Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The problem with trying to ‘fix’ men

The problem with any drive towards ‘fixing’ men’s mental health is a lot of blokes like being blokes. It is easier. An important reason why men on average die younger than women is that they do more dangerous things -- both at work and during recreation. Male suicides are often the result of a judicial system weighted against them in family court matters. And the biological differences between men and women are an obvious cause of differing disease patterns between the sexes. So attempts to "reform" men are unlikely to affect such important differences

International men’s day takes place today. There are plenty of good people working hard to raise the event’s status, but in many quarters it’ll be greeted with shrugs.

The same compelling stats will again do the rounds: that men die younger, receive longer prison sentences for the same crimes, do worse academically, represent the vast majority of our homeless and remain much more likely to kill themselves. Most will only be aware of the last statistic, even though it’s most likely the net consequence of all the others. Some people will acknowledge the problems facing men and boys but only offer up cursory platitudes and simple fixes. ‘Men need to talk more’, ‘Men need to cry more’, ‘Men need to hug other men without the catalyst of a last-minute goal’.

The subtext of such attitudes is almost always that men need to change. Women it seems, are the eternal finished product, ready for market. Whereas men are the equivalent of one of those robot dogs you see online that can do a bit of dancing but can’t quite master the stairs.

Even when men aren’t seen as individually defective, they are often viewed as collectively at fault. Feminists who take a sympathetic view of men’s mental health will sometimes go on to assert that men’s problems are yet another consequence of the patriarchy. But this just can feel like an attempt to get back to the ‘real’ agenda, like whenever the latest ‘Just Stop Something’ protest group inadvertently reveal that a sudden obsession with cavity insulation has something to do with Karl Marx.

The patriarchy is often imagined as a self-conscious act by men to protect both the status quo and each other’s interests. I’m not sure we’re all that concerned about one another’s welfare, given we are after all a species for whom the funniest thing imaginable is seeing our best mate take a football to the nuts. Most blokes don’t want a cultural revolution or, indeed, those fix-all solutions favoured by the ‘manosphere’ either, where they tell men to ‘crush’ self doubt and ‘unleash’ their inner beast. The closest most of us come to unleashing our inner beast is when a visiting in-law puts the heating on in September.

On a day-to-day basis the vast majority of blokes are doing their best to protect and provide for the people they care about. They may be a bit rubbish at remembering important dates, or the names of any children other than their own, but most are trying to be a dependable presence for the people they love.

When it comes to mental health, they would probably like to feel a bit happier, a bit calmer, sleep a bit better and feel less alone. It’s a hard thing to admit, but middle age and fatherhood can be a lonely business. At this age women are often still making friends: Annabelle from NCT, Claire from the school gate, Hannah from tumble tots, and that Pilates instructor who insists on leading all female classes. When I’m at the school gates my intention isn’t to make friends, it’s to, and this might sound crazy, pick up my son and take him home. Women excel in their ability to share the details of their lives with friends and family. It’s why a show like Loose Women has existed for nearly a quarter of a century; we recognise the value of a group of women getting together to share, moan a bit and laugh about the rubbishness of the hapless blokes they’ve been saddled with.

This kind of exchange is a lot harder for most men. For a start, when we do get time together, the last thing we want to do is talk about anything meaningful. This can easily lead to a situation where a man comes back from three days with his mates and has no new information to report to his partner. She’ll seek life ‘news’ but the only new thing he’s sure about is Greg’s fringe, which Greg spent the whole time getting hammered for.

His partner might conclude that this emotional distance is sad. In some ways she’s right, one of the great tragedies of being male is you never get to tell another man how you truly feel (the flipside being that you don’t have to listen to their woes – it may be flawed, but it’s not without logic).

The downside of this system is that as blokes bumble into middle-age the tough stuff of life becomes inevitable – disappointments, death, the cost of a family pass at Centre Parks. When the sad stuff goes undiscussed men can end up existing in an emotional vacuum.

But are those who say ‘men just need to talk more’ right? I suspect that even if men are encouraged to open up more, most of us are never going to become head tilting empaths or help our mate journey to find his ‘inner child’ (in fairness, we’d instantly forget the name of that child).

I suspect the real answer is something of a compromise: with men opening up more, but gradually and at their own pace. I wonder if something like the successful campaign for eating five fruit and veg a day could help. When spending time with a friend, aim for five new things you can tell your partner about them when you get home. In the process of finding out those things you might end up discovering something important. Or maybe, just like the original fruit and veg plan, you’ll only manage two, but at least you can convince yourself that the emotional equivalent of a Terry’s chocolate orange counts for the other three.

The problem with any drive towards ‘fixing’ men’s mental health is a lot of blokes like being blokes. The simplicity, the directness of communication, the fact you can make a full plan using just nine words spanning three text messages. So men might be open to some adjustments in behaviour, but only if it’s evolution rather than revolution.

We should keep this in mind the next time yet another campaign for men’s mental health calls on us to bare our souls. Men may need to talk a bit more – but let’s retain a bit of realism, the average bloke isn’t likely to go from nought to 60. Emotionally speaking, we’re less sports car and more family saloon.


The Muslim challenge to multiculturalism

With the Hamas atrocities exposing a deep social divide across the West, everyone suddenly sees the problem with multiculturalism. Increasingly the ‘D’ word, deportation, is on politicians’ lips, from Germany to the Nordic countries to the US. Decades of multiculturalism and mass migration have laid the tinder, with the Hamas-Israeli flashpoint now fuelling civic protests and violence across the globe.

The long-held Western assumption that all of the globe’s different cultures can live together amiably may turn out to have been naive, if one group continues to deny another group basic human rights – such as existence.

Multiculturalism was always predicated on a core loyalty to basic values, such as freedom of speech, tolerance, equal opportunity, democracy and the rule of law. It has worked for a long time, with many proud to boast that Australia was one of the world’s most successful multicultural societies. Indeed, around one in three Aussies is born overseas, and yet we remain remarkably peaceful.

However, the Western world, and the Australia into which multiculturalism was introduced in 1978 was very different from now. After World War II Southern and Eastern Europeans emigrated en masse to Australia and North America, boosting post-war prosperity. I grew up among them in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, where I had Maltese neighbours on one side, Russians the other and Ukrainians, Estonians and Latvians over the road. Native-born Australians were a rarity and cultural diversity the norm. Then the Wall fell, the Cold War ended and liberal democracy’s dominance was such that US academic Francis Fukuyama could write an influential book arguing that ideology was over and we had arrived at the end of history. The West seemed strong and victorious.

Now we are entering a multipolar world, with a weakened USA, and an aggressive, still-communist China and other rivals challenging Western hegemony. We face the recurring spectre of Islamic terrorism and massive refugee flows, even as our societies fragment and splinter with identity politics. Culture itself is becoming more important than ever, with race, religion, skin colour and ‘diversity’ new markers of social status. The Voice campaign exposed a bitter indigenous separatism. Our societies are no longer as unified as they once were, in a world that has become more threatening.

Academics such as Robert Putnam have long argued that multiple ethnicities decrease social trust, forcing a retreat from the public space into tribes. This was supported in 2020 by a Copenhagen University meta-analysis of 87 studies which found ‘a statistically significant negative relationship between ethnic diversity and social trust across all studies’. This is, in other words, Balkanisation, a society of tribes.

Bipartisanship has for decades muted any criticism of multiculturalism, and many are the politicans who followed in Enoch Powell’s path and were flayed for doubting some cultures’ adaptability to Western values. Eminent voices are now being raised, however, as doors are closing all across Europe. Elder statesman Henry Kissinger lashed Germany’s ‘grave mistake’ of letting in ‘so many people of totally different culture and religion and concepts’. Former UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, herself of Indian descent, labelled multiculturalism a failure. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has vowed to toughen migration laws and increase ‘large-scale’ deportations. Crime-hit Sweden’s Prime Minister recently denounced the country’s ‘irresponsible immigration policy and failed integration’. Hungary’s Orbán has predicted that the next European elections would focus on migration and terrorism. Five Nordic nations agreed in October to collaborate on tighter migration controls, including paying migrants to go home.

These issues are arising as the Albanese government is bringing in an extraordinary flood of migrants – a new Canberra every year – when infrastructure, particularly housing, is already failing our young people, especially in our capital cities. Moreover, a recent Australian High Court decision has upset the indefinite detention apple-cart, its decision leading to the release of both a child-sex offender and a Malaysian contract killer into our communities – on the grounds that no one else would take them in.

Meanwhile, it sometimes feels as if, in a world where culture is increasingly significant, the only culture that is not respected is the host Judaeo-Christian one. Just as anti-white racism is dismissed in some quarters as a definitional impossibility, since whites are the colonising oppressors, so the traditions of Western host nations can be disrespected. Did London’s big pro-Palestine march have to be on Remembrance Day? Did pro-Palestinian slogans have to desecrate Melbourne war memorials, of all places? Did the Caulfield protesters have to choose a synagogue to assemble outside? Where is any respect? My daughter, in her twenties, was recently surprised to be asked what her ‘ethno’ was – as if everyone automatically came from elsewhere. I have a niece who has relocated to Italy because ‘Australia has no culture’.

The question is, can the West’s multiculturalism survive the conflict with radical Islamists? Or is it out of date, a policy for a different era? These radicals don’t accept Australian values, instead preaching jihad and displaying contempt for our laws. Supporters of the status quo would argue this is simply the difference between terrorists and otherwise peaceful Muslims, and leave multiculturalism out of it please.

But a more basic cleft between Judaeo-Christian values and Islamic ones may be emerging. Pundit Douglas Murray recently pointed out that Nazi soldiers had to get drunk to deal with the horrors of the gas chambers they administered. Hamas fighters, by contrast, rang home to celebrate, gleeful at how many Jews they had killed. Donald Trump Jnr recently shared a video of a German Islamist asserting that as soon as they outnumbered the locals, Sharia law would come in. ‘Once Muslims are in the majority, it is our duty to conquer Germany’. He then cited taqiya, the doctrine of lying in a pious cause, when asked if ‘normal’ Islam agreed with such approaches. Most Muslims in the West have been peaceful, but judging from the 300,000-strong pro-Palestinian march in London, the radical fringe is not tiny. And it has few qualms about asserting itself.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently argued that radical Islam provides a civilisational challenge to the Judaeo-Christian West. It’s past time to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us, a debate that I fear terrorism will force upon us.


The Politics of black crime

In August of 2023, a criminology professor named Eric Stewart of Florida State University was fired for, at the very least, “extreme negligence” in his research praxis. Six of the tenured academic’s publications were formally retracted, most by major journals like Law & Society Review and Criminology. The withdrawn papers are likely to be followed by further retractions. The ivory tower scandal broke after former graduate student Justin Pickett “blew the whistle on his research” four years ago.

This wonky-sounding dispute between two gentlemen of letters in fact matters a great deal to public discourse. Stewart’s faked studies included explosive claims that American whites—presumably including jurors—“wanted longer sentences for Blacks and Latinos accused of crimes” than for Caucasians; that conservatives are on average more racist than liberals; and that the “legacy of lynching” continues to measurably influence perceptions of Black crime today.

These arguments were hardly made in obscurity. According to Google Scholar, Dr. Stewart is one of the most cited figures in all of Criminology, with 8,673 total citations and 3,965 citations (as of Nov. 14) since 2018. As the New York Post noted, Stewart was named one of the American Society of Criminology’s four highly distinguished criminologists in 2017 (the society selects only as many as five fellows annually). It is no exaggeration to say that Stewart did more than almost anyone to popularize the purely academic idea of systemic racism—and much of what he said was simply not true.

The iconic narratives used to prop up the “continuing oppression narrative” have an odd habit of turning out to be false, and the reaction in U.S. cities to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre is the latest example of the same phenomenon. A curious feature of this process is the interchangeability of both the iconography and the rhetoric of various street-action movements demanding redress for different identity groups. The stock of common slogans, brandished with religious fervor, share a peculiar quality in common: They bear no relation to reality.

Take the use of the word genocide. Over the past month, claims by pro-Palestinian mobs of an Israeli “genocide” in Gaza mirror long-standing claims of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, for example, that U.S. police are perpetrating a “genocide” of African Americans. Both forms of sectarian group mobilization in America rely on conspiracism and falsehoods, and on the participation of the media in enforcing a hierarchy of victimhood. Insofar as this sectarian narrative is officially sanctioned, it is presented not only as reflecting the lofty ideals and values of what it means to be American, but also as indisputable empirical truth.

The emblem of the BLM narrative, the May 2020 death of George Floyd, is a case study in why language is important and how lying corrodes public trust and the health of our national discourse. It is useful, then, to revisit the considerable evidence that has emerged recently, which indicates that even the widely accepted account of Floyd’s death is possibly false, or at the very least incomplete.

The iconic narratives used to prop up the ‘continuing oppression narrative’ have an odd habit of turning out to be false.

A full and unredacted version of Floyd’s primary autopsy report notes simply that Minnesota’s Hennepin County medical examiner identified “no injuries of … muscles of neck or laryngeal structures” that would indicate strangulation or any other “life-threatening injuries.” Further, it notes, Floyd had taken a potentially life-threatening dose of “11 ng/mL” of fentanyl.

A deposition in relation to a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by former Hennepin County prosecutor Amy Sweasy against former County Attorney Mike Freeman revealed remarkably frank statements by county officials in 2020. Under oath, Sweasy disclosed that, the day after Floyd’s death, Hennepin County Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker told her “there were no medical findings that showed any injury to the vital structures of Mr. Floyd’s neck. There were no medical indications of asphyxia or strangulation.”

Whether Floyd’s death was literally a homicide or not—at the very least, a cop charged with corralling an overdosing suspect should have called in the EMTs rather than continue to restrain him—there was never much evidence that a racist cop was out to murder a Black man. In reality, Derek Chauvin was an urbanite in an interracial marriage, and the team of officers sent out to respond to the initial complaint against Mr. Floyd included two minority cops in addition to two whites. Without calling into question the ultimate verdict in Chauvin’s case, we can simply observe that his case is the one typically considered the gold standard when it comes to hard evidence for the ongoing “genocide against colored people” in the United States.

And most other BLM martyr cases collapse even more quickly. Jacob Blake, probably the second-best-known innocent victim of police violence of the past few years, turned out to be an alleged rapist who returned to his victim’s house after she told him not to, and he held a knife as he resisted arrest after she called the cops on him. Michael Brown, the “gentle giant” of “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” was a violent felon who robbed a popular minority-owned business on camera an hour before struggling with a police officer for his gun, resulting in his shooting. So unambiguous was the justification for Brown’s shooting that the Justice Department of President Barack Obama cleared the officer, with Obama himself stating that he had “full confidence” in the decision.

Even the less lethal, sometimes more amusing stories that nevertheless contribute to the false sense of all-consuming racial tensions in America typically turn out to be hoaxes or nothing burgers. The actor Jussie Smollett famously faked his own beating. The Covington Catholic kids were, if anything, the victims of the stupid confrontation that made them famous. None of the middle-class civilization-maxxing white women accused of being “Karens” did much of anything wrong; one of them turned out to be a pregnant nurse absurdly accused of jacking a bicycle from five fighting-age Black men. And so forth.

With regard to police violence, during the fairly typical year of 2015 that I reviewed in depth for my book Taboo: 10 Facts You Can’t Talk About, the total number of fatal police shootings nationwide was 999. Of those, 258 (26 percent) of the victims were African American, which seems low given our younger average age and higher crime rate, and exactly 17—across roughly 60 million police-citizen encounters—involved unarmed Black men shot by white cops. Since that year, the negligible total has remained stable or even improved somewhat: 2022 data from The Washington Post’s “Killed by Police: Fatal Force” project indicates that exactly 12 unarmed Black citizens were shot and killed that year, by police officers of all races.

Data on interracial crime—often discussed on social media as though it involved a constant wave of “Barbecue Beckys,” “Pool Patrol Paulas,” “Dog Park Divas,” and similar harridans physically and verbally assaulting completely innocent Black taxpayers—also provides no support for the idea of ongoing systemic racism. In reality, once we break out the national crime report of the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, and focus on a representative year, “classic” inter-race crime (violent crimes involving a Black person and a white person) is revealed both to be only about 3 percent of crime—and more than 80 percent Black-on-white. During 2018–19 (the last year to include all major races as both victim and offender categories), there was a combined total of only 607,726 violent index crimes involving both Blacks and whites—out of roughly 20 million total crimes—and 547,948 were Black-on-white while just 59,778 were white-on-Black.

Even more detailed and serious claims of “systemic racism” tend to collapse when analyzed using any sort of modern empirical modeling technique. Years back, the well-regarded econometrician June O’Neill reviewed the 15+ percent gap in annual earnings that exists between white and Black men in the United States—almost universally attributed to racism—and noted that this shrinks to 1 to 2 percent when professional adjustments are made for variables like age, region of residence, and any board test or IQ test score.

As a once fairly apolitical Dinesh D’Souza noted back in 1996, it simply makes no sense to notice that a young Black man living in rural Mississippi makes less money year-over-year than an old white man living in Manhattan, and attribute this to “racism.” What does a young white man living in rural Mississippi make, comes the question? For that matter, did both Mississippians go to the University of Mississippi, or did one attend Directional Crawdad State and suffer financially afterward? Seems relevant, as the kids might say.

All of these are relatively simple and obvious points, which raises another question: Why are people in the “systemic racism” debate so often so reluctant to make them? My older cousin Glenn Loury has a good three-word answer to this question: “presumption of inferiority.”

From Ibram X. Kendi over to the dissident “alt-right,” a surprisingly common claim in American high- and upper-middlebrow discourse is that the only two factors that can plausibly explain large gaps in group performance are basically racism (however vague or subtle) and genetic inferiority. To quote Jared Taylor, who arguably founded the alt-right: Good liberals fear relaxing their vigilant belief in racism as the universal explanation for sky-high Black rates of, say, crime or fatherlessness, because doing so “leaves the door open for a possibility too dangerous to be countenanced.”

In fact, this binary argument is fatally simplistic. In reality, a third and superior “Thomas Sowell Alternative” exists: Dozens of social and cultural factor variables, including details such as daily hours of study time, explain group performance means and performance gaps. Two of the factors O’Neill examined—median age and regional culture—obviously have pretty much nothing to do with genetics, or indeed with racism. Even the third, test scores by group, correlates heavily with the amount of time members of different populations spend hitting the books and working with tutors—with Asian-Americans unsurprisingly spanking African-Americans 3:1 and whites roughly 2:1 against these metrics.

This logically obvious “culturalist” point is lavishly supported by hard data: Many of the most troubling contemporary problems are entirely modern in their origins, and essentially did not exist for any group in the recent past, when racism was far worse and the U.S. population was more genetically similar. The African American birth rate outside of marriage was roughly 11 percent in 1938, for example, while it is 69 percent today. The rate has surged from 4 percent to 36 percent among whites in the same period. Similarly, homicides across all races jumped from 8,640 in 1963 to 24,530 30 years later. The murder rate holds relatively steady today following substantial increases during the peak of the BLM era.

Problematic patterns like this have trackable causes, which, in 2023, are quite unlikely to include ubiquitous racism. Fortunately, they also have public policy solutions—typically quite logical and time-tested ones. To have any hope of enacting them, though, we first need to move beyond the illiterate sloganeering and made-for-TikTok street-protest mentality which is once again dominating the discourse.


Sheldon Whitehouse versus the Supreme court

As a sitting United States senator, Sheldon Whitehouse gets to live the life of the rich and famous even if he is neither. Being powerful is a good substitute, I guess. Or perhaps more particularly, the rich and famous deign to rub elbows with the powerful for their own reasons.

In all events, Sen. Whitehouse, D-R.I., has a standing invitation, for instance, to the events put on by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Senators are flown on a private plane chartered by the DSCC” to these “luxurious” and “lavish” “retreats,” “which are held at five-star resorts like the Ritz-Carlton,” reports MSNBC. These “semi-annual DSCC retreats on Martha’s Vineyard and in Palm Beach, Florida … always feature a large group of Democratic senators who are brought to schmooze with donors.” Senators can hang at the pool, walk the beach, enjoy the buffet, or take a private shoreline cruise with lobbyists and megadonors.

Yet Sen. Whitehouse is offended—outraged—that U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have friends who have invited each one to their private homes, and those homes are well, as nice as the houses one might find on Martha’s Vineyard or Palm Beach. And so Sen. Whitehouse, who has been on a conspiratorial jihad against the Supreme Court’s conservative majority for years, and his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee are moving toward subpoenas to force these friends to disclose the details of their association.

Whitehouse’s investigation is nothing more than McCarthyism—“I have here in my hand Clarence Thomas’s Christmas card list.” This is the same sort of shenanigans that brought shame on the Nixon White House—before there was Watergate, there was the Nixon administration’s enemies y’s list of potential candidates for IRS audits, bureaucratic harassment, and contract denials. It’s no accident the three subjects of the putative subpoenas are two successful businessmen who have been generous supporters of Republican and conservative causes and Leonard Leo, an influential conservative power-player, particularly on legal issues. The Democrats’ lawfare against Republican donors, staffers, and activists is well-known—Whitehouse’s latest stunt is of a piece with a mindset that grips the Department of Justice and other organs of power: that special counsels, subpoenas, and FBI raids are the normal tools of the trade to target the players on the other side. If they’re Republicans, they must be doing something wrong.

Whitehouse would love nothing more than for these Republican supporters to decide now is the time to step back from politics.
The supposed investigation here is especially ridiculous given its thin-as-gruel rationale. Sen. Whitehouse has been pushing a bill to impose an ethics code he has crafted on the Supreme Court. That bill has already been adopted by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee. So it’s hard to believe evidence is needed to inform the Committee’s consideration of a bill that has already been voted on.

In reality, this is about intimidation, institutional credibility, and feeding the political base. Intimidation is evident in subpoenas, which are a useful tool to bully people into silence. Whitehouse would love nothing more than for these Republican supporters to decide now is the time to step back from politics. Institutional credibility is at risk because the accusations cast aspersions on Thomas and Alito and make them look unethical. The insinuation is then that all of their decisions are somehow “illegitimate,” like having an asterisk in a sports scorebook after a win. And it’s about feeding the liberal Democratic base with the idea that Republicans are stonewalling an investigation to hide their dirty laundry, as though the government is entitled to see and expose the private activities of people in public life and their friends.

All three of those considerations are just symptoms of the underlying disease: Whitehouse and the Democrats are angry that the U.S. Supreme Court has a conservative majority that is actually committed to following the Constitution and respecting the rule of law. They’re beside themselves that Justices Thomas and Alito and their colleagues reversed Roe and are paring back the bureaucratic behemoth in Washington. So they’re using every tool at their disposal to attack, undermine, and bully the Court in the hopes that the justices will pause or pull back from their convictions.

I wouldn’t bet on it—these justices are made of stronger stuff than that. They took an oath to uphold the Constitution, and Whitehouse’s latest stunt is not going to throw them off course.


My other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


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