Is it true that some people can’t think?

I watched The Shawshank Redemption recently and was struck by the scene where the guy says that in solitary confinement he had Mozart to keep him company, and they all express surprise that he was allowed to have a record player, and he says ‘No, in here’ and points to his head—and they all look at him dumbly. With no understanding whatsoever. Shortly before that, I was reading a novel in which someone confesses to making people up and having entire conversations between them in her head, and someone else says something like ‘Really? Being able to make up characters and tell yourself stories is a sign of high intelligence.’ What?

Is that true? Is it the case that some (many?) (most?) people can’t imagine? Or even remember? They can’t close their eyes and picture (remember or imagine) a scene, they can’t hear (remember or imagine) music in their heads, they can’t hold (remember or imagine) conversations in their head? Meaning, if they can’t do the last mentioned, they can’t think? Has there ever been a study about this? Has anyone actually conducted a survey and asked people whether they can do the forementioned?

The Silence of Descartes and Bacon

Reading (again) (this time in Daly) about how during the Renaissance it was so inconceivable that women were knowledgeable, especially with regard to the human body, that when they cured various ailments, they were not lauded as competent physicians but accused of consorting with the devil; such ‘witches’ were tortured with eye-gougers, branding irons, spine-rollers, forehead tourniquets, thumbscrews, racks, strappados, iron boots, and heating chairs. (A bit over-the-top, one can’t help but note.)

And as both a feminist and a philosopher, I am ashamed to say that it never occurred to me to wonder why Descartes and Bacon didn’t object; nowhere in all their voluminous writing do they address this being-‘punished’-for-knowing-something. So they approved? How could they?

Taxing the Rich

Of course the rich people should have to pay higher taxes. Not because of some sacrifice for the common good principle or some trickle down principle or some from each according to their ability principle, but because they don’t deserve their money. There, I said it. They don’t deserve their millions.

Even if I worked twenty hours a day, 365 days of the year, I wouldn’t make anywhere near just one million.

So they must be making ten, twenty, a hundred times per hour what I’m making.

Is what they’re doing a hundred times more important than what I’m doing. It’s not even ten times more important. (Let’s say I’m a garbage collector.)

Is it a hundred or ten times more difficult? No. (Let’s say I’m a nurse in the paraplegic ward.)

Does it take a hundred or ten times as much skill or training? No. (Let’s say I’m an astrophysicist.)

Rich people have their millions because they’ve been paid, by others or by themselves, an unfair amount for their work. Or because they know how to work an unfair economic system that, for starters, rewards risk: the stock market.

But why do we reward risk? Because it’s a male thing. And males reward themselves for male values.

Actually, though, often it’s not a risk. If the company they started, the company they invested in, lost millions, they could declare bankruptcy. And other people would pay the price. Not them. Or if they’re really big, if they lost really big, the government might bail them out. That is, us.

Furthermore, they’re not even risking their own money. They probably borrowed the start-up money from the bank. So it’s our money. Or the bank’s money (which is just money they made by investing our money).

Or if it was their own money, well it still wasn’t. It was inherited from their parents. (Who probably inherited it from their parents). Because you can’t have that much money to invest by working and saving. Even if you work twenty hours a day, 365 days a year…

Reporting What Women Do

What if, for just one year, the media reported 90% of the time what women are doing instead of, as is now the case, what men are doing?

Not because what women do is better, or more newsworthy, but just to see how it would change our outlook, our world view.

The news might be more boring. But then, hey, what does that say?

It would likely involve a lot less death and destruction. Ditto.

It probably would have less to do with money. Again…

Better than Speech Codes

Instead of prohibiting ‘hate speech’, we should just prohibit all claims made without reasons.

Oh how our society would change! If we were legally compelled to provide reasons, justifications, evidence, for every claim we made in public…

No exemptions for politicians – every speech, every statement to the press…

No exemptions for business – every ad, my god, that one alone gives one pause…

Go ahead. Say whatever you think. But only if you also say why you think it.

How ridiculous most of us would sound most of the time. Our almost complete dependence on immature appeals to emotion, our thin and pathetic appeals to custom, tradition, past practice majorities, questionable authorities – all exposed by expression. How silent we would suddenly fall after the unwarranted, self-righteous ‘because – ’ How quickly we would just – shut up.

Bare Breasts: Objections and Replies

[I wrote this piece back in the early 90s when Gwen Jacobs did her thing (yay, Gwen!), but apparently it all still needs to be said. A couple years ago, I was ‘spoken to’ by a neighbour for taking my shirt off on a hot summer day when I was out kayaking. Most amusingly, I was ‘spoken to’ again when I did the same thing just last year, post-bilateral-mastectomy. Which brings to mind Twisty’s hilarious “Cover ’em up if you have ’em and even if you don’t” comment.]

In response to the moral outrage about women going shirtless in public, I offer the following. Read the rest of this entry »

Developing Authority and Being a Parent

I’m wondering whether it’s just me or…whether most women who never become mothers simply never develop an authoritative manner.  Men have it from the get go: they are automatically thought, by themselves as well as by others, to be authorities, and early on, they develop both the habit of telling others what to do and the expectation that they’ll be listened to.

Women don’t.  (Unless they’re deluded.)   At least, not until they become a parent.  Only then do they gain some authority.  Only then do they start telling someone what to do and expecting to be listened to. 

Sure, the authority they now have extends only to their kid, but it leaks out.  As it does with men.  When you talk with authority in your house, to your wife or kids, you don’t suddenly ‘turn it off’ when you leave the house.  It’s an acquired manner, a way of carrying yourself, a way of presenting yourself that becomes part of yourself. 

I’ve never acquired that manner.  I’m not in the habit of telling anyone what to do.  I don’t expect to be listened to.  So, despite my breadth and depth of knowledge and skill, I don’t have any authority.


Making Certain Words Illegal

Hate speech.  Libel.  Slander.  Threat.  Intimidation.  Blasphemy.

‘Making words illegal violates our freedom of speech!’  Of course it does.  But that freedom, like many others, isn’t absolute.  Our freedoms are limited freedoms.  They are limited by several things (Joel Feinberg identifies six liberty-limiting principles), one of which is the harm principle.  That is, when our action harms another person or society in general, it is limited.  It is illegal.

‘But speech isn’t an action.  I didn’t do anything.  I just said – ’  Saying is doing.  Words are speech acts.  They are acts of speech.  And anyway, if the result is the same, does the method really matter?

‘Yeah but the result isn’t the same.  Words can’t hurt you.’  Well, not physically, no.  But they can cause psychological injury.[1]  And there’s the heart of the matter: should we make causing psychological injury illegal?

Actually, that’s not the heart of the matter.  Yes, we should, and we do.  The crime of torture includes acts which inflict severe mental pain or suffering (CCC 269.1[1]).

The heart of the matter is Read the rest of this entry »

More reasons not to celebrate being Canadian…

We’re barely in the top quarter when it comes to the gender gap in wages (we’re fourth worst).

We’re barely in the top quarter when it comes to the gender gap in health (it’s safer to be pregnant in Estonia than in Canada).

Speaking of which, Read the rest of this entry »

Canada Day – Are you sure you want to celebrate?

Before you get all patriotic and fly your little Canadian flags in celebration of Canada Day and, presumably, of being Canadian, think about it. Are you really proud to be: Read the rest of this entry »