Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sensitivity Training

Penn and Teller's show on Showtime this past week was on Sensitivity Training. I enjoyed the show. It is sometimes uneven in the topics (perhaps they are running out of the really fun ones), but this was one of the better ones. The basic gist of this show was about how all the "sensitivity training" workshops various companies do in response to (or to avoid) lawsuits are total bullshit that don't really accomplish anything and are a waste of money just for companies to CYA.

While it is nice to see that pointed out, what really inspired me to post about it was how they ended the show. They had a foul-mouthed comic saying all sorts of insults to both Penn and Teller. They explained this was their own version of training - insensitivity training. They said that there are two ways to deal with people who say stupid (and hurtful) remarks. One is you can try to control the behavior of six billion people and try to prevent them (most likely in vain) from saying anything stupid to you. The other option is simply to form your own personal "armor" (the proverbial "thick skin") and so no matter what anyone says to you, you are protected. Looked at it that way, it is rather obvious what is the easier and simpler (and actually doable) solution. People will be assholes. Some do so to be mean, others do so out of ignorance or lazyiness. Some even by accident. Get over it. You can't control what others will say, nor should you try. Part of living in a free society is having to deal with people being mean to you. Better that you grow a thick skin than you try to harness the power of the state to stop it - because that power will inevitably be used in rather horrid ways.

And you can't brainwash people into not being assholes. Hell, I think all this "awareness" can have the opposite effect. Sort of like how if you are told not to think about something, that's a sure way to end up thinking about it. If you want people who ignore race and look at the person, you need to stop freakin' talking about race all the time. Sorry, but you just do. And in that regard, I'm going to talk about something else next...


Miss Breeziness said...

I've seen that episode and it was really good, apart from Penn's constant swearing - ha ha.

They make a very good point though - if all you are seeing is the fact that someone's black/disabled/short/(name personal trait here), you don't see them as much of a unique human being anymore. Racists and such do that, but ironically so do these anti-racists, anti-sexists, etc.

DBB said...

Yes, that is the irony - all this emphasis on race/what-have-you by those who are supposedly seeking colorblindness/what-ever cause the exact opposite to happen. But then if we were all truly gender and color blind it would be a lot harder to start throwing around how "privileged" someone is for being of a particular gender or race.

Miss Breeziness said...

I've known liberals who genuinely want all people to be treated with respect and as if their opinions mean something, but at the same time are totally obsessed with race/gender/what have you issues. I think they don't realize the opposite effect this obsession is having on their goals.
Said liberal friends also beat up themselves for being privileged white upper-middle-class people and end up feeling like crap for being born. It's sad.

DBB said...

Yes, that kind of self-flagellation reminds me of monks whipping their own backs for being worthless sinners. It makes me wonder if there is some connection between certain religious folks who beat themselves bloody for being "sinners" and "liberals" who do the same thing, excpet for secular reasons.

Miss Breeziness said...

There probably is some connection between the two. Allan Levite has written a good book called "Guilt, Blame and Politics" about the kind of people who do that politically.

I've written some thoughts about the book here.

And yes, said liberal friends fit exactly into the social class Levite describes as being most vulnerable to this kind of guilt.