Category Archives: Social Rules

Attitudinal Conservatives

“Attitudinal Conservative” is a phrase I use to describe people whose outlook, especially political, doesn’t match their way of living. While it MIGHT be construed to have an element of hypocrisy in it, that doesn’t capture the expected idea precisely. They claim to be conservative yet almost nothing observable identifies them as such.

This does NOT refer to those conservatives who study the issues, details and know every angle of their arguments.

We all know at least 1 person who seems to know an inordinate amount about conservative politics. I say “seems” because most of their knowledge is shallow, unfocused, very much like everyone else, just with a narrowly-defined ignorance. If they have an opinion, you will hear it, whether your eyes are rolling like a hungry, rabid zombie. They say specific things, sometimes with detailed numbers, names, and dates.

Suddenly, after listening to them, I realize they are just babbling, mostly smoke and mirrors.

Trust me: this means that the person listens to and/or watches only conservative TV and radio. Usually, their media diet is 99% Fox. Am I saying that Fox News is nothing but conservative garbage? Almost.

You can’t turn the TV on to any other news channel without hearing a complaint about the “slant,” blah blah blah. Even if you have it on the Disney channel showing fake news, you will get commentary.

(Not that most liberals don’t don similar blinders with their programming, too… it’s just that liberals aren’t as damned irritating when they do it.  : )    )

Getting back to the point, “attitudinal conservatives” almost always consistently do things that violate the tenets of their supposed conservatism. They have abortions, support government growth or support when it helps them specifically, argue for programs that rely totally on socialized healthcare, education, etc. Don’t confuse them by pointing it out, either  – or you will catch holy heck for it. And even if they instinctively realize you might be right, the ‘attitudinal conservative’ will try to force an exception to prove their specific actions or circumstances don’t fall into the category at hand.

All I ask is that you watch these people and notice the difference between what they say they believe versus their own words and actions. If you compile a list of these contradictions, it will rival Santa’s naughty list.

Endnote: much of my criticism regarding attitudinal conservatives applies to any group whose arguments and identify are tied to a dogmatic system of belief.

…and I’m probably wrong about this, too…

Work Rules and Open Secrets Commentary

These are excerpts from something I wrote years ago as a primer of sorts for people working in an area I worked…
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Goals & rules that matter are enforced. If you see a rule or procedure that is ignored, you must conclude that it is a dead rule or for “show.” Management will not appreciate your attempt to point out that rules that are alleged to be important are flagrantly disregarded.
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If standards are not being enforced, a logical person would be irrational to continue to concern himself with expending extra energy meeting goals that are, by lack of application, unimportant. Being unconcerned, however, does not equate to announcing it over the rooftops.
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Do not directly acknowledge to anyone that you have come to realize that some goals are not real and that you have delegated them to a lower priority. The appearance of importance must be maintained. You are more likely to get in serious trouble from pointing out your realization than from direct misconduct.
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An “open secret” is anything that is either prohibited or not specifically permitted, but which everyone knows goes on. No direct discussion of the “open secret” happens. It is the proverbial elephant in the room that no one dares discuss.      
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If you violate any provision covered under the “open secret” rule, you are going to endanger your peace of mind, if not your job. Many times an employee who is trying to do his or her job properly will run into trouble with “open secrets.” They are then forced into a position where they are challenging it. Since open secrets don’t actually exist, you end up boxing with the wind.  Examples: Sally is allowed to clock in 15 minutes late, Jack is allowed a extra smoke break, Fred doesn’t have to concern himself with some paperwork, everyone gets an extra 15 minutes of break, etc. Trying to discuss it is going to anger, Jack, Fred, and Sally, while you are going to be targeted as a troublemaker, even if your question is valid.              

War

As ignorant as I am about so many topics, I have never been able to wrap my mind around the sheer amount we spend towards “defense.” I use the word in quotes, as everyone has his or her own definition of which portion of our budget actually is for defense and what constitutes a defense expenditure.

Google “federal pie chart” and look at even conservative estimates for defense spending. You’ll see that at least a 1/4 of the pie is defense. Factoring in “past expenditures” for pensions and benefits and it gets even more surprising. Additionally, you have to factor in the amount we are actually spending on the off-the-book wars. No one agrees on how many billions per year that’s costing.

(You’ll see a figure of about 1/4 if you use the government’s accounting system. It’s so far off even with a cursory glance at where the information derives from. Start with looking at how much of the budget results from ex-military benefits, for example. )

Almost 1/2 of the world’s military spending is from us. That statement alone should cause you to stop and think for a long minute. It’s absolutely crazy and not justifiable.

We argue and fight socially about a few billion dollars for education, housing, homeless shelters, etc while entire truckloads of our money is being used for “defense” spending. It is simply unethical.

It’s hard for me to bash a church for hoarding and wealth when we as a country are doing much, much worse in regards to wasting our resources and cash instead of bettering the lives of human beings in the world.

When I was younger, I used to be much more irritated by things like this. Ultimately, as I’ve written about, it dawned on me that my personal opinions were of no value against the size of the problem. Worrying my life into ruin was not logical. It’s unethical for me to have such strong opinions about the stupidity of our defense budget at the expense of human beings and not do something about it. I know that makes me a hypocrite.

Although my liberal views haven’t changed and I’m no less sickened by our sense of priorities in this country, I note that it is only getting worse. We will probably not learn our lesson until we are bankrupt
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In case you missed it, my point is that our defense spending is much too high. Social efforts should always take priority over war and defense spending.

Hiding the true cost of defense spending allows our system to continue to hurt all of us.

06052014 Please Don’t Say This…

“He’s at peace…”  “He’s in a better place…”  “He was a good man…”

I would rather have my carcass loaded with dynamite and detonated on live television than have the traditional inanities uttered after I’m gone, especially if untrue. (Please televise it on Fox news as a sort of beyond-the-grave satire if you choose the detonation method.)

Feel free to speak ill of me after I’m gone – if you have legitimate grievances about how I behaved toward you. If you think I was a nefarious bastard, please say so. If I am guilty of an offense, the truth is not weakened by you saying so. My ears won’t shrivel from your comments. I’m sure that you’ve noticed that no one’s motives are gauged honestly while we are alive. It is foolishness to expect that once we are gone that the same craziness, gossip, and outright insult won’t follow you to the grave. Each of us has our own multitude of opinions about everything and everyone and the truth is that we all judge other people, even if we don’t voice it. Whether you like to call it “judging” it or not is a matter of semantics. Much of the disinclination to speak ill of the dead derives from the hope that we will not be complained about once we are gone. After decades of observation, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that most of the people I’ve been around, watched and listened to have very specific opinions about people who pass. Most seem to maintain the social norm of not being actively vocal during the traditional mourning cycle.

(“It’s generally considered bad form to take a bullhorn to a funeral. ” – X )

But the opinions of individuals remain, layered under a blanket of social acceptance.

Each person has a spectrum of opinions about himself or herself – we are different people to many other people. I have one relative who will undoubtedly be lauded as a great, religious woman, whereas my personal opinion about her is much more harsh. When she passes, it will not be my isolated and personal opinion that lasts; at least, probably not. The fact that our paths don’t merge frequently is even more reason to discount the negative opinions of people in your life – they matter no more in death than while you are alive. My pious relative’s reputation won’t suffer due to my minority opinion. Her opinion that I’m an ass won’t affect my reputation, either.

If I’ve not used my time here appropriately, don’t feel saddened or express remorse. I’ve had a great, long life, even if cut short by a burning meteorite falling from the sky tomorrow morning on my way to work. (Although, dying on the way to work would be a horrible legacy, much like falling over at some hideous place such as Kohl’s or Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Each day has been of my own choosing, with each hour and minute used deliberately and in full realization of how fleeting and precious our time is. If the meteorite hits me tomorrow, don’t stop and waste your time wondering why my time was cut short. Instead, stop in amazement of how dumb we get sometimes, forgetting that time is the most precious commodity and that one person can live more in twenty years than some people live in seventy. I wasn’t promised any length of time and what I did with the time I was given was my responsibility.

I don’t mean to diminish the heart-felt words of others who can express themselves easily after someone dies. I’ve know a few people who are masters of the spoken word, those rare people who can describe a cow pasture while convincing you it would be a great idea to sleep under the noonday sun in the middle of one. Social decorum is generally desirable, but I’m not so sure that it is what is best for us as a species – not all the time.

Most people seem to need the traditional platitude patter and commentary that pervades services and gatherings after a death. In my case, I would love a joyous sharing, even if not all the content is glowing and positive. A service anchored in truth is much more desirable. We’ve all been to the funeral where the evil sister is sitting in the corner, cigarette dangling from her lip, mumbling invoked words of hatred toward the deceased. We all talk about it at the fringes of our overlapped conversation. Everyone had their own ideas about the departed and it is weird to me personally to categorically reject its presence and effect on  everyone. Better to air it out and learn to respond to the awkwardness collectively.

Everything I write in this blog is a feeble attempt to badly describe what’s going on in my head. That, too, changes, much like a series of sunsets. (Each individual sunset, although strikingly different, can still be recognized as a sunset.)

 

11102014 Why Dry Counties Are a Waste of Resources

“The assertion that alcohol sales and consumption lead to rampant crime and decay of the moral fiber is no less than a claim that the free citizens of this free nation have neither the moral nor mental capacity to govern themselves and act as responsible members of society without a benign, possibly even theocratic, despotism that seeks to pass judgment….”   (I lost the attribution for this quote. I’m using it anyway and I apologize for not citing its source. – X)  This is a fancy-pants means of saying that you have to trust people to behave responsibly and not interfere with their choices until they misbehave – and not to seek to dictate people’s choices based on your moral grounds.

To ensure clarity in my point: I disagree with attempts to keep counties ‘dry,’ or devoid of the sale of alcoholic beverages. (Given the false pretense that no alcohol is sold in these counties, of course!)

I updated this entry after Amendment #4 failed here in Arkansas. Oddly enough, though, one county voted overall against allowing statewide liquor sales, yet on the same ballot passed a law to allow their own county to be able to sell alcohol. That’s funny on several levels, and a good demonstration of the craziness that characterizes people’s attitude and relationship to alcohol. The liquor stores in wet counties spent millions of dollars to reframe the argument to indicate ones attitude about “local control.” Those arguments are specious and laughable. But they were very, very effective in the vote. In Johnson, one of the most Mayberry RFD little kingdoms in the state, voters passed a law to allow Sunday sale of alcohol, even though it affects almost no businesses and in general the voters there lag significantly behind other areas in attitudes about such things. In the towns where I grew up, both illegal moonshining and bootlegging were very common. Even today, it is rampant.

Arkansas will eventually become totally wet and statewide liquor sales will be the norm. Like all social issues, it will be defeated by slimmer and slimmer margins. Over time, people will see through the ineffectiveness and hassle of having such crazy repressive laws on the books. It’s not a moral issue and continuing to frame it that way is going to lessen the ability to keep the laws unchanged.

First, restricting availability only serves to ensure that those without the means won’t have the same access to alcohol as those with better transportation and disposable income will have. If you argue that people with less money shouldn’t be spending it on alcohol, that is an elitist attitude. It’s true, of course, that money needed to maintain one’s life and health shouldn’t be wasted on alcohol; on the other hand, being rich doesn’t excuse the expenditure, either. We could all find better uses for our money than spending it alcohol. But that’s true of eating out, going to sporting events, trips, or how big our house is. Alcohol is still tainted by the old prohibitionist attitude.

Second, limiting access to otherwise legal activities or substances usually has an underpinning of moral superiority somewhere in the mix. Telling an adult “no” because they might misbehave is terrible public policy.

Third, if you vote down alcohol sales in your own backyard and yet drink elsewhere, where people allow one another to live freely until they do something illegal and/or stupid, you should consider that this sends the wrong message about how steadfast your beliefs might actually be. I would never prohibit an activity in my own backyard and partake of the same the activity just because of a different geographical location. Whether it is alcohol or bow hunting, if I fight it where I live, I’m not going to do it anywhere else, either.

Fourth, please don’t use the presence of children to force abolition on others. If you don’t want alcohol sold in your area, please don’t drink around children. It sends a conflicting message. Of course, you might counter with the claim that any good parent can demonstrate, explain and educate their children on the social downfall or intoxication and misuse – but so too can anyone else ask for the same right in their area and household. If you fight the availability of alcohol where you live based on your children being exposed to it, you should probably not drink in their presence, whether at home or on vacation. Most places don’t limit access to alcohol with laws such as ours. Children are going to be exposed to it. All you can do is be great parents and be a good example. History has shown that not having alcohol in the house doesn’t serve as a good indicator as to whether ones children will drink inappropriately.

Fifth, where alcohol is sold can be regulated easily. Whether your goal is to maintain an appearance such as to avoid gaudy signs or deterioration, you can pass laws to specify those concerns. The same holds true as for hours of operation, proximity to schools, the taxation amount and so forth.

People who drink are going to find ways to drink, especially when it is just a question of geography.

In simple terms, you have to trust me to drink responsibly, to not engage in illegal behavior, to treat my fellow human beings with the courtesy they deserve, to not drive under the influence, to not expose children to activities detrimental to their well-being – all of which is already expected of those who are responsible citizens.

The Perryman Report is a great read for anyone denying that prohibition is anything but negative on a place’s economic strength. The ability to control sale of alcohol has no effect on consumption. Many studies have shown the going “wet” has decreased a region’s per capita accident rate and increased its economic strength.

 

Forgiveness

Becoming Minimalist Blog Link About Forgiveness

I love the Becoming Minimalist  blog. But I loathe the idea that some people aren’t toxic and that sometimes normal people don’t deserve to say “no more.” I do NOT say that forgiveness is not worth striving for. I also do NOT say that forgiveness requires reconciliation with the person who has wronged you.

For this post, I’m not focusing so much on the criminal justice aspect of forgiveness. This mostly refers to interpersonal forgiveness.

Why must “forgiveness” be collectively agreed upon to be a total acceptance of what someone has done to you AND that you allow the person full access to your life and emotions again? This goes against what I see day in and day out, regardless of religious viewpoint or temperament of those involved.

Let us all perhaps agree that if someone has wronged you and you’ve made peace with what happened, that you have arrived at a mental place where you are no longer wasting time or emotional injury on the wrong and don’t wish any ill will toward the person who wronged you, then this counts as “forgiveness.” Is that too much to ask? We shouldn’t treat all wrongs as equal in the eyes of a victim. Being gossiped about is not comparable to being abused, stolen from, or accused of something vile.

The essence of forgiveness is whether the wrong has not only left a scar, but changed the focus of the victim to anything except full pursuit of his or her own life and without further consideration for the wrong done to him or her. – x

“Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as revenge, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.Forgiveness is different from condoning (failing to see the action as wrong and in need of forgiveness), excusing (not holding the offender as responsible for the action), pardoning (granted by a representative of society, such as a judge), forgetting (removing awareness of the offense from consciousness), and reconciliation (restoration of a relationship)….”

Someone I know once said “I might forgive him, but I’m not going to go to lunch with him.” This attitude speaks of an intelligent decision, made with the intention of not spending any more life energy on the person being forgiven, nor judging or interfering in that person’s trajectory, now separate from your own. There’s no reconciliation with the person who wronged you, but neither is there a focus on the ‘wrong’ that happened, nor wasted time or emotions from the victim. I think this is a great baseline for forgiveness.

To forgive isn’t to forget, despite the cliché…

It is easy to preach and recommend that everyone practice forgiveness and acceptance. But what do you say about  people affected by violence, abuse, anger, alcoholism, drug abuse and sheer evil?

For those of you who have lived bountiful lives and have never known just plain evil, toxic people, good for you. I’m no advocate for violence or reprisals – but I’m certainly not for putting yourself back into the reaches of people who violate the world and the people in it. There are enough great people in the world to justify not getting slapped in the face repeatedly by those you have around you due to “forgiveness.” Better to spend your valuable time focusing on the good people and as for the rest, I vote to make it a case-by-case basis.

When you are preaching about forgiveness and acceptance during the holidays, please take a long minute to mention that you understand that many people are suffering under situations that don’t deserve a second attempt. (Or twenty-third try, for that matter.) Knowing that someone is akin to a deadly viper and taking steps to avoid a venomous bite is not a mark against your well-being or mental health!

It is quite possible to write toxic people out of your life without needing to forgive them, if you are using any definition other than the one I proposed. It’s a strange attitude that excludes the ability to be at peace despite having given up on a few people. At times it isn’t rational to try to reach out to someone who has grossly demonstrated their horrible inner self. Decades of careful observation has proven to me that most people don’t truly forgive those who has truly done them evil. It might be an ideal, but one which finds little practice in the world.

I know countless people who say they have forgiven in-laws, ex-friends and co-workers, yet they freely admit that they will never be comfortable with them again. In many cases, they won’t be in the same place with them at the same time, or talk to them ever again. Despite avoiding any contact with those they have forgiven, they would still say that they have truly forgiven the people who grievously wronged them. Which I understand. (I’m not sure this falls under “forgiveness,” though)

Recently, it seems I’ve been inundated with variations on a theme due to people advocating blanket forgiveness and that not doing so equals some defect in those who don’t practice universal and unilateral forgiveness. I think these people need to try to understand what I think a healthy definition of forgiveness is.

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Odds and ends…

Even the Christian god is believed to reserve the right of condemnation to hell for those who are deemed unworthy. And yet the New Testament preaches that god is about love. I know it’s an argument away from my thesis, but both god’s judgment and god’s love make for strange bedfellows when butted up against any argument in favor of forgiveness.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive.”
― Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

“What was the point of being able to forgive, when deep down, you both had to admit you’d never forget?”
― Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle

“Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare…”
― Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
― Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism

 “Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.”
― John F. Kennedy

“To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.”
― Confucius

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
― Nelson Mandela

“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” – Oscar Wilde

“It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” – William Blake

 

“Free” Healthcare To Everyone…

Are you focused on who is getting ‘welfare’ and shouldn’t be – or who is getting ‘no care’ and should be? I’d gladly get everyone help, even the lazy (however you define it) if it meant no one had to agonize over access to assistance. 

My first draft of this blog post was VERY long, until I realized that I don’t want to change anyone’s mind about ‘free’ access to healthcare.

Rather, I would like to remind everyone what my opinion is on the matter. Simply put, less bombers and more focus on people, even if some of the effects of ill health were caused by voluntary behaviors.

We should be willing to give everyone access to health care, even if they can never pay a dime toward their care. 

x

Dunning-Kruger Effect

Dunning-Kruger Effect (Click Here…)

I don’t know if you are familiar with this term. If you aren’t, I wish you would read the above wikipedia link and think about the implications.

Chances are that it will delightfully assist you in categorizing a few people in your life. We all know someone whose bulb is somewhat dim but doesn’t see themselves as less-than-capable.

Once you understand the Dunning-Kruger Effect, you will be able to see people in a new light, albeit one that might not be the most flattering to them. 

Criminal 2nd Chances

Yet more research indicates what I often say: everyone needs a free pass.

Even though my belief is more predicated toward lesser offenses, it still mostly applies.

After 10-13 years of no further offenses, a person with a criminal background is no more likely to commit a further crime than someone who has never been convicted.

I know that flies in the face of conventional logic – but it is worth thinking about the implications.

(I’ve previously talked about DWI laws – if you didn’t hurt anyone and make amends for it, 1 DWI is a pardonable offense.)

Taxes and “Fairness”

Recently, someone I know who worries too much about money was lamenting the issue of taxes.

His comments echoed what I hear from a lot of people: taxes are too high. “Property taxes aren’t fair because they mean that they don’t ever truly own my house outright. Property taxes are thus really just another type of perpetual rent.” For the record, people who know me also know very well that I do NOT complain about paying taxes, whether they are income, federal or property taxes. We have it great here, all things considered.  I am in the minority in this regard as complaining about taxes is almost a national sport. I’ve never understood it.

I am not complaining about taxes now, either, in case someone with poor reading skills jumps to that conclusion. I’m making a point about the hypocrisy of many who constantly complain about “their tax money being wasted” on programs they dislike or don’t agree with.

What really annoys me if think too long on the subject is the entire concept of this type of taxation to begin with. Most people rant about their taxes. These people are also the ones who almost always complain about what their taxes are going for. Whether it’s abortion, subsidies, drug therapy, food stamps, jails, military, etc. Most have their particular ideas about what taxes should be used for.

With the issue of property taxes, though, we really are talking about local schools. Almost all of the funds go toward local schools.

If one were to honestly look at property taxes, the people with the biggest ax to grind would be those who don’t have children in the school system – and especially those adults who never had children in the system and never will. They are being forced to pay for services that result from voluntary behavior. (People having children.)

If people are going to complain about taxes and say the word “fair” without being hit by lightning, they need to stop and consider that those without children are getting hit the hardest of all. How high would taxes be if only people with children paid these taxes that go toward schooling? And why shouldn’t it be this way? Isn’t that “fair?” Would it be “un-american” to require ONLY those with kids to pay taxes to support schools?

They are the ones who decided to have kids. Isn’t it about responsibility? Isn’t that what we hear so often from so many people in society? That people should have to pay for their decisions and be responsible?

I’m making an effort to use this taxation logic against those who would otherwise argue for taxation fairness.

The friend of mine who was ranting about property taxation is also insistent that health insurance be adjusted based on whether you choose to smoke, drink and overeat. His logic is that voluntary behavior should affect how much you pay, which sounds fair, doesn’t it? Why not extend that logic to include children? If I don’t have any, I shouldn’t be paying property taxes. Those who have children should be paying ALL the taxes. Imagine the outrage if such a system were seriously proposed, much less implemented!

Again, I’m just using the ideas as a sample argument to demonstrate the inconsistency people hold in their heads about ‘fairness.’ I’m not advocating a system where only people with children should pay property taxes. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see it tried?