Bias and the Bully: Heralding the Daily Whaleoil Blog

“I’m sorry for being a man right now”

I like Coke. but I also like all other manner of drinks – Sprite, tea, coffee, Powerade. My preference doesn’t mean I can’t see an argument for other drinks on occasion. Every drink serves a purpose – a beer after work, a soda in the sun, drinking water kills a fever. People don’t argue about the “need” of drinks, only the flavour; but we do need them. Give me some time with this analogy, it is leading somewhere. Why the analogy?

I’m annoyed.

I like debate. I like people having differences of opinion. You can’t shut me up on certain issues. There are, however, irrefutable things that we can all understand despite individual preference – the need to drink at certain occasions being one of them. And the need to not argue the little things like what type of drink we have, but that we actually do drink something to cure our problem of thirst -that we actually focus on the problem at hand.

And last week, I feel like a critical NZ debate moved away from what we, as a country, needed to talk about; it moved to what certain people wanted to talk about. People who were selling something – an idea, some advertising, some readership – whatever. That, in my opinion, is bias – and I hate it.

If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, then bias is the highest form of mis-information. As I grow older, I am seeing there are irrefutable things that, on reflection, I just can not stand for. These things seem to drift through our society. I’m tempted to raise the issue of people wearing sunglasses inside right now, but will resist. Despite this, I am absolutely sure that I cannot handle two things currently:

Bias. And Bullying.

So. A man in New Zealand, upon hearing the the national statistics regarding our domestic abuse rates – and the horrifying nature of the weighting of these statistics against women – decided to say something that he obviously felt was his first and only reaction – he said:

“I’m sorry for being a man right now”

He said this to a packed audience at a NZ Women’s Refuge Meeting. He heard what was said by those present, felt the room for what it was – considered how he felt about the terrible nature of our “clean” society – and apologised. They clapped. They appreciated what he had said on personal level. They encouraged the moves that were talked about to try and help remedy this scourge – they thanked him for stating something that many men would not have the gumption or self awareness to do so. Outside of politics, this was a step forward in the national conversation of trying to stop it

Instantly, the level of vitriol, of misguided abuse, of pious sanctimony and insular self- satisfaction that spewed forth afterwards – almost immediately – was mindblowing; it was calculated, it was brutal, it was deliberate – it was election year – and I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed of my country for that reaction. That’s why I am pissed off.

In every society, there are issues that leap outside of the political spectrum. Murder. Rape. Violence. While we disagree on how to handle these things across the political divide, we all agree that they are a problem. What the man said wasn’t wrong. It merely threatened those who had never really thought of the issue in that way before to think about a problem that we all had.

The Herald instantly ran a butcher job through John Armstrong. Other outlets followed suit (like above). Comments were opened up (which doesn’t always happen for other issues) and men from every corner of the country chastised, berated, scolded and harangued this man. But they missed the actual point of the argument.

They got stuck arguing which drink they wanted, and didn’t realise that they needed a drink regardless of what flavour it was – there is a problem; they couldn’t see what the actual problem was.

Bias has a terrible memory and a bloody long reach. An important issue was instantly clouded by “good” men screaming to the world that they were good, but this mindset is precisely the problem that causes this tragic element in society. Because we all say its not us. We say “I don’t do that.”

But men do it. It is us. That’s fact. Don’t spin it, don’t take it personally, don’t evaluate how there could be an error. It’s fact. Don’t remove the dialogue from the problem, then reattach it onto someone who purely comments on it. Whether what he said was right or wrong is immaterial. What is not immaterial is that an actual discussion on a terrible indictment on NZ society was railroaded for the sake of a political smear.

I’m a man. I, too, think I’m a good guy. I have seen the problem, from more than one angle, in my own life. But until I as a man say that I am a part of the problem, then by either intention or through casual avoidance, I too perpetuate the mindset that “it’s not us” – when it clearly is.

Bias swings us around to make us look elsewhere, to help us avoid the true, naked nature of the problem at hand. In this case, it didn’t help create or change anything, other than a beat up of one man in an election year – from the statistics, there are plenty of other men out there who need a beating, the men who use their fists and not their words or understanding to deal with a problem. They avoided the vitriol. They got away with it. And they were probably putting the boot in on this man just as hard as anyone else. And that’s not right.

I’m not a natural  “feminist” – from what I can see many of them have their own set of bias and bullying tactics which I don’t want to get into, but I am welcome to be informed on the concept – but I can see a problem for what it is, and see the need for all of us to sit down and choose a drink (preferably non-alcoholic, considering the subject matter) and talk about it. And solve it. Or try to. And not give a shit about “politics” for a second, and try to fix the actual problem – help those in desperate need. 

We could probably agree on that right?


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