Is Masculinity A Vulnerability?

I was surprised to see so many emails come through from my last post despite such a small readership that I have. There were some common themes that I would like to address, namely that violence does not necessarily need to be physical violence, on the contrary playing psychological and emotional games that is manipulative and potentially cruel with the intent to control and hurt a person is indeed a form of violence. Subtle or passive-aggressive acts such as trying to make your partner jealous is a form of violence, as is insulting a person and then disqualifying the hurt by claiming some misunderstanding of intent, all the way to something directly aggressive such as publicly humiliating. Violence is a form of control that seeks to maintain power over someone else and this can be physically, emotionally or psychologically, as well as economically such as controlling money or finances. They can inflict the same amount of damage to a person as would physical violence.

While it is common to assume that since gender-based physical violence such as rape and physical abuse clearly show men and boys dominating the statistics, violence itself is certainly not a gender problem, on the contrary it is a social and cultural problem, where our identity is threatened leading us to doubt our own judgement and to ultimately conform. Women can also be very manipulative; they can use guilt and emotional abuse, pretend and be deceitful, and otherwise act in a manner that hurts others – other men and women – without appearing responsible or even remorseful of such behaviour. Socially constructed concepts of “femininity” resemble notions of women who are obedient, submissive, gentle, and kind and thus enable some women to embody that template for the purpose of hiding an underlying malice. Indeed, “masculinity” offers much the same given that if one physically appears to embody masculine attributes of physical strength, assertiveness, competitiveness, and even violence then they are enabled to act as though they were allowed to hurt people because they somehow bypass moral laws.

 

“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” ― C.S Lewis, The Abolition of Man

 

As a consequence, culturally defined standards of what a “man” is supposed to represent through the ideology of masculinity is perhaps one of the greatest problems we have today, not only enabling bad men to behave badly, but also the extreme pressure for good men to conform. In some aspects it is almost a necessity for social survival.  Having the physical traits that define one as ‘masculine’ – to be tall, big and brawny or otherwise having those physical characteristics – is also aligned with the conceptualisation of social traits that require adherence to defined ideological standards, such as being in a position of power, the breadwinner, to be cold and even violent. A man and the idea of masculinity suddenly becomes unquestionable, giving ‘masculine attributes’ enough power that everyone believes these traits as parallel to an ideal that is immovable, the way a man ‘must be’ without question or even thought. Just like a Sudanese man becomes attracted to a woman who has had her genitalia mutilated because society tells him that it is attractive, suddenly women are attracted to the tall, handsome and powerful man and she is convinced it is her own opinion and feelings. This power is afforded an autonomy and suddenly men must have these attributes in order to be considered a man.

When I say pressure, I do not mean it in a way that most would think as though they are under pressure to make a choice between good and evil. On the contrary, the choice appears to be between the lesser of two evils and I define this ‘pressure’ in a twofold manner. It is that the first pressure point is where men who fail to conform to ‘masculine characteristics’ – say they are short, not bulky or strong, in a terrible job – means a failure to be a ‘man’ and thus they endure poor self-esteem and feelings of rejection, at risk of being mocked and even potentially bullied. The other or second pressure here is that if they do conform and manage to adhere to masculine traits, that they work hard to embody this physical and social characters, they are left subjectively isolated and fail to make any genuine connections with people. Their identity is structured based on this superficial social model and so who they interact with, are in relationships with, everything that they do is just conformed or conditioned. The long-term effects is a socially accepted, but deeply unhappy person.

To the mind of men, this social ‘pressure’ is a negative-negative and the only way out is either accepting the daunting isolation the disconnection from this socially constructed model may have, or hedonism – such as taking drugs or drinking and having an otherwise double-life – that only ever leads to an existential nightmare. Isolation appears daunting because the pre-conditioned language that we use to interpret the external world is suddenly recognised as false and that he suddenly needs to think for himself, do for himself, live for himself and if he has never done this before, the risks of losing their place in this world that the think they are dependent on leaves them filled with angst. They cannot come to admit that their so-called ‘individuality’ had actually materialised while the real person within them remained imprisoned by this determined structure. They are only valued when the self has been quashed.

 

“Power is exercised through networks, and individuals do not simply circulate in those networks; they are in a position to both submit to and exercise this power. They are never the inert or consenting targets of power; they are always its relays. In other words, power passes through individuals. It is not applied to them.” ― Michelle Foucault, History of Sexuality Volume I

 

So, what happens when a man is raised in a patriarchal domestic and cultural environment, when they spatially witness gender-based violence that soon becomes normalised to them, where hegemonic masculinity that subordinates and mistreats women because of ideas that they must be ‘controlled’, or abuses and harasses homosexuals, or is otherwise physically violent and brutal? This evolves into more pathological forms of ‘power’ and thus ultimately serious violence, representative in ideologies such as Nazism or in political and cultural environments where excessive power normalises and rationalises extreme aggression. At individual level, it is indicative of the same pathology, a person who exercises an uncontrolled need for power that they rationalise and normalise.

Men are not innately or inherently bad – both men and women have the propensity for either good or evil – but I am certain that the will of both is prompted by the desire to be recognized or acknowledged. We all want to be loved. Money gives us power and power gives us acknowledgment. Fame gives us acknowledgment. Hierarchical structures, religious institutions, parents, friends, communities all give us this acknowledgement if we conform and we all act in a manner that manifests these narrowly defined measures of existence then we are doing good or right and we act because we want to avoid rejection, people disliking us or communities ostracising us. It is a social type of violence, but the power it holds is that society believes that it ‘must be’ without question and therefore it is not something coerced, but rather a choice that we no longer have.

 

“Prepare early for his enjoyment of liberty and the exercise of his natural abilities by leaving him in full possession of them unrestrained by artificial habits, and the exercise of his natural abilities” ― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emilius, or a Treatise of Education

 

This leads people to measure happiness based on how well they conform to these generic characteristics, using it as an instrument to be recognised. It stems from a place of vulnerability and so the more obvious these dispositions are, perhaps the more sympathetic we should be since the internalisation of this ideology plays a wholly significant part in the identification with the external world despite it completely stripping away any sense of individuality and therefore authenticity in their actions, decisions and relationships. Or is it? Foucault showed the power is always relational and determined by a number of tactics and strategies that ultimately make behaviours predictable. It is a mode of action and therefore it exists with the intent of a functioning outcome, something that must be exercised. Why is it that many aggressors try to strip away recognition from their victims, to make them feel worthless, to take from them any sense of empowerment?

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The Ultimate Question

Do we sympathize that violence is enabled by society and perpetrated by those who are vulnerable?

One can never really recover when they have felt the pangs of being deeply hurt, the grief is quite immeasurable and I believe most of my pain comes from the fact that the very person who hurt me so much never let me say anything to him, to talk about how I was feeling. An important part of the healing process and the formation of solidarity is the ability to face betrayal and speak and it is why telling your story is so important. Let others hear your voice, put it to pen and paper, paint it. That is why I am sincerely honoured to have read those emails from you where you told me your personal experiences and thankful that you shared them with me.

I too experienced emotional and psychological violence, never physical and the construct of masculinity makes it appear that since it was not physical violence then he did nothing wrong. But he did. I was hurt. So why does he think he did nothing because he did not rape me or hit me? We were not even physically intimate. This is how:

  • Indirectly Threatened Me

He indirectly threatened my life, some of these indirect threats include saying he had a ‘secret bunker where he could do what he wanted and no one would ever know’ or where he would ask for tips and advice on how to DIY the use of gunpowder for a gun he owned, where he would claim women deserve to get beaten, where he asked me to watch a movie where a woman is brutally raped etc. He never directly threatened me, but the psychological harm of the continuous idea that he was going to left me so afraid that caused terrifying dreams, sleeplessness and serious anxiety. I also found myself believing that I needed to lie and for someone who prides herself with honesty, I felt ashamed and lost. He forced me into a position of defense with the intent because I needed him to leave me alone. In order to recover, I faced him after several years and while it caused me considerable distress, it was my way of showing that I am no longer afraid.

  • Constantly told me I was ugly and stupid

I continue to have trouble being intimate with other men, indeed I was traditionally waiting for that gentleman who would send me flowers and say some kind words. I was initially attracted to him and actually did start to develop feelings for him, so when he began to consistently and continuously insult my appearance, undermine my intelligence, tell me I was ugly, balding, talking bad about me to other staff and management among so much more, I was deeply devastated. I stopped eating and after while I no longer wanted to live. I truly never felt so worthless. His violence has left me so afraid that another man would do what he done that I push people away.

  • He stalked me

It forced me to move out and away where I share accommodated with another girl in the same room because of this fear, particularly after I had a major car accident where I had no car and I was on my own suffering from PTSD and injuries. He may not have physically harmed me, but he harassed me like he was about to. He created a number of different accounts on Facebook under different alter egos, for instance, or emailed me pretending to be someone else; eventually, I became so paranoid that at one point I was suspicious of everyone and so in order to recover I made my social networking public, actually I kept my social networking accounts despite not caring about them just so he can see that he had no effect on me. He did, though.

  • He never felt guilt or remorse

He never believed he did anything wrong, he never let me speak to him about my pain or get any answers, recover and find forgiveness. He never apologised, he doesn’t even care and that is no different to silencing someone, keeping them quiet. That silence hurts, you are not acknowledged as a human being. How you feel is irrelevant to them.

  • He slandered me

That public humiliation was the icing on the cake, he truly made me feel alone. The worst part about the humiliation was that when he pretended to be other people, I almost felt like he was trying to redeem himself but was too afraid to show his true feelings and be honest, and so I tried to work with him. No. He made it clear that he hated me and he thought I was too stupid to see otherwise.

The cherry on top here is that I cared. I actually cared about him and wanted him to succeed and be happy. There is a subjective feeling of humiliation for that. I was actually a good person, I did nothing to him at all.

Culturally defined standards of what a “man” is supposed to represent through the ideology of masculinity does make a man vulnerable enough to be permitted to act with violence whether physically or not, because one is aware of the effects these behaviours can have however it is appropriated. Ignorance is no excuse. In addition to this, masculinity can be challenged by men, people have been able to distance themselves and happily do so and as such this non-existent choice can be negated, analysed and renounced even by those who were once proponents of them. This is satisfaction enough for me to believe that while it may be individual vulnerabilities that prompt us to conform and follow, conversely we can learn to understand what abuse actually is, to feel remorse, guilt, shame. To understand our conscience and the value of morality because it articulates the very truths that already exist within us that we simply need to learn to put into words. While we may be born with goodness, as Rousseau would say, it is society that creates this evil within.

Women Who Support Bad Men

The hardest thing being me is that I have never really had anyone tell me when I have done something wrong or how I should behave, or even support me to better myself or improve, my parents so consumed with their own affairs that their youngest child was all but neglected and left to the whims of my older siblings who took advantage of my rather profound naivety. I spent my childhood being constantly conditioned, I should perhaps say threatened, that my duty was to serve and indeed from my youth all the way through to early adulthood I looked after their children, cleaned their homes, cooked for them and tolerated their constant mocking. Rather than appreciate the good I have done for them, they’ve shrugged their shoulders and said I have done nothing because even they viewed it as my duty. I was subjugated and ultimately knew nothing of myself, indeed through their constant ridicule I had genuinely come to believe that my worth was only present if I served others and did what I was told.

Gaslighting, for instance, is a tactic used in any kind of relationship to encourage enough doubt that may ensure the complete subordination of the other, an annihilation of their sense of self or ego, by using gentle and even loving reinforcement by complimenting and praising only to subtly confuse with indirect threats and manipulation techniques, things like intentionally portraying themselves as the victim in order to make you think you have the problem. If gas-lighting is a technique educated to children to make them doubt themselves and believe that they must follow and do as they are told, so let us say that if men grow up in a paternalism that educates exclusivity between genders, then their identification with reality will always be subordinated to custom especially if effective economic and social systems reinforce and enable this. What happens to morality? What is that woman who falls in love with a murderer in prison? Is there some vicarious responsibility despite the psychological abuse, given that each of us are endowed with enough reason that prompts emotional responses – such as anxiety or depression – and speaks to us intuitively telling us ‘something is wrong‘?

Driving someone to insanity is the devil’s work.
 

The bible is one of the greatest moral educators of our time, over 100 million published every year and the scriptures have come to be the very source that enables one to mirror ethical and moral agency, whether directly through religious or institutional connections or indirectly through how we have socially come to understand ethics and moral behaviour, even law. However, most of the biblical references are dominated by masculine figures that leaves very little about women for women to explore and admire, that the symbol of what is a good woman appears to be counteracted by figures who are submissive and quiet, obedient and does what she is told, a motherly figure such as Mother Mary of Jesus or mothers Saint Emmelia, Nonna and Anthousa of the three Hierarchs in orthodox Christianity? Why mother and not simply a woman? Jesus is the symbolic representative of what God would desire in man, to be loving and be righteous – he is not the literal son neither is he God, and there is no actual trinity – he is just a man who was mistreated and who remains a friend some of us never had by telling us when we have done something wrong and how to behave right. There are many other male symbols, but female?

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There is a dichotomy in the symbolism of biblical stories between the human and the unreal, that Abraham is both an honest man who is a real father but also the patriarch of monotheistic religions, that Isaac is symbolic of Israel and Ishmael the forefather of Mohammad and therefore of Islam. These narratives between the real and the imagined represent ancient methods of communication that depended largely on imagery to weave an understanding of the external world and there is a truth to both.  It was not a time where reason and science articulated reality as we have today and so when we read the bible, to understand the meaning behind many of the symbols requires more creativity and fluidity in our thinking to interpret the texts. Jung poignantly explained how cultural identity and the practices or customs we come to believe and understand as the very source of language to explain experience can implicitly or explicitly be expressed in our emotional responses and psychological narratives through dreams, that while the dreams themselves are imagined and unreal are nevertheless symbolic of truth or something very real. Interpreting the dream can explain this real problem.

I was recently asked for forgiveness, an apology coming from a woman who had done something terribly wrong to me and it is always in my interest to want to improve my relations with people, to find that forgiveness and move on as friends. Her state of mental health at the time was certainly not well due to her partner being very abusive towards her and she has claimed that was the basis of her decision to do this wrong. At the time, she was very supportive of him and it leads me to this very question of whether there is a moral obligation held against women who support bad men or is there an existing void of moral responsibility where psychological abuse has been inflicted? I can clearly sympathise as I too had once experienced bullying and not been consciously aware of my responses, but I can also state that I developed anxiety and depression as a response to an unconscious awareness that something was wrong. My intuition had reason prompting me – without words – that told me something I already understood but not at conscious level that I could articulate using language. I fought and resisted subjectively. She knew that he was bad as we each understand what bad behaviour is since every culture and society has a universal understanding of good and bad forms of behaviour; something else compelled her to submit.

Violence does not necessarily need to be physical; indeed, in the Serious Crime Act 2015, it is an offence to inflict “controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship,” and further still in § 1(d) that “(person) A knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on (person) B.” Types of coercive behaviour include stalking (including cyber-stalking), intimidation and emotional abuse where the person feels unsafe and afraid due to the threat of abuse. Indirect threats and psychological games are just as violent as physical abuse; so if a woman is aware that her partner has a history of such behaviour and continues to support him, are they morally liable since they ought to know that his behaviour may have a serious effect on someone else?

This is a pretty tricky question.

Returning back to biblical scripture, women in the Bible also represent a dichotomy between the evil ‘adulteress’ and the good ‘woman’ where no woman, save for perhaps Deborah and the Queen of Sheba, are both good but also empowered with righteousness and intelligence. A ‘good’ woman appears to be motherly, submissive and serves while a ‘bad’ woman enjoys compelling and controlling men or as said in Proverbs 5:3 “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil” and a warning, yet again, for men rather than for women. This rather patriarchal language explained different symbols of how a woman should be viewed rather than teaching women how they should behave, giving men the authority to dictate this socially and culturally over generations, and leaving women today without any real understanding of what a ‘good woman’ actually means. Indeed, right from the beginning with Adam and Eve or even when reading ancient texts like Lysistrata, women have a sexual power over men that men ought to be cautious of, that they have the prowess to control men’s behaviour and responses (when Adam points at Eve and blames her for the temptation, it only verifies a lack of moral accountability on his part).

However, to be honest, there are instances where even I myself have witnessed the submissive nature of men toward rather silly women, where men can follow and do what their partners tell them to do, probably best articulated with the power Jezebel had over the King. The warning, to some degree, seems fair. In apocolyptic literature, there exists a ‘bad woman’ or the whore of Babylon who appears to be like the character of Jezebel that paints a picture of a woman interfering in good and moral behaviour. She is drinking ‘the blood of the prophets’ or basically all the effort the prophets have made in the name of God to teach people what is right and appears to be riding this ‘beast’ or this bad man who is aligned with the devil or dragon (as beast tends to refer to “Kings” or governments, although given this is the whore of ‘Babylon’ the dragon and beasts could be symbolic of ancient Mesopotamian mythological creatures such as mušḫuššu).

Conversely,  there exists a ‘good’ woman who appears at the beginning of the coming end, from the Book of Revelations or even other texts such 2Esradas 10, who appears favourable as the bride of good behaviour and epitomises what a righteous woman should be doing, which is calling people to good but doing so with a sense of empowerment or as said in Micah 4, with “horns of iron” and that through her a man is born. A ‘motherly’ figure does not imply a literal mother, but rather, as Jesus is the son of God but not literally, a mother is symbolic and illustrative of the care for and love of God’s children; it describes or is indicative of a covenant, a promise to uphold unconditionally the principles of good behaviour that lead men toward trusting the right way to behave. A submissive and obedient woman is not reasonable neither it is safe for women to believe that being good is being quiet and doing what you are told, on the contrary this is a mindlessness that has perpetuated violence against women.

Unlike Adam and Eve, a woman is not born by the rib of man but rather ‘good men’ are only possible through ‘good women’. For instance, if this whore of Babylon is exercising power over the beast by riding him, is it her fault that he is the beast? Herodias remained loyal to immoral behavior by ordering her husband to kill John the Baptist to the joy of Herod, her uncle and husband at the time. She supported and even used his bad behaviour to play out her own and while she may not be directly involved since Herod wanted John the Baptist dead, she is certainly vicariously liable for his death. She acted in bad faith and she is seen as a bad woman. And she is.

When I think of power and psychological issues like Battered Woman Syndrome, it really depends on the circumstances to confirm moral culpability. If a woman is aware that her partner behaves badly such as lying or stealing, remaining by him and even supporting him is morally reprehensible. I would imagine that while their support may have underlying mental health concerns, if they believe in and agree to remain close to such men, they are no longer within a moral dimension and are themselves devoid of agency. It is not as severe as being directly accountable, but the defense of insanity just wont cut it either. I think that an empowered woman, someone who is independent and convinced of the importance of moral accountability and agency, who fights the good fight no matter the threat, that is what women should aspire to. Generations of women support men because they may have been taught to do so, threatened into subordination, but ultimately there exists reason and it will always stand supreme.

Is Loyalty A Type Of Private Prejudice?

I believe in human rights, which is to say that I value righteousness and the utmost importance of moral accountability. I believe that we have the moral responsibility to care for universally acknowledged and shared values such as dignity and to be treated fairly and respectfully, to have equal opportunity and access to employment and education no matter one’s age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or culture and to have the freedom to enable independence – particularly the freedom of thought – which returns back to access to education. I remember when I was in secondary school, I was the person protecting “nerds” from the “jocks” because I was popular as well as smart, the one known to fight against authoritarian teachers and was frequently punished with suspensions and detentions. I reflect how Aristotle’s The Golden Mean and Confucianism were both incredibly appealing to me at a very young age because I naturally desired respect and equality as though instinctually aligned with that type of regularity and balance. I understood the relevance of self-cultivation, appreciated concepts of honour and integrity, and held the ideas of goldin (loyalty) in high esteem as they nurture relationships that promote social harmony.

Loyalty plays a significant role in moral agency as it enables cooperation in order to shape and apply ethical values, and we often approach the subject under the common understanding that it is an ethical principle held in esteem as a favourable moral condition. Indeed, loyalty to your wife or husband and commitment to a promise illustrates moral behaviour and accountability especially through difficult times either during a marriage or when experiencing personal affliction, sharing the burden and helping the other now a part of your life to find relief because you desire both you and your partner to be happy. While the inherent nature of our motivations remains problematic, it returns back to that regularity and balance, this pride in upholding morally worthy behaviour and this is only achieved in mutual recognition based on trust. But is that loyalty? Or is that commitment defined by an underlying friendship or a bond enjoined by empathy, this moral consciousness that I refer to as ‘love’ where one identifies the deeper need to see their beloved happy and desirous to share a life with them? That is, an effortless outcome caused by a will mediated by empathy that stands as a mechanism of reason to mediate the relationship between our private motivations and social patterns? There have been instances where women who are conscious of their husbands cheating turn a blind eye, men who tolerate unbearable circumstances because of their obligation to their religion rather than their will leading to all sorts of hidden depravities as visible with the Catholic Church and the crimes against children some priests have committed. Can one not say that a Nazi was loyal, that criminals who have killed and murdered show loyalty, that ethnocentric behaviour or Othering is a type of loyalty: “By the process of Othering, the colonizers treat the colonized as ‘not fully human’ and as a result, it dehumanizes natives. Othering codifies and fixes the self as the true human and the other as other than human. The Colonizers consider themselves as the embodiment of “proper self” while label the colonized as ‘savages.'”[1] Can we call criminals loyal?

At a social and political level, such unity can be empowering as it enables solidarity that functions as a conduit to communicate order, where numerous people identify with the same ideas and form a sense of belonging and comradeship. Foucault speaks of this power being as much a positive network then negative that shapes society into a coherent whole, indeed the very framework that enables emotional feelings of belonging and give one an identity and purpose. Loyalty nurtures cooperation and social harmony, but it additionally shapes distinctions and differences, that while it characterises ideas of social inclusion and connectedness also promotes exclusivity that loses the essential traits of a community. Therein forms a phenomenological reduction where prejudicial preconceptions are mistaken as the truth and where no other cognitive activity or individual volition is left. Injustice and highly immoral behaviour suddenly becomes “fact” because the group or power structure has reinforced the provision and motivation to believe automatically that it is fact and so prejudice becomes the enabler that destroys the ethical purpose of loyalty.

A man who is automaton in his sexist or misogynistic behaviour removes the individual and turns women into an object, unconsciously or immediately assessing her qualities comparative to this archetype shared to him by his environment. He would defend any man, even the most wretched of men, over a woman (rapists are suddenly given compassion over the victim who appears to be ‘asking for it’ and her behaviour is questionable despite the fact that he is the violent rapist) and without reason or logic involuntarily assumes that his faux ‘knowledge’ is a circumstance of reality. It just is, despite logic, despite evidence on the contrary, therein remains a deeply embedded benevolent sexism that is immovable because the power of this ‘knowledge’ has solidified into the unconscious iceberg where it is frozen into ‘fact’ and therefore no longer requires further thought. His loyalty to men is prejudicial, despite assuming that it is positive and even more disturbingly a moral attribute. Do the men of Sudan and other parts of Africa and the Middle East really find genital mutilation attractive?

Kant purports that the Categorical Imperative is that very maxim where the moral agent is tested, confirming whether they are enabled to rationalise and reason the just and appropriate way and motivated to act accordingly. Loyalty seems to me to not be defined as a standalone moral or ethical attribute but rather the product of one’s private motivations, illustrating the difference between someone who has conformed in blind submission leaving their behaviour to chance with someone who can rationalise and distinguish morally appropriate behaviour independently, to understand moral worthiness without religious or social approval and the need to belong as their primary motivator. They have transcended toward independent thinking and have overcome the fear of any potential aggression or isolation it may initiate. Loyalty is indeed a virtue, but it remains relative and regulated by something much more important. Reason.

It is clear that a distinction needs to be made, one such already touched upon by Josiah Royce and while, albeit, there certainly requires more depth that he has offered, has attempted to explain that loyalty is a commitment and the conditions for genuine loyalty is choice, much the same way he establishes a distinction between a crowd and a community. “A crowd, whether it be a dangerous mob, or an amiably joyous gathering at a picnic is not a community. It has a mind, but no institutions, no organizations, no coherent unity, no history, no traditions.”[2] A community is an emotional extension of ourselves and a materialisation of our subjective individuality through something concrete that society enables and loyalty is that commitment to the choice of serving it ethically. Loyalty is the right word to describe the unity and connectedness that forms through freedom of choice just like a ‘mistake’ materialises only when one feels remorse after becoming conscious of making a mistake, otherwise it would not be a ‘mistake’ and in much the same way ‘loyalty’ only materialises when one becomes conscious of and decides to approach her values willingly. Criminals who are committed are not loyal but predatory because it lacks any cognitive ‘scrutiny’ that enables him to question right or wrong behaviour.[3] What makes something truly moral is the authenticity of the motivations; am I saying this and am I agreeing with that only so that other people will accept me or because I want something or I am afraid of being disliked, or am I saying this because I have a gut feeling it is the right thing to do and I am not afraid of trusting that despite potentially aggravating people or being disconnected or dislocated.

This leads me to the following. I have just left staying in the refugee camp for almost a month and the circumstances were rather dire. As I meet new people and hear their personal and sometimes shattering stories, I see how living under occupation in the extremely dense conditions where everyone is in close proximity to one another, rubbish piling on the streets that is sporadically collected by local garbage collectors paid a measly amount by UNRWA, unemployment at almost 50% where youth roam hopelessly despite many with high academic credentials but who are unable to afford the costs of further study, who are exposed to violence and prison that has almost become normalised, it is hard not to feel a sense of righteousness and to desire improvement. I am loyal to human rights and that all people deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity, the military occupation being predatory by imposing such discriminatory restrictions that it led to the very violence it was seeking to control.

However, the atmosphere of hostility that compelled Israel was also initiated by the aggression and opposition it experienced particularly from the Arab world that led to today’s oppressive military occupation and political groups such as Hamas continue to weaken the prospect of peaceful relations through continued hostility. They are justified. They seek to protect their own and the Palestinian social and political landscape has a great deal of improvements that need to be made. While conditions of the occupied territories can be improved as must the political regime of Palestine, the occupation itself must and needs to end in order to enable that domestic transition and further changes, which again returns to the problem of Israel building settlements and provoking further aggression. It is undignified having Palestinians leave the bus on their way to Jerusalem to be checked at gunpoint while the rest of us remained on the bus.

I care for people and unfortunately the majority of Palestinian people are innocent, they are truly suffering but remain hospitable and kind. Removing the intensity of the security and sometimes the bad behaviour of security personnel, so are the Israelis. Yet, when I say that I support the Palestinian people, I am immediately opposed to Israel. When I say I support Israel, I am immediately opposed to Palestine. I am forced to make a choice and I absolutely refuse to. Therein lies the fear that I will lose favour from either side. My political and legal criticisms will remain impartial and I am determined to be vociferousness against any clear legal, humanitarian and human rights breaches from both sides. I will liberally criticise racism present in Zionism without being called an anti-Semite and I will liberally criticise terrorists labelled ‘martyrs’ without feeling threatened. I believe absolutely in the inherent freedom to criticize governments. Silencing the Palestinian voice and having the military commit gross human rights abuses is unacceptable and I will fight that. It does not imply that I am against the existence of Israel.

I feel like I am a mother with two sons who both don’t seem to get along but both of whom I love very much and both as guilty as they are innocent, the cycle of distrust and violence in continuity because they are too stubborn to accept their misdeeds. I listen to both and hear the same narratives being repeated and I worry that heightened in-group/out-group hostility – the whole “I am right and you are wrong” behaviour – may create the conditions to enable underlying prejudices guide discourse that will eventually solidify into “fact” without thought. I am afraid it has but I refuse to implicit favoritism on either side.

I sit in transit on my way out of Israel, a tear rolls down my cheek.

 

[1] S. R. Moosavinia, N. Niazi, Ahmad Ghaforian, Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Study of the Self and the Other in Orwell’s Burmese Days, Studies In Literature and Language, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011, pp. 103-113
[2] Josiah Royce, John Edwin Smith (1988). “Josiah Royce: Selected Writings”, p.272, Paulist Press
[3] https://www.iep.utm.edu/roycejos/#SH2b