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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, April 17, 2015

everything personal can’t be political

everything personal can’t be political | Fredrik deBoer

"We have this magic words theory of argument where if you deploy certain terms like “tone policing,” the expectation is that you’ve won the argument and the other side has to stop arguing immediately. But those tactics don’t occur in a vacuum. Campus conservatives, for example, have succeeded in so many of their provocations because they have very deftly adopted the tactics and vocabulary of the academic left and employed them for their own purposes...

The definition of microaggression has ballooned to the point where accusations can be deployed for literally any situation. I know people hate hearing this, but it’s just true: there are people in the academy, and now in the broader world, whose personal definition of microaggression seems to be “literally any behavior that I don’t like.” That makes the kind of disagreements that are necessary for academic and political debate impossible...

In the actually-existing discourse communities we have on the left, to ever express skepticism that a given incident constituted racism, sexism, homophobia, or similar means to many that you are “on the side” of the racists, the sexists, the homphobes. Look at the debate about affirmative consent; it’s occurring in a rhetorical environment of ambient threat, where the suggestion that people who question the wisdom or justice of affirmative consent laws are subject to innuendo or accusation of being insufficiently opposed to rape...

The first person to allege discrimination wins, and the person on the other side of that equation loses. This is especially true because we’ve also decided that, once you identify yourself as arguing against political misbehavior, there are absolutely no standards on your own behavior. You are allowed to engage in brutal character assassination if you represent yourself as speaking out against racism or sexism or similar. Look at the odd condition of a Twitter storm: offenses that are often subtle or unintentional are treated as indicative of existential immorality, but the direct, utterly cruel overreactions against these offenses are treated as righteous political acts. Microaggressions breed macro-aggressive responses that are seemingly exempt from standards of fair behavior.

On a personal level, the limitless politicization of daily life actually ends up hurting the people who it ostensibly helps. The way that we deal with the parade of failures, indignities, and problems that make up adult life is by moving on. You often don’t get what you want in life, and it hurts. If you never get over these problems, you subject yourself to long-term unhappiness. So when friends are dealing with hardship we tend to tell them to move on, in time, to get past these feelings. But in a world where absolutely every personal problem is politicized, the attitude is the opposite. When someone alleges that a given problem is a matter of structural oppression, we tell them to hold onto that feeling and never forget about it. The suggestion that someone should move past those feelings is then represented as taking part in that oppression. And I know people, in real life, who seem incapable of moving past disappointments and failures because they’ve so internalized the notion that all of them are a matter of illegitimate discrimination. When every bad date is indicative not of a clash of personalities but of the hand of misogyny, when every rejected job application is a consequence of structural oppression, when every dirty look is racist rather than just shitty, I don’t know how you can make your way through life, which is hard enough as it is...

When you’re operating in an environment where you’re told that absolutely every minor dissatisfaction in your life is a political issue, there’s every reason to adopt the stance of “oppressed minority” rather than “human being dealing with the same constant dissatisfaction that we all do”...

We’ve created these incentives on the left: always politicize; always escalate; always ridicule. We’re living with the consequences of those tendencies now. Unfortunately, I don’t know how we build a new left discourse, given that the two current modes of left-wing expression appear to be a) showily condescending ridicule and b) utter fury"
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