Saturday, March 10, 2007

...you can't live without them.

I had to cut my last post short because it was time to leave my office Friday afternoon and go home. Now, it's Saturday morning and I want to add a couple of things that I didn't have time for yesterday.

My mother and father taught me to treat people with respect. I have tried to do that all of my life. Partially because of my upbringing, partially because of the very religious atmosphere in which I was raised, partially because of my early recognition that if I wanted to be treated in a certain way I would necessarily have to extend that same courtesy to others, because of all these things I tended to treat females as fragile, helpless creatures who needed my protection, often from themselves. I think I went overboard in my early years. I also know I wasn't always successful in my intent never to hurt anyone.

I passed up many opportunities for what might have been harmless little carnal romps, or even extended romantic relationships that might have lasted a few weeks or months or years, because I thought that there was too much potential for heartache and heartbreak. Not mine, of course. Although I was a very romantic guy, I figured I could handle the inevitable traumas that often accompany romantic entanglements. I was more concerned about the girls: after a breakup, how would they feel after they had been 'used,' and how would it affect their lives afterwards.

Was that realistic? I don't think so. Who are the real aggressors in the mating game? Women see what they like or want and then set out to get it. And it is easy for them to get what they want. They look great, smell nice, and that is already one more than the absolutely minimal requirement for a male to be captivated by a female. What should keep us males in check, some sort of ethical standard when it comes to dealing with other people, is often absent in today's society. Not just absent in males, but in females too. People use each other all the time. Even when it is entirely consensual, each party uses the other to get whatever it is that they see as necessary for themselves. Any sort of consensual relationship is okay by me, but there is that really troubling detail that gets in the way of things sometimes: truth.

People lie. Men lie. Women lie. When a man lies about a woman, it might be along the lines of: "Yeah, we totally did it last night. She is really into me." Even the worst lie a man can tell about a woman is not likely to have her rot in jail for decades. Not so for a woman. An accusation of rape, even if charges are dropped, even if proven to be absolutely baseless, will ruin a man's life. That is a big difference.

I am not attempting to paint every woman as a conniving, heartless and selfish bitch. Far from it. I am just saying that men and women, boys and girls, males and females of every age, nationality, and religious background need to understand each other, respect each other, be kind to each other. And, those things, I believe, all come from some sort of ethical 'package' that we must have ourselves and must instill in our children. It doesn't need to be religious. It doesn't require a degree in philosophy or psychology. It can be something as simple as an adherence to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That pretty much covers it, don't you think? If we each did that consistently, the world would already be a far better place.

The problem is is that a variant of the Golden Rule is, I think, more commonly used: Do unto others before they do unto you. An acquaintance of mine put this variant even more succinctly. His version: Screw 'em all but six, and save them for pallbearers. Crude, but unmistakeably clear. It means, don't trust anyone. They are going to take advantage of you anyway, sooner or later, so don't even give them the opportunity. Take advantage of them first.

That, unfortunately, is the way the world mostly works today. It is no wonder males and females don't trust each other. Males want sex without so much as a 'how do you do' and women want... what is it actually that women want? I wonder.

My son knew all about prenuptial agreements before his tenth birthday. He knew all about entrapment by greedy and manipulative women. He knew all this stuff because I cautioned him that some females are like that. Not all females, but definitely some females. And because it is impossible to discern whether a new love falls into that despicable category while she is still all sweetness and light, one has to be cautious.

What kind of a world is it in which it is necessary to tell a young boy such things? What kind of a world is it in which it is necessary to tell young girls that boys are only after one thing and that they will use you and discard you without so much as a thank you? It is a kind of world in which parents have to take the responsibility to educate their children about certain realities. We do not need to teach our children to be cynics, never to trust anyone of the opposite sex, to become embittered about how unfair and screwed up everything is. We just need to teach them to think. My son, and your son or daughter, can benefit from our experience. It is up to convey what we have learned, but if we have been burned in some way by a member of the opposite sex, it is not up to us to turn our daughters into misandrists and our sons into misogynists.

Male/female relationships, romantic or not, are as screwed up as they have ever been. We need to change that. The very fact that we are talking about it here and elsewhere in the blogosphere, is a good start.

19 comments:

  1. I'm sure HITLERy has a few ideas on a solution, unfortunatly, they likely resemble those of Lorraina Bobitt.

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  2. I suspect that when self-interest is at the core of human interaction, these things happen. It's often occurred to me that taking the simple step of asking what we can do to make someone else's life better today is a good beginning. That is the Nautilus we leave behind.

    I'm not a cynic when it comes to people, even though I've been disappointed by quite a few. It's a choice.

    Maybe there comes a point where we have to stop putting so much effort into protecting ourselves and our "stuff" that we're able to relate human being to human being.

    I can honestly say that I would never, ever, sign any pre-nups. If someone doesn't trust me, he has no business marrying me.

    The point is to be a team ~ not competitors.

    Wish I knew the solution to some of this but this particular culture with its particular priorities is something that escapes me and has all my life.

    But most of all, it is one of those cases where I am quite happy to be an outsider.


    Peace,

    ~chani

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  3. Galt: I'm sure that particular solution to Bill's philandering has ocurred to Hilary more than once.

    Chani: I feel like an outsider much of the time too, like someone standing outside looking in the window. It doesn't bother me, but it puzzles me. Given the time the human race has had to get its sh*t together, one would think that we would be further advanced.

    As far as pre-nups go, the man or woman you marry, based on your initial perceptions, is not necessarily the man or woman with whom you will wake up five or ten or twenty years later. If you're really, really lucky, or have an uncanny sense of how to 'read' people, you may be lucky. More likely, you and your spouse will piss away what little you have jointly on legal bills as one or both parties attempts retribution or distribution or both. Or, if you happen to be the spouse who created or inherited all the wealth, the other will want to share equally because of the ridiculous notion that 'community property' calculations be allowed to predate the relationship and to refuse to consider how the riches accumulated. Look at the Anna Nicole circus, as the vultures gather. Look at the McCartney-Mills divorce as she attempts to cash in on her short marriage to someone who is seriously rich. There are many other such examples where reason disappears and greed takes over.

    I should mention here that my wife didn't sign a pre-nup. First, I never asked her to sign one. There are two reasons for that. When we got married I was in a very bad point in my life financially, and although I knew I would be back in better shape soon, she took a big risk and, in fact, insisted that my impoverished state didn't matter. The second reason is that I trusted her implicitly from the first moment I met her, and she has never let me down.

    You say, Chani, "The point is to be a team ~ not competitors," and of course you are right. In ideal circumstances, the situation we all dream of, that is how it should be. Unfortunately human beings can be flawed, weak, inconsistent, vindictive, and thoroughly nasty critters, and if you happen to hook up with one of those, watch out.

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  4. These were an extremely interesting series of posts. I haven't been able to decide what I think. I do have one observation, though.

    I read a book written by Richard Bach years ago in which he suggests that there is a problem with the golden rule. As you've stated, it is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." As an example of the flaw, he suggests that a masochist applying the golden rule as you've stated it would be perfectly within his ethos to cause others great pain. After all, he wants to have pain inflicted upon him.

    I understand the reasoning behind the rule - if you are uncertain as to how to treat someone, use your feelings as a guide. How would I want someone to treat me? But the fundamental flaw in the rule is that it presupposes the one applying the rule is a moral person. Would you always trust someone applying the golden rule in their dealings with you to treat you well?

    A restated golden rule could be "Do unto others." Treat others well without regard for how they treat you. It is harder - it requires selflessness and a capacity for forgiveness that can be difficult to achieve. The golden rule as stated is a good starting point, but I would suggest the restated rule should be the ultimate goal.

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  5. Good point, Bob. Nothing is ever as simple as we would like it to be, is it? This same logical flaw that you point out, extended, is why the founding fathers of America never intended it to be a democracy but rather a republic based on rule of law. The idea was to prevent the mob rule that can result from 50% plus one of the eligible voters awarding themselves unearned privilege. It was to be a rule of what was right and proper and not a rule based on what was popular with the most people.

    I do have one minor difference in opinion to point out, at least in my personal interpretation of the Golden Rule. I would never base anything I do on how I feel about it. I would base it on what I think is right. That is why I think it is so important for us all to think more than feel and to pass that very rare trait on to our children.

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  6. As I've been writing about Sex and Dangers and Real or Not, this is a societal & cultural shift in that it is all about "me" (iPod?). Children do take in parental messages and mirror what they see... if parents spend time with their kids and set good examples. Children are secondly influenced by their peers and media, in that order. If a bunch of kids don't get good messages at home, then they are vulnerable to the media and cultural messages and the influence of peers.

    Advertising has increased exponentially. Girls are told they can have it all -- career, independence, kids. Girls now "notch the bedposts" and most teens and young adults spend at least 8 hours, according to studies, immersed in media where the level of advertising has increased dramatically just since 2000.

    Harvard now has more girls than boys in the med school. Unfortunately society doesn't work in a flexible way so that women can see a way to really balance family needs and reenter work forces after they are drained by children. Hence, they have to postpone children to "get what they need" and men can just enjoy "friends with benefits". I think women have missed the mark trying to have equality when it comes to sex. The double standard made men yearn to have honor and integrity in order to deserve/earn the "good" girls.

    Disposable culture? Are we throwing away love?

    Where is love in the picture? Love and commitment and trust and compromise... Watch the media think about what promotes these values...

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  7. Motherpie: You got it! In this book: "Hold On To Your Kids, why Parents Matter" by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, they discuss why parents should be close and influential to their children and to avoid turning them loose to scocialize to the mores of their peers. It is a compelling read. I discuss the book a bit more in this post: http://atavist.blogspot.com/2005/02/parents-or-peers-that-is-question.html.

    You ask: "Where is love in the picture? Love and commitment and trust and compromise..." and those are great questions. A few words from the lyrics of Don Mclean's 'American Pie' say it best: "They caught the last train for the coast."

    Sad. Very, very sad.

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  8. Atavist, I think that's a good argument for actual courting. There's an Asian saying that people should get to know each other for all four seasons. Part of the problem is that current culture demands that everything be instant. People get married on a whim and then wonder why it doesn't work out. Heck, they don't even know each other!

    I would never marry anyone whom I didn't trust ~ or didn't trust me. If I have to go into something with the sense that I need to protect myself, I'd rather be alone.

    Motherpie really said it best, put all of this in a much better way than I can.


    Peace,

    ~Chani

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  9. Chani: I am all for reversion to a more leisurely courting. Some of the traditional ways of doing things worked very well. Not everything has improved over the last several decades.

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  10. At, you wrote: I would never base anything I do on how I feel about it. I would base it on what I think is right.

    And I say Amen. Although I think it's much harder in practice, especially given a culture that pretty much sums everything up based on the way it makes one feel.

    everyone's thoughts here are excellent on this topic - you've really stimulated some thoughts about a very difficult topic.

    I know i worry regularly about M - about her growing up as a teen/young woman in a society that so focuses outwardly. how does a child learn to develop her soul in a soulless land?

    perhaps that'a a bit extreme, but it's sometimes how it feels.

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  11. Jen: Out of the sixties came some great things: The Beatles, the British Invasion in music generally, and some other neat stuff. Also out of the sixties came attitudes like: 'Be yourself,' 'Let it all hang out;' 'Go with your gut;' and, of course: 'If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.'

    Feelings, feelings, feelings.

    The discourse here and in other blogs seems to me to be saying that we should be thinking more. I'm all for that.

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  12. It's not extreme, Jen. It's realistic. This place is like a steady diet of cotton candy. It tastes good at first but eventually makes you sick.

    At, we have a long way to go to bring anything back from the damage that was done in the 60s.

    Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the radio. Dennis Prager was on and he was talking about how there seems to be little difference between private behavior and public behavior. He cited the way people dress now, how they say anything that comes into their foolish heads without thinking first, how there is no social decorum.

    I agreed with him so much that I actually intentionally stayed awake to listen to his callers. (Radio talk is like blogs for me... the comments are the best part :)

    His callers mostly agreed. Point is ~ how to turn it around, how to turn the anti-intellectualism around.


    Peace,

    ~Chani

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  13. It is interesting that both you and Chani selected the 60's as the source of the self-centered, selfish attitudes evident in today's culture. I would argue that it was actually the 80's.

    Kids of the 60's were into feelings, free-love, etc. They were also into corporate and governmental responsibility. They protested the gross comercialization of our cultureand the raping of our environment for commercial gain. The beginnings of the green movement were in 60's activism. They protested the unbridled use of power by the government . The protests against Vietnam were in the early 70's by kids who learned to question the motives and actions of our elected leaders in the 60's. Watergate and the toppling of Nixon were also at least partially a result of this same movement. ERA was also a result of the activism and attitudes of the 60's. Even drug use in the 60's had something of a purpose. LSD and peyote were popular because of their mind-altering effects aiding in the exploration of themselves. It was a time of exploration and re-examination of boundaries.

    The 80's, on the other hand, were all about "me". How can I get my piece of the pie? Corporate greed, rampant commercialism. The 80's were about sex with no consequences. The spread of aids exploded in the 80's. The use of cocain in the 80's fueled the expansion of the drug cartels in Columbia that are still in place today. The 80's had junk bonds, hostile take-overs, and dividends gave way to quarterly profits and share price. The 80's were ugly and bald-faced selfishness.

    The 60's wasn't so much about the abrogation of responsibility as it was about rethinking and redefining of individual roles in society. I doubt the civil rights movement would have been so successful if it had occurred in any other decade. People seriously questioned if women belonged at home and men belonged in corporate America. They questioned "better dead than red" and the mindless acceptance of our governments activities. I would even say that the 60's were about individual responsibility. People felt empowered, that they did matter, that one person could make a difference. There was an optimism and a confidence in the 60's that people mattered and could make a difference.

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  14. Bob: I agree that the 60's were a time of much good change. There were a lot of issues that needed addressing and the rights of women and civil rights were areas in which change was overdue and necessary.

    The problem is that human action is largely reactive, and that this behaviour results in wild swings of the pendulum when it comes to how our society lives and governs itself.

    The attitude of the 60's had one major flaw, I think, and that is that it caused polarization. Everything that represented tradition or the status quo was representative of 'the man,' and was scorned as a matter of course. Values of the parents were shunned. Businesses were all guilty of 'corporate greed,' regardless of the fact that their products improved and got cheaper (relative to wages) every year. The youth largely embraced the collectivist ideology that still plagues much of the world today and which more than any other factor is responsible for our current state of enslavement to the state. 'What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine too,' will never work in the long term.

    The 80's were a time when there was a pendulum reaction to the sixties. The why's and wherfore's would require much more time and space than I have at the moment.

    The reality though, is that we are in many ways much worse off than we were in the 60's, aside from the laudable changes mentioned earlier. In Canada and the United States we have enormous national debts that are eating us alive. We have a society which tolerates and rewards the lazy and irresponsible. We are as polarized as we have ever been because the children and teenagers of the sixties now run things.

    I loved the sixties. I had a great time in the sixties. I'm not blaming everything on the sixties. More so, I am blaming things on those in society who always seek political solutions for every ill and don't recognize the fact that we have to be reponsible individually before we can be responsible collectively.

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  15. Can't live without them?
    Funny.
    I've been successfully doing so for almost half a century!
    I haven't gotten wealthy yet, but I hear-tell many have, following a similar formula.
    There are countless accounts of those who have been reduced to destitution and death because they "couldn't live without them"!!!

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  16. ah, galt, don't you miss us a little bit?

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  17. It's true that many men have been driven to drink, destitution, suicide, by women. Hopefully, at least the drive (if not the destination) was pleasurable.

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  18. Times are sure changing, but not always for the good.

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  19. To answer your question Bellezza, my ideal is a modern Ayn Rand, or Dagny Taggart. My generation has yet to produce one of these.

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