Where does individuality come from?

Again let me come back to the three categories of explanations of human behavior: anti-causalism, adaptationism and social constructionism. In view of what they have to say about human behavior, I think it’s interesting to consider what they have to say about individuality.

What makes an individual different from everyone else? Mentally, things like your personality, your emotional reactions, your values and beliefs, are what set you apart from other people. Most of the time, that’s what we’re talking about, not physical differences; we don’t call ourselves individuated because we have different heights, or even if people in other cultures have different heights. We differentiate individuals, and cultures, by the ways they deal with material reality.

On the social constructionist view, there is no contradiction there. We are all born with different personalities, and this interacts with our parenting and education to make us the person we become. Our emotional reactions, our values and beliefs, arise from the ways we are raised to see the world. Rebellion against one’s culture arises when one’s personality clashes too much against one’s cultural background (in the same general way as gender rebellion arises in children).

So, in my view, the role of social institutions is to suppress individuality whenever it generates conflict between the individual and the goals of those institutions. In general, personality traits which lead to such conflict (e.g. rejection of authority figures or rules, empathy, freethinking) are classified as freakish or anti-social. Competition and hierarchies necessarily lead to conformity, which is the suppression of individuality we go through to take social roles (e.g. boss/worker, parent/child, teacher/student, man/woman).

Now, I don’t want to claim that all suppression of individuality is necessarily bad. For instance, we may very well want a sane society to suppress sociopathy as much as possible, although this is not always what happens in our societies; low-functioning sociopaths almost inevitably end up in jail, but high-functioning sociopaths usually end up with higher status, especially in domains like business and politics where high aggressiveness, natural verbal skills, and low impulse control are rewarded.

Because the goals of our social institutions are usually plainly evil (and at best vastly wasteful of human lives and material resources), the suppression of individuality will usually be bad as well. Constructs like gender, race and money exist in order to facilitate the exploitation and dehumanization of human beings.

This is why Anarchism, even in its most collectivist, has always had a strong individualist tendency, trying to put decision-making in the hands of the individuals affected instead of elaborate structures; one of the most painful and universal lessons of history is that structures with any sort of power, even those founded with the best of intentions, always fail and become monstrous unless their power is extremely carefully balanced (and no, “checks and balances” is not what I’m talking about here).

So that’s an overview of the constructionist view. What about the two other views, how do they deal with individuality? This is where we start running into problems.

Let’s start with the contra-causal view. If we start from the premise that human behavior is the result of a contra-causal substance (soul-stuff) or process (a randomized process or quantum hokey-pokey being the most popular alternatives), then there can be no cause and effect relationship between our personality (as stored in our brain) and our decisions. And if that’s the case, then our individuality simply cannot affect our decisions, and therefore is purely theoretical.

Suppose you have, locked in your brain somewhere, a desire for chocobrax ice cream, but such a flavor does not exist and will never exist. Therefore that desire cannot be a difference between you and someone else, since it will never be expressed and you’d never even know about it. Well, the same thing is true here, but applied to our entire personality: no matter what desires or traits we have, they can never cause change in an acausal process, therefore they cannot create any differences.

But our personalities, desires, emotions, do create differences between individuals. So the contra-causal view must be false; however decision-making works, it doesn’t operate outside of the laws of physics. When we get drunk, or get brain damage, our decision-making is affected. On the view that we are acausal decision takers, the causal impact of drunkenness or brain damage makes no sense whatsoever.

Furthermore, if our decision-making self is made of undifferentiated (that is to say, non-material and therefore property-less), acausal “stuff” or process, and that this “stuff” or process is not amendable to causality, then how can there be any individuality between human beings at all? There would be no reason for such difference to exist. We should all have exactly (in the soul or quantum cases) or roughly (in the randomness case) the same behavior regardless of ambient culture, existing institutions, education and schooling, and so on. But this is obviously not the case.

The adaptationist view is not much better. Central to adaptationism is the position that our actions are genetically inherited reactions which seek survival advantage. Everything we do is based on brain mechanisms which evolved to be selfish (“the selfish genes”).

If that’s the case, then individuality is an illusion. After all, we are all humans and therefore have roughly (not counting the handful of mutations that occur in all individuals, and mental disorders) the same brain mechanisms. If that’s the case, then individual motivations (such as personality or emotions) are merely modulated expressions of the one universal motivation, the structures in our brain.

Because there is only one prime mover and only one logic that counts in the explanations of evolutionary psychologists, they do not need a theory of individual motivation and they do not need to appeal to the details of individual life histories- both of which are deemed irrelevant to the ultimate explanations favored by evolutionary psychologists…

Evolutionary psychologists are incapable of explaining at least three aspects of the differential response of individuals to a particular situation- for instance, the presumed infidelity of one’s sexual partner or spouse. First, evolutionary psychologists are not able to explain why individuals deviate in the expression of a particular cultural norm… Second, they cannot explain why there are so many possible responses to the same act- extramarital sexuality of one’s spouse… And third, evolutionary psychology can not explain the manifest inappropriateness of the response in some cases- i.e. the apparent discrepancy between cause and effect.

Susan McKinnon, Neo-Liberal Genetics

Adaptationists have an ad hoc reaction to any personality trait or emotion: any contradictory set of actions can be explained away by the existence of different, and equally unproven, brain strategies. People who act selfishly are trying to maximize their reproductive advantage by lowering that of others, while people who act altruistically are trying to maximize their reproductive advantage through mutual benefit.

From the constructionist perspective, individuality is something we wrestle away bit by bit from the society that surrounds us. It is a long and arduous process of claiming and reclaiming, and although we need other people to support us in this process, we have to reject the ambient indoctrination.

Now, from the adaptationist standpoint, what is the explanation for this process? What sort of survival or reproductive advantage does any individual get from actively seeking out individuality? None, as far as I can see. In fact, its limiting effect on one’s pool of potential mates (since being “abnormal” will inevitably turn some people away from you) seems rather counter to that.

And from the contra-causal standpoint, it just makes no sense. There’s no reason for an acausal process to react to any condition, because that would turn it into an effect. No individual would ever react to any social condition. The fact that this is an absolutely insane premise is the result of anti-causalism being an absolutely insane proposition.

I got a fever, and the only prescription is more Anarchist cowbell!

See this great Amazon review of an “Anarchist cowbell” on UHpinions.

A simple but effective explanation of genderism.

Gendetrender, a great blog dedicated to the anti-genderist cause, wrote a simple explanation of what genderism is and why we should oppose it.

Genderists (social conservatives, religious fundamentalists) believe the opposite: that sex-roles of male domination and female submission are biologically innate (“biological essentialism” “gender essentialism”).

Trans-Genderists are a sect of genderists who believe cultural sex-roles (male domination, female submission) are so central to the human endeavor that non-compliance is a birth defect to be treated by medically and surgically disguising the biology of human reproduction (sexual dimorphism) in cases of “incongruence”. Further distinguishing trans-genderists from genderists is that transgenderists claim non-believers infringe on their human rights simply by non-believing.

MRA, by W.F. Prissy

A thrilling book series in three volumes by famous Men’s Rights Activist W.F. Prissy! GASP as women assert their rights! CRY as men get falsely accused of rape and see their lives ruined in front of their eyes! LAUGH when our strong male heroes win the day!

MRA volume 1: The Walls Have Female Eyes
In a world dominated by a Matriarchy which silences men, refuses to grant them rights and forces them to license themselves as alpha, beta or gamma males, a small group of handsome and suave operatives go around killing women who make rape accusations against poor innocent men, ruining their lives in a way that no rape victim could ever understand. But Operative Elam is compromised when he falls in love with his target and tries to convince her to join the Ladykillers. Can Elam escape from a matriarchal manhunt with his life?

MRA volume 2: The Man In The High Castle
After Elam discovers the Prime Operator, the shadow leader of his matriarchal society (because women cannot actually run anything), he convinces this leader to join the Ladykiller cause. But the women are aware of his treachery and are ready to neutralize him. Can a small ragtag group of males outwit an entire matriarchal society? (probably, since men are the bestest y’all)

MRA volume 3: Return To The Natural State
The defection of the Prime Operator has cast the matriarchal society into chaos. The Ladykillers must take control of a television station and broadcast their message of misogyny and return to “natural” values. Features a 300-page speech by Operator Elam establishing the “masculinist” ideology, all the way from first principles to specific articles of clothing that should be permitted or forbidden. Everything ends well as men rise up, beat up their wives, and regain control of society forever and ever, as it should be. A gloriously tedious end to this insipid and imbecilic trilogy.

“Gentlemen, you must be aware of the fundamental principle of reality: that A is A, that a thing cannot be itself and not itself. A man is a man, and a woman is a woman. Men are naturally made to dominate women, as history has proven: whenever women take power and oppress men as they have today, the fall of that civilization is sure to follow. The high status of those Arab and African cultures where women are the most oppressed is an excellent case in point. One day, we may be able to raise ourselves to their level, but we will only be able to do so on the basis of male ingenuity and go-getting.”

Considering competition as a form of woman-hating.

In a previous entry, I discussed the connections in what I called the Axis of Woman-Hating: natalism (women as a means to the end of procreation), anti-feminism (women are sex objects) and genderism (nature made women inferior).

Obviously there are some connections missing there, and I was only getting at the major ones. Capitalism would be another good example. The difference is that there is nothing that leads us logically from the private ownership of the means of production to woman-hating, but historically there is a strong connection between forms of capitalism (including fascism and State communism) and forms of woman-hating, usually connected to procreation and the family.

Sexism aids the capitalist system. The family provides a base for the reproduction and bringing up of future workers and the servicing and care of current (and unemployed) workers and retired workers.

This work which, in the home, is usually carried out unpaid by women (who may also work outside the home) saves capitalism millions of pounds, increasing the profits of a few.

The capitalist system could exist perfectly well without woman-hating, but it depends on it in various ways. Racism is a good analogy: slavery was economically beneficial to the elites of pre-industrial societies, therefore it was allowed to remain, while industrialization made slavery undesirable to the elites and therefore became illegal. Nowadays racism manifests itself economically in the exploitation of immigrants for cheap labor and the use of poc as an expendable working class.

As the quote points out, capitalism needs to exploit women’s free labor in order to maintain a strict separation between work and family and, in a wider view, to maintain the population of the worker base.

So the connection to the other forms of woman-hating is pretty obvious. In all these ideologies, women are seen not as full persons but as means to an end: the end of mindless procreation, the end of sustaining the factitious family structure, the end of the widespread exploitation of women by men and the intellectual justification of that exploitation.

One of the core ideas of capitalism is competition. The idea sounds good in the abstract, if you don’t really think about the social context, but in practice competition leads to lower creativity and higher conformity, lower efficiency, lower motivation (especially when coupled with monetary rewards), and is least conducive to learning in schools. These results have been confirmed by so many studies that they are some of the most solid conclusions of the social sciences (see No Contest by Alfie Kohn for a review of these studies).

Already we run into a problem, because the kind of conformity that competing individuals follow has for the most part been established by men. Women stick out in male-dominated professions and are trapped in a lose-lose situation: either assimilate and be judged as a bitch and a ball-buster, or resist and be passed for promotions and recognition.

The old “having it all” bromide really means: that a woman should first and foremost fulfill her gendered function as an unpaid homemaker (and therefore to be unproductive according to capitalist standards), and second pursue a career and be a productive worker who is able to compete in the job market. Not only are women expected to shoulder a double burden, but they’re supposed to relish doing so in order to be a “modern” woman. In fact neither ideology has anything “modern” about it.

Competition leads to winners and losers, which leads to Social Darwinism, the application of a misreading of “survival of the fittest” to human societies. Basically, as applied to today’s societies, that means “you deserve what you get for being a success or a failure, and you shouldn’t be helped because that would mean rewarding failures.”

In capitalist theory, there is an ideal state of affairs (call it free market or voluntaryism or unfettered capitalism or what have you) where a person receives only exactly as much as they can contract for, and no more. Inconvenient things like social programs and safety nets, workers’ rights and unions, accessible education and health care, free access to air and water, and all the other pesky things neo-liberalists are constantly trying to eradicate, are a deviation from this ideal state.

So for instance, women make 82% of what men make on average in developed countries (the United States average is currently 81%, making gender income disparity one rare area where the United States is not dead last). Women were banned from entire industries (and still are, in some places). This is the “ideal” state of affairs and any attempt to correct it would be a “distortion.”

In practice, this belief serves the status quo. Men’s privilege over women is part of the backgrounds facts of capitalism, therefore it becomes part of the “ideal” state of affairs. “Survival of the fittest” is inherently unfair when some people are trained from childhood to be fitter than others.

So I think the issue with capitalism is not that it is woman-hating as such, but that it treat human beings as tools of production (human resources). It should not be too surprising that a system which objectifies all human beings is also unconcerned about objectifying women.

There is an ever-present danger that, because a given ideology is not explicitly woman-hating and preaches some form of equality (like equality of opportunities), we accept it as a “lesser evil.” But anything that keeps people from thinking about the way society is run is equally poisonous in the long run.

Nowhere do we see this more than in the pretense that feminism stands for “gender equality,” even though such equality is a logical impossibility because we live in a Patriarchy. Getting equal wages for men and women, or giving men and women the same opportunities or education, are laudable goals but they are not the objective of feminism, neither can they ensure “gender equality.”

Ten myths about prostitution and the Swedish model.

Meghan Murphy analyzes ten myths that people propagate about prostitution.

4. The Nordic Model denies sex workers’ agency

One of the things that critics seem to find so difficult to comprehend about the Nordic Model is that it is actually about restricting buyers, not about restricting those in prostitution. That is why it decriminalizes prostituted persons. The Model doesn’t discount the possibility of prostitution by “choice” but rather establishes that the buying of women in systems of prostitution is something that the state should actively discourage.

It’s pretty simple really. The Nordic Model acknowledges that less demand for prostitution and less demand for trafficking = less prostitution and less trafficking ∴ reducing the number of women exposed to these particular types of abuse and creating a better chance of achieving gender equality.

Pushing the Envelope

Why Women’s History?

Only in our time have historians begun to look at the historical experience of men and women separately, and to acknowledge that for most of our human past, women’s interests have been opposed to those of men. Women’s interests have been opposed by them, too: men have not willingly extended to women the rights and freedoms they have claimed for themselves. As a result, historical advances have tended to be “men only” affairs. When history concentrates solely on one half of the human race, any alternative truth or reality is lost.

From Your social constructs are showing.


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