Of Curmudgeonly Interest This Week – 22 April 2017

My schedule’s been all out of whack, what with the dreaded lurgy running rampant through Curmudgeon Towers, but let’s see how we go.

You’ll notice a certain theme to this week’s items. I think any reasonable person should be alarmed by the dark turn events are taking in political discourse, and I’ve been particularly disappointed at the way many people who should be leading by example, and stepping up to the critical-thinking plate, are instead giving in to the worst excesses of groupthink and mob mentality. This does not bode well.

So I’ve decided to let some saner voices from past and present speak – to remind us all that there’s a better, a more moral way.

When the oppressed take up arms in the name of justice, they take a step toward injustice – Albert Camus

Don’t Let Them Provoke You: Jordan Peterson

It’s best to let the unreasonable opposition speak, because they manifest themselves as unreasonable, and then everyone can see it.

This is the point I tried to make when I called the Battle of Berkeley an “own goal”: when Antifa were escalating their unprovoked violence, they were demonstrating to the world their unreasonableness. Joining them in violence only makes you look similarly unreasonable.

As Peterson says, people will be watching, and this attracts far more negative attention than positive attention … so it’s not such a bad thing to let this sort of thing play itself out … so the thing that I would really recommend too is, like, keep your head … you really want to make sure that you don’t let people who are causing trouble provoke you into doing something stupid. It’s a big mistake.

Selma Bridge was one of the pivotal moments in the Civil Rights movement. Would it have triggered the outraged sympathy it did, though, if the protesters had battled the state troopers in their turn?

(In the footage above, by the way, take particular notice of the protestor girl with the air horn. The look on her face is unmistakable – she isn’t protesting to make any point, she wants to be seen, and she is loving it.)

P.S. The contrarian in me always wants to sniff the wind with caution whenever the crowd fawns so loudly over a rock-star thinker, as they have over Jordan Peterson in recent months. But he just keeps saying too many things that are just so damned right. I’m not so sure about some of his statements on epistemology, but that’s a topic for another day.


Dr. King: Nonviolence is the Most Powerful Weapon

There’s a reason Dr King has a national holiday in his honour, and not those who advocated violence in the Civil Rights struggle. When you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of ordinary people, you’re not going to do it by punching them in the face.

Here, Dr King provides a lucid defence of non-violent resistance, and clearly delineates the difference between passivity and non-violence:

‘[It’s] an all-too prevalent fallacy … that the person who uses the method of non-violence is actually the weak person, the persons who don’t have the weapons of violence, persons who are afraid … if the only alternative to fear was violence, and vice-versa, then I would say “fight”, but it isn’t the only alternative.

Violence creates many more social problems than it solves.

Wise words, and a great interview. Well worth watching in full.


The “sucker punch” at the Berkeley riot reveals the rot in our politics

Larry Kummer’s post at Fabius Maximus tries to make much the same points I did in my own post, Punching a Girl in Berkeley Isn’t Heroic, but the author goes into much greater detail about the backgrounds of the two antagonists. This was something I explicitly tried to avoid, as I noted. As Kummer shows, neither is exactly a poster-child for their respective causes. Both are deeply flawed, indeed probably damaged individuals who would probably be best served kept well away from the public spotlight.

That each side is almost completely ignoring the fundamentally damaged goods they are trying to champion says everything about the naked tribalism that’s at work, here. As Larry Kummer says, the reaction to the post in the comments and on Twitter consists largely of people cheering “their” thugs.

None of this is about principles, it’s all about the side. For both sides, uncritical support is a strategy that’s harming their cause immeasurably.

That these two clowns have attracted so much praise is a symptom of our problem. Exactly.

Domestic violence is a pox on society, whether done in homes or during riots. It cannot have good effects. Cheering it, even quiet approval (“it’s in a good cause”) puts America on the fast track to decay … Fear the rise of political violence in America. We can still stop it.

I cannot agree with this statement enough.


Avoiding the HELL of the Radical Left & Radical Right – Jordan Peterson

So, let’s close off with Jordan Peterson, again …

Some of his arguments characterising left vs right “thinking” are at least debatable, but what is worth listening to in this talk is Peterson’s appeal to citizens of Western democracies to remember that they are sovereign individuals, with responsibilities, not just an endless laundry list of rights.

As Peterson says, The Left says, “We need to tear down structures because they oppress!” Obviously structures oppress … but if you scrap the values structures, then there’s nothing to live for! … The radical Right says, “Back to the nation!” Really? Y’know, we tried going back to the nation a couple of times, and it doesn’t really look that great.

The state should be subordinate to the wisdom of the individual, to the sight and the wisdom of the individual. But that puts a heavy responsibility on everyone. That means you have to be the wise individual who can see and speak.

He also makes a very good point about the difficulty of actually thinking, and how critical writing is to really thinking, as opposed to just re-hashing your prejudiced assumptions. He’s also right about the technical training necessary to genuine critical thinking – which is the true value of the often maligned field of philosophy.

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