Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

February 19, 2017

Racism and identity politics

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:01 am

November 28, 2016

Death of a Dictator

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:19 pm

Well, he’s dead. At last.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) the longest-ruling dictator in the Western Hemisphere died on November 25.

The encomiums were every bit as sickening as I expected.

“Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!” Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein wrote on Twitter.

“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called Castro, “a huge figure in modern history, national independence, and 20th-century socialism.”

President Barack Obama was somewhat more circumspect in his eulogizing.

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said in a press release.

Though hedging his praise a bit Obama failed to mention that the way Castro “altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” was to imprison, torture, and execute people who disagreed with the Cuban socialist vision, impoverish a country that had a standard of living equal to the United States, and send untold thousands of people across shark-infested seas on makeshift rafts on the slim chance of arriving penniless on America’s shore as the better alternative to living in Cuba.

Contrary opinions came from thousands of Cuban-Americans dancing in the streets of Miami, Cuban-American politicians such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and President-Elect Donald Trump.

“The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” Trump said.

Trump called for, “a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

One may hope.

Future generations may well wonder how and why a dictator not much different from any in the sad history of the 20th century was lionized by politicians, movie stars and media moguls who took tours of Cuban Potempkin villages and returned all aglow with the thrill of their brief proximity to absolute power.

Refugees and visitors who could evade their handlers reported magnificent works of architecture crumbing and decaying, mothers and housewives resorting to prostitution to feed themselves and their families, and the healthcare praised by Michael Moore doled out in filthy hospitals where patients had to bring their own bandages and bed linen.

Castro did defy the mighty United States from his little island, thus winning the admiration of America-haters around the world.

Though the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is generally thought of as a win for President John F. Kennedy there are accounts that Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba when he realized Castro and Che Guevara actually intended to use them to start World War III.

And at that Castro and Khrushchev got a win for their side by getting an agreement from Kennedy not to invade Cuba, for all intents and purposes abandoning the Monroe Doctrine.

Remarkably he continued to do so after the collapse of his superpower patron the USSR.

Boldness often wins the admiration of the timid. But there is more I think.

Castro appealed to everything base in human nature, the desire for ultimate power. To take what we want, to bend others to our will, and to kill on a whim.

A reasonably free country can offer the chance to rise very high, to the heights of wealth and fame of those who flocked to sit at Castro’s feet, and often sleep in his bed. But it cannot offer that.

Some of the most privileged of our fat happy country revealed the darkness in their souls by whom they chose to admire.

October 31, 2016

Native grievances and Standing Rock

Filed under: Media bias,Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 3:57 pm

It has all the ingredients of a Great Cause. Native Americans versus corporate greed with jackbooted company thugs and sinister militarized police forces.

Wasn’t there a Steven Seagal movie with this plot a few years ago?

But say it softly… there’s something that isn’t adding up about this story.

We heard the evil corporate greedsters were running Dakota Access Pipeline though sacred Indian land and across the Missouri River where it would promptly poison the water and despoil Mother Earth.

But it turns out the builders did in fact jump through all the regulatory hoops and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe made no protests at the time the public hearings were held.

For those who care about hearing both sides I refer you to Rob Port of North Dakota and the Say Anything blog. Port is looking at the other side of this contentious issue and taking the heat for it so I don’t have to.

Instead I’m going to tell you about something that happened in Oklahoma long ago. The following account was dredged from my memories of the news reports at the time, which differ significantly from what you can find about the case today on various political websites.

On September 19, 1979, a Native woman Rita Silk Nauni got off a plane at Will Rogers World Airport with her 10-year-old son. She was reportedly fleeing an abusive relationship and bound for Lawton, Oklahoma, a few hours’ drive away.

Nauni and her son began walking down the airport road. She was reportedly whacked out of her mind on airplane booze and possibly pills.

After discarding several items of clothing from their baggage along the road two airport rent-a-cops, one elderly man and his female partner contacted them about a littering complaint.

Remember in these pre-9/11 days airport police were pretty much night watchmen not real cops.

They arrested Nauni, who started to struggle with them, possibly after her young son attacked one of them. In the struggle the female officer’s firearm retaining strap broke, Nauni seized the gun and killed the old guy and wounded the female officer.

She was taken into custody soon after, and that’s when the circus began.

Native activists brought a medicine man to the jail as her spiritual councilor, and the county sheriff got stupid enough or angry enough to deny access. Round one for the activists.

Understand, there was nothing in this case that was remotely political or a civil rights issue. Nauni just happened to be Native and local activists seized on the opportunity.

Feminists quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

“Self-defense is a woman’s absolute right!” they proclaimed.

Nauni’s case went to trial, but the defense had no case. At literally the last minute they changed their plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, a defense that has a long history of not working in Oklahoma.

I ran into a feminist friend soon after, who confided she felt betrayed.

The only possible effective defense would have been a “Let’s have some mercy for a screwed up human being please.” But her legal team sacrificed her to make it a political issue.

Ordinarily she’d have been out in time for her son’s high school graduation. Instead a ticked-off judge threw the book at her and for Manslaughter One she got 150 years. An appeal was denied.
According to Oklahoma DOC records she was released in 1998.

What you can find about Rita Silk Nauni these days is mostly on left-wing websites where she is called a “political prisoner” who was imprisoned, you know, because racism.

My observation: nobody has more legitimate grievances against the United States than the First Nations. They are a conquered people who first lived on sufferance, and then on charity – which turned out to be far more destructive of their native culture.

The problem has always been that at a time the dominant culture is inclined to listen and address them, they are not very good at articulating their grievances. Perhaps because there are so many it’s difficult to focus.

The consequences have been terrible for them and well-meaning attempts to help often have the opposite effect. Especially when white activists jump on board to attach their own agendas to theirs, because Indians!

September 2, 2016

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Filed under: Op-eds,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:41 am

Has anybody else noticed that the lunatics have taken over the asylum?

No, seriously. That used to be a joke, “Ha, ha, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.” Not anymore.

I’ve just read a friend’s blog post about a situation at her job. It seems there is someone in her workplace with “anger management issues.”

Anger management issues are what we used to call “a temper.” Meaning that some people react to stress by getting angry, shouting, and in extreme cases perhaps throwing things. After which they’d calm down and apologize.

Now however it’s been medicalized, it’s an “issue.”

In the case of my friend’s coworker, he announces he has “ANGER MANGEMENT ISSUES” for which he gets some kind of therapy.

Oh goody, there’s certainly times I wish I could have had some help in managing my Irish temper.

Or not. Evidently this guy’s issues give him a free pass to indulge his temper, which everybody else is supposed to tolerate. Including a coworker who has social anxiety disorder and suffers in silence for days after each outburst. Which Mr. Anger Management Issues is totally oblivious to.

Coincidentally after reading her post I came across an article about how Princeton University is ordering their staff to avoid using the word “man” or gendered pronouns such as him or her, and substitute they and them. Because not everybody identifies as a him or a her.

“Gender binary is the traditional view on human gender, which does not take into consideration individuals who identify as otherwise, including and not limited to transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex,’” says the staff directive of the elite institution of higher learning older than our nation.

Some have gone further and invented new pronouns such as ‘ze’ and ‘hir,’ which would be funny except the New York City Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression: Local Law No. 3 (2002); N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(23) says if you run a public accommodation you can be fined for not using them with your tenants. Or not letting a guy use the lady’s room.

Like all roads headed in this direction, it started out with good intentions.

Long ago, there used to be something on TV called Public Service Announcements. (How long? Think black-and-white TV.) Before air time got hideously expensive TV stations would occasionally spend a few minutes on a message devoted solely to the public good. Hire an ex-con, give a man a second chance. Don’t leave your keys in your car. Beware of socialism. That kind of thing.

One I remember was a plea for compassion towards people who are a bit off.

“It’s not the way they want to be, it’s the way they have to be.”

Well that was nice, but along the way something happened. Compassion was replaced by tolerance. Then passive tolerance, basically minding your own business and live and let live, wasn’t good enough anymore. We needed “acceptance.” Then we had to embrace our differences. And if you still thought their craziness was weird and maybe kind of icky, then you were a bad person.

We knew things had gotten seriously weird when they invented a pretentious academic term “cisgendered” to mean what we used to call “normal.” And if you think guys who think they are guys and are attracted to women who think they are women is normal, then there’s a special insult for you, “heteronormative.”

There, doesn’t that make you feel special?

Has anybody noticed that this “acceptance” is not compassion but the very opposite of compassion?

Long ago during a brief period I worked as a psychiatric aid in a mental hospital we were given a very firm directive on dealing with patients. Don’t humor their delusions!

There is such a thing as normal. Yes, it covers a pretty broad continuum and is fuzzy around the edges. But it exists, it’s real.

Yes, a righteous man will take into account another’s infirmities and weaknesses. But it does him no favors to reward bad behavior or pretend he’s OK when he’s clearly not.

June 10, 2016

Game of Kings and Powers

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:34 am

Well Game of Thrones is off into unknown territory. The HBO series has advanced further than the five books author George R.R. Martin has produced so far, and in my humble and very cautious opinion seems to be doing OK. So far. PLEASE!

And there is more good news for fans of period fiction and fantasy, a movie “The Last King” is coming out in July, about the early life of Håkon Håkonsson, the 13th century king of Norway.

Håkon survived an infancy marked by any number of people trying to kill him, became king in spite of them, and ruled for 46 years. His reign is considered a golden age of Norwegian history.

I don’t really have any hard data, but it seems to me that these kinds of movies and TV series are becoming more popular. I mean fantasy set in pre-technological civilizations, historical drama, and science fiction where political intrigue is integral to the story, such as “The Expanse” on Amazon.

I can remember when years went by between science fiction series on TV. Historical dramas were pretty common at one time, but fantasy was exclusively light entertainment such as “Bewitched.”

So what happened to popular taste?

A scholarly friend once suggested that what we’re seeing is a re-normalization of tastes following a historically unusual period. His thesis was that popular taste in fiction has always been fantastical throughout history. Consider the Epic of Gilgamesh, the tales of King Arthur, fairy stories, etc. He pointed out the realistic novel set in present time with no fantastic elements was a historically late invention.

Others see this trend as a retreat from rationality, a return to a pre-scientific world view.

Perhaps these are partly true. And perhaps we’re reviving an ancient literary tradition for another reason.

We all know there are things we can’t say with impunity, questions we can’t ask, and we all know pretty much what they are.

In the nation with the strongest legal protections for free speech in the world we are terrified of the consequences of voicing mere speculations that arouse the passions of the PC mob.

If you doubt this, remember how James D. Watson’s career was brought to an abrupt end by uttering some incautious remarks on a controversial subject. Watson has been called “the greatest living scientist” but it earned him no tolerance, no forgiveness. He did not even get the courtesy of a counter-argument. The various institutions he was associated with rushed to disassociate themselves with the discoverer of DNA.

Could it be that period drama, fantasy, and science fiction is today the only safe venue for discussing controversial subjects?

I once pointed out that one theme of the late beloved “Battlestar Galactica” was how a free society survives under stress.

Could it be that on some level we realize that life here is so good, so secure, that we have raised a generation that thinks this is the normal and natural state of affairs? That young people raised with this assumption are in no position to deal with the world as it is outside this fat happy civilization of ours?

That is unless they watched Game of Thrones last episode where they would have watched Jon Snow and his half-sister (or possibly cousin) Sansa Stark plan strategic alliances. So-and-so has common interests with them, but there have been killings between their families. Such-and-such are friends with enemies who committed unspeakable atrocities against their family, but might be persuaded with the right incentives…

Those who see “The Last King” will for a time enter a world where men would routinely consider killing an innocent baby, up close and personal, for being the child of a dead king.

We think politics is pretty dirty, but losers of our political fights don’t fear for their lives, and certainly not the lives of their children.

It was not always so. In parts of the world it is still the reality on the ground.

If we want to survive as a free nation we need to inculcate a certain tough-mindedness in each generation. The PC phenomenon shows we’ve been failing. Maybe this is how we make up for it.

May 27, 2016

Single parenting

Filed under: Op-eds,Personal,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:07 am

Monday morning my little girl asked if her friend could ride to school with us.

“OK sure, no problem,” I said absent-mindedly.

“And could you sign these papers?” she asked.

OK, permission slip for Park Day. Oops, discipline slip. A blotch on a usually perfect record, this one for late work. Grades – hey, advanced in reading! So glad.

Friend’s mother drops her off. We drive to school me still musing in the car.

Then I hear from her friend, “And I have to answer a lot of questions to see if I’m depressed or have anxiety.”

“Honey, sometimes you’re not depressed, sometimes you’re just sad,” I told her.

“Yeah,” she answered. “Sometimes I’m sad because the boys make fun of my name.”

“Well listen,” I told her. “In a few years they’ll all be wanting dates and then you can be mean to them if you want to.”

I should mention that she, like my daughter, is nine. And like my daughter she’s very pretty and will probably grow up to be beautiful, so the possibility of being mean to the boys is no idle threat.

She and my daughter have frequent sleepovers either our place or hers. Never been a problem. I’ve never seen any signs she’s anything other than a happy normal little girl.

Of course there could be things I don’t see. But I’ve got this feeling the schools are looking for psychological problems when the problem is childhood.

Kids can be pretty rotten to each other. I was physically bullied as a child in school because I was puny and kind of a smartass. (I dealt with it by learning to fight – and to be less of a ****.)

My son has a different problem. At 14 he’s bigger than I am – and I’m not little. He’s not a target for physical bullying, but the teasing, slanging, insulting are just as hard to take. Maybe harder because he can’t fight back.

My daughter may be the most well-adjusted person I know. She’s physically active, popular, has lots of friends, and is kind to kids who are not so popular.

It worries me. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. She lives in a broken home and is being raised by an eccentric older single father. Shouldn’t she have some problems?
Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free Range Kids movement and official “Worst Mother in the World,” has pointed out that statistics prove this country at this time is the safest it’s ever been to be a child.

Yet we are full of anxiety for our children.

My children have more freedom to venture further away from home than pretty much all of their age-mates. And their confidence shows. Other little girls look to my daughter to accompany them on walks. Neighborhood boys are beginning to cultivate my son’s friendship. Perhaps because they like the idea of having a big friend.

It’s not that I don’t worry about my children, it’s that I get a grip on myself when I do. I’ve lived in dangerous places. I know the difference between the reality of danger and paranoia.

It’s not that I discount the possibility of psychological problems. My immediate family has many cases of depression, hyperactivity, and Aspergers. It’s that I know the difference between those kind of problems and the **** life throws at you.

So why are we so worried?

Some of it has to be the technology. We didn’t have iPads, the Internet, or smart phones. It is having some kind of effect on our kids but we have no idea what the long-term effect will be, because there hasn’t been a long term yet.

And of course the media has something to do with it as well. Criminal predation on children is rare – but because it’s rare it’s news. Which gives us the impression it’s more common than it actually is.

And could it be we’re worried about ourselves and projecting it onto our children?

May 7, 2016

A war like no other

Filed under: Op-eds,Social Science & History,War — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:31 pm

I have just finished a long conversation with some of the greatest figures in the history of Western Civilization.

Over the past month I listened with rapt attention to tales of battles on land and sea, of political intrigues, the rise and fall of great states, and the decisive victory that shaped our world.

For 27 years, 431–404 BC, Athens and Sparta vied for control of the Greek world, which then extended from Greece proper west to Sicily and southern Italy and east to the Aegean shore of modern-day Turkey.

My entry into this world was via 36 DVD lectures from The Great Courses by Professor Kenneth W. Harl, professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University.

The lecture course is called The Peloponnesian War. The war the historian and eye witness Thudydides called, “a war like no other.”

I had previously enjoyed the 24 lecture course by Professor John Hale, University of Louisville on The Greek and Persian Wars which gave me a tremendous hunger to know more about the history of Greece.

That civilization we call Western is comprised of the speakers of European languages spoken in Europe west of the Ural Mountains, and in the last five centuries spread to the Western Hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

The twin roots of that civilization lie among the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hebrews. If you are Western then no matter where your ancestors came from you are part Greek and part Hebrew.

Only a few generations ago this was universally acknowledged. Everyone knew the Bible and high school students on the American frontier studied ancient languages and history. President Harry Truman never went to college, and Gen. George Patton had the reputation of a rough profane soldier, but both could read Thucydides account of the war that led to the downfall of Greece in the original Greek.

And what did they learn from it, soldier and statesman?

They learned that as Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of England said, that a country has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

The Athenians and Spartans led a coalition of Greek cities to defeat the invading Persians in a sea battle at Salamis and a land battle at Platea. A generation later they fought each other for 27 years.

Later still the Spartan allies of Boeotia marched into Sparta and destroyed forever the myth of Spartan invincibility.

They learned that to survive and prevail a nation must be adaptable.

Sparta was the premier land power in Greece, but learned to become a sea power to defeat Athens.

They learned to beware of demagogues. Democratic Athens was periodically swept by enthusiasm that led them to confuse their hopes with their abilities as Thucydides said about the disastrous invasion of Sicily.

They learned there are no certain outcomes. After the disaster at Syracuse that cost Athens hundreds of ships and thousands of men, they recovered with breathtaking rapidity. Then on what seemed to be the eve of victory, lost all.

They learned that everything has costs.

Athens funded their war by levying tribute upon the city states of their maritime empire, which their allies came to resent enough to rebel against. Rebellions that were often brutally put down.
They learned about the interdependence of nations.

Athens was forced to surrender when they could no longer feed themselves from their own lands and their route to the grain lands of the Black Sea was cut off.

They learned that civilizations like men, can die. Exhausted by the war, Greece was conquered by Phillip of Macedon and became a province of various empires for the next two thousand years.

And they learned that while many things change, some things never change. And they learned to tell the difference.

We have forgotten these things, but we will re-learn them, perhaps at great cos

February 23, 2016

What’s the appeal of Trump?

Filed under: Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:40 am

I don’t care for Donald Trump. I think he’s a blustering blowhard whose loud mouth covers his screaming insecurity.

I haven’t like him since I saw him diss his first wife Ivana in an interview.

He’s had three beautiful wives, each of whom he likes to wear like an expensive watch rather than truly appreciate. And wife number two really played him for a sucker!

He inherited a sizeable fortune – and has increased it at a rate no greater than a conservative investment fund.

He started a scam “real estate college” that promised to teach people to become rich like him, neglecting to tell them the requirement that your first inherit a fortune.

He’s a builder, but what does he build? Housing? Ships? Factories?


And by the way, as a builder of casinos in New York and New Jersey, you don’t think he’s mobbed up?

He’s petty, petulant, and vindictive. And he’s leading the pack right now for the Republican nomination even though he’s flipped on every issue important to conservatives.

I’m not even sure he started as a serious candidate. I think it’s possible his good friends the Clintons put him up to running just to split the right-wing vote. And I think Trump had an epiphany.

“Hey! I could really win this thing!”

What the hell is his appeal?

I think it’s the appeal of a demagogue in dangerous times. In my lifetime I’ve seen figures like Pat Buchanan and David Duke tap into it, but the most successful in recent American history was before my time, Governor Huey P. Long of Louisiana.

There come times in history when there are truths everyone knows, but few dare utter.

Like it or not, we are at war with radical Islam.

Like it or not, we are being overwhelmed by the illegal immigration beyond our present capacity to assimilate.

A skillful demagogue will speak the truths no other politician dares to, and win accolades for his courage.

And a people so desperate for a leader to say what they know to be true, what they know to be a clear and present danger, will cling to the hope he offers and not allow themselves to see that everything else he says is nonsense or lies of convenience and he has no character at all.

February 17, 2016

The appeal of socialism: part 1

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:14 am

“It’s hard to believe that the United States, having resisted the siren song of socialism during its entire 20th century heyday, should suddenly succumb to its charms a generation after its intellectual demise.”
-Charles Krauthammer

Well it has come to pass. After years of taking umbrage at being called socialists a great many Democrats have now embraced the term and supported a man who wears the label proudly.

I hasten to add, not most Democrats but a significant minority. As high as 42 percent by some polls. And oddly there are some sources that say a lower but still significant number of Republicans think socialism is a good idea.

And that’s “think it’s a good idea” not “think it’s part of the inevitable downfall of the United States.” I know of a prominent conservative former congressman who privately thinks America will have to endure a generation of socialism before we come to our senses. He does not however think it’s a good idea.

Why should anyone think it’s a good idea? Socialism arose as a utopian dream in the 19th century. During the 20th century regimes which called themselves socialist murdered more than 100 million people, and that’s not counting military casualties. In the latter part of the century socialist economies collapsed, revealing that once advanced and cultured nations had fallen to the level of third-world slums.

Even more significantly, those countries recovered economically with breathtaking rapidity once they’d abandoned the socialist model of planned economies in favor of market-driven economies.

How in God’s name do they deal with that?

That’s what I’ve been asking a number of people who wear the label.

One answer is, “Those countries really weren’t socialist,” i.e. communists weren’t socialists, Nazi didn’t really mean “National Socialist German Workers Party,” and the Italian Fascists were lying when they said they were socialists.

Sorry guys, you’re outvoted. They said they were socialists, and there were millions of them, ruling at their height about a third of the world’s surface.

Another answer is, “That’s not what we mean by socialism. We mean building roads, schools, libraries and taking care of people.”

You’re still outvoted. Taking care of people who can’t do it for themselves is what’s called a welfare state or “social safety net” and Ronald Reagan was perfectly fine with it. We can argue all day about how much responsibility the state should assume, at what level of government, and whether to means test – but it’s still not socialism and the Prime Minister of Denmark recently told
Bernie Sanders that in no uncertain terms.

Infrastructure is what every government in the world does, and was listed by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations as one of the four duties of a sovereign. So unless you want to call Adam Smith the first socialist…

“Socialism is the political expression of Christianity, to care for the poor and weak, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked.”

I am not the best exemplar of Christian virtues, but I know that though Jesus said to pay your taxes (“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”) he enjoined his followers to dig into their own pockets to do good to their fellow-man.

Socialism, according to its major theoreticians is government ownership of the means of production. Or ownership by “The People” which means the same thing because though “The People” may be the name on the deed, the day-to-day running is going to be done by bureaucrats.

Is anybody in favor of that? Doesn’t look like it to me. Even countries such as the UK and Sweden which went half-way towards socialism are backing off and re-privatizing nationalized industries.

So if they’re not socialists, why are they wearing a label associated with misery and mass murder?

I don’t know. But one reason could be they’re lying about their long-range intentions and do favor a totalitarian dictatorship.

I don’t believe that about my friends, or at least I don’t want to.

Another reason might be that “socialist” carries a kind of tough-guy cachet. A “We mean business!” kind of image people fed up with a corrupt system like.

We’ll return to this subject later.

September 24, 2015

Modern Witchcraft

Filed under: Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 1:34 pm

I have an announcement to make, I am not a rapist.

Wow! Aren’t you glad to hear that?

How about you? Are you a rapist?

“Heck no!” I hear you say, indignantly.

Oh you’re just saying that. Maybe you even believe it’s true, but you’re a rapist and just don’t know it.

“I’ve never raped anyone!”

You were socialized in a rape culture, didn’t you know that?

Well as a matter of fact, neither did I.

“Don’t teach women how to be safe – teach men not to rape!” we are told.

Where are men taught to rape, may I ask?

Well, as it happens in certain cultures yes, men are taught to rape – often by their mothers. But please show me where in the U.S. little boys are taught to rape women who dress immodestly, go out alone, or just get uppity.

Oh yes, in certain third world immigrant communities. But let’s not go there because if you do you’re a racist.

Well we are told it’s a subtle thing in our culture that teaches boys unconsciously without anyone ever actually saying it’s OK to rape. We are nonetheless assured it shapes our society.

In the abstract to “Dismantling Rape Culture around the World: A Social Justice Imperative,” Pamela R. Fletcher, Associate Professor of English and Women Studies, St.Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota writes, “Many object to the term rape culture, deeming it an overstatement. Some even consider it an oxymoron, for how does rape and culture really connect? In speaking of culture, we editors of “Transforming A Rape Culture” (Buchwald, Fletcher and Roth 1993, 1995 and 2005) refer to the way in which a society operates formally and informally, based on attitudes, beliefs, customs, and rituals that its members sanction as acceptable and normal. Based on our research and analysis of the high incidence of sexual violence perpetrated around the world, we contend that the term encompasses widespread anti-female attitudes and values, and the resultant oppressive conditions women and children encounter in the global institution of patriarchy. Misogyny and sexism are the cornerstones of patriarchy that enable a rape culture to flourish.”

No, “rape culture” referring to the United States is neither an overstatement nor an oxymoron (the author doesn’t seem to know what an oxymoron is). It’s a lie at best, a sick fantasy at worst.

No, there are no attitudes, beliefs, customs, nor rituals, formal or informal, in the culture I was raised in that give even the slightest hint rape is OK. In fact not all that long ago the specter of rape invoked outrage enough to sanction a temporary set-aside of the taboo against murder.

The author goes on to quote rape statistics from the U.S. compared to third world hell holes and war zones, as if the data collection methods were consistent in each country.

“Women in the U.S. reported that they were raped at an early age: 17.6% said they had been victims of an attempted or a completed rape, 21.6% were younger than age 12, and 32.4% were between the ages 12 and 17. (Buchwald, Fletcher and Roth 2005, 7).”

Not according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The rate of rape for persons 12 years and older was 28.4 per 1,000 in 2005, 23.2 per 1,000 in 2013, and 20.1 per 1,000 in 2014, according to the DOJ. That’s roughly three percent in 2005, declining to two percent in 2014.

Oh but they must be using a different and biased set of statistics!

Funny thing though, earlier in the same paper they do cite DOJ stats.

“Although rape is underreported to the police, U.S. Department of Justice studies show that when rape survivors do report, more than 50% of them state that they knew the rapist (Ibid).”

That last fact is not news, but note when they did cite the DOJ they did not use their data for how many rapes occur in the U.S. Instead they got them from a source more to their liking.

I’ve been having a bit of fun with this, but when it comes down to it, it’s not funny at all. Psychologists with degrees from respectable schools insist this invisible force makes all men in America suspect – though rape has always been rare in this country and according to DOJ statistics getting rarer, in spite of a lessening of the stigma involved in reporting a rape to law enforcement which should result in reported rates getting higher.

This paper airily generalizes data from vastly different cultures into a world-wide phenomenon, fudges stats when it suits the author’s purpose and ignores data inconvenient to the narrative such as figures that show men and women in intimate relationships physically assault each other at roughly equal rates, though of course the consequences of a male striking a female are usually far more serious than the reverse, absent a weapon. And though it’s harder for a woman to rape a man, rates of male rape may very well exceed female rape when prisons are factored in. (Now that’s an under-reported statistic!)

The author appears to conclude that the U.S. belongs on the roll of shame because we were late giving women the vote and failed to pass the ERA!

Now where have we seen this before? Subtle forces causing great social ills, with chains of causality invisible to all but a few gifted with a special insight?

“These our poor Afflicted Neighbors, quickly after they become Infected and Infested with these Daemons, arrive to a Capacity of Discerning those which they conceive the Shapes of their Troublers; and notwithstanding the Great and Just Suspicion, that the Daemons might Impose the Shapes of Innocent Persons in their Spectral Exhibitions upon the Sufferers, (which may perhaps prove no small part of the Witch-Plot in the issue) yet many of the Persons thus Represented, being Examined, several of them have been Convicted of a very Damnable Witchcraft: yea more than on Twenty have Confessed, that they have Signed unto a Book, which the Devil show’d them, and Engaged in his Hellish Design of Bewitching and Ruining our Land.”

-On Witchcraft: Being the Wonders of the Invisible World, Cotton Mather, 1692

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