Races are racist
In the real world, advances in genetics have led to the discovery that humans are in fact *not* divided into different races. There are now various DNA ancestry tests available, and nearly everybody outside of Iceland is of "mixed race", if you wanted to apply the outdated racial classifications of the last century. In the real world, no other humanoid races like elves, dwarves, halflings, or orcs exist.
Humanoid races do exist in fantasy literature, and from there these races have been integrated right from the start into the first versions of fantasy role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons. And in the context of such games, it makes total sense that the fantasy race of your character has some sort of consequences. If you have a system that describes characters with numerical stats like strength, constitution, dexterity, and intelligence, and you have fantasy races that already visually appear very different, it is only logical to combine that. A dwarf *looks* as if he would have more constitution and less dexterity than an elf. An orc *looks* stronger and less intelligent than a gnome. So for over 40 years, Dungeons & Dragons had a character creation system in which your choice of race affected your stats, and that sort of system propagated to many other RPGs both tabletop and computer.
In the real world, discrimination and stereotypes based on origin certainly exist. As a German living in Belgium, people just assume certain things about me, based on their stereotypical thinking about "how Germans are". Stereotypes are frequently completely wrong, and when they contain a kernel of truth it is only of statistical relevance, and doesn't give you any information about any given individual. While many stereotypes are relatively harmless (e.g. "Germans are organized and punctual"), others are certainly not (e.g. "Mexicans are rapists"). People of different origins have been persecuted because of their origin at different places during different times, from simple internment to full-blown genocide. And stereotypes have usually played a role in that discrimination, as a means of justification of the persecution.
But fantasy worlds are not the real world. There is room for moral ambiguity in fantasy worlds (e.g. was Tyrion Lannister justified to kill his father with a crossbow on the toilet?). But there is a sub-genre of high fantasy which is all about the combat of good vs. evil. It necessitates the creation of an evil population that makes up the army of the big bad buy. And because this population has been *created* to play the role of the evil minions, them being considered evil is not a stereotype or a discrimination; it is their raison d'etre, the purpose of their creation. If you consider Sauron to be just misunderstood and the orcs he created for his army to be really nice guys, the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy doesn't make any sense anymore.
Nevertheless the thought police of the real world has been attacking Dungeons & Dragons for having fantasy races that are either evil, or have negative stat modifiers. Somehow an orc being described as evil and stupid is considered some sort of dog whistle or hidden reference to some real population which has been stereotyped as evil and/or stupid. While Tolkien certainly meant no offense (except possibly to Germans), and the actual populations in question certainly don't feel any offense when watching a Lord of the Rings movie, it is enough that some overly sensitive academic with nothing better to do with his life is triggered by a hypothetically possible offense.
It is a sign of the times in which artists live in constant fear of being attacked for slights they never intended that Wizards of the Coast in the first playtest material for One D&D removes stat modifiers from races. In the new version of Dungeons & Dragons, choosing your race is mostly cosmetic. Orcs aren't strong anymore, instead they "count as one Size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.". And to avoid comparative negative stat discrimination, positive stat bonuses are gone as well. The "2-3 feet tall" halflings are now just as strong as the "6-7 feet tall" orcs, in order to avoid racial discrimination. We will have gnomish barbarians and orc wizards.
I am not sure what purpose races serve in a fantasy role-playing game if there isn't actually any difference between them. If they are all the same and lack profile, races have been effectively removed in order to appease the thought police. But races remain nominally in the game, because a much bigger part of the D&D customer base would be deeply offended if you'd just remove all fantasy races. It is a bad compromise that will make nobody happy. The thought police will still be triggered by the mere existence of the word "race" in the rulebook. And the players will have lost interesting options in character creation. Can't we just admit that the real world is complicated, and be allowed some refuge in much simpler fantasy worlds?
No orcs were hurt or offended in the making of this blog post.
Labels: Dungeons & Dragons
Equally, since D&D is a game that has rules, does it matter what the rules are provided they work? The rules have changed countless times out of all recognition already anyway. The current version is all but unrecognizeable from the game I played in the early '80s.
Not to mention that all the variants still exist so a group can play any version it chooses, or that all groups will use variant "house rules" anyway. Is any of this really a problem?
The question should always be "what is the purpose of this?" in game design. For as long as I've played D&D, racial modifiers were just min-max tools. If you wanted to be a barbarian, you chose whatever race gave you that advantage. Sometimes people intentionally choose the Gnome barbarian route for laughs, but it's all a numbers game. In which case... what's the point? Is there a reason to reinforce arbitrary fantasy stereotypes?
Why shouldn't races be cosmetic?
In any case, as already noted, this is really a non-issue anyway. If you want orcs to have +2 Strength and register positive on Detect Evil even as babies, you're certainly free to do so. Why stop there though? Go ahead and give women Strength penalties too, like so many of the mainstream CRPGs did not too long ago.
My only hope for the far left in the US at least is that the recent uptick on the right with an aim toward stipping real human rights from people may get them back on track to worrying about actual real problems and not hypothetical imaginary ones.
Either way, WotC is going down the wrong path here. For those saying you can play prior editions, just ignore the current edition trends, that's technically true, but in reality it becomes more difficult to find groups going forward who are also willing to play prior editions. Moreover, it sets a precedent for the notion that fiction is not allowed to reflect objective absolutes, even as a pure product of the fiction. You can argue that having mechanical contrivances for a fantasy race is just min/maxing, but there is an equally compelling argument that not having such things diminishes and removes the mechanical value of having such races at all. Even in game systems where they have tried to mitigate race as anything more than flavor (Cypher System, for example), they quickly get added back in as actually being useful constructs for storytelling, where the collaborative effort works best when you have a useful, shared short-hand that lets people tell their RP stories with some consensus.
All that aside, I haven't looked at the playtest yet so I am not sure if it's really that horrendous or not as of yet.
I can see why min maxers would be upset though.
I'd argue that a Gnome Barbarian is much more interesting from a roleplaying and storyline viewpoint then the stereotypical Orc Barbarian and it seems outdated that the game is designed to penalize things like that.
Maybe it's time to rethink what exactly an Orc is in 2022, versus what they represented when Tolkien wrote about them in his time?
You say "to reflect reality." Why? Suspension of disbelief? A Fireball spell not catching things on fire, or a Rogue's ability to Reflex Save themselves out of any damage from one (despite being in a broom closet), is just fine? It's a fantasy world - the rules are arbitrary.
That's why you find that modern games don't bother with this shit - there's no design benefit at best. There is still plenty of character customization in, you know, choosing your stats, backstory, skills, talents, load out, etc etc etc.
And hey, you can also... just house-rule all the prescriptive nonsense back into the game. Don't let your "realistic" fantasy trope dreams be dreams!
It stops race/class combos from being so prescriptive and opens up space for player choice; if there isn't a min-max component, players get to choose what race they want to play as. From the corporate perspective, it also distinguishes a newer edition from previous offerings, thereby potentially selling more books.
Nothing is stopping you from making all orcs stupid in your campaign world.
Of course, that's not the real issue here, is it? I guess you've traded your armchair game designer hat for an imitation MAGA one so you can fill your retirement with Boomer culture wars. Which... OK, I guess. Perhaps you can make a little safe space around the D&D table where you can't get triggered when the "thought police" removes your +2 modifier.
I am writing a blog that is to a large extent about the discussion of game design. If game design becomes bad because of bad politics, that is of concern to me. You couldn't even *answer* the question who exactly was being hurt by that change of rule, and had to come up with a lame excuse of how bland races are good game design. They aren't.
Why should it be the people who like good game design who should have to house rule that good game design into the game? In my opinion it should be the tiny minority that gets triggered by "races" in D&D that should have to apply house rules, while the majority gets to enjoy character design with non-cosmetic choices.
In my opinion it should be the tiny minority that gets triggered by "races" in D&D that should have to apply house rules,
Who says it's the minority? House rules have always been the norm in tabletop RPGs, this is no different.
Also note that you spent countless posts complaining about WoW's minmaxing crowd, but now for some reason you are in favor of D&D's minmaxing crowd (because, as Azuriel correctly indicates, the only practical use of racial bonuses in D&D is minmaxing).
I speculate that, again from a business perspective, there is very little "downside" to converting races to just cosmetic features, as 5e's target audience has never really been individuals with significant interest in systems, but rather new players, hence the focus on accessibility and ease of play.
Side note: I expect that D&D Beyond will stop support of creation of characters using older versions of races once this is fully published in a hardback.
Douglas Adams once wrote something that can be paraphrased as: whatever's in the world when you're born is normal, any new thing that arises between the ages of fifteen and thirty-five is cool and revolutionary, and any development more recent than that is weird and goes too far.
He was referring to technology, but I think it applies to culture, too. Many people's idea of the acceptable degree of artistic and social progress solidifies in their prime and never moves from there.
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
I believe that the censorship of free speech and the arts is inherently evil, and there is a civic duty to speak out against it, or become part of the oppression.
It doesn't matter whether the censorship somewhere is based on good intentions, like fostering diversity or promoting family values. The ends don't justify the means. It doesn't matter whether it is the left censoring comedians or the right censoring teachers. It doesn't matter whether "the other side is even worse".
It is a slippery slope which starts with people and companies getting cowed into self-censorship; then the people who haven't been sufficiently intimidated are attacked economically, they lose their job or "get cancelled". We are at the point where the next step, physical violence against people just because they said something is imminent, the death threats are already there in some cases.
The oppressors are always in the wrong, and we should fight them, regardless for what cause they oppress others.
We don't need to fight for a cause, we need to fight *against* all methods of oppression of free speech. Because that is what Niemöller is saying here, either you speak out early, or you end up amongst the oppressed yourself.
After the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, the term "Civil War" began trending on social media. I guess the historically uneducated were thinking of the Battle of Gettysburg, and dismissed the idea as something that will never again happen. But lines of soldiers in uniforms storming a hill against soldiers in uniforms of a different color is the not the only form of civil war. Due to the lack of geographical separation of the two sides, the coming civil war will be about the use of social media to identify the "enemy", to "dox" his address and other personal information, and then use that information to harass or physically harm that enemy. And all that just because the other person said something other people don't agree with. David Chappelle getting attacked on stage with a replica gun and knife is the shape of things to come. Kyle Rittenhouse is the shape of things to come.
Yes, I am a boomer. Which means that I am significantly closer in time to the historical events of fascism and Stalinist terror. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. All the terror regimes started small, with the oppression of free speech, and bans on certain people to exercise certain jobs. And this is the stage that we are already in today. History tells us what comes next, if we don't fight this. The choice should be whether we want to live in a system that oppresses dissenting opinions, not whether we prefer the oppressors to be left wing or right wing.
Could you kindly point out where anyone has tried to deny you that right? Keep in mind, that "I disagree with you about this" and even "you are wrong about this" are very different statements from "you are not allowed to say this." As is "your statements are reminiscent of statements made by [specific group or individual]," particularly if it is accurate.
(This is also part of an overarching theme where you characterize decisions and events as censorship, in a way that is not intuitive to me. What, to your mind, constitutes censorship? To me the central point would be the removal of the censored material from public discourse, but since this is never the case in the examples you decry as censorship, you seem to be using some different standard.)
> We don't need to fight for a cause, we need to fight *against* all methods of oppression of free speech. Because that is what Niemöller is saying here, either you speak out early, or you end up amongst the oppressed yourself.
Actually, Niemöller was writing about things that were just a smidge more severe than violation of free speech. Which is one of the reasons this quote appeared a little overblown to me, the implicit comparison of removing the intelligence penalty from orc player characters in a game to the imprisonment of political opponents without trial. I get where you are coming from, "wehret den Anfängen" and all that, but this argument has some glaring issues that allow it to be twisted against just about anything, so you might want to revise it.
(Also, I note that, while you recently complained that "the left" was "only fighting against things they disagree with, instead of fighting for anything," you are now prescribing something very similar. Any particular reason for this about turn?)
> Due to the lack of geographical separation of the two sides, the coming civil war will be about the use of social media to identify the "enemy", to "dox" his address and other personal information, and then use that information to harass or physically harm that enemy. And all that just because the other person said something other people don't agree with.
I find it interesting that you always solely focus on this sort of harassment from "the left" targeting prominent media figures. You never express any scorn towards the doxxing and harassment from the right, targeted at everyday people who have committed the offense of being visibly different, be it trans, gay, or whatever. Instead, you go so far as to implicitly equate online harassment with the progressive left, reality notwithstanding.
> Kyle Rittenhouse is the shape of things to come.
I'm curious, do you mean what Rittenhouse did is the shape of things to come, or how Rittenhouse was treated in the aftermath is the shape of things to come?
> All the terror regimes started small, with the oppression of free speech, and bans on certain people to exercise certain jobs. And this is the stage that we are already in today.
Well, since we are at "that stage," I guess you wouldn't mind telling me what group of people is being categorically prevented from holding what particular job or office?
Of course, now that you've decided to get all dramatic and tie something as small and insignificant as the right to say 'fictional orcs are stupid' to the overall grand cause of protecting free speech, you have supplied the very answer to your question.
You can scarcely fault those of us who feel as strongly about fighting racism as you do about free speech for tying something as trivial as 'fictional orcs are stupid' to the overall grand cause of vanquishing the rancid myth of inferior races.
You know, on account of slippery slopes.
And perhaps it's just a matter of good taste, but I wonder if, when choosing the quotation, you've bothered to spare a thought for who it was that caused Pastor Niemöller to utter his famous litany of regrets. They would have cheered the inclusion of inherent, immutable racial characteristics, particularly 'evil alignment'. Loudly, and in perfect cadence.
The fact that he got away with it gives license to anybody else to show up with an assault rifle at the next political protest. Yes, that will be predominantly right-wing people, but not exclusively so.
what group of people is being categorically prevented from holding what particular job or office?
Any specific example I mention will be dismissed by you as being "just one case". That is an eternal tactic I noticed in this comment section, that if I mention particulars it doesn't count, and if I mention generalities it doesn't count either.
The people most likely to be prevented from holding their jobs today are teachers (under attack from the right) and academics (under attack mostly from the left and sometimes from the right). Google "American History Association" to find numerous examples of historians pointing out historical facts, and being attacked and forced to retract their statements or fired, because the historical facts happened to be politically inconvenient to one side or the other.
I will admit to a bias on this blog of discussion left wing censorship more often. That bias isn't inherent in me, but inherent in my geographical location and subject area of this blog. The left is far more likely to censor media that I consume, while the right is more likely to keep their censorship to American soil, to schools and libraries.
I am not reporting on cases because I think they are the most egregious. I am reporting on cases that I come across in my daily life. I have a blog on which "Dungeons & Dragons" is actually a label you can use to search content. So I am more affected by a censorship of D&D rules than I am affected by the censorship of math books in Florida. Both are bad, and I think that "A is more bad than B, so you shouldn't complain about B" is a false argument.
I find it telling that none of the commenters on my blog are willing to support a statement like "Censorship is generally bad". All I hear is a long series of excuses, that the stuff I complain about isn't that serious, or that it doesn't exist, that the other side is worse, that if I dare to criticize the left then I must be extreme right, and so on.
And nobody is using your polite formulation of "your statements are reminiscent of statements made by [specific group or individual]". What they said instead was: "I guess you've traded your armchair game designer hat for an imitation MAGA one so you can fill your retirement with Boomer culture wars." Do you think that is an appropriate response to a very polite blog post about censorship of D&D rules? Or is it an attempt of censorship by insults and intimidation?
Firstly, abilities don't allow for interesting design spaces. They basically limit the choice to a handful of races specializing in a specific ability, while any races in excess of those start to feel kinda samey. This doesn't fell hugely unique, especially when after changing the setting you finding the same "strong race" and "agile race" with a different skin.
Secondly, they indeed limit viable builds. In systems where not all stats are equally useful for players, some races would be suboptimal choices for some classes. Dark Sun had xenophobic cannibal halflings barbarians, and I see no reason why players should be penalized for playing such a character, especially if it fits into the lore.
I like systems which grant each race something really unique, especially if this feature can be used with variety of builds/classes and doesn't exclude the majority of builds as suboptimal.
Dungeon World has one of the more interesting approaches: instead of making sure that each racial feature works with each class, it provides a unique feature for each combinartion of class+race. So human fighter and elven fighter would have different abilities, which, in turn, would be different from human wizard and elf wizard. Having a disctinctively elven fighting style or magic lore is much cooler than a bland +1 or +2, in my opinion. This kind of things are easier to hack in the playtest rules.
Also, the new D&D approach is somewhat backward compatible with the old one, since you can hack in more rigid races in the form of backgrounds if you want. In this regard the new approach seems to be both more flexible, and to support the previous way of playing, which, I think, is win-win.
@Tobold, you should note that I actively tried to ignore your baiting responses twice and engage in the discussion at hand before calling a spade a spade - there was nothing "immediate" about it. And it is abundantly clear that you are not actually upset about the modifiers, but "what it all means" in a "thought police" way, as though the gestapo will bust down your doors if you run a Lord of the Rings campaign.
Regardless of politics, this decision is good game design. Choosing a race can be an interesting. When you add racial modifiers/abilities into the mix though, in a game primarily centered on numbers, you turn the race decision into a numbers choice. There isn't anything interesting about choosing between a +1 Sword and a +2 Sword.
Look at WoW versus Guild Wars 2. In the former, you can lose on the character select screen, because some class/race combinations are numerically superior than others, and some racial abilities themselves are OP in certain situations. There is a huge population imbalance between the factions across multiple servers precisely due to this. But in GW2? Pick what you want. There are technically racial abilities (I think) but they are largely irrelevant. So players can choose which race appeals to them aesthetically and/or what they want to RP as.
> Any specific example I mention will be dismissed by you as being "just one case".
You betcha I would do that. Because you have a pattern of claiming a general trend or widespread phenomenon, and then citing a single example, usually of a different thing. In this instance, your claim of "certain people" being barred from jobs or offices, especially right after that Niemöller quote, evokes an image of e.g. the boycott of Jewish businesses in the Third Reich. I have to assume that is deliberate, because it would be unbelievably careless otherwise. And by that standard, of people being treated worse because of an innate characteristic, that you yourself brought up, it seems far less than evident that this is happening. So I would have loved to hear about how white people are barred from political office, or how people over 50 cannot own property. But, alas, I will never get to learn about it, since this exchange will have to be cut short.
> I will admit to a bias on this blog of discussion left wing censorship more often. That bias isn't inherent in me [...]
How, exactly, do you know that? This is not intended as some gotcha, or accusation of being MAGA, or whatever. I am just curious what mechanism you employ, to be able to make such definite statements about your internal and subconscious biases.
> I am not reporting on cases because I think they are the most egregious. I am reporting on cases that I come across in my daily life. I have a blog on which "Dungeons & Dragons" is actually a label you can use to search content. So I am more affected by a censorship of D&D rules than I am affected by the censorship of math books in Florida. Both are bad, and I think that "A is more bad than B, so you shouldn't complain about B" is a false argument.
Then it's a good thing I didn't make that argument. The thing is, you do talk about the D&D changes which are relevant to the whole gaming thing, and you don't talk about Florida math textbooks, which aren't. But you also talk about children's ability to consent to medical procedures, and Dave Chapelle, and the Wi Spa incident, and I just don't see how you are going to make this particular fig leaf stretch that far.
> I find it telling that none of the commenters on my blog are willing to support a statement like "Censorship is generally bad".
Well, I can't answer that question for anyone else, but I myself don't feel the need to mention here that censorship is generally bad for the same reason, that, if I were commenting on a blog post arguing that the US need to better regulate immigration from Mexico, based on an argument that all Mexicans are rapists, I would feel no need to mention that rape is generally bad.
> Do you think that is an appropriate response to a very polite blog post about censorship of D&D rules? Or is it an attempt of censorship by insults and intimidation?
I think it's neither. Given the way you and Azuriel have interacted in other comment sections on this very blog, I couldn't really classify this as intimidation, or even insult, really. Provocation, perhaps. Which would be understandable, given the aforementioned history of earlier posts.
> [something, something] censorship
You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means.
> But if you read the explanations for theses changes, starting with Tasha’s, you will see that the change is being argued with political reasons.
Would you mind giving me a pointer to the text(s) you are referring to, as a farewell gift? I mostly checked out of D&D back in the days of v3.5, and I don't much feel like reading an entire edition of rules just to find this part.
Actually, it depends. What people frequently fail to understand is that it is *not* about your political orientation, or your opinion, it is about the way you express it. While you probably have very similar opinions to Azuriel, you often remain polite, ask questions instead of assuming the worst possible interpretation, and you come over as "curious" rather than "offended". You are a bit too wordy for my personal taste, but that is just a problem of answering a wall of text in a comment section. :)
How, exactly, do you know that?
I do know where I stand politically. If I had to vote in the USA, which fortunately I don't, I would vote for Democrats. I know that I am for "socialist" policies like universal health care, even universal basic income, which is probably "communist" by US standards. I know that Trump is vain moron, and my criticism of the woke left is more because I believe that it is fear of the woke that will Trump get elected again (or a "Trump with brains", in which case the left would be truly screwed).
I am also for the right of LGBTQ+ to live their lives in whatever way they want. Which is politically already left of center, I doubt Republicans share the same view. But I do think that every right can come into competition with rights that other people have. I do think that women should have the right to penis-free locker spaces, or testosterone-free sports competition. In such a conflict of different rights, I would prefer compromises rather than saying that even the most extreme demands of one identity group totally trump the rights of another identity group. Dave Chappelle is not a MAGA/fascist/Trump supporter, and he doesn't want violence against trans people. He is just saying, and I agree, that trans women are *not* the same as biological women. And I find it telling that he gets more hate for that than certain Republicans who actually want to hurt trans people.
Actually, I don't even think you would even comment here if I was actually right wing and sprouting MAGA propaganda. You probably don't go leaving these long comments on Fox News. I know you hate the expression "both sides", but both sides have gone through enormous efforts to ostracize the centrists in their party, of course in different styles. Any extremist solution sounds only plausible if an alternative moderate solution can't be found, so for extremists it is more important to eliminate moderate solutions from their own centrists rather than attacking the extremists from the other end of the spectrum.
I find it extremely insulting, both personally and as an insult to my intelligence, if anyone on the extreme left end of the political spectrum uses terms like "MAGA"/"fascist"/"Trump supporter" on somebody who is just a smidgen to the right of himself, but still very much left of center. This is why I don't want to see people like Azuriel anymore on my blog. I can't argue with people who think the world is black & white, and can't admit the existence of shades of grey. If you can't recognize the difference between e.g. my position on trans people and De Santis' position on trans people, then what use is any political discussion?
Would you mind giving me a pointer to the text(s) you are referring to, as a farewell gift?
Here you are!
P.S. Blogger is still set to shut down comment sections after a number days to avoid spam. My apologies if that has caused you grief in the past. I'm not changing it, because I don't think there is actually much use to endless discussions.
I have no way of knowing the real reasons of changes, but I suspect that justifications that people ad companies present to the public might not be the real reasons for their actions (or not the only reasons, for that matter).
I suppose it might make sense to judge a game system on the basis of gameplay, rather than based on PR. Otherwise, by following media, trying to deduce the company's values and compare those with yours, you might enjoy the actual game less than someone who just ignored all PR messages and played the same game as presented in the rules.
To be honest, if you have any real gripes with current D&D ruleset, whatever they might be, I can imagine _those_ might become bigger. Because, logically, since 5e is doing well, there's no reason for big changes, so whatever problems the system might have, they will likely be retained. For me, that, rather than the ideology, would be the biggest concern.
Well, I wish I could say the same, but unfortunately I cannot. For all that you scrutinize everything people write here for signs of offense or claims of victimhood, I sometimes wish you would turn that same watchful eye upon yourself. Because there is one person in this very thread claiming to be subjected to censorship and accosted by the thought police, and it isn't Azuriel, it isn't Esteban, and it certainly isn't me.
The thing you wrote in your next blog post, about being "interested in intellectual debate with people holding other opinions" made me chuckle, which then made me interrogate why it made me chuckle. And the answer is that in the vast majority of our interactions, at least when it was about "culture war" issues, I did not get that impression. That is not to call you a liar, I will gladly believe that you believe you are interested in discussion of these subjects. But I have to regretfully inform you that, as far as I can tell, you aren't behaving like it. Instead, it seems to me that you are pursuing a political debate about these topics. That is a bit of a problem for me, because in the same manner that I adore intellectual discussion, I detest political debate, for politics is the mind killer, and debate is where arguments go to rot. And the worst thing, to me, is that I have a very real expectation you will immediately interpret this statement as an attack. I don't really know how to talk meaningfully with a person who will react with hostility to me pointing out a mistake, be it in an argument, a foundational belief, or a systematic approach to a topic.
You complained (mildly) about me being to wordy. That is by design, because I have seen how you respond to me when I am terse. You have, in the past, used any and all ambiguity in my statements to interpret them in a manner counter to their intent, but perhaps closer to the arguments you expect from someone who holds the political beliefs you ascribe to me. So I have to be this over-precise, to have any hope of you responding to what I actually wrote, instead of what you expected to read. Believe me, it is no more fun for me than it is for you, and I dearly wish I could simply trust that my statements will be taken in good faith and interpreted generously, instead of antagonistically.
To be frank, after out last interaction I had already resigned to mostly withdraw from commenting. I am, by nature, more of a lurker. The only reason I had become active here in the first place, was because I saw you make statements about disenfranchised groups that appeared to be somewhere between uninformed and misinformed. Assuming that you might not want to contribute to misinformation if you were in possession of more facts, I decided to share some of my knowledge, as well as I could, even if it felt quite taxing at times. And I did this because of some significant remaining goodwill, for all of your posts I enjoyed in the past, all the insightful commentary on MMOs, all the hilarious disagreements with Gevlon. But that line of credit has now run out. The reasons should be obvious, but to be on the safe side, I will point out that they have nothing to do with your beliefs, your political affiliation, your age, your socio-economic status, your gender or your beverage preferences, and everything with how you treat people in your comment section, including me, who dare express a progressive view on systemic societal issues. So, even if you rescind your call for exile, you can probably expect to read less from me going forward.
I'm not offended, just mildly disappointed.
The way I see it, there are no absolute values. Any value you defend will sooner or later come into conflict with another value that you or somebody else holds. Easiest example is religious tolerance, which easily conflicts with other progressive values when you come across somebody who has very conservative beliefs based on his religion. Because different values can be in conflict with each other, the idea that one value should trump all other values and negate any rights based on those other values is absurd. Thus we can intellectually debate where a good compromise between two conflicting values lies.
But I fully agree that this seems to be a concept that was more popular in the past. These days I come across commenters on my blog who believe that compromise is always bad, and who defend one value to the point where that tramples other important value in the dust, which is something they don’t want to see or acknowledge.
So I would agree with you, that under those circumstances a political debate with uncompromising actors is meaningless. I would add that people who believe that values without compromise are possible must in fact have led a privileged and somewhat sheltered life. Historical precedent shows that it is times of extreme hardship where values come into conflict with reality.
> It is very sad that you believe that political debate cannot possibly be intellectual.
I didn't say that, I said that debate cannot possibly be discussion. In a discussion, the goal of each participant is to change their own mind to better reflect reality, while in a debate each participant precommits not to change their mind. If you do not see how these concepts are mutually exclusive, I cannot help you.
They also play out way different. In a discussion, everyone examines and interrogates all arguments, including their own, and are willing to dismiss or discard arguments that are incorrect; owning up to a mistake is expected, obfuscation of mistakes is counterproductive and thus considered rude. In a debate, particularly political debate, there is heavy incentive to hide your mistakes and defend your own (or your party's) arguments even if you know they are flawed, and to attack sound opposing arguments by means of hostile rhetoric devices, creating the appearance of mistakes where there are none. Unless there is some moderator enforcing an end or compromise, debates are pointless and masturbatory affairs, and carrying debate behavior over to an actual discussion can seriously cripple the effectiveness of the exchange of ideas.
This, paired with the fact that (thanks to our ape brains) people are predisposed to switch to debate mode when talking about topics that elicit an emotional response means that one must take special care to remain in the correct mode when discussing politics. Hence the mnemonic device: "Politics is the mind killer."
> I think that might be the biggest point that makes meaningful discussion between us impossible.
Well, I think it might be that you don't seem to actually take the aforementioned care to avoid debate mode thinking, leaving you unwilling/unable to change your mind, admit mistakes, discuss amicably, or even assimilate information that does not support your chosen side. Again, not an accusation, just an observation.
> [T]he idea that one value should trump all other values and negate any rights based on those other values is absurd.
It is, but it is also kind of absurd that you would make that statement right now, since you are the only one trying to push the sacred value gambit, Mister We Need to Stand Against All Kinds of Censorship. Nobody else here made any such move.
> These days I come across commenters on my blog who believe that compromise is always bad, and who defend one value to the point where that tramples other important value in the dust, which is something they don’t want to see or acknowledge.
Huh. And how certain are you that you haven't picked up some unwanted behavioral patterns from these people? How often do you scan yourself for that sort of thing? Do you have an internal watchdog running? Purely out of interest.
> So I would agree with you, that under those circumstances a political debate with uncompromising actors is meaningless.
All unmoderated debate is debate with uncompromising actors, see above.
> I would add that people who believe that values without compromise are possible must in fact have led a privileged and somewhat sheltered life.
I see. And are those people in the thread with us right now? Because, again, I have not seen anyone here making such a claim.
> Historical precedent shows that it is times of extreme hardship where values come into conflict with reality.
Yes, but we are not in a time of extreme hardship, at least not in terms of available resources. Which leads to the push to adjust our value set, to more fairly spread the increased wealth of resources to previously disenfranchised groups. Which leads to the backlash movement to this progress. Which leads us here.
I don't think you are able to let *anything* stand. As long as I am going to reply to this thread, you are going to "not let it stand" and write another reply. Until the anti-spam limit with which Blogger stops spam comments on old threads kicks in, in which case you will make nasty remarks about censorship on a completely unrelated thread.