Thursday, October 16, 2014

What's the difference?

What could possibly cause one graphic to inspire me and one graphic to leave me wondering whether my fellow Liberals/Progressives/Leftists are practicing their critical thinking skills? Take one moment to consider these banners before reading on, assuming you haven't yet decided to bail.

I am bound to ask what I don't hear others asking. What does being gay or being a parent have to do with opposing bullying?

When I see these messages and similar ones all over the internet and in the real world, I feel ambiguous at best. Sure, on one hand I am heartened to see that compassionate folks are standing against bad behavior. Also, I am dismayed by the unintended bright lines we are drawing around ourselves. The nationalistic lines (I'm an American or other). The smaller lines (I'm gay or black or Aspergers or Hispanic or feminist, and so on. I have been troubled by this for some time and this is as good a day as any to say, "I quit". I am done compartmentalizing my definition of myself and my support of fellow humans. I know it is popular and politically correct to say things like, "I'm a feminist" or "I'm an ally" (referencing LGBT issues) but I'm done.

I have decided that I can't make sense of a world, nor feel hopeful for a world, in which different sub-groups feel obliged to boldly state that they are banding together against bullying. What does that mean? Are there behaviors that are clearly good for people but about which we will not join hands? Will every group need a special banner or a T-shirt for every other positive thing upon which we agree or negative thing we oppose? How far down that path do we find ourselves now? This suggests that we are so parochial and clannish that we might well abandon hope for the united (or, at minimum,  more united) pursuit of betterment. I can't prove this isn't our nature, I simply decide not to feed it.

What would it be like if we imagined ourselves as members of the same team? While I respect a person's right to see themselves as a proud homosexual/parent/etc., I am a human, which is all I need to be to oppose bullying. As a human and a proud Humanist, I oppose the factionalizing of people. I suggest that long history shows factionalizing  people tends to produce more tension and discrimination and contention, not less. Essentially, bullying (as well as other forms of bad behavior) are not bad because they are anti-trans or anti-parent or anti-gay. Bad behavior is bad because it is counter to the well being of our fellow humans.

I am a Humanist. Period.

Okay, if aliens land tomorrow and they are not human, I may need to expand my definition in light of new information. Though it doesn't roll off the tongue, I may need to become a Sentientist (?).

Though I do not usually ask this, please like or share or whatever if you follow my point.
As always, feel free to speak in calm opposition to, or contend cantankerously with, that which you feel is poorly considered, baffling, or flatly wrong.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Somebody get me a bigger rat trap!

Suggested reading:
Regarding Climate Change and firewalls agains corporate interests

I am clearly and unambiguously in favor of the purpose/intent. However, it does beg the question, do those corporate players need to be physically sitting at the negociating table in order to effect the outcome? In short, is it possible to construct effective firewalls? Here is my initial supposition. The policy makers of individual governments and international organizations may already be owned/beholding to/subsidized by these very corporate entities. Further, the inaction or insufficient action in the face of clear and convincing evidence by our best thinkers, suggests that the game is rigged from the outset. It is difficult for us to see clearly in part because we are all enmeshed in this Capitalistic game directly (through our dependence on jobs it provides) or subtly (through avenues like the stock market and the return on investment it provides). I sadly suggest that, no matter how inescapably correct or even noble our efforts, the tendency to rapacious profiteering is woven into the fabric of this beast. I offer into evidence the following. One of the bastions of American style Capitalism, Forbes Magazine, carried this headline refering to corporations:The Disturbing Link Between Psychopathy And Leadership. My advice, read it but, as with any other horror story, not before bed.

So, do I have a bigger point or am I merely expressing a nihilistic rhetoric? A reasonable query. For the moment I will answer this way. I have stake in the outcome. How this turns out effects my children and grand children. I am not served by hysteria, histrionics, or maudlin belly-button gazing. It behooves me to put on my best thinking cap. Arguably problems are more likely solved following an unflinching examination. This is generally understood to lead us to the best questions which, in turn, lead to the best answers.

So, I challenge those who read this. For the sake of argument, assume what I have said is true. Now, starting with the assumption that doing nothing is not an option, ask yourself, What course of action is most consistent with the premise? I have an idea or two but I would not think to rob you of the opportunity to work through the puzzle for yourself. I will give it a few days after which I will share my inferences.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I am looking for any and all thoughtful persons to make a case for my attending the climate march coming up in NYC. Clearly I am onboard with the message. The world needs to do more, way more, with regard to climate change. My concern is with effectiveness. If I attend, will I along with many thousands of others, be manufacturing a feel-good-moment with little or no chance of effecting significant change?

Why do I pose the question in this way? I was listening to a recent Radiolab podcast titled, In the Dust of this Planet. The topic was nihilism or pessimism, the cycles of such thought, and the way it spreads through modern culture. For those with curious minds who are not familiar with Radiolab, I urge you to tune in during your down time or as you go about the less mentally taxing of your daily activities. I guarantee you will be enriched. With that said, one of the guests made a statement that is currently bouncing in a disturbing manner around in my brain. The gentleman who made the statement is called David Victor. He is a professor of International Relations at the University of California at San Diego. Dr. Victor is also one of the authors of the definitive climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe it is safe to infer that he is uniquely qualified to comment on this topic. In the Panel’s most recent report the tone shifted from an emphasis strictly on prevention to a greater emphasis on adaptation. Which is to say, the people who know most about this topic now strongly suggest that we balance prevention efforts against doing what is needed to survive the changes they feel are inevitable. He candidly states that members of the panel bent over backwards to strike an optimistic tone when they stated that if we put in place various technologies and policies across the world, we might still avoid a two degree warming (apparently this is considered to be some important benchmark). But, in his own words, “my own opinion is that the kind of actions you’d need to do that are so heroic that we’re not going to see them on this planet”.

To be clear the United Nations Climate Change Summit, scheduled to begin on 23 September, while ambitious in its scope, in no way approaches ‘heroic’ actions.

So, the question is out there. Does it matter if I attend? If I don’t attend, what might I do that would be a more effective course of action? Keep in mind that I already try to limit my carbon footprint, recycle whenever I can, vote for candidates who support climate change action, and so on. So, my question is, what does one reasonably rationally do beyond ones immediate sphere?

Opinions are solicited but those bolstered by verifiable evidence are the most sought after.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A Race, Color, Prejudice and Political Correctness Mashup

In response to this link, Colormute.

I have some knowledge and deeply personal experience in this arena and I would like to seriously contend with several of the points. Most of the time I don't bother and I won’t do so in any extended way here. I find it is not what most people (on any side of the color line) want to hear. I suppose my intention is here to allude to the fact that there is more to this onion than the layers most people see.

It is my experience that, people of color want to hear and repeat a certain set of things that they believe will work to their advantage. White people generally fall into one of two camps, those who are overtly prejudiced and those who are straining to be on the right side of the issue. It doesn’t surprise me that, in such an atmosphere, critical thinking is not often the immediate result.

Parenthetically, as I write this, I am reminded of a conversation, the last conversation I had, with Felicia Gaines before she passed way, too young. Some of you (Harrisburg UU folks) will remember her. I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked but for some reason we both felt a strong connection on very short acquaintance. At some point I decided that I could express to her exactly what I thought about these issues, and even if we didn’t agree on every point, she would listen with an open mind and heart and offer thoughtful critique. That turned out to be a good assumption. I wish I had a recording of that conversation. She did not bring any sense of victimhood to the table, though she had clearly known the sting of maltreatment on occasions in her life. For my part, I felt no need to lead with disclaimers about being a white man or associated guilt. We simply discussed what we had observed and what we inferred about those observations after stripping the emotions from our experiences. To be clear, both of us had felt exactly the level and type of emotions one would expect to result from our individual experiences. We both confessed to wallowing in those emotions at some point. At another point we, each in our own way, had thought past the emotions. Mind you, I didn’t say we’d forgotten. I didn’t say we felt entirely disconnected from those emotions. We were simply able to think beyond the feelings. And in that place we had decided that our view was from a new height and our understanding was forever changed.

 My initial impulse was to offer a disingenuous ending where I apologized if anyone was upset by what I said. Then I decided to just be straight up honest. I flatly hope it did make people feel uncomfortable. And, no, not just to be a pain in the neck. When discussing things that hurt and degrade real people, perhaps we shouldn’t feel too comfortable. What if the things we are (quite rightly) concerned about are complex topics interwoven into a complex societal tapestry and won’t easily fit on a bumper sticker?

That is all I will say at this writing. I am happy to share more with those who are interested.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another comforting thought, no charge.

Here’s a thought for those who have studied a bit of history and have some idea of how societies and institutions grew and changed up to this very minute. Now, imagine if every trace of one of the world’s three major religions disappeared today. It doesn’t matter which one. But, every thought, every memory, and every word ever written about it, gone. What is the likelihood that the exact same structure would spring up again? Effectively, zero. Human nature suggests that something else might spring up in its place, but never that exact thing. If science and all scientific knowledge disappeared today, there is not doubt that people would figure out how to do it all again. And, most crucially, they would come up with the exact same answers. Again. Comforting, isn’t it?

This is blatantly restating the words of Penn Jillette.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The extent of silence is the extent of culpability.

A short rant because my attention span is dipping towards the national average.

The U.S. government at work helping to insure poverty and misery

Sure, it is rescinded at the moment, but for how long. If another Republican is elected President, who will have his ear? To whom will he owe fealty? Religious Conservatives? Ya, think?

The Catholic Church doing what it does.

Note that the full-court-press on these issues is always where the population is poorest and has the least education.

My contention is that educated first-world Catholics can no longer simply decide not to follow the “rules” they don’t like and call it a day. The policies of the Catholic church encourage the blight of over-population and the resultant misery, poverty, and disease. It does not matter how many charities they also operate, as long as their policies help to ensure a constant state of poverty. It doesn’t matter how much the faithful pray that things will “work out” for their brethren in these third-world countries- as long as the officials of their church use out-dated mythology to insure the unfortunates stay that way.

Oh, and by the way, in my mind this applies equally to any other church or organization with similar policies. 
Sure- These two examples are scarcely the only bad actors on the scene. They are only the low hanging fruit.