I'm in the unfortunate situation of believing that the social sciences - and even a good portion of modern psychology - are close to being nonsense fields, while at the same time being a person who is keenly interested in the questions of psychological and cultural change. For instance - what happened in the span of a half decade to reverse the poll numbers on gay marriage? Why is it that a lunatic ranting about how Grand Theft Auto 5 needed a female protagonist now is taken seriously by so many, when half a decade ago they would have been laughed at? What happened? And, more importantly - how did this happen without my noticing it? Why did it hit me so suddenly? Why didn't I change too?
I think I have stumbled on a piece of the answer to that question.
I recently took part in an exchange over at Lothar's blog about complementarism and egalitarianism, which largely took place between myself and a woman who hates - hates! - complementarism. Not the first time I've had conversations like these, considering I'll now and then hit LGBT sites just to explain natural law, misconceptions about Catholic moral teaching, etc. I like to confront people who disagree with me. I like to see their arguments, see where they're coming from. I also like to see where they go wrong, when they do go wrong. I certainly love to dismantle bad arguments and corrects bad reasoning. But I also like to learn new things, correct myself, etc.
The point is, I've run into people like Mary before. Enough that I've noticed patterns when discussing things with men and women like herself.
* They make subjects as personal as possible immediately. I don't mean they start out insulting and belittling people who disagree with them necessarily, but the opposite - in the course of presenting their reasoning, they use themselves as a central example, talking about their feelings, their tragedies, their pain and their experiences. The problem is, this isn't just 'speaking from the heart' - it establishes themselves as a kind of human shield for their own arguments. To attack their arguments becomes an attack on *them.*
* Following up on that - whatever other arguments they have, there is a singular fallback they rely on: anguish. Hurt. Pain. Once again, not inflicting this on others - their own pain. If you argue against them, if you hold beliefs - even beliefs that result in no action - they make it clear that you are *hurting* them. Just by believing differently, you cause them great pain. And God help you if your beliefs are tied to action, like opposing gay marriage. In that case, very often you are not only causing them pain, you are killing them. Killing them. In the case of Mary, my belief in complementary roles and differences between men and women makes me responsible for some lunatic who thinks all women should have children. It doesn't matter if I oppose that thinking - simply by believing what I do, I'm responsible. The only way to absolve myself is to change what I believe.
Again, I've run into this before. I could have pointed this tactic out months ago, years ago, and I can go into detail about all the little psychological hooks and kinks and methods that are employed with this kind of intellectual offense/defense. That's not new to me.
What's new to me is how effective it is.
See, this sort of thing hasn't worked on me in a long time, if ever. If I drink a bottle of Diet Orange Crush and someone starts sobbing dramatically, talking about how Diet Orange Crush hurts them, how they can't stand to be in the same room as Diet Orange Crush... my reply isn't 'Oh my God, I'm so sorry. Ban Diet Orange Crush!' It's closer to, 'Well, you're insane and need help.' Not necessarily mocking - some people really do need help. But the point is that the problem is on their end, not mine. Something's gone wrong in their mind if the mere presence of Diet Orange Crush in the same room as them can provoke them to tears. Unless I'm dealing with an alien physiology that is to them what saltwater is to the aliens on Alien Nation, all their screams and cries convince me of is that they're somehow broken.
But that's me. And more and more I realize that most people won't - or will no longer - respond that way. What matters is that Someone Is Hurting, period. At that point, the question is the path of least resistance to solving the problem before them.
And here is, I think, one of the saddest yet truest statements of modern culture and discourse.
When someone decides that the person in anguish at the presence Diet Orange Crush bottles must somehow have their situation addressed, they have two options of who to confront.
They can confront the crazy person. But... the crazy person is crazy. And LOUD. They'll sob and cry, call anyone who confronts them monsters who are personally responsible for suicide, murder and more. They'll struggle, they'll resist. Try to reason with them and they just get MORE angry.
Or they can confront me. The person who will try to calmly reason with them, perhaps get sarcastic, but who will typically not lose my goddamn shit until things have gone too far - at which point, they would have already been well on the road to evicting me from their presence anyway.
The short, easy path to maintaining something resembling peace again is to just get rid of the calm guy. In fact the calm guy, by virtue of being calm, enables this from the very beginning. Because people don't care about reason or rationality or the like many times - they care about peace, and keeping people from screaming about their pain.
Now swap out the bottle of soda for any issue you like. Feminism? Gay marriage? Abortion? You'll see this pattern - whoever remains sane and calm is setting themselves up for a loss when their opponents realize that all they need is convincing theatrics, or at least act as if they realize this.
That's how it happened. That's why we're in the situation right in right now. It may only be a piece of the puzzle, but I am convinced it is a piece, and an important one. I'm likewise convinced that many conservatives did not and even do not see this happening, because they look at these situations and believe it's just blindingly obvious that the screaming person - not the calm, reasoning person - is the lunatic in the room.
How we got to this point is another question. What to do from here, still another question. But at least absorb this point: this is one of the main drivers of change in society. The Tyranny of the Aggrieved is not hyperbole. It is fact.