The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, April 14, 2008

Bad Habits are good?



If I believe (and I do) that the single most important measurement of potential disaster on this planet is the expanding population, and the single most powerful means of controlling population is the political and social equality of women (which seems to be true) then a reasonable case can be made that Women's issues are an incredibly important pressure-point for change, world-wide.



That argument could be broadened into a support for Hillary on the basis of the symbol it sends around the world...change and hope for oppressed women--and their families--on a massive scale. I can see a 100% reasonable and rational argument there that does not get into the "we've been hurt worse than you" nonsense that is just preaching to the choir on whichever side.



The more comments I read from middle-aged (and older) women who have been waiting all their lives for a female President, the more empathy I feel. I really wish these two particular candidates hadn't come along at the same time. Perhaps it was an eerie inevitability. But I wish that the national dialog was at a higher level--it swoops toward race and gender so damned fast.

##

I wonder what kind of Ageist stuff will come out in the General? Certainly concerns about mental competence, as well as health and generational attitudes, will make this discussion relevant. It almost would have been fun to have all three candidates throwing mud at each other on the basis of race, gender, and age...if the three situations were equivalent. Of course, we know that men get MORE powerful as they get older...which makes it interesting to "attack" McCain on an issue which, on the one hand, confronts pain fear and mortality...and on the other "attacks" him for being at the peak of his life power.

##

I wonder if it is possible to use bad habits in a positive way. Let's say you have high goals in three different arenas. All will demand overcoming bad habits. Let's say you make a deliberate choice to engage in one bad habit for a week while you maintain a perfect record in the other two. I wonder what would happen if you rotated between them? Or just found an indulgence and engaged in it selectively while pushing to the max in your other areas?

In the name of balance, this clearly couldn't be maintained for very long...a week perhaps, or a month. But it was just a thought this morning...I was wondering if anyone out there has ever used a bad habit for a positive purpose?

30 comments:

suzanne said...

men only get more Powerful as they age (?)
if their neurons don't implode
or they stroke out
or in the case of sexual power
if they don't become impotent
or develop prostate problems . . .

I'm whatchacall
"an older woman"
y beef with the Hillary campaign
early on
was I don't think White House dynasties are a good thing

but the manner in which she and her minions have conducted
her campaign has turned me really off to her

and I recently read a whole slew of comments by "older women"
women of her generation
who say yeah we'd like to see a woman as president
but not this one
and most could point to a specific incident
in her conduct
that turned them off

damn poor showing of
administrative skills - the way she's managed this campaign

Mike Ralls said...

> Of course, we know that men get MORE powerful as they get older...<

Even as a generalization that's not really true. What would be accurate is to say that a _small_ percentage of men, not representative of the whole, get more powerful as they get older. By the time the overwhelming majority of men are 71, they probably have less power than they did in their 30s.

> I was wondering if anyone out there has ever used a bad habit for a positive purpose?<

I've tried saying, "I'll procrastinate tomorrow." - mainly as a kick in the pants and to get me to chuckle at myself.

Steven Barnes said...

Now, Suzanne: I didn't say "only." I was speaking of the general tendency for male power to be equated with wealth, and female power to be equated with reproductive capacity. These are certainly superficial measures compared to intelligence or spiritual depth, but I was speaking of cultural tendencies.
##
I've also seen a lot of women saying "not this one" about Hillary. But others expressing real pain and disappointment as well.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

I totally agree with Suzanne... 'not this woman'. And, to take a page out of Bill Cosby's book, she's presenting herself 'on a garbage can lid'. 'Nuff said on that.

To answer the question,
"I was wondering if anyone out there has ever used a bad habit for a positive purpose?"

I've used my bad habits to understand myself better.

For example, if I'm procrastinating about posting to my blog according to my (self-set) schedule, I stop and ask myself, 'What's wrong? Why don't I want to do this? What's really going on?

The answers have, at times, been interesting... ranging from 'you have something more important that needs to be done instead of this', to 'what you have to say right now isn't going to help anyone' (negative emotions).

Do bad habits fill a need? I think so... it’s just finding out what the need is :)

LaVeda H. Mason said...

Oh, yes, almost forgot...

Thank you for taking the time to converse with us all. I appreciate that :)

Happy Blogger Appreciation Day!

Josh Jasper said...

That argument could be broadened into a support for Hillary on the basis of the symbol it sends around the world...change and hope for oppressed women--and their families--on a massive scale.

Universally available free birth control would be a good step. Followed with empowerment programs for women in poor areas.

I'm betting that Hillary Clinton would sign off on these things if she could. A lot of the antipathy about her has large amounts to do with the negative image she's had painted on her by some rather suspect conservative sources.

Voting wise, I'm not 100% behind her, but she's probably going to be a lot more in line with my personal slant on issues than McCain. That includes women's empowerment.

Frank said...

Quiz.

Who said

I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience. If I still have time, I might add, Mr. Trewhitt, I might add that it was Seneca or it was Cicero, I don't know which, that said if it was not for the elders correcting the mistakes of the young, there would be no state.

Mike Ralls said...

>If I believe (and I do) that the single most important measurement of potential disaster on this planet is the expanding population,<

Quick question: Are you aware of the rapidly falling birthrate in much of the world? In rough terms, something like 45% of the earth's population lives in areas with zero or shrinking populations, and within ten years that's likely to be up to 70% (China's pop is going to start shrinking soon, for instance). By the 2040's the worlds population as a whole will probably begin to shrink, baring some truly impressive life extension tech.

Scott Masterton said...

Frank -

Was it Ronnie?

Dan Moran said...

Yeah, that was Reagan with Mondale. Great piece of theater.

Frank said...

Ronnie, right you are.

But I do believe that McCain will pick a youthful running mate that will be obviously capable of taking over in order to mitigate the ageism

Pagan Topologist said...

Frank, Bob Dole said that during a debate with Bill Clinton, I think. I know he said something similar.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

"If I believe (and I do) that the single most important measurement of potential disaster on this planet is the expanding population"

I'm beginning to fear the most alarming index of potential disaster during the otherwise phenomenally promising New Century is the explosive growth of religious fanaticism. Worldwide, extremist creeds that espouse violence and blatantly untenable dogmas appear to be mushrooming at the expense of secularism and denominations that embrace progressive values. As Sam Harris and others have pointed out, whereas blind allegiance to racial, national and gender affiliations is thankfully diminishing, religious identification (i.e. the Faithful vs. Infidel mentality) remains firmly rooted, laying the seeds for possible worldwide calamity.

Anonymous said...

Historically increased population, has led to a shortfall in resources, has led to a war over resources, has led to reduced population. Let's hope we avoid that scenario this time, because the potential is for a very reduced population.

Marty S

Pagan Topologist said...

OK, I stand corrected. I don't remember the Reagan Mondale debate where this happened. Maybe I missed it.

Steven Barnes said...

Things like religious fundamentalism catch fire more easily when there is competition for resources. As that competition gets fiercer, watch all manner of madness rise, "rat city" style.

Paul Gibbons said...

"I wish that the national dialog was at a higher level--it swoops toward race and gender so damned fast."

It is inevitable that political dialogue does not remain at a very high level for long. There is a purpose behind this, leaving our brains engaged too long might result in some of us getting a good look at the game.
The Emperor's new clothes was not just a children's story; it is telling us that nothing that politicians do bear close examination. Aspiring to the office of the presidency is to seek the position of ruler of an organization that claims a monopoly on the initiation of force against people most of whom have harmed no one but have merely disobeyed the commands of those in power. Take the uniforms, badges and robes off these people and evaluate the actions they take (coercion, theft and yes, even murder) and the distinction between a protection racket and government becomes hard to make. "But we elect these people to serve us!" you reply. I don't like the service, why can't I choose another provider? "That's not how it works!" someone says. "We need the government to provide the social infrastructure and protect us". A culture that can provide me with food, clothing, shelter and entertainment in a free market is capable of providing education, roads and dispute resolution as well. And as far as protection goes, I already surrender nearly half my income to armed men, (beware the Ides of April!) I think it's time to start to really consider if the cure is a lot worse than the disease. If you want to flame me, bring it on but bring facts logic and reason with you, and together we have a chance of discovering the truth, because the path we're on leads nowhere.

suzanne said...

"greatest problem is overpopulation"

woman's greatest power
lies in her reproductivity capability"

uh-oh
I sense a problem here!

I knew a psychiatrist who had a passle
of children
he explained it thusly:
if people like me (highly educated, smart, economically well off) reduce our birth rate
but the less advantaged continue to reproduce
who will solve the problems of the world?

what do you think of that?
*grin*

Scott Masterton said...

Suzanne -

For an answer to your question watch the movie Idiocracy :)

Scott.

Steven Barnes said...

As to the "Marching Morons" hypothesis:
Your friend is assuming that he has solved more of life's problems than the "disadvantaged". Could be. I doubt if he can identify how many of those solutions were handed to him at birth.

There are certainly people who are genetically gifted in comparison to many others. But I think the genetic aspects of intelligence aren't as important as the ability to live within your means, honesty, recognition of humanity in others compassion...things that are taught more than innate. I find that smart people are just as capable of screwing themselves up as the less intelligent. This isn't to say I think people are better off dumb. It's that smart people are as self-congratulatory as anyone else, and therefore see a world to THEIR liking, and try to create it in their own image. Considering how often I hear these smart folks
1) suggest that intelligence is a disadvantage in life or business
2) believe that their physical bodies are irrelevant
3) hold the outside world responsible for their relationships--

I'm not impressed. Give me common decency and balance over genius, please.

suzanne said...

I didn't say he was my friend, Steve!
*laughing*

frankly I thought he was
spouting
hog-wishy-washy

he was a non-active obese
not-that-great psychiatrist . . .

suzanne said...

thanks, Scott!
I have the movie in my
netflix queue now

Anonymous said...

It is clear that being smart is not the end all and be all. My oldest sister is genius level, at least academically. After graduating Phi Beta Kapa, Suma Cum Laude, from CCNY she received a letter from Columbia University offering her a full scholarship if she come study for a PH. D there, even though she never applied. But she has no real world smarts. You can sell her the Brooklyn Bridge, and she never earned over $35000 annually. That said, nevertheless if all other qualities are equal it is better to be smart than not to be smart and so it is not unreasonable and simply arrogant to have the view that the human race is better off if future generations are smarter rather than dumber.

Marty S

Ethiopian Infidel said...

The solution to the dangerously escalating competition for Earth's rapidly diminishing resources is to settle space, as pundits such as Hawking and Pournelle have urged. Hopefully the New Century will see the USA, China and others (India?) rise to the challenge and guarantee a long and prosperous human future.

Josh Jasper said...

The solution to the dangerously escalating competition for Earth's rapidly diminishing resources is to settle space, as pundits such as Hawking and Pournelle have urged.

Space can't support us any better.

How about we consume less, work on cleaner, cheaper energy, reproduce less, and have fewer wars? That's at least technologically possible. At this point, we don't know how to set up a sustainable colony on earth in a sealed atmosphere right now.

Lynn said...

I am an expert at using a bad habit for a positive purpose. I have some trouble with OCD type stuff. When I get in that mode, sometimes I just grab it and run with it. I have accomplished some rather amazing things like that -- stopped a local government from stomping on the First Ammendment, gave a burgeoning case of arthritis a pretty serious smackdown, revamped my financial life, wrote fiction, fixed up a house and more than doubled its value, etc. I think I see it now as a superior ability to apply focus. Now I just need to find balance, since the reasons behind the need for the OCD are coming into consciousness. I'm working on balancing my 'extraordinary focus', which developed as a way to avoid, with examining the avoided material. Can I apply my special focus to the topic of balance? Hmmm... Seems like a loaded question.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

"Space can't support us any better."

Earth's orbit alone is drenched with enough undiluted sunlight to supply humanity's power needs many times over (i.e. the Solar Power Satellite (SPS) system promoted by Jerry Pournelle, the late Gerald K. O'Neil, et al). Beyond the Earth lay the cornucopia of precious metal that are the Moon and the Metal-rich asteroids and the inexhaustible wealth of the endless frontier beyond, all within reach through present and projected technology.

".. work on cleaner, cheaper energy, reproduce less, and have fewer wars?"

I'm all for cleaner, more inexpensive energy (i.e. solar power beamed from space, once the initially steep hurdle of establishing the infrastructure is surmounted) and, like any sane person, for the ultimate abolition of war. Developing space-based resources will further both efforts by facilitating access to resources and territory which enlarge the economic pie to the point where it eclipses the comparative crumbs that fuel many of our current squabbles.

"How about we consume less.."

The trouble is, consuming less would probably prohibit the development of the 3rd World, whose citizens are as entitled to "The Good Life" as are those of North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. Humanity requires economic and technological growth to ensure the prosperity of all the citizens of the Earth and their space-born descendants to come.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we know that men get MORE powerful as they get older...which makes it interesting to "attack" McCain on an issue which, on the one hand, confronts pain fear and mortality...and on the other "attacks" him for being at the peak of his life power.

Have to disagree here. Only a few men get more powerful with age. McCain seems like one that is getting less powerful, oddly. I have been listening to him, and other people are filling his mouth with words. I think he has always been very malleable (the whole Charles Keating affair as one point) and that is his attraction to those who are supporting him. I actually cannot think of one man I know/knew who is getting/got stronger with age. I saw my father diminish with age -- and he was a very powerful man in most ways. I am seeing/have seen male business partners diminish with age. Steve, you personally are still on the rise.

Women do get more powerful as they age. I think that the weakest time in a woman's life is when she is of childbearing years. If she bears children or not, these are physically difficult years in many ways. An older woman often doesn't care about sex, has put together a little money of her own (way over 60% of money in US and EU is controlled by women), just don't give rat's ass what you think of her. That last one is real power. However, there is a peak and a point of diminishing, too.

That said, I can wait four or eight more years for the right woman. I agree with suzanne. Hillary is proving herself to not be the right woman. Plus, I have a problem with little family dynasties in the WH. This second Bush as been a rat's ass.

Josh Jasper said...

Ethiopian Infidel -

When we can create a sustainable life supporting habitat in space that does not require more energy to set up and run than doing the same thing on earth, you'll have a point. Right no, we're failures at creating habitats that can support a good sized group of humans in a sealed environment.

Before we learn to walk, we need to learn to crawl. I support the concept of space exploration, and colonizing space, but we need to know that we can have real colonies.

So the start of your solution is to get to a point where we can live in space without constant supplies from earth. If we can't, space is just an expensive resource drain.

The same goes for concepts of beaming energy to earth. It sounds great, but right now, it's more energy out than it is energy in.

We've got the resources to set up lots of nuclear power plants, which while they're long term polluting for waste storage, solve our immediate drive for energy, without which, we're falling apart.

I'm a big fan of using the simplest, best proven answers to problems. We need energy, we need to replace hydrocarbon fuels that will run out in 50-80 years at our current rates of consumption, we need to consider what an industrial nation consumes, and apply that rate of consumption to the developing world.

Simply put, we need long term solutions that are easily implemented with technology and social methods we have on hand.

I like space travel and colonization, but we don't have the means on had to make it work, and our problems are immediate. We've got food shortages, an energy crises, and they're linked. Long term, space travel may save us. Short term, we need solutions that work now, with what we've got, and are easy to implement, and cheap. In that order.

Ethiopian Infidel said...

Josh,

Agreed, we need solutions that meet our immediate needs in sustaining the global technological society. We must also concurrently pursue technologies (i.e. space development) that will preserve and expand humanity beyond the capacities of such short-term measures. Developing and using nuclear fission and fusion systems nicely addresses both needs. The Earth's abundant fissile material reserves and nearly inexhaustible fusion resources (i.e. deuterium and tritium contained in water) can supply global industries for centuries, while nuclear propelled craft offer the most promising means of interplanetary and interstellar travel.

"We need energy; we need to replace hydrocarbon fuels that will run out in 50-80 years at our current rates of consumption"

I suspect our energy situation's far more dire. The New Century is projected to witness the maturation of China and India as modern industrial nations. Also, some of the poorer nations of Asia and those of Africa will probably surmount the various political obstacles that currently mire them in poverty and achieve First World status. In essence, upwards of 2 billion additional people (China + India + x number of Asian and African nations) will soon be consuming resources at rates comparable to Americans, Australians, Europeans and Japanese. Solutions that sustain current global rates of consumption are therefore useless. Humanity urgently requires resources and technologies that can support the vastly expanded industries of the decades and centuries to come.