Archives for posts with tag: Violence

I believe the root of violence to be an expression of power, typically exerted as a response to some kind of challenge to it. The domestic abuser beats his wife because he believes himself to be the dominant partner, and if there is a perception of a question to that authority, then a violent response rectifies the imbalance. School shooters are almost exclusively those who feel that their power has been chipped away by the belittlement of others, and excessive violence is their attempt to regain it. A bar fight is a dick-measuring contest between apes, seeing who is the greater alpha male, or, more simply, who is the more powerful. There are of course exceptions, but most of the journals and articles I’ve read regarding violence explain it as an assertion of dominance and control. It’s not even that difficult to project the intentions behind interpersonal violence onto international conflicts, as countries vie for control over resources, subjects, or territory, seeking only to expand their stately power.

The perpetrators of violence, those who feel the greatest need to exert power, are almost all men. There have been several inquiries into the link between violence and masculinity, and one that is easily accessible, succinct, and informative is the documentary Tough Guise which I am obviously suggesting you watch due to my linking of it here. As easy as it is to dismiss violence as solely within the deficiencies of interpersonal relationships between men forcing conformity onto one another, it is critical to realize that social pressures are universally applied.

Ice T, in his infinite wisdom, imparted this gem, “If women didn’t like criminals, there would be no crime.” While charmingly naive, Ice T may well have gleaned some element of truth surrounding the desires of women impacting the nature of masculinity to a certain degree. Remember Elliot Rodgers? He committed an unforgivable act of violence, not due to excessive bullying from his male peers, but from the ostracization he suffered from the hands of women. To the horror of many feminists, message boards lit up in the aftermath saying that the tragedy could have been averted if Rodgers possessed a greater degree of “game.” Progressive conversations raged against this wash of men who sympathized with Rodgers’s rejection as they believed, correctly, that there is no excuse for targeted violence against women. However, the conversation tacitly ignored the reality to which the message boards allude: conforming to the desires of women is significant enough to male needs to a degree that violence is seen as a semi-understandable response to its lack.

It’s pretty easy to understand the muscular definition of male bodies that is often found attractive is a representation of power, but even height, which so many women demand in a partner, is also a sign of physical dominance. Watch any fight on TV, and the man who can tower over his opponent is almost intrinsically seen as the likely winner. Financial success, most commonly seen in the tradition of men paying for the first (and usually subsequent) dates, is not difficult to see as a marker of economic power in a culture driven by the necessity of wealth. Women who wish to feel “safe” with their man are expecting that he possess enough power to provide that security for her, almost as if she needs him to be able to commit violence on her behalf if a situation calls for it. Even confidence is not so benign, and the characteristic women claim to find the most desirable is really the extension of power over one’s self and one’s surrounding environment.

I do not mean to suggest that any degree of power is going to cause a firestorm of violence if left untempered, and I still maintain my Yin Yang approach to desirable human characteristics. For instance, confidence is an easy attribute to defend, but when considered among all the other desirable traits it does not stray from the general trend. If every stipulation of manhood required by both genders, either for romantic interest or peer conformity, necessitates power, then it is of no wonder that detrimental expressions of that power will be unleashed when a man is unable to meet that requirement. Even though violence is a decisively masculine problem, we are all responsible. We cannot point any fingers. Social pressures are indicative of the norms and traditions of a whole society, infused in us, regardless of gender. If we wish to make changes, we must begin with ourselves.

I’ve been having a hard time with the recent Dallas shooting of 12 police officers, almost entirely because the progressive people who I have on my Facebook friends list, who make a point of acknowledging that the terrorists attacks in Turkey or Sudan are just as worthy of sympathy as the ones in France or Belgium, are noticeably silent about it. My guess is because they interpret Martin Luther King’s quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” as applicable only to the dominant group. Of course, there are far more victims of police shootings than officers being shot, but when violence is carried out in the name of a progressive movement, and to be clear that is exactly what happened, then a good, hard look is required.

Our first look needs to be this. This is a photo of a Dallas police officer who made it home:

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This image is equally necessary to all the images of the black victims of police shootings to create the full context of that discussion.

There are five families who didn’t get to have this moment. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Yet I am conflicted. One of the things I did soon after the shooting was reread a previous blog I had written about violence as a response to oppression. I was not unambiguously against it, and was clear in reminding people that violence is often a reflection of the extent of oppression being committed against that populace. Black people face disproportionate violence from police officers, that is incontestable. Is the extent of that oppression creating this violent response? Are we just living in a time of revolution, and learning the humbling tragedy that revolution inflicts on everybody?

Malcolm X is famous for fighting for the rights of black people “by any means necessary.” He believed that without a violent response, “whites would not have to worry about a revengeful response to their brutality.” His unflinching rhetoric made no distinction between enemies and allies in the white race, and he made claims like all whites are responsible for “urban black ghetto[s] where drugs, poverty, crime, unemployment, and bad housing are its defining characteristics.”

Malcolm’s success was in the creation of a proud black identity. He advocated that “black people wherever possible, however possible, patronize their own kind … and start to build up the black race’s ability to do for itself.” He believed that black people had the ability to be exceptional, and he fought for those beliefs. One article that I desperately searched for but could not find suggested that without Martin Luther King, black people would not have the vote, but without Malcolm X, black people would not have their identity.

Now, Malcolm had interesting goals. He believed in creating a nation within the United States where black people could live autonomously outside of the rest of white America. He actually conferred with white supremacists, who were quite happy to kick black folk out of their towns, toward the achievement of this goal. To Malcolm, “segregation is that which is forced upon inferiors by superiors. But separation is that which is done voluntarily by two equals – for the good of both.” Now one could simply look at India and Pakistan to see how effective that would be in practice, but those were his views.

Most importantly, Malcolm’s actions and rhetoric reflected his plans. He could promote violence against white people because they did not have a place in his society. He could make blanket statements about white people because they were irrelevant to his goals. Malcolm has often been criticized for his open hatred of white people, but when his goals are considered, his hatred is reasonable toward their achievement.

What about the Black Lives Matter movement? They practice non-violence, so they must be more akin to Martin than Malcolm, right? I mean sure, there are fringe groups chanting for dead cops, but the vast majority choose non-violent methods. Martin said, “We can’t solve this problem through retaliatory violence… We must meet violence with nonviolence… Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you. We must love our white brothers… no matter what they do to us.” Surely a movement that hearkens to Martin’s methodology would mirror his rhetoric, but that does not seem to be the case.

Advocates against racism today frequently use generalized language, directing their messages toward ‘white people’. Examples here, here, here, here, here… I’m not arguing that the information that’s being given is incorrect, but the way that it’s being presented paints the clear villains as ‘white people’. A feature length film was even created called Dear White People that examines this phenomenon. The systemic racism in North America is still being attributed to ‘white people’, and that sounds a lot more like Malcolm than Martin. Memes such as this:

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literally put black people and white people on opposing sides, as if there is a necessary conflict between the two. This article calls the Dallas shooting unsurprising considering the state of American affairs on racial inequality. The author uses a cake metaphor to illustrate this lack of surprise, whereas Malcolm simply said about the national tragedy of his day, “The chickens were coming home to roost.” Even the fight for the exclusion of police officers from the Toronto Pride festival is reminiscent of Malcolm’s aim of separation.

So what did Martin say? Well, he said in his I Have A Dream speech that, “The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” His dream was “that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” He dreamed that one day the “little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” He acknowledges all the troubles of black people, but his rhetoric is firmly entrenched in an alliance with white people. Memes like this:

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People in glass houses…

illustrate the ignorance people have of Martin’s beliefs because his dream, if you listen to the recording, was a lot closer to the message of #AllLivesMatter than anything else. He was very purposeful and clear about his inclusion of whites, and going by the themes of his speech, he would likely have said that “white lives are inextricably bound to black lives.” Martin believed in the supremacy of unity. He wasn’t about anger, but hope. It was this oration of hope and unity that got him the ear of two presidents to fix the systemic problems of his time, whereas Malcolm only raged in the streets.

Even Malcolm rescinded a lot of his rhetoric after his pilgrimage to Mecca, and afterward he said, “I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such, I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.” He also cites regret at having dismissed a potential white ally on the steps of a college in his fight for the black race:

Well, I’ve lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping Black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I’m sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all [Black] Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man’s entitled to make a fool of himself if he’s ready to pay the cost. It cost me twelve years.

When the grandfather of anger-based identity politics likens that approach to being a mindless zombie, that is a harsh indictment.

Yet I do not believe that Martin could have succeeded without Malcolm. In my blog I refer to a yin yang approach, and Malcolm even addressed this when he said, “If white people realize what the alternative is, perhaps they will be more willing to hear Dr. King.” It’s the good cop/bad cop routine, but with racial politics.

Today though, the only rhetoric allowed is that of Malcolm. Identity politics rules. People are angry, and rightfully so, of course, but we’re missing our Martin. The methodology is meaningless if it does not match the rhetoric or the goals. Are people screaming to love the police, no matter what atrocities they commit? No, they’re banning them from progressive events. The most prominent criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement is the #AllLivesMatter campaign, which is typically dismissed as white ignorance, when really it’s a question about the role the rest of society has within the movement. A Martin today would address that question rather than pass it over with disdain as Malcolm would.

I really don’t know if this is the result of a lack of clear progressive leadership, or the degradation of political movements over time, but Black Lives Matter really needs to analyse its goals to see if they truly match its rhetoric and actions. Is the goal separation or unity? Hatred or love? Identity politics or actual politics? Violence against police officers and racial divisions can only increase given the current discourse because, as it stands right now, the dream is dead.

Post-script: all quotations, unless otherwise cited, have come from here.

The infamous “they,” who are the anonymous creators of all conventional wisdom, say that when men go out on first dates, their biggest fear is being rejected, but when women go on first dates, their biggest fear is being murdered. I’m fairly certain this originated around the same time that online dating became a thing, and scary internet strangers followed the already-established internet trends of generally being terrible people. This saying that “they” so ruefully divulge is meant to illustrate the severity of a woman’s plight in a man’s world. Death is much more deserving of fear than rejection, after all.

This fear is endemic beyond the realm of Tinder creeps, however, and men in parks, parking garages, and on transit are all potential attackers. The term “Schrodinger’s Rapist” was coined to illustrate that a strange man is both a rapist and not-a-rapist simultaneously until he has proven himself to be one or the other. By linking this fear to the intellectual heights of quantum physics, it becomes that much more convincing because people will always just nod along rather than pretend to know anything about the nature of the subatomic universe. The burden of proof to overcome this categorization lies with the man, of course, as men are the ones seen to be responsible for this fear.

When I first heard what “they” said, my first thought was, why? If there is even an inkling that a man on a first date is going to be a murderer, then avoid going on that date! Problem solved! This was the result of my ignorance of the endemic nature of women’s fear of men, but the question still holds against that generalized fear. Why? Fear is not self-justifiable. Someone can be afraid of spiders, just because, and no one cares because that doesn’t impact the world at all, but being afraid of a subset of human beings requires more critical analysis. A person that says, “It doesn’t matter why I’m scared of black people, just that I am and that fear needs to be respected” is clearly a racist and represents a systemic problem of anti-black sentiment that would need to be addressed. One could even argue in an American context, “The biggest fear of a black person going into an all-white establishment is rejection, but the biggest fear of a white person going into an all-black establishment is being murdered.” Remember that scene from Animal House? It’s not even that much of a stretch: an all-white establishment is more likely to be in a wealthier neighbourhood in contrast with the all-black establishment which will more likely be in a poorer neighbourhood with a higher crime rate, and blacks disproportionately commit more murders than whites.

This isn’t totally fair. Women who suffer violence are only very rarely attacked by other women, and men are so predominantly the perpetrators in this violence that the fear becomes justifiable as simple prudence. If a woman is walking down the street at night, it is far less of a gamble to come across another woman than a man. Yet an acceptance of prejudicial caution based on statistical probability can set a disturbing precedent. Aboriginals in Canada suffer alcohol-related deaths four and a half times more than their non-Aboriginal counterparts; does this mean a bartender or liquor store clerk should scrutinize their Native patrons beyond the normal purview? In the United States, of all the under 18 robbery arrests, blacks represent 68.6% of offenders (despite black people only representing ~12% of the general population); does that justify a store owner sending an employee to follow a black youth until they leave the premises? Increased racial scrutiny is quite rightly decried as racist among progressives, despite the statistical prudence, because it forces the conversation away from the structural causes of these statistics and onto individual behaviours which cannot be universalized. Placing the burden of proof on the “antagonist” in any of these situations and acting “prudently” until a verdict is reached will only ever serve to protect a harmful prejudicial worldview based on an unjustifiable fear that only ends up distorting the much needed conversation of the reformation of those structures.

Hold on, though. Violence against women is targeted. A store is usually robbed because of the economic incentives of the robber. This is not the case when it comes to violence against women. Similarly to how racial and sexual minorities are singled out, so too are women attacked for no other reason outside of the fact that they are women. Rape culture is emblematic of a society where rape victims are often blamed for their own rape, where the justice system fails to convict the majority of rapists, and these tragedies are met with apathy or bafflement by most public officials. There is a permissiveness in regards to violence against women that permeates the dominant culture that women have to swim in every day of their lives. Enduring that burden surely merits a fearful reaction.

And yet, the violence faced by men and women are at about parity. Yes, women suffer a greater number of sexual assaults, but men are more likely to be the victims of aggravated assault, homicide, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, etc. If we acknowledge the gendered implications of the prevalence of female victimization in specific crimes (as we should), then we must too acknowledge that men are singled out when they represent three quarters of all homicides, three quarters of all aggravated assaults, and two thirds of all assaults with deadly weapons. No one talks about these crimes as being gendered, despite the male propensity to being their victims, and the common criticism of “violence against women” that it doesn’t include men as the perpetrators is highly ironic when gendered male crime is just called “violence” and does not even acknowledge the victims.

Since gendered-violence as it relates to male victims hasn’t really been discussed very much, I’ll offer a theory of my own as a potential answer to why there is a social acceptance of committing violence against men: throughout history, men have typically been the warrior class. Historical acts are considered particularly savage when women and children are killed, because they are considered “helpless” compared to the men who are simply expected to be victims of warfare. The noble assassin in contemporary media is the one who refuses to kill women and children. The expectation is of men to participate in the Game (to steal a phrase from The Wire), and to be willing to kill and die to protect those women and children, as seen in the rules of boat-sinking: they are the ones to get into the lifeboats first. Based on the social attitudes that all men intrinsically belong in the Game, dramatic violence against them is therefore considered normal.

Despite the comparable permissiveness of violence against men, men are less likely to be afraid of violent crime than women. One study showed that 3% of men aged 25 to 54 stayed in at night to avoid being the victim of a crime, compared to 17% of women. Considering that men are more likely to be attacked by strangers in a public place than women, it becomes clear that the blanket fear of the male stranger is not based on the permissiveness of violence, but is as socially constructed as all the other discriminatory phobias.

Let’s look at another socially constructed fear: Islamophobia. The Middle East is a hotbed of normalized violence and cultural warfare with routine calls for the destruction of the West from groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. All these groups are steeped in Islam, yet the cause of the anti-Western sentiment is more than likely due to the forcible implementation of secularization on an unwilling populace and the colonial exploitation of the area for its resources. Islam became the vehicle for the inevitable aggressive reaction because it was already the established religion and does contain scriptural elements that denigrate non-believers.

Despite these external influences being the catalyst of the violent instability of the region, Islam is still rife with controversy. The Quran condemns homosexuality in a similar fashion to all the Abrahamic religions, allows moral exceptions to cheating and plundering non-believers, and advocates for a global caliphate as an appropriate method of world governance. The Quran also forbids murder, coercive conversion, and demands that prisoners of war be treated as cherished guests, meaning that most terrorist propaganda videos are distinctly non-Islamic. There are genuine problems with Islamic ideology, as with all religious doctrines, as well as many positive aspects. The root cause of violent Islam today is the reflection of the hostile and oppressive social environment in which it exists. Similarly, the horrific nature of medieval history under Christianity was a mark of the times, as was the Islamic cultural enlightenment as its stark contrast during the same period. Even Judaism is finally getting a chance at oppressing others based on the relatively new ideology of Zionism mixed with anti-Arab sentiment created by the unending hostilities with Israel’s surrounding nations. Context is key for understanding ideological violence, yet it does not forgive it and technology today allows the hatred of people thousands of miles away to kill innocent civilians in its name.

There is no dispute that there are more deaths caused by local violence than of terrorism, but that is a privilege of the West as cities like Fallujah succumb to terror on a near daily basis. Attacks on the West, such as Paris, Brussels, Boston and of course New York show that the possibility of a Western attack is non-negligible. It is also indicative of the targeted nature of violence against Western civilization which we’ve already discussed as grounds for justifiable paranoia.

Western media tends to hype terrorism with fear-mongering scare tactics, but how is that much different from the #YesAllWomen campaign that literally suggests all women are victims, or the uproar over Brock Turner and the permissiveness of rape in American justice? In both cases, people are pointing at their antagonist and shouting, “See? See? There is a culture of violence that establishes a permissiveness regarding targeted violence!” Not to dismiss the abomination that the Brock Turner case ended up being, but I feel that a comparison to the attacks in Paris is not unfair. The progressive response to the construction of Islamophobia is, completely ignorant of the irony, essentially #NotAllMuslims, and then detractors argue that acknowledging that not all Muslims are terrorists is irrelevant and distracts from the very real and critical conversation that needs to be had about the violent nature of the Islamic religion. What is Donald Trump’s ban on Muslims if not a prudent reaction against Schrodinger’s terrorist, placing the burden of proof upon them to quell his prejudicial fears? Is the Islamophobic response to terrorism truly based on a reaction to the horrific deeds of a Muslim minority, or the proliferation of media-hyped imagery creating a fearsome stranger? What about with men?

Obviously there are problems with the culture of masculinity, just as there are problems with Islam and all other dogmatic ideologies. One could even argue that the toxic aspects of masculinity pervade the toxic aspects of Islam. Hell, even I would argue that, but fear is not the solution to either of these cultures, and a blanket fear of one cannot be condemned while tacitly accepting the blanket fear of the other.

This was my belief for the longest time: that androphobia was going unaddressed in progressive circles because of blind hypocrisy or intellectual incompetence. Sadly, the greatest threat to my convictions came in the form… of a meme.

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Memes! The Scourge of the Internet!

 

I was a cyclist for four years, riding my bicycle to and from work every day. I am well aware of the open hostility cars display toward cyclists, as well as the fear that grips your heart each time you feel the wind of a car passing by just a little too closely. Was this the answer to my confusion over the progressive acceptance of what I found to be a crippling hypocrisy? Differing races and religions would just be different makes or models of cars, equal in every basic respects, so a fear among cars is unjustifiable, whereas the fear of a cyclist on a road full of cars undoubtedly is. Luckily I eventually remembered that memes are stupid, and came to my senses.

Cars and bicycles are not equal. An argument could be made for an equal share of the road, yes, but cars are monstrous machines of death, and cyclists are fragile. Which means that if this metaphor is adopted as the reason a woman’s fear is justifiable, then it must also be accepted that women are inherently fragile creatures. Not physically weak, as weakness is only a single aspect of being, and a weapon of an attacker would make physical strength irrelevant (remember men are attacked twice as often with weapons as women, making their natural physical strength superfluous in defending themselves). Strength is also relative, and a fear in weakness would mean a scrawny man is justified in a fear of a strong man who is justified in a fear in a stronger one. This scale of fear in men does not exist. Steve Rogers started out weak before his magical super serum, but was still courageous enough to fight back, undaunted. Weakness is not an excuse for fear, but fragility is. Fragility is holistic. It would encompass her whole being. The lightest touch of a passing car would destroy a cyclist. That is not an inability to defend oneself, that is glass.

If we accept that men and women are not equal, then feminine dependency loses its status as a social construction and becomes biological. For a just society to function, the fragile would need to be protected. We do it with developing children in their inherently fragile state, and if this extends to women then a potential solution the Middle East has already established is the insistence that women cannot go outside unaccompanied. In America, where a mandatory male escort may seem too patriarchal, maybe there could be a new law decreeing that all women must carry a gun since guns seem to solve everything. Women would need to be excluded from physically demanding careers, such as the police, fire fighters, or military, as their fragility would prevent adequate performances in those roles. The infuriating “equal but different” theory would need to be reexamined, as the nurturing role of women and the provider role of men would have new evidence supporting it.

If men and women are equal, then a prejudicial fear is exactly that. If they are not, the fear is justified, and feminism is irreparably broken. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out which option I prefer.

If a woman is victimized, is she justified in her fear of men? Of course! Trauma-induced phobia is common, associated with many prejudicial fears, and is never condemned by a competent counselor. The counselor would never reinforce those beliefs, however, and would eventually help the person overcome them in order for that person to reintegrate into functioning society. And really, most women are satisfied with their personal safety. The fear of men is not crippling the women of our country, and most live quite harmoniously despite the statistics and culture. It’s just that when that fear does arise, it needs to be acknowledged for what it is, lest we fall victim to a Trump-esque response.

Post-script: The FBI database of crimes-by-race I linked to earlier here, needs to be understood in regard to the racial makeup of America. Whites account for 63.7% of the total population, so if a percentage of white crime is hovering around that area, it is proportional to the population size: ~60% of the population is committing ~60% of crime X. If that number is including Hispanics, which it might because they’re not represented elsewhere and for some reason the Wikipedia page I linked to for racial populations has a “whites” count that includes Hispanics that would make white people 72.4% of the total population, then that second number would represent the proportional value. I’m not sure I get the distinctions, but “black” is pretty clear cut at ~12% and that’s the example I used in my post. I’m just adding this if somebody wanted to explore the link, which they might since it’s an interesting read. For instance, white people are worse at the variety of liquor violations than black people, despite the racial ghettoization that black people were forced into. Makes you think!