Tuesday, June 30, 2015

There Is No Culture War, No Political Correctness, Only Shame ...

Civilization requires order. Civilization does not require the details to remain the same. It seems to me that there are three big ways that civilization deals with disorder and disorderly individuals:

1. Exile,
2. Execution, and
3. Shame.

For the most part, modern civilization is global. A disorderly individual leaves one location for another, and the person's reputation is bound to catch up. Exile is no longer a thing anymore, as long as the Internet is around.

Execution is in the government's domain. A non-governmental entity -- a person -- who executes another person has committed a form of murder, and is now subject to punishment by the government. Imprisonment is also in the government's domain, as well as most other kinds of punishment.

That leaves us with shame. In the United States, part of the First Amendment reinforces the right of individuals to express their opinions, without any governmental consequences. An American, in America, can speak his mind without fear of imprisonment or execution. On the other hand, if this American says something offensive to at least one other American, then the First Amendment does not protect him for the consequence of a social backlash.

The social zeitgeist, the spirit of the time, dictates who is to be shamed. A while back, it was perfectly acceptable to insult people with disabilities. Now, it's perfectly acceptable to shame those who insult people with disabilities. What has changed? From an objective point of view, nothing much, really, because order happens either way. (Imagine that you're a god or an alien or any sapient entity outside of humanity, and you might agree with my assertions.)

In some ideological circles, last decade, it was believed that "patriots" wholeheartedly supported the actions of the federal government; protestors were committing treason. These days, in those same social circles, "patriots" speak out against the government; those who support the current government are traitors. Of course, there was a change in the political party in power, but the government's actions are about the same as before (e.g., the PATRIOT Act). What has changed? From an objective point of view, nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

I can expand upon this with current events: For a long while, the Confederate Battle Flag was okay to stay where it was; now, there are more voices in favor of leaving that particular symbol to the history books. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

For much of American history, it was okay to treat lesbian/gay/bisexual/transsexual/queer people as second class citizens (at best) and abominations (at worst). Now, it's okay to shame those who are against marriage equality. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

For many years, Donald Trump made lots of money for himself and others. He also lost lots of money for himself and others, as well. In that time, his A-hole public persona has sold a lot of things to target audiences, and thus Trump's behavior was tolerated by his peers and superiors. Now, due to the changing zeitgeist and shifting demographics, whatever he said recently is not acceptable to his peers and superiors. What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

From an imaginary objective point of view, there is no culture war. The socially-conservative way of life might be losing ground, or it might be gaining ground, depending on the year. "Happy Holidays" has the same warm sentiment as "Merry Christmas." What has changed? Nothing much, really, because order happens either way.

From this same point of view, there is no political correctness. "Person with _____" might be a bulky use of language, but it ultimately means the same thing as the terminology of yesteryear. Also, that archaic phrasing might possibly be a current derogatory term, and therefore, the speaker would likely be subject to some form of shame. What has changed? Nothing, because order.

If you believe in the divine right of kings, but you live in a democratic society, you might be shamed, for the sake of social order. If you are an agnostic in a very specific theocratic society, you might be shamed, for the sake of social order. If you are a Mormon amongst Baptists, well, you know. If you believe in magic, but you live around scientists ...

Of course, the thing with shame is that the real struggle is the control over it. Maybe the divine right of kings will be a thing again -- it sort of is, with all the celebrity-worship going around. The shift of shame has to be either organic (population changes, cultural evolution, etc.) or subtle (usually encapsulated in genuine entertainment). Any attempt at an overt shift of shame -- preachiness, namely -- probably won't be a successful attempt. Failure, of course, is also subject to shame.

What is the point of all this order? I can only guess, but my guess involves the following: Power will shift among the powerful class, the powerless class(es) will buy all sorts of stuff they don't need, and nobody is supposed to notice anything.

What a shame.

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