Unbearably Painful & So So Important

Having commented on the risky – “careless” – non-PC and even misogynistic end of things, in the BrewDog situation in the previous post, I was returning to the other extreme, the crippling effects of PC-Wokeness, which is topical everywhere at the moment.

Not only generally topical but central to my own agenda about how knowledge, even would-be scientific knowledge, is distorted by a kind of PC dogma, much more so than critical-thinking sceptical defenders of science would acknowledge. And ever more so as the pace and nature of social internet communications further reinforces the effect.

A large part of the PC aspect comes from misguided ideas of (otherwise perfectly valid) “equality” of anything and everything across many different axes. Equality of rights and freedoms has a tendency to aim to flatten differences, as if they’re the problem or unimportant to the point of even denying their existence. Transwomen are women? Anyone? The idea that things have careful boundaries that matter, that help preserve genuine equalities, I call “Good Fences” (After Robert Frost and G. K. Chesterton) and have a long-standing draft piece of writing on that.

Two things happened yesterday and today that add very directly to that agenda. One is this story from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, picked-up and commented on by so many:

The depths of hypocrisy of wokeness – here in this feminism vs trans context yet again:

“What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”

“Out-angel” – virtue-signalling by any other name.

“I gave an interview in March 2017 in which I said that a trans woman is a trans woman, (the larger point of which was to say that we should be able to acknowledge difference while being fully inclusive, that in fact the whole premise of inclusiveness is difference.)”

“The whole premise of inclusiveness is difference.”
To deny this is “obscene”. Vive la difference.

Chimamanda’s story is one of bad-faith in would be intellectual interaction. This would be enough material by itself, but this second story came up that is deeply moving – taken as truth on good faith.

This original short piece in The Daily Wire, where Yeonmi Park compared her experience of Columbia University unfavourably with that of the North Korea she defected from. On grounds of the woke denial of freedom to know reality.

Followed up by this full 2 hours plus interview (with Jordan Peterson). Harrowing in so many details – an education in the school of life on so many points – so many a “too serious” privilege to hear. (Need to recognise that her book was written before her experience of Columbia University.)
Someone who understands more than anyone that equality (making everything equal) is so so different to equality of rights, freedoms and opportunities.

Finally since it’s Bloomsday, and talking about the power of reading books that don’t claim to be factual (as Yeonmi was), this image of Marylin always tickles me. At that point she is presumably reading the closing “Molly” scenes.

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[Post Note: Many people picking-up the Chimamanda story, including this recommendation from the excellent Kenan Malik:

Critical interaction without good faith is mere performance.]

13 thoughts on “Unbearably Painful & So So Important”

  1. MM is either pretending, or just showing off about it, that she’s reached the end. How many have fallen long before? Roddy Doyle was right that what Ulysses needed was a good editor. Brilliant prose that flows into poetry, some of the best ever written, sadly bestudded with some fair-sized chunks of dreck.

  2. As for ‘ It is obscene: a true reflection in three parts’, I can can only answer, like Molly herself, yes, yes and yes.

  3. Chimamanda’s two examples of failed humanity seem immature and self-absorbed, a sin for which they might be forgiven. The first one obviously made some thoughtless choices, which she came to regret. The second one seems to be a more thoughtless lout, and one does come across such people from time to time. Still, Chimimanda’s indignant reaction might appear to a disinterested onlooker as an aggressive attempt to withdraw her endorsement, couched in a passive query about the consistency of the offender’s choices. If some confusion resulted, no one is entirely blameless. In either case, Chimimanda seems unable to muster the charity to relent in her campaign of outrage, so that her charge against people who are “choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion” unfortunately redounds on herself.

    The two incidents are linked by an excessive reaction, as Chimimanda portrays it, to her claim that “trans women are trans women.” That is a different issue than the emotional interplay that comprises the bulk of her complaint. It receives no discussion at all here, and I find that interesting as an example on both sides of what I have recently called “the death of argument.” My thesis is that the usefulness of argument, and the willingness to engage in it, have become compromised by the Zeitgeist of postmodernity — and that this is not necessarily a bad thing, just something we have to work through. I blogged about it recently (see https://staggeringimplications.wordpress.com/2021/06/15/the-death-of-argument-part-i-cut-to-the-chase/) .

  4. I’ve wondered about that pic before, how staged it was, but it seems she did read widely sitting around on set between takes.

    As for Ulysses, it is what it is, and I did love the experience of reading it from cover to cover.

    (The link is to an edited collection of pieces about the philosophical content of Ulysses. Full disclosure – it was actually “the original blogger” back in 2000/1 – Jorn Barger – that got me interested in Ulysses at the ripe old age of 45 and indeed in reading anything that wasn’t technically and scientifically sound. He had extracted a “schema” of the human condition from the trajectory of Ulysses and its relationship to Homer’s original. Another formative read for me from those days was James Willis, who used the Scylla and Charybdis metaphor … and so it goes.)

  5. We certainly have to work through that “death of argument” frustrating though it is, there is no magic reset button. It’s one of the reasons a main topic of mine is rules and their evolution – rather than “death” it’s more like extinction of a species and what we need to work for is the emergence of a new species, combining the realities in existence now.

    I’ll take a read of your piece. A bit sceptical of the “not necessarily a bad thing” angle 😉

  6. As for Chimamanda’s ““choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion” unfortunately redound[ing] on herself”

    You’re right of course, in isolation about the two examples, but surely we need to see her outraged response to the more general wave of wokeness? A final straw as it were.

  7. Chimamanda’s outraged response is to another outraged response — outrage being the norm for wokeness as understood here. This kind of workness proceeds directly from disagreement with a proposition, or a phrase, to moral outrage. Is that fair to the concept of wokeness generally? It’s hard to say, since “wokeness” is a neologism still forming, but I could conceive of a more moderated form that is usefully alert to the merits or dangers of certain distinctions, while not blowing up like a pufferfish at every provocation.

  8. Guess I’m saying we don’t have enough context to make that “at every provocation” judgement, about how much previous provocation she experienced before to deciding “fight fire with fire”? (Actually a comment I made somewhere else, that three part piece lacks context without knowing the existing work and activities of the author.)

  9. Ulysses is like a tanker, sailing away in time, freighted with historical context that is slowly leaking. I’ve read it several times over, but never with so much profit as when alongside Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated. I first read when young enough to identify with Stephen. Now I’m too old even to manage Leopold. Whenever I reread, I tend to do my own editing, skipping Oxen and Eumaeus, and the dreadful arboreal passages that dam the flow of Cyclops. The rest is pretty much gold.

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