Exploitation

The word doesn’t immediately bring to mind malicious activity, because we all take advantage of what we have, be it competitive advantages or even good weather. However, in a world full of unequal advantages and obvious and seemingly increasing disadvantage for people around the world, exploitation can become something sinister. It doesn’t help when people are lured into circumstances they could have avoided with less naivety, but the fact that the abuse of gullibility has become a money-making industry is something many people are not aware of. There are organizations that operate on the edge of legality, running ideological enterprises and making money at the same time.

This is, of course, related to my blog entry on fragility and an earlier entry on dysphoria in which I described my discomfort while growing up, which also explained my emigration. My case was absolutely harmless compared to what some people, especially young women, go through when they suddenly become aware that nature has assigned them the role of childbearing, with all its particular discomforts and dangers. Not only that, but the obvious misogyny that thrives in the minds of men under the influence of pornography, from pick-up lines to rape, is enough for any girl to shy away from the role she plays in the minds of men. But that’s not all, is it? The inequality that has been part of women’s lives for a long time is still present, albeit in a discrete way that can bring consequences. But anyone who is physically, mentally, or socially vulnerable can be exploited, as shown by several examples of men who underwent life-changing surgery at a young age and regretted it.

It used to be common for boys to be criticized for taking advantage of younger children or girls who couldn’t physically keep up with them, and rightly so, because that was bullying. We probably all noted that in some cases girls and women were also known to bully. It was harassment that went unpunished except for social criticism or a “slap on the wrist” when it was allowed, but as an adult, such harassment should be punished by law. Of course, there are laws, and in most Western countries there is an equality law that deals with anti-discrimination, although it is often difficult to prove one’s case. Often people who have been exploited, harassed, or discriminated against are forced to turn away because their case is not considered presentable.

This is really a matter of social cohesion and having a group that will stand up for you and support you when you are being exploited in some way. But we also see how supportive groups can resemble the Crusaders of the Middle Ages who “practiced” their fighting skills on their way to Jerusalem, killing many unsuspecting people, mostly Jews, along the way. Instead of cohesion, groups have been known to pick their enemies, sometimes previous allies, and sow discord in society to attract “awareness” to their cause. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” goes the proverb, and indeed, the result is often not what may have been originally intended. The tendency to overshoot has been observed many times, with dubious results. At the present a cause that is causing a lot of pain is that of the trans-people, who obviously need less pain in their lives, but women are being targeted in the course of the discussion.

Therefore, the one cause, that seems to continually need representation is that of misogyny, and the suffering of women is widespread, has a long history, and by far outweighs the undisputed suffering of people with gender dysphoria, or those who have undergone transition. Women have been exploited for millennia, if not since the beginning of human existence, and primarily because they have the burden of birth. Until there was contraception and later a law made, under which women gained autonomy over their bodies, no woman was asked whether they wanted to undergo the birthing process, and many have died in the course of history, whilst bearing or giving birth to a child, or in the post-natal stage. The youngest person recorded as giving birth was 5 ½ (Lina Medina, from the Ticrapo District of Peru), after entering “precocious puberty.” The father was never found, but obviously Lina had been exploited by a man, although it should be called rape. There are more reported cases, and there is certainly a high number of unrecorded cases.

This just shows how vulnerable people can be, and the 10 million cases of children in prostitution worldwide give a number to this vulnerability. Thailand and Brazil are considered the countries where it is most prevalent. However, the recent conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, who reportedly groomed young women for exploitation by friends of Jeffrey Epstein, shows that the dangers are very present in the West as well. A glaring imbalance is that apart from Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly took his own life, the men involved have not yet been charged and a woman is the first person to take responsibility. Granted, there are famous cases of women aiding and abetting, even for serial killers, but it is a sign of our inability to deal with such cases on an equal footing that Maxwell is the only one who goes to jail.

For this reason, it is understandable that women are angry at the overturning of precedent in the U.S. and applause in other countries, because it is a rollback of a hard-won right. The cases cited by fundamental opponents of abortion, in which abortion is used merely as a means of contraception or as a substitute for an ineffective or improperly used method of contraception, are obviously a problem in the eyes of people who regard life as something sacred. The statistics cited, that 46% of women who have an abortion did not use contraception in the month they became pregnant, and 47% have had at least one previous abortion, seem callous in the eyes of women struggling to have a child. There are many risks associated with abortion. With 75% of respondents reporting that they could not afford to have a child, and 50% of abortions performed to avoid being a single parent, the risk of laypersons using dangerous methods will increase.

Abusive parents, especially fathers, are an additional danger to young girls and wives, and of course the absence of fathers is also a problem. According to the United Nations, an estimated 736 million women worldwide – nearly one in three – have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both at least once in their lives (30% of women aged 15 and older). Most acts of violence against women are perpetrated by current or former husbands or intimate partners. Unfortunately, many “pro-life” people are also convinced that life circumstances are a result of merit, meaning that poverty and other limiting influences in life are self-inflicted or due to lack of faith, rather than birthplace, parents’ occupation, skin colour, or the area in which one grew up. Even in middle-class areas, academics often give birth to children who are more likely to become academics themselves. So, it’s not uncommon for poorer children to follow in their parents’ footsteps – although many from poorer families do move up in society.

This picture drawn, while not complete, shows several facets of the situation young women face when they enter puberty. That a sceptical outlook is understandable for someone who is already uncomfortable in her life and can lead to a drastic course of action should be obvious. The effects of trends and fads on mindsets, which can even become contagious, are also well known, and regularly exploited. It is also clear that every loophole is misused by the most exploitive people in society, but instead of rebuking them, even the worst are broadly supported because they are perceived as a minority that needs assistance.

So, my thesis is that women are the most exploited people on the planet, and the less they can fend for themselves, the more they are exploited. There are obviously many other groups that endure exploitation when they are most vulnerable, but even then, it is the women that have the biggest burden to carry. I don’t want to exclude men, but I have always been the opinion that a man can fall on his feet more often than a woman can, because his burden is lighter. There is also no doubt in my mind that men are more often the victims in war, but there only exist estimations about the total number of people to have died in the history of war, and they have ranged from 150 million to 1 billion, so it’s hard to say. Some say about 36% of deaths are women.

Men also suffer differently; compared to men, women feel pain in more areas of their body and for longer durations. “There is evidence for hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, affecting a person’s pain experience,” Ed Keogh, a psychologist from the Pain Management Unit at the University of Bath, told LiveScience in a telephone interview. Women report varying pain experiences throughout their menstrual cycle, when estrogen levels vary widely. Moreover, pregnant women – who often have elevated estrogen levels – can tolerate the intense physical pain of childbirth.” However, my wife has to smile when she hears this, because, as she says, “What else are you going to do? It doesn’t make the toleration any better!”

The article (https://www.livescience.com/3898-women-suffer-men.html) goes on to say, ““Testosterone may have a similar protective effect for men,” Keogh said.  But he also thinks that the cultural differences between men and women are important as well. “Social and psychological factors cannot be ignored,” Keogh said. “We have found that women will focus on the emotional response to stress.” In contrast, men typically think only of the sensation itself, which may explain their higher thresholds and tolerances.”

To come to an end, women are biologically at a disadvantage if they are left to their role as childbearers, which has always been exploited. A social stance had been adopted in the West, so that women can be protected better, achieve a higher social standing than in the past and move towards equality in opportunity. Part of this process was the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies and choose their way through life. It has made women stronger and more selective and left some men wanting on the wayside. It looks as though the people who don’t want this to happen are once again fighting back, and women are targeted for exploitation once more.

Fragile

After a while of abstinence, I wanted to revisit the topic of fragility in my blog. For some people who see themselves as strong and resilient, or at least refuse to be lumped in with the victims of the world, this may seem strange. Being called fragile is sometimes seen as a denigration of our personality, but when we do some soul-searching, it usually becomes clear that we have a chink in our armour, and that’s where we usually spend so much time compensating for it.

Fragile means that something can easily break, or that something is fragile, and of course in this context we consider it a sign of weakness. But our life on this planet is fragile, dependent on a variety of conditions such as fresh air, clean water, durable food, but also stable weather and the absence of natural disasters that have made life so difficult in the past. The planet is an oasis in an unfriendly cosmos; a blue jewel, full of life so diverse that it feels like the lavish abundance is almost wasteful. When I look into my garden and the trees behind it and fall into my spiritual thinking, I wonder about the principle of life on this planet. The trees cast so many seeds, just as we find in all of life’s creation, and some bear fruit while others do not. It is much like the well-known parable of the Sower who indiscriminately sows seed that falls on hard ground, among weeds, some of the seed is eaten by the birds, but some falls on good soil that makes up for the loss. It is a lesson in serenity when we see that not everything is thriving, and we feel that it has been wasted. We have difficulty with such an attitude when we see that life is also like that, and we see people on the street who are in a difficult situation, whose wealth is eaten up by speculators, or who are dragged down by circumstances.

Then we feel that life should be sustainable and not subject to the hardships that many people suffer. In times past, people found comfort in the idea that nothing is wasted, that everything serves a higher purpose, but today many people resist such an idea and protest the futility of existence. Some voices expressing this doubt resonate with a certain frustration, while others are more resigned and stubbornly accept that the search for meaning is futile. The accumulation of wealth seems to satisfy the influential, who follow an ideology of endless growth and profit, subjecting all people to their plans. The images of starving children move lower income people to help financially, sometimes beyond their means, while they withdraw from their neighbours and become speechless in the drudgery of working to make other people rich.

The fragility of man is a well-known fact and the subject of all religions and wisdom traditions. The unity of the human race is proclaimed, united in suffering of many kinds: poverty, hunger, thirst, impairment, oppression and imprisonment; so many people today are depressed, in a state of dysphoria and confusion and the list goes on. Ways to get out of these limitations of well-being are suggested, but few are followed. I think that the metaphors of the past no longer fit our circumstances so well, but there is a sense that the “molech” or “moloch” of the past is identifiable with the “machine” of today that is figuratively eating our children and seducing society into decadence. In this way, our fragility is used against us.

However, I think that the people who refuse to bow to the weight of all this and fight back in their own way are right. Sometimes it is pure emotion, and we beat against the metal and stone of immovable objects, and it is really in vain. Some people drown themselves in some stimulant: Food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, whatever they can find. This is also futile and only highlights our fragility even more when we see the consequences of their behaviour. Some follow a trend or an ideology with an uncertain outcome, as a sign of resistance, looking for a sign of strength. In my opinion, it is better to reach out to others, because in all our fragility, our connectedness helps us to become more resilient. Alone we may not be able to fight the conditions we find ourselves in, but together we can.

We remain fragile, and each individual link is not strong enough on its own, but like chain mail, the combined links can withstand the pressure applied to them. We just have to learn from nature and look at the lavishness of how it spreads its seed, and feel free to be as generous with whatever we can contribute, and even a smile or a helping hand can be a lifebelt at the right moment. I feel obliged by the fact that we are fragile to seek others and unite with them. Perhaps, just perhaps, this mutual benefit was the plan from the beginning. And perhaps we have somehow always kept ourselves from it, and each generation has had to learn its necessity anew. They say that we learn best when we are confronted with a problem, and without such conflicts, we don’t learn. Perhaps that is our problem, and the reason why there are so many conflicts today.

I am convinced that we have come into this world as fragile beings to grow internally and externally and to withdraw into the cosmic consciousness that has given us life. Each of us has had our experiences and learned our lessons, even the most terrible ones, which we will end up sharing in ways we cannot imagine. That would be a meaningful existence.

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one

Drying in the colour of the evening sun

Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away

But something in our minds will always stay

Perhaps this final act was meant

To clinch a lifetime’s argument

That nothing comes from violence, and nothing ever could

For all those born beneath an angry star

Lest we forget how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall

Like tears from a star, like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say

How fragile we are, how fragile we are

On and on the rain will fall

Like tears from a star, like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say

How fragile we are, how fragile we are

How fragile we are, how fragile we are

Sting

The News

When you use media, do you choose the news you want to hear or see? Or does the news choose you?

If we were to travel back in time, say 100 years to 1922, your main source would have been a newspaper reporting on international events, such as the miners’ strike in Transvaal, South Africa, or the naval arms limitation pact between the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, France, and Japan. You would have heard about the release of the Dracula film Nosferatu in Germany, or the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was sentenced to six years in prison by a British judge in India for insubordination. In June 1922, you would have heard about Lenin appointing Joseph Stalin as general secretary of the Russian Communist Party, or about the Italian dictator Mussolini planning an uprising against the government. Of course, the news we glean from newspapers today is led by headlines that catch your eye as you walk past the stands, and they did in 1922, but people didn’t have the images and opinions that television and the Internet give us, and they didn’t have the feeling of being nudged and made aware of issues all the time, as they do today.

It is clear that we need information to function as a democracy, which is why the main role of the press in a democratic society is that of a watchdog. In theory, the press enjoys the freedom to observe and comment on the government without fear of reprisal and provides the people in a democracy with truthful accounts of political events. The ability to criticize government policies and give the people a voice on key political issues is the cornerstone of both press freedom and democracy itself. Protecting the independence of the press is essential if democracy is to remain strong. This is probably why people of extreme wealth tend to have an interest in owning newspapers and producing their own news media, which are used to form opinions consistent with the policies they want to promote. It is also why authoritarian governments pressure national agencies to be “fair,” which is an interpretable expression.

Investigative reporting, of course, exists both as a hypothetical category and in practice. While I think it’s undeniable that investigative reporting is, by and large, good quality reporting, it has its own peculiarities. The very name refers to a deeper, more analytical approach to a news story, an issue, a phenomenon, or a person. In a highly simplified way, one could say that “normal” reporting is just a sharing of information, while investigative reporting “digs” beneath the surface. What makes investigative reporting so special is an eternal dilemma: Is the role of a reporter simply to pass information neutrally from the source to the addressee, or should journalism seek to explain, or even “correct” reality based on sound professional, ethical, and moral criteria? The investigative reporting figures I revered a few years ago were, in hindsight, biased. But the problem is that we all are. We cannot speak of ethics or morality without admitting that we are biased toward this or that ideal.

In my exchanges with people around the world, for example, we are concerned about the news we receive about the war in Ukraine. None of my interlocutors doubt that Putin is displaying strange rhetoric, especially considering the catastrophe of the 20th century, which was the bloodiest century in history, and the unprecedented introduction of weapons of mass destruction. We thought empires were dead and cooperation between sovereign states was the way forward, with trade relations providing a unifying element that ensured a sense of interdependence in securing a sustainable future. The problem, I suppose, was that this idea was born out of Western individualistic notions that were deeply critical of collectivist and authoritarian societies. However, the modern idea of a policy of approval over all else, as though opposites do not supply the kind of tension that is conducive to creativity, is not what the west has been about, nor can it be. The question is, how militant will the opposition be?

The news is often a mixture of opinions based on information of varying quality. We have to constantly verify the information we receive and are often unable to comply. In trying to comply, we either lack reliable sources, or we know that the source we have is biased, or we conclude that no one is completely correct and postpone a decision. The less conducive alternative to democracy is to turn away and find another occupation that we enjoy more, or to subscribe to a conspiracy theory based on shaky evidence that has no substance other than being someone’s opinion. So, what do we do in such a situation? Perhaps you could tell me in the comments.

I have the strategy of using various sources and basing my decisions on my own moral compass. It helps to have a partner with whom I can talk about decisions we have to make, with whom I have built a 45-year partnership and who I know like no other person. Family and friends can also contribute, especially penfriends, with whom you have a habit of exchanging views, just as the occasional acquaintance that you come across can provide a different perspective. Therefore, the news is filtered through these conversations, and provide a basis to work on. The fact remains that it still remains preliminary and a tentative approach to what will turn out to be the truth.

I’d be interested in hearing opinions.

Dysphoria

There has been much talk recently about “dysphoria” (from ancient Greek δύσφορος (dúsphoros) “grievous”; from δυσ- (dus-) “bad, difficult” and φέρω (phérō) “to bear”), a state of deep discomfort or dissatisfaction. It is the opposite of euphoria. In a psychiatric context, dysphoria can be accompanied by depression, anxiety, or agitation. I hadn’t thought of myself in this context until I looked into the word, but then I realized that I had suffered from mild dysphoria from an early age although it wasn’t called that, of course. I was what they called an “impressionable child,” and it meant that I was very easily guided by other children or adults, but what they really meant was that I followed ideas, asked a lot of questions, and was impressed by things that were outside my given environment. This may have to do with the fact that at an early age, due to the fact that we as a family lived in Malaysia for several years, I witnessed a lot of things outside of a typically British environment.

My dysphoria seems to have been caused by a discomfort with convention and with expectations associated with conformity, especially when returning to Britain, and a desire to break out of acceptable or fashionable behaviour. I have always felt somewhat volatile in this regard, and the expectations placed on me as the oldest son in a family of boys in a military setting, where I only received a sister when I was into puberty, added to my discomfort. I suppose my family would say that there was no tangible forced expectation on me, but there was always a situational expectation or peer pressure that was seen as something perfectly normal by the people around me. In the few circumstances when I managed to break out and express myself, I experienced people worried that I was becoming uncontrollable or even “effeminate” and I had worries of not belonging in that setting. I always tried, of course, but the discomfort had no way to express itself in most cases.

Today there is so much emphasis on the sexual aspect, but that was not the kind of pressure I felt, although sexuality certainly played a role. Having been approached by pedophiles even before puberty and loathing the masculinity that tried to exploit my weakness, I even disliked my father’s masculinity when it came into play. I later found out that my father also struggled with his role and was much more sensitive than I gave him credit for, but he had adapted to his role early on and saw it as his duty to raise my brothers and me to be “typical” men as he embodied that role. I was attracted to women primarily because they were not men, and as long as they did not play the sexualized mating game, I could relax in their company. However, my first attempts in England to socialize with women largely failed because of this, and even at school I found myself confronted with individual young women who played this game, which I found difficult to deal with. Friends who went out with me were disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm for the “mating game.”

Because of my stature, I always attracted the expectations of others, and it was probably typical of the time of the sexual revolution that everything was seen in this light. The village soccer team I occasionally played on took me to a “men’s night out,” and I felt that the deception, sexualization, and evident complicity of women that took place there made me very suspicious of women for a while. This was exacerbated when porn was sold under the table at the next job, enforcing the impression of a kind of femininity that I found repulsive. I avoided women who were suggestive in that way and struggled with the masculinity that overtook my body, and my changing appearance. Photographs taken for job applications show a shy boy, uncomfortably dressed up in a suit, who struggled to be the man he was expected to be.

Looking back many years later, you can see that it was British society that I seemed to associate with my discomfort, probably because of the conformity I experienced there, which seemed almost traditional, especially after puberty, when I was expected by both men and women to be a typical male. I was already looking for a chance to go abroad, convinced that there was a different approach out there somewhere. The Army seemed like the opportunity I needed, but it proved to be a bastion of displayed masculinity defined by adherence to traditional masculine characteristics that consequently stigmatized and limited the emotions that boys and men might express. Instead, as could be expected, other emotions like anger and aggression were encouraged and rewarded. Many young men cried at night in the barracks during basic training, and although I didn’t, I could see that I wasn’t alone. It was only when I went to Germany as an atypical soldier and left the barracks that I experienced a relaxation of these expectations, which occurred out of sight of my comrades. Until then, I conformed and played a role that didn’t fit too well and survived oddly because of a physical appearance that I wore like a costume, or a disguise, and convinced some gullible people with my performance. Of course, around the soldiers, there was still this game going on, and German girls assumed that I was part of it. It was when I had the chance to talk with them that some of them saw something else. Several still accused me of not being sincere with them, because that was what they had experienced with other soldiers. In the end, I found one girl that saw through appearances, and we married. This brought on a final struggle to break out and finally gave me the peace that has lasted, along with my marriage, 45 years.

The reason I tell this story is because I was fortunate in a way that young people seem not to be today. I went through a phase in which I suffered a mild dysphoria that nonetheless caused me to leave Britain and set up home elsewhere. I also had the opportunity to do so, using the Army as a steppingstone, and a widespread acceptance in Germany of British people, especially if you learn their language. I was not drawn into a discussion about gender identity, despite my discomfort with the sexualised society I was growing up in and attraction to activities that were, according to the opinions of my peers, atypical of my role as a man. At a particular phase in my life, the modern focus on gender may have disastrous, and my example shows that the discomfort of growing up may have sexual undercurrents but may have more to do with the drastic changes that puberty brings, perhaps more in girls than boys. Especially children who grow up in a privileged and protected environment often baulk at the reality they are confronted with when puberty sets in, and some suffer this conflict at an earlier age. Some speak of the shock of the first time of hearing their parents having sex, and their concern for their mothers, who they imagine to be in pain. It is a different world we enter when leaving childhood, something like being banished from Eden, entering the harsh reality of struggle in a judgemental world.

Of course, we are also all individuals with unique experiences, and no-one experiences life in exactly the same way. We also have a varying emphasis in the way we perceive or conceptualise life. Reading Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Trouble With Things, he makes a good case for people who are left- or right-hemisphere dominated having distinctly different outlooks, with left-hemisphere dominated people being particularly lingual, and rationally minded, and perhaps better able to take on the tasks of a society that emphasises these traits, as against right-hemisphere dominated people, who are more integral and “gestalt” orientated, and have an intuited perception of life within a holistic concept. The latter may be fluid in their sexuality during puberty, or even decidedly undecided, and perhaps asexual in some ways. This isn’t necessarily a permanent attribute and I have met people later in life who have clearly taken a decision towards binary identities, although they were not so clear when teenagers. There may also be others, who became same-sex-attracted after time. The point is that young people at puberty, and especially pre-puberty children, are forming and need time to sort things out. Some may need longer, like me, to come to terms with the process they are going through and make all sorts of decisions that don’t appear to be rational. The examples of “Gender Dysphoria” that have been widely spoken of and even been subject to new laws, seem to me to be displaying just this ambiguity, and a whole “industry” seems to be jumping on the opportunity to advise, medicate and even operate on young people who are in this process. In addition, a degree of hysteria has developed, which isn’t uncommon in puberty, but which is driving people to life-changing decisions that seem to me to be too early in life.

I became a nurse at forty, and I said and felt at the time that I didn’t understand why it had taken me so long to get there. I felt at home in a profession where my intuitive abilities combined with caring for people brought out aspects of my personality commonly referred to as feminine. I was congratulated on finding my “feminine side.” Oddly enough, shortly thereafter, I was required to use my masculine qualities when I became a ward-leader, which the ladies who worked with me felt was very necessary. It was the combination of these qualities that enabled me to perform this task and through which I quickly climbed the “ladder.” I was very creative in my enthusiasm and effected many changes that were quickly adopted on other wards and that greatly improved our interactions with other disciplines, especially the general practitioners, internists, neurologists, surgeons, and gynaecologists. The way this achievement was recognized was interesting, as different people attributed different attributes to its success. One said that my success was due to the fact that I was particularly a “woman-understanding” person (Frauenversteher), although I’m sure it was more due to my willingness to communicate with people and develop a vision of what could be.

My point is that even at advanced ages, people’s perceptions of “typical” female or male vary and often depend on circumstances. The advantage I had on the ward turned into a disadvantage in higher management, where empathy and compassion were pushed aside in favour of rational decision making, and I found myself forced to find ways to make a bigger profit rather than improve our services. I found that people expected this to be easier for a man than a woman, while I found that it had nothing to do with the gender of a leader. This shows me that we have many misconceptions about sexuality and gender roles, and yet there have been disturbing cases of abuse of minors and of people in an extremely unstable and ambiguous state, in promotion of an ideological position with regard to gender, and of lack of support for people who have found themselves literally amputated from their biological sex and have no way to reverse the procedures done on them. This again, is clearly in the interest of profit above concern, and companies jump at the opportunity to do harm if they think they can get away with it.

I think that in this atmosphere of predatory entrepreneurs ready to exploit weaknesses and weaken people, and in the highly sexualized society where young people are confronted with the most horrific pornographic images and adults are suspected of being sex offenders, it is easy to develop dysphoria at an age when young people are beginning to realize what adult life will bring. The former ideal of motherhood is sometimes portrayed in ways that frighten young girls today, and responsibility and trustworthiness seem to be such a burden that young people are looking for ways out. I know this because in another world I did something similar.