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Bores and Bullies, Pursuing Conformity and Power

A page in the October 11, 2018 print edition of the Guardian newspaper tells us a great deal about the political and cultural state of Britain, and perhaps—since Britain is not unique—of much of the Western world. On the left side of page 7, a story is headed, “Supreme Court Win for Bakery in Gay Marriage Cake Row” and on the right side a story is headed, “Museum Backs Down after Outcry Over Use of  ‘womxn’ .”

The left-hand story is about bakers in Belfast, an evangelical Christian couple called Daniel and Amy McArthur, who refused to bake a cake for a homosexual with the words “Support Gay Marriage” written in icing on it. (Northern Ireland does not recognize or permit the marriage of homosexuals—yet, one might add, for such recognition and permission is coming as inevitably as showers in April or leaves shed in autumn.)

The man who ordered the cake, Gareth Lee, then sued the bakers, claiming that he had been illegally discriminated against by their refusal. Initially, he won the case with a small settlement; but instead of taking the line of least resistance and paying it, the McArthurs took the risky and possibly ruinously expensive path of appeal, right up to the highest court in the land. They argued that they had not refused to bake the cake because Mr. Lee was a homosexual, but because they did not want to participate in propaganda for a cause in which they did not believe and which in effect was the opposite of what they believed.

The court accepted this argument and reversed the judgment. Under the British legal system, the loser in a civil action has usually to pay the winner’s legal costs. In this case, the plaintiff, Mr. Lee, was supported by a publicly funded body, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, to the tune of $330,000. This bill now falls on the public.

The second story concerned the decision of the Wellcome Institute in London, one of the largest medical charities in the world, to use the word “womxn” rather than “women” in a four-day event about women writers, supposedly on the grounds that the former spelling was more inclusive in so far as it did not exclude transsexuals. The institute received protests and then issued an unctuous and cowardly apology in grovelling bureaucratese:

We’ve had some questions about why we’re using the word womxn for this event. We’re using it because we feel that it is important to create a space/venue that includes diverse perspectives. It was agreed during our conversations with collaborators as the programme developed.

The institute said that it has been motivated by the desire to be more “inclusive.” But:

We should have put more thought into whether this was the right terms to use communicating about the event. We made a mistake, and we should not have used it. We’re sorry that we made the wrong call.

It had evidently become less important, for reason not specified and probably not specifiable, “to create a space/venue that includes diverse perspectives.”

These two stories illustrate something important about a lot of recent social agitation: its purpose is not to promote tangible improvement, such as a clean water supply or better public transport, but to exert power, often by a small minority over a large majority. It derives from a sadistic impulse to inflict pain on others in revenge for the agitator’s existential discomfort; the pleasure is in forcing others to swallow their disagreement.

In the case of Mr. Lee, his desire to force the bakers to write what they did not want to write was a totalitarian one. If one went into a patisserie and asked for an eclair and were told that the patisserie did not make eclairs, one would simply try to find another that did. One would not go to law claiming bitter disappointment. Mr. Lee could easily have gone to another baker who would have baked him his cake; but no, he wanted to force the McArthurs to do what they did not want to do, to exercise power over them in a matter that was of importance to them. Mr. Lee might, in other respects, be a very nice man; but in this matter he behaved disgracefully, and the public authority that supported him, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (its very name Orwellian), was attempting likewise to increase its own power to dictate to citizens.

The case of the Wellcome Institute was slightly different but had what Ludwig Wittgenstein might have called “a family resemblance” to the other story. Unacknowledged in the Institute’s initial decision was fear: fear of a tiny special interest group that thinks (not altogether without foundation) that it has society on the run. It enjoys the terror that it exerts.

In its report on the case, the BBC website quoted Dr. Clara Bradbury-Rance, an academic at King’s College, London, the publisher of whose book, Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory, has this (inter alia) to say about it:

Bradbury-Rance resists charting a narrative of representational progress or shoring up the lesbian’s categorisation in the newly available terms of the visible. Instead, she argues for a feminist framework that can understand lesbianism’s queerness. Drawing on a provocative theoretical and visual corpus, Lesbian Cinema after Queer Theory reveals the conditions of lesbian legibility in the twenty-first century.

This is what counts as scholarship—publicly funded, of course—in our brave new world. And the author’s reflections on the word “womxn,” as reported by the BBC, were that the word “stems from a longstanding objection to the word woman as it comes from man, and the linguistic roots of the word mean that it really does come from the word man.” The project is no less than to change the very way in which we speak, as the Russian communists and the Nazis attempted to do (with considerable success).

Of course, no one remarked on the irony of the condescending nature in the first place of a conference on women writers, which brings to mind Dr. Johnson’s famous remark about women preaching: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs. It’s not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

Is this the impression that the conference really wanted to give to the rest of the world about women who write?

By coincidence, happy or unhappy according to your point of view, the day following the publication of the two articles cited above, the Guardian reported the case of Karen White, a transsexual (male to female) prisoner who was still “transitioning,” who was imprisoned for stabbing a neighbor and who, while in a women’s prison, sexually assaulted women there. The prisoner then admitted to having committed two rapes outside prison and was sentenced to life imprisonment—in a male prison. But will he soon not be a woman and therefore entitled by inalienable right to serve a sentence in a women’s prison? After all, under British law, he can change the sex on his birth certificate and actually be a woman and have always been a woman.

G.K. Chesterton is reputed to have said that when people cease to believe in God, they will not believe in nothing, they will believe anything. Actually, what they will believe in is power as the highest good. In the process, they become bores and bullies.

Reader Discussion

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on November 12, 2018 at 14:02:37 pm

Surveying the present political / cultural scene, one comes to the inescapable conclusion that what we are witnessing is the playing out of some belated "sophomore high school girls gossip / revenge drama where the *IN* girls get to dominate the *out* girls.

Move along, nothing to see here EXCEPT a bunch of jealous / anxious adolescents.

It is long past time for the adults to administer a rather sound whooping to these little "mean girls" (of both sexes - or how ever many sexes there are currently on offer)>
Bloody twits!

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gabe
on November 13, 2018 at 00:45:45 am

Dr. Dalrymple what’s boring and lame is people trying to gain an advantage over each other by invoking God, whatever that is---phantasm or mystery. Belief in God or a god is a private, adult practice rather than civic integrity. Each individual having inalienable authority, no human will collaborate about his or her god or none.

When I believed a god, I discovered I was trying to shape people’s interpretations of a common literature to impose on myself something I “knew.” I never witnessed two believers collaborating to improve their individual god or to discover God. They always talked beyond each other about an unshared topic with a common label. Then I observed that their gods failed them. I decided to stop turning my back on actual reality.

I began to trust-in and commit-to the-objective-truth, whatever it may be. I don’t know, and it is essential to admit that I don’t know. Otherwise, I am trying to force my belief on what-is. Yet, for all I know, when my body, mind, and person stop functioning, my being will face Jesus’ judgment. In other words, I am prepared for an event I doubt will happen. I don’t want anyone to do as I do. Let each person decide for themselves and be glad and collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security.

Everywhere I go and every person I meet I appreciate for the potential to collaborate for civic integrity. I hope for the best. When someone gives me an ultimatum I accept it and hope for future reconciliation.

I neither question your belief in God nor want you to follow me but am impressed neither by your absolutes nor your lords like Chesterton. I think you cite God to feel a public power when you could be comfortable and confident in privacy.

There is no civic integrity in demanding a product a vendor does not want to supply, even if there are no other shops available. However, civic integrity collaboration about gods.

Putting this another way, if individuals want equal justice under law, they cannot impose their gods, and citing God does not add authority to the imposition.

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Phil Beaver
on November 13, 2018 at 08:25:35 am

I guess the above comment supports the essayists assertion that some speech is just plain *Boring*

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gargamel rules smurfs
on November 13, 2018 at 13:31:23 pm

"Civic integrity" is no less a god than any other.

Let each person decide for themselves and be glad and collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security.

There has to be a shared basis for this collaboration, otherwise these are just empty words. Safety and security are safety and security from something. Civic integrity cannot be its own basis, as it is empty of content until filled by a set of beliefs and convictions that are shared by people and that may or may not involve formal reference to a "god" but must necessarily serve the same function.

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QET
on November 13, 2018 at 13:52:59 pm

These two stories illustrate something important about a lot of recent social agitation: its purpose is not to promote tangible improvement, such as a clean water supply or better public transport, but to exert power, often by a small minority over a large majority. It derives from a sadistic impulse to inflict pain on others in revenge for the agitator’s existential discomfort; the pleasure is in forcing others to swallow their disagreement.

This is exactly right. Not enough people seem to appreciate this fact. These people are Nietzsche's "tarantulas."

What's more: because the imposition of their wills is all that is important, is their sole motivation, their principles and propositions are mere expedients, fully expendable in service to their will to power. Stalin's gulag was filled with people who dutifully conformed to last week's Soviet orthodoxy. We may rest assured that if conservatives or traditionalists had not complained about the use of "womxn," some competing progressive grievance cell would have. Leftist popular fronts are notoriously difficult for the Left to maintain.

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QET
on November 13, 2018 at 17:43:46 pm

Civic integrity is a practice: recognize a personal concern, or imposed fear, or wonder; discover whether the object of interest addresses either the-objective-truth, a human construct, or a mirage; understand how actual reality invokes interest and how to benefit from the understanding; behave accordingly; share with fellow citizens the behavior then LISTEN to their responses for any opportunity to collaborate for mutual improvement; be alert for the need to change, for example, upon new discovery.

The shared basis is the-objective-truth. In scholarly articles about “truth,” there’s never a resolution of the debate between nature and reason; science and religion; earth and heaven; evolution and God; my truth and yours.

However, there exists an actual reality respecting every query, and whatever actual reality is in each case is the-objective-truth (with the two hyphens to keep the phrase whole). The-objective-truth exists and can only be discovered. For example, there may be an entity that controls the unfolding of the universe, but humankind has not yet discovered whether it’s a god, God, physics (the object of scientific study), or chaos.

Scholars fail to admit to the-objective-truth so they may construct gods by which they may either control other people or pretend they establish the better opinion. The-objective-truth does not respond to beliefs, convictions, or opinion, and I covered that point in my earlier post with reference to Jesus’ judgment.

By collaborating to discover the-objective-truth (and agree we do not know when discovery is stymied as in the disproof of God), we may collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security, and every responsible spiritualism, inspiration, or motivation may be pursued in privacy.

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Phil Beaver
on November 14, 2018 at 13:33:39 pm

“By collaborating to discover the-objective-truth (and agree we do not know when discovery is stymied as in the disproof of God), we may collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security, and every responsible spiritualism, inspiration, or motivation may be pursued in privacy.”

The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason.

The desire to engage in a demeaning act of any nature, be it in publc or in private, does not change the demeaning nature of the act. One can know through both Faith and reason, that assigning personhood to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, which serves to sexually objectify the human person, cannot change the essence of being a beloved son or daughter, who is not, in essence, an object of sexual desire, but a beloved son or daughter, who thus has the unalienable Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private and in public.

The question is, on what basis can anyone claim that any State or any individual, who uses coercion to force the condoning of any act, including any sexual act, that demeans our inherent Dignity as beloved sons and daughters, be simultaneously, respecting the inherent Dignity of the human person? On what authority does any State or person have the inherent Right to force any person to deny The Sanctity of the marital act, which is Life-affirming and Life sustaining, and can only be consummated between a man and woman, united in marriage as husband and wife?

Certainly a Nation that recognizes that God, and not Ceasar, Is The Author of our unalienable Rights, would never justify the use of coercive force in order to jusify the engaging in of demeaning acts that deny the inherent Dignity of all persons.

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Nancy
on November 14, 2018 at 13:45:38 pm

“By collaborating to discover the-objective-truth (and agree we do not know when discovery is stymied as in the disproof of God), we may collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security, and every responsible spiritualism, inspiration, or motivation may be pursued in privacy.”

The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason.

The desire to engage in a demeaning act of any nature, be it in publc or in private, does not change the demeaning nature of the act. One can know through both Faith and reason, that assigning personhood to sexual desire/inclination/orientation, which serves to sexually objectify the human person, cannot change the essence of being a beloved son or daughter, who is not, in essence, an object of sexual desire, but a beloved son or daughter, who thus has the unalienable Right to be treated with Dignity and respect in private and in public.

The question is, on what basis can anyone claim that any State or any individual, who uses coercion to force the condoning of any act, including any sexual act, that demeans our inherent Dignity as beloved sons and daughters, be simultaneously, respecting the inherent Dignity of the human person? On what authority does any State or person have the inherent Right to force any person to deny The Sanctity of the marital act, which is Life-affirming and Life sustaining, and can only be consummated between a man and woman, united in marriage as husband and wife?

Certainly a Nation that recognizes that God, and not Ceasar, Is The Author of our unalienable Rights, could never justify the use of coercive force in order to force any person into condoning the engaging in of demeaning acts of any nature, that would necessarily deny the inherent Dignity of all persons, including a man and woman united in marriage as husband and wife.

God Speed!

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N.D.
on November 14, 2018 at 23:29:43 pm

"The erroneous notion that private morality and public morality can serve in opposition to one another and are not complementary, has led to grievous error in both Faith and reason."

The-objective-truth yields to no human construction whether the basis is "Faith" or reason. The-objective-truth is not unlike a hurricane: it's best to discover the hurricane, know how to benefit from the discovery, and behave accordingly.

The evil of institutional religion is that its priests construct, preach, and maintain the institution in order to abuse believers. However, believers always reason that the institution will save them because it answers to the believer's god. This was explained by Machiavelli in The Prince, Chapter XI; http://www.constitution.org/mac/prince11.htm.

The believer's warning against Chapter XI Machiavellianism is strengthened when the reader actually ponders the meaning of the-objective-truth. Most readers erroneously convert it to "objective truth" or "Phil's truth" and thus neglect their chance to understand the phrase and either prove it wrong, offer something better, or stonewall the-objective-truth.

When someone trusts-in and commits-to the-objective-truth, they are, perhaps for the first time, allowing God, if God exists, the chance to influence them rather than publically insisting that by Faith and reason their mind defines God. Perhaps for the first time she or he may be able to collaborate for mutual, comprehensive safety and security with a fellow citizen whose God is not her or his God.

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Phil Beaver
on March 14, 2019 at 06:38:54 am

Where was that Stalin quote from?

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Nathan
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on June 25, 2020 at 09:25:17 am

[…] do that how will democracy survive? So far the tide has been mainly one way. The pitiful  capitulation of the mainstream institutions of many democracies to mobs in both virtual space and on the streets has been a shameful episode. […]

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