Friday, December 4, 2009

Being a celebrity dosen't make you a role model

There has been a lot of talk about Tiger Wood's affairs and society's "right to know".

Personally, I think it is a sad commentary on the life of the average American being so unfulfilled that our only release is to delve as deeply as we can into the fantasy that is celebrity to give our own sad existence hope and validation.

It is not the job of the media to unearth all the dirt of a person's life just because they "are in the public eye". I only expect Tiger Woods to be a great golfer. I dont have any expectation that he should be an exemplary person as well. We give celebrities too much importance by holding them up to this super standard of role model. I think people should be judged on the job they are supposed to be doing and nothing else.

If you are an athlete I want you to be good at your sport, I dont care how much you call your mother.

If you are a politician I want you making good policy, I dont care if you go home and download porn.

If you are a singer I care if your voice cracks, not if you smoke it.

Nobody follows the cook from your favorite restaurant home to find out if he cheated on his taxes. If his food is good you eat at the restaurant.

If Gatorade and Nike want to make it look like their products make you better athlete's then stick with Tiger. If you want to make it look like Gatorade and Sumo clubs will make you a better more moral person then get another person.

The reason people keep failing as role models is they never should be one in the first place. All people are human and capable of the same errs as the next man. The fallacy becomes when we allow ourselves to believe that because one person is better at some sport or acting that they will behave differently than the rest of humanity. And as long as we hold that expectation we will continue to be disappointed. Makes common sense

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There is no such thing as "Reverse Racism"

Not going to be a terribly long article.

I just want to point out Reverse Racism doesnt exist. I mean the term is used alot but there really is no such thing. There is only racism.

The term Reverse Racism implies that racism is supposed to only go in one direction, typically thought as from whites to non whites. To call it reverse racism when it happens the other way implies that it is not supposed to happen in that direction. It says hey it was OK when it was happening to everyone else but now its a problem, its own special problem.

Now I am not suggesting that whites arent facing discrimination in today's society, but I just reject the notion it is any different than the same thing other minorities have been facing all along. Understand? Makes common sense to me.

There are no such things as "Inalienable Rights"

One idea that has been circulating around the blogashpere is that health care is not a natural right of man, so we shouldn't feel obligated to offer every citizen health care.

This got me pondering what constitutes a "natural right". After many arguments with many people a premise begin to arise that there are certain rights that are "natural" to man based upon them being inherent by man's existence,and health care just was not one of them.

But I believe we as a society decide what rights should belong to the members of our society. I fail to see how any one right is due any one individual by virtue of being born man. And therefore, I fail to see why health care could not be considered a right of society, the same as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

The following discourse is why I reject the premise that only certain rights are "inalienable" or "natural" (forgive me if long winded)

In the natural state of Man there are no "rights"

The first point of contention I have with the premise that only certain "rights" are natural is the choice definition of a "natural right" as being something one is inherently born with. In order to understand why this is a point of contention for me, you have to understand my frame of reference for man's "natural state".

Natural State of man refers to:

State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition of humanity before the state's foundation and its monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force. In a broader sense, the state of nature is the condition before the rule of positive law comes into being, thus being a synonym of anarchy.

Essentially what this means is man is born into a state of anarchy, and because of his capacity for reason moves towards society. Man in his natural state is void of morality he is driven simply, as classical psychologist like Freud would put it, by id (aggression). In that state there is no consideration for anything but one's own self preservation. You are hungry you eat. It doesn't consider the source of the food or the morality of how it is acquired.

Liken it to a lion in the jungle. When it is hungry it kills and eats a gazelle. It doesn't stop to consider "Is it just to the gazelle?". In nature only thing guaranteed by virtue of being alive is death. I guess one could argue that in a natural state one has ultimate right only confined by one's ability. I could concede that ability = right in that scenario. However, I prefer to think of it as absolute freedom, since freedom to do something and the privilege to do so are different. I will come back to that.

A common rebuttal to this "natural state" is that it is purely a hypothetical condition and man naturally moves towards society. While I think it is observationally true man does move toward societal existence, I don't think one can say absolutely that 1) the natural state doesn't exist as a precursor to that movement and 2) even if there is natural movement towards society the path is not universal. Therefore the constructs used to define and govern society aren't "inalienably" natural. These are important points elaborating on them will bring me to my second point

Rights(privileges) are arbitrary social constructs

First, I should clarify: by arbitrary I don't mean randomly assigned, but rather, arbitrary in the sense that what constitutes a right in a certain society may not be considered one in another. And different societies use different values and mechanisms to establish what is a "right" in that society.

The purpose of society is to achieve in the collective what would be difficult to achieve as an individual. Earlier I equated ability with freedoms. In nature you are "free" to do what ever you have the "ability" to do. In order for the collective to move forward the individual sacrifices some of these freedoms to the collective in order for the collective to move forward. Pretty basic social contract stuff.

In surrendering our ability to do whatever we want, pure freedom, to the collective; we gain order. As a collective we decide 1) what personal limits on freedom are acceptable 2)what we expect to get from the collective in return for accepting those limitations. These two things ultimately result in what is permissible and expected of a society, and they are determined by the majority consensus of that society. Therefore they are dynamic, evolving, and malleable, but not inherent, nor universal.

One criticism against this premise has been that accepting the philosophy behind the social contract meant conceding that the government dictates rights, not the people. I would argue that depends on how a society constructs it government.

In a monarchy, dictatorship, or theocracy(possibly) it would be true that the government decides what is a right. But this is not so in a democracy or a republic. If the argument was as Americans there are certain rights we as Americans should hold as "inalienable", I might be inclined to disagree less. However to state that privileges of one society should be ubiquitous to every society by virtue of humanity, is a more contentious point. And one I feel leads to imperialistic beliefs on how other societies should behave.

The last point that I wanted to touch on was the notion that because man is moral certain rights are innate.

Morality can be a basis for a right, but is not the right itself

What constitutes morality or a sense of right and wrong is dependant on culturally learned experiences. Take a two year old. Those who have children will tell you a two year old has no sense of possession everything is "mine". There is no sense of right or wrong about stealing until that is explained to them. The two year old is neither amoral or moral until experiences carve out a value system. Morality can serve as the basis for establishing a privilege, but is not an absolute that predicates one.


Health care can be a "right" of Americans if we all say so

Perhaps the whole reason I like the philosophical and nearly esoteric discussion on rights is this: We as a society decides what should or shouldn't be a right in our society. We should base these decisions on what is good for the whole of a society. Because when society fails to act on the best interest of the collective, the individual gaining nothing from society, rejects it limitations on personal freedoms and anarchy ensues.

Makes common sense to me.

If you lose your current insurance plan under "Obamacare" dont blame the government, blame "the free market". rated Obama's assertion:

"If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."
As half true.

They point out that there is no provision requiring employers to take a public option, but acknowledge many employers would opt for that plan if it is cheaper.

Given the fact that in order to lose the health care you have the employer would have to opt for the cheaper plan, is it the government's fault if you end up with a new plan?

I dont believe it is. It is capitalism, it is choice, it is common sense to me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why liberals and conservatives are both blind

Not too long ago I wrote an article titled "America needs a bad guy". In it I discussed division in American society as a reflection of our own internal division projected outward. I was trying to explain how because of our on needs we create villains to give ourselves an out for the internal negativity we cant consciously face. Pretty deep,huh? Well I thought so.

But then I got to thinking about society and the current political climate and it dawned on me: Most politicians just aren't that bright. So why do we continue to villianize anyone who's opinion we can readily identify as different than our own? The answer became so obvious I was almost embarrassed I tried to make it such a deep abstract concept to begin with. Politicians keep the division up for the same reasons politicians do anything: power.

You see I realize that it is in the best interest of politicians to create division so they can win elections. Think about it. Why would someone vote for you if you agreed with the person already holding the job? If they are doing such a good job then why would they need you? You could make the argument that you could improve on what they are doing, but that's a hard sell. You know what is much easier? Saying you are doing a BAD job and I could do better.

People in this country are so focused on their side winning they lose focus on the real objective: solving the problem. I never (and I rarely use the word never) see on here somebody saying with what they agree on, when it come to the opposite side. Just whats wrong. All the things that get hype in the media are such small parts of what is really happening we miss progress.

Take the last two spending bills. In the stimulus plan we spent almost a month talking about the 2% of the bill some governors objected to and not the 98% that most felt was needed.

In the recent budget omnibus bill we are debating 1% of the total bill b/c of earmarks from both parties that were in place before the current administration.

Now the flavor of the month is trying to figure which side is to blame on the few millions of dollars going to executives out of the billions of dollars given to the country that many haven't noticed the good news in the stock market's modest upswing.

My criticisms aren't just with the right. The left is just as bad. Bush was heavily invested in Africa, a good thing. And NCLB (while my wife is a teacher and no fan) was a positive step in the right direction but instead of having a tone of what can we do to fix it. We just called the whole thing garbage and touted Bush a failure in education.

The reason we do it is because politicians know they need division to win an election. How do you get in office if you agree the people there are doing a good job? So the goal becomes find something, anything with which to trash your opponent so we can win the next election.

The problem with belonging to an ideology, be it conservative or liberal, is it becomes infallible like a religion. People tend to view everything through the the lens of that ideology and try to make it fit that specific view. It blinds them to the merits of the other side or even considering if that opposite view has any merit at all. They thunk it so it must be wrong.

I refuse to label myself either way because I enjoy the panoramic view I get from the outside. Makes common sense to me.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

America Needs A Bad Guy

One of my favorite movies is The American President, this one of my favorite quotes from the movie:

We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.

I chuckle to myself as I think about the current economic situation and our response to it. I chuckle not because there is much funny with the crisis facing our economy, but rather because it amuses me how much effort is spent at trying to figure out who is the cause, and whose idea won't fix it.

I listened to President Obama talk about his hopes of bipartisanship and the coming together of our country into "one perfect union" . I listened and became optimistic, something very hard for this natural cynic to do. Then reality set it in, what was this going to change?

All day on the news and around the net, I see people more and more divided. Divided along every line I could think of. Race, economic status, political ideology-- any way we can segregate ourselves we do. I began to ask myself why is that? Sorry for going Rodney King on yall with this cliche, but why "Cant we all get along"?

Then it dawned on me, as great revelations do, while responding to a post. We need bad guys. Carl Jung pointed out universal patterns, called archetypes, that he observed in different cultures. Some guy writing about Jung states:

The Shadow is the easiest of the archetypes for most persons to experience. We tend to see it in "others." That is to say, we project our dark side onto others and thus interpret them as "enemies" or as "exotic" presences that fascinate. We see the Shadow everywhere in popular culture. He is Batman. She is Spider Woman. It is the Ninja Turtles. We see it in popular prejudice as well. We "imagine" that the Black Man is our enemy; that Communists are devils. We incline towards Hawaii as the "land of paradise." We accept people uncritically if we perceive them as "Fair Haired." Of course, Satan is the great Shadow image of popular religion (Consider: the word only occurs 54 times in the entire Bible.)

The Shadow is the personification of that part of human, psychic possibility that we deny in ourselves and project onto others. The goal of personality integration is to integrate the rejected, inferior side of our life into our total experience and to take responsibility for it.

To put it simply, for us to see good in ourselves we must find evil in others.

I think the reason we cant move forward as a society is because the system is made to create us the "bad guy" we so desperately need. We pick that bad guy depending on our point of reference based on how we identify ourselves. Since that with which we identify with has to be pure and perfect, we need a place to stick the bad that's left over.

If you see yourself as peace loving, compassionate person, and think that is what is represented by being a liberal then for you the opposite must be a conservative and they must hate peace and compassion. If you see yourself as a responsible moral person and that is what you think is represented by being a conservative then liberals must be irresponsible and hate morality. You can put poor/rich, black/white, tall/short into the equation, but you get the picture.
We seek that with which we best identify, and hate what we see as not being similar

Watching most "news" shows is like Orwells "15min" of hate in 1984 . In the story, the government showed everybody pictures of the enemy for 15 mins everyone booed and jeered and hated the enemy. We watch people like Bill O'Riely, Kieth Olberman, Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs. They tell us who is right and who is wrong. They tell us who to hate and why. The reality is that things aren't so black and white. There is no one true bad guy to point the finger at, only problems. The sooner we realize that the closer we will be to working on fixing them together.

Makes common sense to me.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can I stop being so damn PC?!

The cartoon published in the New York Post has drawn a lot of criticism for having a racist undertone found offensive by many people Black and non-blacks. The cartoonist himself has said that this was not his intention and many people to the defense of the cartoonist have said people need to stop being so sensitive. America is saying I am so tired of having to be PC all the time.

My reply is fine. Stop.

The first amendment gives you the right to express yourself openly and publicly. I would never be one to advocate infringing on that right. You should be able to say whatever you long as you can take the consequences ( I will come back to this point).

You see the issue with being politically correct is not the intention, as most people I know have yet to develop ESP, but the perception. The only thing people can judge a statement or action is by how it appears to them. So while the cartoonists intentions may have not been racial it certainly gave many people the impression that it was. For the sake of argument I don't want to go into whether there was or wasn't deliberate insult in the cartoon--I am assuming there wasn't. This doesn't change the fact that many people found it very offensive. The debate seems to be whether or not people should or shouldn't have been offended, but why? You can no more change what offends a person, then you can what makes them happy.

I could talk about the historical context of the use of monkey in relationship to blacks, I could analyze minutia about the picture to support the analogy to the president or to support the authors stated intention, but it really doesn't matter. No one has the right to tell people what does and doesn't offend them. That is akin to you stubbing you toe and me telling you to suck it up that doesn't hurt that bad. Who I am to quantify your pain?

The key component behind political correctness is empathy.

n. Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives.

Empathy is not sympathy, nor pity. It is recognizing how another person not in your shoes may feel or interpret a situation. It is stepping away from your vantage point to understand how another person could feel. It is severely lacking in our society.

Now about that point I said I would get back to. You don't have to be PC not one day in you life should you choose not to, but you cant control peoples reactions to what you do. And telling people their reactions and feelings are wrong isn't going to help solve the problem, it didn't make your stubbed toe feel any better did it?

If you don"t care about being perceived in any way act any way you choose. I like to curse. I find curse words to just be words, but I don't curse in public or crowds I don't know; not because I think cursing is wrong. I don't want to offend people. Now if you make me angry and find an explicative wandering in your direction, then obviously I no longer care how you feel. In either case I own up to my choice of wording. Being "PC" works the same way. If you don't care how you are perceived say, and act as you please, but if you care.............