Archives for category: Social Psychology

The Moon at Apogee and Perigee

I began my interest in politics with a fascination with anarchism. It was how I reacted to the discontent and horrors of the Sixties and Seventies.

This early study put me in an ideal historical context to assess all forms of radical activism. How? Because the anarchists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries may have been the least effective proselytizers of a cause in our time. They completely undermined their own dreams and ideals by engaging in “propaganda by the deed.”

Most such deeds — shootings, sabotage, bombings — amounted to anti-propaganda.

But earnestly done nevertheless.

Which brings us to the spectacle of radicals jumping off, willingly, their alleged high moral ground with stupid, indeed, utterly foolish actions (and writings) . . . allegedly for their cause.

Can I Punch Nazis?

So here we are, witnessing the lunatic Left immediately following apogee. That’s fine with me, but I guess I would prefer it if, somehow, these lunatics would break orbit and wander away from the home world.

In any case, to witness a whole movement in self-destructive behavior — committed to self-destructive behavior — is breathtaking. And it does suggest that radicalism tends to be dominated by (if not reserved for) the unhinged.

And the problem appears to be there with both Early and Late Adopters of a radical position.

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N.B. The photos of the Moon, above, show the sizes of the Earth’s smaller double at apogee and perigee.

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There is nothing more boring than the NFL. Not even golf.

But, I confess: these last few weeks have gotten rather entertaining. To witness conscience and folly collide, in real time — pop the popcorn, bring out the beers (or in my case, smoked baby clams and whiskey). And to witness the fall in honor of an inexplicable national pastime? Instructive.

Full disclosure: I may never have watched a professional football game all the way through. I cannot remember, exactly. I have seen a few minutes here or there. I happened to be watching at the famous moment when the runner with the ball got his leg horribly broken, snapped like kindling. That was unpleasant, and I hoped never to see anything like it again.

That moment, by the way, is imprinted in memory as having taken place at about the same time as the Challenger disaster. But I so rarely think about football I could be off by a decade and never know it.

I played football for three seasons in my early teens, for no better reason than that it was expected of me. I was not interested enough to learn the rules. Or have any informed thoughts on the subject — even after being made third-string quarterback.

But it did have an important personal lesson for me: disappointing people is something you can get used to. Indeed, people who expect a lot of you do not necessarily have your interests at heart. They want you to do well for their benefit, according to their terms, even if you secretly despise their values.

As I did.

Yes, football was a metaphor for my position in society. I came to exult in avoiding what others wanted . . . in cases where I had no interest in their goofy beliefs, whims, hankerings, agendas.

One of the next culturally expected things I gave up, after the sports cult, was patriotism, as in respect for the flag. I stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance a year after I ceased showing up for football practice. It was the 1970s, and I was not impressed by what these United States had become. And the symbology of flag-pledging patriotism seemed tribal at best, utterly orthogonal to justice — or what I understood of the original intent of my favorites among the Founding Fathers.

I could not, in those long-ago vanished days of my youth, imagine Thomas Jefferson insisting that normal citizens salute the flag, much less pledge fealty to it.

Ridiculous. The very idea struck me as ludicrous. I knew that Jefferson thought of Virginia as his country.

So, today, my youthful heresies collide. National Football League players are kneeling instead of standing during the National Anthem. Or staying out of the arena until after the melodic leaps and inapt vocal stylings of “To Anacreon in Heaven” are over.

On the face of it: more power to them.

As for the President’s reaction, it is a sort of knee-jerk patriotism expressed in the standard mouthings of the vulgar tongue. Trolling of the highest order. He gains a lot of sympathy from a huge hunk of the vast (and quickly shrinking) NFL audience. Trump has nothing to lose.

But you know who does have something to lose? Those multi-millionaire NFL entertainers who do not seem to understand that they are throwing the game . . . all in the name of their alleged “cause.” Which, they tell us, is the cause of cop-on-black violence.

Now, this might be admirable, were it not for three things:

  1. When you compare blacks killed by police to whites killed by police, and figure in instances of police-suspect interactions, the percentage of whites killed by police is higher than blacks so killed — that is, to repeat, measured against criminal investigations/police interventions. Why? That is obvious, even upon a cursory look at crime stats. The number of blacks who commit crimes, as a percentage of the population is alarmingly higher than that of whites, it is all out of whack. The ratios indicate that cops might actually be giving blacks some cautious leeway. Racial justice is not the issue.
  2. Besides, why take it out on the U.S. flag? Police are run — funded, managed, and directed — by city, county, and state governments. Most policing is not a federal matter. Acting as if it were so is stupid, uninformed. Witless.
  3. And, it should not be forgotten, these entertainers are under contract. But the collective bargaining agreement has little to say about ceremonial performance while the rule book has become less specific about patriotic observance. Still — most importantly — they play to entertain an audience.*

I hazard that these violence-whores desperately misjudge their social function.

Not only are they entertainers, but they are the “heroes” of the cultural institutions closely associated with the armed forces. “The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton,” as the saying goes. And this idea, that the sportive is tightly wedded to the military, cannot be utterly lacking in merit.

And this is why professional athletes, more so than most civilians in American society, are tied to the American nation state (as instantiated in the federal union and especially in its military). Seeing that this is the case, they should probably know their place.

But if these athletes continue to flout custom and rite, fine with me. And if they do so to the degradation of their idiotic sport’s somewhat puzzling high standing in American culture, no skin off my nose.

Setting aside my schadenfreude, if I can, I will here earnestly wish them the best with their cause — properly construed.

If they want to help their local “hoods,” fine.

But the way to help inner-city African-American populations is probably not to alienate Americans outside of those urban hellholes. They need the goodwill of the American people at large.

And, from what I can tell, they are fumbling the ball, if not offsides.

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* I originally wrote two sentences in this passage about failure to perform according to contracts, but looking over the collective bargaining agreement (available online), it now seems to me, two days later, that much of what I had read about this subject proves less than reliable. 9/27/2017

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Trump’s “Rocket Man” epithet was of course funny.

All the non-witless agree. But there is more to the story.

Scott Adams explained on Periscope how it is funny. It really is about Trump finding the boundary of “good taste” (political etiquette; verbal rectitude) and deliberately crossing that borderline. The joke works not because it is, itself, hilarious — stand-alone it’s worth a mere chuckle — but because the quarter of the audience that expresses shock and dismay make it funny.

Two birds with one rock, man. Humor depends upon a logical catastrophe, as John Allen Paulos has explained so well. We laugh when the logic slips and our grasp on categories shifts, when something or someone in one category falls into a lower category (occasionally the reverse). In the case of “Rocket Man,” not only does a dictator get a demotion, but Trump has yet again tweaked the sensibilities of his critics.

“Something for the fans.”

In a follow-up talk, Adams notes how it proved to be more than that. Trump effectively took away one of Kim Jong-Un’s goals: the “prestige thing.” Trump’s belittling of the dictator, Adams perceptively argues, effectively took out of the negotiation room one whole issue.

“Rocket Man” became “weaponized.”

It all depends on the full frame. “A month ago, every time Rocket Man launched a new rocket, how do you think he felt?” Adams asks. “I’m gonna guess proud. Probably good for his ego. Made him feel important, made him feel like he was a big player on the world stage.”

That must be right. The dictator surely felt the bigger man because of the rocket launches, because of his threat. “Powerful. Bold. . . . his T-count went up a little bit.”

After Trump’s mocking monickerization, however, “he will feel that the entire world is laughing at him.”

Correctly feel, I might add.

Trump, Adams argues, effectively took Rocket Man’s nukes away from him in terms of honor — with a simple two words. Without touching a nuke . . . or dropping one.

I must admit, I worry about a dictator stripped of his last shred of pride. What does he have left, now, but his life? Even his power may taste like sawdust.

But there’s no doubt that the negotiation game has changed. And, short term, this may be quite advantageous to nearly everyone but Kim Jong-un. (The loss of honor will eat away at the man, though. That could be quite bad.)

Trump’s “linguistic kill shots,” as Adams dubs them, amount to something important. At first blush, this routine may seem not too much different from schoolyard taunting. But there is a difference. It is not the “slow kid” or the “ugly girl” who receives the brunt of the ribbing, the humiliation; it is not the lowly or the powerless: in most cases it is the cultural elites, the people who have cultural power, the people who have determined for decades what may or may not be said. They are the ones who take the hit.

And in the case of Rocket Man, he who took the hit is someone with outrageous, horrifying political power. A man utterly deserving of any put-down we can deliver.

In this context, the litany of complaints about Trump’s rough language seem, increasingly, to be vapid and even stupid.* Schoolmarmy.

The schoolmarms naturally object to his example. What will the kids do? Will bullying go back on the rise? Perhaps.

But they miss something. Trump’s not the bully. That’s not the right metaphor. He’s the smart-ass who mocks the principal and the teachers in the hallway and, if the jocks misbehave or abuse their power, the jocks, too.

It’s not “Truth” to Power, of course. Not exactly. Trump is saying not that the Emperor has no clothes, but that the empire’s hangers-on and petty enforcers have their flies open.

And that our biggest enemies are dicks.

Keep those pocket-rockets docked, boys, or the Donald will getcha.

twv


 

*The piling on of boos and hisses, sad-faces and disses by world leaders is just the usual bit of U.S.-bashing. It is cheap credit for the world leaders. It is pathetic.

IMG_1239Barack Hussein Obama did for the Democrats what George Walker Bush did for Republicans — each undermined his own party. But while Republicans sort of figured out that something went horribly wrong, Democrats have not done the same . . . though a few may be coming around.

But there will be little blaming of Obama, who will probably loom large in the future of left-leaning America, just as Reagan has in right-leaning America. In both cases, however, the looming is illusory. Neither lived up to their promises, and both destabilized the political-economic system in important ways, leading to the current ideological and political impasse.

It is important to remember: the American people did not unite behind Donald Trump. What happened is easy enough to explain: the backlash against Hillary Rodham Clinton (many Democratic and independent voters merely staying home, others voting for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) was great enough to allow Trump to squeak past the gatekeepers and into the White House.

IMG_3224Since then, things have gotten extremely interesting.

The last ten months have given stage to an amazing mass hysteria against Trump, especially by partisan Democrats, and this hysteria has had several important effects:

1. It has solidified huge hunks of the population against the Democracy brand, perhaps enough so to ensure a re-election for the man they hate three years hence;

2. It has become a rallying point for those left of center, thus serving to typify the importance of symbolic action and matters of style over substance that has grown up on the left since the 1960s. In this, it will likely marginalize current Democratic core constituencies, insulating them from any viable future mainstream ruling coalition.

3. It has blinded both the hard left and the alt- and hard-right to the obvious fact that Trump is a paper sack of a leader: empty and easy to tear apart. He has few real convictions, and proceeds mainly on the bluster that he is a good manager. As if the current ideological impasse in America can be fixed by “management”!

I had a few more effects in my head when I started this, but now I’ve forgotten my other points!

Mainly, though, the ideological impasse deepens. I don’t think Trump will solve much of anything, though I have greatly enjoyed his constant barrage against the media. Trump learned from Perot that media ridicule was a winner in the American heartland, and amongst independents as well as Republicans nearly everywhere.

Democrats tend not to understand this, as far as I can tell. They seem in denial of the most obvious truth of our time: that they are the ones in charge, that it is their tribe that has captured the commanding heights of Western culture, and that this power has corrupted their own ideas in amazing ways.

It appears that the anti-Trump mania is dying down a bit. Maybe the Democrats will wise up. But they are so tribal these days, that I don’t think they can see the way out.

I hazard that it would have been easy to carry on the Democratic hegemony another two presidential terms, even with Horrid Hillary, had Democrats done the thing most needful at the beginning of the BHO presidency: co-opting the Tea Party. It would have been so easy. But they just had to engage in racism-baiting and class hysteria against those whom Hillary later dubbed “the deplorables,” and the Occupy movement sealed the fate. The rift was in. Solid. Embedded in stone.

IMG_2688In 2000, I had been astounded that the Republicans could so stupidly piss away their advantage by choosing George Bush as the standard bearer. The GOP would have lost everything had not 9/11 happened, Bush being such a lightweight. But incompetence is bipartisan. In 2009, I was astounded to witness the Democracy piss away its advantage, preferring the moral comforts of classism and intersectional victim-mongering.

Right now, both parties are despised by a majority of Americans.
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A major realignment is in the offing. What it will become I’m not sure. Now is the time for a Mule to really change things. (Though Trump was a political Mule, he has proved to be anything but a governing Mule. He has been so predictable — though he has not proved as similar to Obama in substance as he otherwise would have simply because of the anti-Trump protests. Understandably, he doubled down to please his base, though that he has done with mixed effects.) But there remains the nagging problem behind everything: the fragile instability of Late-Stage Churning State Capitalism. When the financial system collapses again, almost anything could happen, but the most likely will be something Democrats will be most unhappy with: a real fascist. Not paper-sack Trump. A real tyrant with a demonstrable and quite substantive nasty edge.

He (she?) could be worshipped by desperate millions.

Were I a major party mover/shaker, I’d be preparing for that right now, to get “my” Antichrist in the lineup to steal the limelight.

As it is, I’m plotting ways that my kind might influence future political and governmental shifts . . . in a positive way. I’m trying to be sneaky. For now is not the time to stumble-bum our way away from the precipice — the Abyss — we all will face, perhaps soon.

Crisis is just around the corner.

twv

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Second illustration courtesy of James Littleton Gill.

How (and How Not) To Think About The Stats, the Policies, and Moral Panic, Especially as It Relates to the Strange Case of Chris Cantwell

Postmoderns have trouble understanding the facts and apparent paradoxes of the social patterns regarding intelligence, sociality, race, etc., and then applying some evaluative, normative rubric. Which makes them freak out when they encounter someone who handles these things differently . . . in error or not.

I discuss such issues fairly often, but I do not study them as carefully as others. Here are two very different people who do think about such issues in more detail than I. One of them calls himself a libertarian; the other does not. My way of looking at the world is far more similar to the one who does not call herself a libertarian.

Karen Straughan Asks Questions, Speaks Sense

Karen Straughan dared interview the notorious Chris Cantwell. An amazing conversation, one that should help you understand Cantwell:

If this disturbs you, you should consider what Ms. Straughan thinks about it all:

‪All my life the majority of smart, educated people have talked up the Left in such a way as to indicate that leftism is “cool.” I still hear it today.

Color me incredulous.img_5132

But I will admit that, long ago‬, this “Left Is Cool” mantra made a modicum of sense.

How?

The Right was moralistic and censorious, in the days of my childhood; the Left, less so, especially when engaging in the left’s sophomoric relativism — though leftists were, I do recall, prone to shouting and marching in “protests,” which they thought were cool but were, instead, cool’s opposite, hot. Right-wingers, on the other hand, paraded their offense-taking regarding sex, drugs, blasphemy and evolution while expressing outrage in moralistic high dudgeon, and always with an undercurrent of an itch to use government as censor, abrogating free speech rights as well as the freedom of the press.

Uncool, man; there is nothing “cool” about moralism and the suppression of free speech.

Now, this has been completely reversed. The Left is now utterly dominated by shrill, moralistic would-be censors, and the traditional leftist protest — all the shouting — has turned into mob-action shout-down brigades. Free speech as a political commitment has utterly evaporated left of center, with Yes But-ing everywhere:

We’re for free speech, yes . . . but hate speech isn’t free speech, and free speech isn’t freedom from the consequences of speech!

Not being complete morons, leftists elide the threat implicit in their idea of “legitimate” consequences (“you speak and we will get you fired, or worse”) and never acknowledge the sheer contemptuous hatred on their part when going off on each habitual iteration of a “hate speech” rap.

img_1711Why did the Left descend into moralism while the Right ascend to free speech advocacy?

Two words: cultural power.

Long ago the Left captured the commanding heights of the culture. And that, my friends, is power. And power, every schoolboy knows, corrupts.

Those who try to consolidate their power become censorious and moralistic. It is as natural as were their demands for freedom when they were out of power.

Similarly, the Right has been expelled from the key cultural positions. Out of power, right-wingers naturally swing to freedom.

It is the first law of political liberty: Out of power, people say they want freedom; in power, they try to secure more power, often in the cause of “security,” sometimes in the name of “justice” or “equality,” occasionally even taking “liberty” in vain . . . for those with power over others, liberty must run against the grain.

Now we see how “radicals” become “conservatives,” and conservatives radicalize. It depends on their relevant contexts, their situations. And the context that matters most? Power — propinquity to power; quantity of power; scope of power. The more you have, the less liberty means to you.

img_1174And why is that?

Because liberty is a sort of equilibrium of force. It is the condition where, by rule of law or custom, force is not initiated against others, each is free from initiated force. And coercive force is the most obvious form of power. When you lack it, the argument for liberty seems clear: let us share power equally. But when you possess it, giving it up to allow others to share? Well, that seems counter-intuitive at best.

We live in an interesting moment, because right now the Left is at apogee and is thus filled with the confidence that dominance provides.

Not radical any longer, leftists instead aim to conserve power (even if by overkill, pushing the envelope of their instinctive socialism). Thus they are now the conservatives. Further, their dominance being so well established, they have become hubristic. Add to this the recent multi-pronged attacks them, and no wonder they have become hysterical.

Pride goeth before a fall. Expect a legitimation cascade — an authority collapse —  soon. Or else tyranny. Or first the one, then the other.

twv

individualist

noun

1: the ultimate target of collectivists, thus a member of the one class of people that we know, a priori, to be victims.

2. a herd-minded poseur known to spread collectivism as an example of his or her daring resistance to some disvalued non-collectivist (or merely traditional) crowd, real or imaginary; a mob participant who wears a mask of eccentricity as a uniform, and thinks uniformly with others of a similar nature; an ideological changeling, a mass man tarted up as morally autonomous individual by recourse to a counter-cultural consumerism — opposite of definition 1.

The legit definition, courtesy Merriam-Webster:

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N.B. This post’s title is Finnish for “individual.”

 

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CNN article

This is the modern world: teen male suicides spiked to almost 15 per 100,000 in 2015, but the headline and point of the article is to focus on teen female suicides, which have also risen . . . but to a mere 5.1 per.

This is the truth, men and boys: you are expendable. The general tenor of the culture expresses concern far more for girls than for boys, women more men, and in this case the difference of concern can be expressed as a mathematical ratio.

And let us not pretend that we are witnessing some sort of outlier, here. This sort of unequal concern, by sex, is visible in courts as well as headlines, in taxpayer-funded programs as well as colleges, in legislation as well as lifeboats.

Nevertheless, I suppose we can quibble to whom, precisely, we should impute this specific case of unequal interest:

  • to the female author of the piece,
  • to the editors of the site (it was picked up elsewhere, too, verbatim),
  • to their expectation of reader preference, or
  • to the readers themselves.

But experience allows me to make a generalization: this fits with the actual (rather than professed) aim of feminism, which is to promote women over men and girls over boys. Feminism has not been about sexual equality. It is a particularist, not a universalist ideology.

If this still astounds you, consider: doctrines of equality do not get named by merely one of the two things said to be equal.

Do not think, however, that I am especially incensed about this radical sexual inegalitarianism in favor of what used to be called “the fairer sex.” The preference is not new. It is biological, really, and boils down to the economy of scarce eggs and abundant sperm. I am subject to the bias myself.

But it does give us a cause for several distinct reactions:

  1. To doubt patriarchy theory;
  2. To conclude that feminism is a form of sexism; and
  3. To chortle.

Popular modern moral crusades (such as feminism) are risible, and their pretensions to lofty idealism cannot be believed by honest inquirers.

Young men: learn to laugh. Your enemies are many, but they are indeed ridiculous.

twv

CNN’s article was ably mocked this weekend by Sargon of Akkad, who noted that the gist of the piece (which he said drove him “nuts”) gives some cause to acknowledge the claims of Men’s Rights activists.

As I was dissecting the unfortunate intellectual snobbery of a major libertarian economist, a few years ago, the truth dawned upon me. I knew at last the great purpose of the Libertarian Party:

The most important social function that the Libertarian Party has served has been to find a home in the libertarian movement for not very bright people.

The libertarian movement has been heavily intellectual in one dimension or another for a long time. Think tanks, policy houses, ideological societies — the whole gamut — all sport fairly high intellectual pretensions.

But liberty is for everyone, as Murray Rothbard used to say, and that includes people of normal and below-normal intelligence.

The Libertarian Party has provided a nest for a great many very smart people, of course, but it has also made room and accepted as leaders folks who ring the Liberty Bell, but not the right side of the Murray-Herrnstein IQ bell.

When I was young, and active in the party for a brief time, I sometimes met truly dull-witted people there. One man, who used to be a sailor, brought up the same story every time I talked to him. It took me a while to realize that this retiree was literally on the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and that most of his fellow activists rolled their eyes at him. And yet . . . I came to like him. He was loyal, and he remembered people’s personal histories far better than the nerd-brained, MENSA-types that over-stuffed the ranks of the organization.

Indeed, when I learned that this man had died, some years ago, I was genuinely saddened in a way I probably would not have been saddened by at least half of the others I knew.

One of the important functions provided by Christian churches has been the bridging of social castes and classes. The Catholic Church is especially good at this. A professor will sit next to a person whose janitorial work provides an intellectual struggle. Dealing with people of different abilities in a social way, with respect, is something not fostered much in our increasingly IQ-sorted society. There is, as Murray and Herrnstein argued, a growing division based on a certain kind of measurable intelligence. And the libertarian movement is filled with institutions that do nothing to dissolve those divisions.

Except for a very, very few, the LP being the most prominent.

What if, contra to an intellectual conceit, we won’t have a free society until the non-intellectuals, even the simpletons, come on board? It is not as if they, too, do not have cause to resent the cognitive elites. Arguably, they have the most cause, for the modern state has been designed to serve those elites the best, throwing crumbs at the rest.

Is the Mises Institute, or Reason, or Cato going to encourage this “rest” of humanity?

Too bad that the Libertarian Party is stuck on political non-starters. For it may be one of the few libertarian groups that actually does something absolutely necessary for the future of freedom.

But it will be the libertarian intellectuals, of course, who see exactly what this means: that the Libertarian Party’s most important role is an unintended consequence of its founders’ and activists’ keenest conscious plans.

Once again, the Invisible Hand strikes back.

twv

oldmastersexpainting

Yesterday I liberated from the overgrown jungle of Facebook a brief and characteristic-of-the-age Q&A, placing it here. But that short burst of re-iterations — restatements of my basic set of objections to modish (postmodern?) sexuality/social construction theory and intersectionalist politics — is obviously not enough. Some day I must make a definitive statement. But even before that time, there is something else I must do.

Some time back I made a more lengthy and rhetorically loaded against the theory — “I do not care about your ‘gender’” — which was itself a reiteration of points I’d made earlier. And Daniel Kian Mc Kiernan challenged me on my post, in the comments section.

That challenge deserves a reply more extensive than the one I gave initially. Or, at least I should take on points not initially handled. So here goes.

The Œconomist Mac Kiernan wonders about my attitude, which I will not directly address, since it can be read in all that follows. More interestingly, he states that he does indeed recognize that “the people who speak and write most vociferously about gender theory themselves confuse the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’” — a point I often make. I often draw from it the conclusion that the innovation of “gender” is thereby likely a mistake. But I could very well be wrong, at least to make this inference. He goes on to insist that this need not be the norm: “some of those of us who write less vociferously are also consistently careful to recognize the difference between physiological states and rôles that have been associated with those states by psychological factors, some idiosyncratic and some involving interaction with other persons.”

There is a lot to unpack here, and I am probably not the one to do the unpacking. But while gender is said to be the social aspect built on the biological foundation of sex, no matter the extent to which gender is an individually chosen role, an assigned role, a socially promoted role, a socially tolerated role, a socially deprecated role — even perhaps taboo — it does seem to me about roles. That has been my reading of the concept, anyway. So I wonder about this:

While gender is plainly associated with sex, I don’t know that gender can be reduced to a sex rôle, in-so-far as there may be more than one gender associated with a sex, and I believe that there may me more than one sex associated with a gender. We now see the latter, at least as a sub-cultural phenomenon, in our own nation.

Of course there may be more than one gender associated with a sex. That was the original idea. Non-problematic from the original theorists’ point of view. And, yes, both men and women (adult male and female humans) can play a single role (that of, say, subservient homemaker, or breadwinner, or what-have-you). I am not sure what is the big deal here. Indeed, I do not see why we need “gender” to explain this. People choose different functions in social groups, and that is to be expected, since there is a division not only of labor in society, but of leisure, also.

Indeed, what is gained by talking about gender over role and social functionality? The very word is derived from a classificatory scheme.* But people are individuals first, and classified role-players second. Instantiations of roles are almost infinite, because each individual is different, at least to some degree. That socially recognized role functions get promoted in society is of course a big deal, but so is individual choice. But the idea that individuals must create newly named social role functions in order to become the people they wish to become strikes me as nipples on a bull’s belly: not necessary. Individuals may simply diverge as they choose, and, in an open society, decide not to conform to standards A, B, and C, but perhaps to D or E, even if such standards are not socially prevalent, normed.

A lot of the angst behind gender theory is the angst of people making identities for themselves in terms of closed society norms while creating and participating in increasingly open societies. But instead of embracing the evolving openness as an individualist option, they are insisting that every role choice be socially defined and accepted, and any resistance to it a sign of oppression.

This all strikes me as the anxieties of the Last Man. (The Last Man being a Feminist, or a Mangina.) These are all examples of Sartre’s “bad faith.” My objections to gender theory are partially on this existentialist-individualist line. Gender obsessions among postmoderns (Last Men) are evasions of responsibility by trying to construe the freedom of an open society as an embattled group-interest cultural war in closed-society terms.

Whatever we may conclude about gender, there are plainly people who are intersexed, having more traits of the male sex and of the female sex in combination than we find in “textbook” models. These people were once simply concluded to be in some way defective, but defects only exist relative to purposes of some sorts. It seems to me that if these people are content as they are, then there is no defect to be corrected. And if the only source of discontent associated with their physical states is that society treats them as defective, then they have a prima facie case for social change. If we pity them, it should be as we pity anyone treated badly by society. Likewise for those born sexless.

Well, yes. But of course there is a “purpose.” It is the one set by evolution. If you are born with your heart out of your chest, you are born defective. If you are born without the genitals associated with either the male or the female, you are a defective.

I was born with several disorders at birth, which showed up as infantile glaucoma and, later in life, a substernal goiter. I am a defective. I know it. I have always known it. That’s just the truth.

This is not a difficult concept. The question is not whether there are defectives, but how to treat them. As civilization has progressed, we learn that we more and more physical and mental defectives can be socially useful and socially tolerable. Indeed, we discover that our bad treatment of defectives hurts our society almost as much as it hurts them.

Thus I see one problem with gender theory as not properly dealing with defects. Indeed, I regard this as the modern goody-two-shoes vice: lying about reality because reality seems harsh. We have options to ameliorate reality. They can include honesty.

But somehow rarely do.

This is not to say that what is defective under one perspective cannot serve as an advantage under another. My lack of stereoscopic vision saved me from any enticement in sports, which I tend to regard as a great social nuisance. But that does not mean that my poor eyesight (and, growing up, slight frame) should not be seen as defective. Nicely, conveniently for me, other talents and abilities more than made up for my physical shortfalls.

Perhaps my attitude to gender theory derives in no small part from my attitude towards my own defects, growing up. I developed my own sense of self, and had no models ready at hand. I rejected many messages coming at me. Sure, I was not good at sports. But, I realized fairly quickly that I did not care (and had not ever really cared) about such socially normed activity. I turned my attention elsewhere. Had I been one of those more normal boys who had always wanted to be a baseball pitcher or some such waste of time, I would have had greater difficulty. Sure. But the lesson is still valuable: accentuate the positive; do not bother yourself with what is too expensive to fix; prepare for the best and avoid the worst. Give up on impossible dreams.

What one should do if one dislikes one’s own body more than I did — if one cannot stand one’s own genitals, for instance — I am probably not the best to advise. But I do have some perspective on the situation, and I take that perspective in my many criticisms of what I regard as leftist lunacy regarding sexual matters.

And, really: are there “plenty of people” who are intersexed? There are a very few people, by population. (It is also worth noting that these people are not primarily suffering from “gender” problems but sexual/somatic disorders.)

And let me restate more clearly: there are many defectives. Ugly people, fat people, stupid people, weak people. Indeed, there are so many defectives and so many valid perspectives under which we can be defined as in some way defective that we can say that we are, nearly all of us, defectives — only in different ways. This recognition of limitations is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of folly to pretend that defects are not defects.

It’s baldly true that what is called “sexual reässignment surgery” cannot turn men into women nor women into men; at present, surgery cannot even give a genuine new breast to a woman who has lost one! But that doesn’t established that sexual reässignment surgery is always a bad idea. Surgery can be used to counterfeit various sorts of changes, to good effect — for example, a counterfeit breast for the aforementioned woman. It seems to me that sexual reässignment surgery may be in the same category.

I am not saying that sex changes are not a good idea (though the evidence is far more indicative of its perils than its benefits); what I was saying, I thought, was that such manipulations are not “gender” reässignment. Sex change surgery is, instead, a somatic alteration. Sure, you may do what you want. But note what is happening when a person who suffers from a sexual identity crisis has surgery to change his or her body into her or his body: it switches a so-called (perceived; constructed) gender problem into a somatic problem. Basically, a psychological and moral problem into a problem for medical technicians. But since the sexual reässignment surgeries are still quite primitive — have you seen what passes for a penis at the end of such procedures? I’d prefer a vagina and make do! (vice versa for constructed vaginas) — the results are often gruesome. And extremely inconvenient. Quite a lot of bother.

Once again, as far as I’m concerned, normally-bodied folks may (should be allowed to) alter themselves to become freaks, or freaks may try to become less freakish (I may sometimes advise it),  but that is not my issue. My issue is lying about what is being done.

Or even creating moral fictions to smooth over the bumps of the inconveniences of nature and circumstance.

I am very interested in moral fictions, but I try not tp engage in many, myself. Indeed, when somebody catches me in one, I enjoy (after picking at a psychological scab or two) exploring another element of fiction in everyday life. Fiction is extremely important in the course of civilization, for individual persons as well as at meso- and macro-level society. But to be a philosopher is to be able to distinguish fact from fiction, truth from lies — and speculate where the lines should be drawn when they can be drawn competently. (My theory of rights incorporates a theory of moral and legal fiction.)

I don’t think that anyone born of one sex can somehow know by introspection that he or she has the brain of another sex. We’re not telepaths; even those of us who are content with our birth sexes know others of our sex only through the lens of gender! But if someone can be made significantly more comfortable as a counterfeited male or as a counterfeited female, taking hormones for the rest of his or her life, this seems to me to be fundamentally analogous to someone with, say, a face transplant, taking anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his or her life. I don’t see a reason to avoid the person, nor to smirk at the choice.

I am fine with most of this. But my smirk comes from the desperation to be something one is not and cannot be. What one cannot change one may be advised not to try. Those who insist on trying, and failing miserably, are the subject of comedy. That is what comedy is about, exactly such failures.

Of course, that is what tragedy is about, too.

I say this as a somewhat comic figure myself. As indicated above, I grew up knowing myself to be physically defective. And I now know (am made daily aware) that I am in physical decline. I am aging; death is nearer at hand every day. And though that may seem tragic from my perspective, it cannot be so for everyone else: they have their own lives to live until they can no longer muster the resources. I have no social and moral standing to make others pity me overmuch. Indeed, that is the lesson of Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Ilyich.” Let us not lie as we die. Nor should we lie as we primp and preen.

Desperation to put off the inevitable is understandable, but the more desperate the less admirable. I am more inclined to the Stoic and Epicurean disciplines: accept one’s limitations. Make do. Don’t fret.

I advise individuals not to adapt themselves according to a cookie-cutter “gender construct,” but define themselves as persons first and foremost.

If one sees little to offer in a standard model of sexual behavior, fine; embrace your inner eccentric. I have done that. I have never formed a long-term pair bond, and have never produced children, much less raised children to maturity. But I have never lied to myself about the cost of my choices. Or, at least I have tried not to lie.

When eccentrics prescribe for the centric we enter the realm of the problematic. Surely bachelors, spinster, openly homosexual, et al. must realize that they cannot be models for the common run of mankind. And it seems obvious . . . what must be considered the central story of any species is its sexual reproductive story. Individuals who do not participate in this activity directly must expect to incur costs of not doing so. To choose to live tangentially or orthogonally to the central story of life means one cannot directly participate in its benefits. And we should expect that this central story remain central. To not continue to place it at the center is to choose decay — by which I mean death of the social group, even death of the species.

Gender theory is, as near as I can make out, consistently, and with maddening repetition, anti-heteronormative. And heteronormativity strikes me as not merely an understandable cultural adaptation to biological and economic reality, it is necessary. We must define as decadent those practices that oppose the continuation of the species, or even the social group. Gender theory, at least in its usual pair bond with postmodernist intersectionalism, is decadence through and through.

Of course, just as there is a lot of ruin in a nation, there is always decadence in a society. And as a de facto member of a quasi-decadent social category — the “confirmed bachelor,” now known as MGTOW — I believe it to be my duty not to universalize my choice, much less undermine the social capital (heteronormativity being one) that allows society to survive and progress. Honesty demands this.

I believe gender theorists to be dishonest and decadent in the worst possible sense. They oppose the basic and necessary institutions of a society. They wish to remake the world to serve and valorize those who do not directly contribute to the continuation of civilization. What a perversity that is.

It is one thing to make room for the oddballs. It is another to redo all social arrangements to put the oddballs at the center of consideration, overthrowing normal sexually reproductive life strategies.

Family values, even. Indeed, one of the mainstays of current feminism and its embrace of “gender” theory is its utter reliance upon the State to replace the family institutions that existed prior to postmodernity. Fatherhood has been relegated to sperm donorship and forced child support payments. Motherhood is now, for increasing numbers of people, a government affair, a de facto marriage of women with the State. The norming of this allows the norming of anti-heteronormativity. The relations between the sexes have become attenuated, and all this gender talk exists within the context of the welfare state. The attenuation of social functions, like the bonds between mothers and fathers, runs parallel to the attenuation between producers and consumers, turning most folk into consumers only.

No wonder conservatives are appalled at the modern (post-modern) world. But they are completely in over their heads, because they helped create this monster.

And it is a statist monster.

If one is (as I am) skeptical of the State and its intrusive role in contemporary society, accepting gender theoretics is just another back-door meme serving to undermine an honest and subtle view of society. Gender talk serves as a lever to corrupt folks, apparently in service to the creation of a New Socialist Man, a world of Last Men where individual personhood is subsumed to State coercion at every social contact.

It is no accident that most gender theorists are out-and-out socialists. Their dream is to utterly upend society and purge all its members of individual responsibility. Directing our attention away from our own choices and towards conformity to new normed “genders” is vital, essential to their program.

And it is not a new program. Socialism, as Yves Guyot insisted years ago, only plausibly works under conditions of sexual separation and economic subsidy. This was clear in The Republic and it is clearer now, long after the death of Plato.

twv

* Late Middle English: from Old French gendre (modern genre), based on Latin genus ‘birth, family, nation’. The earliest meanings were ‘kind, sort, genus’ and ‘type or class of noun, etc.’ (which was also a sense of Latin genus).