Category: Opinion

I Kind of Hate Christmas

I Kind of Hate Christmas

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Is it worth it?

Confession time: I kind of hate Christmas.

Okay, maybe hate is too strong a word. And I don’t necessarily mean the basic concept of Christmas itself. Whatever religious significance you’d like to attach to the holiday, to me Christmas is the gatherings of family and friends, a sharing of thoughts and time, a reminder of the important things. Whatever particular version of a particular holiday you choose to celebrate this time of year, I’d be willing to bet that those things are somewhere close to its core.

Unfortunately, that’s not what our society is trying to force down our throats, and hasn’t been for a really long time.

What we have is Christmas decorations for sale starting as early as the long weekend in August. As the calendar advances, they take up more and more space, barely giving away anything to Thanksgiving, which, due to its nature of it primarily just being about being grateful for what we have, has a hard time completing, hence the spread of the black Friday plague. It grudgingly allows some space for Halloween, which people like to celebrate with a sugar overdose, but before those decorations can come down on the first of November, Christmas is in full swing. The music, the decorations, the moral outrage that the holiday isn’t what some people think it is, the public displays of over-consumption and conspicuous goodwill.

No other holiday requires two full months to celebrate and three more to remind us that it’s coming.

So yes, I hate Christmas. But what I hate about it, we’ve done to ourselves.

If it makes you happy, if you find joy in it, you can have your annual debt increase and smoking credit cards. You can have your ridiculous pile of decorations and your inflated electric bill. You can have your rampant materialism and consumerism and all your shiny new toys. You can even have your table-breaking, seam-splitting, belly-bursting, enough calories to survive on for a month Christmas Day feast. I’m good, thanks. I’ve had enough.

I’ll have my family, a quiet meal in a safe place, and as much time with them as I can manage. I’ll have my friends where I can find them, a shared drink, and a toast to warm memories.

“It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?” (Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!)

At least, he thinks it used to.

Be well, everyone.

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Reliance on Power

Reliance on Power

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our society has a tremendous reliance on power built in.
I’m not talking about electricity here, although it’s particularly important to the operation of our society on pretty much every level. Electricity, and the ability to produce it, basically determines how prosperous your society and its individual members can be, on average. In any society, slight differences in ability or starting position can make huge difference in the long run. Big differences in those same areas can increase those disparities by orders of magnitude.
And that’s the kind of power, fundamentally, I’m talking about. Even if the electrical kind, however generated, is critical to our overall and individual success, the actual operation of our society requires the other kind of power, at least the way we’re set up.
Let’s start with a little disclosure. For those of you don’t know, I am a straight, white, middle-class, middle-aged male. I reek of privilege. In fact, the only way I could have more of it is if I were also Christian, a discussion for other times. The point is more that, by my very existence, I have a certain amount of power in our society just because of what I am. That starting point, that very nature, those things that I am, have certainly granted me in life free passes I shouldn’t have, power where it isn’t deserved, and a head start in life over a lot of people.
It will also make it more difficult for some of you to believe that I am loath to exercise power almost in any way.
Really. I don’t like giving specific, detailed direction, I don’t like giving orders, and I don’t like making decisions for other people. If our particular power dynamic, and if any kind of relationship exists between us, there is one, places you and I in relative positions where I can do that, please believe me when I say that I will try really hard not to unless you tell me it’s exactly what you need.
So, power. Our society, whether any particular part of it wants to admit it or not, is extremely hierarchical. Our government, pseudo-democratic as it may be, is the most visible demonstration of that when you look at media. Our economy is driven by organizations, from the smallest to the largest, that almost all have clear hierarchies, clear expressions of power dynamics. Someone reports to you, you report to me, I report to someone else, who probably still reports someone else. Everyone is responsible to someone, although not everyone considers it as responsibility.
We can talk about the authorities, by which we usually mean law enforcement, but, in different contexts it can mean different things, like the government-owned corporation that probably delivers your water if you live in an urban center, like your local electric company, like the police and the military, like the policy analysts working for the government who figure out how things affect people, like your HR department.
There are a lot of people out there who study power structures and hierarchies and know a lot a lot more than I do. Maybe you’re one of them. I’m not trying to answer big questions with this post and I only know and understand what I’ve experienced, inferred, analyzed, read on my own. And that experience, limited as it is to one person, tells me that human beings seem to default into hierarchies because it’s comfortable, and easy, and, for most of the people involved, requires less thought and effort. It’s easier to accept direction than it is to be actively involved and intellectually contribute to what’s going on around you.
There’s a quote from one of Hitchhikers books, I forget which one, exactly, but I’m sure somebody will let me know if they want to: “If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, their brains start working.” Okay, not a direct correlation, but similar in principle. And isn’t it what hierarchies come down to? Maximum return for minimum effort for the majority of the people involved in the hierarchy? If I outsource my thinking and decision-making someone else, does that make my life easier?
Whether or not that’s the case, it is a fact of life, of existence, that there are power structures and fluctuating dynamics in every organization and relationship. Personal, professional, political.
Now, my experience suggests that there is Artie a certain amount of power inherent to the existence of any individual, and certain predetermined factors that I had nothing to do with initially have put me in a generally superior position. The nature of my personality has, once I began to show some maturity in my 20s, generally pushed me to seek out bigger, more interesting, and sometimes more intricate, challenges. That has often, particularly in the second half of my 40s pushed me into positions of greater authority and power professionally. If fact, that drive for greater challenges has pushed me to the second tier of power in reasonably large business, one that I’m responsible for about a third of. If I follow a direct line, there are only four steps between where I’m sitting and the person who actually runs the company.
And yet I hate wielding any kind of power directly. Matching that up with my personality makes me wonder how I got here. I like discussion rather than direction, consensus rather than ruling by fiat. Raising my children, I’ve tried to save the dad voice to interrupt a clear and present danger and once I have their attention, we talk.
So every morning, and throughout the course of the day, I ask myself questions that boil down to using the power I have effectively. How can I make things better for the people I’m responsible for? How can I make things better for my family, especially considering the position I’ve risen to at work? Is this thing I’m trying to accomplish going to be a good thing?
And, I suppose, where do I go from here?
Be well, everyone.

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Another Manufactured Controversy

Another Manufactured Controversy

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So it’s amazing what becomes a controversy these days.
I suppose I shouldn’t be amazed anymore, with the “War on Christmas” getting more ridiculous every year. But somehow, I am. Still surprised, that is.
I’ve participated in a number of conversations on this one for some reason. Some have gone well and some not so much. Now, I’m waiting for it to die, but it’s just not going away. The amount of indignation over a handful of radio stations dropping “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their Christmas play lists his pretty @%&king ridiculous, really. In my mind, it’s a very simple business decision. Some small number of your customer base complains that they don’t like a particular selection on your menu. You use some metric or feeling or whatever to determine that the number of customers you will lose by keeping that item is larger than the number of customers you will gain by keeping that item. It’s simple math. But there is so much whining about censorship and banning and “you don’t get to decide what I listen to”. Jesus, Maria, and Giuseppe, that’s the whole point! You listen to a radio station because it plays what you like. If it doesn’t play would you like or if you’re upset by what does play, you go and listen to another radio station. It’s not hard to change the frequency.
And the word “censorship” is being thrown around far too much. Censorship implies premeditation to enforce someone else’s views on a larger audience. Results matter, but intent is critical, and the intent here is to keep as wide a customer base as possible. If your radio station isn’t still playing the song, you can find a station that is, download it, or go out and buy your favorite version is. No one is telling you that you can’t listen to it. The original station made a business decision that enough of their listeners didn’t want to hear it that it wasn’t worth keeping in the rotation.
No one would be complaining if it was some decades-old almost rock song being dropped for questionable lyrics in today’s sociopolitical climate. Actually, probably no one would be complaining if it had just been done without comment, but someone had to stir the pot. Not that it’s even a Christmas song. It’s just associated with Christmas because it takes place in the heart of winter. Snowstorm, you know.
Sadly, this isn’t a new thing, it’s just the latest thing. The latest thing in a long line of Christmas whining and outrage over cups and holiday greetings and a refusal to discuss things like adults. War on Christmas? Yeah, because a holiday our culture takes two months to celebrate is being oppressed.
But hey, I’m clearly the snowflake here, because I think that everyone should have the same basic set of rights, freedoms, and privileges. That includes the ability to celebrate your particular holiday however you want and not being shit on for it.
I feel like that’s a pretty simple thing, really. But what do I know?
Be well, everyone.

Related image

So it’s amazing what becomes a controversy these days.
I suppose I shouldn’t be amazed anymore, with the “War on Christmas” getting more ridiculous every year. But somehow, I am. Still surprised, that is.
I’ve participated in a number of conversations on this one for some reason, but it’s just not going away. The amount of indignation over a handful of radio stations dropping “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their Christmas play lists his pretty @%&king ridiculous, really. In my mind, it’s a very simple business decision. Some small number of your customer base complains that they don’t like a particular selection on your menu. You use some metric or feeling or whatever to determine that the number of customers you will lose by keeping that item is larger than the number of customers you will gain by keeping that item. It’s simple math. But there is so much whining about censorship and banning and “you don’t get to decide what I listen to”. Jesus, Maria, and Giuseppe, that’s the whole point! You listen to a radio station because it plays what you like. If it doesn’t play would you like or if you’re upset by what does play, you go and listen to another radio station. It’s not hard to change the frequency.
And the word “censorship” is being thrown around far too much. Censorship implies premeditation to enforce someone else’s views on a larger audience. Results matter, but intent is critical, and the intent here is to keep as wide a customer base as possible. If your radio station isn’t still playing the song, you can find a station that is, download it, or go out and buy your favorite version is. No one is telling you that you can’t listen to it. The original station made a business decision that enough of their listeners didn’t want to hear it that it wasn’t worth keeping in the rotation.
No one would be complaining if it was some decades-old almost rock song being dropped for questionable lyrics in today’s sociopolitical climate. Actually, probably no one would be complaining if it had just been done without comment, but someone had to stir the pot. Not that it’s even a Christmas song. It’s just associated with Christmas because it takes place in the heart of winter. Snowstorm, you know.
Sadly, this isn’t a new thing, it’s just the latest thing. The latest thing in a long line of Christmas whining and outrage over cups and holiday greetings and a refusal to discuss things like adults. War on Christmas? Yeah, because a holiday our culture takes two months to celebrate is being oppressed.
But hey, I’m clearly the snowflake here, because I think that everyone should have the same basic set of rights, freedoms, and privileges. That includes the ability to celebrate your particular holiday however you want and not being shit on for it.
I feel like that’s a pretty simple thing, really. But what do I know?
Be well, everyone.

Image result for war on christmas pow camp

So it’s amazing what becomes a controversy these days.
I suppose I shouldn’t be amazed anymore, with the “War on Christmas” getting more ridiculous every year. But somehow, I am. Still surprised, that is.
I’ve participated in a number of conversations on this one for some reason, but it’s just not going away. The amount of indignation over a handful of radio stations dropping “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from their Christmas play lists his pretty @%&king ridiculous, really. In my mind, it’s a very simple business decision. Some small number of your customer base complains that they don’t like a particular selection on your menu. You use some metric or feeling or whatever to determine that the number of customers you will lose by keeping that item is larger than the number of customers you will gain by keeping that item. It’s simple math. But there is so much whining about censorship and banning and “you don’t get to decide what I listen to”. Jesus, Maria, and Giuseppe, that’s the whole point! You listen to a radio station because it plays what you like. If it doesn’t play would you like or if you’re upset by what does play, you go and listen to another radio station. It’s not hard to change the frequency.
And the word “censorship” is being thrown around far too much. Censorship implies premeditation to enforce someone else’s views on a larger audience. Results matter, but intent is critical, and the intent here is to keep as wide a customer base as possible. If your radio station isn’t still playing the song, you can find a station that is, download it, or go out and buy your favorite version is. No one is telling you that you can’t listen to it. The original station made a business decision that enough of their listeners didn’t want to hear it that it wasn’t worth keeping in the rotation.
No one would be complaining if it was some decades-old almost rock song being dropped for questionable lyrics in today’s sociopolitical climate. Actually, probably no one would be complaining if it had just been done without comment, but someone had to stir the pot. Not that it’s even a Christmas song. It’s just associated with Christmas because it takes place in the heart of winter. Snowstorm, you know.
Sadly, this isn’t a new thing, it’s just the latest thing. The latest thing in a long line of Christmas whining and outrage over cups and holiday greetings and a refusal to discuss things like adults. War on Christmas? Yeah, because a holiday our culture takes two months to celebrate is being oppressed.
But hey, I’m clearly the snowflake here, because I think that everyone should have the same basic set of rights, freedoms, and privileges. That includes the ability to celebrate your particular holiday however you want and not being shit on for it.
I feel like that’s a pretty simple thing, really. But what do I know?
Be well, everyone.

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Bread and Circuses

Bread and Circuses

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherI’m simplifying dramatically, but it works: in ancient Rome, to keep the people happy and ignorant, the rich and powerful would sponsor huge gladiatorial games and give away free food. See, all of the amazing entertainments and things I give you. Are you not entertained? Are you not well fed? Am I not awesome? Do you not love me? Try not to think beyond your own immediate contentment.

In current days, we have professional sports and other entertainments. Some people might lump music stars, movies, television, and so on, in with this. I would tend to disagree, but only partly. Books, movies, plays, music, all of these are forms can have a message. Not every example does, certainly, but each can.

The messages and meanings built into a sports team, franchise, or individual game are simple. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t think. Ignore the world around you. Us versus them.

Maybe that last one has dangerous undertones, but I’ll leave in groups, out groups, and competition for another time.

Sports fans get so wrapped up in their support of the team of their choice. Discussions and arguments aside, the hours involved in watching and research and understanding all of the potential nuances of the game can be staggering. And the energy put into cheering or attending a game can be almost disturbing to those of us who don’t partake.

I live in Canada, so apparently hockey is big. It’s not our national sport, but some people treat it as if it is. I like to make fun of hockey fans sometimes, asking as early as mid-September why hockey season isn’t over yet. If pressed, I’ll mockingly remember that hockey season is never actually over, that hockey falls into the category of ‘how can I miss you won’t go away?’ Pattern: the regular hockey season starts in September and carries through until April, when the playoffs pick up, and those are over some time in early June. At that time, the hockey world transitions into international tournaments. When those are over, networks broadcast classic games from the 1980s and 90s. Those will carry the hockey fans through until preseason training and exhibition excitement at the end of August so that the new regular-season can start in September. Hockey season never ends. How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

There are people who feel the same way about every sport.

In fact, I feel the same way about every sport. I imagine all of the energy, time, and money wasted on professional sports. I try not to weep at what could be accomplished by the same people if they poured the same time and energy and money into things that actually matter.

  • Child poverty
  • Poverty in general
  • Government Corruption and waste
  • Systemic inequalities and racism
  • Abuse of power
  • Abuse of animals
  • Climate change
  • Anti-science movements
  • Class disparity
  • Pollution
  • Religious Control
  • Fanaticism
  • The watering down of education
  • Terrorism
  • Concentration of wealth
  • Water security

and dozens, hundreds, thousands of other things.

But let’s get excited over a hockey game.

Why are we so easily distracted by bread and circuses? What is wrong with the human species?

Stay angry, my friends.

And be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Rise of the New Neocons

The Rise of the New Neocons

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherOr would that be Neo-Neocons? And does it matter? I keep hearing these weird things, statements that don’t really make sense. We are living in a post-truth, post fact world. Those are alternative facts.

I love that one. Alternative facts. Things we used to call wrong, or lies, or even bullshit.

Probably, I should recognize that it’s been coming for a long time, or maybe it’s been here for a long time. I’ve long been of the understanding that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Fact, however, is not. But, apparently, both sides of the democratic political spectrum believe that if you shout something loud enough and long enough, it becomes the truth. It becomes a fact. The political Right is a whole lot more effective at it, hence the post title.

Several million illegal votes were cast in the most recent US election. This is a statement being made by the freshly inaugurated US president over and over, and has been since the votes were tallied. I don’t know whether or not he actually believes that or if he and his new administration are just trying to distract the rest of the populace from something else, or maybe just trying to scare them. Oh my God! Illegal votes! We should make it harder for people to be able to vote, that will make it harder for illegal votes to be cast. Except, after extensive studies by a variety of people and institutes in the US, illegal votes have been a teeny tiny fraction of the total, on the order of one every few million. Not enough to sway anything. Or even notice.

Crooked Hillary.

They’re coming for our guns.

A wall will keep us safe.

Global warming is a Chinese conspiracy.

If you disagree with someone who happens to be Muslim, or don’t like some aspect of the belief system, you’re an Islamaphobe. (Needed one from the left.)

If you don’t like the policies of a particular middle eastern nation, you’re an anti-semite.

Actually, since I’m Canadian, I should come up with a couple of examples from my own country. Things aren’t as bad on my side of the Canada–US border, but there are certainly people trying to take pages from the same book and push us in that direction. I thought, when we voted out the Harper Conservatives in the last last election, that might get better for a while. I was wrong. I see normal people in my Facebook timeline, or occasionally on twitter, whom I know are Canadian, constantly posting things that have been so thoroughly disproven and debunked, but match their own biases. They keep posting them because they’ve been told something so many times that it must be true.

Refugees get more money per month than retired seniors. No, no they don’t.

Our provincial government is creating a new tax to screw the middle class again. No, no it isn’t.

The Prime Minister hired an extra nanny completely at extra taxpayer expense. No, no he didn’t.

And it creeps into other aspects of society and social awareness.

Vaccinations cause autism. No, no they don’t.

The government is trying to poison us with chemtrails. No, no they aren’t.

Organic food is always better. No, no it isn’t. Read labels.

Things I’ve read recently indicate that there are apparently evolutionary advantages to digging in and refusing to accept facts, that it’s human nature to become more emotionally invested in your point of view, and to hold onto it harder and harder the more ridiculous and disproven it is. I’m trying to understand how there’s an evolutionary advantage to either of those. I’m trying to understand how digging in and refusal to face reality can be a survival trait.

How is it an advantage to believe something that is factually untrue?

Does this come back to freedom of expression in some way? I don’t really care what you believe. Think what you want, write what you want, say what you want. But, don’t be surprised if I tell you you’re wrong, or if I do it again and again and again.

I freely comment (or use that little laughter icon on Facebook) on things that conflict with reality. Just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had mild arguments over alien conspiracy theories (I’m against, because there’s no actual evidence), vaccinations (I’m pro, because that’s where the science is), 9-11 being an inside job (give it up, already), chemtrails (how can anyone treat this seriously?), and “marijuana cures everything” (legitimate science has shown pain management and antianxiety applications, as well as reductions in certain kinds of seizures, which is awesome, but it doesn’t actually cure anything). It’s cost me several Facebook friends, but maybe I’ve helped other people see that facts are actually important, that it doesn’t matter how you feel about something so much as what’s actually the case. To borrow a quote, science doesn’t care what you believe.

Neither do facts.

Scientifically, philosophically, socially, politically, stay grounded in reality, and be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Entitlement

Entitlement

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The casino business is a strange one. And I don’t mean for the usual reasons that you might suspect. And I probably don’t mean just the casino business, but any business that involves people. The casino business just happens to be the one I work in.

When a new casino opens somewhere, there’s a great deal of excitement, and not least because of the jobs that generates. After all, who doesn’t want to work in the exciting, loud, brightly lit neon and LED, disturbing carpet environment of the casino?

It attracts a lot of different people to those jobs. My experience is in the tables side of things. We hire dealers for blackjack, roulette, baccarat and a variety of one-off poker variants that sometimes hang around for a few months and sometimes for a few decades. When you open a new casino, you do that hiring all at once, and you get a a wonderful cross-section of local society. When you do it in smaller batches, you get a similar cross-section, but it takes longer to build up.

In a small city in southeastern Ontario, that population is predominately white, though not exclusively. You get an age range from someone who turned 20 not long before training began right up through someone in their 60s, after their primary career, and looking for retirement job.

Most of them are having a great time, most of them are very keen to do well, and some of them even have the idea that they would like to advance, an opportunity which might happen fairly quickly in a new casino. Lots of stuff going on, so who knows, right?

You also have the issue of the normal societal blind spots that rear their heads whenever you have a real cross-section. You get the handful of people who don’t understand just how busy casino will initially be, that for the first few weeks, even if you’re part-time, you’re going to be getting full-time hours, just to cover things and figure out what we really need. After the initial rush, and once there’s time to do a second hiring and training course, that will slow down.

The casino business does tend to skew young, though not exclusively. I look at the managers in the department, at 46 I’m the oldest, though only by one day. Supervisors from early 40s down to early 20s, and a broad range of experience. This can make it difficult sometimes for people on a second or third career. Sometimes it’s hard to take instruction or direction, from someone half or a third of your age.

And there are certainly people who have listened to society over the last couple of decades as they’ve been told that only they matter. You don’t need a new business to see this, or even new employees. There are always requests for special treatment, special circumstances, or special schedules. And, at any age, there can be a self-centeredness, that no matter what else is going around, my throat problem is the most important one that you have to deal with right now.

Yes, these are issues with individuals, but they are also societal problems. It’s behavior this learned, and reinforced. I can only push so much with each person, and I try to be gentle, because I genuinely like almost everyone I’ve ever worked with, so I can see them as individuals. I try to be gentle, without trying to come across as a father figure. I’m old enough that we have quite a few staff members whom I’m certainly old enough to have been their father. But my current position lends me a little authority, and practice as a parent has given me a few verbal and mental tools to back that up, so I very rarely have to actually control my emotional response.

Mostly.

When I consider things from a personal perspective, I think of conflict as mostly stupid and useless, a waste of time for both parties. Discussion is always my preference. I’m generally happy to explain the why of something as well as the what. But as a manager, you don’t always have that luxury. Sometimes, instructions have to be followed, and you just need to do it. Come talk to me later and we’ll take all the time you need to understand, but right now just follow instructions.

That doesn’t mesh well with a personality that requires special treatment, or has difficulty following instructions, or that has a hard time taking instructions from someone much younger than they. And while don’t mind a challenge, or even being challenged, I don’t like being challenged just because you think you’re entitled to special treatment.

And I guess that’s what things come down to. The whole idea of entitlement. Maybe I’m a little old fashioned in some respects, but you’re entitled to very little just for existing. There are basic rights and privileges and obligations, but beyond those, anything you’re entitled to, you have to earn. You’re absolutely special. You’re absolutely unique. The universe has produced only one of you. Let’s talk, but you don’t get to demand anything, and you don’t get to dictate my duties because you think you’re entitled to special treatment.

This isn’t a thing you only find when you’re opening a new operation, but I seem to be more sensitive to it because there’s so much going on to get things up and running.

I want to listen, and I want to help, and I want to make things better and easier for both of us. That’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s not even possible, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. Demands make things harder for both of us, though.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Expression

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Image from the World Forum for Democracy.

The concept of freedom of speech, or freedom of expression as we say in Canada, seems to come out a lot in the news and the media and even online lately. It’s a concept that, in various phrasings, in various western societies, we are lucky to have. It’s a wonderful protection, but it doesn’t mean what many people seem to think it means.

Freedom of expression only means that the government can’t shut you up, can’t legally come and tell you to stop saying or writing or printing whatever you are saying or writing or printing. That’s all.

Because the beautiful and horrible thing about freedom of expression is that WE ALL HAVE IT.

What seems to be lost on many people is that freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom from disagreement or criticism. It doesn’t mean that I have to let you say whatever you want because you have freedom of expression. Since I have that freedom too, it is perfectly okay for me to call you on being a douchebag, or an idiot, or just plain wrong.

Really.

No one has to respect your opinion. I have to respect that you have an opinion, but not what that opinion is. If I disagree with the opinion, I’m well within my own rights to tell you that, to tell you you’re wrong, to argue with you until one of us goes away.

You can, if you like, cry unfair or cry foul or just cry, but that doesn’t change my right to disagree. In fact, it doesn’t change anything. You have the right to possess whatever opinion, on anything, you want, however informed or uniformed it might be. But the right to having that opinion doesn’t automatically grant you the right to an audience for that opinion. If you find one, good for you, but that doesn’t abrogate anything else I’ve written here. However big your audience is, however much you enjoy your own echo chamber, it doesn’t matter. I can still disagree. I can still tell you you’re wrong. I can still argue against you.

The counterpoint is that you don’t have to argue back, you don’t have to listen, you don’t have to believe what I say. You have every right to ignore me completely, but then, I don’t have to let it go, either.

And I’m not infringing on your rights if I don’t. What so many people seem to miss is that there’s another path rather than whining about how your free speech is being violated when it isn’t. When someone argues against your opinion, you could engage with them, listen and study and understand and see if maybe their argument has some merit. You could try to have an open mind or you could try to open their mind. Or both.

You could have a discussion. Find a place where your freedom and theirs meet. It may be that neither one of you convinces the other, and that’s okay, because, when all is said and done, you have the freedom to hold whatever opinion you like.

So do I.

And neither one of us has to agree with the other.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Change is Bad, Right?

Change is Bad, Right?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusrssyoutubeby featherWhy is our first impulse for anything different ignore it or try to force it to meet our preconceptions?

It shouldn’t be, and I’m not sure why human nature resists change so much.

Let me give an example.

Earlier this week on Facebook, I came across an eye-rolling meme in my time stream, re-posted from some other source for the mumblety-thousandth time:

You can probably guess that most of the comments were just a flat-out agreement, with the occasional stronger agreement for emphasis or an extra word or two to display the importance of the opinion, and once in a while even, gasp, a whole sentence. There was, on this particular re-post, exactly one disagreement so far when I scrolled back through several pages worth of comments. Everyone else seemed to agree that it was an awesome idea.

So I decided to call shenanigans:

“Disagree. Far better move to integrate them into things. Taking them away is going to breed resentment and theft. Teach them that they’re tools for more than just amusement.”

I think I took a fairly gentle track. I didn’t talk about how the teacher has no rights over the property of the students, or how if a teach did do something like this they would assume responsibility for all the property and making sure it gets back to the original owners. Okay, maybe I did with the use of the word “theft”, but not strongly. But while Facebook is a bit more verbose than, say, Twitter, in many cases you’re not going to catch most people do with a comment very much longer than the one I left.

Still, I think I could have done better, even in the limited space. The heart of this meme says that since I couldn’t have a cell phone when I was in school, you shouldn’t be able to have one either. If we use similar logic, and people have, to since my father didn’t have calculators available when he was in high school, I shouldn’t have been allowed to use one when I was in high school. Since his father didn’t have access even to slide rules for the high school equivalent of the day in the old country, my father should have learned to memorize logarithmic tables just like his father did. And so on.

Screw technology. Change is bad.

And that’s the real heart of things, change can be scary, and therefore it’s bad. I don’t understand it, and so I need to protect other people from understanding it.

Wouldn’t it be better to adapt and integrate, as many teachers have already begun to do? Teach students that the powerful computer they carry around their pocket, and use to text her friends and play games on, is a gateway to every scrap of knowledge the human race has to offer. The fact that it’s also gateway to pseudoscience, fake news, and outright lies is a whole different set of lessons, but one they also need to learn.

Douglas Adams, a brilliant writer of bizarre science fiction whom we lost decades too soon, came up with a set of three rules to describe our reactions to technologies, but that really can be more generalized to change in general”

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

I’d argue the thirty-five is an average. Some people are much younger when they reach that stage and some never do.

It’s very easy to become set in your ways. It’s much harder to keep your mind open to new concepts, to actually investigate and judge them on their own merits and validity rather than just saying change is bad, that things should be like they were back in my day.

But back in my day is over, and while I agree it was probably awesome at the time, with the big, bright world filled with huge possibilities, it seems particularly clueless of me to use something that didn’t exist back then in order to protest against it existing now. Not to mention ironic.

So if you post something that says kids today have it too easy, that they should or shouldn’t have something because that’s not how it was when you were a kid, don’t be surprised if I disagree, don’t be surprised if I take the time to tell you I disagree, and, honestly, and don’t be surprised if I laugh openly and tell you you’re wrong.

This gently phrased opinion piece has been brought to you by the lyric fragment, “Constant change is here to stay”.

Be well, everyone.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Theocracy Draws a First Breath

Theocracy Draws a First Breath

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The US presidential election was last night, and it was a nail-biter in the classic sense of the word, the outcome in doubt until well past midnight. Trump won.

That frightens me in a way that no other election results anywhere have frightened me in very long time. His campaign played equal parts fear, hate, and ignorance, and it was just enough. Had the opposing party run a different candidate, it might not have been. In retrospect, perhaps that should have been obvious, but it wasn’t, at least not to me. I’ve been on record since he gained the nomination that he couldn’t be elected, but I was wrong.

The Democrats ran the wrong candidate, and you can lay the blame anywhere you like because there’s probably plenty to go around. There is plenty, just on the strength of what I’ve read in the past few weeks.

Under normal circumstances, there is no way that Donald Trump should have won the Republican nomination. He’s a horrible excuse for a caricature of a human being, and any of the people he ran against would have been better. Well, that might be an exaggeration, but not by much. I think about some of the field of candidates who might actually have had a chance to begin with, and there are plenty I would consider dangerous sociopaths or just plain crazy. Most of them would have been ineffective at best, and of the rest, I don’t think they were dangerous on the same scale as Trump is. Well, maybe Cruz, but in a different way.

Under normal circumstances, had the Democrat establishment not manipulated everything in their favor, which seems obvious now even if it wasn’t all along (and it was), it should have been, at least in my opinion, Bernie Sanders who won the nomination. But Sanders didn’t win.

Which is too bad, a Sanders vs Trump campaign would have been far more entertaining, and far more engaging, and it would have produced very different end result.

But the Democrats ran the wrong candidate.

Bernie or bust has proved to be prophetic.

The real problem isn’t just that the Americans are going to have Trump in the White House, at least until he is impeached or assassinated, which I give 12 months or less, but that the Republicans holds a majority in both the House and the Senate. They will have control over the Supreme Court, effectively for the next 20 years or more, I expect. All of the social and human gains the United States has made in the last two decades will be rolled back, and possibly farther than that. The American political establishment should be shot or fired at every level for allowing the snowball to roll this far. Since they won’t be, they should be frightened, should in fact be shitting themselves. What happened last night was not actually a victory for anyone, and the United States will spend a long, long time paying for it. Unfortunately, so will rest of the world in a variety of ways.

I think about the people Trump has said will be part of his cabinet, and I fear for the safety of a lot of my American friends as well as a lot of people around the world who may have things Trump wants.

And I really worry that we’re seeing the birth of a theocracy.

Hold on to hope, keep fighting, and be well.

As well as you can in this suddenly far more frightening world.Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather