site banner

Culture War Roundup for the week of April 24, 2023

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

We would like to avoid these negative dynamics. Accordingly, we ask that you do not use this thread for waging the Culture War. Examples of waging the Culture War:

  • Shaming.

  • Attempting to 'build consensus' or enforce ideological conformity.

  • Making sweeping generalizations to vilify a group you dislike.

  • Recruiting for a cause.

  • Posting links that could be summarized as 'Boo outgroup!' Basically, if your content is 'Can you believe what Those People did this week?' then you should either refrain from posting, or do some very patient work to contextualize and/or steel-man the relevant viewpoint.

In general, you should argue to understand, not to win. This thread is not territory to be claimed by one group or another; indeed, the aim is to have many different viewpoints represented here. Thus, we also ask that you follow some guidelines:

  • Speak plainly. Avoid sarcasm and mockery. When disagreeing with someone, state your objections explicitly.

  • Be as precise and charitable as you can. Don't paraphrase unflatteringly.

  • Don't imply that someone said something they did not say, even if you think it follows from what they said.

  • Write like everyone is reading and you want them to be included in the discussion.

On an ad hoc basis, the mods will try to compile a list of the best posts/comments from the previous week, posted in Quality Contribution threads and archived at /r/TheThread. You may nominate a comment for this list by clicking on 'report' at the bottom of the post and typing 'Actually a quality contribution' as the report reason.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

But then you’re doubling down on any self-segregation. It’s the same with black-on-black violence: targets are rarely chosen from the general population, but from those close to the perpetrator.

Plus, there’s a difference between accepting other interracial marriages and feeling such attraction yourself.

Plus, there’s a difference between accepting other interracial marriages and feeling such attraction yourself.

I was going to mention this, but I got sidetracked. I think a major change in the last 50 years is that people are less willing to impose their standards of morality on other people. I suppose the rot set in when Haughey suggested "An Irish solution to an Irish problem." Ireland was obliged by their Supreme Court to legalize contraception, so after five years, a law was passed to allow pharmacists to dispense contraceptives to married couples (who were presumably Protestants). Allowing others to commit sin was always wrong before then.

There was a time when people believed that morality was universal and things that were wrong, were wrong. We went through a phase where people really felt that they should not judge, perhaps most clearly exemplified by Pope Francis, when he said "Who am I to judge?" The obvious answer to this is written in six-foot-high letters of gold around the dome of his church: "I give you the keys of the kingdom." He, by right of apostolic succession, is the heir of Peter, and what he binds on earth will be bound in heaven. How he forgot this, I do not know.

It seems the age of tolerance is coming to an end, however, and the pendulum will swing all the way to the other side. We will move from an era where contraception was banned (as immoral) through one where there was freedom of choice, to an era where the state will force people to but contraception for others. I suppose it is change if not progress.

Fifty years? My brother in Christ, we’re talking about the whole Enlightenment.

Back in the good ol’ days, moral outrage was less likely to decide your fate than plague or starvation. As state capacity grew and the world shrank, maybe that became less true. By the time of the European Wars of Religion, a little intolerance was able to deal a lot more damage.

It turns out enshrining some sort of tolerance frees up surplus. Common cause to deal with the real enemy, perhaps, or simply peace for those weary of war. The philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries went to great lengths to justify cooperation instead of defection. Sometimes they even succeeded, for a while, until the incentives to defect piled up.

By the American Revolution, states professed a morality of high-minded ideals. These dominated because they gave a real, material advantage over states with low tolerance. America’s North was willing to tolerate both the moral evil and the political threat of the South, because most people involved saw the sanctity of the Union as more valuable. When war came, millions bled.

The next century saw America rise to power as a (relatively) unified bloc. The more dire an outside threat, the more benefit could be gained from tolerating those close to you. Other comments note how WWII made major strides in American race relations, since an African American was still no Kraut. Across the globe, this was the century of ideological alliances, a first, second and third world. And the first world, the one preaching Enlightenment ideals, was the victor.

Pope Francis said that a man’s gayness was less important than whether “he searches for the Lord and has good will.” That framing of tolerance has always been one of the great advantages of Christianity.

I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

1 Corinthians 3:5.

Pope Francis said that a man’s gayness was less important than whether “he searches for the Lord and has good will.”

No, he asked who was he to judge, forgetting his position. He could decide to make homosexual actions not a sin. It is within his power. It would be like Biden declining to decide on nuking Russia in the event of a first strike - "I'd hate to be the person who needed to make that decision." Biden is the person with the power, so it would be idiocy for him to claim that he was not. The same applies to Trump, Obama, Bush, etc. Being president means that you are responsible for making certain decisions. Being pope, another set.

In the mid 60s, it was common for people to argue that certain behaviors (free love, communism, vegetarianism, pacifism) were right and thus should be allowed. Only in the 70s, as I recall, was there a movement to argue that certain behaviors were wrong (hard drugs, political extremism, BDSM etc.), but should be allowed. This position took a huge step back in the 80s and 90s with the Moral Majority and pretty much disappeared with the rise of the progressive movement in the 2010s (as now both extremes were against legalizing vices). Skokie is probably the high watermark for tolerance.

Can you imagine a modern politician being in favor of legalizing something that they thought was deeply morally wrong? Perhaps Rand/Ron Paul or Sinema on a good day.