“Running an online magazine about masculinity, I’ve come to observe a curious phenomenon. When we post about male rape victims or the enforcement of masculine gender roles, we get plenty of interesting comments. But when we post about Nice Guy Syndrome and other issues around men who feel sexually unwanted, our comments blow up like they were directed by Michael Bay. This is an issue that touches men deeply and damagingly, and ties in with a lot of pain that, hegemonic masculinity being what it is, usually doesn’t get talked about.
Others, such as Hugo Schwyzer, have written about how straight men don’t feel sexually desired, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. It’s hard to overestimate just how deep this idea goes. It feeds into a phenomenon a lot of guys have experienced, a phenomenon based on weird broken ideas about gender roles, ideas so deeply rooted in the subconscious that most men aren’t even aware that they’ve got them.”—
From when I was still forced to attend, I remember our synagogue’s annual fundraising appeal. It was a simple enough format, if I recall correctly. The rabbi and the treasurer talked about the shul’s expenses and how vital this annual fundraise was, and then the synagogue’s members called out their pledges from their seats.
Let me tell you about a different annual fundraising appeal. One that I ran, in fact; during the early years of a nonprofit organization that may not be named. One difference was that the appeal was conducted over the Internet. And another difference was that the audience was largely drawn from the atheist/libertarian/technophile/sf-fan/early-adopter/programmer/etc crowd. (To point in the rough direction of an empirical cluster in personspace. If you understood the phrase “empirical cluster in personspace” then you know who I’m talking about.)
I wrote a summary of Julia Galef’s “The Straw Vulcan” presentation from Skepticon 4. Note that it is written in my own words, but all of the ideas should be credited to Julia and her presentation (unless I unintentionally misrepresent any of them!).
A straw man used to show that emotion is better than logic.
It starts by having characters who think “logically” try to solve a problem. And they can’t. Either they can’t find any answer, or they’re caught in some kind of standoff, or they’re even stuck in a Logic Bomb-type loop. Once this is established, someone who uses good old human emotion comes up with a solution that the logical thinker can’t. This provides An Aesop that emotion is superior and that the logical thinker shouldn’t trust logic so much.
This is, of course, a Broken Aesop. Fiction often gets the concept of logic wrong in a number of ways.
It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely to experience a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously. Sometimes this existential depression is tied into the positive disintegration experience referred to by Dabrowski (1996).
Existential depression is a depression that arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence. Yalom (1980) describes four such issues (or “ultimate concerns”)–death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?