Last week, another “movement” born of nihilism, misanthropy, and misery has taken lives. That this is happening 100 years after a major milestone in the ongoing global struggle for universal suffrage & equal opportunities only proves that we must constantly work hard to maintain that which we’ve fought for, or risk losing it all.
I don’t particularly want to dignify the incel (Newspeak for involuntary celibacy – note the use of celibacy, a word with a very specific religious meaning, as opposed to something like abstinence or continence) “movement” by using their term for their misogynistic ideology, because it would be disrespectful to the original creator of the term to use it in its twisted definition. Nonetheless, its obvious association with Orwell & its homonymic relationship to intel imbues it with a certain ironic power.
It’s an extremely frightening phenomenon to me, because I could imagine how so many could end up falling into its trap.
I don’t talk about relationship stuff as a matter of course: it’s nobody’s business but mine, just as anyone else’s relationship is their business alone. I am as free to keep this private as anyone else is free to broadcast their adventures as they see fit. However, I’ve come to this decision after years of self-development, introspection, and research. I had to overcome much turmoil, foolish mistakes, terrible pain, and immense frustration to get here. Other men who haven’t undertaken this journey may not have the luxury of being comfortable with their discomfort. So, I won’t talk about my present situation, but perhaps it’d be useful to talk about my past.
As a wee boy growing up, I got on extremely well with girls and women. Living with an extended family which was mostly composed of women, not to mention having a baby sister only a year and a bit older than me, meant I couldn’t exactly avoid them: in retrospect, I’m very thankful for the outlook & experience my family offered me. My best friend at nursery was a girl: same with primary school. Through it all, I played with, talked to, and worked alongside girls more or less just as much as I did with the boys, just like most of the other boys. We were Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles & My Little Pony-inclusive kids. I viewed girls as just a different type of human: even girl’s toys and boy’s toys didn’t seem a chasm so much as an affectation. I, and I think many of the boys in my year, were quite comfortable enough in our masculinity, just as the girls in our year could be as sporty as us guys. Perhaps not completely neutral, and I can only speak from my own perspective, but I’d like to think we were a generation where children were just children.
It was only until about Primary 7 and the onset of puberty that this environment changed. Suddenly, there were tribes. Boys kept with the boys, girls kept with the girls. I was close with my best friend, but some strange unspoken social pressure pushed us apart. Girls and boys started to argue with each other over stupid things, little things, that didn’t matter just a school year ago, on specifically male/female lines. High school was even worse: the delineation between boys and girls was exacerbated, as boys were expected to act, feel, think in a different way from the girls. In 1st year, I found older girls were happy to form friendships with me, perhaps because I was too young for them: similarly, in 2nd and 3rd year, I found girls from the years below me looked up to my relative maturity.
Unfortunately, at that age, I was experiencing my own growing pains. My neurochemistry was struggling to make sense of new genetic imperatives that seemed to arrive all at once. And so, I made stupid decisions of the type “schoolboy error” was made for, said and did things that I would never do before or since adolescence: things that might not matter in the grand scheme of things, and, thankfully, didn’t matter as much to those I upset as I feared. Yet even with reassurances from my peers and from teachers, I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t the individual issues, but the cumulation of them in a wider social context, that was the problem. I still wonder today if those reassurances were simply “not ideal, but…” I beat myself up about it immensely, thinking myself a horrid misogynist, who was constantly battling my own ego for control & responsibility for his actions – indeed, my very thoughts. The closest analogy I could think of is that of a deeply religious person who believed their thoughts to be sinful: in my case, it was more that I felt even thinking about girls in such a way was an infringement on their privacy & humanity. A humanist sort of shame?
I couldn’t leave my teenage years behind fast enough. College was different in some ways, similar in others. I had, after much research into psychology (it helped that my mammy was doing a psychology PhD about this same time), reconciled that the “Lizard Brain” part of me was just going to do this: rather than try to fight or suppress it, I should simply contextualise and control it. I realised that it was perfectly alright to find girls attractive, and think of them as human beings at the same time – apparently a revolutionary idea. I was not prepared, however, for an emotional crush that hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. This was not like my early teens: this was far, far more powerful, more debilitating, more difficult to navigate. I’m supremely lucky in that the subject of my crush is one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known (which in and of itself just made it even worse!), and so she had the ability and the resolve to protect us both from what could have been a torrid, horrible period in our lives.
Because of her insight & ingenuity, I got through those years without becoming resentful and spiteful towards women. That could so easily have happened. I remember the moments where I thought that this was my one and only “shot”: if I failed, then that was it. I had such low self-esteem at that point in my life that I truly thought that this was to be my romantic existence – a sensitive, generous soul who never actually found the partner they always really wanted. It was something that ate away at me. It was about this time my peers introduced me to the then-new website Something Awful, a site that may one day live in infamy for its pivotal role in the sado-masochistic culture of too many of today’s youth. Some of my peers just laughed it off as pure shock-value: others started to buy into its distilled cynicism, the sense that the world is terrible, everything you like is awful, everyone you love is horrible, so let’s all just watch it burn. Breaking down everything positive in a young person’s life at a very vulnerable age while interspersing with cheap laughs is a dangerous thing to do, with chilling parallels in certain dating and social situations.
But, to use the old cliche, you have to love yourself first, so I never bought into Something Awful and the emergent internet culture of the time, preferring not to waste my precious life basting in self-satisfied bitterness. Following college & leaving her behind, I went to university. Here was the real test. I thought I was prepared for any sort of situation. Of course I wasn’t fully prepared – but I was better prepared than before. I became close friends with a group of girls who I’m still good friends with today, and while I got into a pretty complicated relationship with another, I think we both ended up alright afterwards.
I emerged from university with a bit of paper and social experience I would’ve thought impossible only a few years prior. I had grown up, as did a lot of my contemporaries. Following university, I immersed myself in my work: I started writing for an award-winning website, drawing portraits & personal commissions, all while helping younger family members in their own education. And through it all, I’d like to think my relationship with all women has been good. I’ve made many more female friends, through my art, Robert E. Howard scholarly studies, Scottish politics, and all sorts of places on the road to life. I’ve had my heart utterly broken, and actually felt better for the experience.
On “Lone Actor Terrorism.”
Which brings me to Incel. Let me be crystal clear: for those individuals who use this to further a cruel, violent, misogynistic worldview, who view women as inherently inferior, who demand prominence on the base of their sex, who are willing to go so far as to sympathise with or applaud or commit violence and murder, or are simply cynical opportunists looking to watch the world burn – I have nothing to say to you. You will not listen. I will not waste my breath.
But those agents of nihilism cannot function without support – and I refuse to believe all who have been drawn to Incel are as twisted as they are. Those who have been entrapped must understand that Incel, like all these poisonous extremist cults-in-all-but-name, can be persuasive and corruptive – and in dark moments, one can be drawn into the trap without vigilance & strength of character. That’s what makes them so dangerous, and why we must reject them utterly and comprehensively. I have come to a few conclusions from my experiences: far from exhaustive, and probably not revolutionary, but I hope they might provide something constructive.
- I know there are boys and men out there who have been hurt by women – who simply feel hurt by women, and blame an entire sex for that agony. I have been hurt by girls, by women. I have also been hurt by boys and men. The sex of those who did me harm is no more a causative issue than their blood type.
- They could feel like there truly is no-one out there for them, that of the millions of women on earth, not one could find them anything other than repellent or unappealing, and that they are worthless and loveless and hopeless. I used to feel that way, until I was proven wrong. But you have to meet the rest of us halfway.
- They might think women are strange, alien, unknowable, that they cannot form meaningful relationships with them, platonic or romantic. They are human beings, and much easier to understand than you’d think. But how would you know otherwise, if you do not try? If you fail, get up and try again. I did. Many times. Each failure is another step on the stair to success.
- They may be deeply wounded by society’s hypocritical & cynical stigma of male virginity and sexlessness, who feel they have failed as men, who desperately want the wife & kids & car & home they feel they need to have even as marriage is depicted as a cruel trap: to them I say – society is capricious and self-contradictory, and anxieties don’t disappear when certain criteria are satisfied.
- They possibly feel disenfranchised, angered that women seem to be afforded more rights and privileges and respect than men are – a possible indicator of the disproportionate ratio of males to females in violent crime. Divide & conquer is the greatest tool in the arsenal of those who oppress us all (particularly when they accuse those they’re dividing & conquering of being the dividers) and it is only when we lift each other up that we can ensure all of us are free. It is our duty, and our responsibility, to use what power we have to help others, for the greater good of all.
I’ve seen a lot of people arguing that these people are dangerous, that they should not be treated as harmless or misunderstood, troubled young men. I agree, most emphatically – but I also think it is vitally important that we do not feed their hate. Not because of some sense of leniency, but because these movements are designed (they are never organic) to imbue a pervasive, soul-destroying miasma of hatred & wretchedness in their targets. To then treat them as their controllers say they will be treated just exacerbates matters. What we must do is fight hate with love. I’m not talking airy-fairy, hippy-peace-and-love, kumbaya-round-the-campfire, Valentine’s-Day-card-pleasantries love/ I’m talking fierce, passionate, blinding love, the love that lifts cars to save trapped children and sends people into fire and ice to save lives: I’m talking the love that doesn’t bite their tongue for fear of offending their friend; the love that turns their back to gunfire to shield someone else from harm. We need to reject the nihilism, the fatalism, the hatred & apathetic vacuity which the powerful drowns the vulnerable in to raise their footsoldiers. The world is worth living in; people are worth loving; life is worth living.
A Nevada gym teacher who risked her own life to stop a 14-year-old student who allegedly was shooting his classmates is being called a hero, but Jencie Fagan says any mother would have done the same thing.
“I think anybody else would have done it,” Fagan told “Good Morning America.” “I look at the students as if they’re my own, and I’m sure the teachers at my daughter’s high school look at my daughter as if she’s their own.”
When three gun shots were fired in the halls of Pine Middle School just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, students scattered, but Fagan walked toward the alleged shooter, 14-year-old James Newman.
“As soon as I came to the doors of the cafeteria from the gym, he discharged the weapon once and I looked at what was going on,” Fagan said.
Police say Newman managed to get off three shots, hitting one boy in the upper arm. A girl was hurt when a bullet ricocheted off the floor, hitting her knee. Both students are doing fine.
Fagan persuaded Newman to put down the gun, then held Newman in a “bear hug” until other teachers arrived to help.
“He tossed the gun down, and then I hugged him, and I told him I wouldn’t leave him,” Fagan said.
I was almost a school shooter.
I didn’t carry out anything, I didn’t hurt anyone. But in 1996, I almost did the worst possible thing.
I was very much the outcast in high school. I had a very chaotic and violent childhood, moving from place to place, having the people I was closest to be the ones who hurt me most. I was shy, and sensitive, and smelled bad because I either had dirty clothes on that had not been washed in weeks or because I was filthy from not having a shower also for weeks at a time. I was picked on and bullied. For being fat. For being smart. For not playing sports. So I got angry, and I started hiding weapons around anywhere I hung out at frequently. I had hidden around me knives, sticks, shanks, brass knuckles, whatever. I always kept one in arms reach.
I say all of this not to shock, or to upset people, or to say I agree at all with this evil. I say this to show that the problem is hard.
People say mental health is the issue. And that’s true. My mental health was in sad shape, I was severely depressed and suicidal, I felt like I had nothing at all in life to look forward to and so I literally had nothing to lose. When someone has nothing to lose, they can do anything, and that thought should be terrifying. So yes, mental health was an issue.
A bigger issue was love. I had a severe lack of love, and I really think this kid did too.
Some people blame this violence on the media, or video games, or music. We call those people morons.
But there is one thing that would have made it all different. One thing, that if it was in the equation, would have ended up in terror.
I didn’t have access to an assault rifle.
I was almost a school shooter.
I am not a school shooter because I didn’t have access to guns.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
But people with guns kill lots of people.
I have come a long way in the 25 years or so since this all was happening. I have grown as a person, becoming a father and family man. I most definitely have things to live for and to lose. I still have battled depression over the years, but I have a much easier time winning that fight.
If you see someone who looks like they need love, give it to them. Even a small hug, a word, or a smile could actually save lives. Compassion is the only real way we can stop this. Love people even when they don’t deserve it.
‘Love is all we need’ – John Lennon
I wrote this because my wife and daughter kept saying how they could not understand what could make someone do this. Sadly, I can. This is a hard conversation to have, but we must have it.
Antoinette Tuff says her faith guided her through the scariest moment of her life. On Aug. 20, 2013, she was working in the front office of the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., when a 20-year-old gunman stormed in with an AK-47 assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition.
While on the phone with police, Tuff calmed the gunman down. More than 800 students and 100 employees were at the school that day; not one was injured. Later, she was publicly recognized by everyone from her pastor to President Obama.
Only then can we take Incel Outside, and bridge the thin line between love and hate.
When a person turns to wrong, is it a want to be, belong?
Part of things at any cost, at what price a life is lost
At what point do we begin, fighter spirit a will to win
But what makes a man decide, take the wrong or righteous road
There’s a thin line between love and hate
Wider divide that you can see between good and bad
There’s a grey place between black and white
But everyone does have the right to choose the path that he takes