The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Party Line Sucks

Hmmm. I'm going to try to say this carefully, because I really don't want to step on anyone's raw nerves. At the same time, I have a commitment to tell the truth as I see it in this blog. And that means I have to walk a very careful line. Steve Perry recently (and not for the first time) asked me what I thought about the fact that a very healthy percentage of readers disagreed with me passionately, and vocally. Didn't that indicate that maybe I was just...wrong.

Well, yes, it does. How can I know? How can I tell whether I'm wrong, or they are? And what would be responsible for so many good, honest, well-intended people being wrong, while I'm right?

1) If I'm right, it wouldn't be because I'm smarter, or better. It could be because in some one sense, in some single arena, I've glimpsed something that is not well understood. I think we all do this at times, and every human advancement has been the result of people...some of them quite ordinary, glimpsing an unpopular or uncommon truth. That doesn't make me right about race, gender, sexual orientation, political orientations, or any of the other things I speak of. But it opens the door to the possibility that, yes, I could be right about something while 60% of the readers were wrong.

2) But how could I know. Here's a test I use: if I find that people are continuously either forgetting what I actually said, exaggerating what I said, or downright misquoting what I said, it is reasonable for me to think that something is very wrong. If I say "blue" and the other person continuously says "red" then I am NOT at fault, not in the position of meaning "red" no matter how they jump up and down and yell. Except...once I realize that the word that means "red" to me means "blue" to them, I have the RESPONSIBILITY to grasp that they cannot hear what I am saying, and not necessarily due to anything originating on my side. That if I care, I have to try to figure out how to get them to understand "blue." And that, especially if I believe "blue" is critical to their health or welfare, I have to find a way to communicate it to them until they say something to the effect of: "blue? You mean blue?" THEN if they still disagree, at least there has actually been communication. I care about the quality of that communication.

3) Yes, on certain subjects, I think I've perceived something that is mighty damned unpopular to talk about. Some things that the System, whether that system is political, social or biological, doesn't "want" us to grasp. This doesn't mean conscious plotting or planning on the part of some group of power brokers, whether you mark them out by race, gender, social class or whatever. What creates it? The fact that certain behaviors (polluting the environment, say) are terrible for people, but the causes (dumping garbage without paying for the consequences) can be good for corporations. Corporations reward the people who bring them money. So people who don't think about the consequences of dumping toxins, and are trying only to maximize profits ('think of the poor stockholders!") can, in their minds, be doing nothing but "good" but end up destructive as hell.

4) Another tendency is that people, "all" people (oh, right, are you going to ask me if I mean 100% of people? No, I mean "a very high percentage" and you darn well know that's what I mean) want as much power as possible, combined with as little responsibility as possible. Gimme, gimme, gimme. If you don't believe me, just take a look at your opinion of whatever "other" group you are opposed to. Liberals think this of Conservatives and vice versa, like crazy. Not MY group, of course. But everyone else. Yeah, right.

5) I've found that starting with the assumption that things are balanced...and then moving outward from there, produces better results than starting with the assumption that people are incredibly different, and then allowing individual cases to modify my opinion. In other words, racists start with the assumption that blacks and whites are hugely different, and when they meet individual members of that "other" group they slowly, very slowly begin to accept exceptions, dragging their feet to acknowledge equality for as long as they can. I drag mine in the opposite direction. Are there some very interesting evidences of differences in sport performance between blacks and whites? Yes. Do I accept that they are mostly genetic? No. Is it possible? Sure. But I'm mighty reluctant to go there, because it opens the door to a LOT of unpleasant stuff. It's not a blind spot: I'm perfectly aware I do it.

6) The 10% asshole rule is accepted by almost everyone...for their own group. But when it comes to the "other" they start saying: "oh, 30% of whites are bigoted. Or blacks want something for nothing. Or men are oppressive. Or women are manipulative. Or liberals are godless, or Conservatives are heartless money-grubbers" Or whatever.

We rule, they drool. Want to know what I'd consider a good test of whether your attitude about a group is rational?

Could you have a rational discussion with someone with the opposite view.

A conservative who believes that liberals are good, decent people with some disagreements about how to make this country better can have a polite conversation with a liberal who believes that conservatives are the same. But...Michael Savage and Randi Rhodes? Lock 'em in a room and throw in a couple of knives.

I see nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong in the world that can't be explained by equal numbers of assholes on both side...but also equal numbers of angels. Different perspectives, different priorities, different modes of expression, different values and priorities, different starting points in the game, and so forth.

I have a friend of mixed blood who is prejudiced against black people. When I ask him a direct question: "do you believe that, on the whole, blacks and whites have equal capacity, and are of equal capacity morally and ethically--he CANNOT say "yes" or "no." What comes out is an avalanche of avoidance, shading and refusal to take responsibility for his own opinions. But every time he mentions race, it's something negative. Every time. I pay attention to stuff like that.

There are self-hating black people, Jews, gays, men, and women. We are not merely pressured by the world, but programmed from the cradle to accept certain things as being true. IF those things are not true, and they are pointed out...well, the pointers are at risk. There are plenty of women who believe women should stay in the home: and we rightfully suspect that many of them are so dominated by brutal husbands that they dare not speak the truth. And the opposite? Hell, kids, back in the sixties it was an open joke that the easiest way for a guy to get laid was to join the women's movement and rail against male domination. Both men and women, black and white, gay and straight: we all want to belong, to feel the minimum amount of pain and the maximum amount of pleasure. We all want to believe that whatever evil and darkness and irresponsibility there is in the world is "them" and not "us."

So I believe that about 10% of the world are assholes. And that that same percentage (overlapping but not the same people) are sexists, racists, homophobes, whatever. But about the same percentage are angels, actively advocating for the excluded "other." No...that's not true. Actually, I think about 11% are actively angels, which explains what I see as the slow but steady progress we're making as a species.

Someone asked: do I think that bad parents have to have bad children? Hell, no. I think children are not just incredibly resilient, but have a natural tendency to move away from pain and toward pleasure. And ALL of these things: racism, sexism, homophobia, whatever, ultimately create more pain than they are worth, regardless of the short-sighted men and women who try to defend those positions.

No one can convince me that racism is a positive thing, long-term, even though it can be a survival value short-term. No one can convince me that sexism is a positive thing. Women are 50% of our creative, intellectual and moral force. Repress them, and you will be out-competed by the groups that give them a greater voice in social action. Afghanistan is a perfect example: they had oppressed their women to the point that their infant mortality rate was soaring. They would HAVE to make an adjustment. Saudi Arabia is a freak. They produce no goods or services except for their vast natural resource, oil. So they can get away with having a society that could never compete, but for that. THEY can oppress their women...for a while. It's going to catch up with them. Everything always does. Unless you really don't believe that men and women, gay and straight, black and white are basically equal (if not precisely equivalent) you HAVE to believe that any other attitude will be ultimately crushed by one that uses every citizen to their maximum.

But while we're working toward that, we have to deal with the fact that within a society, every group has its mythology that it is oppressed, that the other group is to blame for everything, and poor little me.

Is there some reality? Sure. As groups, yes. But until I see more personal responsibility among blacks in poverty, I won't accept that whites are responsible for them having unprotected sex and contracting AIDS. When I see gay friends contract HIV (which just happened again, dammit) I bleed. And I want a cure. But I also want to scream "why the hell didn't you use a fucking rubber, damn it?" Especially if I've had to hear too many gay guys bragging about unprotected sex as an extreme sport. Shit, they're dying, and they're still blaming America for not producing a cure. Truth. But also the worst kind of lie.

What do I make of all of this? If I say 10% of people are assholes 90% of the time, then I have to accept the possibility that most of the rest of us are assholes 10% of the time. Me, too. But if people criticise what I say without actually addressing what I've said, and no matter how many times I point out "blue" they point to "red," then I believe I have the right to suspect that I've popped off one of the cultural filters that keep us going as a species...but also weigh us down and hold us back.

I've talked to my wife and daughter about the precise issues that caused so much controversy on this board. The fact that they agreed with me proves nothing. It's just agreement. But what came out of that conversation with my daughter was a desperate plea, from me, to watch me more carefully, to be one of my bullshit detectors. To feel not just the right, but the obligation to call me if I am inconsistent in my attitudes or actions. I feel like I'm treading terra incognita to a degree here. I can make black audiences mad if I talk about race...but piss off white audiences, too. Gay audiences and straight. Male audiences and female. Fuck it. I've never really had a place to live, never really had a home or a "group" to belong to. I've been walking alone, in that sense, all my life, and I can keep on going.

My only family are those who have a similar commitment to truth, and balance. I put these words out to express myself, and speak to those who kept telling me they wanted to know how I think, not because I decided I wanted to be a teacher. The more honest I am about what I see, the more shit I get...and that is appropriate, I suppose.

But if I really love truth, I can't take my words back because they hurt. I am enough of a softie to not want to hurt people. I try to be honest enough to admit openly that I HAVE to be wrong at least 10% of the time, no matter how carefully I check my facts.

But...what if I'm right? What if our desires for community and family and intimacy, for sex and safety, have been used against us from the beginning? What if all that mattered was increase of family and tribe, and EVERYTHING else was secondary? And that now, as we awaken from that dream, we have to claw our way through every illusion that kept us in dream? If awakening from the belief that we did not all collaborate in creating this world, rather than blaming each other, requires that we accept all of the guilt, blame, shame and responsibility we have tried to foist off on others? Forgive ourselves AND others, and close the door to the past?

What if our survival depends upon that? Then it is vital to communicate until we are actually repeating back each other's words, (a sort of cultural Talking Stick) and not hallucinating that we understand the meaning. Otherwise, it's pretty much a cultural epileptic fit, with the only corpus collosum we've got...language...misfiring massively, and making the body human twitch and lurch instead of move forward smoothly.

My insistence on balance means some interesting things. For instance, that blacks as a group will never quite catch up with whites. Separate is never equal. We might cross-breed into a blended society, such that the question is moot. We can create a society in which individual black people can, with 101% effort, get the result that whites get from 99%. That's about as good as it will ever get, and when you look at the scope of human history, that's pretty damned good.

Will women get equal pay for equal work? Have equal representation in government and business? I believe so. Will it make them equal? No. It will actually put them in a SUPERIOR position, because while you can legislate and effect those things you can consciously see, you can't legislate the advantages they have--just as Aikido techniques are harder to understand than Karate. Generation of force is visible. Negative space is invisible, even though they are equivilent in power, and in fact must work together to move to the next level.

And you know what? That's all right with me. I'll vote for any equal rights bill you put in front of me, because I'd rather be too fair than not fair enough. But please don't step to me with this "equality" crap. Only alpha humans drive movements for social change. And alphas don't want "equality", they want to win. They want to be at the top of the hierarchy. And I've heard just as many women want men to accept their definitions of what is "right" and "appropriate" as I've ever heard men saying that THEIR position on the world is correct. I've been in enough gay parties to hear their jokes about how their culture is superior. Enough black gatherings to hear them laugh about athletic and moral superiority. Was in enough women's homes as a child to hear the women laughing about how childlike, unperceptive and easily manipulated men were.

I've never seen a group that doesn't do it, and THAT is why I feel safer rejecting all of that crap than accepting any of it at all. I KNOW that's going to make me wrong at times. It has to.

But it seems my only way of winding through the minefield of every damn group saying they're the ones with the truth. I think that individuals have truth. Groups are full of shit.

The party line, ANY party line, sucks.


Josh Jasper said...

At this point, I'm confused about what you're asserting you're right about, what other people think you're saying, and what you think they're saying in disagreement.

The one area I know we disagreed on in the past was about the varying social influence, political power, and economic power of men in comparison to women. I skilled the responsibility question because it's more subjective than objective, and not even prescriptive in terms of a solution to the problem.

Personally, when I see a problem, I look for a workable solution, and try and figure out the moral status of what led to the problem after the problem is fixed.

If you see a problem no one else sees, but can't convince a people to go fix it, what good does that do?

Marty S said...

Steve: I understand your frustration feeling that people don't get the point you are trying to make. I have often felt that frustration myself(and I'm not referring to posts on this blog when I say that). But I think you are taking it too personally. They don't mean to put you down in disagreeing with you, they just have trouble getting you point. I participate in this blog, because the subjects you bring up are interesting and important to discuss. So don't get discouraged keep on bring these things up and making your points.

Dave said...

Steve, did you catch Scott Sonnon's blog today?
What a wonderful introduction to Spiral Dynamics, a wonderfully useful model. Definitely read and ponder. :) -Dave in Anaheim.

Steve Perry said...

In an ideal world, children would have wonderful, caring, intelligent parents, extended families, and would all grow up to be well-adjusted, nice people.

We would all live in the village of the happy nice people.

I saw a cartoon once, in a psych magazine. Showed a big auditorium, a banner on the wall, said something like, "Welcome Happy Functional Children of Functional Parents!"

There were two people sitting in the vast room ...

You didn't have a father at home; I had a bad-tempered and violent one.

We both turned out pretty good as men, didn't we?

Could it have been an easier road? Sure. Would you trade who you are today for that easier path? If you are mostly pleased with who you are, then if you went back in time and fixed things, maybe you'd be somebody else altogether.

I wouldn't do it. I don't think you would, either.

Are we special? No. I think that children are resilient, they have to be, and you can have the best parents in the world and grow up to be a psychopathic killer, or the worst, and be a saint.

This isn't a pitch to put rocks into children's roads. But it is a recognition that the chemistry and physics that make a life aren't predictable, nor, I suspect, will they ever be.

Sometimes pointing out the ugly stuff is useful. Sometimes, it isn't. How you address that is up to you. As long as you are calling it like you see it, as honestly as you can?

Top of my blog, a quote from one of my books:"If you do the best you can, nothing else matters worth a damn."

If we can't take a joke? Fuck us.

(Which is not to say that we -- me, especially -- won't call you on it if we smell that odor coming from whatever you just tracked in on your shoes. Goes with the gig.)

Genevieve said...

I'm guessing the people who argued so vociferously about it were the ones who really disagreed.

The people like me who agree probably didn't find it worth commenting about - your points seem only natural and right.

Keep on speaking your truth - you are one of only two personal bloggers who I read.

Mike Ralls said...

Hmmm . . . I think I'm going to try and create a new saying.

"10% of the people are assholes 90% of the time. By contrast, the other 90% of the people are only assholes 10% of the time. But regardless of which group you belong to, at some point you are the asshole."

Mike Ralls said...

Note: The above should not be construed as a comment directed at anyone in particular. It's just a general principle I think worth spreading.

Pagan Topologist said...

I agree with Genevieve. I most often agree with you, and don't bother saying so. When I don't agree, I often think about issues in a different way. I do not generally get angry, except to feel despair, sometimes, at the conservative political mindset. I have a problem with that, even though i have conservative friends. But, then, I have never felt personally attacked by anything here; some posters most definitely have felt this way.

For example, I am skeptical about your take on body weight. Nevertheless, even though I am overweight, I don't take it personally. On the other hand, there are no clearly positions that one could take that would make me feel threatened, and I would take personally. Mostly, you have not pressed these buttons.

Anonymous said...

The most inoffensive example I could think of to make my point was the Good Driver Problem; most people, surveyed, rate themselves as better than average drivers. The most common interpretation is that people commonly overrate themselves; I think it's just a bad question, to wit:

A never breaks the speed limit, obeys every traffic law, yields gracefully in merges, et cetera.

B has a map of her home city in her head.

C - how to say this in an unprejudiced manner - gets from start to finish in minimal time.

D has never, ever gotten a ticket of any kind.

E is a parking goddess.

Every single one would rate him or herself above average, and be right; it's a fuzzy question.

Relating anecdote to race left as an exercise.

Dan Moran said...

2) But how could I know. Here's a test I use: if I find that people are continuously either forgetting what I actually said, exaggerating what I said, or downright misquoting what I said, it is reasonable for me to think that something is very wrong.

Not sure that's the best test. Part of what's happening is that people (and I include you), particulary in lengthy and involved arguments, respond to points made not by X, but by X, Y, and Z ... not all of them posting on this blog. You adopt a position popular with conservatives in this case, and find people arguing with you as if you were a conservative. To some degree this is probably a genuine confusion of your fairly nuanced position, but to some degree people are simply taking the opportunity to respond to the suite of assumptions that are normally built into that conservative position. And then you find people misunderstanding you -- they're not, necessarily. (Some are.) Some, though, are broadening out from your basic point to argue a broader set of circumstances.

And some understand you find, understand the nuances of your argument, and still think you're wrong.

You can only work with the life experience you've personally had -- it may be that your life experience puts you (or mine, me) enough outside the normal run of life that you have an unusual perspective on things. Fair, and useful ... but it doesn't necessarily map well to more ordinary life experiences.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Some, though, are broadening out from your basic point to argue a broader set of circumstances.

That's about where I feel I am, FWIW; I'm more arguing against some stuff other people say that sounds similar to what Steve's been saying, but loses the nuances he's included, than against Steve directly. Or at least, my differences with Steve are a lot smaller than my differences with those other people.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Where "those other people" means certain attitudes generally current in our culture, not particular people on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I believe you are so effective here and that the reason you are well worth the time spent is because you are truly concerned about communicating... the first thing I learned in Communications 101 is that if the other party does not understand the message, no communication has taken place. You bend over backwards to articulate your ideas and opinions in a compassionate way and that is the artistry of it. I have never felt that you required agreement or that you were anything other than honest with us as well as yourself. You also are the only writer/columnist that championed a value that totally resonates with me; my beloved grandfather (the first African-American psychiatrist licensed in the state of Ohio) impressed on me at a young age that moderation and balance in all things was of the highest virtue and value. You are the only public person I know of who is uncompromising in pursuit of balance. What I see in your writing is a talented and open-hearted man letting us watch his high-wire act. I admire your ability & willingness to share your emotional life and my hat's off to your bravery.

About your opinion of purposeful single motherhood; I agree with the sense that it is, in most cases damaging to the child. Not insurmountable, but not the best of choices. I'm speaking as a woman who had to make that choice and chose to not have a child. There is also a price there that should not be ignored - and I have to answer for it all the time. From family, friends, people I meet and even strangers - all feel they have a right to question my most personal decisions and comment on my not-marriedness and childlessness. Believe me, being a single mother would not have subjected me to such scrutiny even if there was a hint of disapproval included. The kindest judgment about me is that I'm a selfish bitch who couldn't be bothered. Or a lesbian. Or pity because of a supposed disability, huge character flaw or tragedy that deprived me (especially in other countries where the only justification for a female life is to reproduce). Until our society accepts single-hood and childlessness as part of the norm, many women will choose single motherhood to have an understandable "place" and status in the world. The emotional perks of motherhood mostly still apply, even if unmarried. Quite often I wonder what it would have been like to have a child, but for the most part I think I made the right decision. My inability to add the most important, most intimate relationship to my other healthy relationships is my current focus and your conversations are helpful. But I do not blame men, don't hate 'em, (not by a LONG shot!) nor do I blame myself. I think it's possible to be in my situation (75%-80% happy, well-ordered life) without being totally incompetent. Just working on that last 20%! Thanks for your help and illumination.

Marty S said...

Lynn: Bertram Russell provided insight into human nature with a set of conjugations. My favorite of these conjugations is

I am obstinate.

You are stubborn.

He is a pigheaded fool.

Your post is a perfect example of Russell's perceptiveness. Steve, is a "you". Someone you know, so if he has an opinion contrary to yours it is justifiable, based upon his life experience. But all the someones you don't know are pigheaded fools who hold this opinion for no good reason. If you don't know all "those others" who have this opinion how do you know their reasons aren't based on similar experiences to Steve's.

Marty S said...

Lynn: The above post is not aimed at you. Russell's observation applies to all of us. I am just making the case that we all need to be more open to where other people are coming from.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I understand what you mean, Marty, but in this case it's not about my knowing more of Steve's life experiences than "all those others," it's about what his position specifically is. Steve holds men's feet to the fire when they bug out on being fathers and abandon their kids. He has said, repeatedly, that when men who have been his friends have done this, they have ceased to be his friends.

My problem is specifically with people who gripe about women who are single mothers and then don't get on the case of men who abandon their kids. These people exist. I've run into them. They just don't happen to be on this particular blog.

I feel very strongly about men who abandon their kids (and one of the things I respect about Steve is that he feels very strongly about that as well). I have a low regard for people who enable men abandoning their kids, wherever I encounter them.

I'm sure I do cut Steve some breaks, knowing him, that I wouldn't cut some people saying similar things that I don't know so well, but the operative question for me in this particular case is whether I think the person in question is giving fathers who abandon their kids a pass. Anyone who does that, I don't care what his or her life experiences are; I'm still going to be appalled by the position he or she derives from them. But people who encourage fathers to stand by and care for their kids, and get on the case of those who don't, are people I feel I can talk with reasonably about matters of family structure, even if we may have some other areas of disagreement. (And yes, that does include some conservatives, as well as people like Steve who are not particularly across the board conservative.)

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

FWIW, I think there's more than one version of letting fathers off the hook - some of it involves more "left" rhetoric and some of it involves more "right" rhetoric. Either way, if the end result is that fathers aren't expected to man up and act as fathers, I'm against it.

Marty S said...

Lynn: I'm totally with you on the father thing. My wife and her siblings all have problems because her mother really need the help of a mental health professional. When she died none of her children went to her funeral. But I blame her father more than the mother, because he was too lazy, and stood by and watched while she damaged them. In spite of this I still don't see the relationship between the rightness or wrongness of what some men do with the rightness or wrongness of what some women do. Two wrongs don't make right. You can't justify a woman doing x which is wrong by saying men do Y which is wrong.

Dan Moran said...

Women are parking illegally, and men are robbing banks -- and nope, the guys robbing banks don't justify the women parking illegally.

But it is amusing, if a little sad, to watch the bank robbers banter about how women can't park.

Marty S said...

Dan: How chauvinistic. Only men can rob banks.

Lynn said...

I guess I'm a little odd but when I see that I agree with the majority that's when I stop and think maybe I'm wrong. When most people disagree with me strongly enough that they're trying to shout me down that makes me think I'm probably right.

I think you're an interesting person, Steve. Sometimes I think you're wrong; sometimes I think your own issues are keeping you from seeing some things clearly; but I also think you're right about some things and either way I admire you for putting it out there.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

Marty: Absolutely, women are just as responsible for the things they do wrong as men are for the things they do wrong. In this particular context, though, I want to nuance that a bit.

1) I agree with Dan Moran, that (for whatever combination of biological and cultural reasons), women as a group are generally better than men as a group - more conscientious, harder working - in the area of parenting. I also think women are, on average, more conscientious and less careless than men in making sexual decisions (if one of the two is trying to argue the other into ditching the condom, it'll usually be the man wanting to ditch the condom). So men as a group are more in need of admonishments in the particular area under discussion than women as a group.

2) Women as a group are absolutely not better than men as a group in any more general sense. As a group, we're no more honest than men, no more forgiving, no less racist, no braver. We had, in our area, several years ago, a woman hiker who admirably fought a mountain lion off her friend - but, admirable though this particular woman was, I think that men as a group would tend to provide better mountain lion defense than women as a group. Likewise, women as a group seem more risk averse than men as a group, and, though sometimes that male risk taking behavior is a bad thing (what we call, in young men, testosterone poisoning), in other contexts it really is good for somebody to be taking risks.

3) The fact that women as a group are less likely to abandon and neglect their children than men as a group surely doesn't make the individual women who do just that less culpable than men who do the same thing. Same thing for any differences that may exist between the sexes in sexual carelessness vs. sexual responsibility.

4) None of the above says anything about how far the differences between men and women are nature and how far they're nurture; I'm avoiding that question.

5) Abortion's a separate case. Women have no moral superiority or inferiority to men in their attitudes toward abortion because there's no significant difference between the sexes on this issue. Whether the correct position is pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in between, an approximately equal percentage of men and women hold it. Likewise, when couples disagree about abortion, there seems (at least from my subjective observation of people I know) to be a relatively even divide between cases where she wants an abortion and he doesn't, and the reverse.

Here the problem is that, if you start from pro-life assumptions, of course men and women both should have input on the most morally relevant question - the life of the developing baby - and of course either one is equally wrong if he or she wants to choose abortion. But if you start from pro-choice assumptions, where that developing baby isn't a morally relevant concern till sentient, of course women's opinions about abortion matter more than men's, because there's nothing of moral significance in the equation that could possibly outweigh the woman's own interests; integrity of your own body trumps anyone else's interest - even the potential father's - in a child that doesn't yet exist (or doesn't yet exist as a person, as a baby, as someone you'd actually consider a morally relevant actor).

So the whole "do men's opinions about abortion matter as much as women's" argument isn't a separate argument from "is pro-life or pro-choice the more correct position"; it is, in my opinion, basically a different wording of the same argument.

Anonymous said...

Just guard your city's gates and carry your spear. If some unfortunate soul decides to shish kabob themselves upon it contrary to your admonishments,provisos, explanations for carrying it with all of the hows, whys, whens, whatnots and warnings, oh well. Time, if not a well-placed foot and shove, will remove them eventually.

Marty S said...

Lynn: I agree with most of what you say in your last post, but I don't quite buy your last point about the equivalence of the correctness of the pro-life position vs. the pro-choice position and whether men's opinions matter as much as women's on abortion. For one, its a chicken and egg problem. Because, the decision on one affects the decision on the other, if we are to make a decisions as a society. Secondly there are not just two positions on abortion, none or all, there is a whole range of positions. So a person may be against abortion on demand, but in favor of allowing abortions where the mother's health is in significant jeopardy, or where the baby has a severe problem such as Downs syndrome. So if the "correct" position on abortion is divided 50/50 between pro-life and pro-choice do 50% of men's opinions matter?

Pagan Topologist said...

I like your analysis a lot. Lynn. But I have had women demand that I not use a condom a few times. This was, however, before HIV became well known.

Steve Perry said...

Guarding the gate:

L.A. Freeway stories are a hoot. Some of them, mostly the really outrageous ones, are even true.
Even the apocryphal ones have their uses.

When I lived there, I had several favorites, one of which ran something like this:

A woman is on her way to work on the Harbor Freeway. She sees a small cardboard box she hadn't noticed when she got into the car, so she opens it.

Inside, a critter her young son had caught. I don't remember if it was a frog or a lizard, but in that general vicinity. It gets out and hops or slithers about.

The woman is not a critter fan. She screams, pulls over, jumps out of the car and dances around in a terrified frenzy.

A samaritan sees the woman and thinks she is having a seizure. He pulls over, leaps out, grabs her, takes her to the ground, and starts trying to shove a Bic pen into her mouth -- so she won't bite her tongue off, because he saw that in a movie once.

Another samaritan sees this, thinks the woman is being assaulted. He pulls over, leaps out, and proceeds to beat the crap out of the guy holding the woman down.

CHP arrives and grabs everybody and tries to sort it all out ...

What you see sometimes looks like something it might not be. So before you allow somebody to spit themselves on your spear, it behooves you to determine if maybe they are blind and blundering instead of attacking ...

Steven Barnes said...

I would challenge anyone here to find a similar thread on another blog. Every single one of you, whether you agreed with me or not, responded with intelligence, compassion...God, I am so honored to call you all friends. I think I may have been a bit sensitive: there's a lot happening in my life right now, and I'm a little thin-skinned. But these are some of the very best conversations I've had in my life.

Christian M. Howell said...

I wouldn't worry about it. Opinions go beyond right and wrong becasue like with anything control points are not always the same.

That's why people say "until you walk a mile..."

Discussion is healthy, even if it leads to arguments or - hopefully not - name-calling or violence.

I have had interesting angles to look at life from and I hate it. I've become so analytical I don't even feel human anymore. I analyze everything from A2M (don't ask don't tel) porn to plasma engines. I don't know why I can be so freaking objective but I stopped trying to figure it out.

People are just to "comfortable" with the norm so it's nearly impossible to move forward as a whole. Catholics will not be best friends with protestants, etc.

What's needed I think is an autocratic rule where only technological advancement is worth anything. You don't want to understand microwaves, eat cold food; you don't want to study refrigeration, let that meat sit there, etc.

Perhaps I'm cold but my mother hated me so why would I have feelings about anyone else?

Wait; as a matter of fact, the societal mores sponsored by everyone was why.

Every person for themselves. Things are getting worse. America will be the richest third world country in ten years with the destruction of the current and future black communities, the influx of nearly illiterate immigrants and the total lack of real educational discipline in all cultural groups.

Wow that off topic? Ehhhh... Had to get it off my chest.

Steve Perry said...

Well, to be helpful, I'll offer a useful bit of heuristic rule-of-thumbery: Most of the time when you disagree with folks here, you are probably right.

Except of course when you argue with me, in which case you are almost certainly wrong ...

I believe that is probably the default position most of us work from ...

Some guy said...

Well, I passionately disagree with you on the single-mother issue. And I believe that evil is only determinable by action, not by whether the perpetrator actually twirls a moustache, wears a black cape, and cackles maniacally, or seems like a "good fellow". Ironically, though, I have to say that your views definitely aren't "wrong". These are all matters of OPINION, moral and social questions, not matters of fact which can be proven one way or the other. Even if we had a successful method of objective analysis of these issues, the results would all be different, based on our basic assumptions about how things should be. (How much an individual values personal freedom relative to personal responsibility, as one example.)

As to your open expression of your thoughts, I have respected the unusual honesty, and have consciously been more open in my comments than I otherwise would be, in acknowledgement. So I hope you don't worry too much about whether you're "wrong" and just keep providing us with honest food for thought.

Some guy

Kukulkan said...

"I have a commitment to tell the truth as I see it"

"My only family are those who have a similar commitment to truth"

"But if I really love truth"

"Are there some very interesting evidences of differences in sport performance between blacks and whites? Yes. Do I accept that they are mostly genetic? No. Is it possible? Sure. But I'm mighty reluctant to go there, because it opens the door to a LOT of unpleasant stuff. It's not a blind spot: I'm perfectly aware I do it."

Interesting dynamic going on here. You admit there's an area in your life where you refuse to honestly evaluate the possibilities. My own personal opinion is that when you find an area where you are hiding from something, it's an area where you really need to figure out why you are hiding.