Tuesday, May 8, 2018

#MeToo #BelieveWomen

I know several people with high positions in European governments. One is a particularly good friend. When he worked in New York for several few years, I spent a lot of time with him and his wife. Despite his powerful position, he didn't come from a high-class family. He'd earned his way up through the ranks via hard work and smarts.

His wife, born in the Third World, relished her social position. She'd taught herself to literally point her nose upward as a gesture of elevation. I was able to cut through all that; we were beer-drinking, pizza-scarfing, bike-riding, relax-and-hang-out backstage friends, so I rarely glimpsed her snooty, affected side. My friend, by contrast, was completely down to earth. Extremely nice guy; kind, gentle, thoughtful.

I had the chance to observe him in many contexts. I saw him angry. I saw him scared. I saw him fighting with his wife. But I never spotted a glimpse of anything frightening, or unkind, or unreasonable. Even in situations where it would have been safe and expedient for him to take advantage of his position, he'd never yield. If, as I once wrote, "Character is measured by the rate at which one discards one's values as stakes rise," he is a man of great character.

His wife, however, had a quick and savage temper and could be stubbornly unreasonable. Some time after he'd left New York for a new assignment, her unstable demeanor and ever-increasing affectation deteriorated the marriage, and he finally asked for a divorce. And she went nuts.

She attacked him in any way she could think of. She went to the local press with incredible tales of how he'd used his position to traffic drugs and run a prostitution ring. He'd beaten her savagely. He was a thug and a monster. It became an enormous scandal, and he was forced to return to his home country for investigation. She followed, filing a flurry of fantastical complaints with his government. Finally, after several years, it became patently obvious that she was completely off her rocker. Nothing added up. Not being particularly bright, her accusations were scattershot and unrealistic. In time, she came to be ignored, and my friend was able to resume his career.

Why had this happened? He'd been her meal ticket to a social position she really craved. Without him, there'd be no pretext for upward nose pointing. No fancy company and hors d'oeuvres. She'd always been unstable and driven by a furious temper, and now she had nowhere to go and nothing to lose. As happens sometimes, she eventually began to drink her own tainted lemonade. She started believing her own lies.

Over a decade later, she's still there, and still flailing away. At this point, all effort is directed toward the impending divorce settlement. Noticing a recent change in the political climate, she's smartened up and confined her claims to the domestic violence portion, which is harder to disprove. She is a battered woman, ignored and mocked by the patriarchy of her ex-husband's government. She is a cause.

And while the government at this point knows full well who and what she is, the country's independent judiciary is run by a #MeToo advocate who's staunchly taken her side against all these terrible men who've shown her no sympathy during her decade of brave, fruitless struggle. It appears that my friend will be taken for every dollar he has. His lawyer has shrugged and told him to expect the worst. There's simply nothing to be done.

If I claim you lit the fire that burned down my house, or that you kidnapped my child, I am not to be automatically believed. The intrinsic purpose of a justice system is to sort out accusations, in the presumption of innocence, because, as history and common sense have taught us, some accusations are true while others are false. If we could simply accept every accusation on its face, that would unclog our courts and spare police from investigation. Unfortunately, humans don't work like that. Ordinarily, intelligent, reasonable people would recognize this. Unless, that is, they're caught up in a mass hysteria.

Societal forces have historically inhibited women from speaking up about sexual harassment and violence, while protecting perpetrators. Quite evidently, we need to devise thoughtful ways to restore balance and justice in these matters. But the notion that we must simply #BelieveWomen is patently unreasonable. It's hard to imagine that modern, civilized people would advocate for such a thing.

Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

My point here is, obviously, something that Must Not Be Said. If you're a reasonable Centrist like me, and reject extremism of any sort (even when - especially when - it stems from actual needfulness), and are weary of being told that you must not apply critical faculties to hot topics, you might want to have a look at this NY Times article on the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web.


Adam said...

I used to work in NYC. The companies I worked for would have an attorney come in and run sexual harassment seminars. I learned that the no matter what is said, the court will look to how the alleged victim felt about what was said or done. I thought that was nuts. I don't know if that is still the case.

Jim Leff said...

Yes, it's simply tipped too far. Nothing terribly complicated. A bad situation evoked an immoderate response. That's how we humans do, unfortunately. It's not that men are awful, or that women are awful. It's that humans are awful http://jimleff.blogspot.com/2009/07/giving-misanthropy-its-due.html

Moving forward, as hard as it is to avoid reciprocal extremism ("believe every accuser!") in reaction to a bad situation (stifling of bona fide victims), it's even more hard to avoid reciprocal extremism in response to the reciprocal extremism in response to the bad situation (e.g. characterize the entire movement as a bunch of strident uppity women).

Anonymous coward said...

I hope justice is served with your friend. He sounds innocent, but often psychopaths are incredible charismatic. I wouldn't be surprised if he did turn out to be all the above you mentioned. If he is innocent, I hope he gets found innocent, if guilty I hope he is found guilty.

"Psychopathy is among the most difficult disorders to spot. The psychopath can appear normal, even charming."

You have to weight the facts as opposed to stick to a 2-d pundit or ideology. Sifting through the facts and taking the effort to find alleged victims A, D, and E are telling the truth, F is provably false, and the rest can't be proved either way is much more difficult, slower, and not as much fun as ideology extreme points of view I. All alleged victims are telling the truth or II. they are all lying.

We are society of convenience. Convenience is the most important factor when consuming. Every product or service must be K.I.S.S.(keep it simple stupid). So which is more convenient and simpler? To mindfully and with effort go through every allegation and make an informed determination of the truthfulness?

Alternatively, grab a nice can of 2-d media pundit who says all are false or truth. I think the 2-d fast food is more attractive. Yet, logically some females will tell the truth, others will lie, and finally some will be telling half truths due to mis remembering events. Eye witness accounts are unreliable.


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