Smart people saying smart things

David Brin, interview with Wired magazine

The notion of self-righteous indignation being a drug high seems to develop naturally out of recent scientific results that show that addiction is actually the most natural of human processes. You’ve heard the phrase “addicted to love.” Well, you can deliberately enter less salubrious mental states. You can deliberately go to Las Vegas, and the slot machines are now tuned to track the pattern of your behavior at the slot machine and change their rewards pattern so you start getting more rewards when it calculates that you’re about to stand up and give up and leave. So there’s gambling, thrill addiction. Well, it turns out that there’s substantial evidence that self-righteous indignation is one of these drug highs, and any honest person knows this. We’ve all been in indignant snits, self-righteous furies. You go into the bathroom during one of these snits, and you look in the mirror and you have to admit, this feels great! “I am so much smarter and better than my enemies! And they are so wrong, and I am so right!”

And if we were to recognize that self-righteous indignation is a bona fide drug high, and that yes, just like alcohol, some of us can engage in it on occasion — as a matter of fact, when I engage in it, I get into a real bender — but then say, “Enough.” If we were to acknowledge this as a drug addiction, then it might weaken all the horrible addicts out there who have taken over politics in America, and allow especially conservatism to return to the genteel, calm, intellectual ways of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley.

Paula Kirby: “How would Jesus vote?

Let us start with the question of wealth. Far from emphasizing the importance of wealth-creation, Jesus repeatedly told his followers to forsake it; that it would get in the way of their relationship with God. His advice to a wealthy would-be disciple? Sell all you have and give it to the poor. And give it to the poor! No sign here that he thought of the poor as being to blame for their own predicament, people to be frowned on, people who did not deserve to have their well-being taken into account. Suppose Jesus really were alive today. Would he despise the poor? Ignore their needs? Begrudge their miserable welfare hand-outs? Cheer at the idea of letting the uninsured die of disease?

When did the Jesus of the Gospels ever proclaim that the poor and sick and unfortunate do not deserve your compassion? That you are not your brother’s keeper? That paying tax is an abomination?

The Gospels show us a man who shunned the respectable, reaching out instead to the poor and weak, seeking out society’s rejects and publicly aligning himself with them. Would the Jesus who healed abundantly have been outraged at the idea of “Obamacare”? At the suggestion that he should put his hand in his pocket to help ensure the poorest in the wealthiest nation on Earth did not have to live in fear of illness?

James Fallows: “The Certainty of Even More Shootings

One person who (unsuccessfully) threatened the lives of his fellow airline passengers ten-and-a-half years ago has changed air travel for every single passenger on every U.S. flight in all the time since then. We responded (and over-responded) to that episode with a “this won’t happen again” determination, like other countries’ response to mass shootings. It is hard to know what kind of mass killing with guns would evoke a similar determination in America. The murder of six people including a federal judge and near-killing of a Congresswoman last year obviously didn’t do it. Nor, in all probability, will these latest two multi-death shootings. In their official statements of condolence yesterday, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney replicated their achievement after the Aurora murders: Neither used the word “gun.”

This will happen again.


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