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Monday, January 19, 2015

How To Know When You've Lost Your Mind

One way to know that you've lost either your effectiveness, your mind, or both is that you find yourself using sentences that are sweeping generalizations. They usually begin with the word "all," then identify a group of people, and finish by saying something these people should do that no sane person could possibly believe they ever will do. The more unlikely your prescription is, the crazier you may assume yourself to be.

Such was my reaction when I stumbled across a statement by someone whom I had previously believed a pretty intelligent and reasonable individual, despite the fact that he associates with some pretty crazy people, that declared that all white people should apologize for Ferguson, MO. You will notice this statement fails the crazy test in the paragraph above. Sadly, some moron immediately
encouraged this individual by apologizing - no doubt because she wants to get in this clown's good graces or into his bed, which in his case is only a shade of difference. The reason we all should apologize is that the media tend to interview a Muslim after a terrorist attack by Muslims. If you can't see the connection there, you aren't alone.

Declarations such as these are never productive, and when they are made by someone who is actually sober all they do is discredit the person making the statement. Even if it was a good idea, there is no way to get every person of any group of any kind to do anything. This means that if it's your intent to see your demand met, you are going to be disappointed. It's therefore reasonable to assume that, unless the speaker has had a recent traumatic brain injury, they really aren't looking for their demand to be met. Rather, they are attempting to accumulate more "evidence" that the group they are attacking is really quite unreasonable. The problem, actually one of the many problems, with statements like these is that they employ the very thought processes used by bigots in what is ostensibly an attempt to overcome bigotry. Surely we have learned by now that the tactic of the bigot is to reduce the hated group to a single, homogeneous entity that can then be dismissed. The formula, "all _________ are __________" is always intellectually lazy and so never contributes to a solution to any problem - yet here was someone who fashions himself a heavy duty player in social justice resorting to the very laziness so often utilized by the oppressor.

We need to call everyone involved in the important work of social justice to a higher standard than this kind of sensationalist drivel. If we are going to have substantive discussions, we need to recognize that inflammatory, formulaic nonsense doesn't lead to helpful dialogue. We also need to recognize that there are some people for whom substantive dialogue and progress is not a goal. These people seem to derive more pleasure from lurking safely out of harm's way while throwing gasoline on a fire. Their rhetoric is designed to divide rather than work toward healing, and very often they are people who have reached a point in their career where they are confronted with the truth that they will never be the big time player they imagined they would become. The result is that their bitterness turns them into a pointless agitator, only further cementing their position at the margins. It's really quite tragic, but not as tragic as when fools believe their nonsensical rhetoric and people get hurt needlessly.

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