Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Anything Once

[Ben Shapiro] has never tried marijuana or any other drug. When I asked if he wasn’t a little curious, he mounted a quintessentially conservative miniargument against curiosity. “I’m not someone who feels the need to try every experience,” he said.
Seth Stevenson “The Many Faces of Ben Shapiro
Mr. Stevenson's story is, in more ways than one, a hit piece on a Conservative voice that it seems Mr. Stevenson would prefer to be a Liberal one. And the idea that not needing to try every experience seems indicative of that. Many of my friends and acquaintances are to my left, some by quite a distance. But so far, none of them have told me of a need to experiment with drugs recreationally, simply to maintain their "curious Liberal" bona-fides. Just like none of them are curious enough about shooting to sign up for a gun range simply for the sake of doing so.

As for me, I don't feel the need to try every experience, either. Again, not because I have something against curiosity. But because the length of a day is fixed at 24 hours, and I have plenty of other things that I would like to do in that time; enough other things, in fact, that fitting them all in becomes a challenge at times. (Note the times that I fall behind on this blog.)

But it's also worth pointing out that curiosity, and seeking out experiences simply to satisfy that curiosity, are not the same thing. I've always been curious about the experience of skydiving, and I'll watch people float around on parachutes all day if given a chance. The only way, however, you're getting me to jump out of an aircraft in flight is if it's literally disintegrating out from underneath me. And let's not forget, learning to skydive without risking being (perhaps seriously) injured is not a quick thing. And, as I said before, I'm backlogged on things as it is. And I'm sure that it would be only the work of a moment for any given person you might meet to express curiosity about something that they have no intention of ever experiencing. In fact, as much as I know that it's a bad idea to speculate about other people's inner lives, I suspect that even Seth Stevenson has curiosities that he had no plans to ever satiate with direct experience. To be curious may take some mental effort, but other than that, it takes no energy, resources or planning and very little time. The same cannot be said for any number of human experiences.

I'm also, ahem, curious about Mr. Stevenson's particular choice of experiences. Now, I live in Washington State, where marijuana has been mostly decriminalized, but it's still illegal in most states, and it's still a Schedule 1 controlled substance as far as the Federal government is concerned. Ben Shapiro has a pretty good thing going, for all that one might decide that he's using his powers for Evil. Why would he jeopardize that by risking jail time for drugs, just to satisfy curiosity? After all, it would need little more than a zealous prosecutor to put him away for a time. And even if he came out a hero to anti-government types, one wonders if their adoration would make up for the money lost while on the inside. The risk-reward curve on that seems would advise against it, in my estimation.

So I see nothing conservative, let alone quintessentially so, about declining to try every experience that one knows about. And in this, Mr. Stevenson's argument seems to take on a tinge of Ben Shapiro is different (a.k.a., not Liberal) and that's bad. There is a stereotype of Conservatives as being uninterested in anything they don't already understand, and that may be true in many cases. But the simple disinterest in trying drugs isn't enough to be a marker for it.

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