Comment Of The Day: “From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All”

Reader JP, who is a minister, had a fascinating reaction to the post about the Australian cartoonist in the process of being “canceled” because he had the audacity to mock mothers who pay more attention to their cell phones than their infants. Australians, especially mothers and feminists, are furious…because he criticized conduct that nobody denies occurs.

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All”:

“Is guilt driving the attacks on Michael Leunig? Is that it? They are punishing a truth-teller for using satire and humor to hold a mirror up to their faces like satirists and social commentators are supposed to do? If that cartoon sparks such anger, what would these people have done to Swift, Voltaire, Gilbert, Shaw, Parker, Wodehouse, Vidal, or even Dave Barry?”

A few years ago,  I was teaching this class on 1 Corinthians. It had been going on for about a month at this point where we got to the section on marriage, divorce, and adultery. Most of the class focused on the marriage part. Very little was said about divorce and adultery. I didn’t focus on it too much. In a class like this, I tend to let discussion stay with the interests of the class. I did address divorce and adultery as real problems of the church and  said they should not be ignored.

After class, a women came up to me and let me have it.  According to her, divorce and adultery were “none of the church’s business.” She was pretty passionate about it, so I let it go. She wasn’t at the next class  I assumed she was making a point because she thought that I would never agree with her.

A month later, her husband dragged her into my office, saying she been committing adultery. He wanted to know what he should do about it. She wouldn’t look a me. I suggested a professional counselor, and that was the last time I saw either of them.

Last year, a older couple came to our church for the first time. I made a home visit like I normally do, and they acted surprised. They told me no one ever visited them from their last church. They came to services for about three weeks, and then stopped. When I I followed up , they said our church wasn’t “the right fit.”  A few months later, I got a call from another minister wanting to know why we never visited them. I told him what happened and suggested they were church hopping for attention. He said they didn’t seem like that. There must be something wrong on our end. Last I heard, that couple was at another church.

I find that the same truths underlie both of these stories.

First, people are going to do what they want to do—maybe not everyone, but a large majority. And why not? We have so many cultural (pressures?) movements that say follow your heart, it’s ok, it’s your choice, it’s your body. You only live once. Just do it. Do what feels right/good and damned the consequences. Don’t allow your bad choices to make you a victim. If a spouse wants more in a relationship and and goes outside a marriage to find it, just go for it. If you want attention? Seek it. Nothing is going to stop you but your own pride and guilt.

That brings me to the second truth. 

People don’t want to feel bad about the choices they make. That’s why they go out of their way to rationalize them. The woman who told me adultery was none of the church’s business and the  minister who wanted to blame me for the older couple’s dissatisfaction did not to accept realities that implicated them.  I was a convenient scapegoat.

According to Jonathan Haidt there are four main emotions that drive people: Empathy, sympathy, pride, and guilt, Guilt and pride stand out more than the other two because they are both negative and inward, motivated by a lack of self.  This makes them more detrimental than the other two. I speculate that this is the reason social media mobs attack people who speak the truth. They use empathy and sympathy to support the “victims” giving the appearance of a righteous cause while really just feeding their own guilt and pride. After all, if it is truly acceptable that those people do it, it must be okay if I do it too, or something similarly wrong.

This brings me to my third observation.

You cannot easily erase your guilt. To some extent, everyone has apophenia: seeing patterns where their are none. It is why we see shapes in clouds, and why we are so quick to jump on conspiracy theories. I’ll admit I have been guilty of this too. In high school, I believed the crashing of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was a sign of the End of Times. When I talked to the minister about that older couple and opined that they were seeking attention, he told me I was seeing things that didn’t really exist in their  church-hopping.  A conversation with my senior minister revealed that the woman who had objected to my comments on adultery had had a similar outburst with him. Although no one was aware of her adultery, he guessed that her guilt was fueling her paranoia. She believed we all knew and were directly criticizing her. What do we do to erase our guilt? We double down on our efforts to shift it, get rid of it, pretend that there’s nothing to be guilty about.

After reading many of the stories on this blog, I think there is a fourth lesson. It is perhaps the saddest of them all, because it just continues the cycle.

If you think enough people are on your side, you can ride out the storm of your own guilt. Then no hard lessons have to be learned. The minister never apologized to me and last I heard the woman got married to her partner in adultery. Sure, there might be some “pain” for a while, but it will go away…at least until the next time. Sure, we are all a little worse off as a community and a society, but at least you got what you needed or wanted. Bravo!

There is a solution that often ends this cycle: Treat others how you want to be treated. Give people the benefit of the doubt, and when necessary consider the needs of others above your own.

17 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “From Australia, A Cancel Culture Chapter That I Don’t Understand At All”

  1. Great post. His fourth truth is what I term gang mentality. This occurs when the individual believes the benefits of accruing to the gang will impose no cost on him or her.

  2. I think there’s something to the type of reaction one gets when asserting a moral fact. I don’t care an inch how many Mormons think I’m sinning when I drink a cup of coffee. If I wanted to be a good Mormon, first, I’d be a Mormon. I certainly don’t join their congregations and demand that they be Catholic. Subversion is beneath me.

    I’m not even strange in this indifference. nobody thinks Mormonism should be adapted to the culture’s opinions regarding caffeine consumption. If anything, they’re viewed as quaint and likable for it.

    But if a duck hunter tells someone about the certainty of sexual morality in front of a camera, everyone goes nuts! It’s almost like the majority is running from something which haunts them. “Almost“ like they agree, deep down, and are fighting to suppress it.

    They should learn to keep that fight to themselves, if they’re so determined to fight it. Methinks they dost protest too much. It’s a world gone mad in which everyone already knows he’s mad. The meta-structure just gets too complicated when everyone knows that everyone knows that he’s mad. I need newspaper clippings connected with colored twine just to keep track of it now.

  3. This is one of the saddest posts I’ve ever read on EthicsAlarms. I am a PK — preacher’s kid — and lived the hypocrisy of all organized religion until I was old enough to absent myself from it. Pick on Catholics/pedophile priests, moronic Baptists who pray for new refrigerators and expect to get them, Mormons, AA members who expect God to relieve them of their addictions: they are all the same: it is easier to thank or blame some “higher power” than to think and act for oneself.

    I do believe — science tends to prove it — that an overriding intelligence is out there: perhaps it is in ourselves if we just try to reach for it. I also believe in chaos theory, and am not yet sure how these intersect. Both are there, though, in our worlds.

    What I do NOT believe is that well-meaning pastors, who have clearly chosen the wrong profession, should blame themselves for not being able to connect in any meaningful way with the morons to whom they try to minister. Not worth the time. No way to change them.

    Organized religion is in fact mob psychology, and its greatest impact is the danger of group-think on a huge and negative scale.

    What should take its place is another question. I think starting with the Golden Rule would be a good place, and then perhaps pick apart Jack’s rationalizations to find a clear-headed, kind, intelligent and loving way to go through life.

    • I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say here. What you appear to be writing seems to be disconnected to what I actually wrote.

    • I agree with JP in that your comment doesn’t seem to have a clear point. What I’m getting is something like “religious people or those who participate in some spiritual program are kinda dumb, science is better, and that makes me better too.” Perhaps I’m not picking up a more nuanced point.

      In the last few years we’ve seen those who use science, or more to the point, scientism, as a vessel for moral grandstanding. Science says this, science says that. But according to science much is still unknown and much isn’t “settled” yet.

      Supposed science says the earth is dying or that cutting off a giant swath of arm skin and sewing it on to a surgically altered vulva, is a penis. This same science once said certain races are more or less intelligent even though intelligence is defined in a variety of ways. Or that cranberry is good for the bladder one day, and not good the next. This WuFlu or CCP virus, or Wuhan virus, is a prime example of how faulty science can be in times of crisis.

      Then you have those who claim no religion yet use politics as holy writ for how to view and interact with the world. How many turn to their favorite Twitter account, blog, or news website to get that daily hit of moral superiority. Then they get a bumper sticker or button or re-tweet the latest hot take from some learned persona, like a cult member on a spiritual high.

      You’re right E2, you can’t change others with certain beliefs and tactics that come from such beliefs. However it does help when one is making a point about the faults of others, to recognize our own incredibly similar rationalizations, even if it appears our particular set of beliefs are somehow “better.” No one seems to be fully immune from group think, no matter the group.

      • i get E2’s point—it’s just a point that is hard to make clearly and kindly at the same time. One point is that however valid and beneficial religion might be, it is especially valuable, appealing and uncritically accepted by those who either don’t choose to think every hard or who are incapable of doing so. As JP’s comment illustrated, such people are also easily governed by rationalizations rather than ethics or logic. That is not to say that accepting religion or organized religion is a mark of ignorance. It Is saying that the complex issues involved in reconciling science and religion are not welcome fare to those who religion has also been most useful in guiding: those who just want to be told what to do, told that bad things will happen if they don’t obey a moral code, and will be forgiven anyway, so nobody is judging them. If you can negotiate complex ethical problems, and 50% or so of the population can’t, then simple edicts are best That, however, creates its own problems.

        • I get that but I thought part of what we do here is try to go beyond the simple “my ideology is better than yours” explanations. The issue E2 describes goes beyond the religious. Anyone professing or being guided by any sort of ideology, whether it’s religion, scientism, identity politics, or even self help, can fall into that 50% category of justifying their own bullshit. E2 didn’t mention the simple, he mentioned chaos theory and painted the religious as having “mob psychology.” His point was obscured by the same pomp he decries. This does not make for a convincing argument to those apparently on the other side of that 50%.

          • Actually, I’d like to get past all ideologies, to the extent that they are intellectual railroad tracks that require moving through all problems in a set direction once you get on them.

    • A propos of absolutely nothing, but how did my dog’s picture become my WordPress avatar? I don’t remember linking it. I do love that pooch, though. For the uninitiated, Lord Remington Winchester is charming, and, just when I thought there was a terminus to his charm, he upped the ante again making it almost impossible for other hounds to be like him.


      • Who knows? My cat avatar, oddly in sinc with feline nature, sometimes is there, and sometimes not…leaving absolutely nothing where it should be, not even the random pattern other posts have.

  4. Thank you for the honor Jack. Lately, I’ve been doing things a lot differently and I think it has left me callous, so a lot of this was written in frustration. I want to believe people can be better and the many acts of altruism has shown that it is possible, but everyday it seems like there are many more examples of selfishness.

    • Yeah, that was a well-deserved honor and very thought-provoking. I’m not a preacher’s kid, though I am a preacher’s brother. The last paragraph of your response sounds very “First Corinthian”ish…maybe the 13th chapter.

      Great stuff!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.