Life is a difficult thing, and some of us get better life education than others.
There is significant resistance to the (I’ll call it stereotypically British) attitude that sentimentality is rarely, if ever, helpful in life. Some of us learned this well from our parents, and others did not. I, for one, did not, though I learned it better than some (say, a few) others.
As I get older, I realize that much of what passes for modern “wisdom” on relationships is entirely wrongheaded. Sympathy, empathy, communication, etc. can not get us to the promised land. The fact is that people are different, and generally have different (and equally valid, yet competing) interests and values in life. There are only two choices:
– A totalitarian imposition of normativity, so that we are all the same.
– An acceptance of difference buttressed by time-honored rules that preserve our ability to survive such difference.
If we are not to pursue the former (and, historically, we haven’t, and the values of our society point in directions other than this), then we must pursue the latter. In the case of the latter, rules of social interaction and relationship, which can at times seem to be impersonal or unfeeling, guide us in ways that enable us to differ while minimizing hurts, anger, and conflict.
This is essential if we are all to get along, and if we are to preserve society and the healthy socialization of the younger generation at any particular moment.
What I mean to suggest in this post is that it is right and good, at the end of the day (and despite my reservations over the years) that people should be polite and convivial rather than intimate and emotive in most cases. This is something that I’ve bristled at over the years at times—usually, and self-servingly, when I’ve been in the most trouble of one kind or another. In fact, polite, convivial, and indirect it is the only way.
The only way.
If we are to have a society, if we are to preserve our sanity, if family and community are to be made to work, then the old-world tradition of civility, restraint, and boundaries in the face of life difficulties is of paramount importance. It stands merely to reason that one of the world’s great empires might implicitly outline a system of mores for coping with multicultural status quos. The stereotypically British colonial and classist mores of communication are in fact the best we’ve ever created as a species for the prescribed purpose, and they are goods to aspire to rather than regressive backwardness to be overcome in the interest of social justice and self realization.
And I’ll go a step farther and sound like a conservative by saying that, in fact, social justice as currently constituted is a sham. It is not justice but rather warfare, and no good can come of it. People must know their place, myself included. Self-realization doesn’t even enter into the picture; it is, as constituted, a silly and immature game.
Yes, I am making a value judgment. I hereby abandon cultural relativism, at least within a particular historical and geographical context. I declare one culture and set of norms to be better than the rest, and I advocate openly for them. I do this without reservation.
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Also backward: people who won’t think deeply about, reason about, or adhere to formal and/or informal (at the very least) logic about conflicts and crises.
You cannot form a society on the basis of impulse and self-care. You simply can’t. It’s bullshit.