Before the sisterhood of the perpetually offended start screaming, be aware that I am using “his” in the generic, means all of humanity sense. Just saying.
Because, of course, said sisterhood has lost the notion that everyone has the ability to decide his, her, or its preferences without reference to anyone else. For that matter, that which one person likes may be utterly disgusting to someone else regardless of whether the matter in question is the taste of brussels sprouts, which way to hang the toilet roll, or some political hot button.
Everyone gets to have an opinion.
What everyone doesn’t get is a unique set of facts supporting said opinion.
This does not make the facts racist, sexist, or anything-else-ist. It makes them facts. Things happen. They impact the world around them to a greater or lesser extent. This is, as much as anything can be, immutable. If you drop Great Auntie’s best china teacup on a sufficiently hard surface, it will break. Exactly how many pieces is till break into and whether you will step on them and cut your feet depends on a number of factors such as how far the cup fell, whether it got a boost from your frantic attempt to catch it (upsetting Great Auntie is never a good idea), and the angle it was at when it hit the ground. These are facts. Those who are sufficiently interested in math and physics could probably model the whole incident and give you a prediction of how big a mess you’ve got to clean up.
People also generate facts. These are a bit squishier for a number of reasons, among them the little issue that nobody really understands internal biochemistry, especially neurochemistry. Animal brains are still something of a black box, and human brains are rather more complicated than that.
It’s a fact that there’s a crapload of different chemicals in there, and that the entire thing works as a kind of bioelectrochemical engine that manages most of the mundane things like breathing and controlling the rather awkward set of delicately balanced levers and counter-levers that make up the human muscular-skeletal system. It’s also a fact that quantitatively tiny changes in the biochemical soup that makes the conducting medium for the nerves can, depending on the exact change, trigger a message, cause everything to be dampened, or set off a storm of reaction, or any of a multitude of different responses.
At this point nobody knows for sure if the whole thing is utterly deterministic – that is, what we perceive to be free will and our thoughts is completely decided by the underlying biochemical reactions inside our skull – or something else entirely. Personally, I lean towards something else, although I have no doubt that the chemistry has a huge impact. I see human nature and the many, many choices we make every day as part of the emergent properties that appear when enough of the right kind of small deterministic reactions happen the right way.
Heck, we used to see the same kind of effects happening every day – aerial views of traffic in a city bears a remarkable resemblance to the flow of blood cells, complete with blockages when things go wrong (although traffic jams are thankfully rather less debilitating than strokes or heart failure). It’s also rather similar to watching a colony of ants in time lapse: over time, the colony acts like a single large organism rather than the mass of much smaller critters performing their limited roles.
Emergent properties are like opinions. They happen. Based on different histories and different experiences people will interpret the same set of facts differently. One example is when I first came to the US. I saw the mostly-dead grass and trees in late fall, and I thought “very dry weather”. I was wrong: I’d never lived anywhere that was cold enough for grass to stop growing and go gray and dry-looking in winter, but I’d certainly seen grass that looked just like that in drought-stricken areas in Australia.
That’s a simple example, of course. The ones that cause all the fuss and screaming are the more complex examples – like it being a fact that people from low income districts are arrested and go through the justice system more often than people from medium or higher income districts. The reasons attributed to this vary from the system being geared against those without much in the way of financial resources (that’s true pretty much everywhere to a greater or lesser extent, but doesn’t explain all the financially strapped people who managed not to go full on criminal) through variants on the environment or poor quality home life being the cause (which again is an insult to those with equally crappy environments or home lives that don’t become criminals) all the way to the belief that everyone makes their own choices and these people chose… poorly (except that doesn’t fully deal with the issue either – not everyone has access to the knowledge or the training to make good decisions about their lives). Yeah, you guessed it. My personal opinion is that there’s an unholy combination of everything including personal choice and environment and history that leads to someone turning criminal. It’s probably a good thing I’m not a judge. Or a lawmaker.
I’d drive people nuts trying to keep the legal system simple and clear while trying to build in allowances for the relatively few people who are legitimately in no-win situations, and I know that tends not to work terribly well.
What does work, and demonstrably so, is honest and accountable government, preferably fairly light-weight, in a high-trust society. Every single one of the most stable countries right now has this. Every place that’s headed downhill is having trust issues with its government and/or the general society. And every shithole in the world is a place where trust only happens between people who know each other personally (and know each other very well at that).
The perpetually offended are playing with nukes when they deny others the ability to express their opinions and act to reduce the ability of people to trust in their society. One can only hope the fallout will be contained.
Oh, and have some of the irises in my garden.