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Hadn't hit me until I read this, but I think the metaphor of apology as a quarter you put in the forgiveness machine encapsulates what angers me about forgiveness culture.

It parallels the idea that niceness/acknowledgment/friendship are coins men put in the sex machine. (1/x)
I feel like discussion of the archetype of the Nice Guy has fallen off the pop culture radar a bit--justifiably, both because we all sorta said everything there was to say about it, and because we've sorta had more pressing matters to talk about as a culture lately.
But I'm going to rehash it for a moment here because I think there are some important parallels here about mechanistic treatment of other human beings, which is exacerbated by social media.
So, the Nice Guy (as opposed to a merely a guy who is nice) was the guy who was outraged that having been nice to a girl had not resulted in sex with her.
And Nice Guys would write screeds about this. In their universe, they'd been faithfully listening to and supporting The Girl through her breakup with the Jock Asshole and instead of realizing what a treasure she had in them, she dated another Jock Asshole.
The rose-tinted, soft-focus, romance-movie version of this was the faithful male friend wasting away of unrequited love but still there to support the girl he loves, to be a shoulder to cry on, until finally she realizes that the perfect guy has been there all along.
In reality, these guys just got angry that they weren't getting laid and turned into MRAs/incels.
Because ultimately, they saw symmetrical relationships between men and women--he gives friendship, she gives friendship--as unjust. Their version of a "fair" relationship between men and women was he gives friendship, she gives sex (and friendship, and therapy, and housework).
And when that didn't happen, they were outraged, not realizing that having someone you spend time with treat you like a human being--being nice--doesn't make them the catch of the century.

It's, as someone put it pithily, like expecting a car you buy to come with wheels.
But I was struck by the metaphor that kept coming up--that men treat women like sex vending machines.

Put basic niceness in, or a compliment, or dinner, and sex comes out.
And I think the Nice Guy has vanished from public discourse largely because women are being louder about consent and coercion and harassment and so on, and also because, as @alendrel pointed out, young men now seem to skip the Nice Guy stage and go straight to incel/MRA.
@alendrel But in the MeToo era, with a lot of public discussion of what constitutes a real apology, what the consequences for people who do that sort of harm should be, whether we as a society can/should forgive, etc. that sense of *automation*--of humans almost as robots--is looming large
@alendrel And it's not just MeToo incidents, either. Discussion of forgiveness is all over social media right now in regard to the shooting of Botham Jean.

It comes up whenever there's a Black church/mosque/synagogue shooting.
@alendrel And it is a stunted, mechanistic view of human nature to assume that treating someone with basic human dignity obligates them to have sex with you.

It's a stunted, mechanistic view of human nature to assume that an apology necessitates forgiveness.
@alendrel And we can't talk about this without talking about the elephant in the room, which is power relations.

There isn't a Nice Girl archetype to parallel the Nice Guy one--the idea that if a woman listens to a man tell her he's had a bad day, he's obligated to have sex if she wants
@alendrel It's telling that the backlash about MeToo--the idea that it's gone too far, that men are being unjustly punished and made to fear--has a tacit underlying assertion that women are being too unforgiving about sexual harassment, assault, and career retaliation.
@alendrel It's also telling that there's so much praise--so much reinforcement that this is *right* and perhaps *proper*--for a family member of a Black victim murdered by a white cop hugging and forgiving her.
@alendrel A major effect of Forgiveness Culture is the reification of power relations.

To refuse to forgive in these circumstances--to insist on full consequences, to deny a return to smooth normalcy--is, in a way, to insist on equality.
@alendrel (N.B. This is not a criticism of the choice to do so--it's a criticism of the public reaction to it that yes, this is the way things are SUPPOSED to be. Re: Botham Jean, that hug, that forgiveness, was a *gift*, not an obligation.)
@alendrel The expectation that forgiveness can be bought with an apology is an easy way for those in relative positions of power to continue to exploit and abuse with relative impunity.
@alendrel And none of this is to say that it's wrong to forgive.

It's not.

But it's wrong to treat forgiveness as an expected norm.
@alendrel And ultimately, that mechanistic view of other human beings--

if I listen to them and am nice to them, they will have sex with me

if I apologize to them, they will forgive

--is to treat others as automatons, who operate by relatively simple code.
@alendrel It is, in Buber's terms, an I-It relationship with the other rather than an authentic, fully present, mutual I-Thou relationship.
@alendrel And even Buber admitted that we can't spend 100% of our time in I-Thou relationships with everyone. In a normal, healthy human life, we oscillate between I-Thou and I-It.

Like, sometimes, you just need your coworker to get you a copy of a document.
@alendrel But in moments of intimacy, whether that's approaching the idea of a sexual relationship, offering an apology, etc. it's incumbent on us to both be vulnerable and to be *present* and *authentic*, be listening and responding, not treating the other person as a robot.
@alendrel And letting go--saying, okay, I'm going to move on--might be necessary, might be healthy, might even be *deserved.*

Forgetting--acting as if it never happened--might be necessary to function, or in the case where someone wasn't in control of themselves, might be deserved.
@alendrel Actual *forgiveness*--saying I won't take the easy path of forgetting, I will with full remembrance & presence say that I am *donating* what is needed to cancel this debt, though it was you who did the breaking, I choose to do the mending--is never deserved.

It is always a gift.
@alendrel It can't be obligated or expected--in doing so we reduce it to moving on, basically.
@alendrel And contrary to the pop culture idea that forgiveness benefits the forgiver, heals them, that's not about forgiveness. That's about ceasing to hold a grudge, to be angry, to be *bound* to the person who harmed you.

You can reap all those benefits by moving on without forgiving.
@alendrel Like, OBVIOUSLY, ceasing to center someone who harmed you--or even the harm itself--in your mental and emotional landscape is healing.

That's different from forgiving.
@alendrel Forgiveness is a gift.

It is never obligated, it should never be expected, and it is never the Right And Proper Thing To Do.

It's something way beyond that. And only in taking it off the table of normal/expected outcomes are we treating those harmed with full respect.
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