What does it mean for something to be true? You might be inclined to suggest that it is a factual representation of the world, so sure. Let’s go with that. How do we know that something is a factual representation of the world? Well, we’d have to figure out what it means to know something. The general consensus is that to know something is to hold a justified, true, belief. Let’s examine some controversy.

The Gettier Problem is a criticism of the justified, true belief model of knowledge. It is best explained using an example. A shepherd is tending his flock, and he checks in to see if all are present. He counts all but one, and then sees his last sheep on a hill in the distance, and thus knows that all his sheep have been accounted for. However, what he thought he saw was actually a dog, though his sheep was just on the other side of the hill, out of sight. The shepherd was justified in his belief since he did see something, and his belief was true since the sheep was indeed on the hill, but we would never claim that he knew his sheep was on the hill since he was mistaken in his observation.

Sheep dog

No one suspects the slightest!

 

I want to examine the ‘truth’ statement of the Gettier Problem, rather than its epistemological connotations. The sheep is only ‘truly’ on the hill because I placed it there as the author of this thought experiment, but in any real life situation completely removed from the abstract, how would we know that it is true? In order for it to be true, we would have to know it to have that property, and in order for us to know about that property, it would have to be true. Truth and knowledge become a chicken and egg infinite regress when we take the lessons of the Gettier Problem and infuse them into real life situations.

There are further problems with truth. Consider counterfactuals. Counterfactuals represent statements that are true, but do not offer a factual representation of the world. For example, if I say, “The cup is red,” and we can all see that the cup is red, it is a true statement because the cup in the world is red, and my statement is a factual representation of that. However, if I say, “If America focused on the popular vote rather than the electoral college, Hilary Clinton would be president,” it is still a true statement, but it is not a representation of anything in this world. Philosopher David Lewis postulated that if we wish to maintain truth as a factual representation of the world, counterfactuals must rely on alternate universes to which these statements must refer. So we either accept that infinite alternate universes exist, or we accept that truth as a representation of the world is an unfounded premise.

Lastly, let’s look at the Liar’s Paradox. “This sentence is false.” If the sentence is true, then it is false, and if it is false, then it becomes true. If something must be true or false (and how could it be both? Or worse yet, neither?), then the Liar’s Paradox frustrates the notion of truth further. However, let’s look at “This sentence is false” in the context of language rather than of truth, and compare it to, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” Both sentences are grammatically accurate, and seem to point to things in the world, but both are equally nonsense. Something green cannot be colourless, nor can an idea possess either of those characteristics, nor can an idea sleep, nor can the process of sleep or ideas be angry.

Statements of any kind do not point to things in the world, but to mental imagery. For example, the Nile river is still the Nile river if it floods, if it becomes diverted or dammed, or becomes polluted to the point where there are more arsenic molecules than H20. “The Nile river” refers to our idea of “The Nile river,” regardless of its properties in the real world. “The cup is red” refers to our ideas of cups, redness, what it means to be, and the specificity of “the”. It’s not pointing to the cup in the world at all. This makes the problem of counterfactuals much less relevant, since language, no matter its use, can only ever point to mental imagery. It also negates the Liar’s Paradox, since mental imagery does not have to be coherent to the same degree as real world objects. We are not observing any objective falseness, nor analyzing a sentence in the world; both exist only in our minds.

The truth, then, is not a factual representation of things in the world, since that premise is riddled with problems and ultimately unknowable. Thus the truth is our mental understanding of what a thing means to be true.

What does it mean to be a patriot? Obviously loving your country is the baseline from which we must work, but what form ought that love need embody? Frequently this love is merely blind obedience. For instance, while disastrous foreign intervention is often portrayed as bumbling or ridden with mistakes, and the methods may be challenged, the actual right to intervene is never questioned. The patriotic state is morally infallible, even if its arbiters are only human in their expression of that impossibly righteous doctrine. Those who claim the highest degree of patriotism often have the strongest distaste for the elites of their country, despite them representing the very mechanisms for how that country operates. This contradiction illuminates that patriotism can represent a disturbing level of authoritarianism, as even if the masters of society are held in contempt, their deeds and motivations at their core are ultimately indisputable. Patriotism as a guise for authoritarianism is not built on a foundation of love but one of control, so clearly that option must be discarded.

If not obedience, why not disobedience? John Stuart Mill said, “Laws never would be improved, if there were not numerous persons whose moral sentiments are better than the existing laws.” Moral infallibility is certainly not the property of any state, which means that the people are the ones responsible to hold it to account. Participating in the system is quite often nothing more than a concession to the very nature of that system, which means that disobedience is possibly one of the few ways to hold those in power to account, as is our responsibility. Consider these quotations from anti-suffragettes. Emma Goldman, the radical feminist and anarchist, said:

The history of the political activities of man proves that they have given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner. As a matter of fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through suffrage. There is no reason whatever to assume that woman, in her climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot.

Helen Keller, yes, that Helen Keller, was a socialist dissident who also believed that enfranchisement was the wrong direction to take:

Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee . . . You ask for votes for women. What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000? Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?

These women were not creating objections based on misogynistic ideas of a woman’s place in society, but were objecting based on the principle that the country belongs to its citizens rather than the ruling class. The idea of political disobedience is never disobedience for disobedience sake, but rather to improve the state of the world so that the lives of the people are improved along with it. It is an ideology of communal unity, where the bond of the people is driving forward the mechanisms of change. This is a patriotism of love. This is a patriotism that believes the state can be improved because the people within it deserve the best of all possible worlds. Dissent is not a rejection of the nation; it is its embrace, believing it can do better because it deserves to be the best. We are our nation. We deserve the best.

Sometimes I like to peruse opinions that don’t align with my own. For example, I recently searched on Breitbart to see how ardent Trump supporters viewed his glaring and impeachable conflicts of interest. The comments mostly centered on the Clinton Foundation, and how if Hilary did it then it must be okay(?). I guess they forgot that they were chanting to lock her up just a few months ago. It was adorable. However, there is the odd occasion where oppositional opinions can make solid points. It was one such video from a Men’s Rights Activist on Youtube that brought together a lot of issues I have been mulling over into one cohesive package that really stuck out to me. It was the idea of the disposable male.

Men make up 95% of all victims of police shootings. For a point of reference, according to the US Department of Justice, 86% of all sexual assault victims are women. Black Lives Matter should in theory partner with MRAs to address police shootings, but somehow I don’t think they will. MRAs would have to admit that fighting for social equity makes them quite literally “Social Justice Warriors,” and BLM would have to admit that victimhood lies beyond their narrowly-defined spectrum. In any case, as far as gendered crime is concerned, this would seem to be a significant issue. However, in reality, it’s not a significant issue and mostly gets ignored. Men dying is essentially inconsequential.

Think of how we describe war. There are many tragedies in war, and when our side loses someone, it is described as the death of a soldier, or a loss of our troops. When tragedy befalls others, its victims are women and children. Despite their majority presence in war (men make up 98% of military deaths in the US), men seemingly do not exist in conflict. At best, soldiers are defined as boys or our sons, hoping to infantilize them to the point where sympathy becomes possible. Emily Cousens in my first hyperlink there describes the impact of intersectionality within masculinity, as men of colour become more hidden in the language of war casualties. We will at least hear about terrorist attacks in Brussels or Paris, whereas the ones in Arab countries are harder to find… unless of course an inordinate number of women and children are killed.

The expectation for men to be soldiers, with all that implies, carries over back home. Canadian men make up 72% of homicide victims and 87% of homicide accused. Men make up the majority of non-sexual victims of violent crime, and though my source doesn’t specify, I can reasonably assume the perpetrators are mostly male as well. These “bad” soldiers must be dealt with, and so men make up 85% of those suffering under the criminal justice system. Given that they were bred to be disposable in the first place, it is downright encouraged to discard them when they prove to be defective. Or rather, the wrong kind of effective since we’re essentially teaching boys to become this type of man in the first place.

There is more than just the obvious examples of crime and war statistics. In the US, men make up 92% of fatal workplace injuries while in Canada it’s 95%. Even in the workplace, it is just assumed that men ought to die for their employer. Men take up 73.6% of beds in homeless shelters in Canada, the very personification of being discarded. Even absurdities like having to be the one in a relationship to kill the spider or to investigate the weird noise at night shows that when faced with a threatening situation, the man is the one who has got to face it and bear any and all consequences from that encounter. Women typically seek a powerful partner to ensure as best as possible that when he is inevitably forced into a disposable situation, he comes back, but he is still expected to enter that situation.

How does one construct a disposable man? The best way to do so would be to deaden his connection to other people; the less attachment he has to others, the more he is willing to give up. bell hooks goes so far to describe the socializing of men as criminally neglectful, as the world rejects the boy’s emotional advances until he learns to avoid expressing them at all. Platonic human touch, one of the most powerful ways of expressing human connection, is forbidden to men which causes intense psychological damage. Since connecting to others is gradually beaten out of them, male friendships tend to decline as they age, completing their isolation.

Men must put on a mask of invincibility because that is the only way they can be respected as men. They must be seen to be able to survive their disposability. This means avoiding treatment for physical and mental well-being, avoiding help of any kind, even when it is clearly needed. It means acting reckless to prove they can endure any danger. However, feeling disposable and isolated means that a chip in the facade can throw men into a chasm of vulnerability. Vulnerable men join the discarded, and men in this pit make up the majority of drug addicts and suicides. Why seek help when you are inherently worthless? Why be vulnerable when depression is a weakness of character? Instead we must be pretend immortality.

The video that ultimately sparked this article advocated abolishing feminism in order to redress these issues, but fortunately this is where we part ways. Men’s rights have been fought for long before third-wave feminism was even around to be abolished: unions to improve working conditions, prison reform to rehumanize our discarded, or the anti-war effort to stop sending men to their pointless deaths. All of these could be considered examples of a Men’s Rights movement because they all promote the well-being of men against a system that treats them as worthless cogs and cannon fodder.

I think we need to look at abolishing feminism too. Not as a serious solution since identifying problems in masculinity does not negate any of the problems in femininity, but why people would even suggest that in the first place. I think part of it comes from feminism’s cry for equality, even though that is clearly a bad idea. Do women want to give up their friendships and spend more time in jail? Somehow I doubt it. It shows the picking and choosing of privileges, leading some to believe that women are gaining at a cost to men. This is why I argue that feminism isn’t about equality but about abolishing gender roles. Unfortunately, not everyone is me, so a lot of men who feel isolated and disposable are insulted by women who refuse to acknowledge and occasionally even deny that damaging and dangerous issues could even exist for men. They then become alienated from progressive gender movements, and become radicalized into your typical MRA misogynist.

We must love boys even as they grow into men, and allow them to love us in return. We must allow the mask behind which men hide to come off. We must abandon the oppressor and oppressed binary that clouds how we perceive men’s problems. We must allow our men to be who they are, whoever they choose to be.