Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for September 2013

The German election

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Around the last Swedish election, I wrote no less than four entries ([1], [2], [3], [4]).

Last Sunday, the German elections took place—and I have yet to write a single word.

To remedy this somewhat, the things that strike me as particularly important or interesting:

  1. Conservative CDU/CSU finds it self in paradoxical situation, being widely hailed as the victors, yet being forced to search for a coalition partner among three Leftist parties to continue their government.

    To a Swede, the situation is particularly odd, because in the same setup in Sweden, a Leftist government would have been a near given, seeing that the the Social-Democrat SPD, the Center-Left ecological party “Die Grüne”, and the SED-descendant and extreme Left “Die Linke” together have narrow majority of the seats.

    While Die Linke, with their connections to the East-German communist party, are unlikely to be a welcome partner for the other parties, a Leftist minority government with their support seems the logical conclusion.

    That this is different in Germany relates (I speculate) to a system that requires a majority for the prospective Chancellor during the intra-parliamentary election. Only if a majority fails to manifest it self repeatedly can a minority government be formed—or a second public election called for.

  2. The liberal (in various parts classical, social/pseudo-, and neo-) FDP dropped out of the Bundestag for the first time in some sixty years—after having reached a record high in the previous election and being the junior-partner in the incumbent government.

    The long-term effects of this are yet to be seen, but they could conceivably be far-reaching. Factor in that Die Grüne und Die Linke both took hits in terms of popularity, and Germany might be headed towards a two-party system. On the other, FDP might bounce, seeing that analysts see much of their failure as a consequence of achieving too little as the junior partner—a problem they will not have in the next four years.

  3. New-comer AfD, a euro-critical party riding on the dissatisfaction with the older generations of parties, came close to entry, but ultimately failed. Their progress or regression until the next election is one of the more interesting questions ahead.

    In their wake, other minor parties, notably “the pirate party”, fared poorly and had no chance at entry. FDP can put at least part of the blame for its fiasco in the hands of AfD.

  4. Germany has a 5% lower limit for representation in the Bundestag. Sweden has a 4% limit—and both FDP and AfD would have made it under Swedish rules. Together they account for 9.5% of the votes going to waste. (With several percent more lost on another small parties.)

As an aside, assuming that the Conservatives do prevail: The best man won—and was a woman.

(While I do not think highly of politicians, Angela Merkel is far above their mediocre average in terms of competence. Ideologically, I might have preferred FDP, but that they would not provide the chancellor was a given.)

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Written by michaeleriksson

September 29, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Rape culture and feminist idiocy

with 3 comments

I recently encountered a bizarre example of feminist idiocy: http://disruptingdinnerparties.com/2013/09/26/modeling-consent/e.

The author (Rebecca Flin) takes the grossly misleading and abominable term “rape culture”, an evil rhetorical trick used to associate poorly defined, but often harmless, behaviours with rape and/or to suggestion the prevalence of a certain set of rare behaviours—and praises it as something positive.


Side-note:

In my impression, “rape culture” originated as a semi-legitimate term pertaining to actual aspects of rape, claiming a high prevalence of rape, extensive victim blaiming, and similar. While these claims can be disputed and while the term is unnecessarily rhetorical, the term was not absurd in the context.

Later, however, “rape culture” has degenerated to a slogan, used to condemn many aspects of society relating to men, women, and their roles and behaviours in a blanket manner without any further motivation. These aspects can include anything from dating (without anything even resembling rape) to office life or political decisions. In this, it plays a similar role as the fictitious “Patriarchy” and is as hateful and sexist as “mansplaining”—while normally being as unwarranted as both.


How misleading the term is is clear from Flin’s own claim “Rape culture is our culture.”, with actual rapes being a rare occurrence and most men faulting through being too much the gentlemen or nice guys where woman are concerned. (Where I refer to treatment of women in the workplace, in the family, etc.—not the romantic situations below. There, however, a similar phenomenon is applicable and touched upon.) The claim “Gentleman culture is our culture.” would come far closer to the truth among adults.

Flin claims the main purpose of describing an alternative “consent culture” and goes on to at length describe a romantic encounter. A telling part is

Our faces were close together, breath in sync and heavy– it was that perfect moment, the one they capture in all the movies. I knew it was coming. That classic, dreamy, first kiss. And then something truly miraculous happened.

“Rebecca, I’d like to kiss you” “oh my!”

oh my!

I was taken off-guard. No one had ever verbally asked me to kiss them before unless I was physically keeping my face away from theirs so that they couldn’t. “Oh wow” I thought… “He is actually asking for consent!”

Firstly, by implication from the text, if he had kissed her without asking for permission, this would have been an instance of “rape culture”—not verbally asking for consent. Not only is this absurd in it self, but it has been established that consent even for sex is non-verbal on a roughly 50–50 basise. In the above scenario, for just a kiss, the likelihood of consent from non-verbal queues is very high indeed—and this is one of the situations were many women start yearning for their partner to get it together and kiss her already. The proportion yearning for him to explicitly ask her for a kiss is far smaller. (Indeed, Flin is the first case I have ever heard off.) If there is anything wrong with the above picture, it is the tacit assumption that it is the man who should take the initiative for the actual kiss.

Quite contrary to the above scene, there are women (I will not guess at the proportion, but it is certainly non-trivial) who see a man who has the guts to kiss her without discussion as something positive and can even see the question as a sign of lacking self-confidence or ability to read her, leading to a turn-off. (Assuming an appropriate situation, which was the case above. Grabbing a random girl in the subway could lead to a disaster—as could kissing a dance partner who has not given any signs of being willing.)

And, yes, consent was indeed what was given—and just barely qualifying as verbal at that:

But damn, I did want to kiss him, so I replied with a small, breathless “ok” and leaned in.

The author proceeds to (unintentionally) display how her own obsession with “rape culture” is detrimental to both her and her counter-part:

Still, I shook myself out of it because I didn’t want to mislead him into thinking we would have sex (especially in such an open sexual environment such as this hippy-place). This is how much I have internalized rape culture. I expect men to challenge me when I lay down a sexual boundary. I am good at asserting my boundaries, and trust that they will eventually be respected, yet I often choose to avoid progressing a sexual situation altogether rather than to “put myself in a situation” where I have to fight to lay down a line.

With this in mind, I tore myself away after a bit of some seriously hot making-out and stumbled out of the dream-dance-kiss back into reality.

In addition, I must seriously question her judgment if she has ever managed to put her self in situation where she has “to fight to lay down a line” to prevent sex after knowing in advance that she was not interested in sex: Short of making a joint trip to the bathroom or going back to “his” or “hers”, such situations are extremely rare—and are quite likely to coincide with a real rape scenario where her lack of consent will not alter events. With a high likelihood, an imagined problem alters her behaviour to her own detriment.


Side-note:

In addition, contrary to the belief of many feminists, men will not always be interested in escalating a make-out situation into sex—particularly not on a first date when they have long-term intentions.


As they meet again the next day:

“But I still somehow felt like I maybe wasn’t reading you right. Sometimes you seemed into it, but other times you didn’t…”

Oh my god he was checking in. Rape culture tells me that men always want to just “get the sex”, so naturally, I was shocked that he chose to risk “getting the sex” by verbally checking in.

His hesitation then may have been related to non-verbal queues. Certainly, his statements show how important these are for judging consent.

Flin displays her own prejudices about men and male behaviour.

Shortly after, the one instance of insight Flin displays through-out the text:

Woah! Rape culture misled me in this instance.

Unfortunately, this insight makes no further mark on her post.

A gentleman meets an idiot…

Written by michaeleriksson

September 29, 2013 at 11:05 pm

The border between defending and supporting

with 2 comments

When reading blogs, I usually chose to comment only when I find problems in the text read. (But not on every occasion I find problems.) Typical triggers include logical errors, a lack of ad rem argumentation, unfair characterizations of others opinions, and similar. Even just undue one-sidedness can be enough, depending on the details and my own current energy level.

As a consequence, I often find myself countering texts attacking X, even when I have no strong feelings concerning X or am even negative towards X. Indeed, I often find myself responding in an issue where I cannot judge the underlying pros-and-cons, positions, whatnot, but can clearly see that the attack is faulty on grounds not intrinsically dependent on the issue. (By analogy, I do not need to be a physician to be suspicious of a sore throat treatment that consists of amputating the foot of the patient’s spouse.)

This comes with the considerable danger of incorrectly being considered the supporter of X, especially when dealing with people who have low standards of intellectual honesty and exactness, and who do not value a fair and free debate highly—if the end justifies the means, anyone opposing even the means must oppose the end…

A good example is the last Swedish elections and the conflicts around SD, where I repeatedly protested against misrepresentations of their opinions, attempts to prevent their participation in the election campaigns by egg throwing, and similar—without being one of their supporters. (Cf. several earlier discussions, most notably Unfair treatment of Sverigedemokraterna. Almost invariably, however, I was immediately accused not only of being a supporter, but often even taken to be active in the party.

Other occasions include my speaking up in defense of the Pope or the Catholic Church in the light of distortions of opinions or facts, e.g. claims that Benedikt XVI/Joseph Ratzinger had been a Nazi. However, I still consider religion to be misguided at best—dangerous and fraudulent at worst.

In much, it is not just a matter of having the right or wrong opinion, but of having the right opinion for a valid reason—a critical failure in many.

This leads me to the first of two purposes with this post:

The unambiguous statement that my objections to a particular text do not automatically imply that I “side” with the opposing position. Indeed, there are even cases where I am in support of the high-level, principle position of the text, even while rejecting the text (or parts of it) per se.

That I do side with the opposition in many cases (notably, where feminism, astrology, creationism, … are concerned) has a simple explanation: The proponents tend to have extremely weak arguments not just in the one text currently under discussion, but in any and all texts I have encountered. Meanwhile, the opposition fares far better, using sound and factual arguments, scientific investigations, models and explanations more compatible with Occam’s Razor, and so on.

Here we land at the second purpose:

A brief pointer to the risk of unconsciously accepting too much of the opposition or of not examining their arguments or behaviours with the same critical eye through an implicit believe that those opposing the bad guys are automatically the good guys. (Respectively, the same principle concerning those one considers the good guys or the own team.)

I am aware of this risk and hope that I counter it appropriately, but even so I occasionally see myself fault, e.g. in that my unconscious opinion of Ratzinger improved the more unfair attacks I saw—without any additional positive information having surfaced in the mean time. (A risk those who like to vilify their opponents might want to stop and consider.)

At least some others appear to commit it to a far higher degree. For instance, I have often noted that political parties, at least in the Sweden of my youth, tended to oppose each other even on questions where there were no obvious ideological or pragmatic reasons for a difference. This extended to Leftist politicians and supporters rejecting suggestions from the Center–Right parties in a manner that I at the time considered it acts of bad faith. While I do not rule out a partial bad-faith explanation, I see it as more likely that this was a case of a prejudice that anything the Center–Right said must have certain intentions, leading to a biased and flawed interpretation. (See, however, an alternate explanation of at least some aspects.) Similarly, I have the fear that many who (correctly) support evolution over creationism do this for the wrong reason, namely that it is the “right” opinion to have for a Democrat, seeing that so many Republicans believe in variations of creationism. This can lead to absurdities like an evolutionist turning round and suddenly defending feminism: Both are pieces of the orthodox Democrat faith, but with regards to science and reason they have very different levels of support. Indeed, much of what political and gender-feminists claim is near incompatible with evolution (and outright incompatible with biology in general) making it very hard for a rational and well-informed human to simultaneously support both. For another example, there are very many who believe that Obama (Bush Jr., Reagan, Hillary Clinton) can do no wrong/right (depending on affiliation), without appropriately considering that he is just a human.

Written by michaeleriksson

September 29, 2013 at 11:00 pm