Unexciting moderation in all things
Praxis for ordinary people
For all the claims that the intensity of Wokeism declined after its 2020 peak, it remains socially risky to be openly sceptical of certain social justice tenets.
No issue has been more sanctified in my lifetime than the death of George Floyd.
I remember being surprised during the subsequent trial that Derek Chauvin's assumed motive of racial animus never came up.
As it turned out the trial judge had already said this:
“There is absolutely nothing about the subject of religion, race or ethnicity that’s involved in this case.” - Judge Paul Magnuson
This led to claims that the trial itself was structurally racist. One black American legal academic said:
"Would this have happened to a white man? Probably not ... this is another blow to most people of color, and particularly Black folks’, belief in the judicial system.”
So Chauvin ended up convicted on the court's understanding of material facts, while the public convicted him of a racial hate crime.
Now it turns out that video footage from the scene that was never admitted into evidence suggests that George Floyd wasn't asphyxiated by police officers restraining him.
Inevitably this has been reported by right-wing news outlets and largely ignored elsewhere.
I approached this with caution, assuming that a crowdfunded documentary surfacing material doubts over the safety of Chauvin's murder conviction might well be a bad faith grift.
But it seems that The Fall of Minneapolis is taken seriously by Glenn Loury and John McWhorter, two of a very few intellectuals I tend to trust for sanity checks on such matters.
Their commentary and interview with the film's producers leave me feeling uneasy.
This is because Loury and McWhorter agree that the evidence presented in the film does cast reasonable doubt on the facts of the case as prosecuted.
Acknowledging this feels akin to breaking a taboo.
The story of George Floyd's death was more than a news event. The arrest, restraint, death and ensuing protests have already passed into history as a 'reckoning', giving it a quasi religious quality.
But seeing this film receiving scant acknowledgement outside of right-wing and conservative circles is a reminder of how social desirability bias skews our picture of the world.
According to the writer's dashboard this was the most impactful post since Rarely Certain began.
It seemed to strike a chord with more people than usual.
Maybe it was just relatable.
Social desirability bias makes us keep certain thoughts to ourselves and maybe that piece, suggesting a way of resisting the excesses of social justice ideology without becoming a culture warrior, was reassuring as a middle path. Or as a you're not alone message.
This remains the preferable path here. Non-tribal curiosity but also admitting bias. Defying expectations of conformity. Sharing the dissonances and discomfort that come with refusing to be on a side and admitting that it's damned near impossible to be more than 80% confident about most contested things.
Confessing to imperfect ways of knowing.
Resisting the conveniently catastrophic right-wing intellectual worldview (convenient for subscription revenues, that is, because everyone loves a bit of hopelessness and doom).
And the batshit crazy over-claiming that well-meaning but useless technocratic do-gooders are really trying to enslave the masses by suggesting things like making cars less handy for getting around in for short journeys.
The year-end Rarely Certain said this a year ago, in anticipation of 2023.
'I am suspicious of the extent to which I continue to endorse my previous thoughts and opinions on reflection as I reread the year’s work. I worry I am not often enough changing my mind, on matters both great and small'
And then I said:
"This anticipates one direction of Rarely Certain in 2023. More mindfulness around belief maintenance or updating."
So what beliefs did I update this year?
One was about the state of Israel. I noticed that there is something peculiar about the condemnation of Israeli aggression in particular, when it's responsible for a much smaller body count than many other aggressive states.
Thank you, especially, to the student politics activists on American campuses in particular for this insight. A long-held belief that Israel is unnecessarily cruel to Arab neighbours was supplemented by a new understanding of the need to defend yourself when your neighbours refuse to acknowledge your right to exist.
I might start listening to these people if they begin demonstrating against the right of the state of Pakistan to exist in the form it prefers. If this doesn't make sense, look it up.
Another belief I updated was that governments are hiding what they know about 'Anomalous Aerial Phenomena' for reasons other than banal national security. I'm 80% confident now that they all mostly know exactly what these things are and that they definitely aren't from off-planet. There'll be a post on this soon.
I also updated on my growing scepticism about liberal democracy. I ended up much more confident that people who want to engineer big societal changes have their hearts in the right place. And that no one is proposing anything better under which I'd prefer to live. Thus blowing all chances of an enthusiastic post-liberal readership.
Looking at all the ways I've updated what I think this year, it's hard to escape the conclusion that I'm becoming radically moderate on almost everything.
It may be the result of leading an increasingly agreeable life. Perhaps I'm losing my fire. The feelings. The anger. The fear.
I don't even care what anyone thinks when I ask what were the cops meant to do with George Floyd, who was jacked up on Fentanyl, fucking with a small business owner and resisting arrest?
Or, come on - if you think that western liberal democracies are all about enslaving people why don't you just quit whining and fuck off to live in another place?
Or if you don't like that Twitter was conniving with the FBI to stifle discussions of Covid policy SHOW ME THE FUCKING RECEIPTS TO PROVE THAT IT WORKED.
But it didn't, did it. You're just annoyed that they tried.
So perhaps the biggest belief I updated was that things are mostly fine. They aren't really going to shit.
Rarely Certain's 2nd most impactful piece (based on the dashboard vanity metrics of views and new subscribers) was this one, where I wrote glowingly about the ridiculous but brave 'Bimbo Manifesto'.
Those were the two posts that everyone seemed to like the most.
This is a happy place to be. Amused and curious, independent and fearless.
Also, with subscriber growth completely stalled. Because outrage sells and boring moderation doesn't.
So be it.
I'm grateful that you're here and I hope you'll stick around for more boring moderation (plus some quite off-the-wall stuff) in 2024.
This is my praxis. Feeling fine when everyone else feels agitated.
Wishing you the 2024 that you hope for.
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