July 15, 2010

Christ, Men Are Awful

And you know who the worst men of all are? Yeah, you got it: straight, white, fat-assed men. I use "fat-assed" to refer to comparatively affluent men, and because it's often true literally as well as figuratively. (And because I'm nasty, crazy and bitter, and I hate America, but I figure you're on to that.) For purposes of this exercise as well as general analysis, public figures like, hmm, well, just to pick an example out of thin air, Barack Obama are functionally straight, white, fat-assed men (see here, too, and the multitude of links there provides endless evidence for the contention).

So, we're talking about the latest Mel Gibson tape. No, I'm not going to link to it. It's linked every damned where, and you can find it easily enough if you want to. It's unspeakably disgusting. I listen to far too much talk radio. I don't have teevee (except to play DVDs), so I read the internetz and listen to the radio. More than sufficiently injurious to the brain. Several local L.A. radio gabbers have been playing and discussing the Gibson tape. The gabbers in question are all straight, white, fat-assed men.

And some of them find the tape absolutely hilarious. Not just a little funny, good for chuckle or two, but side-splittingly, fall on the floor, bust your guts hilarious. I kept listening to one show for about half an hour because, given my Shirley Temple metaphysics and my indestructible hope that even the worst of human beings isn't utterly without a single redemptive trait, I thought that eventually they'd at least glancingly mention how profoundly nauseating Gibson's rage-filled incoherence is, and how completely unnerving and terrifying this kind of behavior is to the person on the receiving end.

But they played the whole thing for laughs. They thought it was funny. That's all they had to say about it. (I'm referring to these fucking bastards, if you care.)

Another host (this one) came up with a more intriguing approach. He played parts of the tape, interspersing commentary along the way. And his commentary cleverly walked a very fine line: he offered explanations of Gibson's comments to show how "reasonable" Gibson was being, especially given the extent of the "provocation" Gibson had undoubtedly suffered (at least, Gibson himself obviously viewed it as deliberate and manipulative provocation). For example, when Gibson said he would give Oksana Grigorieva a "last chance," the host said (roughly paraphrased): "See? Even after all this, he's still willing to give her another chance! Isn't that fantastically generous and open-hearted of him? How could anyone possibly expect more?"

To anyone listening who hadn't been rendered completely insane by his own hatred and loathing of women, it was obvious that such comments were offered at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and that the host didn't mean them as any kind of legitimate defense of Gibson's remarks. But if you were a man consumed with rage at the intolerable injustices visited upon you by all-powerful, all-evil Woman, you'd think the host's commentary and "explanation" was right on the money.

And the host asked callers to answer these questions: Can you relate to the level of anger Gibson displays? Can you understand how Gibson feels? Is his anger justified and deserved? Then the host took calls from four or five men.

Guess what. Every single man who called in offered comments summarized in the following. I've combined the responses, because they were shockingly similar -- and please note that I made notes as I was listening, so all these phrases were actually said by the men who called in. This is what the callers said about Gibson's out-of-control, hate- and violence-filled rant:

"Oh, yeah, I understand exactly how Gibson feels. Women just push and push, and nag and nag, and they know how to push all your buttons. My ex-wife totally manipulated the situation with me, and she got a ton of my money and the kids. Women whine, and nag, and complain all the time. They never stop. And they push your buttons constantly. They know exactly how to get to you. Do I understand wanting to do violence to her? Oh, yeah, you bet I do. I don't mean to actually do violence, of course I don't mean that. But to want to? Oh, yeah. They ask for it."

One of the callers added this bit of historical-cultural analysis for good measure:

"Women have taken men down all throughout history. You look behind the downfall of any man, and you'll find a woman. John Edwards isn't president today because of a woman."

I repeat: all this is what I actually heard four or five men say on a radio show just a few days ago. I must add that, despite what appeared to be his own awareness of how vile such views were, the host, to his eternal shame, didn't condemn the callers and didn't state how disgusting and sickening they were. He simply let stand all their remarks. (Now that I'm considering it again, I think I probably assumed too much about Resnick's own awareness of these issues. The tone and content of his remarks lead me to believe that he thinks Gibson's views and those of the callers aren't good or admirable, but that he completely fails to appreciate how deeply awful and vicious they are. I think it's more likely that he thought his set-up was just a clever gimmick and nothing more. And of course, if he even began to identify the actual nature of what Gibson and the callers said, he'd lose what is probably the most significant part of the audience targeted by KFI and be off the air. So he's never going to do that.)

All I can say by way of general response is, Jesus Fucking Christ. On a fucking, goddamned stick.

To identify what should be painfully, horribly, disgustingly obvious, but which isn't obvious at all in this culture: the aspect of Gibson's rant that is profoundly unnerving and horrifying is the intensity of the loathing of women it reveals, together with the completely unconcealed desire to commit violence against women. Violence which, not at all coincidentally, Gibson admits on the same tape he's committed against this particular woman (at a minimum) in the past. Yes, there was a viciously racist comment as well -- but as awful as that is, it was hardly the predominant theme. The unbroken theme, one that was repeated over and over again in many variations, was loathing for and the wish to commit violence against women.

One further point must also be emphasized. Men in the grip of uncontrollable rage of this intensity frequently are violent -- and they sometimes kill the targets of their irrational, out-of-control rage. For those who are interested, I discussed some of the [actual] roots of Gibson's rage in, "Mel Gibson: A Public Case Study in Obedience and Denial," which I described as a "summary of Alice Miller's major thesis, and an examination of Mel Gibson and fundamentalist religious belief more generally as one kind of example of the mechanisms that Miller discusses." And an "Addendum on Mel Gibson" offers "some further details about the views of Mel Gibson's father, which make indisputably clear the abusive nature of the psychological dynamics in this family." It should go without saying -- but I say it to stress the point -- that none of this is to excuse or justify Gibson's behavior in even the most minor respect. It is offered only to explain the sources of this kind of hatred and rage, and to establish still another time, using a very public example, that such rage never arises out of nothing.

None of this is surprising in a culture which repeatedly conveys one particular message (among others), but this message with special vehemence, in countless forms across a huge variety of phenomena: "Kill That Woman!" As I said in that essay, our culture (and tragically not only this culture) believes, and the belief functions as one of our culture's axiomatic, foundational convictions, that: "Women are evil. More than that, women are the ultimate source of all evil in the world."

With that conviction as a largely unchallenged foundation, the comments of these hosts and callers (and countless others) demonstrate an inexorable logic. Of course, it's ludicrous to any reasonably sane person to contend that any and all misfortunes suffered by men are always and solely the result of women's machinations, but if you believe that women are evil and all-powerful, the narrower belief flows directly out of the all-encompassing condemnation. We might note that this belief system necessarily portrays men as weak, easily manipulated and apparently none too bright, but for those who drink at this well of hatred, such inconsistencies and contradictions need never be noted. Besides, what might be regarded as men's astonishing stupidity and manipulability is overcome by women's still more astonishing omnipotence and universe-annihilating Evil.

(Because I've discussed a related connection in more detail elsewhere, I mention it here only in passing. You will observe the same dynamic operating with regard to U.S. foreign policy. The U.S., in possession of the most fearsomely destructive military in all of history, is completely undone by a very, very small number of terrorists. At least, that is the story our enlightened political leaders tell us. This small band of terrorists is so evil and powerful that it "forces" us to invade a succession of countries that never threatened us, to occupy them for decades, to obliterate every liberty and protection previously afforded to both citizens and non-citizens, to embrace torture, etc. Note that the enlightened leaders who proclaim these "truths" are straight, white, fat-assed men -- or those who enthusiastically play that role in the pursuit of power.)

To return to the point with which I began, the sickening awfulness of men, there are obviously exceptions, but they are very, very few in number. I base this both on general observation and on considerable personal experience (at the age of 62, I've had plenty of time for both). I'm reminded of a remark I would sometimes make to a couple of good friends during the years when I dated very frequently. Every now and then, usually after a succession of dating experiences had ended in less than satisfying ways, I'd say: "You know the real problem with gay men? They're still men." And I'd go on to say that, yes, I certainly love the anatomy (and I do seriously love it), but as for the rest of it ... bah and phooey. By "the rest of it," I meant, of course, the comprehensive emotional repression, the dispiriting lack of awareness and self-awareness, all the ways in which many men are frequently (and even casually, which is often the worst) cruel, unfeeling, and insensitive. That's a very limited list. It's hardly surprising that, in my case, the two closest friends of my life, true soulmates and both of whom tragically died far too young, were both women. Straight women as it happens, but women is the important point.

I've remarked before that I've had affairs with women, too (see this post, the concluding paragraphs in particular). I'm thinking that, at this point, I may need to revisit and reconsider the possibilities.

Yes, I think I might do just that.