Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Irony Age

It has always been ironic that Christians call upon saints to save them from acts of God. But nowadays you can get called "racist" for comparing Mohammed's "the Recitation" with Hitler's "my Struggle"; or for likening overdressed Muslim women to letterboxes (as Boris Johnson did), even though that is surely no worse than likening nuns to penguins, as in The Blues Brothers (hardly a racist movie). And what do we call criticizing the dresses of The Stepford Wives? Feminism? Ironically, Boris Johnson had been defending the British Muslim woman's right to dress conservatively in public, against a wave of European restrictions.

For such reasons I think of this as the Irony Age. For another example, hominids that were not human were presumably hunted by primitive tribes of humans. Many of them might have been hunted to extinction, as humans evolved; such is evolution. Neanderthals took their time becoming extinct, so they might have evolved an instinctive fear of the human form: those without some such fear may well have had a significant disadvantage. This is only a possibility. But since white people are the product of humans and neanderthals, it is conceivable that a fear of humans evolved in neanderthals and was then inherited by white people. That is, it is a reasonable scientific theory that racism was originally caused by black people (ironically). Maybe it is not a true theory, of course; but, do you find yourself wanting to say "probably not" instead of "maybe not"? Would that be for scientific, or for political reasons? Since most scientists would want to say "probably not" it would not only be politically correct, it would be scientifically correct to say that, because science is what scientists do (ironically).

So much for racism; what about sexism? Well, there is a slight difference in average height between women and men. Some of the causes of that fact may well have been sexist, but the fact itself is not. It is just a fact. Still, one of the consequences of it is that the tallest adults are predominantly male. That is mainly because of the bell curve: random variation produces values that lie on a curve shaped like a bell, most of them clustered around the middle. Put a bell curve close to another one and there is a lot of overlap in the middle, but on each extreme almost all the outliers are from just one of those curves. Again, that is not sexist, it is mathematics. Now, humans do tend, quite strongly, to look up to taller humans (pun intended); which is again probably not, in itself, sexist, but it does mean that when it comes to promotions to top positions, taller humans – who are mostly men – tend to do better. This results in part of the gender pay gap.

As a result of successful legislation against sexism, the gender pay gap is now mostly affecting older women, and those in the top jobs (who tend to be older). So the height factor might be a significant part of this gap. An irony is that trying to make things fairer by promoting women who apply for top jobs – probably taller women – over the least attractive men who apply – probably the smaller of the men – would worsen the actual unfairness of our looking up to taller humans. It is likely that seeking equality elsewhere could similarly worsen sexism (although describing too many particular cases would probably get me labelled as sexist). Another irony is that you might, in general, want to pay women more than fairness would demand, in order to get more role models, to help to combat centuries of sexism.

There is lots of irony when it comes to abortion. Those who are against it because it is, they believe, murder, are usually for the death penalty; this is called "ironic", ironically, by people who are usually called "clever". It is not ironic, because the death penalty is for guilty people, not babies. No, abortion is ironic because those who are for it usually say that they are defending women's right to control their own bodies. They are defending no such thing (as follows), and it is ironic that they are regarded as the scientific ones, the ones saying it how it is, the clever ones. People who are for abortion do not want women to have the right to try to abort their own baby, they want doctors to have the right to do it for them. So consider a woman who wants to kill herself (or just hurt herself). If it was about a woman's right to control her own body, then there should be a demand that doctors be allowed to help the woman to kill herself (or hurt herself, etc.) just because she wants it. To say that it is OK if she is terminally ill, but not OK if she is mentally ill, is like saying that abortion is OK if the baby or the mother was going to die anyway and the abortion is to save the life of the other (the mother or the baby respectively).

Plenty of people who wanted to kill themselves end up glad that they did not; and similarly, plenty of people who wanted an abortion end up glad that they did not have one. Less closely analogous: what about a woman's right to control her own home? Can she kill anyone who is in her home? Would the difference be that unborn babies are not people? That, I think, is the difference. If so, then it is not really about the right of women to control their own bodies, it is about whether and when an unborn baby is a person. The day before birth? A month before? A month and a day? A month and two days? There is no good scientific answer, and so the proponents of abortion on demand talk about something else, something that sounds good; which makes this a sort of populism. Ironically, the left have turned "populism" into a word that means something else, by way of their predominance in academia and the intelligent media. Actually, that is not just ironic.

No comments: