Sometimes It’s Just Bad People

I had the unenviable experience of having to explain “stealthing” to my parents recently.

Not the physical act; they understood the description of the act. They also understood that “stealthing” is a henious thing to do to someone.

They wanted me to explain why. Why would someone do that?

I can’t explain it. I don’t understand it.

There’s a whole laundry list of things like that I don’t understand. Some examples are criminal, like the one above. Some examples are business related. I don’t understand why [1] companies routinely emphasize maximizing short-run growth and neglect long-term strategies to make both the company and its employees stronger. Some examples are personal, like why I’ve been encouraged to be angry at an ex simply because they didn’t want to continue the relationship any longer. [2] Some examples are political, like the way the abortion debate continues in this country.

When my sociological side is in charge, this is absolutely fascinating as an academic exercise… but it still leaves me struggling with the why.

There’s a tendency to think that it’s just a matter of information. Maybe they don’t realize that there’s more money to be made (eventually) with sustainable growth than get-rich-quick schemes, for example. Maybe they don’t realize that comprehensive sex ed and free or extremely low cost birth control have demonstratably reduced teen pregnancies and abortions in the US, or don’t realize that “just say no” empirically doesn’t work for either drugs or to reduce abortions.

It’s such a strong tendency that it’s easy to discount when you realize the truth, time after time after time.

That the stated “reasons” have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Far smarter and far more influential economists have pointed out the problems with emphasizing only short-run quick profits – but that would only matter if the investors and executives and managers were actually interested in the health of the company and society, rather than just their personal gain.

Multiple studies – at home and abroad – have demonstrated that simple bans and “just say no” not only don’t work, but can even backfire and make the problem worse. If the goal is to reduce drug use or minimize abortions, there are much more effective strategies. But the policies these folks come up with only make sense if the goal is something other than what they claim – such as being able to create a militarized police force that seizes assets for their own funding, or, in the case of abortion, to try to control women.

Think about that last one. Even Texas’ draconian vigilante justice anti-abortion law only targets the woman’s behavior, not the man’s.

But we don’t like to ascribe those kinds of selfish and negative motivations to others. We don’t like the idea that, with some people, reason and compassion and empathy and logic simply will not have any effect.

Which brings us back to “stealthing”, and the excellent news of California’s new law.

Because “stealthing” is so obviously awful and selfish, it puts all of this in clear stark relief. There is no – NO – justification for that practice. Particularly in a country where another state will definitely punish the woman for one of the possible results of a man’s heinous deception. His “reasons” are so clearly full of crap that we can focus on the behavior, rather than the excuses.

It is well past time for us all – individually, and as a society – to start examining the actions we’re taking, and whether or not they’re having the results we claim they are.

And not just calling out hypocrisy and bad justifications, but realizing that a pattern of hypocrisy and bad justifications isn’t indicative of bad logic or a lack of understanding.

That sometimes it’s just a sign of a bad person.

Featured Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash

[1] I am well aware of the role that the stock market plays in this, but that just pushes the question back a layer. Why emphasize a short, temporary, spike in growth when you could build something sustainable and ongoing?
[2] Being upset? Distraught? Absolutely. Be angry at the person? I don’t get it. And I do not think it’s healthy for us to treat that reaction as “normal” or “okay”.

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