November 14, 2013
Even though I don’t follow news, the Roast Busters thing has been unavoidable.
Here are some thoughts, most of which I haven’t seen elsewhere yet. Some are tangents into wider issues. I don’t claim they are thought out, comprehensive, or even useful. I guess I will figure out what I think by writing it.
a) I don’t recognise my culture in this.
Rape, sexual violence, child abuse, there’s a whole lot of ugly beneath the surface of our culture that doesn’t get aired enough, which is part of what allows it to continue. And I overwhelmingly support talking about this stuff and shining light on it, and it is an excellent use for social media and the general power of the internet to let us have the discourses we need to have.
But this particular incident feels alien.
This feels like what happens when kids are raised by the internet. This is not something so simple as “blaming the internet”. But there is an ever widening pool of influences that pour in on children. My grandparents’ generation were raised by their parents and community. My parents’ generation were raised by their parents and radio and movies. My generation was raised by our parents and the television – a massive explosion of the world and images and ideas into the home. My niece’s generation – she is of the Roast Busters generation – is being raised by a hypermediated world defined by the internet – access to any damn thing whatsoever. Which is what you make of it. A global cesspit, if that’s where adolescent toilet humour and vileness goes. Or non stop ponies and rainbows.
I was a fairly grubby minded teen with offensive tendencies. I have no idea what I would have made of the internet, and what dark corners I would have found.
b) When I say I don’t recognise my culture in this, what do I mean?
I can imagine teen douchebags I knew getting girls way too drunk and fucking them and thinking that was awesome. And I can imagine them bragging about it to their mates.
I can’t imagine them filming it and sticking it on the internet and kinda trying to destroy the girls and bragging about it to the world. If for no other reason than someone in their family would track you down and give you a hiding.
That, and it just wouldn’t have occurred to anyone as a thing to do.
So what is happening? Maybe this is an imported mentality. There is some other culture in which this behaviour makes sense – maybe not even a real culture, maybe just an internet porn fantasy they couldn’t discern from a reality, hybridised with social media and reality television – and it has infected these young people in our culture. And they (and those around them) just didn’t have the health – or self-knowledge – or fundamental sense of right and wrong – to fight it off.
Or maybe this is just part of the mutation that technology is rendering to us – we are enlarged and magnified and distorted by our new technological extensions, and they reveal us to ourselves uncomfortably – and a world without the expectation of privacy, which encourages sharing everything, was always going to bring some dark things to the surface.
c) In terms of the Roast Busters themselves, I have to wonder, where are their fathers? What did you teach your sons that this kind of behaviour seemed acceptable to them? The internet might be an influence, but surely some basic sense of right and wrong can be instilled on a parental level. If we can’t even do that, we may as well give up on raising kids altogether. Let wolves raise them.
d) The real elephant in the corner is that humans just don’t deal with sex very well. It is a massively powerful force in us that can overwhelm, obsess, and prompt all kinds of crazy. Religion and social mores have done their damnedest to control it across the centuries. Nothing much works to control it. Dealing with it directly and doing a better job of it is the way through this.
How many parents have a conversation with their kids explaining the mechanics of sex? And how few have a conversation explaining the dynamics of interaction with the other gender, the confusions of sex, lust and love, and how strongly these basic drives can kick us around and make us act like animals and drive us out of our minds? How many of us understand ourselves and our own experience enough to be able to have those kinds of conversations with our kids? And if we don’t, are our kids going to be any more able to figure it out than we were?
e) Man, when the police get it wrong, it is a real bad thing. The police have a hard, shitty job to do. If we had better people we wouldn’t need police. They are a symptom of us not having our shit together. But the police are also people who don’t have their shit together, operating within a flawed system. And when justice fails, it is ugly and sad.
f) I have seen a lot of talk about “rape culture”. I find the term weird, and the discussion interesting, though am surprised that a bunch of myths around rape continue and that so much effort is going into continually debunking those, which is a necessary step before we can start having the actual conversations that need to happen here. Because hell yes, let’s talk about sex, and consent, and being responsible for ourselves and our decisions and actions in general.
What I would add is, hey, male culture in this country is completely fucked. This is the invisible pairing with how female gender roles are completely warped. Much has been justifiably written on the warpedness of female gender roles and imagery. However, if the female role is imbalanced, the male role must also be imbalanced. This corollary is unavoidable. The roles are complementary and interlinked; by definition, two halves of a whole.
The male gender role in New Zealand is at least as limited and proscribed and warped. And it is shit. And by shit I mean a horrifically constrained and restricted version of what it means to be a fully alive, functioning, experiencing and expressive human being. The masculine mainstream of rugby and beer are a straightjacket and lobotomy in one.
Drop gender for a minute.
We are human beings, facing the same fundamental circumstance in life, lots of which is pretty rough. We need to be free to be human beings. To feel, to think, to be and do.
We need to update our understanding of what it means to be a human being. Period.
We need to remind ourselves of our needs, our drives, our rights and responsibilities, as human beings.
First, we need to know it in ourselves. Then we can understand that this stuff applies to all of us. And maybe then we can start acting like human beings towards each other.