Category Archives: Social Rules

Never

“I say never never.”
-Lynette, a wise person

This a variation on the premise of the Trump Rule: Damn near anything is possible, so stop thinking otherwise.

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I thought I’d keep this one short, so you can ponder the grammar and significance of reading “I say never never” multiple ways.

Hanging

I see so much teeth-gnashing about truth and reality.

Even Grammarly, the proofreading AI I use, told me, “Your tone is angry.” If it had such a mechanism, I’d reply, “No, you’re wrong,” to prove this post. I did chose “ignore suggestion,” which does address one aspect of this post. It’s ironic that I pay for this service only to ignore such suggestions.

It doesn’t matter what the specific conspiracy theory or weird belief is. It is not the particular belief that is the problem. People don’t have a system to examine how they got there or how to get out of that particular belief. Politics, vaccines, covid, religion, astrology, or white people’s alleged supremacy are a few examples. We bludgeon our way through our lives, trying the same tactics and responses repeatedly, even as we paint ourselves into constricting circles.

Our biggest problem is that “we know.” Even when we don’t.

As wrong as I was when I was younger, it is still hard for me to accept that I must be wrong about things now too. Having always been wrong about something indicates that I’m currently suffering from an unidentified bit of idiocy.

To get the hypocrisy out of the way, I have my blind spots. I have a system to counteract it. I hold a very few people in esteem enough to let them gleefully bodycheck me if necessary if I’m trapped in a stupidity loop. If they point out that I’ve suddenly fallen victim to believing something stupid, I’ll take a long look. But I don’t include most people in this circle. For example, anyone trying to discuss politics but doesn’t vote, I don’t listen. (But I do believe that non-voters have the right to participate and opine.) If they are working an entry-level job, I disregard anything financial they say unless they are monk-like in their happiness. If someone hasn’t read a book in five years, let’s be honest – they should sit down and be quiet. The tricky part is convincing a good person that you’re interested in frank criticism. It’s a rare offering. Human beings aren’t programmed to make friends by being honest in that way. “Hey, you’re getting kind of chunky, X” would be a good example of something hard to share, no matter how close I am to that person.

One of my favorite go-to comments is that millions of people think the moon landing was fake – and many more millions are ‘undecided’ regarding its validity. I try to say it like a mantra, as it reminds me that no matter how well we explain ourselves, teach science, or rely on the common bond of truth, the lunatic fringe is not only more than just a fringe, but one that we can’t convince to evolve.

Among my list of popular ‘truths’ that are bogus is the Lunar Effect. It addresses the misconception that the moon (and especially a full moon) affects human behavior and especially strange human behavior. Pop culture, our grandmothers, and countless reinforcements have pushed it into people’s brains in such a way that it is just background noise and accepted. Due to the recent full moon, I saw at least two Lunar Effect posts on social media, with multiple comments and anecdotes. I didn’t interfere. The result would have been immediate contradiction and anger if I insisted. A letter from both Jesus and Albert Einstein would not have diverted their certainty.

It’s not true, of course. Like the ongoing and incorrect belief that an ulcer is primarily caused by stress rather than a bacteria, no amount of evidence, study, or direct appeal can convince people that they are completely wrong about the moon’s effects on behavior.

As you would guess, even bringing this up triggers many people’s defensive response. Their brains immediately react with a litany of learned responses. All are wrong. You’ll see a barrage of misstatements, each based on faulty methodology and study – but also cemented into their rigid structures identified as truth.

If you’re reading this and disagree, you’ll invest a great deal of your time and attention to devise a point to ‘prove’ my argument is invalid. Meanwhile, pieces of your life will pass you by, you’ll lose vital energy, and you’ll still be wrong. The only thing you’ve proven is that you’ll waste much of your time and energy trying to convince someone who probably isn’t in your inner circle anyway.

As with the moon landing deniers, no amount of science, data, or facts can dissuade a closed mind.

Don’t try it.

At any given time, about 1/3 of Americans are on the fringe side of any debate, question, or issue.

You can expose people to the truth, but no amount of words or strident argument will ever turn their attention and convince them. People must convince themselves.

Any effort you expend to convince an unwilling dissident will be a piece of your life that you’ve wasted. There is no magic combination of words that will ignite a light of recognition in people’s minds.

When my Facebook author page started getting readers, I had a smart older gentleman start reading all my posts and interacting. One day, I opened Facebook to discover that he’d angrily written at least a half dozen angry comments, each of them detailing the evil of using the word “xmas” instead of “Christmas.” My post was very optimistic. He focused solely on the word “xmas” to the exclusion of all else. Of course, I politely linked him to multiple sources indicating that he should acquaint himself with the historical and religious context of “xmas.” At that point, he flamed out like a cotton bale on the 4th of July.

Over the years, I’ve had multiple instances of grammar experts incorrectly repeating various ‘rules’ that are mostly just generally agreed-upon ways to communicate. Whether it’s the apostrophe, ain’t, you’re/your, couldn’t care less, or any of the other thousand bones of contention, many people want language to be as concise and static as math. It’s not. As a bona fide older person, I’m supposed to become more rigid as I age. I don’t. Quite the opposite. As late as yesterday, I found myself surprised that there is no agreement whether “detectible” or “detectable” is the correct choice.

Without getting into the weeds, I recently had someone challenge me on the validity of something I’d written. I’d mentioned I could prove it. The person in question angrily said I had fabricated the allegation. Naturally, I did my best to stay calm. I wrote an email and attached a copy of the email that proved what I said and an IP index. The reply was hate-filled. The person writing didn’t stop to think that he/she sounded like an angry lunatic. After thinking about it, I wrote back and said, “Ask _. They’ll confirm. That should convince you.” A couple of days later, another reply. This one was worse than the first. They were furious that someone else knew about the incident in question – and worse, that it made the angry person look stupid and hateful – something out of my control. My final reply was an apology for expecting them to respond critically and that I’d keep their correspondence for myself unless they tried to call me a liar again.

A few years ago, I finally hit the end with my mom. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d been through the cycle of no contact with her several times. Discovering she had Stage 4 cancer forced me to try to navigate the waters with her until her death. I’m not sure I would do it if given an unlikely chance for a do-over. My emotional deficit made it impossible for me to engage logically.

In the last couple of years, I alternated wildly with my brother, despite knowing that I was inconsistent and probably stupid. One of my go-to people told me that I needed to avoid replying, as it would fan the flames and reward the person trying to victimize me. (This person wasn’t my brother.) It took me a bit to see how right it was. It didn’t stop the other person from being a tool to me, but it did leave me out of the equation. When I did get around to addressing it, I was able to be peaceful and calm about it. (Which, of course, made the person even angrier. No one likes being angry while dealing with someone who won’t’ stoop to your level.)

As a liberal, it took me years to understand that not all the immigration arguments were specious. All the shouting obscured much of the meat and bones of the counter-arguments. As a result, I realized one day that while there were a lot of angles and I still generally disagreed substantially with the conservative viewpoint, I saw the truth in some of the objections. More importantly, I noticed that not allowing any flexibility in my stance was causing me dissonance.

More importantly, living a good life is often 80% the act of not engaging. That part is almost a miraculous ability.

If you’ve read this post and wondered what the theme is, accept my apology. I’ve had a version of this sitting in my growing list of drafts long enough to have children.

Taintshot photography

I am of the continued mind that we should drop the pretense of vanity and concealment. We should just offer voluntarily the worst possible perspective, the worst possible picture, and the worst possible interpretation of our motives through life.

If you think about the title of this post, it should project the exact tone, imagery, and point that I’m trying to make. Sunsets are beautiful and most of us agree. The world that brings us back to the center is one of necessity and immediacy.

Each of us is engaged in a varying degree of war with other people’s opinions of us. Someone smarter than me pointed out that every person has a different idea of who we are in their head. Each of those images reveals at best 75% accuracy.

When we are reduced to our visceral essence, much of our ego of pretense abandons us. For all our lofty goals and vain ideology, we are all equally engaged in the grind of survival.

For me, what gets me through these days, is the idea that you’re sitting there with an unpleasant picture in your head and wondering how mere words took you there.

Fade

We fade, either in brilliant and unexpected flashes of circumstance or as an imperceptible result of our enthusiasm finding itself outmatched by the daily assault of living.

THE OPTIMISM OBSERVATION

I’m not impressed with optimism when I see it in the eyes of a rich man. I’m impressed when I see it in the face of a poor man, working a job that depletes him daily, facing an endless stream of obstacles and problems. Wealth confers optimism to almost all who seek it; struggle reveals optimism in those who already possess it. – X

Dry Counties In Arkansas

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*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.

Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.

It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.

In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.

To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.

Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.

I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.

To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.

I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.

I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.

“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.

We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.

“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.

Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.

Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.

Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The cliché of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.

Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.

As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.

The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.

I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.

If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.

Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.

 

Love, Jerry

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If the first rule is “Don’t negotiate with terrorists,” the second rule is this: “Whenever possible, limit your meaningful interactions with manipulative people.” Even though almost no one does so, it is equally true that we should pay the price as soon as possible with such people. That we’re going to have a go-to-Hell argument with them at some point is a certainty; delaying it wounds us incrementally and perpetually until we lunge toward the chance to pay the price and break the bond.

A friend of mine has struggled for years with someone who masterfully whiplashes people around her. She gaslights and triggers. Rarely, however, does she leave a smoking gun that her victims can point to in protest. The subtlety is akin to a razor blade cutting the skin sufficiently to cause bleeding and persistent minor pain. The accumulation of such cuts, however, turns even the most compassionate person into a cauldron of irritation.

This segues into a post I started yesterday morning.

From Madam Anon, the anonymous commenter who sometimes writes to me.

Madam Anon sent me this list, asking if it would be helpful:

Do you feel like they try to control you?

Do you feel like the person is good for your mental health?

Do you feel like the person lets you be you?

Does the person ask how you are?

Do you feel the person responds to you with enthusiasm or with an obligatory response?

Do you feel like you can let your guard down with them and not think about their response to you?

Do they pop into your head when you hear stories of positive care people or the opposite?

Would you characterize the person in question as “good,” however you define the word?

If you’re otherwise a good person, you should trust your instincts about a person. Ask yourself the above questions. Since all of human behavior exists on a sliding scale and a fluid Venn diagram, you have to take the variables into account and decide for yourself how toxic the person in question is to your well-being.

Above all, if you get a letter or card signed “Love, Jerry,” pour holy water on it. Once it stops sizzling, bury it in the backyard under the light of the full moon.

Life’s too short to endure manipulation, even if it is due to familial obligation. If you can’t beat them, be creative. Their unavoidable presence in your life at least presents you with the opportunity to try unusual methods of repaying them for their unkindness.

The link below is in the same ballpark of observation:

The Salutation Enthusiasm Observation

Run Past

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I sprinted past the moment, though it didn’t truly exist in the way that things do.

I had looked forward with such intensity and anticipation that it had condensed into an impossibly small point in time.

Because I’m older, I now see that this is how most of us manage the span of our entire lives: increments, milestones, and anticipated moments.

There are labels for this sort of thing. “Futurizing” is one of my favorites.

Though covid fleetingly slows us from careening as carelessly as we once did, even its lesson of mortality will soon enough become a vague memory.

Each of us will step back into the tide of normalcy, whatever that might be, and pace forward.

Birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, achievements, all seemingly without terminus – although undeniably connected by an invisible strand.

I predict we’ll be more feverish postcovid. We’ll collectively feel the pause button click free and begin our mad dash to collect what we thought we missed while the world held its breath. People do not like to feel like they are missing out, even if what they have fills their lives.

Weirdly, I feel that we should take a breath and slow down. Sit and stare. Read and contemplate. Look within and around. We were not prepared, despite having history’s best medicine, technology, and logistics.

Our failure wasn’t external, however.

It lies within us where, in reality, each of us lives.