I’m more likely to respect the opinion, view, emotion, analysis, conclusion of people who don’t attempt to add weight to their views with “as a XXXX”. Their self-professed emotional investment in, closeness to, and expertise on, the issue is purported to make their insight somehow profound. I just see them as conflicted. See also Xtian mom who “as a mother” took offence at some rap lyrics. Another particularly ludicrous example was when a bus passenger, after a bus they were riding in was involved in a crash, was asked to offer advice on road safety.
People who are well-informed and passionate about important issues that DO NOT impact them directly are the most likely to influence my thinking. Sadly, many seem to think these people are unqualified to offer insight. Quite the opposite in many cases.
She didn’t want her kids listening to those lyrics. I don’t fault her for that, because that’s a parent’s job. It was her over the top ignorant and sheltered response to the lyrics that got us all talking.
OK, maybe, and I’m not criticising her caring for her children. I’m questioning her need to, and the benefit of her decision to, broadcast it. I’d still be more inclined to listen to someone who asserted that those lyrics were unsuitable for children in general, without the potential conflict that results from their personal situation and beliefs. We call out people for being conflicted in many areas, and correctly view their self-interested proclamations with scepticism. I don’t see why we should change this for issues such as this.
Another example. There is a scene in Naomi Klein’s movie where they interview a couple of artisanal goat farmers whose property is affected by a neighbouring Powder River Basin coal mine. Mining and burning coal from the Powder River Basin certainly has massive environmental issues that affect the whole planet. I’m not sure giving disproportionate weight to the goat-farming neighbours advances the debate significantly.
See also shopkeepers who oppose bike lanes past their business because they will lose customers (“where will they park?”). 1) The customers will still shop. Other shopkeepers will presumably benefit, resulting in no net loss of people buying shit. 2) The bike lanes often don’t have that effect anyway. 3) There are larger issues at stake concerning the liveability of our cities. Shopkeepers on the bike route are perhaps the people least likely to usefully inform the decision.
You’re right. That’s certainly an issue. If we’re not directly affected, we’re less likely to undertake the research to be able to usefully advance the debate. But it’s not impossible for us to do so. But I’m especially critical of those who would deny the relevance of input simply because the person offering it is not perceived as affected. And that happens a LOT. It is the other side of the “as a mother” fallacy.
But it is. At least functionally in many cases. In the case of academia, think about what expertise is. It’s paying a significant opportunity cost to often specialize in a single field. People who become experts in certain fields forgo other experiences and understandings. That’s just a function of good old-fashioned linear time and how humans experience it as a finite resource. So if a bunch of physicists are, say, experiencing funding issues they’ll be the first and the most knowledgeable people to raise the alarm. The reality is that basically no one outside that community exists who cares enough to do the homework. Even administrators and “non-physicists” within the group of people who understand funding issues for physics, are the same people who once were physicists, and they will draw upon the knowledge of what physicists need to make informed opinions. The world is incredibly incestuous and interconnected, there’s no such thing as a detached unbiased person.
You can extend this to a lot of other concerns. There are traffic safety experts who are capable of having a lot of facts at their disposal, but might still see cycling as “recreational” because they’ve never been in a position to commute by bicycle. I can easily see where a cyclist’s perspective isn’t just something he should ignore in the interests of some external, and ultimately nebulous, standard of “balance” or “impartiality.” Oftentimes what people are saying when they say, “as an X” is that they’ve had firsthand experience with the subject, and to please take into account that they might not be talking out of their ass.
You, as a free-thinking reasonably intelligent person, can calibrate that according to common sense. “As a mother” means little to me in certain contexts, because lots of people are mothers, and I can easily see lots of other mothers disagreeing in the same context. “As a mother, I’m concerned about rainbows appearing in sprays of sunlit water” means precisely that. They have children and are worried. Does it mean that I need to be worried? Of course not. “As a mother, I’m telling you it’s crazy how much diapers cost.” That’s a statement where I can place and understand the perspective. It carries weight. That’s because of instead of applying a simplistic rule that says anytime someone says, “As an X” I ignore them, I think about what that means on a case by case basis.
I don’t ignore those that preface their statements with “as an X”, but I do carefully consider whether or not their view is potentially coloured by self-interest. The physicists who are aware of their own funding difficulty are just one input to science funding debates and decision making process. It might be reasonably expected that they would favour an outcome where their research was funded at the expense of someone else’s, in-part because it was “their research” and important to them. The mother who asserts that diapers are overpriced is not the sole source of truth/information in that assertion. She may be just an input to the larger debate of how much, we as a society, intervene in the economics of child-rearing. She’s way more affected than I am. Should that add or subtract weight from her view?
I’m a commuting cyclist and add my voice to the debate on road safety and cycling facilities through our local advocacy group. I’m conflicted. No question. I hate it, but try to understand, when others see our concerns (that motorists keep running us down) as trivial and as mostly our own fault; that it’s a result of our “lifestyle choices”.
Sidebar. There was a story round these parts where one group of people were upset that another group of people had shot all the moose, such that there were no more moose left for them to shoot. “As a moose non-hunter” my view that no-one should shoot the moose at all may well be met with “Why should we listen to you? You don’t even shoot moose”.