Thursday, September 04, 2014

Emotional safety and Privilege

Sometime over the past three decades, an increasing number of people began to demand emotional comfort as a right equivalent of physical safety. Expressions such as "I'm uncomfortable" went from an explanation to an imperative. Alerts appeared on writing dealing with any subject liable to upset people.

Some of this was simply respect for a diversity of belief; some of it, decency to people with harrowing pasts. But it doesn't do to allow the claims for emotional comfort to pass without asking three critical questions: who has made the claim to have their comfort protected; what measures does this require? Above all: who will these measures affect, and at what cost to them?

After all, the demand for emotional comfort current on the Left has a lot, indeed too much, in common with the conservative preoccupation with "quality of life". Quality of life, in these cases, always seems to mean a sense of comfort and safety for the privileged at the expense of people the privileged would prefer not to deal with. That has led, over time, to a great many oppressive actions by police, both official and unofficial.  The video in this post was taken by Chris Lollie as police arrested him after security officials complained he refused to cooperate with their demand he vacate a chair in a public area in Minneapolis. Whatever the merits of this specific situation, the police focus of "quality of life" clearly falls disproportionately on people of colour. While treating people with traumas in their past with sensitivity and respect doesn't mean pushing people like Chris Lollie from pillar to post, making sure we do not use phrases like "quality of life" or "emotional safety" as excuses for oppressive behaviour will take a certain amount of careful, and critical thinking.

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