Megan Koester has made an important contribution to Nice Guy studies with I Love Men Because I Hate Myself.
I became an anorexic for the reason most women do, because I felt it was the only semblance of control I could exert in my life. I just wanted the world to see, externally, how unhappy I was internally. Any reinforcement of this was a victory…
The boyfriend afterward loved me for me, sure, but I always felt as though he could have loved better. When we first coupled, I was still anorexic—as time went on, I filled out, looking more like a human being than I had in years. But it is difficult, as a woman, to gain 20 pounds and still feel as though you deserve the right to vote. I’d look at pictures of myself on miscellaneous social media platforms with disgust, listening when he said I was still beautiful yet refusing to believe it. He, unlike the gents I had become accustomed to over the years, was not a complete and utter piece of shit. I found his support for me, in my uncompromised form, nearly impossible to accept.
We broke up; I lost weight. People told me I looked great, better than ever. “Thank you,” I’d always reply. “I’ve been grieving.” It was ironic, the fact that I had become more desirable—in my assessment, anyhow—once I was completely alone. Adding to my confusion, the one fellow I fancied, the only one I did a modicum of anything romantic with post-breakup, respected me enough to treat me like a person. Sure, we’d make out while The Gong Show played in the background, but he didn’t even try to fuck me. Hell, it took him a few times before he even mustered up the chutzpah to touch my tits! What kind of a pussy doesn’t take it upon himself to make a woman uncomfortable? I thought.
There you have it. Supportiveness, reasonable beauty standards, and respect for physical boundaries make someone a pussy and therefore sexually undesirable. At least that’s the experience of those guys who dated Megan Koester. And others.
Those guys were just asking for it, really. For men helping their socially anxious female partners with a stressful task, being more supportive produced more negative reactions, defined as:
Demanding help, criticizing, blaming, accusing, or rejecting helper, whining or complaining.
This is because no good deed goes unpunished. The explanation is that everybody is whiny on the inside, but people censor themselves when they’re not fully comfortable. These lucky women were free to be their difficult, help-rejecting selves.
It’s not that pickup artists haven’t made good points about how to take advantage of Megan Koester and her false consciousness problems. It’s that it’s not a good way to behave towards others. Moral masochism would be a more socially constructive response than sexual sadism.
It’s fundamental to the concept of morality that it’s self-defeating. The finest examples of moral behavior are all suicidal things. If behaving morally was really good for you, “morality” would be redundant with “do what’s awesome for yourself.” That’s a real position, popular among our rulers. Clearly it’s been a disaster.
The reason not to steal things is not that you wouldn’t have more stuff. You should deliberately handicap your acquisition of things.
I guess we’ve been psychologically brutalized to the point that kindness is quixotic. Yanis Varoufakis just said something a lot like that, in what’s probably a historically significant document: How I became an erratic Marxist.
To me, the answer is clear. Europe’s crisis is far less likely to give birth to a better alternative to capitalism than it is to unleash dangerously regressive forces that have the capacity to cause a humanitarian bloodbath, while extinguishing the hope for any progressive moves for generations to come.
For this view I have been accused, by well-meaning radical voices, of being “defeatist” and of trying to save an indefensible European socioeconomic system. This criticism, I confess, hurts. And it hurts because it contains more than a kernel of truth.
Almost all schools of thought, including those of some progressive economists, like to pretend that, though Marx was a powerful figure, very little of his contribution remains relevant today. I beg to differ. Besides having captured the basic drama of capitalist dynamics, Marx has given me the tools with which to become immune to the toxic propaganda of neoliberalism. For example, the idea that wealth is privately produced and then appropriated by a quasi-illegitimate state, through taxation, is easy to succumb to if one has not been exposed first to Marx’s poignant argument that precisely the opposite applies: wealth is collectively produced and then privately appropriated through social relations of production and property rights that rely, for their reproduction, almost exclusively on false consciousness.
The problem with capitalism is not that it is unfair but that it is irrational, as it habitually condemns whole generations to deprivation and unemployment and even turns capitalists into angst-ridden automata, living in permanent fear that unless they commodify their fellow humans fully so as to serve capital accumulation more efficiently, they will cease to be capitalists. So, if capitalism appears unjust this is because it enslaves everyone; it wastes human and natural resources; the same production line that pumps out remarkable gizmos and untold wealth, also produces deep unhappiness and crises.
Having failed to couch a critique of capitalism in terms of freedom and rationality, as Marx thought essential, social democracy and the left in general allowed the neoliberals to usurp the mantle of freedom and to win a spectacular triumph in the contest of ideologies.
Even as unemployment doubled and then trebled, under Thatcher’s radical neoliberal interventions, I continued to harbour hope that Lenin was right: “Things have to get worse before they get better.” As life became nastier, more brutish and, for many, shorter, it occurred to me that I was tragically in error: things could get worse in perpetuity, without ever getting better. The hope that the deterioration of public goods, the diminution of the lives of the majority, the spread of deprivation to every corner of the land would, automatically, lead to a renaissance of the left was just that: hope.
What good did we achieve in Britain in the early 1980s by promoting an agenda of socialist change that British society scorned while falling headlong into Thatcher’s neoliberal trap? Precisely none. What good will it do today to call for a dismantling of the eurozone, of the European Union itself, when European capitalism is doing its utmost to undermine the eurozone, the European Union, indeed itself?
I, for one, am not prepared to blow fresh wind into the sails of this postmodern version of the 1930s. If this means that it is we, the suitably erratic Marxists, who must try to save European capitalism from itself, so be it. Not out of love for European capitalism, for the eurozone, for Brussels, or for the European Central Bank, but just because we want to minimise the unnecessary human toll from this crisis.
My final confession is of a highly personal nature: I know that I run the risk of, surreptitiously, lessening the sadness from ditching any hope of replacing capitalism in my lifetime by indulging a feeling of having become agreeable to the circles of polite society. The sense of self-satisfaction from being feted by the high and mighty did begin, on occasion, to creep up on me. And what a non-radical, ugly, corruptive and corrosive sense it was.
My personal nadir came at an airport. Some moneyed outfit had invited me to give a keynote speech on the European crisis and had forked out the ludicrous sum necessary to buy me a first-class ticket. On my way back home, tired and with several flights under my belt, I was making my way past the long queue of economy passengers, to get to my gate. Suddenly I noticed, with horror, how easy it was for my mind to be infected with the sense that I was entitled to bypass the hoi polloi. I realised how readily I could forget that which my leftwing mind had always known: that nothing succeeds in reproducing itself better than a false sense of entitlement. Forging alliances with reactionary forces, as I think we should do to stabilise Europe today, brings us up against the risk of becoming co-opted, of shedding our radicalism through the warm glow of having “arrived” in the corridors of power.
Meanwhile, the level of political conversation in the US is so stupid it hurts oh my god jesus christ the pain. Rudy Giuliani has just clarified that Barack Obama hates America because he’s a communist, not because he’s a Negro:
“Look, this man was brought up basically in a white family, so whatever he learned or didn’t learn, I attribute this more to the influence of communism and socialism” than to his race, Giuliani told the Daily News.
“I don’t (see) this President as being particularly a product of African-American society or something like that. He isn’t,” the former mayor added. “Logically, think about his background. . . The ideas that are troubling me and are leading to this come from communists with whom he associated when he was 9 years old” through family connections.
When Obama was 9, he was living in Indonesia with his mother and his stepfather. Giuliani said he was referencing Obama’s grandfather having introduced him to Frank Marshall Davis, a member of the Communist Party.
The former mayor also brought up Obama’s relationship with “quasi-communist” community organizer Saul Alinsky and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Everyone in DC has an opinion on this important matter. We can’t have nice things.