Vive La Difference

Earlier today I was browsing through the e-mails in my inbox when I read a humorous editorial by someone who wanted to make it plain that it was no great thing to concede to Israel the right to exist.  Generally speaking, one is in a very poor place when other people believe they are being gracious by telling someone or something that they have a right to exist.  Are we condescending enough to tell the mosquito that though we may dislike some of his policies concerning the spread of diseases and that while we may occasionally support the drying up of ponds of standing water and malarial swamps, that we concede on at least a limited basis the right of said creature to exist?  Would we tell the fire ant that while we in general accept the right to exist of species that we would feel a lot more enthusiastic about them if they were further away from us?  We might concede the right to exist for a garbage dump while furiously protesting the placement of said dump next to our neighborhood, and might accept the right to exist of a new bypass highway so long as it does not destroy our neighborhood, but again, it is generally only necessary to concede the right to exist of something when we do not really like it in the first place but feel it necessary not to be unreasonable enough to wish destruction upon it.

Earlier this week an online music reviewer whose videos I occasionally enjoy spent an entire video where he commented on the problematic nature that the majority of his fan base was composed of white men who happened to like memes.  This gentleman happens to be a middle-aged man around my age or so, bald enough to be considered a melon and white in that southern European way that might not have been white for all of his ancestor’s time in the United States, and is the sort of person who wants to be thought of as woke enough to appeal to those who are not white men who happen to be potential edge lords thanks to their love of dank memes.  I might be considered to be in such a category either, and I generally would not think it to be problematic to exist or to be a supporter of various people because we share a certain sardonic sense of humor and a love of exploiting and ridiculing the follies of contemporary culture.  There is certainly much to ridicule about such a culture.  Like Lizzy Bennet, I would not wish to ridicule that which was good and noble, but in our day and time one can spend a lot of time ridiculing that which one comes across without being in very much danger of hitting a target that is noble and good with one’s rapier wit.

Is there a benefit to having to defend one’s right to exist and possess one’s own point of view and perspective?  We may see it as somewhat annoying that we would have to justify ourselves and defend our right to exist, especially where our views are not accorded any great degree of respect or legitimacy in the eyes of others.  Yet it is not a bad thing to be confronted with perspectives that are different from our own, nor is it a bad thing to recognize that it is not enough to simply be in our day and age, but one must be willing to contest one’s right to exist and defend the right to exist of others, and not to take those inalienable rights of life, liberty, and property for granted.  While it may seem self-evident to us that the right of Israel to exist, the right of an unborn child to life, and the right of sardonic white boys to appreciate dank memes ought not to require a defense, we live in a world where such things have to be continually defended.  In doing so we sharpen our own wit and intelligence and may indeed come to the point where we can defend something that is outside of our own perspective.  To the extent that we become used to justifying the rights of ourselves, we may extrapolate from that more general principles that justify the right to exist for others besides ourselves, and not see such freedoms as arising from intersectionality or identity politics at all, but simply as a result of being created in the image and likeness of our Creator and Master in heaven above.

Throughout human history, those who are in positions of power have seldom inquired as to the perspectives of those whom they ruled.  A baron of the Middle Ages seldom inquired as to the insights possessed in his humble plowmen, and those who served him had to understand the perspective of the lord and lady of the house without that same respect being accorded in response.  In general, we may see how elite someone fancies themselves by the extent to which they demand that other people understand them absent the efforts on their part to be observant listeners interested in understanding others.  Even the desire to understand someone else through communication and discourse may be seen as a threat.  Those who are fearful outsiders often gain a great deal of security in their own mind by being able to keep their own thoughts and feelings and identity private from prying eyes.  They may speak in languages that few around them understand as a way of being free from the need to reveal themselves to those who may not be very sympathetic to their struggles or their true thoughts and feelings.  It is for these reasons that those who are reforming elites may find themselves viewed in just as hostile a fashion as those elites who do not bother to show any interest in lower ranks at all, because to be an elite who desires to understand others is to be someone who makes it impossible for polite distance to survive, not least because to reveal one’s own thoughts and opinions to someone who fancies themselves a compassionate and woke elite is to demonstrate the gulf of hostility that exists between elites and those whom they dominate, and it is impossible for even the most woke of elites to be able to complacently handle the gulf of hostility that exists between people and those whose struggles they wish to co-opt for their own elite competitions over power and position.  While there are situations where open communication can solve problems and disagreements, there are many other situations where open communication would only widen the gulf between people and groups of people by bringing the true state of affairs that exists to light.  In such a world, communication is a threat to the peace of mind that all take for granted, because there is no common ground between politeness and truth, between the civility that is necessary to keep superficial interactions going and the honesty that would be necessary for any genuine friendship and mutual understanding.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Vive La Difference

  1. Catharine E. Martin says:

    Yes, the one who deigns to declare Israel’s right to exist is actually portraying it from an elitist point of view. Unlike the nihilistic philosophy of being without inherent reason–a worldview which I wholeheartedly reject–the very fact that we exist points to a purpose for it. This applies to the State of Israel as well. Things are as they are for a reason. Elitists do not see themselves as equal to others (hence the word “elite”), but this is not reality. Their failure to look past the physical accoutrements that masquerade as higher status is easily unmasked. These superficial shields are a temptation to keep such a person from developing his inner self. However, I have seen rare instances when honesty and truth did coincide; when polite conversation developed into the deeper commitment and genuine understanding and friendship. The disadvantaged party worked to overcome the mistrust of previous encounters and the one labeled as “elite” threw off the label by walking the talk. It can happen, but it is rare. Often the privileged are not aware of the gulf between them and everyone else. They do not understand why we often scoff when they use their name to spout their politics as though their opinions matter more than anyone else’s. They are listened to because of name recognition, and it is resented.

    • Yes, it is quite true that privilege is something that is invisible to us. The fish is the last to notice the water he swims in, after all. Likewise, as you say, people are not always aware of the gulf that exists between them and others. We tend to be consumed with the day to day aspects of our existence, and to the extent that our existence is far more privileged than that of other people, we will not be able to relate to others who live differently than we do and they will not be able to relate to us, and may even resent us for how we live so unconsciously.

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