Friday, 26 July 2013

Blaming the Victim 3. 27.07.13

Blaming the Victim 3[1]

"Results! Because, man, I have gotten a lot of results.
I know several thousand things that won`t work."- Thomas A. Edison

I have never been in a bad situation that wasn’t at least partly my responsibility.  I could always have done something different at some point and obtained a better result.[2]  Sometimes I messed up the assessment of a situation, so the final results were more serious than they could have been otherwise.  Sometimes my reaction wasn’t as good as it could have been because I lacked the necessary resources.  Sometimes I actually part-caused the whole scenario to unfold by screwing the pooch beforehand.  In one way or the other, I have always been partly involved.

For each and every significant negative event of my life I could now work out a better way out.  Apparently, that means I’m being “too hard on myself”, because I am “blaming myself” for my past.  I don’t get it.  I don’t get how accepting that you are not infallible is being too hard or blaming.  The way I do it, it’s kinda comfortable.  In fact, it feels like I’m taking better care of myself.

I made mistakes.  Is that a problem to you?  Because it doesn’t bother me, and I don’t understand how it can or should.  You see, I learnt from those mistakes.  I am a different, better person now than I was back then, whether we’re talking about my childhood or two weeks ago.  It’s unfortunate that I had to make the mistakes to learn the lesson, but that’s how learning often works.  It’s natural that I make mistakes, because I am human, and humans are fallible.  It’s fortunate that a lesson was learnt.  I’m still here, largely intact, mostly happy and increasingly functional, so it’s all good.

I once said to a friend that when my training goes to pot, all I can tell myself is that I’m “better than yesterday and not as good as tomorrow”.  It doesn’t matter if the progress is infinitesimal or difficult.  The point is that there is some progress in some aspect of my training, even if it’s just the fact that I’m sticking with it when I find it hard or pointless.  The same statement applies to my growth as a person.  Every time something happens, I learn something, so I change.  I try to manage that change so I can grow and get better.  With a bit of luck, I get better in a way that stops me making the same mistake again – but that can only happen if I accept that the mistake was made.

Without accepting my contribution to my past problems, I could not learn anything from my experiences.  I have had countless arguments with some friends over this, largely centred on ex partners.  They would say, for instance, that my partner did not treat me right, and that’s purely his fault for not being very nice.  Well, I beg to differ.  I picked the guy and I stayed with him for a while.  I didn’t get clubbed on the head and dragged into his lair against my consent[3].  Thus, there were flaws either in how I picked them or how I interacted with them.  They must, logically, have been or have become the wrong people for me.  Understanding where I went wrong helps me avoid doing it again, as well as teaching me about myself.

Am I blaming myself?  Hell no.  I always did my best – it just so happened that my best, at that time, wasn’t that good.  To me, blaming means not only holding responsible, but also censuring somebody, and I neither do that nor allow anyone else to do it.  I don’t see any upside in playing the blame game, so I don’t.  End of.  But that doesn’t prevent me from using an experience as a learning tool.

It may be that I spent too much of my formative years minding young children and animals.  When you’re training young ‘uns, you have to accept that they will make mistakes.  After the gazillionth time you see someone trying to put a round peg in a square hole you might get a tad frustrated, but you have to accept that it is an inevitable part of a necessary process which is going to take as long as it takes.  You have to accept that everyone learns different things at different speeds, and that includes yourself.  I am surely as deserving of respect and consideration in my learning as anyone else, after all.  I am not going to censure myself for learning too slowly – what is the point in that?  What positive result would it achieve?

Alternatively, it might be that I spent too much time in science labs.  When an experiment does not work, you don’t sit there and berate the Bunsen burner.  You jolly well get on with trying to work out where it all went wrong, and try again.  There is no moral judgement associated to the statement “the experiment’s results were negative”.  In fact, those negative results are considered useful, because they teach us something about the issue at hand.[4]  At the same time, you don't sit and consider them for any longer than it takes to learn what they have to teach you.  You absorb the learning and move on.

In both those situation the ultimate purpose is learning – not being right.  If I wanted to be right all the time, I could easily do that.  All I’d have to do is never make a new decision or choice again.  I would have to stagnate fully and never take another risk.  “By doing nothing, you can’t go wrong” is a loosely-translated Italian saying that I wish was embraced more widely, because it is accurate.  The opposite is also true – that the more you attempt, the more you increase your chances of making a mistake.

Each one of my choices and actions is an experiment, because I have never done that exact thing before.  Sometimes things will pan out right, and I will learn something by that.  Sometimes they will pan out wrong, and by Jove I WANT to learn something by that, because otherwise there will be no upside to any negative consequences.  Sometimes the learning can be hard.  However, I still think that it is useful, and what is useful is healthy.  So I intend to carry on growing and improving and developing, even if that means admitting that I had things to learn and that I still have a way to go.

and, if you want to look through the vaults,
The last one, hopefully.  Partly it’s because, much as I like the sound of my own voice, I’m fed up of going on about this. Partly it’s because I’ve given up discussing the issue because Victim Protection is part of a belief system, and there’s no point in arguing about beliefs.  Largely it’s because it’s summer and really there are better, more constructive things to do out in the sunshine, plus I’m fed up of this stuff clogging up my head.

[2] Well, I was born in the wrong family, but my belief system does not support me having picked them.  Way it goes.

[3] To be truthful, that did happen once, but it appears that kicking someone in the gut hard enough to make him actually fly backwards works as a deterrent.  Girlpower, rah.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Blaming the victim 2. 20.07.13

The single most precious experience in my whole life was watching my ex-stepdaughter break into completely inappropriate, spontaneous dancing.  She is, of course, the most gorgeous girl in the whole world.  She was three at the time, music was playing, so she just let rip and danced this mad little jig to herself, arms in the air, pigtails flying, completely taken by the moment.  I have never seen anything as beautiful.  It seemed to make sense of my entire life, past, present and future; it all made sense because everything contributed to creating that moment in time.  It just filled my entire being with a sense of miracle I don’t have the words to explain.  If I die reliving that moment in my mind, I will die happy.  And I know that there are people out there who’d feel the same sense of fulfilment and sheer joy by watching her cry and bleed and plead and piss herself in fear, pain and desperation.  I know they’re there, because I’ve met some of them.  I know I can’t do anything about it.  They don’t walk around with a 666 tattooed on their foreheads, and even if they did vigilante killings are illegal.

I personally knew 3 paedophiles (no, I’m FINE.  Now read on).  Two of them were family members. One of them was one of my teachers.  To this day, none of them got done[2].  May a thunderbolt strike me dead if I ever blame their victims.  I mean it.  If you ever catch me doing that, you have my permission to stone me to death, because I would class myself as worthless of being alive.

I would never think to blame an innocent child for falling prey to a predator.  At the same time, I know that there are things I can teach children to make them less vulnerable.  I can teach them to respect their gut feelings about people.  I can teach them to report those feelings to people they can trust, and to report them again if whomever they reported to did not take them seriously.  I can teach them to be aware of certain boundaries that people should not cross.  I can also teach them that they have the right to kick off an almighty stink if anyone should try to do or say anything that crosses those boundaries, because their safety is more important than any social convention.  And I can teach them that they have the right to fight as hard as they can to defend themselves. 

One of my favourite anti-bullying and anti-abduction programme, FAST Defence[3], does precisely that.  It feels my heart with joy to see children being given the skills to look after themselves as well as they are able.  If you read the feedback from parents, the courses don’t make the children more fearful or paranoid.  On the contrary, they seem to empower them and give them greater confidence in their everyday lives.  I can’t see a single thing wrong with that.  I only wish the programmes were part of every child’s education, taught in every school, rather than something parents have to seek out and pay for privately.

I want my ex-stepdaughter to have every resource possible available to her, because I can’t make evil disappear to protect her.  At the same time, I have no intention to stop her living the most fulfilling life she can have.  That doesn’t just rule out stopping her doing things she wants to do, but also ruining her enjoyment of what she is doing by filing her mind with paranoia.  I do not want her to live her life in fear, but I do want her to be aware of what’s out there.  I want her to be able to make her own decisions as to what risks she wants to take based on the knowledge of what the world is like.  I want her to be aware of her surroundings – not afraid of them, but aware of them.  Do you think this is a contradiction?  Well, I don’t.  I don’t believe fear comes from knowing that there’s evil out there.  I believe that it comes from thinking that we don’t have the resources to recognise it or deal with it when it comes our way. 

At the same time, I know that sometimes, regardless of our preparation, skills and awareness, terrible things will come our way.  It pains me to admit it, but I know that it’s true.  Sometimes evil just has your number.  However, to me that doesn’t mean that we should give up trying to avoid it.  In all this, I don’t think I am saying anything remotely controversial.

Little girls, however have a habit of growing up.  I personally believe that it shouldn’t be allowed, but they just do.  And if I tried to have the exact same discussion about teaching my not-so-little girl what’s what, because evil doesn’t go away just because you’re a grown-up, a whole shitstorm would come my way.  Teaching a young her to try and avoid a paedophile is fine.  Teaching an older her to try and avoid a sexual predator would be considered by many “blaming the victim”, almost regardless of the actual content all the teachings.

I’ve already written all I can bear to write about why I don’t understand this current controversy in self-defence for women.  It drains me to the point of despair that good, useful people seem at times to be using up more energy arguing with each other over this point than on fighting the actual issue.  I have to agree, though, that sexual assault is treated differently from most other crimes in our society.  Unlike other violent crimes, there is a huge amount of guilt and shame attached to the survivor.  The victim is examined for her/his[4] conduct and past morals.  The unspoken question in most people’s minds still seems to be “did the slut have it coming?”  And no, I’m not exaggerating.  I wish I was.

The reporting procedure is excruciating, both physically and psychologically.  If you decide not to report because you just can’t bear to go through it or because the circumstances were such as to render it pointless, chances are that you will be treated like utter shit.  You may find it hard to get medical help and you will almost certainly be blamed because your attacker is still at large – even if you have no chances whatsoever of getting him done through a legal process.  The only time I ever committed physical violence against a book was reading Geoff Thompson's "Dead or Alive", when he states that "every time a victim fails to report a rape or attempted rape, there is a possibility that somebody else will get attacked or raped as a direct or indirect consequence because the attacker is still at large." I threw the book at the wall so hard it dented the plaster.  This sort of stuff really triggers me, because I’ve seen it thrown at people at their most broken and vulnerable by the medical professionals who were supposed to be helping them[5].

I can appreciate how any hint of putting blame on sexual assault victims triggers people, because it triggers the shit out of me.  But the way in which the fight against it is stopping people from teaching women how to try and stay safe triggers me just as much.  When people insist that there is nothing that can be done against sexual predation, to me that means that I have no control, no power, no chance to stop the same things happening again and again and again.  It makes me feel powerless and hopeless, not innocent.  That's probably why I've always preferred it when people have called me bloody stupid than when they've said that I was "not to blame".  The truth probably sits in the middle – I’m bloody stupid and not to blame.

The fact is, and I can’t get away from it, that the victims in the Boston marathon bombing will never have to take the stand and testify how they could have avoided the violence or what they did that attracted the violence to them.  The same does not apply to the adult victims of sexual predators.  At the same time, at least some sexual predation could be avoided if women were taught some simple awareness and response techniques.  Personally, I can hold both facts in my head without it imploding.

Yes, some women may feel bad if they learn after the fact something that may have prevented the situation from taking place.  At the same time, if they had learnt those skills before the fact, the whole thing may not have taken place – isn’t that more important?  I understand sparing the feelings of the victims, but, to me, it’s still more important to prevent victims being created first.  Yes, we shouldn’t need to do this, but we do, because evil is still out there.

[1] Yeah, alright, I don’t learn.  But I feel like I could blog about this forever.
[2] Incidentally, the teacher never got done cos my own mother hushed it all up, because "it would ruin his career" and "I'm sure he didn't mean it" and "it would upset his family".  The woman did not, and still does not, have a clue.
[4] Yes, I know it happens to men too.  I just know a lot more about women, because I’m one and they tend to talk to me more.
[5] West Suffolk Hospital, United Kingdom, 2009.  I never thought I’d have reasons to want to thump a medical professional before, but I came very close.  May the nurse who works in the sexual health clinic rot in hell.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

10 steps to a happy co-ed gym. 14.07.13.

Guys, I agree: it’s absolutely disgusting.  Not content with ludicrous liberties such as voting, driving cars and earning their own money, now women are taking over your gym.  And I’m not talking about the sort of gym where you plonk yourself on a treadmill and jog slowly whilst watching MTV, or roll about on an inflatable ball and say you’re working on your core.  I’m talking about proper sweat-and-blood gyms, where you fight against large lumps of iron or each other.  Women are bloody everywhere!  You can’t get away from us!  Fear not, however.  Here are 10 simple points that will make the invasion far less awkward:

1      Women do not have X-ray vision.  Those of you with a partner may be of the impression that women can read minds.  I shan’t lie to you – we can, and we do it all the time[1].  However, none of us has yet managed x-ray vision.  We can’t see through walls.  Unfortunately, if those walls present openings, commonly referred to as “doors”, we can see through them.  Merely walking into the changing rooms does not render you invisible unless you physically shut the door behind you.  If you stand right in front of the open door and start stripping, well, do us a favour and at least wear your best undies, hey.

2      Women have their own toilet.  It is normally marked by a “ladies” sign or a little symbol resembling a person wearing a skirt – a skirt, take note, not a kilt.  That means it’s for people of the female persuasion only.  Whilst we might be willing to share our home toilet with the man or men in our lives, we don’t want your sweaty, hairy bum on our communal seat.  It’s icky and you probably carry the cooties.  And if you leave the seat up…  God help you.

3      Women have boobies.  You might have had a chance to notice them before - they grow right out of our chests?  Actually attached to us?  We can’t take them off and, much as they have a level of plasticity, they aren’t precisely the same as stress toys.  We kinda have to work AROUND them.  For instance, when lifting kettlebells in the rack position – well, our racks are already in the rack position, so the bells have to go elsewhere.  Also, boobies have to be handled with a degree of consideration.  Any activity which involves dropping full weight on your chest HURTS.  You want us to do that, you should consider matching it with something where you have to land full weight on your scrotum, to make it fair.  And as for anything involving a lot of bouncing…  It’s not good, ok?

4      Women do not have testicles.  When it comes to smacks in the groins, we have absolutely no fellow-feelings.  Any man holding focus pads either side of the family jewels without wearing a box better have had all the children he wants.

5      Women are aware that you have testicles.  You do not need to remind us of that fact.  We don’t actually find them that impressive.  If you are wearing a box and you need to adjust it, do feel free to turn away.  If you can’t be bothered, we will probably just tut in our own heads.  However, please refrain from talking to us whilst rearranging yourself.

6      Women do not sweat.  We glow.  We radiate.  At our worst, we may occasionally perspire.  You, on the other hand, sweat like a pig.  You might think that we find sweating men sexy and manly, what with the Coca Cola ads and suchlike things, but that is incorrect.  And as for leftover sweat all over equipment…  Erm, no.  Do feel free to clean up after yourself.

7      A large number of women actually go to the gym to train.  When we want to pick up random blokes, we can just walk into a club and whistle[2].  If you think about it logically, we’re not that likely to engage in an activity that causes us to look like we’re extras from the French Revolution for the purpose of live-trapping mates.  And if you think that we’re there specifically to look at you, because you’re so fit and hot…  Bless you.  Now go away.  Far, far away.

8      Double entendres and sexual comments are inappropriate.  You are in mixed company!  For instance, whilst we might be engaging in an activity that includes an amount of physical contact that may be deemed inappropriate outside the dojo, we must not mention it nor joke about it.  Hence, statements such as “your goal must be to get someone between your legs”[3] CANNOT be the cause of sniggering.  Well, we can snigger all we like[4], but you can’t.  If you make a statement along the lines of “look at the … on that”, we will hear about it and we will make you pay for it for evermore.  And as for staring at women grappling, you’re only allowed to if there’s mud or jelly involved.

9      Women in this country do not carry rabies.  Unfortunately this does not mean that we do not go through phases when we froth at the mouth and are unjustifiably homicidal.  You must not, ever, under any circumstances refer to it.  I could explain all about it, but then I’d have to kill you.  All you can do is learn to identify the symptoms and endure the consequences.  If you say something highly controversial or offensive, such as “Hi”, and we rip your head off and spit down the hole, just look upon it as one of the wonders of nature.  There is nothing you can say.  There is nothing you can do.  Duck and cover.

10   Women are your training equals.  If we did not want to play with the big boys, we’d not go to a big boys' gym.  We are not that easily breakable.  We want to train realistically.  Don’t be patronising or condescending.  However,

10b Women are fragile little petals.  By and large, we’re not as strong or as big as you.  We have squishy bits.  You need to show a bit of consideration, without contravening Point 10.  Yes, it’s practically impossible.  Yes, the goalposts get moved all the time and with no prior warning.  Sorry about that.

[1] Yes, it’s a miracle you’re still alive. 
[2] I refer you to Point 3.  We have the power.
[3] Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  As well as most late night bars, snigger snigger snigger.
[4] And occasionally hum “Sit on my face, and tell me that you love me” for good measure.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Ego, te absolvo. 09.07.13

“In 48 hours you’ll agree with me” was kind of a running joke with my best friend.  We were stuck on a routine: he would make a statement, I would deny it with all the vehemence I could muster and 48 hours later I would turn around and tell him that he was right and I was wrong.

The time delay was largely due to me having to admit stuff to myself that I was denying.  It took that long for me to get out of my emotional brain, to be able to look at the issue dispassionately and then concede that the guy had a point.  In fact, one of the issues we processed in this very manner was the fact that it always took me 48 hours to admit that I was wrong…  After we got through that, things got easier.

That was the most helpful thing anyone ever taught me: to admit that I was wrong. 

It generally wasn’t a factual mistake that was the issue, but the way I was interpreting a situation.  I needed to admit that I was half-lying to myself, which was hard.  What made it possible was the fact that I genuinely trusted the guy’s motives.  He wasn’t trying to catch me out or to make me feel stupid or bad in any way.  He was trying to help me grow.  That, to me, was beautiful and precious.  It also meant that he cared enough about me to tell me stuff he knew I wouldn’t like to hear.  I am not very nice to be around when I am feeling challenged; I grow shrill and petulant.  But he cared enough to be willing to face that, and he trusted me enough that he knew whatever he threw at me would not jeopardise our friendship.  The conversations we had were sometimes deeply uncomfortable, but they were always helpful.

I lost him in the wars, but what he taught me has stuck with me, and it is a real gift.  If someone throws me a statement that causes me to have a knee-jerk reaction, I make myself pause and examine what is going on in my head.  Am I rejecting an uncomfortable truth?  Am I falling back into an emotional pattern that was implanted on me when I was a child, and would be helpful to outgrow?  You admit that sort of thing often enough and it gets easier.  It’s never entirely comfortable, particularly when the issue is one that cuts deeply, but it does get easier.  The beauty of it is that the moment you admit that yes, you were wrong, you can actually move on.  You can start fixing things.

The flip side is, unusually, also great.  Sometimes people do just throw unjust accusations.  Being able to examine them impartially and discard them as untruths gives me a better chance to respond like a grown-up.  Regardless of the strength of your argument it’s almost impossible to convince someone when you are behaving like a peevish child.  If a reasonable argument doesn’t convince my challenger that the statement was incorrect, I genuinely don’t much care.  Hey, I’ve done my best.  I know what my truth is.  If they choose to hold on to their lies, that is their problem.

When you can admit you’ve been wrong, life gets much simpler.  It’s a lot easier to fight a single, unpleasant truth that the scores of half-lies than it often takes to hide it.  It’s also a lot harder for people to hurt you.  They can’t hurt you with truths, and they can’t hurt you with lies.  They also can’t use your past against you anymore.

I’ve taken a hell of a lot of wrong turns.  Some I’ve taken because I wanted something bad enough to be willing to take significant risks.  Some I’ve taken because I just didn’t care what happened at the time.  Some, though, I’ve taken because I was exceptionally stupid.  Either I did not assess a situation accurately or I didn’t react appropriately.  I just messed up.  And, you know, that’s ok.  I was a twerp and I messed up.  You can throw my mistakes at me as hard as you wish but you’re not going to hit me, because I have accepted them and moved on.  I have also learnt from them, so I’m hoping I shan’t be making them again.  They are not a problem to me anymore.

It feels as if a humongous weight has been taken off my shoulders.  I don’t have to be right all the time, and it’s ok.  I can make mistakes, and that’s ok too.  Knowing my weak spots makes me better able to watch out for them, so that hopefully they won’t affect me so much.  I can also work towards strengthening them.  Hell, it’s so much easier to make things better.

I spent so much of my life defending my ego.  As it turns out, it seems that what I was really doing was hurting myself and holding myself back.  I was holding on to unpleasant issues instead of resolving them.  I was also handing people weapons with which they could hurt me.  I wasted so much time and effort defending a construct that was contributing nothing towards my happiness and well-being.  I was so scared that if I gave up on that construct, if I admitted fallibility and culpability and weaknesses, everything would fall apart.  If I can’t see my faults nobody else will be able to see them either, right?  Let’s just sweep the whole lot under the carpet and pretend there’s nothing wrong.  That didn’t work.  As it turns out, that was a big mistake.  I messed up big time on that one, and, you know?  I’m cool with that too.

“It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.”

Dale Turner

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Blaming the victim. 07.07.13

This blog is gonna to enrage so many people, I ought to apply for a gun license now.  Please promise me that if you are going to get angry it will be at what I am saying, not what you think I am saying.  I am not subtle and I am not complicated – there are not subtexts or hidden messages here. 

Imagine we are at a supermarket.  We are casually strolling down the aisle when a heavy box falls off a high shelf and lands on my head.  I am on the floor, hurting.  What is your immediate response?  Do you make sure I get first aid?  Do you check for other dangerous loads, so we don’t get hit again?  Do you scream hysterically because you just can’t stand the sight of blood?  Do you scream hysterically at the shop manager, or even just the workers there, because it’s got to be their fault?  Do you try and remember the number of those injury lawyers who advertise on the television?

Let’s think of another scenario.  We are strolling around the supermarket and I see something on a high shelf.  Being a tiny person I can’t reach it, so I climb up the shelf to get it and I end up on the floor with a heavy box on my head.  Now, I don’t know you, but I’m willing to bet that you will have a different outlook on this incident as compared to the previous one.  This time, my injuries are at least partly the result of my actions, would you agree?

Now, how about this.  I’m going around the shop and I see something in an employee-only area.  I enter the area to get it and I have an accident.  My fault?  What about, though, if the restricted area isn’t properly marked out?  What if I am a child or just unable to read the warning signs?

There are a number of ways I can come a cropper in a supermarket.  The results of the accident are the same.  How we react to them, however, tends to change depending on how we dish out the responsibility for the event.  It is often difficult to apportion 100% of the blame to one party.  On many occasions our point of view is not neutral, either.  We can be affected by prior events, our belief system, our conditioning, the mood we are in on that particular day, and so on.  I don’t know anyone who is a completely impartial examiner of reality.

However, if we manage to calm ourselves down and discuss the situation rationally, we can generally come to some sort of compromise as to “what happened”, which, humans being monkeys, often translates to “whose fault it is”.  It might not be a straightforward process, though, and we’re talking about the sort of incident which, for most people, would not carry much of an emotional load.

When we get into situations with a huge emotional component, it seems to me that the plot just gets lost.  We get so drawn into the blame game that we seem to forget to actually resolve the situation.  Think about it coolly: someone just got hurt here.  Our priorities should be to treat the casualty and avoid further casualties.  The more emotionally charged the situation is, however, the more we seem to stray away from those priorities.

I’m thinking of something in particular here.  I’m thinking about sexual predation, because it is a subject that is crucially important to me.  When I was growing up, it was all around me.  I have seen it break lives, so I take it very seriously.  Now I’m old and live a far safer life so it does not affect me directly so much, but I know a lot of young girls.  I remember what I saw at their age and it chills me.  I am conflicted by my hypocrisy.  I have enjoyed my life immensely, warts and all, so I would not want to stop them from enjoying theirs.  At the same time, I don’t want them to see half of what I’ve seen.  The world is full of teeth and sharp corners.

I am finding myself turning into the Unofficial Fount Of All Knowledge, which annoys me hugely.  However, sorry and all that, but some things are just so bloody obvious that I can’t see how they don’t see it.  So you got a temporary tattoo on your boob, and went clubbing in a low-cut top, and everyone was staring at your cleavage?  Erm, surprise surprise.  I wonder why that could be.  Let me smack your head repeatedly into the wall until you can figure it out[1].  You went out with a friend and she disappeared and left you surrounded by a gaggle of guys, with no money to get a cab home?  That is not a friend; that is an untrustworthy rat, and incidentally if you go out with her again, and/or without enough money to get back safely, I will kneecap you.  A man said something really rude and offensive that really upset you, so you want to give him your number so he can apologise some more tomorrow?  Eh WHAT?

No, seriously, someone said that last sentence to me last week.  This sort of stuff makes my blood boil, because I can see where it could go and it scares me rigid.  I see these girls and they are beautiful, precious and innocent.  And I know that the last element is unlikely to last forever, but I don’t want anyone taking it from them against their will.  I don’t want them to go blundering into a situation which is going to turn ugly because they haven’t seen enough ugliness to recognise it.  So I rant and rage and threaten them with all manner of physical retribution.  They listen to some bits and ignore others, which comes as such a shock to me because, obviously, at their age I was so disposed to take advice from my elders, not.

By and large, however, it seems to work.  They have a vague awareness that my knowledge comes from experience and a concern for their safety, not from a moral agenda or a belief system, so they begrudgingly half listen to me.  I point out large icebergs coming up ahead.  Occasionally they still smack into them, but often it’s not as hard as it would have been without prior warning.  All in all, it seems to work.  I am reducing the number and severity of casualties.  ‘tis all relatively good, and works on a small scale.

If I tried to do it on a larger scale, though, I’d get lynched.  This isn’t because you can’t threaten the general public with kneecappings, but because these days if you say “if you do this, that is likely to happen” you are, apparently, blaming the victims.  As, unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who DO blame the victims, this has become a field where everyone is so emotionally charged that reason has just left the building.

I don’t get it.  Actually, I do get it – whenever someone says something like “she had it coming”, I feel such rage welling inside me that I know I am not thinking straight.  So yeah, I get how people get raging mad at victim-blamers.  However, I can’t see how that has come to translate into “we can’t give girls good advice that could keep them safer”.

I know that if you go to a bus or train station late at night there tend to be unsavoury people there, for the simple fact that as a teenager I spent more nights in stations than in my own bed.  I want the girls I care about to be aware of the situation, so that they don’t run into problems.  I am not saying that if you go to a station at night whatever happens to you is your fault for being there – I am saying that by going, you are increasing your chances of something nasty happening.  Yes, you have the right to be there.  Yes, what these people may try to do is both culturally unacceptable and illegal.  Yes, I have done far stupider things for shits and giggles, and you don’t want to stay home because it’s boring, and I get that.  However, none of this changes a thing.  You are walking into a potential situation; I just want you to be aware that you’re doing so, because forewarned is forearmed.

I guess I’m just not clever enough.  I’ve determined a long time ago that I lacked the knowledge and moral fibre to get involved in ethical debates.  My pragmatism seems to be increasing as I get older, too.  I’ve done a lot of first aid and informal counselling to people who got smashed up by life.  I don’t want to need to do either, really, so I’d like to avoid casualties.  The best way to avoid casualties is to lock people in their rooms forever, but that isn’t much fun.  The second best way I can think of is to go and slaughter all the nasty people, but apparently that’s illegal.  The third best way, in my mind, is to make people aware of the risks, so they can make an informed decision.  Yes, it would be lovely and great if the nasty stuff just wasn’t out there, but hey, I can’t make that happen.  Until the world changes to fit my ideals, I just gotta live with what I’ve got.  I can work towards those ideals on the side, but if I blundered about as if the world was what I want it to be, that could result in a lot of unnecessary pain.

Maybe we’re far too clever for our own good, these days.  We have access to all this “information” which, really, by and large is just opinion or even propaganda.  In the olden days, I like to think that things were simpler.  I am probably dead wrong on this, but I still like to think it.  Think of all the fairy tales: children walk into the woods and terrible things happen.  Yes, there was a “moral” to the story, but was it really a moral in the “blame” sense?  If you go into the woods (the late-night bars, the train station at night, the underpass where all the prostitutes and addicts hang out at night, etc) bad things can happen.  Is it right, is it wrong?  Is it the just consequence of your stupidity, or is it a terrible breach of your rights?  Personally, I couldn’t care less about any of that.  I just want children not to experience terrible things. 

I don’t want innocent people to blunder into the woods without knowing what's in there, because that’s really dangerous.  I know that by and large they will still go into the woods, regardless of my warnings, because it's exciting and fun.  But if they go into them with their eyes open, and ideally carrying a metaphorical glock in their handbag, that makes me a lot happier.  Will I blame them if they come out of the woods with a boo-boo?  No, and if you try to stick the blame on them I’ll seriously rupture you.  I’ll still give them an earful, though, because they should have bloody listened yadda yadda, and because seeing them hurt will upset me.  After we’ve cleaned up all the blood and gore I’ll do everything in my powers to make sure that this was a positive formative experience.  Yes, this will involve looking at what they could have done differently, so that they avoid doing it again.  And I’m sorry, I will carry on doing this, regardless of how against the current culture this may go.  I will do it because I just can’t see why this is a problem, but mostly I will do it because knowledge gives you the power to make informed choices.  Informed choices give you the power to reduce your chances of getting hurt.  And that’s all I can hope for.

[1] I don’t actually do that.  I’m far too lazy to want to clean the mess up.