Discussing Ignorances

Ignorance is an infectious thing born from our own anxieties and fears. It’s almost a willingness to perpetuate states of harmful unknowing. A lot of the time, not even the conditioning or person can be blamed for their own ignorances as it seems to be a hardwired brain function. It’s our brain’s function to keep us safe from perceived danger based on judgement – remove the judgement remove the harm. Yet it’s not that easy is it? Especially when it comes to ingrained prejudices (applied ignorance), to things such as sexism, racism and so on.

It spreads so far, from one person to the next with one person’s ill-feeling latching on to me about another’s ignorance. It sits in my stomach like a heavy glutenous weight. Of course, it’s not surprising for people to be ignorant or harbour views that are morally denatured, it’s an expectation of life. Yet where there is ignorance there can also be knowledge and we teach or tolerate. Yet in failing teaching there is an expectation to tolerate, where lies the greater challenge when tolerance is a pseudo-passiveness to malicious action. How far does that expectation go before it becomes a matter of integrity and common good to intervene and neither teach nor tolerate but scold. Unless of course, we can argue that scolding the sexist or racist or homophobic is anything other than a poorly done teaching moment.

What do other people’s ignorances teach us about human beings but the frailty of our own images and our own ability to accept things as they are. It’s an egotistical mindset, and a belief that the world must fit into a framework that the ignorant is comfortable with or not exist at all. It’s something that I would critique of my favourite superhero, Batman.

“You sold us out, Clark. You gave them the power that should have been ours. Just like your parents taught you. My parents taught me a different lesson… lying on this street… shaking in deep shock… dying for no reason at all. They showed me that the world only makes sense when you force it to.” – Batman, The Dark Knight Returns

It’s a kind of fascism of the mind that demands an action in the external not just to be satisfied with the misery of the internal. Ironically, for all the destruction it brings, ignorance is a unifying collective trait of human beings despite the disconnectedness it brings. Misery loves company, after all.

So how do we face those ignorances? How do we tell the sexist, the harasser, the homophobe, the cheater, the greedy, and so on, to change. Not just for the selfish sake of the self but for the collective harmony? Well you can’t. Simply put. It can’t be done. Ignorances have the defense mechanism of pride and in men is often much more pervasive, hence the continuation the patriarchy, something no longer fit for purpose – if it ever was. It’s a reckless pride and stubbornness and attempts to correct someone’s path will cause more issues than if you had let them stumble down it. It’s what the amazing phrase ‘own the lib’ comes from, winning minor disputes through loudness of voice alone out of a desire to perpetuate a dream of the right way of doing things (the definition of which differs greatly depending on culture).

The only way I have seen these ignorances be brought to light and wither away under that sun, is to hold up a mirror. As someone, who has had my own fair share of ignorances born of both fear and the adoption of thoughts and values that were not my own, the only way to let go of them is to see them. Because often, the homophobe, the racist or the sexist will defend to the last that they are these things.

“Z, I want to apologise.” – X

Why?” – Z

Last year you were saying a lot of things that I said were racist and I argued back and didn’t listen. They were racist.” – X

“Yes, I know. But, how did you come to this conclusion?” – Z

“I watched the news over the summer with BLM. The things they were saying that hurt them and what people said, I said those things and I’m sorry.” – X

The truth is then, in the end, we can act for the sake of the common good and integrity of our own philosophy and morality to curb or redirect the ignorances of another but the only person who can cure themselves of ignorance is the ignorant.

We can spend lifetimes teaching, but the student has to learn themselves.



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”