I’m a thundering pub bore. I love sitting in my local, spouting off, pontificating, sometimes arguing.
Recently I popped in ‘for a couple’ and had considerably more, during an enjoyable chat with a chap I’d occasionally spoken to, but not hitherto in any depth.
It started with discussing ‘woke’. He’d overheard me talking to the landlady’s boyfriend and chipped in with a 32-year old gay man’s perspective. That’s the joy of the early-evening chats there, the place is not so busy as to stop people just dipping in and out of conversation, without it seeming rude or intrusive. That’s the pleasure of a good pub, in fact – which is why today’s news that the number of pubs in England and Wales has dropped below 40,000 for the first time is such a tragedy.
He was circumspect about younger LGBT activists, well-aware that many had neither the experience nor maturity to be so categorical. He also disliked their need to polarise what were (the term he frequently used) ‘grey areas’. However, he felt obliged to be pretty tolerant of their activism, since he’d faced all sorts of issues himself as a Catholic growing up in Ireland.
We got onto whether – and when – someone of my (or even his) age should shut up and let things go – however easy it seems to refute the absurdities one sees. Shouldn’t one, at some level, always accept that a younger generation will do and see things differently?
He was vaguely on the Left, but entirely reasonable in discussion – not a hint of any demonising for those with other views. He was especially good on how this is the default mode encouraged by social media. We both wondered how likely was it that such pub conversations could occur with people 10 years younger than him, let alone with those now in their teens, when they got older?
I’m very unsure there’s any justification for a ‘quietist’ approach to obvious nonsense, other than for loved ones we spend a huge amount of time with, and who don’t represent those ‘other’ views, however often one disagrees with them.
For the rest, it’s not really to do with how socially appropriate it is to be ‘at war’ with this prevailing orthodoxy. We all refrain from constantly discussing things, based on the situation and how obsessive or annoying you want to appear!
I’m more intrigued with the oft-repeated claim that the woke are ‘on the right side of history’ and reactionaries like me are incapable of seeing this – Schopenhauer’s famous observation that “everyone mistakes the limits of their own understanding for the limits of the world’s”.
When should any individual just give up and accept what his or her reasoning, in terms of logical argument, concludes is wrong?
My inclination is to say ‘never’ – or there’s no point in thinking, full stop. We’re back with poor Winston Smith being tortured by O’Brien, screaming that his obstinate insistence on the freedom to say “two plus two equals four” is mere arrogance, easily crushed by historical forces.
I certainly remember how, studying Quantum Mechanics for my degree and doctorate, I’d just have to accept things which seemed impossible to understand conventionally. It’s famously an area where anti-intuitive reasoning is required – perhaps ‘acceptance’ is the better word.
But that’s physics, where one has total faith in the intellectual integrity – and the eventual empirical testing and possible disproving – of theories. The problem is that for socially constructed ‘theories’ (of which woke ‘critical theories’ are exemplars) there is frequently a refusal to accept any empirical evidence, let alone the exposure of such ‘theories’ to falsification. In truth, these aren’t theories at all, but personal beliefs and prejudices, elevated through force and bullying into demands on others.
Surely the point is that only free discussion can deal with this – and no one should keep quiet, just because he or she is scared to speak out or is told to shut up for some greater good, to ‘be on the right side of history’.