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20.9.06

A Few Notes On Hugo's Dinner Parties

Hugo Schwyzer's recent post about WASP dinner party seating arrangements has apparently touched a nerve with a lot of people. Commenter Malachi does a great job of framing Schwyzer's approach as extrovert privilege. I'd add that the responses of defenders of Schwyzer's approach -- particularly Schwyzer himself and Phil Hoover-Chicago -- bring up a number of the classic privilege-defender lines: "If you don't like it, go somewhere else." "Geez, what are you people so worked up about? It's no big deal!" "I know some people who are members of the disadvantaged group but who accept this practice." "You're hurting us by your refusal to conform to our norms."

Hoover-Chicago also comes out with Geek Social Fallacy #4 -- the assumption that if two people share a mutual friend, they too will be able to be friends. It's telling that GSF4 is a geek social fallacy, since geeks tend to be introverted. So for Hoover-Chicago, it's probably true that he would get on well with any friend-of-a-friend he encountered. But this blinds him to the fact that this is not so for everyone.

It's also unclear what the moral basis for the much-cited obligation to socialize is. Who, exactly, is being hurt by my failure to talk to lots of strangers? I can understand the problem if the party becomes so clicquey that someone who wants to socialize with a stranger is unable to break in, but the obligation to socialize goes farther than that. The most I can discern in terms of justification is Schwyzer's commitment to Calvin's Dadism -- if something is hard, then it's good for you.

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