I have a confession to make:
I didn’t watch Kirsty Wark’s “polemic” about men being more violent to women than they used to be. I tire of the gender argument.
Decent people are decent people, whatever the sex, and those who aren’t range from a bit disagreeable to frankly horrible. Most of us meet up with them one way or another, at home, at school, at work, in life.
The enemy is humankind, Beings with a different chromosomal construction, just because they are different – no.
I have known nice men and nasty ones, and women just the same, straight or gay, regardless of colour or political choice.
There are men whose anger towards women is racial.
Their reasoning goes that if you are a woman you can’t be right because you are not a man. Class, education, dress sense, good deeds, sense of humour – none of them help. You are not a man therefore you are a wrong’un.
There are women who condemn men just as narrowly.
I tire of the same voices and faces chewing it over via the BBC’s repertory of talking heads in any particular subject area – in this case, Mary Beard, Germaine Greer, Ron Liddle (in alphabetical order) and so on. Similar bands of faces front every kind of programme, except where somebody is ill advised enough to invest our money in a comedian fronting a talk show and comes magisterially unstuck.
Sure, the constraints of time and the fact that some or all of these names have long been involved in the gender war, for good or ill, makes their use easier. But it doesn’t make me feel that this is a programme with either a heart or a head. In the print, we called it a cuttings job.
It isn’t always violent as in outright war or totalitarianism, but it is tribal violence wherein people find it harder and harder to cross from one group to another. And how do the tribes recognise each other? As ever they did, by what they wear, how they behave, what dogs they keep, what they eat and drink (or can’t or won’t), their interests, their income and (in a consumer society) what they spend their income on.
And it is more difficult that at any point in the last 50 years to cross between the “tribes” because we have eroded the middle ground to extremes at one end of the spectrum and the other, with less and less in between. OK, my middle of the road isn’t your middle of the road but the point is there was a buffer zone and it is very nearly gone.
Sociologists, political theorists, economists, historians, public health officials and many other specialists may offer comment on where we are and how we got there but one thing we can be sure of: the logical extension of the idea of “expressing yourself” is personified by the trolls on twitter. People say horrible hurtful harmful things because they can and they have encouraged to believe it is their “right”, severed from context, and context matters.
When the cult of “expressing yourself” became fashionable, children were no longer hushed. They are expressing themselves. Well maybe. But to my ears, they are often just making a noise. Can’t we teach them to express themselves with some consideration for everybody else? Isn’t that the beginning of socialisation, living with each other?
Intolerance and fear grow violence like angel of death mushrooms.
What you don’t understand and you are afraid of makes you angry.
Social change is never accomplished without wastage – the old saw about “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. Which is fine. Unless you’re a chicken.
If we liken social change to a pendulum, substantial numbers of people have just been clobbered with some force because of their age or sex, both of which are accidents of birth. How can you get people to express that constructively (if you could get them to acknowledge it in the first place)? Retraining? Community service? Chopping wood, rebuilding? Who will want you? What will they use you for and will you earn? And (consumerism again) if you don’t, will it work for you? Or will you just express yourself hatefully, because you can?
And then the question is whether in the longer term, it makes you feel any better.
* And I can’t think of a better arrangement.” Attributed to John Wayne.