The Danger in Getting What You Ask For

While strapped into a nauseating, runaway bus full of dumpsterfire stories about Dallas and Baton Rouge and Donald Trump and Nice and Turkey and ISIS and the Antarctic melt, I found a story about the University of Cincinnati’s new “Diversity and Inclusion Statements.

Seems like a small thing.

And as of July 1, new job postings related to staff openings will also require a Diversity and Inclusion statement.

Specifically:

  • Faculty and administrative/professional applicants will be asked to submit a personal statement summarizing his or her contributions (or potential contributions) to diversity, inclusion and leadership.
  • All other positions, including hourly positions, will be asked to respond to the following question on UC’s application form:
    “As an equal-opportunity employer with a diverse staff and student population, we are interested in how your qualifications prepare you to work with faculty, staff and students from cultures and backgrounds different from your own.”

According to Tamie Grunow, senior associate vice president and chief human resources officer, “This application request recognizes that the university is a diverse environment and signals that diversity and inclusion are important enough that we’re asking applicants about contributions or potential contributions up front. We’re all better off with diversity in our lives, and it’s part of demonstrating our commitment to diversity and inclusion and setting expectations and priorities.”

Now, this set off a weird little bell for me.

I remember, in 2003, March of 2003, I walked down a hallway full of televisions at work, all set to CNN, feeling like I’d walked into some sort of dystopian nightmare. The war was just starting. The scent of Freedom Fries was, literally, in the air, as this hallway was next to a food court. And they’d turned “God Bless America” into a dirge.  People were caged up in “Free Speech Zones.”  Missiles were launching. War was freedom. Shopping was defiance. It was disorienting.

Peak Conservative.

Same as this last month has been similarly disorienting.

But 2016 is very clearly not Peak Conservative. The GOP has obviously lost all bearings. That scene is a total mess.

tp-bunghole

Since it’s in a shambles, though, it’s given way to a new extreme.

This is Peak Liberal, I’m pretty sure. The disorienting landscape where you get called a bigot for using the term female genital mutilation, because some females have penises. (That actually happened.)

Where feminists are siding with the rights of Muslim men to shout down and silence Middle Eastern women, in the name of diversity. (That actually happened.)

Where you’re not allowed to merely shake your head at antisemitism, because it’s “triggering.” (Guess what? That actually happened. That was this week, even.)

Where a “diversity” and “inclusion” statement is clearly, and I mean, incredibly clearly, meant to exclude. To purify the purestrain ideology. To weed out dissent and make things far less diverse.

This is where the snake eats it’s tail.  The kids have lost their damned heads.

We’re, weirdly, right back in doublespeaking Free Speech Zone territory.

 

Summer 2016

I wrote up that whole thing about globalism, political branding, the incoherent ideological state of things, and then Brexit happened. I’d pontificate on that like I know something, but I sort of suspect I don’t.

We’re probably moving. We are in escrow. It’s a fixer upper. I am making lists. Checking them twice. I am wondering if we have bitten off more than we can chew. Then I wonder if we’ll even make it to closing without the deal falling apart or meteor strikes.

I’ve spent the several weeks in a state of perpetual personal anxiety.

boxbb

She’s into packing, if it means more boxes.

The summer has been eaten by house hunting, house negotiating, inspections, quotes, appraisals. My son is slowly losing all his math facts. They’re soaking into the pool.

Last year, even with a tiny baby, I could keep him doing something educational.

This year, with toddler crazies, and house crazies, and stuff everywhere (we have officially outgrown this place), I’m just lucky no one has wandered off or cut down a tree.

He got this first peeling sunburn. I managed to prevent it until he was 8. Not a bad run.

He got this first peeling sunburn. I managed to prevent it until he was 8. Not a bad run.

This weekend we’re having guests, because it’s a holiday weekend. Last year we went to their house, this year they’re coming to Lakeport. I asked my husband, “What the hell do you do with guests here?”

We have exactly one trick up our sleeves. We take people shooting.

It’s waaaaay too hot for that, though. I don’t think, “Holy moly, maybe just sit on top of this a/c vent, and later we’ll feed you tacos” is the greatest plan. It is, however, a plan. And it comes with tacos.

Do You Identify as a Rational Animal or a Political Being?

I used to blog mainly about politics.

This was ages ago, in internet time, before Twitter and Tumblr–back when my Blogger.com id was in the 30k range. They used to be sequential.

I quit when my son was a baby, before the 2008 elections, because it just became too disheartening.

Too scary.

goose-vs-eagle

I registered as a Democrat when I got my driver’s license renewed at 18. My choice was based on two things: that I opposed the death penalty (in Texas. It’s not an insignificant issue there.) and that the 1998 Higher Education Amendments had “Clinton” at the top of the forms.

I switched from Democrat to Green after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I’ve been a registered Green ever since. I think a lot of the Green platform is sort of silly–the Greens attract a lot of anti-GMO, anti-Vaccine, weed-is-gonna-cure-what-ails-ya, toxins! toxins everywhere! types. They oppose all nuclear power generation.

It’s ever-so-slightly better than nothing, though, I guess.

Everyone has that issue that (excuse me, here) trumps the rest. Mine is keeping planet habitable. I don’t feel like the Democrats or the Republicans prioritize it. Their rhetoric doesn’t even allow any sort of honest discussion of the fact that more technology might not be the solution to the problems that more technology wrought in the first place. Therefore, I cannot be a Democrat or a Republican, really.

I have been paying attention long enough to know that I’m never going to find the perfect candidate, the perfect party, the utterly ideologically consistent platform. My choices sort of dwindle down to “who’s least likely to kill me (or my kids) in a direct or roundabout way?”

This is less than ideal, for sure.

When it comes right down to it though, I just don’t actually believe in the system anymore. Not one little bit.

Companies within the global economy have outgrown the concept of the nation state. Participatory democracy in any particular country can only band-aid that fact. Anyone promising economic “change” is blowing smoke. Multinational corporate entities are beholden to no man. Not even the President of the United States. No matter how blustery or wishful he may be.

We are not currently equipped to deal with the reality of the situation. These companies exist outside the very concept of citizenship. It’s not even that they count as “people” legally in this country. It’s that they already are borderless economies, in and of themselves, complete with defense budgets, systems of legal arbitration and police forces, and they don’t have bills of rights.

Your soul has already been sold to the company store.

That game is over.

So, when we’re talking about elections here in the states, it’s Culture War Theater. What brand of president do you want?

I’ve seen a lot of people talking about what the Clinton administration really meant in the long run, but I haven’t seen anyone mention what actually happened in 1996.

No one is talking about V-chips.

Now, sure. No one is talking about V-chips, because no one uses the darned things. No one ever did, really. I cannot even tell you if they’re still in TVs. V-chip legislation was rolled into the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (which allowed 6 to corporations to control 90% of the American media.)

Now, V-chips became a big part of the Clinton reelection platform in 1996, because 1994 is the year that the DNC really, really turned to focus groups to help them put together a campaign (The GOP made the big switch in the “greed is good” 1980’s. Then they freeeeeaked out when the Dems picked it up, too. Shocking, I’m sure.) If you’re old enough, you might also recall that school uniforms were a big deal in ’96. It’s sort of difficult to imagine such shenanigans 20 years later, when we’re all focused on the endlessly important matters, like GMO labels, and who uses what restroom, and whether or not bakers must be forcibly required to make gay wedding cakes.

Now, focus groups are a marketing invention that hinge mostly on honing in on selling you crapola based on issues of identity. Are you the kind of person who buys Gobstopper Buttcream or Bananastand Buttcream? Being the kind of person that does this or that isn’t based on reason or ration or education any of the those things that post-enlightenment republics are supposed to run on. Being a kind of person is group-oriented and performative, and it becomes unthinkingly habitual.  You want other people to see you being the kind of person that would do or buy x, y, or z. You want to be part of the x, y, or z club. You integrate it, psychologically.

So when you buy the Apple product, you are literally invested with your money, and you are emotionally invested in having made the right purchasing decision. You then begin a cognitive effect known as “choice supportive bias.” You become a “Mac Person.” Once you are a “Mac Person,” you start to see Mac downsides as insignificant, and Mac upsides are amplified. You give other Mac People the nod of Mac Recognition.

Consumer identity works at an emotional level. It’s not about the quality of the product.

So it goes with being sold on a political party.

You don’t vote Democrat, you ARE a Democrat. Being a Democrat or a Republican becomes less and less about an internally consistent ideology, and more and more about a loose assortment of memetic “concerns,” generally picked because they’re the most novel and shiny in a given election cycle.

In 1996, this was done to play to the swing voters. The Clinton campaign figured out the margin they needed to win. They mined the swing demographic for the issues that swing voters, exclusively, were concerned about. They picked the ones which weren’t being nationally addressed in a political sense, and they then sold it at Clinton appearances. Suddenly, the swing voters felt especially heard by a powerful someone who just happened to be talking about their real, unaddressed concerns, no matter how stupid or inconsequential those concerns were. That year, it was disaffected youth (aka, people my age with our funny pants and depressing music.) Bush did it. Obama does it. This is what they do now.

What has changed in the in the last 20 years is that it broadened from just targeting the swing voters (V-chips! Saggy pants! Who would you want to drink a beer with?) to courting culture war extremists (Hello, Tea Party.) These people actually show up at the polls, compared to swing voters. They’re motivated. The bigger the perceived difference between us and them, the more emotionally secure we are in our “choice” to be an us or be a them.

Courting extremists by uttering their unaddressed anxieties starts to make really good political sense. And unaddressed anxieties are likely (not guaranteed, but likely) to be the least rational ones.

So when someone tells you that you’re a single-issue voter, keep in mind that it’s pretty much your only option. The “issues” we angst over generally don’t form an ideologically cohesive whole–in a lot of cases they are diametrically opposed. You have to pick and choose, if you participate at all.

Just remember that no matter which one you choose, you’re probably getting us a little bit closer to Brave New World and/or Nineteen Eighty Four.

Because a global economy is going to either necessitate a global government, or it’s going to be become one.

Either which way, you lose.

Alright, Fine. The Gorilla.

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Okay, look. Most of my mommy friends are mommies to disabled kids.

We know all about kids who wander, kids who cannot be left alone without a minor disaster occurring, and how it doesn’t matter what you do, someone is going to be a judgealicious jerkwad about it.

So, this Gorilla Incident is one of those things we can all see ourselves in, I suppose, even if it’s not specifically about a disabled kid. When a girl in my county died a few years back, the internet had a very similar Burn The Witchfest about it.

Every single mother I socialize with is aghast at the reaction to the Gorilla Situation.

I know two things:

  1. The Internet, in all it’s mob mentality goodness, it usually totally okay with kids like mine dying.
  2. If my kid dies in an accident, which The Internet is actually collectively okay with, I will be raked over the coals for it. It’s not that they really want more little autistic kids running around, but who can resist the urge to kick someone who’s already down? When there’s a chance to march in a parade with the Anti-Kitten Burning Coalition?

I don’t actually know anyone who admits to being on Team Shoot the Mom, because I know a lot of moms.

And I assume that most of these people aren’t aren’t moms. Not all, but most.

Heather at Mama Knows, Honey Child probably put this far better than I can:

But of course, OF COURSE, we have SOOOO MANY parenting experts out there. Oh, you didn’t know that the lady who arranges play dates for her beloved pet cat was a parenting expert?? Well, sit the hell down, moms and dads. Cat Mommy KNOWS HOW TO PARENT BETTER THAN YOU! Your despicable kids should be sitting on the floor purring and caressing a ball of yarn just like dainty little kittens!!! IT’S NOT THAT DIFFICULT.

So, yeah. This shuddering paroxysm of internet outrage isn’t a particularly new strain. We have a vague notion that the Most Outraged out in #JusticeForHarambelandia are Cat Mommy and Neckbeady McNokids. Childfree by choice types and the expert pre-parent brigade. Most actual parents have had that holy-moly-you-accidentally-lost-your-kid moment, and it didn’t result in the death of a gorilla.

Mind you, I also assume that only a very, very, very small percentage of these angry-at-the-parents types are avoiding palm oil or smartphones, or other products that end up endangering gorilla habitats. So, you know, it’s not actually about gorillas in particular.

Nope.

I found this little gem, which is the top comment on a petition calling for “legal consequences when an endangered animal is harmed or killed due to the negligence of visitors.” The top comment:

I’m sick and tired of the stupid ass people not teaching their kids a damn thing about how to act. This fucking world thinks everything is Disney World. This gorilla was clearly protecting the boy. Keeping any animal that isn’t injured should be a federal crime punishable by death.

Ricky Spriggs, Northport, AL

I am dead certain that his parents taught him a damn thing about how to act, seeing as he thinks it’s completely reasonable to publicly call for the federally-enforced execution of anyone with a seeing-eye dog.

Then this:

The child should have been shot, then the mother, then the father.

But, honestly, it’s not really about gorillas. These people don’t care about gorillas, or they’d be protesting the mineral mining in Africa that provides them with the smartphoney laptopish means to be internet whackjobs, instead of spending their time calling for zoo employees to murder tiny little boys. It’s also not really about about good or bad parenting, for we all know that there is no level of parenting that is sufficient for the backseat parents of the world.

This dude gets to it:

The views held by many in this comment thread are quite revealing though unfortunately not uncommon.

First, you’ll need to figure out how to rationally justify how a four-year old human is more important than a 17-year old gorilla (remember folks, you’re an animal too!). If you can do this without invoking religion or spirituality of some kind I’ll be impressed. Not saying the gorilla is more important, simply that the human is not.

That should hopefully also address those of you who seem to simply brush this off as a regrettable accident. An immature and/or irresponsible individual, did something which directly contributed to the death of another individual. That’s not just little Jimmy spilled some juice on your nice carpet.

If the boy had been injured or killed, that would certainly be a sad event, but in this case, less sad than what actually occurred as it would not have resulted in a purely innocent individual to be murdered in the name of “human safety”.

The glorification of “human safety” allows some of the most horrific acts of injustice to occur. It is a toxic, barbaric idea which belongs in the dustbin of history.

Bolding is mine.

So, yeah.

The heart of it is that a zoo gorilla is seen as more valuable than a 4-year-old human. There are seven billion humans, and fewer than a thousand Mountain gorillas. Sort of like with older wine vintages and limited-run action figures, scarcity imparts a perception of increased “value.”

As in, economic thinking.

Because for all the so-called and supposed modern, rational, enlightenment involved, it’s just boring, old knee-jerk economics that is actually at work. Humans are a dime a dozen–fewer of them means less competition for resources. And, again, if you agree that a gorilla is worth more than a four year old, you’re putting your faith in that invisible hand of the free market, even if you don’t think you believe in anything as irrational and outdated as faith-based ideology. I absolutely guarantee that this wouldn’t be an issue, requiring petitions and memes, if that guy had put down a stray dog to save the boy. 

It’s not that it’s an animal.

It’s that it’s a rare animal.

It’s that great big chunks of the population are, not-so-subtlety, rooting for large swathes of the population to just die already, so “we” can stop destroying the environment. On top of the fact that the animal is rare, we know the animal is rare because of humans. These people, who bristle at the notion that humans aren’t essentially pro-social, who think that morality is instinctive, (which is then ruined by our “ideology”) carry on with the unquestioned idea that humans are a resource-hogging blight upon the planet. That we need a culling. Instead of say, that we need to stop being so greedy.

Mind you, it’s not that they themselves want to die. This isn’t a culling of the armchair commandos. This is a culling of poor people, or “bad” people. Defective people. Foreign people in China, India, and Africa.  They want those people over there to die. A childfree consumer in the West doesn’t need to die, since they’re not “shitting out” more “stupid humans.” They’re buying stuff! They’re contributing! They’re adding value! They make dank memes! They have justified their existence! We need a human quota! Because all the humans who aren’t Cat Mommy and Neckbeardy McNokids are “useless eaters!”

They’re superfluous!

They’re cluttering up the view! They’re ruining it for those who just want to collect all the wine and action figures guilt-free. The people who need cell phones and laptops made with minerals form gorilla habitats.

Because it’s a lot easier to sit on the internet and say a family should be shot on sight, that a virus should take out the third world, than to give half-a-thought to giving up your toys.

Finding God

I promised myself I’d write this entry a while back.

The baby is in bed. The house is picked up. My husband took my son to the movies (we have a drive-in theater, if you can believe it.)

I actually have a bit of time.

Light.

Light. Gratuitous baby picture.

So.

*sighs*

What do you do when you “find” God?

Do you do anything at all?

What happened is this: I read The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism by Edward Feser last summer.

I’d read The Experience of God by David Bentley Hart, per the recommendation of someone on Reddit, and it wasn’t particularly convincing. Then I realized that I was disappointed the book hadn’t really made much of an impact on me. This was supposedly one of the best arguments out there, and I felt like he’d spent 800 pages vehemently (and verbosely (dude clearly never encountered a 40 word idea he couldn’t stretch out to 400)) arguing for a sort of Spinozan panentheistic goddish-notion of uplift. I mean, I can’t argue against the version of God that he seemed to be describing. I just couldn’t see, at all, how you get from “Well, but, the fact of being, particular to working in a flow state” to “Definitely a God, you rubes, muah ha ha ha.” Which was definitely Hart’s position.

It’s hard not to believe in being. Well, unless you’re totally crazy, and those guys certainly exist. But is being actually God?

Someone else suggested Feser as “the best” book defending the existence of God. I thought I would give it a shot based on a blog post he’d put up.

When I finished it, I sat down on the bed and told my husband, “I think this guy actually made God logically inevitable.” He told me that was very unlikely. I told him that probably needed to take a break from philosophy.

So, at least he knows who to blame.

My first thought was that in the fog of teething-related sleep deprivation and worry over massive wildfires, I had somehow read it incorrectly.

I am going to have to re-read it.

God isn’t logical. God is a feeling. You feel God, generally around other people who are feeling Goddish. Right?

You don’t have some snarky, Republican philosophy teacher from Pasadena City College talk you into being a believer via your e-reader using logic.

Do you?


My husband and I have been going through a philosophy phase. He had always wanted to know more about the history of philosophy, but he’d never really had the chance to study it. I’d been on a big quest for rationalizing ethical realism, mostly because internet atheists, in repeated fits of Nazi-ish eugenics-promoting “reason” and “logic,” totally and utterly grossed me out. I’d had enough. I wasn’t really sure what, specifically, I was after, but I knew that it was… the opposite of eugenics.

It’s something we talk about a lot–all these news things we have learned about philosophy.

What do you do when you think maybe, just maybe, you now believe in God? When you haven’t actually had the big God Experience that everyone else, out there in American #soBlessed land seems to have?

You sit on it a long time. Months.

Then you tell your husband.

He scoffs a bit.

Then, apparently, you tell the internet.

Then you brace yourself.

Because you already know all the arguments that you used to use on the internet.

You know what your friends think about that kind of thing.

You worry that some people are going to think you’re dumb, now.


The truth is, I keep waiting for it to pass. As if I am going through some sort of God phase, and any day now, it will end.

I thought God was a feeling that everyone else was in on, and that I just was just constitutionally incapable of having by simple accident of wiring. To be clear, I still think a lot of people do have a the God feeling–the church high. I have experienced the church high in two places: raves and at a few UU services in Texas.  I went to raves first, though, so when I got the same feeling at UU, I thought I had finally figured the whole thing out: event related brain chemistry that happens in a variety of locations. Induced euphoria. God was a high.

I come from the Bible belt. I have heard a lot of people talk about joy and bliss and grace.

I haven’t heard much about “contingency” and “causes” and “forms.”

It never occurred to me that God isn’t something that can be merely felt. That’s usually the language people use. They feel God.

This isn’t that.

So, since it isn’t simply experiential, which would be basically impossible to refute, I keep waiting to be talked out of it. I have read that the big flaw in Feser’s book (aside from the snark) is that he’s fighting straw atheists, same as he says that atheists are arguing about a straw God. This seems reasonable, but I haven’t figured out which of these atheists is supposed to be sporting the fancy nuanced version of atheism.

And if I cannot be talked out if it, then I am not sure what, if anything, I do next.