Liberal Male Guilt: Virtue Signals and Truths

A reader posted a link to the article The Unexamined Brutality of the Male Libido by Stephen Marche in her response to my post Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish? Here are my comments:

libidoAfter weeks of continuously unfolding abuse scandals, men have become, quite literally, unbelievable. What any given man might say about gender politics and how he treats women are separate and unrelated phenomena. Liberal or conservative, feminist or chauvinist, woke or benighted, young or old, found on Fox News or in The New Republic, a man’s stated opinions have next to no relationship to behavior.

Only a man who lacks integrity would say that a man’s opinions have no relationship to his behavior.

Through sheer bulk, the string of revelations… have forced men to confront what they hate to think about most: the nature of men in general.

Bullshit. While it may be the nature of many, it is not the nature of all.

For most of history, we’ve taken for granted the implicit brutality of male sexuality. In 1976, the radical feminist and pornography opponent Andrea Dworkin said that the only sex between a man and a woman that could be undertaken without violence was sex with a flaccid penis: “I think that men will have to give up their precious erections,” she wrote.

Dworkin is a misandric radical feminist and a marxist. Not exactly a credible citation.

Beyond the gossip, there is a fog of the past that is better not to penetrate. Aside from the sorts of clear criminal acts that have always been wrong, changing social norms and the imprecision of memory are dark hallways to navigate. Be careful when you go down them; you might not like what you find.

If you feel this way about yourself, I feel sorry for you. My conscience is clear.

So much easier to turn aside. Professionally, too, I have seen just how profoundly men don’t want to talk about their own gendered nature. In the spring, I published a male take on the fluctuations of gender and power in advanced economies; I was interviewed over 70 times by reporters from all over the world, but only three of them were men. Men just aren’t interested; they don’t know where to start. I’m working on a podcast on modern fatherhood, dealing with issues like pornography and sex after childbirth. Very often, when I interview men, it is the first time they have ever discussed intimate questions seriously with another man.

Have you ever thought it might be you? Having read your article, I would not talk to you about myself.

A healthy sexual existence requires a continuing education, and men have the opposite. There is sex education for boys, but once you leave school the traditional demands on masculinity return: show no vulnerability, solve your own problems. Men deal with their nature alone, and apart. Ignorance and misprision are the norms.

I watch and read content produced by many other men. While men don’t deal with their nature in the way women do, we are far from ignorant. Holding up the sex education taught in government schools as good is laughable.

The (very few) prominent men who are speaking up now basically just insist that men need to be better feminists — as if the past few weeks have not amply demonstrated that the ideologies of men are irrelevant.

And yet many of the offenders are feminist men. Perhaps it’s time to stop doubling down on your ideology and instead start delving into philosophy, literature, and the world’s religions.

Liberalism has tended to confront gender problems from a technocratic point of view: improved systems, improved laws, better health. That approach has resulted in plenty of triumphs.

Liberalism in it’s (so called) progressive form has destroyed the family, made women less happy, and led to movements such as MGTOW who are walking away from society. Hardly a triumph.

But there remains no cure for human desire. (“It isn’t actually about sex, it’s about power,” I read in The Guardian the other day. How naïve must you be not to understand that sex itself is about power every bit as much as it’s about pleasure?)

Sex is about survival of the species. If you don’t believe sex is about pleasure, you’re doing it wrong.

Acknowledging the brutality of male libido is not, of course, some kind of excuse. Sigmund Freud recognized the id, and knew it as “a chaos, a caldron full of seething excitations.” But the point of Freud was not that boys will be boys. Rather the opposite: The idea of the Oedipus complex contained an implicit case for the requirements of strenuous repression: If you let boys be boys, they will murder their fathers and sleep with their mothers.

If you believe that, you must have had a fucked up childhood. Freud was a sad one trick pony, but he realized that these were subconscious motivations. How many men do you know who have murdered their fathers or slept with their mothers?

Women are calling for their pain to be recognized. Many men are quite willing to offer this recognition; it means they don’t have to talk about who they are, which means they don’t have to think about what they are. Much easier to retreat, into ever more shocked and prurient silence, or into the sort of reflection that seems less intended as honesty, and more aimed to please.

As I said in my post, we see that men are being hung without trial in the court of public opinion. Why would we not retreat?

Sex is an impediment to any idealism, which is why the post-Weinstein era will be an era of gender pessimism.

Feminism and gynocentrism have already led to immense pessimism among men. But I agree, it will now be worse.

What if there is no possible reconciliation between the bright clean ideals of gender equality and the mechanisms of human desire?

The genders are not equal. The best we can do is give everyone an equal opportunity, which we are failing at doing. But even if we do our best, we will not have equal outcomes, because people are different, and that is a good thing.

Meanwhile, sexual morality, so long resisted by liberals, has returned with a vengeance, albeit under progressive terms. The sensation of righteousness, which social media doles out in ever-diminishing dopamine hits, drives the discussion, but also limits it. Unable to find justice, or even to imagine it, we are returning to shame as our primary social form of sexual control.

I disagree. You are using fear, not shame.

The crisis we are approaching is fundamental: How can healthy sexuality ever occur in conditions in which men and women are not equal? How are we supposed to create an equal world when male mechanisms of desire are inherently brutal? We cannot answer these questions unless we face them.

Men and women are different. Healthy sexuality has existed for millions of years, albeit along side brutality. Shaming all men as brutal is certainly not going to help bring them to the table.

I’m not asking for male consciousness-raising groups; let’s start with a basic understanding that masculinity is a subject worth thinking about. That alone would be an immense step forward. If you want to be a civilized man, you have to consider what you are. Pretending to be something else, some fiction you would prefer to be, cannot help. It is not morality but culture — accepting our monstrosity, reckoning with it — that can save us. If anything can.

Why would I take advice from someone who believes he is a monster?

Advertisements
Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Son of Man: Origin

Chapter 7 of the book of Daniel, one of the prophetic books of the Jewish “Old Testament”, is an apocalyptic vision taken by Christians as a prophecy of the coming savior, the Christ. In the Christian “New Testament”, Jesus often refers to himself as The Son of Man, a reference to the character who comes among the clouds of heaven in the following story:

The four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea. Four great beasts came up from the sea, all different from one another.  The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. Its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon its feet as a man, and it was given a man’s heart.

Another beast, a second, like a bear, raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. They said to it “Arise, and devour much flesh.” Another, like a leopard, had upon its back four wings like a bird’s. The beast had also four heads, and dominion was given to it.

A fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and exceedingly strong, had great iron teeth. It devoured and broke things in pieces, and stamped upon the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns. Another little horn came up among the rest , and three of them were pulled out by the roots. In this new horn, there were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

The thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days sat. His garment was as white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool. His throne was like fiery flame, and his wheels like burning fire. A fiery stream issued forth from before him. Thousands upon thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. Judgement was set, and the books were opened.

Because of its voice and the great words which the horn spoke, the fourth beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. The rest of the beasts had their dominions taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season.

son-of-manOne like the Son of Man came among the clouds of heaven, and approached the Ancient of days, and they brought him before him. He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, so that people of all nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

One of them that stood nearby told the truth of all this and the interpretation of these things. The great beasts are four kings, who shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, for all eternity.

Here is the truth of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and exceedingly dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass, and which looked more stout than its fellows. Its horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High. Then the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.

The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, different from all other kingdoms, which will devour the whole earth, tread it down, and break it into pieces. The ten horns are ten kings that shall arise out of this kingdom. Another shall rise after them, and he shall be different from the others, and he shall subdue three of them. He shall speak great words against the most High, and wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws, and they shall be given into his hand for a time, until the end of the age.

But judgement shall come, and they will take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it in the end. Kingdom and dominion of the great kingdom under the whole of heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

When the vision is explained by one of those standing near the throne of the Ancient of Days, the Son of Man is equated with the saints of the Most High, who, according to the explanation, are to be given rule over the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven. Ignoring this interpretation, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew took the Son of Man to literally be a divine being, the cosmic judge who will come at the end of days to rule over the Kingdom of Heaven. He then proceeded to equate this being with the resurrected Jesus.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review of “The Punisher” (Season 1)

* * * * A

punisherI thought the first season of NetFlix Daredevil started off strong, but it didn’t hold my interest. I haven’t watched the second season, in which the Punisher makes his first TV appearance, or any of the other Defenders series. I have also been fairly unimpressed with both Punisher films. So it was with high hopes and low expectations that I started watching The Punisher series on NetFlix. Those expectations were far exceeded.

Playing Frank Castle (AKA the Punisher), Jon Bernthal is far from the average leading man. His excellent acting along with great writing bring the character to life, making him more human and believable than he was in either of the films. His side kick, David (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is also well written and acted, and the writers avoid many of Hollywood’s bullshit nerd stereotypes.

The plot interleaves backstory from Frank’s time in the military, focusing on the events leading up to the murder of his family upon his return home. Friends and enemies from his past turn up in the present, along with new characters. One of the weakest threads is a tie in to Daredevil involving Daredevil’s one time assistant Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Other plot elements, particularly those involving David’s family, are very good.

The main line of the story, a cat and mouse game between Frank, his enemies, and the FBI, is satisfyingly solid, and the season comes to a satisfying conclusion. I’m assuming that it will be successful enough to warrant a seconds season, though as far as I know, no decision has been made so far. If so, here’s hoping that it will be as good as this one was.

 

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Are Men Who Avoid Women at Work Being Childish?

According to a writer in the Metro, a free daily newspaper I sometimes read on the train, yes. She writes: Men, the answer is to grow up – not avoid women.

childish-menCalling all men! In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and alleged sexual assault scandal and the resultant tsunami of further allegations against prominent men, here are your new instructions.

  • Cancel the office holiday party — it could lead to flirting.
  • Rethink one-on-one business meetings off-site with women colleagues — you never know when one of them will claim you behaved “inappropriately.”

These are just some of the absurdio ad reductum warnings that have popped up recently — the office party dilemma one in a New York Times article — since the explosive allegations last month against powerful Hollywood producer Weinstein have led to the Great Sexual Harassment Reckoning.

But are these warnings absurd?  My company has indeed cancelled the holiday party. And I would not meet one-on-one with a female colleague offsite. In fact, there are very few women I would meet with one-on-one.

Heed the fact that many women and some men, emboldened by the #MeToo hashtag campaign, have begun naming and shaming their harassers everywhere.

And there’s the rub. Heed the fact that the word “alleged” was not placed before “harassers”.

Should all men be very afraid of either being exposed — are you now or have you ever been a sexual harasser — or of making one wrong move? Of course not. There are a multitude of good men out there who have never harassed anyone.

How does that help them if they are accused without evidence on social media and lose their jobs as a result?

And not all these incidents are equal. We’ve seen everything from a furtive bottom squeeze to a vicious rape included in these accusations. From masturbating in front of women colleagues to sabotaging their dignity by verbally sexualizing them. Yet it’s mystifying that even after decades of consciousness-raising and specific workplace programs, men can still claim not to know the difference between what’s appropriate and what’s harassment.

Not that mystifying, since the definition of harassment keeps changing. For example, in some parts of the world, men can now be jailed for cat calling. In Canada, you can break the law by using the wrong pronoun.

One senior executive reasonably said to me, “Is hugging a colleague (male or female) acceptable? There’s so many physical actions (touching someone’s arm/hand) that could now be considered inappropriate.”

Exactly. It’s best not to touch women at all.

So let’s concede some grey areas, but also admit they are not really the problem.

Nope. They are the problem.

When it comes to hardcore sexual harassment, let alone assault, men know. Believe me, they know that it’s outside the frame of civil or even legal behaviour. They want to harass anyway. They think they can get away with it.

While this may be true in cases that are covered by the law, that is not what we are discussing. The court of public opinion tends to listen and believe, which is the opposite of presuming innocence until guilt is proven.

Yet men in all industries continue to be treated as adolescent boys.

I disagree. Men are being treated as guilty. All men. Not by everyone, but by far too many.

 

So men, do grow up and don’t cancel the office party and don’t shy away from professional relationships with women. Be warm, respectful, smart, funny and civil. Learn from them.

Because we are grown up, we see your double-think for what it is. You want to have the right to call out men without the burden of proof, but then you complain when men naturally shy away from doing anything that could be misconstrued as harassment. So no, you won’t see as many single men at your office parties. You won’t get one-on-one mentoring. And you won’t get as much warmth and humor, though hopefully you will get intelligence and civility. Respect, as always, will have to be earned.

If you have doubts about your behaviour, ask them. Surely the answer is not to avoid women, but to treat them as you expect to be treated. Like a competent adult doing a job.

I have no doubts about my behavior. I doubt yours. There are three women I care about most: my wife and my two daughters. Why should I risk the livelihood that sustains them in order to help you? If you want to work with me, it will have to be in a group setting. My advice to all men, married or not, is to avoid women in social situations at work that don’t involve a large group, and to be careful not to have more than a couple of drinks in any work related event.

And as recent weeks have shown, if you find that difficult, it’s all on you. Your days are truly numbered.

Exactly. So stay safe: Don’t engage unless in a group; don’t let people like this shame you into risking being falsely accused.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Review of “Justice League” (mild spoilers)

* * * B

justice-leagueThe DC Comics answer to the Avengers is here. Justice League pits Batman (Ben Afflick), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Flash (Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason “Drogo” Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) against an ancient and powerful villain. The first act, which sets up the conflict, is good. The second act, where the league confront the villain and are revealed as unable to defeat him, is solid. Unfortunately, the film falls apart for me in the third act.

Spoiler Alert …

In the third act, our old pal Kal El (Henry Cavill) is resurrected from the dead. The league are then forced to enter a final battle for the future of Earth with the villain. Just when things are looking hopeless, the invincible man shows up and fixes everything. As usual, the man of steel destroys what was an epic battle, acting as a deus ex machina, removing all tension from the remainder of the film.

Posted in movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

15000 Scientists are Scaremongers

After more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a ‘warning to humanity’, the CBC is reporting that the scientists have been accused of scaremongering and ‘overheated claims’. Who are these shit lords who dare criticize science? Other scientists.

“It concerns me that the message from science is this doom-and-gloom scenario that just turns off about 75 per cent of people,” said Erle Ellis, an associate professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “There’s a small percentage that loves the crisis narrative, and they just repeat it over and over to each other.”​

While the message is very negative, and that will turn people off, if it is entirely accurate, those facts don’t matter.

Ellis said he’s “somewhat embarrassed” for his scientific colleagues who have rallied behind this warning, arguing that it mostly talks about negative trends and ignores the increasing wealth, health and well-being of human populations globally.

This is true. The question is, do these things come in the present at the expense of them in the future.

Ted Nordhaus, environmental policy expert and co-chair of California-based think-tank the Breakthrough Institute, said while there are certainly global environmental issues that need to be addressed, some of the more “dystopian” forecasts often end up being “wildly inaccurate.”

While it’s certainly true that past predictions that the end is nigh have been less than accurate, often they’ve been overturned by advances in technology that were unforeseen at the time. A good example is the discovery of nitrogen fertilizer, without which the world population would have starved long ago. Betting your future on possible scientific advancements seems pretty unwise.

In 1968, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich caused waves with the publication of The Population Bomb, which predicted that ​overpopulation would result in the starvation deaths of hundreds of millions of people. In an interview in 1979 with CBS News, Ehrlich said, “Sometime in the next 15 years, the end will come — and by ‘the end,’ I mean an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.”

Ehrlich failed to see the complexity of our environment. The thing is, he was correct that if population growth were to continue long enough, eventually the ecosystem would fail catastrophically. It’s also likely that there could be a tipping point that, once crossed, would make such a breakdown inevitable, and the tipping point might not be obvious. That’s the problem with complex systems. They are hard to predict.

But with the rise in technology, Ehrlich predictions failed to materialize, says Ellis, and instead, the opposite occurred— there’s less famine now, and “pretty much every indicator of human well-being” has increased since the 1970s.

The technologies that enabled huge increases in food production, nitrogen fertilizer and mechanized cultivation, both rely heavily on fossil fuels. The very technology that allowed the population to continue to grow is contributing to global warming and consuming the resources we’ll need to sustain the population in the future.

Meanwhile, as more people move to urban, industrial societies from agrarian societies, where people tend to have more children, human population growth is expected to peak, and likely decline at the latter half of the century, Nordhaus said.

This is certainly our greatest reason for hope. The question is, will the tide be turned before it’s too late.

In an interview with CBC News earlier this week, Eileen Crist, a professor at Virginia Tech’s department of science and technology in society and co-author of the article, said the real issue when it comes to overpopulation is the rapid rise of the global middle class. The flip side of more people being lifted out of poverty, she said, is that it’s also increasing the carbon footprint on the planet and taking a toll on the environment.

As I’ve been saying in recent posts, China and India are growing, whereas the west is in decline. These are exactly the places that are lifting massive numbers of people out of poverty and making them consumers of the levels of resources and energy once seen only in the west. The good news is that, as this happens, China and India’s birthrates are falling. China’s total fertility rate has already fallen below the replacement (around 2.05) and India’s is predicted to by the year 2035.

total-fertility-rates

Ellis agreed that the relationship between how wealth is gained and how it affects the environment needs to continue to improve. But compared to the past, we use less carbon to generate energy and less land to generate food, he said.

And as the green revolution continues, hopefully that trend will too. Given that countries like India who are emerging from the third world into modernity have a blank slate, they are able to adopt the best technologies that we have. It’s unfortunate that the west doesn’t set a better example.

“We think that’s the other message that we need to have out there that people need to hear: We can do this. We can pull people out of poverty and not expand our environmental footprint,” he said. “It is not easy, it is not trivial, but we can do it. We can even do it with existing technology.”

I agree that such a message (and a message of conservation) is what we need, not a message of doom and gloom that many will simply ignore. This is the biggest problem with the environmental movement. By constantly ramping up their rhetoric in order to force people to listen, they make the movement less credible. A positive message that talks about problems and solutions, not just problems, is sorely needed.

For some time to come, Nordhaus said, the growth in per-capita consumption will be greater than the decline in fertility rates and the slowing in population growth. However, in the long term, that will be moderated through technology and the more efficient ways resources are turned into goods and services.

I hope it is enough, and happens soon enough.

Posted in philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marvel Comics Are Eating Themselves

Occasionally, revisiting a story with a fresh take on it has been known to be a good thing. For example, Marvel’s Ultimates were for the most part superior to the originals. They took the good ideas from the original books, and made them more serious, less corny, and more interesting.

lady-thorRecently, Marvel has begun doing something else: replacing existing characters with copies, new characters with the same powers as well known characters. While doing this can work (for example, Batman became the Alfred to a new Batman in DC comics, and that was handled nicely as a turning over of the mantel from one generation to the next), Marvel has been doing it wholesale. In many cases, they have killed off the original characters. Here’s a partial list:

Superhero Original Character New Character
Spiderman Peter Parker Miles Morales
Captain America Steve Rogers Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Hulk Bruce Banner Amadeus Cho
Thor Thor, son of Odin Jane Foster
Iron Man Tony Stark Riri Williams
Wolverine James “Logan” Howlett Laura Kinney (X-23)
Hawkeye Clint Barton Kate Bishop

This goes well beyond story telling. As the original characters are the heroes of the amazingly successful Marvel cinematic universe, killing them all off seems beyond reckless. At least Sam Wilson and Laura Kinney are existing characters who have some reason to assume the mantle of their heroes (Sam being Cap’s sidekick, and Laura the Wolverine’s daughter). As to whether any of the new stories are worth reading, positive reviews have not been forthcoming.

What is Marvel thinking? This reminds me of the many terrible reboots that Hollywood has been making: Ghostbusters, Total Recall, Conan, King Kong; the list goes on. But in most cases, these were not ongoing franchises that were beloved by their fans, so when the reboots tanked, little was lost. Not so Marvel. They seem intent on rebooting their crown jewels: Spiderman, Wolverine, and the Avengers.

At this point, it’s hard to see how the damage can be undone. With the old characters in many cases killed off, it would take a massive retcon to bring them back. It’s hard to say whether the fans would accept this. The old characters would have to have compelling new stories to bring them back. With Generations, Marvel is making a half-hearted attempt to do this, but I’ve yet to see any positive reviews of the event, and it seems to be a one time thing.

Posted in books | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment