“If you don’t like it, you can get out!” – How many times have you heard this phrase? I get it all the time.
The first thing to note is that, with that “argument”, you can defend every perversity known to man. That alone should point out the rank falsehood of the statement. The statement is based on a horrible moral principle: If someone feels like they are being oppressed or persecuted, it’s their duty to leave.
The statement is so trite, that it’s been used for every single perversity that mankind has ever inflicted on itself. You name it, the argument has been used: war, conscription, robbery, extortion, slavery, assault, rape, etc.
For example: If you don’t like being raped, don’t ware miniskirts! …’Cause, you know, she asked for it.
The whole “if you don’t like it, you can leave” policy is a form of victim-blaming because it ignores the actions of the perpetrator. We don’t “get out” for the same reason a man whose house is being broken into doesn’t “get out.” Where we live isn’t the problem. It’s the people whose actions violate our rights.
Imagine if the Mafia moved into your neighborhood and started to extort money from you under threats of violence. Imagine if you complained about it to other neighbors. Imagine if they actually thought the extortion was acceptable because they believed the Mafia kept them safe. Imagine if you pointed out how the Mafia is a criminal organization and commits murder. Imagine if instead of refuting you they said, “If you don’t like this neighborhood, then you can get out!”
People who have their rights violated shouldn’t be expected to leave their neighborhood. It is not their duty to remove themselves from an unjust situation. It is the moral responsibility of the person violating other people’s rights to cease.
Let’s now look at the reasons as why it’s used so often.
Simply stated: the phrase is designed to shut down a discussion.
The “if you don’t like it then leave” pronouncement is particularly atrocious because it doesn’t even bother to refute the argument made. It could even be construed as a tacit form of admission.
It’s as if the person is saying “Everything you told me is factually correct, but instead of acknowledging this I’m going to distract from the issue at hand by shifting the burden of responsibility onto your shoulders. It’s not our job to fix the problem but for you to leave.”
Here’s what’s going on when someone tries to deny your moral objections using this argument: when you present to him/her the fact that his system of ideas is morally perverted, then (instead of addressing that perversity) they change the subject to the red herring “you can giiiit outttt!”.
It’s a red herring — a distraction tactic — because the fact that you could avoid a violent threat by fleeing, doesn’t change the moral nature of the threat. This is a particularly potent red herring for the following 3 reasons:
- The statement sneaks into the conversation the false idea that “by not leaving, you’re consenting to the aggression”. This is, of course, a manipulative lie which goes straight back to the “blame the victim” argument mentioned earlier in this article.
- The statement also relieves your interlocutor from having to morally evaluate the moral corruption he wants to victimize you with. As long as you’re distracted by the red herring, he/she does not need to address your moral objections.
- The tactic is also blatantly dishonest to everyone who hears it, since the vast majority of people actually don’t have the false choice he/she presents, for a variety of reasons.
Here’s a fun example for all you “Conservatives” out there:
The “if you don’t like it then leave”statement stands at complete odds with the principles of the Declaration of Independence. When governments become too oppressive, it’s not the duty of the people to leave. It’s their duty to abolish those governments.
At Lexington and Concord, the British redcoats told the Minutemen that if they didn’t like their confiscation of arms and munitions then they could “get out.” Maybe my recollection of history is a bit hazy, but the colonists seemed to have picked another option.