The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, June 27, 2008

Depressing? Heartening?

Came across some stats this morning that were depressing and heartening...depending on how you want to look at it. Those of you looking for gender parity? It's coming. Apparently, violence among girls is up about 6.5%, and violence among boys is down about 16%. You folks know that I see males and females as having identical spirits, expressed through different physical and social roles. As women push harder to have full representation in the specific arenas in which men have dominated, guess what? They're going to become more like men.

And girls wanting better sports performance will take male hormones, and men coveting the joys of womanhood will have sex-change operations, hormone treatments, and so forth. Success in any arena is based upon actions, actions are based upon motivations, motivations based on goals, values, beliefs, and positive/negative emotional anchors. While prejudice against women by men (and against men by women) is absolutely a factor in representation in the executive suite, there is another factor that can only be ignored at your peril.

Women, according to both men AND women, are different from men--biologically, emotionally, and to a smaller degree, mentally (different functioning, not "lesser"). Well, you know what? You can't be different and get the same results. You can get comparable results. You can get BETTER results. But you can't get the SAME results. But if you aim at the same goal, you become the same thing as the others pursuing that goal. human physiology, sociology, and psychology become more plastic, and "equality" is held up as the ultimate goal--even if core biological function is different--then those parallel lines are going to converge. What then?

I don't know, and I'm no longer certain I'm not going to live to see it. Listening to countless women and men speaking of their hopes and dreams over the years, it was obvious to me that even among the most intelligent and fiercely energetic and self-expressive, there were differences, REAL differences. We're heading toward parallax. Attitudes toward birth control, gender reassignment, gay marriage, women in the workplace and no way do I see men and women getting further apart.

Not sure what to think about it, but it's not up to me, is it? I think we'll work it all out, in time. I trust us as a species. And one of the things that I take grim satisfaction in is that many of the "male" negative traits (violence, self-destructiveness, etc.) are about to be revealed as functions of social and biological roles, the ugly side of very positive traits.

Nature decided on sexual dimorphism. Arguably, our diminishing of these inbred traits might also be considered "natural"--that is, an expression of a higher level of Maslow's Hierarchy (Self-expression) that was inevitable as soon as survival needs were handled. We may be closing a circle.

And...maybe that's not just inevitable. Maybe it's almost perfect. We'll have genetically female men, and genetically male women, and everything in-between. Wow. Is this good? Bad? Am I off my rocker?

Personally, I think we are far far more than our biological function, or our social function. I will not tell a law-abiding human being that he or she should not become anything he/she wants. I would be uncomfortable if my son wanted to reassign his sex. Less so if he turned out to be gay (I try not to flinch when he tells me he's a princess...) but I'd sure as hell get over it. That's MY shit, not his.

We are biologically set to produce lotsa children, and live as long as we can, and that means expansion and dominating the environment. I personally think we are smart enough to turn ourselves into a geological force. We can't permanently hurt this planet, but we CAN render it uninhabitable for humans. We have to control those basic drives, and stop the tendency to believe that the rules and laws of a culture that dominates or destroys another must be superior. But it makes SENSE to think that, even if it is ultimately wrong. We imitate the behaviors (and appearance) of our conquerers (note the Japanese bleaching their hair, getting boob jobs and plastic surgery for their eyes after WW2. Note black people trying to lighten their skin and straighten their hair.) because it absolutely works on the level of our basic chakras...we and our children are more likely to survive.

But what do we lose? Hey, I'm a boomer. Some of my perceptions are frozen, locked into neurological patterns that set like concrete by the time of puberty. I can see the future, even if at a gut level I cringe at times. And I have faith. This is part of the sense that one generation often has that the next generation is stupid, venal, immoral, etc--the older generation's expectations are being violated.

Take a deep breath. What a fascinating time to be alive.


The question of why do 90% of black people vote for Obama is a valid one. Are blacks more racist than whites? I can only put my own perspective to the test.

1) No, they're not. Human beings are all about 10% racist.

2) All things considered, Blacks should be a good deal more racist than they are. There has been a gigantic amount of brainwashing and conditioning involved here--when the God you worship, the money you spend, the heroes you are told to admire, and almost all the power figures in your world are presented as white, it's kinda hard to work up the kind of mad you'd feel if all these people/images were black.

3) Human beings under pressure become more inflexible and more tribal and hierarchical. Right after 9/11 America became frighteningly Either/Or. Very two-dimensional, and if our allies disagreed with us, there was no room for nuance: you were "with us or with the terrorists." That is 100% natural, and I'd suggest that , throughout most of history, any culture that didn't react a bit like that is probably going to be exterminated by those those that did. When you see people behaving in a bigoted, tribal, prejudiced or homogenized fashion, ask what pressures might be on them that are not on the comparison group.

3) Blacks voted 90% for Obama for the same reasons that, historically, they vote 90% Democrat. They tend to vote as a bloc because that is the way the culture has treated them. Slavery was not applied differentially. Nor was Jim Crow. Nor Segregation. Nor exclusion from media. These things applied to blacks virtually independent of ideology, intelligence, philosophy, height, age, weight, gender, whatever. For about 350 years this was true. It only started breaking down a generation or two ago. That means almost every black person in this country (descended from slaves) was raised by someone with intimate, painful personal experience of this stuff. The "a single stick can be easily broken, but a bundle is strong" philosophy doesn't create this--it is an expression of it. It is an abstract philosophy based upon a genetically programmed predisposition for herd behavior, present in all human beings and increasing under pressure.

4) The good news--as more blacks get middle-class roots, and have been middle-class for generations--you will see more of them choosing Conservative politics. In general, it seems to me that Conservativism is kind of a "things are good now, why change them?" or "Things were better in the past--let's reclaim our greatness" position, where as Liberalism or Progressivism says "things can be better. Let's change." My guess? A disproportionate number of black Republicans/conservatives have been middle-class for generations. In a very real way, an increase in black Republicans will be a good sign--it will mean that the playing field is leveling, and that black children are sitting on the laps of grandparents who not only believe in the American dream, but have experienced it.

5) I have to admit to being a bit uncomfortable with Conservatives who think Conservative policies are better for black people, or that there is less racism on the Right than the Left (it's natural, of course. Everyone wants to believe that all good things are in THEIR corner). Not as an abstract, but in certain specific implications. The "black people are being duped" thing makes me nervous. Are we being duped disproportionately to the way, say, white Liberals/Democrats are being duped? If so, why? I don't know about you, but there is a term for people who are consistently duped. Who don't look after their own interests. Who don't know what's good for them. They're called ignorant. Stupid. Childlike. If blacks are as smart as whites, why exactly are they less aware of what is good for them? I hear a lot of verbal fumbling about with this one, and it makes the warning light go off in the back of my head. It honestly makes me suspect that this is all being filtered through a set of mildly racist assumptions.

But then, I don't believe that either Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Progressive are superior. I think that they look better to different people depending on resources, social position, etc. An ideologue would be very different about this, of course--they would think that the other side is actually "wrong." No problem with that. But there's that pesky question about why blacks vote so overwhelmingly Democratic. If voting Republican is smarter, and blacks vote Democrat disproportionately to whites, then...

Frankly, I'm know that SOME of you can work that one out so that it isn't straight-out racist in implications. But I've heard a hell of a lot of stammering, guys. And stammering is one of the things that sets off lie detectors. I would have had MUCH more tendency to lean Conservative if I hadn't run into so much of this. There were simply too many people who believed the Bell Curve, who considered the differential crime rates evidence of intrinsic flaws, who, from my perspective, blamed the victim while spending the loot.


And actually, part of the reason I bring this up is that I've heard many, many Republicans agonize over how to bring more blacks into their ranks. Fine! This is good! But the problem is that they tend to think that the fact blacks aren't attracted to Conservatism is a matter of ignorance, being brainwashed and duped, etc. It's OUR problem for not seeing how wonderful they are. The problem is never, ever, them. I think that they could actually grab a MUCH larger chunk of the black vote if they did a bit more soul-searching. Eventually, it will probably happen. Should happen. I WANT it to happen--because of what it implies about social progress in America.

The natural human tendency is not to say: "this is how I see it" but "this is how it is." Not "I see it this way, you see it that way, how is this dualistic perception created?" but "You are wrong, and bad, and less than me."

If you want to attract more black voters, listen to what they are saying. I honestly wish you luck.


Anonymous said...

We'll have genetically female men, and genetically male women, and everything in-between. Wow. Is this good? Bad? Am I off my rocker?

on this point
I vote for your last possibility!

I certainly hope women
don't seriously opt
in any great numbers
for the
becoming more violent choice

I think you place inoprdinate
importance on the human raxce, Steve
I understand how, as a member of the human race,
this is appealing
and I certainly do
tremendously enjoy being a human woman
I hope you are totally wrong
about the human race
as a Geologic force


Anonymous said...

Some conservatives, I think, do have the temperament that would enable them to listen to what blacks are saying. One such conservative would be David Frum; two others would be Douthat and Salam.

But they're some ways yet from being a majority. My guess is that they might be a narrow majority of conservatives by about 2028.

--Erich Schwarz

Mike R said...

> Frankly, I'm know that SOME of you can work that one out so that it isn't straight-out racist in implications. <

Political power and voting blocs are tricky things. Think of it this way; People in New York drive rather aggressively. It would be in everyone's best interest if everyone obeyed the rules and drove nicely and politely. So say a group of New Yorkers decide that _they_ will drive nicely. What will happen to them? Well, they'll get hosed because not everyone is going to obey the rules and by driving nicely they will go slower than those who drive aggressively.

Blacks might get more power if they voted 50-50 Republican-Democrat because both political parties would have to fight over their votes, they way they do with Hispanics now. But that wouldn't happen over night and if we look at the steps to get there, in the short term it would likely result in a decrease in black power.

If say, 17% of Blacks voted Republican instead of the 7% (or less) that vote that way now, then that would be enough to result in losses for the Democrats without (probably) a large enough increase in black power within the Republican Party to compensate for the loss of power brought about by the Democrats being in the minority.

So even if in the long term blacks would be better off if both parties had to compete for their vote, in the short term they likely wouldn't. And valuing the short over the long term is a very human trait, and not nearly as bad a one as is commonly supposed. For one thing, the long term often turns out to be different than we suppose.

Anonymous said...

(I try not to flinch when he tells me he's a princess...)

If it makes you feel any better, my son used to play with the 'My Little Pony' toys. If you are not familiar with them, they are miniature ponies of varying pastel colors with long, flowing, colorful hair. They come with tiny hairbrushes and jewels to put in the hair. I had to argue with the EX-husband and with various sitters, family members, etc. to leave my boy be and let him play with the toys of his own choosing. He got to express himself and... he grew up to be straight, not gay, as feared by those who worried about a little boy playing with such things.

Marty S said...

Steve: This conservative thinks you have a biased view of us. There are two types of change, those that make things better and those that make things worse. The trick is to pick the right ones. The conservative view of liberals, that is equivalent to your view of conservatives, is that all liberals are for change any change. The truth is that most changes are both good and bad, hurting some while helping others. My view is we should pick changes that do more good for the society as whole than harm. Much of the difference between liberals and conservatives is in how they evaluate the good or harm in a given change. Some of that may be self-interest, but a lot of it is just a different value system. As an example the abortion issue. This not a question that revolves around economic status. It is purely an issue revolving around each individuals personal value system

Anonymous said...

It will be fascinating to see how and if the comparatively rigid gender categories that have been fixtures of culture and much life in general survive the looming era of easy genetic modification. When previously sex-linked traits and abilities are maid fluid and arbitrary, when "women" and "men" can remake themselves at will into collages of hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine characteristics (Conan bears children for real?) what will become of human sexuality and the millenia-enduring institutions and sensibilities grounded in definite masculinity and femininity?


Currently, the humanity is of doubtful terrestrial significance and microscopic beyond insignificance cosmically. However, reasonable projections of our species' exponentially increasing technological powers reveal that we won't remain so limited. If humanity survives being confined to a single planet while possessing WMD's, we and our descendants will eventually obtain the ability to create and engineer worlds and life on planetary and stellar scales. Arthur C. Clarke, Olaf Stapleton, Freeman Dyson and Jalal ud Din (Persian Agnostic who thought gods would exist when humans attained their powers) have poetically predicted our future: though born of the dust, we shall one day eclipse the stars.

Josh Jasper said...

Steve, sex changes are for people with a psychological state known as "Gender Dysphoria", which some psychologists call Gender Identity Disorder. It's not about coveting joys of another gender, it's about literally knowing you were born with the wrong gender.

I doubt we'll see an increase in people changing physical gender just because of workplace or sports changes. We may see more people changing gender via hormones and surgery because of acceptance that it's an OK thing to do, and education about what it means.

Most Americans don't think much about gender as a social construct. We're taught not to talk much about it outside of pre-set unspoken rules because it's a conservative value to do so.

Anonymous said...

"We imitate the behaviors (and appearance) of our conquerers (note the Japanese bleaching their hair, getting boob jobs and plastic surgery for their eyes after WW2. Note black people trying to lighten their skin and straighten their hair.)"

For the brief bright interval of the late 60's and 70's, Blacks embraced and celebrated their natural hair (i.e. the Afro). Regrettably, such pride doesn't seem to have survived the conservative 80's, and today short-cropped or bald predominates among Black men and Black women almost uniformly straighten their hair (with the refreshing exception of braids a la Sarina and Venus Williams).

The increasing political clout and visibility of Asians and Latinos, as well as the greater acceptance of biracial celebrities such as Holly Berry and Sade, has enabled select non-Caucasian features to vie with Nordic physical attributes as symbols of sexual desirability and prestige. Whereas once Whites reviled Blacks for their comparatively prominent lips (the "Big Lips Sink Ships" slur), many Caucasian women are now fleshing out their lips with collagen injections. As China and India continue their ascent to superpower status, Asian features are almost certain to partially eclipse those of Caucasians as the dominant beauty standard. Come Century's End, will Whites and Blacks go under the knife for epicanthic folds, and will the Caucasians spend long hours under UV to attain Asianesque complexions a la the conquered Californians in Phillip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle (set in an alternate Universe where the Axis won WW2 and the West Coast is Japanese territory)?

Anonymous said...

"The natural human tendency is not to say: "this is how I see it" but "this is how it is." Not "I see it this way, you see it that way, how is this dualistic perception created?" but "You are wrong, and bad, and less than me.""
Steve, great post, lots of good thought in there.
I asked this in the comments to another entry, you may have missed it; what methodology do you use to differentiate right from wrong? Is everything relative or are there some universal truths?

Daniel Keys Moran said...

"I, for one, welcome our alien overlords."

Green skin and scales. I'm up for it.

Josh Jasper said...

Ethiopian Infidel -

Try China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh.

It's about (among other things) a future where the Chinese are the dominant power, and one American born part-Chinese is trying to masquerade as a full blood, hide being gay, and make a life for himself.

It's certainly one of the best SF novels tacking the issues of identity, appearance, human sexuality, and self acceptance.

Steve, if you've not read it yet, I highly recommend it. There are no fight scenes :-) , but it's invaluable in it's exploration of race, gender, and sexuality.

Marty S said...

Steve: re my above post. The title of Newt Gingrich's latest book is

Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works.

Here's a quote from the book.
"We can either keep doing things the way we have been , or we can create a brighter future. Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results." That is the way our system has been functioning. It is time to do something different."

Doesn't this sound a lot like it could have come from Obama instead of Gingrich.

On the subject of looks, here's a quote from my wife at breakfast today.
"Obama is going to win because of his looks. He is very appealing. He has that clean cut all American boy look. He exudes trust."

Brian Dunbar said...

Whereas once Whites reviled Blacks for their comparatively prominent lips (the "Big Lips Sink Ships" slur),

Hunh. I'd never heard that one. I googled ... two pages of hits. One is a description of grafitti on flickr, others link to a column of that title by Mark Steyn (talking about Laura Flynn Boyle), one is the title of a lesson plan/test (the subject is rain gauges).

That's one mighty obscure slur.

Anonymous said...

First, black folks don't always vote en masse for black folks, especially if they're republican. Obama is simply a democrat who has a fantastic shot at winning the presidency.

Two, the republican party is just a very very racist party. It's like asking why Jewish people don't vote for nazis. There are several things that would help the black masses: massive public infrastructure investment, massive investment in education, and probably a retooling of the justice system that seems structured to put young black men in jail over nonviolent crimes. The republicans, aside from spewing a more kind of obvious bigotry based on the racism of the southern strategy, are on the wrong side of all those issues. It should be noted that black people vote tactically its just that the GOP, as its currently composed, simply isn't a viable option. It would be nice to have a choice between the corporate dems and the greens for example...

Anonymous said...

josh jasper,

Thanks for recommending China Mountain Zhang. It's next on my reading list, once I finish Dawkin's The God Delusion.

Regarding Gingrich's inspiring, forward-focused words: Newt is one of the few politicians to enjoy direct counsel from a visionary Science Fiction author: Jerry Pournelle.

brian dunbar,

I perhaps erred in assuming a racial slur I heard on the 80's series Hill Street Blues was an actual epithet. Given that minstrel shows and "classic" racist cartoons featured Black caricatures with wildly exaggerated super-thick lips, the slur sounded credible as an "archaic" racist expression.

Brian Dunbar said...

the slur sounded credible as an "archaic" racist expression.

Archaic? Grump-grump - I'm 40. Hill Street Blue first aired when I was a teenager. You doggone young kids today .. and get off my lawn!


It's been discussed here how black slurs for white folks (honkey) seem to have been made up by the white folks who wrote for 'The Jeffersons'. Perhaps the writers for HSB were searching for an offensive-sounding slur that wasn't an actually existing slur.

Anonymous said...

josh has it right on
about sex change

I have a nephew who entered the world as my niece

the change up isn't done on a whim
it's done because one is IN THE WRONG BODY

Marty S said...

Phil: I'm a Republican and I can't think of a better place to put our tax money than education. My second priority, currently would be energy research and infrastructure would be fairly high on my list. Now as a conservative(conservative has to with philosophy while Republican relates to party you favor and not identical in my mind) I am concerned about how we accomplish the above. I don't believe we as a people can spend recklessly and get in debt over our heads no matter how worthy the cause so I believe we need to break up our budget into groups of 'must spend' and 'would like to spend'. I would do this by category, i.e must spend on education and would like to spend on education' The budget has to cover all the must spend items no matter our priorities, then if there is money left over we can spend it on 'would like to's' according to our priorities. The above is general description of my conservative spending philosophy the other part of the equation is how big a taxation bite are we one willing to live with and two what types of taxes should we use. I have my ideas there too, but listing and explaining them would take to much time, except to say that they should be designed not to hurt the economy.

Anonymous said...

ethiopian infidel: never heard the " big lips sink ships" slur hmm almost certainly a corruption of the wwII slogan "loose lips sink ships" basically all americans were supposed to be mindful of the war effort and not talk about anything that might be overheard by a spy.

As far as genetic gender tampering i dont think it is good or bad. if you really need to be a woman when you wereborn a man so be it or vice versa that there own choice. That being said i love women as god made them. Also wish hollywood would ditch the bleach and have the actresses eat a cheese burger or two. Bleach blonde wraiths are boring.

As far a human race being a geologic force and reaching the stars... we wont reach that point if we cant muster some sort of collective restaint / responsability to counter greed / wants. the human race is already a biological force with some pretty negative results.

Lastly Obama wont be elected because he is pretty although that helps. He will be elected because
1.he is smart / Charismatic
2. he is selling hope just like Ronnie Ray Gun back in the 80s
3. people are really sick of the republicans
4. he is attracting segments of the population that may be troublesome for the republicans to counter he appeals to the black voter placing many traditionally red states in play. + the youth vote. + new york and california.


Pagan Topologist said...

Ethiopian Infidel: I really enjoyed The God Delusion. Nevertheless, I found the stuff Dawkins hinted at in the last chapter to be the most important part. Religion is a matter of practice, not of belief, in my opinion. Gods and goddesses are constructs of the human mind, just as are mathematical objects such as non-separable Banach spaces or perfect circles. Both are very useful sometimes. The 'God is literal fact, just like the moons of Jupiter or the bombing of Pearl Harbor' viewpoint that the book attacks is not the point of religion at all, as I see it. Of course, I come from a Pagan perspective, having had a long and difficult escape from fundamentalist Christianity. Both atheism or agnosticism were seriously unsatisfying to me, but I do not understand why Dawkins dismisses polytheism and deism so quickly. I think that all the major monotheistic faiths are on balance harmful, which is a far more important aspect of the issue than whether the myths are "true."

Anonymous said...


I have great emapthy with your point of view
on the nature of the divine

I prefer to name aspects
of the divine
as wo/manifold
lots of those aspects as

there are so many dangers
inherent in the monotheistic
my God is better than your god
and if you don't believe in mine
you are bad enough to burn for eternity

it's such destructive shit

I'm for a very personal

which does not
claim to be a TRUTH

Anonymous said...

pagan topologist,

I hold the lie at the heart of Monotheism, i.e. that we are slaves born to grovel or burn before the deified likeness of an ignorant and psychotic tribal elder, to be the source of its harm. As Voltaire said, if we believe absurdities, we'll commit atrocities.

I find Polytheism interesting, and in the balance, less harmful than Monotheism. However, Polytheism repeats the dangerous deception intrinsic to most religions: that the Cosmos is driven by anthropomorphic, irrational forces that humans are obliged to propitiate, obey and fear.

I see no functional difference between Deism and Atheism. Both free humanity from the capricious and terrible tyranny of meddlesome gods and spirits and, by default, require reliance on reason and fortitude.

Marty S said...

I have to put my two cents in on the religion discussion. It really doesn't matter, if there is a god or not or which one a person chooses to worship. For many people their religion provides a crutch which helps them through difficult times. For some it helps them with self evaluation. To the extent it does these things it is good as long the members of one religion don't decide to force their beliefs on everyone else.

Anonymous said...


my personal brand of pantheistic polytheism
is more metaphoric than anything else
everything has spirit
there's no propitiating
obeying or fearing involved

mainly it involves
seeing the beauty in everything
even in chaos and disorder
and in making my own we marks
on the surface of things
as lovely as I can

Anonymous said...

marty s,

The problem is that the 2 major Monotheistic faiths, Christianity, and Islam, are dedicated to "forcing their beliefs on everyone else", with Islam in particular sanctifying violence (Jihad) as a legitimate vehicle for proselytism.