On Arguing with Young Regressives

1) -- Abandon all hope.

If you decide to argue with a millennial about the merits of his or her cause, you should approach the task with either the patience of a saint, confident that your rewards are already waiting for you in heaven -- or with the steely determination of a kamikaze plunging to his doom. Going into the discussion with some hope of immediate personal success is nothing but an exercise in masochism. We human beings are thick-headed, stubborn creatures under the best of circumstances. Young regressives are much worse. They mix the youthful certainty that they are the smartest and coolest people ever born with an ideology that tells them that a government that wants to legislate all aspects of human behavior will somehow make them free. Give up hope. It will only hurt you. You may make a dent in a young regressive’s ideological armor -- probably only dawning on them years later, when your sage advice is dimly remembered -- but more likely your irritable leftist puppy will have to be beaten down by the hard realities of the world for a decade or two. Even then, they will probably not credit any change of heart to your efforts when their own wisdom is their usual candidate for praise. Still, do not be deterred by the apparent futility of your task. Go forth and fight the dragon simply because it needs fighting. Go happily. If you do succeed in changing a regressive’s mind, you can count it as a miracle and move immediately to the short list for beatification.

2) -- Know thy enemy.

Your opponent did not come out of the womb the self-righteous, virtue-signaling monster that you see before you now. It was nurture, not nature, that made this odd, androgynous creation with its multicolored hair. A young regressive is invariably the product of one of those political indoctrination centers liberals call schools. The poor creature didn’t ask to go there at age five. The unfortunate beasts were marched in innocently enough with smiling faces and receptive minds. They have all been drilled to act and think as they do. All kids want to please their friends, and what you are asking them to believe would probably make them outcasts in the ultra-cool, multicultural, experimental communities in which they imagine they live. In the battle between coolness and coherence, coolness almost always wins. The young regressive may score of certain social standing for simply shouting you down. “Educating you,” in regressive parlance. Try not to take it personally.

In arguing with young rebels from Regressiveland, try to find some point of agreement between your outrage at the world and theirs. It will not spare you their eventual knee-jerk rejection, but it will at least humanize you long enough to make discussion possible. Most regressives, I find, believe that conservatives are the defenders of Wall Street crony capitalism because we don’t believe that capitalism, itself, is evil. Theirs is an all-or-nothing ideology. Everything is black-and-white. Exposing a shared contempt for bank bailouts will not make you a young regressive’s friend, but it may put an uncomfortable kink in his, her (or its) perfectly black-and-white narrative. It may keep them from entirely dehumanizing you, and if you are especially lucky you may see a better side of them for a while. One must take what one can get. If you find yourself engaged with someone who starts by shouting or name-calling, smile (if you can) and walk away. If you find yourself engaged with a true racist (and there are many on the regressive side) -- there really isn’t anything that you can say that’s worth the breath. They don’t consider you a human being, and do not care what you think.

As tiring as young regressives are, there is still a bit of hope for them. They may grow out of it eventually. Do not forget this. The older ones are usually lost causes. These are people who have gone through life’s school of hard knocks and come out none the wiser. They have heroically resisted reality for a very long time, and will go to their graves with a rainbow-striped protest sign in one hand and a fair-trade-soy-milk-two-pump-extra-shot-latte in the other, complaining that their disability check is not enough to pay for airfare to Europe. Leave the obviously insane alone. They will eventually compost themselves in peace -- providing useful fertilizer for the green things that they’ve always claimed to love.

3) -- Only argue with people who are making arguments.

Internet forums and comment sections are not “the marketplace of ideas”. They are places where people can indulge in either virtual ego baths or in political bar brawls without the risk of losing teeth. I’ve been there. When was the last time you saw a real winner in a name-calling fight? If you think that you can walk into a hostile echo chamber and dazzle its occupants with facts -- go find a mirror and look for the halo. If you have one, go for it. Otherwise, forebear. Online, as elsewhere, ignore anyone who is clearly speaking to impress his friends. Look for the people who are actually trying to defend their positions rationally -- or, better still, who are asking intelligent questions about other people’s positions. These are the people who have at least a vestigial interest in objective standards. They are the light of the world under a basket -- or perhaps under a sizable heap of manure. You might still be able to lever them partially out of the regressive quicksand with an inconvenient fact or two. Whatever you do, never argue with the crowd. They will exhaust you like a pack of wolves dragging down a moose. Your ideas won’t matter. It will merely be a contest of brute stamina -- which their superior numbers and sheer viciousness will probably win. Single out the most promising mind among the crowd, and leave the others to their self-indulgent self-congratulation ritual.

4) -- Never do unto others the same evil nonsense that they’re prepared to do unto you.

This is an enormously difficult rule to live by -- but then it would be because it’s God’s. Often, you will find yourself confronted by people who are enraged about circumstances over which you have no control. Some of those circumstances are real, and some are purely fantasies. Expect to be blamed for all of them nevertheless. Regressives will see you as an instance of a class, a gender, a religion, or of some set of ideas they have learned to fixate on. You will merely be a proxy for the things they have been taught to hate. Ironically, you are probably more tolerant than they are, having put up with their nonsense for decades while they hunt for the slightest cause to take offense. Do not be unduly troubled by their noise. The “wrong side of history” they say you are on is the history that has actually happened, is happening now, and will continue to happen so long as humans walk the Earth.

You should think of regressives in the way that you would think of a natural disaster. When faced with a flood or an earthquake, there is plenty of work to do -- and you accomplish nothing by indignantly shouting and shaking your fists at the destruction. There are millions of confused, demoralized, brainwashed people out there and they are not going to just evaporate after the next favorable election. They are going to have to be coped with one way or another, each in accordance with his individual character and the dangers he or she presents. We will need to somehow separate the wheat from the chaff.

This call for restraint is not just another way of asking “Can’t we all just get along?” The self-evident answer to that question has always been “No -- we can’t.” Truly dedicated social justice warriors will never make useful members of any society. The desire to go through life with a chip on your shoulder is a fundamentally anti-social one. If I believed in psychiatric treatment I’d suggest it -- but the psychological profession has only contributed to the problem. Banishment might be a more practical solution for the problem of intractable SJWs. Maybe there is a disused island somewhere big enough to hold all of their grievances -- a place where victimhood can reign supreme forever, where the sun will never shine, and the ocean level (we hope) will never cease to rise.