Monday, August 24, 2015

On "The Coddling of the American Mind"

By now you've probably read the Atlantic's cover piece for its September issue, "The Coddling of the American Mind." Since I've by now claimed "leftist authoritarian thought policing" as my unofficial beat, I have plenty of opinions, most of which have been hashed-out by the liberal blog world, or rather, the parts of the liberal blog world that eats these things like candy, so I'll keep it brief. I don't want to say that the Atlantic's piece is the nadir of liberal in-fighting, but it's significant, and Jonathan Haidt isn't exactly known for being a reactionary. What I have been saying for years now is that people on the left who are bothered by things like speech codes, disinvitations, and no-platforming, need to speak up. I'm sure there are many people who write for liberal blogs and magazines and people in academia for whom it would be career suicide, but for most people who call themselves leftists or progressives, it's easy. It takes very little effort to house your argument in a lot of a poststructuralist double speak with a nod to power structures and "privilege checking" and still look like the good guy. And because the left is overrepresented in the academia and the media, it's filtering into the mainstream quicker than the right's brand of irrationality. (Disclosure: I initially wrote "crazy" not "irrationality." I like the word "crazy." It's succinct. I hate that I've had to erase it from my vocabulary even though in this case irrationality is probably sufficient.)

I think it's important note, also, that there is a big generational component to all this. Not only adding trigger warnings to things like syllabi and novels, but identarian politics in general. Particularly among young leftist where group identity is core to their ideology. Recognition is great, better access to things like mental health services is more than a worthy goal, but it's tiresome feeling as though you must provide a list of credentials before you're allowed to speak, provided you even want to be defined by the most "otherized" parts of you.

Which brings me to this: I hate when something is so sacrosanct it can't be made funny. My coping mechanism has always been to make the big and scary worthy of ridicule. I know it's not for everyone, and I don't expect it to, but it works really well for me and I can't, in good faith, use it anymore.