In her book “The Human Condition,” the philosopher Hannah Arendt states that “violence is mute.” According to Arendt, speech dominates and distinguishes the polis, the highest form of human association, which is devoted to the freedom and equality of its component members. Violence — and the threat of it — is a pre-political manner of communication and control, characteristic of undemocratic organizations and hierarchical relationships.
Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.
This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.
As our Constitution provides, however, liberty entails precisely the freedom to be reckless, within limits, also the freedom to insult and offend as the case may be. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld our right to experiment in offensive language and ideas, and in some cases, offensive action and speech. Such experimentation is inherent to our freedom as such. But guns by their nature do not mix with this experiment — they don’t mix with taking offense. They are combustible ingredients in assembly and speech.
Liberty entails precisely the freedom to offend. A gun in every pocket would stifle that.
Tolokonnikova spoke of a recent visit to the city jail at Rikers Island and her horror at the conditions at what she described as a penal colony in the middle of “supposedly progressive” New York. She found them, to her shock, worse that those in Putin’s jails.
She went to the local paper with an investigation into “who is responsible for making black snow,” and was told by the editors — who she said she’d written for before — that the story was good, but “you understand, we can’t publish it.” The company that was responsible was too powerful to challenge.
“‘You understand’ — that’s the keyword in Russia. ‘You understand,’” Tolokonnikova said.
Here is an image of a 13-year-old idealist being enlisted to participate in her own oppression. “You understand” is a phrase used to inure us to our own oppression, and make us complicit in the oppression of others. It draws us into the system that oppresses; tells us that we are already part of it; suggests that to reject it is simply to not get it. The implication is that to not understand is to somehow be lacking, to be not as smart as we would be if we understood. The young don’t understand, by their very nature. That is part of their power. They are not yet indoctrinated into the performance of the system; their powers of perception and inclination to question has not yet been eroded by years of bumping up against oppression both subtle and overt.
And I remembered Tolokonnikova’s anecdote this week amid now-regular calls from conservatives and liberals alike for liberals to be nicer to bigots, to be more “civil.” When people – including Julia Ioffe, who later apologized – questioned why news outlets were following around a lawyer who threatened to call immigration on two women speaking Spanish, I thought of how these calls for “civility” seem to be veiled calls for complacency, or even complicity. For silence. I heard “you understand” in these calls. You understand why it’s better to be polite, to be quiet, to be “civil.” Stop resisting. You understand.
But what happens when the intentional outing of U.S. intelligence assets is the province not of rogue insiders, not of foreign hackers or foreign agents, not of people who end up spending the rest of their lives as fugitives, but of senior officials in two branches of this country’s government who are most responsible for protecting those assets? To wit, what happens when the Chairman of the House intelligence committee and the President of the United States team up to out an FBI informant over the strenuous objection of the bureau and the Department of Justice—and manage to get the job done? And what happens when they do so for frankly political reasons: to protect the president from a properly predicated counterintelligence investigation involving the activity of an adversary foreign power?
These questions should be the stuff of conspiratorial Hollywood movies. They are, in fact, the stuff of this week’s news.
As a conservative lawyer, who at one point considered taking a job in the administration and still has close ties to it said to one of us last night: “All this man [the source] wanted to do was to help our country. And this was a legitimate counterintelligence inquiry with more than an adequate foundation and a perfectly appropriate method. Trump and Nunes have defiled the oaths they took. It’s just obscene.”
Forced smiling and the psychopathologization of hopelessness are deeply authoritarian attempts to overwrite another person’s reality.
It was hard to accept some of the (valid) criticism, especially the idea that women and people of color felt particularly unwelcome. There’s a weird paradox with bias. Those of us who have privilege, but care deeply about reducing bias should be uniquely positioned to help, but we struggle the hardest to recognize that we are (unintentionally) biased ourselves.² As it happens, making people feel left out is a deep personal fear of mine. (There is probably a seriously repressed playground kickball thing in my past somewhere.) Ironically, that made it harder for me to accept the possibility that something I work on could make outsiders feel unwanted. So I focused on what we were proud of: We _are one of the only large sites where it’s practically impossible to find a single slur – our community takes them down in minutes. _We _don’t tolerate our female users being called “sweetie” or getting hit on. But _we _weren’t listening. Many people, especially those in marginalized groups _do _feel less welcome. _We know because they tell us.
Over and over, the humanity of certain people is allowed to be put up for debate in the name of “ideological diversity.” How can a liberal institution square its essential humanism with an ideal of inclusion so baggy as to promote the sort of cruelties that liberals, at least publicly, mean to oppose?
And I think the problem for us, or the essential conflict for us, is that we set ourselves up with I think a pretty admirable value that says, OK, we are going to debate different poles of politics in this country. And we want that well-represented, and we want people that can do it effectively, write well. But if one pole is — and again, I’m only speaking for myself here — if one pole is batshit crazy, you’re in trouble. It actually throws the whole endeavor out of whack.
Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders’ hands.
I’ve spent my whole life being told that non-autistic people are so brilliant and intuitive when it comes to social issues. Like many autistic people, though, I haven’t always felt like I’ve seen much empathy, compassion, or understanding. And the evidence is starting to suggest that we’re not wrong about the level of judgment and stereotyping we face.
It is probably true that I would not have my job were it not for affirmative action. Many white women wouldn’t have jobs either! And of course, white men have benefited from white supremacy for years. But affirmative action is not white supremacy in reverse; it is not antiwhite, but pro-justice. It was created so that with my Ph.D., which I earned with distinction, I would actually be able to teach at a university. Affirmative action, in the case of black people, is a response to systemic racist disadvantages. It’s important to get that history right — not twisted.
Any turn towards research that completely dismisses the social sciences in such casual fashion simply sneaks values in through the back door under the pretense of being neutral science. Sociology tells us lots about the workings of power, about the relation between our individual lives and larger structures, making it invaluable for understanding education. However, we don’t see many right wing sociologists, and Nigel Dodd argues that’s down to epistemological reasons. Sociologists favor “accounts of the world that emphasize structure and social process, while right-leaning people favor accounts that emphasize “freedom of choice and agency”.