Arrogance, I think

Fresh from the office of my supervisor who persists in gently giving me unsolicited advice, despite being neither older nor wiser, I’m struck by Rousseau’s tone (in his “Marriage”): “Extreme in all things, they [women] devote themselves to their play with greater zeal than boys. This is the second defect. This zeal must be kept within bounds. It is the cause of several vices peculiar to women, among others the capricious changing of their tastes from day to day. Do not deprive them of mirth, laughter, noise and romping games, but prevent them tiring of one game and turning to another. They must get used to being stopped in the middle of their play and put to other tasks without protest on their part.” I have as much trouble imagining the absolute certainty, the arrogance, required to initiate, let alone sustain, such pontification as I do imagining myself putting an arm around the shoulder of the guy who works in Accounting, and telling him what he should be doing with his life. Even if I were his supervisor. I simply could not go on and on like that, not even to students, nor even to children. Not even at forty.

At least not without the qualifier ‘I think…’, Continue reading


Impoverished Scientists

To read the science journals, one would think animal life consists of nothing but predation and reproduction, both thoroughly competitive in nature. The absence of any capacity for pleasure, or at least for non-competitive pleasure, is frightening. Lining a nest with warm and soft material is not for comfort, but to “increase the survival rate of offspring” and arranging for others to watch the baby during long and deep dives is not from affection but to “maximize reproductive success”.

This is of concern for two reasons. First, to judge by my own life and that of the dog with whom I live, that view is, to say the least, narrow and thus incomplete.

Second, what does it reveal of the scientists? Continue reading


Profit and Loss – and You’ve Lost Your Marbles

Years ago, Joseph Schumacher examined the ethics of unlimited growth and concluded that “Small is beautiful.” The business world, with no shortage of conglomerates and an increasing number of mergers, seems to have missed the message.

One might quip ‘Well, that’s because hedonistic greed governs the business mind,’ but a quick survey of a second year Business class – in which not one student answered the question ‘Why is profit good?’ with ‘Because it gives me pleasure, it makes me happy, I wanna be a rich sonovabitch’ – suggests that either denial starts early or something else is going on. (Or both.)

Most students responded, by the way, with something like ‘Profit is good because it enables you to expand: to hire more people, to establish branches in other cities, to increase production.’ ‘And why is this expansion good?’ ‘Well, because then you can make more profit.’ (Can you say ‘circular’?)

The concept of limitlessness is ingrained in business policy and practice. Why is this so? Continue reading


Suicide, Insurance, and Dead Sugar Daddies

I’ve been thinking that, with the exception of those who are paralyzed or severely physically debilitated, people who seek euthanasia are cowards. They are grossly inconsiderate and amazingly irresponsible. I mean, if you’re ready to die, then die. But do it yourself! Don’t ask someone else to kill you, and then live with it. What an awful request to make, of anyone! It’s your life – it’s your death.

However, just recently the insurance connection clicked into place: if you suicide, the company won’t pay – so it’s for the sake of your loved ones that you endure or entreat –

So all these intellectual and ethical gymnastics we’re sweating over – passive/active, terminal sedation or physician-assisted suicide, the double effect, euthanasia or eugenics – it’s all because the insurance companies won’t pay? Wouldn’t it be so much easier, and, I suspect, cheaper, to simply legislate that they must? (Especially when the suicide simply hastens – what would otherwise be a slow and painful – death?) The financial desires of a certain private sector industry should not override our freedom to die!

Well, they don’t really. Continue reading


Casual Day at The Office

Every second Friday is ‘Casual Day’ at the office–the principal lets us wear jeans to school. I need two degrees to do my job, but apparently I just can’t seem to dress myself.

In addition to that of infantilizing the subordinates, Causal Day underscores the tradition of hypocrisy, the tradition of pretending: financial advisors who work on your portfolio at home probably do most of their work in jeans and a sweatshirt; they just change, they just put on the facade, the uniform of authority and competence, when they’re in their office. Do they think we’re idiots? Do they think we judge a book by its cover, do they think we’re fooled that easily?

Well, yes, they do. And they’re right. Behold the power of a suitcoat and tie: it says ‘I’m to be respected’. Anyone up on charges who borrows a suit for his day in court knows that. Oh, but the judge would be a fool to be suckered in by that. Yes–and so are we. Continue reading


A License to Parent?

We have successfully cloned a sheep; it is not unreasonable, then, to believe we may soon be able to create human life. Despite Frankensteinish visions of a brave new world, I’m sure we’ll develop carefully considered policies and procedures to regulate the activity.

For example, I doubt we’ll allow someone to create his own private workforce or his own little army.

And I suspect we’ll prohibit cloning oneself for mere ego gratification.

Doing it just because it’s fun will certainly be illegal. And I expect it won’t even be imaginable to do it ‘without really thinking about it’, let alone ‘by accident’.

I suspect we’ll enforce some sort of quality control, such that cloned human beings shall not exist in pain or be severely ‘compromised’ with respect to basic biological or biochemical functioning.

And I suspect one will have to apply for a license and satisfy rigorous screening standards. I assume this will include the submission, and approval, of a detailed plan regarding responsibility for the cloned human being; surely we won’t allow a scientist to create it and then just leave it on the lab’s doorstep one night when he leaves.

Now the thing is, we can already create human life.  Kids do it every day. Continue reading


Grade Ten History

Remember grade ten history? Okay, quick question: history of what? Of ideas? Of art? Of really stupid jokes? No! Of conflict! And mostly interpersonal conflict charading as intergroup conflict. That’s what grade ten history was all about.

And grade eleven history and grade twelve history too.

First, let’s call it what it is. And this is not a minor point. It’s like teaching nothing but limericks in a course called “Poetry”. Now it would be bad enough for kids to grow up thinking that’s all the poetry there is, but if they grow up thinking that’s all there is to history, well, Houston, we have a problem. No history of ideas, or art, no history of discovery, no history of cultural development–what an incredible disservice not only to those who made such history, but of course to those denied that knowledge.

But that’s minor damage compared to this: Continue reading


What’s in a Flag?

I’ve been noticing a lot of Canadian flags lately. In windows, on lawns, on porches. This is Canada. We aren’t American. So what’s with the flags?

Well, maybe that’s it. It’s to say we aren’t American. Many Canadian tourists wear a Canadian flag on their knapsacks for the same reason American tourists wear a Canadian flag on their knapsacks. But then why not just fly an American flag with the red slash of “No!” through it? Maybe cuz that wouldn’t be very nice. And, well, we’re Canadian. And everyone in the neighbourhood already knows that everyone here is Canadian.

So again, what’s with the flag? Continue reading


Religion: Superstition and Habit

I find it amazing that so many people still believe in God.  I can only conclude that, in most cases, they just haven’t thought about it.  Because thinking about religion is the surest way to atheism.  (Which is probably why so many religions discourage thought: be like a child–whose intellectual faculties are quite insufficient for the task; trust in me, listen to me, I speak for God–you don’t need to worry your little head about it.)

There are several classic arguments for the existence of God.  But as Bertrand Russell (Why I am Not a Christian), B.C.Johnson (The Atheist Debater’s Handbook), George H. Smith (Atheism: The Case Against God), and so many others have pointed out, their flaws have been, in the last few centuries, uncovered.

Consider the first cause argument: Continue reading


An Apartheid of Sex

I’m in this world, okay, and the people identify each other by sex.  All the time.  No kidding.  It’s like ‘Female Person Jenkins ‘ and ‘Male Person Ellis’ or ‘Person-with-Uterus Jenkins’ and ‘Person-with-Penis Ellis’, I don’t know the exact translation.  But sex-identity is a mandatory prefix.  They distinguish males from females.  Before they do anything else.

It bothers me.  It irritates me.  It pisses me off.  I mean, what’s so damned special about my sex that it has to be part of my name?  Surely my values, my interests, my abilities, my character – these aspects define my self more than my sex does.

And anyway shouldn’t I be the one to decide what parts of my self are important enough to be part of my name?  Maybe I want to be identified by my uterus, but maybe I want to be identified by my occupation.  Hell, maybe I want to identified by my blood type.

The thing is, they consider it polite.  Polite!  Continue reading