Friday, May 30, 2008

Texas as Big Brother

As y’all may know, the Texas state government raided a fundamentalist religious compound and took all the kids away, running the whole show in a sort of kangaroo-court fashion (why are governments so stupid?) that has been repudiated by the higher courts. Among the side issues is one of why the feminists of the country haven’t rushed wholesale to the defense of the women involved. A reason put forth by conservatives is that they aren’t the right sort of women. They’re, well, tacky. Those dowdy hairdos, for instance. If you are going to rush to someone’s defense, wait for the right kind of person. So, we cheer for Anita Hill and ignore Monica Lewinsky.
That’s partly right, I think. But there’s probably more to it than that. Some psychologists look at “core concepts” to explain much of our attitudinal behavior, and that might work here. Imagine yourself standing in a circle. That circle is also inside a larger circle, which is inside a still larger circle. It’s as if yo were in the middle of a target. Those things inside the smallest circle are the things that are closes to you. Let’s take animals, for instance. Inside the smallest circle are familiar animals, cats and dogs, gerbils and parakeets. In the next circle are animals that are more distant, horses, cows, sheep, goats. In the third circle are animals more distant still, iguanas, snakes, lemurs. Our attitudes change from circle to circle. We don’t eat animals in the first circle because they’re family. We do eat the animals in the second circle. We don’t eat animals in the third circle because they are too weird.
Let’s apply this to feminists. In the first circle are people like us, educated, hip, passionate about causes and justice. In the second circle are people like the women in Texas, barefoot, pregnant, on the edge of town. In the third circle are third-world people, exotic, mysterious. So, we skip circles: help those like us, don’t help those not like us but recognizable, help those who are utterly different.Everybody loves a lovable child. The hard thing to do is to love an unlovable

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Why be true to yourself?

Let's start from scratch. What if certain aphorisms that we were all raised with turn out to be nonsense? Or at least in need of a total makeover. Take something that "threadbare plagiarist from Avon," Shakespeare, said, "To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." I think I got it close (I'm doing it from memory). Aside from the questionable if/then construction in there, I've always worried about this being true to one's self motif. Seems like a recipe for trouble, if you ask me.

Let's say, for instance, you were born and raised in a strong religious household. Which religion it is doesn't matter (except for Unitarians. A strong Unitarian upbringing is an oxymoron. I'll throw in a Unitarian joke later). Where was I. Oh, yes. You have a strong upbringing, but sometime in your life come to the conclusion that Marx was right, it's an opiate. So, being true to yourself, you renounce your religious beliefs (or political, or social). There you stand, clothed in the vestments of truism. On the other hand, you've possibly deeply hurt your family, maybe alienated them, and cut apart what may be the only thing in life that really matters, especially if you've kicked God out of your life.

If God doesn't exist and your family is important. why sacrifice the real for he unreal? Doesn't is seem reasonable to assume that if God is dead He doesn't care if you're a hypocrite? Why not go ahead and be a Catholic or a conservative or a martian? Keep in mind what's important. And being true to yourself at all costs doesn't seem that much of an advantage.

I chickened out on the Unitarian joke. Just call Mr. coward pc guy.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Wheels within wheels

This topic is going to require a little tiptoeing around delicate subject matter, so forgive me for being a little abstruse.

It has always seemed to me that one of the unfortunate effects of affirmative action might be to cause people to be uneasy about minorities in the professions. Let's say you are feeling a little under the weather and you go to the new doc in town, and lo! he or she is a member of a minority group. I defy anyone not to wonder, somewhere in the back of the mind, whether this person might not be one who was admitted, passed, and certified on the basis of the minority status.

People me this can't be the case. I nod but in the back of my mind, I'm saying, "Yeah, right," with as much sarcasm as I can muster. It's too bad that people may think that way, unfair to all the good doctors, lawyers, merchants, and thieves out there who worked hard in an unfair world.

Now, there are, it seems to me, three choices of action for a person who suddenly has to trust his or her liver to an unknown quantity. Person A, inhales deeply of the spirit of affirmative action, and will use the services of the professional even if, or perhaps, especially if, they may not be in fact, ready to practice. Person B wouldn't go to a minority professional if his or her life depended on it. And person C (that's me) realizes that a lot of the majority population in the professions consists of people dumb as posts and that it's a crapshoot anyway.

Case in point. I recently saw in the news that a person of double minority status (woman plus minority) had been appointed to a high office in spite of the fact that her credentials weren't specifically in the area she'd been appointed to. I huffed a couple of times (Person B behavior). But then I realized that I really didn't know anything about this woman, and perhaps I should let her have a chance. The good news is that she won't kill anyone if she goofs up.

And don't give me that stuff about being prejudiced before hand. I'm that way with everyone, so I am at least evenhanded.

Thursday, May 1, 2008