During the Kavanaugh spectacle, the line of thinking I was espousing elicited two very different comments. My left-leaning interlocutors called me a privileged and misogynistic white male, while my right-leaning friends called me a “bleeding heart.”
This range of reaction makes me feel good because I take it as evidence that I have an independent mind.
But when I’m being honest with myself, I admit that my motivation is the pleasure of stirring up trouble. My self-appointed job in life is to be an intellectual rabble-rouser,
someone who likes to challenge half-baked ideas and opinions, whatever perspective they come from.
Take identity politics.
I disagree strongly with identity politics. (The argument I usually make is that it is unsupported and nonsensical ideology whose foundation is racist.) I’m opposed to programs that target groups by social identities – programs, for example, that attempt to equalize outcomes by creating quotas and giving preferential treatment to women or minorities or the like. I don’t believe these programs work in theory. And based on everything I’ve seen or heard about them, I don’t believe they work in practice.
Yet in my private life – and by that I include my personal life – I’m always trying to create gender and ethnic diversity by giving my own time and money to women and minorities individually.
So am I a hypocrite?
I’ll try to answer that question in a future essay. But let’s talk about you…
Do you hold ideas in theory that you disregard or refute in practice? Here’s a quick and dirty self-test:
* How would you characterize yourself politically? Left? Right? Center?
* What school of economics do you subscribe to? Capitalism? Socialism? Something in between?
* When it comes to equality, are you in favor of equality of opportunity? Equality of outcome? Or both?
* When it comes to free speech, do you believe that (except for inciting violence) it should be absolutely free? Or do you feel (as the writers of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man did) that free speech is not an individual liberty, but must be subservient to the sovereignty of the state?
* In your personal life, do you encourage your friends to speak their minds, even if their opinions are contrary to yours?
These are just a few of dozens of questions that will identify where you stand ideologically on many key issues.
When I get back to this subject, I’ll give you a fuller and better self-quiz. But this should be enough to get you started on figuring out if, like me, there may be a disconnect between what you think you believe and how you lead your life.