Thursday, July 11, 2013

Justice for Divorced Fathers in Empire

This is an essay exploring the nature of injustice in a particular case which is used to illuminate general principles. I write this as a story that has burdened me by not telling it. There are three tendencies that I have, which I may share with some of you. First there is a tendency in males of our culture to endure and suffer which I am trying to overcome. This is my psychological motive, through writing, to heal. If at times, dear reader, it seems as if I am whining or complaining, please know that this is furthest from my intentions and the fear of seeming to do that has kept me from telling this story. There is another tendency which I have overcome, which is to not believe an injustice is happening until it happens to me in an obvious way. I have always stayed away from politics because I would rather take positive steps in my own life to correct situations and offer alternatives than complain about them. Politics is a dirty business that corrupts the soul, and very few are able to engage in it without a severe toll to their soul. I am probably no exception to this, but I decided that not to act is at this point more damaging than to act. The third tendency which I have overcome is to only want to engage in politics when I have a personal stake in it. I don't have a personal stake in what has happened anymore (except my relationship with my son), but I do feel a responsibility to the hundreds of thousands or millions of divorced dads who are still suffering from an injustice, and the ones who are not with us anymore because they have taken their lives, unable to endure this suffering. Then there are the millions of children (including my dear son) who suffered and still suffer from a system that pits their parents against each other and severely punishes the losers, usually the dads. I hope for a better way for future children and that healing can happen for those who have been hurt. I also have some hopes that by becoming engaged in the political process, that more justice can be had in the future for those who have not been married yet. I offer suggestions of how this could happen in the conclusion.

Before data can be gathered, it must be seen, or at least the possibility of it must be seen. The biggest obstacle to seeing new data, is preconceived ideas about what is. I've had several objections to my conclusions based on preconceived ideas:
First, people think that my case is unique and not indicative of a general trend. This case is not unique. The first version of the uniqueness hypothesis is that my ex wife is a psycho and most ex-wives aren't. My ex wife is not a psycho, despite having done some terrible things to my son. The second version of the uniqueness hypothesis is that my case is unique because otherwise some things we believe to be true, like white male privilege, come into question. Because men (particularly white men) have been in a position of power, the main recipients of the benefits of Empire for a long time, it is hard to see why that would have changed, and so my case must be an aberration. There are things that are unique about my case, but there is a commonality with millions of other cases (based on the statistics that 85-95% of divorces award primary custody to the moms (there was a time when it was about 100%, not so long ago), that there are about 7 divorces for every 1000 people per year, and about 300 million people in the US). That commonality is a systemic discrimination against divorced fathers. When the feminists pointed out oppression and injustice against women, it was at first only evident to the women who could feel this oppression from personal experience. Many people at first did not see this oppression. Many people ridiculed and discounted the experience of women who insisted that they are being oppressed because it was a cognitive dissonance for them. I am sure they pointed to more obvious or “bigger” injustices in their ridicule, such as: “you think you have it bad, look at (insert the slum dwellers, the factory workers, the native people, etc)”. The same phenomenon of cognitive dissonance and consequent ridicule and discounting of experience must have happened with slaves who wanted freedom or blacks who wanted equal opportunity and treatment during Jim Crow days. In those cases, it was not fashionable to ask for statistics to prove that women, slaves or blacks were being persecuted. After the initial resistance, most people could start seeing oppression where before it was invisible. But now, either because people only see each other through the media or statistics, or because of the fashion of backing up claims with statistics, it is important to provide statistics. This I am gathering and will keep updating this essay with statistics, but hope to make an appeal to the heart, not just the mind. How can you know only based on statistics? If I show you statistics that 85% of custody ends up with moms you could claim that most dads don't want primary custody and they like working jobs that rob them of their humanity in order to to pay most of their money to their ex wives (a bit of sarcasm inserted). You will need to see data showing a high percentage of custody going to moms in contested cases, but then you could come up with another objection. It is a moving target. Just listen to the stories. You will not see this injustice with your mind alone, you must open your heart.

Second, people think that if someone complains of discrimination against men, then they must dislike women in some way and hence shut off their ears or eyes from that source of data. Let me dispel this right away in saying that I consider myself a feminist, in the simple sense that I want people to be treated well and justly regardless of their gender. I have no beef with women, even my ex wife. There may be men in the Men's Rights movement who see feminism as the enemy, but I am not one of them.

Third, people may shut off when they are confronted with their own hypocricy, in this case in the form of a double standard. If you believe in biological determinism, then you can't both object to or be offended by the claim that most women are selecting for power (in whatever form, whether status, money, or both) in their mates, and condemn fathers who want equal custody. You should also condone rape, given the way reproduction happens in our closest primate relatives and the nature of testosterone. If you don't believe in biological determinism (I don't-I think we have souls), then don't make claims about how women are naturally better parents. Females being the primary care givers to infants in some primate species is no indicator of what humans can and want to do (maybe we can say that since men don't have the capacity to nurse, that mothers need to be with their infants a large portion of the time, but we can't generalize beyond infancy). If you use the biological analogy to justify courts automatically awarding primary custody to women, then you can't be offended if someone points out a pattern of women selecting for power in their mates, since that is also a biological analogy with some of our primate ancestors. You must also not have any ambitions for women beyond child rearing and nest building in that case. I happen to not believe in biological determinism. I see other forces at work in the human being, including cultural and spiritual. It grieves me to see people of both genders behaving in biologically deterministic ways, whether it be men selecting for mates on the basis of beauty or child-rearing capacity alone, or women selecting for mates on the basis of power alone. It grieves me when a judge or a lawyer believes it is “in the best interest of the child” to be primarily with his mom, just because of a biological determinism bias, because they think women are better parents in general. Where are the studies showing this? On the contrary, if men are given a chance, they do quite well either partnering in child rearing, or being the primary care giver, as modern trends show. I make the claim that most women (in my experience and some other men I know) select for power in their mates, not because I like that state of affairs (who knows how accurate that statement is), but because I want to shock liberals into thinking about how we can start acting like humans with free will, rather than chimpanzees or preying mantises following a biological script.

Fourth, it is true that sometimes people use “oppression” as an excuse to avoid looking at their responsibilities in a matter. To distinguish when this happens vs when people are genuinely being oppressed is everyone's task. It helps to keep an open mind and really listen to the person claiming to be oppressed. Make a judgement, ridicule or discount only after you listen to their story, and not before. I am sure that there are worse oppressions and it is no fun being an average poor black woman, but that doesn't discount the common experience of divorced dads.

Last, there is the idea that the present injustice against divorced dads is but a correction to the past injustice against divorced moms, an overcompensation, or an overshoot of the pendulum, as it were. Be that as it may, the injustice will not get corrected on its own. It is up to us. It seems to be true that many moms found themselves in a bad position to be able to support not only themselves but their kids in the days when moms worked at home and that some dads did not care as much as they should have about their ex-wives and kids, and so acccording to the pendulum overshoot theory, the present  laws and attitudes of judges are based on those days. But things have mostly changed, and the system is still treating fathers like ATMs and giving custody mostly to mothers even when mothers are making more money than the fathers. Many times allegations of spousal abuse or child abuse are aimed at fathers and apparently these allegations are enough to award custody to mothers and deprive fathers of visitation, even without substantial evidence. The data has shown that women instigate violence at least as often as men in domestic relationships, and so this is just another instance of crass discrimination against fathers. The problem with the pendulum overshoot theory is that it assumes that a centralized justice system will eventually reach justice, that the pendulum will find a just equilibrium. I don't believe this to be the case, as I try to show below.

General Injustice with historical examples.
Free will and potential
There is a belief that justice means equality and therefore injustice means inequality. But humans are naturally far from equal, physically, psychologically, geographically, historically. Closer to the truth is the assertion that justice means equal opportunity. But here again we see a problem with this definition when we try to apply it ad absurdum, for example to animals. We can say that justice (not to be confused with humane treatment) should apply only to humans, but let's dig deeper and find out the unique feature of humans that should make justice uniquely applicable to them. It seems to me that this feature is free will, the ability to make choices based on one's unique abilities, gifts, constitution and vision. Though different individuals can be subject to different historical and geographical circumstances, justice consists of allowing their unique free will to flourish, and injustice consists in trying to inhibit that free will, to harness it to someone else's will or to a social or biological purpose. We do not complain of injustice when the female preying mantis eats the male's head after copulation. There is no free will involved there, just a biological script. If you don't believe that free will exists for humans, then skip this essay, as there is no meaning to justice or any ethical concept for you.

Even if the male preying mantis had free will and wanted to sacrifice his life for his mate, it would not be an injustice. Only if the mantis male was forced by the female or some external force to himself to let the female eat his brain would we consider it an injustice, though a weak one, since a male preying mantis has not much potential for doing anything else. So it is a combination of limiting both will and potential that can rightly be called injustice. Let's see if this definition works for human societies. If we have a slave in antiquity or ante-bellum US who is discontent with his station in life, we would cry injustice. Both his will and potential are being stifled. It is a bit tricker if the slave is content with his station. In that case his free will is not stifled, though his potential might be. I would argue that this is not unjust. What about women in a patriarchal society who are expected to fulfill certain roles such as making and caring for babies, providing sex for their husbands and performing domestic chores? Again, if the women are discontent with their roles, we cry injustice. But if they are content, then we must respect their choice and not consider it an injustice, unless information about different ways of doing things is withheld from them. This applies equally well to islamist societies as western ones. It is only when women became aware that they have choices that are being repressed by their societies that the feminist injustice was born. Neither pre nor post-feminism, was there a problem with women who chose to be housewives and mothers. Whether women have a natural biological propensity in that direction is irrelevant to whether an injustice occurs when a woman is forced to be a housewife and/or mother against her will.
But what if a woman is a mother and she does not want to care for her baby? This is where the concept of responsibility comes in, which unlike the concept of justice, goes beyond individual free will and potential into the area of human relationships. A mother is responsible for taking care of her child. Why? Because by not taking care of the child (at least in a non-tribal society) she takes away from the potential of the child. Someone could have chosen something that is no longer possible because of an irresponsible action. We are limiting their free will (the case of a young baby is special because one might argue the baby has no free will) and their potential and thus committing an injustice against the other person. It is important to pay attention to this (so far negative, but see below) definition, instead of using responsibility as a cold prickly word designed to club someone into submission or make them feel bad. Also, responsibility involves an active sense of debt to someone that by entering into a certain agreement such as parenthood or marriage, one has to actively care for the well being of a child or a spouse. Sometimes one may choose to trade off one's potential in order to be responsible to someone else. This is not an injustice as it done with free will. An injustice occurs when one person or group has a different idea of what a particular responsibility involves than another person, and tries to limit that person's will or potential based on their idea. For example if a society believes that a wife's responsibility to her husband involves providing sex any time he is in the mood, regardless of how he treats her or how she feels, and the wife has a different idea about her responsibility regarding sex, and if the wife is coerced to society's idea of responsibility, or fears punishment if she doesn't go along, that is an injustice. Both her free will and potential are limited in ways she didn't sign up for with her understanding of the responsibilities of marriage. Similarly, if a wife is forced to get married (knowing full well what society expects of her regarding her marital responsibilities) or blackmailed into it, that is an injustice. If a mother wants to share parenting with her husband and devote some of her time to her spiritual growth, to social activism, or a career but society thinks that motherhood means sacrificing all her time to her children and husband and takes punitive measures against her, that is using responsibility as a surrogate for injustice.

Another example of responsibility being used as a surrogate for injustice because of different understandings is taxation without representation. The British government understood the colonists responsibility to be paying taxes. But the colonists understood that if they pay taxes their concerns would be taken into account by the government. The government tried to use coercion to enforce its idea of responsibility, thus committing an injustice.

Natural vs forced responsibility
Before culturally defined responsibility, there are biological dependencies that have hormonal and other instinctual supports for their enforcement. We can call these natural responsibilities such as parents have for their children or mates towards each other. In addition to biologically-motivated natural responsibility, there is natural responsibility based on love. When one loves someone, one naturally wants to help them and one feels responsible to that person. Our culture often assumes that individuals are not capable of choosing to be responsible out of love or can be motivated by natural responsibility, but must be coerced into responsibility. As I explained above, this involves an injustice, by limiting a person's free will and potential.

When responsibility is based on free will, natural biological tendencies and love, it can be a beautiful thing. When it is based on coercion, fear, or blackmail, it is an injustice.

One can act in ways that open one up to injustice from empire. Sometimes this is a tactical mistake, and sometimes not. It does not mitigate the injustice to claim that choosing to challenge empire was done with one's free will. One can take partial responsibility for being crucified, but that does not make the crucifixion less of an injustice. The meme network of empire encourages people to seek money and power and crucify those who oppose these, but individual people can always choose a different way. A positive definition of responsibility then (as opposed to being the opposite of the negative definition in terms of irresponsibility) is seeing and attempting to understand how one contributes or has contributed to any system or event, as opposed to merely blaming others or the circumstances, or abstractions like empire. We can call this personal responsibility.

Double standard
The examples above of injustices against wives and mothers may seem obvious to us now, but they weren't before feminism. Feminism exposed a double standard—women were much more limited in their choices and potential than men and many women didn't like it. Just as important, feminism affirmed the humanist claim that people have value beyond their social roles and responsibilities; that a mother could also choose to have a career and explore her spirituality. Or that a woman need not marry or have children to be a happy, valuable and productive human being

The double standard I want to talk about though, is a more modern one. This one assumes that husbands are only or primarily valuable as providers of money for their wives, ex-wives and children; that men are not equally capable as women in raising and taking care of children, and hence are usually not awarded even partial custody; that husbands are not naturally responsible to their children, wives and even ex-wives, and must be coerced into that responsibility; and that the responsibility of being a father is to maximize his income. If he is divorced, his responsibility is to maximize his income and give it to his ex-wife, regardless of how much he is allowed to contribute to the upbringing of his child. By the criteria above, this is an injustice not only towards divorced fathers, but also their children, who are limited in their potential for a father who can give of himself with love to his child, with other things besides money. It is also an injustice towards the divorced mothers, whose relationship to their ex-husbands becomes adversarial instead of loving and supportive. But first and foremost, the brunt of the injustice is against divorced fathers.

We might understand this injustice based on the history of some fathers who abandoned their children and partners without offering financial or other assistance (the so-called “deadbeat dads”). I am somehow skeptical of this narrative (given the fact of natural responsibility, and the nuance of real life as opposed to abstract categories of people, and the assumption that only dads are capable of not caring enough about their children and moms are always perfect), but let us concede that there might be at least some truth to it and that the court system is acting in an un-nuanced way to right a past or even present injustice towards women and children. Then, as we have heard before, two wrongs do not make a right. It is an injustice for men to view women as means to sexual ends and to not participate fully in the upbringing of their children. It is an injustice for divorced dads to not be concerned with the welfare of their ex-wives and to provide assistance to their ex-wives, especially if the ex-wives have not been in the job market for a while. But these injustices do not cancel the injustice of treating the dads like meal tickets, money trees, ATM machines or male preying mantises, and not being concerned with their welfare as well. We can attempt to make laws which are more humane towards divorced dads, but if the consciousness of most people remains the same, thinking of divorced dads as described above, the laws won't help and may in fact make things worse. We have to start really caring about each other (and all life), more than we care about money and power. We have to start thinking not only what we want, or what we feel entitled to, but what other people want and need and how what we want affects others and all of life.

To understand why the courts and everyone else would pick on divorced dads, we need to delve deeper into the system of which they are a part, that is motivating their narrative.

The Consciousness of Empires
You've sown the worst fear, that can ever be sown, fear to bring children into the world”-Bob Dylan from Masters of War.

The injustice against divorced fathers precedes laws. The laws are unjust because the consciousness of the people creating the laws is unjust. To change the laws, we must first change the consciousness. I expect it to be a long, drawn-out battle, just like the feminists had to face, with no guaranteed victory for justice. Also, there are vested powers who benefit from the injustice against divorced fathers, first and foremost is the family court system. It could have benefited from imposing an injustice against divorced mothers too, but it is more acceptable to oppress fathers in the present social consciousness that sees white men as the oppressors. The lawyers and judges benefit from the adversarial system. They would not benefit if the default was equal custody and taking care of the child by each parent to the best of their ability, in financial, spiritual, and psychological ways. Because men are more likely to take punishment stoically, they are a better candidate for the kind of streamlined, efficient, one-size-fits-all system that all burocrats (e.g. judges) like. It is true that many mothers have devoted their lives and work to being a mother and home maker, and are not in a good position to get as good of a job after divorcing as their husbands. It is just in those cases for the dads to help the moms to the best of their ability, without trashing their own lives. But justice can't be achieved when there are winners and losers. It has to be a win-win situation, and this is not how the judicial system is set up right now.

It is not only because there are vested interests who benefit, that oppression of divorced fathers is so widely practiced and accepted. In a culture where money and power are sought after and worshiped as gods, it is no surprise that the value of a father is measured by his child support payment and earning potential. It is no surprise that thousands of divorced fathers are saddled with unpayable debt, because debt is a good way to control people. Also, just like periphery states are seen by empires as tools for the enrichment of the empire with no purpose of their own, divorced dads are seen as tools for the family court system and the moms with no purpose of their own. The goal of empires such as present day US is the accumulation of power/control over other life and the net flow of wealth from the subjugated to the subjugating. If it were as simple as the 99% model that the Occupy movement made popular, the US empire would have collapsed long ago. In this empire, everybody tries to get a leg up over everybody else, and oppression is ubiquitous and sometimes unnoticed. From time to time resistance to that power comes from individuals and groups who want love and freedom to flourish (such as the early feminists). Empire furthers its goal with money, laws, centralized government, debt, prisons, a strong military/police, an attitude of getting a leg up over everyone else, and two more that we'll talk about below. Human beings further love and life with heroic acts of resistance, with song, with compelling writing, with random acts of service and kindness.

Why has Empire decided to pick on males now? I can think of 3 reasons. First, because males in the west are trained to be stoic and not complain or protest, it makes them easy targets. Second, there is an opportunity now to pick on white males, as they have been blamed for some of past mass oppressions. It has become the fashion du jour. Third, empires use the strategy of divide and conquer not only abroad to extract wealth from periphery states, but internally. This is a two faceted strategy. First, it makes the local populations easier to control if they fight and fear each other, than if they unite against the empire. Second, the empire has a protectionist racket, allowing it to extract tribute in exchange for supposed protection from the scapegoats. In roman times it was the barbarian hordes. The British empire “protected” the Palestinians from the Israelis and vise versa, the Hindus from the Muslims, etc. The US empire has already picked on blacks, Hispanics, moms, gays, Jews, Muslims, Irish, etc., so it isn't personal with divorced dads, just currently convenient. But note that the US empire doesn't pick on all dads, just those who challenge the status quo. The good boy (i.e. the ones who go by the rules of empire) white male married dads or single males get privileges. The courts have a protectionist racket, supposedly protecting divorced moms and children from those barbarian hordes of Deadbeat Dads.

Empire, as I define it, is not only a social and economic institution, but a meme network which exists in most people's minds (who are living in the social, political and economic empire), with the main memes being money and power over others/control. The main challenges to the meme network have come from Jesus, Gandhi and MLK, trying to substitute gift economy/individual freedom and loving relationship for money and power.

Having children could be a joyful affirmation of life, but in this empire it has become at least partially a sort of self-imposed, gritted teeth doom for parents. There is no middle ground between the total selfishness that is promoted for non-parents and the total self-sacrifice that parents are expected to perform. It is really another sort of selfishness, except family-centered instead of individual-centered. Love cannot flourish this way. Parents need to love their children AND themselves and if they are not too burdened financially, they may even be able to love other people and even nature and animals and Life itself.

I will now tell my personal story, as an illustration of the general principles explained above.

Love and Punishment
Marriage and Divorce
I married my ex-wife because I loved certain things about her. But she did not understand that scholarship and contemplation were important to me and became more materialistic as time went on. She started expecting me to just be her servant and make money. She became violent when I disobeyed her or had my own needs. I thought (erroneously) that having a child would make things better for us. I was reluctant when we had our first baby, because I was not ready. That baby was miscarried. But by the time we were pregnant again I was ready and looking forward to raising a child. After spending a year in Austin, (where I worked at Motorola as a semiconductor engineer) my ex found a job in ATL, left and asked for a divorce. I started the divorce proceedings but she was adamant that she wanted most of our assets (two houses and a car and all the money she had saved while we were married) and 5% of the sale price of the house I paid for with my own money and labor. I met a woman whom I fell in love with and wanted to follow her to NC, but I needed to sell my house, since I had to (and wanted to—see below) quit my job in Austin and needed the money. I also wanted to pursue a passion I had developed to study and do research in biological aging. The divorce was a prerequisite for all that, and so it became a way to blackmail me to my ex-wife's unjust terms. My lawyer warned me that if I got a lower paying job I would still have to pay the same child support payment because the courts do not approve of fathers decreasing their income for personal reasons. I would have liked to raise my son with at least partial custody, but she threatened to use the fact that I believed in polyamory as an enlightened ideal (though didn't practice it because my ex-wife was not polyamorous) in court against me if I would try to gain partial custody of my son. I talked to a few lawyers who all advised me against it. So I was forced into a divorce agreement that was unjust to me and to my son. This was the first major injustice, but more were to come.

Child Support and Neglect
I felt bad for my son that he should be raised by a woman who was full of anger and violence and a culture I did not like but felt powerless to stop it. My son did not choose to leave me, but was forced to by his mom and the legal system. At least I was allowed to spend time with him on some holidays and part of summer vacations. I suggested to my new wife that we move to ATL to be closer to him, but she did not want to do this for several reasons. It would have been difficult to find jobs for both of us in ATL. I was working at UNC as a molecular biologist researcher, and she was working at the EPA doing research on the impact of climate change on the economy. It worked out OK for a few years while we were married, and my son appreciated her as a sane step mother. But after we got divorced (she left for greener pastures) he was badly hurt and his relationship with his own mother got worse. One day I came back home to find a pathetic message on the answering machine (this was when I decided to get a cell phone) from him describing how his mother beat him to a pulp, kicking him while he was crying on the ground. I called the school and asked the nurse to make sure he was OK, and the school called the child protective services. His mom was upset with both of us, but she never beat him again. He had told me a few times before when she beat him, but it never sounded as severe as this last time. I had kept a log of it and recorded the message he left.

My ex-wife was making a decent income and my parents were helping pay for my son's private school, so I didn't think she needed $1000/month from me but I continued to pay it for 10 years even though my job at UNC payed an average of only about 30K/year, and after that I either made no money, or less than $12K/year. I was making about $70K/year while I worked at Motorola.

Attempts to Make Things Better
I left my UNC job because I wanted to figure out how to create a better life, for me, for my son and for other people who wanted an alternative. I became convinced that a better world was possible through the efforts of people in intentional communities and wanted to add my talents and energies to this effort. Part of the problem was the choice people often had to make between their work and their families, or their families and their community. It seemed to me that it would be saner to have the kind of work that families and communities can do together, at least in the same place, if not actually the same work, and that this would also synergize with common recreation. The feminist ideal of parents being able to be whole human beings was just not possible in the present socio-economic situation where work is abstract, done away from home and community, and fragmented. It seemed to me that work can bring us closer to nature instead of alienating us from it and making it convenient for us to destroy it. Another problem was the gross imbalance in resource use between the first and third worlds and the terrible working conditions of the people who made our stuff for us. (Eventually I came to the conclusion that the industrial revolution was largely a mistake, and that craft and agrarian-based work would solve many of these problems, but that is another story). The problems of the comfortable life I had shared with my second wife became clear and I wanted to do something about it.

I had sold my house at a loss and paid a bunch of money to my second wife just because we had made an agreement that she would accrue equity by living in the house I bought (rent free). She contributed 2K. I contributed 198K. I paid her 13K after she lived in the house for 4 years. Our agreement also involved her sharing any potential loss with me on selling the house. I sold the house at a loss of about 8K but she did not want to honor that agreement. I did not want to make a fuss, especially since I still loved her dearly. She changed her mind later about staying together, but I could not trust her anymore. My experience with most heterosexual women I've had romantic relationship with in our culture is that they select for long-term mates based on their income and social status (power). This is not surprising either from a biological point of view or from a point of view of empires. Ever since I have chosen to dedicate myself to Life instead of money and power, I have not found a long-term mate. This seems to be a common experience among most men I know, and also agrees with the findings of sociologist and journalist Susan Faludi in her book Stiffed. This is not an injustice per say, just a sad state of affairs. The injustice occurs later as a consequence of this selection process, when couples get divorced. Then dads are forced to maximize their income which takes away both from their choices and potential, and even with no kids, men are treated like money bags. Before I broke up with a girlfriend whom I thought was going to stick around, I gave her $4K. After we broke up (because I prioritized my son over our relationship) she stole $5K from me.

I worked at starting a community with a couple in Florida for about a year. My son came to visit once and we took a memorable canoe trip down a local river, but he didn't like that I was sharing a house with what were strangers to him. I asked him if he wanted me to move to ATL or if he wanted to come live with me but he said no, because he knew I was doing something that was important to me. I told him that he could soon decide if he wanted to live with me.

The next summer he came with me to Mississippi and then we took a trip on my bus to an intentional community where there was no running water or electricity in most places. I had some electricity on my bus (solar panels) but he didn't like being there so much. He had to do agricultural work which he also didn't enjoy. The summer after that was even worse for him. He came to visit me at a community that was even more remote and primitive. I did take him to a rock festival which he enjoyed and to town for a week, but we started growing apart. After he got kicked out of his school for cheating, I cut down my child support to 500/month both as a protest for the way my ex wife was raising him, and because she started sending him to a public school and didn't need as much money. Even before she sent him to a public school, she didn't need as much money because she was making a lot of money and my parents were helping her. From the point of view of the legal system, I was not fulfilling my divorce agreement and was being irresponsible. But we've already established that contracts which are made under blackmail are injustices and do not reflect any irresponsibility when they are broken. My ex wife protested but her affluent lifestyle was unaffected.

The next summer I wanted to give him my car but his mom vetoed that idea. I visited him for a few days, but he was not much into being with me. My search for an intentional community seemed to come to an end when I found the Possibility Alliance in Missouri. I was ready to settle down there but he called me and asked me to come help him after a stranger held him down in the car sear, yelled at him in tongues for 10 minutes, interspersed with calling him the spawn of the devil and spitting at him, while his mom watched consensually. I came to ATL as soon as I could and started spending two days a week with him, mostly tutoring him in math and physics but also just finding out what was important to him and trying to instill my values. His mom apologized for the incident with the stranger, but said that it was only 5 minutes and that he had been rude to her beforehand, as if that was an excuse. If the same incident had happened to a woman, it would come awfully close to being considered rape, because rape is more about power than sex. Perhaps this is not a fair comparison, but my son said it was the worse experience of his life.

I was living on my bus when I first got to ATL, in my friend's back yard. I first tried to find housing next to my son, but gave up, due to price and unacceptable middle class unsustainable living conditions. I had gotten used to simple, environmental living, so I couldn't bear the thought of using flush toilets on a regular basis, having no space or permission to garden, using lots of coal and petroleum generated electricity, having no community, no good bike paths, no close public transportation, and paying a landlord's mortgage just because she owned something (a house in this case) and doing almost no work in order to provide me with all these things I didn't want or like. I found an ad on craigslist about starting an urban sustainability project and eventually bought a house with a group. We started a non profit and I donated the house (I donated a total of 95K, almost the rest of my savings) to it, while living in it with a few others. We worked hard to make it so that there would be no bills and we would grow much of our food. We installed solar panels, built chicken coops, goat sheds, planted lots of food, cleared kudzu, built efficient and low pollution wood burning heating and cooking stoves, a rain catchment and water distribution system, 3 water heating systems, an innovative environmental sanitation system. We had only taxes and a bit of grocery bills. I got a job for the little expenses I had, including my $500/month “child support” payment. The part-time job paid $1000/month and allowed me to spend time on the sustainability project. It wasn't an ideal job, but it paid the bills. Empire wants divorced dads to sacrifice everything in order to make money (supposedly to care for their children, but as I show below, this is bogus). Dads who care not only about their children, but about themselves and other things besides money are accused of being selfish (who cares if you like your job?). But as the feminists pointed out, it is possible for a human being to devote themselves to more than one thing, to care about themselves as well as their children (although this may be difficult or impossible under the current socio-economic conditions).

Injustice and Crucifixion
My son had a party at his mom's unused condo which she was trying to sell and the neighbors complained about the noise. She came down and everyone ran away. She confiscated their backpacks and threatened my son if he didn't reveal their names. He didn't and she kicked him out of the house. I brought him over to my house, which was not ready for him because there was still no source of heat. I borrowed a gas heater from one of the members who lived somewhere else, but it leaked and I only found out when my son became nauseous. I fixed it but he did not want to come back the next night and he stayed with a friend for the next few days. His mom called the police who escorted him back to her house. At that point we both agreed that I needed to gain custody of him. I hired a lawyer who turned out to be unhelpful (but nice). She advised me to stop paying child support (later she denied this) in order to expedite the hearing, which my ex-wife's lawyer kept postponing. He actually managed to get a new case started against me because I stopped paying child support and got it heard before my case. I got thrown in jail without being able to explain the situation and bailed out by one of my collaborators. This was another injustice, one that men are supposed to endure stoically.

I started paying "child support" again and that case got dismissed (and I got my bail money back). But a few days before MY case was heard, my son changed his mind, because his rugby coach advised him against staying with me, based on my hippie appearance. It would have been difficult for my son to commute to his old school from my house, and from conversations with him I suspected that his mom offered him a sweet deal if he stayed with her.

My son came to the hearing but was asked by the judge to sit outside. I was not allowed to present my log of the beatings by his mom. Her lawyer made me sound like a deadbeat dad who did not care about his son. He asked questions like “Is it true that your parents had to help your ex wife with my son's school fees and you didn't?” which was true but the fact was that I was paying 1K/month in child support, she was getting financial aid from the school and my parents were paying the rest, so she didn't have to pay much if anything at all. But I didn't have a chance to explain that. I could just answer yes or no, and I answered yes. He also brought up the incident with the gas heater, making it sound like I was irresponsible, whereas I did the best I could given the short notice after my ex wife kicked him out. He made it sound like I couldn't handle working at Motorola and that I chose a job as an assistant facilities manager at a low pay just to avoid paying child support, neglecting to mention the job I had as a molecular biologist after Motorola and how I had not only given up my career in science but also my savings to devote myself to a passion and a vision. He made it sound like I wouldn't be able to support my son, but in reality the 1K/month would have been plenty, especially if his mom would pay me a bit of child support. The judge ordered me to quit my job and get a higher paying one, in order to pay my ex 1K/month (there was only a year left till he was 18) and the money I owed her because a year earlier I started paying 500/month. She also brought up medical expenses that she either hadn't sent me or that I disagreed with (like the medically unnecessary but expensive orthodontics). I was also ordered to pay her lawyer's fee. My savings were already gone after paying my lawyer's fees. The total was about 25K and my monthly installments were set higher than my salary. My ex was making about 140K/year at that point. This shows that the courts are not concerned with the welfare of the children (financial or otherwise), but with enslaving and punishing divorced dads. The judge had privately told my lawyer that dads should have 3 full time jobs to take care of their children. My lawyer made no attempt to challenge any of the lies that her lawyer hurled at me, she didn't bring any money to pay the $40 that was due (I can't remember for what) at the hearing (I had to lend it to her), and she didn't rehearse with me any of the questions she was going to ask me like she said she was going to, which weren't very enlightening anyway. The transcript, which I got later, only contained the private discussion between the lawyers and the judge after the hearing. None of what was said during the hearing made it onto the transcript. It was more of a circus than a serious legal proceeding.

When my son had changed his mind, I saw all this coming and I was contemplating a hunger strike. I had heard of a few dads who did this or committed suicide and I wanted to bring attention to the discrimination and dehumanization of divorced dads. I decided against it based on realizing that this was not a cause that was ready to be understood by the mainstream and that my jailers would feed me intravenously, but my post on Facebook was seen by my son who told his mom, who told her lawyer, who used it against me to make me look like a lunatic. The whole proceeding felt to me like a crucifixion. This is not an isolated case. I think similar things have happened to thousands of divorced dads. From the point of view of empires, our responsibility to our children consists of maximizing our income (and hence minimizing the time we have for anything else) and giving about 20% of it to our ex wives. From our point of view our responsibility consists of caring for, loving and participating in the upbringing of our children. Money is a part of it, but not the only or major part. The fact that the courts can take away our choices and potential based on this different view of responsibility is an injustice, as explained previously.

My Personal Responsibility
Rudolf Steiner and others have noted that the opposite of an evil is not always good, but could be another evil, and good is often a balance between two evils. Perhaps in my life I have been too rash and ready to jump in too quickly into situations where more caution would have been better (at least for me personally). Perhaps I made some tactical mistakes in my external battle with empire and haven't dealt sufficiently with the imperial memes that I have internalized. I am trying to improve my reckless tendencies and fight the internal battle, not just the external one. I admit there were times when I wanted to annihilate people who were trying to control me or other divorced dads, projecting my own imperial memes onto them. Perhaps I should not have married my first wife, or at least not involved the state. Perhaps I should have been more patient before getting divorced from my first wife, in order to be with my second (future) wife and tried to negotiate a better divorce agreement. Perhaps I should have continued pay the $1000/month for another two years (till my son was 18), rather than cutting the payment in half when I did. Perhaps I should not have given the judge a discourse on the flaws of our educational system, which prompted a deputy to tell my lawyer that the judge was annoyed that I sounded smarter than him. I could have forgone the pleasure of speaking truth to power and my punishment could have been less severe. Perhaps I have been too idealistic and not practical enough. But I never stopped caring about my son, and I deserved to be treated like a human being. All divorced dads deserve that, and all children deserve to have their dads happy and fully in their lives.

A few days later, I bought my son a used car with my parents' money so he could get away from his mom if he needed to. He said it improved his life drastically. I had not had a car for a while by that point. I looked for some engineering jobs but there was nothing that I had a remote chance to get, or that was not nauseating to me. My parents paid off my ex, and as a result I did not end up in jail. I became depressed for about a year after that. A few months after the hearing, my main collaborator had an accident that left him brain damaged. A few days before his accident, he confided in me that he is lucky to not be making much money now, because if he were, his current wife might divorce him and sue him for child support, just like his ex wife had been doing, since he was a manager at a big company when he was married to her. I believe that his accident was partially caused by the stress he was feeling to pay an unjust debt to his ex-wife as well as to try to support the extravagant lifestyle his current wife demanded. Another collaborator was killed later in a motorcycle accident in front of my eyes and ears. The people who were left were not really understanding the original vision and I thought they were mostly freeloading, though perhaps that was not their perspective. My relationship with my son was broken. The friend with whom he had stayed after his mom kicked him out had died in a tragic accident. It didn't seem possible at the time to fix our relationship.

I have not been able to get back to the Possibility Alliance. They have refused me internships ever since. I had another heartbreak with a woman I fell in love with who changed her mind about getting married at the last moment, twice. I found an engineering job I could stomach, but I could not get into it when she didn't come with me to Seattle. It all just seemed meaningless. I wanted to serve a woman, my son and a vision, but there was nothing left, except my love and faith in life and wanting to have work that was consistent with these. I continued to seek work that contributed to life instead of empire, even when it didn't pay. I went to help some friends in Florida and was grateful for the opportunity to help them just with little acts of caretaking. I went to work as a caretaker, weaver and domestic helper at a community that served mentally handicapped people. I was able to help the community not just with the daily work, but in fixing a dysfunctional interpersonal situation. The community in Atlanta seems to be thriving. People think I should charge them rent, or try to sell that house, but I've arranged it so that this is impossible. The best payment to me is for them to thrive and show an alternative to empire. I am working on another sustainability/intentional community project, as well as trying to eke out a livelihood in the short term with work that I believe in. Things are going relatively well for me, but I cannot forget all the fathers who do not/did not have wealthy parents to rescue them, as I did. I cannot forget all the children who are estranged from their fathers and brought up in a culture that is absurd.

I mention these incidents not because they are injustices (they are not), or to elicit pity, but because none of this was important to the court the day of my crucifixion and probably thereafter. I know that none of these things that happened were caused by my decision to help my son instead of move to the Possibility Alliance, or by the hearing that felt like a crucifixion, but it sure feels like I have been punished by Empire for wanting to serve Life and my son.

It's here the family's broken, and it's here the lonely say, that the heart has got to open in a fundamental way, democracy is coming to the USA”-Leonard Cohen in Democracy.

I hope for healing in my life, for reconciliation with my son, for being able to love and serve a woman who does not treat me like a money bag, for working on the vision of the Possibility Alliance and my vision of local technology and local village economies. But I also hope for justice for all the fathers who are still treated like preying mantis males/ATMs and saddled with untenable debt while being torn from their children. Let us love and raise our children from the love that we feel from them, not from the money you think we should make. Let us be part of their upbringing and support. Do not assume that we can't do this because we are male. Let us spend loving time with them and teach them how to do the things that we love to do. Do not use labels such as “Deadbeat Dad” which are a way to avoid knowing real people, and serve only as a fear-producing, scapegoating abstraction. Find out the real circumstances that the supposed deadbeat dad has had to face, find out what they experience and feel before judging them. I have never met a Deadbeat Dad, a Greedy Jew, a Lazy Black person, a Welfare Mom, or any other abstract category of people. Real people are much more complex and humane and they are doing the best they can in an inhumane system of empire. Sure there are dads who are somewhat selfish, there are moms who milk the welfare system, etc, but underneath all that is a real human being who deserves to be seen as such and not treated like a category. I extend that reasoning to my ex-wife, to the judge and to the lawyer who nailed me. If I say they are only tools of Empire, I dehumanize them. They have internalized the meme network of empire, but they can also be kind and thoughtful and many other wonderful things. I harbor no bitterness towards any of them.

We are not tools for our mates and children. We are humans. The feminists brought to our attention the dehumanization of women that occurs when they are treated as tools, as social roles. Shouldn't we apply the same standards to men? We have a right to our own happiness. It does not make us irresponsible to care for our happiness as well as that of our mates and children, or to care about other life. Do not use a definition of responsibility which dehumanized us, and punish us because we have a different understanding of what our responsibility to our children is. This is a grave injustice, as explained above.

The court system makes an assumption that the best way to serve our children is with money. They have learned nothing from the damage inflicted by missing dads who just focus on making money. It is not enough for people to say that the court system is trying its best to deal with complex situations as best it can anymore than it was when Jim Crow or Apartheid laws existed. Either the court system stay out of family life (my preference), or it must stop being biased against dads and have a default of equal custody, even if a mom is opposed to it. Another possibility is to give people the choice of equal custody or primary custody, but without a financial incentive for the custodial parent—let the non-custodial parent decide what they want to pay. A fourth possibility is to localize justice with efforts like Restorative Circles, which put the power and responsibility in the community, not in the state or the individual and get away from an adversarial system which is by its nature unjust to the losers. For each situation, there is a sweet spot between global and local governance, and I believe that for family conflicts that can't be resolved within the family, that spot is the local community, whose power is harnessed in Restorative Circles. They can make decisions that fit individuals and families much better than the burocrats of the state, who can only think in terms of one size fits all, and generally are more concerned with their own job security than the well-being of families and individuals, as Kafka saw long ago. Local community members can take into account the real needs of the parties involved. In most cases I think dads would want to share custody, especially if it means they can take care of their children while being spared the injustice currently inflicted on them by the state. Another possibility is to avoid giving power to the state with a marriage commitment in the first place. If a couple makes a commitment to each other, they might be able to explicitly exclude the state from that agreement, though it might be tricky legally, as the state wants to insinuate itself even when it is not wanted. I don't really know what the solution is. I have proposed several possibilities, and maybe you have some other ideas. I do know the current system is hopelessly broken, not just failing in a few isolated cases.

The guy who wrote that being a white male is the easiest difficulty level IF life is like a video game whose goal is to make the most money is right, but what if one is a dad who gets divorced whose goal is to take care of himself and his children? Then one is severely punished, and being male is not a privilege. Similarly, if one is a revolutionary who has a different goal than that of empire (money and power) then one is severely punished and there is no advantage for being white or male. In fact, there is a selective disadvantage to being a white male who challenges empire, which in its latest manifestations has mostly served white males. Dare to step outside of white male privilege and challenge empire, and your memes and genes will be selected against. Your employment opportunities will be greatly diminished, you will be treated less respectfully by strangers, and most women who would have considered you a potential life partner will not be interested. No wonder most white males stick to their privileged position. There is no extrinsic reward or justice for challenging empire. If you don't play by the rules of empire, do not expect justice from it, unless it be the kind of “justice” given by bullies to thugs. I would like to think that divorced dads who are not challenging empire too much can be spared some injustice, but the structure of empire demands a scapegoat, and if it isn't divorced dads, it's going to be someone else. So while the external battle to spare divorced dads is important, equally important is the internal battle to cultivate a different kind of consciousness, one that values justice and is motivated by love.

Postscript, several years later: 

The movie The Red Pill came out, which documents the systemic nature of the oppressions of fathers in our times, and shows that this is far from an isolated case. Thanks Cassie Jaye for your courage and compassion in speaking truth to power and helping show what is going on--not just the statistics but the suffering and love.

The wage gap disparity that femists have used to bludgeon men has been debunked:

In a development that parallels the "buying" of Manhattan by the Dutch from the native americans (or other treaties between europeans and native americans), and the founding of Israel by people who wanted a safe haven for Jews (but disregarded the Palestinians who were there already), the community I founded in Atlanta , through deceit (documented here) and legal maneuvering, has managed to take over the board of trustees and exclude me and the other members of the original board, in order to pursue an "LGBT safe space", that apparently excludes straight men. There has been so far no support from the activist community in my wish to confront them with the pain I have experienced as a result, and an attempt to answer these questions:
1. Why do you feel entitled to take my life energy without consent?
2. Besides scale, how is this different than the history of colonialism and Empire?

Doing The Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City” (University of California Press; $29.95), by Edin and Nelson 

United States. Census Department. Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support: 2009. By Timothy S. Grall. Census, 2011. 05 Aug. 2012 [].


Martin S. Fiebert
Department of Psychology
California State University, Long Beach

Last updated: September 2008

SUMMARY: This bibliography examines 246 scholarly investigations: 187 empirical studies and 59 reviews and/or analyses, which demonstrate that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men in their relationships with their spouses or male partners. The aggregate sample size in the reviewed studies exceeds 237,750.

And the research continues to show that men are battered and abused in equal, if not slightly greater numbers. The science is settled. What is NOT settled, is the agenda of profiteers in the domestic violence industry, where monetary and political profits lure them into denial of the truth.

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