Book project – No Fallen Angels

This book-project, which I abandoned before completion when it became obvious that no Australian publisher would have the courage to publish it, was intended to provide women with tools to face and resolve their own violence to others and themselves. Although it was never published as such, I re-used many of the ideas and some of the content in Wyrd Allies, which was published by Gothic Image in 1996.

Some background to the book

In all my writing, the one constant theme has been the issue of individual empowerment, and personal responsibility with and for that power. In most cases, my books have been intended to provide tools for readers to explore that power for themselves, in intuitive skills such as dowsing (The Diviner’s HandbookDiscover Dowsing and The Elements of Pendulum Dowsing), in concepts of magical technology (Inventing Reality) or spirit of place (Needles of Stone), or in the use of wyrd as a model for self-development (Positively Wyrd and Wyrd Allies). So although my two unpublished book-projects on gender-issues – Recovering From Whiplash, and this book, No Fallen Angels – may seem at first to be a very different thread, ultimately it’s still the same issue of empowerment and responsibility. In this case, though, the ‘power’ issue is perhaps the single greatest unacknowledged problem in our society: namely women’s violence, to themselves and others.

Men’s violence is a known problem in our society: indeed, ever since feminist theory began to dominate social policy, from the 1970s onwards, it’s the only side of the problem that we’ve been allowed to talk about, or even to know about. But unlike women’s violence, it’s an issue that is actually addressed – though often in ways which have little connection with reality. Like so many young men of that period, I spent many years agonising over the oft-asserted ‘facts’ of the so-called ‘war against women’, and my own responsibility as a supposed perpetrator within it. As a ‘pro-feminist’ – who wasn’t, in those days? – I learned that my every act, as a nominal male, was inherently violent: indeed, that ‘maleness’ could be defined as a synonym of ‘violence’. And like every young man of that period, I was taught that feminist theory had higher ‘truth’ than my own experience, my own feelings, my own reality – where almost all the violence that had serious impact – and a great deal of it at that – actually came from females, not males.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that despite my work’s focus on empowerment of others, it took a quarter-century of study and self-observation before I finally came to realise that whilst there was indeed much ‘wrong’ with my own interaction with the world, the responsibility was not mine alone, nor solely that of men… And it was only when I discovered a key connection between power and violence – that abuse and violence are addictive because they seem ‘powerful’, but in fact lead to an actual loss of functional power – that it became clear that women’s violence, most of it hidden even from their own awareness, was in reality the primary source of the ‘powerlessness’ about which those same women complained. Tools do exist to assist men to face their own violence to themselves and others – even though most of the ‘officially-sanctioned’ ones, such as the Duluth model on domestic violence, are best described as worse than useless. But for women such as my two lesbian friends who ended their relationship with a knife – fortunately without puncturing each other – there were none: the only ‘solutions’ on offer were the ever-increasing, yet increasingly implausible, means to blame men alone for everything.

For more than thirty years men in ‘western’ societies have, as always, tried hard to do what women demanded of them: in this case, to blame and punish themselves for what was actually women’s behaviour. But despite all the pain, despite all the misery it created for everyone, it simply didn’t work. It hasn’t worked for women: the usual studies show that, if anything, they feel even less powerful than a generation ago – and the real level of women’s violence, recorded in long-term studies such the US National Family Violence Survey, has gone steeply up, not down. And it certainly hasn’t worked for men: the misguided attempts to take on all this misplaced blame were, and still are, frequently lethal. It was in my own generation that the male suicide rate made a very steep upward climb, exactly paralleling the extent to which ‘pro-feminist’ male-blame became entrenched in society and in law, and has since remained at the same level for that generation and every succeeding male generation. (Here in Australia, the so-called ‘youth suicide’ rate, which is now actually near-constant for all males from 20 to 45, is seven times that for women of the same age.) And I understand only too well, from first-hand experience, why so many men have ended their lives this way: with no real support available anywhere, and almost no action that does not lead to yet more blame and denigration, it’s all too easy for the despair to spiral beyond hope, and beyond any point in life itself…

The ‘solution’ didn’t work, because it can’t: powerlessness can’t be ‘exported’ to others through violence or abuse – which is really all that blame can ever be. And ultimately the responsibility for facing that fear-filled feeling of powerlessness can only be personal, not political: it’s actually impossible to be responsible for others, in exactly the same way – and for much the same reasons – that it’s impossible for us to eat for others, or go to the toilet for others. But despite this, and despite the knowledge that it cannot and does not work, so many women – feminist academics and politicians in particular – still keep searching for the perfect subject-centred ‘should’, the perfect kind of ‘backlash-free’ blame that would offload every fear onto the scapegoat, and prevent him from ever coming home…

In short, it’s a mess: and it’s clear that it’s not going to get any better without a radically different approach to the problem. This book – No Fallen Angels – was one of several iterations I made towards a usable answer: something that does work, and that does make genuine empowerment possible for women. People who are truly powerful can afford to be gentle; those who aren’t often won’t… The problem is immensely complex, but at least one of its fundamental roots is that women in general have enormous difficulty with facing the reality of their own violence, towards others, and even towards themselves. For this too the reasons are immensely complex, yet are fairly clear and, despite the obsessions of feminist theory, for the most part have very little to do with men. In practice, though, it’s simplest to note just that this is so, and move onward from there – with respect, yet also with an unflinching honesty, and a quiet insistence that the issue must be faced if this society has any chance to move onward from the present mire. That’s what I’d hoped to do with this book.

But the fears around the issue are huge, and at the time I started work on this book were still deeply entrenched behind a defensive wall called ‘political correctness’. It soon became clear that strenuous efforts were and would be made to prevent any man from saying anything on the issue. And as I’ve described elsewhere, in the notes on Recovering From Whiplash, that time also brought for me related personal issues and personal pain – so much so that on several occasions I came perilously close to the same suicidal space that had claimed so many other men. In many ways Angels was intended as a kind of ‘workbook’ to support the more theoretical approach in Whiplash; so when the latter was finally rejected by its only prospective publisher – and solely because I as the author was male rather than female – I abandoned this project too. So it remains half a book.

It will remain half a book: I see no point in finishing it now. I re-used some of the material in Wyrd Allies – particularly in the chapters ‘Subject and Object’ and ‘Use and Abuse’ – and the notes in the ‘Personal and Political’ chapter here became a core part of my re-structure of ‘Duluth’: two more iterations towards a genuine solution to the problem. But I’ve long since lost all my notes: I even gave away most of my source-books on the subject a few years ago. And the book is in some ways out of date: the pendulum is on the move again, though the issues are as real as ever. Yet it seems worthwhile to preserve and present it in its present form, because I’ve yet to see anyone else – female or male – tackle the issues in the direct yet respectful kind of way in which I did here. If you’ve read this far, read on: perhaps you might be the one to finish the job, where I cannot?

Tom Graves
Malmsbury, Australia
October 2000

Related pages

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