The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

“Me too” – the dangers of normalisation?

with 2 comments

  1. I sense a danger of the “Me Too” world achieving, in part, almost the opposite of what I imagine the campaign is designed to achieve.
  2. As more people come forward to the public to reveal that they were sexually abused in a wide range of different professional and other contexts, it is important that the sheer numbers of the revelations are not allowed to give past, present and future abusers some sense of comfort or safety in numbers, or a feeling that they “can’t be all that bad given that everybody else was and is doing it”.
  3. Perhaps I’m worrying about nothing: but the following passage from an internet posting by Neshama Carlebach – the daughter of Shlomo Carlebach (I wrote about allegations against him in 27 December 2016) – makes me suspect that there may be some kind of normalisation attempt underpinning some of the responses to the Me Too movement.
  4. She writes (https://neshamacarlebach.com/my-sisters-i-hear-you/ – accessed 18 February 2018):
  5. Human beings are complex, the questions of life are complex, the healing is real, and the pain is real. There is no hiding from all these truths. My father, a soul who saw sisters and brothers cut down by the Nazis, who jumped straight from the insular Yeshiva world of his childhood into the boundaryless free-love world of Berkeley in the late 60s, who revolutionized Jewish music forever and embraced every human being, was complicated too.

    Sometime in the late 70s, my father was involved in an intervention staged by women who were hurt by him. He came, even knowing the content of the conversation that was to happen. And when they told him that his actions and behavior had hurt them, he cried and said, “Oy this needs such a fixing.” I do believe that the actions, advocacy work and the way he raised his daughters in the last years of his life showed remarkable listening and personal accountability.
    I accept the fullness of who my father was, flaws and all. I am angry with him. And I refuse to see his faults as the totality of who he was.

    Who knows the apologies he might have made, if he might have been granted the chance to offer the public acknowledgements so many only called for upon his passing, if only he had been able to give more years to repair the world around him as a man brave enough to ask for forgiveness. I wish he had had that chance, and that he could have been part of the healing he necessitated, a healing he would have been particularly equipped to offer. I would have had the chance to ask my own questions, and perhaps to hear what he would have said in response.

    As my father himself said, we have to laugh with one side of our heart and cry with the other. That his life, music and actions prompt both laughter and tears will likely not cease in our lifetimes.

  6. Meaningless drivel I could have overlooked (doubtless being seen by some as a prime perpetrator of it myself): but this seems to me to be insidious meaningless drivel, which is one stage more dangerous.
  7. “I refuse to see his faults as the totality of who he was” – yes, that is entirely reasonable for a daughter.  I have been telling my children since they were tiny that it is best to assume that nobody is quite as good or quite as bad as they appear, and the number of complete tzadikim (righteous) or resho’im (wicked) at any one time in the world is tiny.
  8. But that’s about private relationships.  In terms of public relationships, nobody has the right to say to the world “yes I’m only human, and now that you’ve found out that I victimised women or some other vulnerable class, please continue to celebrate (and pay for) my artistic genius or other saleable qualities on the grounds that we’re all human after all, aren’t we?”
  9. We live in an increasingly celebrity-focused world.  Religious leaders, politicians, actors, singers and others make a living out of presenting their message to the world, and mostly hire expensive marketing teams to promote that message.  That’s fine (or at least unavoidable today): but if your image becomes tarnished because we find out (which will be possible while there remains a relatively free media) that the reality of your behaviour is inconsistent with your public message, then in my eyes you are permanently disqualified from continuing to present that message.  You are probably not a wholly bad person – because few people are – but you are a wholly unsatisfactory promoter of a message that you cannot practise yourself.
  10. If Neshama Carlebach is admitting – which she appears to be – that her father abused women, then so far as I am concerned that is indeed the totality of his public persona: by which I mean I no longer want to watch old videos of him singing about spirituality and peace to all mankind on the stage, and I no longer want holy services to be held as “Carlebach minyanim”, and where I think of a tune of having been specifically his, I will aim to avoid it.
  11. The Me Too movement makes it impossible for some people to hide: but it may also encourage others to confess, or for their families to confess on their behalf, in the hope that as GK Chesterton reminded us, the best place to hide a leaf is in a tree: something like “now that everyone’s being caught, let’s add ourselves to their number, and hope that our own actions get somehow swept up into the general mass of allegations and we avoid the kind of individual scrutiny that we’ve been hiding from for so long”.
  12. The Me Too movement should remain a campaign – it should never become an amnesty.
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Written by Daniel Greenberg

February 18, 2018 at 11:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. The “Bagehot” article in “The Economist”, 10 March ’18, is entitled “It could happen here”.
    The author makes the case that Britain could suffer an authoritarian takeover in the next 5 years. The threats come from: a government lead by Jeremy Corbyn, the incendiary right, Britain’s weak formal defences against authoritarian populism and its vulnerability to external shocks. The biggest threat comes “from a growing sense that democracy has let people down”. The proportion of Britons who support a “strongman leader” has increased from 25% in 1999 to 50%.

    The article concludes: “It is too early to head for the exits. ….. But anyone who doesn’t know where the exits are is a fool”.

    How should the Jewish community react to this article?

    Michael Wilks

    March 18, 2018 at 10:32 am

    • Thanks Michael – not particularly related to my post, of course, but I shall take this as in invitation to write a new post and do so shortly! Many thanks – Daniel

      Daniel Greenberg

      March 18, 2018 at 10:43 am


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