Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Agency

Millennials are the Don Quixote Generation

Harry Potter. The Avengers. Batman. Star Wars. Millennials grew up on tales of powerful heroes–transcendent individuals who overcome deep structural obstacles to change the world through sheer virtue and will. We were raised on a kind of modern chivalry. Follow your dreams with a noble heart, and you too can change the world. The two generations before us experienced unprecedented, rapid growth in their living standards. They came to believe the future would be unfathomably better than the present. In the second half of the 20th century, the older generations believed that anything was possible. They prepared us for that world. But it never came.

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Why It’s Wrong to Vilify Trump and the Folks Who Work for Him

The right believes that people are personally responsible for where they end up in life. If you end up in a bad job or with no job at all, it’s because you did something wrong. If you have immoral beliefs, it’s because you choose to have them. It’s never because of the system or the structure–to the right, that’s just making excuses. The thing that’s cool about the left is that the left understands that we don’t have the freedom to choose to be successful people. There are only so many good jobs. Some people are bound to end up without one. We pick up our beliefs from our education system, from the people around us and from the conditions we find ourselves in. People don’t just choose to have crummy beliefs or to end up poor or homeless. We collectively create people in an imperfect way, and those imperfections produce beliefs and behaviours that are symptoms of our failures. This is why we show compassion to people whose lives have turned out poorly–because we as a society are collectively responsible for their condition and owe them our help. The right doesn’t think it owes marginalised people compassion because the right thinks the marginalised are to blame for their condition. This is a core difference between the left and the right. For the left, it takes a village to raise a child, and every person reflects on the character of the society from which they come. But over the last few decades, the left has increasingly gotten away from this. Today, many on the left only afford this compassion and understanding selectively, to people in designated marginalised groups. They forget that the systems and structures which produce marginalisation also afflict those who do the marginalising. And so increasingly they tell us that the specific individuals who work for the Trump administration–whether in ICE or in any other role–deserve retribution. In recent days, this has ranged from asking Trump employees to leave restaurants to doxxing ICE agents. But we also see it within the left, in its ever-increasing penchant for hurling accusations of individual moral failing at those within the church who sin–and to many left-wing eyes, we are all sinners.

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Jordan Peterson is a Garden Variety Christian Existentialist

A few people have asked me lately–what do I think of Jordan Peterson? Peterson is a Canadian psychologist who has written a book called 12 Rules for Life. He’s become very popular on YouTube and generated something of a following. I can see why–the particular kind of philosophy he’s advocating is unfamiliar to many people and feels transgressive in a modern context. But it’s an old kind of philosophy which dates back to the 19th century and takes its inspiration from Soren Kierkegaard. It’s called “Christian Existentialism”. Here’s how it works.

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Barack Obama’s Role in Giving Us the Trump Presidency

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is remembered as a great philosopher and successful military commander, but he is also remembered for picking his feckless son Commodus as his successor, an emperor who infamously cared more about making showy performances as a gladiator than he did governing the empire. Barack Obama is still a popular president–his favorability rating is +10 and his job approval rating is +8. In recent months many pieces have been written lamenting his imminent departure, and many more will likely be written before January. But no matter how likeable Obama is or how well Obama governed while in office, the fact that he could not ensure the election of a competent successor counts against his legacy. How did Barack Obama end up giving us a Commodus? What, if anything, could Obama have done to avoid this?

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A Scientist’s Shirt: How Feminism Has Turned On Itself

Last week, Matt Taylor, a British scientist associated with the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission (which landed a probe on a comet), wore a shirt with scantily clad women on it:

Many online commentators took offense to the shirt, calling it sexist. Taylor eventually issued a tearful apology. This piece is not about whether or not the shirt is sexist. A man was reduced to tears because he wore a shirt that some people didn’t like. Should feminism be in the business of making men cry because of the shirts they wear?

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