Keith Ablow is an old man

I’ve quite often written derisively about old people. This has frequently been misunderstood as a dig at people of advanced age. It isn’t. I don’t think Betty White is in the least bit old, despite the fact that turned 91 a couple of months ago. What I mean, and what I’ve always meant and always been clear about, is that an old person is someone who irrationally embraces things from and about his or her generation, whether products or ideals or values or gumption or whathaveyou, without regard to the reality of any of those things – all that matters to such a person is that these things were from (or at least preceded) his or her incidental generation. This is most often manifested not in a promotion of those things, but in a random denigration of younger generations and the different things they possess and that define them. For instance, anyone who grew up during the time when video games were also really growing up (mid/late 80’s and 90’s) probably had a friend whose parents wouldn’t let him own an NES out of some misguided principle (as opposed to some budgetary reason), yet he never seemed to be prohibited from having just as much TV or movie time as any other kid. This was generally attributable to the attitude of “I never needed those things growing up, so neither do you” or some bullshit like that. It was another way of saying this new form of entertainment was different and therefore somehow bad. Parents who did that were old, whether they were a couple of 24 year olds just starting out or if they were well-established business professionals in their late 30’s.

Maybe I’ll get lucky and everyone will understand what I mean by “old”, but I doubt it. Regardless, I’m going to push forward and talk about an article by old man ‘Dr.’ Keith Ablow. He’s an alleged psychiatrist who works for FOX Noise, and he’s no stranger to writing really stupid things, but his latest garbage is pretty astounding:

In Steubenville, Ohio two teenage boys— a 17-year-old and 16-year-old—are on trial for allegedly stripping a very inebriated and nearly unconscious 16-year-old girl naked, attempting to make her perform oral sex on them (although she could not even open her mouth), urinating on her, using their fingers to penetrate her and carrying her from one location to another, to continue sexually violating her.

The texts they allegedly sent one another when the girl heard rumors from friends about what happened to her while she was too drunk to be aware of it, or even remember it, are chilling. They refer to her as a dead body, gleefully recall humiliating her and contain degrading statements about all females being worthy of sexual degradation.

In one text, the 17-year-old, knowing he has been identified as a possible assailant, tells a friend that he might as well have raped the girl (not just digitally, but using his penis), given the possible consequences he could face…

Equally heartbreaking is the fact that no one helped the alleged victim, despite the fact that her plight was obvious to many people at the party where she was publicly stripped naked, before being carried away to the house where she was then allegedly brutally assaulted…

How could this happen? I believe American teens are in the grips of a psychological epidemic that has eroded much of their capacity to connect with genuine emotion and is, therefore, crushing their empathy…

Here’s one of those claims where one might expect a teensy, little, tiny, miniscule bit of huge, massive, overwhelming scientific data to support. Ablow doesn’t supply any, and there isn’t any out there anyway. He’s more of an opinion guy, ya know.

Having watched tens of thousands of YouTube videos with bizarre scenarios unfolding, having Tweeted thousands of senseless missives of no real importance, having watched contrived “Reality TV” programs in which people are posers in false dramas about love or lust or revenge, having texted millions of times, rather than truly connecting and having lost their real faces to the fake life stories of Facebook, they look upon the actual events of their lives with no more actual investment and actual concern and actual courage than they would look upon a fictional character in a movie.

(I realize he spends 5 rather lengthy clauses making it sound as though he’s referring to himself before he reveals that he’s still on about teenagers. He isn’t a good writer. Please re-read with that in mind, if need be.)

This really crystallizes why Ablow is such an old man. He begins his attack with references to two of the most popular communication outlets today, moves on to modern TV, then touches on another currently popular method of communication. If this was the early 90’s, he would have gone on about AOL and Hotmail, moved on to Jerry Springer, then railed against party phone lines. He doesn’t have a case to make. He just wants to shit on all the new stuff that he feels is leaving him behind in the world. He’s just being a dismissible old guy right now.

They are absent from their own lives and those of others. They are floating free in a virtual world where nothing really matters other than being cool observers of their own detached existence, occasionally alighting on one another’s bodies, in sexual embraces that remind them—for an orgasmic moment—that they are actually alive and actually human.

‘the fuck? Teenagers still sit together in school for the better part of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. They still have jobs and play sports and do things after school. This isn’t some upside-down world where everything has changed in the course of a decade or two. Teenagers still do things commonplace of teenagers, even if much of what they do is facilitated by cell phones now.

What was once referred to as “the bystander effect”—a psychological phenomenon in which individuals in a crowd tend not to step forward to save a victim, is now an apt label for a large percentage of teens. They are bystanders in their own lives. They are bystanders to the lives of others. And just as they may stand by as a “friend” of theirs is brutally sexually assaulted, humiliated and degraded, they could stand by as forces of darkness gather to confront the American ideals of liberty and justice.

Again – ‘the fuck? I don’t know if the guy is just a fruit bat or FOX Noise has a reference quota for phrases like “liberty and justice”, but I’m going to ignore that last part; aside from, frankly, being entirely fucking stupid, it’s a non sequitur and represents little more than shitty writing to me, so it isn’t worth addressing. However, I will point out the fact that people of all ages from all generations have stood by and watched awful scenes play out – and with no more justification for their inaction than that possessed by those at the parties in Steubenville. No, there isn’t some lack of empathy suddenly emerging in society, showing up with special prevalence in those born after 1993. All we have are examples of terrible action and inaction from an extreme case that happens to be modern. Building an argument against an entire generation premised on an individual incident would lead us to believe that the rottenness of young people of the mid-1920’s was demonstrated with perfect clarity by the actions of Leopold and Loeb. That’s ludicrous.

I don’t trust Ablow. I don’t trust, first, that he’s nearly smart enough to form an argument worth considering very deeply. I’ve read and written about other articles of his and I’ve seen him on TV. I would need to be more familiar with him in order to outright claim that he’s stupid – that’s something I like to be careful to reserve for the right people: see Sarah Palin – but he doesn’t strike me as bright. Second, his entire argument reeks of old man smell. His motivation here seems to be little more than generational shitting.

Why the philosophically incoherent should never speak of marriage

Really, they shouldn’t speak of anything, but this post happens to specifically be about marriage. So let’s get to it. Keith Ablow, an alleged psychiatrist and certain member of FOX Noise, has recently said some horrifically incoherent things about the government, marriage, and liberty:

Among those aged 18 to 29, only 20 percent are now married, compared to 59 percent in 1960. Just 51 percent of all those over the age of 18 are now married, compared with 72 percent in 1960.

The trend away from marriage is now accelerating, rather than slowing down, and I believe that by 2020, marriage will be a road taken by a minority of adults.

I believe the reasons for marriage falling out of favor with Americans are many, including my own clinical observations that the vast majority of married people consider their unions a source of pain, not pleasure, and that too few of them are equipped with the psychological and behavioral tools to achieve true intimacy or maintain real passion. When the architecture of a relationship is airless and seemingly without exit (without bankrupting your family by hiring lawyers and having your kids pack overnight bags every week), people will eventually learn to steer clear of it.

When I started reading this article I didn’t think about the gender of the author. I didn’t happen to glance at his name, nor was it particularly a concern of mine. However, once I got to the given reasons for why marriage is on the decline, I just knew it was a man. A woman would be far less likely to neglect to mention the difference in women’s lives between 1960 and 2011. First, 50 years ago the income gap was much more than it is today. It was virtually unsustainable for a woman to live well on her own then, through no fault of her own. It only made sense to attach one’s self to a man in order to do well. Men would do the same thing if roles were reversed. Second, it was less socially acceptable to be a single woman too far into one’s 20’s than it is today. That’s a strong motivating force to tie the knot. Moreover, if a woman was single and had a child, that was another good reason for getting hitched in the 60’s. That isn’t the case today. Third, religion has historically been a strong force in marriage. With fewer and fewer people claiming a religion today, that force is dissipating.

Perhaps no factor, however, is more responsible for the decline of marriage in America than government participation in it. The fact is that getting a marriage license means, essentially, signing a Draconian contract with the state to manage the division of your estate in the event of a divorce, without ever having read that contract.

Oh, I wasn’t aware there was no government participation in marriage in 1960.

The contract, if it included all the relevant laws pertaining to divorce, child custody, spousal support and other relevant matters, would probably run hundreds of pages. And what’s more, the contract, once signed, may be changed by the state legislature at any time, leaving the parties to it with no recourse.

Weird. I thought that democracy was a type of recourse. I must be mistaken.

This all means that getting married in America is—in the current scheme—an act of self-abandonment which subjugates one to government in a more infantilizing fashion than nearly any other voluntary action you could take.

This is plain wrong. If people didn’t want government involvement in their marriages, they simply would not get married in the eyes of their state. They would just go to their church or mosque or hippie in the woods. The fact that they aren’t tells me that even if they don’t like everything the government does in regards to marriage, they like enough of what it does. It sounds to me like a choice made freely by consenting, mature adults.

Actions have consequences. So it is no surprise that volunteering to be lorded over by the state would result in feelings of confinement while married.

Yes, because that’s why married couples feel confined. “Damn it, Mary, I need my space! Let’s get away from these damn tax returns!” And, again, maybe it’s just that I’m an ig’nint youngin’, but I could have sworn the government “lorded” over marriages in 1960.

Nor is it any surprise that signing over one’s rights to self-determination to the state…

Apparently Ablow defines “self-determination” in terms of things he thinks people should do. Someone who freely signs a contract is obviously a right-less slave.

And it is also predictable that people would eventually find this distasteful, because human beings instinctively love liberty, especially in matters as personal as love and the raising of families.

He’s hinting at something…what could it be…

The solution is obvious: Get the state entirely out of the marriage business. No more marriage licenses. No more special treatment of married couples by the IRS or any other facet of government. No state ever had a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses, to begin with, since marriage is a spiritual commitment and quite often, a religious one. And it is, fundamentally, an intensely personal one based in autonomy—until city hall gets involved and messes everything up.

Oh, I get it now. “Self-determination”, “liberty”, “autonomy”. I remember when I first read an introductory philosophy of ethics book, too. Cute.

So where to start on this one. First, married couples act as distinct entities from individuals, ergo, their treatment is inherently “special”. And it should be. Second, no state has a legitimate claim to issue marriage licenses? Really? Which constitution prohibits that? Which populace passed a law saying as much? Last time I checked, so long as what it does not violate a given constitution or human rights, a state can have whatever law it pleases so long as that law is passed democratically. Third, so what if marriage has historically been “spiritual” or religious? I care about the fact that it does not violate human rights and has been approved democratically. Besides, does Ablow approve of government-endorsed marriage for atheists and agnostics? I’m neither spiritual nor religious, so it must be okay for me to get a marriage license from the government. Furthermore, if he wants to appeal to the historical roots of marriage, why stop at religion? Go back far enough and it will be common to find contracts entered into which were governed by various laws, whether highly organized or simply tribal.

In the new paradigm I suggest, every couple wishing to get married would state that intention to their house of worship or their community of family and friends.

This isn’t new. In fact, just about everyone does this. Then they also get married in the state’s eyes.

They would take meaningful vows in front of gatherings of loved ones. Then they would—like knowledgeable and competent adults, rather than state-dependent, incompetent children—sign financial documents they generate together (while represented by attorneys or knowledgably waiving that right) which would govern how their assets should be pooled during the term of the contract and how they should be divided in the event they decide to end the contract.

If there’s anything I want to do as competent and independent adult, it’s enter into lengthy legal contracts of dubious quality, which cost me a lot of money, and which are my only choice. Thank goodness Keith Ablow is here to take away my options. Christ. Maybe for his next article he will read past chapter one in his ethics textbook.

The state’s interest would be limited to enforcing laws about fair amounts of child support and fair visitation rights which must be included in such documents when children are born.

So the government can be involved in dictating what is fair child support and visitation rights, but not marriage contracts. Interesting. Apparently Ablow approves of the government being involved in something which necessarily must happen – reproduction – but when it comes to something voluntary – entering into a marriage – it needs to butt out.

That’s it. The state would protect kids financially and emotionally from parents who fail to protect them. Otherwise, they would have no business getting involved in people’s marriages at all. They never had any business getting involved in them, to begin with.

I think, Ablow never had any business, writing an article which addresses philosophical, and now apparently grammatical, issues, which he never understood in the first place. Random comma.