Monday, December 14, 2015

Nothing More Than Feelings

Observing the behavior of my students as they interact with other faculty, it occurred to me that Millennials are now running with the torch of hypocrisy with absolutely no hindsight. While the hypocrisy of human beings is nothing new, it seems odd that it doesn’t occur to our social justice warriors, Millennials, that in seeking restitution for hurt feelings (whether anyone meant to hurt their feelings) they take no heed of whose feelings they hurt in the process.

For example, as Millennials go to war over trivialities such as Halloween costumes, college
presidents have to give in to whatever demands their students make in an effort to save their own job. One could scarcely imagine the stress Peter Salovey, the President of Yale University, recently underwent after a campus-wide email detailing how students should deal with Halloween costumes that they deemed offensive. Worse, that situation escalated and in early November 2015, an incident at Yale saw “…students surround[ed] Nicholas Christakis—husband of Erika [Christakis], a professor of sociology and medicine, and master of Silliman. One African-American woman, seemingly speaking for the crowd, told him that his wife’s email [about Halloween costumes] and his failure to apologize for it made her feel “unsafe.” When Christakis earnestly explained that he would need to consider the matter before apologizing, the woman shouted at him, “Be quiet!”; “Why the f--- did you accept the position!”; “If that’s what you think, you should step down!”; and “You should not sleep at night! You are disgusting!” She then turned and walked away” (as reported by Peter Berkowitz). While Millennials are not going to stand for having their feelings hurt, they think nothing of how they make anyone other than a Millennial feel.

One would suppose this failure to apply their ideology equally stems from a lack of shared values. Nonetheless, if the desire to spare the feelings of Millennials only applies amongst themselves, this is an indication of a culturally relativist practice, which surely Millennials do not mind since they go out of their way to respect – almost – all cultures.

The problem is, Millennials don’t respect the cultures they have the ability to usurp or wrest power from. Millennials respect, say, the practices of the Islamic State, since they believe all culture is relative and as such who is to say IS’s murderous tendencies are wrong. Millennials, however, don’t actually have to ever deal with IS directly. If they did, they would quickly find out IS has no respect for the belief of Millennials and getting upset about an email about Halloween costumes would soon be the least of a Millennial’s worries. And that’s just the thing; if all cultures should be respected because their practices are relativistic, there is absolutely no reason for anyone who is not a Millennial to respect the beliefs or practices of Millennials because to not respect the beliefs of Millennials is neither right nor wrong. As many liberals before them, Millennials fail to see this error in their philosophy. As many people before them, Millennials are blinded by ideology.

And so they go to war against the people they can control. Using the fact that colleges are for-profit, Millennials battle against college professors and administrators who don’t want to simply give them a degree without a student actually working for it or with whom they have a difference of opinion. Lost on Millennials is the fact that if colleges were not for-profit, a college administration would never give into their demands. Millennials get their way not because their demands are reasonable or philosophically justifiable, but because college administrators are capitalists. (Also lost on Millennials is that capitalism begets inequality and they fail to realize this because in actuality a Millennial’s smart phone is more important to them than social justice.)

But all of this is a symptom of a more pressing question, one I keep asking for which no Millennial can answer: Why is it more important to spare a person’s feelings* than to have a reasoned, civil debate in which we may have to settle for “agreeing to disagree”? If a person falsely believes that 1 + 1 = 3, why is it worth not correcting them, because it might hurt their feelings? If an attempt is made to build a person’s self-esteem by giving them an award for simply showing up, doesn’t this make it more likely that when that person’s feelings do get hurt, for whatever reason even by accident, that person is going to be ill prepared to deal with it? Why do feelings matter more than the analysis of a situation?

[* By person we should take to mean anyone that agrees with Millennial ideology or that may disagree with Millennial ideology but lives outside of the U.S.]

In my opinion, that is, the opinion of a seasoned thinker experienced in life, I rarely if ever have my feelings hurt because someone said such-and-such about me. I’ve been called plenty of names and shouted out and vehemently disagreed with but all these things amount to are words. Words by themselves have no power. All power lies with the person hearing the word. In order to be insulted or offended by words, one has to internalize them and make the decision for those words to hurt them. If one sees a Halloween costume that offends them, the offended party has to decide that they are offended. Granted, what is deemed an offensive costume may be a symptom of some systematic oppression, but this merely means there is a chance to have a debate with someone and possibly have the offender understand why a costume is offensive. I might add to this that if a certain group currently possesses more power than another group, I do not believe one should be offended by past transgressions such as in the case of a Jew seeing a Nazi Halloween costume. (I am open to debate on this point, though.)

Feelings are irrelevant in the face of more pressing concerns. IS, economic inequality and climate change do not care about the feelings of their victims. Nor is everyone special; it is quite clear the opposite is true as we see it again and again every day and there would be no CEOs or celebrities if everyone actually were important. I certainly understand the desire to ignore inconvenient truths, but this doesn’t make feelings more important than anything else out of necessity. While I would agree that it is basically cruel to hurt someone’s feelings intentionally, there should not be consequences for unintentional harm, as Millennials would have it. While we can never know someone’s true intention, neither can we know whether someone is truly having their feelings hurt or trying to manipulate others to their advantage. Millennials should beware the trappings of power; power corrupts and that corruption will wind up hurting someone’s feelings. Don’t be a hypocrite by refusing to examine your own beliefs, Millennials. If you want to be the stewards of the future, try to avoid operating from false premises like all of your predecessors. 

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