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Subject:Re: Recent sexism postings From:Turing Machine Three <NPARRY -at- COLGATEU -dot- BITNET> Date:Sun, 3 Oct 1993 09:41:39 -0400
We have almost nothing to learn from the _victems_ of racism, sexism, abuse,
discrimination. What are we going to learn from them, why they were
mistreated? How they were mistreated? How it felt?
Yes, surely. But we have so much more to learn from racists, sexists,
abusers, bigots. Can we learn about racism from the victems of the holocaust?
Yes, perhaps, a little. But if we want to know why it happened, how it was
done, what caused it, we have to ask the Nazis (pretty difficult to do, since
the day the War ended, they all magically disappeared - during the war, nothing
but Nazis, after the war, no Nazis!)
The most difficult part of learning about these behaviors is the need to
understand the behavior from the point of view of the victemizer, not the
victem. When we do bother to go the the offender to discover why she did what
she did, we often find no great evil intent, just an ordinary person so much
like ourselves that we must identify with her to understand her. That is not
easy. That is not comfortable.
Most evildoers are not monstors, but quite ordinary people, trying to pay the
rent, feel good about themselves, put food on the table, get along with their
associates, fit in. Collective evil ascends from individual evil, countless
small acts which add up.
"He was a very ordinary little man," said Bertrand Russell of Rudolf Hoess, the
Chief of the Auswitz concentration camp. Russell was amazed.
In _Ordinary People and Extraordinary Evil_, Fred Katz suggests that victems of
wrongdoing may actually get in the way of an attempt to understand the
wrongdoing and the wrongdoers. Understandably, victems are unlikely to be
either dispassionate or objective about their own suffering. There experience
is the result, not the cause of the offending behavior.
Why is "Home Improvements" so funny? Not because Tim Allen is a fool, but
because he acts so much like ordinary men, rewiring, grunting like men,
oblivious to the effects his actions may have on others. Wilson, leaning over
the back fence, half his face covered (one would suggest the "hairy man" half),
is Allen's dramatis persona, contrasting Allen's cluelessness. The
presentation of the show is also semi-soliloquy, with a wink to the audience.
Jill is not the victem of Tim's sexism. She is his dramatic foil. Tim (the
tool man) Taylor is a rewired Archie Bunker. Just as we were obliged to see
ourselves in Archie, we are invited to identify with Tim. The humor makes it
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Nhat Hahn teaches, criticise in no other what
you have not found in yourself; and from another view, the biblical "How can
you remove the sliver from another man's eye when you have a two by four in
Not "there but for the grace of god, go I," but there I am too.