November 23, 2003
Do the good rise to the top?
Kim du Toit's pussification post has opened a can of worms much larger than manhood. One of the reasons it touched a raw nerve was because -- rightly or wrongly -- the man dared to speak about something not generally allowed to be addressed. Whether and to what extent controversial topics may be discussed is more important than the subject of manhood. And it is light years more important than the merits of du Toit's argument.
My question: are there some ideas too controversial for the blogosphere?
Let's stay with pussification for now (because I think it is less inflammatory than what's coming up).
Readers may remember that even the controversial du Toit was very careful to stick to conventional, mainstream manhood, of the World War II, Gary Cooper type. By no means did he want his readers to think in terms of what passes for manhood in urban ghettos:
...[N]or am I suggesting we support that perversion of being a Real Man, gangsta rap artists (those fucking pussies -- they wouldn't last thirty seconds against a couple of genuine tough guys that I know).OK. Fair enough. Biology rules. The strong survive. I cannot argue with that.
And because I cannot argue with it (and indeed, what a waste of time it is arguing with nature; you might as well argue against gravity!), I would like to consider some related material I stumbled upon recently. It certainly strikes me as relevant, but whether in a good or a bad way I just don't know; it might supplement du Toit's argument, it might work synergistically with it, or it might furnish a cultural warning sign pointing in a direction those who would lead us might not want to go. (Not being a "leader" and having no such aspirations, I get to pass the buck! To my bigoted and narrow-minded way of thinking, leaders suck almost as much as followers.....)
I have been profoundly shocked by what I have read. What Anderson describes is nothing short of a culture that glorifies uncontrolled violence and conspicuous consumption while forcefully disparaging the virtues of responsibility, modesty, and compromise.It is not my job here to dissect Professor Anderson's work, not only because I haven't read it and am not an expert in the field, but because I think his thesis of "manhood" should be treated as true for the sake of argument -- and juxtaposed with du Toit's.
Who are the pussies, who are the real men, and who will win?
Might it be a mistake to answer this question only by looking at such things as brawn, strength, defiance, and a capacity for violence and brutality? Neither skinny little Japanese soldiers, their scrawny counterparts in Vietnam, nor the much touted Gurkha regiments were noted for brawn or brute strength. But they got the job done. It took an enormous effort to defeat the Japanese in World War II, and while there is no substitute for brawn and strength, the Atom Bomb was the product a team of scientists who could very well have been seen as "pussies" -- not only in their own time, but even today. How many real men would have had to die to acheive the same result as was achieved by these pointy-headed intellectuals who couldn't park a bicycle straight?
Is Bill Gates a real man? How much ass has he kicked?
What the hell is going on?
Is there such a thing as IQ? Am I allowed to ask questions about it, or will I run the risk of being demonized?
Take the common bumpersticker (which I'm sure you've all seen): "MY KID CAN BEAT UP YOUR HONOR STUDENT!" While divisive (perhaps on the level of divide-and-conquer?) that bumpersticker is certainly reflective of popular outrage, perhaps common sense, and supplies a rough, man-in-the-street rhetorical equivalent of du Toit's point (although du Toit himself may well have been one of those honor students lucky enough to have been the exception which proves the rule).
Is it smart or strong to encourage antagonism between the smart and the strong? Who benefits?
And, if it is fair to talk about the beaten down real man (no longer allowed by society to boast that his kid can beat up the honor student) is it really fair to neglect the bright kids? Are we doing them a disservice by pretending that a) there is no such thing as IQ; and b) even if there is such a thing, we will not allow it to matter?
Eric S. Raymond strikes me as one of the courageous few who has at least attempted to strike the same blow on behalf of the intellectual underdog which du Toit has for the masculine underdog.
I know, I know, right there many readers will argue that neither are underdogs! That the smart as well as the strong are "advantaged" and, for that reason, must be put down and kept down. du Toit offers a wake-up call to the masculine; RISE UP, REAL MEN! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE EXCEPT YOUR APRON STRINGS!
Raymond's argument is similar, but more subtle. He merely warns that it is a mistake to ignore reality. Quite courageously (which I guess makes him a real man) he does not sidestep the racial implications:
[M]ale/female differences are insignificant compared to the real hot potato: differences in the mean IQ of racial and ethnic groups. These differences are real and they are large enough to have severe impact in the real world. In previous blog entries I've mentioned the one-standard-deviation advantage of Ashkenazic Jews over gentile whites; that's roughly fifteen points of IQ. Pacific-rim Asians (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans etc.) are also brighter on average by a comparable margin. So, oddly enough, are ethnic Scots — though not their close kin the Irish. Go figure...Bear in mind that I didn't say that.
But take a look at this graph:
Again, is common sense being ignored? Put yourself in the position of a boss having to hire a new employee. Given a choice between two qualified applicants, one smarter than the other, who would YOU hire? (I don't think of myself as a bigot, but I have to confess that I would hire the smarter one.)
Eric Raymond's point -- that ignoring reality does not make it go away -- stands in stark defiance against a consensus that things like IQ should be ignored, as should things like masculinity. And more troubling, that somehow both should be made to go away.
A thing which, if possible at all, in my view could only be accomplished by means of the most grotesque methods of B.F. Skinner style social engineering imaginable. (Treatments once used to "cure" homosexuals could be dusted off and used again, you know.....)
Query: IQ stands for "Intelligence Quotient"; should MQ henceforth be measured, and called "Masculinity Quotient"? Or should we just pretend these aren't real things? I am not suggesting that it should be a negative judgment that one guy might not be not as intelligent, or another guy might not be as masculine. But isn't it making just as much of a judgment to stigmatize something as it is to praise it? Hell, I think this calls for the quote of the day:
Moderation, apparently, is inconceivable to some people.If the whole IQ topic upsets you, then by all means I suggest you browse through some of these links! If you feel about intelligence (one way or the other) the way some people feel about masculinity, why, I'd be willing to bet you'll wind up in a frothing, foam-flecked frenzy! (Links via Upstream, via Eric S. Raymond.)
Why should the idea that there is such a thing as intelligence -- and it can be good -- be more inflammatory than similar ideas about masculinity? Why should either subject be inflammatory? Who gets to decide these things?
Is it a good idea to neglect bright kids, put them down, and drug them into submission?
Does sweeping things like IQ and masculinity under the carpet and pretending they don't exist heighten the possibility the bad (the more uncontrolled, dark sides) will rise to the top instead of the good?
How the hell would I know? I would dread being at the top! Being a borderline anarchist, I tend to distrust leaders and the whole concept of leadership. I define "leaders" as people who would tell me and others what to do. I recognize that there are and always will be such people, but allowing them free "reign" is something I consider anathema to a free society. At the same time, I recognize the need for minimal government, and I think the founders of this country offered a compromise with anarchy. Unfortunately, even that compromise has been compromised.
But "leaders" who would tell me how to be a man are about as ridiculous as those who would tell me how to be a homo -- or how to be intelligent. That kind of leadership I do not follow.
Those who do follow are, in my view, nether masculine nor intelligent. Ironically, of course, intelligence and masculinity can no more be eradicated by lame attempts at leadership than they can be created by leadership. Intelligence is innate. Masculinity is innate. Tampering with either, though, may, by hindering individuals who possess the characteristics, make them into monsters. Intelligent monsters, masculine monsters, or both.
I think the best approach might just be to acknowledge reality, and stop messing with people.
How very naive of me!
posted by Eric on 11.23.03 at 08:37 PM
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