A Self-Reflection Exercise


PZ wonders if he’s as flawed as the people being accused. [pha] That little bit of effort is part of living an examined life.

I can confirm that there is locker room talk. My first truelove, Rachel R., once suckered me into proposing a deal in which I related guys’ locker room conversation to her, and she related girls’ locker room conversation to me. I thought that was going to be super fascinating, and so I collected a few aspirational lies that some of the guys were telling each other, and recounted them. She then told me (without naming names!) about the discussion of bra-fit problems and menstrual flows.

In 1978, Animal House came out. It had an underlying anti-authoritarian/anti-establishment message, but it also had a few “teaching moments” that any kid in high school who saw it, couldn’t miss.

It features lots of teen drinking, including a scene where Pinto (played by Tom Hulse) meets a girl at one of the frat parties and they get drunk together, and she passes out:

Naturally, the better angels of his nature, and his desire to lose his virginity, have a classic shoulder-battle. It ends with him doing the right thing in a sort of wrong way. He returns her to her parents’ house in a stolen shopping cart, rings the doorbell, and runs. (We later discover that she’s the mayor’s daughter.)

Later, Pinto invites her out and she says no alcohol is necessary, he may get lucky… But then:

This stuff isn’t hard to figure out: I’m not holding Animal House up to be a great moral teacher, but rather we need to recognize that our culture is full of little hints about how to behave, and how not to behave. When we watch Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon there is a mini subplot surrounding O’Hara’s attempt to rape Lee’s sister, resulting in her honor-suicide and Lee’s demolishing O’Hara in a memorable display of focused violence and rage. Social messages about what is acceptable and what’s not are pervasive in media and popular culture. It’s not some orchestrated plot to teach people what’s right and what’s not – the social control of civilization is what popular culture is. If we have an ethical system, it’s an amalgam of the complex interaction of portrayals of characters from Oedipus and Achilles to Pinto and Bonnie and Clyde – when someone says they’re not sure, or they think that having rules written down is unnecessary, what they’re saying is that they managed to grow up in a social vacuum – or they want to pretend that they did.

PZ writes:

I remember my sins of omission. I was in the locker room when the high school jocks were bragging about the things they did to their girlfriends and casual hookups, and I just got dressed and left as quickly as I could. But I knew the people they were talking about, and I liked them as people, and I did not defend them. So that talk flourished.

Please watch this poem by Guante. It is the antidote to “locker room talk.”

Sometimes we should beat ourselves up over things we didn’t say. Other times, I think we should acknowledge that the other person understands what they are doing, and they’re going to do to it anyway. Then we should beat them up for what they did.

Maybe the time to tell someone is when they’re in college or high school. Maybe it’s never going to work, anyway. I think Guante’s point is that it’s a good idea to think about that, more than a bit. There is a certain skeptic whose idea of seduction is to get women very very drunk and then show them his etchings: he knows what he’s doing. The conversation to have is not with him, but with everyone else; he needs a warning label, not a talking-to. He’s already had that discussion between the demon and the angel on his shoulders, and he’s decided that’s acceptable behavior; there is no further conversation that can be had with him to convince him. In Guante’s poem, the question is whether he would have spoken up soon enough, or whether his friend would have listened and learned in time.

This is why I am unimpressed with apologies like Louis C.K’s. It’s not as if he spent 20 years of his life wondering “is this a bad thing I am doing?” Of course not. Bill Cosby did not fool himself about what he was doing for decades, then suddenly have an awakening moment, “oh, oops.” When you make a mistake, you apologize right then and there and ask if you can move on, you don’t spend decades wandering around doing the same thing over and over and suddenly wondering, “am I bad, now?”

------ divider ------

“Aspirational lies” – at the time I didn’t know whether they were lies or not. Looking back, I suspect they were lies because some of the stories were kind of unrealistic. At the time, I didn’t know: I was mostly spending my time glued to the computer, my D&D books, and Rachel R. So I had no idea how dating worked, or what went on at high school parties where there was a lot of drinking.

I actually have found myself in situations roughly similar to Pinto’s in Animal House except not in the context of making out. At one conference, Randy M. and K. S. and I closed out the bar drinking and talking about strategy and computer security and when the time came to go our separate ways, she asked if she could use my bathroom, followed me back to my room, threw up, and passed out. Since I didn’t have a shopping cart handy I picked her up off the bathroom floor and put her on the bed under a blanket, then went to sleep in the arm chair on the other side of the room. When I woke up in the morning, she had gone. We never did discuss it; we never had to discuss it. But it made me change my rules a bit: when I am at a conference I am working and I won’t have more than a glass or two of wine and I always go to my room alone. I believe the term is “not courting trouble.” Another time, in college, a friend was drinking at a wild party, felt uncomfortable with the situation, decided to leave and took a cab to my place. I was a tea-totaller in those days and I guess I was “safe” – she arrived uninvited in a semi-conscious state,* then threw up all over herself and me, and passed out. That was when I learned how un-erotic a puke-covered person is. It wasn’t ’till the next day that I realized I had probably risked her life carrying her up 2 flights of concrete stairs – which was a bigger lapse of judgement that anything else I did. If I had dropped her, I’d have really had some explaining to do. I still get cold chills thinking about that failure scenario. I remain flattered that she thought I was a safe person to come to.

I don’t ever expect either of those incidents to come back to haunt me, but I suppose they could. We find ourselves in situations and we deal with them – if someone brings forward an accusation, then you have to explain the whole situation and see what everybody thinks. That’s another reason I don’t buy Louis C.K.’s apology or Bill Cosby’s kinda-sorta-“they didn’t complain at the time” defense, or Roy Moore’s “I had their mom’s permission” – if you find yourself in that sort of situation over and over again it’s because you’re putting yourself in that situation and you almost certainly understand what you’re doing. I emphasized “whole” above, because one of my warning signals is when someone is responding to a situation, and begins carefully focusing on part of what happened. Consider the first situation I described: if all I said was “hey, she was a mature adult!” I’d be raising warning flags all over the place, wouldn’t I? Here’s another point: when you explain the whole situation it makes it easier for either party to get caught out if they’re lying. Put that another way: if someone explains the whole situation, they are more likely to be telling the truth. You’ll notice, for example, that Bill Cosby wants to focus on one of his accusers taking sleepy-drugs willingly – because a discussion about the whole situation would require him arguing that all of them had willingly taken sleepy-drugs and had somehow consented to sex while unconscious.

(* this was before cell phones, remember? So you couldn’t just drunktxt someone and say “I was thinking about you… how about I come over?”)

My two incidents: If I could have a re-do on them, I’d do the same thing, except I’d check back with them a week later and ask if I had handled it OK and whether they had any questions.

Comments

  1. John Morales says

    Mmm. Self-reflexion is probably a good thing. Perhaps I’ll get around to it some time. ;)

    I will admit that (in retrospect) I was a very shitty person when I was younger, if basically on the omission side of things — though, admittedly, it was basically my timidity* and/or lack of ambition which averted bad behaviour (and I think this is true for my peer group as well) rather than saintliness. Ain’t easy overcoming inculcation and (particularly) acculturation, never mind basic human urges.

    I think that in this, the early internet age, it’s arguably easier than it’s ever been before to do that — but then there are the filter bubble effect and the social media feed algos, among other things, which vitiate much of the gain.

    * Not to be confused with lack of self-confidence.

  2. John Morales says

    [not directly on-topic]

    Was reading the news (as I do) and this story seemed apposite:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/musician-kat-williams-verbally-abused-told-to-expose-herself/9162748

    She said it all began when a group of intoxicated patrons walked into the venue where she was performing last weekend and shouted out requests for her to play specific songs.

    “But then it was followed by a lot of expletives and requests for me to show parts of my anatomy, and this was yelled quite loudly from the middle of the room,” she said.

    These requests to show both her breasts and vagina — and not using those words — were made worse because they were repeated loudly and often.

    “I asked for it to stop and it just kept going and it escalated,” she said.

    And a little amusement:

    Murray said that one of the best retorts following verbal abuse of a band came from Divinyls frontwoman Chrissy Amphlett.

    “During the break in the songs, some idiot called out ‘Show us your tits’,” he said.

    “She got the spotlight straight away, put it on him and said ‘Show us your f***ing dick. Come on, come on’ and the guy just shrank back into the crowd, was totally ridiculed and humiliated.

    “That can work if you’re strong and she was a very strong performer. Obviously she’d copped a lot of that over her career and she knew exactly what to do.”

    (Pleasure and pain)

  3. kestrel says

    This is a great post and it’s something that is needed, I think.

    Our neighbor came over and told us he was *really tired* of hearing about women being sexually assaulted and harassed; couldn’t we all please just shut up? After all, HE is not assaulting or harassing anybody! I can assure people, women are sick of being assaulted and harassed. I only wish I did not have stories of the exact same sorts of things happening to me. And my mother, sister, and every female friend I’ve ever had as well as some of my men friends. We’re all sick of assault and harassment. But I don’t see how any change can be made unless we talk about it. Staying quiet obviously does not work or the problem would have gone away already.

    One of the times my mother was assaulted it was by a man with a gun, trying to force her into her car so he could drive her elsewhere. She fought back, escaped and called the police. Who then proceeded to YELL at her for fighting back! WTF! There is a very weird level of other men going along with this in our society, to an extent I don’t think they realize. Kudos to our host for doing a little self-reflection.

  4. says

    She then told me (without naming names!) about the discussion of bra-fit problems and menstrual flows.

    I have never heard a locker room discussion about these topics. I don’t see anything to discuss there. Bra-fit — you just wear whichever size fits you. What’s there to discuss? Menstrual flow — if you have any problems, you discuss them with a doctor (another woman who isn’t a doctor won’t be able to offer medical advice anyway). If everything is normal and you don’t have any problems, what’s there to discuss? The locker room conversations I have heard were mostly about makeup and fashion. Although I didn’t spend much time in locker rooms (get dressed, leave), so I might have missed something.

    In some countries in hotels’ rooms are gender segregated. I absolutely hate this. I always demand to stay in a room which is either mixed gender or men’s. Yet other people tend to think that they know better, it’s my appearance and not my desires that matter for them. While participating in debate tournaments all over Germany, I always ended up sent to exile to women’s rooms. In Münster I ended up staying in a Catholic female students’ dormitory in the same room with lots of other women. When I woke up in the morning, all other women were discussing cosmetics. I had nothing I wished to say about this (in my opinion boring) conversation topic, so I ended up pulling out my e-ink reader from my bag instead. Ending up in a women’s room is a real pain whenever I go somewhere with the intent to socialize and make friends. As long as there is at least one guy in the room, women won’t start talking about boring “women’s topics”.

    There is a certain skeptic whose idea of seduction is to get women very very drunk and then show them his etchings: he knows what he’s doing.

    Yeah, somehow some forms of rape are seen as “more acceptable” thus allowing criminals to get away with it, because the one who gets blamed is the victim. Speaking of which, the advice for women to dress modestly in order to not “ask for it” is not only disgusting, it actually is not effective. It simply does not work — I have experienced catcalls and strangers attempting to touch me without permission while wearing male suits.

    kestrel @#3
    Our neighbor came over and told us he was *really tired* of hearing about women being sexually assaulted and harassed; couldn’t we all please just shut up? After all, HE is not assaulting or harassing anybody!

    You never hear somebody saying, “I’m really tired of hearing about genocides and war crimes, after all I’m not killing anybody.” If somebody dared to say this out loud, everybody would perceive this person as a compassion lacking asshole. This difference illustrates what is a huge part of the problem — somehow in our society sexual harassment is seen as more acceptable than other crimes.

  5. kestrel says

    @Ieva Skrebele, re: locker room talk, menstrual flow. I agree: one should talk to a doctor about this. However. Where I grew up, there were only male doctors (I never even met a woman doctor until I was in my late twenties) and these doctors behaved as though such a thing were some kind of horrible embarrassing secret that polite people did not talk about… so for me, and my friends growing up, we had no one else to talk to about it except each other. I sincerely hope it is different now. I know that my nieces were raised very differently, their parents made sure they were very well educated and comfortable with all the facts and felt confident to talk to their parents OR their doctors – or grandparents, actually. And that’s the way it should be! Human physiology is fascinating and should not be treated like something you don’t talk about.

    I love your point about genocide and war crime. I’ll have to bring that up next time I see that guy.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Social messages about what is acceptable and what’s not are pervasive in media and popular culture

    David Wong at Cracked, in an article I may never tire of linking to: http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/

    Just one line: “Actually, rather than recount the thousands and thousands of examples [in popular culture] of the “Assault Them Until They Love You” seduction method, I’m going to prove how prevalent this is by rattling off a list of examples using only Harrison Ford’s filmography

    You never hear somebody saying, “I’m really tired of hearing about genocides and war crimes, after all I’m not killing anybody.” If somebody dared to say this out loud, everybody would perceive this person as a compassion lacking asshole

    Mainly because we DON’T “hear about genocides and war crimes” in the plural. We hear about ONE genocide, over and over and over again. It’s not the genocide of the Native Americans, or the Tasmanian aborigines, or the Armenians, or the Rwandan Tutsis. I don’t think I can name even a single film, book or play about any of those. I can’t think of anyone who’s won an Oscar for portraying or writing a screenplay about a victim, survivor or saviour of any of those people. But anyone expressing the idea that perhaps they’ve now seen enough films, plays or books about the Holocaust wouldn’t be labelled a “compassion-lacking asshole”, they’d be labelled an anti-Semite. And with the possible exception of “paedophile”, that’s the label that’s most toxic – the one there’s really no coming back from.

  7. says

    kestrel #5

    I forgot to think about the fact that things must have been different for the older generation. I never talked about periods or sex with my parents, but only because there was no necessity. At school we had health education, where a teacher explained everything related to periods and sex. And there are plenty of female doctors where I live. And, frankly, I wouldn’t mind talking about this topic with a male doctor. There is no stigma or uneasiness about the topic, so whatever, why should I care about the gender of my doctor. Which is why the idea of discussing periods with another woman who isn’t a doctor seemed totally weird for me — everybody already knows everything they need to know about this topic, so there’s nothing left to discuss.

    sonofrojblake #6

    David Wong at Cracked, in an article I may never tire of linking to: http://www.cracked.com/blog/how-men-are-trained-to-think-sexual-assault-no-big-deal/

    This article got me thinking. I have experienced plenty of sexual harassment on the street from total strangers (catcalls and ass grabbing). I have never ever experienced any forms of sexual harassment from people who know me even a little bit. Even a guy I have talked to for a couple of minutes will never attempt to touch me without permission. So I have never experienced the kind of harassment portrayed in the movies mentioned in this article (“seduction” via physical force).

    Men who get to know me even a little bit generally don’t even attempt to make any sexual advances. A couple of very brave guys have attempted to verbally flirt with me (for example, complimenting my appearance). These guys always received my standard reply for such situations: “In relationships I’m always the one who makes sexual advances; men are forbidden from doing so. I prefer submissive men, and anybody who attempts to approach me gets automatically disqualified as a possible sex partner”. This line has always worked for me.

    I have been thinking that my harassment free life is thanks to me being intimidating enough to keep all the jerks scared of me. Reading this article made me think that perhaps instead it is because of me informing nice people not to try the “standard seduction method” on me.

    Either way, it is possible to successfully reduce sexual harassment to zero if you make it absolutely clear that no means no. Men are capable of getting it. The only problem that remains are total strangers who don’t know me and attempt to treat me like they treat other women.

    Mainly because we DON’T “hear about genocides and war crimes” in the plural.

    This is culture specific. Where I live the word “genocides” is used in plural, and the problem with holocaust isn’t that anti-Semites killed Jews but that some people killed other people.

  8. says

    and so I collected a few aspirational lies that some of the guys were telling each other, …

    Which all sounds relatively innocuous. It isn’t.

    Personal story: I was 11. A boy I went on a few walks with (and that’s all it was) told his friends a few of those “aspirational lies”. When, not so long afterwards, a group of teens attempted to gang-rape me and I protested, I was told that “H… says you do it all the time with him.” So, what was I complaining about?

    Fortunately, for me, a responsible adult turned up just after they’d got my clothes off. He said nothing to me, beyond a scornful glance, but my tormentors took off in a hurry.

    (Sorry, PZ, you really should have spoken up instead of just walking out!)

  9. John Morales says

    Susannah, without attempting to detract from your testimony or its relevance (I believe you! It matters, so thanks for sharing), your parenthetical addendum seems to me to be misguided:

    (Sorry, PZ, you really should have spoken up instead of just walking out!)

    First of all, you’re not responding to PZ, you are responding to Marcus — though this aspect may have more to do with your phrasing than your meaning.

    Second, and far more pertinently, your correction is actually both PZ’s and Marcus’ intended point — as PZ put it, it was a sin of omission and a point for thought for other men.

  10. says

    Susannah@#8:
    Personal story: I was 11. A boy I went on a few walks with (and that’s all it was) told his friends a few of those “aspirational lies”. When, not so long afterwards, a group of teens attempted to gang-rape me and I protested, I was told that “H… says you do it all the time with him.” So, what was I complaining about?

    I tried to choose my words carefully, by “aspirational lies” I meant to include the kind of lies boys might tell eachother as part of what they hoped might happen, or what they wanted to do. Unfortunately, that includes some really bad stuff, including in your case, full up sexual assault.

    Please stick around this blog at least until tomorrow; I think the posting I just queued up for Sunday may explain a bit more about some of the evolution of my attitudes.

    When I was in the locker room, one time, some joshing turned to an attempt to bully the nerd-boy which ended with me attacking 3 of the frosh/soph with a padlock in the end of a gym sock. Fortunately, I escaped any long-term consequences due to toxic masculinity (yes, I skated on “boys will be boys”! and the fact that nobody believed that I attacked them, not the other way around.) (my view was that being whipped across the face with a rolled up towel constituted an attack and I was just replying in kind) Anyhow – locker room talk, and locker room violence – they can be very real and consequential or they can be empty. I happen to believe, as I did back then, that you should stomp hard on people while they are capable of understanding the consequences of their actions.

    Sorry, PZ, you really should have spoken up instead of just walking out!

    I wasn’t intending to critique or not critique PZ’s actions. I have a huge problem with predicting what will happen when people start whipping themselves up to do something wrong. Perhaps you know, but it’s a definite process. There are the actors and the encouragers and the spectators. As far as speaking up, if you actually can be fairly sure that you’re dealing with people that are prepared to act, don’t talk to them – it’s past that time.

    The particular aspirational lies I was remembering never included plans for sexual assault. I swear I never heard anything like that. Mostly it was stuff about sneaking into strip clubs and getting action with the strippers after the clubs closed – things like that – things I know are lies now that I have (in my 30s) some experience with the strip club scene that I did not have in high school.

    I honestly do not know what I would have done if I had been in the presence of any of my high school class who appeared to be planning a sexual assault. I perhaps had an advantage PZ may not have had, because I had cultivated a reputation for over-the-top aggression when threatened.

    PS – I did thoroughly sort-out one guy who was stalking a young woman, part of my group of friends. I never heard any more from him, or experienced any blow-back, so I guess I managed to be scary enough. In that situation, I was asked (by her) to involve myself, it wasn’t a result of overheard conversation. But, someone who is making threatening stalky sounds to a college undergrad – well, they probably benefitted from some discouragement.

  11. says

    Yes, John Morales, I realized that that was the point. My “Sorry” was because it would make him feel even worse.

    I realized later that I was answering two posts in one comment; the trouble with reading ahead, then coming back to comment, and not paying enough attention. My bad.

  12. says

    Susannah@#11:
    I realized later that I was answering two posts in one comment; the trouble with reading ahead, then coming back to comment, and not paying enough attention. My bad.

    I doubt anyone minds; I can’t speak for the commentariat as a whole, but I think we understood you. John Morales, whose perspicacity I respect a great deal, is notable for his love of precision in language.

  13. says

    I love Guante’s poem because, while he talks about speaking up, he acknowleges that he doesn’t really know how it would have worked out differently. It might have been better. It was certainly worse that he didn’t. But it might have been the case that speaking up would have done nothing.

    That’s the problem with all this stuff: at what point do you take a bunch of words as a statement of intent to act? I think (as Guante does) that we need to pull that forward. There is a large army of enablers around Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, and so many more, that hide behind the blurred lines between statement of intent, and actual action. We need to pull that forward a lot but I’m not sure what that looks like. Definitely, Bill Cosby’s renfield Frank Scotti [cnn] is one person I believe deserves an ass-whipping because he knew EXACTLY what was going on and not only sheltered Cosby for decades, he helped him. Scotti was culpably negligent. At some point, we should front-load this issue and criminalize knowing about serial rapists and not coming forward.

  14. says

    Marcus # 10

    The particular aspirational lies I was remembering never included plans for sexual assault.

    And I doubt that in the case I’m talking about, there was any of that; it was more empty bragging by a kid who wanted to make himself look more experienced than he really was.
    My point was that even those mild lies may have consequences far beyond what was intended.

    Anyhow – locker room talk, and locker room violence – they can be very real and consequential or they can be empty.

    “Empty” may just include “We never heard about the consequences.”

  15. says

    John Morales@#2:
    “During the break in the songs, some idiot called out ‘Show us your tits’,” he said.

    “She got the spotlight straight away, put it on him and said ‘Show us your f***ing dick. Come on, come on’ and the guy just shrank back into the crowd, was totally ridiculed and humiliated.

    Pffff… A proper Nietzschean ubermensch would have done it and damn the consequences, if that was what he wanted to do. (including getting hauled out feet-first by security)
    She handled him just right: if he was humiliated and ridiculed it was because he tried to act like an ubermensch and failed.

  16. John Morales says

    Datum: I personally heard a story from some school acquaintances to the effect that an older woman (14 or so at the time) approached them and offered them a “Buddha stick” in exchange for the privilege of sucking their dicks. This particular one sticks in my mind because of its utter implausibility and incongruence to reality, but it was not entirely untypical.

    Even then I knew that was bullshit; note this is in another continent if in a similar time to Marcus’ recollections, and I think this is the sort of claim to which Marcus refers. And yes, it might have had consequences, and yes, I did make forceful protestations about its credibility, but none about its adduction. Because that is what was done, and I wasn’t about to be a weirdo about some sort of noble principle to which I had at that time given no thought.

  17. says

    kestrel@#3:
    Our neighbor came over and told us he was *really tired* of hearing about women being sexually assaulted and harassed; couldn’t we all please just shut up? After all, HE is not assaulting or harassing anybody! I can assure people, women are sick of being assaulted and harassed. I only wish I did not have stories of the exact same sorts of things happening to me. And my mother, sister, and every female friend I’ve ever had as well as some of my men friends. We’re all sick of assault and harassment. But I don’t see how any change can be made unless we talk about it. Staying quiet obviously does not work or the problem would have gone away already.

    I could stay up all night writing a response to your comment, but it’d mostly be tomorrow’s posting with an added rage-segue.

    I am ALSO tired of hearing about how white people suck about race, and how cis/het guys are a bunch of creeps, etc. The reason I am tired of it is because we really have a problem. White people actually DO suck about race, and we OUGHT to be tired of hearing complaints and we OUGHT to respond by crushing and marginalizing racist ideology and deconstructing it to demonstrate it’s a pack of lies. And we OUGHT to be tired of people like Harvey Weinstein and so forth and we ought to stop sheltering them, pull Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court, destroy Bill Clinton’s public career, and send some CIA goons over to collect Roman Polanski via “extreme rendition.” White people ought to be sick and tired of having these complaints because
    The complaints are that we didn’t DO ANYTHING.

    My attitude is that I want to be an ex-white person. I want to be something else. I don’t even want to be human anymore. Fuck that noise, I hate humans. I am so sick of humans this, humans that, I wish everyone would just shut up about it AND LET ME BE AN OTTER.

    Not happening? (sigh) That means I gotta plug away at slapping white people around, ‘cuz I am one and it’s embarrassing as fuck to be a white guy right now. I find myself constantly apologizing.

  18. says

    sonofrojblake@#6:
    Just one line: “Actually, rather than recount the thousands and thousands of examples [in popular culture] of the “Assault Them Until They Love You” seduction method, I’m going to prove how prevalent this is by rattling off a list of examples using only Harrison Ford’s filmography”

    Yeah, that’s a wonderful one.

    I turn it on its head sometimes when talking about US foreign policy: “How much do we have to bomb these people until they love us?”

    But anyone expressing the idea that perhaps they’ve now seen enough films, plays or books about the Holocaust wouldn’t be labelled a “compassion-lacking asshole”

    Humanity has a genocide problem. No question. The Holocaust has become emblematic and I agree with you that it has been played that way for political reasons. I fear that we allow humanity’s horrible predation on humanity to simply numb us. That the world sat by while Mao engineered the killing of 24 million of “his” people is something that ought to cover us all in shame.

    Unfortunately, my approach to the study of genocide and war (and politics) has been to simply turn into a misanthrope. I like to think I am no longer possible to surprise with human cruelty, rapaciousness, short-sightedness, and stupidity. And every time I say that, I click google news and I’m surprised again.

  19. John Morales says

    Marcus:

    That means I gotta plug away at slapping white people around, ‘cuz I am one and it’s embarrassing as fuck to be a white guy right now. I find myself constantly apologizing.

    This annoys me. Hairshirts are for Catholics.

    Everything you write is true (or let’s say indisputable), but you are not thereby guilty by association, only by participation.

    Yeah, I know I’ve in related posts elsewhere I’ve noted that collective guilt is a thing, but it’s not the very same thing as personal guilt. If (as is the case) you do what you can against the collective’s guilty actions, the former is not really applicable either.

    (Categories matter)

  20. says

    John Morales@#20:
    This annoys me. Hairshirts are for Catholics.

    I’m not saying I’m putting on a hair shirt; it’s more that I’m looking around at what others are doing, and I feel the weight of their expectations. I don’t feel guilty – I feel untrusted. Feeling guilty is something a person does to themself, but not being trusted is something another person does to another; it doesn’t matter whether it’s entirely justified or not, it’s what it is. The situation is similar to when some people ask “where are all the liberal muslims?” – an attitude I also disagree with, but it’s a challenge launched at a collective. If a member of a collective hears such a challenge and chooses to take it on, they’re not necessarily assuming guilt by association, but they are accepting involvement because they are part of the collective.

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