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Democratic Socialists at their very best

I saw the original footage, but it’s so much better this way.

Beyond that, I have nothing to say.

Let me put this as gently as I can

My exercise of liberty does not infringe upon your liberty.

How can I make such a statement? Liberty, as conceived by our colonial forebears-cum-founders, meant the right to do whatever one wanted, right up to the point that it infringed upon the rights and liberty of another. That last part is vitally important. What I do ceases to be a legitimate exercise of liberty when it harms someone else. You deciding to feel “threatened” by my liberty, is not harm. You not liking my liberty or the way I exercise it is not harm. My celebration of my liberty is not harm.

So, I can play my guitar and sing country songs that would make reasonable people swear off music forever. I can’t wake you up at 2 a.m. with my musical stylings.

I can write, print or say whatever I want. I can’t commit libel or slander.

I can own one gun or 5000 guns. I can’t shoot you with one of them, unless I have a reasonable fear of death or grievous bodily injury at your hands. I can’t threaten you with them, either.

If you choose to feel “threatened” by my liberty, I have no control over that. As a registered nurse with a fair bit of experience in psychiatric/mental-health, I do suggest that if you choose to feel threatened (and it is a choice) by the liberty of others, that you seek the help you need.

 

 

Huh, retrospection, you say?

I find myself growing increasingly intolerant as I slowly sneak up on being 60. Since I have a few years to go and am already far less tolerant than I once was, I can see myself becoming one of these cranky “get off my lawn” guys long before I reach 70. Or not. What’s going on? I can remember, not too many years before, when I would simply let things go. Why the difference? I think there is more than one thing going on.

First, after giving this some thought, consideration and reflection for a good while, I’ve come to realize I am actually very tolerant and supportive of those who have problems or difficulties.

  • Your financially hurting because the job from which you thought you would one day retire no longer exists because of major tech changes in your industry? I can probably help you financially, at least a little, while helping you form a plan to get back on your feet. Why don’t you and your family come by the house for dinner a few times this week?
  • You have PTSD or major depression and life is really hard, right now? I understand. I’ll do whatever I can to encourage you. I can even point you in the direction of some really good resources to help you do what’s necessary to make things better.
  • You made a mistake a few years back and the consequences of that are making life hard, but you’re trying to rebuild? You just need a single break? We all do stupid things when we’re young, and sometimes when we’re not so young. Maybe I can help you find a solution. I’ll certainly do everything I can to help and encourage you.

What do the above have in common (all of which are things I’ve seen real people encounter)? Simply this, those people were all willing to do whatever it took to get out of those situations. By comparison,

  • You lost your job because your boss wouldn’t put up with your anger issues or because she required you to do something you just felt like was beneath you or that might challenge you? You’re looking for a job where that will never occur and none of what happened was your fault, anyway, and at least now “everybody knows what you’ll put up with?” Sucks to be you. Get off my lawn.
  • Your depression/PTSD/Bipolar disorder means that events and other people can “trigger” you, but you won’t consistently take your meds because you don’t like the way they make you feel? You won’t go to therapy because the therapist isn’t buying that everything that happens to you is the fault of others? Your life’s gonna be rough. Get off my lawn.
  • That drug charge is hanging around your neck like an albatross, but you don’t want to get clean, not even long enough to pass a UDS, and people who won’t hire your are assholes so that’s why you keep using? No. You use because you’re an addict. Get clean or get off my lawn.

Second, I’m at that point in my life where it has become important to me to leave something that will outlast me (thank you for the insight, Erik Erikson). In many ways, I simply do not have time for things that pull me away from those efforts. So, while I remain willing to help, I reserve that help for those who want things to get better. So, you want me to help? Glad to do it. You need an ear to listen? Glad to lend it. Want honest advice? Glad to give it. You insist that I help only in the precise manner you prescribe? I must not only listen but give my approval to your less-than-accurate asinine and self-serving belief that nothing is your responsibility? I have to give advice that confirms what you have already decided to believe, even if such advice contradicts the plain and obvious truth?

Get off my lawn.

My engagement in retrospection leads me to this conclusion. I remain compassionate and tolerant of those who have real problems and who seek real answers they can and will implement. My compassion for those who have real problems but refuse to accept responsibility for changing things? Limited. My tolerance for those in the second group when they try to make their refusal to change, and the consequences of that decision, my responsibility? Yeah. Kindly remove yourself from my outdoor verdant carpet.

Thus endeth my retrospection.

Maybe it’s not that complicated

Between mass shooters (who I will not dignify by naming), fire bombings, name-calling by many across the political spectrum, and grandstanding by politicians, it has been a tumultuous several days and weeks, has it not? Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the turmoil and conclude that it is all so hopelessly complex, so incredibly complicated, that there is no way of knowing what’s going on, much less find a way out. It certainly seems that way to me, sometimes. I find that I can get so caught up in trying to “figure it all out” that I  miss the obvious. (On a related note, my MBTI type is INTP. Surely, chaos theory came from the minds of NTs!). I was doing a pretty good job of digging myself out of the rabbit hole, until we had a slew of asshats decide to kill a bunch of their fellow citizens for…reasons. The result? Boom! Back down the rabbit hole I went. Running down thoughts and ideas, until I had a conversation with a man I respect greatly. Which led to this post. My thesis is this: There is a sense in which this stuff isn’t complicated at all. 

That’s it. Nothing deep. It doesn’t require multiple courses in rhetoric, logic, persuasion, etc. It does, however, require that we acknowledge some things.

Evil is real

Like it or not, regardless of whether it is at odds with your worldview, there are some things that are just wrong. In fact, they are so wrong that they can only be accurately described as evil. Basically, fundamentally, inherently bad.

Acknowledging the existence of evil does not absolutely require also acknowledging any sort of supernatural component of existence. (I think it helps and is true, but that’s just me and far from essential to what I’m saying). Evil is a real thing. I’m a registered nurse with a significant amount of experience in a couple of clinical areas, including psychiatric/mental-health. I understand that biology and events can combine to lead people to do some horrible things. Still, in the vast and overwhelming majority of cases, those two components (nature and nurture) are not the ultimate culprit(s). That falls to the individual. He or she did not simply “make some bad choices.” He wasn’t merely “the unavoidable product of a failed system.” She didn’t solely find herself “lacking in coping skills.” No, they chose, chose, to do things that were evil. Evil is real. It exists and it appeals to people, especially when their circumstances would seem to improve if they did…whatever. Here, in my town, it consisted of hacking a pregnant woman to death.

We must acknowledge that evil is real.

Call out the evil

When some ass**** commits some atrocity, even if that person is nominally on your side (or mine) we must call the evil what it is and refuse to countenance it. “Well, it was bad, but” is crap in those circumstances. It wasn’t “bat, but.” It was bad. It was evil. When some bigoted jackass says “the problem is white/black/brown/green/pink/short/tall/fat/thin/vegan/omnivorous/liberal/conservative/liberarian/group of your choice people” the evil of that belief must be called out. It is especially important that it be called out by those with whom the previously mentioned jackass is at least nominally associated and it must be done immediately. “You, your beliefs and your actions are vile, so go away” can be amazingly effective in helping (yes, helping) people learn a different way of thinking and acting.

Recognize contributing factors

In spite of what I wrote above, there are things that can make people more prone to doing evil. Addressing those factors can be difficult. The basic concept, though, is not complex. Let me see if I can explain what I mean.

In 1984 Richard John Neuhaus published The Naked Public Square. In it, he complained that a strict separationist reading of the First Amendment was leading to the exclusion of religious speech from public discourse. The result has been a political and public discourse that lacks a coherent worldview or sense of who we are as a nation and what we are all about. The “public square” has become naked of discussion and consideration of such things.

Friedrich Nietzsche famously said “God is dead.” It is worth noting that atheist though he was, he didn’t say that was necessarily a good thing. His observation was that while (in his view) the Enlightenment had eliminated the possibility of the existence of God, both God and religion served vital functions in society and society had not come up with anything to replace Him.

I would argue that we still haven’t. As a result, we are plagued with our own version of the nihilism Nietzsche discussed. Life without meaning or objective.

As I look at the actions of people like the three murderers from a few days ago, it is almost as if they read the first few pages of something written by Nietzsche, and then closed the book. Like the “incels” some have suggested they so much seem to resemble, they are nihilists. Why the killing? They seek meaning. One of them, the ass**** in El Paso, made it pretty clear in his “I am a loser” manifesto that he was seeking meaning. In his case, that meaning would be found in infamy. I submit that even in the absence of manifestos, they (like many others) not only perhaps found themselves unappreciated, but they concluded life lacked meaning. They would, then and by God, give both it and themselves some meaning. “You’ll pay attention to my sorry ass now” is, I further submit, a cry not just for recognition, but for meaning. And it is still evil.

We must teach values

Actually, this section would probably be better entitled “since we’re going to teach values anyway, we should choose carefully the ones we teach” but that’s too long.

Look, I don’t care if you are a religious person or not.* I do, however, care that we have seemingly raised multiple generations of increasingly nihilistic people. As far as I can tell, the only remedy for nihilism is to inculcate in people, ideally beginning early on, a worldview that lends meaning to life and the world. Unfortunately, parents who live as though life has no meaning, or who parrot such nonsense to their children, are poorly equipped to do such a thing. Nietzsche wrote a long time ago. He seemed to be concerned with Europe. We are about on schedule in terms of how some of our societal changes follow those of Europe. We can see where its societal changes are taking Europe (I’m not arguing that Europe is some sort of cultural monolith). From my perspective, where it is going is not good. Likewise, it’s not good that we have reached this point. On the other hand, we haven’t gone as far down the road of nihilism and we can see what it has done to Europe, so maybe we can exit this thing before it’s too late to do so.

*Actually, I care quite a bit and my concerns are quite specific, but none of that is germane to this discussion.

 

I like moosic

In spite of my preference for certain genres, the longer I (try to) play my guitar, the more aware I become of good music outside those genres. When they were at the top of their game, Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf collaborated to produce some impressive stuff. Among those we find these two, neither of which are traditional happy love songs. They are, however, really good music. One of the things I appreciate about them is that unlike a fair bit of music, they are lyrically strong. I hope you enjoy them.

First, there is I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That). And yes, he does say what “that” is. It’s in the verse preceding each chorus.

The other is an equally not happy love song, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad.

More icky political stuff (and maybe a short story) sometime this week.

 

 

 

 

The best predictor of future behavior

Yesterday, 7/15/2019, on Old NFO’s blog, I read something that reminded me, oddly enough, of something I read on Vox back in April, 2016. Old NFO’s piece is entitled “Resetting the ‘agenda.'” The one on Vox was entitled “The smug style in American liberalism.” The rather obvious question is “what on earth do those two things have to do with one another?” Allow me to explain, bearing in mind that any misrepresentation of either article is entirely my fault. (I don’t think I’m going to misrepresent either, but one never can be entirely sure).

The point of Old NFO’s posting, if I may paraphrase, seems to be that what some had predicted has come to pass. To wit, that once the American Left (hereinafter simply “the Left”) decided gays and lesbians had fulfilled their purpose, they would be largely dumped by the Left. Segue to the Vox article

The author of the article is Emmett Rensin, a modern American liberal (to be differentiated, at least by me, from classical liberals). During the course of the article, during which he warned other liberals of the dangers of being smug (including the election of Donald Trump) he said something profoundly important.

“In 1948, in the immediate wake of Franklin Roosevelt, 66 percent of manual laborers voted for Democrats, along with 60 percent of farmers. In 1964, it was 55 percent of working-class voters. By 1980, it was 35 percent.

The white working class in particular saw even sharper declines. Despite historic advantages with both poor and middle-class white voters, by 2012 Democrats possessed only a 2-point advantage among poor white voters. Among white voters making between $30,000 and $75,000 per year, the GOP has taken a 17-point lead.”

Later, he would go on to note that

“…no party these past decades has effectively represented the interests of these dispossessed. Only one has made a point of openly disdaining them too.”

My point is that once the “dispossessed” had become seemingly firmly and forever part of the Left’s base, they and their very real concerns could be largely ignored. In fact, they could be insulted (with some ensuing bad results, but that’s a different issue).

This, I submit, is what gays and lesbians are beginning to face as the Left has become convinced that gays and lesbians have achieved what the Left thinks they need. Consequently, the Left is now turning its attention to its next group of  the “oppressed,” the transgender folks. When you encounter people who are willing to assert that lesbians who have no interest in dating pre-op MTF folks are “transphobic bigots,” it becomes clear that they have served their purpose to the Left. Just as the Left complains that many of the people who once voted heavily for Democrats* chose to vote for Trump simply can’t see the “truth” of the Left’s position, some are not beginning to complain that gays and lesbians who don’t want to date anyone who was not born a biological male (or female, respectively) simply don’t understand the “truth” of the Left’s current position on sexuality and gender.

I further submit, that this is what the Left, in its devotion to identity politics, does. It is the nature of identity politics. Once you’ve gotten about all the mileage you can out of one group or cause, it’s time to move on. It’s time to find another group you can use to increase your power and prestige and to increase you conviction that you are “on the right side of history” (or some other meaningless but good-sounding nonsense).

What the transgender folks, who are arguably benefiting from the current focus of the Left, have neglected to consider is that what happened to factory workers is what happened to farmers and ranchers, which is what is happening to gays and lesbians, and which is what will happen to them (the transgender folks) once they have fulfilled their usefulness. Then, when sometime down the road, the transgender folks cease to be virtually 100% behind the Left, that same Left will ask “why are you voting against your own self-interest?”

Note that I’m not suggesting the American Right is emerging as the champion of equality for the transgender community. All I’m saying is that community is being used and once the Left gets all the use they can from transgender people as a whole, the Left will move on and leave the trans folk just like they left the blue collar workers. As a RN with significant psychiatric/mental-health experience, I recognize the truth of the maxim that “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

It becomes rather obvious to ask “well, if that’s the case, who will the Left pick up as their next cause?” I have a suspicion which I won’t mention, right now. I will say, though, that you aren’t likely to like it.

What do you think?

*I understand that not all Democrats are properly considered part of the Left, just as not all Leftists are members of the Democratic party. That’s not my point. If you choose to believe it is, I can offer you little in the way of help.

Bark good

As of yesterday, I have managed to avoid the Grim Reaper for 57 years. These days, we recognize that not really much of an accomplishment. Barring some underlying pathology, an unfortunate accident, or a refusal to learn and follow the “three rules” (don’t go stupid places, don’t do stupid things and don’t hang out with stupid people), there’s not really much to it; breathe, eat (chew, swallow, retain), eliminate, practice some semblance of hygiene, and you’re well on your way. My friends, family and I celebrated with bark.

None of which is really meaningful, other than it provides me a way to get to my point.

One of the things we hear, fairly often, about life “way back then” (think Lords, Ladies, Gentlefolk, peasants and serfs) was that life was very short. Pick an average age. I’ve heard or read everything from “late 20’s” to about 36 as the average age to which one could be expected to live. The problem is that those numbers, whichever one was correct, are meaningless absent context. Words and numbers, even when presented as being factual, are like that. Without a context they tell us nothing. People dying, on average, at 36 sounds depressing. Of course, that might be the average because so many children were dying very young (which is one thing to help explain large families, the lack of birth control and the need for someone to take care of the parents when they become frail and elderly being others). Once you reached a given age, say early to mid-teens, your odds were pretty good. So, you’d live beyond the average, but the death of so many of your siblings (and your own kids) brought the average way down.

I mention all this because I have recently encountered a tendency for some people to belittle the idea of context when it comes to understanding something. While it is true that some people (politicians, perhaps?) will say their words were “taken out of context” when they were not, it remains true that it is context that provides meaning.* Dictionaries don’t provide meaning. They only report how words are used. Think about the following scenario: You walk up to a group of people engaged in a conversation. As you get closer, you hear one person say “I don’t like the black ones.” What does that mean? The fact is that absent a context, which you lack, you simply don’t know. If they are talking about race relations, it’s possible the speaker is a racist pig. On the other hand, if the topic is licorice, he’s merely expressing his preferences regarding a kind of candy. But it can be even worse.

Let’s say you overhear him say, “I don’t like the reds.” What could that mean?

  • If the topic is licorice, see above
  • The speaker could be a racist who dislikes American Indians
  • If the topic is professional baseball, he might dislike a certain team from a city in Ohio
  • If the topic is Russia, he might dislike a particular party associated with the Russian revolution
  • If he is a Cold War vet who simply cannot let go, he might dislike Russians in general or communists in general

There could be other explanations (wines, beers and acorns come to mind), but the point is the same for all of them. If you don’t know the context, you don’t have the faintest, freakin’ idea of what he means.

How do we evaluate what someone says, or does, or thinks, or how he acts if we don’t know the context? The answer is, we don’t, at least not with any hope of accuracy. And that’s from people we encounter today. If we look at the words/thoughts/actions of someone long dead, it becomes even harder.

For understanding, context isn’t the only thing, but it is everything.

Oh, and this is what one uses to celebrate with bark. Barky Boston Butt goodness.

barky Boston Butty goodness

 

*If you disagree, please share with me your list of words or numbers which, absent context, have any meaning whatsoever. Take your time. I’ll wait.