Saturday, September 24, 2016


“Audrie and Daisy” is just now streaming on Netflix.  It is a high school version of Krakauer’s “Missoula” book, taking a closeup over time of girls who are invaded and shamed by callous boys.  The point that the law is helpless — stymied by politics — is repeated.  Strangely, the girls blame themselves.

There were a few things in the movie I noted in passing.  One was that in the end the girls found each other and made common cause, which changed the equation without getting hysterical.  Another was that the mayor, a vestige of decades ago, confidently explained that the problem was bad publicity focusing on the girls instead of the major achievements of the Mid-Western town:  their man-made lake for recreation, their good fishing, and their golf course.  (Valier has no golf course.)  He was an old guy totally out-of-contact with the real world or with his own value system.  He didn’t mention jobs or infrastructure.  I wouldn't bet on his city sewer system being up-to-date.

One incident wasn’t so much about “sex” as about childishly writing on the body of a comatose girl, as though she were a t-shirt begging for quips.  “I thought it was just fun,” said one of the boys, though the incident ended with them parking the marker in her vagina.  “We’ve always done that.  You know, drawing a mustache on someone who went to sleep.”  I’d be willing to bet these were day-care kids without the kind of parenting that creates empathy.  Watching the boys with the police it was clear that they were not thinking through what they had done, but only trying to evade consequences.  These were not boys who had felt the full force of the law or who really believed in the existence of prison.  I predict that these will eventually be brought to their attention.

There are always many ways to look at a situation.  I always go for the broadest and most inclusive methods and patterns, which is what made me think that seminary and divinity school were good places to learn and also what pulled me out the other side when I realized that many of these schools are defending their institutional existence rather than the search for understanding.  Of course, at some point one must stop and commit, at least temporarily, but I’m too eclectic to fit one place mentally.  (Physically I’m no longer a traveler.)

Let’s try this as an approach to the very real problem of vulnerable individuals being attacked and humiliated sexually.  First of all, human females have never been able to prevent pregnancy in the past; also,  in the past giving birth was too often deadly and still is.  Death in birth is closely related to poverty, disease, and broken cultures where there is no communal help for individuals.  Every whole and prosperous culture has a broken edge.  But this time a medical advantage has removed the protective value of risk consciousness.

Jared Diamond approached cultures by looking at the kind and amount of resources of an ecology, very basic things like the kind of food, means of transportation, mineral deposits, available water.  These dictated social arrangements and therefore moral codes.  This is all still true but we don’t accept limits.

Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads” takes an historical view keyed by the shift of economic resources BETWEEN ecologies either as trade or as raid, according to the ability to transport goods or to produce violence.  He proposes that the first trade was explicit trafficking of slaves.  “The Game of Thrones” genre (I just watched “The Last Kingdom,” one of the better iterations — though no dragons.) repeats and repeats this version.  It also supports the “boys against the girls” schism of European ag-based gender-roles that is one source of trouble and confusion now.  And flatters the “white is entitled" notion.  

European nations as we know them were forming about the same time we were destroying the Native American nations.  The 19th century was a hinge time in which science finally challenged religion effectively, and produced some versions of science that were as toxic as religion.  “Survival of the fittest” was warped into an excuse for oppression, a rationalism for theft and violence.  It works if you don’t value human life.  

The survival part was true.  I mean, the more closely the people fit the culture and the culture fits the ecology, the more people will happily survive.  The catch is that evolution proceeds by change but people and institutions don’t like change, try to prevent change, and often succeed in compensating for change — but the planet earth is ALWAYS changing, sometimes drastically, and — so ironically! — as a RESULT of human efforts to prevent change.

Change kills.  The terms of survival change.  Failure to adapt kills.  The more young people can find new ways to survive — usually but not always based on sexual self-protection, habits of constructive activity, and lively empathy for others — the more they are likely to have a mental and emotional understanding of more than one small town where reputation controls what jobs you can get, whether your business will prosper, whether your house is safe, and whether the cops will be willing to believe your complaints.  (Institutions work as small towns.)

In America the public high schools and corporate universities were assumed to be teaching these life skills.  But television was teaching the opposite.  What began as Sesame Street is now Big Bird fried on a plate.  Masterpiece Theatre is now defined by fee-for-service.  Even as a minister to elite populations in university towns, I found resistance to any sermonic idea that challenged the status quo.  But people were susceptible to flattering promotional sub-set of ideas.

After reading these stories of girls abused by entitled boys, it’s interesting to read in VICE about the rise and fall of male stripper popularity.
It doesn’t sound like role reversal as sex objects is a very good alternative to just finding a niche that fits the individual.

“Thinking in terms of populations, rather than individuals, is primary: the genetic diversity existing in natural populations is a key factor in evolution.”  (from the anonymous Wiki contributor).  It appears that diversity is a good thing.  I’ve just downloaded a paper from the Royal Society concerned with Biological Sciences but haven’t read it yet.  It promises to be a consideration of the evolution of ideas about evolution, which is something like thinking about the evolution of the human brain -- not the history of thought, but the physical development of its parts.  What we have here is paradigm shift to see reality more accurately.

These two popular and meant-to-be-shocking accounts of the treatment of young respectable women in American mainstream society are essentially evidence of gender relations that pretend to be about sex.  The anguish of the people involved should move us to rethink.  Football coaches might well give some thought to paradigm shift in terms of game-based careers that don’t destroy young people.

As for universities, I’m in favor of taking them down to the ground and starting over with a log where a teacher can sit with a student, thinking.  I’d pull down the religious edifices and go back to campfires, but not human sacrifice.

No comments: