Why do you read the paper every day?

Why do you read the paper (or listen to/watch the news) every day?  Certainly not for an objective account of events.  Because surely you’re aware of editorial bias – what gets in (or not), where it goes, and how much space it gets there.  And reporter bias – who gets interviewed, what gets asked (or not), and what gets put at the beginning of the piece.

And how it’s said.  To describe an incident with complete objectivity is to give a phenomenological account.  And anyone who’s taken Phenomenology 101 knows how difficult that is.  Even to say “There is a brown house” is to have made an assumption, is to have imposed your subjectivity.  You can’t see the house.  From your perspective, standing in front of it, all you see is one, or maybe two walls.  You assume there’s a third and a fourth.  Your subjectivity fills in the gaps.  All the time.

It gets worse.  Read the rest of this entry »

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?

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…

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.

Jass Richards on PTSD (from The Blasphemy Tour)

(excerpted from Jass Richards’ The Blasphemy Tour)

“We hope you’re enjoying Texas?” the show’s host said, after he introduced Dylan and Rev as his first guests of the day.

“Well, we’re a little puzzled by all the American flags. Outside on people’s houses and their lawns—we’ve even been seeing them sticking up in the middle of the forest, at people’s cabins presumably. What an eyesore.”

She didn’t notice the intake of breath.

“Well,” the host replied, “many people fly the flag because they have a son or daughter serving overseas.”

Rev hadn’t thought about that. She did now. Then said, “And why would they want to advertise such stupidity?” Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Democracy

The problem with democracy is that it’s just an appeal to the majority.

And most people, the majority, simply want whatever’s in their own, personal, best interest. We are a nation of egoists. Average life span what it is, personal interests are necessarily short-term. Average intelligence what it is, personal interests are also immediate and concrete. So what’s good for the whole, the whole country, never mind the whole planet, will never happen.

So, also, talk about the need for an informed citizenry is irrelevant. True, the majority doesn’t know diddlysquat. But also true, they have no interest whatsoever in finding out. Because all they care about is themselves. And they’re convinced they already know all there is to know about what’s best for themselves. And they’re probably right, because their interests are so immediately and concretely served.

Worse, those few to whom one might speak about the problem with this state of affairs believe that the good of the whole is equal to the good of the parts, so, they reason, this state of affairs, each individual voting for what he or she personally wants, is the best state of affairs.

I suppose it might be the most fair, the most just, state of affairs – which only means when our world stops working, we will have gotten exactly what we deserve.

We, the majority, that is.

Asking the Right Questions

Never has it been more important to ask the right questions.

Not as philosophers, in the clearest, most explicit, terms, but in terms most likely to be used by the arrested-development minds of computer programmers.

Because phone conversations, for example, aren’t with people anymore; they’re with AI programs that are, let’s face it, stupider than most people. (Which is saying a lot.)

And that’s because they’re designed by people with no philosophical training, people who think in terms of black and white, people whose imaginations seem to be severely limited. Which means you have to stay within a severely limited range of possibilities in order to be understood; you have to anticipate how such a simple mind might say something.

I imagine a very near future in which the stupid people succeed because they’re the only ones able to communicate with all our ‘smart’ programs – because their minds are unclouded by complexity and subtlety.

Assholes or Idiots (take your pick)

Every now and then I hear something really insightful on tv.  What recently caught my mind was an explanation of the behavior of one of the alphas on, of course, Alphas. Rosen says that Marcus can see twenty moves ahead and doesn’t understand why others can’t; so when what they do harms him, he believes it’s intentional.

Yes!  I too—and many, many others, it’s not an alpha trait—can think ahead. I can imagine the likely effect on others of my actions. And I work through the ethics of my behavior. So when what someone else does affects me, I can only assume that they don’t care about others (and so haven’t bothered to think ahead about the effects of their actions, or work through the ethics of their behavior) or they do, and have, and consider what they’ve done to be morally acceptable. Or I must assume that, unlike me, they cannot imagine the effects of their actions; they do not comprehend the ethics of their behavior. Which means, in short, either they’re inconsiderate, egoistic, irresponsible, lazy assholes or they’re idiots.

And so when I point out that what they’re doing does affect me, invariably they respond with aggressive defensiveness.  Because, of course, I’m implying they’re either assholes or idiots.

(Pity they don’t apologize for their thoughtlessness and ask me to help them work through the ethics of their behavior. After all, I’m an authority on applied ethics. Don’t people seek expert opinion on important matters?  Yes, but not from a woman.  Who’s either a bitch or just crazy.)

In Praise of Dead Air

People are uncomfortable with silence.  On the radio, over the telephone, in person.  It’s a curious thing.

We are obsessed with filling up the air space.  That sounds very male – the need to occupy territory (take a look at how men sit, their legs crossed open and their arms resting on the backs of the adjacent chairs, compared to how women sit, legs crossed closed and their hands in their laps).  But women too consider dead air problematic.

Is it that Read the rest of this entry »

The Road to Hell

I’ve reconsidered intent-based moralities.  They’re bloody irresponsible.  I’m giving new meaning to “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” (or maybe I’m just finally understanding it).

Intention-based moralities are for people too stupid or too lazy to consider the consequences of their actions.  “But I didn’t mean to” is the cry of an idiot.  (What did you think would happen when you put a firecracker in the dog’s mouth?)  “I was only trying to help” is an attempt to absolve oneself of the burden of figuring out the effect one’s behavior has on others.  (In what universe is that helpful?)

If you only meant to have a bit of fun, getting in your car drunk out of your mind and driving down the 401, if you didn’t intend to hurt anyone, well then, okay, you can go (you should go) — to hell.