Little problems are big problems

One of the most frustrating aspects of people who aren’t experienced with any type of discrimination is the assumption that small problems don’t matter. Why, goes the refrain, does it matter that people use language like “gay” to mean uncool, or “lame” to mean slow, when there are very real incidents of violence against gays, homelessness amongst out teens, or a lack of awareness of the very existence of the disabled?

The answer is that if you put a lot of small problems into a pot, mix them together, and then leave them to simmer, you get some really bloody disgusting soup, where the young girl who thought “gay” meant uncool might become a parent who evicts one of her children for being gay or lesbian. Where people who call things lame constantly ignore the disabled. Where getting away with the little problems starts producing big problems.

Discrimination is a slippery slope, and it’s simple pragmatism to get at small problems before they avalanche into bigger ones. If sometimes that means we come across as jumping down someone’s throat to make a point about something that doesn’t matter, perhaps that’s because there’s so much to do on this front that sometimes it’s hard to manage. I’ve owed apologies for this in the past. But I’d rather apologise and be able to love someone as a friend or a member of my family without the reservation of constantly thinking: “but I hate when you belittle who I am, or who my friends are”.

19 Responses

  1. Ari said “where the young girl who thought “gay” meant uncool might become a parent who evicts one of her children for being gay or lesbian.” – well by the time the child came to realise they were gay/lesbian I can only assume the “young girl” is now an “older woman”. Lets not misrepresent now Ari,

    • What? I figured that was a pretty obvious implication. But I’m not necessarily talking about this generation of older women, but perhaps the next one. ;)

  2. My point being you are stretching an extremely long bow to correlate a teenage girl using the term ‘gay’ to mean lame to then assuming as a result she throws out her homosexual child at least 15 years later, by which time the said immature teen is no longer as such.

  3. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that she may be on a path to that position already, and that the lack of someone willing to throw in on small issues, like teenagers using “gay” as an insult, could be all that’s stopping her from changing direction. :) “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good (people) to do nothing”, etc… ;)

  4. Then you would do well to stop expecting the inefficient, lumbering and ineffective government from interfering and just let nature take its course…

    Government is not welcome in people’s homes. When will lefties understand this?!

  5. Um isn’t the point that nature won’t “take its course”?

    That it’s up to us as individuals to stand up and say it’s not OK to use the word ‘gay’ as an insult?

    That we need to take seriously the ‘little’ acts of descrimination/intolerance/hatred?

  6. Then you would do well to stop expecting the inefficient, lumbering and ineffective government from interfering and just let nature take its course…

    Did I even mention government in this post at all? I’m talking about why I, as someone who supports feminism and anti-discrimination, feel that we as individuals need to intervene when people are acting like jerks in a small way. It’s not huge crimes against women or Maori or Asians or GLBT kiwis or whoever, but it’s part of the wider problem and tackling the little things helps out the big problems, too.

    There’s nothing natural about our society right now. It’s what we made it. We can’t run away from that and say we should leave things exactly as they are as if the state of our society somehow justifies itself on its own. Almost everything is fair game for criticism because so many parts of our society are at least partially constructed by previous generations of our society, or even by this generation in some cases. :)

    Government is not welcome in people’s homes. When will lefties understand this?!

    The government is welcome in my home when I’m in danger and I need the police to help me. The government is welcome in my home when it’s on fire and I want it to be put out. The government is welcome in my home when I do something wrong and need to be held accountable.

    But that’s beside the point of what I’m saying here. :)

    Boganette- You’ve got it, that was exactly my point. :D

  7. Ari said “why I, as someone who supports feminism and anti-discrimination, “ – actually your posts indicate otherwise. You have supported discrimination (e.g. Maori seats) but clearly your are selective in what you define as discrimination. Don’t take this personally please, but this means I think you are full of (ideological) shit!!

    Ari also said “We can’t run away from that and say we should leave things exactly as they are as if the state of our society somehow justifies itself on its own.”. Here I do NOT disagree, though no doubt we will have different interpretations..

    Ari – you know full well I was not referring to 111 services. When you decide to give an intelligent answer on this matter, I will continue.

  8. actually your posts indicate otherwise. You have supported discrimination (e.g. Maori seats) but clearly your are selective in what you define as discrimination. Don’t take this personally please, but this means I think you are full of (ideological) shit!!

    If you have something else to say about our clear disagreement on this matter and why I tolerate small positive discrimination to address a larger negative discrimination faster, you can take it to the topic where we were already talking about that.

    you know full well I was not referring to 111 services. When you decide to give an intelligent answer on this matter, I will continue.

    Actually, I didn’t know exactly how clear you were on that fact, and I’ve certainly met people who think some emergency services should not be provided by the state. I am perhaps pointing out that your position ought to be more nuanced than “the government needs to get out of our homes” if you want to be taken seriously. Even the most extreme of libertarians tend to concede the need for a police force and military, and they learn to do so up front.

    I say we invite the law in when we ask for its protection- if we want the police to protect us from home invasion, we have to accept that they can get a warrant to arrest us in our homes. But none of that is relevant to the point I am making in this post, which is about individual action.

  9. “why I tolerate small positive discrimination to address a larger negative discrimination faster, “ – since when have two wrongs made a right?

    Re govt in homes: Well based on our previous discussions you know my positioning approximately. If even the more extreme liberterians concede the need for police and military, why on earth would you think I don’t? Please remain measured.

    Not sure how the thread got to this unrelated discussion so quickly!

  10. Speaking of going off on a tangent. I recall your comment (quote) above “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good (people) to do nothing”

    And then I read this (note the same quote used):
    Abortion: Its Just Not OK New Zealand

  11. “why I tolerate small positive discrimination to address a larger negative discrimination faster, “ – since when have two wrongs made a right?

    Since one of the “wrongs” only gives people the equal opportunity our society promises them.

    Speaking of going off on a tangent. I recall your comment (quote) above “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good (people) to do nothing”

    And then I read this (note the same quote used):
    Abortion: Its Just Not OK New Zealand

    But I don’t think we should do nothing. I think we should take preventative steps against unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Better to avoid a problem where almost every solution is morally grey.

  12. Ari – on the contrary, someone always loses when it comes to discrimination.

    For the record I don’t think the solution to abort is morally grey. It is clear-cut and wrong. The only genuine exception that I accept is where the mother’s life is genuine danger (and sorry I know we have been over this issue before). Having said that I have to say I am happy we both agree that maybe the solution lies in preventative measures. For me most abortions occur around the human nature of selfishness, and if we can avoid or minimise this in the first place, then I am all for it. I understand that many women (and men) are put in difficult positions when they realise they have an (unwanted) pregnancy. Like you said, if we can avoid this problem, then that’s all good, and if we have accessible solutions (that don’t include abortion) after the problem then all the better.

  13. on the contrary, someone always loses when it comes to discrimination

    While I generally agree that discrimination means someone loses out, that’s because I define discrimination as something that unjustly takes away some else’s opportunity or security. You’re objecting to a system that returns us to something approaching equilibrium, which I can’t accept as the same thing.

    For the record I don’t think the solution to abort is morally grey. It is clear-cut and wrong.

    That’s not what it sounded like to me when you accepted that there are times that, for example, complications in the pregnancy may make it acceptable to abort. Morally grey also means that we can reach decisions leaning either way depending on the circumstances, and doesn’t just mean that it can be a difficult issue to evaluate. (although I think for women actually considering abortion, it certainly is morally grey in that sense, too.)

  14. “You’re objecting to a system that returns us to something approaching equilibrium,”

    - when I first read this I thought you were referring to the Maori seats, and we know that “apartheid”, or “separatism” is rarely considered an equilibirum. But its been a while since I visited here so I scrolled up to your post to discover we were discussing the various meanings of the adjective “gay”! Not sure how this got to discrimination (well I’m sure there is a way), but to be honest I don’t have the energy to redigest our entire thread. Sorry.

    On to your second point. I thought I made it clear in the comment just above yours that there lies an excpetion to abortion “where the mother’s life is genuine danger”. I am being honest and up front. I don’t think it’s fair for you to question this based on my comments.

    “Morally grey also means that we can reach decisions leaning either way depending on the circumstances”

    - fair comment, but I guess your lattitude towards abortion being the acceptable decision is considerably more than mine. My “lattitude” may not be much, but I have stated it, at least give me that!

    However “morality” is indeed a deep word. Would you agree that the majority of abortions in NZ fall short of a reasonable moral grounding?

  15. when I first read this I thought you were referring to the Maori seats, and we know that “apartheid”, or “separatism” is rarely considered an equilibirum.

    I think you just invoked Godwin’s law. I’m sorry, but I can’t engage with you on an issue where you’re essentially just yelling “racist!” as loud as you can. Maori seats are in no way equivalent or even comparable to apartheid.

    The essential difference is that I think having a shot at effective Maori representation does not hurt the rest of New Zealand. There may be better ways to do it, but it needs to be done so urgently that telling people to wait for it to happen on its own is far more risky to our political process than political separatism could be, assuming it actually happens. We seem to have an unresolvable difference on this, so I’m not sure what it gets you to go hammering away at it even more. :)

    However “morality” is indeed a deep word. Would you agree that the majority of abortions in NZ fall short of a reasonable moral grounding?

    No, because I don’t believe we have the information to make that judgement of most abortions happening in New Zealand. It isn’t my place to make someone else’s choice for them when I’m not in the same position or possessing the same facts as them, and that’s essentially what you’re asking me to do by commenting on the generalities.

  16. I don’t think so. I believe that Godwin’s Law refers to a thread ultimately comparing something to Hitler or Nazism. If this is the case then I did no such thing. Also on this occasion I did not cry “racist” but I guess it can be inferred. Nonetheless clearly these honest truths about your double standards upset you and that it the way it should be until you come to realise we should not be creating special representation based on the colour of a persons skin. Giving special privilege and saying it doesn’t hurt the rest of NZ is the worst excuse you could come up with. You need to do better than that. Much, much better.

    It is also amusing that you insist we need Maori racial representation urgently when we already have seats at the parliamentary level which have done little, if anything to improve the lot of Maori. I don’t know why the left continue to push failed ideas.

    Okay just read your last line of that paragraph. Maybe I should shut up now, but I probably won’t if you keep baiting me! ;-)

    Re the abortion comment – well done on avoiding answering the question truthfully. If anything I believe your response only shows me that you know abortion is wrong in the majority of cases, but won’t admit it as you would be betraying your leftist ideals and philosophies (you won’t agree of course) .

  17. I don’t think so. I believe that Godwin’s Law refers to a thread ultimately comparing something to Hitler or Nazism.

    If you don’t think comparing Maori opting to have their own seperate electorates to apartheid is worthy of Godwin’s Law, I don’t really know what to say. Regardless, it’s a bridge too far for me.

  18. Well according to the Wikipedia article on Godwin’s Law I am correct. And according to dictionary.com one definition of “apartheid” is:

    “2. any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.”

    They also refer to South Africa which of course had an infamous application of the term and this example would be a reckless comparison with the Maori seats issue.

    So I do understand what you are trying to say, but also feel it unfair to say I invoked Godwin’s law.

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