Today’s adults are the product of modern parenting

There’s a great episode of South Park where Cartman’s mother gets so fed up with her son’s unruly behaviour she enlists the help of a “dog whisperer”. He basically trains Cartman as he would a dog, zapping him every time he steps or says something out of line. Within a short time Cartman is a perfect little gentleman. However – and this is IMO the real genius of the episode – Cartman’s mother doesn’t like it, because she no longer has anyone to fuss over and dote on: her son is now independent of her. She then undoes all the dog whisperer’s work because her sole reason to exist is leaping in the air whenever her spoiled brat son says “jump”. Without this, she is lost and lonely. Matt Parker and Trey Stone have got modern parenting nailed to a T.

I don’t have kids and no longer get asked why, but back when I did I would flip the question around: why do you have kids? You’d be surprised by how many of the answers were effectively to fill a void in the mother’s life. Quite a few would talk about receiving “unconditional love”, and after a while I’d reply that you can get that from a dog. I was only half joking: if you need unconditional love then you are perhaps better off getting a pet than having a child.

I’ve spent the past decade or so observing my friends and colleagues starting families and raising kids, plus I trawl through online forums such as Mumsnet occasionally, and I try to compare it to my own childhood. The difference is vast. Now I don’t think our household in the 1980s was typical, my parents were old-fashioned and our upbringing was probably more in line with the 1950s or ’60s, and perhaps if I’d seen a more typical childhood my views would be a little different now.

Probably the biggest difference between then and now is that in a lot of modern families the kids run the household. This is by no means universal, but in a lot of cases the kids say something, shout out, or demand something and both adults stop whatever they’re doing to appease the child. This happens every few minutes, hour after hour, day after day. The kids have the adults wrapped around their fingers, and are clearly the ones in charge. A power play has taken place, wills have been tested, and the parents have been found wanting.

I’m fairly sure it wasn’t like this a couple of generations ago. I seem to remember when growing up there were “kids space” and “adult space” and I’m not just talking about physical space. There were conversations between adults that kids knew they were not allowed to intervene in, activities they ought to stay away from, and things they mustn’t touch. Sure, the kids would test these boundaries but they were rigorously enforced, leading to a separation of adult and children’s spheres. If the radio was on and my parents were listening we generally knew not to come in an make a racket. If we did, we’d get a bollocking, not be indulged. Nowadays there is no adults’ world and children’s world: everything is the children’s world, up to and including what is to be watched on TV.

A lot of modern parents seem unwilling or unable to set boundaries, which involves disciplining the kids. I have seen some do this well, some do it half-well, and some just let the kids do as they please. When it comes to disciplining kids, a lot of mothers I see simply can’t do it. They can’t bear to see their kid upset so they don’t maintain the boundary. A typical example is two adults speaking about something important and the kid comes running up:

“MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?! MUMMY MUMMY MUMMY! CAN I PLAY WITH MY LEGO?!”

Mummy’s response is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Of course you can play with your Lego, darling! But don’t make a mess!”

Then Toby responds in an excruciatingly whiny voice: “But I can’t find it! I don’t know where it iiiiiiiissssss

A conversation then ensues about where Toby has put his Lego. By the time this is over, the other adult – if he’s me – has wandered off and poured himself a whisky. For all Mummy’s insistence that Toby shouldn’t interrupt adults, she is allowing him to do just that. Multiply this across a hundred different scenarios and Toby clearly has the run of the place.

What Mummy should have said is: “Listen Toby, we’ve told you not to interrupt when adults are talking. Go away!”

But then Toby would have cried and wailed and sniveled and Mummy’s heart would have broken and she’d have caved in, and I’d be off trying to find some whisky anyway. The problem is too many mothers – and an increasing number of fathers – want to be friends with their kids, and think their job is to smother them with love and affection and avoid all instances of them being upset. Their actions seem to be more about getting their kids’ approval and make themselves feel good instead of raising their children to be functioning adults.

It’s not about discipline per se, it’s more about consistency and resolve. I’m not saying parents should whip their kids, but if they’re going to tell them not to do something or give them a bollocking, it needs to be consistent and sustained. I was in a house some years back when a four year old boy hurled a framed photo to the floor. The adults made their shocked faces and said he was a naughty boy and sent him to stand in the corner. Within five minutes he was making faces at the same adults who were laughing with him and calling him cute. Within ten minutes he was eating a chocolate ice cream. What do you think the little brat learned from that episode, then? He should have been sent to his room for two hours minimum, permitted to scream his head off, and given the cold shoulder afterwards. But parents lack the resolve to do it.

One of the things I hear most often is darling Toby is “a fussy eater”. I am relatively certain that this is a modern phenomenon. I didn’t like some of my mother’s cooking but I was hungry so I ate it. I am sure the generations before me, and people in other countries, simply couldn’t give their kids choices. It is not unusual now for mothers to make separate meals for each child because “he just won’t eat it”. I’ve suggested not giving him anything else, and every mother says “Oh, I tried but he screamed and screamed and just wouldn’t eat it.” I bet this went on for all of twenty minutes before she caved in, whereas my mother would have kept me there until bedtime and then had another go with the same stuff the next day. As millions of children in poor households demonstrate every day, kids will eat anything if they’re hungry enough.

Kids refusing to eat are simply testing their parents’ will (unless they are genuinely ill). When a child pushes a plate of “strange” food away and says “I don’t want it!” he’s probably overfed. Guaranteed he’ll be eating chocolate before bedtime, and likely had a packet of crisps an hour previously. When I grew up the whole family ate together, sat at a table. When we’d finished we had to ask permission to leave the table and that was only granted if everything had been eaten. The table was the only place we were allowed to eat, and mealtimes the only occasion. Most households I walk into noadays has a kid walking around the house snacking on something, leaving a trail of detritus behind him.

Now this might all seem like unfair criticism, and I don’t mean it to be. If this is how parents want to raise their kids, good luck to them. I don’t have kids so it’s easy for me to sit and carp from the sidelines, and if I was raising a tribe perhaps I’d be equally guilty. But this is what I have observed, and it’s amazing how defensive people get when I simply describe what I’ve seen (and I fully expect to receive plenty of responses to this along the lines of “Oh but you don’t understand, with my Toby I really did try everything!”) But that isn’t the point of this post either.

Rather, it ties into my previous post about the modern generation being both unwilling to moderate their behaviour and unable to cope with the consequences, such that they demand to be protected from them. They can’t communicate, and nor are they prepared to compromise. They expect immediate delivery of even their most whimsical and petty desires, and the whole world ought to stop and fall over themselves to bring it about. The reaction of so many supposedly functioning adults to the Google Memo – the author of which has now been fired – is ample proof of a society whose young and even not-so-young adults have the mental strength and capacity of infant children. And have a look at this article:

Why Professional Cuddling Is Booming Under Trump

The reasons one seeks out a professional cuddling experience range from average adults seeking connection, those on the autistic spectrum, those healing from sexual trauma, adults dealing with sexual dysfunction or for older virgins to practice touch in a safe environment. The elephant in the room during some of these sessions, though, is the current state of the country’s affairs. Since November – and the election of Donald Trump – professional cuddling services have seen a spike in client interest.

These people are not functioning adults. Of course, every generation thinks the next one is soft and society going to the dogs, but the difference then was the next generation wasn’t wringing its hands and whining about how difficult life was. This isn’t the previous generation complaining about the next, it’s the current generation complaining about the world as they find it.

So whose fault is it? It’s tempting to blame technology, just the same as TV, rock ‘n’ roll, and video games were used to explain why previous generations opted for delinquency. This article seems to think the iPhone is to blame, but as I said in my previous post, I think that’s a symptom rather than a cause: kids are using the iPhone to help cope, rather than a handset making them useless.

I think the fault lies squarely with the changes in parenting. An early sign of this new approach was when parents started shouting at teachers for chastising their brats, rather than clipping the brat himself around the ear for making the teacher yell at him. With both parents now working, perhaps they feel guilty for not spending enough time with their kids and so strive to make every moment “special”. Perhaps households being much wealthier has simply given them the luxury of being run by kids: the family would die if they tried this in a developing country.

Whatever the cause, I feel confident there is a link between children raised in such a way and the propensity of young adults to struggle to cope with the world and hanker for a patriarchal authority to regulate it such that they don’t have to. I’m not necessarily saying modern parenting is wrong, but if people are wondering why so many of today’s adults are rather wet, they might want to look at how they were brought up.

I’ll wrap this up with an anecdote. When I visited Lebanon in 2010 I attended a family party at my host’s house, a small affair so only about 60 people. The women sat at one side of the room and gossiped while drinking wine, the men sat on the other and gossiped while drinking Johnny Walker, and the children played on the floor. Young boys were permitted to join the men, and eat at the adults’ table, around the age of 14 or 15, and it was a big thing for them. They had to demonstrate the maturity to do so, and I saw them sat around with bum-fluff moustaches trying their hardest not to come across as infantile children. Their immaturity was obvious, but their parents and relatives set them expectations as to how to behave “now they were men” and they tried their best. Young boys looked forward to being accepted into the ranks of men, and strived for it.

I can’t help thinking any clash of civilisations will be won by those whose method of raising children produces the most successful adults. At this rate, the West is going to struggle.

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Cowardly Communication

Last night a story broke about a Google employee circulating an email to his colleagues regarding the company’s diversity policies. From skimming it, the email seemed reasonable, i.e. it wasn’t deliberately offensive or insulting. However, some people are appalled that someone working in Google holds such opinions, let alone shares them, and are calling for him to be sacked. Others are urging people not to read the email, as if it were a gorgon’s head.

This is wholly unsurprising. The immediate response from many people when faced with opinions they don’t like is to try, using fair means or foul, to silence that person. This has been going on for years, and the latest weapon in the censors’ arsenal is to try to get the person sacked, and to deprive them of their livelihood.

This situation is likely a natural progression from what these people got used to on a personal basis. Some years ago, everybody moved their online presence from forums, blogs, and message boards to Facebook, and then Twitter. It’s taken me a while to realise this, but the shift was quite fundamental. When you read a blog or join a forum, you have no way of filtering out content you might not like. Similarly, there’s no way of restricting the audience of what gets published, aside from a requirement to register. Everything you write can be accessed by anyone, and there is no restriction on what you might read.

Facebook is quite different, and you can select what you see and who gets to read your posts. This is understandable because it initially started out as a social networking site, but quickly became a platform for (supposedly) public content: Facebook has been used for campaigning, promoting events and businesses, and politicking almost since the beginning. Then came Twitter, which was never about keeping friends and family updated on your life, it was always supposed to be a platform for sharing your views with the big wide world and connecting with like-minded people. Only they included an option to block people. Now I can perhaps see the value of being able to block people you don’t like from contacting you, but from seeing what you are writing? What’s the point of that, especially on Twitter? It’s like an author publishing a book and placing restrictions on who can buy it, or standing on a rooftop and yelling but asking half the people on the ground to cover their ears.

This makes no sense to me whatsoever. I’ve been blocked from reading Louise Mensch’s Twitter feed. If she doesn’t want people reading it, why the hell is she writing it? The answer is obvious: she only wants certain people to read what she’s writing. We used to call this “private correspondence”, but nowadays people try doing it on the most public, open forum the world has ever seen. In other words, they want the prestige and attention that comes with being a public voice, only keeping the benefits of private correspondence. For me, this is a cop out, and one of the reasons I don’t like the blocking functions on Twitter. When I write this blog I assume everyone who knows me, including friends, family, and employers, might read it. This sharpens the mind somewhat, and keeps me from writing bollocks I can’t defend. If your public thoughts need to be hidden from certain people, perhaps your thoughts are the problem, not them.

Hence we have the Twitter generation who, at the click of a button, can stop people communicating with them and stop them seeing their public pronouncements. Little wonder they think the entire world can be made to run like this as well, hence the calls for the Google employee to be sacked and Charles Murray to be denied a platform to speak at American universities.

And you see this spilling over into people’s personal lives. Like a public blog forces you to think about what you write, so interacting with people in the real world forces you to think about how you behave. Before online dating, you’d have to find a partner among your friends or social peers. Even if you met in a bar or club, chances are you’d be mixing in the same circles and not living too far apart. Whatever the case, you had to approach them (men), or wait for them to approach you (women). The way of filtering out the riff-raff was to mix in the sort of circles you’d want to find a partner in, i.e. if you’re a student you’d normally hang out with fellow students and go to student bars, not down in some biker bar the wrong side of the railway tracks. To stay in that social circle, you’d have to adopt acceptable behaviours. Those behaviours might seem pretty ugly, especially where students are concerned, but nevertheless you had to conform to some sort of socially acceptable behaviour when interacting with others. If you didn’t, you’d face a negative response, be it criticism, nasty remarks, ridicule, or rejection from those around you. In short, in the absence of a method to block all negative responses, you had to think a little about your behaviour.

Young men are often cads and young women are often loose, but one of the main things which modify such behaviours is the social opprobrium that follows. I know guys who went out of their way to dump a girl gently because they didn’t want a huge negative reaction from her and her friends which would leave him feeling like a heel. Ending a relationship is never nice or easy, but it’s part of life and – like so many other things – it’s something one must learn to do as an adult.

The mobile phone probably changed that, initially. If you had to finish with a partner, you’d normally have to do it face-to-face, therefore she would have the opportunity to respond. If you did it by rotary phone, she could call you back. If you did it by letter, she could write a response. Then mobile phones came along and you could block her number and any response, and with texting the whole process became much simpler and cleaner: “Were dun luv, lol xxx” followed by a block and that’s that. In the age of internet and fragmented communities, you’d probably not even see them again: gone are the days of dating a girl in the village.

I’ve had girls hurl abuse at me or cry down the phone or via text message or email when I’ve split up from them, and I’ve probably done the same thing in return. Unless things start getting really psychotic, and they never have, I feel obliged to listen and soak it up. An emotional response is by definition irrational, and if one’s aim is to end up down the road with both parties reasonably happy and free of hated and humiliation and having kept face, then the emotional period must be dealt with properly.

A few years back I had a good friend come out of an appalling relationship, which she ended leaving the man (rather justifiably on some measures) absolutely livid. She had her reasons, but he had reason to feel rather aggrieved. He didn’t take it well, and she complained to me that he had sent her a flurry of nasty text messages when he was drunk a couple of weeks later. My response was something like this:

“Yes, he’s upset, understandably so. It’s not an excuse, but it’s a reason. What he’s said to you is awful, but there are reasons for it: he’s not saying it in isolation. My advice is to ignore it, because it’s angry correspondence. Respond to him when he’s nice, ignore him when he’s not, and be willing to communicate provided you remain firm that you’re not getting back together and he understand that. He needs to save face, and he needs time. If he’s still doing this in six months or a year, that’s a different matter. But right now…well, it’s to be expected.”

My friend took my advice and things became more civil. Eventually the guy moved on and she stopped hearing from him, both with their heads held (reasonably) high. Had she ignored him completely or responded in kind, things could have escalated. At best, he would have felt permanently aggrieved, and this is never a good thing. Of course, the modern advice is ignore, ignore, ignore – as if the whole thing happened in isolation. I suppose it depends on who you are, but I’m the sort of guy who thinks a woman who you’ve been in a relationship with deserves a period after the breakup of being pissed off, and she has a right to communicate with you. Guys who say “it’s best just to cut them off completely” are usually saying so for their own benefit (although they’ll say it’s for the girl’s) and it calls into question how serious the relationship was anyway. They’re hurting, and most of the time they want to save face, not get back together. If you won’t help them do that, then yes, the relationship should have ended – at her hand.

The Twitter generation are having none of it, though. These days I hear guys laughingly saying how they blocked some girl they recently dumped, because she kept texting him. What did they expect? I have seen women go running to the police complaining of harassment because some guy who they utterly humiliated had the temerity to her them know via email exactly what he thought of her. Unsurprisingly, Plod leaped into action and started issuing blanket threats of arrest and prosecution without even getting the guy’s name right, as is their wont. Modern men and women want to enter into something as complicated as a relationship but expect to be able to exit at the push of a button as if it never happened. I’ve seen women declaring love and talking earnestly with a man about long-term plans and then a few days later end the relationship by phone and block all communication saying “it’s best we both move on”, like some toad of a politician who’s been caught breaking the law. Men do the same thing, and it puts a serious question mark over anything which happened prior to that: if you’re prepared to pull the plug and run away like that, it was probably never serious in the first place – and he or she is certainly not ready for the give-and-take of a proper relationship. I’ve always seen a refusal to talk as simple cowardice.

Last year I wrote this:

Communication is everything in a relationship. When things are going well, communication tends to go well. But when things go wrong it often suffers, and you can quickly see who is in it for the partnership and who is in it for themselves.

Whatever the issue is, no matter how bad, keep the lines of communication open. Sure, take a ten minute break, or take a couple of hours to reply to a message. But tell the other person you’re doing that, and let them know when you’ll reply. The moment one party or the other decides they’re going to fall silent for a period of more than a few hours, or (worse) a few days, or (even worse) an indefinite period; or they’re going to completely ignore a message or an email; the relationship is over. Dead. It won’t recover.

Sure, I get people say nasty things, and if a situation breaks down into a slanging match of hate-filled invective and insults then it is wise to take a step back and have some time off. But the lines of communication must stay open: clearly say you’re having a break, and that you’ll be ready to talk again the next day at the latest. Get back to talking as soon as possible. Stomping off into indefinite silence and dragging it out over days will result in only one thing: a failed relationship. If one party doesn’t want to talk then better to just end the whole thing right there and then, because the outcome is inevitable.

The same is true at the end of a relationship:

Your partner might not be your greatest ever love, but if they’re your friend they’ll not fuck you over and will keep talking to you no matter what. If he or she stops communicating, they’re not your friend, they don’t have your interests at heart, and they’re in it for themselves: walk away.

The irony is that, in the age of unprecedented means of communication, many people have forgotten how to do it. It’s far easier to block, filter, ban, and silence than to talk, read, and listen as the latter requires effort on your part.

I don’t actually think it is iPhones and Twitter that have caused this: I think they’re merely responses to what people want. I have my opinions on why people have become like this, and I’ll write about them shortly. Doing so is likely to make me quite unpopular with some people, so I will have to tread carefully. No block function, see?

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Men might want older women, but not for these reasons

Via a polyamorous community on Twitter I found this article on why younger men love older women. Now before I begin, there’s nothing wrong with a guy dating a woman a few years older than him and the older he gets, the less odd this becomes, i.e. a 40 year old dating a 43 year old is a bit different from a 16 year old dating a 19 year old. And while I really don’t care if Macron marries someone his mother’s age, let’s not pretend it’s very common. Here goes:

Confidence: The most appealing trait in anyone is self-confidence. Many older women have developed their own sense of style, and after years of growth both mentally and physically they’re comfortable in their own skin.

Firstly, this isn’t true. There are plenty of middle-aged women out there who are emotional wrecks, endlessly seeking validation in one form or another. Secondly, of those that are confident, many express it by being a complete ball-breaking bitch. Hardly what men are looking for, is it?

Frequently she’s financially independent and streetwise.

Women who date much younger men are streetwise, eh? And often they’re financially independent because they’ve cleaned out some poor sod in a divorce.

Younger men want to be with her because of the positive energy she emits.

Unlike twenty-two year old women who are just down on everything, I suppose.

Her self-assurance will have a reciprocal effect on the man too. He’ll gain maturity by being in the relationship. This will help build his character and make him feel good about himself.

It sounds as though sonny-boy is missing his mother.

Knowledge about sex and life. Older women have years of sexual experience with men of all ages. She’s had a lot of practice whether it was with multiple partners or one man. Being with a woman who can teach the younger guy a few new tricks is extremely alluring, especially to those who haven’t had many partners or experiences.

Sorry, is he after a girlfriend or a whore for the night? It is a myth that men are impressed by women who are filthy in bed in the early stages of a relationship. Contrary to the opinions of the buffoon writing this piece, having had “practice with multiple partners” is generally not considered an attractive quality in a woman. What men want is a woman who has some experience, but wants to learn more – with him. If a man can find a woman who is fairly innocent and train her up to be a rampaging slut in the bedroom but only with him – that’s marriage material.

The older woman knows her own body and what turns her on. She has the owner’s manual and shares it willingly with her partners. She’s self-aware and knows what she wants in and out of the bedroom.

Because mutual sexual explorations are so boring, aren’t they? Better to find a woman who knows exactly what she wants – and doesn’t want to do.

No game playing. Older women are done playing games. They are straight shooters and will be honest about what they want in the relationship and what they won’t accept.

Which is why they’re still single and trawling the internet for younger men.

 They will demand respect from the younger man because they respect themselves.

Nothing says a woman respects herself more than demanding respect from a lover half her age.

Typically the younger guy won’t need to worry about pregnancy prevention since the older woman will be equally concerned having already had her own children.

Leaving aside that she’s also probably incapable now anyway, I find that she has children of her own amusing. I wonder what they think of ma’s new boyfriend?

Communication. A younger less experienced woman may worry that if she shares her desires, she may lose the man. She may be embarrassed to tell a guy what turns her on sexually.

Most guys have a lot of fun finding this out rather than waiting to be told.

The older woman won’t shy away from offering advice on personal hygiene. She’ll encourage him to dress like a man – not a boy. This will spill over into other areas of his life, as he gets encouragement from people about his “new look.”

Handy for those men who are used to their mothers dressing them, I suppose.

The younger man can be free to be himself with an older woman. He won’t need to impress her with a fake bravado the way he might think a younger woman would expect. He’s with the older woman for companionship and sex without worrying that she wants something more – like marriage.

Oh yeah? What’s the woman’s view on this?

He feels nurtured and cared for by her, and doesn’t feel the demands of taking care of the younger more “needy” girl.

Some Oedipus stuff going on here, isn’t there?

He can be with her when he wants and their aren’t any obligations other than to have fun. Once the relationship is over, the resulting friendship may continue to last throughout their lifetimes.

Oh, I bet Mrs Robinson just loves that! “Sorry love, I’m here just to have fun (and for you to do my laundry), but we can be friends when it’s over!” A minute ago we were told she respects herself.

The younger guy may receive a great ego boost knowing that a hot older woman finds him desirable.

As a substitute for hot young women finding him desirable? Erm, no.

The older woman will come to expect a certain amount of emotional maturity, which if achieved, will have a great effect on the younger man’s confidence with all women.

I doubt it: he’s spent the whole time being spoon-fed in the bedroom and told how to dress.

His friends may originally question the relationship but ultimately envy him.

This may be true, but is dependent on his sharing the sex stories and the arrangement being very short-lived. Meaning a month, tops.

Some guys may end up finding their life partner in the older woman, whereas others may move on to be with women their own age or younger.

Leaving the older woman to die alone with her cats. Funny that these financially secure, confident, worldly-wise older women won’t be able to see a flaky younger man coming, isn’t it?

Naturally, this was written by an older woman, one who clearly hasn’t got a clue about men. In her defence she is a widow, so didn’t choose to be in this situation.

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Polyamory and Children

Apparently – and this comes as a complete surprise to me – polyamorists have difficulty convincing other people their arrangement brings about an environment suitable for children. One Gracie X laments thusly:

Six years ago when my husband and new boyfriend all decided to cohabitate under the same roof– I felt pretty smug. I had created a situation where I got to have my husband of 20 years and a new lover as well. We converted our single-family home into a duplex. My husband and his new girlfriend moved into one side of the house, while I lived on the other side with my new man, Oz.

Sounds idyllic. Who’s in charge of the laundry?

But not everyone was thrilled for us. When Oz, told his ex-wife he was giving up his apartment permanently to move in with me, she slapped him with a custody suit. She was determined that their two children would never live in my home. She accused us of all kinds of perversities and insisted the household was unsafe for their children. During the hearings, we were basically investigated for being polyamorous. Thus began my painful education into the fears and bigotry surrounding my alternative chosen family.

Well, yes. Whereas this lady might have been okay with her kids spending time with their father and his new girlfriend, putting them under the same roof as another two adults about which she knows nothing and have no connection to the children whatsoever is a different question altogether. I have a friend who is a single mother, and she would never leave her kid alone with one of her boyfriends, and when the father moved another woman in with him, my friend insisted on meeting her just to get a feel for the sort of woman her daughter would be spending time with. All was fine, but she checked anyway. Sensible woman, my friend.

But even after Oz’s children moved in, we all felt vulnerable. Until there are laws that protect polyamorous people, swingers and those with any openness in their marriage—we are unprotected from people who would use our sexuality to attack us.

They probably couldn’t care less what you do sans enfants, but when kids are involved it becomes another matter entirely. That’s not to say that no polyamorous people should be allowed to have kids, but they ought to expect additional scrutiny of their child-raising environment. That this came as a surprise to Gracie X speaks volumes.

Your sexuality does not determine your effectiveness and goodness as a parent. One mistake we made was trying to justify and explain our lifestyle to the courts. In hindsight this further put our sexuality on display. Better to do just the opposite. Focus on your excellent parenting skills.

Shift the focus off the sexuality, she says. Okay, but:

Utilize local LGBT organizations for legal strategy. Gay rights activist groups have already dealt with the kind of situations and bigotry that you may be confronted with in court.

In other words, make your sexuality an issue. And that’s the problem: polyamory is about sex, despite what its practitioners say. I think these days most people would concede that being gay or lesbian is not a choice, much less a lifestyle choice, but polyamory – which is basically a term to describe how people’s sex lives are organised – can’t possibly be described as a natural condition over which the participants have no control. I hesitate to call it a lifestyle choice because, from what I’ve seen and what others have told me, it is more of a coping mechanism. The reason why people concentrate so much on the sex part of polyamory is because that pretty much defines it: leave the sex out and you have the guts of what most functioning adults enjoy anyway.

Get letters of recommendation from teachers’, friends, co-workers, anyone who has witnessed your parenting and can accurately describe your parental strengths.

I wonder what percentage of polyamorists could get these?

When I look back at this time it was one of the most stressful of my life. I was on edge for the entire two years that we were embroiled with the courts and their appointed evaluator. Reach out to your support network, find ways to calm yourself down and deal with your stress. It’s extremely challenging to deal with the courts and even more so with the potential of losing your children– my heart goes out to anyone going through it.

Makes you wonder if the kids were considered at all, doesn’t it? All of this stress could have been avoided by not getting into a cohabiting polyamorous arrangement. I’d love to see how they turn out.

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Laurie Penny’s Authorial Fantasy

Everybody’s favourite feminist Laurie Penny engages in a spot of authorial fantasy where she envisages a world where robots have taken all the men’s jobs, forcing them to become more like women.

ROBOTS ARE COMING for our jobs—but not all of our jobs. They’re coming, in ever increasing numbers, for a certain kind of work. For farm and factory labor. For construction. For haulage. In other words, blue-collar jobs traditionally done by men.

Perhaps Laurie is unaware of the Industrial Revolution which saw huge swathes of farm work move from man to machine. She also appears to have missed the de-industrialisation of the west as the factory jobs moved to Asia, which is strange for somebody who places all the world’s ills at the feet of Thatcher. The changes she is describing have been happening for decades, if not centuries.

Millions of men around the world are staring into the lacquered teeth of obsolescence, terrified of losing not only their security but also their source of meaning and dignity in a world that tells them that if they’re not rich, they’d better be doing something quintessentially manly for money.

Oh, I don’t know. I see plenty of men mincing around with useless degrees working useless jobs.

Otherwise they’re about as much use as a wooden coach-and-four on the freeway.

You said it, sister!

Some political rhetoric blames outsourcing and immigration for the decline in “men’s work,” but automation is a greater threat to these kinds of jobs—and technological progress cannot be stopped at any border.

Right, but that process has been going on for quite some time and, for men working blue-collar jobs, the worst is probably over.

A recent Oxford study predicted that 70 percent of US construction jobs will disappear in the coming decades;

Unless construction itself is going to come to a halt, it’s hard to see how. Robots aren’t going to be building things any time soon, even if there is one that can lay bricks.

97 percent of those jobs are held by men, and so are 95 percent of the 3.5 million transport and trucking jobs that robots are presently eyeing.

Oh right. Self-driving vehicles will put millions of men out of business. Presumably the fusion-powered jet-packs will make airlines obsolete, too?

That’s scary, and it’s one reason so many men are expressing their anger and anxiety at home, in the streets, and at the polls.

You can almost smell the glee.

While all of this is going on, though, there’s a counter­phenomenon playing out. As society panics about bricklaying worker droids and self-driving 18-wheelers, jobs traditionally performed by women—in the so-called pink-collar industries, as well as unpaid labor—are still relatively safe, and some are even on the rise.

Firstly, how many of these pink-collar jobs are absolutely necessary, and only exist due to government policies looking for ways to keep women occupied now the washing machine, fridge, and tractor have been invented, paid for in their entirety by the surplus wealth – taxes – generated by those blue-collar men you despise so much?

Secondly, a lot of these pink-collar jobs exist in order to “manage”, administrate, and generally get in the way of those men doing the work. Will we really need sprawling HR, diversity, and compliance departments if robots are doing everything? Who will pay for them?

Thirdly, Laurie seems to think a lot of this pink-collar stuff can’t be offshored to the Philippines where ladies called Cherry will deal with your pointless HR paperwork.

These include childcare. And service. And nursing, which the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts will need a million­-plus more workers in the next decade.

Which might be why the Japanese are working on a Care-Bot. But is this what our womenfolk with English degrees from Oxford and law degrees from Harvard have in mind for the sisterhood? Caring and nursing? Somebody ought to tell them.

According to the logic of the free market, when jobs are destroyed in one area of the economy, people will shift to new areas of productivity, acquiring new skills as they travel. So you might imagine that factory workers are becoming nannies. Not exactly. That’s because we’re talking about “women’s work.” Women’s work is low paid and low status, and men are conditioned to expect better.

The reason these nannies are needed is because the mothers have all decided they’d rather work than look after their own children. Now some say this is forced on them, but if robots are doing all the work, why can’t mothers look after their own kids? And the main reason factory workers won’t become nannies is because mothers who hire nannies generally prefer cheap brown women to do the job rather than white men – at any cost.

Whether or not you believe men are about to go the way of the portable CD player depends entirely on how you define manhood itself.

I’d say so, yes.

A great many men have been trained over countless generations to associate their self-worth with the performance of tasks that are, in a very real sense, robotic—predictable, repetitive, and emotionless.

But nevertheless a job that needs doing.

The trouble is that machines are far better at being predictable, repetitive, and emotionless than human beings.

It amuses me she thinks this applies more to craftsmen and technicians than women in process-driven roles in a giant bureaucracy.

What human beings do better are all the other things: We are better at being adaptable, compassionate, and intuitive; better at doing work that involves actually touching and thinking about one another; better at making art and music that elevates us above the animals—better, in short, at keeping each other alive. We have walled off all that work and declared it mostly women’s business,

Sorry, what? Art and music are the preserve of women? And what about sales, management, even engineering – all require adaptability, compassion, and intuition. Methinks Laurie – having been a freelance writer since she left university – hasn’t the faintest idea what various jobs actually entail.

even as exhausted women have begged men to join them.

Oh please! Sure, women are just crying out for more men to take up primary-school teaching, psychology, and nursing!

Feminists have, in fact, been arguing for a basic income for decades as compensation for unpaid domestic labor.

Women want to be paid to keep their own house clean.

Now that men might find themselves with more time to perform household tasks, they’re finally starting to listen.

What decade is Laurie living in? Most men I know can cook, clean, and iron as well as their partners, if not better. None of them has yet asked to be paid for this.

Work is work, and as men come to realize that, society as a whole might start valuing pink-collar and unpaid labor more highly and—as men take these jobs and join the call for increased wages—compensating it more fairly. Benefits only multiply.

Cleaning your house is work, just like building a bridge. Uh-huh.

No longer forced to choose between work and family life, more women can remain and thrive in, say, fast-growing STEM fields, increasing the pool of talent and expertise.

If I’m reading this right, Laurie thinks robots will make men redundant, meaning they will campaign for a universal basic income, which will in turn mean women can thrive in STEM fields instead of being forced to look after their kids. Like all good ideas, it’s obvious when pointed out.

Automation doesn’t have to make men obsolete, not if they’re willing to change their mindset. As long as men aspire to be cogs in an outdated machine, robots may well replace them.

The irony here is that it is women who stand to lose the most from robots: if sex-bots ever become realistic enough to replace a woman in bed, real women are going to have a hard time of it. We’ve already seen the effect Tinder has had, providing men with a means of getting laid without all the bother of a relationship.

But if they have the courage to imagine different lives of service and dignity, and then demand that those lives be made feasible in terms of both hours and pay, automation can help all of us be more human.

So if only men become wetter than a weekend in Wales and emasculate themselves such that legions of feminists can rule the roost, they will be permitted a role in Laurie’s Brave New World.

Well, how generous!

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Racist in speech but not action

Via Helen Dale on Twitter, this excellent article on the working class. It’s well worth reading in full, but this bit leaped out at me:

In the working-class context, in particular, it’s what you physically do, what you make—the observable physical impression—that counts. That is the native language, the one they are fluent in and the one they trust. And that language often conflicts with working-class speech or attitudes.

I worked in a recycling centre for some years. One of my workmates was a kid (we were all kids) called Ricky. I regarded him as a lowlife brute, and he regarded me as rule-following sissy. We were both right.

Every week an elderly Chinese man brought his bottles and cans to us. He couldn’t speak English, which tends to frustrate racists, and Ricky was duly irritated. One morning the man—who had difficulty walking—accidentally put his car into gear while he was half out the door and still tangled in his seatbelt. His legs went sideways and dragged on the ground as the car took off, and he struggled hopelessly to pull them in, or to reach the brakes, or to loosen his seatbelt to escape. The car was only a few feet away from me, but all I managed was an incoherent shout and an uncertain jog as it picked up speed and headed for the main road.

Ricky dashed past me, jumped into the man’s lap, grabbed the steering wheel, and quickly found the brakes. Then he helped the man out of the car, checked that he was uninjured, and knelt with his arm around him as he cried and shook on the ground. When the man was calm enough to stand, Ricky pulled him to his feet, told him to take care, then walked away, muttering, ‘Fucken Asian drivers’. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it got the job done.

My parents were racists in private speech but not in action. Did that make them secret racists who hid their racism from the wider world? Or were they non-racists who played with racist speech? Or a bit of both? Who can possibly say? My worry is that by conflating racist or offensive speech or attitudes with racist or offensive actions or activism we push people like my parents and Ricky (who represent large chunks of every dominant ethnicity or tribe in every country on earth) over to the wrong side of the political fence. By setting unnegotiated limits on attitudes and speech as well as actions, we claim too much territory and thereby risk losing it all.

The “racists in speech but not in action” was exactly the point I made in this post last January:

 If it comes to a choice between privately held prejudices in a polite society and different, approved prejudices in a society where abusing people in public is accepted and normal, I know which one I’d prefer.

Go read the whole article.

(Apologies if posting seems light over the next couple of weeks: I’m on holiday in Annecy again.)

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Facebook Feminism

Until somebody decided to shoot up a nightclub in Germany, this was running as front-page news on the BBC’s website:

Fairer pay for women must be backed up by stronger policies at work, according to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg.

But the firm’s chief operating officer, in an interview for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, said the first step is to “start paying women well”.

She chose Beyonce’s empowering Run The World (Girls) as her first song.

This Beyoncé:

It’s one way to become empowered, I suppose.

She said: “We start telling little girls not to lead at a really young age and we start to tell boys [to] lead at a very young age. That is a mistake.”

We do? Okay, I can probably believe that in some countries with cultures we’re encouraged to embrace that little girls are told not to lead, but in the West? Really? Who is saying this, and where? This is bullshit.

“I believe everyone has inside them the ability to lead…”

Then you’re an idiot. Not everyone is a leader, just as not everyone is a loyal lieutenant, and not everyone is an essential specialist, and not everyone is an equally important plodder. If you’ve not understood this, you’ve not understood leadership at all.

“…and we should let people choose that not based on their gender but on who they are and who they want to be.”

Oh please. We’ve had women leaders since at least Cleopatra. Who, and where, are girls being told they cannot lead because of their gender? All I see on the webpages of major corporations is how important women are and how proud they are to have a load of them in senior positions. The fact we have a female COO carping at us in the national press ought to tell us that this isn’t really a problem. Whereas it is boys that are being failed by schools, more girls than boys are graduating from college and now lead in such fields as law and medicine, and young men are still committing suicide at a far higher rate than women.

Ms Sandberg made headlines in 2013 with her book “Lean in” about female empowerment in the workplace.

It became a worldwide bestseller, but was criticised by some for being elitist and unrealistic for many women not in her privileged position.

You mean not all women agreed, and cat-fighting ensued? I don’t believe it.

In the interview, she also called for more to be done around the gender pay gap between men and women.

The gender pay gap that Christina Hoff Sommers has debunked numerous times as being a complete myth?

Ms Sandberg admitted she had struggled with self-doubt at Harvard

The BBC’s poster-child for female empowerment and leadership wrung her hands in self-doubt while at America’s top university? Did Katherine the Great doubt herself?

…and recognised that women more than men underestimated their own worth, preventing them from putting themselves forward or asking for a pay rise.

A minute ago everyone was capable of leadership, and we need more women in such positions. Now we find they underestimate themselves. Sorry, but I prefer anyone presuming to be my leader to be a little less wet. Attila the Hun is my benchmark.

“We need to start paying women well and we need the public and the corporate policy to get there,” she said.

Says the woman who made over $18m in 2016.

“Certainly, women applying for jobs at the same rate as men, women running for office at the same rate as men, that has got to be part of the answer.”

As Christina Hoff Sommers repeatedly says, there is nothing stopping women going into higher-paid professions such as engineering and computer programming, they simply choose not to. The women who chose to become engineers are absolutely coining it. I can think of two now, one owns half of Melbourne (*waves*) and another spends much of her life flying around on holiday in business-class (*waves again*).

Following the sudden death of her husband Dave Goldberg, Ms Sandberg described herself a “different” person now.

She found him on the floor of a gym with a head injury after he had suffered a heart attack whilst they were on a weekend away.

Okay, I’ll dial it down a notch here. Losing your husband is catastrophic, and I am all too familiar with its effects. That she’s managed to carry on so well afterwards is genuinely worthy of admiration, and she deserves a lot of respect and sympathy over this.

I still hate the BBC, though.

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Grammatical Nonsense

If there’s one thing more irritating than grammar snobs, it’s counter-snobs who spout nonsense that’s equally puerile. For example:

I’ve not read the book in question, but I’ve seen the sentiments echoed a number of times on Twitter: if something is understandable it is therefore correct, especially so if lots of people speak or write in this way.

One of the things I noticed when learning Russian is how easily you can get by without articles, i.e “a” and “the”. Russian doesn’t have them and, seemingly, doesn’t need them. When Russians speak English they often get confused by the articles and leave them out altogether, sounding like the meerkats on Compare the Market adverts:

“I sit at table, ashtray is full, I use cup instead and drink beer straight from bottle. When bottle is finished I go to toilet.”

If Oliver Kamm’s logic is consistent, this ought to be correct English: it is perfectly understandable. But according to Hitchens this isn’t the case because:

Apparently, the correctness of English depends on who is saying it. But read the sentence in Russian-English in a Yorkshire accent and you’re not far off native English. Native English varies wildly, and includes Indian. If we’re to assume that “if its meaning is clear, it is good English”, then the concept of good English is basically meaningless: I can understand English when spoken with a 10% accuracy.

What’s amusing is the people who push this sort of thing are the types who usually boast they know additional languages (almost always a Latin-based European one, though: it’s never Turkish or Korean). These pompous arses wouldn’t dare suggest that one could say la chat, but they think “implies” is the same as “infers” because the mistake is made often and appeared in ancient literature. Perhaps no French speaker says la chat, but plenty of Russian speakers abandon the genders and say xoroshiy pogoda, usually Central Asians. Thankfully Russians, sensible folk, don’t write books saying it’s correct and encouraging it.

The whole thing is a sort of reverse-snobbery, whereby posh Oxbridge types in London embrace the quirks of the masses while speaking with a plum in their throat themselves. For all the “you decide what words mean” nonsense peddled by Kamm, you can be sure anyone following his advice when applying for a job alongside him at The Times wouldn’t get very far, and he’d never write in such a manner himself. But then, I’ve written about the quality of his professional advice before.

A cynic might suggest they’re deliberately dishing out poor advice to protect their own cushy positions.

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People in the Wrong Job

In my wanderings through the land I hear a lot of complaints about somebody’s unreasonable behaviour, normally from a person at their work. It can take the form of angry outbursts, inconsistency, micromanagement, pettiness and a host of others, but the complaints are always the same: why the hell is this person behaving like this? It’s making my life a misery!

Why indeed? I decided to start asking some questions each time I heard this, and most of the time the person in question was in a job they were wholly unsuited for. Their knowledge, experience, or – more often – their character, personality, and temperament was completely inadequate for the position they were in. That’s not to say they were stupid or useless, simply that they were in the wrong job.

Let’s suppose you are suddenly plonked into the captain’s seat of a Boeing 777 stood on the tarmac at Heathrow and ordered to take off and fly safely to New York. Unless you’re a trained pilot, we’re going to observe some pretty wild behaviour from you over the next few minutes, most unbecoming of a captain. Being put in a strange environment and asked to perform unfamiliar tasks is highly stressful, and will induce behaviour in people which can seem very odd.

The plane example is absurd, but millions of people find themselves in a similar situation in their day-to-day jobs. The stakes might not be so great, but the expectation levels are higher: nobody will ask an untrained person to fly a plane, but people routinely find themselves in a position they are manifestly unsuited to, yet are expected to perform. Most of the time they’re in a culture – either corporate or national – which frowns upon failure, but with an endless tolerance for muddling through.

If ever I find myself faced with strange or unreasonable behaviour, I step back and try to work out what’s causing it. It’s tempting to say that a person is simply insane or an arse, but that’s a lazy approach. Instead, I look at the situation they’re in and what they’re being asked to do, and see if that matches their competence and character. You know what? It never does. If it did, you’d see different behaviours. People who are in a comfortable position act like they are. Look at the confident swagger of a champion boxer on his way to the ring. It’s because he knows he’s good.

Maybe I’m getting soft in my middle-age, but nowadays I’m less inclined to think people are complete idiots, nasty, or they have something wrong with them. Most of the time they’re simply in the wrong job, and hence under too much stress. Feeling a little sorry for people is easier than getting mad at them.

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Trump, Trannies, and the Military

From the BBC:

The White House has not yet decided how it will implement the president’s ban on transgender people serving in the US military.

What’s to decide? Here’s the background, buried way down in the article:

The decision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military was made by the Obama administration last year, with a one-year review period allowed for its implementation.

The policy included a provision for the military to provide medical help for service members wanting to change gender.

As with so much else, Obama signed off on a highly controversial policy very late in his tenure, ensuring his disciples continued their Messiah-like worship but leaving the trouble of implementation to his successor. Of course, this was likely the whole point: if Trump won, which he did, it would sit there like a landmine – which has now gone off. Presumably White House will implement its latest policy by winding things back to, ooh, mid-2016.

As is expected, the media is presenting this as if transgender folk have been happily serving in the US military for decades and Trump came along and banned them for political reasons:

Why now? With the Trump administration being buffeted by the Jeff Sessions political death watch, the ongoing multi-prong investigation into the Trump campaign, the healthcare drama in the Senate and the impending Russian sanctions bill, perhaps the administration decided this was a good time to change the subject and rally conservative forces to his side.

Really? Or perhaps Trump is telling the truth when he says:

Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.

It is a sign of how out of touch the media has become that they believe most Americans think transgenders serving in the military is a not only a good thing, but a fundamental right. It’s quite amazing how rescinding a provisional law brought in 9 months ago can be presented as an attack on American values, but this is what happens when people live in bubbles.

One figure being widely circulated is that there are 15,000 transgenders currently serving in the military. Given transgenders make up less than 1% of the population and the law allowing them to serve came in less than a year ago, this is impressive recruiting. Or maybe there was an entire division of transgenders just waiting for the law to change so they could sign up? Or perhaps the figure is utter bollocks.

Mr Trump said his decision was based on consultation with his generals, but there has been a mixed reaction.

Former Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who lifted the ban last year under President Obama, said: “To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military.”

Quite right.

Several British military generals also condemned Mr Trump’s decision, including the commander of the UK Maritime Forces, Rear Admiral Alex Burton, who said “I am so glad we are not going this way.”

British? In other words, the BBC couldn’t find any American “generals” to support their claim that the reaction was “mixed”, so they had to find some Brits. I’m sorry, but a British Rear Admiral criticising US military policy is a bit like the assistant coach of Pennar Robins football club saying he doesn’t like the tactics of Jose Mourinho. Nevertheless, the BBC devotes an entire article to their witterings:

Commanders from British armed forces have opposed any ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Rear Admiral Burton of the Royal Navy tweeted: “As a Royal Navy LGBT champion and senior warfighter I am so glad we are not going this way.”

With the possibly exception of the Royal Marines and Trident, the Royal Navy has been an utter irrelevance since the Iranians demonstrated its impotence by capturing and humiliating its sailors in 2007. From what I can tell, It exists in its current form mainly as a social welfare program, as is the case with most European militaries. Naval commanders tweeting like a teenage girl doesn’t do much to change my mind on this. And what is an LGBT champion?

[I]n June, Defence Secretary James Mattis agreed to a six-month delay in the recruitment of transgender people.

So who is the better placed to make a judgement on this? James Mattis or some arse-licking British Rear Admiral?

Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock tweeted: “So proud of our transgender personnel. They bring diversity to our Royal Navy and I will always support their desire to serve their country.

Ooh, somebody’s got with the program, hasn’t he? Embracing the notion that “diversity” is a noble end in itself, to which all else must be sacrificed, is but one requirement of arse-licking your way to the senior ranks of the Royal Navy.

“I suspect many who doubt the abilities of our diverse service personnel might be more reluctant to serve than they are to comment.”

Never mind the trannies , I’m more doubtful of the abilities of the senior command!

In February, the Army’s LGBT champion, Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders said: “Only if individuals are free to be themselves can we release the genie of their potential.”

Another LGBT champion? Soon we’ll have more of these than we will main battle tanks! And don’t militaries rely on conformity and unit cohesion, not free individuals “being themselves”? Obviously not the modern military, which is – as I said – basically a social welfare program.

The Ministry of Defence told the BBC that President Trump’s tweets were “an American issue”.

Yet senior commanders are free to criticise his military policies via Twitter in their professional capacity? You need to get a grip of your people, mate.

A spokesman added: “We are clear that all LGBT members of our armed forces play a vital role in keeping our nation safe. We will continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including transgender personnel.”

Which is only possible because the Americans you pompously condemn have ensured you will never have to actually fight.

I’m not normally a fan of defence cuts, but I must say, I’m warming to them rapidly.

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