Anthropological Motivation For Not Fighting About Politics


For context, look up popular American news articles for March 12th, 2016.

Raja Yoga (the Hindu philosophy of using physical movement to achieve a higher spiritual state–called simply “yoga” by most westerners) seems to have arisen out of a collection of movements and postures practiced as part of human life. From bowing to a king, to taking a wide stance in preparation for delivering a sword blow, to stretching in the morning and evening to alleviate muscle and joint pain, to picking up a baby–this is a system of kinetic learning intended to explain and teach the human condition and how to function within it.

Humans are loving. Humans are powerful. Humans fight for survival, spend their days gathering resources; humans follow leaders; humans battle for control over the followers and means of acquisition. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably seeing you as their follower…) This method of teaching translates literally to “royal yoga”. As profound as it once was, it fails to teach apt governance or understanding in the absence of the cultural understanding that could only be truly had in the more revered and wealthy circles of the ancient world.

What would such a system look like, if it were created out of the successful strategies of governing and being governed within our own society? Are there any motions that we can still use to universally increase our usefulness and success as a part of the human meta-organism? Today, we crave a method that works for almost everyone, and mourn the absence of any such thing that can make us happy. There is currently no “one size fits most” method for anyone born after 1980, or, perhaps, before.

In politics and religion, alike, we are bereft of truly effective guidance. We celebrate the death of “storge” love while complaining about lack of agreement in public matters. (This is a contradiction.) We seek ancient wisdom that hardly translates to how to make a real living, today. We are amply taught, in school, church, home, and in casual society everything but what is known to be truly, universally effective–because nobody knows of any universally “human” means of survival that has, itself, survived the test of time.

In the last decade, much of the world has awoken to this predicament, and we are fighting each other because nobody can figure out how to make things work, again. The information age arose out from Pandora’s box, and our greatest minds have yet to tame it in a way that lets everyone live happily, who is willing to keep trying.

Or maybe that is the nature of the human condition: as the Buddhists say, “suffering exists”, and it’s up to us to figure out how to deal with that.

It is a part of human nature to fight. We committed genocide against every human species that came before us, until only Homo sapiens remained. (A chilling thought, but true, according to archeologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists.) A new way of living will one day emerge out of the ashes of analog society and the minds of those who, like Homo erectus, failed to adapt (despite having a larger brain). In the mean time, let’s limit our battles to the ones that actually matter.

If an idiot or a fool gets elected president, let them show us how not to do things.

Some arguments can only be won by letting your opponent win, and then realize, on his own, that he should have been wiling to compromise (A.K.A. “adapt”). We decided in the late 40s that killing all the stupid people is wrong, so if such people end up running things, and we don’t crash and burn because of it, we will have proven that the antiquated morals of centuries past–survival of the fittest, when you boil it down enough–are truly not as good as the softer ones we revere, today.

And if letting stupid people self-actualize turns out to be a problem, we can always decide that Hitler had the right of things and commit genocide until all the stupid people are extinct, and we evolve into a species that’s better than Homo sapiens. (Personally, I don’t advocate this method.)

Seriously, folks, don’t get into physical fights over political beliefs unless you think we should silence, cage, and eventually extinct all the imbuciles–including, possibly, you.

Trump and Sanders fans, I’m looking at you.

Proverbs That Last Forever


“However, a much older Near Eastern origin is suggested by a near equivalent in the 6th century BC Proverbs of Ahiqar: ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying’.”

I love finding proverbs that have somehow survived 25 centuries of linguistic translations and societal changes. Such proverbs are almost certainly somewhat accurate (in the right context), because the only way people would keep saying them for 2,500 years is if they feel like they have a decent reason to do so, themselves, and to teach their children to say them, too.

Interestingly, it’s possible that personal adherence to old texts of philosophy, poetry, mythology, scripture, and fable–stems from the same phenomena; and that, therefore, religion, philosophy, ethics, and more are a result of old thoughts being consistently seen as worthwhile enough to repeat and teach future generations to repeat.
The historic use of force to enforce adherence to ideas skews this effect, somewhat. This includes classic examples of European churches imposing laws and punishments, as well as popular non-religious philosophies making law with legislation and court cases (incl. case law), and punishing those who violate those laws. It can’t really be argued that the modern law and punishment is as brutal or authoritarian as ancient law and punishment; but when an armed person can come to your home and put you in shackles (handcuffs) for not obeying, one can neither argue that this isn’t the use of force. Sure, the methods are different, but disobeying gets you punished.
How do we decide whether and when old ideas are more/less valuable to us than new ideas? How effective have those uses of force been in making a given idea persist? Does an idea that has been appreciated (even/especially out of pure expediency) for 2.5 millennia have more (objective) believability than an idea that’s been around for 50 years? Each person chooses how to weigh these and other factors to create a personal philosophy. Then, they explain their philosophies to their children using proverbs.

When It’s “Worth It”: The Ratio of Human Interaction


There’s an inherent calculation of human interaction that goes something like this:
 
(How much they improve your life) : (How much trouble a person causes you)
 
Put another way, it’s a ratio of Benefit:Cost or Happiness:Trouble.
 
Most people phrase this in an emotional context, but the meaning is ultimately the same. Personally, I find a simple mathematical ratio easier to convey than the amount of prevarication it would take to express such a thing emotionally.
 
When that ratio is consistently greater than 1:1, that’s a person who is worth “keeping”. If it’s only greater than 1:1 in some situations, then those are the only situations when it’s worth interacting with that person. When that ratio is consistently less than 1:1, it’s time to let that person go, and avoid him/her as necessary.
 
Naturally, foresight and personal preference comes into play, here. If a person is mostly troublesome, right now, but you foresee him/her being beneficial in the long term, then it might be worth keeping them around. If you’re OK with 1:1, even if it’s never greater than that, then that’s your threshold for deciding whether it’s “worth it”. Most people require a ratio much greater than 1:1 to consider it “worth it”. People with large circles of close friends that they consistently have problems with are less picky (requiring a lower ratio to be satisfied); whereas those who only really want to hang out with a few people who are particularly valuable to them are more picky (requiring a higher ratio to be satisfied). I’ve noticed that this level of “pickiness” directly corresponds with the amount of energy a person has for social interaction. Those who are more concerned with other things tend not to have any interest in those with less than, say, a 2:1 ratio of benefit:cost or happiness:trouble.
 
If you’re not providing at least a 1:1 ratio for someone, you’re doing it wrong. If you really want someone in your life, you need to provide them a higher ratio, and be sure that they’re doing the same for you, before committing to anything long-term.
 
Charity is an exception to this rule. (I’m using “charity” to refer to selfless love, rather than “giving money”, which, as an exclusive term, is a perversion of the original concept.) Charity is when someone offers you less than you would otherwise accept as a ratio of happiness:trouble, but you give that person your time, energy, and resources, anyway. You self-sacrifice for that person out of kindness. We can only do this to the extent that we have personal resources (time, energy, patience, emotional stability, money, etc.) to spare, and when we run low on this excess, we can no longer afford to give without receiving; otherwise, our own lives will suffer quite substantially. One only allows that for those we love most, such as family members. We give what we can, when we can, because we choose to; “obligation” is anemic to true charity, unless it’s someone we’re truly responsible for taking care of (such as an aging parent, a sibling in distress, or a child). Nevertheless, charity is what makes society worth having. We care for people who can’t give back as much as we give them, and, in turn, people do the same for us when we’re in need. Sadly, our society isn’t quite at the point when we can do this for each other very effectively (due to economics, and anger, mainly); but as we improve our way government and interpersonal interaction, this will slowly change–as it has been since the dawn of civilization.

How To Make Amends In 4 Simple Steps


It’s amazing how many adults don’t know how to do this, so consider it a “post-kindergarten education” for all of us grown-ups. Someone you know probably needs to see it, so please share!

1) If you had control over the thing that went wrong, then it’s your fault. If someone else also had control over it, then it’s ALSO their fault…but that doesn’t make it “not your fault”, so it’s time to fess up and take responsibility for your part in letting things go wrong. Step one is to admit you screwed up–to yourself, first, and then to whomever you caused trouble for. Don’t try to play down your responsibility (and don’t exaggerate it, either), because that will destroy trust and make the next steps harder. Don’t ask for forgiveness, yet, because at this point, you haven’t done anything to fix the situation.

2) Do everything you can to fix what went wrong. If you can’t fix it, try to compensate the person you wronged in an appropriate way. Money is typically NOT appropriate compensation, unless you deprived someone of physical wealth that they otherwise would have had/acquired. (This includes breaking something that belongs to someone else, or which is yours and would have benefited someone else.)

3) Ask for forgiveness. Keep in mind that unless you literally fixed EVERYTHING that went bad because of your screw-up (which is usually not possible), what you’re actually asking for is MERCY, not justice. Nobody is obligated to give you mercy (by definition!), so be grateful if they do. If they don’t, be understanding and act like a decent person, regardless.

4) Strive not to screw up in this way, again. The more you repeat your mistake, the harder it will be to make amends, in the future. If you ever completely fail to make amends, your relationship with a person will be permanently damaged.

As a final note, this also applies to things that people like to claim “just happened”, like scheduling conflicts, not having money with to pay someone what you promised them, and so on. If you booked the appointment/promised money/spent too much money, you had control over that event. Please be brave and make amends whenever it’s needed! Your social- and family-life will be much better for it.

The World’s Wrongs Aren’t As Wrong As You Think They Are


<rant>

I just saw something about “things we didn’t know were made with sweat shop labor”.  It’s sardonically funny because it’s utterly obvious to anyone who knows how humanity has worked for all of our history.  Realistically, the only way to have everything we want without doing this kind of labor, ourselves, and without having other people do it, is to have robots do it all–which would mean mass unemployment, especially for those who are already poor.  (No, “fair trade” with foreign entities isn’t feasible in most cases, because it’s ultimately impossible to enforce where those collecting your money spend it–whether on their workers or on themselves.  Or, we could enforce it, but that would require sending soldiers into a sovereign nation and killing people who resist.  Embargoes against countries who refuse to participate in fair trade tend to result in economic collapse and death by crime, warfare, and poverty for people in those countries.)  The short explanation of why things are done this way is because, like everything else our society does, it’s the method we’ve found that “works” with minimal problems.  It’s not necessarily good, but it’s better than everything else we’ve tried, so far; therefore, any truly helpful suggestion for change is going to have to involve a more complete solution than, “let’s just pay more for stuff, and shame those who don’t or can’t do that!”

These items include:
-Food (Cheap labor is required to grow it plentifully.  In almost all countries, farmers are the poorest of the poor.  Here, farmers aren’t poor, but farm workers still are–which is an improvement from the global norm, if we’re being honest about it.)
-Clothing (Textile workers have pretty much always had it rough.  Working with fibers can mess up your body if you do it enough.  A lot of people I know struggle to buy clothes at the current price.  Multiply that price that by 500-1000%, and a lot more folks will start freezing to death in the winter.)
-Drugs of all kinds (Which come from crops…therefore use cheap farm labor.)
-Plastic objects of all kinds (If we want them to be plentiful, and therefore affordable, that requires cheap labor, and a huge supply of petroleum.)

This article sucks:
http://app.greenamerica.org/world-of-hurt/

Yes this is messed-up…but I don’t think anyone reading this has ever gone a day in their lives without benefiting from these abuses.  In fact, the computer or mobile device you’re using right now–regardless of brand–was made using these practices, unless you paid about 10x what every other comparable model costs.  (I know this because I’ve been building computers since I was a little kid and have a pretty good idea of where the parts come from, and what they would cost if we made them using better practices.  All the local computer stores pay minimum wage to build computers, and would pay less if they could get away with it.  The reason you can get a computer or smart phone for under $1,000 is because the parts were made in sweat shops and assembled by underpaid techies.)  Worse, the people who like to share such statistics about “sweat shop labor” are usually the same people who support organic farming, which pits food shortages against human rights abuses and outright lies (for marketing to sensitive shoppers), when you get right down to how it works.

The local political party/advocacy group/guilt factory where I live, the Chico Peace and Justice Center, is all about making people feel bad about <insert verb here>, while providing only the most superficial and infeasible alternatives.  I’m sorry, but I wish that people would pay more attention to figuring out why people do what they do, under the assumption that nobody is “born evil”, rather than going around condemning people for doing whatever they can to deal with life as well as they can manage.  All the injustices in the world exist because they help meet somebody’s needs, or have done so in the past (and no better solution has become readily available); therefore, any meaningful solution requires us to put ourselves in the “perpetrator’s” shoes and figure out why they need to do what they do in order to be OK with life.  Yes, this includes actual villains like S. Hussein and A. Hitler, even though what they did was obviously unacceptable.  They both had very human reasons, though, and if you really dig around in their history, you’ll see that they were just trying to meet their personal needs, and sometimes those of the people around them.  Did they both deserve what they got, in the end?  Yeah, I think so.  Would you have acted in a similar fashion, given the same upbringing and life experiences?  That’s a harder question to answer, and I hope that one would hesitate to do so blithely.  I think that if our local (or not-so-local) activists were to seriously consider why these unfair practices exist, they would have a lot less anger, and not feel as much like they need to look down their noses at us “plebeians”, for one silly reason or another, no matter how <insert political leaning here> either person or party might be.

</rant>

Love Is


Love is wanting to take her out to eat, but knowing you can’t afford it, and offering to cook, instead.
Love is opening your heart instead of your wallet when it would be easier just to spend money.

Love is when you know that you could get into bed with her just by being shallow, and insisting on getting to know her first—even if that means losing the opportunity, forever.

Love is seeking a “yes”, rather than avoiding a “no”, and being happy with whichever you get.
Love is knowing when to say yes, and being patient until then.

Love is seeing that the lawn hasn’t been mowed, but thanking him for doing the laundry, instead of complaining about the yard.

Love is when you say a kind word when an insult might be more appropriate.
Love is swallowing your pride and saying you’re sorry.

Love is writing something sweet on a post-it every morning before work, even when you’re mad at each other.

Love is giving your partner the last piece of chocolate.

Love is giving someone a massage when your own back hurts.

Love is cooking food that you can’t or won’t eat, because you know he likes it.
Love is eating “burnt offerings” with a smile, and then asking for seconds.

Love is abandoning a closely-held belief because it hurts someone you care about.
Love is choosing to support your partner’s eccentric ideology, even if it doesn’t entirely make sense.

Love is being unafraid to discuss religion, politics, or anything else—and always being willing to change your mind when a good point is made.
Love is choosing dialectic over of debate.

Love is when you give without caring whether you will receive.
Love is when you work a job you hate, so you’ll both have a place to come home to.

Love is dancing badly to terrible music, and enjoying it anyway, because it was your partner’s turn to choose the night’s activity.
Love is observing “date night” no matter how busy you both are.

Love is sitting through an embarrassing class or lecture so that you’ll know how to please her.
Love is learning to be satisfied, whether he figures it out or not.

Love is knowing when to hold her close, knowing when to give her space, and realizing that you need to ask, because you don’t have a clue.
Love is answering him patiently even if you think he should know better; and sometimes, love is admitting that you don’t have a clue what you want, either, and deciding to be OK with not getting it.

Love is accepting the love that is given, even when you don’t speak the other person’s language.
Love is learning the language of your partner, and giving him what he wants, rather than what you want.

Love is realizing that whatever love is, it’s definitely not what’s in movies and popular novels.
Love is reading those novels with her, anyway, no matter how silly you think they are.

Love is sitting through all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, even though neither of you can keep up with the subtitles, and she keeps pausing it every few seconds so you can read them.
Love is making it worth his while to keep watching.

Love is setting reasonable but firm boundaries and sticking to them.
Love is respecting each other’s boundaries.

Love is accepting the sovereignty of another person, while also accepting the sovereignty of yourself.

Love is offering olive branches until the whole orchard dies.

Love is forgiveness.

Love is wishing she would quit smoking because you want to be with her a little longer,
But still watching the sunset through a cloud of burning ash, because that’s how you can be here with her, now.

Love is the act of changing the bed pan of someone who doesn’t look like the person you married, and realizing that the good times are still happening.

Love is almost dying of a broken heart after the funeral service,
But deciding to keep going because you know that she would want you too.

Love is the blue sky, and the trees, and the fresh flowers over your new bed.

Love is smiling at a stranger as you plant some fresh flowers on the grave of your ancestor.

March 2nd, 2014

Why Does It Matter Whether Homosexuality Is A Choice?


I think that the reason people think that choice in gender preference matters is the same reason why people who ask that question are, so far as I’ve seen, utterly unwilling to follow that question to the uncomfortable places to which it might lead. This applies equally to both sides of the LGBTQ debate. The logic goes something like this:

The anti-LGBTQ advocate will typically look at the evidence in this way:
“It’s entirely, or substantially a choice. Therefore, people who engage in homosexual activity are culpable, and legitimate targets of (social) prosecution.” In rarer cases, such an advocate will see homosexual people as a “mistake”, wherein their desires are NOT a choice, but they need to “behave themselves”, anyway, and seek medical help to correct the problem.

The pro-LGBTQ advocate will typically look at the evidence in one of two ways, (seemingly) entirely dependent on the situation at-hand:
1) It’s not a choice. Therefore, nobody can be blamed for it, and people who feel same-gender attraction should have every right as people who are born heterosexual.
2) It is a choice. Therefore, people can’t put those who feel same-gender attraction into a “box” as being only a certain way.

Personally, I think that all of these positions have at least a little merit.

The anti-LGBTQ advocate makes good points in claiming that people are responsible for their own decisions (and not those of other people). This is no different from heterosexual responsibility, when you get right down to it. They also make a good point that, similarly, everybody needs to behave in a socially-responsible fashion. Parading unprotected sex in front of an elementary school is probably not a responsible thing to do–regardless of who’s doing it.

The pro-LGBTQ advocate makes a good point in stating that if it isn’t a choice, then discrimination and (social) prosecution is utterly inappropriate. Likewise, if it IS a choice, people who sometimes feel attracted to one gender, and sometimes to the other shouldn’t have to be confined to a particular “way of being”, just because others have trouble wrapping their minds around this. (Bisexual men and women I know are also targets of poor treatment from gay and lesbian people who want them to “figure it out”, which seems equally silly.)

The thing is, regardless of which position is correct, BOTH sides of the debate are going to lose. Here’s my logic:

If there’s a physiological element, then anti-LGBTQ activists are screwed, because it means that they can no longer advocate for laws and policies that have different rules for LGBTQ people–since that would be discrimination. On the other hand, if it IS a choice, they’re stuck proving that same-gender attraction is hurting those who consent to such relations. Rape is already illegal, and clearly, this is a hard case to make with regard to consenting adults.

On the other side, pro-LGBTQ activists are screwed because the physiological element means that medical treatment is theoretically possible. This has the politically-inconvenient effect of proving that a person who is currently homosexual could be turned heterosexual, with the right treatment (hormones, gene therapy, surgery, etc.). If that’s what the person in question really wants, then this gets into “choice” territory: if the pro-LGBTQ activists get to decide that people can’t make this choice for themselves, then their anti-LGBTQ opponents can make the same choice about homosexuality.

So, let’s look at some of the evidence: is there a physiological difference between straight people, bisexual people, and homosexual people? Scientific inquiry has resoundingly said, “yes”. One factor is the shape and development of the amydgala–the part of the brain most responsible for interpersonal interaction and letting the two hemispheres of the brain talk to each other. The amygdalas of gay men more closely resemble those of straight women. The amygdalas of gay women more closely resemble those of straight men. Bisexual people are somewhere in-between. There are also hormonal differences, and one has to wonder how any of this is possible without at least a small genetic component. (I’m sure information about the latter could be found with a Google search–but probably predominantly on politically-biased websites. Scientific journals are, unfortunately, commonly hidden behind paywalls.)

So, why does it matter whether homosexuality is a choice? Because talking about it–SUPERFICIALLY–acts as an emotional “trigger”, and therefore as a political “dog whistle”. And that’s why LGBTQ-related gender politics aren’t worth paying all that much attention to, just yet.

(For those who are wondering, the current “correct” acronym for the aforestated gender rights movement is “LGBTQQIP2SAA” or LGBTQ+, for short.)