Rape and Social Responsibility

I saw on a friend’s Twitter feed and another friend’s Facebook page that a teenage girl was the victim of a 2 hour long gang rape that had people watching on and some of those in the audience decided to become a part of the show.  I was and continue to be stunned by this piece of news.  The rape happened on the girl’s high school campus, which was hosting a homecoming dance.  She left the dance, somehow got caught up with a few guys drinking in a back corner of campus and they proceeded to beat the mess out of her and rape her…and somehow garnered a PARTICIPATING AUDIENCE.

Why do I call them participants?  Because of their glaring omission of their moral responsibility to prevent the unnecessary and preventable pain of others.  It is, I repeat, our moral responsibility as humans, equal under the sun, to prevent whatever preventable pain can be prevented and to alleviate and prevent any unnecessary pain of ourselves and others whenever possible.

Why do I call them participants?  Because of their wanton disrespect for human life to take videos and photos of the attack.  This implicit participation is just another slap in the face of their moral responsibility and also a refusal, as the photos and videos of this poor girl’s attack will always be around as unnecessary pain, remnants of something no person should ever have to endure.

Why do I call them participants?  Because some of these men decided to join in on the rape.  That this distinction needs to be made is a damn shame, but if you’re not sure, read the bold print:

THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A GANGBANG AND A GANG RAPE!

A gangbang (which to me ain’t much better but there is, as far as I’m concerned, a key difference between the two) involves a bunch of men and a WILLING participant(s).  The woman involved in the gangbang actually wanted the gangbang (also known as a train) to occur.

A gang rape involves a bunch of men and an UNWILLING participant(s).  She had no desire to have sex with a bunch of men – she was forced to through physical violence and physical restraint or psychological torture (threats on her life).

Hopefully we all understand the “minutia” between the two.

The onlookers may not be legally culpable, but they're definitely morally culpable.

Back to the matter at hand, and some of you might wonder why I’m holding so much responsibility on the onlookers, the bystanders, those who may not have penetrated the young woman but aided in the penetration by standing and watching.  It’s because of that moral imperative I stressed above – we have a responsibility to one another to, at the very least, help protect each other’s lives.  Rousseau spoke about how men have one moral impulse – pity.  Pity should have made an onlooker take notice and step in.  Sure, I understand – they might turn around and kick your ass for ruining their fun.  But was it worth it to witness someone being violated?  You saved yourself at the unnecessary expense of another, and what’s worse is you didn’t save yourself because you didn’t risk yourself.  You were just there.  And that’s just not good enough.

I’m not going to go with the emotional route (what if that was your daughter/sister/mother/etc.), because for the onlooker, it wasn’t so it didn’t matter to him.  There’s no emotional tie there – they have no need to emotionally care.  They should, however, have a need for a moral care.  I don’t have to care about someone to pity them, if I were to use Rousseau’s moral impulse, but I do need to recognize that the person is at a disadvantage somehow and that they need a helping hand.

I wonder what went through their mind, what their rationale was for watching someone’s violation.  Certainly people have always enjoyed a good fight, usually because of the equality of the pugilists and because you don’t know who’s going to win.  We enjoy seeing some violence because of our bloodthirst.  We enjoy sex for a myriad of reasons.  Combine all three, and in someone’s sick mind you have the makings for why they enjoyed watching a gang rape.  In that sick mind, it’s like a new fight everytime a new “challenger” stepped into the ring.  A few punches and a forced entry later, that sick mind has had all 3 of its thirsts quenched.  But it remains the truth – that mind is sick.

These men have shirked their responsibilities to the other.  We have a responsibility to one another to preserve life.  It doesn’t matter what ethical theory you ascribe to – none will openly say that it’s fine to mess people up for no good reason unless it’s some sort of subjectivist ethics or nihilist ethics, both of which have enough holes without even mixing in gangrape.  My own moral impulses and imperatives scream that when you see wrong (and, again, in case you weren’t sure, rape is wrong), you need to stop that wrong.  If only because it’s one’s duty to prevent and/or stop unnecessary pain and pain that could lead to the end of one’s life.  And that the woman had to be airlifted to a hospital should tell you the extent of her injuries.

Now, that sick mind may well say, “Hey, this pain was necessary.  The rapists were getting their pleasure, and their pleasure is paramount to the girl’s pain.”  Well, you sick observer who doesn’t have the gall to stop a damn rape, someone gaining pleasure is a great thing.  But pleasure at the expense of someone, especially pleasure that comes as a byproduct of causing physical pain to another, cannot be considered true pleasure or a worthwhile pleasure.  To borrow from utilitarianism, happiness is the maximizing of pleasure and the minimizing of pain.  Now, the sick mind might say, “Well, 20 guys got pleasure and 1 girl got pain.  Seems like it adds up.”  And again, you cowardly freak, you’ve had some sort of moral misjudgment and misguiding.  It was 20 (I don’t know how many guys were involved, I just threw out a number) guys gaining pleasure, each one time, at the girl’s expense, also one time each.  20 pleasure events and 20 pain events cancel out at worst, at best we err to the caution of the minimizing of pain as opposed to the maximizing of pleasure.

And there is no pleasure that even totals up to attacking someone, as, again, we should always err to the side of minimizing pain as opposed to maximizing pleasure.

With that said, if somebody killed those guys, I think the case could be made that we haven’t gotten any pleasure, but we’ve definitely minimized the current pain they’ve caused and the potential pain they could cause.

And in case you didn’t know, there is a social responsibility for all of us, if only because our humanity makes us equal, to prevent suffering whenever possible.  Because there’s nothing good that comes from suffering.  There’s no nut busted that makes up for the hell this woman had to endure.  There’s no enjoyment of what sadly became a spectacle that makes up for the psychological and physical recovery down the road for this woman.  Simply put, there’s no good reason to have allowed this to go on, bystander.

If karma exists and is a bitch, the bystander will receive just as much revenge as the rapists themselves.

You may ask, “Why did I equate the rapists and the bystanders?”  Because if you see someone is enduring unnecessary physical pain and do not intervene to stop the situation, you are aiding and abetting and implicitly condoning the act, which puts you a hop, skip, and a jump from being a physical participant.  But as a non-physical participant, you’re still a part of the audience, and the audience is also to be held culpable.  I know the law doesn’t really have much they can do here, but moral accountability still resides with those who witnessed brutality and didn’t help to prevent the unnecessary suffering this woman had to endure.

You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned the rapists.  Because there’s no need – they’re unquestionably evil people.  The bystanders are questionably evil, and all those who saw a girl getting raped and took pictures and videos and cheered and jeered, in my book, are also unquestionably evil.  And they are evil because of their outright denial of what most would consider to be a basic ethical principle – protect life.

Moments like this, I really do think that if the parents of this girl came out and took a shotgun to each rapist and to those bystanders who were filming and all, they would be acting in a fair utilitiarian way – minimize the pain these men could continue to cause, and the minimizing of pain necessarily gives more pleasure than the maximizing or steadying of the level of pain could cause.  If I was a lawyer, I’d fly to California myself and represent the parents if they killed those rapists.  And I’d bring every lawyer I could with me.

Why?  Because I’d like to protect their lives, which is exactly what those bystanders didn’t do.

A final note – earlier I made sure to call the minds that could rationalize the behaviors of the rapists and the bystanders sick.  It’s sick because, comparatively speaking, there are plenty more people who won’t try to rationalize the behavior because they see it as a futile effort.  There are plenty more people who adhere to the basic ethical principle that I’ve laid out here.  People needn’t get into “this is human nature at play here” because the good and evil in the world tends to balance out in a weird way.  Human nature doesn’t lend itself to this conversation, but moral responsibility certainly does.

I hope those guys get what they deserve.

On Why I Do Philosophy

So I’m still up, and this post hit me a couple of days ago when I also couldn’t sleep.  I awoke with a burning desire (not to pee) but to explain to the world some of the reasons why I, a young, seemingly intelligent, Black male would want to enter a discipline that has traditionally shunned my race, and is not known for making money.  As far as the latter goes, the whole money making thing, I’ve always wanted to make a lot of money.  As much as I critique capitalism for the ills it’s put on Black people, I still find it hard to kick some of the characteristics, such as a desire to make plenty of money.  I wasn’t poor growing up, but I definitely never was rich.  We had what we needed, and sometimes we got what we wanted.  But we made do with whatever we had.  I never called myself poor because we weren’t below the poverty line, and it never appeared that our family’s existence was on a check to check basis.  Again, we made do with what we had, if things could be improved without breaking the bank then we made that move.  If not, we wouldn’t.  But money was never really a concern of mine until I got to college and saw just how finances really worked.  My mother still thinks I shouldn’t worry about money, but the worry is there, and part of it is due to the path I chose to go down as opposed to the corporate path or the entrepreneurial path.  So we end up back at square one – why choose a path that doesn’t necessarily provide money when I have an actual worry about money?

Who laughs at this joke?  Philosophers do.

Who laughs at this joke? Philosophers do.

Well, to advance a bit from square one, I always knew I wouldn’t want to do something I didn’t like.  It may be naive, but for right now I’m afforded the ability to do what I enjoy without immediate financial worry.  And no matter what my next move is, I won’t make it unless I’m sure I will like what I’m doing.  So if I pursue a Ph. D, it’s because I know that it’s what I want to do, it’s what I want to have, and ultimately philosophy on a professional level is something I’m interested in.  If I take a moment and get a job, I’m going to work somewhere where I feel connected with my work.  Marx’s Alienated Labor is NOT something I’m going to let happen to me at all.  I will always feel at home in my work, and I feel most at home with pen and paper in my hand.  That’s right folks, I actually plan to be a philosophical author.  But, what was the long road that set me to WHY I DO PHILOSOPHY?

The road wasn’t actually that long.  A very nice English teacher of mine told me my junior year of high school that I have a philosophical mind.  She made mention of just how introspective and reflective I was (phenomenological thought, for those of you scoring at home), and how every issue was up for grabs – there was no givens with me (skepticism, again, for those of you playing at home).  At that moment, I made up my mind that I’d major in philosophy in college.  I felt I owed it to myself to exercise this mental gift I apparently had naturally and to see where it would take me.  Unlike most, I approached college as another chance to keep learning.  It was actually higher education.  So I wasn’t thinking of college as just a variant on a trade school – I was just going to try to learn as much as I could, but really dig in deep with the philosophy courses and make sure I was suited for this type of thinking.

Is this how we come to know things?  Some would argue with this epistemology wheel.

Is this how we come to know things? Some would argue with this epistemology wheel.

I remember my first philosophy class, and how with each progressive portion I was growing more and more as a thinker, and how I always was taking pretty hard lines and defending them as best I could with logic (not rhetoric).  To this day I hold a fondness for seeing faulty informal logic and pointing out logical inconsistencies.  I always had an issue with logical inconsistency, even as a kid, but this gave me the formal training to be able to explain why something was inconsistent.

In the end, I grew up wanting to be a writer.  Philosophy gave me more to write about.  The questions I deal in are ones that many of us engage at a superficial level, usually ethics (“What should/ought I do?”), and I engage in them because there’s a use in gaining an answer.  When I was in high school I remember having a math class where the teacher really hammered home that having the right answer isn’t enough – the process is just as important.  And philosophy, at its core, holds the same idea.  I gave an analogy to a bunch of underclassmen as to what the philosopher does compared to the rest of the world.  “Picture a tunnel.  Everybody else hates the tunnel, they are running for the other side, the light at the end of the tunnel.  They’ve gotta get there.  All of this unknown in the tunnel is just too much for them.  The philosopher?  He’s got a flashlight and is just taking his time in the tunnel, scouring it for whatever he finds.  Even if he doesn’t find a thing, he still had a blast in the tunnel.  The philosopher is at home in the tunnel.”

Call me a dungeon crawler.

Morehouse, Dress Code, Homecoming

It’s early, and I’m unable to sleep because of the restlessness of the coming weekend.  For those of you who don’t know, this weekend is Morehouse College (my alma mater) and Spelman College’s Homecoming.  To make matters more interesting, I believe the game is against the neighboring Clark Atlanta University, which always makes homecoming just that bigger.  The volume of people in the West End of Atlanta will be nearly unfathomable (barring rain), and as this is my first time “coming home,” I do wonder if I’ll be able to handle coming back to the throng of peoples and the large scale environment that is AUC social life.  It’s drunken, loud, packed, and I just never liked that environment.  I choked it up for 4 years, and now that I’m in Memphis, even though I don’t go out much, I just feel better.  The pressure that was in Atlanta has been released, and I’m kinda free to just take care of my work and if I have a moment or two, step out with friends or colleagues.  My memories of college and going out to clubs were that I didn’t want to go to them because the environment wasn’t one I liked.  And so to cope, like many 18-22 year olds, I had to drink in order to be loose enough to not think about where I was and observe what was going on.  Literally, alcohol puts people back into their natural state where they act and react and lose their rational faculties, which is the separating factor for humans and the rest of animalkind.  Asides regarding alcohol aside, I can openly admit that socially, I wasn’t much to brag about.  Compared to many of my socialite-esque peers, I kept to myself and had my fun when I could.  To be real honest, sometimes I thought I was on a different intellectual level than my peers.  Not that I was smarter, or even more intelligent – I just thought that my mind would ruminate on things that many of my peers wouldn’t even ponder (look for a future post on Why I Do Philosophy).  But all of this aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my time because I made some great friends.  The campus is nothing without the people, and I knew some good ones.  There were plenty of people who I didn’t know, and who didn’t know me, but the ones who knew me knew I was good for saying some off the wall shit and being overly truthful (I always said, “The niggas who got the pussy were the ones who thought what I said but kept it in their minds!”) and I think they appreciated the levity I gave situations.  Just my personal assessment looking back on it.

NOTE: I haven’t done enough off the wall shit here.  This will change soon.  If I did works on the stuff I said in my day to day, I’d piss a whole lot of people off.  But perhaps that should be my aim here – not to just speak, but to anger.  I’ll ponder….

Back to the thoughts on my alma mater and its famed Homecoming.  For 4 years I’ve seen the insanity that is Homecoming, but was told it would hit harder when I actually came back.  I’ve got my fears though.  I didn’t know many people when I was there, and damn sure didn’t close to many people.  While folks were off branching their social networks, I remained comfortable with my small network of close allies and loose acquaintances.  Perhaps in hindsight I should have chosen a better path, but I was never some sort of social butterfly.  I’m not entirely a loner either, but somewhere in the middle but leaning towards the solo side.  Not the smartest move for college, especially what ended up being such a socially driven collegiate experience like the one at Morehouse, but what can I say – I’m me without remorse, but maybe with regrets.

My fears probably aren’t merited, it’s probably just me doing my normal move – “over”analysis.  But this Home I’m coming to has something going on that is worth some semblance of analysis.

ENTER – The Morehouse Dress Code.

I’ve been asked by a few people for my opinion of the recently installed dress code.  I think there are some slippery slopes for the future, but I have no major issue with it.  Personally, I broke the dress code plenty because I wore T-shirts and jeans to most things and didn’t like to dress up for posterity.  I’m not a businessman or a religious man, and I worked in the humanities – guys were business casual at best.  I did learn when to dress it up, but to this day I think I look awkward in a couple of my suits and for as long as I can remember I chose comfort over style.  Maybe it’s my personal style, but I can say that I wasn’t in business or business casual attire much at all.  My friends would often exclaim, “What the hell?!” when they saw me in business or bus. cas. attire because it wasn’t part of my normal repertoire.  This dress code, though, wasn’t really intended for guys like me who dressed casually all the time.  It was intended for the guys who perpetrate to be thugs and for the guys who dress like girls.

Because there’s already been a billion blogs and interviews and blah blah blah about this topic, I’ll keep it as brief as possible.  Most of the uproar about this has come from outside of the Morehouse community.  Within the Morehouse community, even on the campus, nobody’s really giving a damn.  All the attention has been brought upon by the exterior folks, those who lie beyond the gates.  Let’s keep that in mind.  Next, I understand why the College would put something like this, a mostly unspoken policy that’s been on that campus for decades, into writing – there’s a standard for the Black male community set forth by Morehouse.  It’s kind of the unspoken mission – to be the beacon of light for Black men to aspire towards.  With that kind of standard, there must be a specific standard of dress attached to it, particularly that the men dress like upstanding men.

Is this what you think of when you think Morehouse Man?

Is this what you think of when you think Morehouse Man?

A Morehouse Man is, at its most basic, a good, upstanding, ethical, responsible, community driven man.  Morehouse Men are supposed to be what Black men want to be, and the consensus is that Black men don’t need the beacon being darkened with visages of men dressing as women.  There is merit in this mindset.  There’s definitely an image of what the Morehouse Man is, and he never had on pumps.

The flipside is that, at least to me, the evolution of Black gay male culture has been to include feminine accessories.  Wearing capri pants, heels, weaves, purses, etc., have become a staple of the subculture and appears, to me, to be just a natural evolution.  Every culture goes through evolutionary phases, and sometimes has evolutionary skips.  I never remember seeing men wearing dresses, but I’ve seen some guys at Morehouse carry purses and wear clothes that are AWFULLY tight (a friend of mine would later inform me that those were actually women’s clothing.

Or is this what you think when you think Morehouse Man?

Or is this what you think when you think Morehouse Man?

All this time I thought they’d just found men’s clothing that was a couple of sizes too small.)  Now, all this mention of the Black gay male culture’s evolutionary leap just is a way of me making a point – there are plenty of young gay Black men who want to be Morehouse Men, but also have accepted this evolution.  To be fair, there are plenty of gay men who don’t like the men who dress like women, but that’s another story.  The idea has been that they need to either get with the program or get the F out the way, so to speak.  And that’s a slippery slope; the idea that there’s one uniformly accepted Morehouse Man.

But one cannot seem to please everybody, and if this was any other school, I’d probably have a bigger issue with that.  Rampant homophobia aside (which I don’t have but many say this dress code is an example of), the dress code is just something telling the men on the campus to just dress respectable.  More than anything, it’s preparing these guys for the future – I don’t know much but I’m pretty sure Corporate America (where many Morehouse Men end up) doesn’t like its employees to dress as the opposite sex.  Realistically, it’s training guys to play the game.  And as much as I hate the game, I appreciate my small training so that if I need to, I can go acquire work.

However, playing Devil’s Advocate one good time, they say they don’t care what you wear off campus.  The issue is, as long as you’re a Morehouse student, you represent the College.  They don’t want you misrepresenting the College on campus, but off campus it’s alright?  I mean, when somebody asks the guy who’s dressing as a girl where they go to school and they smack their lips, flip their weave and say, “Honey, I’m a Man of Morehouse,” I wonder if the College really likes that.  But they can’t police you off campus, so I guess they wanted to “limit the damage,” to a certain extent.

Enough about the dress code, back to Homecoming.  I wonder if somebody will be ballsy enough to wear a bunch of woman’s clothing at the tailgate.  I know if I was a guy like that, I’d rally up as many guys like me as I could and we’d pull a To Wong Foo on their asses!  But after writing that, I’d probably just shake my head if I saw a bunch of cross dressing guys at the tailgate.  Still, it’d make for one hell of a tailgating experience.

Finally, a note about why Morehouse College is somewhere I’ll hold near my heart.  I’m trying to hop a plane standby from Memphis to get to Atlanta in just enough time to hop on a party bus that’ll be going to multiple parties and being a party itself, possibly go to one of the parties, tailgate all day Saturday and go to a party Saturday night and a friend of mine who lives in Kansas City agreed to drive me to Memphis on his way back to KC on Sunday.  There’s something exciting about that, and if you went to Morehouse or Spelman and read that, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

See y’all this weekend.

Philosophical Advice for Homecoming

As I’d seen, there’s definitely a few rules for how to approach a Morehouse/Spelman Homecoming.  The link provided gave some very practical advice for the men who will be flocking to the West End in the next couple of days, and gave me an impetus to provide some philosophical (I am, after all, Mr. Philosopher) advice for most everybody for the next couple of days of debauchery.

1 – Kantian Categorical Imperative #1.  Act as though you would have this be a universal law (within the context of Homecoming, that is).  Homecoming is a unique beast unto itself.  But keep in mind that whatever you do, you probably aren’t the only one.  Make sure how you’re acting is how you’d expect others to act.  For example, would you want to be lied to by someone you’re into just to get some sex?  Be up front with it at all times, because it IS Homecoming – folks are “grown,” and know the deal.

2 – Hedonism is acceptable.  For the next few days, gorge yourself.  I personally know there will be copious amounts of alcohol imbibed Friday night alone, and plenty of marijuana to make hemp soap for 1,000 homeless people by the weekend’s end.  And for this weekend, it’s fine.  Why is it fine?  Because you didn’t come back for Homecoming to hurt yourself – you came to please yourself.  Pleasing yourself by seeing your friends, by fellowshipping with them and going hard with them.  The goal of the whole weekend is some sort of partial reclamation of your 4, 5, 6, or 7 + years of college, and to have as much fun as possible.  In that respect, hedonism is not only acceptable, it’s the norm and is expected of you, so play the game.

3 – Labor based worldview – everybody has a job.  In a communist structure, everybody has a job and if everybody doesn’t perform their job, the system crumbles.  The same goes for Homecoming.  If it’s your job to not be the excessively drunk person so you and your friends can live to see Sunday, then do your job.  If it’s your job to be the wingman so your boy can get at the chick he meant to get at during college but never had the chance, then do your job.  If it’s your job to seal the deal with that chick because your wingman gave you a perfect setup, do your job.  If your job is to get the weed, do your job.  If your job is to pay half for a friend to get into a party, do your job.  It’s a group effort for the weekend to succeed, so make sure to play your position and do your job at all times.

4 – Locke’s State of Nature is in play – even though it’s a group effort for the weekend to succeed, everybody is equal in that they’re here participating in the festivities.  Nobody is above or below anybody else, it’s Brother and Sister this weekend.  There isn’t much structure, but because we’re all equal, there is but one moral imperative in this State of Nature – you can’t harm someone else.  For Locke he used religion, but I’ll use the whole Morehouse/Spelman/HBCU connection.  We’re all the same in that we all either went, graduated, or go to one of those 3 categories, or know someone who is a member of one of those three categories.  No sense in getting after your equal for no reason.

5 – Heideggerian “Throwness” is also in play – I guarantee there will be a moment this weekend for many of us where we wonder where we are, how did we get here, and why are we there.  It’s because you’re thrown.  Both Heideggerian and figuratively.  Just go with it, because Heidegger ain’t answer his question, and more than likely at that moment, you won’t be able to either.

6 – Decartes’ Cogito – “I think therefore I am…” sober.  If you’re actually being rational during this weekend, you’re probably sober.  Nothing wrong with that, but I’m just saying that if you’re holding awareness of your metaphysical existence, you’re sober as sober could be.  Someone will probably bump into you as you’re in a daze about your own existence.

7 – Decartes’ Mind/Body duality is in play, though.  Your mind will be on some other shit.  Your body will be on some other shit.  You’ll wonder why your body is doing certain things when your mind is questioning whether or not you should be doing those things.  It’s ok.  That’s why we have Philosophy of Mind.  But since odds are you have no idea what that is or how to deal with this duality, just imagine your mind and body on two ends of a spectrum.  One end is thinking, the other end is doing.  And they have something keeping them in line with one another.  Simple, no?

8 – Locke’s Just War Theory applies to any skirmishes.  You’d better have been encroached for no good reason to go to war.  So none of this petty shit from the past; get past that.  You don’t have to love everybody, but there’s no reason to start shit.  If someone is unjustifiably aggressive towards you though, you now have the right to handle business (and according to Locke you can take ’em as slaves!  Nice!).

9 – The Republic will be wrong – there’s a story in The Republic about a ring that makes people go invisible.  Someone finds the ring and wreaks havoc, killing the king and taking the throne for himself.  The moral?  People only abide by others when people can see them.  The opposite will apply – people are going to do whatever they want, regardless of who sees ’em.  I remember seeing a Que pull up some freshman girl’s skirt after she got some of their BBQ at a tent my freshman year.  Trust me when I tell you – Niggas do not give a damn for the next couple of days, as they don’t have to see these people everyday like we did in undergrad.

10 – Finally, my normative claim.  What ought we do at Homecoming?  Don’t OD on any of the things you do (alcohol, drugs, sex, etc.) because most of us have somewhere to be Monday morning.  And the ones who don’t have something to do Monday, you probably want to be alive for Monday so you can do nothing.

10 pieces of philosophical advice for people to utilize during Homecoming.  Enjoy yourselves!

What Is This Sexy Business…?

A couple of days ago, two friends of mine and I were discussing another friend and what he found sexy.  Apparently, a pregnant woman, “if she has a good body,” is sexy to him.  These two friends, who were women, asked me what I thought was sexy.  This was, of course, after we ridiculed the man for being a preggo chaser of sorts.  I mean seriously, ain’t much sexy about a woman with a bowling ball in her belly, holding her back because it hurts to walk.  We speculated whether or not he was talking about women early in their pregnancies, or the ones who just don’t show much at all when they’re pregnant.  Either way, the conclusion we came to was he’s horny and has had just one horrific dry spell and at this point, even with a kid on the way, he’ll hit.

A sidenote – one of my friends thought that guy was one of the types who likes subservient women and said that his wife, whoever she may be, will be sent back to the 1910s.  I told her in the 1910s they beat their wives and that this guy wouldn’t be that bad.  She said they do that now.  I said yeah, but in the 1910s it was just fine.  There wouldn’t be any lie about falling down steps or tripping – she’d just tell people, “Yeah girl, he hit me in the eye!”  Ah, jokes about the past…

Do you find her sexy?

Do you find her sexy?

Anyhow, the question was posed to me, after they brought out what they thought was sexy about women (they are not lesbians, for the record).  One of the women said that pregnant women can be sexy, and that when she was pregnant she got more attention from guys than when she wasn’t.  I still have no idea how men can just run up and hit on pregnant women like that.  Look, there are attractive preggos out there, but apparently across the board men hit on women more when they’re pregnant than when not.  And by across the board, I mean from what a few people have told me.  Any pregnant women or women with kids, leave responses – did you get more attention when you were pregnant?

Back to the story.  Both of the women really pushed that sexy was more so in the attitude than in the body, or at least wasn’t necessarily tied into sex appeal.  I had to help them – sexy, for the average male, IS directly tied to sex appeal.  There’s no way around it – if we find it sexy, generally speaking, it’s probably because it makes us think of sex.  Men treat the word “sexy” like it’s an adjective form of sex.  Women tend to have a separate notion of sex appeal and sex.  Men, again generally, don’t have that split.  There’s nothing wrong with either outlook – it’s just different.  We see hips, lips, breasts, curves, booty, and the clothes and accessories that amplify those physical pieces and we think, “Damn, she’s sexy!”  Women are looking at the clothes, the walk, the talk, the confidence, the movement, how they carry themselves and think, “Damn, he’s sexy!”  There’s a physical piece for both – it’s just about where does the sexy start.  For women, the body makes the sexy sexier.  For men, the body makes the sexy exist.  But this is all my speculative theory.

Anyways, they said, “Well, what do you think?”  They didn’t want to know what men in general think; they were firmly interested in my opinion of sexy.  And I had to tell them, “I don’t really deal in the word sexy.”  And it’s true.  You’ll rarely find me using the word sexy.  Partly because of the ridiculous amounts of definitions and uses (people call automobiles and gaming machines sexy…ew), and partly because I deal in attraction over sheer sex appeal and/or confidence level.  Sexy as a concept is something very difficult for me to grasp for myself, but I understand what people mean when they use it.  It basically means there’s something attractive about that person to them.  And yes, that’s true.  There is something attractive about that person.  But for most people, sexy is a total package.  And sexy is the word they use to describe the total physical package.

When one of the women tried using superstars and celebrities to evaluate my sense of sexy, I had to tell her, “They are physically attractive.”  But that’s where it ends.  For me, physical attractiveness doesn’t equal sexiness.  It equals physical attractiveness.  They look good.  But, if sexy is a total package, then for me it goes beyond a physical package.  It can’t just be if they look good or not, because that’s simply them looking good.  It can’t be if they have an attitude or a confidence – those things are just those things as well.  But even a merger of the three – a person who looks good and has an attitude and a confidence, still just isn’t sexy – they’re physically attractive to the fullest and with the confidence they probably enter the realm of sexual attraction.  But sexy, for me, is more.

Sexy can’t be done just from the physical or the intangible aspects of the physical (confidence, etc.).  It also comes from the mental attractiveness somebody has.  It comes from the spiritual attractiveness somebody has.  To me, sexy is when somebody is not just someone looking physically attractive or sexually attractive (those things are not the same), but it gets into their mentals, as my cousin would say.  He and I both need your mentals.  Is there a common mental ground for the two of us?  Is there a point where both of us just are in sync mentally?  Yeah, that definitely adds to the sexy.

Spiritual connections are difficult to describe or even hammer down into some sort of compartmentalization, but the kind of connection that runs deeper than the physical actually enhances the sexy – and the sexy is how you view the other person.  Literally, the definition of “sexy,” for me, is just how you view the person.  What makes someone sexy?  What kind of connection you have with them, that’s what.  A random female on the street has zero sexy to me.  She could be the hottest woman on Earth, filled to the brim with sex appeal, and I won’t call her sexy.  It doesn’t mean I don’t think she’s the hottest woman on Earth, but sexy gets beyond the physical, ironically enough, and is in the combination of attraction.  A woman who’s got 2 out of 3 will be sexy to me – all 3 and she’s damn sexy.  But think about it – somebody who you have a mental connection with but no physical or spiritual?  That’s a friend, because friends aren’t sexy like that.  Somebody who you have a spiritual and mental connection with?  Hell, I don’t know what you call them other than a life partner or something – but that’s still got a certain level of sexy.  Somebody who has a physical connection but no mental or spiritual?  A one hitta quitta, or a piece on the side, or something (note THING) to do.  But a person who has physical attractiveness, and mental attractiveness?  Most people tend to snap that up pretty quickly.  Because they recognize that those two qualities combine to make sexy.  I’m not taking away the physical aspect of sexy (the word sex is in there for a reason), but for me, it runs much deeper than that.

The two women were intrigued to hear it, with one quipping that, “Sexy has to come with contact – you have to get to know the person,” to which I nodded and said, “That’s how it works for me.”

But, my freshman year of college, a woman told about 800 of us during Freshman Orientation that a “750 credit score is sexy!”  Clapping her hands and getting very hype about it.  So maybe I’m off the ball here and just need to make sure I’ve got money, because some chick will find that sexy.  Right?  🙂

Obama Peace Prize Win – Good and Bad

I wanted to give myself a little bit of time, as I woke up yesterday with a vicious hangover, a stomachache, apparently missed an important class and apparently the President of the United States won the Nobel Peace Prize. I believe the last acting President who won was Teddy Roosevelt, and Roosevelt’s win was much deserved – he really helped pull the United States out of financial ruin, and was instrumental in the ending of World War 2, among many other things (it’s why he did get 4 straight terms). President Obama hasn’t even reached a year since he was elected, let alone sworn in, but he received the Nobel Peace Prize because of his efforts towards world peace. And, as my Twitter will tell you, I think it’s very premature to award him the Nobel Peace Prize because of his efforts. So there’s a twofold issue here – Obama doesn’t deserve the award based on the nature of what it is, but him receiving the award is about as big of a “we like you” he can get from the world at-large.

Now, don’t get me wrong here – I’m happy Pres. Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s not like he lobbied for it or begged for it, but let’s be honest. Well I should say I’m being honest. I just don’t think he deserved it at this juncture. I think we should celebrate that he got the award. I think he should be proud that he got the award. But I don’t think that the Nobel committee chose him for the right reasons. He’s done plenty but just something feels odd. Hell he was floored bout it, but hey, he got a Nobel Peace Prize.

After reading the reasons given by the committee publicly, I do understand their position so I’m going to stop and just say that their reasoning helped make a little bit more sense about why he was chosen.

Can You Separate A Man’s Contributions From His Actions?

So I have a few motivations for this post – Chris Benoit, Tookie Williams, Martin Heidegger and Immanuel Kant.  All 4 of these men, in some way, have been important in the past 100 years.  And all 4 of these men made some sort of contributions to their respective fields (Williams is a special case but still fits), and all 4 of these men had a serious problem attached to them.  So the question becomes, can you separate the man and his contributions from his actions?

Kant portrait

Kant portrait

Let’s start with the one who inarguably had the biggest impact – Kant.  Every philosopher of the late 19th century onto the present is familiar with his work, either intimately or in passing, simply because the history of philosophy funnels through Kant.  His conception of synthetic a priori knowledge as a middle ground to the epistemological problem is but one of many things Kant brought to philosophy.  He effectively contributed significantly to every possible field of philosophy.  He was the end of the modern philosophical period that was filled with responses to the theory of knowledge and he was the first major middle ground between the rationalists and the empiricists.  The Critique of Pure Reason is easily one of the top 5 most important philosophical works in history.  He’s the biggest thing to come out of the Enlightenment.  I could go on and on and on, but he was (and still could be considered) the single most important philosopher since the ancient trio of Socrates/Plato/Aristotle (and I’m not even a Kantian, as far as I know).

But he had his problem – he was a known anti-Semite.  There are works out there that show that many of the prominent Enlightenment German thinkers were anti-Semitic and racist.  Kant is not excluded from this distinction, and in fact, is the target of many of these works.  I did a little digging, and here are some quotes from Kant regarding Jews and non-whites, as well as a summation of his opinions of Jews and non-whites.

Every coward is a liar; Jews for example, not only in business, but also in common life.”

Humanity is at its greatest perfection in the race of the whites.”

In a book from Michael Mack, Mack asserts that Kant produced his transformative philosophical ideals by positing them as the opposite of the Jews.  He considered Judaism a materialistic religion, based on a quid pro quo with God.  Now, whether or not his anti-Semitism was an influence on his philosophy isn’t what I’m worried about.  It’s certainly something to think about, but not the principle issue here.  The question is, can you separate the racist anti-Semite from the groundbreaking philosopher?

Heidegger

Heidegger

The same trend comes with Martin Heidegger.  Being and Time can be considered one of the most important works of the early 20th Century, and a development in phenomenology and a beginning to existentialism.  His addressing of the fundamental question of “what is being?” came to the forefront of 20th Century continental philosophy, his destruction of the history of philosophy after Socrates was something I held a reserved appreciation for, and the concepts of “fallenness,” “Dasein,” “thrownness,” “authenticity,” and other terms really changed philosophy.  Again, he’s a big time philosopher.  And again…he had his issues with Jews.  More to the point, he was a member of the Nazi party.  He defended Nazism and promoted it, and showed no remorse when his mentor, Edmund Husserl (a Jew), was forced out of a job essentially.  One could say Heidegger wasn’t a very good person.  But the question again gets asked – can you separate the major contributions to philosophy from the fact that Heidegger was at one time a proud Nazi?

Tookie Williams

Tookie Williams

Tookie Williams was a 5 time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.  Though he was in prison from 1979 until his execution in 2005, he renounced his former gang affiliation and even wrote anti-gang children’s books.  He helped broker a 2004 peace agreement between the Crips and the Bloods, two of the most infamous gangs in America.  He was even commended by President George W. Bush for his social activism.  Tookie also had a very checkered past, one that began with his co-founding of the Crips (though he wrote an apology for his role in creating the Crips), and included a number of robberies and murders, which ended up with him in prison and ultimately executed by the state of California, even though his supporters cited his changed life as a reason to keep him alive.  But can you separate his anti-gang work from the fact that he helped found one of America’s major gangs?

Finally, the most recent of the 4 men (and really the primary impetus for this writing), Chris Benoit.  I grew up as a big fan of wrestling, starting with the Ultimate Warrior (little did I know he actually was a crappy wrestler), I was a Hulkamaniac, but I always held a special admiration for the guys who were “technical wrestlers.”  The guys who made it look so effortless and really honed their craft.  The Mr. Perfects, the Bret Harts, and towards the turn of the century, the Kurt Angles, the Chris Jerichos…and the Chris Benoits.  As a wrestler, he was a true in-ring artist.  He could sell any moves, he could perform any move and damn, he just knew how to wrestle.  His match in Canada vs. Bret Hart for the WCW Championship was great to watch.  His Wrestlemania 20 triple threat match with Shawn Michaels and Triple H, great wrestlers in their own right, is considered one of the top Wrestlemania matches in history, which is saying something.  He could work great as a heel, great as a face, and was just a great ring storyteller.  Most wrestling fans enjoyed watching Benoit work, and I had the pleasure of seeing him have 3 great Pay-Per-View matches with a then up and coming Montel Vontavious Porter at Wrestlemania 23, Backlash 2007, and Judgment Day 2007 in person.  The man knew how to work.

Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit

But then there’s the whole murder-suicide of his family just outside of Atlanta later that summer (it actually all went down on my birthday, June 22).  Wrestling fans everywhere were in an outrage and this is where it is most evident recently about the separation of one’s professional career and one’s personal life.  Benoit, up until June 22, 2007, was world-renown as a world class professional wrestler.  Immediately following the revelation of the events that led to his death and his family’s death (that he killed them), there were fans who said they couldn’t watch wrestling anymore.  There were fans who could separate the insanity behind the curtain and the entertainment in front of the curtain.  And there were those who hated everything Benoit stood for, in wrestling and otherwise.  Can there be fault taken with any of those positions?

While I try to remain neutral in some respects, I find it very difficult in many instances to reconcile the advances each man made in the public sphere while having very contentious private lives.  But can I really discount Kant’s impact and advances by swiftly dismissing him as a racist anti-Semite?  Can I wipe Being and Time from my memory because he was a Nazi?  Do I forget about Tookie’s work promoting anti-gang work because he killed a bunch of people and started one of the most infamous gangs in America?  Do I forget about Benoit’s amazing in-ring work because of how his life ended?  Which one overvalues the other?  Which is the more important?

Honestly, for each person I hold a different view.  Kant’s anti-Semitism is to be deplored, but his philosophical advancement I won’t remove because of it.  His racism means the same for me – one’s vices doesn’t prevent one from making a great contribution.  Heidegger took it a step further by joining the Nazis, and that part of his life is to also be deplored.  But I can’t ignore the impact of Heideggerian phenomenology on my personal philosophical interests nor on philosophy as a whole.  It is possible to dislike the man and what the man stands for and not his philosophical outlook.  Tookie is a special case, as he took lives and I am ardently anti-gang.  Murderers apologize for killing people, with real remorse, and apologize for their wrongdoings, also with real remorse.  I believe he held remorse for those actions, but what he spun into existence – the Crips – just angers me.  But I still value and appreciate his activism after the fact.  And finally, Benoit.  I hate what he did.  But his in-ring performance is still something I can appreciate.  I love his matches to this day and I don’t want to remove him, or any of these other men from history because of their poor decisions.  Even assholes can contribute to society, but still inevitably be the asshole they are.  Bad people can do good things (though I’m not going to make moral judgments about these men right now), and racists can make non-racist contributions to society, a killer can make a difference, and a steroid-using wife and child killer can create entertainment.  So I have separated a man’s contributions to the world from his personal actions, provided that the contributions weren’t fueled by the actions (so Heidegger’s Being and Time isn’t Nazi propaganda but has true philosophical merit, the Critique of Pure Reason also isn’t anti-Semitic literature, Benoit’s matches weren’t an endeavor to kill people and Tookie Williams’ anti-gang work wasn’t just a ruse to create more gangbangers), which is a fairly specific and yet open criteria. What I fear is that people perform unnecessary criticisms of these mens’ contributions because of their problems, which is a bit of an ad hominem fallacy unless they can show the connection that their vices contributed to their input.

So the question comes to you, my public – can you separate a man from his actions?

(Oh, and women/transgendered/unknowns also apply to this question, but I just used the patriarchal tradition for ease.)