Wednesday, October 3, 2018

THIS ISN'T GOING TO END WELL


Hillary Clinton almost never gets anything right, not off the cuff.  It’s almost awe-inspiring -- like watching Wayne Gretzy weave his way up the ice through enemy defencemen and not get the goal, or Prince Fielder shattering fastballs  340 feet at every crack, and yet hit the foul pole in Miller Stadium every time.

In an interview yesterday, when asked about the anger the Kavanaugh hearings in particular and the #MeToo movement in general was engendering amongst women and men, Hillary said something along the lines of, “Well, what women are saying is that enough is enough and that the old social models are finished and…”  The poor interviewer persisted.  “And what about men?”  Hillary clearly didn’t have a cartridge for that, but she tried: “Well, the old days of male privilege are over, and a lot of men are having to realize that the patriarchy and the days of older white men…”   In short, the same message.  Men are shit and women are adjusting the social order.

In the New York Times today, Bonnie Mann blithely missed it as well, but she at least gave us the ten cent tour.  "As a philosopher, I am inclined to see this as a war between two epistemic worlds," Bonnie tells us, after explaining to us what ‘epistemic’ means (she gets it wrong), followed by an overuse of the word that kind of marred her cri de coeur against privileged elitism.

Bonnie basically says the battle we are in is white male privilege fighting tooth and nail against its perks being taken away. (The perks she's referring to, which all white men of privilege see as their due, include raping -- or near-raping -- women, getting away with it, and being rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court).   

Weirdly, on the same day Donald Trump actually came close to nailing what I suspect is going to be the real problem in our future.  In his comic-book boys thinking, he opined that he is worried for the men of his country, who presumably can now be accused of anything and have their lives destroyed.   Well, that’s  idiotic on so many fronts it’s downright juicy, and we are left not knowing which end of the buffet to attack first, but as sometimes happens with Trump, there’s a glimpse of a shadow of a kernel of a truth there.

Leaving aside Hillary’s strange relationship to the entire phenomenon of #MeToo and #TimesUp (her wildly zealous supporter and fund-raiser Harvey Weinstein was a mere road company version of Bill Clinton when it came to getting away with treating women like mail-order blow-up toys, but then poor Harvey didn’t have a wife who trucked in quashing claims and pillorying the claimants) I suspect she represents a pretty popular if narrow focus of thought.

Same with Bonnie Mann and her two track argument: men are white and pigs and women are right and asserting themselves. 

The problem is, fighting serious issues in this way has opened us up to something much darker and even more debilitating in the long run than white male privilege, if you can imagine such a thing.  But because we are a population which prefers simplistic and linear plots (Flintstones, not King Lear),  our social analysts are only able to address what’s happening and not what it’s doing to us.  Besides, one makes headlines and good cable news, and the other doesn’t.

It’s beyond easy to recognize that Judge Kavanaugh is a strange man who probably needs more time curing in the smokehouse before he’s ready for consumption.  Say, a lifetime.  Perhaps he can never be cured.   The real question is, does anyone really want to hang around and find out?   Why don’t we just give up on him and move on?  My own view is that we all  recognize that the man is clearly unfit to be a Supreme Court Justice, whether we admit it or not, and most of us have good reasons, sexual assault being primo uno.  But personally, I am hung up on the guy’s  basic intelligence.  Simply put, I think he’s too stupid to be a Supreme Court Justice, and that’s saying something.

To wit, how dumb do you have to be to adopt the Andy of Mayberry stance Kavanaugh chose for his Fox interview?  How about opting for Fox interview at all?  (Everyone in America knows that if you’re really in trouble, you do your lying to Lester Holt, Scott Pelley, or Anderson Cooper, not the Disney robotomata of Fox).  And how dumb do you have to be to accept public speaking advice from Donald Trump, of all people, and storm into your Judiciary Committee session like a WWF fighter who has just done a serious amount of coke?  He didn’t even do it well.  Forget the attempted rape of which he’s almost surely guilty, I think the guy should be disqualified for poor choices in acting.  Simply put, he’s not equipped for this gig.

The fall-out we’re not addressing is the chasm being created between men and women who aren’t vying for a seat on the Supreme Court or thinking about running for President again.  This chasm is massive, and I suspect it’s growing bigger every day, and worse, I suspect a lot of women don’t even know it’s there.

In short, I suspect that while all decent folks are militantly applauding #MeToo and #TimesUp and shouting that women have had enough, there’s a reaction taking place in the background, not among white privileged racists like Kavanaugh or Trump, but by men – white, brown, black, pick a color, privileged or not -- who in fact have never attempted to rape anyone and who have never been particularly interested in stepping on anyone’s social achievements or progress.    Decent men, in other words, who weren’t raised by wolves, or at least are missing the enzyme which finds appeal in locking women in rooms or administering date rape drugs or excessive alcohol.

I believe these men are starting to live secret emotional lives.  These are lives where they nod and agree with everything their mate Sally says, march in the Women's March and administer mailers for Elizabeth Warren, but also quietly sit alone in traffic and wonder who and what they are now.  Has Bob himself done something wrong?  And if he hasn’t, how has he become an appendage to Sally’s rage and righteous?  (Sally, for her part, might not notice that boyfriend/husband Bob hasn’t talked to her about anything for… weeks?  Years?  She’s busy fighting the fight and getting, quite rightly, what has been denied her all these millennia).

Is this good?  Is this bad?  Or is it just the next evolutionary stage in male-female relationships?  Who knows.  One thing’s for sure, though, it’s Bob and Sally are no longer a couple as we’ve come to define the term over our lifetimes; Sally and Bob are now just two entities who inhabit the same house and are perpetuating something called a relationship.

In other words, the state of our gender politics is already cleaving us in two, but Bonnie Mann couldn’t, or wouldn’t, look at that possibility, and Hillary Clinton missed it entirely.   (Trump, of course, is out in the woods wandering around in circles).  My guess is that most of us, in our personal relationships, are in the same boat: we don’t want to talk about it, not in the great new era, but we suspect it’s there.

Bob and Sally’s relationship is never again going to be about sharing with one another that which you can share with no one else.  Bob is going to second-guess everything he says to Sally, and rewrite before he speaks, if not question himself entirely and his own guilt and complicity in the evil old ways.  Sally is emboldened, particularly when she sees panels of women on cable news say things like, “We’re now in the age of women, where women are taking charge of our most powerful institutions, we’re throwing off the patriarchy, asserting ourselves, and not letting men exploit us or demean us.”  Almost everyone with traditional liberal tendencies has to applaud this statement.  However, Sally might wonder, what do we see if we flip the statement back? 

What if it were a group of men on a panel saying, “We’re now in the age of men, where men are taking charge of our most powerful institutions, we’re throwing off the power of women, asserting ourselves, and not letting women exploit or demean us?”  It would be taken as the most outrageous extremism, and utterly misogynistic.  Certainly women might feel mighty funny about who they’re sharing their quarters with.

As usually happens in the race to social justice and the business of righting wrongs, the release of grievance brings collateral damage.  The civil rights movement, to name one such example, led to some of the worst inner city violence in American history (“burn baby burn”) , and in general we still haven’t cured the setbacks in that community which voter registration didn’t even begin to address  (70% of African-American households are still headed by a single parent with one income, versus 25% for whites).

In the great #MeToo and #TimesUp movement my guess is that the real damage is going to be to the interpersonal relationships between utterly decent people who will never quite connect the fall-out in their own lives with the social hypocrisy of people like Hillary Clinton, Brett Kavanagh and yes, the neo-liberal leaders marching us into this great new future.  Militancy is a cheaper fuel than compassion and understanding, and right now there seems to be a lust for cheap fuel.  The price we’re going to pay in the long run, however, will be epic, and that price is going to be paid in the living rooms and bedrooms of the nation, as we all wonder how to even begin to talk to one another with honesty again. 


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