Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Die Hard Mentality

Recently, on social media, I've been encountering a fair few "die-hards". As I never know who's reading this blog, I'm going to describe this personality in a general manner, not even referring to the Catholic variety, but keeping my description on the most general level. A diehard can be a feminist or a Catholic, a Marxist or a libertarian, or indeed they can hold any other viewpoint. The irony is that they are often very similar to their hated counterparts at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum.

The outstanding characteristic of a die hard is a rejection of nuance. Their worldview is one of us versus them, good versus evil, and there is no room for compromise or understanding.

The way die-hards usually make themselves known, in my own experience, is by an indignant response to any kind of concession, or even any effort at fairness, from their own side. To the die-hard, this is simply the thin end of the wedge. If you say anything generous about an opposing point of view, or about its adherents, they are outraged. They presume you are some kind of fifth columnist, or that you are wavering in your convictions.

In order to make the case as fairly as I can, I will take the example of political correctness. Anyone who has read a few of my blog posts (or been in my presence for any length of time) will know that I detest political correctness with a passion. Insofar as I am a die hard about anything, it is political correctness.

But even here, I see some nuance, and I can make some concessions-- indeed, I have made some concessions.

For instance (and I've said so in this post), I can appreciate political correctness as the ideology du jour. I have a certain tenderness towards ideologies, because I think (except in the case of outright Satanism, perhaps) that it's better for someone to believe something than to believe nothing. It's better for an institution or a society to be pervaded by some atmosphere than by no atmosphere. Political correctness has taboos, reverence, and standards. I see those things as good in themselves. I would rather they were deployed upon something other than PC, but I still think they are intrinsically good.

Also, political correctness is absurd, and I am rather tender towards absurdity. I hate rationalism. Absurdity is at least amusing, and interesting.

I can also see something perversely quixotic in political correctness. If you are a heterosexual white man who spends all his time apologising for himself, you can at least not be accused of favouritism towards your own demographic.

The great statesperson himself.
None of this changes the fact that I want to wipe political correctness from the face of the earth-- well, perhaps I would like to drive it into a few designated "safe spaces", to be preseved as a curiosity.

But if there were a real anti-PC die-hard reading this blog post now, he would be puce in the face by now.

"Not an inch!" is the motto of the die-hard. I think this is a good philosophy sometimes, but not all the time. There are some issues upon which it is correct to be utterly intransigent. But you can't be intransigent about everything.

As well as a cartoon vision of TRUTH vs. ERROR, the die-hard has a cartoon vision of GOOD vs. EVIL. To say anything good about one's ideological opponents is to pander to them-- they are altogether despicable and pathetic.

Sticking to the subject of political correctness, this is shown in criticism of feminists. It is a standard tack to dismiss feminists as obese, blue-haired harridans. I dislike this kind of thing in any case, because mocking somebody's appearance is always cruel and irrelevant. But aside from that, it's simply not true. Many feminists are very attractive and perfectly feminine in appearance. What's the point of saying they are all ugly and obese? They're clearly not.

Cathy Newman, a feminist who is neither obese nor blue-haired
George Orwell's "Notes on Nationalism" is a good description of the die-hard mentality. (He is using the term "nationalism" to describe any fanatical viewpoint.) It's extremely unfair towards G.K. Chesterton, but aside from that, it's very insightful.

One argument that die-hards make is that you shouldn't do your enemies' work for them. They think that anyone making an argument against their own side is being utterly perverse, lobbing a gift at the enemy. "I wouldn't want to have you defending me in a court case", one die-hard said to me, after taking me to task for such behaviour.

The mistake I think they are making, quite aside from fairness being a virtue in its own right, is that the die-hard sacrifices their own credibility, at least when it comes to an intelligent and critical listener. Who are you more likely to believe...somebody who can make a balanced argument, or somebody who sees "balance" as a strategem of the Devil? I realize that many people are drawn to the certitude of fanatics, but I'm sure it's alienating for a greater number of people.

And, in all honesty, I don't want to be a die-hard because it simply seems degrading to me. A die-hard is, above all, a bore. And not even an amusing, interesting kind of bore-- like the "anorak" who is obsessed with the history of badminton, or some such thing. But a hectoring, shrill, unpleasant bore. And who wants to be like that, if they could possibly avoid it?

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