Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, Vol.2

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.

Monday, 4 February 2013

How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, Vol.1

It is surprisingly easy to find yourself cast out of pretty much any ideological belief system.

The way to discover whether you are IN an ideological belief system - whether you are, in fact, part of a batshit crazy cult - is simply this: Disagree with it.

Go on, try it. What's the worst that could happen?

Well, the worst that could happen, it turns out, is this: the great majority of everyone you know from within that belief system will now not only want nothing more to do with you, but will also go around telling everyone else you used to know what a Bad Person you now are. 
The unfortunate fact of the matter is - & yes I know you know this already, but watch me do my thing - if you speak out on behalf of the human rights of men & boys in public discourse, if you want to at least consider treating men & boys with even a smidgen of the compassion & concern we have always accorded women & girls, you will discover, with little delay, just how terrifyingly at odds you are with not only the present state-enforced laws & beliefs of your society, but even the hardwired impulses of your own biology. We evolved to put women & children first, & indeed most likely wouldn’t even be here if we hadn’t, or at least not in anything like these numbers. And for all our talk of equality, little of that has, will, or can change.
Male disposability was, of course, around long before feminism appeared - there is no society which sends its women off to war while the men stay home & play with the children, no society where the women get sent down into pitch-black mines nine hours a day, every day for the rest of their lives, or are made to go try kill ferocious people-devouring animals for others to eat while the men pick berries. But this innate lack of compassion for men was never exploited to anything like the degree it is now, & in such a gleefully callous fashion.
Men of the past were at least accorded some degree of gratitude for their service & sacrifices— a father who chose to stick around & care & provide for a woman & the children she bore was once reserved a position of dignity in his community at least a little higher than, say, Homer Simpson. If he got divorced he could still expect to keep the children he was providing for. A man who went to war to defend his country from invasion was thanked when he came back & told he was a hero, not a baby killer. A man who succeeded at business was thought a hard worker & a good catch, instead of a male chauvinist pig who needs to check his privilege.
That hatred, & the lies & propaganda which feed it, emanate from a single source, a single set of narrative assumptions about the world that had never been expressed by anyone until around 100 years ago, & the past 40 or 50 in earnest. And if you’re here, well, you already know what name that set of assumptions goes under.
The nature of all ideologies is that those within them do not perceive what they believe in as ideologies but simply The Truth: Christians, Atheism+ fanatics, Marxists, Nazis, Feminazis, Freudians, & 9/11 conspiracy buffs... what these seemingly wildly differing positions have most in common is an inability to see the limits of their position. And also the unshakeable belief that 'if you’re not for us then you’re against us. And if you're against us, then you deserve everything you get. In fact, you deserve everything we're going to give you, you fucking scum...'  

To fix the popular atheist slogan, it is only ideology that can make good people do bad things.
The reaction of sheeplike followers to any independent thought which contradicts the tenets of their beliefs is always that the person saying it must be a Bad Person. If you contradict the teachings of Christianity? It is The Devil talking. The only reason you could ever possibly want to criticize Communism is that you hate the working class. If you point out the hate speech & absurdities inherent in the Nation Of Islam, it must mean that you hate black people. And if a person criticizes Feminism, then they must hate women. Right? 

After all, there’s no other possible explanation, is there?
And so the pack turns on the individual, to stop them saying those troubling things: Troubling things leads to cognitive dissonance & that makes me feel bad. Why would you want to make me feel bad? You must be a Bad Man.
And so it goes.

I imagine there must be a moment in everyone’s life, even if they don’t now even remember it, when they first asked that question they shouldn’t have, when they spoke out of turn, said out loud a thought that was theirs alone, instead of simply repeating what dogma they have been taught up to that point - & immediately saw how inappropriate & deeply unappreciated whatever they had to say of their own was considered by the body of believers around them.
When that happens - & it will, at some point, to just about everyone - the great majority of people will simply say 'OH! I see I was wrong to say that, I apologize, & I'll know not to say that, or even think that, in future." We learn pretty fast, what to say & what not. As I’ve said elsewhere, the price of conformity is the loss of individual thought; the reward for conformity is love, acceptance & support. Most human beings, naturally, would like both. But if it comes to it, 19 out of 20 of us will always choose the latter.
And there’s the rub: say I want to continue working towards halting the ecological destruction of planet earth. That seems to me to be an empirically worthwhile activity to devote at least some of one's life to - dependent on the details, obviously, & the likelihood of success, on a case by case basis. But you're not going to get very far trying to do that all on your own, so you have to try work with others. The problem is, once you start doing that, once you involve yourself with other people presumably motivated by similar intentions, you find within that - or any - movement there is a shared set of laws you didn't know were there when you first signed up. Political Correctness is ideologically created, state-enforced morality & there is no greater threat to basic human freedoms of thought & expression than the acceptance of PC authority. But the people who make it their stated aim to overthrow state-control also happen to be its biggest supporters.
I spent most of the past 20 years surrounded by people I thought were the most open-minded, truth-seeking individuals in the western hemisphere. Feminism, unfortunately, was a part of that shared worldview, as it is for most of my generation - one of those unchallenged assumptions that makes an ass out of u & me.
Some of those unspoken assumptions were simple, golden-rule common sense: do unto others as you would have them do unto you; Be Kind, be fair, work for the good of all humanity rather than just thinking of yourself. Stuff like that. But some of the beliefs seemed to get a little more rigid & specific over time, leading to concepts such as ‘The Patriarchy’, ‘Male Privilege’, ‘Positive Discrimination’ & the ‘Female-Safe Spaces’ needed because of the ’Rape Culture’ & so forth & so on, without a great deal of thought given over to where any of that repugnant shit originated. The language of Political Correctness & feminist hate just sort of appeared like mist, like the morning dew, & one day we woke up covered in it. Or I did, anyway. Woke up, that is.
The thing about any ideology is, & I'll wrap it up now, that you very rarely realize there is one there until you disagree with it. And the thing about life is that it is bigger than any ideology, bigger than any idea we can have about it, any ultimate explanation for it we can attempt to give. All definitive explanations invariably come to obscure the wild & shaggy uncertainties of life.
I’m as guilty of this as anyone, & I still can feel myself fall into those habits now just the same as when I was a feminist. I mean, I hopefully know at least a little about what I’m speaking of now, & my positions these days are based on more than just emotional haranguing & white knight indignation. But the only really obvious difference I can see between my life now & my life then is simply that people treated me a lot better back then.
But what can a poor boy do? You can’t start believing in things you now know to be lies. You can’t go back to believing in Santa Claus when you’ve white hairs growing in your own beard.
Awww, fuck it. They crucified Lenny Bruce too.