Sunday, January 4, 2015

Scott Aaronson's Brilliant Dispatching Of "Patriarchy"

A Facebook friend pointed me at Scott Aaronson's latest response to the Penny/Marcotte attacks, and I must say, it contains a fantastic response to Penny's assertion that his problem is due to "Patriarchy". I quote the grafs in full from his Dec. 31 update (emboldening, as ever, all mine):
I struggle always to be ready to change my views in light of new arguments and evidence. After reflecting on the many thoughtful comments here, there are two concessions that I’m now willing to make.

The first concession is that, as Laurie Penny maintained, my problems weren’t caused by feminism, but rather by the Patriarchy. One thing I’ve learned these last few days is that, as many people use it, the notion of “Patriarchy” is sufficiently elastic as to encompass almost anything about the relations between the sexes that is, or has ever been, bad or messed up—regardless of who benefits, who’s hurt, or who instigated it. So if you tell such a person that your problem was not caused by the Patriarchy, it’s as if you’ve told a pious person that a certain evil wasn’t the Devil’s handiwork: the person has trouble even parsing what you said, since within her framework, “evil” and “Devil-caused” are close to synonymous. If you want to be understood, far better just to agree that it was Beelzebub and be done with it. This might sound facetious, but it’s really not: I believe in the principle of always adopting the other side’s terms of reference, whenever doing so will facilitate understanding and not sacrifice what actually matters to you.

Smash the Patriarchy!
 So, in one quick graf, he observes that
  1. "Patriarchy" is a religious tenet, and
  2. better to pay homage to it and get on with your life.
 Which is to say, of course, he gives Penny and Marcotte the same exact due one gives Scientologists, phrenologists, and voodoo practitioners. It marks Aaronson as a man of flexible intellect and reason, unlike the retrograde savages decrying him. It reminds me of H.L. Mencken's essay, "Martyrs":

...[I]t seems to me sheer vanity for any man to hold his religious views too firmly, or to submit to any inconvenience on account of them. It is far better, if they happen to offend, to conceal them discreetly, or to change them amiably as the delusions of the majority change. My own views in this department, being wholly skeptical and tolerant, are obnoxious to the subscribers to practically all other views; even atheists sometimes denounce me. At the moment, by an accident of American political history, these dissenters from my theology are forbidden to punish me for not agreeing with them. But at any succeeding moment some group or other among them may seize such power and proceed against me in the immemorial manner. If it ever happens, I give notice here and now that I shall get converted to their nonsense instantly, and so retire to safety with my right thumb laid against my nose and my fingers waving like wheat in the wind. I d do it even to-day, if there were any practical advantage in it. Offer me a case of Rauenthaler 1903, and I engage to submit to baptism by any rite ever heard of, provided it does not expose my gothic nakedness. Make it ten cases, and I'll agree to be both baptized and confirmed. In such matters I am broad-minded. What, after all, is one more lie?
Just so. The ball's in your court, Ms. Marcotte.

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