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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Monday, August 24, 2015

Let me put this out there...

The following can apply to a whole range of situations. All the following propositions can be simultaneously true:

1. A group of people can have some genuine - or at least arguable - grievances. Some, or even much, of what they are trying to say in their complaints may be true. As a complication, groups of people may have grievances against each other.

2. Those people can express their grievances in hyperbolic language and/or via disproportionately harmful or disruptive tactics.

3. The criticisms of those people can then be excessive, disproportionate, and unfair - perhaps out of anger at their language and tactics or perhaps in an attempt to avoid addressing the original grievances.

4. There is then scope for the situation to escalate and complicate indefinitely, as everyone involved feels aggrieved and perceives opponents as unfair (or worse). Everyone has feelings of having been done some sort of injustice.

In the various culture wars (and real wars) that we see, there are often elements of all of this. If the people in 1. are behaving sufficiently upsettingly, as in 2., there may be some priority in stopping them doing that. But if their grievances have even a grain of truth, they had better be dealt with honestly sooner or later. Simply demonizing the people, perhaps to avoid giving their grievances and their arguments any legitimacy at all, is harmful and unfair.

What you think this post is all about may depend on what controversies you have been following or are involved in. I'm actually thinking of a several situations. Indeed, something like this is a common pattern. Knowing that is one thing. Doing something about it that might be effective is another. Still... some general awareness can't hurt.

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