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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

An incredibly moronic assumption

Commenter Ga just wrote, after The Mask of Sanity post:

I imagine the omission in much material of the dysfunctional background in many sociopath's lives is because that is what people would prefer to see. It gives an average person satisfaction that evil is not often created but you have all these bad people who were just born bad because of genetics...and as long as you're not a sociopath, it means you must have been born "right" and can do no harm. You have few flaws when you compare yourself to an extreme case of badness...

The implication that society screws up and creates many of its own problems is disturbing to people who would believe they would always be naturally good in a predestined sort of way. What if you had been abused? Would you be the person you are now? These questions cause uncomfortable feelings to arise, so the premise is thrown out. It erases any possible feelings you too could screw up as a parent. As long as you are not a sociopath you must have "good person" genes and your child will do alright.

I replied: 

I suppose there's a certain amount of that mindset you describe, that people want to think that they would have been good no matter what. It reminds me a little of the way liberals believe that people from other eras should be judged by today's standards, as if had they been born into a slaveholding family in South Carolina back in 1821 they would have held the exact same values they hold now. It's moronic, actually. 

My guess is, if I'd been brought up by Edmund Kemper's mother (who made him sleep all alone in the basement, which he was terrified of, as a little boy), or with Charlie Manson's background (his mother once reportedly tried to sell him for a pitcher of beer), I'd be murderously inclined as well.

But the larger point is, our circumstances shape our viewpoints and personalities in all sorts of ways.

I've written before, here and here, among other places, about how silly it is to apply current moral standards to previous eras.

Full disclosure: had I been born in ancient Rome, I'm sure I would have thought going to the Coliseum to watch Christians get fed to the lions was a perfectly respectable entertainment.

Had I been born in Spain in the late 1400s, I would undoubtedly have thought torture necessary to get people to confess to having had intercourse with the Devil.

And had I been born either a slaveholder -- or a slave -- in the antebellum South, I would doubtless have thought slavery simply the natural order of things. 

Maybe all that acceptance would have betrayed a certain lack of imagination on my part. Maybe it would have showed a lack of moral fiber. Maybe it would have shown me to be stupid. 

But, stupid as I might be, I'm not so dumb as to think that had I been born in any of those times and places that I would somehow miraculously have all of my current sensibilities and opinions derived from living in 2017 America. 

Yet, that's what liberals seem to believe. The same liberals who tell us that there are no genetic differences between people -- or peoples -- when it comes to intelligence, seem to at the same time believe that political opinions are purely instinctive, i.e. genetic, and remain uninfluenced by environment.

The fact is, anybody who lived in Spain in the 1400s who started lecturing others about third wave feminism or white privilege would probably have gotten to experience the Inquisition firsthand.

And, after a while, they would surely have confessed to those concepts being the work of the Devil.

Frankly, I'm not so sure that they're not.


Anonymous said...

Liberals deny reality, facts. I have read comments describing liberalism as a mental disorder. I think that I agree with such a statement.

- birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I'm coming around to that viewpoint. They're not all crazy. But an awful lot of them seem to be either hysterical, or dishonest, or naive, or easily duped.

Steven said...

Jordan Peterson put it really well when he said that people tend to cast themselves as the hero... (massively paraphrasing the next bit) when they imagine living in previous eras.

It just seems like egotism and naivety to me. In fact, I think I did that a bit when I was younger myself.

Do you think people tend to become less narcissistic as they age and mature? I think I've become more humble as I've gotten older, which to me just means more can force you to realise your limitations and that you aren't as special or capable as you might have thought. But that's good because egotism underlies all kinds of mental suffering and can make you a bit of an idiot.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Ha, I'm sure that's true. Most people who believe in reincarnation don't see themselves as having been lowly serfs or peons in their previous life.

I think that's true, most people just get beaten down by life and come to the realization that they're not going to become anything special. (That's me speaking from personal experience.)

And yeah, when you're high on yourself is when you're most likely to make stupid mistakes. (Again, me, speaking from personal experience.)

Steven said...

To elaborate, he was saying that when people imagine being in, say, Nazi Germany, they tend think they would have been the moral one who opposed it rather than complicit, which is more likely. Same with your example of slavery.

re reincarnation...I think that's true but of the more flakey new agey types. Traditional Buddhists and Hindus think of themselves as having spent incalculable eons going from life to life in every circumstance imaginable, in both the lower and higher realms. Those traditional teachings are designed to be radically challenging to egotism and to encourage one towards meditation and insight, whereas the new agey stuff can be ego reinforcing and is sometimes thought of as a kind of superficial pseudo spirituality.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Ah, okay, I see. So the "higher" role they see themselves in is the moral high one. Gotcha.

I wasn't talking about traditional Buddhists and Hindus, just the flakey Americans who like to imagine things like that. "Pseudo spirituality" is a good way to put it.

Anonymous said...

I would say the ones who did oppose those acts in those times had bigger balls than anyone who opposes them now. And they who did then we can know they did because of their own individual deliberate choice and thought; the kind that is generated within the self without outside suggestion. So even more was it true and virtuous.

Does every person today who says they oppose slavery say it with conviction, and not indifferently? Just as it used to be the value of the time to have slaves, it is the value of our time to oppose it. That is why a hero back then who fought against oppression, usually we only recognize today, deserved their statue.

(Also, from what I've read, most of the people who vocally opposed slavery all the way back to the 1700s were priests or pastors. All the way back and even today, the disabled and poor receive more charity from the church than any Berkley hippy. I haven't seen a dime from a SJW go to a soup kitchen, hospital for the poor, or a home for the disabled, not a penny! I'm not religious myself, but I'm sharing this as this stands quite in contrast to the modern Hollywood liberal type or SJW we associate with activism.)


John Craig said...

Ga --
No question, it takes much more course to buck the herd. To be politically correct these days, is, by definition, almost an act of cowardice. (Everyone wants to be "correct' in the eyes of society.)