We human beings are built to loathe!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2020

Preferably in very large groups:
We've returned several times today to Helen Lewis' essay about the derisive term, "Karens."

Writing in The Atlantic, Lewis starts like this:
LEWIS (8/19/20): What does it mean to call a woman a “Karen”? The origins of any meme are hard to pin down, and this one has spread with the same intensity as the coronavirus, and often in parallel with it. Karens are “the policewomen of all human behavior.” Karens don’t believe in vaccines. Karens have short hair. Karens are selfish. Confusingly, Karens are both the kind of petty enforcers who patrol other people’s failures at social distancing, and the kind of entitled women who refuse to wear a mask because it’s a “muzzle.”

Oh, and Karens are most definitely white. Let that ease your conscience
if you were beginning to wonder whether the meme was, perhaps, a little bit sexist in identifying various universal negative behaviors and attributing them exclusively to women. “Because Karen is white, she faces few meaningful repercussions,” wrote Robin Abcarian in the Los Angeles Times. “Embarrassing videos posted on social media is usually as bad as it gets for Karen.”

Sorry, but no. You can’t control a word, or an idea, once it’s been released into the wild. Epithets linked to women have a habit of becoming sexist insults; we don’t tend to describe men as bossy, ditzy, or nasty...
Lewis goes on from there, at substantial length. For our money, she overthinks the situation to a substantial degree.

For our money, the situation here is fairly simple. For starters, you aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at people. You certainly aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at large groups of people based on their gender and/or their "race."

Putting it another way, it isn't good to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of people. Also, it isn't even slightly smart. But it's done all the time.

Simply put, people are wired to loathe others. People are wired to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of others.

It isn't a lot more complicated than that. We humans love to hate and we love to loathe, and we tend to do so just as soon as power relations give us the chance.

We don't all do that, of course. But as soon as power relations give them the chance, members of all groups will.

It's a case of black and white being just alike, if now perhaps together. Members of all known human groups are wired to engage in this conduct.

31 comments:

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    1. "Simply put, people are wired to loathe others. People are wired to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of others. It isn't a lot more complicated than that. We humans love to hate and we love to loathe, and we tend to do so just as soon as power relations give us the chance. Members of all known human groups are wired to engage in this conduct."

      Babies and toddlers display stranger anxiety. Evolution has given a survival mechanism -- a visceral reaction to the sudden appearance of unfamiliar people who we don’t know and who don’t look like us. But it also gave us reason to assess situations and overcome irrational fears of the new and the different--and we have made some progress. But it won’t work if people don’t believe that what they have in common should out way their differences. Multicultural societies will only work if everyone agrees in the notion of the common good and in dignity for all.

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    2. Gloucon, babies have stranger anxiety because they can only classify faces as "mom" and "not-mom" not because they have a built-in mechanism for fearing strangers. Once they recognize individuals beyond their mother, they lose their stranger anxiety.

      People can be classified into introverts (who fear new or strange things) and extroverts (who are interested by, curious about, and approach new/strange things). This isn't the same for all people.

      People are a group have traded with "the other" not just fought with them. People learn to divide others into friend and foe based on specific characteristics. If you simply shut all "others" then you would starve back in hunter-gatherer times, and there would be no exogamous mating (bad for genetics).

      Your statement about multiculturalism is true but Karens come from within one's own group, they are not outsiders, and their attempts to enforce authority are not just aimed at minorities but at anyone misbehaving (in their opinion).

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    3. Sorry for typos: shun all "others" and People as a group.

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    4. This idea that people are "wired" to loathe others is just plain wrong. It is wrong when Somerby says it too.

      People are herd animals. We are built to live in groups, coordinating with and forming lifelong relationships with other people. In early days, an individual could not survive alone, so we are fine-tuned to live with others and depend on them, affiliate with them, care about them and be cared for.

      Somerby casually slanders humanity with no evidence or support for the truly horrible things he says are innate to us as human beings. He has no basis for saying these things. It is a way of supporting his own, also unsupported opinions about things he likes or doesn't like.

      There is certainly irony in saying that we need to not hate each other, while saying a bunch of truly hateful things about humanity.

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    5. If babies have stranger anxiety and fear those who are "not mom" then it looks like they have a built-in mechanism for fearing strangers. Humans work with those in their group, but fear and attack those of other groups - all human history (and pre-history) is evidence of this.

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    6. at 5:26 PM I agree, Somerby often descends into lazy misanthropy. We do have the gifts of reason and compassion, and they can be employed. Unfortunately there are people who profit from and encourage hate and division.

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    7. It is not a built-in mechanism, it is an issue of under-development. Humans throughout their history have worked with others outside their group. The degree to which racism and sexism is innate or socialized is debated; however, fears and attacks relating to other groups arise from root issues over resources and material wealth.

      Somerby wants to cancel the Karen meme because he doesn't want people on his lawn, and more importantly, because it does work.

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  3. The defining characteristic of a Karen is that she is officious and entitled. Those are not traits associated with being female, since there are lots and lots of women who are neither of those things.

    It is a huge stretch to call this sexist stereotyping. It is aimed at behavior, not innate properties that people can do nothing to change about themselves.

    There are some gendered aspects to the situations in which Karens show their Karenish behavior and it is problematic that Karens are called on their officiousness because women don't tend to have as much power as men, from whom the same behavior might be accepted. But that doesn't make this a sexist stereotype, as Somerby wishes it to seem. This is about rule-following and entitlement, not any traits associated with being female.

    It is also safe to say that when women are called Karens in the context of mask wearing, the heat doesn't come from sexism but from the fear and anxiety surrounding covid, and the political conflicts engendered by Trump. That has nothing to do with gender either.

    Somerby is very convenient and also inconsistent about when he is willing to admit examples of sexism and when he denies them. He doesn't like it when women are called Karens, but instead of analyzing why he doesn't like it and coming up with some interesting contribution to this discussion, he just calls it sexist -- so sexism for Somerby devolves into those things that he doesn't like.

    Karens are white because black women wouldn't get away with trying to assert that same authority over others. Black women don't routinely expect that authorities like police or store managers will back them up when they complain. But that isn't the same as invoking any stereotype of blackness or whiteness. It is a situational characteristic of the event, not anything inherent to white women in general.

    Somerby doesn't like hate. Good for him. It would be nice if he maintained that attitude when he is criticizing Rachel or excoriating liberals. It is easy to be kind when you are talking about an issue you don't much care about, such as masks at Walmart. Somerby is one of the most unkind people on the web when it comes to calling the human race ugly names simply for being human. This is major hypocrisy, so glaring that even Somerby should see it in himself.

    We don't need him to defend women from sexism. Today is the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th Amendment and Somerby has said nothing about it. Hillary is giving an "I told you so" speech at the Dem Convention tonight, on the same day as a major Senate report on Trump's collusion with Russia has come out (with criminal referrals) but Somerby can't admit he was wrong about the 2016 election -- not a peep out of him. That's how much he cares about women and their issues.

    Or maybe his mother was named Karen. A man who attacks Chanel Miller and defends Roy Moore is no friend to our gender.

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    1. Everyone knows a male Karen. This make a good case that we should label them Terry.

      https://www.fatherly.com/news/data-proves-male-karen-is-terry/

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    2. It might be useful to talk about whether the times have made disrespect for authority more prevalent, so that we now have a Karen phenomenon when there wasn't one in the past.

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    3. It's nonsense that some version of Karenishness was not happening until recently. A certain amount of it has probably been a positive thing. How are things going to improve if no one demands to "speak to the manager?" I learned this when I moved from a place where there were lots of New Yorkers complaining to the South where people were too polite to complain. This is how the food in NYC got to be so awesome--centuries of Karenishness. Rudeness leaves a mark--politeness doesn't.

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    4. Funny from Wiki:"The mid-2019 formation of Tropical Storm Karen in the Atlantic hurricane basin led to memes likening the storm to the stereotype; several users made jokes about the storm wanting to "speak with the manager", with images photoshopped to include the "Karen haircut" on either the hurricane or its forecast path."

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    5. Having worked in restaurant kitchens all over the country, from high-end to low-end, the last thing you want to do is complain. If you send food back or ask for replacement, there is a near guarantee there will be something like spit in you food. You can complain, but then you should never eat there again.

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    6. 7:09 PM Good point, I may hafta rethink my theory.

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  5. I'm surprised your liberal-hitlerian cult is hating "white" wimmin now, dear Bob. It seems like a significant development in your cult's lunacy.

    I thought it was only "white" men who you libs hate, dear Bob, especially those living in south-eastern states, and even more so if they're of Christian-protestant background.

    So, now "white" wimmin are evil too, eh? Okay, fine.

    I must say, do I feel it's actually a positive development, dear Bob, that your hitlerian cult has given up on another large segment of the population.

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    1. It was a great day for Trump. The number of Americans killed by his criminal negligence passed 170,000, but Putin said he liked Trump's hairpiece.

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  7. “You certainly aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at large groups of people...”

    Unless they’re liberals. Then, you can go to town.

    —signed Bob Somerby

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    1. Perhaps that's because they are goebbelsian scumbags, who love cutting off ends of sentences.

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    2. “you aren't supposed to direct "epithets" at people.”

      Unless they’re liberals. Then, you can go to town.

      — signed Bob Somerby.

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  8. “We humans love to hate and we love to loathe”

    If “humans” means “Bob Somerby”, then this statement is certainly true.

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    1. If the object of the infinitives is Republicans and Anonymous Ignoramuses, count me in.

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  9. it isn't good to direct derisive stereotypes at large groups of people. Also, it isn't even slightly smart.

    Unless they’re liberals. Then, you can go to town.

    —signed Bob Somerby

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  10. “We humans love to hate and we love to loathe, and we tend to do so just as soon as power relations give us the chance.”

    This is why sexism and racism aren’t just about epithets, and it is why liberals want to correct the racism and sexism that result from these enabling power relations.

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