Friday, March 21, 2008

(No) shame on them?

Caught an interesting segment on O'Reilly last night. Among his guests was University of Kansas professor Brian Russell, PhD. Russell was there to offer his views on Spring Break, marauding college students, and particularly the whole "Girls Gone Wild" subculture, which some critics continue to attribute to "a lack of self-esteem" on the part of contemporary young women.

Au contraire, says Russell, "The bigger problem I see is hyper-inflated self-esteem, when these kids do things and don't even realize they should feel shame. Everything they do is 'cool,' everything they do is 'cute.' " He then mentioned a previous O'Reilly appearance, which I hadn't seen, covering "the Happiness Factor." I gathered from last night's allusive remarks that in that prior segment, he'd made a point similar to what we've noted often on SHAMblog, particularly in last summer's horror stories: that happiness, as it's framed today, is an "all-about-YOU!" phenomenon wherein everyone else's needs, wants and feelings are just background music and don't really count.

Russell is careful to say that successful living is a balancing act: You don't want people wallowing in shame and self-doubt, either. "Shame is not an emotion that you want people to go through the day feeling," he told O'Reilly. "But it's an emotion that you do want people to have" as part of their emotional make-up, he argues, so that they're at least cognizant of when they've hurt other people and/or blithely cast aside "established cultural values." The way you learn shame, says Russell, is "by being corrected while you're growing up." Though it's not a new argument, he reminds us that the parents of this generation's young people, determined not to "make the same mistakes" as their parents, rejected the very idea of boundaries, and in the process, really, rejected the whole idea of parenting: "Today's parents mostly wanted to be their kids' friends."

According to Russell, the perfect word for the resulting young men and women is vainglorious: Their attitude towards life is, as he puts it, "If they did it, it's OK." Russell did not use the word sociopath, but it bears noting again here that some of the traits we've purposely cultivated in our Gen-X children run perilously close to the textbook definition of that malaise.

Young moms and dads: Please consider this when you're tempted to remind little Jacob or Emily, for the 10th time this morning, just how "special" they are....


For years, if someone were to ask about my politics, I'd reflexively answer, "conservative." Most of my edgier writing with sociopolitical overtones has been in that vein, and has run in publications that all but brandished a right-wing lens on life: The Wall Street Journal, American Enterprise, American Spectator, National Review Online. And if I'm going to be honest, I still believe—in principle; in theory; "in a perfect world"—that the policies espoused by conservatives offer the greatest rewards to the largest number of people. Thing is, I do find myself asking a certain question a lot of late, and it's a question that hit home for me again last night, as I listened to The Dumbest Man Ever To Get His Own Talk Show expound on the Gay Menace, why the Boy Scouts need to keep fighting the good fight to save America-as-we-know-it, and related matters:

Why is it that you always seem to find conservatives and outright bigots on the same side of so many issues? Is that really "just coincidence"?


Anonymous said...

i would love to hear your reaction to David Mamet's recent article in the Village Voice: "Why I am no longer a 'brain-dead liberal'." Find it at:,374064,374064,1.html/full

Steven Sashen said...

I don't know if it's just where I live -- Boulder, CO -- that, rather than punish or criticize their children, parents attempt to reason with their 2 year olds in a way they would never do with their spouse!

And, needless to say, trying to get Ashley to empathize with Morgan's hurt feelings over the stolen toy has no effect whatsoever.

I'm practically waiting to see a parent calming down a child and overhear, "Okay, let me explain it once more, Jordan, Einstein said that as a mass approaches the speed of light..."

mikecane2008 said...

>>>"Today's parents mostly wanted to be their kids' friends."

Which actually explains why you can't bloody criticize the parents. THEY'RE ALSO FRIKKIN CHILDREN!

Anonymous said...

I am a 37 year old Gen Xer. The term X Generation was popularized by a Baby Boomer Douglas Coupland. There are not really that many of us statistically. People weren’t having too many babies form 1965 to 1981. I think you are actually referring to the children of the Baby Boomers, which are referred as Generation Y. We were the cynically ones not the narcissists.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank for pointing that out, Anon. I do believe that you are correct.

YEAH YEAH Out Loud said...

Try this approach....

It is a children’s self esteem program for use in early learning environments (3-8 year olds) through child care, educators (pre K-2nd grade), parents and children’s ministry.

The core of the program that I feel is unique to other projects available is two fold:

1) YYOL sends the message early as a foundational building block that when the going gets tough, you are your own best “cheer” leader; vs. a “fix it” later remedy.

2) The YEAH YEAH Out Loud theme helps the child realize the “cheer” leader lies within. The picture book story of Hur-Ray encouraging Kiddazy to grow into a flower and get a YYOL face (just like Hur-Ray’s) confirms that it is only after Kiddazy cheers on the other sprouts in a “pay it forward” fashion, does the understanding that it is in the cheering on of others, lies Kiddazy’s own self-esteem, and YYOL is actualized.

(our program is applicable through 2nd grade; although we also have seen it put to great use with high school kids mentoring to the younger ones….).

Please take a minute to review our web site and contact me with any questions you might have.

I’d love to take some time to show you the program and see how your community can become YYOL!

Yeah Yeah

Steve Salerno said...

Yeah Yeah: I swear I thought this was going to turn out to be parody (perhaps from someone like Steven Sashen). Evidently not.

Not quite sure what to make of it, but as you can see, I ran the comment, above. Give my best to Hur-Ray.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Yeah, what happened to Dr. Seuss? What if you don't have an inner cheerleader? What if you have an inner bookworm or chess nerd? Would this approach still work?

Anonymous said...

Sigh...I have been a guest in a family where the children have been raised this way.

And...friends, I have a question.

We have two boys, age 12 and 9.

It was the Wednesday before Thanksigiving Day. The boys had left a bunch of stuff in the kitchen.

Their mother wanted them to remove their belongings from the kitchen and the boys kept tuning her out, despite her telling them no less than three times to remove their stuff from the kitchen.

Now, OK, we are hearing all these studies about how brain development takes place.

Well and good.

People, is it unreasonable to expect a pair of boys this age to pick up their stuff the first, or at least the second time they are asked?

This 50 year old hag wants to know.

Thanks in advance.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I think maybe we need more context here, but it sounds like a weeklong visit from the Supernanny wouldn't hurt. ;)

Look, if kids have been raised in an overly indulgent, sheltering, permissive environment, then expecting almost any kind of cooperation from them is "unreasonable." No matter how many times they've been asked. But unless they're very, very, very lucky, they're going to face a serious wake-up call when they get out into the cold, unforgiving world.

Steve Salerno said...

(Incidentally, people, I hope you can understand my reluctance at saying anything that sounds like "advice." I'm the last person who should ever be setting himself up as a self-help guru...even just in-passing.)

Anonymous said...

Aren't there drugs for those boys? I thought we drug kids now.

Anonymous said...

Fifty year old hag writes:

One of the boys is taking Concerta.

Yes, they need Supernanny.

But there is so much noise and disorganization in that house that it would have to be stressful for all concerned.

I might add, even the family dog is out of control and barks continuously.

When I quietly and steadily told the dog, 'Suzie, YOU are not helping,' she quieted down immediately. I adore dogs, but expect them to have manners--and the dog picked right up on that.

They just dont have basic expectations, for dogs or for kids, and it shows.

And, I might add not all families are like this. I saw a mom with two small boys, one six, one four years old. They were having lunch together, and afterwards, both boys carried their trays and silverware to the garbage and there was a general sense of good humor and team work.

I told their mother she was giving them a great start and that their future girlfriends, room mates and wives would love her for it.

Cal said...

I know that I asked your political viewpoint when I first joined the blog, Steve, and your answer was something to the effect of "I'm conservative on many things, but you would be surprised on my views on others".

But I must admit that I am surprised when you mentioned that you were considering voting for Obama, even before the Rev. Wright fiasco. I'm curious as to why. There's almost nothing in his rhetoric that I think you would find appealing. In fact, so far everyone seems to like him because he is considered a great orator. (And this is my opinion - and I'm still voting for him.) Unless you are just sick of Bush and want "regime change".

On the subject of the narcissistic Gen. Y, what if some these kids are from the opposite background of what has been discussed so far. What if some of these kids' lives have been so programmed from infancy that with their first taste of real "freedom" (i.e., being away from Mom and Dad) that they don't know how to handle it and they go "buck wild"?

For example, I read where some of these kids have their parents asking to be accepted on their Facebook profiles as friends. I guess I could see the reasoning behind it while they are in high school, with reservations, but it seems like even when they go the college the parents can't cut the cord.

Steve Salerno said...

Re Obama: The events of this past week have given me pause. I don't think the speech he gave is at all the speech he should have given. I think--as I wrote in a post--that here he was, presented with a gold-plated opportunity to take us "above race," and he went the other route. Probably because he's afraid of offending his black base, which supports him to the tune of 90%, in some polls. So I'm rethinking as we speak. However, I was leaning in his direction because I think, or at least thought, he was the brightest, fairest and most honorable candidate we'd had in a long time. I really think he believes (most of) what he says. I don't think he's yet been as corrupted by politics as the others, and because he basically came out of nowhere and rose to prominence on a groundswell of public support, I don't think he's accumulated the political fealties that hamper most other major candidates.

And yes, I'm sick of Bush and his lies and miscalculations. If you look up a lot of what I wrote (opinion pieces and such) when the Bush team first came into power, and especially post-9/11, you'll see that I was an almost-fanatical supporter of him. I've now done a near-complete turnabout, and I'm not afraid to admit that I think I was duped. This may be the most corrupt, venal administration I've known in my lifetime.

As to your comments about parenting, what we're really dealing with is the whole notion of "helicopter" parents, who just can't let go. They want to micromanage every detail of their children's lives to "ensure" success--and in practice, I think they achieve just the opposite: They produce a generation of kids who have no idea how to fend for themselves.

Anonymous said...

I have a 17 year old stepson and I do wonder. He is a decent kid, but he might as well have been raised by wolves. My husband's ex-wife, his mother, lets him stay on the computer all night. I get e-mails from him at 3 am on school nights. I see him on myspace at these crazy times too. His mother's response is, "he's of the computer age. What can I do?" She is not alone in this attitude. It seems there are two extremes in parenting going on right now, those who "give up" and those who "micromanage" their kids lives.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, it's funny, I once used that line--"raised by wolves"--and someone with a zoological background corrected me, informing me that wolves are actually very well-behaved animals, among their group. They also tend to be monogamous....

Anonymous said...

I think wolves have better social bonds than most humans I know. I like my stepson and feel sorry for him. Since I am a self-proclaimed "stepmonster," I can't really say too much about his upbringing, but it makes me think genetics has a lot to do with how people turn out.

The Crack Emcee said...

"Yes, I'm sick of Bush and his lies and miscalculations. If you look up a lot of what I wrote (opinion pieces and such) when the Bush team first came into power, and especially post-9/11, you'll see that I was an almost-fanatical supporter of him. I've now done a near-complete turnabout, and I'm not afraid to admit that I think I was duped. This may be the most corrupt, venal administration I've known in my lifetime."

Ow - shot right through the heart:

That hurt.

Steve Salerno said...

Crack, as always (and this is never just a throwaway phrase for me), I admit that, though I think I erred grievously in my initial, positive assessment of Bush, I may be wrong about him now, too. Maybe he is what America needs--which I think would be your argument. It's just that I find that I can't have any faith in what the man says, now. If he said during a press conference that he has 10 toes on his feet, I'd want a second or third opinion from people who'd actually seen him naked. (Now there's a visual...) I don't know whether it's because he lies through his teeth--as his harshest critics allege--or whether he consistently got bad information, or whether he simply has piss-poor judgment. He's lost my confidence entirely. And his apologists' head-in-the-sand alibis for him have only succeeded at souring me on the GOP as well. I listen to guys like Hannity and Rush come to his defense, for the most part, day after day, and I want to punch walls (and keep in mind, the walls in my unfinished basement office are made of concrete). What's it gonna take for people to abandon their dug-in, partisan positions? And see, that's what makes me think it's all about money, in the end. Because let's face it, just about every other verifiable aspect of the Bush platform has gone to hell in a handbasket...except for the fact that a lot of his already well-heeled friends have made money hand over fist since he took office.

Again, Crack--before you light into me--remember that no one was a more staunch advocate of GOP-type policies than your humble host here on SHAMblog, at one time. I started out as a Goldwater man. I defended Nixon even after Watergate. I was the prototypical Reaganite. Of the three dozen pieces I did for the Wall Street Journal during my mid-90s heyday on their editorial page, I'd say 90% VEHEMENTLY upheld conservative ideals. (And remember, too, for several of those same years I was the editor-in-chief of the American Legion Magazine, THE voice for "a strong America.")

But Bush and today's GOP? I just don't see it, man. Not anymore.

Steve Salerno said...

And btw, Crack, when I talk about Bush's "apologists' head-in-the-sand alibis for him," I am not referring at all to you. I meant it in the sense of right-wing radio, the GOP pundits, etc.

Cal said...

I'm not a conservative, but I admit I was for the war. I feel misled also. But don't you think that the American people (as they say) for the most part wanted some form of retribution for 9/11. I just think that if he had not gone in, he would have been killed by the right for letting Saddam stay in power. I believe they would have done it even if it eventually came out that there were no WMD. After all, I remember Hans Blix getting blasted because he wanted to continue the inspections.

The parenting issue is one I'm framing between the "helicopters" vs. the "let the kids do what they want". I think both types lead to the symptoms discussed on O'Reilly.

Steve Salerno said...

Oh, there's no question the American public wanted blood. I wanted blood. I wanted somebody to go in and "show them American justice" (even though I was never totally sure who "them" was). I won't deny that. I just believed Bush when he told me that we needed to go into Iraq to mete out that justice...and now I feel horribly deceived. And it's a deception made all the worse by the toll in human life. I wrote an opinion piece some time back wherein I speculated that if--just if--it can ever be proved that Bush knowingly got us involved in Iraq for reasons other than those stated, he should be subject to criminal penalties. And though I am not a fan of capital punishment, if ever there were a case that might warrant that extreme sentence, our involvement in Iraq under false pretenses would be such a case.

And remember, again--this is from a guy who would've self-identified as "conservative" back in 2001.

RevRon's Rants said...

It's a good thing that someone like Bush wasn't in office December 7, 1941. He would have probably attacked Korea... easier to defeat, and with (marginally) greater available natural resources to exploit (And they *did* look somewhat similar to the Japanese.). Would've been immoral and ineffective, but the revenge would've been delicious... for awhile.

Back to raising the kids, though... As in every situation, the best path is typically somewhere between the extremes. In my generation, too many kids were beaten and abused by autocratic parents, who knew full well that in the absence of concrete evidence of the abuse, nobody was going to believe a kid's word over that of an adult. Sadly, many of the kids of that generation grew up either perpetuating the cycle of abuse or going to the other extreme, abdicating the exercise of all parental authority, rather than perceive themselves as anything like their parents. Kids raised under both extremes suffered real handicaps in their development.

My kids were, alternately, absolute angels or tyrants in training. And they got alternately coddled or punished, my actions being very predictable, dictated by their behavior. Though I make no claim to have been a model parent (or anything even close), they turned out pretty great, and the relationship we share today is more like dear friends than parent / child. They do dumb things sometimes, just like any other adult (dad included), but aren't afraid to seek (or reject) my advice. I kinda like it that way... takes some of the burden of responsibility off me; now that they're adults, I don't spend my entire life in "daddy" mode any more. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

You know, Rev, it's funny that you should say this, because when I was a lad, my father used to say, fairly often, that we need to "go in and finish off the Koreans before the day comes when we no longer can." Like many men of his generation, Dad was appalled by the ignominy of the way things ended for us in Korea. Specifically, he said he would never forgive Truman for what was done to MacArthur.

Dad would say that he "sensed something" about Koreans--that they were a "Doomsday-type people." A racist thought, to be sure. (And no, I'm not voicing agreement with him. I think that our current problems in that region basically come down to one very short, freaky-looking despot and a handful of cronies.) And yet who knows if future events may, in a sense, vindicate my father's thoughts on "the Korean menace." And remember, I say that as someone who deplores what has happened in Iraq.

The Crack Emcee said...


I had this long, book-length, explanation for you on why I think your feelings are unjustified but, now, I want to try another way - let's talk about Iraq:

Do you, like many people, think of it as a continuation of the events of 9/11 (single track) or something that happened during the events of 9/11 (dual track)?

Respecting the sweep of history (we've been engaged with Iraq for 30 years) I am of the latter view.

Cal said...

And remember that Truman was hated at the end of his term, but now is considered one of our best Presidents by historians. Could history play itself out 40 years from now with Bush II?

RevRon's Rants said...

"Could history play itself out 40 years from now with Bush II?"

That might be possible, Cal, if by that time the middle class has been completely eliminated, and the only people chronicling historical perspectives are those few who have truly benefited from the Bush agenda. Frankly, I can't see that happening. And if it does, this country will have lost a lot more than just its prestige.

The Crack Emcee said...

Drew Carey did a video post on the middle class being "wiped out" and found it's just not happening - it's a myth - but people believing myths now'a'days is pretty popular. That's why this period's been referred to as The Age of Unreason.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Drew Carey did a video post on the middle class being "wiped out" and found it's just not happening - it's a myth"

Much like the "myths" of climate change and the erosion of citizens' rights over the last 7 years. I tend to believe the well-supported assessments of qualified economists and scientists over those proffered by stand-up comics and industry-funded lobbyists. But that's just me! :-)

Steve Salerno said...

--Umpire's time-out--

OK, fellas, this is your moderator stepping in. What we appear to have here is the beginnings of an earnest philosophical disagreement. Let's keep it that way, shall we? If we decide to move forward in this vein, let's argue facts and figures and ideas, not personalities. I'm sorry for the intrusion, and I'm especially sorry if anyone interprets this as patronizing, which is the last thing I ever feel entitled to be, given the savvy and insight of our contributors. It's just that I've seen these disputes very quickly go down the wrong path, and I'd like to prevent that from happening here.

--play ball!--

RevRon's Rants said...

Sounds like a great plan to me, Steve... had my fill of barroom brawls. :-)

The Crack Emcee said...

I hear ya, Steve - I decided to play:

Fact: The founder of the Weather Channel is suing Al Gore for fraud over "climate change".

Fact: When it was put to a British court, they found "An Inconvenient Truth" wasn't accurate science, and wouldn't allow it in classrooms without a disclaimer saying it was opinion.

Fact: The IPCC has been found to be a government-run organization, deeply politicized, with very little actual science involved in it's conclusions.

I'm short on time so I can't give you links, now, but I can later.

My rights, as a black man in America, are doing fine - and, as Chris Rock (a comedian, I might add) once said, I'll do a side-by-side comparison with any white person on the risks involved.

It's not called the Age of Unreason for nothing.

RevRon's Rants said...

Fact: John Coleman, who founded the Weather Channel, said he *wants* to sue Gore - as well as all other "proponents" of human-influenced climate change. Outside the realm of The Secret, there's a significant difference between *wanting* to do something and actually doing it.

Fact: IPCC is in agreement with the *vast* majority of the scientific community. To quote an article in Science magazine, "In recent years, all major scientific bodies in the United States whose members' expertise bears directly on the matter have issued similar statements. For example, the National Academy of Sciences report, Climate Change Science: An Analysis of Some Key Questions, begins: "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise" [p. 1 in (5)]. The report explicitly asks whether the IPCC assessment is a fair summary of professional scientific thinking, and answers yes: "The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue" [p. 3 in (5)].

Others agree. The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling."

Wisdom of comedians notwithstanding, the rights and protections once taken for granted by citizens have been summarily usurped by large industry lobbyists and the federal government.
Examples are the Truth in Lending Act, which was gutted under pressure from credit card and mortgage company lobbyists and PACS. Then there's insurance company regulation, which has been gutted to the extent that insurance companies are now among the most profitable corporations in the world, while even those insured by them have an ever-decreasing expectation of having their health-care needs covered. And let's not forget that it has become accepted practice for the government to wiretap any individual whom they *might* suspect of links to terrorists, without any oversight or accountability for those wiretaps.

Perhaps in a smaller world, one's rights are intact, but in the US of 2008, they are not.

"Unreason" exists when facts are ignored in favor of personal bias.

RevRon's Rants said...

One more thing: A Boston Globe article stated that "a British judge this week ruled that some assertions in the movie were untrue and alarmist," although it added that "the overwhelming majority of the scientific community has endorsed Gore's findings and urged changes to halt climate change."

Hell... If we're going to have accountants determine the necessity of medical procedures, why not have a judge determine the validity of scientific studies! :-)

The Crack Emcee said...


"Outside the realm of The Secret, there's a significant difference between *wanting* to do something and actually doing it."

I didn't say John Coleman had sued Al Gore yet. Please accept my assertion the way it was intended: as something that's in the works. neither of us knows his plans/actions, but he's made enough noise in this direction recently to lead most casual observers to assume a lawsuit is in Gore's immediate future. And, please, if we're going to try and do this, let's try to be fair and not belittle each other by using any semantic differences as opportunities to play "gotcha": It doesn't lead to a level of trust. Deal?

Next, I think there's some logic here that goes into circles: If a major (and repeated) charge against the Bush administration is that it's used fear to goad us to go along with it's policies - unproven IMO - then it should be wrong for Gore to use proven "untrue and alarmist" assertions, right? Why are there no public displays, or marches, demanding Gore stop? It's like people demanding an end to war but never finding time to march against Osama - the man who attacked us (again: proven) and our government is (supposedly) protecting us from - such a stance, by the Left, can appear hypocritical, and confusing, wouldn't you say?

Also - though I know you were being sarcastic - you say:

"If we're going to have accountants determine the necessity of medical procedures, why not have a judge determine the validity of scientific studies!"

Unfortunately, you said this after pointing out "The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements". So which is it? Either everyone can get a word in - depending on their expertise - or they can't. We can't say we're only going to listen to the experts that support our positions, can we?

At Congresses request, mathematicians from George Mason University looked into all this, and found problems with the IPCC's peer review process and methods - including using the wrong time scale for that famous "hockey stick" that's been the basis for Gore's fear-mongering - is that worth questioning? They found "there is no evidence that,..any of the,...authors in paleoclimate studies have had significant interactions with mainstream statisticians" either - that's why their numbers were wrong: basically, they can't count, and wouldn't ask for help (the arrogant little wusses). Plus 43 paleoclimatologists had previously coauthored papers with the lead researcher who constructed the hockey stick - is that, at least, curious? Is that enough to ask if there's bias here?

These findings led George Mason University to find the IPCC conclusions "cannot be supported" yet the fear-mongering goes on unabated - with nary a mention of all this. Is it unreasonable to ask why? I mean, there's more money involved here than we can afford, but we're still being continually pushed further and further into it, when financial waste by the government is supposedly so high on the Left's list of concerns.

Also, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis (among other findings) the IPCC used only 17 out of 127 forecasting principles for making predictions. How trustworthy is that? Like the homeopaths in Hungary (real doctors) who were recently found to be unaware of normal drug testing methods, it was found the IPCC (real scientists) weren't even aware of basic forecasting methods. And, believe it or not, there's not supposed to be politics in science but, since the "I" in IPCC stands for "Inter-governmental", so I think we can fairly assume there's a bit of political chain-jerking involved. Considering all this - and knowing the Left's obvious distrust of politicians and government - I'd think more people would be suspicious of this particular endeavor than they seem to be.

On the other hand - finding my latest calling to be as a researcher of cultism - I'm not that surprised: While I was waaay ahead of others on what was occurring around Barack Obama, I'm not alone in pointing out the cultish nature of climate change advocacy - with Al Gore as it's leader - as well as the unfair way children are used to scare us. The entire enterprise is quite malthusian, if you think about it: this desire to see humans who are into modernism as a "problem".

I, of course, see it as another NewAge hoax. Part of the great German environmentalist drive - quite paganistic (and, yes, fascist and mean) in it's outlook - demanding we embrace nature as our god, when there are no gods, and - as Hurricane Katrina proved - earth wipes us off it's back at will. It's all quite silly. (I think we're trying to get into space for a reason.) Hopefully, like all cons, people will wake up sooner rather than later, and get angry about the "spiritual" game being played at their expense, and react with "vengeance and serious anger" (Pulp Fiction, anyone?) at being used in this way. As Christopher Pearson recently wrote in The Australian:

"A great many founts of authority, from the Royal Society to the UN, most heads of government along with countless captains of industry, learned professors, commentators and journalists will be profoundly embarrassed. Let us hope it is a prolonged and chastening experience.

With catastrophe off the agenda, for most people the fog of millennial gloom will lift, at least until attention turns to the prospect of the next ice age. Among the better educated, the sceptical cast of mind that is the basis of empiricism will once again be back in fashion. The delusion that by recycling and catching public transport we can help save the planet will quickly come to be seen for the childish nonsense it was all along."

Like all things in our post-9/11 world, Rev, this isn't just political - it's spiritual - and, as such, there's loads of BS involved. Fortunately, that's my subject now, and I'm more than happy to help everyone sort it all out.

Giggling like the Maharishi - your friend,

The Crack Emcee

RevRon's Rants said...

No semantics, crack. You presented the lawsuit as something that was being done, when it was something Coleman had stated he *wanted* to do. When the papers are filed, you can say he's suing Gore. Presenting the observations of "casual observers" as fact is really at the crux of my response, anyway.

I would say there's a big difference between a call to responsible care of the environment and a call to war, wouldn't you? It's one thing to follow something one believes with real passion; it's quite another to *act* passionate about something one knows to be a lie.

"We can't say we're only going to listen to the experts that support our positions, can we?"

Of course not. We can *listen* to anybody we want. However, if we choose to discount the majority opinion of people who are actually experts in a given field, while taking as gospel the opinions of a small minority and those with no expertise, our objectivity and motives become more questionable than the science.

We all get that you see yet another manifestation of cults, and are convinced that the "left" holds the keys to ruination, while the "right" holds the keys to the perfect kingdom. I see a different world, where cooperation and compromise are the crucial elements of success. We disagree, and I'm comfortable with that.

I have no doubt we could go on ad infinitum (and ad nauseum), copying and pasting snippets and articles that support our respective opinions. Such a parry and thrust becomes immediately boring, not to mention counterproductive. We aren't likely to agree, and you've made it clear that agreeing to disagree is unacceptable to you.

Where you see the conflict as spiritual, I see it as primarily economic. If there is a cultish influence, I see it as borne of the obsession with wealth and power, unchastened by consideration for the general well-being of humans and the planet we share with other creatures. Perhaps my outlook would be different if I believed that my life had been ruined by a venture capitalist, or a Republican, but I don't.

I see damage done by both fringes, and hold to the notion that so long as ideological bias carries more weight than the objective evaluation of data, there will be no real "answers." The only real hope for sorting out and solving our problems lies in the *synthesis* of ideas and objectives, rather than the ideological equivalent of ethnic cleansing. The only way we can ever hope to achieve this is by moving beyond the "monsters in the closet" mentality.


The Crack Emcee said...

Well, this is interesting. I've got to give you credit: you surprised me with this one.

"I would say there's a big difference between a call to responsible care of the environment and a call to war, wouldn't you?"

Not when the environment is supposedly a war in itself. It's an easy boogie man. Too easy. Just like hating war. I find the whole paradigm to be childish. As adults we should know better: some people just aren't nice.

"if we choose to discount the majority opinion of people who are actually experts in a given field, while taking as gospel the opinions of a small minority and those with no expertise, our objectivity and motives become more questionable than the science."

I think you "miss the plot", as the British say: there are many fields and many kinds of experts. Mathematicians telling climatologists they got the numbers wrong is a valid criticism that, on the surface, has nothing to do with climatology, yet is intimately a part of the whole. Same with criticisms of the politics and the spiritual aspect.

"We all get that you see yet another manifestation of cults, and are convinced that the "left" holds the keys to ruination, while the "right" holds the keys to the perfect kingdom. I see a different world, where cooperation and compromise are the crucial elements of success. We disagree, and I'm comfortable with that."

Sigh. I'm a "black" atheist supporting a "white" born-again president. A president who, it's claimed, "doesn't care about black people" as activists for Africa call him the most positively radical president ever; who's leading the most integrated cabinet in the history of this country. I've been attacked by Leftists, physically in some cases, for speaking my mind, and being willing to fight for the freedom of people I don't know, and will probably never meet - many trapped in a vicious cult - and I haven't, physically, hit back. I'm an free-thinking humanist, who confuses those who claim the mantle of "open-mindedness", believing it means I must agree with them. But, as you say, I'm comfortable with that: I know how cults work.

"We aren't likely to agree, and you've made it clear that agreeing to disagree is unacceptable to you."

As I've said, in many ways before, I think we're the same guy - a very "spiritual" thought. One that some might be less comfortable with than others. But I don't think running away will change it any more than trying to re-think it. Staring in a mirror might help though.

"Where you see the conflict as spiritual, I see it as primarily economic."

Rev, as much as this Republican likes having money, I could hand it out on the street and wouldn't feel a thing. I get joy from reading this and this. It might be that one has to be born to atheism, as I am, to understand that no amount of money is worth the trouble spirituality causes. As Christopher Hitchens (another political defector) says, it poisons everything. Money can't heal anyone's soul. But spirituality can surely destroy it. I've seen it with my own eyes.

"The only way we can ever hope to achieve [ideological equivalent of ethnic cleansing] is by moving beyond the "monsters in the closet" mentality."

I understand. But, I'm sorry to say, I thought 9/11 could've cured that.

Peace, indeed.

The Crack Emcee said...

It started while I was at work: this nagging feeling I'd been ripped off. Or had a "kick me" sign stuck to my back. But that couldn't be right - I had only been talking to someone who wanted "cooperation and compromise" - right?

Whatever it was, I knew it felt wrong, and I recognized I had been taken advantage of. So, let's try to remedy this - here and now:

If I'm not mistaken, I had actually suggested something positive - the middle class is doing fine - and yet my silver lining had the dark clouds of climate change, and lost rights, added to it. For no reason I can imagine. Maybe I don't know enough about Buddhism, so someone will have to fill me in, but was that insistence on convincing others to be pessimistic, in the face of good news, a new form of "cooperation and compromise"?

Also, my well-known source was denigrated because of his profession. Now - silly me - but I surely remember hearing MLK tell us "all work has dignity", didn't I? I could be mistaken but I don't remember him excluding comedians. (I think he was very good friends with Dick Gregory but that's here nor there.) What I want to know is, is it part of Buddhist teachings to belittle others, who bring us good news, based on their profession? Can someone, please, tell me were I can find that? It must be listed somewhere under "cooperation and compromise".

It was also insinuated - with no prompting from anyone or proof of any kind - I was a lackey of "industry-funded lobbyists." Now, again - I'm surely no expert on Buddhism - but is the desire to make negative assumptions about the intelligence, and independence, of others a display of "cooperation and compromise"? How about Buddhism? Is that Buddhism? It certainly sounds like the Buddhism I know but I've been told my vision of Buddhism is wrong. Is it? How?

I went to a lot of trouble, reading a lot of information about "climate change", as well. (Not one but two posts!) I did this in good faith: it's, supposedly, an important issue. But when I took the time to answer the claim the supporting evidence "is compelling", I was told my efforts were "boring, not to mention counterproductive." (There was even a statement it was "a lie".) That's funny because it surely wasn't "boring, not to mention counterproductive" when I was asked to consider another perspective.

How does that happen? How does something "compelling" instantly become "boring, not to mention counterproductive" when challenged? What happened to "cooperation and compromise" being "crucial elements of success"? I mean, if we're all going to die, with our rights (and let's not forget the middle class) destroyed, we'd better figure out a way to get there, shouldn't we? Is it really a fact that "we aren't likely to agree" or there just can't be an agreement because actually considering another's perspective - and their "compelling" evidence - would be "boring, not to mention counterproductive"?

Really, you have to excuse my ghetto-level education - and I don't want to get into any "barroom brawls" - but I'm confused:

What just happened here?

Is it me whose "objectivity and motives" are becoming "more questionable"? I thought mathematicians from George Mason University were a pretty good source - weren't they? Their job was assigned by Congress. Please, which category would you put the mathematicians from George Mason University in: "a small minority" or "those with no expertise"? From the evidence I presented, it's clear, the "real scientists" who came up with this nonsense for the IPCC were "a small minority and those with no expertise" - in basic math. And, I think, my comparison to "real doctors" who peddle homeopathy might be more on-target than some would care to admit. That's what I think happened. I'm becoming more sure of it as I write.

To show "cooperation and compromise" can be attained, I will agree that this is all "primarily economic." It's a sneaky way to scare the beejesus out of ordinary citizens so backwards-looking nature-worshipping pagans can move society's money from one set of priorities to another. I'll even agree it's "borne of the obsession with wealth and power" but also a hatred for anything that smacks of ignoring the "ideological bias" of out-dated pre-Enlightenment ideas - like Buddhism. It's an "ideological equivalent of ethnic cleansing" presented as "Saving The Planet". The hubris, alone, is galling.

There are "monsters in the closet", indeed. They ought to come out, though:

Most gays say it's a better way of life.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Maybe I don't know enough about Buddhism, so someone will have to fill me in, but was that insistence on convincing others to be pessimistic, in the face of good news, a new form of "cooperation and compromise"?"

One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is 'Right thinking.' That infers not merely thinking happy thoughts, but thinking clearly and facing truth. That's not pessimism. I firmly believe that things in this country can - and will - be improved, but not if we insist upon denying that there's anything that needs improvement beyond the elimination of those who think differently than ourselves.

The statement that I have denigrated anyone's profession or intelligence is ludicrous. I have great respect for comedians, as they really put it all out there for everyone to see, and probably face more stress than I. That doesn't mean I'd want a comedian handling my investments or performing surgery on me. It's not about value or intelligence; it's about having specialized knowledge and skills. It's also about looking at the preponderance of evidence, gathered and analyzed by people whose expertise in a field is well-documented, and not dismissing that evidence because a few people have reached different conclusions. If it walks like a duck and goes quack quack, it makes no sense to call it a grackle because a couple of people claim it to be one.

As to an incessant back and forth getting boring, look at it this way. Jim Carrey's butt joke was (marginally) funny the first time I saw it. It quit being funny when he kept hammering at the same thing. It got boring... probably for him, as well.

Everyone been treated poorly sometime in their lives, crack. At some point, however, feeling abused becomes an inside job, no matter how many people, philosophies, or groups one chooses to blame. Living in fear of all the "demons" is the ultimate expression of Quixotic pessimism. And I say that, not to attack you, but rather in the hope that you might move beyond the sense that there are enemies all around. You would be much happier, and the discourse on this blog would focus more upon issues, and be less prone to personal attack and sweeping denigrations of entire cultures.

Steve Salerno said...

At the risk of irritating certain parties, I allowed this last comment in--its final graph in particular--because I feel that, as in a court of law, this "testimony" was "invited in" when Buddhism got dragged into the conversation. In retrospect, there was no reason for that reference other than to continue a longstanding tradition of personal discord.

So let's return to the issues now, if we want to continue this. I will edit any future references that appear unrelated to the matters being debated, and that make gratuitous reference to personal aspects of the debaters.

RevRon's Rants said...

Back (again) to the kids... remember the kids? :-)

I was - by anyone's definition - subjected to abuse as a kid. My own kids were not. They got spanked a few times, but not very often. They were given boundaries, but not oppressive ones. The end result was that they have been happier and more productive to this point in their lives than I was at their ages. Fewer people have suffered at their hands than suffered at mine. And if they continue at the pace they've exhibited to date, they will grow into better, happier, and more productive adults than their dad.

I make no claims that their current well-being is the direct result of my actions. On the contrary, much of their growth has been *in spite of* anything I have done. I can't help but feel, however, that had I endeavored to take any course but the "middle way" - being permissive wherever possible, and firm only where I felt it was required - they would not have turned out as well as they have. And it turns me on to see them growing beyond my own aspirations and limitations.

The Crack Emcee said...

O.K., I just got here, and think I ought to say something:

Steve, it's your house, your party, your show - and, as you know, I'm fine with that. I can live with anything you decide. But, man, I think this call is unfair: if we're going to "return to the issues", then, I'd like to point out, you included political commentary in the original post; anonymous began this thread with a political question; you added even more extreme content (which is what got my question) and so on. So can we agree that politics is one of the issues of this thread?

Next, if a person claims to be a Buddhist, one would expect that person to live by those principles and, I guess, debate from them. I think events surrounding Tibet make it clear this is a political position - as well as a spiritual one - and, because in assessing Buddhists, one would expect to see evidence of humility, any hypocrisy one sees in the political positions assumed by a Buddhist are worthy of a response - and within reason (no swearing, try to deal more with issues, etc.) a pointed one.

Lastly - and this is directed more to other SHAMbloggers but to you, Steve, as well - this is a blog. Rather than complaining, SHAMbloggers could just as well choose another thread to investigate - or merely skip over our posts to one another - but claiming a "side" with no more participation in the debate than trying to somebody kicked off, or the rules of the blog changed, isn't helping anything. (Personally, Steve, I wish you, or the others, would choose to actively "ref" the damn thing, rather than acting as silent, or back-door, participants. I think being told where our logic goes astray would probably be helpful.) For instance, I thought I came at the climate change charges directly, as I'm wont to do, so an adversary should be directed not to be evasive - am I wrong?... Also, a person should be man enough, or humble enough, to be able to concede a point. (I think, in my time on SHAMblog, I've shown I can - and would - freely.)

I am irritated, surely, but it's no biggie. I just think, at some point, one of these conversations should be directed, I guess, to a real conclusion or action that would work for *everybody*.

I mean, if two well-intentioned guys got into fist-fight on your block, is it right for the neighbors to merely look out the windows and tsk-tsk?

Steve Salerno said...

The foregoing is a mildly edited comment from Crack, and I think it has a good deal of merit. I have often wondered, myself, what the specific purpose of a blog is. Is it for a bunch of people to just "vent," for want of a better word, and also have the opportunity to get off a few good shots/zingers? Or should there be a "guiding hand" oversight that tries to resolve most discussions into something resembling a "blog orthodoxy"?

I never felt that that was my place, certainly (yes, even though it's my blog). I feel more as if I'm responsible for raising issues and then letting other people run with them--and maybe stepping in as "ref" when needed. But when it comes to logic going astray, that's a highly subjective call anyway: I think it's clear that two debaters (or two political parties, or a husband and wife, etc.) can start with the same basic data, both use impeccable logic--and yet somehow end up at polar end points. I'm not sure that logic always gives us the answers.

Bottom line, this is an overall issue on which I'm very, very eager to hear from others. In truth I probably should've converted it into a post in its own right, since it has so much to do with the governance of the blog.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

A blog is what you want it to be. I do not allow comments on my blog, because my blog is about my life. I am the only one who can comment on that since it is my experiences that fuel my blog. Your blog basically lives off comments so you need comments. I look at your blog to see what people are saying. I find it interesting that two or more people can look at the same information and come up with such different views. I also find it interesting that people can shape information to fit their views too.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, your last sentence is often the operative one: Out of a bumper crop of information, we'll cherry-pick only the stuff that supports our POV. It amazes me that even in huge arguments of tremendous public-policy import, people will be highly selective in the data they choose to use. This morning I heard a spokesperson for the tanning industry challenging the conventional medical wisdom that says tanning rays cause melanoma. Nonsense, the spokesperson said; suntans are actually good for you. I was reminded of that hilariously acerbic film, Thank You for Smoking. But do I really know? How does any of us know?

Elizabeth said...

OK, my two cents worth of meta- commentary:
I see CMC here working his butt off trying to show where he is coming from on the issues, and in response getting a rather condescending, though I'm sure not intentional, brush-off.

I don't quite understand what is going on in terms of interpersonal dynamics here, but one of the possibilities is that CMC's arguments, which, btw, I see as genuine and principled, regardless of whether I agree with them or not, are challenging our biases enough that not knowing what else to do with them, we tend to dismiss them in a knee-jerk and, may I add, disrespectful fashion.

(Which, btw, goes to show, again, that this whole "feminized" feelings and dignity whining thing is more important than we are willing to admit, on this blog and elsewhere.)

Since I've exhausted my two cents about 50 words ago, I'll go mute now.

Anonymous said...

When my mother was pregnant with me, smoking was considered healthy! Everyone drank and smoked while pregnant, but now that is considered harmful to the baby. Even now there are those who think alcohol and smoking are not really that harmful to the developing fetus.

RevRon's Rants said...

I, too am frequently amazed at how people can selectively filter out information that does not support their ideologies, all the while, claiming to seek truth.

As you know, I've never objected to the voicing of opinions different than my own. As a matter of fact, such discourse is what makes the time I devote to this blog worthwhile. As you also know, it is only when those differing opinions deteriorate into personal slurs and attacks that I object. And not just those leveled at me, though I do seem to get my share whenever I comment. :-)

I don't know what the average westerner expects of a Buddhist; perhaps quiet acquiescence in the face of abusiveness. The master who taught me amazed me when he would respond to an affront with nothing more than a smile. I never got to that point, and quite possibly never will. Perhaps that makes me a hypocrite in some people's eyes. So be it.

I view the need to denigrate an opponent in debate (or an entire group or culture) as a sign of either ignorance or fear. And if that fear or ignorance is ingrained within a participant's contribution to a discussion, can genuine understanding of different people and perspectives have a good chance at growing out of that discussion? I don't think so.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I would prefer that personal attacks, broad-stroke racist slurs, and denigration of other contributors be disallowed altogether. They serve no positive purpose, save to allow the attacker the opportunity to vent. And as someone else has wisely noted, this isn't a therapy session.

As I (and others) have said, this is your blog. We participate at your pleasure, and hopefully, our own.

Steve Salerno said...

These are difficult issues. In my case, e.g., regulars know that I generally allow more criticism of myself than I allow of other visitors. I feel that it goes with the territory; and since I'm fairly outspoken in attacking certain ideologies and their proponents (at least in the Post section of the blog, which I view as having a slightly different franchise from the Comment section), I think I have to be "man enough," as one of you put it, to tolerate more of it, myself.

I do take every possible precaution in trying to protect contributors from the unwarranted personal venom of other contributors. The problem, IMHO, resides in the definition of the words "unwarranted" and "venom." If you identify yourself as a conservative, and someone goes off on a long tirade about what's wrong with conservatism and conservatives, that is not a personal attack. (If it were defined as such, debate would not be possible.) I think most people agree with that ethic. However, there are gray areas, and there are going to be times when contributors make their points by using examples that "hit a little close to home" for other contributors. I am not defending nastiness. I'm saying this isn't an exact science.

Consider that during the life of this blog--soon coming up on three full years--every single one of our regular contributors has contacted me off-blog at some point to complain about a personal attack by another contributor. That could mean that I'm doing a really crappy job of policing things. Or, it could mean that what some see as personal, others don't. Maybe I'm naive, but I really do believe that most contributors try to avoid getting personal...and if you asked them, they'd say they only do it in self-defense. In other words, they never see themselves as having cast the first stone.

I urge everyone to avoid outright personal attacks...and to count to 10 before interpreting someone else's argument as personal.

I continue to welcome further comment on this. Also, it would be nice to hear more folks address the larger issue overarching all this: Are we supposed to be solving problems here, or at least trying? Is this supposed to be like a microcosm of (God help us) the U.N. or Congress, where eventually we reach a point of agreement along the lines of: "Resolved...that [fill in the blank]"? I'd like to know.

Elizabeth said...

A couple of comments and then I'll go marvel at the "want closure-keep legs closed" wisdom (are you sure this was not written by Dr. Laura? it sounds just like something she would say).

RevRon, you said:
"I view the need to denigrate an opponent in debate (or an entire group or culture) as a sign of either ignorance or fear. And if that fear or ignorance is ingrained within a participant's contribution to a discussion, can genuine understanding of different people and perspectives have a good chance at growing out of that discussion? I don't think so."

I notice that you both asked and answered your own question. And, imo, this, and the passage, explains the crux (or part of it at least) of the head-butting going on here (bear with me, please).

You come from a view that "the need to denigrate an opponent in debate (or an entire group or culture) (is) a sign of either ignorance or fear."

I would like to ask you to reconsider it, because it is possible that what you see as "the need" may not be it at all (and I'll leave the "denigrate" part alone, even though I could quibble with it); and moreover, that behavior may not necessarily stem from ignorance or fear. There are a couple of other motives I can think of, if only from my personal head-butting experiences -- and I bet you can too.

Also in your question and answer you effectively close off a chance at communication -- and, if I may respectfully point out, you may be wrong. Because if we want "genuine understanding of different people and perspectives" to have a chance at growing out of any discussion, we need to approach it without pre-judgment of the other side's motivation. Two reasons for that: 1. we may be wrong in our assumptions; 2. judging anyone's motivations for what they say in a discussion is the end of discussion -- as more often than not, it switches focus of the exchange into the "blame/explanation" mode, and, well, it usually offends.

We do not know why people say and do things they say and do. If we have questions about it, I think we should just ask and answer them directly, rather than make assumptions about motives (which, generally, are negative [fear, ignorance, placating or other hypocrisy, etc.]) and close off any chance at possible communication right away. What remains then is just us judging the other person's statements and behavior through the lens of our own, often unfair and untrue, assumptions. Perhaps we could take each other at face value from time to time (just a suggestion), as equals, without resorting to judgment, which surely makes any attempts at mutual understanding futile.

A while ago one of the many Anons suggested that listening (without knee-jerking judgment, I'd add) may be the way to go. I'd second that (and I'm as guilty of knee-jerking as anyone, from what you can already tell, no doubt).

I'd also like to second CMC's request: "Personally, Steve, I wish you, or the others, would choose to actively "ref" the damn thing, rather than acting as silent, or back-door, participants. I think being told where our logic goes astray would probably be helpful."

Yes, indeed.

Anonymous said...

One person's logic is another person's insanity. I think that has been discussed before. As far as judgments go, we have to make judgments or we would not be able to survive. I do like to give a person fair enough time to let me know what type of blogger he or she is before I make a judgment, but make a judgment I will.

As far as personal goes, don’t discuss your personal life! Keep to the topics and do not try to relate everything to your life experience. If you do discuss your personal life to make a point, at least understand it is “your” experience and may not pertain to everyone on the planet. I have problems when people want it both ways. They want to discuss an issue, but everything comes back to what he or she experienced. That is where it gets personal for people besides boring.

I also expect that if a person insults another, he or she should understand why that person might not be too friendly to them later. I don’t care if a person is insecure, lonely, ignorant, or fearful, being uncivil is being uncivil. Civility means consideration of others and if you are unable to do that, no “civil” discussion can take place. All discussions will go down into petty personal attacks and white noise. I am not going to “ref” anyone. My children do not blog yet so there is no one here for me to “ref.”

I do not contact Steve off blog, because we have a communications issue and I think it is pointless to do so. I say “red” and Steve hears “green.” That sometimes happens with people and it’s called life. I still comment on his blog though. No I do not think the blog is solving anything, but sometimes it’s interesting.

Steve Salerno said...

I do not contact Steve off blog, because we have a communications issue and I think it is pointless to do so. I say “red” and Steve hears “green.”

What communication issue? What are you, crazy? And what do you mean I hear "green" when you say "red"? It's the other way around....!

(This is irony, Anon and folks. Chill, please.)