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robertogreco : cluelessness   2

The myth of the male bumbler
"There's a reason for this plague of know-nothings: The bumbler's perpetual amazement exonerates him. Incompetence is less damaging than malice. And men — particularly powerful men — use that loophole like corporations use off-shore accounts. The bumbler takes one of our culture's most muscular myths — that men are clueless — and weaponizes it into an alibi.

Allow me to make a controversial proposition: Men are every bit as sneaky and calculating and venomous as women are widely suspected to be. And the bumbler — the very figure that shelters them from this ugly truth — is the best and hardest proof.

Breaking that alibi means dissecting that myth. The line on men has been that they're the only gender qualified to hold important jobs and too incompetent to be responsible for their conduct. Men are great but transparent, the story goes: What you see is what you get. They lack guile.

The "privilege" argument holds that this is partly true because men have never needed to deceive. This interesting Twitter thread by Holden Shearer has been making the rounds: "One of the oldest canards in low-denominator comedy is that women are inscrutable and men can't understand them. There's a reason for this and it ain't funny," he writes. The thread is right about the structural problems with lowbrow "women are so confusing!" comedy. "Women VERY frequently say one thing and mean another, display expressions or reactions that don't jibe with their feelings, and so on. But it's actually really easy to decode once you understand why it happens. It is survival behavior," Shearer writes.

But nested in that account is the assumption that the broad majority of men are not dissemblers. The majority are — you guessed it — bumblers! If you've noticed a tendency to treat girls — like the 14-year-old whom now-Senate candidate Roy Moore allegedly picked up at her custody hearing — as knowing adults and men in their 30s — like Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos and Donald Trump, Jr. — as erring youngsters, large sons and "coffee boys," this is why. Our culture makes that script available. It's why Sessions is so often referred to as an "elf" instead of a gifted manipulator (here's a very clever analysis of his strategy, which weaponizes our tendency to read white men — even very old attorneys with a long history of maliciously undermining civil rights — as slow, meandering children who know not what they do.)

It's counterintuitive, I know. For decades now, the very idea of a duplicitous, calculating man has been so exceptional as to be almost monstrous; this is the domain of cult leaders, of con artists, of evil men like the husband in Gaslight. And while folks provisionally accept that there are men who "groom" children and "gaslight" women, the reluctance to attach that behavior to any real, flesh-and-blood man we know is extreme. Many people don't actually believe that normal men are capable of it.

Back when Dylan Farrow's allegations about Woody Allen were in the news, people quickly glommed onto Allen's exculpatory claim that Mia Farrow "brainwashed" her children into lying about him. It was fascinating, both because the claim was pretty evidence-free and because Woody Allen had blatantly and repeatedly admitted to manipulating and grooming Soon-Yi Previn. But, because Allen so skillfully deployed the script of the bumbler, everyone failed to see his behavior in those terms. Allen's portrayal of himself — he barely knows what he had for breakfast! — was just that effective. Never mind that he's so organized, ambitious, driven, confident, and purposeful that he successfully puts out a movie a year.

As the accusations of sexual misconduct roiling politics, publishing, and Hollywood continue to stack up, a few things are going to happen. The first stage of a phenomenon like this will always be to characterize the accused men as exceptions, as bad apples. #NotAllMen, the saying goes. But the second is that everyone is going to try to naturalize sexual harassment. If there are this many men doing these things, then surely this is just how men are! that argument will go. There's a corollary lurking underneath there: They can't help themselves. They're bumblers."



"Back when Dylan Farrow's allegations about Woody Allen were in the news, people quickly glommed onto Allen's exculpatory claim that Mia Farrow "brainwashed" her children into lying about him. It was fascinating, both because the claim was pretty evidence-free and because Woody Allen had blatantly and repeatedly admitted to manipulating and grooming Soon-Yi Previn. But, because Allen so skillfully deployed the script of the bumbler, everyone failed to see his behavior in those terms. Allen's portrayal of himself — he barely knows what he had for breakfast! — was just that effective. Never mind that he's so organized, ambitious, driven, confident, and purposeful that he successfully puts out a movie a year.

As the accusations of sexual misconduct roiling politics, publishing, and Hollywood continue to stack up, a few things are going to happen. The first stage of a phenomenon like this will always be to characterize the accused men as exceptions, as bad apples. #NotAllMen, the saying goes. But the second is that everyone is going to try to naturalize sexual harassment. If there are this many men doing these things, then surely this is just how men are! that argument will go. There's a corollary lurking underneath there: They can't help themselves. They're bumblers."
millicentsomer  ignorance  guile  gender  privilege  men  patriarchy  2017  louisck  mikepence  michaelflynn  elijahcummings  davebecky  jeffsessions  woodyallen  power  cluelessness  alibis  loopholes  malice  bumblers  georgepapadopoulos  donaldtrumpjr  roymoore  gaslighting  sexism  dylanfarrow  miafarrow  #notallmen  harveyweinstein  billo'reilly  brettratner  benjamingenocchio  sexualharrassment  myths  control  romanpolanski  oliverstone  donaldtrump  volkerschlöndorff  dustinhoffman  nancywells  jamestoback  rachelmcadams  rogerailes 
november 2017 by robertogreco
The Creation and Destruction of Habits
"1/ There are two kinds of stories: about forming habits, and about preserving them. Superhero movies and Christmas movies.

2/ While you have room to grow in your life, forming habits is much easier than breaking habits. Neither is easy, however.

3/ A habit, once formed, demands use. This is because it exists as a sunk cost. Disuse would imply depreciating value.

4/ A living habit generates returns and grows more complex over time. This is growth. Growing habits occupy more room over time.

5/ A dying habit generates losses and grows simpler over time. This is decay. Dying habits decay to occupy less room over time.

6/ You are grown up when you run out of room to grow and are forced to break old habits in order to form new ones.

7/ The alternative to growing up is to preserve existing habits against decay through mummification. This is ritualization.

8/ To ritualize a habit is to decide to sustain steady losses for the indefinite future. This means feeding it with make-work.

9/ Living habits are ugly. Constant growth and increasing complexity means they always appear as an unrefined work-in-progress.

10/ The reward of a ritual is comforting, relived memories of once-profitable habits. These can be passed on for generations.

11/ Rituals are beautiful. Mummification is the process of aestheticizing a behavior to produce comfort instead of profit.

12/ Comforts must be paid for. But it is an easy decision to rob the ugly to pay the beautiful. Growth must pay for decay.

13/ Living habits can be valued in terms of expected future returns. Comforts cannot because they are being sustained despite losses.

14/ Living habits have a price. Rituals are price-less. They represent comforts worth preserving at indeterminate cost.

15/ Price-less comforts evolve from things-that-cannot-be-priced to things-that-must-not-be-priced. This is sacralization.

16/ The sacred price-less is the economic priceless. We drop the hyphen and add a notional price of infinity. This is a sacred value.

17/ The ritualized habit associated with a sacred value becomes a virtue: a behavior that serves as is its own justification.

18/ Virtues are behaviors that are recognized as their own justification by their unchanging beauty. The sacred is beautiful.

19/ Vice is that which cannot visibly co-exist with virtue: it is behavior that justifies its own suppression or marginalization.

20/ Profanity is an inchoate mixture of virtue and vice. Experimentation separates ugly profanity into future virtues and vices.

21/ When your living habits cannot pay for their own growth, and you sacrifice beauty for experimentation, you get innovation.

22/ When your living habits can pay for their own growth and your comforting rituals, you have a beautiful life. This is individualism.

23/ When living habits can pay for themselves but not for comforts, you have a problem. This is failed individualism: depression.

24/ If you try to strip away comforts and retain only growth, you have cognitive-behavioral cancer. This is being manic.

25/ You can pretend that comforts are profits. To do this you deny new data and restate old justifications. This is called derping.

26/ You can also strip away rituals, deliberately making your life uglier by unburdening living habits. This is called empiricism.

27/ You can strip away enough ritual to keep your life ugly at work and beautiful at home. This is called being a loser.

28/ You can confuse the beautiful with the living and the ugly with dying and strip away the wrong things. This is called cluelessness.

29/ You can consciously develop your ability to contemplate both ugliness and beauty with equanimity. This is called mindfulness.

30/ You can strip away rituals up to the limit of your mindfulness, staying on the edge of manic-depression. This is being a sociopath.

31/ The most common response to failed individualism, however, is to get others to pay for your comforts. This is called culture.

32/ A culture that cannot pay for its own comforts overall is a called a tradition. One that has no comforts to pay for is called a frontier.

33/ Tradition is beautiful, frontiers are ugly. To mistake one for the other is the defining characteristic of the clueless middle class.

33/ A culture that is more tradition than frontier is a loser culture. Sincere partisan conservatism and liberalism are both for losers.

34/ A culture that is more frontier than tradition is sociopath culture. It offers few comforts and fewer sacred ones.

35/ A compassionate culture is one that drives each member to the limit of their mindfulness. It is inclusive by definition.

36/ A beautiful culture is one that highlights comforting tradition and hides profit and profanity. It is extractive by definition.

37/ A culture cannot be both compassionate and beautiful at once without ceasing to grow. To be a sociopath is to recognize this.

38/ A culture that ceases to grow is a culture that increasingly trades compassion for beauty, paying more for its priceless elements.

39/ A culture that chooses to grow is one that systematically devalues beauty and resists the allure and comfort of pricelessness.

40/ Civilization is the mortal tension between the imperative to keep growing and the imperative to remain beautiful.

41/ Those who choose beauty tell one kind of story, about a relatively shrinking set of beautiful things that define the human.

42/ Those who choose growth tell another kind of story, about an expanding zone of mindfulness that defines the superhuman."
culture  humans  ideology  venkateshrao  2014  habits  growth  frontiers  balance  tradition  ritual  sociopathy  conservatism  liberalism  individualism  mindfulness  cluelessness  comforts  empiricism  derping  depression  experimentation  beauty  marginalization  pricelessness  comfort  complexity  ritualization  makework  mummification  sacralization  sacredness  virtue  justification  life  living  behavior  manicdepression  civilization  rituals 
february 2015 by robertogreco

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