Rats (and Richard Dawkins) Making Me Hate Men

Richard DawkinsYou all know that I like rats — a lot. And I’ve certainly told you the story about the study that showed rats exhibiting altruism. In particular, if given a bunch of chocolate chips (which rats love), they will generally save some of them for another rat that is in another cage. But then I found out something unfortunate. All the females rats did this. But only 30% of the male rats did it. The other 70% of the male rats ate all the chocolate chips. I mean, rats don’t have to be altruistic. Having a selfish rat as a pet is perfectly fine because rats are awesome regardless.

But ever since learning that, I think about it every time a man does a horrible thing. It’s really not hard to conclude that 70% of men are selfish jerks. This does go along with my general sampling of male behavior. The one place that it breaks down is in that I also think about 30% of women are jerks. But I should be clear, because I’m implying that there are certain people who are just jerks. Well, sure: some are. But mostly, I think it is that 70% of the time, any given man is a jerk. Certainly I am not perfect. But the point is that because of the mix of chemicals swimming around in our bodies, women really are better then men.

Well, I was over on We Hunted the Mammoth. Why do I do that? It just upsets me. When I say that men tend to be jerks, I’m talking on the small scale. I’m talking about them doing things that I can see myself doing — in many case have done. But it’s nothing too bad. A trip to We Hunted the Mammoth is the gender politics equivalent of putting on NAZI Death concentration camps Germany August 28 1945. It’s really upsetting. But given that Nazis are mostly gone and MRAs are still around, very vocal, and I think, dangerous, it is necessary.

But what’s sad is Richard Dawkins is — relatives to the MRAs — reasonable. He even calls himself a “feminist,” even though he seems to think that as long as women somewhere are having forced clitorectomy, women elsewhere can’t complain about anything.

So yesterday, David Futrelle offerred up, Richard Dawkins, Lindy West, and the Cartoon Video of Great Hatefulness. It is about Richard Dawkins, because Dawkins was recently in a fight that is just like so many others that he’s been in. And that means in many ways it hardly is worth writing about. It’s more the backstory that bothers me. But before I get to that, allow me one sort parenthetical paragraph.

(What’s with the MRAs? Do they think people mistake them for “real men” or something? My direct experience with them is that they are a bunch of man-boys who are mostly just upset because they can’t get dates. It really is all about scapegoating women. I suppose for the older ones, it is about all the other things in their lives that suck. But the younger ones clearly need girlfriends — which they won’t get because they are such misogynists. I would be willing to provide training for the young ones, though. I’m no Don Juan, but it really isn’t that hard to get women to like you. Hint: don’t be an MRA.)

There is a woman named Chanty Binx who made the mistake of yelling at some MRAs on video. This went viral, at least through the Mammoth community. Which led to the usual rape and other violence threats. And then came a video that equated fundamentalist Islamists with feminists. The feminist in the video was a caricature of Binx. Richard Dawkins then tweeted out a link to the video saying that he didn’t think all feminists were like this but some where.

Ultimately, Dawkins backed down. But his back-down position I find truly repugnant. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you read Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. What Richard Dawkins is pushing as a good thing in fact destroys lives. So apparently, as a society, we should allow absolutely anything so long as it doesn’t threaten violence. This is beyond absurd. Has Dawkins never heard of bullying? It very often has nothing to do with violence or threats thereof.

But what’s sad is Richard Dawkins is — relative to the MRAs — reasonable. He even calls himself a “feminist,” even though he seems to think that as long as women somewhere are having forced clitorectomies, women elsewhere can’t complain about anything. And this is, remember, one of our greatest scientists. I guess we can just place him next to William Shockley. But it does remind me of all the New Atheist nonsense of, “I only believe things I have evidence for!” I’m sure that Dawkins and Shockley would claim the same thing.

Regardless: rats. Love ’em or hate ’em, they are not very different from us. I’m not against men. My rat was a male and he was wonderful. But we men tend to be worse than women. And at our very worst, we are terrible.

Looking for America in Bernie Sanders

Bernie SandersMy friend Kristen McHenry recently wrote about, That Oddly Existential Bernie Sanders Ad. It reminded me that I had wanted to write about the spot. When I first saw it, I cried. Now that’s not terribly surprising, given that I’ve written before, On Sobbing and Being a Blubbering Fool. But the ad is amazingly effective.

The song, Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” is the perfect choice. And the spot gets 15 seconds in before we see a Bernie Sanders sign, and then the man himself is incidental. But it turns suddenly different at the line, “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike. They’ve all come to look for America…” Part of this is because they cut from the early quiet portion of the song, right to the end when it is most energetic. Then we see Sanders and his wife walking into an event and the sound of crowd rises. I’m not much for joining things, but it’s hard not to stand up and shout, “I want to be part of that!”

The commercial was designed for the Iowa caucus. And I assume most of the footage is from that state. And I have to say: it is really white. The state is 91% white and less than 3% black. It really is a hell of state to start our only national election. But I would assume that the Bernie Sanders campaign will continue to use the ad outside Iowa, and I assume they will cut a little diversity into it. I understand Ta-Nehisi Coates’ argument against Bernie Sanders, but what I think Coates fails to understand is that Sanders might be interested in shaking things up, but he’s also interested in winning. Sanders’ not being more radical on racial issues and having a pretty white commercial for Iowa are pretty much the same thing.

But the question is, “What is the meaning of the Bernie Sanders spot?” I’m with Kristen, it isn’t about nostalgia. She thinks it is about “our growing sense of alienation and loss of identity.” I think she’s definitely onto something there. But it’s clear that the identity to be found is not some sense of conformity. Looking for America is an odd kind of thing because we are all different. What binds us together must be something more nebulous. America is not a people but an idea. This is how I put it in my comment to Kristen’s article:

It has various images of different kinds of people — all of them Americans. And they are all coming together because they all believe in that idea of America that we were taught in grammar school. We just want to have our barbecues and go to our kids’ school plays and tinker in the garden or the shop or on the computer. We are bound together in wanting to live our lives as we see fit. And it isn’t big government that is stopping us (as the Bundy freaks would have us believe). It is an unfair system that doesn’t allow all of us to share in the fruits of this nation.

I am tired of — angry about, even — this idea that the sum total of my civilization can be quantified by the GDP — or even worse, the wars we’ve “won.” To me, the ultimate symbol of America is YouTube where people of great talent and little post their videos. They express themselves in all their idiosyncrasies. Yet we live in an economic system that not only doesn’t provide proper compensation, but also no sense of security. It’s as if our greatest cultural desire is to make the lives of ordinary Americans the same as the natural world where the strong thrive and the weak die.

I like Hillary Clinton. But I’m with Robert Reich:

But what about the “pragmatic” Hillary Clinton? I have worked closely with her and have nothing but respect for her. In my view, she’s clearly the most qualified candidate for president of the political system we now have.

But the political system we now have is profoundly broken. Bernie Sanders is the most qualified candidate to create the political system we should have because he’s leading a political movement for change.

That’s as good a textual description of that video as anyone could make.

Morning Music: Rock & Roll

LoadedIf there is to be only one song from Loaded, it has got to be “Rock & Roll.” I’m not saying that it is better than “Sweet Jane.” It’s just that “Sweet Jane” has been so overdone, that I’m kind of bored by it. I still think that the version on Loaded is by far the best. But I’m getting sidetracked.

“Rock & Roll” tells what was apparently a common experience of people living far outside the “big city” hearing rock & roll (or jazz or just about any other kind of music you can think of) and having an epiphany. Life wasn’t constrained the way they grew up thinking. People of my generation had no such experience. Yes, occasionally a great little radio station would turn up. While still in high school, Will discovered KSAN right at the end of its existence. But it wasn’t a mind blowing experience.

But I’m not nearly as excited about much of the rest of the album. I don’t know what “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” is all about. In fact, it’s one of those albums where one side is just great and the other kind of meh. I am kind of amazed to see that pretty much every rock critic around today thinks that everything the Velvet Underground did was a classic. The quality of their work varied widely. And if I have to listen to “Train Coming Round the Bend” one more time, I think I’ll just kill myself.

But “Rock & Roll” really is a great song and this is a great performance of it:

Anniversary Post: Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven

Edgar Allan PoeOn this day in 1845, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” was first published, in The Evening Mirror. Poe’s reputation as a writer of horror tends to overshadow the fact that he was a technical master. During most of his lifetime, he was better known as a literary theorist than a writer. Pretty much everything he is known for was written in the last decade of his life. Of course, “The Raven” made him a star (not that it meant that much at that time).

But the main thing is that he wasn’t just telling stories or writing poems. He was approaching it from a technical standpoint. Think about “The Raven.” I don’t think people remember it all these years later because of the story. There isn’t much of story to it. It’s just really, really disturbing. Certainly a part of it is the mystery. What is the loss that is being talked about? What happened to Lenore? Does it matter? And what’s with that menacing bird?

Anyway, here is Vincent Price performing the poem from a television special he did of Poe’s work: