For lefthanded liberation

The last oppressed minority needs to get its act together.

Left-handers (or, as we prefer to style ourselves, the “differently handed”) are clearly an oppressed minority. Kevin Drum, typically, tries to explain the problem away by paying attention to the numbers. But the linguistic evidence is overwhelming: “sinister,” “gauche,” “cack-handed,” “a left-handed compliment,” “left behind,” versus “dexterous,” “righteous,” “right-thinking,” “human rights,” “the right stuff,” and so on. Only in politics is “left” the name of the obviously more virtuous position.

Naturally, the default state of all equipment (scissors, for example) is dexter; left-handed equipment is less available and more expensive.

In some cultures, the social pressure for chiral conformity is overwhelming. Cultures where food is taken by hand from a common pot are especially rough on the lefties, but they’re not alone. Reportedly (i.e., according to a rumor I once heard) Japan has no left-handed people, though it has a large number of very, very clumsy right-handed people. [Of course, some of us are ambisinistrous: that is, we’re equally clumsy with both hands. But that’s another story for another day.]

Since every oppressed minority needs a liberation group, and since every liberation group needs a sign and a slogan, I urge all my fellow sinistrals to raise their left hands in the air, fists clenched, and shout “Left on!”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

16 thoughts on “For lefthanded liberation”

  1. Sorry. You lefties are freaks. It's not your fault, of course — some brain damage, no doubt. More to be pitied than censured.

  2. One of the themes of the left-hander agenda is that some people are born left-handed like it's something "natural" LIES! They think we're not watching, oblivious to the way they train sweet innocent babies to be left-handed.

  3. In college, a friend ran for student body president under the banner of left-handedness. I believe the name of his "party" was Sinister Students for Left-handed Rights. His posters were all purposefully printed backward.

  4. Show me where to sign up, and I'll gladly hook my hand into the usual odd position and write down my name, which will immediately be smeared as the rest of my hand drags across the ink. But, y'know, it's the thought that counts.

  5. FWIW, the majority of the monks here at St. Gregory's Abbey are left-handed (including all those with advanced degrees) — we don't get paid more, though (since none of us gets paid anything).

  6. I'd be very curious about whether that study controlled for people who are now mostly right handed despite being born left handed, because of social conversion, whom I wouldn't be surprised were somewhat developmentally retarded by the process.

  7. No cack-handers in Japan? Anyone Dodger fans remember Kazuhisa Ishii? He wasn't the only one either.

  8. My best friend and I (both left-handed) came up with that exact same slogan when we were in high school in 1972.

  9. phil: I was born left-handed but was forced to become what's known as "tool right-handed" (I use a pen, screwdriver, scissors, etc with the right, but go left for other tasks: e.g. holding a bowling ball). I know many people who are like that. (I was born in 1954)
    It hasn't caused me any trouble trouble at all and I'm completely nourmal in everie respect.
    Seriously, I wish it hadn't taken place. Before the right-handedness was enforced, I could sketch pretty well with my left hand, but now I'm terrible with my right. My right hand draws "linguistically" (if drawing a face, you draw an "eye", another "eye", a "nose", and so on; it's not what a good drawing should be, which would be patterns of light and dark).
    On the other hand, perhaps I have a thicker, or more used, corpus callosum – all that data to shift across the hemispheres. I've heard that may help if you have a stroke, since it's easier to access the "backup" modules.

  10. Everyone I've ever known who's left-handed is recalcitrant. Nature or nurture? Hmmm…. P.S. Being left of the spectrum does NOT automaticaly make one more virtuous. Just more hopeful. Well, that's a virtue, but not a good one to maintain in politics.

  11. Blank asks:
    "Everyone I've ever known who's left-handed is recalcitrant. Nature or nurture? "
    That's nature. Every lefthander you've ever seen has persisted in lefthandedness against varying amounts of social pressure to be righthanded. Only the stubborn survive.

  12. I remember reading in my high school rhetoric class a hilarious essay (written by a previous graduate of my school) called "What is Left." (The fact that I remember the essay and the title 35 years later is a testament to how well-written it was.) The author was a left-hander, describing all the petty indignities suffered by his tribe. My husband, who has to get his guitars re-strung so he can play them left-handed, feels much the same way. Me? I'm just a clumsy right-hander.

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