Slate Star Codex isn’t a site I usually follow, but when people I do follow point to it, once can be sure that the discussion is interesting.
No, he’s not of the right, but his posts – often long – display a degree of intellectual integrity I’m finding rarer and rarer on the left, as even some of the previously rational members of the “liberal” types in my family go off to wach a different movie and yell at people who say otherwise.
The recent one is on “murderism,” and starts off with a series of uncomfortable questions on what, exactly, is racism.
As usual, the answer is that “racism” is a confusing word that serves as a mishmash of unlike concepts. Here are some of the definitions people use for racism:
Definition By Motives: An irrational feeling of hatred toward some race that causes someone to want to hurt or discriminate against them.
Definition By Belief: A belief that some race has negative qualities or is inferior, especially if this is innate/genetic.
Definition By Consequences: Anything whose consequence is harm to minorities or promotion of white supremacy, regardless of whether or not this is intentional.
In the essay, he brings up a lot of things that are often called racism, and are not, even mentioning that so called racist southerners waving confederate flags strongly back Nikki Haley and Ben Carson (he forgot Tim Scott).
He also brings up an interesting point, the one I actually explore further, that the left and the right are speaking different languages, often while they use the same words. The old gag about the different ways various services “secure a building” comes to mind.
I think the results of Haidt’s experiments, that he brings up and is hardly ignoring, are nonetheless more important than he is giving credit to. I also think it’s worthwhile to understand that there is a driving force behind the changes of so many of the changes in meaning between the sides.
First, my own digression. While I quiblle with the exact nature of the various axes Haidt presents, and not being a binary thinker, understand it’s more of a continum with two axes being weighted much more heavily (rather than exclusively) by liberals, I do find it interesting that “definition by consequences” so often used to prove that racism/sexism/whatever exists maps to the strong bias towards the fairness axis
And it’s nonsense.
Individual choices matter. Hand identical sets of lego bricks to a room full of kids of the same age and demograhic background and they will all do something different with them. Even two building houses or bridges will build them differently. One may knock something off and be done, another may tear things down and keep trying different variations on a structure.
Individual choices and interests matter, and even small changes at the source will result in wide variations in the results. The only way to get the same results out of that room of kids is to force them.
So it doesn’t matter if it’s genetics affecting IQ and personality traits, culture, or a blend of the two, if demographic groups tend to make certain decisions differently from other groups, tend to develop, or not, certain “skill stacks” as Scott Adams would say, or certain habits to set aside resources for future opportunities or troubles, or not, value learning and tinkering, or not, value the golden rule and reciprocal fair play, or not, then of course there will be a different distribution of poor, rich, criminal, and law abiding, other than the degree to which it is culture we can maybe demonstrate a different way of doing things.
And if those cultures look at that behavior as too “white” or whatever, and decide not to do it, are we going to force them at the point of a gun?
Back to the main topic. Why the difference in meaning?
Back to those legos, or actually, the lego movie. Sure, the individual creators could go and do amazing things, but for them to work together, they had to establish a common language, a common understanding, and a common plan. This was reflected, in part, by actually having to build something to match a blueprint, if for no other reason than to present a fascade that the guards they were trying to sneak past would understand as “one of their own.” In the language that Jordan Peterson uses, it displayed both the need for chaos and order.
So we do not share a common language with the left anymore, to the extent that things that were simply accepted as virtues are now “microaggressions”, and while it is easy to dismiss these as lone wackos, there is a qualitative difference there. A guy buying explosives, or coordinating with other supposed “lone wolf” jihadis is operating off of common cultural assumtions and touchstones, and often in touch, no matter how indirectly, with others he’s coordinating with, obtaining explosives from, etc. A teacher suspending a student for the shape he chews a pop tart into has to go through a school bureaucracy that doesn’t look at her and tell her she’s nuts, with fellow faculty that doesn’t warn her of the same. Kathy Griffin had to get an entire camera crew on board with her. Colleges publishing microagression guides need a large portion of the faculty and administration to find nothing eye-raising in the contents within.
The common strain, one Jordan Peterson points out, is postmodernism, and the related death cults of leftism. I’ve argued before that socialism, even if believed by well the intentioned, was inherently evil as an ideology of governance. The hundreds of millions of bodies in the name of controlling their own subjects (even when named citizens, what’s that old line about calling a tail a leg?), of controlling acceptable thought, leads to a death of mind, body, and soul on an industrial scale.
Postmodernism doesn’t care about language, or meaning. There is little or no objective truth (but the objective truth of power) and words don’t just mean, Humpty Dumpty style, whatever they wish them to mean, but whatever they wish them to mean at that moment, and something else they wish at another.
Peterson points out they don’t even want to discuss with us, or allow us to speak, but when there “is” a conversation, that is why it is so full of apparent contradiction and hypocrisy.
And that is the part that many conservatives fail to understand. Sure, they can predict the leftist SJW response, but many traditional conservatives don’t have a visceral udnerstanding that to the SJW, they’re not irrational, it is all about power, of them having power over you.