Skillful Means

As I have written, I remember being trapped in my own ignorant, emotional hell in all its embarrassing details.  Given that, I am reminded often to view those who are themselves similarly gripped with compassion and empathy.  This must, of course, be done while extracting those trapped within these conditions; they cannot be permitted their stay, their vices must be confronted, but they must be made aware in the process that we do this for us all, and out of a loving compassion.  In Mahayana (in particular) Buddhism, the term “skillful means” denotes this method by which a loving heart sees to it that troubling passions are dispelled while corruption and vice is eradicated.

Over at the illustrious philosoraptor’s digs, an anonymous reader posted an expose of “Facilitated Communication”.  Facilitated communication is a widely discredited “practice” in which so-called “facilitators” “assist” the severely disabled in communicating, often through typing (but sometimes through telepathy!).  It is every bit as ludicrous as it sounds, and there are mountains of evidence that, yes, the so-called “facilitators” are simply making things up and alleging that the disabled parties are expressing them.  Yet, there is a significant number of people who endorse it wholeheartedly.  There are entire books purportedly authored by disabled individuals whose communication was “facilitated.”  There are scandals of abuse, tales of woe and exploitation, and all manner of horrible consequences one would expect of such a situation.

The anonymous reader points out:

It’s like a crystallized, concentrated version of the PC institutional dynamic: the methodological sloppiness, ambiguity and weasel words, sock puppetry, magic interpretive powers, equation of skepticism with aggression, and the tight, nepotistic chain of citation and authority. It’s all there, plus, inevitably, the exploitation of people for career and resources in the name of their protection.

Below, I cross-post an edited and expanded version of my comment posted in response:

Another commonality shared by both PC and FC is in their selection of targets; they prey on those who seem to want nothing more than escape from agony.  From young adults struggling with their emotions to parents reeling from their children’s afflictions, the offer of a clear way out of their problems is so powerfully enticing that they burrow into the proposed solution so deeply as to resist even the most straightforward and powerful expositions of said solution’s incoherence or inadequacy.  Any attempt at such an exposition is met with the hostility one might expect from someone whose safe house is under attack.

In fleeing from their distress, they’ve found groups of fellow refugees with whom they can share these sufficiently convoluted, opaque lies, and together they remember vividly their inability to find true escape prior to adopting the delusion.  Such an understanding of these phenomena provides for an explanation of the behavior we see in both the PC and FC crowds:  irrationally lashing out like wounded animals, crying out as though under physical attack in the face of disagreement with the delusion.

If they can just keep their minds shut down and refuse to turn their attention to the delusion, they can continue to believe they are on the path to salvation.  That’s why they perceive disagreement as violence; in revealing the unreality of the delusion, the deluded are catapulted back to their suffering, and they blame the messengers.

Like so.

Though I have written that we must confront these people before they gain power over us, and though I mean that seriously, I want to underscore the manner by which this confrontation must take place.  We should, it seems to me, avoid mocking or unduly chastising these poor souls.  I’m sure I have transgressed in that regard on this very blog, though I try to avoid it.  I have certainly transgressed in my looser comments elsewhere.  We would all do well to take the most blameless and reasonable approach to this intellectual disaster we are witnessing.

These people need help.  No one wants to live a life encumbered by hopeless irrationality.  We need to remind them that happiness is available through virtue; no delusions are necessary.  While I expect we could ruthlessly beat back the onslaught of Neo-PC and other related nonsense, and perhaps sometimes we are forced to err more on this side than we would otherwise prefer, we should always endeavor to embrace our adversaries in remembrance that, at their core, they are our allies, and it is the darkness of ignorance and vice that is our mutual nemesis.

Of course, when the goal is instilling in one’s opponents a healthy respect and pursuit for virtue, we walk a fine line between a coddling that risks infantilization and the love with which we rightfully approach and enliven our brethren.  It is a challenge which calls for excellent judgment and character, and though it is sure to be often difficult, we must guard against a lazy descent into behavior unbecoming of those who stand in the light of reason.

It’s a simple point, and it probably comes more naturally to those who are not as consistently exposed to corruption, but for those of us who wade perhaps too deeply into the Interwebs, let this be a friendly reminder from your brother.

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