I wonder how the current time we are living in will be viewed in the long run of history, though it is becoming increasingly clear that the answer to that question is that we won’t. One day, some outside observer might look at our planet and merely cite the Fermi paradox. However, I am pretty sure I will remember this period of time as one of absolute idiocy.
I have a problem of coming across as arrogant. I might be arrogant, but I should defend myself by insisting that I generally do not, or did not, consider myself more intelligent than others. I consider myself average. When it comes to intelligence I have concluded that the best metric is a pragmatic one, and in that I am a 34 year old failure in life, I cannot possibly be intelligent. Fight me on this point if you like.
That being said, I don’t have to think anyone else is particularly smart either. And I am coming to learn that everyone else on the planet has their head well and truly placed into their own ass.
There was a period of a few months that were bereft with long, pointless arguments. Unfortunately, one of these arguments ended up being with my father. Just to make it worse, it was about politics.
In epistemology there is the concept of the Justified True Belief. When a certain Roman once proclaimed that the world must be a sphere because spheres are the most perfect shape possible, he did not have any true knowledge about the world. With the concept of JTB, the avenue by which you come to knowledge is as important as the factoid you get from it. Why? Because if tomorrow the roman decides that dodecahedrons are the most perfect shape imaginable, then suddenly the world is no longer a sphere, is it?
Me and my father share many political views, but I don’t think a single one of the beliefs he holds is a JTB. This means a lot of biting my tongue at the best of times, when he scoffs off any requests for proof with a simple ‘I just know’. It is a lot worse then when we disagree.
So over the past few years my father has followed what he thinks is an alarming trend of women harassing innocent men with unwarranted claims of rape. He has not gone so far as to articulate it like that specifically, but he seems to allude to a belief that there is a cabal of women out to bring men down. They went after, Cosby, they went after Louis CK, Weinstein, and then they went after Bret Kavanaugh.
It should be said that my father hates Donald Trump. But he watched the testimonies and came to the conclusion that Kavanaugh was an innocent man and that this woman was clearly a liar. And with my father, and people like him, the verdict comes before the evidence, and once that verdict is set it doesn’t budge.
By coincidence, at the same time that this was happening I was reading a book about trauma (the book was Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps The Score, which explores what exactly victims of trauma go through, in some pretty agonizing detail). The book corroborated some of the main criticisms that people had against Dr Christine Ford, nominating how one of the accusers in the Boston catholic church sexual assault scandal repressed the memory for nearly a decade. When a brain undergoes a traumatic experience, it is unable to process the experience and thus ultimately throws it into a corner and ignores it. This can explain the sometimes massive delay between a traumatic experience and the victim of the experience actually doing something about it. That same victim of the Boston sexual assault scandal was in denial about what happened, and initially approached the research who wrote The Body Keeps the Score to help figure out whether the sexual assault had actually happened, or whether he was just losing his mind.
Did any of this change my father’s mind? No.
Well, Ford claimed to have a fear of flying, but she flew all the time.
I have a fear of flying (remember that one time I literally took a slow boat to Asia?), and I have had one since my mid twenties. It escalated to unmanageable levels when I was 28. And yet, since then, I not only have flown, but I have flown repeatedly. Once, I even flew to visit my father in Taiwan.
He ignored those points as well. The man was innocent, end of story. It didn’t really matter what I said.
So here is what my dad doesn’t understand. I went to high school in the late 90’s / early 00’s, and I remember that already at that time there were rape accusations (so I was told by my older brother and some friends: I didn’t pay attention to anything in school – even the drama). I use the word accusation there on purpose. The sentiments that I remember was that the students did not for a second believe the accusers, but the school, the police, and the courts did (I also distinctly recall that in one such case we kids, who of course were more liberal than the adults, were convinced that part of the reason the old conservative adults were so quick to cast blame on the young man was because he was black, and the accusing girl was white). In one of those cases I recall that when the accused male student produced a pretty significant alibi, the female accused a completely different student. For her (I was told), it was important that her parents didn’t find out that she had sex of her own volition, and if she found herself pregnant it was easier to say some man made her do it than that she herself wanted it. And (again, from memory) there were some pretty bad consequences of the fallout of this.
I believe this happened, though I would for now discard the epistemologically rigorous analysis about to what extent I know this happened (is this hypocritical? I mean, I opened this whole discussion with the idea of JTB…). What is important is that I do not think the idea that a (singular) woman could (modal verb) fabricate a rape accusation is unheard of. But at that point, that too is an accusation which demands a burden of proof. One is not justified in seeing a trend and extrapolating any old belief they like from said trend. There is a lot of this shit nowadays.
My dad’s problems are many. One is that he refuses to believe that the world can change. Another is that he attributes truth status to all his carefree observations. I don’t want to extrapolate too much as to why my father seemingly needs these accusations to be false, enough so as to get him to close his eyes some pretty damning evidence.
If only this had been the only stupid conversation I had had in recent months.