Back in 1998 I tossed up the notion of Convenient Fictions, “bits of silliness we cling to without any evidence that they represent anything that actually exists.” You might expect that things like this in aggregate would ultimately result in cognitive dissonance, or worse, and often as not you’d be correct: if two such fictions happen to conflict with one another, it’s as though you opened a box of antimatter in a room full of matter, and the destruction is practically instantaneous.
And so we are told that our nation is multicultural, that we benefit from a multiplicity of ethnicities with their variety of subcultures, and that we should glory in our diversity yet every member of each of those ethnicities practicing said subcultures is exactly identical, perfectly interchangeable with one another, with no differences beyond the trivial. In mathematical terms, 1 equals 2, for certain specific values of 1.
So it was necessary to punish John Derbyshire for suggesting that this equation didn’t quite add up: forbidden arithmetic is forbidden for a reason, after all. Says Francis W. Porretto:
One cannot challenge the pieties of a society without provoking condemnation or ostracism. To question a piety, even along its margins, is to ask to be thrown out of the church. This is an absolute that applies to all peoples and times… If we are in thrall to a piety contrary to the actual facts of our society, we are in danger too. The question is only of degree.
Derb’s excommunication, you may be certain, was swift and merciless: if we say one doesn’t equal two, we’re questioning the very definition of equality, and how dare we do such a thing?
Not that I have any particular pity for Derb, who’s ticked me off before, but I was hoping this year for an improvement in the condition of the Emperor. We already knew about the transparency of his raiment, but now we see that he’s covered with boils.