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4 Common Complaints That Completely Miss the Point

#2. Being "Entitled to an Opinion"

What We Complain About:

Freedom of expression is the most important thing in the world, so it's unfair to make people feel bad when they say stupid things. That's why we need to allow creationism to be taught alongside evolution in schools; that's why we need to listen to the climate change skeptics; and that's why it's wrong that Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was forced to resign because he hates gay people. After all, must we, the tolerant, not tolerate other people's opinions? The ones they're entitled to?

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"Everyone has to listen to meeeeeee!"

The Problem:

Sure, you can have opinions all you want, but that doesn't mean everyone out there has to be OK with what you're saying. Don't confuse suffering from intolerance with facing the repercussions for the stuff you're saying. For example, I'm entitled to publicly shout that all my readers are enjoying my articles totally naked, because when I imagine that, it makes me feel loved and less alone somehow. But that doesn't mean I'm entitled to write each of you personalized letters saying that you should read my articles naked, or that you even have to rebut me, because my opinion on this matter is so fucking stupid that it's not worth talking about. That may sound like I'm being self-deprecating, but I'm not, because most opinions are so stupid that they aren't worth talking about.

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty
"I don't like cats," for example.

Going back to that Brendan Eich/Mozilla thing -- he's certainly entitled to his opinion that gay people shouldn't get married, just like everyone else at Mozilla is entitled to their opinion that people who run major companies shouldn't be actively campaigning to treat some of their customers like second-class citizens.

#1. Complaining About "White Guilt"

What We Complain About:

Did you see 12 Years a Slave? Man, that movie sure did a good job of making white people feel bad about slavery, huh? The world is full of tragedy and injustice, and if we're not personally suffering, then it's really important that we let everyone know how bad we feel about it.

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We feel this bad.

The Problem:

The amazing thing about "white guilt" is that it allows white people to take the suffering of other people and somehow make it about us again.

I'm not saying racism isn't a problem -- I'm saying that if you want to fix a problem, you should be driven by compassion ("caring about other people"), not guilt ("concern about how people will judge you"). But people are already getting pissed and typing angry comments, so let me illustrate my point using an innocuous and totally hypothetical example that certainly didn't happen to me at all.

Let's say that my pet cat leaps out of a dank, murky pond, like the Stygian jaws of death itself, to murder and eat my neighbor's child. Like it just abruptly and without warning pops up out of the water, crushes the life out of a tiny person, and then gorily consumes it, like a grisly scene from one of those low-budget horror films that only seem to exist on Netflix Instant. What do I do? Apologize? Clean up the sopping red mass of guts that used to be my neighbor's kid? Put my cat down, even though she's so adorable, I can't even stand it?

Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty

Whatever you decide to do, that decision shouldn't be rooted in my feelings, because absolutely nothing is less relevant at that point. If the apartment building decides to ban cats and put up signs reminding everyone that they're not allowed to have them, it's not because they're trying to make me feel cat-owner guilt; it's because they don't want kids to get eaten anymore. They're not trying to hurt my feelings, because my feelings really aren't the fucking point. It's the same thing with the concept of white guilt roughly 99 percent of the time.

But in defense of white people, we're not actually selfish assholes -- we've just gotten so used to having everything be about us that when we see a movie directed by a black man, starring a black man, telling a personal story about experiencing slavery, we just assume that it's still about us, but indirectly. Like it's trying to send us a message about how we should feel about ourselves. Who else could the movie be for?

Dog owners? I forgot what I was talking about.


JF Sargent has hidden references to his social media throughout this article, so if you want to follow him, you'll have to play his sick game. But you can read his sci-fi adventure book for free, because that link was too hard to work in naturally. And he'd like to thank you for sticking with him through that dumb fucking alligator joke.

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J. F. Sargent

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