Grab ’em by the pussy: it’s the Republican way

Once a week, I work with a bunch of boys aged ten to fourteen. We spend most of the time running around like mad things, building things from junk (and knocking them down again), hiking in the dark and generally learning how to get outside even when the weather is not perfect.

As a rule, they’re good lads, and I hope they will go on to become fine, upstanding members of society who truly believe that we are all created equal. Actually, now I’m thinking about it, I am sure that they do believe we are all created equal. At least in their minds. Watching and listening to them interact, however, I can see that there is a disconnect between what they know is the right answer and what their actions betray about how they actually think. The way we think is often quite different to the way we think we think, and this, I hypothesise, is where evil is permitted to enter the world.

Bold claim?  Maybe. Our schools invest much time and effort in teaching our children what it means to be a fine, upstanding citizen where we are all created equal, where men and women and everyone else can live out their lives with equal dignity and value. Where we all eat Doritoes washed down with Coke whilst scraping a beautiful woman off a beautiful car before we drive it at 150mph to impress a whole crowd of beautiful women to a sports game where we run quickly, kick hard, hit hard, throw far, showing off our testosterone-soaked manhood before winning the game and waking up next to another beautiful woman.

(Incidentally, why are breakfast cereal adverts usually with a wholesome family, not a couple who have obviously just met before spending the night dirtying the sheets and not getting much sleep?)

And then the US electoral system presents us with the new king of the world. A man who boasts about men grabbing women by the pussy. A man who boasts about trolling the women’s dressing rooms at the beauty pageant he owned (it’s 2017, why do we still have beauty pageants? Single-sex beauty pageants?).

And here is my problem. My boys know the right answers in any written test about equality that I would care to give them. They would be right at the top of the class when it comes to saying the right things. What I am less certain about is whether or not they would actually demonstrate what they know to be right in an actual on-the-ground situation. They’ve got all the intellectual knowledge that we think they might need to get by,  for the next generation to be better than mine, for women to be able to walk home in the dark, too drunk to stand up straight without fear of assault.

The causes are complex and run deep. One of the larger roots is toxic masculinity, but that would not survive in the absence of a thick insulating layer of I’m a good guy, so this doesn’t apply to me. The same mind-set works on the level of the nation state: We don’t need strong human rights laws because we’re a good nation: those laws are for the other, bad, states. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Notable in Mr Trump’s boast is that “When you’re a star, they let you do it.” They let you do it. His choice of words suggests he was waiting to be stopped. He knew that he was doing the wrong thing and was simply seeing what he could get away with (the same way that young children do), and nobody stopped him.

We have to build bridges in youngsters’ minds between what they know to be right and their actions. This woman is trying but, so far, good men are doing nothing.

Now, how to incorporate this into the programme without getting eloquently-worded complaints from their parents…

Little Miss Consent

Little Miss Hug book cover

Little Miss Hug book cover

Roger Hargreaves, much beloved author and illustrator of the Mr Men and Little Miss books died in 1988 leaving a much-loved legacy. His son Adam took over, somewhat reluctantly, but soon got into the swing of things. Bizarrely, I think, the name Roger Hargreaves remains on the front cover even of the books created long after Roger’s death.

I will make a passing mention that the Mr Men are “Mister” and “Men”, while the women characters in the series are explicitly “Little” and “Miss”. I am going to have to put that down to the fact that Roger was born in 1935 and had some specific views on the proper relationship between exactly two sexes.

Fast forward to 2014 and the publication of a book with the very round and very pink Little Miss Hug.

Miss Hug can work magic with a little bit of intimacy and a bit of touch. Touch and intimacy are wonderful things for most of us, and most people respond warmly to genuinely selfless, self-giving hugs. It seems that Miss Hug is just the right sort of person to give out these things. Maybe Little Miss Codependent was already taken, but she does seem to thrive on raising people’s mood. She’s a firm believer that hugs can fix anything that doesn’t need an ambulance (and a hug would go down well there too).

In the book, we see her helping Little Miss Tiny, Mr Small, Mr Bump and Mr Greedy. Little Miss Quick gets a birthday hug. It’s all very happy and lovely.

But then, as we segue from the introduction into act two, Miss Hug encounters a very grumpy Mr Grumpy. Poor Mr Grumpy is grumpy because the sun is out, and he’s having a right royal rant about it. At this point, I put down the book and have a quick discussion with my young children about the whole issue of consent. Because what Miss Hug does next is clearly and unambiguously assault and battery.

Quick as a flash, Little Miss Hug ran around the hedge, stretched out her arms and hugged Mr Grumpy…

Mr Grumpy pushed her away.

“Get off me!” shouted Mr Grumpy.

It could not be laid out any more clearly than that.

Here, I talk again to the children and get them to notice that, not only has Miss Hug grabbed onto Mr Grumpy without his prior consent, he has now explicitly told her not to touch him. It was not OK for her to grab him in the first place, and his actions and words have confirmed this in no uncertain terms. She has no moral nor legal authority to touch him at all.

So, what does she do? She hugs him again.

Facepalm.

She hangs on to him in spite of his continued protestation. There is even a picture of a very grumpy Mr Grumpy clearly in shock at having his personal space invaded over his clearly stated wishes, with Miss Hug clinging on for dear life.

It all ends well, of course (in the book, anyway): Miss Hug’s magic hug slowly melts through and Mr Grumpy ends up smiling and he even returns the hug. But that really is missing the point. Miss Hug assaulted Mr Grumpy and had her actions affirmed by the narrative. It sends the message to our children that a) they have a duty to touch people who do not wish to be touched and that b) if someone wants to hug you, then you are wrong if you do not want them to: you have to suck it up and allow the assault to proceed.

I guess it’s a tricky concept to convey in 16 pages of toddler-friendly text, but it really should have been presented differently. If Miss Hug needed to hug Mr Grumpy so badly, she should have spoken to him and presented her case for the benefits of her own hug therapy and invited him to try it out with no pressure on him to accept her offer. Even if the therapy is guaranteed to work, and a person is going to feel better for it, it is not acceptable to force that therapy onto someone who has not asked for it. It is doubly not acceptable to continue to force the therapy onto someone who has asked you to stop.

It’s all about consent. Regular readers of this blog (there is one, I am assured) will know that I am trying to teach my children what consent is and that they have the right to refuse consent at the beginning of an interaction, and that they have the right to withdraw consent at any point during an interaction. Miss Hug allows Mr Grumpy neither of these options. Her tried-and-tested techniques are guaranteed to make people feel better and they’re damn well going to feel better whether they want to or not.

“I know what you’re trying to do,” said Mr Grumpy… “I am grumpy and I like being grumpy…”

If that’s not clear, I don’t know what is. Miss Hug must have cotton wool in her ears.

So, by all means, read this book to your kids, but please use it as a way to teach them about consent and assault, and point out that, even though Mr Grumpy is happy at the end of the story, that doesn’t begin to justify the initial assault. I like to imagine one more page that goes

Then the police arrived and carted Miss Hug away for a well-deserved rest.

Be well, and I hope nobody invades your space without consent today.

Infection

Whilst certainly not one of the best episodes of classic sci-fi series Babylon 5, season 1 episode “Infection” is astonishingly prescient. In the episode, an archaeologist working on far and distant planet ends up merging with some alien technology he finds there. The planet has been dead for a thousand years or more and, during the course of the episode, it becomes apparent why.

It turns out that the Icarans have been invaded so many times from outside that they decided to make a new weapon. Twelve of them, to be precise. These weapons bond with a person to turn them into a hugely efficient killing machine designed to destroy anything that isn’t a pure Icaran. The next time they got invaded, the Icarans activated these killing machines and sat back to see the results.

It was very efficient: the invaders were repelled and destroyed and there was much rejoicing.

But the machines didn’t stop. They were programmed to destroy anything that wasn’t pure Icaran. The ensuing bloodbath was planet-wide as every single living Icaran discovered that they did not match up to the standard of purity laid down by those who had created the machines. Over the years of migration, the species had mixed and had picked up DNA from outsiders; the social standards had drifted; they evolved slowly. The machines didn’t care about that: they had been given a standard of purity by their creators and it soon turned out that nobody, not even the creators, were pure enough to be permitted to live. And thus a thriving civilisation was wiped from the face of the galaxy by its own ideology.

The parallels with our own planet are obvious. From the Holocaust to Rwanda, Daesh, and the rise of far-right groups in Europe and the USA. Farage’s Breaking Point poster and the Republicans’ Build a wall chant are examples of the same thing.

The reality is that humans are a single species, and have been so for at least 60,000 years as the various other human species died out. It’s probably worth noting that they didn’t die out before interbreeding with Homo Sapiens – in Western Europe, we are about 2% Neanderthal – but they did die out. Leaving us. All alone in the night. And we have been arguing about who is the purest ever since, through conflict, war and genocide.

We must be very careful indeed when we are pondering taking steps down the path to isolationism, to cleanse our societies of the other, to retreat to tribalism, protectionism and exclusion. Down that path lies a river of blood and, as Lady Macbeth discovered, it can be very hard to wash your hands clean once they have tasted that river.

Oh Lord, forgive me, I agree with Tony Blair

In 1997, oh so many years ago, Tony Blair’s Labour party swept the Conservatives from power. I admit to being delighted, as I had grown up under Margaret Thatcher’s government and it had not been a particularly wonderful experience. I had never particularly liked the Labour leader: he always came across as greasy and wheedling, but I was desperate for a change at the top. I guess I was young and naïve: pretty soon it became apparent that the only substantive change had been the names on the office doors.

It took the Tories a decade to get themselves back together again and they crept back in in 2005 in a surprising coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The rest is history, as they say, but Tony Blair was gone and largely vanished from the public eye except for the occasional appearance to comment on the Palestine peace process.

And then a desperately insecure prime minister made a manifesto promise to have a referendum on EU membership because he needed to cement his position in a party that was disinclined to support him against well-placed threats from within the party. It was a promise he’d never need to keep, of course, because the polls all said that he’d need another coalition to form a government, and that would mean he could quietly ditch the promise. Except that the Conservatives got a majority in the 2010 election and could form a government by themselves. Oops. The referendum duly took place and, again, the pollsters were confounded and David Cameron ran for the hills with his tail between his legs.

Enter Theresa May with her “Brexit means Brexit” bullshit, which sells well in the right-wing newspapers but actually just translates as “made-up-word has no defined meaning”. Her slogan is quite an effective club, though, and she is not shy of swinging it about whenever she is asked to explain how leaving the EU will benefit anybody. Seeking clarity on what kind of exit we should be looking for, she gladly gave us much more detail.

With the colour scheme decided, then, it was time to get down to detail. It turns out that you can’t leave the EU and remain in the Single Market unless you … well … carry on paying the same subscription fees and allowing the same freedoms as you had to when you were an actual member. You get all the rules, regulations and costs as if you were a member, but you don’t get a seat at the table deciding what those rules should be. Mrs May decided that this is a bit ridiculous. If you’re going to leave the EU, you should do it properly. Unfortunately, this means abandoning access to the largest free-trade area on the planet. Well, Brexit means Brexit, and the fact that this is going to completely fuck over our entire economy, causing us to lose a huge stack of jobs and lose our position as the anglophone bridge into the EU and generally lose any relevance we might feel we deserve on the world stage is just a minor detail.

Re-enter Tony Blair. In a speech he made, last week, he called on Remain type people to keep fighting for the future of our country, to fight to remain in the EU. We are convinced that the referendum result was less about the actual effects of EU membership and more about xenophobia, funding public services and Rupert Murdoch vying to retain unfettered access to government.

As a dyed-in-the-wool Europhile, I find myself strongly agreeing with Tony Blair. I hate myself for it, but I agree with him. The government is taking us straight towards a cliff edge, both feet pressed down on the accelerator, and they’re unwilling to consider, even for a moment, whether or not this is a great idea. Or even a good idea. Or even that the idea is one that can be considered. After all, Brexit means Brexit. The people gave a clear mandate (because squeaking a tiny majority in a poorly-debated referendum is a huge mandate), and it is not for us to consider whether or not this is a good thing to do. No. We must exit the EU at any cost. Even at the cost of the livelihoods of many millions of turkeys who voted for Christmas.

Stop continental drift: I want to get off.

ps. This article is very interesting.

Shock event

I got up late this morning, so I’ll be brief.

Donald Trump and his regime are sounding ever more like China or North Korea. I’ve got used to my own government sounding like those two beacons of free-speech whenever someone is talking about spying on every single one of us because that’s the only way to stop terrorism.

Anyway, I read about the “shock event” yesterday: the article makes perfect sense to me. With one possible exception: I am not sure that Donald Trump has the intelligence to plan anything like this, so I am unsure he is trying to use the shock event to cover anything up. That said, Mike Pence and other veteran politicians are not stupid: it’s entirely possible that they have something up their sleeve and that their puppet is dancing in just the way they want him to.

In the meantime, the shock is still operating in full force. Acting attorney general Sally Yates was on the sharp end of Trump’s “You’re fired” yesterday, for suggesting that the president’s blatantly unconstitutional executive order was, well, blatantly unconstitutional. The venom issuing forth from the Administration, as I said, sounded much more like a totalitarian regime than an alleged democracy.

Ms Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.

It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals travelling from seven dangerous places is not extreme. It is reasonable and necessary to protect our country.

White House Press Secretary’s office

It seems to be legitimate policy to blame the brown guy for everything right now.

Of course, the fall-out is immediate and ridiculous. The USA is embarrassing itself on the world stage and the top dogs don’t seem to care. Top research scientist? Sorry, Iranian. We don’t need your God-damn Islamic genetic research. The fact that this has utterly screwed an eminent academic is irrelevant.

The fact that it is utterly screwing many people, both vulnerable and not, is irrelevant.

The fact that the first terrorist attack since Trump came to power was committed by a white “Christian” against a group of Muslims who made the fatal mistake of practising their religion in peace has not received much of a response from the White House.

What is most important is that the US is seen to be ripping up the very Constitution that it has been worshipping for the last 228 years, and everyone outside can see that. The man-child in the big seat doesn’t care, though. Because he’s a narcissist, and those closest to him are using this fact to get what they want. Regardless of the cost.

It’s an unfolding tragedy.

Hubris

It happened, then. One Mr Donald J Trump is now in the most powerful job in the world.

Apparently, he attended the first ever (and/or biggest ever) concert at the Lincoln Memorial the night before, in spite of the fact that it was neither the first nor the biggest. Then he gave an inaugural address that was mostly about himself (using a teleprompter, no less) and how great he is and how wonderful he’s going to be.

At least he wrote the speech himself…

Then he went on to boast about the size of his manhood, sorry the size of his crowd, and get all uppity with reporters who posted actual, you know, facts. Good thing that his press secretary was there to update us with some alternative facts. They are a wonderful thing to have, of course, and always come in handy in a sticky situation…

“Sir, you were doing 50mph in a 30 limit. We used our radar speed gun to measure your speed. It’s a fact.”

“Officer, I was doing 29mph. You can use ‘science’ all you want to make your ‘facts’, but my alternative facts state that I was doing 29mph and you can dance on your speeding ticket.”

I suppose that the search for definitive truth depends, itself, on the prerequisite that there is a truth to find.

Undeterred, the new president stood in front of the CIA to make a speech at which the crowd is reported to have been laughing and cheering. Somewhat disturbingly, it is reported that the laughers and cheerers were not actually members of the press or the CIA who were gathered to hear the great man’s words (they were such great words, the best words ever spoken), but were actually Trump’s own people that he’d brought in specially in order to laugh and cheer at his speech.

Closer to home, we have hubris all of our own. A couple of our finest Brexiteers went over to Berlin to speak to business leaders about how they are all going to be crowding around post-EU Britain (nobody ever seems to say ‘the UK’, but that’s another story) and begging for access to our market. Because the German economy will collapse completely and immediately if it becomes difficult to sell us BMWs, Audis and Mercedeseseses. It seems that the German audience was unimpressed with the “but we’re British and we’ve told you what we want, you have to do as we say. It’s the rules!” attitude. Sorry to break it to you, toffs, but the Empire died many decades ago and we are one of many countries in the world and we are far from the best. That attitude just puts people’s backs up and makes it harder for us to get anything at all. In the great school playground that is international diplomacy, it seems that we are falling back on our traditional tactic of throwing a gigantic tantrum. Good luck with that, guys.

Oh, and in other news?

The day after Trump’s inauguration failed to pull in a huge crowd, women marched. And, wow, did they march

When Science Fiction seems indistinguishable from reality

[Spoilers for 1990’s sci-fi series Babylon 5. Sorry.]

In recent days, I’ve dusted off my DVD box-sets of Babylon 5 (is it really 23 years since it arrived on our screens?), and I’m idly watching episodes of season 1 in idle moments. It is proving to be quite scary watching.

Episode 7, The War Prayer has two main storylines. In one, Ambassador Mollari faces a harsh reality about his own life summed up beautifully in his sobbing father’s words “My shoes are too tight, but it doesn’t matter for I have forgotten how to dance.”

The principal storyline is darker, however. A group from Earth are attacking aliens. Not just on Babylon 5 but on several other Earth-controlled systems too. They call themselves, variously, Earth First and the Home Guard. It is their aim to purify Earth, to kick out all the non-humans. This is set against a background of Earth president Santiago’s tour of the Earth Alliance: he’s on his way to Babylon 5, both to present them with a new wing of fighter craft, but also to promote his pro-immigration policy. He thinks that Earth should be an outward-looking world, a place where all beings, human and alien, can work together in harmony for our mutual prosperity.

It seems that there is a growing populist movement back home intent on blaming aliens and alien influence for all problems from poverty to traffic congestion. The president is pressing ahead with his plans to include those who are different because he believes that we are stronger together and that peaceful integration is the best way forward. By the end of Season 1, the president has been assassinated (it’s coincidence that the vice president got off the president’s doomed ship just before it blew up. Definitely.) and the new president, President Clark, implements a new policy aimed at removing alien influence at home, and casting suspicion onto everyone who doesn’t agree with him.

Under Clark, Earth descends rapidly into a police-state that has close parallels with the world of 1984, complete with a Ministry of Truth in charge of lies. Earth turns in on itself and ends up crippled and on the wrong side of a brutal civil war and nearly tears itself apart. In his last act (season 3, if I recall correctly), President Clark turns Earth’s defence system against Earth itself and the entire planet is seconds away from being cooked in its own juices. Ironically, it takes the selfless generosity of alien governments to help Earth get back on its feet once more.

Watching last night, I was struck by the eerie familiarity of the arguments. Obama wasn’t killed, but he is being replaced by a nutter intent on setting communities against one another. There is a sense that rich white men are now the oppressed ones (for more detail, see Stop Saying Feminism is Good For Men over at Medium) and it is time for them to fight back lest their privilege be wrested from them. The muscle they employ is the same as it has always been: the very people the previous administration has been trying to raise up (Affordable Healthcare Act, anyone?).

When people in power aim to serve their own needs by feeding ill-informed mobs blatant lies, we end up with Trump and Brexit and, if Babylon 5 is anything to go by, we will be at war, hot literal death-of-millions, war with each other before we begin to see sense.

I really, truly, hope that life does not imitate SciFi this year. I hope sense might prevail, but the signs and portents are not looking promising.

Stop the world, I want to get off.

Web round-up

In lieu of a coherent post this week, I’ve got a stack of web-links that I’ve been saving for a rainy day.

It’s raining, so here we are.

  1. The real reason women quit tech
  2. Autocracy: rules for survival (useful if an autocrat has just taken the most powerful job in the world)
  3. We are ignoring the most obvious problem with Trump (he has the worst approval rating of any incoming president ever)
  4. North Carolina is no longer considered a democracy. Impressive for a (region of a) regime that styles itself “the land of the free”.
  5. I exist. Really.
  6. When you’d rather your son be dead than be gay. Five lessons in inspirational parenting or how to embody Christ’s teaching that “they shall know you are my disciples by your love for one another”.
  7. Inclusive church (it’s not all bad).
  8. And finally… Get your children thinking with this curious, apparently anomalous, composite material.

It would be lovely to feel positive. Sadly, I do not.

Have a good week.

2016 is finally over. And yet…

So, that’s it. One of the worst years in global history since the Cuban missile crisis is finally over.

Celebrities died like flies, which was the first sign that rich Western nations got that it was going to be bad. The good people of Syria had already had plenty of notice that things were still awful and likely to stay that way.

Then politics took off its gloves and we had a referendum campaign in the UK that was centred around overt lies and deliberate misdirection with a largely inevitable result, both in terms of vote count and also in terms of the bitterness and disappointment left behind for voters on both sides of the debate. Then it was the US’s turn. Trump’s campaign was mostly based on two things: 1) being a rich white man and 2) telling as many lies as possible. Since the election, he’s been going to rallies all across America telling everyone that what he said during the campaign was simply stuff that “sounded good during the campaign”. Truly, nobody has any idea what he’s going to do in the White House but, already, he’s managed to provoke China and Russia in ways that could possibly start a nuclear arms race or, indeed, a nuclear war.

Joy.

And just as we thought it was over, George Michael and Carrie Fisher both died. Happy Christmas, everyone.

And 2017 is the year when our stupid decisions of 2016 begin to bear fruit. Theresa May is determined to pull the trigger on the EU and Trump gets the presidency (unless the Electoral College pulled a completely unprecedented move: we’ll find out this month).

One thing that seems certain is that facts no longer matter and we can look forward to a year of deepening divisions between factions. Truly, we are living through what history books call “matters leading up to”. I am fearful of what they might be leading up to.

I am.

The path of the Dark Side

Once more, Yoda’s wisdom applies in real life.

As is often the case on this blog, I’m talking about trans issues, but the same applies in many situations.

I was talking to a group of boys recently about stuff and, given that it was Trans Awareness Week, I brought up the topic of transgender people and how to be a decent human being when faced with one. I know. It’s hard to remember basic decency when you interact with someone whom you find hard to categorise. You feel like you’re being lied to, because your two-second first impression of them is going to be a completely accurate assessment of their entire personhood and if they are behaving in a manner contrary to that assessment, it is your right, no your duty, to put them right.

When did we get so arrogant? Speaking as a white British man, I am going to assume that this dates back to Empire and beyond, embodied in the attitude that drove us all around the planet killing, conquering and enslaving as we went. (There’s another story there: I was talking to a friend and it turned out that they had no idea of the part England played in developing the industry of slavery and laying the foundations of modern racism and the race divide that is still played out in public view in the USA and in a quiet, more English, way on these shores. But I digress.)

I asked my charges what they would do, in a public loo, if they were to meet someone who didn’t look like they had made the correct choice of which door to pass through. Most of them said that they’d pull out their Gender Police badge and politely inform the interloper that they were interloping and ask them to lope somewhere else. I’ll commend their honesty and confess that this was exactly the reaction I had expected. That is where I come in as an adult to teach the little darlings that this is a moment where we might express empathy for the other person. We can start by making an assumption that the person we meet has made a deliberate choice to use that loo and that they just want to use the loo in peace. We might also infer that said person has had a long and scary journey to get to where they’re going and really doesn’t need their day to be made harder or more scary by an ill-informed person.

First off, the public toilet is a public toilet. It is just as much a public space as the town square is. If I started walking around the town square telling people whom I thought was allowed there and who wasn’t, I would expect everyone to question my authority to make such pronouncements. I have, as an unspecific member of the public, no business whatsoever telling others who can or cannot be in the town square. Why, then, might I presume I have the right to make similar pronouncements just because I am in the gents’ loo? I guess we feel emboldened when in a single-sex space and we perceive that the single-sex nature of the space is being challenged by another person. I can see that. It doesn’t give us the right to police that space ourselves, though.

Secondly, we take on the arrogance of Empire when we decide that we have the right make a snap judgement about a person’s appearance then impose our idea of who they are onto them. As I said to my group, that person knows their own gender better than you do (aside: what does a Muslim look like?). What does it say about me, as a person, when I take action that just makes someone else’s day harder? What does it say about me that I can take this action with all the English kindness in my heart, basing my decision on the assumption that the poor dear just made a mistake at the door.  What if we pause for a moment of empathy? That person just wants a wee in peace and, frankly, does it matter which door they went through? They need a wee. Let them wee and get on with your day whilst forwarding the same courtesy to that person.

Naturally, I got an apoplectic e-mail from one of the mothers that night. We have no trans kids in our group, so why am I suggesting that we be nice to trans people? Naturally, my line manager sided with the mother.

Underlying the complaint is the idea that we cannot mention transgender people without talking long and hard about sex and sexual reproduction, and it’s the top of the slippery slope that will see us giving condoms to ten-year-olds (we’re won’t). There is a perception that discussion of such topics is something that should be age-restricted, that any discussion about treating transgender people as people will focus more on sexual anatomy than it does on being a decent human being.

Looks like we prefer our fear of the unknown, and its consequent suffering. Just as long as the suffering is borne by someone else.