Monday, February 03, 2020

Short Posts 2/3/20. On Impeachment, Nursing Salaries, Child Grooming Scandals, The New Inclusiveness, And Sudden Social Change

This post is a giant cupboard full of tiny snippet thoughts and links that I have gathered but have not had the energy (yet) to work into something bigger and more meaningful. 

1.  How best to view the impeachment process:  As kabuki theater?  Or as a game between two sports teams, each with acolytes who care about nothing but winning?  Or is it the case that one side cares about nothing but winning, even if that winning means beheading the umpires and scrapping all rules, while the other one wants to win only the "holier-than-thou-races?"

And how far have I fallen when I see the whole process from such a bitter and cynical angle?

Maybe the sanest approach to watching this while trying to predict the outcome of the next presidential elections is to return to seeing the importance of the material world:

Trump won't win if the economy goes bad enough rapidly enough to be seen as bad in the immediate environs of enough voters, but he might win if this doesn't happen, or if he starts yet another unnecessary war somewhere far enough not to matter a lot in those immediate environs of most voters (rah, rah, U.S. of A).

I sometimes think that many Trump voters don't actually like Trump's ethics and morals (or the lack of both, really), and view him as  a crook.  But he is their known-and-true crook, while the Democratic alternatives look filled with uncertainty.

2.  A British survey on nurses, nursing salaries and related issues has provided the same old and depressing findings:

Although nine out of ten nurses in the UK are women, they take home on average 17 per cent less than men in similar roles every week. Female nurses also make up less than a third of senior positions.
 The findings in those two sentences are, of course, causally linked.  Male nurses earn more partly because they are more likely to be in senior positions.

Very similar findings apply to the nursing industry in the US.

Why these patterns appear when men enter traditionally female-dominated occupations is an interesting question, especially as the patterns are pretty much reversed when women enter traditionally male-dominated occupations.  Both deserve detailed study, preferably together.

3.   Yet another child grooming scandal has surfaced in the UK, this time in Manchester.  It looks very similar to the Rotherham scandal I covered on this blog.  Why the authorities allowed young girls to be so horribly mistreated for so long is currently debated:

Police and social workers investigating child sex exploitation in Manchester knew children were suffering "the most profound abuse... but did not protect them", a report has found.
After a child's death in 2003, police identified at least 97 suspects, but "very few" faced justice, the independent review found.
The police operation was "prematurely closed down" after officers decided to "remove resources", the report said.

So what went wrong? As the Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham put it, there was an institutional mindset in which young, vulnerable girls were not seen as the victims but as the problem.
They were children in our care. Children some of those in authority labelled as prostitutes and promiscuous. Children who it was said had chosen to be exploited.
And the perpetrators were all from an ethnic minority which the authorities recognised had itself been a victim of prejudice and racism.

The last sentence may refer to this:

Dozens of teenage girls suspected of being groomed and abused in Manchester by gangs of men from Asian backgrounds were failed because police feared upsetting race relations, a new probe has suggested.
Victims repeatedly alerted officers about sexual assaults, giving names and addresses of those involved, but, in almost all cases, no action was taken.
Now, a bombshell report suggests Greater Manchester Police and the city council shelved an investigation into what was happening at least partially because of the “many sensitive community issues” they felt faced with.
“Concerns were expressed about the risk of proactive tactics or the incitement of racial hatred,” the 145-page independent review states.
Others have argued the the investigation was stopped due to a shift in police priorities toward vehicle crime, domestic burglary and robbery.

While reading about the Manchester child abuse scandal I started thinking of other cases where the abuse of children was allowed to continue for a long time and where at least some authorities were aware of what was happening.  Think of the child sex abuse scandal of the Catholic Church, or, for another British example, the Jimmy Savile case.  Or, for a US examples, the Penn State sex abuse scandal or  the Jeffrey Epstein scandal

What all those cases share with the many recent child grooming scandals in the UK is that the incentives for not looking at what's happening too closely are very strong, while the incentives for interfering or for blowing the whistle are much weaker and might not even exist at all:

In many cases the alleged perpetrators are very powerful and/or very rich, and very connected,  and can afford battalions of top lawyers to make someone's life a pure hell.

In other cases it's not the alleged perpetrators who are necessarily powerful, but the clashing social and political interests the investigations might bring to the surface:  A devout Catholic might not want to see the Catholic Church in disrepute and so stays silent, a police officer or social worker might not want to be called a racist or a bigot or deemed guilty of inciting racial strife in a community, all of which could have negative career effects.  Better to keep one's head down and hope that someone else picks up the whistle.

This is particularly the case when the group of victims consists of those least likely to have social and political power themselves.  Young girls from poor, dysfunctional or non-existent families own very little of the required power currency, and even less if they can be seen as sluts to begin with*.

Still, mistreatment of children does tend to ultimately surface, and when it does the loss of reputation for many is far greater than it would have been had the relevant authorities acted faster.  I am not equipped to know if those who failed in their duties face any other consequences.

4.  Inclusiveness would probably be the Woke Feminist Value of the last decade if there was a vote about such values.  I learned about the form it takes only recently (it's apparently a child of queer theory in its new dress), though of course most people with a sense of justice try to be inclusive.

It's hard to see anything wrong with inclusiveness, because its opposite is exclusiveness, and when one excludes then people are left out and marginalized, and those left out might consist of people who should be included, based on the operating principles of a movement. 

So it took me some time to analyze why I felt somewhat ambivalent about the new type of inclusiveness.  At first I thought my slight negative feelings were because extreme inclusiveness amounts to having no boundaries, and no person or social justice movement can truly survive without boundaries.  And because women, in general, are expected to be inclusive, I feared that demands for inclusion can be used to breach valuable boundaries around the goals of the feminist movement.**

But more recently I spotted a different (though related) problem with the concept, and that is how it may end up prioritizing the needs of the last-included group over the needs of those who entered the movement earlier.

To give you a silly example, suppose that there is a movement for those who adore the color red, and then a small new group wants to be included in the AdoreRed movement, except that they adore pink***.  The new group is included, because of the queer theory value "inclusiveness."  What probably happens next is that the new group starts working on the principles of the movement to make them more inclusive, too.  That means more focus on pink and less focus on red.

The new entrants are happy when they see more focus on pink and less focus on red, but are the other members of the movement also necessarily happy with the changes?  Are they asked about their feelings?

That example is a silly one and should not be interpreted to mean that adding the equivalent of more pink to the equivalent of red is always bad.   It can be excellent.**** 

Rather, my point is that inclusiveness is not just the same as opening the doors wider and inviting more people into a movement while nothing changes for those who were already inside it.  Those who practice inclusiveness should keep that in mind, because real inclusion means that the concerns of everyone inside the movement are taken into account.

5.  This is an interesting interview with Cass Sundstein about how sudden social change happens or doesn't happen. The transcript at the end of the link is quicker than the podcast.

Sundstein argues that apparently sudden and unforeseen social change might best be explained by a model which has three central variables:

Okay, I’m going to try to make progress by referring to three things: preference falsification, diverse thresholds and interdependencies. Elaboration will come, but for starters, everyone on the planet, including everyone in this room, has some desires and beliefs, and experiences in our heads that we have told either no one or only our closest family and friends. The fact is that we will silence ourselves about some of the things we want.
We shut up, or worse, we misstate what we actually think. That’s preference falsification. 

The second point involving diverse thresholds is that for some people, and you know them, don’t you, injustice, and they’re there. I had a friend in the Middle East a number of years ago, where we witnessed, he and I, a father beating up a child. It was probably his child, and it was on the street, and he was just punching him. My friend, who was Irish and had a temper, and about five foot seven, he just ran up to that guy and said, “Stop hitting that child.” Now that was a low threshold.
With respect to the third part, interdependencies, most of us are really reactive to what other people say and do. If one person is doing something, embracing, let’s say, a green New Deal, or calling for animal rights, we might think, “Crazy person,” but if 1000 are embracing an idea or a movement, we might think, “Why haven’t I joined them already?” If you put together a preference falsification, diverse thresholds and interdependencies, the difficulty of anticipating social change, and even large-scale social transformations becomes much less puzzling.
Sundstein then adds a fourth variable which measures what happens in groups where the participants initially have fairly similar preferences and beliefs and then discuss the issue within the group.  He finds that the group veers toward more extreme conclusions than the starting points of the individuals would predict but in the same general direction.  For instance, pro-choice people become more pro-choice after discussing the issue in a group of like-minded people.

That last bit could be useful in explaining the strong political polarization that is happening online.

I found thinking about these concepts interesting and useful in trying to understand several recent political and social changes, including the Trumpification of much of the world.  I am no expert in this particular field, of course, but it still seems to me that some crucial building blocks might be missing, or at least that the chosen variables are unlikely to be independent of each other or completely exogenous.

I tried to figure out the prohibition era and its end by using these ideas.

*  This links to wider societal beliefs about what women and girls are supposed to be for, when young children are assumed to have agency and when they are not assumed to have agency, and what types of sexual activities and behaviors are viewed as normal rather than abusive.  And why.

**  Some types of feminism are now advertised as being "for everyone."  This maximal inclusiveness would mean that all boundaries have been dismantled and that feminism no longer prioritizes the problem of sex-based oppression.

As no other social justice movement has taken up that particular baton, the most likely outcome of feminist over-inclusiveness would be a much reduced focus on oppression based on sex. That's not a desirable development because sex-based oppression is probably the most common oppression type in this world.

Besides, a social justice movement prioritizing the problems of "everyone" would have great difficulty deciding what to do when rights clash, as they often do between, say, women's rights and religious rights of the more fundamentalist type.

I fully understand the temptation to be kind in this context.  But an overly broad social justice movement will either be inefficient or it will be captured by the most powerful interest groups within it.

*** I picked the color pink because it is close to the color red.  But suppose the new entrants love blue.  Would that make a difference in whether they "should" be included or not?  Or take this example even further and suppose that the new entrants hate red.  Should they still be included?

The point, of course, is that the principles of inclusion must be related to the operating principles of the movement.   Feminism shouldn't include or work toward the goals of sexists and misogynists, for instance.  Or so I believe.

**** An obvious example is truly including women of color in the feminist movement and adjusting the operating principles of the movement so that they reflect the concerns of women from all races and ethnic groups. Note that this inclusion requires no re-writing of the basic goals of feminism.  It's as if a group of AdoreReds had excluded some individuals who also adored red.