Monthly Archives: June 2020

Totalitarianism & The Present Era

It is often considered that the term ‘totalitarian’ refers to the past. The eras of Stalin and Hitler, or maybe the current lunacies of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea.

But the problem is, it ain’t.

To live in a totalitarian society means to live in a state where the ruling class, oligarchy or charismatic individual wants you not only to do as you’re told, but to APPROVE of being told what to do. They don’t just want you to be obedient; they also want to get ‘inside’ your mind.

Totalitarianism also requires a society in which alternatives to the current regime are either unthinkable, inaccessible, ridiculed, or unknown to the education system. Totalitarians insist they have a monopoly on the term ‘common sense’ and that anything that differs as dangerous madness. They love uncritical belief in certain values, which are never questioned or even mentioned in public. (Why should we discuss ‘British Values’? They’re ‘obvious’!)

Totalitarianism does not need an overt police state. It can even have regular elections… provided that those who stand for election are all of the same basic political outlook.

Totalitarianism dislikes diversity. It predicates social thinking on ‘everyone being the same’. Any attempts to promote equity are co-opted into the concept of ‘necessary integration’, thereby turning those who dissent into antisocial trouble makers.

Totalitarians hate dissidence. They see all disagreement as an offence against ‘common sense’. Totalitarianism talks about freedom all the time. But only a type of freedom compatible with the discourse of the ruling group.

You do not need secret police to live in a totalitarian world. Simple uniformity of thought will do, imbibed via constant propaganda and a supine educational system.

This is the danger of totalitarianism: “THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE”.

Don’t look for dictators. Look for a straight-jacketing of the mind.

Maybe

I’m sure there are folk that get REALLY tired and annoyed with me, going on and on (and on) about these ‘phobias’ and ‘isms’ and all the other stuff. I bet there are those who’d like me to get back to telling Goon Show jokes, making caustic comment about TV, or taking selfies.

“What a jolly life it is, and why is Bea such a BORE all the time!”

Maybe you get embarrassed because I take an occasional swing at your favourite ideology or cause? Maybe I come over sounding anti-feminist, when in reality I’m just anti-bigotry? Maybe you would prefer I stopped rocking the boat and toed the Party line (whatever line that happens to be at the moment)? Maybe you think I have no right to speak, because you assume I’m a middle-class teacher who likes to pontificate about things ‘she’ (but you really mean ‘he’) knows nothing about?

I can sense all this in the wind.

Maybe you live in a nice neighbourhood, and have a nicely secure job that brings in enough money for you to do as you will, buy what you want, and go where you please? You get sad at the idea of people who don’t have these privileges, but when push comes to shove you drop back to your religious or ideological beliefs, say a prayer, or organise a committee who will issue a report. And life goes on as it always has. Nothing changes, because at heart you don’t really want it to change. That’s good of course, because your life and privileges stay the same.

Maybe you’re a member of a Leftist party, and have spent many a day sitting in committees and groups arguing enthusiastically for minority rights, and writing papers galore on the subject. You go on marches, say all the right things, and wait for the next election to put things right. But when you leadership fails to speak out about injustice and seems mealy-mouthed about engaging with public bigotry, you get all defensive when those most affected speak out in criticism.

Maybe you’ve had people preach to you about meritocracy? They tell you how success is all about work and determination. Of course they don’t mention the luck that gave them their opportunities, or the fact that they look and sound like everyone else in their ‘elite’ social circle.

Maybe you’ve never had hate graffiti sprayed on your walls? Maybe you’ve never had an anxiety about your appearance before you go out? Maybe you’ve never had to worry endlessly about where the next pound coin is coming from? Maybe you have had to bite your tongue when a boss makes an insulting joke, but you know you could be victimised if you speak out? Maybe you’ve never had a bunch of kids ridicule you in public? Maybe you’ve never had the frustration of having those with influence simply mouth platitudes in response to everything you have to say? Maybe you’ve never felt lost, alone, and betrayed because the people you loved have failed to stand up and support you when your world is caving in?

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

If all this sounds like racism, then be surprised: I’ve experienced all of it.

Where does the HATE come from?

This is my view. It is based upon fairly well established philosophical, and psychological principles, but also includes more recent material.

Human beings like to categorise things. We examine the world, find similarities and differences between things (and people) and then assign them to socially normalised categories that aid in future identification. So, for example, I can tell the difference between chairs and tables, and within these broad categories, discriminate between specific types of chairs (a throne versus a wing-armchair) and tables (an altar versus coffee table). Sometimes the categories overlap, and then much confusion results: “Is this a pond or a lake? Is that a hill or a mountain?”.

But when it comes to human beings, another element contributes to discriminatory categorisation. That is the evolutionary necessity of safety, which has a hereditary component, and provides automatic heuristics that alert us to differences in the environment that could be a threat to our survival.

So we have an in-built ‘System 1’ component that gives a warning light for anything that does not ‘fit’ the categorises we are accommodated to. In the distant past this was a vital tool for our survival. It helps to have a ‘red alert’ system that tells you that the movement in that tree might be a leopard or just the movement of dappled leafs in the wind. Whether you pass on your genes to a future generation will depend on the status of your ability to discriminate between danger and normalcy. The leopard gets you, and you’re not going to get past the mating age.

But though the System 1 component was an asset many (many) millenia ago, it is now often a liability. It still makes us feel uneasy when we come across people who don’t ‘fit’ the learned categorisations we have embedded in our non-accessible psychology. We react with full alert, screens-up, and in some cases, aggression in mind. We can’t help it. System 1 is built-in and can’t be turned off.

The problem with the HATE is that it is a phobia rooted in an atavistic instinct which is of little use to us in the 21st Century. We only need it to spot issue that might be a threat to life and limb, but it is also driving a fear (and resultant hatred) of anything that doesn’t fit it’s heuristic. This is more than enough to justify the reactions that some people feel. The existential threat for them is SO strong, that it overrides the rational capacity for empathy and produces violence (or at the very least, unreasonable prejudicial antipathy).

But here’s the good news: it can be educated, disciplined, and hence restrained for doing harm. The rational part of the human consciousness can override it’s urges.

Bot ONLY if we’re willing to admit we ALL suffer from it!

Racists and transphobes don’t, of course. They think they’re being rational, when in reality they’re being driven by a million-year-old faulty response system. Like a smoke alarm that always goes off when you make toast. Their fear, and resultant hatred, can be rationalised away by stories they tell themselves: ideologies, religions, racial myths, past-history narratives, etc. but in reality they’re telling themselves consoling lies.

In the depths of the human psyche, our worst prejudices are all just pure, animal fear.

Keeping ‘MEN’ out of our WOMEN-ONLY spaces

If you want to protect “Women-only spaces” then you’re going yo have to find some very secure criteria/methodology to do so.

When I turn up at your feminist meeting, your refuge, your toilet, or your changing room, how exactly are you going to be SURE that I am who you THINK I am? If you’re not sure, how do you decide? If you make a mistake, what would the consequences be?

Do I have to present a certificate? A reference from my GP? Give you a quick flash of my genitals? Show my genetic profile? Let you feel my boobs? Does that all sound comically absurd? What if I pass all your tests, and still have a male past?

If not any of the above, then how are you going to police your proposal? Is it going to be about a assumption? Does that not conflict with the usual concept of presumption of innocence under law? Or do you not care about that?

Do you not care about the accuracy of your beliefs? Or even their practicality? Will you exclude somebody because they have a deep voice? Broad shoulders? Dress in a way that’s not to your liking?

Or is it that your “protection” only excludes me if I have not undergone any bodily ‘neutering’? In other words, will you let me in if I’ve had an orchidectomy? Am sexually ‘incapacitated’ due to hormone therapy? Both? To what extent? And again: how will you know?

Will you apply your criteria of inclusion only to those women who ‘look like’ women? And who determines what that might be? What does ‘looking like a woman’ mean to you?

Suppose a transgender woman looks more like “a woman” (by your own criteria) than you do?

Or maybe you want to exclude only those who have no female history? Apart from asking, yet again, how would you know one way or another, could I also ask what you do about a person with male genetics but who has lived in a female role all their life? By what criteria do you decide what a “female history” might be?

I can imagine this idiocy changing the lives of EVERY woman in the UK in very unexpected ways. All to pander to the paranoid lunacies of a small minority.

“Sex is Real”

“SEX IS REAL” (Rowling) versus “SEX IS IMPORTANT” (Groves–McDaniel)

… or HOW TO BE DISINGENUOUSLY MALICIOUS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

So let me start by defining my terms:

Sex — here I’m using the popular convention that defines sex as a the presence and arrangement of bodily characteristics, understood in terms of two large binary domains of biological types.

Real — here I mean physically extant, evidentially present to the senses, and consistent over time.

Of course both terms are controversial. There are other equally useful definitions available to us, many of which are habitually used. Language is always flexible. But I’ll rest with these, in a manner that (I hope) concedes a lot to the ideas of common sense as I suppose J K Rowling would use them.

Thus, I gather that when Rowling says “Sex is real” she means that our (her and my) bodily sex characteristics are a real function of our lives, and have consequent deterministic implications.

Here’s a surprise. She’s right. Of course that’s true.

The problem is, that’s not truly what she’s saying. What she means by “real” is more like “Here are the two biological sex domains, and anything else is counterfeit”. Her consideration is that by saying “Sex is real” there must be some sort of harmfully ‘fake’ sex-identity going the rounds in society. A kind of ‘wooden nickel’ version of biological sex characteristics that one should never accept.

The implication is not a statement-of-fact, but a disingenuous insult masquerading as common sense. That I (being transgender) am somehow being a counterfeit woman for my own nefarious reasons. Consequently I’m a threat to ‘real’ women, or at the very least, to their “spaces”.

But here’s another surprise. If she had said “Sex is important” I would have agreed with her.

If I say “Sex is important” I mean that ones bodily sex characteristic CAN have vital implications within very specific aspects of life. They have consequences for women and for men. For example, though I am a woman in every sense that socially matters, if I were to go to hospital with a serious case of prostate cancer I’d be only too happy to be treated by science that comes from the category of ‘male’ medicine. To do otherwise would be exceptionally silly, and dangerous for my health. Similarly, when I have sex with another person the arrangement of my genitals matters a great deal. But only between us as consenting lovers, not with society as a whole.

My biological sex IS important. I fully realise that. I also realise the limitations that my past and biology place on specific events within my life. But they are very contextually specific events. They don’t define my identity, because they don’t define Rowling’s either. Neither do I think that because I have such-and-such an identity I have free and absolute access to all facilities within the public sphere.

For example: Do I still have access to male toilets? No. Do I gain unfettered access to all female counselling systems? No. Do I always have the absolute right to be in women (or men) only places? No.

And neither do you, dear reader. Whatever sex or gender you may entertain.

Rowling’s generalities have implied malice embedded within them. They disingenuously hide her twisted fears behind the respectable image of a well-known and beloved author. Her massive public voice dwarfs and belittles me within the inequitable global media system. I fear what she has verbally created, not because it has any truth in it, but because its seeming ‘common sense’ turn of phrase will make life much harder for me. She insults people like me freely, because she knows she can always hide behind her celebrity status.

And all for a the sake of an author’s phobia.