The War on the Exceptional

Is there a war on the exception (radical) to the detriment of humanity?

Start with this “In Our Time” episode on Kierkegaard, the read these two essays by Anthony Judge:

Mill on Eccentricity

Serbia’s Bojana Stamenov singing “Ceo Svet Je Moj” at the 2015 Eurovision song contest final.

“In this age the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”

Mill, John Stuart (2012-03-01). On Liberty (Dover Thrift Editions) (p. 56). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.

“This odd hell that childhood is, where you can be going through something in very close proximity to…”

“This odd hell that childhood is, where you can be going through something in very close proximity to your parents, and they still can’t help you. You still can’t really tell anyone about it. It’s obsessed me, not just him, but generally that problem of childhood.”

Graham Linehan, This American Life Episode 314.

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No Right to Mental Comfort

I thoroughly enjoyed “Freedom from Speech” by Greg Lukianoff, in which he persuasively argues that much contemporary censorship is rooted in the idea that emotional and intellectual comfort ought to be a right.

The increased calls for sensitivity-based censorship represent the dark side of what are otherwise several positive developments for human civilization. As I will explain in the next section, I believe that we are not passing through some temporary phase in which an out-of-touch and hypersensitive elite attempts — and often fails — to impose its speech-restrictive norms on society. It’s worse than that: people all over the globe are coming to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as though it were a right. This is precisely what you would expect when you train a generation to believe that they have a right not to be offended. Eventually, they stop demanding freedom of speech and start demanding freedom from speech.

…I am constantly on the lookout for potential cures for this problem. Litigation plays an important role in the fight, as does having students engage in proper Oxford-style debates (like we see today in the Intelligence Squared series). Comedians and satirists may also join the pushback against the infinite care ethic; after all, it is blazingly clear that politically correct censorship and comedy are natural enemies. And, of course, nothing can replace teaching students at every level of education the old-fashioned intellectual habits of epistemic humility, giving others the benefit of the doubt, and actually listening to opposing opinions. Such practices need to make a comeback if we are to have a society in which it is at all productive (let alone pleasurable) to talk about anything serious.

The short book/pamphlet is full of great insights and an essential read for the modern free speech advocate.

 

As Lukianoff points out, the vanguard of the fightback is probably comedians. PC and Comedy are natural enemies. Here is Patton Oswalt’s viral skewering care ethic excesses:

See also

 

Taxi Militias

An article in Denmark’s Information newspaper revealed that victims of honour violence in Copenhagen are often tracked down by ethnic minority taxi drivers who return the women to their abusive families or spouses. This follows news that Islamists in deprived areas of Denmark work with ethnic gangs to enforce sharia . If Islamists were able to command a highly mobile reconnaissance and rapid reaction force of taxi drivers, the police would have a major threat to deal with.

I strongly doubt the taxi drivers are part of some organised militia or Islamist plot. It is just the power of social networks in close knit immigrant communities at work.

I would understand, however, if immigrant communities were organising defensively. In Ted Allbeury’s 1983 novel “All Our Tomorrows”, an economically and socially divided Britain is occupied by the Soviet Union. In describing the gradual disintegration of Britain prior to the occupation, Allbeury describes class warfare and ethnic riots. One of episodes of the novel describes how Britain’s Asians manage to defend themselves from marauding mobs by quietly organising and preparing long before the trouble kicks off. They organise militias, with radios and weapons, to successfully defend their areas.

These scenarios seem utterly unrealistic until such a collapse happens. Belfast in 1968, 90’s Yugoslavia, Syria since 2011:  Those that organised to defend themselves survived. Even in the UK in the 2011 riots we learned that in even the most seemingly stable countries large scale targeted mob violence can happen extremely quickly. Just ask the people of Ealing who formed street defence leagues spontaneously to guard against the mobs tearing up the nearby town centre.

 

See also

Why Rioters Beat The Police
Security militias in Jewish areas of London