Let Justice Be Dumb
Life takes you in strange directions, it cannot be denied. I myself used to be a liberal, and a communist before that, in the days when it seemed worthwhile to care about things. But I am an old man now, and it profits me neither in mind or spirit to keep up with what the young folks are interested in fighting over. For one thing, in my laddish days, we thought the streets were the place to express one’s’ quarrel with the Man and His bad behavior, superior even to the editorial page or the ballot box. This is before we discovered the Internet, you understand, before we knew that Tumblr would be the hill on which all future battles for peace and equality would be fought, before we knew that the Man was bulletproof and that if we ever hoped to effect change, our targets of opportunity would have to be other people gassing on line.
It took a long time for me to know the score but now that I’m hip to the ways of the world it seems only fair to pass it along to other confused old blokes of my age and station, so they might know how properly to navigate the new channels that have been dug in the surface of the body politic. Thus this introduction to my new friends, who aggregate together not under the the banner of political correctness, who march not under the colors of left or right, but whose panoply marks them as the noblest of all fighting forces, the SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR. Contained in those three words is all the explication one needs, every motivation and every contradiction, every (if I may use a word drawn from the days when Karl Marx seemed like something more than just another dead white male) tendency that has brought us to this great and final battle, which is fought not to free us all, but to make sure we all live comfortably in our self-designated and highly individualized ghettos.
Ess is for “Social”, and Society is the milieu in which the Social Justice Warrior braces for mortal combat. “Social” is also one-half of the archaic formation “socio-economic”, but the other half has begun to rust like an abandoned steel mill. If there is one thing that brings the social justice left and the libertarian right together, it is recognition that economic arguments are difficult, require altogether too much expertise, and depend on the behavior of actors too foolish to follow their own rational self-interest. Too much talk about economics might lead to a discomfiting realization of the existence of class — in one’s nation or, worse yet, in one’s own head. Start talking about economics and you might wonder why you do all your protesting on an expensive machine built for you by virtual slave labor an ocean away, where the lessons of sexism and homophobia are too dearly learnt. In a world built on degrees of intersectionality, it will not do to come to the realization that there are really only two groups that matter: the owners and the owned.
Better, then, to glorify the social, to build a world based on equality of language, where everyone is spoken to with equal respect; that will make up for not actually being treated with any. If there must be a great leveling, let it be in the realm of pronouns, let us have a theoretical equality of terminology instead of an actual equality of opportunity. And if one cannot make society into a paradigm of false politeness disguised as respect, then one can at least shrink it down to a small circle of allies and enemies, found only in comments sections and on message boards, separate but equal to the larger society that consists of real people who have different ideas about what and who have a call on their integrity.
Jay is for “Justice”, which, the ancient wisdom of the dead assures us, is different from revenge. But vengeance is primarily the mission of the Social Justice Warrior; punishment, and not reform, is what is sought. If society is to be defined as an amorphous entity consisting of the same opinions, then what punishment can there be more fitting than expulsion from it? When you have built Eden, no horror can be greater than to be forced to live outside the garden, forever peeking over its walls. True justice, like economics, is a fiendishly difficult thing; its platforms are constantly shifting, its demands are frustratingly contingent, and it lacks a permanent and absolute promontory from which it can be handed down. Vengeance, on the other hand, is simple to understand, and easy to hand out. Its stock in trade is the apology, and what could be more rational and simple than an apology? Who could be more heinous than some brute who refuses to apologize, who maintains against all logic that he has not done anything wrong?
Justice is difficult for so many reasons. It demands an assumption of equality, when we live in a world of privilege; it demands evidence of wrongdoing rather than mere accusations, clamorously repeated; it demands proportionality and not mere obliteration. Justice does not believe in allies or cronies and is not interested in narrative. Worst of all, justice asks you if you might be inclined to forgive an offense for which there has been no apology, no compensation, no gain. Vengeance lets you off the hook and is superior in ever way; it just doesn’t sound as good.
Double-you is for “Warrior”, and it is war, war with the world. In old conceptions of war, there were allies as well as enemies. But the war of the Social Justice Warrior is total war, where there is nothing but targets. The war is eternal and unwinnable, but since it must be fought, there can be no strategy; only tactics. There is no end, only means. Alliances are, of necessity, always temporary, always frangible, and the lack of observance of a minor protocol by an ally is a far greater injury than murder by an enemy. There is no area of life that is to be exempted from the war; the personal is not just political, it is dogmatical, and there can be no forgiveness of those unaware they are fighting in the war, for ignorance and evil are the same thing. The greatest and strongest army is the army of one, for only the self can never be betrayed, only the self can never weaken or desert.
As in any war, the troops must know their general orders, and be willing to live by them and die for them:
1. TO take charge of this affinity group, to identify only with it, and to assume the right to be offended on behalf of all others thus identified;
2. TO live one’s life in a military manner, seeking out the unacceptable and the problematic in everything that takes place within sight or hearing;
3. TO report all violations of standards you have chosen to enforce, and to condemn absolutely all those violating these standards;
4. TO repeat all accusations, no matter how distant from one’s own knowledge, interest, or experience;
5. TO quit my post only when a new outrage is detected;
6. TO receive, believe, and pass on to one’s relieving sentry all accusations, regardless of origin, factual basis, official determination of guilt, or context;
7. TO talk to no one who does not already agree with one’s premises;
8. TO give the alarm in case of skepticism or new information;
9. TO refer to the zeitgeist in any case not covered by instructions, and to ensure that all combat is fought in the field of culture and nowhere else;
10. TO ignore all hypocrisy, as long as it flies your colors and standards; and
11. TO be especially watchful of doubt, and, during the time for challenging, to challenge in all caps and with plentiful trigger warnings, and to allow no one to pass under any circumstances.
Thus armed you may go out into the world — a world which seems to grow smaller and more restricted even as all previous barriers weaken and fall — clad in that most perfect raiment, certainty. You need never have cause to fear that you are wrong, because you have defined yourself as representative of those blessed ideas that are never wrong, and those who question or oppose you must, by definition, be never right. You may join your brothers on the right in Zhdanovite precision, secure in the knowledge that society is a thing you can bend to your own definitions, justice is a matter of accounting, and war is a thing that must always be fought and need never be won. Go forth and be likewise.