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Because I assume that despite his personal opinion, Freddie wanted to have a chance of actually passing the class?

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Oct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022

There are a whole hell of a lot of people who, while not denying that racism is real and pernicious, have simply stopped listening the instant the word is used. Why? Because the word has lost all value, has become so plastic that it can mean almost everything, just as a million different things can be used as a hammer...and people are tired of being the nail. As you say, if being constantly pounded on changes nothing and gains you not the slightest credit but only leads to another round of whacking, why bother to submit to it? After a while all it does is make you want to be the one doing the pounding.

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I think everyone is beginning to understand and accept that, deep down, "everyone's a little bit racist ... sometimes" -- to quote Avenue Q -- and we're all lizard-brained tribalist freaks, so this idea that some people aren't that comes across as bullshit. Plus some of the most racist people I've ever met were the "progressive" waiters at the restaurant where I worked who would outwardly complain about waiting on BIPOC (to use the annoying terminology of the Left) customers.

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Idk mate I just view everyone who believes in race as mentally ill and everyone who subsumes to tribalism as braindead. Usually clears things up quite nicely.

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Yep, I feel the same way about the word "fascism." That word should pretty much always be in scare quotes because people just use it as a general-purpose pejorative for person-who-does-or-wants bad-thing.

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The term "white supremacy" is also often invoked as an omnipresent, irresistible force that drives the behavior of white and "white-adjacent" people (the latter term often verging on absurd in its use) in nearly every realm of life. Even as a white person committed to building a more just society, I find myself tuning out and disengaging as soon as this sort of rhetoric pops up. It also denies the agency of non-white people as passive victims of "white supremacy". Even more confusing, this rhetoric became very popular at a time when actual white supremacists are flexing their influence in American society.

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This is why I never understood Calvinism. Either you are one of the Elect and don't want to sin, or you are eternally scrowed and might as well just enjoy life while you can.

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deletedOct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022
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You talking about Twitter?

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Which could be the reason why the Scots excel at rowdyhood.

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Insinuating that individuals have the ability to override societal structures with personal choice means everyone has to start looking in the mirror. The same talking points about why white men can't help but be racist and sexist serve as a convenient reasoning for why poor minorities end up in prison at higher rates, or why journalism majors with mountains of college debt living in NYC are financially screwed. For progressive politics, it's never the individuals fault-- Always the system. But as you have pointed out repeatedly, there's no RA for adults in the US and the rent is still due on the first.

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Literary Theory was the most emotionally charged class I took in college 18 years ago, and I went to a religious university where I also took a class called “Faith and Reason.” So that should say something about how affecting critical theory can be.

Obviously not everything in Theory is wrong, per se. There is a lot to be mined, a lot of questions to ask that Theory has raised. That’s good. But it’s important to realize that the hopelessness underpinning critical theory is bad for our minds and, apparently, our real life interpersonal relationships. Theory offers a lens through which to view the world, true, but that particular lens flattens the many facets of experience, biology, preference, and personality that make us individuals. It’s a lens that lessens us.

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Removed (Banned)Oct 24, 2022
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Not to mention unworkable and in some respects inhumane.

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Theory is a great way to view literature, but a terrible way to look at the world on a day-to-day basis.

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Yes. As much as I adore literature and how much it has shaped me, writing/creating something IS an inevitable flattening. (All art explores a certain Thing. It can’t be all things.) A writer chooses what to record and what to leave out. That’s why theory works well for literature: they are limited to the same dimension. Not so for the complexity of a human life.

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^^^This!

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I'm not convinced it's often a good way to look at literature.

Analyzing books through a theory, in my view, tells us a lot about the theory but often little about the text.

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How do you look at literature without theory?

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Just read the book, man.

Read it the way you did as a kid.

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Yeah, that’s called reader-response theory. There isn’t really a way to look at literature that doesn’t already have a theory attached to it.

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That's not what reader-response theory is. That theory analyzes people's reaction to a text. This, maybe more than most, is fairly disconnected from the text itself.

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The problem with that is any given text, and a book or any other art is a text,

becomes a reflection of society, the author, the reader, the critics, and any other lens one wishes to hold up to it. CT is a valuable tool to look at each of these functions and see what they are looking at. But, and this is a big but, this is not the only way to look at any given text. And, as such, should not be the only way to look at any given text.

Reading a book in the same way as a child is a wonderful thought, but I, and I am assuming you, are not a child. Try approaching the Bible or the Koran in that manner. Even the spelling of the title of each of those texts is laden with meaning, and to understand where other readers might come from in approaching them, having a perspective on the theory the reader might operate from is incredibly helpful if one wants to understand not just the words written in whatever translation, but the reaction others will have to the works as a whole. And, yes, you can read them in a vacuum, but be prepared for any reaction you might engender among other people.

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I suppose I'm talking specifically about fiction.

But if your fiction requires a wiki to understand, it probably needs to be rewritten or the obscurity is part of the point.

The work of Dante and so on are a bit different because they were writing contemporary work for their contemporaries, so understanding everything requires some amount of context. But, at the same time, you can read The Divine Comedy and miss all the allusions to real people and still come away being changed and awestruck by beauty.

Which is my point. You can read a book and take it for what it is and let it mean whatever it means to you, or you can dig through the ephemera of a life and try to contextualize the text through a prism or framework that you find meaningful.

But doing so usually tells us more about the framework than the author or the work itself.

For example: a psychoanalytical reading of Hamlet (a common reading) may make Hamlet make more sense to you or more meaningful to you, but it doesn't really have much to do with the text itself.

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Most people do it all the time?

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To view literature with a lens, is to view literature with a closed mind.

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When I taught theory, I didn’t describe it as a way to understand the text itself but rather a way to understand the culture that produced the text. That worked for the students, and was even fun.

But it’s a very different approach from trying to appreciate literature itself and learning how to read carefully and critically.

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Geez, did EVERYONE here go to a fancier school than I did? Y'all were busy learning these elegant theories and us common folks just discussing the book!

Or maybe theory was covered one of the days I was maxing out my allowed absences. Idk

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Don’t wanna brag but I was an English major sooooo

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Also an English major from way back lol

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Even though I grew up to be a lefty activist, I'm so glad I studied business in undergrad instead of like sociology or whatever. You get a way more accurate picture of how the world works from people who are mainly interested in making money off it than you do from people who are mainly interested in being right about it.

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Probably similar to learning more about the sun from looking at it's halo, than looking at the sun directly.

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I first read this as "Literal Theory"

Literally.

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Please engage with the text more carefully. 😏

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Yes, ma'am.

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This is a beautiful way of putting it! 🌻

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So many people seem to miss the schism that occurred between the Marxist-based Frankfurt school of Critical Theory, and postmodern critical theory.

One is generally an honest attempt at social science, the other is usually just standpoint epistemology couched as theoretical analysis.

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That is true, though Marcuse was of the Frankfurt school and Angela Davis was his pupil. The seeds were there.

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Absolutely. Postmodern critical theory stole its seedbed from Marxism and then scattered its seeds to the wind. That’s why it so often makes little sense, it completely removed the theoretical basis it was founded on and extended its logic past the point of sound theorization into standpoint epistemology.

This is explicitly where the “Cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory that Petersonians peddle originated from. They fundamentally misunderstand both postmodernism and critical theory.

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Truth bomb! (Is that still a thing people say? Was it ever?)

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Oct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022

What puzzles me most is why so many of the people who take the position that nothing we do can reverse the terrible tide of racism/sexism/whateverism that pervades the US call themselves socialists. You're not a socialist if you don't believe it's possible for humans to act creatively and with good intention to change society for the better. It's nothing if not an optimistic way of looking at the world! Historical examples abound. To name just one: Dolores Ibarruri who saw Franco and his fascist allies wreak death and destruction upon her beloved country held out faith until she died that good working-class people would eventually triumph over evil and make the world a better place. She saw that goodness firsthand in the faces of the volunteers with the International Brigades who came from all over the world to help defend the democratically elected Spanish Republic with nothing personal to gain and everything to lose. What the heck has happened? Does no one believe in goodness and fundamental decency anymore?

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Removed (Banned)Oct 24, 2022
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Exactly. Victimhood is a grift that pays in both money and power these days.

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I get so frustrated by the claim that we are powerless to change our intrinsic badness and our worse impulses--that because they are “systemic” and “socially constructed,” they can’t possibly be undone. This claim is simply false. We change and improve as a society all the time.

Here’s just one of many stories I could cite: Many years ago I ran a half marathon to raise money for research into congenital muscular dystrophy. One of the team members, Alex, used an electric wheelchair and had contractures and very thin limbs. The wheelchair athletes went first, and Alex’s dad rode his bike alongside Alex to film the crowd cheering him on.

I saw the film afterwards and noticed something very interesting: Everyone in the crowd tended to flinch and look away when they first saw Alex, but then they all overcame that initial impulse of shock or disgust, turned back, and cheered for him. Everyone did this. They couldn’t control their reflexive gaze, but they could control what they did afterwards, and they all chose to be kind, warm-hearted, and encouraging--to do the right thing. In our culture we used to react to disabled people with disgust and horror. We used to hide them away. We don’t do that anymore--and this is only one of many examples where a supposedly systemic and inevitable evil gave way to a more moral and just way of treating each other.

I think we need more stories like this, to remind us that change is not only possible, but that it happens all of the time.

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It often all feels very Catholic, which is bizarre. The need for top down definitions of Good and Evil and the belief that the best we can do in life is scrape by with enough good points that we earn eternal salvation or an indefinite amount of time in detention before the gates are opened to us.

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More Calvinist than Catholic

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Oct 25, 2022·edited Oct 25, 2022

Of course, we do. Because what is the alternative? Panoptic control over every individual every second of every day to ensure they never sin and are always striving to meet some perfection metric that some mad social scientist gets to define? That's just crazy. Don't care if the use of this word offends anyone. Get over it.

The demands of social justice these days pretty much boil down to a secular version of "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." There is nothing new under the sun.

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Fabulous example of being tolerant of ordinary human impulses metered by thoughtfulness and respect.

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Oct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022

Wokeism is a totalitarian philosophy. Like Stalinism or Puritanism, it needs everyone to be presumed guilty, or at least everyone in an outgroup. You are entirely correct that as a plan for national social change it is hopeless. But it is very effective as a system of internal control of blue tribe world.

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As a 66 year old woman,who also went to Central Connecticut State University,( when it was still a college) I would dearly love to attract “the male gaze” just once more and not from my 86 year old neighbor who isn’t sure who or what he is gazing upon. That be said, Thomas Parker wrote the best response and said it far better than I could.

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Queens in heat only size me up as a potential source of genetic material for their next litter of kittens.

I feel so objectified.

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I love the honesty of this comment. It's been a long time since I've been in grad school and I honestly haven't thought about the "male gaze" in quite some time, but I wonder: is there any way, then, to be looked at "appreciatively," or are the choices simply "problematic" or "neutral"?

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My theory on this is that as long as there is a power dynamic in favor of men, an objectifying gaze will always be oppressive. But once the power dynamic is more or less equal and where objectification doesn’t threaten the woman, it can be just fine!

(Note: this is me putting on my old theory hat, and not how I go around thinking about the world 99 percent of the time)

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I hear you! I think that makes a lot of sense. I also wonder if there is an experience of privilege that enables a woman, even while this power dynamic exists, to reject the dynamic and choose how to perceive a gaze. I acknowledge that this privilege is (by definition) not available to everyone, but I sense that it exists (speaking as a woman who has, by and large (with big specific exceptions) been able to move through the world safely without having to be hypervigilant about such things), or is at least mostly ensconced in a delusional cocoon of safety, which might lead to the same experience of the world.

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I wonder if what you’re describing is actually evidence that power dynamics are way, way more complex than oppressing class --> oppressed class. For whatever the general status of women today might be, your particular status vis-a-vis this particular man might be so different that there is no problem with the power dynamic, or even that it might run the other way.

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Totally. I think that's true, and seems to get to the heart of the other little discussion we're having above. It is helpful and necessary to think and discuss in these broad cultural strokes, because otherwise the world would be an absolutely incoherent tangle and we would never be able to function as a society/make any policy decisions at all, but we seem to have really gone off the rails in ONLY viewing things through these dynamics. Sometimes wokeism is phenomenally evolutionary/healthy/elevated; sometimes it is a performative and self-indulgent for some other, underlying sense of weakness/shame/inferiority/whatever. I have seen both very clearly. It DEPENDS.

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Power dynamics are always fluctuant. Generally, the master -> slave power dynamic is displayed in the aggregate (or literally, unfortunately) and representative of larger political, economic, and philosophical/ideological context. What is important to remember is that individual agency must be respected as paramount, and class/caste based oppression elucidates who does or does not agree to this axiom.

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The answer is yes, you can reject any social dynamic displayed by an individual you dislike by observing that the individual in question is likely a creep.

Aggregate social power dynamics never necessarily map onto specific and nuanced instances of the individual, and vice versa.

Economic and political power dynamics are a different question. Understanding how these power dynamics are reified through ideology, applied through policy, and enforced through law are distinct from how one chooses to live their life in their given circumstances with their own agency.

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Yes! Such a great distinction. Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully.

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I’m glad it made any sorta sense coming outa my head 😁

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Oct 25, 2022·edited Oct 25, 2022

I don't take it as a given that men in the US generally have more power than women (aside from the Senate and certain professions anyway). As far as average people, for the most part, it doesn't seem to me that men have it easier. I'm female.

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I don’t take it as a given either. Here’s the deal as far as I’m concerned. Forty years ago as a woman in her mid-twenties, I knew that men looked at me. I looked at them. I think that’s normal. But society has established lines that are not to be crossed. Many men cross those lines, but just as many if not more don’t

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The prevailing glib view on the internet: it's appreciative if the guy is attractive and problematic if he isn't.

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Classic.

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I notice a difference b/w a male gaze that's leering (that has an edge of aggression or a misogynist "I want-and-hate you" vibe) and a gaze that's simply "my eyes are lingering on you b/c I find you attractive" which I have no problem with. My "female gaze" lingers on men I find attractive (none more so than my husband). That's how humans communicate sexual interest.

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Exactly. Me too. I also (to my point in response AJKamper's comment) feel that even the first type (the misogynistic vibe) doesn't so much disempower me as just annoy me. But I think that speaks again to my own sense of comfort in this world, a comfort that has led me to find myself in some pretty risky/stupid situations and still come out (again, mostly) unscathed. And very sweet about your husband! I hope he reads your comment. :) Mine too! :)

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My wife at 63 still gets some of that make gaze here and there. Puts me on the spot out gaze the others.

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I've always had a problem with Original Sin, and I could never figure out why being good didn't help you get into heaven.

And now, I am feeling the same way about all of these social justice issues. Apparently I was born evil, and no matter what I do, I will always be evil.

At least the church lets me get into heaven if I have faith; I'll never shake my evilness in the eyes of the socially just.

That doesn't mean I am going to stop trying - I'll continue to view people as individuals, and treat them with kindness and respect, perhaps even after they have stopped deserving to be treated that way.

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Theology tangent, but I think it's relevant, since it addressed the difference between being irredeemable and just being imperfect:

Original Sin is a doctrine easily perverted through inattention to the doctrine of Imago Dei (that humans are, in some meaningful sense, made in God's image). If we are made in God's image, is that image perfect or flawed? Flawed by nature, it seems: which of us, save Christ (if you believe Christ really was God and Son of God), is as good as an all-good God? None of us. The image of God in us is flawed. That flaw is Original Sin.

That's a normal way of explaining Original Sin in the church, but not so normal in the West (though now it's becoming more so), likely thanks to Augustine. Many of us grew up around an understanding of Original Sin (such as it was) that was more Augustinian than Christian.

Gregory of Nyssa, who wrote the first surviving sermon against slavery in the 4th century, wrote it because he had a high opinion of what being the "image of God" should mean to us:

"'I got me slaves and slave-girls.' Tell me what sort of price you paid. What did you find in creation with a value corresponding to the nature of your purchase? What price did you put on rationality? For how many obols did you value the image of God?... God said: 'Let us make human beings in our own image and likeness' (Gen 1.26). When we are talking about one who is in the image of God... tell me, who is the seller and who the buyer? Only God has this kind of power, or, one might almost say, not even God. For scripture says that the gifts of God are irrevocable (Romans 11.29). God would not make a slave of humankind. It was God who, through his own will, called us back to freedom when we were slaves of sin. If God does not enslave a free person, then who would consider their own authority higher than God’s?"

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/gregoryofnyss_ecclesiastes_slavery.htm

Christian orthodoxy is that Christ is the unmarred image of God incarnate as human. I'll paraphrase the analogy used to explain it: "Imagine an icon of Christ before the paint dries. Run your finger across it to smear the paint some. That mars the image but does not obliterate it. That is Original Sin." Redemption restores the unmarred image.

To people who believe something as strange as humans bearing the image of God, acknowledging the image is marred is necessary to keep the belief even remotely plausible.

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Love your theological takes!

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Oct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022

Thank you, very interesting and it makes sense as you've described it.

Keep in mind, I was six years old when I learned about Original Sin, and what I remembered was this - we are all born with sin, and if a baby dies before being baptized, it can't go to heaven. (This was a long time ago, and maybe the nuns said more about it, but what I remembered was that babies were going to suffer, and I did not like that at all).

I'd like to believe that somewhere, in the whole chain of events that have gotten us to this point about 'social justice', there is an explanation for why I'm evil that makes more sense than just 'you're evil because you are a white male'.

Because right now, I feel like everyone pushing these narratives is like six year old me grappling with the concept of Original Sin, versus old man me who just read your description and now has a much better understanding of it.

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"[W]hat I remembered was this - we are all born with sin, and if a baby dies before being baptized, it can't go to heaven."

This was medieval speculative theology, but not a doctrine of the church. It became popular speculation, though, and was often taken for doctrine:

"It is clear that the traditional teaching on this topic has concentrated on the theory of limbo, understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis."

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20070419_un-baptised-infants_en.html

Speculative theology often takes the form, "If this is true, then that must be," where it's not altogether certain that "this" is true, or if so, that "that" must follow. It says something not-so-nice about human nature that cruel speculative theology has proved as durable as it has. In the Orthodox church, "tollhouses" are a popular speculation, which as one Orthodox illustrator describes it, are like purgatory, but worse:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-NSryBWsx4

The Catholic church has now clarified, "Rather, the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism" but you are not imagining what you were once taught. It was popular speculation, for some reason.

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Thank you! Now I don't feel so bad for arguing with Sister Elanor in front of the whole first grade class.

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You were doing God's work!

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What if you saw these concepts as containers (applied early enough so that you had no recourse but to absorb them)? And what if, now, you were to step outside the container? What would you be left with? Would you be able to live and breathe and thrive in that new space? That container made it hard to breathe. It was constricting, no?

You were free to think and choose as you wished, or constrained due to the undercurrent of fear?

Original Sin flips the script, doesn't it?

We are born innocent. Is innocence a sin?

Who does it serve to be marked by sin? It serves the people who put themselves forth as deciders. They need a reason to oppress you. It helps their cause if you believe them. Because, now, you're doing their work for them.

The social justice warriors are playing off your, ready to be exploited, centuries of guilt. Someone saw how powerful that was and used it to their own ends, extended it as anti-racism and racism. If you believe that then you're caught on their hook. All you can do is wriggle, which causes you more pain. They feed off your pain.

Learn to breathe freely. Take a big breath and relax. Breathe into your back.

Are we being brainwashed? What if all you ever heard about breathing was: people breathe either into the belly or their chest. This is actually the case. (I teach stuff like this and so I ask people.) 1 out of 100 people know to breathe into their back. Imagine how much stress and tension could be relieved instantly if people knew how to breathe. How did I learn this?

I stepped outside the container.

What is the container?

It's simpler than you think.

It's the frontal lobes or thinking brain.

If you were to place your attention in the back of the brain (the visual cortex) you would extract yourself from the 2 dimensional thinking world where concepts reign and reality is constrained by your unconscious programming, and you'd find yourself in 3 dimensional reality where you can breathe and access a higher form of knowing. You would be free of the constraints of your programming, but you'd still have to undo the decades of pain and guilt layered into your memory, your body and mind. But you'd be freer. If I were given the choice to think or breathe I'd choose breathe. Where's the sin in that?

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At least the church embraces a concept called redemption. There is no such thing as woke forgiveness. It's a "gotcha" ideology whose main purpose is revenge. (At least from what I can see, anyway.)

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I was thinking along these lines just a few minutes ago. I think embedded in the term "woke" is a problematic assumption and limitation: to be "woke" (at the moment) means to be awakened to the systemic injustices in the world, to the oppressive bedrock whose toxic fumes are released into our every societal activity. Awakening to these truths is essential, to be sure, but "wokeism" (at least as popularly understood/utilized) does not offer a sense of awakening beyond that point; it doesn't, for example, invoke a sense that such "waking up" is but an essential moment on the path of true awakening to grandeur. I think if these things (the gaze, theory, etc) were framed more as a waystation than a destination, there would be more room for a sense of growth, agency, and even desire/inspiration. Not just to not be bad, but towards the actual good.

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I think this is a prescient comment and also underlies another point: when you think society rather than some bad individuals are your enemy, your range of retribution becomes proportionately (or disproportionately) wider and greater in magnitude.

You see the same phenomenon on the right wing with "red-pilled" substituting for woke, and who also believe that institutional and societal systemic forces are all aligned in a giant conspiracy against them (and whose proposed solutions are also less than ideal.)

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Yes! A great point. It also sort of makes one's quest into a self-mythologizing delusion of grandeur (or a hero's journey), in a way, because of issues of scale. Which points to yet another pathology of modern culture: the whole internalization of a superhero complex, the lone savior of a society under existential threat from a supervillain. I think many of us want two contradictory things: to be the hero of our own story (or of everyone's story), and also to be "saved" so that we can just get (back, if they were ever there - which many obviously aren't) to living without threat.

Thinking out loud and a totally untested theory, but it really does seem that the culture wars are being fought by two factions that want to get "back" to something, whereas much of the actual progress in society is made by those who are always looking forward and fighting for greater expansions of rights/justice. What I mean is that, inasmuch as the unhelpful aspects of "wokeism" we're exploring here are being wielded by many white people of privilege/status in that performative way we all know about by now, there does seem to be an underlying sense that the desire is to get "back" to a place where we all felt comfortable by achieving full social justice so that all shame can be finally rooted out once and for all (the conservative/MAGA side is explicit in its desire, obviously). I wonder if some aspect of this is what John McWhorter meant when he said "But a new religion in the guise of world progress is not an advance; it is a detour. It is not altruism; it is self-help. It is not sunlight; it is fungus." Admittedly, it's been a while since I've read that essay and I could be misinterpreting him, but I definitely have witnessed wokeism used not for the elevation of all (which, again, it also is/can be in its highest form), but primarily for the celebration of self.

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I think many of these problems that people have with identification and belief in these unalterable conditions of your identity are resolved by having a more diverse friend group. I don't even necessarily mean racially diverse, but just people who do different things and engage with the internet differently.

I admittedly spend too much time online because I'm an idiot, but my wife has a much more normal relationship with the internet. Most of my friends are also quite normal and wouldn't know what I was talking about if I tried to explain the daily controversies on twitter.

If my social network was primarily made up of twitter scolds or people with literature MAs or political activists, I'd probably feel the weight of this kind of argument. But most people just never think about any of this even a little bit. If I told my brother that he can do nothing to escape his whiteness he'd probably just say, What the fuck are you talking about?

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"If I told my brother that he can do nothing to escape his whiteness he'd probably just say, What the fuck are you talking about?"

I like the cut of your brother's jib

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The problem is that people are putting stock into ghosts, the likes of which they will never be able to pin down. Identity is what you make of yourself, what you do with your personality and interests. It changes over time, it is an apparition. Reverse engineering identity to be definitional over your life is regressive and backwards.

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Thanks for this! I think the individual strategy is a practice to take the time that goes beyond 'looking at' someone to 'seeing' the person in a way that connects our shared humanity. The mutuality of seeing and being seen. Many years ago, I read John Berger's Ways of Seeing at the time I was learning about the male gaze. I wonder if you might revisit the futility of your opening paragraph to think concretely about how loving men reconcile the inevitable internal contradictions that come with growing up in a hypersexualized society structured by that powerful way of looking at women. How do you live with it without being absorbed by it?

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The Frankfurt School and the critical theory that it spawned is more unique than a lot of people think it is. It was a way of thinking based on the premise "social change has failed in the 20th century, let's think about how that happens." A very specific niche in political thought.

But today, we encounter those ideas decontextualized from this premise (the premise that we are using everything we learn to analyze why everything we're used to has failed). Instead, I think we encounter them under the vague umbrella of "political thought." I think this is significant!!!

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Could you respond to my comment below? It seems like you might have insight to share.

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Oct 24, 2022·edited Oct 24, 2022

"Leering" is such an odd thing to demonize.

For one thing, it's extremely subjective. How is one supposed to know if another is, in fact, leering or not? And if so, how so?

Is leering always a bad thing? Do not women and men 'leer' at each other every weekend at the club?

Isn't leering a physical manifestation of a basic human function: attraction?

Don't women leer at men too?

I suppose it comes down to appropriateness and location - don't 'leer' at your boss while he/she's conducting the Monday morning presentation. But isn't that just common sense?? Do we need to conjugate the 'leering' down to its molecular parts because of it?

I've been leered at plenty of time by women in my life, who hasn't? Mostly I don't notice, sometimes it's annoying, and sometimes I like it. But I certainly don't expect someone else to know exactly when I do or don't want that...that would be silly.

While we both were watching another tired and nameless modern TV show, my girlfriend recently commented: "guys are such pussies these days..." To which I replied to her, "It's 2022, do you blame them?" I'm not a woman, so I certainly do not claim to understand that power dynamic from their perspective. But I think it gets to be a little ridiculous when all it takes for a woman to claim mental and emotional harm is a 2-second glance from some guy across the room.

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The standard reply to this is that because of structural forces, biology, and what have you, the average man has less to fear from being leered at by a strange woman than the reverse, and that the average man will find it very difficult to understand or sympathize with that power dynamic except in very contrived situations.

That the average woman will find it very difficult to sympathize with the negative emotions and fear the average non-predatory man feels from being seen by society in this way on a daily basis is a separate question.

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