Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nothing You Know is Wrong!


We hold these truths to be self-evident...
--The Declaration of Independence

There are certain points of assumption that one must make in order to understand the reasoning behind women-centric feminist blogs and groups.

Over on Mad Thinker Scott's page, the discussion over Mickle ("shut up, asshats") and her call for privileged males to maybe not talk so much rambles on far beyond my own expectations. Since "S.D." apparantly has judged my opinions not fit for continued discussion, I'll leave the meat of it to her(?) and Scott; however, I do want to point out something relevant to the quote above.

Starting out with an assumption, with (if you will) a "self-evident truth" is, quite often, starting out with an article of faith. Very few things are actually true, in a self-evident fashion.

Even the Declaration of Independence, though inspirational and stirring, features statements that aren't really factual truths so much as they are philosophical talking points.

"All men are created equal"? Well, leaving aside the issue of how you define "men" (as males? or all of humanity? do races factor in?), we are not all created equal if for no other reason than simple accidents of genetics makes that impossible. A man born blind is not the same as a sighted man; people differ in height and weight and relative intelligence. You may be too short to ride the coaster. People are inherently not equal to each other (and thank goodness, otherwise it'd be pretty dull). This may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

"Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"? Right there, you have to take as a given that there is a "creator", and whether that's a diety such as Yahweh or some anthropomorphicized view of Nature as all-encompassing system manager, that's still an issue of faith, believing in the truth of something without any real evidence.

As for "unalienable rights", there's no such thing, except as large bodies of humanity gather together and agree that there is such a thing. If you doubt me, think about it: what right do you think you have that could not, if an authoritarian state came to power (jokes about the current Administration notwithstanding), be easily taken away with guns and dogs? Right to Free Speech? Right to Equal Treatment? These are all legal constructs, a social contract we all (more or less) agree to abide by. There is nothing inherent in the human condition that automatically grants them.

We agree to these things because (most of us) want people to have the right to their own life and their own freedom, and even the pursuit of happiness. Many of us will fight in some way to preserve (or attain) rights that are important to us. Even then, we allow for exceptions, otherwise, how could we imprision criminals or even execute them?

Deconstructing something that people take for granted like the Declaration of Independence should demonstrate a couple things:

One, that people do take some assumptions for granted, and the most basic assumption of all is that Nothing You Know Is Wrong, that everything you think is right and true is just that, right and true;

and Two, assumptions are Not Truth. An assumption you make might turn out to be true, or perhaps not, but it is not in and of itself a fact.

So when someone begins a statement with "we start with this assumption", my skepticism turns up a notch. Many times such a statement intends to shunt aside debate over very fundamental differences of opinion.

If I were to debate sexual ethics, and open by saying "we must assume that homosexuality is inherently immoral", I would essentially be saying "it just is wrong, and I don't want to hear any argument over it". That's not really a truly open debate, is it? It's stacking the deck.

It's a somewhat more clever version of the question "Have you stopped beating your wife, yes or no?"

Feminism (fangirl or otherwise) certainly isn't the only sociopolitical viewpoint to carry its own articles of faith around as assumptions. I have my own. Everyone does, to some extent. But it behooves all of us who claim to be thoughtful, introspective people to try and recognize our assumptions when they're brought out, and acknowledge them for what they are.

1 comment:

James Meeley said...

Since "S.D." apparantly has judged my opinions not fit for continued discussion, I'll leave the meat of it to her(?) and Scott;

Well, unfortunately, there will be no more "meat" to be had there, Anon. And it is all my fault.

You see, by being a big meanie in my replies to Scott (not to S.D., but to Scott), she no longer is able to answer Scott and his valid questions. Even though she deemed myself, just as "non-discussion worthy" as you, it seems she can't ignore my replies to others and simply continue her dancing around Scott's questions, while failing to answer them.

Sorry to ruin the show for everyone. I'm just so thoughtless sometimes....