Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of New Age shticks...and poli-tics.

Last time around I posted Hale Dwoskin's thoughts on the wonders of living in the Now. Though the quote should've been transparent on its face, I do have a few follow-up points that apply to New Age dogma as a whole:

1. Such dogma often benefits from the same supposed attribute that helped popularize so much truly bad poetry over the past 50 years: It sounds intelligent; "deep," if you will. Just as nowadays confidence is often mistaken for competence, pretentiousness is also mistaken for wisdom. Throughout history, of course, con men with the gift of gab have been able to use overblown rhetoric to hoodwink their marks, but today especially—the standards for public discourse being what they are (i.e., low)—vast numbers of us will be impressed by anything that sounds as if the slightest thought and care went into it. Worse, if somebody sounds intelligent, we make the mistake of assuming that s/he is, in fact, wise and commonsensical. There's little connection between intelligence and life skills. The two may even be mutually exclusive, if many of the professorial types I met during my decade in academia are placed in evidence.

2. If you do take remarks like Dwoskin's at face value, the results could be, and almost surely would be, disastrous. Think about what's literally being said: There is nothing but the Now; any thoughts of past or future are merely distractions from living in the Now. Dwoskin neither qualifies nor sets any conditions. (Nor does Tolle, for that matter.) If the mass of humankind actually embraced that ethic as a program for daily living...what would the repercussions be?

Here are a few of the almost certain ones:

(a) the homicide rate would quintuple overnight.
(b) so would the divorce rate.
(c) STDs and unplanned pregnancies would be far more rampant than they are already.

See, the trouble with a remark about "living in the Now," "abandoning the ego/heavy mind structure," and the rest of that pseudo-philosophical b.s. is that—even allowed its premise—it presupposes emotional wholeness and an utter lack of moral defect on the part of its disciples. It also presupposes a significant degree of control over impulses that we can't foresee. Tolle may be a really sweet guy—he does come off that way—and may find that when he abandons his ego and his heavy mind structure, all he wants to do is smell flowers and make people smile. That's great. For him. But what do we do about the people who, when they perform that same minimalizing exercise, want to pillage the countryside, rape the womenfolk and set fire to all the domestic animals? (I'm purposely overstating, but the basic point remains.) This is the same problem I have with the "one world" types who advocate, among other things, total disarmament. What they wish for is nice, and admirable. But you're never going to get 100 percent compliance; there are always going to be broken or otherwise nonconforming people. Which means we're always going to have resistance to harmonious living, either in a formal, organized sense (e.g. Al Qaeda) or in a more personal, aberrant sense (e.g. Charlie Manson). Once the rest of us fully disarm and sit around chanting Kumbaya, we've left ourselves totally vulnerable to the crazies.

I'm reminded again of what de Tocqueville said about the American experiment in democracy: that in the end, the long-term success of a free society depends on the assumption that its people are by nature civic-minded, pure-hearted and law-abiding. We saw on 9/11 how easily a free and open society can be exploited (and potentially undone) by those who do not share in the collective will. There may be no better example of living in the Now than the terrorist on a suicide mission. He is detaching from his past and relinquishing his future.

We'd do well to remember that the person with no fear of what may happen next, nor even any real sense of same, can be very, very dangerous to the rest of us.

To be continued, as time permits....

==================================

Discussing Hillary's double-digit Pennsylvania win on CNN this morning, anchor Kyra Phillips says to senior political analyst Candy Crowley, "Obama has a 'white problem.' " Phillips makes this observation because Obama received 92 percent of the black vote in Pennsylvania, whereas the so-called white vote* went (more modestly) Hillary's way. Though Phillips and Crowley never get into a specific discussion of "isms," the clear implication is this: If Obama is to remain viable as a national candidate in these post-Rev. Wright days, he must somehow overcome the white bigotry that holds him back. In this nonpareil political season, that is the knee-jerk reaction—the "tic," if you will—that mainstream media exhibit in any instance where there's a skew that falls along racial lines. It's the whites who are the problem.

I've asked this before, and I'm going to keep asking until I get a convincing answer: Why isn't it a problem—to anyone; for anyone—that blacks display near-universal support for the black candidate? Race-based support for Obama appears to be growing since the flap erupted over Rev. Wright's remarks. Obama won Mississippi six weeks ago by collecting nine of out 10 black votes. At the time, I didn't think it possible that he could do even better than that. Does this trend-line suggest that Rev. Wright, far from being out on the lunatic-fringe somewhere, actually speaks for the mass of American blacks? In any case, it would seem to tell us that blacks are now determined to support "one of their own" at all costs.

Why is none of this is deemed worthy of mentioning as part of the "open dialog" we're supposed to be having about race?

And again, what's hilarious here is that CNN and the rest of the media use the fact of Obama's overwhelming support among blacks as the benchmark against which the support from white voters should be measured! In other words, if 92 percent of black voters support him, but only 45 percent of white voters support him, then clearly a significant percentage of white voters "have a problem"! It's as if the media assume that, were it not for white racism, we could simply cancel the election and appoint Obama president by acclamation.

Still, if you think it's getting silly now...folks, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Right now, we're still talking about in-fighting among Democrats, whom the media presume to stand for truth, justice and the American way. If Obama secures the nod in August and goes on to become the Democratic candidate, just wait and see how the media spin the opposition to him from white Republicans! (Hint: Expect lots of political cartoons depicting Klan hoods.)

* I say so-called precisely because it was so divided. I'm not sure that you can say there's a "white vote" when it's split 55/45 or even 60/40, as it's been in many primaries and caucuses.

42 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

Hopefully, we can suspend the knee-jerk reaction long enough to hear the wisdom in the old Muslim saying, "Trust in Allah, but tie up the camels."

Those who live in absolute trust in the benevolence of their fellow humans - indeed, the universe itself - can be defined by a simple phrase: potential prey. Those who live in abject fear of a species (or existence) that is wholly malevolent are accurately diagnosed in the DSM (Psychiatric Diagnostic & Statistics Manual) as paranoid.

I live in the country. As idyllic a setting as one could hope to find. I always carry a knife, and have several firearms about - all loaded. I don't worry about venomous snakes or rabid skunks or coyotes, even though I had to take a machete to one of the former (an adult copperhead) just this morning.

Potentially harmful entities are a fact of life, whether they be armed terrorists filled with hate or deadly creatures merely trying to survive. In some cases, the entity might even fit within both categories. It is only prudent to be prepared to defend one's person against such entities, but what positive effect upon the quality of life can result from obsessing over them? Between the extremes of walking barefoot in tall grass at night and inspecting every step to rule out the presence of a snake, there is a broad range of prudent actions.

If it weren't so trite and cliched, I might actually join in a circle of folks sitting around a fire, singing Koom Bah Yah, and thoroughly enjoy the experience, without a bit of worry. The knife, however, would be close at hand, ignored until such time as it was needed.

RevRon's Rants said...

Hopefully, we can suspend the knee-jerk reaction long enough to hear the wisdom in the old Muslim saying, "Trust in Allah, but tie up the camels."

Those who live in absolute trust in the benevolence of their fellow humans - indeed, the universe itself - can be defined by a simple phrase: potential prey. Those who live in abject fear of a species (or existence) that is wholly malevolent are accurately diagnosed in the DSM (Psychiatric Diagnostic & Statistics Manual) as paranoid.

I live in the country. As idyllic a setting as one could hope to find. I always carry a knife, and have several firearms about - all loaded. I don't worry about venomous snakes or rabid skunks or coyotes, even though I had to take a machete to one of the former (an adult copperhead) just this morning.

Potentially harmful entities are a fact of life, whether they be armed terrorists filled with hate or deadly creatures merely trying to survive. In some cases, the entity might even fit within both categories. It is only prudent to be prepared to defend one's person against such entities, but what positive effect upon the quality of life can result from obsessing over them? Between the extremes of walking barefoot in tall grass at night and inspecting every step to rule out the presence of a snake, there is a broad range of prudent actions.

If it weren't so trite and cliched, I might actually join in a circle of folks sitting around a fire, singing Koom Bah Yah, and thoroughly enjoy the experience, without a bit of worry. The knife, however, would be close at hand, ignored until such time as it was needed.

RevRon's Rants said...

Perhaps the most honest approach to the race situation would be to acknowledge that people have an inherent distrust of anyone who differs significantly from themselves. The feigned progressive statement that, "some of my best friends are ..." is no less racist than saying, "I despise all..."

Both statements are a superficial attempt to either hide or justify one's fear of the unknown - a trait that humans are unlikely to abandon, since it exists on an instinctive, near-synaptic level, rather than an intellectual one.

As a kid growing up in Texas, my learned perception of other races was that they were "different," and that some of those differences had negative undertones. There was not the acrimony or hatred that I later saw (surprisingly, most prevalent in people who had grown up in the northeast), yet there was a condescension to the attitude, which I didn't recognize until much later in my life.

Nowadays, when I see a member of another race or nationality, I don't perceive the negative aspects until (and unless) they are clearly manifest. My old attitude of condescension doesn't arise until I see the person live up to negative aspects of their particular group's stereotypes, and that applies to members of my own race/culture/ethnic group as much as to others.

At that point, my rejection of someone's behavior is, in my perception, a pragmatic and appropriate response, though I have no doubt that the subject of my response would define my attitude as purely racist.

Is my perception defined by my earlier awareness and indoctrination? Of course it is. Is my reaction racist? At it's core, yes, it is. The more pertinent question is, whose reaction is truly racist - mine, or the subject of my perception? And in the final analysis, how we *act* upon those perceptions is what defines us.

Steve Salerno said...

You raise many interesting points, Ron. In fact much of what you say reminds me of a dialog I tried to have with Marc Hill, Temple University professor of urban studies and frequent O'Reilly guest. I say "tried to" because the dialog lasted exactly one email. I told Hill that a lot of racism today begins with self-definitions: specifically, with black people* embracing (if not "brandishing") their blackness and expecting, in some paranoid sense, to be discriminated against. In other words, as naive as this may sound to some, I think we've reached the point where racism is mostly sustained and perpetuated (at least in the circles in which I travel) by the sort of "second-stage racism" stoked in, say, black/urban studies programs. Obama's former pastor would also be included in this category. Though to be sure, much of white America is going to have certain knee-jerk emotional reactions to blacks, I think that the average white person no longer practices racism. And in another generation or so, I think that even the emotional component of white racism would fade away...were it not for the "counter-racism" that is now, apparently, virulent in many segments of black society. Bottom line, if blacks did not feel compelled to embrace their blackness, and were willing to buy into my argument (that there's really no need for race, and no biological justification for it), we'd be mostly just fine.

Put it in more succinct terms, to my mind, the appropriate response to "blacks are inferior!" is NOT "black is beautiful!" but rather, "there's no such thing as black" (or white, etc.) But yes, I do realize that "that's easy for me to say..."

* Bear in mind, again, I am talking here in terms of the conventional definitions of race--which, in my own heart and mind, I find hurtful, needless, and unscientific.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever think race has become a form of self-identification? I hear this statement quite often, “I am black man (woman) and this is how I feel.” Why even point out whether one is black, white, or green? I do not hear Asian people preface their statements that way. BTW, women do this too to a great degree. I think the same about sexual-orientation issues too. I hear, “I am a gay man (woman) and this is what I think.” What does it matter unless one is sleeping with him or her?

Now I know the argument is, “you don’t know what it’s like to be whatever in this country.” I also don’t know what it’s like to be a doctor, physicist, astronaut, or boxer either. I can imagine, but I am sure that is limited at best. Why make it an element of the discussion? Why not just state the facts and why you have your position. If one is face to face with you, that would be the only time that person would know your race or gender unless you identify yourself. The beauty of the Internet is we are race less and gender less.

I have actually done experiments with blogs that way. I will pose questions as different genders and races. It is quite interesting. You learn a lot about what people think that way. You learn people’s biases.

Steve Salerno said...

That was my point in a nutshell, Anon. If people simply stopped self-identifying in racial terms--and refused to accept the racial labels foist upon them--the entire concept would soon die.

Is it doable? I don't know. But why not try?

RevRon's Rants said...

I don't think it's really possible for humans to ignore the differences between races/cultures/genders. We're programmed from our knuckle-dragging days to be suspicious of that which is unfamiliar. Given that each group exhibits behaviors and mannerisms that differentiate it from other groups, the only way I think we'll ever get past that suspicion is by openly acknowledging & attempting to understand each other's idiosyncrasies, coupled with a conscious abandonment of those mannerisms that typify our particular group. Given the human tendency to cling to that "tribal identity," I can't see such a widespread behavioral change taking place.

The best we can do is to acknowledge and discuss our reasons for perpetuating our quirks, as well as our reactions to the quirks exhibited by members of groups that are different than our own. And from the look of things, too many people have too much invested in sustaining cultural separation to allow that to happen.

Damn! Now *I'm* starting to sound like the curmudgeonly cynic! :-)

Elizabeth said...

Anon: The beauty of the Internet is we are race less and gender less.

Anon (what an appropriate moniker for you here:) -- I could not agree less (no pun). Let me just pipe in on gender here and leave race out of it -- even though it is Steve's main point -- sorry!

That genderlessness is a (crippling) illusion of the Internet, rather than its beauty, imho. And perhaps a strange form of an ideal to which one would like to aspire, but it is not the reality -- of the Internet or life as we (ok, I) know it.

It is always an illusion, imo, that we can dissociate ourselves and withdraw somehow from the many ways in which our lives as women/men have shaped us. True, there is a large overlap here -- what we would consider the universal human experience as such -- but the distinctions of gender do influence what we perceive and experience, and how we think and feel about it. Not to mention the obvious separation of our experiences in matters of mating, marriage and parenting.

I, for one, rather like it this way too -- gender-full. Genderless anything? -- no, thank you. (And yes, I know what your point is -- that desirable kind of social blindness that would stand for justice, especially when justice is nowhere to be seen -- or understood.) But hey, I am a woman -- hear me roar (LOL). I think it makes life interesting, frankly -- though it has its own challenges as well.

You say, "I also don’t know what it’s like to be a doctor, physicist, astronaut, or boxer either. (...) Why not just state the facts and why you have your position."

Our professional roles shape us in ways that are more topical and less fundamental than gender. The facts in matters of our professional expertise, for example, are not as gender-dependent than our life experience. Sometimes the facts may or may not be directly translatable from my experience to yours if we happen to be individuals of different genders. For instance, I have yet to meet a man who would really understand the actual experience of a female monthly cycle -- to use a stark example here. I could state "the facts" till the cows come home, and I'm certain you'd have no empathic understanding of what I'm talking about, no matter how hard you tried. Or, say, I start describing my life as a mother to SHAMbloggers. I can easily expect that male readers will likely not have a point of reference here (nor would childless women) and not quite know what I'm talking about, even if they tried. Etc. etc.

P.S. I have noticed that those who advocate these genderless environments, etc. are usually (though certainly not always) people who are uncomfortable with sexuality in general and sometimes specifically with their own, not quite knowing how to approach and/or react to individuals of the other sex. This goes for men and women, btw, in my observations.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, I am the anon and a woman, wife, and mother. You proved my point about gender though.

Yekaterina said...

Enjoyed reading the two posts, and the comments too. Now on to the nit-picking, devil’s advocate stuff. You say: “Dwoskin neither qualifies nor sets any conditions. (Nor does Tolle, for that matter.)” According to Tolle the opposites of love, joy and peace do not exist in the “Timeless Now”; anytime we feel hate, misery and lack of peace (or the desire to kill) it is because we are NOT “living in the now”. It sounds to me as if he is exactly presupposing emotional wholeness and a lack of moral defect in this state.

Yuck! Please don't make me defend anything that has to do with these money-grubbing power hungry charlatans in the future! I suppose Tolle exits the “Timeless Now” here and again in order to scam for profit anyone he can with his bull…which of course, as we all know, can’t be done simultaneously while “loving” our fellow human being. If even the Great Masters of Living in the Now can’t stay there long enough to dissipate their insatiable greed and self-righteous ignorance I believe I have to agree that it is not yet time for disarmament. (Slips knife into back pocket.)

Steve Salerno said...

Ykat, I've read Tolle (to the extent that he's comprehensible), and I stand by what I said. You can't give someone license to live in the Now and yet at the same time set conditions for it. That's an idealized vision of what life should be, or what we should feel, which is in fact the very antithesis of the Now, because you're attaching preexisting universal requirements to it. The only way Now makes sense is if each of us is allowed his/her personal experience of it. And that kind of Now would be absolute chaos. And again, that's not even getting into the question of whether the essential nature of humanity encompasses too many question marks (or unknown visceral forces) that would make the abandonment of the "heavy mind structure" a frankly apocalyptic act!

Again I ask: Did anyone here see Forbidden Planet? Those who did will understand why I'm asking.

Anonymous said...

Steve:

My son just turned three years-old, so he's been "living in the now" and "in touch with his feelings" for the past year or so. I hope he grows out of it, soon.

People who "live in the now" binge shop and rack up credit card debt for things they want, but really don't need. Some even buy houses they (know they) can't afford, only to pay a huge price later on.

I guess the old puritan work ethic centered around self-sacrifice and delayed gratification doesn't sell too many books. But this living in the now nonsense is putting a lot of people in a world of economic hurt.

New Age nonsense is something only the well-off can afford. The rest of us can't afford to be that irresponsible/selfish.

Anonymous said...

"New Age nonsense is something only the well-off can afford. The rest of us can't afford to be that irresponsible/selfish."

Someone once referred to this sort of thing as 'Going crazy on a full stomach'--that is, it was the sort of delusional thinking one could afford only if you were in a social and economic safety net.

We are all (including ET) decended from ancestors who, tens of thousands of years ago, didnt live in the now. These ancestors survived to pass thier DNA along because they thought ahead and cared whether they'd stockpiled enough food to get them through the winter.

These ancient clans and societies had very little margin for error. A belief system that disabled people from being able to get the harvest in on time would have been a contributing factor to that group being wiped out.

Only in complex urban societies with food surpluses can these New Thought programs stand a chance.

The Brahmins in India who dealt with these nondual philosophies were in a set up where others looked after them.

Ramana Maharshi, a guru who is dead now, but was an honorable guy and is used as a source by a lot of Human Potential types today, had access to quite exalted states of mind. But...he lived within an ashram where he was looked after.

Years earlier when he was living in a cave, Maharshi would've died had a gentleman in the area not taken an interest in him and looked after him.

Krishnmanurti, who is also used as a source by a lot of folks, lived quietly compared with a lot of commercial gurus, but even K still had caregivers who looked after him.

Its easy to be serene when someone else is booking the plane flights for you and making the appointments.

So its worth asking when someone is serene and confident, how much is it their own state of mind and how much of it is the effect of having been able to attract an entourage.

Elizabeth said...

Well, Anon at 10:55 pm, then being all these things -- woman, mother, wife -- at least you understand what I'm talking about when it comes to the feminine experience, right.

Not that I/we would know this is so indeed, given that you are still an Anon and one who likes to assume various identities on different blogs just for the heck of it, or, as you say it, to learn what people think.

(Not that there is anything wrong with that. :))

RevRon's Rants said...

I think the point that's being overlooked is that it is impossible to live successfully from an absolutist perspective. To live wholly "in the now," while discounting the value of prior experience and future planning, is a recipe for disaster. Nobody in their right mind would ever suggest such a course, IMO.

On the other hand, living one's life wholly "in the then," that is, focusing only upon what has previously occurred or what might occur in the future is to discard the richness of one's present set of circumstances. Paradoxically, the very lessons we find so essential in guiding our actions are denied by such a mindset. After all, if living in the "now" is useless, what value is there in the "nows" that have already passed?

What is most amusing is the smugness exhibited by those who espouse both extremes, alternately accusing the "other" of either wasting life's riches or ignoring life's lessons. I think we can embrace both the taste upon our tongue and the we have wisdom acquired.

Steve Salerno said...

I have a feeling we're at the point where many New Age adherents would say that we need a better definition of "living in the Now." Exactly what does it imply? (I mean, stripping away the b.s. and trying to be as clinical about it as possible.) Obviously, from a literalist standpoint, Dwoskin is correct: we all live in the Now. Inasmuch as the chemical processes that support life are constantly ongoing and synaptical connections are constantly renewing, nothing else exists but the Now (though Steven Sashen's point about the fragmentary delay between "absolute Now" and our cognizance of it/ability to process it must also be taken into account somehow. So maybe the Now is always on a 7-millisecond tape delay?). Even if you spend your life ruing the mistakes of your youth...you are doing it in the Now. Right? Maybe at a certain point all of this philosophizing devolves into something like that old chestnut about how "tomorrow never comes"?

Elizabeth said...

RevRon: "What is most amusing is the smugness exhibited by those who espouse both extremes, alternately accusing the "other" of either wasting life's riches or ignoring life's lessons."

That's because beyond "here," there be dragons!

(Couldn't resist using, again, my favorite phrase of the year, RevRon :).

RevRon's Rants said...

"Even if you spend your life ruing the mistakes of your youth...you are doing it in the Now."

And while you're ruing away, you are missing out on the experiences available outside your head.

In a certain religious discipline that I won't name for reasons obvious to anyone who has been here awhile, there is a ritual striking of a gong during meditation. The sudden intrusion of the very loud sound upon an otherwise silent milieu startles the disciples. The immediate reaction is to intellectualize upon the shift in awareness from silence to noise, then to observe the decay as the resonance diminishes, then to once again fall back to the awareness of silence, albeit filled with the memory of the raucousness just passed. The lesson is to avoid defining the "now" by those transient elements, or for that matter, defining it at all.

We go on with our lives, experiencing the "gongs" that intrude upon our silence, knowing from experience that the sound will diminish, yet realizing that neither the intrusion nor the memory need affect our current state beyond that which we allow. We neither forget nor ignore, but proceed with a commitment to act well.

Living in the now in its purest sense doesn't require discarding the past and ignoring the future. Rather, it is an admonition to learn from - but not be limited by - our past. And right living takes care of the future much more effectively than does fretting about it.

RevRon's Rants said...

"That's because beyond "here," there be dragons!"

Humor (and flattery!) aside, that's a very accurate statement, Elizabeth. We fear what we don't know. Those "dragons" - real and imagined - are the source of racism, nationalism, and every other form that perpetuates tribal consciousness.

Anonymous said...

"at least you understand what I'm talking about when it comes to the feminine experience, right."

I can't say that I do. For example, I had home births and they are not as common as hospital births. I did not have drugs, but most women have had them in hospital births. So how can that experience be like a woman who has that experience or say a c-section? Yes, "hopefully" we love our children, but our experiences are probably vastly different.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:59, you got my arguement exactly.

Elizabeth said...

Ahem, a note to self: [;)]

RevRon, though I intended no flattery, I'm glad that you're pleased. :)

I'm smitten with "there be dragons." This is such a charming and potent phrase. And yes, it describes our lives more vividly and accurately -- and more compassionately, I'd say -- than hundreds of philosophical treatises put together.

Have even been thinking about re-naming my blog this way (though the middle of nowhere is perhaps as well -- it's beyond here *and* there, and a perfect place for dragons too. IOW, life as I know it.)

Elizabeth said...

Anon at 2:35 pm: "I can't say that I do."

I can't say that either. I was being ironic there, you know. And that is because as an Anon and one who admitted to playing with various identities on different forums, you have practically stripped yourself of credibility. Sorry, but that is the two-edged sword of anonymity that RevRon has just mentioned on the other thread. It's also that "beauty" of the Internet you (and was it really you?) described early. If we do not know who you are and you have planted doubts about your identity to begin with, is there really a point in "sharing" any experiences or "exchanging" any views? I don't think so.

Not that it should stop you, mind you, if you want to continue in this manner -- not at all -- I can even see the fun of doing so; but please understand that I will not engage in it. It's just too confusing for an old woman with a limited CPU capacity.

Anonymous said...

"Not that it should stop you, mind you, if you want to continue in this manner -- not at all -- I can even see the fun of doing so; but please understand that I will not engage in it. It's just too confusing for an old woman with a limited CPU capacity."

But you were the one who engaged me. I never directed anything at you until you addressed me. You "assumed" that you thought I was a man and I explained that I was not. I made my post as a question to Steve, because this is his blog and he answered it. You made a post about my gender and I addressed it. You also made a reference to understanding being a woman and I addressed that.

Anonymous said...

Being anonymous or choosing a neutral name helps in blog discussions. You deal with the argument as a whole instead of bringing in outside information or bias. The only person who needs the identification is one who usually cannot support their arguments and for their own benefit. I don’t want to shock anyone, but people read Steve’s blog and people have lives that they lead outside of this blog besides it's easier.

Anonymous said...

Bringing up the race issue. I find it sad and bit funny when Fox News brings out Juan Williams to give views on Obama. He always looks perplexed. Fox might as well say, "hey, your our black guy so you should know all about Obama." I actually like Juan Williams a lot, but it bothers me when they do this.

Steve Salerno said...

People sometimes assume that I'm a fan of FOX News--I'm not saying you're doing that, Anon (3:52)--but since I expend most of my criticism on CNN and the traditional networks, who happen to tilt left, some folks assume that I like my news to tilt right. Not so. I'd prefer that my news not tilt at all--as I establish (shameless plug to follow) in my major article for Skeptic, which should be arriving on newsstands as we speak

I will say this: I think FOX's rightward tilt is far less egregious--in general--than most of the networks' portside inclinations. At least in the presentation of so-called hard news.

For the record, however, I too am uncomfortable with the bias in FOX's handling of minority guests/experts, if not necessarily for the reasons you cite. The blacks who are expected to agree with Hannity et al (like Williams) are given diva treatment. The blacks who are expected to disagree are given a very hard time, and are sometimes marginalized and even patronized/made fun of right to their faces. It is very obvious, and very unbecoming.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Being anonymous or choosing a neutral name helps in blog discussions."

Most definitely... If one's primary intent is to throw rocks and play games without having to actually "face" the other participants. The practice was also effectively used long before the Internet was established, during the US' Reconstruction period immediately after the Civil War. Granted, white sheets and hoods were low-tech by today's standards, but they performed the same function.

Steve - "I think FOX's rightward tilt is far less egregious--in general--than most of the networks' portside inclinations."

Hmmm... "Rush is Right" became a quasi-rallying cry, back before the nation knew better. Could "Steve is Starbnoard" be the next great bumper sticker? :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Hmmm. It's nicely alliterative, I'll give you that. Though we really should take out the gratuitous "n" in the operative word. ;)

Elizabeth said...

Anon: "But you were the one who engaged me. I never directed anything at you until you addressed me. You "assumed" that you thought I was a man and I explained that I was not. I made my post as a question to Steve, because this is his blog and he answered it. You made a post about my gender and I addressed it. You also made a reference to understanding being a woman and I addressed that."

For the sake of clarity:

Anon, I just responded to your first post expressing my views on the "beauty" of genderless Internet communication. Yes, I made an assumption about your gender *to underscore* my point on the possible lack of understanding when it comes to certain biological experiences -- if you were a man you'd not get some of what I, being a woman, go through (the reverse is also true, btw -- women, in general, have no idea what men go through as men, biologically speaking). I'd say that was a fair assumption -- why not -- and one without consequences, frankly, since you stated in the very beginning that you post on blogs under assumed identities. So it does not matter whether you say you are a man or woman. You chose to "identify" yourself in response to my assumption -- the problem with it, however, is that we/I can't take your self-identification seriously. Being "anonymous" is one thing, but posting under fake identities -- and announcing it -- introduces a whole new dimension to any conversation -- and not a very useful one, imo. You know that dilemma: Do we believe a self-professed liar who assures us that he is telling the truth?

(BTW, I'm not calling you a liar here -- just underscoring my point again. I know that many people do the same thing on the Web -- post under false identities -- and for various reasons. And again, that is perhaps the "beauty" of the medium -- especially if, like RevRon stated, one wants to play games. I don't. I'd also say that one does not have to pretend to be someone else to "learn what people think" -- one can do it as well being genuine and direct. IMHO.)

I cannot "engage" you, you know, especially since you don't exist. No, seriously. From my point of view, talking to an Anon with shifting identities is as fruitful as interacting with imaginary friends (or less so, actually).
It is perhaps a pity, since the thread on understanding each other within or outside of our gendered experiences could have been an interesting one.

Citizen Deux said...

Tolle shed his suicidal tendencies to replace them with a frightening (although benign) sociopathy. To be focused on the now (I have been watching his webcast with Oprah) discounts everything he has become or could hope to be. One can not aspire to be better (or worse) without a referant.

Ron makes a great case - pointed as usual. I think Bill Whittle also prepared a great essay in his blog Eject!Eject! Eject!

People who point to the animal kingdom as some example of pure altruism simply overlook the realities. Injured, sick or dangerous members of a herd are culled by predators, excluded or killed. Females who mate and bear young out of hierarchical sequence in primate groups face the murder of their young or banishment.

We are operating at odds with our evolutionary tendencies. It is admirable and desirable to reach a societal state in which the prisoner's dilemma is always viewed through the lens of mutual aid, until then - please pass me the extra clip for my 40.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. Self-correction: I said "the reverse is also true, btw -- women, in general, have no idea what men go through as men, biologically speaking."

That ignorance goes beyond matters of biology, I'd like to add, though it is rooted in our biological differences. Women have no clue as to what men experience in life in general, I'd say, with their unique challenges and pressures related to, well, being men (especially when it comes to competition for mates and status, which is often deadly for men and something women do not experience [not in the same way] -- and thus do not understand).

Jim Thompson said...

Steve,

I'm not sure what the exact question about living in the now is either. I'll just add a few points that may help other people down the road. First I would like to say that time is a dubious concept. What do we mean by time? It seems to have something to do with entropy and movement. What do we mean by now? Now would be the current state of the universe in which we are also a part of. For each moment of time, as a member of the universe, we move. We usually first move in our mind and then we move outside of it. Our bodies also move but that is pertaining to the tools of our mind. The information our minds use take time to be transduced at the sensory organs and transmitted to the higher, more integrative regions of our nervous system. There, the information is put back together in some way that is useful for makeing sense of what is going on around us. There is some delay in this sequence of about 0.8 ms for each synapse along the way, usually at least 3 synapses. The more behaviorally relevant information that would be needed to say remove hand from hot stove gets to take the highway and often times such simple behaviors take place without the need of higher processing. Anyway... for more complicated behaviors such as decisions and speech it takes longer and there is a period of time after which some outgoing information is sent to the muscles. It seems that the Now in terms of behavior is not as discreet as the now for an oscillation of an atom. As I'm writing this I get the feeling that the Now that we live that really matters to us as thinking feeling creatures depends on the behavior that we are engaged in. The now for a reflex is a very narrow window of time during which something has to be done. The now for say appreciating a painting is a wider window of time. But that window is the present. Taking into consideration that the mind has a good ability, if healthy, to fall back on past memories and imagine the future; then the present that one can live in may be even wider than the few minutes max that I can stay at one painting without getting bored. And yet the mind is always bombarded with new information that demands that we act NOW. I'm remembering the quote 'time exists so that things don't happen all at once'.

More relevant to the shamscape... I have to say that I have no idea what they are talking about when they say we need to live more in the now. Isn't that what you are doing no matter what you are doing?

Citizen Deux said...

Elizabeth - as someone who looks at the demasculinization of society as a bad thing, I agree with you. The trials and tribulations of men in general are discounted, underplayed or ignored.

There are very important and critical elements from each gender which can and should contribute to a healthy, vibrant society. However, when the bulk of societal focus is on one gender, the balance tips too far for me.

Steve Salerno said...

It's not really on-point for this discussion, but I'm still bemused by the strong stand that Dr. Laura takes on behalf of men and masculinity. I recognize that in so doing, she's really just being "old school" and, in her view, at least, standing up for so-called traditional family values. But she doesn't live that way. It seems quite clear that our Laura has "worn the pants" in every meaningful relationship she's ever had, and that standard definitions of gender orthodoxy have never prevented her from doing what she basically felt like doing. Even today, though I don't doubt that she can bake on occasion if called upon to do so, she certainly isn't the type of woman who's ever going to be typecast as a domestic goddess stooped over a hot stove with a tin of steaming muffins. It's all very odd to me. She says she likes her men masculine and her women feminine--but to me, she's anything but feminine, and indeed, is rather "tough," using standard benchmarks of what constitutes masculinity and femininity.

I dunno. Just a thought. Take it for what it's worth.

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. And no, I am not implying that in order to be feminine, a woman needs to be bent over hot stove with a tin of muffins. I'm saying that's the read I get from her (Schlessinger), if one examines her stereotypes of "traditional" male and female roles.

Elizabeth said...

CD: "However, when the bulk of societal focus is on one gender, the balance tips too far for me."

It's that, CD, and the kind of focus we display, in my opinion, that makes a difference. It is way too common for women to harp about men for being men, and for men to harp about women for just being women. As if it was our fault that we are so different -- and yes, we are.

It is definitely a knee-jerk behavior, and one exploited and promoted by advertisers and media (see, for example, the various stereotypical ads where women are pitted against men and vice versa; same with sitcoms, especially those devoted to marriage and family matters). It is not that we should ignore these differences and quirks and yes, problems they create, but we need to understand and appreciate them as hard-wired and necessary to our species' survival. The same traits that are so annoying to members of the other gender can actually be seen as strengths in certain circumstances (or at least as evolutionary adaptations to challenges we each face in life). We, women and men, are wedded and bound to each other for better and for worse. And that's the terrible beauty of it (I'd say LOL here, but I'm way too self-conscious now after reading Steve's latest post).

That pendulum was tipped too far to women's disadvantage for too long, I'd say, so the current swing, prompted by feminism, is a response to it. I think (naive as I tend to be) that the situation will balance itself with time. I hope. But I also think that rather than engaging in knee-jerking contempt and derision for the other gender, we should strive for understanding and compassion (naive as I tend to be...)

Elizabeth said...

For what it's worth, Steve, I think that what "Dr." Laura does is called pandering. She is a fake, a hypocrite of the first class. Not only does she not live what she preaches, but she displays a stunning (in my opinion) lack of compassion and empathy for women -- and, in a way, for men as well (which makes me suspect some deep pathology there -- and I certainly would not be alone in my observations).

She does what she does, because she knows that many (though not all) men and the conservative movement in general will embrace this kind of "wisdom" and put her on their pedestal as the "expert" on male-female relationships. One could call it the philosophy of "reversed victimhood" perhaps. She knows well that there is a niche in the market for this particular slant on the relational "expertise." She is a calculating, well, you know what (in my humble opinion). And there are a couple of other female "experts" like her out there, by the way. Her advice, even though it may look reasonable to some at the first sight, is really so lopsided that it should raise immediate suspicions in anyone with any critical thinking skills left. Alas.

Far from championing men, she appears to demean them (in my opinion). But it is also a testimony to the toxic power of radical feminism that her condescending treatment of men is still considered an "improvement," in comparison with the far too common male bashing. Sigh.

P.S. I will start taking "Dr." Laura seriously when she writes "The Proper Care and Feeding of Wives." For balance, you know -- and also to demonstrate that she is a feeling human being and not a hypocritical harpy in denial of her own private hell. Just my humble opinion (previously known as JMHO).

RevRon's Rants said...

"I think (naive as I tend to be) that the situation will balance itself with time."

Gosh, Elizabeth... I love it when you talk dirty! :-)

As I've stated on numerous occasions (and in reference to numerous aspects of human behavior) I believe the pendulum will continue to swing to and fro - albeit in continually decreasing arcs - toward the center. Backlash in response to a given trend is inevitable, but as each foray into a polar extreme shortens, so will the extremity of the backlash diminish.

Elizabeth said...

P.S. On the second (and very urgent) thought: God, no. I hope "Dr." Laura does not, ever, write "The Proper Care and Feeding of Wives." I can't imagine it would have any positive value. I would not trust her with my houseplants, much less any human (or canine) family members.

Steve Salerno said...

In defense of Dr. Laura--and there's a line I never expected to write--I think she wrote "Care/Feeding/Husbands" as a backlash, of sorts, against the social currency, which, for many years--at least in her view--had been all about, and only about, women. What women want, what women need, etc. But even the title of the book (as someone here once observed) makes men sound like, well, houseplants. And besides, by now you know my feelings on "bloc thinking"--if men are put-upon, then the proper response is not to engineer a "men's movement" or a "movement on behalf of men"--but rather an all-embracing/overarching movement that emphasizes fair treatment for all.

Elizabeth said...

RevRon, if you thought I was talking dirty before, you just wait (and keep reading).

To comment some more on Dr. Laura: It is beyond me why anyone would seek and accept advice on love from someone who is clearly filled with contempt, if not hate, for others. It does not make sense, does it? Not to mention, again, the obvious fact that she does not walk the talk (or the walk?).

I dunno, but when I see/hear the woman, I want to run and hide. She scares the hell out of me. I would never consider her a credible source of relational wisdom.

On the other hand (and here comes the dirty talk part), to anyone seeking advice on male-female relationships I would recommend "Love and Responsibility" by John Paul II (yes, the late Catholic pope). Especially for men who wonder what women want/need and for women who wonder what men want/need, this is the book to consult. There are Catholic prohibitions there on premarital sex, contraceptives, divorce, etc. -- and I do not agree with those, personally -- but JPII's understanding of women's and men's emotional and sexual needs is outstanding, in my opinion. I expected him to "get" the male perspective, being the Catholic pope and a man, but I was blown away by his understanding of women. He shows the depth of compassion, empathy and, yes, love, that I suspect Dr. Laura cannot begin to comprehend. (And what's ironic -- or not at all perhaps -- is that she is a woman with "experience" in matters of relationships, and he a celibate male. Go figure.)

Here is the Amazon link to JPII's book: http://tinyurl.com/4vw427

P.S. If I already plugged JPII's book here before, I apologize for being redundant. However, this book should be popularized as much as possible, so I hope to be forgiven.

Now I'll run, so the pendulum (and/or Dr. Laura and her surrogates) does not whack me on the head (and I can already see it coming).