Prof. Shmuel “Sam” Vaknin (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, Google Scholar) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited (Amazon) and After the Rain: How the West Lost the East (Amazon) as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction. He was Senior Business Correspondent for United Press International (February, 2001 – April, 2003), CEO of Narcissus Publications (April, 1997 – April 2013), Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician (January, 2011 -), a columnist for PopMatters, eBookWeb, Bellaonline, and Central Europe Review, an editor for The Open Directory and Suite101 (Categories: Mental Health and Central East Europe), and a contributor to Middle East Times, a contributing writer to The American Chronicle Media Group, Columnist and Analyst for Nova Makedonija, Fokus, and Kapital, Founding Analyst of The Analyst Network, former president of the Israeli chapter of the Unification Church‘s Professors for World Peace Academy, and served in the Israeli Defense Forces (1979-1982). He has been awarded Israel’s Council of Culture and Art Prize for Maiden Prose (1997), The Rotary Club Award for Social Studies (1976), and the Bilateral Relations Studies Award of the American Embassy in Israel (1978), among other awards. He is Visiting Professor of Psychology, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia (September, 2017 to present), Professor of Finance and Psychology in SIAS-CIAPS (Centre for International Advanced and Professional Studies) (April, 2012 to present), a Senior Correspondent for New York Daily Sun (January, 2015 – Present), and Columnist for Allied Newspapers Group (January, 2015 – Present). He lives in Skopje, North Macedonia with his wife, Lidija Rangelovska. Here we talk about the gender wars.
*Previous interviews listed chronologically after interview.*
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Sex and gender, you’ve done a decent amount of material on this subject matter. First, what is sex?
Prof. Shmuel “Sam” Vaknin: Sex is biological, albeit fluid. You are born with it, or at least with the corporeal propensity for it. It is a hardware issue.
Jacobsen: Second, what is gender?
Vaknin: Gender is performative, the outcome of socialization, an expression of dominance, and of a gendered personality. It is largely a sociocultural construct grounded in a specific history (see my response to your next question).
Jacobsen: Third, what are other pertinent terms within this context?
Vaknin: “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”, Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949)
With same-sex marriage becoming a legal reality throughout the world, many more children are going to be raised by homosexual (gay and lesbian) parents, or even by transgendered or transsexual ones. How is this going to affect the child’s masculinity or femininity?
Is being a gay man less manly than being a heterosexual one? Is a woman who is the outcome of a sex change operation less feminine than her natural-born sisters? In which sense is a “virile” lesbian less of a man than an effeminate heterosexual or homosexual man? And how should we classify and treat bisexuals and asexuals?
What about modern she-breadwinners? All those feminist women in traditional male positions who are as sexually aggressive as men and prone to the same varieties of misconduct (e.g., cheating on their spouses)? Are they less womanly? And are their stay-at-home-dad partners not men enough? How are sex preferences related to gender differentiation? And if one’s sex and genitalia can be chosen and altered at will – why not one’s gender, regardless of one’s natural equipment? Can we decouple gender roles from sexual functions and endowments?
Aren’t the feminist-liberal-emancipated woman and her responsive, transformed male partner as moulded by specific social norms and narratives as their more traditional and conservative counterparts? And when men adapted to the demands of the “new”, post-modernist woman – were they not then rebuffed by that very same female as emasculated and unmanly? What is the source of this gender chaos? Why do people act “modern” while, at heart, they still hark back to erstwhile mores and ethos?
We assume erroneously that some roles are instinctual because, in nature, other species do it, too: parenting and mating come to mind. The discipline of sociobiology encourages us to counterfactually learn from animals about our social functioning.
But humans and their societies are so much more complex that there is little we can evince from lobsters, chimpanzees, or gorillas.
In nature, there is “male” and “female”, not “man” and “woman” which are learned and acquired gender roles. There is no “mother” and “father”, even among apes – just progenitors.
To fulfill any of these demanding and multifarious human functions, we must be exposed to good enough and working role models in childhood and then practice tirelessly through adulthood, constantly reframing and evolving as demands and expectations change with social mores and the times. Evolution in the human species is no longer predominantly genetic – but social and cultural.
So, many people simply don’t know how to act as men or as women, as mothers or as fathers. Here, faking it never makes it.
In nature, male and female are distinct. She-elephants are gregarious, he-elephants solitary. Male zebra finches are loquacious – the females mute. Female green spoon worms are 200,000 times larger than their male mates. These striking differences are biological – yet they lead to differentiation in social roles and skill acquisition.
Alan Pease, author of a book titled “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”, believes that women are spatially-challenged compared to men. The British firm, Admiral Insurance, conducted a study of half a million claims. They found that “women were almost twice as likely as men to have a collision in a car park, 23 percent more likely to hit a stationary car, and 15 percent more likely to reverse into another vehicle” (Reuters).
Yet gender “differences” are often the outcomes of bad scholarship. Consider Admiral Insurance’s data. As Britain’s Automobile Association (AA) correctly pointed out – women drivers tend to make more short journeys around towns and shopping centers and these involve frequent parking. Hence their ubiquity in certain kinds of claims. Regarding women’s alleged spatial deficiency, in Britain, girls have been outperforming boys in scholastic aptitude tests – including geometry and maths – since 1988.
In an Op-Ed published by the New York Times on January 23, 2005, Olivia Judson cited this example
“Beliefs that men are intrinsically better at this or that have repeatedly led to discrimination and prejudice, and then they’ve been proved to be nonsense. Women were thought not to be world-class musicians. But when American symphony orchestras introduced blind auditions in the 1970’s – the musician plays behind a screen so that his or her gender is invisible to those listening – the number of women offered jobs in professional orchestras increased. Similarly, in science, studies of the ways that grant applications are evaluated have shown that women are more likely to get financing when those reading the applications do not know the sex of the applicant.”
On the other wing of the divide, Anthony Clare, a British psychiatrist and author of “On Men” wrote:
“At the beginning of the 21st century it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that men are in serious trouble. Throughout the world, developed and developing, antisocial behavior is essentially male. Violence, sexual abuse of children, illicit drug use, alcohol misuse, gambling, all are overwhelmingly male activities. The courts and prisons bulge with men. When it comes to aggression, delinquent behavior, risk taking and social mayhem, men win gold.”
Men also mature later, die earlier, are more susceptible to infections and most types of cancer, are more likely to be dyslexic, to suffer from a host of mental health disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and to commit suicide.
In her book, “Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man”, Susan Faludi describes a crisis of masculinity following the breakdown of manhood models and work and family structures in the last five decades. In the film “Boys don’t Cry”, a teenage girl binds her breasts and acts the male in a caricatured relish of stereotypes of virility. Being a man is merely a state of mind, the movie implies.
But what does it really mean to be a “male” or a “female”? Are gender identity and sexual preferences genetically determined? Can they be reduced to one’s sex? Or are they amalgams of biological, social, and psychological factors in constant interaction? Are they immutable lifelong features or dynamically evolving frames of self-reference?
In rural northern Albania, until recently, in families with no male heir, women could choose to forego sex and childbearing, alter their external appearance and “become” men and the patriarchs of their clans, with all the attendant rights and obligations.
In the aforementioned New York Times Op-Ed, Olivia Judson opines:
“Many sex differences are not, therefore, the result of his having one gene while she has another. Rather, they are attributable to the way particular genes behave when they find themselves in him instead of her. The magnificent difference between male and female green spoon worms, for example, has nothing to do with their having different genes: each green spoon worm larva could go either way. Which sex it becomes depends on whether it meets a female during its first three weeks of life. If it meets a female, it becomes male and prepares to regurgitate; if it doesn’t, it becomes female and settles into a crack on the sea floor.”
Yet, certain traits attributed to one’s sex are surely better accounted for by the demands of one’s environment, by cultural factors, the process of socialization, gender roles, and what George Devereux called “ethnopsychiatry” in “Basic Problems of Ethnopsychiatry” (University of Chicago Press, 1980). He suggested to divide the unconscious into the id (the part that was always instinctual and unconscious) and the “ethnic unconscious” (repressed material that was once conscious). The latter is mostly molded by prevailing cultural mores and includes all our defense mechanisms and most of the superego.
So, how can we tell whether our sexual role is mostly in our blood or in our brains?
The scrutiny of borderline cases of human sexuality – notably the transgendered or intersexed – can yield clues as to the distribution and relative weights of biological, social, and psychological determinants of gender identity formation.
The results of a study conducted by Uwe Hartmann, Hinnerk Becker, and Claudia Rueffer-Hesse in 1997 and titled “Self and Gender: Narcissistic Pathology and Personality Factors in Gender Dysphoric Patients”, published in the “International Journal of Transgenderism”, “indicate significant psychopathological aspects and narcissistic dysregulation in a substantial proportion of patients.” Are these “psychopathological aspects” merely reactions to underlying physiological realities and changes? Could social ostracism and labeling have induced them in the “patients”?
The authors conclude:
“The cumulative evidence of our study … is consistent with the view that gender dysphoria is a disorder of the sense of self as has been proposed by Beitel (1985) or Pfäfflin (1993). The central problem in our patients is about identity and the self in general and the transsexual wish seems to be an attempt at reassuring and stabilizing the self-coherence which in turn can lead to a further destabilization if the self is already too fragile. In this view the body is instrumentalized to create a sense of identity and the splitting symbolized in the hiatus between the rejected body-self and other parts of the self is more between good and bad objects than between masculine and feminine.”
Freud, Kraft-Ebbing, and Fliess suggested that we are all bisexual to a certain degree. As early as 1910, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld argued, in Berlin, that absolute genders are “abstractions, invented extremes”. The consensus today is that one’s sexuality is, mostly, a psychological construct which reflects gender role orientation.
Joanne Meyerowitz, a professor of history at Indiana University and the editor of The Journal of American History observes, in her recently published tome, “How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States”, that the very meaning of masculinity and femininity is in constant flux.
Transgender activists, says Meyerowitz, insist that gender and sexuality represent “distinct analytical categories”. The New York Times wrote in its review of the book: “Some male-to-female transsexuals have sex with men and call themselves homosexuals. Some female-to-male transsexuals have sex with women and call themselves lesbians. Some transsexuals call themselves asexual.”
So, it is all in the mind, you see.
This would be taking it too far. A large body of scientific evidence points to the genetic and biological underpinnings of sexual behavior and preferences.
The German science magazine, “Geo”, reported recently that the males of the fruit fly “drosophila melanogaster” switched from heterosexuality to homosexuality as the temperature in the lab was increased from 19 to 30 degrees Celsius. They reverted to chasing females as it was lowered.
The brain structures of homosexual sheep are different to those of straight sheep, a study conducted recently by the Oregon Health & Science University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, revealed. Similar differences were found between gay men and straight ones in 1995 in Holland and elsewhere. The preoptic area of the hypothalamus was larger in heterosexual men than in both homosexual men and straight women.
According an article, titled “When Sexual Development Goes Awry”, by Suzanne Miller, published in the September 2000 issue of the “World and I”, various medical conditions give rise to sexual ambiguity. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), involving excessive androgen production by the adrenal cortex, results in mixed genitalia. A person with the complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS) has a vagina, external female genitalia and functioning, androgen-producing, testes – but no uterus or fallopian tubes.
People with the rare 5-alpha reductase deficiency syndrome are born with ambiguous genitalia. They appear at first to be girls. At puberty, such a person develops testicles and his clitoris swells and becomes a penis. Hermaphrodites possess both ovaries and testicles (both, in most cases, rather undeveloped). Sometimes the ovaries and testicles are combined into a chimera called ovotestis.
Most of these individuals have the chromosomal composition of a woman together with traces of the Y, male, chromosome. All hermaphrodites have a sizable penis, though rarely generate sperm. Some hermaphrodites develop breasts during puberty and menstruate. Very few even get pregnant and give birth.
Anne Fausto-Sterling, a developmental geneticist, professor of medical science at Brown University, and author of “Sexing the Body”, postulated, in 1993, a continuum of 5 sexes to supplant the current dimorphism: males, merms (male pseudohermaphrodites), herms (true hermaphrodites), ferms (female pseudohermaphrodites), and females.
Intersexuality (hermpahroditism) is a natural human state. We are all conceived with the potential to develop into either sex. The embryonic developmental default is female. A series of triggers during the first weeks of pregnancy places the fetus on the path to maleness.
In rare cases, some women have a male’s genetic makeup (XY chromosomes) and vice versa. But, in the vast majority of cases, one of the sexes is clearly selected. Relics of the stifled sex remain, though. Women have the clitoris as a kind of symbolic penis. Men have breasts (mammary glands) and nipples.
The Encyclopedia Britannica 2003 edition describes the formation of ovaries and testes thus:
“In the young embryo a pair of gonads develop that are indifferent or neutral, showing no indication whether they are destined to develop into testes or ovaries. There are also two different duct systems, one of which can develop into the female system of oviducts and related apparatus and the other into the male sperm duct system. As development of the embryo proceeds, either the male or the female reproductive tissue differentiates in the originally neutral gonad of the mammal.”
Yet, sexual preferences, genitalia and even secondary sex characteristics, such as facial and pubic hair are first order phenomena. Can genetics and biology account for male and female behavior patterns and social interactions (“gender identity”)? Can the multi-tiered complexity and richness of human masculinity and femininity arise from simpler, deterministic, building blocks?
Sociobiologists would have us think so.
For instance: the fact that we are mammals is astonishingly often overlooked. Most mammalian families are composed of mother and offspring. Males are peripatetic absentees. Arguably, high rates of divorce and birth out of wedlock coupled with rising promiscuity merely reinstate this natural “default mode”, observes Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. That three quarters of all divorces are initiated by women tends to support this view.
Furthermore, gender identity is determined during gestation, claim some scholars.
Milton Diamond of the University of Hawaii and Dr. Keith Sigmundson, a practicing psychiatrist, studied the much-celebrated John/Joan case. An accidentally castrated normal male was surgically modified to look female, and raised as a girl but to no avail. He reverted to being a male at puberty.
His gender identity seems to have been inborn (assuming he was not subjected to conflicting cues from his human environment). The case is extensively described in John Colapinto’s tome “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl”.
HealthScoutNews cited a study published in the November 2002 issue of “Child Development”. The researchers, from City University of London, found that the level of maternal testosterone during pregnancy affects the behavior of neonatal girls and renders it more masculine. “High testosterone” girls “enjoy activities typically considered male behavior, like playing with trucks or guns”. Boys’ behavior remains unaltered, according to the study.
Yet, other scholars, like John Money, insist that newborns are a “blank slate” as far as their gender identity is concerned. This is also the prevailing view. Gender and sex-role identities, we are taught, are fully formed in a process of socialization which ends by the third year of life. The Encyclopedia Britannica 2003 edition sums it up thus:
“Like an individual’s concept of his or her sex role, gender identity develops by means of parental example, social reinforcement, and language. Parents teach sex-appropriate behavior to their children from an early age, and this behavior is reinforced as the child grows older and enters a wider social world. As the child acquires language, he also learns very early the distinction between “he” and “she” and understands which pertains to him- or herself.”
So, which is it – nature or nurture? There is no disputing the fact that our sexual physiology and, in all probability, our sexual preferences are determined in the womb. Men and women are different – physiologically and, as a result, also psychologically.
Society, through its agents – foremost amongst which are family, peers, and teachers – represses or encourages these genetic propensities. It does so by propagating “gender roles” – gender-specific lists of alleged traits, permissible behavior patterns, and prescriptive morals and norms. Our “gender identity” or “sex role” is shorthand for the way we make use of our natural genotypic-phenotypic endowments in conformity with social-cultural “gender roles”.
Inevitably as the composition and bias of these lists change, so does the meaning of being “male” or “female”. Gender roles are constantly redefined by tectonic shifts in the definition and functioning of basic social units, such as the nuclear family and the workplace. The cross-fertilization of gender-related cultural memes renders “masculinity” and “femininity” fluid concepts.
One’s sex equals one’s bodily equipment, an objective, finite, and, usually, immutable inventory. But our endowments can be put to many uses, in different cognitive and affective contexts, and subject to varying exegetic frameworks. As opposed to “sex” – “gender” is, therefore, a socio-cultural narrative. Both heterosexual and homosexual men ejaculate. Both straight and lesbian women climax. What distinguishes them from each other are subjective introjects of socio-cultural conventions, not objective, immutable “facts”.
In “The New Gender Wars”, published in the November/December 2000 issue of “Psychology Today”, Sarah Blustain sums up the “bio-social” model proposed by Mice Eagly, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University and a former student of his, Wendy Wood, now a professor at the Texas A&M University:
“Like (the evolutionary psychologists), Eagly and Wood reject social constructionist notions that all gender differences are created by culture. But to the question of where they come from, they answer differently: not our genes but our roles in society. This narrative focuses on how societies respond to the basic biological differences – men’s strength and women’s reproductive capabilities – and how they encourage men and women to follow certain patterns.
‘If you’re spending a lot of time nursing your kid’, explains Wood, ‘then you don’t have the opportunity to devote large amounts of time to developing specialized skills and engaging tasks outside of the home’. And, adds Eagly, ‘if women are charged with caring for infants, what happens is that women are more nurturing. Societies have to make the adult system work [so] socialization of girls is arranged to give them experience in nurturing’.
According to this interpretation, as the environment changes, so will the range and texture of gender differences. At a time in Western countries when female reproduction is extremely low, nursing is totally optional, childcare alternatives are many, and mechanization lessens the importance of male size and strength, women are no longer restricted as much by their smaller size and by child-bearing. That means, argue Eagly and Wood, that role structures for men and women will change and, not surprisingly, the way we socialize people in these new roles will change too. (Indeed, says Wood, ‘sex differences seem to be reduced in societies where men and women have similar status,’ she says. If you’re looking to live in more gender-neutral environment, try Scandinavia.)”
Jacobsen: You wrote and spoke on the ‘gender wars,’ as such. What is the gender war, or are the gender wars?
Vaknin: The gender wars started 150 years ago, with the suffragettes and the first wave of feminism. Women acquired access to jobs, financial independence, and increasing political power. Men resented this relinquishment of traditionally male powers and the incursions on their turf. But the process of gaining equality and equity was inexorable.
Women are better educated than men and better suited for the modern, networked economy. They earn more than men do in some age groups. They are gaining ground in business (where one fifth of CEOs are female) and in politics.
Today, men are saying:
Women! You are too independent! I am terrified that you will no longer tolerate my abuse and my infantilism, you will decline to serve me, you will abandon me, and I will lose you. You are too well-educated. I feel inferior, inadequate, and outcompeted in the workplace. You sleep around with strangers and friends alike. It makes me feel like a statistic, a number, a mere conquest, objectified, not special, insecure, and unsafe. In short: you are too much like the men of yore!
It is actually a rational choice to not form a relationship with promiscuous people. They tend to be way more prone to serial cheating and to breakups or divorces.
Ask any man: women went too far. Too far not in terms of rights or equal pay, but in terms of militancy (zero sum game, men as the enemy); aggressiveness (reactance, defiance, in your face); usurpation of masculine traits, behaviors, norms, and roles; and raunch culture (gratuitous, “empowering” promiscuity).
Now, men are hitting back:
Domestic violence laws were abrogated in Russia; women are again confined to home under a male guardian in Afghanistan; Roe vs. Wade (the right to abortion) is being repealed in the USA; and toxic masculinity is spreading like wildfire, especially in online communities collectively known as the manosphere (MGTOW, incels, redpillers, dating coaches).
Men have one trump card left: intimate relationships, including physical intimacy (sex) where they are largely irreplaceable.
The “stalled revolution” means that when it comes to sexual mores, marriage, relationships, and family, men remain stuck in a Victorian England mindset while women have progressed into a feminist 21st century.
Confronted with this abyss, women face a stark choice:
1. They can give up on men altogether and go it alone while assuming masculine traits and roles; or
2. They can regress and subject themselves to male dominance and objectification in raunch culture and in supposedly “intimate” relationships.
There is no other alternative. Men won’t budge. Men are fighting back. About one third of all men are celibate or lifelong singles.
As things stand now, most men are merely taking advantage of women’s newfangled sex positivity and then walk away from casual sex, unscathed.
Women are paying the price of this male sexual opportunism in terms of heartbreak, bad sex, childlessness, loneliness, and career or financial damage.
Even as they make strides in the real world, when it comes to intimate relationships, women are more abused and disempowered than ever. And men just joyfully roam around, humping dozens of throwaway women in the promiscuous Disneyland of post-modernity.
Jacobsen: Does this antipathy, even outright hatred, signal a threat to the species in some ways? In that, if, traditionally speaking, couples can’t negotiate the modern landscape of inter-relations for the creation of a safe and nurturing environment for the next generations, then the next generations may simply become an afterthought, something dismissed, if not outright discarded from individual life plans.
Vaknin: In most industrial societies, so few couples are having children and they are having so few offspring that they fail to meet the replacement rate (the number of the dead exceeds the number of the newborns). Many modern men and women remain purposefully childless, prioritizing career, self-actualization, and fun way above procreation.
The gender wars are by far the greatest threat to the survival of the species, far greater than climate change.
Jacobsen: Natality rates globally have been declining for decades. Different regions of the world have different pressing concerns in regards to birth rates. In some regions, there are too many mouths to feed with too few resources to commit to them, sufficiently. In other regions, the rates of newborns are well below the proverbial replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. In short, some regions need more children, while others need fewer, for a balanced, sustainable growth pyramid generation after generation.
Vaknin: To sustain the global economic structure, we need to have more children. The population in the developed world is aging fast and safety nets such as pension schemes (social security) and healthcare are already technically insolvent. Immigration is only a partial solution because it strains the social fabric and results in conflicts.
The Black Death – an epidemic of bubonic plague in the 14th century – decimated between one third and one half of Europe’s population, yet it was the best thing to have happened to Mankind in many centuries. The depleted number of survivors shared in the vast fortunes of the deceased, laying the foundation for modern, entrepreneurial capitalism; the added physical spaces and vacancies made available via the devastation of numerous households spurred urban renewal and magisterial architecture on an unprecedented scale; the crumbling authority of the Church and its minions led to reformist religious stirrings and the emergence of the Renaissance in arts and sciences; labourers and women saw their standing in society much improved as the scarcity of workforce rendered them much sought-after commodities.
Seven centuries later, an “inflation of humans” led to an ineluctable devaluation and may have erased at least the latter of these achievements: wage growth. Wages have stagnated in direct correlation with the explosion in global population. The social fabric itself has been rent by the mounting pressure of an annual net growth in population which exceeds the citizenry of Germany: interpersonal relationships, social organizational units, tolerant co-existence, peaceful multiculturalism and diversity have all crumbled worldwide.
So, is the solution to our global and escalating woes another pandemic?
The latest census in Ukraine revealed an apocalyptic drop of 10% in its population – from 52.5 million three decades ago to a mere 45.7 million a decade ago. Demographers predict a precipitous decline of one third in Russia’s impoverished, inebriated, disillusioned, and ageing citizenry. Births in many countries in the rich, industrialized West are below the replacement rate. These bastions of conspicuous affluence are shrivelling.
Scholars and decision-makers – once terrified by the Malthusian dystopia of a “population bomb” – are more sanguine now. Advances in agricultural technology eradicated hunger even in teeming places like India and China. And then there is the old idea of progress: birth rates tend to decline with higher education levels and growing incomes. Family planning has had resounding successes in places as diverse as Thailand, China, and western Africa.
Some intellectuals even regard the increase in the world’s population as a form of “quantitative diversification”: as technology homogenizes cultures, societies, and civilizations everywhere, the risks associated with such a monoculture grow. Homogeneous populations are less adaptable and, therefore, less fit for survival. The only defense lies in the sheer force of numbers. The greater the number of people, goes this strain of thinking, the more varied the human species, such variety and variation being the sole guarantors and generators of adaptability and, therefore, survival.
In the near past, fecundity used to compensate for infant mortality. As the latter declined – so did the former. Children are means of production in many destitute countries. Hence the inordinately large families of the past – a form of insurance against the economic outcomes of the inevitable demise of some of one’s off-spring.
Yet, despite these trends, the world’s populace is augmented by 130 million people annually. All of them are born to the younger inhabitants of the more penurious corners of the Earth. There were only 1 billion people alive in 1804. The number doubled a century later.
But our last billions – the sixth and the seventh – required only 19 fertile years. The entire population of Germany is added every half a decade to both India and China. Clearly, Mankind’s growth is out of control, as affirmed in the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.
Dozens of millions of people regularly starve – many of them to death. In only one corner of the Earth – southern Africa – food aid is the sole subsistence of entire countries. More than 18 million people in Zambia, Malawi, and Angola survived on charitable donations in 1992. More than 10 million expect the same this year, among them the emaciated denizens of erstwhile food exporter, Zimbabwe.
According to Medecins Sans Frontiere, AIDS kills 3 million people a year, Tuberculosis another 2 million. Malaria decimates 2 people every minute. More than 14 million people fall prey to parasitic and infectious diseases every year – 90% of them in the developing countries.
Millions emigrate every year in search of a better life. These massive shifts are facilitated by modern modes of transportation. But, despite these tectonic relocations – and despite famine, disease, and war, the classic Malthusian regulatory mechanisms – the depletion of natural resources – from arable land to water – is undeniable and gargantuan.
Our pressing environmental issues – global warming, water stress, salinization, desertification, deforestation, pollution, loss of biological diversity – and our ominous social ills – crime at the forefront – are traceable to one, politically incorrect, truth:
There are too many of us. We are way too numerous. The population load is unsustainable. We, the survivors, would be better off if others were to perish. Should population growth continue unabated – we are all doomed.
Doomed to what?
Numerous Cassandras and countless Jeremiads have been falsified by history. With proper governance, scientific research, education, affordable medicines, effective family planning, and economic growth, this planet can support even 10-12 billion people. We are not at risk of physical extinction and never have been.
What is hazarded is not our life – but our quality of life. As any insurance actuary will attest, we are governed by statistical datasets.
Consider this single fact:
About 1% of the population suffer from the perniciously debilitating and all-pervasive mental health disorder, schizophrenia. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were 16.5 million schizophrenics – nowadays there are 64 million. Their impact on friends, family, and colleagues is exponential – and incalculable. This is not a merely quantitative leap. It is a qualitative phase transition.
Large populations lead to the emergence of high density urban centers. It is inefficient to cultivate ever smaller plots of land. Surplus manpower moves to centers of industrial production. A second wave of internal migrants caters to their needs, thus spawning a service sector. Network effects generate excess capital and a virtuous cycle of investment, employment, and consumption ensues.
But over-crowding breeds violence (as has been demonstrated in behavioral sink experiments with mice). The sheer numbers involved serve to magnify and amplify social anomies, deviate behaviour, and antisocial traits. In the city, there are more criminals, more perverts, more victims, more immigrants, and more racists per square mile.
Moreover, only a planned and orderly urbanization is desirable. The blights that pass for cities in most third world countries are the outgrowth of neither premeditation nor method. These mega-cities are infested with non-disposed of waste and prone to natural catastrophes and epidemics.
No one can vouchsafe for a “critical mass” of humans, a threshold beyond which the species will implode and vanish.
Jacobsen: What are the root dynamics of the gender wars in time, in global cultures, in collective psychologies in the early 21st century?
Vaknin: The gender war is no different to any other conflict between erstwhile masters and their emancipated chattel or property. To this very day, whites are in pitched battles with blacks (their former slaves) and not only in the USA.
Women were domestic slaves. Then they leveraged the enlightenment and the age of revolutions to unshackle themselves in every way: sexually, politically, financially, and psychologically. Their former owners are incensed and are trying to turn back the wheel. Nothing new under the sun.
Jacobsen: What are the possible paths ahead for the genders and the sexes amid this conceptive whirlpool of personal and collective identities? What are the solutions? What are things to do now to rectify the bitterness, contempt, irascibility, and antagonisms for the sustainability of global culture reliant upon new generations of human beings? We all leave the stage, eventually. Even though, the play signifies nothing and is, indeed, written by an idiot.
Vaknin: I see only two possible trajectories:
- We renounce the contentious and adversarial organizing principles of gender and sex and allow for complete fluidity within a unigender; or
- We revert to the 1950s in terms of more or less rigid gender roles and sexual scripts.
The most likely scenario is that some part of the population will opt for the former and others will adopt the latter. Whether these two camps could co-exist peacefully remains to be seen.
There is nothing much we can do but wait. The gender war is a part of a way more massive upheaval in human affairs. For the first time in human history, all social institutions and mores are crumbling simultaneously. Our hermeneutic narratives have been rendered useless.
When the dust settles, we will face a new world, based on the radical, technology-empowered self-sufficiency of the individual. Society and relationships – intimate or otherwise – may well be a thing of the past: redundant, obsolete, and burdensome.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Professor Vaknin.
Vaknin: Thank you again for having me.
Previous Electronic ‘Print’ Interviews (Hyperlinks Active for Titles)
(In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal: June 22, 2020)
(News Intervention: June 23, 2020)
(News Intervention: January 26, 2022)
(News Intervention: January 28, 2022)
(News Intervention: January 30, 2022)
(News Intervention: February 2, 2022)
(News Intervention: February 11, 2022)
(News Intervention: April 30, 2022)
Previous Interviews Read by Prof. Vaknin (Hyperlinks Active for Titles)
(Prof. Sam Vaknin: January 26, 2022)
(Prof. Sam Vaknin: January 29, 2022)
(Prof. Sam Vaknin: January 31, 2022)
(Prof. Sam Vaknin: February 3, 2022)
Image Credit: Sam Vaknin.