Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year's resolution: Let he who is without sin....

With 2013 looming, I would like to offer a resolution on behalf of all of you...in fact, on behalf of all Mankind. That's pretty damn presumptuous of me, I know, but I like the solidity of the ground on which I stand. So please feel free to help this post go viral, if you deem it worthy. I've posted on this matter before, but always in in-passing mode.

Let's begin with a short vignette. I know any number of people who drive fast on the highway. (That sounds vaguely Rain Man-esque, doesn't it?) These people seem to have an inner clock about how fast is "just right," and they expect to be able to drive at that speed without being impeded by motorists driving at, say, the speed limit. Take my wife, for example. (Please.) She seems to settle at somewhere between 75 and 80. So she'll come up on a car going 68 in the left lane and begin to betray annoyance. She'll talk through the windshield to the woman in front of us: "Why are you in the left lane? If you're going to go that speed, move over, lady!" So eventually "the lady" moves over, and my wife proceeds along at 78. Then, a few minutes later, someone comes up on my wife's tail, and now she's annoyed about that. Now she's talking into the rear-view mirror: "What, 80 isn't fast enough for you, buddy? Get off my tail." Sometimes, at her passive-aggressive best, she'll even slow down. One time she slowed down so much that we ended up getting passed on the right by a motorist she'd coaxed out of the left lane just moments earlier.

There's a point here, and it's not just about driving. The point is that we all get comfortable with our own foibles, or the degree of our foibles, and we excuse them (or at least accept them/rationalize them), despite being irate over the foibles of our neighbors. People who break the law by driving 78 get annoyed at people who break the law just a little more by driving 83. I know a woman who's had an abortion, who has all kinds of nasty things to say about another woman she knows who's had two abortions. The guy who overspends on an Audi costing $56,000 gets pissy about his neighbor's $98,000 Benz. The guy who enjoys farting around his girlfriend when he knows she hates it gets irate over the guy who smacks his girlfriend around now and then. The woman who cheats on her taxes scorns the woman who cheats on her husband. The woman who engages in an adulterous affair with a married man scorns the same married man who then cheats on her with someone else. The bar bully who likes to pick on the weak thinks the Jerry Sanduskys of the world should all be shot. The man who hunts deer for sport gets annoyed at the man who hunts humans for sport. (What's that you say? It's not the same thing at all! Bill Maher, among others, wouldn't agree.) The U.S. politician who condemns the killing of innocents in Sandy Hook favors greater trade relations with nations that use children as slave labor in dangerous working conditions.

I've tagged this "hypocrisy," but hypocrisy isn't really what's going on here. Maybe that last one, and the one about the woman who's sleeping with a married man, represent hypocrisy, but in most cases we're talking more about our all-too-human tendency to see things as apples-and-oranges when, in fact, all of this is really apples-to-apples at its core (ahem): We excuse the things that we do, the beliefs that we hold, while attacking others for the things that they do and/or believe. The whole thing is especially troublesome if one subscribes to a deterministic lens on life, as I do. 

I realize that in writing a post like this I will be accused of selling moral relativism and amorality/immorality. Some may even dismiss this as the devil's handiwork...another attempt to undermine the (high) standards by which we all should live. I don't see it that way. I see it as a call for understanding. Take a second look at the people you've been judging. Give a bit more thought to the traits you find so "wrong" in others. Then take another look at yourself. That's all I'm asking.

23 comments:

RevRon's Rants said...

It's been said that the people we most greatly admire, we admire because they exhibit characteristics that we'd like to see in ourselves. And that the people we most aggressively disdain, we dislike because they mirror (and often magnify) a trait we see in ourselves and wish to eliminate (or at least distance ourselves from). Our reactions, therefore, are not so much to the other person, but to the part of ourselves we attribute to them. Ultimately, such judgments represent either emotional masturbation or self-flagellation. IMO, if we would but consider this as a possibility, we might be a bit less prone to pass judgment (at least, out loud!).

"We has met the enemy, and he is us."
~Pogo

Steve Salerno said...

Hey wait a minute! I thought I (and not Kelly or Oliver Perry) invented that line! ;)

Dimension Skipper said...

I have a couple friends who drive like that too... They tailgate and constantly want to go faster (almost as if it's a race), but let someone come up behind them the same way and the expletives start flying. This is why I use cruise control with a rule of 5 miles an hour over the limit, maybe 10 *IF* other traffic still seems to mostly be flying by me. I should be passing or being passed roughly equally.

The following really is how most folks view New Year's resolutions, or even just their day-to-day lives, I think...

Classic Calvin & Hobbes from yesterday (December 30).

I always say that people are crazy or stupid or even the combo crazy-stupid, but I just thank God that I'm so sane, normal, and well-adjusted.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2013 will be the year we Americans finally get our acts together, come to a utopian national consensus, and live together in tolerance, peace and harmony... I just know it.

;^)

a/good/lysstener said...

I appreciate the desire for world harmony and mutual understanding though I must admit you lose me a little bit when it comes to equating driving 80 mph with killing schoolchildren. These are the kinds of posts that make me wonder about you, my dear old somewhat crazy Steve.

RevRon's Rants said...

Alyssa, merely appreciating "the desire for world harmony and mutual understanding" isn't enough. One must also actually willing to strive for mutual understanding if anything resembling harmony can be achieved. Refusing to consider - and ultimately dismissing outright - other viewpoints than one's own are the core elements of radical partisanship, and the antithesis of mutual understanding.

Dimension Skipper said...

In a strange way, this 'Tom the Dancing Bug' comic (courtesy of Language Log) fits perfectly under this post, I think, as it twists 1st & 2nd Amendment interpretations/emphasis around to hilarious effect (imo).

Anonymous said...

Paying lip service to looking at oneself, in a blog dedicated to gleefully smearing others with an utmost of superiority, is just that, nothing but lip service. Both you and your regulars little club here is a a strange pace to see this pretend discussion about "Let he who is without sin...." it just does not apply to you or anyone who posts here, it is not what you do and not what you are about.

Steve Salerno said...

Also, "let he who misses the whole point of the post...." (wink)

Anonymous said...

"We excuse the things that we do, the beliefs that we hold, while attacking others for the things that they do and/or believe. The whole thing is especially troublesome if one subscribes to a deterministic lens on life, as I do. "

Where have I missed the point of the post Steve? I assert that you have built a blog around gleefully pointing at others weaknesses and foibles as you see them. and breathtakingly, as if you in your largess and superiority have none of the weaknesses and foibles those you point at have. What point did I miss?

Steve Salerno said...

I'm saying that although my views may be strongly held, I also have a meta-level of awareness in which I recognize that--no matter how strongly I feel--I could very well be (a) prejudiced or (b) wrong.

And you know, Anon, I think that for a blogger with this type of blog (advocacy), I am very open to dissenting opinion and go out of my way to be fair to contributors such as yourself, as long as people don't turn into flat-out trolls whose only purpose is to throw darts at everything the other person says. THis of course is the key problem we currently have in DC, which is responsible for the governmental stasis: All the politicians have become trolls.

Anonymous said...

"I'm saying that although my views may be strongly held, I also have a meta-level of awareness in which I recognize that--no matter how strongly I feel--I could very well be (a) prejudiced or (b) wrong."

You say the above but there is little or no evidence of you embodying those words , except for rare and token comments every now and then to make yourself look good. One only has to surf Shamblog to see what I am saying is a fact. Saying one are x does not mean one is x. Humans often say they are x and act y, as is the case with you here. The overall tone of your Shamblog is self righteousness and your regular posters buy into that same view as if you are all in-the-know experts about others and the world and you are all almost always pontificating about the folly and foibles of others and the world out there. I am not trolling you but I did find this post too hard to resist.

People often want to have their cake and eat it to... but you are what you are Steve, the proof is in your writing.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, again I think you're missing my point, perhaps purposely. Look, I make no pretense of the fact that this site is an outgrowth of my book, which was written to counterbalance (or just to counter) a phenomenon that is rampant in American culture and, pre-SHAM, owned the discussion; there was very little serious criticism of self-help. So, as I've explained ad nauseam, I felt no compulsion to be "fair" in my treatment of self-help because to that point there was only one side of the story being presented and reinforced daily on Oprah, Larry King, Ellen, Good Morning America, etc., etc. I wrote my book and launched my blog to give the other side of the story, and to "sell" the idea that one can be skeptical of these pie-in-the-sky regimens without being (a) un-American or (b) a dastardly human being. If everybody in the world is saying the world is flat, and I think I have proof that it's round, I should be able to make my case (my rebuttal) free of the obligation to also present what I consider to be an erroneous and dangerous point of view.

That said...look, it's like the way we're supposed to feel about our spouses. I may think my woman is the best woman in the world--and if you asked me, I'd tell you that--but on that other meta level I also recognize that you probably think your woman (or man, if you're a woman) is the best spouse in the world. So I can insist that my woman is the best woman in the world, and feel that deeply and unshakably, while also knowing that I may be wrong. Or there may be no right or wrong in that particular discussion.

Anonymous said...

you are entitled to your opinion and your crusade against self help, you think it is s sham and that is fine. I happen to think all of life is a sham and singling out self help is a distorted view and that you probably do it to sell yourself as an expert.

But in this post, you seem to be, I suppose to look good, and inappropriately IMO, trying to portray yourself as some person you are not and cover what you actually do. You do not do in Shamblog what you are writing about in this particular post. In Shamblog you and your regulars, act and talk as if you are not flawed jerks who should look in the mirror more, but all those self help people are and they should realize how flowed they are just because you think so.

Harvard Professor Chris Argyris said after spending 40 years studying human beings:

“Put simply, people consistently act inconsistently, unaware of the contradiction between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use, between the way they think they are acting, and they way they really act.”

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, the Argyris quote you use is, in my view, a very shallow and naive assessment of the problem. In my view these disjunctions occur because the conscious mind is not who we are. What we think (or what we think we think) has very little to do with how we behave, which is driven at a much deeper level). That's not an excuse for hypocrisy, just an explanation of my view of how such things work. It explains how a person can simultaneously say "I'm a devout Catholic" and yet acknowledge that "Catholicism makes no sense." I can believe that I'm right about something and yet also know that I am wrong.

Anonymous said...

" I can believe that I'm right about something and yet also know that I am wrong."


What I am belabouring is that your "knowing you are wrong" or your having the thought 'that you could be or may be wrong', does not any way inform how you behave or talk in shamblog. And that you include some lip service to it in a post is just that purely lip service to something you do not practice in any real way that would effect or inspire or contribute to the community or your writing or self expression. It does not rear its head in all the finger pointing and religious righteousness towards others. It is the kind of talk that is shallow and only exists as a theory. It is odd, to me, that you call Argyris's words shallow when you are the one who is visibly acting and talking remarkably shallowly here.

Anonymous said...

"I can believe that I'm right about something and yet also know that I am wrong."

This is crazy and just wordy theory gobbledygook. A considerate rational person would not do both those two things. Do you read your own writing?

Anonymous said...

Argys's quote is flawless and holds up if you look at what people say and how people behave. And it applies perfectly to you n this case.

(sorry for the broken up posts)

Steve Salerno said...

OK, I'm saying just one more thing and then I'm bowing out on this topic, giving you the last word.

CAn you believe with all your heart that your wife is the best possible mate for you? You believe that 100%, right? (Some people actually do.)

And yet at the same time you know that you have to be wrong. Somewhere in this world of 6 billion, there has to be a better mate for you...probably hundreds if not thouands of them, right?

Can you believe in God, with every ounce of you--and yet also know that scientifically you have to be wrong?

Such are the disconnects between certainty and knowledge. Plus, if every single thought is predetermined, as I believe it to be, then we are incapable of questioning our own beliefs.

OK, I'm out.

Anonymous said...

["Can you believe with all your heart that your wife is the best possible mate for you? You believe that 100%, right? (Some people actually do.)"]

Some people believe they are Napoleon or your favourite , the "easter bunny", so what?

["And yet at the same time you know that you have to be wrong. "]

I do not buy into a right and wrong model. If I believe I am Napoleon, I would hopefully be able to see that it was only a point of view happening where i was, and probably a point of view that would not be shared by anyone else but me. Hopefully. Otherwise, it would probably be the funny farm for me.

["Somewhere in this world of 6 billion, there has to be a better mate for you...probably hundreds if not thouands of them, right?"]

Not right. A better mate out there is a myth, a dangling carrot, that is bought and sold by many. I do not trade in that one. I am with the personIi say i have chosen to be with. That is all there is to it. I have told the person who is with me that I am not with them because they are better than others nor the best nor that I love them more than anyone else nor even like them more than anyone else but only because I have chosen to partner with them in the way we partner. And as it turns out, lucky for me, they are thrilled and delighted with this unusual point of view I shared with them. If they needed a romantic script read to them, they would have probably run off, which they did not. The person I am with can count on me to treat them as if they are precious and important to me, the same way I treat others. The way you are trying to frame a persons view of a wife just does not apply to me Steve.

["Can you believe in God, with every ounce of you--and yet also know that scientifically you have to be wrong?"]

This is just theory gobbledygook. A superstition recognized as a superstition is not longer a superstition. The person you are describing Steve does not "believe" with every once of themselves, like you they are only giving lip service to it. Such is much of religion and beliefs.

["Such are the disconnects between certainty and knowledge."]

What you are describing is not certainty. What you are describing contains doubt and that is probably healthy and intelligent. But you are trying to sell something in a distorted way here Steve.


["Plus, if every single thought is predetermined, as I believe it to be, then we are incapable of questioning our own beliefs."]

I cannot speak to predetermnination. Might be true, who knows.

["OK, I'm out."]

If you are compelled to weigh back in once more, that is ok with me, if not, thanks for the last word and posting my comments on YOUR blog. Generous and open on your part, and i appreciate it and acknowledge you for that.

Anonymous said...

"CAn you believe with all your heart that your wife is the best possible mate for you? You believe that 100%, right? (Some people actually do.)"

I see two options here:

1. Buying into some romantic fairy tale and "believing" that one's wife is the best possible mate for one

2. Being a man of character and saying with power and conviction that your wife is the best possible mate for you and standing by your word, and following through to have your actions and behaviour match your choice and what you say. Honouring one's word. I say that that is what it means to be a Man, capital M.

I choose # 2, I think most people would if they made the distinction.

Anonymous said...

"Believing" is not thinking something and knowing it to be false and that you are wrong or could be wrong, believing is thinking something and not know knowing it was false and being convinced that you are right - SHAMBLOG.

Going along or playing along with or holding onto something you suspect is false or untrue and you suspect it is questionable is not the same as believing something.

If you believe it, you can only do one thing and that is act in accordance with it. It is real and it is a fact and you know you are right and you know you know you are right and that is it. I believe in gravity whole heartedly and based on that you will not ever find me stepping of the ledge of a roof or any great hight without a harness or a parachute or a body of water warm not too far down below. Not ever. And I never doubt gravity or consider other opinions about it. I am uneducated about the science of gravity but my experience has left me with a very real and unshakeable belief about it, so no need trying to convince me of otherwise.

You keep using the word "believe" incorrectly Steve. People do not doubt what they believe. If they do then it cannot be said they believe it and it is more just an opinion they hold as an opinion and know they hold it as an opinion they are holding. That is not a belief.

Steve Salerno said...

People do not doubt what they believe? Why not? They ought to. And many of us do.

But come on, Anon, you made your point. I gave you the last word...twice. You can't just be gracious about it?

Anonymous said...

"People do not doubt what they believe? Why not? They ought to. And many of us do."

I would suggest that if a person has doubts then it is not a "belief", perhaps it is a strongly held opinion, but not a belief. People's actions are perfect correlates with their actual beliefs. I discount people who say they have religious beliefs but practice none of it - that is just lip service and wearing a belief as a badge for for whatever reason. Like you in this particular blog post. What you are calling beliefs I do not call beliefs.

Sorry, it took a string of posts to get it all out Steve, in the face f a gracious last word invite, my bad.