Many posts have been made already on the Chapel Hill shootings, some defending atheists against the charge of being a hateful ideology and some attacking– The one thing I have noticed lacking is the observation that both sides are actually correct.
In reality the term Atheist is now seen as an ideology by many atheists but, is still seen as a simple statement of non-belief in the supernatural by many other atheists. Is it any wonder theists (and some atheists!) pounce upon the atheist as a worldview position? It did not help us make the case that atheist was only one position about gods and the supernatural when some atheists pushed the term Atheism+ either.
The analogy of language with biological systems for such terms as ‘mind virus’ and evolution of language is as true with atheism as it is with feminism. No matter what we do, language change is inevitable– I would argue the new fangled term egalitarianism will also evolve and become a term proponents argue over as well in just a few years, as Identity politics hits that movement(?). I don’t even need to mention the argument over the term Agnostic do I?
This is precisely why I judge people on their behaviours and positions rather than any labels we use. It is why those of us who begrudgingly label ourselves atheist (After all, why is the sane position the one needing a label) are careful to make clear our position. There is no charge of ‘No true Scotsman’ for the usage of ‘atheist’ possible if we have a well defined definition that does not change in response to an attack. Incidentally it is precisely for this reason many organisations write open letters reiterating their positions after any event such as this.
The Chapel Hill shooting is also a real life example of the topics of many of my prior blog posts. e.g. ‘On heroes’, ‘Propaganda’, ‘In Living Colour’, ‘Us vs. them’, ‘I’m not a true Scotsman’, ‘Why I am still a feminist, ‘I’m not a foot soldier in your war’ and ‘How to argue on the Internet’.
There is a reason I detest arguments on twitter.
I’ve stated my very narrow definition of feminism in “I’m still a feminist and so are you” and, it is the definition I use when referring to feminism. I cannot speak for anyone else’s use of the term feminism no more than a certain charlatan can claim to be a physicist– In other words when you have a grassroots term and there is no copyright on popular terms, the term becomes semantically diffuse. Does this means we should give up the term feminism and conclude it’s usefulness is over? This does seem a sensible solution at first glance until one realises that any term, unless backed by an organisation with a well defined statement of purpose, is also going to become useless. The solution I have chosen for myself is to define what exactly I mean by feminism and use the term accordingly. I readily admit that many people use the term feminist in other ways and, since I do not own the word I will reserve the right to disagree with their views.
Now as to the charge of “No true Scotsman”, anyone who has studied logical fallacies notes that the charge is only valid when a term is not rigidly defined and held to in the first place. The logical fallacy comes up because of the propensity of some groups to change a definition on the fly as to exclude people from a group when those people damage the reputation of a group. It is also an invalid charge it is admitted that some people who call themselves feminists using my definition are going to be nasty people, which I do. I also admit it is also possible all men with moustaches are evil since Hitler had a moustache. Logical fallacies are fun aren’t they?
I’m not a True Scotsman even though my last name is Bruce, because my family 7 generations or so back immigrated from Northern Ireland to Canada. I’m guessing they did so to get away from religious bigotry since the Robert Bruce that emigrated was married to a Mary Kennedy.
I have had to defend feminism many times from both Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) and from women. I’ve heard such things as “you are are really just a humanist”, “we have equality already”, and “feminism poisons everything”. Yes it’s a word which has become so semantically diffuse and emotions so heightened with “group think” and politics, that what the word means or meant or why it is still relevant today gets lost in the noise. And that’s a shame.
In my 20’s feminism was simple:
“Feminism is theory that men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially.”
How can something this simple a concept become so complicated and controversial? This naturally happens with any group that forms to protect their interests; a small group can infiltrate and use Identity Politic tactics to bring their own agenda to the forefront. Any group. Feminism is simply a logical viewpoint of any sane humanist, if you consider yourself a humanist you are a feminist. It is obvious that at one time women in western society got a very bad deal, but surely it is obvious women in other countries are still getting a bad deal– (and there are still places in the west http://www.trumpetmaster.com/vb/f133/san-francisco-musicians-protest-gender-discrimination-77376.html).
Is it not logical then to work on the core feminist ideals where it is applicable instead of fighting about terms?
As a humanist we have to consider everyone not just women. Do we have to allow ourselves to be divided and conquered? When we stop listening to the pain of others but lash out with our own pain against others, we dehumanize other human beings and lose some of our own humanity.
What can we do about this? I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. All I can do is challenge other people’s preconceptions to try and get them to put themselves in another persons shoes, so they try to understand why they are hurting. Maybe I mostly fail with this, maybe I sound angry but one thing I will never do, is allow an ‘ism to dictate how I treat another human being.
We all get only one life folks, be nice.