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Old 09-30-2005, 04:12 PM   #1
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Machisma

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/...mment-opinions


Keep your 'machisma' out of it
DAVID GELERNTER

DURING THE John G. Roberts Jr. confirmation hearings, Sen. Dianne Feinstein had an interchange with the nominee that many conservative commentators noticed. They accused Feinstein of criticizing Roberts for acting like a judge, which wasn't fair because he is a judge. But the real problem goes deeper.

Feinstein asked Roberts how he would handle right-to-die cases. She told him to answer "as a son, a husband and a father." She wanted a personal, emotional response, not the cool logic of a jurist. Contrary to instructions, he answered dispassionately and not as a son, husband or father. She was displeased.


Her question was offensive on a human level, for reasons having nothing to do with the judicial context. She demonstrated a disturbing and widespread phenomenon: A powerful person insists that someone's private feelings must be spread out for public viewing, like rugs in a Mideast bazaar. Roberts' feelings as a father, son and husband are none of the country's business.

Years ago, this nation invested much energy in anguishing over and mocking machismo — male swagger, a menacing virility, an air of aggression. Women could be macho too, but the pioneer sinners were men. Feinstein has given us a beautiful demonstration of a female counterpart. "Machisma" (a silly word, but I don't know a better one) is one plausible name for the urge to make strangers tell the world about private emotions. Although anyone (male or female) can practice machisma or be the target, no rational person would deny that this sin was pioneered by women.

"Macha" characters delight in emotional disembowelment; in ordering their victims to let it all hang out. But lots of people have no desire for heart-to-hearts with strangers in public, much less on national TV. Macha is just as toxic as macho, or more so, because it's harder to laugh off. "How do you feel?" has become a standard media question, a substitute for eliciting actual information. Oprah and her imitators use it; news reporters covering hurricanes use it. Macha helps demolish the emotional walls that protect people, just as hurricanes demolish their physical walls.

In the long-ago age before macha, you called a person Miss Hepburn, say, until explicitly invited to use her first name — which helped English recapture the ancient distinction between "thou" (once the friendly, easygoing form of address among friends) and "you" (for addressing strangers or superiors). Lacking this distinction, English is all sweatsuits and no tuxedos.

When two people were not on a first-name basis, that fact indicated what kind of behavior was suitable and what wasn't. No child presumed to call an adult by his or her first name; no doctor did so with a patient. Friendships moved forward in small, graceful steps instead of lunges. Keeping a respectful distance and recognizing authority made the world not cold and forbidding but comfortable, reassuring.

In school, my boys have often been harassed by macha teachers demanding that they tell the class their feelings. One teacher had the nerve to tell one of my sons that his book report must "critique without judging" — and she marked him down for trying to analyze what was good and bad in the story instead of saying which passages got him all choked up. (How many teenage boys do you know who like getting all choked up — or talking about it?)

Granted, the demand strikes different people in different ways. Some students welcome it. My boys don't. Lots of people don't. For a person in authority to insist that lower-downs reveal their emotions is an abuse of power, a form of emotional groping that can leave the targets feeling violated and mad as hell.

Machisma flourishes all over the landscape. Two thoughtful, dignified women I know went together to a house of worship. (Church, synagogue; details don't matter.) Soon after arriving they learned that the service would center on the congregants "sharing their feelings." Self-revelation would start in front and continue around the room. They looked at each other and stood, walked out and have never been back. Their feelings are not topics for public discussion. In this case, a macha man made himself obnoxious to two women. All sexes can play.

The sorriest of all macha manifestations is the way grief counselors descend like carrion crows on any site of public disaster. (Again, the recent hurricanes provide a sad example.) People who are grieving generally want and need to speak to friends and family — not to strangers or professional busybodies. Some post-9/11 studies suggest that grief counselors do no good anyway. "There is simply no evidence that sharing one's deepest feelings with a stranger of dubious qualifications does any good," write Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel (a policy analyst and clinical psychiatrist, respectively) in their recent book, "One Nation Under Therapy."

Sen. Feinstein thought she was doing the nation a service. She's a sensible person who usually says sensible things. But on this occasion she has reminded us that, ironically, a civilization in which strangers boldly quiz each other about their deepest feelings is a civilization growing colder all the time.
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Old 09-30-2005, 08:19 PM   #2
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"Her question was offensive on a human level, for reasons having nothing to do with the judicial context. She demonstrated a disturbing and widespread phenomenon."


I agree.

*wide awake* (methinks)
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Old 10-01-2005, 05:21 AM   #3
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HOLY MOTHER, SWEET greatness

Thankyou, thankyou so much, Max Fisher


I really mean it. FINALLY, I can describe, or at least to point out something that agree with on this subject.

I am the ultimate example of this, I believe.
I have deep passionate feelings, but I don't get emotional the way most people do, and it throws them off. But really, this below, this is it right here\/

Quote:
The sorriest of all macha manifestations is the way grief counselors descend like carrion crows on any site of public disaster. (Again, the recent hurricanes provide a sad example.) People who are grieving generally want and need to speak to friends and family — not to strangers or professional busybodies. Some post-9/11 studies suggest that grief counselors do no good anyway. "There is simply no evidence that sharing one's deepest feelings with a stranger of dubious qualifications does any good," write Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel (a policy analyst and clinical psychiatrist, respectively) in their recent book, "One Nation Under Therapy."

Sen. Feinstein thought she was doing the nation a service. She's a sensible person who usually says sensible things. But on this occasion she has reminded us that, ironically, a civilization in which strangers boldly quiz each other about their deepest feelings is a civilization growing colder all the time.
We are getting colder.
I agree with that

What an amazing article.

I want to print it out, but I've no printer.
Fantastic find.



I'm going to have to put this into my signature somehow................

thanks again for posting this article
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