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Today I’m here to talk about HOW IGNORANT YOU ALL ARE.

And why that’s okay.  In the course of this post we’ll build a little vocabulary, but don’t be afraid—it’s all very intuitive.

We live in an age of civil rights.  Issues that we might never have had to think about are exploding into public awareness. Groups that have never spoken up before are asserting themselves at last.  The world is full of new toes to step on, and many communities are being swept by political correctness and social justice, opening themselves up as “safe spaces.”  Equality is the word of the day—take each person as a person, nothing less.

Use the wrong pronoun, make a joke over the edge, break a rule, and the response is immediate.  SOCIAL SANCTION.  Boom. People attack easily, and ‘ignorant’ is one of the many words in the arsenal of social justice.

Why the big deal?  Why do people sling the word ‘ignorant’ around quickly? Why fly off the handle at a little joke? Political correctness is surely killing comedy.  And social justice crusaders obviously take the cause too seriously.

First—I’ll talk about ‘political correctness’ later.  That’s a different post.

Second, let’s talk about the PYRAMID OF HATE!


Now, if you don’t have a Tumblr, your first question will probably be “what the hell does this mean?” And I shall explain the parts of it that are relevant to my point.  For more, go look it up! I can’t do everything for you.  JEEZUS.

We’ll start in the base of the pyramid, like any good Mummy movie. In the LANGUAGE OF OPPRESSION.

Let’s talk about something you probably hear all the time: pidgin Spanish.  A middle-aged white man saying “NO ES BUENO” as loudly and phonetically incorrect as possible.  It’s a little hilarious.  Why is it hilarious? Why is it funny? ‘Cause it’s dumb.  Why’s it dumb? Well, ‘cause it’s Spanish, you—

…….ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Well.

Well, what about something smoother? Like walking up to a pretty girl and saying “Hola, chica.” Chicks dig Spanish.

Why do chicks dig Spanish? ‘Cause it’s smexy.  A little sleazy, yeah, but very sensual, and good for mesmerizing women, like all the people who speak Span….oooh.  Awkward racial stereotype moment.

There’s something not entirely good at the very base of pidgin Spanish.  Something covert.  It’s not something loudly racist.  You can’t apply the usual rules to it; you can’t say “I’m not racist, but BUENOS DIAS” like you could with more overt racism. It’s something that is, as we say, problematic.  Sometimes, it causes a problem.  It’s pervasive and sometimes unconscious and sometimes funny. And it’s subtle! You can’t yell at people who use pidgin Spanish.  It comes off as strange and oversensitive.  It’s problematic.

This is the base of our pyramid of oppression up there.  The subtle linguistic anomalies that are somehow…wrong.  Pidgin Spanish.  Using the word ‘gay’ as a description of something bad (rather than, say, an episode of Sherlock).  Using the word ‘retarded’ to talk about something that’s actually just stupid.  Mentioning how OCD you are about your pencil case (spoiler; if you don’t count your pencils, stack them into rows of seven, and then repeat a small rhyme about them every time you use them, you’re not actually that OCD about your pencils).

Why does the pyramid have such an awful name? HATE? It sounds like the title of a Pathfinder campaign.  THE PYRAMIDS OF HATE.  Just because you make a joke about how ‘fake and gay’ that video was, doesn’t mean you’re trying to oppress anyone.  Who even oppresses anyone anymore? This is really oversensitive.

Well, it’s not about you.  It’s also not about me.  It’s about the second-generation Argentinean girl in public elementary school who hears her teacher say “BUENOS DIAS” to the class in such a scornful tone that she ceases to speak Spanish, and implores her parents to speak English in public.  It’s about the young boy who can’t express to anyone how his girl’s body doesn’t match up with his heart.  It’s about the college student just out of therapy who feels a bulimia joke like a knife in the heart.

It’s about your audience. It’s about other people. It’s about being setting-conscious.  And it’s about trying to deal with the fact that ALMOST EVERYTHING IS PROBLEMATIC.  I could bore you with theory, but I’ve done that enough in the rest of my blog.  Let’s just drop three things to mull over:

Isn’t it interesting how only one of the actresses in West Side Story was actually Latina?  It’s not like there’s a shortage of latin actors/actresses who can dance.

Beauty and the Beast is a classic movie.  It’s slightly less classic if you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship.

Why is it funny/endearing for a man to yell across the street that he likes a woman’s pants, but creepy for a man to yell it to another man?

I’ll agree with you that THE PYRAMID OF HATE has an alarming name.  But that’s the point.  It’s alarming and attention-grabbing.  And now that you’re alarmed and your attention has been grabbed…

These are not malicious things.  Catcalls, pidgin Spanish, and the widespread assumption that straight people are the standard from which all else is deviant (called heteronormativity, in case you wanted a vocabulary word for the day).

They stem from ignorance. Ignorance in the sense of NOT KNOWING THINGS.

Which is, to put it plainly, bliss.  I’ll put links at the bottom to websites, articles, and blogs that will make your skin crawl with awareness, if you wish to delve into the world of social justice.

But in the meantime, it’s not a bad thing to not know things, as long as you learn. You don’t have to be perfectly politically correct, you don’t have to watch and worry over your every word.

But you should be aware that there are things that you can say casually that can hit another person like a knife.  Like when you talk about how completely your guild defeated an MMO boss—and use the wrong word to describe it.  Calling something ‘gay’ isn’t just using a slang word—it carries with it the unspoken baggage of condemning everyone and everything that isn’t ‘straight’ as wrong.

Many, many things have this baggage.  More things than you probably want to know.  And if you are not aware of a thing that is problematic for a group of people in some situation, then you have what we call privilege. You are in the privileged position of not having to know how it feels to have a stranger call out after you on a darkened street and think it’s a joke.  If you don’t know how it feels to hear a psychological disorder belittled, then you are in the privileged position of not having that experience.

Privilege is related to ignorance, and like ignorance it carries no negative moral charge in and of itself.

If you offend someone unintentionally, hurt someone accidentally, reveal a problem you didn’t know existed, then you aren’t being a horrible person—yet.  What happens next is crucial—will you take on a new understanding of the problematic?  Will you learn? Will you JOIN IN OUR CRUSADE? WHO WILL BE STRONG AND STAND WITH ME


…my apologies, I seem to have accidentally begun to perform Les Miserables. I think it’s best we stop here for now.

There’s much more to the PYRAMID OF HATE—as you can clearly see.

And there’s a reason why social justice types seem more serious than most.  It has to do with knowledge.

Living in ignorance is fun.  But there are things that bug you, things that hover around the edge of life that seem not quite right.  Living in ignorance, you see the people; this job, this sex, this weight, this race.  The kind of understanding you gain from studying identity and society is terrifying.  Small wonder social justice types come off as dour and unfunny.

Walking with Foucault (a writer), Jung (a psychologist), Wilde (an essayist), Chesterton (a journalist), Eliade (a scholar of comparative religion and spirituality), (etc.) you don’t see the modern world.  You see a war, a war with society arrayed in full force against the individual soul.  A war to which many people are oblivious, a war with as many faces as there are identities.  You see the war, and you look past the troubled teen to understand that they have less control over their actions than you might think.  You see the war, and you wonder how it feels to be discriminated against, to be the villain, the family-destroyer, the job-taker, the terrorist.

You watch a Disney movie and see an entertaining cartoon with music. We watch a Disney movie and see racism, sexism, abusive relationships, and misogyny. You watch a television show and see something funny. We watch a television show (the same show!) and see triggers, patriarchy, gender norms, heteronormativity. (don’t worry about the long words)  We see the humor, yes, but we also see the oppression.  And that takes away from the humor just a bit.  And what makes it even harder is trying to explain so many things, because IT’S ALL CONNECTED, every form of prejudice and oppression and overintellectualism and JUST EVERYTHING BAD OKAY????

Now, we can laugh.  And we do.  We laugh loud and often (just check Tumblr)—as well we should, for laughter is the second-best way to fight oppression*.  We laugh long and fiercely as we fight for what we now know to be right.  And we make mistakes, too, we social justice types.  And not all of us take them easily. But when we’re done, and the war is won, and everyone is free to be who they are, to find whatever place in society they wish, then we will laugh the loudest and clearest.  And on that day, we will know peace.  On that day, we will all watch Disney movies, and we will all smile, and enjoy—and we will all recognize the problems it holds.

So that’s why ‘social justice crusaders’ are dour and unfunny.  We don’t think we’re better.  We aren’t uptight. We just saw Waldo a little while before you did, purely by luck. You’ll see the hidden picture in the crowd too, we hope—because we are humanists, in the end. So if we call you out and try to tell you your joke was wrong, don’t take it personally! We don’t think you are wrong! You, as a person, are just as deserving of every kindness and consideration as anyone else.  It is your actions we have trouble with, and they stem only from incomplete calculations.

We call you out because we think you’re doing it wrong–not because we want to call you out, and not because we think you’re awful, but because we think you don’t know.  It’s not about morality.  It’s about awareness.  And you can’t lecture someone into finding Waldo.

Peace out.

*the best way to fight oppression is lasers.

The definitive guide to white male privilege. If you haven’t heard of Scalzi, check him out.  He rocks.

Language, Race, and White Public Space. Pidgin Spanish and racial stereotypes.

“Being Sane In Insane Places.”  Commitment issues.

Problems with The Lone Ranger;  because there are still Native Americans here.

Terrifying Racial Issues. 

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. […] That’s the whole point. I’ve argued before that people need to be self-aware (when I was a teenager, no less), but the crux of that point came out to be the same:  it’s not a bad thing to not know things, […]

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