05 January 2015

I Don't See Any Horns

Aristotle gave us lots of good things... and lots of bad things, ranging from his cantankerously illogical and restricted view of nature (he's among those who popularized the "four element theory" of nature and refused to adapt that view to the actual evidence) to the single most-common logical error. One of the names for the "false dilemma" is "the Aristotelian fallacy": Reasoning that only A and B are valid (using that term carefully), that A is necessarily untrue, and that therefore B is necessarily true. An obvious example of this for those of us who had our ballots counted for President in 1980 is "If not Democrat, then Republican"... despite voting for John Anderson because I feared the incompetence and corruption of both Carter's and Reagan's coterie (and history shows I was right). With that in mind:

  • The opposite of "abused" is not "privileged." More to the point, the absence of a particular kind of abuse in one's background does not mean that one's lot in life is/was puppy dogs and trust funds and sneering privilege that makes Lake Woebegone look like pikers: It's not just that all the children are above average, it's that they're 1%ers.

    That certainly explains so-called nerd privilege, too. Ms Penny's otherwise thoughtful essay goes off the rails with its unstated assumption of opposition, of false dilemma; it's a not-so-subtle attempt to proclaim a certain group as having been "more bullied"... and therefore more entitled to take unfair advantage of, or at minimum unfairly castigate, anyone who can be labelled as one of the oppressors. I also think she's slightly understating the causation; it's not just "patriarchy," but prior-generation pressure to inherit what that generation has — the family farm, the family appointment to West Point, the family oil business, the family trust fund — regardless of the desires, capabilities, or anything else of the individuals involved.

  • The Grauniad provides a seriously understated perspective on the future of libraries that rather unconsciously echoes one of the consequences of Ms Penny's piece. It's not just about horny teenagers, but horny adults who cannot imagine having passion for learning or reading at all. As a particularly sharky aside, those adults cannot imagine Hermione Granger, whose defining characteristic — even more than her brains — is her passion for everything. And because "library" is not associated with "passion" in the minds of those who are not already heavy users of libraries, that consideration never enters the conversation. Of course, they're missing out on The Decameron in favor of the Playboy Channel while they're doing so...
  • As has become all too usual over the last two decades, The New Yorker shows its limited education and perspective with another false dilemma, incorrectly headlining (the underappreciated) Michael Moorcock as "the anti-Tolkein". The pretense that there can be Only One Anti-Tolkein neglects Le Guin, Beagle, Ellison, and Jemisin — and that's just four respectable, obvious examples who write in English. It's not writers, or even readers, who have made any false binary divide: It's sales and marketing dorks in the publishing industry (all the way down to the bookstores) who haven't themselves read enough to be entitled to make such a judgment, and who on the basis of their often-incorrect surface analysis (that utterly neglects library readership...) find it easier to perpetuate such myths than investigate them. Which rather explains The New Yorker itself over the last two decades.
  • Ryan Britt ponders whether characters in Star Wars are largely illiterate. It's not the characters who are the problem: It's the scriptwriters, directors, and producers. Of course, that goes far beyond Star Wars into the entire foundation of H'wood, and indeed of popular entertainment.

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Application of the above toned-down outrage to each of the following is left as an exercise for the student... and the terminally frustrated:

Life and people are complicated, and the sooner we stop trying to reduce that wonderful complication to binary us-or-them logic the better.