When Corporations Become Parents: The Infantilisation Of Professional Knowledge Workers

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Corporations purchase your labour in exchange for a salary and other defined benefits. Yet skilled professional workers are increasingly demanding that their employers also play the role of a nurturing, identity-affirming auxiliary parent.

Today, on my weekly scroll through corporate networking social media site LinkedIn, I came upon that most annoying of phenomena – the corporate humblebrag.

In case you are unfamiliar, the corporate humblebrag is a status update or article generally written by some cretinous individual who takes excessive pride in their firm (outside of which they have no life) and thinks that their organisation’s craven feats of pandering to the social justice priesthood somehow reflect a deep-seated virtue in themselves.

LinkedIn is chock full of such posts. Just as online pornography is said to account for up to 30% of total internet traffic, so the vast majority of posts on LinkedIn now consist of corporate humblebrags, people trying to ingratiate themselves with their current and future employers and colleagues by conspicuously and repeatedly trumpeting even the most banal of news items about their companies.

The corporate humblebrag which prompts this blog post is particularly bad, and centres on global consulting firm Accenture’s efforts to bring about harmony between world religions – a feat which has eluded the world’s greatest thinkers, theologians and statesmen, but which is apparently all in a day’s work for a modern global professional services outfit.

Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer of Accenture writes:

Those of you who are regular readers have heard me talk about Accenture’s aspiration to be the most truly human organization in the digital age. As we continue to peel back the layers on what “truly human” means, at the heart is helping our people be successful both professionally and personally. And, to be at our best, we need to be comfortable being our true selves and expressing our feelings at work.

Peeling back the layers on what “truly human” means? This is the type of existential question which has consumed humankind for millennia, without resolution. It hardly seems likely that Accenture’s drive to be “the most truly human organization in the digital age” is going to crack the secret of life when the most prominent philosophers, theologians, artists and scientists throughout history have all come up short.

The self-aggrandising article continues:

We started our “Building Bridges” journey last year in the midst of racial unrest in the U.S. Our people told us that it’s stressful when they feel they can’t talk openly in the workplace about things that happen in the world or at home that affect them deeply. It makes them feel like they don’t belong and that perhaps their co-workers are unaware or don’t care about things that are important to them.

Why do I get the distinct feeling that Accenture’s “Building Bridges” scheme is probably only receptive to some viewpoints and perspectives about the racial unrest in America – and that the people being encouraged to speak and rewarded for doing so are those who propagate the current identity politics dogma which dictates that race is not something to be ignored but rather scrupulously and punishingly observed, with everybody seen not as an individual, not as an American but as a member of an oppressed community (or the oppressing white male group)?

Somehow I imagine that were an Accenture employee to stand up in one of these “Building Bridges” meetings and venture the kind of opinion typically made on this blog – that we should be colourblind in our interactions with people and that identity politics only serves to fracture society and create a self-fulfilling culture of passive victimhood – that they would find themselves up in front of HR pretty fast, and out the door escorted by security not too long afterwards. But perhaps I am being uncharitable.

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We recently convened a Building Bridges session in New York on the topic of religion. Yes, one of those supposed taboo topics that you’re advised to avoid – along with politics – right?!  Well, the bottom line is religion is important to many of our people. And, it’s critical to foster cross-faith and multicultural understanding and respect. At the very least, it helps us understand the religious observances of our colleagues. But what I really see is deeper connections among our people.

Oh goody, religion in the workplace. At this point, Ellyn Shook hands over to her sycophantic underling Dan Eckstein, head of Accenture New York’s Interfaith Employee Resource Group – which apparently started out as a Bible study group for Christian employees before being hijacked and taken over in order to fulfil the glorious higher purpose of social justice activism.

Here’s Dan, in his own words:

As an observant Jew, I’ve always been passionate about inclusion and diversity, especially the topic of one’s faith at work. After graduating college, it was a challenge to figure out how I wanted to balance my religion and my work. I found myself trying to compartmentalize my work life from my religious life. But it didn’t feel right. I asked my parents, grandparents and mentors for advice. I’ll never forget the story of my Grandpa when he arrived in NY after the Holocaust and surviving the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was a fur matcher and he told me that almost every Friday in the winter he would leave work early to get home for the Sabbath by sundown. When Monday came around he would go back to work and they would fire him for leaving early. As a survivor, my Grandpa taught me to always be proud of who I am and to stand up for my beliefs.

I ultimately decided to wear my Kippa to work because I wanted to be transparent about who I am, and be consistent both inside and outside the office. I feel it represents my true self and is something that I’m proud of. As a leader, I also hope that I am a role model to others, encouraging authenticity.

Fine. That’s all well and good – people should certainly be free to express themselves at work as far as practicable and in line with their role. But then it starts to get weird:

Our Interfaith ERG hosted a Building Bridges session on August 11 where over 100 people packed into the NY office training room to talk about faith at work. We decided to anchor this session around the theme of “story telling.” Everyone has a story, but we’re often so busy or distracted at work that we don’t take time to ask or share.

[..] We ended our session by asking local faith leaders – Rev. Doyeon Park, Brahmachari Karuna, Rabbi Larry Sernovitz, Mohammed Al-Mathil and Rabbi Bob Kaplan – to reflect on the day and offer messages around hope, transparency, courage and community. Mohammed Al-Mathil encouraged us to ask questions from a place of respect and to do a bit of homework when coming to conversations about religion. Brahmachari Karuna shared a story of his father, a Human Resources leader, who seeks to find points of beauty in other religions, which helps to spark conversations with colleagues to explore commonalities and points of beauty across their different faiths.

It’s amazing that anyone in Accenture’s New York office finds time to align boxes in PowerPoint, sit on 3-hour client conference calls or just do some good old fashioned smoke testing on a new SAP deployment when they are all so busy learning about other faiths and affirming one another’s chosen identities.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The same culture now pervades nearly every large company with offices in major world cities or key industry hubs – any place where college educated knowledge workers gather in high concentration. For example, it is now almost compulsory for corporations to conspicuously endorse Pride Month and acknowledge it with a veritable festival of sponsorships and office activities.

There is nothing particularly wrong with this – if executives want to engage in corporate virtue-signalling then this is their choice. But these forays into social activism inevitably come down hard on one specific side of the debate, with little tolerance for those with differing views – even if they are conscientious and upstanding employees.

For example, this is what the Head of HR Strategy for one multinational firm had to say on LinkedIn about the recent Google Memo saga, in which developer James Damore was summarily fired for publishing a frequently and deliberately-misrepresented memo calling for Google to look again at the policies through which it aims to increase diversity:

Inclusion and diversity can be a prickly topic, although these issues don’t need to be sticky if handled in an appropriate manner. A great example set by Google’s CEO following the engineer’s ‘anti- I&D manifesto’. Having sent a clear email to all employees, he fired the employee in question and returned from his holiday immediately to take time to discuss the topics further with Googlers. Bravo for great leadership, mirroring words with actions. #strongleadership #diversity #inclusion

How then is an employee of this corporation who happens to agree with James Damore’s perfectly reasonable argument supposed to feel when it becomes clear that their own Head of HR strongly supports the firing of people such as themselves simply for failing to agree with the prevailing social justice groupthink; that every kind of diversity is encouraged in their firm, except for ideological diversity?

More to the point, why is it now necessary for our employers to continually nurture and affirm us as though we are needy toddlers? Why do we look to the corporations we work for to be our moral lodestar, a source of emotional support and a powerful auxiliary parent to adjudicate every petty interpersonal dispute that may arise between us and our coworkers?

When you work for a company you are selling them your labour – manual, mental or sometimes emotional – and in exchange you get paid a wage or a salary. That’s the sum total of the relationship that should exist between employer and employee in a capitalist system, and that’s a good thing. We don’t want to go back to the Victorian days where wealthy industrialists took it upon themselves to watch over the moral fibre of their workforce, regulating speech, recreation and behaviour in purpose-built company towns.

Of course people form important professional connections and bonds of friendship with colleagues, and employees are required to buy into whatever company culture exists in the various ways that it manifests (at least if they want their careers to prosper), but this still falls under the remit of labour. And the corporation has traditionally only been interested in nurturing such relationships to the extent that they help the employee perform their job and improve their skills (and consequently the value of their labour) – through training and intra-company networking events, for example.

I won’t deny that it is nice when corporations take sensible measures to improve the wellbeing of their workforce and increase employee engagement – and there are a whole range of ways to accomplish these goals, from bonus systems and employee reward schemes to the nature of performance appraisals and even small token gestures like free fruit or snacks for staff. I have personally benefited from many such initiatives in my own corporate career. But again, these schemes were designed to incentivise me to stay with the company or to work harder, not to fill in gaping holes in my psyche.

Yet apparently thousands if not millions of well-educated and gainfully employed people look to their employers – huge corporations which ultimately often have little allegiance to either their home country, country of operations or indeed their employees – to help realise their potential as human beings. That’s just plain creepy.

And note also that this is a mental affliction which only seems to affect middle class workers in the creative, tech or professional service industries. You don’t get minimum wage burger-flippers at McDonald’s demanding that the corporation “peel back the layers” of their humanity or otherwise validate their existence and identity at every turn. The relationship is purely transactional – they show up for work, put in a shift, go home and get paid. The same goes for retail work, semi-skilled clerical work and those in the service industries.

(In fact the only organisation where such intimate involvement in the private lives, personalities and identities of their staff seems remotely appropriate is the military, which in order to make people into effective warriors and leaders must essentially deconstruct and rebuild people from the ground up during basic training, with very different boundaries of privacy and intimacy to other private or public sector employment).

In other words, this phenomenon or corporate coddling is something that upper middle class professional knowledge workers are bringing on themselves, not something which is imposed upon them (as one might have imagined from following the Google Memo saga). It is no longer enough for corporations to provide a water cooler, cheap coffee and a relatively consistent ambient air temperature – now rank and file employees are effectively demanding that their employers pander to their every emotional need as well, be it support with their sexuality, gender identity, religion or any number of other issues which are best tended to in one’s own personal time.

I must say that I find this trend fascinating and repellent, in equal part. I genuinely struggle to identify with the kind of mindset that would prompt an intelligent, driven employee to organise an interfaith religious symposium for their office, or to facilitate a training workshop in LGBTQ+ allyship on company time – other than the obvious excuse of wanting to avoid the tedium of doing real, actual value-adding work (which I totally get).

If I were still working in a large professional services firm with one of these gung-ho HR departments, I would sooner that they fire everybody with the word “diversity” in their job title and raise my salary by a couple of quid than be continually validated in my identity as an trans-class, mixed-race, semi-privileged cisgender heterosexual male by some gimlet-eyed, Kool-Aid drinking corporate apparatchik. But apparently I am in the minority.

Admittedly, LinkedIn isn’t the best gauge of these things, being populated mostly by fellow corporate Kool-Aid drinkers who share endless posts about how “proud” they are that their firm won some industry award for sustainability in toilet paper consumption. But there are clearly enough people who value – nay, demand – being condescended to in this way by their employers that large firms are willing to pull out all the stops and treat their employees like the children they apparently yearn to be.

Perhaps I am a grouch and an outlier on this, and I would certainly welcome the input and perspective of anybody who works in corporate HR or one of these diversity or employee-nurturing workstreams. But to me, this trend is just another casualty of the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, not to mention a symbol of the relentless infantilisation of Western society, with grown adults in prestigious jobs now seeking to regress back into coddled childhood, one insipid LinkedIn status update at a time.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 49 – Chicago Universities Are Raising A Generation Of Infantilised Young Adults

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Students who are offered Play Doh and “therapy horses” to help them make it through university will be cannon fodder in an unforgiving, competitive global labour market

At this point we are used to seeing outrageous stories of overbearing, coddling universities going to extraordinary lengths to teach the young adults studying on their campuses like delicate, helpless infants.

But the Chicago Tribune has done quite a job in summarising all of the instances of infantilisation-posing-as-stress-management taking place at institutions in and around the city. And the extent of the trend is quite shocking to behold.

Some excerpts:

Sephanie Delgado can feel the stress of her to-do list as she works to finish the semester at Roosevelt University: three essays, a presentation and exams.

To escape the pressure, the 20-year-old college junior, who also works as a restaurant cashier to help pay for school, sculpted a chunk of blue Play-Doh into Popplio, a Pokemon character. She was at a table next to other students who colored and decorated cookies before two miniature therapy horses wearing sneakers trotted into the room Wednesday for the university’s De-Stress Fest.

“I know I still have to do all that work, but coming here I’m able to take some time off to hang out with friends, have fun and empty my mind for a little bit,” said Delgado, who lives on the Southwest Side. “It’s like a refresh. My mind is nice and clear so when I go to start my homework, I’m well focused.”

As the semester nears its end — and students pull all-nighters to cram for exams, type papers and finish projects that weigh heavily on final grades — colleges in the Chicago area are taking steps to help students manage stress. It’s part of a broader approach to focus on students’ mental health and expand proactive outreach efforts instead of waiting for students to seek help. Local schools this week are offering activities ranging from animal visits at Roosevelt to a bubble-wrapped room at the University of Illinois at Chicago to the long-standing tradition of a stress-busting primal scream at Northwestern University.

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At Northwestern, “because of the hectic academic pace that exists here, it is stressful and very pressure-packed,” university spokesman Alan Cubbage said.

Students can blow off steam with a visit from miniature horses Friday and release their frustration through a campuswide scream, in which students let out a collective yell at 9 p.m. Sunday before finals week. Next week, a number of activities such as Lego building, board games, midnight coffee breaks and late-night breakfast are planned for exam relief.

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The series of events UIC hosts during finals week helps junior Liz Huss manage stress in a healthful way.

Students got a visit from comfort dogs Wednesday and are invited next week to pop bubble wrap at the student center, get chair massages, do candlelight yoga and leave notes of encouragement for fellow students.

“I like to take 10, 15, 20 minutes to rejuvenate, reflect and relax, and these events really help with that,” said Huss, an accounting major.

I’m sure that the large professional services firm that she may one day seek to join will be more than happy to bend over backwards to accommodate Liz Huss’s artificially-instilled need to reach for the soothing presence of a “comfort dog” whenever the going gets tough.

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For Andersonville resident Rob Chesler, a junior at Roosevelt, stress can motivate him to get his work done. But he also welcomed the distraction of the De-Stress Fest, during which he took a selfie with Lunar, the oldest miniature horse from the Barrington-based nonprofit Mane in Heaven.

“If you’re living in this world of hard work every second of every hour of your life, then you’re not going to be happy and you’re just going to be all about work,” he said. “If you have little horses every now and then, you have moments where you can just breathe and enjoy life.”

Little horses for everyone!

Fortunately there are also voices of sanity:

Clay Routledge, psychology professor at North Dakota State University, believes universities should be promoting psychological strength and resilience, not coddling students.

“I’m not ignorant to the fact there are vulnerable students that need services,” he said. “I’m not against that at all. My criticism is: Are we promoting more broadly a culture of sensitivity and victimhood than we need to do?”

Many colleges and universities are becoming more than educational institutions and overreaching by not letting students figure things out on their own, he said.

“We need to promote toughness and strength, and we know from decades of research that humans are extremely resilient,” Routledge said. “You have to have real stressors in life. You have to fail. You have to be embarrassed and you have to face situations where you’re wrong and you’re challenged — and you’ll be strong as a result.”

A rare voice arguing for building resilience the way that university has done for decades, if not centuries – focusing on the academia, not seeking to micromanage every moment of each student’s pastoral experience on campus, and letting them grow through trial, error and experience. Expect Professor Clay Routledge to be blacklisted by the social justice / identity politics cultists at his university and drummed out of his job any day now.

I have always found American universities to be slightly odd places. Having spent a reasonable amount of time on various campuses in the Mid-West, I have always been struck by the way that universities do not treat their students like autonomous adults to the extent that one might expect in Britain.

Despite eye-wateringly high tuition and accommodation costs, undergraduates are usually expected to share a small room with a roommate, at least in their first year, an almost unheard-of indignity for British students (who would probably feel the same way about this as Americans would feel about staying in one of the NHS’s communal hospital wards rather than having a private room of their own). American universities often see fit to correspond with the parents of students as though they are still school children rather than adults over the age of eighteen, old enough to wear the uniform and fight for their country (though not old enough to drink). These, and many other odd customs, long predate the social justice and identity politics craze which has infected Western academia.

But while customs and practices such as these treat students as though they are not quite yet fully-grown adults, the new trend for safe spaces and infantilising activities masquerading as “stress relief” are of a different order because they effectively serve to stunt any further emotional growth, making it harder for students to ever become autonomous, successful adults.

Making an eighteen-year-old incurring $60,000 of annual student debt sleep three yards away from a roommate is one thing. Treating students as though they are fragile and unresilient children who need bubble wrap, puppy videos and therapy horses to make it through the academic year effectively becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, ensuring that they enter the world utterly unprepared to function in a society and labour market which does not put their feelings and emotional health on a pedestal.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt joked about this when he compared two fictional universities – Strengthen University and Coddle University – in a lecture / college recruitment pitch given to high school seniors. But more and more, Haidt’s send-up of Coddle University is coming to pass and being made real on campuses across America, and in Britain too:

We are based on a very simple psychology which is that people are fragile. People are so easily hurt. Anything that upsets you could trigger trauma, repressed trauma, unrepressed trauma, trauma that you somehow put up there in the closet and forgot to take – there’s trauma all over your mind and your memory. And we don’t want to trigger your trauma. That could damage you.

And this is especially true for members of the six protected classes [women, African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, differently abled, and Native Americans]. If you are a member of one of the six marginalised and oppressed groups you are especially vulnerable. You’ve been traumatised and oppressed your whole lives. Microaggression theory teaches us that when people repeatedly cut these little nicks, these little insults, these little exclusions, they don’t develop calluses, they bleed to death. And so we will not let you be cut while you are at Coddle. We will protect you. Now don’t try to do it yourself, that’s very dangerous. WE will protect YOU from aggression.

At Coddle University we offer access to therapists 24/7. Just dial 811 from any phone, or we have this new feature – just raise three fingers, go like this [he gestures] and we have sensors all around campus, go like this and a therapist will be airlifted right into you.

University is supposed to be stressful. Balancing the academic workload and social events and newfound freedom away from the family home is supposed to develop key skills required to navigate the world as an independent adult later in life. Shipping in a bunch of therapy horses onto campus is not “offer[ing] students opportunities to learn self-care”, as one University of Missouri jobsworth claims, because it simulates an environment which will not exist outside of the university campus.

There are no therapy horses laid on for employees in the average workplace. Teaching students to survive daily stress by reaching for Play Doh and therapy animals is like training an astronaut to undertake spacewalks while failing to simulate the essential conditions of weightlessness and limited oxygen supply, and every bit as likely to lead to disaster.

But still the universities teach this nonsense and lay on these extravagant, infantilising services, unaware or unconcerned that they are setting their students up for failure the moment they set foot off campus.

 

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Donald Trump Victory Reaction: Laurie Penny Doesn’t Get It

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Donald Trump supporters got their man elected to the White House in part by following the Social Justice Warrior playbook. Leftists should beware, because anybody can play their tawdry game of division and victimhood

Left wing identity politics cultists are reacting to Donald Trump’s victory by doing what they always do – basking in tremulous victimhood – without realising that insisting on dividing the country into separate distinct victim groups is what provoked and inspired the white working class minority group to come together to elect Trump in the first place.

Just take a look at Laurie Penny, who can currently be found leading British SJWs to their safe space in the aftermath of Trump’s victory:

No Laurie, you wrote this – as always – for the primary purpose of self-aggrandisement and promotion. But that’s fine. Your audience is primarily a group of infantilised permanent victims who like to be told that an external authority figure is going to care for them, so you will be doing yourself no harm with the old readership.

Penny writes:

The people have spoken. That does not mean all the other people have to shut up.

No, it doesn’t. But when the whiny, petulant tone of the “other people” (together with their hair trigger sensitivity to often non-existent oppression) is what partially feeds phenomena like the election of Donald Trump then it might not be such a terrible idea to pipe down for a few days and engage in some genuine introspection. And I do mean real introspection, not just obsessing about their “pain” and exalting in their “vulnerability”.

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Today, all over America, black, brown and Muslim children are too frightened to go to school.

And whose fault is that? Who took Donald Trump’s careless and often offensive statements and whipped them up in the public imagination to make it seem as though he were the devil himself, that black or brown kids are somehow under imminent threat, not only when he is president but even now when he is president-elect? Who made people so frightened?

Trump didn’t do that. His supporters didn’t do that. Hysterical leftist SJWs did that, because they thought that it would motivate their base. If they have now traumatised themselves (and their children) through swallowing their own propaganda then really they have only themselves to blame.

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When they told liberals and journalists and policymakers and anyone with the cheek to suggest that maybe immigrants weren’t the problem that we weren’t listening to “ordinary people”, they meant we weren’t listening to white people.

Oh come on, Laurie. This is that insidious little trick that leftists always play, and which enrages and pushes away centrist and right-wing voters even more. Nobody but genuine racists (of which there are thankfully few) object to immigrants. But many people object to uncontrolled immigration. In their quest to undermine national borders and the nation state, the Left have for a long time conflated these two things, the better to shame and silence people who dare to stand up for enforcing immigration law. And until recently it has worked.

But as with all cheap, disingenuous little con tricks, eventually the luck runs out. And so it has in Britain with the Brexit vote, and seemingly in America, with the Trump vote. People with legitimate concerns about immigration (not immigrants) are not racist, and are sick to the back teeth of being told by privileged, coddled leftist agitators that they are ignorant, hate-filled xenophobes.

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The time for complacency is long gone. So too is the time for cowing to the hurt feelings of those who were willing to fire at the elite directly through the stomachs of their neighbours. Every effort has been made to sympathise with their distress at perceived loss of privilege that is felt, wrongly, as prejudice.

Every effort? Really? Laurie Penny has clearly blinded herself to the number of rants about the “dumb hicks” and “white trash” who supported and voted for Trump, now and before the election. And all of those SJW campus protests she supports are hardly brimming over with sympathy for the white working classes, that’s for sure.

Today, hundreds of millions of people in America and around the world have woken up afraid — for themselves, for their children, for the future of a planet where an authoritarian psychopath has his hands on the nuclear codes and the fate of a burning world waiting on his pleasure. Those people are being told that they are sore losers. That they should shut up and accept it. That their fear is somehow funny. Laughing at the pain of the most vulnerable. Squealing with glee when the bully lands a blow. That’s the world millions of notionally decent human beings voted for, and don’t tell me for a second they didn’t know what they were buying.

You know what, I’m going to come out and say it. When grown adults have been infantilised to the extent that they host “cry ins” at their university campuses or post weepy video tantrums online, then yes, it is a little bit funny.

Nobody (that I am aware of) is laughing at the legitimate fears of, say, American Muslims who are rightly alarmed at the intemperate language and unconstitutional proposals raised by candidate Donald Trump. But when privileged university students suddenly start acting as though they are being hunted down by death squads simply because an election goes against them then they do open themselves to some degree of ridicule.

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Fighting for tolerance, justice and dignity for women, queer people and people of colour is not frivolous and or vain. Who decided that it was?

Who decided that only those who place fear over faith in their fellow human beings are real, legitimate citizens whose voices matter? That’s not a rhetorical question. I want to know. Give me names.

Nobody. Nobody decided that. Fighting for egalitarianism is a noble thing to do. Wallowing in victimhood culture, continually emphasising one’s vulnerability over one’s strength and seeking to police the language and public discourse to actively shame anybody who questions the latest dogma, on the other hand, is every bit as authoritarian (or “fascistic”, to use Penny’s hyperbolic language) as anything that Donald Trump has ever said.

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I am done listening to my liberal friends contort themselves to take into account the notional opinions of the “white working class”. What does that even mean? How did we come to the craven consensus that the “white working class” is a homogenous mass of blustering bigots who must be pandered to as one might pander to a toddler having a tantrum at the edge of a cliff? A great many white people who are far from wealthy take issue with that particular patronising strain of self-scourgery on the left. A great many non-wealthy white people manage not to blame all their problems on feminazis, immigrants and their black and brown neighbours. Those people are real Americans, too.

So, no more of this nonsense. I’m done. I am done pretending that the good intentions of white patriarchy are more important than the consequences enacted on the bodies of others. Good intentions aren’t the issue here.

But of course Laurie Penny is never done. She would have no career if she were to actually stop giving her hysterical, preening, finger-wagging lectures to the rest of us, flaunting her conspicuous compassion before the world to earn social currency with with her fellow identity politics cultists.

And that’s the real rub here. The Left have practised and weaponised identity politics as a vote-winning tool (as well as a tool of censorship) for years. At some point it was inevitable that the white working class (and if Laurie Penny feels entitled to speak on behalf of “people of colour” as an homogeneous bloc then she can have no complaints about discussing the “white working class”) would start to adopt the same techniques, as a matter of political survival, in order to try to ensure the continued representation of their interests.

Laurie Penny and her fellow SJWs literally wrote the blueprint which Trump supporters followed to get their man into the White House. And still she does not see it. Still she rages at the white working class, howls at their “ignorance” and “bigotry”, seeks to invalidate them altogether (to use a beloved SJW term) and does everything in her power to make them feel under siege and justified in their decision to vote for Trump. Truly, the intellect is not very strong with this one.

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I know I do, although I haven’t yet. But be ready to reach out to them tomorrow, because the fight against despair continues, and alliances matter, and so does basic self-care. We need to be serious. I need to be serious, and I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry that the time for witty barbs about the President Elect, his hands, his hair and the howling ideological void of opportunistic narcissism behind his megalomaniac clown-mask is over, because inappropriate as those witty barbs are right now, they will probably be actively illegal before long.

I’m sorry, which group of people is it that tries to suppress free speech and make the giving of offence a disciplinary matter at universities and a “hate crime” in the real world? Because it’s not the majority of Trumpists, that’s for sure.

And as for “basic self care”? Yes, please do keep on showering. I know that SJWs think that Hitler has just been elected US president, but we should all strive not to let ourselves go completely.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 45 – Puppy Therapy Session Arranged For Stressed Cambridge University Students

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Et tu, Cantabrigia?

It is sad to see Cambridge University, my first alma mater, playing host to one of these infantilising “student puppy therapy” sessions. But after the Rhodes Must Fall nonsense at Oxford, it was only a matter of time before Cambridge started displaying more symptoms of the Adult Infantilisation Virus rapidly tearing through academia.

The advertisement reads:

Whether you have a deadline looming, are worried about your workload or are stressing over the number of societies’ you signed up to at the Freshers’ Fair, what better way to take a break than with a puppy therapy session, organised with the kind help of volunteers at Guide Dogs UK. The Union welcomes the volunteers and their canine counterparts for a relaxed afternoon of socialising which forms part of the puppies’ Guide Dog training. Donations for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association welcomed.

Now, to be fair: this is a slightly more laudable event than some other puppy therapy sessions we have seen on other university campuses. In many cases, the puppy therapy has been presented entirely as a student service (like a dining plan or library facilities) but at least in this case there is a clear and worthy charitable connection. Any harm that attending students may do to their own future emotional resilience will at least be balanced by a well trained new generation of Guide Dogs for the visually impaired.

But this could have been sold to students just as effectively by calling it “puppy socialisation training”. This being Cambridge, they probably still would have had a line out the door had they named it “Canine-Human Familiarisation and Interaction Practice in a Social Setting.” But they didn’t, because puppy therapy is now all the rage on college campuses, and because the prevailing culture tells us that we are all only one unexpected bad grade or nasty personal remark away from a nervous breakdown, and so are in constant need of institutional hand-holding.

It is the same corrosive worldview which gave us “Inner Child Day” at Cardiff University earlier this year, and the introduction of “Therapets” sessions at Edinburgh University. Therapy animals have traditionally been used to help PTSD sufferers such as returning armed forces veterans, children with severe autism and hospice patients undergoing palliative care for terminal conditions. Are we really now including “two essays due on the same day” or “signed up to too many societies” in this list of severe mental stresses?

The danger of doing so is that we wrongly exceptionalise the normal stress of everyday life, putting relatively pedestrian problems on a pedestal and making it seem as though the sufferer is truly benighted and in need of external aid. This just about works so long as the student remains within the infantilising university setting and part of the noxious Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics. But when these links are severed and the real world beckons, students who have been encouraged for years to celebrate and exaggerate their own fragility are opening themselves to incurring real trauma when they have their first less-than-pleasant contact with an indifferent world.

Most employers – excepting some of the large or wealthy technology companies, who were some of the first to be infected by the virus raging through academia – will not provide a puppy room for harried employees under tight deadlines. And while HR departments are scrambling as they (rightly) respond more positively and proactively to mental health issues among their employees, they will never be able to be the overbearing, protecting, auxiliary parent in the same way that universities are now becoming.

If universities are to have a pastoral role beyond pure academia, surely they should see the nurturing of anti-fragility (the quality of absorbing negative impacts and becoming stronger as a result of them) among their students as far more valuable in the long term than pandering to students’ largely imagined sense of vulnerability.

Throughout their storied histories, Cambridge University has provided Britain with 14 prime ministers while Oxford has supplied 27, including Theresa May. These illustrious records will likely soon begin to wither if future Oxbridge graduates are conditioned to reach for the puppy videos every time there is a crisis.

The Cambridge Union – of which I am a disappointed life member – should strongly look at rebranding their puppy therapy event, now and for any future events. The time has come for the university and its associated institutions to take a brave stand and become part of the solution to the rise in victimhood culture, rather than a collaborator in feeding the problem.

 

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Safe Space Notice - 2

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Debating Political Diversity And The Importance Of ‘Brave Spaces’ At The University Of Miami

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Whether “brave spaces” are any less infantilising than “safe spaces” is a matter for debate, but the University of Miami community’s recognition of the importance of a more politically diverse faculty and campus is an encouraging sign

The editorial board of the University of Miami student newspaper, the Miami Hurricane, takes a surprisingly bold stance on the problem of progressive ideological dominance on campus, and – encouragingly for a student publication – calls for greater ideological diversity rather than the fearful conformism demanded by many students.

From the Hurricane’s editorial:

UM leans to the left, as do most universities. A report published earlier in the campaign by The Tab documented that 60 percent of faculty donations were made to Hillary Clinton’s campaign; the other 40 percent was split between the other Republican candidates and Bernie Sanders.

In the classroom, professors can be very vocal about their political opinions, whether that’s a subtle joke woven into a lecture or an actual discussion of their political beliefs.

When professors deride or mock certain political views in their teaching, that only alienates students and undermines the purpose of an educational forum. Part of the reason that conservative students feel so disenfranchised from the media and academia may be because for most of their lives, the intellectual “authorities” in their lives have been liberal and taught in left-leaning ways.

At this point, I actually felt a little uneasy. While it is certainly true that the progressivism and intolerance of conservative ideas shown by many university professors is often off-putting to conservative students and academic peers, the idea of people being disenfranchised or excluded because of the words of other peers and authority figures skates awfully close to the wheedling complaints of Social Justice Warriors that criticism and free speech must be suspended for their own mental health.

This blog has warned before that it is only a matter of time before conservatives, persecuted for their beliefs by fellow students and university administrators alike, begin to use the same language of fragility and vulnerability used by the SJWs – and I think we are now starting to see that prediction come true. None of that detracts from the point made by the Hurricane’s editorial board, which remains valid. But as always, a creeping culture of victimhood is something to watch out for, and guard against.

Fortunately, the editorial soon improves:

Courses like The Election are great because they expose students to professors and guests from both sides of the aisle, which can help break down the barriers of bias.  It is much easier to dismiss the opinions of a peer, a social media troll, or a crazy uncle than it is to automatically dismiss the ideas of an authoritative figure who has a Ph.D. in the relevant discipline. Ideological diversity may also help students recognize the flaws in their own opinions and be more self-critical.

When conversations focus on sweeping platitudes rather than individual reasons, our personal networks suffer as well. Too many students have given up Facebook friends or real-life acquaintances over political differences. It’s easy to generalize a whole group of people just based on one or two beliefs that they voice, but these generalizations create many false assumptions, especially in this election when few people are completely behind their candidate.

Restrain from automatically assuming that another student is racist, sexist, elitist or corrupt due to a few of their demonstrated ideological beliefs. People have reasons for holding their beliefs, and if they’re willing to talk about it in a respectful way, then take the opportunity to respond with dialogue rather than a diatribe. Identity politics has made political opinions just as personal as ethnicity and religion, making it hard to separate feelings from ideas.

This is good. Most of us can at times be too quick to pigeonhole and condemn people based on a few assumptions and extrapolations about their political leanings, and the board’s point that many people are not strongly behind their candidate this time (either disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters reluctantly supporting Hillary Clinton or Republicans holding their nose while supporting Donald Trump) should warn us of the sweeping range of variety and nuance which is lost when we simply label people as Trump or Clinton supporters.

The editorial board is also quite right to observe that the rise of identity politics has made it much harder to separate feelings from ideas. A self-aggrandising worldview which places the individual at the centre of everything is an atrocious way to discuss ideas, as it makes rejection of an idea seem like a personal attack. That’s why weepy young students now talk about their identities being “invalidated” when people do not accept the new orthodoxies around sexuality and gender, as though they might simply vanish in a puff of smoke unless everyone on campus is forced to approve of everyone else’s life choices.

And then comes an unusual suggestion:

A healthier alternative for a “safe space” is a “brave space.” A “brave space” encourages people to freely explore different questions and issues – still trying to respect other people, but not restricted by the fear that certain ideas make others feel uncomfortable.

The goal of a diverse college campus is not to create comfortable spaces, but to be caught a little off guard by all of the different types of people and ideas that might not be found in East Portland or a small town in South Dakota. That’s okay. If we embrace that vision, we can create a more tolerant, educated and cooperative community.

Well, a brave space is certainly an improvement on a space where the First Amendment is suspended in order to prevent glass-jawed snowflakes from colliding with reality. The rejection of the notion that uncomfortable ideas should be avoided is, in these depressing times for free speech and academic freedom, a positive step forward.

But surely it would be better still to simply cease talking about “spaces” at all? The term is now ubiquitous – even news articles totally unrelated to the Social Justice agenda talk about the need for public bathrooms to have a “safe space” for parents to change their baby’s diapers. As opposed to what, an unsafe space like a gun range or a demolition site?

Why, when the term “a convenient place” would have sufficed a decade ago, must we now describe everything as a “safe space“? Welcome to my home; here’s a safe space for you to hang your coat, and over there is a safe space for you to sit and watch television. It’s puerile and infantilising.

Is the whole world really so riddled with danger that we need to mark out those places which are actually safe for human foot to tread? The journey from my dorm room to my Ivy League college classroom is fraught with many dangers, but at least the gender neutral restroom offers me a safe place to pee, the shuttle bus provides a safe space for me to ride across campus, the students’ union is a safe place for me to relax between classes and the lecture hall itself is a place where no idea that I deem central to my identity can ever be challenged.

Flippant, yes, but also an accurate transcription of how the contemporary student mind seems to work. And of course it is utterly offensive – there are people in benighted parts of the world where daily physical safety cannot be taken for granted and is routinely violated, yet here are some of the most privileged youths of any generation in history trembling in fear that they may encounter disapproval or mean comments while walking between buildings at their $40,000-a-year degree factory.

(As Malcolm Gladwell explains, this is a result of a shift in the way which we describe actions or behaviours which are undesirable. Whereas once we would have condemned sexism, racism or homophobia as simply being wrong, today we talk spuriously of the “harm” that these words and encounters visit upon us. And when every single human interaction is viewed as having the ability to physically or emotionally harm us, calls for network of safe spaces to act as stepping stones through the world inevitably follow).

Brave spaces are marginally better, perhaps, but it is depressing indeed that we now have to pat ourselves on the back and give ourselves a lollipop for being “brave” and subjecting ourselves to the mere possibility of hearing contradictory viewpoints or unpleasant ideas.

This used to simply be called “being an adult”. Is it really too much to ask that we return to that bygone age of resilience and maturity?

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: Pixabay

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