Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who is bullying whom?

Object lesson:

Pete goes to school with an almond butter sandwich and Brad takes it from him. This happens every day. The other students know this happens and encourages Brad to take Pete's sandwich. They applaud him and provide moral support. Similarly the teachers and administrative staff support Brad's thievery. They say that Pete doesn't deserve to eat sandwiches like everyone else because the right sandwich is peanut butter. They tell him that he can eat any sandwich he likes as long as it's peanut butter. Pete insists on bringing almond butter sandwiches.

Pete is not a bully. His actions are not equivalent to Brad's nor to those of any other person in the school.

One day a classmate of Pete's named Jessica stands with Pete and calls Brad a bully. She sands with Pete and trying to convince the other students and adults that what Brad is doing is wrong. The sandwich rightfully belongs to Pete, and he's entitled to eat lunch just like everyone else.

Jessica is not a bully. Her actions are not equivalent to Brad's nor to those of any other person in the school.

Jessica finally convinces a group of children of the righteousness of her cause. They all band together to protect Pete. But the school administrators step in and take the sandwich away from Pete anyway. They give it to Brad claiming it's his right to take the sandwich from Pete. These advocate children begin to become more vocal and attempt to stop Brad and the administration from taking Pete's sandwich.

These children in solidarity are not bullies. Their actions are not equivalent to Brad's nor to those of the administration.

Constance is a teacher in the school. She is swayed by the advocate children's cause and she herself becomes a supporter of Pete's right to eat almond butter sandwiches. Over time Constance attempts to sway the rest of the administration to the cause of almond butter sandwiches. Meanwhile several other children begin bringing their own almond butter sandwiches to school. Coalitions form to support the right of children to eat whatever sandwich they would like free from abuse. Some children even bring bologna sandwiches to school.

Constance is not a bully. The children with different sandwiches are not bullies. None of their actions are equivalent to Brad, his supporters nor to those of the prevailing school administration

After many years of these skirmishes, a new school administration takes over which allows all kinds of sandwiches. Brad is no longer allowed to take sandwiches from other students. Brad forms a club which is called "Defense of Traditional Sandwiches."

The new administration is not a bully. Their actions are not equivalent to those opposed to non-peanut butter based sandwiches.

Brad and the Defense of Traditional Sandwiches organization continue their fight to ban almond butter and other forms of sandwiches. They claim that historically sandwiches have always been and will always be recognized as only peanut butter sandwiches, they begin to steal non-peanut butter sandwiches from other students. The school administration expels Brad from the school and bans sandwich theft. Brad and his followers then claim that they are having their rights trampled upon and that they are the victims of bullying.

he pro-sandwich-choice side of this entire object lesson are not bullies nor could they ever be considered bullies. They are actively denying children the right to eat whatever sandwich they prefer and are in no way in the position of denying Brad and his lot any rights at all because they do not have the right to take from others what is theirs.

This shouldn't be difficult. Both sides are not equivalent.


James Lancaster said...

Are you equating sexuality to preferences of sandwiches?

HK said...

Though sexual orientation is more innately ingrained in a person than sandwich preference, I still love this analogy, and the repeated emphasis on whom the real bullies in this story are. Great post!

James Lancaster said...

This analogy is rife with problems.

Marriage, unlike sandwiches, serves a fundamental social purpose (procreation) that is deeply intertwined with morality. The very definition of the word is "one man and one woman." I believe the procreation aspect is what makes this a fundamental right; not one's choice of sexual "orientation."

Presently, no one is preventing people from choosing their sexual proclivities.

To fix your analogy, Pete, instead of bringing almond butter sandwiches to school, should bring marijuana. Then he should be insisting that people change the definition of peanut butter sandwiches to include his marijuana. This is is supposed to sound absurd. That's because this whole thing is absurd.

Steven Kippel said...

This is an analogy that can be used for marriage but it's also used for loads of different arguments we face all the time. It's this argument that being intolerant of intolerance is a moral equivalent.

It's suggesting that neither side is morally superior while still claiming their side is actually morally superior.

As far as marriage being a social function for the purpose of procreation, that argument is invalid because it's not a social function and its purpose is not primarily for procreation. It never has been, and trying to insist that this is the historical definition is absurd.

Nobody is preventing people from choosing their sexual orientation because it's not a choice. But they are preventing people from self-determination and participating in the society as equal members of society. They are discriminated in housing, employment, security and thousands of other aspects of their lives.

Of course as I said, this is an analogy to define who the bullies are. The bullies aren't the ones asking for peaceful coexistence, the bullies are the ones demanding there be no peace. You know, because peace is absurd.

So this analogy, even if it is marijuana, still defines who the bully is and who it is not. Allowing people the liberty to define their own lives does not in any way force other people into the shadows, and does not bully other people.

Stick with the marijuana angle and use it in the pot decriminalization debate. Change it to prayer in school. Climate change. This analogy works for any social and civic liberties.

James Lancaster said...

I think you need to supply evidence that sexual orientation is definitively not a choice. No such conclusive evidence exists as far as I know. Everything seems to point to psychology, not genetics. At least, that was the case the last time I looked into this (2008).

I see, now, what you're trying to do with this story. The "tags" on the article made me believe you were advocating for a specific position. I still think you might be conflating "advocacy" and "bullying." But, in the K-12 sector (where I've worked for a decade), "bullying" has a very specific, and prominent, definition.

My theistic, Evangelical, worldview tells me that I indeed do have a morally superior position. However, one of those morals is the practice of tolerance. Tolerance can't be practiced without disagreement. But, tolerance does not mean "all ideas are equal." It is predicated on the equality of the value of people; not their ideas. I think this story is excellent for preaching about tolerance when the ideas involved are relatively benign. But, it isn't so helpful with ideas that are potentially harmful, evil, wrong, or otherwise inferior.

I wasn't stating that marriage's only, or primary, purpose is for procreation. I was trying to say that the natural potential (as an entity; "male" and "female") for procreation is what makes it a fundamental, or inalienable, right (e.g. basic human right, God-given right). Granted, I probably wasn't very clear on this. I don't believe that right extends to those entities without this potential. If it does, then what's to stop single people from claiming the same kinds of "discrimination" on the grounds that married couples receive these benefits?

In thinking about this story further, I realized I was concentrating on the "tolerance" issue. I wasn't really addressing the "thievery." In the "Gay Marriage" debate, what is being "stolen?" More specifically, what is being taken from whom such that the one is no longer in possession of what is taken? Is it this "right" to marry? If so, I don't think that was something in "their" possession in the first place.

We may have to agree to disagree and practice tolerance. ;)

James Lancaster said...

I should add, the real issue is that Brad was an intolerant thief. His expulsion from school was justified by his constant thievery. The reason this story sounds morally justified is because of this. It is clear-cut. He wasn't expelled because of his ideas, nor his advocacy for a certain position. Those weren't even addressed by the new administration as far as we know from the story.

No, this story is a lesson about the consequences of stealing in the greater context of bullying. Stealing is a much more commonly acknowledged moral wrong. You seem to conflate the justice regarding that moral wrong with all of the other moral ambiguity that you present.

In the end, the reader feels that justice was served, but he must tease out why he feels it was served.

Nicole said...

Procreation makes marriage a fundamental right? So we should dole out fertility tests to engaged hetero couples? Infertile couples should not marry? Elderly people should not marry? Steven and I have chosen NOT to have biological children even though we are fertile, so is our marriage invalid because we will not procreate. We adopted three children, but that's besides the point.

"Ability to procreate" IS a bullying/bigoted stipulation to marriage.

Comparing gay marriage of consenting adults to minors bringing drugs to school?

If all you have is mythology and dogma to fuel your defense of discrimination, save yourself. Been there, done that, realized I was wrong. Come over to the side of reason, it's nice here.

Cecilia Abadie said...

In the end, there's two types of people. The ones that believe everybody has rights, and the ones that believe they can proclaim what other's people rights should be.
This example is portraying the two types of people and it's very clear pointing out that one of them is wrong.

James Lancaster said...


I wasn't saying that the ability for a specific pair to procreate makes it a fundamental right. The potential for a specific married couple to procreate is inconsequential. I agree that "ability to procreate" (I don't know who you were quoting, but it wasn't me) as a criteria for marriage is bigoted, or at least ignorant.

My point is about the more general potential for procreation as male and female "entities." The general potential on a philosophical level is where I'm thinking. Applying this to the individual is not what I'm suggesting, nor is it appropriate. Individuals have autonomy, and that shouldn't be violated in this way.

For the Christian, God said to "be fruitful and multiply," as a general command for humanity (again, not to each individual or couple). That just isn't possible in any relationship other than a heterosexual one. It's the God-given, fundamental human right that exists between men and women that coalesces into this "Right to Marry." I don't believe there's adequate philosophical support that this right exists or extends to homosexual pairings within a Christian worldview. If there is, I haven't heard nor read it.

In order for there to be discrimination, a party has to be denied something it has a fundamental right to because of something outside of its control. A great example is someone being sent to the back of the bus because of the color of his skin. One cannot change the color of his skin, or become a different race. One is born into it.

But, sexual orientation is not the same as "race." A few decades have been spent trying to identify its source, but currently no biological causes are conclusively identified. Here's a good summation of current science on this topic without any theological claims being made: Genetics of Homosexuality

This all brings up a question about the nature of fundamental rights. Traditionally, fundamental rights are viewed as "God-given," or "inalienable" rights. They are unchanging. So, do preferences translate into fundamental rights? Traditionally, no. These rights are given by some appeal to a higher authority. But, in Postmodernism (one of two dominating secular worldviews in Western Culture, the other being Scientific Naturalism), which denies the existence of objective truth, this doesn't hold. All rights, fundamental or otherwise, are reduced to mere preferences and are subject to change. This leads to the notion that "all ideas are created equal." The charge to one who disagrees with another's "idea" is that he is somehow "discriminating against him," or is a "bigot." Now a group of individuals, sharing the same preference for anything, can claim "discrimination" for others not giving them what they want. Postmodernism is infecting Christian theology in some circles (mostly without their knowledge; indeed it has infected my theology, too). Here's a couple links to consider:
What is Postmodernism?
Institutionalization of Anger

I have really gone out of my way to remove bigotry from my thinking. I'm by no means perfect, and I'm sure I'm not done. I really respect Steve. He's a great critical thinker, and we've led many worship sets together back in the day. I've never met you, Nicole, but it speaks a lot to your character that you would adopt any number of children. It is not my intention to offend, but to debate. That is the spirit of this blog. I trust that any errors in my thinking will be uncovered by the minds behind the eyeballs that view this thread.

Steven Kippel said...

While this story I created is an analogy the reason I created it is more literal. Over the past couple years we've seen an increased level of concern over bullying.

The basic human necessities are food, security, belonging and significance. Bullying removes those two necessities to sustain life and often times infringes on the second necessity.

Yet in the debate over school policy regarding bullies we have literally heard people claim that preventing students from bullying other students is a moral equivalent. "If you tell my son he can't bully that child than you are bullying my son."

The fundamental right in question here is the right to be secure in their person and to their individual self-determination.

Concerning the issue of whether or not sexual orientation is a choice: of course it's not a choice. You don't chose who you're attracted to. The science is not one of genetics or DNA, but there are trends that homosexuality runs in families, children with older siblings are more likely to be gay, and twins are more likely to be both gay or both straight. It is thought to be a matter of epigenetics.

You may consider yourself to have the moral superior argument, but your argument doesn't matter because it would mean you are now forcing others to accept your morality. And that's fine where moral circles intersect that are harmful to other people, but where one's right to self-determination does not in any way affect your own self-determination you're now seeking to deny their own rights where no damage has been caused to you.

Of course none of these arguments you make are new. They've been recycled from years past arguing handicapped people can't marry, and your own argument would support this type of discrimination: "I don't believe that right extends to those entities without this potential [to procreate]."

They also used these arguments against interracial marriage, citing their Biblical sources and religious heritage. They said, "Children of mixed-race families will face challenges in life." They made this identical argument in the Supreme Court this week (ignoring Loving v. Virginia).

And certainly many religions have differing restrictions on marriage. Orthodox Jews deny marriage of Jews to non-Jews, for example. Considering they're "appealing to a higher authority" should we then accept their argument because they're not just accepting the popular opinion of postmodern society. The same can be said of any religion.

Thievery is a good analogy to use as even religious scholars say there is only one fundamental sin: theft. Murder is theft of life, for example. And in the case of rights, it is a theft of rights. And the right at question here is the right of self-determination; life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Unless you're willing to deny the marriages of other faiths based on your own faith's practices, these social policy decisions you're basing on your faith are completely arbitrary anyway and you are already creating a secular argument with concessions to your own tradition.

The Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia declared the freedom to marry "resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State."

Steven Kippel said...

Your statement that, "The charge to one who disagrees with another's 'idea' is that he is somehow 'discriminating against him,' or is a 'bigot,'" is exactly the type of argument this analogy of mine is against. Having different ideas is different than imposing those ideas onto other people. Nobody is a bully for having opinions, they're a bully for turning those opinions into actions which infringe on the rights of individuals.

Jews and Muslims both share a common belief that eating certain foods is sinful. They abstain from eating, for example, pork. Should these practices be forced onto children in school lunches who do not share these same beliefs? If you were prohibited from bringing a BLT for lunch you would feel your rights are infringed, regardless of whether or not the Jews had a religious and cultural tradition with appeals to higher authorities etc. Having the opinion and tradition of abstaining from pork is fine and they're not bigoted for practicing these religious laws, but they would certain be bigoted if they prohibited everyone else from practicing their own dietary practices.

James Lancaster said...

I will only point out one thing. We are arguing from different hypotheticals; either homosexuality is "in born" or it is not ("choice" was a poor word to use on my part as it only obscured my intended meaning).

If your hypothetical is true, I would probably agree with you (the epigenetic hypothesis is a new model that hasn't been empirically verified or falsified let alone peer reviewed). Also, I would have some serious thinking to do about my theology and philosophy. But, I can't accept your hypothetical at this time. In fact, I struggle to see how you can accept it, either. Maybe you've read different things than I have. I'd be highly interested in your sources should you care to provide them to me (maybe through FB or something).

This article might also help clarify some of the terms I used regarding fundamental rights.