Tuesday, September 11, 2012

They're Not All (Fill In The Blank)

Many years ago, when I was working for a large government department, I had a coworker who used to like to tell a story about what happened when he retired from the Army. "I went to law school, and I became a lawyer", he'd say, "and then I found out that all the assholes in the world weren't in the Army."

Which, I think, was his way of explaining that you can't really draw many conclusions about what people are like based on where they work or what they do. I've found that this particular thought isn't limited to either places or means of employment.

As I've mentioned a time or two here, for instance, there's no guarantee that when a person calls himself a progressive (or a liberal, for that matter), that he's a nice person. Part of the reason for an outburst I had the other day (look for the word "douche"), is that there are progressives who are perfectly happy to sit around ridiculing people who are trying to make the world a better place, and aren't doing it the way the critics in question think it ought to be done. I figure that if I have something constructive to say to people who are trying to figure out how to make the world a better place, I'll say it, and if not, I'll just keep quiet as long as they're not doing any harm and not annoying me. Unfortunately, there are quite a few people who think they are progressive who, nevertheless, can't help but let us all know how stupid and useless it all is, even though they haven't done anything as useful as that in half a lifetime.

Plus, I've known quite a few conservatives, and more than a few libertarians, too. Some of them are terrific people - kind, thoughtful, and eager to help those they feel are in need. There are times when I want to grab those folks by the lapels and and ask them why in the world they believe the stupid things they do about politics and economics while whacking them with the biggest clue stick I can carry, but beyond that I think the world of them. I'd much prefer them to the aforementioned "progressives".

Which leads us to another one of those realms where some of us are just naturally supposed to be better than others, and yet aren't really. I have hesitated several times to discuss this issue, because there's so much background, but I think it comes down to this: Among atheists, there are some people who are just extremely thoughtless. Most of them seem to be men. They don't seem to want to understand that there are plenty of people in this world who don't have the advantages they do, and don't think that there's any reason they should tread carefully when they're dealing with people they've just met, or with whom they disagree about things.

If you want a more detailed explanation of what I'm talking about, I'd suggest starting here, and following the links. The bottom line comes from PalMD yesterday:

A number of writers have pointed out that the feel unsafe and unwelcome among atheists. They have encountered sexism, racism, homophobia, and other emotionally common but intellectually irrational behaviors. In reaction, prominent atheists and skeptics have avoided popular gatherings and given their reasons publicly—and been vilified for it.

The common argument goes, “hey, it’a about Big Tent Atheism, leave all your other agenda outside.” That’s easy to say if you’re culturally normative (white, male, hetero–everything but religious). Many of us can’t just leave everything else outside. Whether we are female, gay, ethnic minorities or simply human beings, we can’t ignore human dignity.

It reminds me of the gay-haters who think that allowing gay marriage will open the flood gates to man-on-goat love. There is no slippery slope when including human dignity in “the movement”. If being able to not believe is an essential right, so is human equality. They cannot be separated.

The Responsibility Of Atheists

The only reason I bring this up now is that this discussion is still obviously going on. After all this time, there are lots of people who don't get what the problem is. They might get it if they shut up and listened for a while, but a whole lot of people have tried to explain it, and it still hasn't sunk in.

So, more out of frustration than any form of hoping that I can break through, I'll say this: If you're an atheist, humanist, or "skeptic", and you don't see what the problem is here, you need to learn to see things from someone else's perspective. Someday, maybe I'll explain why I find the phrase "white male privilege" to be arrant foolishness, and another sign that progressives don't ever want to accomplish anything, but for now I'll just say this: I'm white, heterosexual, and male. I'm larger than average, and I'm more educated and a lot smarter than average. I don't have any debilitating health issues. The more of those things you can say about yourself, the less crap you have to put up with, at least if you live in most parts of the Western world. If you, too, share most or all of those attributes, you need to shut up and listen to the people who don't. For them, the world is a less friendly and often a less safe place.

And if you can't see why a woman would be uncomfortable about being invited for "coffee" by someone she was stuck in an elevator with at 2 AM, then try to imagine that you were stuck in an elevator with someone twice your size who made that proposition to you, and didn't seem to want to take no for an answer.

Every time I read about this discussion among non-believers, I'm reminded of some of the reasons I avoid getting involved with anything having to do with atheism. Many years ago, I used to participate in Usenet groups on atheism. It wasn't long before that particular subject lost its shiny. My impression then wasn't all that different from my old coworker's about his previous careers.

Not all the assholes in the world are theists.

No comments: