"Not all" post by Adam Cadre


#1

This post by Adam Cadre is worth a read. http://adamcadre.ac/calendar/14/14737.html

(This is not about IF, but about–among other things–generalizations made about people.)


#2

When someone says, “That’s irrelevant”, what I hear is, "You’re
irrelevant."
That, once again, it doesn’t matter how hard I try to be good, how much
I try to be what people want — I will never, ever be good
enough, not even good enough to be exempted from a disparaging
generalization.
When someone says, “I wasn’t talking about you”, what I hear is,
"You are such a non-entity, so invisible to me, that when I say ‘men’,
your membership in that category doesn’t even cross my mind."
That here is yet another person to whom I’m not nearly as close as I
might have thought.

Oh thank sweet merciful God, I’m not the only one. (EDIT - Ok, I hadn’t read the context around it when I saw this bit, I skimmed first and started readin later. So, no comparison, really, not the same thing at all. Still… I do often feel that way. Even if I have less rational reasons to)

EDIT - His thoughts about “what the post is ostensively about” are interesting, but his descriptions of some childhood incidents and the almost dispassionate way in which he tells them fills me with ire. Maybe this is the first world in me speaking - worse things happen to lots of people all the time, after all - but my reaction is simply “That that should have happened is wrong; that you should should have been so engulfed in that reality that you can speak about it in that way is terrifying”.

So are his experiences with authority figues, like the police and even, honestly, sometimes his therapist. Chilling.

EDIT - It’s also fascinating when he starts going into the subtexts - what different things people might actually mean behind those generalisations, and what people might actually mean when they respond to them. It pretty much encapsulates the whole problem, doesn’t it? I’m saying one thing, but you’re hearing another. You’re responding one thing, but I’m hearing another.

Especially in this world of the internet and text! You can sometimes tell the subext, what he calls the “shorthand”, because of context and tone of voice and body language. In text, you don’t get the latter two, and you may lose the first one because friggin’ everyone’s here.

The corollary seems to be that we haven’t adapted to this brave new world properly yet.

Yeah, I’m editing these in as I read, pretty much.

EDIT - Not going to edit anything else in because I’m finished. Fascinating. Thanks a lot, bg.


#3

I find Adam’s writing to be thoughtful and worth reading, even in those cases where I don’t agree with his conclusions.

Should we draw a distinction between generalizations about people who are something (that cannot be changed) vs. generalizations about people who choose to do something (where one such action might be adopting a particular set of beliefs)?

Edit: Actions can’t usually be undone, while beliefs can be changed, so maybe this distinction isn’t enough; maybe we need two axes: freely chosen vs. not and changeable vs. not. Also, to clarify, I’m mostly talking about criticism when I talk about making generalizations.


#4

It didn’t seem to me that the author came to a firm conclusion. I’m not sure I understand what you’re suggesting.


#5

I interpreted this post and the reference to generalizing people as a comment on the discussion in the recent IF Community thread. (Perhaps I’ve fallen prey to the very phenomenon discussed in the article.)

I’m suggesting that criticizing people as a group for beliefs that they freely chose to adopt might be a different thing than criticizing them based on inherent traits over which they have no control.

An edit to address my edit: and that criticizing people for things that can’t be changed, while perhaps justified if freely chosen, might be less productive than for things that can be changed. (Although criticism for a past action could be interpreted as “don’t do that kind of thing again” and thus be useful.)


#6

It deals with related issues, certainly, and probably it was thinking about things related to the IF Community thread that reminded me of Adam Cadre’s post. I posted it as food for thought, but my comment about generalizations was just meant to be informative, so people would know they weren’t clicking on something game-related.

That does seem like an important difference, yeah, though I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

Would you mind giving an example?


#7

[quote=“blue_green, post:6, topic:257”]
I’m not sure where you’re going with this.
[/quote]I interpreted the post as a roundabout way of saying “you ought not to generalize social justice people and criticize them.” My response is: They freely chose to subscribe to a particular political ideology, and group criticism is just a shorthand for criticism of that ideology. This is different than criticism because of race, sex, birth cohort, or some other unalterable characteristic, because people choose and can change their beliefs.

More generally, I’m saying that we can think about criticism as (1) justified or not, and (2) productive or not. I’d say that if the thing being criticized is freely chosen rather than inherent, it’s justified, and that if the person can act on the criticism in the future, it’s productive.

The category that’s most difficult to find an example of is justified but not productive, because, as I said, most criticism of past actions is productive if viewed as advice not to do that thing in the future. It would have to be something that was freely chosen but can no longer be done. Criticizing someone for underage drinking when they’re no longer underage, perhaps. It seems that, if one generalizes the criticism enough (e.g., underage drinking is bad -> breaking the rules is bad), it would always be applicable in the future.


#8

Well, if it’s freely chosen, it can be justified. But otherwise, yeah, that makes sense to me.


#9

To clarify, I’m saying that a freely chosen attribute is a legitimate target for criticism, not that a particular criticism directed at it is necessarily justified.

Edit: restoring italics to quoted sentence.


#10

[quote=“vlaviano, post:9, topic:257, full:true”]To clarify, I’m saying that a freely chosen attribute is a legitimate target for criticism, not that a particular criticism directed at it is necessarily justified.
[/quote]

Yeah, that makes sense.


#11

(I’ve been wondering in which thread this should go; I think this one is best)

Serious question.

This link is to a clip from a Goodies sketch (if you don’t know the Goodies, think of a British cross between the Marx brothers and the Pythons, though closer to the Marx brothers and without the consistently high quality laugh riots of the Marxes). It very clearly mocks an attitude towards South Africa. As with a LOT of the Goodies sketches; they pretty much mocked everyone. So did the Pythons. But the Pythons’ humour was largely placeless and timeless, whereas the Goodies were very much grounded in our recognisable (if unhinged) universe.

So when they mock some, it does cut a bit deeper.

Now. In this particular sketch, it’s the general attitude towards South Africa that’s being mocked. It makes fun of segregation by making it extremely silly.

It is very much a product of its time. It wouldn’t make sense to shoot this nowadays.

Serious question, now. Is this offensive? Obviously someone will find it offensive, but that’s true of everyone. And I certainly cringe quite a bit during various Goodies episodes! Time has moved on, and what they blithely made fun of then is a bit less comfortable today (then again, one gets the feeling they’d cheerfully be doing exactly the same today if they could, and I do admire them for it!). Still - is it at all offensive? And if it is, is it too offensive to be enjoyed when viewed in the context of the times (1975)?

Many YouTube commenters just go “Wow, what a racist sketch”, which I think means they missed the whole point of the thing… Maybe that’s my answer right there…

(I might post this in IntFiction, but without the proper context it may be considered trolling/flaming to bring this up, and I seriously have no patience for that any more. Which is a shame. Maybe I’ll just PM a couple of people whose input I’d appreciate)


#12

I hope you get some useful input.


#13

Yeah. It’s tricky, and I never know what to say. I just trust that people can, well, evolve, and not just due to orthodoxy. The problem is, a lot of humor is edgy–and unfortunately some of it is edgy in the “I’m not making fun of you, or if I am, you deserve it” sort of way. And that edginess for edginess’s or popularity’s sake discourages others from taking risks or from seeing that sort of subtlety that can make humor work and work well.

I remember utterly cringing at a Jeeves and Wooster episode that featured Bertie in blackface. I imagine it isn’t something Hugh Laurie is hugely proud of, looking back on it.

I also remember Eddie Murphy’s jokes about homosexuals and asking the “dumb question” well, why do they deserve to be made fun of so much? Eddie Murphy has since apologized.

James Thurber is another example of potential racial insensitivity due to the dialects he gave to some black characters. Someone said of him “His faults were of his time, but his virtues were his own.” And I think we can and should allow for this.

And Hugh Lofting’s original Dr Dolittle had a cringy bit about Prince Bumpo wanting to be white. (The replacement was also a bit awkward.)

I remember having an argument with a black friend over the Jim character in Huckleberry Finn. She found it condescending, and I tried to argue that Jim showed more common sense than most of the white characters. I remember trying to discuss Pudd’nhead Wilson and what I thought were Twain’s rather obvious views on race.

I think sometimes we just need to accept and trust that people will evolve and have evolved. It’s not as cut and dry as comparing moral advances to technical advances, where we notice that even people of below average intelligence are aware of shortcuts visionaries from 100 years ago could not have dreamed of. But it’s given me perspective when I read something that makes me cringe a bit from an author I otherwise respect. I hope that authors don’t worry too much about what if someone 50 years from now finds me terribly stupid? There are a lot who were proven wrong in many ways who still are quite well liked, and for good reason.


#14

This reminds me of what C.S. Lewis said about every age having its own blind spots.

We’ve got to keep an eye out for the mistakes of the past, but also, to the extent that we can, the blind spots of our own generation. Sometimes what’s in vogue, and what seems to a lot of people like progress, isn’t (see: popularization of eugenics and forced sterilization of “undesirable” people). So we also need to ask, are we “advancing” in the right direction. (This is tangential to PeterPiers’ question, I know.)


#15

Oh yes, I know what you mean. I really loved coming across that for the first time, really insightful.

Unfortunately, we’ll probably never be able to see our own blind spots - stuck in the middle of the trees and not seeing the forest, kind of thing. It’s not until things advance in a certain direction and status quo changes that we can go “ah, yes, this thing we were doing seemed sensible but it was in fact a rotten idea”. History is so nice and clear-cut, especially when there’s a narrative that’s mostly accepted by most people that you talk to. The present, on the other hand, is an ungodly mess…

C. S. Lewis was, I think, completely right, but in a philosophical way. It’s true, but it’s not at all practical. It doesn’t help you live in the present, merely helps you acknowledge that the world changes all the time and so do the values of society that may seem immutable and self-evident.

I daresay that question is senseless - there is no right direction. There is only the direction we’re all advancing in. Right or wrong only comes into it decades later; right now it’s the direction that seems right for some and wrong for others.

What would make me happy would be to see fairness in it. Not 100% wrong, not 100% right. No black-or-white. Grey areas of discussion, that’s all I’d like to see - I’d like to think we’ve come far enough that no side needs to shout to make themselves heard.

It may be a naïve world-view, however, and maybe some people do need to shout or they’ll get trampled underfoot. I’m just like the world I advocate - not 100% right nor wrong… merely trying to fit it all in.

EDIT - As far as my question goes, I would like for comedy like that to be accepted or rejected on the face of what it did at the time, in context. Non-parody and non-satire humour, when dated, is merely incomprehensible; satire and parody, when dated, can become downright cringeworthy. So it’ll never be for everyone; I don’t expect everyone to make the effort to understand the context of something in order to enjoy it fully.

But I would like people to make an effort to understand the context before condemning something like the sketch above.

Personally, I still love it, mostly because all the time I’m going “I can’t believe those guys actually did this!”. Plus, there’s more to the sketch that may put things in perspective. FWIW, they make Britain sound so attractive that every black person in South Africa goes over there. So when the Goodies actually arrive in South Africa, they soon find that the government, desperately in need of a new discrimination and seggregation tactic, introduced APPART-HEIGHT - people below a certain height are the target of the discrimation previously inflicted on black people. Misadventures ensue. At the end they return to Englad - but, since it’s now full of black people, the balance of pwoer has shifted and it’s the black people who have the upper hand. Even the queen is now black. The final shot has the Goodies resignedly painting themselves with black shoe polish to integrate themselves.

I perceive the quick condemnation of the sketch as the sort of intolerance I heartily dislike - even though I myself cringe quite often (the blackface and the “replacement N word”, nignogs). Notice the word “quick”, though. It is a fact that the sketch is full of racist images and attitudes, and I respect that those may be too strong for a number of viewers - and forcing them “not to be insulted” is no good at all, it’s just the opposite spectrum of the problem! People have a right to be insulted by the racism depicted! And they have a right to be so insulted by it that they choose not to view any more.

But if they choose not to view it to its conclusion, which as I said offers interesting context and twists, what are we to make of anything they can contribute to the issue? Similarly, what are we to make of people who - I fall into this cathegory often, I’m still struggling to avoid it - just say “it makes sense in the context of the times so you’ve no right to be offended”? It’s at least just as bad!

Which brings me in a very roundabout way to Cadre’s post! People who go “it makes sense in context, so shut your whining” is quite similar to saying “All men are monsters! Ok, so you’re not, but you don’t count!”. The message is essentially the same: you have no right to be offended.

Guys I’m sorry to be hogging these discussions this way, but I don’t actually get to talk about these things with anyone else, so when I verbalise things here I’m often thinking hard about them at the same time. Thanks for bearing with me. I like to think that, at least, if nothing else, I emerge with a broader outlook and the better for it. Even if my posts make for hard reading - it looks like I’m changing side often, doesn’t it? It’s because I don’t see that there’s a side at all!


#16

[quote=“PeterPiers, post:15, topic:257, full:true”]
C. S. Lewis was, I think, completely right, but in a philosophical way. It’s true, but it’s not at all practical. It doesn’t help you live in the present, merely helps you acknowledge that the world changes all the time and so do the values of society that may seem immutable and self-evident.[/quote]

Well, he’s talking about why it’s valuable to read books from other eras–books written by people with different blind spots than we have. So presumably this kind of reading is one thing we can do to step back from the prevailing views of our own time a bit, and get some perspective. But yeah, it’s not going to completely prevent any blind spots.

[quote=“PeterPiers, post:15, topic:257, full:true”]

I daresay that question is senseless - there is no right direction. There is only the direction we’re all advancing in. Right or wrong only comes into it decades later; right now it’s the direction that seems right for some and wrong for others.[/quote]

To the extent that we have the ability to influence the course of events–and we each do have influence in our own little spheres–I think it’s important to ask how we should be influencing things. At the very least, to ask, is (whatever) something I want to encourage, or something I want to push back against. If you think that’s useless, though, we may be coming up against a worldview difference here.

Re: your original question: I haven’t watched your clip, or read your spoilered text. The idea of watching a potentially-offensive thing and then deliberating over how and why it might be considered offensive, and by whom, is just not something I want to do right now, but what you said here caught my eye:

I think telling people what emotions they are allowed to have (or not have) is fundamentally misguided. To paraphrase from that site about boundaries I linked to in another thread: people’s emotions are their own. That’s their stuff, not our stuff.

Obviously our choices can have effects on other people, so we don’t want to ignore that. We can try to be reasonably sensitive, though we’ll never be able to anticipate every possible reaction. We can try to understand why someone is offended by certain things. Maybe we’ll succeed in understanding, or maybe we won’t understand, and we’ll have to say “I don’t get it, but I trust this person, and I trust that this person is telling me the truth about their feelings.”

To a certain extent I think we have to be able to empathize by analogy. I would guess that we all know what it’s like to experience something that not everyone “gets.” Whether that be belonging to a certain culture, or having children, or living with a chronic illness, or having experienced some particular kind of tragedy–there are apt to be things about our experience that will never totally make sense to people who have not also gone through that experience. Things that they don’t “get.” To use a less weighty example: there will probably always be people who don’t “get” why we like IF, and don’t “get” why we might be annoyed if they try to tell us how much better this IF game would be if only we redesigned it to be a platformer instead. At some point we just have to say, “I know you don’t understand it, but trust me, this is just how I experience things.”

So we can use that experience of not being understood, to say, "I know there are experiences of mine that people won’t ever truly “get,” so I can also accept that there are experiences of others that I won’t ever truly “get.”

(I have a cold so apologies if my thoughts/words are muddled or excessively long winded here.)


#17

Heh, I may have worded it harshly. “Useless” is a strong word, sure. It’s never useless, no, because as you say everyone does have some influence, and everyone can choose in which direction they want to influence things, and in the long run the victor (such as it is; it isn’t a competition, after all) will write history so that they were the ones that were right all along. In which sense it’s tricky to ask “is this the right direction” - it WILL be the right direction whatever happens. Or it will be the wrong one, but we won’t know because we’ll think we will have been right.

All we can do, therefore, is go the direction that we think is right. Here I think we’re in agreement - it is possible to strive towards a direction we believe in and make a difference. In the long run we may even be a part of a larger machine that gets things changed. Whether those changes are the “right” ones or the “wrong” ones is another matter entirely… but then, in the long run the sun will die and so will all life on this planet, so these long-run views of mine are even more useless, huh? :wink:

Enjoy this, then. :slight_smile: It’s also from the Goodies. Worry not, it won’t offend. :wink: I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea about them.

Absolutely. Yet I find that we tend to do it a heck of a lot! What a piece of sh–… er, work is man, huh? We’re full of contradictions. Our beauty and our downfall, sort of thing.

This is the bit that I find it always comes down to, though. Take the time to talk about it. I keep saying this, don’t I? It’s because I really think that if people try to they can at least reach a point where they have a better understanding of what the other person feels (be it by empathizing by analogy, by being sensitive or by arriving at a cerebral conclusion). And then you’ll have learned something, and it’ll change your outlook.

But for that you have to be willing to talk, and not shut your eyes and go LA-LA-LA-RACIST-BAD-I’M-NOT-LISTENING! :slight_smile: (not aimed towards you, of course)

You’re telling me that?!


#18

[quote=“PeterPiers, post:17, topic:257, full:true”]
This is the bit that I find it always comes down to, though. Take the time to talk about it. I keep saying this, don’t I? It’s because I really think that if people try to they can at least reach a point where they have a better understanding of what the other person feels (be it by empathizing by analogy, by being sensitive or by arriving at a cerebral conclusion). And then you’ll have learned something, and it’ll change your outlook.[/quote]

If the people in question want to talk about it, sure. But especially if it’s a volatile or sensitive topic, people may not want to get into a conversation about it, for any number of reasons, and that’s their decision to make. So it’s probably good to choose one’s venue carefully (so that people who don’t want to be involved, can steer clear) and make sure it’s a conversation that people are actually open to having.


#19

Kinda missed your post somehow!

True of a lot of humourists, unfortunately, but not the best, enduring ones. The ones who mock themseves first and the rest of the world second. :wink:

I would also cringe…

…but I would not necessarily imagine that! The world was a different place, information-wise and sensitivity-wise, and blackface did not have the weight it has today. That’s kinda part of my point, actually. I would imagine the actor (any actor) going “Oh boy, I absolutely wouldn’t do this today!”, but I would hope the actor doesn’t go “I regret having done this”. As you quote: “His faults were of his time, but his virtues were his own”. I think that applies in these cases!

Probably these people should apologise for their blackfaces, or their homosexual jokes, because if they don’t their careers would stop dead in their tracks. And also because they know better than to make those jokes today. And hopefully because they themselves feel it WOULD be wrong to make these jokes today. Lots of good reasons for apologising. And if they feel like they REALLY did something to be ashamed of - I’m looking at your Eddie Murphy example - then they’ve learned something the hard way, which happens to everyone. But it was a part of the times, and for them it was a learning process.

And then, of course, we have the comics who, as I alluded to, did not HAVE to go as far as all that, who did not pick on the minorities or stereotypes for easy laughs. And I think we can all agree that those guys transcend the rest and are definitely the goal to shoot for.

(disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. I’ve read some discussion about it, seen a few film adaptations. I think I know more or less what the consensus is about racism as regards to the book, and it’s pretty much what you described)

What did she reply? That’s what I’m really interested in. The character is a product of its and the author’s time; Jim’s common sense is a product of the author’s message. The former is history, the latter is the future (or so the author intended). Am I correct in believing, then, that the former was so put off by the former that she couldn’t see what the author was doing with the latter?

How can it be addressed, then? What can we do about the works that have important messages but that aren’t palatable to some people because they do represent turbulent times in history?

…in fact (I’m thinking aloud again), do we have to do anything about that? There ARE “watered-down” works, not nearly as heavy, with similar messages. Maybe we should accept that people will navigate towards the lighter-stuff if they’re uncomfortable with the heavier stuff. Hmmm…

…and yet, it still bothers me to overlook a positive message in a book because of a negative depiction which usually is either historical or folklorish (historical in this case, but folklore has a lot to answer for as regards stereotypes). There’s positive AND negative. Well, if I felt the negative side outweighed the positive side, I suppose I’d have similar feelings…

Hmm. I suppose it’s only fair people should be able to choose what they wish to handle; gravitate towards the works that’ll have the messages they seek, or which they think they seek, and which deliver them is ways as not to hurt them. It’s everyone’s right to choose how to experience the world, and not have it shoved down their throat. Hmmm…

Ultimately, the best way to experience this big wide world of ours seems to be to a) develop a thick skin and b) to learn enough history and sociology (possibly as you go along) to make the best of it. a) is very easy to say, much harder to do when it’s a sensitive subject, and b) may be considered a synonim for “living”.

I don’t think that spending your life shielding yourself is a good idea (which “trigger words” and the “microaggression generation” seem to me to foster, as well-intentioned as the concepts are). Neither do I think you’re forced to have some stuff shoved down your gullet. Middle ground, middle ground, where’s the middle ground…


#20

Makes sense. Mind you, that’s not usually what happens. I have yet to see someone say “I do not want to have this discussion”. What usually happens is “You’re wrong”, and “you’re a horrible person”, and “you are hurting me, you monster”, and “you’re an oversensitive expletive”, and so on and so forth.

Let’s take a forum as an example! I didn’t post this in IntFiction because it was totally without context, and would have been ramming a topic down people’s throats. Whereas we’ve been talking about this sort of thing, there’s threads about it, and participation is voluntary. (I also held off actually PMing someone about it, because I wasn’t certain it would have been a good idea, and I’m now glad I held off)

If I started a thread about this and I got greeted by silence… everyone would have been very comfortable and absolutely no progress would have been made. I would certainly remain in the dark, and would probably go on to offend people or to force my points of view without realising it.

So, I understand your point - but I’ll agree to half-disagree. Talking about it is always the best option. Not unconditionally, of course - it may not be the TIME to talk about it, or the PLACE, or the WAY (in which case, saying as much is good idea!). But in the end, if people don’t talk about it, no one’ll get anywhere. Humans aren’t mind-readers, and sadly tone of voice and body language don’t travel well on the internet, and this is an internet, text-heavy world.