The Notebook

I was lying awake in bed last night/this morning for about three hours going over this in my mind, so I figure I might as well write it down, put it out there, and see what happens. I don’t think it’s anything especially spectacular, and it really doesn’t have to do with my books, but it is something that’s been bothering me.


On the whole, I think I’m pretty good about ignoring stupid people on the Internet. Personally, I think at least 80% of them don’t even exist (bots) and at least 10% of them do it because they think it’s funny (trolls). This leaves 10% or less of Internet patronage as genuinely stupid. I come to this conclusion because I rarely run into such people in real life. Do people get brave when hiding behind a screen? Sure. But there is usually some indication of their real thoughts when it real interactions.


Maybe I’m the stupid one here, then, for responding to voices in the clouds, except I want to sleep tonight.


This whole thing sprouted from the oft-repeated (oft-complained), “Women are too emotional.”


Many questions arise from this.


Do men not have emotions?


What is “too” emotional? Is it a relative term, that I have more ice cream than you do? Is it an absolute term, that I should have one litterbox for every cat but I only have one litterbox for every two cats, therefore, I have too many cats?


And finally, are men somehow infallible?


That’s it. Rarely do you hear an argument on the other side. And I don’t mean some demeaning, “Men are stupid/oafish/etc.” slogan from your local feminist society, I mean some argument that turns an honest and good aspect of male nature into a negative thing. Every so often you’ll hear, “Men are too aggressive,” but the primary complaint is women being emotional.


I think it’s this oversimplification that leads to far too many battles of the sexes, both in the home and even on the scale of empires.


I. Essential Nature


I. Components and Compliments


As I said, I was thinking about this for a while, and I think I’m going to start by breaking things down on both sides. Both emotion and aggression can be broken down into a tangible and intangible element. Understand that none of these pieces are mutually exclusive, though they do tend to be clearly defined in their own right.


Emotion can be broken down into intangible safety and tangible comfort. Safety says, “I am free to go about my business without having to constantly be on the lookout for danger. I am secure in my person. If something threatens this safety, I will find a new place that is even safer.” Now then, this could come in the form of being surrounded by physical walls, or simply the knowledge that bad things are far away and kept far away. Meanwhile, comfort says, “I can accomplish as much business as possible with as little stress and strain as possible.” This may be as simple as having the latest gizmos and gadgets, or as complex as having a network of people to delegate business (or children to do chores).


Aggression can be broken down into tangible wealth and intangible pride. Wealth says, “I have what I need to accomplish my business, or I have the means or resources to acquire what I need.” This might be literal money and assets, or it might be a network of people to call on in order to share the load. On the other hand, pride says, “I am autonomous in my person and possessions. I decide what happens to me and mine. If something threatens this autonomy, I will challenge it.”


From this, we can see that emotion tends to be a defensive mechanism, and aggression is, perhaps obviously, an offensive mechanism.


It should be noted, in no unclear language, that every human being has both of these tendencies. Men have emotion. If a man is hurt, especially by a woman, he will likely retreat to safety, even if that means losing a lot of tangible wealth. Women have aggression. If a woman is cornered, especially by a man, she will likely try to fight, even if she is likely or guaranteed to lose. However, the overall theme of humanity is that women are indeed emotional and men are indeed aggressive.


II. Barbarians at the Gate


Just from this basic framework, we should be able to see that these are complimentary mechanisms, not competing ones. If no one were defensive, who would tell a man that, no, he can’t juggle flaming chainsaws? If no one were offensive, who would tell a woman that she should learn how to use a handgun in self-defense?


Consider any number of strategy games, where players must attack other castles while defending their own. If they spend too much time on defense, they may not be overrun right away, but neither will they capture any other castles. When other players have captured all the other castles, that one player’s defense may not be enough, in spite of all the time and effort they put into it. Similarly, if a player spends all his resources on his offense and capturing other castles but puts forth no defense of his own castle, his castle is going to be easily overrun and he loses the game regardless of his aggressive strategy.


The same is true for the average household. There may not be barbarians at the gate, but the home can still be threatened by minor (or major) annoyances.


The car breaks down. This threatens the safety and comfort of the family, that it may not be possible to get everyone to work, school, appointments, etc. and now there are huge travel restrictions. It also threatens the wealth and pride of the family, that a resource has been lost, it’s going to take more resources to fix, and perhaps there was a failure to keep up on the general maintenance because everyone thought everything was just fine.


Defensively, they should buy a new car, even if it’s just temporary. If they can’t make it to work and school, someone is going to lose a job, which will only compound the problem, and the kids might struggle with their education. Buying the car will cost resources, but convenience must be restored.


Offensively, they should be a one-car or borrowed-car family for a while until the other car is fixed. It’s the best use of money and it shows everyone that they care about keeping the vehicles in good working order. This will sacrifice convenience for a while and there may be very few extra outings, but resources must be conserved and pride salvaged.


Which is the better option? I don’t know. I don’t know the circumstances. Maybe it’s a brand new car and there’s a chance that warranties and insurance and everything else will cover most of the cost. In that case, conserve resources and sacrifice convenience. Maybe it’s a junker that breaks down every other weekend and the dash is lit up like a Christmas tree. In that case, safety should be a priority and dip into the resources to get something new.


Looking at such problems and possible responses through the lens of perspective and asset management, rather than annoying human nature that needs to be ignored or crushed, can go a long way in tempering the extremes of either.


II. Hacking the Code


I. Manipulation


I am not the first to write about this subject, and I will not be the last. Nor am I the only one to notice such patterns and try to exploit them.


With aggression and emotion come two forms of bullying: physical and psychological. These tendencies begin to develop at a very early age, really taking shape as young as five years old and only getting worse as time goes on unless they are caught and mitigated.


Physical bullying is the easy one to spot and is seen most often in boys. Billy is beating up Timmy on the playground or stealing his milk money. This is almost exclusively the pride aspect of aggression. I am autonomous, I make my own decisions, I do what I want, I get what I want, and there is nothing you can do about it.


Psychological bullying is much harder to notice, especially at a young age, and is probably why girls and women get such a bad rap for manipulation. This form of bullying often takes the form of social exclusion. While Mrs. Quiggle is worried about Billy and Timmy, she looks on at the girls and thinks, “Sally is such a shy girl, but I’m glad Sarah and Tina get along. Sarah always comes up with the best games for them to play!” In reality, Sarah and Tina have excluded Sally. By the time they hit their pre-teen years, when such bullying becomes more obvious, the damage has already festered for years. Sally worries constantly about how she is perceived, wonders what it is that others hate about her, fears for her safety as a social outcast and her comfort as she has few resources to call upon for help. Tina, as a subservient of Sarah, sees what has been done to Sally and fears for her own safety, and she will do anything to remain Sarah’s friend. Sarah continues to manipulate Tina for her own comfort, knowing she has a minion to do her dirty work and take the fall for shenanigans.


All of these children have engaged in or been the victims of bullying, except the girls got five or six more years of practice before it was noticed, assuming it is caught that early. Because children lack the mental complexity and vocabulary to articulate why they don’t like each other (although most real bullying among peers stems from bullying or abuse at home), vague, childish notions of simply being liked or disliked develop into nebulous issues of nothing actually being wrong but being disliked for it anyway, and disliking oneself in return.


Consider how people are going to react to this post at all. I expect it will range from a very predictable, "She's a woman, she's getting all upset about men being in charge" to the opposite (and equally annoying), "Yassss, gurl, slay! You put those men in their place!"

Neither of those are my intent. This is an advocacy for women and men, but not on the basis of competition, but cooperation. And this may feel like a threat, I understand. Those who feel an advantage being taken away will cry discrimination. It is either a perceived threat to autonomy, that I am trying to take power away from someone, or a perceived threat to safety, that the protective herd of psychotic feminism is no longer necessary.


II. Fifty(-One) Percent Power of Will


Bullying as adults doesn’t really change, however much we pretend it does. There might be less fistfighting on the part of the men, but the locks and keys remain the same for men and women. Workplace politics, family power struggles, and I can think of no better example than modern politics.


As I said, I’m fairly certain that 90% of stupid people on the Internet—those with “edgy” takes or “sorry, not sorry” opinions and the like—don’t actually exist, or they’re not serious. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who think women should have no part in politics. Because we’re “too emotional.”


Once again, if you look at things through the lens of offensive and defensive, in small and large scales, and consider them as perspective, possible responses, and asset management, there is more to be gained than lost. And there are two brief illustrations I would like to use. The first is the axiom, “If you stop seeing everything as a slight, you might see a lot fewer of them.” If you take everything personally, it will only destroy you. The second comes from a book first published in 1913, called Don’ts for Husbands, Don’ts for Wives. And the particular point I will use is, “If you treat your wife like a featherhead, don’t be surprised when she turns out to be one.” The corollary to that is, “If you treat your husband like an oaf, don’t be surprised when he turns out to be one.” Build each other up, use the other’s strengths, help them overcome their weaknesses. Become complimentary, not competition.


With that said, any utopia that might have arisen because of a certain social system never has. Oppression does not produce safety, it only leads to a bloating of pride. It does not produce endless wealth, it only leads to national paralysis, fear of doing anything because it could compromise safety. Anarchy works the same way. There is nothing new under the sun. War, famine, pestilence, and death are still around no matter who is in charge or who gets a say in the governing arena.


With that out of the way, we’ll look at offensive and defensive views of popular political takes.


A. Chickens and Cars


“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” Although attributed to Herbert Hoover (1928), this slogan actually came from his supporters and may have had its origins with Henry IV of France (reigned: 1589 – 1610), though the king never promised that either. And while oddly specific, the spirit behind the appeal is made manifest with every change of power in every era: Support me and I will reward you with physical goods.


For the defensive good, this appeals to safety: I have food security and don’t have to worry about what my family is going to eat and if we need to escape, we can. It also appeals to comfort: I no longer have to scrounge for sustenance, and I can go on trips to places I want to go.


For the offensive good, this appeals to wealth: I am prosperous and have the resources I need to survive and thrive. It also appeals to pride: I can eat whenever I want without worry, and I can go wherever I want whenever I want. I am my own and not bound by external forces.


For the defensive bad, this threatens safety: If I don’t support them, do I not get the chicken? What if something happens to the chickens and the supply runs out? What if someone gets hurt in a car accident since there will be so many? It also threatens comfort: What if I don’t want chicken? What if I can’t use the car when I need it?


For the offensive bad, this threatens wealth: Nothing is free, what am I really going to pay for the chicken? How many resources am I going to have to devote to the car to ensure it stays running? It threatens pride: I don’t need anyone to give me anything, I work for what I have.


B. Weapons of Mass Destruction


“War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it.” Desiderius Erasmus (c.1600) said that several centuries ago, but it’s been true for far longer than that. Or there’s this famous line allegedly from William Hearst (1897), “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”


War, by its very nature, is offense trying to overpower defense. It has been used to take resources and bloat the pride of nations for millennia. It has also been used in the name of self-defense, an allegedly weaker power trying to get the jump on an allegedly greater power before the greater power has a chance to attack first.


For the defensive good, safety: I need to protect myself. For comfort: If they attack, I’ll lose my stuff, my convenient and familiar way of life.


For the offensive good, wealth: I need their resources and I’ll take them if I have to. For pride: Their existence threatens my autonomy. If they continue as they are, I will lose my ability to make my own decisions and live how I choose. And if I conquer them, I will be superior because I am a winner.


For the defensive bad, safety: Thousands of people are going to die, and someone is going to order them to their deaths. For comfort: Resources are going to be diverted to the war effort, which means I won’t have access to them.


For the offensive bad, resources: War is expensive, in physical resources, manpower, and time. For pride: What honor is there in slaughtering civilians and foot soldiers when it is the leaders and governments who are fighting?


C. Welfare and Refugees


In 1974, Garrett Hardin published a couple of articles which have since been simplified into something called “Lifeboat Theory.” A lifeboat has the resources to support X number of people for Y number of days, considering Z days it will take to reach shore or be rescued. As X increases, Y decreases. Although measures may be taken to mitigate this decline, if Y falls too far below Z, people start dying or choices have to be made. This makes the topic of helping the poor and downtrodden an interesting one at best.


For the defensive good, safety: There are more people to come to my defense, and if one group won’t, I have more eggs in other baskets. Comfort: I no longer have to travel far and wide to find exotic interests; they are all coming to me and working in my neighborhood.


For the offensive good, wealth: They’ll work for peanuts because they will have nothing if they don’t, which is good for business. Pride: I can boast about how much I’m helping them, and they’ll be obligated to repay me in some way.


For the defensive bad, safety: If these groups don’t get along, I could be found guilty by association and get hurt. For comfort: I have more competition for the things that I want.


For the offensive bad, wealth: They drive down wages while eating up communal resources. Pride: Why don’t they help themselves like I had to? Why aren’t they like me?


Those are just a few examples of how either side, the emotional and aggressive, can have good and bad points on any issue.


III. Exploitation


Reasonable debate is fine, but for those driven by ambition—be it war of offense or alleged self-defense—exploitation of the essential nature is simply a reflex. It is more than bullying, it is true exploitation designed to turn these natures into things, not to be tempered and analyzed and utilized appropriately, but to be loathed and crushed.


This usually begins by hating the opposite nature. Men will say, “Women are too emotional.” And women will say, “Men are too aggressive.” Men will fear that an emotional woman will drain his wealth and stifle his pride through ignorance and embarrassment. Women will fear that a man will hurt her physically or psychologically, and he will seek to control every aspect of her life, down to the very things that bring her joy, her books, her hobbies, and so on.


Once the complimentary natures have turned competitive, the weaker of the two will seek restoration, seek victory. This leads to abuse going both directions. But when victory is slow to come or nonexistent, adaptation becomes a tempting next step.


Someone I respect identified this exploitation as a philosophical explosion, where the boundaries or definition of something are relaxed so far that it ends up including its own antithesis, its own exclusion. Men are women and women are men.


And yet, whatever words on a page or thoughts in one head say, the essential nature remains the same. Women do not turn into men because they are aggressive, but because they perceive it as a method of safety, of protecting themselves. Many times, this stems from abuse. Girls are too small and weak to fight back, but maybe boys won’t be. Other times, it is social safety, that everyone else is transitioning, and to be part of the group, I must also. In some cases, it may be a perception of comfort, that being a man will afford more opportunities, whether physical or social.


All of this is defensive in nature, even as the mindset is that such nature is toxic in some way, like being born with poison in your veins that must be removed at any cost. Ignore your own safety that says self-mutilation is horribly wrong. Ignore your desire for comfort and make it so you can never rest in your own body again.


Meanwhile, men do not turn into women because they are emotional, but because they are devoid of aggression, devoid of power, often devoid of pride. As with girls, this typically stems from abuse. They are put in a position where no amount of wealth will satisfy, where pride and confidence are shot down. Seeking validation, they go on the offense, but against themselves. Just one more attack, one more offense, one more surgery, one more “like” on social media. All of it terribly and painfully aggressive.


This is done with the idea of eliminating that terrible, terrible aggression. Ignore the wealth and resources available to you and covet that which you cannot ever possess. Ignore your pride, your autonomy that says you don’t have to please others and follow the crowd.


Those who drive this narrative are no different, although their reasons for doing so may be far different than the product they produce. Typically it is either to gain more power or prevent others from doing so. Aggression is the prevailing nature. This makes it difficult to fight offensively, but, as the strategy games prove, going too hard on the offensive leaves your home castle vulnerable.


III. Resolving the Competition


I. The Good Ol’ Days


I’ve noticed that whenever people talk about “the good ol’ days,” it almost always refers to the time when they were kids. “The good ol’ days,” when children respected their parents. “The good ol’ days,” when people got along. “The good ol’ days,” when the music was good. All of these perceptions conceived when they didn’t know enough about the world to understand. Then, suddenly, they look around and think, “Boy, kids are disobedient! I never would have done that! And the music is terrible! And when did the neighbors start fighting?”


Or they’ll point to a time in history that they could not have experienced, but they have romanticized it in their minds and have become convinced that that was the ideal time to be alive, in spite of probably millions of people who would vehemently disagree for one reason or another.


Now then, there are number crunchers out there who can point to this and that statistic, this and that survey, this and that whatever to say, this or that has gotten worse. I’m not disputing it, and I think that most problems can be traced back to abuse of the essential nature, where children are taught to hate emotions or aggression, or else they lack the mental acuity and refinement to do anything but emote or aggress.


But once again, there is nothing new under the sun, and it’s always the end of the world when it’s your empire that’s threatened. In thirty years, someone is going to stand on their front porch and pine about “the good ol’ days,” referring to today, this time that they were probably a kid too dumb to know any better, this time that you are complaining is the worst time ever and the world is ending.


II. The Wave and the Pendulum


If you take a large trough of still water and try to dump it, you’re probably not going to have much luck. It’s heavy. But if you can get it just started to move and make some waves, and if you can time your movements correctly, eventually you can get enough momentum going that you can tip the trough right over. Why? Because the water started moving and the waves got bigger.


You can do something similar with a pendulum. More than a clock, think of a swing. It sits quietly where it is until someone starts it moving. A little effort of the legs and body, and soon even a little kid can go soaring twenty bazillion feet in the air.


In both cases, it takes effort to start. It also takes effort to stop. Maybe not so much on the part of the person rocking the trough or the swing, but the energy and the forces at work don’t simply cut off once the person stops working. It takes time, a dissipation of that energy. Even just holding a pendulum at its highest point in one direction, you have to guide it back to its resting point if you want it to stop there. If you just let it go, it will have to go through several swings before it comes to rest.


Somehow, everyone gets caught up on whether civilization should be ruled by men or by women. Diametrically opposing views that both manage to ignore thousands of years of war, famine, pestilence, and death, regardless of who was in charge, where, what system of governance was in place, the values of the society, and who the neighbors were.


In a fantastical utopia, decisions would be weighed on the offensive and defensive. A child is born with a heart defect and needs surgery. That surgery doesn’t exist yet, but should it?


Defensive good, safety: Families no longer have to fear for their children if they are born with such a defect. Comfort: A family has another child to love for its whole life.


Offensive good, wealth: Saving children with this defect means more people to contribute to society. Pride: We invented a surgery to save children.


Defensive bad, safety: Surgeries are risky and we don’t want to give families false hope. Comfort: A family will no longer be burdened by a child that could require special treatment for many years.


Offensive bad, wealth: It’s going to take a lot of time and resources to perfect the surgery, and it might only have a low success rate. Pride: We might fix the defect in one child, but if it’s genetic, we could be weakening ourselves as a whole.


It is that moral gray area that demands a more balanced approach, and unfortunately, there are no utopias and decisions have to be made.


III. Playing Devil’s Advocate


One would expect, then, that this would somehow be a case for ensuring perfectly balanced representation, such as the now-debunk Affirmative Action. It is not. Actually, if any case is to be made, it is for the Tenth Man, or the Devil’s Advocate.


Tenth Man Theory simply states that if ten men are given the same information and nine come to a like conclusion, the tenth man is obligated to refute it. Not because he believes the nine men are wrong, but to challenge prevailing beliefs and break up groupthink. He must be the Devil’s Advocate, the one to anticipate problems and opposition, to find the flaws in the nine men’s plans. This does not make him automatically right, despite our cultural love for underdog stories, but it forces the nine men to review their material, review their information and conclusions, and either reaffirm the position and move ahead, or abandon the position and come up with something else, whether it follows the tenth man’s viewpoint or not.


If nine men do not come to a like conclusion, there should, I believe, still be a Devil’s Advocate figure, an antagonist, a cynic, who is tasked with ensuring everything goes horribly wrong in order to give the rest of the team something more tangible to fight against and bring some cohesion to the group and formulate an actual plan.


All of this, then, sets the stage for a simple meritocracy. If you do something and it works, your work in that area has merit and you may be sought out for like work. If you do something and it doesn’t work, your work in that area doesn’t have merit and you may not be invited back.


IV. Individual Essence


On one side of the pendulum is a one hundred percent male-controlled society. Women are not permitted to be in power in any manner, whether in national governance or family matters and they are pipelined from being in the cradle to hovering over it with their own children. All decisions are made through the lens of aggression, either wealth or pride. There is likely to be great economic prosperity and expansion of national borders, but also continuous war and conflict.


On the other side, a one hundred percent female-controlled society. Men are not permitted to be in power in any manner, whether in national governance or family matters and they are pipelined from being in the cradle to hovering over it with their own children. All decisions are made through the lens of emotion, safety and comfort. There is likely to be an excellent trade network in place and little aggressive war, but at the cost of national sovereignty as they are small, non-expansive, and dependent on other nations for protection.


It is important to note that NEITHER OF THESE HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED. Like communism, they’ve been “tried,” but they never actually get there. They fall short and burst into flames, much to the dismay of the millions who end up in mass graves.


Why do I bring them up? Because there always seems to be this terribly irrational fear that if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile, “they” referring to the opposite sex. If a woman gives a man just a tiny bit of authority, a tiny bit of decision-making power, within a month he’ll have her barefoot, pregnant, in chains, scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush. If a man gives a woman just a tiny bit of authority, a tiny bit of decision-making power, within a month she’ll divorce him, drop the kids off at an orphanage, and take over as CEO at her job.


Collectivism is a defensive measure, safety in numbers, comfort in homogeny, at the cost of multiplied weakness. Individualism is an offensive measure, resources to use as one sees fit, pride in one’s own accomplishments and the ability to govern oneself, at the cost of multiplied strength.


But the whole body cannot be an eye, or where would the sense of smell be? The whole body cannot be an ear, or where would the sense of sight be? There must be individuality within the collective.


I have heard it said that true generosity comes when one is content with what one has. Not when you have a million dollars. Not when you foolishly and even dangerously deprive yourself of all worldly goods. If you are paralyzed with fear or fiendishly greedy, you will never have enough to share. When you are content. Only then can you truly open up and give of your resources, even if they are woefully limited.


The same goes for individual essense. You don’t have to be beautiful or smart or this or that. If you are made to hate yourself, abused or told that you must be something that you are not and cannot be, you will never give of yourself because you don’t want to show off what you hate. When you are content with what you are, only then can you truly open up and give of yourself.


Everyone does not give in the same way, everyone does not contribute in the same way. If a woman doesn’t want children, I have no problem with it. If a man wants to be a stay-at-home dad, that is absolutely fantastic. I understand that they—as genuine people, not victims of abuse—are outliers. I understand that men and women are infused with aggressive or emotional essence, and these will naturally lead them along some well-trodden paths. But to put people in cages on one side of the pendulum is just as bad as removing all boundaries on the other side.


Let people be people. Build them up and teach them that these essences of aggression and emotion are good things, that they are complimentary, not competitive. And teach them how to utilize all aspects of them, even the ones to which they are less inclined. Teach them empathy. Teach them logic. Let them discover who God made them to be, not who the world says they ought to be.