Saturday, November 10, 2018

In defense of "agreeing to disagree"

Two years ago on Facebook, I posted this:

I just saw someone say he didn't like the phrase and thought it was used by people who could not defend their position. I'm a great fan of the phrase. I use it when I choose to be merciful, which is more often than my readers may realize. I would prefer to have brambles in my view than scorched earth.
One meaning of the phrase is "you are not worth my time."
But the more common meaning is "I will tolerate this foolishness of yours because you are worth my time despite it."
Agreeing to disagree is at the heart of civility. It's also at the heart of being an ally, not in the sense that's used by cultists who think allies must think alike, but in the sense used by practical people: despite our disagreement, we can work together.
Ultimately, it's a mark of both maturity and liberty. It means you are sufficiently secure in your own belief that you do not need everyone around you to validate it, and because you want to be free to believe what you choose, you support the right of others to believe what they choose.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

So, kid, you want a shot at the old gunfighter? Advice to left identitarians who want to come after me.

I don't go out to fight with left identitarians and neoliberals anymore, but every now and then, one comes gunning for me. I'm writing this for the next one.

Kid, you're hoping to make a name for yourself, so listen up. I'll help you do better than the kids who came before you, not because I see anything special in you, but because I don't. I've been at this so long the usual scenario bores me. If you want to throw down, your play has to entertain me, so it has to be better than anyone who's come after me so far.

Here's how it always goes:

A kid rides onto my piece of the electronic range and shoots at my privilege. I just laugh. My wealth is below the US median. The idea that any form of "private law" (the literal and traditional meaning of privilege) applies to me only makes sense if you can't grasp the difference between a privilege and a right. One of my favorite old commies, W.E.B. Du Bois, would agree with me—he spoke of skin privilege during Jim Crow, when the law gave white people privileges that black folks didn't have. Later he wrote, "But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen...."

Next the kid shoots at my "class reductionism". I just laugh again. Socialists aren't reductionists—Charles Fourier, a male socialist, gave feminism its name, and Martin Luther King, a democratic socialist, fought for civil rights at events focused on class, as anyone who remembers where he gave his dream speech and what he was planning when he was killed should know. The only reductionists in fights for equality are liberals who think fairness can be achieved by creating a class system that's proportionate in terms of race and gender from top to bottom. Malcolm X has my back here—he said "You can't have capitalism without racism." He knew the only way to end the disproportional nature of the class system is to share the wealth, and liberals won't do that.

Then the kid shoots at my keyboard activism. I just keep on laughing. I've marched or petitioned for every major leftist cause since 1964, when I marched as a boy in northern Florida for integration.

And then the kid admits to being out of bullets by falling back on insults. I just laugh some more. I've been beaten and insulted by racists and war-lovers, which is why I laugh hardest if the kid accidentally uses an insult that the children of the Ku Klux Klan used when I was a boy.

Finally they flail wildly in the hope something will take me down. Yesterday's kid came up with a new one, calling me an incel. That made me laugh hardest. A visit to Wikipedia tells anyone I've been happily married for over thirty-five years.

Eventually, having fired wildly and hit nothing, they gallop away and block me, partly for fear I'll track them to their hideout and finish them off, partly for fear some of their gang will hear me and desert them.

So here's what you need to know if you hope to take me down:

Study up on Adolph Reed Jr. You can read damn near anything by him that talks about identitarianism or neoliberalism, but you better know The limits of anti-racism and The Case Against Reparations.

Study up on Malcolm X. I know your gang loves the racist who was with the Nation of Islam, but I love the man who left NOI, apologized for his racism, and started praising socialists while condemning capitalism. At the very least, ponder this:
"I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone, and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe that there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think that it will be based upon the color of the skin." —Malcolm X
Study up on the last years of King's life. Check out his support for Basic Income, and think about why he said this:
"In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike." —Martin Luther King
Last, read any of Ta-Nehisi Coates' black critics. You can find links to several here. They cover the political spectrum, so if Jacobin is too red for you, read the fine piece at London Review of Books or any you please.

Then you might not bore me. I'm not optimistic, but I'll give you your shot. Make it a good one.

P.S. You get style points if you heed Malcolm X's advice to respect everyone. The full quote:
"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." —Malcolm X
He was speaking literally, saying that if someone puts a hand on you to hurt you, your right to self-defense extends to killing your attacker. Since I've found no examples of Malcolm X speaking ill of the dead, it's reasonable to conclude he thought you should respect your opponents even then.