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Shibboleth (newyorker.com)
14 points by tkgally 46 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 6 comments

This is a very very high quality piece of writing, one that will withstand the test of time. It is so hard to say anything powerful and relevant to the ongoing conflict without accidentally landing on one side of it, and this essay perfectly threads the needle. A couple things stood out to me:

> For several years now, many people have been protesting the economic and political machinery that perpetuates climate change, by blocking roads, throwing paint, interrupting plays, and committing many other arrestable offenses that can appear ridiculous to skeptics (or, at the very least, performative), but which in truth represent a level of personal sacrifice unimaginable to many of us.

I think this is an important point to remember. Many times, extreme protests are labeled as “attention-seeking”. Well yes, that is the point - but not attention for the protester - attention to the issue. Imagine an issue affecting you so strongly that you are willing to be arrested to draw attention to it. Given the level of sacrifice it requires, it’s almost impossible to fake that level of conviction. But this is also why it’s met with ridicule - many people can’t fathom having that level of devotion to a cause outside of themselves - and many people respond to things they don’t understand with ridicule.

> To send the police in to arrest young people peacefully insisting upon a ceasefire represents a moral injury to us all. To do it with violence is a scandal. How could they do less than protest, in this moment? They are putting their own bodies into the machine. They deserve our support and praise. As to which postwar political arrangement any of these students may favor, and on what basis they favor it—that is all an argument for the day after a ceasefire.

Well said. I am especially annoyed by people whose reaction to protests is to immediately attack the practicality of their specific demands. In most cases, protesters just want something to stop. It’s not about actionable demands, at least initially. And asking for “actionable” demands is in and of itself an attempt to reimpose the power structures of the very system the protesters are protesting. It’s like, “oh you’re saying our system is broken and is resulting in catastrophic outcomes? Let’s talk about how we can work within that system to address your concerns.”

Are all paywalled articles on the archive? How do they not get sued or something?

Block enough scripts and there is no paywall.

> If the concept of safety is foundational to these students’ ethical philosophy (as I take it to be), and, if the protests are committed to reinserting ethical principles into a cynical and corrupt politics, it is not right to divest from these same ethics at the very moment they come into conflict with other imperatives.

Speaking frankly as a political moderate in a far-left company: I don't honestly feel that "safety" in the abstract is foundational to the ethical framework of any of these movements. "Safety" for particular classes of people is, but as the saying goes, they tolerate everything except intolerance.

This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it means that even someone like me—who supports LGBT rights and has deep personal connections to the pain of gay people—feels unable to safely express my political opinions at work. I work in edtech, and I'd like to speak up in defense of the parents who don't want school curricula to include still-controversial topics. I'd like to point out that the way that they're fighting this battle will just isolate and alienate the parents of the children who they're trying to serve and that it is a morally bad thing to teach children something that their parents have explicitly said they don't want their kids to be taught. I'd like to argue that we should find a better path than intentionally deconstructing parental rights. But I can't say that because that opinion isn't welcome.

I see the same thing in these protests. There's a ton of nuance in this conflict, a ton of room for complex opinions, but creating a safe space to discuss that nuance is not the goal. The goal is to shout one opinion loudly enough that political leaders feel bound to respond, and that is antithetical to creating a true safe space.

It's never been about safety, it's been about justice, and in the minds of the protestors achieving justice requires silencing opposition.

It is typical nonsense of a one-sided view of someone who wants to say: "My goal justifies any means." With all the typical justifications of such goals.

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