Friday, December 31, 2021

Good-bye to the American Psychological Association

Nothing very surprising here. The field of psychology, pretending to be science, has become completely politicized.

The once-venerable American Psychological Association has been taken over by radical leftists. Its leaders do not care about distorting evidence and even with producing more mental illness, because they have become ideological zealots.

Now psychology professor Christopher Ferguson, of Stetson University, has resigned the APA with a sane and sensible open letter.

What are his reasons? Begin with the APA’s willingness to distort evidence, especially about the effect that violent video games produce:

Within my own area of research, the APA has grossly distorted the evidence on “violent” video games for decades, despite repeated cautions from scholars (including, at one point, an open letter by over 200 scholars, as well as a statement of concern from the Society of Media Psychology and Technology). This extends to other public policy statements such as on spanking where the nuances of a complicated and controversial field are flattened into a definitive but ideological stance.

And then, APA guidelines seem to be unable to deal with boys and men as boys and men. The systematic misandry, the attack on normal male behaviors seems to have infested the APA. 

 Similarly, recent practice guidelines, most notably the guidelines for Men and Boys but also treatment for PTSD, are not well grounded in science and often conflict with scientific data. I worry specifically that these policy statements may do actual harm to clients, particularly that on Men and Boys which has credibly been accused of disparaging more traditional men, and may actually discourage many men and families from seeking treatment they could benefit from.

It is worth underscoring that the marked effort to feminize men and boys, by telling them to get in touch with their feminine side or to develop their capacity for empathy, is likely to ensure that many men and boys will never set foot in a therapist’s office.

And then, when the nation was consumed by the George Floyd riots, the APA jumped on the politically correct bandwagon and declared that the American mind was irredeemably saturated with racism and that racial violence, of whites against blacks, was our defining national characteristic:

However, adopting a dystopian and data-deficient view of the present is likely to do more harm than good. Informing people that they are always in imminent threat of fatal violence or other forms of serious harm can in itself be traumatizing. In fact, most psychological evidence points to historical declines in both explicit and implicit racism (though that last term is itself controversial). 

So, the APA has been producing more mental illness than it has been curing. A good reason for Ferguson and others to terminate their memberships:

Increasingly, I agree with Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff when they suggest society is encouraging people to behave in emotional and cognitive ways that are known to exacerbate mental illness, whether catastrophizing, generalizing, selective abstraction, personalizing, etc. We also give extreme power to outrage and moral grandstanding as well as inaccurate sources of information such as anecdotes and “lived experiences.” Unfortunately, my perception is that the APA is furthering this negative process, not attempting to correct it.

Some of us have been critical of the way therapy is practiced in this country. Obviously, some therapists do a very good job, but still, the truth remains, the professional organization that comprises psychologists has become so completely politicized that it cannot be assumed to have made patients' mental health a priority. 

Only a systematic effort on the part of patients to question their therapists, and to question the culture that therapy has spawned will solve the problem. 

The Empty Landscape: New York's Office Towers

Steve Cuozzo asks the question that all serious New Yorkers have been asking. What if the city does not come back? Translated, that means, what if the empty office buildings remain empty? 

Today, New York banks are telling staff that they need not come to work. They can continue working from home. The city, having suffered the most draconian lockdown and distancing regimen, now leads the nation and perhaps the world in per capita Covid cases. Anyone who wants to eat at a restaurant has to show proof of vaccination. Masks may just have been shown to be useless, but people are walking around in them anyway.

For all the medical drama, the larger issue remains: what will become of all the empty office towers.

Cuozzo raises the issue:

We’ve been told that office buildings won’t be vacant forever. Once Omicron recedes, a trickling return to workplaces will swell into a mighty wave. Buildings might not be as full as they were pre-COVID but they’ll be full enough to sustain the city’s great commercial tax base and keep landlords from going broke.

But, what if all the prognosticators are wrong? What if the broken habit of commuting to work is broken for good? Peggy Noonan asked the question and it is worth considering:

But what if we’re all wrong? What happens if scary prognostications by the brilliant Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan come to pass?

Noonan wrote last February that the pandemic brought about “the collapse of the commuter model … in the past year the owners of great businesses found how much can be done remotely. They hadn’t known that!”

She added that “they don’t have to pay that killer rent for office space anymore. People think it will all snap back when the pandemic is fully over but no, a human habit broke; a new way of operating has begun.”

What if our office towers, the pride of our skyline, turn into towering white elephants?

Dare we mention that a wave of bankruptcies engulfing New York’s commercial real estate will surely damage the banking industry, the one that holds mortgages on all of that property. Surely, it will be in the trillions of dollars.

In truth it is unthinkable, even by those who are in the business of thinking about eventualities:

We posed the issue to urban analysts normally eager to comment on anything from bike lanes to endangered manatees. But not even the oft-quoted Regional Plan Association would touch it. Others whom we reached out to responded to questions we hadn’t asked or changed the subject altogether.

Only the Real Estate Board of New York, the industry trade organization, tackled the more limited issue of how to accelerate conversion of second-class, older office buildings — which REBNY estimated at 220 million square feet, or about 40 percent of the total office stock — to residential use. 

To which one is tempted to reply, why would people pay New York rents if they can work from the suburbs or from Miami. How long before the banking hubs will move to Florida and Texas, and even Alabama.

Anyway, the Real Estate Board has some fanciful ideas, which we will, in the interest of probity, offer up. As it happens, it feels like Cuozzo is being ironic:

Noting the city’s profound housing shortage, REBNY produced a batch of proposals to facilitate large-scale office-to-residential conversions. But they’d require wholesale zoning changes, state-city cooperation to provide tax subsidies, and cultural changes at city agencies such as the departments of Housing Preservation and Development, Buildings, City Planning and Finance.

REBNY wants the City Council to set up a task force to study the options. But until then, we’ll humbly suggest a few possible new future uses for some over-the-hill office properties. Landlords should roll up their sleeves now for a changed future — even if it means replacing office workers with fantasy.

Replacing office workers with fantasy. Hmmm. Will fantasy pay the rent?

Anyway, here are some suggestions, beginning with a museum to commemorate the time when the middle west side was the home to the garment industry:

Take the “Garment District,” which once manufactured most of America’s clothing and is now mainly home to tech, media and smaller financial firms that can’t afford fancier digs. Some buildings were upgraded to contemporary use — but a surprisingly many grimy, prewar structures remain stuck in the 1950s. 

Let’s turn a few of them into something the city has long deserved: a spectacular museum where the once heavily unionized district’s role in New York history and national politics is brought back to life. Show how seamstresses lent the sewing power to clothe America’s women — and why union backing was so important to generations of Democratic candidates. 

To be fair, filling millions of square feet of empty offices with a museum seems a bit unlikely and ironic, to say the least.

But then, the board suggests that we use some of the space as movie sets:

Another option is bringing Hollywood here. Why should Queens monopolize Big Apple film production? The Steiner, Kaufman Astoria and Silvercup studios are wonderful. But a full-scale Manhattan movie and TV complex would be the crown jewel in “Hollywood on the Hudson.”

Of course, film producers are not complete fools. Having to deal with New York taxes and New York labor unions will quickly put the kibosh on plans to expand production in the city.

And then, Cuozzo, who apparently has a good sense of irony, suggests that we turn the empty buildings into amusement parks:

Finally, we can all use some fun. Wow, how we need fun! How about a vast, indoor amusement park, like the enclosed portion of Coney Island’s legendary Steeplechase Park.

Of course the kids’ carousels and other gentle indoor rides would need to give way to the heart-stopping, pulse-pounding thrills of today’s Scream Zone and Phoenix roller coaster. And imagine a Cyclone that can stay open year-round!

The technology’s there and the demand will never abate. All it takes is the vision to make it happen inside one of our 100-year-old, hulking brick-and-mortar Goliaths where office tenants aren’t making landlords rich with $35-a-square-foot leases.

Today is the last day of the calamitous de Blasio mayoralty. If the real estate crisis metastasizes, even our new mayor, Eric Adams, will not be able to stop the bleeding. As for the people who are charged with dealing with the problem-- they don't have a clue.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Sugar Babies Anonymous

In the words of the preacher, from the book of Ecclesiastes:

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

In the past human sexuality involved rules and roles. This has been true in particular for women. The role of wife stands out, for obvious reasons, but roles like courtesan, concubine, mistress and favorite belong on the list. And then there are the demimondaine, the escort, the everyday prostitute and even the groupie. 

To that list modern feminism has added a new one: the sugar baby.

Obviously, playing any one of these roles involves playing by certain rules. The concubine or the courtesan or the mistress involved herself in something like an exclusive relationship with a married man. At a time when marriages were arrangements, it made sense that men would seek romantic love outside of the bounds of the conjugal bed. Institutionalized adultery flourished in cultures where people married for prestige and power and property.

For the most part throughout most of human history marriages have been arrangements. Only with the advent of Protestantism and especially of Puritanism was marriage seen to be necessarily involving romantic love. This required cultures to stigmatize adultery. The reason was simple: marriages were supposed to be based on love and banning adultery protected women. It also made for a more stable social structure, and we know that social stability is slightly more important than how or where anyone is finding sexual pleasure.

The demimondaine was another version of the mistress. She was a kept woman, a woman who was supported financially by a man.

Of course, the roles of mistress and prostitute were often confused. Before we had sugar daddy sites, there were procuresses who arranged relationships that were more than simple sex work. As happened in France, when Madame Claude was the leading madam, she insisted that her women were well brought up, educated and socially sophisticated. A man could go out in public with the right kind of call girl, and, rumor around Paris has it that more than a few men married women provided by Madame Claude. These girls were what we now, somewhat loosely, call escorts.

Whether or not one wants to call it sex work, with all of the vulgar connotations, the truth is that these relationships were always about more than sex. In today’s world, liberated women seem more and more willing to engage in such relationships, first because they do not involve the threat of marriage or of pregnancy; and second, because they allow women a way to enhance their career prospects.

Moreover, dare we mention, that the hookup culture spawned by feminism has basically been pimping out young women. That means, enticing women to give it away for free. When you have been exploring your adolescent sexuality by giving it away for free to boys you barely know, the notion of being paid for it becomes more enticing.

Anyway, an article in Unherd lays out the issue, so to speak, beginning with a party on a yacht off the coast of Sardinia:

They were either still in college or freshly out of it. But the reason they, rather than the young man, were able to go yachting off Sardinia while sipping Dom PĂ©rignon was because rich older men ­had hired them to come on a luxury holiday with them. The job — look hot, be nice, and be ready to accommodate more without crying assault — is called sugaring. It is — though sugar daddies or babies might not admit it — sex work. My friend betrayed no sense of surprise at the arrangement; such things had, he explained, become totally normal in his age group.

There’s the kicker-- these arrangements have become perfectly normal for liberated young women. The author calls it sex work, but, as noted, it ought to be distinguished from common prostitution. 

Unlike traditional sex work, it’s popular among young women at elite institutions; destined for fine careers, they nonetheless see it as a time-efficient way to offload student debt and, as Molly, a 22-year sugar baby who read PPE at Oxford, told me, “get a taste of luxury”. In 2019, nearly 1000 students at Cambridge were signed up to Seeking Arrangements, the top sugar-brokering site in the Anglosphere. According to the site’s 2020 annual report, the number of university students in the UK seeking a sugar daddy, or a sugar mommy, increased 36% from 2018 to 2019.

The best and the brightest young women, the product of five decades of feminism, are now working as demimondaines.

Why did this happen. It was caused by….

two profound and rather shocking shifts. One: that dating, with all its messiness and the in-built possibility (if things go well) of an actual relationship — complete with compromise, give and take, and real intimacy — has imploded. And two: that feminism has morphed from a movement with ideals — which envisioned, for instance, a socialist world in which women might be free from sex work — into a hard-nosed, misandric, mercenary pragmatism.

It happens when the rubber meets the road, or, in less vulgar terms, when feminist ideals are forced to deal with reality. This means that it is based on a fundamental hatred of the males of the species.

But those of the present wave see men as pathetic, selfish, hard work — and only good for two things: sex and cash.

“All the sugar babies I know consider themselves feminists,” said Molly. “But it’s more misandry than feminism. It’s ‘men are scum’. Both parties sort of despise each other.” Aria, 25, a Cornell graduate currently in law school in DC, has been on Seeking Arrangements for five years. She, too, despises her clients, telling me over WhatsApp video from a Balkan city: “Men are nothing. They’re just fucking idiots. The hardest thing about being a sugar baby is pretending to give a shit what these older men have to say. Older men are so archaic and out of it.”

Of course, these men are mostly playing by the rules of a game that feminists concocted. Who else taught them to be scum? Moreover, considering how much these young feminists despise men, why would men treat them well? And if these women do not respect themselves, why would men respect them?

One notes that the notion of getting married and having a family does not belong within the equation. Anything is better than the role of-- wife.

Feminism made this bed, and now young women have to deal with it:

The callous terrain created by ten years of dating apps and misapplied “sex positivity” seems to have rendered physical intimacy a shiny token whose value lies in shifting the needle of power up or down, while the relationship of sex to things like romance or affection has been cauterised. Increasingly, relationships are seen as exchange mechanisms. 

When women do not want to become wives, they will be treated accordingly. Nothing very surprising there.

Besides, in a meme that has been around town for decades now, young feminists have been taught that all sex with men is a monetary transaction, that it is all about whoring, not loving. Thus, sugar babying is more honest. Having given it away for free, women think that it’s a step up to be paid handsomely for sex:

 In a twisted reinterpretation of that sociology, nowadays “women my age see all relationships as sexual labour,” says Molly. “Why not get paid for it?” She points out that Twitter is full of women who think men should pay a deposit before they go on a date with them. Aria put it more scathingly still: “Men have a dearth of people they can share their feelings with… Thanks a lot toxic masculinity. So if I’m performing all this emotional labour — if I have to listen to a man complain for an hour — I should get $500.”

Naturally, feminists blame men. They have no awareness of the fact that feminism threw away the rule book of courtship behavior and that now young women are suffering the consequences:

Beneath the reasoning of many sugar babies’ testimonies lies a terrible disappointment with how men are, and, one might infer, a desire to be treated considerately, tenderly by them. Molly sugared because she was “broke” but “at the back of your mind you think, well, you’re going to get treated badly anyway…”

Columnist Zoe Strimpel does not think of it as quite as empowering as some of the sugar babies do. Besides, for the purposes of this blog, she points out that these sugar babies also function as therapists. She does not question whether or not they are licensed and credentialed:

However lucrative, helpful, easy, or apparently “empowered”, life as a sugar baby erodes a woman’s sense of self. But if the women are losing something wholesome, the men seem to be gaining, even gobbling it. After all, sugar daddying is about more than renting a hot body. It’s also about getting a friendly, sexy therapist; someone who will listen, even nurture. Sometimes the men just want friends. Aria’s political lobbyist prefers office gossip to sex, which fades into the background when they’re together, taking up “less than five minutes” of a three-hour session.

And also, as Strimpel sagely points out, the #MeToo movement has contributed mightily to the sugar baby phenomena. Now that intelligent and functioning males have ceased mentoring young women-- it is just too risky-- women have adapted by parlaying their assets as sugar babies. They get to meet successful professional men, men who will help them to advance their careers, in exchange for an occasional tryst. If the men are married they are more than happy to help these women to work their way up the corporate ladder. It’s better than breaking up their homes:

But MeToo also had a profound effect on the professional landscape by effectively ending male-female mentoring. “A lot of older men are reluctant to reach out to you now [on a professional basis],” notes Molly, who says that the “best gift” is a man using their contacts to “get you access to an industry”. By establishing the sexual utility of the young woman and professional value of the older man at the outset, the sugaring relationship circumvents the nasty power play pinpointed by MeToo.

Of course, there is another feminist option, made strikingly manifest in the behavior of one Hillary Clinton. While you were in college learning how to whine and complain about the male gaze, what about the dread female gaze?

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Feminism Demolishes a Family

We might admire Honor Jones for her raw honesty. Our admiration, however, will be short lived. In what must count as one of the most horrifying examples of moral dereliction Jones writes coldly and dispassionately about how she “demolished” her marriage. For no discernible reason.

She did it for no reason that we can ascertain from reading her Atlantic article. She undoubtedly damaged her three children. She probably damaged her husband. And she certainly hurt herself.

And yet, she offers no reason beyond the standard feminist reason that she did not want to make a home any more and did not want to have a man define her.

She is not some semi-literate rube from the back country. She is or has been an editor at the New York Times and the Atlantic.

One would have understood if she had been fed a line by a caring empathetic therapist, but, no, there seems to be no therapist in the picture.

So, we are left with a feminist awakening, one that is characterized, if we read it closely, by the simple fact that she only cares about what she wants. With one exceptional scene she has no sense of responsibility, to her children, to her husband, or even herself. 

One does not like to accuse people of being moral eunuchs, but if we did Honor Jones certainly qualifies. Besides, irony of irony, she takes actions that clearly violate her sense of honor. She does not ask about the honorable thing to do. She does not act to defend her honor. She ignores her honor or better, drowns it in her endless drooling about her wants.

Take her opening paragraph, regarding homemaking. We all know that in the feminist lexicon, from the time of Betty Friedan, homemaking was akin to enslavement. Jones tells us that she had thought she had wanted to be a homemaker, but when it came time to renovate her house, she balked. She sensed that it was not what she really, really wanted:

I had wanted, I thought, soapstone counters and a farmhouse sink. I had wanted an island and a breakfast nook and two narrow, vertical cabinets on either side of the stove; one could be for cutting boards and one could be for baking sheets. 

Note well, it’s all about her wants. She repeats the word, over and over again. Not a word about her responsibilities as an honorable and responsible human being, wife and mother of three. Next to her wants, the rest becomes irrelevant:

I started fantasizing about replacing the counters with two-by-fours on sawhorses and hanging the pots from nails on the wall. Slowly, I realized, I didn’t want this kitchen. Slowly, I realized, I didn’t want this life.

I didn’t want to renovate. I wanted to get divorced.

Apparently, she was not very good at homemaking. Perhaps this is one reason why she chose to walk away from the responsibilities that belonged to the status of wife and mother. She had a housekeeper, named Luba, but that did not suffice:

Even with Luba’s help, the house was chaos. I could never keep the children and their mess corralled. Toys and books were always underfoot. The crumbs—they were everywhere. I knew I was lucky to have all these crumbs and the house to keep them in. 

By her account, she was not cheating on her husband. She did not have a fancy man hidden in the attic. She did not have career aspirations that were being thwarted by marriage-- though perhaps she did. 

She wants above all to live the feminist dream, and that entails demolishing the lives of five people. About that she has no moral sense whatever. She is looking for total individual self-actualization, the kind that Betty Friedan promised to women who freed themselves of the shackles of domesticity:

I didn’t have a secret life. But I had a secret dream life—which might have been worse. I loved my husband; it’s not that I didn’t. But I felt that he was standing between me and the world, between me and myself. Everything I experienced—relationships, reality, my understanding of my own identity and desires—were filtered through him before I could access them. The worst part was that it wasn’t remotely his fault; this is probably exactly what I asked him to do when we were 21 and first in love, even if I never said it out loud. To shelter me from the elements; to be caring and broad-shouldered. But now it was like I was always on my tiptoes, trying to see around him. I couldn’t see, but I could imagine. I started imagining other lives. Other homes.

So, she tells her husband how she feels. In fact, she is so completely self-absorbed that her husband, the father of her three children, seems to be a mere afterthought. The same pertains to the children-- all of them fade into insignificance when placed next to the questions of countertops and backsplashes.

And she explains that she, like a moral eunuch, must leave her marriage, because her desire lies elsewhere:

What is it with divorced women and real estate? After the terrible conversation when I told my husband how I felt, and that I didn’t think I could change how I felt, I read Dana Spiotta’s new book, Wayward, about a woman who realizes she wants to leave her marriage only after she impulsively buys a fixer-upper.

Apparently, being married was inhibiting her ability to reflect philosophically. It was inhibiting her ability to think about patriarchy. This would be pathetic if it were not real. Or perhaps the fact that it’s real makes it more pathetic. 

She believes that marriage is constraining her. It makes it more difficult to think about art, to microdose or to have sex with women. Precisely why, she does not explain:

I wanted to be thinking about art and sex and politics and the patriarchy. How much of my life—I mean the architecture of my life, but also its essence, my soul, my mind—had I built around my husband? Who could I be if I wasn’t his wife? Maybe I would microdose. Maybe I would have sex with women. Maybe I would write a book. Not a book about real estate!

Her sense of motherhood, of her responsibility to her small children seems to reduce to the effects pregnancy has on the female body. Gross anatomy, don’t you think:

My children, the three pregnancies—a literal gut renovation. A major addition, and then a subtraction, and then the strange misshapen aftermath. The giant boobs of breastfeeding that seemed borrowed from another woman’s body entirely and were eventually returned to the mothers of the universe. And then the whole thing again, and again. And now finally my own winnowed, older body, which still feels foreign to me. I had been a house for my family, and now I was empty.

Not surprisingly, Jones has numbed her moral sense, to the point where a rush of cold air, like a breath of freedom, seemed to make it all worthwhile. Otherwise, she has only a minimal, undefined sense of the magnitude of the damage she had done:

There were days when the magnitude of what I’d done bore down on me. I kept wondering if I’d feel regret, or remorse. It is hard to admit this—it makes me cold, as cold a woman as my ex-husband sometimes suspects I am—but I didn’t. I felt raw, and I liked it. There was nothing between me and the world. It was as if I’d been wearing sunglasses and then taken them off, and suddenly everything looked different. Not better or worse, just clearer, harsher. Cold wind on my face.

I had caused so much upheaval, so much suffering, and for what? He asked me that, at first, again and again: For what? So I could put my face in the wind. So I could see the sun’s glare. I didn’t say that out loud.

Again, hers seems to be a feminist rebellion against the notion of homemaker-- even though, one hastens to add, she had been working full time as an editor and writer:

Besides, I wanted to let go of the idea that the home I made defined me, that I was made more real by homemaking. And yet there was truth to it. So much of homemaking is plainly material: dishwasher pods and blackout curtains and crumb control. But so much is storytelling. Maybe what I really wanted was new things—things only I had chosen, things that would make my hidden self come into view.

She adds that she was somewhat aware of the damage she had done to her children. And yet, she speaks through a veil of utter moral numbness, simply saying that she thought about it a lot. Don’t her children deserve more from their mother?

By breaking up our family, I’d taken something from my kids that they were never going to get back. Naturally, I thought about this a lot. There was nothing I could give them to make up for it, except, maybe, a way of being in the world: of being open to it, and open in it.

So, she moved to Brooklyn and told us all that she had gained for having caused so much pain:

On my nights alone, I caught up with old friends, frantically made new friends, said way too much about my personal life over drinks with colleagues. Out in the city, I felt solid: a capable woman taking care of her family.

A glimmer of understanding occasionally passes through her mind. Though it ends up with the notion that she had no real reason, no reason that she could admit to herself, for her effort to live the feminist dream:

Maybe I’m deluding myself. Maybe I’m not free of anything and I just want different objects, a different home, maybe someday—admit it—a different man. Maybe I’m starting the same story all over again. “For what?” you’d ask me, and you’d be right.

But I don’t think so. I think I’m making something new.

This feels like a breakdown in a case of clinical depression. Since I am not a psychiatrist I will not offer more in the way of a diagnosis. If she has had a breakdown, her divorce was presumably the right kind of feminist therapy.

Were this a single story, it would not be so bad. But, it is certainly not unique. Feminism has demolished the lives of five people, and it has done by turning one robotized woman into an agent of destruction. She does not know what she has done. She has simply been manipulated by an ideology, and by the sense that destroying her family, her home, her husband and her children spells liberation.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Leaving New York; Saving the Children

Now he tells us. Now President Biden, who was ranting that we had to blame Donald Trump for the first year of Covid, has declared that there is no federal solution to the pandemic. But, he still wants to impose a federal vaccine mandate on everyone.

Consistent thinking, anyone?

And then there is New York. One cannot imagine a more inept and incompetent group of politicians than we have in New York City. Comrade de Blasio is the worst, though now we have a new governor, one Kathy Hochul, who believes that leadership involves shutting everything down, imposing mask mandates and the like. I suspect that the new governor considers herself to be a governess dealing with obstreperous children. 

In large part, New Yorkers have complied. The offices are empty; the schools are often closed; children are forced to wear masks all day long.

New York Post columnist Karol Markowitz has had enough. She is moving her family to Miami. She and her husband and their three children are going to move to a place where children are not subjected to irrational policies. The city, under the aegis of the teachers’ unions, have already damaged children by shutting down schools for over a year. One suspects that most of them will not soon recover from the lost learning, the emotional damage and their enforced desocialization.

City and state authorities have decided that we must shut down as much as we can. They have never considered the impact of these policies. They are all-in to control the virus, even though their policies have done little to control the virus. They refuse to accept the least risk. 

Risk aversion-- interesting point. Men are more inclined and more willing to take risks than are women. It's one of those truths about human nature than we often ignore.

When you have a state or a city run by women, apparently, they are less inclined to take risks. A city or a state that is run by men would presumably be more inclined to accept a certain level of risk.

Of course, this is not always gender specific. Some men, like Mayor de Blasio, function like women. No risk Bill has sat back weakly and watched crime increase under his watch. The criminals have his number. Fortunately, he will be replaced as mayor next week.

It is a colossal irony, the kind that draws our attention, that America’s leading risk taker, namely Elon Musk, was recently named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. In a country where many political leaders refuse to accept any level of risk in dealing with the pandemic, preferring more rather than fewer shutdowns, regardless of the impact on children’s development or the nation’s economy, one of the most admired people in the country is the champion of risk taking.

Put that one in your pipe and puff on it.

Anyway, Markowitz describes life in New York in the plague year. It did not bring out New Yorkers’ best. It brought out their self-righteous and maniacal side. You would have thought we were dealing with the bubonic plague, which was as deadly as Covid is not.

This time was very different. The pandemic had us at each other’s throats. Neighbors reported each other for gatherings. People screamed at each other in the street for not wearing masks. It became religious and any questioning of the doctrine was forbidden. It was impossible to discuss whether containment measures were useful (Did we need to wipe down our groceries with Clorox? What were the three-sided Plexiglas booths helping, exactly?) because any discussion of easing up on any of it meant you wanted PEOPLE TO DIE. If you wanted schools to open, you wanted TEACHERS TO DIE. People became afraid to speak up. I saw it all the time.

Markowitz recounts that when she decided to leave New York, slews of her friends wrote that they wished they could join her. Of course, they needed to remain anonymous, lest they be considered traitors and be canceled or prosecuted:

When I announced our family was leaving New York and moving to Florida, a state with a governor who has led the way on sanely managing COVID-19, I received dozens of messages from New Yorkers considering the same move. When I asked several if I could quote them, they asked to use a fake name. They live in fear of being “canceled” for not being sufficiently terrified of COVID. Three vaccines and many new treatments do not seem to matter. We must live suspended in our fear indefinitely.

Being a mother, Markowitz is acutely sensitive to the cost her children are paying for New York City’s crazy policies-- imposed by deranged teachers’ unions and Democratic politicians:

No one has it worse in New York than children. There is damage being done to the kids of this city, with masking and continued restrictions, and few in leadership seem to care at all. Masking is seen as a “low cost” safety option, but the idea that masking kids has no consequences is, of course, absurd. We’re already seeing studies about a decrease in cognitive abilities, in particular for “males and children in lower socioeconomic families.” 

Mask mandates for children. Has anyone considered the impact of all-day masking on children? Certainly, women have stood up at school administration meetings and have denounced the practice. They have now been labelled domestic terrorists.

I see it in my own children. My 6-year-old son, who has been masked for the entirety of his schooling, is shy and apt not to repeat himself when he is misunderstood. He also will not ask the teacher to repeat herself. It’s having predictable results in his education.

Of course, school shutdowns and mask mandates are special-- they seem entirely limited to American blue cities. Foreign countries would never subject children to such draconian abuse. And, be clear, it is clearly child abuse:

We visited Iceland this summer and kids under 16 don’t have to mask there and never have. I have friends in Britain, Sweden, Holland. None of their under-12 children had worn masks at all through the entire pandemic. They don’t love their kids any less than parents in super-blue parts of the United States where masking is most intense. They do not worry less about their children becoming sickened with COVID. But they understood that in the short span of childhood, there are trade-offs. 

It was a trade-off. It was a risk-reward calculation:

The medical professionals in their countries had weighed the data that masking has a minimal benefit for children, but would be detrimental to their education and well-being, and chose not to do it.

Now, New York State’s new governess has mandated universal masking-- even for two year olds:

Instead, in September, at a time when our COVID case rate was at its lowest, Gov. Kathy Hochul forced the return to masking even for 2-year-olds in daycare settings. No other Western country is masking children this young. As the rest of the world moved toward sanity, blue cities like New York have jutted away.

Hyper-masking of the lowest-risk population is the canary in the coal mine for so many other issues, but it’s not just the masking driving us away. 

Has all of the risk aversion cut down the rates of covid transmission. Not at all. New York is now leading the nation in viruses:

Now the Omicron strain is hitting New York hard. Cases are through the roof. There’s no argument to be made that any of our mitigation tactics worked. The masking of toddlers was pointless. People are still contracting COVID-19 and classrooms are still closing. 

Markowitz continues:

School openings in New York City were delayed twice in the fall of 2020. When they finally opened, they were on a ridiculous hybrid schedule, which appears to have exacerbated cases. No sooner did this hobbled part-time model — which was celebrated by leadership across the city as some sort of win for kids while children in much of America and the world just attended schools on a regular schedule — start than they shut down again when NYC hit a 3 percent positive testing rate in November. Everything else remained open. Only children bore the burden of a shutdown.

It is almost as though New York’s leaders have it in for children. In their zeal to protect children, they are damaging children. It is beyond appalling:

Now the great majority of NYC kids are shut out of indoor dining, museums, theater and much else because the vaccine mandate has been extended to young kids, the demographic least likely to have a poor COVID outcome. Kids from other countries, few of which even have an approved vaccine for those under 11 years old, are not welcome in our anti-children city.

Until the recent cold weather, my kids had been eating on the ground outdoors in their respective schoolyards. When they finally moved the kids inside, my sixth-grader reported that the kids were forbidden from speaking to each other or sitting with their friends. Who else is living like this? Who else eats in silence? The best part was when the school vice principal visited the cafeteria and saw the kids chatting, she yelled at them — but not before pulling down her mask so she could be better understood, of course.

Are children at greater risk for covid? In truth they are at less risk, certainly at less risk than octogenarians:

A report by Public Health England in September found that unvaccinated kids are at lower risk of death than vaccinated adults of any age. But 80-year-olds are free to gallivant around the city living their best lives despite being at the highest risk for COVID deaths.

So, Markowitz and her husband, as conscientious parents, are moving their children to Miami:

It feels like we’re in the grip of mania and there’s no way out. I have fought for the children of this city the entire length of the pandemic. I fought for every child who did not have parents at home working from their laptops, every child with a disability who was not getting the help they needed over Zoom. I fought for all the children who would never regain what they had lost while their city stepped over them, trying to ignore their existence. 

But now I have to think of my own children and get them to sanity. We can no longer wait for our city to return to it.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Another Angry Woman Writes a Memoir

Now playing in the angry woman genre is someone named Gina Frangello. You have probably not heard of her. Until yesterday I had not heard of her either. I have been living a sheltered life!

But yesterday I happened upon a review of Frangello’s book Blow Your House Down by a writer named Dani Shapiro. It is so hostile, so dismissive, so negative that it appealed to me immediately. Not so much because I found a kindred spirit but because the "angry woman," brimming with rage and outrage and ire and hatred-- toward men and the patriarchy-- has been done before. It has been done so many times that it ceases to resonate. It feels almost like a fashion accessory, something you wear to your next meeting of the consciousness raising group.

For the record, second wave feminism has been around for more than five decades now. It is exactly as old as Frangello herself is. It has excoriated men and the patriarchy over and over again for yo these many decades. To imagine that we needed one more blast is a sign that Frangello is not living in the real world. 

Worse yet is the implication, not quite made explicit in what I read, that venting all of this inchoate spleen is therapeutic, that it is like passing toxic gas, and that it is an act of ritual purification. 

In truth, announcing to the world that you are allowing yourself to be consumed by rage will more likely damage your personal relationships. Trashing your friends and family in a memoir will not make you someone that anyone wants to invite to brunch. 

As Aristotle said, intemperance is a sin. Frangello should get over it.

Anyway, to give the devil her due, here is the apparent justification for her outrage. It concerns life decisions she herself made, especially the love affair she, a married woman, had with a married man. Apparently, she felt that people judged her for her dereliction, though one suspects that it her own shame that is gnawing at her.

And then, there are the deaths of her father, her mother and her best friend. For someone in the throes of a brain fever it is all linked, implicitly or explicitly. In truth, disease is disease; it is not God’s way of punishing you for sinning. It is not even the revenge of the goddess of the underbrush. As Susan Sontag so aptly put it in Illness as Metaphor, disease is a physiological event. One does best not to psychologize or politicize it.

Introducing the author in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Megan Vared describes the horrors that the patriarchy has visited on Frangello:

We circle through her childhood in a rough Chicago neighborhood, her traditional marriage, the adoption of her daughters, the birth of her youngest child, the agony of illness, the death of her father, the loss of her best friend to cancer, and her adversarial divorce. As if these trials weren’t enough, Frangello, while in the throes of her divorce, endures a double mastectomy; three years later, after she and her new lover become engaged, her beloved mother dies.

As though to warn woman against the daffy notion of politicizing their personal lives, Frangello explains how she was damaged by the patriarchy. In her words:

For example, I spent 23 years of my life completely financially dependent on a man, and I did not look at the ways that impacted my own agency. But also, I had an affair with a man who was also married, and while obviously he had every right to be unhappy in his relationship, just as I had a right to be unhappy in mine, and he had every right to seek a divorce if that was what he needed, just as I did, I found myself engaging in a clandestine affair on and off for three years with another woman’s husband, which is obviously not a very feminist thing to do. And then, once I had confessed to the affair and was leading my life back in the open, it became very apparent that pretty much everyone involved in the situation blamed me for what had gone down wildly more so than they did him. 

It may not be a very feminist thing to do, but since when has anyone used feminism to set moral standards. Besides, if sexual liberation does not mean following the call of one’s loins and ignoring social convention, what does it mean? 

Besides, feminism told women to defer marriage and  family in the interest of career advancement. If you have been just slight aware of what is happening in the world, rest assured that some number of feminist career women, as their biological clocks started ticking louder, were happy to poach some other woman’s husband. Only the most hopelessly naive would ignore this reality.

Anyway, Fangello is angry. She is spitting venom. Her reason, the world is less kind to adulterous women than it is to adulterous men. Had she exercised her minimally competent brain power, she would have factored in the reality of sexual congress-- namely, that men and women who couple are not doing the same thing, are not entertaining the same risks, and are not facing the same potential consequences. 

Being a zealot means ignoring reality. As noted, one suspects that Frangello’s guilt and shame, neither or which she is capable of acknowledging, led her to blame the patriarchy for her own decisions. After all, the patriarchy did not force her to destroy her marriage:

But the fact remains that those in his life and those in my life tended to cast much more responsibility on me and show much more anger and a lack of forgiveness toward me than toward him, and that was … also informative. Men are far more allowed to fuck up than women are, and are far more congratulated for having any self-awareness and guilt and remorse, whereas both men and other women alike grant forgiveness much less easily to women.

But, being a product of our therapy culture, she feels compelled to tell her ex-husband of the affair. Obviously, she feels that this will be liberating. She doesn't consider that this might hurt the man, someone who, we are led to believe, has not done anything to deserve this mistreatment:

It took me a very long time — far too long — to tell my ex-husband the truth about my affair, but it was a thing I eventually did volitionally, by choice, and I did that not only because he deserved to know the truth, obviously much earlier than I actually provided it, but also because, in many ways, my affair had stemmed from feeling like I was living inside this narrow box of other people’s beliefs about me and a narrow range of behaviors that could make other people happy. And my affair, which I originally conned myself into believing was some kind of freedom or respite from that constriction, needless to say only ultimately made me more and more penned in to artifice and acting out a pretend version of myself.

One does not, reading Frangello’s words, come away thinking that she is anything but a spoiled brat, someone who politicized her personal life and who is paying a price for it. Given that she takes no responsibility for her own behavior, she seems to function as a moral eunuch, but, without further ado, examine what novelist Dani Shapiro writes about Frangello in the The New York Times.

It is bracing. And it rings true:

I’m not sure I’ve ever read, much less reviewed, a memoir that has gotten under my skin the way this one has. 

According to Shapiro the writing itself is a godawful mess:

Ostensibly the story of a destructive love affair that upends her marriage, her family and her life, “Blow Your House Down” posits itself as a feminist manifesto, and its author veers between the two poles that are the greatest no-nos in writing about the self: revenge and justification bordering on self-congratulation. She does this in increasingly dizzying recursive loops, arriving again and again at the same descriptions, questions and conclusions, without ever deepening her inquiry. She begins by placing herself and her story into a sociological context, hoping, one can only assume, to enlarge it by association: “You may have noticed that anger is making a comeback for women,” she writes early on. “It might be fair to say that this is the moment I’ve been waiting for since the sixth grade.” 

Problem is, in middle age, Frangello feels she may have missed the boat. “I am too old … beaten to the punch. As women are finally rising up en masse to denounce their widespread treatment by men, I am left naked, with no pristine red robe of Victimhood. Rather, I have cheated, I have lied, I have done damage. I have been selfish and ruled by my desires … in other words, I have conducted myself like a man, despite being a mother, and hence have perhaps forfeited my claim on female rage.”

Obviously, feminists have been angry with men for five decades now. That Frangello trots out her own mindless rage as a new feminist statement tells us that she is hopelessly self-absorbed. There is a psychiatric term for this, but I will pass on the obvious.

Shapiro explains that Frangello seems to hate everyone:

Except that “Blow Your House Down” fairly drips with rage. With the exception of her children, no one escapes the force of Frangello’s fury, which has the effect of rendering her unreliable. She torques the people in her life into cleverish caricatures. The man with whom she’s going to embark on an affair is her “Not Yet Lover.” A cousin’s wife who dies by suicide is not spared, referred to as “a beautiful train wreck of a woman, a former model (or so her saying goes) of my age.” Why the parenthetical “or so her saying goes”? What does that add to the narrative? It’s a potshot aimed at a dead woman.

We ought, if we have any decency or dignity left, to get over the notion that there is a redemptive value to spewing anger at the world, and at everyone who inhabits our own private world:

The literary trouble with rage on the page is that it leaks into everything. Rage is incoherent — although observed rage, or revenge, or even self-congratulation, can be coherent. Near the end of a chapter describing her best childhood friend, Angie, from the old neighborhood, Frangello, who has left Angie behind for college and her eventual escape into a marriage with a man “by any definition a good catch,” “not just smart but ambitious, generous,” lists possible outcomes for her friend, among them a stripper, a junkie, a mother of four, a bank teller, a murder victim. The list, written in the second person of which she is fond, concludes: “It does not matter what Angie becomes. The point is that you left.”

So, hats off to Dani Shapiro for calling quits on the rage-driven life narrative. And thanks to the New York Times for having the courage to publish it.