Willy power and ‘the will to power’

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Women are apt to chastise us guys for being ruled by our dicks, and there is no shortage of high-profile cases that would seem to prove them right. Time and again, prominent figures such as Bill Clinton have fallen from grace thanks to sexual indiscretions of a crazily risky kind, temptations to which they could only have succumbed if their brains were being bypassed at the time.

When a Kind man finds himself in trouble over an illicit relationship, no matter how consensual, the outcome is of course much more serious than for a politician, whose job and reputation may be at stake but not his liberty. Likewise the politician’s femme fatale may well find herself rocketed to fame, fortune and a great social life by the “scandal” in question, as did Monica Lewinsky, whereas the child partners in paedophilic relationships are all too often traumatised by their “rescue”.

Occasionally we encounter an interesting hybrid category where comedy and tragedy meet in equal measure. Did you hear the latest about Simon Danczuk? He is the MP, it will be recalled, who made his name by damning a deceased fellow MP as a paedophile and then setting off a false alarm about an allegedly widespread Westminster VIP paedophilia scandal. He was recently suspended from the Labour Party following allegations of sending sexually explicit text messages to a 17-year-old girl. He reportedly admitted “inappropriate” behaviour, saying that younger women were his “Achilles heel” and that he needed therapy for sex addiction. And a week or so ago he ended up being arrested and put in a Spanish jail cell after an altercation with his ex-wife that saw her reportedly suffering cuts and bruises leading to hospital treatment.

Just the sort of person to lead a moral crusade against sexual transgression, eh? In rueful mood, the 49-year-old politician apparently said of himself “No fool like an old fool”. To which Heretic TOC would add, no hypocrite like a morally fulminating, anti-Kind hypocrite! Methinks it be not too un-Kindly to savour a modicum of schadenfreude over his downfall!

Most of us Kinds, fortunately, have our sexuality under control, unlike Danczuk and his ilk. I like to think we keep our ethical standards and our public stance on sexual morality under scrutiny as well, especially here at Heretic TOC, so that our private and public attitudes are kept in harmony. It is called integrity: as the dictionary puts it, “The quality of being honest (my emphasis) and having strong moral principles” and also “The state of being whole and undivided”. The private and public standards of the hypocrite, by contrast, are sharply divided. They are neither honest nor moral; and they lack integrity.

But we must beware of complacent self-satisfaction. Yes, our private beliefs and our public stance may fit well together as an honest and coherent whole. But how have we arrived at them? Are our beliefs just rationalisations of our desires, making our stance just as false as that of the hypocrites?

Ernest Jones introduced the term “rationalisation” to psychoanalysis in 1908, defining it as “the inventing of a reason for an attitude or action the motive of which is not recognised”. It was an explanation which (though false) could seem plausible. The term has generally been used ever since by psychologists and psychiatrists to refer to false beliefs. However, when someone’s beliefs appear to be self-serving it is all too easy to accuse them of rationalising even when their beliefs are true.

It is one of the many sticks our opponents use to beat us. In their hands it is a rhetorical device to discredit any arguments and evidence we might bring to bear in support of our position, without having to go to the trouble of refuting the arguments or probing the evidence. As such, it is an ad hominem argument: it plays the man not the ball.

As the admirable Leonard Sisyphus Mann pointed out in his Consenting Humans blog:

Even proving conclusively that an opponent has a personal stake in the arguments he’s making does not invalidate, or even weaken, the position they are arguing for: it is perfectly possible to argue something out of self-interest and be correct: many English slave owners actually supported the 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act because domestic manufacturing was becoming more lucrative than their plantations, and the huge compensation that parliament was proposing to pay slave owners for loss of their property would allow them to cash in a failing resource and invest in that increasingly lucrative domestic industry – indeed the mills of the North of England were built on the proceeds of this compensation.

Mann cites Straight and Crooked Thinking by Robert H. Thouless, who wrote that we must not make “the foolish mistake of supposing that we can settle controversies by… labelling their arguments ‘rationalisation’… A true opinion as well as a false one may owe much of its strength to irrational motives.” The main value of an alertness to rationalisation, says Mann, is a reflexive one: “An alertness to rationalisation is primarily a tool for sorting out our own thinking rather than that of others.”

Having said that, being Kind in our society may afford us a degree of immunity against self-serving rationalisation that is not afforded to those with mainstream sexual tastes. Clinton was apparently able to convince himself (and for a while fool others) by rationalising that he did not have sex with Lewinsky, based on sex being defined as coitus not oral sex: she gave him head but they did not screw. Can you imagine Kind people making that argument, even in the privacy of our own heads, to deceive only ourselves? I don’t think so, not when oral sex with a minor counts as rape and we have constantly dinned into us that even looking at pictures of naked kids is somehow horrific. We can and do reject such characterisations, but society is on our case so much that we cannot get away with superficial excuses: we are forced to think much more deeply than Clinton ever needed to.

Even so, we are not totally immune. There are those among us, for instance, who take a cynical view of morality in general, like Red, the BL hero of Rod Downey’s novel The Moralist. Our reasoned choices, Red insists, are just “a second-generation copy of desire”: everyone, not just Kinds, makes up their morality to suit themselves. Everyone rationalises.

In essence Red is a Nietzschean. Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Genealogy of Morality, made his famous distinction between master morality and slave morality. Stripped to its basics, it amounts to an assertion that being “good” is a mug’s game. That’s just for losers, notably those without power, such as slaves, including the early Christians when they were being persecuted and martyred by the pagan Romans. Instead of doing whatever they wanted, which was the philosophy of the winners, or the ruling masters of society, the Christians had to settle for “good” behaviour and hoping their reward would come not in this life but the next, in heaven.

The master morality, by contrast, is seen as noble. Instead of abasing himself before God, and repenting his sins in the Christian manner, the moral aristocrat has a keen sense of his own self-worth, such that “good” is whatever seems good to him, not to some censorious authority, whether divine or secular. “The noble type of man,” Nietzsche wrote, “experiences itself as determining values; it does not need approval; it judges, ‘what is harmful to me is harmful in itself’; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.”  The strong-willed man values such things as good, because they aid him in a lifelong process of self-actualisation through what Nietzsche called “the will to power”.

It is a philosophy that seems very plausible as developed in Downey’s novel, on account of Red being a very appealing character. He is a romantic figure, a revolutionary. He is glamorous. He has style. He cuts a dash. And, most important of all, the boy he loves admires and loves him too.

But what if the hero were a little more flawed? It’s a point I took up in my review of the book some years ago:

Let’s imagine Hannibal Lekter saying to himself “What I want is good.” What he famously wants is to eat people. So why can’t we accept this as morally acceptable? Is it just because we happen to have different wants? Is it because most of us (presumably) do not wish to eat people? No, it is because we do not wish to be eaten. Hannibal’s wants are inconsistent with ours, so we need some system – some reasoned, principled system we can agree on – to arbitrate between competing wants. This engages law as well as morality, but both systems of restrictions on behaviour ultimately derive their authority from beliefs as to what is harmful.

Downey goes some way to tackle the Lekter factor. His hero’s morality is thus based not just on any old whimsical desires a body might have, but on love. It is right and good to follow our hearts, to be guided by our desires. But the major and highly disputable premise is that we will all wish to act with love. Well, that’s still no problem for Hannibal Lekter. He just loves eating people!

According to Red, “The moral struggle is not between good and evil, right and wrong, but self and society.” But “society” is not just government, it is not just authority telling us what to do. It is us, as well as them. It speaks volumes about our alienation in modern society that we lose sight of this. Other people – friends, family, lovers, colleagues – all want subjective “good” things that differ both subtly and drastically from one person to another. The way out of the problems this creates is the mutually advantageous resort to reason and, yes, moral principle. This need not result in the tightly defined codes and rules that are the authoritarian’s paradise. It does not imply God-given fundamental truths as to what is good, but rather a consensus of shared feelings between all the interested parties – a consensus that is easier to achieve in small communities, albeit less universal and more questionable on that account as well.

So the Nietschzean “will to power” is not enough. And we all know how disastrous the philosophy of “will” was to become in the hands of the Nazis, when it was extended from individual self- actualisation to the collective will of the “Aryan race” and the glorification of the German Reich. Compared to Hitler, Hannibal Lekter is just a lovable eccentric!

Rather than stepping onto the slippery slope that begins with the “will to power” and ends with Triumph of the Will, world war and genocide, we should admit that moral discipline is necessary. That doesn’t mean we cannot aspire to a triumph of the willy (and fanny!) It just means we must be vigilant in challenging our own rationalisations.

 

LOTTERY-LEVEL WIN FOR COMPO KID

The Los Angeles Times reports that a former student who impregnated a California high-school teacher at the age of 17 has received a $6 million compensation settlement from the school district.

But compensation for what? For being a teenager over the age of consent (over the British AOC at least) who was lucky enough to have a consensual relationship with a young woman who is now 29?

They have to be joking don’t they? If this is victimhood, there must be millions of teenage boys (and younger!) who would bust their asses for a part of it.

Yet this is what Vince Finaldi, a lawyer for the unnamed “victim”, reportedly said about the astronomical damages award:

“The size of this settlement represents the gravity of the damage done to this young victim and his family and it also highlights the extreme malfeasance and neglect by school officials who turned a blind eye to the criminal conduct of a teacher and failed to protect a student.”

No evidence as to the “damage” done to the now 21-year-old “victim” is presented in the LA Times story, which is otherwise quite lengthy. Arguably, the baby could be considered collateral “damage” of the relationship. Nothing was said about who will be bearing the cost of the child’s upbringing but the “victim” has joint custody with the mother. This financial burden could account for part of the settlement, but $6 million? The infant could have gold-plated diapers for that sort of money, and more than enough for a decent upbringing through to college graduation.

The chair is dead, long live the chair!

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The shock resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week, offered in a perfunctory two-line letter without explanation, followed by a statement that likewise gave little away, initially brought howls of outrage against the New Zealand-based lawyer, claiming victims would see it as a betrayal; but this was soon followed by hints that she had actually been sacked.

My guess is that she was indeed pushed, because her incompetence after 18 months in the job was becoming an unsustainable public embarrassment. She had shown herself to be confused by “local law” i.e. English law, and even fell down on the basic role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way. But there is also reason to believe she was set up to fail. So, was this an Establishment plot, as was immediately alleged by the “survivor” lobby in line with their long-standing devotion to conspiracy theory?

Not exactly. What I have in mind is a conspiracy of just one person, and if you think that is a contradiction in terms you are technically correct, although I was once the sole convicted conspirator in a case of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, so do not underestimate life’s capacity for turning up impossible things!

As for the prime and only suspect in this “plot”, or Machiavellian manoeuvring, we do not need to look far: Theresa May, now Prime Minister, was the Home Secretary responsible for installing Goddard, after the first two incumbents in the job, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Dame Fionna Woolf had both fallen victim to the victim lobby. Both had been seen as Establishment stooges who would guarantee a cover-up of “Westminster VIP paedophilia”, then the obsession of the moment, as celebrity paedos had been immediately post-Savile.

So why would Theresa May want to set up Goddard to fail? Same reason she has given the Three Brexiteers jobs in her government. The referendum vote meant that May, a Remain supporter, has had Brexit foisted on her government. Very well then, let those who got the country into this mess be the ones given the impossible task – as she quite likely sees it – of making it work. When they fail, they will be the ones seen to have failed rather than the Prime Minister. Smart!

The Home Secretary, as she then was, also had a pretty shrewd idea the IICSA was in deep trouble too. As with the referendum result, which she could not defy because it had majority support, she could not simply drop the IICSA either: the powerful victim lobby would have been baying for her blood and would have swept her from office before you could say “lying compo seekers” or “attention-seeking fantasists”. Instead, in a move of stunning cunning, she gave the “survivors” exactly what they wanted, in the full knowledge that far from surviving, they would soon be shipwrecked again.

There is a wealth of evidence for this. Lauded for her careful attention to detail, Theresa May would most assuredly have done due diligence on Goddard. She would have known the New Zealander was not all she was cracked up to be. Superficially she seemed well qualified. You don’t get to be a QC for nothing, she had a long record of supposedly distinguished service on top public bodies, and as a judge her nickname in her home country was God, which suggests a certain level of esteem.

What May would also have known, though, is that Goddard’s high-flying reputation was “earned” not for genuine public service but the exact opposite. As Heretic TOC pointed out when she was given the IICSA gig, a survey of New Zealand judges gave her the lowest possible rating. She was ranked 63rd out of 63! Legal commentator Vince Siemer noted that many lawyers were “extremely critical” of Goddard’s “opportunistic public stances, liberties with the truth and contrarian judgments”. On his website Kiwis First, he said she was widely seen by lawyers as a political puppet – the sort of person who would do the Establishment’s bidding in order to advance her career.

But as Siemer hints, that is precisely what May might have found attractive. She would have understood that Goddard, rather than doing the right thing – which might mean opposing the survivor lobby’s injudicious “always believe the victim” dogma and their demands for an unfeasibly huge, unfocused inquiry – could be relied upon to just go with the flow, even if that inevitably meant eventual disaster. But that wouldn’t matter because by then May would probably have moved on to some other job, such as, oh, I don’t know, Prime Minister or whatever!

Goddard even had “form” with her excuses. In her departure statement, she referred to how hard it had been for her to leave her family behind, as if she had failed to realise, when offered the job, that Britain and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the planet. This was reminiscent of the over-privileged whinging she used in order to advance her earlier career, for Siemer tells us “She was appointed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority after she complained sitting on long cases in the High Court was too stressful on her back.” He continues, “Her days on the IPCA were mired in secrecy, political manoeuvring and tardy rulings.  She routinely sided with Crown immunity, suppression of information and against human rights.”

And, most pertinently, he asked:

So what did the Home Secretary mean when she assured MPs … that Goddard’s Inquiry will not be thwarted by the Official Secrets Act in an investigation which will delve into governmental department files in circumstances where there appears to be complicity by officials in the scandal?  A hint might lie in comments of the ‘fixer’ Home Secretary May has appointed.  “The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex,” forewarned Goddard J.

Experience tells us you can take Goddard J’s assessment to the bank.  Hopefully the British prefer an exhaustive and complex inquiry to an accurate and transparent outcome.

Exhaustive and complex it is certainly set up to be. The sheer immensity of the scale has necessitated the employment of 155 inquiry staff in dedicated offices around the country, dozens of lawyers have been expensively engaged, the projected cost has ballooned to £100 million, and – get this – hundreds of new allegations are arriving each month. The most recent report I have seen puts the figure even higher: the current rate of new allegations being forwarded to the inquiry team, according to the Mail on Sunday, is running at more than 100 a day.

It now looks entirely possible that the volume of allegations could outpace even this huge inquiry’s capacity to deal with them, so the endpoint, originally targeted at 2020, could keep getting further and further into the future. So instead of just one more successor, Goddard could be followed by a whole chain of them, linking from century to century like the kings and queens of England – an absurdity one might think would be terminated by the inevitable death of the victims, and hence their inability to give testimony or be cross-examined. But you never know these days: Jimmy Savile, Lord Janner and others have been pursued beyond the grave, so don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the victims’ descendents. It could all end up like Jarndyce and Jarndyce!

Actually, forget the cross-examination. In addition to the public hearings, the inquiry has set up a “Truth Project”, enabling anyone claiming to be “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the Inquiry. Their accounts will not be tested, challenged, or contradicted.” In true Orwellian style, the inquiry will thus facilitate fantasy but call it truth!

The inquiry is supposed to be investigating a range of institutions, including local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Immigration Service, the BBC, the armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, churches, mosques and other religious organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, regulators and other public and private institutions. The inquiry’s website tells us “It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.” It will consider historic allegations going back to 1945. Whew! Even just reading the list is exhausting, never mind investigating it.

The opening session of the IISCA, which has yet to hear any actual evidence after 18 months, involved preliminaries concerning alleged abuse within the Anglican Church. Those present heard that the Archbishops’ Council alone had handed over 7,000 “items of disclosure”. According to one press report, this would be “a mere drop in the ocean of paperwork”. Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry, warned that “There are 100,000 items in the archive, which mostly comprises individual children’s files, and some 26,000 boxes of material held in locations around the country.”

This is utter madness. What on earth is supposed to be the point? It has nothing to do with justice. The inquiry is passing new allegations to the police, but that course is always open to complainants anyway. As for institutions, rather than enabling them to learn lessons from past mistakes, probing ever deeper into their history will only reveal what is abundantly known already: the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. As Luke Gittos wrote in Spiked, the IICSA seems to be just an extremely expensive form of therapy for disturbed people – disturbed for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily past sexual abuse – who want someone to talk to and make them feel important.

That might be a valuable exercise were it not for its huge cost, not only in terms of its massive commandeering of resources but also because it is even more grievously expensive in another way. The inquiry’s work, like the black farce recently seen in the disastrous police investigations of alleged VIP paedophilia, is likely to come at the expense of innocent people. It is bad enough when the reputations of deceased individuals such as former Prime Minister Edward Heath and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, are baselessly trashed; this dangerously undermines confidence in public life as well as causing needless distress to families and friends. And it is far worse when it wrecks the lives and careers of the living, such as the unfortunate former MP Harvey Proctor, who has called for the IICSA to be dismantled, saying the inquiry was “in thrall to every fantasist alive”.

Even the mainstream media are now beginning to take the point. As David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday, put it:

It is a truth that if publicity is given to allegations that a famous person once committed acts of sexual abuse, many others will pile in with similar claims. Some may be genuine, but the multi-million-pound industry run by lawyers seeking damages for abuse ‘survivors’ has established a strong financial motive for those prepared to lie. And where police, politicians, and, yes, public inquiries have made clear that their bias is towards ‘believing the victims’, there is little risk of such perjury being exposed.

Your Honour, I rest my case.

 

NOT JUST YOUR AVERAGE SURVEY

The plethora of investigations into “child sexual abuse” (CSA) is matched by a torrent of surveys on the subject. Here in the UK most of them seem to be published by the NSPCC in its annual report, which I swear comes out monthly.

But the latest survey, by the respected Office for National Statistics (ONS), is far more authoritative and will be worth studying carefully. So for that reason I will make no comment on the figures at present but simply say that they are being touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”. They are based on asking adults to recall sexual encounters experienced during their childhood.

The ONS survey asked about all kinds of abuse, not just sexual. That is good, and there is no problem, in theory at least, with the definition of “abuse” that is used in relation to sexual encounters. The report quite properly defines abuse in terms of harm. It quotes approvingly a definition taken from a document called Working Together to Safeguard Children, which  defines abuse as: “A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.” Turning specifically to sexual abuse, the survey includes “sexual assault by an adult”, which is further specified as “sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)” and also “other sexual assault – this includes indecent exposure and unwanted touching/kissing of a sexual nature” [My emphasis].

Here is the problem: it seems no questions were asked about wanted or acceptable sexual contacts. Unless that possibility is spelled out, what is the respondent supposed to report? My guess is that most would feel they were meant to report any sexual contact with an adult, even if it was desired, based on the fact that below the age of consent their willing participation does not amount to legally valid consent. Thus I suspect that the figures would only be truly meaningful if accompanied by the respondent’s own personal rating of the contact, perhaps on a scale ranging from “Very negative” to “Very positive”.

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