubt Hillary’s gonna run. Being Secretary of State seems plenty taxing for her, I don’t think she sees the presidency as less so. And I don’t see a lot of other female candidates or black guys lining up as the next obvious choices. 

    So maybe after Obama leaves office, these people will calm the fuck down and go back to bitching about kids on their lawn or whatever else had them shitting bricks of outrage before Obama was elected. Abortion, I guess. 

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Does anybody really doubt that the next president will be white? And male?

    My hopes and dreams are set on Elizabeth Warren.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m nervous about her lack of experience, but Obama hasn’t worked out badly. Warren 2016!

  • Crh29

    obama has SUCKED

  • P J Evans

     Tough. It would have been far worse if we’d voted in another GOP candidate who would kill the social programs and spend even more money on Pentagon toys and billionaires.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    If not, then Biden/Warren maybe? :D After a term as Vice-President she’d be a shoo-in (or is that shoe-in? :P ) for the Presidential slot.

  • nnnnn

    This country would be down the toilet then

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It was nicer when people like you just thought the Commies were going to attack us.

  • The_L1985

     As many warm-fuzzies as that would give, I honestly think she could do more good for the country in the Senate.

  • histrogeek

     Anyone who is not of their narrow tribe is quite enough to get them shitting bricks. Bill Clinton freaked them the hell out even though he was a white, male, Protestant southerner.
    However, he was a Democrat who was OK with his supposedly harridan wife, avoided Vietnam in a non-country club way, and didn’t feel like turning the country into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the overclass made him EEEEEEVILLLLL. This was long before we knew who Monica was. The Angry White Male meme was out in 1993 and 1994.

  • Katie

     I don’t disagree with you that white men still run things.  But it is more complicated than that.  For example, this year, straight white Christian men don’t make up  the majority of Democrats in Congress.    The President is black.  The Supreme Court has three women, including one Latina, one black man, and no Protestants.  If John Kerry becomes Secretary of State, he’ll be the first straight, white, Christian man to hold that post since Warren Christopher stepped down in 1997.  So while its true that straight white Christian men still hold most of the power, they no longer hold ALL of it.  And its becoming increasingly obvious that the people who are not straight white Christian men are not going to go away, and are going to keep getting a larger share.  

  • Magic_Cracker

    If John Kerry becomes Secretary of State, he’ll be the first straight, white, Christian man to hold that post since Warren Christopher stepped down in 1997.

    Irish Catholics are White Christians? ;-)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy
    If John Kerry becomes Secretary of State, he’ll be the first straight, white, Christian man to hold that post since Warren Christopher stepped down in 1997.

    Irish Catholics are White Christians? ;-)

    Not by the standards of 19th Century Scientific Racism, as chronicled in several essays by Stephen Jay Gould.  (“Who was White” was defined very narrowly, often breaking down on national-ethnic lines established by the Reformation Wars — Protestant White, Catholic Not.)

    And we’re talking John Kerry, JFK Impersonator — he of the Upper-Class Voice Talking Down to the Rabble about “When I Served In Vietnam”.  The guy’s a South Park cartoon of himself!

  • billy

    good, about time

  • Tricksterson

    “So are these people really under the impression that b;ack people are running things now?  Or the gay feminazis?”

    Yes, that is pretty much what they think along with thinking not that whites may becoome a minority in this country by mid-century but that they already are.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    Protestants have already lost majority status in the US; seems likely another two decades before they lose plurality status, however. (It looks a tossup as to whether they’ll fall below the Catholics before or after the “Nones” rise to plurality.)

  • fraser

     And it’s not necessarily that they think of taking it back from anyone that specific. What they know is that the country is not doing what they want or electing who they want and that in itself is a sign that it’s gone horribly, horribly wrong and our government is broken. In terms of the enemy I think they lump everything together as Evil People Who Hate America And Are Not Like Us–as witness Newt’s prediction that secularist atheists will one day improve sharia on America.

  • Foolofatook7

    “These people”, “they”? Someone has fallen into the tribalist trap themselves.  There’s no left/right moral high ground on tribalism, both feel it.  That’s why so much of our politics is about shaming the other side in the eyes of your own supporters; it’s easier to convince someone that they will be harmed by someone else than that they will be helped by anyone.  Our leaders on both sides drum up tribalist zero sum game thinking.  If you are looking for evidence read these comments.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Had it occurred to you that perhaps Tricksterson is not white and does not care to be part of a ‘we’ with white folk who do not care to be part of a ‘we’ with Tricksterson?

  • fraser

     Unfortunately I think they’ve passed the point where calming down is an option. They know white male Christianity is a dwindling brand and they’re freaking out at the idea they’re going to be just one of the many special interest groups.

  • Lori

    Honestly, I’d like to see Warren stay in the Senate and have the chance to do some real work there for a while. Things being what they are I think her present committee appointment gives her a better shot at making change in her area of expertise than being POTUS would. 

  • Magic_Cracker

    Fun With Racists Pro-Tips

    (1) Whenever someone talks up their Anglo-Saxon heritage, interrupt and ask them “Angle or Saxon?” Don’t let them continue their racist diatribe until they pick one.

    (2) Quiz anyone who talks about “white” culture or “white” civilization about their national background. No Irish or southern or eastern Europeans need apply, nor may Swarthy Germans.

    (3) Refuse to recognize anyone but Icelanders as being pure, untainted “white.” Everyone else is a miscegenated “mud person.” Don’t let the racist diatribe continue until they prove pure Icelandic background to your satisfaction.

    Warning: White racists are humorless, violence-prone losers whose sole “accomplishment” in life was getting born to parents who identify as “white.” Do not attempt Fun With Racists alone, in enclosed areas, or without direct means of egress.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    (2) Quiz anyone who talks about “white” culture or “white” civilization about their national background. No Irish or southern or eastern Europeans need apply, nor may Swarthy Germans.

    From Donna Barr’s B&W small-press comic “The Desert Peach”, when the Blood Purity Boys drop by from Berlin:

    “But he doesn’t look German!”

    “And what’s a German look like?  We’re the crossroads of Central Europe!  We’ve interbred with just about EVERYBODY!”

    P.S.  The “Tall, Blond, Blue-eyed” archetype is NOT German but Scandinavian.  Other side of the Baltic, Herr Reichsfuehrer.

    (3) Refuse to recognize anyone but Icelanders as being pure, untainted “white.” Everyone else is a miscegenated “mud person.” Don’t let the racist diatribe continue until they prove pure Icelandic background to your satisfaction.

    Icelanders are the purest strain of Old Norse.  They even speak Old Norse; “Icelandic” IS Old Norse, with minimal drift from that language of the Vikings when they first settled Iceland.

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    Icelanders are the purest strain of Old Norse.  They even speak Old Norse; “Icelandic” IS Old Norse, with minimal drift from that language of the Vikings when they first settled Iceland.

    Properly speaking, the Icelanders still wouldn’t count as white. Based on studies of mitochondrial DNA, 50+% of the original Icelandic male settlers were married to Gaels.

    Not that it matters; just the random factoid of the day.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So from what very specific bits of Europe must someone’s ancestry be entirely from in order for that person to be Real True Whitefolks? And how does one being without such ancestry (hi, I’m Irish) reduce in any way the benefits white privilege has for one if one is pale enough to receive such benefits?

  • http://snarkthebold.blogspot.com/ Edo

    Good questions all around, all I can say is that I (the European quarters being Czech and Slovak) wouldn’t qualify for the ancestry either, and it still doesn’t reduce in any way the benefits white privilege affords me.

    It doesn’t matter; it really was the random factoid of the day.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Since I started that thread, I’ll jump it and say that my comments re: whiteness obviously do not “reduce in any way the benefits white privilege has for one if one is pale enough to receive such benefits.”
    Rather, I’m just pointing out that many contemporary racists who identify white (say, Pat Buchanan)  would not be considered at all “white” by earlier generations of racists or by contemporary extremist groups like Church of the Creator or Aryan Nation.

    So when I myself point out that despite my blond hair, blue eyes, and very fair skin, I would not be considered white in 1900 America (even tho’ I would easily pass) because of my Irish and Italian ancestry, I’m not pretending that I’m not white in the modern usage of the term, nor am I pretending that I don’t reap the benefits of white privilege every single day. 

  • fraser

     Case in point, Bill O’Reilly’s grumbling that twenty years ago “the white establishment” would have shut Obama down. He apparently thinks that fine, but I’m sure he’d have a fit if the WASP establishment started shutting him down. As it would be totally different.

  • arcseconds

    The great thing about racism is that views on what the races actually are and which race is the right race to be varies greatly from place to place.

    Being Irish in Ireland is, of course, a  fine thing.

    Being of Irish descent in the United States isn’t, I think, any kind of a drawback  these days (any more – it used to be about a hundred years ago), and in fact is probably something of a benefit, because you get to embrace Riverdance and U2 as your very own.  Maybe you can even excuse certain kinds of socially frowned upon behaviour as resulting from your firey Celtic blood.  It’s White, but with a twist!

    In England, though, it’s a different story.   The Irish may no longer be exactly viewed largely as churlish, thick-headed, inebriated, socially destructive, Catholic and sometimes outright murderous layabouts, but the prejudices are deep-rooted and don’t disappear overnight.   They’re *still* being displayed as foolish, wayward drunks in British comedy, for goodness sakes! (e.g. Father Ted, Black Books, The IT Crowd). 

    And again, these days (although not always in the past) it’s fine (as far as I know) to be polish-American, but it’s not fine to be a pole in England.

    Racism and racial thinking in the USA is largely dominated by colour, in part because it’s a very apparent difference, and in part because the Black-White interaction is the most important racial interaction.   So sure, in the USA being pale enough will get you by (although, note that descent was still legally important until recently with the miscegenation laws).  In other times and places, other markers are used. 

    Nazi Germany is a particularly dramatic example that shows that  skin colour (and even looks in general) is not always enough to be accepted as white.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Nazi Germany is a particularly dramatic example that shows that  skin colour (and even looks in general) is not always enough to be accepted as white.

    Indeed. It was the same in Apartheid South Africa. Families who had been white for generations found themselves retroactively made not-White as ever-finer ways to slice the cream pie were devised for one reason or another.

    One of the many problems with scapegoating is that once the scapegoat has been eliminated from society, society’s ills still persist, creating the need for new scapegoats. If the alliance of right-wing Evangelicals and Catholics were to result in the U.S. becoming an officially Christian country, it wouldn’t be long before the Catholics were made the new goats for not being Christian enough. After them, the Quakers and Unitarians, then the Brethren, and so on and so forth. Similarly, if all the people who currently identify as white were to unite and create an Apartheid United States, it wouldn’t be long before ever-finer definitions of white were devised to determine who gets what jobs, housing, etc.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, please.

    Unitarians kicked out of Christopia after Catholics? Unitarians officially believe in one god (hence ‘Unitarian’, not ‘Trinitarian’) and in salvation for all (hence the ‘Universalist’ part of ‘Unitarian Universalist’), and in practice believe in one god, more or less. (UU services are friendly places to be atheist, agnostic, or any flavor of polytheist, as well as any flavor of monotheist.) Unitarians also believe unpleasant things about how women and queer people and people who say they’re a gender other than the one the genitals they were born with say they are and brown people of all shades and handicapped people and poor people are quite as deserving of human rights as people who aren’t any of the above! Unitarians wouldn’t be let in Christopia in the first place!

    (sorry about the language, but putting it in terms I accept dilutes my point)

  • arcseconds

    Yes, but the decision on who is Enemy Number One is never based on dogma, but rather on political convenience.

    In the scenario Magic_Cracker describes came about, and the Evangelical theocrats thought they had a clear power advantage over the Catholics, the Catholics could well be the first target, because they”d be the greatest threat to Evangelical hegemony.   

    Of course, it might work out that Unitarians would be the first to be scapegoated, if for example it was important to preserve the Evangelical-Catholic grand coalition.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     

    In the scenario Magic_Cracker describes came about, and the Evangelical
    theocrats thought they had a clear power advantage over the Catholics,
    the Catholics could well be the first target, because they”d be the
    greatest threat to Evangelical hegemony.  

    What do predators eat after they’ve killed off all the prey?

  • Trixie_Belden

    You know, it’s kind of interesting – I’m not exactly quibbling with your point about who would  get kicked out of Christopia first (or even allowed in there in the first place) .  Certainly in the present day,  Unitarians would get the boot tout suite, but historically, it was much more tolerated than Catholicism.  We had Unitarian presidents (definitely John Quincy Adams; probably his dad) at a time when many states wouldn’t have wanted to even elect a Catholic official.  A hundred and fifty-odd years later, Al Smith’s Catholicism was considered to be one of the factors that hampered his run for the presidency and John Kennedy’s Catholicism was a BIG issue in his campaign.

    Off the top of my head, I guess the reason why was because as Unitarianism developed in this country, it seemed to emerge out of a mix of New England Puritans, Quakers, and Congregationalists, therefore  mainstream Protestants seemed to regard Unitarianism as a sadly(?) attenuated version of Protestantism, and therefore basically harmless and more socially acceptable than the  heathenish rituals of the papists.  

  • trogon

     I suspect that the difference between “Unitarian” and “UU” may be at issue here; Unitarianism and Universalism were separate faiths until they merged in the 1960s.  The origins of Unitarianism were explicitly Christian; they considered themselves to be Christians who believed in a single god rather than in the Trinity.   Given that the US had a Unitarian (by this definition) president (John Quincy Adams, who founded the now-UU church I am a member of) long before it had a Catholic president (JFK), I do think Magic_Cracker has a point.  Unitarians weren’t kicked out of Christopia so much as that they left, however.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I do think Magic_Cracker has a point.

    I do?!?! :-)
    I just used Unitarians (specifically avoiding mention the Universalists) as a hypothetical example. EllieMurasaki’s point was well-taken; odds are, they’d never have participated in the Christian-takeover in the first place, and therefore, would have been out with the non-Christians. Amish, Mennonite, Brethren, and United C of C  (and other such liberal denominations) would probably never participate in such shenanigans and in fact actively oppose them, much as they did in Handmaid’s Tale.

  • MariaFromCT

    As a Unitarian Universalist who attended Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in June of 2012, and a very active member (and board member for my own congregation) I urge readers to research for themselves the attitudes and practices of UUs worldwide. We strive to be more inclusive, and monitor -and question- our own motivations and actions constantly. I heartily and sincerely invite everyone to explore the seven principles: there’s something there for everyone.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, I know, I’m UU myself. Shit at getting to services, but UU.

  • vsm

    I’m not sure about using those three sitcoms as examples of anti-Irish racism. The creators were all Irishmen (Graham Linehan was involved with all of them), the relevant actors were Irish, and the figure of the drunk fool isn’t exactly foreign to Irish comedy. Lots of Jewish comedians like Woody Allen or Larry David treat their ethnicity and related stereotypes in a similar way.

  • arcseconds

    Well, you seem to be admitting they’re trading on racial stereotypes in some way, and that’s enough to show that these stereotypes still exist, which was all my point requires. 

    Furthermore, none of the reasons you give are reasons for thinking that the shows aren’t just simply racist.   That the author is themselves a member of a group doesn’t mean they can’t perpetuate stereotypes about the group!  Take Ayn Rand, for example  — she’s a woman, but there’s not much out there that’s commonly read these days that’s more misogynistic than her stuff.  One scene in particular is stomach-churning.

    The really important question to ask about a show when assessing what it tells us about  race or gender or other such things is not who the author was, or what their intent was (you know what we say about that), but rather how it is read by  (and otherwise impacts) the viewers.   Alf Garnett, or his american counterpart Archie Bunker, were certainly intended to show up racism rather than support it.    There are some, however, who never understood the irony, and take these figures to be sound examples of solid Englishmen/Americans.   If no-one understood the irony, then the show ends up helping to establish racism, and the effect on society is the same as if that had been the intent all along.  

    Perhaps Woody Allen’s work is high-brow and ironical enough (and understood so by his viewers) so that rather than reinforce setereotypes it causes us to question them.  I’m not sure I buy it completely, but there’s an argument there.  I think the case is much harder to make that the three shows I mentioned were ironic explorations of Irish stereotypes.   There are points in Black Books which do highlight the stereotypes of the Irish in interesting ways (like when Fran tries to get Bernard to sing songs of the old country, he refuses and gets her to do it instead, and she sings a farce of a stereotypical Irish folk-tune), but for the most part I think they simply trade on the stereotypes without challenging them.

  • vsm

    I don’t think the unironic use of comedic stereotypes are necessarily a bad thing, really, especially when used by someone to whom they apply. They can even be a cherished part of national culture. That’s certainly how they work in my neck of the woods, where they’re a popular genre of jokes. I think this is how the three series mentioned work, as do many works of American Jewish comedy. I don’t really see Woody Allen as trying to subvert common ideas of Jews. Rather, he seems to be celebrating many of them. If Allen’s too high-brow, how about Seinfeld, which used to be the most popular sitcom in America? There’s plenty of neuroses, overbearing mothers, people in show business and kvetching going on, with little subversion going on.

    That’s how I see Father Ted and Black Books (I’ve never seen the IT Crowd). The Irish drunk isn’t just a hateful stereotype held by the English, but also a figure from Irish culture, as can be heard on any Dubliners record. If Irish artists stopped using that character type, wouldn’t they be letting the English control their self-expression? The drunk isn’t necessarily just a negative figure. He (it usually is a he) can be funny, wise and independent, someone who doesn’t care about what polite society thinks. As far as I know, Irish people did not reject these series and their portrayals of themselves. On the contrary, there’s two islands competing over which of them gets to be the official Father Ted’s island.

  • arcseconds

    On my first reading, it almost sounded as if you were suggesting that bagging the Irish is a cherished part of English national culture :]

    OK, so firstly, again nothing you’ve said here is relevant to whether or not portraying the Irish as drunkards on English television helps to entrench a stereotypical view of the Irish amongst the English. 

    The context of my example was talking about how the Irish are perceived by the English, remember.   I think it’s safe to say the Irish have a more nuanced view of themselves than the English do of the Irish, and are less likely to take an Irish drunk as typifying the Irish ethnicity. 

    Note that these shows weren’t created primarily for Irish domestic consumption,
    and two of them are set in England with predominantly English cast.  I’m sure the people who made these shows did not think of themselves as innocently taking a charming figure from Irish culture and sharing it with the world: they know full well what the kind of reputation the Irish have in England, and decided to play to it anyway.  But this is of most of secondary importance: even if they were created for the Irish domestic market and were read as sophisticated ironical send-ups of the Irish drunk there, that doesn’t stop the English from missing the nuance and interpreting it as yet another hilarious Irish drunk.  And we’d have to ask why were these shows shown (and popular)  in England, rather than shows displaying the Irish as great musicians and poets, or doggedly surviving under oppression and famine, or as clever tricksters, or any one of a long list of other Irish stories.

    I think you’re underestimating the level of racism towards the Irish that existed in the recent past in England.   I think it’s changed somewhat and continues to change, as the time during which the English feared Irish terrorism recedes and more positive views come through (and the English relinquish the final bits of their Empire, i.e. those in their ‘own’ islands) , but these things don’t die out overnight.    You may be thinking that it’s kind of like Due South or Crocodile Dundee, where American audiences are presented with extravagant stereotypes of Canadians and Australians respectively, but ho ho it’s all in good fun and we fought on the same side in the war (doesn’t matter much which war, no-one remembers 1812 these days).     It’s been much more like a combination of the Black – White interaction in the USA with the Palestinian – Israeli interaction, down to ‘scientific’ categorisation of the Irish as a kind of subhuman, occupation, cultural repression, and an attempt to breed them out.   You can’t do this to people without dehumanising them, hence the stereotypes of the Irish being lazy, dumb, and drunk (and the racial categorisation), which have a long history.  Check out some of the old Punch cartoons about the Irish sometime.

    (The Irish of course responded with continual political agitation and terrorism.   )

    Under those circumstances, you’ve got to be pretty suspicious of negative stereotypical portrayals of Irish on English television. 

  • Liam Davenport

    Bagging /everyone/ is a cherished part of English culture, as far as I can see (as an Irishman living in Britain). I think that you have a germ of a point, but your specific examples undermine it. There are a wide variety of Irish stereotypes on display in Father Ted, some known abroad and others not; Bernard Black is much more “clever trickster” than “idiot drunk” in the context of Black Books (he drinks about as much as the rest of the cast); and although I haven’t seen all of The IT Crowd, I can’t recall the fact that Chris O’Dowd’s character is Irish even being mentioned.

    I think you need to consider that just about every character in British comedy is a bad-to-awful person, and that the jokes tend to be about flawed people doing bad things and getting comeuppance/away with it. Possibly even British fiction in general, come to think of it, at least from the 1980s on. Compare the Dennis the Menaces.

    A better example would be the likes of the Irish builders in Fawlty Towers (where “Irish” is used as a code word for “untrustworthy”), but even there, Spain gets it far worse than any other country does. And of course, that was a while ago now. I am really struggling to think of any examples on contemporary(ish) TV.

    I think that you are right to point to the fact that that majority of Irish actors that become successful in Britain do so in comedic roles; I think that a cultural assumption in Britain that Irish people will be lazy, stupid and drunk has faded away, but been replaced by a more benign but still stereotyping assumption that we will be ‘fun’. But if my biggest problem is that people think I should be funnier, I’ve got it pretty damn easy, and I think likening being Irish in modern Britain to being Palestinian in modern Israel is incredibly trivialising.

    I think the Due South comparison for Father Ted is perfectly apt, actually. It’s exactly what I thought of when this conversation thread started.

    Historically: yes, Ireland subject to brutal colonial rule, several actions that would probably considered attempted genocide today, and so forth. But today (largely, I think, because America liked us), we enjoy the same privileges as every other English-speaking majority white nation in the world.

    (Although the Irish Travelling Community have it fairly bad, I reckon. That is a different discussion.)

  • arcseconds

    Well, there’s a lot I could say to your post, but you seem to be a bit confused about what I’m actually arguing for.

    Here is what I am claiming:

    *) the English in the past have treated the Irish terribly.  Specifically the Irish
    conquered, occupied, dehumanized, demonized, treated like shit, occasionally massacred, and attempts were made to essentially breed them out.

    (You agree with this. )

    *) the Irish responded with continual political agitation, up to and including terrorism.

    (Hopefully you also agree with this.)

    *) The situation with Palestine is comparable to this.  Specifically, the above two statements remain true if you substitute Israel for England and Palestinians for the Irish.

    *) My reason for making this comparison was to remind everyone that the context for English portrayals of the Irish is not at all similar to American portrayals of Canada, because the above statements are not true for the USA and Canada (no, the war of 1812 doesn’t make them comparable).

    *) The English held extremely negative views about the Irish, which can be seen in many places, including comedies. 

    (You agree with this, too, apparently)

    *) There continue to be negative stereotypes of the Irish in English society, which can continue to be seen in English comedies.

    (You don’t agree with this, it seems.  I’ll give an argument later.)

    *) The continual stereotyping of the Irish in British comedies both depends on and perpetuates those stereotypes.

    This is just a special case of the more general principle that you can tell what a society thinks of something by what they say about it, and what they say about it perpetuates what they think about it.    This isn’t always completely true, as some topics are taboo and won’t be talked about openly.  But as a

    Here’s what I’m not claiming:

    *)  The English currently hold exactly the same views about the Irish as they did 50 years ago.

    I thought I was pretty clear about this, actually – did you read this bit?:

    I think it’s changed somewhat and continues to change, as the time during which the English feared Irish terrorism recedes and more positive views come through (and the English relinquish the final bits of their Empire, i.e. those in their ‘own’ islands) , but these things don’t die out overnight.

    *) Being Irish in England today is every bit as bad as being a Palestinian in Israel today.

    (I’m not sure where you got this from, as I didn’t say anything like this)

    *)  Any comparison as to who had/has it worse, the Irish or the Palestinians
    (Although I’m happy to agree that it’s much better being Irish in England today)

    *) All Irish are unhappy with the way they are portrayed on English TV

    *) Any Irish are unhappy with the way they are portrayed on English TV

    (actually, I know for a fact that some are, because they’ve told me.  But stereotypes exist independently of whether or not anyone minds them. )

    *) All Irish in England will inevitably suffer from negative stereotypes held by the English.

    *) Any Irish in England will suffer from negative stereotypes held by the English
    (I’m glad that you find yourself unaffected by this) .

  • arcseconds

     As far as being embraced or rejected by the people who are the subject of the stereotypes,  again firstly that has little bearing on the effect this has on viewers outside that culture.   The main question surely has to be “do these portrayals help entrench a stereotypical view of the Irish/Jews amongst the English/Americans?”. 

    And the answer surely has to be “yes”, doesn’t it?  There are a vast number of comedies that portray Jews as kvetching, neurotic people with overbearing mothers beyond the ones that you mention (we could add “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Will and Grace” to your list, the last also includes mammoth stereotypes of gay people to boot).     There aren’t an even greater number of shows that focus on Jewish characters that show Jews in any other light.  How could this fail to enshrine stereotypes about Jews?  Do you not think people are informed by what they watch? Or are there troves of shows about Jews showing them in a nuanced light that I’ve somehow missed?

    While we’re on this topic, don’t you think it’s at least a little suspicious that movies and TV shows that focus on Jewish characters are usually comedies trading on these stereotypes? Where are the Jewish action heroes?  The Jewish teenage heart-throbs?  (you may be able to find the odd examples, and by all means tell me, I’d be interested.  But it won’t alter my point unless there are significant numbers of them).  A similar point could be made about Black Americans, although they do get action movies too.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The story I heard is that it was largely down to World War II. Having only recently recovered independent statehood, they hadn’t had time to upgrade their armed forces from “Really pretty good 19th century army” to “Stuff like tanks and airplanes,” so when the Nazis came to call, the Poles bravely tried to defend their nation with a first-rate non-mechanized cavalry.

    (This is a vast overstatement; Poland did have planes and tanks, just not nearly as many as the Germans.)

    The Poles maintained their horse-mounted cavalry through the war, frequently using them in battle as, essentially, a fast-moving infantry.

    Due to memetic mutation and Nazi propaganda, this was widely reported as “The  Poles brought horses to a tank fight because they’re so stupid they thought it was a good idea.”  (Which rather overlooks the fact that most of their cavalry charges were successful)

  • vsm

    Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been waiting for inspiration to come and it hasn’t, so please bear with me.

    I think the lack of heroic Jews and Irish people is extremely suspicious, but that’s a somewhat different matter. It doesn’t mean comedies drawing on Irish or Jewish stereotypes are racist and shouldn’t be made, it means there should be more fiction with other kinds of portrayals. Irish and Jewish comedic traditions are hilarious and I’d hate to see them go, even if some dumbasses might use them to reinforce their stereotypes. When it comes to the English, I suspect this is less of a problem than you might think. They know their own comedic tradition, which involves everyone in general being an awful human being, as Liam Davenport pointed out.

    As for why most famous Irish and Jewish actors appear in comedies, it probably goes back to Aristotle. Tragedy is about those with a higher status than the viewers, comedy about those of lower status than the viewers. Oppressed groups have traditionally worked in less valued forms of art and still do. This is a problem, but it’s not going to be fixed if Jewish and Irish comedians decide they’ll only appear in prestige pictures from now on. They’d likely be out of work pretty soon, and prestige pictures tend to be terrible.

  • arcseconds

    I’m also not claiming:

    *) Irish or Jewish comedies shouldn’t be made
    *) they aren’t funny

    This is always the problem when discussing prejudice and privilege.   It’s very difficult to keep the discussion focused, because everyone keeps importing all these extraneous factors into the discussion. 

    What I’m saying, to clarify somewhat, is that English and US screen portrayals of minorities and outsiders tend to marginalize and stereotype them.  The stereotypes are informed by traditional prejudices about these ethnicities, and they help perpetuate those prejudices.

    This is what I’m calling ‘racist’.

    Much of what has been bought up is at best of secondary relevance to this claim of mine.

    For example, the fact that it would do no good to stop making these comedies does not show that they don’t perpetuate the stereotypes.    The fact that they’re made by Irish and Jewish people doesn’t show they don’t perpetuate the stereotypes.   The fact that the Irish love seeing themselves on international TV (everyone does) and want to develop the islands in Father Ted doesn’t show they don’t perpetuate the stereotypes.

    These comedies even sometimes make interesting comments about the treatment of Jews and Irish in society.  That doesn’t stop them also perpetuating stereotypes, either.

    The Jews and Irish only really appear as main characters in comedies, and in those comedies they enact stereotypes.  As they’re virtually never main characters and seldom important supporting characters in non-comedies, the portrayals of Jews and Irish are dominated by stereotypes, and fairly negative stereotypes at that.

    Consequently, viewers are only exposed to negative stereotypes of these people.

    So where do we disagree?  You agree that no heroic characters is suspicious, and you agree that their appearance in comedies is connected with their outsider status.  You don’t seem to be disagreeing that the portrayals are generally fairly negative. 

    Do you not think people are affected by and informed by what they watch?
     

  • vsm

    I agree with you about the big picture. I’m mostly objecting to the idea that the presence of Irish drunks and other stereotypes in British-produced but Irish-written sitcoms by itself suggests the British hold racist views of the Irish, as you first seemed to suggest, though I may have misunderstood. The lack of other kinds of portrayals is the problem. That might seem like splitting hairs, but there you go. I think there’s a difference between a work that is in itself racist and a work that can be indirectly used to support racism. The same applies to other power structures, of course. George Orwell was a socialist whose anti-Stalinist works were used in Cold War America to support capitalism. That doesn’t make 1984 a pro-capitalist novel.

    I think you’re taking these series’ reception in Ireland a bit too lightly. People usually don’t like seeing themselves in international TV if they consider the portrayal insulting to them, particularly if the series is produced by a former colonizer.

    I’m not really sure how negative these portrayals are, however. I hold a great deal of affection for anti-heroes (in the classical sense) who fail a lot yet muddle through anyway and do it in a consistently funny way. I consider Bernard Black a much more positive character than Jack Bauer.

  • Maniraptor

    If nothing else, Bernard Black is no more of a drunken fool than the British characters in the show.

  • arcseconds

    If we’re discussing how society sets up and maintains its constructions of race, class, gender, etc.  then the ‘big picture’ is all that’s really important, and the category of ‘in themselves’ racist/classist/sexist works separate from works that are functioning to create and maintain these constructions is of little interest.

    I’d avoid language like ‘can be used’, too.   This implies that someone is deliberately going out there to marginalize or stereotype some group, and while that definitely happens, these constructions largely happen without any real intent.  It’s just accepted that that’s the way things are.

    It might be helpful to talk about how women are marginalized from our narratives for a moment.

    You’ve heard of the Bechdel/Wallace test, yes?  

    It sets a pretty low bar for non-male-related female interaction.  That’s all.   It’s not sufficient or necessary to show that a particular film is sexist or not  (or challenges gender roles, or not).  But it’s remarkable how many films fail to meet even this rather low bar.

    What I’d say this shows is that films are for the most part either about men or show women navigating a world that’s about men.   It’s OK for a film to be about men, of course, so it’s not necessarily a complaint about any particular film. 

    But most of us fail to notice this.   I was vaguely aware that women didn’t do too well in the movies before I became aware of this test, but I was kind of shocked to realise how bad it really was.  Many people don’t even get to my level of vague awareness.  Also, note how defensive people get about having this pointed out!

    I don’t think this happens predominantly by people  consciously thinking “OK, list of characters for novel… note to self: remember to marginalize women by not including very many and never have them interact” (although it certainly does happen).   We just all assume that it’s predominantly men that do all the interesting stuff. 

    Including women.  When I last talked about this, a woman mentioned that when she writes, she generally writes male protagonists, etc.  She seemed to be wondering whether there was something wrong with that.   She’s hardly alone: just to pick one example, Diana Wynn Jones’s books are usually, but not always, about boys.   My point would not be to say “never write books with male protagonists, especially if you’re a woman”, but rather ask, how is it that even women end up writing about men, not women, and don’t even really notice?

    So, no-one’s really setting out to marginalize women per se, so they’re not really ‘using’ anything to do this.   Many of them are just telling stories the same way as the stories that are told to them.   To the extent that they’re conscious of producing male-dominated movies, they’re often just doing it because it’s what sells.

    And no film need be ‘in itself’ sexist for this to happen.  All that needs to happen is that we just happen to seldom make films about women.

  • arcseconds

     Your example of 1984 is a great one, and perhaps will help explain what I’m saying here.

    In this discussion, I’m interested in how media helps to construct or reinforce a particular prejudice held in society.  1984 is indeed often read as an anti-socialist, pro-American-style-freedom-and-capitalism work, and probably really did (maybe still does) contribute to reinforcing the view that American-style freedom-and-capitalism is the only way to go.

    Now, if we were talking about 1984 as a work of literature, then I would be pointing out that it’s really about England in 1948, and that ‘we’ve always been at war with Eurasia’ is a caricature  of the sudden switch in the view of Russia from being an ally back to being an enemy again, etc, and the question of whether it’s ‘really’ a pro-capitalist novel would have a point.  If we’re interested in making an artistic or moral judgement of Orwell, then his intentions and other things about his character and understanding of the world that come through the book are also relevant.

    But that’s not what is at issue here.  What the novel is ‘really’ doesn’t determine what effect it actually has on society.  George Orwell’s intentions are irrelevant here, except in so far as knowing his intentions informs a non-pro-capitalist reading, and obviously that didn’t happen enough to actually stop it from being read like that.  Judging Orwell is similarly not at issue here, as whether we think he’s fabulous or an over-rated windbag here and now and amongst ourselves does not affect the effect 1984 had on American society in past decades. 

    What is somewhat relevant is that Orwell was considered a great writer.

    The other thing that’s relevant is that the possibility (and ease!) of the pro-capitalist reading probably contributed to its popularity.  A work that was obviously critical of capitalism probably would not find itself in high school literature classes, for example, particularly not in America in the 1950s.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A work that was obviously critical of capitalism probably would not find itself in high school literature classes, for example, particularly not in America in the 1950s.

    Like, say, The Grapes of Wrath?

  • vsm

     Sorry for the late reply again. I’ve been busy over the last few days.

    I don’t really disagree with you on most points, but I would be interested in knowing what you think Graham Linehan or Larry David should do. They excel at traditions of comedy you find socially disadvantageous, at least when viewed by certain audiences. Should they try to make sure their works utilising these stereotypes/traditional figures are not viewed by outsiders? I realize the reception of these works is more important than the artists, but I’m interested in them.

    As for Orwell, I’d argue that anyone seeing 1984 or Animal Farm as pro-capitalist is misreading the book. Perhaps less so with 1984, though it still requires one to ignore how Goldstein/Trotsky’s analysis of Oceania is presented as essentially correct. A pro-capitalist reading of Animal Farm, however, requires one to ignore the beginning and ending, where the ultimate condemnation of the pigs is how they look exactly like the humans. This is why all adaptations change it. How does this tie into the broader point? Not very well, in fact.

  • arcseconds

     OK, here’s my rather belated argument for why I think the comedies I mentioned are part and parcel of negative stereotypes of the Irish held by the English.  I think you already understand most of this, but just so you can see where my thought is going:

    Historically, the English have had views on the Irish which are not just somewhat slanted or stereotypical, but actually downright vile.  They were seen to be stupid, feckless, entirely intemperate, prone to drink, violent, superstitious, Catholic (a bad thing, naturally), just plain illogical and literally a lesser sort of human being (they are actually categorized like this in some so-called ‘scientific’ classification of human races).  This is the context for e.g. Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’.

    Also, comedy often depends heavily on stereotypes (even if it’s subverting it, the stereotypes are still being used).  English comedy is particularly prone to this, and particularly when it comes to non-English people.

    So I think any time we see a comedic portrayal of an outsider, I think we have to be immediately suspicious that a stereotype is at play.  No ‘innocent until proven guilty’ here, this has to be given a high probability, because we see it all the time (Manuel, the portrayal of Scotsmen in e.g. Blackadder, the portrayal of the French in just about every English comedy ever, etc…).

    There are clear examples of rather terrible portrayals of the Irish in British comedy.  By some coincidence, I happened to hear the other day a kinda funny but quite, quite terrible clip of Peter Sellers pretending to be Irish.  It was a smorgasboard of the above: he was trying to record a ‘fiddle-de-dee’ Irish folk song, so it had that whole stereotype, but it quickly degenerated into chaos and violence, with Sellers crying out things like “sweet Mary mother of God” and “oh, I’ll never get to heaven now”.  

    Now,  Liam tells us that there were Irish workers where ‘Irish’ meant ‘thieves’ in Fawlty Towers.   So these stereotypes were still current in some form until let’s say 1980 (Fawlty Towers ended in 1979).

    Father Ted started screening in 1995.  So if we’re to believe that Father Ted just doesn’t connect at all with the earlier stereotypes, what we have to believe is in a mere 15 years, the English completely forgot all those old prejudices, held no preconceived views of the Irish (or held ones that were completely different, maybe), and were able to watch this new comedy with fresh eyes. 

    That’s just too fantastic to be believed — not without some pretty compelling evidence at any rate.  Did everyone take up Buddhism in 1983 and spent the following decade meditating and working on dropping all preconceived notions or something?

  • arcseconds

     I’m getting to what I think Lineham should do… just bear with me :]

    What do I think about Father Ted is that, firstly,
    the fact it plays to those stereotypes helped its acceptance in
    England.  (I think it’s quite likely that Lineham is pretty aware of what
    he’s doing here. ) One thing to ask here is would it have been equally
    as easy (or possible at all) to market a comedy featuring the Irish that
    didn’t in some way play to these prejudices in England?  For example,
    could someone have come forward with a comedy about Irish scientists
    back then (an Irish Big Bang Theory)?  I suspect even
    if an English studio had been interested, they’d be saying “why do they
    have to be Irish? why can’t they be English?” (look at it from the
    studio’s perspective.  What function is being fulfilled by deviating
    from an English class when funding Father Ted?)

    But I think Father Ted also did its bit to change the view of the Irish in England.  Suddenly the English are watching a show with an all Irish cast, and that immediately makes a lot of difference: a single Irish person can be the ‘token Irish’, but an entire Irish cast means that you have to see them as individuals, even if there’s an underpining stereotype they’re not all instantiating it in the same way.

    And the characters are non-threatening, sympathetic and pretty loveable. Ted’s a lot more fun than your boring old vicar!  Despite being pretty foolish on the whole, Ted is pretty sharp in a way too, and even Dugald has his moments (e.g. his hard-hitting scepticism which comes through sometimes).

    So I think the situation that Liam describes where the Irish are perceived primarily as being ‘fun’ was probably bought about in part by Father Ted (although note that English culture is not exactly free from imbibing itself, so ‘fun’ I suspect still preserves a connection with drinking, and not, say, with adventure sports or word games).

    Bernard Black continues this trend, I think, and I agree with Liam: he’s not really marginalized (I never said he was — it’s really difficult to keep everyone on target here), and in some ways he is a threatening character.   He’s not just the main character, he’s the alpha male, he’s the most committed to and the most unrepentant of his dysfunctional lifestyle, he’s misanthropic,  he’s smart and he usually gets the upper hand of his immediate social interactions, even though this is ultimately a lose for him.

    He also breaks the stereotypes more.  He’s not fun, except in a twisted cynical sarcastic sort of a way, and he’s kind of intellectual and probably an atheist.

    So I think post Black Books (and Dylan Moran’s standup career), I think it’s become a lot more conceivable that there could be a show about Irish scientists one day.

    So Lineham maybe should continue doing what he’s doing.

    Note that this is no way a retraction of what I claimed before.  I still maintain that we’re still seeing the stereotype of drunken, foolish Irishmen being perpetuated on English television. That’s entirely compatible with the same shows challenging stereotypes in other respects. 

    As for David…. maybe this just reflects the fact that I don’t really like his brand of comedy, and I haven’t seen too much of it (because I don’t like it).  But I kind of feel that the neurotic, kvetching Jew has been entirely done now, and that maybe it’s time for something different (for the sake of comedy, too!).   If David wants to improve the US public’s understanding of and sympathy to Jews, and he can’t come up with anything new himself, maybe he could mentor someone who can. 

    (I was trying to think of a figure that I felt really involved the audience with Jewish culture without resorting to stereotypes.  Who sprang to mind was Walter Sobchak…)

    What I’d really like to see, and what would confront society’s prejudice directly, is a show about a minority individual who completely breaks the mould, and a lot of the comedy comes from her starting blankly at or getting frustrated with people who expect her to be a certain way.  A Jewish athlete, maybe, who loves pork?  If it could also highlight how the white middle-class other characters basically conform to stereotypes, à la Stuff White People Like, that would be awesome.

  • vsm

    That’s a very good analysis and I accept it, aside from your assessment of Larry David’s comedy’s quality, but it’s probably best to agree to disagree there. Also, the Irish workman in  Fawlty Towers isn’t a thief, “just” unreliable and incompetent, and only showed up in an episode originally broadcast in 1975, but that’s a minor point.

    Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything other to say, except to thank you for an interesting conversation.

  • Liam Davenport

    I will address your central point, then.

    I think that people are certainly affected and informed by what they watch. And I do think that English and US (and Irish, and probably everywhere although I haven’t seen much TV from elsewhere) screen portrayals of minorities and outsiders tend to marginalize and stereotype them. And I do agree that this is a problem. I don’t agree that it necessarily constitutes racism, which is a whole separate argument in this very comments section but in short I think it requires structural inequality.

    I think that the specific issue of the portrayal of Irish people in British media must be examined in the context of the wider media. Portrayals of Irish people are overwhelmingly negative, but so are portrayals of /every other nationality up to and including the English themselves/.  As such, the portrayals you cite are structurally equal.

    I think that Britain does have a pretty serious, mostly unexamined xenophobia problem, but it’s not aimed at me except indirectly, when people forget I’m one of the immigrants they’re ranting about. Nobody questions the right of people from the Republic of Ireland to live and work in Britain even though we are no longer part of the state, and that is a fairly massive advantage I have over immigrants from all other countries; even those from the rest of the EU, who have (almost; I also have some extra voting rights) the same rights under the law that I do.

    I think that (white, I should probably qualify) Irish people in Britain are treated essentially identically to white Scots and Welsh people; that is to say, deviating from the assumed “default” of the white English person, but not disadvantaged in the way that non-white Britons, white Europeans from outside Britain and Ireland and especially non-white non-Britons are. If you want to argue that the portrayal of Scots and Welsh people in current British media is also racist (which I have certainly seen argued), I will accept that your definition of racism is consistent, although it does not match mine.

    I think that your specific examples of Linehan comedies to make your point were poor ones; Father Ted because it has a varied all-Irish cast and is clearly made with an Irish audience in mind, and Black Books and The IT Crowd because the Irish cast members are barely differentiated from the English ones; they are not there as “the Irish one”.  Rather, I would point to Black Books in particular as an example of a portrayal of an Irish person in a British setting that is not marginalising at all.

  • arcseconds

    I’m not really interested in having a semantic argument over what ‘racism’ means.  I think I’ve been fairly clear about what I meant by the term, and that’s all that really matters.

    What I want to do is call attention to the phenomena by which racial stereotypes are reflected by and perpetuated by the media.  I don’t really care what we call it: the point is that the English hold stereotypes about the Irish, and the media reflects these stereotypes and perpetuates them.  These stereotypes have historically been profoundly negative, and the stereotype of the Irish being drunks and fools persists, because we’re still seeing it.

    (Although, I’m curious to know why you think the meaning of the word ‘racism’ requires structural inequality?  I agree with AbstractImpulse, the word is protean in its meaning: it’s used by lots of people in lots of contexts to mean lots of different, but related things. Why should your definition take priority?  If you prefer to use it that way, fine, but your preference is no object to me using it to mean something else. )

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s a bunch of words to mean prejudice, discrimination, what-have-you. If ‘racism’ is not a term specific to race-based prejudice that is supported by society at large, then there is no word for that phenomenon, and there needs to be a word for that phenomenon. ‘Racism’ doesn’t have to be it, but if you want ‘racism’ to not be it then you need to provide an alternative.

  • arcseconds

    This doesn’t have anything to do with what I want, unless it’s to not be continually bogged down in semantic arguments and terminological confusion.

    (So, I like the idea of a term for society-supported racism. )

    ‘Racism’ already doesn’t mean what you want it to mean, because no single individual has the power to make a word in a language mean what they want it to mean, and the community of English speakers already uses ‘racism’ to mean all sorts of things.  Nothing we do will stop that. 

    What we *might* be able to do, is decide that on Fred’s blog, racism will mean such-and-such.  I actually doubt all the regulars would ever to agree with that, but even if we could get agreement, it would mean for continual confusion and semantic arguments with newcomers and outsiders.   I really just don’t see the point in this.  A newcomer is more likely to wander off (or leave in frustration) before we had down the ground-work necessary for them to even understand our substantive point.

    So it’s not that I want ‘racism’ to not mean what you want it to mean, but that me wanting it to or not wanting it to is not going to affect the fact that it doesn’t and won’t.  I don’t want to try to give it a specific definition here, because I don’t think it’ll be successful, and even if it is, it’ll be counter-productive.

    I’m not sure why it falls to me to come up with an alternative, as this situation isn’t my doing, and I can’t change the situation on my own.

    But OK.  I’ve already suggested ‘institutional racism’.  That usually means the racism of an organisation, or the racism of the nation’s laws and such.  But I think a society can be considered an institution in it’s own right.  It’s a bit of a stretch, maybe, but not too bad.

    Or how about ‘societal racism’?

    At any rate, a short phrase is probably better, because the meaning will be more transparent.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not sure either work when converted into an adjective or a person-who-embodies-this-adjective noun, but that might just be my ears.

  • arcseconds

    surely the point about soicietally entrenched racism is that no one person can really be said to embody it?

    Anyway, “we should rid ourselves of this institutionally racist practice” doesn’t sound bad at all to me.  “we should rid ourselves of this societally racist practice” is perhaps a little clumsy, but hardly a complete clanger.

    Euphony wasn’t part of your requirements, and unfortunately I don’t think we’re going to find a term that is euphonious, obvious and unambiguous :]

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Embody’ is probably a bad choice of words. Displays? Person-who-is-adjective, is the construction I’m looking for here.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    There’s a bunch of words to mean prejudice, discrimination,
    what-have-you. If ‘racism’ is not a term specific to race-based
    prejudice that is supported by society at large, then there is no word
    for that phenomenon, and there needs to be a word for that phenomenon.
    ‘Racism’ doesn’t have to be it, but if you want ‘racism’ to not be it
    then you need to provide an alternative.

    It is hard for me to read this and not interpret as “I want it to be the rule that if *I* decide to pre-judge a group, say, by assuming that unless they explicitly decry various bad beliefs that they hold those beliefs, then, by virtue of me not being male or straight or cissexual or whatever, it is not morally wrong.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, because the issue when comparing black people prejudiced against white people and white people prejudiced against black people is not that white people get more callbacks per hundred resumes sent out than do black people with near-identical qualifications, nor that black people get pulled over and searched more often per hundred black people than white people do per hundred white people with the effect that a higher percentage of black people than white people are caught possessing drugs even though about the same percentage of both groups are drug users. The issue here is clearly that it is or should be okay for black people to be prejudiced against white people but not for white people to be prejudiced against black people.
    Have you ever encountered a group that was neither explicitly anti-a-particular-discrimination nor engaging in that particular discrimination? ‘Cause I never have, and I know lots of people who never have. Refusing to associate with people who aren’t explicitly anti-a-particular-discrimination-that-affects-me isn’t prejudice, it’s self-defense against (usually societally-supported) prejudice.

  • Liralen

    The word “discrimination” works just fine.  It implies the power to treat someone negatively and it doesn’t matter if that power is simply petty rudeness.  It also covers non-race based infractions.

    I also disagree that someone has the right to discriminate against me just because they’ve been treated badly by other people in my ethnic group (which is Eurasian – Polish father, Japanese mother.  I need to hop in on the Pollack joke thread, heh).    I do get patronized by both blacks and whites. (karate!) Although truthfully, I generally get reverse discrimination, such as people assuming I’m intelligent.

    “Discrimination” doesn’t have a handy epithet to call someone like “racist”, but I’m not at all sympathetic with anyone who wants to use one.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The word “discrimination” works just fine. It implies the power to treat someone negatively and it doesn’t matter if that power is simply petty rudeness. It also covers non-race based infractions.
    I also disagree that someone has the right to discriminate against me just because they’ve been treated badly by other people in my ethnic group

    This looks like a contradiction in terms. If societal power structures are part of discrimination, then a group on the pointy end of any particular stick can’t discriminate against a group on the comfy end of that stick. The societal power structures are siding with the comfy-end group, not the pointy-end group.

    “Discrimination” doesn’t have a handy epithet to call someone like “racist”, but I’m not at all sympathetic with anyone who wants to use one.

    Unpack that? Because I don’t think you meant to say that it’s less okay to call someone a person who behaves in a prejudiced manner that’s supported by societal power structures than to be the someone so behaving, but I can’t see any other way to read that sentence.

  • Liralen

    Where you went wrong is  “If societal power structures are part of discrimination…”  They aren’t.  The fact that a minority as a whole is disadvantaged, doesn’t mean that any particular minority member is without power.  In a one-on-one situation, the fact that someone has been treated badly by society as a whole does not give them the right to treat me badly.

    Unpacking – I don’t condone the use of epithets, ever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Where you went wrong is “If societal power structures are part of discrimination…” They aren’t.

    Then ‘discrimination’ isn’t the word for ‘prejudice supported by societal power structures’, now is it? What is the word I am looking for?

    I don’t condone the use of epithets, ever.

    And that just collided in my brain with every fanficrants post ever on the subject of using short descriptive phrases to identify characters.

  • Liralen

    I don’t know, but I should come clean and admit that I think the tendency for the English language to have a specific word for everything not only makes it overly complicated, it makes it difficult even for English speaking people to converse.  The fact that I have no idea what “fanficrant” means is a case in point.  I googled it + definition, and it pulled up no definition, just some sites that used the word which I don’t plan to visit.  Although I doubt if it would change my mind that epithets are ever appropriate.  Doesn’t mean I won’t call someone an asshole, but it’s not appropriate.

    I remember how charming it was when an ape who was taught sign language, signed “water bird” for duck and I reflected upon how much easier German was than English.  Yeah, I know ducks and swans and geese are all different, but sometimes, if you mean “prejudice supported by societal power structures” then you should say just that, if you want to communicate effectively.  Because you’re coming across as condoning prejudicial treatment on an individual basis just because society as whole treated someone badly. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    fanficrants is a Livejournal community dedicated to (shockingly) rants about fanfic. The ones about epithets are usually the ones that can be summarized along the lines of ‘the taller man plus the redhead plus the green-eyed man plus the soldier equals a total of two men’ and/or ‘both these men are soldiers, so how exactly are we supposed to know which “the soldier” is the one the author means here?’.

    And you’re coming across as wanting to treat black people hating white people as exactly as bad as white people hating black people, even though white people can and often do hurt black people and society is set up such that black people have very little in the way of ability to stop the hurt, get recompense for previous hurt, or retaliate in kind, while black people who hurt white people get society landing on them like a ton of bricks.

  • Liralen

    You’re right.  I don’t think they have the right to hurt me just because someone else hurt them.  That’s just absurd.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Notice I didn’t say that it’s wrong to punish a black person who hurts a white person for being white.

    But you keep trying to erase the fact that a white person who hurts a black person for being black (which is equally deserving of punishment as the crime in the first paragraph) has an excellent chance of getting away with it. The perpetrator in the first paragraph has a shitty chance of getting away with it. The difference here poses a problem.

  • Liralen

    I keep trying to erase what?  Where in the heck did you get that from?

  • EllieMurasaki

    You keep saying that the societal-power component is irrelevant.

  • Liralen

    “I keep saying”?  You’re making that up.

    What I keep saying is that it is not just cause to hurt someone who didn’t hurt them.  And the fact that terms racism and discrimination do not contain any caveat about societal power that absolves anyone from having the terms used to describe them.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s hard to talk about prejudice backed by societal power as a different thing from prejudice not so backed when people keep insisting, as you have been, that prejudice is prejudice is prejudice whatever the cause and whatever the result.

    It’s hard to fix a problem that has no name.

  • Liralen

    Why should it be different at an individual level? 

    I think you might be trying to address the problem by definition (in the mathematical sense), which seems somehow circular, but not sure why yet.  Need to give it some thought.   And I do agree there is a problem.  I just think you’re wasting your time by trying to address the problem by trying to re-define terms to the point that people don’t understand what you’re trying to say.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Marissa Alexander shot her abusive husband, secure in the knowledge that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law would protect her since she was acting in self-defense. She’s been sentenced to twenty years.

    George Zimmerman shot a kid who was buying Skittles. Thanks to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, at first he wasn’t even charged with a crime; it’s only because people kept making outraged noise about Trayvon Martin’s death that Zimmerman is going to stand trial, and do note that most murders don’t get nearly the attention that Trayvon Martin’s has.

    Only one of the three people I named looks white. Guess which one.

  • Liralen

    Did you fail to notice where I said “And I do agree there is a problem, at a societal level.”?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I see you said that you agree there is a problem. If you edited in ‘at a societal level’, I have no way of seeing it without loading the comments in Disqus, which I can’t do on this computer and wouldn’t know to do anyway since Disqus doesn’t notify email subscribers to threads of edits to comments in those threads.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What exactly blocks you from loading the comments in Disqus? Is it a work proxy, or do you have the problem at home, too?

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, it works at home, I wouldn’t be able to participate at all if it didn’t since Disqus needs to be loaded in order for me to be able to subscribe to threads. And fuck if I know what’s up at work. It–huh, the comments did load this time, but I don’t have any way of interacting with them, and mine are signed “EllieMurasaki” but yours are signed ” http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino”.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    When I set up my Disqus profile I added in the URL to my blog somewhere. :)

    If your work forces you to use Linux-y browsers like Konqueror or Seamonkey (Firefox seems to have some real issues working on Linux systems) then that might be why. I know Konqueror has issues with the scripts used by Zimbra-based webmail services.

    If none of your browsers works properly at work I’d suspect a corporate firewall issue and unless you’re in thick with the IT people there I’d probably not ask for it to be worked around, heh.

    (No sense in attracting the attention of the folks who can make your Interwebs experience nice or awful)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Internet Exploder 8.

    Which is old enough that Gmail and Google Calendar have a fit every time I log in…that might be the problem.

  • Liralen

    I did make an edit that is listed as one minute after I posted.  I don’t remember what it was though. It was before your post, which only means that I didn’t make the edit in response to your post, and not of course, that you should have seen the edit. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, hold up. Did you seriously just say we should focus on the trees, not the forest?

  • Liralen

    No, I did not, in no way, shape, or form.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Really. Because it looks like you said prejudice feels much the same to one of its victim as another while pointedly not acknowledging that there’s a lot more victims of antiblack prejudice than of antiwhite prejudice and that the first lot have a lot less recourse than the second lot.

  • Liralen

    Not only did I not say that, I have no idea that has to do with your “focus on trees not the forest” comment.  Or anything else we’ve been talking about for that matter.

    Yes, there are more black victims of prejudice than white.  What does that have to do with the meaning of the word “prejudice”?  Or racism or discrimination, whatever.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It has to do with the nature of the problem. Which is a thing I still do not, if ‘racism’ is a word that contains no reference to societal power that supports some people’s racial prejudices but not other people’s, have a word for.

  • Liralen

    Back on topic, the term racism contains no support for anyone’s racial prejudices.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, ‘racism’ is not the word for ‘racial prejudice supported by societal power’, you’ve said this. What is the word for that concept, since ‘racism’ isn’t it?

  • Liralen

    dunno.  How about hegemony or some form of it?  Although hegemony isn’t common enough to push emotional buttons.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m inclined to think ‘hegemony’ needs to remain a thing that only nations/political parties/such like are capable of, but maybe.

  • Liralen

    Heh, just looked up
    “hegemony” myself, and saw that the wiki has the following statement:

    “In the
    20th-century, Antonio Gramsci
    developed the philosophy and the sociology of geopolitical hegemony into the
    theory of cultural hegemony,
    whereby one social class can
    manipulate the system of values and mores
    of a society, in order to create and establish a ruling-class Weltanschauung, a worldview that justifies
    the status quo of bourgeois domination of
    the other social classes of the society.”

    which follows my
    thought about the German language, despite its greater tendency to use compound
    words,  instead of creating brand
    new words as we tend to do in English, still tend to express concepts not expressible
    in English, such as “angst” or “shadenfreude”.

  • Liralen

    I hate Discus, not sure what happened to the above, but not editing it after what just happened, heh.

    I’m gonna call it a night here and go veg out on Minecraft before going to bed.  It was nice talking to you, Ellie.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Enjoy your game.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    And, of course, the melding of English and German gives us delightful words like wangst.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Actually there are two meanings, and it always bugs me because I learned one meaning YEARS before the other:

    1. A bowdlerization or description of swear words (This one, I learned in the 1980s)
    2. Shorthand descriptions of people (neutral, learned in the 2000s)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, I know. I’m not sure how it’s relevant, because ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ and the like are examples of the second category, which is the category applicable to the fanficrants posts. The fanficrants community doesn’t seem to have any objection to expressing that characters are swearing without spelling out the swears provided that the manner of so doing doesn’t involve “f**k” or the like.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Because every time someone writes “epithet” I keep thinking swear words and it actually feels like my mental gears grind when mentally adjusting to the second meaning.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. Okay. Sorry.

  • Danacarpender

    I’m mostly “English,” mixed with some Dutch — early Colonial ancestors in the NY/NJ area don’t you know? — and I have long been amused by the idea that being of “English” descent means anything.  I’m pretty sure my Pictish ancestors didn’t think of my Celtic ancestors as the same race, and ditto my Celtic ancestors with my Angle and my Saxon ancestors, and any Roman that might have crept in there.  Then there were the Vikings, of course, and on Dad’s side a hefty dose of Norman.  “English” just means “mutt further back.”

    (When I was 19, and entering a Wiccan phase, I learned that a lot of my ancestors on my mom’s side came from Cornwall.  I told her I thought that was cool, since it probably meant a sizable dose of Celtic genes, and that appealed to me more than Angle or Saxon.  She said she didn’t mind being an Angle or a Saxon, she just didn’t want to be any damned Norman.  Old feuds die hard.)

  • hidden_urchin

    Do not attempt Fun With Racists alone, in enclosed areas, or without direct means of egress.

    Or in the South.  Down here, they tend to be armed.

  • arcseconds

     

    Whenever someone talks up their Anglo-Saxon heritage, interrupt and ask
    them “Angle or Saxon?” Don’t let them continue their racist diatribe
    until they pick one.

    What about the Jutes?

    Everyone always forgets the Jutes.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I was under the impression that the Jutes in England were exterminated by the Saxons.

  • arcseconds

     My comment about the Jutes was a joke, of course.   But just for the record, I doubt this is true.  I hadn’t actually heard of an extermination before now, I always understood they were assimilated. 

    I did a quick google, though, and found that there are historians who think they were exterminated, possibly based on something Bede said.  However,  it’s either a minority view, or at least a disputed one.

    I doubt the story of the extermination.  Actual examples of ancient genocides are rarer than people think.  The usual pattern seems to be intermarriage and assimilation, even if this is accompanied by a bit of conquest, killing, and violent ethnic strife.   It’s commonly assumed that the Angles and the Saxons (and the Jutes!) wiped out the ancient Britons, but there are examples of DNA showing e.g. that someone buried in a barrow has a descendent just down the road.  And as far as I understand it, there’s practically no physical evidence of this happening (there aren’t heaps of mass graves, for example).

    It may well be that someone set out to destroy the Jutes, but this is  just as likely to mean ‘take them over, destroy their aristocracy, rule them, and thoroughly Saxonify them’ , or maybe ‘displace them so they’re not next door any more’ as ‘kill them off down to the last child’.  Even if they did attempt the later, how successful would they have been?  People can always run away, and back in the days of the Heptarchy (or earlier), no-one was in a position to enact a policy across all of southern Britain.

    Anyway, even if they did manage to conduct a successful genocides of the Jutes in such a way, you’d still have descendents of Jutes who had intermarried with Saxons or whomever and assimilated with the Saxons,  decades or centuries before anyone had thought to wipe them out.

  • christopher_y

    I was under the impression that the Jutes in England were exterminated by the Saxons.

    Be careful saying that to a Kentish man. In the former kingdom of Kent, those born east of the river Medway are Kentish men and women, who claim descent from the Jutes, while those born east of the Medway are men and women of Kent, dismissed by the Kentish folk as mere Saxons. (Obviously this no longer really applies, since most people in Kent these days are under-employed Londoners looking for cheaper housing.)

  • The_L1985

     Er…they’re both Kentish, and they’re both from east of the Medway, then?

  • christopher_y

    Sorry, men of Kent are from west of the Medway – overspill south Saxons.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Learning all kinds of Jutish history. SWEET.

  • Danacarpender

    Right, ’cause the conquerors didn’t keep some of the women.

  • EDB

    Everyone always forgets the Jutes.

    Funny, they just don’t look Jutish.

  • Nicanthiel

    I’m a Jute. And a Angle, but not a Saxon as far as I know. (Kent, Northumbria and East Anglia being the major origins of my English ancestry)

  • Alison

    What about the norse?

  • The_L1985

     I think I’m in love.

    More Fun With Racists! :D

    Point out that study from 2002 or thereabouts, in which it was demonstrated that white students in some big-name university had more mitochondrial DNA in common with their black classmates than with their white classmates.  Watch heads explode.

  • grevyturty

     Actually, the negroes have higher rates of crime and racism. Maybe you didn’t graduate high school??

  • The_L1985

    And why should we take the word of somebody who still uses that word to describe black people in the 21st century?

    Also, clearly you’ve never heard o the self-fulfilling prophecy.  A lot of people will live up (or down) to other people’s expectations of them.  So it’s easy to argue that higher arrest rates among African Americans (which is different from higher crime rates, but I doubt you’d be intelligent enough to understand the difference) could be due entirely to white police officers expecting them to be criminals more often than they expect white people to be criminals, and acting accordingly.

    I’m tempted to tell you some shocking things about mitochondrial DNA, but I doubt anyone with your apparent lack of insight to understand the “Out of Africa” theory, much less believe it.

  • rrhersh

    The sports team analogy is very apt.  If my beloved Phillies are playing the Padres, I suddenly have to be against the Padres, even though I would otherwise have no opinion about them.  Indeed, if the Phillies are playing the Orioles, I have to be against the Orioles, even though under any other circumstances I root for them.   In fact, if I watch a game involving two teams I know nothing about, I will find some arbitrary reason to root for one, and therefore against the other.  In principle I could watch in order to admire the beauties of the game, but in practice it doesn’t work this way.

    For those who are confused about the difference between sports and public policy, the implications are sadly inevitable.

  • Cowboy Diva

    So maybe the way around this, instead of being for one specific team we should unify against just one team.
    Ef the effing Yankees.
    Speaking of tribalism, does it help to have an enemy? Does it all come down to the (perceived) sharing (or taking) of resources, or is there more to it?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Judging by the way evangelical Christians flocked to a Mormon presidential candidate, yes, it does help.

  • Danacarpender

    Very interesting, if depressing, article: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-reasons-humanity-desperately-wants-monsters-to-be-real/

  • Ben English

    This post is a much better way of putting it than the Venn diagram. One of the most distressing elements of tribalism is that people don’t understand how intersectional it is.  Hence you have Christianists who aren’t racist (or maybe even are people of color) but still contribute to the power structures that reinforce racism, or how you have Atheists and Skeptics who demean and harass women while patting themselves on the back for being better than those misogynist Taliban assholes.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    The research by Altemeyer and others sheds some possible light on this. Prejudice against “dangerous” groups is correlated to high-RWA attitudes, which in turn correlate to religiosity; prejudice to “derrogated” groups correlate to high-SDO attitudes. The most prejudiced are double-high; but high-RWA/low-SDO types will still tend to be prejudiced, particularly groups (racial or otherwise) they regard with fear.

    Atheists, while tending low-RWA, have just as much tendency as the overall population to lean high-SDO; possibly more, among atheist groups. This conjecture would help explain why atheist groups skew male (high-SDO is correlated with male over female), the presence of what subjectively seems the use of language of contempt among the more sexist atheists, and some of the relatively high levels of (religious) ethnocentrism among group-joining atheists. However, I don’t have direct data on SDO among atheist groups.

  • http://theupsidedownworld.com/ Rebecca Trotter

    I don’t think I buy the zero-sum game idea. I think that the real issue is that these people have convinced themselves that the system is in EVERYONE’s best interest. This makes it easy to impute bad motives on anyone who questions or threatens the system. People who want to change the system aren’t trying to get legitimate needs addressed – they just want power, control and to prevent others from thriving.

    There is no concept of the idea that the system is inherently problematic for some people. If the system doesn’t work for a person or a group of people the problem lies with the people. The answer is to change the people, not the system.

    In fact, these people view their idea about how things work as the height of egalitarianism as according to their understanding racism means believing that a group is inherently inferior, nothing more. Since there’s no inborn differences between people, there’s no reason to think the system can’t work for everyone. Those who aren’t able or willing to join in are themselves the problem.

    So, I don’t think the zero sum game idea works. In sports, the desire of the other team to win is not seen as illegitimate or a threat to the game itself. But illegitimate and a threat to the game itself is exactly  how these “we need to save our country” people view the aspirations of anyone whose actions could disrupt the system. For instance, since Christianity is true, those who object to
    Christian prayers are simply wrong in fact and we have no responsibility
    to accommodate other people’s errors. I think that you are right that this doesn’t require animus towards others for being a person of color or a religious minority or LGBT or female. But there’s definitely animus towards the specific aspirations and demands of such groups.

  • Carstonio

     What you describe is the Just World Fallacy. These folks define “everyone’s best interest” using paternalistic assumptions, such as people lacking motivation unless goals are imposed on them. This is the background of racist myths about black laziness, but the JWF isn’t itself inherently racist.

  • Mike Helbert

     I have to agree with this assessment. It’s almost impossible for some in the dominant culture to even understand how anyone could possibly not be successful if they just play be the rules. Everyone has the same chances. That’s why affirmative action has such a hard time getting through some people’s heads. They simply can’t wrap their heads around the inherent disadvantages that the ‘other’ experiences in real life.

  • fraser

     The Mighty God King blog was discussing one Forbes column on How Poor  Minorities Can Become Successful last year. He pointed out that even if the advice worked, it amounted to “If you work phenomenally hard and are extremely lucky, you can get the same advantages that come to upper middle-class white kids by default, therefore the system works!”

  • The_L1985

     It wasn’t until sociology and Education 101 that I ever stopped to think about the lower echelons of society beyond “wow, some people really have to work more than 40 hr/wk to support their families?  That’s really sad.”

    I honestly thought that one of the main reasons people got into credit-card debt in the 90’s was because they were like my uncle and tried to enjoy more luxuries than they could afford.*  The idea that health insurance couldn’t cover everything (and was THAT expensive, to boot), or that people had to take out loans sometimes just to make ends meet, or that unemployment actually wasn’t enough to feed you sometimes, was completely foreign to me.

    * My uncle earned enough to live comfortably.  He did not, however, earn enough for all the awesome family vacations, home-remodeling, and stuff he got for his kids.  We thought of him as the “cool uncle,” but really, he wasn’t too financially savvy and spent a good 15 years getting out of the hole he’d dug for himself.  Other relatives had to send him money at one point.  I don’t know how much money, because I was a teenager at the time and my parents clammed up as soon as they noticed I was in the room, but it was enough to get my dad grumbling about My Brother The Moocher for a couple years.

    The end result was that I became terrified of spending money on myself for a good while.

  • Alison

    Tribalism doesn’t just exist in the “dominant culture,” and neither does the exclusion of people outside of the tribe. This type of discrimination and exclusion is also often seen in attempts to move minorities into positions of power, specifically at the exclusion of all white people. Both systems are faulty, and have the same tribalistic mechanisms of exclusion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    This type of discrimination and exclusion is also often seen in attempts to move minorities into positions of power, specifically at the exclusion of all white people.

    This isn’t actually a thing where both sides do it.

  • Carstonio

     “attempts to move minorities into positions of power, specifically at the exclusion of all white people” – Those attempts exist only in the minds of whites anxious about protecting their privilege.

  • The_L1985

    I think it’s a combination of both.  You have the zero-sum people, and the Just World people, and it’s in the interest of the zero-sum people to keep the Just World people in the dark about how unjust the world actually is, because the Just World people help them keep Winning.  And to the zero-sum people, everything is about Winning.

    I was a Just World person, which is why it was so easy for me to leave that whole poisonous mindset once I saw the injustice inherent in the system.  Dr. McGrew, if you’re reading this, thank you.

  • Alison

    You actually make several valid counterpoints, but I think that more likely both systems of discrimination are in place at the same time. I have examples, but I prefer not to post them publicly.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Citations are useless if not actually, y’know, cited.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of women and reactions of men to women, this article is rather timely:

    Years later, as a top researcher from California in need of a faculty position and keen to move home, she found herself in “an abusive relationship” with the UofT, variously courted and rejected by the school’s grandees — “snubbed,” as the late, great Mr. Berton once put it in a newspaper column.

    “One professor, she heard, threatened to quit if she was selected.

    Others feared she’d organize a feminist movement on the campus — as if that were a taboo,” he wrote.

    “It was pretty horrible,” Prof. Franklin said. “A person isn’t just a woman, and they have a personality. I think the University of Toronto had a lot of people who probably didn’t like my personality either. But the kind of things they said made me think they were kind of worried about having a woman who was also… a slightly more wild woman.”

    I’m always agog at how threatened some men get when women upset the existing apple-cart.

  • fraser

     The book “Walking out on the Boys” recounts how a woman at Stanford’s neurosurgery department touched off a shitstorm just for suggesting that one particularly sexist professor shouldn’t become department head. You’d have thought she was demanding all the faculty be replaced with members of SCUM.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

    The Zero-Sum Game:

    Since there is only so much to go around, the only way to get more for Me is to take it away from You.  (By force if necessary.)  Lobsters in a bucket.  First-generation Social Darwinism, red in tooth and claw.

    (Somewhere on the Web there’s an essay called “World’s Most Toxic Value System”, using the dark side of Arabic tribal culture — forged in the harsh Zero-Sum Game of the Empty Quarter, where the most extreme forms of Islam periodically appear — as an example.)

    (A more widespread Zero-Sum Game was colonialism during the Age of Empires, where the European homeland benefited at the expense of its Third World colonies, redefining Social Darwinism as a matter of Race and Nation.  The most infamous and extreme version was Naziism, which firewalled the concept forced the Zero-Sum Game with all comers to the point of destruction.)

    And I’ve often worried if environmentalism might have encouraged the Zero-Sum Game with it’s emphasis on “One Small Spaceship Earth” and “Limits to Growth”.  Before this, SF emphasized growth and prosperity colonizing other worlds, mining the asteroids, and using their resources — “Boldly going where no man has gone before.”  But limited to One Small Spaceship Earth(TM) where there’s only so much to go around on One Small Planet(TM), it’s more likely to trigger the Zero-Sum Game for keeps than “We All Must Share”, and wars of conquest and Imperial exploitation than everyone joining hands and singing Kum-ba-yah. 

  • GKaplan

    I agree with everything in this post, and yet the word “privilege” continues to be the equivalent of nail on a chalkboard to me. I don’t disagree with what that word connotes, I’m just instinctually, powerfully repelled by its use in this context.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What word would you recommend that means all the same things but doesn’t have whatever quality you dislike? Is it even possible to have such a word?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Can’t speak for GKaplan, but in other conversations with folks who dislike having the word “privilege” applied to what people-like-us have, I have found them all right with “status.”

    Then again, I’ve also been told that “status” is dismissive of the real problems that people who lack privilege experience, because it sounds too trivial and unimportant.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which only confirms my suspicion that any word accurate enough for the group without this quality is too pointy for the group with this quality to be comfortable having pointed at them.

  • Ben English

     It probably doesn’t help that many were introduced to the word used in this context through Tumblr social justice warriors who appropriate civil rights issues for bullshit and use ‘check your privilege’ as an attempt to shut down any criticism of their batshit beliefs. Many of them fail to comprehend intentionality so hard that they try and rank how oppressed they are, and some outright make up oppressions (Hi, Otherkin!)

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     

    Many of them fail to comprehend intentionality so hard that they try and
    rank how oppressed they are, and some outright make up oppressions (Hi,
    Otherkin!)

    Until you even get one-upmanship games of “I’m More Oppressed Than Thou!”

    As for Otherkin…  I remember cruising Otherkin websites.  The majority of Otherkin I saw online were more often female than male, 30-something, and grossly overweight.  And all their “recovered past-life memories” could have been cribbed off each other:  “Once we were all elves, fairies, dragons, and unicorns and everything was perfect; then those EVIL hyoomans came with their Crucified Sky God and the Burning Times began…”

    In Furry Fandom, we’ve got a sort-of crossover with Otherkin called “Therianthropes”, those Furries who think they’re really critters trapped in the body of one of those bad hyoomans.  But they don’t get as elaborate in their backstories as Otherkin.  And I have never seen Furries weave such elaborate Conspiracy Theories as the mundane world.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    and grossly overweight.

    Hey.

    Shut the fuck up.

  • The_L1985

     But I really AM a table!  Stop oppressing us table-kin, CIS-SCUM!!  Check your privilege!  Check your privilege!!!

    Wow, that was fun.

  • The_L1985

     Which, one would think, is exactly the, er, point.  The reason people are all talking about privilege in the first place is because some of us have advantages that others don’t.  The weird part is when people seem to think that somehow we’re accusing them of being bad people for having privilege.

    I do like the version John Scalzi wrote once, that points out that if you treat all the sociological variables and circumstances of birth as options and sliders on a video game, then basically “Straight White Cismale” is “Easy Mode.”

    There are still challenges, and money is still an issue, but by virtue of being Mr. Straight White Cismale, you still have an easier time than any other race, gender identity, or sexual orientation.  NPC’s (read: everybody else) treat you differently because you are Mr. Straight White Cismale, and not one of the other playable characters.  There are places different types of player characters can and can’t go, and achievements they can and can’t earn, based on whether or not they’re Mr. Straight White Cismale.

    This seems to be a bit less guilt-inducing.  Who among us hasn’t tried a game on the easiest setting?  There’s no shame in doing that.  And for gamers, at least, it can help things to sink in that, “For me, life is like playing easier difficulty levels of the game, all the time, but for that person over there, it’s like Legendary Mode, over and over, every day.”  Suddenly, the anger and frustration you see from disadvantaged persons makes sense–when you can’t access Easy Mode, and other people can, why shouldn’t you swear and throw the controller?

  • Anonx

    Wait, so if you have a word to apply to a racial group, and they don’t like it, that proves its accuracy?

    “White privilege  is just another way of saying “I found a cool way to say I’m racist against white folks”.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Um, somebody who isn’t Anonx, wtf did Anonx say?

  • The_L1985

    No, on both counts.  However, the causality does work in the other direction: If you tell somebody the truth, and it is uncomfortable, that person won’t like hearing the truth. This doesn’t mean that everything uncomfortable is the truth. “There’s a bug in your hair” is going to make most people uncomfortable whether there really is a bug there or not.

    Also, I am white.  I believe that, as a white person, I have privileges over other racial groups, and that I should not be automatically treated differently from members of other racial groups.  Most of the people I’ve heard talking about white privilege are also white.

    Here’s an example of white privilege:  If I, as a white person, walk to my apartment with a new Xbox that I just bought, the default assumption by other people is that I have bought and paid for that Xbox.  If a black person buys an Xbox and walks home with it in full view of others, the default assumption by other people is “that guy just stole an Xbox.”  This difference in treatment is obviously unfair: that’s what we mean by privilege.  I want the default for anybody, of any race who walks home in broad daylight with an Xbox without obvious signs of guilt* to be “That person just bought an Xbox.”

    “White privilege” doesn’t mean “let’s tear white people down so EVERYBODY is treated crappy.”  I don’t want life to suck for everybody–that wouldn’t be helpful at all.  It means “let’s fix racial prejudices so that EVERYBODY is treated equally well.”

    * Furtive glances, trying to hide the Xbox, signs of distress if police come near, that sort of thing.  I don’t consider “black skin” to be a sign of guilt, because that’s racist.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    “White privilege” doesn’t mean “let’s tear white people down so
    EVERYBODY is treated crappy.”  I don’t want life to suck for
    everybody–that wouldn’t be helpful at all.  It means “let’s fix racial
    prejudices so that EVERYBODY is treated equally well.”

    This is why I hate the term “privilege”. If you want a term that describes a right due to all and not some special perk limited to a few, privilege doesn’t mean that.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Personally, I’d prefer a word that puts the emphasis on “rights unfairly denied to others” rather than “special things which are not human rights which are gifted unfairly to the powerful.”

    These things are not special privileges I get for being white and male and straight and etc. They are the rights due all human beings. If they were just special priviliges above and beyond what’s due all humanity, I think it’d be a lot less problematic for some people to get them and some not. And I don’t think it’s good for the language to implicitly concede the point that “Hey, it’s not like there’s a  right to healthcare/food/clothing/shelter/marrying someone you love!”

  • http://www.mymusingcorner.wordpress.com/ Lana

    Well put!!! 

  • ProfWombat

    1.  The reason it’s useless to argue with young-earthers, Obama birthers, most global warming skeptics, ‘family values’ people who voted for Gingrich, gold-standard aspirants is that facts and logic are irrelevant to their beliefs.  They aren’t descriptions of the world.  They’re social markers identifying members of the tribe to each other.

    2.  Exceptionalism claimed is common humanity denied.  Simple as that.

  • MaryKaye

    When I was in elementary school (Alaska, 1970 or so) the go-to ethnicity for mean ethnic jokes was Poles.  This was really odd as there weren’t any around (as far as I know) and I believe many of the kids had no idea what they were talking about.  I know I didn’t, and was really surprised to find out later that “Pollack” was a rude word for “person from Poland.”    It was just the ethnicity you used for mean ethnic jokes.  (Gods, I hope there *weren’t* any Poles in my school, because unthinking cruelty hurts too.)

    It took me to adulthood to find this deeply weird.

    Is there a word for the tactical blunder of encircling something and then firing on it (leading to friendly fire problems) that doesn’t involve an ethnic slur?  I could really use one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.mcirvin Matt McIrvin

    “Circular firing squad”? I dimly remember that there was an explicitly ethnic-slur version of this phrase, but I haven’t heard it used in a long time, unless there’s an ethnic slur buried in this version that I’m missing.

    But, yeah, the Polish-joke fad of the 1970s US was really bizarre. Actual prejudice against Eastern European immigrants was alive and well, and that was part of it, but there seemed to be something particularly arbitrary about it. Why specifically Poles, and why specifically then? It seems like the sort of thing that ought to be traceable back to a specific source.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.mcirvin Matt McIrvin

    …Hmm, a bit of Googling reveals lots of explanations for the Polish-joke phenomenon, which are not 100% consistent.

    The Polish-American Journal claims that they originated with Nazi propaganda which was subsequently taken up by the Soviets, in both cases as justification for keeping Poland down, and consciously pushed on Americans as pro-Soviet propaganda through Communist sympathizers in Hollywood! But this is by no means universally agreed on. There’s also the theory that German displaced persons carried Nazi-era or older jokes with them to the US.

    Most of these jokes, though, were just generic dumb-person jokes with an ethnic identity pasted in. The more I read about it, the more I think the ascendancy of Poles as the target was essentially random.

    I do remember what killed it, though: I remember them going away really quickly when the Solidarity movement turned the fate of the Polish people into an anticommunist cause celebre. Some sources say it was John Paul II becoming Pope, but I remember a bunch of Polish jokes just getting attached to the Pope for a few years before Solidarity.

  • P J Evans

     Poles tell Russian jokes. Really.
    (The best ‘Polish joke’ I know is actually an engineering joke.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I remember very distinctly one girl my sophomore year of high school who was sort of lacking in intellectual focus suddenly putting two and two together, and asking me, with a wide-eyed disbelieving sort of awe, “Wait a minute, so you’re a Pollock?” as she tried to reconcile her certain knowledge that Polish ingenuity was largely based around things like putting screen doors on submarines, and me, with my name ending in “-ski”, who by this point had a pretty considerable reputation as “the smarted kid in school since the semi-legendary kid who studied differential equasions in eleventh grade and did his senior paper on Les Miz in the original french”

  • The_L1985

     She may have thought you were Russian.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     

    When I was in elementary school (Alaska, 1970 or so) the go-to ethnicity
    for mean ethnic jokes was Poles.  This was really odd as there weren’t
    any around (as far as I know) and I believe many of the kids had no idea
    what they were talking about.

    When I was in elementary school (SoCal, 1960-1969), we had NO black students in our school.  Almost all white, some Mexican (what’s now called Latino) and Asian, a typical mix for that city at that time.  No black students at all (which was also typical for the time).  So guess who was the butt of all the race jokes?

    It’s always the tribe that isn’t there.  The tribe that’s not one of you.

  • The_L1985

     I remember as a teenager, my Italian aunt breaking out the Polish jokes.  I felt very uncomfortable.

    Generally, if I want to tell those sorts of jokes, I use the imaginary country of Pifflestan.  That way, there’s nobody to be offended.

    This is also a reminder to me to generally not tell those sorts of jokes.

  • Danacarpender

    Circular firing squad.  The most recent Republican primary season being a brilliant example.

  • P J Evans

    I was reading a newspaper story about Obama this morning, and there was a guy who kept complaining about how white males are oppressed and can’t talk about it because racism. (He wasn’t getting much sympathy, for some reason.)

  • BaseDeltaZero

    The problem I have with the phrase ‘privilege’ is that it implies the same zero-sum ideology we’re talking about here.  A Priviledge is, as any teacher will tell you, not a right, and speaking of things like ‘earning a living wage’ or ‘not being pulled over for no good reason’ as a priviledge implies that they can (and should) be taken away for bad behavior.  People do not want these things taken away (understandably), and believe, therefore, that The Minorities Are Coming To Take Their Stuff.

    As for what to use instead, though, I don’t have any ideas other than… I dunno, ‘Systemic Inequality’?

    It probably doesn’t help that many were introduced to the word used in this context through Tumblr social justice warriors who appropriate civil rights issues for bullshit and use ‘check your privilege’ as an attempt to shut down any criticism of their batshit beliefs. Many of them fail to comprehend intentionality so hard that they try and rank how oppressed they are, and some outright make up oppressions (Hi, Otherkin!)

    You might want to watch that last bit.  Me, I think anyone who wants to believe they are actually a fox can help themselves… just so long as they don’t try to force everybody to play along.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There’s two broad categories of privilege. Things everyone ought to have but not everyone does, and things no one ought to have but some people do. Your examples are both in the first category, the things that are rights (or ought to be–depends on the exact definition of ‘right’ in play), the things that will stop being privileges when everyone has them. The other category is things like the ability to make rape jokes without being hurt by them, caring about the people who will, or getting called on it by the listeners. That is, things that will stop being privileges when no one has them anymore.

    Maybe the two categories should be called different things. I don’t know. But they’re similar on the crucial point that the people who benefit are the people with the power structures tilted in their favor, and it’s that tilt to the power structure that we’re trying to undo, so I’m inclined to go on using a single term that covers both categoriesl.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    They should.

    It’s the same problem with the word “theory”. Any person who’s got a science background will recite the definition as it pertains to science until they’re blue in the face, but the fact remains that the popular usage of the word is “an idea not (yet) supported by fact”, rather than “a description of physical phenomena within an overarching framework”, i.e. the theory of gravity, which explains all sorts of things from planetary orbits to why your coffee cup always falls when you drop it.

    The thing I find particularly troublesome is when people in social-justice circles seem to almost purposely use words like “privilege” and “racism” with their implied SJ meanings* in discussion with people who won’t know those meanings, because when the people who don’t know the meanings start seeing what they feel are absolutely prima facie absurd statements like “black people cannot be racist”, they pretty much stare like O_O and the SJ folks pat themselves on the back that the ignorant unwashed they just argued with are uneducable in the subject.


    * “privilege” as commonly understood refers to advantages explicitly conferred upon someone (usually in the purely monetary sense), but in social-justice dialog often takes on the added meaning of “an unseen benefit implicitly conferred by society”.

    “racism” as commonly understood carries the connotation of “prejudice on the basis of skin color”. In social-justice dialog this is usually redefined to mean “prejudice plus power yielding socially unequal outcomes on the basis of skin color”.

  • The_L1985

     I don’t agree with that SJ definition of racism.  Racism is, essentially, any form of treating people differently based on skin color, be it on a personal level or an institutional one.

  • Carstonio

     Although I lean toward the SJ definition, my true preference would be separate words for the two phenomena – differential treatment in and of itself, and differential treatment plus systemic power. A black supervisor who abuses hir power at the expense of non-blacks is not in the same position as a white supervisor who does the same to non-whites, unless most of the leadership positions in the company are also filled by blacks and the company’s workplace culture treated blackness as normative.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    A black supervisor who abuses hir power at the expense of non-blacks is not in the same position as a white supervisor who does the same to non-whites

    Can we not agree that both are crap, and that since it’s not actually a natural law that everything must be compared and ranked, we can leave it at that?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Of course both are problems, but treating them as though they are the same problem or the same severity of problem has the nasty effect of erasing systemic problems.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Given that I neither said they’re the same nor of the same severity that’s an interesting point that doesn’t negate mine.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what did you mean by this, then?

    Can we not agree that both are crap, and that since it’s not actually a natural law that everything must be compared and ranked, we can leave it at that?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    That both are crap, and I don’t think it’s a particularly useful response to crap things to always jump to pointing out how something else is crapper.

  • arcseconds

     

    Can we not agree that both are crap, and that since it’s not actually a
    natural law that everything must be compared and ranked, we can leave it
    at that?

    Comparisons are odious?

    Anyway, while I agree with you that it’s pointless, often in fact odious, and sometimes downright perverse to rank everything, I think EllieMurasaki has a good point here. In a majority white society that tends to marginalize blacks, these situations aren’t actually parallel, and nor without a lot of other detail equal in severity (by which I mean, won’t impact on the underlings equally).

    Two obvious disanalogies: a white person appealing the black supervisor’s behaviour is more likely to succeed (the ultimate appeal may be to public opinion, which again is more likely to succeed).  An abused white person probably has better alternative economic options than a black person.

    It’s also common tactic played by people insisting on what is actually fake equivalence.  To use vsm’s phrase, which I’m rapidly thinking I will always be indebted for, it’s common to go for small picture equivalence, which ends up missing the big picture, which is not equivalent, and is where all the action happens.

  • Carstonio

    Of course both are crap. I wasn’t saying that one was worse than the other, but that these differ in nature and scope – one is more widespread and has more institutional power. I’ve seen too many reactionaries lament more about how whites are treated by non-whites in positions of power. Or fret more about false accusations of rape than about rape itself, conveniently ignoring that most rapes aren’t even reported.

  • BrokenBell

    And you’re saying this despite the commentary in this exact thread about examples of racism and racial discrimination in other times and cultures that are not based in skin colour at all?

  • The_L1985

    Considering that skin color is the easiest way to differentiate between “races” (themselves entirely a social construct), and that all other such differences essentially trace back to either ethnic differences (also a social construct) or differences in skin color, how would you have me word it?

  • BrokenBell

    I don’t actually care how you word it, because I think difference in power is a significant aspect and that any definition of racism would be incomplete without it. You’ve already stated your disagreement with any phrasing I’m likely to suggest.

  • The_L1985

    But here’s the thing: where, exactly are you saying that the power differential comes from?  Is it required in order for there to be racism?  Because from where I’m standing, there would be a much more equal playing field in the US today WRT race (the way there pretty much is in western Europe) if institutional racism had been gotten rid of during Reconstruction instead of sticking around for another whole century the way it did.  (Here, I’m referring to laws that were explicitly, obviously, you-can’t-really-weasel-out-of-this-one racist in their very wording, like Jim Crow laws.  The various laws involved in the War On Drugs are racist in effect, because they’re not really enforced if you’re white or wealthy–but the laws themselves don’t say anything about doing this.  Obviously racism is involved, but it’s at the individual level of crooked cops and the like, and is thus more insidious.)

    The power differential can be a CAUSE of racism, or a RESULT thereof.  It’s a dark, twisted feedback loop.

    There’s also the fact that racism can, and does, go both ways.  To say that only the privileged race in a given society is capable of such prejudice is dangerous, and ignores the natural and justifiable resentment that results when you keep kicking the same people down, over and over, for decades.

    There are people out there who have never met me, but who would hate me on sight because I have white skin.  I’ve never done anything to directly harm these people; I want to make society better for them and more equal for everybody; I don’t even know the individuals in question.  But it doesn’t matter, because I’m white, and am thus a symbol in their minds of every racist joke, every KKK member, every sundown town, every NRA member, every person who refused to take money from their hands because it involved touching “one of those people.”*  I can’t change their minds, but that doesn’t mean I won’t still fight for them, because they’re people and I can’t stand the thought of doing people wrong.**

    * This actually happened at my first job at a drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant.  The cashier that day was the nicest young lady I knew at the time.  She was also black, and the disgusting racist POS who came through the window that day didn’t want to receive her change or food from the cashier, because it meant physical contact with a black person.  I was so angry I couldn’t think of anything horrible enough to say to that woman as she sat there, gloating, in her car.  Maybe if I’d told her to have a nice day in Spanish she’d have removed her head from a lower orifice, but I doubt it.  The cashier was crying in the back room, and I didn’t know what to say to her either.

    ** Really, it’s a selfish reason.  It’s not that I feel it’s the right thing.  It’s that I don’t want anybody to have a good reason to be angry anymore, because then maybe fewer of them will be angry.  That, and I’m more sensitive to human suffering than is probably healthy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The power differential is an inherent part of racism. The other inherent part of racism is prejudice and/or discrimination based on race and/or ethnicity. It’s possible for one to be prejudiced against people of a certain skin tone without being racist against them; all that means is that one does not have societal power structures supporting the prejudice.

    I really can’t blame people of color for hating me for my whiteness. But they’re not being racist, just prejudiced, because societal power is on my side, not theirs.

  • AbstractImpulse

    If you split a hair finely enough, the hair disappears.

    Look, I get it. You’re invested in the idea that an imbalance of power is “an inherent part of racism.” Where you go astray, in my humble opinion, and where people are going to disagree with you is in the insistence that your definition of racism is the only correct definition. It’s not. It’s yours.

    This notion that “powerless” people can’t be racist is bizarre – not because it’s categorically untrue, but because of your insistence that a word as loaded as this one can be irrefutably reduced to your preferred definition for it.

    To wit: http://tinyurl.com/caxq4l4
    “Racism changes its meaning…depending on how people use it in a given context…One meaning is holding pre-formed negative opinions or stereotypes about a group or category of people. Prejudice (from pre-judging) and bigotry are good words for that concept. Another meaning is treating people badly or unfairly because of their group membership or social classification. This involves actions stemming from prejudice, as opposed to passively holding biased beliefs, hiding negative emotions, or minimizing contact with those in disliked categories. Discrimination expresses that concept well. I would argue for a particular anthropological definition, even though it may seem strange on first view–racism is the belief that culture is inherited. That is, it is a belief that groups of people behave in distinctive ways not because they have learned to do so, but because their members share some inherited essence…”

  • EllieMurasaki

    All right, so what is the word for ‘prejudice on racial lines supported by institutional power‘ if ‘racism’ means simply ‘prejudice on racial lines’?

  • AbstractImpulse

    Racism doesn’t “simply mean” anything. It’s a loaded, complicated word. It’s used in a variety of contexts and situations. We can and should use racism to describe what you’re speaking of. We should not LIMIT the word to mean only “prejudice on racial lines supported by institutional power.”   

  • EllieMurasaki

    There need to be separate words for ‘prejudice along racial lines’ and ‘prejudice along racial lines supported by institutional power’. ‘Racism’ can be one of those words. I don’t think it much matters which one, as long as we know which one it is.

    IT CANNOT BE BOTH.

    So either provide a word meaning ‘prejudice along racial lines supported by institutional power’ that does not also mean simply ‘prejudice along racial lines’ so that we can say ‘racism’ is simply ‘prejudice along racial lines’, or stop criticizing us for insisting that ‘racism’ has an institutional-power component.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    There need to be separate words for ‘prejudice along racial lines’
    and ‘prejudice along racial lines supported by institutional power’.
    ‘Racism’ can be one of those words. I don’t think it much matters which
    one, as long as we know which one it is.

    IT CANNOT BE BOTH.

    Which is why I said that there SHOULD be a separate word for the second definition.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So you did. What word do you suggest?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “kyriarchy” is too general, and sounds like a made-up word to people not in the “SJ know”*.

    “power prejudice”?

    There is a word. It will take some trying them out to decide which word will be best whose meaning and usage does not overlap with another, as seen below.


    * Seriously. Half the problems with SJ language is that people invent and use terms intended to be used beyond the core population of people actually interested in causing social-justice outcomes to be improved, and these terms aren’t rooted in terms the average individual is used to, or worse, overlap with terms used by the average individual but which have meanings that seem almost diametrically opposite to the popular usage of those terms**.

    It’s not as bad with science, because people who think of themselves as non-scientists unaffected by scientific jargon tend to not run into conflicts with overlapping meanings, except largely in the realm of creationism where “just a theory” is used dismissively against evolution.

    ** For example, poor whites being told they “are privileged”, which, to them, makes it sound like they’re being told they have it easy when they’re only used to popular usage of “privilege” in an economic/monetary sense, and would vehemently deny the notion because a waitress’s wage of $2.13 an hour in a right to work state doesn’t even put water on the table, never mind food.

  • EllieMurasaki

    *nodnod*

    Though the white waitress in your example is missing the key factor that she’s better off than her equally-poorly-paid black female coworker…

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Though the white waitress in your example is missing the key factor that she’s better off than her equally-poorly-paid black female coworker…

    How do you know? IN didn’t say anything in his hypothetical to suggest that. Maybe she’s not missing anything; she just doesn’t like middle class people on the internet telling her that she’s privileged. Not “privileged on the racial axis”, privileged full stop.

    She may be further frustrated that when middle class people on the internet talk on (and on) about privilege, class privilege is the aspect most often ignored (or at the least ranked below race, gender, sexuality, and religion).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    One point EllieMurasaki is making, indirectly, is that the black waitress is statistically at greater risk of being subjected to things like being harrassed by police for minor traffic offences.

    In the narrow definition of privilege as commonly understood by people who haven’t had occasion to know about the additional “differential systemic-social treatment”  meaning, these factors don’t come to mind for a white person who isn’t well-off and will have a very humanly natural resentment to being told they “are privileged” (connoting that they have it easy in life in the economic sense).

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    It’s not as bad with science [..] except largely in the realm of
    creationism where “just a theory” is used dismissively against
    evolution.

    Not too long ago, I was asked to explain why our team had a lower rating on some metric than the rest of the company. And I looked at the results and said “the difference is not statistically significant”, and was told that even if it wasn’t significant, it was still lower, and that required an explanation.

    I suspect there are more concepts that don’t translate from the realm of science to the realm of lay usage than we quite acknowledge.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    True, but then again there are terms, say, “potential”, used in quantum mechanics which are shorthands, which never cause confusion because the realms are so separate between the commonplace use of “potential” and the QM sense, which is actually a shorthand for “potential energy”. :)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Surely the explanation is just ‘given the size of the numbers being compared, the difference between them isn’t big enough to matter’?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sort of. It’s not the size of the numbers, it’s the number of trials… if I flip a coin N times and the number of heads isn’t N/2, I ought to become more convinced that it isn’t a fair coin as N increases, even if the difference between the actual number of heads and N/2 stays constant.

    That said, they weren’t really interested, so I gave them an explanation instead.

  • AbstractImpulse

    “There need to be separate words for ‘prejudice along racial lines’ and ‘prejudice along racial lines supported by institutional power’. ‘Racism’ can be one of those words. I don’t think it much matters which one, as long as we know which one it is.
    IT CANNOT BE BOTH.So either provide a word meaning ‘prejudice along racial lines supported by institutional power’ that does not also mean simply ‘prejudice along racial lines’ so that we can say ‘racism’ is simply ‘prejudice along racial lines’, or stop criticizing us for insisting that ‘racism’ has an institutional-power component.”

    What’s wrong with disagreeing with you over an assertion that I think is incorrect? “Racism” is a broadly defined word. The English language is chock-full of  words that can and do have more than one meaning/shading. Racism is one of those words. It can and is “both.” All you have to do is ask 20 random people to define it to confirm my basic point.

    You’re free to insist that racism is defined in one way, or should be so defined. I’m not trying to stop you from doing so, only disagreeing. I’m similarly free to do so and to reject the choices you’ve offered here, both of which effectively concede your point, which I – respectfully – do not. The definition of “racism” can, but does not have to, include an institutional-power component, depending upon who is defining it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    There needs to be a word that describes racial prejudice backed by societal power. WHAT IS THAT WORD?

  • arcseconds

     We can if we want.

    If we want to define ‘racism’ to mean one of the two definitions amongst ourselves, or even if we want to redefine it to mean strawberry ice-cream, there’s really nothing stopping us.

    So we’d be giving the word a technical definition, that means something to us.  That’s a perfectly common thing to do.

    (of course, we’d have to be prepared for confusion from outsiders if we do this)

    However, I agree with your description of how the word is used generally amongst speakers of English.  And it’s a bit preposterous to say “no, it really means just this incredibly precise definition”.  At most, you can say “in this community, we mean just this incredibly precise definition”, or maybe “I wish everyone would just use this incredibly precise definition”.

    And there’s nothing compelling us to define the word precisely, either.  We need to be clear about what we’re talking about in these contexts, but I can’t see why this can’t be done with a phrase like ‘institutional racism’ and ‘race prejudice’ or something like that. ‘Racism’ can continue to mean both, and everything else it’s commonly used to mean.

  • Lorehead

    It’s certainly true that if you want a definition suitable for academic discussions and that encompasses everything from slavery in Brazil to genocide in Germany to the caste system of India to the Cagots of France, skin color is too specific to be part of the definition.  I agree that most Americans, when they hear the word Racism, think of segregated schools and drinking fountains.

  • Katie

     http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/
    This is my favorite explanation of what privilege is and how it works.

    As a side note, the discussion of race brings up one of the most interesting things about how race worked in the twentieth century-the way that ‘whiteness’ was redefined and expanded as the children and grandchildren of immigrants became more Americanized.  I’m sort of curious to see how this will play out with the latest wave of non-European immigrants-will whiteness be abandoned in favor of a new word for ‘us’, or will whiteness get modified, in the same way that ‘Judeo’ got added to ‘Christian’ and ‘Christian’ has come to include Catholics.  Or y’know, maybe we’ll quit being so hung up on race, but I’m not that much of an optimist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.mcirvin Matt McIrvin

    John Kerry is actually not (to a great degree, at least) of Irish descent: his paternal grandparents were Austrian Jews, who changed their names to “Kerry” and converted to Catholicism a few years before they emigrated to the US. His great-uncle and great-aunt died in the Holocaust. So he’s actually of a different often-oppressed ethnicity.

    Interestingly, he didn’t know about his Jewish background until 2003, when he was running for president and it came up in the Boston Globe.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Now I know! I just assumed that being Catholic and with a name like Kerry and being from Mass. that the dude was Irish! Thanks for pointing to a pretty serious, prejudicial blind spot of mine.

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    The explanation for  Polish jokes that I learned in college was that it related to how egregiously culturally specific “intelligence tests” used to be (as opposed to the somewhat milder form of cultural specificity they have nowadays).  The “intelligence test” was in its ascendancy as the immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe were just arriving and so, of course, they all did poorly.  Even the brightest only barely passed. 

    So Poles (and others from the region) were dubbed I believe the term used at the time was “morons.”  It might have been one of the other derogatory terms, but I believe that was the one that was used.

  • BrokenBell

    Also, I’m just going to say, even if you doubt the validity of someone’s stated beliefs about themselves and find their use of social justice language to be appropriative and harmful, dismissively mocking them as a bunch of fat, crazy women is still disgusting and bullying behaviour. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    This is meant as a reply to EllieMurasaki, but Disqus is being weird:

    >>Judging by the way evangelical Christians flocked to a Mormon presidential candidate, yes, it does help<<

    A Mormon presidential candidate that made money off abortions (Stericycle was owned by Bain Capital IIRC and they disposed of aborted fetuses as biohazardous material), signed an assault-weapons ban into law when he was governor and who gave a more liberal template for Obamacare (Romneycare covered abortions; Obamacare didn't). Literally the only thing he had going for him to appeal to the cracker Taliban was his white skin.

  • Headless Unicorn Guy

     Now that Romney was defeated in the 2012 elections, does this mean the Mormons go back to being a CULT CULT CULT?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30319652 Tim Lehnerer

    Well, to me the difference between a religion and a cult is this:

    In a cult, there’s someone at the top who knows the whole thing was made up to fleece the rubes and get money and power. In a religion, that person died.

  • Lorehead

    I don’t think so, honestly.  There are probably many Evangelicals who still care more about theology than politics, but for those who are politically-active, what matters is that the LDS are on board with their agenda, like the Vatican.

    In fact, I would not be surprised to see some LDS beliefs cross over, much like the Catholic doctrine on birth control has, from hanging out in the pro-life movement together.

  • picklefactory

    Well, that escalated quickly.

  • Guest

    Possible alternative to privilege in this context: advantages.

    Though there’s an ineffable implication to “privilege” missing from alternatives. (Warning: mention of sexual violence.) Privilege does involve having advantages, but it also involves a freedom from even needing to consider disadvantages. An example of male privilege is freedom from the chorus of cultural voices burdening women with the impossible responsibility for avoiding sexual violence, when sexual violence can’t be avoided by anyone but the perpetrator. It’s an advantage of being male, but the word ‘privilege’ suggests that quality of not just having that advantage, but being able to take it for granted to such an extent that most men don’t even realize it’s a disadvantage women bear, don’t recognize “Ladies, never get drunk at a party or you might get raped” is unjust, that the focus shouldn’t be on counseling women to avoid rape as if it’s an inescapable fact of life like the weather, but on educating men to make sure their partners consent.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A succinct description. :)

  • Skazinka

    While ranking crappitudes is often unhelpful, surely it’s worthwhile to distinguish individual flaws from structural ones.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “systemist”?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Aside: Chrome or Firefox, if they are permitted to be used at work (i.e. are installed on work machines) should be fine. Even Safari might do the trick.

    Main point:

    If there was a convenient German word expressing the conglomeration of “racism supported by societal power structures”, that would be nice, but as it is, it simply translates to “Rassismus gesellschaftlichen Machtstrukturen unterstützt”.The main hold-up is that the concept needs to be easily rendered as “(word)-ist” to describe a person who is behaving in that way, and I can’t for the life of me think of a word that has enough punch.I am beginning to suspect that something like this was what happened when people in the 1970s or 1980s were trying to render the concept of “prejudice + power” and decided to simply redefine “racism” without taking into account that the widely-used operational definition used popularly does not contain “+ power” within its definition.In retrospect, it seems like they should have either tried pushing a lot harder for the redefinition to be given wide popular understanding, or tried harder to invent a word that renders the concept.Well, when all else fails, go back to Greek or Latin.”racism suffultos sociali potentia structurae” is what Google Translate gives me.”ratsismoύ poy yposthrίzontai apό koinwnikέs domέs exoysίas” is the transliteration of the Google Translate Greek output.Exoyist?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I would rather like ‘kyriarchist’ except, one, kyriarchy by definition describes a fuckton of axes of oppression and can’t be narrowed down to one or another, and two, every time I used the word I’d have to define kyriarchy.

    Google Translate is probably not a wise approach. I have a Latin dictionary and some idea of what to do with it, I can see how far I get with that once I’m home, but Greek is…this is not the appropriate place for the phrase ‘that’s Greek to me’.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Oh yeah, I know it’s total Dog Latin (and Dog Greek :P ), so it’s not the last word by a long shot.

  • arcseconds

    You want to be able to call someone ‘a ist’, right?
     
    I think any formation of ‘ist’  used as a noun will be problematic.

    Communists, capitalists, satanists, royalists and impressionists are all believe in and are consciously and enthusiastically supporting, defending and pursuing the thing-which-they-are-an-ist-of.

    So by saying someone’s a kyriachist or whatever you’ll be understood as saying that they believe not just that kyriachy exists, but they think it’s a good thing, and are consciously acting to support it.  (that is, if you’re not misunderstood as simply calling them a racist, which is often taken to mean ‘a signed up and enthusiastic member of the KKK’ or something melodramatic like that).

    But no-one[*] is like that, and that’s not what you’re trying to say.

    You might be trying to say that they’re a racist (in a non-melodramatic sense) in a way which is enabled by society.

    But perhaps a more interesting thing to be saying is that whatever attitude they may have to  race and races, they are acting in a way that’s part of a systematic disadvantaging of a race.  They may in fact even know that’s exactly what they’re doing, and hate it, but e.g. not be willing to give up their job as a judge just because they personally disagree with the voter registration laws.

    What I would want to say about this is not anything that sounds like I’m attributing some kind of inner attitude or bias to the person, but rather be able to point out that their actions (which may be speech) are helping to differentially disadvantage people of a particular race in a way that’s condoned or enabled by society. 

    The other thing that makes what you’re trying to say different from other ‘-ists’ is that being a royalist is entirely determined by the beliefs and attitudes of the person.   You can be a royalist in 19th century England (where it will be condoned) or post-revolutionary France (where you run the risk of being executed) or even in the USA, where I’m not even sure what it would mean (a supporter of Norton I?).  But what’s important about what you’re trying to say about them, is not that they believe their actions are condoned by society, but that they actually are condoned by society.

    I mean, if I decide to make Nicanthiel do all the menial tasks because he’s a Jute, then it doesn’t matter if i think society will endorse this because well all know what Jutes are like, or if I think Jutes have it all too easy in our Anglo-Saxon-Jutish society and I’m striking a brave and radical blow against Jutey which I may well be punished for, none of that changes the fact that in actual fact there’s no systematic disadvantage that people of Jutish ancestry are subject to.

    Likewise, if I try the same thing with a black person in apartheid South Africa, whatever I believe about the situation is irrelevant, the point is that even if I think otherwise, it is part of a systematic oppression of black people.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’d like to direct your attention to the subtle distinction between ‘Anne is racist’ and ‘Anne is being racist’.

  • arcseconds

    I’m aware of that distinction, thanks :] 

    I’d like to direct your attention to a further subtle distinction, between both of your phrases and ‘Anne is a racist’.

    And it’s the later sort of construction I was discussing in my last post.

    ‘Anne is racist’ and ‘Anne is being racist’ are both adjectival uses of ‘racist’.  ‘Anne is a racist’ is a noun use.  

    While we’re directing each other’s attention to things, I’d further like to direct your attention to the fact that you asked for a noun usage of ‘societal racist’ here:

    I’m not sure either work when converted into an adjective or a
    person-who-embodies-this-adjective noun, but that might just be my ears.

    I thought you wanted a parallel construction to ‘Anne is a racist’, using ‘institutionally racist’ or whatever.

    Apparently that’s not what you wanted, so now I’m not sure what you’re after.

  • EllieMurasaki

    ‘Anne is racist’ is exactly what I meant by ‘person-who-embodies-this-adjective noun’, though.

  • arcseconds

    OK, cool.  That’s an adjective, though.   Cf. ‘Anne is big’, ‘Anne is green’ and also how odd it is when you do use something which can only be a noun: ‘Anne is elephant’,  ‘Anne is book’.

    Anyway, enough of grammar.  What are you saying of Anne when you say ‘Anne is racist’, if you’re using ‘racist’ in the sense of ‘backed-by-society racism’ ?   Does she have racist attitudes, for example? Or is it just that she does things that help to systematically limit options differentially for people of different races?

  • EllieMurasaki

    …oh, so I fucked up. Got it.

    Maybe Anne’s a writer who’s making a point of having stories with an entirely lily-white cast, at least among the sympathetic characters. Or maybe Anne’s suing some college that didn’t accept her, grounds for suit being that the college admissions process pays attention to race and she’s certain that that disadvantages her in comparison to people with her qualifications and darker skin, or if not suing then at least making noise about the perceived problem. Things like that.

  • arcseconds

    OK, so rather belated reply here, but this has been bugging me.

    I was admittedly a little sarcastic in one of my responses to you, but that was because you were a wee bit sarcastic to me just earlier — and not because you slipped up on grammar.

    Just wanted to be sure that was clear :] all’s fair in love and sarcasm, but I’m not the sort to ridicule people for grammatical mistakes (although I’m not above correcting them… or for that matter committing them)

  • Dickholius Maximus

    The writer of this article is tribalist against straight, white, male, christians.

  • AnonaMiss

    Pfffffffff

    fffffffff

    fffffffggghhhHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Anomony

    You need to get over the race thing because when “they” say “We need to take our country back” they’re including me in that taking back from, and I’m a WASP.

    Playing the race card has the consequence of alienating allies.

    They want to take the country back from me and turn the clock back to the 1950’s that is some kind of an imagineered thing because the 50’s they want never existed, and even the 50’s they imagine existed was pretty repugnant. And if they got the 50’s that actually existed they couldn’t get back to the present day fast enough.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    This is all very interesting — and I agree for the most part.  But the reality is far more complex.  As some people said, the distinction between “us” and “them” cuts both ways.  Evangelicals may want to mandate prayer, but atheist activists want to mandate zero mention of “God” in schools; Christians complain about a “War on Christmas” while atheists try to reserve every single public space set aside for Christmas displays only to place a demeaning message toward Christianity in these spaces.

    Meanwhile, 95% of us are inbetween these two extremes wondering how a free country ever got here.   There is a constructive effort by many to limit the terms of the discussion before any debate begins.  The NRA does it (obviously), but so does LGBT rights groups (who silenced Cynthia Nixon.) It is this desire to limit “debate” by extreme activists which forces everyone else to “choose sides”.

    It seems to me that we just had a presidential election on which nobody knows what they voted for.  “We won” or “we lost,” as though it was a sporting event.  Meanwhile news channels and advertisements do everything possible to paint the opposing side as the most extreme.  Romney is for “traditional values” (he can’t actually do anything about that, but who is against “traditional vales”?)  Obama is for the “middle class” (how? who knows, but that is what the ads told us — and who is against the “middle class”?)

    Rather than engage in any meaningful dialogue, the media forces everyone to take sides.  And that’s democracy? We are left to conclude — “traditional values” are either all good or they are all bad.  Is that really our only choices?  I’m told that if I even ask that question, then I’m on the wrong side.

    And limiting discussion is the real problem.  Without discussion, we never achieve understanding.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Uh, no, atheists want no government establishment of religion as the First Amendment says we have a right to. Public schools are government functions. So are government-sponsored displays. My atheist ass has no objection whatsoever to the Nativity display that was sitting on Catholic church property on my commute Advent through Epiphany. Move that display over a few blocks to Legislative Hall, and you bet I’d be throwing a very loud fit until someone took the display off government property.

    And I want public school students to know Rhode Island was founded by somebody who wanted the religious freedom the Puritans came to New England in search of only to turn around and be as repressive towards nonPuritans (such as Rhode Island’s founder) as the Anglicans (or, um, whoever it was) had been towards the Puritans. I do not want young-earth creationism or teacher-led prayer in schools.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    In my post I tried to distinguish between “atheists” and “atheist activists.”  If you have a different term, I’m open to it. I didn’t claim that you were in either of these categories — my point was that most of us are between these extremes.  And yet, for the most part, we do not have a voice in the discourse.

    Christmas has become both a religious and a secular holiday.  As such, the holiday is culturally significant. Personally, I would prefer that it remain a religious holiday — it would be a lot less stressful.  The nativity is part of the story, but not really the religion.  I’m not sure why anyone would criticize a manger display any more than they would criticize the massive Roman Goddess of Liberty Statue in New York Harbor or a Santa display.

    But that wasn’t really my point — I understand that you would disagree with a public display, but why would you use that forum to demean Christianity?  That is what is happening.  And there is no open discussion — certainly not in the public press.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Worshippers of Athena Eleutheros are thin on the ground and, crucially unlike Christians, not using their religion as a cudgel to beat down people of differing religious beliefs. And I can’t say as I’m fond of Santa either, but he’s evolved far enough from Saint Nicholas that that’s not a hill I’m willing to die on.

    Distinguish between ‘demean Christianity’ and ‘explain atheist beliefs’, and cite an example of the former, please. All the atheist holiday displays I’ve ever heard of are examples of the latter.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    After careful consideration, I’ve decided that you are a tribalist, as defined in this article. 

    I’m talking about discussion — not to achieve agreement, but to achieve understanding.  You wish to dictate that discussion on your terms — and only your terms.  You have very strict definitions of what is acceptable and unacceptable, without concern for anyone else.  Christianity is defined as someone who wants to use “Christianity as a cudgel” — as though we are one group engaged in some sort of religious war.

    I choose not to participate.  It is a war that I’m not interested in fighting. While there are Christians like that, they do not speak for Christianity —  you should also understand that you are their atheistic equivalent.

    As far as demeaning and belittling Christmas, it is happening all over.  Here is an example.  They are not hard to find:  http://articles.latimes.com/2011/dec/15/local/la-me-1215-nativity-atheist-20111215

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fred does not use Christianity to hurt others; Fred is nonetheless a Christian. Try again.

    Demeaning and belittling Christmas is different from demeaning and belittling Christians or Christianity. In any event, the one atheist sign with text given in the article does none of the above: it says that this many Americans believe that religions are myths, which is a straightforward statement about what atheists believe, on the order of ‘Christians believe Jesus is Lord’.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     I don’t know who Fred is; I’m pretty sure that I didn’t claim that he was violent.

     I was referring to your statement that said that Christians “use their religion as a cudgel to beat down others.”  It was a pretty harsh definition, not one I agree with.

    The atheist signs are not a straightforward statement of what Atheists believe.  It is first, and foremost, an attempt to crowd out the traditional Christmas message.  They can contain such messages as:

    “There are no gods, no devil, no angels.  There is only our natural world.  Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.”

    “37 million Americans know myths when they see them.  Which of these are myths?” (their point is that they are all myths, including the Christ picture.)

    and of course “Happy Solstice” the glorious atheistic celebration.

    These are all placed here to marginalize and demean Christianity.  They do not encourage discussion, they impede it.  Do they have the ‘legal’ right to say so?  Sure, but you don’t have t to exercise it.  When a retarded child crosses in front of my house to get to the bus each morning, I have the legal right to vocalize any number of ignorant insults.  But just because I have that free speech right, doesn’t mean that I should use it

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t know who Fred is

    Our very friendly, very Christian host the Slacktivist. Sorry, I should have realized you might not know.

    If those are messages that marginalize and demean Christianity, then “There is one God, the Father, the Almighty, creator of heaven and earth” and “Jesus Christ is the only Son of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God” are messages that marginalize and demean, uh, every religious belief that isn’t Christianity. Possibly every religious belief that isn’t Catholicism, but I think the Nicene Creed is Protestant too? I’m not sure. Point is, none of those messages marginalize or demean anybody. They’re statements of what that particular religious belief is.

    You do indeed have the free speech right to say ‘retarded’. Kindly do not exercise that right in that manner ever again. And we have the right to not have government establishment of religion. Put a nativity on your own property or your church’s property all you like; keep them the fuck off courthouse land.

  • Kiba

    and of course “Happy Solstice” the glorious atheistic celebration.

    Uhm, what? I’m a pagan. I celebrate the solstice. 

    “There are no gods, no devil, no angels.  There is only our natural world.

    That kind of seems that a straight forward belief to me. One pretty consistent with atheism. 

    “37 million Americans know myths when they see them.  Which of these are myths?” (their point is that they are all myths, including the Christ picture.)

    Soooo when Christians talk about Greek myths they’re demeaning Hellenistic religion? For someone that doesn’t believe in a particular religion (or in any) religious stories are just that, myths. I have no problem with that. Myths are still important regardless as to whether or not one believes them to be true. 

    Christianity is defined as someone who wants to use “Christianity as a cudgel” — as though we are one group engaged in some sort of religious war.

    Funny. I thought Christianity was defined as believing  Jesus was the Son of God. And you really need to get out more is you don’t think Christianity isn’t being used as a cudgel. Maybe talk to some LGBT people, pagans, athiests, etc., and they can tell you all the ways that Christianity is used to marginalize them and discriminate against them.   

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     This is all about context.  You took all of my responses out of that context — I’m not sure if you are intending to take them so literally, or if you really did not understand them.

    Yes, the solstice is typically a pagan celebration.  My comment was sarcasm.  The atheists who posted the sign did so to mock two religions at the same time.

    Yes, the “no angels” and “no god” comments are  atheistic beliefs, but you did not read the story that I referenced, did you?  The atheistic activists got 18 out of 21 seasonal spots in a lottery and used them to demean Christianity.  I am not denying their “right” to this, I’m denying their intentions — which is to demean and mock other religions, not celebrate diversity.  Christians talking about Greek Myths do not demean Hellenistic religions — now, if they found a community with members of such religions and posted such signs in that community, that would be demeaning them.

    “Christianity is a cudgel” is not my definition. It is what Murasaki wrote.  Of course, there are Christians who use it as a cudgel.  I’m not denying that.  But Murasaki goes one step beyond that and lumps all Christians in this category.  This is the exactly what they article decries — putting people in two categories, “we” vs. “them”.

    Some Christians are tribalists. And that behavior is wrong. My point is that most are not (despite Fox News’ efforts).  Painting a picture where all Christians are anti-LGBT (or whatever group) forces people to “take sides”.  “You are either with us or against us.” That is the attitude which I’m criticizing — and it works both ways. 

  • Beroli

     

    “Christianity is a cudgel” is not my definition. It is what Murasaki
    wrote.  Of course, there are Christians who use it as a cudgel.  I’m not
    denying that.  But Murasaki goes one step beyond that and lumps all
    Christians in this category.

    You know, there’s really very little point in lying about what EllieMurasaki wrote when we can all scroll up/down the page and read what she actually wrote.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    You are misstating/misunderstanding my argument.  This
    blog contends that tribalism is placing everyone into groups of “us”
    vs. “them”.  My point is that there is a third group — those
    trapped in-between.  Extremists on both sides try to force you to take
    a side.  This inhibits any real discussion.  There are both Christian
    zealots and Atheist zealots — and they both diminish the debate. Worse, they
    want to define the limits of the discussion to some narrow field to prove their
    point.

     

    The NRA does not wish to just “win” the gun argument; they
    seek to control the debate.  There was a government
    sponsored study (many years ago) which showed that handgun ownership increases
    the rate of gun deaths in a home.  The
    NRA’s response was to convince their representatives to cease all government funded
    gun research.  This is an attempt to
    control the terms of the debate – which is fundamentally wrong.

    Paraphrasing Murasaki’s response to me was to define the terms of the
    discussion.  (Nativity displays on church
    properties are okay, on public property is wrong.  Ancient Goddess statues are fine, and so is
    Santa – but only because nobody recognizes him as Saint Nicholas anymore.)  These distinctions seem very arbitrary to
    me.  Who needs democracy, we have Murasaki?

     

    In doing so, she places me as the bad guy, Christian
    apologetic, in her morality play.  Mind
    you, I haven’t defended Christian Fundamentalism, nor have I (intentionally)
    stated anything that is anti-atheist – I have merely stated that there are
    atheists who behave in the same tribalist manner.  Murasaki insisted that I prove it (no big deal,
    it took me about 3 seconds).  She did not
    consider this “proof” – then she tries to debate my “proof”, but that is
    missing my point.  I can use all of the
    same arguments to “defend” Christian Fundamentalists (they do) – but I refuse
    to.

     

    Among her discussion, she writes “Worshippers of Athena
    Eleutheros are thin on the ground and, crucially unlike Christians, not using
    their religion as a cudgel to beat down people of differing religious beliefs.”  Feel free to scroll up – that is a direct
    quote.  She didn’t say “a few Christians”
    nor did she say “Fundamentalist Christians” – by not qualifying it, she implies
    that “all Christians” (“them”) use religion as a cudgel.

     

    My concern is this same practice extends to everything in
    the public arena.  Rather than just
    discuss Climate Change, environmentalists marginalize anyone who disagrees with
    them as “skeptics” or “deniers”  (“us”
    vs. “them”.)  There may be huge swaths of
    the population who do not understand the debate, but it doesn’t matter –
    because “the science is settled.” However, this misses the mark for the same
    reason – it forces people to choose sides rather than discuss the merits of the
    problem and hammer out solutions.  This
    mentality diminishes the debate, it doesn’t enhance it.

     

    And I want the debate to happen – not to achieve universal
    agreement, but to achieve understanding.

  • Beroli

     

    Among her discussion, she writes “Worshippers of Athena
    Eleutheros are thin on the ground and, crucially unlike Christians, not using
    their religion as a cudgel to beat down people of differing religious beliefs.”  Feel free to scroll up – that is a direct
    quote.  She didn’t say “a few Christians”
    nor did she say “Fundamentalist Christians” – by not qualifying it, she implies
    that “all Christians” (“them”) use religion as a cudgel.

    Do you recognize a difference between “I believe she implied this” and “This is what she wrote,” as you claimed? No, apparently you don’t. And until you do…

    And I want the debate to happen – not to achieve universal
    agreement, but to achieve understanding.

    …I don’t believe you. You seem interested in scoring points, not in achieving understanding.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “Do you recognize a difference between “I believe she implied this” and
    “This is what she wrote,” as you claimed? No, apparently you don’t. And
    until you do…”

    I do understand the difference, that is why I phrased it that way.  If I misinterpreted it, then tell me what was intended.  Otherwise, I’m only left with my interpretation.

    “…I don’t believe you. You seem interested in scoring points, not in achieving understanding.” 

    Seriously??? You haven’t read a thing that I wrote, have you?  I am not interested in scoring points.From my first post, I was stunned when Murasaki placed me on the side “for” Fundamentalism and “against”.  She wrote “Uh, no, Atheists want … ”  I didn’t claim I knew what Atheists wanted — I was trying to illustrate how extreme positions are harmful to the discussion.

    As I said — you are trying to force me into the Christian apologist side of this discussion (“them”.) Just because I refuse to take the bait, does not mean that I am trying to “score points.”

  • Kiba

    As I said — you are trying to force me into the Christian apologist side of this discussion (“them”.)

    No one forced you to do anything. That’s a stance you chose all on your own. 

    If you had a problem with anyone painting all Christians with the same brush all you had to do was say so. You didn’t and in fact resorted to the same tactic with regards to atheists.

    Who needs democracy, we have Murasaki?

    And that? That right there is you being an asshole. Don’t do that.

    Also the “other people do it too” argument you are trying to use here (atheists are tribalistic too) isn’t really an argument. 

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “If you had a problem with anyone painting all Christians with the same
    brush all you had to do was say so. You didn’t and in fact resorted to
    the same tactic with regards to atheists.”

    I did say so.  Many times.  I tried to point how there is room between these two extremes of “Atheist extremists” and “Christian extremists”. My point was that by pigeonholing the opposite point of view, you are forcing people to take sides.

    It was my first post on the site.

    Murasaki decided that I was wrong and proceeded to dictate the terms of atheism, and insisted that I provide proof of such Atheist extremism (which I tried to do)  Apparently, that pigeonholes me as anti-Atheist.

  • Kiba

    What you said:

    Evangelicals may want to mandate prayer, but atheist activists want to mandate zero mention of “God” in schools; Christians complain about a “War on Christmas” while atheists try to reserve every single public space set aside for Christmas displays only to place a demeaning message toward Christianity in these spaces.

    Ellie pointed out that pesky thing called the First Amendment. You know “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    School led prayer, bible study, creationism/intelligent design, etc have no place in public schools**. If you want a school that has all of those then private religious schools exist. The town hall or any property owned by the city/state is government property. If you are going to allow religious displays on government property then you have to allow all religious displays. You can’t play favorites. That includes allowing atheists to put up their own display if they want. If you do not want to allow this then confine religious displays to private property only. 

    As for the whole “War of Christmas” bullshit that’s just a rather loud and obnoxious group of people that are pissed that they aren’t being catered too.
    They don’t like the fact that they are not a special snowflake. 

    Also, this? “while atheists try to reserve every single public space set aside for Christmas displays only to place a demeaning message toward Christianity in these spaces.” That’s you doing the very thing you are accusing others of. 

     Apparently, that pigeonholes me as anti-Atheist.

    Essh, you do like to play the victim do you? I haven’t seen anyone do that. 

    You know maybe the problem is you aren’t expressing yourself well. Maybe it’s because you keep attributing things to people that they never said. Maybe people just don’t happen to agree with you. Maybe it’s because you keep overlooking the concept of power and who has it and who doesn’t. Here’s a hint: it’s not the atheists that have it. 

    **As it has been pointed out students are still free to pray, read the bible, etc on their own so long as it doesn’t disrupt the regular school day or harass other students. It just means that the school takes no part in it.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     These were all examples of erroneous and extreme points of view.  I don’t agree with any of them — my point is if you just examine one side then you turn the discussion into a “we” vs. “them” argument.  Change “them” to whatever word makes you happy — “Christians”, “Heathens”, “Barbarians”, “Evangelicals”, “treehuggers”, “warmongers.”

    And when you do that, you force “them” to support one side or another —  even if it is more extreme than their personal opinion.  Instead of encouraging discussion, you stifle it.

  • Kiba

    Again you are over looking the concept of power (or maybe I should use privilege). Christians have it pagans, atheists, etc don’t. It’s not about us vs them so much as it is about trying to make sure every one is treated equally. People are asking Christians to share and some Christians are taking that and claiming that that means they (Christians) and now a persecuted minority. It’s a bullshit claim. 

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     I’m not ignoring privilege — I’m acknowledging that it exists.  It won’t disappear with polarized view points (it may never disappear completely).  But the only way to affect that concept of power is through discussion — and placing groups in the “we” vs. “them” categories inhibits that discussion because raises the barriers. 

    Worse yet, it not only raises the barriers for the people who would be willing to understand.  It forces them to take sides.

  • Kiba

     I’m not ignoring privilege

    Yeah, I kind of think you are. I don’t think you really understand that while discussion is all well and good that expecting people who have no (or little) power/privilege to do nothing but talk and hope that the ones that do have it decide to share it is problematic. When it comes to the powerful majority asking nicely rarely, if ever, accomplishes much. 

    It is the perceived intent of the people involved that I’m criticizing.

    So you’re psychic now? 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    “Perceived intent” seems to have a straightforward interpretation: if someone steps on my foot, how they behave surrounding that event often influences my perception of their intent regarding my foot.

  • EllieMurasaki

    (Nativity displays on church properties are okay, on public property is wrong. Ancient Goddess statues are fine, and so is Santa – but only because nobody recognizes him as Saint Nicholas anymore.) These distinctions seem very arbitrary to me.

    Key distinction one is “public/government”, where “majority rule with minority rights” such that I have as much a say in it as you do and if there’s three of you and one of me then your group has three times the say that I do but you can’t get your way all the time, versus “private”, where we are each the dictator of our own little empire, boundaries exactly corresponding to the property we own.

    Key distinction two is “religious” (which for these purposes includes ‘atheist’ as well as ‘Hindu’, ‘Wiccan’, and ‘Christian) and “secular”. The government cannot support one of our religions over another, and here I reiterate that for purposes of the First Amendment atheism is a religion. The government, that is, must be secular, must treat all religions alike and none better or worse than another.

    The government must permit us free exercise of religion while on private property. To an extent, the government must permit us free exercise of religion while on public property; that extent ends when government resources are being used for that free exercise of religion, because that is the government supporting one religion over all the rest. Unless care is taken to ensure fairness to all religions who ask to participate in the government-supported free exercise of religion; there are several ways to do that, such as a lottery among applicants for a limited number of spaces for December holiday displays, or holiday displays for important holidays whenever in the year they occur.

    And I thought I was one of only a handful of people who would argue that Lady Liberty is a statue of Athena, one of a somewhat larger but still quite small group who would argue that Santa isn’t secular. But okay, fine, Lady Liberty and Santa are both religious–keep them out of the public square.

    Who needs democracy, we have Murasaki?

    Democracy is not actually supposed to be five wolves, two sheepdogs, and a sheep debating dinner.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Beroli: Ze/zir pronouns for me, please.

  • Kiba

    You took all of my responses out of that context

    No I didn’t.

    “Christianity is a cudgel” is not my definition. It is what Murasaki wrote.

    No she didn’t. What she said was: 

    Worshippers of Athena Eleutheros are thin on the ground and, crucially unlike Christians, not using their religion as a cudgel to beat down people of differing religious beliefs.

    She said that Christians use their religion as a cudgel. And she’s right, they do. That is not that same as saying what Christianity is.

    Painting a picture where all Christians are anti-LGBT (or whatever group) forces people to “take sides”.

    No one did that either. Also, if I’m presented with a group of people who want to make everything and everyone conform to their particular belief and complains when they are no longer catered to  and another group that doesn’t and doesn’t complain when other people or groups get a little bit of the pie that, until recently, has largely just been given to them, well, yeah I’m going to side with the second group. Go figure.  

    And if people are misunderstanding your argument maybe it’s because your presentation sucks. 

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “She said that Christians use their religion as a cudgel. And she’s right, they do. That is not that same as saying what Christianity is.” 

    And you still miss my point.  Replace “Christians” with “they” in that sentence and you may get it. (“They” use their religion as a cudgel — all of them? Really?)

    It seems to me that the point of this blog is to oppose that type of generalization. I still believe that it is an interesting concept, but I guess I’m in the minority.

    “And if people are misunderstanding your argument maybe it’s because your presentation sucks.”

    It’s because I’m to tentative — I’m overcompensating by trying not to take sides.  Apparently, by overexplaining that I’m not taking sides, I’m placed in the other bucket.

    This was my first time to this site.  I read the title block of this blog where it says, “Patheos — Hosting a Conversation on Faith”  I misunderstood.  I thought it was serious.  I was wrong.  It is a conversation with everybody who agrees lock step with you.  I’ll just go eat worms.

  • Kiba

    And you still miss my point.  Replace “Christians” with “they” in that sentence and you may get it. (“They” use their religion as a cudgel — all of them? Really?)

    No. You said she redefined Christianity. She did not. You can try and twist things all you want but she never did. She said that Christians use their religion as a cudgel. That’s all. That’s not redefining Christianity that is a comment on what some Christians do not what they believe

    It is a conversation with everybody who agrees lock step with you.

    Hardly. Hang around long enough and you’ll see that that is definitely not the case. You’re problem is you keep attributing things to people that they never said. That never goes over well. 

    I’ll just go eat worms.

    Oh, please. Behaving like a child is not going to make people take you seriously. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    My pronouns are ze/zir, not she/her, please and thank you.

  • Kiba

    My pronouns are ze/zir, not she/her, please and thank you.

    My apologies. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Monarchos has a teeny bit of a point in that I neglected to say that not all Christians are cudgely with their Christianity.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, actually, their intention was to make the displays either fair to all religious beliefs including atheism (though my approach to that would be explicit inclusion of a variety of December holidays, or explicit inclusion of a variety of important holidays year-round with public notice that that’s what they’re doing, with preference to the latter since most December holidays aren’t important to that religion the way Christmas is important to Christianity) or not existent on public property. Not exactly their fault that so many more atheists than theists entered the lottery.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    It is first, and foremost, an attempt to crowd out the traditional Christmas message.

    Seriously?

    Next December, I invite you to count the number of Christmas messages, Christmas-themed television shows, Christmas-themed decorations, Christmas-themed music, Christmas-themed news stories, people who wish you a Merry Christmas, people who dress up in Christmas-themed costumes and stand in public areas performing various Christmas-themed activities, on any given day.

    Then count the number of atheist messages, TV shows, decorations, music,  news, greetings, costumes, activities.

    Then come back and explain to me how the atheists are crowding out Christmas.

    Because I really don’t see it.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     Dave — I didn’t suggest that the attempt was successful — it strikes me as a little child’s attitude.  Atheist group won 18 out of 21 plots for seasonal displays.  This was not done to “promote atheism”, it was a little kid’s effort to take his ball and go home.  In that town, during that season, they were successful in mocking Christian beliefs.

    Again, I’ll point out that I understand and accept their “right” to post these messages.  But why would you choose to behave this way?  It is childish and immature.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Atheist group won 18 out of 21 plots for seasonal displays.  This was not done to “promote atheism”, it was a little kid’s effort to take his
    ball and go home. In that town, during that season, they were successful in mocking Christian beliefs.

    Not incidentally, they were also successful (in that town, during that season, in that venue) in protecting themselves from the relentless Christianity they’re subjected to in every town, in every season, on every channel.

    That said, I understand that for some people, who are accustomed to thinking of Christianity as the comfortable and familiar water that they swim in, the idea that ubiquitous Christianity might feel like a threat to be protected from feels alien.

    You might be one of those people, I don’t know.

    If you are, I invite you to imagine how you would feel if you were equally surrounded by a different religion’s iconography throughout your life. Islam, maybe. Or Hindu. Or if those atheist seasonal displays that seem so confusing and upsetting to you were on every radio and television station and on every street corner, and had been your whole life.

    That act of imagination might help you arrive at the answer to the question you’re asking.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But why would you choose to behave this way? It is childish and immature.

    Consider for a moment that you are behaving in much the same way that a five-year-old does when informed they must share a toy with a three-year-old sibling. To which my response is much the same: you will still have the toy later, and it will be a new one if they break the toy as you seem to fear. You are bigger than them and they are no threat to you, so get over yourself.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    and of course “Happy Solstice” the glorious atheistic celebration.

    Actually it is an astronomical statement. For the solstice does indeed occur near Christmas. So what better way to wish a happy holiday than recognize an event that occurs for everyone? (not everyone celebrates Christmas…)

  • Yawehmyhelp

    I’m half asleep but I noticed the one thing lacking in being mentioned in ALL these posts. It has nothing to do with race creed color religion male feamale……Character……..Who are they when no one is looking? Are they kind and loving to their wives or do they kick the dog everymorning when the get out of bed? That’s the real issue…..INTEGRITY! Enough said!

  • Carstonio

    I’ve said for a long time that town squares should be open to holiday displays by various religious groups, as long as the town in question doesn’t discriminate among religions and as long as the groups use their own labor and money.  (Atheist groups qualify as religious ones for First Amendment purposes.) Santa Monica erred in using a lottery system – a better approach would be first-come, first-serve, with one plot per group.

    From my reading, the American Atheist displays seemed to be mocking religious beliefs but not the people who hold them. It’s possible that some of these did mock believers specifically. The message and the tactic of hogging the spaces might be an effective protest if this were an event organized by the usual suspects among fundamentalist hate groups, like Focus on the Family. In principle, the holiday seasons of the different religions shouldn’t be used for partisanship no matter what majority or minority religious position is involved.

    But that principle would hold here only if there was a level playing field, and there most definitely is not. Our culture still wrong treats one particular religion as the norm or the default, and anything that smacks of religious wrongly gets more criticism when it comes from a minority religious group. I think it was Lenny Bruce who pointed out that Jews who live in the US are regularly reminded of their Jewishness, and I strongly suspect that atheists experience that same phenomenon to some degree. The attitude I perceive, especially from the folks who turn snotty whenever clerks wish them Happy Holidays, is that December belongs to the majority religion and that minority religions should just know their place.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    My preferred system is the administrators of the space maintain a queue, and as new people become interested in the space they get added to the queue, and as the space becomes available it goes to the next person in the queue. I can’t be on the queue more than once, and when I’m done using the space I can put myself back on the queue if I wish.

    But that’s a steady-state solution. If I want to establish such a solution, I need some way of jump-starting the system… figuring out people’s initial queue positions. A lottery seems as reasonable a way to do that as any.

  • Carstonio

    That would be a good approach, provided the initial lottery allowed only one spot per group like the queue itself.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    I’ve said for a long time that town squares should be open to holiday
    displays by various religious groups, as long as the town in question
    doesn’t discriminate among religions and as long as the groups use their
    own labor and money.  (Atheist groups qualify as religious ones for
    First Amendment purposes.) Santa Monica erred in using a lottery system –
    a better approach would be first-come, first-serve, with one plot per
    group.

    Some people do seem to get the idea that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” should extend all the way to “Religion, unique among all human endeavours, must be specially excluded from the public sector.” That if the local Star Trek Club wants to put up a Star Trek float in the town square, that’s one thibng, but if they become the First Church of Spock the Reborn, now letting them have their float runs afoul of the constitution.

    From my reading, the American Atheist displays seemed to be mocking religious beliefs but not the people who hold them.

    It seems like if you’re mocking the beliefs a person holds so dear as to consider part of the core of their identity, then claiming that this isn’t “mocking the people that hold them” is a lot like saying “I wasn’t saying anything insulting to you. I was just making an observation about your mother’s choice to enter the sex trade.”

  • Carstonio

     

    Some people do seem to get the idea that “congress shall make no law
    respecting an establishment of religion” should extend all the way to
    “Religion, unique among all human endeavours, must be specially excluded
    from the public sector.”

    Sure, but they are a vocal minority in both secularism and atheism. That hasn’t stopped the religious right from using that minority as a scare tactic.

    It seems like if you’re mocking the beliefs a person holds so dear as to
    consider part of the core of their identity, then claiming that this
    isn’t “mocking the people that hold them” is a lot like saying “I wasn’t
    saying anything insulting to you. I was just making an observation
    about your mother’s choice to enter the sex trade.”

    Without necessarily justifying the mocking the larger problem is that folks defending their privilege have a low threshold for what constitutes “mocking,” claiming to take even reasoned criticism of doctrines personally. No ideology of any sort, religious or secular, should be immune from criticism. The critic still has a responsibility to criticize intelligently, instead of resorting to ad hominem arguments or juvenile name-calling.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Without necessarily justifying the mocking the larger problem is that folks defending their privilege have a low threshold for what constitutes “mocking,” claiming to take even reasoned criticism of doctrines personally

    Hell with ‘reasoned criticism’. Monarchos is saying that the statement ‘atheists believe gods are mythical’, which is exactly equivalent in nature to the noncontroversial, noncritical, factual statement ‘Christians believe Jesus is Lord’, is mocking Christians.

  • Carstonio

    That’s a very low threshold indeed. Makes the people who claim that Happy Holidays is anti-Christian look like secularists. 

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “Hell with ‘reasoned criticism’. Monarchos is saying that the statement
    ‘atheists believe gods are mythical’, which is exactly equivalent in
    nature to the noncontroversial, noncritical, factual statement
    ‘Christians believe Jesus is Lord’, is mocking Christians.”

    No, that is not what I’m saying.  I’m saying that if you reserve most of the spots of a Christmas display and make such statements in each one, then you are mocking Christians. It is the perceived intent of the people involved that I’m criticizing.

    But I was criticizing both extremes.  Not because they were “right” or “wrong”, but because they inhibit understanding.  You latched onto the Atheist examples and won’t let go.  If you would have latched onto the Christian examples, then I would be “forced into” defending Atheism.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So enough more atheists than Christians entered the lottery for holiday display spots that the winners of the spots skewed heavily atheist, and then the atheists–horrors!–put up displays reflecting atheist beliefs in a manner very similar to how a nativity reflects Christian beliefs. And this is a thing for which to blame the atheists, not the Christians who could have entered the lottery but didn’t.

    Oh. Perceived intent. Not actual intent, just what you perceive the intent to be regardless of whether it maps to reality. Found our problem, folks.
    You would not be forced into squat, by the way. Supposing I were arguing the Christian side of this? (For whatever value of ‘Christian side’–I think what you perceive the phrase to mean will be ‘aligned with the Christians who think public space should be Christian space’, so let’s go with that, not any way to interpret the term that involves Christians who think public space should be secular or interfaith space.) You could still argue the Christian side of this. In fact, my clear impression of what you have posted thus far is that you would, and would have absolutely no perception that I was forcing you into arguing the atheist side–in fact you would perceive me as being on yours.

  • Carstonio

    I’m saying that if you reserve most of the spots of a Christmas display and make such statements in each one, then you are mocking Christians.

    Since it’s a public park, it shouldn’t be an exclusively Christian display in the first place. That’s government favortism toward one religion. By defining it as a Christmas display, as if other religions didn’t have holidays that month, you’re implying that non-Christian religions shouldn’t have the same access to public land.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The best-known non-Christian religions, Judaism and Islam, Hanukkah ain’t half as important to Judaism as Christmas is to Christianity, and this year there just weren’t any Muslim holidays in December. I’m not sure which of Passover or the collective High Holy Days maps to Christmas in terms of importance to its religion, and Muslim holidays move, and I have no idea what holidays are the important ones for pretty much any other religion.
    If there’s gonna be religious holiday displays on public property–which I’ve no objection to as long as lots of religions including atheism get a say, though my preference would be no religious holiday displays on public property at all–then December should not be the only month for them.

  • Carstonio

    Very true. Regardless of the relative importance of specific holidays within religions, government must not treat some religions as more important than others.

    Why do you prefer no religious displays on any public property? A courthouse is for official government business, and there such a ban is appropriate. But a public park belongs to the community with government as a steward. A ban on religious uses might be defensible in circumstances where open access for all religions is an administrative headache. But that access, done without favoritism,  meets the secular purpose test just as well.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Jewish holidays “move” as well, incidentally. Or, rather, they’re fixed on a lunar calendar, so they don’t appear on the same date on the Gregorian (aka Christian) calendar.

    Absolutely agreed about treating December as “the” holiday season being Christonormative, though.

    For Jews, it would typically be September/October (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot), though an argument could be made for Pesach in April.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I know Jewish holidays move with respect to the Gregorian calendar. My point is, the big ones are the High Holy Days and Passover, neither of which is anywhere near December, while any Muslim holiday can occur at any point in the Gregorian year. And while I’ll take Kiba’s word for it that a very important Jain holiday happens early November, one, that’s not December, and two, how important to their respective religions are the rest of the Nov-Dec holidays Kiba lists?

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     If you read the link — there was a Jewish display for Hannakuh in Santa Monica.  As near as I can figure, nobody had a problem with that.

    I’m not arguing for “exclusivity”, my point was that the Atheists, in this situation, took a vindictive, activist approach against Christmas.  The Atheist argument seems to be, “well Christians do it, so I can do it, too.”

    But that precludes the idea that most Christians don’t behave this way (neither do most atheists), but their positions get “crowded” out by the extremists.  The perception becomes that most of “them” behave this way. (For instance, if you are an Atheist, “them” is Christian; if you are a Christian, “them” is atheists.)

    I’m not taking sides.  Both approaches are wrong.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Bullshit you’re not. You’re strenuously arguing that atheists making a point of existing while visibly atheist is horribly offensive to Christians without any acknowledgment that the continual overwhelming insistence lots of* Christians have on existing while visibly Christian, and that fewer-but-still-lots of Christians have of insisting nobody should exist while being visibly not-Christian, might offend not-Christians.

    (nb: the first doesn’t, the latter does, and atheists do not have anything like the numbers or the political power to attempt insisting that no one should exist while visibly not-atheist and also atheists unlike Christians are by and large not dumb enough to try)

    * see, I learn from my mistakes and am no longer overgeneralizing

  • Kiba

    my point was that the Atheists, in this situation, took a vindictive, activist approach against Christmas.

    It’s vindictive to state what they believe? Really? So that nativity scene is vindictive to atheists? 
    You just come across as angry that they were allowed to say that publicly. 

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    ” It’s vindictive to state what they believe? Really? So that nativity scene is vindictive to atheists?”

    — No, it was vindictive to try to monopolize the displays. And that is my perception.  It was also the perception of the article in the LA Times. (Title Atheists ‘hijack’ Nativity Display.”) The only reason why the holiday season has any special significance to atheists is because it is religious to other faiths.  There are better ways to achieve this discussion.

    “You just come across as angry that they were allowed to say that publicly. ”

    — No, I’m not angry that they were allowed to say that.  I’m angry that they abused the privilege.  (gasp! There’s that word again — I know, only Christians are “privileged”.)  I believe a better approach would be to appeal to the council for a different month to display their viewpoints in the same space. 

    This blog is about avoiding the mentality of the “zero-sum” game.  That conclusion works both ways. Here is a clear example where there are twenty-one spaces for seasonal displays.  But only for that one month.  In this case the Atheists only “win” if they destroy the holiday for everybody.  I don’t agree — I think everybody loses in that case.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    No, it was vindictive to try to monopolize the displays. And that is my perception.

    mmmmfbwhahahahaha omfg.

    Such a calamity that one display in one city in one state in a bigass country gets “monopolized” by non-Christians.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     So if the christians had won the lottery instead, it would have been fine and dandy if, instead of a nativity, they set up a diorama of atheists being tortured in hell?

  • Carstonio

    Few would disagree in principle that extremism is wrong. The objection here is to the false equivalence that you’re peddling. While there was indeed a Hanukkah display, all the other displays were Christian. That itself was arguably a  “vindictive, activist approach” against non-Christian religions. One doesn’t have to approve the specific tactic used by American Atheists to recognize that they’re simply mirroring how the culture treats non-Christian religions and their adherents. Where were the complaints from non-atheists when Santa Monica unconstitutionally allowed Nativities to dominate the displays with only a token for Hanukkah?

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    ” Few would disagree in principle that extremism is wrong.”

    — and, yet, most seem to be arguing against me. 

    “Where were the complaints from non-atheists when Santa Monica
    unconstitutionally allowed Nativities to dominate the displays with only
    a token for Hanukkah?”

    —  In this case, Santa Monica tried to be fair and impartial.  The held a lottery for spots (as they apparently have for many years.) It isn’t unconstitutional to allow religious displays.  It is unconstitutional for the government to favor a religion.  And I’m not disagreeing with the “constitutionality” of what the Atheists did in this case.  I’m disagreeing with their results.  It was destructive, not constructive.

    “That itself was arguably a  “vindictive, activist approach” against
    non-Christian religions. One doesn’t have to approve the specific tactic
    used by American Atheists to recognize that they’re simply mirroring
    how the culture treats non-Christian religions and their adherents”

    — I’m not sure how many Christians you know, but ask yourself how many of them display nativities to be “anti-Atheist”?  There are some (of course), but I am against them, as well.  I believe that the actions by Atheists in Santa Monica increase the number of people who would create displays which are more obviously anti-Atheist.  And that is a destructive spiral.

    I’m not defending Christian behavior which is “vindictive” or “extreme”.  My point was that any of that behavior is destructive.  The argument presented in this blog is “don’t break sides down into ‘us’ and ‘them’.”

    I agree with that.  I think it is an important and interesting concept.  Almost as soon as I wrote that I received responses like “Oh, yeah — how come you’re against ‘us’, but not ‘them’?”  (I’m paraphrasing, which is apparently is not allowed in this forum,  but I’ve written too much already.)

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    ” Few would disagree in principle that extremism is wrong.”

    — and, yet, most seem to be arguing against me.  [..] I’m not defending Christian behavior which is “vindictive” or “extreme”. 

    Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” an extreme position, on your view?

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “Is “Jesus Christ is Lord” an extreme position, on your view?”

    — No, of course not.  That is a statement of faith.  However, if you try to mandate that every school child says this at the beginning of the day, that is extremist.  That was my example of a Christian extremist position.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    What if I put a sign in a public space saying “Jesus Christ is Lord”? Is that also a Christian extremist position, or is that OK?

    What if I put a sign next to it saying  “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet.”? Is that a Muslim extremist position, is it mockery, or is it OK?

    What if I put a sign next to both of those saying  “There are no gods.”? Is that an atheist extremist position, is it mockery, or is it OK?

    It seems to me that either those three acts are equally “extremist,” or our definition of “extremism” is already so biased that it does more harm than good.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    No — none of those are extremist positions.

    ” It seems to me that either those three acts are equally “extremist,” or
    our definition of “extremism” is already so biased that it does more
    harm than good.”

    — I’m not trying to “define extremism”.  I would argue that such an attempt is already shown (here) to be problematic.  I was trying to illustrate the damaging effect of these positions.  Which is my understanding of this blog article.

    What I find surprising is that people feel obliged to say “‘We’ aren’t extremist, ‘they’ are.” — in response to an article against making such distinctions

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Wait up… if I put up a sign next to a bunch of public declarations of faith saying  “There are no gods,” you don’t consider that problematic?

    So, OK, what do you say to the Christian or the Muslim who says “Of course it’s problematic! Dave is mocking my faith! He’s not interested in a genuine conversation!”?

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “Wait up… if I put up a sign next to a bunch of public declarations of faith saying  “There are no gods,” you don’t consider that problematic?”

    — I didn’t mean for it to sound like I’m against “problematic”.

    “So, OK, what do you say to the Christian or the Muslim who says “Of
    course it’s problematic! Dave is mocking my faith! He’s not interested
    in a genuine conversation!”?”

    — Some do say that.  I don’t expect everybody to agree.  But I think there should be an attempt at understanding.

    Right now, my perception is that a select minority try to limit and control discussions to their favor. Environmentalists say that “the debate on global warming is settled” — this statement doesn’t encourage discussion or understanding.  It says, “if you haven’t come to that conclusion, that is your problem.” Try to find the transcripts of the Obamacare debate on a national health care system. — You can’t, because it didn’t happen.  The debate was controlled by one person (Max Baucus) who limited all 41 testimonies to people who agreed with him. How did he get away with this?  “Socialism is bad.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Environmentalists say that “the debate on global warming is settled” — this statement doesn’t encourage discussion or understanding. It says, “if you haven’t come to that conclusion, that is your problem.”

    …oh, so you’re a fuckwit and I’ve been wasting my time.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “…oh, so you’re a fuckwit and I’ve been wasting my time.”

    — That’s very Christian of you.

    My point about Global Warming is that it is an extremely complicated issue. Statements like, “the debate is settled” marginalizes any discussion to either ‘for’ or ‘against’.  The assumption is that you can’t be “against” the environmentalist position, but it ignores any possibility that you could be partially for much of the discussion, but against some of the others.

    And, if nothing else, realize that I am against arbitrary limits of the discussion.

    It could just be that Al Gore has a new book out and he was on a tour the other day.  Just watching him speak makes the hair on the back of my neck curl.  It’s not whether I agree or disagree with him, it is his arrogant antagonism.

  • P J Evans

     In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re tired of explaining reality to you. Please shut up or go away.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     I get — I’m done.

  • EllieMurasaki

    people feel obliged to say “‘We’ aren’t extremist, ‘they’ are.”
    The thing is, we’re NOT, they ARE, and there’s another ‘they’ that has the same label as the first ‘they’ but contains no extremists. That’s the point you yelled at me in an early, if not your first, comment on this thread for, because I neglected to emphasize that not all Christians use religion as a weapon.

    (Perhaps not even most, but certainly enough who do and enough others who don’t object to it. Our host the Slacktivist is the kind of Christian I wish they all were, but the Christians who object to using Christianity to hurt people are a small percentage of Christians.)

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “people feel obliged to say “‘We’ aren’t extremist, ‘they’ are.”
    The
    thing is, we’re NOT, they ARE, and there’s another ‘they’ that has the
    same label as the first ‘they’ but contains no extremists”

    — No, both positions are the same thing.  In this example, both “we” and ‘they’ are wrong.  I never limited this to “Atheist extremists” — that’s how you interpreted it.  And I’m against using Christianity to hurt people — and I believe it is a large majority of Christians who believe this way.  They just don’t make it on TV or in Congress.

  • Madhabmatics

    If I was going to put up some biting Muslim sign next to a nativity it would probably be some burn from Ali, something like:

    “The sin which makes you sad and repentant is more liked by Allah than the good deed which turns you arrogant.”

    or

    “People often hate things that they do not understand.”

    or

    “One who comes into power often oppresses.”

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Also, come to think of it.. if I try to mandate that every school child says that the United States is one nation under God at the beginning of every day, is that an extremist position?

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “Also, come to think of it.. if I try to mandate that every school child
    says that the United States is one nation under God at the beginning of
    every day, is that an extremist position?”

    — yes, it would be.  But we don’t actually do that.  No child is required to say the pledge.

    I went to school with a child who sat in his chair while we all stood up to say the pledge.  Nobody mocked or demeaned him.  In fact, it became an opportunity for discussion.  That being said, I can appreciate the difficulty of him sitting there those first few days of school.

    There is a bill in the Arizona legislature to require that all students sign such a pledge before they graduate.  This was one of my examples of an “extreme Christian position.”  Which I disagree with.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No child is required to say the pledge.

    Have you ever encountered the concepts of ‘bullying’ or ‘peer pressure’? The child who declines to say the Pledge, in full or at all, when the rest of the class says the whole thing in unison, is shortly going to be an ostracized child. Most kids don’t have the nerve for that, and it’s discriminatory behavior, even if not discriminatory policy, for standard practice to be that the nonChristian kids who don’t have the nerve to stand out from the crowd (and no one should be required to be braver than the rest! encouraged, certainly, but not required, and certainly not required by demographic happenstance!) have to make a statement of faith with which they disagree.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “Have you ever encountered the concepts of ‘bullying’ or ‘peer pressure’?
    The child who declines to say the Pledge, in full or at all, when the
    rest of the class says the whole thing in unison, is shortly going to be
    an ostracized child.”

    — Yes, of course I have.  Did you just bypass the anecdote from my first grade experience?  I had someone in my class who did not say the pledge.  At the time,  I did not appreciate how difficult it was.  It became a positive, constructive experience, but I did not have any idea of that in first grade.  It must have been paralyzing for him those first few days of school.

  • P J Evans

     I wish the heck they’d repeal the law that put ‘under God’ into the pledge, damned cold-war anti-communist holdover that it is.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     I see. Thanks for clarifying.

    So, if I wanted to mandate that all children stand up and be led in a group recitation of  “Jesus is Lord,” but I provided an option whereby individual children can choose to stay seated, would that be OK?

  • Carstonio

    “God” is a sectarian reference in that some Americans believe in a single god and some don’t. Because of that, “under God” doesn’t belong in the Pledge, and neither would “under Zeus” or “under Vishnu” or any number of gods taught by other religions. And neither would the hypothetical “under no god.” It doesn’t matter whether children are required or not to say the pledge – Congress still acted unconstitutionally by making it sectarian.

  • Carstonio

    Santa Monica wasn’t being “fair and impartial” when it allowed groups (some of them ostensibly secular) to put up multiple Nativities, any more than when it allowed American Atheists to put up multiple displays. A truly impartial process would have allowed only one display per religion, in this case a single Nativity.

    I’m not sure how many Christians you know, but ask yourself how many of them display nativities to be “anti-Atheist”?

    That mischaracterizes the issue. No one claims that a Nativity in and of itself is inherently hostile to non-Christians. The hostility is in having these dominating the displays, crowding out all non-Christian religions but one. You’re wrongly blaming a religious minority for treating the issue as us versus them, instead of recognizing that the culture has long done that in favor of the majority religion.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “Santa Monica wasn’t being “fair and impartial” when it allowed groups
    (some of them ostensibly secular) to put up multiple Nativities, any
    more than when it allowed American Atheists to put up multiple displays.”

    — I didn’t claim that it was fair or impartial.  Nor do I think “fair and impartial” is  a reasonable goal.  If you allow one display per religion, you’ll have people arguing on just how many “Christian” religions there are.  “Fair and impartial” is different for everybody.  However, that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some attempt at understanding.

    “That mischaracterizes the issue. No one claims that a Nativity in and of itself is inherently hostile to non-Christians.”

    — That was the point you raised, right?  “That itself was arguably a  “vindictive, activist approach” against non-Christian religions.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    If you allow one display per religion, you’ll have people arguing on just how many “Christian” religions there are.

    Who was it asked why I prefer no religious displays on public property to a variety of religious displays on public property?

    That’s why.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “Who was it asked why I prefer no religious displays on public property to a variety of religious displays on public property”

     Curiously, nobody asked me, either.  I don’t expect to get asked for everything.  Nor do I expect that my opinion is the only one that should be considered.  However, there are beneficial ways and destructive ways to deal with disagreement.  My opinion, in this case “their” method was destructive — it was destructive to the community, it was destructive to the debate, and it was destructive to “their” cause.

    I’m not denying “their” right to be destructive.  I questioning the wisdom of it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    What, in your view, would be a nondestructive atheist holiday display, or a nondestructive explanation of what atheists believe?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    That was the point you raised, right?  “That itself was arguably
    a  “vindictive, activist approach” against non-Christian religions.”

    I can’t tell if you’re deliberately misconstruing Carstonio’s point here, or just too caught up in wanting to win an argument on the Internet to take the time to read carefully or charitably. As Carstonio said explicitly, he is drawing the distinction here between a single Nativity in isolation, and a broad cultural norm of Nativity scenes being seen as the default unmarked case. The former, he claims, is not hostile to non-Christians. The latter is.

    If you want to ignore the broader cultural context, we can’t stop you. If you want to argue that the broader context does not matter, go ahead and argue it.

    But pretending that other people aren’t specifically drawing that distinction is unhelpful.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “I can’t tell if you’re deliberately misconstruing Carstonio’s point
    here, or just too caught up in wanting to win an argument on the
    Internet to take the time to read carefully or charitably. As Carstonio
    said explicitly, he is drawing the distinction here between a single
    Nativity in isolation, and a broad cultural norm of Nativity scenes
    being seen as the default unmarked case. The former, he claims, is not
    hostile to non-Christians. The latter is.”

     No, I wasn’t trying to deny the “broader context”. I’m pointing out intent matters — as well as perception of intent. Most Christians who display a nativity scene do so ignorantly, not maliciously.  Ignorance isn’t bad or good, it just exists.

    As near as I can determine, the Santa Monica display was not intended as a “Christian” display of Christmas (although some, no doubt, interpreted it that way.)  None of them placed a nativity as an intentional slam to Atheism (I could be wrong, but that is my guess.)

    However, it is hard for me to interpret the atheist displays as anything but an attempt to demean other religions.

    My intent on raising this point has nothing to do with nativity displays on Christmas.  My point was about how extremist activism on either side is destructive. I wasn’t even referring to just religious activism. However, Ellie Murasaki took issue with one of my examples of atheist activism.  Now I find myself defending the Christians in Santa Monica, in order to defend my argument.  It is not a position that I am entirely comfortable with.  It was meant as an example, not a position statement.

  • EllieMurasaki

    As near as I can determine, the Santa Monica display was not intended as a “Christian” display of Christmas (although some, no doubt, interpreted it that way.) None of them placed a nativity as an intentional slam to Atheism (I could be wrong, but that is my guess.)

    Nativity scenes, though never to my knowledge intentional slams on atheism, are ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS CHRISTIAN CHRISTMAS DISPLAYS.

  • Carstonio

    It’s a mistake to focus so much on intent, especially since no one can truly know someone else’s intent.

    Nativities are explicitly Christian. You might have a point if we were talking about wreaths or trees. We celebrate Christmas in our home as a secular holiday since we’re not religious.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “It’s a mistake to focus so much on intent, especially since no one can truly know someone else’s intent.”

    — I wasn’t trying to “focus” on intent.  I was pointing to an example what I though was a divisive campaign by a few select individuals to demean Christmas in the name of Atheism.  Whether the displays are “legally right or wrong”, was never my point.  My point was that the number of public an private nativity displays will probably double next year in Santa Monica.  The response to that will be a doubling of Atheist displays which will appear more vindictive.  Then the news reporters will come around asking everyone’s opinion.

    “Nativities are explicitly Christian. You might have a point if we were
    talking about wreaths or trees. We celebrate Christmas in our home as a
    secular holiday since we’re not religious.”

    — Yes, but I’m not defending religious displays. We’re not holding this discussion in a vacuum.  The displays were already there. I’m against turning this into a “we” vs. “them” discussion.  What can I say?  I failed.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    As near as I can determine, the Santa Monica display was not intended
    as a “Christian” display of Christmas (although some, no doubt,
    interpreted it that way.)  None of them placed a nativity as an
    intentional slam to Atheism (I could be wrong, but that is my guess.) However, it is hard for me to interpret the atheist displays as anything but an attempt to demean other religions.

    Fair enough.

    For my own part, I’m more interested in the effects of public policy on the public than I am in attempting to determine the intent of the people who make or apply that policy. In other words: yes, intent matters, but inferred intent can easily be trumped by observed consequences. 

    You’re free to have other priorities, though.

  • Carstonio

    If you allow one display per religion, you’ll have people arguing on
    just how many “Christian” religions there are.  “Fair and impartial” is
    different for everybody.  However, that doesn’t mean that there
    shouldn’t be some attempt at understanding.

    That wrongly assumes that there’s no constitutional issue involved. Since it’s a public park, Santa Monica has a duty to treat the religions impartially. A Nativity is so broadly accepted as a Christian symbol that the city has a good case for allowing just one to represent all of the religion.

    That was the point you raised, right?

    I was referring to Nativities taking up all but one of the display booths. That dominance is the “vindictive, activist approach.” The American Atheists tactic appears first and foremost to be a reaction to that approach by c0-opting it.

    Look at it this way – our culture still subconsciously assumes that it’s normal or natural for doctors to be men. What you’re describing is the equivalent of a male physician taking it personally in the rare case of a patient assuming that the doctor would be a woman. Ridiculous for him to want sympathy for a single experience that his female colleagues regularly face.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    “I was referring to Nativities taking up all but one of the display
    booths. That dominance is the “vindictive, activist approach.” The
    American Atheists tactic appears first and foremost to be a reaction to
    that approach by c0-opting it.”

    — As far as I know, there was no expectation that there would be nativities in all but one display.  There was an expectation that they would have fourteen of the twenty-one displays, but I’m not trying to defend that expectation.  I just don’t believe that expectation was intentionally vindictive.

    “Look at it this way – our culture still subconsciously assumes that it’s
    normal or natural for doctors to be men. What you’re describing is the
    equivalent of a male physician taking it personally in the rare case of a
    patient assuming that the doctor would be a woman. Ridiculous for him
    to want sympathy for a single experience that his female colleagues
    regularly face.”

    — Take that one step further.  Let’s say a few women tried to limit applications to medical school so that only a few men could attend.  Their position is that men have had the privilege for so long that it is women’s turn now.  I would say that is wrong.

    However, my wife tells me that she is much more comfortable with a woman Ob/Gyn — that is also discriminatory, but I can sympathize with it.

  • Carstonio

     

    I just don’t believe that expectation was intentionally vindictive.

     The expectation was for preferential treatment for their religion at the expense of others. That amounts to vindictive treatment of the disfavored religions. It doesn’t matter whether the expectation was intentionally vindictive.

      Let’s say a few women tried to limit applications to medical school so that only a few men could attend…

    Please explain why that would be “one step further,” because it has nothing to do with my point about unequal societal expectations of the genders. No one is proposing that male privilege with the female version, so there was no reason for you to even bring up the idea.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     ” The expectation was for preferential treatment for their religion at
    the expense of others. That amounts to vindictive treatment of the
    disfavored religions. It doesn’t matter whether the expectation was
    intentionally vindictive”

    — I am not defending the Christians in Santa Monica.  Nor have I ever.  I think you and I are mostly in agreement.  I understand that I am not saying it very well.  I’m suddenly beginning to think that is some sort of crime.

    “Please explain why that would be “one step further,” because it has
    nothing to do with my point about unequal societal expectations of the
    genders. No one is proposing that male privilege with the female
    version, so there was no reason for you to even bring up the idea.”

    — I agree.  I was extending your analogy.  Some people seem to me to be saying that Christians have had privilege for so long, that now it is Atheist’s turn.

  • Carstonio

    No one here is saying that privilege should be switched from Christians to atheists. In my case, I’m saying that privilege shouldn’t exist.

    The Santa Monica incident was one instance of a religious majority experiencing, for a relatively brief period, the treatment that religious minorities experience all the time. Yet all your sympathies appear, to me, to be for the majority. That’s like feeling sorry for a pampered celebrity who has to settle for eating at Bob Evans instead of Four Seasons.

    When I read about the initial, my initial reaction to the complaints from Christians was, “Cry me a river. Now you know what it feels like.” They might have had a point if the city had decided to deliberately exclude Christian displays while allowing displays from other religions. But these folks live in a society that still treats their religion as the default, and the vast majority of the displays in there had been of their religion. The irony is that they are most likely outnumbered by the Christians who share my view that the complaining was self-centered and selfish.

  • Carstonio

     Also, how in the name of all that’s good or decent does a scenario about establishing female privilege constitute “extending” an analogy about male privilege? That’s like claiming that left-handers want to do away with right-handed scissors.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I’m saying that if you reserve most of the spots of a Christmas display
    and make such statements in each one, then you are mocking Christians

    And if you take a public space that is maintained by a community that includes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and lots of other types of people, and you start thinking of it as “a Christmas display” like you do here, you are belittling and alienating non-Christians. You’re saying that the public square isn’t for them to do their thing, it’s for Christians to do Christmas.

    And if some of those non-Christians, after five or fifteen or fifty years of putting up with it, eventually take control of that space and use it to express defiance of that paradigm, that should not be surprising.

    And if some Christians feel mocked along the way, that is an acceptable price to pay.

    I was criticizing both extremes.  Not because they were “right” or “wrong”, but because they inhibit understanding. 

    Understanding is great, but it’s not the only virtue.

    Your “perceived intent,” as you would put it, is that it’s more important for the powerless to express their understanding of the powerful than that the powerless have room to participate in the social life of a community in the first place. That’s not just mistaken, it’s immoral.

    I know I keep repeating the same thought over and over, but then again you never do seem to engage with it.

  • Carstonio

     

    Your “perceived intent,” as you would put it, is that it’s more
    important for the powerless to express their understanding of the
    powerful than that the powerless have room to participate in the social
    life of a community in the first place. That’s not just mistaken, it’s
    immoral.

    This. In the case of a society with many religions, the argument is that the majority religion should be treated as the norm or default, as if others should apologize for belonging to another religion.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Sometimes it’s not even “majority.” That is, if fifty years from now it turned out Christianity wasn’t a majority religion in the U.S. anymore and Ijustmadeitupism was, many people alive today would still believe that Christianity was the norm.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “And if you take a public space that is maintained by a community
    that includes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, and lots of other
    types of people, and you start thinking of it as “a Christmas display”
    like you do here, you are belittling and alienating non-Christians.
    You’re saying that the public square isn’t for them to do their thing,
    it’s for Christians to do Christmas.”

    Way back in the beginning of this discussion, I pointed out that Christmas has become both a religious and secular holiday.  For what it is worth, that is probably the root of the “War on Christmas” debate. I also pointed out that the “War on Christmas” rhetoric on the part of Christians was not constructive.

    “And if some of those non-Christians, after five or fifteen or fifty
    years of putting up with it, eventually take control of that space and
    use it to express defiance of that paradigm, that should not be
    surprising. ”

    I’m not surprised.  I just don’t believe it is constructive. You have a community that is trying to be inclusive — yet, you have a few individuals who are trying to destroy that.

    “Understanding is great, but it’s not the only virtue.”

    I don’t believe it is the only virtue, either.  But it is a virtue — and it will help the community coexist.

    “Your “perceived intent,” as you would put it, is that it’s more
    important for the powerless to express their understanding of the
    powerful than that the powerless have room to participate in the social
    life of a community in the first place. That’s not just mistaken, it’s
    immoral.”

    Never did I say or imply that.  That is the antithesis of my point.  My perception is that “extremists” destroy the social life of a community.  I tried to illustrate that all extremes achieve this destruction at the expense of the majority.  EllieMurasaki countered only the illustration of the Atheist extremists, and insisted that I “prove” the example of atheist extremists.

    “I know I keep repeating the same thought over and over, but then again you never do seem to engage with it.”

    That’s because I am trying not to take sides.  The thesis of my very first point was that the extremists positions have the effect of forcing you to take sides.  And that is what is wrong with the public discourse.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Christmas has become both a religious and secular holiday

    To the extent that Christmas is a secular holiday in the U.S., it is one that alienates and offends many people, both non-Christians and devout Christians. I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about that, but moving forward as though Christmas were some kind of unproblematically secular event is a step in the wrong direction.

    But it (understanding) is a virtue — and it will help the community coexist.

    Yes. But when we seek understanding at the expense of other things, such as fairness or equal access to public accomodations, we often end up by damaging the community. Context matters. The big picture matters.

    My perception is that “extremists” destroy the social life of a community.  [..] extremists positions have the effect of forcing you to take sides.  And that is what is wrong with the public discourse.

    There are many, many, many other things wrong with public discourse in America that are more important than people sometimes being “forced” to take sides by extremist positions.

    Especially if we consider claims like “the divinity of Jesus Christ is a myth with no significant evidence in support of it” to be an extremist position. It isn’t. Or, rather, it is only extremist if we believe that “Jesus Christ is divine” is a centrist, middle-of-the-road position, in which case we’re starting from a position that excludes and alienates many many people, and that represents ongoing damage to the community that needs to be addressed.

    Pressing someone in the chest hard enough to separate their ribs
    from their sternum damages a person. But chastising someone giving CPR
    to someone in need of it on that basis is just loony. At best it’s a distraction from more important work. At worst, they might listen to my chastisement and stop what they’re doing, which causes net harm.

    Similarly, when someone takes a step in the direction of improving one of those more-important things, and my response is to chastise them for the 
    “extremist” positions they take in the process, I do more harm than good.

    Of course, if we can apply metaphorical CPR effectively without breaking anyone’s metaphorical ribs, that’s even better. But the time to address that issue is not in the context of a specific intervention, it’s during training. If you have suggestions about how to effectively address the alienation and exclusion that are ubiquitous in American religious life without making the current power structure feel bad, that’s great! I’d love to talk about that, and it’s a far more useful conversation than how wrong it is to address those issues in ways that make the current power structure feel bad.

    And if you don’t have suggestions, that’s OK too. Most people don’t.

  • Carstonio

    To the extent that Christmas is a secular holiday in the U.S., it is
    one that alienates and offends many people, both non-Christians and
    devout Christians. I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about
    that, but moving forward as though Christmas were some kind of
    unproblematically secular event is a step in the wrong direction.

    Does that remind you of the Bill O’Reilly tactic of claiming that Christianity is a philosophy and not a religion? A tactic that has no purpose other than seeking most-favored-nation status for a particular religion.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    A little bit, yeah.

    Then again, it also reminds me of the “why does a person’s sex even matter? I am attracted to a person’s soul!” stance so beloved of many people in the first phases of coming out as queer. To which my usual response is “That’s nice. Give me a call when you’ve finished coming out. In the meantime, as long as you don’t go around judging the rest of us who are attracted to different bodies in different ways, we’ll get along just fine.”

    In much the same way… if someone wants to engage with the secular core of Christmas rather than its religious core, that’s fine with me, though I think it’s mostly a transient fence-straddling act that’s untenable in the long run. In the meantime, though, I won’t tolerate them telling the rest of us how we should engage with Christmas.

  • Lori

     

    In much the same way… if someone wants to engage with the secular core
    of Christmas rather than its religious core, that’s fine with me,
    though I think it’s mostly a transient fence-straddling act that’s
    untenable in the long run.   

    I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years now and I’m still not having any problem managing it. Given the pagan roots of many of our “Christmas” traditions it’s actually not difficult at all. You lose the nativity scene (which my family never had any way*) and a bunch of carols and you’re pretty much set.

    *My family never had a nativity because the Church of Christ doesn’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It has no religious holidays at all. Yup, fundie Christians who don’t think Christmas is a religious holiday. Imagine that.

    Two things about that:

    -Many CofCers have gotten sucked into the War on Christmas BS via Fox News, so it’s now sometimes difficult for outsiders to tell that they don’t believe Christmas is a religious holiday, but they don’t.

    -I still recall with great fondness the conversation where I tried to explain to the mother of my Jewish BFF that the church in which I was raised does not have religious holidays. It just Did. Not. Compute. She’s a smart woman and she understood what I was saying, but it was so totally foreign to her experience that I think she just filed it under “The goyim. Who can understand them?”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    For my immediate family Christmas is mostly a get-together holiday with some gift exchanges. No nativity etc, just a little Christmas tree and we’re set.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    > I’ve been doing this for at least 15 years now and I’m still not having any problem managing it.

    That’s neat. I stand happily corrected.

    And yeah, to someone raised in American Judaism, religion without religious holidays is like…. um… something without something else, which is necessarily entailed by it.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

     “To the extent that Christmas is a secular holiday in the U.S., it is one
    that alienates and offends many people, both non-Christians and devout
    Christians. I don’t know if there’s anything we can do about that, but
    moving forward as though Christmas were some kind of unproblematically
    secular event is a step in the wrong direction.”

    — I agree.  That was my point.

    “There are many, many, many other things wrong with public
    discourse in America that are more important than people sometimes being
    “forced” to take sides by extremist positions.”

     — There are many problems with public discourse, but (to me) this is number one.  All Republicans are expected to agree with the NRA’s position on gun usage, whether they believe in the entire program, or not.  The effect of this is more insidious than LaPierre looking foolish on national TV.  One of the effects is to restrict federally funded research on guns.  This allows them not just to make outrageous statements, but to restrict the discussion to their research.

    The NRA is the most obvious example of this effect, but I contend that this occurs at all levels of the public debate.

    “Especially if we consider claims like “the divinity of Jesus
    Christ is a myth with no significant evidence in support of it” to be an
    extremist position. It isn’t. Or, rather, it is only extremist if we believe that “Jesus Christ is divine” is a centrist, middle-of-the-road position, in which case we’re starting
    from a position that excludes and alienates many many people, and that
    represents ongoing damage to the community that needs to be addressed.”

    — I didn’t say any of these things.

    “If you have suggestions about how to effectively address the alienation
    and exclusion that are ubiquitous in American religious life without making the current power structure feel bad, that’s great”

    — I don’t care that the “current power structure” feel bad.  I would like to get them to the table.  In fact, I would like to find the table — as near as I can figure, it is nowhere in sight.

  • monarchos8@hotmail.com

    At the risk of angering everyone again,  I’ll try answer.  All of these are very good questions, (ones that I don’t pretend I can answer) just not the ones I was raising.  In the case of Santa Monica, I didn’t mean to imply anything about the constitutionality of the case, the morality of either position, or the “right” or “wrong” of any of the religions involved.

    The question I was raising (apparently, very poorly) was whether or not the Atheists in Santa Monica were helping their own cause or hurting it.

    I have no idea what the Atheist organization’s objectives were.  I would hope that it is something positive like get more people to hear their perspective or to encourage acceptance in the community. 

    I don’t believe this was the productive way to achieve those goals.  That’s how I interpret the title of this blog.  It is not a “zero-sum” game.  Just because somebody “loses” doesn’t mean that somebody else “wins”.  In the case of Santa Monica, I believe that everybody loses.  Maybe I’m wrong, but then it was a poor example.

    I’m truly sorry for angering anyone.  And I’m sorry for getting frustrated that I wasn’t getting my point across very well.  I may still be failing.  I tried.

  • Carstonio

    The question I was raising (apparently, very poorly) was whether or not the Atheists in Santa Monica were helping their own cause or hurting it.

    Please understand that it’s inappropriate for a non-athiest to even ask the question, regardless of the intentions. The premise implies that disadvantaged groups deserve at least some of the blame when they’re mistreated by the advantaged group. It’s like a man asking if a sexually harassed woman is helping or hurting her cause by how she dresses. 

    Besides, neither you nor I can assume the intentions of this particular atheist group. They might oppose religion or they might want tolerance for all religious minorities. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    it’s inappropriate for a non-athiest to even ask the question

    Is it appropriate for an atheist to?

  • Carstonio

    Generally yes. When the question comes from outside the group, it’s a tone argument. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    OK.

    For my own part, I would say that if a question about, say, queer tactics is useful for me to raise, it doesn’t stop being useful if a straight ally raises it instead. And if a question is harmful to raise, either because it’s a tone argument or some other reason, it’s still harmful when I raise it despite my being queer.

    But I do understand that in-group members get the benefit of the doubt in a way outsiders don’t, and I can see how if I can’t tell directly whether a question is useful or harmful, I might therefore use the in-group status of the questioner as a proxy.

    I would expect something similar to be true of other groups.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Define ‘group membership’. I would consider a straight ally part of the pro-queer group, and a question about the group’s tactics is appropriate from any group member, but a not-ally (straight or otherwise) asking the same question, no.

    And I am seriously not convinced that whatzirface is asking about atheist tactics from a pro-atheist perspective.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Define ‘group membership’. 

    Precisely the right question.

    When it came to atheism, Carstonio expressed the opinion that a question that is appropriate coming from an atheist can be an unacceptable tone argument coming from a non-atheist.

    So when I generalized the principle to queers (a group in which my own membership status is clearer), I understood the analogous logic to assert that a question that is appropriate coming from a queer person can be an unacceptable tone argument coming from a non-queer person. Which I disagreed with, for the reasons I stated.

    More generally, as you suggest, the important question seems to be which groups we care about membership in. It sounds like you and I agree about how to treat allies… that is, we seem to agree that the relevant groups aren’t “people like me” and “people unlike me,” but rather “my allies” and “my non-allies”.

    But that sounds importantly different to me from what Carstonio said.

    And I agree about monarchos, though I also don’t care about them much. I care more about whether I’d understood Carstonio correctly, because I respect Carstonio’s opinion, so if it turns out we disagree that fundamentally I would like to explore that disagreement.

  • Carstonio

    Late reply…Yes, an established ally of the group would get some benefit of the doubt, although not as much as a group member, and this would likely be based on the ally’s record. The ally might disagree with some tactics in the group’s fight against privilege, but would understand that hir role is fundamentally supportive and not paternal.

    The poster we were discussing in no way counts as established. The person came right out of the gate expressing concern about the American Atheist tactics, and talked vaguely about the group’s goals without naming them. I share Ellie’s suspicions that the poster wasn’t really speaking from an atheist perspective.

    And I’m glad that you respect my opinion.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Wait, are you seriously arguing that everyone insulted by being called the child of a whore (ugh that word, hate that word) is in fact the child of a sex worker?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I don’t know. Was I also seriously arguing that everyone who is offended by having their religious beliefs mocked holds religious beliefs deserving of mockery?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Those don’t map.

  • Anon

    Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, White Christian Males… gee, wonder why that label gets broken down into finer units lol!  If you’re going to break down by label that much go all the way: Atheist Asian Female, Black Jewish Male, etc. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Do you have a point? And do you have a more specific handle so we can distinguish you from all the other anonymice?

  • jockamo

    Question: What if they’re not wrong? Is this same zero-sum outlook not a major premise of leftist thought? Are we rich because people in the Global South are poor and vice-versa? I’m not attached to any of these ideas, but I think it’s an important question either way.

  • EllieMurasaki

    We are rich at least in part because people elsewhere are poor. Whether we would still be rich if everybody everywhere were also rich…well, that rather depends on the definition of ‘rich’, since if it’s defined solely as ‘better off than’ and everybody’s about level, then no, nobody’d be rich. However, if we define it as ‘having a certain basic standard of living’ which many many folk on this planet don’t, then yes, I do think it’s possible for everyone to be rich. We just have to put enough effort into getting there, and we have to put in that effort in several fronts. Economic growth–sustainable growth, because resources aren’t infinite and population shouldn’t be. Population growth rate reduction, so the finite resources can be shared among fewer people and so the world’s women have time and energy to devote to bettering their circumstances rather than to raising their horde. Medical care, so people aren’t ill and dying of easily curable things. There’s a bunch of things we can do to get from here to a world where no one’s suffering from having too small a piece of pie, however small their percentage of the pie may be.

    People elsewhere are poor in large part because we rich folk exploit the fuck out of them. If we demand that resources flow out of a country constantly, never in except as a loan expected to be repaid quickly or as raw materials for goods that the people are expected to assemble and never keep, and we have the political and economic power to insist that these demands be met, then yeah, these people are going to stay poor. Our fault, not theirs.

  • Fizbinparrot

    Problem: yall grew up in a degraded time and don’t know anything better.

    Some people remember something better and get sick of being lectured by  clueless Millennial asshats who live inside their hand-held Skinner boxes in a perpetual state of ADHD…but preen about knowing all about Real Life (TM, a subsidiary of DisneyPlanet Inc.).

    Your life is a Venn diagram circle lying outside of my life. I really don’t give a shit about you. When you demand I do, like the petulant little pricks you are, it *IS* a zero sum game. FOAD.

    Also: the NE Republicans of the WWII generation I grew up around were WAY more genuinely open minded, tolerant, radical, and creative than any generation I’ve seen since. They didn’t care who anybody was sleeping with, what their religion was, or what happened in the privacy of your own home. What they DID care about was when Baby Boomer hippies arrived on the scene–their own fucking kids, mind you–to tell everyone that they knew better than anybody else about everything. And of course Baby Boomer hippies were a creation of the ad agencies; Woodstock was a marketing ploy to deliver investment returns. 

    Finally, yall need to get out more. You say things like “white male Christians” and sound like a bunch of Victorians or Whigs. “Zero-sum outlook” is a demonstrated fact of human psychology and social psychology; you have it too, and if you had the self-reflective capacity Darwin gave a flea, you’d realize it. After all, all that you’re really saying boils down to this:

    You want what older people worked to save, and you want it now. For free. For doing nothing other than wanking the smartphone. 

  • The_L1985

    “I really don’t give a shit about you. When you demand I do, it *IS* a zero sum game.”

    How does caring about other people hurt you in any way, shape, or form?  Because I’d love to hear you justify this.

    “yall grew up in a degraded time and don’t know anything better.”

    I’m not sure what “a degraded time” is even supposed to mean.  People have been pulling the “kids these days are worse than my generation was” B.S. since ancient Greek.  As Xenophon once put it, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    “Some people remember something better and get sick of being lectured by  clueless Millennial asshats who live inside their hand-held Skinner boxes in a perpetual state of ADHD”

    First of all, Fred and a lot of his readers are Gen X’ers, and a lot of Boomers are in the comments as well.  Secondly, I’m a Millennial, thankyouverymuch, and I have clear and vivid memories of playing outside, and of actually learning and accomplishing things.  I go to Renaissance Faires on a regular basis, and am perfectly capable of going without my “hand-held Skinner boxes.”  I even made my Faire outfit myself, which took a fair amount of time, money, and effort.  For you to insist that I am somehow unable to cope without constant access to cell phones and video games is deeply offensive.  How DARE you assume that everyone in an entire 200+ comment thread has exactly the same life.

    “Finally, yall need to get out more. You say things like “white male Christians” and sound like a bunch of Victorians or Whigs.”

    You know what?  I grew up in southern AL.  I’ve lived in various parts of the country, including Long Island and the richer AND poorer sides of Ft. Lauderdale.  What I haven’t seen first- or second-hand from my various life experiences, I’ve seen and read about on the Internet.  I “get out” quite a bit.  And guess who most of the people playing teh “zero-sum” game are?  White male Christians.

    “Zero-sum outlook” is not a necessary thing.  I don’t want anybody to have more rights than anybody else.  Rights are not zero-sum, nor is respect.

    I want every adult to be able to have a full-time job that pays a fair living wage. I don’t want people to just have things for free because that’s not fair.  I want fairness.  I’m sorry you fail to understand this.

  • Carstonio

    I avoid the word fairness as a tactical maneuver, because it’s too often abused by just-worlders who point out that life is not fair like they’re scolding children. And by racists who euphemistically refer to myths about black laziness. But the sense is accurate. I think the concepts of justice and equal opportunity better capture the principle involved. I don’t begrudge people for being rich, but I do begrudge the ones who try to use their wealth to game the system and abuse the less powerful.

  • Kiba

    Googleing around the only info I can find for this year: December–1st Advent, 21st Winter Solstice, 25th Christmas, 26th Kwanzaa. For November–1st All Saint’s Day, 3rd Diwali (Hindu festival of lights), 4th  Muharram (Islamic New Year), 28th Thanksgiving, 28th Hanukkah. The Jains have two festivals on November 3rd (I think) Mahavira Nirvana(one of the most important festivals) and Lokashah Jayanti.

  • Carstonio

    The actual timing of the holidays is not really the issue. The constitutional principle I’m articulating would apply all year to any religious holiday. In a community with many different religions, I would love to see what the groups create for holiday displays at different times of  year.

  • Kiba

    No, I’m not angry that they were allowed to say that.  I’m angry that they abused the privilege.

    Yeah this? You don’t understand the concept of privilege. Maybe you should read up on it. http://www.createwisconsin.net/events/ConferenceHandouts/Tuesday/845am/What_is_Privilege.pdf
    Because, honestly, you’re full of crap. 

    (If someone know of a better resource please list it)

  • Carstonio

    Although I haven’t been religious since elementary school, I briefly attend a UU congregation more than a decade ago. I liked the people and the atmosphere, and it really about fellowship than worship. I eventually left because the group adopted an off-putting tactic for fund-raising, and I got the sense that the leadership was divided over the tactic.

    Most jokes that mock UU portray the denomination as not believing in anything. Regardless of the accuracy of that, the real problem is the assumption that lack of belief is bad.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I thought ‘UUs believe in one god, more or less’ was written by a UU. Is that not among the jokes you’re thinking of, or am I mistaken about its origin?

  • Carstonio

     I mean the ones that treat the lack of dogma as a flaw or that have UUs venerating coffeepots.

  • johnmathis

    I’m really surprised by the comments section, here.  Speaking of tribalism, it’s difficult to imagine a more homogenized group of individuals with a more single-minded goal.  The article is about pronouns, but virtually every comment committed the exact same sin, just reversing the roles:

    “and it’s not necessarily that THEY think of taking it back…,”
    “I think THEY’VE passed the point…,”
    “THEY tend to be armed…,”
    “THESE FOLKS define…,”
    “are THESE PEOPLE really under the impression…,”
    “THESE PEOPLE have convinced themselves…,”
    “THESE PEOPLE view their idea…,”
    “not of THEIR NARROW TRIBE…”

    Am I really the only one who sees this?  It’s almost like the comments section was entirely written by a comic, trying to make a point.  I’ll admit I haven’t read all of the comments.  I just pulled the above references from the first page of comments, as they were easy to grab as I typed.  I once read a statement that I think applies here:

    “And if our team is going to win, they imagine, then their team can’t.”

    Oh yeah.  It was in this article; to which you’re all replying, speaking as a collective “we,” against a collective “they.”  (Or, “these people”).  Who’s on your team?  Who is the other team?  Who is it that is or is not thinking of taking it back?  Who has passed the point?  Who tends to be armed?  Which folks define?  Which people are really under an impression?  Who views their idea?  What are the requirements of the narrow tribe?

    More to the point, what does it take to be a member of THIS narrow tribe?  I’m sure someone will reply to let me know that whatever IT is, I don’t have it.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     In my experience, mostly what it takes is talking about the stuff I think is interesting and how I try to engage with it, rather than about how everybody else engages with their stuff and why they’re doing it wrong.

    That said, I often forget that guideline, and consequently end up spending time in uninteresting discussions about what other people are doing wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alice.v.pua Alice Zindagi Pua

    Racial tribalism presents some nasty issues. What I’ve found in America as far as racial tribalism goes is that WASPy folks, long having been on the top, often react intensely when their position is threatened by “the others.” For the most part, we have accepted the perceived “threat” to our position from other races, but the newest “threat” seems to be Asians… which is unfortunate because Asians have topped every other minority in becoming the single most targeted group for racial bullying. I’m not just conjecturing here, 54% of Asian children are the targets of racial bullying:

    http://www.abcsofattraction.com/blog/the-racist-bullying-crisis-why-54-of-asian-american-children-are-targeted-by-bullies/
    That’s not exactly an accomplishment to be proud of.

  • Nimadan

    This entire article (and most of the discussion thread as well) is an expression of LIBERAL TRIBALISM.  And the fact, that none of you are even aware of that,  is a tribute to how utterly unconscious you are.

  • AnonymousSam

    Quite true, there is a certain form of tribalism here. Pointing it out, however, is as meaningless as claiming that refusing to tolerate bigotry is the same as being bigoted and intolerant.

    First you need to examine what precisely constitutes tribalism and why the example that’s being decried is not the same as the act of decrying it. Then you’ll understand why your statement is false equivalence.

  • Nimadan

     Blah, blah, blah.  Liberals/”progressives”/lefties, / Call-‘Em-Whatever-You-Please are viciously intolerant of anybody who deviates from their ideology and stupidly unaware that their ideology is nothing but a culturally-constructed BELIEF SYSTEM… and thus subject to all the errors and limitations intrinsic to human belief systems.

    Until you people take inventory of YOUR OWN PREJUDICES, you have no standing to critique anyone else. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Decompression: Liberalism, progressivism and political left-leans are not the same thing. Liberalism and progressivism are close, but there’s a reason why the term “conservative” in Britain refers to someone who would rather keep nationalized health care.

    Let’s see. Three things I’m definitely prejudiced against:

    1) I’m prejudiced against the excessively rich, because the concentration of wealth serves no useful purpose for society. We have already reached the point where a few million dollars poured into certain places could bring incredible good to society, but instead, that money remains squirreled away in offshore accounts for the purposes of avoiding taxation.

    2) I’m prejudiced against the use of religion as an excuse to remain ignorant, or to reject established facts. This entails everything from the rejection of evolution and the age of the Earth to the oft-repeated lie that Plan B pills induce abortions.

    3) I’m prejudiced against the attitude that everything bad happens to people for a reason. This is called the Just World fallacy and rejects the possibility that bad things can happen through no fault of the affected party, or anyone related to them. Its purveyors invoke this belief to blame victims for matters ranging everywhere from being poor for not being properly austere to blaming Sandy Hook on the rise of atheism.

    In another thread, someone is rejecting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act because he believes employers are harmed to a disproportional degree by being required to make accomodations for female workers such as “a stool to sit upon between activity” and “a bathroom break on the hour instead of once every three hours.”

    Your argument is that we should feel ashamed of ourselves for daring to criticize this person’s argument because “we’re just as bad.”

    That’s still false equivalence. If you’re not satisfied with that answer, that’s too bad. I’m not required to justify myself to you, only to do my part to keep people from fucking up the world to satisfy the desires of the powerful few at the expense of the vulnerable masses.


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