Vices and Virtues and the Patriarchy

Only mere days after I post about not biting my nails: I mangle my right index finger, exposing the nail bed beneath it.I know why of course, I allowed discussion and reflection of the current socio-political climate of the UK and world entire get to me.

In short: fuck the patriarchy.

As someone who has benefited from its institutions all of my life and seen the raw truth of it laid bare in my degree studying the media, I say: fuck that shit. As an institution, it perpetuates and demands expectations and reactions from people to indulge in their vices. As a man, you must do as men do which is: do battle on every level of existence. Even Marcus Aurelius was of the same line of thinking in the patriarchal Roman Empire where the very names of women were simple off-shoots of the male counterparts. Octavius becomes Octavia; Cassius becomes Cassia; Julius becomes Julia, and so on.

“The art of is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unseen.”Meditations 7.61

Does it need to be so unnecessarily machismo to be an effective soundbite? In the stoic world, where all things happen according to Nature, why would anyone view it as a wrestling ring? This violence is hardwired in us as part of this damaging institution, and even I am guilty of it, as expected. I am a rather skinny, 169cm unimposing figure yet I’ve always admired the cold and imposing brutality of DC‘s Batman, Star Wars‘ Darth Vader, and Britain’s finest dinosaur: James Bond – despite in truth being nothing like them in nature or stature. It’s taken me years of reflection to shake this weird love of pseudo-fascist and outright fascist icons that perpetuate this image of dominance equals cool, cold-heartedness equals cool, ruthlessness equals cool, sexism equals cool, and to an extent a rather clear cut Napoleon complex that comes with it. Yet, are any of these characters happy and healthy? These patriarchal figures that little boys aspire to be – with the broad chests, chiselled jaws and nihilistic worldview – are they happy in mind and healthy in spirit? Are the people around them? You could make an argument for Batman being a positive figure but in reading the excellent Batman: White Knight series, Sean Murphy does a brilliant job at dissecting this (no spoilers, here).

Wisdom, courage, justice, and moderation are the four core virtues of stoicism. You could argue, in a perfect world, the police service (and I used the word service intentionally here), should reflect these tenets. But what about the events of Clapham Common and subsequent police overreaction to peaceful vigil attendees says: wisdom, courage and moderation. I would say, in my view, that the women who attended that vigil and are now protesting are practising an expression of wisdom, courage, justice and moderation. They are wise in the choice of cause and precaution, remaining distanced from each other and wearing face coverings to mitigate spreading of a virus. They are courageous for facing down an overwhelming force of both police and negative media coverage. They are fighting for justice – justice for Sarah Everard and all the women who have experienced violence of any kind. Finally, they are doing so with considered moderation, protesting peacefully and in a measured way. Of course, if this descends into a riot I’ll not be surprised; being tackled to the floor for laying flowers funnily enough, tends to piss people off.

Foolishness, cowardice and intemperance – who does that sound like? Was it courageous of four officers to tackle Patsy Stevenson to the ground? Was it wise to surround statues and shout to protect them, statues of dead men, while women cry out to be treated as equals? Was it a tempered at all?

I can say fuck the patriarchy while not being absolved of my own sins for indulging in it. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve had to take responsibility for the things I’ve done. I’ve hurt women in the past through gaslighting and using and objectifying. The dark place defence doesn’t exist and I have no defence for a very shameful part of my life where I felt entitled to treat people as I pleased. Would I change this? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t think that I’d be able to look back now and reflect on how each action made each person feel and hold true to a new conviction of virtue rather than vice without it. Preferably, I would have come to these conclusions before being entirely toxic in my actions but it still doesn’t change anything. Does this bring much comfort to the dozen or so exes and tens more friends who I have lost or hurt along the way? No, of course it doesn’t. I will take responsibility for what I have done, but also what I haven’t done – whether objectively good or bad or subjectively good or bad.

Yet all I can do now is reflect and be better. Like every other self-identifying man on the planet should, and now is the time if there ever was one. I want to be the change I see in the world as Gandhi said (I’m paraphrasing, here). Why wouldn’t anyone? Is it not in accordance with Nature to evolve? To be changeable and flexible and learned? To see the suffering of others and stand for them, with integrity and conviction, surely is a tenet of what being a good person is – irrespective of ideaology.

Perhaps one could argue that it’s entirely typical of a man to think about himself during a time where he should be thinking of others but my defence of that would be that if I (or he) can’t endeavour to reflect and make changes at home, I (or he) can hardly make them abroad. All I have is my perspective, all I can give is my virtue.

“To be rigid and arrogant; to be above this generation and distant from its ways; to talk of great principles; to be critical and disparaging: these are approved by scholars who dwell in the mountains, by men who are not of this age, who are worn and weary or who cast themselves into the deep.

To preach benevolence, righteousness, loyalty and faithfulness; to be humble, moderate, selfless and civil: these are the marks of self-development and are the signs of the scholars who wish to reform this generation.”The Book of Chuang Tzu, Chapter 15: “The Rigid and Arrogant”



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