Men Are Abused Too, So We Should Never Talk About the Abuse of Women

LogickedI hate to bring up Logicked, since I have very negative memories of dealing with him previously in the comments. But unfortunately, at his encouragement, I subscribed to his YouTube channel and have thus been made aware of his more recent videos. His style of arrogance is great so long as it comes with humor — the thing that originally attracted me to him. But of late, there is no humor — just his arrogant rants that show all the depth of thought that I’ve come to be very used to from the libertarian community.

His most recent video is “Response to Steve Shives on Bus Etiquette.” I’m not even linking to it nor am I going to embed it. I know that many readers around here already subscribe to him, so they have probably already seen it. It has to do with a sign on a train that tells people not to stare at or masturbate near women. I think most people will admit that such a sign is silly. Men who masturbate on public transit are generally insane. But reminding men that what they think of as harmless fun can be seen as threatening to women is probably a good thing — for women and men.

Logicked makes the argument that we shouldn’t single out male on female abuse because, hey, men get abused too. Well, yeah. They are. But is it really the same?

But Logicked takes the positions that women are not an oppressed minority because there aren’t laws against them. This is an argument that I’ve been hearing from libertarians for decades. Logicked may not consider himself a libertarian, but he fits the mold. What’s more, he strikes me as very much like people who call themselves “independents” but somehow always manage to vote Republican. If that’s your thing — pretending that you are such an individual that you can’t be labeled — so be it. But let’s consider this argument in a different context.

Avik Roy claimed that we have equality of opportunity in this country because there aren’t explicit laws against people having certain kinds of jobs. In other words, as long as we don’t have a caste system, we have equality of opportunity. One child grows up without proper nutrition and a substandard education and no social connections. Another child gets the best possible nutrition and medical care, the best schooling and access to the greatest achievements of humanity in the arts and sciences, and a huge inheritance and access to dozens of rich people who can provide jobs and venture capital. These two children have equality of opportunity because there is no law saying that the poor child can’t be CEO of HP.

Logicked makes the argument that we shouldn’t single out male on female abuse because, hey, men get abused too. They are equal before the law. Well, yeah. They are. But is it really the same? I use public transit a great deal. There are a lot of scary people on the bus and the train. But I’ve only ever seen men crowd women and come on to them in vulgar and implicitly violent ways. And I say this as a man who knows very well that women can abuse men.

Throughout the 20th century in the south, the lynching of black men was a major issue. From 1882 to 1968, 539 black men were lynched in Mississippi. Does it matter that during that time 42 white men were lynched? Would we look at a man in 1950 complaining about people making a big deal of the lynching of black men because white men were being lynched too? I don’t think so. I think people would see that man as the racist apologist that he clearly was.

So Logicked notes that men are abused on public transportation too. No one questions that. His argument is either self-evident and pointless, or it is an apologia for the whiny men’s rights activists. In either case, he is no longer worth following.

Society Provides No Meaning But Money — Then Withholds Money

DepressionI’m sure you’ve at least heard about this recent work by Angus Deaton and Anne Case that shows that middle class white people are dying younger, Rising Morbidity and Mortality in Midlife Among White Non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st Century (pdf). And the direct causes of this trend are: suicide, substance abuse, and liver disease (just indirect substance abuse). But is it asking so much to cut through the nonsense? I mean, we don’t say that the cause of suicide is that people are shooting themselves or jumping off bridges. Why are people killing themselves directly or indirectly? That’s a question worth discussing.

I think that Paul Krugman is on the right track in his Monday column, Despair, American Style. What is it that our society offers to it citizens in the way of meaning? After World War II, men could get good jobs that allowed them to have fulfilling family lives. Today, doing the same thing is like hitting the jackpot. For a while, I worked the graveyard shift at a gas station, and I heard constant talk among the workers who passed through about the fantasy of getting a union job. These were hard working people who very much “played by the rules.” But those in power had given up on the “rules” decades before.

Here in the United States, we fetishize work and money. It just isn’t acceptable for someone to choose to be poor so that they can live a different kind of life.

The distressed middle class makes me think of two Barbara Ehrenreich books: Nickel and Dimed, about the ridiculous state of the working poor, and Bait and Switch, about the way that corporate America abandons the middle class. A few years back, there was a study out of Princeton University that showed that making $75,000 per year made people happy. But they didn’t get steadily happier the more money they got. That amount of money was a cut off. “Researchers found that lower income did not cause sadness itself but made people feel more ground down by the problems they already had… At $75,000, that effect disappears.”

I think it is all about stress and uncertainty. When you don’t make enough, you don’t know if everything is just going to fall apart because you lose your job. Of course, I think a lot of people making around $75,000 are deluding themselves; things can and do fall apart quickly for them too; but they don’t realize it. So there is an obvious solution: take away the uncertainty. There is no reason why anyone needs to worry that they are one bad boss or recession away from losing their homes and having trouble caring for their children.

There is another aspect of the study that is just as important. This effect does not appear to be happening to Latinos and African Americans. Why? I think we need to look at Richard Wilkinson work on inequality between and within countries. I think the same thing happens inside groups within a country. African Americans and Latinos are very used to their lot in life. They have largely been ghettoized, so they don’t feel the social stigma and stress of not living up to the larger society’s standards.

This isn’t to say that it is good to be an African American or a Latino in this country, because it isn’t. But these groups have developed coping mechanisms that the formerly white middle class has not. (Or in the case of African Americans, their life expectancies have already fallen; they are 3.7 years less than they are for whites.) But the policies that will help whites live longer will help everyone live longer.

I’m not going to go into those policies, however. People who read this blog know well enough what policies I think we need. But in addition to all of these policies, we really need a revolution in the way that we think about the world. Here in the United States, we fetishize work and money. It just isn’t acceptable for someone to choose to be poor so that they can live a different kind of life. And that’s so primarily because the society largely thinks that such people are lying. “Obviously everyone wants to be rich!” And that is pretty much the only purpose that society offers to people. Our society pushes this idea ever harder even while it makes being financially successful ever more difficult. It’s no surprise that people would start popping pills, guzzling booze, and ultimately just killing themselves.

Morning Music: She Walks in Beauty

The Butcher Boy - Jesse FergusonWhen I was around 18 years old, I came upon a piece of paper with my handwriting on it. It was a poem, “She walks in beauty, like the night; Of cloudless climes and starry skies…” I was shocked. Had I written that?! It couldn’t be, because I’ve always had a pretty good idea of just how good I am at whatever I do. And I was not capable of writing something that beautiful.

I soon realized that I had written it down as part of an exercise in a music theory class where I had to write music to a poem. And clearly, I had picked Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.” I’m sure it has been set to music dozens if not hundreds of times. I was pleased to find that Jesse Ferguson had done the same thing on his 2014 album, The Butcher Boy. It’s as beautiful as the poem itself:

Anniversary Post: Roger Allen LaPorte’s Protest

Roger Allen LaPorteOn this day in 1965 — exactly 50 years ago — Roger Allen LaPorte set himself on fire in front of the Dag Hammarskjold Library at the United Nations. He was part of the Catholic Worker Movement, and he was protesting the Vietnam War. He did not die immediately. He was taken to the Bellevue Hospital where he died the following day. He had 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 95% of his body. Of his act, he said, “I’m a Catholic Worker. I’m against war, all wars. I did this as a religious action.” He was 22 years old.

I’ve long had a fascination with Thích Quảng Đức — the first Vietnamese Buddhist to similarly kill himself in protest against the Diệm regime. Many monks followed in his wake. I did not, however, know that there were people in the United States who did the same thing — although regarding the war and not the Diệm government. On 16 March 1965, Alice Herz set herself on fire to protest the war. She died ten days later. And exactly a week before LaPorte’s act, Norman Morrison burned himself to death at the Pentagon.

Nothing terrifies me like fire. So these acts have a profound effect on me. I admire the commitment of these people. At the same time, I think they are insane. Regardless, they are appropriate. They are an interesting contrast to those who murder in the name of saving unborn babies. Murder in the name of stopping murder does not make sense to me. But setting oneself on fire to show how strongly you feel about something is at least coherent. And I salute that.