Thursday, October 17, 2019

Who Is Meghan Daum?

You might not have heard of Meghan Daum, a fine New York writer who has a new book coming out next week. It’s called: The Problem with Everything. Evidently one has not read it. Just as evidently, it seems well worth mention, notice and even perusal. For the record, I do not know her. But, I like her writing. Sometimes, that’s enough.

Besides, Daum’s approach feels adult and temperate, a voice of reason in the midst of the cacophonous din. In an essay for a site that seems to be called M Gen, she writes:

In the end, the book isn’t an indictment of badasses or an evisceration of wokeness as much as a call for nuance. It’s an expression of my sincere hope that we can stop being afraid of our own contradictions and confusions and recognize that feeling conflicted is the essence of honest thinking.

Sounds good to me. If we lack anything these days, it’s nuance, the sign of flexible thinking, the antidote to fanaticism.

To market her book she has contributed an extended and enthralling essay for The Guardian. What’s it about the Guardian? The subject is the difference between older and younger feminists. To be fair, she writes, women have made great progress over the past five decades. Why has this progress left them embittered and angry, lashing out against men, even working tirelessly to destroy as many men as possible?

In the Guardian essay, Daum does not offer an explanation. But still, one pops immediately into mind. Today’s young feminists have been indoctrinated in leftist ideology, to the point where they no longer know how to think. Nuance escapes them. Negotiating difficult situations is beyond their capacity. They do not know how to build, buildings or lives. They rant and rave, lash out and destroy… because it’s what they know how to do. It’s all they know how to do.

To be more blunt, many young feminists have engaged in activities that they know they should not have been engaging in. And they do not feel good about themselves. But, rather than change their behavior, they blame anyone who thinks ill of them.

So, Daum begins by describing life as a young single woman in New York City two decades ago. I would mention, to keep it in perspective, that New York City was then and is now a special place. It was defined by a controlled anarchy, a place where multicultural diversity had made social interactions into something like a free-for-all. People were not concerned with getting along with each other, with working together. They were trying to see what they could get away with. When the social fabric is rent, it’s what happens. Unless, of course, as sociologist Robert Putnam discovered, people simply hunker down and avoid social commerce altogether.

Daum writes:

To be 20 years old in 1990 in New York City was, as far as I was concerned, to own the world. I owned practically nothing of material value back then, but somehow this was all part of a magical transaction in which I knew I’d eventually get ahead even if it seemed, for the moment, like I could barely keep up. The city was still a wild kingdom, a stone-and-steel fortress with rage burning inside. The crack epidemic was long under way and also a long way from ending. Aids was everywhere – ravaging the bodies of the visibly ill and beckoning from public service announcements that preached condoms or death. The graffiti was only beginning to come off the subway cars.

Every man, woman and, yes, many children (including those commuting to fancy prep schools) had been mugged or knew someone who had. Every woman knew what it was like to be creepily rubbed against by some dude in a crowded space, and when this happened many of us either jammed our elbows into his abdomen or rolled our eyes and moved away.

At the time, women believed it was part of the cost of living in a freewheeling fun house. They did not, Daum continues, see it as a manifestation of misogyny:

What I don’t remember is connecting the incident to anything like what would now be called institutionalized misogyny. This was not systemic oppression of women. This was simply life in the big city.

Women took in stride. They did not believe that a groper or a lusty geezer was traumatizing them for life. And they did not take the opportunity to express their boundless outrage. Recalling a woman she had seen in 1990, sitting at a folding table ranting against pornography, Daum says this:

Today, the angry, ranting woman with the folding table is gone from the sidewalk. In her place are millions of angry women marching in the streets and, even more so, ranting online. We are tiny pixels coalescing into a giant portrait of rage in all its definitions.

So, women have now declared all-out war against men. We will note, with Daum, that more often than not these men belong to the liberal power elite. They work in publishing and the media. Whether the same thing happens in flyover country, I do not know. But,in New York and Los Angeles, we see the epicenter of sexual harassment. It’s all so Clintonian, don’t you know?

Twenty years after the redheaded man shoved me on Columbus Avenue, men were going down like bowling pins against the unstoppable forces of #MeToo. What could you call the fall of 2017 other than the Fall of the Fall of Man. It was a season of hurricanes and rapid soil erosion, namely the mudslide that began with Harvey Weinstein and quickly pulled more men down with it than anyone could reasonably keep up with.

It ought to be obvious to everyone, but it still bears mention: this is not going to end well for women. Yielding to rage provokes an equal and opposite reaction. If you do not think there is going to be a reckoning, you should remove your blinders.

As for her own encounter with a creepy older man, a man who occasionally invited her to dinner, but never offered a quid pro quo, the younger Daum handled it with what she would call nuance, or, if you prefer, aplomb:

I was young and the man was twice my age. He may have had professional power over me, but it was limited and in no way unilateral. In fact, thanks to the personal details I’d siphoned out of him, I probably could have placed one phone call and made his life very difficult. And so I carried on with my coquettishness until somehow the meals became fewer and farther between and then finally ended, probably because he took up with someone else. I carried on this way because my life was an open horizon and his was an overstuffed attic.

I behaved this way because I must have known on some unconscious level that, at 25, I had more of a certain kind of power than I was ever going to have in my life and that I might as well use it, even if the accompanying rush was laced with shame.

Obviously, she means the power to attract, to capture the male gaze, to be worthy of a certain type of attention. Evidently, there was no assault and no harassment, but women who are railing against the predatory male gaze would do well to recall that women have always used their looks to attract and even to captivate said gaze.

But, Daum now sees a split between older and younger feminists, or, dare we say, women:

Like any sentient being, I’d been shocked and disgusted by the Weinstein revelations and saw no reason to equivocate about the reliability of his accusers or the severity of his punishment. But as the list of perpetrators piled up and the public censure piled on, the conversation around #MeToo (lacking a specific category, each new scandal was not a story or an issue but a “conversation”) began to split down generational lines….

And so the ground began to shake around the fault line. The older feminists scolded the younger ones for not being tough enough to take care of themselves. If the construction worker whistles at you, give him the finger! If the drunk guy sitting next to you at the wedding reception gets fresh, kick him in the shins!

In turn, the youngsters chastised the oldsters for enabling the oppressive status quo with cool-girl posturing. We shouldn’t have to suppress our humanity by letting insults roll off us! We shouldn’t have to risk our safety with physical violence because patriarchal norms have taught the drunk wedding guest he can act like that!

Naturally, today’s young feminists feel empowered when they destroy a man’s life. Without taking sides on the issue, I would simply point out that real power lies in your ability to build something, not in your ability to tear down what someone else has built. When these radical feminists take power and are faced with the responsibility for building something, they will discover that ranting and raving does not build anything. Or else, in case I got the sequence wrong, once they have replaced the men they have destroyed they will discover that they do not possess the skills needed to manage much of anything. And they will naturally blame men.

The problem is, if things have become worse, and especially for women working in notably leftist redoubts, then perhaps, just perhaps, feminism is part of the problem. After all, if you are putting out rage, you are likely to get it or something similar back. Perhaps a return to a more nuanced approach, a more complex understanding of female power, would help.


UbuMaccabee said...

The solution for angry, western feminists is to embrace their own multicultural premises and marry a Muslim man, the more devout the better. Then move back to the home country of his family in a show of unconditional love and trust. Problem solved, never to be heard from again.

Anonymous said...

Ubu, care to explain? Why dooes it seem to be that you dislike Muslim rather than complete indifference toward Muslim? Are Muslims a real threat to you and why so? Why don't you single out Buddhists or Atheists? Aren't Muslims more closely related to Jews than Buddhists?

UbuMaccabee said...

I'll be glad to explain, Anon. Islam is a death cult, it is not a religion. Clear enough? It looks like ethical monotheism, but it's not. Different God, different origins. It's counterfeit. Individual Muslims may be good people, but Islam is a catastrophe, a badly constructed religious OS.

More clarity for you: it's not dislike, it's contempt. I have contempt for Islam because it's a violent death cult forged through bloody conquest, led by a child-rapist, slaving maniac who murders for pleasure. You won't hear that at dinner chit-chat in Manhatten or Cambridge.

For further clarity, I recommend:

Any of the excellent work by K. S. Lal is highly recommended. It helps to understand the Muslim mass-slaughter of the Hindus over the past 1000 years. The Hindus rightly regard Islam with the same clarity I do.

I'll be glad to recommend many, many more accounts, but you wont read them, so why bother.

Regarding Buddhists, I think it would be a fine compromise, when we conquer Muslim territory, to raise all the children as Buddhists. I think that's a great idea. But the Muslim cultists would work themselves into a murderous, bloody frenzy if they knew their children would be raised toward the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth. To a Muslim cultist, Buddha is just a glorified Hindu and can be safely killed or converted.

Hey, Anon, what the punishment for apostasy in the Muslim world? What happens to a Muslim in a Muslim country who openly rejects the prophet and converts to Buddhism? Hinduism? Atheism?

Atheists do not interest me except as a nuisance. I think they should preach their bill of goods in Isfahan. What a marvelous idea! Atheists set up tents in Iran to teach the Persians that Allah does not exist. I love it!

Anonymous said...

While you are likely factual concerning Islamic violence, I doubt Islam is the only religion guilty of such violence though. Even Atheists have a history of violence and they do not consider themselves to be in a religion. Maybe it is as simple as people are prone to violence? Does Islam have a higher death count than Communism? I don't know the answer, I simply think people are violent. I'm not making any excuses for Muslim violence.

UbuMaccabee said...

Homo Homini Lupus est.

Some religions lead to greater self awareness, some to less. Some religions create good people, some do not. Islam has killed far more over the centuries than any other religion, including communism. It was a warlord cult from the moment it originated, and remains a warlord cult. And it has not for a moment entertained any serious examination or meaningful self-criticism. It treats inquiry as blasphemy. And in this world, at this time, it remains the only “religion” I would identify as a threat to western civilization. If any prominent intellectual openly criticizes it, they will live in fear of being murdered. It is aggressive, negative, and retrograde, and contributes almost nothing to civilization. If you want to go backward to the 8th century, let in the Muslims. Every Muslim majority nation I have ever visited has an terrible emptiness at it core. Depressing beyond words.

Homo Homini Lupus est.

Socialism and its godless family tree have given Islam a run for its money. It takes the religious impulse and perverts it into the perfection of a new man, to be created later, after the revolution. Of course, this new man never materializes, except as a red wolf. Once in power, it creates generations of rotten, amoral little atheists. So, sure, atheists are obviously neck-deep in pointless bloodshed if the national socialists and bolsheviks and Maoists are taken at face-value.

My take on socialism is that it’s adherents claim atheism, but have all the unclaimed baggage of their respective religious traditions. What drives socialism is not the cold reason of atheism, whatever their claims to the contrary or however they appeal to the dialectic of history. They all sound like clerics to my ears. Marx reads exactly like a leftist coffeehouse rabbi to me. I am referring to revolutionary socialism, btw, not to liberal democratic socialism (which, after destroying all productive activity, will morph into compulsory socialism in order to retain what it wants most: power). Someone once remarked that democratic socialism is just communism with patience. True that.

If I were emperor, I would hang Marxists by light poles, regardless of their religious adherence. They are a proven dangerous commodity and will destroy civilization if given the slightest opportunity. They are like the plague. I don’t care about Muslims provided they stay “over there,” while we stay “over here.”

In any period at any time, atheists make up such a small segment of humanity that their influence is not measurable. Even Mongols and Aztecs had some conception of gods.

Christianity and Judaism have been examined in such macro and microscopic detail over the past 500 years that I don’t think there are any shelves left to contain all the tomes. Too much self-examination leads to paralysis and decadence.