May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

"We’re in the insane position in 2022, where ordinary people are tying to argue their way into marginalised groups. They claim that they’re oppressed because they don’t perfectly conform to some stereotype that most of us have long since moved beyond. And then build a new “identity” around that “oppression.”"

This is excellent.

"But far from wanting society to stay out of their lives, they demanded it participate in their sense of identity"

So is this.

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I once saw a meme that said something like... If you identify as non-binary, aren't you splitting the world into "binary" and "non-binary," which would be.... another binary?

I think it's totally valuable to continue challenging and defying gender norms. Even questioning why we use different pronouns for people based on our assessment of their sex/gender. But the idea that this is some innate way of being, something that makes you both special and an oppressed class, as opposed to just a political perspective seems- odd.

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May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Author

"Even questioning why we use different pronouns for people based on our assessment of their sex/gender"

I've always taken this to just be about ease of identification. If I'm talking about somebody whose name I don't know, I'll refer to them by their gendered pronoun. If that doesn't whittle it down enough, I'll use other things like their height or the colour of their skin or what they were wearing. Also, even if I do know their name, it's clunky to refer to them by name at all times so he/she is easier on the ear.

I find the politicisation of pronouns so strange! They're such a benign, purely descriptive part of speech as far as I'm concerned.

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Jul 6, 2022·edited Jul 19, 2022

Thank you, Steve, for being a voice of reason and humanity on this topic and for creating a forum for thoughtful, respectful conversation. I have been scouring the internet over the last 10 days, wanting to find my way to clarity, and though I have found a lot of passionate, evocative perspectives, they have been alarming and not that helpful. I am looking to understand. This comment encapsulates a key aspect of what I have been feeling and not knowing how to articulate. I am grateful.

I am here, because recently, my autistic son shared that he wanted to change his pronouns shortly after his mentor had told my son that he was changing his.

Initially, I thought that I could let this run its course. After all, this is the typical identity exploration of an adolescent. As I research the gender identity debate, though, I am becoming increasingly nervous. Will this escalate? If so, do I have to tread around the issue rather than directly challenge my son’s thinking when he has built a strong belief from what he hears from his peers, school, mentor etc? Can I help him to shake loose the dogmatic and dangerous aspects of this identity exploration without setting off an alarm with outsiders who have no bearing whatsoever on our choices, but feel that they do?

Rather than this remaining a private family matter, my son’s exploration could become visible to the systems we belong in. These are fraught with so much emotional, political and social charge, black and white, and us vs. them thinking. In managing this for my family, I have to account for the erosion of parental oversight when schools are allowed to socially transition children without parents knowledge or consent. If we need to get any support for him as he moves through the challenges of puberty, I risk having to fight with therapists and doctors who are instructed to encourage my child and pressure us onto a path of radical medicalization despite very little scientific research to assess the cost/benefit. All this, when all my son has done is pick up on the zeitgeist.

It is alarming that rather than question the systemic forces that are leading to unprecedented numbers of children coming out as trans, we are to automatically affirm their new gender identity without acknowledging or treating the root causes of their dysphoria and distress.

Thank you for creating a space where I can read grounding perspectives, hear from others who are thoughtfully challenging the rigid, un-nuanced narratives that prevail. As a parent embarking on this involuntary adventure, I will need all the sanity that I can get.

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I just also remembered this video (https://youtu.be/uyp0nBY_lBs) which is aimed specifically at parents, from the perspective of a detransitioned woman who was diagnosed with autism.

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Jul 6, 2022·edited Jul 6, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

Steve, thank you for your compassionate and generous response and the two links you shared. I will look at them and forward them to my husband.

Yes, I agree that being supportive of my son rather than oppositional is important here. I am working to get clarity in my own mind and to work through my anxiety and fears so that I can settle myself and continue to be a safe and understanding resource to him. We’ve always been close and I will continue to be his biggest champion.

I agree with you on limiting internet use. It is a must given all the potential pitfalls and dangers of the internet, and my husband and I already do this. We are also clear that medicalization is an absolute no for all the reasons that you list. He will be able to make more informed choices as an adult. Our job is to get him there as whole and healthy as possible.

Finally, I appreciate your comment about my son perhaps taking some of these ideas literally. It’s quite possible. One inquiry we want to open with him is around gender stereotypes and how breaking gender norms might mean accepting that both men and women can be anything they want to be. It’s what we genuinely believe and we would love for him to feel that he can be fully himself, as he is.

Thanks again for sharing your insights and resources with me!

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"One inquiry we want to open with him is around gender stereotypes and how breaking gender norms might mean accepting that both men and women can be anything they want to be. It’s what we genuinely believe and we would love for him to feel that he can be fully himself, as he is."

This is a mindset I desperately want to see adopted more widely. The idea that a boy becomes a girl simply because he likes stereotypically feminine things reinforces the exact gender stereotypes and limitations we should be breaking down.

I hope this, especially, is a useful way for him to think through these issues. I'm sure he won't get this perspective very often from the other influences around him. Best of luck navigating this. Let me know if any other questions come up that you think I might be able to help with.

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Seems to me we got over these Ward & June gender stereotypes fifty years ago.

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"I am here, because two months ago, my 12 year old son shared that, after a lot of introspection, he wanted to change his pronouns to she/him (I know, I did a double take too). This came a month after his adult mentor (they are both autistic) had told my son that he was changing pronouns from she/her to he/him."

Hi there! Welcome, first of all. Yeah, this is an incredibly challenging time for parents especially. The desire to support they children vs the fear of what this ideology might end up doing to them is a horrible place to be.

There is a wide range of advice on the topic of how to support a child who is being exposed to this ideology. Some suggest limiting or removing internet access. Which, if feasible, I think is a good step. There is a wealth of deeply irresponsible advice online. And if your son really is trans, he will be trans without the influence of people only a few years older than him putting ideas in his head.

Others suggest compassionately refusing to use opposite gender pronouns. Scott Newgent, a transgender man, has an interesting take on this (https://youtu.be/iDJ-12h-0Jc?t=311). Scott offers a lot of advice to parents navigating this issue, so I'd recommend checking him out.

But having said all that, the key piece of advice I'd offer is not to become adversarial to your child's exploration. There is sooooooo much rhetoric out there that frames any resistance or questioning as hatred. Your son will inevitably be exposed to it. And it's often used as justification to cut that person out of the process. "Parents just don't understand," turned up to 11.

As with all things, this process will be better if your son always feels that he can talk to you about what he's going through. This doesn't mean you shouldn't explore his thinking with him, but phrasing challenges in the form of questions rather than statements might be helpful.

Children who start questioning their gender later in life are unlikely to be suffering from genuine dysphoria. This is supported by the fact that your son has asked for such unusual pronouns and that the change seems likely to have been precipitated by his mentor. I desperately hope I'm not about to say something ignorant and/or offensive here, but autistic people are also over-represented in the trans/non-binary community and I think it has to do with the greater chance that he'll take certain concepts literally. It's easier, perhaps, to bridge that gap from "this is a girly thing to do" to "this makes me a girl."

Obviously I don't know your son, so sadly I can't give you any definitive advice. But I'd say this; you know your son better than the doctors and therapists that might end up speaking to him in the future. You know him better than his teachers. Listen to and support him, as you obviously will, but I'd leave decisions about medical transition until he's an adult and can really make that decision for himself (again, the video I linked above has some nice insights on this). Puberty blockers are not "completely reversible" as you will likely be told. And once a child has been placed on that medical pathway, they almost always continue on it.

If transition turns out to be right for your son, it's possible to achieve completely convincing results post-puberty. There is no rush. Allow him to take his time. Anybody who doesn't support your desire to do that doesn't seem likely to have his best interests at heart.

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I've been waiting for this article! Really appreciate it.

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I still use LGB. As you said, the gender-defiant really have little to do with those of us with same0sex attractions and mingling us into one group is artificial. And the rest .. LGBTQIA+[this space reserved] is simply ridiculous. The Q is a deal-breaker for me, The Q and the N words are interchangeably vile in my view.

There is a failure here. Gay lives are lonely lives. Gay public territories were never social outlets, they were stand-and-look gatherings, and anyone thirty or over could expect absolutely vicious treatment. It's hard to find someone you can get along with and even though gay relationships are more stable if they last three years, not many do.

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May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Author

"Gay lives are lonely lives"

Oh really? I'm not doubting you at all, I've just never heard this. What makes you say this?

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May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

It's much discussed recently.

I haven't been to a gay bar since 1996. I did my year of clubbing to get at 42 the adolescence I hadn't had at 18, one night I looked at myself in one of the mirrors that lined the club, said "I'm done," grabbed my shirt and walked out.

My understanding is that it's all fizzling out, and frankly I think this is a good thing, but a lot of gays are single and live alone; one article I read compared the stress of that life to smoking fifteen cigarettes per day.

But the gay life even when I was embedded in it wasn't very wholesome. It was aggressively shallow, encouraging of immaturity and compulsiveness, more ageist than any corporation and with a much lower threshold.

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Thanks Chris, yeah, this is one of those things that's harder to see for people who have different experiences.

Your comment about getting the adolescence you didn't have at 18 made me consider more deeply what it must have been like for gay men growing up even 20 years ago in a society that was so much less accepting than today.

And yeah, the added complexity of meeting somebody (and just the smaller size of the gay population) must inevitably lead to more loneliness.

And yes, I completely agree with you about the Q. As in many other cases, I'm struck by the way the people who are so insistent that everybody uses the language that makes them feel most warm and fuzzy inside, are utterly indifferent to the way the language they use makes others feel.

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It wasn't being gay that denied me an adolescent experience at the usual age; I was barely beginning to realize I was gay until almost 19, I had girlfriends before,. But I had a severe stutter, now vestigial, and it inhibited me a lot.

But living in an unaccepting society never bothered me for a moment. My adoption of the mannerisms was very brief and I could "pass"; more accurately I had no reason to project my orientation and have never regarded it as a significant part of my identity, I m more a musician and a lover of science and animals than a gay man. I had "faggot" yelled at me exactly once,

At 42 I had just been through a bad breakup and gotten myself into incredible physical condition and no more stutter so I hit the clubs and probably took a few years off my life from the cigarette smoke. But I got a lot out of my system.

The Q word: I think younger gays have grown up with it and see it as normal, to me it means Matthew Shepherd (who was seeking to die) and friends who were bashed into the hospital. But the first generation to adopt it, I am convinced, were simply moving into the post acceptance phase of the defiant belligerence that gave us ACT-UP and "in your face"; to them there was no dirtier word in the language than assimilation and since being gay was no longer shocking they needed a way to shock.

After my late adolescence I pretty much withdrew from gay activism as I had withdrawn from the public territories, learning as I did how many gays didn't want to be assimilated, they wanted the enclave society, the oppression mentality. They wanted to feel Special. When I read more and more that marriage was a "str8" institution and that we had something better (yeah, bathhouses) I just tuned out.

That the bathhouses were not closed when we learned of HIV just horrified me.

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Matthew Shepard wasn't a victim of gay-bashing. He knew his murderer and no one in Laramie believes the guy was homophobic because he was a well-known bisexual in the area. Furthermore, he and Matthew had had sex together already (sometimes under sort of weird circumstances). Shepard's death was a drug-related murder. Lots of crazy shit going down in Laramie. Read The Book of Matt, by Stephen Jiminez, a gay journalist, if you haven't already.

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Shepherd was killed by two people, so right out the gate this book is wrong.

The guy had a death wish. He liked to come on to straight men, often violent-looking ones; he had been bashed several times but never stopped. When on a school trip to Morocco he'd snuck out at night looking for sex and gotten gang-raped. He was self-destructive and got turned on by risk.

No I am not saying he deserved what he got. Nobody does. But I am saying he summoned it.

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Yesterday I had an anesthesia surgery and I'm in pain and under the influence, so instead of giving my thoughts on this I am going to leave a link to a talk by Sebastian Junger. Some might not get the relevance right away but by the end you should. People want and even need to belong to a tribe. https://youtu.be/agNwB5xR9H4

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Also, sorry to hear you're not in peak condition. Hope the surgery went well? Looking forward to having your voice back here at full strength😁

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Hey Dave! Thanks for this, absolutely fascinating video. This is my main criticism of today's tribalism, it isn't people who actually know or care about or look out for each other. In many cases, the only thing that unites them is their dislike for another loosely defined group.

Today's tribalism, especially on social media, is a very different breed from what Junger describes. In fact, it seems to make people *more* anxious and unhappy instead of less.

That said, it really makes you think about our society when people can prefer such difficult conditions to the conditions we perceive as "normal."

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I think what's he said about contempt is key. Disagreement is one thing but contempt is poisonous.

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Yep, absolutely true. That was my favourite insight from the talk.

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Hope you're feeling better!

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Thank you. I'll be one pain for a while. I just mentioned out because pain and opioids will affect participation in the commentary community for a while. This is an example of a nice tribe of people seeking positive solutions in a hostile world. I value it. Steve is a wonderful guide here.

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One thing I really like about Steve's newsletter is it's a good place to connect with and compare notes with our like-minded tribe. Those of us who are as tired of the excesses of the left as of the right, and who don't care if you're left and right as long as you're not crazy :)

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Heal and be well.

I was on one of those oxys after tendon surgery. I hated it.

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Thank you. This will have me in pain for a while. Thanks to the life I've lived pain is an old friend. Maybe it's my age, this is taking it's toll. I'll be reading

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May 14, 2022Liked by Steve QJ

At an emotional level, I feel my reaction to non-binary probably similar to yours... too much ado about something that needs to be shouted about much less, and simply lived.

Still I am having trouble following your logic here. Supposed I belonged to a Frat filled with boozers and stoners. At parties folks would often bring me weed or beer, but it turns out I don't do either of these things, and I told the person bring the goods I am not a boozer or a stoner, no thanks.

It would be odd to say that I was upholding this division simply because I referred to a division that already existed in my response. You might say to me, hey Dan you shouldn't ever talk about boozers nor stoners, those are made up categories... you just be you. I would say, sure, but often people are trying to put me into these categories, so I need to reference those categories in order to say I don't fit them. Indeed if 95% of the frat was either a boozer or a stoner... it would make sense for me to create a new term the non-ers that would refer to me any my 5% buddies. I WOULD become an identity for me in this frat.... regardless of it I wanted to be my identity or not. Anytime you make visible choice that refutes assumptions made by 95% of the population you will be identified according to that 5% group.

Now you can say these guys WANT to be different, and WANT to have a special identity, thus they are shouting this distinction loudly. Ok, I can see how you might have that belief.... that could indeed be true. BUT even if it were NOT true, and they really did not want it to be a point of identity, IT STILL WOULD BE ONE.

The only way it will not be a point of identity is for the rest of us to stop caring about gender at all. If gender became as unimportant as say whether your ear lobed connects to your skull with an acute or obtuse angle, THEN a non-binary person could be non-binary and not bother to mention it. But as long as we humans mostly do put people into male and female buckets and care about that designation, then these others will stick out, REGARDLESS of what they do, or say.

Summary: Non-binary people are not upholding gender norms when the say they don't apply, any more than I am upholding boozer/stoner expectations when I say that this distinction does not apply to me.... even if I create a new word to refer to the minority group that does not fit into the boozer/stoner distinction, I STILL don't think I am upholding the distinction, rather I am simply acknowledging that this distinction DOES presently exist.

NOTE: The issue of race is one I care about. This gender thing is very weird for me... I cannot get excited about it. I was just trying to follow your logic here and I could not.

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May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Author

"It would be odd to say that I was upholding this division simply because I referred to a division that already existed in my response. You might say to me, hey Dan you shouldn't ever talk about boozers nor stoners, those are made up categories... you just be you."

Hmm, this is a pretty flawed analogy I think. Wouldn't the equivalent be, "Sorry, I don't 'man'"?

When you say you don't drink, you're referring to a specific activity and saying you don't engage in that activity (nobody even assumes you literally don't drink, we know you're talking about alcohol). If you choose never to drink alcohol, you are not a "drinker."

But if you say you're not a man, despite being an adult human male, what are you saying? What aspect of your behaviour or self is disqualifying you from this category? After all, being a man is not a specific activity. Or an activity at all.

I am a man. I don't like getting drunk or watching sports. I'm comfortable talking about my emotions. I think fighting is stupid and immature. Whether or not I choose to engage in activities stereotypically associated with "manliness," I'm still a man. So if I say "I'm not a man because I don't like sports and getting drunk," I'm saying, by implication, that men are supposed to do these things. This is what I mean by reinforcing the stereotype.

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I don't drink either (I smoked weed until I moved to another country, though) and I have the same problem. In the USA there are now a lot more people who don't drink but at work Xmas parties it could get really uncomfortable and in Vietnam there is almost no such thing as a man who doesn't drink, and no such thing as any social gathering without beer.

If I say "I don't drink" they hear "I won't drink with you."

I had to do court-ordered counseling for weed once and by mistake they told me I needed to attend AA meetings, and gave me a booklet of meeting places and schedules. It was astonishing how many there were, a half dozen within a mile of my rural house, places I drove by every day.

There are a LOT of people having trouble with alcohol.

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> "Anytime you make visible choice that refutes assumptions made by 95% of the population you will be identified according to that 5% group."

I understand that point. I think however that there is an underlying assumption which I find questionable.

Current neo-progressive ideology attempts to reframe individual personality traits, desires, proclivities, and aversions into intersectional group "identities". Rather than allowing each person to simply self describe their nearly unique and potentially changing personal set of traits, they are pushed to consider each of those traits as instead being "membership in a community of people who have that trait", with that membership being reified as a component of one's very "identity" as a human being.

Going a bit further for illustration purposes, if this trend were to continue, people would eventually begin considering their choice of beer or toothpaste brands part of their "identity", and consider themselves part of the Dr Pepper "community" rather than simply liking that soft drink.

I believe this reframing is tactical even if unconscious. It gains a kind of rhetorical moral leverage; one might praise or critique an individual trait, but to question somebody's "identity" is to violate them, to "erase them", to "other" them.

I've seen a similar trend in some circles where some reframe not getting their preferences met as "crossing their boundaries", because crossing somebody's boundaries is a big no-no, so people have to comply with what one wants, or be labeled as a kind of aggressor violating civilized norms. The payoff of that tactic is obvious, even though in most cases completely unconscious (we humans are often unaware the strategies our psyches adopt, whether functional or dysfunctional).

In your comment, you appear to be falling into the trait=>identity reframing habit, and I wish to challenge whether that is a productive approach to reasoning our way out of this mess.

That is, I think the conundrum you are presenting (where somebody is forced to "identify" as non-binary even if they don't internally resonate with it) is in large part a negative artifact of this common yet dysfunctional "identity" reframing, rather than being an inherent problem. That is, the quandary is created by the reframing.

Rather than directly saying the straightforward, flexible and nuanced "well, I never smoke cannabis nowadays (tho I did in High School), but I occasionally have a glass of wine and rarely hard alcohol, but I don't like most beers", you feel forced to define yourself in terms of competing and overlapping "identity groups", a clumsy and imprecise reframing which I believe is better rejected than institutionalized.

I do not consider that tactical fad to be psychologically healthy, nor intellectually robust.

Coleman Hughes said something a while back when asked if he identified as conservative or liberal; I don't have the exact wording but the gist was "we need to have the flexibility to decide issues on their merits and to change our opinions as new evidence arises, rather than fossilizing our current opinions into an essential part of our being or identity" (my paraphrase).

I get that. For most of my decades on this planet, I thought of myself as a progressive liberal leftist, and assorted myself into communities with similar proclivities. As I have come to question the current views and prescriptions of that group, it becomes difficult - there are pressures to either ideologically conform or lose one's "identity" and "community". Only the strongly independent can break away.

Reframing traits, preferences, opinions etc into parts of our "identity" has the payoff of making them "hard to criticize without boundary crossing", but it also makes changing them in the face of evolving evidence and reasoning rather more difficult - any change becomes a challenge to one's very identity and group membership. It fosters "lock-in".

Is it any surprise that adopting this rhetorical ploy has resulted in an increasingly dogmatic neoprogressive left, where even disagreement on strategy is morally stigmatized?

I think we can have more productive discussions of sex, gender, race, etc if we back away from the tendency to reframe life into membership in various intersecting identity groups. I contend that this reframing misleads us and takes us down unproductive paths.

Does that mean that there is NOTHING one can call an identity? No, we don't have to go to the opposite extreme. But we should be very careful before telling our psyches that some trait or preference is now part of our very essence, because it leads to inflexible thinking, and conundrums like the one you express, where you reason yourself into being forced to "identify as" a a member of the non-stoner, non-drinker identity grouup, even if you don't want to, rather than simply describing your individual traits or preferences.

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Your response is well thought out, and there is a lot to like in it. But let me pick on a few key parts of it:

you wrote:

“… there is an underlying assumption which I find questionable. Current neo-progressive ideology attempts to reframe individual personality traits, desires, proclivities, and aversions into intersectional group "identities".

This mis-characterizes reality:

- All organisms with basic cognitive processing tend to group things as a way of understanding and operating in the world.

- Further, any organisms (like humans) that can gain resource/reproductive advantage via collaborative strategies will centrally focus upon, manage, and optimize their group affinities and indirectly the group affinities of others. Group affinity & identity is and always will be their single most important aspect of their social life.

So there is nothing new going on here.

I wish to challenge whether that is a productive approach to reasoning our way out of this mess.

Hehe, and if gravity didn’t always point down, we could save so much power when flying planes. Challenge either all you want, neither will change.

Steve wishes that humans would select different group identities. Identities that more closely connect with attributes that he (and I) view as more meaningful/beneficial groupings. Sure I can get behind that agenda too. Still down thru history, humans have had some pretty irrelevant/dumb identities… in broad strokes I think we are moving in a positive (meritocratic) direction.

Still it seems at both a pragmatic and moral level one must simply accept the group identities an individual puts upon themselves, and try hard not to roll your eyes at it all. For if I declare unimportant what you deem important, then I have attacked you. It has always been so, and it always will be so. Indeed if I attack a belief that you hold centrally, then it is a large attack. There is no point in debating whether this “should” be viewed as an attack.

you wrote:

Is it any surprise that this rhetorical ploy [to tie ones identity to specific definitional beliefs] has resulted in an increasingly dogmatic left, where disagreement is morally stigmatized?

I have sympathy for your view here, whether it is intended as a “ploy" or not, merely expressing ones favored definition for a term (like ‘man’) will be seen as an attack on others. In one sense this situation is not new. Protestants and Catholics would kill each other over differences in the definition of things. (e.g. is Jesus God or not, was Mary immaculate)

But this is new, in the sense that the offending definitions are those that were prevailing in the past. Thus we have a group that has changed the definitions and then said, and if you don’t accept my new definition then then you are attacking me.

But the reality is that they folks genuinely DO feel their identity is attacked anytime one uses the unqualified term ‘man’ as referring to ones sex genes. So what the F*** should we do about that? Tell them they need to change their sense of identity to be one that is less sexually tied? Pragmatically this seems a bad move, and morally it seem suspect too.

Here is my best idea:

-1- We support the idea that it IS a courtesy to acknowledge someone's identity in any manner in which that they see themselves as much as we are capable without judgement, since in general we don’t have the moral high ground required to declare their self identity as silly or such in some absolute sense.

-2- We also acknowledge that one one has the right to require another person to think a certain way, even if the thinking in question is about ourselves. We still do not own their mind. If they choose to defer to our own interpretation of ourselves we need to thank them for that favor. If they do not, we can hold an opinion that they are not very courteous, but that is it. We need to accept their incompatible way of thinking.

I am not sure about this concluding spot. I actually began my thinking about this issue being quite opposed to redefining things, and generally just against these identities which I viewed (or maybe still view) as a bit silly. But I have come around to thinking that it is courteous to try to accommodate folk in their identities whatever the heck they are.


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"Steve wishes that humans would select different group identities. Identities that more closely connect with attributes that he (and I) view as more meaningful/beneficial groupings."

For the record, I wish humans would stop clinging to group identities entirely. But that may well be unrealistic. So I wish, at the very least, that people would choose better/more meaningful ones.

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I think it's unrealistic. Two reasons.

1) Humans spent most of our history in small tribal groups often in violent competition for hunting grounds and The Other had to be regarded with suspicion and fear. To identify with one's group was absolutely required and those whose behavior genetics weren't strongly aligned with this got attenuated and deleted from the pool. Tribal identification is our nature.

That doesn't mean we have to accept it. Rape and murder are in our nature too. But we are up against more that bad attitudes.

I've said this before.

2) "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation" — Thoreau (I thought it was Nietzche). Most people are dissatisfied with their lives, with their status, their isolation, and they seek to create a sense of authenticity through membership. And membership with the whole of society doesn't achieve that, it has to be with some subgroup, and better if it can bring along some grievance, real or feigned. I'm gay. I'm white. I'm trans. I'm a Cubs fan.

We the Oppressed must ban together in our group identity. This reaches absurdity with white Christians when the nation is over half white and there's a church on every block.

I think changes in attitude can only come after changes in behavior and that these must come from law. Without affirmative action black men with doctorates would still be janitors.

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Chris, you appear to be making the argument that it's natural for humans to have some degree of group identification, and you can rest your case because all of us understand that. We agree on that.

Some of us are making the point that the current political trend in the US has gone way beyond that natural tendency, to an unhealthy degree.

To use your example, suppose were were talking about the murder rate among a particular tribe being exceptionally high - and somebody in the conversation keeps pointing out that humans have certain proclivities which mean that we will likely never get to a completely zero murder rate. Agreed, but nobody was questioning whether it's practical to get to zero, only observing that it's abnormally high and that's not good.

One problem with substituting identity group membership for most individual traits is that group identities ALWAYS involve stereotypes. ALWAYS. Think about it.

So suppose you know that somebody is a member of the Black identity group. Or the Muslim identity group. Or the white identity group, or the bisexual identity group. What does that membership tell you? Does it tell you whether they feel oppressed? Whether they are middle class? That they are a criminal? That they are a Supreme Court Justice? That they like watermelon? That they like to dance? Other than the nominally shared trait, any other association involves pre-judging and stereotyping, and there are always such associations.

You might say that some of these things are statistically more or less common among some particular identity group, but even if that's true and you have an accurate understanding of the probabilities involved (rare), you still don't know in which facets that person is typical or atypical of the identity group. So all you have gained is a bunch of stereotypes which may or may not fit and so should be ignored until you know more about that person individually. I don't see that as a useful mental shortcut to encourage or cultivate. The pitfalls and downsides of the stereotyping shortcut as a filter to our mental models of people and the world outweigh the benefits in most cases. And doing this to ourselves rather than to others has its own problems.

An exception might be if you are in a dark alley and need to make a very important split second decision based on limited information - and thus might need to rely on statistical correlations between visible identity group information and behaviors more or less common in that group. That's a case where the shortcut of stereotyping (by perceived group identity) may be a survival positive evolutionary trait. Maybe somebody looks like a tweaker or a gang member and you don't have the luxury of getting to know them individuall.. But I submit that such situations are exceedingly rare for most of us today; we can generally afford take the time to learn about individuals rather than rely on stereotypes or group identities in our understanding of ourselves or others.

But let's put a finer point on it. As Steve says, he'd rather we abandoned group identities but if that's not realistic, that people think carefully about a few group identities which they choose to incorporate into their understanding of their very personhood, their core understanding of themselves as a being (versus just being one of many less central and less constrictive individual traits or proclivities or interests). I ratify that.

But today it's common to try to coerce other people into non-voluntarily conceiving of themselves as a member of an identity group, the characteristics of which somebody other than themselves are assigning. We adults are being taught in diversity education that we MUST develop race consciousness and consider race to be a core and essential part of our identity. If we do not, then we are either racists (if white), or self hating (if not white). And worse, in some schools, this is being imprinted on kids who are still learning to understand themselves and their relationship to society. I do not think this bodes well for the medium to long term.

We can discuss other pitfalls of excessive group identification if you wish; there are many. Like if being accepted as part of a group is framed as essential to your very identity as a human being, that group has coercive power over you and your mind (apostacy, heresy, shaming, shunning, expulsion, etc).

Just having an individual trait does not give any "community" control over your beingness or self image.

Yes we have a tribal nature so there will always be some degree of group identification, but no we don't have an innate tendency to make EVERYTHING about intersectional group identities - that's a more recent and somewhat regional political & cultural aberration from the norms.

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It used to be that identity was about what makes one unique, what distinguishes an individual from the generic average. In the redefined neo-progressive space, it's about what (supposedly) makes one similar to a group's norms.

If sincerely asked about the components of my self-perceived "identity", I would tend to focus on things like my flavor of integrating head and heart, balancing and seeking synergy between caring and thinking. Not with my skin color or sex, which typically consist of bundles of population group stereotypes of which I may be typical or atypical. Where a group stereotype more or less fits me, it's being attributed to the group rather than to me, and where it doesn't fit I'm not being seen at all.

So I agree.

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>"For if I declare unimportant what you deem important, then I have attacked you. It has always been so, and it always will be so"

No, that is untrue. A large number of personal and political decisions have to do with differing priorities (or importance), about which we can disagree; and that happens around the world throughout history. THAT is not new.

However, I believe that the current level of reframing any disagreement as an attack one one's personhood is a new dysfunction in our politics.

In regard to group affinities, of course we have always had group affinities, that's not in question. My assertion is that there is a new (to our culture) tendency to reframe individual traits into an unbounded set of group identities - a fairly dramatic expansion of group identities accompanied by corresponding reduction in use of individual personality traits, proclivities, etc. This is a significant shift in emphasis, but not a toggling between binary alternatives.

As an example, I am on LGBTQIA+ Medium groups where young people are constantly trying to understand themselves by finding some new identity group to identify with, even if they have to invent a new "orientation" or "gender". The most recent new "gender" I've seen explained to the uninformed is "cake" gender, which is described as an identity group which feels light and fluffy, perhaps with many layers. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Others are being invented every day, literally. That is not "just what we've been doing forever". And the kids trying to find themselves in this morass are not sounding healthy, but fragile and anxious. (I sometimes try to give advice or reassurance, but I never attack such young people or tell them they are wrong; they didn't create this problem, they inherited it).

When I say that I wish to challenge an intellectual assumption or framing in a subjective interpretation of today's politics (and then proceed to do so), that is not analogous to challenging gravity - such a reframing is not a well evidenced scientific theory and has not earned equivalent respect.

Let me be clear that when I assert that the framing of some trait or desire as an unquestionable "identity" can be a tactic, it need not be a fully *conscious* deception. That is entirely compatible with somebody, as you say, "genuinely" feeling their identity is under attack; after all, their political cohort normalizes and models that interpretation as the morally correct one. So I am not much swayed in my own analysis of the situation, by the supposed "genuineness" of their subjective "feelings".

Consider a related context. If somebody insists that not setting the office thermostat to the level they want is "crossing their boundaries", I don't place a lot of weight on that strategic reframing, no matter how genuinely they "feel" it to be boundary crossing. I need a more substantial argument than that to be persuaded. Otherwise they are on a level playing field with others in the same office in finding a compromise setting for all.

You phrase this as: should we "tell them they need to change their sense of identity...?" and say we don't have the moral high ground to do so. Fine, but I never said anything about telling them what to think; I'm talking about my not accepting their asserted reframing as definitive for myself or as controlling my own actions, and I don't need "moral high ground" for that. If somebody wants to identify as a pumpkin, that's fine, so long as they don't require me to agree - (or else...). I do not find this position "morally suspect", in your terms.

I do tend to treat people with courtesy. I have friends who are into anti-vax conspiracy theories; I treat them with courtesy and kindness. I have friends who really believe in astrology, or in "DNA level healing practices" with aromatherapy; I can even be emotionally close to them. In general in these personal interactions, I'm usually pretty high on the agreeability scale and try to be tactful and to find positive common ground whenever possible. I don't get into shouting matches with conservative relatives. So I also don't go in telling people how they must self-identify either. But that doesn't mean I must agree with the vaccination conspiracies, astrology, or people's reframing of personality traits as memberships in identity groups. Such issues may not come up unless (1) they seem amenable to a constructive discussion, or (2) they want to control me based on their belief system.

I think I may need you to rephrase your point #2, as I'm not parsing it with any confidence and I'd rather not respond to a low confidence interpretation of it.

Please do not assume that I speak the same to people in my daily life, as I feel able to speak in the space that Steve has created here, where I feel I can (politely) speak what I really think and receive similar in return, without having to walk on eggshells to avoid triggering somebody with a dissenting view. It's like being able to talk or even argue real science with colleagues, rather than having to be circumspect about things when talking to a friend who is deeply into astrology. Different modes of communication depending on the co-participants. Here I can openly say that I don't buy astrology, and I have deep reservations about woke reframings and explain why - and listen to any dissent or refinement or whatever.

Nice chatting with you, dan. I can see that you are seeking a humane, caring and yet intellectually reasonable path through the semantic jungle around us, and we can help each other by sharing notes like this.

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As you say, no need to walk upon egg shells we are among friends in this substack; constructive (and blunt) discussion/debate is what we all want. You mention in passing that you are active in the LGBTQIA+ community, but then kinda of disparage identity politics. That is quite interesting! Can I pry? Do you count yourself a member of that community in some way? (It just informs my understanding of your perspective on the topic... no issues if that is too forward!)

You made a lot of good points... I found myself agreeing or at least having sympathy for many points you made. I won't enumerate them all. (and my head is kind of swirling with the abstraction of this thinking too.)

Not that you claimed otherwise, but I will state this: I do agree we have made a shift in how identity is formed in recent years. Agreed. But I don't think folks are strategically CHOOSING an identity in order to be bolstered with extra outrage ammunition. Still I do concede that is it all too easy to reach for that tried and true nuclear option when one is debating. So the consequence is that we are having alot more such outrage confrontations. (I think perhaps you see this the same way??)

> I do tend to treat people with courtesy. I have friends who are into anti-vax conspiracy

And I think this is the thrust of my original thought. As long as acknowledging someone's identity is restricted to words you use in addressing them, and maybe symbolic gestures like bowing when you meet, or not touching the person, etc. I would be inclined to say that everyone gets to make up the rules as applies to their own person. The world is not obliged to know about and follow these rules, but as a courtesy it seems one should try to.

This would not extend to anything beyond symbolic. e.g. changing the thermostat is not the same. So that example as you provided would not apply here.

To summarize: Each person gets to choose their identity in any silly way they want.

-- It is a FAVOR for members of society to learn about and acknowledge this identity, and perform symbolic actions as required. as a FAVOR to the individual.

-- I would reject the notion that one is ENTITLED to such behavior from others. Indeed I would frame it as an imposition that you are placing on others. But an imposition that since it matters so much to you, others considerate folks will often honor.

-- I would also want society to frame being hung up on other people's acknowledgment of ones identity as a kind of frailty. Its not that it is wrong, but one is stronger if one simply has whatever identity one has, and one is not shaken by other's acknowledgment or lack there of.

-- The failing I see in today's society is that we have elevated non-acknowledgement of ones identity to epic proportions. today it is almost a failure of your character if you are NOT outraged any misalignment with ones identity. This is just a recipe for tons and tons of angst.

(this is actually an intellectually confusing discussion for me.. as I have to keep asking myself what I really think about each of these things!)

all good stuff!


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In rough order:

1. You ask if I count myself as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. That's not easy to answer. Does factually being Lesbian, or Gay, or any other category make one an automatic "member" or is there some expectation of subcultural enrollment? As to the other, I am not a political "activist" in that area at present (tho I have worked against anti-gay referenda in the past); my more recent posts within such a space on discussion sites have been more like offering requested advice and commentary to some young folks seeking to find their path - more offering human to human help, than seeking political change. And also being an observer of trends and ways of thinking/framing common in such communities.

2. I suspect that consciously pre-planning an identification as a way to gain outrage cred is probably not common, but many of our motivations are not conscious. For example, I suspect that very few young folks fitting the ROGD pattern are attempting conscious deception, but their psyches can still have observed the status benefits that friends get when so identifying, and that may influence one's self-interpretation. One in that situation might "discover" that they are also trans, and gratefully receive the resulting attention, in all sincerity - at the conscious level. (This human dynamic of unconscious reward seeking is far broader than trans issues of course!). Since we don't like to think of ourselves as deceitful or false, cognitive dissonance would tend to work against *conscious* pre-planning.

And - even if a given motivation or payoff was not present in an initial move towards an identification, it could become more relevant later in sustaining or expanding it. In a different but related sphere, I don't think that most neo-progressives are seeking to have the moral high ground initially - typically they are just adopting a worldview which they see as more caring and empathetic; but nevertheless after getting in, they may be seduced by the payoffs of being able to look down at opponents from an unquestionably morally superior viewpoint. (Speaking of general trends, not about everybody of course).

3. I find your nuanced approach to discerning courtesy versus entitlement to be well considered. And I agree about the frailty of desperately needing external validation being a weakness rather than a strength.

(To be clear: We all have weaknesses so my point is not to disparage anybody who has a weakness (I well know that I have my own weaknesses); rather it's to question whether those weaknesses should be valorized and encouraged, versus aspiring to be more robust when we can. I am not hasty to judge most human weaknesses, but I do question treating them as more desirable than empowerment.)

I am reminded of the (not unchallenged) Duluth model of domestic abuse. My summary of the relevant thought: person 1 (more often but not always male) may not have the skills to self sooth or sustain their self esteem, and may become dependent on their partner, person 2 for that. They then wind up resenting the partner's 'control' over their own internal landscape, and needing to control that partner, in order to control their fix. In the domestic context, this is thought to sometimes lead to the point of emotionally or physically abusing the partner (person 2).

Similarly, in the context under consideration, if somebody excessively needs external validation of their identity, they may find themselves needing to control that fix too. That could explain some of the strong need for power-over, which is often framed as a search for "safety" but in my view clearly goes beyond obtaining safety into seeking unwarranted control over the behavior, speech and even thought processes of others. In this context, it rarely leads to physical abuse of cis friends or family, but some of the other dynamics may apply. (This is a fresh hypothesis for me, not yet integrated).

I'm glad to share with you the incremental puzzling out of pieces of this complicated puzzle - and the questions you are asking yourself are good ones.


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Wow! honored at the amount of thought here. Not that this was the goal, but I think we have reached consensus in our thinking. Two things to highlight:

> I find your nuanced approach to discerning courtesy versus entitlement to be well considered.

thanks, clarity on this really evolved in this conversation. And my initial "eye-roll" reaction to all of this identity politics did not include this courtesy aspect for some number of years.

> ... rather it's to question whether those weaknesses should be valorized and encouraged

Enthusiastic agreement from me here. This valorizing weakness, only begets more weakness, and CREATES insult where there was none. This is the key thought that the left is getting very wrong. After many words I think we have pinned it down well!

I enjoyed the nuanced discussion!

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Expanding on your point, there is a new idea that making generalizations is evil. As it can be, certainly, "all those gays are compulsive deviates" when it's only few obnoxious gays who seek to reinforce that impression while the rest of us are nothing like that.

But: generalization is the most powerful tool we have for making sense of the world. If an animals has fur, bears live young, and feeds them nutritious fluid from glands on its torso it's probably a mammal.

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“Fear not dear readers, I do like hip hop and fried chicken.”

Yes, but what about watermelon? 😉

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😂 No, I'm pretty indifferent to watermelon. And if you *really* want me to air my dirty laundry, I became a pescatarian years ago, so while I like fried chicken, I haven't eaten it for ages. I'll hand in my black card forthwith and trade it for a...a grey card? A beige card? I'm still figuring out the details.

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It could not be more obvious that Chevanne needs to feel "special."

When I see "they/them" in a profile, I click block. I would never Follow someone like that.

Not all of them limit advocacy to "societal gender roles" are constructed; some take it further and say that biological gender itself is an oppressive imposition.

I work in an industry, software development, that is imploding under the weight of soul-crushing fads with all their neologisms. But the NBs have us beaten.

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"But the NBs have us beaten."

Yeah, I'm hoping NB will just fade away once enough people jump on the bandwagon and it stops being edgy. If it gets popular enough, people will need to find a new way to signal their "oppression." It's like how being a goth just faded away after a while, and hipsters are no longer "cool." But it's always depressing watching stupidity when it's in the ascendence.

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I hope you are right. I just read an article in the SF Chronicle about footraces adding an NB category to their registration. Apparently, the activists are demanding that the (tiny number of) NB participants receive the same set of monetary and non-monetary prizes as men's and women's sections, so that NB have equal status with male and female. And then there's the qualifying times for some race classes, differing for men and women - one of the races split the difference for their NB qualifying times, but NB activists say they should receive the women's qualifying time (even tho they do not identify as women). And yes, they mention "safety" as one of the reasons they need this "equal" treatment for their gender. And the "trans-masculine" person interviewed was saying they might not do the race if they weren't getting the same prizes as other genders.

The best quote was an indignant protest that having only male and female categories makes the race distinctions about sex, as if it's perfectly obvious to any decent person that a physical race should be categorized by subjective gender identity instead (including NB for themselves/themself). And increasing numbers of races are accommodating these escalating demands.

Anyway, I started to think that perhaps the only solution would be if everyone entered the race as nonbinary (who's to dispute that they were feeling that way on that day?).

How would they respond? It's pretty crucial to them that everybody must be allowed the complete and unquestioned right to identify as whatever they want, at any time, without gatekeepers. And as you say, virtually all of us are nonbinary, somewhere on a spectrum, so it would not be lying.

As you say, the initial NB's would likely abandon the label quickly in this eventuality, for not producing the desired payoffs. What would the next oppression be, tho?

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I was thinking about this earlier today before I read your article, as I'm writing a trans-critical article for a Canadian feminist website who recently liked one of my pitches. It's about misogyny in the trans movement (pretty exclusively transwomen, although of course obNotAllTransWomen :) ) and it's making me think about what I do and don't like about the trans, or maybe just the alphabet soup set (LGBTQIIAPDQXYZASPCANAACPNOWKKKMOUSE :) )

And pretty much what I have a problem with is: 1) Gynophobia and misogyny 2) Ever-divisive language and labels and frankly 3) So much rank First World Privilege of all colours and flavours, mostly with self-created problems and oppressions, bitching about pronouns and whether chicks with dicks should be let into rape crisis centres when people like them with REAL problems face violence, severe homophobia (which is also at the root of genuine transphobia) and unacceptance of who they really are in places a fuckuva lot less tolerant than Canada and the US.

I find I don't much care *why* people choose to be this or that, including male or female, I just have a problem with the ones who make problems intentionally for others. Y'know, us Gen X-ers were the ones who helped to usher homosexuality and bisexuality out of the closet, and we were the ones experimenting (that's an editorial 'we' as I've never explored either, but I've had an interesting conversation with an old classmate from high school on Facebook this week that indicates my other classmates were experimenting a lot more than I knew at the time) and it just wasn't a big deal. I mean, there were a few assholes - I remember some 'het-hating' more-manlier-than-thou hardcore lesbian whose heterophobia and misandry were overlooked by the foremothers and forefathers of the 'wokies', liberals who were *too* tolerant of the sort of bigotry they'd have never tolerated from the Reagan set (that far back...)

So, I stayed away from Becky since she hated us 'hets'. Everyone else was fine, and mostly just wanted to live their lives without drama.

The LGBTQ blah blah blah set today I think wants a lot more drama, and no matter what you say they will challenge it with a lot of vague, obscure, obfuscating language (I'm not even sure I understand what Chevanne was trying to say). She acknowledges that the LG etc doesn't play by the rules but says you don't get to decide 'what it's going to be,' and I say - why not? They change the language and the rules all the time so why can't you/we? Fuck ANARCHY NOW!!! :)

You're right, it's really all about alleged grievance. I don't remember this overwhelming sense of grievance when I was growing up and I think that's what's going on with a lot of these folks. The thing is, if you don't want to learn to live with others you're not the solution, you're the problem. And these folks clearly don't want to live nicely with others.

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When we were growing up, grievance had not yet been weaponized for power over other people.

And the neo-progressive toolkit is extremely weak on "learning to live with others" as you say, like how to compromise well, reciprocal rights, the value and sustainability of mutual benefit interactions, respectful and clear communication, "I statements", etc. It focuses mostly on perpetual conflict between the oppressed who have the moral high ground, and their moral inferiors the oppressors/privileged, and has an extensive toolbox for that conflict (eg: sanctioned ad hominem attacks or stereotyping of privileged groups).

If they ever "won" and defeated the cisheteropatriarchy, they'd turn on each other immediately to get their MHG (moral high ground) dopamine fix, and because their toolkit is only good for fighting against a common enemy, not for peacefully resolving conflicts even with a former ally.

They are advocates of deep multiculturalism with a terrible lack of ability to deal constructively with real world (sub)cultural differences.

OK, point made and venting done for now. How to invite them back to reality?

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"If they ever "won" and defeated the cisheteropatriarchy, they'd turn on each other immediately to get their MHG (moral high ground) dopamine fix, and because their toolkit is only good for fighting against a common enemy, not for peacefully resolving conflicts even with a former ally."

They haven't won, and they already do that. I'm not sure how to bring them back to reality but maybe when they get Trump or one of his clones elected, it'll give them the good swift kick in the ladynuts they need.

There's so much similarity between the far left and far right - they merely disagree on whom they hate. What about showing them, "What's in a better, more equitable world for *me*?" Which is pretty much everyone's question about everything. Although we're also dealing with people who exhibit a LOT of psychological problems, largely unaddressed, and their hatreds are how they express their anger at the world.

Mass enforced therapy? I'm joking...

Reading Hate Crime Hoax now by black sociologist Wilfred Reilly who makes a lot of points about how black Americans need to address the problems in their own neighbourhoods, including within themselves. How racism and oppression only count for a small, not insignificant but small, reason for their being left behind. He points out that American whites are suffering from a lot of the same problems and that African, West Indian, and Southeast Asian immigrant kids don't have the same educational and cultural problems American POC do. It's the same situation I face with self-infantilizing feminism, in which women who are good at paying lip service to empowerment quail like frightened bunnies at suggestions of exercising some *real* power and throw tantrums if you suggest that women can do a lot more to help themselves and each other. Lefty antiracism and feminism look largely the same, you could take an article about one or t'other and substitute the word 'black' for 'woman' and vice versa, and post the article on the other social justice blog :)

Steve's thang is to get black people to think about these things. My thang is to get women to think about these things. I'd like to see the alphabet soup set do the same...not all LGBTQetc.'ers are far-left nutbags, plenty of sane, rational people there, including transwomen who get why penises aren't welcome in some women-only venues and support that right to keep them out, at least until we get a few things sorted out (like sex offender 'trans' and 'women' who act rather a lot like alpha male bullies).

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>"They haven't won, and they already do that."

And today I saw this:


Pretty much what I was referencing. Except in this case, there was the financial payoff of making a living involved as well - which is not rare.

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What a great article! Excellent breakfast reading. Thanks for sharing it.

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> "They haven't won, and they already do that. I'm not sure how to bring them back to reality but maybe when they get Trump or one of his clones elected, it'll give them the good swift kick in the ladynuts they need."

Alas, the last dose of Trump had a lot to do with the woke train jumping the rails, for multiple reasons. Extremists on each side thrive on each other, as a way to bypass rational thinking - "look over there!!".

Also, learning from experience depends on closing the loop - correctly associating a good or bad outcome with the major causes, so one can attempt to have more or less of said factors in the future. One of my largest functional critiques of neo-progressivism is that it's very weak at that very thing - treating a proposed solution as a hypothesis to be reality tested and adjusted or abandoned if it fails to produce the intended result (eg: reducing rather than increasing racial bias). Because their policies are largely dictated by moral arguments rather than on the basis of pragmatic improvements, and promoted through ad hominem attacks rather than reason or persuasion, they become detached from reason and evidence, and from respecting feedback from reality. So they often double down instead, because it's only reality which is not complying; their morality-centered arguments (or rationales) are untouched by such feedback. They made no testable promises of results from following their strategy, only a moral argument for why "it must be done" because the nominal goal is unquestionable.

One of my own dictums is that even a very strong moral argument doesn't make a dysfunctional strategy magically become functional, or a counterproductive one become productive. If a program is failing or backfiring, shouting "but SLAVERY!" might help to keep it funded but won't make it work.

In that context, I think another dose of Trump would likely derail them even more, rather than invite them back to reality. As much as I dislike Trump, I can see that what conservative call TDS has some reality. (That is, he can be a real mess, and people's reactions to him can also be dysfunction too).

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