‘There’s nothing mutual about it’: White evangelicals, privileged distress and grievance envy

If the evangelical reaction to the Louie Giglio inaugural brouhaha seems familiar, that’s because it is. It’s mostly a repeat performance of the same song the same folks were singing when the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A was criticized last summer for funding anti-gay groups.

Same range of complaints, same range of complainers.

No need, then, to reinvent the wheel in responding to this rendition. Let’s just go back to one of the better responses to the earlier round, from Wayne Self at Owldolatrous, who wrote of the flustercluck:

This isn’t about mutual tolerance because there’s nothing mutual about it. If we agree to disagree on this issue, you walk away a full member of this society and I don’t. There is no “live and let live” on this issue because Dan Cathy is spending millions to very specifically NOT let me live. I’m not trying to do that to him.

Asking for “mutual tolerance” on this like running up to a bully beating a kid to death on the playground and scolding them both for not getting along. I’m not trying to dissolve Mr. Cathy’s marriage or make his sex illegal. I’m not trying to make him a second-class citizen, or get him killed. He’s doing that to me, folks; I’m just fighting back.

Self is describing an asymmetrical situation — “there’s nothing mutual about it.” This is not to say that the situation was entirely one-sided. Chick-fil-A and its owners and supporters were subjected to some harsh criticism and pointed ridicule and I’m sure that was unpleasant for them. Such unpleasantness, however, is not in any way comparable to the unpleasantness Self describes of having powerful people funding powerful lobbyists determined to invalidate one’s marriage or to make one legally a second-class citizen.

Nor can the unpleasantness of being criticized and ridiculed be separated from the immediate cause of that criticism and ridicule — the fact that the criticism and ridicule is a response to those folks trying to enforce, encode and defend legal discrimination.

So both sides have real grievances, but those grievances are in no way proportional or comparable. Hold that thought.

I was reminded of Self’s splendid post on the Chick-fil-A business when reading another terrific post from last year by Doug Muder of The Weekly Sift. Muder’s “The Distress of the Privileged” gives a name to something that we all recognize.

I don’t know if Muder coined the term “privileged distress” or not, but I learned it from him and I’ve found it invaluable. Privileged distress. The distress of the privileged. The anxiety that the privileged feel when others begin to enjoy the same privileges that had previously been exclusive to them. Ah, yes, that.

As Muder writes, “Once you grasp the concept of privileged distress, you’ll see it everywhere.” Actually, you saw it everywhere even before that, but you just didn’t know how to articulate and classify what it was you were looking at.

He describes the idea by reminding us of a scene from the movie Pleasantville:

In a memorable scene from the 1998 film Pleasantville (in which two 1998 teen-agers are transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV show), the father of the TV-perfect Parker family returns from work and says the magic words “Honey, I’m home!”, expecting them to conjure up a smiling wife, adorable children, and dinner on the table.

This time, though, it doesn’t work. No wife, no kids, no food. Confused, he repeats the invocation, as if he must have said it wrong. After searching the house, he wanders out into the rain and plaintively questions this strangely malfunctioning Universe: “Where’s my dinner?”

Poor Mr. Parker, he says, is experiencing privileged distress:

As the culture evolves, people who benefited from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

So I think it’s worthwhile to spend a minute or two looking at the world from George Parker’s point of view: He’s a good 1950s TV father. He never set out to be the bad guy. He never meant to stifle his wife’s humanity or enforce a dull conformity on his kids. Nobody ever asked him whether the world should be black-and-white; it just was.

George never demanded a privileged role, he just uncritically accepted the role society assigned him and played it to the best of his ability. And now suddenly that society isn’t working for the people he loves, and they’re blaming him.

It seems so unfair. He doesn’t want anybody to be unhappy. He just wants dinner.

Read the whole thing. It’s long, but it’s rich (and it includes plenty of insight that I’m not including here even despite the huge chunks I’m quoting).

One of the valuable insights Muder provides is that privileged distress involves legitimate distress for those who experience it. Mr. Parker never had to go without dinner before, but now he does. That is unpleasant for Mr. Parker.

Muder argues that we should acknowledge the reality of Mr. Parker’s experience, because privileged distress is a tipping point and Mr. Parker remains powerful enough that we do not want to tip him the wrong way. We should have compassion for Mr. Parker’s situation but, unlike Parker himself, we should also keep that situation in its proper proportion and perspective:

George deserves compassion, but his until-recently-ideal housewife Betty Parker (and the other characters assigned subservient roles) deserves justice. George and Betty’s claims are not equivalent, and if we treat them the same way, we do Betty an injustice.

The important thing here is not just that you and I recognize the distinction of what is due, respectively, to Mr. and Mrs. Parker, but also that we help George Parker to understand this. We have to help him come to see that his claim is not equivalent — that “there’s nothing mutual about it” and that the compassion he seeks does not trump, or equal, the justice due to his wife and to others.

Muder outlines what is at stake here:

All his life, George has tried to be a good guy by the lights of his society. But society has changed and he hasn’t, so he isn’t seen as a good guy any more. He feels terrible about that, but what can he do?

One possibility: Maybe he could learn to be a good guy by the lights of this new society. It would be hard. He’d have to give up some of his privileges. He’d have to examine his habits to see which ones embody assumptions of supremacy. He’d have to learn how to see the world through the eyes of others, rather than just assume that they will play their designated social roles. Early on, he would probably make a lot of mistakes and his former inferiors would correct him. It would be embarrassing.

But there is an alternative: counter-revolution. George could decide that his habits, his expectations, and the society they fit are RIGHT, and this new society is WRONG. If he joined with the other fathers … of Pleasantville, maybe they could force everyone else back into their traditional roles.

I think what we’re seeing from white evangelicals after the Giglio controversy, and what we saw earlier on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, is the struggle of a group poised between those two choices, those two possible responses: Adaptation or counter-revolution.

This awkward moment between possibilities is characterized by what I’ll call grievance envy.

Let’s stick with poor George Parker. There he is just as Muder describes him, betwixt accepting and rejecting the change that he’s still struggling to understand.

And at that point he begins to perceive two things he hadn’t seen before. First, he notices that these others have a grievance, and that it is a legitimate grievance that gives them just cause to complain. (The clearest illustration of this is the “I wish I didn’t have to say this” tone of much recent writing reaffirming the traditional condemnation of homosexuality.) And the second thing Mr. Parker notices is that this grievance is powerful and compelling — that it gives those others a solid moral standing. He begins to see, in other words, that he is losing the argument precisely because the other side has a legitimate and serious grievance.

And so he attempts to respond in like manner. If their legitimate grievance gives those others an undeniable moral standing, well, then he has a legitimate grievance too. And keep in mind, he does — no one has brought him his customary dinner and he is experiencing a real, inconvenient and unpleasant peckishness.

If they have their complaints and grievances, then he has his, too. He didn’t see this contest coming, but if this is how the rules of this new world work, then he’ll do his best to match them grievance for grievance.

Again, I think this is what we’re seeing now from many white evangelicals in response to LGBT people and their increasingly bold demands for legal equality, marriage equality, equal protection in the workplace and equal standing in the church. We’re seeing grievance envy. The cruel reality and awful legitimacy of LGBT people’s complaint is beginning to sink in, and evangelicals have begun to apprehend, however partially, that this gives the argument for equality a compelling moral force. Evangelicals are beginning to grasp that this is why they are losing the argument, and maybe even that this is why they cannot win.

And so they instinctively do what nearly all of us humans do when first surprised by and confronted with the grievances of others: They start asserting their own list of grievances as though it was Festivus Day.

Here is a classic example of what I’m talking about:

Evangelicals are frequently mocked in popular culture, frequently given a raw deal in academia and elite media, and evangelicals who hold to traditional views of sexual ethics are — as the Louie Giglio affair shows — increasingly shoved to the side of the public square.

This is an attempt to claim mutuality despite the fact that, as Wayne Self patiently pointed out, “there’s nothing mutual about it.” This complaint is so utterly disproportionate, so completely asymmetrical and incomparable as a counter-claim that it’s tempting just to dismiss it as nothing more than self-centered, narcissistic flailing.

And when I say “it’s tempting,” that’s because this is what I am tempted to do, and what I often have done, and what I’m struggling not to do even here in this post.

I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to regard this wholly disproportionate attempt to equate grievances as self-centered and narcissistic, or even that it’s wrong to characterize it as such, because that characterization is accurate. What I mean is that it’s wrong to completely dismiss such attempts and the vastly lesser grievances they inflate — both because that lacks compassion, and because it’s likely to produce poor results, nudging the privileged closer to using the power of their privilege to reassert itself in a counter-revolution.

Just like poor bewildered George Parker, these folks deserve a measure of compassion. Keep in mind that part of what it means to be privileged is that you don’t ever have to realize it. That’s why the “invisible knapsack” is invisible. They’re trying to make sense of a confusing new world. Confusion and obliviousness can produce the same effects as malice, but they require a different response.

Louie Giglio and his supporters have always thought of themselves as good guys. And they’re accustomed to being perceived as good guys. And I’m sure most of them don’t want that to be merely perception — they want to actually be good guys. But they’re no longer quite as sure what that means, or whether that’s even still possible. The world has changed around them and they’re trying to figure out this new world with its new rules. And why hasn’t anybody brought them dinner, already?

We need to help them sort through all of that — to help them see that counter-revolution is not their only option.

I think Muder is right when he says of Mr. Parker, “Which choice he makes will depend largely on the other characters.” Those others will have to show “firmness together with understanding,” he says, for Parker to see that “becoming a good guy in the new world” is still possible.

It may also depend, in part, on those other characters’ willingness to “engage in a correspondence” — perhaps for years.

Now, of course, George Parker cannot be my primary concern or my main priority. Justice for Mrs. Parker is a more urgent demand than compassion for Mr. Parker. But if compassion for Mr. Parker helps to rescue him from becoming a counter-revolutionary, then it will also help to rescue her from suffering the effects of his counter-revolution.

Such a counter-revolution will not and cannot be won, but it’s best for us all if, to whatever extent possible, we can keep it from being waged in the first place.

"Okay I think I just discovered the reason my gram claimed her family moved to ..."

No joke: From the cathouse to ..."
"It did not help that each character was 'bestest' at a different Cha based skill...Bard: ..."

No joke: From the cathouse to ..."
"To be fair, the last presidential election had a man who'd filed for multiple bankruptcies, ..."

No joke: From the cathouse to ..."
"If there's a big Democratic wave in the 2018 Congressional elections, I do expect it ..."

No joke: From the cathouse to ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Carstonio

    The color phenomenon in Pleasantville is a great allegory for the racism of the era. The courtroom scene illustrates the segregation, with the grayscale people on the first floor and the people in color (uh, er, colored people) in the balcony. 

    I would like to think I’m capable of Fred’s level of compassion for the George Parkers. Part of me wants them to devolve into recluses, fearfully peering out their windows at a world that no longer tolerates their intolerance. The irony is that their media consumption is already like this, with Fox News and Limbaugh stoking their fears. It’s so tempting to tell them that no one is going to bring them their metaphorical dinner and they need to get over it.

  • Tricksterson

    Never saw Pleasantville but from the couple of clips I saw and what I heard wasn’t it the case that until things started to change noone else in Pleasantville saw anything wrong with the way things were?

  • Carstonio

    Not quite. The discontent was part of the change and not a reaction to it.

  • Carstonio

    Apparently the tactic Self describes goes back at least as far as John Calhoun. Decades before the Civil War, he ws playing the sad violins for the miserable persecuted slaveowners.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    No, this does not work. The George Parkers on this issue — the basically decent people who never thought of it before — have come over to the correct side. We are past this. What is left are the bullies. Conflating George Parker with the bullies will invariably lead you to treat the bullies exactly as will befit them, and exactly as will harm their victims.

    George Parker didn’t notice someone beating up that kid, and didn’t realize that he escaped the beating because he’s male/white/straight/not-poor/etc. He had no idea that his snickers about that kid helped the bully beat up that kid. But now, he knows, he absolutely knows, and he is trying to pull the bully off that kid along with the rest of us. While someone else is standing on the sidelines saying they should make sure not to scratch the bully in pulling him off the kid, because look at George Parker. If I were a George Parker, I’d be furious that I was being used to give aid and comfort to bullies.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

     In the United States, it does seem that the only anti-gay people are liars like Tony Perkins, hatemongers like Fred Phelps or sad, pathetic people like the guy who founded Conservapedia.

    In Russia, however, it quite a different matter.

  • The_L1985

    Actually, there are still a lot of George Parkers.  When you’ve never encountered a gay person, it’s really, really hard to see past the rhetoric and realize that they are people just like everyone else.  I had my George Parker Moment in 2007 or thereabouts, when I was 22 years old.  My mother doesn’t think about it at all–she’s nice to people, and doesn’t quite notice that what she’s saying is, essentially, “What you are is wrong.”

    The non-Georges, the deliberate bullies, are the famous homophobes who know that they can scare people for money, and the few people who have actually thought about it, realized that they are hurting people, and either don’t care or actively want gay people to suffer.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross


    No, this does not work. The George Parkers on this issue — the
    basically decent people who never thought of it before — have come over
    to the correct side. We are past this. What is left are the bullies.
    Conflating George Parker with the bullies will invariably lead you to
    treat the bullies exactly as will befit them, and exactly as will harm
    their victims.

    That’s just not true.

    I mean, even leaving aside that it’s just not true, that there are, even today, lots of people who only oppose gay rights pretty much only because they’ve been living in an echo chamber that’s kept them from seeing the real people around them who aren’t any threat to their lifestyles and are being actually hurt by this, even leaving that aside. There’s plenty of people who, say, are perfectly okay with gay rights, but still don’t get trans rights mostly because they’ve never seen or heard of actual trans people and are imagining something more like drag performers with kayfaybe.

  • Mary

    Very good analogy, except that I would like to point out that the issue goes far beyond what you have depicited. Ultimately this issue has to do with religious fears of punishment by God for tolerating what they consider to be an immoral lifestyle. Yes, the old “the world is going to hell in a handbasket” argument.  I don’t know what the answer to that is.

  • jamesprobis

    Yeah, I don’t buy it. The Louie Giglios of this world aren’t “good guys” fallen out of step with the times. They are bullies. The only thing that has changed with time is that those they have chosen to attack have started speaking up.

    If they don’t want their views mocked by sane people they can either change their views or keep silent in polite society. I don’t see people going on and on about how horribly unfair it is that people object to the KKK. I don’t see people demanding sympathy for neo-nazis. Somehow people who spit on me are always entitled to the benefit of the doubt, they’re never just assholes. They’re just good people.

    A benefit of the doubt I should point out is never shown to those of us who occasionally get angry at being attacked.

  • Kiba

    Yeah, I don’t buy it. The Louie Giglios of this world aren’t “good guys” fallen out of step with the times. They are bullies. The only thing that has changed with time is that those they have chosen to attack have started speaking up.
    If they don’t want their views mocked by sane people they can either change their views or keep silent in polite society. I don’t see people going on and on about how horribly unfair it is that people object to the KKK. I don’t see people demanding sympathy for neo-nazis. Somehow people who spit on me are always entitled to the benefit of the doubt, they’re never just assholes. They’re just good people.
    A benefit of the doubt I should point out is never shown to those of us who occasionally get angry at being attacked.

    This. This. This. All of it. 

    The fun thing about the benefit or the doubt, or respect and the like is that it’s a two way street. You have give it in order to get it. 

    And throughout that Pleasantville analogy about Mr. Parker’s dinner I kept saying to myself, “What? Your legs aren’t broken. Go get it yourself.” Probably not the response Fred was looking for.  

    (damn you Discus eating my formatting)

  • Tricksterson

    It’s ironic that Fred recently posted an article semi-complaining about Obama’s tendency to keep reaching out to people who only want to bite off his hand because he’s all to frequently guilty of the same thing, including here

  • Lori


    It’s ironic that Fred recently posted an article semi-complaining about
    Obama’s tendency to keep reaching out to people who only want to bite
    off his hand because he’s all to frequently guilty of the same thing,
    including here 

    The problem with Obama’s tendency to keep reaching out to the radicalized GOP is not that he’s being “too nice” to shitty people, it’s that it demonstrably leads to bad outcomes. If it lead to good outcomes then I doubt Fred would complain. I know I wouldn’t.

    What Fred is talking about here is something that he believes will lead to better outcomes, at least in some cases. You can argue with him about whether or not that’s true, but there’s nothing ironic or odd about Fred’s different recommendations given what he believes about the results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

     Indeed, I should probably call him a social-imperialist warmonger again. Not that it’ll be unjustified.

  • Hanan

    That is because neo-nazis and KKK are just by definition a group that hates. Just because KKK and evangelicals might share a characteristic of being against particular “changes” does not mean they are the same. I’m not evangelical, but I do know that not all of them are hateful or assholes because they are against, what you deem as being ‘compassionate.’ I think Jonathan Haidt’s book “Rigtheous Mind” is an excellent book describing why Liberals have such a hard time understanding Conservative minded people (even though Conservatives generally DO understand Liberals). And DUE to this lack of understanding, they deem them either hateful, or narcissistic or oppressor whatever……simply because to them…..that can ONLY be it. 

  • AnonymousSam

    Can you explain how treating people as second-class citizens is intended to be something other than hateful? I really trip over that one, along with all the things like repealing child labor laws and minimum wage, supporting Uganda’s “Death to the Homosexuals” bill, cheering whenever a spree killer or natural disaster kills a bunch of children, vowing to drop nukes on Iran or turn the United States into their private Mad Max fantasies. You know, complicated stuff that goes right over my very small liberal mind.

  • Hanan

    I think nuance is a key word. But read the book, OR, just google Bill Moyer & Jonathan Haidt. Fascinating discussion and takes Bill Moyer off his guard. I am not saying one should treat gays any less. I am saying Liberals have a huge difficulty understanding Conservatives (according to Haidt, which I agree) because Liberals tend to hold on to concepts like compassion, only,  while other factors that help a society, they are pretty abysmal. Conservatives according to Haidt, are more even in all the factors for creating a balanced society. So since Conservatives are more even, they can speak a common language with Liberals. But since Liberals are so low in other factors, they can’t relate….and end up having to use the race card, sex card, hate card or whatever. 

    Mind you, Haidt is pro-gay marriage, but he isn’t quite to say Conservatives are hateful if they are against it. There is a TED video as well. Interesting guy.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Conservatives according to Haidt, are more even in all the factors for creating a balanced society. So since Conservatives are more even, they can speak a common language with Liberals. But since Liberals are so low in other factors, they can’t relate….and end up having to use the race card, sex card, hate card or whatever.

    What are “all the factors for creating a balanced society”, and why are the ones liberals score low in just as important as the rest?

    Though the use of the terms ‘race card’ and ‘sex card’ automatically make you sound as though you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. I’m sure that’s a false impression, but keep it in mind for the future.

  • AnonymousSam

    Actually, someone posted this a little while ago. http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com.au/2007/10/purity-as-harm.html

    The five factors conservatives are fluent in, whereas liberals understand only one or two:


    When conservatives make an argument, Haidt states, they use all five, whereas liberals use only a couple.

    So when we bring up gay marriage and say it does no one any harm, that’s all we understand. We’re not understanding the nuances of their argument about how foul and abominable and hell and brimstone and THIS IS WHY CHILDREN DIE YOU LIBERAL MONSTERS NOT ENOUGH PRAYER IN SCHOOL RAAAAAAGH.

  • AnonymousSam

    And for the record? I understand these five nuances very well. Most of them are just bullshit.

  • Hanan

    No, you are simply not understanding where marriage fits into his categories. So marriage would fit into sanctity. It’s not because they hate gays. (though, there are plenty that do). They fact that you end your comment with that, just keeps proving his point. Interesting, at least from Haidt’s POV, is that after he finished his research he came to the conclusion that he can no longer call himself a Liberal. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Why does sanctity of marriage prevent people with the same gender or similarly-shaped genitals from getting married? Wiccans and some flavors of Christians are perfectly willing to consider marriage sanctified regardless of who’s involved.

  • AnonymousSam

    Fuck your tone argument. Plenty of these people exist and every national tragedy brings them out in droves, but they’re not scuttling creatures who emerge from the shadow and disappear when you shine a light on them — they’re in office. That’s why we get wonderful people like Santorum calling rape a gift from God, Todd Akin saying rape never leads to pregnancy and women need to just keep their legs shut, Roger Rivard uttering the words “some girls rape easy” and stating that many women lie about being raped if they get pregnant, the Texas GOP flat out putting it in their ledger that they reject critical thinking skills because they undermine the value of authority figures…

    No, seriously, I don’t give a damn if they have five terrible reasons for wanting this, that or the other. Excuses are a dime a dozen and we’ve seen again and again how good excuses turn into good methods for enforcing classism and racism.

    I don’t need five reasons all relating to religion and how important patriarchal society is to want you to get the fuck off my FOOT.

  • Carstonio

    The first two factors appear to be consequentialist morality and the last three appear to be deontological morality or authoritarianism. I see the obvious question as why any or all of these are good factors to use to judge the morality of anything.

    As I’ve noted before, I see no way to establish the merit of the last three without restoring to consequentialism, and that implicitly endorses the first one and probably the second as well. A consequentialist might say that in a given situation, obedience to authority would be preferable if the alternative is increased harm. But that would depend heavily on the situation, and in many circumstances defiance may produce less harm than obedience. I don’t know if Haidt would agree, although he does note that purity has been subsumed somewhat into the harm criterion.

  • Mark Z.

    Would you fucking stop using “authoritarian” to mean “anything other than consequentialist”? Thank you.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Thank you. I was also getting tired of the sum total of ethical positions as consequentialists vs slave drones to the worst possible interpretation of Leviticus who are too stupid to wipe their own arses.

  • Carstonio

    My apologies. Here’s how I’ve been defining authoritarian morality in the broad sense – choosing what one perceives to be required or expected as more important than whether this would help or harm others. Often the two agree and often they don’t, and obviously one can do what’s required or expected while still valuing the principles of harm and fairness. 

    My criticism of the claim that homosexuality is “unnatural” is that it seems to treat nature as a rule-making entity or at least a rule concept. Am I perceiving this idea of natural correctly? If not, what type of morality is this if it’s not deontological or consequentialist?

  • Ttricksterson

    “unnatural” is a stupid concept to begin with.  If something was unnatural it couldn’t exist.  As for natural morality there is no such thing.  There’s no evidence that either the universe or whatever created it gives a fuck about how we treat each other.

  • AnonymousSam

    Does he have an answer as to how deontological morality is supposed to make an appreciable point on anyone who doesn’t practice very specific variants of certain Abrahamic religions? E.G., how a Hatian Vodou practitioner is intended to respond to spiritual purity claims related to narrow-sighted interpretations of Deuteronomy?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Doesn’t ‘deontological’ mean ‘rules-based’? The Haitian Vodou deontological moralist is working from a different set of rules from the conservative Christian deontological moralist, but they’re still both deontological moralists.

  • AnonymousSam

    Point. I was trying to say words to that effect, but I’m too pissed off to articulate properly. Good time to take a break from the computer and go back to raging at Comcast for making me talk to a machine for another hour while we wonder why the cable isn’t working (and the machine keeps telling us that, yes, it ought to be).

  • AnonymousSam

    Let me guess, the parts the liberals are missing out on: Respect for God’s authority and the importance of male leadership, traditional family values and keeping those uppity blacks from voting? Wait, sorry, not supposed to be jumping to conclusions just because conservatives want to repeal the Right to Voting Rights Act and passed laws preventing me from so much as checking out books from the library. :D

  • Hanan

    books are bad for you.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. You’re just a nitwit. Got it.

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

    “books are bad for you.”

    “books are bad for you.”

    “books are bad for you.”

    I am agog. O_O

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Hey, I referred to Haidt’s research on moral foundations here just the other day. Funny how something comes up multiple times in short sequence.

    From what I’d read–which was only a sliver of his research–I’d describe the issue as less about understanding (which sounds like something that could be resolved through information) and more about a difference in values. In his moral foundations work Haidt found that “liberals” and conservatives shared several moral foundations, but conservatives also had extra foundations that “liberals” don’t. That doesn’t make conservatives more moral, of course, but it does mean that often in weighing up issues they will factor in considerations that “liberals” feel are not relevant.

  • Hanan

    BTW, they very idea that you think Conservatives want a Mad Max fantasy in the U.S. actually strengthens Haidt’s studies on Liberals.  

  • AnonymousSam

    So when tens of millions of people buy into the idea that the United Nations is going to appropriate the United States’ sovereignty and send, in the words of the spokesperson of the NRA, “bucket-helmet stormtroopers” to kill anyone who resists, and they alone will be left to defend their families using their stockpiles of firearms and canned beans in the basement, that’s… what? Wishful thinking?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    @AnonymousSam:twitter If you are of a hierarchical mindset, then there’s no necessary link between thinking someone is less of a person and hating them.  They think “The general is superior to the private but the general doesn’t hate his privates*”, and also “Rich people are superior to poor people but rich people don’t hate poor people,” and “Man is superior to the animals, but I still love my dog,” and “Men are superior to Women, but I love my wife”, and “Christians are superior to Jews, but I like nice Mr. Leibowitz down the street” and “Straight relationships are superior to gay ones, but I still like my neighbor just fine.”

    And they don’t understand why there’s all this hubbub, and why people can’t just know their place and be happy.

    (*Tee hee. Old generals never die, only their privates.)

  • AnonymousSam

    All I can say to that is, quoting Ellie, “Intent isn’t fucking magic.” The reason liberals focus so much on the harm/care argument is because all the magical miraculous thinking in the world doesn’t mean a damned thing while stomping on somebody’s toes.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Quoting somebody who isn’t me. I forget who it is, but Google the phrase, that should bring it up.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Would you care to explain precisely what it is about conservatives that liberals don’t understand? Because a lot of liberals grew up in conservaland, and I assure you we understand conservaland just fine. I’m also curious how you[r source] can say conservatives understand liberals, because while I’m sure there are some who do, none of those I grew up with have ever seemed to. Certainly my mother is of the opinion that all I need to let go of my belief that everyone deserves basic human rights including food, shelter, health care, and not being harassed, beaten, or killed for being too female/brown/queer/disabled/at-odds-with-our-birth-assigned-gender is “life experience”.

  • AnonymousSam

    Or, for that matter, my mother — who has never uttered a sympathetic word toward or about the victims of the Connecticut school shooting and instead jumped straight to “LIBRULS WANNA TAKE OUR GUNS” outrage the very day of the shooting. One might be tempted to think this was an act of selfishness. Apparently I’m misinterpreting it as a failure to see how important it is to her to protect her family — you know, me, the person she has all but disowned?

  • Matt in pdx

    But the bullies didn’t start out as bullies. They weren’t born bad guys: they became that way through a series of choices in reaction to their circumstances, choices that (to them) seemed motivated (at the time). So something turned them into bullies, and the ‘privileged distress leading to grievance envy’ theory is as plausible as anything I’ve heard.

    The only respect in which the “Where’s My Dinner?” metaphor breaks down for me is that, in the domain of marriage equality, nobody has to go without dinner if we LGBT people are treated equally before the law (except in the abstract sense of ‘going without dinner’ felt by those who can only truly enjoy their food if others are starving).

    Apart from that quibble, great post! And thanks for pointing me to Muder’s essay, and reminding me of the Self piece that inspired it.

  • Carstonio


    The only respect in which the “Where’s My Dinner?” metaphor breaks down
    for me is that, in the domain of marriage equality, nobody has to go
    without dinner if we LGBT people are treated equally before the law

    The metaphor is not the dinner itself, but the privilege of eating it without having to prepare it. I agree that this is not exactly comparable to discrimination in marriage laws. I suppose a better comparison would be if straight couples had all the work involved in planning and setting up their weddings done for them, and all they had to do was show up at their parties and ceremonies.

  • Jurgan

    I mostly agree with you, Fred.  That may be my straight white privilege talking, but I’ve seen this process over the last several years change many people, and there are still many more on the fence.  So, yeah, I think there’s still plenty of room for conversions.  The real reason I’m posting, though, was to share this: http://i.imgur.com/MR8if.jpg?1

  • Lori

    I can’t get over Margaret Anderson’s epic side eye in that picture. 

  • Tricksterson

    Father Knows Best was actually a surprisingly cool show at times and there were a couple of episodes that treated the title ironically, usually the ones that had supernatural overtones.

  • Albanaeon

    I guess its and empathize/sympathize issue.

    I can understand and empathize that they are uncomfortable in finding themselves on the wrong side of an issue.  I can also understand that losing exclusive privileges is uncomfortable.  I can even empathize that some find that being the beneficiaries of those privileges and having it pointed out feels often like an attack on who they are.  I can do this because, I’ve been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.

    I, however, cannot sympathize with them, because they do not deserve sympathy.  I’m never going to feel sorry for them, particularly when their worst fears being realized is generally a better society all around, including them.

    Finding that you are undeservedly privileged is forgivable.  Acting that you actually really do deserve it is not.

  • http://jewelfox.dreamwidth.org/ Taryn Fox

    Good for you if you’ve got the spoons for it, but it’s also doing the victim an injustice to expect her to be the one to educate her oppressor, or to chastise her for not doing so well enough.

  • The_L1985

     True, but what about when allies educate the oppressors?  I operate under the assumption that things won’t get better for anybody if I don’t talk to people about it.

    I’m not saying allies should be the only ones doing this, but I don’t think it’s fair for all gay people to be the exclusive bearers of this particular “burden,” either.

  • Ben English

    I guess being a kitsune-velociraptor otherkin median system is exhausting. If only you could have a small oppression like homophobia your life would be SO much easier. -__-

  • AnonymousSam


  • Ben English

    Your guess is as good as mine, Sam.

  • AnonymousSam

    That “What?” was for you. I’m hoping for a more innocent meaning to your post than merely mocking someone’s beliefs.

  • Ben English

    There’s enough oppression in the world without people having to make shit up to pretend they’re oppressed.

  • AnonymousSam

    Quite right, there is enough oppression in the world. That’s why I’m wondering why you’re suddenly donning the gauler’s uniform, manifestly superior in your intimate knowledge of what other people think and feel and confident that it’s all bullshit and they deserve all the mockery they get.

    There are otherkin I’m not at all prepared to believe are really who or what they say they are, but it’s their choice to believe these things. You’re in the wrong place if you think you’re among company who are likely to agree with you if you say otherwise.

  • AnonymousSam

    RE your edit: Earlier today, I told Ginny Bain Allen that she’s a hateful, idiotic wretch because she continues to insist that there’s no such thing as mental illnesses — in her mind, people are just pretending to be mentally ill because they reject God out of narcissism. Imagine that, your argument is almost exactly like that of a climate change denying woman who’s still railing about the hippies ruining America. That indicates there’s a problem. Here it is:

    People don’t pretend to believe what they do because being miserable is fun.

    Look at transgenderism and the problems it can cause. Then try imagining that it’s not that you feel you have the wrong sex for your gender, you actually have the wrong species altogether. Never mind whether this species is anything which has ever been shown to exist, your body and mind are in conflict. A 60 pound, 5’5 girl with anorexia perceives herself as fat. Are you going to say that she just wants to believe she’s fat because she enjoys the attention she gets for starving herself to death?

    By all means, piss right the fuck off.

  • Ben English

    See, this is exactly what annoys me. Anorexia is an actual thing that hurts people. Body image insecurity is a terrible thing. And transgender people have to deal with discrimination from all sides, have to go out in public and try to pass as cis and meet hostility when they fail. That’s not the equivalent of funny looks when you tell people that you have head-mates that are part pterodactyl any more than the funny looks Christians get when we say we talk to Jesus are equivalent to the Islamophobia that Muslims have to face daily.

    Otherkin and Multiples have no medical basis, and if they’re truly miserable, truly experience conflict between their reality and their self perception, then they need serious help, not fellow bloggers to indulge their fantasy role playing and reinforcing this persecution complex. And people who care about social justice do not need the Otherkin or Otakukin or whatever else coopting the language and making social justice look incredibly stupid.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Otherkin and Multiples have no medical basis

    Well, yeah, if the medical establishment insists on disbelieving every word they say on the matter, there’s not going to be any medical basis, regardless of whether they’re describing a real phenomenon that really affects them.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZNNUWEXUPQUQAYGBFDHTEIJBUI Joshua

    How much research has been done about that, do you know? I did some searching about this about half an hour ago and as far as I can a lot of people seem to view Otherkin as being a sort of religious and spiritual belief, not necessarily just as a mental illness. One site even made an argument that it was linked to or derived from shamanic traditions. Personally, I can definitely see the parallels, and it could also flow in with pantheism, especially if it’s the kind where they do not feel that their bodies are animalistic but just their spirits or their minds.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t have any idea. Doesn’t mean Mr. English has any right to be an asshole on the matter.

  • AnonymousSam

    It’s both, depending on how you look at it. If it’s wanted, then it’s a spiritual belief. If it’s not, then it’s akin to a mental illness. I’ve encountered many people for whom it wasn’t wanted who suffered mentally and physically over it, and at least one member of a community of which I was briefly part committed suicide when it became apparent to him that he would never be what a part of himself insisted it was supposed to be.

    My best answer is “it starts as a bug and some people turn it into a feature.”

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

     Depends on what kind of research you mean.

    A fair amount of neurological and psychological research has been done on various sorts of body image mismatches — cases where the way people think about their bodies don’t correspond to how their bodies are in a physical way, or where people correctly describe their bodies but nevertheless identify with a different sort of body altogether. A lot of that work has been done on various kinds of eating disorders, for example, which are often associated with distorted body image (people seeing themselves as much fatter than they really are, for example). Some has been done on people who identify as a different gender than the body they live in, and on cases like alien hand syndrome or body integrity identity disorder or a similar syndrome the name of which I’ve forgotten where people basically stare horrified at their own arms and are literally convinced that it’s some kind of weird alien growth that has mysteriously been attached to their shoulders, much as I might feel if I woke up tomorrow with a purple tentacle where my arm used to be.

    I’m not at all up-to-date on this research, but I read up on it a little bit after my stroke, after which I experienced a transient minor variation on alien hand syndrome which enormously intrigued me.  There seems to be a common element wherein the parts of our brains that maintain a template for what our bodily sensations ought to be (which normally allow us to notice when unexpected transitions occur) get screwed up and report various levels of gibberish, which sometimes then get incorporated into a higher-level psychological narrative (e.g., “I’m really a woman” or “I’m really fat” or “I’m really an amputee” or “I’m really a dragon” or what-have-you).

    None of which is to dismiss the validity of any of those experiences, or to disparage people who construct an identity around them (whether by choice or of necessity). Personal experience is personal experience, and worrying overmuch about whether those experiences and the associated identities are “real” is usually significantly less helpful than accepting that they exist and deciding how to best engage with them.

    All of which is different from sociological research tying such phenomena to historical traditions (e.g. shamanism), with which I’m unfamiliar.

    Both of which are different from mystical or theological explorations looking for a non-neurological basis for such experiences (for example, that transgender folk have gendered non-physical, non-mental spirits which fail to match their gendered bodies and are simply aware of that fact, or that people with BIID have spiritual bodies whose limbs have been severed or atrophied for various reasons, or that some people are spiritually dragons and are only physiologically primates, and so forth. With which I’m also unfamiliar.

  • AnonymousSam

    I suppose Catholics who believe that wine and bread undergo a transformation when they perform the Eucharist are just roleplaying as well, and we should spare no expense of time to go out of our way and mock them for pretending to be vampires?

    Seriously, fuck off. There’s nothing in that post which implies it was intended to refer to Otherkin specifically. All they remarked upon was how often it seems expected of victims to be the ones to change their oppressors. You went out of your way, going upon the users’ website to drag their Otherkin beliefs into this. You went out of your way to be an asshole to them for no reason whatsoever.

    Fuck right the fuck off.

  • http://jewelfox.dreamwidth.org/ Taryn Fox

    Yeah, or being transgender. That would really screw up my life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Several people seem to be complaining “but they aren’t good guys!”  Note that Fred never described them as “good guys” per se; he said that they see themselves as “good guys”, or that they may aspire to be “good guys”.

  • Ursula L

     We should have compassion for Mr. Parker’s situation

    The correct word for this isn’t “compassion.”

    To the extent that a victim accommodates and comforts their oppressor, it is not about consent, but about the victim’s self-interest in diffusing a dangerous situation.  

    And to the extent that would-be allies act with “compassion” towards the oppressor rather than acting on behalf of justice for the oppressed, the would-be allies become oppressors themselves.

    This is not to say that it isn’t completely inappropriate to choose to act in a way that might provide some benefit for the oppressor, if it pragmatically serves to provide an even greater benefit to the oppressed.  If you cannot free a slave at no cost to yourself, it can be right and good and moral to buy the slave from the slave-owner and then free the slave.

    But if you have the power to free a slave at no cost to yourself or society, it is wrong to pay the slave-owner to free the slave.  The resources that might pay  off a slave owner are owed to the slave as compensation for the oppression of the slave-owner.  Not owed, in any way, to the slave-owner as compensation for loss of the slave’s labor.  

    Because the slave-owner is owed nothing for the freedom of the slave, and the slave is owed compensation from the slave-owner for back-wages and damages from the conditions of enslavement. 

    It isn’t compassionate to pay off a slave owner.  It is a continuation of the oppression of slavery to treat the slave-owner’s claims to the slave as legitimate, deserving compensation for the “loss” of the slave’s unpaid labor.  

    And this applies to all forms of oppression.  Compassion for the oppressor is an immoral distraction from the obligation of justice for the oppressed.  

  • The_L1985

    That’s not what Fred means.  You can feel sorry for someone without having to prop up their fragile self-esteem like that.  It costs nothing to say, “This person thinks they’re doing the right thing.  How can I show them that they’re actually hurting people while still acknowledging that they didn’t necessarily choose to be monsters?”

  • Carstonio

    But there’s a strong possibility that George Parker represents only a minority of folks opposed to things like same-sex marriage. The majority might simply be motivated by selfishness, as opposed to malice.

  • histrogeek

     Here’s the thing. Marriage equality has been around for awhile. Back in 1990s when Hawaii shocked the country by declaring gay marriage was a constitutional right, there were a lot more people opposed to gay marriage than there are now. We got DOMA out of that panic. Today Clinton, who cynically signed DOMA, is all in for gay marriage. Although the fight is far from over, at least we can see that the wheel has turned.
    So what happened? Some of the opponents of gay marriage back in the 1990s have died, but a sizable fraction have changed their minds, either because they saw the light that marriage equality is a good thing or they just realized that marriage equality doesn’t harm them. Either way while it’s tempting and sometimes necessary to write off opposition as a bunch of bullies and dead-end defenders of privilege, changing people’s minds is not just a pie-in-the-sky liberal dream. It really does happen (albeit awfully damn slow in many cases).

  • Persia

    I think this is a more flexible metaphor than just ‘gay rights,’ too. Maybe it’s trans rights, maybe it’s getting people to see sexism in a systemic way, etc. Almost all of us born with some level of privilege (and that’s almost all of us, period) have been a George Parker at one point or another.

  • Madhabmatics

    Some of my favorite hadith are about this topic.

    Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.
    People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is
    oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The
    Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

    Of course, other hadith don’t phrase it that way.

    Narrated Ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu): “The Prophet (sal Allahu
    alaihi wa sallam) sent Muadh (radi Allahu anhu) to Yemen and said, ‘Be
    afraid, from the curse of the oppressed as there is no screen between
    his invocation and Allah.’”

    “If the people see an oppressor and they do not seize his hand, then Allah will soon send punishment upon all of them.”

    this one isn’t a hadith i just dig it:

    “A tyrant and the one who helps an oppressor as well as the one
    who is pleased with such injustice all the three are accomplices in the
    plus it lead directly to this burn

    When Ahmad ibn Hanbal was imprisoned, one of the prison guards came to him and asked him:

    “O Abu ‘Abdillah! The hadith that is narrated regarding the oppressors and those that aid them – is it authentic?”
    He said: “Yes.”
    The prison guard then said: “So, I am considered to be an aide of the oppressors?”
    Imam Ahmad replied: “No. The aides of the oppressors are those
    that comb your hair, and wash your clothes, and prepare your meals, and
    buy and sell from you. As for you, then you are one of the oppressors

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


    it is <i<wrong to extend compassion towards the
    oppressor if the oppression can be stopped without providing the benefit
    of compassion to the oppressor.

    Because seeing the oppressor being treated with compassion by would-be allies is a slap in the face to the oppressed

    As a gay man, I want to see homophobes treated in whatever way will (a) best prevent me and others from suffering at their hands and (b) best encourage them to treat gay and straight people equally in the future.

    If my allies are treating homophobes that way, that’s great.

    If doing that involves behaving in ways I, the ally, or the homophobe consider compassionate, I might be upset by that, but so much the worse for me if so. It’s still great.

  • Tricksterson

    I think Fred is confusing understanding with compassion.  Just because you can see where someone is coming from doesn’t mean you have to feel sorry for him.

  • Paul Durant

    And this applies to all forms of oppression.  Compassion for the oppressor is an immoral distraction from the obligation of justice for the oppressed.  

    You are completely wrong in not one but three ways here.

    First, the situation being described as “compassion” has nothing to do with compensating a slave-owner for freeing their slave. That is a nonsensical analogy. Compassion is not a finite resource or a payment. It is an emotional state and mental effort. It does not renumerate the wrongdoer and you do not have less of it when it is given away.

    Second, claiming compassion should only be given to the people you think deserve it is morally wrong. (And remember, everything you say about how these people are oppressors and deserve nothing, they say the same thing about you.) Compassion is not an award. People who do something good are not rewarded with compassion. Compassion is the effort to understand the mental and emotional state of someone else, and envision their values and needs from their perspective. 

    Third, by denying compassion to the oppressor, you are committing yourself to solving a problem while refusing to understand it. Compassion and empathy are the process by which you envision the thoughts of others. If you refuse compassion to the oppressor because they are doing bad things and don’t deserve it, you are not putting them in your shoes, you are not considering their wants and needs and how those wants and needs drive them to do harmful things that seem valid in their eyes. You are trying to get them to change their behavior while refusing to put forth the effort to figure out why they behave that way. How effective do you think you’re going to be, trying to solve a problem you refuse to understand?

  • EllieMurasaki

    Most folks find it hard to side with the oppressed and the oppressor simultaneously, and siding with the oppressor and not the oppressed is wrong. How do you propose to solve that problem?

  • Paul Durant

    Compassion doesn’t mean “siding with”. I can envision the mental state of others and feel sympathy for their fears and desires without agreeing in what they do to alleviate or achieve them. It just means that, when I attempt to rectify the situation, I will do so with an understanding of why the wrongdoers are doing wrong, which is good if you want to incentivize them to stop doing wrong.

  • EllieMurasaki

    In my experience, people capable of your second sentence are exceedingly few.

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

    On your view, are the (exceedingly few) people who are capable of it acting immorally when they do so? On your view, are people who try to get better at it acting immorally when they do so?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t know, because until just now I’ve never MET ANY.

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

     Ah, gotcha. I misunderstood you to be saying that there were a few such people in your experience, but not many, rather than that there were none.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Well, it’d be rude to tell someone that his self-assessment of his internal thought process is wrong.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t know, because until just now I’ve never MET ANY.

    I fit Paul’s description. Not all the time, not in every circumstance, but often. And no, feeling compassion for someone is completely unlike siding with them. It’s possible–and not earth-shatteringly rare–to feel compassion for someone while still actively opposing harmful actions they might take. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Never knowingly met any such people, then, and clearly wrong about their rarity. Sorry all.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    To be fair, it’s not the sort of thing one talks about widely. So you may know lots of people like this, you just don’t know that they are–I’m assuming it’s not just an Australian thing to keep your inner life largely to yourself.

  • Lori

    I’m assuming it’s not just an Australian thing to keep your inner life largely to yourself.  

    Here in the US we tend toward the extremes (I know you’re shocked to hear this about us). People seem to either keep everything inside or let it all hang as far out as possible. Our tendency toward massive overshare and the fact that it sometimes feels as if TMI is our national sport gets all the press, but bottling it up, possibly until it explodes. is also very much a thing.

    I don’t think this particular things is widely talked about and my guess is that it’s at least partially due to what we saw in this thread. It can be really hard to clearly express the notion of feeling compassion for someone without seeming to be defending them or siding with them or treating their issues as more important than those who they’ve hurt. It’s often easier to just not talk about it than it is to risk hurting or offending someone or giving people an entirely wrong idea about your beliefs and/or priorities.

    I think it can also be difficult to talk about without sounding naive or sort of Pollyanna-ish. Like you’re proving true all the nasty stereotypes about dumb Liberals who think everything would be fine if everyone just held hands and sang Kumbaya. That isn’t at all what I mean, but it’s tough to convey that.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t think this particular thing is widely talked about and my guess is that it’s at least partially due to what we saw in this thread. It can be really hard to clearly express the notion of feeling compassion for someone without seeming to be defending them or siding with them or treating their issues as more important than those who they’ve hurt.


  • Beroli

     I seem to remember Fred making a post on the subject a long time ago (back at Typepad).

    Yes, here it is: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2009/07/23/stephen-carter-has-lost-his-mind/

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

     (nods) Sure, it’s a recurring theme both here and elsewhere. I was specifically interested in Ellie’s view, though.

  • Jeff

    This is a well written, but poorly argued, piece.  People who oppose homosexual marriage aren’t afraid of a loss of “privelege”.  They just think that homosexual marriage is morally wrong.  It’s not that complicated. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    So for what reason is “homosexual marriage” morally wrong?

    Let me save you some time: if it’s because all sex should be within marriage and only heterosexual sex is capable of producing babies, you have to explain why it’s all right for infertile and/or postmenopausal people to get married. (It’d be nice if you explained why all sex, not just sex you are personally having, should be within marriage, and why you think you have the right to judge people who have sex with anyone they’re not married to. But we can skip that part if you want.) And if your argument relies on the Bible or other religious material in any way, you have to explain why those of us whose religions don’t consider marriage equality morally wrong (which, I must point out, includes many Christians), or who have no religious beliefs at all and know of no secular reason to oppose marriage equality, should listen to your argument at all.

    And, you know, walks like a duck that’s terrified of a group of people going from lesser to equal, quacks like a duck that’s determined to keep that group of people lesser and not equal, might just be a duck that wants to hold on to its heterosexual privilege.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/SirWinstoneChurchill Winston Blake

    Religious faggotry is insane.

    Mammals evolve heterosexually.

  • Lori


    This is a well written, but poorly argued, piece.  People who oppose
    homosexual marriage aren’t afraid of a loss of “privelege”.  They just
    think that homosexual marriage is morally wrong.  It’s not that

    Ah yes. They’re not homophobic. They aren’t afraid of gay people, they just think homosexuality is morally wrong. I remember when I used to buy this. I was wrong then and you’re wrong now.

    The moral position is effect, not cause. You know how you can tell? If you assume that the moral position came first most of their behavior doesn’t make any sense. Prime example, why are they so worked up at the gays, but so indifferent to divorce? Now go back and look at the world again, but assume that the moral position is effect, a way of dressing up their desire to maintain the status quo that gives them tremendous privilege. Funny how much better that both explains their past beliefs and behaviors and predicts their future ones.

  • Mary

    Expand”This is a well written, but poorly argued, piece. People who oppose homosexual marriage aren’t afraid of a loss of “privelege”. They just think that homosexual marriage is morally wrong. It’s not that complicated. “Wrong. We all know that the real issue is not gay marriage. The real  issue is that Christians are battling a mythical battle against secular culture. I say mythical because secular culture is no threat to them whatsoever. So gay marriage in their minds is also connected to creationism, prayer in schools, athiesm and all kinds of issues related to the separation of church and state. That is the only way to explain their irrational position.Take for example the Republican Party’s official stance that “gay marriage attacks the very foundations of our society.” That is not stating that they just believe gay marriage is immoral. It is explictly claiming that THEIR RIGHTS (priveleges) are being attacked.

  • Guest

    This sort of thing, I can get behind.  And the question I always ask, and that always fails, is ‘how exactly are you harmed by X happening?’ where X is gay marriage, somebody else having an abortion, etc.  The answer, invariably, is ‘well, I don’t like to know it happens’, and that ALWAYS equals the distinct, real problems experienced by those being denied their rights in the minds of those giving that answer.

    The ONE I have a hard time with is racial/gender equality (white men’s privilege).  Not that I think it’s just by a long shot, but even the most compelling essays treat it as a zero-sum game: that white men must give up their advantages so that others can be equal.  I have yet to see a compelling formula for making others MORE successful that doesn’t decrease the chance of white men making it in the world (especially in cyclical bad economies and such).  So while I might wish it otherwise, I can very much understand why they fight to keep others subservient and lesser class – it actually costs them when others are advanced.  And to a great extent than the Pleasantville example too – that man could, should he so choose, simply make his own dinner.  A person with no job might not be able to eat at all.

    Of course, that’s all economics and capitalism.  For most of the culture wars, the answer really is ‘it doesn’t hurt me at all for you to do that, but you’d better not do it, and I’ll work very, very hard to make sure you can’t!’

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have yet to see a compelling formula for making others MORE successful that doesn’t decrease the chance of white men making it in the world (especially in cyclical bad economies and such). […] A person with no job might not be able to eat at all.

    Increase the total number of living-wage jobs so that everyone who wants one can have one?

    That’s the wrong place to start, though, the right place is either, one, ensuring that nobody goes hungry ever no matter what their financial circumstances, or two, making minimum wage a living wage, pegged to the consumer price index so that an across-the-board price rise will always be accompanied by a minimum wage rise so that the minimum wage is always a living wage, and penalizing businesses for reducing their payroll without first reducing their profits as far as the business can bear. Both would be better.

  • Jeff

    “This sort of thing, I can get behind.  And the question I always ask, and that always fails, is ‘how exactly are you harmed by X happening?’ where X is gay marriage, somebody else having an abortion, etc.  The answer, invariably, is ‘well, I don’t like to know it happens’, and that ALWAYS equals the distinct, real problems experienced by those being denied their rights in the minds of those giving that answer.”

    No, that’s not the answer.  In the case of abortion, the answer is that the /baby/ is harmed by the abortion, and those who oppose the abortion believe that the baby’s right to live supercede the mother’s right to choose whether to have the baby or not.  (Yes, yes, I know, it’s a “fetus”, not a “baby”).   The answer is, admittedly, more complicated in the case of gay marriage.  But I think it’s something like this.  If we assume that homosexual behavior is morally wrong (not an assumption you grant, I acknowledge), well, there are plenty of behaviors that are morally wrong that we don’t explicitly legislate against, and I suspect most people are willing to not care what goes on in other people’s bedrooms (yes, I know, I know, that wasn’t always the case).  But to ask the state to explicitly endorse the behavior with marriage, to effectively say “we as a society think this is ok”, is where it becomes problematic for those who believe the behavior is morally wrong. 

  • Carstonio


    But to ask the state to explicitly endorse the behavior with marriage, to effectively say “we as a society think this is ok”

    No and no. The state is not a moral authority and shouldn’t be viewed as one. One shouldn’t treat the legality of say, alcohol sales and consumption with an endorsement of drinking. Laws are about balancing the freedom of the individual with the interests of the society. The legality of same-sex marriage is simply about individual choice when it comes to marrying based on gender. As some of discussed in another thread, there’s no self-evident right to civil marriage itself – the right involved here is equal treatment by the government. The burden is on government to demonstrate a compelling interest in limiting civil marriage to opposite-sex couples.

    where it becomes problematic for those who believe the behavior is morally wrong.

    How is it problematic? The state is not forcing people such as yourself to marry people of your own gender. The burden is on you to demonstrate why marriage for same-sex couples shouldn’t exist, not on anyone else to demonstrate why such couples should be free to marry.

  • Jeff

    The state is not a moral authority, but its laws derive their force to the extent that they reflect the moral authority of those that it governs.  The point is simply that the debate is about whose arguments about morality are correct, and not about one side being afraid of losing “privelege”, as the original post suggests.

  • Carstonio

     Not sure what you mean by “moral authority” of the people being governed. What is the moral argument behind the stance that same-sex couples shouldn’t be married, or that they should be prevented from marrying? How would their marriages adversely affect others?

  • Lunch Meat

    The point is simply that the debate is about whose arguments about morality are correct, and not about one side being afraid of losing
    “privilege”, as the original post suggests.

    No it’s not. Because you have the PRIVILEGE of knowing you can legislate your moral views, and I can’t.

  • John (not McCain)

    Get RIAF.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

    One doesn’t exclude the other.

  • P J Evans

    the /baby/ is harmed by the abortion

    See, this is part of the problem. You’re assuming that it’s a baby from the moment of conception, which isn’t true. (Consider miscarriages. Consider that fertilization is frequently followed by NOTHING.)
    There’s a reason why it wasn’t considered real until ‘quickening’, which is around the 5th month.

  • banancat

    No, it really truly does not matter if an embryo is a baby. We’ve been over this a million times. Even a fully-fledged human being does not have a legal right to use my body against my will.

    On every abortion topic we rehash when life begins, and every single time it is a red herring that is not relevant.

  • P J Evans

     I was responding to his statement that abortion kills babies. The rest of it wasn’t even implied, let alone intended.

    Please don’t read into comments things that weren’t there to begin with.

  • banancat

     Even if abortion did result in babies dying, those babies still do not have a right to use my body against my will.  It’s really pointless to argue whether it does in fact kill babies because my body still belongs to me either way.  He can believe all he wants that it kills babies and whether he is right or wrong on that issue still doesn’t matter.

  • Lori


    But to ask the state to explicitly endorse the behavior with marriage,
    to effectively say “we as a society think this is ok”, is where it
    becomes problematic for those who believe the behavior is morally

    It’s only problematic for them because it’s not their “morally wrong behavior”. You show me an anti-marriage equality zealot who also wants his or her personal  “sin” to be made illegal and I’ll eat my hat. I’ve seriously never met one.

  • Lunch Meat

    In the case of abortion, the answer is that the /baby/ is harmed by the abortion, and those who oppose the abortion believe that the baby’s
    right to live supercede the mother’s right to choose whether to have the
    baby or not.  (Yes, yes, I know, it’s a “fetus”, not a “baby”).

    In what other circumstances is it legal to invade someone’s bodily autonomy for the sake of another’s health? If I need blood immediately or I’ll die and yours is the only match, does my right to live supersede your right to choose whether to donate blood or not? Please note that drawing blood is much less invasive than pregnancy or childbirth.

    If we assume that homosexual behavior is morally wrong (not an
    assumption you grant, I acknowledge), well, there are plenty of
    behaviors that are morally wrong that we don’t explicitly legislate
    against, and I suspect most people are willing to not care what goes on
    in other people’s bedrooms (yes, I know, I know, that wasn’t always the
    case).  But to ask the state to explicitly endorse the behavior with marriage, to effectively say “we as a society think this is ok”, is
    where it becomes problematic for those who believe the behavior is
    morally wrong.

    There are people who think it’s morally wrong that I own property, work outside the home, don’t always do what my husband tells me, and have been married for 2 1/2 years without kids. Yet the state has explicitly endorsed my behavior by calling it a legitimate marriage. If the above people become a majority, are you in favor of allowing them to legislate that my marriage is not valid?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Николай-Крутиков/100002311958508 Николай Крутиков

     “If I need blood immediately or I’ll die and yours is the only match,
    does my right to live supersede your right to choose whether to donate
    blood or not?”

    One anti-abortionist in a debate with me insisted that if “me” is that situation is “your” father, then yes, if the father refuses to donate blood, he should be tried for murder.

    I granted that he’s certainly morally consistent.

  • Lunch Meat

    One anti-abortionist in a debate with me insisted that if “me” is
    that situation is “your” father, then yes, if the father refuses to
    donate blood, he should be tried for murder.

    I granted that he’s certainly morally consistent.

    My follow-up question would be “Do you advocate for that as much as you advocate against abortion?” I’d grant that this situation is much less common than abortion, but it also strikes me that this should mean child neglect is equivalent to murder or attempted murder.

  • EllieMurasaki

    the answer is that the /baby/ is harmed by the abortion

    That isn’t possible; if a baby is being killed, it’s infanticide, not abortion.

    And if you think marrying someone of the same gender as or with similarly shaped genitals to yourself is immoral, don’t do it.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross


    No, that’s not the answer.  In the case of abortion, the answer is that
    the /baby/ is harmed by the abortion, and those who oppose the abortion
    believe that the baby’s right to live supercede the mother’s right to
    choose whether to have the baby or not.

    Except that motive does not explain their actions. If it really was “The baby is harmed and its right to live supercedes the mother’s right to choose what happens to her body”, then it’s inexplicable that the only time that a baby’s right to live trumps an adult human’s right to bodily integrity is when the adult human is a woman (Often specifically a woman who has consented to sex) and the baby is inside her. My right to keep both my kidneys trumps a compatible baby with kidney failure’s right to live. My right to keep all of my delicious blood in my veins trumps a baby with a compatible blood type who needs major surgery’s rightto live.  Hell, my right to hang on to the money my employers give me in exchange for my labor  trumps a baby’s right to eat.

    No, as we keep on running into recently, there must be something else at work, because the proposed explanation does not actually explain the actions.

  • Carstonio


    I have yet to see a compelling formula for making others MORE successful
    that doesn’t decrease the chance of white men making it in the world
    (especially in cyclical bad economies and such).

    To follow on what Ellie said, that wrongly assumes that the world is like Major League Baseball with limited rosters, where desegregation meant fewer opportunities for any white players with less talent. We’re not talking about making non-whites more successful than whites, or making women more successful than men. We’re talking about eliminating the artificial advantage of being white or male, stopping the gaming of the system in their favor.

    When Annika Sorenstam competed in some men’s golf tournaments, a local sports show fumed that this was unfair to the men who placed lower than her in the results. This might have only been somewhat noxious if the hosts hadn’t claimed that this emasculated those men. Jeez, even sitcoms outgrew that sexist notion a couple of decades ago, dropping the hoary gags about wives outscoring their husbands in competitions.

  • Lori


    The ONE I have a hard time with is racial/gender equality (white men’s
    privilege).  Not that I think it’s just by a long shot, but even the
    most compelling essays treat it as a zero-sum game: that white men must
    give up their advantages so that others can be equal.  I have yet to see
    a compelling formula for making others MORE successful that doesn’t
    decrease the chance of white men making it in the world (especially in
    cyclical bad economies and such).  

    This one is actually way easier than it looks. The thing that makes it more difficult for white men to succeed is not equality for women and non-whites, it’s oligarchs. Racist, sexist white men set themselves up to be taken advantage of the ruling elite. We can see this around us every day. It’s a huge understatement to say that the Southern Strategy has not been an actual benefit to the average white man.

  • histrogeek

    I admit as a straight, white male, albeit one with anxiety disorder and depression, I can get privilege anxiety. It’s mostly tied to feeling that the world doesn’t really want or need a straight white guy around  even one who knows how to cook and do laundry (yeah that’s the depression there). 
    What stops me from going full on counter-revolutionary is slamming into the wall that hey feeling that the world doesn’t want you for what you are is exactly what LGBT  or women or other racial groups have been dealing with for time out of mind. By comparesion what I feel is barely a whiff of what other people, people I love and care about, feel all the time from society. It doesn’t get rid of my own feelings but damn if it doesn’t remind me of why basic justice and empathy demand I work to end their pain. 

  • Hilary

    And that is called imagination and empathy – two very good traits for a human being to have.  There is nothing wrong with being a straight white male – my father is one, and my brother, and some of my friends, and that is no handicap to being a wonderful person.  It’s the SWM + total jerk with no imagination or  empathy that gets annoying. 

    SWM + compassion, imagination, empathy = a human guy we need more of.

    More basically, SWM are a subtype of human being, and

    Human Being + compassion, imagination and empathy = human being we need more of. 


  • LL

    What is amusing (and also repellent) about these people is how much they bitch and moan about being deprived of insignificant “privileges” (like having one of their own speak at a public event), while working to deprive people of actual, important rights, like the right to marry another consenting adult, or the right to be free of interference in how they run their own lives, like, for example, healthcare decisions. 

    They deserve only contempt. They don’t “mean well.” They’re just a bunch of asshole control freaks who want to tell other people how to live their lives. They see the amount of control Muslim clerics have over people’s lives in other countries, and far from being frightened by that, they covet it. They covet that kind of power and they’d love to have it here (more so than they do already). 

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

    Baley wouldn’t
    commit himself, but now he wondered sickly if ever a man fought harder
    for that buck, whatever it was, or felt its loss more deeply, than a
    City dweller fought to keep from losing his Sunday night option on a
    chicken drumstick—a real-flesh drumstick from a once-living bird.

    From The Caves of Steel

    I’m reminded of that because it strikes me as a very human impulse, though at times irrational, to fight hard and even go to extremes in preservation of what one perceives that one has.

    There is an old saying in Western culture that goes back to Aesop’s Fables: “It is better to have a bird in the hand than two in the bush”.

    To persuade someone to let go of what is, in favor of what can be, can be damned difficult to do, especially if what can be is not an easy road to travel.

    Yes, on average, economically poor white people will have it better off if the economy as currently structured is reorganized to better reward all somewhat more handsomely than give a lucky few the entire pot of gold.

    But it seems to me that the problem lies in that human thinking is inherently zero-sum, regardless of the bounciful bumpf promoted by right-wing economists who accuse leftists (particularly environmentalists) of being negative ninnies who see no possibility of growing the entire pie that gets sliced up by humanity.

    If it could be proven, even in the zero-sum model unconsciously employed that everyone would be better off were economic resources divided more fairly, I think a lot of the resistance to a more egalitarian society would vanish.

    Right now, though, tell someone a person making $25k a year that a person making $250k a year will pay more in tax, and the $25k person will fight just as hard to keep it from happening because he or she has been told:

    1. Explicitly, that people who make that much money will somehow nebulously use their money to create more jobs, although the exact method is never specified,
    2. Implicitly that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is waiting for him or her if only he or she jumps through just the right hoops.

    #2 is especially pernicious because it means people will fight for the government to not take away more of what they haven’t even got in the first place.

    That’s why I think it is important to understand, although not necessarily to coddle and pat on the hand, people who don’t want to change society in a fairer direction and who derive no true benefit from their status-quo thinking*.

    * Unlike rich white people who know full well that preserving social and economic fissures benefits them in a divide and conquer strategy.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     Yep, that’s loss aversion, and it’s well-documented and pretty ubiquitous.  It hurts more to lose something one once had than it hurt never to have it in the first place (regardless of whether you should ever have had it or not).

  • LL

    Eh, I get Fred’s point. So I agree that from a purely pragmatic point of view, approaching the privileged white (and also sometimes male) people as if they are self-evidently evil and not simply misinformed or oblivious will probably not get the results you hope for. Most people, even if they know they’re wrong, don’t like being told they’re wrong in a harsh, insulting manner. And unfortunately, these people still vote in fairly large numbers. It feels good to call somebody who’s acting like an asshole an asshole, but it often is counterproductive if your goal is to “change hearts and minds.”

    I solve this by speaking to such people (when I have to) using Fred’s approach. But I’m free to think to myself that they’re not misinformed or oblivious, but simply assholes and/or evil. I have learned (mostly) to compartmentalize my contempt. I understand that if people are closer to (ie, directly affected by) the issue under discussion (like same-sex marriage), they might find it very difficult to do that. And I don’t expect them to. I wouldn’t expect a black person to speak to a white power group member as if the racist person is really a good guy, just a little confused or troubled by changes he doesn’t understand. I would agree with most black people that racists aren’t confused, they know exactly what they’re doing and don’t care that it harms others. 

    It is a little easier to give such people the benefit of the doubt when you are not directly harmed by their actions. 

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    In reality, Mrs Parker will end up deeply resentful of Mr. Parker’s former ‘privilege’ and start demanding that he makes all the dinners from now on.

    In reality – the one we’re in now, 60 years after the movie’s mythical timeframe – there are Mr Parkers who love to cook, Mrs Parkers who love to cook, Parkers who alternate who has the paid job and who stays at home, Parkers who both hate cooking and get takeout after coming home from both their jobs…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think that’s where the analogy kind of weakens for me too. In the Mr. Parker example, his family vanished when the change happened. It was like the Rapture. Anyone would find it traumatizing to come home and find it suddenly empty. We know from the movie that the change that took place to color was a good thing, but no one who came home to that situation would automatically assume, “Ah, they left to lead self-actualizing lives of their own. Better put dinner on.”

    But the Cathys of the world don’t lose anything. No one is saying that his wife will leave him, or that he will have to become gay. He doesn’t even necessarily have to interact with openly-gay people more often in the event of same-sex marriage legalization. I get that there will be some distress at social change, but that distress isn’t even comparable to the distress caused by a divorce or a separation (the real-world parallel to what would happen in a case like in the movie “Pleasantville”). 

    Parker’s loss is real; it is minimal compared to what happened to women in that era, but it’s still a real thing that would bother anyone, even if they were not already privileged. Cathy’s loss is wholly imaginary; he wouldn’t even notice if he wasn’t so obsessed with what other people — people he will never see — are doing.

  • DCFem

    This is an interesting post and I hope you follow it up with arguments from people who have actually walked the walked on compassion for oppressors. Because I just don’t care if they feel persecuted and I don’t have compassion for bigots. I wish they had the self realization to feel like jerks (what they really are) instead of oppressed victims (which they’re not) and change accordingly.

    And no, LGBT people (or any minority group) does not have to try to change the minds of folks like this. They have to keep fighting for the justice they deserve to be treated as equals, they don’t have time to play “educate the bigot”. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    The fun thing about privilege is that typically people who are privileged aren’t aware they’re privileged. 

    Certainly when I read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” it listed a ton of privileges I’d never thought about before and generally don’t think about in day-to-day life, although they’re very real, and I’m sure there’s plenty of others neither I nor the author thought of.   I’m so used to them I don’t notice them.

    I suspect most people posting here have been privileged in one way or another – the fact that we’re here suggests that we have Internet access and maybe even a computer, which certainly makes us privileged compared to many people in the developing world and even some in the developed world. 

    Yet we’re not all evil monstrous assholes for being unaware of the extent to which we’re privileged.  (At least, I hope not!)

    And I think the number of people who change their views in response to being told they’re evil monstrous assholes is fairly small.  Go in attacking people, it puts them on the defensive… which means they’ll defend themselves, which is not what we want.  (Especially because the people who actually are evil monstrous assholes probably won’t change voluntarily no matter what we say.  So it seems even more counterproductive to go into an attempt at persuasion with that assumption given that persuasion will probably only be successful if the assumption is wrong.)

    As an aside, I also think it’s important to avoid falling into the trap that (say) RTCs have, which is that every reasonable person of good will presented with the same information we have, will reach the same conclusions we have… and that thus anyone who disagrees with us is prima facie either unreasonable, not of good will, or ignorant of the facts.  Yes, sometimes they ARE one or more of these things… but not always.  Sometimes rational well-informed good people can find they disagree on a topic.   (This is not a commentary specific to gay marriage or gay rights — it’s on beliefs more generally.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, of course sometimes people can disagree. I have no problem with people who think gay sex is morally wrong. My problem is with the people who use that belief as the springboard for action. Who insist on telling me that gay sex is wrong, that I may not marry another woman, that the world would be better off without me, that I don’t even exist.
    Beliefs aren’t the problem, no matter how absurd and/or wrong those beliefs may be. Action isn’t even the problem unless the action hurts someone. Hurting someone is the problem. And if two people or groups are hurting each other, the one we need to side with is the one that’s worse hurt. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which side that is, but in the marriage equality debate, it’s blindingly obvious.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    That’s why I mentioned this wasn’t specific to the issue of gay marriage, but a more general comment, since I don’t think it’s necessarily that applicable to that issue.

    But there are other issues — some I’m thinking of off the top of my head are vegetarianism, gun control, atheism vs. theism, or for that matter abortion (I have reasons I think that “life” as in “human life that would be immoral to kill” does not begin at conception, but I don’t think they’re airtight — I think it’s something reasonable people can disagree on) — where there can be a tendency to assume that people on the other side are ignorant, stupid, and/or immoral when I think that’s not necessarily the case.

  • Ben English

    Here’s a question that’s always interested me: why is the erosion of heterosexual privilege so scary to people? I mean, statistically, the majority of people are straight. Even if you give full rights and privileges to LGBT people, you’re still likely not to encounter many gay married couples on your average day, in many places around the country. I know one married lesbian and have never met her wife. I only learned she was gay through Facebook months after the last time I had a class with her.

    It occurs to me that one of the reasons that homophobia is so prevalent among hegemons is because it undercuts the patriarchy. If men can marry men and women can marry women, and that ideology works its way into popular consciousness–if the Church broadly reverses course on the matter–then it makes it easier to question other ‘facts’ the hegemony holds too. If the Church is wrong about homosexuals, then how can you trust their stance on gender relations? On sexual morality?

    I don’t know how this effects homophobia in non religious contexts, but within discriminatory religious groups, homophobia is a natural response to the entire house of cards mentality that they push.

  • banancat

     You’re right that homosexuality threatens Patriarchal gender roles and that is why it is so scary to some heteros and not scary at all to others.  I do think this point should be emphasized more, especially that the “traditional marriage” that certain people want to preserve is exactly that: a man having control over a woman who is dependent on him.

  • Cowboy Diva

    For those who do not wish to have abortion in their same sex marriage discussion, please have a piece of this lovely peach pie.

  • MaryKaye

    If your identity is built around, essentially, owning your wife, and having a God-given right to own your wife that society will uphold for you–you are in some ways like a person whose farm only works because of slave labor.

    The slave-owner hates emancipation even in far-away states where it doesn’t affect him personally, and the patriarch hates violation of gender roles similarly; because these things *are* a threat, directly, as soon as his slaves or wife hear of them!

    You can pretend that all viable heterosexual marriages are secretly complementarian.  But it’s pretty impossible to pretend that about a same-sex marriage where one of the “essential” parts isn’t present at all.  (Though we do hear people trying; gay couples complain that they are often asked which one of them is the “man” in the relationship.)

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    You know, while he’s fucking right off about Otherkin, Ben English can also fuck right off about Multiples/MPD/DID, if he wants to insist that’s all role-playing too. Seriously. What the fuck?

  • nakedanthropologist

    I see your point with this post, but I think it’s overly simplistic to compare white evangelicals with Parker from Pleasantville. Firstly, the people of Pleasantville existed in a vacuum – they were not cognizant of the injustices done to Betty Parker (and the other disenfranchised) because there was nothing outside of Pleasantville. Remember the scene from geography class when Reese Witherspoon’s character asked what was beyond Main Street? The teacher couldn’t answer, because Main Street extended in a never-ending loop. White evangelicals have always been aware that there is something beyond their “Main Street”. You may also recall that Mr. Parker does push back against Betty wanting and doing more than actin like his adoring live-in housekeeper: he participates in mob violence as well as other push-back measures with the other guys from his bowling team.

    But I guess where this analogy fails for me is the idea of being cognizant of harm inflicted. For Pleasantville, there was nothing outside of Pleasantville, and no one was aware of suffering – not even their own. If I was beaten up because of being gay, or my children are denied health-insurance because of the same, then we are very cognizant of the suffering. There’s no violence in Pleasantville; of course, reality is different. Thus, I don’t feel compassion towards people who view LGBT individuals as damned/inferior/perverted/and so on who are now made to feel emotionally uncomfortable because people call them on their bigotry. Because its not beliefs that are the issue for me – it’s actions. Don’t like SSM – no worries, I don’t really care. But when someone tries to limit another persons actions due to an utterly arbitrary religious belief, that’s when I lose my nonchalance and my sympathy for their “peckishness”.

  • Carstonio

    The comparison makes more sense on an allegorical level. Not about white evangelicalism specifically, but about the false, narrow, constrictive view of American life that 1950s sitcoms pushed and the later romanticism about that decade. There appears to be nothing beyond Main Street because that’s how the mythology defined the nation. Once the characters become aware of concepts and ideas beyond Main Street, the folks in power fight that influence. That’s how the white evangelicals are reacting – they try to perpetuate the Main Street illusion but the world keeps intruding. Another decade or so and a better comparison for them may be Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard.

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

    I think the analogy to Pleasantville still holds in this way:

    In Pleasantville, the residents are totally unaware of anything outside of their insular, cloistered world. It isn’t until outsiders come in the form of replacements for Bud and Mary Sue, and begin changing residents’ perceptions of themselves and of others that they realize that there is much more out there, and for some residents, these changes are unsettling.

    In our world, there are some people (as in the excellent example of the black guy who had to worry about being perceived as a dude who stole his own TV set and pointed out that being white means not having to even bother weighing the scales of the law enforcement attitude of the day, or FearlessSon’s friend who grew up in an advantaged household), who inhabit a relatively insular world and aren’t really aware of “outsiders” as actual people, but rather just vague shadows who flit about the edges of their perception and impinge themselves largely in the form of dominant-cultural stereotypes (e.g. the African-American criminal, the Asian genius, and so on and so forth).

    So when these outsiders begin showing up as actual people they can’t ignore, then for some of these folks the changes they perceive are unwelcome and unsettling and they seek to restore the status quo.

  • Phil


    I’ve encountered the idea–that conservative use “five factors” while liberals use “three” (or fewer or whatever number), therefore conservatives are better–before.  It makes no sense to me.    Here’s why (at least as with regard to same sex marriage):

    I agree that marriage fits into “sanctity.”  But that alone doesn’t make it right.  As an example, many conservatives were against inter-racial marriages for the exact same reason (sanctity/purity).  Were they right then?  Likewise, they aren’t right now.  (And conservatives against inter-racial marriage didn’t “hate” blacks.  They just thought God didn’t want the races to mix.)  But there were still wrong.

  • AnonymousSam

    For that matter, what about Fred? He frequently addresses all five of these concepts, yet he’s not a conservative. Does that mean he’s just mouthing the words, but doesn’t really understand them?

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Of the five values Haidt talks about, I would argue that the last three can often be filed under the first two.

    Authority/Respect:  it’s only fair to respect others, isn’t it?  Especially if they’ve shown they respect us (Fairness/Reciprocity).

    Ingroup/Loyalty:  Most people need a feeling of fellowship for their psychological health (Harm/Care), and it’s good to show loyalty to those who’ve done you good (Fairness/Reciprocity).

    The Purity/Sanctity one is trickier, I’ll grant you.  It’s fair to show some respect for others’ religious beliefs, eg. don’t try to slip bacon to someone keeping kosher (Fairness/Reciprocity).  And awareness of hygeine is generally good for one’s health (Harm/Care).

    Definitely when deciding public policy, though, Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity are the most important values to be considered.  As an example, we’ve seen that policies based on the “Prostitutes are unclean” concept end up doing far more harm than good; policies based on “Sex workers are an at-risk group for STIs” are more likely to benefit society.

  • Paynekid87

    So people should never resist culture’s ever-changing morality? Go with the flow, or lose your right to speak and stand up for what you believe in?

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Would you like to point out where someone proposed that?

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Also, fairness and care are the values that can best be universalized.  This is put more thoroughly here:  http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2010/06/22/why-liberal-values-really-are-better/

  • Water_Bear

    There seems to be a bit of a weird logical leap there though; why should we automatically assume the rules apply equally to everyone? 

    Ms* Christina says that universality is the basis of ethics, but there are tons of internally consistent and equally valid ethical philosophies which divide moral agents into different categories, not to mention the way they decide who is a moral agent. Seeing as it’s a question of evaluating respect for authority, in-group loyalty and (ritual?) purity against fairness and hedonistic utility, starting from the position that ethics are always universal is a case of begging the question rather than a supported argument.

    *I don’t see a doctorate or anything on her bio, so I’m guessing here.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Uh… I don’t think she’s saying that universality is the basis of ethics.  She’s saying that those ethics which are easily universalized ought to be held above those which aren’t.  Part of her reasoning is that as we expand our world and connect with people on a more global scale, prioritizing common interests over tribal ones is more likely to be beneficial to more people.

  • Water_Bear

    “In other words, the philosophical underpinning of ethics are that they ought to be applicable to everyone. They ought to be universalizable.”

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Okay, I missed that.  But aside from making a sweeping declaration that’s not verifiable, I’d say she’s bang-on:  universalizable values are the better thing for a global society.

  • Water_Bear

    Why? What makes them better, and how is better defined?

    This is what I took issue with about her post in the first place; stating a claim is not evidence of that claim, and a claim without evidence is not terribly useful.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    *sigh*  How is “more likely to benefit more people” not an adequate explanation for “better”, in this context?

  • Water_Bear

    Because the question is “Is weighing harm and fairness more important than purity authority and loyalty?” and your answer supporting harm and fairness is based on an assumption that harm is the principle axis we should judge and that we need to judge it fairly in terms of everyone’s needs.

    I’m not trying to be difficult and I understand utilitarian reasoning, I used to be a utilitarian. Part of the reason I stopped was I ran into this same wall; why should we make our ethics universal, and what is the point we’re willing to stop counting feeling creatures. I’m curious how other people resolved it.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    For someone who’s not trying to be difficult, you’re doing an awfully good job.  You know what?  I don’t have the spoons for this.  Someone else can take over if they’re interested in trying to argue with you.  I’m done.

  • Lori

    Anyone who hasn’t prepared for the coming apocalypse may want to get on that, because the world is clearly ending—I more or less agree with Paul Durant on something. 

    Having compassion for someone and “siding with them” in a binary dispute are not the same thing. I don’t think the ability to see someone’s POV and understand that they feel distress, while not actually agreeing with that POV, is all that rare of a skill. I certainly think that someone who claims what are typically Liberal values should be able to manage it. If we can understand the POV of people of different races, sexual orientations, cultures and economic circumstances we should be able to manage to grasp the essentials about conservatives as well.

    I think it’s obvious and well-known around here that I have basically zero patience with the racist, homophobic, misogynist, Ayn Rand-inspired, dog-eat-dog, FU I got
    mine program being pushed by the Right here in the US. Clearly I don’t feel a lot of hesitation about saying so in very clear terms. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand and have a certain amount of compassion for individual conservatives. Not sympathy, compassion. Not the same thing. I’m never going to side with them on these core issues and I think they bring their distress on themselves, but (at least in some individual cases) I get why they’re distressed by changes that I find wonderful and I’m sorry they feel that way.

    Didn’t we recently have a discussion about why it’s rude and unfair to be dismissive of Otherkin even if we don’t personally believe that it’s possible for a person to actually be a dinosaur or whatever in human form? Was the point of that conversation that we need to be respectful of human-form dinosaurs because other people are mean to them, or was the point that we’re supposed to have a certain degree of respect for people’s lived experience even if we think it’s objectively untrue in the world outside their head? If it was the former, I didn’t get that from the discussion. If it’s the latter then it strikes me that there’s something off about claiming that people can and should be understanding of this particular thing that they believe is literally not possible, but somehow can’t do the same for things they believe are untrue in other ways.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I guess I’m just not seeing how to get from ‘I understand why this person is hurting and I wish they weren’t’ to ‘this person needs to hurt worse than presently’. And that latter place is often an important place to get to. Case in point, I am not bothered by it hurting rich people to take some of their money away when that money is, one, often unethically obtained to begin with (hi, Walton family!), and two, of much more use alleviating/ending suffering when it’s somewhere that’s neither a rich person’s bank account nor the New York Stock Exchange. If I can’t get to the latter place from the former place, and I need to get to the latter place, then I can’t start from the former place.

    Paul Durant says compassion is not finite. In my experience of the compassion I am capable of giving: yes, in fact, it is.

  • Lori


    I guess I’m just not seeing how to get from ‘I understand why this
    person is hurting and I wish they weren’t’ to ‘this person needs to hurt
    worse than presently’.   

    Well for one thing, “this person needs to hurt worse than presently” isn’t actually my goal.

    Let’s use marriage equality as an example. My parents are dead set against it. I understand why they feel that way, I’m sorry that they’re distressed by the way the world is changing. Eighty-four years is a long time to live. The world we’re moving toward is very, very different from the world they grew up in. Change is difficult, especially when it’s involuntary and that becomes more and more true as we age. For one thing, change highlights the fact that their friends, people who are like them, are dying off. It’s a tough thing to outlive most of the people that you care about and their grief is real and it touches me because I care about them.

    I still want marriage equality to happen and I think it will. The most likely outcome of that will be for my parents to be even more distressed than they are now, but they don’t need to be. They could have a change of heart and learn to accept it, or at least let it go because it doesn’t effect them and is therefore not actually any of their business. That’s not likely, but it’s my preferred situation. I value everyone being equal before the law more than I value keeping my parents from being more upset, but I don’t need for them to feel more pain. Marriage equality will not be sweeter for me if they’re upset about it.

    The same goes for higher rates of taxation hurting the rich. I get why people get upset when they have less money in their direct control, even when they already have so much that their lives aren’t materially effected by the decrease. I value a more fair and reasonable distribution of resources and greater respect for labor, as opposed to financial speculation for example, far more than I value their feelings about their after tax income. In fact I think the more vocal whiners about the possibility of returning to Clinton-era levels of taxation are behaving like butthurt assholes of the worst sort. However, aside from a fairly short list of the most egregious of them, their pain would not make me happy. I need better economic policy, not their misery. If they got their heads out of their own selfish asses enough to see that reducing income inequality, investing in needed infrastructure and taking steps to mitigate climate change would be better for everyone in the long run that would be fine with me.

  • EllieMurasaki

    “this person needs to hurt worse than presently” isn’t actually my goal.

    Mine neither. It’s unavoidable with many many goals, some of which must be achieved, but it’s not a goal in itself.

  • Lori

    Then what’s the issue here? If their pain is not your goal then why frame the issue as needing to get from understanding their pain to “‘this person needs to hurt worse than presently’?

    If their pain isn’t the goal then you don’t need to get to the latter and therefore there’s no reason for it to be an impediment to the former. The fact that thing A is a higher priority, even a much higher priority, than thing B doesn’t mean that we can’t acknowledge the existence of thing B. We can even try to mitigate B to the extent that doing so doesn’t interfere with A. We do that sort of thing all the time.

  • EllieMurasaki

    The issue here is that Paul Durant said it is possible to feel compassion for both the oppressed and the oppressor at the same time.




  • Lunch Meat

    Paul Durant was responding to someone who said it was immoral to have compassion for both the oppressed and the oppressor at the same time. I would not go as far as he did and say that one must have compassion on the oppressor if one wants to change them, but I believe it’s not inherently impossible for everyone. It may be impossible for specific people, and that’s absolutely fine, I would not expect you to do something you can’t do and don’t think is worth doing anything. That doesn’t mean people like Fred can’t suggest compassion and ways to go about being compassionate.

  • Lori

    The fact that it’s impossible for you doesn’t mean that it’s impossible in general. Unless I misread him completely Paul Durant was talking about the issue broadly, not about you specifically.

    If you can’t do it, you can’t, but the ability is not fictional. As I said, I don’t even think it’s all that rare. We routinely expect people to demonstrate the ability in other contexts.

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

    (nods) Yeah, I can see that… allowing myself to feel compassion for someone can make it more difficult to leave them worse off. (Not impossible, but more difficult.) If I’ve already decided to leave them worse off, I can make that task easier for myself by not feeling compassion for them.

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

    You could almost believe this parody is real. That’s how dug-in Republicans are about opposing Obama.

  • EllieMurasaki

    That…is satire, yes?

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

    I think it is, or at least a parody. :O

    Also, PSA: Switch Your Bank.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I keep my money in a local credit union and ING Direct, though ING just got ate by CapitalOne. How bad is CapitalOne? Not bad enough to be on the Big Five list (though I have credit cards with two of those five, and CapitalOne), but I don’t know whether that means CapitalOne’s actually better or if those five are just worse. If that makes sense.

  • AnonymousSam

    I would have thought Fred counted as one who is compassionate toward those who cause harm. After all, isn’t he so often criticized for giving too much credit to people with black marks on their record?

    I don’t entirely understand it myself. It’s something I try to emulate, but there’s only so much I am willing to extend to people causing harm to others. Then again… well, yeah.

  • vsm

    It’s not very easy to divide the world into those who cause harm and those who are hurt. Black men are perfectly capable of appalling misogyny. Gay people have contributed to islamophobia. Many who vote Republican are economically and educationally deprived. Even leftists with the correct position on every question use computers manufactured by exploited third world workers to talk about their correct positions over the Internet. I have no idea how to pick which of these people deserve or don’t deserve compassion.

  • AnonymousSam

    The dividing line, for me, is when that harm is intended. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the legislators who tried to pass a law requiring vaginal ultrasound probing to be eligible for an abortion. When physicians argued that an external ultrasound would be just as effective, and no ultrasound at all was medically necessary, the legislators refused to listen and continued to insist on vaginal probing being mandatory.

    I don’t think people like that are unaware of the harm they’re doing. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Do they deserve compassion? Personally, I’d rather have them tried for conspiracy to commit sexual assault.

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

    FWIW, prosecuting people who deliberately and knowingly inflict obvious harm on others sounds like a fine idea, and I endorse it fully.

    I have no idea if it’s legally feasible in the case you refer to, but if it isn’t, I prefer a legal system in which it is. And even if it turns out that such a system entails consequences which would make me change my mind were they explained to me, I would prefer those consequences not be entailed.

    If that’s incompatible with compassion for those who harm others, then I don’t understand what compassion is.

    Which is entirely possible.

  • vsm

    I can’t say I feel much like walking a mile in their shoes either, though I would point out that compassion does not preclude prosecution. Still, legislators and the rich are kind of an easy target because of their high social position. What about, say, a black working-class family that disowned one of its children for being gay?

  • AnonymousSam

    Still relatively black and white to me. I’m sure they feel betrayed by their child, but that betrayal tends to resonate in terms of “my children are obligated to take after the best traits I see in myself, and to live according to my expectations.” It’s a denial of the individualism of the child, and disowning them is a far greater offense than any perceived fault.

    Bear in mind, if I got these things, then I wouldn’t have APD. My version of compassion is giving people a chance to change, but in terms of being sympathetic for them… I literally can’t do it.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, I’d be siding with the gay kid over the kid’s black working-class family, because the issue at hand is heterosexism. If the issue at hand were, say, the kid got a $500K/yr job and started making noise about bootstraps and tax hikes for the poor and cuts for the rich, then the issue at hand would be classism (or wealthism or whatever), and I’d be siding with the family.

  • vsm

    I think most sensible people would side with the kid, but would you still feel sympathy for the family in other situations? Say, if they had another kid who did make it rich and did as you said? If so, I think I misunderstood you and AnonymousSam earlier.

  • EllieMurasaki

    In a different situation, yes, I’d feel different, what is your point?

  • vsm

    I assumed that when you said you can’t extend sympathy to an oppressor, you meant that you couldn’t ever do it to such a person. I now see you were talking of a specific situation. Thus, you can sympathize with the hypothetical family in certain situations but not in others.

    I’m more sympathetic to a more holistic approach, along with Dave. Our family in question did not just wake up and decide to be homophobic, after all. They’re the products of social forces and have likely lacked resources that would have allowed them to better question certain assumptions.

    One potentially related thing I’m interested in is how someone has decided that LGBT people are white. This is a recent development: if you watch footage from the Stonewall riots, you’ll see a lot of PoC, and at least in the 70’s it was easier to depict black gays than white ones in movies, at least according to the Celluloid Closet. In a few decades, this appears to have changed. I think there’s a graduate thesis here.

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

     This is actually a very helpful comment for me in understanding your position; thank you.

    For my own part, I would say that the issue at hand in the scenario vsm describes is the family and their kid. Heterosexism is a big part of it, certainly, but so is institutional racism and class. And I expect so are lots of other things, many of which are personal to that family and that kid and I’m not aware of them (not least of which because vsm didn’t mention them).

    But I can see where, if I viewed the scenario as instead being primarily about heterosexism, I would approach it very differently.

    Perhaps relatedly: my father, had he been alive when I came out to my family, would almost undoubtedly have rejected me for my sexuality. That hurts, and I’m not sure that I can really forgive it, though I have tried.

    Nevertheless, when I think about it, what I think about is my father and the cultural and personal context that informed him; the issue at hand from my perspective is not solely or even primarily heterosexism.

    Of course, when I think about other people’s fathers, I can’t bring to that the same degree of context-knowledge that I bring to thinking about my own. But that reflects a limitation of my thinking, not some kind of fundamental difference between my father and other people’s, and I try to overcome that limitation where I can.

  • The_L1985

    “It’s a denial of the individualism of the child, and disowning them is a far greater offense than any perceived fault.”

     Indeed.  Even if the child is totally hetero, treating your children as if the slightest deviation from your Planned-Out Perfect Life is the ultimate betrayal causes all kinds of neuroses.  I think that’s why I empathize so easily with disowned gay teens–I would have been one myself if I weren’t attracted to men and well-practiced at hiding things from my father.

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

    Universalizable ethics?

    About about the UN Declaration of Human Rights?

  • Water_Bear

    Is that a typo?

  • Learned Cat

    I can’t help but hear Wayne Self’s plaint as a typical gay male persecution fantasy. Gays are not treated as second-class citizens and nobody is trying to beat them up. (The vast majority of the cases of “gay-bashing” the media promote turn out to be ordinary muggings.) In fact, gays are praised and pampered and promoted incessantly by the media, entertainment industry, academia and political establishment.

    The outrageous rhetoric of “civil rights” would be an insult to those who truly had to struggle to have their civil rights acknowledged, were it not for the fact that in the case of gays most people recognize they’re dealing with a lot of people who are somewhat mentally imbalanced. Of course, nobody has a “civil right” to redefine basic legal concepts like marriage.

    White privilege and male privilege and the privileges attendant on citizenship and wealth are serious, but not simple, subjects worth debating. But gays, as a hyperprivileged minority, look ridiculous trying to claim victim status.

  • The_L1985

    “Hyperprivileged?”  Please explain to me how any of the following are signs of privilege:

    1. Being unable to go to the courthouse and fill out a marriage license in many states, and thus being completely shut out from the literally hundreds of legal benefits that such a document confers.

    2. Being able to fill out said marriage license in some states, but having one’s legal relationship status completely ignored and treated as invalid the second you cross state lines.

    3. Being repeatedly and publicly called an “abomination” by religious leaders for finding the “wrong” sort of people physically attractive.  (It is possible to be gay without having any form of sex with anyone.  “Gay” refers to physical attraction, not to any particular action.)

    4. Being told that, by virtue of being attracted to the “wrong” sort of people, you are living some kind of entirely different lifestyle, even if you otherwise behave exactly like any heterosexual member of your community.

    5. Being told that you would be better off essentially living a lie by marrying someone to whom you’re not physically attracted, pretending that you are attracted to them so that they will marry you in the first place, and going through the motions of a happy marriage and hoping your spouse and children never catch on that it’s all an act.

    6. Being constantly portrayed in the mainstream media as a demeaning stereotype.  I literally cannot think of a non-campy gay person in the media that isn’t from an indie webcomic with a small readership.  I also have known dozens of gay people in real life, and exactly ONE of them behaved like the stereotype.  See also #4 above.

    7. Being told that a neutral, non-profane word that describes an aspect of yourself is not allowed to be mentioned in Tennessee’s public schools.  Imagine if an entire state banned the use of the words “black,” “Scottish,” “Presbyterian,” or “middle-class.”  It’s exactly like that.

    8. Hearing classmates in the halls use that same neutral word as an insult, day in and day out, throughout your middle- and high-school years.

    9. Kindergartens come under fire simply for acknowledging that you, and other people like you, exist.  Even the simple statement, “Your classmate Stacie has two daddies,” is seen as some kind of propaganda rather than a statement of fact explaining why Stacie prefers Father’s Day over Mother’s Day.

    10. Being banned in many states from adopting a child, even if you are a well-adjusted adult with excellent child-rearing ability, or put at the end of the prospective-parents list for any child who isn’t severely disabled.

    11. Living in a demographic with a high rate of depression and suicide, and seeing people blame you for it rather than considering that anything they say or do could possibly drive sensitive individuals to the brink of despair.

    12. Being divorced and unable to gain custody or even visitation rights to see your own child, based on something that has literally nothing to do with any form of unfitness to raise a child.

    13. Being able to be legally fired in many states for an aspect of your personality that in no way affects your behavior at work or your ability to do your job, with no recourse to the law.

    I support marriage equality and civil rights for gay people because I can tell that they are, in fact, being treated as second-class citizens. ALL of the above are textbook examples of prejudice.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Being constantly portrayed in the mainstream media as a demeaning stereotype. I literally cannot think of a non-campy gay person in the media that isn’t from an indie webcomic with a small readership.

    Point of order: Supernatural 5×09 has a gay couple and 7×20 has a lesbian (spoilers: fur’f nobhg gb orpbzr erpheevat), and none of them are any flavor of stereotypical queer people.

    Three examples, none of whom have been in more than one episode, isn’t a hell of a lot better than zero, though.

  • The_L1985

    I don’t watch Supernatural, because I dislike it for other, non-related reasons. So I guess I didn’t catch that it occasionally has decent portrayals of minorities in it. Thanks for the correction! :)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not a problem, but now you know of non-campy gay people who are in mainstream television.

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

    That’s a pretty piddly sample size.

    And Battlestar Galactica’s not much better. Het ‘ships get tons of screen time, between Baltar knocking boots with ladies and Starbuck knocking boots with men, and Lee Adama/Dualla, etc etc et CETERA.

    But Hoshi/Gaeta? Blink and you’ll miss it in the webisode series. It’s not even in the main canon.

    Ditto Cain/Gina. It’s like, a few shared looks and a kiss. Again, not in the main canon, it’s in a 2-hour tv movie slotted in between two seasons.

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

    That must be why people convicted of gay bashings get astonishingly light sentences, even by Canadian standards, for what amounts to manslaughter.

  • jerry lynch

    There was a book I had to read on mindfulness in graduate school. It had been assigned reading for this particular class for five years. The book opens with a “scientific research” study of elderly people in care facilities. What would happen if these residents were given something to care for? The belief from the onset was that it would improve their health and mental well-being, living longer and more meaningful lives. So they gave this opportunity to some residents and not to others in a number of these settings. They were right and their study showed this conclusively. Given the responsibility to care for something–a plant, a kitten, whatever–helped them become mindful and attentive to their existence. But not a single student, or professor, or the book, for that matter, appeared to take note that this experiment incidentally but consciously condemned the other half to a lesser and more troubled (and shorter) existence. When I pointed this out in class, it angered quite a few while others were glad to be made mindful of their oversight. That’s one point.

    The other point is that those given the “privilege” of something to care for were oblivious to what it meant for the other residents to be without this substantial benefit. They did not ask for this privilege and did not set out to be the “haves.” How responsible are we for mindfulness? Can blame be assigned?  Is self-centeredness the real sin here?

    Most of us are centered in the wrong place, which makes for endless debates based on false dichotomies and premises.  No clear way seems to emerge. The arguments on both sides seem to weigh equally. But it is a form of blindness, on both sides. Mr. Parker needs to be freed as much as his wife and children. All are lacking in true compassion and mindfulness.

    Waking up is hard to do. It hurts, and it hurts all concerned, as was pointed out by the author. The resentment that comes with nearly all awakenings is the first nut to crack. More harm is usually done by the person who takes offense than the one who gives it. Recognizing that a resentment is the first sign of movement toward some bondage is helpful, and knowing we had our part in creating the situation puts the onus where it belongs: on self-realization. Being equally aware that restorative justice is the only real justice keeps the dialog and heart open to fundamental change in the way of things. This we owe both to ourselves and others.  

  • jerry lynch

    Edit: meant to write ‘Recognizing that a resentment is the first sign of movement toward FREEDOM from some bondage…”

  • AnonymousSam

    Torchwood is the only one I can think of, although I think the characters in particular are actually bisexual, not homosexual, for all that they spend far more time showing them in m/m pairings .

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

    At least Barrowman seems to have great fun playing an omnisexual. :)

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Lost Girl. Recently started chugging it via Netflix. Closest I’ve ever seen to a TV show in which non-heterosexuality is an entirely unmarked state. The main character’s totally bi, her housemate is het, a woman she (main character) has an on-and-off relationship with is demonstrably lesbian, there’s one episode where they’re investigating a graverobbery incident which involves a man’s recently dead husband, threesomes happen and it’s no big deal, etc. Not once can I remember a single line of dialogue in which non-het relationships were remarked on as out of the ordinary. It only gets brought up in purely pragmatic terms that could be said to someone of the same sex or the opposite sex, like, “I hate to break it to you, but… I don’t swing your way. Sorry?”

    Reminds me of the Terry Pratchett /Diskworld line about how “black and white got along in perfect harmony to gang up on green.” Homophobia? That’s so passe when you can instead get all tribal about Dark Fae versus Light Fae, both of which are totally bigoted against humans. I have similar feelings about the tendency for the show to totally sidestep the boring and infuriating “lovers’ triangle” tensions. Lesser shows would make a thing out of the main character finding her boyfriend with another woman and misunderstanding the situation and getting all jealous. This show skips that whole tiresome boondoggle by having the main character figure it out in a glance and/or talk to her boyfriend and get the true story, because the actual situation is so much more interesting. (And/or recognize that she doesn’t exactly have a leg to stand on in re: jealousy, so.)

    (Also–if you watch it, you’ll understand; if you don’t, you have this to look forward to–the show gets mad props from me for never once touching the obvious Smiths punchline regarding Nadia. And giving the main characters’ propensities for pop culture jokes, including some really obscure 80s ones that make me squee, I gotta say, I was surprised.)

  • SuziBrookz

     Louie Giglio and his supporters are good guys.  One day the LGBT community will see that they are wrong, I just hope it before they spend eternity regretting their choices.

  • AnonymousSam

    SuziBrookz (yes, I see you have attempted to delete your post; that doesn’t work): Any god who would make anyone suffer for eternity for their choice to express love and affection — wouldn’t be worth obeying in the first place.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     In reality, Mrs Parker will end up deeply resentful of Mr. Parker’s
    former ‘privilege’ and start demanding that he makes all the dinners
    from now on.

    The same way black people started enslaving whites after the Civil War, right?

  • Evisceratus

    What isn’t being illustrated here is the fact that society needs to function, and function well. No one want’s to live in a dysfunctional society and a dysfunctional society doesn’t last long (long as in the pages of history long not compared to our short lives) anyway. Society under George Parker’s society. Not everyone was happy, but it functioned. Society before gay marriage was a thing functioned. Gays weren’t happy, but society functioned. Will it function if all states allow gay marriage. Most people say yes and even I am inclined to say yes it will function. Will it function as well? No It’s going to cause minor problems for a system that wasn’t designed with gays in mind. Cracks in the foundation. The foundation will hold, but what about the next crack in the foundation like marijuana legalization. Well the foundation will still hold. But one day the foundation doesn’t hold. Everything the foundation was built on has eroded away or been torn out and the entire thing collapses. It’s the fate of every nation and empire. Are you going to be the one with the chisel helping to hasten the decline?

  • EllieMurasaki

    A society that does not allow certain people access to certain rights is not a fully functioning society.

  • dpolicar

    The system I live under wasn’t designed with marriage equality in mind, agreed. And I understand that you support throwing that out, just to be safe.

    Where do you draw that line? I mean you, personally.

    I mean, the system I live under wasn’t designed with medical advances that allow a greater and greater percentage of the population to live longer lives. Want to throw the elderly out, just to be safe?

    At one time, the system wasn’t designed with low infant mortality in mind. Want to throw 25% of 3-year-olds out, just to be safe? Should the population have made that decision then?

    The system I live under wasn’t designed with mobile phones in mind. Want to throw them out?

    At one time, the system wasn’t designed with cars in mind. Want to get rid of cars? Should the population have made that decision then?

    Personally, I reject this whole “all change is dangerous” style of reasoning. If something new and good comes along — like helping people live longer, like treating our fellow human beings with greater justice and equality, like improving our ability to communicate and transport, etc. etc. etc. — we should embrace it and change the system to adapt to it.

    That’s how the system gets better.

    Are you going to be the one with the hammer helping build a new world?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Appeal to tradition, appeal to fear, slippery slope. Your entire argument is that things are the way they are because something bad might happen if they’re not the way they’ve been in the recent past.