One of the weirder aspects of our current culture is the ritual abasement of alleged wrong-doers, usually in the form of a forced apology on the advice of 'PR consultants'. My interest relates to something Jordan Peterson has raised. I am not an enormous fan of his total vision which is, in my opinion, flawed in several respects - the stoicism, the concentration on judaeo-christian values, Jungian archetypes and an over-deterministic biologism create the very model of an ideology, a trait that he claims to abhor in others. Or am I unjust and that these traits are those of his followers who have managed to miss his point about ideology? Wherever his new-found popularity leads, he is a reasoned debater with a thoughtful stance on life and he undoubtedly has insights on gender relations which are 'controversial' but none the less on the right side of the game.
His thesis (which is
most observable at the point where a new cultural hegemony emerges and displaces another) is that
politics is an expression of personality traits. Because sexual
difference results in the emphasis of different personality traits (so much, so
scientific) in the genders, shifts in the power between genders mean that the personality traits associated with the rising gender began to be valued and then affect discourse and practice under the new order and at the expense of the falling gender.
The narrative of psychopathy (where psychopathy is culturally widened to include a lot of normal male behaviour that does no harm) being 'bad' and empathy (even where an excess of empathy can be as harmful as full-on sociopathy in terms of adequate social functioning) is just one signifier of a cultural change that can be traced to a recent shift of values from the falling masculine to the rising feminine. This has been happening with gathering pace over the last three decades or so, reaching its crescendo in aggressive reaction of now-hegemonic liberals to the insurgency of democratic populism.
All talk of Jungian archetypes here is so much displacement although it is a useful poetic tool for describing what is happening. For actual causes, we have to turn back to a brute materialism. The bottom line lies not only in that women are now voters conscious of being voters as women (though this is exaggerated in its effects) but in the far more important fact that most purchasing decisions for most consumer goods, especially repeat purchases, under late liberal capitalism, are made by women, Women also take an important role in many male purchasing decisions. Male-dominated corporations have recognised this. They have realised that the huge increase in educated women allows them to tap into this economy more effectively and that single women are also very likely to throw their energies into their work as expression of meaning far more than most men for whom the work is likely to be 'just a job'.
New centres of power have emerged in the corporate sector for women - notably human resources and marketing - just at that point when a particular form of education has introduced an ideology of empowerment for women (feminism). Peterson himself points out in addition that men have withdrawn from the universities and media relative to women so that we can see how the high ground of culture, combined with the entry of women into politics, has created a new female cultural domination where the next stage is a demand for 'gender equality' - which really means a demand that educated middle class women dominate the institutions that hire them in such numbers.
These are just facts on the ground. Economic change has not only shifted political power increasingly towards
women (even if this is not yet fully equalised) but it has shifted
cultural power in such a way this cultural change is working at a faster pace
than the political change that will follow. In general men are giving
up on politics but also on culture, the universities and the media where culture is manufactured. The fact of democracy is
their last bastion against the possibility of total manipulation by a new administrative elite made up of educated women and the male elements in the 'capitalist' and 'managerial' classes who understand the profit in this revolution or who simply go with the flow of history. The dislike of democracy
in liberal circles lately is perhaps a recognition of democracy's 'last fortress
status' against ideology.
It is as a result of all this that the personality traits
associated with women are becoming culturally dominant. Peterson's
concerns are not that these personality traits are not good (rather
they are just facts on the ground that come with any increase in power
for women) but that we are replacing one imbalanced cultural arrangement
with another (male personality trait dominance with female personality
trait dominance), that this is creating the potential for the same
sort of violent tensions that the first imbalance did - and that this has triggered a populist revolt which also happens to appeal to many
For this is an important point, the educated middle class feminism of the new world is deeply presumptuous in its claim to represent all women much as many men are linked by interest and sentiment to the new world of empowered middle class women. This is not a line that separates one gender from another in reality but one that separates two types of personality trait with different expressions in men and women (and which inter-mix with many other traits and histories which ultimately result in all individuals being unique even if they insist on then recombining into tribes and ideologies).
These thoughts were initially triggered by an article in the most recent British Psychological Society's Digest, "Flowers, Apologies, Food or Sex? Men's and Women's Views on The Most Effective Ways To Make Up". This article has one line that tells us
that there may be a connection between general female personality traits (though we must make the central point here that these are general traits that differ considerably between women and may be part of the personality type of many men as well) and the
emergence of female cultural power in the West - "... women thought
their partner apologising or crying would be more a more effective way
for their partner to make up than did the men."
Now, observe what
happens in a scandal today and then compare it with 50 years - the insistence on apologies and the showing of remorse. The male
instinct is that when something is done that is wrong, then apologies
and emotion are relatively irrelevant - what is necessary is change in
actual behaviour and restitution or recompense with what the wronged
person wants (usually sexual relations in the case of men apparently, and there is
nothing wrong with that if it is just a desire and there is no question of anything other than consent).
The female instinct is to ignore all that and
demand an emotional submission and a change in language (which is
symbolic for an expected if unverifiable change in thought). Showing emotion while using submissive language is a near-guarantor that the change of heart is 'sincere'. What the man thinks is important to most women whereas what the woman thinks is less important than what she does to most men. One trait finds security in knowing other minds (which can tend to household totalitarianism) whereas the other trait finds security in 'obedience' and 'compliance'. Again, this is not necessarily reflective what women and men actually do or think but is only what 'gender norms' imply as personality traits become dominant or submissive in society.
If some women might find a sexual act to be a demeaning as a means of recompense, bluntly many men consider a forced apology to be equally demeaning. In both cases, if freely given out of love and respect, there is no issue but if forced out of an imbalance of power or some form of household act of terror (such as 'not speaking'), then there is broadly an equivalence of distaste for what is being forced on the 'loser'. Sexual coercion for women and psychological coercion for men are pretty equivalent in terms of their damage to personal autonomy. The wife-beater and the persistent nag are actually perfectly equivalent when one takes into account of the nature of the victim of the act. Our society tends to recognise the first as problematic (which it is) yet willfully ignore the second as equally problematic.
The female instinct
is encapsulated in the Catholic confessional where absolution comes from
a verbal formula and then a 'change of heart' yet public policy at the
same period of male 'dominance' through the institution of clerical power in society was rarely interested in such things. The
paradox of priestly male dominance is that this interlocutor with God
is, in effect, a eunuch - cruelly one might say, like many urban liberal
middle class males. 'Patriarchal culture' co-existed with 'matriarchal
culture' (a fact conveniently forgotten by feminists) but was not
formally ideological or totalitarian (although matriarchal culture could
be totalitarian within the household as patriarchal culture could be within the court). Male culture just wanted material compensation and simple submission to superior power by dint of language and acts without emotion. The formal act of obeisance is not an apology but something else.
Male dominance strategy was more interested in brute power relations rather than (primarily) control of culture even if Power did control culture through the court.
Instead of a celebrity apologising for an abusive act in order to
placate female consumers of entertainment products and then be obliged to show
emotional regret in order to continue to be able to work, the traditional 'male' response would be to bring that person to
justice for a crime but ignore the act if it was not a crime. This latter stance is, of course, now unacceptable - a wrong act is now deemed wrong, whether a crime or not, in a return to a modern version of clerical moralism. Shame (and guilt) are policing methods that are embedded in the community because they have been imposed from outside by the agents of the dominant culture.
The community itself rarely polices these issues today. It has become a matter of public discourse through newspapers, broadcasters and social media. Since the funeral of Princess Diana and Blair's calculated use of emotion to appeal to feminine and media sentiment, emotional responses to events have been manufactured from above as weapons or tools in cultural warfare by ideologically-motivated groups. The vigils surrounding the death of Jo Cox, MP were a perfect example of such manipulation, closer to Goebbels' distasteful (even to Hitler) manipulation of the killing of Horst Wessel than to any reasoned consideration of what to do about rare cases of lone fascist fanatics.
Charlie Brooker's 'Black Mirror' series has several excellent satires on this culture of manipulation but he still looks at it from within his own class, blaming the lumpen mass for its reactions and weakness rather than investigating the ideological manipulation of emotion in a competition between factions within elite groups. All elite groups now engage in this use of emotion as communications tool or weapon and not just the cultural Left. The cultural Left is perhaps simply more adept at it because they have an ideological framework for it.
Ignoring a wrong is, of course, unforgivable (perfectly reasonably) for women where the
structures of power have not created the means for 'bringing to
justice'. This may be the core of the problem here. After all, many
solutions to alleged female abuse would require a legal system that was
so intrusive on normal male behaviour (in order to catch truly errant
male conduct) that men would live under a regime similar to that of 'The
Handmaid's Tale' but under female domination. What is required is a balance of interest between the genders that lets individuals flourish as they are and has rules on lack of consent and bullying but creates a grey air of private life where individuals are allowed to congregate with those that are like them without wider community intrusion. The new warrior liberalism is like the old conservative authoritarianism in that it constantly expands its territory to fill a vacuum, like any empire. It is, in this respect, culturally oppressive even as it raises issues that must be raised - especially regarding the ignorant behaviour of some men to some women.
resolved this in the past through somewhat hypocritical 'codes' outside
the law, using shame (or guilt) but these are no longer possible and in
any case were oppressive towards those women who were not 'inside the
code system' by choice or lack of resources. The Irish Catholic Church's
treatment of women 'outside the codes' is a lesson in pure evil. We
have not found the way forward yet but it probably lies in 'values
paganism' re-instituting 'codes' that permit autonomy and free speech, rewards those who show respect to others in the context of an ideology of self respect and punishes all forms of coercion
(ideally, including unlawful state coercion).
We are moving here towards wanting a culture of 'good manners' for private life within a framework of law that punishes severely evidenced wrong-doing (essentially any form of unlawful coercion of the individual). Needless to say, this must include tools for the gathering of evidence and strong and impartial law enforcement. The DPP's recent behaviour in relation to alleged male rape trials was a moral disgrace but women are right to want a debate on the boundaries that dictate the correct behaviour between men and women - a debate which, if undertaken openly and reasonably, might come up with some uncomfortable conclusions for both genders as to their conduct 'in the field' and the necessity for creating social rather than legal solutions to the problem of consent.
This strategic difference
between a society in which either male or female personality traits shift from
private life to public policy and dominate the whole is fascinating. The shift to female personality trait dominance explains our new cultural
elite's determined drive for apologies and that industry of PR people who
trot out the need to apologise (rather than make restitution and be
subject to material containment) in order to 'salvage' reputation. The
person who apologises then has to go into the wilderness and claw their
way back if they can (without any real attempt at justice), perhaps on
their knees in penance for crimes that may or may not have been evidenced. The new argument that the 'victim' must be believed throws out of the window not only certain standards of jurisprudence but disallows both malice and false recollection in good faith. And yet we all know that, just as some claims are false, other claims are true and cannot be proven so that a moral injustice has been done when nothing can be done.
Social change is thus not effected by a reasoned consideration of how to change laws and regulations to deal with moral injustice but by 'exemplars' - much as medieval Churchmen dealt in exemplars to guide their flock. Regulation and law try to follow, usually finding that things are a lot more complicated than the ideologists think. Alleged wrong-doers
are judged not by judges in accordance with the law but by a sort of
Salem-like community of social media and mainstream media witches who
are uninterested in investigation of the actual truth of claims or with context. This is dark stuff.
'Justice' is offered as a form of communitarian assault on the errant
individual but it is increasingly based not on cool and fair assessment of the equality of the genders in their rights to self discovery and self creation but, in fact, on one simple truth - female voters
and consumers can dictate terms to the mostly male elites who run the
productive end of capitalism and who probably know their days are numbered.
However, let us be clear, when this goes wrong, this is not all women judging some men but some women, the
educated liberal middle class elite component of the gender, seeking out
some men and judging them as representative of all men. This is no
different from a minority of male priests seeking out and judging a few
women and making claims about the whole sex - which is what happened 500
years ago, more recently in backwaters like Ireland.
Justice as the rational business of formal complaint
to enforcement authorities involving courage on the part of the
complainant and then the necessary procedures to judge truth or
falsehood on the evidence is abandoned as (in effect) 'patriarchal'.
The problem is that 'male' courage is socially created - courageous women obviously exist and most men are cowed by power but it has been historically far harder for women to adopt the risks of a courageous stance. Woman are thus often disadvantaged by the ideology of courage as are all vulnerable people in certain social conditions. Justice is not justice if it is not just and there are justifiable reasons for concern that our legal and regulatory systems lag our understanding of the primacy of networked human autonomy in a culture of equals rather than as a hierarchical structure of competing elites embedded in the past.
Those who feel wronged are probably right that they have to fight to get noticed in a society that ignores them until they get noisy and emotional - child abuse victims are the obvious recent example - but they are playing a flawed game in a flawed system. The real requirement here is to unravel the hierarchical elite-based system and replace it with something that starts with a reasoned understanding of what we are really like and not what ideologists think we should be.
There are reasonable arguments that 'justice' has not caught up with the
needs of women but it has also not caught up with the needs of fathers
or polyamorists so the problem is more widespread than feminist
theorists think - it is a problem of the inappropriate parts of Iron Age
ideology and industrial social structures being retained while the appropriate parts have been
jettisoned. It is a problem of society not being in tune with the
actually existing human condition.
This is a new world that is
coming and yet it has now spawned its own resistance because not all
women share a belief in the necessary extension of the traits attributed to them (such as the
apology and grovel being sufficient) into the public domain (while
wishing to retain them in the private domain). These 'conservative' women match in
numbers the 'liberal' men who have calculated on moral and pragmatic
grounds that 'equality' just means that the old order is dead and that
they have to find a place in the new order.
We all chuckle when
some liberal metropolitan male supporting the new order gets caught out
as an 'abuser' (even if this means little more than some crass language
or a blundering touch) just as we have always chuckled when some
Southern Baptist Minister gets caught out in 'cheating' but both breeds
of men have allowed ideology to conquer the reality of their condition
which is as creatures of ideology. Both men are often subject to disproportionate witch hunts as exemplars of wrong-doing within their community. All men become 'rapists' to their
critics in one world and all churchmen are hypocrites to their critics
in the other world - both propositions are absurd. A better truth is
that neither sets of men have the courage to be who they are and yet show
the rest of the world respect. They have become stupid because they are cowards, unable to live their lives as the persons that they are because history and ideology have dictated personae that drown their true selves. The same has applied to women stuck in households and then humiliated when they escape release in a love affair.
point is that the human condition (and
society is just the public expression of the human condition) requires
respect for all human traits, for difference and for variability (which is incidentally another sound point made by Peterson) This
includes many other traits, whether libertarianism or authoritarianism or
empathetic or (non socially harmful) psychopathic traits, as much as
the traits that tend to show difference between men and women because of
their biochemistry and brain structures (a difference which science accepts as partially true
without drawing any valuation conclusions in relation to the principle of
Our society is rapidly spinning into another round of
disaster to match that when male personality traits dominated over
female personality traits. You cannot exterminate the 'other'.
The key issue here is a fundamental respect for personal autonomy. Autonomy emerges out of each
individual's very particular model of perception, cognition and
biochemistry as well as history. The uniqueness of the individual is our
starting point. From there, comes respect for others and (which is
where brute males fall down but also authoritarian female household
matriarchs) consent. Indeed if two people want to do anything, no matter
how distasteful to others, in private, or to speak of it (since free
speech and struggle between persons through robust persuasion are
central to the good society) then it is no one's business but their own.
So back to the apology. There is nothing wrong with the apology as
either sincere expression of regret or perhaps as tactical tool to end a
fruitless squabble while considering one's position (yet is it ever
really healthy to apologise for something that you feel you have no need
to apologise for?!). But there is a lot wrong with the public
institutionalisation of the apology to meet communitarian needs that
have nothing to do with the job in hand and force people into modes of
submission which actually change nothing, Indeed, the public apology is often
little more than cover for a decision not to resign and not to make
recompense. It is not embedded within a culture of honour as in Japan where both apology and resignation are carefully encoded within a shame culture with a long history.
An apology in Western culture is simply a response to an assault, an act of obeisance on feminine lines. All an apology of this sort may do in our culture is to trigger the imposition of
yet more oppressive rules and regulations that may benefit a certain type of
woman in a certain situation but which may limit the lives and opportunities
of other women and degrade relations between the sexes. There is no thinking-through of the problem that was demonstrated by the act that required the apology.
have more considered explanations to hand, more justice (evidence-based dealing
with claims), more resignations, better laws and better law enforcement
and fewer apologies and far fewer restrictions on free speech and
normal human interaction. We should have more honour and good manners. We should pre-empt the bitter onslaught of an
insane social media-driven witch hunt with better education on consent
and respect. Our entire culture is in danger of becoming supine before
just one personality trait and just one ideology (feminism) just as, in
the 1930s, it became supine before another personality trait and another