back to the future: recovering from the aggrievement age
once upon a time our differences were fun and funny. reclaiming this state of the world and seeking commonality is how we restore our civilization.
this may come as a shock to younger readers, but there was a time when jokes about race and gender and sexuality were considered funny.
you could make them in public. you could make them with your friends. you could make them ABOUT your friends and about yourself. because it was fun. differences are fun. and laughter is universal. that about which we can share a laugh ceases to be divisive and instead becomes a bridge.
it was a better time.
prime time TV looked like this.
you would NEVER be allowed to make this skit today.
and that is a serious problem for a society.
allowing the thieves of joy to take from us our laughter and mire us instead in prickly identity squabbles and instant-on offense taking over the most fabricated and over-sensitized pretext is not “tolerance” or “respect” or “alliance.” it is the literal antithesis of both society and civilization.
and it is long past time we reclaimed both from these vibrating balls of endless agitation whose relentless hectoring has hamstrung the notion of the open and civil society they allege themselves to champion as they grind the principles of such to dust beneath their interminable assaults.
this effects everyone, all the time. the winged monkeys of cancel culture comprise an ever present threat from the mere fear that our utterances might reach their scaly ears and set their oily wings a flapping. we begin to self-censor and mistrust our fellows.
fear of the thought police transforms each and all into the thought police.
the second order effects of this are devastating to societal cohesion.
we fear to express opinion outside of insular groups we know to be likeminded with us. we devolve into tribes and “safe spaces” where one may speak with freedom and absent fear of attack and cancelation. such spaces become increasingly needed and desirable precisely because the general agora of the society itself has becomes so unsafe. where once resided laughter, now lives nothing but a vicious game of gotchaball, performative prostration to fake ideas of “inclusiveness” that drive nothing but division, and savagely imposed struggle sessions of stylized apologia and abasement to the warriors of wokedom.
this is utterly unsustainable for a society that would remain whole. this splintering and fractionalization into warring tribes is a not viable system. rarefication apart along lines of intersectional identity and victim cults is the diametric opposite of society and civilization. a melting pot that includes and accommodates differences and traditions is the true foundation for inclusive community. it generates the strongest and most harmonious of all possible societal melds.
let me tell you a story:
a cat, a polack, and a chinaman all walk into math class. they are all in 9th grade and in advanced math for their age. the cat and the polack get there early, both having had class nearby. they greet the chinaman by singing a little hong kong phooey style song, making a gong noise, and bowing while saying “hello, xander ping!” (not real name) xander glares around in best kabuki theater fashion and says “one day, you work for me lazy white!” then all three dissolve into peals of laughter and sit down together.
because we were friends.
and we enjoyed joking together.
because that’s what friends do.
acknowledging our differences and laughing about them was as expression of community and comradery. it was a full blown statement that nobody really cared about race and that our bonds were far stronger than our variances. polish jokes abounded. so too did jokes about me. if you were not getting razzed, you’d fear that people did not like or respect you. so what if you’re different, in the end, you’re one of the gang. no one coveted fragility, we preferred self-possession. this was not some conscious choice we made, no one had to. it just happened.
this is what a post racial world really looks like. it’s laughter, not struggle sessions.
this was fun. this was strong. it was real and it was comfortable.
and you’d never be allowed to do it today.
this is the kind of stuff that would get you kicked out of school.
a college kid today has probably never attended a school where they would have been allowed to do this. they don’t even understand what was taken from them. they know no other way.
we have lost all humor and with it, riven by the same forces, we have lost not just our community and our commonality, but the interactions and opportunities to build them back, because when everything is identity war and unguarded speech and laughter is only for tiny quorums of the knowably likeminded, you stop interacting in meaningful ways with those who are different that you are.
if it’s not class, it’s race. if it’s not race, it’s gender. if it’s not gender, it’s sexuality. if it’s not sexuality, it’s covid or politics or social class. this goes on and on forever rarifying prisons of the mind.
this is not pluralism. it’s alienation and estrangement.
those of other ideologies or identities become minefields. and there is no longer any way to get to know one another. and that is how societies atomize and factionalize.
this is the whole core ethos of “interactionalism.” no one can ever understand you because they are not you. that’s literally the rule that the crenshaw crusaders laid down. your privilege means you cannot understand or judge me, but my oppression means that i understand the system and an entitled to judge you.
even if it were true (and it’s not) this is the road to endless, miserable war and performative grievance grubbing.
there was a time when there were some civil rights wars that needed waging. the abolition of jim crow laws and legal bans on homosexuality and miscegenation were real fights. important fights. and many brave people stood up to serious threats to life and limb in pursuit of them. but much of the honor and honesty of these movements have been lost.
we have moved from a man of immense bravery and vision risking everything that one day his children might be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character to an indignant and coddled child getting a free yacht ride to the UN from her “big green” backers to demand under supportive spotlights that we subjugate the world to pseudoscience because some models say that we have stolen her dreams that literally only exist because the modern age of plentiful energy made them possible.
worse, we’ve dismissed this notion of character over color, termed such ideas flat out racist, and are now seeking to ensure that every child is judged precisely by their skin tone and professed gender identify.
judgment by character is intersectionally disallowed and deemed racist and the invocation of privilege.
we inhabit a stupid time led by deeply stupid people seeking to return us to the barbarous tribal war of all against all and if we would escape this slippery slope to becoming the bugs fighting in a shaken jar, it would perhaps be instructive to consider how we landed here.
how did we got from a time in the 90’s when i had a black roommate in high school, gay roomates in san francisco, and absolutely no one cared or got hung up on identities and could laugh together to the world of today where no one can make jokes anymore?
here is my suspicion: the big fights got won and the world largely moved on. but the social justice warriors did not. they had become attached to their status as fighters. more insidious, it had become their identities. they had woven it, warp and weft, into the fibers of their being. it became their reason for being. they were not so much people with a cause as a cause inhabiting and animating an NPC body. their tribe was agitariat. and they were not going to let it go away.
so they picked ever more fights and sought to rekindle the old ones. they told the very people whose liberation had been won that it hadn’t and threw them back into subjective subjugation by claiming they were oppressed and that denying it just proved how oppressed they were. it was a social justice kafka trap, a catch 22 where anyone who thinks they are not a victim proves their victimization by the system and their need of consciousness raising.
a never-ending cycle of joy sucking vampiric identity idiocy became the societal substrate and like all totalitarian systems, it drained all laughter from the world and with it much of the understanding and the tolerance.
they have substituted tyranny of the other side for pluralism. and this is a terrible way to live and an impossible way to find community.
we inhabit a world so absurd that a highly educated woman seeking supreme court appointment is too terrified to even opine on the definition of simple gender terms.
this is not OK and in no prior age would it have been tolerated.
so let’s take it back.
imagine living in this universe instead:
what if KBJ in her confirmation hearing had responded to “what is a woman?” by impersonating rodney dangerfield and saying “well, i cannot say for sure. i think the only way to make a definitive determination is to ask the person in question to parallel park a car and see if they can do it.”
i know this sounds implausible/impossible to those weaned on the current age, but reagan could have managed it. thatcher too. both had wicked senses of humor and used them to great effect.
and we can bring it back.
it would have slain the senate, caused an absolute explosion, and she would have OWNED that place and owned the public dialogue. hell, i would have stood on my chair and cheered. that simple act of humor, of laughing at oneself and placing differences back into the realm of “smaller than our commonalities and/or my ego” would have been devastating. it would have changed the entire conversation for the better. yeah, yeah, it’s a stereotype. yeah, yeah, i know some women who are fabulous parallel parkers too. but that’s not really the point, is it?
the point is that it’s OK to be different and that it’s OK to acknowledge that some stereotypes exist for a reason and that not all people really truly are the same all the time and that that’s fine.
sure, it would have elicited an avalanche of opprobrium and accusations of being some sort of regressive troglodyte from the cancel karens. good. those people are fools, have stolen more than enough joy from our lives as is, and enraging them is highly accurate echolocation towards progress.
they are simply wrong: it would have been a sign of being enlightened and evolved, free of thought and free of fancy. it’s not misogynist, it’s an invitation to join a civil society. and THAT to my mind would be evidence of fitness to sit on the bench of SCOTUS in a fashion that no barely-genuous line straddling could ever be.
show me you can laugh at yourself, and i’m halfway to trusting you.
this weird fixation upon constantly celebrating differences of race and sex but then somehow denying that races and sexes can have different abilities and predilections from one another and that any claims to the contrary are “bias” or “socialization” is ridiculous.
so, chromosomes can affect height, weight, bone density, muscles, brain structure, and hormone expression, but not ability to parallel park, itself an offshoot of spatial relations ability, one of the better documented male/female variances? men are, on average, better at shapes, women on average better at verbal. like it or lump it, brains are different. reality is not optional.
the disavowal of difference and presumption that variance is a social construct is absurdity.
it’s driving us away from that which we already had: the ability to find confluence and community amidst diversity.
intersectionalism cuts both ways. we can use it to seek out division or we can use it to recognize that which we hold in common to find cause and fellowship and joy in one another.
we might even have a few laughs along the way.
how on earth is this not a more attractive sales pitch than “you need to be angry all the time because no one understands you and everyone is against you”?
i mean, step back for a second, stop being lost in the trees, and look at the forest this self-fulfilling prophesy of structural aggrievement demands that one inhabit:
it is an ugly place full of unproductive, negative-sum conflict that advances no one save the merchants of mistrust seeking to divide you that you might be conquered and to drive you to dependence and alienation that you might become not only unable to live without their “leadership”, but grateful to them for doing this to you.
this is not the way.
if we would retake our society, we must reclaim not just our self-sufficiency, but also our sense of fun.
you might be surprised how much the latter affects the former.