But the Survivors Became Such Strong Swimmers!

On May 7, 1915, RMS Lusitania was sunk off the Old Head of Kinsale, in southern Ireland.  She went down in sight of land, taking 1,128 lives with her, including 128 Americans.  She went down fast, in less than 25 minutes, sufficiently fast that many if not most people onboard had no time to get to the few lifeboats that got off the ship.

The entire world — outside the Central Powers, at least — was horrified.  This was most definitely Not the Straight Bat, Old Man; such things Were Not Done.  Welcome to the 20th Century.

Imagine, if Gentle Reader will, if the newspaper reports of the atrocity had claimed to find a silver lining that the passengers and crew who survived in the water had become such strong swimmers out of their experience, and had got over their fear of the water.

That is roughly what is done with this article from this morning’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, reporting the presentation of a paper in Beirut.  The paper is the findings of a study conducted across the Arab-speaking world.  Significantly, the study did not actually cover Saudi Arabia itself, which is the first clue that we might not be dealing with something that is all that useful.  The second, and perhaps larger, red flag is that the study was sponsored by the UN (of sex-trafficking and sanction-evading bribery fame) and several NGOs whose names are not given in the article.  If you follow the link, you’ll find that they are outfits identified as Promundo and UN Women.

[If you visit the Promundo web site, you will quickly notice some clues about their agenda:  “[P]romoting gender justice and preventing violence by engaging men and boys in partnership with women and girls.  We believe that working with men and boys to transform harmful gender norms and unequal power dynamics is a critical part of the solution to achieve gender equality.”  “Gender justice”?  “Harmful gender norms”?  I’m going to state it as a near-categorical principle that every time you see an adjective pasted onto the word “justice,” you’re listening to a closet Stalinist.  “Gender norms” is another pot belching dense warning clouds.  And finally, if you remain unconvinced by my few preceding sentences, I offer you:  “Our advocacy campaigns, community mobilization, group education, and group therapy create safe spaces for men and women in post-conflict and high-violence settings to heal from trauma . . . .”

UN Women’s web site is scarcely more reassuring.  They tip their hand to the careful observer pretty much right out of the bag that they’re not so much interested in protecting women from any or many of the horrors of life as a woman outside Western Civilization.  “On the occasion of the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN Women spotlights the voices and activism of indigenous women from around the world, as they tackle the challenges of climate change, poverty, gender-based violence, armed conflicts and more.”  Folks, when you choose to lead off your list of action items at a conference where, one might suppose, the question of forcible marriage of 11-year-old girls in Subsaharan Africa might possibly find mention, with . . . “climate change,” then you’re not serious about protecting women from anything at all.]

The study was a survey of roughly 10,000 men and women in Egypt, Morocco, Palestine (in other words, bits of Israel), and Lebanon.  As the paper’s web site describes it:  “The International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) is the largest multi-country study of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa.”  The problem, of course, is that Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran are not covered.  As any oaf who’s been paying attention to world history since 1979 could tell you, there are two main branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia.  They don’t play well with each other.  Their centers of theological gravity, in the sense of being those locations whose religious leaders are widely regarded as occupying an elevated position of moral authority, are Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively.  Given that — much as with Christianity and Judaism, to be honest — a great deal of understanding of the function and practice of men’s and women’s existences as such is strongly colored by religious understanding, you’d think that Saudi Arabia and Iran would just about head the list of places where you’d want to plaster your ear to the ground.  I can understand the absence of hell-holes like Libya and Syria from the list, and even Iraq.  War-torn places where outsiders are likely to be burned alive, beheaded, or just shot beside the road are not fertile grounds for asking the butchers how they see themselves as men.  But there’s no excuse at all for omitting the two Big Ones.

The FAZ article at least cuts to the chase in one respect:  Roughly half of all respondents, both male and female, allowed that equality of rights as between men and women does not belong to their tradition or culture.  Oopsies!  As has long been recognized, culture drives politics, not the other way around.  That result alone is “sobering” (the FAZ‘s word) enough, one would think.  Among “Palestinians,” roughly 80% gave housework as the woman’s most important task and role; roughly the same percentages in all four places (I refuse to describe “Palestine” as a country; it’s part of Israel) opined that access to jobs should be reserved preferentially for men.  The man should set the tone in the family, should decide what rights his wife may enjoy, where she may go, what she may wear.  [N.b.  Any man who sets himself the job of deciding what a woman will wear is setting himself up for failure.]

And yet . . . .

The authors of the paper make the usual excuses for violently abusive men:  they’re without employment; they’re oppressed themselves; they’re afraid they can’t protect their families . . . from the world they’ve made themselves with their slavish devotion to their 7th Century death cult and their tribal loyalties.  And so forth.  You almost can hear the drunk in the wife-beater, down at the precinct, complaining to the officer who’s booking him in for beating his wife into the hospital: bitch just won’t listen!!  Sure, buddy, sure.

From all this the authors claim to see hopefulness:  So many women, especially in the “refugee” camps scattered about Syria and Lebanon, have been effectively abandoned by their men, who are off slaughtering other women’s husbands, fathers, and brothers, and slaughtering their wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters as well — at least when not selling them as sex slaves.  So the women have had to step up to the plate and become mistresses of their own fate, much, the historically literate will observe, as did the wives of medieval European warriors and brigands.  When your husband is off on Crusade for six or eight years (or being held for ransom in some dungeon somewhere), or is off plundering Picardy, or Languedoc, or Piedmont, or wherever, if you’re the Woman of the Castle yours is the responsibility for dealing with tenants, retainers, merchants, churchmen, and the rest of the parasite classes.

Color me skeptical, but celebrating the world-historical disaster that Islam has made of its homeland in the past 15 years because the women seeking shelter from the elements (and from the men, let us not forget) in the tent cities are of necessity taking more responsibility for their daily lives is like celebrating the survivors of the Lusitania for having become such strong ocean swimmers.

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