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Lukewarm: the lukewarm position is about the same as an “NPC”, or about any person so brainwashed into the mass media consensus (which is, by default, progressive). It’s also the position taken by people who don’t know anything about a subject or have no experience of a subject. So you might be asked about Northern Ireland, when you’ve never been there, and you say, “I just don’t see why everyone can’t just get on, I mean—they’re all Christians, aren’t they?” or, with regard to America, you say, “I don’t see why blacks and whites can’t just get along—we’re all human, aren’t we?”.

The reason people say things likes that is that we tend to default to “agreeable” on any topic we don’t know about. We don’t want to be divisive just for the sake of it (and it doesn’t make sense to be), we want to present as agreeable people—so there’s a default to “think the best”, especially if you’re distant from a situation and especially if you’re agreeable anyway. So you come up with that interpretation—you say, “Christians differ, sure, but can’t they just all agree that they follow Jesus?”.

Any serious engagement with the situation soon reveals that these divisions aren’t just some wilful stubbornness but have some foundation in an actual disagreement that you didn’t know about. If you take it seriously, it’s not sufficient to say “oh, well, who cares about the Trinity, the main thing is that everyone follows Jesus”—the rejoinder being “the nature of the Trinity concerns how you follow Jesus.”

It’s only possible to make these observations if you don’t take the issue at stake seriously, and if you have no experience of it—from the outside who cares if Mormons *really are* Christians or not? And aren’t Orangemen and Catholics practically the same thing, both racially and in terms of sect? So what’s the problem?

So what this position, instantiated in men like Kevin Smith, belies is an unwillingness to engage with the topic in a serious way—it’s why these people come off as unbearably smug to people who have experience of the situation or have looked into the situation. “Never mind all that, let’s all just be friends—it’s what Jesus would have wanted!”.

These people, rather like Smith, are often jolly rotund people who like cannabis—“just chill out, everyone should be cool—just accept everyone”. These positions, over what we should be “cool” about, themselves contain unaddressed assumptions every bit as contentious as the divisions between an Orangeman and a Catholic.

The attitude characterises the mob, the democracy, because in the democracy it’s important to be agreeable and to be a solid lump that has reached a consensus. What matters is that you’re likeable—and, in a way, to be unlikeable is almost immoral. Of course, truthful statements are often unlikeable, the truth being bitter—and the proposition “everyone should just be cool and do their thing” contains the blithe assumption that when I “do my thing” it will never interdict and contradict “your thing”.

The position is exposed as ridiculous if applied to science. Nobody would say “the germ theory of disease and the miasma theory of disease are, in the end, just science—so let’s be cool and not say one is better than the other, or anything. After all, it’s all science.” Then again, is it not the case that people like to use “the science” as a club, whereby they say “science has reached a consensus, if you don’t like it—tough; that’s how the science works”? “The science” here just means the political consensus that has been formed around a topic, not the scientific method itself.

It depends on an ambiguity around what is meant by “science”—the word can stand for both a body of systematic established knowledge and the scientific method (which is a method, hence a process). It’s the difference between “a noun” and “a verb”, if you like. To talk about “the science” is an appeal to authority—the idea is that “the science” is established and unquestionable knowledge, so you cannot contradict it; and yet that’s just based on the ambiguity between “body of knowledge” and “method”, both of which subsist under the general term “science”. If we had different words for “knowledge established by science” and “scientific method” it would be harder to pull this trick.

Yet it is harder to get away with “agreeableness” where scientific propositions are concerned, because people are more willing to credit that a proposition demonstrated by the scientific method is “true”, whereas whether or not the Orange Order or the Catholics are “right” is taken to have no real answer and so is more amenable to “can’t we all just get along?” (an attitude that has been promoted for centuries and was first expressed in its current form by Hobbes—the idea that religious or political questions have no answer, yet inevitably raise tempers, and so should be taken to be “whatever you think is true in private is true, but in public just be agreeable”).

That’s practical, a Machiavellian point—but it neglects two possibilities: 1. there might be answers to political or religious questions, even if these are difficult to reach; 2. people will continue to ask these questions, as they continue to ask philosophical questions, and to tell them to “park” them cuts them off from an essential aspect to man’s life.

If you look into any issue sincerely and gain experience around it, you will emerge with fixed opinions about that issue. You can talk a lot about how to change a tyre in principle, but until you change a tyre you don’t really know—and you’re likely to emerge with some firm opinions about it (that might even be perceived as “dogmatic” and “intolerant” by people who have never done it—“just be cool, man—everyone changes tyres in a different way”). Yet until you’ve done it, you don’t know.


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