Sunday, September 10, 2017

Re-education

File this under the failures of morality and neurodiversity (the process of thinking) but also diversity of thought (the result of the thinking -- the actual belief). Is it just me, or does it feel more like there's a thought police than even when I started the blog eight or nine years ago.

I was watching a Korean movie and saw a reference to re-education camps. I looked it up and found this NY Times article from 1981 about actual thought police:

This is the first time that the continuing large scale of what are known as ''purification camps'' or ''re-education camps'' in South Korea has been disclosed in a publication here. It is also the first indication that there have been deaths caused by beatings in the camps, a charge that has not so far been made by South Korean human rights groups in Seoul an d that has been deni ed by Seoul officials. Camps for 'Hooligans' Opened

Army camps for ''hooligans'' were first opened in the summer last year, after military leaders headed by Gen. Chun Doo Hwan took power. Between August 1980 and January 1981, a total of 57,561 people were ''warned or re-educated,'' according to The Korea Herald, an English language newspaper in Seoul. The paper said that 38,259 of these underwent ''correctional programs in military camps.''

Arrests were originally made under martial law decrees. But the newspaper account, printed in January, said that ''purification'' programs continued into 1981 after martial law was officially terminated. Some 6,506 people were to continue under detention in ''reformatory training'' and 6,852 ''hardened hooligans'' were given ''hard labor,'' The Korea Herald said.

Tolerance has been preached with some emphasis since the re-education camps, but even in the movie there were still some wishing for those halcyon days when people who did not fit a majority groups vision for human could be dismissed as being subhuman -- a deplorable. And nowadays, is it worse? Because people aren't just hating typical targets like sociopaths or pedophiles, everybody seems to be at everybody else's throats enforcing their standard of morality on the other. The one good thing about this is as more and more people find themselves on the receiving end of social justice warriors and others looking to remake the world more in their image (either in appearance in thought) normal people are realizing that the tactics that they often advocated as being fair and just for use by their side might be less noble or effective than they thought.

I wonder what would happen if people realized that morality is in the eye of the beholder and stopped trying to force others to comply with their own particular flavor or brand. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Sick of shame?

Another month, another post about the limitations of public shaming, this time prompted by the people who seem to be confronting for the first time how to ethically oppose an ideology that you find to be abhorrent.

I've always been very vocally opposed to public shaming, even before I was the victim of it. At it's core, it uses the unwieldy weapon of mob mentality to enforce social norms, particularly those that its adherents believe have moral significance. Never mind that there is no universal morality, but rather that beliefs about morality are closely tied to such varied inputs as religion, culture, upbringing, genetics, etc. I'm not the only one who thinks that if shame had any value at all (perhaps evolutionarily or in certain smaller contexts),  although there have been other victims of shaming who still defend its applications. Most of these critiques fall under the category of the solution being worse than the problem, e.g. the self-censorship and resulting harm to open dialogue that can occur as a result.

But is it even an actual solution?

One thing that I learned in therapy is that everyone (1) is at a different stage than you (emotional, psychological, educational, etc.) and (2) that people can go through the stages in different orders, different ways, and prompted by different experiences than you did. To insist that other people go through their own progression at your pace, in your order, or in your way is just a denial of the realities of psychology. People can rarely make a lasting meaningful change in the moment. You can demand that they start doing or being something or stop doing or being another thing, but they are not psychologically capable of meeting your demand in that moment (although there is longterm hope because there is almost always possibility for real, meaningful, and lasting change in that area if they are open and committed to seeking it). So for instance, demanding that someone who has been socialized, educated, and undergone particular psychological development to the point where they are racist (at that moment in time), you cannot just demand that they stop being racist. And even if you could convince them at a certain intellectual level that there is reason to doubt their position, they need to go through whatever process is necessary for them to sort it all out in their head. Open dialogue could encourage this process, although it seems like more people on all sides are showing up to dialogues not to engage, but with already formed judgments that they seek only to make known.

Unfortunately, the shaming process does not encourage the sort of dialogue or safe space that is often conducive to people softening their opinions and being receptive to something new. What it does is foster reflexive defensiveness, further entrenching them in their viewpoint. Shame often targets the person instead of the behavior, which can lead to identity politics and culture wars:

In a guilt culture you know you are good or bad by what your conscience feels. In a shame culture you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you, by whether it honors or excludes you. In a guilt culture people sometimes feel they do bad things; in a shame culture social exclusion makes people feel they are bad.

I saw on Twitter last month this tweet regarding candied yams (my first encounter with them):


And then subsequent chain involving a white guy ("@wwadas") who replied that he didn't recognize the candied yams. Black Twitter led him through the process of making the yams, with many praising what seemed to be an increasingly rare instance of building a cultural bridge:
Until others culled through the white guy's tweets to find good ol' boy and obliquely (if not overtly) racist content. Although some immediately tried to shame him, labeling him (not his behavior or beliefs) as being "problematic", other people were less inclined to jump to such conclusions:


It's an interesting thread, with some arguing that every instance of real or perceived injustice must be fought to avoid perpetuating such injustice and another person commenting: "Sorry not everyone is perfect, maybe he's on the way to making things right."

Of course, I may be speaking from a place of bias being religious myself, but I think religion gets it very right in this instance. From one of my favorite LDS talks from Elder Dale G. Renlund:

Just as God rejoices when we persevere, He is disappointed if we do not recognize that others are trying too. Our dear friend Thoba shared how she learned this lesson from her mother, Julia. Julia and Thoba were among the early black converts in South Africa. After the apartheid regime ended, black and white members of the Church were permitted to attend church together. For many, the equality of interaction between the races was new and challenging. One time, as Julia and Thoba attended church, they felt they were treated less than kindly by some white members. As they left, Thoba complained bitterly to her mother. Julia listened calmly until Thoba had vented her frustration. Then Julia said, “Oh, Thoba, the Church is like a big hospital, and we are all sick in our own way. We come to church to be helped.”

Julia’s comment reflects a valuable insight. We must not only be tolerant while others work on their individual illnesses; we must also be kind, patient, supportive, and understanding. As God encourages us to keep on trying, He expects us to also allow others the space to do the same, at their own pace. 

I understand that this requires forbearance from exactly those who are most likely to have been wronged, not just in this moment but from a long history of oppression. I understand this burden to be so heavy that I would not even ask it of anyone, much less demand. I would only hope to help them see, to persuade them that there is greater peace and joy there than in seeking to return the same. Or as Paul Gaugin said: "One day, you will feel a joy in having resisted the temptation to hate, and there is truly intoxicating poetry in the goodness of him who has suffered."
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