PTSD and Ethics

[an excerpt from The Blasphemy Tour, written as Jass Richards]

 

“We hope you’re enjoying Texas?” the show’s host said, after he introduced Dylan and Rev as his first guests of the day.

“Well, we’re a little puzzled by all the American flags. Outside on people’s houses and their lawns—we’ve even been seeing them sticking up in the middle of the forest, at people’s cabins presumably. What an eyesore.”

She didn’t notice the intake of breath.

“Well,” the host replied, “many people fly the flag because they have a son or daughter serving overseas.”

Rev hadn’t thought about that. She did now. Then said, “And why would they want to advertise such stupidity?” Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Democracy

The problem with democracy is that it’s just an appeal to the majority.

And most people, the majority, simply want whatever’s in their own, personal, best interest. We are a nation of egoists. Average life span what it is, personal interests are necessarily short-term. Average intelligence what it is, personal interests are also immediate and concrete. So what’s good for the whole, the whole country, never mind the whole planet, will never happen.

So, also, talk about the need for an informed citizenry is irrelevant. True, the majority doesn’t know diddlysquat. But also true, they have no interest whatsoever in finding out. Because all they care about is themselves. And they’re convinced they already know all there is to know about what’s best for themselves. And they’re probably right, because their interests are so immediately and concretely served.

Worse, those few to whom one might speak about the problem with this state of affairs believe that the good of the whole is equal to the good of the parts, so, they reason, this state of affairs, each individual voting for what he or she personally wants, is the best state of affairs.

I suppose it might be the most fair, the most just, state of affairs – which only means when our world stops working, we will have gotten exactly what we deserve.

We, the majority, that is.

Asking the Right Questions

Never has it been more important to ask the right questions.

Not as philosophers, in the clearest, most explicit, terms, but in terms most likely to be used by the arrested-development minds of computer programmers.

Because phone conversations, for example, aren’t with people anymore; they’re with AI programs that are, let’s face it, stupider than most people. (Which is saying a lot.)

And that’s because they’re designed by people with no philosophical training, people who think in terms of black and white, people whose imaginations seem to be severely limited. Which means you have to stay within a severely limited range of possibilities in order to be understood; you have to anticipate how such a simple mind might say something.

I imagine a very near future in which the stupid people succeed because they’re the only ones able to communicate with all our ‘smart’ programs – because their minds are unclouded by complexity and subtlety.

Assholes or Idiots (take your pick)

Every now and then I hear something really insightful on tv.  What recently caught my mind was an explanation of the behavior of one of the alphas on, of course, Alphas. Rosen says that Marcus can see twenty moves ahead and doesn’t understand why others can’t; so when what they do harms him, he believes it’s intentional.

Yes!  I too—and many, many others, it’s not an alpha trait—can think ahead. I can imagine the likely effect on others of my actions. And I work through the ethics of my behavior. So when what someone else does affects me, I can only assume that they don’t care about others (and so haven’t bothered to think ahead about the effects of their actions, or work through the ethics of their behavior) or they do, and have, and consider what they’ve done to be morally acceptable. Or I must assume that, unlike me, they cannot imagine the effects of their actions; they do not comprehend the ethics of their behavior. Which means, in short, either they’re inconsiderate, egoistic, irresponsible, lazy assholes or they’re idiots.

And so when I point out that what they’re doing does affect me, invariably they respond with aggressive defensiveness.  Because, of course, I’m implying they’re either assholes or idiots.

(Pity they don’t apologize for their thoughtlessness and ask me to help them work through the ethics of their behavior. After all, I’m an authority on applied ethics. Don’t people seek expert opinion on important matters?  Yes, but not from a woman.  Who’s either a bitch or just crazy.)

In Praise of Dead Air

People are uncomfortable with silence.  On the radio, over the telephone, in person.  It’s a curious thing.

We are obsessed with filling up the air space.  That sounds very male – the need to occupy territory (take a look at how men sit, their legs crossed open and their arms resting on the backs of the adjacent chairs, compared to how women sit, legs crossed closed and their hands in their laps).  But women too consider dead air problematic.

Is it that Read the rest of this entry »

The Road to Hell

I’ve reconsidered intent-based moralities.  They’re bloody irresponsible.  I’m giving new meaning to “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” (or maybe I’m just finally understanding it).

Intention-based moralities are for people too stupid or too lazy to consider the consequences of their actions.  “But I didn’t mean to” is the cry of an idiot.  (What did you think would happen when you put a firecracker in the dog’s mouth?)  “I was only trying to help” is an attempt to absolve oneself of the burden of figuring out the effect one’s behavior has on others.  (In what universe is that helpful?)

If you only meant to have a bit of fun, getting in your car drunk out of your mind and driving down the 401, if you didn’t intend to hurt anyone, well then, okay, you can go (you should go) — to hell.

We Pay People who Pretend to be Doctors …

So the other day I caught a glimpse, by accident, of one of those entertainment shows, on which someone talks about and to actors, rock stars, and so on, and it hit me: we pay people who pretend to be doctors more than we pay people who actually are doctors.

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Cultural Anarchy

Why is it that so many people claim, usually with considerable passion, “I’m an American!” or “I’m Canadian” or what have you?

To identify yourself by country is to accept the territorial divisions made by people with economic power eager to retain that power.  So why the passion?  Read the rest of this entry »

Digital Thought

On/off, yes/no, either/or, in/out, for/against, male/female, win/lose, true/false, right/wrong, black/white, all/nothing, 0/1.

Preachers do it. Lawyers do it.

Why have we become so enamoured with digital thought? What’s the attraction?

It’s precise. Precision is good.

It’s fast. We like that.

It’s easy. We like that even more.

But any educator will tell you that T/F tests are the sparrows of measurement. They can handle knowledge, and maybe comprehension. (Multiple choice tests, the robins, are just one step better. Except for the LSAT, the smartass bluejay, which is designed by demented geniuses who have made a science of turning a curve ball into a triple helix and figured out how to get paid for doing it.)

So digital thought is perfect for this so-called information age. (And surprise, computers do it.) But knowledge and comprehension are the lowest levels on Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive skills. What about application? Analysis? Synthesis? Evaluation? What, no time for critical thought? Too busy surfing the net to notice you’re in an ocean of shit?

Thing is, digital thought is, well, limited. Most of life isn’t subject to such precision, isn’t true or false, black or white. Ever hear of the false dichotomy? It’s an error in reasoning, it’s when you assume, erroneously, that there are only two possibilities. So it leaves out a lot. (For example, subtlety.)

It encourages extremism. It ignores the richness of a continuum, a spectrum. Between all and nothing is something. Lots of somethings.

And it sets up competition. It has no room for compromise, for combination.

In short, it’s two dimensional. Frogs do it: if it moves, it’s food; if it doesn’t, don’t bother. Are we frogs? Yes/No.

Speaking in Code

“I just can’t give any more, sorry.” But of course he can. He just doesn’t want to. By saying “can’t” instead of “won’t”, however, he appears powerless and thus absolves himself of responsibility; as a result, we don’t even consider the matter of blame.

“That’s not gonna happen.” Okay. So informed, we move on. But in most cases, the accurate, honest, statement would have been “I don’t think that’s gonna happen” or “I don’t want that to happen.” By presenting an opinion as fact, the speaker has diverted our attention from evidence and reasons. Why don’t you think that’s going to happen? Why don’t you want that to happen? Read the rest of this entry »