Killing the sacred cows.
Recently, there was an article written about the Duke lacrosse "rape" case. The article, to say the least, was controversial. To put it a little more succinctly, it really pissed off a lot of people! While the tone of the article itself may have been a bit heavy-handed, and the title was more than a bit heavy handed, to my mind, the points made in the article were at least worthy of intelligent discussion and debate.
Unfortunately, very few people discussed or debated the points made. Instead, not unlike Flush Lintball in rare form, personal attacks were leveled against anyone whose opinion dared to stray from the "straight and narrow" path of "progressive" thought. The author of the original article was called pretty much everything but a white man...well, maybe he was accused of being a white man, and all the negative connotations that "condemnation" contains.
I am not here to rehash that particular article. After over one hundred separate comments made about that article, and the one written by Rob about his decision to publish the article, that issue has pretty much been ground into the dirt.
What I want to discuss is the fact that there was little cogent discussion on the article. Instead, there was a lot of accusation and finger pointing. The discussion was, to my way of thinking, the ultimate debacle of closed-minded garbage. It was something I never thought I'd see at a site dedicated to "progressive" thought.
For a long time, one of the guiding principles of my life has been "question authority". I have broadened that principle slightly to "question everything". I regularly question my reality, my ideals, and most importantly, that which I hold to be "the truth". Somehow, I assumed that questioning reality was something that was done regularly by those who claim to be progressively minded. Somehow, I figured that there would be a few people who were really brave enough to question whether or not the feminist reality was a good reality; whether their agenda is a good thing, or not.
How wrong I was...and how disappointed.
I was disappointed because I really thought that being "progressive minded" also meant being open minded. Reading the discussion on that issue proved many things to me:
1) Many claim to be "progressive minded", few that do are open-minded.
2) Few indeed are those willing to question reality beyond their comfort zones.
3) Talking points aren't the exclusive property of the right.
4) Sacred cows are bad things when they are ideologies.
Many claim to be "progressive minded", few who do are open minded:
To be open-minded is to be willing to look at all sides of an issue. To be open-minded is to be willing to admit that your ideas and ideals might be wrong. To be open-minded is to be willing to say you are wrong, and are also willing to re-examine what you believe to see if you really believe it.
Not unlike the bible-belters who follow the stagnating, "god said it, I believe it, that settles it," paradigm, most of those who posted comments seemed unwilling to realize that no one has an ultimate lock on the truth. This closed-minded attitude causes all manner of trouble in this world. Is it not DUBYA's unwillingness to say he fucked up in Iraq that keeps the blood flowing in the streets of Baghdad? Yes it is. His mind is closed to reason. Unfortunately, so are some of the minds of people who comment here.
If we are going to call for others to see life from our point of view, then it is our responsibility to attempt to see the point of view that other people hold. Discourse and discussion are two-way streets.
Few indeed are those willing to question reality beyond their comfort zones:
Life is a fluid, ever-changing confluence of event, circumstance, and chaos. Death lurks around every corner waiting to pounce on us when we least expect it. There is nothing permanent. True safety is a myth; just ask the tornado victims in Greensburg, Kansas.
Reality is just as fluid. A mere twenty-five years ago, the Internet was the exclusive playground for ultra-educated geeks. It wasn't a shopping center, a porno playground, or a place where sexual predators hung out looking for kiddies. Kiddies were nowhere to be found on the Internet. A mere fifty years ago, a computer took up huge amounts of room, ate huge amounts of power, and gave off huge amounts of heat. A mere hundred years ago, the "horseless carriage" required a strong arm just to get started.
My how reality has changed. Now the Internet is another over-exploited media space. While informational interchange still happens on the Internet, only the "old school" purists and ultra-geeks even give a sh*t about that part of the 'net. The Internet is Ebay, PayPal, and Amazon.com. There is very little in the way of pornography that can't be found on the Internet, if you know where to look, and are brave enough to tempt fate. The computer I am typing this article on contains more digital storage than existed on the entire planet a mere thirty years ago, and contains all that storage space in a package that's less than one hundredth of a percent as large as that fifty-year old computer. Nowadays, cars have more computer power than was available in all of the Apollo moon missions combined, both in space and on the ground. There's even a car that can park itself.
That's a lot of change, my friends. That change has also re-written what we know about the truth. Four out of five dentists in 1900 knew man would never fly. Four out of five dentists in 1950 knew man would never get to the moon. Four out of five dentists in 1970 thought the vinyl LP was the best way to get high fidelity sound. And so it goes.
If truth is so fluid, what's the harm in re-examining it from time to time? If anything, to my mind, the article by David Usher was an attempt to get people to re-examine their core belief when it comes to feminism. It is clear by many of the comments that few people were willing to read the entirety of the article. Fewer still were those who were willing to accept that there might be just a grain of truth contained in the article. Rob saw it. I saw it. A few others did. However, most couldn't see beyond the idea that anyone who dares to question one of the sacred cows of "progressive" thought is automatically doing a bad thing. Why is that?
Because it takes people out of their comfort zones.
The reality is, we only really learn; we only really examine our ideas, our ideals and ourselves when we are driven out of our comfort zones. Staying comfortable promotes intellectual stagnation and complacency. Staying comfortable challenges nothing, changes nothing, and insures the mind will remain closed to new ideas. That, my friends, is completely counter to the definition of progress, the root of the word "progressive". To be progressive, to my mind, is to welcome the removal of comfort, especially if that removal promotes intellectual stimulation. There is more to calling one's self progressive than working to rid the country of the evil that is the DUBYA regime.
Talking points aren't the exclusive property of the right:
The "discussion" of Mr. Usher's article brought up numerous talking points. By that, I mean ideas, words and phrases that are at best unfounded, ambiguous, or without any meaning at all. Here are a few: The fact that this article is written by an author involved in an association of fathers should also incite the editor to caution. Why is that? Aren't fathers a part of the nuclear family equation? Why shouldn't someone who contributed half the genetic material have some interest in the child in question?
Poor parenting skills know no gender or socioeconomic background. Just look at the picture of Britney Spears driving with he baby on her lap. Would you call endangering a child like that good mothering? I sure wouldn't. Would you call Britney Spears a good mother? Oh, hell no! She's barely beyond a child herself. And while I doubt that "K-Fed" is much better, the point remains that just because Britney is a woman DOES NOT automatically mean she's a good mother. The fact she can't remain sober should pretty much point that truth out to all who have eyes to see. The fact that she would ignorantly risk her baby's life makes that point even clearer!
Feminism is fighting for a freedom and equality between the genders -- not for supreme power for women. Is it, really? Do you personally know any true feminists? By true, I mean the man-hating variety. While I don't doubt there are some moderate or even "liberal" feminists who don't advocate the eradication of the male gender, I know for a fact there are many mainstream feminists who do just that. I have known one or two, and had to listen to their drivel on more than one occasion. I wish I could say my experience wasn't what it is, but I can't say that.
If feminism were actually working towards true sexual equality, it would be called something else. If feminism were working towards true sexual equality, they wouldn't be such active man haters. If feminism were working towards true sexual equality, they wouldn't go so far out of their way to slap men down at every turn.
Perhaps the worst talking point brought up was the you should pay for the sins of your progenitors argument. This is the old, "men owned slaves, men held all the property, men held women down, in the past, so you deserve derision," bullshit argument.
I really didn't think it was up to me to answer for the sins of my forefathers. Even if it were, none of my family was even in America before the 1900's. No one in my past, as far as I know, owned slaves, owned property, or whatnot. Why should I be held in contempt for the actions of my forefathers when they weren't even here to hold slaves or property? Oh yeah, that's right. I'm a white male, so it's my fault that the world is all fucked up. Gee, and all I ever wanted out of this life was a place of my own and a man with whom I could share it. I didn't know I wanted to destroy everything I touched.
The list could grow, but I think I've made my point. If we are here to discuss and debate issues, then let's discuss and debate issues. Answer points with other points. Cite evidence, be it empirical data, anecdote, or personal experience. I have watched debates here. When it comes to issues that fly in the face of accepted "progressive" dogma, true debate stops, and out come the talking points.
That's really sad. Once again, no one here, including myself, has a lock on the truth. To close your mind because something you read flies in the face of your sacred cows can do nothing but keep you ignorant of another person's reality. If you can't walk a mile in someone else's shoes, how can you even consider yourself to be liberal, progressive, or even open-minded?
While it is clear that there are issues that are far outside the realm of the progressive mindset, there are other issues which only appear to be that way. I have learned things from debate and discussion. I have questioned my reasons why I believe something, and that has given me a new perspective, not only on my beliefs, but also on the mindset behind them. Life is for learning, and we don't learn if we actively make the choice to remain ignorant. We don't learn if we cling to talking points instead of discussing and debating controversial issues.
Nobody's perfect. We all have our sacred cows. However, if we expect to keep growing and learning, there comes a time when we have to admit that, and at least try to see the other person's point of view. Not everyone who comes here with a contrary view is trying to smash progressive thought. If our truth is true, it will win out every time! If it isn't true, then that "truth" needs to be shed to allow room for the new truth.
Sacred cows are bad things when they are ideologies:
Real sacred cows cause real problems. Their food demands take food from the mouths of humans. Their cow pies add to the sanitation problems in the streets. Their presence in the streets hampers traffic of all sorts.
When the sacred cows are ideologies, they cause just as many problems. They keep people ignorant of a reality that exists outside of their immediate understanding. They hamper intellectual debate. They pit people against each other. They cause people to make themselves look foolish. They squelch true debate.
I saw all these things happen in the debate brought on by Mr. Usher's article. I have seen it happen a few other times when other topics for debate came up. It seems that the only real point of agreement here is the need for DUBYA to be put out of office.
If that's all there is to the progressive mindset, then I am not progressive. I am not that much of a one trick pony. Yes, to be sure, I think that the world and our country would be a far site better with the idiot DUBYA standing in the unemployment line, or better, in prison or in front of a firing squad. However, that is only one issue in a panorama of issues that are viable issues for discussion and debate at a site dedicated to "progressive" thought.
If DUBYA's impeachment is the only reason for this site to exist, that means as soon as DUBYA is out on his ass, there will no longer be a reason for this web site to exist. If so, then perhaps Rob might want to consider getting ready for this site to go down the toilet on January 20, 2009. At that point, DUBYA will be gone from the political landscape. The discussion of his evils may carry on for a few more months, but I'm sure by summer 2009, most people will have forgotten about him. At that point, we'll be dealing with a new idiot in the White House.
Hopefully, this article, if published, will spark some intelligent debate. I know for sure it will piss some people off, and will bring numerous talking points up. I know for sure, some people will accuse me of not being possessed of a progressive mindset.
Hopefully, it might open some eyes. Maybe some people might finally realize there is more to being a progressive than constantly throwing shade on the conservatives, or the moron they put into the presidency. I can dream, can't I?