Did that title blow your mind? Did it make you roll your eyes and click off the site? Regardless of your reasoning I would like to take some of your time and talk frankly with you. I have had a lot of thoughts running through my head the past weekend. I was at my friends wedding, and I was dealing with social anxiety, feeling lonely, etc etc. I also was doing some serious self-reflection on how to be better in large groups and how to communicate better. A friend of mine was having some issues with his girlfriend and the primary reason was miscommunication. My friend who shall remain nameless out of courtesy, wanted to wait a minimum of 5 years of dating before getting engaged and married. His professed reasoning was partially paperwork and wanting to make sure it was the right fit. Now, I can infer some decent reasons why this might be a smart idea. Mostly I would probably say that if you want to make sure it is the right fit, I see no problem with that line of reasoning. But the inclusion of paperwork and the laws surrounding formalizing the union seemed like an odd thing to add. This was of course what set off the disagreement. It seemed callous but my friend seemed genuinely perplexed and calm about this. He is utterly incapable of emerging from carefree, logical discourse. He loves to argue and debate but always seems to be completely emotionally distant from the topics he discusses. I do not think that being dispassionate when talking about important topics is inherently wrong. But I also think human beings have their emotions tied inexorably to things that are important to us. Our dipositions and values are tied to emotion. We can value rationality and value the ability to be calm and rational arbitors in discussions. These things are not inherently good or bad.
However, this brings me to the main thing I noticed about this and that was the foundation of their disagreement was because the two of them were not only at odds with what they wanted but that they both had different presuppositions. When I use the word presupposition here I am saying that going into a conversation about anything important to you or other people you have somethings you take for granted that you do not question. An example would be, you don’t question the idea that after high school you expect to go to college. You don’t think about it because it never occurred to you to question it. But we don’t all share the same presuppositions. Society does tend to socially create certain presuppositions and the media certainly does that, but often this can get in the way of communication. Some presuppositions are in my opinion, good ones, like we shouldn’t ever debate the humanity of marginalized groups. This is unnecessary because the mere formality of discussing it means we are implicitly saying that the humanity of said group could go either way. We are all human and this is not a debatable. Now many of us on the left will still go to bat for the marginalized groups regardless because of the cruelty they endure, but there shouldn’t be any discussion on racial science or the like.
My main argument here is that often, we, as men are not always as capable of understanding how our actions and words can affect other people. Also, that our intentions are often not as important as we might think. We will mess up and we will have moments where we say or do something that offends other people. The presuppositions that my friend had make it difficult for him to understand how hurt it might make his girlfriend. I have no doubt his heart is in the right place on it, but he has hard time getting past his own mindset and ideas.
Men in general, are not socialized to foster community and understanding these days. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not being anti-man or anything like that. In fact, my own insecurities and feelings often clash in some pretty amazing contradictions. For instance, I have always been fairly hostile to the idea that men are subtly told to not be very emotional and to say it makes you less of a man to be that way. I tended to blow up in anger when I was teased and to this day, I don’t find overreactions very funny. Some people do find that genuinely funny and unfortunately for me I have to deal with that. I take myself too seriously sometimes and need to learn to lighten up and learn to laugh at myself. I also despite being angry about the idea that men don’t ever let themselves be vulnerable, do the exact thing I despise. When I am confronted on how I appear to other people or undergo unexpected criticism, I tend to be immature and want to banish the uncomfortable feelings as quickly as possible. I am working on these things and well, I hope I can do better.
I say all of these things because I want men to be happier and women to be happier. I don’t think being better communicators and being more emotionally self-aware will damage men’s own self-image. You can be a stoic and capable leader, and sometimes be vulnerable and empathetic.
My final part of this sermon is on leftist unity, and how difficult that is. We on the left, have a much harder time coming together then the right does. The nature of structural inequality and the sheer magnitude of what we are working against is very difficult to compromise on. However, we do tend to expect to be betrayed and have a need to ensure the best possible outcome . In many ways, we can be quite puritanical about our own side. We let the importance of our task lead us into disarray. I personally hate it when the center and the right demands civility when discussing terrible things going on in society and while we are being crushed and lied to. It really really sucks and it is very very easy to let that turn us bitter and cruel. However, I do NOT think civility is wrong. I think being civil in discourse is a good thing but honesty and integrity often means we be up front about the evil in the world. The left is in a bad place and the only way we can win is if we are capable to forming a unified front against the right and the center. Any movement left is a victory and we must be willing to continue pushing the entire time. The diversity of our coalition means we must be willing to unify to pursue multiple things at the same time regardless of what we personally think is most important. We are only human and guess what, we will fuck up along the way. We must be kind to ourselves and our allies while understanding who our allies are and who are not. This means being willing to swallow humble pie when necessary but also promising to never stop fighting. I intend to talk more about this soon. So stay tuned readers and happy Fall.