Monday, April 16, 2007

Would I Pass This Test?

From Independent Women's Forum comes this tribute to the brave men of the Titanic

Come Sunday it will be ninety-five years since that great ship the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank into the icy waters of the North Atlantic. A stunning statistic from the calamity reveals the ethos of the day: While seventy-four percent of the female passengers survived, eighty percent of the men aboard the tragic luxury liner perished. The rule for the lifeboats: women and children first.


On a national level, one has to wonder whether NOW's trampling common sense in pursuit of the faith-based notion that evolution made the sexes identical save for a few niggling anatomical details -- speed and strength among them -- has gelded our society to the point where those numbers might well be reversed in a reprise of that disaster.

Chivalry is a difficult topic for the contemporary world. The very idea of chivalry is inherently subversive; when you talk about chivalry, you are forced to admit the possibility that men and women may be different. IWF’s Carrie Lukas characterized chivalry as “the idea that part of being a man (and certainly part of being a gentleman) is to sacrifice willingly to protect those who are more vulnerable,” adding that, “of course, all those aboard the Titanic were equally vulnerable to the near freezing water. The men who gave their seats in the lifeboats gave their lives.”

Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers invoked the Titanic when reviewing Harvard Professor Harvey C. Mansfield’s book Manliness. “The idea of male gallantry makes many women nervous,” wrote Hoff Sommers, “suggesting (as it does) that women require special protection. It implies the sexes are objectively different. It tells us that some things are best left to men. Gallantry is a virtue that dare not speak its name.”


Perhaps more disturbingly, though, is the question that hasn't gone away all day, and will likely make falling asleep even more than ordinarily troublesome: Would I have been among the manly 80 percent?

Thankfully, up to this moment, I will have to be content with this non-answer*:

Have you ever been close to tragedy? Or been close to folks who have?
Have you ever felt the pain so powerful, so heavy you collapse?
I've never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has.
Which makes me wonder if I could.
It makes me wonder if I've never had to knock on wood.
And I'm glad I haven't yet because I'm sure it isn't good,
That's the impression that I get.
Have you ever felt the odds stacked up so high, you need a strength most don't possess?
Or has it come down to do or die? You've got to rise above the rest.
I've never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has.
It makes me wonder if I could.
It makes me wonder if I've never had to knock on wood.
And I'm glad I haven't yet, because I'm sure it isn't good.
That's the impression that I get.
I'm not a coward, I've just never been tested.
I'd like to think that if I was I would pass.
Look at the tested, and think there but for the grace go I.
Might be a coward, I'm afraid of what I might find out.
I've never had to knock on wood, but I know someone who has.
Which makes me wonder if I could.
It makes me wonder if I've never had to knock on wood.
And I'm glad I haven't yet because I'm sure it isn't good.
That's the impression that I get.
Never have, I'd better knock on wood.
'Cause I know someone who has.
Wonder if I could, it makes me wonder if I've never had to.
I'd better knock on wood 'cause I'm sure it isn't good.
And I'm glad I haven't yet, that's the impression that I get.




* The Impression that I get by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

10 Comments:

Blogger monix said...

I think there is a difference between individual acts of heroism and the kind of group heroics of the Titanic and it is probably the latter that is in danger because of muddled 'feminist' thinking.

Accounts of individual heroes suggest that they didn't plan the deeds but acted from instinct. This has been seen by some people as evidence of inherent spiritual altruism. I don't think it is something one can train for or, for that matter, need worry about. If you ever have to 'knock on wood' I believe you will do it and ask the questions later.

On the other hand, the type of action witnessed on the Titanic or by the firefighters on 9/11 comes from a group dynamic. It would take more courage to go against the 'expected' behaviour than to risk one's physical safety. That isn't to say that there were not individual acts of heroism in there, too.

The problem for the future lies in what standard the group will adopt. As women demand equal treatment with men in all spheres of life, including the armed services, it will be increasingly difficult for them to expect preferential treatment in times of danger.

April 17, 2007 4:12 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I suspect you would, Skipper, but try to imagine yourself wrestling with your choices in the moments before the ship goes down. What would you say to yourself? Children is easy, but women?

monix, I think you are overestimating instinct if by that you mean basic universal instinct unrelated to culture or education. Try to imagine a ship in 1912 full of nationals from certain other countries (you choose). Do you see them all standing aside stoically as the ship goes down?

April 17, 2007 5:25 AM  
Blogger monix said...

Peter
I relate the basic human instinct to individual acts of heroism e.g. dashing into a burning building to save a stranger. I think the action of most of the men on the Titanic (and there were exceptions) to stand aside while the women and children got into the lifeboats, is an example of a group or cultural expectation. I think that expectation might be different in other cultures and certainly might be changing in ours. Titanic 1912 saw women and children first, Titanic 2012 could well be everyone for him/herself.

April 17, 2007 8:30 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

monix:

I think there is a difference between individual acts of heroism and the kind of group heroics of the Titanic

Exactly, which is why the military works so hard on unit cohesion.

and it is probably the latter that is in danger because of muddled 'feminist' thinking.

The muddled thinking is going beyond the obvious -- true equality before the law -- to the utterly insane thinking that puts the "iron" in ironic. It requires the most single-minded religious belief to maintain, in the face of an avalanche of evidence simultaneously wide, deep and constantly renewed, to assert men & women are essentially identical.

I rather suspect that most on the left take naturalistic evolution as objectively true, while completely rejecting its necessary implication: by necessity, the sexes are ineradicably different. I keep waiting for their heads to explode under the stress of the contradiction, while wondering what it will sound like.

If you ever have to 'knock on wood' I believe you will do it and ask the questions later.

That is why I find the lyrics so poignant (while noting that pop-music is not always vacuous). Not all who have to "knock on wood" pass the test, and there is no way to know in advance.

As women demand equal treatment with men in all spheres of life, including the armed services, it will be increasingly difficult for them to expect preferential treatment in times of danger.

Fortunately, the modern world is so safe that there vanishingly few opportunities to find out how far feminism has debased masculinity.

Peter:

I suspect you would, Skipper, but try to imagine yourself wrestling with your choices in the moments before the ship goes down.

There are few better recipes for insomnia then placing oneself on the Titanic, perched for just a few moments more between the devil of surviving as a coward, and the deep blue sea.

What would you say to yourself? Children is easy, but women?

In my mind, there is no difference; both are more deserving of continued survival than men.

Evolution has hard wired us that way.

Which isn't to say that momentary cultural insanity wouldn't be enough to push those at the margin into surviving, through their superior speed and strength, as cowards.

April 17, 2007 8:42 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Skipper:

I'm sorry, but I find that to be an extraordinary answer. You heathens don't like it one bit when we suggest evolution has become like a religion, but here you are confessing to lying awake worrying about whether you are up to the standards you have been supposedly hardwired for by purposelss, random evolution and suggesting if you are not you would be a coward. What exactly do you think evolution would do if you weren't up to snuff, spank you? (And if you just try and tell me you are hardwired to feel guilty, my next question will be whether women are hard-wired to need male protection and whether you are cool with that and prepared to encourage them to accept and defer to it. We can't have all that wasted guilt, can we?)

Also, can you really look at the grand sweep of worldwide history and conclude the evidence shows men generally have seen women's lives as more valuable than their own?

April 17, 2007 10:39 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

Hard to know where to start, but how about the middle.

Evolution consists essentially of two elements: variation, which is random, and reproduction, which (because it requires surviving long enough) is not.

So to say that evolution is random is simply wrong; "purpose" is irrelevant.

Also, evolution is statistical.

Humans are hardwired for all kinds of things: laughter, empathy, futurity, reciprocity (and the ability to sense its absence), ad nearly infinitum.

In evolutionary terms, there is no consequence if I alone use my superior speed and strength to toss women and children overboard in order to guarantee myself space on the lifeboat.

However, if enough men do just that in enough situations, then there will be a very real consequence: the population will crash.

Are women hard-wired to need male protection? Depends on what you mean by "need." In pre-modern conditions, women cannot both have children and survive without male protection and provision. That is "need" as a brute material fact.

Alternatively, "need" can also mean an emotional state beyond "want." Because the women who (pre-modern) declined male protection and provision were less likely to survive, that heritable emotional state is rare among women. In other words, women are hardwired to seek male protection and provision.

Which is very obvious in the assortative mating strategies women pursue: women, no matter the society, never seek lower status men.

However, because humans are more behaviorally flexible than other animals, it is possible that failing to condition men that they will sacrifice themselves to save women any future Titanic may well turn out differently.

Also, can you really look at the grand sweep of worldwide history and conclude the evidence shows men generally have seen women's lives as more valuable than their own?

Yes, everywhere and at all times. There is no known society were women are the warriors, nor is are there any where women are the risk takers.

More valuable? Yes. So valuable that men seek whenever possible to control and possess them.

April 17, 2007 7:08 PM  
Blogger Unobtainium said...

Also, can you really look at the grand sweep of worldwide history and conclude the evidence shows men generally have seen women's lives as more valuable than their own?

Yes, everywhere and at all times. There is no known society were women are the warriors, nor is are there any where women are the risk takers.

But there are societies in which, given an abundance of women, they're essentially disposable.

Men inherently prize women as chattel - other, additional, paradigms are less universal.

April 17, 2007 11:15 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Unobtanium:

But there are societies in which, given an abundance of women, they're essentially disposable.

Good point. I hadn't considered that. China is probably an excellent example. Women are so abundant that, along with cultural norms making sons the provider's for parents in their old age, female infanticide is rampant.

Men inherently prize women as chattel - other, additional, paradigms are less universal.

Right, again.

If my overbroad assertion that we are hardwired to protect women is right, then cultural influences won't make much difference.

On the other hand, taking your point, they will make a difference.

In this respect, at least, not a good one.

A conclusion that might be hard wired, unless it isn't.

April 18, 2007 7:26 AM  
Blogger Brit said...

It's called the Birkenhead Drill, and it's cultural all right.

Happened again recently when a Greek ferry got grounded. The English students were apparently the ones keeping calm while others fought for the life-jackets etc. The modern twist is that the students included girls.

April 18, 2007 8:25 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

My mother and my father's mother both married lower-status men, so I wouldn't say 'never.'

In my mom's case, much lower.

I'd never heard 'Birkenhead Drill' before but have always thought the orderliness of the English and Americans hard to explain. It was not always so, though.

I cannot explain it other than to suppose that first come, first served is a logical consequence of a belief in the equality of mankind.

Where mankind is not so equal, as in the military, the wives of the higher ranks are notorious for pushing their way to the head of the line at the PX.

April 19, 2007 12:52 PM  

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