Via Captain Capitalism, a fascinating exchange between Vox Populi and a ticked-off female student of environmental engineering who has “read some of the posts you’ve written in your blog and [feels] very insulted by them.”
I’ll start off by saying I can’t blame her. There are two ways to go about the business of maintaining technical correctness & political incorrectness: You can appeal to those who think as well as to those who feel, or you can appeal only to those who think. The former is a better way than the latter, which aligns all the “those who feel” folks on one side of the divide, which is already yawning, broad and deep. So my preference is to try to avoid cheesing people off even further, and say thing that not only can’t arouse argument, but also can’t arouse ancillary anger. I notice Vox doesn’t opt for that approach, and even seems to delight in churning things up further than has been done already. Then again, I have never realized much success at healing any divide; none at all, really. That is what is difficult about communicating with the those-who-feel types; they tend to figure out they’re enraged first & foremost, and then stay enraged no matter what.
So I can’t really criticize Vox for his more blunt approach. Besides, it brings out this interesting morsel which is worthy of further contemplation:
Now I’m going to teach you a hard, but very important lesson. You see, I don’t care you how feel. I really don’t. More importantly, neither does anyone else. Only about 200 people on a planet of 7 billion actually care about your feelings, and that’s if you’re lucky. The sooner you grasp this lesson, the better off you will be. And since almost no one gives a damn what you do, say, think, or feel, appealing to your feelings when you encounter differences of opinion is not only illogical, but useless.
I disagree with this, only insofar as 200 is a wildly inflated number and the “that’s if your lucky” disclaimer does little to bring it in to reality. I say a dozen if you’re laughably lucky. Your extended family should probably care how you feel; your immediate family should probably care how you feel; your spouse certainly should. But the extended family, for the most part, won’t. Most of your immediate family probably doesn’t. And there are quite a few spouses out there who don’t, because when the marriage has become sour for the one, it has no doubt become equally so for the other, in which case he or she has bigger fish to fry. The two hundred might be an exuberantly optimistic high-end estimate of the number of people who will pretend to care what you feel, if you’re lucky. But people who pretend to care are much, much more plentiful than the people who really care.
How’s that bumper sticker go? “Jesus loves you, everyone else thinks you’re an asshole.” That fits most of the time. Now, if we try to live with each other in harmony, and Christian brotherly love and all the rest of it, since we’re mortal about the best we’re going to achieve there is situational concern. The old guy trapped in the wreck of a car that’s about to burst into flames, the little boy dying of cancer who needs a donation for his bone marrow transplant, the woman in line ahead of you whose arms are full of packages and can’t open the door for herself. We’re a better society when we take the time and effort to help those people, obviously, and we’re an even better one when we nurture an instinct to help those people.
But the point is, even this saintly level of concern…
…is situational. We don’t have the Christian/brotherly-love chops to care about each other’s feelings all of the time…as in, drop what we’re doing and start worrying when we find out someone’s “offended”…and here’s the magical epiphany-thought about it all…
…we shouldn’t try to change this. It wouldn’t make us better Christians. That way does not lead to the Kingdom of Heaven, or any kind of Utopia here on earth. It doesn’t lead to anything but confusion and misery. It doesn’t lead to order, it leads to chaos. I mean, think seriously about it for a minute or two. How in the world would that work?
Especially in the age of the Internet. Let’s say your feeling of offense instantly becomes someone else’s job. Imagine it: First thing to happen is, the Internet would immediately explode into a vast virtual tumbleweed of perpetual…uh…hey, wait a minute…
Okay, so strike that. We’re already there.
This is how white straight males have it easier than identified victim classes. There is great value in learning, during the childhood years, that nobody gives a damn what you feel. Now granted, there are white straight males who never pick up on that lesson, just as there are perpetually-offended students of environmental-engineering or femininely-oppressed “studies” or hemp-sweater-making. A lot of them are hipsters. Some of them are the “rich kids from the other end of town” who got pickup trucks loaded with all the options for their sixteenth birthdays, while my folks were dreaming up excuses to avoid adding me to the family insurance policy because it would’ve cost a goddamn fortune and we had yet to work out the details of how my seasonal lawn-care business would defray those costs…nevertheless, we do kids and young-adults of all sexual preferences and genders and races an enormous disservice, allowing them to enter into adulthood as we further nurture this “Occupy Mentality” that says, if you want something, just yell how offended you are and you’ll get it.
Starting with that most coveted intangible asset: The apology. Apologies all around! Always start by demanding apologies. How in the world did this get started? Who’s the rocket scientist who sat down and decided, “Hey you know what we really need, are entire generations of new adults demanding apologies for dumb and inconsequential things at the drop of a hat.” That decision is so stupid, it must have been a committee settling on it.
And while I know nothing about this “young female engineer” at all, it goes without saying that when your letter starts off with “I feel very insulted” and ends with “I’ve lost enough of my time on you already, I would wish you a nice day, but it would be a lie” — you’ve lost out on this very important lesson. Which white straight males, generally, learn during the teenage years during the growth spurt. When we stop being cute. When the world starts asking “So, what have you done for me/them/us lately?”
I say generally. I’m excluding the ones who’ve managed to generate The Aura — that hazy glow that suggests to those in proximity that they have something to gain from your immediate gratification. I’ll not deny those white males are out there. The clique-makers. The ones who might approach that 200 number…200 of the people who act like they give a damn. The Bill Clintons.
My wife and I are in the thick of struggling with some bureaucratic nonsense. I have lately begun to turn the telephone work over to her, and you know what? It works. We get a “yes” that way when, if I’m the one making the phone call, not only do we get a “no” but it becomes such a predictable no that the feeling of time-wasting sets in, is thick and pungent, effervescent, depressing…it’s simply become the smart way to do it. Part of that is, she’s more diplomatic than I am and smarter in a lot of ways. But let’s not kid ourselves here: Nobody wants to hear a male voice on a telephone. That inspires predictable — and, frankly, exquisitely boring — speeches about “unfortunately, our policy here says such and such.”
Our ultra-civilized and ultra-pasteurized society seems to have settled into a bureaucratic comfort-zone meme that says, you can always rely on beneficial results when you tell a man no. Save that never-say-die attitude, that extra umpshun in the gumpshun, for when you’re talking to a female. And the truth of the matter is, our females have become used to it. Guys are accustomed to rejection. It’s still our job to approach the woman, and “no” is the default answer we get back unless we give her a darn good reason to offer a different one.
But when a woman calls in with a request, “no” is not the default answer. When they get that back, and there isn’t a darn good reason, they get really, really pissed, every time. You know what? That is actually the correct attitude. You’re not supposed to get back “no” as a default answer. We’re all supposed to be helping each other out.
But we’re not supposed to all care about how everybody else feels all the time. Nor should a “yes” answer rely on that; you aren’t supposed to say “yes” only to the people whose feelings are of concern to you, who you feel are sharing some kind of a kinship or peerage with you. That’s what the IRS scandal is really all about, right?
I’m pretty sure the young female engineering student is going to be extra pissed when she reads the reply…if she does…which I think she will. If the message sinks in — and I have doubts about that — it will help her enormously in life. It’s a good message. But we have a lot of people who aren’t receiving it, in childhood or in adulthood, because they aren’t being set up to. They think their outrage becomes somebody else’s obligation. That’s unhealthy.