Saturday, October 08, 2016

Diverging paths

Mark Moncrieff wrote a good post recently on the breakdown of consensus. He believes that liberalism has reached a point that he no longer feels that he has anything in common with those who hold to liberal orthodoxy.

I too get this feeling at times - a sense that some liberals are now alien to me in what they believe, i.e. that there is a gulf between us that puts us on separate paths.

Take, for example, the liberals at Duke University. They have established the Duke Men's Project. It's a nine week storytelling course which aims to create a space for "male identified individuals" to contemplate their "toxic masculinity." Will the men feel better and stronger after this experience? More confident in their masculine identity? Um, no. The aim is, and I kid you not, to "intentionally seek to radically challenge, decenter and destabilize what we might consider normal, to lean specifically into dialogues of discomfort, disagreement and tension".

Then there are the liberals at Vanderbilt University. They're all enthusiastic about "preferred pronouns". And so they have proposed staff name tags with preferred pronouns attached, and they have created a poster which suggests that professors should include their preferred pronouns in their email signature, along with a recommendation that on meeting someone, even a familiar colleague or student, professors should give their preferred pronoun and ask the other person for theirs.

All of this is logical from the liberal point of view. If you think that a freedom to self-determine is what matters, then you will want to self-determine your own sex, and that then means having your own individually tailored pronouns. But we're seeing now what this means in practice: social interactions in which, on each encounter, people have to share their pronouns.

The important thing is for enough of us to realise we are on a different, incompatible path and to create institutions of our own that reflect our own values and aspirations.

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