Thursday, 16 November 2017

Beyond Feminist vs. MRA

Opinion: The Alt-Left should be neither feminist nor for men's rights. It should be for good relationships between the sexes.

It's a familiar story for anyone who's been online for any length of time. A discussion starts over a gender or feminism related topic.  There've been plenty of these lately since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke in Hollywood and the me too hashtag campaign, so there's no shortage of examples to choose from.  There's nothing unique about these conversations, however.  They've been taking place on social media since Facebook and Twitter first launched, and were commonplace on bulletin boards long before anyone knew what a comments section was.  The basic conversation hasn't changed much in the decades since Al Gore invented the internet. <grin>  A typical conversation will go something like this.

Feminist: Men rape and harass women. <subtext> That's why men suck and women should reject them.
MRA: But not all men.  <subtext> But not me.  That should give me an advantage in the mating game with women, should it not?
Feminist: But only men.  Plus patriarchy, power, privilege, rape culture, etc. <subtext> Not so fast, buster!  You're part of the segment of the population that does the most rape and who benefits from rape, and are therefore not so innocent as you'd like to believe.  And therefore suck no less and are no less deserving of rejection.
MRA: But what about false accusations? What about women who sexually assault men? <subtext> This nullifies the advantage you claimed in your previous statement.  Therefore, women should more readily accept and sleep with us.  I mean me!

It's never long before a conversation like this breaks down, and school yard level copypasta insults break out.  "Boo hoo!  Teh poor menz!" "Enjoy your cats!" So on and so on.  It'll inevitably come down to one or both sides being ugly, living in their parent's basements and being unable to get laid. This is due to the fact that the surface conversation is never nearly as important as the subtext that continually underlies conflicts over gender theory and its real world implications.

The unstated but nonetheless omnipresent axioms that are revealed when any kind of deconstructive analysis is applied to such discussions are that male power is expressed through sexual conquest of the female, and that female power is expressed through sexual rejection of the male.  All else is ancillary.  Which is largely why pro and anti feminists talk past one another and at one another far, far more than with one another.  The legitimate issues raised by either side fall by the wayside because they're obviously being weaponized to one or the other of those two ultimate effects.  The real purpose for bringing up rape, harassment, divorce, child support or any other issue, at least in online discussion, is to lower the value of one gender relative to the other, for the ultimate purpose of making sex either easier (in favor of men) or harder (in favor of women) to attain.

There's just one problem with this paradigm, however.  It doesn't work.  It's not making anyone happy.  It's based in a glaringly flawed assessment of human nature, and is much more rooted in ego than in reason or human empathy.  Men were not rejected into sympathizing with women's concerns.  They go their own way instead, doubtlessly with the intent of bringing those pesky, uppity women to heel.  No dice: women are angrier now than ever.  Who'd have guessed?  The result is that heterosexual activity has been driven into a kind of moral black market, wherein most people actually do it at some point or another, but also have to conceal it, rationalize it or engage in it under some kind of false pretenses much of the time to avoid social censure.  No wonder bad behavior abounds.

It's time to smarten up, people.  Get out of the grade school mentality.  Let's at least try and hit puberty, okay internet?  Human nature is not especially complicated.  We tend to simmer down when we feel that our concerns are being heard and taken somewhat seriously, even if disagreed with in some ways.  The natural response of people when faced with a lecturing, condescending tone is to get defensive, not to open one's heart or mind.  This is true however legitimate the surface grievance actually is or is not.  Which isn't to say you accept bullshit uncontested.  Rather, let your assessment of what's bullshit and what isn't depend on honest appraisal, which you can't get without listening and understanding.

Whatever your claim to victimhood, past or present, however poorly you were treated as a child or in your past relationships, other people, even the opposite sex, will not accept your shitty and abusive behavior. Not indefinitely, at any rate.  However much you feel entitled to it.  Two wrongs don't make a right.  This is something we feel instinctively, if not intellectually.  It stops mattering who started it, or who inflicted or suffered the greater suffering after a point.  Neither women nor men will accept the other's claim to morally superior status based on previous victimhood and grievance, even if real.  

It is easy to say that we should set our fragile egos aside and listen seriously to the other side when they lay out their grievances and issues.  This is true.  But when the other side does not expect this of themselves, even the most legitimate gripe becomes tainted by the ultimately self-serving purpose to which it is put.  The kinds of behavior displayed by feminists and MRAs alike in most internet discussions between the two would be emotionally abusive were they done in real life, and increasingly these kinds of relationship dynamics are spilling out of cyberspace and into the real world.  It is no wonder that growing numbers of people, especially the young, are eschewing relationships with the opposite sex all together, and claiming to be happier doing so.

And that's fine for some individuals.  If you're happier going it alone, and I think some people are naturally disposed this way, have at it.  But that'll be a disaster for society as a whole.  Fewer lasting successful marriages and long term relationships (LTRs) are poised to cause all kinds of problems down the road.  Demographic and economic dependency ratios are bound to get worse, and socially destabilizing levels of mass immigration will need to be employed to compensate for falling birth rates.   Frustrated romantic and sexual drives will find expression in other, usually more antisocial ways, from mounting political or religious extremism to mental health problems and increased cynicism.  Even many, though not all, of those who claim to be happier being single are not so much once you scratch the surface. A certain regret often, though not always, presents itself. And why not? Humans were not hardwired to live alone and not pass on their genes to future generations. A society losing its capacity for love and empathy is not one we should aspire to be a part of.  

So here's a proposal.  The alt-left should be neither feminist nor MRA.  Not exclusively. We should be instead for healthy and good relationship dynamics, be they platonic, romantic or erotic.  We should listen to the concerns of both sides and sort the valid and legitimate grievances from the entitled whining and vapid boasting.  It should not be a concern of the alt-left which of the two has the more legitimate grievances and is therefore more deserving.  Ten years and God knows how many flame wars into the social media age later, we should know by now that ideological partisanship and competitive victimhood isn't actually helping anybody. It's driving a spiral of mutual frustration that is causing increased polarization and extremism. 

Even if one gender really does have it worse than the other by a wide margin, our approach should be one of mutual listening and empathy, not one of grievance and vengeance.  This is not to say that we can't prioritize some issues over others or that wrongdoers can't be called out and exposed to such sanction and censure as their actions warrant. But it should never be an ego stroking exercise.  Even if you've had it worse or your sex or gender has been on the receiving end of injustice.  The world doesn't owe you anything, whatever you may think.  Success, be it alone or in partnership, derives from responsibility, not entitlement.

So if you're single or attached, male or female, here are some things you can do vis-a-vis the opposite sex to improve the situation.  And in case you are wondering, this is over twenty years of relationship success (I've been with my present wife since 1995) and a decade of every mistake imaginable leading up to it, talking.  There's much I learned the hard way:
  • Listen.  Nothing is more effective at defusing anger.
  • Do not stereotype the opposite sex unironically or for non-comedic purposes.
  • Stop with the vain, stupid games. Crushing some young man or woman's confidence in him/herself won't bring down the patriarchy or gynocentrism, and it doesn't make you strong or independent.  It makes you an asshole, be you male or female. 
  • Do not participate in discussions that tend to descend into pissing contests of competitive victimhood, and clearly state this.  Ask instead, "what do you want?"  That's a powerful question that can very effectively shut down entitled whiners with weaponized grievances.
  • You are owed nothing.  Approach all relationships with the opposite sex, or with anyone, with that in mind.  This is not to say that you should tolerate shit and abuse. Don't. But don't expect to be put on a pedestal either.
  • Do not have as an expectation from an idea partner a trait you do not have or can not match.  Half of our problems stem from 6's thinking they're actually good matches for 10's, so to speak. Do not expect a prince if you're not a princess, or vice versa.  And assess yourself honestly to save a lot of trouble.
  • Live a good life outside of a relationship context.  This signifies that you will not be dead weight but instead a net asset in other people's lives.  No one wants a needy dependent.
  • Trust must come before any kind of relationship intimacy, be it physical or emotional.  Always. Take it upon yourself to earn rather than demand trust.  Decide at what point your efforts are in vain and when to move on.
  • Do not expect from a relationship partner anything that you can do for yourself.  Relationship success thrives best when free of contrived obligations and expectations.  Otherwise resentments creep in and do damage.
  • Do not be afraid to point out the <subtextual> elements and their underlying axioms (see above for examples) in gendered discussions, but do so only if the person you're discussing things with becomes obstinate, obtuse or clearly hostile.  The underlying pettiness and stupidity become readily apparent when brought to light.
  • Likewise, if need be, remind people that two wrongs don't make a right.  Plus, no man was ever rejected, nagged, scolded or castrated into liking and respecting women.  No woman was ever convinced by rational argument or else likewise rejected, scolded or shamed into liking men.  People don't work that way.  Don't hesitate to point this out.
  • Make your disdain for passive aggressiveness clear, if need be.
  • If people insist on dominating conversations with socially destabilizing displays of rudeness, sarcasm or hostility, do not be afraid to call them out on it and exclude them from further social activities.  If you moderate or administer an online or social media space, you have a special responsibility here.  Trolls thrive on the emotionally destabilizing effect that their refusal to be decent and reasonable people has.  Do not tolerate it and ban them at once.
  • Admit that the opposite sex doesn't always have it easy.  Try to replace resentment with walking in the other man or woman's shoes, as the case may be. This isn't to say it's equally bad on both sides, all the time.  Occasionally people will need to be told to stop whining.
  • Do not attribute to malice what can be attributed to clumsiness or ignorance without evidence. This is especially true with flirtation, flattery or the like.
And above all ...
  • Get the f**k off the internet every once and awhile.  Yeah, I know.  It's hard.  But there are numerous dynamics that contribute to the internet being a relatively uncivil place where your faith in humanity can easily go to die.  Meet people in the real world from time to time.  They're usually (though not always) not what they appear to be when seen as just a social media profile.
So that in mind, get out there and see the world, dear reader!

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ernest Everhard Speaks his Mind - Nov 12, 2017

A compilation of my thoughts over the last two weeks.

My observation of things during the Bush years was that the rise of the new atheism was much more enabled by disillusionment with the Bush White House and, by extent, the conservative Christianity it was associated with than it was by a climate of anti-Islamism following 9/11, though that certainly was a factor. Though outspoken critics of Islam, Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens channeled anti-Islamism into a broader critique of religion in general, and thereby actually helped stave off a more ugly, reactionary and xenophobic form of far right anti-Islamism. 

The new atheism thus provided American liberalism with its own explanatory narrative of 9/11 - that it was caused by religiosity more generally - that doubly served as a critique of subsequent foreign policy errors in the middle east during the Bush years: neocon policy was driven in large part by Christian right ideology and that nation building in the middle east was a doomed exercise from the beginning due to the excessive religious tendencies of the region's inhabitants. I'd suspect that this, as much as the Lehman bro's meltdown, is what put Obama in the White House.

Most outspoken atheists I knew who were HUGE fans of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris were outspoken against Christianity almost exclusively, and these were also firmly in support of classic democrat party platforms: pro gay marriage, pro abortion, comprehensive sex ed, staunchly opposed to teaching creationism or intelligent design in the classroom, etc. etc. This seemed to me in rather stark contrast to their implied disdain for dogmatism and party line thinking. This, more than anything, was what got me thinking that the new atheists weren't seeing the whole picture. For all their disdain for religion, it was quite remarkable to me just how "religious" their thinking really was in some ways. Jordan B Peterson would thus be a question of when, not if.

The new atheism was as much the genesis of the SJW movement as the postmodern college lectern was. It was the beginning of the mainstreaming of the progressive who stood above, as opposed to alongside of, the common man. They despised the middle American working class no less than the SJW does, but for his religion rather than his race or his sexuality. While they clearly weren't fans of Islam, they had comparably little to say about it. It was largely below the progressive radar. Again, those of the skeptic community who sided against the SJWs when the schism finally came in around 2013 or so redeemed themselves to some extent in this regard. I hope they do not squander this redemption by getting too close to the reactionaries and the alt-right simply because they have a common enemy in the SJWs and mass Islamic immigration.

"Privilege is therefore a counterproductive way of framing many issues that we now see in terms of racial and gender identity, such as sexual assault, wage inequality and abuse of police powers. Assuming that the advantages supposedly enjoyed by white males are "privileges" implies that some authority somewhere, presumably white and male itself bestowed the advantages on white males as an act of personal favoritism (it didn't), it presumes that white males are able to individually or collectively renounce these privileges but won't (they can't) and that it is therefore acceptable for the less privileged to hate on those who are arbitrarily favored in this manner (it isn't, since it doesn't work this way in the real world.)" Deep Politics: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate at The Alternative Left.

Intersectional identity politics is like Nazism in a mirror. It's like the architects of this ideology decided to take everything Hitler said, invert it and make it their own. The result is a chimerical creation that, through its efforts to be the absolute anti fascism, becomes like fascism in many ways.
Race is determinant, only the white race takes the place of the Jews as the destroyer of civilizations. White racial pride is replaced with white racial guilt, but racial identity is considered paramount.

Likewise, both are preoccupied with masculinity. For the Nazis, virile masculinity is essential to the greatness of the Aryan while for Intersectional Feminists, virile masculinity is essential for the destructiveness of the white. Nazis fear Jewish influence making men effeminate and masculinizing women. Intersectional Feminists fear patriarchy and white supremacy stopping men from becoming effeminate and preventing the masculinization of women. Both fear individual whites, blacks, men and women from living their own lives on their own terms.

With Intersectional feminism, nobody is really permitted to advocate for themselves, but loyalty and fealty is owed to those deemed more marginalized and oppressed, rather than those who are allegedly superior. If socialists advocate for, well, socialism, they're called "brocialists" because they don't advocate for women's issues. If the women's movement advocates for, well, women's issues, they're attacked as "white feminists" for not advocating for women of color or as "heteronormative" or "TERFs" for not advocating for queer or transwomen. Black cis/het males are condemned as the "white people of black people" and told to check their privilege vis-a-vis the broader anti-racist movement. Cisgender gay men are routinely attacked for their alleged misogyny, racism and transphobia. On and on. Common with fascism is anti individualism and a subordination of class consciousness to a sacrificial devotion to some or another external group.

This results in complete movement paralysis, as little time is spent actually advocating for any measurable reforms and most of the effort is spent calling out other activists for their sundry forms of unchecked privilege, and is also in absolute and complete contrast to Nazism, in which the will of a singular leader representing the master race is the will to power that all good Aryan men are called upon to emulate, though they will always fall short of Hitler's perfect example. Nazism is the absolute exaltation of the will to power, intersectional feminism is the absolute negation of the will to power.

As with all other kinds of fascism, complete obedience is owed to those above you in the status hierarchy, and free reign is given to abuse those lower than you on it. Intersectionalist articles routinely attack the "fragility" of males, whites or others with privileged identities who object to the disrespect and juvenile behavior they're subjected to while in spaces where intersectionality is upheld as paramount.

If you were to define feminism as simply the view that men and women are equal in some abstract, "in the eyes of God" sort of sense, than I'm all for it. I suppose I'm down with the core program: equal pay for equal work, my body my choice, and so on. There is no denying that a lot of objectionable conduct towards women from men takes place.

The problems I have with it are twofold and somewhat interrelated. The first is that most feminism comes across to me as judgemental and puritanical. The feminist apple did not fall far from the Victorian era social purity movement tree on which it grew. Male heterosexuality is viewed with extreme suspicion, and is seen as objectifying to women due to an unstated but implied view that gender relations are somehow a zero sum game. The nature of sex relations is such that men's gain is woman's loss and vice versa. If a male likes something, it is to be regarded as "objectifying" while that which the male dislikes is to be regarded as "empowering." This is never outrightly stated, mind you, but often implied.

The puritanism extends well beyond mere personal relations, though. I notice an overarching "brother's keeper" mentality within feminism wherein a heavy weight of moral responsibility seems to be felt for the less fortunate and less privileged. This has gotten exponentially worse since "intersectionality" has become the dominant concept in most capital F feminism. While there is nothing wrong with charity or real work aimed at empowering marginalized people, intersectional feminism and the whole SJW movement it's given rise to seems to pursue this in a guilt and obligation laden manner. I see a lot of guilt tripping and - while this is frequently denied openly, being "privileged" is often implied as something that someone is supposed to feel guilty and personally responsible for.

It is often used as a pretext to hand wave away dissent: the privileged are allowed no opinion on anything, at least on anything social justice related. This leads to what my second and I think my far greater objection to feminism is.

And this is that feminism has become a closed belief system. People are reduced to their combination of marginalized or privileged statuses, and this is seen as the determinant factor in all social relations. Dissent is shut down because it is dismissed as privilege trying to rationalize itself, or else internalized oppression if it comes from someone more rather than less marginalized. Feminist spaces therefore have a tendency of becoming echo chambers where towing the line, signalling, buzzwords, slogans, copy pasta and canned responses all too often serve as a substitute for open discourse.

The world view this engenders is thus extremely Manichean - meaning neatly divided into pure good vs ultimate evil with no middle ground. What is needed for the "good" to win is not the usual give and take of regular politics, but all out crusade. Negotiation is out of the question - one does not negotiate with privilege and oppression, except maybe to gain some other kind of needed advantage. Too often, the result is self righteousness and dogmatism, and feminist spaces become rife with purity spiralling, boundary policing and stifling self censorship for those who do not perfectly fit in.

The cumulative effect of all of this is a kind of exhausting moral overreach that is frustrating and wearisome for all involved, sooner or later dissolves into disillusionment, and ends up silencing and invisiblizing far more people than it actually empowers. The intentions are, of course, good. Most of the time, at least. I do think petty misandry does creep in from time to time. But for the most part, feminist activism is aimed at empowering the more marginalized and this is, of course, commendable. 

But it's conditions for doing so always seem to demand that someone else more "privileged" be silenced. Male leftists are dismissed as "brocialists" for not emphasizing women's issues. Mainstream feminism is dismissed as being "white" or "cis/heteronormative" for not emphasizing the issues faced by women of color or queer/transwomen. I've seen cisgender gay males called misogynist for sexually rejecting women (while heterosexual men are similarly denounced for sexually favoring ciswomen (objectification) or rejecting "women" with penises (transphobia).

It reminds me a lot of that old aesop story about the man, the boy and the donkey, who continually rearranged who rode on the donkey and who didn't until they finally ended up causing the donkey to fall into a river and drown: try to please all, and you will please none.

You can take the God out of the puritan. But taking the puritan out of the nonbeliever is proving more difficult. So feminism was vaulted into prominence in the formerly Christian world to renormalize repressive, guilt based morality and to make thinking that sex was dirty and degrading acceptable again.

Part of what's driving the men's rights movement (of which I'm not much of a supporter, truth be told) to the right is, and let's be honest here, the gynocentric and misandrist tendencies on the left. Not all of the left, to be sure. But it's definitely there. Hell, a fair amount of leftism I'm seeing these days is barely disguised femdom - which probably goes a ways in explaining why so many feminist men end up being such sexual mutants, as we're now discovering with all these sexual misconduct allegations coming out of Hollywood, and so on. 

A major problem I have with the way the culture wars are shaking down is that it's evolving into this:

Left = Female > Male
Right = Male > Female

This trend is stupid and needs to be resisted, and that was a big part of why I started Alternative Left. I'm a male, generally moderate - pro feminist in the classical liberal sense - on gender related issues but an avid supporter of a strong welfare state, regulations on banks, labor unions and so on. But most people who share those views with me despise my genitalia and heterosexuality.  Few will come right out and say it, but the subtext is virtually always there. And then we wonder why men drift right, even if it countermands their economic interests if they're also working class. 

I do get why the left supported feminism in the first place: women were marginalized and excluded compared to men, all else being equal, and so support of equality for women made sense for those whose value system stressed equality more generally. But this has now evolved into full on gender partisanship. To much of the left these days, women are simply better. It's caused them to take up a lot of strangely Victorian era attitudes that until relatively recently, the left was most critical of.

Conversely, what about women who are avid supporters of the free market? How do they manage in what otherwise tends to be a real old boy's club? I wonder if a Margaret Thatcher could even get started in this day and age - not that I would have a problem with no Margaret Thatcher, mind you. Not that women aren't welcome on the right - the moderate center right leastwise, but it does seem to skew more decidedly masculine in its overall culture.

The battle of the sexes would be better kept off the political spectrum.

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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Deep Politics: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Once upon a time, I wrote:
To gain a deep understanding of politics, there are few writers I'd recommend more than George Lakoff.  During his lengthy tenure at University of California Berkeley, he was involved in groundbreaking work in the field of cognitive linguistics - the study of the relationship between thought and language.  Don't worry, we won't discuss anything near so dry here.  This is about Lakoff's opus, a 1996 tome called Moral Politics that claims to get inside the minds of conservatives and liberals respectively.

Lakoff's work is relevant and worth a study by anyone serious about understanding the construction of ideology for two reasons.  The first, which I won't get into as much here, is his emphasis on the use of wording and metaphors to craft narratives that invoke specific moral frameworks when communicating political ideas. He warns against using the conceptual framework of one's ideological opponents when debating contested ideas, as this gives the natural advantage to your opponent, who's framed the issue in a way that's advantageous to their world view.
I'd like to return to Mr. Lakoff and his work now, to discuss the first of those reasons here, the one I did not get into previously while discussing the Nation as Family Metaphor.  And that's the concept of cognitive framing - the mental structures that we use to see the world, and the use of language to create and advance a particular cognitive frame.  Terms like narratives are often used in the same or similar concept as frame: they denote a structured way of viewing the world that animates the positions people are more likely to take on political and social issues.

This sounds dry and academic, maybe even postmodern, and to an extent it is.  But it is also crucial to understand for those who wish to engage in dialogue with the intent on changing the world.  You will, whether you know it or not, advance a particular mental framework or social narrative, as will your opponents.  If your opponents understand this fact better than you do and are able to manipulate the concept of framing - as regressive leftists are as a result of studying post-structuralism and literary deconstruction, you will be at a huge disadvantage.  Conservatives also know about framing, and have used it to devastating advantage, such as with Newt Gingrich's infamous 1996 GOPAC memo: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control (the name really does say it all, doesn't it?)  Decades of marketing research, for both commercial and political application, has been invested in the study of cognitive framing, and you'd better believe that the powers that be use it to keen effect.

So the alt-left's main opponents are well versed in these theories. These also aren't new concepts: the use of language to create and mold reality was a major theme in George Orwell's 1984.  So this is a useful concept to understand.   

The first example that Lakoff sites in the first chapter of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate is the oft heard term "tax relief." These two words together say more than their literal meanings suggest. Lakoff explains this frame in more detail: "For there to be relief there must be an affliction, an afflicted party and a reliever who removes the affliction and therefore a hero."  Taxation is thereby presented as something from which relief is needed.  This means of framing the issue of taxation is to the benefit of conservatives, who favor smaller government and are against state funded welfare programs for the poor. 

The trap, warns Lakoff, is for social democrats to accept this core framework while arguing against conclusions derived from it.  One must not come out as being against tax relief, because this way of framing is inherently disadvantageous for the center left.  It is an uphill battle to advocate for a greater number of taxpayer funded social welfare initiatives if one buys into the framing of taxation as an affliction from which relief is needed, which one does implicitly through use of the term "tax relief." 

Better, argues Lakoff, to begin by conceiving of the issue of taxation in entirely different terms.  He describes it variously as "paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America", "what you pay to live in a civilized country" or similar concepts, all based around what citizens get for their tax dollars, rather than the burden that taxation places on citizens.  This shift in emphasis is what reframing is all about.

We can use this concept to look at contentious social issues from new angles.  Consider the highly controversial constituent elements of intersectionality, for example: white privilege, male privilege and so on.  The term "privilege" has a specific meaning that both denotes and connotes very specific concepts.  A google search of the term reveals the following definition: "A special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people."

Like "relief", the term "privilege" makes certain presumptions.  For there to be privilege, there must be an authority with the power to bestow privilege, and that authority opts to bestow privilege based on arbitrary factors such as race, gender or sexual orientation, among others.  It is also conceivably possible for a privileged person to renounce their privilege, or for the authority granting said privilege to act in a more just and egalitarian manner. To fight against privilege is to fight for fair treatment for all, which we can also define as social justice.  One who fights can also be called a warrior.

The problem is that the term social justice warrior carries a lot of cultural baggage.  While the denotation - the literal meaning seems fair and reasonable, the connotation - subtler ideas communicated more through undertone and subtext is overwhelmingly negative.  The term invokes a frame consisting of fanaticism, zealousness, self righteousness, hypersensitivity and so on.  Why is this?  Part of the problem lies with the use of the concept of privilege to frame the issue of social inequality.

The "knapsack of privilege" consists of a bevy of benefits supposedly enjoyed by white males that are denied women and minorities: higher pay for the same work and less discrimination to actually get that work, men are raped and sexually harassed far less than women, whites are hassled by police less frequently than minorities, and so on.  To view these things as "privileges" presupposes - if only subconsciously - that someone capriciously made the decision to confer these benefits on white males and not women and minorities.  The implications are that not being raped, being paid fairly for the work one does and freedom from arbitrary police actions are not rights, but rather privileges that are unfairly enjoyed by some and not others.  Think long and hard on this.

Implied is the notion that all white males enjoy these privileges while no women or minorities do.  This subtly legitimizes an attitude of collective resentment on part of the less privileged and collective responsibility on part of the more privileged.  It is these implied resentments and this implied responsibility that formulate the subtext of a considerable volume of media informed by feminist and critical race theories, and why they provoke such defensiveness from their white male targets. 

Privilege is therefore a counterproductive way of framing many issues that we now see in terms of racial and gender identity, such as sexual assault, wage inequality and abuse of police powers.  Assuming that the advantages supposedly enjoyed by white males are "privileges" implies that some authority somewhere, presumably white and male itself bestowed the advantages on white males as an act of personal favoritism (it didn't), it presumes that white males are able to individually or collectively renounce these privileges but won't (they can't) and that it is therefore acceptable for the less privileged to hate on those who are arbitrarily favored in this manner (it isn't, since it doesn't work this way in the real world.) 

The self righteous militancy that the privilege frame tends to engender in those who accept it - the SJWs - also acts as a barrier to the exploration of alternative explanations for unequal outcomes. SJWs will see an attempt at a reframing of the issue as an attempt on part of the privileged to duck their responsibility for the unfair advantages that they enjoy and thereby jeopardize the morally superior status enjoyed by the SJW, and call out such actions accordingly.  Plus, many white males have, to varying degrees, internalized the privilege frame and the ensuing guilt serves to paralyze their will and bring about rapid capitulation in the face of feminist accusations of defending privilege, especially on college campuses and extremely liberal urban areas where these ideas enjoy cultural dominance. 

Since the privilege framework does not effectively diagnose the true nature of the grievances, legitimate or no, that women and minorities have vis-a-vis white males, things are not likely to improve for them for so long as this framework holds.  This will intensify resentment on part of those whom this frame holds as being less privileged - and deepen their commitment to this flawed means of framing injustice, and paralyzing guilt on part of those deemed more privileged.  The end result isn't likely to be good.  Zimbabwe and South Africa present an unpleasant glimpse at where this could potentially end up.

To present a solid and defensible way reframing of social inequality in a more productive manner should be a key task of the alternative left. 

Do you, dear reader, have any ideas for a more productive way of framing the issues of racial and gender equality?  Let me know in the comments.

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Sunday, 29 October 2017

Ernest Everhard Speaks his Mind - Oct 29, 2017

A compilation of my thoughts over the week.

Too often during the 20th century, the leftist warning that freedom in law will not be sufficient was mistaken to mean that freedom in law is itself unimportant, or worse, a mere rationalization for other forms of privilege, be it economic class dominance (think Leninism) or the more recent emphasis on race or gender privilege.

This mistaken interpretation has been disastrous before, in the USSR and its satellites, and will be disastrous again in the hands of the western regressive left should they end up in a real position of power.

The hollowness of mere equality in the law in a bourgeois society does not mean that equality in law doesn't doesn't matter and can simply be dispensed with as a means of achieving some higher, more transcendent kind of equality. Quite the opposite.

It reminds me of Bakunin's formulation that liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice, while socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality. A wise man, Bakunin.

We're kind of the new old left, as it were.  A lot of these guys: Sargon, Jordan Peterson etc. start off as reasonable anti-SJW liberals, but always end up drifting right.  That doesn't happen to us.

Phrases like "white people don't get to decide what's racist" or "males don't get to decide what's sexist" should raise red flags for left wingers, and not the kinds of red flags left wingers typically like and are associated with.

"You don't get to question the diktats of the leadership, the party line or the church doctrine" is the statement of what kind of leader? An authoritarian leader, by definition. What kind of group? A cult, a fundamentalist religious sect or a fascist party, that's what kind.

These statements are a kind of linguistic dishonesty. They depend for their effect on definitions of racism and sexism that are already commonly understood. Meaning that discrimination and supremacist views on the basis of race or sex, which are commonly held to be bad things. So there's actually no real need to discuss whether or not whites get to decide what's racist or males get to decide what's sexist because we already know what those terms mean.

When it is stated that whites/males don't get to decide what's racist/sexist, what it is really being used to convey is that they do not get to question what this or that self appointed representative of feminist or minority interests deems racist or sexist. This suggests to me that they wish to appropriate the moral force of anti-racism and anti-sexism for their own benefit in some manner, such as to police culture with impunity. This suggests to me that these so called anti-racists and feminists do not want their ideologies and the nature of their activism scrutinized. This suggests to me that these self appointed representatives might have something to hide.

Of course claims of racism and sexism should not simply be hand waved away as the hypersensitivity of easily triggered SJW snowflakes in need of a safe space either, as the alt-right would suggest. Rather we should scrutinize the claim of racism or sexism and ascertain whether or not it's actually describing discriminatory practice, supremacism etc., or advocacy thereof.

The adherents critical race theory and feminist theory have declared that white males do not get to question them on what is racist or sexist. For the alt-left, we must take this as being true, in a way. For we have not merely the right to question them so, but now the responsibility to. And this responsibility is not despite the fact that we are liberals, but because of it.

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Sunday, 22 October 2017

Ernest Everhard Speaks his Mind - Oct 22, 2017

Me Too!
A compilation of my thoughts over the week.

Hollywood gossip then: who's dating and who's sleeping with who?
Hollywood gossip now: who's harassed or made inappropriate innuendo to who? 

"Most men, myself included, have our own horror stories about the sexual misconduct of the fairer sex, so called.  Though hopefully we would not use them to impugn the entire female gender.  Many men, myself included, have grave concerns that dogmatic movement feminists are intent on silencing male victims, or on weaponizing issues surrounding harassment and assault so as to stigmatize all male heterosexuality, or similarly conflating all forms of heterosexual flirtation and courtship with the objectification of women, or with eroding due process for men accused of sexual offenses against women, all so as to preserve a narrative of universal female victimhood and male guilt that can, in turn, be leveraged for advantage in public and private relationships.  This is also indefensible and needs to stop.

That does not mean, however, that real sexual harassment and assault of women does not happen and is not an excuse for silencing discussion of it.  Nor do the very real instances of rape and harassment of women justify the silencing of male victims or the concerns of men discussed above.  And let's not forget LGBT victims and perpetrators alike.  Nobody should get a free pass."  From Me Too, on Samizdat Broadcasts.

"He will, as I have, come to the conclusion that most feminism today is not about equality at all, but about the maintenance of a cultural myth of feminine purity and moral superiority. He might not know this intellectually, but he senses it instinctively.

"This means using privilege theory as a legitimizing way of erasing or rationalizing away instances of female misconduct towards men, or of silencing dissent and criticism of feminist ideology, since they jeopardize the narrative of monolithic male power and female victimhood that the myth of innate feminine morality depends upon as an axiomatic foundation." Why That Guy Got Defensive Over Your MeToo Hashtag at The Alternative Left.

"For the dogmatic ideological male feminist, sexually harassing or even assaulting a woman is not a betrayal of his principles, but rather the end result of those principles. He failed to display respect for women because he never really respected them in the first place. He respected only the categories into which his ideological convictions place people. He never respected women as human beings, which is really the only way any kind of person can be respected, rather he objectified them in the most underhanded and duplicitous of ways. So should it ultimately surprise us when he is outed as an abuser, a rapist or a harasser?" The Growing Distrust of Feminist Men at the Alternative Left.

"Neither side really captures the essence of it.  Many leftists no doubt think of themselves in the manner described in the meme.  And there's nothing wrong with it.  Universal health care, education, housing and assistance to the poor are fine things in and of themselves.  The problem with standard leftist arguments is that they assume the right wing disagrees in principle.  Not necessarily.  The ends, as far as the right winger is concerned, do not necessarily justify the means.  That's the basis of the right's objection, and the impasse they find themselves at.

Fair enough, but the right winger is not conceptually framing this properly.  This kind of vulgar economism underlies a lot of right wing fallacies.  The problem with the right wing counterarguments boil down to this: The right winger thinks of socialism as robbing Peter to pay Paul.  This isn't what it is.  It is both Peter and Paul paying into something that both can use when both have need of it.  I bold and italicize this so that its importance can be impressed upon you.  It is crucial to understand this."  Why I am Left Wing at the Alternative Left.

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Why I am Left Wing

This little gem turned up in my Facebook feed the other day.  The meme on the left - fittingly, and the response from the comments.  This was a typical response, most other critical responses said roughly similar things.  

Neither side really captures the essence of it.  Many leftists no doubt think of themselves in the manner described in the meme.  And there's nothing wrong with it.  Universal health care, education, housing and assistance to the poor are fine things in and of themselves.  The problem with standard leftist arguments is that they assume the right wing disagrees in principle.  Not necessarily.  The ends, as far as the right winger is concerned, do not necessarily justify the means.  That's the basis of the right's objection, and the impasse they find themselves at.

Fair enough, but the right winger is not conceptually framing this properly.  This kind of vulgar economism underlies a lot of right wing fallacies.  The problem with the right wing counterarguments boil down to this: The right winger thinks of socialism as robbing Peter to pay Paul.  This isn't what it is.  It is both Peter and Paul paying into something that both can use when both have need of it.  I bold and italicize this so that its importance can be impressed upon you.  It is crucial to understand this.  

The left has, in part, itself to blame for the right's successful misframing of social democracy.  Their own framing of social welfare is that they're going to make "the rich" and "the corporations" pay for programs that are intended to help the needy because they are "not greedy bastards."  They're setting themselves up for the right's "robbing Peter to pay Paul" counter criticisms.  A better way to phrase support for social programs than would be "everybody pays into what everybody benefits from."  

This kind of socialization of expense and benefit is not necessarily the best way to provide for all goods and services in an economy.  There are plenty of things for which people can and should provide themselves, government bureaucracies come with their own pitfalls and private incentives and capital markets matter in economic activities and can't be dispensed with without serious economic chaos.  In my experience, the advocates of pure revolutionary socialism do not understand what it is they're plugging for on anything but the most superficial level, and are usually intersectional social justice warriors beneath a thin red and/or black veneer for that reason.  So central planning is not what I advocate.  Full out worker's control would be fine if the working class actually wanted it, but in my experience they're content to have professional management run things.

But sometimes it makes more sense to socialize, both from an economic and a social point of view.  This is generally the case with core infrastructure that is widely if not universally used and makes other kinds of economic activity possible.  Sometimes, as with public health insurance, the wisest thing is to realize superior economies of scale and nationalize it in the form of a universal public healthcare scheme.  

That in mind, let's have a look at the comment's counter-claims against the original meme.

Your parents never taught you to respect private property ... A straw man and an ad-hominem.  There is nothing about belief in social welfare that would imply this, unless its advocates also insist they be exempted from the taxation required to pay for it.  A person willing to pay their share into a public insurance scheme or for social infrastructure that all people make use of, and when socialization really is the better way to provide said infrastructure, is not showing a lack of respect for private property, but is giving it a higher valuation than the "annoying kid" who does not recognize his own responsibility to pay into what all make use of.

It means you are an ideologue, who wants things based in wishful thinking rather than rationality.  This is no less true of the fiscal libertarian, who thinks unbridled free markets the solution to all ills and an axiomatic moral principle that is beyond question.  If you are not such a libertarian, then congratulations!  You are a pragmatist who doesn't insist upon either privatization or socialization on principle, but rather on the basis of what is most fitting for the market under consideration.

It means you don't see the difference between education and indoctrination.  And that concerns public health care and education how, precisely?  Again, this can be said of any ideologue.  While there is a lot of dogmatism on the left, especially on the cultural left these days, dogmatism is not an inherently leftist characteristic.  Again, free market fundamentalists in their think tanks are no less guilty of this.

It means you care enough about the sick and disabled to give them other people's stuff, but not enough to help out yourself.  Go back and reread the bolded and italicized text in my third paragraph above.

It means you are less fortunate and want others to care for you instead of working hard to get out of it.  It means being wise enough to know that misfortune can happen to anyone, and collectively insuring ourselves against at least the worst catastrophes might not be a bad idea.  It means that in the real world, no one "gets out of it" or even comes at all into fortune and wealth entirely of their own efforts - though this is important - but rather with the assistance of a support network.  Perhaps the objecting commentator is fortunate enough to have a private support network that can help him out when things go off the rails in his world, and thereby takes for granted his relative wealth and fortune.  Perhaps having safety nets in place can mean the difference between the misfortunate being able to get back on their feet again via hard work, and being completely mired in poverty and hardship due to the lack of leverage in the marketplace that marks those clustered at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  

It means you want to use buzzwords to signal your virtue while not doing a thing about the things you say you want to stop. This is sadly true of many on the left, again especially surrounding social and cultural issues.  But again, willingness to pay into a social program intended to combat a social evil hardly constitutes "not doing a thing."  

Good for you, you understand there is suffering and want to change it. Problem is, you are going about it all wrong. "Give a man a fish and you've fed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you have fed him for life". The left knows only how to give fish, and doesn't bother with the teaching part, until it runs out of fish and collapses. After all, teaching people to help themselves would be "blaming the victim" or such other nonsense.  Rubbish, for the most part.  

If the left "didn't bother with the teaching part" then why do so many of them advocate for free college (which I don't personally support), universal public education or for full employment.  The left can thrive on learned helplessness, and yet again, I think they do this more where cultural issues and identity politics are concerned.  This is why I'm alt-left rather than mainstream left and oppose these kinds of politics.  

Reasonable people on the left are all for "teach a man to fish and feed him for life."  They also know he has to eat in the meantime.  They also know that trawlers are too capital intensive for even the most industrious of fishermen to procure for themselves by their own efforts alone, and mere nets and fishing rods cannot compete with them, especially after the stocks have been depleted.  

For a relatively small portion of the population to own entire fleets of trawlers to then tout the morality of self reliance to those who do not seems a tad disingenuous and self serving, to put it mildly.  Doubly so if it was much more by fortune than by effort that they got to become part of the majority shareholding class to begin with.  Perhaps it is they who have been the true beneficiaries of fiscal policy that has robbed Paul to pay Peter.

It is not always for lack of knowledge of how to fish or the willingness to do so himself that it is necessary to give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  You can teach a man how to fish and feed him for a lifetime if fishing rods and nets are as far as the need or ability to fish can practically go.  In a capitalist economy, however, a share in the fishing fleet might just be what's required. 

Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Growing Distrust of Feminist Men

I'm Seeing a Lot of This Lately

When I hear of an outspoken male feminist being outed for harassment, assault or some other kind of shitty behavior against women, I am never surprised.  I've even read some suggestions that they are our era's version of the televangelist who was outed for infidelity or latent homosexual tendencies, or the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.  I largely agree with these assessments, and the underlying psychological dynamics with all of them are quite similar.

One cannot first respect women if one does not first respect human beings as individuals.  Respect is a personal sentiment that one feels towards others deemed worthy of respect.  I may genuinely respect individuals who are women, just as I may respect individuals who are men. 

Feminism as an ideology does not see people in human terms, which is to say in individual terms.  It sees people as demographic categories: male, female, white, person of color, straight, LGBT, cis, trans.  Human beings fade into mere abstractions.  One cannot love, honor or respect arbitrary ideological demographics as one can love an individual human being.  The best that can be done is to exalt the categories deemed marginalized and denigrate the categories deemed privileged.

As a result, feminism attracts men who struggle to interact with women in a human way.  He uses the talking points of feminism to construct an idealistic view of women.  For the feminist male, this precludes the natural and normal human feelings of romantic and sexual attraction towards women, as his ideological convictions cause him to routinely conflate attraction with objectification.  Thus he views the individual women in his life through the lens of ideological archetype.  His expectation is that they assume a sort of maternalistic stance in relation to him, as a guide and teacher in his ideology.

Those of us who understand the dynamics of the virgin/whore dichotomy should see how this can go so wrong.  Since he regards his inherent sexuailty as a degrading and oppressive thing, he cannot help but express it in degrading and oppressive ways. His repressed urges he projects onto his political opponents, for whom he expresses the absolute blackest of hatred in, quite curiously, the most degradingly sexual ways.  Especially reprehensible to him are women who do not meet his archetypal expectations, whom he sees as not merely ideological, but moral traitors.  That which is idealized will come to be hated precisely to the degree it was idealized after it falls from the pedestal it was placed on, and the most natural way to express this hatred is with precisely the means by which men are held to degrade and oppress women: open sexuality.  Notice how there is no misogyny like the misogyny displayed by progressive men towards nonfeminist women. 

For the dogmatic ideological male feminist, this is not a betrayal of his principles, but rather the end result of those principles.  He failed to display respect for women because he never really respected them in the first place.  He never respected human beings, rather he objectified them in the most underhanded and duplicitous of ways.  He idealized an ideological abstraction and valued that only in as far as it served to maintain his own psychological equilibrium. 

Doubtlessly, many male feminist sympathizers will claim that none of the above applies to them, and they are quite capable of having mutually consensual sexual as well as platonic friendships with women.  I have little doubt that this is often true.  But it is true in spite of, rather than because of, the feminist ideological sympathies.  If you need an ideology in order to respect women, I'd suggest you have deeper problems.  If I'm not describing any particular male feminist reading this, don't take offense, but rather take note.

Sadly, many of the men who've been posting #howIwillchange hashtags in response to women's revelations of sexual misconduct at male hands will only double down on their ideological convictions, which will in turn only intensify rather than relieve the underlying psychological tension. If they truly wanted to change for the better, they'd confront their own fears of interpersonal intimacy (and - this is experience talking - that's hard to do!) and humanize their perceptions of both sexes, rather than double down on ideological categorizations.

Beyond Feminist vs. MRA

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