Smart people saying smart things

Jeremiah Goulka: “Joining the Reality-Based Community”

My old Republican worldview was flawed because it was based upon a small and particularly rosy sliver of reality.  To preserve that worldview, I had to believe that people had morally earned their “just” desserts, and I had to ignore those whining liberals who tried to point out that the world didn’t actually work that way.  I think this shows why Republicans put so much effort into “creat[ing] our own reality,” into fostering distrust of liberals, experts, scientists, and academics, and why they won’t let a campaign “be dictated by fact-checkers” (as a Romney pollster put it).  It explains why study after study shows … that avid consumers of Republican-oriented media are more poorly informed than people who use other news sources or don’t bother to follow the news at all.

Waking up to a fuller spectrum of reality has proved long and painful.  I had to question all my assumptions, unlearn so much of what I had learned.  I came to understand why we Republicans thought people on the Left always seemed to be screeching angrily (because we refused to open our eyes to the damage we caused or blamed the victims) and why they never seemed to have any solutions to offer (because those weren’t mentioned in the media we read or watched).

My transition has significantly strained my relationships with family, friends, and former colleagues.  It is deeply upsetting to walk on thin ice where there used to be solid, common ground.  I wish they, too, would come to see a fuller spectrum of reality, but I know from experience how hard that can be when your worldview won’t let you.

Simone Campbell: Remarks at the 2012 Democratic National Convention

I am my sister’s keeper. I am my brother’s keeper. While we were in Toledo, I met 10-year-old twins Matt and Mark, who had gotten into trouble at school for fighting. Sister Virginia and the staff at the Padua Center took them in when they were suspended and discovered on a home visit that these 10-year-olds were trying to care for their bedridden mother who has MS and diabetes.

They were her only caregivers. The sisters got her medical help and are giving the boys some stability. Now the boys are free to claim much of the childhood they were losing. Clearly, we all share responsibility for the Matts and Marks in our nation.

In Milwaukee, I met Billy and his wife and two boys at St. Benedict’s dining room. Billy’s work hours were cut back in the recession. Billy is taking responsibility for himself and his family, but right now without food stamps, he and his wife could not put food on their family table.

We all share responsibility for creating an economy where parents with jobs earn enough to take care of their families.

David W. Blight: “Voter Suppression, Then and Now”

In 1840, and again in 1841, the former Frederick Bailey, now Frederick Douglass, walked a few blocks from his rented apartment on Ray Street in New Bedford, Mass., to the town hall, where he paid a local tax of $1.50 to register to vote. Born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1818, Douglass escaped in an epic journey on trains and ferry boats, first to New York City, and then to the whaling port of New Bedford in 1838.

By the mid-1840s, he had emerged as one of the greatest orators and writers in American history. But legally, Douglass began his public life by committing what today we would consider voter fraud, using an assumed name.

It was a necessary step: when he registered to vote under his new identity, “Douglass,” a name he took from Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 epic poem “Lady of the Lake,” this fugitive slave was effectively an illegal immigrant in Massachusetts. He was still the legal “property” of Thomas Auld, his owner in St. Michaels, Md., and susceptible, under the federal fugitive slave law, to capture and return to slavery at any time.

  • Fusina

    I am a needleworker. I belong to a national guild of needleworkers. Quite a few of them are conservatives. I am one of the younger members and a liberal. They are trying to figure out how to attract even younger members. Oh, I don’t know, maybe by trying something new on occasion? Not being so bound to “they way we’ve always done things”? One person bragged on how they kept a gun in every room in the house, for protection. This annoyed me, but I think I managed to keep my face calm–at least, she didn’t seem put off. And this is someone I like.

    Guess my depression is just getting the better of me today. I was nominated to be programs chairperson with another member, and we approach this in radically different ways. Possibly because I’ve never met a needlework technique that I haven’t wanted to at least try.

    Thanks for listening.

  • fraser

     This is a common problem in groups I’ve been in regardless of politics. Old hands have the advantage of institutional memory (“Well, we tried that in ’78 and it was a mess …”) but they also have the disadvantage of institutional memory coupled with The Way We Do Things (“Well if we couldn’t make it work in ’78, YOU can’t possibly make it work now!”).

  • Carstonio

    Goulka seems to have explained anti-intellectualism. While it’s very likely that the Just World fallacy he now rejects is a rationalization of privilege, I suspect that belief in that fallacy is also a form of worship, at least for many adherents. I’m amazed that someone would take my suggested philosophy of “shit happens, deal with it” as hostile to the concept of gods. Perhaps many believers of the fallacy view the idea of world not being just as anti-theist or maltheist.

  • VJBinCT

    During the GOP convention, it was ‘God, God, God…’ all the time.  What a bunch of name droppers they were.  I don’t think all that many people (aside from the GOP base) are impressed by this noise-polluting sound truck behavior.

    Sister Simone quietly brought  God into the Democratic convention by example.  She, her fellow religious, and so many other people of good heart throughout the world—of every faith, and of no faith—show how God works in this world of ours.

  • Fusina

      but they also have the disadvantage of institutional memory coupled
    with The Way We Do Things (“Well if we couldn’t make it work in ’78, YOU
    can’t possibly make it work now!”).

    I think this attitude is what discouraged me the most. My co-chair alternates between “this will be fun” and “we don’t do that”, with a healthy dollop of “this is a tricky position you have to be careful” and “we are the chairs, we don’t lead the classes even if we could bring a new technique to try”. Started me thinking about starting a new group, the Fiber Artist Guild.

  • Robyrt

     For certain theological positions, that is indeed the case: the world is just because God is directly responsible for everything that happens, and God is just. To say things “just happen” is hostile to this concept of God by saying he is either unable or unwilling to control events. From the other side, also think about karma.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    The idea that things “just happen” also tend not to go over when you’re dealing with people who (want to) believe that they are totally in control of their own destinies and the world around them.  That’s a common and appealing idea that is expressed in many ways, including Republicans and libertarians who believe they (and anyone) can be rich by “just working hard enough,” adherents of the Prosperity Gospel in Christendom, and devotees of “The Secret.”  The idea that things beyond your control (whether direct or by plying some indirect source outside yourself) is fairly hostile to such notions.

    Granted, I’ve always been a bit wary of “things just happen” for other reasons:  it gets applied to things that happen but don’t have to happen and probably shouldn’t happen.  I mean, yeah, earthquakes and other natural disasters (well, disasters from an anthropocentric point of view) are always going to happen and that’s life.  But things like poverty and hunger?  There are reasons those exist an solutions for dealing with them.  They’re just not simple problems or solutions that are under an individual’s control.  They’re system problems or solutions that involve changing systems.  In those situations, “these things just happen” is good in that it prevents us from blaming individuals who suffer under these systems, but bad in that it often encourages people to accept the system as is without seeking to take part in attempts to improve or transform it.
     

  • Carstonio

     I never said that things “just happen.” If anything, I was suggesting something like the Tao parable of the farmer. The principle here is how we respond to what happens in life, and that doesn’t necessarily conflict with the concept of gods.

    Still, the burden of proof is on the theological position that a being or power is directly responsible for everything that happens. The principle I’m articulating takes no position on whether one or more such beings exist, or whether such beings are causing anything to happen.

  • Worthless Beast

    Maybe more people ought to read Job.  I’ve not read it in a long time, but as I recall… a lot of bad crap happened to a righteous man.  Sure, it had a “happy” ending tacked on for those who can’t stand unhappy endings, but it’s still bittersweet because he lost his original children.  In any case, he could have used the help of his friends rather than their condmennation. 

    If your personal theology includes the thought of “maybe the higher power(s) wants us to learn to take care of each other,” then “hands off” and “shit happens” makes sense, at least to me.  

  • Carstonio

     I’m assuming that the “your” in “your personal theology” is a generic one, since I don’t have a theology. My stance isn’t a flat rejection of the possibility of any intentions or purposes for the things that happen, but simply treating these as speculation.

  • LL

    Sorry, what’s a “guild of needleworkers”? You mean a voluntary club of sorts where people who do needlework for fun (as opposed to those who do it for a living) gather and … talk about needlework? 

    If so, I’d suggest you’re not gonna change anybody’s mind. I’m guessing the median age of this group is somewhere north of 55 or 60 years old. I’m sorry to say (and I AM sorry to say it, not gleeful) but it’s been my experience (as someone not yet 50 years old) that old people basically use the “old” excuse to not learn anything new, not change their minds about anything, basically to slap a coat of varnish over everything they think they know and never, ever revise it. 

    I’m sure someone will disagree, and that’s cool, but … trying to talk old people out of their calcified way of thinking usually just results in pissing off the old person and wasting your time. But good luck if you want to try anyway.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I am a needleworker. I belong to a national guild of needleworkers.
    Quite a few of them are conservatives. I am one of the younger members
    and a liberal. They are trying to figure out how to attract even younger
    members.

    I’m a square dancer; this is an activity that heavily skews towards older folk. My club’s doing fairly well attracting younger members–some of us are kids of older members, and a few years ago a homeschooling family decided square dance lessons counted for phys ed credits, then told their friends–but that only does us so much good given that a lot of the older members went “they leave or we do”, and since half the officers are under twenty-five and the other half have kids in the club…

  • Fusina

     This is a group who pays dues, but yes, voluntary–and I think they have forgotten that this is supposed to be fun. I am 50, but have not yet given up learning new stuff. Never will, with any luck at all. Hence my thinking about starting a new guild. Which, of course, will eventually be taken over by calcification. Which brings us back to organizations in general and how they all tend to calcify.

  • Fusina

     I’m a square dancer; this is an activity that heavily skews towards
    older folk. My club’s doing fairly well attracting younger members–some
    of us are kids of older members, and a few years ago a homeschooling
    family decided square dance lessons counted for phys ed credits, then
    told their friends–but that only does us so much good given that a lot
    of the older members went “they leave or we do”, and since half the
    officers are under twenty-five and the other half have kids in the
    club…

    Okay, I have a ginormous bump of curiousity… how was this solved? And I like square dancing, the patterns and weaving are like doing embroidery without thread and cloth.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t think ‘solved’ is the right word here, but the people complaining haven’t been seen for some months…

  • Daughter

    While it may be harder for seniors to change and grow, they can do so. Two stories:

    First, I was in a class at church the evening that gay marriage was signed into law in WA state, where I live.  That was one of the first topics someone brought up. A 70-something woman in the class, a lifelong Catholic who has been remarried for 3 years now after having been widowed 10 years ago, said, “I think that’s just wonderful! It’s always wonderful when people can marry the person they love!”

    Second, my mom just turned 80, and threw a big birthday fete with 14 other seniors who are also turning 80 this year (they called themselves, “Club 32,” since they were all born in 1932).

    Their bios were read as they were introduced during the party. Only two appeared to be frail seniors. The rest were all active, participating in new hobbies, learning opportunities and travel since their retirements, and one woman still works full time.

    They had about $500 left over from the money they raised to hold the party, and they donated it to Obama’s re-election campaign.

  • AnonymousSam

    Yeah, I got a laugh when I saw this chart comparing how often God gets mentioned in the GOP platform. Then I just felt sad as I realized that the frequency spiked when the Moral Majority was formed.

  • VMink

    Every time I read the Book of Job, the theme song from Brazil goes through my head.

  • Carstonio

     Yes. Zeus, Thor, Vishnu and Ba’al should sue for equal time.

  • MaryKaye

    About two years before her death, my grandmother mentioned to me that, while I often had lunch at the little Thai place down the block, she had never had Thai food in her life.  So I took her there, and she tasted several different dishes and loved them all.  The owner was charmed by her, and for about four or five months we went there every week and he would serve us yet another previously-unknown Thai pumpkin dessert.

    She did have a tendency to get stuck in previous attitudes, but she knew it, and she made real efforts to avoid it.  She (eventually) dealt with my interracial marriage, and that was very hard for her.

    She also told me, very shortly before her death, that she thought she was a pagan.  I wish I’d had a better chance to find out what she meant by that, but it had become difficult to hold a conversation with her due to mini-strokes and resulting loss of short-term memory.

    I guess I am trying to say, some people do get stuck, but not all, and there may be ways to gently help unstick the stuck ones.  Thai pumpkin dessert helped for me.

    I wish I knew any strategy at all for Fox Geezer syndrome.  I don’t have any in my immediate family, but I heard about it constantly from friends, and it’s a very tough place to be.

  • The_L1985

     I can definitely agree with this statement.  My boyfriend is a computer tech, and so many people use “I’m X years old, I don’t know how to use a computer!”  His thought process is that since PC’s have existed for 35 years, and have been common in most workplaces for 20 years, that for values of X < 80, that excuse doesn't fly.

  • The_L1985

     I’m sure you miss those older members something terrible, too. ;)

  • Fusina

        I wish I knew any strategy at all for Fox Geezer syndrome.  I don’t have
    any in my    immediate family, but I heard about it constantly from
    friends, and it’s a very tough place to be.

    Yes. It is. Just recently, mu Mum asked about a tote bag I got recently. It says, “God is not a boy’s name.” She was worried that I didn’t think God was male. I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I think God is female either. God just is. Didn’t he (for lack of a better term) refer to himself as “I Am that I Am”?

    We need a term like the French _On_ which is usually translated _it_ but is really more of a singular _they_ in usage.

  • PJ Evans

     My parents started using computers about 1986. They enjoyed having computers, actually – they each had one. My father got into seeing what he could do with it, and would call up the software companies to ask for more information. He ended up doing some beta testing for Norton (pay: a free upgrade).

  • Tapetum

    If anyone finds a cure for Fox Geezer Syndrome, I would dearly love to know it. One of the most surreal experiences of my life was listening to my father, a lifelong academic physician, still active at 76 in cutting edge neurological research, and having worked hard all his life to be as educated as humanly possible, ranting against the “intellectuals” who had taken over the left. Every time I talk to him, he gets narrower and narrower, and he doesn’t even see it. I don’t think moving to the deep south about fifteen years ago helped either.  Thirty years ago, when I was growing up, he and Mom were downright progressive. By twenty years ago they were starting to veer more conservative, but were still rational about it. Now we can’t talk politics at all without them patting me metaphorically on the head, and dismissing everything I say as the “naive optimism of youth” (I’m in my forties.).

    It would be funny, except that it’s both sad and hair-tearingly frustrating.

    On a more positive note, when our church announced our choice of new pastor some months ago (a partnered gay man), several of our older members walked out mid-service – at least two of them are back. They came back for special occasions, and actually listened to the man in front of them, instead of the boogeyman in their heads. One lady, well in her nineties, is now a staunch defender.

  • Worthless Beast

    I forgot I made a comment here until now… how did I know someone would take offense through misunderstanding?  I wasn’t being generic so much as describing my ideas.

    When I said “personal theology” I thought that it was obvious that I was talking about people who have theologies.  If you do not have one (you don’t believe in any higher power whatsoever and shit happens because shit happens), than the phrase “personal theology” does NOT apply to you.  Carry on. 

  • Carstonio

    No offense was taken. I was just trying to emphasize that “shit happens” doesn’t mean that it happens for no reason. It means instead that any suggested reason is merely speculative, and that one’s energies are far better directed at responding to what happens. 

  • Fusina

     one’s energies are far better directed at responding to what happens.

    Even as a christian, this is what I believe. Shit Happens. How are you going to respond?

    (I also have an old xeroxed copy of the “Shit Happens according to various religions” that was being passed around various government offices a few decades ago.. A swift google indicates that not only is it still around, but it has been added to. I happen to find it funny, but then, I also like Chaucer. Go figure.

  • Fusina

     In 1977, my Dad brought home a Tectronix computer. Don’t ask about it, I know nothing except that it was programmed in Basic, and it had some text games on it, besides the graphic program and some calculating stuff. It had around a six inch screen, green on black, the keyboard was attached, and the whole thing was around 1′ x 1′ with a 3′ depth. It was awesome.

    He now has both Macintosh and Windows boxes, and an entire room in the house is dedicated to his adoration of everything computer related. He foresaw the desktop computer and advised us all to learn touch typing in high school.

    I am pretty amazed by him. And I loved that Tectronix box.

  • Jenny Islander

    “A gun in every room in the house, for protection.”

    Wow, the burglar who sensibly waits until they’ve gone somewhere overnight and breaks the flimsy key-in-the-knob back door open with a rock–or an elbow–is gonna hit the jackpot!

  • Carstonio

     In general, treating people in kindness especially when they are in need, which is what Fred would suggest and what I suspect you suggest as well. The alternative is to fret about why and engage in the theodicy exercise of chasing one’s own tail, or to credit one’s self for one’s own prosperity or blame others for their own suffering. There’s a very strong argument that suffering is simply in the nature of existence, and since there’s no indication of any purpose or reason behind it, it seems pointless to speculate about these.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

      Yes. Zeus, Thor, Vishnu and Ba’al should sue for equal time.

    Those losers?  There’s myths in which they DON’T insta-kill all opposition.  Heck, there’s myths in which they HAVE opposition.  No Real True Conservative could worship such a wimp.

    Given how often Republican policies is driven by obeisance to The Almighty Dollar, I’d say it’s the one who needs to be suing for top billing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh, so they looked at the verse where Jesus says one cannot serve both God and money, and they chose money?


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