Monday, March 30, 2015

About those trigger warnings and microagressions ...

© 2014 Darryl Bok/Creators Syndicate.
Well, that escalated quickly. Seems that the student government at Ithaca College recently passed a bill calling for an online system "to report microaggressions, which sponsors of the bill said will create a more conducive environment for victims to speak about microaggressions." And a less conducive environment for speech that will offend or upset victims.

Microagressions, as defined by the Ithaca Voice, are "statements by a person from a privileged group that belittles or isolates a member of an unprivileged group, as it relates to race, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability and more." Nick Gillespie at Reason.com further explains that microagressions "are often meant in a spirit of inclusion by the speaker. For instance, depending on who's speaking and who's listening, complimeting someone on their hair, clothing, or whatever might count as a covert way of putting him in his place. 'That's a really fancy jacket' may really be code for WTF are you doing in clothes that are above your station?"

By the way, I really love the "and more" at the end of the Ithacan definition; it promises no end to the micromanagement of human conversation. And the co-sponsor of the bill says that "those reporting a microaggression would likely have to reveal their identity if they wanted to pursue any legal action." Legal action? What laws do they think microagressions transgress? Or was that just the co-sponsor's way of assuring everyone else that the database will exist only to record petty grievances?

Yes, asking a poor person if they've ever been to Europe is a
microaggression. Correcting grammar is traumatic for some.
This brings us to author, police officer, National Guard soldier, and once-a-Marine-always-a-Marine Chris Hernandez, "a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan [who] also served 18 months as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo." Hernandez had been through some bad s**t before he enlisted as a kid, and saw quite a bit more as a soldier and a cop. He also has known people who went through worse s**t than he did.

Hernandez is therefore very experienced and knowledgeable concerning trauma, and is rightfully a harsh critic when it comes to the penny-ante crap the left tries to pass off as microagressions and trauma, the kind of stuff that deserves the label #FirstWorldProblems.  Moreover, being Hispanic doesn't make him any more sympathetic:

Discrimination didn’t break me (or my parents or grandparents). I’ve been discriminated against by whites for being Hispanic. I’ve been threatened by blacks for being white. I’ve been insulted by Hispanics for not being Hispanic enough. Big deal. None of that stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. It wasn’t “trauma.” It was life.

So what's his advice to victims of microaggressions and trauma? Very simple:

I’ve reviewed these reports of “trauma”, and have reached a conclusion about them. I’m going to make a brief statement summarizing my conclusion. While I mean this in the nicest way possible, I don’t want victims of microaggressions or supporters of trigger warnings to doubt my sincerity.
F*** your trauma.
Yes, f*** your trauma. My sympathy for your suffering, whether that suffering was real or imaginary, ended when you demanded I change my life to avoid bringing up your bad memories. You don’t seem to have figured this out, but there is no “I must never be reminded of a negative experience” expectation in any culture anywhere on earth.
If your psyche is so fragile you fall apart when someone inadvertently reminds you of “trauma,” especially if that trauma consisted of you overreacting to a self-interpreted racial slur, you need therapy. You belong on a psychiatrist’s couch, not in college dictating what the rest of society can’t do, say, or think. Get your own head right before you try to run other people’s lives. If you expect everyone around you to cater to your neurosis, forever, you’re what I’d call a “failure at life,” doomed to perpetual disappointment.

What he said. With a side of "grow the f**k up".

I'm not persuaded by Prof. Eric Posner's argument that, because their students come to the university more infantile than previous generations, the university has a duty to protect them like children, For one thing, children's egos don't need to be protected so much as they need to be trained and toughened to withstand disapproval, criticism, and opposition. As Dr. Judith Shapiro points out, students need the experience of opposition, criticism, and disapproval as part of the maturation process; the college which denies them this out of the desire to "protect" them actually does their students a long-term disservice by prolonging their infantility.

For another, Dr. Posner's argument from the market doesn't deal with students' attempt to restrict how and what teachers say. Indeed, it bolsters the conviction that, because they're paying good money, students have the right to dictate what and how the teachers teach them, and to have their ideas, beliefs and self-conceits validated and reinforced rather than challenged. That isn't what a college is for, even if it's what they expect. And it's another reason college educations should be state-financed: so students have no market leverage over the content of the curriculum.

The university ought not to be an ideological refuge in which a student can seek shelter from scary ideas, whether those ideas are about the universe, or about society, or about himself. That's not the college's job; and the day colleges make it their job to protect students from scary ideas is the day the university becomes irrelevant — send your kid to a local trade school or community college instead.

One last thought: 

If students aren't mature enough to be trusted with free speech, then they're not mature enough to have a voice in school policies; they're not mature enough to have dormitories without adult supervision, let alone co-ed dorms; they're certainly not mature enough to have sex or access to alcohol. If the administration's excuse for speech codes is the need to protect students as children, then the treatment as children ought to be consistent; certainly women need to be protected from sexual violence, which is often fueled by underclassmen's bacchanals. Otherwise the "students are infantile" excuse rings hollow. There is no idea a young man can hear in a college classroom that's so dangerous as a keg full of beer, a body full of testosterone, and an incapacitated woman all in the same place on a Friday night.