Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things January 5, 2012

Lori Ventola: “Resolving to be Shameless

You’ve written the same goals so many times, and failed at them just as often. Why do you keep doing it? Because you think you should. Something in your head says there’s something terribly wrong with you. Something that’s not wrong with everyone else. And it will be repaired, if you can only make yourself do this one thing (or two, or 10, or 20). More often than not, the entire list is one steaming pile of shame.

… The shame that drives me to set the goal is the same shame that makes me believe I can never attain it.

Behold, I bring you glad tidings and great Good News: we are forgiven. Your holiday overindulgence, your extra 10 or 20 or 200 pounds: forgiven. Your messy house, your out-of-control budget: forgiven.

Sure, work on that stuff. “Go and sin no more.” But may I encourage you, friends, not to waste this moment, on the edge of this perfect, unspoiled new year, dwelling on the very worst things you believe about yourself? Think instead, dear ones, about the gorgeous gems within you that beg to surface and be shared. Get out a nice sheet of paper, maybe some colored pencils, and write about doing those things, being those things!

Dean Baker: “Climate change — our real bequest to future generations

Seeing the debt as an issue between generations is wrong in almost every dimension. The idea that future generations will somehow be stuck with some huge tab in the form of the national debt suffers from the simple logical problem that we are all going to die. At some point, everyone who owns the debt being issued today, or over the next two decades, will be dead. They will have to pass the ownership of the debt to someone else – in other words, their children or grandchildren. This means that the debt is not money that our children and grandchildren will be paying to someone else. It is money that they will be paying to themselves.

… The main factor that will determine the economic wellbeing of our children and grandchildren will be the strength of the economy that we pass down to them. This will depend, in turn, on the quality of the capital and infrastructure we pass onto them, along with the level of education we give them, the state of technical knowledge we achieve and the state of the natural environment.

If we cut the deficit by making spending cuts that affect our progress in these areas, we will be making our children worse-off, not better-off. Of course, leaving their parents unemployed for long periods of time will not improve our children’s wellbeing either.

If the deficit has little to with the wellbeing of our children and grandchildren, global warming has everything to do with it. We run the risk of handing them a planet without many of the fascinating features that we had the opportunity to enjoy (for example, coral reefs that are dying, plant and animal species that are becoming extinct, landscapes that are being transformed). Far more seriously, we face the likelihood of handing them a planet in which hundreds of millions of people risk death by starvation due to drought in central Africa, or through flooding in Bangladesh and other densely populated low-lying areas in Asia, as a result of human caused global warming.

Paul Bibeau: “I Was [Kidding] You People — A Message from Ayn Rand

Fine,” he said huffily. “Who would you go after?”

“Rich white college kids.”

“Jesus,” he said. “That’s … that’s perfect.”

“I know, right?”

“They’re the worst.”

“God, they’re horrible.”

“But what are you going to do to them?”

“I’m going to convince them … that they’re just too nice.”

We laughed for twenty minutes. I was tearing up, and Ronnie was wheezing like he was going to stroke out. I didn’t even know where I was going with this idea. But it felt just so [frakking] wrong. In a good way. In a great way.

Of course we never thought we could do any of this. You figure even the most entitled, morally backward people kind of know they’re being dicks. No one is going to believe that being selfish and irresponsible is actually a good thing. Right?

Next thing I know Ronnie’s goaded me into writing this wooden, transparently stupid novel. …

Howard Bryant: “Wait of the world

Quite some time has passed since sports stood progressively ahead of the rest of the country, when Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey and Happy Chandler integrated baseball in 1947 — before the military, hundreds of school districts and thousands of churches.

But as it did 65 years ago, sports can lead again by welcoming — encouraging, in fact — the arrival of male gay athletes into the mainstream, by fortifying individual courage with comprehensive support. The NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB have added sexual orientation protections to their [collective bargaining agreements]. Unfortunately, David Stern, Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and Bud Selig have yet to back that up by forcefully advocating for openly gay players in their sports, and that’s a huge reason it hasn’t happened.

… It also requires a terrific leap of faith from the pioneering gay player, who must believe that his league, the owners, fans and American corporations, with whom millions of dollars in potential endorsements lie, will support him enough to make his honesty worth the risk.

This is where Stern, Bettman, Goodell and Selig most need to be heard — to deliver the message that any open athlete will be protected, and to remind us that we’ve been here before. Just as some argue that gay players can’t gain the respect of their teammates, there were those who felt that white players would never believe in their black teammates. We hear that gay players’ sexuality would be a distraction in the locker room, just as black players supposedly weren’t intelligent, disciplined and committed enough to satisfy whites. The objection that fans would savage an openly gay player is no different from the belief that whites did not want to sit in the same section as blacks (or live next door to them). For every concern that fundamentalists would not accept a gay player, so too was it believed that Southerners would never play alongside black players.

(That reminds me of a story from 2002: Sports Illustrated asked New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina if he would accept a gay teammate. Mussina replied, “I’m going to make the assumption that I already have.” )

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  • Anonymous

    That comment by Mike Mussina was brilliant. Seriously. Even if he is a Yankee.

  • As a queer person and a soccer fan (go Timbers!), I’m rather fond of the fact that Major League Soccer got its first publicly out, actively playing player in David Testo.

    I know a lot of people aren’t all that up on the state of soccer in the US, but in 2011, Major League Soccer average attendance was 17,870, making them the third highest attended sporting league above the NBA and NHL.

  • Speaking of Ayn Rand, I’d like it if that were real, but it sounds like a parody or satire piece, which kind of ruins the “post deathbed confession” motif that would, if it were real, knock the props out from under the entire overweening intellectual arrogance of the Randite/Objectivist/Libertarian movement.

  • We can dimly hope. No other piece of fact or reality or truth has done so much as dent their armor plate.

  • Yes, it’s satire (note also the other person mentioned, “Ronnie Hubbard”, and his plan to make actors think they have super powers – sound like anyone you’ve heard of?)

    It’s still hilarious.

  • Apocalypse Review

    L. Ron Hubbard is widely understood to have invented Scientology, and
    apparently, actors who decide to become members become given a
    soft-pedalled version of the real deal so they dismiss the
    ex-Scientology revelations as alarmist hooey.

  • Ken

    sports can lead again by welcoming — encouraging, in fact — the arrival of male gay athletes

    It’s probably just because he’s addressing sports organizations with all-male players, but the word “male” sounds a little off – like he’s making an (unnecessary) distinction with the treatment of female gay athletes.

  • Just in case SOPA passes, have this master list handy if you need to manually access popular sites in the event someone in the US government gets a little too feeling-their-oats and starts issuing DNS takedowns.

  • pharoute

    If you take out the Sounders attendance numbers the average is six people and a pigeon :)

  • Baeraad

    “Behold, I bring you glad tidings and great Good News: we are forgiven. Your holiday overindulgence, your extra 10 or 20 or 200 pounds: forgiven.”

    Eh, that sounds very nice and heart-warming, but I’d still like to have some hope of attracting a mate, and of living to a ripe old age. And since being overweight poses a serious problem for both those things… well, off to the gym it is. I know of course that I won’t be able to stick to a diet and training regime for the whole year, but every little bit helps, right? *sighs*

    What I’m saying is, it’s all very well to say that people should forgive themselves. But as long as both society at large and the actual laws of the universe are fearsomely unforgiving, it’s just not as helpful as all that.

  • I took a different message from “Behold, your extra 200 pounds are forgiven.” I mean, put it back in the context of the original:

    The shame that drives me to set the goal is the same shame that makes me believe I can never attain it.

    It’s about letting go of the shame component. Shame is an awful positive feedback loop. “I’ll never manage to lose those pounds, because I’m a loser. I’m a loser because I’m overweight. Because I’m a loser, I’ll always be overweight…” Shame and guilt aren’t motivators; they’re abuse. To the extent we can detach shame from our goals, the better we’ll feel about ourselves *and* the more likely we’ll be to reach our goals.

    See… oh, just about anything over at The Fluent Self for more along those lines. (I love that blog with an undying love.)

  • Baeraad

    I guess. I may be a little sensitive to these things. I always feel like people who are encouraging me to feel better are foisting the responsibility for feeling better onto me. But the thing is, I wasn’t the one who made me feel bad in the first place. I’d *love* to feel better, it’s just a little hard when the world conspires to make me feel bad.

    I tend to feel more comforted when people agree that things are rough and that I’m allowed to feel bad than when they are trying to jolly me along. While I certainly know that it’s definitely *not* meant like that, people telling me to not feel ashamed always makes me feel vaguely like I should be ashamed of being ashamed…

  • I’d like it a lot more if forgiving extra weight made it go away faster. :P

  • Joel

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see that second section as very smart at all. Perhaps if our debt were 100% in the form of public-held bonds, but as it stands, a large portion of our debt is in the hands of foreigners, and we – and by extension, our children – are definitely paying for that. A sizable percentage of our annual budget is the *interest* on that debt. That will definitely be a burden on the next generation.

    That being said, I do agree with what he has to say about the environmental burden.