27 May 2014

Our .02 Concerning The Tragedy This Weekend

Chewie and I are still stunned over the tragic loss of life in Isla Vista, California over the recent Memorial Day weekend. We are further horrified by the apparent motives of the now-deceased gunman, identified as Elliot Rodger. As a couple of guys who are quite familiar with the ‘Sphere, with American culture, and with what we’ve said vis-a-vis dating and relationships, all of this hits quite close to home for both of us. What we have is both our thoughts on the subjects and a few personal notes [enclosed in brackets like this] to elucidate these thoughts with greater clarity.  Thus, we believe the need to articulate our .02 concerning it, which shall also be all that we say of it.

First and foremost, the issues here go far beyond the usual “liberal versus conservative” divides and the related squabbles over policy (e.g. gun control). They even transcend the petty gender-politic battles that crop up in our society. Let us repeat: THIS IS NOT A PARTISAN, POLICY, OR GENDER DEBATE. This tragedy exposes deeper things that rigidly fall into the fundamental cores of our society, and directly questions some key aspects of the unwritten social contract. It is time for ALL of us as a society to throw away the partisan and gender-studies labels and ask ourselves things like:

a.) Why do we as a society allow angry people of any stripe to unleash violence?
b.) Why do we as a society allow mass media and the prevailing culture itself to seemingly glorify violence (be it to oneself or to others) as an acceptable solution to personal problems?
c.) Why do we promote an aura of pervasive selfishness among our people?
d.) Why have we decided to leave our systems of support for the mentally ill to be hopelessly broken?

These are serious questions that, as a collective entity, all of us need to be asking ourselves. I do not know the answers myself; nor does anyone else. Rather, those would have to be found as a collective entity. It requires changes to our culture and what we value in society. No one person can do that single-handedly. Nor will enacting reams of laws or attempting to blame other entities (e.g. liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans, feminists, men’s rights activists, the SPLC, etc. ad infinitum) ultimately help matters or prevent further acts like what has happened. This is not a time for division, but one for unity and of reaching out across the aisles. 

In this spirit, we take somber note that already the politicising and “spinning” of Mr Rodger’s heinous crime has begun. We’re not simply referring to the popularity of the hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter, but also to be found in reports on Fox News and the Washington Post, and even with RooshV’s post on the popular Manosphere site ReturnOfKings (which we find to be a particularly repulsive and contemptible attempt to self-aggrandise and profit from this tragedy). Clearly it is never out of the realm of possibility for copycat crimes to occur, and it certainly is both possible and plausible for these copycats to have female perpetrators against male victims. Consider the insane ramblings of a woman who went by the alias “Femitheist Divine” and her calls to murder and/or mutilate most every man on the planet, of the now-infamous "SCUM Manifesto," or of Catherine Kieu Becker, who drugged her husband and painfully sliced off his penis only to throw it down the garbage disposal in the kitchen.

Would many of these same people who are spinning Rodger's rampage make excuses for such a woman committing violent acts against men and women, or would they harshly condemn it in no uncertain terms? We suspect many would do the former, even though it is fundamentally the same sexist attitude that drove Mr Rodger to commit his. Certainly, nobody seriously condemned Kieu Becker’s husband’s mutilation; in fact Sharon Osborne was giggling and cracking jokes about it on national television. Yet, this disgustingly cavalier attitude of certain people being disposable and deserving of harm due to one’s personal failures or insecurities is a common thread between all of these incidents. This attitude and our society accepting it at all against anybody is something we should examine and rectify.

In short, what we mean is that if we as a society find that if we want to banish this particular ill, we must be willing to shine the light on toxic sexism of all stripes—we all must remember that neither gender, nor any particular political movement, has cornered the metaphorical market on deranged craziness. And until we are willing to expose and resolve this pervasive undercurrent of sexism (misogyny AND misandry alike), we sadly will see more extremists cropping up with their twisted desires to inflict their vile designs—and that some of them will be successful in causing violent harm to innocent people in our society. This insanity, be it misogynistic or misandric, must be put to a quick and permanent end.

That being said, there is one more aspect to all of this that disturbs us so, and that is the motive behind Mr Rodger’s massacre. It is plainly evident that he felt he was justified in causing harm or death to people because he himself wasn’t being successful romantically or sexually; it is not a stretch to say that his warped view was one of "If I can't have them, nobody will." He placed the blame on his personal failures upon women as a gender for not running to him and offering their sex to him on demand.

Worse, other men are actually praising both his actions and the incredibly misanthropic whining behind him. It is beyond sickening to even consider offering anything but harsh condemnation for a deadly rampage that took six innocent lives.

[Cato's Personal note #1: I know much of the pain that Elliot Rodger felt all too well; when I was 22 I too was a kissless virgin and sexually frustrated. Yes, it is a veritable abyss. And yes, it is extremely painful to observe and suffer through. Despite the immense torment I felt, not once did I ever consider it appropriate to even think about "taking matters into my own hands" and violently cause harm or mayhem to other people--much less actually doing so. Violence is never an acceptable solution to dealing with your own personal troubles--much less against innocents.]

Both Chewie and I can attest firsthand and say that it seriously sucks to be adrift in a culture that seems to glorify having sex to the point of making it seem like everyone but you is involved in this mass orgy. To make matters worse, yes, the contemporary notions of dating are rather twisted and unyoked; ergo the rise of self-styled “pickup artists” and the colloquially-called “Manosphere” in popular culture. Yes, many men do get the proverbial “short end of the stick” when it comes to dating; that is undeniable, and yes, they do feel an immense pain and hurt that shakes them to their very cores. It also doesn’t help that our contemporary culture tends to heavily lean towards nadirs that are superficial and narcissistic.

It is our opinion that as a society we can and should recognise this phenomenon for what it is (a horrible system premised far too often on assumptions and shallow cultural messages), and that we should strive to rectify it to the best of our abilities. We should seek to construct a more just system of interaction between people, and also remember that the simple Golden Rule handed to us by Christ works quite well in both of these objectives: “And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31, RSV).

There is one overarching element that Mr Rodger, as well as those who laud his actions, continue to brazenly overlook. This element is the role that the social systems of dating and sex are to play in society. Specifically, these people fail to see that dating (and by extension, sex) is neither everything in life nor the singular defining characteristic of self-worth. After all, there is far more to life than simply getting the proverbial notches on the bedpost or being seen in public with a stunningly-attractive woman.

Indeed, this axiom is true to the point where virtually no man is truly hopeless if he is honest with himself and works to improve himself (both outwardly and in character) regardless of whether he’s successful in the bedroom as the improvements to himself—be they physical, mental, intellectual, or to his personality and spirit carries over to other aspects of his life (i.e. the boardroom). The self-styled “PUA” community would of course refer to this as “game” but the principle itself goes back to time immemorial.

There is an appropriate way of dealing with these pains though; there is in fact a ‘right’ way to render oneself a victim no more. It requires a lot of work, help from friends, reaching out, getting professional help, and being honest with yourself to make improvements; all of which I note that Mr Rodger could have done much more easily than I could because he had access to much more and better-quality resources. Nobody said life was going to be fair or easy.

[Cato's Personal note #2: Did “game” help things? Yes and no. A lot of what I found simply didn’t fit my personality; what did are the foundations of building healthy levels of self-respect, self-pride, and self-confidence. These foundations aren’t just found on the “gurus” websites; they’re in practically every reputable leadership or management book out there—including Dale Carnegie’s seminal book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (which was first published in 1936). They’re in mastering skills related to hobbies or passions that one has (and frankly, very few people don’t have SOMETHING to that end which they can use). And they're in developing social connections of all stages; indeed as a golf instructor I knew years ago put it: "get the shot straight first, then the distance will come."]

To do all of that though, we must note that one really cannot be an egotistical narcissist like Mr Rodger. One cannot be myopic or blind to their faults; they cannot arrogantly believe that their “poop does not stink.” And we believe that until one’s willing to put ego and such inflated self-notions aside, one shouldn’t expect to make a lot of forward progress. Call it unfair/unjust/criminal, whatever. It is what it is; and one only has exactly two options: deal with it and adjust accordingly, or continue with the status quo and accept what follows.

[Cato's Personal note #3: For what it is worth, I chose the former (while Mr Rodger chose the latter and let it fester until he threw his deadly tantrum). I reached out, built my social circle, built up confidence in social situations with women (which I give some credit to the strip clubs), sought to improve myself in technology (both on personal and professional levels) and finally asked girls out on dates. Sure, I got rejected, but I also had success; like baseball, you don’t need to get a base hit at every at bat; the best players end up out seven-tenths of the time.]

But, even if his goal was to “get laid,” he had multiple avenues for doing just that. Yet the evidence released thus far doesn’t suggest that he actually made efforts to improve his demeanor or reach out to women—he didn’t, for example, set up online dating profiles. He didn’t patronise prostitutes or strip clubs (and really, given that he lived in SoCal and had the money for it, he could have driven to Nevada and legally visit a brothel). He apparently made no effort to conceal his tendencies as a stalker, and indeed most people could see that he was the type of person who is desperate, clingy, and mercurial—not surprisingly, most people didn’t really want anything to do with him. Did he seriously calm down and ask himself “what do they have that I apparently don’t?” The evidence rather strongly suggests no.

In any case, both of us want to make clear that the pains of romantic and sexual frustration do not amount to any excuse for taking innocent lives or inflicting violence; jt never was, is not, and never will be. Such a fanatical and deranged recourse is not only an inappropriate, but in our minds the most heinous and cruel way of dealing with the personal pain. Such a course of action is not only unjustifiable and indefensible by any rational measure, but self-evidently so.

Make no mistake, what this deranged man did was an inherently uncivilised act of extreme cowardice that snuffed out innocent lives full of promise, and if the multitudes of bloggers and commenters in this Manosphere have any shred of self-respect or decency they will promptly and forcefully condemn the actions of Mr Rodger. Further, they will seek to dissuade other men from following that same destructive path. And, if the Manosphere as a collective entity wants to be taken seriously as a force to help society (and in particular to actually provide useful advice to men as an aid toward genuinely improving themselves), it will not only put Mr Rodger’s words and deeds into contempt, but shun those who laud or praise this unspeakable crime. We condemn his actions and words, and we invite other men of goodwill to do the same. After all,

CAUSING HARM TOWARD THE INNOCENT FOR ANY REASON IS NO VIRTUE AND SHOULD NEVER BE CONDONED OR PRAISED. 

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