By Robert A. Vella
The dynamic of cultural polarization transpires in the following manner. A divisive imbalance or imbalances are created in society, typically economic in nature, which initially triggers escalating rancor between established groups and subsequently results in the fragmentation of such groups. The cultural identity which is necessary for functioning nation-states is destroyed, and the people self-segregate into increasingly smaller associations which bicker among themselves over a much wider and less vital range of issues.
In his review of Yuval Levin’s book, “The Fractured Republic.” New York Times columnist David Brooks astutely observed:
In case after case we’ve replaced attachments to large established institutions with commitments to looser and more flexible networks. Levin argues that the Internet did not cause this shift but embodies today’s individualistic, diffuse society.
This shift has created some unpleasant realities. Levin makes a nice distinction between centralization and consolidation. In economic, cultural and social terms, America is less centralized. But people have simultaneously concentrated off on the edges —- separated into areas of, say, concentrated wealth and concentrated poverty. The middle has hollowed out in sphere after sphere. Socially, politically and economically we’re living within “bifurcated concentration.”
Many academics, from across the political spectrum, have cited the precipitous decline in America’s education system as causing the anti-intellectualism and rejection of objective truths which are rising in this era of Postmodernity. But, whether cultural polarization has resulted from the political consequences of poor education, or from the failure of political leaders to prioritize social unity over partisan concerns, seems almost irrelevant now. We are where we are.
And, where America is right now cannot be seen in a very positive light. The political right has been taken over by its ultra-nationalist, quasi-fascist extremists led by the megalomaniac Trump, and the political left has split into various factions preoccupied with their own narrow agendas.
One of those left-wing factions, feminism, provides a current case study of how badly the situation can get. Hard-liners in the #MeToo movement have turned their anger towards more moderate voices in the vain hope of forcing some grand revelation about the nature of human sexuality. This has predictably elicited backlashes from many angles, particularly from men who do not see themselves as sexual criminals. The merits of the following story may or may not be valid but, regardless, help illustrate the point of this post.
From: Assemblywoman at forefront of #MeToo movement accused of sexual misconduct
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus who has been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment in the state Capitol, has herself become the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. The Bell Gardens Democrat said she would “participate fully” in an investigation.
Politico reported Thursday that two men said Garcia made improper advances toward them. One, a former legislative staffer, said Garcia groped his back and buttocks and attempted to grab his crotch during a legislative softball game in 2014.
The former staffer, Daniel Fierro, told his former boss, Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) about the incident several weeks ago, his office said. Calderon then reported the incident to the Assembly Rules Committee.
Gloria Jean Watkins (pen name bell hooks) is an American author, feminist, and social activist who wrote about the importance of inclusion, Extrapolating her work to the problem of cultural polarization provides a warning for all such movements which lose track of the larger societal picture. From Wikipedia:
Noting a lack of diverse voices in popular feminist theory, bell hooks published the book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center in 1984. In this book, she argues that those voices have been marginalized, and states: “To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body.” hooks argued that if feminism seeks to make women equal to men, then it is impossible because in Western society, not all men are equal. She claimed, “Women in lower class and poor groups, particularly those who are non-white, would not have defined women’s liberation as women gaining social equality with men since they are continually reminded in their everyday lives that all women do not share a common social status.”
She used the work as a platform to offer a new, more inclusive feminist theory. Her theory encouraged the long-standing idea of sisterhood but advocated for women to acknowledge their differences while still accepting each other. Hooks challenged feminists to consider gender’s relation to race, class, and sex, a concept known as intersectionality. She also argues for the importance of male involvement in the equality movement, stating that, in order for change to occur, men must do their part. Hooks also calls for a restructuring of the cultural framework of power, one that does not find oppression of others necessary.
“..advocated for women to acknowledge their differences while still accepting each other..” This concept is something we all, on the left, need to do. For those people marginalized by society, we’re more alike than different. We share the common goal to heard, be treated as equals, and to feel accepted. We’re stronger together than apart. I hope we learn this and use it to our advantage. There will never be power on the left if we stay as fragmented as we are.
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Very well stated, thanks.
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Robert, thanks for raising this issue from the male perspective. I suppose there will always be extremists on both sides of the spectrum in movements seeking societal changes, especially one such as women’s rights and women equality. Finding an acceptable middle ground seems out of reach. Women’s rights won decades ago are now under threat from the far-right.
Yes, women, too, can be sexual predators like their male counterpart. But, never forget, we humans live in a patriarchal world where men make the rules, define the punishment for breaking those rules, and enforce punishment on those determined as guilty. During my years of living as a woman, as well as one who also had to father two sons, I have observed that we-women have developed numerous techniques for survival and advancement in a world dominated by our men-folk. The woman you see today is the product of centuries of adaptation to male domination.
I agree with Bell Hooks: Women cannot gain equality with men without involvement and action from our male counterparts. I also agree that in our struggle for gender equality, we must also tackle racial and economic inequalities.
Our world is built upon the free labor of girls and women in the propagation and nurturing of our species. Changing that status quo will not come easy.
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Thanks, Ros. I must convey to you the alienation many men on the left are feeling these days regarding the #MeToo movement. This is not good, and it will hurt that cause. Trump and the far right represent a grave threat to all of humanity. It will require great determination and unity on our part to effectively counter them. Further splitting the left by gender will ruin our chances.
Rhetoric such as “men make the rules” have consequences. Yes, our societies are still mostly patriarchal, but most men are not in positions of power. I have never been in a position, nor have I ever attempted, to subjugate women in any way shape or form. On the contrary, I have always supported women’s rights. So, the use of that rhetoric makes me feel accused simply by the association of gender.
Recently, I was watching a sports talk program when the subject of #MeToo came up. A lady commentator (either Sarah Spain or Mina Kimes) said that in order to remedy the terrible problem of sexual abuse in college sports, innocent men would have to pay the price (i.e. lose their jobs or be criminally convicted). I was appalled. Not only does that violate the very basis of our legal system (i.e. innocent until proven guilty), it also incites war between the sexes and exacerbates our worsening cultural division and social fragmentation.
These tactics will not change the status quo which has oppressed women for untold millennia, and there is good reason to believe it will have the exact opposite effect.
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“Trump and the far right represent a grave threat to all of humanity. It will require great determination and unity on our part to effectively counter them. Further splitting the left by gender will ruin our chances.” $Amen$ to that, brother! The more the left fragments itself, the stronger Trump and his misogynistic cohorts become. We can NOT win the battle against the far right by having a war between the sexes within our ranks. That plays right into tRump’s hands. I, also, have done all I am able to do to fight for women’s rights. I’ve never hurt anyone–especially not by simply being male. When the finger of accusation points at me and says, “You’re male therefor your bad,” I want to fight back against it because it isn’t true nor is it fair. We can not win against suppression, misogyny, white privilege, child abuse, and racism if we remain divided. I’m afraid. I’m very afraid we will never win over the alt-right. They come together, and, as a minority, they now rule our country and threaten the whole world with their hate. I want them stomped out like the cockroaches they are. The ONLY way that happens is through organization and co-operation on the left, i.e., anyone who’s being repressed and abused by their rule of the land. I hope this happens, but I fear it never will.
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I agree completely. I have been wronged so many times by women that it could fill a novel, and that includes instances of sexual misconduct. However, I cast no aspersions onto the female gender because these inappropriate acts were committed by individuals who transgressed for a variety of reasons.
#MeToo is pushing this misandrist generalization of men for reasons which warrant great scrutiny. Even during the Civil Rights era did I not see blacks condemn the entire white race so blatantly, and if any aggrieved group could be so justified it was certainly them.
I’ve tried to help #MeToo see the folly of this kind of rhetoric, but to no avail. They seem to be motivated by hateful retribution and have their blinders on to reason. Their core issue, the very real problem of sexual misconduct, will suffer.
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Unfortunately, I think you’re right, and the end result will be a greater worsening of the situation.
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Robert, I use the word “men” in a generic sense. I am not accusing ALL men of being physical and sexual abusers. The institutions – religious, social, and political – that govern and control our lives, male and female alike, have endured for millennia because those in power – with the complicity and collaboration of both men and women – gain from the system of societal control of the masses of humanity.
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