DAoS: How to be a nice, helpful gadfly in eight steps

You’re a skeptic, or a counter-cultural revolutionary, or the member of a minority, a critic, a contrarian or whatnot. Whatever it is that you are, your deepest convictions as a result of this identity are such that you’re at odds with the rest of the world in your outlook.

Your imperatives may be frustrated by tyranny of the majority at every step. Most people don’t understand you, because they don’t have to walk a step in your shoes and they don’t want to!

Stripped of your social inclusion, and your political inclusion, all you have left is your voice and thankfully somehow you’ve managed to be noticed. Good for you!

What are you going to say and do? How are you going to spend this rare and precious chance to voice your dissidence, your difference?

Well, you’d better be nice about it. You get more ants with honey and all that. Besides, you’re nice. Why else would you have tolerated the empowered majority this long without climbing the nearest clock tower with high-powered rifle in hand, if you weren’t nice?

Besides, you’ve got nice white teeth. Shiny!

Here’s what you have to come to terms with in order to get your voice across.

1. Don’t get too attached to your dignity, this is hard work.

Now, now, now. Calm down. Most people in this world never get the chance to be heard, and frankly, does it do reality television stars any harm to swallow their pride just to be heard? No. No it doesn’t, and they get listened to!

You may be the greatest mind in your field, even if this hasn’t been realised yet. You don’t want to look like Gene Ray now do you?

Swallow that dignity. Swallow it down and shit it out so you can’t regurgitate it back up later! You’ll never need it and it only gets in the way.

Done? Good.

2. Don’t sacrifice your self-image.

What am I talking about? I just told you that dignity was worthless!

Rookie error! Dignity is not self-image! The latter is how you see yourself, the former is how you present yourself to the world.

I’d never ask you to look upon yourself as being garbage!

Now… Clearly you’re better than the majority, otherwise you’d think like they did. But the majority, if self-unaware about it thanks to the privilege of their majority status, look down upon people they see as being like you.

Look around at the people you’re surrounded by. Misfits!

If they don’t have the voice that you have now, they are to be pitied in a loving, parental manner. If they have more voice (and experience and expertise and book sales and so on), they just don’t understand. That’s your niche. You’re one of those amongst your type, maybe truly the only one, who understands.

What’s more, if you care to notice, all of the dismissals the majority direct at most of your kind, well none of them apply to you. And if you squint just right, you’ll also find that they apply to the misfits.

Good grief! You’re probably better than the majority, and you’re obviously better than the rest of your own kind.

3. Be helpful.

Look, getting the mainstream to come around to your way of thinking is hard. Damn hard. As much as you may be better than them, you’re not so good that you’ll be seen as The Way with your say so.

You need to ratchet your way up to that goal and you have to deal with the immediate concerns first of all.

Sooth their fears about you. Show that you aren’t what they think you are. Bring this into stark contrast.

Nothing provides as much contrast as standing next to someone who isn’t like you – one of your fellow gadflies that just didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. Either those that just don’t understand, or who are just so lumpen and pathetic that they need you to look after them. Misfits who need you to tell them how to engage with the majority.

Stand next to them, and pronounce your difference! I may be an X, but I’m not that kind of X.

You will be surprised just how well the majority can see the truth of this, and just how much opportunity and acceptance they’ll want to foist upon you. They may even want to… cooperate!

It is essential that you take every opportunity to differentiate yourself by voicing the majority’s objections to the misfits. Objections to crime, to too much polyester, to ignorance, to aggression, to anger, too selfishness and so on and so forth, these objections must issue from your lips with regularity!

Almost as if by magic, your voice will be elevated up above your peers and you may very well enjoy increased political and social inclusion as well (but don’t hold out on the latter, the majority can’t have their weekends monopolised).

If you manage to pull this off, you’re half way to achieving your goals!

4. Take the high road.

Don’t call people bigots! Don’t call them homophobes, atheophobes, xenophobes or racists! Don’t call them fundies, rednecks, white trash or sheep! Whatever you do, don’t call them a gobshite!

But most importantly when you’re taking the high road, don’t forget to point out that you’re taking the high road! The world needs holiday snaps of your trip to the pinnacle of respectful discourse.

You think that’s a bit too disingenuous? Remember rule 1! Dignity is overrated!

You deserve more, sure, but you’re lucky to be where you are as it is and you can’t afford a luxury like dignity. The moment you get airs and graces the majority will drop you back in with the misfits like they’d mistakenly picked up a turd.

Mind you, you can’t let out that you’re probably better than everyone else. Remember Gene Ray? What you can do is declare that you’re better than the misfits. This won’t stop you getting over with the majority.

At every point, where the majority would have possible cause to see you as different from the plebs, highlight it!

5. Patience is a virtue.

Be patient. Make sure people can see you being patient.

Right. Now that they aren’t looking and it’s just you and me – you need to patiently wait for that chance to spring your arguments upon the majority. You can do the big reveal before it’s time. The world isn’t ready otherwise there’d be more people like you.

Look at gay people. How many millenia did they wait for equal personhood? Now that’s patience!

If you notice the recent increases is gay acceptance, you can see that this patience has worn off. Win!

Being patient and making sure you’re seen as patient, serves the dual purpose of earning a place for your idea, as well as protecting you from being associated with others like you – these others being impatient by nature.

6. Smile.

Use those white teeth of yours. If you don’t have white teeth, get them!

Take a photo. Make sure the photo is taken when you’re inordinately happy; too happy to be discussing anything grave or so serious that people’s lives depend on the outcome.

But don’t tilt your head back in laughter. You want to ever so slightly, look down your nose – more dignity than condescension mind you. And no, this doesn’t break rule 1 – this is a mild parody of dignity, so subtle as to not be immediately discernible, and at all times ambiguous.

You photo should say “friendly with you, you and you, but maybe not you”.

Keep this photo with you. Rehearse this face.

Use this picture as you’re Twitter avatar. Use it as your Facebook profile photo. Put it on all your articles.

Juxtaposed against the mood of your writing, your face will express anything between love and a shit-eating smile, depending on the psychology of the reader. Naturally the poor misfits will gravitate to uncharitable interpretations, which when expressed (and these views will be expressed – sigh) will give you the opportunity to show the empowered majority just how different you are.

7. Be subtle, not crude and obvious.

You know how I’ve told you to make yourself stand out from your peers? Wherever possible, be subtle about this.

Nobody likes a braggart, and nobody likes someone who puts other people down to make themselves look good – even when it’s for a good cause like yours.

The easiest way of getting people to accept that you are different, without it being obvious that you’re playing guiding them, is to presuppose matters of difference in the way you behave or in the arguments that you make. That your interlocutor may be an ignorant fool, shouldn’t motivate you to call them an ignorant fool; simply lecture them on the topic of their ignorance. Even if the topic is for them a first year course from their alma mater, in a degree you don’t actually have; it doesn’t matter, they don’t understand.

Crude and obvious, while apparently clear, is simply crude and obvious. You’ve heard that majorities mistake clarity for shrillness, well sometimes members of minorities mistakenly feel a shrill voice is the only way to speak clearly. You are still a member of a minority. You don’t want to be shrill do you? Good.

8. Internalize! Internalize! Internalize!

If you’ve managed to obey rules 1 -7, you’ve probably managed to cosy up with the majority pretty well. All you have to do now is wait patiently and eventually you’ll be heard.

But you could still lose the chance!

Self-doubt is the killer here. You’re in a holding pattern maintaining 1-7, and if you falter you’ll be left having to start again or worse still, you could be entirely discredited!

The trick is to turn these rules into more than a checklist; you have to turn them into a repertoire of reflexes!

Say one of the misfits from your minority take a shot at you. They call you an Uncle Tom. They call you a sycophant, a toadie, an accommodationist or whatever hateful invective they can come up with.

Rule 2: Don’t sacrifice your self-image! Defend yourself!

Rule 3: Be helpful! You need to raise this kind of behaviour as a typical problem that stops your minority from being included by the majority.

Rule 4: Take the high road! Don’t use invective yourself, and make sure you highlight that you’ve made this decision.

Rule 7: Be subtle, not crude and obvious. Don’t just call them an ignorant philistine, or yourself a martyr.

“I’m not sure that this kind of discourse is helpful. I’ve found it much better to be gentle with people, and the majority does recognise this. I think you’d get your message across easier if you tried the same approach.”

Irrespective of the accusation, regardless of the specific facts of the matter or indeed the goal you’re trying to achieve, in the heated environments that the misfits create, this kind of response is appropriate.

This process should be fluid; no thinking out “rule 2, rule 3…”

Make it effortless. Don’t let it be the source of cognitive dissonance, but let rule 8 be the means by which you rid yourself of such confusion.

A final few words

If you’ve managed to follow these rules, you’ve probably suffered a lot of slings and arrows. It’ll be worth it.

You may not be the one who makes the breakthrough for your people, but you’ll be helping pave the way by showing a shining example. You’ll be remembered like other “accommodationists” (pfft!) after the dust finally settles and history is your judge.

Perhaps though, you will be the one to make the breakthrough. Then your people will find the promised land of equality and inclusion, and they’ll remember you as the one who led them there. Wouldn’t that be nice!

~ Bruce

Photo source: Martyrs

DAoS: Skeptics who pretend they’re professional lobbyists

“We need you to stop doing that!”

“That’s politically naive. We won’t win hearts like that!”

“Don’t criticise religion! We may want some religious people to join our cause!”

“Whaa! Whaa! Whaa!”

Who the hell put these people in charge? How can these people be put in charge?

Answer me this – what is the skeptic equivalent of Pope?

So your skeptical organisation may have an appointed leader. So what? What makes any given skeptical organisation the authority on all skepticism? What makes a skeptical organisation the skeptic equivalent of The Vatican?

Excommunicate a skeptic from your ranks and they’ll still be a skeptic.

There’s no grand Poo-Bah of skepticism because there can’t be one.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with disagreement in good faith about tactics – it’s healthy and rather obviously necessary.

But… There’s a difference between simple disagreement, and authoritarian finger waving.

Continue reading “DAoS: Skeptics who pretend they’re professional lobbyists”

DAoS: There are only two kinds of atheist

The truth is not for everyone and the truth can be elusive. If you find this all too stressful, look away now.

Atheist dichotomies. Hard-Soft. Weak-Strong. Militant-Tolerant. Bright-Stupid. Nones-Somes. All complete and utter crap.

There are only two kinds of atheist. Nevers and evers.

Are you an atheist and have you ever been a theist? You’re an Ever.

Are you an atheist and have you never been a theist? You’re a Never.

When will an Ever be as good, smart and virtuous as a Never? Never.

“Whaaaaaa! I came from a harsh fundamentalist background. PITY ME LIKE I PITY ME!”

No. The Universe without God is a harsh place. If you want to get used of it, you have to get used of not having you mother wipe your arse for you. Wipe it yourself milquetoast.

With the publication of The God Delusion, written by Richard Dawkins (an ever himself), closeted Evers have found a modicum of self-respect and thrown of the shackles of servitude to Santa for grown ups. In droves they have joined atheist communities.

I remember godless culture from before all these freaky refugees turned up. Back before all the tents made from tracts and hair-shirt adorned clotheslines, turned up to form a shanty town.

It wasn’t much, but our atheist culture was nice. Thanks Richard. Who were you to invite these basket-cases, anyway? You aren’t the Pope of atheism.

Oh, so they’re atheists now? Look, as any of us with a brain knows, atheism doesn’t grant virtue. Humanism may or may not, depending on the make and model, but atheism doesn’t. So suddenly becoming an atheist earns people precisely zero brownie points.

Look at it this way…

Take the paedophile priest. Suddenly, he’s caught and excommunicated (yeah, yeah I know – but this is a thought experiment) and in the process finds to his delight, that he never had any reason to believe in God to begin with. He just believed because his parents did – it’s always someone else’s fault after all. Especially with paedophiles.

So, the paedophile priest becomes an atheist. My question is, now that he’s an atheist, do you leave your kids alone with him and a jar of petroleum jelly?

If you say no, then you see my point. If you say yes, you’re a fool. A paedophile enabling fool. Maybe you worked for the Rat-Zinger before you became an Ever?

It’s not just run-of-the-mill criminal urges that atheism doesn’t cure of course. How many Evers, before they became Evers, enabled, facilitated or enacted religious brainwashing of the young? Their own young perhaps. This kind of dogmatic epistemology doesn’t just up and leave town just because its fundy host finds a new in-group to extract benefits from.

Religious fundamentalism has given the Godless world an injection of numbers, and an injection of culture. And norms. And values. And morals. And IQ scores.

Disturbingly it’s also given us new leaders. What the hell is an ex-fundy songwriter doing running the Freedom from Religion Foundation? Do atheists want it to be run like a cult? It can happen to atheists – just look at Ayn Rand’s sorry bunch of fawning sycophants. Well, I’m here to tell you that the Nevers don’t like it one bit.

Why are Nevers, Nevers and Evers, Evers? We’re told it’s socio-economics. We’re told it’s educational opportunity. We’re told it’s childhood environment. Crap.

Whatever your walk of life, adults bullshit their kids in various ways and about various things. Nevers choose not to believe. Before they are Evers, Evers do.

It’s not nurture, it’s nature. Nevers are intrinsically better. Don’t get me wrong – environment matters – a Never is more likely to become a Christey if they have a shit life. But all things being equal, potential Evers will never outperform potential Nevers in the Godlessness stakes.

It’s something that echos on through their CV of Godlessness. Which makes me wonder, who was reading these CVs when ex-fundie Shermer was anointed King Skeptic? Why is so much of the work published about atheism, the work of the once-were-woo-addicts? I can understand the whole letting-God-go thing, but what about the getting-on-without-God? Who is best suited to that? Nevers of Evers?

Frankly, as someone who got on as a good kid without God at a younger age than Dawkins, Shermer and the other Evers, ever did, I think I’ve got more to offer in this respect. You guys deal with the trials and tribulations of your fellow refugees, and leave the atheism to people like me. The ones who are good at it.

And for all you Evers out there, could you at least stop taking your hosts for granted, okay? We have different needs and imperatives and much more familiarity with godlessness than you ever will. You can stay if you can stay out-of-the-way.

It’s atheist culture. Not Theoholics Anonymous.

“Ah’ve been without Christ for six months. It’s been hard, but…” But blah blah blah.

You Evers need to know whose house you’re living in now.

~ Bruce

Disclosure: Feeling defensive, frustrated, confused? Read this.

A new kind of blog post – Devil’s Advocate on Steroids

I’ve been known to speak my mind from time to time, and then some. To hyperbolise.

But I don’t hyperbolise like a crazy person. When I exaggerate, I know I’m exaggerating. And I’m not exaggerating with the expectation that you’ll take the exaggeration entirely too seriously.

If I told you I don’t earn a single cent, I wouldn’t expect you to go away with the understanding that I have no money. Just that I’m earning a little less than is conducive to day-to-day life. I’m assuming you aren’t stupid. Be flattered.

Hyperbole has function. It can provide humour. It can be a part of a valid and effective reductio ad absurdum, where the audience gets the point but doesn’t take the proportions too literally. Hyperbole can lead to “what if?” speculation. Hyperbole can point down the direction of the if-not-immediately-possible, at outcomes possible if people aren’t to careful.

Calling Glenn Beck a terrorist, which I haven’t done but have seen others do, is an example of the if-not-immediately-possible. And if you don’t take it too literally, and if this is conveyed in the right way, you’ll get the point. There is risk in Glenn Beck’s conspiracy-minded, revolutionary talk. Can you really exclude the possibility that one of Beck’s cultish followers, driven by Beck’s rhetoric, could do something violently stupid in the name of the revolution?

No. So you get the point. See? I knew I was right not to assume you were stupid.

Thus far though, my hyperbole has been my usual idiosyncratic self, doing what comes naturally. It hasn’t been that deliberate and much less has it been calculated.

With this in mind, I’m considering trying some Devil’s-advocate-on-steroids kind of blogging. Devil’s advocate with a rough pinch of truth, just to make it uncomfortable. Because I don’t think anyone with intellectual aspirations should be too comfortable in their assumptions. Comforting as it may seem, it’s just too careless. If you’re a thinker, you need your cage rattled from time to time. If you don’t like it, step away.

I’m going to say things that will offend some people. But people should keep in mind that I don’t literally mean what I write in these posts. At least not each and every point.

I’ll reserve the right not to disclose what points I do and don’t believe. That’s for you to work out. I’m rattling your cage.

People familiar enough with what I write will probably be able to tell a lot of what I do or don’t really mean. I’d encourage people who aren’t familiar with my line of argument to try and understand, and for those that don’t know me, not to pretend that they do. And please all, keep in mind it’s not my intent to hurt anyone – or have anyone hurt their own feelings by reading these posts wrong.

Again, if it’s too harsh, turn back. Read something else or come back to it later or just avoid my blog altogether if you want to believe that I’m that much of a dickhead. This isn’t intended as an exercise in me judging you, so I won’t be screaming victory if you leave with your tail between your legs.

If you do stay, I’d ask that you direct your questions about these ultra-hyperbolic posts either to yourself, or to other readers. And I’d ask you not to avoid questioning anything that comes to mind if you can – this is the reason I want to shake some cages. I’m not going to make it easy on anyone by removing the ambiguity, so if you ask me, don’t expect that you’ll get a straight answer.

I’ll try not to violate people’s trust in me, or at least the trust that I’ve been given. I’ll try to remember to link to this post as a kind of disclosure, but this is all the warning I’m intending to give.

It’s not an opinion piece, it’s a stimulus for discussion.

~ Bruce