Feel Challenge, Not Pride, from Your Heritage

If you were born in America, you were gifted with quite a heritage: explorers, craftsmen, warriors, statesmen, sailors, writers, and artists from Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis and Thomas Edison.

Should you take pride in that heritage? (Set aside the bad heritage – and there is plenty of it – let’s talk about the good.)

A common rejoinder is that even the best of our heritage is not a reason to feel any pride. After all, we are not those men, and we did not do their great deeds.

This is true. It’s a good criticism, really. But in its oft-intended effect – to make us lose interest in our heritage (or to be more critical of it) it misses the mark.

We should not feel any personal pride for the inventions of Edison, for the writing of Thoreau, the explorations of Lewis, or the philosophy of Jefferson. We should instead feel our pride challenged. These guys should make us ashamed of ourselves – at least insofar as we are not living up to their standards of character and achievement.

See, this is what our remembrance of history and heritage should do for us. It should not be self-congratulatory, but self-examining and self-motivating. It is up to us to rise up to the best of the legacy given to us, and to exceed that legacy.

If this seems like a tall order, it is. But there is another gift of heritage. With its challenge comes also the strength to meet it. The blood of great men and women flows in our veins – either literally, in genetics, or metaphorically, through ideals and tradition. The heritage they left includes the strength to be better men and women ourselves. And that, insofar as we use it, may be something to be proud of.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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On Radical Woke Feminism

Alright I’m calling it: Dworkian feminism will marry racial wokeness and conclude that I am a racist rapist because my wife has more melanin in her skin than me. Andrea Dworkin says that in a patriarchal society such as the one we are in, all heterosexual sex is coercive and degrading to women. Since my wife is an hispanic woman from Mexico City, and I am an anglo-saxon man from Utah, our intercourse is an act of rape. Since my wife is darker skinned and I’ve chosen to rape her (over and over.. and over!) our intercourse is also evidence of racism. Ergo, it’s my turn to be cancelled, arrested… and divorced? Oh well, sucks for me. And that’s today’s two cents.

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You Don’t Get Credit for the Moral Advances of Others

Oh, you’re anti-racism, hmm? You believe women should have equal rights? You’re against war? You think Nazis are bad?

Good.

But that belief (and repeating it on social media, etc) doesn’t make you a hero. Being “more enlightened” than your ancestors in these ways doesn’t actually make you smarter or wiser.

All of these beliefs are good, of course. But once a belief is mainstream (as these examples are), once it’s accepted, you don’t get to call yourself “good” for holding it. If you’re learning that belief in school, church, and home growing up, you can be sure that other people did the hard work for that belief.

Those people – the people who deserve credit for defeating segregationism or Nazism, for instance – lived before us, and they are gone or passing now. They deserve the credit, though I doubt they would accept as much as you do. They stood against evil when it was unpopular, psychologically uncomfortable, and physically dangerous to do so.

What made them so good was not just that they held the right beliefs when no one else did, but that they had virtue in concert with those beliefs. They spoke the truth courageously at risk to themselves, they put their lives on the line, and they even showed compassion to enemies. They were *good* in a way that requires much more than mental orthodoxy.

Virtue is much, much harder to acquire, and it will probably not bring you accolades when you first begin to follow it. But the feeling of growth and meaning from living virtuously is much realer than the feeling of pride in having better beliefs than your ancestors.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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Defense for The Incapable

A common tactic from those who want to at least appear to have an argument against abolishing the police is to either claim that they themselves are incapable of protecting their own life, liberty, or property, or to try to scapegoat someone else as being incapable.

Nonsense.

Plus, when you try to blame others for your desire to keep “employing” the gang, it’s rude!

I’ve seen enough examples of kids, small women, the elderly, and the disabled protecting themselves and others from archation (and so have you) that I don’t buy that anyone who isn’t completely helpless is incapable. It’s a coward’s lie.

Maybe some don’t want to accept the responsibility, but they can.

It’s not your job to coddle those who refuse, but you can if you want– at your own expense. It doesn’t give anyone the right to enslave everyone else for their imagined weaknesses.

Yes, there are some who are truly incapable of defending themselves, feeding themselves, or wiping their own butts. Nice people take care of this kind of person, sometimes for money– but society doesn’t revolve around their inability. That would be like living in a prison established to make certain that no one could be any more capable than the least capable among us. I’m not going to live that way.

Refusing to consider abolishing the police based on the lie that people who are otherwise capable can’t protect themselves is antisocial, unethical, and statist (but I repeat myself).

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Social Anxiety, #MeToo, and COVID-19

The last two months, I’ve spent many extra hours walking and biking.  Encountering other people outdoors – and watching all parties avoid each other like lepers – is an eerie experience.  Few human societies have ever made severe social anxiety so blatant.   Viewing strangers with fear is the new normal.

How would you react, though, if someone got angry at you for avoiding them?  The conversation might go like this:

Angry: Why on Earth are you avoiding me?

Anxious: I’m scared of getting sick.

Angry: I don’t have any symptoms.

Anxious: Great, but I’m still scared.

Angry: Of what?!

Anxious: Of what might happen.

Angry: The risk is very low!

Anxious: But the damage is severe, and the list of potential risks is endless.

Most people today would probably strongly side with Anxious over Angry.  If Angry grew despondent, however, you might (remotely) offer some constructive advice.  Starting with: If you want someone to interact with you despite the risk, strive to put their mind at ease.  Empathize with their fear even if you don’t agree with it.  Humor them.  Adjust your behavior to make them feel safe – and be friendly about it.  It may not seem fair, but you’re the person who seeks more social interaction.

Which reminds me: Before the coronavirus crisis, anger was building against “#MeToo backlash.”  First-hand experience suggested, and research confirmed, that many men were avoiding close contact with female co-workers.  In particular, men were reluctant to socialize with or mentor women.  Why?  Because they were afraid of being accused of sexual harassment.  The conversation went much like this… or would have, if the Anxious felt free to speak:

Angry: Why on Earth are you avoiding me?

Anxious: I’m scared of getting #MeToo’d.

Angry: I haven’t #MeToo’d anyone.

Anxious: Great, but I’m still scared.

Angry: Of what?!

Anxious: Of what might happen.

Angry: The risk is very low!

Anxious: But the damage is severe, and the list of potential risks is endless.

This time around, though, most people would vocally side with Angry over Anxious.

Am I really comparing the risk of contracting coronavirus with the risk of being accused of sexual harassment?  Verily, because the parallels are loud and strong.

In both cases, people use social distancing for risk reduction.  In both cases, the risk of most specific interactions is low.  At the same time, however, people encounter an endless succession of risky situations – and the bad outcomes are very bad.  Many (most?) men would rather endure sickness than public accusation.

While you can protest that, “the rate of false accusations is low,” that’s a lot like saying, “the rate of deliberate infection is low.”  In both cases, the main danger is not intentional harm.  The main danger is that social proximity allows unintentional harm.  People don’t just infect others without meaning to.  They also offend others without meaning to.  If your motto is “safety first,” you naturally keep your distance to avoid both contracting disease and giving offense.

I grasp that #MeToo was partly motivated by the desire to reduce social anxiety of women.  Unfortunately, instead of reaffirming universal good manners, #MeToo fought social anxiety with social anxiety, all but heedless of collateral damage.

As you can gather, I was disturbed by the rise of social anxiety years before the virus.  Now social anxiety has reached pandemic proportions.  What is to be done?  Rather than counter-productively condemn others for their paranoia, my goal is to deescalate the tensions.  “Safety first” is a tempting but dangerous motto.  Instead, let us all try to “Make risk reasonable again.”  Use moderate caution yourself- and kindly invite others to do the same.  Listen to both Anxious or Angry.  Side with neither.

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The Freedom of the Blue Collar Worker

Tradesmen, contractors, and blue collar workers hold the jobs no one seems to want. They get paid less generally than some office desk jockeys, and they may never be rich enough to own yachts or mansions.

But they are free in a way few corporate employees are.

Excepting the more unionized trades, these men and women can generally go where they want to go and work for whom they want to work. They can work for themselves, and they can work together. And if they lose a job, they can generally find substitute work more easily than the ladder-conscious, highly specialized corporate employee.

They don’t have to follow the speech codes or dress codes of the modern HR department. They don’t have to pretend to be “company men.” They can smoke, let a few cusswords fly, and wear overalls and boots without worrying about being “professional” or “socially conscious” or “woke.” Their work exists outside of the realm in which “acceptable opinions” are necessary because their work involves changing things rather than changing people.

They don’t have to sit at desks. They get to see the sunlight. And they get to play with some of the greatest tools and machines invented by man – rather than staring at backlit computer screens all day.

There are many factors to consider in choosing a career, but freedom should certainly be one of them – and anyone choosing a career should consider the special kind of freedom which tradesman hold over their corporate counterparts.

Originally published at JamesWalpole.com.

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