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Discrimination

It’s things like this that make me question my crush on Megyn Kelly.  She wants to know “how far this can go.”  And everyone involved is shocked that there is no law (except in Michigan) against “weight discrimination.”  This is how the rule of law dies.  It’s a slow painful death caused by people getting outraged at another person’s judgement and not stopping to think about what a reasonable response to someone else’s perceived bad judgement is but instead demanding that the government outlaw it. 

Now the predictable thing for me to do here is to talk about how in a rule of law society, the owner of an establishment has to be able to decide who they do business with and what they charge and that while this sort of policy might be a bad business decision, it should be well within their rights, and, perhaps more importantly, that we have to learn to tolerate other people doing things we don’t like if we’re going to live together in a free society.  But I’m not going to do that.  I’m going to take a step back and talk about discrimination.

My whole life, discrimination has been a bad word.  I can remember it being a vocabulary word in an elementary school text-book about race relations.  However, I think it would be interesting to take a moment and consider the meaning of this word on a deeper level.  Here are the definitions of discrimination from dictionary.com in order from last to first (excluding number 1 which is “an act or instance of discriminating.”)

4. Archaic. something that serves to differentiate.

3. the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment: She chose the colors with great discrimination.

2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

Notice the transition here.  Discrimination has gone from meaning an act of discerning the value of things to meaning the act of making arbitrary judgements which are by definition not based on merit.  How do they do that?  It’s simple, you just have to tie the word to something people have a visceral and negative gut reaction to like racism.  If you can use the word enough in that context, the meaning eventually changes.  You can even make something mean exactly the opposite of what it originally meant.  And if anyone fights it, they will look like a racist.  Now, at this point I’d like to point out that I’m not trying to suggest that there were a bunch of progressive elites who got together and organized a grand conspiracy to change the meaning of the word discriminate.  All I’m saying is that it happened.  So what is the effect of this?

Let’s return to the issue of the fat lady and the manicure.  The supposed outrage here is that the owner “humiliated” the woman, made her cry, and “intentionally caused emotional distress.”  What the owner actually did was notice 2 facts. 

Fact 1: Fat people cause more wear and tear on chairs.

Fact 2: This woman is fat.

The owner didn’t make the woman fat, the owner just noticed it.  It’s a fact.  The woman’s humiliation is the result of two natural facts.

Fact 1:  The woman is fat.

Fact 2: Other people notice that she is fat.

If either one of these were not true, she wouldn’t be humiliated.  Naturally if she has a choice between changing the fact that she has control over and the fact that everyone else in the world has control over she prefers the latter.  What she wants is for everyone to pretend that they don’t notice she is fat.  She is demanding that the whole world forfeit its ability to judge reality.  And the vast masses of otherwise reasonable people (Megyn Kelly et al) are encouraging it because we don’t think about what words mean.  The owner is in fact “discriminating” against her.  She is exercising the “power of making distinctions.”  Regardless of whether you think it’s mean or bad business or unfair in this instance, people making judgements is a good thing.  By obscuring the definition of the word, we have compromised our ability to tell the difference between real judgement and arbitrary whims.  It would be good for us to rediscover this ability.

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