THE CATEGORICALLY STUPID SOUTH

I know, I know, it isn’t PC to say “stupid”. But when you get a bunch of people who populate mainly a certain corner of the country, who keep saying and doing pretty hateful things (burning down historic black churches, say, or dressing up in white sheets and hanging people) for decades and decades, and then completely ignoring the fact that TIME DOES MARCH ON, and every 100 years there are all new people, and we have WAY bigger problems than Emmitt Till whistling at a white woman, or the wrong color guy sitting at the lunch counter, or a black dude getting a job that a white dude couldn’t qualify for, since skin color is pretty irrelevant to skills, or… Oh, never mind. I’m sure you get my point.

Well, now we have DEFINITIVE PROOF that Southerners are the stupidest people in America! But maybe “stupid” is the wrong word. Let’s say “The tetchiest, most delusionally ignorant mo-fo’s in the USA”. Better, I guess, but substantially the same.

There’s this concept that recurs in primitive tribal circumstances called “the culture of honor, in which affronts are met with violent retribution“. And, where “from an early age, small boys were taught to think much of their own honor and be active in its defense. Honor in this society meant a pride of manhood in masculine courage, physical strength, and warrior virtue. Male children were taught to defend their honor without a moment’s hesitation – lashing out against their challengers with savage violence.” (D.H. Fischer, Albion’s Seed, 1989)

Gosh, kinda reminds you of all those Confederate flag wavers who would rather protect a symbol of … well, of something they made up, because basically it stands for the fact they lost the Civil War, both morally and physically.

I have a great bumper sticker. It says “Jesus would slap the SHIT out of you”. I would LOVE to display it, because it pretty much represents my opinion of many fair-weather Christians today, who think torture is great, drone warfare is perfectly fine, and amassing vast troves of money while citizens of your own country are hungry and despairing  is something to be aspired to. BUT I DON’T PUT IT ON MY CAR, because I know it would offend a lot of people in my neck of the woods. If you don’t like this blog, nobody is forcing you to read it. But there is a little difference, in which some sentiment or another is shoved into someone’s sight-line on a hopefully neutral roadway, in a way that makes it hard not to notice. So I choose not to wreck some people’s dipstick Fundamentalist pastor-duped day, because, you know, I am just considerate that way. Really.

But yet all these brain-dead Southerners think their Confederate flag – that says “racism, slavery, lynching of black people is all good with us” in symbolic shorthand –  is FINE to  insult and harangue their fellow citizens with, and remind them of a heinous and horrific history.

Way to go, you deep-South pecker-heads.

But back to the issue at hand. So, for a long time now, it has been common knowledge that the people of the South have saddled themselves with this “culture of honor” thing, so if a black person does something challenging, like not getting off the sidewalk quick enough, or not being sufficiently obsequious to a white person, well – honor must be avenged! Quickly and without mercy! Because fat, pasty, sweaty white Southerners are BETTER than those other people! But “common knowledge”, as we rediscover every time a Republican candidate for something invokes it, is often just something somebody says for effect with zero grounding in reality.

But not this time! An intrepid crew of scientists decided to create a series of experiments that compared and contrasted the behavior of the “culture of honor” Southerners with a more normal slice of citizenry – ordinary people from the relatively calm Midwest, in fact. And wow! Did they prove the point, or what!

The series of experiments is dense reading, so I shall compact it herewith to a more manageable series of points. But if you really want to go to the source, here it is.
Numero uno: The bump experiment. The setup was that somebody bumps into the subject and is rude about it. Northern subjects laughed this off. Southern subjects got PISSED.
Numero two-oh: the story of the passes at the fiance. After the bump experiment, the subjects were asked to complete a story about a guy whose buddy keeps making passes at his fiance. Predictably, Southerners overwhelmingly ended their stories with violence and mayhem: Northerners, naaaaah… not worth it.
Numero three-oh: The chicken game. Post-bump-experiment Southerners were MUCH MUCH more likely to push the chicken game right to its limits than Northerners, who really didn’t care if some guy walked towards them or not.
Numero-four-oh: The handshake test. Post-bump Southerners had MUCH harder handshakes than either pre-bump Southerners or Northerners of any stage. Apparently they felt they had to reestablish their testosterone cred with the experimenters and up their dominance levels big-time.

And then there is a ton of science-y stuff about measuring cortisol levels and experimental procedures, but you can go read that yourself. The bottom line is – and I quote – “The findings of the present experiments are consistent with survey and archival data showing that the South possesses a version of the culture of honor.”

Great. So we have Southerners throwing their machismo weight around in Congress. We have loud-mouthed racists blaring their sentiments all over the airwaves because they’re so “tough”. We have “culture of honor” police warriors who throw 12-years violently to the ground and drag women of color right out of their cars for not being sufficiently respectful. We have dickless Southern boys going into churches and mowing down black people because “honor”. We have bozo Southern congressmen pushing their hawkish policies into the body politic, which leads to more and more people irreparably damaged by the machinations of war.

So the South wants to secede? Terrific! In fact, why wait? KICK THEM OUT OF THE UNION TOMORROW, and good riddance!

THE WHITE BLACK GIRL

My happy-clappy hometown of Spokane WA is in the news again for another stupid reason besides that idiot representative of ours, Cathy McMorris-Turniphead-Rodgers.

It’s the terrifying case of the black white girl. Or, the white black girl, whatever. OMG, what a national kerfuffle!

Here’s the bare bones of the incident. For nearly a decade, Rachel Dolezal, who heads the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has claimed to be African-American. From 2008 to 2010, she was a leader of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In July 2010, Dolezal resigned from Human Rights Education Institute in Kootenai County, and stated to KREM 2 News that “she had been the target of discrimination.” Dolezal stated on September 29, 2009, to KXLY that she had become a target of racism after she recently woke up to find a noose on her front porch. Dolezal’s biography on Eastern Washington University’s website states that while living in Idaho “at least eight documented hate crimes targeted (Rachel) Dolezal and her children.” The subsequent police investigation did not bear it out.

Lemme think. Six years ago Dolezal claimed something that may or may not be true, since when it comes to racial hate crimes, I am not 100% believing one damn thing that the police in Idaho tell me. I guess either making these claims isn’t a crime, or claims were never made, because nothing happened.

In fact, that is the complete modus of this whole tornado-in-a-ketchup-bottle. NOTHING HAPPENED. Dolezal went to work for the NAACP, an outfit which is primarily, but not always, associated with helping black people struggle against the constant, venomous racism of American culture. I find that rather admirable. Who cares if she’s black or white, if she does good work for the community?

But I forgot. This is America, where practically all our immediate first impressions of a person are based on what frequency of light is bounced off his or her skin, a reaction inherited from the legendarily dysfunctional American South which has permeated our entire national culture. And, instead of being allowed to die a natural death, racism has been co-opted as yet another tool of manipulation by corporations and big business, to give the masses something to focus on that isn’t the outrageous malfeasance of exactly those corporations and big businesses.

Ask yourself: Why has this turned into such a huge effing deal? I’ll tell you why. Because the giant corporate masters of American media sniffed out a great opportunity to rile up a bunch of knuckle-draggers and stoke outrage over black people for doing something that isn’t approved of by white people, thus making white people feel more “different” from black people than they actually are. Divide and conquer: does it ring a bell?

Does it matter that Dolezal’s hide is pink and not brown? Not one whit! Clearly she self-identifies as culturally black, and that is some variety of the ultimate crime to a fundy paleface with the mark of the Deep South upon his or her immortal soul. You can thank CNN and ABC and the New York Times and the rest of the Big 6 media news predigestion vats for getting you all pissed off about this. Not to mention her fundamentalist Christian family, who, being of a tradition which really hates people stepping out of line with fundamentalist Christian norms, decided to blow up Dolezal’s life.

Lemme think. George Zimmerman pretended to be a cop and KILLED SOMEBODY, but that’s okay. Eminem has made zillions of dollars pretending to be a black rapper. Men are becoming women, women becoming men, and that’s fine, because gender is fluid. Why can’t race be fluid too? Why is this a problem? Nobody got hurt. Nobody made money off it. Actually, Dolezal was by all accounts a conscientious worker and did good things for the community.

This is only a big deal because somebody is manipulating you into thinking it is. And the reason they are manipulating you has nothing to do with Rachel Dolezal, regardless of how convenient a whipping-girl she is. The proper question here is not “Is she black or is she white?” It is “Why does it matter?”

Follow the money – straight into the maws of the Big 6, Fox Fake News, Limbaugh, and the rest, who have all played a little drum solo on your amygdala and made you mad about fairness, equality, and the American flag. Even though none of that has anything to do with NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, who had choice words for those questioning her ethnicity: “I don’t give two s**ts about what you think.”

Well said, Ms. Dolezal.

 

THIRD WORLD FIRST HAND

As an intrepid American of some means, I had the privilege of traveling to somebody else’s country for a couple weeks. The country I traveled to was Panama. They have a big-ass canal there. And even though it is big, the ships being built today are bigger – so much bigger, in fact, that the Panamanians are building another canal, one that is over half again as wide as the one they’ve had since 1915.

It costs between a half-million dollars and a million to travel through the canal, one way. The price is calculated according to the size of your ship. A little sailboat is a lot less. A guy swam it for 36 cents, but that was a long time ago. Suffice it to say, the canal makes a shit-load of money, around 3 billion dollars a year, 2 billion of which is plowed (supposedly) back into the canal operations budget. The other billion is given back to the Panamanian government.

Panama has 4 million people. If you divided a billion dollars amongst 4 million people, that is $250,000 PER PERSON. This begs the question – if every man, woman, and child (there are a LOT of children in Panama!) is worth $250K, then WHY is everybody so effing POOR? I find this a question worth thinking about. Judging from the fabulous wealth on display in downtown Panama City, or the rim of the island Contadora, most of it goes to the Panamanian version of the 1 percent.

At the same moment they are living in dire poverty, most Panamanians are deliriously proud to be Panamanian. The flag is everywhere. Futbol is something of a national religion. Television soap operas are assiduously followed by men and women alike.

Hmmmm… tons of money going into a relatively few pockets, while the majority of the mindlessly patriotic population is distracted by TV and sports. Kinda reminds me of home, actually.

Then there’s the “brown” element. Everybody in Panama is brown. You might be a brown indigenous person (they do have tribes and reservations there, even though proportionately, the Spanish were even more thorough in eradicating the natives than the Europeans were in Norte Americana). You might be a brown person of African descent, since so many slaves were imported to do the work that the natives could’ve done, if only they weren’t dead. You might be a brown person of mixed heritage, like Spanish (who, incidentally, are white people), hobnobbing with the locals. And, even if you are a white person, you either take a tan or burn up. White gets diluted quick in Panama: the only really white folks I saw were foreigners.

What does this mean, when everybody you see is on a sliding scale of kinda brown to pretty much brown, to really dark brown, to a nice plummy black? In Panama, it means that nobody cares what the damn hell color you are.

In the USA, every single encounter we have with other people is freighted with color. If you are white and regarding a black person, a ton of stuff runs through your head immediately: all the Fox News racist broadcasts, all the negative encounters you’ve been told about, all the riots and burning and looting etc. If you are black, then a whole lot of similar stuff goes through your head when you encounter a white person: a whole burdensome history of murder and lynching and marginalizing and redlining and profiling. Even white people encountering other white people has a dimension of race: is this person racist? Do we share common ground here? And the same with blacks, I am pretty sure, as they have issues of race too, even within their own communities. It is the thing that takes up a lot of room that nobody wants to discuss. It is stuffed into our faces and it intrudes into all of our comfort zones, yet we hardly ever talk about it. It leans annoyingly into every conversation, like an irritating, unwelcome eavesdropper. It doesn’t matter whether you are sympathetic, or aware, or thoughtful, or interested in the topic – it’s there anyway. In America, practically everything eventually boils down to the color spectrum, unless you are a member of the privileged dominant white class, which means you can avoid thinking about it even though you should.

Panama was a breath of fresh air. The freedom and the relief were tangible. Nobody has to walk the line of being “black enough” or too much of a “n- lover”. Nobody has to THINK about it, and it is SO LIBERATING. We have NO idea in this country how we’ve been made captive to this stupid color thing. I wish we could just GET OVER IT and judge people on merit and not their light-reflective qualities.

Which I doubt will happen soon. We have way too much time on our hands for that.

 

 

THE EXTRA-APPALLING BEHAVIOR OF CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS

 

The esteemed representative of Lower Elbonia

The esteemed representative of Lower Elbonia

I have never made a secret of what low regard I hold my local House representative. She is obtuse, rude, ignores constituents even when we try to be reasonable, and calculates her “open” meetings so only friendlies will appear. She writes like a third grader and her thinking skills are on a par with, possibly, a pretty smart chicken. Her staff is made up of hyper-competitive Christians-in-name-only, who do not hesitate to throw each other under the bus at any opportunity. She is a so-called “rising star” in a party that completely demeans women on a regular basis, often without ever realizing how tone-deaf they are, because, after all, when you’re on top of somebody else, you don’t have to think about it much. I hate the way the Republicans post her like a department-store mannikin in all kinds of high-profile news shots, thus to indicate they “get” the woman thing, even though they don’t. And I hate the way she NEVER EVER opens her mouth in said news shots because, all  Republicans know, as a WOMAN she will just say something inane. And sadly, she WOULD say something inane, because she is so very, very limited. She is also such a party loyalist, such, a good dog, she will obey whatever order Boehner issues her, which is pretty obviously STFU. And I hate hate hated her STUPID rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union, where she talked about her biography as though it had even the LEAST effect on creating good government policy. SO WHAT IF YOU PICKED APPLES. I DON’T CARE. STOP REPEATING IT LIKE IT MEANS SOMETHING! JEEZ!

Recently she filled the airwaves with a whole new level of of complete capitulation to her Washington masters. But let me present  it all, from beginning to end.

Okay, so as a card-carrying Republican, Cathy hates the ACA, also known as Obamacare. No reason in particular, except, I guess “freedom” (to die slowly in abject poverty) and “‘Murica”, (the place where despite Christian assertions to the contrary, is engaged in a battle of Darwinian fitness, with the amount of money one has standing in for the number of potentially beneficial mutations one might contribute). Of course, also, Boehner told her to hate it, and Cathy is nothing but obedient to authority, ESPECIALLY if said authority has a penis attached.

Cathy’s town hall meetings are never pretty. Try as she might to  slew the attendees to the right by making her events “by invitation”, some pesky ordinary people always find out about them and infiltrate. Then they ask questions. Not shallow, softball questions either, but incisive, pointed questions, about abortion, about immigration, about climate change, about all those topics that Cathy has been briefed on the talking points from only the right-wing side of the spectrum. So, she is COMPLETELY unprepared for these questions. Often she sits like a jackrabbit on the highway, frozen in her abject ignorance of whatever it is somebody is talking about that doesn’t fit her very specific parameters. Sometimes a Fox Fake News watcher will try to bulldoze the questioners, but of late, more and more people have been nodding in assent over these questions, because they are not partisan in nature – they are American in nature.

So here’s the latest. As previously stated, Cathy has been instructed to hate Obamacare. And Cathy has a Facebook page, which I do not doubt some enterprising young staffer set up for her, because Cathy’s busy, don’tcha know. So she posts a request on her Facebook page that asks for people’s experiences with the ACA, fully expecting her constituents to unloose a torrent of horror about how the law completely upended their God-fearing conservative lives.

Over TEN THOUSAND people replied. And most said the same thing. The ACA was the best thing that could have happened to them. Many told her that they were diehard conservatives, yet  the ACA was filling a very important gap for them and their families. She ignored the fact that 15.5 percent of the adult population to age 65 in Stevens County has signed up for the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare, meaning the people of McMorris-Rodgers’ childhood county are joining Obamacare at four times the national average. One in six adults in neighboring deep-red Ferry County has signed up for free Medicaid, thanks solely to Obamacare. And, as usual, the generous liberal side of the state carts the taker conservative side on its back, as King County has only a 1-in-10 signup rate.

Well, all those positive stories must’ve screwed up her expectations, because now the open-feedback section has been wiped, and the responder has to fill out a form to post, presumably so Cathy’s staff can filter the messages and more easily find those occasional nuggets of negativity that will bolster her credibility. Shades of the “Bette in Spokane” fiasco!

Despite the overwhelmingly positive feedback on the ACA from HER DISTRICT, she voted to repeal the very next day.

Then, it gets better. Turns out those paltry few negative stories she came up with? Aren’t part of the Washington State Facebook response at all. Plucked them out of a gop.gov  website that was put up the same day. Collectively, these sad tales came from California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Indiana. WHY OH WHY would you have to go to these far flung places to collect this tripe if you actually had it locally?

Oh. I think I am getting it. Cathy is not only not very smart, she is LAZY. Extremely lazy! Too lazy to deal with her staff, who is undoubtedly at the bottom of this faux pas! Too lazy to do any investigating on her own! TOO LAZY! And I as an American taxpayer, am laying out BIG BUCKS to support her fat ass in the style to which she has become accustomed! The worst welfare queen anywhere, ever, has NOTHING on this bee-otch!

CATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS SHOULD GO SUCK ON A ROCK, because that would be MUCH more productive than ANYTHING ELSE SHE IS DOING IN WASHINGTON DC.

 

 

IRAN AND FOLLOW THE MONEY

Okay, so a lunatic batch of Republicans decided to write a letter to Iran telling them that no matter WHAT kind of peacenik agreements that black guy who happens to be the Prez made, they will be instantly negated the moment a Repub gets elected in 2016.

Right, you guys. Sigh… where does one begin in this festival of ignorance and narcissism? Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, did point out the obvious by saying “I should bring one important point to the attention of the authors and that is, the world is not the United States (you ignorant toolbags).” That one comment drew a stark line between his Rhodes Scholar to Tom Cotton’s self-involved kindergartner.

Then there’s the conceit of “when a Republican is elected in 2016.” This is not going to happen. Sure, there’s a lot of ignoramus voters in heavily-gerrymandered districts who keep voting against their own self-interest, keep believing Fox Fake News propaganda, and actually think ex-car-thief Daryl Issa is a pretty smart guy. But these people elect senators and representatives, not Presidents. And it is beginning to look that despite all the millions and millions of dollars poured into conservative PACs, it is a lot harder to buy votes than anybody thought, and the payoff just isn’t happening. No, there won’t be a Republican in the White House any time soon.

Then there’s the deeper wisdom of Republicans wanting another war. Of course they want another war! That’s where the money is! It is the perfect conduit to extract dough right out of American taxpaying wallets to finance actions that can be monetarily flow-charted into payouts to the massive military-industrial complex, which includes not only the manufacture of tools of war, but a huge infrastructure of Halliburton, Keller-Brown-Root, and other “military” contractors. You know, the same guys who helped poison the well in Iraq by shooting civilians and running people off the roads with their Humvees, not to mention charging US taxpayers a fortune to do the same stuff we were already paying for the US military to do. They were also the people who provided substandard body armor and inedible rations to our soldiers, amongst other lying, cheating and stealing. C’mon, did we already forget this?

Of course, if you are a blue-dog Democrat or a Republican, a portion of that filthy lucre migrates right back to you in the form of re-election funds, and we all know the life of an elected representative revolves around the acquisition of money, and not legislation.

Iran is not our enemy. They are an advanced and civilized people who happen to have been roped back into fundamentalism by the ill-considered interventions of the US itself. Iran was well on its way to becoming a nation of citizens committed to progress and stability when we decided we wanted the Shah installed and broke their system. Ever since, they’ve been struggling to find their feet again, but we keep sticking out dirty fingers into their pie. And now this. I pity the poor people of Iran: they have much to overcome.

Make no mistake. When American Congressmen make a decision that there HAS to be another war in a Middle-Eastern country, even as the revolting stench of Iraq still fills their nostrils, there is something else going on. And that something is MONEY. American as a Christian nation? Nawww… our religion is the dollar, and our dogma involves a whole lot of self-involved blindness induced by the collectively hallucinating Republican Congress.

THOSE CRAZY HIPPY DRUGS

Our bossy-pants, control-oriented social autocracy has always had an issue with people being naughty and messing with their own subconsciousnesses, if that is even a word. However, there is an argument to be made that psychedelic drug use is a last bastion of freedom. If someone smoked a little cigarillo and  immediately experienced the sensation of red-hot needles plunging into their eyeballs, they probably wouldn’t go there again. However, the prospect of a few hours of blissful amputation from the real world of poverty, danger, fear, sadness, and futility, seems sufficient bring those repeat customers back again and again.

What if, like so many cultures did in the long-ago times before Western lifestyle intervention, we had guides to help us with the experience? You know – like, shamans, or witch doctors. What could we learn?

Well, it so happens that the research on this is beginning to open up. For example, organizations like MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies) are working with researchers and governments to investigate the therapeutic potential of medicines such as MDMA, or Ecstasy, which is being used to alleviate such psychological problems as PTSD, depression, and many other ailments. And then, Johns Hopkins University recently administered psilocybin, the active chemical in magic mushrooms, to patients dealing with terminal illness. The effects seemed to reconfigure their entire perception of death, giving them peace.

So, who could’ve foretold that drugs imbibed under controlled circumstances with guides in attendance could be so … positive? Well, only just about EVERY SINGLE CULTURE ON THE PLANET, except for white Europeans. Maybe with Amsterdam being the exception there.

Okay, in a nutshell, here’s what current theory says.

Numbero uno: Darwin’s Pharmacy authorProfessor Richard Doyle, following psychologist Stanislav Grof, calls psychedelics non-specific amplifiers of consciousness, whose effects are “extraordinarily sensitive to the initial rhetorical conditions” in which we take them.  In other words, the subjective effects of psychedelics and marijuana are “user-constructed.” Conditions of the experience, both environmental and psychological (“set and setting”), feed back into the subjective experience of the drug trip itself. That means that it helps to be prepared, in a nice place, with helpful people in attendance.

“There is no drug effect by itself,” says Techgnosis author, media theorist and psychonaut Erik Davis. Psychedelics “simply reflect and amplify beliefs and patterns of meaning already woven into the user’s intentional ‘set’ and environmental ‘setting’…endlessly reverberating feedback loops of mind, cultural context, and compound.” Even the words we use to map and make sense of our experience, actually change our experience, in an infinite recursive feedback loop.

Briefly put, you create your own experience.

Numero two-oh: Attention. Without attention, you don’t perceive anything. Attention focused is experience. Diana Slattery has written that the capture and control of attention is “a necessary condition for any interpersonal persuasion, education, or entertainment to occur.” In a drug experience, attention is the hinge between conscious control and the patterns of reactivity that have already been set in motion by one’s own mind and/or the environment. It can be helped along by techniques such as mindfulness and self-inquiry. (I cannot help but note here, that studies of the conservative brain demonstrate that mindfulness and self-inquiry are not a thing for them.)

Numero three-oh: Feedback loops. Keep in mind that feedback loops are not just part of a drug experience. They are part of ALL our experience. Feedback loops are all-encompassing: essentially they are implicit in all of the things that we design and that surround us, from our language, to our homes, to cities, tools, aircraft, bedrooms, kitchens, and religions. And they are designing us back. It’s all part of the loop.

So: what psychedelics can do, then, says Rich Doyle, is they can make us aware of these “feedback loops between our creative choices—and our consciousness.” And thus of “the tremendous freedom we have in creating our own experience.” Timothy Leary calls this “internal freedom”.

“Using psychedelics to assist us to in perceiving and understanding the effects of culture on our consciousness, can offer an awareness of the degree to which we have the “ability to affect our own consciousness through our linguistic and creative choices.”

So we can LEARN from drug experiences by paying ATTENTION to the fact that we are being sculpted by our physical and cultural environment.

“The idea is that one can literally steer” awareness towards transformative encounters and ecstatic revelations. There have been accounts of how a single Ketamine trip will cure even the most extreme cases of depression.”

Wow! Chew on THAT for a while, War on Drugs supporters!

Think about the single most memorably transformative experience you ever had. For an astronaut, it might be the first time he saw the whole Earth as a jewel, bedded in the black velvet of space. For an accident survivor, it might be the moment he felt surrounded by perfect love in the anticipation of imminent death. For a budding mathematician, the first time she saw the beautifully complete world of pure numbers in all its magnificence. Psychedelics seem to trigger a similar change in perspective, something that changes our sense of the big picture, and that can be as significant and profound as any transformative experience attained “naturally”.

So it can be reached. Just keep an open mind, and stop with the judgement, already. Like the War on Drugs, quite a few of our religious-civil-cultural convictions are relics, and have greatly overstayed their welcome.

Credit to: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/01/25/hacking-the-tripping-mind-a-fantastic-voyage-through-inner-space.html

THIS STUPID GUN DEBATE

You know, I just can’t get enough of gun-rights defensiveness, because it has a tendency to devolve almost instantly into either hypocrisy or ridiculousness. Personal experience indicates that when someone says something like “Guns kill a lot of people”, then the gun-rights person may get his/her knickers in a wad and say “People with knives kill a lot of people too, so should we ban knives?” Surprise! Fact is, when we are talking mass death, guns do WAY more killing than knives! Just for fun, I made up a little chart for your edification, and here is is:

Fixed

I got all these knife attack facts from a site called “Crime Prevention Research Center”, in which gun advocacy is shamelessly pimped by Fox News fixture John Lott . Aside from the general problems of John’s interesting site, such as misprints and spelling errors, there are some concerning signs that indicate to me that John is not in this for the sake of revealing facts that will lead to further understanding on the part of the reader. What he WANTS to do is convince you how terrific guns are, and damn the rest!

Here’s an example – in his statistics on knife attack fatalities (the vast majority of which seem to occur in China), he includes some kind of bizarre terrorist-related mass attack by 10 knife carrying guys (and a few gals), in which upon the date of March 1, 2014, 33 people died and 143 were injured at the Kunming Railway Station in Yunnan province. (Never heard of it? Of course not, we are in America and although we know EVERYTHING about the Kardashians, a deadly mass attack in China would do nothing to sell advertising on corporate TV.) I would count this as a terrorist attack and not a knife attack, because to do otherwise is like calling the 9-11 plowing-of-aircraft into the World Trade Center an “airplane accident”.

But whatever. That’s how Mr. Lott rolls. Actual, verifiable fact does not impede in the least his headlong rush into justification and gun-butt kissing. But these are the sorts of people we have that form the opposing viewpoint towards citizens who would actually like to see some reasonable gun control measures enacted, such as limits on ammo clips and universal background checks.

And then there are the Christians. I am really stymied by these people, because bunches of them are total gun-rights advocates, and seem to be completely willing to suck it up in the face of the firearms carnage that is today’s America. Yet when it comes to abortion – no way, José!

So let me get this straight – getting a gun and blowing away a bunch of people is a personal choice, but deciding to get an abortion isn’t? Come on, you’re kidding me, right? Nope. They are serious. I guess fully-formed unsuspecting gun victims are not only worth less than undifferentiated clumps of cellular “potential”, but are apparently complicit in their own victimhood, because of wrong place wrong time n stuff. But if it is God’s will to let someone die from gunfire, why is it NOT God’s will for somebody to get an abortion? For all we know, God was counting on abortion to get rid of people who were going to complicate his Master Plan, and all those Christians have gone and screwed it all up! Jeez, meddling do-gooders.

However, I have come to a conclusion about gun-rights Christians. Many of these people are kinda on the fundamentalist side, which means they take the Bible as the absolute, literal truth. Like, even the stone-your-daughters and don’t-eat-shellfish parts, I guess, although they seem to gloss over those dictums pretty quick. BUT – they are psychologically prepared to accept whatever silliness oozes forth from that unbelievable tome. And, because they have become stalwart in their defense of the Bible as infallible, they are thus prepared to swear fealty to just about anything written on a piece of paper that is completely subject to interpretation, yet has the imprimatur of respectability and history.

Enter the Constitution and Bill of Rights. I truly doubt most gun-rights advocates have read the Constitution in its entirety, as it is a very boring document – goes on and on about taxes, declaration of warfare, the duties of Congress, etc. etc. But the 2nd Amendment, now! THAT’S something to sink your God-fearing teeth into, especially if you are a Bible-smacking, self-righteous zealot who is mentally prepared to swallow whole whatever is offered, with a smile on your face and a song in your heart. And Biblically, God is totally supportive of stuff like “eye for an eye” and “beat your kids” and “slaughter everybody, even the dogs” and “take your son and cut his throat on the altar (but then He also said “Psyche! Kidding!”, so that particular murder didn’t quite happen. But you get the point.) So if you are ready to gulp the Bible whole, you are equally prepared to gulp the 2nd Amendment whole, even though it says something about a “well-armed militia”, which, for purposes of gun-rights advocacy, is ALWAYS left out of the argument as though it didn’t exist. Perfect! As a good, unquestioning Christian, you do not have to trouble your mind regarding complicating factors or nuance or the possibility of error. Because the Bible is infallible! And so, by extension, is the Bill of Rights!

Let me say right here and now, good people – there is nothing that has been written by man that cannot be unwritten or rewritten. I will concede that there can be sacred concepts, such as freedom, kindness, and patience. But the moment you codify a concept, it will fall prey to the immediate, unavoidable temptation of being made THE RULE by authoritarian people who just love to live their lives under rules – like super-constitutionalists and Christian Bible thumpers. Because rules are inarguable! No headaches, no worries! People like this will always prefer the certainty of rules-based living over the hodge-podge of actual life.

But a lot of us are completely OK with life as it is, and don’t need a bunch of commandments to make us responsible or a book to guide our every move. We are good, and fair, and loving, and principled, even without some simple-minded “guide to living” because we thought about it, examined ourselves and our motives, and figured it out, all on our own! Much as I cannot conceive of having to follow some rule about everything in my life, I suppose gun-lovers and Christians cannot excuse what they consider a pitiful lack of fealty to pieces of paper they label “important”  and fat, self-contradicting books dictated by illiterate shepherds.

Ah well. Vive la différence!

!

 

 

 

WE ALL HAVE ISSUES BECAUSE WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS – UNFORTUNATELY

This Ferguson thing must be very confusing to the itty-bitty minds of many of the good citizens of the USA. Oh, sure, there are questions being formulated in said minds – like, “How come those damned black people are getting away with this shit?”, predictably, asked by white people. And, if you’re black, the question might be “How come these effing white people keep getting away with this shit?” Each may be a valid question, but it entirely depends on who you are. The better question to ask is probably “How the HELL did we get here?”

Well, thanks to ongoing cognitive research, we have the answer! We got here, to exactly this place, BECAUSE WE ARE PEOPLE! We aren’t descended from dogs, who would have sorted this all out right quick and gone back to business as usual, peeing on trees and sniffing butts. No, we are descended from primates, who bluff, overpower, kill, remember, form opinions, always think they’re right, and absolutely cannot fathom why someone else would not totally buy into their personal point of view. Almost incidentally, each one of us makes ourselves the star of our own reality show, with our brains performing as gatekeepers, subtly rearranging our perceptions to match what we are already prepared to believe, while simultaneously making us look special and wonderful to ourselves. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word! Where the skies are not cloudy all day!

As you might surmise, this is not helpful. We do the stupidest, most vile things under the auspices of “principle”, which is just belief on steroids. The term “true believer”, coined in 1951 by Eric Hoffer, addresses this fundamental human character flaw, which reflects today’s Tea Party as well as today’s extremist Islam offshoot, ISIS. Does some American Christian nutbag yelling about how you’re going to roast in Hell have any significant difference from some jihadist yelling about how how everyone in America is going to roast in hell? I would say – not really. They each think they are RIGHT, which is the most dangerous, most progress-retarding, most wasteful notion that ever Nature placed into the human head. That’s how American politicians can claim torture is okay. It’s how a whole segment of our American society can be systemically, brutally repressed, murdered with depressing regularity, and incarcerated in massive numbers.Their victimizers “stand on principle”, which is to say they found something that already agrees with their basic orientation towards doing whatever must be done to impose their beliefs upon the world and thus validate their own fictional stories about themselves.

Let’s talk about “confirmation bias“. Basically, this is the all-too human tendency to accept and remember ONLY evidence that agrees with one’s preconceptions, and devalue or ignore everything else. That’s why tons of Americans still to this day believe that in the first Gulf War, when Iraq first threatened to invade Kuwait, the U.S. said it would take no action. Yet a huge majority falsely “knew” that the U.S. said it would support Kuwait militarily. Apparently, the need to feel wonderful about America being noble n’ stuff took precedence over reality.

I actually had an acquaintance once ask me “why we can’t just accept that America is a great place instead of hearing negative stuff  about it all the time.” Hm. I was not aware that reality generated a negative spin. Unless, of course, said “negativity” did not agree with her carefully groomed preconceptions of America as the place that is noble and free and untroubled by confirmation bias of its citizens because it doesn’t exist in her version of reality. The abysmal treatment of the black minority in America doesn’t exist. The Native American genocide doesn’t exist. The stupidity of invading Iraq doesn’t exist. There’s a separate story in every head that accommodates those factual occurrances, twists them, and throws right out the window that which doesn’t agree with a person’s preconceived notions of the “shining city on the hill”.

Here’s another massive failure of the American ability to interpret reality: Ronald Reagan. From many conservative accounts, he was a saint, perfection, godlike in his prescience and political acumen. From many liberal points of view, he was an overrated hack, already falling prey to his Alzheimer’s disease early in his Presidential tenure, and about as bright as Clever Hans, the numbers-tapping horse. I suppose I should point out that, being human myself, I am prey to the very confirmation bias that I explore here, and thus tend to drift towards the liberal perspective. But how, exactly, do conservatives defend the view of Reagan being a fiscal conservative when he ran up the deficit to unheard-of heights? By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years of American history. And how about the 2nd Amendmenters? How do they maintain their concept of Reagan as a stout guntotin’ cowboy-for-justice when, before the National Rifle Association became what it was today, Reagan worked with them to ban guns? Aieee! Major cognitive dissonance! Solution: write that stuff out of your personal database, or at the least, morph it into something that DOES match your preconceived notions of who and what Reagan was. It’s easy! People do it every day!

And now, to the elephant currently standing in everyone’s living room: climate change. The climate is changing, boy-o. Projections indicate that after 2047, the mean air temperature worldwide will exceed even the highest annual temperature from 1860 to 2005. The industrialized world has pumped 365 BILLION metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere between 1751 and 2012. How, exactly, is it possible to ignore that? But, there you go! If you already have a conservatively-inclined temperament – that is, one that fixes incoming information to match how you view yourself rather that reality – weeeell,the result is, you can ignore stuff like that, or at the very least, rationalize it.

The worst part of all this? None of these people are ever going to consider themselves accountable for their erroneous role in guiding public policy, in which countless citizens of this planet will likely die horrible deaths as a result of. Research shows that the only people who are actually able to have an unbiased viewpoint of the world are the severely depressed. Depression somehow frees the mind of all the constraints, such as unsubstantiated optimism and the concept that it is somehow possible to completely disdain and disregard science while simultaneously assuming science will save your ass. Well, in my opinion, we need more depressed people in public office. Thomas Eagleton would’ve been so much better a choice for us than, say, that doofus Ronald Reagan.

But Reagan made us feel so GOOD about ourselves. Through evidence collected by cognitive scientists, it would appear that we all think we are special and wonderful people and always have been, but it took Ronald Reagan to recognize just how special and wonderful we are, despite the fact that he was completely cooked-ass crazy on practically everything. That’s some serious acting, convincing so many people that only Jesus Reagan truly understood them, when in fact, he was just telling them what they wanted to hear.

We don’t need a pill to fix depression. We need a pill to induce it.

 

 

More on these topics here:  http://www.salon.com/2014/08/18/false_facts_and_the_conservative_distortion_machine_its_much_more_than_just_fox_news/