There are a lot of ways to enforce orthodoxy. A very popular one right now is to accuse heretics of “denying my/our lived experience,” at which point the heretic had damn well better apologize and swear to do better, or else prepare to be shunned.

But lived experience isn’t a conversation-ender. People can claim to have experienced anything, including absurdities, so why should it be treated as ungainsayable? People have claimed to be victims of  Satanic rituals, alien abductions, the Freemasons, reverse racism, hauntings, The Jews, misandry – you name it. They’re not always right, and they’re not always telling the truth. We’re not required to believe everyone’s stories about “lived experience,” so the accusation of failing to do so shouldn’t be a conversation-ender, much less grounds for shunning.

Furthermore, experience is one thing, and what we call it is another. There’s an enormous gap between experience and language, and it’s a necessary part of critical thinking to poke and prod the way we name things. People can claim their lived experience tells them they are and always have been women despite having male bodies, but that doesn’t mean they’re right, even though it’s their experience they’re talking about. We can be wrong even about ourselves – but who doesn’t know that? What’s that “even” even doing there, as if it’s surprising that we can be wrong about ourselves? We lie to ourselves, but much more we just plain get things wrong. The subjective isn’t infallible – to put it mildly.

The politics of trying to ignore this is not a healthy robust politics. It’s the opposite of that. It’s a politics of temper tantrums and lying, and that won’t work out.

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