Category Archives: Social Rules

A Note About Miley (Not What You’re Expecting) (From Sept 2013)

This post is somewhat about Miley and the Video Music Awards… It’s not a letter “to” her. I wouldn’t presume to think that she would care what 99.99% of us could possibly say and certainly not someone like me.

Miley wasn’t dancing or denigrating herself for people my age. She was doing it for people her age. They will remember her performance, whether good or bad. Condemning her for what she did will not earn your respect from the younger generation – it will only alienate them from any attempt you might make to get through to them. Your chance to reach those kids will be diminished. Those kids don’t notice the content of your words so much as the direction of your wagging finger. In this case, your wagging finger is pointing toward someone entertaining and different, even if we label her as ‘vulgar.’ I guess I’m trying to say that you should teach by being positive about your goals, morals and lifestory, not by being preachy about Miley or even Elvis gyrating around on television. You cannot compete, much less win, a battle against the world’s craziness.
I mention Elvis because Miley isn’t the first and not even the worst in a long line of shock artists.

In our new, fast-paced connected world, none us has much opportunity to filter the world. It comes, unbidden, whether we are prepared or interested in it at all. Our personal opinions and even our greater surrounding societal opinions don’t slow the incoming stimulation. It is 24/7, intense, and takes no prisoners in regards to anyone’s particular personal tastes. It’s a fool’s errand to attempt to blackout much of the illicit or undesirable music, television or behavior in the world.

(I would be much more concerned as a parent about the constant warfare that our county and its allies find justifiable than I would about celebrities acting out for fame and money. My next concern would be explaining to my kids why so many homeless people live in the streets or why so many go to be hungry – in this county of waste and excess. Or why insurance isn’t available to every living person. Or why any adult citizen can’t attend a public university at no cost other than through taxation. We are certainly not living the example we claim we are following. I think my kids would see the hypocrisy more clearly than they would hear my words. My focus would be on the kids I could help shape – not on quixotic efforts to convince anyone in Miley’s shoes to behave differently.)

Shock value has always been an effective method to gather attention. Whether you think this is a good thing or not doesn’t affect the efficiency of being outrageous. Whether Elvis gyrates his hips or Miley grinds her gears for the world, it is ultimately Miley’s decision as an adult to do it. Let’s trust that she has someone in her life who will love her and help guide or even rescue her later if her life spirals out of control. Don’t worry about her legacy. That is hers to shape, independent of whether you or I like any aspect of it. Whether you think it is a good thing or not for Elvis or Miley, the reality is that, in part, you might be trying to impose your standards on other people. It is up to you to figure out a way to be a better and more desirable center of attention than people like Miley.
(Quiet dignity almost always loses out to outlandish excitement as far as the younger crowd is concerned.)

As for the Video Music Awards, how in the world could you expect to watch it and not be shocked? It’s MTV. Appearing at the VMAs has always been an opportunity to dial up the shock value and garner attention. It would never occur to me to let children watch it if I were concerned about their exposure to alleged illicit behavior. I don’t understand how anyone exposed to the entertainment industry could expect anything other than something similar to what Miley did. Just who are these crazy parents who would be so oblivious as to allow it to be watched by their so-called “young children?” Any adult claiming that their young kids shouldn’t watch it should be using their control technology on their cable boxes to block the channels entirely. Isn’t that reasonable? Having MTV available on your televisions at home would be the greater sin, not that the content is undesirable for your kids. As the adult with the issue about exposing your kids to it, it is your job to assume that the world is simply stuffed with things you don’t like – and act accordingly.

(And please note, too, that in order to have watched the performance, you would have to be relatively more wealthy than most of the world to have had access to electricity, cable, extra-tier channels, and so on. In a world where many of these things aren’t even available to many, having raised eyebrows over a young woman showing her body on television is almost a hypocritical perversion itself.)

Although it won’t happen this way, Miley has so much attention on her right now that she could almost preach any truth she wants to – and get serious attention from the very people who many think were being subjected to smut by watching Miley’s VMA performance. For those who had nothing but negative criticism for her performance, I would argue that your entire collective life’s words, written or oral, cannot begin to approach the level of POTENTIAL reach that Miley now has. I know we would all like to think that our efforts will bear better fruits – but it isn’t true. Because she received so much attention (however you characterize it), Miley could come out tomorrow and passionately get attention for any idea or cause that she values. Yes, it’s true that her popularity will undoubtedly fade. But if she is smart, she can now ride a wave of fame and money to any destination she chooses. It’s also true that her destination will probably not be one most people would find meaningful – but it might. She might finish her entertainment career with enough money and clout to eradicate homophobia, or to convince the world to stop fighting so many stupid wars. Or, she might convince them to listen to music and tap their toes a little more often.

Between concerning myself with someone like Miley dancing half-naked onstage or thinking about the consequences of explaining justifiable war to the next generation, I would focus on fixing the need for war and greater societal problems. As with warfare, there will always be the “next shock” to come along and take the shock value to even crazier heights.
Miley makes a point. She’s well aware that what she’s doing is controversial and many people hate it. In the scheme of things, though, which of the issues I’ve mentioned rates more attention? But which will you be talking about around the water cooler or in church?


11052013 #Hashtag – Just Another Evolution in Language

 Fallon and Timberlake’s Infamous Hashtag Skit
The link above is for the viral take on hashtag usage invading spoken language. 

It is the way of the world for new things to be despised. New words and ways of communicating are often the most hated. It’s always been that way and probably likely will continue to annoy people. Most of the changes are driven by younger people, regardless of how older people or entrenched concerns react to them.

As for the ” # ” or hashtag symbol, it is a very useful communication tool when used properly. The hipsters and octogenarians of our world would have us believe that any usage of the hashtag is dumb and that it doesn’t add any meaningful content to our language.

And they are quite wrong. Like any meme or idea tool, the hashtag is only as good as the people using it. It would be a better tool if people would stop parroting the same tired “it’s stupid” mantra before learning how it is supposed to work. If you are on the “I hate hashtag” bandwagon, you are going to be seriously tested – as the hashtag is a part of our culture now and likely will not disappear from usage, at least for a long time.

As someone getting older, these new means of writing and communicating can be confusing and hard to adjust to. I can either choose to attempt the transition or be left behind. As an amateur linguist, it is my obligation to stop trying to keep language static and uninteresting.

Hashtag Wikipedia Page

I don’t expect the haters to google the usage and etiquette of hastags – but they should. You can’t creatively criticize something if you don’t understand it. I know that we often do – but we look foolish when we do. 

Before being crucified, I’d like to mention that I don’t appreciate people who are misusing the hashtag symbol. It’s just another way to communicate poorly when over-used or used improperly.

Like everything about our inefficient language, though, the # is an evolution of content and context. Our language in every sense has been nothing short of a long revolution and evolution of usage.

04092013 Quality, Qualicide, Perfectionism

        

Lately, I’m encountering ghosts from my “quality past.”

When I worked at a huge multinational meat processor, I taught dozens of 1 and 2-days quality classes. I also administered the pay-for-skill-and-knowledge component that involved testing and evaluation. The version taught at our location was based on the revived Crosby method in the 90s. I taught many more classes in Spanish than English, probably about 7-to-1.

Overall, even though the effort was doomed from the onset, it was one of the best things I was ever involved in.

(The premise of this type of quality hinges on accepting a new definition of quality. Instead of using it equally across different brands of the same car, for instance, you were required to look at things with a “conformance to requirements” filter. In other words, a Mercedes-Benz wasn’t necessarily higher quality than a Ford Escort, depending on one’s customer requirements…)

Before I digress like I am accustomed to doing, teaching these classes and doing the testing forced me to learn a significant amount of practical Spanish. My accent and inability to roll “rr'” dipthongs was horrific, but I plowed through, reminding myself that no one else had the right combination of English ability to navigate the program to the majority Hispanic workforce. Almost everyone in the program would be speaking Spanish, rather than the management language, English. I was “good enough” for the circumstances.

The class and testing absolutely forced me into a “good enough” non-perfectionist mindset. I knew even then that it was a little ironic to keep telling myself that “good enough” was more than enough in a class and learning system designed around quality initiatives.

Basically, when the quality program was launched, I wasn’t a key cog in the machine. It didn’t take long, however, to realize that I had been given the almost never-heard-of opportunity to write my own ticket and create the system to suit my own ideas. Granted, there were a lot of people involved. The reality, though, was that I had huge latitude in vetoing even required components. This was especially the case with the Spanish version of the testing and classes.

When I went to Minneapolis for quality training, I was the only hourly employee to be given the chance. My Spanish-speaking counterpart who accompanied me never once taught a class or led testing. I acquired a poor Spanish version of the proposed class book and took it back to Springdale with me. I spent weeks doing a very rudimentary redrafting of the entire book.

In the Spanish version of the class, I largely ignored the pie-in-the-sky elitist components of the entire program and used what I instinctively knew to be practical. After a few classes, I relentlessly threw out any aspect that didn’t work immediately or effectively. I listened closely to anyone who would take the time to explain their criticisms to me. If I detected boredom with some components, I discarded them or changed them to make them relevant to the people in the room. Many classes were in fact led by me but directed by the participants. I can’t express how fulfilling it was to see people step up and take the reins and lead their coworkers, especially when they were being creative. Several of these people surprised themselves by being confident and creative. The workplace we were in was known for fostering the exact opposite of this type of mentality. We were basically human beings doing mechanical work, for the most part. It is one of the reasons that programs such as Quality which rely on creativity were facing an uphill battle.

I encountered resistance from authority figures but ignored their commentary and edicts unless no alternative was given to me. Usually, though, I got creative and found ways around every attempt to make the classes boring and devoid of real significance. With the English version of the class, though, I couldn’t get by with doing the things that worked. I had to conform. Which led me to the realization that much of the observable output of the class, at least through management’s eyes, was totally incorrect, as the language barrier prevented them from properly “seeing” the class and how drastically different the class could be when compared by language.

Life is largely a series of repeated events, I’ve noticed. Things I’ve learned before come back around to be learned again. Being in social organizations can be frustrating because there are large meta issues which bear striking resemblance to what I’ve already went through.

02082014 Child and Domestic Abuse Isn’t Caused by Alcohol

My dad is the gentleman on the left…

I gave up trying to edit this blog post. All errors or poorly worded areas are my fault. Thanks.

First, I was a victim of child abuse and alcoholism. And all that accompanies this type of story.

Second, most people would probably agree that my point is obvious; yet it’s not.

Breaking news: adults who abuse their children tend to also sometimes suffer from substance abuse. Their tendency to abuse is not due to their substance abuse but rather exacerbated by it. Drinking does not cause normal people to commence abusing their children anymore than drinking suddenly makes a person want to publicly rant about Jewish people or burn white flags on their neighbor’s lawns. The root of it was already present, seeking release.

Take away all the alcohol, drugs or substances and the abuse remains. I don’t doubt that drinking removes inhibitions for many adults and allows them to abuse; but alcohol in itself is not the culprit.

Anyone who is on the verge of committing child abuse cannot honestly say that the lack of alcohol is the only catalyst missing from their intention of a crime. If they were to say this, they already need treatment for psychological issues.

(Removal of all alcohol would not eliminate child abuse, if the argument is stretched to its longest possible scenario.)

In a world of my choosing, everyone would have access to free mental health care, regardless of income.

In a world of my choosing, anyone having committed documented child abuse would be required to undergo rigorous evaluation as to when and if they would ever be permitted to have their children again. Anyone already convicted has already demonstrated their lack of normalcy in this regard and the presumption would be against them. In a world of my choosing, if you abused your spouse, one of the many requirements would be lengthy and difficult counseling (among other things).

As a victim of abuse, I can rant expertly on the stupidity and cruelty of abuse. As a victim of a family of alcoholics, I can rant expertly on that, too.

The difference for me is that most people who drink do so responsibly, in my worldview. It would be very easy to exaggerate and shout for prohibition of alcohol. But it would be irresponsible on my part. Each of us is responsible for how and when we imbibe, and whether we do it too much.

In a world of my choosing, anyone could ask for and get free substance abuse treatment. Anyone.

It is a crime against personal liberty to abolish the availability of alcohol simply because those pitiful creatures who abuse other people suffer from its use.

This sort of thinking leads down many dark roads wherein adult citizens are treated as inferior creatures who would otherwise run amok absent a parental government watching them.

 

No Will? Cremation

I would like to establish a centralized system where people could indicate their preferences regarding death – and they chose not to do so, society would determine the course of action for everyone not making the choices. 

As for burial versus cremation, if you die without having expressed your wishes, everything would default to cremation.

If you don’t take the time to register your wishes, as well as setting aside the finances to pay for your specific choices, you should be cremated. Lack of doing so would constitute an agreement to be cremated. Dragging your feet about it or superstitious about planning your death? Sorry, we decide for you: cremation.

Unlike everyone else, I would figure out a way to let people smarter than me establish a database for everyone. Each person would be able to document their wishes regarding “do not resuscitate,” and living will-related decisions, whether they wish to be cremated, buried, and the general circumstances and details for either choice. Each person would indicate how their choices are to be paid for upon their death. Everyone would also be able to streamline much of the will process by making choices or delineating their choices on the database. This might anger lawyers and others whose livelihood is affected by simplification, but these are changes that should happen regardless of economic impact.

Any lack of clear indication about your wishes after death defaults to cremation. Lack of the ability to pay would allow for our tax dollars to put you to rest without financial debt or family stress. I think that it would be beneficial to our society if everyone could be guaranteed a decent cremation in the absence of an expensive and elaborate burial. I think that over time a lot of people would opt for cremation once they noticed that it didn’t cause the earth to spin off its axis or the universe to implode. The financial appeal would be obvious for anyone who has ever suffered when someone they loved died and had to face they economic difficulty of it.

We are all going to die. I think we should have systems in place to encourage and require people to at least express their general inclinations so as to avoid the confusion and stress of it all when we die.

Hypocrisy of Abolishing Legal Activities or Substances Due to Someone, Somewhere Misbehaving….

If you advocate the restriction or abolition of anything legal because its misuse might result in harm to people, your logic opens up a can of worms in regards to your attitude about other, yet similar subjects.

Your stance indicates that adults can’t be trusted to behave and reason. Since some can’t behave reasonably, everyone’s access to the otherwise legal thing or activity must be abolished.

Laws justified by the POSSIBILITY of improper action are stupid. Anyone can behave idiotically if they choose. Their idiocy stays confined to them.

If you advocate that alcohol be abolished because it’s being abused during some other distinctly illegal activity, you must also agree that your logic be used toward other activities that are potentially important to you. For example, alcohol is a “factor” in some domestic abuse cases, whether toward spouses or children. Therefore, all alcohol is bad. Because some misbehave people when imbibing, even when most adults never engage in such illegal activity, we must abolish alcohol. Also, alcohol is assumed to have a causative effect on an otherwise normal person to engage in domestic abuse. Eliminate the alcohol and thus some of the abuse. Not all. Just some. (Because even by your own weak argument most people who abuse others aren’t using alcohol and will still abuse their family.)

Another example: guns are used in daily acts of violence. Therefore, we must abolish private ownership of guns. People will sometimes misbehave and commit illegal acts if they have guns. When both anger and guns are present, otherwise law-abiding citizens will be enticed to inflict harm that would have been otherwise impossible. Eliminating the guns therefore eliminates some criminal acts. Not all. Just some. (So goes the argument.)

Yes, that means that you can’t have a beer at the baseball game, nor a dark draft with your steak. Not even one.And forget about trying to have a beer at a gun show.

You don’t take away law-abiding normal citizens access to anything on the basis of the legal substance or activity being misused by idiots.

If you want to abolish or limit alcohol because of what OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT DO, yet you drink, it’s time to examine your logic.

I would never abuse anyone – no matter how much I drank.

I would never drink and drive – no matter how much I drank.

I would never commit murder, rape or armed robbery – no matter how much I drank.

And I would also never take time out of my life to limit what other people can drink, smoke or use if they are doing so responsibly.

The abolitionists need to stop misunderstanding causation at the expense of my rights to live my life devoid of unreasonable interference.

 

08092012 Women As Clergy

Ricky Gervais:

“Suggesting I hate people with religion because I hate religion, is like suggesting I hate people with cancer because I hate cancer.”

“On my Twitter feed, I express MY feelings. If that hurts YOUR feelings you should immediately unfollow or block. Hope that helps 🙂 ”

Whether it is my place to judge, I have the ability to share my thoughts here, just as if you and I were having a conversation. Under that light, it is is harder to be so demanding about the requirements of justifications, explanations, or accountability. I’m not singling out a specific religion and I’m the first to admit that each of us has our own opinion about the matter at hand. Where religion lives, opinion is the rule, although most of us wish to paint our beliefs as if they were infinitely perfect.

“Assuming they ever had one,  a person will lose his or her mind when religion walks into the room.” -x

I’ve written before in this blog about my lack of enthusiasm for religions or denominations which do not allow women to be clergy. In my opinion, all of them are critically wounded and flawed. Having visited many, many types of churches, I can still say that some of my disfavor with modern churches and dogma is the lack of objection toward religions which prohibit women from being clergy.

The religions which do so have a long and complex rationalization for it and their ongoing campaigns have surprisingly not been stripped entirely of their ability to convince women to willingly submit to its ongoing existence.  I know many women who are members of such denominations; many are fiercely loyal to their churches, despite being relegated to a “lesser” status. Apparently, many women don’t feel “lesser” as members of these churches.They each have found a way to accept it and persist in their application of loyalty toward their churches. I’m fascinated by this. I know that many churches are wrestling heavily with this issue and that many women are beginning to agree with me.

I’ve no doubt that in the future, churches which unilaterally prohibit women from being clergy will change their dogma or wither away – and rightly so. The historical arc of this development is undeniable, in my opinion and after years of watching.

But even if churches willingly or unwillingly have women clergy, there will still be those who would want to continue the old traditions, even if no longer accepted.

I personally can’t attend any church which prohibits me from being clergy based on physical characteristics. It’s hard for me to understand anyone who would knowingly allow it in their own case, either.

 

Registration Day Voting or Election Day Registration (EDR)

It is an odd thing that people in many states can register to vote on election day itself. It blows people’s minds. In some other states, you can register to vote and then vote at the same time ahead of the election.Imagine being able to get your friends to go with you to both sign up and vote at the same time. It would eliminate much of the procrastination people tend to exercise about registering to vote.

Studies have shown that states that allow election day voter registration have a much higher voter turnout than states that don’t. There are several states which allow election day registration.

North Dakota has no voter registration laws at all. Think about that one, especially when so many of us live in states where the politicians still attempt to pass laws to affect how minorities or certain demographics have the ability to vote.

 

Disallowing Convicted Criminals The Right To Vote Is Wrong

“Just to be clear, I think that no one’s right to vote should be abridged – ever. The potential abuse and demand for exemptions is arbitrary.” -x

Felony Record Vs. Voting Rights Map

USA Today Article on Voting Rights Changes

“There is no rational reason to take away someone’s voting rights for life just because they’ve committed a crime, especially after they’ve completed their sentence and made amends.” Attorney General Eric Holder

“A study by a parole commission in Florida found that formerly incarcerated people banned from voting were three times as likely to re-offend compared to those who were allowed to vote…” This seems logical to me, as being denied the right to participate in the most basic function of democracy is a deplorable way to further convince someone of their worthlessness. (Not all felons are murderers, either, so avoid using the worst case scenario to justify denying someone the right to vote.)

Telling someone he or she can’t vote while in prison is one thing, but denying them the right to ever vote again after paying for their crimes is one of the most asinine things I can think of. The fact that in many states the whim of the governor determines who can vote or not is dumb politics. Since felonies are defined by lawmakers and are subject to the capricious whims of politicians, anything can be made to be felonious, under any pretext, to strip someone or a group of their right to vote.

For those of you who don’t know, much of the body of these laws are remnants of the aftermath of the Civil War and Voting Rights for Blacks in the South. Reassigning crimes as felonious allowed whites to disenfranchise blacks in large numbers. I know that many readers will not believe this until they go search for themselves. But it’s true.

PS: If I were in charge, even those currently in prison would get to vote. And they’d vote where they are incarcerated, giving them a local voice which would require some accountability from the places where prisons are located.

 

 

 

06082014 Minimum Wage (And Petitions)

“I used to work at McDonalds making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? It’s like “Hey if  I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.” – Chris Rock

A signature collector rang the doorbell yesterday, on a nice quiet Sunday afternoon.

His task was to collect signatures for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage in Arkansas. Of course I signed it. Not just because I agree with the particular initiative, but also because I get so weary of special interests bludgeoning the initiative process unfairly.

(To be clear, I very much endorse minimum wage increases, especially ones tied to ‘real’ economic indexes.)

As weird as it sounds, I always sign petitions, even if I disagree, believe it or not. I say let the democratic process have its chance. If I sign a petition with which I disagree, I had better make sure to get to the polls to vote against it, hadn’t I? Many people I know foam at the mouth when confronted with petitions they disagree with.

The minimum wage arguments are particularly odd to watch, as most people against such attempts are conservative.