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Author Topic: Personal space vs Public space - Where ought we draw the lines?  (Read 286 times)

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Offline TwoHundredTabsTopic starter

Alright, This is likely to be a highly controversial thread with a lot of emotional gut-reactions. So, here are some trigger warnings and rules:

Trigger Warnings:

Religious discrimination, Sexual assault/Power dynamics/Age of consent, Incest, Suicide


(1) - Check your physiological and psychological state. If any of it seems to be the way you normally feel/think when frustrated, angry, upset, hurt, or defensive, then step away from the thread for an hour.

(2) - No generalized statements or assumptions are allowed here. You can only describe your own experiences and thoughts - and must describe them as such. This tends to help people stay calm.

(3) - Define your terms as clearly as you can. Do not assume that people think of the same meanings as you do when you use a word. For example, "religion", "faith", "belief", "atheism", "public", "private", and "reasonable" are all terms that many people have different understandings of. I think that's part of why this issue is an area of major conflict.

(4) - Do your research. If there's something you aren't sure about, don't just throw out a guess. Google it. This helps to reduce the number of posts spent on fact-checking and side-argumentation, and thus helps to keep the discussion on track.

(5) - Carefully consider your logic when you are planning your post. Think about how what you're typing might be interpreted by someone else - someone who has had different experiences from your own. Writing in this topic isn't about expressing your desires, beliefs, or feelings - it's about contributing to the discussion. The more that you consider others' interpretations of your post, the better you can contribute to the discussion.

(6) - No side discussions about religion, atheism, racism, etc. are allowed. This thread is only about what should be considered private space vs public space, and why.

(7) - Give it some time before you start to write a post. I tend to edit my posts for several minutes after writing them, and others might do so, as well. Better to read a clearer post and respond to it than to respond quickly and have to backtrack.

So, what do I mean by "Private Space"? Though physical location is tied to it, the idea is more-or-less "an area in which an individual has control over whom they interact with in relation to specific beliefs, and how they interact with them". "Area" in this case might include things like "internet forums", "schools", and "privately-owned businesses". "Beliefs" in this case means things like "It is a sin to use condoms" and "Homosexuality is disgusting".

"Public Space" is "an area in which all members of the populace must be able to interact with each other, with the same rights and privileges afforded to all". Public parks are an example of "public space" under this definition - the rules are the same for everyone, and access is equally available to everyone.

Where things get controversial is when public space expands into private space, or people fight to have private space take domain over what is currently public space.

For example, in my personal experience (debates with members of opposing organizations), the debate over the display of religious symbols on - legally speaking - public property is an issue because some groups are essentially pushing for a view that regards that property as their private space. In other words, some people (usually Christians) view themselves as having the right to control what can and can't be displayed in that area, because they have always seen their personal beliefs reflected there -&- some people (usually Atheists) believe that they have the right to control that area as their private space, because they consider it exclusionary - and therefore discriminatory.

In the example above, neither of those antagonistic groups (not all Christians and Atheists, just the groups in question) recognize that the argument they are having is a clash over desire for public grounds to be private space. A core component of the conflict is the fact that many view public grounds as public space in a way that fits with their personal desires - either (A) that the land is open to use by any religious group that displays a symbol [and they often, contradictively, want only one display up at a time], or (B) that the land is open to use by no religious group that establishes a permanent display.

It seems to me that this case can and should be resolved by declaring the grounds a "public space" in clear terms - that any religious or non-religious display is allowable, whether permanent or temporary, as long as it abides by public health and obscenity regulations.

Now, See those bolded, italicized, and underlined words? Those are the kind of things I'm wanting to touch on in this discussion. What is considered "obscene" or "for the public good" varies strongly depending on the person speaking. While we can track certain things and make policy decisions based on them (like the effects of second-hand smoke), some subjects are simply too nebulous to easily gather data on - like the economic impact of small business owners being able to deny job applicants based on religious belief.

I tend to swing back and forth on these issues, depending on what kind of stories I hear about the experiences of those affected by them. I'm sympathetic to owners of businesses who have to hire people who they feel will be a source of conflict (and thus potential lawsuits, decreased efficiency, increased employee dissatisfaction, etc.), but I'm also sympathetic to people who need to find a job within their availability to do, and who have the skills needed to fill open positions at companies whose owners do not want to hire them.

I recognize that attitudes change over time - that interracial dating was once as powerfully disgusting to people as homosexuality is to some now - and that exposure to people different from oneself is a causative factor in acceptance. I also recognize that psychological distaste for a situation can lead to negative emotional and physiological impacts on a person.

Generally speaking, I can be labeled as a consequentialist utilitarian (I move around between utilitarianism, ethical egoism, negative utilitarianism, and prioritarianism), so I always tend toward wanting a mid-level option - like only allowing owners of businesses with less than a certain number of employees, certain market share, or certain dominance within a community to use "workplace culture mismatch" as an acceptable reason to deny a hire. I'm not sure that those kinds of ideas would actually be effective in the long-term - perhaps due to old sayings like "If you give a little, they'll take a lot". But I'm also not sure that forcing a broad policy changes (such as a full transformation of all aspects of business and public property into "public space") would be effective, either - due to the resentment and anger of some people, the boasting and trash-talking of others, and what might play out as a result.

I try to think about how policy decisions affect both unseen individuals, and the population at large. And that's hard for me to balance.

For another example, I'm not sure how erotic content should be handled. From everything I've read and experienced, teens have always experimented with sex, and people who write erotica and look at extreme porn have always been able to do so without becoming predators or abusers in real situations. So, part of me wants to say "No, really, we should open this all up. Censorship and age of consent laws are nonsense." I can imagine plenty of cases - and know of a few, personally - in which people of different ages have had positive relationships, and in which laws made the lives of those people hell. (I am not referring to pedophilia.) Having different ages of consent in different states and countries seems to be a clear indication that it's stupid to have laws on the books that define crimes via a participant age of a day under 18.

Another part, however, wants to say "Ok, but the younger people who are exploring sexuality are now doing it with every possible act being recorded and spread within moments - before they've even adapted mentally to be able to handle those kinds of complex social problems." and "While I don't agree with flat-out censorship, the more people who stumble across more extreme websites, the more likely those sites and people who use them are to be vilified - and thus for stigmas to give rise to witch-hunting."

And on a matter that I think is more important and yet more difficult to resolve than either of those, I think it's a horrible injustice that marriage is limited to two people of the same sex who are not legally family members. People are far more complex than only being able to love one person, or only loving someone who doesn't share legal bonds or genetic makeup. While I'm an advocate for research-based health policy (which means I'm in favor things like a government-approved suicide program to allow for personal end-of-life decisions while minimizing negative fallout, and a mandatory genetic counseling law in order to reduce the number of unhealthy children in the world), I would absolutely allow family members to have children together.

However, that's obviously a huge change for people to accept (and for the law to implement, because of how many other laws and regulations would be affected).

The stress, emotional pain, and economic losses caused by not making the change are just so massive that I have a hard time not just insisting on it, rather than trying to look at things from a realistic perspective of what would be involved in the process of fighting for it - and the aftermath of it happening.

Perhaps the most controversial subjects are those in which something is seen to be extremely personal, but which has a massive impact on others. Abortion is probably the most recognizable one, but assisted suicide is another. One that I have a seemingly uncommon position on is childbirth. Though I'm all in favor of anyone who can have kids being able to - and all in favor of whatever methods they want to use to go about that (IVF, surrogacy of all sorts, etc.) - I believe that abortion in cases of parental unfitness and/or probable health problems (determined via genetic counseling and a health-monitoring process) should be enforceable because of (A) the massive impacts related to economics and the environment and (B) the impact on any child that would grow up with those issues. This is part of the reason why I'm an advocate for adoption rather than having your own children (though that isn't something I would impose on anyone else).

So, what are your thoughts on the issue of designating something to be part of "public space" vs "private space" - whether in general or in relation to any of the issues I've touched on? What are the criteria you'd consider?
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 09:14:36 AM by TwoHundredTabs »