1964’s America meets 2023’s snowflakes.
Just as I posted yesterdays blog, I remembered a quote that summed up rather neatly the point I had been trying making so inelegantly. Actually, I sort of half-remembered it, meaning I couldn’t remember who said it, only that it had been said and that it was pertinent. But thanks to wikipedia (to which I donate and would urge you to as well), I not only have the quote, but also the context in which it was uttered:
The phrase was used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio. In explaining why the material at issue in the case was not obscene under the Roth test, and therefore was protected speech that could not be censored, Stewart wrote:
I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.
So being unable to define a thing, but still be able to recognise it, might’ve been seen as progressive in 1964, but in the culture wars of the 2023, it has been co-opted by ‘snowflakes’ who have inverted it so it is now regressive. A ‘snowflake’ is someone wikipedia describes thusly;
“Snowflake” is a derogatory slang term for a person, implying that they have an inflated sense of uniqueness, an unwarranted sense of entitlement, or are overly emotional, easily offended, and unable to deal with opposing opinions.
One sort of expects this from young people, after all it is part of being young that one look at the world their parents and their parents have created and find faults with it, and seek to remedy those faults. Every young person ever has done it. It’s how societal change happens and indeed needs to happen but with a sense that everybody is on board with it. An example being same-sex marriage. Britain in the 1950’s was not the Britain of of 2000’s. Attitudes and social mores changed, possibly too fast for some, not fast enough for others, but just right for most. The ‘Goldilocks’ theory of social change.
This has been abandoned so now something can be denounced as wrong by those looking to find wrongs, but without any consensus that this is so (a Twitter generated storm doesn’t count), and then immediately demand that the perceived wrong is not only corrected, but that every trace of it in recent history is expunged.
But what seems so inexplicably perverse about the all this, is that the very people one might’ve expected to be defending diversity of opinion together with an understanding that nuance exists, championing science based evidence and notionally being liberal, are doing the very opposite. It seems that old divides and values of the left and right which I for one had taken as a given, no longer exist. This is because right – in the sense of not being wrong – is so vehemently contested and liable to seemingly arbitrary change. And because this seems increasingly to be the case – the almost totalitarian idea that who who you are and more importantly, how you feel about things, has greater cultural cachet and influence than those who with almost perverse obtusity, cling to the wrong – consensus is more unachievable than ever.
One thinks of Suzy Izzard’s ‘ Circle of Cool’, the notion that there is a circle of cool and at at the back of the circle is where something ultra cool and groovy morphs into looking like a dickhead. So in a less funny, less looking cool but very much looking like a dickhead kind of a way, the ultra-liberal left morph into very extreme right wingers.