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The Religion of Political Correctness

April 12 2021

One of the central tenets of the new religion of Political Correctness is that no one should suffer any impairment in self-esteem. No doubt the notion arises from the current obsession with equality: it is thought that individuals should be equally confident, self-assured, and self-satisfied. Anything which detracts from that happy state of affairs is to be avoided.

The implication – perhaps we might say the unintended consequences of a benign compassion – is that no one can ever be criticized. Criticism would detract from self-esteem, self-esteem would slip, fall, or crash, and the  universe would wobble from the resulting inequality.

A wobbly universe is an offense to nature, and to all the politically correct people in it.

It is a truism seldom noted, but remarkably persistent: once a virtuous principle is established, it has a way of being extended to its logical absurdity. It is the Peter Principle of virtue. First, every virtue must be promoted to its point of ineffectiveness. Then – because it is assumed you simply cannot have too much virtue -- it must be pushed to its point of absurdity, oppression, and evil.

This is, indeed, the case with the virtue of preserving self-esteem. Self-esteem, it has been discovered, can be remarkably sensitive. With sufficient care and training, it can be damaged with the most casual remarks. These remarks have been named “microaggressions.” * The most carefully nurtured of self-esteems, can, with sufficient reflection and determination, be unbalanced by almost any remark imaginable. Indeed, there can be no innocence where a feeling is determined to be hurt.

And this is the weakness at the heart of the microaggression industry. A microaggression is not like a theft or a murder. If once there were ten apples, and five were removed without authorization of the owner, a theft may objectively be declared. If a body is discovered with a knife driven into the back, suicide seems unlikely.

But with a microaggression, the evidence is not objective, but subjective. What bothers A, may not bother B at all. And A might be bothered on Monday, but not on Tuesday. B might not take offense before three drinks, but be significantly upset afterwards.

Subjectivity is a rabbit hole of bizarre unreliability.

All this generalizing leads us to the case: Bhattacharya v. Murray in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.**

In 2018, a second-year medical student at the University of Virginia, Kieran Bhattacharya attended a panel discussion dealing with microaggressions and the medical profession. Mr. Bhattacharya had the temerity to point out that a microaggression is dependent on the state of mind of the aggressee – and involves an assumption about the actual intent of the aggressor.

To add heresy to blasphemy, he also asked whether it was necessary to be a member of a marginalized group to  become a victim – and whether the definition of “marginalized” might be over-broad.

Well, you may imagine that religious leaders do not like to have their authority questioned. Shock was expressed at Mr. Bhattacharya's disrespect; dark musings were made about his ability to deal with “the wards.”

But that was only the beginning.



1. A Professionalism Concern card was issued requiring Mr. Bhattacharya, suspending him and requiring him to undergo counselling; any right of appeal of the suspension was denied.

2. A professor, Christine Peterson, asked to meet with him to help him understand the “unintended consequences of conversations”-- but – in fact –attempted to determine his views on a variety of social and political issues, including affirmative action and the election of President Trump.

3. Professor John Densmore, Associate Dean of Admissions and Student Affairs required him to undergo a psychological evaluation before he could return to classes.

4. He was declared to have violated the School of Medicine's Technical Standards.

5. He was barred from University Grounds for four years.

Fortunately, Judge Norman K Moon has allowed Mr. Bhattacharya's lawsuit against the University to proceed.

But this case serves to show the extent of the reach of the new religion, the depths to which the academic world has sunk, and the capacity for the human brain to turn to mush under the influence of a herd that has convinced itself that it has discovered the clear and unambiguous path to virtue.

We are reminded of the novels of Franz Kafka. The Kafkaesque character finds himself in situations of bizarre absurdity, where wrongdoings – without evidence or explanation -- are assumed to be the natural circumstance of the world. In this world of oppressive caprice, a human being has no agency – he is in the grip of forces neither sensible nor explicable -- and not subject to appeals to reason or logic.

It is just such a world that Political Correctness creates. By putting feelings -- and the protection of feelings -- above all else, it removes us from the world of facts, reason, and rational discourse. In aiming for a perfect world of virtuous equality – which is not within the realm of natural or human variation – it ensures that we will live in a world of absurd and unremitting conflict – sometimes petty, sometimes profound – but always irrationally vindictive.

*We are not talking about deliberate insults. Our favourite examples are.

1. Complimenting a woman of power and influence on her new shoes. This focuses on superficial appearance and insultingly ignores her qualities of intellect and competence.

2. Asking participants to “stand and be recognized” before speaking. Some people might be in wheelchairs.

3. Saying “America is the land of opportunity” -- because some might feel it has not been for them.

4. Saying “The most qualified person should get the job."




The Fudge Factor   March 6, 2021

Just when we think we are on the verge of clarity, the fog moves in.

The scientists say that you cannot determine accurately both the momentum and location of a particle. The more accurately you are able to determine location, the less accurate must be your determination of momentum. And vice versa.

And just when we thought Einstein had figured out a sensible description of time and space, we discover that entangled particles behave as if neither mattered.

If you think it is easy to dismiss such matters as belonging to a remote world of theory, we would suggest that the Fudge Factor applies to real life, too.

We long for certainty, and have ideals of perfection. But those ideals are fixed and unchangeable. When we try to apply them to real situations – they are remarkably unsatisfactory: we do not live in a world of fixity or perfection – but in a world of change. If, in some magical instant, “perfection” could be achieved -- it would be destroyed in the next instant by the universal constant: change.

It's not as if the fudge factor has never been observed before. Our sayings are full of references: The road to hell is paved with good intentions; There's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip; Every idol has feet of clay; There is no rose without its thorn; There's a thin line between genius and insanity.

Our own personal favourite is Alexander Pope's observation: The difference is too nice/Where ends the virtue or begins the vice?

The ideals most commonly referenced today are “equality” and “social justice.”

We have written about equality many times. The framers of the U.S. Constitution said that all men are created equal. But that is nonsense, and everybody knows it. The only possible reasonable interpretation has been given by President Trump's 1776 Advisory Commission, which has said it meant that men were not to be burdened by a presumed inequality of social status at birth. That seems sensible.

And while equality of opportunity is an admirable goal, and citizens should be treated equally by law – the truth is that equality is not found in nature. Evolution proceeds on the basis of competition, not equality. Society may be improved by a reduction in some inequalities – but the dream of “equality” is a nightmare in disguise. Socialism – which promises equality – always founders on that deception. Aristotle was correct: “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” Socialism is a Procrustean bed which attempts to make unequal things equal. Oppression is at its core.

More recently, we have discussed “social justice” by making the distinction between two types of justice – the justice of function and the justice of being.

Those who pursue “social justice” appear to have in mind the justice of being. That type of justice has – as its foundational notion – the very “equality” which is so unattainable. The justice of being is, essentially, the justice of infinite mercy. According to the justice of being, everyone is equally worthy and everyone is worthy of equal reward.



Our favourite example of an exposition of the topic of justice is in Robert Frost's poem The Death of the Hired Man.

In the poem, Silas, the hired man, comes to the farmhouse door, seeking work. Old and exhausted, he offers to “ditch the meadow.” Warren, the farmer, cannot forget that Silas left him in the lurch last haying time – leaving when he was needed most.

Mary, his wife – a symbol of mercy – sees Silas as returning home – and she defines “home” as “Something you somehow haven't to deserve.”

Warren – who represents the justice of function – cannot overlook Silas's past unreliability. He sees rewards as related to function – to practical results. If you are unreliable, you won't be hired.

We, ourselves, have defined the justice of function in terms of the law of the jungle: rewards are given for speed, strength, cunning, and determination.

In a civilized society, neither type of justice provides an answer. Speed, strength, cunning and determination are essential. Life is, at its core, competitive. But if only those determinants were to be considered – how should we treat those who – as a result of misfortune, age, or incapacity outside their control – cannot compete?

Yet infinite mercy is not the answer, either. If all are rewarded equally, regardless of function – what happens to function? Why strive if there is no advantage to be gained? In the end – if no one strives – the ability of society to provide mercy is destroyed.

Every society must determine some appropriate balance between the justice of function, and the justice of being. In such matter, there is no formula – and no roadmap.

Those who expect a magical solution will be disappointed. “Social Justice” is as hard to pin down as an electron. Those who think there is a simple answer to location and momentum are living in a world of virtue-signalling and easy catch-phrases.

In Frost's poem, Silas dies before a final decision can be made. Mary and Warren – symbolically – hold hands. You can view this as Frost's suggestion that a proper blend of Mercy and Justice can only be found in an afterlife. Or you can see it as a cop-out – an intended or unintended recognition of the difficulty of the problem.

The attempt to solve problems that you have not accurately defined seems to preclude success. “If you do not understand the cause of a problem, your solution will become part of it”*

Social Justice Warriors who have not thought about the Fudge Factor in the idea of justice will not achieve clarity any time soon.


*Observation #737