Pscytheology

Mowing down psychological tall grass and tangled weeds; clearing the field and planting new seeds. Thoughts lifted from my angry days, when someone asks my opinion and then denies it. If I tell you my favorite color, who else would have the "right" answer? Challenge it, oppose if you must, but to correct it is to erase my existence. If we all had the same thoughts, there would be no need for democracy. Cogito Ergo Sum.

2017/04/09

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy





Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a way of training people who react poorly in certain circumstances to recognize the triggers and signs that lead them to a particular response, then convince and train them to deliberately choose to behave differently. I have a problem with this in that in a purist sense, that attitude of reacting is in direct conflict with one of the other models of success in our society which is commonly given almost a cheer: “Be proactive!”. Being proactive is the crusade of the business community that tells one to anticipate and predict future conditions and have something prepared to deal with them even before they occur. Therefore it is not a “stimulus-response” situation, but an “awareness-planning-avoidance” model.
But I want to explain how in many circumstances the group of people in the pro-active community are shifting responsibility to the reactive community, and if the reactive community were to become pro-active in response there are often significant ________ (bad) results.
Let’s take foul language. Profanity. I tend to throw out a lot of profane words in casual speech, but I don’t’ do it as filler. There are those who can spit out the word “motherfucker” as if it were just another adjective like “green” and an adverb like “shaky” and actually insert it in-between syllables of other polysyllabic words. It’s almost an art form to those who work at it; it’s a sign of slow thought with an attitude to those who simply replace “um” with “fuckin” to give themselves more time to think of what word comes next.
Then there is anger and intent. Buddy Hacket once said that certain words have specific places where only those words are expected to be used. “if you drop an anvil on your foot, you do not say, “Spring is here! I dropped an anvil on my foot!”, you rightfully say, “Fuck! I dropped a fucking anvil on my fucking foot and it fucking hurts!” He continued that in such circumstances, even the one who isnt’ feeling the pain recognize the place for that word; When the Doctor orders the x-ray he says, “we must see if the bones of the fucking foot are broken. And the x-ray technician will report back with the results that “yes, Doctor, the fucking foot is broken”.
I believe I am in the anvil/foot category. When you start hearing the colorful language flying fast and loose off my tongue, it means there is a level of intensity in what I am trying to communicate that is not present when I leave those words out. In an interview George Carlin gave before his first HBO special, he said he could suspend the use of profanity in a six-minute monologue for Johnny Carson, but he would not want to have to suspend it for a two hour comedy show. He said, “I believe I would lose a lot of important emphases”
And therein lies the problem, which was the whole point Carlin tried to make for thirty years; Someone is trying to tell you something when they are profane. Some people are not, and I must admit that some of the people I worked with in the construction industry simply use “fuck” in place of the word “um” to give themselves an extra half-second to come up with their next word or idea. I concede that such usage does indeed dilute the emphasis for those who are trying to tell you something.
HABITUATION
But some people have built a space where they can be completely insulated from things they don’t want to deal with and people like me who lace our words with profanity. Let’s imagine we are at Wal-Mart and the store is crowded. There are two or more people with shopping carts in front of you jabbering away in the middle of some conversation and they are behaving as if they are alone in the store, when in fact they are blocking the aisle you are trying to pass through. You bring the cart up to an uncomfortable distance to them, and wait silently. This is your first attempt to communicate by invading their personal space, but they are unaware of you so far. Then you clear your throat to give your first verbal cue that you would like their attention. Still you are invisible to them. Then you say, “Excuse me” in a conversational tone as your third effort to be noticed. And still the aisle remains blocked by these exceptionally insulated people.
Finally, you raise your voice loud enough to be heard above not only their conversation but by passers by. “EXCUSE ME, PLEASE!” Now you’ve got everyone’s attention, but in a hostile way,

“Hey, Buddy, there’s no reason to be rude! Geez. Some people have no patience…”

Now there was no opportunity for me to politely make it through that aisle not because of my behavior, but because the situation was structured so that communication went directly from too subtle to be noticed to so intense to be offensive. Is that because I did not try to communicate in a measured and reasonable tone, or the opportunity for communication at that level simply was not available because the recipients did not acknowledge any signals at that level?

Profanity is the same way. I can speak to my mother about a subject that may be uncomfortable to the two of us in polite tones, and I feel as if I’m not getting through. I’m not getting the reaction I’m hoping for: some acknowledgement that my problem is real, that my mother plays a part in it by not acknowledging it, and that there needs to be a change in the situation for me to feel better about it.  At polite conversational levels I can be safely ignored or belittled by saying, “oh, Joe, that’s nothing to get worked up over, now be reasonable”.
At some point, being ignored becomes uncomfortable to me. I don’t think I’m alone in this area, most people have a tolerance and a limit to it. But I have found that like in the Wal-Mart situation, the moment I raise my tone of voice, the resistance begins. Suddenly my mother is not comfortable with someone raising his voice to her, and she displays more insulation to the idea, not less. The impression that I am now being deliberately shunned, not just that someone is not yet aware I am serious, now triggers my next response – anger – and the profanity starts to unload.
Now my mother moves directly to stage three, which is indignance to my anger. “Well, I’m not going to let anyone talk to me in that language”, and she has effectively built a model where anything she does not want to talk about actually has no opportunity to ever be discussed. At low conversational tones it can be safely ignored until my anger builds, then when my anger is triggered she sends some signal that she knows about the problem but is not willing to acknowledge it  until my profanity begins, and now I have crossed a line that she feels eliminates the possibility for all conversation about anything.
Now Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tells me that if I am so astute as to be aware of these three predictable stages that I can temper my behavior and get through the situation by simply not allowing myself to lose my temper and unleash the profanity. If I am  not profane, my mother can never give the excuse that it was my language that made the conversation impossible and therefore…
Well, the brilliant therapist is asking me to be his experimental group. And I can tell you that there are certain situations where people in particular situations (your boss, your mother, a total stranger) have every right to simply change the rules once you figure them out and give some other reason why they still win.

So the cognitive behavioral therapy gives me a tool to deal with situation A and when I return to the original conditions the other party only needs to shift their power, authority, or positional influence to create a new situation “B” that forces me to into a different (but just as effective) space where there is no opportunity for resolution.

Now at this point the therapist says that I am simply being argumentative and resistant to his or her solutions. But the point I am making is that just as they see me as dodging their solutions, I see them as dodging my problem – I’m still reacting to other people. And people are always free to ignore the rules, change the rules, or to just be an asshole and shut this thing called communication down because they would rather avoid the topic altogether, so they just do..

And in the end, there I sit…the “reactive” one… 

2012/12/25

If "reason" is your enemy, then you better believe I am too.


What do you say to this?

Is the church, or the members thereof, actually willing to argue and be proud that to have faith, it must supplant reason?

These kinds of statements, arguments, positions are the reasons I have grown to despise faith - even the "polite" kind that isn't attacking me. Because the polite kind, the kind that wants to have it's views without condemning or arguing with mine, still acts as a segment in the pole holding up the tent that covers the rest of the genuinely "are you fucking kidding me?" crazy faith - the kind that says kill your kid with your bare hands if you think the "devil" is inside him.

Every argument, religious or otherwise, involves reason.

Want proof?

Even the most "faithful" of believers uses "reason" in their every instantaneous movement, decision, and intention. People don't put their hand on a stove they know is hot because reason tells them (maybe from experience) that there would be REAL consequences to ignoring what they know about hot stoves and how badly human skin reacts to that kind of heat.


I got into a fight - online, mind you, but if I were standing next to him in person his ears would have been ringing from the volume of my shouting - with a guy who DENIED - just flat out waved his dick in the air and DENIED that any atheist does not have faith.

I stand in living proof that the asshole is gaping, hairy, and WRONG. I do not have faith, I have REASON.

So this dumb bastard just kept arguing with me. (there's a larger point I must save for another discussion about blaming someone who is getting more angry as you proceed; he acknowledges you are getting angry, He acknowledges that he knows he is the reason the other is getting angry, that person plods forward - either oblivious or belligerent - and just says he has untrammelled freedom to say whatever he wants to say....who then you throws up a red flag and decries that the OTHER GUY (the angry one) - well, his reactions must have limits.

Got that? You can say whatever you want; but if the other guy is angry, and targeting you - he has limits. I wonder if that person would see a bear at the zoo, beneath a sign that says "do not feed the bear"; tear the sign down, feed the bear, and then blame the bear for mauling the dumb bastard who gave him a slice of his pizza and lost and arm for his generosity.

That's reason - to know enough that a bear will eat you, you don't give the bear the chance -

...faith is that in an argument, you have "faith" that the law will protect you even when the other guy is pointing a gun at you and screaming for you to shut the fuck up, you keep yammering....and then your relatives want the cops and the courts to clean it all up and punish the other guy ex post facto.

Would it not be more "reasonable" to say, "Hmm, this conversation is not going anywhere productive, the other guy doesn't look healthy or restrained, I probably ought not to feed that particular bear".

Faith says carry on, you will be protected.

Now there's another argument that I'm basically claiming hostile tactics must be respected, and I'm not. Shooting someone who says something you don't like is unwarranted. Punching him in the face is not even allowed; after all their just words.

But at some point, when you hold up your hand and say "this argument is not healthy, let's stop", and the other guy thinks it's great to have this kind of tension out in the open - says it's "healthy" for the community for these kinds of things to be aired out -

I call bullshit, and I'm using reason as my basis.

Having the law punish someone for an illegal act after it's too late to repair the damage the conflict inspired is dumb. Unless you believe that it serves some greater purpose, perhaps the will of some god, in which case the reasonable person should still rightly call you galactically and shamelessly stupid.

Humans have big brains and opposible thumbs. These two characteristics are supposed to set us apart (and above, we claim) the other animals on the planet. But whenever we, collectively or individually, make such stupid decisions in the light of our capacity to reason - like war and economic collapse - what basis are we using at that point to claim we're better than all the "lesser" animals?

We were smart enough to see the problem coming.

We had the means to stop it,

but our ego, our hubris, or grossly unjustifiable overconfidence in our own noble justifications (in the light of all the ignoble ones) allowed us to fuck up just as bad as the dumb "lesser" animals who never had any chance to make the right decision.

We did - do.

We make those choices based on a body of logic, casually referred to as "reason".

If that's your enemy,

I'm building a fence between you and me, and I'm going to bean anything that comes over the top with a big, sharp rock at the very least.

If reason is your enemy,

then so am I.

and I do not, will not,

ever

apologize for your duplicity.

Gaping Asshole said that it was faith that I used, as an atheist, in order to convince myself it was OK to drive across a bridge.

I said it was reason that gave me confidence to drive across the bridge because I understood the underlying mechanics that made the voyage possible.

I argued that "faith" - the believe that there are unseen forces at work, and those unseen forces will act in ways that are impossible to imagine or explain - if I felt "faith" would get me to the other side no matter what,

...then I should not even need a bridge, should I?

Faith says that (whatever it might be that I would have faith in) will get me to the other side of that chasm with or without a bridge.

Confidence, I argued, that is based on reason, is what allows me to proceed across the bridge; I understand many of the fundamental laws of physics, enough of the laws of engineering and mechanics, enough of the principles and practices of modern construction to know that the bridges I traverse will support me and whatever else is on it.

On those days I don't (I can show you that bridge) I don't drive across the fucking thing, because I don't have FAITH that will save me when the goddamn bridge fails. (the limit on the bridge says 12 tons; it's the main road on the way to a coal-fired power plant that someone I know used to work at; I saw the log books and the trucks that cross that bridge weighed over 30 tons loaded, and they were NOT the only thing on that bridge.

So I used "reason" to say that the extra five miles to go around that bridge were worth my time and fuel, faith was not involved in the process.

And said dickhead, his name was John C. Howell of Beaverton Oregon, with a smile on his face and claiming that such arguments were healthy for the entire community that was there to watch it, kept on insisting that all atheists have faith.

And nobody could understand why I got pissed.

I don't have faith.

I have REASON, and REASON gives me 'confidence'.

John said they were synonymous and interchangeable.

I present to you the above photo, which proves that I'm not the only one who thinks they are not the same, and the others who agree with me are not always atheists.

Religious people have as much contempt for logic and reason as they insist that I do for their faith. They take for granted that everyone else will treat them according to social customs and legal precedent, many (most) of which are not based on superstition or conjecture, but on reasoned arguments presented in an open society and only agreed upon after it is found to be acceptable to as many of the crowd that can be called on to support it.

We suspend "reason" when there is no explanation - and we supplant it with "well, 'G'od must have had one (he always does, I am told) even if 'H'e never explains it to us"

And that gives me no comfort what so fucking ever.

That it gives others comfort is great, I won't take their faith away from them, as long as their faith or their support thereof is not being used to take my comfort - reason, logic, and healthy skepticism - away from me.

And this seems to have some bearing on the conflicts of our age; all ages in fact, and not just the conflicts unique to me.

You want to go through life with your thumb to your nose in the face of reason? Feel free. But the First Amendment says I can't take it away from you, it does not say I have to support you, encourage you, or in any conflict or exchange, if the faithful chooses to pit their faith against my reason, nobody is going to argue with me (and expect to win) by saying the First Amendment protects their faith, but not my reason.

Particularly if these hypocritical louts are going to start insisting that atheism is a religion. I think they bit themselves in the ass on that one - because if "atheism" is a "religion", then would atheists not also deserve all the rights and privileges of all the religions who want to blame atheist as the root of all evil?

Ooops.

Listen - read - I dont' care what you believe in. But in a symbiotic society where we must interact, engage, and even at times depend on one another, there has to be a mutual agreement of respect.

Religious people say atheists are disrespectful of their faith; I typically respond that all atheists can not be held responsible for the actions of a few - for if that were true, I've got some Christians who they had better answer for and fast -

but the larger point is that to hold up faith as not just an alternative to reason, but a better one - a preferred one - is such rank hypocrisy that I will not tolerate it. Faithful people are far more dependent on reason than I am on faith. In fact, you try to show a faithful person what it looks like when reason is abandoned -

like me saying "I dont' give a fuck about your religion, you're a liar, a fool, and I'm not going to let you destroy my country" - well, they don't like that.

But they will then turn around and say the same thing to me as an atheist.

I find that unreasonable.

and I do not stand for it.

So if you see me, as an atheist, getting rather animated, loud, and arguably hostile in the face of some devoutly faithful people,

please don't try to argue that you always know the atheist started it; or at least dont' fall back on the First Amendment argument when there are so many Christians making the accusation that atheism is a religion as a perjorative statement. If it casts aspersions for atheism to be regarded like a religion, then why?

Is it because they think atheists make claims that they find unreasonable, and they use reason in the argument to make their point?

Checkmate.

“I don’t need to wear a seat belt. I have an airbag.”

“I don’t need to wear a seat belt - I have an airbag.” I was involved in a T-bone collision with a full size pickup truck. I had the brakes applied, anti-lock was working on dry pavement and had brought it down from 40 to about 15 miles per hour, while driving a 1998 Saturn SL-1. My girlfriend at the time was in the passenger seat; her 3 year old son was in a car seat in the back. All three of us wore seatbelts. We all walked away with minor injuries.

My injury was to the wrist as somehow the airbag deployment snapped it backwards and stretched my tendons. My girlfriend saw the impending collision and turned to see her son in the back seat, so when the airbag deployed, the airbag bounced her heat into the A-pillar of the car and she had a minor concussion. The child in the back seat bit his lip, as the type of car seat he had consisted of a padded bar that went across his lap, with no shoulder belt.

But we all walked away under our own power. The kid was giggling and asking to “ride again”.

When we went to the body shop to retrieve personal effects from our car, we took pictures of our car for archival purposes. The receptionist at the body shop gave the photo below of another car in the lot near mine. There are a few things of particular importance to me:



This is a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse, (Go ahead, ask me how I know) and since the photo was taken late in 1999, it’s obvious this car didn’t survive more than a few months in the hands of it’s owner before it was wrecked. It appears to be a sideways glance into a guard rail or other vehicle, indicating loss of control for one or another reason. Now look at the windshield. Notice the characteristic starburst where a human head makes contact with laminated safety glass. Auto glass is actually two plates of glass formed under vacuum and high temperature with a plastic film between them. This obviously can’t keep the glass from shattering, but it does help all those little pieces from flying so freely as they normally would.

But the airbag can clearly be seen as the white mound on top of the dashboard. It is clear that whoever thought the airbag would substitute for a seatbelt found out by experiment that the inertia of a human body will vault it right over the airbag until that body finds some other force strong enough to stop it. The only real question I wish I could ask of the occupant of that seat is if they wear a seatbelt now.

There is another image that I carry only in my mind, as I had no camera at the time. But twenty years later it is still vivid. A friend I met my sophomore year in college was involved in a collision and we made a similar trip to a junkyard to take the stereo out of her car. Next to it in the junkyard was a full-size Chevrolet van, vintage 1980. A similar starburst was visible in the passenger-side windshield, of course minus any evidence of an airbag as there were none available in vans of that era. But what I can’t erase from my mind is the shape of the web of cracks: there were two centers where the radial cracks started and spread outward, one larger than the other in the center of the left side of the windshield, and a smaller radial set of cracks just below it and a bit towards the outside of the van.

If you don’t have the same mental image now that I have, what I see is a small child in the lap of an adult, the adult so convinced that he or she could protect the child from harm just by holding it, both being thrown head-first into the glass when the adult was proven wrong. I don’t want to know the truth about that particular collision because I choose to believe that somehow the child survived. Typically in such cases the adult does live, since their impact with the dash and the windshield was ‘cushioned’ by the softer child in front of them, and of course the child’s impact is compounded by having the additional force of an adult that weighs five to ten times as much as they do forcing them into the dashboard and windshield. It is images like this that fill me with rage when I see children in other cars who are not buckled into safety seats or even wearing a seat belt at all.

There is another pathetic footnote to this story. The child in my car was not mine; he belonged to my girlfriend and after a nice Christmas celebration we were driving him back to his father’s house. His father was mentally retarded and lived with his parents and two brothers who were also affected. They arrived at the hospital in their own car while we were being transported by ambulance, and two things happened that day which also make me cringe with disbelief whenever I recall them.

There is always so much mayhem and confusion in an emergency room, at least from the patient’s point of view. Add to that a family of people who are less than remarkable themselves, and it adds considerably to the hysteria. The child only had a small cut to his lower lip and was still in good spirits as he still thought all the excitement still must be some sort of celebration. But his father and his two brothers were all milling around telling stories and his parents (the grandparents of the boy) were quiet but confused. The nurses brought a clipboard of papers into the emergency room, asked who was responsible for the child, and the father raised his hand. The nurse told him where to sign in about seven places and he lazily scribbled his name where instructed, and then picked up the child and told everyone it was time to go home, which they did.

Now I was told this is what happened by a nurse, because I was with my girlfriend who had been taken for skull X-rays. Imagine our shock when we returned to the ER and we were met by half a dozen panicked nurses who were asking us where the child was. We said we didn’t know, but placed a call to the father’s house and of course that’s where everyone was. When we told the grandmother that all of those papers the father had signed were not a release form but granting permission for the doctors to examine the child – which none ever had – and that he needed to bring the child immediately back to the hospital, she said, “Oh, he’s fine. We’re staying right here.” I went to the house and took the child back to the hospital later that night, with everyone at the father’s house oblivious to the legal implications of what they had done and still berating me it was a waste of my time.

Now keep that thought in the back of your head for later.

That’s not the worst part of this story. The boy’s car seat was obviously still in my car, which was somewhere on it’s way to or already at the body shop at that point. But despite the fact that the father normally had custody of the child (both legally and physically) they had two cars but only one child seat. And of course on that day the car they took to the hospital was not the one with the child seat in it. You’ve figured this out now, I’m sure: only two hours after being in a car accident, the same child who survived a collision because he was buckled into a safety seat was taken home from the hospital in a car without a car seat and not wearing a seat belt. How do I know he wasn’t even wearing a seat belt? Because his father had jammed quarters into the seat belt buckles to keep that light on the dashboard from coming on and that buzzer from annoying them when they drive.

Do you still want to tell me that I’m not supposed to get upset about things like this?

An optimist? Therein lies no hope, they are dreaming

"
an optimist is one who believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. A pessimist is one who fears that this is probably true.
- J. Robert Oppenheimer, head of the Manhattan project that brought the world, for better or worse, nuclear weapons.

2012/02/12

watching "Se7en"

‎"...anyone who spends a significant amount of time with me finds me disagreeable"

- Morgan Freeman as Detective William Summerset: "SE7EN"

That movie is way far deeper than most people want to investigate; they all see the shock value and horror of what Kevin Spacey's character did - and yet look around you; what that Character said is irrefutably our current condition:
...
http://youtu.be/v4NcuPb4wmA

"it's more comfortable for you to label me insane"

Pick it up at 2:15

"...but that's the point. We see a deadly sin on every streetcorner, on every home, and we tolerate it"

well, a lot of people feign outrage over it, but what they're really doing is just reassigning blame. All the sanctimonious, falsely pious, indignant scolds in this country are quite fine with leaving all that goes wrong in this country to unfold on it's own; they make a career out of their outrage after the fact, to screaming that they are the defenders of "justice" to punish someone after it's all over -

...ask those same people to deal with the underlying structural and sociological factors that contribute to all the madness we see, and you'll find them screaming about socialism, inventing more demogogues, but never a penny or an ounce of effort to affect the madness before the next headline.

Case in point - I'm almost banking on somenoe to call the local cops in my town or the hospital and tell them Joe is talking about deep things; he mentioned a movie with a fatalistic plot, Joe must be up to something - (it's happened before). Take that same person that wants me to change my thinking and cheer up, lighten up, be happy, don't worry and try to have a substantive discussion about what is the reality of our headlines in this day, and they'll say there's nothing they can do.

And so it goes.

2011/07/14

Five years is a long time to be in the company of "friends" to find out...

that nobody really is.

It's deeper than that -

when someone says to me

"Well because you have these particular views (which they completely misunderstood) that's all I need to know about you"

Then the other chimes in

"Well now we know the real you"

Both of these people are far more destructive to a communal society than I could ever be - even if I were to go out of my way to live up to all this monstrosity that they are sure belongs to me.

I can't put this together; I get so caught up in the surreal conflict of being accused of something my accusers are far better examples of that I can't let go of the anger.

At the same time, a "friend" says this to me - a guy who I did think I had a unique relationship with -

"All you want to do is argue"

Um - can I get an objective voice in here? - It takes two to argue; any time someone wants to end the argument it's simple - concede and let the other guy win. Otherwise, whoever is still contesting an issue has just as much desire to 'argue' than the other person.

Someone pulled this on me a few years ago; a dentist who refused to give me copies of my dental records (who would only release them to a dentist). That's a violation of the law; I printed out the law and provided links to the state and federal government websites where the law is posted and still there had to be a big production. At the actual face-to-face meeting where the records were being surrendered, the representative from the dentist's office says to me

"Well, I'm not going to argue with you"

Hey, I don't want to call you stupid - but you're too late. You're already arguing with me, and you can end the argument simply by obeying the law and I'll be all smiles as I leave the office with what is my legal property and right.

But for the love of anything lovable,

not for Christ's sake but ours - as mortal beings who have to share a planet whether we can see Christ or not -

don't tell someone you "are not going to argue with them" while you're standing there arguing.

If what you actually mean is "I'm going to pull rank, use my authority, or just be a stalwart bump on a log and stand here and pout while you try to tell me that's not allowed" - go ahead and say that, but you might want to check the brutal clarity of a mirror before you tell anyone that you're

"not going to argue with them"

It's petulant, it's petty, and it makes you look silly (unless you really do have the authority and power to end the argument on your terms)

Either way,

perhaps all the parties who'm I've severed ties with, or who severed ties with me, can have the intellectual integrity to look at whatever they think is an objective adjudicator in the universe and tell all of us and answer for me:

If you are a student in school, does it get you a passing grade to tell your teacher "I understand plenty. The answer to the question is XXXXXX" - which is the wrong answer?

If you are being handed a traffic ticket by a law officer, can you get him to drop the charges by saying "I understand plenty"?

Can you go into any situation, given any number of people, given any amount of time you've known one or all of them and say, "Well, based on what you've said in the last five minutes, now we know the 'REAL' you" -

...and in either or all of these scenarios think that really does put a lid on the matter and settle the issue?

Let me know, because I'm confused.

If anyone knows me so well that I don't even need to be party to the conversation (or am excluded from it)

then what am I needed for at all?

And if that drives me to spend time in isolation pondering where in thsi world I fit in, so that the answer arrives in the form of "You don't; get over it" - every one of the people who went out of their way to make goddamn sure I did not fit in

can just shut the fuck up

if that puts the idea of suicide into my head

It's fascinating how people want to drive home the idea that they are right and I am wrong with a 16 pound sledgehammer to my face, but if I take it seriously and take it to heart and that somehow gives me the feeling that this planet doesn't want me

that doesn't get these people off the hook who spent so much energy and grabbed my ears so that they could be god damn sure I heard them when they told me what a piece of shit I am

It's fascinating

these people want to shout as loud as they like

in a canyon full of loose rocks

knowing the canyon is full of loose rocks that are unstable

(that's what they're ranting about)

and after they scream and shout and make goddamn sure the rocks heard them at all the volume they can manage

they blame the rocks for falling in the avalanche.

You have free speech to say whatever the fuck your little heart feels like saying

PROVIDED

that you have the courage, the integrity, and the honesty that when you ring the bell because you have the right to ring the bell

you can't un-ring the bell.

Have some courage, people. Your free speech is indeed not free; not because someone fought and died for you to have it, but because you now own all the echoes, feedback and consequences of whatever it is you want the world to know.

You can tell us how you feel

you cannot tell us how

or have much control over

how we react to it

if this be the case

where's the freedom for anybody else?

2011/07/13

It's your world, Boss

That line is from The Shawshank Redemption; a movie about prison.

Today I got an email from my bank, a bank that has an account with no money in it, because they paid a check on my behalf; then charging me $35 for the overdraft and presumably adding that to my credit report.

How?

Why?

Because my ATT wireless bill is paid online. They of course want to have a "method of payment" recorded in their system that they can draw their funds on. I had originally used the account that is now empty, although not closed. I had added a different method of payment.

In my haste to may my bills, I did not realize that although I have used payment method #2 for the last three bills, the old account still shows up first on the list and is the default for online bill pay.

My fault.

Nobody's fault but mine.

So, mad as hell at myself today, I go to ATT.com to delete that method of payment so I don't make this mistake again.

Guess what?

After spending 20 minutes scratching my head at the 300 buttons, pull downs and re-directs on their page, I could not find one way to delete an existing method of payment.

So I call their customer support.

Ten minutes on hold.

Customer support guy tells me that the only way to delete a method of payment is for customer service, (this guy) to delete ALL the methods of payment and to re-enter any one that I want to use in the future.

Have you noticed that the burden is always on us to do what they want
they set the rules for how it will be done

and despite all the comments they gleefully speak into your ear about how much you can do at ATT.com, despite all the "is there anything else I can do for you today, Sir?" obsequeous and false joy and protocol they speak, in the end, it's NOT all for the customers after all.

I can add a method of payment online without help from customer service over the phone

...but I cannot delete that same method of payment unless I get on the phone, wait for a customer service representative, and have him delete

ALL

the methods of payment, having then to start over and add the one I want to use even if it was just there only a few moments earlier.

"It's your world, Boss"

2011/07/12

"big" government vs. "dumb" government

So one of the things that really lit the fuse which blew up this friendship is when I asked the "friend" to read my postings on a large political blog; arguably one dedicated to and run by people from the left. My postings are mostly all about "meta" - the existential and sociological and psychological conflicts that make human communication oft times less productive than amongst all those "lesser" animals who we think we're so much better than.

Right now my 94 year old aunt next door is having a new bathroom installed in her house. WHy? Well, because she fell down a few times in recent years and the government, which gets involved because whenever she gooes to the hospital, is paying the bills. A truck just pulled up and dropped off a portable toilet - a chemical porta-jon.

We are now in the midst of a heatwave like none other in this area. It will get into the high 90's - very unusual.

Now aside from the construction workers themselves who are doing this work

(I'm a plumber, electrician, and handyman who got his start doing projects just like this in 1987, I'm not allowed to do this work even for free, because I'm not licensed, insured, or registered to perform "professionally": It doesn't mean I can't do the work, but I can't do it within the laws put in place to control disreputable contractors.)

So the idea is that when these contractors are installing this new bathroom, if they need to use - or if the 94 year old woman they're doing the work for - needs to use the bathroom, they're going to use the chemical toilet.

Think about that. A 94 year old woman using a chemical toilet in her own yard (which right now is leaning about 10 degrees to a seated occupant's right) - instead of walking the 70 feet over to her neighbor's house.

A neighbor, whom I might add, when he had no facitlities on his lot because of construction, used her bathroom with her gracious invitaiton and her insistence.

So could we all have been neighborly and said that my bathroom was open for anyone's use during any length of time that my 94 year old aunt's bathroom is unusable? We surely could have.

Was such an option even considered?

The law does not even allow it.

So when my former friend accuses me as a liberal of being in support (or even agreement with) "Big" government, I surely do not believe that government has all solutions for all problems - and why I refuse to vote for a Republican in 2011 (since 1999 actually) has nothing to do with my love of big government than my hatred of rank hypocrisy and unforgivable duplicity.

This is an example of DUMB government. We could have done this whole project for 1/5 of what's being spent - after all, this former plumber and electrian and amateur carpenter is unemployed - nevermind that the porta-jon is kind of a "we know better than your generosity"

What are the odds that a 94 year old woman is going to use a chemical toilet in the 94 degree heat of a sunny July day? I"m not sure I want anyone to answer a question that hopefully all would agree is a little silly to have asked in the first place.

She can use mine.

And so can the guys (or girls - woe to me that I might be presumptuously sexist) on the construction crew.

But we still have to have the porta jon, sitting on the edge of the driveway at some weird ten-degree list to starboard just to be safe.

Dumb government.

Do you tell someone you understand, or do they tell you?

Two blowups happened in my life in the last week, and they both had something in common.

Well, me, of course. But since people who think they're being objective will stop analyzing at that point and think they've figured everything out.

This post, this blog, is just that last gasp to suggest maybe they don't know as much as they are sure they do

and that may have some bearing on our situation.

"That you would uprate such a piece of shit diary tells me all I need to know about you"

"All you can do is argue and say I don't understand, and that I never will. I understand plenty. You pretty much hate me because I am content, you are not, and it's all about you. But I don't look down on you - that has to be you measuring yourself against others. You are the one that thinks you are a failure. Not me."


The first one is pretty simple: that a person can say they know "all that I need to know" about a person based on one comment/lack of condemnation of what they felt deserved to be condemned - that's the depth of their investment in knowing a person before judging them.

The second post was from a friend of 25 years ago. A relationship that was apparently so shallow that despite it's original importance had sheltered both of us to things that would not have allowed a friendship had either one of us known. The other guy, it seems, wants me to know that he has nothing to prove, he does not judge me (but I judge him) and to prove it, he has to tell me that our parting is all my doing because he did not judge anyone.

Focus please on just this one sentence:

All you can do is argue and say I don't understand, and that I never will. I understand plenty."

Can you name for me one situation in life where it's good enough to tell someone that you understand the subject at hand, and they take your claim at face value, that's good enough?

Do you tell your teachers/professors that you understand, or do you have to take a test to prove it to their satisfaction?

How about the Bureau of Motor Vehicles? Many people will tell you that they are great drivers and they KNOW all the rules, yet the BMV still makes you take the exam. They will deny you a license if you don't answer enough questions correctly, and the police reserve the right to pull you over and issue a fine or arrest you if you demonstrate your actual failure to understand.

But to my "friend", I tell him he doesn't understand what I'm telling him, and his answer is "I understand plenty".

Wow. My grades in college would have been so much better had I been able to get a deal like that.

But this person takes it one level further - his whole point is to tell me that he is my friend no matter what and that he has nothing to prove.

Am I the only one who thinks it's odd that a guy who has nothing to prove went a long way to prove he wasn't wrong; and that if what he was trying to prove was that he is my friend and he doesn't have a problem with my faults...

...did he not just take the time to point another one of them out to me?

2011/07/11

back to my cave. Don't open this door, I'll let you know if I'm coming out

http://www.dailykos.com/user/snafubar

Diaries published: 178
Comments posted: 12177 (6 days since last comment on Tue Jul 05, 2011 at 10:24 PM EDT)

Diary frequency: often
Comment frequency: frequent
Total Recommends: 3160
Total Comment Ratings: 29547

Most Recommended Diary: They're gone. I was close. I'm still curled up in a ball. (UPDATE), 492 comments, 436 recommends

People Following snafubar: 60

There's a little skull and crossbones where there used to be five bars out of five that measured "mojo"

Here's the comment I'd like to ask the blog moderators (or the one who created the algorithm that triggers the autoban)

When someone says

"That you would uprate a piece of shit diary like this tells me all I need to know about you"

That means someone else wrote a diary, it pissed a lot of people off, but I thought it made a valid point. Five others did; about 190 voted against it.

Now - regardless of what the subject of the diary was (it was about the use of the word "pussy" by men in locker rooms and whether or not it makes sense for women to go on crusades about sexism when that happens)

what is a more significant measure of why/how our society is coming apart

Men using "pussy" in the locker room to insult other men (by *gasp* comparing them to women) and ignoring that women take offense to it

or

A community so shallow that after five years, 12,000 comments, 192 essays/diaries, and 60 people "following" me

that a person's entire worth, character, contribution, or value to anyone can be determined by one or just a few comments on a blog.

If our society is that shallow

if all it takes to learn "all one needs to know" about another person

can be learned by having actually experienced so little of what constitutes them as an individual

perhaps I will be so bold to suggest that the shallowness is our bigger problem.

Simon and Garfunkel wrote a song in 1970 called "The Boxer"

I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest
http://www.lyricsfreak.com/s/simon+and+garfunkel/#share

People go where they know they will like things. They avoid things they don't like. Surprisingly, they get the impression that things work pretty well and everybody gets along....until that moment when something rubs them the wrong way and they say

"HEY! That upsets me, we don't want that here"

Well, the other guy obviously did, so now it's a competition over who belongs and who doesn't.

This is not new, this is not unique

but if the answer is always to scatter off where we all see things the same way and build a fence to keep out anyone who doesn't

or make it easier to pick off anyone coming over the top

"community" is starting to lose it's meaning.

That I can be summarily judged a sexist - a person who denigrates, opposes, hinders, ridicules, belittles, or otherwise obstructs to a person just because of their gender - all because I say that the use of the word "pussy" does in itself NOT make me a sexist -

That some people do

may I suggest this may have some bearing on our problem.

I think we've lost the plot

I also told a story how the political left takes a lot of shit for their hysterial overreach on matters that DO have legitimacy; when the minutae is carried so far that somehow the legitimacy of the more important hunt is lost because too may people have been lost in the weeds on a red herring.

Someone who turns down a job candidate because he's a male and she's a female - that's a sexist

The kind of guy who says a woman is nothing more than a life support system for a cunt - that's sexist

the guy who says to become apoplectic because two guys in a locker room where no women were even close called each other "pussy" because - well, that seems to be what guys in locker rooms do -

both those guys may go home and treat their wives and daughters and mothers and bosses and employees with all due respect

And yet still people insist that from the conversation in the locker room, they know all they need to know

Someone who says that it's a fools errand to try to control people's language because it saps energy from other more legitimate sources of the problem

that's not a sexist.

So to dismiss the entire value of one person's contribution to the effort,

to say that such a simple and brief encounter tells one "all (they) need to know about you"

may I suggest that could be a bigger part of the larger problem.

People congregate because we have greater strength together than we have individually.

That the minute we gather we start sequestering ourselves again into smaller groups within the whole

and talking about people as "them" who only moments earlier were part of the "us" that was in league against the other "them"

well, when you meet a guy like me who has few friends and now spends most of his time alone no longer daring to make others

perhaps this example will

nah, who am I kidding. it won't mean a thing

That I do not hate women
that I have stood with them in their defense
that I have given to help them
worked to help them
on an individual basis as people who had as much need as I did and I recognized it

...and never have tried to exclude them merely because they were women

somehow I'm still a sexist because I think it's a fool's errand to go apeshit because some guy used the word "pussy" to describe -

who cares

it wasn't to a woman, it wasn't about a woman

but some woman who had no dog in the fight

was sure that there was a larger fight that needed fighting that day

and knew - without knowing anything else about me -

"all she needed to know about me"

from a dozen comments on one day about one diary

that made sense to enough people to send me on my way.

It's amazing I was able to keep all that a secret for five years, 192 diaries, 12,000 comments, with 60 followers in tow.

For those of you who know me, I have a story that I tell, and I made some overtures in this spirit during the pissing contest that ended in this banning,

you can find examples of this not only in psycology, sociology, history - or your local new outlet -

if a person who is NOT ostensibly a real example of some label he keeps getting slapped with
enough people slap that label on him over and over
enough people ignore him when he says that label is not enough to describe all that he is and what he's about

some day

some moment

some trigger is pulled inside that man (person)

and the words

"well, if I'm going to be taking all the shit for this thing that I don't believe I am,

regardless of how hard I'm trying to show that I am not this thing I am being labelled

I might as well start going out of my way and deliberately engaging in all those things that will surely get me labelled as this thing people are sure I am

and get some fucking mileage for all this grief I'm taking now."

...cross his mind.

My only real strength in this life, being the spiteful bastard I am, is to not become that which people assail me for being, just to prove they didn't get me.

That some people still bang their drum to gather a crowd and scream to them "THERE'S THE WITCH!"...

...to our sober and astute readers, is how people get pushed into places they had no intention of ever going

and why I have little sympathy and less forgiveness for those rubberneckers who slow down at a car crash and say

"Holy shit, look at that! Wow! I wonder how that happened?"

Don't bullshit yourself -

they don't care how it happened.

Because you know

that two miles earlier on that very same highway

only a short distance in time and space from that wicked and horrible wreck that "shocks" them

they were likely engaged in about five of the seven bad driving habits that led to the wreck that now has them stuck in traffic and going so slowly that they can see the mangled bodies bleeding in the mangled cars.

When a guy snaps

either homocide

suicide

or just plain "you're fired, we don't tolerate that"

all the people who think whatever it led to was just unacceptable and unforgivable

...five minutes earlier would have been the very same people who were arguing with that same person for 59 rounds...

...who drew a line somehow at round 60 and said that the OTHER guy had gone TOO far.

and so it goes.

2011/04/17

Save the lottery tickets. The "ejected" man was pronounced dead.

http://standardspeaker.com/breaking-news/man-involved-in-rt-93-crash-dies-1.1133824

Regarding my last post, I mean no disrespect to this man, his family, or his memory, but my point in posting this is that this should not be a headline.

Two reasons, really; people ought not to be dying for such pointless and preventable reasons - and people who do ought to be put in such a place of prominence that their galactic stupidity and recklessness is held on a level of those who juggle chainsaws.

So, what are you afraid of?

Another day, another car crash. Another ejected driver.


I was expecting to see another fatality here, but no, surprisingly despite being ejected from the vehicle, this man lived. May his injuries not be crippling. I did not see anything in the article that explicitly says he was not wearing his seat belt, but being ejected from the vehicle is an indication. 

After the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq,  I wrote an essay titled "What Are You Afraid Of?" I related people's willingness to send US troops anywhere in the world to "protect us" and "save lives" no matter what the cost in blood and treasure; meanwhile 25,000 people every year still die in car accidents - and still 20 percent of them won't wear a seat belt. Months can pass without reading of a local person killed in the war zone; yet hardly a day can pass in the Standard Speaker without articles recounting deaths from car accidents, violent crime, domestic disputes, a lifetime of unhealthy habits, and a surreal number of house fires.

People fear terrorists and think their lives hang in the balance if the US is not all over the world "protecting" them, yet like this driver, the same people will spend the money to buy a Mercedes-Benz because it's known as a safe car, and still not wear their seat belt.

I suggest that he immediately devote the rest of his assets to buying lottery tickets, because he's just proven he's a wizard at beating the odds.

I also predict those who know me, and those who read this story will use this as yet another example of a person who did not wear their seat belt and nevertheless still lived to tell the tale. (again, may he recover from his injuries, described as "critical")

They will decry the "nanny state" which has the temerity to mandate seatbelt use, while they echo proud libertarian fantasies about wind-through-the-hair motocyclists without helmets and "I don't want to get trapped in my car if there's a fire" nightmares that are always the rare exception to the statistical facts.

Seat belts were not invented by the government. No, they were first invented - and requested - by those pilots who watched their fellow airmen die, not in a fiery obliteration of their aircraft, but in 'survivable' crash landings where they simply bounced too hard off the inside of the cockpit. Carrier landings would be lethal without a seat belt, even if the pilot was perfect.

And so, despite the testimony of Mr. Mulligan, the man who lives on this road and recounts for us the frequency of accidents, and despite the statistics that count the dead 9 to 1 amongst those who forsake seatbelts over those who wear them, this particular accident will probably become another tale recounted at parties for those who want to believe in the 1 in 10,000 exception and ignore the 9,999 headstones.

Ask someone if they want to jump out of their car window at 40 MPH, and they look at you in horror that you dared to even ask such a ludicrous thing. The same people will suggest that they want to get "thrown clear" of the car in an accident and don't realize it's the same proposition. Then there's all that stuff in the way of being thrown "clear", like windshields and dashboards.

I'm sure a quick phone call to anyone at Mercedes-Benz will be able to connect you to any engineer who helped designed precisely this car who will tell you that they do not intend for the passengers to be ejected.

A New York State Trooper visited my elementary school in the early 70's, and told us always to wear a seatbelt. This was old news and a habit already for me, because my dad was a mechanical engineer and refused to start the engine of any car he was driving until all the passengers, including the stubborn ones, were wearing their seatbelts. But the trooper spoke an enigmatic sentence to a then 7-year-old that fascinates me now that I'm in my 40's  . He said,

"In my 30 years on the force, I've never had to remove the seat belt from a dead body".

...because if they were wearing one, the person survived the wreck and unbelted themselves, and the ones who weren't wearing one were thrown from the vehicle; and therefore did not need the trooper to remove a seat belt that wasn't there. The only people touching the bodies at that point were from the ambulance crew or the coroner's office.

My congratulations to the survivor of the accident. My only wish is that he doesn't brag about it.

When, if he recovers fully from his injuries, I'd like to meet him some day and ask him if he will wears one after this event or not.

Oh, and "water runoff" does not cause accidents; people not paying attention to water on the road and driving too fast for conditions causes accidents.

All the people who drove through it safely can attest to that.

2011/02/08

People will die. Those remaining will yawn and continue on as before

Blogging is a strange beast; I'm not so deluded to think that before we all had the freedom to say whatever we wanted and be heard by a larger audience than ever before, that the world was more peaceful and harmonious place. But it wasn't so easy then to prove that even though it's easier to talk to anyone than ever before, now there's nothing left to talk about without some form of violence.

I've learned in recent years that most Americans only get along at the level we do because we're too shallow to even know who each other is in the first place. Once we start "sharing" our true feelings, all of this networking tears apart as many relationships as it creates.

We only maintain the most minimal of contact precisely because to know how much we would find out that we hate each other over things we never knew. I have not yet come up with the right word for this yet - the opposite of networking - "splintering", maybe. Although the internet has allowed us to reveal more of ourselves and meet new people with like minds (networking), and in the end made it harder and harder for there to be any interaction at all beyond the weather.

(I was going to say that at least we can still talk about the weather because the weather can't be blamed on anyone, but then I thought in the context of climate change, you and I both know two people can find that as a reason to burn a friendship to the ground)

What is overwhelming me is the realization that given the vitriol, abject hatred, and dehumanizing indifference between total strangers, now lifelong friends who are finding more out about each other than they knew before,  and becoming strangers by neccessity. Until we "shared" so much, it was not yet obvious that the only reason any relationship existed was because we didn't know who each other was.

"Friends" I thought I had 25 years ago reintroduce themselves into my life through Facebook, and when I read their profiles I have to close my mouth to keep my keyboard clean. Really? People have somehow never figured out that if one's views on life and society involve a lot of hatred, condemnation, and vitriol of "them" in the abstract, sooner or later one of "those people" will turn out to be someone they once thought of as a friend. One can hate the figurative, rhetorical "Them" as an ambiguous and anonymous construct, but once you find out that a friend you've had for decades falls under the same classification, aw...crap, really?

By then its a little late to walk backwards to that moment when I wasn't "them" in the eyes of a friend.

"oh, well, I don't mean that about YOU, dear friend, but I do have those views about __________ (insert generic classification here)", and they subconsciously switch on the cognitive dissonance and ignore that their old friend is a member of "them".

Cognitive dissonance is a sinister beast; it allows people to internally ignore two contraditory thoughts within their own head. Blogging has now become so personal, with Facebook and Twitter and all manner of political and religous blogs that when the fury and antipathy being expressed about "THEM" suddenly reveals itself as a living, breathing, walking, talking example of humanity with a name and a familiar face - well, now the shit hit the fan, didn't it?

Pointing the fan in a different direction or running it backwards does little to bring the shit back to it's original anonymity.

Somewhere in my past was the adage that "polite people do not politics, religion, or sex". Sex is the one that, believe it or not, is the least volitile of the three; you can at least be vague and although the conversation dies quietly as long as specific details were left out; but they'll at least get the idea and nobody blushes or leaves the room.

Politics, and now that religion has been "married" (ha!) to it by one political party, has now made almost every innocuous conversation to ultimately be a series of zero-sum equations; for one point of view to "win", the other must "lose". And of course, the views all have to be farther and farther toward the poles and away from one another to have any significant reason to be attractive or repulsive enough to sway people's views in the first place - every comment is a live grenade, and the grenades are bigger, now with more shrapnel!.

What depresses me - and I hate that word "depressed", I wanted to say "demoralizes" because that's more accurate, but it's deeper than that - is that we literally have to lie about who we are and how we feel to have any peace at all.

 In a court of law, the crime of perjury is committed even in the absense of evidence; if you know something and you don't reveal it (and it can be proven you knew it and did not reveal it when asked under direct examiniation) that's against the law. But in polite (ha!) conversation, one had better leave all but the most evident characteristics of your personality and beliefs out completely, or already have your path to the exit cleared or some kind of weapon within reach. The more someone knows, the more reason they have to attack you, hate you, or distance themselves from you. As a result, now that we have more ways to communicate than ever before, the conversations have become so shallow and empty of substance that they're effectively worthless. Anything more substantive than that is too volitile to mention at all unless your health insurance deductable has been satisfied for the year.

Makes "freedom" (TM) and "liberty" as professed by all those self-proclaimed patriots kind of a joke: I may have the "freedom" to say a lot of things and the "liberty" to hold certain views, because the civil code is not permitted to interrupt me; but if the crowd I'm standing in at the time I feel inspired to reveal a particular idea simply will not tolerate it, it matters little that the law protects my opportunity to express it.

I got into a flamewar online about religion; people who are absolutely horrified that anyone might belittle or disparage their faith/religion - even if it's not about them specifically, but rather words and actions of another who represents their faith - were feeling put-upon and claimed there was "bigotry" against religion in the room. Those same people have utterly no awareness that it is their own position that has presented a zero-sum situation; their views are sacred, and they must be allowed to assert and defend them; yet at the same time those people don't recognize, or don't acknowledge that it is their view who have excluded, condemned, or ridiculed anyone else.

So.

Guns.

Abortion.

Taxes.

Religion.

Those are all off the table. Of course, they're all still issues that directly or indirectly affect each one of our lives, but now we can't talk about them lest someone be offended. And the frequency with which someone is easly offended (while utterly oblivious to how pointed their views belittle and offend everyone else) is getting too much for me to endure.

I don't mind a conflict when the rules are the same, but that's not what's happening.

Religious people talk of "bigotry" against their faith; yet they have no understanding that if their faith is as much "truth" and "proof" as they insist it is, that makes everyone else but the other members of their faith quite a fool and, according to their faith, destined without hope to quite a miserable eternity. They will tell you not to quesiton or challenge or belittle their faith for they find it offensive; yet they can't understand why it might be offensive to me, that if their faith really is true, my future is going to be horrific and unthinkably tortured. In fact, I am sure that's the point that those who embrace their faith want everyone to know - in the abstract. Christians want all the apostates, atheists, and members of any other religion to know that anyone but a 'good' Christian will face Hell for all eternity - at least to everyone who's not in the room.

When I say to my "friend" - "hey, you do realize that you're talking specifically about me, right?" - suddenly they looked shocked, as if to say, "well, I did not want my friends to suffer, but...(long, awkward pause)...yes, that is indeed what my religion says, you will suffer in Hell".

Gun rights, abortion rights, taxes - they've all become zero-sum conflicts that are as intractable as the alleged tortures of Hell. Either one side wins, and they care not who loses as long as it's not them, or the whole conversation has to be scrapped. If the conversation goes on too long, and suddenly it's obvious that the "THEM" who are so reviled by one group happens to turn out to be represented by a few of the people in that very room...now everyone has to look at the walls, the table - anywhere but directly in the eyes of the others in the room who were just revealed as "them" -

You have your views; I have mine. Generally, we never interact. Each of us has our own 'circle' of influence; people who have interaction and influence on us through their behavior, and we have our own power to affect the lives of others through our interaction with those people we encounter in our daily affairs.

Normally, most of that interaction only occurs at the shallowest levels; "how's the weather", "who won the game last night" kind of stuff; and since not much of that is any big deal, not a lot of conflict arises.

But now that "freedom" (TM) has been somehow adopted to mean that each individual has the unalienable right to think and act on whatever they want without reservation or apology, there's suddenly a lot more of bricks being figuratively thrown at people's heads and a lot more occasions where the room just empties out and acquaintences are abandoned just to keep the violence at bay.

I've grown grim, very grim.

We - humankind - has more ways to communicate, easier ways that happen instantaneously across all boundaries than ever before; and it seems we're only using them to divide each other.

I wrote a blog post the other day that included a change in the name of our country:

"The United States of - You Gotta Be Kidding, Right?"