May 15, 2023Liked by Steve QJ

She's also assuming that any white person living today had ancestors who owned slaves, and those slave owning ancestors were miraculously spared death at the hands of the slaves once they were freed. This entails so many bizarre assumptions that I don't even know where to start.

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"She's also assuming that any white person living today had ancestors who owned slaves"

Yep, this kind of collectivism is table stakes for these insane ideologies. People are their groups. Groups are eternally responsible for (or victimised by) anything related to their group. Group dynamics therefore can, and should, be layered onto all individual interactions no matter how irrelevant they might seem.

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May 15, 2023·edited May 15, 2023Liked by Steve QJ

Excellent observations, Steve.

Nothing paralyzes and holds human beings back more than the psychology of victimhood, that your current condition is “somebody else’s fault.” And this holds true even when you ARE a victim of something. This applies to being poor, being a historically oppressed racial minority, being disabled, getting injured by a drunk driver, whatever.

One has to adopt the mindset that if you don’t fix things for yourself, no one will. Without this mindset, human beings are basically dead-on-arrival in terms of personal success.

This is completely consistent with an expectation that a amends should and will be made by the victimizer. But whether that happens is partly out of your control. So advocate for it but focus primarily on yourself, because yourself is the only one you can control.

There is a subset of white liberal progressive that revels in Black victimhood--the Robin DeAngelos of this world. And there is a subset of Black activists that focus on everything but themselves. Ibram X Kendi and his everything is racist universe comes to mind. It’s an infantilizing codependent paralysis that will never improve lives because the very people responsible for improvement them have checked out--that’s someone else’s (the racists) job.

As a white man, maybe it’s naive for me to think that all we need is genuine empathy and deep mutual respect. Empathy means recognizing and acting upon the fact that there is deep unfairness in life and there is an uneven playing field. Respect means that immutable characteristics have no inherent bearing on an individual’s capacity to successfully compete and succeed.

It’s the latter especially that's missing from much of the progressive mindset. It just makes me cringe.

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"And this holds true even when you ARE a victim of something"

I really wish more people would wrap their heads around this point. As you said, this mindset is completely consistent with the pursuit of justice. People act as if these two concepts are mutually exclusive when, in fact, the pursuit of justice, first and foremost, requires the willingness not to see oneself as a victim.

I think you're right in saying what we need is genuine empathy. But sad as I am to say it, I think finding that empathy, at least en masse, is unrealistic. Some people are too selfish to be capable of it, some are too busy with their own lives to have it, and some, like DiAngelo and Kendi, make too much money from weaponising a fake version of it.

"Antiracism" has been absorbed almost completely into the culture wars where the aim isn't to fix anything but simply to "won" the other side.

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May 16, 2023Liked by Steve QJ

You are probably right about empathy “en masse”. I actually don’t think that true empathy can occur that way. Cant, yes. Huge difference between cant and empathy. But it can happen at the individual level millions of times.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the often difficult interplay between true empathy and respect. Is it possible to have one without the other? How can one possibly respect another if one buys into a preexisting narrative about who he/she is instead of recognizing their individuality? And how can one fully empathize without full internal recognition of human commonality?

Many on the Left accuse those on the the far right of racism--that is, having neither empathy nor respect. Reflecting on these questions makes me think that many on the Left are throwing stones from glass houses. For “the soft bigotry of low expectations” certainly evinces no true respect. And without true respect---of human commonality--how can there possibly be true empathy?

It is, as you say Steve, “fake empathy,” or cant.

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"Is it possible to have one without the other? How can one possibly respect another if one buys into a preexisting narrative about who he/she is instead of recognizing their individuality?"

Yeah, I think respect is foundational for pretty much any positive emotion or sense one could have towards another person. And yes, *aaaabsoluuuutely*, this respect is very notably absent among many on the extreme Left just as it is from many on the extreme Right. It just manifests in different ways.

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You might appreciate https://www.city-journal.org/article/the-age-of-cant. Theodore Dalrymple is a truly fascinating individual. He’s been around the block and then some both around the world and as a prison psychiatrist in Britain.

Self righteous scolds almost by definition have the least skin in the game.

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Reading Thomas Sowell's book "Black Rednecks & White Liberals," and he makes the point that encouraging a black sense of victimhood helps keep them, on some level, down. An idea which I'm sure many white liberals would hotly deny (and honestly believe) but I think there may be some truth to that, especially for the DiAngelos of the world.

In the '60s sociologists identified what they called the 'Tarzan/Amazon Queen' complex in which white liberal civil rights activists saw themselves as white leaders leading the poor, oh-pressed black people to liberation, centering the kudos on themselves, and unconsciously assuming they were too stupid or oh-pressed to do it themselves. I see that complex *still* in white liberals who buy into the racist notion that black people can't help themselves (and which the Kendis et al of the world happily encourage). That way if you fail, it's not your fault. It's *never* your fault.

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I need to read the Sowell book. Thank you.

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You might also like The Content of our Character - Shelby Steele. A short read at <200 pages but way too insightful to race through.

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May 16, 2023·edited May 16, 2023

Both books are fabulous! And, what you described above is paternalism, writ large. I say, stop patting these people on the head. Look them in the eye and shake their hand instead.

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May 15, 2023Liked by Steve QJ

Awesome once again, Steve QJ.

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Madame is sadly ignorant of history. She missed the hundreds of slave rebellions that occurred in the US and the Caribbean before the ending of slavery. I seem to recall in the book '1493' they detailed some smaller plots by slaves to murder the slaveowner and his family, but I'd have to look it up.

Anyway, justified fears of slave uprisings were a fact of life for slaveowners back then (probably everywhere else too, but I'm not that up on the history).

Mystal's theoretical females would have found themselves in legal trouble had they pulled off a revenge killing or effing up, at the time or later. At the time might classify it as a crime of passion, but a week later it becomes premeditated.

But all this aside, she does cling to her victimhood like a security blanket, ignoring how much her own ancestors might have been slave owners, and I'm excluding the white ones who raped her ancestors. It's always whitey's fault, rather the way some feminists forever blame 'the patriarchy'.

As I learned in Al-Anon years ago, "You explore the reasons why you're mad at your alcoholic parent, relative, partner etc., but how much are you going to let it control your life? You can't move forward until you put it behind you."

Which is only one of many reasons why slave reparations are a supremely stupid idea. Or to Indigenous, to women, whoever. At some point the buck stops at the mirror.

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"Madame is sadly ignorant of history"

😅Sadly, I think you could say this about 90% of the conversations I have online. "Wokeness" is an absolutely perfect example of the phrase, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

But yes, it's not even about the history of slavery. I understand why some black people in America are so fixated on the injustices America perpetrated on black people. It's about how relevant this injustices are to her life today. Ive spoken to people, who couldn't be older than 20, who nonetheless act as if they experienced slavery and segregation firsthand.

I just don't understand what there is to be gained by this mindset. Except the eternal perpetuation of a victimhood mindset that actually holds black people back.

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I like your reframe, Steve. The generations later framing is more analogous.

But the hypothetical scenario was misleading from the start - if we pause a moment, we can see that it conflates the rational concept of self defense (which can include protecting oneself from grave bodily harm) with the emotional concept of revenge.

To see the difference, suppose that the three women had managed to escape to safety when the captor was off site, and deliberately never reported it to the police, but then a week later they armed themselves and went back to slice up their former captor, as revenge for the terrible things he had done. In our legal system, that would not be justified self defense, but in some revenge oriented societies that would be fully justified. By putting the escape and the revenge in one event, the reader is guided to emotionally give in to their revenge instincts, while rationally justifying it as self defense. Because of the emotional charge the setup created, most readers would answer "yes" based on revenge instincts, without it even occurring to first ask the rational question "was it necessary to kill him in order to escape?". Who cares, it felt good to take revenge, don't be a wet blanket.

Revenge is not a small part of the human psyche. There's a whole genre of action movies where a peaceable but super dangerous man has his family harmed, and turns into an extreme killing machine to destroy everybody in the organization who did that. He can take the audience to an orgy of violence porn which they are free to wallow in because - revenge! So the desire for revenge based on harm to one's family or tribe (even many years ago), is very humanly understandable - but that doesn't mean that systemically indulging it results in creating a better society.

I mention this because a lot of the sentiment of the "generations later" frame come down to some emotional need for a form of inter-tribal revenge, rather than a rational question of engaging all societal stakeholders in finding the most effective policies for creating a better shared future. That desire for revenge is closer to honor killings in motivation - your tribe has done something bad to our tribe in the past, and we need to punish you in order to restore our self respect and make other tribes fear us. If it's going to be money, it's got to be enough to hurt.

In that covert revenge context, it can seem "generous" that "we only want money, you should be very appreciative that we are not looking for blood, which we would morally be entitled to, given our grievance". But the "up to $1.2million per person" that the California reparations panel is suggesting, or the "$5 million per person + 250 years of income boosts to median income + pay off all debts + buy housing for $1 + exemption from taxes" that the San Francisco reparations committee wants, can still feel like they are really entitled to far more so they are letting the perps off easy.

There's a video of a hearing in which a man testifying to the panel angrily tells the room that Black people deserve at least $200 million each for the indignities they (or their ancestors) suffered.

Having followed the deliberations of those panels, I see no real sense that they seek or can even foresee ever "repairing" relations and letting go of the grievances they use to define themselves, even if they got the compensations they demand. No amount of money would heal the wounds they cling to; at most it would be treated like a down payment - or like the first payment to a blackmailer who still retains the photos. They might love to get a bonanza of money (unlikely in a state and city facing large structural deficits and multiracial electorates unsympathetic to the proposed funding), but I believe their real world expectation is to use the radical "amount due" as a multigenerational club and moral high ground reinforcement in a thousand other disputes.

Appeasing a tribal need for revenge is nearly impossible. All the more so if holding onto the grievance instead continues to pay off indefinitely.

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"we can see that it conflates the rational concept of self defense (which can include protecting oneself from grave bodily harm) with the emotional concept of revenge"

Yeah, maybe my revenge instincts are stronger than yours, but I honestly can't bring myself to object to this. Yes, the law says it's wrong, and I fully understand *why* the law says it's wrong, but I couldn't begin to condemn those women for going back and taking revenge.

I fully recognise that it's not self defence. I think Wilma would probably recognise that too. But in my heart of hearts, I'd be cheering for them to get their revenge on somebody who hurt them so badly if that's what they wanted. The issue is, who are they taking revenge *on*?

Slaves who killled their "masters," even if they did so after they were freed, it's very hard for me to find fault there. But if they Kellie their master's children? That's a whole other matter. Never mind their masters' great-great grandchildren. It's this irrational leap that I have a problem with. Which is also why the reparations conversation is such a mess.

Don't get me wrong, black people absolutely deserved reparations when they walked off the plantations. The fact that they didn't get them is a hideous injustice. And if I could see a sensible way to correct that injustice, I'd advocate for it fiercely. I just don't see any sensible way 158 years after the fact.

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Let's note that we are not disagreeing about 158 years later, OK? Take that point as a given.

We are perhaps trying to nuance around concepts of revenge and self-defense, thoughts inspired by but not contradicting your main point above.

I am human, and I recognize the tug of revenge justification in the scenario in myself as well. However, I can feel the tug of a lot of emotions or conditionings which I decide not to follow as a path (not just speaking about actions, but also where I choose to direct my mind).

I have read contemporary accounts of lynchings, and typically the emotions involved are very similar to the ones in the three women scenario, amplified by crowd dynamics - regardless of the race of the person being lynched. (Keep that in mind - I'm talking about lynch dynamics in general, not just racial ones!!)

Often the perceived offense as indeed horrible (not just a minor slight, the extreme case that activist like to imagine typical in order to inspire outrage and overriding of critical thinking), and people's revenge reflexes over-rode their rationality and humanity. Not rarely, they may well have hung an actually guilty party, even somebody who could have been convicted and executed, but of course the revenge seeking emotional state often doesn't want to pause and assess facts or alternatives - so they too easily may harm somebody who is innocent, or exact disproportionate revenge.

In that light, I'm wary of the human propensity to imagine atrocities in order to indulge revenge fantasies. I have mentioned the movie genre. But this hypothetical is similar - three women who had escaped to safety, but rather than going to police to have society deal with it, decide to exact personal revenge by "slicing up" their captor. I can *understand* that (just as I can understand the lynch mob's passions, or a road rage), but I don't *endorse* it.

But going one step further, I don't seek to imagine scenarios which are extreme enough to allow me to set aside all civilized restraint and exact personal revenge. Like combining "prolonged" "kidnapping" "rape" "torture" to create the most extreme case imaginable to feed to one's revenge instincts. For me that's like the extreme gun nut who imagines using their weapons to kill Arab terrorists who were in the process of abusing his daughter.

And this is just me describing my own reflections, please don't think I'm imputing any similarities or dissimilarities to other people.

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"We are perhaps trying to nuance around concepts of revenge and self-defense, thoughts inspired by but not contradicting your main point above."

No, as I said, I fully recognise that this hypothetical isn't self defence. I just honestly don't care all that much. I'm speaking as an individual, not the legal system.

We're not talking about perceived offences or imagined slights. Or at least I'm not. Those are separate issues that we'd probably agree on. But Wilma's example was specifically about slaves killing their masters or women who have been raped and tortured killing their tormentor. She asked how I felt about those specific examples. But I then pointed out that her examples were poor analogies for black people hating white people 158 years after slavery.

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This is very astute. I have often said that woke is about revenge more than anything else. You unpacked my broad assertion nicely. Thank you!

Also, as a victim of child abuse, I have to say, overcoming a victim mindset, no matter the genesis/catalyst, is a very tough spiritual path. Particularly if the people who abused you aren't willing to admit it or repent - which would make forgiveness much easier because at least the harm would be "acknowledged."

I recently confronted one of my abusers (there were several since I had bio, foster, and adoptive parents) to no avail. So, now it's on me to figure out how to move forward without the harm ever being acknowledged. I know the right path is to forgive and move on. But, I don't feel this in my heart. It's a tough nut to crack.

I get the desire for revenge. I also see that it's not a solution. Justified rage is seductive and feels good - probably a chemical high in the brain.

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I think you are right.

> "I have to say, overcoming a victim mindset, no matter the genesis/catalyst, is a very tough spiritual path"

This. And especially if much of the culture encourages you to hang onto it.

I have come to consider "foregiveness" as letting oneself off the hook, rather than letting the other person(s) off the hook. It's not "earned" by them, it's something the harmed person does for themselves - reducing the ongoing harm to their own psyche. That doesn't mean it's easy. And I'm not speaking down as superior!

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Superior - of course not. We are chewing on this, exchanging catalyzed thoughts and feelings. No worries on that front. And you have a good point. Repentance is typically a precursor to forgiveness. But, it can't always be had. What do you do then? You have to find a way to let go so that focusing on your pain doesn't consume you.

One of the reasons I am so impacted by woke ideology is because I know the path of overcoming significant harm and I have deep, deep empathy for anyone who is struggling with this path. Particularly those who are stuck in rage, a justifiable and natural response to harm, particularly if the perps won't admit it (which some in our culture won't).

But I also know you can throw your life away if you stay stuck and that you have to move out of this emotion in order to heal and create anything new. That is the carrot that helped me. I am an artist and wish to create. In order to do this, I have to open to receive - ideas and inspiration - and if I am stuck in rage, I can't do this.

I wish we could do a truth and reconciliation effort like they did in South Africa - where people who were harmed came forward and publicly told their stories and shared their grief. I know it didn't heal everything and there are still many problems in SA related to apartheid. But, there was catharsis for a great many. And catharsis is what we need in order to move toward forgiveness.

I also think we should fund free therapy for black communities as part of any reparations package.

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I wish you well on your path to healing; it's clear that you are making it a spiritual journey, for positive growth not just healing.

Many people have had to do their forgiveness and self healing with no chance of repentance or even engagement - because the other person is no longer alive. Sometimes people use chair work, or a proxy. That didn't work for me (at least in my limited experience), but it does for some.

As for your last sentence - alas, I would not necessarily trust the kind of therapy such funding would likely favor. I've been seeing stuff about social justice ideology taking over therapy, too. Not all therapists, tho, I'm sure.

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One of my parental units is dead, so I get that. It is harder but confronting them doesn't always lead to emotional catharsis (as I discovered recently). My spiritual studies suggest the moving the emotion around the wound is the key - whether the person caused the harm is there or not. You have to tell the truth about how you feel - to yourself, or an enlightened witness, or a therapist - whomever. Once you feel heard, you can grapple with what to do next.

And, yes. I have deep concerns about therapists using shaming techniques with patients who are already struggling with shame. I think they will lead some to suicide. I hope they get sued for malpractice. I think this is the only way to stop the toxic zealotry. License for therapists to dehumanize people - to ignore people's humanity. Who would have thunk it in the modern era? The world is upside down.

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Yesterday in a conversation with my wife about the past the discrimination, prejudice including denial of service she faced when coming to America came up. Actually, I mentioned it. I have no doubt that anyone reading this will underestimate what it was like for a brown Southeast Asian in 1970 while the war in Vietnam was still in progress and we lived below the Mason-Dixon line.

Her comment that ended that conversation, "Past is past. I can go anywhere I want now."

Are there still occasional issues? During covid she had a bottle thrown at her and in a store she never returned to, she was followed around by a store employee (not trying to be helpful) like she thought the little brown lady was going to steal something. Yes, bigotry persists, but to compare it to 50 or 150 years ago is absurd. A tempest in a tea pot by comparison.

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"Yes, bigotry persists, but to compare it to 50 or 150 years ago is absurd"

This. Well...mostly this. It shouldn't be forgotten that some people of colour in some parts of America have experiences far worse that that of your wife. And live in circumstances that are directly related to things like redlining that you wouldn't necessarily see. Racism isn't a fixed quantity that affects everybody the same.

But I'm very confident in saying that almost everybody privileged enough to be writing pseudo-intellectual books about racism or waxing lyrical about it in the comments sections of my articles has never faced anything more serious than you're describing here. In fact, some of the people who most fiercely hold the idea of rejecting victimhood have had it the hardest.

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May 15, 2023Liked by Steve QJ

If you want to see an example of this in action, look at these people:


Indigenous tribes had the same kind of trouble as black folks, and it wasn't til the '70's that the practice of their religion got legalised. Just think about that for a moment - in the "land of the free", they could go to jail for running a sweatlodge.

Genocide was planned - their children were stolen away, put in residential schools, beaten for speaking their own language, abused and sent back into the world without their culture or their identity, or any concept of how to raise successful kids.

The treaties the US government signed with them were signed with this in mind - no need to worry about what you're promising because they won't be there to collect anyway.

Indigenous women are still victimised at a higher rather than other groups - murdered, abused, imprisoned, you name it. Some are still being sterilised without their consent, by the same sort of people who demonise abortion.

And yet many of them - men & women - refuse to be beaten down. Look back at the history of Standing Rock.

Many young indigenous people are getting themselves qualified as lawyers - to go back to those same treaties & demand justice.

There are many from the tribes who struggle, but the tribes as a whole are not giving up. Not ever.

As a white women from the UK, I was expecting to be at best tolerated when I started supporting the Standing Rock protests, but instead I found there was a place made for me to join the fight over the internet, acknowledging the damage my forebears had done but using my skills and educating me about both history & culture. We did a lot of learning, all of us.

Is there a place or a time where there's been a similar coming-together on the wider race issue in the US? It ought to have happened with BLM, but that it seems was a washout. Will the fight in Georgia over the "police city" be the one?

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"Is there a place or a time where there's been a similar coming-together on the wider race issue in the US? It ought to have happened with BLM, but that it seems was a washout."

No, no coming together that I'm aware of. And yes, tragically BLM seemed largely about making the divide between black people and white people as wide and unbridgeable as possible. This despite the fact that police brutality affects everybody, black, white, and all shades in between.

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I wonder, do you have a sense of what majority black opinion is on questions like this? I hope a lot of folks feel the way you do, Steve. I really hope that! However, I worry that many may also feel the way Wilma here does.

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"do you have a sense of what majority black opinion is on questions like this?"

My sense is that even people like Wilma don't truly feel this way. It's fascinating the change that comes over people online versus when you sit down face to face, and have a conversation in person. A lot of people use the online world as a place to vent their frustrations and insecurities. I've had quite a few conversations where I just became an avatar for all the bad things that ever happened in somebody's life.

All that to say, I think most black people don't buy into this victimhood nonsense at all. But for those who spend a lot of time online, there's a very concerted effort to convince them that nothing has changed since the 1800s and some take comfort in pretending to believe it. It's really notable how many young people (<25) I speak to who claim with a straight face that racism has never been worse than today.

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Do you have a theory about the source of this concerted effort? Like is this benefitting someone, somewhere? And if so, who?

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It's just profitable. It's very easy to gain money and attention by peddling this oppression narrative if you have a little talent as a writer. And with the pre-existing racial tensions in America, stirring up emotions about white-black racism (note even how rarely articles about other types of racism appear in the media) it's a reliable button to push when you want clicks.

I don't think there's an overarching conspiracy, just a lot of people writing articles designed to inspire that most social media friendly of emotions; outrage.

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