I’ve come to realise that Facebook isn’t for serious discussions. People go there to have a look at their friend’s photos and laugh at Trump, while reinforcing their already created belief system. But occasionally I like to post something serious, even if I am disturbing the peace. Twitter on the other hand is a war zone, which I entered for the first time a few months ago. It is the ultimate combative chat room for people who like to engage with celebrities on current affairs. I never saw the appeal of tweeting sound bites to an angry mob, but having joined as an observer, I can see the benefit of watching the battles play out.
I’ve found that in order to reap the reward of acquiring worthwhile knowledge, I need to watch both sides of the argument, so I follow people, or news outlets, with opposing points of view. If I don’t, I’m simply recreating the “safe space” of Facebook, where we all create “our world” or “our truth” and are less interested in “The World” or “The Truth.” On Twitter, once you get past the school yard bullying, acerbic comments and hilarious one-liners, the real truth often rests somewhere in the middle; a point that has been made by many spiritual teachers.
I could have chosen any current debate to write about; climate change, Brexit, free speech vs political correctness; but the one that has gripped my attention for weeks is the vehement opposition of the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in American. Most people are now familiar with this process because of the allegations brought forward by Professor Christine Blasey Ford, that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a high school party. But the Senate hearing was contentious before she came forward, because the Supreme Court determines legal precedent. Members are supposed to be politically impartial, but their personal political affiliations often determine people’s reaction to their appointment. From the beginning, the narrative in the media with regards to Kavanaugh has been that as he is Trump’s nominee, he will do Trump’s bidding.
The main objection to his appointment, prior to Dr Ford’s accusation, has been the supposition that he will overturn women’s rights to obtain a legal abortion. Headlines in the media and tweets from celebrities have focused on his desire to endanger women’s lives and narrow their contraceptive choices. This narrative caused protests in the Senate hearings and outrage from many women, but is it true? The short answer is, no. Having looked at many articles surrounding this claim I can safely say this argument is based on, at best, conjecture, at worst, a purposeful misrepresentation of the facts.
Read a selection of articles below:
When questioned in the hearings about his opinion on the precedent (Roe vs Wade) that guarantees the legal right to an abortion, he said he believed it to be settled law, a precedent on precedent. Watch Kavanaugh’s response to questions about Roe vs Wade But even this didn’t satisfy his critics, who continued to write inflammatory articles about what “could” happen if he was appointed and none of it was good for women. Upon reading these articles I understood why so many people were fearful about his appointment, but I was also amazed to see how easily people accepted the validity of the claims without looking into them. It’s almost as if they wanted to believe everything they read because it reaffirmed their own opinion. But how had these opinions been formed? Not many people are asking this question.
Last week I said in my podcast (listen here), that in order to discern fact from fiction we need to understand why we believe the things we do. Beliefs and truth are interchangeable in many people’s minds; the sentiment being, “If I believe it, it must be true.” But beliefs are opinions based on our past experiences and the information we choose to allow into our consciousness. In today’s parlance people call this “my truth”. But when “our truth” is projected on to another we enter into the murky world of assumption.
Many articles in the mainstream media regarding Kavanaugh before the allegations, rested on the following faulty logic and belief structure:
1) I don’t like Trump or his policies. I believe he is a misogynist.
2) Any one associated with him must hold the same views as him, so I don’t like them either.
3) Here are some past rulings from Kavanaugh that will (tenuously) prove he will overturn Roe vs Wade.
4) Ipso facto: no one in their right mind would want Kavanaugh to be appointed.
It’s fair to say we all live through our biases, but when we affirm our right to impose our biases on another, in place or in lieu of the facts, we elevate the importance of subjective reality above actual reality. This is the definition of delusion.
Once Professor Ford’s accusation was made public and the hearing commenced, the nation was divided between those who believed Dr Ford’s testimony and those who thought the inconsistencies in her story called into question her credibility. Judge Kavanaugh strongly denied the allegation, as well as two others made against him and so the information war began. Friends of both parties called into question the validity of what each said in their testimony – Kavanaugh drank more than he let on in high school, Ford coached others on taking polygraph tests, but denied knowledge of them under oath.
I could write another article on the onslaught of hearsay that followed; yet nothing emerged that would corroborate any of the claims. In other words, there were no first hand witnesses to any of the assaults, even though they allegedly took place with other people around. Ford’s husband says she mentioned Kavanaugh by name when speaking about the assault and her therapist’s notes mention an assault, but the details of the story differ from the one she told under oath and Kavanaugh’s name isn’t mentioned – neither her full therapy notes nor the full transcript of her polygraph have been released.
So after an emotional hearing, we are none the wiser. Whether you believe Doctor Ford or Judge Kavanaugh depends solely on just that, what you believe. The facts are unclear, so no definitive truth can be found and in part that is why it has divided a nation. In lieu of an actual reality, we rush to create our own reality. So often, what we want to happen in life is upended by actual events; it’s no wonder we project our truth onto situations that counter our internal narrative. It’s easier than accepting disappointment or acknowledging we may be wrong.
Months after his nomination was announced and after weeks of testimony, Judge Kavanaugh has been appointed to sit on the Supreme Court. The media, modern feminists and the “Me Too” movement are outraged and see this as another example of the dominance of the Patriarchy, whose objective has been to oppress women for centuries. The victim/oppressor dynamic has been entwined with humanity’s history and is revived at times of social unrest, so I’m not surprised we are hearing it in this case. However, even though on the surface it looks like a valid claim, I don’t believe its use is warranted, in fact, I believe it oversimplifies the issue and is disingenuous.
Before I explain myself, I would like to encourage people to watch a speech given by Senator Susan Collins, where she gives an in depth and methodical breakdown of why she supports Kavanaugh’s nomination, even after hearing Dr Ford’s testimony. It’s well worth watching and I have yet to see such a detailed breakdown of the process and the reasoning behind someone’s view. You can view the whole speech here
Now for the explanation. In a recent tweet a female author, who often comments on feminism and politics, called out “white women” on what she calls their “eagerness to support the white capitalist patriarchy & in doing so leave their sisters to suffer. Which is what Susan Collins just did.” (the author is also a “white woman”) She then clarifies her position saying, “No wait, clearer: Not just leaving sisters to suffer. Actively participating in the further oppression and subjugation of people of colour, women and men.” All because Senator Susan Collins formed an opinion that was different to her own.
You can see this sentiment everywhere: people attacking other people who don’t agree with them, in the name of righteousness. And so one by one these movements implode, because they eventually turn on the people they claim to empower. Since coming out in support of Kavanaugh’s nomination Senator Susan Collins has been called a “rape apologist”, a term that is hurled at anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the narrative, that all women who accuse men of sexual assault should instantly be believed. These insults show a complete lack of nuance and diminish the credibility of those who profess to speak on behalf of womankind.
In a parallel but unrelated story, the Academic disciplines of Cultural and Identity studies are under scrutiny, after three academics wrote hoax papers that were admitted to some of the key journals in the fields of (feminist) gender studies, masculinity studies, critical race theory, critical whiteness theory and sociology, among others. One of the papers entitled, “Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at Urban Dog Parks.” published in Gender, Place and Culture, outlined a fake study of “dog humping” and the implications of when owners intervened.
“When the humping was male-on-male, owners intervened in the overwhelming number of cases. But when the humping was male-on-female, owners were far less likely to stop it. This, the study suggests, might say something about the owners’ internalized homophobia and their willingness to overlook female victims of sexual assault.”
While the connection to the outrage about Kavanagh’s appointment may at first be unclear, once you read some of the papers and the responses to them, you can see how easy it is for ideologically biased views to pass for modern scholarship. This is important because many of these views are taught to young students, who believe them as gospel. In addition, they begin to infiltrate society and the collective reality through social justice movements. If you are told enough times that we live in a rape culture dominated by a white male patriarchy that is oppressing women on purpose, you will eventually believe it, especially if those views are echoed through modern feminist movements. Thankfully, these ideas are being exposed to some scrutiny, not least because there are many people who are tired of being bullied into adopting a worldview that continues to promote and glorify victim-hood.
The Academics who wrote the fake articles, say it best “We undertook this project to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research. Because open, good-faith conversation around topics of identity such as gender, race, and sexuality (and the scholarship that works with them) is nearly impossible, our aim has been to reboot these conversations. We hope this will give people—especially those who believe in liberalism, progress, modernity, open inquiry, and social justice—a clear reason to look at the identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left and say, “No, I will not go along with that. You do not speak for me.”
It is clear to me that we need to be aware of the potential for seemingly positive social justice movements to become divisive. When assignment to a group identity proves your guilt, or assumes your innocence, an unfair game is being played. Many activist movements keep our grievances alive while offering no reasonable or practical suggestions to facilitate change. Surely, if we are to make headway we need to understand the complexity of these issues so we can find solutions that work for everyone, rather than ones that are easily digestible and look good on paper. Yet slogans and a new lexicon for followers to use when attempting to convert, or persecute perceived aggressors, seem to be the best some movements have to offer. “Micro-aggression”, “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” are all terms that point to the kind of culture that can result from the idea, that people are infantile and in need of constant coddling. If we are victims we become stuck in a loop of rage and blame. This is not sustainable. Nor do these states of consciousness lead to psychological well-being.
The idea that I have hoped to promote in this piece is that the only place where our truth matters is when we are conducting the affairs of our own lives, not deciding the fate of another. The facts do matter, as does taking a balanced view by looking at both side of any story. If life is a play between opposite forces, may we all find the fundamental wisdom of the middle way