Social Justice Warriors and my own pet hate


Someone I follow on Twitter recently posted a link to a video of a young woman criticising a Lyft driver for his choice of dashboard decoration.

To understand what it is about, take a look at the video first:

(In short, after the woman gets in the car, she notices the man’s Hawaiian bobble head doll on his dashboard. She takes offense and expresses her surprise that the man is unconcerned about insulting the “continent of Hawaii”. She also insists on him removing the item.)

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I could easily have been one of these so-called Social Justice Warriors. I have this sometimes irrepressible desire to preach to people and to condemn their behaviour. On the other side I am well aware of horror stories of what happens when one group appoints themselves over other people, when they believe they have the right to judge other people because the latter are not pure enough, or because the things that they thought are quite innocuous are really horribly offensive, and concrete evidence of deep-seated incorrect attitudes about certain important issues.

Here are two examples from history:

* Starting in 1966, Red China leader Mao Zedong unleashed eager, fundamentalist students on the public to advance his own political agenda. The Red Guards broke into houses and pushed terrified citizens out of the way in a mad search for anything that would supposedly prove that the residents of the house were “bourgeois capitalist running dogs”. Items that were confiscated – ostensibly to destroy them but many items ended up in the private collections of Communist Party officials – included books, art, antiques, Western musical instruments and Western clothing like ties.

* The Khmer Rouge unleashed themselves on the ordinary people of Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Cambodia in the 1970s. Atrocities committed by the rabid fanatics included people being arrested and tortured for the simple “crime” of wearing glasses, which to the crazed zealots could only mean one thing: They were middle-class intellectuals who spied for the enemy.

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The woman in the video believed that she was entitled to prescribing to the man what items he may or may not place on his dashboard, even that she had a right to order him to remove a decorative item because it had offended her.

I reckon if she were not comfortable with the interior of his car, or even if he had something worse like a portrait of Adolf Hitler pasted on the back of the front seat, she could simply have exited the car, or if she only noticed the item after the journey had begun, she could have asked him to stop and let her out. Instead, she criticised him while insisting that he still take her to her destination – she wanted to criticise him without sacrificing the convenience he offered.

* * *

Is it taboo to point things out to people or to shake your finger at someone and tell them that it upsets you to no end if they do or say this or that?

Here is what offends me to the point of nausea: some people in Taiwan drive their scooters with only one hand because the other hand is holding a cell phone, and their eyes are not on the road but on the damn phone. This really rubs me the wrong way. When I slide in next to such a wretched fool at a traffic light, I honk my horn enough times accompanied by a look so dirty that the person usually has no doubt about the fact that I think what they are doing is wrong. No, more than wrong – it is fucking stupid, because it is just a matter of time before the accursed halfwit hurts himself or worse, injures someone else.

So, do I have the right to be annoyed by someone else’s behaviour? I believe I do, when life or limb is at stake.

But to criticise someone else’s choice of decoration or word choice or clothing or joke is in my opinion getting dangerously close to the behaviour of the fanatical Red Guards of Mao’s China who foamed at the mouth at the mere sight of someone who did not look right, or who owned something politically “incorrect”, or who talked or thought in unacceptable ways.


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