So, this week I got yet another letter from another friend who didn't want to know me anymore.
She returned the gift I'd sent her & told me she hoped one day my 'hatred of women' would pass. Of course - & as usual - nothing that I’d said to her was even remotely expressive of any hatred of any woman whatsoever, only critical of a specific political ideology which I think I can demonstrate demonizes & scapegoats one whole half of the human race for political gain & financial support. It was frustrating, of course, that she was unable to take that on board, even as a hypothetical position. I guess I could get angry at her, but 10 years ago it's entirely possible I would have done the very same thing myself. And besides, the fact of the matter is, I wasn’t arguing with her: I was arguing with someone else, from long ago, someone neither of us had ever met, whose mean, unfounded, fear-mongering proclamations about the world she had come to believe & now felt duty-bound to defend.
It’s funny: you can tell a person a lie but very often they won’t believe it, because they can see with their own eyes that what you say isn’t so. It is only ideology that can make someone believe something all their senses tell them isn’t so.
Such is the nature of the beast. Pretty much all belief systems are based on nothing more than a couple of notions some impassioned passer-by has managed to make seem plausible to a larger bunch of lesser minds. Get yourself enough gullible souls together & you've got yourself a cult. A few more, you got yourself a religion.
But if a person is choosing their beliefs that way, of course, they must surely also have to recognize that’s also why other people - you know, those other wrong people—chose to be Mormons, or Scientologists, Freudians, UFO freaks, al-Qaeda... Or, y’know, feminists.
This Losing Of The Friends ritual has happened so often at this point that I am no longer surprised, but it still hurts, & each time it happens I lose a little more faith in human beings. I’m more surprised now when people choose not to hate, not to turn their backs, than I am at their ideologically-instilled unkindnesses. It's hard for me, these days, not to see every crowd of people as anything but two meetings away from a lynch mob.
I've got the kind of mind that thinks a lot about thinking, about all the different psychic spaces other people & animals I meet are inhabiting. I think a lot about how a dog sees the world, for instance, & how much information goes right up their noses. I think about how others see me, & if what they see is more true than what I see when I look at myself. I think about what must have gone through the heads of my old, turncoat friends to make it seem right just to abandon someone that they loved & who loved them only days before. It’s sure been a hard few years, I lost two lovers & a fistful of my very best friends. The former had little to do with falling out of love with feminism, the latter everything. And I'm not someone who makes friends easily. So I find myself still poring over the ashes, trying to figure it all out like some kind of riddle, as if I think if I can solve it I can go back & make it right. But of course, I can’t. Nothing leaves as fast as love.
Still, I wish I could convey in words just how special I thought these people were, how set apart from the herd they always seemed to me to be. We could argue about philosophy, religion, race, capitalism, communism, revolution... just about anything at all, I thought. So strange that of all things, criticizing feminist hate-speech turns out to be the one that makes them turn tail & run. But of course also kind of telling: the desire to protect the female of the species, to put their safety & well-being before that of the male, is hardwired into all of us, male & female, regardless of the validity of the dangers - real or imagined - we can be made to believe are threatening them.
Misandry is a word most people have still never heard. Everyone these days knows what Misogyny means. That in itself says a lot about the age we are living in: how one type of hatred can seem trivial, or even invisible, while its mirror image can be made to seem the worst thing in the world. And I used to spread that hatred of men as much as the worst of them. These days, thankfully, I see just how abhorrent my actions were back then, but no-one else I know thinks that way, & probably won't for some time yet.
To me, they have let the cause down, & of course they must think the same of me. But the cause, as I saw it, was never any movement, any political ideology or sports team to wear the colours of but simply Truth itself, wherever that may lead us. The task was to grope our way ever closer to that distant light. To speak truth to power. To change as the universe requires. To have the guts to change your mind in public.
You change & you grow. Hopefully, you don't sell your principals out for money or an easy life, but when you realize you've been lied to, when you realize you’ve reached conclusions that are woefully wrong, you move on, you wise up, you try to fail less destructively next time. Change & growth don’t end once you’ve turned 21—that should itself be obvious to all: what 21 year old would want to be stuck living by the beliefs & values they had when they were 9? Yet to see the changes a 40 year old father goes through is as incomprehensible to a 21-year old as the behaviour of that 21-year old is to that prepubescent boy swearing to himself that when he gets older he's never going to be interested in stupid girls.
The maddening thing about getting older is the realization that for all of your living & all of your learning, & all of your powers of expression, there are things you have learned that you cannot pass on to others, no matter how hard you try. It’s rather like trying to explain sex to that 9-year old: there really is nothing you can say about their future that they will be able to understand. The best you can do is tell them that they’ll be there soon enough themselves, & then it won’t need explaining at all.
Of course, most people within an ideology don’t think like that, or at least don’t live like that. That’s the point. What would be the use of accepting the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart if it were only a halfway house until something better came along? Until you found something more right, more true?
One of these friends of mine told me in our last real conversation together - & with a remarkably straight face - that he identified himself as a feminist ‘because he believed in equality’. Yes, it’s an old one but a doubleplusgood one, & it put me in mind of something Bill Hicks once said in response to a pro-lifer: “You’re Pro-Life? What does that make me?”
This, of course, is another defining attribute of ideology: to claim universal principles of goodness for your own. So for instance, an act of kindness or charity is reclassified under the Christian narrative a 'Christian' act. If you believe in fairness for all then you already support the Revolutionary Communist Party, why not just sign up? If you care about the safety & well-being of women then don't you know you're a Feminist? And so on, etc. As if none of these noble virtues ever existed before those crooked, parasitical institutions opened up their collection boxes for fundraising.
I remember many years ago a feminist member of the RCP urging me to forget my misgivings & join so that I could “change it from within”. That’s got to be maybe 15 years ago now, & in that time - you know what? - the Revolutionary Communist Party hasn’t changed in any particularly discernible way, & neither has the fundamental core of feminism.
I wouldn’t identify myself as a feminist anymore than I would identify myself as a Christian, a Communist, or a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Now, I’m sure that there must be some kind, humane, gifted or even brilliant people working beneath the umbrella of all those organizations. I really am. The law of averages demands it. But I wouldn’t want to join them because I’ve seen enough of what they have done to know that I disagree with much of what they stand for, & that to involve myself with them would not change the essential nature of what they do even one little bit, though it might very well change me.
Feminism’s past is littered with as many hateful, separatist statements as the KKK or the National Front. They may well be as invisible to our age’s sensibilities as the antisemitic remarks so common the world over in the 1930’s were to the people of that time, but a person's morality must be above their age, above their society. And yes, above their friends.
Well, I could go on. I realize I’m hardly the first this craziness has happened to, either here & now or in the past; over this particular insanity or a long, long list of others. Every age has its delusions & a few foolhardy martyrs prepared to laugh at them. But the world keeps on continuing, & 50 years from now will look dramatically different to the way it looks today, whether it turns out to my liking or not.
Anyway, the problem remains: it's a lot harder to walk the future all alone. Whoever you are, a good friend is hard to come by & a great joy to find. And yet, it turns out, so easy to throw away.
My life is a Kafkaesque nightmare.