Youtube’s algorithm recommended me a clip from the television show Mr. Inbetween. Given that my life is an empty husk papered over by the addictive black hole of video social media, I watched it. In the clip, there is the character Ray sitting in what I assume is a court-mandated anger management class – I haven’t seen the show, I am making this assumption based on the context given in the clip. Ray is nonchalant about his violence, and sees himself justified in it as the people whom he is violent toward “have it coming.” He describes beating the shit out of two young men who swore at his daughter after knocking her ice cream off the cone, an almost cartoonish stereotype. Yet Ray is the hero of his own story; he is providing the just desserts that society no longer feels comfortable distributing. The group facilitator, whom I take to be the personification of society in this clip, doesn’t care to have looked into the full story of Ray’s assault, and can only pipe up strawman assumptions that everyone would agree are morally impermissible. Ray gently corrects him, and in the end, the facilitator – somewhat sardonically – thanks Ray on behalf of society for his service in ensuring consequences for the assholes among us. We are left with the impression that Ray is in the right to have used violence to resolve his conflict, and while society may not believe he is right, it is left without an argument against it. That impression is reinforced by the ubiquity of agreement with Ray in the Youtube comment section.

I’m not going to lie, I would probably enjoy the show if I watched it. It’s rated 8.6 on IMDB!

As hopefully everyone reading this knows, stories aren’t reflections of reality, but manifestations of the perception of reality of the people who produce them. There is ideology behind every piece of media, not just the endless emesis of woke remakes. The ideology behind this scene is actually pretty straightforward: might makes right. It might be argued that the show is trying to portray an absolutist sense of “right” that needs “might” to defend it against the decaying moral fabric of society brought on by decadence and degeneracy, but it’s… not. I mean, it is in the sense that it’s trying to put forward that position, but it’s not because the core of that argument is still that might makes right.

Ray’s position is that the two young men have touched a hot stove and will now think twice before doing so again, but that’s a false analogy. Ray’s argument that it’s wrong to swear at little girls isn’t an immutable objective fact like the searing heat coming off a lit stove, it’s a proposition only backed up by his physical dominance. All it takes for his argument to flounder is those two men jumping him in an alley with baseball bats, and all of a sudden it’s okay to swear at little girls again. He’s not “right”; he won a fight. He becomes wrong again immediately after a successful retaliation. The argument is only valid so long as he possesses the capacity for violence necessary to defend it. The lesson learned isn’t likely going to be that it’s wrong to swear at little girls; that is not the inherent consequence to losing a fight. The lesson could easily be that additional violence is necessary to retain ideological dominance.

An excellent point, sir! Now for my rebuttal.

This fa├žade of justified violence to prevent social decay is endemic beyond the ideology of an individual bluffing his way through an anger management class. It is the ideology of Tough On Crime: criminals are the perfectly unreasonable; they are diametrically opposed to rational argument, and therefore can only be confronted and cowed by violence. It’s the only language they understand, dontcha know! When people demand Tough On Crime policies, they are demanding the irrefutable argument of violent state power. The reality is that it’s actually the abandonment of rationality because as discussed above, this approach is only a simplistic manifestation of might making right. It only appears more defensible because the government has a monopoly on violence – you can’t jump the State in a back alley if you disagree with your arrest.

This is only justifiable if we agree that people who commit crimes aren’t actually human in the Aristotelian sense. It necessarily demands the inherently flawed black and white thinking cognitive-behavioural therapists call a “cognitive distortion.” We must “show strength” against Russia because Putin is an unthinking monster and diplomacy is a waste of time! But in following this line of thought, we have to abandon our own rationality in order to justify it. We abandon our own humanity in order to pursue only the shakiest form of ideological dominance. Is then Putin not justified in his aggression against the West because we have ourselves become the unreasonable? How this self-perpetuating cycle of unexamined brutality has lasted throughout history is tragically obvious. The moral righteousness of imperialism always seems to have been determined by who has more guns.

It’s also how we determine which culture is more civilized!

Violence as an epistemology is a failure of civilization. Asserting its value as a first resort, as in Hawkish ideology or Tough On Crime rhetoric, is like beating the shit out of a waiter because your order was wrong. Even violence as a last resort is somewhat dubious in its discursive value. It’s anti-democratic in the sense that collective will and wisdom are secondary to the ideology of those directing the thugs with the batons. If you can’t convince or compromise, physically dominate.

The “why” behind someone’s actions matters. Even if the young men never verbally abused a child again, doing so out of fear of violence is the stupidest possible reason in the world. The rationale behind our actions, and the rationale behind our change, matters. When Ricky Gervais tweets about the absurdity of God’s threat of eternal punishment being the only inhibitor to social devastation, he’s making this same point. We have ways of measuring what is socially beneficial and destructive now, and it turns out that corporal punishment is quite categorically on the destructive side! Punishment does not deter crime; accountability does. It is measurably better to treat children with communal love and kindness because we know of its positive benefits to both the child and society – we’re far more likely to be accountable to that maxim if we are convinced of its merit.

Weirdly, there are some rather mainstream circles that decry that we’re not being violent enough in our noble pursuit of truth, with some even thinking it is the bedrock of discourse. Without the threat of violence, how will we even know how to behave rationally!? I guess fear drives rational thought better than a logical argument. Of course this is all nonsense, but the lamenting over the “pussification” of men and its impact on society at large has infected much of the right-wing discourse. Mr. Inbetween, at least in that one scene, is overt right-wing propaganda for exactly this. The facilitator, wanting to talk about feelings, fails to undermine the sanctity of violence as an epistemology. It is a celebration of posturing over reason. The strong construct castles of reality and defend them jealously and without thought, and this is encouraged. If someone says that maybe talking about your feelings is a good thing, punch them. Our castle walls must remain strong.

All in all

This is a crisis of masculinity. Society does not see violence as a particularly feminine trope, so its cultural obsolescence is only a threat to the men who don’t have anything else going for them. No one expects women to defend their ideas with violence; the sophists of violence don’t particularly expect women to have ideas worth defending at all. There’s a reason it’s called social pussification: the sacrosanct epistemology of masculine violence has been defiled by feminine influence. Personally, I’m offended, nay, triggered! that my gender has been inextricably associated with the laziest form of argument. The criticisms against feminists for their hysterical misandry pale in comparison to the notion that men need to stoop to the discursive style of chimpanzees in order to be considered men. Talk about an own-goal.

We don’t commit crimes or break social mores when we don’t have reasons to. When we understand those reasons, we’ll probably be a lot bettered prepared to actually address them. If we think we can fix complex social issues by beating up all the assholes, we ourselves have, by definition, become an asshole. If you can’t come up with a convincing argument as to why verbally abusing a child is wrong, then maybe you shouldn’t be chiming in at all.

There was once a Countryman who possessed the most wonderful Goose you can imagine, for every day when he visited the nest, the Goose had laid a beautiful, glittering, golden egg.

The Countryman took the eggs to market and soon began to get rich. But it was not long before he grew impatient with the Goose because she gave him only a single golden egg a day. He was not getting rich fast enough.

Then one day, after he had finished counting his money, the idea came to him that he could improve his profit margins by cutting the Goose’s feed budget, and only cleaning the Goose’s coop once a week instead of daily. Over time, the Countryman’s income soared as the Goose’s working conditions became worse and worse.

The Goose had had enough. The Countryman did nothing to contribute to the production of the golden eggs, but merely owned the barn wherein the eggs were produced! She determined she had one of two options: she could withhold her labour and stop producing golden eggs entirely until her working conditions improved, or she could gather the other farm animals to reclaim the right to their own labour, and end the Countryman’s exploitation for good.

The farm animals organized and constructed a simple but effective guillotine. With fire in their hearts, they grabbed the Countryman and provided him the just reward for his tyranny.

The farm animals lived in cooperative comfort forever after.

I drive through your town, and while I am the one behind the glass, you are the one under the microscope, a grazing beast on my human safari. I am the looker; you are the looked upon.

I come to your home, my attention rapt upon you, a voyeur with a camera, legitimized by my passport. I am the visitor, you the local, yet you become the foreigner under my gaze. Your normal becomes exotic, your habit queer. Do not forget that this exchange is for the benefit of the intruder.

I watch you live. I see you cook your food and wash your clothes. I see you pray; I watch you grieve, documenting your life under my rapaciously curious gaze, snapping photographs – memories archived for amusing gossip with friends upon my return. Having witnessed it for a few days, I stake ownership over your story and tell it now as the expert, the wisdom of a worldly traveler.

You endure my objectification, smile at my unencumbered white skin, because more than you are here for my enlightened diversion, I am here for your necessity. The scraps you live on are viciously insufficient, forcing you to beg for some off my own gluttonous plate. I chafe at the expectation, indignant that the price of a beer has outrageously ballooned to three dollars a bottle when in the last town it was only two. If you are lucky, I will remember I pay eight dollars at home, and tip you the difference. Do you feel lucky?

You are examined, inspected, scrutinized, and then you are abandoned. You are left in your poverty. You remain without. I return to comfort, and declare your life “interesting.” Your role as an item on my bucket list has been fulfilled.

We the tourists are entitled to the world, colonizers with fanny packs.

Yet those who never leave their home cannot see. They are limited by a provincial myopia, and the world revolves without them. Your story is forever elusive. If you are seen at all, it is through the distorting prism of media gloss and political bombast. You are both monster and victim, your humanity buried under self-serving spin.

Is this an improvement? Are you better off ignored? Must I remain detached from your existence to avoid exploitation? How can I see you without looking? How can I engage with you equitably when my very status as visitor privileges me over you?

I aim to exemplify the virtues of the guest. I engage with you on the terms of your household. When there is discomfort, I tolerate it, recognizing the privilege of your hospitality and embodying the humility of one out of their element. You are my host, receiving me with gratitude and generosity. No longer taking, what I gain is what is shared.

We are no longer detached, observer and the observed. We embrace across borders. I do not return to a different, more comfortable world, recalling you as an alien Other. We persist in the same world, unfair in my favour. I seek you in solidarity, a global fraternity. May we remain united.