uziq wrote:sorry, but that's ahistorical nonsense. you are arguing that trying to counteract acquired or subconscious biases is 'silly'. erm, what has been happening with gender relations and feminism in the last century and a half or so? there was a 'first mover' and a 'first constructor' of patriarchal systems at one point, no? which we are busy trying to 'unlearn' and deconstruct?
i'm not coming at this from an academic deconstructionist view where i want to play games and throw every concept into artful ambiguity. i just mean, quite literally: as part of 'civics' classes in modern, multicultural democracies, some historical examination and 'sensitivity training' wouldn't go amiss. i would happily recommend any system that tries to improve people's awareness, empathy, basic respect? what's wrong with promoting civility, etc? everyone benefits? taboos are dispelled?
too often in these discussions you kind of shade into the 'the liberal academics have gone too far! i'm too burdened with their guilt tripping!' stuff. like your life is being ruined by this discourse or corrective. it really isn't. we can generally just tweak our institutional processes and 'bake-in' better thinking on topics like race and gender. nobody is being 'forcefully re-educated' or 'sent for reprogramming'. why would anyone refuse so angrily to just treat their fellow students, fellow coworkers, etc, with the basic respect that every human being – in a liberal democracy, anyway – is promised?
the ideal future is one in which people can do away with the topic at all. i look forward to it being of no moment. but we're not going to get there by practicing effortful ignorance of the past and by denying the present ills. we have to work through it.
you and dilbert love pointing towards 'instincts' and claiming that it has universal and deep, irrational foundations. 'racism arises from the group mentality'. well, fine (citation needed).* but we generally tame our baser impulses and learn to conduct ourselves as civil adults in all other respects of our lives, don't we? do you grope yourself uncontrollably when looking at your female colleagues? do you shit your pants when nature calls? part of human maturation out of the childhood of 'impulses and instincts' is towards a self-controlled, self-individuated person. we can exercise a little superego and rational thought, here. this is literally basic textbook freud, lol, in 'civilization and its discontents'.
* and i just don't agree with the premise that every group, in the first encounter with an 'Other', reacts badly or with fear or racism or ostracism. there are any number of studies that show kindergartners of all races getting along fine. before they've gained something like that constructed, society-imposed 'awareness' of difference. most kids don't see colour in this way that you and dilbert make out, as if we react to a change of skin tone by reaching for our clubs and spears.
I never understood how the kindergartners argument ever passed academic scrutiny. So a group of little kids with barely developed brains who for all intents and purposes act like little drunkards can get along, ergo that is the 'natural state' and our tendencies for conflict and tribalism in later life are simply culturally imposed? Come on now.
Uziq, if anything, your reference to the early romans bludgeoning the ginger gauls and celts reminds me of another basic freudian phrase which I dropped here before: the "Narzissmus der kleinen Differenzen“. Even the smallest differences among us can be magnified and exploited to foment hatred between groups and this has happened countless times in history and is still happening all over the globe
. Yes, of course, it's a socially constructed reality with often identifiable material issues that contribute to this process, but for some reason many people like to entirely separate these facts from the humans who produce these constructs, i.e. it's all just externalised or artificial behaviour. That's frankly a naive point of view, and there's my issue.
That is just when speaking of the minor differences too, what if we move to the "große differenzen" that seem to dominate political discourse of late? I do not mean to imply that we're all destined to be violently in conflict, we are not, and I'm happy as anyone to see that in most western countries overt racism and sexism has mostly disappeared (in middle-upper class circles really). But there's a certain hubris to the notion that we can eliminate these processes and all other conflicts between groups entirely and live happily ever after. Othering, symbolisms, the construction of grand nationalist, tribalist, racial or what have you narratives, geographic delineations, group-norms etc. - all this will continue and inevitably cause friction as various groups new and established end up mired in competition for (political and social) power in the name of equality. And importantly, those of us who have never read about any of this or are dimwittedly unable to wrap their heads around these concepts are often fully committed to maintaining the 'social constructs' that govern their reality, unconsciously or purposefully, perhaps both, overtly or covertly. Maybe I think a little too dimly of my fellow man but I don't expect a future generation to be any less susceptible to these dynamics or more aware of them, whether or not you create compulsory civic classes for preschoolers with lecture segments on racism and sexism (because after all that's when the culture taints these poor children).
Recognising who and what we are not is fundamental to the creation of our own sense of self. We can't help but notice and identify difference, between us and others, or in other groups among themselves. And then a whole host of (un)conscious actions can follow that at worst are discriminatory in their effect. I'm all for preventing that - pushing back against overt racism, sexism or other -isms and asking people to play nice, but christ alive when the topic shifts to the fixation of the teacher's gaze or a topic like microaggressions, can we not at least admit that some very basic and probably wholly unconscious human behaviours are taking place here? Not necessarily all that harmful ones, too?