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What Is Owed: No More, No Less
“…I don’t owe them my approval. What I owe them is what I owe any of you: my complete and utter indifference.”
So I wanted to mention this on Friday before getting into the big American holiday weekend but life just got in the way. But, now that I have a chance, I did want to report that I made it through a whole Pride Month within the confines of a cubicle farm at a major corporate entity that gives every appearance of seamlessly playing along with the game. As per my usual modus operandi, while all was completely voluntary, I did not avoid the posts and videos and various other content pushed our way. While all were framed from a very clear point of view, sometimes completely believable and sometimes questionably slanted, some of the content was truly enlightening. Aside from the extension of an appropriate theme of “acceptance” to also include the expectation of complete “respect” and “support,” as well as an insultingly stupid character in a fictitious video scenario intended to show just how bigoted everyone who doesn’t unreservedly buy into the agenda really is, all of it passed without even getting my blood pressure up. I’m glad it all makes some people feel better in some way or another. Good for them.
But that is as far as I intend to go. As relayed in the opening quote above, the Liberty for which I stand does not allow others to compel anything beyond “my complete and utter indifference” on such matters. Sure, they are free to ask for more and I am free to give more as I see fit. But to place additional demands on the American Spirit through government to society to employer is the new tyranny intent on crushing that spirit:
…the problem of liberty is no longer the problem of political liberty, of the struggle against a tyrannical regime imposing its arbitrary will on an oppressed populace. … The problem now facing liberty is a new form of tyranny, a “social tyranny” exercised by the populace itself over the individual. – Pages 75-76
It was not my intent but, now that I’m here, I cannot not continue down the Himmelfarb rabbit hole. She understood what too many today have either forgotten or never bothered to learn about the critical nature of that “liberty of thought”:
As liberty of thought is absolute, so is liberty of speech, which is “inseparable” from liberty of thought. Liberty of speech, moreover, is essential not only for its own sake but for the sake of truth, which requires absolute liberty for the utterance of unpopular and even demonstrably false opinions. Indeed, false or unpopular opinions are so important to truth that they should be encouraged and disseminated by “devil’s advocates” if necessary, for only by the “collision of adverse opinions” can the most certain of truths survive as live truth rather than “dead dogma.” – Page 78
And, taking this thought to its proper conclusion, she provided direction and proper context for pushing back against this growing push for “forced” approvals (i.e. beyond what is properly owed):
Even the qualification regarding harm reinforces the moral neutrality of society, for it is only in the case of harm to others, not for the “good” of others, that society can properly interfere with the freedom of the individual. And harm itself is further qualified by being limited to “direct,” “definite,” ”perceptible” harm… – Page 84
Alas, such insight may be good for friendly discussion purposes but quite useless against the growing forces opposed to such thinking. No doubt the future is not so bright for people like me.
Madam Himmelfarb was also correct in her greater context. But we are not just looking; we are marching rather deliberately into another abyss…and a very fearsome abyss it is. (Yet, isn’t that what Americans do?)
. . . _ _ _ . . .
For the curious minds out there, I will not fail to attribute the introductory quote above but I think it warrants broader context. Be warned: It is comedy material from the 1990s … do not read further if you know you cannot handle it.
I think so little of the variations in human sexuality that I refuse to treat homosexuals like Fabergé eggs. You’re part of the human collective; you too can be poked fun at; come, join in our reindeer games…
The only people I don’t tease are people who are defective; homosexuals are obviously not broken in any way, shape, or form. But, conversely, on the other end of the scale, I don’t owe them my approval. What I owe them is what I owe any of you: my complete and utter indifference. There is nothing more fascinating to me on the face of the planet earth than my orgasm and nothing less fascinating to me than your orgasm…
I don’t care if you have to strap a duck-billed platypus on your crotch to get off, you go right ahead. Just don’t ask me to borrow my platypus, alright. – A “do-it-yourself” transcription of Dennis Miller, Citizen Arcane (1996), 34:29
(EXIT CHALLENGE: Skillfully combining Gertrude Himmelfarb and Dennis Miller into the same post is no easy feat. I dare anyone to top that.)Published in General
I like your post a lot! I especially liked this paragraph–
People, get over yourselves. I don’t owe you respect, nor am I obligated to abstain from cultural appropriation (although you won’t see me in rasta braids any time soon). You are welcome to do whatever you please, but if you expect me to accept your bizarre and demanding ideas, forget it. I have my own, perfectly satisfactory life, to lead. You know where the door is . . .
Thanks, philo, for the chance to vent!
Did I miss Pride Month?
Also, just to be clear, the quoted text is pulled from an embedded quote from Gertrude Himmelfarb. “The moral neutrality of society” is truly something that should be considered in more of what is done (or what we allow to be done) to and for us by government and society.
It occurred to me reading this excellent post that I like and respect gays and LGBTers (e.r.s. stands for everyone regarding sexuality) except for the prostlelatizers and promoters, the flamboyant in-your-face advocates that seem to assume my relative indifference is a form of bigotry. Those people- whatever they may identify as – I don’t like.
‘So don’t think you can be obnoxious and hide behind your group, pretending you are a better human being than I am. I just don’t like you.’ ‘You aren’t a better person than I am. Not on that basis anyway…’
Love it. You have a right to expect something like non participation from me if expressing my true disregard would only inflame the situation but you can’t object to my private unrevealed state of mind or insist that I change it and testify falsely just to make you more comfortable in your crowd mentality.
I’m not totally convinced that having loud and obnoxious appeals for more converts is really ok when it disturbs others, but we have classically tried to be tolerant of that as long as private property boundaries are observed. Forced workplace and school exposure I think goes too far since people are close to trapped in training and livlihood situations but at least leaving room to “opt out” should be provided, without repercussions. In your case it should have all been “sign on if you so choose” with no required attendance. Even allowing space on the property is already implied advocacy by the institution which consequently has lost its neutrality.
From my own blog.
To paraphrase Tom Lehrer
“It’s only for a month so have no fear,
be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!”
As a young Turk I chafed at being compelled to listen to (modern) religious music in a secular setting, pledge allegiance, and stand for the anthem. But at least these had the backing of millennia of tradition and centuries of history in my native country. Not so the compelled kumbayas of these multi-gendered Mussolinis.
I genuinely wish them well. More than well even, since their pursuit of happiness is difficult – and probably in many cases doomed.
Is Gertrude Himmelfarb Jonah’s mother?
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“…I don’t owe them my approval. What I owe them is what I owe any of you: my complete and utter indifference.”
That is SO good. I, too, have no desire to “celebrate” someone else’s sexuality. I’d prefer to just let them be, and have them let me be.
I had this thought many years ago: It isn’t going to be enough to just allow gay people to be gay without hassles by others…this is going to keep moving on until we’re all going to be forced to approve and cheer them on. Well, it seems that if you are not secure enough in your own situation, then the only way you can feel okay about it is to make other people tell you you’re okay. But even that won’t be enough, if you don’t feel okay in your own heart.
Bob hope in 1975: “I’ve just flown in from California, where they’ve made homosexuality legal. I thought I’d better get out before they make it compulsory.”
Do you have a cite for the first quote?
Who the heck is Himmelfarb? Why does she have a name of “Heaven color?” I like your attitude, but I don’t understand your post.
It will be around for a few more months this year, so there is still plenty of time to celebrate.
I’m confused, is “It” a personal pronoun? See what they are doing.
This post seems to suggest that amorality is virtue. This does seem to be the view of many who consider themselves to be conservative.
No wonder the country is going to hell.
Who had Jerry voicing his disapproval at comment #20 in the pool? :-)
I think he’s talking about a book called On Looking Into the Abyss by Gertrude Himmelfarb. She was a historian and the mother of Bill Kristol/wife of Irving Kristol.
You’re right that the post is a little cryptic.
Giggle. It’s good to see that you are able to set aside the transparently shallow, forced contrarian “personality” you have adopted recently for some nicely spirited direct provocation.
Alas, no. (But you have, yet again, bolstered my opinion of Arizona lawyers as a class. Color me “not impressed.” Thanks for your participation.)
She was a historian wth a focus on Victorian England and wrote books on among other topics, Lord Acton, Charles Darwin and John Stuart Mill, was also a professor at CUNY and and advisor to the American Enterprise Institute, among her various activities in conservative circles. She was, as others mentioned, the wife of Irving Kristol and mother of Bill Kristol. She was sometimes called Bea Kristol by family friends, according to my sources, but she never changed her name.
Himmelfarb is just a common German Jewish name. It may have its origins in the “Judenregister” of approved family names for Jews from the 18th century, but I would have to consult the register to know for sure.
Thans for those quotes Philo. They clearly explain why people have a visceral response to the new raft of “rights” being doled out by Enlightened.
I think the quote concerning society’s responsibility to interfere with freedom in the case of direct, definite, perceptable harm comes into play when I look at the Los Angeles spa controversy over the weekend. Evidently a trans used a ladies locker room, exposing himself to women and girls, prompting a response from normal people (and by normal I mean sensible, untethered to sexuality.)
If a straight guy walked into the ladies locker room in the spa, he’d rightly get arrested for indecent exposure. But this guy, with the same general equipment, is aparently protected from any repercussions. In other words, he’s been granted a special privilege that is not available to other men. Had this guy gotten changed in the men’s locker room, he might have heard a joke about his bedazzled sweatshirt or something, but is otherwise not harmed in any direct, definite or perceptable way.
Even in the morally neutral model, the regulation that “protects” this guy is protecting him from something that is not a harm. His sexual preference or outward persona has elevated his rights. In other words, society, through government, has interfered in freedom for what ought to be an impermissable purpose. In so doing, it has permitted him to harm others by exposing himself. No, you wouldn’t be cool with this if your mom was in there with him.
The incessant messaging and regulation concerning the trans movement clearly violates the completely sensible Himmelfarb principle for getting along in a free society.
Excellent comment in its entirety but I really like this part. Thanks.
My comment was snarky. Sorry about that. I was trying to prompt some contrary thought, but I did it poorly. The insulting response is not helpful, but understandable given my provocation.
I did not explain the substance of my objection in any detail. I do not think that indifference is the proper response in all circumstances. It seems to me that there are three possible situations, broadly speaking.
If someone is behaving virtuously, or advocating virtuous behavior, I do not think that the correct response is indifference. This leaves no room for praise, or support, or encouragement. I think that we do owe such a response to virtue, though the specifics of the response will vary depending on the situation.
If someone is behaving wickedly, or advocating wicked behavior, I do not think that the correct response is indifference. I think that the correct response is disapproval, or disapprobation, perhaps coupled with a warning or some sort of opposition. the opposition could include social sanction, or legal sanction.
There is a third category of morally neutral behavior. If someone wants to advocate that people play more tennis, or engage in recreational carpentry, or try some Thai food, that’s fine. I think that the proper response in such circumstances is indifference.
There’s a famous quote, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,” or some variation. This seems to be often attributed to Edmund Burke, though a quick search suggests that this is a misattribution. It looks like both Burke and John Stuart Mill said something similar.
Misattribution or not, the quote seems correct to me. Perhaps some of you may disagree, and prefer an attitude of indifference. I do not think that indifference, as a general approach, is virtuous.
I have tracked down what Mill and Burke actually said or wrote on this point, to the extent that you might find them to be relevant authorities.
In an 1867 address, Mill said (here, on page 36):
In 1770, Burke wrote in Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (here):
I find these arguments persuasive. It seems to me that these sentiments are quite critical of the proposition stated in the OP, that indifference is all that we owe to our neighbors, community, or country.
I trust that this addresses the suggestion that my thinking is shallow. This comment has gone on at some length, and I’m not done.
It seems to me that a person promoting an attitude of indifference may do so for one of three reasons.
First, a person may believe that indifference to the actions of others is the only moral virtue. This is what I meant, in my snarky comment, by saying that the OP “seems to suggest that amorality is a virtue.” This view takes no moral position whatsoever on the behavior of other people, other than implicitly suggesting that anyone making a moral judgment, and thus failing to be indifferent, is wrong to do so. I disagree with this approach.
Second, a person may wish to avoid making a moral judgment about the behavior of others, and therefore adopt a position of indifference. It may involve behavior in which the person isn’t inclined to participate, and therefore has no personal reason to make a decision. To me, this seems like an evasion.
Third, a person may have made a moral judgment, but wishes to avoid the trouble of doing anything about it, which can certainly lead to conflict. To me, this seems like a conscious decision to decline to take a stand for what one believes to be right, but rather to adopt an attitude of indifference toward immoral behavior. This strikes me as the opposite of admirable.
There may be other reasons to adopt an attitude of indifference, which have not occurred to me. Perhaps a fourth is the typical libertarian distrust of government in general, based on a fear that if something is done to sanction the misconduct of others, this sets a precedent for the use of such power to sanction one’s own conduct. That is certainly a possibility, but the danger on the other side is anarchy.
I do think that many people who generally consider themselves to be on the conservative side adopt this attitude of indifference. I think that this results in the victory of the other side. The Left is actively promoting vice and wickedness, and it seems that half of my own conservative coalition is indifferent. Thus, we lose, and the country gets worse and worse.
All people are, or can be, thorny. Respect and tolerance of dissent is the proverbial grease that lubricates common human interactions. A frown can be deliberate and germane or be an outward casting of a private inner thought or concern not pertaining to the encounter at hand. We never know.
There is a difference between inward indifference and the outward show of it. And this mental discrimination between two views, or within a panoply of perspectives, is protected thought, which is the precursor to protected speech.
Jerry’s quotation of Burke is significant:
What we see happening today is the curtailment of this kind of public commentary. It bodes no good. There is currently a battle between the authorized “Let me get you to think and act as I do” (as epitomized in the Gay Clown Children’s Story Hour — or whatever it is) and the “Get out of my face!” reaction to it. This is not really indifference on either side. The lines that it seems to me have always been drawn in US society is “your rights end where they obstruct (or “harm”) me”. But this was never really true. There were agreed upon rules of the road for conflict. When the country was more morally homogeneous, the conflicts, and the style of the acting out of conflict, was well understood and more or less adhered to; and tolerance and greasy “indifference” was easier.
Nowadays, everything that we think or do, or don’t think and don’t so, is a matter of moral outrage by some, specifically by those in social, cultural and political power; and legal, financial and social punishment is occurring more and more.
Today, the opposition is more and more bringing an unwanted battle into our own conservative court, and indifference may not be any longer the appropriate response.