Twitter: Roundtable on Authority & Rebellion

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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36 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    “harmless rulebreaking” and “unjust laws” do a lot of heavy lifting here. Far more than the simple phrases are capable of. Without a much better discussion of what they mean and the inherent problems with figuring out what they mean it is hard to really figure out what to do.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

      As far as harmless rulebreaking the example here is stopping at lights when there is no practical reason for doing so. A lot of traffic laws also likely apply. My thought also drifted to pushing against dress codes and the like. There is indeed a lot of ambiguity in there, though.Report

      • greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        I agree about stopping at traffic lights when no one is around, but i also see that using turn signals is pretty darn optional for a lot of people. There are some stop signs that seem to be drivers choice. And i’ve also worked with heavy drinkers who had the “oh its just a couple of harmless drinks….i’m fine” logic down pat. There are plenty of examples we all could likely agree with a huge muddy mess of stuff that we wouldn’t agree on.Report

        • pillsy in reply to greginak says:

          Yeah, maybe there’s something wrong with my perspective, but I’m a good deal more concerned with people starting by breaking rules in obviously harmless ways and pretty quickly winding up breaking rules in “obviously harmless” ways. I really don’t think we need more ways of rationalizing breaking rules. I haven’t read Two Cheers for Anarchism yet, but I’m skeptical that figuring out ways for the rules not to apply to you is less dangerous[1] than being a stickler for them.

          [1] In terms of paving the way to tyranny, genocide, and the like.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        I am not clear on whether they mean traffic lights (for cars) or pedestrian lights (for pedestrians), and this affects the “harmless (and to whom) calculation” significantly.

        Personally I treat the two much differently; at a traffic light in my car, I will wait almost 100% of the time; though I wouldn’t say I’ve never broken the rule, esp. when I was younger and even more impatient. This is not only because there might be a camera or cop that I can’t clearly see, resulting in a stop and/or fine and license points (=high costs to me); but because should I proceed against the light and be involved in an unexpected accident with a right-of-way pedestrian or vehicle that I did not see, I might do great damage to them with my car. Not worth it.

        At a pedestrian light, the odds of me getting cited for jaywalking and the actual costs of that citation are low; and again, if I missed a right-of-way car or other vehicle, the bad consequences of my rulebreaking fall primarily on me, as my jaywalking a** gets run over. So if no one’s around, I am walking against the light.Report

  2. Chip Daniels says:

    I think its amazing how that one guy goes from zero to Godwin in two Tweets.

    Civil disobedience does have a good intellectual and moral pedigree, but it also comes with a long history of dialogue and norms of its own.

    I dispute my neighbor’s claim to the land he is inhabiting, and I have a private militia sufficient to enforce my claim.
    How should I behave?

    It appears from their tweets, that this question can be answered in isolation

    They project this notion of every individual as their own petty despot, answerable to no one but their own conscience and moral intuition.

    In order for civil disobedience to be anything other than “might makes right”, there needs to be a series of tests and dialogue and evaluation.Report

    • greginak in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      True. The other thing about civil disobedience that seems to have been lost is that by breaking the law to protest X, you also accept the consequence of breaking the law. If a person blocks the road to protest something they are willfully disobeying a law and take the punishment. I’m sure there are plenty of examples of this, but in the Bundy and Or rancher stand offs they seem to feel they can break all sorts of laws and not have any consequences.Report

    • Aaron David in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      “In order for civil disobedience to be anything other than “might makes right”, there needs to be a series of tests and dialogue and evaluation.”

      And uptwinkles!Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Aaron David says:

        That’s more than a joke, by the way. Occupy failed because they couldn’t establish some sort of order, even for the most primitive things. They couldn’t create a space between tyranny of the law and tyranny of the mob.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      I think its amazing how that one guy goes from zero to Godwin in two Tweets.

      You get that he’s just describing the thesis of another person’s work, and not actually trying to pass those two tweets off as an argument, right? As far as I can tell, he’s not even endorsing it as correct, just interesting.Report

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    Oh, and another thing.
    I keep seeing this assertion that the Holocaust arose out of an excess of sheeplike obedience to authority, and always as a defense of rulebreaking, as in the Tweets above.

    As if the German people were kindly and generous to the Jews in their midst, and only turned on them when ordered to do so. In this telling, they had no agency, and would have done anything they were to do.

    It wasn’t blind obedience- they picked the Fuhrer to give power to, precisely because he gave them permission to break the very law they wanted to break.

    Religious people have for centuries, millennia, done this same thing- craft the law to fit our desires, then absolve ourselves of culpability.
    And it is the cornerstone of religion, we should remember, that also celebrates disobedience to temporal authority.
    As interpreted by the high priests!

    The folks above aren’t saying anything new or special- they are just saying that they have a moral revelation that supercedes the group norms.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Speaking of unicorn moderates, re @mattfrost above, high-trust modern societies are about as rare.

    This deals with the concept that has been eating at me for a long while.

    In the context of rule-breaking, would “harmless” rule-breaking cause high-trust societies to be somewhat less high-trust?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      In the context of rule-breaking, would “harmless” rule-breaking cause high-trust societies to be somewhat less high-trust?

      That is a good question.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

        The black beast eating my political thoughts for the last year or so is the whole creation of and maintenance of High-Trust/High-Cooperation/Collaboration societies.

        There are so very many pre-reqs that it seems silly to even begin to try to list them but one of them seems to be a codification of the things that everybody knows anyway and, if there are errors, they’re to be found on the “not making things illegal that everybody knows to not do” rather than on the “making sure that everything is covered” side.

        It’s when people stop knowing what they (indeed, everybody) used to know that cracks seem to start showing up.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Will Truman says:

        With that, and also germane to the OP, is the question of “high trust of whom, by whom“?

        It’s my guess that “high-trust” societies mostly really trust those that “look” like them (scare quotes because “look” need not refer only to physical characteristics like race or gender, but also to things like SES or ethnicity/nationality or religion or language).

        Outsiders will always be looked upon as interlopers, untrusted; and any small violation of the “rules” by them seen as justification for othering them by the “high-trust” in-group (who trust each other just fine).

        That’s the contradiction, then –

        1.) How do you attain high-trust? Be in the high-trust-group’s perceived “class”.

        2.) How do you get into (and stay in) the “class”? Follow the “rules”.

        3.) Outside the “class”, for whatever reason? Not trusted, see #1.

        Again I come back to this sentence that keeps nagging at me:

        Respect may matter more than sympathy; it may be the most important social virtue across social classes, just as sympathy may be the most important virtue within them. (The challenge, possibly the deepest problem, of a democracy is that it asks the society to rule itself, and thus asks it to live the virtues of judgment and sympathy at the same time.)


        • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

          {{And then after much musing you conclude those two values are impossible to exercise simultaneously, and because they’re necessary for democracy it’s an impossibility too, and you quite quickly find yourself taking an alt-right turn from the well-worn garden path you’ve been so comfortably strolling down… 🙂 }}

          I remember when you said that the other day, and I think you’re absolutely right about it.Report

          • Glyph in reply to Stillwater says:

            I don’t see myself going alt-right anytime soon, and I still think democracy’s the worst system save all the others.

            But the older I get, the more I think that certain things that may be “lies” in reality are nonetheless absolutely necessary to maintaining a relatively-decent existence for all.

            The mythical “melting pot” of notional America may have always been a pleasant fiction; but without that myth to strive towards, without believing that we can somehow all be “Americans” first and “whatever else” second: what keeps us from having our knives at each others’ throats all the time?Report

            • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

              To expand, if we really believed in the “melting pot” lie and strove for it, then at least in theory* we are putting all of us into the same “class”: at which point we should have more sympathy/trust for one another, than judgement/mistrust.

              *but of course even THIS theory breaks down when we consider that the reality will likely be: exactly WHICH square pegs are we going to have to whack – and how hard – to get them to fit into their round notional “American” holes?Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

                The melting pot myth was never an American ideal. It can be attributed to the French, who shipped their tired and hungry rapists and murders across our borders back in the day and celebrated the con by giving us a really big statue.

                I read that on Trump’s twitter feed!

                {Dude, I know you’re being serious about this. But it’s a big, depressing, unsettling topic. Like The Revenant.}Report

              • greginak in reply to Glyph says:

                Yeah the melting pot is mostly a lie but there is also some truth there. The US has had different experience with immigration then many euro countries since people actually can go from “not one of us” to ” one of us.” We don’t completely have the same sense of having to have had generations of history in the US to become american like you need to be classically German to be German. Of course the problem is some americans have developed the sense that you have to be classically stereotypically american and have deep roots here to be a Real American.

                All my grandparents were officially not american immigrants but within a generation were Real American although my mom’s side was only Real Jewish Americans for a while.

                We have been more open and able to allow new people to become american but not without some dissent.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

                There have always been two different ideas behind American identity. One was the melting pot theory. To be an American was simply to hold American citizenship. It was a purely civic national identity based in law and that’s it. The other competing idea was that you could be ethnically American like somebody could be ethnically German. This tended to involve that you had to be a white person of Northern European ancestry and be Protestant, although it expanded to include Southern and Eastern European Catholics during the 1960s and 70s.

                A lot of the tensions in American life and not just the obvious ones revolving around race and religion can traced back to this dispute between civic American identity and blood American identity. The arguments about free speech are an example of this. Americans are very fond of the First Amendment but a lot of Far Left thought has long been derided as anti-American and seen as not really protected by the First Amendment by many Americans because it conflicted with the idea that America was basically a White Protestant country.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

      From what I’ve read about Scandinavia, the answer seems to be no. The Nordic countries have high taxes on many goods and services. There tends to be something of a semi-vigorous pay under the table culture in all of the Nordic countries to avoid the heavy taxes for goods and services. There is also legal cheating in the form of Swedish people travelling to Denmark to buy alcohol. It doesn’t seem to hurt the trust levels.Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Going from traffic rule following to likely to be genocidal is quite a tweet. I have followed traffic rules late at night when seemingly no one is around but I have also bee in near accidents when I thought I checked my blind spots and someone zoomed up quickly.Report

  6. Kazzy says:

    Wait… We teach kids to use fake names with strangers? Huh? Since when? And why?Report