Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bogus Civility

Finally someone said what I've been thinking about this constant call to civility:
Have we transformed into so brittle a citizenry that we are unable to handle a raucous debate over the future of the country? If things were quiet, subdued and "civil" in America today, as Pelosi surely wishes, it would only be proof that democracy wasn't working. (Please read the whole article.)
Sure, Pelosi wishes that everyone would behave already, but it is also often conservatives and others arguing over the proper way of dissenting rather than just dissenting already. There seems to be a practical meltdown in areas of the conservative blogosphere over comportment... the theory seeming to be that passion is off-putting to the all-important center. In order to win, therefore, we need to be bland.

Frankly, I think that other than those in power who would rather not be bothered by opposition, it's only people without ideas who are arguing over civility. The Tea Party protesters aren't spending all of their time trying to police their fellows. They've got a simple message of economic responsibility for the government that applies to the stimulous bill, the bail-outs and government buy-outs, and now health care. It's all the same message at heart: Don't spend money you don't have, and especially don't spend my money. A second, very simple message applied to each situation is that government is passing bills they haven't read that will have consequences they haven't considered. Or more succinctly put: Read the bill!

Those are powerful ideas.

But don't the pictures of Joker Obama or Hitler Obama or Witchdoctor Obama take away from that? Yes, maybe a little, or even a lot. But what is the alternative? Decorum?

Well behaved women seldom make History. This is also true for men, of course. People who censor their own behavior for fear of offending someone else never accomplish much of anything. And frankly, some people would like it that way. Freedom is rough and tumble. Free Speech is often raucous. Speak your truth even if your knees shake? Do people really mean that?

Yes but... Witchdoctor Obama?

Can we accept that people do and will do unhelpful things either from an excess of zeal, a tin ear, or even racism, and that they have a right to express themselves, and also that spending our time policing others for what they have a constitutional right to do is just as UN-helpful as whatever behavior we, ourselves, find goes over our own personal line? By all means, if appropriate, push back when someone is expressing something with which you disagree, but don't mistake for a moment that your right to speak is dependent on how well anyone else behaves him or herself.

There is no prerequisite on your right to speak, dissent, demonstrate or carry a poster.

There are a lot of people, today, who are trying to shame others into silence. For one reason for another; for some fantasy of a more civil past, for some notion that well-behaved people get more attention, for reasons that they don't want to be sullied by the unwashed masses, or because they'd just rather not have to acknowledge the opposition.

But really... who woke up one morning and made them Jell-o Sheriff? Huh?

I think my favorite at the moment is the argument that uncivil behavior toward the President or our fellow man isn't free speech but is a Civil Rights Violation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dreaming the end of racism together.

The essential element of change is to be able to visualize the goal. It helps even more to begin to behave as though the goal has already been reached.

Then, when the real world situation doesn't conform to the new pattern it's easily recognizable as wrong. Everyone has already accepted the desired end state. No one needs to be convinced of anything, the situation simply needs to be corrected.

The pattern or template is just as important as the reality in this.

The end of slavery didn't come because people were determined to end it first and put equality into the Constitution later. The template and self-identity were there already and people said this is wrong because it didn't fit. It didn't fit their idea of Christian and it didn't fit their idea of American. The same with the civil rights movement. People had a self-image that they believed was true about themselves. Because of that they were able to see and change something that didn't fit.

Sometimes I use the word mythos to describe a sort of attendant fantasy world that exists in parallel to the real one. It holds all the idealism and identity and pattern that we conforming monkeys use or even *need* to transform the real and vastly flawed version of the world into something better.

Seeing honestly what exists around us and within ourselves is important but it's only half the picture. Without the other half we're stuck where we are.

So much of the conversation about race recently seems to be insisting that we're actually racist to give racism up.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Too Cool Science - Love Molecule

"Markets are pro-social. Markets are about serving the needs of another—that is innately virtuous," says Paul J. Zak, professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

But I don't have to buy his books, either...

Instapundit linked this by Neil Gaiman.

George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.

Well, true enough... but I don't have to buy his books either.

A couple of posts ago I lamented that I forgot to bring my books to Bubonicon for Mr. Martin to sign. I have three starting with _A Game of Thrones_. I loved the first one and would have read the others on the theory that these three are *it*, right? But I realized that the series was not complete and I chose to stop reading the ones I already *had* until I had them all. I will probably not *buy* any more until they are all published and Mr. Martin announces "The End." Until then I won't read the ones I've already paid for either.

Mr. Gaiman is, of course, completely correct that there is no contract between an author and fans that demands that he or she produce anything whatsoever.

But open ended series carry a significant risk for the author. As a consumer I no longer have to scramble to buy a book for fear it will not be available later. Books do go out of print, but usually they can be bought at any time over the internet. So I really can wait until I can get them *all* to buy any more at all. Obviously if a whole bunch of readers decide to wait the publisher's numbers will be low and they might get low enough to matter and new books won't be bought. This is a risk that I, as a reader, am willing to take. Are authors willing to take that risk?

I waited to buy Daniel Abraham's four books. I bought them each because I knew there would only be four. Now I will read them.

I waited to buy John Ringo's Posleen books until I could get them all and while I waited I lost interest. Sorry John!

David Weber, with a couple of exceptions, seems to be very good at writing a series where each book has a satisfying conclusion. But I told him myself *last* year... or at least I'd planned to!.. now I honestly don't remember... that not finishing a series is a poor way of getting people to pray for your continued health and that you don't get hit by a bus. _Oath of Swords_ is a whole lot of fun but apparently hasn't sold that well so he writes another one for fun when he needs a break. If they didn't sell that well before the prospect that the next installment will end without answering burning questions and leave readers hanging for a number of additional years before the *next* one?.. this will NOT help sales.

It is true, Mr. Gaiman, that these authors do not OWE me anything.

And it is true that I owe them nothing in return.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Little Old Ladies Driving

Two little old ladies were in a car on their way someplace. The driver went through one stop sign, then another. "Edna!" The other said, "You just went through two stop signs." "I did?" Edna replied. "I thought *you* were driving."


A little old lady was put put-ing down a high way, holding up traffic. A police officer pulled her over. The officer explained that the speed limit was 50. "Oh, is it? I was sure that the signs said 30." The officer explained, no, the highway number was 30. The speed limit was 50. He noticed passengers in the back seat, two nuns, white as sheets. "Well then," the old lady exclaimed, "the road I was just on must have been highway 113."