This is an entry in the Alt-right Playbook.
I hate mondays is an embrace of coping strategies and a refusal to address a problem stemming from the belief that the problem is unfixable.
[…] conservative thinks about people dying of preventable illnesses, school shootings, and back alley abortions the way you think about Mondays.
The conservative mindset tends to sort things into binaries with no room for scale. Mass shootings either happen or they don’t. You can talk about how much safer countries with robust gun control are, and they’ll just say, “Here’s a shooting that happened in England. Here’s a shooting that happened in Australia. Gun control didn’t stop them. You can’t regulate evil.”
This is the kind of sentence that can drive you up the wall, because it is, on its face, obviously true, but it’s only applicable in this context thanks to the word that’s implied but not stated: “You can’t regulate all evil.” Yes, since they’ve had gun control, there have been shootings in England and Australia. Does it matter that these shootings are far less deadly and happen far less often? Does it matter that making guns harder to get has saved tens of thousands of lives? Like, do we really need to explain why stores put junk food you know you shouldn’t buy right next to the checkout counter? Because the easier it is to do a thing, the more it happens.
The mentality here is that, if you can’t stop every shooting, you shouldn’t bother stopping any; if you can’t save every life, there’s no point improving healthcare. Nothing short of literally defeating death will be good enough.
It is a wholesale rejection of thinking in terms of systems. Notice how Payroll phrases his argument: “A bad person can always find a way to do bad things.” Person. Singular. If a criminal can still get a gun, they extrapolate that every criminal can get a gun, in the same way that, if a poor person can get a job, every poor person can get a job. Which, no. If there are fewer jobs than people who need them, there’s going to be unemployment, and if there are fewer guns than people who want to shoot them, there’s going to be less gun crime. If they talked about populations of people they’d have to acknowledge that some percentage succeeds at doing bad things and a percentage fails, and, since percentages are different across cultures, we must have some influence over them. But a binaristic model of “things either happen or they don’t” leaves no room for percentages. Was there a shooting? Then there is still evil in the world.
A conservative will generally agree with you about what the ills of society are: bigotry, violence, disease, oppression, poverty. But they don’t view them as problems to be solved. They are facts of life. Of course racism is terrible… but it’s a Monday. Trying to fight racism is like trying to fight the first law of motion. The only reason to even talk about it is to commiserate.
And, on its face, this seems completely contradictory to all the other things they claim to believe. Sometimes you wanna scream at Payroll, “How can you think regulating guns won’t reduce shootings but somehow regulating women will reduce abortions?!” But here’s the real kicker: he doesn’t. He doesn’t think illegalizing abortions will make them happen less. What he wants is to throw people in jail for getting them. It’s right there in how he talks about gun rights: “Why should I be punished for the crimes of a monster?” To him, the law isn’t about shaping society, it’s about who gets punished [He’s not hurting the people he needs to be].
In this view, human nature is immutable. People are going to… be gay and do crime, and get abortions, and take drugs, and the law is not there to guide, it is there to judge. It is there it sanctify one particular walk of life as The Right Way. The reason they’re opposed to contraceptives and sex ed is not because they don’t work, but because they shouldn’t work. It doesn’t even matter that kids who get abstinence-only education have just as much sex than the ones who learn about condoms; acknowledging that teenagers have sex is saying it’s ok, and abstinence says it’s not. And if it doesn’t work, it’s because you’re just not trying hard enough! More abstinence! More abstinence!
Take, for example, the (often liberal) sentiment, “I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.” There is no consequentialist argument for this. Perhaps if you and an organized bloc of citizens threatened to withhold your votes in order to influence policy, but, as a purely individual act, the consequentialist would argue your goal is to achieve the most ethical outcome. And that, if there are two evils, and one or the other is going to be in a position of power, voting for the lesser is more ethical than staying home. The consequentialist would argue you are just as responsible for the results of your inaction as for the actions you take. When both options are terrible, all you can do is mitigate the damage.
But that’s not generally the way it feels. It feels like refusing to participate, or choosing someone you want to win but whom you know isn’t going to, is the more ethical option. That voting for the lesser is a moral compromise. This feeling is independent of results. It doesn’t mitigate damage, it doesn’t reduce harm, but it does preserve your integrity [Ian Danskin | You Go High, We Go Low]. That feeling is very powerful; many politicians have staked their careers on it. Our society has always told us that voting for any flavor of evil will leave a stain on our souls; it continues to feel this way even among people who no longer believe in souls. The greatest difference between Left and Right is simply in how common and how intense this feeling is.
The necessary counternarrative is to stress that the problems we face are not natural features of the world, that, in fact, very little of human life is natural, and, even if it were, what is natural is not necessarily what is right. The way nature deals with a pandemic is to let everyone without a genetic resistance to the illness die, and, if what’s left is not a stable breeding population, you go extinct. That’s natural. Humanity as we know it only exists in defiance nature. Every form of bigotry, every means of oppression, is a thing we created; they are human problems, and they have human solutions. They have not always existed and there are places in the world where they are being addressed. The idea that the worst things on Earth have no great significance, that most evil is a chaotic mess borne of human fallibility, can be very depressing to consider; it can also be empowering.
This is a secular view. It can be reconciled with spirituality, but not with reactionary fundamentalism, which is the point. And it can be kind of baffling to have to assert that, when bad things happen, maybe we should do something about it? But you just can’t take for granted that, when someone agrees a thing is bad, they’re agreeing it’s a problem.