Rape – and what we can do about it

tl; dr version: Learn to defend ourselves.

Another rape. Nationwide outrage. Full page newspaper reports. Condemnations by celebrities and ministers. Promises of justice. Candle marches. Protests. Demands for tougher laws. Better implementation. Tighter security. And then?

Another rape…

This is the reality we live in. But it hadn’t really sunk in. At least for me. Not until today.

Never mind the complexity of the problem. Leave it to the sociologists to discover the causes. Knowing the causes is not going to help the victims be safe.

Justice, however swift, can only follow the crime. Preventing the crime in the first place is primarily the responsibility of the potential victims. I don’t leave my house open and then protest if I get robbed. I understand that it is my responsibility to ensure the safety of my belongings. If a couple of ruffians were to accost me, I doubt if I could do anything to save myself, let alone protect anyone else. Why have I never realized that it is the same issue? Rapists – and other small-time crooks – are bullies. And bullies are cowards. A little bit of competent resistance is all it would take to put them in their place. Why am I incapable of producing that resistance?

In times gone by, it used to be considered a man’s job to protect the women he cared about. We have outgrown those times. And that is good. So, can women protect themselves today? No. And neither can men! In both of the highly publicized cases in recent memory, the rape-victim was accompanied by a male, who couldn’t even help himself. Huh? Is this progress?

Dependence on state machinery has emasculated us. We think we can delegate all our responsibilities to the state and cry foul when the state doesn’t deliver. We are right to delegate the responsibilities of justice and investigation. But the responsibility of self-defense – like many other responsibilities – cannot be delegated. It is pointless to blame the state for not delivering on the responsibilities we delegate to it when we shirk our own.

It is ridiculous that we who call ourselves educated, have the time, money and inclination to buy gadgets, take holidays, and vent our feelings on social media, who cherish our freedom to do all these things, allow ourselves to be victimized by a bunch of ruffians who have none of these comforts. How difficult can it be to learn a little bit of self-defense?

No self-respecting able-bodied person (male or female) who cherishes his independence should tolerate such a state of affairs. Throughout history, whenever people have been called on to defend their country in a time of crisis, there has never been a lack of volunteers. Don’t we have enough self-respect to defend ourselves?

If

If, by Rudyard Kipling, is by far my favorite poem. The topic came up in an email conversation and I decided to write down my understanding of the poem. At face value, If might seem to be an appeal to stoicism. But it is actually a brilliant and passionate expression of how experiencing the emotions that arise from moral behavior is the only thing that really matters. Refreshingly, the moral outline is explicitly individualistic – focusing primarily on the actions of the individual and the reasons for those actions, rather than on consequences – for the individual or anyone else. There is no mention of the “greater good” or “giving back” or “a cause larger than oneself”. This is what a proper morality is.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.

The first 7 lines are clear enough. The last line is not so clear. What is “looking too good” and “talking too wise”? Modesty is not a virtue. Honesty is. And being honest includes being honest about yourself. However, an independent man is not concerned primarily with what others think of him. Looking good and talking wise can be driven either by a desire to be seen as good and perceived as wise or as a natural consequence of being good and wise. I take this last line as a caution against the former.

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;

A dream is usually about something that doesn’t yet exist. About changing reality to make it better. And it is easy to get carried away by visions of the better reality and lose sight of whether those visions are actually realizable or not.

If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;

To a thinking man, thinking is a pleasurable activity. But, as with dreams, aimless thinking leads to worthless thoughts disconnected from reality.

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;

This does not mean that you should have the same emotional response to triumph and disaster. The only way to do that would be to not feel anything at all. And that is death (“Without pleasure, without pain, …”). This is a rejection of consequentialism. Triumph and disaster are consequences, not causes. Your sense of value should derive from your actions, not the consequences of those actions. This is illustrated in the lines below.

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Apart from the above, however painful it may be to see your words twisted, protecting fools from knaves is not the goal of your life.

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

You don’t really give your life to things (or people or causes). You act in a particular way for yourself, for your own satisfaction, to achieve the goals you set out for yourself. And if the things break, you build them up again.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Rejection of consequentialism again. The end result is not what matters. The experience does. The actions that enabled you to have those winnings matter, that you have those winnings doesn’t. That you have the courage to risk them matters. The loss (consequence) doesn’t.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

Very clear.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Very clear again – especially with so many demagogues and populists around!

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,

Clear again.

if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;

The only person you have any real control over is yourself. And no one – friend or foe – should be able to hurt you in a significant way. Rand makes the same point in “The Fountainhead” when Roark talks of a pain that only goes down to a certain point. You should value all men (appropriately) not not be dependent on anyone.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Amen!

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