The philosophy of 'not caring', or how to easily explain to a social justice warrior, that you don't care
NB: This is not one of the mass amounts of posts on the topic of “arguing” that have sprung out of nowhere. Quite the opposite actually.
The other day at work I had an interesting discussion after giving a speech on an essay that finally got around to being peer-reviewed by my colleagues and some members of the public. After everyone had shaken hands and started packing up their things, I was approached by a man...
He was 29, here in the country on a short period of work where he was finishing his PhD (in a science related field) and he identified himself as a Cuban American. Naturally when he approached me, he opened with a typical narrative that almost always precedes a conflicting opinion of a highly personal nature. It went along the lines of:
“Hello , So, I really liked your essay and speech, it was a great and blah blah...”
Wait- This is where I expected any one of your aforementioned garden variety personal critiques, and it was... Except this was one that took me 5 hours. Yes five hours and at least 3 beers after my throat got so dry I suggested we take it to the pub down the road – until I got the point across to this person.
This man's argument opened with the fact that he was, as I said “Cuban American”. He started by telling me he totally wasn't your atypical American, and that he grew up feeling pretty diasporic and not really considering himself American. He also made it very, very clear that he was a leftist and lived in a very diverse community in New-England. Actually before he told me he was American, I assumed from his accent that he was in-fact Canadian. Anyway, the discussion started as I'm sure many people are familiar with. With a whole bunch of almost entirely unrelated personal and anecdotal nonsense that had nothing to do with the real reason he wanted my attention.
After he confirmed that I did in-fact understand that America was this huge country with scores of diverse communities, where millions of people lived and that some states in America are so different from others, they might as well be separate countries of their own. Aaaand further more after explaining that he was also (and I quote) “totally deterministic same as you” aaand... still really super impressed by my essay which he promised he DID read all of and literally (I quote again): “didn't just sit there in the crowd waiting to have this conversation person-to-person”...
There was still just “some things” not quite right about my essay and accompanying speech.
Before we get to that though, what was this guy's background/profession? He was/is a marine biologist... and he sure argued like one and not like someone whom like myself, had spent their entire life studying philosophy and by association (humanities). His arguments were of a highly personal nature but masquerading as 'objective' and in his opinion, “backed by ethics”. Okay then...
Whilst his arguments towards my essay and speech started out generally pretty loosely strung together, and littered with slippery slopes and an innumerable amount of pointless personal metaphors. When arguing back and trying to explain my own stance, he fell back on, and doubled down with increasing amount of anecdotes, where even the very sad ones were narrated with an almost immediately dismissive amount of positivity. This was a social justice warrior in plain clothes trying to argue nothing but entirely personal and selfish topics, but one trying extensively to come across as a completely objective humanist igitur “but what about the greater good”?
Yeah, I've met hundreds of such people.
So here we are sitting at a bar, much like the ones pictured below, but not the one pictured below:
After giving me all of this context about who he was and where he was from, I was allowed to go into more detail about my stance on social justice, and why I do not think that it is worth caring about, i.e. Why do I have the opinion(s) I have? (Mind you, I'm of the stoic kind, so we don't care about a lot, it's really nothing personal, and I did make this clear to him).
First of all and I started with
💡 speaking from first-person as this is typically what any social justice warrior is most interested in despite the cause(s) they identify with (their own personal feelings, not that of a collective)
-the concept of social justice has no personal appeal to me. I want for almost nothing in life. I'm not lonely, I'm not poor and most of all I'm not bored with my life.”
Queue the drum-roll before the reply
Ah so you're quite privileged then! No wonder you don't feel that there is a cause worth fighting for.
In any other kind of setting, I'd probably have interpreted this as a cop out.
So the next thing to explain was that I'm of the belief that there are two kinds of people. Note: though this is not a generalisation you'll hear me say out loud though and without a lot of context beforehand.
The first type of person, is very easily impressionable. I don't mean empathetic (although you do need to be somewhat empathetic to be impressionable), I mean impressionable. More often than not, you don't need a person to go running to them with a problem, to have them lend their support. I explained that historically this is how social justice started, with an initially small but significant amount of people who banded together to fight for self-serving principles and rights. Ultimately gaining their critical mass via appeal to emotion (fallacy) and via support of these easily impressionable types.
The second type of person, isn't very impressionable (not to be confused with stoic). If you were to run to them with a problem, you would find that whilst it certainly is possible, it definitely does take more effort to win them to your side. They are fundamentally far less readily available to support a cause. And that's what social justice is, a cause advertised under the guise of something specifically personal to an individual.
So I explained make no mistake, when you are supporting social justice. You are supporting a group, with an identity and a motto, who by association at any time, may or may not support the values or views of the individuals within that group. This is just for starters. Because when more people join a group, each person's feelings within that group obviously have less of an impact on the direction of that group. It's kind of like a fast moving boulder rolling down a hill covered in a mass of ants. The larger it gets, the less likely it is that it will stop and the more likely it will cause damage when it hits something. Some ants will jump ship after they realise this is not at all what they signed up for. Some will stay and be crushed under the weight and energy of the rolling boulder, and some ants are still wondering where the fuck they are and what the fuck is going on.
A problem with social justice causes and groups is that they are often comprised of a monumentally large portion of these very easily impressionable people. People who don't even so much as need an explanation of a subject before they move to rally behind it. History has also shown us over and over that usually what starts as an act of good faith ultimately winds up misrepresented by both those on the inside of the social movement and those on the outside. The rest of us not so easily impressionable types are usually also more rational and aren't about to go diving into something without checking out how deep it is and what sort of obstacles could be in the way.
By now, and seeing that he was getting nowhere with me because he hadn't yet convinced me of anything except that yup, social justice really is something I want no part in. This man had to drop the crown jewel of anecdotes. That he was gay, married and what a huge and great feeling of victory it was when he was given the legal right in America to get married, not to mention that his partner was also apparently at congress when the change was written into law. Truly... anecdotes are a social justice warrior's best friend! Anyway, it was a piece of information I had already gathered by now just via his mannerisms and convictions. It really changed nothing and only confirmed what I had already worked out on my own, even after 3 strong beers.
Now that he was sure I knew this crucial fact about him and why social justice is so important to him. I was asked, what it was that I truly cared about, if there was such a thing. Surely I had to have something I held dear enough to rally behind and fight for. Again, this was just another attempt to try and coax me into validating this guy, who by now clearly had proven no real complaint against anything I had thoroughly thought on before talking or writing about, it was just all personal. He wanted me to see that he was really 'just like me' but 'fighting the good fight'.
Well I said:
Oh sure if people moved in tomorrow on my community back home and threatened to eject my family, friends and neighbors I'd be on the first plane back to shout “Over my dead body!”
This was met with a very predictable “That's exactly what we're doing though when we support a worthy cause”. And ho' how I tried to explain difference of our examples, first being that mine was still purely hypothetical and on an absolutely miniscule scale compared to anything he supported. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, that I was supporting friend and family, not 'mob identity'. You see I said “There is a big difference between you and I, and it has nothing to do with empathy” I stressed. Truly I empathised a lot with his fight but the difference was that I was not from the same mould he was. I felt that I had about as much right as any straight person did to argue for a gay person and on the contrary I'm not amused when gay people try to tell me as a straight person what I should do or feel regarding my own sexuality or rights. Finally, even if this did happen through some crazy turn of events, if the whole world hadn't gone to shit for this to happen in the first place (at which point the topic of social justice cannot even exist), the legal system would do its job in defending my family's and neighbor's rights.
This still wasn't good enough, insert more anecdotes and appeal to emotion.
Well then, my final 'reason' for not supporting social justice is a really simple one and that is I think that suffering is actually a somewhat healthy and fundamental part of being a living being. I don't enjoy suffering, just like the next person but I do understand that there is a reason we suffer. For quite obviously to me, we suffer so that we can learn and adapt as a species, like any other. Without conflict life is boring and life literally has no meaning. If there is no conflict of interest on this earth, there is nothing worth doing. Who am I to dilute or rob the satisfaction gained by winning a long and hard victory?
So in short, how do you deal with a persistent and quite annoying person like this who's really just a selfish (but not bad, but certainly self-serving) person masquerading as a humanist and all round 'good guy' fighting the good fight.
You explain your stance simply like this (and save yourself the hours I should have):
That you are certainly very empathetic (this is the key word they are searching for) and will help those that come to ask, so long as they can ensure that you will not be asked to place yourself in a compromising situation and that your support cannot be misrepresented in any way. You see, this is perfectly fair for you to argue but absolutely impossible to promise if you are being asked to support social justice.
You give at least a few examples of things you would support if the need arises, but stress that they are not ideological in shape or nature and therefore cannot be unintentionally or intentionally misrepresented in any way. Therefore and same as #1 not able to put you in a compromising situation.
You explain that you're looking out for your own safety and interests and it's perfectly fair to do so, as after all this is what anyone else is doing regardless of what cause they choose to identify with.
That it is and you are certainly a person with strong feelings, who understands the need for change but that you are wary of any cause that wants you for nothing more than you being an additional single number of critical mass, rather than someone who truly understands and is directly affected by what-ever cause it is they're trying to sell you.
If necessary you wish them the best in their fight. At the very least they will leave with at least what they think is your blessing, even if you didn't mean it. That is often enough, although only if you end with doing this and not begin with it.
If someone then moves to call you selfish. You reiterate that social justice is nothing but supporting a self-serving ideology. How are you any different?
Rinse and repeat as needed. You might not reduce any social justice warrior to a fumbling ad hominem fuelled mess, and hey c'mon you're a rational adult why would you want to help fuel a victim mentality? But at least you can walk away knowing that you didn't have to resort to fallacies, underhanded tactics or bastardry to prove your point. This person certainly won't have really anything to argue or complain about to others after making the mistake of bothering you.
Congrats and welcome to the philosophy of not caring, aka the 'not getting fucked by others' club.