On silence, states of exception and grace

-a postscript dispatch from the grief process

[I am completing this post, started weeks ago, as my elderly mother is in hospital via the emergency room more than a thousand kilometers away. We, that is family, and the doctors, at the moment, don’t know why, other than her intense pain, or what will happen. I am writing in a state of suspension and insomnia.]

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SILENCE

There is no silence in the world.
Monks have created it
to hear the horses every day
and feathers falling from wings.

~Nikola Madzirov quoted in World Poetry Portfolio #53: Nikola Madzirov

At a certain point last year I stopped writing the grief dispatches that I had been doing here after Manoj suddenly died in January. Part of it was because less than 3 months later, in April 2014, I lost someone else who had been very close to me especially when I was younger. She was my best friend when we were in our late teens and throughout our 20s. It was also very sudden and hard to believe.

There were no words for that portion of the grief process when it got REALLY REAL. Initially it had felt like being thrown of a cliff—a sense of everything falling away, nothing there. It was unreal like a strong breeze from a fan on your body. What is that feeling? You’re not floating. You’re not flying. Yet something is passing over, and later I discovered, through you.

I tried in various ways to make sense of it. I wrote blog posts here about some of that process. But at a certain point I gave up and started to resign myself to being unresolved in that empty valley of winds and shadows.

But I found I could not rest in that. Pain, even if you’re quite disconnected from it and not consciously feeling it, tends to shuffle the deck of one’s motivations, desires, habits, thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Something had to be done so I decided to retreat in a lot of ways to deal with myself. [Sorry for all the Facebook unfriending, emails that went unanswered, visits cancelled, and all the rest. This is what it was about. “It’s not you it’s me.” Really.]

One reason I retreated in that way was because it was happening anyways. When you are in a state of exception, that is for whatever reason outside the flow of the everyday or the status quo or “normal” life, be it illness, death, divorce, or other disruptive situation, people tend to pull away from you. Initially they express sympathies, condolences or whatnot, but at a certain point the state of exception becomes more clearly demarcated. This demarcation can become what is termed social death. That is when a person is somehow viewed by others and even at times by themselves, as somehow less than a fully human participant in society. The term is used often to describe the circumstances of racism and slavery where people are assigned to a category in which their life is of little value in social terms when such value defaults to the oppressor’s definitions. It is also used where people are shunned from a circumstance with words like, “You are dead to me”. Those are very deliberate situations practiced consciously.

Where social death is not circumscribed so clearly but evidences itself nonetheless there is social invisibility. You see this as people step around homeless people or as people talk over the excluded person in a conversation as if they are not even there.

In more amorphous circumstances still, social death signifies some kind of change of status or becoming marked in some way, often by being seen in terms of lack. If you lose your job, get divorced, or are diagnosed with an illness for example, people step away. Sometimes they run, but usually they try to be discrete about it and inch towards the door instead.

You become awkward for people to deal with. You are “problematic”. You have slipped from the position that social consciousness once recognized into some grey area that is difficult to categorize and handle with the ease of the usual social scripts. People may just become distant and call it “giving you your space”—even when space is all you’ve got and you don’t really need any more of it–or they may in worse cases resort to sarcasm, callousness and so on as a way of keeping emotional distance from someone.

The effects are internalized too. You can’t relate to them, whoever “they” may be, the way you used to because your circumstances have changed such that you may not even know what to do in a situation that depended on your previous circumstances. There might be embarrassment for you or for them. There might be fear of even further marginalization.  Even if you tried to relate, their responses would likely be altered until, and if, both you and they came to terms with such changes.

Grief by Raymond Carver

Woke up early this morning and from my bed
looked far across the Strait to see
a small boat moving through the choppy water,
a single running light on. Remembered
my friend who used to shout
his dead wife’s name from hilltops
around Perugia. Who set a plate
for her at his simple table long after
she was gone. And opened the windows
so she could have fresh air. Such display
I found embarrassing. So did his other
friends. I couldn’t see it.
Not until this morning.

Another reason I withdrew was because it was clear that I was using a lot of things to try to stuff more stuff into the vacant spaces in my life.  Like anything one uses to try to fill up a nihilistic or uncomfortable sense of lack, that works until it doesn’t any more. Then one is left with that space still along with the fallout of attempts to alleviate the situation. That space beckons to be filled, with something, with anything.

Some people’s biggest accomplishment is their misery in such circumstances. You seem to find a state that’s just bad enough to dwell in and not so bad that you go under. That’s the state I reached. I wrote a post about the initial contact with that nihilistic state here, This is Not the Emptiness You’re Looking For. It really grabbed me for a while. You don’t thrive there, you simply exist in a diminished way while you lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling with your hand in a bag of Cheetos, or on a bottle, or with a hand full of pills or what have you. It was arid and empty and I felt nothing of any consequence whatsoever. But I wanted to feel something, anything even if it was just my own damage.

When there’s the feeling of emptiness in the nihilistic sense or in the sense of lack or neediness, there is not enough of anything to fill it. Sometimes we might even fill it with pain just to have something there, something familiar even if, from a less subjective viewpoint, it might complicate things further if not make them worse. Sometimes we might even think about suicide, which I wrote about here, Ghosts and Imagination (also stuff there about Walter Benjamin and equanimity which briefly is neither accepting or rejecting, just engaging)

Pain is easy to grab on to. There’s plenty of it around and plenty of ways to inflict it on each other and on ourselves. Humans are really good at manufacturing and distributing pain and even simulations of pain. There are whole industries devoted to pain distribution now-arms dealers, military contractors, prison systems. That’s besides the pain related epiphenomenon that occurs in commercial enterprises, entertainment, schools and families.

Pain and suffering is sometimes glorified in Christian influenced societies. Some who have suffered harder than others are even made saints by the Catholic church. That’s not to say that pain isn’t glorified in the secular arena as well by those who “play through their injuries” or stood up to a beating “like a man”, the US gives purple heart medals to wounded soldiers, and so on. One is expected to not only embody their pain but embrace it even harder.

This “lean-in” approach is extremist. It doesn’t deal with what is but creates a more intense and artificial situation. It manufactures a false circumstance that can easily bring about a false sense of victory. [Hope some of my Zen friends are hearing that.]

That lean-in type of catharsis is not a road I wanted to go down when I decided to retreat and deal with what was happening. The point was to remove obstacles, or let them fall away, not build a higher artificial wall around them to be cleared first.

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“If we go down into ourselves, we find that we possess exactly what we desire.”    ― Simone Weil

Everyone has their own way of introspecting. I’ve meditated for more than 25 years and practiced some cognitive-behavioural techniques so was pretty familiar with my subjective landscape. This, however was all new territory.

Grief is like a strange doppelganger that you carry around inside of you, that sometimes trades places with you and you try to hide from, until one day it slips out and sits across from you and you look into it’s eyes. I’m using (very mixed) metaphors of course but at a certain tipping point emotional baggage can shift in pretty sudden and unexpected ways. This can feel like panic and a loss of control. That loss of control is necessary to some degree in order to resolve the inner dilemma.

Self-examination, particularly when it turns to self-critique, can become a rigid, disciplinary exercise wherein one becomes an ideologue parroting acceptable phrases, rather than undertaking a useful process of learning and growth. That generally happens when the processing is all done on an intellectual level, that is, in the head. Emotion is disciplined into a corner and ideas take over. Intellectualization of this type is a psychological defense mechanism with the purpose of protecting one’s sense of self, esteem and to rationalize behaviour. It can also become rather cold and heartless.  It was somewhat useful to intellectualize as I had to close up our apartment and deal with the practical matters of death along with his family members. But it becomes all empty again, as all psychological defense mechanisms ultimately do if the situations they are invoked to mask is not dealt with.

So I had to abandon that approach, which I’ll admit is my favourite because I’m really good at it, if I wanted to deal with myself. That left me kind of lost and I went into depression off and on for a few months. Eh, it was something.

In that kind of state dissatisfaction is rife, as is anger and a lot of other stuff, but it’s still pretty much under the surface. You still can’t feel it really except during brief and often unintentional flare ups. Once more something had to be done because that felt like a deep hole too.

Finally I said “I really need to contact somebody who understands”.  Finally I decided to contact Manoj’s friends, who were/are also my friends. We were now on different continents and hadn’t spoken much after the initial couple of months.  One of them said, “You are welcome to come home any time, we have been waiting for you.” That broke me. Totally. An unqualified, unconditional statement of care. No amount of thinking could have brought me to that solution. It was the pure need for human connection. It wasn’t just for me either..people had been waiting.

One thing I have learned is that there is no silence no matter how silently one retreats. Not even in emptiness–of any variety. Life is very full—it is blossoming, withering, exploding, expanding, coagulating, entwining, decaying, convulsing–fecund and noisy in other words.

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“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.”
― Simone Weil, Waiting for God

When people talk of grace they usually mean divine grace, that is some sort of blessing from a deity that frees someone from suffering and torment. I have no God of any kind to which I might direct such an appeal.

I would not have been able to write this post without the presence of friends. I call it friends because there’s not a better word I can think of. It’s the place where the possibilities of human connection and love really begin. It is the place where one says, maybe in not so many words, “I am prepared to hurt for you, and with you.”

So no possibilities without those friends of the past, those who I am bound to in the present, and those I hope will be friends in the future. Without them I would not have realized much of this. Mostly though it is because of Manoj and Marina, two people who were willing to dive deep with me, laugh with me and hurt with me and I with them, that let me know I was nothing to be scared of, and that nor were other people, in themselves, scary.

What I have found, through them all, is grace. I realize that it has been there all along.

Our planet is poorly equipped for delight.
One must snatch gladness from the days that are.
In this life
it’s not difficult to die.
To make life
is more difficult by far.

~Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky, from To Sergei Esenin

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Immersion and Comfort

 

I started this on Twitter but have collected it and added to it here. Maybe it’s a little disjointed but perhaps it’s useful to somebody.

It was one of those spontaneous outbursts that prompted further spontaneous outbursts from others. Try that sometimes. Seems to bring a sense of relief to people around. We have become so afraid to speak…too afraid.

3AM religious television in India is a lot more diverse & interesting than the constant Christianity that plays in Canada.

gurus, yogis, imams, priests, monks, babas…also yoga, Krishna dancing, speaking in tongues, animated Hanuman stories… immersion

Odd that an atheist (even a Buddhist one) would feel so comfortable with all that, but there it is. 1 reason it feels so empty here…

…on the verge of running with that here…maybe to the blog so yr timelines aren’t flooded…

One correspondent called the above:

suspension of disbelief

That could well be a part of it.

[As an aside yes I do find society in North America really empty as I mentioned above. It’s like a hard shell with nothing but gears and cogs inside of it…all metallic and full of sharp edges. Isolating and compartmentalizing everything human. Often to the point of being robotic. It’s such an incredible amount of work to reach any sort of real depth. “I don’t want to get involved.” seems to be the order of the day. Anyways…back to topic]

Another wrote:

I don’t find it odd. Joyful religious exuberance is one of the best parts of humanity. I get my hit from the local gospel station! I think there is something we long for in it.

I had to agree:

"Joyful religious exuberance" -a good way to put it. I find that also in Muslim countries with the daily calls to prayer 2

We don’t even get gospel (I also like) here in Canada. It’s all either ranting evangelicals or grumpy Anglican/Lutheran stuff

There really isn’t much religious diversity available publically in Canada, particularly in the media.   [Speaking of which, as I was writing this up somebody left a very long hectoring comment on another post about meditation being the devil’s business and how Buddhists are playing with dangerous forces etc. etc. You know how that drill goes I’m sure. I left it there so I could comment about it there and here.]

Writing about this on Twitter seemed to start something of a flood of favoriting, retweets and responses. Who knew? I’ll just put them here.

Someone posted this video with the comments:

I get my hit from the local gospel station! I think there is something we long for in it. I always have high hopes for feast practice but really want the church scene from Blues Brothers.

 

Me: That was retweeted in case somebody’s in need of some churching (Blues Brothers/James Brown style)

That feels good. Gospel singing big part of my childhood

Me: Oh hallelujah…I seem to be having a middle of the night religious conversion…lol… c’mon I’m messing with y’all a little bit… [a couple of people actually unfollowed—really!—because of this Twitter conversation]

Me:Just because someone (me) doesn’t subscribe to a god figure in any way, shape or form doesn’t mean hating on those who do is necessary. I enjoy the fruits of the world’s religions. Music, art, mythologies & that for some people it helps them be better people & gives them comfort

You can take that to mean the human part of religions, the creative things born out of the inspiration of what may (or may not) be perceived as supernatural for some. Sometimes, even though I may not believe in the underlying premise for making such creations there is a particular feeling that comes when one is surrounded, immersed in that kind of milieu. Part of it is the communal aspect, the sense of belonging it gives people. It’s also a kind of psychological comfort. An opiate to dull the pain. Sometimes that’s necessary.

[Since I brought up the famous phrase, Marx wasn’t criticizing opiates the way we do today BTW. They were the main form of pain relief back then and valued as medicine. His point was that life in oppressive societies and capitalist society in particular with it’s exploitative elements was alienating and painful hence religion served a function there. If those elements were removed people would be relieved of such pain and religion would fade away. Not unlike things said in the Buddhist canon about rafts and the like. Returning from that digression…]

I subsequently wrote:

There is not much of comfort in the world presently. Take it where you can get it.

Then one of the correspondents put this into the mix with comment:

Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome, one day

 

 

[I note I’m not the only one having such thoughts. Harry Bradley wrote Enlightenment, THE Enlightenment, Reason, and the Religion of Being Human… and Oxford professor of Islamic Studies, Tariq Ramadan wrote DANGEROUS EMOTIONS, LIBERATING SPIRITUALITY. Both touch on similar themes]


Thanks to Twitter participants, retweeters and favoriters @JeffryGonzalez , @DeathZen, @Llimoner_ , @kaygeeuk, @BeyondMeds, @jamie_crozier, @Mz_Kiboko, @msSandy_

Harris & Hedges:a Match Made in Heaven?

One of the most boring things about celebrity atheist Sam Harris is his obsession with Islamic fundamentalism. I like a lot of other stuff he writes but when it comes to this topic it’s like his voice raises a couple dozen decibels and a couple of octaves as well. It feels like being screamed at.

Am I tone trolling there? Maybe.

Chris Hedges, who’s viewpoint I also admire on a lot of issues also tends towards the rising voice and indignant posturing.

The two of them have had at it more than a few times in debates and in print. Most recently, after the Norway massacre Hedges wrote a pointed column on Truthdig in which he lambasted Harris, along with Christopher Hitchens, for their often expressed Islamophobic paranoia. The implication was that those who expressed such exuberant outrage at this particular religion had more in common with Tea Party wingnuts than the rational atheists they proclaim themselves to be. He also pointed to the influence both have on their various followings. The article is Fundamentalism Kills.

Shortly thereafter Sam Harris responded with Dear Angry Lunatic: A Response to Chris Hedges. He quotes himself quite a bit, or at least from his own books and employs a number of “psychoanalytical” attacks on Hedges as well as picking on his vocabulary. It’s a little frivolous in terms of a response.

Today Sam Harris posted on Facebook a link, prefaced by “The Future of Islam in Europe? A few reasons to worry”, to a video of a “press conference” by some radical Muslim scholars in Britain. I put press conference in quotes because it appeared that there weren’t too many press there and it was posted on YouTube not on the BBC or other media website. So…you know my neighbor’s kid posts their little manifestos on YouTube as well and has more followers than these guys.

But lets not turn this into a YouTube popularity contest. The fact that a Muslim guy rattled on about sharia law and his utopian hope for a society that lives up to all his Quranic fantasies, even if nobody watched, is reason enough to issue yet another call to the Harrisists to twist their knickers so tight they’ll need the jaws of life to get them out of their butt cracks.

And some of them certainly did get twisted. The comment stream is here. One suggested a Final Solution for Muslims.

“As long as islam has a future anywhere we need to be worried. If we don’t come up with a final solution to the moooslim question, we’re all dead.”

Quite possibly a troll attempt one might be tempted to think, but what followed was certainly written with sincerity. Four people liked that status. Someone wrote in contrast:

I just want to point out that you are a troll idiot.

and 8 people liked that. So twice as many are against a “moooslim” final solution than for it, thus far.

But then the original commenter came up with this rationale which is either trolling for the grand prize or dead serious.

Tommy thousands of years have proven that the marketplace of ideas cannot trump religious ideology. Moooslims won’t abandon the perpertual "paradise" of raping 72 young virgins (or raisins) for all eternity in favor of reason and logic. Not a chance. This is why they need to be rounded up, separated from their children (who can be given secular educations that don’t mention religion), and pumped full of antipsychotic meds while being given forceful de-islamifying re-education for 23 hours a day. The ones who can be de-islamified can be released, the rest unfortunately have to be put down – in the most humane way possible. And spare me the hitler/nazi crap, I’m not suggesting we torture, gas, burn, or enslave anyone. It’s either mooslims or civilization, and unlike most people I an NOT willing to let civilization be destroyed just so I can say "well, I was tolerant."

And then more along the same line appeared.

With any luck, Inshallah, some Mossad/CIA/M6 agents will introduce these Neandarthals in bedsheets to their maker. Inshallah.

What scares me more is the so called liberal secularists who would rather be seen as "tolerant" than confront Islamism. If this community had more sense, we wouldn’t be watching conferences like this. Half of the people here are downplaying, if not defended, these Islamists and the threat they pose. If these were white Christians, this thread would be filled with foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics with torches in hand. If Europe does change for the worse, it will be your fault for letting it happen. Your grand children will hate you for it while they try to put back together what was an otherwise secular and progressive continent. I hope you’re all proud of yourselves. If your grandparents had crystal balls, they would have spent a hell of a lot more time cumming into a handkerchief than your grandmother.

I’m so ready to just go to war with these nutballs, pound them into dust, and be done with it already

These fucking troglodyte camel jockeys are saying that THEY are advanced and the rest of us are in the Middle Ages ? WTF ???

On the other hand some commenters did express some objections.

Did 4 people really like a comment about a Muslim Final Solution? Maybe Chris Hedges was onto something.

WOW! I think Sam really needs to clarify what he is asserting, it is definitely not the type of hatred that is in this thread.

My fav part is when people throw out the same type rhetoric the fundies do — round em all up, sterilize them, etc etc… Looks like we have some NAZIs in the atheist community :P tolerance is the holy grail — nobody seems to have found it (except for citizens under Saladin until the fundie Xtians ruined that too)

I guess now that Osama is dead we need to haul out references to every obscure guy with a beard and a twisted utopian/dystopian dream to keep the flames fanned. The Islamophobic paranoia is as bad as the anti-Islamophobia hysteria. You & Hedges make a great couple.

I wrote the last one and it’s the point of this post.

A passion for the truth is something I understand. Sometimes that passion takes one into areas that get pretty heated. It’s easy to overstep. I’ve done it. But I’m not a New York Times best selling author, public speaker, celebrity or public intellectual. Nor do I have tens of thousands of followers, many of whom having had little exposure to public/political debate. The public debate of ideas has certain rules. There is much nuance and subtext and a fair bit of metaphor mixed in with a certain amount of heady egotism. People in the spotlight tend to magnify their expressions to match the occasion. Many in the audience however take what is written or said at face value. That’s a problem. As much as I agree with what both Harris and Hedges write by way of socio-cultural criticism I have some reservations about their ability to view issues clearly or to express them without bombast.

One of the main reasons I won’t join the current skeptic or atheist movement, even as a Buddhist (which has an atheist viewpoint) which I have gathered so far is an unpopular position, is because of the unwillingness of some of the biggest names, as well as their acolytes to rationally self-examine. There is a supposition of rationality that I find lacking a lot of the time. It is not unlike what I wrote in my previous post on moral credentialing by proxy. Stating “I say I am an atheist therefore I am rational” is as much of a non sequitur as stating “I say I am a Buddhist therefore I am moral (or any other Buddhisty thing)”.

It is equally as difficult to buy into Hedges rhetoric when it is so hyperbolic. He is a political columnist and social critic. His stock in trade, and the basis of his Pulizer Prize winning work, is delving into the fray in a very emotionally engaging way. This makes for compelling journalism. I am perhaps easier on Hedges because he does not make absolutist claims in the realm of rationality and objectivity to the degree that some of the atheist luminaries like Harris do.

I’ll still read what they write, put my helmet on and comment once in a while or even write a blog post or two in support of the majority of their goals. But joining up isn’t in the works.

Perfect Women in Chilly Climates

There was an article today titled Is It Cold in Here? By Jennifer Ouellette on the Scientific American website. She wrote about working at CERN and the chilly social climate she encountered there as a woman in a man’s world. She then discusses a situation that has exploded all over the atheist/skeptic blogosphere regarding a man’s proposition to a woman at 4 AM.

I began to write a post about this situation a few weeks ago when all the hoopla started but got caught up in other things.

But with today’s article, the mention of it on P.Z.Myers blog Pharyngula and the same dim-witted responses pouring in as last time, I’m going to say my piece on this topic after all.

The Original Post I Started

There’s been a big uproar among the atheists regarding a fairly minor incident at one of their conferences.  A bunch of the posts appear at the bottom of this one if you wish to dig deeper into specifics.

A woman speaker who had been giving talks about feminism, female objectification and getting more women to join the movement was approached and mildly propositioned. Sounds rather innocuous, and it would be if that was all that occurred.

The problem was the circumstances.

She had been talking on these subjects for several days. She keeps a blog on that and related subjects. She is well known for her opinion on these matters.

As the conference was going on a group had gathered in the venue’s bar. It was getting late and she announced that she was tired and was going to get some sleep.

She proceeded to the hotel elevator and got in. She was followed in there by a man she didn’t know but who had apparently been in the bar with her group when she was in there. Either he hadn’t introduced himself at that time, or previously, or had not participated in the conversation at all so that any introduction went unnoticed.

While in the elevator he proceeded to ask her to come to his room for coffee because he found her viewpoint interesting and wanted to continue the conversation.

What’s wrong with that scenario?

If you don’t know here’s a list.

  1. It’s 4AM and you suggest coffee?
  2. She said she was tired and was going to bed indicating that the conversation portion of the night was over. That he wanted to continue it indicates either some kind of hearing problem or completely ignoring her explicitly stated wishes.
  3. She was in a foreign country, in a strange hotel, in an elevator alone. She was in unfamiliar surroundings. She had no backup and everyone she had been with assumed she would go to her room so no one was going to come looking for her until the next day at the earliest.
  4. She had just spent several days outlining how offensive it was to be objectified. Is coffee in a hotel room in the middle of the night a euphemism?
  5. She did not know this man who followed her. Even if he had been an acquaintance it would have been fairly insensitive and pushy. Can you say date rape?
  6. He did not suggest some alternative time or place such as breakfast or during the next day’s break or even something vague like tomorrow. It had to be now and it had to be there. On his terms. That’s rather presumptuous and yes, privileged.
  7. They had been in a bar and depending upon the number of drinks imbibed she might not have been able to fully consent to anything, coffee or otherwise. And since he was also in the bar he was aware of this. This is really taking advantage of a situation.

Any one of these might be sluffed off but combined they place the woman in a situation of extreme vulnerability. Some men don’t understand what it is like to feel that. Some men think it is OK to behave this way because they themselves are not predators and rapists. Good. I’m glad they’re not. Unfortunately other men are. Unless those who are wear a sign around their necks stating that fact it’s not possible to tell the difference.

Here’s a list of some of the high points found in the comments on those posts. I’ll just grab a bunch out of the various comments to illustrate a few points.

  1. …he made a totally appropriate request. He wanted to get to know her. [Ignoring what she stated she wanted.]
  2. …she was out at 4AM. What does she expect? [Blame the victim. Enforce good girl/slut stereotypes. ]
  3. …she could have just ignored him. [In a confined space? It’s hard enough to ignore in a public space. Even Dawkins would have a hard time ignoring someone doing something obnoxious in an elevator.]
  4. …it was just awkward or maybe rude but certainly not sexist. [His personal issues should be used to excuse behavior. Let’s minimalize.]
  5. …he was just shy so had to wait until he could get her alone. [His problem becomes her problem to which she must accommodate.]
  6. …she over reacted by getting upset or even bothered.[Her feelings/reaction is irrelevant. Dismissive]
  7. …because she writes about women’s issues she hates men. [basic non sequitur]
  8. …because she’s a feminist nothing a man could do would please her.[Overgeneralization, ad hominem, non sequitur…]
  9. …she only complained to get attention. [The issue requires attention but is dismissed. Ad hominem speculation on her motivation/character traits]
  10. …she abuses the feminist label to get out of arguments [Misdirection. Ad hominem. Everything she says can then be dismissed because it’s said under the banner of “feminism” which she is allegedly misusing. ]
  11. …if she didn’t write these kinds of things we wouldn’t have to get angry. [Blame shifting. See Skepchick’s post called Why I Deserved to be Called an Offensive Bitch for more on this type of situation.]

Not hard to note all the fallacies, logical and otherwise, distorted thinking and cognitive dissonance that are woven into those.  [I’ve put in brackets some of those to make it quite easy to note. There’s more that could be listed.] They’re all forms of derailing.

Here’s a whole bunch of posts on the elevator incident starting with her original statement, which was brief and only requested that men not do that kind of thing.

Rebecca Watson has a new video contains the video in question. Her point about the incident takes place at 4:31 in the video and lasts for approximately 72 seconds. She is not rude, belittling or abusive, just straightforward. “Don’t do that.” and then she gives some very sound reasons why not.

The comments came fast and furious, many from men who seemed to feel abused because someone asked them to mind their behavior a little bit.

Always name names! from Pharyngula blog P.Z.Myers takes Rebecca’s point to heart.

Richard Dawkins jumps into the comments there and makes a big fool out of himself, several times over. Rebecca responds with another post.

The Privilege Delusion which is a take off on Dawkins book title The God Delusion. The original poster responds to Dawkins dismissals.

Many more posts followed including

Dear Richard Dawkins… which includes a number of letters to the clueless skeptic regarding his foggy comments

And Gawker picked up the story online as well

Richard Dawkins Torn Limb From Limb—By Atheists

As did The New Statesman Sharing a lift with Richard Dawkins and The Atlantic Wire Richard Dawkins Gets into a Comments War with Feminists.

Each of these has dozens of links to other posts with opinions. The vast majority support not only Rebecca’s viewpoint but her right to hold a viewpoint of her own. Many of the commenters support neither and make outlandish accusations about the original post contents and motivations of Rebecca. Many of the latter complainants are also anonymous.

Here’s an interesting aside.

Female-Name Chat Users Get 25 Times More Malicious Messages

Back to the Present Post

…that’s where I ended. But there seems to be more to come. The chilly climate article is an example. It needs to continue to be brought up until there’s no more need for it to continue to be brought up. That’s pretty simple.

When I read those types of abusive comments the female posters received I often wonder what is expected of women by those who cannot hear their voices or acknowledge their arguments. I note the men who agreed with the women were rarely or ever attacked in the same way, or at all – that’s telling. The stamina that is required to address these kinds of comments leaves one unbelievably tired. And it’s often wasted energy.

Trying to answer these types of complaints often only works the complainant up into a further froth. Interestingly when left without response the froth seems to increase anyways, as do the comments, until the real agenda shows up.

It strikes me that the only response that would satisfy these misogynist trolls is silence. The perfect woman would be a silent one. It seems that the entire purpose of that kind of commentary is to stifle an opinion that is disagreeable and uncomfortable. Often by any means possible. The ad hominem is especially popular for that purpose. That is bringing up completely unrelated personal, and often fictitious, statements in an abusive manner in order to try to make someone retract their opinion, agree with the misogynist, appear to be contradicted, refrain from future opinions or just be silent.

But as we all know silence is often equated with consent.

Non-consent needs to be loud and clear.

And frequent.

Drawing P.Z. Myers Day

According to P. Z. Myers, eminent biologist, professor, author and atheist, the anniversary of Draw Mohammed Day, that spectacle of petulance, [“I can draw what I want!” (stamps foot)] which blossomed last year into racist diatribes and ethnocentric posturing, is upon us. See the video on his post for more along the lines of “We the mighty enlightened have come to bring you reason…”

That petulant spirit is definitely contagious.

Being the pinko-Buddhist lost in delusions of progressive serenity that I am, it is not possible for me to participate in the event as advertised.

But since Dr. Myers is such a supporter of the arts I have decided to substitute him for the figure of the prophet Mohammed. Seems some of his followers revere him in a similar fashion. Read some of the comments on his blog.

Though I will mention, in all fairness,  that on the post in question there are also many sensible and rational folks who take some issue with his advertisement of this particular event for reasons that are similar to mine. Dr. Myers himself is often sensible and rational, that’s why I read his blog. But like every human he has these other moments…

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There will also be cake served in the atrium.