SES then and now - what has changed?

Discussion of the SES, particularly in the UK.
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Postby Free Thinker » Sat Aug 13, 2005 6:18 pm

Let's get back to the Plato discussion, shall we?

I mean to read some of it in the next day or two and then I'll have some more specifics to contribute - since my group hadn't done much study of it when I was in the school, I felt like I'd be opening my mouth without knowing what I was talking about, something that we've seen results in little productive talk.

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Plato etc

Postby ross nolan » Sat Aug 20, 2005 7:03 am

Why focus on Plato ? Apart from being a misogynist etc etc isn't Plato just another example of the SES peddling pseudo wisdom ("Truth")using out of context and out of date quotations from at least 2000 year old sources or those who resurrected such ancient texts (eg Fincino) ? How can you expect to learn much of value about Plato or other Greek scholars from an organization that only skates over the main body of philosophical thought of any of the 'classic' thinkers enroute to it's real goal of polytheistic hindu mysticism . By accepting the content of their course you are simply asking 'how high' when told to jump -- better perhaps to think and select for yourself in regard to philosophical truth -- would Plato still be pondering the same material 2000 years later if he were alive today and would he ignore the body of learning that has accumulated since his day ? Where are the insights of the English enlightenment philosophers , Hume,Locke etc or the German schools ? Wittgenstein, etc all read and absorbed Plato,Socrates etc before moving on to deeper and more relevant understandings . There seems to be a real reluctance to admit that the SES agenda has little to do with genuine scholarship or study of philosophy and more to do with inculcating a repudiation of the European cultural heritage and rationalism (and then with the object of selecting the dissaffected and suggestible for indoctrination ) My experience left no doubt of the purpose of their 'teaching' and at least the "group discussion' encouraged initially was not to share or refine ideas but to weed out any 'dissenters' from the party line -- if nothing else this is anathema to the Socratic or Platonic method of reaching conclusions and insight (but very characteristic of manipulative cults ).

To ascribe things like "segregation" of professions or the gender differentiation of sports competition,records etc to "sexism" or "male domination" etc rather than to inherent differences in the physical and, yes, intellectual ,capabilities of the sexes is not just disingenuous but undermines any serious credibility in arguments especially when this "failure" to give "equality" to the sexes is cited as a flaw in either the SES dogma or indeed Plato's own worldview.

Rehashing the SES line on Plato seems not unlike the fierce arguments over angels and pinheads -- misses the point .

Tunnel vision does not lead to perspective and neither does a smattering of disjointed Greek,Hindu,Buddhist,Zen etc 'quotable quotes' lead to a coherent or intelligible philosophy that can be usefully critiqued .

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Postby Free Thinker » Sat Aug 20, 2005 5:58 pm

We are discussing Plato because it is an easy way to look at the school's beliefs about men and women - and to see how much its system is modeled on (and reflects) Plato's beliefs.

But I guess some people just missed that point altogether.

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Postby a different guest » Sun Aug 21, 2005 8:16 am

as to my uni renrollment stats - Ross can check with the ABS himself. Apparently they are closer to 60% female now - my info was dated.

Here's a Plato quote.

Nothing can be more absurd than the practice that prevails in our country of men and women not following the same pursuits with all their strengths and with one mind, for thus, the state, instead of being whole is reduced to half.


Do the SES gloss over this notion?

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Postby bella » Sun Aug 21, 2005 3:31 pm

Heh, what took us so long? Maybe it needed Ross to spark this up again. There are (contradictory) quotes thrown out as evidence of something or other, but nobody has really done the reading that needs to be done to comment on this authoritatively. Out of context quotes are delivered as the final word and theory of the SES on various matters, because Plato said the words the theories are being derived from. There's a sentence or two, and it's interpreted and a life philosophy built around it. It's kind of bizarre, don't you think? Don't you get the feeling that straws are being grasped at and being made to fit the mold? No? Probably not. For the record, I haven't read nearly enough Plato to be posting here again, which is why I didn't...but hey, everyone else seems to be jumping in. I'm not ignoring NYC's post, I just haven't read it in awhile - I'll reply specifically later.

ADG, your quote is as valid as any other which has been used to support or refute the SES's gender stance. People like to think they have it all tied up, and can deliver it cleanly as unequivocally misogynist bullshit, but then if you look a bit harder, there's more. Then you look again, and there's more. Then, y'know, you introduce context and setting, and there's more. This stuff is rich, I don't think we can reduce it to a few uses of "women" and "men" - The forms are different (men & women), but the object is the same.

I don't know, societal restrictions on my role don't have much influence past the instant that they happen, y'know? I can get annoyed at what is happening in front of me, but when all is said and done, it really doesn't matter. It doesn't matter to me if I get someone's tea, or iron someone's shirt, or step back so someone else can speak. I think the conflict you'll find when arguing with some people from the SES about this is that this stuff doesn't really seem very important, when it seems obviously crucial to many others. Appearing to be the subservient one (to someone looking in) doesn't bug me, and the more you do it, the more funny some stuff appears. You can also develop some really beautiful relationships with people when you're directed by protocol to serve them. Of course, you'll also find some people who find this stuff agregious and insurmountable - so be it.

I'm a confident person, and I thank my mother for that. I have no idea how I'd view this stuff if I was anything other than what I am, or if I hadn't had the chance to be that person beforehand, but I can see that it could be a trap.
Last edited by bella on Mon Aug 22, 2005 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby a different guest » Sun Aug 21, 2005 11:50 pm

Hi Bella - yes it has been a while but the boards have been down for a time too.

I've not studied Plato at all - but noticed that quote at the top of an article about feminism in the 70s. I don't see how it supports the SES view that roles are gendered, as I read it that gender should NOT play a role in one's pursuits.

You say you find "playing" the subservient role funny - yet what if that was how you had been brought up? See my posts under the SES schools worldwide thread - do they teach boys "needlework"? Why should one's sex dictate what they can and can't do in their lives? My brother makes a better cup of tea than his wife - if it is the women's role to make tea then I have a bleak future of suffering wishywashy tea whenever I visit them.

Tea is important - just ask Arthur Dent. :)

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Postby NYC » Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:03 pm

Bella wrote:There are (contradictory) quotes thrown out as evidence of something or other, but nobody has really done the reading that needs to be done to comment on this authoritatively. Out of context quotes are delivered as the final word and theory of the SES on various matters, because Plato said the words the theories are being derived from. There's a sentence or two, and it's interpreted?

Bella is using the passive voice here, ?There are...quotes thrown out as evidence,? ?Out of context quotes are delivered,? ?there?s a sentence or two, and it?s interpreted,? which avoids naming the subject of the sentence and leaves unspecified exactly who is performing the action. Passive voice is useful when you deliberately want to conceal who is doing something, and also as a diplomatic means of criticism. Bella implies that my previous quotes from Plato?s Laws are misleading. But any short quote will be ?out of context.?

I?ve heard the stereotype that the British value discretion and subtlety, and can personally testify that Americans (particularly New Yorkers) prefer to be direct. I certainly do. Maybe Aussies fall somewhere between? But my stereotype breaks down when I compare ADG & Bella's styles. Perhaps it is an individual matter.

I don?t think it?s overinterpretive on my part to say that the School has sought to realize Plato?s descriptions of utopian society. It?s right there on many of the websites. Taking the Plato course was certainly very helpful to me in answering the question ?WHAT were they THINKING? at St James & St Vedast. (I wasn?t going in expecting that ? I just wanted to familiarize myself with Plato without spending a lot of money.)

The best thing I got out of the Plato class was the idea that a hierarchy must be based on one or more particular characteristics ? that it is meaningless to say that something or someone is ?better? than something else without specifying in what way, by what measure it is better. But some of the School policies which are particularly obtuse and cultish are rooted in Plato, like the idea that parents are ill-equipped to make decisions regarding what?s best for their children since they are too emotionally involved.

Bella wrote:ADG, your quote is as valid as any other which has been used to support or refute the SES's gender stance. People like to think they have it all tied up, and can deliver it cleanly as unequivocally misogynist bullshit, but then if you look a bit harder, there's more.

Well, I would disagree that ADG?s quote is descriptive of the SES?s gender stance. I have said before that no one in the New York school has directly or indirectly told me that women should obey men. Most of the tutors are men and most of the assistant tutors are women, however, so that intimation does come across without being overtly stated.

Sometimes the School does seem to prote an egalitarian view of women and men (I wrote about an episode in Part 1 where Wisdom was personified by Plato as a beautiful woman) but the egalitarianism seems to remain in the misty ideal while the actual School practices promote something quite different.

Bella wrote:The forms are different (men & women), but the object is the same.

I don?t know what you mean by this -- object meaning the goal?



Bella wrote:I think the conflict you'll find when arguing with some people from the SES about this is that this stuff doesn't really seem very important, when it seems obviously crucial to many others.

This is indeed exactly the attitude that committed members here have as well, and reminds me of a discussion in my Part Four class last spring.

Some of the other women had cottoned to the long skirt ?recommendation? or requirement, and brought it up in class with the (male) tutor. The woman who was assisting, after a long & lively discussion said ?May I speak?? at the same time that someone else started talking. She immediately covered her mouth with her hands, ducked her head down, and clasped her hands in her lap. The discussion swirled on for several more minutes, and at a pause I asked the assistant what it was she was going to say. (She was the only person in the room actually subject to the rule, so I wanted to hear her. Also it hurt my heart the way she physically demurred -- I understand that assistant tutors are generally discouraged from talking in class, but this seemed a special circumstance and the way she dropped into an extremely subservient posture seemed so wrong and repressive to me.)

Anyway, she said ?What is offered here is so valuable to me that if the School wants me to wear a long skirt two hours a day, FINE. I am a card-carrying member of NOW (American feminist org) and (here I don?t remember exactly what she said, word for word, but something about how even though she didn?t dig the long skirt rule it was a small price to pay and she paid it gladly). To me it seems that there are a lot of other churches and meditation centers in New York, without this dress code, and the patriarchal bias it represents.

I thought before that I would wait until the inquiry report was out before deciding whether to show up for the second year, but Bella's previous post changes that. There is no way I'm going to contribute money and time to an organization that teaches men are more reasonable than women and should make the final decisions.

An acquaintance of mine from the School (we take the same bus after classes) remarked about the physical abuse at St James/St Vedast ?They thought they were breaking down the child?s ego, but what they were really doing is breaking their spirit.? I thought that was a very apt way of putting it. I feel that a number of very sensible women, like Bella, disregard what they take to be their ego, where this School is concerned ? the response they have to the School?s unity teaching is so strong that they are willing to put aside ?small? considerations. Among adults this is certainly their own business, but I do feel that at times this organization does the same thing, in a more subtle way, to women that it did to children ? in an attempt to break the ego, the School breaks their spirit. If you could have seen the way this woman covered her mouth and drooped her head, Bella, you might agree.

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Postby Goblinboy » Mon Aug 22, 2005 10:43 pm

NYC wrote:I feel that a number of very sensible women, like Bella, disregard what they take to be their ego, where this School is concerned ? the response they have to the School?s unity teaching is so strong that they are willing to put aside ?small? considerations. Among adults this is certainly their own business, but I do feel that at times this organization does the same thing, in a more subtle way, to women that it did to children ? in an attempt to break the ego, the School breaks their spirit. If you could have seen the way this woman covered her mouth and drooped her head, Bella, you might agree.


Good insights, NYC.

Have observed a number of women in the Australian School go through this process.

Very slowly, very gradually, very quietly, the School broke their sprits. Despite their claims to the contrary ("I feel so calm"), I observed increasing symptoms of depression and a lot of repressed anger. Latent neuroses emerged. Tutors (with no expertise in counselling whatsoever) would observe these symptoms and prescribe exercises that seemed to exacerbate them. It seemed the last thing the School wanted was for a member to seek professional psychological help. Sad to see talented, vibrant women become subject to this treatment.

And your observations about Bella's use of the passive voice was spot on. I guess I find it somewhat chilling by association, because I heard it used by SOP people when asserting "truth" or rebutting arguments with SOP doctrine.

My observations of the School's effect on young women date mostly from the 1990s, so this may have changed. However, a lot of what I hear from current SOP members and read on this board doesn't fill me with confidence.

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Postby NYC » Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:43 pm

Well, I'm sorry to hear you recognize the same stuff in Australia, Goblinboy, though I appreciate the affirmation. What was your contact w/ the School (what town)?

The thing that REALLY chafes my hide about the School reinforcing the idea of male authority is that most members have working lives outside the org as well, some of them apparently in upper-level positions, where they hire, fire, promote, etc. The thought of applying for a job and having my application received by someone who?s been an SES member for twenty years does not fill me with confidence that I will have equal opportunities.

Sex discrimination at work is so, so subtle ? an SES member who buys into this stuff AND is in the position to decide my future -- whether I should get the secretary slot or go on the associate track -- really frustrates me. The harm done by the sexism does not remain inside the org and it?s not just limited to the women who accept a subservient role. It?s foisted on the rest of us as well.

Ross wrote:I found NYC's little dissertation quite interesting and trying hard to refute the obvious fact that MOST men are characteristically better at certain kinds of abstract thinking than MOST women and do in fact have hard wiring for unemotional judgements

Care to support this with evidence? I would be interested in hearing about any research you can cite. I?d be a lot less interested in vague generalities.

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Postby a different guest » Wed Aug 24, 2005 12:03 am

well I really don't know why men are considered to be the "decision makers" when you consider the following biological fact.

Men's brains are bigger than those of women and weigh 10 percent more.

But size isn't everything. Women have more gray matter in certain parts of their brains and more intricate and extensive communications between brain cells than men, particularly in the frontal cortex. This is the area involved in judgment and decision making: the "executive center" of the brain. Some scientists think that this relatively more intricate system of neuronal interconnections explains why women's brains have a higher rate of blood flow. In fact, smaller brains may be more efficient. Ounce for ounce, women get more brain bang for the buck, possibly because of the greater degree of connectivity between cells.


So the area of the brain involved in "judgement and decision making" is MORE efficient in women.

Interesting eh?

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Postby NYC » Wed Aug 24, 2005 1:55 pm

What's the source, ADG?

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Postby a different guest » Wed Aug 24, 2005 10:43 pm

seeing as you asked so nicely :)

http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/node/8685

quoting excerpts from the book Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget by Marianne J. Legato, MD, FACP and Laura Tucker

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Postby bella » Thu Aug 25, 2005 12:49 am

NYC,

My pre-edited post didn't use a passive voice. ADG was probably the only one who's posted here to see it before the edit, but it was quite a bit uh...stronger. Plenty of "you"s, and even a couple of names. :)

I read it over, and realised that the criticisms I was levelling probably applied equally well to myself in this instance - not enough background, lack of context, the desire to wrap things up too neatly, etc. - so I changed it to be less accusatory and myopic, basically. Sorry if I made it wishy-washy and cold in the process.

I get what you're saying about your assistant tutor bowing her head and getting cowed, but I'm not sure it was because she was female, or because you're really not supposed to talk when you're a group assistant or assistant tutor, unless you're asked to. Interfering with the group's flow and all that. Perhaps you're right about women repressing their own desires because they seem unimportant in comparison, and maybe those issues will reveal themselves to be more important after all, in time. I don't know, but I agree that it's the (adult) woman's choice to make. Who knows, maybe this area will be looked at in more detail over time by the powers that be, given that it can be presented and implemented by some school members in a pretty offensive and hackle-raising way.

By "the object is the same", yes, I meant the goal.

You raise a good point about the SES view (of men being better able to make rational decisions) having a wider impact through the workplace. Sexual discrimination laws weren't passed in response to the SES, though, and I imagine you'd find plenty of men in upper management positions hold a view that women would be better suited to the house or "softer" positions in the company. That's why we have the laws - to give women an avenue for appeal against this attitude. I'd hope that SES members in senior management would recognise the way the world operates around them, and operate according to its laws...but if they don't, all is not lost, any more than all is lost when someone not in the SES hires or fires on an arbitrary sexist basis. Yeah, it can be insidious and rationalised away, but the laws stand to show that it's not tolerated on paper. I'd like to think that would be enough for a clear-thinking person, but I'm not privy to that kind of info.

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Postby a different guest » Sun Aug 28, 2005 10:52 am

bella wrote:Yeah, it can be insidious and rationalised away, but the laws stand to show that it's not tolerated on paper. I'd like to think that would be enough for a clear-thinking person, but I'm not privy to that kind of info.


"not tolerated on paper" - well THAT cheers me up! (oh where is that sarky smilie?) :)

But bella - what about the CHILDREN'S schools - that no matter WHAT is written on a piece of paper somewhere are immersing kids in a stereotypical gendered environment??? And if the parents are full on SES, are THEY going to say "but hey kid, there IS this piece of paper the govt put out called a law" to their children and managed with one sentence to undo all the subtle and not so sublte influences of the child's school environment?

and you've not yet addressed the vexatious issue about who makes a good cup of tea :P

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Postby bella » Sun Aug 28, 2005 2:13 pm

What about the children's schools? I was addressing NYC's comment about the gender ideas influencing organisations and areas of life not directly associated with the SES. And yeah, we can see that gender bias flourishes regardless of anti-discrimination laws, in many different sectors. We're talking about people's belief systems, and a piece of paper isn't going to change that, but it gives some form of recourse to those who are treated unfairly as a result of those belief systems. I'm not sure I believe that a view of gender difference in strengths and capabilities is simply an "unenlightened view" that will be overcome with enough education and exposure.

Damn, the tea-making. Humm, a cup of tea just tastes better when someone else makes it, regardless of their nether appendages or lack thereof. It'd have to be pretty bad to get me to pay attention.


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