Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why You Hatin'?

In the name of full disclosure, I have to admit that when people speak of Occupy Wall Street (or Occupy anywhere else for that matter) as if it were the second coming of Democracy and Enlightenment, I simply roll my eyes. I'm of the opinion that mass protests are the last resort of the politically powerless, and I don't see many of the OWS protesters falling into that category. (Now, if you recall the big pro-immigration from Latin America rallies of some years back - there were a lot of people who, because non-citizens don't get a vote, were effectively politically powerless within the current system.) Perhaps more importantly, I don't see myself as politically powerless, so I'd rather go vote than camp out somewhere.

Before you start - you're correct. My one vote doesn't make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But, by the same token, standing my sorry ass out in the cold with a sign by myself wouldn't make a difference either. Both voting and protests benefit from numbers.

But I really, really, REALLY don't get the Occupy Wall Street Hate Machine that's sprung up. Okay, so there are some yahoos out there holding signs extolling the virtues of getting high. And I'm not sure that all of these guys really understand the distinction between "civil disobedience" and "only laws that I agree with should apply to me." But is that really a reason to hate on these guys like they killed an infant child?

We seem to be turning into a culture that erroneously believes that there is a single, self-evident Truth out there and that you can measure a person's morality by how well they hew to it. But things are rarely as self-evident as we like to think they are.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- A guy who, for the most part, was perfectly willing to buy and sell his fellow men and force them to work for him.
A lot of this is a side-effect of the simple fact that many of us can't tell the difference between our own aesthetic judgments and objective facts. In English "I consider that fair" and "that's fair" are considered synonymous phrasings, even though if you parse them literally, they're really quite different. I'm also of the suspicion that many of us base our world-views on the idea that our aesthetic judgments ARE objective facts, and when someone comes along who clearly rejects those judgments, the possibility that they may be correct in doing so quickly morphs from a difference of experience to an existential threat.

It's past time that we came to the understanding that in a nation of 300+ million people, with origins on literally every part of the planet, we're not going to find a one-size fits all answer to things. Many of the judgments that we make and apply to things - like generous, fair, just, funny, beautiful or moral are quite subjective, and different people are going to see them differently.

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