Groups vs The Individual

I was recently on a gay pornographic website. In addition to watching the videos, I like to read the comments. 

On one of the videos, a commenter had noted (in a highly upvoted comment) that the bottom in a video looked very young:

“I’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt that the bottom is an adult, but based on his very youthful appearance, it’s obvious what the intent was. Gross! We should not be glorifying this crap. These types of videos are precisely why right-wing trolls accuse us of being grōōmers.”

This made me stop and think. 

This commenter was taking responsibility for the gay community (“accuse us of being groomers”), even though he is just one individual and should, theoretically, not be responsible for the actions and preferences of other gays.

I refer to rejection of responsibility as the ideological approach; that individuals are not responsible for the communities they belong to, ever. 

Yet the commenter did not take the ideological approach. They took the pragmatic approach. 

The commenter sees how the actions and preferences of others in his community impact how all gays are viewed, and he commented accordingly. 

Of course, generalizing that all gays are groomers based on the actions of a few is bigotry. But many people are bigoted, hence the the commenter’s embrace of a pragmatic approach.

Let us consider another situation. There are a lot of homeless people in New York City. And there are a lot of Jews here. I have never seen a homeless person with a yarmulke, however. Have you? If I did see a homeless Jew, I would insist that they follow me to the nearest synagogue, where I would ask the rabbi to find permanent care for the homeless Jew. Or, I would bring the rabbi to the homeless person. 

In the same way that the commenter on the gay porn website is looking out for the image of the gay community, Jews are often also concerned with the image of the Jewish community. 

Jews, like the gay porn commenter, usually take the pragmatic route.

In my experience, whether individuals take an ideological or pragmatic approach to community responsibility depends on the community and the issue at hand. 

It seems the larger and more powerful the group, the less likely an individual is to take the pragmatic approach to community optics. 

Take, for instance, global jihad. Islam is the largest religion on earth. Peaceful Muslims say jihadists aren’t real Muslims (no true Scotsman fallacy), or that they don’t represent Islam. 

Would the gay porn commenter agree with the notion that members of a community don’t represent that community?

When your community is large and internationally strong like Islam, you have the luxury of taking the ideological route. “I didn’t do it, not my fault, not my problem,”, the ideologists say. 

Community pragmatists tend to come from smaller communities. This is because smaller communities are inherently weaker and more prone to being attacked, both verbally and physically.

I have a feeling most BNR commenters reject the pragmatic approach. It must be nice to be part of communities that are so large, a person feels zero responsibility for the communities they belong to. 

The question for discussion is: 

What communities do you belong to? Do you take an ideological or pragmatic approach to responsibility in communities to which you belong?

Groups vs The Individual

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