On Criticism

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

As an internal critique, something important to note and repeat. Universities lean to the left in social and political life, and economic views. All empirical evidence indicates this.

Academics lean to the left. This does not make them good or bad to me. It makes the cultural slant in one massive direction and not others. It deserves acknowledgement and consideration.

That would help with the incorporation of other ideas for a pluralistic knowledge environment, especially ones that I disagree with most. The point of an academic environment: intellectual stimulation, diverse ideas, challenge to personal assertions about metaphysics — atheistic and religious, and so on.

This makes me think about academic chatter in general.

If most often to one side, how does this slant the conversation? How does this lead to conversation in one direction and not others? How might collectives defend proper, rational internal criticism? Why do it?

When critiquing one’s own collective in modern liberalism, some reactions seem common. Note, “reactions” and not responses, “responses” implies conscious registration and consideration by a recipient.

One type comes in the form of a person seen as a “plant,” as in someone planted to undermine the movement. This happens in movements, but not in large amounts or in every movement.

This lacks trust and compassion in basic human decency.

Another form, there will exist critique in the manner of their method and discourse. That method being intersectionality and discourse as identity politics. I do not mean “intersectional” and “identity politics” with the emotional charge as is typical to give to them.

These seem held with an ironic ardor and faith characteristic of fundamentalist religions. Those with a form of Original Sin through oppression. An oppression bolstered through the sheer existence of some at some moments.

It equates to an essentialist view of the person or group more often: “This intersection of persons equate to oppressor and should answer for it. These other intersections of persons equate to oppressed and deserve the answers of the oppressor.”

This form of reasoning hijacked sectors of traditional progressive and liberal movements.

This seems isomorphic in style, content, and tone to “These people have Original Sin and should repent. These others repented of their sin and remain forgiven by the body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The parallels seem not on purpose but not accidental. It seems like a pity for those who lose fundamentalist religion to regain a secular one.

Let us work with the easiest example using the common categories used in the arguments. If European heritage, or Caucasian race or ethnicity, the first critique becomes “white.” As in, you are white. If male, then this becomes another category for critique.

White male, together, can be the most common. Often, these critiques do not reflect most of the narratives or experiences of those who I meet in person — real human beings, not ideas about human beings. Those who are white males.

There does seem a social pressure to conform to the narrative. I noticed it. I observe it. Others do too. More often, those from outside the community. By the way, I would encourage similar self-criticism among the formal religious conservatives.

It would seem like a courtesy. Of course, some already do. No need to name names. But thank you much for it.

These self-criticisms may moderate the extremist rhetoric and bring people to the table. A table to meet, greet, and have conversations. If North Korea and South Korea can do it, then we can too.

I trust in eventual human goodness there, moderated by knowledge of human stupidity.

Otherwise, those more left on various social issues may assume ethnic background links automatically to other social, political, and economic views — not explicit but tacit.

That since black, for example, then non-conservative and religious, and so on. It, by its own standard, creates a racist view of the world masquerading as non-prejudiced. Racism with a wink and a smile.

Not racist in denial of fundamental rights, racist via attitude.

Sometimes, these can be conflated types of racism. Not only racist in a moderate way, but utilizing similar mechanisms in other domains. Prejudiced generalizations about people in politics, religion, social movements, and so on.

People remain individuals. Even if identified with a hypothetical, statistical abstract called a “group,” they still are complex.

So, they deserve individual treatment.

Many of those claimed as oppressors claimed to be beholden to some form of “sin” may feel pressure to kiss boots and behinds. The social pressure to apologize for their mere existence.

Because they are human beings. They want social acceptance. They want to fit into the group. The dominant political tone of the era hums, “Liberalism.” They fit the mold in accordance with it. A river runs one way.

Often, the methodology and discourse use loose labels. Labels and methodology in denial, if defensive, or ignorance, if accidental, of empirical evidence. Whole fields exist with evidence on various social psychological phenomena.

Entire disciplines and careers devoted to the psychological science of individual differences. To discard this, as to discard wisdom literature and ancient traditions, seems foolhardy, same with blind acceptance too.

Both criticisms seems valid from some angles.

That social pressure can build into pluralistic ignorance. “I may not believe in it. But I want acceptance. I believe others believe in it. So, I will pretend to believe in it like I think others believe in it, to be accepted.” Repeat that over several people, you can then build a social-pressure-based movement.

Cults work the same way, by the way — worryingly.

Ironic once more, the social pressure becomes a form, by internal standards and logic, of oppression of those deemed oppressors. Even if coal miners or 80-hour per week construction workers, they must apologize.

They must repent for their mere existence.

If they do not, they become the bad people, evil ideologues. When, in fact, and a tone of lamentation typing this, those labelling without much evidence become ideologues and prejudiced. Ideologues blinded by faith and ardor in theory. Prejudiced against whole hypothetical groups.

General bias against groups held with ardor and faith. That seems reminiscent of bigotry against others found in fundamentalist ethnic and religious movements.

I wish this did not need statement, but this does seem worth dropping into the ocean of dialogue.

As with the white male example, it amounts to a racism and sexism in itself, by internal standards. Stereotyping males and white people in one swoop. It becomes ethical self-refutation, moral reductio ad absurdum. This can replicate over all types of labels. I use the most common for simplicity.

Some further internal defenses exist too. “White tears,” “Male tears,” “White male tears,” and so on, this is replicated across labels. These as blanket, non-responses. Those labels built within the intersectional framework of faith.

It saddens me. Because there could emerge real dialogue and conversation. But these create deep barriers to it. The “other” continues to be a human being.

Those oriented to the left end of the spectrum in many ways lead the critique of generalizations. They criticize stereotypes against minorities and the non-religious, often. This seems good to me, important work spearheaded by us. But then, we talk about white privilege about all white people. How does this not scream hypocritical?

What about generalizations of religious individuals as all theocrats? What about benevolent racism of minorities as homogeneous in social, political, economic, and religious views? What about benevolent sexism of women as always needing special protection?

Some of the great geniuses were religious. Some of the most thoughtful people are religious. Blacks persons are individuals like everyone else. Each has a particular, unique view of the world with varying degrees of validity and coherence.

Many women are strong and powerful people and voices in many ways. Powerful women in surprisingly non-traditional perspectives on notions of power and influence. Some women may resent special protection as if unable to handle themselves.

Perhaps, a proper question to ask ourselves. Does this methodology and discourse empower people in a proactive, assertive, and conscientious way or not? It may not in the long term. It may at a first blush. At other times, though, this may worsen relations amongst and between people.

It creates a similar reactionary, binary view of the world. Those with the moral right and those without it. Of course, prejudices exist. But the world comes closer to a multivariate analysis. That is in opposition to the simplified models presented at times.

The critiques seem valid in popular discourse, especially within group. But in actuality, these do not engage the person above personal attacks. That means, they do not, in practice, engage the person.

This reflects the automatic dismissal of the opposed hypothetical grouping. The type seen by those more to the conservative spectrum. For example, the labelling of people as “SJWs.” SJW means social justice warrior. An epithet for something liberal in orientation.

Secular social movements with progressive orientation work for social justice. We want individual people to do better, feel empowered, and to do as they would be done by, often. Something with an honorable history. But SJW as a label amounts to an invective. A term to defame to dismiss the individual.

But the focus for this article comes from inside, upon reflection. The focus on the motives of the person as a “plant” does not acknowledge the individual argument. The assumption being that the person wants to undermine the movement.

This can come in secular movements or atheist movements. The false, tacit premise in the world view. That atheist means progressive or non-religious means liberal, and so on.

Not true, not the case, one counts as a metaphysical view on the nature of reality: atheism. A universe existent without gods or God. The other as a social and political orientation: progressive or liberal.

Another critique comes in ethics. An ironic view with a metaphysics oriented as if Abrahamic. Good and evil, conservatives “are” evil; liberals “are” good.

The reality seems closer to a mix. Some of those with conservative principles can be “good” or “evil.” Some of those with some liberal principles can be “good” or “evil.” No person or asserted hypothetical group owns morals.

This critique makes for a binary view of the world. The world seems too complex. This type of criticism may not come off as explicit as that. But notice the talk, the people who hurl invectives and epithets at conservatives.

This seems rude to start, uncivil and uncouth. As well, it seems too easy. The liberal becomes good. The conservative becomes evil. You become liberal, so good.

Everyone who disagrees with you. They equate to evil. No matter what rhyme or reason, intention or impact. You see the convenience. The ease of consequent-less moral grandstanding. I do not mean “virtue signalling.”

Another strange, and by no means final, response comes from the dismissal of logic, reason, science, and critical thinking, as Western and imperialistic.

To deny logic, you remove any ability to reason. Think of a round square or a married bachelor, it becomes impossible. Even if you shift frame or change definitions, the Law of Non-Contradiction stands firm.

We depend on logic in the macro world. No logic, no reason, this depletes the resources necessary to comprehend the world, to reason with one another.

That comprehension necessary for even reasonable, hypothetical intersectional and identity politics analyses. If these become Western and imperialistic, by this internal standard, all cultures and individual rational creatures become Western and imperialistic. It follows from the implied logic.

It, in a way, amounts to a tacit acceptance and explicit (illogical) denial of the premise. To say this amounts to saying “Western and imperialistic” implies “false,” that means the assertion of a veracity, or more properly the lack thereof, of something.

That it is true that logic is false. But this uses logic to assert a truth, a veracity about the world. It becomes self-refutation once more. This represents the common thread.

The continuity of the internal self-refutation of the logic. To not deny but try to deny logic, you must use logic. Logic does not become Western and imperialistic inasmuch as necessary for rational thought.

It seems enshrined in the respectable Western philosophical tradition — often Ancient Greek philosophy. That seems to undermine the mechanism and methodology at the root, dismantles it.

The next, higher-order methodology in intersectionalism and discourse in identity politics seems broken down into constituents. The most complicated, reliable entity for democratic life is the individual.

The individualism of the conservatives and the intersectionalism of the liberals — use of the terms for simplicity — will merge in the future into a rational individualism.

The intersectionalist and individualist views want similar things. Intersectionalism wants respect and honor of people as persons.

Individualism wants the first assumption in society as the individual human being with a helping hand and proactive empowerment of those in need in times of trouble.

I like both, in part. Both seem on track, in a healthy way, to merge into respect and honor of the individual as the fundamental unit of society through proactive empowerment of the individual.

People praised for personal accomplishments, character, and talents rather than by group. “White males,” as an intersectional example, unable to claim Newton’s or Abraham Lincoln’s achievements. “Black females” unable to claim Oprah’s or Beyonce’s achievements.

Newton known for his scientific masterpieces. Oprah for the talent and skill to dominate the talk show world for years and years. Both different people with much different talents and skill sets.

Though many proclamations in societies seem to have asserted this norm, this may become one of the first times in human history with this flowering of rationality and compassion.

People in history have been, for the most part, enslaved to the ethnic group, the race, the political party, the religion, the protest movement, the nation-state, the sexual orientation, and so on.

Nothing “divine”about this rational individualism, too.

Although, as a caution, this may portend the emergence of a new era of narcissism, as we do, in part, live in now. The era depends on individual human choices: here and now — as Richard Pryor would say.

Our river of time runs one way, but can fork in either direction.




Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen supports science and human rights.

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen supports science and human rights.

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