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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

On Intersectionality

In the spirit of trying to find ideas small enough to write about, I'm going to write about intersectionality, even though I want somewhere nearby the bottom of my heart to move away from shitting on well intentioned people.

Intersectionality is a brilliant legal argument. You can hear the chief proponent (that I can find) of Intersectionality explain the origin of the term in a legal argument in this video. In the spirit of deference she's the champion of the concept.

The example starts at about the 6 minute mark of the talk and the relevant part, in the bare bones of the example: you had a black woman apply for a job at an automotive firm. She felt her application was rejected on a discriminatory basis and pursued it to court. The court could find an example of the employer, employing black people, and also employing women and rejected the claim.

Then the legal argument came in that the employer employed white women to do front-office, front-of-house type tasks, and black men to work the menial, physical jobs. So at the intersection of being black and a woman then, she was discriminated against by the employers policy.

That's as succinct as I can make the same argument, and I am admittedly not known for being succinct. I'm no Blaise Pascal, no George Orwell, no Abe Lincoln.

Intersectionality deals with multiple conditional logical if statements. These are not easy to write out in mathematical notation, though if you've ever had to use excel to do analysis on data in a workplace you probably have.

So in the example, the logic statement would probably be:

if (black>0) AND (woman>0) then Discrimination = 1

which when I say 'probable' I have no idea what the typographical notation is outside of excel for writing out logic statements. So if I find it hard to articulate mathematically, and you possibly, find my notation hard to decipher... you'll love when I try to encrypt the ideas of intersectionality into the multi-variable all inclusive concept of intersectionality.

Then you are talking about multiple nested and/or logic statements (I assume):

if (woman>0) and ((ethnic minority>0) or (disability>0) or (religion>0) or (queer>0)) or (ethnic minority>0) and ((disability>0) ... then discrimination = 1.

And from what I've voyeuristically spied from the sidelines, large catch all terms like 'person of color' or 'queer' etc. are not nuanced enough to properly capture the issues that intersectionality is designed to address.

For example, in LGBTIQA et al. issues, there is internal debate as to discrimination within the movement like gay men getting far more representation and winning far more recognition etc. than other groups like Bisexuals and Trans groups.

Different ethnicity are discriminated against in very different ways and also enjoy very different socio-economic status, such that 'people of color' is too broad when you have 'model minorities' like Asian and Sub-continental people being exploited by asset owning classes and African descent minorities being abused by law enforcement. There can even be nested discrimination within the same ethnic groups based on lightness of the skin, or caste status.

Disability can be sub-categorized into mental health issues, acquired brain injuries and other cognitive impairment and physical disabilities affecting mobility or sensory inputs. In turn disabilities can be experienced differently based on their visibility to outside observers.


At one point in her talk, Crenshaw says 'it's like discrimination squared' and that's interesting. Because it suggests that Intersectionality deals in power laws. Which is to say if you experience 3 points of discrimination for membership to an oppressed group, if you belong to two oppressed groups simultaneously you do not experience 6 points of discrimination, but 9. And three groups is not 9 points of discrimination but 27.

But Crenshaw also argues for the diminishing attention given to issues as they stack up. So if a black man is killed by police, that's making national headlines and dominating late night host monologues (in recent times), if a black woman is killed by police or in police custody, it gets written up and forgotten. That's a huge fucking drop off in attention.

And here is where, Intersectionality is a brilliant legal argument... but a terrible marketing strategy.

In their book 'Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind' which was mentioned no less than 4 times in 4 different subjects of my marketing degree and is basically better value to read than to do a whole marketing degree, the Authors ask you what a Cadillac is.

The answer is a Cadillac is a large luxury saloon American Car.

Then they ask you what a Ford is.

The answer is that a Ford is a small cheap economical efficient medium large luxury saloon sedan  limousine truck hot rod sports car... or something.

In marketing this has come to be known as product line extension which most often ends in 'Cannibalization'. The point being that in consumer minds a brand can only stand for so much, and it certainly can't stand for everything.

Hence Ries and Trout presented General Motors who created a brand per product line (cadillac for large luxury, Buick for medium economy etc) as a superior strategy to Ford's universal branding conceit, and why at the time of writing (the 80s) GM outsold Ford in every single category.

Similarly if Coke release Diet Coke, and Coke Zero, and Vanilla Coke, and Cherry Coke and so forth they may enjoy with each product launch a short-term uptick in sales but very quickly your products start competing with themselves (hence 'cannibalization')  rather than taking market share away from Pepsi, and it costs far more to run and stock and forecast supply for 8 product lines than 1, so weaker companies than the Coca Cola brand can bury themselves doing this.

Because Intersectionality as a concept is unwieldy, Crenshaw actually needed to come up with a metaphor of the intersection to the concept across to a judge. But a law court has people that are both experts at making arguments and experts at listening to arguments, figure out unwieldy complicated concepts and cases like this while poring over legal precedents and arguing the facts of the case and combing through documents in discovery and bound by legal standards and practices and burdens of proof and council can retreat to the judges chambers or approach the bench to slow the pace or make appeals as to how to proceed in the case, recesses can be declared and injunctions can be filed etc.

The courts and para-legal institutions (like a binding mediation) are the rare environments where arguments that require brilliance to implement properly can fly. It is a legal process conducted in front of a judicial authority - it is not public discourse where basically any one can believe what they want and the only thing that can hold them to any standard at all is external reality, which many members of the public don't believe in.

So let's look at intersectionality in practice. Here's an example I spotted that made me feel chagrin.

So some group has had enough of how women are treated, and they decided to set up a twitter account and promote their cause by pasting up excerpts from their twitter in fairly forward thinking and progressively aspirational Fitzroy. Then while fighting the 'good fight' and attacking the patriarchy, someone who has had enough of how transwomen and sex workers are treated decided to scrawl their disapproval of the narrow scope of the authors/distributors of these posters. All witnessed with aforementioned chagrin by myself, a white straight man.

And spotting this felt like standing on the ramparts looking at an army charging my gates with a battering ram, only to see another army, or another unit of the same army come and attack the troops carrying the battering ram.

It is here that I feel I need to point out to anyone invested in Intersectionality a logic puzzle as analogy. It's called 'the Pirate Game' which you can click the link for a very succinct and coherent description and explanation of the game.

What is important is that you have this hierarchy and at the top of the hierarchy is the Pirate captain. The captain gets to propose the division of the loot, however he must get a majority vote or a tie from the crew to save his own neck.

Intuition gives you one answer, if the captain wants the crew to vote for his proposal then he has to propose something fair, like 100 gold coins divided by 5 crew members = 20 each will save his skin.

That's actually the wrong answer and it is wrong for the same reason intersectionality is problematic in practice.

Wikipedia, describes the solution better, but basically pirate number 2 is fucked because of pirate number 3 who is fucked because of pirate number 4 who is fucked over by pirate number 5 so the captain gets just about all of the loot and pirates 5 and 3 give him the votes he needs for a pittance.

It's important to know that Pirate ships didn't work like this in real life and were some of the first functionally democratic organisations in recorded history (bearing more resemblance to post-enlightenment democracy than Athenian democracy).

There are few cases in history however where the oppressed population is also more numerous than the privileged classes. Apartheid South Africa was in part so overtly racist in stratifying South African society because the clear democratic majority where black and 'colored' South Africans. But in Australia the indigenous are a tiny fraction of the population, the same goes for every oppressed group bar women who possibly outnumber men which I think they do based on the last released census.

In which case intersectionality deals with multiplying fractions by fractions, so consider then the picture of the most marginalized member of society petitioning the patriarch for fair treatment and justice. 'Mr Man, what do you propose to do about how Queer Indigenous Muslim Women with Mental Health Issues and Physical Disability are treated under your laws?' To which the patriarch says 'What are you referring to?'

And here is where I depart from most critics of institutional power, in believing (and I don't have any real solid research to back this assertion) most oppression is simply a biproduct of institutions self-organizing to achieve their main goals. Overt, malicious oppression (like a politician scapegoating Mexicans or Muslims) are more the exceptions than the rule, and most oppression experienced daily by most people is the result of flawed design of the ordinary operation of a power structure.

Thus intersectionality is a poor marketing strategy because there's so much education required to explain how the very worst treated members of society exist at the intersection of all these design flaws in systems that were designed without them in mind. It is, in other words, the kind of really poor marketing strategy that engineers at automotive companies come up with all the time wanting to sell their own brilliance without considering that nobody else understands what anti-lock braking systems or diesel injection systems are or mean for them.

Of course if you've been to a rally recently, apart from maybe noticing the ever increasing initials of the LGBTIQA+ movement (itself probably a product of intersectionality) you'll really just hear the broad easy to digest themes like marriage equality, which really address the 'L' and the 'G' and to a lesser extent 'B' and 'T' and by the time you move past them for somebody outside the movement such as myself, the issues surrounding Intersex peoples, those identifying with Queer that don't fit LGBT and Asexuals are fading into to full obscurity.

What I imagine happens and only see occasionally in passing on social media or morbidly fascinating articles is that Intersectionality nests itself in movements in a logically recursive way.

If that last sentence was impenetrable, keep in mind I'm actually not that coherent, while I try and spell it out for you.

Women are 51% of the population of a majority white place (let's assume) and oppressed. At a meeting of oppressed women who are fed up, you will have some part of the that population be queer (let's assume 20%) these queer women form a subcommittee and of those queer women 10% are people of color. Picking arbitrarily easy numbers you have a 100 strong group of activists, within which 20 are queer and 2 are both queer and people of color.

If the 2 queer women of color want to take their issues direct to the streets that's 2 people and not a very intimidating protest (though individuals can often outperform groups but this is off topic). So what you get instead is nesting, where somehow those 2 women need to get all 100 activists to adequately represent them.

Now the actual nesting is going to be far less neat, like that massive AND/OR nested logic statement I didn't even bother to write out earlier. The important thing is that this works like the pirate game, and the pirate game is logical.

The designated chairperson gets up on the dais and yells into a microphone 'we are 100 strong, tomorrow we SMASH the patriarchy viva la matriarchy!!!' or something and the 20 queer women say 'hang on, hang on, hang on... say we help you smash the patriarchy straight women, what assurances do we have that once you are in charge you are going to affect changes to issues that affect us as queer women?' and the room descends into a charged and heated debate about representation and what not in the groups leadership committees and obtaining written assurances and collateral and identifying recourse and then 'hang on hang on hang on... queer women, when you are negotiating these deals are you negotiating for us? Us queer women of color? and what assurances do we have that in helping you secure your assurances on queer rights that you will continue to help us secure the rights we need as people of color?' and the negotiating power of the queer committee breaks down while they handle internal crisis.

Meanwhile the patriarchy, abstract concept that it is nevertheless can sleep soundly knowing it probably wont have to deal with 100 angry women at all tomorrow.

So Intersectionality is a really logical concept that in practice I am willing to bet: basically cripples social progress. Because it boils down in practice to introducing wedge issues, and/or wedge politics to socially progressive movements.

There's two 'solutions' one could approach, which is to figure out as previously illustrated, who in a movement is the singularly most oppressed (who stands at the most intersections) which is not easy in itself, and then solve all their problems and work your way back up from there, 'popping up' from the lowest nested level.

Which may in practice be no different from the other solution: basically requiring pirate number 2 to figure out a functioning utopia in order to have the Pirate captain ousted and everyone's situation to improve, which is the second approach.

And the second approach is kind of sensible, but consider how asymmetric it is. So without bothering with definitions (largely because the specifics don't matter) assume this abstract concept of the patriarchy is what needs overthrowing - it doesn't have to be perfect, it is an oppressive regime and all it has to do is be powerful (retain power). Like the pirate captain it has to pay out the bare minimum to keep its power on top. The next pirate along though, doesn't have to pay the minimum to win, instead it has to deliver everything to everybody in order to displace the tyrant. Thus any alternative to the status quo is incredibly costly to implement, while the status quo is incredibly cheap to maintain.

It should be noticed that just as technology makes everything more efficient, it has made ruling more efficient as well, and thus people who enjoy actual power have likely never been such a small proportion of the most privileged class as they are right now. Thus the vast majority of white straight men don't get to participate in societal power in any meaningful way at any stage of their lives. (They may however enjoy some power in microcosms like a family unit, over non-class members and they may enjoy the Pirate's game pittance in the form of authorities and customer service reps being friendlier and more accommodating to them right up until work makes them redundant and banks evict them from their homes.)

But that's a side note. The patriarchy doesn't have to be perfect, any contender group to overthrowing it does - it is sidelined until it can solve all the problems the patriarchy hasn't.

Thus the alternative strategy to Intersectionality I'd be inclined to recommend was articulated by former President Barrack Obama who said (somewhere) 'I have to keep reminding my people that better is good.' and by 'my people' I believe he was referring to his Whitehouse administrators.

He's re-wording the more widespread conventional wisdom that 'Perfect is the enemy of the good' and 'The good is the enemy of done.'

But it's a conundrum that offers me no answers, because with that power law-nesting problem, I believe probability basically says that as you multiply fractions they get smaller and smaller quite rapidly. So you start with everyone, then halve it, then multiply that by 10% (5%) and that by 10% (.5%) and then that by 3% (.015%) and by the time you are standing on the corner of a 4 road intersection you are dealing with populations so small that you need to nest your activism in a system of democracy where numbers = political will, while a big city may be able to contain half a city of women and then a village of queer women, it may have less than a handful of black lesbian paraplegics. Can you muster the numbers to protest the general population? I doubt it. Can you make a ruckus within a subsection of the general population? Probably. Just as a broad category like Women can get a voice for the broad issues of feminism in modern society, the population differences may mean you can get a voice in feminist circles but not in general society.

Of course, it should be said that life is not as neat as the Pirate game. Women in general can and have made progress despite all the internal political wedges that are debated... as far as I can gather...constantly. I also hear from the lived experiences of others, that the 'trickle-down' forms of activism work about as well as trickle-down economics. Where if one large group manage to secure their property rights, they disappear no longer turning out for the remaining downtrodden.

That said, in Crenshaw's own talk about death of black women by police and in police custody, we can't know if the #blacklivesmatter movement wouldn't address the problem regardless of gender, largely because it hasn't addressed the problem yet so much as give it widespread publicity. If indeed the stats hold out and more black women are killed by police than black men, then there is some unfairness to it that the people are only mobilized by the deaths of men - however this is true of most of history, and so I guess my inclination would be to eat the elephant one bite at a time.

A post-racial society may still be sexist, and a Gender-egalitarian society might still be racist, but both societies are better than the one a black woman lives in now. Of course the society I live in now is just peachy to me.

I don't have any answers but intersectionality isn't one of them.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

On the Egalitarian Approach

I've spent, I don't know... two or three years of my intellectual, cognitive life trying to figure out why I'm bothered so much by causes I feel I believe in. It seems a lot of people starting at the same point fall into this trap of going - if I don't like this feminism then I must be alt-right or some shit.

I feel though, for all my efforts I've managed to perceive a crucial distinction between a cause and how it is prosecuted. And most of what I don't like is 'the egalitarian approach'. 

Most people would, like me, not believe in a hardline form of egalitarianism. A core belief that everyone is so equal, that should you find yourself in the situation where you have one last chance to appeal your death sentence, their pretensions to egalitarianism would not equate a highly experienced and respected defense attorney and a randomly selected friend on social media. 

I believe most of us are not so egalitarian that we would say 'go ahead and spin that wheel because everyone is as good as everyone else.'

Most of us can readily recognise contexts in which egalitarianism can just fuck right off. Courts of Law, Sporting Contests, the Military, Festival Lineups, Restaurant Menus... but we seem curiously unable to recognise public discourse as one of these domains. Particularly when looking in the mirror.

And here's the kicker, for right-wing agendas, having an egalitarian approach is much less of an issue than it is for left-wing agendas. Namely, because right-wingers tend to support vertical heirarchies and non-egalitarian outcomes even if the make allusions to merit that are wrong.

Thus if you are wanting to tighten up on immigration in order to spend less on your immigration projects it doesn't matter too much for your agenda if a bunch of idiots grab tiki torches and march on some church. If people raise an uproar over them and their cause a right-winger can come right out and say 'we hear you, we were just legislating a crack down on public freedoms and right to assembly.' So if people take it upon themselves to represent a cause or agenda in an incredibly stupid way, it doesn't hurt too much if you are fundamentally anti-participation.

But the left wing is all about participation. But is much worse at distinguishing between advocating for participation/self-determination/equal opportunity/the pursuit of happiness and letting any old nob advocate for you.

For example look at this picture:
pro-social Helen Mirren, whom in the first coverage of this piece was also praised for holding her bag on her lap rather than placing it on a seat, is crowded out by the much derided and maligned 'manspreading' next to her.

But now let's change trains and hop on this one. This video was shown to me as an example of a white privileged male engaging in police brutality towards a woman of colour. But it's a terrible video. It depicts a pro-social police competently carrying out his duty in accordance with a law designed to protect the public and a belligerent teenager engaged in anti-social behavior. 

I must admit I haven't watched it to completion, so maybe it turns real real nasty at some point, but within the first 4 minutes of the video, I'd be hard pressed to identify anything in the officers conduct that is even remotely questionable while the 18 year old girl manages to completely incriminate herself as well as the bystanders who manage to profess their ignorance.

And here's the thing, police abuse of power and institutional racism is a serious fucking issue, that deserves to be taken seriously. The people on the shitty end of this stick need really good advocacy not just in institutional and official reviews but in the public sphere as well.

At about the 2 minute mark the girl says 'this is so fucking unfair you have no right to take me off the train because I had my foot on the seat because I was comfortable like that, there's no law...' and it's important to note that these are not statements of fact but of opinion. At one point bystanders question the officer as to what law, what rule. All of the visible bystanders appear to have smart phones in which case they could also look up the rule themselves... which I did it's on page 4 in quite large print. And unfortunately if you don't know something it can still be illegal. I didn't even know LA had trains, doesn't stop the trains from working.

Virtually everyone in this video owes the officer an apology, and the girl who failed to comply with the officers instructions probably owes an apology to everyone on the train for delaying them by acting like a petulant child. At best, she would have had a potential damages claim for her public humiliation and psychological distress, except that her own contribution to the situation is now well documented and most of the humiliation she owes to the well intentioned bystanders filming the incident and publishing it online.

This is the egalitarian approach's severe and crippling limit. You can't have advocacy with no quality control or you wind up giving grist to the people standing in the way of progress, and you become someone that hampers progress.

Now recently I'd been trying to educate myself on postmodernism, and my exploration of Michel Focault has rather than being enlightening, a stupefying experience for me. I just pulled this off his wikiquote page to defer to a community's sensibility of what is a fair quotation:

I try to carry out the most precise and discriminative analyses I can in order to show in what ways things change, are transformed, are displaced. When I study the mechanisms of power, I try to study their specificity... I admit neither the notion of a master nor the universality of his law. On the contrary, I set out to grasp the mechanisms of the effective exercise of power; and I do this because those who are inserted in these relations of power, who are implicated therein, may, through their actions, their resistance, and their rebellion, escape them, transform them—in short, no longer submit to them. And if I do not say what ought to be done, it is not because I believe there is nothing to be done. Quite on the contrary, I think there are a thousand things to be done, to be invented, to be forged, by those who, recognizing the relations of power in which they are implicated, have decided to resist or escape them. From this point of view, my entire research rests upon the postulate of an absolute optimism. I do not undertake my analyses to say: look how things are, you are all trapped. I do not say such things except insofar as I consider this to permit some transformation of things. Everything I do, I do in order that it may be of use.

I am not smart enough to decipher (lit. de-cipher) what the fuck Focault is actually saying - does power exist or not? Even being charitable and extending a benefit of a doubt that Focault suffers largely from translation - like no philosopher I have ever come across before, I haven't found an example of Focault yet that approaches intelligibility. Even the more penetrable quotes like: 'Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?' are functionally vacuous like 'LISTEN has the same letters as SILENT.' 

My inability to understand what the fuck Focault is talking about is only so relevant as it concerns egalitarianism- does it inspire confidence in me that a randomly selected friend of mine on social media is going to understand what Focault is talking about.

Whatever Michel is advocating, he is himself a terrible advocate for himself. I have to defer though to the fact that he is regarded as a highly influential philosopher, and let's now look at one of the philosophers he influenced, Judith Butler:

"When we say that gender is performed, we usually mean that we've taken on a role; we're acting in some way…To say that gender is performative is a little different…For something to be performative means that it produces a series of effects. We act and walk and speak and talk that consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman…we act as if that being of a man or that being of a woman is actually an internal reality or simply something that is true about us. Actually, it is a phenomenon that is being produced all the time and reproduced all the time."

To some extent I get the same thing, I'm not smart enough to really penetrate what is being said, although with Butler whose native language is the same as mine, what might be more accurate is to say I don't understand in her theory of gender performativity why she wouldn't say instead the much simpler and well supported conclusion 'we are what we do.'

Now steering back to egalitarianism, I have a thorough non-understanding of postmodernism, largely because thus far in my exploration it has a seemingly well deserved reputation for finding the most complicated way to say nothing at all, I have absolutely zero faith in virtually anyone I know being able to hold this philosophy in their head and understand it when they come out to advocate against our existing power structures.

What I think happens instead is that people incompetently license themselves to act on a very popular intuition that we are who think we are and thus nobody has the right to tell us who we are. And that intuition isn't nuanced enough to work in society. (that's an interesting argument to have, but another post altogether).

Let's take a breath and illustrate this point through the concept of delegation.

Management economics is a concept touted by the creators of 'Manager Tools' a business podcast explained in a 4 minute video here. But for my purposes it's a pretty basic principle that leads into a pretty basic rule of thumb. So if you have an organization where one person up the top is paid $1 million dollars and a person below her is paid $10,000 and both of them can do the same task to the same quality, it should be done by the person who is paid less. 

This is 'management' economics because it is to do with delegation, a manager actually gets to choose which tasks they do themselves and which tasks people reporting to them can/should do. And some managers are bad at delegating tasks hence they need the principle explained.

Basically if you are paid more, then your obligation is to do only the tasks that only you can do, and anything anyone paid less can do as well, you delegate to them. That's the principle.

Now, what if they can do it, but not as well? Here is the rule of thumb: if there's a task that somebody paid less than you can do to 70% of the quality you would, and you should, delegate. (Strictly speaking you could break down the salaries and numbers and come up with an exact economically rational quality threshold of when to delegate and when to do it yourself, however you are paid a lot of money to spend your time on the most effective and productive tasks you can accomplish, and scrutinizing every delegation decision to precision is probably self-defeating.) 

Now the question: what's 70%^5? or .7 x .7 x .7 x .7 x .7? 

It's in the neighborhood of 16%. 

This describes a situation where the rule of thumb becomes chained - a problematic situation. Here the person earning a million delegates a task to 500k person because they can do it 70% as well, they in turn look at 300k who can do it 70% (but 49% as well as 1M) as well as them and they delegate it down again. 300k delegates to 120k and 120k delegates ... until some entry level staffer on 25k a year is faced with completing a task originally put on the CEO's desk and the 70% rule has compounded to 10% relative to the CEO.

Now substitute the millionaire with someone like Ta-Nahesi Coates or Malcolm Gladwell, advocating for progress in the issue of institutional racism. And substitute someone 10 rungs down the organisational chain with the bystanders filming the officer removing a teenager from the train. Up top you have journalists who are very good at making articulate and intelligible arguments and down the bottom you have people who don't understand basic but unintuitive concepts like the rule of law, public goods, public property, consumer rights and who haven't bothered to even fact check themselves that indeed putting feet on the seats is against the rules.

Who do you want advocating for the cause?

And more to the point, this isn't an example of delegation, it's an example of the Donning Kruger effect wrapped up in a sense of righteousness that excuses one from having to understand anything. There's no hierarchy delegating the task of holding public servants accountable down the line. What the internet and social media have facilitated is not an increase in chained-delegation, but a complete lack of deference. 

Consider that a 22 year old woman managed to get herself arrested and charged, defending a person who broke the rules and failed to comply with reasonable requests for cooperation, in the absence of any objective use of excessive force and it was all documented including by the officer's body cam. 

That's moronic.

Go right-wing though, and it isn't quite the same. Now you are on a train at 1am in the early hours of a Saturday morning travelling home from a big friday night wondering which patron of the train is going to vomit on the floor. Here though, a white man in his mid 40s who didn't complete high school and has struggled on and off with unemployment and substance abuse problems decides to appoint himself to the front line of the war on terror by harassing a man with a higher concentration of melanin in his skin. 

His qualification to 'fight terror' are that he has a valid ticket to be on this train and he's a little loaded. He's not even 10% as capable of identifying a terror cell as a counter-terrorism expert working for a regulated and state sponsored police service. You yourself may be eminently more capable of fighting terror than he, simply by being able to visually discern between an Islamic Jihadist and a Hindu Engineering Student which he cannot. But that doesn't mean you even meet the quality threshold to do anything about terrorism.

There are things everyday plebs can contribute towards civilization. A campaign like 'if you see something, say something' though is not a strict act of delegation, deputizing every citizen to take the laws into their own hands. On the right-wing, the campaign strictly speaking, if you scrutinize the words, a call for citizens to defer to proper authorities. To report activities to people capable of dismissing it or pursuing it.

One thing everyone can do on the left-wing though rather than forming para-legal kangaroo courts because of your inherent cynacism to any formal institution, is refrain from arguing and simply reinforcing social norms. This is the best advice I've heard. Rather than saying 'don't you think what you are saying is racist Ted?' it means saying 'okay Ted, but we don't discriminate based on race here.'

There's also a problem with deference too. Expertise has it's limits, fields like psychiatry and economics and nutrition are a rich history of problems and corruption. However just because a field of expertise is contentious doesn't make it the equal of complete ignorance: you should still defer to an expert critic to advocate against established orthodoxy. 

There's this documented psychological phenomena called the Donning Kruger effect, and word is it has caught fire on discussion boards and is now often employed as a fallacy, but it is a real thing. In summary it's the phenomena where the less you know about something the less you assume there is to know, and so you overestimate your own proficiency.

Consider the distribution of IQ, I've never actually sat a formal testing for it, and it doesn't really matter what you think of IQ, the point is it's normally distributed and documented. So two-thirds of the population have an IQ between 85-115, if you have an IQ of 116 that means that sitting at a table of 6 people, you are the smartest person at the table. At 120, if you are in an elevator with 8 other people in it, odds are you are the smartest one there. So by 120 you are already going to have lived a life where you were one of the top 10 performers in school, people will have been telling you how smart you are all your life and this notion will have constantly been reinforced. But to be confident you have a crack at being the smartest among all your facebook friends, you actually need an IQ of at least 144. that's 1/336 people rare. 

This argument is specifically bogus in all kinds of ways, and that's because I'm not smart enough to make a better one, but the key thing is to note the implicit hubris in tackling a nuanced and complicated issue in a public setting with no formal training. Even if people have told you you are smart all your life, the sea is vast and full of all kinds of people and there are intellectual giants that would stomp on you, and there are certainly social problems too complicated and nuanced and cross-disciplinary for you to have anything substantial to offer on your lonesome... Sadly the smartest people alive are often but one intellectual elephant in a sea of intellectual mice repeating arguments that have evolved through hearsay and motivated reasoning and confirmation bias and appeals to ignorance.

If it's your thing, it's kind of amusing to look up Chomsky on Zizek on Youtube, and to a lesser extent Zizek's response. Chomsky accuses Zizek of posturing and lacking any content. Zizek's response is basically a rambling content-less rant. Zizek thinks he's a really smart guy, and the notion is being reinforced. That notion is revealed as fragile when Chomsky more or less dismisses him and his intellectual tradition, then if you want to see yet more hubris, dip below the lines and look at the kind of 'intellectuals' that comment on youtube videos featuring Chomsky or Zizek and ask yourself how much value any of their comments add. 

If the answer to that is 0 value, then I've at least gotten somewhere in illustrating the problem with the egalitarian approach. 

Public discourse I believe, is subject to economies of scale. Certain people are better at dissuading and persuading than others. Notably competent experts and comedians. One of them can sway the tide of public opinion if given the right platform and not shouted down by their own idiotic supporters. Like champion warfare, the sway of public opinion can be carried by the outcomes of two single combatants. I like comedians because comedy is disarming, meaning they are better than most at getting through partisanship and making people reconsider a previously held belief. Competent experts are transparently ideal because they aren't prone to all the fallacies the general public can intuitively lapse into.

Including myself, I don't know a single person I'd have confidence in to debate a character like Jordan Peterson. If there had to be a debate I'd want someone like Robert Sapolsky or Noam Chomsky to champion me, and I feel like Sapolsky is too nice a guy to get into such a debate, and Chomsky is too mean a guy to debate Peterson, and perhaps we all should be taking a cue from them. 

What I feel happens is, that on the right side of the political spectrum the tendency to look for hierarchy and defer to a champion perhaps in part explains the rise of Peterson's popularity. Whereas on the left-side of the spectrum, the inclination to advocate for Trans-rights, Disability advocacy, Post-Racial etc. inclines one to not rally behind elite white men like Sapolsky or Chomsky and instead form mobs of 'equals' who are easily derided and dismissed for their lack of consistency and coherency, yet sadly can have a half-assed impact on politics as centrist left parties make ill conceived tokenistic gestures towards them to secure their vote. 

An excellent example of the left-side of politics getting this champion-warfare right is Billy-Jean King vs Bobby Riggs in the 1973 exhibition match, "the battle of the sexes". The movie is well worth watching if you really get a bad taste in your mouth over the thought of deferring to someone better able to champion your cause.

The big problem for the left of course, is the fallacy fallacy, which is that if you commit a fallacy it doesn't mean you are wrong, it just means your argument doesn't prove your point. Margaret Court lost to Bobby Riggs, which as we know doesn't justify a pay gap between female and male tennis athletes - something we now know only because King threw down and handled Bobby Riggs. Any listeners, and particularly partisan listeners will seize on the fallacy fallacy to feel in the right and dismiss your position, so proceed incompetently with caution. 

I would guess, that most people on most issues gravitate towards a position of not caring. Then there are noisy motivated minorities on either side. I don't give a shit if angry young men go Alt-right and make shitty arguments and alienate themselves. I do care if advocates for vulnerable groups make shitty arguments and successfully alienate the very people they are fighting for and set progress back another 10 years.