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The Liberty Loss I’m Not Accepting

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Department Of It’s Still Complicated

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” These words, penned by Thomas Jefferson more than 240 years ago, continue to inspire many Americans.
And yet these very same words — affirming the equality and dignity of all — were written by a man who owned hundreds of slaves, and fathered six children by an enslaved woman, Sally Hemings.
For historian Annette Gordon-Reed, the contradictions embedded in Jefferson’s life are ‘a window into us, into who we are as Americans.’
‘The fascinating thing about Jefferson is that he, in some ways, embodies the country,” she says. “A lot of Jefferson’s contradictions are alive in us.’ “

 

 

This is the intro to the Hidden Brain podcast A Founding Contradiction: Thomas Jefferson’s Stance On Slavery, wherein host Shankar Vidantam interviews Annette Gordon-Reed, a Harvard University historian and law professor.  Gordon-Reed’s latest book is Most Blessed Of The Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson And The Empire Of The Imagination.  As moiself  listened to the podcast, I was struck by how so much of what the historian was saying about enslaved people and their relationships with their enslavers also applied to “free” (white) women.

Historians have long speculated about the relationship between Jefferson and Sally Hemmings, citing letters and documents and writings from Jefferson’s friends and critics which indicate that he was fond of and most likely in love with Hemmings.  Hemmings left  [1]  no such records; her true feelings remain a mystery…but then, how can you have a true relationship in a family, as we understand it today, with family members who are not free to enter (and exit) the relationship?

The experiences of women in the abolitionist movement were a large part of what inspired the first wave of feminism and led to the Seneca Falls convention, when women activists realized that, despite all their in-the-trenches work in abolitionist groups, when it came to legal and political power they, like the enslaved people they worked to liberate, were in similar circumstances:  women, of any skin color, also lacked ultimate power over their own destiny .

“When abolitionists Sarah and Angelina Grimke faced efforts to silence them because they were women, they saw parallels between their own situation and that of the slaves.”
(from “Women’s Rights, Abolitionism, and Reform in Antebellum and Gilded Age America,”
Faye E. Dudden, American History )

“ (___women activists) began speaking publicly for anti-slavery organizations before mixed crowds of men and women, even though they were mocked and threatened for doing something considered so unladylike. Thousands more women wrote articles for abolitionist newspapers, signed anti-slavery petitions, and circulated anti-slavery literature. Still, women who joined the cause of abolition found that traditional assumptions and attitudes about women often limited the scope of their participation and leadership in the movement. When the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded by William Lloyd Garrison in 1833, women were not allowed to be delegates.

….female abolitionists faced discrimination not only from slavery supporters but also from within their own movement. This highlighted to them the injustice of women’s inferior legal and social standing. When women were not allowed to speak or be seated at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had both travelled to attend the convention, began discussing what needed to be done for women’s rights.”

( “Abolition: The catalyst For The Women’s Rights Movement
Utahwomenshistory.org  )

 

 

I listened to the podcast, wondering if Gordon-Reed would address that.  She did.

GORDON-REED:

“… But if you look at the kinds of male-female relationships they would have known at that time, a wife, a white wife, would have been under the control of her husband, too. She could not refuse consent to sex any more than an enslaved woman could. He could not sell his wife, but that would be about the only thing that he couldn’t do. So we look at this – and there’s this sharp difference between male-female relationships. And we see the difference between – obviously a white woman has more power than an enslaved woman. But those people – Sally Hemings would not have thought that as a woman she would have freedom to do whatever she wanted. So it’s complicated.”

*   *   *

Department Of Getting Personal:
When Your Business Which Should Be Only Your Business Becomes The Business Of People You Don’t Even Know And Wouldn’t Care To Meet

Speaking of Jefferson, why is it that the legacy of the failings of dead-for-over-200-years men continue to harass women?

It is not always wise or fair to judge the people of the past by the standards of today; still, it’s not as if the abolition and women’s rights movements were non-existent when our government was being crafted.  Our Founding Fathers ®, as visionary and radical as they were for their time re representational government vs monarchy, dropped the ball when they ignored the moral stench of slavery and preserved its institution, and snubbed women’s requests for equal rights.  I always thought that’s why the so-called “Liberty” Bell was cracked.

 

 

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.”

(excerpts, my emphases, from the letter Abgail Adams wrote to her husband,
Founding Father and second US President, John Adams )

 

 

But rational adults in the 21st century cannot hide behind history to justify why five people – five people out of 330 million   [2]  – have the power to drag their fellow citizens back to the dark ages of religious oppression and paternalism, by using the excuse that they adhere to a retro judicial philosophy of “originalism” via interpreting the U.S. Constitution.

Some longtime readers of this blog may have been somewhat surprised by my lack of constant commentary re the recent SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade.  Some of that “lack” was due to moiself  being out of the country and with a self-imposed news block for almost seven weeks, returning a few hours after the decision was as announced.  Watching this debacle, moiself  was at once enraged and stupefied-into-an-almost-zombie-like-disengagement by what was happening.  [3]

What kind of nation had I returned to?

 

 

Moiself  has previously written about having worked (a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) in the field of women’s reproductive health care.  I worked five years in a private OB-GYN practice, bookended by a total of ~ three years in Planned Parenthood clinics – one in So Cal and three in the Bay Area.  My job for the latter clinics included working in their abortion clinics, stories from which I noted in more detail in this post.

I know those who are anti-abortion don’t want to hear or read this,    [4]   but I lost track of the amount of times moiself  heard from one of the people those clinics served – from a sheepish teenager to a mortified, grown-ass woman to the only-mildly-apologetic-mother-who-used-to-protest-outside-the-clinic-and-who-now-is-in-our-waiting-room-requesting-our-services-for-her-teenaged-daughter –

“You know, before ____ (the particulars of their situation)
happened to me/my family,
I might have been one of those protestors outside your clinic.”

I continue to metaphorically watch The Ongoing Situation ® while holding my open-fingered hands over my eyes, confident – hopeful? – in the knowledge that, as bleak as it may seem, we can never fully return to the past.   [5]   Progressive states (I am so fortunate to be living in one of them – yay, Oregon!) – will keep women’s rights to health care enshrined in their state laws; there will be networks of women (and men) who will help others not so fortunate…

 

 

After the recent SCOTUS ruling, an older female friend told me how dumbfounded she was.  She’d fought so hard in the 60s and 70s for women’s rights, after having been one of those desperate, frightened women who had an abortion in the kitchen of an apartment somewhere before abortions were legal.   I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened to me, if abortion would have been illegal when I needed one.  I know I would have found someone, somewhere, some way….

I have been pregnant four times.  Three of those were intentional, and with MH: the pregnancy which produced our son K; a spontaneous abortion (the layperson’s term is miscarriage); the pregnancy which gave us our daughter Belle.

This – my reproductive status and history –  is should be no one’s business but my own (and MH and my doctors, should I choose to share that information).  And certainly, no one who lacks a uterus gets to weigh in on what happens in mine.

 

 

For women who are anti-abortion: I may not approve of your choices re when you get pregnant, who will father your children, and how many children you have, but I am glad you get to make your reproductive decisions sans my or our government’s interference (the interference you receive from your husband, family, church – I can’t help you there).

As for men who are anti-abortion:  are you fucking kidding me?

Just. Shut. Up. Go. Away. And. Keep. It. In. Your. Pants.  [6]

 

 

I’ll make it simple for y’all.

Robyn’s Righteous and Rational Rules Of Reproduction
* If you’re a woman who is opposed to abortion, don’t have one.
* If you’re a man who is opposed to abortion, don’t be the cause of one.

 

 

 

I suppose I’m outing myself, in a way, in this space. Yet, to repeat a point that apparently needs to be sledgehammered into some skulls, “outing” certain info about moiself  has nothing to do with shame and everything to do with *privacy* –  my own, primarily, and to a lesser degree, that of the man who caused my first, unintentional/unwanted pregnancy (remarkable person that I am, possessed with wondrous powers beyond mere mortal imagination, I nevertheless did not knock up moiself ).

Let us pause for a moment and consider a certain…inadequacy, when it comes to the issue of how we talk about abortion. When we ask about statistics or share stories, it’s always along the lines of How many women have had abortions/Do you know a woman who’s had an abortion?

These questions let a key participant in the equation wriggle out the backdoor, and ignore or skirt a basic Fact of Nature ®:

Ejaculations cause pregnancies.

 

Who, me?

 

Why is it never framed this way:

How many men have been the cause of an abortion?
Do you know any man who has caused an unintended/unwanted pregnancy?

Let’s all make a vow to change, or at least expand, the focus.  The next time you hear or read the “how many women…” question, be sure to ask “how many men…”

 

 

For anyone reading this blog who is anti-abortion and  [7]  calls themself “pro-life,” and who might claim *not* to fully understand   [8]   the reasons why any woman might want to end her pregnancy…sigh.  Google it.  The cretins in the TexASS state legislature promise you a bounty for sticking your nose in someone else’s hoo-haw?  That doesn’t change the humane fact that unless it’s your pregnancy it’s ultimately none of your business.

To borrow a variation of the only thing I’ve been seeing that makes sense and that does not strike a defensive posture: Do you call yourself pro-life, and interpret that label into wanting to criminalize abortion?  Hear ye this:  I, too, am pro-life.

I am pro-Indira, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Shelby, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Natasha, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Rosalia, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Li Chen, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Imani, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Sakura, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-Zahra, who had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-my Aunt Erva, who had an abortion  [9]
for reasons that are none of your business.
I am pro-my own life: I had an abortion for reasons that are none of your business.

 

 

So.  A dimwitted busybody curious person may wonder, If it’s personal/no one else’s business, why am I making it yours by writing about it here? Moiself  does this for reasons that are not so original and yet are none the less pertinent. 

“In 1972—when abortion was illegal throughout most of the country—53 well-known U.S. women courageously declared ‘We Have Had Abortions’ in the pages of the preview issue of Ms. magazine.
‘To many American women and men it seems absurd, that in this allegedly enlightened age, that we should still be arguing for a simple principle: that a woman has the right to sovereignty over her own body,’ they declared.
Gloria Steinem, Billie Jean King, Susan Sontag, Nora Ephron, Dorothy Pitman Hughes and Judy Collins were among the signers. The women spoke out ‘to save lives and to spare other women the pain of socially imposed guilt’ and ‘to repeal archaic and inhuman laws.’ They invited all women to sign in order to ‘help eliminate the stigma’ of abortion.
“ ‘We Have Had Abortions’ Petition Relaunches 50 Years Later—With Support From Original Signatories.”
Msmagazine.com 1-20-22)

It can be easy to ignore or discount issues that are critical for other people, if you think the issue doesn’t affect you or anyone you know.  If you (mistakenly) think that you don’t know anyone who’s gay/atheist/has had an abortion, then LGBTQ rights/religious discrimination/reproductive freedom may be an abstraction to you.  You can allow yourself to be on the fence about the issue – or even on the compassionate side of the fence but not really involved – if you think it doesn’t affect you or anyone that you know.

I’m not sure about my mother’s stance on abortion, but I know she went to her grave not knowing about her older sister‘s harrowing experience. My parents were as loving and considerate as could be to all of my different friends, and they knew of (and even occasionally discussed with me) my political opinions.  However and sadly, judging from the publications and mailers I espied on their coffee table during my infrequent visits to their house, it is likely that they could have fallen prey to fear-mongering politics of The Billy Graham Association and other conservative religious organizations.

During one of my visits, California had an “anti-homosexual” proposition on the ballot (I can’t remember which propostion, nor exactly when– there were several, over the years), and I saw a GAY TEACHERS ARE AFTER YOUR KIDS-type flyer on their kitchen table.

 

 

I asked them if they took such hyperbole seriously.  One of them (can’t remember if it was Mom or Dad) said they realized it was over-the-top, then said, “Actually, we don’t know anyone who is gay.”

“No,” I said, “Actually, you *do* know gay people.  You just don’t know that they are gay because you don’t know them well enough to be privy to their personal lives, or they have chosen not to reveal this to you…” – I indicated the flyer atop the mail pile – “…because of crap like that.”  (My mother later reassured me that that the flyer had just come in the mail, and that they hadn’t “requested it“).

I proceeded to give them the names of friends and teachers of mine, whom they’d met and liked, who were gay.  They seemed genuinely surprised“Mr. Haffner is gay?  He was one of your and your sister’s favorite teachers….” (Still is, Dad.)  “That nice friend of yours from college – he’s so sweet and smart and funny, he was a premed student, I think – he’s gay?” (Yes, Mom.  He’s still the nice young man – nice doctor, now – who  impressed you.  You simply know something about him that you didn’t know before).

Did it make a difference in how they thought, or voted? No idea.

Select family members and friends already know (at least the bare bones details) of my own abortion story.  Moiself  be mentioning it here in the hopes that it might help yet another woman to know she is not alone in her experience.  [10]   Am I pissing in the wind delusional to think it might, just possibly, cause a moment of reflection for someone who supports the SCOTUS decision?   [11]  

 

 

The so-called pro-lifers – please, let’s label them honestly: they are anti-abortion, anti-women’s bodily autonomy.

They. Just. Don’t. Care. About. Your. Life.  Or mine.

 

*   *   *

 

May we understand – but not excuse – the wrongs of our Founding Fathers;
May we keep our noses out of other people’s hoo-haws;
May we support reproductive freedom for all (or STFU);
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Was not allowed to leave.

[2] The US population, which is probably closer to 333 million.

[3] Are we really, in 2022, still debating women’s bodily autonomy?

[4] Like there are any reading this blog.

[5] That is why I cannot bring moiself  to watch the acclaimed streaming series about going back and even further: The Handmaids Tale.  I read the book, and that was enough dystopia for me.

[6] And wrapped in five plutonium condoms.

[7] And what are the chances of that?

[8] Or in all honesty just doesn’t want to know.

[9] Self-induced, way back when abortion was illegal, and the resulting complications left her unable to have children when she later married and wished to do so.

[10] Hell know, there are a bajillion of us – The Guttmacher Institute estimates at least 73 million each year, world wide.  But most simply do not share this information

[11] There should be another footnote here, but I’d rather throw heavy furniture down the staircase, so excuse me for a moment.

The Stages I’m Not Following

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Department Of Yet Another Content Warning ® …

….which I hope you will (eventually, if not now) ignore.

The following deals with grief.  Specifically, the intense and traumatic grief experienced by the sudden and/or unanticipated death of a loved one.

If you are presently not in a physical or emotional space to handle the subject, moiself hopes you’ll take care of yourself, and read this later.   [1]  The thing is, if you aren’t grieving such a loss right now, you will later on…and someone you know and love is dealing with this or will be, soon.  That is Life’s price of admission…and one particular grief survivor’s insights and observations could be – I’ll go so far as to say *will* be – of use to you.

The following excerpt blew me away (my emphases):

“The five stages of grief are ingrained in our cultural consciousness as the natural progression of emotions one experiences after the death of a loved one. However, it turns out that this model is not science-based, does not well describe most people’s experiences, and was never even meant to apply to the bereaved.

(“It’s Time to Let the Five Stages of Grief Die,”
McGill University, Office for Science and Society )

 

I had read about the questionable science behind The 5 Stages of Grief ® model, and had always had my doubts about its application.  But I had no idea that it was *never* meant to be applied to the bereaved – to people grieving the death of *other* people.

 

 

But wait – there’s more.

 “…many people, even professional psychologists, believe there is a right way and a wrong way to grieve, that there is an orderly and predictable pattern that everyone will go through, and if you don’t progress correctly, you are failing at grief. You must move through these stages completely, or you will never heal.

This is a lie.

Death and its aftermath is such a painful and disorienting time. I understand why people –  both the griever and those witnessing grief –  want some kind of road map, a clearly delineated set of steps or stages that will guarantee a successful end to the pain of grief. The truth is, grief is as individual as love: every life, every path, is unique. There is no predictable pattern, and no linear progression. Despite what many ‘experts’ say, there are no stages of grief.

In her later years, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote that she regretted writing the stages the way that she did, that people mistook them as being both linear and universal.”

( “The 5 Stages of Grief and Other Lies That Don’t Help Anyone”,
Megan Devine, author of “It’s OK That You’re Not OK.” )

 

 

“We’ve all heard about The 5 stages of Grief. But what happens when your experience doesn’t follow that model at all? Resilience researcher Lucy Hone began to question how we think about grief after a devastating loss in her own life. She shares the techniques she learned to help her cope with tragedy.”
( intro to the Hidden Brain Podcast, “Healing Your Heart” )

This is the podcast I want you to listen to, and Lucy Hone is the “one particular survivor” I referred to earlier in this post.

Lucy Hone, Ph. D., is an adjunct senior fellow at the University of Canterbury (NZ) and author of Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss that Changes Everything.  Hone has a master’s in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in well-being science/public health from AUT University.   [2]

 

 

The 5 Stages of Grief ® has become part of our culture’s how-to-grieve manual.  But the thing is, this list which was meant to be descriptive has now turned proscriptive. It’s originator, Swiss-American psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, *surmised* (not proved) these stages, when, as a psychiatry resident, she observed observations of people dealing with terminal illness – people who had advance knowledge of their impending death.

And yet, how many times have you heard about

* the family of a *recently* and *suddenly* deceased person   [3]   “going through the five stages of grief.”

* someone else, perhaps also grieving the same loss, being concerned that these same family members had not gone through the stages, or had skipped a few and were therefore stuck in their grief or somehow not doing it properly?

Something like this happened to the HB podcast guest.  Dr. Hone, ironically enough, a “resilience researcher,” had to rethink her and society’s approaches to grieving after the devastating loss of her beloved 12-year old daughter, Abi, who died after the car she was riding in (along with Abi’s best friend Emma and Emma’s mother) was t-boned by a driver who went through a stop sign at high speed.  [4]

Hone and HB host Shankar Vidantam talked about Hone’s drive to know what she could do to manage her grief.

HB host Shankar Vidantam:
“…the grief counselors and others told you that the next five years of your life were going to be consumed by grief; that you were a prime candidates for divorce, estrangement, and mental illness. You also heard about the 5 Stages of Grief.  What is the conventional wisdom about the 5 Stages of Grief, Lucy?”

Hone:
“…Like most people, I was kind of aware about the stages, and like most people I could probably name about three of them.  But when people started telling me about them – and boy, anyone who’s ever been bereaved will know that people tell you about them! – they expect you to go through them.

Pretty quickly I became frustrated with (the 5 Stages), because I didn’t feel anger and animosity towards the driver. I knew that that was a terrible mistake – that he didn’t do it intentionally.  And I wasn’t in denial – from the very first moment I remember thinking, ‘Okay, this is my job now, my mission is to survive this.’  And so they didn’t fit with my experience.

And the other aspect that quickly frustrated me (with the 5 stages) is that it’s reasonably helpful to be told that you might feel ___ (all of these different things), but actually, I don’t want to be told what I’m going to feel; I am desperate to know what I can do, to help us all adapt to this terrible loss.”

SV:
“I’m struck by the fact that at a certain point in your journey of grief over Abi’s death you were thinking like a researcher, or starting to ask yourself whether you yourself could be a research subject – that you’re’ studying yourself, observing yourself, like a scientist…”

Hone went on to say that yes, she did have a moment of being aware that she was both

 “…experiencing this devastating loss and curious about my experiences simultaneously…
I was doing this internally, observing my loss and my reaction to it, and then I thought, ‘Well, what I’m really curious about, is we have all these tools from resilient psychology, which have been shown to help people cope with potentially traumatic events.  How useful are they when they are brought to the context of bereavement?’ And so that’s been the question I’ve been really exploring, ever since Abi died.”

SV narration:
“Pondering this question gave (Hone) the space to analyze how her own mind was responding to  grief.  When she noticed something about how she was coping, she reserved judgement about what it meant.
When she engaged in ‘what-if’ scenarios – What if she hadn’t allowed Abi to drive with the other family? What if she hadn’t planned a beach vacation? – she noticed how those thoughts made her feel.  She paid attention to how she felt after getting exercise or a good night’s sleep.  In other words, she started behaving like a scientist.

She eventually discovered there were things that made her feel better, and things that made her feel worse. She came up with a series of techniques that gave her a measure of control over her grief.”

Hone:
“I distinctly remember standing in the kitchen thinking, ‘Seriously, Lucy, chose life over death. Don’t lose what you have over what you’ve lost.’ “

 

 

I wanted to print a transcript of the whole episode, it’s so good, but I’ll leave it to you to find that, or listen to the entire episode  (the link again: Healing your Heart.)  

Moiself will, instead, just list a few bullet point-style take aways:

* Hone’s ideas are not a glib substitutions for one series/stages or method over another.

* Models such as “The 5 Stages Of Grief, The Four Stages Of Recovery,” et. al., have been perpetuated because they are tidy.  But grief is not tidy; grief is messy and does not lend itself to finite lists.  According to one researcher, grief is “as individual as your fingerprints.”  What works for you as a strategy for handling your grief might not work for your spouse, your mother, your brother, your siblings – even as you are all grieving the same loss.

* “Taking a break” from grief is not avoidance, or denial.

* Learn the difference between grief reaction, over which we have little control, and grief response, which is loaded with options

* It isn’t *easy* –  to learn such distinctions and apply techniques to give you a measure of control over your grief – but is it possible.

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of Rest In Peace Face-Palming Laughter

Gilbert Gottfried, died last week. YOU FOOL!

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Stand Up For Comedians Edition

I was in Russia listening to a stand-up comedian making fun of Putin.
The jokes weren’t that good, but I liked the execution.

What kind of humor do quarantined comedians use?
Inside jokes.

Why do mountains make good comedians?
Because they’re hill areas…

A new standup comic told jokes about the unemployed.
Unfortunately, none of them worked.

What did the cannibal comedian say when he tried to eat the audience?
“Tough crowd.”

 

 

You got a long way to go, girl.

 

*   *   *

May you appreciate the differences between reactions and responses;
May you rethink your own “However Many Stages of Doing This Thing” lists;
May you treat yourself to some stress relief and watch Paul Lynde’s one-liners outtakes from Hollywood Squares;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Not because moiself  is the preeminent grief expert; rather, the people behind resources I am citing *are.*

[2] as per UC Berkely’s Greater Good Science Center (“Science-based Insights for a Meaningful Life”).

[3] Suddenly as in, via an accident or homicide or suicide – any death that was unexpected or not with foreknowledge of its inevitability, as in, with cancer or other diagnosed terminal illnesses.

[4] The two girls and the adult woman died; the driver who caused the accident survived.

The Department I’m Not Defunding

Comments Off on The Department I’m Not Defunding

Department Of First Things First

Hard to imagine that, in this picture, my father was younger than I am now and I was younger than my daughter Belle is now

Gone from this earth; always present in our hearts and minds. Chester (“Chet the Jet”) Bryan Parnell died this evening, thirteen years ago.

 

Moiself was home from college for a Christmas visit.  I remember how proud Chet was that he could still lift me in his arms (and that I would consent to him showing off by doing so).

 

*   *   *

Department Of One Solution To A Seemingly Unsolvable Problem?

“The rift between police and Black Americans can feel impossible to bridge.  But in his work with police departments across the U.S., Yale psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff has found novel ways to address the problem.”
(Hidden Brain website)

Okay; everybody drop what you’re doing right now – unless you’re doing something really important, like making me dinner. Whether you have ever (or never) had any encounters with police officers, or you y’all’s own self are a police officer, please listen to this podcast episode:  Hidden Brain: Changing Behavior, Not Beliefs

HB host Shankar Vedantam:
“I find it fascinating that you’re effectively addressing problems related to racial disparities in policing, without accusing police officers of being bigots.  There’s very little finger-pointing in your work, right? “

Goff:
“In my day to day when I’m talking with law enforcement, when I’m talking with communities, when I’m talking to my team, we talk about racism a *whole lot.*  What we *don’t* talk about is whether or not you meant to (a cop acting in a way that promotes racial disparity), or are ‘a good person.’

We don’t talk about ‘character,’ almost ever.  But everybody who can answer the question, ‘Would you like to kill fewer people – would you like to be engaged in less racial disparity?” with a ‘Yes, I would like to do that morally obvious thing,’ there are things that can be done.  But we don’t have to talk about racism the way most people talk about racism, because the way most people talk about racism is what kind of person you are, and I have found that to be almost entirely irrelevant to making the problem get better.”      [1]

 

 

Psychologist Goff says the key to changing policing disparity and lowering incidences of police using unnecessary force is focusing on the *behavior* of officers, not on their *character.*  Whether or not a person holds entrenched/racist beliefs is subjective, difficult if not impossible to assess – how do we really know what is in a person’s mind?   [2] –  and ultimately impossible to screen for (truly racist applicants would learn how to “lie”, on both tests and in interviews, if they were determined to join the police force).

And whether or not an officer aspires to be a card-carrying Klansman or considers himself to be the reincarnation of Mr. Rogers is not the issue – his behavior is. And his behavior is directly influenced by his training, which colors his perceptions (even when the officer is a POC    [3]  ) of what kind of persons and situations are inherently dangerous.

Goff and others studying the situation point to the fact that it is the police officer’s behaviors, not indiscernible attitudes or “character,” which cause problems.  Goff argues for DE-escalation, not defunding, for police. He calls for changing the training for officers and for those who deploy them, including recognizing situations where employing officers with badges and guns should only be a last resort and not a first response (i.e. most traffic infractions and mental health calls and neighborhood disputes).

 

We should all be so lucky as to de-escalate by partaking in a relaxing foot soak with Mr. Rogers.

 

The character of police officers involved in, for example, the shooting of an unarmed Black man, is impugned or assumed: “The officers must be racist!  That may or may not be the case, but Goff argues that we should focus our attention on what we can measure and alter, rather than what the officer’s “character” might be, which we can only presume.  We should look at the behavior involved, including:

* how officers are trained to react a certain situations

* knowledge of the fact that certain situations predispose the officers to respond more violently and/or fearfully: such as, the foot chase and high speed auto chases.  And even – especially, as it turns out – the lowly, “routine” traffic stop.

“Thanks to police culture and training, many officers have been conditioned to believe — *wrongly* — that traffic stops are high-risk, the report explains. (Research has indicated that the chances of a police officer being killed during a traffic stop are actually less than 1 in 3.6 million.) The high-risk mindset leads to overreaction and hyper-violence against people who are not a threat.

‘All [officers have] heard are horror stories about what could happen,’ Sarah Mooney, assistant police chief in West Palm Beach, told the Times. ‘It is very difficult to try to train that out of somebody.’  ”
( “New Report Details How and Why Routine Traffic Stops Turn Deadly,”
NYmag.com  )

 

The first time moiself  heard or read about the call to, “defund the police” I expressed my concern that the term was *extremely* poorly chosen.  It is fear-inducing for many if not the majority of citizens, and likely to put police officers on the defensive and refuse to listen to rational calls for reform.

One acquaintance shared her opinion that “…it doesn’t actually matter (what phrase you use) because they (police departments) are going to disagree no matter what you call it.”

Maybe…?  With a large, mmmmmmmm.

Second thought:  No; it does matter what you call it.  Because, words and phrases both carry and impart meaning – that’s the whole point of arguing about them.

And the meaning of “defund the police” is different from the desired outcome for police reform, which is not slashing essential police budgets, but reassigning and re-delegating certain tasks police have had to handle. These specific tasks are those which police officers and departments across the nation have complained about for decades – tasks that have been defaulted to police to handle, despite police lacking the training or mandate to handle them, e.g., the post deinstitutionalization mental health crises.

“When a person has a mental-health crisis in America, it is almost always law enforcement—not a therapist, social worker, or psychiatrist—who responds to the 911 call. But most officers aren’t adequately trained to deal with mental-health emergencies. And while laws intended to protect civil liberties make it exceedingly difficult to hospitalize people against their will, it is remarkably easy to arrest them.

As a result, policing and incarceration have effectively replaced emergency mental-health care, especially in low-income communities of color. In many jails, the percentage of people with mental illness has continued to go up even as the jail population has dropped. Today, nearly half the people in U.S. jails and more than a third of those in U.S. prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness, compared to about a fifth in the general population.”

(“The Truth About Deinstitutionalization,” The Atlantic )

 

 

The mental health issue is arguable the most complex, with almost all sides involved in the discussion admitting that there is a huge problem, but offering no doable solutions…other than agreeing on the fact that the vast majority of mental-health related calls to emergency services should not involve or be handled by police.  But there are several less complicated fixes to other issues that could make a big difference in racial disparities in policing.  One of these fixes involves simply reducing the amount of unnecessary citizen-police encounters in non-life-threatening situations.

There’s no reason for badges-and-guns officers to be involved in citing minor traffic infractions, non-violent mental health crises “checks,” or policing petty neighborhood disputes, when community resources – e.g. trained mediators, mental health professionals, road cameras or even 1920s-style “traffic vigilantes” [see below] – could be used.

Some cities and police departments recognize this, and are advising their police officers to “no longer pursue drivers for low-level traffic infractions — including expired plates and broken headlights — unless related to an immediate safety threat.”    [4]  These recommendations are due in part to studies showing wide racial disparities in traffic stops, including one massive study cited by Kelsey Shoub, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, which analyzed data from twenty *million* traffic stops. The study’s data provided “…few big takeaways,” Professor Shoub said, “…and the first two are probably not surprising.”

“The first is that DWB (‘driving while black’) is very much a thing; it’s everywhere and it’s not just a North Carolina or a Southern problem but across the United States.  ….The second thing is that it appears to be more systemic than a few ‘bad apple’ officers engaged in racial profiling.”

Significant findings from Shoub’s and her colleagues’ analysis of the study’s dataset include:

* Blacks were 63 percent more likely to be stopped even though, as a whole, they drive 16 percent less. Taking into account less time on the road, blacks were about 95 percent more likely to be stopped.

* Blacks were 115 percent more likely than whites to be searched in a traffic stop (5.05 percent for blacks, 2.35 percent for whites).

* Contraband was more likely to be found in searches of white drivers.

“So, black drivers were stopped disproportionately more than white drivers compared to the local population and were at least twice as likely to be searched, but they were slightly less likely to get a ticket,” Shoub says. “That correlates with the idea that black drivers were stopped on the pretext of having done something wrong, and when the officer doesn’t see in the car what he thought he might, he tells them to go on their way.”

(“Racial disparities revealed in massive traffic stop dataset.”
U of SC post, 6-12-20 )

 

 

A driver speeding 100 mph through red light after red light? That person is a danger to everyone – go get him, asolutely. But having and guns-and-badges officers pull someone over for expired registration tags or for failing to properly signal a right-hand turn or exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph? Use capture camera footage or whatever – send them a ticket in the mail, but only escalate when absolutely necessary.

“Traffic stops are the most common form of police-citizen interaction, but for many citizens, they are also the most dangerous.

Although many people view traffic enforcement as a basic aspect of policing, this has not always been the case….

How traffic enforcement evolved over time
Traffic enforcement has been a responsibility of policing since the invention and wide use of automobiles and other vehicles. Cars were seen as dangerous, and originally, there were no rules or regulations governing their use. Outraged over accidents and other safety concerns, civilians demanded public safety support, despite law enforcement’s own lack of automobile use.

Traffic enforcement started in the 1920s with ‘traffic vigilantes’ who regulated driving by handing out tickets, keeping track of license plates, and following high-speed drivers. As police gained access to more technology, this role increasingly fell to them. Since then, police have used traffic stops to stop, detain, and search people they believe are engaging in criminal activity.

Traffic stops are now one of the most common acts of policing. Officers engaged in traffic enforcement have the discretion to decide whether to stop a driver based on a long list of potential violations, including not using a turn signal early enough, not using headlights on a cloudy day.… Officers have further discretion in how the stop is handled, including whether they will conduct a search of vehicle, issue a citation, arrest the driver, or let them go.

The deeply entrenched racial disparities in traffic enforcement and the continued killing of Black drivers show that regardless of intentions, the harms of traffic stops far outweigh any potential public safety benefits. Traffic stops result in neither increased trust in the police nor increased perceptions of safety among community members, and they often have the opposite effect.”

( “Police Traffic Stops Have Little to Do with Public Safety,”
Urban Wire: Crime Justice and Safety )

 

 

*   *   *

Punz For The Day
Cops Edition

Yesterday I saw a police officer wearing a pilot’s uniform.
I thought it was odd; then I realized he was one of those plane clothes cops.

There’s a mysterious crime spree going on at our local IKEA.
The cops are having a hard time putting the pieces together.

Police officer: “I’m arresting you for downloading all of Wikipedia.”
Suspect: “No, wait! I can explain everything!”

I got pulled over by a cop who asked me if I had a police record.
I said, “No, but I’ve got a Sting CD.

 

What’s all this about Police brutality?

*   *   *

May you remember that what you call something matters;
May you find another term for “defunding the police;”
May you get out that old Police album – or picture of a departed loved one – and appreciate
how the gifts of the past can enrich the present;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] The first footnote is not actually a footnote.  This does not bode well for the completion of my Ph.D.

[2] We may have legal standards for proof of “intent,”  but such standards are legal – not scientific – constructions.

[3] “Racial bias isn’t necessarily about how a person views himself in terms of race, but how he views others in terms of race…. In the case of police, all cops are dealing with enormous cultural and systemic forces that build racial bias against minority groups. Even if a black cop doesn’t view himself as racist, the way policing is done in the US is racially skewed — by, for example, targeting high-crime neighborhoods that are predominantly black.  These policing tactics can also create and accentuate personal, subconscious bias by increasing the likelihood that officers will relate blackness with criminality or danger — leading to what psychologists call “implicit bias” against black Americans.  Combined, this means the system as a whole — as well as individual officers, even black ones — by and large act in ways that are deeply racially skewed and, potentially, racist.  ( excerpts from ” How systemic racism entangles all police officers — even black cops,” Vox  )

[4] “Portland police halt minor traffic stops, citing disparity.”  Abc news.

The Subjects I’m Not Avoiding

Comments Off on The Subjects I’m Not Avoiding

Department Of Are You Mortal?

Moiself, too.  So, why do we act as if we think are not?

I highly recommend the latest edition of the podcast Clear + Vivid. In a moving and candid conversation – frequently seasoned by laughter (which might be surprising to some, given the subject matter) – podcast host Alan Alda talks with his guest, author and Rabbi Steve Leder,  about the inevitability of death, and grief. These are subjects people usually avoid, which, Leder says, only adds to the losses people inevitably face in life.

At one point in their conversation, as Alda and Leder discussed the importance of acknowledging our mortality, Alda said,  “Talk some more about this. ‘Cause you still haven’t convinced me to die.”  Leder’s response, which prompted laughter from both men, was, “Well, I don’t have to.”

Leder has written a book (“The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift”) which Alda describes as “…a moving, inspiring and often funny book about the loss of loved ones.”  Although Leder has officiated at more than 1,000 funerals, he found his own preconceived notions of grief – what it is and “how” to do it – challenged when his beloved father died.

I love it when Someone With Experience And Authority ® confirms a suspicion I’ve had for years.  Thus, thank gawd (sez the atheist) that Leder disagrees with the “Five  [1]   Stages of Grief” mythology.  Leder says we have “been done a terrible disservice” with this idea that there are stages or phases of grief, which implies that grief is a linear process (“First you will deal with Stage A, then you will feel Stage B…”).

Grief is non-liner; Leder declares. It is much more analogous to waves:

“They come very close together and are very large at first. They do spread out, and sometimes you even get beautiful, calm seas for a day, a week, a month, a year…. And then sometimes, when your back is turned, there can be a massive wave of grief that takes you down.  And that is not ‘stages.’

Before my father died, what I used to say to people is, ‘Look, the most honest and helpful think I can say to you right now is that it won’t always hurt so much.’ And I don’t say that anymore.  Now I say, ‘It won’t always hurt so *often.*’ Because when it hurts, it hurts every bit as much.”

 

 

*  It’s who we have, not what we have, that matters.

*The beauty of the flower is that it fades.

*The meaning of life is that it ends.

* Understanding the ephemeral nature of life – choosing to acknowledge that we don’t have forever – makes things great and small (our children and friends; a hot fudge sundae) more precious, not less.

These and other observations which Leder shares and expounds upon are no less profound for their relative simplicity.  Check out the entire interview:  “Make the End a Beginning” Clear + Vivid.

 

Alda and Leder also have an interesting chat about what is revealed by what people put on their gravestones.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reality Checks

As in, my attempt to provide one.  No doubt I will need one as well, if moiself  thinks that my feedback will either get a response (I doubt it/am not expecting it) or make a difference (I hope it will).

The following feedback was sent by moiself , earlier this week, to Shankar Vedantam, the science journalist and host of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain.

Dear Mr. Vedantam,

Love your show; regular listener here.  As per your interview on “Useful Delusions,” re your upcoming book of the same name, I cringed to hear you give credence, even in the context of how people respond to stress, to that  “…old proverb, ‘There are no atheists in the foxhole’….”

Yes, it is an old proverb. Old, insulting, and lousy – as in, inaccurate.

I wish you’d do a story on that.

An atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to an Army post in North Carolina on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Signs in support of atheism are seen during the “Rock Beyond Belief” festival at Fort Bragg army base in North Carolina March 31, 2012. The atheist-themed festival drew hundreds of people to Fort Bragg on Saturday for what was believed to be the first-ever event held on a U.S. military base for service members who do not have religious beliefs.
Organizers said they hoped the “Rock Beyond Belief” event at Fort Bragg would spur equal treatment toward nonbelievers in the armed forces and help lift the stigma for approximately 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference.
Defense Department policy holds that all service members have the right to believe in any or no religion. But those gathered at the event described being ostracized and harassed in the military community for not believing in God and worried about getting passed over for promotions if their secularist stances were widely known.
( “Military nonbelievers’ event shows there are atheists in foxholes.” (Reuters)

Not only have there *always* been atheists in foxholes, the FFRF   [2]  periodically bestows an award, “Atheists in Foxhole,” to commemorate that fact:

“This award was suggested by Vietnam War vet…Steve Trunk, to combat the ridiculous myth that there are no “atheists in foxholes,” and, in particular, to recognize activism to defend the constitutional principle of separation between state and church which every soldier takes an oath to uphold.”

To repeat: there are and have always been “atheists in foxholes;” however, they often have compelling reasons to remain in the foxhole/closet while they serve in the military. Religion-free soldiers can feel that they face an equal or greater danger from their fellow soldiers and commanding officers than from enemy fire, if their religious comrades discover that they are not religious believers.

“When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.
But minutes into the talk, the officer…began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism….
Major Welborn told the soldiers he might bar them from re-enlistment and bring charges against them….
Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. (Specialist Hall) was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.
( “Soldier Sues Army, Saying His Atheism Led to Threats,” NY Times )

Staff Sgt. Richlin Chan, who served in Afghanistan, is an “Atheist in Foxhole” who was profiled in the FFRF’s newsletter, Freethought Today (June/July 2010). Chan told this story:

In 2007, a soldier named Jeremy Hall was threatened and persecuted by fellow soldiers and a higher-ranking officer for holding an atheist meeting in Iraq.  After a firefight in which a protective screen deflected enemy fire, his commander later asked him if he believed in god.  Jeremy responded, “No, but I believe in plexiglass.”

If you’re interested, other resources include the MAAF (Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers); “I was An Atheist in a Foxhole,” (American Humanist Association) ; “The US Military Has a Problem With Atheists,” (The Week);  “Military atheists seeking the rights and benefits offered to religious groups”(Stars and Stripes).

Yours in the never-ending battle to temper inaccurate proverbs with reality checks,

 

 

*   *   *

Lest you think my picking that certain nit   [3]  spoiled the podcast for me, it did not.  I found the (rest of the) episode (Hidden Brain: Useful Delusions) quite enjoyable.  Of particular interest to moiself  was Shankar’s exposition on the adaptive or “useful” effects that delusional thinking can have, as well as the phenomenon of “naive realism.”

Naive realism allows us to judge others for engaging in what we’d call delusional thinking, while we convince ourselves that we, even in the same position as a desperate person, would never, say, vote for a demagogue or buy a snake oil potion/miracle cure, etc.  Vedantam illustrates this with a personal story of his own.  Several months ago, while travelling several hours from his home, Vedantam suffered a retinal detachment.  He had to seek emergency medical care, without having time to check reviews or get recommendations for a doctor or weighs pros and cons of treatment options. He found a doctor who was willing to open his practice up at 9 pm and see him. The doctor said Vedantam had to have emergency surgery ASAP or he would lose his eyesight. And so, Vedantan did….

“…what all of us do, in positions of great vulnerability: I put all my faith and trust in this doctor. Now, as it turned out, he was a brilliant surgeon and he ended up saving my eye, for which I am profoundly grateful. But imagine for a moment that he had not been a brilliant doctor; let’s imagine if he had been a charlatan. Would it have been any less likely for me to put my faith in him? And I would argue the answer is no, because my faith in him did not arise because of what *he* did, my faith arose because of what *I* was going through.

I was going through a period of great vulnerability, a period of great fear. Trusting him made me feel better…. Expand this in all kinds of ways, and you can see why people sometimes gravitate to beliefs that are false, to demagogues and false prophets. It’s not so much because of the demagogues and false prophets, it’s because of their own vulnerabilities.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of My Favorite Euphemisms

Dateline: last weekend, listening to a podcast in which anthropologists discussed the DNA sequences found from human bodies in caves in Siberia, Spain, and Croatia.

What the anthropologists found shows evidence of human-Neanderthal interbreeding as far back as 100,000 years ago. What I found was a delightful, heretofore-unknown-to-moiself, synonym…genteelism…rewording.

According to scientists, early humans and Neanderthals engaged in

“gene flow events.”

Aka, sex.

This substitute term should be a relief to teens everywhere. Despite their legendary taking of delight in shocking their elders by singing along to salacious pop song lyrics, teens are notoriously squeamish, to the point of disgust, when it comes to even thinking about the fact that their parents might have hooked up with one another in order to produce their offspring.  Chill, Ethan and Emma: your mother and father didn’t get it on. They merely engaged in a gene flow event.

 

 

*   *   *

Department of, Bingo!

But when Abby and I announced our relationship, the first article…said, “Abby Wambach in love with Christian mommy blogger.”…So the rest of the world picked up that one  — and now on my tombstone, no matter what else I do, it’ll say Christian mommy blogger…. I feel like it’s the most misogynistic, ridiculous title ever. Because no male activist or New York Times bestseller is described as a daddy…or by his religion.
( Glennon Doyle, from the podcast, Sway, 2-25-21)

I’m somewhat new to Sway, but after listening to a few episodes I’m impressed with the variety of guests and topics.  Hosted by Kara Swisher, “Silicon Valley’s most feared and well-liked journalist,” the podcast’s focus is “power: who has it, who’s been denied it, and who dares to defy it.” In the episode whence the above quote, Swisher interviews Glennon Doyle, best-selling author and activist previously best known – or rather, labeled – as a Christian-LGBTQ-friendly blogger and “confessional” writer, and most recently getting (unwanted) tabloid-type attention in the past few years for divorcing her (cheating) husband and marrying US soccer star Abby Wambach.

The reason for Doyle’s interview On Sway was Doyle having been named by many of Joe Biden’s campaign strategists as the person whose campaign endorsement, they believed, would influence women the most. The part of the interview that interested me the most was when Doyle shared her reactions to the male-values-dominated worlds of publishing and book reviews and publicity.   [4]   Doyle rejects the labels that have been put upon her, including “self-help expert” and “mommy blogger,” as reductive and misogynistic. 

Doyle:
“…I think that it’s very often the case that when a man puts work out into the world, the world looks at the work and says, ‘Is this work worthy?’ And I think that when a woman puts work out into the world, the world looks at the woman and says, ‘Is this woman worthy of putting out work?’
For example, the first big article that was put out about (her new memoir) in a big newspaper, the headline was, ‘Glennon Doyle writes third memoir?’ Question mark, question mark.”

Kara Swisher:
“As if you shouldn’t have many memoirs in you. That’s the suggestion.”

Doyle:
“Like, ‘Jesus Christ, this woman is going to say a *third* thing? We already let her say two things. She said two things, and then she’s going to come back and say a third thing. Who does this person think she is.’  Right?’
Sedaris came out with his new book, and it was like, ‘David Sedaris releases 158th memoir.’  Not, question mark, question mark.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of It’s Not My Fault; My Mind Just Goes To These Places

Apropos of nothing I can think of, while coming back from a walk the other day I mused about ways to get junior high school aged students interested in “classic” works of literature. I’ve heard many a teacher say that engaging that age group (particularly for the boys) will determine whether reluctant readers will show interest in, for example, the plays of William Shakespeare.

So, considering the age group, I humbly suggest this approach:

֍   Shakespearean Gas Theater   ֍

English, literature, and drama teachers can search the internet databases for well-known Shakespearean lines which can be altered and/or…uh, illustrated…as per the theme.

From Twelfth Night, the name of character Sir Toby Belch fits right in with those certain enhancements which tween actors could give to the delivery of Sir Toby’s classic lines:

”Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous,
there shall be no more cakes and….Baaaaaaaarrrrrrraaasaaaapppp…ale?

 

And, let’s face it, few 12-year-old boys want to play the lead male role of Romeo and Juliet‘s 14th century lovestruck Italian teen.  But when the line Romeo calls out to Juliet (in the famous balcony scene) is transformed, boys will be jostling for the opportunity to raise their arms in supplication and cut the cheese with romantic gusto while reciting,

“What wind thorough yonder window breaks.”

Then again, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t pursue a career as an Arts in Education consultant.

 

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

When a road construction worker farts, don’t blame him – it’s his asphalt.

 

“I want no part of this juvenile humor.”

 

*   *   *

May you write as many memoirs as you have in you;    [5]

May you appreciate the beauty of that which will fade;

May you be lucky enough to have an atheist beside you in the foxhole;

…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

[1] Or nine…or seven…or twelve.  Different self-appointed grief experts have different numbers, but most people are familiar with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross‘s five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

[2] The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1978, is the nation’s largest association of Atheists, Agnostic, Freethinkers, Humanists and Skeptics .

[3] This particular issue is more the size of a glacier than a nit, as the number of the non-religiously affiliated and atheists – and thus the number of people insulted and mischaracterized by such inaccurate adages – continues to grow/be revealed.

[4] A subject about which I have both opinions and experiences, as regular and/or long time readers of this blog may know.

[5] Well, maybe not 158.

The Judgment I’m Not Judging

1 Comment

Department Of One Of My Least Favorite Phrases In Any Language

Dateline: Wednesday circa 7 am; listening to Hidden Brain‘s rerun   [1]  of a 2019 podcast.  “Sex Machines: Love In The Age Of Robots,” is about…well, hello: title.

HB host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Computer Scientist/Professor Kate Devlin about her visit to a company that makes life-size sex dolls. In the latter part of the interview, Vedantam asks Devin about the dangers of people being in (translate: *thinking* they are in) a relationship – in this case, with a robot/AI doll – wherein there is no true reciprocity.

VEDANTAM:
So Kate, does having a lover who is completely dedicated to our needs
without asking for anything in return – is that actually good for us?

DEVLIN:
…I can see that argument, you know, the hedonistic thing of, you will have all your needs met, and you will never know…
what it really feels like to be in a proper human relationship.
It’s tricky because…
that might be appealing for some people
And who am I to judge if that is the case?”

 

Who am I to judge?   Who are you to judge? Seriously?

 

 

Prof. Devlin is (I presume) a human being. Choosing how we walk through this world and how we treat and interact with others – as humans, our whole life is about making choices. And choices involve making  judgments, from the mundane…

– “Should I get ranch dressing or the vinaigrette? Which do I think is ‘better’?”

to the profound

– “Should my partner and I have one or two children, biological or adopted,
or would we – and the world – be better off if we stayed child-free?”

– “Tommy, your friend Jason is bullying that new kid at school.
It doesn’t matter what Jason’s excuse is – it’s wrong to treat anyone that way.”

From the personal to the political: You judge this candidate to be more qualified than that one; which potential life partner to be a better fit
for you (and you for them)…. Who are you to judge?

 

“Holy non-conundrum, Batman!”

 

Let’s give three cheers and a bison booty shake for those who can discern between meticulous discernment and  (gasp) “being judgmental” – the bogey phrase that has become the go-to slur for times and situations which actually call for thoughtful judgement.

 

You want me to shake my what?

 

Who-am-I-to-judge is not only about a human being’s right but also their responsibility to judge, (to use a very important example)  that “cultural relativism” is dangerously naive – and ultimately leads to excusing and even propagating racist and sexist bullshit.  To do so, however, you must realize the difference between relativism and pluralism:

The fact of cultural pluralism does not present any philosophical problem to me, nor should it to anyone else.   It simply IS a fact that there are many different traditions of cultural life and thought.  Therefore, saying that I “believe in” cultural pluralism isn’t particularly illuminating or challenging; it would be like saying that I believe in the ocean.  However, acknowledging, accepting and even welcoming pluralism — which I eagerly do — does not require relativism.


Just as not all members of a particular culture – let’s say, French people – are in agreement on the doctrines or practices of their way of life (i.e., what makes a person “French”), not all people understand exactly the same things about the world in the same way.


Discerning differences and making choices are both good and necessary practices; it is wise to judge a tree by the fruit it produces.
There are valid criteria for testing or judging beliefs, world-views, or practices, whether cultural, religious, political, whatever. These criteria come from the various worldviews and traditions themselves, and are encompassed in what scholar Karen Armstrong calls the centrality of compassion.  Take any belief, worldview or practice and ask, does it lead to compassion and loving kindness?  If yes, then that is good (or at least acceptable).  Does it produce in its adherents certainty, self-righteousness, belligerence, and/or reality-denial?   Then that is bad.


I think a culture or worldview that teaches humility, gratitude, love and compassion and fosters equal responsibility and equal justice for all is “better” than one that justifies or permits slavery and/or inequality, or preaches fear and guilt or the domination of the majority by a plutocracy.

(adapted from “Robbiedoll-eology,” originally begun as a treatise
on my philosophy of religion.  Yep, I’m citing moiself. )

 

 

I will champion What’s Right ® in my own society and within whatever tribes/labels people want to put me in.  I will also not excuse discrimination – and racial/gender/class apartheid and genital mutilation and educational and professional marginalization, ad nauseum – perpetuated by people outside of my tribes, by saying I can’t judge them because I’m not “one of them.”

Some of the same people who opposed Apartheid (and by doing so they explicitly rejected the excuse that it was white South Africans’ culture – which it was – to believe that blacks were inferior and act accordingly) hesitate to criticize Islamist countries for those countries’  treatment of women and non-Muslim citizens – even to the point of slurring others who point out such discrimination, with labels like, “bigots,” or “Islamophobes.”

 

Oh, great – look what you made me do.

 

Yet again, I digress. Back to the podcast.

Prof. Devlin goes on to make some lame defenses of people (human doll makers and their users, I suppose) who want to shake up the

“monoheteronormative stances that societies impose”

(Yes, some people really talk like that).

 

 

 …then she gets back to the point the host was trying to explore:

Devlin:
“So in some ways, I see what you’re saying.
You know, is it a selfish thing to do?
Does it make us terrible people if we take and take and take,
and we don’t give?”

The non-academia-gook, human-normative answer, Prof. Devlin, is *Fuck, yeah.*

Assuming her question is non-rhetorical, if you don’t get it on a personal level…this could go on for way too long, to have to explain human psychology and emotional intelligence, so I’ll put it this way: just take a look at current corporate and political leaders, and note the commonality in personality traits among the most rapacious and dictatorial of them: they think (and act as if) it’s perfectly fine to take take take and not give.

Moiself  is not going to get into all the ramifications of “life-like” human sex companion dolls.  Given the history of male and female relationships, even the idea of these robots…well, it makes me wish for a sci-fi/AI revolution movie where the robots take over.  But here in non-cinematic reality land, such inventions will continue to be one more crutch for emotionally and intellectually crippled males to have even fewer reasons to educate themselves about the other half of humanity.  Why bother learning perhaps what is a difficult skill set for you –  interacting with women as equals, seeing them as people – when you can have a slave (excuse me; I mean, a Realistic Companion ® ) who will not annoy or disagree with or challenge you, or point out that your jokes are corny and your reasoning flawed…or who also will never, genuinely, truly, love and care for you, with all the messiness, ambiguity, joy and wonderment that entails?

Come on folks, get your judge-y on.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

*   *   *

Department Of Memory-Triggering Fun With Pandemics

Dateline: Monday, circa noon. Moiself  was responding to an email from a friend who lives overseas  [2] . I thanked her for the much-enjoyed link she’d sent: a video made by to an amply endowed woman who demonstrated the perils (read: suffocation) of heeding internet suggestions to make a COVID mask from an old brassiere cup.

 

 

I’d told my Swenadian friend that MH was making face masks for us, using leftover material from the so-adorable-you-could-puke, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” costume he made (twenty-six years ago!), that both our offspring wore for their respective first Halloweens.  Swenadian lamented her own sewing talent (read: lack thereof), which got me onto the following subjects:

Have any of your talented family and/or friends sent you a mask they’ve made?  My friend LPH has been making them with special – there’s no other way to put it – penis-themed fabric. The cloth looks like a delicate, pastels-on-white pattern you might use for a baby blanket, until you get closer – which is just the point!  If someone is near enough to you see what the pattern really is, you definitely know they’ve violated social distancing guidelines.

I’m grateful for my craft-talented husband because, like you, I am not adept at sewing.  And I’ve no desire to be so, as it conjures up memories of discrimination and frustration.  I’m old enough to have been a junior high student when, in the eighth grade in California public schools, the curriculum required girls and boys to take a year of “Life Skills” classes.  Girls had to take a Sewing class (one semester) and a Home Economics class (one semester), while boys during that same year took shop classes:  Wood Shop, Metal Shop, Electric Shop.

I think it was just a few years later that the gender-specific requirements for those classes were dropped, and either gender could choose to take whatever during that year (although the social – even parental –  pressure, of course, still remained for girls to do one thing and boys another).  Then, years later,    [3]  MH, in a public school in Florida, was able to take a sewing class and, as he recalled, it wasn’t such a big deal for him to do so.

Interesting to think back upon that, and how a public institution was used to reinforce societal stereotypes (well, duh and of course, right?)  No matter what an individual boy’s or girl’s “natural” proclivities and/or interests might have been, the genders were each steered in different directions:  whether or not they gave a flying rat’s ass about it, all boys were exposed to and thus learned some basics of  carpentry/woodworking and electric/metal shop work, while all girls learned some basics of sewing and “home economics” – the latter of which translated into doing things like writing a recipe card for cinnamon toast.   I kid you not and I’ll repeat that: a recipe card for cinnamon toast.

Really. I remember thinking how it seemed so obvious to me that the Home Ec teacher had to stretch to fill an entire semester of curriculum. There was a lot of downtime in that class (which I didn’t mind because I used it to do homework for other classes).

While at the time I thought a sewing class could be valuable – and I do remember how to sew on a button and do some basic clothing repairs – the Home Ec class was a complete f***ing waste of time.  And I state that as someone who has just finished grinding her own chickpea flour.  My later/adult interest in cooking and meal design/preparation was in spite of that class, not because of it. Nothing I “learned” in Home Ec translated into my later interest in the culinary arts.

 

“I can’t remember, does your head go in the refrigerator or the oven if you’re dying of boredom?”

Is there anything so frustrating (at the 8th grade level) as putting a zipper in backwards, and/or cutting out fabric pieces with a pattern only to discover that you’ve also cut into a fabric piece, that, unbeknownst to you, was below the piece you meant to cut out, and so you’ve ruined the rest of the fabric for that project?  Translation: while I was learning to sew, I was also learning to swear. Now, decades later, I never do the former but (as you know), have mastered the latter.

Cracks me up – I haven’t thought of this in years.

Which means I’m probably going to blog about it.  😉

 

 

*   *   *

Department of The Corona Virus Playlist
 Joni Mitchell Edition

I still may do a 1970s singer-songwriters edition (plenty of talent to choose from, in the era of James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon, Dan Fogelberg….), but there’s no doubt that the talented if notoriously prickly Ms. Mitchell should share a list with no one.

Moiself  has listed some of Mitchell’s song titles which are IMHO, applicable to our social-isolating, transmission–paranoid, COVID-19 times, and which, in small groupings, imply a related story.

All I Want
Talk To Me
Be Cool
Blue
The Last Time I Saw Richard

Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
Don’t Go To Strangers
Come In From The Cold
Court And Spark
A Case Of You

Free Man In Paris
In France They Kiss On Main Street
People’s Parties
Help Me
Lesson In Survival

My Secret Place
Night In The City
Nothing Can Be Done
See You Sometime
Shadows And Light

The Way It Is
The Same Situation
Trouble Child
Twisted
Wild Things Run Fast

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion  Evolution  [4]

And here’s what I made for ours, one day this week.

Featuring this week’s Theme Day  (Tofu/Tempeh Tuesday): Savory Marinated Tempeh,
(chaperoned by Celeriac/Carrot Puree; Lemony Roast Asparagus; Mediterranean Greens)

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [5]

*   *   *

Pun For The Day

I wrote a Broadway musical about puns. It was a play on words.

 

 

*   *   *

 

May you judge wisely, and often;
May you have one fond or at least fun recollection of the inane
academic requirements of junior high school;
May you devise and share your own COVID-19 playlist;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

[1] I did not hear the original, or you would have had this rant a year ago.

[2] A person mentioned previously in this space as my “Swenadian” buddy.  Swenadian is a Swedish-Canadian combo. You figured that out, right?

[3] I am 5 ½ years older than MH.

[4] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 1 of April 2020, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go themes as listed in the 4-3-20 blog.

[5]

* Abject Failure:  I’ll make a canned wieners & SpaghettiOs gelatin mold before I make this recipe again.
* Tolerable:  if you have the proper…attitude.
* Yep: why, sure, I’d share this with my cat.
* Now you’re talkin’: Abby the Support Avocado ® approves
* Yummers: So good, it merits The Purple Tortilla Chip Of Exclamation ® !

 

The Habits I’m Not Building

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Department Of Is Writing This Weekly Blog A Good Habit,
Or Indicative of Moiself’s Amazing Willpower?

At the end of last month, just around the time when folks might be thinking of making New Year’s resolutions, the Hidden Brain podcast ran an appropriate episode:

“At the beginning of the year, many of us make resolutions for the months to come. We vow to work out more, procrastinate less, or save more money. Though some people stick with these aspirations, many of us fall short. How do we actually develop good habits and maintain them? What about breaking bad ones?”
( “Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become”
(12-30-19), intro to Hidden Brain podcast)

Moiself had listened to the podcast when it first ran, but did so while distracted and didn’t remember much about it.  When MH asked me earlier this week if I had listened to it, I decided to relisten. MH found the podcast, especially the parts about how people use psychological “tricks” on themselves to build habits, to be very interesting:

“It turns out that when you build a habit, it’s like putting on a set of unconscious mental blinders. Once in place, the blinders protect you from temptations and distractions.
The more you ignore those temptations, the stronger the blinders become. To put this another way, habits are self-reinforcing. They can be difficult to start but once in place, they have a life of their own because they stop being conscious and become automatic and unconscious.
In fact, once you have developed a habit, you will stick to it even if the alternative is objectively easier.”

 

 

I was more interested in the mini-debate/subtext of the episode.  The host, NPR Social Science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, and his guest, Wendy Wood, USC professor of psychology and business, bantered about the idea that “… significant numbers of Americans believe that the way to change their behavior is through self-control, that willpower is the key to either making changes that stick or to making changes that fail to stick.”  Wood cited several examples of willpower fail, and said that “performing a behavior,” which leads to habit-building, is more effective.

IMHO, the points that were made re habit vs. willpower were mere quibbling over semantics. For true behavior and/or lifestyle alteration you need both, and there is overlap. Neither the host nor his guest made the delineation clear; it seemed as they were acknowledging – or assuming – that there is something “judgy” about using the term willpower, so they refer to “establishing good habits” instead of “exercising willpower.”

As someone who, over the years, has established and maintained several good habits (e.g. regular exercise) as well as taken on a few bad ones (never you mind), it is both my opinion and experience that you can’t have good habits without willpower, and vice-versa.  “Good habits” and willpower” are complementary, not conflicting.  But as long as we aren’t sure about this, someone will try to convince us one way or another.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Life Is Tough But It’s Even Tougher If You’re Stupid
Chapter 3 in a series

When driving to or from Tacoma,   [1] one of the sights I have come to look forward to is the Right Wing Uncle Sam Billboard ® , on the east side of I-5 near Chehalis, WA.

 

 

This message is par for the course for Right Wing Uncle Sam (RWUS), whose baleful countenance reminds me of Balok, the fearsome (and false, as it turns out) alien from the Star Trek TOS episode, The Corbomite Maneuver.

 

 

The billboard is notorious in These Here Parts (it even has its own Wikipedia entry!), and has been up since the 1970s. The original wackadoodle wingnut archconservative who erected and maintained the billboard and changed the messages weekly died over a decade ago; his survivors have kept it going.

Poor RWUS, seemingly doomed for life to hector travelers north and south (it’s a two-sided wingnut fest billboard!). No wonder his severe visage, as if he were trying to maintain composure while being administered a perpetual colonoscopy by government-employed, immigrant gay Russian liberal Muslims dressed like John Kerry.   [2]

Returning to Oregon on Sunday after a long weekend in Tacoma, my view on the trip south was a rather mild, for RWUS: “Be glad Pelosi is not commander-in-chief.”  I forget what it was on the trip north…but RWUS seems to be losing his fire.  I used to count on his irrational screeds entertaining and stimulating messages to lull me out of highway hypnosis and remind moiself to pull over at the next rest stop and do some calisthenics.

 

*   *   *

Blog Department Of I’m Too Old For This…Except When I’m Not.

My most recent opportunity to see Right Wing Uncle Sam Billboard ® was last weekend, when I ventured north to help daughter Belle move from her tiny studio apartment into a roomier rental.  Belle is much cuter than but just as strong as the proverbial ox…

…as I was, at her age (well, the strong part).  But the Strong Young People ® who were promised to help Belle and I never materialized.  So it was my daughter and moiself, the latter feeling (and probably looking) more like the Decrepit Crypt Keeper than the Dynamic Couch Mover after two days of schlepping furniture and boxes up and down stairs and in and out of vans….

“I’m almost forty years older than you,” I huffed on Day 2, trying (and failing) to find a handhold on one end of a very heavy and extremely softly upholstered (read: slippery) couch.  “I’m too old for this…I can’t do this anymore.”

“But, you *are* doing this,” Belle remarked.

Which caused moiself  to wonder, Who raised this smartass?

 

“You want the futon *where*?”

 

*   *   *

Department Of Reflections,
While Resting Outside An Apartment Building,
Between Bouts of Furniture Moving,
Watching People And Their Dogs Walk By

Aka, Dog Poo Haiku

I see them each day:
Patiently, or otherwise
waiting, bag in hand.

Before them it squats:
hindquarters raised; tail aloft;
butthole aquiver.

The owners stand by,
impassively accepting
their twice daily task.

I often wonder,
as the doggies deliver
a fresh poop package,

If their owners knew
what they’d be getting into
each day, without fail

This is what you do;
A primal identity:
Fetcher of feces.

They scoop, once again.
I smile, silently praising
our litterboxes.

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of Well, Duh
Sub Department Of It’s Nice To Give The “Florida Man” Headline A Break, And See
“Florida Woman Does BatShit Crazy Thing” For A Change

It seems that some Christian folks be losing their Jesus shit over a video clip of President #45’s “Spiritual Adviser…”

 

Yeah, I know, right?

 

Ahem…the President’s Spiritual Adviser Paula White, her arms shaking in Pentecostal fundy lunacy fervor, praying during her January 5 sermon to congregants at her City of Loony Tunes Destiny church in Apopka, Florida. In the clip, posted to Twitter by a group that monitors radical right wing organizations, White prays as Jesus instructed his followers to do,  [3] and urges her flock to “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

 

 

Well of course she doesn’t.  Instead, she blathers entreats her supernatural friends:

“In the name of Jesus, we command all satanic pregnancies
to miscarry right now.
We declare that anything that’s been conceived in satanic wombs
that it’ll miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth
any plan of destruction, any plan of harm.”

Why is this so offensive and astonishing for some people?  Yeah, yeah, there is the flaming hypocrisy of a Pentecostal preacher who opposes abortion calling for her deity to abort pregnancies of people she deems evil….  [4]

But, really: is this surprising?

My well-known and ongoing critique of religion is evident on these (cyber) pages.  I also count religious believers among my family and friends – people I love, admire and respect (the people themselves – not necessarily the origins and contents of their religious beliefs).   However, unlike Penty Preacher Paula And Her Fundy Fans,   [5]  these people’s beliefs, like the religious beliefs and practices of most contemporary American Christians, are informed and constrained by modernity.

Whether or not what I will call these MCs – modern (moderate?) Christians – realize this, and whether or not MCs consider their beliefs and practices to be an authentic interpretation and application of their scriptures, they simply do not believe nor practice as their religious ancestors did.  Many of the MCs’ fundamentalist fellow Christians criticize them for this ( “Cafeteria Christians,”   [6]  anyone?)

But this Happy Apostate is glad that MCs give themselves license to resolve their cognitive dissonance by declaring that certain of their scriptures are meant to be allegorical or somehow do not apply in the present day (even though the scriptures themselves say no such thing).

Look: I’m glad that most MCs do not heed Jesus’s advice to demonstrate signs of their belief by handling snakes and scorpions and drinking poison  [7]   because Jesus has given them power over such things and assures them that “nothing shall by any means hurt you.”  Even so, the practice persists: a professor of psychology at UTC, who has for 25+ years studied and documented serpent-handling among Christians documents over 100 deaths of sincere believers (this is in our times, not the 1700s) from snake bites and drinking poison.

I’m also tickled several shades of apostate pink that, despite their Jesus warning them,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away,
not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law
until everything is accomplished”
 
(Matt: 5 17-18)

most MCs pick-and-choose among the 613 commandments of their god.

I’ve no problem with MCs who heed the commandment to respect their god’s name (Lev. 22:32). I’m *really* happy that MCs ignore the commandments to kill non-believers (John 15:6; Deut 13; 2 Chron 15) and people who work on the sabbath (Exodus 35) and stubborn and rebellious sons (Deut. 21) and those who curse or blaspheme (Lev. 24) or have consensual non-marital sex ( Deut . 22 & Lev. 20) or….

I’m pleased when you MCs find ways to live peaceful and useful lives that help and not harm others, even as I’m gob-smacked by your naivete – e.g., your being shocked when a fundy preacher calls for your god to end the pregnancies of perceived enemies.  Because even the robes of modernity cannot clothe the naked nuttiness of the primitive, pre-science, blood sacrifice-based foundation of Christian theology.

Without regurgitating a tract-worthy summation you had to memorize in seventh grade confirmation class (or one which a friend or coworker felt obliged to “share” with you); without falling back on the centuries of Church theology that tell you how you’re supposed to see things, try to explain even one aspect of classic Christian theology.  The “Fall leading to Original Sin leading to separation from god leading to reconciliation and redemption only through the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus (who, according to the Doctrine of the Trinity, was actually the afore-mentioned god).”

Try explaining that to a ten year old.  Or, to yourself:

“Okay, it’s like this: God’s own child, who was fathered by God Himself and who is/was that same God, according to the doctrine of the Trinity (so, yeah, God impregnated His own mother)…


uh, anyway, moving right along, God killed God’s own child  (committed suicide, actually, since the Trinity means that Jesus is God) as the ultimate blood/animal sacrifice, which was the only way to appease God’s anger for something God allowed the humans He created to do (and in fact knew that they would do, since God is all-knowing)…


and although this God *is* (of course and by definition) all-powerful, this God couldn’t accomplish this appeasement in any other way…and believing all of this is the only way to God.”

 

 

Of course #45’s “Spiritual Advisor” said what she said.  Even way back in the 1700s, enlightened thinkers warned political leaders and common folk alike of the dangers of the irrationality of religion:

“Those who can make you believe absurdities,
can make you commit atrocities.”

( Voltaire,  “Questions sur les miracles,” 1765 )

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [8]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

Vegan Casseroles, by Julie Hasson
Recipe:  Pale Ale Stew

My rating: 

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher  [9]

*   *   *

May your habits and willpower peacefully coexist;
May your pet waste disposal routines inspire poetic masterpieces;
May you never be too old to help my your child move furniture;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] Which I do several times a year to visit daughter Belle, who lives and works there.

[2] Some of the favorite targets of the billboard’s founder.

[3] According to Matthew 5:44.

[4] Read: opposing the president. She also prays during her sermon for the “superior blood of Jesus” break “any strange winds that have been sent…against our President.”

[5] Sounds like a Lawrence Welk Show side act, eh?

[6] “Cafeteria Christians” is a derogatory term used by conservative Christians to critique the beliefs and practices of more liberal Christians who choose which doctrines and scriptures they will follow literally, and which they will not.

[7] Mark 16 and Luke 10

[8] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) once recipe from one book.

[9]

* Two Thumbs up:  Liked it
* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it
* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin, a character from The Office who’d eat anything, would like this.
* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.
* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.
* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up .
* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.
* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

 

The Conundrums I’m Not Scooping

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Department Of If You Want To Make Your Head Spin, Think About This

HAL HERZOG: The New York Times actually wrote an editorial about it (the killing of an amusement park crocodile named “Cookie,” by its owner, after the crocodile drowned a 6 year old boy who had fallen into the croc’s enclosure)… the editorial writer wrote, killing Cookie made no sense intellectually, but it felt right emotionally.

SHANKAR VEDANTAM: And the reason it didn’t make sense intellectually, of course, is the idea that a crocodile would do what a crocodile does is hardly surprising.

HERZOG: (the croc’s) brain is smaller than a walnut. He is a creature, largely, of instinct, particularly when it comes to food. And he was… doing what crocodiles do. He was not a moral agent, you know, which I would argue is one of the biggest differences between humans and other species. We are moral agents.

VEDANTAM: So the interesting thing is that Cookie’s owner, in some ways related to Cookie as if Cookie was a person, that Cookie was a moral agent…which is, you’re assuming that the animal has agency and behaves or thinks or has human-like qualities and that you are therefore obliged or required to treat this other creature as if, in some ways, it had human-like qualities.

HERZOG: …This similarly played out in a bizarre incident that happened in Tennessee, where an elephant named Mary killed its groom while in a circus parade in 1916. And they hung the elephant to death…and to me that was…the ultimate example of where we’ve anthropomorphized animals – that we give it capital punishment in a sense for something that it was clearly not morally culpable.

(From “Pets, Pests And Food: Our Complex, Contradictory Attitudes Toward Animals,” Hidden Brain podcast 6-17-19)

The concept of moral consistency often times leads us astray in our interactions with animals.  This is just one of many take-aways from the most recent episodes of one of my favorite podcasts, Hidden Brain. In this episode, host Shankar Vedantam interviews Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology who has studied human-animal interactions for more than 30 years and the author of the book, “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”

*   *   *

When I began doing my research on the comparative cruelty of cockfighting versus McNuggets…I just – I was absolutely stunned. And I realized…cockfighting should be illegal, but the casual chicken eater is committing a bigger sin in their own way than is the rooster fighter.
(Hal Herzog, Hidden Brain guest)

*   *   *

It has always fascinated me that every person I know or have read about who has chosen to alter their eating and other lifestyle habits in part or primarily due to their concern for animals – e.g., vegans, as well as other animal rights activists who are not exclusively plant-eaters – has pets. Yet one can make a strong argument that keeping animals as pets is presumptuous at best and “species-ist” at worst: you are keeping animals in captivity, away from their natural habitat, without their request or permission.

Moiself’s family of origin had a variety of pets over the years, including hamsters, cats, and dogs, and on a few occasions we attended events that featured animal “entertainment” (e.g., my parents took us to a circus, and to Sea World a couple of times.). MH and I and our two children have always had pets, including cats, snakes, rodents, fish, birds, and a bearded dragon. Our current fauna enslavement count is four felines.   [1]

I will never again go to an animal circus. Nor will I patronize a Gator World or Sea World type facility, which, unlike accredited zoos or wildlife preserves (which nowadays focus on education, conservation and breeding programs for endangered species), keep animals as moneymaking entities and train them to perform for human entertainment. I’ve also a “moral problem” with horseback riding, as much as I’ve enjoyed that activity in the past.

Watch the “Blackfish” documenary, if you don’t understand the Sea World reference.

As per my own moral consistency regarding the pet issue…let’s see how many metaphors I can mix….

IMHO, the barn door has already closed when it comes to removing/returning certain animals from/to their natural habitat.  That ship –  of cats and dogs – has already sailed, particularly with regard to dogs, which have been kept and selectively bred by humans for thousands of years. Domestic cats also have a long relationship with humans but have not been subjected as much genetic tinkering; thus, “homeless” cats can be seen, in our own neighborhoods and on city streets around the world, hunting and otherwise fending for themselves quite well – ’tis why we have a problem with feral “domestic” cats.  It’s hard to imagine dogs, especially those of wheezing, gasping brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds (e.g. pugs; French bulldogs, Boston Terriers) or toy breeds (Yorkies, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas…)  “make a living” without us.

At the time my offspring wanted reptiles as pets I insisted that any herps  [2]  (which eventually consisted of a corn snake, a ball python, and a bearded dragon) they acquired be captive bred.  I no longer think that is a good idea.  Considering their behaviors and interactions with humans, I think reptiles belong “in the wild”  (and as undomesticated as your adolescent child’s bedroom might seem to you, that doesn’t count).

Ditto for rodents, and birds.   [3]  And fish (really, people…keeping fish as “pets”? Just get a terrarium and watch the grass grow, for comparable excitement).

*   *   *

Hidden Brain’s host and guest discussed how humans’ attitudes toward and treatment of animals are shaped by how we anthropomorphize them. For example, the giant panda and the giant salamander are both endangered species native to certain regions of China, but guess which gets the lion’s (panda’s?) share of attention and concern?  You’re not gonna see the World Wildlife Fund put the pictures of endangered invertebrates on their calendars, coffee mugs, tote bags and other fundraising swag.

(more from the Hidden Brain interview, my emphases)

HEZOG: And the panda…in some ways, looks a little bit like a human.
But it’s basically a faker in the sense that it has these giant circles around its eyes, which ethologists call baby releasers. So we look at that panda and it basically logs on to that – jams into that maternal instinct that we have when we see creatures with big eyes and it impose on them that in some ways it reminds us of a human infant. So, for example, researchers have shown that one of the biggest predictors of whether or not people will give money to save animals is the size of the animal’s eyes. And pandas certainly have it when it comes to eye size.

But wait – if it’s round eyes you’re going for, how about the wolf spider, which has eight big fuzzy ones? Oh, never mind.

Am I cuddly, or what?

It – how some animals we “love,” some we consider pests, and some we eat – is a fascinating issue to consider. And if you, like moiself (and the podcast’s psychologist) think that the paradoxes of pet ownership are in some ways unresolvable, just wait until you start thinking about eating animals, or using them in “sports” for our entertainment.

VEDANTAM: So the more we think of animals as sort of members of our family, the more we think of them as being like us, in some ways, this raises a profound moral paradox: if we actually think of these animals as being like us, how in the world can we…in any good conscience, confine them to our homes, confine them to cages, treat them as if they were our captives to do with as we please?

HERZOG: I think that’s a great point… And I’ve really quite seriously been thinking about, is it ethical to keep animals as pets? If we really think of them as autonomous beings, what right do we have to take away all their autonomy by controlling every aspect of their life? – what they eat, where they go, when they go. And increasing, we’re taking control of their genes, which created its own problems.
To me, the logic of pet keeping is not that different than the logic of meat eating. I eat meat. And I know the arguments against it are good and they’re better than my argument for eating meat, which is, basically, I like the way it tastes. Well, I feel the same way about my cat. I love my cat, but she carries with her a moral burden. And it’s my moral burden. It’s not her moral burden. I’m the moral agent. I’m the adult in the room. And I’m the one that has to deal with thinking about this stuff. Although, most people conveniently repress it and don’t think about it.

 

 

Like most Americans, you are probably disgusted by the brutality of cock fighting and support bans on it and other animal “blood sports.”  And, like most Americans, you probably occasionally or regularly eat chicken, when dining out or at home.  Unless you insist on Certified Humane ® products from your restaurants and grocery stores, do you know which animal – the rooster raised for fighting, or the factory farm raised broiler which ends up in your McNuggets and Chicken Tikka Masala – actually has the “better” life (and less horrific death)?

HERZOG: (Gamecocks) live lives that are generally – compared to a broiler chicken – pretty darn amazing. They live, on average, two years. They’re not usually fought until they’re two years old. For a chunk of their life, they live in free range or they have way more room than a broiler chicken.

They’re fed incredibly well – a varied diet. They get plenty of exercise. If they win a couple fights, they will use them as a stud rooster. And what they’ll do is they’ll spend their life chasing the hens around. Not a bad deal.

On the other hand, the life of a broiler chicken is absolutely horrendous. Their life only lasts between six and seven weeks. They’re basically meat machines, which means that they put on weight so fast that their legs can’t really hold up their bodies… They’re jammed into giant broiler houses with 30,000 chicks in a broiler house, where they’ll never see the sun. They’ll never get to play on the grass. They’ll never get to peck at bugs. Their lungs will be burned with ammonia.  [4]   It’s an absolutely horrendous existence. And they will die a pretty lousy death. They’ll be crammed into a series of cages. They’ll be hauled, for miles, in an open truck, jammed into small little cages with their feathers flying down the interstate (to the slaughterhouse/processing plant), where they will be hung upside down by their legs, dipped into an electrified water bath to stun them. And then they’ll go through a carotid artery set of blades that will, hopefully, kill them quickly – although, oftentimes, it does not.

*   *   *

We human animals are inconsistent in how we think, feel, and behave towards non-human animals. No answers for y’all here,  [5]    just lots to think about…unless, like most pet owners and animal flesh eaters, you  prefer not to think about such things and would rather live with the quandaries…because to do otherwise might require sacrifices and lifestyle changes and, hey, you’re a busy person and it’s time to walk the quandary again….

If you do nothing else, please just remember to be a responsible moral agent: take your bag with you and pick up the, uh, conundrums your quandary drops along the way, okay?

*   *   *

Department Of Will Someone Please Do This Man A Favor
And Steer Him Toward Lessons In Basic Pronunciation?

Dateline: Tuesday am, listening to “How Earlonne Woods and Nigel Poor Create One of the World’s Most Fascinating Podcasts,”  a recent episode of the podcast Clear and Vivid. Clear & Vivid is concerned with how people communicate and connect with other people.  In this episode, host Alan Alda interviews two of the creators of Ear Hustle, a podcast produced from San Quentin prison, by prisoners.

Ear Hustle deals with the daily life of prison inmates, which gives cause for (now former) prisoner Earlonne Woods, during the Clear and Vivid interview, to use the term death row several times. “Clear and Vivid”…except that Woods consistently mispronounces death row as deaf row, which is not at all clear but which definitely brings a vivid image to my mind: of someone who, for whatever reasons, makes a group of hearing-impaired folks stand in a lineup.

*   *   *

Department of Epicurean Excursion   [6]

Featuring this week’s cookbook, author and recipe:

 Chickpea Flour Does It All, by  Lindsey S. Love

Recipe:  Baby Chickpea Quiches with New Potatoes and Chard

My rating:

☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

Recipe Rating Refresher   [7]

*   *   *

May you consider the quandaries in your life;
May you be brave enough to consider said quandaries before your next meat-based meal;
May you never have to choose between death row and deaf row;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

[1] MH and I have two, and our adult children each have one.

[2] From herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles.

[3] I realize that some kinds of birds, such as members of the parrot family, are more interactive with their human owners, even bonding with a human as they would in the wild with their mates…which presents a whole other set of logistical/care-taking and ethical problems.

[4] From the excretory fumes of their own and the 29,999 other chicken’s waste.

[5] Well of course I do have suggestions, such as adopting a plant-based diet.  If for whatever reasons you do want to eat meat, do your research find some farmers/ranchers who raise their animals humanely – they do exist!

[6] A recurring feature of this blog, since week 2 of April 2019, wherein moiself decided that moiself would go through my cookbooks alphabetically and, one day a week, cook (at least) one recipe from one book.

[7]  * Two Thumbs up:  Liked it

* Two Hamster Thumbs Up :  Loved it

* Thumbs Down – Not even Kevin ( a character on The Office, who would eat anything) would like this.  

* Twiddling Thumbs: I was, in due course, bored by this recipe.

* Thumbscrew: It was torture to make this recipe.

* All Thumbs: Good recipe, but I somehow mucked it up.

* Thumby McThumb Face: This recipe was fun to make.

* Thumbing my nose: Yeah, I made this recipe, but I did not respect it.

The Routines I’m Not Going Back To

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There is something different for me this year, about this time of the year – this particular end of August. I couldn’t put my finger on it, until I realized that Belle’s graduation from college in May means that for the first time in twenty years, there is no Back to School ® component to my life. The end of summer/resumption of school, the preparation and routine and rhythm of such, it was not so all-encompassing – for both my personal and the family’s schedules – when the kids were in college.  Still, it was…there.   [1]

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve noticed how “out of it” I’ve sometimes felt, during the past four years, with regards to schedules of other families – including even the approaching of holidays – by not having at least one child with a public school schedule. There was no compelling reason for me to keep track of certain things, and so I didn’t…and then I found myself frequently (and sometimes sheepishly) surprised by the mundane.

Why is there less traffic these past couple of morning? Why are there so many kids wandering around in the early afternoon…oh..yeah….it’s probably a teacher conference/grading/”staff development day” off for the schools….”

 

 

 

 

 

Friends would ask MH and I what we were doing for, say, Spring Break or the President’s Day holiday weekend, and we’d be caught by the question...uh, just when is spring break this year? Did we miss it?

And what’s with all the aisles of boxes of crayons and notebooks and Transformers backpacks front and center at Fred Meyer stores – it’s only August!?  Ahem, you mean, it’s already the end of August, and school starts the day after Labor Day, remember?

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department of Yet Another Podcast Promo

Arguably my favorite podcast of the past week was the Hidden Brain episode Originals, in which the show’s host, NPR’s social scientist correspondent host Shankar Vedantam interviewed Wharton School of Business professor Adam Grant. Grant’s book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,  “investigates who comes up with great ideas, how, and what we can do to have more of them.”

In the latter portion of the interview the host asked Grant about “who gets the chance to be original and how parents can foster this quality in their kids.” This led to a brief discussion between host and guest about a parenting-style dichotomy which has always fascinated moiself: those who parent by emphasizing values-based advice vs. those who instill rules-based behavior.

 

 

 

 

 

Vedantam: Why is it that rules-based behavior doesn’t produce the same thing as values-based advice?

Grant: When you focus on rules in the family a lot of times kids learn to follow it, which means accepting the status quo and essentially becoming an excellent sheep. When you go to values, kids actually have to think for themselves.

Grant admitted that as a parent it’s easy to find yourself barking, “new rule” every time your children misbehave, when instead you should be talking about the value behind the rule. When asked for an example, he provided a scenario familiar to most families:

We’re sitting at dinner, and one of our family values is respect, so we (the parents)  like for them (the children) not to get up from the dinner table until every is done eating. And they start to get up and it’s, “No, you must sit in your seat.” And then I realize what I need to say is why this is important to us.  It’s not about having the rule, it’s about – look, the reason we all like to sit at our seats is we like to have a family meal and it’s a great way to show respect for each other.

 

 

 

And who wouldn’t want to extend such heart-warming family moments?

 

 

 

K and Belle, MH’s and my two children, are young adults now.  The vast majority of our “active parenting” opportunities, re trying to influence their developing values and behavior, are in the past.  Back when MH and I were doing the heavy lifting in that department, we didn’t didn’t have a name for it – i.e., the particular label the differing parenting styles was given in the podcast – but I’m fairly certain MH and I followed the values-based advice model. As per author/educator/philanthropist Dale McGowan’s excellent series of books, Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers, we thought that teaching our children (and, hopefully, modeling for them) values-based advice seemed the best way to enable their moral, emotional and intellectual development based on reason, vs. unquestioning acquiescence to authority.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the past few days, since listening to that podcast, I’ve found moiself thinking back to my own upbringing, and in particular, where my parents would have fallen on the values-based advice vs. rules-based behavior spectrum.  I think my parents, like most of their peers, employed (deliberately and sometimes unintentionally) a combination of the two styles. However, my memories  [3] reinforce my notion that, given many factors, including my parents’ generation, their adherence to religious doctrine, their own respective upbringings and temperaments – the latter which included an almost total lack of introspection and valuing consideration of “big” and/or existential questions of Life ® –  their parenting methods tilted most heavily to the rules-based behavior end of the scale.

 

*   *   *

Department Of Happy To Have Slept Through It, Thank You Very Much

An earthquake and aftershock have been reported off the coast of south-central Oregon.
The United States Geological Survey says an initial quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 struck just after 1:30 a.m., more than 170 miles (264 kilometers) west of Coos Bay, about 220 miles southwest of Portland.
Robert Sanders of the USGS says there is no tsunami threat associated with the quake. He says people as far away as Portland reported feeling the temblor.
(8-22-18 Oregon Public Broadcasting)

 

*   *   *

 

Department Of More Musings Sparked By Podcast Listening
Sub-Department Of Morning Walks Are Time For Reflection…
Or Sometimes Just Snickering

Dateline: yesterday, 7 am. Listening to a Freakonomics podcast, Two (Totally Opposite) Ways To Save The Planet (episode 346) , in which the host (Stephen Dubner) interviews Charles Mann, a journalist who “…writes big books about the history of science.” Mann speaks about the decades-old debate between environmentalists (“we’re doomed if we don’t drastically reduce consumption”) and  technologists (“human ingenuity can solve just about any problem”). Mann titled his latest book The Wizard and the Prophet, which are his embodiments of those two respective worldviews. The book’s subtitle is Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World.

It was a misty morning at the coast. My mind was wandering as I walked on the pathway heading toward Nehalem Bay State Park; I was thinking more of blackberry-picking than the “prophets vs. wizards” presentation coming through my earbuds,  [4] and wasn’t paying the closest of attention to Mann’s comments about “the prophet” of his book, WilliamVogt, “the progenitor of the modern environmental movement,”  and Vogt’s influential (in 1948) but now largely forgotten book, The Road to Survival:

MANN: “Much of (The Road to Survival) is a passionate screed for population control, sometimes written in language that makes you cringe….”

DUBNER: “So when you say that his discussion about population growth makes you cringe, was it from a classist perspective…or racist — how would you describe it?”

MANN: “… it’s hard to avoid noticing that although he was very, very hard on rich, white people being wasteful and destructive and so forth…the brunt of the population-reduction stuff he’s talking about are on poor, brown people…And he sometimes described them in language that is really kind of appalling — he talks about Indians breeding with the irresponsibility of codfish….”

That certainly got my attention.  Codfish – any cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate, for that matter – have never come to my mind as exemplars of anything other than being codfish., and certainly not as examples of human traits, particularly those related to responsibility.

Are not codfish merely yet profoundly the gold standard for being codfish? And why shouldn’t codfish breed prolifically? Considering that they are a highly-preyed-upon species, it would be irresponsible of them not to breed like…codfish.

 

 

It’s none of your business what we’re doing. Besides, it’s not like we can get a room.

 

 

 

 

I thought about this for a lot longer than perhaps I should have. Then I thought about my thinking about it: is this an example of my propensities for both being easily amused (read: distracted)  and easily stimulated to ponder the existential questions of life? And what would a codfish think of such drawn out deliberations  – would she consider them to be a responsible use of my intellect? Or would she use me as an exemplar to her fellow codfish of how warm-blooded, land-going bipedal vertebrates waste valuable mental energy that could be used to devise strategies to convince people to eat less codfish?

 

*   *   *

 

 

May you rarely cast metaphors of irresponsibility upon species other than your own;
May you find ways to value the routines you may one day forget to miss;
May you treasure those incidents you are Happy To Have Slept Through;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

 

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Son K graduated three years earlier.

[2] Sure, we had rules, but it was never, “Because this is a family rule, that’s why, and we are the parents/authority and you therefore must respect us and obey our rules.” We explained the “whys” behind the “rules” – the values behind the guidelines.

[3] Which include years of fruitless attempts to get them to engage in healthy discussions (or so I viewed them, as an optimistic if not yet out-of-the-closet freethinker teenager and young adult) about the basis for living ethically in this world.

[4] The prophet (environmentalist) sounds the alarm and wants us to reduce consumption, population growth, and habitat destruction. The wizard (technologist) pushes for us to keep going and invent/use even more, believing that history shows us that technology will solve our problems.

The Announcement I’m Not Applauding

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Department Of Why Aren’t You Listening To This Podcast?  [1]

I refer to Hidden Brain, hosted by engineer/journalist/NPR science correspondent Shankar Vedantam . The podcast aims, as per their website, to help “…curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships.” Linking research from fields including psychology, neurobiology, economics, anthropology, and sociology, Hidden Brain aims to provide “… insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.”

If you’ve ever wondered…

-Why is our tendency to associate with those who share the same interests, sense of humor and political views demonstrably not the best way to cultivate creativity?

– What causes mild-mannered people turn into fearsome mama and papa bears?

– Can the way you park your car reveal crucial details about you?

– Why do we think back to turning points in our lives and imagine, ‘What if….?’

– Do unconscious biases keep people from finding interesting jobs?

 

…then this is the show for you. And if you never wonder about such things, then you need to get interested in Life.  [2]

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the seemingly mundane to the profound, here is a sampling of recent subjects and questions Hidden Brain has tackled:

* Who Gets Power — And Why It Can Corrupt Even The Best Of Us

* Baseball Umpires Don’t Get Overtime. Does That Affect Extra Innings?

* Hungry, Hungry Hippocampus: Why and How We Eat

* Admit It, Parents: You Play Favorites With The Kids

* Don’t Panic! What We Can Learn From Chaos

* Looking Back: Reflecting On The Past To Understand The Present

Probably the most interesting topic the show has presented involves the origins and purposes of the world’s religions, and how religions “evolved” to help human societies survive and flourish. Most interesting is, I realize, a subjective qualifier, which is used by moiself due to both current and ongoing events and experiences which makes this topic of particular interest.

If you’ve taken part in a religious service, have you ever stopped to think about how it all came to be? How did people become believers? Where did the rituals come from? And most of all, what purpose does it all serve? This week, we explore these questions with psychologist Azim Shariff, who argues that we can think of religion from a Darwinian perspective, as an innovation that helped human societies to survive and flourish.

For most of human history, we lived in small groups of about 50 people. Everyone knew everybody. If you told a lie, stole someone’s dinner, or didnt defend the group against its enemies, there was no way to disappear into the crowd. Everyone knew you, and you would get punished.

But in the last 12,000 years or so, human groups began to expand. It became more difficult to identify and punish the cheaters and free riders. So we needed something big — really big. An epic force that could see what everyone was doing and enforce the rules. Since individual people could no longer police large groups, the policing had to be done by a force that was superhuman. That force… was the popular idea of a “supernatural punisher” – also known as god.

( excerpts from “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

 

 

Cue the wrath.

 

 

The development of religions as a cultural tool is not a new idea (to moiself) – I’ve encountered similar theories across a wide spectrum of disciplines and scientists, including psychologists and cultural anthropologists. Still, this podcast contains one of the most accessible explanations I’ve ever read or heard for the evolution of group religious practice.  [3]  Of course, the answer(s) to the opening questions about the origins of religious practice, if posed to religious believers and not scientists, would be along the lines of,  Because it’s true!, and/or Because my god is real and gave our belief to us! and other simplistic non-answers which fly in the face of the reality that one believer’s religious truth is another believer’s heresy.  [4]

“… Besides the psychological studies, there is evidence from history and psychology that shows modern religions evolved to solve problems related to trust and cooperation…  All the world’s major religions today arose at times when human societies were struggling with the problems of size, complexity, or scarcity.”
( “Creating God,” Hidden Brain, 7-16-18 )

Religions arose as a mechanism – like fire and agriculture – to help us survive as a species. The historical period known as the Neolithic (or Agricultural) Revolution saw the creation and rise of towns and cities.  As humans transitioned from living in small, mostly nomadic, family bands to living in larger groups of unrelated people, we needed a way to get along with strangers. We needed a way to determine who was “one of us” and trustworthy to, say, trade with or intermarry or share water rights and other finite resources…

But, not just any old religion or deity would do, when it came to regulating group behavior amongst strangers.  And how much you believed in a god mattered less then what kind of god you believed in.

The more wrathful/angry the god, the more successful the religions were, in spreading across large groups, and maintaining control of and adherence to social norms.  Correspondingly, the more “costly” the rituals and rites associated with public declaration of adherence to the religion  – i.e. physical and behavioral modifications (e.g. circumcision, clothing and dietary restrictions, sexual practice proscriptions) the more confidence the others had in you as being one of them (and not just faking it to gain access and trust).

 

So, you’ll trust I’m one of you if I cut off the tip of my…what ?!?!?

 

Interestingly, our ancestors who remained in hunter/gatherer groups – which did not have the stranger danger/trust issues – tended not to develop belief in larger, punitive gods. 

Scientists who study (the few remaining) modern day smaller tribes, whose lives resemble those of our ancestors in the pre-civilization/Agricultural revolution days – who live in small group where everyone is known to everyone else – note that these tribes’ gods tend to be “smaller and weaker and less morally concerned…they are more like trickster spirits… that don’t have the power nor the punitive ability nor the concern (to enforce) moral issues.”

 

 

Anyway, I highly recommend this episode of Hidden Brain. Go listen to it yourself,      because I could go on and on about this (and yep, I already have).

 

 

“That’s putting it mildly.”

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of The Afore-Mentioned “Current And Ongoing Events And Experiences Which Makes This Topic Of Particular Interest.”

I’ve been thinking about the development/role of religion a lot recently – before, during and, especially after an out of town trip to attend a family wedding last weekend. While I was happy for the adorable young couple to be starting their married life, the marriage ceremony itself was – like all conservative Christian services are, for me –something to be endured, not celebrated.  Once again I found myself walking the ethical balance beam: trying to avoid attracting attention to moiself while trying to maintain a shred of integrity and not have my presence nor my silence be taken as acquiescence to the preacher’s words and the scripture readings – which essentially amount to a sermon (to a captive audience) on primitive, Bronze Age  blood sacrifice and patriarchal theology.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You just gotta take those small opposition opportunities when they arise, like my refusal to join the clapping after the couple is introduced by the officiant, after he has pronounced that they are married.  In a mere 30 minutes the woman has gone from being addressed by her first and last name to having her identity announced as the mistress of the man.

It gives me great joy to introduce to you, for the first time,
Mr. and Mrs. Husband’s first name/husband’s last name!

And, holy patriarchal poopfest – the preacherman at this wedding actually read the bible verses about how wives should be submissive to their husbands, and went on at some length about how his god created Eve for Adam (as if they were real people) and thus women for men and how that is the only relationship (man-woman marriage) that is   approved (and mandated )by his god and the only path for happiness….

When I find myself in a church-type venue (either a wedding or a funeral, these days) I always maintain open eyes during the let us bow our heads and pray moments. I pass the time by looking around at the audience (? guests? Whatever we are), noting who does the same. I sought out one of the Eyes Wide Open People  [7]  after the wedding concluded –  someone I’d seen stifling a flinch at a particular rhetorical low point during the ceremony – and ventured to ask his opinion.  He too was surprised by the waaaaay conservatism of the ceremony.  He said couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard such archaic speechifying,  “…and I’ve been to a lot of Catholic weddings recently.”

The overt sexism (and concurrent if covert anti-LGBT sentiment) in (many, but not all) Christian wedding ceremonies is not new to me. But this time, knowing the personal histories of several of the guests and family members, it made me sad in ways I cannot fully articulate.  As the preacherman orated about the Christian god’s plan for marriage and men and women, women and men, blah blah blah, I felt the sense of exclusion, intentionally or otherwise, which the ceremony cast upon  gay family members/guests.  In that world, you’ll take a seat at the back of the bus… if they let you board at all.

 

Thank you for celebrating our special day! However, if you’re gay, we will not help you celebrate yours.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Musical Interludes, Via One Of The Best Covers
Of An Already Really Good Song

That would be Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell’s rendition of Spanish Dancer, a song written and originally recorded by Patti Scialfa on her album, Rumble Doll[8]

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

Department Of Unexpected Bonuses

Moiself has notice that, besides the retail outlets and weed growers themselves, the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has give rise to other businesses offering correlated services.

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

May all of your announcements be applause-worthy;
May you find your own ways to maintain integrity during institutionalized absurdities;
May you never stop asking the
how did it come to be/where it come from/what purpose does it all serve? questions;
…and may the hijinks ensue.

 

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] That is, if you’re not. And if you’re not, you should.

[2] And don’t show up at one of my dinner parties and just talk about the weather.

[3] The origins of religions as just that – evolutionary tools – is the only origin story that makes sense of the otherwise implausible and downright silly post-Iron age belief systems.

[4] And then if you posed the questions to a room of believers in different religions you could watch the fundamental fur fly as they try to sort out why the one god they claim to believe in would give vastly different dogma, rituals and practices to its peoples.

[5] Or, as many a religion-free observer has noted about the various religious proscriptions on sex and diet and attire,  “If you can get people to give you their balls, they’ll give you anything.”

[6] And it has links to interesting/relevant research and other articles.

[7] As usual, there were several of us.

[8] Yet another example of a person who might be more well known – and appreciated on her own merits – were she not married to someone famous in the same field (in this case, Bruce Springsteen. Aka – in a just universe – Mr. Patti Scialfa).