Funny you should mention that.
Meta-discussions, whether on race or economics or whatever the abstraction of the moment is, tend to immediately abandon the particular and become displays of rhetorical fireworks. The subject gets lost in the words. I can play that game, but it never feels satisfying.
Although I am one of the prime time baby boomers he doesn’t have much use for (born 1951, went to both Woodstock and Vietnam and an academic to boot), I have always been drawn to what Ron Collins calls “anecdotal contrarianism.”
Of course I am now an official GOD (Grumpy Old Dude), so it could be that, but the older I get, the less comfortable I am with grand generalizations. I have seen too much of the evil that they can do.
This is especially true of isms or ideologies. They tend to dehumanize everyone they sweep up. People have ideas; ideologies have people.
Ed Abbey became a hero to environmentalists. It wasn’t something he set out to become, it just happened. He was really just an articulate individual with strong ideas. He was also a cantankerous, disputative, often mean, womanizer who could be too quick with his fists. Not the ideal candidate for idealization or sainthood, not that he gave a shit.
My favorite anecdote about him follows. He was driving down an interstate out west, drinking beer. One of his unwanted followers was in the truck with him. When he finished his beer, he threw the can out the window. His ideologically pure environmentalist companion was appalled. How could you litter like that, he asked. Abbey replied, you can’t make an interstate uglier.
The difference in the two reactions is apparent. One was general. One was specific. Sometimes, it’s better to throw the can out the window and just drive on. :)