Philosophy Tuesday

Sometimes we have to deal with what’s in front of us… the elephant in the room, and all that.  And so, to that end…

I assert there’s a growing weirdness developing towards the notion and idea of “freedom.”

As in, an incredibly reductive view that leans heavily towards the 5-year-old mentality of freedom: “You can’t tell me what to do!”  (stomps foot)  “You’re not the boss of me!”

Which, in actuality, is not freedom.  Amusingly, quite the opposite.  For if we automatically rail against a suggestion, a request, a recommendation, an order, a rule, or a perceived limit – whether imposed by someone specific or in general – in a “I will never do what my they tell me,” kind of way, then we’ve eliminated much of our actual freedom because we are now hemmed in to only do things that are the opposite of what they tell us – or even what we think they would tell us.  We’ve killed choice.  We’ve killed our agency.  And we’ve killed our ability to take on that which betters ourselves and our community.

We do nothing but become impetuous (and, often, petulant as well).

I could take this to level of caricature, in a “Hey, don’t stab yourself in the eye with a pencil.” / “Don’t tell me how to live my life” -stab- kind of way.  But I needn’t (though I guess I just did).  Instead, I only want to push ourselves to recognize what it is we are truly resisting, and what impact that resistance is having on us and on the many communities we profess to be a part of.

That is it.  An invitation to put on our adult pants, look at ourselves, find perspective, be present, and aim towards true freedom:  the freedom to be, to adapt, to consider, to choose, to build things forward, and to enjoy peace of mind, no matter the circumstances.

Philosophy Tuesday

As I’ve noted here before, there is great clarity that comes from comparing who we proclaim ourselves to be (or to be about), and looking at what our actions, or the results thereof, say about what’s ACTUALLY going on.  And what’s going on right now is really showing us a very stark view of how authorities view and treat people, to the tune of 422+ incidents of overreach, brutality, and aggression* that have hurt, injured, and even killed people they supposedly swore an oath to protect.

And with that comes a hard look at how we let things get to this point.  And what to do about it.  Be ready, for the tactics and fallacies are going to get deployed real fast, in thick clouds (and yes, that imagery is not chosen by accident), trying to excuse these actions.

Especially when it may be coming from within.  So let’s look at one of these fallacies in detail, because by doing so we can both recognize it when being deployed against us, and moreover inoculate ourselves from ourselves, from our own internal monologues that may also attempt to dismiss, or minimize, some of all that is going on.  And it is the No True Scotsman fallacy:

“No true Scotsman, or appeal to purity, is an informal fallacy in which one attempts to protect a universal generalization from counterexamples by changing the definition in an ad hoc fashion to exclude the counterexample. Rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule – “no true Scotsman would do such a thing”; i.e., those who perform that action are not part of our group and thus criticism of that action is not criticism of the group.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman] **

This is, of course, nicely related to the “few bad apples” trope that is so readily trotted out.  (which, by the way, notice A) always only seems to get applied to one side of someone’s preferred group, ie, “our side has only a few bad apples, while the other side I am more than willing to tar with a broad brush and apply a single action/trait to degrade a whole group, and B) ignores that the complete saying is “one bad apple spoils the barrel.”)  But my own variant of it comes in this form:

“No climber/paintballer would ever steal my wallet.”

This comes from my days of playing paintball and, later, going to climbing gyms.  There were times where there were no lockers available, or place to stash something, or should I lock my car, or any of those kind of moments… and my mind would head straight into that fallacy:  “Well, I’m a good person, and I am a paintballer, so therefore paintballers are good, and besides, I’ve met a bunch of them, and they seem all like fun friendly people, so clearly I’ve got nothing to worry about…”  The same went for climbers.  “We’re all cool dudes and dudettes, all is safe.”

Fortunately for me, my wallet, or anything else, was never stolen.  But I’ve known others who have had things “walk away” in those kinds of situations, and I’ve been overcharged or otherwise tricked by paintballers and climbers alike.

This is a great example of what’s known as “positive bias” – instances of our hidden prejudices that favour those we have an affinity for, or an identity towards.  This quick piece on NPR is a great primer.

With these biases we can so easily deceive ourselves.  Especially as often we will do anything to avoid something uncomfortable.  Or to avoid a new truth that challenges us and our reality and our identities.  And this fallacy is an easy one to reach for.

But eating bitter is where true growth can happen.

 

* Keep scrolling in that thread — it’s a long list to get to 422+.  There’s also a spreadsheet here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YmZeSxpz52qT-10tkCjWOwOGkQqle7Wd1P7ZM1wMW0E/edit#gid=0  All noted and saved for posterity, so that it cannot be forgotten or denied.

** Also, if you aren’t familiar with all of the logical fallacies, they are mightily powerful to learn about.  Here’s one site that does it in a lighthearted fashion:  https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/  and the more extensive wiki article:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

It’s Tuesday

I really don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what more could be said that already hasn’t been said, and by many voices and in many more eloquent ways.  And maybe it isn’t a time for me to say much, but instead to listen.

And to that, listen… if this anger is a surprise to you, then I assert you have very likely been either willingly disengaged or deliberately dismissive and smug.  There is a lot of shit happening to people for no (real, justified) reason, a lot of disproportionate infliction of suffering, a lot of power plays and asshattery and sycophancy and pathological hording and so much treatment of others as nothing but pawns and expendable nothings, led by psychopaths who have closed themselves off to human connection.

I even spoke about it just a couple of weekends ago, about myself being table flippy from all the f-ed up parts of our systems that have been made worse and put onto stark display during the ‘natural’ event known as a pandemic.  And how much of that is supported by and held in place by our systems and how much we need to step up and speak up and especially to march to the ballot box and get our hands dirty in wrenching those systems back to serve us and not us serve a system that is designed to only serve a few.  And to that I still hold – step up, wrest control, and point things towards a world that works for everyone, with no one left out.

(And, of course, step one is to recognize that everyone includes EVERYONE.  There are no “that group/race/nationality/fandom/whatever over there are lazy or stupid or evil or lesser than or etc.”  I often think that should go without saying, but, of course as it turns out, it isn’t so automatic.  To many people, their so-called superiority is so much a part of their identity and they are willing to, and even hoping and wanting to, inflict and harm and fight and kill for it.  This is immoral, corrupt, depraved, and an absolute sin.)

But even then I must remember that I get to speak here from a platform of privilege.  I’m table flippy about many shitty things and about people being shitty, but some of those really shitty things I have the absolute luxury of not having to face.  Of not having to worry about.  Of not even having to think about them if I choose not to.

And so there is the moment to choose.  Choose to listen, to think about them, to reckon, and to support the voices, the actions, and the people who are leading things towards equity and justice.  With an absolute emphasis on the listening part, and to listen hard.  To read accounts like the one below, one filled with nothing one might consider extreme or outright cinematic, but the general, daily, so-common-it’s-in-the-background-but-it’s-always-there-like-a-sword-over-your-head experience of living in a system that is geared to make you and keep you a lessor (and potentially dead).  I likely won’t ever have this experience, but I can imagine it, and I must imagine it and listen to it and let it in.  So that I can be a more open person for having done it.  To ensure I account for any of my hidden biases (and remove them wherever I can).  And to be rightfully angered so that I never step over this kind of shit and let it slide.

This needs to end.

Please read this account by Asha Tomlinson, as reported on the CBC:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/raising-young-black-man-1.5594179.

 

Malicious Deception

As an architect who deals with the ADA on a daily basis and who understands its importance, this kind of fraudulent charlatan (or even stronger words) behavior grinds my gears. It’s stingy and spiteful malice that misrepresents and harms.  Read the whole thread and be forearmed (and don’t take nor fall for any of this crap):

Odd Nostalgia

I miss flame wars.  (Weird thing to say, I know, bear with me…)

It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that term, or seen it used in any fashion to describe something happening online.  So long, in fact, that I wonder if I need to define it because there may be some reading this who are not familiar with the term at all:  A lengthy exchange of angry or abusive messages between users of an online forum or other discussion area.(src)

But wait, you say, that definition doesn’t sound unfamiliar.  Not at all in fact.  That kind of thing happens – well, it happens all the time.

Exactly.  That’s just it.

I don’t miss flame wars per se, and I certainly don’t miss the animosity and the vitriol, I miss the fact that they used to be rare enough, confined enough, and specific enough that they had their own term to differentiate them from the more ‘normal’ online interactions.

There were certain topics that were known to be flamebait.  Or occasionally a thread may strangely devolve into a flaming pile, full of hyperbole, personal attacks, and back and forth screaming.  But they were outliers.  Today, it seems that just about everything can, and often does, devolve to that level.  It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve lost the need for any specific name for it.  It’s just “the comment section.”  Or “Twitter.”  Or “Tuesday.”  Post you don’t like a certain kind of cake?  Look out…

So that’s really what I miss (while fully acknowledging all the rose coloured glasses effect that goes along with nostalgia):  A time when flame wars were flame wars, and there was still a greater chance than not for good faith discussions.  Discussions that might well become quite heated, but nonetheless remained squarely in that realm.

 

* To give an example, there’s this one online forum for D&D that I occasionally frequent… my usual thing is to read the first page or two to get a sense of the discussion, then jump to the last few pages to see what consensus seems to be forming.  Or, at least, that’s what I envision.  Instead, those last few pages have typically become five random posters hurling barbs and insults back and forth ad nauseum.  Most unfortunate.

Strike the E and the P from their name

At this point, I’m fully expecting mustache twirling.

The EPA, under direction from the current administration, suspended its enforcement of environmental laws.

Not just some of the laws and regulations – effectively all of them.  No monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, reporting, or certification obligations.  So long as the company says that it was due to COVID-19 and provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request.

As if the EPA would request it.  Because there’s no end date set.

Even after the fallout from COVID-19 is done, this can stay on.

Plus the EPA has clearly stated that it won’t pursue penalties if companies break the rules.

There are not even any provisions to take action should a company do something egregious or if there is immediate threat to health – at best the EPA has said they would tell “state authorities.”

This is beyond reprehensible.  They are using the cover of a crisis to cause active and ongoing harm to people, to people’s livelihoods, to the future.  There could be another Cuyahoga River incident tomorrow, and they would shrug.

This is not good.

 

(And just to be sure both sides of their moustaches gets attention, they also just dropped fuel economy standards.)

BailoutBS

So wait.  In the last 5 years, airlines spent $44B on stock buybacks.  That’s 96% of their free cash flow.  Plus billions more on dividends.  They did not improve their services, nor improve their structure, nor, and this is the biggie, did they save anything for the inevitable downturns or other acts of woe.*

They act fiscally irresponsible, line their pockets, impoverish us, and now they want a bailout?  They have the audacity to ask for a bailout?  A bailout that is essentially in size of what they spent on buybacks?

This is why good governance is important.  This is why oversight is important.  This is why societal involvement and accountability is important.

THIS is why your/our vote matters!

 

* Nor, of course, did they boost their employee pay, or working conditions, or aid the consumer in any way… but that’s a whole other story.

** As a whole, the top 500 companies spent $5T on buybacks + dividends vs $4.5T in earnings — they are willingly and wantonly enriching themselves while foisting their liabilities into debt and the public trust & our pocketbooks (by both charging more and paying employees less, plus foisting costs into the environment into which we all live).  All aided by the recent tax code “revision” (read: giveaway).

 

Storytelling Sunday

“It’s just a kid’s movie.”

I do not like this phrase.  As a way of excusing or justifying poor storytelling (or, worse, a poor story), it feels weird to me.  As in, is the person uttering it really trying to say that because it’s for a child, it’s OK if it is not well made?  That quality doesn’t matter?  That throw any ol’ thing onto the screen and that’s enough?

Because to say that in other contexts can be quite bizarre, no?  “It’s only a child seat.  Quality isn’t important here.”  “It’s only kid’s food… it doesn’t matter if its good or healthy, they won’t know the difference.”

To me, the thing is, they’re our children.  We should want to provide them with the best.  To give them the biggest and best leg up in life.  To let them grow.

No, that doesn’t mean a movie has to dissect the epistemological underpinnings of post-dynamism economies, but kids are way more capable than we often give them credit for.  And no, that also doesn’t mean that every movie has to teach something either (though they can), just the same as it is for adults.  There are plenty of rich, amazing, and profound stories we can tell, and tell them with excellent storytelling craft that engages, whether it be to inspire, to enlighten, or to simply amuse.  Or to do all three at once, and more.

And that’s the biggest thing for me about that phrase… because it’s not like there aren’t already excellent examples of movies ostensibly made for kids that are, well, excellent.  Movies that are excellent on many levels.  Take many of the works of Pixar, Disney movies (including my most favourite, of course), and, most certainly, the amazing (even stunning) works of Hayao Miyazaki.  Movies that are moving, Illuminating, full of heart, and that deal with the inner drama of both children (in a most profound Mr Rogers way) and of people in general.  While also being appealing, funny, delightful, charming, and captivatingly well told, a pure delight to watch.

So much so that not only do kids like them, but they are movies that are beloved in a general sense, from young to old alike, and whether we have children ourselves or do not.  They are simply good stories.  Good movies.  And good stories attract everyone.

We can make these amazing stories.  We do.  And kids deserve them.  There should be nothing “just” about a kid’s movie (or any other work of fiction).

And I invite us all to ask for it.

Wasa that doing there?

Wasa Bread is great.  Totally delicious.  So I was excited to find this in the store:

Hooray!  Must try.  And I did, and they are exquisitely good.  Happy dance time!

But… then there’s this:

Four.  Wrapped.  Bags.  Inside.  An excess.  Of plastic.  For crackers.

Still delicious.  But not keen at all on the packaging…