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Home country: USA
Current location: Holistically detecting
Member since: Wed Jan 27, 2010, 03:59 PM
Number of posts: 11,303
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There are religious groups in America -- religious PEOPLE, anyway -- that are not entirely devoted to disturbing views on social issues.
The real vulnerability there, which I think the Pope is threatening to exploit, is that Christianity is essentially a liberalization of Abrahamic teachings, and Jesus' (supposed) teachings were chock-a-block with very lefty type stuff regarding the relationships between the rich and the poor and so forth.
What if American Christian groups stopped being hypocritical on Jesus' lefty socio-economic views, and shifted away from their rigid devotion to conservative Abrahamic social views?
Jesus was not, after all, a no-holds-barred capitalist or a champion of corporate personhood; nor did he seem particularly focused on old teachings about supposed sexual proprieties.
What if instead of obsessing over Old Testament rules about who is supposed to be having what kind of sex, Christians became more politically focused on the meek inheriting the Earth?
That could change things.
Posted by DirkGently | Sat Sep 26, 2015, 12:26 PM (1 replies)
So, yes, it's true people try to argue a false equivalency between systemic or cultural oppression based on identity and personal animus.
People who would like to dismiss widespread discrimination will imply that because anyone can be racist or sexist or religiously bigoted, that it all kind of "balances out" somehow, which of course it doesn't. It *matters more* when an empowered group hates or discriminates, but it doesn't make it the only thing that matters.
We have words for institutional or systemic or culture-wide inequalities already. "Racism" and "sexism" already have definitions, and they refer to personal, not societal thinking. One leads to the other, but that doesn't make them the same thing.
Trying to redefine personal animus based on race or gender or religion, which is always harmful and always a bad idea, so that only some people can ever be guilty of it is a weird, unsupportable dodge with some pretty terrible implications.
Under this rubric, we're supposed to excuse personal animus, which is just as foolish, just as narrow-minded, just as hateful, on the basis that someone engaging it can't really hurt anything, which simply isn't true. It invites an irrational scrutiny of everyone's cultural identity that relies on the same racist or sexist or bigoted thinking that causes the problems we're all talking about. It also doesn't allow for any fluidity in cultural norms.
How does that all work when we get past America's problem of the simplistic identities of "black" vs. "white?"
Are we okay with a Pacific Islander who won't rent his apartment units to Malaysians because he thinks they are lazy, based on weighing whose identity has the most theoretical power in society? Is no harm being done if an Atheist, whose group has virtually no societal advantage, assumes that Protestants are too stupid to be promoted at work?
How do we know, by the way, when judging these things, what people's identities really are? Race is a cultural construct to begin with. Even gender identity is being increasingly recognized as something that varies in ways we can't instantaneously recognize. Mike Huckabee spent last week talking up the Dredd Scott decision, which held
Any person descended from Africans, whether slave or free, is not a citizen of the United States.
This was in keeping with America's "one drop" (of blood) theory of racism, wherein any kind of African ancestry rendered someone a lesser person. Now we laugh when racists go on television and discover they are of African descent as well.
But we don't stop calling them racists.
Recall we are talking about what people look like, or really, what other people think they look like. The implications for how we treat each other are real, but how do you go about convicting or absolving people of racist thinking based on that? If a person from Asia is mistaken for someone from South America, what level of racism is okay for them to apply? And how do you mix in religion, physical ability, or whatever else we are mistreating each other over? Can someone "trump" someone else's entitlement to bigoted thinking by revealing an additional oppressed identity?
And what happens when things DO get better, as we hope they do, a little at a time? Will we give and take absolution for bigoted thinking based on how a particular identity is doing in the global or American pecking order?
Words have meaning for a reason. Hating, mistreating, assuming superiority over, or claiming a right to treat people differently based on appearance, background, or physical characteristics, -- yours or theirs -- IS racist or sexist or bigoted, whether society is carrying out your foolish thinking or not.
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Sep 13, 2015, 12:40 PM (7 replies)
I've tried to imagine what's going on in the minds of people who feel the need to complain about or mock others for being overweight, or who obsess over their conviction that "It's simple -- just eat less."
My guess is that these are people trying hard to feel superior and don't have a lot of grounds to do it other than the rather un-amazing accomplishment of being thinner than someone else.
Everyone's got something they are working on about themselves, or struggling with. If it were easy to have 100% of our personal acts together, everyone would be perfect, and that pretty obviously is not the case. The fact that physical fitness or body mass or whatever is visible doesn't somehow make it fair game to attack.
What is fair game is people being vicious and willfully stupid. Like this person you mention.
Please don't let this person represent the human race in your mind. Most people are not like this.
Posted by DirkGently | Tue Sep 8, 2015, 10:17 AM (1 replies)
To me the appeal of the emergence of EVs is that it's an efficient technology with a lot going for it and and the potential to be hugely useful. And as a car enthusiast, I find instant torque and quiet operation and fueling at home desirable.
Electric vehicles are cool, period. And the bottom line is that they do have the potential to be extremely environmentally beneficial, probably more so than any other current technology.
So someone "reminding" us all that EVs aren't magic energy-free perpetual motion machines doesn't seem that helpful. It assumes that people who like EVs think that, and I don't think they do.
And as far as that goes, electric motors are more than twice as efficient as internal combustion, they don't emit directly, and they can be powered by renewables. That's more than enough to make them a good idea, and all current information points to an easy net benefit in using EVs as far as energy consumption and pollution are concerned.
And respectfully, a lot of this, "But electricity still comes from fossil fuels for now" feels like bad-faith nonsense from people either automatically opposed to anything that smacks of green technology, which they seem to fear will be forced on them, or from pedants who revel in "debunking" potential radical advances of any kind.
And lest you think I'm making that up, I've read Car and Driver for years, and I distinctly remember Brock Yates and the other dirt-track era gear heads there whining that electrics were boring and slow and were being pushed by hair-shirt environmentalists out to spoil everyone's good time.
When the Tesla Roadster smashed the magazine's long-standing top gear 50-70mph acceleration stat -- a great measure of useable real world performance -- Car and Driver admitted it was amazed, but felt compelled to whine, "We still wouldn't want one."
And remember Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear, who ran down a Tesla's battery deliberately, and then claimed it crapped out on the track, dramatically pushing it back to the paddock? When Tesla sued, the show said it was just entertainment, and it was entitled to dramatize what a real battery failure would've looked like, if it had actually happened. Because Clarkson, a British libertarian whose sense of humor includes things like racist comments and punching a co-worker for not getting his dinner, has a childish hatred of electric vehicles.
And so on.
I think it's fine, if you stumble on someone confused about why they like electric vehicles to point out that they're not a compromise-free instant solution to the world's energy and pollution problems. Nothing is, so that's pretty hard to contradict. I'm just not sure there's a problem with people thinking that.
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Sep 6, 2015, 06:39 PM (2 replies)
I trained as a journalist, and have rolled my eyes for years at the "liberal bias" fallacy concocted to rationalize the pure propaganda machine that is Fox News.
And I likewise get frustrated with progressives who blame their perception that their favored truths aren't discussed enough on some unlikely global conspiracy among "mainstream media." By and large the press is not a monolithic thing, and it therefore doesn't make plans or push agendas as whole, because it's trying frantically to make some money, and not doing very well at it.
Largely, the "mainstream media" reflects whatever viewers and readers are demanding. It is not organized well enough to lie to us for fun or profit (except for Fox) even if it wanted to.
But I'm starting to see the treatment of the current U.S. Presidential primary season as, if not a deliberate plot, a queerly uniform willingness to emphasize and de-emphasize that doesn't line up with any kind of journalistic logic I'm familiar with.
My beloved MSNBC, home of Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow and Chris Kornacki, has been leading every show I have watched, for weeks, with 100% DONALD TRUMP. Hayes literally devoted the first five minutes of a recent broadcast to showing, without commentary, a modestly-attended Trump speech in Alabama, wherein he rented out a huge stadium and then proceeded not to fill it. A large portion of the remainder of the show, and in fact most of Hayes' and Maddow's recent shows, then went on to discuss Trump, his latest outrages, and what everyone on the planet has to say about the unexpected continuing existence of his campaign.
There is some excuse for this. Trump's a television star. He's demagoguing about giant anti-Mexico walls. He's following very little of the modern Republican script, which is supposed to be easing up, not doubling down on nativism. He's not talking about free trade or women's reproductive rights the way Republicans are supposed to. And he's leading the other dozen-plus would-be candidates in the polls. So he's worth some ink and some air time.
But contrast with the way Sanders is covered. Sanders isn't just doing the best splitting support among 15 or 16 or however many it is this week other candidates like Trump. He's pulling closer to a massively empowered and favored Democratic candidate, and drawing much larger crowds in doing so. And despite being a lifelong political leader, Sanders is nearly as unusual and unlikely a candidate. He wasn't supposed to get out of the gate with a Social Democrat platform, talking about expanding Social Security and Medicare; proposing a trillion-dollar investment in infrastructure. Those things were supposed to have been shoved off the table by conservative rhetoric long ago.
He is both more radical and more popular than Trump, but his ideas aren't coming from low-information voter's fears and fantasies.
These are American ideas, thought killed long ago by conservative rhetoric about the evils of taxes and government and anything else that doesn't accrue directly to the benefit of the wealthy.
How long has it been since a Presidential candidate has even come close to talking this way about the government's role in supporting the common good? How many Democrats have bought into the idea that Americans can't be made to listen to anything that can be characterized as "socialist?"
THAT is a news story. The fact that even MSNBC's deep-thinking policy wonks like Chris and Rachel can't seem to find the time to talk about it amidst all the chuckles and groans and eye-rolls over Trump strikes me as bizarre. I cannot imagine the editorial meeting where a 50-minute show that's supposed to be the thinking person's commentary on politics has time for 10-15 minutes on the Trump "phenomenon" and virtually zero to ask why Americans are getting behind the most FDR-like Dem to be taken seriously in 50 years.
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Sep 6, 2015, 01:04 PM (1 replies)
Part of the problem is that we don't all seem to agree on what constitutes outrageous problems, short of a general consensus that Germany attempting to take over all of Europe and exterminate Jewish people, Gypsies, gay people, intellectuals, and the infirm was beyond the pale.
But that was the mistake the Germans made. No one proposed that level of insanity right out of the gate. They started by scapegoating minority groups, (Communists first, I think). Physical intimidation. Nationalism. Militarism. Indoctrination. Belief in a mythical past and a "pure" culture.
We have a lot of this going on right now.
So, yes -- Fox News and its subsidiary, the Republican Party, are absolutely pushing intolerance and authoritarianism, and are getting away with it to a disturbing degree.
But we've got to be able to recognize authoritarian elements without needing to conclude that we're headed toward the genocide of six million people by goose-stepping fascists. When we do that, people look around, don't see trains and gas chambers, and assume all is well.
There is a lot in the middle between a free democratic society and a fascist holocaust. We need to get better at rejecting the million tiny steps that lead from one to the other.
Posted by DirkGently | Sat Sep 5, 2015, 07:15 PM (0 replies)
We get all tangled up in our shoes when someone does something terrible like this, and it sure happens a lot.
And we're weird about it. If it was sufficiently awful, no one wants to acknowledge mental illness could be a factor, because that's seen as wiping away responsibility. Which is ridiculous. Mentally ill people have jobs, drive cars, live in houses. Legally purchase firearms. They may be racist or religious or misogynistic, but whatever poisonous rationale they pick, it's one we've left lying about somewhere.
And we tangle race and religion up in that as well. Are Muslim terrorists ever regarded as mentally ill, or is that giving them a "pass?" If a child does something particularly heinous, do they become an adult, because we need proper vengeance?
Do we allow that black spree killers like Michael Dorner and Bryce Williams might be mentally ill, or do we only afford that label to white killers like James Holmes?
And is that really the point of anything? We ask a million questions and push a million agendas, but in the end do virtually nothing to make the world any safer.
Does it ever occur to us that mental illness and extreme ideologies and racial strife and the ongoing cult of empowerment via firearms are inextricably entwined?
No one picks up a gun and sets out to murder people without something wrong with them. It could momentary or ongoing or exacerbated by drugs or religious extremism or racial animus.
But we're all swimming around in a culture where the very first thing that occurs to anyone with any kind of extreme mental upset is to grab a weapon and get famous. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'd be willing to be there is a spectrum of mental health along which people can have diagnosable problems or personality disorders which might find a better outlet than extreme violence, if we would afford it to them.
Maybe at some point we can stop arguing over whether our unending stream of disturbed mass murderers are evil when they're brown or crazy when they're white or adults when they appear to be children, and what any of that is supposed to prove, and decide to something about our toxic culture of violence and personal firepower and our complete nonchalance about mental health services.
That would be a discussion I'd like to see.
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Aug 30, 2015, 07:49 PM (0 replies)
The convenient thing about appealing to the authority of an invisible deity is that it can be anything you want it to be. For Mike Huckabee, God is clearly a jowly Southern man who thinks women could only possibly need birth control because liberals are
making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing or them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government,
Rick Santorum's god is likewise obsessed with people's sex lives and doesn't want them being gay or using birth control.
Pat Robertson's god is a vengeful meteorologist, sending storms around the planet to punish everyone for not listening to Pat Robertson.
Ben Carson's god is okay with waging a war on "what's inside of" women.
I don't know what Sarah Palin's god wants. Probably more caribou meat and snow machine rides.
At bottom, though, it's always a pretty bizarre claim that people with really bad ideas are somehow simultaneously pious and good, because they say they are getting them from a magical being who is the boss of everyone. If they said they were taking these instructions from an invisible pink space monkey, or a hamster named Richard, we would laugh them off the national stage and perhaps suggest a sedative.
So why don't we?
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Aug 30, 2015, 11:29 AM (2 replies)
Our culture and our laws have been dragged in this direction for decades. What people are in denial about is that there was not a clear legal path to convict Zimmerman of anything. Feeling really strongly that he's asshole doesn't work in the jury room, and it's not supposed to.
1. He had a gun he was permitted to carry and conceal.
2. No one was present to say how the conflict began.
3. At some point Zimmerman was tackled and / or punched, which he said put him in fear of his life.
That's all that's needed for a "lawful" killing these days.
That's all the present law requires to give someone the right to shoot to kill. And it is precisely what the modern NRA gun fetish ideology is pushing for. Their mythology is that America is a teeming battleground, full of illegitimate sub-humans of various descriptions, and that a certain demographic of "law-abiding citizens" is all that stands between us and some fanciful version of The Walking Dead.
And it's not even the terrible "Stand Your Ground Laws" that are the problem. As it stands today, in nearly every state and municipality, people can carry a weapon, start a fight, and then simply kill with the flick of a trigger if it isn't going their way.
That's not going to work well for someone who isn't plugged into the system fairly well, of course, or for anyone not near the top of the cultural pecking order.
And make no mistake, Zimmerman is an unbalanced individual. But he's also the embodiment of a culture of personal power carefully nurtured and given free reign through a deliberate, malevolent twisting of the meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment.
This is the fantasy of a fearful, threatened segment of our population, and it dovetails with the species of rightwing politics we saw at the Bundy Ranch as well. "Piss off conservative men, and we'll just shoot you. Take the guns we're using to shoot you, and we'll shoot you. Look at us wrong, have the stereo up too loud, and we'll SHOOT YOU."
People are making a large mistake getting wound up about the outcome of Zimmerman's case, or even the idea that he is a particularly evil or racist person. He is living out a fantasy carefully cultivated and feverishly maintained, and if we don't do anything about that, his story will be one we hear every day.
Zimmerman is not the exception. He's the new rule.
Posted by DirkGently | Sun Aug 30, 2015, 11:11 AM (0 replies)
This is to me the heart of good - faith worries about the Clintons, stretching back to Bill's administration.
The financial firms and banks want things. Things they should not have. Things like continuing freedom to create speculative bubbles that enrich a few at the expense of many. Things like our Social Security program.
The Clintons -- and they ARE the same in this area -- have long believed Wall Street has our best interests at heart, and that we all gain by deregulating and letting them run wild. I do not think this is evil on their part, but delusion. Delusion that comes with buckets of helpful cash and support.
It is wrong-headed thinking that at bottom is no different or better than "trickle down economics," and I see no signs Hillary has moved away from it.
Posted by DirkGently | Wed Aug 26, 2015, 02:49 PM (0 replies)