Saturday, June 16, 2018

Original Innocence

I have no idea where this one was going, but I'm trying to get back into the writing groove and this seems to be top of my mind.

There's a minority of people alive at this time that like it or not have much of their thinking shaped by the ideas of Christianity. A lasting legacy of the death-bed conversion of Constantine the Great who himself lived almost his entire life as a pagan of questionable devotion.

But that's basically why, if you're of European descent, or descended from the collonized of the British. You know a lot about Christianity and very very little about say: Zoroastranism, or Pythagoreans... Constantine's offspring basically made it a legal requirement for European citizens to be Christian, something that wasn't really relaxed until the enlightenment though eased a little in the Renaissance.

But that's going too far forward. First you have Augustine who conceived of the idea of original sin, which was highly influential on Thomas Aquinas - and this became a shaper of thoughts of all the societies that trace lineage back to the Roman Empire.

Such that I, raised by non-believers, in a secular society give some credence to the idea that I was born broken, in deficit, indebted and need to do something in the course of my life to make myself whole. That I am under some obligation to do something with my good fortune because it was gifted to me and I am not worthy of it.

I'm sure this takes many manifestations, but to me original sin in the modern material world really manifests as the need to live up to our potential. To make the most of our opportunities. That if we rest on our haunches and simply say 'enough' then that makes a waste of our lives. It makes us bad people.

Now there's a place for religion in cultivating ourselves. And how I feel it should be navigated particularly by people like me, who cannot abide the bullshit of deriving moral authority from extraordinary claims, is another post. Richer in my experience are psychology - the understanding of the mind, and practical philosophy - what constitutes a good life.

Much of the work of clinical psychology is, I believe, having to deal with original sin. Specifically that children being egocentric in behavior, internalize and blame themselves for the dysfunctions of their caregivers. There are a lot of adults that believe they failed to make their parents happy, or they failed to save their parents marriage. And it is true some adults have a child in an attempt to save a marriage, or even more children to save a marriage, but the fault lies with that adult, not the child.

Again it's hard to draw distinct defined edges around concepts as fuzzy as religion, philosophy and psychology. They all feed into each other. But I once had a councilor break the therapeutic process down for me into two steps:

1. Look for Patterns.
2. Relieve Tension.

Let's look at that second part. Because it's a part that original sin can contribute to. What is the tension? The 'tension' most often is betwixt our conception of who we are supposed to be, and who we are. Incredibly productive people berate themselves for feeling tired, or taking breaks, or taking days off, or holidays etc. Nice people beat themselves up for viewing pornography. Devoted partners hate themselves for feeling attracted to people who aren't their partners.

There are ample opportunities to beat ourselves up for perceived flaws.

Hopefully you can relate to this notion of tension. Let's now turn to the notion of relieving it - Carl Rogers, one of the nicest people in the history of psychotherapy whom along with Maslow was one of the first to take psychotherapy from simply correcting for pathos (negative) psychology but look at trying to attain the pinnacle of psychological health.

Maslow called this pinnacle 'Self-actualization' the ability to be oneself. Rogers called it 'Congruence' basically a freedom from the psychological pain of cognitive dissonance. And perhaps earliest of all was Jung who called it 'Integration' specifically 'Integrating the shadow'.

Even then, there's an argument to be made that Nietzsche in the school of philosophy who said 'become what thou art' coined the notion of a pinnacle of psychological health. In turn perhaps owing that to Plato, fanboy of Socretes, to whom the unobserved life was not worth living.

I've digressed, let's get back to Jung. Jungian archetypes, 'Analytical Psychology' is I will admit, off-putting for most. It often descends into psychotherapuetic quackery. You wouldn't believe how many times I've been enjoying a youtube talk by a professional psychologist on shadow work and suddenly they start talking astrology and specific advice for star-signs like that's a perfectly reasonable given.

So if you dare to tread the archetypical road, expect deterrants in the form of outright idiocy. But the basic mechanics of Jung's concept of the Shadow are perfectly reasonable and functional, even independantly verifiable. Perhaps best captured in the sensible words of one of histories great level-headed imperfect human beings Abraham Lincoln 'You can please some people some of the time, and some people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time." and if you can't draw the connection, it's just a fundamental dilemma that any form you take is going to cast a shadow. Confidence to some is arrogance to others, strength to one is weakness to another. Most of our behavior is neither bad nor good but dependent on the context.

And Jung argued that if you don't acknowledge your shadow-self, if you ignore it you will wind up projecting it on other people. Much much later Brene Brown would point out a finding of her grounded research that judgement is all about finding reassuringly worse examples in others of our own insecurities.

So it holds water, even as a simple metaphor. And I was exploring the idea that despite feeling I did a pretty good job of not repressing my darker self, I still had work to do. When I came across this offshoot of Jungian shadow-work:

And though I never dug down into the detail. As far as a checklist of archetypes goes I was able to go through and be like 'tyrant? got it, weakling? onto it. Sadism and masochism? I'm on that like white on rice... the innocent one???'

Now, I have no fucken idea what that specific archetype is. For all I know in the detail the innocence may be a feigning of innocence, a shady character that simply never takes responsibility. The hands-clean banker that never touches the product. But it was a catalyst for me.

It is a fact that part of the reason I see a psychologist, is because I need the authority of a qualified psychologist to reassure me that I'm not responsible for every bad thing that happens to me. A big part of this felt need is that I project innocence onto everyone. The people that prove obsticles to my achievement of more or less constant happiness are doing so not as malicious adults but as scared infants... they know not what they do. At the core of my being is an understanding that people are not against me, but for themselves.

I feel sympathy for some of the most powerful people in society doing en-masse damage to the most vulnerable and the environment which is the super-vulnerable future generations that need an environment to live in. I feel sympathy in the form of 'oh poor baby who hurt you.' To me Tony Abbott or Josh Frydenberg are just infants that need their dad's approval and love or something. I have to remind myself that they are also taking the money, the prestige, while hurting people. That's a conscious effort for me.

And yet the last person I think of as a scared innocent is myself. I repress that I don't know what I'm doing and that I'm largely incompetent. I feel that as the most conscious I have the most choice and the one with the most choice controls the system and whoever controls the system is ultimately responsible.

(Curiously, if you meet people who describe themselves as 'higher consciousness' it reliably predicts a person who will take almost no responsibility for anything ever.)

Another reason you may dislike Jungian Archetype's is Jordan Peterson, one of the most visible proponents of the value of archetypes. And JP is like drugs to me, only in so far as the people who are against him probably need to listen to him more and the people who are for him need to listen to him less. Just as the two extremes of the drug debate both need to move towards the middle.

One of the things I don't like about JP is what I perceive to be his overemphasis on Christian archetypes, but I have to concede in the greater run of psychoanalysis Greco-Roman pagan archetypes are very well represented, so it's kind of like complaining about all the black actors in Black Panther.

But one archetypal narrative that resonates with me from the Christian canon is the story of Saint George and the Dragon, which even Peterson in a round about way concedes is pre-dated by Babylonian God Marduk's battle with Tiamat. Probably because the events of Saint George and the Dragon didn't happen. The historical Saint George was a Roman soldier that refused to denounce his Christianity and was killed.

I have written before that I struggle with a White Knight complex, a chronic need to rescue, and this post isn't about that so there will be little exposition, but the traditional George and the Dragon story goes that this city has a lottery to sacrifice women to a local dragon, and the king's daughter comes up as the next sacrifice. The king offers to pay for a stand-in but no takers. So the princess is kicked outside the city walls to await devouring by the Dragon, and then Saint George happened along and offered to wait with her, then when the dragon shows up, makes the sign of the cross and kills it. With a bunch of variation.

To Christians, this story is metaphorical with the Dragon representing Sin and Wickedness and George represents purity and righteousness and virtue or something. But more broadly, you have the city that represents society/community/the known/safety. And you have the hero archetype who is someone who is willing to venture outside into the unknown and tame it.

The hero basically is someone living a high-risk, high-reward lifestyle. They expand the horizons of the community that by and large play it safe within the comfort of the city walls and the hero either dies and is celebrated, or lives and the king marries their daughter off to him.

My interest in this story was the disparity between my identifying with the hero-archetype (a stable secure life has no appeal to me, seems pointless) and not identifying. Specifically in that I wasn't looking for a princess to rescue, but a Saint Georgina. A compatriot, a counter part. And western narratives aren't rich with female hero archetypes (although history has a bunch, and it's kind of weird that Saint George is much more common iconography than Saint Jean de Arc, who did exist and whether there's a god or not, achieved much of what she is credited with).

Now, I was trying to pick apart this narrative for clues and at the time was noticing how much cultural appropriation Christianity did from pre-existing religious narratives. Especially in the Renaissance where the artists that created more or less 90% of Christian Iconography were cherry-picking Greek Paganism. Like we all picture 'Angels' as... let's face it, beautiful white people with wings. This is not how they are described in any Abrahamic source material, but it is how Cupid/Eros is depicted in Greek Mythology, and because that look is quite appealing as opposed to the monstrous thousand eyed beasts with bronze skin and 6 wings and faces of goats and other animals on the sides of their heads, so we have it.

And Saint George and the Dragon is probably a Christian wash of Jason and the Serpent. As in Jason and the Argonauts. Crucially, Jason achieved most of his tasks entirely dependent on his sorceress wife Medea, not some hapless princess tied to a post to be fed to a Dragon. And my story is much more similar to Jason and Medea than Saint George and nameless Princess.

This however is all preamble to the second piece of a puzzle, and that piece is called Hercules. Greek mythology had several central figures, not just Christ. But arguably the biggest is Hercules/Heracles. Here is a tragic figure that served as inspiration for the Stoics and the Cynics before them. Hercules life was suffering largely because the Goddess Hera unable to punish husband Zeus for infidelity naturally took it out on Hercules. Perhaps the most vindictive act was in adulthood driving Hercules mad so that he killed his wife and children.

Anyway, dig into Heracles sad story as you like, the point is that the Greek's celebrated Tragedies, and they had narratives of human suffering born of what I have taken to calling 'original innocence'. Greek Paganism is a legacy of European Culture and I find it interesting that in Greek mythology more often it was the God's betraying people, than people (like Adam and Eve) betraying God. Hercules was punished by the Gods not for what he'd done but who he was. He was the offspring of an unfaithful husband. Hera's wrath was misdirected.

Similarly the ordeals of Psyche, for whom Cupid/Eros fell for and was subsequently punished by Aphrodite/Venus. The Greek tragedies are populated not by people who were born and conceived of in Sin for breaking God's divine rule, but people who are basically good but punished by circumstance because the Gods are fickle, capricious and cruel.

And like Steven Fry, I too find the Pagan beliefs of the ancient Greeks do a much better job of explaining the chaotic and scary nature of the world than the Abrahamic Monotheism does.

But I want to switch to a different narrative now, to illustrate the importance of coming to know and believe in a concept like original innocence. And that is how people react to assertions that they are bad and full of sin.

Spoiler alert, but at the end of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jim gets his freedom. The emotional climax of the book though is Huck Finn coming to recognize that Jim the runaway slave is a human being with human emotions. It creates a huge dilemma for him, because Jim is property and the Christian Bible tells him that freeing someone else's property is a mortal sin.

Specifically this happens:

"I was a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell."

We look back at history and think poor Huck was misguided. Surely freeing a slave rewards you with a place at the right hand of God, and keeping a slave sends you to hell. But that wasn't what Huck believed. Huck was from the south and taught that black people were basically chattel, beasts of burden. Freeing a slave was like stealing a cow, something specifically proscribed against in the 10 Commandments.

It is my experience that if you tell someone they are fundamentally bad, they embrace it. They,like Huck, damn themselves. It doesn't motivate people to become better. It fosters despair and resignation. Hercules undertook his 12 labors not because he was guilty, but because he was innocent. He sought redemption to return to himself, his fundamental conception of himself as basically good. Huck Finn was told he was no good all his life and to this assertion he returned. He is simply fortunate that he lived in a time and place where being bad could manifest itself as the greater good.

Some of the most important words ever muttered were 'There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford' though it's impossible to tell if this is a recognition of original sin/or innocence. I of course would interpret it as innocence believing that the universe is ultimately deterministic. Even people's choices are determined, and many thinkers including the original original sinner in Saint Augustine have bent their minds like pretzels trying to reconcile choice with concepts like predestination.

That mind bending process is to me, by and large a waste of time since I don't believe in an all powerful benevolent God. I just don't have the task of reconciling so I can be indifferent to problems of choice in the face of omniscience (someone who knows what choices we are going to make with our 'free' will).

Having attempted to give myself a cursory education in the history of philosophy, I find Kant's phrase "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made." a huge improvement on the concept of original sin. To be honest I don't really get sin. But Kant appears to see us more usefully as something less than the pinacle of evolution: something perfectly adapted to it's environment and resilient to any possible environmental change. Rather we are a work in progress. Prototypes all, just trying our best. And like Hera, our environment may drive some of us mad, but not so mad as to be beyond redemption.

Because at one point, long ago, no matter what life had in store for us. We were innocent. To this nature we can return.

Friday, March 30, 2018


The past couple of weeks, have been punctuated for me by friends asking 'have you heard of Jordan Peterson?' indicating that they have either just heard of him, or they have just become concerned that he is something they need to take seriously. In most cases, the question has not been one of curiosity, but seeking reassurance. That no reasonable person would credit Jordan Peterson. Or perhaps just that they are not the only person blindsided by his rise in popularity.

If you are concerned about the rise of JP, I would suggest you relax, and no need to 'research' what he's all about. You won't like him. He is riding a market opportunity though, by and large created by the popular conventional wisdom of the left.

I offer my shitty synthesis of what you just need to take note of, and meditate on.

1. To argue badly for a cause is the same as supporting the opposition.

This talk by Van Jones, whom hopefully is more likable than JP opens with the words "I think Liberals have a very hard time understanding their role in creating a market for Trump."

2. You probably can't demand empathy if you don't yourself extend it.
3. Empathizing is really, really hard, easy to mistake with projecting, and few people are good at it.
4. Oppression, tragically, is never as personal to the oppressor as it is to the oppressed.
5. Most oppression is a bi-product, an oversight.
6. The world as it is may be flawed, but that doesn't mean it came to these flaws arbitrarily.
7. Popular and egalitarian movements will be defined by the lowest common denominator.
8. Just because you won't let a psychoanalyst put you in a box, doesn't mean you don't behave as if you are in that box.
9. Be skeptical of anyone telling you who you are, but remember also that you are not the final authority on who you are. If it were so, you'd never have met a liar.
10. If you can't entertain dissenting opinions, you will be doomed to live a life under the foot of people who can.
11. It's a poor idea to lie to yourself. Take inventory of any vindictiveness or desire for group membership, and status within a group that may be motivating your righteousness.
12. When Bertrand Russel said 'The trouble with the world is the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt' it was an apolitical statement.
13. You will probably never meet someone 10 times your height, but it is possible to meet someone 10 times your psychological size and it's much harder to spot them coming. So brace for the greater variance.
14. Having everyone accommodate your problem into irrelevance is not only inefficient but does not actually fix your problem.

There, there's plenty of thoughts to feast upon and digest. I could do so myself and perhaps emerge a better thinker and advocate of whatever, and it doesn't require watching hours upon hours of JP lectures trying to force down your distaste to extract some granules of valuable criticism.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

On Sexual Harassment

Consider this

In Conjunction with this

and admit that sorting out sexual harassment is going to be tricky. Perhaps impossible. Let's hope not, however any optimistic belief that avoiding sexual harassment is 'simple' and that people are being stupid and obstinate in the face of obvious answers like 'just don't do it.' is counterproductive.

Last night I attended two social functions. At the first, some douche turned up. Within a 30 minute period he demonstrated no capacity to 'read a room' just to be clear there was no sexual harassment perpetrated. The guy was simply inept at knowing when to just fucking shut up, when his jokes, suggestions or comments were falling flat. When he left the room, discussion actually turned to how to get rid of him, and failing that, how it might be possible to ditch the party and reconvene elsewhere.

At my second engagement, a friend of mine hugged me too hard and too long. This is not a problem for me, because I am physically larger than my friend so they can hug away I'm not going to get creeped out or feel insecure. But it happens, and I don't think I was being sexually harassed. A social norm was being transgressed as to how long a hug should last.

I bring up these two examples just because they came up within 2 hours of each other as examples of quite ordinary and commonplace behavior.

And thus, even though it's done the rounds, videos like the first one annoy me, and it's always a popular message: 'it's simple stupid!' whenever there's an issue that prompts sufficient self-righteousness. However this popular message annoys me.

Here's what the 'it's simple stupid!' camp is assuming away:

1. that people communicate indirectly.
2. that some people are not competent at reading social signals.
3. that there is a large overlap between acceptable behavior, and harassment based on the desirability of the individual to another individual.
4. that people are incompetent at expressing themselves in manners that are always acceptable.
5. that there are people in the world with a fear of rejection, that behave in incongruous ways both encouraging and discouraging potential suitors.
6. that there is mental illness in the world.
7. that there are people who are socially awkward.

I could probably go on, given time. But I can't be bothered spending it. The first video is using levity to address a phenomena that we should really quite reasonable expect.

Whenever there is a huge public outcry about sexual harassment, there are going to be a middleband of men that are horrified at the prospect of creeping out or disturbing or making any woman feel unsafe and yet are worried that they have done just that through plain old incompetence, perhaps by holding a hug too long, or perhaps trying to win over strangers through attempting an ill-advised joke.

The too-long hug, could be creepy, could be a creep getting trying to get their kicks by pressing a woman into them so they can feel their erection. I would guess somebody socially awkward would likely do the old 'asses-out' hug for feer of their genitals making their presence known to the other party, but I suspect in most cases the too-long hug is a form of indirect communication that is attempting to say 'I like you' while immediately gauging the likely response of the other by trying to hold that hug.

Or consider the term 'Love Triangle' if you've heard of it, then I guess you need to reconcile whether love triangles are a myth or whether it may allude to a real social phenomena. I guess formally it would have to refer to some kind of situation where Brad likes Jenny, who likes Greg, who like Brad. But I would guesstimate it commonly occurs without any sexual orientation obstacles where Brad likes Jenny, Jenny likes Greg, Greg isn't interested in Jenny, but all three of them work in the same office, perhaps even the same department. Jenny may groom herself with attracting Greg in mind, she applies makeup and selects outfits and perfumes that she feels enhances her appeal. And they do, just to Brad, not Greg. Brad similarly grooms in order to impress Jenny, but Jenny while polite and professionally friendly to Brad, considers him a sexual non-entity. The trouble for Jenny is, while she is ostensibly trying to narrow-cast to Greg, she is broadcasting much of her message about sexual availability.

Firstly, nothing in the love-triangle scenario would absolve Brad of sexually harassing Jenny. Particularly in a professional work environment. Equally, nothing would absolve Jenny of sexually harassing a not-interested Greg, but thanks to sexual dimorphism in our species and the statistical realities of sexual harassment, Greg is less likely to be bothered by Jenny than Jenny by Brad. Understanding that, Brad in theory could discern that Jenny dresses not for his benefit but Greg's. He could for example read body language that is narrow cast, establish a baseline and notice Jenny only teases her hair when talking to Greg, not himself etc.

But while he could I personally can't argue that he should or every other man on the planet. For one thing, most of my friends don't appreciate it when they catch me reading their body language. The second is that it is a costly solution in terms of time and energy to address failures in what is quite normal human interaction. What Brad needs to understand is the difference between flagrantly unacceptable behavior, and when quasi-acceptable behavior becomes unacceptable through repetition.

The working material, being the general population of the world are going to, like me, have probably fucked up making ice-cubes in a tray at some point. We are talking about people who, like me, have locked themselves out of their house, or their online banking account. Let us give ourselves credit that we will probably fuck up navigating social dynamics at some point, let alone the much higher risk and less practiced sexual dynamics.

I have no problem with the pursuit of an ideal or even improved world for women to live in, I am frustrated by people thinking that it hasn't thus far been accomplished for lack of the simplest efforts of self restraint.

Try, out of curiosity, this thought experiment: Go to some social media account, if necessary a directory of phone contacts or some such. Find the 14th person on the list you know, and I guess gender doesn't matter but if it might to you, select the first friend from the 14th that is compatible with your orientation. Now imagine that tomorrow they approached you face to face and said 'Hey, I am in love with you, I want to spend lots of time with you, all the time I can get, have regular sex with you and plan a future together, how do you feel about me?'

Would it freak you out if you received such a proposal from them? I looked at my account, and I'd have to say while I wouldn't be freaked out, I would be quite uncomfortable to try and devise the best way to reject her.

Yet that is direct communication delivered verbally. It isn't an arm thrown around my shoulder in an act of presumed familiarity, it isn't groping my arse on a dancefloor at a party. It isn't sending me photos of genitals to my phone without solicitation. But I suspect, a lot of people would be really uncomfortable with this direct communication, they would perhaps not like being burdened with the information of someone confessing they are in love with you. I also suspect, you like me don't want to live in a world where that level of directness is what is required to engage someone in a possible romantic relationship.

There is a desirable level of ambiguity to be navigated as two people feel eachother out. Miscommunication is bound to happen along the way. Sometimes it may have unfortunate outcomes in terms of some guy or girl feeling heartbroken and disappointed, and sometimes it may have unfortunate outcomes in terms of someone getting harassed or assaulted.

To be clear though, as a guy, I don't have much experience of what it is like to be routinely sexually harassed. I know the fact is that it is pretty bad out there for women. But nobody, nobody is helped by denying there is some ambiguous middle ground where some harassment will likely have to be endured, and some transgressions forgiven. And guys are going to have to accept that it's likely to be a judgement call made by individuals within the situation. This means some guys that had no intention of ever hurting, assaulting, harassing or even making a woman uncomfortable are going to go down for sexual harassment - because in the end intentions don't matter so much as the effects.

The reason I take that stance is because even if you say 'look hugging a woman because she's your friend is fine, that's not sexual harassment.' A bunch of sexual predators are going to take any inch offered by definitions of behavior that is acceptable and run a mile with it, until they feel it's okay to masturbate into a restaurant pot-plant in front of someone because she's your 'friend'.

I am pessimistic that sexual harassment can be eradicated, that it could just be solved with straightforward education and checking your privilege. That the line can be drawn on any surface that isn't running water. That we'll ever live in a world where Greg can wink and it's not harassment but Brad can't wink without creeping someone out.

My point is not that women are responsible for their own harassment, though take it that way if you must. My point is that the material we have to work with in solving this problem, is very low quality stuff. We can only go backwards by pretending that minds are carved in marble, not squishy grey matter that forgets where it parked the car.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On Voting

I don't particularly ever wish to go viral, nor any idea or suggestion of mine to go viral. Namely because I do not view myself as qualified to generate a sufficiently considered idea to have its upside sufficiently outweigh its unintended consequences.

But if there were one idea I could come close to wishing would catch on it's this decision rule: 'vote for the candidate who spent the least on their campaign.'

Before I elaborate... build a case for why I'd want this idea to catch on, there's some obvious caveats and qualifications - namely that you might have a case where you have an establishment corrupt person and a truly horrific independent who couldn't get funding because their platform is essentially 'I feel like Hitler never had a bad idea' or something, in which case a voters primary duty - to vote for the lesser evil - should supersede the simple vote for who spends the least. Beyond not being so hard and fast to exempt one's ethical duties, this decision rule is very much a limited 'take back democracy' campaign that would not run indefinitely. If it got widespread enough and thus candidates were incentivized into a 'race to the bottom' on campaign spending, then at some point regrettably you might actually have to look at, and weigh up policy again to decide how to vote. Perhaps the nominal end point would be when a Democratic government actually passes campaign finance reform legislation in favor of public interest.

Anyway, here's why I'd ostensibly like this idea to catch on.

1. It is underpinned by something that should be verified, and I believe, has been verified through analysis of at least the United States electoral process. But the finding I believe was that the best predictor of policy is actually not campaign promises or even party ideology but campaign contributions.
I would expect this to be the case, just through pure reasoning. Chomsky does better reasoning than I can, and furthermore actually reads up on this shit, but the picture gets scattered across a bunch of sources, so please accept (but still apply critical thinking) my shitty synthesis.
Basically there's a threshold at which campaigning for public office gets so expensive that you lose your democracy - you move from 1 person 1 vote, to 1 dollar 1 vote. An unfinanced candidate simply cannot win office. If a candidate finances themselves through small contributions from many people, and campaign donations are a better prediction of the policy outcomes than campaign promises by candidates, then in effect the *real* election is the fundraising campaign - and that's best case. Inflate campaign costs out of the reach of small contributions and you have disproportionate representation for those who make greater donations.
The wealthiest people are legal people aka corporations, and corporations are almost exclusively tyrannical in structure. There is in principle not much difference between your preferred candidate accepting 'donations' from a dictator like Kim Jong Un, and a corporate executive. They are both tyrants that preside over a domain that can have conflicting interests to the public at large.
Rationally you would expect campaign 'contribution' or 'donation' to be a euphamism for 'investment' in that given a CEO can also just plain vote, their incentive to move from 1 person 1 vote to 1 dollar 1 vote is to get disproportionate representation. This can even work when they donate the same amount to both candidates, because the candidate is faced with the dilemma of refusing the donation and thus accepting a disadvantage. Hence on some issues it's possible to get no representation from either candidate.
The other point that bears emphasis is that campaign contributions being a better predictor of policy than campaign promises. If a tyrant desires a piece of policy that is universally unpopular - say reducing the minimum wage - then their interest is in having the candidate that represents them get elected, not to convince the public that the policy is a good idea. They can come to a private understanding of the conditions of the donation, and then have the candidate campaign on entirely unrelated issues. eg. you might vote for the 'Marriage Equality' candidate platform because you care about equal rights and their donors are indifferent, but the same candidates intention to deregulate minimum wage is never really featured in their campaigning.
So the rationale becomes pretty basic, the less campaign expenditure, the less compromised your candidate is, the more representative your vote is likely to be.

2. It's simple! The decision rule requires no education beyond being able to identify which of two integers  is the lower number. Someone can adopt the rule with no need to educate themselves into critical thinking, economic theory or even civics. Much like a managed index fund is for many the best way to invest in shares because one simply owns the whole market, needs to know nothing about finance, pays lower fees and achieves higher returns than most managed funds, a voter who uses this simple decision rule doesn't need to pay attention and process any information apart from who spent the least. A simple, objectively verifiable fact.
Democracy is a popular, egalitarian ideal and that means a decision rule needs to be simple, to be applicable at the lowest common denominator of analytical ability and like an economic model produce a better outcome across the population, not necessarily in every discrete case.
While the benefits of using a simple rule are to me clear, the adoption of such a simple solution I realize is wildly optimistic, given that most people are not empirical and sadly persist in the conceit they are smarter than they have already demonstrated themselves to be. There is a wealth of data to indicate that low-cost index funds have outperformed the vast majority of fund managers for years, but lay people still persist in paying high fees to numerous managers who routinely under perform the market - thus I expect most people will still think themselves up to the task of analyzing minute chunks of second hand information as to a candidates policy platform to determine how to vote in their own best interest.
You could have already thought that this rule would have meant Trump over Clinton, given that Trump spent less on his campaign, but you'd be wrong. It would mean Sanders over Trump which is actually incorrect again, because for the office of president it would be Johnson over Trump and Sanders (and I don't know which of the million republican primary candidates was the poorest, but it probably would not have been Trump).
The outcome of any one election is not the point of the decision rule though, although it could produce better outcomes for the public at large, the real beauty is in the incentive it provides. Namely if this was how voters voted, it would incentivise candidates to not take campaign contributions. Both Trump and Obama won their primaries and fans largely because they weren't taking large ticket donations. Then the tragedy (particularly for the Obama campaign) they welcomed with open arms the compromising money in the Presidential campaign because the donations tend to follow votes and not the other way round. Another way of thinking about that is that your preferred candidate gets privatized by virtue of being likely to represent their constituents.
It would free candidates from the obligation towards donors and free them from the donor treadmill - a public office holder after the fact of the election cannot bite the hand that feeds them, because they have to consider their re-election, career, retirement and the future of their party.
If en masse, having your campaign budget expand becomes a liability to you getting elected then candidates obligations move from fulfilling the promises on which they were financed, to fulfilling the promises on which they were elected.

3. There's also a potential for much needed reform in Journalism. If campaign contributions are better at predicting policy outcomes than campaign policy platforms, then journalistic coverage of politics needs to be focused on the fundraising rather than the campaigning if they are true to their mission of informing the general public.
Adopt this simple decision rule and suddenly the only information voters care about aren't the talking heads promising policies they apparantly have no intention of fulfilling, but who is spending what and where that money is coming from.
The United States is well set up, because they have to declare donations and it's all a matter of public record. My own country Australia under the Westminster System, I believe has a less admirable legislation as regards disclosing donations - but it should be noted that the press in the US does an abysmal job of covering and disseminating this most crucial information to the public at large.
Even in a country like Australia though, the necessary information is available to cover the expenditure on campaigns by proxy - media monitoring is already in place to estimate advertising costs based on the numeracy and frequency of ads on broadcast mediums and online. Organisations like Getup! even have the infrastructure in place to distribute 'How to vote' cards that just list candidate by campaign expenditure.

4. It's a massive massive massive time saver. Think about it, when someone says 'Have you heard about what Dutton said on Q & A last night' you can say 'I don't care.' There's only one thing you need to know, so you can skip all the mental taxation of trying to determine whose policy reflects your best interests, especially if the proposed policy is not that predictive of actual policy.
It's fucking SIMPLE! I can't emphasize this point enough, there is just so much fucking pure white noise in public discourse picking over the minutiae of candidates policy and history and all this shit in what is a tragically optimistic overestimation of the influence of discourse and our ability to disseminate our best ideas. Here is something where you can just say 'vote for the candidate who spends the least money and if enough people do THAT then they'll learn to stop taking money.'
Take just one example as an illustration. Just one.
Should you vote for a candidate that supports Capital Improved Value basis for land tax or Site Value? If you don't immediately know, then here's what you need to know - Capital Improved Value basically means the better condition the structures sitting on your land are in, the more land tax you have to pay, whereas if you were to demolish any structures then you would get a reduction in your tax obligation. CIV based land tax favors land banking and speculation, whereas Site value encourages development and optimal usage of the property. Land banking artificially reduces the supply of housing, thus putting upward pressure on land prices, hence CIV is pushed for by Real Estate lobby groups and land bankers, it allows development estates to drip feed supply of new housing as well on the outskirts while reducing the amount of funding local councils receive...
blah blah blah, there's more I could extrapolate on, the thing is with the decision rule you don't actually need to know any of this shit. It means you will probably vote for the candidate that received less money from any Real Estate, Property Development or Land Banking lobby groups.

5. Worst case: The next election we wind up electing a chaotic mess of independents, all grossly under-qualified with very narrow domains they actually care about (one may have campaigned on the single issue of raising Highway Speed limits, another on being Anti-Duck Hunting) but the game as it stands, is broken. An incoherent government would have to come together to compromise and actually think through problems as shit arises and they would have no reciprocal obligation to do anything for any group beyond the interests of their constituent voters.
Historically in Australia, minority governments (like most recently the Gillard Government) have been much more effective than majority governments in passing legislation because they are forced to negotiate and compromise.
The monsters on both sides are the ones running slick campaigns and then quite transparently not representing the people who voted for them.
Yes, there's some chance that en masse we elect a dysfunctional incoherent mob of unqualified independents who send us back to the pols early, and then there's a chance the 2 party systems of the world pull off a 'we told you so, it's one of us or nobody!' but if you hold fast to your resolve, eventually under game theory the competent parties will have to adapt their game to representing voters rather than donors.

I really can't believe how I managed to write so many words over something so simple, I doubt this decision rule is an original idea on my part, and really it becomes similar to government by lottery which I am not adverse to and that certainly wasn't my idea. I just hear this kind of no-analytical-abilities-required solutions rarely, if ever, discussed for all the lengthy discussion of our broken democracies.

So I guess, if you want my vote don't take any more fucking money than needed to register.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

On Cynicism

So what was so great about Black Panther?

It isolated it's story and indeed, it's whole world away from the rest of the Marvel Universe, meaning it had no obligation to represent White people. Similar to that test that goes back to the 80's where a film needs to have two named female characters have at least one conversation that is not about a man, Black Panther I imagine passes with flying colours a similar test where 2 black characters get to have conversations with each other that aren't about white people.

It also paints a Utopic African Nation that is not just a facsimile of the current wealthiest nations on earth but casts an African Nation as superior. This is similar to a Total Quality Management (TQM) technique called 'Draw, See, Think' which is where you draw your best case scenario so you can envision it and then start figuring out how to get there. I don't doubt that it is tremendously powerful to see your culture or your heritage held in a positive light after a lifetime of being bombarded with negative associations and connotations. That's powerful stuff, the power of which is easily identified within individuals given the general scarcity of encouragement and positive feedback.

Furthermore, going behind the cameras and digging into reality, a bunch of Black People got paid. Ryan Coogler as Director who co-wrote with Joe Robert Cole also African-American, Cinamatographer was a woman, and special effects employed 2/3rds of the worlds' population. Not to mention that the characters of the film were in fact played by actors who are real people in real life and they took home what was hopefully big-fat-paychecks. In Andy Serkis and Martin Freemen there was enough white men to avoid obtusely alienating them, but they played bit-parts really.

So we've come a long way since Al Jolson, a long way since the last big blockbuster cultural phenomena set in continental Africa 'The Lion King' where barely any of the cartoon characters were voiced by African Americans (though they were more represented than Arab's in Aladdin).

And as Barack Obama said 'Better is good.' and it is worth remembering that.

Yes indeed, Black Panther is a terrific film truly flawless for anyone under the age of 12. As of this writing, I'm living through that period that effects some films known as 'hype' before as I'm willing to bet time will prove, the movie is relegated to it's true significance. Much like James Cameron's Titanic, or James Cameron's Avatar. And I feel as highlighted above^ the good will be simmered down like a sauce on a low heat to what I mentioned, and in the future we are I assume aiming for, perhaps the memory of the significance of an almost all-black cast in a major release film will simply be taken for granted by future audiences.

But right now, it's painful for me to behold. I could just ride it out, I could take no risks and keep my mouth shut so that if it turns out I'm wrong and I'm the minority curmudgeon that didn't get it, then I could let others have a good time... but fuck it, I've been appropriating Black Radical fashion for decades, I had to take shit from my brother for my white-guilt and the sudden influx of hype from my white friends is frustrating, because the Black Panther doesn't deserve the lip-service.

So spoilers you fucking man-child, I'm going to talk about the content, and why with time and digestion it will probably be scaled back to largely positive as a step in the right direction, rather than the sparking of a revolution, because if you close one eye and see with another - it's a problematic film. So much so it's hard to know where to begin.

In fairness, most of the problems can be laid at the feet of predominantly White people, maybe I'll start with the larger group because they are actually easier to deal with. The Disney Corporation, it's Chairman and CEO is Bob Iger, and Walt Disney Studio's is presided over by two White Male Presidents, whom are parent to Marvel Studios also presided over by a White Man who served as producer for Black Panther. And all these subsidiaries are assets on the books of Disney, whom are a publicly traded company with obligations to maximise profits for the shareholders, and take a guess who dominates the asset holding class in America, the world, everywhere.

Thus, if African Americans, and Africans everywhere are turning out in droves to celebrate seeing their cultures portrayed in a wonderful fantastic light for perhaps the first time in their lives, as moving as it is, it is also a mechanism whereby their wealth is redistributed to predominantly the wealthiest white people in global society. Other's have picked up on this and there was some online campaign to try and get the studios to donate 25% of the films profits to outreach as the Titular character proposes to do with the riches Wakanda has sat on for millennia. Unforch, this is happening at a time where Disney can safely tell a bunch of black kids in Oakland to go fuck themselves, and it probably won't hear a peep because attention is focused on other kids telling the NRA to go fuck themselves, nor probably would Disney be wrong in assuming that distributing all their black audience's money to their shareholders will result in them boycotting the next installment of the Black Panther franchise. After all, an abysmal hit rate on adapting comic books into movies has never stopped nerds from forking over their cash.

So that's that, and it's sad, but black communities might take away that they probably have billions of dollars at their command that instead of spending on movie tickets, could be spent on social programs if they could coordinate and market one as easily as Disney can sell a comic book movie.

The problems in the content lay at the feet largely of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (I'm sure it wasn't intended, but as a poweful metaphor, when Stan Lee makes his traditional cameo in the movie, Prince T'Challa has unwittingly just won a big stack of money on a roulette wager, which Stan Lee appropriates for himself.) These famous collaborators are two white men that conceived of the Black Panther back in the 60's. And Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole inherited the legacy of the most progressive minds in comics from the 60's.

And in the opening sequence where an animated black sand is doing the exposition of what the nation of Wakanda is and where it stands today, I was impressed that they alluded to the slave-trade. Of course, the moment they acknowledge the reality of slavery, the great Afro-Futuristic nation of Wakanda becomes morally culpable for it via omission. The Nations leaders literally made a choice of using their superior technology to liberate Africa from the tyranny of Colonial powers, or to seclude themselves and abandon their neighbors. They chose the latter.

I blame Stan Lee, you basically can't have a fictitious African utopia in Africa's Heartland without skewering yourself in this way. Thus the screenwriters could only avoid it by making Wakanda a dysfunctional and devastated nation state powerless to help their neighbors or attempt to tackle this moral dilemma, and I'm impressed they tried to tackle the moral dilemma head on, but I thought about it during the film, and the best solution I could come up with would have been for T'Challa to have been a massive breakaway from his forebears, standing in open defiance to his father - (basically playing the role of his uncle in the film) but it would have to be acknowledged, that Wakanda's isolationist policies leave blood on their hands, in much the same way Australia's appalling handling of refugees in contravention of UN charters we have signed is a source of great national shame.

So Stan Lee screwed them on that one, but the fact is, if you try to sidestep it, then you don't get to portray that Afrofuturistic nation, which I believe at its heart is noble. Perhaps for the given nerd audiences, they could have just ignored the dilemma of Wakanda's culpability. And I should be clear, the inaction of good men is by comparison, nowhere near the evil of actual colonial powers and European slave traders. At least the fictitious nation of Wakanda chose to isolate itself to sit on its horde of magical natural resources, rather than sell their fellow African's into slavery, which while exploited by slavers is likely like all dubious economics, to have been in part facilitated by local institutions. Like our (Australia's) elected representatives and Adanhi.

But the impression I got from the world building, was that Wakanda by and large was so far advanced that it could have been the world's dominant super-power, furthermore, the film establishes an asymmetric intelligence network, Wakanda's ruling power knows well the true state of the world, whereas the international intelligence community thinks Wakanda is one of the world's poorest nation that simply *doesn't* participate in international trade... which is very farfetched. Nothing in the history of the world suggests that a nation can simply choose not to participate in international trade, particularly anywhere on Continental Africa. Opium and artillery forced trade into China, Gunboats opened up Japan, Colonialists competed to build rail lines all through Africa to carve it up as territory, followed much later by Communist powers that still goes on today. In what world does an African nation get to say 'no sorry, we'll pass' 'oh okay then.'? No world, which is why this movie is great if you are under 12 but people in their 30s need to keep their hands out of their pants. Enjoy it for what it is, a nice thought, a beautiful illustration, but a problematic idea.

I apologize for me economics training, and I'm put in mind of my brother telling me about a physicist lamenting he can't enjoy comic book movies because of Bruce Banner's line in the first Avenger's movie 'How many spectrometers do you have? Put them all on roof tops and set them to Gamma radiation!' which he says is the scientific equivalent of 'How many cars do you have? Move them onto the roofs and set them to helicopter!'

In the same way, seeing the James Cameron-Navi like society that had an abundance of wealth and also goat herders, the economics of Wakanda are completely opaque. It is presumably not a capitalist society, because their agribusiness is barely even mechanized, certainly not optimized. They have sky scrapers but no real business entities. There's no international trade and vibranium is a magic substance that can do anything. It appears every citizen has access to bead bracelets that are arguably superior to Smart phones, though the advantages of a 3 dimensional holographic/nano-drone display on a portable device are dubious. At any rate, the people of Wakanda seem to have integrated technology into their lives with no real disruption. Despite the advanced technology they possess, the people seem to live a balanced healthy lifestyle, without consuming excess calories or suffering from 1st world diseases like Cancer and Diabetes.

Maybe they have cures for these, which again, renders Wakanda culpable, even if it is dependent on vibranium, the reserves shown effectively make them the same as the bad guys in sci-fi film Elysium. Sure the tribes are proud of their respective cultural heritages, customs and traditions, but there's no real indication as to how wealth is distributed in the nation of Wakanda. Maybe universal basic income, and maybe automation has pushed them to the point where the royal family basically are the only people that have to work, the rest are hobby farmers or museum displays. But then that leads to the question: what are the showpieces, the goat herders or the skyscrapers?

Alan Moore in his work 'Writing For Comics' stressed the rewards to be reaped from comprehensive world-building, in that if you thoroughly understand the physics and mechanics and economics of the world you have built you don't need to do any exposition, the audience will simply feel it's completeness. I didn't when it comes to Wakanda, and again I blame the laziness of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who knew a lot about innovating comics and not much else, and Wakanda is a thin facade as a result of their legacy.

Then there's the thing I'm seeing online that resonates least with me, and that is the character of Erik Killmonger, the most problematic aspect of the whole film. It's hard to blame Killmonger on Stan Lee too, because I suspect he's a more recent character and having just checked, yes, again he is the creation of white guys so that's some small consolation.

We meet him in a museum that inexplicably and uniquely doesn't label any of it's displays, and while I love his haircut's similarity to De La Soul's De La Do, he for some reason has gotten the museum's expert curator to come down and explain what would be on the display cards if it were any other museum in the world. This lady, though as culpable as any beneficiary of the legacy of colonialism is in my opinion, an employee of an organization that may have a passion for African culture and conservation. Nevertheless she is killed via poison, that was somehow guaranteed to be served to her by Killmonger's confederate posing as an employee in the lobby. A poison that takes effect at the perfect time.

This is just a classic dumb plan, the same as the Joker's inexplicable expectation that at midnight the odds of the barges exploding was somehow at it's peak rather than it's lowest probability in 'The Dark Knight'. What's more problematic for Erik Killmonger or Michael B Jordan, is that he has all the most painfully bad lines in the film, and he doesn't play it as a militant black activist that says naive and dumb shit all the time, nor do the actors play off of him. I believe the word is 'didactic' he is the character that hits us with a sledgehammer to make sure the political message gets across, and it's embarrassing.

Consider the potency of if he'd just asked pointed questions of characters he interacted with about their own moral culpability in the plight of black people the world over, he could have been a thoughtful, sensitive charismatic bad guy that left us in a genuine moral dilemma of who to root for. Instead he says shit like:

"How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it, like they took everything else?"

and perhaps worst line of the film:

"Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage."

Not only because the ancestors that jumped from the ships were the least likely to have any descendants, or that a comparison of a life in slavery compared to incarceration in Wakanda are probably not comparable, but because Killmonger is half Wakandan, he is descended from the people that stood by idly, capable of helping and expelling all colonial powers from the continent, and unfortunately is likely descended from ancestors who owned his other ancestors on his mother's side.

I love Michael B Jordan in the Wire, and in Creed, but he was given real shit to work with in Black Panther. His character in the end, making no sense at all, spending his whole life seeking connection to his home land, he then immediately sets about alienating himself from Wakanda until he is defeated and at the very moment he gains acceptance and compassion he chooses to end his own life. For all his political rhetoric, he turns out to be a hot mess.

Now, I want you to consider this narrative:

An African-American in line with the constitution and by his birthright ascends to the highest office in the world's most powerful nation. During his meteoric rise, the validity of his birth is questioned, having an African father and an American mother. He produces documentation of his citizenship but it is still doubted by some belligerent members. Once in power, he presents his vision for radical reform to bring antiquated policies of his nation into the 21st century. While he receives enthusiastic support from some quarters, and grudging loyalty from others, a more conservative faction set out to undermine his agenda and block it from transpiring. This faction seeks backing from outside powers to try and overthrow the legitimate new leader from separatists with a demonstrated record of resenting social progress in governmental departments. After resurrecting the champion of the nativist movement and calling in some debts, the faction then mobilizes to dismantle the policies put in place by the new leader and restore their native champion to power and the status quo. They compromise CIA officers in executing their plan and manage to escalate partisanship in their country to the point that citizens and government officials are clashing with each other. The new agenda is effectively blocked and stifled, and the nativist champion is restored to power whereby he immediately starts implementing his own naive dip-shit policies with little understanding of history, the world or international relations or economics.

This is both the story of Obama-Trump and Killmonger-T'Challa. I don't know what was going on, but it fits. All except in two dimensions - T'Challa is for the most part, articulate where Killmonger rambles lines straight off the top of his head without any seeming thought. So temperamentally the roles are reversed, Killmonger speaks like Trump and relatively T'Chilla speaks like Obama.

The second way it doesn't fit, is that Killmonger reveals scars for every person he killed in service of the CIA and in preparation for his revenge against the son of his father's murderer. Making his revenge motive morally bankrupt having inflicted the suffering of his youth on potentially thousands more people dwarfing any possible justification for taking revenge. Also it turned out, selling weapons US style to change the balance of powers was stupid. Wakanda just needed to take control of international airspace, shipping lanes and satellites with their superior technology to become the world power, albeit there was no evidence they had any countermeasure for nuclear threats. Apart of course from Vibranium.

And yeah... it's difficult, you have a lot of black on black violence in the third act as the characters struggle with the metaphorical internal conflict, and there's no way to avoid that without putting lots of white people into the cast. So you are trading off on goals, the writers had a LOT of mechanical connundrums to deal with thus the failings in message I suspect are the results of trade offs between representation, honoring source material and cannon, and navigating the tricky moral dilemmas those first two present you story wise. Such that you have husband and wife attempting to kill eachother while heroic white CIA guy uses drone ship to kill black pilots, and we are supposed to root for him?

Representation also ultimately made the titular character a hero it was impossible to root for, besides knowing he was in the forthcoming Avengers film and therefore destroying any possibility that he might actually die, and accompanying tension, in his opening set piece Token Damsel-Not-So-Helpless trope sandwiches him into a protagonist not worth caring about. I've noticed that one solution to female representation in action films and by extension comic book films has gone something like this - it used to be that heroic cowboy in White Hat surmounted impossible odds to rescue a helpless girl tied to train tracks and it always went down this way. Audiences liked this, but got sick of seeing women portrayed as helpless and useless and dependent on men. So they just shifted the scenario slightly, such that now superhero breaks through enemy lines surmounting impossible odds and demonstrating his potent virile masculine nature, while damsel in distress tokenistically takes out her immediate guard and maybe escapes her bonds just as the hero arrives to discover she is not so helpless after all.

T'Challa has this sequence trying to fetch his ex-girlfriend for a funeral. Spoiling her mission (so that she was in control the whole time until he fudged it up for her) and freezing such that he has to be bailed out by his personal guard. Then ultimately while he has a dig at Trump, suggesting it is better to build bridges than walls, this ill-advised move by the one African nation with true self-determination to cede it's advantage to the global community comes basically from him trying to get back with his ex. It's a bad policy procedure, and I really wish he'd bothered to sit down with Chomsky or Yanis Varafoukis or anyone that may have explained to a head of state what is likely to happen to a state that opens up it's trade to globalization...

I mean ultimately, it's a dumb fun comic book movie, based on ideas had by two white guys in New York almost 60 years ago.

So why is this post called 'On Cynicism' a word I hardly use or can spell without technological assistance. In part it refers to what I am often called, perhaps accurately given my suspicion of motives. But it mainly refers to cynical marketing, which is what is happening to you.

The motives of movie studios can be known, the reason you are getting Wonder Woman and now Black Panther is because marketers have figured out they can use your beliefs to sell you shit. It is cynical marketing because they suspect you'd rather just hear about your ideals than actually act on them, and they can make money off of that.

So here begins (yes, begins) a little crash course in marketing.

Marketing is process of communicating value. More understandishable, it is the marketers job to make you feel good about purchase decisions, and thereby increase profits. They are interested in how to make you want to buy things, and how to make you want to make other people want to buy things.

Much of the science of marketing is like a super-specific hopped up version of psychology. Having studied marketing and subsequently learning about clinical psychology, there's an extent to which clinical psychology is decades behind marketing. Which is problematic.

One thing they do though, is they are particularly interested in the difference between what people say they want, and what they actually want.

So here's two simple marketing concepts.

There are two kinds of people in the world - opinion leaders and opinion seekers. That's the first concept.

Now there's a hierarchy of needs, that while not concrete, predicts human behavior well enough to be considered valid. Basically you will only have the energy to live your truth if you feel esteemed enough by yourself and your peers, you'll only worry about how you are esteemed by your peers if you first belong to your peer group, you will only be concerned about belonging to a group of people if you have secured food and shelter, which in turn you won't care about if you are being chased by a bear. This is known as 'Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs'

Put the two together and what do marketers suspect?

Opinion leaders feel secure enough in their identity to be primarily concerned with expressing themselves, they are 'self-actualizers' these are the people whom you say 'what's with the cut on those jeans? Nobody wears them like that anymore' and they respond 'whatever, this is how I like them.'

Most people (about 3/4) are opinion seekers, they look externally for cues to tell them how to behave because they are focused on belonging. These are people who keep up with the latest trends, these are the people who image-craft on facebook.

And marketers spend a lot of time researching who's who. In many industries, marketing's role is basically to identify opinion leaders (via people called 'cool hunters') document them, then tailor products based on the opinion leaders opinions, and then mass market them to opinion seekers, who by and large need permission to adopt new styles/thoughts.

Malcolm Gladwell's book 'Tipping Point' is a much easier in depth way to learn about this process than completing a marketing degree like I did.

Now I don't work in marketing or even sales anymore, and I don't really keep up with the trade publications because I never have. But I feel 5 years ago if people said 'Image-crafting' you would have thought of people posting photos of beach holidays and date nights and all the highlights of their life making you feel as though your life was a complete and utter failure.

I would posit, that these days the predominant form of image crafting is broadcasting your political views on social media, something Jonathon Haidt calls 'value signalling' on my newsfeeds at least if you want to get cheap likes, you don't need to get engaged or book an international flight or have a baby anymore (though I'm sure they all still work) so much as rail against that politician or topic everyone hates, contributing little to furthering the discussion and preferably simply parroting someone else's ideas.

I'm often struck by how much social progress feels like the fashion industry to me. Most of my morbid-voyeurism has traditionally been dedicated to feminist ideas, but the high turnover disposal of discussion topics seem to reflect the seasonal fashion trends rather than suggesting that roughly every 3 months major problems are actually being resolved. eg. manspreading, mansplaining, gaslighting, emotional labor, intersectionality, #metoo ... none of these issues I feel have been resolved to my understanding, it just seems like there's the same competition for novelty to raise one's profile and displace the current opinion seekers that marketers tap into. Feminism just doesn't seem to make money out of the same turnover.

But what I suspect happened is that the marketers that work for Disney, identified that maybe 4 or 5 years ago the opinion leaders were the outspoken ones on issues of social justice. Then particularly in the comic market they noticed all the online chatter about representation etc. and noticed the migration of opinion seekers into the progressive camp. Young people have traditionally always been more left leaning, more egalitarian than generations before them, but there previously wasn't much social status to be gained by being obtusely so.

Now there is. 10 years ago, all my female opinion leader friends were engaged in imploring women to call themselves feminists. Nowadays all my female opinion leader friends appear to be quietly backing away from what feminism has come to mean (this is pure supposition on my part).

Tragically, as marketers give people just looking to belong permission to adopt the opinions previously held only by opinion leaders, some opinion leaders can ride high on the sudden surge of public sentiment. Others get suspicious of their own beliefs if a majority of people buy into them, and these are the opinion leaders that don't have a heartbreaking fall from relevance.

With a Whitehouse populated by a White Nativist administration looking to somehow return America to the 50's (before Black Panther was published) then it's pretty obvious that the traditional youth anti-establishment rebellious streak that tries to forge an identity of their own by pushing away from the values of their parents and even older siblings, is probably going to react to the times by competing to see who can be most progressively left.

The cynics are the marketers (and I guess me also) that feel that your ideology is basically arbitrary, what matters is your status among your peers and maintaining your membership to it. Thus, Black Panther, Wonder Woman is probably more a repition of cranking a well proved money machine than genuine social progress.

I'm confident in this because people seem to have forgotten that a black man was actually democratically elected to the highest office of what is really the most powerful and technologically advanced nation on Earth. Last year, an almost all black cast and production crew won 'Best Picture' for what is basically a perfect film called 'Moonlight'.

In conclusion, there's a possibility that I was simply primed to see Black Panther how I saw it. Just that day I'd watched a video about the sociologist who dubbed Walt Disney 'the most dangerous man in America' and in the 1920's had observed how Hollywood managed to get people concerned about the plight of fictitious situations than the plight of the real world. Shuffling out of a packed cinema surrounded by nerds who think developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are really important just reminded me of this.

I'm in two minds, maybe it is a shared disgrace how much we care about comic book movies, and on the other hand, maybe it's for the best that nerds squabble over fake shit to prevent them from fucking up policy on real issues. That latter option feels like a dangerous idea though.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Where are all the Rapists?

Straight up front, the title of this post is a genuine question rather than an expression of skepticism that rape or rapists exist. I am not sure what might motivate an individual to want to believe that rape is less prevalent than it is, or is claimed and for who a world populated by pathological maliciously lying (mostly) women is preferable to the much easier to believe world where owing to our sexual dimorphism a lot of men force themselves on women with depressing regularity. At any rate if you were hoping for me or anyone to argue a case for the former, probably best you read on but prepare to sit with whatever negative emotions make you more comforted by the idea of living in a world populated by crazy psychotic women whom can't get equal representation in parliament or corporate boards and executive positions but can somehow implausibly get the legal system to enable their deceit.

So disclaimer out of the way, I believe that rape is an under-reported criminal offence not only because I've read that statistic from reputable sources but also because it makes sense. However there are two-tiers of underreporting the first most practical is the number of survivors that actually report the crime to the police resulting in investigation and/or a perpetrator being identified and charges pressed. The second tier are the acts reported to social workers, psychologists, doctors, family members or friends that are thus known but not reported to the police. And then I would imagine that there's a bunch of people living with the knowledge who have not confided in any third party to the crime.

My question 'where then, are all the rapists?' is a disparity I've only recently thought about. For me it harks back to a conversation with a friend of mine, where we were talking about rape and probably taking a shit on MRAs, and she said of the depressing statistics regarding... something like 2/3rds of women by age 16 have experienced a sexual assault of some kind (?) 'What it means is that if any female friend of mine told me they'd been raped I wouldn't be surprised.' which is depressing in and of itself, but there's an asymmetry worth noticing - I cannot, and I imagine she could not say 'If any male friend of mine told me they were a rapist I wouldn't be surprised.' because we would be surprised, and shocked.

Of course there's an obvious reason why, expecting a reasonable person to understand the difference between right and wrong and then confess a crime/series of crimes to us, that is shocking. Plus a part of us wants to believe that justice ultimately prevails and that any male friend of mine was in a position to confide they were a rapist, it would be from behind bars and not in the office break room or during a game of pick-up basketball on a Sunday afternoon in the park. Given my moral obligation to report them to law-enforcement, employers etc. I would be shocked by the poor judgement of any male that actually confessed a crime and such a serious crime to me.

Even so, I have many female friends but I am male so that means I'm generally excluded from the sleep overs where we braid each other's hair and talk about boys, or any of the kinds of situations where I imagine women confide in each other what has been done to them, but I know more than one woman who has been subjected to rape and I imagine if I were female given the same population of friends and acquaintances I would know of more.

I know of no rapists.

Of course I know of rapists as reported in the media, but I don't appear to live in the world of the media. I have in my life been in the presence of one man I knew to have been convicted and served time for the crime, and I can't claim to really know him. And here's the horrible but true thing to say, the numbers all suggest that I can only conclude that I do indeed know rapists, I just don't know who or when or how, thus it is probably true that I know rapists AND I know of no rapists.

Time perhaps, will wash them out. I'm of an age for example, where very very few of the people I know and grew up with have died. Unless I am the one to die young (and hey, I'm a cyclist in Australia's traffic culture so knock on wood) people I know dying will probably increase with frequency as the decades go by. In the same way, perhaps when I'm in my 40s and 50s I'll start to hear about men I went to school with, uni with, lived with, played pick-up basketball games on a Sunday with getting their dues for sex crimes, maybe some of them will be convicted for crimes they perpetrated while I knew them. And being judgmental and prejudicial, there are some men I've met I would be less shocked and surprised to learn were rapists relative to others, and those are the men I've met that I have never called friends of mine.

So there's that. That it may not be a question of 'where' so much as 'when' which makes sense because if you aren't immediately copping to a crime you have committed, your objective then becomes to avoid the consequences and steal as much freedom for as long as you can.

Would I like to know? No. Of course not, and obviously that's part of the problem. I don't think this predilection towards blissful ignorance even falls along gender lines - apart from the practical reason women might want to know which of the men around them are likely to rape them. But the act of moving from blissful ignorance to unpalatable reality is going to be viscerally unpleasant. As a trivial analogy, talking about 'wanting' to know who are rapists and where they are is mechanically the same as 'wanting' to pay bills, 'wanting' to find out biopsy results, 'wanting' a divorce.

Though as far as I know, not a rapist just a serial sexual harasser, for me an excellent case study in principle is that of former NBC Today Show host Matt Lauer purely because I've seen the footage of him conducting an interview with Bill O'Reilly whom was guilty of the same transgressions that Matt would be fired for. I have an interest in body language, and a cognitive understanding that conducting such a hypocritical interview was really Lauer's only play, but I'm amazed at his ability to just conduct the interview as he does where my instincts despite my current knowledge are inclined to presume that this is an innocent man interviewing a guilty one. That these men are not equals.

I feel, that it is a common hubris across the general population to believe we are good judges of character. As I assume is the case of all my friends in Melbourne, watching vapid morning news programs from another country is an experience we've probably accrued less than an hour of in our lifetimes, odds are we first heard of Matt Lauer when he got fired. But his ability to conduct that interview with a straight face and professional decorum exposes the lie we must be living.

I at least, am living in a reality that is a fantasy land where I expect that if any man I know were to have raped a woman or man or child the previous night they would be immediately plunged into a life of guilt and remorse, tortured like the narrator of Poe's Tell-tale Heart. That any attempt to wear a mask of normalcy would prove beyond their competence and eventually they would give themselves away or break down and confess. And that's just speaking of the perpetrators.

I don't know if you share my delusion, or having read my description have discovered that you share my delusion, but writing it out has exposed a double standard I find interesting as well. It's that I expect the perpetrators to find it impossible to live with the knowledge of their guilt, when evidently due to the under-reporting of rape by survivors, I simply accept that women can wear that mask of normalcy and more or less function without me suspecting anything even though they may bear an irrational burden of guilt as I understand some victims will reflexively see themselves as somehow responsible for what is done to them, something not helped by social phenomena like victim blaming.

Evidently though, given the disparity between how many rapes I know of, and the zero rapists I know of - to some greater or lesser extent the survivors can't keep the crime a secret as easily as the perpetrators do.

So where are all the Rapists? Perhaps on my part it is a failure of empathy. My illusion of a more or less benevolent male social circle that I live in is propped up by my inability to empathise with somebody who doesn't feel guilt or remorse aka psychopaths. Rape is certainly an anti-social behavior no matter which intellectual framework you are dissecting it in, and my limited reading on the psychological phenomena of psychopathy (very limited) indicates that it is more prevalent than we tend to assume.

I have to defer to the clinical psychologists as expert in this case, but while psychopaths are well represented in prison relative to the overall population, most psychopaths don't commit horrifically violent crimes. Psychopaths are also allegedly well represented among corporate management. If you estimate the population of psychopaths arbitrarily at 10%, with only 1% of them being the kind that is convicted of compulsively violent crimes then the 1000 or so people I've met in my lifetime would predict some 100 of the people I've met would feel no remorse upon harming another in a violent and anti-social act like rape.

This can only be a partial answer to the phenomena of the asymmetry though. And I don't for a second conclude that one has to be a psychopath to commit the offense of rape, just that it may help some people live with the crime and help bloat the disparity.

And I don't perceive an ethical imperative to feel guilt or remorse, but a biological condition. The ethical imperative comes for me, once guilt and remorse are an established fact.

Before dismissing biology as a topic of discussion it's worth mentioning Robert Sapolsky's lectures on behavioral biology, available free on Youtube for their thoroughness, their inconclusiveness and ability to diminish certainty that you understand the relationship between biology and behavior. Relevant to this question though is somewhere in the lectures on Aggression, or Sexual selection he discusses 'alternate strategies' for passing on genes beyond being the dominant male in a tournament primate species.

So in baboons a very aggressive tournament species where one Alpha male dominates the troop. Females still can exert some degree of sexual selection, where when an Alpha male approaches them, they get up and walk so he has to keep following her. They may do this until he is tired, or they may nefariously lead him directly to his biggest male rival in the troop where a violent altercation will then ensue. She will then disappear off into the bushes for a quick tryst with one of the troops more sensitive males in a behavioral phenomena dubbed 'stolen copulations'. This however is the moral equivalent of an affair of passion in a society that regards women as property, thus it is not rape and, I feel, a heartwarming phenomena. That is however one alternate strategy observed in primate species.

In Orangutan troops, the alternate strategy employed by non-dominant males is rape.

Which means in Baboon Troop 'Ted is dominant, I'm not, but Peggy appreciates grooming, so if I'm nicer to Peggy than Ted maybe she'll want some of these nice genes over Ted's strong genes.' and Orangutan Troop 'Ted is dominant, I'm not. Peggy won't want to have sex with me, but I'm stronger than Peggy, so if I catch her when Ted isn't around maybe I can pass on my rapey genes.'

Now if I paid sufficient attention to those lecture series, despite all the efforts of various researchers including the experiments with Nim Chimpsky even higher primates don't really have a capacity for languages that encompass grammer. So they don't actually 'formulate' strategies for reproduction, it would appear some complicated interplay between neurological systems that figure out social ranking and perhaps endocrine systems that inhibit/disinhibit sexual and aggressive behavior.

And that's all relevant because I find it useful to remember the feelings shape thoughts and thoughts with effort can shape feeling. But I guess just on plain evidence and also a bit of inference that rape has any correlation or necessary correlation to social standing in human society.

I'd be skeptical about a one-size-fits-all psychological profile like the Orangutan's for people. For one thing social standing is contextual, one may literally be the boss at work and have the lowest standing in your family. In some of the most severe cases it runs the extreme of the social spectrum - from Adrian Bayley in my home town and former home suburb, through to Harvey Weinstein. I'd defer to forensic, criminal and clinical psychologists if the general pattern is that rape is about control, but I'd reject any claim that with greater socioeconomic status comes a greater sense of control as naive, deferring to Biggie Smalls that 'Mo' Money Mo' Problems' in fact the #metoo social movement has been mostly successful at getting businesses and political parties to dump personnel from their books. I have no idea if it's had any impact on the vast majority of sex-offenders being quite ordinary low profile citizens and I imagine most numerously family members or people otherwise known to their victims - which would lead me to bet that even the sudden surge in voices speaking out via #metoo would grossly under-report the true problem.

So where are all the rapists? The answer then perhaps is 'Potentially Everywhere'.

Before unpacking the implications of that answer, I feel it's worth doing some speculating on numerical grounds. One explanation of the asymmetry between the visibility of survivors and perpetrators is a one-to-many relationship. Which is to say one perp can commit multiple offenses with multiple people. Larry Nassar is a safe example to sight given that he has pleaded guilty to some 20 or so offenses and is serving some 2 centuries of prison time, but had an estimated 250 accusers.

I want to believe, of society in general that those men who have never and would never sexually assault another human being are the clear majority. But what is a clear majority 60% of men? 80% of men? 95% of men? The 80-95 bracket seems like a stretch to me, at least on the front of sexual assaults or harassment that involve groping, exposure, unwanted repeated advances etc.

Sorry to drone on about statistics, but the fact is that the absolute best any individual man can do is have 0 offenses to his name, whereas if you are the psychotic son of a totalitarian dictator and completely above the law in your local jurisdiction, the worst case offenders of all time may have offenses against thousands of individuals.

So I expect/hope for a Pareto distribution, rather than a Normal or Bell-curve distribution even though given the impossibility of having -ve sex offenses means that it could only be a half bell.

I'm not going to draw graphs, but really the best case scenario for the general population would be something like 99% of men have 0 sex offenses, and then 1% have 10-300 offenses.

What I would guesstimate is that if the statistics could ever be knowable across an entire male population, it would be something like 60-80% of men have 0 offenses, 30-15% have 1 offense,  8-5% have serial offenses of 2 or more.

But all these numbers, are pulled straight out of my arse, with no research whatsoever just to illustrate the one-many concept. Even as I write it, I observe that there's a similar phenomena when it comes to culpable-driving or death by auto, in that I know of several people that have been killed by vehicles, and excluding those that killed themselves operating a vehicle, I know of nobody that has killed someone with a vehicle. But I don't question how many culpable drivers might be around me at all times, for one, the crime is hard to under-report given the herculean task of making bodies/vehicles etc disappear. The other thing is that if you divide daily opportunities for somebody to kill someone else with a car/incidence of someone killing someone with a car then I guess it's fairly likely I might go through my life and never meet someone who has killed someone as a result of their driving...

A brief scan says that in my home state of Victoria last year there were 259 lives lost on the roads in 2017 with 130 being the driver of a vehicle. By comparison the government statistics on sexual offenses had almost 13 thousand offenses plus almost 4 thousand alleged offenses (if I'm reading it right) which indicates that bearing in mind, once an offender always an offender so the numbers are mostly cumulative, there's a large disparity between the proportion of the population that are sex offenders and the proportion that are culpable drivers that would grow larger over time, given the frequency with which they each occur.

Okay, so that's really bleak and we are probably perhaps interacting with someone in our lives that has forced themselves on somebody and we are totally unaware.

Where are all the Rapists? Scattered everywhere. Hopefully rare, but not uncommon. And given the state of things, presumption of innocence rules for me. There's no way I, or any ordinary citizen, could or should be trying to sniff out who's who based on what? inference? stereotypes? hearsay? a vibe?

Sounds like a cop-out, but I find this answer even more difficult before conveniently coping out at this point.

Say hypothetically, someone waved a magic wand and every rapist woke up with a big red 'R' on their forehead. Which is to say, what if I and any other individual actually knew where all the rapists are?

Do I live in a world prepared to actually deal with such a revelation?

And for that I defer to the plight of Larry Kleist:

This is a sketch for comical purposes, but if my memory can be relied upon, I feel like I heard the DVD commentary say the aim of the sketch was to completely ridicule the notion that registered sex offenders could have any chance of living a normal and productive life. Louis Theroux did a more sensitive and much longer documentary on life among the sex offenders, I think in Los Angeles I'm like 80% certain it was Bay Area somewhere.

Personally, and these are just my personal convictions, such measures of transparency border into the 'cruel and unusual' punishments documents like the English Bill of Rights, 8th Amendment to the US constitution and UN's Universal Charter of Human Rights quite deliberately and consciously put in for very good reasons.

I don't know what those reasons were but I would hope they relate to a positive double standard, that the state and the people at large will not become the equal of the worst individuals within it. I believe for example, that capital punishment carried out by the state makes all citizens of that state culpable of murder and thus, I would hold my state to the higher standard of not killing anyone rather than stoop to saying 'well he murdered someone so it's okay for us to murder him.' Especially given that we have recourse to protecting society from a murderer without killing them, and having the added benefit of keeping someone around who may have been wrongly convicted, no matter how statistically unlikely that may be.

So I'm one of those people that would prefer that punishments were not cruel and unusual, or even poetic, but humane. To be honest I'm one of those people that feels when not engulfed by my passions that there is little to be gained from punitive actions at all, beyond restricting someone's freedoms to protect society at large.

So if it turned out that some 30% of the men I interact with throughout the course of a year were ousted as sex offenders, or worst case I found myself in the statistical minority of male population who weren't sex offenders. I would find myself with some reconciliation to do.

Because even in the absence of cruel and unusual punishments, which is not necessarily the reality I live in, I'm not a fan of extant penitentiary systems in my country, or much of anywhere. Put another way, even if the time has come in our culture for survivors to speak out about what has happened to them, I'm not sure the administrative logistics are in existence to cope  with the guilty parties in a way where everyone doesn't lose. I'm not impressed at judicial and corporate entities' ability to get the best outcomes and they seem, like many institutions to be a mix of archaic barbaric traditions through to cutting edge world's-best-practice recent reforms. And by mix I probably mean mess.

I'd attribute the prevailing downfalls of our penitentiary systems largely to a felt need to placate an angry mob. Which is to say, the reason I believe the incredibly successful Norwegian prison system that treats its wards as people, hasn't spread rapidly throughout the G20 nations, is because it flies in the face of the common intuition that offenders need to suffer, not to be treated with compassion, and this intuition fails us if the suffering of offenders is at the expense of society.

What's a more concrete way to get at what I'm getting at. Okay, as far as I can recall I don't know anyone named Elmer, so my hypothetical friend Elmer gets charged with rape. I'm horrified, disgusted and feel violated to learn that someone I trusted and confided in had done this violence to someone else. Currently the way we deal with it, is that Elmer would get tried and convicted, thereby losing just about all prospect of working at the same socioeconomic level he could at the time of his offense. He is sent to a maximum security prison where he may be subjected to violent physical assaults and potentially sexually assaulted himself throughout the duration of his sentence. He is also put into the company and vicinity of people who via their own behavior on some level find his offence normal and permissible and may reinforce rather than dispel the convictions he had that he was entitled to rape someone. He winds up serving some portion of his term before he is paroled out of prison. Presuming the parole process is competent, he is released only as soon as he is deemed unlikely to commit recidivism and released into society less able to live a meaningful and happy life than before he was charged for his crime. Then Elmer commits the same offense, a worse offense, or a different offense, or suicide.

I do believe that life makes us pay for our mistakes. We are basically long-run incompetent in the task of living a lie, so from minor transgressions to the most severe we can imagine, I basically believe that payment is due.

I hold everyone to the standard of being responsible, and even in the case where an offender is facing a slow agonizing death pierced by one of Vlad Tsepes aka Vlad Dracula's pike from anus through to collarbone - I believe someone who committed the offence, capable of knowing they were committing a crime (mental competence) and knowing the potential consequences, should accept them with as much dignity as they can humanly muster.

Outside of the world of human ethos, I'm more concerned about the consequences for society. Here you, like me, may find you have more reconciling to do.

Firstly, what do you estimate the odds to be, that somewhere in your chain of ancestors you are the indirect product of a rapist (by modern legal definitions) considering birth control, relatively safe surgical and chemical abortions and criminal forensics are all very recent developments. Considering also that rape is and has always been one of the weapons of war, and the long history of the slave trade, where in just the recent case of the American, British and European kidnapping and enslaving of Africans, slaver crews are believed to have encouraged the crew to impregnate their female cargo because lighter skinned babies fetched higher prices (despite the disturbing non-reconciliation of the fact that slavers were siring their own children into slavery). Even with my presumed Anglo-Saxon lineage, I estimate the chances of my having a rapist ancestor at 100% which is about what I'd guess the odds are for anybody alive.

Does our probable descent from anti-social distant (or sadly in some cases, recent) ancestors have any bearing on our own moral character? I'd say no. Do all of us, likely owe our existence to some man's moral transgression? Yes. Does that mean we have to endorse their actions? Hell no. Would it be wonderful to live in a future that can know the practice of rape has been extinct for 100 generations? Yes, fantastically so. Would it be wonderful to live in any future at all? Yes.

The case I guess I'm building, is just an observation that humanity is evidently resilient to the suffering it inflicts on itself. We can as a species survive a degree of injustice persisting, without endorsing it, and forgiving ourselves for being unable to address it. Progress is slow, and not continuous. It is forgotten too often, that in many domains we can regress as society. And impatient calls for poorly conceived progress can lead to much more severe regress, as was the case with the French Revolution, The French Terrors and then the Napoleonic Empire.

Consider my ability to compartmentalize. Perhaps you share it, but we have in my lifetime had cases like Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson and David Bowie. Mike Tyson was convicted and served his time, Kobe Bryant had criminal charges dropped and settled a civil suit out of court with his accuser, and David Bowie never had charges brought against him by the underage girl he allegedly slept with.

I find myself having to respect the judicial system as a civilizing force as low as my opinion of the penal system is, in that extends a presumption of innocence to everyone, and for criminal charges maintain a high burden of evidence with the onus on prosecution to prove guilt. This is a system I would defer my judgement too, because it overcomes my barbaric intuitions to simply bludgeon to death anyone I believe to have breached some social contract. Of the three men Bowie is almost certainly guilty, but there is simply no charge for him to be guilty of in the legal systems. Kobe is by my opinion, plausibly guilty and Mike Tyson the one of the three to be convicted and serve time is plausibly innocent, given that if you watch any footage of Tyson interviewed ever, you can imagine him turning even the weakest case in the eyes of the jury against him.

I don't believe and it is not one of my values, that excellence in some dimension, to genius level can place an individual above the law or render them somehow exempt from the standards of wider society. But again, I hold society as a whole to a much higher standard than any individual within it, including the time and care it takes to consider evidence and come to a conclusion.

What has to be weighed up as illustrated by a case like Bryant's are in my view the following:

1. The offense cannot be undone, all that could be controlled was what the consequences would be - and ideally the consequences to the offended party are what need to be optimized, within reason. I can't know if the victim was satisfied by the eventual settlement and apology, or if then, or in time they came to feel short changed. We can't know that had Bryant been found guilty and received the harshest punishment under the constitution she would have satiated her desire for justice and had her faith in humanity restored. But what is necessary and sufficient action in a criminal case should not be at the discretion of the accuser. I have no reason to believe it the case, but in general if the accuser is bearing false witness, the offended party is actually the defendant.

2. Even if you regard basketball as inconsequential to wider society, there is an irrefutable social cost to punishing offenders in a way that deprives society of the benefits they can produce if acquitted.
This loss to society however, is the responsibility of the offender - they in effect rob society of their own best contribution by putting members of the society at risk through their worst conduct. But, it should be the aim of society to protect its members while extracting the best use out of its transgressors. Penalties should be at as near-possible the exclusive expense of the offender.

3. One area that civilized societies I feel get right, are the aspects of our judicial system that require due-process, burden of proof, standard of proof (aka balance of probabilities for minor offenses, beyond reasonable doubt for serious charges) and presumption of innocence. Which is to say, outside of a Norwegian system that may be able to produce convicts that are better off for their time in prison, I would rather have a legal system that risks letting guilty parties walk than incarcerating and punishing innocent people. Both types of errors are evidently made, but I prefer to live in a world where more guilty men walk free than innocent men have their lives destroyed by the state - which acts on my behalf and I therefore hold to a higher standard than the individuals it tries in its conduct.

And of course, you get other exceptional cases like Mike Tyson, genius of boxing for which I am a huge fan, who was convicted of raping a woman, and the thought of being raped by the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world is one of the most terrifying scenarios I can imagine. Yet, to my knowledge neither Bryant nor Tyson ever re-offended meaning the outcome of protecting society at large was achieved in their case, perhaps a bi-product of their public profiles, and at any rate seemingly by accident. The amount of money lost to Tyson as a result of his incarceration would be hard to estimate, and he is one of those few people in the world that were in a position to serve their time and resume their lucrative career (most examples of this I imagine come from the world of organized crime, and possibly periods in history where conscientious objectors get jailed or ethnic groups interred).

David Bowie would be a statutory rapist, and that one I imagine far more people world wide feel conflicted over than Tyson or Bryant. In my case I'd again point to the lack of re-offending to my and I believe public knowledge with Bowie, meaning any missed punitive actions can be known in hindsight to have not made the public at large any safer. The underage girl to my understanding (but I haven't fact checked) perceived no harm as a result of her illegal liason, but does that make Bowie's lack of due diligence okay? It is more likely, a lucky escape for all involved than a case study whereby we can extract any general principles from.

Statutory rape is tricky, and I've avoided talking about it thus far. In fact you may have noticed I've avoided even defining rape thus far, which I at least, feel is unusual for me. But this is the powderkeg part of the whole question, and relevant to the question 'Where are all the Rapists?'

For example, I've met people that regard all Porn as rape. This is clearly not a universally accepted definition given the amount of porn that is sold legally and openly in the market. Porn is riddled with problems, and I do feel the notion of what constitutes consent is one worth exploring, and which I have explored on this blog before. I've never met, but have heard of a subset of feminist that hold the belief that all sex between men and women is rape, because the patriarchy oppresses women... somehow that translates to women can never consent to sex with men. (I don't know, this is hearsay but I find it plausibly may reflect real attitudes somewhere out there).

Let's take a brief diversion and just entertain a notion that all-sex-is-rape or rather, in order to exclude abstract concepts like 'the patriarchy' the extreme position that all-men-are-rapists. There's really only one way in which I can entertain such a suggestion, and that is that there's probably a phase in physical development, around sexual maturity, a lot of men (boys really, in terms of emotional maturity) enter a period where they simply don't know their own strength. They aren't calibrated to understanding their ability to hurt, coerce and physically intimidate others. While I realize that not everyone becomes sexually active in their adolescents, not everyone engages in sexual relationships with large physical dimorphism as a factor, but on this ground I can see a plausible path that almost all men and women who have some sexual encounter with the opposite sex generate an experience where one party is scared or physically intimidated during the sex act. Even just a brief and fleeting panic experienced by one partner at the thought of losing control.

I have limited personal experience of this, though those limits were insightful. One time while on the dance floor of a gay club, a large buff dude came up behind me and started dancing with me, dirty dancing style. I was after all, in a gay bar and one whose door displays a sign saying that it is a gay bar and if you are offended by men hitting on you, you can basically fuck off somewhere else. And as flattered as I was that I could be considered ambiguous in my sexuality, there was a fleeting moment of panic when I realised that if necessary, I may not have the physical strength to stop this from going further than I want.

Anyway, it was fine. I can even conceive that perhaps for some women, this disparity of recourse to physical strength may be part of what makes dating a guy exciting, because we are all weird like that. It was certainly exhilarating for me. But I can sympathise that my limited experience is what most women experience all the time.

For any man that has experienced multiple sexual acts, I would expect them to have fucked up, to have crossed a line at some point, to basically have had bad sex, compounded by the fact they are physically intimidating. But that expectation is crossing a line that results in temporary physical discomfort, or a fleeting experience of panic, or simply resulting in her being less into it than before. Do you want that line to be the line? (I would distinguish the 'fuck ups' I'm talking about from something like a 17 year old forcing his penis into the anus of his girlfriend without explicit consent, that is rape as far as I know.)

One interesting example I came across on a friend's relationship advice blog, In which a boyfriend didn't disclose that he'd taken MDMA before sex. That's a betrayal of trust and he obtained consent under false pretenses. Does he deserve to be dumped? Yes. Do we want a legal reality where he would be classed as a rapist? Maybe. (Maybe it is the legal reality, I don't know) That's the tricky thing because you can have the law allow for someone to be charged, and the charging to be at the discretion of the complainant.

And of course while talking definitions, there is that subset of vegans that believe 'all cheese is rape' and other dairy products, as well as the eating of animal ovum and so on. This is not a universally held definition, given social norms. So it's worth reflecting that all but those at the extreme definitions of rape, are taking rape lightly in the views of somebody.

Technological developments and other arguable progress might result in some future where any of these definitions do become the social norm, though I don't feel there's the existing will to steer humanity to such a future. Thus I am glad that for the most part we as individuals are only consequentially subjected to legal definitions of rape, and the evolution of such is interesting.

Linked here Table 4 of the document details the evolution of the definition under the laws I am subjected to, and these in turn are not universal. But a brief summary would be that a long time ago rape was seen as an issue of property, so a consensual extra-marital affair was rape against the husband's propery. There's a degree to which this definition made sense historically, if you subtract a few centuries of medical process, the harm of affairs and infidelity was very real, and there was no real recourse for proving paternity. Of course there was and is a massive historical double standard but these laws didn't come from nowhere, nor in context achieve nothing practical though they wouldn't now because we have better solutions for managing the risks of infidelity.

Then it seems our history leaped forward and begun to treat women as people, which is definitely positive progress - however it required physical evidence that consent was not given via defensive wounds indicating the physical struggle.

Now as it stands, the idea of consent has undergone much revision such that rape can be recognized under law as simply lacking positive consent for the complainant, such that rapists who may drug or simply psychologically dominate their victim can possibly obtain justice. (possibly in the face of the aforementioned living in a society whereby it isn't what we know or suspect but what we can prove.)

That's just a synopsis of the local evolution. Worldwide it goes all over the place, I happened to discover that in parts of Italy for example, the legal response to rape was to force the woman to marry her rapist in a 'reparation marriage'. Italy also had a 'tight jeans' defense where a judge ruled that because the complainant had been wearing tight jeans at the time of her assault, she therefore must have assisted in removing them for the sex act and thereby given consent. I doubt skinny jeans are in fact a rubix cube for assailants but it's worth noting that even if she did assist in removing her jeans that doesn't establish consent so much as a more likely aversion to any violence on offer.

There's also the many jurisdictions in the world that have with varying recency legally declared rape impossible between individuals who are married. That a man could basically help himself by force to his wife at any time and in any manner he pleased.

Once again progress is slow and sometimes and in some places not happening at all, and some places going backwards.

However, and here is where I might, or most definitely would take a controversial stance. The world I want to live in is the world I do live in. I would like legal definitions of rape to evolve somewhat a step behind the evolution of the socially accepted definition of rape. Which is to say, the debates happening now, that are furthering our collective understanding of the full costs and effects of anti-social behavior, particularly behavior directed by men at women need to be picked over and scrutinized in agonizing detail before being codified into law.

Despite being I feel, the non-majority view. This more or less describes how progress takes place. In a lot of democracies it became publicly believed that women or ethnic minorities could become heads of state perhaps a decade or decades before it actually took place. Does anyone believe a woman can't (is literally incapable) of being the president of the United States? It's worth noting that not even Trump voters believe it is impossible, because if they did, they wouldn't have gone to vote.

Same same with same sex marriage in Australia. Polling showed a majority approval of same sex marriage long before there was any move by lawmakers to make it possible. Arguably, if you, like me want your lawmakers to pass laws that are fair and just even despite majority public opinion, the precedents were probably there in the early 90s, or late 80s.

In both female or minority ethnic heads of state, and same sex marriage legalization the costs are generally applicable to one oppressed group, which is to say, you can't really go too far in establishing an equal standing for someone. Currently 'false allegations of rape' though significant to those effected are statistically rare, but tinkering with legal definitions and what constitutes admissible evidence might make it the reality some groups think it currently is.

It's very easy to say Larry Kleist is a rapist so fuck him, the fucking arsehole, why do I have to consider his welfare when he didn't consider his victims? And the reason is, because you aren't a rapist like him. You are expected to consider the basic dignity of every human out there, including those who have violated the social contracts that have held us together since we were much less conscious primates.

There are of course, non-legislative domains in which I would demand change, and demands for change, or at least reinforcement of social norms are justified. Like when political leaders fail to condemn rape or other sexual assaults along partisan lines. This is the wrong double standard, effectively saying there is one rule for 'us' and another for 'them' and morality is simply a question of membership to an in-group and the practical consequences of having one of your own taken down.

If society is arranged into some neat vertical hierarchy, then the positive double-standard (to hold yourself to a higher standard than the people you govern) increases as you climb up the rungs. I am less concerned about individual offenders, than the organisations failing in their duty of care.

I'd side with Camille Paglia when describing tertiary institutions holding mandatory classes on how to date as undignified and undesirable. But in cases where management, supervisors and people of authority are aware of the offenses, be they sexual harassment or rape and choose not to act for short term self interest (eg. Sure he rapes but he's our biggest moneymaker...) that is where the management, the board etc. need to be held to account for their inaction.

Sales figures, salaries, dividends etc are relatively inconsequential to society or even the individuals that orient their lives and moral compass around them. Being raped is very consequential to the individual who is raped, a single event that potentially redefines every interpersonal interaction from then onward.

So I have no answers. I feel if you can commit a crime in such a way as to make it impossible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you did it, we have to grudgingly let you walk, and presume your innocence as an expression of our confidence in social institutions. The onus is on forensics and police skills to make this ever harder to do. On the other hand, if someone I know were to add deceit to their crimes, and subsequently steal my or anyone else's friendship it is unambiguous to me as to how I feel about them.

I fundamentally believe that while redemption, and even the ability to change may be incredibly difficult and incredibly rare, everyone is entitled to the opportunity to reform and it is vindictive to frustrate their efforts to do so. It makes it hard to reconcile my belief that the rapists around me don't owe me a confession, but have a moral obligation to turn themselves in for their crimes (which is asking morality from demonstrably immoral people) but if the consequences of such an action are cruel and unusual, I have to acknowledge that we are incentivising irresponsibility after the fact.

What would I do?

Having never been tested in this way, I can only present what I would like to think of myself. I believe in taking responsibility, and I believe we are each capable of simply making mistakes that fuck up our lives. Whether that is a bad driving decision, or someway somehow getting to the psychological state necessary to force yourself sexually on another. Beyond the consequences that can be considered just, where former friends or loved ones in their dissappointment and disgust felt some visceral need to be cruel, to attack me in a position where I am responsible, remorseful and vulnerable before the court as simple understandable human excess.I guess at the point where I am an offender, I've forfeited my right to participate in this discussion and to treat the discussion of the humane treatment of prisoners as a separate one.

Perhaps Rumi put it best:

'If you would have mercy, show mercy to the weak.' and I can avoid the question all together. Words to live by.