Dragging people down instead of trying to make things better

Perhaps I’ve blogged about this before. The tendency has existed long before social media, but social media makes it even easier to broadcast one’s ressentiment. Today this one popped up in my newsfeed, edited because Facebook and Twitter will use it as the image for this post:

Epipen Ressentiment

See what I did there? The original post suggests that because children’s parents are being charged nefarious costs, drug users should also be charged nefarious costs. That’s, of course, either idiotic (in most cases) or evil (if you’re selling epipens). By crossing out the second sentence, I changed the message. That people are being gouged of their limited resources because they or their children need epinephrine to not die is screwed up.

One might object that they think children are blameless and that drug users deserve worse. Even thinking that, to try to drag the conditions of drug users down instead of to raise the conditions of children up is at best an expression of bitter ressentiment.

And this is, of course, just one form. This shoddy rhetoric also comes up with the minimum wage. Some people will say that, for example, nurses only make $13 an hour, so clearly people working cash registers should make less than $13 an hour. Thinking and speaking that way only drags everyone down. If you want to hold onto that nurses should make more than cashiers, then instead reason that since everyone working should make at least, say, $15 an hour, nurses should make at least $20 an hour. And instead of saying we should make drug users pay up or die, instead say nobody should be forced into such a bad situation.


On preparation for the Real World™ via being unpleasant

When students enter the Real World, they will probably experience hail.

This means teachers should whip chunks of ice at their students. To prepare them.

Sex discrimination inherently includes discrimination on homosexuality, transsexualism, etc.

I’ve been saying this for years, but hey, looks like the courts are getting on board.

The linked article includes some statements in opposition, but they’re generally terrible. First, a brief argument for the statement in the title of this post. If you’re going to support equality across sexes, then you’re going to support that for all x, if x is permissible for one sex, then x is permissible for all sexes. (There are other understandings of how to use the word “equality”, but those are clearly not the ones in play here.) So, if it’s okay for people of any particular sex to be attracted to women, then it’s okay for people of any sex at all to be attracted to women. And so on.

Jeff Sessions said,

Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.

I’m curious what action Jeff thinks is unique to the transgender “status”. To use the case in the article as an example, there’s nothing Stephens is doing against any rule, unless there are some sex-specific rules. There is no way to state his objection to Stephens’s case completely without reference to her sex.

The employer, Rost, said he wants to run his business in accordance with his religion that says that

a person’s sex (whether male or female) is an immutable God-given gift and that people should not deny or attempt to change their sex.

I’d be really curious to see which religion says you cannot employ people who deny or attempt to change their sex. I’ll admit I’m only a little into the iceberg of religion, but rules for employers seem to be generally sparse, and I’ve never seen anything approaching this.

Posner said,

It is well-nigh certain that homosexuality, male or female, did not figure in the minds of the legislators who enacted Title VII,”

He then proceeded to say the meaning of “sex” can be updated to include homosexuality. But that’s unnecessary. There’s no way to discriminate against homosexuals without also discriminating on the basis of sex.

$100,000 of cocaine

That Trump made a bad decision isn’t really noteworthy. (Also someone doing a bunch of cocaine in the past is also not really a good reason to say he’s a bad decision. His lack of education in the field, having no publications in the field, and having only incorrect predictions about economics make him a fucking idiotic choice if the goal is good economics. Of course, is the goal is something more sinister, then Trump’s decision is not bad as in stupid but bad as in malicious.)
My real question: How do you consume $100,000 (1994) a month in cocaine?

The successes of the walking out protests

Some students walked out of school today in response to the latest shooting. Some people, primarily non-students, are very upset about this. A run-down of the bad arguments I’ve seen levied against the walkout, and why each one is ridiculous. Put together, they reveal the opposition is people digging their heels into the ground for entirely selfish reasons.

Bad argument #1: The kids are just walking out because they want to ditch class.

Why it’s ridiculous: Pretty much anyone who wants to ditch class already ditches class. Nothing about a protest magically creates the ability to leave the room. Any day of the year all one has to do is stand up and leave. Or just not even go.

Also, the walkout lasted seventeen minutes. That’s not even a full class period. I’d be surprised to see anywhere it’s even half a class period. If the goal was getting out of class, some other length of time would have made more sense. As would doing something more fun than protesting.

Bad argument #2: Teenage texting and driving is a much bigger problem than school shooters.

Why it’s ridiculous: The most obvious reason is that we can care about multiple things. There are more car crashes than homicides, yet pretty much everyone is on board with taking measures to prevent homicide. Being kidnapped off the street and tortured is worse than having your place burgled at night, but you still bother locking the door.

This bad argument reveals a truer motive, though. The people making this argument are largely not involved in schools anymore. But they are on the roads sometimes. So to them teenage texting and driving is a bigger problem than school shootings. I don’t have any argument against such grotesque selfishness, but they will have no principled objection to being robbed, so I advise anyone to take advantage of their moral permission to have their stuff.

(A subordinate problem: This argument usually relies on death toll alone. It ignores the other effects of each. For the most part, people still drive just fine despite people texting on the roads. However, education is itself thwarted when the students are too afraid of a possible attack to focus on learning. You may as well send the kids home.)

Bad argument #3: Walk UP not OUT.

Why it’s ridiculous: There are several ways this is ridiculous. The first is that it’s just a continuation of the selfishness from before. A societal problem exists, and the people making this argument want to push all of the work of fixing the problem onto the students. Nevermind whether the solution actually makes sense. But let us consider why it doesn’t make sense.

Many of the people shooting up schools are terrible people. Possibly all of them. You have bunches of people who are exemplars of pernicious sociopathy and the incel subreddit. People who demand a right to abusive relationships lest they start killing people are not the people to spend much time with. Asking someone to enter an abusive relationship with someone else for your own benefit is another level of ridiculous.

On the other side, this argument itself is harmful. There are a lot of quiet kids out there who are quite peaceful. In fact, most kids who are content to sit in the corner and read a book alone have no desire to shoot anyone. Yet the propagators of this argument are scare-mongering about them, making their lives worse. Stop it.

Bad argument #4: Those are seventeen minutes they should have spent learning.

Why it’s ridiculous: See the subordinate problem to #2. Learning requires a healthy state of mind. Nobody worrying if they’re about to die is paying attention to fractions and chlorophyll. If you care about learning, you care about having an environment in which learning can be done. This argument is just another expression of wanting to not have to deal with even the slightest discomfort over a problem that does not directly affect oneself.

A success or two: At the very least, the protests have kicked up a lot of dust. These four bad arguments, and others, have been forced into the light where they can be seen as the ridiculous selfishness that they are.

Many schools have issued punishments for the students who took part in the protests. For the most part, I see people lamenting this (or continuing to spew vitriol toward anyone who dares question any element of the status quo not directly harming themselves, but I will ignore them here), but the opposition reveals the success of the protest. If the protest had no opposition, it would be pointless as a protest. Either everyone would already be in agreement and so no protest would be needed, or the protest would fail to attract enough attention to do anything.

Some people simply do not like the discomfort of possible change if the change isn’t directly benefiting them. We see it here. We saw it when people kneeled during the national anthem at football games. We see white people denying racism because they haven’t experienced it themselves. But now they are uncomfortable with the status quo. And of course their first move is to whine. Then they lash out against anyone daring to demand a better world. But, somewhere along the line, movement happens. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. And hopefully the kids sitting in detention recognize that their punishment means their protest is working.

Watching the development of protest strategies has also been, in a way, pleasant. Posts have been circulating with directions on how to present the protest. Because some stubborn asses are prone to attacking the character of the protesters, they’ve designed the right way to appear in such a way that the asses have no ammunition to use. (Mostly ammunition for BA#1.)

Perhaps the biggest actual problem—and I don’t think it’s that big right now—is a lack of concrete demands. Right now the demand is to do something about gun violence in schools.  That’s great for getting the ball rolling. But if nothing concrete is figured out, it may fizzle like OWS. (Of course, concretization will also lead to new arguments. For example, if they go for gun control, all the the arguments against gun control will come out against them. Right now any time someone tries to dive into gun control, one can point out that the protests are not calling for gun control, but for something to be done. That move will stop being available.)

The shutdown is more strategic malice than incompetence

I’m having trouble buying that the shutdown is a result of incompetence.
The GOP has shown us that they want to destroy the government’s ability to perform certain functions. Those functions mostly consist of pro-social programs. As part of their strategy, they try to reduce the population’s faith in the ability of the state in general. To do this, they do what they can to make the state look as useless and incompetent as possible.
A month or so ago the right wing in Britain was making waves with another push to reduce or kill the NHS. First they cut the funding. Without adequate funds to operate well, the NHS failed to operate well. The right is saying now the NHS is just fundamentally broken.
The right in the US appears to be doing a similar thing. They act like imbeciles and kneecap every effort to do anything useful. Then when the people doing useful things struggle to do so due to obstruction, the right blames the attempt to do useful things.
In this particular case, the GOP could keep the government not shutdown if they wanted. A shutdown makes people think the government is fundamentally incompetent, though. And people who think that will turn against things like universal healthcare or any other pro-social program.