Sunday, September 28, 2014

Virtuous Conversion

There are moments when I'm exposed to a string of stories about what conservative pundits and politicians have recently said where I can't help but think their agenda includes a concerted effort to convert into virtues the worst of human attitudes and behaviors.

Some Potential Headlines for "The Onion"

Some potential headlines for "The Onion":

Woman refuses to share "greatest idea ever" with boss until GMO-free snacks are added to the break room

City bus driver never fails to squeeze in one more passenger

Local man issues formal apology to 49ers for losing lucky shirt that was source of their success
Local man makes a fortune betting against home team after losing lucky shirt.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Exceptional Rule

I am beginning to solidify a position that holds exceptions are the only rule.

The Male-Female Separation Hangover

It's fairly common for me to read something on a topic I think I know pretty well but come away with an improved view. This is usually not because of any new information--although that does happen--but because the tone and way the words are strung together are fresh. That is happening again as I'm reading Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade, a book on what we know about the ancestors to humans.

In this case, my improved view has to do with the male-female relationship structure. The book touches on the fact that males and females generally interact with each other differently than with each other, which is, of course, no surprise. But Wade expresses this obvious fact in a way that stresses the independent nature of males and females as separate groups among our pre-homo sapien ancestors. Individual males and females generally only came together for mating purposes and generally interacted little otherwise. (They probably came together as groups for other purposes such as eating, migration and protection from enemies, but these were exceptions to separate group lives.) It is also thought that males and females had separate power structures and rules of behavior. What each group did on a daily basis was also different. When it came to day-to-day life, it's as if they weren't members of the same species at all. They lived together in the same band or group, but each was almost an autonomous subgroup. The males were dominant, but the power didn't need to be exercised very often when it came to things other than sexual activity.

This did change, of course, and continues to change today. But what this emphasis has me thinking about is any lingering effects on our modern behavior. If this notion about the behavior of our distant relatives is true, can we still see its remnants in ourselves? I think the answer is yes.

Pockets of the world's population do actively promote the idea that men and woman are distinctly different and should be separated from one another as much as possible. Some groups go to extreme and violent measures to insure this happens. When the topic of male-female equality comes up, there is vehement opposition. Men who take this position act like our ancestors in wanting to keep their dominant position, an assertion that is supported by many women who support the same structural view.

In what I think is an interesting and relevant point, there are existing tribal cultures in places like the Amazon rain forest that still do physically separate the sexes. There is one hut for the men, another for the women. If they do have some sort of marriage-bonding process, the couple comes together for sexual activity and other issues related to offspring, but they do not live together. The cultures, if you will, of each sex is separate with any inter-group activities usually highly structured.

I would suggest that most of those in what we call the First World who support sexual separation are not really all that different from both our modern and ancient relatives. There are lots of differences, of course, but the root idea is still alive and kicking.

There is probably some benefit to a society that structures itself in such a way that members of each sex have at least some methods of coming together on their own. For men and women to each have a support group of people like them is not an alien idea; we do this all the time with a plethora of points of commonality between various individuals. But like with most things, this kind of separation can become a way for one group to suppress another, making any potential benefits evaporate. I'm not sure of a specific answer, but it's something we should admit and talk about.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Herds of Privilege

Story: "Why Some Rich, Educated Parents Avoid Vaccines"

Something I think is at least part of this problem is privilege, one of the other topics currently being discussed in the culture. Although people argue otherwise, privilege does indeed exist for groups with the most money and power. Included within the mindset of many in a privileged group is the idea that they are not only better at life than others, but that this trait is inherent, and separates them from the masses who naturally belong below them. I think this attitude bleeds over into immunizations because vaccine effectiveness is based on what is called herd immunity (or community immunity). The privileged don't see themselves as part of any herd--the seem themselves as far better and distinct from that condition because a herd is a designation for the lower classes. So, for me, it would make sense that our society's most privileged also see vaccines as only for "the herd," a group in which they claim no membership.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The War Against Too Much Democracy

Story: "Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Elections a ‘more meaningful measure’ if voters must pass a test"

The U.S. has often touted as a valid reason for going to war the imposition of democracy. We have killed an uncountable number of people and destroyed societies in this effort, telling ourselves that it is somehow worth it to do so.

We have endured a recent resurgence in the U.S. of people who now want to find fault in the very system over which we have killed so many to promote. This raises a troubling point of discussion: Will we ever invade any other countries based on this new vision? Will the export of a clearly broken view of democracy be a future rallying point for war? Will there be a time where we invade another country for having too much democracy?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ignoring Our Anti-Greed Wisdom

"They are just doing it for the money" is a regular criticism leveled by an opposing party to another's actions. But the missed irony always amazes. The pro-greed sentiment being challenged is actually at the core of the society we've created for ourselves. There is no for-profit corporation that is not "just doing it for the money," and more than a few people who work in jobs they hate are "just doing it for the money." To claim tapping this pool of greed in which we all live is problematic reveals that, at some level, we do indeed acknowledge the money-driven snafu on which we've based so much of our existence. If only we would actually realize it.

The OK Standard

Those who claim "I turned out OK" as support for taking similar actions against others often have a brutally low standard for OK.

Fear of Flying

Attention sex education opponents: Imagine pilots figuring out how to fly on their own without being taught aerodynamics.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Potential Channel for Press Conference Denials

The Onion” headline possibility: Upper Class Americans to Clear Up Misunderstandings with Roku Channel of Their Press Conferences Where Responsibility for Everything is Denied

Do you mean...

I find one of the most unfortunate and annoying online conversation styles to be the assertion, "Do you mean [something not declared]"? Not only is this an ad hominem-like allegation by the use of "you," but it's often an attempt to twist someone's idea into something that gives the do-you-mean person self-approval to rant on an altered point, accomplishing nothing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Uneducated Superiority

There appears to be a concerted effort by some to give people with little education a superiority complex.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Potential "The Onion" Headlines

Potential The Onion headlines:

Local man cares about fortune cookie prediction after leaving restaurant

After release of new U2 album, popular cover band switches to Hanson

To help mitigate team mascot criticism, Redskins cheerleaders to root for Ferguson cops at local rally

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Past v. Future: Which Trumps the Other?

Most religions: The best information is from the past.
Science: The best information is always yet to come.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Outrageous Inequality

In a society controlled by white males, it's difficult to find cases of white male aggression where the level of corresponding white male outrage or condemnation is anywhere near equal to comparable actions committed by others. The magnitude of this disparity is not dampened by the scope of malevolence; from individual attacks to military invasions it remains.

But the same is true for any group in power.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Interrogating For Validation

We have an unfortunate proclivity that goes at least back to Socrates where we attempt to prove a point by interrogating someone who is not in agreement with it. This is not only an invalid way of providing some measure of proof, it's annoying. In order for something being put forward to be authenticated, it must stand on its own; the validity of someone's position or idea is not dependent on anyone else's opinion of it. An interrogation is a fake form of discovery, a fool's gold version of confirmation.

Instead, we should labor to remove humans from the authentication process as much as possible because we can be the worst obstacle to verification by convincing ourselves that our opinion-based approval is required.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The War on Peace

Being constantly engaged in acts of war seems to now be a central tenet of American culture, so much so that when we can't satisfy this appetite for war abroad we declare it at home. These domestic wars include militarized police and attacks on those who cross the border (both civilian and government). But his nasty desire is so pervasive that "war" is declared on a just about anything--or claimed to have been declared by someone else--including women, drugs, voting, education, religion, and science, to name just a few.

Sadly, this cultural bent has many people seeing a desire for peace as unpatriotic.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Deceitful Tax Dodging

Conservatives consistently shout that raising taxes on corporations or wealthy individuals would result in businesses being closed because profits won't be high enough to stick around. Given the sister conservative complaint that taxes are too high already, it should be easy to put together as proof a list of services and products that aren't available now due to a tax issue, but such a list is missing.

The truth is, greed is not hampered by the tax rate. If so, we would be able to declare taxes to be a cure for greed and celebrate the discovery. The real reason behind the complaint about taxes is a desire by the wealthy and powerful to maintain their position and acquire allies among the poor by threatening the stability of their tenable position with an alternative enemy.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Elusive Ultimate Answers Fail to Discourage

In a very real way, science can be thought of as the search for ultimate rules that always accurately specify how things work. The same might also be said for philosophy, religion, astrology, parenting, teaching, and every gambler's "system." We engage in this goal-seeking behavior constantly, but seem to rarely worry about the overwhelming odds of failure that, to date, as always been the result.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fast Food Freeways

After traveling the Interstate highway system after some years kept away from it I think I can now safely confirm it to be a system that primarily connects fast food restaurants. This service must be vital because it is apparently also always under construction.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Syria: It's the Thought That Counts (or Should)

Headline: "The Unbearable Emptiness of a New York Times Op-Ed"
John McCain and Lindsey Graham want Obama to confront ISIS now. They don't specify how.

"You can either demand that Obama not bomb Syria until he's ensured he has a plan likely to win international and congressional support, or you can demand that he bomb as soon as possible. You can't demand both."
Excellent point. There have been extensive valid criticisms when past actions were taken without things like an exit strategy or a definition of success, but when some people want to go to war, nothing as trivial as thinking about these things matters much.