The Halftime Show

by rsbakker

Aphorism of the Day: Moral certainty is simply greed dressed as poverty.

I’ve been sitting on this for several days.

An example of how it should be done? Or yet more perfidious evidence of my insatiable need to appropriate?

Either way, it’s both wonderful and wise.

It captures the way I feel all the bloody time. So now, for instance, I’m wondering what I could possibly do to get people to stop laughing about character defects, real or perceived, and simply engage my argument. I’m not a stranger to this. I intentionally go out of my way to seek these kinds of debates out. The regulars here at TPB are always advising me against it, and for good reason. I fret about my book sales, like every other midlist writer I suppose, but I always try to keep those worries to the side, assuming that if I’m open enough, relentless enough, I’ll at least be able to break even. I appreciate that I come off as pompous and pedantic to certain ears – Christ, I sound that way to myself half the time! But I’m an egghead, and as regrettable as I think it is, I understand why some people would want to lampoon me for that. Knowing and presuming are the same thing.

It’s a strange feeling, isn’t it? Knowing that in certain quarters certain people are whetting verbal knives to better carve your name. We all understand this, which is probably why we all fear it – and why we’re often so desperate to position ourselves on the carving side. I can remember how irresistible it was eavesdropping when my books first came out, cringing at this, raging at that, celebrating whatever scrap of artistic confirmation I could find. Not so much, now. Not at all, in some cases. The only thing that gets me genuinely angry any more is when people say I don’t understand Nietzsche – and I have no fucking idea why.

But getting past social sensitivities has two edges, I realize. On the one hand, it means that I can’t be shamed or embarrassed or whatever into ‘Shutting up.’ (I find it interesting that this is what both sides seem to want – the one outraged that I would critique the Dude’s shaming tactics, the other side perplexed that I would even bother engaging someone they simply cannot take seriously). If you want to shut me up then convince me, that the science is wrong or that I got the science wrong, or that sites like the Dude’s actually make a positive difference – as opposed to, say, sites like Doyle’s. Yukking it up on boards where everyone (unlike here) agrees, proves nothing, though it suggests that moral certainty does, as I’ve been arguing, have the effect of shutting reason down, and that moral outrage is far more about sorting people than reaching out to dissenting voices.   

But I also realize that it renders me blind, in a certain way. I’ve been roundly criticized here for not being sensitive enough to the experiences that motivate people like the Dude, for engaging in some kind of masculine power-play, and the like. Arguing that sites like ROH do more harm than good, the idea seems to be, denies the legitimacy of the pain and the hurt that so obviously fuel her vitriol. Maybe my insensitivity to the power of shaming is the reason I don’t get the connection, because I’m afraid I don’t. It seems to me, that if making the world safer for women is in fact what the Dude is about, then she should be deeply interested in what psychology has to say about her tactics, and why so many people from such a wild diversity of extreme views – many of them openly misogynistic – seem to be so fond of them. Like I keep saying, we’re ALL idiots around here, all stumbling across our sorrows and our problems, all groping for solutions. Shouting only numbs us to the confusion.

And yes, I will continue calling her the ‘Dude’ so long as she calls me ‘shiteater’ and every other insulting moniker (some of them quite funny!) she applies to me.  Why? Because quid pro quo is my point. 

Back when women were obviously oppressed, when the inequalities were plain for all to see, shaming tactics were definitely an effective way to put misogyny on the defensive, and moral outrage was a very efficient means of rallying and motivating members. But the battle is more subtle now. It’s far easier for your opponents to explain away your complaints, even make the contrary case. In this situation, I fear, alienation simply begets alienation. Worse yet, sites like ROH simply feed into an image that genuine opponents of feminism (unlike myself) are using to great effect.

Like I keep saying, I could be wrong, but then I might be right. And as Haidt points out in his interview with Bill Moyers (the link so few bothered to check out!), the left is losing – feminism is losingbecause the right seems to have a better understanding of the psychological terrain. All I’m saying is make this knowledge your own. I’m trying to defend my reputation, sure, but I’m also trying to empower.

I think all humans are stupid. I certainly know that I’m stupid. I’m an equal opportunity misanthropist, in this sense. So for me, screaming about dogma is nothing short of tragic. The ancient Egyptians screamed about their dogma, the same as every other group in the history of the human race, all of them convinced they had won the Magical Belief Lottery… all of them absolutely convinced – like you – that they just had to be right.

For my part, I’m far more interested in making the world a safer place for my daughter than I am in being right – let alone being popular. That’s why all voices, all questions, are welcome here. Engage.

Or laugh.