Friday, December 28, 2012

A note about hate

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post, Becoming what you hate. I think it is important to distinguish between two types of hatred.

It's good, and important, to hate things like injustice, ignorance and superstition. Slavery would still be going strong in the US if there wasn't a critical mass of people who hated it and wanted to put an end to it. Hatred against evil and harmful ideas puts fire in our bellies and gives us the energy to make the world a better place.

Hatred of people is different, however. Are you in a position to hurt the person you hate? No good can come of that, for either you or them. And if not - if you are sitting at home and stewing because Someone Is Wrong On The Internet - you are only going to hurt yourself.

Your hatred has no effect on its intended object - it only harms you, and drains your emotional energy. You should forgive the other person, if only for your own sake. Forgiving them doesn't have to mean feeling warm and cuddly towards them - it means denying them any power over you.

I don't want to hate the people I disagree with. Ideally I should see them as fellow humans, perhaps misinformed and deluded, but subject to the same cognitive biases I am vulnerable to, and perhaps trapped and self-victimized by their hatred of me.

And if someone is truly unpleasant and dishonest, I don't have to respect them, over and above the minimum level of respect that any human being is due. But neither should I give them power over me. If things get to be too much, I can always switch off the computer and walk away for a while. Hopefully I will have more perspective when I return. At the end of the day, it's only pixels on a screen after all.

So that's my resolution for the coming year. Happy 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Becoming what you hate

Have you heard the Cherokee legend of the wolves? Inside each of us there is a battle going on between two wolves. One wolf represents kindness, compassion and empathy. The other represents hatred, resentment, and anger. Which of your two wolves wins? The one you feed.

I've been thinking a lot lately about why the Great Atheist Schism is such a fascinating topic for so many of us. On the one hand, it's sad that at a time when women's rights are being rolled back wholesale in state legislatures across the US and the Republican party is ever more blatant in pushing its Christian Dominionist theocratic agenda, so much of our precious time and energy are being used up by internal divisions. On the other hand, there's something morbidly engrossing about the spectacle, like watching a slow-motion train wreck.

I'd like to say that my motives are pure - that I stay in the fight because I deeply care about skepticism, rationalism and free thought. I care about opposing dogma and authoritarianism, whether of the traditional religious or radfem kind. I care about equal rights, respect and responsibilities for all humans. I care about free speech, fairness and due process, and despise censorship, moral panic and witch-hunting.

However, I also have a little more self-awareness than any of the plussers (or indeed all of them put together) have shown so far. I'm a human being, and if you attack me or those dear to me, I will be hurt and angry. I will be strongly attempted to reply in kind. I have to keep reminding myself not to become what I hate, not to sink to their level.

I know some people on both sides have played hardball and done things that were not their finest moments. Personal attacks, cyberstalking and doc-dropping are never acceptable, whether aimed at men or women, radfems or anyone else.

A wise friend of mine once said, there are some arguments you lose just by taking part in. When you see Pope Peezus of Plus declaring infallibly that all opponents of his berserk man-hating clique are stupid assholes at best and mass murderers at worst, you realize that there is simply no point in trying to engage in any kind of reason- or fact-based debate with him and his flying monkeys. This asshole is just not interested in defending any kind of defensible or even coherent position. It's all about the hatred.

Myers is consumed with hatred for anyone who isn't 100% in lockstep with his rigid radfem ideology. He basks in it, soaks it up, and projects it onto anyone who has the temerity to dissent from his dogma. And the more people who disagree with him, the more sure he is of his absolute infallability. "See! Michael Shermer said something off the cuff that can be twisted by the most uncharitable possible interpretation into an insult to women! It just proves what I've always said, everyone in the world is a mass-murdering rapist except me and my merry little band!"

Which led me to a sudden realization:

(Caption: P.Z. Myers is the Fred Phelps of atheism)

So how do we fight Fred Phelps and his brood of inbred haters? Not by sinking to their level. Not by feeding the same wolf they're feeding. Not even by opposing them by legitimate means, such as lawsuits and counter-protests. Not only do they have a big advantage in being able to claim religious freedom (a great example of unchecked privilege), but the opposition just reinforces their self-image as a persecuted righteous minority, the victims of a sinful world.

Experience has shown that the best way to deal with the Phelpsoids is to refuse to play their game. Call in some mean-looking biker gangs or tough-ass veterans to keep them out of your face. Then get on with your life. Pay no attention to the trolls, except to mock themDO NOT TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY - they don't deserve it.

If christians use A-plus as a stick to beat all atheists over the head with, as they have already started to do, we should give an embarrassed grin and say, "Well, you've got your Fred Phelps and we've got PZ Myers and his Goddess-hates-men clique - but they don't represent us." But we should not try to engage directly with the plussers, except to have a good laugh at them.

Now, there are some people who have been attacked by A+ who nevertheless want to keep the lines of communication open, who want to empathize with their enemies and understand what's going on in their heads. The amazing Maria Maltseva is a prime example of this. But much as I admire and respect Maria, I fear I don't have her reserves of compassion, and her path may not work for me.

So that is my resolution for 2013 - treat Atheism÷ the same way as the WBC. Imagine the endless drama is something you're watching on TV, and enjoy it in a hip, cool, ironic way. Of course if they're doing serious harm to someone, that's something to take seriously, but so far they've proven incompetent at that.

But - I want to change my perspective and put as much emotional distance between myself and Atheism♀ as possible. I don't want them draining my emotional energy. Above all, I don't want to run the risk of becoming what I hate.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A couple of observations...

I know I've been remiss in maintaining this blog in the last couple of months, so let me close out the year with a couple of observations.

First of all, it seems to me that feminism (of the more radical, academic kind) is very much a first world problem. You don't hear much squawking about rape culture, male privilege and "Teh Patriarchy" in poverty-stricken third world countries, or for that matter in the hood or the barrio. That's because everyone has it tough there, and women don't have the luxury of sitting around moaning that they have it much worse than men. There's a sort of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs going on:
This is not to say that all women's grievances are invalid. But the gap between men and women was never as wide as, say, the gap between black and white people in the days of slavery. Did black men and white men sip mint juleps together on the veranda while black women and white women toiled in the fields? No, of course not! Which makes the core dogma of radical feminism - the claim that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others" - look staggeringly self-obsessed and narcissistic.

And while economic inequality persists today, women typically have the same socioeconomic status as their husbands, partners, fathers, and other male cohorts. A cursory glance at the ubiquitous lists of alleged "male privilege" that you see everywhere on the internet shows that what is called male privilege is often actually wealth privilege which hurts men as often as women.

Whoever compiles these lists must have zero grasp of economic or legal realities. There is always much moaning and gnashing of teeth along the lines that every workplace is dominated by overpaid guys who were hired just because they possess a penis. And of course every boss is not only male but a lecher who molests female employees at will, with no consequences. Not to mention the absolute, unbearable horror that your coworkers will think that you, a mere female, got hired only because of your vagina! Dear FSM, what planet do those people live on?

Which brings me to my second point. Even as things get relatively cushier for women in the workplace, as it gets harder to fire them and the legal system gets increasingly skewed in their favor, far from admitting the gains they have made, radical feminists keep increasing their demands and ramping up the rhetoric about male domination and oppression. It's the shit test on a massive scale!

Why the disconnect? Why are some feminists so obsessed with their own grievances and so clueless about, and apathetic towards, the often more serious social injustices that are staring them in the face?

I believe the problem is that we have (at least) a whole generation of feminists whose views are informed, not by any real life experience, but by the hatred indoctrination they received at "womyn's studies" courses in college. The radical, extreme ideology that feminism has mutated into in recent years is too out of touch with reality to survive in the real world, but in the sheltered cocoon of academia, it grows ever more virulent in its misandry - and unfortunately exerts a disproportionate influence on government policy, ensuring its own survival, and creating a growing cadre of dogma-spouting ball-busters.

How can we break the vicious circle? How can we repair the damage to male-female relations that decades of academic feminism has wrought? I wish I knew!

I think our only hope is a broad and genuine equal-rights movement that acknowledges both the injustices towards women in the past and their continuing effects today, and the serious problems many men face in modern society in cases where the pendulum has swung too far in the opposite direction. I'm a bit put off by the "other side of the coin" misogyny shown by some big names in the current MRM, but at the same time I see signs that the femocracy is starting to run scared.

Witness the constant harping by radical feminists that men's rights supporters are a hate group. For proof, they point to the SPLC officially declaring MRM a hate group along with the KKK and the John Birch Society. And why did the SPLC make this determination? Because radical feminists pressured them into it! The same people who now turn around and screech that men's right supporters are officially-designated terrorists and should be denied their right to free speech.

It reminds me of the words of Mahatma Gandhi: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." I think right now we are in the transition between laughing and fighting. There is a long slog ahead, but I try to remain upbeat, knowing that there are still plenty of women with a sense of goodwill and fairness, and more women are waking up every day, smelling the coffee (so to speak), and realizing that radfem is insulting and infantilizing to women, consigning them to a state of permanent helpless victimhood.

And on that note I leave you for now. Have a great holiday and an equally great New Year!