I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That My Disagreement Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care About Other People

I have some serious problems with conservatives in this country. They ignore science, they pretend moral superiority based on no evidence they are right, and they are often either catastrophically hypocritical or so blinded by their ideologies that they can’t see how they contradict themselves with every other political stance.

The thing is, those are all the same problems I have with our liberals, too. Case in point, this childish rant from an editor at the Huffington post: I Don’t Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People. This is a shining example of what I outlined above. It’s wonderfully emotional, ignoring the facts that contradict its positions, carries a great deal of virtue signalling, and utterly misses the discontinuity of the views espoused.

This point can only be made with a dissection, I’m afraid:

“Personally, I’m happy to pay an extra 4.3 percent for my fast food burger if it means the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family. If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.”

  • To start with, in debate circles, this is called “begging the question”. It isn’t even very subtle. The key point is the assumption that paying that 4.3% does somehow mean that “the person making it for me can afford to feed their own family”. The fact is, however, that this is not “settled science”, or even borne out by the facts on record.

    Obviously, economic theory says it’s wrong. If you increase the price of an item, the demand for that item falls, so you sell less of it. Imposing artificial wage increases costs, causing that supposed 4.3% increase in burger prices. So far we agree. But now consider that if it results in a 4.3% decrease in sales, the business simultaneously a) loses money, making them eager to find costs to cut, and b) discovers that they have less customers to serve, so they need slightly less staff to cover their needs. Combine those two, and you get the actual measured effects we see in Seattle according to this paper by researchers at the University of Washington, where they conclude that “The second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by around 9 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by around 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll fell for such jobs, implying that the minimum wage ordinance lowered low-wage employees’ earnings by an average of $125 per month in 2016.” In other words, the 3% increase in wage actually reduced income in those jobs by significantly more than that gain. (The whole point is moot, in the long term, but why not accelerate the process and make moral-superiority hay while the sun shines, right?)

  • Then comes the virtue signalling: “If you aren’t willing to fork over an extra 17 cents for a Big Mac, you’re a fundamentally different person than I am.” Note the hidden assumption that the only way you could be disagreeing is if you were greedy about hamburgers/money, obviating the need to understand the opposing argument! She’s just “a better person” than you if you disagree, and your reasons really don’t matter, even if you are right and she is wrong… (As an aside: Did you know that minimum wage was originally proposed to maintain white supremacy? But hey, the author is definitely on the side of right, because it feels good.)

“I’m perfectly content to pay taxes that go toward public schools, even though I’m childless and intend to stay that way, because all children deserve a quality, free education. If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.”

  • In the first sentence, we have a more subtle begging of the question, and it’s a twofer! The unstated assumption here is that there are no ways for her (or anyone else) to help educate children other than paying taxes. The stated one is that spending more money on education produces a higher quality of education.
    The first assumption is the more indefensible of the two, presumably the reason why it’s so carefully hidden in the text. Obviously, if her taxes didn’t go to education, she would still be free to donate any amount of her own money to education and would be free to encourage others to do the same. What she is really saying is “I know I’m right, and you should be forced to pay for my beliefs, too!”

    The second assumption is at best questionable. The US has been spending ever more on education since the 60s, and as shown by a study reported on in the author’s own Huffington post, has little to show for it. The author may know she is right, but reality has some serious questions…

  • In the second sentence, “If this seems unfair or unreasonable to you, we are never going to see eye to eye.”, the author first begs the question by assuming that you can only disagree with her if you think all her other assumptions are right, and still find the situation “unfair or unreasonable”. Never mind that you might disagree without thinking it unfair or unreasonable, or that you might find her other assumptions flawed or counterfactual, because the important meaning here is the implication of “we are never going to see eye to eye.” Once again, since the author knows she is right, and knows you are a bad person if you disagree (all facts and logic to the contrary), she has absolved herself of the need to think, or even make herself aware of the content of opposing viewpoints

This goes on at length:

“There are all kinds of practical, self-serving reasons to raise the minimum wage” (But none at all not to, evidence notwithstanding.)

“If making sure your fellow citizens can afford to eat, get an education, and go to the doctor isn’t enough of a reason to fund those things, I have nothing left to say to you.” (Because she knows her ideas will actually accomplish those things, so you can only be evil if you disagree.)

“I don’t have any easy answers. But I do know I’m done trying to convince these hoards of selfish, cruel people to look beyond themselves.” (Pure virtue signalling. Effectively, her own lack of knowledge is immaterial, because her heart is in the right place, and if you disagree with her, yours isn’t)

We do have problems. We do need to work on them. However, declaring everyone outside your tribe to be evil causes problems by dehumanizing “them”. Declaring yourself to be morally superior based solely on your political views, on the other hand, is just hubris. Both make things worse, not better, regardless of whether the right or left are doing them. Everybody needs to knock this shit off.

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Our Toddler the Inventor

While driving to day-care yesterday, our three-year old told me he wanted to play “The House Game”. The parameters of this game were rather fuzzy, at first, but it eventually became clear that he wanted to design imaginary houses with me.

I’m not sure where this idea came from, but by the third try, we had a rhythm. I’d ask him about some aspect of a house, he would answer, and when we had five or six details nailed down, I’d sum it up in a one-sentence description. This would elicit a big grin and a giggle, and he would shout “Again!”

On try number four, we got the following attributes:

  • Shape: Round
  • Color: Black
  • # of floors: “All the floors” (we’ll go with “really, really tall”)
  • # of windows: None!
  • # of doors: One, “and a secret one”
  • Roof: (paraphrasing for length) “A big orange light, like the sun, only it’s an eye”

Sauron’s castle. My son, who has never remotely been exposed to the Lord Of the Rings movies, just invented Sauron’s castle.

I am simultaneously fascinated and terrified…

Posted in Family, For Facebook, Geeky, General, Personal, Uncategorized, Whimsical | Leave a comment

Trendy Again?

I’ve watched a lot of trends come and go. I’ve been forced, because nothing else was available, to wear shorts that were whoa-short, past the knee, and everywhere in between. I’ve been stylish in shirts from Oxford button-down to “bowling” to crushed velvet with embroidered dragons (kinda miss the mid-90s on that point).

But there’s a much slower trend cycle I’ve noticed: men’s facial hair:

Not Me

When I grew my first serious beards, in the twilight of the 80’s, beards were weird. My full beard got me called “Grizzly Adams” (You’ll get it if you’re old). My Van Dyck got me called “Freud Dude” (Also a reference you’ll only get it if you’re old). My Imperial got me called “beatnik”. My Goatee + Moustache got me called “D’Artagnan”/”Ming the Merciless”.

Things stayed that way for a long time, but but the late 90’s, my now signature close-clipped, jaw-hugging beard was uncommon, but provoked no particular remark. On occasion, one would actually hear a woman commenting favorably on a man’s beard, and there were at least one or two bearded men on television who weren’t “the bad-guy”. Not leads, of course, but they were there.

Also Not Me

In the early 2000s, when I switched to an Imperial to reduce grooming-time, I got jokes about having a “wussy-beard” or a “soul-patch”. I once actually had a particularly drunk woman in a bar tell me “I bet you could grow a full beard and look really manly. I suppose I would view this as the height of “beard=masculine” in my lifetime, but they *still* weren’t something I would have considered trendy.

By the late 2000s, I had moved to a Van Dyck, and never got a comment on it ever, not once, until today.

Today, someone trying to make a point in an online discussion tracked down my picture from one of my blogs and and told me that my beard made me a “hipster douchebag”, and that “all that beard oil” must be affecting my brain. Creepy stalker vibe aside, this inspires several thoughts. First, I’m starting to actually believe the hype that Millennials have lost the ability to even insult someone in a sophisticated manner. Second, people really hate hipsters, which is annoying, because I’ve always been more one of them than not (yeah, that’s right, I was a hipster before it was cool!). Third, I think beards are finally trendy. This weirds me out a little, because I’m kind of a hipster, and it would seem hipsters have ruined my hipster thing!

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Moments of Joy

It occurs to me that all the meditative and religious traditions of the world, at their core, are about finding a way, despite all the terrible, stressful, depressing things in the average person’s life, to find some joy.

I’ve spent my entire life studying martial arts, physics, religions, philosophies, yoga, dance, etc., and in retrospect, my interest in each has always boiled down to that search. I’ve always just known, at some level, that happiness is a lot more about who you are than about where you are in life. I’ve succeeded, from time to time. After an intense meditation session, a day-long dance competition, lost in contemplation of the universe’s deepest rules, there have come moments of deep, consciousness-pervading peace.

Surprisingly, those moments come more often the older I get, and from much more surprising places. Despite life accelerating, despite the bad and good things coming more frequently and more unexpectedly, despite my body’s mounting failures and pervasive pain, I’m happier than I have ever been more often than I have ever been. I sometimes wonder if those religions and philosophies all started with some very old person who just lived long enough to find peace naturally trying to trick the young’ns into finding some relief from their suffering…

Anyway, today, I shaved. Nothing I haven’t done a million times before, but one thing was different. For the first time in perhaps two years, I was completely alone in the house this morning, with no job to go to, no activities scheduled, no diapers to change, no immediate chores to do or projects to plan, just at loose ends for the first time in so long I can’t remember. Since I had time, I did it right.

I shaved with a blade. Slowly, carefully, and with copious, well prepared lather, I carried out what I’ve always considered an utterly pedestrian pursuit with a studious attention to detail. I let the blade slide across my skin at whatever speed it seemed to desire. I reapplied lather whenever there was the remotest chance it was thinning. I didn’t think about what I was doing, I just did. It was utterly blissful. It was a precious moment of quiet, ecstatic peace.

This is my yoga…..

Posted in Family, For Facebook, General, Personal, Philosophical, Rational | Leave a comment

Why Can’t Anyone See The Big Trump Picture?

In the ongoing bullshit-apocalypse that is modern American politics, it is de rigeur to point to any of our new president’s many faults for purposes of fear mongering or mockery: “He’s provoking China to start a nuclear war!”; “‘Great’ is his enormously favorite word!”; etc…

However, between social media and a number of news outlets (most recently this article on mic.com) we have in the last couple of weeks been inundated with weird stories about how the president uses scotch tape to secure the tails of his ties. They aren’t just stories, though, there is ample video and photographic evidence to prove it’s actually happening.

Predictably, virtually every response swings either to fear-mongering (“A Howard Hughes style nut has his finger on the nuke button!”) or mockery (“He doesn’t know how to shop!”; “He’s so cheap he won’t buy a proper tie!”; “He’s obsessed with his appearance!”), and both, of course, entirely miss the point. The most practical of the responses simply note that it “isn’t very presidential”, but this misses the point too.

The tie-tape is a silly thing, but it speaks volumes about the thought processes of the man supposedly leading the free world. Forget being “not presidential”, this is “not anyone-who’s-older-than-twelve-ish”. Think about it. Is this the act of a wealthy, successful businessman, or of a not-so-wealthy-as-he’d-like-us-to-believe but nonetheless successful con-man (the two apparent extremes of current political thought on the man), or is this the act of that kid who totally forgot it was class picture day and faked it at the last second with whatever he could borrow or scrounge from the bottom of his locker? Think about it. This is the kid who always astonished everybody by not studying for tests, but then wheedling a better grade out of the teacher after the fact. Every. Damn. Time.

This is the act of a man tho just doesn’t care about anything of substance. A man who lives his real life like it was a ‘reality’ TV show, where nothing matters as long as you can get one camera angle that looks good enough to sell the scene.

My concern here is that all the superlatives and overwrought hand-wringing the media direct at Trump distracts from this essential fact, that the man is just useless. His sole motivation in public view is to find some angle to present that looks OK so he can go back to screwing around and pretending he knows what he is doing. If Donald really does start World War III, it seems far more likely that he will do so through inattention than malice! Where Bush was accused of being a “useful idiot”, the Donald is a “useless slacker”.

What can evil men do in such a vacuum of concern?

Posted in For Facebook, General, Political | 1 Response
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