2015-04-19

模倣子 Situational vs. Intrinsic Oppression

Why are certain groups oppressed or marginalized?  Usually it has little or nothing to do with anything intrinsic to the members of the group or the group as a whole. For instance, part of the legal thrust of the gay marriage discussion in the US is that a great deal of privilege and systemic advantage has been attached to marriage, and so the exclusion of any group, e.g., homosexuals, from that franchise is economic and other discrimination.  For example, power of attorney, health insurance, property ownership, parental authority over children, etc.

There is nothing intrinsic about gay people that should exclude them from any of those things, or from marriage itself, per se. It's purely environmental, happenstance, the vicissitudes of the historical development of a given society, that has made homosexuality a marker for access or non-access to certain social facilities. The same can be said of "race". "Race" is a perception, anyhow -- it's how other people perceive one that makes one of a certain "race", not really the things that we think of as making somebody a member of one "race" or another.  If I look like all of my ancestors got off a boat directly from Northern Europe, and nobody had any babies in the interval with anybody who didn't, then people consider me to be "white".  It doesn't matter if there is a Native American great-great-great-grandmother in there somewhere -- that doesn't make me Native American (not even a little bit), or African, or East Asian, or anything else.

"Gender," i.e., socially-perceived gender, can be like "race".  If I look "white" then I don't have to make any effort to convince other people that I am "white", unlike, say, in some kind of racial purity apartheit hell-hole or other, people just take it as given.  Likewise, if I look quite African or Asian, then people automatically assume that I somehow am African or Asian or whatever, even if they don't really know what that means, which, indeed, they almost always don't, and the goes for "whiteness" as well. People assume all kinds of things, and if being of the "wrong race" in a given society matters, then that social perception matters, otherwise it doesn't.

So race doesn't really mean anything except for the meaning that society attaches to it. Being perceived as being of a given race is really all that's going on, nothing more. I say that "race" is memetically sticky, in that you can't change it, at least not easily. If you have a certain skin color or features or body type, you are going to be perceived as being of a certain race, no matter what, and all of the societal attitudes, i.e., memes, associated with being of that race are going to "stick" to you. There are some minor physiological differences that don't really matter much, e.g., resistance to getting sunburnt (actually that one is rather important!), ability to style one's hair one way or another, how well your eyeglasses stay up, average bone density, body temperature, certain congenital disease susceptibility or resistance, etc., but these are blurred by the broad range of individual genetic variation across people who are nevertheless perceived to be of the same "race". Again, minor, and most people are unaware of these real aspects of race which are overshadowed by imaginary, socio-memetic properties which are attributed to given "races". In a racist society, like the United States (and many other societies), the privileges denied or granted, and the qualities attributed, good or bad, to a given "race" of people in that society, and indeed, the perception that any given person is a member of one "race" or another, are almost totally imaginary and spring from an historical context rather from anything physiological or otherwise objectively meaningful.

"Race" is not the same as physical or mental disability, or biological gender, and the discriminatory oppression based on "race" is not the same as with these others. Having said that, it is possible to say that certain groups are "targeted" for oppression because they are easily identified. This impinges on the dreadful "mudsill" concept or the Leninist theory of the Exceptionalness of America, and is not really the point I want to make, so I'll touch on it quickly as an aside. The idea is that certain "races" are deliberately and permanently kept down in American society (which is and certainly has been absolutely true), i.e., not allowed to rise to middle class status or to become seriously involved in the ownership of the means of production or the development of their own influential businesses, and thus serve to prevent or at least put the brakes on the Marxist theoretical phenomenon of the downwardly spiraling profit decay of any capitalist society, leading to it's ultimate collapse. In other words, price competition over the long term ultimately leads to profits shrinking to nothing, at which point a capitalist society effectively melts down. The fact that a substantive portion of the population are permanently kept in a state of poverty and marginalization somehow translates into something like a non-inflating labor cost, or a permanent low-level consumption base, or some such. There may be merit to this theory, or not, but again, not really my point here. It does illustrate, however, that the "need" of a society to oppress a segment, potentially a very large segment, of its population, can stem from the need for stability, economic "prosperity", military capability, etc., but this is still not inherent or intrinsic to anything real to do with the people being oppressed for this roundabout "purpose". An example is the Japanese resident "Koreans", who look and act just like Japanese, and have lived in Japan for decades if not centuries, but are still "marked" as Koreans and marginalized and treated horribly. Perhaps they serve a similar function in Japanese society. It's the operation of a "successful" memetic system (or memeplex) and illustrates the allogic and amorality or agnosticism to logic and morality of memetic systems. They work because they work. Again, some people may be targeted because they are readily identified, that is, their physiology has a useful memetic stickiness (but this does not even seem to be necessary in the case of the resident Koreans of Japan and others) so they cannot easily escape from the oppression.

This is situational, however, and the product of some arbitrary laws or the vicissitudes of the historical development of a society. For example, say a famine, war, or epidemic strikes in one region of the world, and to save their lives some of the population of that region migrate to another region. Those immigrants are "racially" different to the people already living there, and those people do not want to evenly share resources, e.g., infrastructure and access to goods and services, with the newcomers, since it would result in an average degradation of their own standard of living, so they exclude the newcomers by discriminating based on their appearance, or "race". Likewise, intermarriage is discouraged since the offspring of such "miscegenation" would be subject to the same discrimination. If the triggering war or famine or whatever had never happened, then the mass immigration would've also not taken place, and there would've been no need for this "racial" discrimination to develop in the second region. Indeed, it would be likely that the two regions should trade freely with one another and intermarry, even to the point that they merge into one ethnic group over time.

This is not the same kind of oppression and discrimination that exists around gender. Women intrinsically "need" men in order to have babies, while they do not "need" members, men or women, of a different "race" in order to do so. The fact that women may have babies with men of a different "race" is just one more piece of evidence of the stupidity and arbitrariness of racism.

Men "needing" women is kind of a negative space of women's obvious need for men. If men didn't "need" women, if men weren't attracted to women, i.e., if they were repelled or indifferent to them, then there would be no future people, among other things, so men "need" women because women "need" men, and not the reverse.

By the same token, men's only function biologically is to fill this small requirement that women have, i.e., to be the carriers of half of the genetic diversity of the species. Aside from this, men are superfluous, and this fact carries over into all aspects of society. I call this an intrinsic oppression, as opposed to a situational oppression, as in the example of racism (or sexism against women as we'll see). Racism may be overcome, either over time, or if the society has the willingness to deconstruct its own memetic make-up and to work to dismantle it, whether it be Lenin's theory of American Exceptionalism or what-have-you. Since the development of "racial" discrimination and oppression is situational, either deliberate or the result of historical accident, it can be removed by acceptance of the decision and the work to do so.  This may not be true of gender discrimination, at least not totally. There may be certain aspects that may never be completely removed.

Nelson Mandela (and others) said:

There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.
 I have also read a variation:
The measure of the morality of a society is how it treats its women.

Men are superfluous, expendable, fungible, as evidenced by expressions such as "women and children first" or "...killed and injured...including women and children" which we blandly accept. My point is not that men are oppressed in this way, treated as less important than women, but that this may never be able to be changed.  In the spirit of the above quotes, I would suggest another:

The measure of the economic and military strength of a country is how efficiently it utilizes its men.
Except for their generally very undemanding duties of fertilizing women,  men are a resource to be used to conquer other countries and take their things, or to til the land, dig in the mines, and work in the factories. If a man can be made to work twice as hard, or twice as efficiently through technology, or able to kill or disable twice as many enemies on the battlefield, then that is one other man or woman who is freed to do other things, like raise children. Societies that are good at extracting productivity from their otherwise superfluous male populations prosper while those that aren't do not.

This is the excuse whereby women have been marginalized and oppressed over the millennia. The more militaristic a society becomes the more women are disenfranchised, cooped up at home raising children, given menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning which may be done whilst raising children, told they are good for nothing else, denied education, and plied with fashions that are ornamental and totally impractical and told that their beauty is their only real asset.

Yes, it's awful.

It really happened, it's still happening now. It's bad, and probably worse than most of us realize. But the whole reason that we can see this as oppression, just like with racism, is that those who are at least a little bit honest and have a shred of human decency and empathy know perfectly well that women are capable of infinitely more, deserve more, and that a state of oppression because of their gender and reproductive powers is not their intrinsic state.

We spend billions in the US for wheelchair ramps, automatic door opening buttons, special elevators, etc., to allow the physically disabled access to participation in society, employment, etc.  This is almost certainly a good thing. The mentally disabled are another story, and that might actually be telling. The point is that we spend nothing on similar infrastructure for women. We have separate restrooms everywhere, but that's about it and it's probably more part of the problem than part of the solution. I read that The Pentagon has the most restrooms of any building in the world. One thing is that it's a huge building, but also that it has twice as many as needed since it was built during Segregation, i.e, they had to build "colored" and "white" bathrooms.  And we do the same thing to women...and this is a good thing?  The second most sexist sign in America is this one:
If this were for anything else other than relieving oneself, there would be organizations set up to oppose it.  Good jobs available on the right, access to services on the right, preference in a life-threatening crisis on the left, people buy you drinks and give you other free stuff on the left, wear anything you want, wear your hair however you want and not get beaten to death or set on fire on the left, exposure to violence and dangerous jobs on the right. How did they even decide which icon went on the left and which on the right? I've heard the joke, superheroes (note the cape) on the left, regular people on the right.
Oh, here's the most sexist, oppressive, gender-discriminating sign in the United States today:



So men are told by society that they are only good for cannon fodder or wage slavery. If they do anything else then they are "lazy" or "a coward." Not a nice message. Women are told that they are only valuable for their beauty and their ability to bear children. Also not a nice message, but what women are told is a lie. What men are told, however, is probably true, and that's the point. Women are not always told these oppressive things, men are.

Men feel pain (biologically probably more than women), sadness (though in the US they are beaten up for crying about it), love for children (and are almost certainly more capable than women of showing love for children who are not their own), wonder about the meaning of their own lives and hope for joy and happiness. Yet men are told in no uncertain terms that they are expected to go to war, work their lives away until they're too old and then die shortly after "retirement" or die whilst working, work the dangerous jobs like mining, construction, etc., and are not permitted to show most emotions or tenderness toward anybody other than certain select women, and the list goes on.

The oppression women face can be similarly heartbreaking, but is only superficially associated with anything intrinsic to women, much like with racism, i.e., it's situationally linked to some arbitrary memetically-sticky property of womanhood, e.g., menstruation, having babies, breastfeeding, lower-on-average upper body strength to men, squatting to urinate, etc. None of these things seriously disqualifies anybody from most kinds of work or study or adventure or access to services, so we can fairly easily solve the problems of societal oppression that women face by pointing out that they are stupid and arbitrary and pushing to replace them with something new. Both men and women will have to change, although it's neither the fault of men or women. All we need is the beginnings of a plan, however, the way we want our new society to work is not even being discussed, even by so-called "Feminist" organizations. If we can give access to the disabled, we can certainly give it to women, who are not disabled. We are doing things like maternity leave and day care centers, but maybe we also need "nursing zones" and "rest areas" at work, and to discuss which areas in factories have lead or other toxins or dangerous machinery which might make it too dangerous for women (or men) to wear their babies while working. In Japan they give a "menstruation day" off every month. We should probably go with unisex restrooms.  As I said, these might be solutions to women's access, or there may be others.  Women have to say what they need, men have to be on board with it. It will involve thought and experimentation. But we're not even talking about it.

Do women even want to participate fully? If they do, we can design a new society that allows them to do just that. I despair of any such exercise working for men.  Men have to put up with a certain level of suffering and degradation. They don't have an escape hatch. Unlike sexism against women or racism, which are situational and therefor solvable, the oppression of men is intrinsic, and so may have no hope of relief.

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