Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sexual harassment and the society that looked the other way

Hey, isn’t that us?

Am I the only one who does not see any surprise that our vile institutions of social, political and economic power attract so many vile people committing acts of sexual harassment?

There is no doubt that many working class men, common men, are also sexual predators, rapists, pedophiles, just plain weird, and/or practitioners of disgusting, uninvited sexual intrusion.

But is it somehow a surprise to find so many high in the ranks of our entertainment industry, news media, business structures and government? It is not as if our key institutions have an ethical leg to stand on when they are not sexually harassing underlings or discriminating against women and minorities in their power pyramid status career climbing.

Today I was listening to a radio report about women who work in our national security who have written an open letter to complain about the abusive sexual environment there. I believe them.

Well, there is this myth that our national security sectors are somehow serving and protecting the country but it is only a myth, a cover story and for some a self-delusional account so that individuals can rationalize their crimes and stay in denial about what roles our nation plays in the world. There is some militaristic right wing spin that patches up the sides of the stories that leak out and up into the public view, but every time the curtain gets pulled back we find all kinds of immoral, illegal and inhumane things being done by employees of our government’s nation security agencies and State Department. We call ourselves a shining city on a hill. Much of the world knows us as a repressive nightmare.

If I started to make a list from Honduras to Syria this would end up being another rant about international affairs, and I have already written too many of those.

Some contrived arguments are made to justify everything from overthrowing governments, to death squads and all kinds of minor international crimes and the press tends to call those actions “past mistakes”, “excesses”, or “unfortunately necessary” and makes sure to never use the word IMPERIALSM.

So there is sexual harassment inside our national security agencies?
Do they do anything ethical otherwise?

And there is sexual harassment inside the press too?
  • The press that we just mentioned does not tell us about what our government does overseas?
  • The press that has been consolidated behind a few large transnational corporations?
  • The press that had been converted to television infotainment presented by millionaire TV stars?
Oh, yeah, THAT press! The one that refuses to cover the actions of large transnational corporations, does not ask elected officials where they got their campaign dollars from, the press that sweeps criticism under the carpet behind “he said-she said” reporting because they are part of the inside crowd, THAT press has people in it who treat sex as something they can demand.
What a surprise!
They were such good people otherwise.

But why stop there? As some have pointed out, there is probably more sexual harassment of maids and fast food workers than there is of movie stars, talking heads, CIA agents and women who take the campaign donations and get what passes for elected in our country.

We are talking about the fast food sector and hotel sector. Both are dominated by large corporations and franchising organizations. Both have lobbyists employed in keeping the minimum wage down, and all wages down. Both have a long history of union busting. I do not doubt for a second that the reports of rampant sexual harassment is true. Is that the only condemnable activity in that part of the economy?

By inference, what kind of sexual harassment is going on inside of Walmart where there are no unions and people are desperate to have those low paying Walmart jobs because otherwise they would be in even deeper poverty? 

What about other parts of the economy where corporate America is determined to not have their oil pipelines or investment banking controlled by government in any way? All good over there in the banks and oil companies? No discrimination? No sexual abuse?

When it comes down to it, there is probably lots of sexual harassment and abuse inside academia, the military, the nonprofit sector and about any part of our power structures. It has been exposed in our churches and now we are surprised to find it inside our money soaked, career mad political parties? How did they find time to break away from constantly raising campaign funds and talking to lobbyists to sexually harass people? The ethics are no surprise, but aren’t they busy?

Maybe that is true about any power structure, especially the more corrupt they become, the more autocratic their practices, the more they develop fiefdoms of untouchable powerful people and the less they are held accountable for what they do as a group and the less that the individuals who do it have to answer for. We have been the nation of the stone wall and CYA for a long time. If you are a police officer there seems to never be consequences for killing a black man and our society gets offended when a football player points that out during the militaristic display that somehow has become how we start a game. It is hardly just sexual harassment that our powerful have not been held accountable for.

And that says a lot about men, all men, and as a man, I start by looking inward with suspicion. This is a good time for all of us men to question ourselves. It is always a good time for everyone, on every subject, but I am a middle aged white man and one should be slow to absolve oneself.   

But we should also look inward with suspicion at the society we have become where so much power goes unchecked and un-criticized. So much sexual harassment has gone unchecked for a long time now and it is great that something is finally being said.

But let’s stop and think a moment.

What kind of institutions do we have?
We sure seem to have a lot of sociopaths doing quite well climbing the social ladder.

What else is going on, unchecked and un-criticized?