Fox News and Jean-Paul Sartre and the Anti-Semite and the Jew

 

This quote from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay The Anti-Semite and the Jew, written in 1944, is remarkably relevant today – and I think provides a way forward for political discourse in the current era.

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past. It is not that they are afraid of being convinced. They fear only to appear ridiculous or to prejudice by their embarrassment their hope of winning over some third person to their side.

I’ve recently, out of a sense of perverse rubbernecking, taken to reading Fox News Facebook page thread comments.

Where it might be tempting to dismiss them all as Russian Trolls – this would be to ignore that a significant chunk of people really do say and act the way they do – without being part of a concerted, organised effort.

Reading the comments – you get a sense of the leaps in reasoning people make to  justify the double standards required to hold two simultaneous positions.

For example:

  • Sarah Sanders being kicked out of a restuarant is uncivil and discrimination, but a baker refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding is ok, because the cake is a ‘custom job’.
  • The shooting of journalists at The Capital newspaper is the fault of Maxine Waters, for here recent remarks about uncivility, (and just ignore Trump’s remarks about journalists being the enemy).
  • It’s ok to hold off confirming Merrick Garland because that was a presidential election, but this one is a mid-term election.
  • Name calling and violence and uncivility is bad, but ignore it when Trump and the alt-right do it.
  • Criticise any suggestion that left should push back, but ignore Trumps calls for ‘bomb their families’, ‘bring back waterboarding and worse’, ‘don’t treat them too gently’ etc.

Reading these comments can be disheartening, knowing that there are apparently lots of real world people that genuinely think this way.

It can therefore be tempting to want to jump into the comments section to point out the flaws in their thinking – in an attempt to change their mind, and change the way they think.

However – as the Sartre quote suggests – anti-Semites, and if we extend this to the modern equivilent of anti-Semites, are aware that their their arguments aren’t consistent. They don’t care, and infact they relish in it, winning by dragging the people into what was a mud fight from the start.

The solution then – is not to completely ignore them – but to not play on their terms. Keep focused on what the truth of the matter is – and make sure that narrative is onmipresent (it’s when the objective truth of a situation is hidden from a good chunk of the population, that a 1984 style dictatorship is possible).

This perhaps does mean that posting in Fox News threads is a good idea – but not as a response to commentators narratives – but just reminding everyone what the context is.

 

 

Advertisements

My experience with the criminal justice system.

From ages 20-25 I was doing graffiti and getting caught and going through the New Zealand criminal justice system.

One person involved in one of my arrests said I was ‘incorrigible’ . It was the first time I’d heard that term, and the term fits.

(of a person or their behaviour) not able to be changed or reformed.

You get a few free passes in the criminal – being educated and white probably helps.

My diversion was used in in my first week since leaving home – when I was caught shoplifting a coffee grinder. I spent three days sweeping graves and vacuuming the crematorium lobby.

I got caught shoplifting gumboots that I impulsively walked out of the The Warehouse wearing. The staff were tipped off by old ladies fundraising outside who noticed that I wasn’t wearing the gumboots when I walked in. I was arrested and when I went to court I told the duty solicitor that I’d just forgotten to pay for them, as  evidenced by that I’d bought $80 worth of other stuff – and he convinced the police to drop the charges.

My third free pass was being caught doing graffiti in either Timaru or Oamaru. I was hitchhiking, and couldn’t pass up putting my tag on a big blank wall in the middle of day.

This lead to several members of the public making a concerted effort to chase me down, and I was arrested, and made to scrub the tag off. I was given a discharge without conviction.

But after that – my arrests started having teeth – first fines, then the fines were commuted to community service. I did two stints of community service (the second being 200 hours) and received a jail warning. My final conviction was a second jail warning and a sentence to a year’s intensive supervision – which involved regularly checking in with my probation officer.

It was at this point, and prior to the actual conviction, that I was committed to rehabilitation – the prospect of a jail sentence scared me – and I was aware that a jail sentence would mean I wouldn’t be eligible for a conviction clean slate, under Nandor Tanczos’ clean slate legislation. So I enrolled in a university course, and arranged to lived with my mum in the case that I the judge decided to impose a sentence of home detention. No doubt this also served to show some efforts at reform in the eyes of the sentencing judge (although the sentencing hearing was all of five minutes).

One of the first meetings I had with the probation officer I think is a profound reflection of the resourcing the the criminal justice system has. The PO when through a questionnaire assessing various social needs – did I use drugs, how often did I drink, did I have debt etc. One of the questions was – did I gamble?. I didn’t use the pokies – but at the time I did play online poker. So the probation officer referred me to gambling counselling. This was – probably the single most effective thing the justice system did for my rehabilitation (aside from perhaps the clean slate legislation) – I didn’t talk about gambling with the gambling counsellor, but was able to talk about anything else.

Experience of community service

I did I believe two stints of community service. I think one was for 80 hours, and the other for 200 hours.

The experience of community service changes, depending on the location. In my experience, Paeroa had a more professional feel about it, whereas Motueka the probies and the offenders seemed chummy – I even witnessed a probie smoking weed openly with some of the offenders.

Community service is usually just wasting time. Sometimes we did things that were clearly of value – mowing lawns for a bowls club, or weeding and laying down weed matting for a marae. But in Motueka for example – the fallback task was going to hill and removing gorse – never at a rate that would completely eradicate it. Maybe I’m being cynical. I’d be curious to see what the state of that hill is now.

The work was never particularly hard or urgent. There was a lot of shovel leaning.

A lot of the people I was on community service with were there for car offences. They’d rack up tens of thousands of dollars of fines for driving warrantless cars or not having a license – and then get those fines converted to community service. The conversion rate was around $50/hr.

Drunk driving was another common offence.

One guy I talked to – said he was on for evading police. He said he was transporting a large amount of meth in his car and police tried to pull him over. Rather than risk a ten-year prison sentence, he boosted it, driving dangerously to escape the police. The police still caught up with him later – but of course the dangerous driving is a far lesser charge than being caught with meth. It’s always possible that he was lying, but the story makes sense to me.

In many respects, I was quite different to the offenders – educated, well spoken, not a smoker. I would suggest, quite a pleasant kind of offender to deal with. But on the other hand – I was very much the same – a young male making short-sighted and irrationally costly decisions.

Experience of the police and the courts.

For the overwhelming most part – my experience of the police has been that they’ve been respectful and professional. Of the 10-15 times I was arrested, I can only recall being handcuffed twice. Once a standard hands-behind-my-back when being arrested during daylight in Dunedin – and another time hands-in-front when they were doing a prisoner transfer to a town an hour away where the court was, after deciding they were opposing bail.

This was to my advantage – on two separate occasions I was able to get rid of drugs I had on my person, once by hiding them beneath the seat – and the other time,  I ate the cannabis with a cop right next to me – as she had turned away. Thirty minutes later, while being booked at the police station, it started coming on.

I have two negative experiences I can speak of. One is – after being arrested by a detective in Christchurch, after he happened to be driving past as I was peeing on a tree – in the police cells, he’d give me these little shoves. It sounds minor – but it felt disrespectful and as if he was egging me on to react to it. 

The other was, having about to start spray painting a wall, a women in a nearby building yelled at me and I took off running. The police caught me – searched my bag, and arrested me. The wall was already covered in graffiti – and they just took a photo of any old tag (not mine – I hadn’t actually started painting the wall yet) and told the court that’s what I’d painted.

This was actually my first conviction. I represented myself at trial – I didn’t win – the judge putting value on the witness’s testimony – who’d said that she’d seen me painting the wall. I imagine I might have gotten off if I did have a lawyer – part of the evidence they’d confiscated was a sketchbook of my tags that clearly didn’t match the photo they took.

Though, the duty solicitors aren’t always good. Their job is just as much to help funnel people through the grinder that is the court system, as it is to help the defendants. I had one experience where due to some kind of paperwork error – I’d turned up to court to find that there was a warrant for my arrest for failing to turn up to court in another town – something I’d arranged to have changed. I’d told the duty solicitor this – and he neglected to mention it to the judge – and entered a guilty plea for it. So I have a conviction for failing to appear in court on my record, which is unwarranted – and is probably far too late to fix now.

How I would suggest improving the criminal justice system.

I have no doubt that in my case, an intervention could have been done at my very first arrest that might have prevented a continuing life of crime. A conversation around ‘what actually are you doing here? – Are you aware of the consequences for your life in ten and twenty years?’. Though – chances are I would have given some spiel about the system and not being beholden to the man or something.

It wouldn’t be the police’s responsibility to do this intervention – instead – what I would suggest is that early diversion and sentencing involves a compulsory visit to some kind of trained therapist or psychologist. Of course – the problem is – I imagine the justice system simply doesn’t have that kind of money.

The alternative I suppose – would to put my community hooks in. This already exists – often community service is done working at an op shop etc, under the direct supervision of the op shop and not probation officers. Presumably if community counselling exists – then offenders could be referred to community counselling at that be taken in consideration at sentencing.

At least in my experience – this didn’t happen, but perhaps it’s getting more common as the case of when my bike was stolen would suggest.

 

The boy who cried identity politics – my take on the Sam Harris / Ezra Klein race and IQ feud.

A recently online slap fight has emerged between progressive but critical, atheist and philosophy Sam Harris and Ezra Klein a progressive media figure, and former head editor of Vox.

Both of these are men who express nuanced and thoughtful opinions, and I admire and respect both.

The slap fight started as a result of Sam Harris interviewing Charles Murray, a controversial author who co-authored The Bell Curve, a book about intelligence, that controversially expresses the view that it is likely that there is some innate, gene based difference in intelligence between ethnic groups.

Vox then published a piece written by three scientists who criticised Murray’s views, and Harris’s facilitation of the interview; there was more back and forth, and the ordeal culminated in Harris publishing the email exchange between himself and Klein – one where Harris gets progressively more agitated, something he acknowledges himself.

The essence of the dispute, in my view, boils down to two main disagreements:

  • Whether the science that Charles Murray espouses is correct.
  • Whether the criticisms of Charles Murray are based on dogmatic identity politics and liberal taboos.

Having listened to the original podcast, and mostly read several of the blogs posts and the emails, I don’t actually feel qualified to comment on the science one way or another, and I think this demonstrates the difficulty in discussing topics such as this.

I can however weigh in on how information has been presented, or at least express how it all looks to me – a fairly intelligent non-expert, with no dog in the race.

Ultimately I’m of the opinion that Harris is guilty of what he is accusing his critics of – he dismisses criticisms as a conspiracy against him, rather than on their merits and he makes disingenuous arguments or neglects context.

At this point, I think it’s worth taking some time to talk about what I’m doing here. I was reluctant to start writing this piece – I think a big part of what’s wrong with the world is a culture of outrage addiction, and the feeling of needing to judge who’s right and who’s wrong.
It’s ironic then, that my previous paragraph includes ‘Harris is guilty of…’.

But instead, lets instead use this case as an exercise in ‘How do we decide the truth of some complex claim? Who do we decide to trust?’.

The way I’ll present this – is looking at the sources as they’re presented in Harris’s blogpost/email.

The Waking Up Podcast #73 – ‘Forbidden Knowledge’ with Charles Murray.

You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is two hours long.

On my first listen certainly Harris and Murray sound like reasonable people. This isn’t a conversation where someone is out and out suggesting that there is a biological justification for race based class strata.

Here’s a few notable points made that I can remember:

  • IQ is considered a good predictor of success, and the notion that is culturally biased is fallacious.
  • Intelligence, like other traits like height, is a product of both environment and genetics.
    • For example: being tall is highly heritable, but if you are malnourished you won’t grow to be tall.
    • If you can observe differences between corn grown in the same area, the cause is probably genetics. If you take genetically identical corn and grow it in different areas, they will grow differently.
  • Success (eg academic success in high level physics) requires a high baseline of innate intelligence, but then the right circumstances and character on top of that. (ie. Innate intelligence is necessary, but not sufficient for success).
  • Affirmative action can backfire, where transplanting some black students in to an elite school may cause them to have less success than they might have had a lower level school, because they simply don’t have the higher enough level of innate intelligence.
  • Murray makes the point that in criticising his book, some of the critics he knew personally must have been lying, and knew they were lying.

Essentially – Harris and Murray acknowledge that a lot of intelligence is likely the result of environment, but make the argument that ‘but some of it is still innate’.

They make a point of offering the caveats that on an individual level – one shouldn’t discriminate, and assume that someone is less intelligent because they’re black for example, because that would be making error – at an individual level there would likely be more variance in intelligence determined by factors other than race.

There’s a couple of observations I’d like to make here:

  • The tone of the interview I thought was deceptive in that he’s presented as a biologist/sociologist, but the conversation moves to more discussions of policy, (eg, the note on affirmative action). Perhaps this criticism is unfair – after all Murray’s point may more be ‘given that there are these innate differences between races, public policy should reflect that’.
    • Sam could have done his audience a favour in talking about some of Murray’s credentials – the work he has done has been for conservative think tanks. Though, again, perhaps this is an unfair criticism – criticise the merits of the argument, not who’s saying it. But I would argue that who is saying it, is paramount in determining whether you trust what that person is saying.
  • When I first heard the point about his critics lying, I thought ‘Oh, that’s awful!’. But on reflection – perhaps it’s Murray that is lying here?

The first blog response – ‘Charles Murray is once again peddling junk science about race and IQ’ by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett.
You can read the post here.

In the Sam Harris post, he characterises this post as ‘a disingenuous hit piece’. This is a bunk characterisation. This post is mostly addressing Charles Murray on the science, but also making observations on how Harris agrees with him.

It also highlights the Flynn effect, which shows that IQ across the board has been increasing, and uses this to make the case that environmental factors are largely what determine intelligence. They criticise Harris for not strongly enough challenging Murray on this point.

Finally, they conclude with why they see Murray’s views as dangerous – because endorsing those views mean to say ‘therefore we shouldn’t do anything about racial inequality’. (And in fact, Murray’s criticism of affirmative action does seem to lend itself to that policy position).

Another post – ‘There’s still no good reason to believe black-white IQ differences are due to genes’ by Eric Turkheimer, Kathryn Paige Harden, and Richard E. Nisbett.

You can read the post here.

Harris characterises this post as Ezra Klein ‘keeping at it’. It’s curious that Harris’s beef is with Klein here. He’s not the author of these posts – he’s the former editor of Vox.

Again, this post is challenging Murray on the science, and criticising Harris for not challenging Murray.

In this post they address some criticisms of their earlier post.

What frustrates me about Harris’s views here – is he that he argues that these posts dogmatic identity politics, when it’s clear that they’re not. They’re comprehensively talking science.

A post by Ezra Klein ‘ Sam Harris, Charles Murrary, and the allure of race science’.

You can read the post here.

Finally a post by Ezra Klein. Harris characterises this as ‘another volley’.
In this post we’re getting into the mud.

It starts by quoting a tweet by Harris: (note that the tweet quotes a tweet by Charles Murray, who is quoting another person, who is quoting another person. For full context it’s best to click through.).

At the risk of sounding like one of the very people Harris is accusing the Vox writers of being – Harris sounds like an alt-right troll here – using hyperbole to suggest that criticisms of Harris and Murray are akin to accusations of thought-crime.

This post doesn’t get into the science, but instead talks about how the conversation of race and genetics has been used in history.

Some thoughts about Harris’s tone so far.

I think it’s clear that Harris had an agenda from the start. He feels that Murray had been unfairly treated in the reception of his book, and then in recent events at Middlebury College where Murray’s host had been assaulted.

I think then, Harris felt the need to give a safe platform the even the scales as it were.
I should be clear – I agree with Harris and others, that there is a toxic element amongst progressives, that favours narrative over the truth and has a dogmatic or authoritarian element. The assault is an example of this.

However, I think Harris makes the mistake of conflating these toxic elements with the criticisms by the Vox writers.
In a way, Harris is doing the same thing he is criticising toxic identity politics of. Where identity politics might take a genuine legitimate grievance, for example, racism, and then use that label to shut down any narrative they’re uncomfortable with, Harris does the same with accusations of identity politics. He now faces of positions of being the boy who cried wolf. Or in this case, the boy who cried identity politics.

The Emails

The emails are really where this turns to shit.
The first email is a long email from Klein, where Ezra, to my professional admiration, goes to lengths to create a conciliatory tone. Now that I think about it, the whole thing feels a little bit like tip toeing around the eggshells of an abusive partner.

Klein reiterates the argument, as he sees it, as presented by Murray, and then reiterates what it is that the Vox writers disagreed on. He acknowledges one mistake they made, in saying that the Flynn effect wasn’t discussed at all.

Harris’s response is curt.

He describes the writers’ work as shoddy, and says that it’s part of a moral panic. He acknowledges that his interest in talking to Murray isn’t so much about the genetic basis of intelligence, but addressing this moral panic:

Again, my desire to speak with Murray was not based on a prior interest in the genetic basis of intelligence—much less a fascination for racial differences in intelligence. Rather, it was out of my growing concern over how fraught our conversations on politically charged topics have become.

He accuses on of the writers of manipulating the data to fit a narrative:

but most of what I’ve seen from Nisbett on the topic of IQ betrays his prior ideological commitments. He knows what he wants the data to say, and he will twist them until he gets the answer he finds consoling.

(To his credit: the book review he mentions is worth at least reading the abstract of. )

He uses more sarcasm:

Yes, it is very hard to wish it away.

He constructs a strawman:

This is not an “anodyne” claim meant to conceal our white supremacy (as the authors suggest)

(I saw no claim that Harris and Murray were attempting to conceal their white supremacy).
Sam clearly feels like he’s a victim:

There are two points here: how the authors treated me, and how they treated Murray. I used that quote from Flynn in precisely the way they said I neglected to use it, so their attack on me is totally unfair.

This is where I’m perplexed. I didn’t feel like Harris was particularly harshly criticised. The worst he gets is the suggestion that he’s naïve or that he’s intellectually lazy, or unable to hold Murray to account. They’re hardly vicious attacks.
He makes a point on my first read stood out as a gross underappreciation of systemic racism:

If Flynn is right, then the mean IQs of African American children who are second- and third-generation upper middle class should have converged with those of the children of upper-middle-class whites, but (as far as I understand) they haven’t.

This would assume that being upper middle class is the only variable that affects intelligence, and not, you know unconscious racism on the parts of their teachers, etc.
Harris does make a point that I think is reasonable:

The thrust of the Vox piece is to distort Murray’s clearly stated thesis: He doesn’t know how much of interracial IQ difference is genetic and how much is environmental, and he suspects that both are involved.

This is what how I heard the interview too. My understanding is that this view can be criticised in two ways:

  • That even this is overstating how much biology plays
  • That the general tone of the discussion is a dog whistle for tolerating racism. More on this later.

Ezra responds:
He frames the disagreement the same way I do:

1. A dispute over the quality of and consensus about the science Murray discusses and the conclusions drawn from that science
2. Whether the article we published was part of some “machinery of defamation,” or in Heier’s terms, whether it framed the conversation “as inherently racist and malevolent.”

He acknowledges Harris’s claim that the criticism are the result of a moral panic, but criticises the way he selectively chooses his sources.

This is a moral panic, an effort to silence, a refusal to follow where the evidence goes, an issue where people lose their critical faculties and fall into a braindead feel-goodism, etc. In some ways, which side of the debate you fall on seems to be taken here as a test of legitimacy: The academics who agree with you are taken seriously, whereas you dismiss someone like Nisbett, who has done a lot of research in this space, very quickly.

And Ezra suggests regarding the interaction between themselves, that Ezra isn’t the best person to talk to regarding race and IQ, but that talking about the problem identity politics might be something they could discuss.

After this the exchange gets to a ‘we can’t seem to agree here’ stage.

Harris says that Klein is seeming less reasonable.

I think we get into the nuts of why Harris seems offended:

 You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my intellectual integrity. At a minimum, you claimed that I was taken in by Murray, because I didn’t know enough of the relevant science
You published an article (and tweets) that directly attacked my moral integrity. Murray is “dangerous,” and my treating him as a free speech case is “disastrous.” We are “racialists” (this is scarcely a euphemism for “racist”). There is no way to read that article (or your tweets) without concluding that Murray and I are unconscionably reckless (if not actually bad) people.

And he also suggests that Klein in the emails is putting on a polite show, but is remaining deceitful, an obseravation he repeats in his notes about the emails.

In your email, you seem to deny both these points—but they are not deniable.

There’s some back and forth about whether Harris was called a ‘racialist’. Ezra quotes the text:

We hope we have made it clear that a realistic acceptance of the facts about intelligence and genetics, tempered with an appreciation of the complexities and gaps in evidence and interpretation, does not commit the thoughtful scholar to Murrayism in either its right-leaning mainstream version or its more toxically racialist forms. We are absolute supporters of free speech in general and an open marketplace of ideas on campus in particular, but poorly informed scientific speculation should nevertheless be called out for what it is.

Some final thoughts

I have to wonder whether Harris was having a bad day(s) when he exchanged these emails, and then decided to publish them.

It’s something that I’m self-conscious of myself – that sometimes I’ll blurt something out and be less diplomatic than would be helpful to my cause. And I’m not an already successful podcaster or author.

But it does I think point to something I suspect about the identity-politics-critical movement – the iconic example being Jordan Peterson, where a legitimate criticism of identity politics can morph into giving a pass to equally disingenuous alt-right politics. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed it on Sam Harris’s podcast – there was another episode that gave me pause too, but I’m not sure which one it is.
An irony is, at the time this feud was going down Harris published podcast #121 – White Power – an interview with former white supremacist Christian Picciolini.

In it, they discuss the changing rhetoric of white supremacists, moving from ‘white supremacist’ to ‘white nationalist’ or ‘alt-right’, from ‘global Jewish conspiracy’ to ‘globalism’ – all in an attempt to make their politics sound more innocuous.

It’s ironic then, that Harris wittingly or not, fails to appreciate that context that discussions of race and IQ occurs in, and doesn’t seem to seriously consider that he’s taking part in this toning down of racist rhetoric.

This isn’t to suggest that Murray is infact a secret white supremacist. But certainly it’s reasonable to ask if he is.

Overall – I hope that this was just Sam Harris having a bad week. The alternative to consider that he’s becoming more cynical.

It’s something I wonder about myself – I imagine, that but for that I have older sisters with strong personalities and that I live in a fairly safe and forgiving society, I could easily be alt-right kind of person. Yet, for all my own criticisms of identity politics, I remain optimistic, and not cynical asshole. What is it that causes some intelligent men to go the path of alt-right, and others to remain progressive, like Ezra Klein has? I’d argue the difference is cynicism – but what causes one to become cynical?

A letter I wrote to the Minister of Education re: sexual consent education, and its response.

In response to a rape jokes scandal in a New Zealand school, the then Minister of Education Hekia Parata ruled out compulsory consent education – saying that it was best addressed in the family.

I sent an email to here, and here’s the response I got.

I wrote:

Hi Hekia.

I write to regarding the comments you made as reported in this RNZ article: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/326678/wellington-college-students-suspended-for-rape-comments

“Today, Education Minister Hekia Parata ruled out introducing compulsory education around sexual consent in high schools, saying the subject was best addressed in a family setting.

Ms Parata said the issue was a conversation for parents to have with their children, and schools had the freedom to supplement the pupils’ education if they wanted to.”

For context, I’m 31 year old pakeha male.

I think this is a disappointingly regressive attitude.

I got my sex education in 1997-2000. It covered use of condoms, STIs and pregnancy. I wish it had covered sexual consent, because there are certain regrettable situations I’ve been involved in which consent education might have prevented.

I think compulsory consent education is a no brainer, if not a bit of minefield to navigate.

All the best,

David Johnston

The response: (PDF)

Dear David

The Minister of Education, Hon Hekia Parata, has asked me to reply to your email of 15 March 2017 about the introduction of compulsory education around sexual consent.

Teaching children and young people respect for others is a responsibility for all of us; something they learn at home and school, both in what they are told, and what they observe around them.

As part of this shared responsibility, The New Zealand Curriculum recognises that schools work with children and young people on the skills they need to navigate personal relationships and sexual identity.

Sexuality education is a compulsory part of our health and physical education curriculum, which schools must deliver in Years 1 to 10. The Ministry of Education expects schools to follow the guidance we issued in 2015, this can be found at http://health.tki.org.nz/Teaching-in-HPE/Policy-guidelines/Sexuality-education-a-guide-for-principals-boards-of-trustees-and-teachers This guidance spells out what should be covered by sexuality education. For secondary schools, that detail sets out a clear pathway through topics including consent, coercion and sexual violence.

Our guidance puts identity and sexuality firmly in the context of relationships with others. It covers the skills of self-knowledge, assertiveness and caring that are central to healthy relationships. Students learn about personal boundaries in sexuality education. From the beginning, we expect schools to teach children to identify safe and unsafe touching and the importance of respect. By Years 6 to 7, students are identifying pressures from others and developing assertiveness strategies.

Schools are required to consult with their communities every two years, or more often, about how they teach sexuality education. It is one of the reasons there is variation from school to school in teaching this subject. Any teaching programme discussing consent requires an understanding of empathy and respect for others’ feelings. So at the heart of sexuality education, again from a young age, is material on affirming the feelings and beliefs of others.

Many secondary schools and communities include consent in their sexuality education. Many schools also hold forums outside scheduled classes where important issues such as consent, coercion and safety in intimate relationships can be debated and discussed.

We encourage all schools to look at what they are doing on sexuality education with their school community.

Thank you for taking the time to share your views.

Glen Johnson
Acting Group Manager Pathways and Progress Early Learning and Student Achievement

It’s an interesting response – pretty comprehensive and pro-consent education – and completely at odds with Hekia’s comment.

The four kinds of National voter.

  1. The will-always-vote-National voter

    This voter supports National the same way a sports fan supports a particular team. It’s likely that they vote the same way their parents did. It’s not a kind of support that comes from consideration of policy, rather it’s just backing a team.

  2. The house-owning voter

    Although not explicitly – National pretty much ran on a policy of not doing anything about the housing crisis. Their single housing specific policy was to increase the first home buyer grant, which is great if you’re the one selling your house. There’s $10,000 more you can sell your house for.

    I think a lot of kiwis who have already bought houses, don’t want to see an end to the housing crisis. They want to see houses continue to rise – so they can double their money like they’ve seen others do.

  3. The I-don’t-like-beneficiaries voter

    I think a lot of New Zealanders are sick of what they see as a perverse incentive to welfare dependency in New Zealand – and they’re not without merit.

    The single thing I’m most critical of Labour and Green about is their head-in-the-sand ‘everybody should have kids if they want them’ attitude. For educated middle class New Zealanders who put off having kids till they’re in their 30s, seeing a system that seems to enable people who care about their kids far less they do, they can’t abide by.

  4. The I-believed-Nationals-lies voter

    National conducted a campaign of fear mongering about inheritance taxes, and lies about Labour increasing income tax or not budgeting properly.

    This has always been National’s strategy – portray Labour as idealistic but incompetent, and that somehow ‘greedy = good business sense’- ignoring that during the last Labour government – they managed to quite successfully produce a budget surplus.

The psychopath class.

Let me start by explaining how my political views have developed.

In my teens and early 20s I was attracted towards anarchism. I held conspiratorial beliefs, include that 9/11 was an inside job and I genuinely believed the 2012 prophecy.

As I got older and started seeing through the quasi-religious conspiracies prevalent in the anarchist/hippy social circles and I also developed an appreciation for the genuine quality of educated working and relatively rich professionals. I developed an appreciation that the world is getting better in many regards – literacy is prevalent, disease is no longer a common part of life, and people are more free to choose their careers.

I’m on a backswing now – and I’m convinced that the world is in a large part, ruled by pyschopaths who care little for the experience of everyone else on Earth.

The average intelligent, empathetic person, like myself or yourself – isn’t necessarily very motivated to climb up the ladders of power or wealth. Instead, for many of us, we’d opt to choose a career we enjoy, or spending time with our friends.

Let’s acknowledge that some people are genuine psychopaths who have no problem inflicting misery on others. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have good risk assessment capabilities, and thus don’t necesserily commit crimes or overt social infractions – as they recognise the harm that would produce to themselves.

Where an intelligent empath may not be motivated to climb the ladders or power and wealth, these psychopaths are.

The problem with the world isn’t that there aren’t enough good people. It’s that the good people aren’t motivated by power, and the bad people disproptionately are.

Some good people are idealists and do seek to move toward power to influence for the better – and this is a good thing. I think we should do more to talk about whether the people we are voting for and hiring, are self serving psychopaths, or people who have the interests of the world at heart.

Mental Health Awareness Week and male tears.

Mental health awareness week has highlighted an interesting theme in gender politics.

I’ve long thought that talk of delicious male tears and other ‘ironic misandry’ is toxic and unhelpful. MHAW highlights where it’s most damaging.

Here’s some example posts I’ve been seeing:

There’s also Terry Crew’s vulnerable revelation about his experience as a victim of sexual assault, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein saga.

This kind of appreciation that it’s ok to be vulnerable and it’s good to talk talk about your feelings runs into an uncomfortable friction with some themes amongst internet feminism – mocking male fragility and male tears.

bahar-mustafa-white-men-diversity-ban-male-tears-killallmen-featured-image

If we google ‘male tears feminism’ we get a few good articles on the top page:

Slate.com: The Rise of the Ironic Man-Hater – Summary: Ironic misandry is ‘reductio ad absurdum’ – intentionally exaggerating the stereotype of feminists as man haters to point out how absurd it is.

Time.com: Ironic Misandry: Why Feminists Pretending to Hate Men Isn’t Funny – Summary: Even if ironic misandry is in jest – it’s bad PR for feminism to use it.

The Guardian: Feminists don’t hate men. But it wouldn’t matter if we did – Summary: Misandry is a way of blowing off steam and men complaining about it grasping at straws to find victimhood.

I’ll concede that being the victim of disrespectful jokes doesn’t entail the same amount of harm as being subject to sexual assault or being systemically paid less.

I would argue that ‘male tears’, ‘#killallmen’ jokes are more on par with ‘make me a sandwich’ and rape jokes.

A point that the slate article makes – is that genuine feminist men are ok with these jokes:

“The men who get annoyed by misandry jokes are in my experience universally brittle, insecure, humorless weenies with victim complexes,” while the “many intelligent, warm, confident feminist men in my life … mostly get the joke immediately and play along. They’re not worried I actually want to milk them for their tears.”

This is similar to saying that the pledges in a hazing ritual are actually ok with the hazing. They might say that – and the harm of the hazing may be outweighed by their desire for social approval – but that doesn’t making the hazing ok.

It’s a form of gaslighting to suggest that – ‘if you’re not ok with being the subject of bullying – it’s because you’re not a good person’.

It may be that many men simply don’t care – but we should acknowledge that some men are more sensitive than others. The idea that a good man is an insensitive one – is precisely the conception of traditional norms of masculinity.

The reason that ‘male tears’ is such an effective insult, is because goes to the heart of the traditional conception of what it is to be a man. Speaking up about it – only exposes one to more ridicule – revealing oneself to be a weak man with feelings.

It’s precisely having feelings, I imagine, that causes men to kill themselves – which they do at about three times the rate that women do – depending on what part of the world you look at.

The argument that the misandry is merely ironic identically reflects the arguments that many on the alt-right make about using racist terminology.

For example, Jeffry Lord tweeted ‘Seig heil’ and later defended it as ironic mocking of white supremacists.

If you’re interested in reading more – here’s a good article by Vox about ‘ironic racism’ and the alt-right.

There is a key difference of course – alt right ‘ironic racism’ is enforcing an existing dynamic, whereas feminist ‘ironic misandry’ seeks to flip an existing dynamic.

But in either case – they’re both toxic and bigoted. Ironic misandry is bullying, basically. I have a very hard time believing that someone who thinks it’s ok to mock male emotional vulnerability has men’s interests at heart.