Archives for category: Ethics

What we now know for sure: feminism is crazed lunacy.

But when did we know it?

IMG_2080This varies from person to person, I guess. I have not called myself a “feminist” since my 20s, but for most of those subsequent decades, I tried not to come off as too extreme in my opposition. Why? Probably for the reason most skeptics of feminism have not: the term is associated with sexual equality, which I just call “individual rights” — and I did not want to erode that notion in any way. But as the years have gone on — leading inevitably to my death, to the death of the human race, and (I gather) to the heat death of the universe — it has become clear that today’s feminists are not interested in sexual equality. They talk, instead, about “gender,” cannot keep a somewhat nebulous concept even they straight (oops: my heteronormativity is showing! I should have said “queer”). And their relentless attacks on white heterosexual men, and their demands to give special favors to “the oppressed classes” of women and POCs and LBGT+ers, show their lack of interest in equality of rights before the law, and a nasty itch for compensatory preferences and class-figured “equality of outcomes.”

Which is why they seem so dangerous.

But crazed lunacy? That can be seen in their lack of empathy and broad-mindedness, in seeing other people’s point of view. The grand example? “Manspreading.”

This is a term that grew out of the grand feminist epithet, “Mansplaining.” Now, this concept did not bug me, for it merely meant the habit of some men to explain to women their own experience.

Though male tendencies to do this do seem to spring from the dimorphism of our brains — men are stronger systematizers, so we tend to turn, say, emotional complaints into logical problems, and women, less tolerant of systematically modeled explanations, tend to object to that — you would have to be something of a mome not to see how this could be reasonably interpreted as disrespectful and logically odd (not a contradiction, necessarily, but logically odd, as P. H. Nowell-Smith used the term). So, “mansplaining” did not bother me too much.

Initially.

Then the word began to be used to condemn men for explaining anything to women — including their own male experiences! The outrageous overreach of this occurs when feminist women accuse of Men’s Rights Activists of mansplaining, just for defending their own individual rights and sexually differentiated experiences.

Which leads us to the moment when it became obvious to me that feminism had run off the rails completely: when young feminists concocted men’s dread crime of spreading their legs in public.

Manspreading, or man-sitting, is the practice of men sitting in public transport with legs wide apart, thereby covering more than one seat. Both this posture and the use of the neologism”manspreading” have occasioned some internet criticism and debates in the US, UK, Turkey, and Canada. The public debate began when an anti-manspreading campaign started on the social media website Tumblr in 2013; the term appeared a year later. OxfordDictionaries.com added the word “manspreading” in August 2015. Use of the term has been criticized as “a caricature of feminism” and the practice has been juxtaposed with examples of women taking up excessive space in public spaces with bags.

Now, this Wikipedia entry ably indicates its absurdity even in this first paragraph of the encyclopedia entry. It is the reductio ad absurdum of feminism — but advanced by self-identified feminists. And the habit of taking up more than one seat is something I have witnessed, and often, in America — when corpulent women bulge onto additional seats and into the aisle. Not a pretty picture. But “fat spreading” is not something that went viral. Manspreading did.

Why? Because young women have been trained by the feminist tradition to nag at men as a right and a . . . privilege. For being women. The superior sex.

Er, gender.

It is ridiculous in this case because it is exactly the opposite of mansplaining: it is womansplaining — women explaining to men the nature of men’s own bodies.

I remember reading one of the first articles on the subject. The young woman feminist said [something to the effect of] “come on, guys, your balls are not that big.”

Well, one hates to bring up personal experience in such matters. But I can assure the reader, I never boast about testicular massiveness. Nevertheless, I could explain to you, at length, about testicular pain. Merely from keeping my legs together. It is a thing. I believe it gets worse with age. Men spread their legs because they do not wish to incur sharp and persistent pain.

But the young feminists apparently never even asked men what they were doing. The men, of course, may not have noticed what they were doing. And perhaps men, so ready (usually) to please women, have eagerly tried to comply.

I wonder how many men now experience enduring agony in their genitals merely to please these women.

But I won’t do it, and I completely sympathize with those men who despise any woman who complains about manspreading.

Early in the aughts, when public discussion of the penis was everywhere, I predicted that soon “cunt” would become common in everyday speech. The pejorative use of the term for objectionable women aptly affixes to any woman who marshals the term as a critique of icky male habits.

Now, the context: Girls are taught to keep their legs together. And for good reason. Opening a woman’s legs provides easier access to her femalia, into which the penis was designed (so to speak) by nature to penetrate. It is the reasonable life plan of a woman to restrict access to this much desired hot spot, and so keeping one’s legs together became part of heteronormative practice, for heteronormativity doubles down on the basic evolutionary strategies of the sexes, protecting women from most men while enabling them to secure the cooperation of a limited set of men (usually one) in exchange for access to the Delta of Venus.

And, because the female of our species lack descending sex organs of a rather obviously fragile nature held on by the thinnest of tissues, but with all-too many nerve endings . . . their characteristic habit of keeping legs tightly closed, when sitting, is easy for them.

The suspicion we non-feminists have had for a long, long time is that feminists have been trying to turn men into women. This issue is the prime example.

Experience and standards that are apt for females get applied, dogmatically, to men — even when inapt and wildly inappropriate.

And it may be inappropriate indeed. I am no anatomist, or diagnostician, but I suspect that men who have been keeping their legs together at the behest of female expectations may have contributed to the startling decline in testosterone levels in the modern male population. But this is just conjecture. Regardless of medical consequences other than discomfort and pain, men closing or crossing their legs was once seen as effeminate for good reasons.

So, this is now the paradigmatic issue upon which I define feminism: the application to men and boys the standards appropriate for, and experience derived from, women and girls.

As epitomized on Broadly, a few days ago, with “100 Easy Ways to Make Women’s Lives More Bearable.” The tenth demand is most objectionable:

10. CLOSE YOUR LEGS ON PUBLIC TRANSIT, OH MY GOD.

All-caps, even. As if her point had one quantum of wisdom to it.

It does not.

It may be time to stop thinking so much “of the women.” Frankly, Dani Beckett (perpetrator of the above indecent inanity), I am not interested in “making women’s lives more bearable”: feminists can stop complaining about trivialities (their feminist etiquette breached by male extremity splays) and stop expecting the world to revolve around them. Take your female privilege and stuff it.

On a kinder note: I suggest re-introducing into our culture that now-forbidden power, common sense.

twv

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I have friends who are entirely dependent upon the State for their livelihood — and I am not just referring to elderly retirees. Most of these aid recipients have received disability retirement pensions from the Social Security system. These folks are not in any way anomalous in American life. You might be surprised to learn how many disability recipients there are.

More interesting, however, is this fact: no small number of these folks — indeed, most of my friends on state aid — are not die-hard Democrats demanding vast increases in the size and scope of the welfare state.

Not a few are conservatives — one of my closest friends is an authoritarian conservative of the Bill O’Reilly sort — and they rail against lazy people and welfare queens and all the rest.

Yes, they think and vote this way even though they are mostly or entirely dependent upon the taxpayers.

What is going on here? This strikes many people as paradoxical. Many are the Democrats who think that “being a Democrat” is precisely what these state aid recipients should be: grateful, die-hard supporters of the welfare state, devoted to its expansion.

After all, the Democratic Party is the party most enthusiastic about state aid programs like this. And Democrats expect fealty.

What is the matter with Kansas? asked one prominent leftist scrivener. So many Kansans would be so much better off if they voted Democratic and siphoned more special favors off the state — ultimately, off of producing Americans — and “as a matter of right.”

Vladimir Gimpelson and Daniel Treisman, writing in the Washington Post a few years ago, expressed their wonder as to why the very poorest of the poor in our country are so lax in their demands for more redistribution — for programs and handouts that (our querists think) would be “in their interest.” The two professors’ think piece (a summary of an allegedly scholarly study) is entitled “Why don’t democracies take from the rich and give to the poor?” and it presses the question, seeking answers:

Since the time of ancient Greece, political theorists and observers have feared that inequality leads to instability. The greater the income gap, the more the poor have to gain by taking from the rich. In democracies, the thinking goes, inequality should predispose voters to demand government redistribution. In dictatorships, the rich, fearing Robin Hood policies, should resist democratization. And the poor, locked out of power and wealth, should be more tempted by revolution.

Though these arguments have been around since Aristotle, it’s hard to find evidence for them in the real world.

And they cite some recent scholarship on this. Democracies do not turn revolutionary.

Why? Scholars have suggested a variety of things that might derail political unrest. Belief that the economic system is fair, or the hope of being rich someday, or even organized religion might reconcile people to the gap between rich and poor. Or it could be that, with their assets hidden in Swiss bank accounts, the rich these days have just become too hard to expropriate.

But there’s a simpler possibility: Maybe inequality fails to trigger the expected political consequences because most people just don’t know how large the gap is between the wealthy and the rest of us.

“If people don’t know how much they stand to gain and at what cost,“ they conjecture, “why would they take political action?”

Amusingly, that “if” premise is only half-interrogated:

We looked at eight cross-national surveys to see what people believe about inequality. Time and again, large numbers of respondents had no clue what the income distribution looked like in their country, how it had been changing recently, and where in that distribution they personally fit.

The authors conclude that while “Americans still seem relatively relaxed about income inequality,” that may very well “be changing.”

Right. But though the subject of the (in)elasticity of demand for redistribution is interesting for several reasons, my concern is different. Indeed, I wish to begin by interrogating the part of the premise the professors take for granted: do the poor really have anything to gain by increased redistribution of wealth?

As present, after all, the fifth and lowest quintile of market income earners in America do not pay federal income taxes. They are, in fact, net tax consumers. Maybe the poor do not demand more because they have an inkling about how much they get now.

Actually, I suspect that the poorest grossly underestimate the levels of their subsidy. Indeed, I suspect that Professors Gimpelson and Treisman — economist and political scientist, respectively — would underestimate the current levels of subsidy. You see, our professors at the Post are only interested in “income inequality” and how it is perceived, and how these two things stack up against the demand for further redistribution that they have somehow measured. (Maybe I will carefully read their paper, but I haven’t yet, and nothing they write suggests to me that they are onto something very important.)

So, what is the level of subsidy in America? Well, after-tax, after-subsidy incomes show that the lowest income quintile in these United States have an effective (net) negative tax rate of over 200 percent:

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That is, they do not pay taxes, net of the full panoply of state benefits (SNAP, SSI, Section 8 housing, etc.). They get subsidized to the tune of 213 percent.

This is a huge amount of handouts. Sure, too many businesses receive subsidies in America — far too many — and some rich folk make a lot of money off the government, but, evened out, it is the poor who right now do get the lions’ (or pigs’) share of redistributed wealth.

And it is rather astounding that our two professors of egalitarian studies (for that seems to be their real profession, here) nowhere indicate that the poor right now are living off of the rich. Our professors just assume that “the poor” should demand even more.

Now, I could spend many paragraphs explaining the complexities of income statistics, the slippery nature of the “increasing inequality” meme. Because it tracks statisticians’ artifacts — a five-fold division of society by incomes — and the amount of wealth that changes in these quintiles, and not the majority of individuals who do indeed move from one quintile to another and then back again as they navigate the arcs of their lives, all this inequality talk is mostly confusion and error. But I am going to let others handle those niceties. I am going back, doggedly, to that basic query: why don’t the poor demand more?

Yesterday, on the YouTube show Right Angle, Steve Green, Scott Ott, and Bill Whittle offered some possible answers — responding to the Post piece:

  1. “There aren’t enough poor people” in our country to actually vote themselves more — America is richer than you think, says Steve Green. While the professors think the poor overestimate their wealth levels, Green in effect says that the professors overestimate the number of the poor — and in a democracy, numbers count.
  2. And Green offers another reason for lack of egalitarian envy: “even our poor people are kick-ass Americans.”
  3. Bill Whittle suggests that our poor Americans have more than a hunch that, by world standards, they are rich — and yes, our poor are richer than many another country’s poor. It would be ungrateful to demand more. And perhaps (Whittle moves on quickly) our poor have a broader perspective — and more “moral fiber” — than our professors.
  4. Whittle also wanders into the point hinted at above: this talk of income quintiles obscures the truths of income mobility. The American system of merit “allows people to move up and allows people to move down.” Given this reality, it would be stupid for the poor to scuttle their best way out.
  5. Scott Ott notes that, as a general rule, the folks most exercised by income inequality are people far above the gutter. The suggestion here is that maybe talk of income inequality does not really serve the poor. Maybe it serves a class or classes of the better-off. Alas, Ott does not explore this latent idea in his answer, but goes on to speculate that America’s low-income earners just do not buy into the solution as a workable feature to rise out of their ruts.

To explore the notion that Ott skips over too quickly, you might best turn to netizen-philosopher Stefan Molyneux, who talks about “languasites.” In a world of Makers and Takers, these “language parasites” find tricky ways to assuage the fears (and other anxieties and insecurities) of the Makers and thus leech off of them. A grand example can be found in Lucian of Samosata’s Hermotimus, or The Rival Philosophies, in which we encounter an earnest student of Stoicism milked of his wealth and diverted from his youth in the vain pursuit of . . . enlightenment . . . which is translated as “Happiness” in the edition I own, Marcus Aurelius and His Times: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity (1945), Irwin Edman (introduction), p. 172.

This idea of the linguasite (“tongue parasite,” with some loose construction — but surely better than “languasite”) is awfully pregnant, and it might be useful to prod Molyneux further on just who does and does not fall into that category. But the idea is fairly clear. And in the context of the income inequality obsession, what we have here are the second-hand dealers in ideas who F. A. Hayek wrote about. More importantly, we have a class idea, here. Many members of the cognitive elite somehow find themselves ensconced in key positions in the welfare state. Might not they develop a natural class interest in promoting the idea no matter its effects on the poor themselves? College professors, for instance, are consulted by bureaucracies and legislators, and teach many future government functionaries, lobbyists, lawyers and journalists who make their livings transforming society away from the ugliness of consumer-determined merit and into “rationally-determined” social justice.

And here we come to the interesting aspect of the welfare state: the establishment of classes based on state redistribution.

Now, we have to forget Marxian analysis, for his simple oppression/exploitation theory of class was based on a misconstrued of the nature of trade and productivity in a market economy. And we can glide right over the classical liberal class theory (very interesting, and not entirely irrelevant) that Marx pilfered to concoct his grand farrago. We should turn to Joseph Schumpeter, instead.

imageClasses form around perceptions of success, wrote the great economist in an under-appreciated study. “What makes a subgroup of society,” I wrote in the Laissez Faire Books edition a few years ago, “‘organically’ related enough to qualify as special, as constituting a class?” The answer can be found in “social factors like honor, which was, after all, the basis of the first major governance system of civilization. And honor depends on — is, indeed, obsessive about — success. It is not failure but success that ‘exerts a continuing effect’” that forms a class. But let us turn to Schumpeter for a fuller picture:

[S]uccess brings in its wake important functional positions and other powers over material resources. The position of the physical individual becomes entrenched, and with it that of the family. This opens up further opportunities to the family, often to an even greater degree than to the successful individual himself, though these positive factors are to some extent offset by the deadening effect on the original impetus of exalted position and security, by the diversion and complication of interests, and perhaps also by the sheer exhaustion of energies which everyday experience shows to be not uncommon. Coordinate families then merge into a social class, welded together by a bond, the substance and effect of which we now understand. This relationship assumes a life of its own and is then able to grant protection and confer prestige.

I speculate that one of the great triumphs of the modern welfare state has been to reroute the mechanisms of class away from natural groupings like family and clan and into the artificial, state-bounded and -funded institutions like the Academy.

And maybe one reason professors promote redistribution, in their writings and lectures, more enthusiastically than the poor do, with their votes, is that the subsidized poor serve as trophies of the cognitive elites. Perhaps increasing state redistribution is not advocated by the elites because it really helps the poor, but because it is emblematic of class success, and thus class cohesion and prestige. The poor do not gain prestige by sucking up more taxpayer-funded resources. But boy, members of the cognitive elite do!

But is that all there is to it? Class interest?

I think not. I suspect, anyway, a bit of economic rationality going on here. I suspect that not a few normal people look at the demographics of redistribution and become alarmed. My wards-of-the-state friends are dependent upon continued support. Increasing the ranks of the recipients, or even the amounts generally redistributed, does not make the system they depend upon more secure.

Do you see the incentive here? No small number of state aid recipients oppose expansion of the programs that support them. And while socialist ideologues might think that these clients of the State are somehow naturally beholden to a robust welfare state ideology, and that by voting Republican (or worse, Libertarian) they are “voting against their interests,” this is simply not the case. People “on welfare” have a very compelling interest to not support the increase in the size and scope of the programs that supports them.

Let me restate why: increasing the number of recipients of such aid programs could very well jeopardize the financial stability of those very programs, endangering the livelihood of current recipients.

This is a very basic point. To not notice this point is to miss something about the nature of economic redistribution: that it depends on a larger population of contributors putting wealth into the system than taking out of it. The more recipients of taxed funds we add puts a strain on those taxed, especially if the ratio gets out of hand. On pure economic grounds, it makes sense to be a member of a small group gaining at the expense of the majority than a large group gaining at the expense of a minority.

We cannot all live at the non-reciprocal expense of others.

One might call this perspective common sense. But it is not “folk economics” — it is theoretically sound; the rationale works out in extended analysis. Indeed, one of the problems with the sustainability of Social Security in the United States — and of similar programs throughout the West — is that the ratio of contributors to recipients is getting smaller. The trend line is foreboding. It is the reason we are at last taking Social Security off the proverbial “third rail” and contemplating reforms such as raising the retirement age and raising the income ceiling for FICA contributions, er, taxes.*

What is astounding to me is that this elementary fact of redistribution — that it cannot be complete, that socialism itself is a fantasy never capable of delivering on its promises, for we cannot all be Takers. There must be Makers. And there should be a reasonable ratio between them to make the programs sustainable.

That this notion of redistribution has seemingly evaporated from the public conversation strikes me as odd. I do not even hear libertarians, the strongest critics of government redistribution of wealth, bring it up very often, and cannot now think of an instance where it became part of a general theory of redistribution. But the more I think about this, the more basic it seems.

Indeed, it applies to criminology, too: the more theft going on in society — and remember, theft is merely the illegal redistribution of wealth — the more crime would drag society down. It is in the interest even of criminals to discourage crime generally. Perhaps for this reason (if not this reason alone) criminals rarely oppose laws against theft and murder and the like. They realize social systems cannot be stable where everyone plays criminal. They simply make an exception for themselves. They try to bet against the house, hoping to squeak through the cracks of the system and gain “rents” that would evaporate if too many criminals tried to game the system. It is instructive to recognize the fact that criminals themselves rarely even try to take up the pretense that theft and murder are good ideas to spread around. It is as exceptions to the rule that criminals’ livelihoods make any sense at all.

That is perhaps one reason why, when crime becomes “organized,” territory and limitation of criminal acts according to “honor” and other codes, become common. It is also one reason why police often are deferential to organized crime: a monopoly of a service limits the supply of the service, and criminal monopoly is better than no such monopoly, which would mean more crime. And thus greater the threat of unsustainability. Yes, crime can serve as an excellent example of “market failure” — that is, for situations where the criminals, acting in their separate self-interests, yield themselves a net detriment, not benefit.

All of this reiterates one basic thesis: leftism is parasitic upon the system it despises. Nearly all leftists I have ever met abhor the idea of “profit.” They consider business activity necessarily “dirty.” They are distrustful of markets, and see in markets only internecine competition and, in fact, predation and parasitism.

This view of social life I regard as obviously and completely at odds with reality, the inverse of the truth. Redistribution is parasitism. Leftism is the philosophy that parasitism via State redistribution is good in and of itself — perhaps better than production in the market. And socialism is the bizarre notion that “we can all be parasites” — though of course socialists do not state their doctrine in such a bald, unvarnished way. Instead, socialists cook up shaky theories purporting to show that market distribution is not productive, that the rich who gain so much by trade are in fact “exploiters” of the poor, and that the poor would be better off without the rich . . . or at least better off were the rich sucked dry.

It used to be understood among old-fashioned Progressives and FDR/LBJ-style “liberals” that one could go too far in redistributing wealth. But by earnestly grinding through their rationales for taking from some to give to others, modern progressives have lost sight of the basic realities inherent in the system they propose. And so they cannot see — or at least countenance talking about at any length — any point in emphasizing those limits.

This can be clearly seen in the cultural divide between The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. The Occupiers characteristically demanded more redistribution and more regulation and generally derided the evils of big business. The Tea Party, on the other hand, was concerned with curbing government spending and aiming to balance budgets. Democrats mocked those “tea baggers” who seemed to misunderstand basic realities, such as when signs were held aloft saying “Keep the Government Out of My Medicare.” And that sort of thing is indeed hilarious. But the idea still remains that adding people onto Medicare rolls and under-funding the system does not help people who have come to rely upon Medicare.

So the signs really meant “Keep Progressives Out of My Medicare.”

But Democrats — who now seem almost uniformly “progressive” — have missed the point. They cannot see sustainability as a legitimate issue. Politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren have gone so far as to call the conscientious Tea Party activists “anarchists.” It is hard to imagine a more absurd charge. But, when you hold to the crazy idea that more government is always better government, you will tend to say absurd things.

So we exist now at this strange point in history when the Democratic Party has lost its grip on power even though it is the party of special interest promises and Potlatch “generosity.” The last moment of possible turnaround for the Democrats was, I think, when they turned on the Tea Party. Had they embraced the Tea Party, and made a public effort to rein in spending, they would now be dominant and their hold on power unassailble. But that was not to be. They had become so blind to the realities of redistribution and its parasitism upon productive capitalism that they lost savvy people even amongst the recipient cohorts. Sure, leftism has always been parasitic on the system it hankers to destroy. But parasitism only works on a principle of hormesis. It is the hygiene theory of immunity as applied to the body politic. The hookworm is the parasitic drain. Too many, and the host dies.

The idea that progressives now regard contemplation and discussion of this principle utterly verboten says a lot about their divorce from reality. Their fantasy now runs their policy prescriptions. And it may very well be a function of class prestige that is one of the drivers for this. Sure, there are other factors — like the socialist soteriology, or the entelechy at the heart of the left’s other-obsession memeplex — but we should not overestimate the wisdom of the elites or the folly of the poorest among us.

twv

enjoy-capitalism

N.B.  There is, of course, another very basic reason for state aid recipients not to support increasing the register of aid recipients: they may want to think of themselves as deserving recipients, and fear that others placed on the rolls for laxer standards might be seen as unworthy, or as being dangerously discouraged from finding alternate means of support. And the more folks going onto the rolls for comparatively trivial reasons might poison the well politically, and tar all recipients as unworthy of help. To what extent this fear is a rational, moral or merely a petty rationalization, I will consider at another time.

asked & answered on Quora: “Is life really unfair?”

Herbert Spencer

“Fairness” is a principle human beings and other animals discover in play. We humans then try to apply it to coöperation-based interactions of a more productive nature — in domestic, tribal, and business endeavors. The next step is to move the concept and its principles to handle situations of violent conflict.

And, finally, the principles are shanghaied to cover (and make up for) the workings of Fate and Chance.

For every step beyond play, “fairness” becomes trickier to apply.

It is very tempting to regard justice as identical with (or subsumed by) fairness. But it is worth noting that the principles of justice as they have evolved from ancient times into the modern age were chiefly concerned with preventing the worst harms. (This is a truth made clearest by philosopher Bernard Gert.) They did not make up for the vagaries of time and chance and the vast causal gyrations of the universe — the forces that make me homely, you beautiful and that person over there ugly and sick and deformed.

Traditional justice is a limited affair, a virtue that cannot cover everything. Unfortunately, there has developed a major competing vision of justice — “justice as fairness” in a cosmic context. Social justice — utopian or Rawlsian or neo-Marxian or what-have-you — is such a radical paradigm shift that it spells a complete paradigm revolution.

And not in a good way.

This extension of fairness standards to make up for the workings of nature is socially destabilizing. Indeed, it threatens at every application to overthrow the great advances made in traditional justice with the tweaks that happen when society moves beyond the tribal and agrarian and into open society status. Our approach to justice should be studied, not wishful. Instead of either traditional justice or revolutionary justice, I suggest evolutionary justice, as pioneered by Herbert Spencer and F. A. Hayek. With this approach, our moral reasonings are moderated by reason rationally restrained. Evolutionary justice interposes between traditional and makeshift authoritarian dogmas and the more grandiose claims of cosmic fairness.

Caution. Please. It’s hard enough applying fairness to games, much less work and family and all that. Extending it to cover all the fortuitous differences among humans and the higher animals is . . . well, the word is hubristic.

twv

Pictured: Herbert Spencer, author of the Synthetic Philosophy.

a questioned asked on Quora; my answer:

A number of times. But here is one obvious case, in what amounts to metaethics. Maybe I am misapplying the idea. You tell me.

What modern normative philosophers call “morality” — and what older philosophers might have designated as “the rules and standards of justice” — depends, in practice, upon widespread reciprocity. That is, there are prisoner’s dilemmas throughout situations of conflict and potential coöperation, and it makes sense for any individual to coöperate often only if others also approach such arenas of interaction with an open attitude, not flight or fight, much less with a hankering to steal.

It has been shown that a tit-for-tat strategy of reciprocity — which closely tracks many traditional notions of justice — leads to the most widespread success. But how can you trust “the other guy” to treat you fairly, justly, and not as predator to prey?

It takes more courage than many, many folks naturally possess to approach a potentially dangerous situation with a reserved reciprocity standard in mind. So, how do we steal ourselves to this? Indeed, how can we open ourselves to such attitudes before we gain the practical experience with the world to be confident that such strategies do in fact work, for both self and other, and over a long haul?

A number of religious ideas have helped. They differ from society to society, and we call them myths, and all or most seem obvious fictional. Made up. But the threat of a punishing Deity encourages some to curb their bloodlust and “defector” urges. The idea that we are all “equal before God” helps, too. And as a number of evolutionary psychologists have pointed out, the mere contemplation of a supernatural (nature-transcendent) or metaphysical (normal existence-transcendent) Being or even Principle signals both to self and others a willingness to transcend narrow ego-interests. Setting the stage for civilized coöperation.

This sort of thing often gets swept up under the rubric of “signaling.” But such signaling works regardless of reality. There may or may not be a God. Or natural rights. Or the categorical imperative. But even fictional ideas can be real in their effects.

I sometimes think of the advance of civilization as aided by a series of outrageous fictions.

Seems like the Thomas Theorem to me.

twv

I pity the young.

They’ve been programmed to believe that because some men do bad things, we all do bad things, and that when some of those bad things are sexual abuse of women, that makes us all “misogynists.” And “trash.” But listen:

  • You are not trash for wanting sexual relations with women.
  • You are not trash for being forward about it.
  • You may be, however, if you are disgusting about it. (“Trashy,” at least.)
  • You definitely are if you use force to get what you desire.

The crimes of a few (or even the many) does not imbue you with guilt, ineluctably.

IMG_2026Yes, these thoughts are brought to you by a specific essay that has been brought to my attention: “How, If You’re a Man, To Deal with the Fact that You’re Trash,” by Damon Young.

I pity Young himself.

But I am not going to critique his dreadful confession of intellectual cravenness. I will let you read it and judge for yourself.

I am on a rant here.

The problem of the present age is that the only form of chivalry left is what has been subsumed by feminism, which is chivalry metamorphosed and corrupted.

And the only form of modesty with current cultural cachet appears to be the hyper-faux-puritanism of major media scolds.

img_2320Why does the puritanical mindset so quickly lead to witch (and warlock) hunts?

I pity the young. They have not been taught the skills to recognize b.s. when they encounter it. They do not seem to realize that most messages they receive are not simple but complex, and one need not accept or reject anything wholesale. Pick at the ideas, men. Prescind one notion from another. Discover principles. Take ideas apart, see what the consequences may be, and then slowly start putting them back together.

If you’d do that, then you would see that much of what is dominating Twitter and cable news is trash talk cruelty and bigotry. It is that way not because important issues are being raised, but because important stuff is being wed to triviality.

IMG_2080And let’s get real: if people would consider marriage as the primary outlet for sexual passion, a lot of this would change. A lot of this is the de facto sexual freedom we have, and the unprepared reactions to it by men (and women) of ambition.

I pity the young. They are caught in the rush of history and it is not slowing down even as it reaches the ocean of oblivion.

twv

Brain

re: ongoing sexual misconduct revelations

Much is being said about power dynamics, inequalities of power and the problems people have with sexual relations between people on different levels of a hierarchy. And there is indeed much to be said for this perspective. But in several ways this relentless rehash of the same perspective — a litany of standard feminist analysis — masks a few truths. Or possible truths, of which I here make some I-hope-plausible conjectures:

IMG_20801. The main issue in sexual “harassment” situations — though definitely not when it steps up a level or two to rape — is a kind of breach of contract. When somebody higher in an institutional hierarchy brings sex into the workplace, that is a de facto change of the job description from whatever the professional relationship was to whoremongering and procurement. Most of those subjected to such jarring contractual shifts should object to such a move.

2. It may not be power that corrupts but some other factor, or perhaps some factor in addition to hierarchical power. Yesterday I speculated (on this site) that this other (perhaps additional) factor might be feminism itself, and the false promise of equality it offers but cannot deliver. Today I should mention the obvious: the bulk of these allegations are boiling up in the entertainment and political realms. Why is this? Because these are beset on all sides by hierarchical inequalities? Well, those exist in most walks of life. Perhaps it is because the people in these fields are all flirting with . . .

3. harlotry. Traditionally, actors and actresses were considered whores. And not without reason. They pretend to be other people for money, and their lives are taken up with falsity. They do things in a fake-but-“real” way. And they know it. Many of them fake sexual relations on stage or screen. Many, many are or were “models” — people cultivated to look good, and thus serve as sexual and beauty “objects” for others. Models, remember, are attention whores. Actors, too, are attention whores. Even politicians are attention whores. Is it any wonder that people engaged in activities one or two small steps removed from actual prostitution should behave, then, like pimps?

Indeed, to discover that near-whores and especially their managers and overseers adopt sexually transgressive behaviors should hardly surprise anyone. And, further, one reason for the belated tattling on all this misconduct could simply be that the “abused” targets of apparently unwanted sexual attention and sexual displays  and advances (“propositions”) took so long in going public may also have something to do with the expectations of whores and near-whores. Acting, especially, probably seems to many of its artistic aspirants to be something somewhat seedy. And when you are in a seedy business, what are the boundaries? The victims could themselves be in honest quandary. Not a predicament so much as a conceptual and moral muddle.

If this be the case, then perhaps one reason we see so much of this kind of conduct is not just that the industry/profession is corrupting, but also that

4. its known features attract the kind of person who aims to be transgressive. Power attracts; harlotry attracts absolutely.

Be that as it may (or may not) it is the case that much of the current brouhaha strikes me not so much anger at sexual crimes (though there is certainly that, and some of this uneasily hovers on the line between the merely icky to the obviously criminal) but as

5. just another puritanical moral panic. Americans are especially susceptible to this sort of thing. And it should be remembered: this is largely branded with the stamp of leftist politics and ideology, not social conservatism. And yet this sure feels like a puritanical conservatism. But there is no mystery here; this is not at all anamolous. Generally, today, the Left has become the “conservatives” and the Right the “liberals.”

Which is, I think, the cream of the jest. I could go on and on, even giving advice — and I really do think that America does not prepare its youngsters in the ways of the world, so that the targets of some ugly or criminal advance are not courageous in their reactions, and that this should be generally addressed — but the truth is, most of this seems not to be my business.

And many of the stories bandied about get attention from the lick-smacking puritans manqué.

I have never witnessed this kind of thing . . . in those around me. Yes, my own very physical person has been sexually groped by strangers, but on those few occasions that this did happen, I did not freak out or even for a moment surmise that I had been “assaulted.” An unwanted hand moving where no invitation had been given was easy for me to remove and discourage.

Obviously, I have led a nicely sheltered life. I have never been raped. And those whom I know to have been raped were so abused far from my ambit of protection.

Rape is a horrible thing, and my speculations, above, are not about rape. The speculations above are about sexual propositions and exposures as well as lewd comments and suggestions and flirtations.

And in those cases, especially when having occurred long ago, the dredging up of the stories amidst truly horrifying allegations of actual rape strike me as dangerous. They seem like attempts to upgrade offenses to crimes, and may have the unwanted side effect of downgrading, in the general public judgment, crimes to offenses of etiquette.

So, those who have true tales to tell of creepy behavior — if those tales do not rise to the level of rape or actual criminal assault, do not name names. Discuss the offenses? Sure. But name names only in the worst cases.

Do not jump on the mania train, please. Do not send the culture into another of our insane moral crowd madnesses.

twv

 

IMG_2031

 

So, comedian Louis C.K. has been caught in the commotion, this . . . warlock hunt. He has admitted to making inappropriate sexual . . . displays.

“These stories are true,” C.K. says in a statement sent by his rep Lewis Kay. “At the time, I said to myself that what I did was okay because I never showed a woman my d–k without asking first, which is also true. But what I learned later in life, too late, is that when you have power over another person, asking them to look at your d–k isn’t a question. It’s a predicament for them. The power I had over these women is that they admired me. And I wielded that power irresponsibly.”

My take?

Woman flashes tits at a man: cheers all around; jubilation.

Man whips out his dick: the sky falls down; night terrors.

Lesson?

IMG_2027There is no equality between men and women. We cannot even have a rough parity. The double standard still exists and it always will — at least until we have morphed away from sex, after we have deeply embraced some cyborgian future. (Mere “gender” non-conformity will not do.)

Yes. Feminism is dead, even as feminists whoop up shouts of triumph.

That being said, I am amazed that an apparently intelligent man would think springing out the pud early on in a relationship, or in a carelessly prepared context, is a good thing, or a sexy thing.

“Men are such dicks.”

Well, I guess so.

But to what extent have men like Louis C.K. been misled by feminism itself? We are told that “everybody’s equal.” And so men not unreasonably extrapolate from their fantasies to their behavior: “Hey, it would be great if Tig Natarro flashed her tits at me! So, why not show her my dick?”

IMG_2031The Golden Rule in action? Do as would be done by.

But the Golden Rule is hardly a rule at all, as I have argued before. The Silver Rule is a bit better: Don’t do as you would dislike being done to.

And here we have to remember the inequality. For people are not equal. And it is not Tig (or some other nominally attractive woman or better) who should serve as your paradigm case: better would be some woman you find disgusting, some fat, ugly, unpleasant person. Or your mother (on the other end of the spectrum, I hope). Someone you don’t want to fuck.

True reciprocity is not always easy to figure, and one’s first conjecture about a relationship may deeply misconstrue the actual nature of the relationship.

Which is one reason that sticking close to traditional habits of decorum continues to be such a good idea: you do not know how to calculate all the features of human interaction; you lack the specific knowledge of context-from-another’s point of view, or of their desires and standards. (It is also the reason that act-utilitarianism makes so much less sense than rule-utilitarianism.)

But we do not live in a traditional context. So that confuses us. Men have been told for such a long time that “we should treat men and women as the same” that no wonder they galumph into one predicament after another.

Now, Louis C.K. admits that “asking permission” to engage in sexual display puts women into a “predicament.” True. But the whole modern project of sexual equality puts men into a predicament. Many men eagerly take up the explicit terms of the movement, not realizing that it was never about those explicit terms. “Equality” is a term of art at best. The art? Advancing the status of women in society. Men are not being advanced much at all. Men are supposed to “just adapt.” Make way.

IMG_2080Hardly fair. But fairness has little to do with all this, either.

But look, some of this modern predicament is merely comeuppance. Much of feminism is male fantasy. And men are discovering that they have not gained what they thought feminism would provide them: women who behave more like men. Which is something so many men want. They yearn for women to behave in ways they understand. They want the sexual interplay to be done The Male Way. They want fun. They want freedom. They want . . . minimal responsibility.

You cannot have it, men. You will always be held responsible. Which is why when feminists talk equality, you must knowingly nod your head, but, privately, or in the company of other men, remind yourselves: there is no real equality; women are not men, or even very much like them in some important ways; feminists are speaking fiction and lies; everything has costs; the feminist pretense is not utopian but dystopian.

It is up to us. For it is quite obvious that ambitious women have been so misled by feminism that they, too, haven’t a clue. One moment they demand to be treated as equals, the next? Shrieking, shrinking damsels in distress.

And now there is the mob, vindictive.

Well, it is not me being attacked, so, well, sparse sympathy from me. Men: grow up. Do what you have been telling the rest of us to do. But think. Do not follow. Lead.

And feminism? It is poison, best taken in very small doses.

twv

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N.B. Mariah Carey’s problems may seem to be a reverse of the usual order. And perhaps they are. But I confess: I find the lawsuit to be ridiculous, and have little sympathy for the bodyguard suing her. Perhaps more discussion is needed. Though frankly, as an employee you have to define what you will not do, or put up with. The proper response is probably, “You realize that you have broken the rules here, right, ma’am? More of this and I walk out the door — and you realize that breach of contract negotiations will be made public.”

Also note: children are not equal to adult men (or women), either. Which is why there are laws such as “statutory rape” and legal principles to protect the young. The case of Anthony Edwards shows how molestation can occur for years — and here again (and we are getting a lot of these, eh, Kevin Spacey?) the attitude must be to protect the vulnerable. Which is why relationships that might be, on a stretch, acceptable or dismissible for adult men perhaps even in hierarchical relations is not so when children or youths are involved with older people, adults.

Stephen Willeford

On Sunday, Mr. Stephen Willeford, a late middle-aged Christian man with an AR-15 (the rifle most despised by gun control advocates, often called “an assault rifle”) stopped a mass murderer who was systematically executing those remaining alive after his initial horrific barrage of gunfire. Willeford brought a halt to the evil man’s executions just as the shooter was standing above a fearful victim on the floor. How did Willeford do this? By engaging him with gunfire. A pursuit followed, and before the chase was over, the Christian had shot the criminal twice, severely wounding him. Police picked the mass murderer off in the end, but there is no question that the AR-15-wielding citizen saved at least one life . . . and possibly many more.

img_0452He is precisely what many deny exist: a good man with a gun.

Among the many lessons?

  • It is useful to have a high-powered, easy-to-fire semi-automatic rifle at hand and know how to use it.
  • It is useful to have ammo pre-loaded in multiple magazines — our hero might have saved more lives had he possessed three or four magazines in full ready, since, after identifying the sounds he heard as gunfire, he took some time obtaining and loading one of the several magazines he used that day.
  • And yes, this turned out to be precisely one of those situations in which owning a lot of ammo and magazines that hold many rounds each was crucial for justice to be reëstablished.

Also, Willeford was not merely an NRA member, he was also an NRA-certified instructor in firearms use.

It is now well known that existing firearms regulations might have stopped the assailant from acquiring his arsenal, but government agencies failed to do their mandated jobs. “New regulation” does no good if government is (as it often is) incompetent. The killer bought his guns illegally according to current law.

Were it not for the creepy times we live in, I would be amazed to learn that a universal upswelling of praise of and honor to Mr. Willeford failed to develop.

Instead, much of the major media has engaged in really icky innuendo and defensiveness as well as denial of facts and misstatements of common knowledge about firearms.

Also, I have heard no small amount of anti-Christian snark.

Creepy America.

twv

N.B. Steven Crowder’s interview with Willeford, though cringeworthy in some respects, is must-see on this issue.

This synopsis first appeared on my Facebook page the other day. That is indeed where most of my blogging starts these days.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing and for the State to do something.

twv

512152ED-CB17-4316-BE41-2820B94C1BD2

I believe in only one thing: liberty; but I do not believe in liberty enough to want to force it upon anyone.

The problem, in re H. L. Mencken’s admission, above, is that to obtain freedom for yourself you must bar others from abridging it not only from self, but from some or even all others. Liberty cannot be advanced except by taking license away from others.

And forswearing it for self, as well.

This is a corollary to William Allen White’s great maxim:

Liberty is the only thing you cannot have unless you are willing to give it to others.

Or, to summarize, the words of J. H. Morse:

Liberty is no respecter of persons. Freedom with an exception clause is spelled L.I.C.E.N.S.E.


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