Monthly Archives: February 2014

New Study: Babies Know Right From Wrong!!

That’s right: Contrary to philosophies and faiths that say people are naturally evil and have to be taught righteousness AND ALSO contrary to the traditional Marxian belief that people are born blank slates, recent scientific investigation has found that, in reality, human babies are born with an innate sense of morality. That’s right: Even your three-month-old knows the basics of right and wrong! You don’t have to teach your child that helpful behavior is good and harmful behavior is bad. They know that instinctively. Morality, in reality, is simply enhanced by a good upbringing, not fundamentally learned from it. It’s immorality — a desire to harm others or to reward harmful behavior — that’s socially engineered. Take THAT cynics!!

This link, which discusses the study and its findings, includes both an article and a video. I STRONGLY recommend watching the video in particular, as getting a visual of how the study was conducted will get the point across more effectively, I believe, than simply reading an article.

The Modern History of American Black Nationalism

This being Black History Month, you’ve doubtless seen the media occasionally reference Dr. Martin Luther King and the civil resistance movements he led and associated himself with against racial segregation and other race-related injustices back in the 1960s, and perhaps even reference to Rosa Parks when they’re feeling particularly generous in their distribution of historical allusion. Chances are that you’ve been able to gather at least the generalities of the history of that section of the American civil rights movement by this point in your life even if (like probably all of my readers) you’re not black. However, I want to focus on an oft-neglected part of that movement, and one that has always been a more contentious and therefore less celebrated subject: the black nationalist movement (or black power movement or however you want to formulate it). This section of the movement was important too and indeed controlled the movement overall in its latter days. The central question my readers should ask themselves is why. Our conventional histories tell us that black people won equality by 1965 and thus should have, if anything, settled down into normal American life after that point. Why instead would the civil rights movement turn in a more direction AFTER the victories of the early-to-mid ’60s? The answer lies, above all, in understanding two things: first Malcolm X and then the Black Panther Party, including why their messages resonated to the extent that they did. To tell that history, at least in broad strokes, I present to you a pair of movies for your consumption. The first is a 1994 PBS documentary on the life of Malcolm X. The second is a 1995 movie about the rise and fall (though mostly the rise) of the Black Panther Party that focuses in on its zenith of influence in 1967 and ’68. By the time you conclude a viewing of both, you will understand a lot of my views concerning this subject, including the case for black self-determination, why I don’t see drug legalization as the path the black liberation, and why the fact that the so-called New Black Panther Party is controlled by people from the Nation of Islam renders it a fraud. You will also see how the black nationalist movement evolved from a certain kind of racism and race-baiting into a serious political movement that aimed to achieve equality for black people THROUGH self-determination…or, in other words, why serious black nationalism is NOT a kind of “reverse racism” as its detractors allege. So without further delay, I present to you two key pieces of a forgotten history:

As a final note, some viewers may now ask themselves why I support gun control. The answer lies in the circumstances. What are guns being used for today, as contrasted with what they were being used for back then? Today private gun ownership is advocated almost exclusively by white people and said advocacy is widely seen as backdoor racism by the average black American. Why? Because their use for black self-defense has evaporated. (Back in those days, the National Rifle Association SUPPORTED gun control, including the specific legislation addressed in the movie Panthers that you can view above!) Today it is no longer black people demanding gun rights, but white people. Today white people advocate the abolition of gun laws so that they personally can kill black people at will rather than so often having to leave it up to the cops. This type of thing — gun murders of black people by individual white people — is happening more and more frequently. Last year’s most high-profile case was that of Trayvon Martin. This year the big case is that of Jordan Davis. These are only the most well-known cases. They are NOT isolated incidents by a long shot, but a growing trend that is the direct consequence of so-called “stand your ground” laws, which are applied in a brazenly racist fashion. (Here’s a real-world example of how it works if you don’t believe, or don’t understand, the data shown in the previous link.) Given what guns are used for in today’s America, gun control is objectively in the interests of black people, which is why nearly all black people support it. When said situation changes — when and if the oppressed should begin using guns, and for positive purposes, again — I may change my position on gun control and come out against it. Until then, however, as long as gun rights simply mean the right to kill for no good reason, and as long as that impacts black people in a disproportionately negative way, I remain a gun control proponent.

The Class Nature of the Freedom Vs. Security Dynamic

“No amount of political freedom will satisfy the hungry masses.” — Vladimir Lenin

“It is true that liberty is precious; so precious it must be carefully rationed.” –Vladimir Lenin

As the leader of the Russian Bolsheviks, Vladimir Lenin knew a thing or two about making proletarian revolution. His successful slogan? “Peace, land, and bread!” Where is the mention of liberty? I see only the descriptors of security, both physical and economic, there! Is there a significance to that fact? I think so! It concentrates the fact that while everyone would claim that their vision represents the maximization of freedom without fail, the poor and working classes define freedom as security. Why? Because, unlike the propertied sections of society, the poor and working classes lack economic security and often physical security as well. The proletariat hence sees freedom primarily as positive liberty (the right TO this or that), whereas the more bourgeois strata of society see freedom primarily as negative liberty (freedom FROM this or that) due to its more privileged condition. Or, in other words, the proletariat sees freedom as the fulfillment of needs, whereas bourgeois strata see freedom as the acquisition of wants. The more physically comfortable and safe one’s existence becomes, the more one tends to see life as fair and the more leeway one has to concern themselves with other liberties. The ethos of the proletariat is “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”. This agenda corresponds to their class interests. What this all means is that, in what some philosophers have described as the freedom vs. security dialectic, the proletariat represents the security end of the spectrum and that the formulation itself is bourgeois because security is freedom for the proletariat given that it leads an insecure existence! The equal redistribution of freedom requires an overall increase in positive liberty and an overall decrease in negative liberty because represented therein are freedom for the slave on the one hand and freedom for the slaveholder on the other. The two things don’t go together; a fact which by itself shows the finite nature of liberty and the need for it to be rationed. A society that values wants over needs is a privileged society.

This class nature of the so-called freedom vs. security dynamic reveals, for example, why the political left is patriotic (i.e. more national-security-oriented) in poorer countries (like Venezuela, Bolivia, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc. etc.) and not so patriotic in richer countries (like ours). Canada provides a recent application of this principle on both ends. Traditionally, the Canadian left has been patriotic, whereas today the Canadian right has acquired that branding. The consistent thing therein is that the Canadian left has always opposed a closer relationship to the United States out of concern that American enterprises would simply take over the Canadian economy if provided the opportunity, so weak have Canadian capitalists been in comparison, whereas the unpatriotic right has not concerned itself with such things. In the 21st century though, Canadian capitalists have been much more relatively powerful after the discovery of massive untapped oil supplies in Alberta and particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 crash. Therefore today a close working relationship to the United States can, in many areas, be advantageous to Canada more than it is to the United States, allowing Canadian businesses the opportunity to extend their reach into the U.S. (as in the case of the Keystone Pipeline, for example, which is owned by TransCanada). Canadian capitalists therefore often today see the protectionism of the left as more of an inhibition to their interests than genuinely protective of them. The Canadian left’s favoring of Britain over the United States is therefore no longer generally seen as being strategically advantageous to the nation as it once was. Canadian patriotism has, in other words, become generally unpatriotic as it has become a wealthier society with a richer and more powerful business class. It is hence why Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is today able to socially get away with chastising “secessionists and socialists,” by which he merely means the Bloc Quebecois and the only moderately left-leaning New Democrats (Canada’s trade unionist party, which was traditionally socialist, but jettisoned socialist politics following the Cold War), as traitors. Taking a look at poorer countries, by contrast, there it is the patriotism of the political right that comes more into question in people’s minds. Being unpatriotic is usually a losing position. That’s in many ways why the left tends to be stronger in poorer countries than it is in wealthier ones. And yes, let’s be clear, multiculturalism is unpatriotic. That value corresponds to an open world without borders or boundaries, not to one where nations have definite identities. The latter yes objectively requires some racism; some preference for the traditions of one people over those of others (e.g. in terms of language, religion, etc.). We progressives should own and accept this fact, as it will help us be more sober and realistic about our political chances in various contexts.

The left, to precisely the degree that one is left wing, is about equality, both economic and social; a value system that corresponds the interests of the oppressed and disadvantaged economic classes (poor and working class people) and social classes (animals, women, minorities, immigrants, GBLT people, etc.) of society. Supporting the class interests of the oppressed and disadvantaged cannot but correspond to a valuing of their security (both economic and physical) above other concerns. These are the most basic things and therefore the principal concerns of the egalitarian. And this can and does mean removing many of the freedoms of those who exploit and otherwise oppress them; the privileges of the privileged.

Parents to Girls: You’re Pretty…Ugly and Stupid!

“I said you’re pretty! It’s a compliment! What’s your problem?”

I get that line from time to time because my reaction to being told that I’m attractive is often negative. I suspect any women who are reading this might understand why, but I doubt the guys would. You almost just have to be female — to have that distinctive life experience — to understand. Fortunately though, the operative word here is “almost”.
I’m not normally this lazy, but I think this time around I’ll let a news article on a recent study do the explaining for me because 1) the study’s results match my own life experiences, and 2) I can’t really think of a better way of wording it than what’s presented in the article. So, in full and with full attribution, here it is, quote:

 

Google tell me: Is my son brainy? Is my daughter fat?

By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

Published: January 24, 2014 4:04 PM

Updated: January 24, 2014 9:38 PM

More than a decade into the 21st century, we would like to think that American parents have similar standards and similar dreams for their sons and daughters. But my study of anonymous, aggregate data from Google searches suggests that contemporary American parents are far more likely to want their boys smart and their girls skinny.

It’s not that parents don’t want their daughters to be bright or their sons to be in shape, but they are much more focused on the braininess of their sons and the waistlines of their daughters.

Start with intelligence. It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited at the thought that their child may be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are 21/2 times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”

Are parents picking up on legitimate differences between young girls and boys? Perhaps young boys are more likely than young girls to use big words or otherwise show objective signs of giftedness? Nope. If anything, it’s the opposite. At young ages, when parents most often search about possible giftedness, girls have consistently been shown to have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. In American schools, girls are 11 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls.

Parents were more likely to ask about sons rather than daughters on every matter that I tested related to intelligence, including its absence. There are more searches for “is my son behind” or “stupid” than comparable searches for daughters. Searches with negative words like stupid and behind, however, are less skewed toward sons than searches with positive words.

What concerns do parents disproportionately have for their daughters? Primarily, anything related to appearance. Consider questions about a child’s weight. Parents Google “Is my daughter overweight?” roughly twice as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?” Just as with giftedness, this gender bias is not grounded in reality. About 30 percent of girls are overweight, while 33 percent of boys are. Even though scales measure more overweight boys than girls, parents see — or worry about — overweight girls much more often than overweight boys.

Parents are about twice as likely to ask how to get their daughters to lose weight as they are to ask how to get their sons to do the same. Google search data also tells us that mothers and fathers are more likely to wonder whether their daughter is “beautiful” or “ugly.”

Parents are 11/2 times as likely to ask whether their daughter is beautiful than whether their son is, but they are nearly three times as likely to ask whether their daughter is ugly than whether their son is ugly. How Google is expected to know whether a child is beautiful or ugly is hard to say.

In general, parents seem more likely to use positive words in questions about sons. There is a larger bias toward asking whether sons are “tall” than “short.” Parents are more likely to ask whether a son is “happy” and slightly more likely to ask whether a daughter is “depressed.”

Liberal readers may imagine that these biases are more common in conservative parts of the country. Not so. I did not find a significant relationship between any of the biases mentioned and the political or cultural makeup of a state. These biases appear to cut across ideological divisions. In fact, I was unable to find any demographics that significantly reduced the biases. Nor is there evidence that these biases have decreased since 2004, the year for which Google search data is first available.

This methodology can also be used to study gender preference before birth. Every year, Americans make hundreds of thousands of searches asking how to conceive a child of a particular sex. In searches with the words “how to conceive,” Americans are slightly more likely to include the word boy than girl. Among the subset of Americans Googling for specific gender conception strategies, there is about a 10 percent preference for boys compared with girls.

The disturbing results outlined here leave us with many open questions, but the most poignant may be this one: How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?

Link to the original context.

 

As a concluding commentary, what I’m aiming to point out here is that people pay way too much attention to how girls and women look and are just generally oriented toward negative judgments of girls and women regardless of on what basis they’re offering judgment.  (And yes, I know a couple of you may not believe this, but most of the appearance judgments I personally receive, for that matter, are negative ones.) I’d much prefer to be evaluated as a whole person and on an equal basis! Don’t just take one look at me and think you know everything you need to know about me.

So getting back to this post’s opening quote, the short answer is that when you compliment my appearance, it’s my instinctive, and usually correct, judgment that you care little or nothing about the rest of me or about the rest of any girl or woman for that matter. If you want to offer me a compliment, hence, it might be best to stick to compliments that aren’t so laced with sexist implications; ones that focus on other attributes of mine.

Should Football Be Legal?

Oh yes, THIS will get negative feedback!

Just in time for the Super Bowl tomorrow, I say it’s time we reflected on the merits of football in general as a sport, or at least of tackle football anyway. Let’s put it this way: tomorrow’s sporting events will be (because it always is) the most-watched thing on TV for the whole year, bar none. Unlike for any other sporting event, people all across the nation will throw Super Bowl parties. (Sorry, but you just don’t see people throwing World Series parties, you know?) The level of fanaticism surrounding the Super Bowl gets larger in both scope and depth every year. It might as well be declared a national holiday. Seriously. That’s literally how big a national event it is! It’s so big that seemingly every prostitute in America, in addition to many from well beyond America’s borders, has been trafficked into my area in recent weeks because that’s where the Super Bowl will be this year. (A fact which ought to tell you something about the nature of the fan base.) And yet, despite all these things, a recent poll found that 40% of American parents would actively sway their children away from football if they expressed interest in playing. The President of the United States has said that he wouldn’t let any son of his play football either for that matter, comparing the wisdom of playing football to that of smoking. And the players themselves complain of their very unsafe conditions all the time through their union. There is something very inconsistent going on here. On the one hand, Americans LOVE watching this sport more and more every year. On the other hand, they increasingly think it’s too dangerous to play. I think this sadistic contradiction leaves room for us to open up a hitherto taboo conversation: Should this be allowed?

You’ve seen the reports by now. You know how many players wind up with serious head injuries that endure for a lifetime. You know how often bones get broken. You know what the culture of the sport is like today, with its xenophobic attitudes and its macho-man, pro-wrestling-style posture of warrior mentality. You know that said warrior mentality translates into the personal lives of the players as well, given that football players (whether high school players, college players, or pros) are several times more likely than the general population to be involved in domestic violence cases in general and sexual assault in particular and that domestic violence is the #1 (insert foam finger here) most common crime committed by football players, for example. You’ve heard the rants. You’ve seen the “Kill [Insert Player Name Here]!” signs made by the fans. This clearly is NOT just a game! But there’s more: it starts early! The video linked here (a segment of last night’s episode of All In with Chris Hayes, the best news program on TV!) includes scenes from and commentary on a disturbing new show on the Esquire network called Friday Night Tykes, which investigates the emergent world of elementary school tackle football. The nature of the coaches teaching these kids the sport and the nature of the parents who let their kids play is very informative and offensive. We’re talking coaches who teach their elementary-school-aged players to deliberately injure members of the opposing team and cry when their kid loses a game, parents who callously set three concussions as the limit that they’ll allow their supposedly loved and valued children to endure, and more! And so we see the process of the player’s socialization: from the beginning to the pros if they make it there, taught not to be an athlete, but a warrior out for blood and broken bones, where winning at all costs is the most important thing in life. Is this really healthy? Is this a good thing for us as a society to be glorifying and celebrating more than just about anything else in our lives? Should we really be debating WHO will win the Super Bowl or HOW they will win? Just something to be reflecting on while you’re watching that soft core porn known as Super Bowl commercials tomorrow if you’re able to think with something other than your private parts while doing so.

No I’m actually not proposing the abolition of football as such. I’m just saying that maybe we should think about toning it down considerably and just sticking to touch or flag football. (And let women in rather than confining them to the sidelines as decoration!) Yeah okay, I’ll concede that THAT change would eliminate AT LEAST 80% of the Super Bowl’s viewership…but you know what, maybe that’s as it should be. Maybe we should have other priorities in life and celebrate other things. Things other than people getting hurt. Maybe sports shouldn’t be a billion-dollar business, but something people simply do for fun and love of the game. …Well again, just trying to be thought-provoking here!