Posted by: David | August 28, 2021

Thinking It Through

Great article in last week’s New Yorker magazine (link might be blocked by pay wall), and I stole its title for this post. I subscribed for a year, a bargain at $50, even knowing I’d have trouble keeping up with this dense weekly. This brilliant article, Thinking it Through, was the perfect length. It took multiple sittings to finish it, but I’m a slow reader. There’s a funny scene in an episode of The Good Place, where accumulating New Yorker issues are a form of torture …

The topic was thinking itself. Rational thought, more precisely. It was an easy, lightweight examination of what constitutes rationality, and how it differs from looser modes of thought. In a pragmatic frame, rationality is considered as a tool for decision making, which is how we navigate our lives. Though the author, Joshua Rothman, doesn’t touch heavily on politics, an early mention of the rise of authoritarianism stuck with me through the whole reading. Thinking about thought is very entertaining, it turns out, but worrying about all the non-thinkers out there is just scary.

The article avoids ponderous examples of logical math, rather looking at the applied art of rational thought. The meta-level process of careful, data-driven analysis, which relies heavily on reconsideration, self-examination and unflinching acceptance of the possibility of error. Or, more deeply, that we might have defective structural members in the thought-houses we’ve been building for ourselves since childhood. Misconceptions that weaken our ability to properly engage even a simple choice. We “rationalize” our own a priori fundaments easily. Chocolate has always been my favorite, why would I even consider vanilla? While it was delightful to read such a well-written piece, I was dogged by a vague sadness as I read.

You can guess what THAT was about. Yup. Trumpism. My best friend tries to keep me from putting 100% of trump voters into the deplorable basket, since he personally knows some wrong-voting “smart people”. But maybe their bad vote was not for dumb reasons. He thought maybe 10% had some valid, considered reason, maybe wealth-related, to vote for a barely educated egomaniac who never admits to doubt, mistakes or errors; someone therefore incapable of rational thought. (Wait, but why would a “stable genius” businessman file for bankruptcy so many times?)

The GOP Trumpists fall into that same category: non-thinkers. Irrational ignorance as a way of life, or hiding behind their chosen authoritative texts. Stridently claiming their flag stands for FREEDOM, of speech, of thought, of gun shopping. But when their beliefs are challenged, look out! They CANNOT be wrong. Because … AMERICA! AS with abusive relationships, if you love your country, then you mustn’t believe her capable of error. Sorry Bunky, nations are made of people (like Soylent Green HAH!!!), and people are flawed.

Anyway … we are a work in progress. Devastation is around the corner, but we’re wiser today than ever in history. The internet gives us better access to information than we’ve ever had, but stupidity and mindless dogma pollute the web just as mightily.

I have to lean toward the comic-ironic view in order to save myself from apocalyptic disease-causing stress. You do you. Thanks for reading.

Posted by: David | July 3, 2021

Left v. Right

Happy Birthday 245 America!

It’s well past time to scuttle the dichotomy of conservative versus liberal. This impoverished rhetoric is failing us as a nation. Not since the Civil War has there been such overt antagonism toward basic democratic norms, voting for example. Authoritarianism is alive and well on planet earth, to the detriment of nearly all who live under such constraints. “Nearly”, because the wealthy and ruling classes obviously do quite nicely. They always do, don’t they? We Americans thought we’d never need to worry about a dictator trashing our precious constitution. Well, we do now.

We live at an intersection of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, enslaved to ecstatic daydreams of wealth and power. We’re compelled to traffic in meaningless tropes, like the latest TV shows, car models, fashions and celebrity gossip. This is not the pursuit of happiness, nor is it liberty and justice for all. Free markets, free speech, free will are all high-level illusions, made to serve politics as needed. It’s a not so subtle kind of tyranny. Chains of gold, forged by corporate entities, enhanced by social media. Just keep scrolling down … rabbit hole or pigeon hole, it’s still a hole: an absence. As Lily Tomlin said of the rat race, even if you win, you’re still a rat.

Liberals and conservatives are squared off like never before. Each embraces ultrabinarianism. That’s a pseudo-academic word I just made up. It describes the zero-sum flavor of polarization. The news media employ that word to describe how far apart we are in our belief systems (a.k.a. “echo chambers”). Why do you hate our country?! Our political system has always had at least two parties for discourse. Obviously, debate requires differing points of view. More subtly, points of view under debate need a few fundamental threads in common to avoid meaninglessness. (Cue the Python Argument Sketch) The common threads form the structural members of logic.

Problem now is that we have lost the common threads. Left and right no longer agree on fundamentals. If reality itself is up for debate, then truth dies. Questioning reality my be within your first amendment rights, but it’s also crazy. It’s the active ingredient in gaslighting. Of babies and bathwater, unhinged folk at the extremes want to throw it all out and start over. Citing authoritative sources such as “Ancient Wisdom” or “The Bible”, even “Science”, unwavering belief, or faith, is required. The earth is either 4.5 billion years old, or 7 thousand years old and all those dinosaur fossils are a hoax. Either or, not both, nor anything in between. Ultrabinarianism leads to misconceptions, pointless debates, and conspiracy theories.

Reality IS WHAT IT IS; that which science attempts to formally study and systematically describe. Scientists have always been human, and fallible, but our understanding of our own bodies’ biology, our planet and the universe around us has increased dramatically since the arrival of the scientific method, four centuries ago. Scientists admit that an achingly huge portion of the universe is still mysterious, in spite of all we’ve learned. Spiritual figures similarly remind us that absolute certainty is rare and precious. Death is one of those certainties. Time and gravity are also fairly popular certainties. Reality cares not a whit what any of us think we know, see or hear.

Since we’re at an impasse now, agreeing to disagree isn’t really possible. But when we see our opponents this summer, at the fair with their kids and their cousins, getting ice cream or pizza, laughing and enjoying the hot summer day just as much as we are, let’s try to forget that our votes cancel each other out. In living our lives as best we can, secure in the knowledge that reality will prevail, as it always does. Our opponents are people too. They’ve been hoodwinked. They’re marks in the longest con, with military-grade hardened hearts and minds filled with deceptions. They will ultimately be disappointed. But then, so will we.

Posted by: David | June 9, 2021

Need a Gentle Laxative …

Constipation got you down? It’s a national problem, friend. The Floridian fecalith, still saying he is the “true” president, knowing he’s really not, but caring so little for the 80 million citizens who voted him out, that he’s just gonna keep the con going. Gonna keep stirring that boiling cauldron of fear and loathing. Naturally. He’s a conman, and this is the con of a lifetime. We are lucky that he and his thugs were too incompetent to properly organize a coup. Will he ever face the music? Doubtful.

How do we move on? I keep harping on this, and I’m really sorry. But HE STARTED IT! He lost the election and won’t go away. He hadn’t expected to win in 2016, and didn’t whine about fraud then, did he? SAME VOTING SYSTEM! We actually DO know how to properly conduct elections, sir! If there’s one thing we’re good at in the USA, it’s running fair elections.

This civil war he and his followers are now trying to foment, how will that go exactly? Will aunts and uncles come with guns to kill their nieces and nephews? Neighbors gonna kill their neighbors? They want to burn everything down, to save the nation?! What the ever living fuck do they think that means? And who put all of them in charge? How is it that they think their patriotism overrules that of all the rest of us?

OH WAIT, I KNOW THIS ONE!!

It’s because they’ve decided that turdboy is, like, their god. Whatever he says goes! And if he says that he WON the election that he actually lost, then by golly, HE is the TRUE president. And the GOP figures that with the momentum of 70 million believers, they might just as well barrel on ahead and double down on the lies. So when they scream about who hates the USA, well, hell, that’s just another lie too, because they’re the ones that want to tear it all down. They wanna make America great again by destroying it. Cuz Shitler says! HEIL SHITLER! Cue the goose-stepping soldiers …

Constipation Nation. We may be past the point where a laxative will help. Perhaps some kind of nuclear enema? Divine intervention? Aliens, catastrophic asteroid impact? Our political system is literally in the toilet now, waiting to be flushed. GOP all darkness and lies, Democrats too weak to counteract them. God help us all, and please pass the prune juice.

Posted by: David | March 31, 2021

Doom ‘n Dread

My previous post whined about PTSD, where the T stands for trump. Sad to say, it’s gotten worse since January. He’s resurfaced, as expected, the way that corpse’s arm bobbed up from the Pennsatucky pond in the final scene of Deliverance. Still uttering those big, fat lies. And the mainstream/social media give him the oxygen he needs to keep his hateful fire smoldering toward 2024. I’m fully aware that I’m providing oxygen too, unable to fully eject the horrid troll from my mind. It’s no longer waking me up at 2 a.m., but that background dread level never went away after DT lost the 2020 election.

Why do I let it bother me so much? Tens of millions of fellow citizens, some with whom I am actually friendly, literally LOVE this exceptional con artist. So they’re afraid of immigrants, and socialism, and elitism! So they hate what scares them. So they gotta have their guns ‘n ammo. So what?! What hurts is their acceptance as gospel every blasphemous utterance. They actually believe he won the 2020 election, that covid 19 is fake, and that climate change is a hoax. Never mind the Q-nuts … they’re too far gone to care about. Like zombies, no hope for them. They used to have The National Enquirer, now they have the internet to get their fix of crazy so much faster.

But what hurts the most is that we’ve ALL been gaslighted. Four years of chaos and lies. The daily angst, wondering what hellfire would next burst from the White House. Four years of devastating lies every day, culminating in hoaxifying the pandemic and trashing a legal election. And this miscreant still commands his “party”! His faithful believe all the lies. To dismiss them all as ignorant is just too easy, and only feeds their notion of us liberals as elitists. It’s more than that. His utterances are supernatural in the way they grab the ears and eyes of friends and foes alike, lodging near the heart, producing delight or disgust. Supernatural.

Alas, what we have now is a standoff of historic scale. Just about down the middle, each side believing that the other wants to destroy the nation. Because I’m to the left, I’ll take my hope from the fact that trump’s hideous behavior disgusted normally reluctant/lazy voters enough to vote against the beast. It’s encouraging that he actually lost the popular vote twice. This is why the right-wingers are working furiously to rig the system against the majority. Apparently they lack appreciation for that fundamental aspect of democracy, majority rule, but wish only to cling to power using whatever methods are available. Sounds like fascism to me. God help us.

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