I managed to miss a good chunk of the feel-good hash-tag du’jour “#metoo”, where women are encouraged to share their stories of victimization in order to illustrate their victimhood status.
Okay, let’s make one thing very clear before I go into why all this makes me uncomfortable.
Sexual assault is bad.
That I even need to clarify this illustrates just how fucked up the public discussion on the abuse of women (which I would consider a superset of sexual assault rather than identical) has become. And that I need to clarify this illustrates just how fucked up the public discourse on generally abusive behavior (which again, I would consider a superset of misogyny rather than identical) has become.
It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten what it means to act with manners, treating each other with respect. We’ve forgotten what it means to seek the seven virtues for ourselves and hold them in our hearts as we interact with others: to practice chastity and temperance as we interact with strangers, to act with charity and patience, to show diligence, kindness and humility.
In some quarters, we have deliberately forgotten these virtues–dismissing them as something only religious zealots do. After all, these seven virtues (literally “a habitual and firm disposition to do good”) are a Christian teaching–and as we all know, in these modern post-religious times, anything religious is bad and deserving of being dumped as trash.
And once you dump religion (and its teachings on what it means to be a better person), what is left to govern our interactions with each other?
I mean, it’s not like leaving it in the hands of individuals works very well, especially when there is a power disparity.
But I’m not very comfortable with the #metoo thing, for two reasons.
First, we’ve had this conversation before.
We’ve done the whole “women, by show of hands, how many of you have been sexually assaulted?” Like #YesAllWomen, #WhenIWas, #ShePersisted, etc.
And have they helped do anything to actually reduce the instances of sexual assault? Have they done a damned thing other than to devolve into a pointless exercise of victimization reaffirmation?
I mean, shouldn’t we use a different strategy?
It’s true that telling our stories can help – it can help victims not feel quite so alone and make others understand the breadth and depth of the problem. But the truth is that nothing will really change in a lasting way until the social consequences for men are too great for them to risk hurting us.
Why have a list of victims when a list of perpetrators could be so much more useful?
But I suspect part of the problem with the newfound approach of women standing up to abusers, perhaps by getting the police involved, is related to my second reason why all this makes me uncomfortable.
Second, we can’t seem to agree on what sort of “abuse” qualifies one for the #MeToo campaign. And in the process it’s slowly devolving away from talking about physical assault, through loutish behavior, and ending at outright misandry.
Take, for example, this article which seems to conflate sexual assault, abusive behavior and loutish behavior–that is, behavior that is obnoxious but not necessarily abusive: #MeToo. To me there is a sharp distinction between “predator” and “creep”, between “sexist remark”, “rape jokes” and “rape”–yet the article uses them as interchangeable terms.
It’s not to say any of these behaviors are acceptable. But when we live in a world where a suggestive conversation is considered under the same umbrella as a violent rape, when some guy who was told “no” asks for a date a second time is considered under the same umbrella as Harvey Weinstein–haven’t we devolved the later by lumping them under the same umbrella as the former?
Don’t we do a disservice to rape victims by equating their violent rapes with the discomfort of being in the same room as two men share an inappropriate joke?
Can you imagine someone going in a hospital room where a woman, half beaten to death after her rape, lies in recovery and telling her “sister, I know exactly how you feel; once someone called me a ‘bitch'”?
I mean, it’s gotten so bad that the #MeToo campaign has spawned another campaign–from men: #HowIWillChange, which presumes men are guilty of sexual “abuse” until proven innocent.
Again, it’s not to dismiss loutish behavior. Remember my premise above: we have forgotten the seven virtues–and an inappropriate joke in the workplace is a violation of the principle of temperance, of voluntary self-restraint in the face of others.
But the Left, many of whom have latched onto the latest fad of claiming #MeToo (and worse, #HowIWillChange), want nothing to do with this religious mumbo-jumbo, having declared it obsolete.
So what is left? Unprincipled handwringing hasn’t worked; just look at the countless other hashtags going back decades which have done nothing to resolve issues of misogyny in the workplace. Neither has the misandrous attempts at forcing men to confess their sins (but without a framework for “sin” other than deconstructed feminism), which often turn into victim blaming when men point out that, in some instances, they’ve been on the receiving end of inappropriate behavior by women.
(Hell, I’ve been on the receiving end of workplace sexually inappropriate behavior; first, by an overly flirtatious woman when I was working at JBL who wanted to show me her boob job in private, second, by an overly flirtatious QA woman at Symantec at a Christmas Party who suggested we go find a room somewhere to have sex. When I pointed out I was married, she said “me too”; it gave us something in common.)
And it’s why, by the way, we won’t change tactics and provide a list of perpetrators: because doing something like that could backfire. Yes, Harvey Weinstein deeply deserved to be outed decades ago. But the poor sap who asks you out on a date at an inappropriate time: would including his name on a master list of “male predators” really solve anything?
Personally I believe the problem is that in our modern day and age we’ve been systematically dismantling all the cultural frameworks of what it means to be a better person.
The Left has engaged in a systematic war on religion–and while the bad parts of religion (such as tribalism and elitism) certainly deserve to be attacked, the aspects which teach “original sin” (that is, when we are all born we are all blank slates unknowing of what it means to be a good person) and how to be a better person (that is, how one can improve oneself morally and ethically) certainly did not deserve to be tossed in the trash heap.
Because without striving to make ourselves better–without the constant individual pursuit towards personal knowledge, self-discovery and self-improvement–what is left? People as cogs in a political machine? Piling up money and political connections? Claiming “#metoo” so you can feel good about your victimhood status and your position on the victimization totem pole?
By the way, the drive to understand what it means to be a better person is not exclusive to Christianity. All major religions address this problem, to help those find “salvation” of a sort. Islam teaches Zakaat, the responsibility we have to help others, including the poor, the destitute and travelers in need. Judaism teaches the mitzvahs, commandments which require avoidance of certain bad behaviors and the performance of certain good deeds. Buddhism provides tools to its followers designed to help find samadhi, oneness. All the major world religions have something to say about how to be a better person, from literal commandments to spiritual practices.
Even the seven virtues of Christianity have their roots in earlier pre-Christian teachings.
Do away with all this teaching–do away with the ancient question of what it means to become a better person–and what is left?
Certainly Karl Marx had nothing to say about justice or morality. Marx’s work, off of which progressive liberalism owes a hat tip to, was only descriptive of historic evolution and economic issues. He had nothing to say about the *morality* of capitalism or communism. Later writers certainly interpret his works this way–and clearly liberals, when talking about unjust wealth inequality, are making a moral proclamation. But all these moral proclamations are being made absent a consistent moral framework of any kind.
And without such a framework, all that is left is politics: we make moral proclamations not because we have any moral principles, but as a political tool to gin up outrage in order to force political change.
That’s what the #metoo campaign really is: a political attempt to gin up outrage to force political change.
But politics cannot affect morality when political believers do not believe in morality.
All politics can do is rearrange the deck chairs: to give more political power to one group, to take political power away from another group. And worse: politics can only provide the illusion of morality–which is why Harvey Weinstein was able to thrive so long. Because as a major donor to the Democratic Party he had the perfect fig leaf, in the form of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to pursue his own sexually abusive appetites amongst the glitterati of Hollywood, all of whom knew for decades what sort of a predatory asshole Mr. Weinstein was.
Ultimately political attempts to fix morality without any sort of moral framework–which is where the Left currently sits–cannot work. Because there is no “there” there that can be fixed.
Which is why in the end, the “#metoo” campaign will join earlier attempts in the trash heap of history, having done nothing in the end beyond ginning up some outrage about how horrible men are.
You want my “#HowIWillChange”?
Here it is.
To better understand the idea of Original Sin.
To better understand the principles of the Seven Heavenly Virtues and to faithfully attempt to better represent these virtues when interacting with others or when working on my own meditations.
And to demand the cardinal virtue of Justice (that is, righteousness and fairness) in part, by pointing out the hypocrisy in the world around me. A practice which is exemplified in a very small way by this blog post.
And if you don’t see how the seven heavenly virtues leads to an eschewing of misandry and misogyny, to a demand for workplaces free of sexual abuse and sexual favoritism, to a call for women to stand up for themselves rather than to meekly hide in the face of injustice only later to share sad little stories about being offended by jokes told by loutish men who have been raised in a modern culture which teaches us to “feel good” about ourselves and to know no personal limits from that awful old-fashioned religious bullshit–then you are part of the problem.