Notes on a dream in Oslo

So it’s 2:39 AM in Oslo, Norway. I woke up in a too-hot hotel room out of a fitful nightmare, which I can only partially remember. I haven’t had a dream that I could recall even that clearly in a very long period of time. The last one was about traveling and speaking and not getting enough to eat. That was about six months ago. It occurred just before I embarked on what has now been a nine-month 85-city world tour, focusing on my book, 12 Rules for Life. I am on a very restricted diet, eating only beef and water, as a consequence of what appears to be a rather intractable auto-immune disease. I was concerned at some deep unconscious level about what might go wrong if I set out to talk with 250,000 people: If I could not eat, then I could not think and then things would not go well. Hence the nightmare. It was a warning of what might go wrong (and has not).

In this dream I was speaking to a young man. He was very garrulous and irritating, and simply would not shut up. His entire being seemed design to provoke. He reminded me of a young man I met in Edmonton when I was in university in the early 1980’s. He was from Grande Prairie. We became the closest thing to friends that he had ever had. My entire group adopted him, I suppose – and consciously so. We could see something good about him, underneath much that was not good at all. His older brothers (I think he had five of them) had not been kind to him when he was young. He told us all about it. They had fed him LSD, for example, when he was seven. He was studying Social Work – an early sign, I suppose, of the destiny of that discipline to degenerate into the utterly catastrophic mess that it now is. The blind leading the blind.

I listened to him, carefully, as did my friends, particularly Jim, a very physically powerful young man who was pursuing a philosophy degree. Jim hailed from Crooked Creek, Alberta, a tiny frontier town located right near an Indian reserve and no place for cowards and weaklings. I had encountered the friendless young man – let’s call him Sam — previously in Grande Prairie when I went to the college there a few years before. He drove an ancient Mercedes with swastikas painted on the doors. Sam simply could not exist without causing trouble. He told us himself that it was as if he walked around with a target painted on his back. He was Always Getting Hit. I became thoroughly aware of his annoying side, and used it to play a joke on another friend of mine, another tough kid, Hank, early high-school dropout, later college graduate, coincidentally also serving as a social worker, albeit with some of the roughest delinquents in Alberta, and fortunately and rarely quite sane. I invited Same to play the board game, Risk, with Hank, my delinquent-straightening pal, as an evil test of both their characters. We all drank too much, and Sam started mouthing off, in a more and more provocative manner, as he progressively became drunker and closer to losing the board game. Finally, seeing defeat as imminent, he flipped the board. This did not sit well with Hank, who took his Risk seriously, and did not appreciate being trifled with. He leaped up with murder in his eyes. He chased the miscreant up the stairs, but regained his temper half way to the top of the landing, and turned around in disgust. Sam hid under the bed, and did not come out for the rest of the night. That was sad, and comical, and just as well.

Later we attended another party, in a packed house, where there were many people we did not know. Sam played his tricks again. He sashayed, I suppose, from person to person (I don’t mean precisely in the sexual sense, although there were dark rumours about his ill-use at the hands of his brothers), offering the most provocative opinions he could possibly manage, in a voice that became louder and louder and shriller and shriller. Many of those who had attempted to befriend him were there, and became progressively worried for his safety. I took him aside and asked him what the hell he was doing. “I can’t help myself,” he said. “I told you. I have a target drawn on my back.” The enemies he was so deterministically generated started to conspire – to determine who was going to take Sam outside and teach him a lesson – and the entire gathering began to take on an ominous tone. But there was not stopping Sam’s mouth. He knew what was coming, full well, but was drawn to it, like the proverbial moth to the flame. Finally, Jim lifted himself from the chair he was occupying, walked directly to Sam, felled him with a single punch, and left the party. The tension dissipated. Sam spent a lot of time afterward moving from person to person,  calling Jim a coward for leaving, but we all knew (and so did Sam) that Jim’s single punch saved our wayward pest from a much more serious beating.

I know perfectly well that the short time that Sam spent with all of us, a welcome member of our group, prior to this event, was the best time of his life. He told me so, in complete candour, amazed at his good fortune and newfound friendships, knowing full well that he was likely to ruin it, as he did.

I did not see him after that single punch.

Sam had never had any proper care or encouragement in his entire life, and had made an unbreakable habit of garnering what attention he could manage by being so unbearable that no one could ignore him.

I have not brought this episode of my life to mind for thirty years. It came part and parcel with last night’s dream. I was in a discussion with a young man, unkempt, poorly put together, and he simply would not shut up. Everything he said was designed to provoke and to test. He finally pushed me beyond my limit of tolerance. I grabbed him, physically, and threw him against the wall. It was like wrestling with dough. It reminded me of the unpleasant physical play I sometimes engaged in with young boys who had been neglected by their parents when I worked as a child day care worker when I was in my late teens. The kids – particularly the boys – would link up to play with me. I would spin them around by the hands in the playground, with their feet flying off the air. I would draw them large-toothed monsters, which they would immediately hang in their lockers. But the ignored boys, the Neverland lost boys? They could not be played with properly. They were too awkward. They got upset at the wrong times. They had no physical resilience, no ability to dance, and they were too desperate. Ignored at home, they lacked the skills to attract other children, and they spent their dismal little lives isolated and alone, avoided by potential playmates, and given a wide berth by adults. One in particular sticks in my mind: every time I sat down on the ground, he would come and sit on my lap. But he was too old for that, desperate as he was, and I could not find it within me to provide what it was too late by that early time in his life for anyone to provide.

In my dream, I wrestled my opponent to the ground. He was still talking, mindlessly, mechanically, rapidly, nonstop. I bent his wrists to force his knuckles into his mouth. His arms bent like rubber and, even though I managed the task, he did not stop babbling. I woke up. 2:39 in Oslo. I’m not in good spirits.

Last night I was interviewed by a young journalist from France. He had flown in with a camerawoman from Paris. He had been trying to have what might have been but wasn’t a discussion with me for several months, flying at one point to Rochester New York to attend one of my lectures, but failing to produce the appropriate paperwork for my tour manager. He wanted to talk to me about the degenerating state of modern masculinity – the alienation felt by what appears to be an increasing number of young men – and what particular attraction what I have been saying on YouTube and on my podcasts and in my book might have for such people. A part of him really wanted to know, and that was how we opened the discussion. I told him that the dominant narrative in our culture is predicated on the assumption that the West is a tyrannical patriarchy; that all its accomplishments are a consequence of the exploitation of the dispossessed; and that the only true way to a desirable position is through the expression of power. I told him that young men are therefore faced with a Devil’s choice: if they are ambitious and competent (or even ambitious or competent) then they will be treated, not least by themselves, as if they are expressing precisely the traits that produced this terrible tyranny, and are no better than the infinite oppressors of the past. This happens because it has become acceptable in our time to put forward a version of history, the present and the future that is based on a deep hatred for men (or, even worse, a deep hatred for competence). This is a very enervating, demotivating, discouraging story, as it takes what is best about the best young men – their desire for competence, contribution, cooperation, competition and success – and turns it into something indictable. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche had it: “We are best punished for our virtues.” It is of course the case that subjecting someone to contempt, ridicule and insult for striving forward also rewards and justifies the actions of that part of them that might choose the easy path, in any case. It’s difficult to be good, honest, noble, courageous and forthright, and all-too-easy to remain immature and half-formed. If what is positive is punished, then what is negative has all the arguments it needs at hand to triumph.

This is the reason for the despair of young men. I explained that to the French journalist, but he could not listen. He was not really there. He had brought a list of pre-prepared questions, “hard questions,” as he considered them, and did not have the confidence in his own desperation and curiosity to pursue the question that was actually guiding him. He considered himself a liberal, meaning someone attracted by the more radical end of the left, and the story I was telling him was simply not comprehensible: not without the demolition of what had become not so much his fundamental beliefs as his entire manner of looking at the world. So he did not have the ears to hear, and actually repeated the question three more times. I gave the same answer each time, to no avail.

We did not have a discussion. Instead, he acted out his version of the tough, hard-bitten reporter, the asker of the aforementioned “hard questions,” which were descriptions of episodes gleaned from my adventures and misadventures over the last two years, which he laid at my feet in an attempt to demonstrate to me the moral unacceptability of my ways. Why had I discussed “enforced monogamy” with a reporter from the New York Times? Why had I tweeted the Facebook page of a Communist activist from Ryerson who had posted flyers accusing me of being a public menace by the dozens in the my neighbourhood? Wasn’t all the money I was making from my book and tour merely evidence that I had found a weak spot in desperate young men and exploiting them shamelessly? Wasn’t my comment to Camille Paglia that men remain civil to one another partly because of the underlying threat of physical combat merely a cover for my desire to treat women with violence? We didn’t discuss the reasons why millions of people have read my book, and had their lives changed for the better; we didn’t discuss the strange fact that thousands of people in cities all over the world attend my lectures, where I discuss the necessity of heavy responsibility, confrontation with the suffering of life, and the moral obligation we all share to constrain the evil within us. We didn’t even discuss the plight of young men – even though he was clearly someone who shared that plight. I don’t think I conducted myself particularly well. I was less even-tempered than I should have been, trying to parry his constant insinuations and accusations and insistences that we did indeed live in a tyrannical patriarchy and that it was sheer heresy for anyone to dispute that fundamental proposition. After we had wrapped up, we spoke a bit more off camera. He told me that he truly believed in a world of privilege for white males of a certain class, let’s say – a class he belonged to. I told him that he therefore bore guilt for which there was no possibility of expiation – not from within that scheme of things. I told him that instead of guilt he could decide to take responsibility for his relative good fortune (as well as willingly shouldering whatever disadvantages were also part and parcel of his being). He could do good with what he had been granted, and multiply the talents, so to speak, that were awarded to him at his birth. Then everyone would win. I told him that how much money I was making was not the issue (and certainly not something I am ashamed about) but that what I did with the money was the relevant point. I told him that I planned to put my fortune, such as it is, to the best use that I can imagine, personally, for my family, and for the broader community, if I can manage that, and that I could not think of a better adventure than that.

But we caught none of that on tape, and I am not optimistic about the future of the interview, once edited and shaped, as it surely will be.

Afterward, very stressed, I returned to my hotel room. It was about 8:30 in the evening. My wife Tammy was sleeping, trying to shake a persistent cold. She asked me how it went. I said, “terrible.” I hadn’t spent two hours talking to a person. The person wasn’t there, or was barely there (even though the journalist had the makings, I would say, of a fine young man). I couldn’t reach him. Instead, I had a very irritating discussion with an ideologically-possessed puppet and that was both too familiar and too unpleasant. I had a shower, and we went for a steak, and then we returned to our room.

Professor Janice Fiamengo, enemy of the politically correct, and a seasoned soldier in today’s culture war, was a guest this week on the The Rubin Report, a popular talk show hosted by former left-liberal Dave Rubin, who is also a standup comedian and the man who is accompanying me on my endless book tour, opening with a bit of comedy to lighten up my repertoire of existential philosophy, narrative of good and evil and dark psychology that constitutes my strangely popular repertoire. Janice talked of her mounting horror at the terrible ideological possession that has gripped the modern university, and of her decades-long battle with its minions, closing with an exceptional statement, which I am paraphrasing: the disciplines dominated by women are irrational, vicious, provocative, and destructive – and purposefully so.


Here’s the conclusion of Dr. Fiamengo’s interview:

Dave: You get all these emails from men, you can listen to them, and that sort of thing. They’re out there.

Janice: Well, I’m not hopeful. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. I really don’t. I think that we’re really in a mess right now. If I wanted to say something really inflammatory, what I would say is that when I was a PhD student, I used to read newspapers from the 1870’s-1890’s because that was my period I was working in. I wanted to see what kind of conversations were going on. I did a feminist Ph.D. I was interested in female journalists of the 1880s-1890s and there were all sorts of debates about gender relations, as we would call it now, now going on then. One of them was the question of women’s political role. To what extent should women be politically involved. And really, the late nineteenth century was the time because of advances in domestic equipment and some rudimentary birth control measures more women were able to make a contribution at the public level in a way they never really had been able to before unless they had been single. So there were all these debates. Most men were pretty enthusiastic about the idea of women becoming more publicly involved and there was very much a sense that women would bring a certain kind of morality – that women were superior morally to men. We still see that now, I think: the whole idea that women don’t lie about things, that they don’t lie about rape, that women can end war, women can negotiate better than men, all that. The idea that women have something in them that is perhaps morally superior or gives them certain qualities that men don’t have: it was very much that.

But the anti-feminist position at the time said that it was dangerous. Women are too emotional; women are less rational than men; women personalize everything, so they’re not able to separate themselves and make decisions in an objective, unbiased  manner – that kind of thing. This was related to women’s biology and various things. I remember I used to laugh and think how ridiculous that was. But I have to say, over the last ten years, as I have seen – Me Too, say, this new conversation, which has really been going on at least since Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas (there was a lot of discussion about sexual harassment in the workplace and what was going to be done about it, a lot of legislation brought in, a lot of innocent men dismissed from their jobs as a result of various claims that women had made that they had been made to feel uncomfortable). I have to say that it makes me wonder sometimes whether those anti-feminists from the late nineteenth century weren’t right. What is it about this mass movement – so angry, this movement of vengeance – that is starting to make these completely irrational claims about how we should proceed, who we should believe, why it doesn’t matter that we suspend basic principles about presumption of innocence and due process? How can it be that this is actually being taken seriously in our public culture? I don’t know, but I do have to wonder whether the presence of women is having some kind of really deleterious effect on our public conversations about these things.

Dave: That was only if you wanted to end on an inflammatory note.

This is something no one will discuss. I don’t believe it’s all women: I think it’s female bullies, who specialize, for example, in reputation destruction. I think the dialog is out of control because no one knows how to control female bullies. A man that’s out of control? Well, he can and will be dealt with like Jim dealt with Sam, and that will slow him down – even make him think. But women whose narcissism and rage and resentment knows no bounds? We are all powerless before their demands, particularly when allied with the female claim to compassion, a virtue whose presence justifies all faults.

Then I re-read the new National Association of Science report on sexual harassment in the STEM fields. This is round two in the newest front of the culture wars that have already destroyed the humanities and much of the social sciences (the faculties of law and education as well). The NAS has decided that since 50% of women report sexual harassment in the last year (using a definition of sexual harassment clearly designed to produce a percentage of that magnitude – based on the insistence, for example, clearly laid out in the report that women under-report true harassment because they are so brainwashed, cowed and oppressed by the tyrannical patriarchy) it is necessary to entirely retool the manner in which grant money should be awarded, the administrative structure of the scientific, technological, engineering and mathematics disciplines (including medicine, even though it is already female dominated), and the very definition of success and competence in those fields (as current definitions, in the jargon, privilege the male body). This is the NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE.

Here are some examples taken directly from the report:

Despite the fact that there is no evidence that recent changes in academic culture have helped, according to the report itself, what is necessary is:

  • “A system-wide change to the culture and climate in higher education is required to prevent and effectively address all three forms of sexual harassment. Despite significant attention in recent years, there is no evidence to suggest that current policies, procedures, and approaches have resulted in a significant reduction in sexual harassment. It is time to consider approaches that address the systems, cultures, and climates that enable sexual harassment to perpetuate.”

Other claims and statements of “methodology” follow:

  • “There is often a perceived tolerance for sexual harassment in academia, which is the most potent predictor of sexual harassment occurring in an organization.”
  • “To guide a better understanding of how these positions shape the lived and sexual harassment experiences of women, we employed the concept of intersectionality and throughout the report examine the limited research that is available on the experiences of these women.”
  • “To understand these complex, sensitive, and subjective experiences and their impacts, we chose to use the method best suited to understanding these issues: a qualitative study consisting of individual, semi-structured interviews. Qualitative inquiry is widely recognized as the method of choice for generating insight into complex phenomena, the contexts in which they occur, and their consequences(Creswell 2013).”  The qualitative RTI study consisted of 40 individual, semi-structured interviews with women faculty in academic science, engineering, and medicine who have been targets of sexual harassment.
  • Note that sexual harassment is often ambient, meaning it is “not clearly targeted at any individual or group of individuals” (Parker 2008, 947) in the work or education environment or behavior that goes beyond the direct target of the harassment (Glomb et al. 1997).

And here’s how women are so misguided that they don’t even know that they have been harassed:

  • “Despite refined definitions and terms to describe sexual harassment and gender discrimination, documenting the degree of these behaviors in work and education environments remains challenging. This is in part because individuals experiencing these behaviors rarely label them as such. Numerous studies have demonstrated that more than half of working women report experiencing sexually harassing behavior at work, but less than 20 percent of those women actually describe the experience as “sexual harassment” (Ellis, Barak, and Pinto 1991; Ilies et al. 2003; Magley, Hulin, et al. 1999; Magley and Shupe 2005).”
  • “An initial challenge in conducting survey research on sexual harassment is that many women are not likely to label their experiences as sexual harassment. Additionally, women who experience the gender harassment type of sexual harassment are more than 7 times less likely to label their experiences as “sexual harassment” than women who experience unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion (Holland and Cortina 2013).  This illustrates what other research has shown:that in both the law and the lay public, the dominant understandings of sexual harassment overemphasize two forms of sexual harassment, sexual coercion and unwanted sexual attention, while downplaying the third (most common) type—gender harassment (see Figure 2-2; Leskinen, Cortina, and Kabat 2011; Schultz 1998). Regardless of whether women self-label their experiences as sexual harassment or not, they all have similar negative psychological and professional outcomes (Magley, Hulin, et al. 1999; Woodzicka and LaFrance 2005).

 And this, in terms of definition: they retermed microaggression (an admittedly “poorly defined construct”) as incivility:

  • Some researchers further define the verbal insults associated with gender harassment, along with accompanying nonverbal affronts, as microaggressions. This term refers to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative” messages (Sue et al. 2007, 271) to or about historically stigmatized groups. This term can also be broken down into three categories: microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations (Sue et al. 2007). There is some concern that microaggression remains a poorly defined construct, with porous boundaries. 

And here’s some actual data:

  • “The overwhelming majority of sexual harassment involves some form of gender harassment (the put-downs of sexual harassment that include sexist hostility and crude behavior). Unwanted sexual attention is the next most common form of sexual harassment, and only a small minority of women experience sexual coercion. For instance, Schneider, Swan, and Fitzgerald (1997) analyzed data from two samples of women: factory workers and university faculty/staff. In both samples, gender harassment was by far the most common experience: 54–60 percent of women described some encounter with gender harassment, either with or without unwanted sexual attention. In contrast, sexual coercion was rare, described by approximately 4 percent of women in each sample. When analyzing the sexual harassment of graduate students, Rosenthal, Smidt, and Freyd (2016) found that 59 percent of harassment incidents involved some form of gender harassment, while only 5 percent included unwanted touching, and less than 4 percent entailed sexual coercion.”

Recommendations include:

  • Make use of egalitarian leadership styles that recognize that people at all levels of experience and expertise have important insights to offer.   
  • Develop ways the research funding can be provided to the trainee rather than just the principal investigator.   
  • Focusing evaluation and reward structures on cooperation and collegiality rather than solely on individual-level teaching and research performance metrics could have a significant impact on improving the environment in academia. 
  • Academic institutions and their leaders should take explicit steps to achieve greater gender and racial equity in hiring and promotions, and thus improve the representation of women at every level. 
  • Academic institutions should consider power-diffusion mechanisms (i.e., mentoring networks or committee-based advising and departmental funding rather than funding only from a principal investigator) to reduce the risk of sexual harassment.   

And, finally:

  • “…the “ideal worker norm” is pervasive in academia. As Leskinen and Cortina (2014, 110) explain in their work on a broader conceptualization of gender harassment (a type of sexual harassment):The ‘‘ideal worker’’ is someone who works full time and consistently over his or her lifetime and who takes no leaves for pregnancy, child care, or other caregiving responsibilities [Williams, 2000]. Employers value and reward the ideal worker, despite the inherent stereotypical sex-based expectations (i.e., workplaces are structured around male bodies) that this ideal endorses [Williams, 2008]. Conversely, some employers punish personnel who fail to meet the ideal worker norm; this notion of ‘‘family responsibilities discrimination’’ is gaining attention among lawyers and social scientists as a significant barrier to women’s employment and advancement [see Williams, 2008; Williams and Bornstein, 2008].” 

This is a bloody disaster. The conclusions drive the analysis. Here’s the methodology: gerrymander the definition until unreasonably high rates of harassment are demonstrated. Call for draconian interventions. Include in those interventions the desirable PC shibboleths, despite complete lack of evidence that those interventions work. It’s a complete bloody horror show. The STEM types are in so much trouble.

And this means – and I have seen this coming for a long time (not as long, perhaps, as Christina Hoff Somers, who wrote a prescient essay back in 2007 prophesying precisely this) – that there will be an all out assault on the STEM fields over the next ten years, with the full force of the rhetoric of white privilege, intersectionality, inclusivity, diversity and equity (all mentioned within the report as descriptions of reality that could not possibly be questioned by anyone moral) – and that the consequence of this will be (and the desired consequence, make no mistake about it) that the STEM fields will be as shallow and pathetic and predictable and unpleasant and dessicated and administratively-overwrought and rotten with the stench of the hatred for the competent and able as the rest of the blighted university is now.

Christina also produced a short Factual Feminist video debunking the idea that women are discriminated against in the STEM fields:

Wake up, scientists, engineers, physicians, programmers: your days are numbered (lawyers? You’re already gone). Your obsessive and proper concern with the intricacies of your craft, providing you with the expertise necessary to build bridges and formulate new medicines and heal the sick offer you no protection against the implacable moral claims of the compassionate and convinced.

Just another day on the road.