Friday, February 27, 2015

Laughing Revelations

This is not always true, but it seems to me that it is more often than not the case that when a progressive person laughs at something it reveals something about the level of their intellect, whereas when a conservative laughs it reveals something about their level of ignorance.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Igoring First Time Failures

It is a fairly common refrain in many circumstances that problems can best be resolved by returning to some point in the past. Phrases like "return to fundamentals," nostalgia for "old time religion," along with similar sentiments that want to return to some sort of beginning moment are so prevalent that they hardly ever get challenged when put forward.

This needs to change.

I would assert that the first go at anything is almost always a failure. Examples include the formation of the United States. The first document, the Articles of Confederation, was a colossal wreck and had to be replaced rather quickly. The U.S. Constitution has been updated so many times (and ignored and reinterpreted many more times) that it would be rather useless today if put forward in its original form.

Religions, too, are also constantly updated. Christianity and Islam are clear examples of this, both being modifications of Hebrew religious traditions, which also changed over time quite a bit because of their unworkability (among other reasons). Mormonism fits in this category as well, with major changes having been adopted since its inception because its original doctrines became unreasonable.

Other examples of the failure of first attempts include just about any scientific hypothesis, use of new building materials, the first airplanes, creation of musical instruments, learning to draw (or create any kind of art), how to farm, sex, and more. There is probably no case of anything in the history of humanity that can be declared to be better when it was first introduced or created, either as a species or individually. We improve things with time, not the other way around. Our experiences guide us to make improvements. It's what humans do, and a lot of the time we do it pretty well. We only harm ourselves with attempts to return to some fictional past moment because something is wrongly seen as having been degraded.

The past if full of failures, as is our future. But our future is also where corrections are made and improvements implemented, so it only makes sense to put our focus there, not the past.

Fake Associations Basis For Military, College Athletics

It seems to me that a country's military outfits are about as connected to their countries as college sports teams are connected to their schools. Both are in name only with their existence being for independent purposes.

Political Cult Pacifism

I'm not the only one who thinks that there are more than a few similarities between religious cults and Fox News. Find any list of criteria for religious cults and the Fox News organization and its viewers fit nicely.

The creation of this cult is no small matter and, like other cults, should be exposed by those who care. The best case scenario would be for mainstream media outlets to take up the task to expose what's going on, but they don't seem to have the ability or the will to do so.

If anyone wants a sign of horrible things to come, this is one of them. I can't think of a scenario where the rise of a fanatical cult was later seen as a positive thing for humanity.

Planetary Exchange Rate

Getting people to convert parts of the planet into money for others to wield as a weapon over them is the creed of the capitalist. Those who find this a compelling point of view hold a baffling position that defies what it means to be human.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Corporate Feudalism

Story: The rise of the non-compete agreement, from tech workers to sandwich makers

This is a scary and dangerous trend for a society that wants to remain focused on the people who live within it. It is a move by people who own and run corporations to control the company's employees in a way that pushes us back in the direction of slavery. That may seem like an extreme statement, but when an owner of something looks to restrict general freedoms of people providing its labor, what else should that be called?

As I've written before, a corporation is a virtual entity we, as humans, created. Therefore, it should be something that serves us--all of us--not the other way around. We are the masters and it should be the slave. By allowing the small handful of people who own and control corporate entities to become the master everyone else inflicting an increasing number of restrictions on their lives, then it's more closely related to feudalism and slavery than is likely to be admitted.

Hopefully our descendants will evolve to work against our constant movement for control of the majority by a tiny minority. Until then, we'll have to suffer the repetition of this continuing societal structure with the main adaptations being mainly a series of different names for it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Indistinguishable Dementia

It seems to me that people diagnosed with dementia who speak on the subjects of politics and religion are only moderately distinguishable from undiagnosed extremists on the political and religious right. While it is certainly possible that people suffering from dementia rant about equal rights, consumer protections, peace before war, treating the poor with dignity, and support for science, but I think it's much more likely that you'll find the opposite. I know of no study to show if this is true or not, but it would be telling to find out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Testify No More

I usually carry a small notebook where I write down stray thoughts hoping to do something with them later. Looking over a few notes from the past week or so, among the things I've jotted down are "we rarely go to the source, opting for someone else's opinion/summary" and "we tend to like 'witnesses' as proof for things as varied as religions, weight loss products, stop smoking programs, crimes, and more."

Even though I saved these thoughts days apart, I think there is a common idea, one that has to do with the tendency to accept what we're told if the person telling it to us is, for some reason, acceptable as a source. That acceptability can be simply that we like the person, that we have liked past declarations by this person (relevant or not), we don't wish to question authority, we see no reason to challenge what's being said, and a whole host of other reasons that include nothing independently viable. We tend to need a human voice to offer viability, and, unfortunately, often that's all we need or want. This is one of our greatest weaknesses because it falsely gives power where it doesn't belong (testimony), and, because it's human-based, it's open to honest mistakes and purposeful manipulation.

Instead, what I would hope we come to realize as a species is that we remember to discount what people say until or unless it is verified, and not just when it's a single human witnesses or storyteller. A bunch of people repeating the same thing does not give it any more weight than exists for a single person giving testimony. It's a shame that we can't trust ourselves, but given the proven tendency for lying, the inherent problems that exist when trying to communicate anything, and the inability to tell the truth even when we try because our memories aren't perfect, we need verification that eliminates as much of the human element as possible.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Fear Of People Power

Story: How billionaires destroy democracy

This is just one recent story of many that are consistently being written having to do with the problems that come with high concentrations of wealth under the control of a few people. We keep seeing the evidence that this is a bad idea but fail to really do anything about it. Why is something that is so obviously detrimental left unchanged?

Buried among the reasons we humans tend to not act in our best interest in this regard is something that I don't think gets discussed much. It is the tendency--maybe even a unacknowledged desire--to be ruled by a small group of elites. I think the main reason this may be true is because it allows us to point to someone or some group specifically when we want to know who's in charge. Even if we don't like something that's going on, there is a level of comfort knowing that there is a tangible something out there running the show. If power and wealth are too heavily diffused, then that ability is nonexistent and, to most, unsettling. It's more comforting to have something concrete (or close to it) that can be assigned responsibility.

(This is also likely the reason gods were invented, and the reason for the eventual move from a pantheon of gods to monotheism.)

This same principle is likely in play when it comes to monarchies, and all feudal systems. These systems are set up to funnel wealth and power to an elite few, yet they have their supporters among those under their control. If there is a problem that arises, the solution is hardly ever to give "power to the people," but to replace the current ruling class with another one operating with the same authority. They system isn't flawed, they will say, only the people in charge are flawed.

One of the ironic things about this condition is the usual support for democracy and capitalism that is repeated by supporters of inequality. The cognitive dissonance is astounding. When it comes to capitalism, for example, the "magic hand" so many tout as the key to it working includes the requirement that there be a large number of very small players so that none of them has the power of influence on their own. When it comes to democracy, it can only be operational if "we the people" can actually participate in it. Again, a large number of very small players is key. But we have those with the most wealth and power convincing us otherwise.

And here's the main matter what name we give a social system and what components we pretend to put in place under that name, we always seem to find a way to create a small number of off-the-chart winners with the vast majority of people accepting their lot as titanic losers. Until we, as a species, have the courage to actually put power in a non-distinct entity like "the people," we will continue to let a handful of us rule the rest, meaning our future will be more-or-less a series of minor name changes to the systems we pretend are different.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Unreasonable Right Reservations

"I reserve the right..." has to be one of the most irrational phrases currently in use. If something is indeed a legal right it doesn't need to be reserved. If something isn't a legal right to begin with, it can't be reserved.

I was reminded of this problem recently while listening to a radio program while traveling through New Mexico. The hosts were interviewing some sort of "expert" on business or legal issues when it comes to discrimination in the workplace. This guest was actually openly telling people that religious discrimination against Muslims was okay as long as it was done professionally (she used the term professionally over and over), meaning that people at a company doing the illegal discrimination just need to lie about it in a way that they don't get caught.

When asked by the radio hosts for an example of what someone should say in place of the truth, she included the spurious "I reserve the right" phrase along with several examples of lies to tell. While I was upset at openly advocating for people to break the law by lying about what they're doing, I was also flabbergasted that someone who is supposedly a legal expert would tell people that saying "I reserve the right" is valid. If something is a valid legal right, there is no need to reserve it because it already exists without any action on anyone's part. If the action in question doesn't exist as a legal right--such as religious discrimination--then it can't be created by declaring it into existence with a reservation.

Anyone who understands the law would know this. So would someone who isn't looking for an excuse to justify prejudice.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What Might We Learn From Looking At Microcultures More Closely?

I've recently become interested in what is known as microculture. There are varying definitions, but it generally means the shared behavior and values of a small group of people. Most of the references I've read, however, are noting groups that are larger than what interests me, groups such as Native Americans and those who follow minority religious beliefs. What interests me are even smaller groups, those that contain something like 50 members or less.

I have a feeling that by looking closely at microcultures we can discover valuable information about ourselves that can't be obtained otherwise. What we learn will also likely correct or improve invalid information we think we know about our social behaviors and attitudes.

Examples of these groups include our closest 3-5 friends, those who do the same job at the same company, those who play the same position on a sports team, people who are energetic about a little-known hobby, individuals with a shared fetish, and family members who have a shared enemy within the family. In short, I'm thinking about any small group with a commonality that is cohesive enough to hold them together, even if it's temporary.

I don't have anything substantial to share yet, but some recent observations and experiences makes me think that we tend to be influenced more by microcultures than larger cultural groups--or at least more than we realize. I also think we tend to be members of multiple microcultures, and each person's unique combination of microculture memberships constitute that individual's personal culture. If we think of a person's behavior and attitudes with microculture and personal culture models in mind, I think we'll discover things about ourselves not previously revealed.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Erectile Denial

We readily accept multiple causes for physical responses that include tears, crying, laughter, and sweat, but generally fail to do so for erections.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

White Riot Restraint

Story: Goal post torn down, 89 fires set after Ohio State's national title win

When white people riot...

"Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said officers tried to use as little force as possible to control those celebrating."


The Limits Of Conservative Reponsibility Claims

This Rupert Murdoch-J.K. Rowling exchange is getting a lot of exposure, but the initial Murdoch tweet made me wonder why conservatives don't say the same thing about the police.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Search For Consistency

One of the many thoughts that have been bouncing around inside my brain for quite a while has to do with what seems to be an innate human desire to flush out inconsistencies. I haven't yet been able to work out something fully coherent on this, but it keeps popping up for me so I wanted to share my initial thoughts.

I usually notice this during a disagreement or argument when one party is trying to discredit another. They dig until they find some point of inconsistency (perceived or real) they hope will be an unraveling of the other's entire idea or position. If an inconsistency is declared, it is usually also hoped that their own position will then be seen victorious by default.

In these cases this desire for some sort of consistent truth is not truly genuine; it's merely an attempt to discredit something with which one personally disagrees. It's not really a search for something universally consistent as an independent goal. These arguments are almost always inane exercises producing nothing of value.

Interestingly--at least to me--is that this goal, usually twisted when pursued in a social, political or religious setting, is also in play in science. What is often considered to be the ultimate scientific prize is the discovery of a Theory of Everything, a single explanation of how the universe works. This ultimate explanation would never have exceptions and would explain every possible scenario that could exist in our universe.

For me it is frustrating to see this pursuit of consistency happening with little acknowledgment of the incomprehensively massive number of variables in play. When it comes to the unending silly political and religious arguments based on this notion, there will always be inconsistencies to be discovered. There are simply too many variables. No explanation of anything can take them all into account. Science has a better chance of doing so, but I think that's only a theoretical possibility. Nailing it all down may not be a practical possibility.

To make matters even worse, we have to consider the issue of change. Even if we could somehow create a list of every possible variable that needs to be considered, the conditions under which those variables exist is always changing. What makes sense under one set of circumstances will not necessarily be true under differing sets of circumstances. The issues of quantity and variability create an incomprehensibly gargantuan matrix of possibilities.

This idea is also a part of any legal system. Because each act in which a human engages is unique, there is no way to write laws that cover every scenario, meaning they are inevitably applied to circumstances with no exact match. Laws can't be written to cover every circumstance--there are simply too many circumstances to take into account. This means that every law is necessarily misapplied in every case. It simply can't be any other way.

As I wrote at the beginning, I'm still flushing this out so I don't have much more to offer yet. I guess all I can share at this point is the hope that these problems will one day be acknowledged. But I don't have high hopes.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Bias Of Ignorant Bliss

Among the basic tenets we should continually acknowledge about the human condition are the troublesome problems of ignorance and bias, with bias becoming more dominant as we age. We need to openly acknowledge them because each is a dominant cause behind a large percentage of the problem we either cause outright or fail to address properly.

Taking steps to mitigate the problems caused by these conditions is obviously difficult. Ignorance includes the absence of the knowledge necessary to know the problem exists; bias includes a rejection that the problem exists. But imagine the improved societies we would be able to create for ourselves if a serious attempt at mitigating these tendencies were to be undertaken. It's hard to imagine the reward not being worth the effort.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

No Cops on Career Day

I'm waiting for the situation where a public school refuses to allow police to be a part of career day, referencing a policy against inviting representatives from organizations that openly employ violent racists with weapons.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Defending the Rich is a Poor Tendency

While reading a few items recently that contained the normal conservative support for the most wealthy among us (even by the poorest among us) I began to sense a strong similarity to the attitudes expressed by those who have supported dictatorships and monarchies. The specific example that came to mind first was the "White" Russian army that came to the defense of the Czar after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Similar defenses of a society's ruling minority by those who do not belong to that group are not rare so others soon came to mind. There were forces loyal to the English crown during the American Revolution, of course, and the French Revolution was not immune from groups looking to save their monarchy. There are even a few cases I now remember reading about where blacks were in favor of South Africa's former apartheid government.

Although I haven't done any kind of real search, I can't think of ever learning of a case where a minority ruling class didn't have among their supporters those being oppressed by them. If there is a case, it would be an example worth studying in as much detail as possible because it's difficult to understand why people who are suffering would openly support those who cause it. I do understand how some people who are living on the edge will not eagerly take any action that is seen as causing their personal situation to worsen by, for example, being fired from their job if they speak out against injustice. But once a revolution is underway, or there is a clear alternative that will improve one's life, support for the people who cause the suffering is baffling.

This attitude reminds me of a John Steinbeck quote: "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires." If true, which I think is the case in one form or another, this sentiment could be the best explanation. But it is still bewildering, to me especially given the historical evidence against social and economic mobility in a society ruled by a powerful minority.

Whether a country's ruling classes are called nobility, clergy, capitalists, or anything else, as a species we seem to gravitate and then support the idea of being ruled by some sort of powerful minority. A true democracy where the power is possessed by "We the People" is something that doesn't come naturally, it seems to me. If we really want to live in a democracy with a working separation of powers principle that diffuses and weakens control by small groups of people, we need stop finding value in their creation. When we don't, our unfortunate tendency to let it happen wins, which means the vast majority of us lose.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Using "Good Cops" To Justify Bad Ones

One of the regular responses to the bad police behavior now getting increased exposure is to claim "good cops" are a relevant mitigating factor to be considered. These comebacks should be discarded from consideration because they are based on the invalid idea that "points" can be earned by any cop in a uniform to be put in a pool to pay for all police brutality and exterminations. I would hope that the creation of a pool of murder points by "good cops" is an insult to them, but I have to see any major objections.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Torture Me, Torture You

Story: "Poll: Almost half say torture sometimes needed"

Finding humanity disappointing on a regular basis is now the norm for me. Not only is this pro-torture sentiment about as evil as imaginable, it's one that is fought with vigor when the torture is being inflicted by others instead of to others. "Moral for me only" is the declaration we are supposed to praise, apparently.

The next time an American claims they were tortured by a foreign agent, I will be looking for Dick Cheney and his supporters to voice their support for the torturers. I won't find it, but I'll look.

I also can't help but notice that this sentiment has a religious basis, given that a threat of eternal torture is a typical religious assertion seen as moral. It's hard to be against torture when your religion puts it front and center as a godly action.

It's also worth noting that those who complain about a perceived absence of a "moral compass" will be the ones most in favor of torture, making the claim supremely ironic and pathetic. The moral compass they are looking for literally can't exist.