12 October 2017

Harvey Weinstein. A Tale Of Predators And Hypocrites.

Compassion And Harvey Weinstein

"As witnesses not of our intentions, but of our conduct, we can be true or false, and the hypocrite's crime is that he bears false witness against himself. What makes it so plausible to assume that hypocrisy is the vice of vices is that integrity can indeed exist under the cover of all other vices except this one. Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten the core."  – Hannah Arendt.

Why is it, I wondered this morning, that I feel no compassion or empathy for Harvey Weinstein?

Why am I  unable to stand in his shoes, the very definition of empathy? Empathy is important to me, it represents the highest human aspiration.

I think one reason is that is hard for me to even imagine doing what he did to all of those women, victims not only of a sexual predator but an abuser of power and a betrayer of the very idea of good causes.

While it's nice to get Donald Trump out of my head for a few days,  my head doesn't really get a rest, either way.

I write a lot about compassion and empathy, it is a theme not only of my writing but of my life.  I resist the impulse to judge other people, I do not tell other people what to do or  how to feel.

I hate mobs, even in a righteous cause. They are inherently evil. In a sense, our social media is one frightening, even monstrous mob. You needn't do good, you can just tweet about being good.

I believe than in our vengeful culture, we often fail to treat the sick, we prefer to punish them instead, as if that will cure evil doing by people who have no idea what good or evil is.

As sickening as the things Mr. Weinstein is accused of doing are to me and others, it is almost equally repulsive for me to see a human life dismantled and discarded in this public, brutal,  and nearly hysterical way. That is not justice.

He has done great harm to many people in so many different ways. He is, I think, going to face a life sentence of one kind of another from which there is no release of ultimate forgiveness.

Perhaps I feel little for him because of my visceral hatred of hypocrisy and hypocrites.

Arendt makes the very powerful point that for all of his evil, Hitler was no hypocrite.

He never bore false witness to himself, he believed what he said and he did what he said he would do.

That is why I wear an Antifa bracelet every day, because Hitler taught my family and me that people like that keep their promises. Hypocrites bear false promise.

We have a new kind of cultural super- villain on the block now on America – Bill Cosby, Roger Aisles, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton  –  serial criminals and abusers of women, and no doubt many more waiting to be revealed. I hope their time is coming.

I have not been able to muster much compassion or empathy for any of these men, who saw vulnerable women as just another kind of prey to hunt and exploit and frighten and bully.

I think the answer lies in the fact that I agree with Hannah Arendt – I can feel compassion for anyone but the hypocrite, these men are rotten to the core.

All three of these men wrapped themselves in righteousness and marketed and profited from the idea of decency and family and justice, and all three were the worst kind of predators, feeding on the helplessness, vulnerability and yearnings of women who could not protect themselves, and were sexual fodder for the creepiest and lowest of men.

Empathy is in enough trouble in our country without a leading philanthropist like Weinstein betraying the very idea of compassion and justice.

This is a confusing issue for me, and I have not sorted it out.

Why can't I  feel compassion for Harvey Weinstein as he is very publicly humiliated, exposed and torn to pieces, and has tumbled so fast and furiously,  now pursued by mobs of enraged and sometimes self-righteous former friends and followers.

Doesn't this make me a hypocrite too, piling on with almost everyone else?  Clarence Darrow, one of my early heroes, argued that the most despised are the ones we need to show the most compassion for. And he did, he defended the indefensible, the murderers and the terrorists of his time.

There are no Clarence Darrows around in our time.

I write about empathy every other week.

Is compassion only for nice people that we like, and who do no wrong? That seems a thin and watery gruel to me. It makes me a hypocrite too, I think.

The sickness of our country is revealed every day in the endless and ritualistic antagonism and blindness of the left and the right, each accusing the other of being opportunistic and hypocritical in their righteousness. Every tragedy is just another weapon in the arsenal of the endless argument, the argument no one can ever win.

But that is not the message of Mr. Weinstein, that he is another pawn of the left or the right. We need to move past those people to get anywhere and leave them to their raging on Facebook.

If we are morally awake and thinking, then all of these repulsive men badly need to be condemned and removed from power, not just for their own wrongdoings, but as a message to the many other people and their victims.

If this went on for so long and so visibly in  Hollywood, just imagine how many other Weinsteins and Ailes and Cosby's are hiding behind their lawyers and publicists now, hiding in their closets and waiting for the villagers with their torches to head for their castles.

Everyone in Hollywood says they knew off-the-record, but everyone on Twitter and Facebook says they never knew. This story is shrouded in hypocrisy.  Even I knew, living on a farm in upstate New York. Weinstein was an arrogant pig in public, too.

I hate mobs as much as I hate hypocrites, and to me, Harvey Weinstein is one of the sickest and most troubled public people I have ever come across or read about. I can hardly bear to listen to those pleading and bullying tapes. Perhaps I will feel differently in a while, when the mobs move on.

And I would like to read and know much more about what makes a man like that, with so much money and power and access, do those kinds of things?

I hope what he did is one day seen as a sickness as well as a monstrous crime. He must be sick to do what he did. And don't the sick deserve some compassion, even in our society, where so many hearts have turned to stone?

I  hope he gets the help he says he wants and needs. I hope it helps him, as I was helped when I was sick in a very different way and on a very different scale. I hope he has one friend left who has not abandoned and betrayed him.

And I hope one day that he is well enough to get a second chance to do something creative or good, as he very often did.

I guess that is as far as I can do. I guess it is far enough for me now.


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