Author Topic: DM19 Surviving the Culture War  (Read 11032 times)

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Offline Daen

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DM19 Surviving the Culture War
« on: January 24, 2022, 07:30:05 AM »
Daen's Musings #19- Surviving the Culture War

I'd never heard the term 'culture war' until about two years ago. I had no idea how deeply it could affect people- so, so many people! Our nationality, our faith, our ethnicity, our sex, our place of origin, and many other things fundamentally inform our sense of who we are. Naturally, whenever we see even one of those aspects of who we are challenged, we feel personally attacked.

A few years back, Starbucks removed 'merry Christmas' from their coffee cups, replacing it with 'happy holidays'. To someone like me, who prefers to celebrate achievements instead of just the passage of time (and also who doesn't like caffeine), this change was utterly unimportant. To someone else, say for example a Christian conservative, who is part of a long line of Christian conservatives, it might feel like an assault on their very identity.

I view the change as an extremely minor example of inclusiveness in our society. They view it as an abomination before God. How dare Starbucks have the gall to include other holidays in their greetings? How did that quote go? "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." Christianity has been the privileged religion here in the States for as long as the States has existed. I could get into the legal freedoms we have in the States, especially concerning those about religion, but this isn't about law. It's about the culture!

What other examples have popped up in recent history? Oh yeah, some of Dr. Seuss' books were not renewed for printing because of so-called 'racist' pictures in them. A lot of people got very, very angry about that.

I was raised with some Dr. Seuss books. I remember them vaguely, mostly because of the Cat in the Hat. I always found the Fish in those stories to be the smartest one in the group. That's probably why I wasn't very popular growing up. Anyway, the 'cancelled' books were apparently “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”; “If I Ran the Zoo”; “McElligot's Pool, On Beyond Zebra!”; “Scrambled Eggs Super!"; and “The Cat's Quizzer.” I'd never heard of any of those!

So I looked up the images in question, which apparently offended Chinese and Inuit people. I don't know a thing about Inuits, so I focused on the others, and the pictures were kinda stereotypical. Those publishers were right not to renew those books for publication. It's not as though they hired a bunch of jackboots to go around burning copies of them, and killing anyone who owned one. They just chose not to keep selling them. But for people who were raised with some of the same books I had while growing up, and who integrated those books, pictures and all, into their identity... this feels like an attack.

What else? There was the Mr. Potato Head scandal, also known as Spudgate (to me, at least. It really should have been called that). My childhood toys were stuffed animals. The only ones I can remember were a monkey I named George after the Curious George series, and a stuffed bear that our cat peed on. That cat was a urination machine, actually. A bit later it peed on a copy of one of my Madeline L'Engle books. "Many Waters", ironically.

I'm getting off topic. When Hasbro decided that their toy should no longer be called 'Mr.', they were making a very, very minor decision about inclusivity. To some people, it was a very, very major insult to their childhood memories, and by extension, to themselves. Hasbro had no right to demean them by trivializing a part of their past like that!

There are much more far-reaching and political examples of the culture war, though. From drug decriminalization to gun rights, from animal rights to creation vs evolution, from immigration reform to reproductive rights. The list goes on, and on and on. We have no shortage of things to disagree over.

Sometimes I feel like we're doomed as a species. Not because of the looming threat of climate change (which definitely is a much better reason), but because of how stubborn we can be. If I can look at something as silly as changing childhood books or toys, or the message on my coffee cup, and take it as seriously as I do whether or not it's legal to shoot someone dead even if they're unarmed and running away... what's the point?

uncomfortable silence for a change

To me, most of these issues are about inclusivity vs exclusivity. Do we tolerate/accept/embrace what's different, or do we marginalize/demonize/expel it? The kind of stances a person takes on the majority of these issues can tell us not just what kind of person they were raised to be, but also whether they've thought about why they're exclusive or inclusive.

To me, it's simple. I decided what I believe on my own, and tested it against my daily experiences. I just don't have any right to treat other people badly, because every person is equally deserving. Even the very worst of us, say murderers or serial victimizers, who need to be incarcerated for the safety of everyone else, should still be treated with respect. I haven't gone into prison reform yet- I'll have to do that soon- but that doesn't change my stance.

But what about other people? To someone who's raised with the idea that money is value. It's not just a coincidence that when you ask what someone's worth, you get a monetary response. That's our language adapting to our society, because here, worthiness is determined by money. To these people, any attempts to be inclusive are by definition, threats.

If I, a rich person, were to include people who are different, aka poor people, then I would have to share my privilege with them. Whether it's clean air or water, or easier access to good schools, or better employment opportunities, is all irrelevant. The point is, I have to share it now. It's much easier for me to shun these different people, and to tell myself I'm doing it for cultural reasons instead of financial ones.

I had a hard time understanding that kind of attitude at first. It took years, and a lot of very talented and insightful minds informing mine, for me to come to one simple realization. These people are selfish, greedy, and self-deceptive. They want as much as they can get, and will fiercely, sometimes lethally, oppose any attempt to give others the kind of life that they feel they've earned.

Do we live in an egalitarian society or not? Clearly not, based on wealth inequality. But much more importantly, why not? Isn't it our duty as a society of equals to enforce that equality?

Uh oh, I went all socialist again there. What was the topic again? Oh, right: the culture war. The utterly meaningless culture war.

Here's the bottom line: if you feel that your very identity is threatened by changing a greeting on a coffee cup, or not renewing an old book for publication, then your identity must not be very strong. The strongest identities are dynamic; capable of adapting to new circumstances. Our society is constantly changing and adjusting itself, so we need to roll with the punches so to speak. Our basic ideals, such as universal equality in my case, should stay the same, but how we implement those ideals in our lives should be adaptable.

It's either that, or you're just selfish, and using some unprovable, unarguable, intangible statement to pretend otherwise.

Which is it?
« Last Edit: July 22, 2022, 05:33:09 AM by Daen »