Violence is rarely an outcome of rational deliberation. In deciding whether or not to declare war as a country, as a people, we tend to ignore obvious likely consequences of war.
This interesting article supports that intuitive fact.
The very first question in that article is enough to make my point. “How many lives would you be willing to sacrifice to remove a murderous dictator like Saddam Hussein?” This question was never asked, because it’s a cold calculating question that has to acknowledge as a premise that we are going to have to sacrifice lives.
Instead the discussion was in terms of an arbitrary future threat to civilization from a vague boogie man (i.e. terrorism). There are quantifiable threats associated with terrorism. Numbers. You can estimate probabilities, death tolls, financial impact. And based on that, you can make a decision on whether to go to war. But instead, it seems to me, that we instead make that decision throughout history based on emotions, such as fear, pride, and anger… It’s tragic.
I was watching Food Inc and pondering whether the movie was a criticism or a celebration of the science and technology behind the modern ideals of our eating culture, that of: faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper. That is, we want it produced all year round, we want it nice and juicy, and we want it dirt cheap. Science makes that possible. Science lets us outsource both the hunter and the gatherer jobs of our hairier ancestors at incredible efficiency.
I guess the movie is supposed to defend organic farming as a healthier alternative for society (in dietary terms) than the current practices of the big slaughterhouses, etc. Except to me, it didn’t do a convincing job of it. It showed the “evil” giant corporations as treating animals as objects that can be genetically / chemically modified to solve any issue. From the aspect of health, I’m not really sure how organic is better. Why is it better that the chickens are killed in the sun instead of in windowless darkness. Why is better that the cows eat grass before slaughter instead of eating corn? And if it has a slightly lower chance of contamination, is it really worth the large jump in price? Maybe it is. I don’t know. I was too distracted looking at living creatures being slaughter to think about the economics of it all.
That’s the bigger question to me, for which I haven’t found answers for myself (and found the movie lacking in addressing), of whether we should be okay with the mass mechanized murder of animals. Let’s say it will soon be possible to clone human beings cheaply. It would make a lot of sense (from a cow’s perspective) to make clones of humans and use those clones to perform the most difficult manual labor jobs (assembly line, construction, etc), brainwashing them into thinking that their life is the best kind of life. Why does that seem wrong, and the growing of animals in a box for murder not seem wrong, or not enough to stop it.
I was not at all disgusted by the images in this movie (in fact I ate lean ground turkey while watching some of the worst parts). But it did make me think about where I draw the line about what I thought was my compassionate value for all life, and that my moral system is flawed, contradictory, and built from ground up on denial and ignorance.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions” – Rilke
The above is an excerpt from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (great read).
I occasionally find myself in a stressful situation, some over-dramatized conflict, full of uncertainty. We all do. For me, it’s a person that did something, or a situation I didn’t expect, or even when a 250+ lbs aggressive dude is doing the stack-pass like his life depends on it (sorry for those that don’t know about brazilian jiu jitsu).
The stress takes hold of my mind, and I can think about nothing else but ways to resolve the problem. What I’ve been learning lately, however, is that the best resolution starts with patience, because most problems don’t have immediate solutions. It probably sounds pretty lame and preachy, but just letting my brain stew in the chaos of uncertainty of it all has worked well for me. Not that I ignore the issue, I just don’t allow myself to make any hasty decisions. This even applies to the stack pass scenario above. In fact, sports are good at teaching that it’s okay to take a relaxed stroll through the fire every once in a while.
I watched bits and pieces of Food Inc. So now that I’ve watched one movie, I’m practically an expert, so allow me to voice an opinion on matters I’m highly under-qualified to talk about.
It seems that there is a tiny little flaw in our justice system. A large company (not “evil”, just focused on maximizing profit) can sue an individual with very little justification and simply through the process of extending the lawsuit (by building a complicated case) over months and years bankrupt that individual. For example, Oprah was sued by Texas cattlemen for mentioning that the news of a mad cow disease outbreak has made her not want to eat another burger. Simple statement, made in 1996. Quick 2 month trial. Oprah found not guilty. The legal fees for her were over one million dollars. Obviously, this didn’t bankrupt her but the movie (as many movies, books, articles have over the years) details cases when much poorer individuals were forced to settle, and found themselves broke and their business bankrupt.
Why would a company (e.g. Monsanto) want to do that? It’s not because its evil and likes to see human beings suffer. It just wants to maximize profit. It does that by bullying the competition out of the market in whatever clever way possible while still avoiding antitrust litigation by the government. There are many ways of doing that, but money is behind most of them. And that’s the tricky problem that capitalism presents: Good ideas make money, but then that money can bully the implementation of next generation’s good ideas from newcomers to the market.
It just seems that there should be some way to avoid paying legal fees if you are found not guilty. In other words, the guilty party pays the bill for both, just like when you get into a car accident.
The uprising of people in Egypt has inspired the parts of the world that strongly believe in government for the people and by the people.
While it certainly inspired me, I can’t say I felt any deep connection to the Egyptian people. The protests in Wisconsin, on the other hand, hit close to home. Their new governor, Scott Walker, pushed a plan to cut public worker pay by 7% and more importantly drastically reduce the collective bargaining rights of the public-sector unions.
I heard a few liberal pundits say this week that this is an attack on the Democratic party since unions are one of their primary financial supporters. While this may be true, it’s irrelevant to me, since politics is ugly on all sides. What is relevant is the fact that this plan is an attack on the middle class. The idea that the “free market” should decide the wages of the worker is a blind disregard of human rights, of the minimum standard of living required for a healthy stable society, of the kind of ideals this country was made into a superpower on in the 20th century. Unions have their bureaucracy, their corruption, their inefficiencies, so does any organization. Their ideal is noble and in my opinion an effective mechanism for giving some power to the otherwise powerless.
There are about one million blog posts made per day in the world, each day, today, tomorrow, and the day after that. Again, and again, a fresh batch of a million.
I sit and think about this statistic as I’m writing these very words and can’t help but smile at the absurdity of it all.
It’s easy to forget, because we want to forget, how insignificant our lives are relative to other human beings, in the vastness of the unexplored universe.
That brings me to a Carl Sagan quote: “For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
A blog post by Sacha Chua describes a problem many of said bloggers (and just busy people) suffer, and that is a lack of real social connections. The problem is that when you have a couple thousand friends on Facebook and a couple thousand followers on Twitter, it’s easy to convince yourself that you are somehow “connected”. I believe that you only need one or two connections, one or two real friends, everything else is just doodles in the margins. I write about friendship enough, and won’t expand on it today, but if you take anything away from reading these words (the two of you that are drunk and bored enough to read this), remember that your life and my life is meaningless. There is no bigger picture. All we can do is enjoy the little victories of conquering the challenges that life puts before us. It may sound dark, but it’s not. We love, we create, we overcome.
I heard part of the story about Capgras syndrome on NPR today. This is a condition in which you feel like the person you love (friend, spouse, etc) has been replaced by a stranger with the exact same physical attributes.
It is always good to hear about offshoots of schizophrenia that most of us have “suffered” from (sarcasm). If I knew about this condition earlier, I would have brought it up as a way to ease the dreaded conversation of breaking up with a girlfriend. “It’s not you, it’s me… and my Capgras syndrome”.
I won’t make any more light of this syndrome, as it is clear that many people do really suffer from it, either due to brain damage or a chemical imbalance. However, it does remind me of an interesting point that the way we perceive people has just as much to do with the person being perceived as it does with the perceiver. In fact, habit and self-delusion will often prevent us from detecting change in other people or ourselves which creates a potential gap in our relations.
Undesired change is difficult to observe. Watching a slow train wreck is stressful, especially given that doing anything about it will cause even more stress. So we suffer in our own little world with our own little bouts of Capgras syndrome. The solution is to embrace change. Constantly question the validity of your assumptions. Of course, this is a stressful existence, and perhaps in the case of relationships, sometimes a little trust in yourself and your partner can be a much needed breather from reality.
I will not deny the hunter with the beer gut, a stench of chewing tobacco, and a ideological vendetta against Mexican Americans the right to wield a big gun. But may I politely suggest that he invest his money more intelligently into weapons that could effectively perform the task that they were intended to perform by the U.S. Constitution. What was that task? To fight the U.S. Army, of course. The idea of a citizen militia is a direct offspring of the opposition to a standing army in the time of peace. So not only should you have sufficient weaponry to overthrow the U.S. government, but you must also have enough to defend this country from invaders.
For this reason, I suggest that that very hunter should purchase an anti-tank weapon such as the Tandem warhead and of course the hot new RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile to defend against your basic aircraft. Stealth planes are tricky and will require him to shop around a bit.
The above two paragraphs are full of sarcasm, which I usually don’t think is appropriate on such polarizing issues. I apologize…
The point I’m trying to make is that the U.S. Constitution should not be brought up in the discussion of gun control. If you believe that semi-automatic weapons will help prevent crime, that’s fine. State so, and the burden of evidence for that claims lies on you. Do not hide behind an old law which had very different intentions and very different weapons in mind.
I will confess to have little intuition about how a gun in the hands an untrained civilian could help prevent violence, but that doesn’t mean it’s not so. I do have much more understanding and intuition about the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and hope that people do no abuse its few words to argue for things it had never meant to address.
I’ve been hearing a lot of criticisms of the social security system from my libertarian and objectivists friends. I personally believe that the only way to ensure that young children eat brocolli is by enforcing or incentivizing that action through government policy. What am I talking about? Basically, we do not always know what is good for us, until it is too late. This will make Ayn Rand turn over in her grave, because the idea of freedom to many people is that they can do whatever they want (as long as it doesn’t harm others) and must take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.
This is all well and good, and it’s a beautiful theory of how a society should function, much like the theory of a free market. However, we must then be willing to live in a society that provides no safety net. We must be willing to close off all emergency rooms to patients that can’t demonstrate the ability to pay for their treatment. We must be willing to let the unemployed, homeless, senior citizens suffer or die from malnutrition due to insufficient funds to purchase food and minimal shelter. I am not willing to live in such a society.
We have to acknowledge that a safety net is needed because human beings operate in a state of highly imperfect and incomplete information. We do not know enough about the decisions we make to predict to a reasonable degree the long-term effects of our decisions in all circumstances (especially given the circumstances not within our control). We should let experts help us out. Much like Google helps us sort out search results, we should let social security establish a basic guarantee of survival no matter the consequences of our decisions. This, in my opinion, allows for greater freedom than without such a basic guarantee. FDR put it well: ”Necessitous men are not free men.” (source)
What I am arguing for, is the same thing that Thomas Paine argued for: a safety net. Whether government or private industry is better at managing such a system is a secondary argument. I believe, much like with the broccoli, private industry will let people slip through the cracks which defeats the purpose of a safety net.
I stopped by Rite Aid yesterday and observed the simple fact that Advil was 2.5 times more expensive than Ibuprofen (its generic counterpart).
I always get the generic brand. Well not always, almost always… Do not laugh, but when I hurt my ankle a year ago at a judo tournament, I bought the brand name Advil. Yes, I paid extra just for the placebo effect. However, for some god forsaken reason, it immediately felt good when I took it. It felt like it was “working better”, whatever that means in the case of a mild anti-inflammatory. Why?
I looked into this question online, and it seems that all legitimate government and scientific reports show no difference between generics and brand name drugs. Here is a simple representative article from the FDA: Facts and Myths about Generic Drugs.
So what is the difference? And if there is no difference, how the hell does our semi-capitalist system allow a product to cost 2.5 times more than another one that does the same exact thing and still survive as a product. What is at work here? Are we just paying for the power of the name? Is the placebo effect of a medicine for which you had to pay more that significant?