The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 29, 2009

Elephant-man in the living room

I don't know if anyone, or anything, could have saved Micheal Jackson. But the willingness of millions of people to lie to themselves and each other about the glaring, obvious dysfunction is exactly the kind of "elephant in the living room" thinking that affects our health, relationships, racial relations, educational system and more. My plea is to ask yourself where do you have a Micheal in your life--your behaviors, or those of people close to you. What won't you look at, for fear of losing love? Fear of being rejected from your core group? Honesty is hard. Living with the results of lying is even harder.


Homicide statistics are driven by both economic and emotional factors. My suspicion: Universal Health care will lead to re-examination of drug laws, leading to decriminalization, removing profit motive from drug smuggling. How many homicides are related to warring drug gangs?

How many related to people who feel that there is no hope, who feel no connection to their surrounding society? Ever talked to someone who watched their mother, father, or siblings die sick and poor in absolute squalor? That's how you build a sociopath--give them no sense that the world cares about them. How much developmental stilting is caused by inadequate prenatal or childhood care? A Universal Health care system would include psychological counseling--anger management, stress reduction. All of these things have positive effects on health, but also the ability to live with one another.

Yes, I absolutely agree that inner-city violence is exacerbated by absent fathers and immature mothers, by the flight of responsible role-models to better environments, but also by a sense that there is no way out, no one who cares, that the society around them hates them and wants them dead. I see the evolution of culture as moving slowly and inexorably from tiny groups (families) to tribes, to villages and cities and nations and finally to a world grid. That our prison statistics are a symptom of a gigantic portion of the population feeling disenfranchised and as if there is no positive outlet of their well as disproportionate prison sentences for the poor and minority population, and related to an insane drug policy. I'd be willing to let teetotalers set social policy for both alcohol AND drugs before I'd trust people who drink set policy for those who prefer something else. It's just nuts.


I would think that Universal Education (although not necessarily schools can work just fine for many people) and Universal Health care (with commercial riders available for those who want and can afford extraordinary benefits) are investments in the future of our country, our children, our world. And I think that they are cheap in comparison with the the case of UHC, we currentlynseem to spend more to get less. Which means that the money is there...the question is how to shift that money from the private to a public system. Seems to me that the best bet is a public option, where people can voluntarily shift their current payments to a growing city, state, or Federal pool. The greater the service per dollar, the more people will enroll. Competition is a good thing, right? So let's see if the profit motive really makes for better health care. Seems to me that that's what Insurance companies are worried about: they've had a gigantic profit machine that is going to shrink, but not disappear. And they're fighting for their lives. I'm fighting for yours, and mine. And our children's.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Micheal Jackson's Downfall

It was suggested that homicides are responsible for 75% of the difference in life expectancy stats between black and white men. For that reason, the government should concentrate on reducing homicides. Good call. Let's I believe that Universal health care would reduce homicides?

I'd look at the homicide stats between countries with and without Universal health care, for a starter. Don't have 'em in front of me, but I'm betting they're pretty interesting. But let's go deeper. What, in my mind, drives homicide?

Fear. Fear of death, sickness, poverty, loss of ego-shields. Many homicides are driven by theft--the attempt to acquire money or property illegally. Certainly, the more a person feels invested in their culture, the more likely they are to feel that they should play by the rules. When you feel the rules are stacked against you, it can feel idiotic to play by them.

Would Universal health care reduce, say, drug addiction statistics? I'm sure that the answers are available statistically, but I'm betting the answer is "yes"--counseling (especially psychological/emotional) and education. Do people who feel nurtured, included, valued feel less fear than those who feel disenfranchised, excluded? In my experience, yes. Reduce fear, and you reduce violence. Again, this is according to my experience, and my take on human nature. If you believe the basic nature of humans--or black males--is evil, then of course this won't make sense to you. If you watched your mother die while shuttled from one part of the system to another, or insurance companies denied care, are you likely to feel more or less hostility toward the system, more or less fear?

To a great degree, the folks who are hit worst by a for-profit health care system are those who cannot afford expensive insurance, or those who don't have the kinds of jobs which supply it. "Satisfaction with health care" statistics DO include those who have no insurance, don't they? I sure hope so...or else they are flat-out dishonest attempts to misdirect.

I believe that a humane society is a more peaceful society. Encourage dog-eat-dog mentality and you get a lot of angry dogs. I've said before that I believe a core difference between Right and Left is the Nature/Nurture argument. If it's nature, then the way to decrease black homicide is to lock up as many black men as possible. Excuse me: "potential criminals." And if you privatize prisons, for instance, you create a system that will inevitably encourage crime--that darned profit motive gives little motivation to reduce recidivism. If you believe it's nurture, then you do everything possible to invest individuals in the system, get them to feel that the deck is not stacked against them--which it most certainly is in the case of black males. Not as much as it use to be, but again, my interpretation of media images should make it very clear why I think the playing field ain't level.

So, yes...Health care, political enfranchisement , education and employment opportunities reduce the fear factor in the most basic aspects of human existence: sickness and death, ability to support a family, investment in the system, the sense that one is using one's potential to the limit, the possibility of growth and self-expression. That opens the doorway to real growth and evolution. Those who believe human evil is primarily innate think we just need more prisons. Those who think that we are largely Tabula Rosa disagree.

I believe that when we remove fear, what remains is love, and love is a titanically powerful motivating force. Strong enough to remove any obstacle that a human being can master. I'll take my stand there, thank you.


I think our actions are shaped partially by our inner innate drives, partially by family conditioning, partially by social engineering. Pointing out that many factors affecting life extension are related to life style choices is the biggest "duh" in the world. Christ sakes--you guys been actually reading what I've been saying here for the last five years? That our minds and emotions determine our actions, and our actions determine our results.

The number of ways medical and psychological counseling as well as accurate information and communal social pressure (the same kinds of pressures that discourage people from stealing, killing, and cheating) rather obviously can have an effect on smoking, overeating, not exercising, drug abuse, etc. OF COURSE. Quoting where the lower mortality stats in other countries are partially related to social factors is just playing into my hands. You think this stuff happens in a vacuum?

And I'm not talking about government programs making it illegal to be fat, or smoke. But shame has been used in human societies since the beginning of civilization to guide us: do THIS you get approval. Do THAT and you get disapproval. When we all have an investment in each other's welfare, children, and education cultural norms automatically shift: human greed and fear are awesome motivating forces when properly focused.


Got into an argument over on Facebook (and got so many letters that I turned off the "notification" function. Jeeze! Who has the time!) about Fear and Anger. I prefer anger, considering it less likely to lead to paralysis. Also, I ask myself: if I were a dictator or a slave owner, would I rather those I oppressed be afraid of me, or angry toward me? By a long shot, I'd rather they be afraid. So I choose anger as a superior state, although it is admittedly inferior to other, higher emotions in the path of spiritual discipline. Anger combined with love will turn people into heroes unafraid of death...and such people are mighty hard to control. Tyrants are rightfully afraid of them...and well they should be.


Micheal Jackson. From my point of view, his problems were understandable, pitiable, and preventable.

1) Lost childhood. The legend of his abusive father is well known. Without ever having a memory of a time he wasn't a cash machine for those around him, there is no foundation to be a healthy adult. When your child earns more money than you, it's hard to apply proper discipline--everything is skewed. Frankly, I think that the yearning for a childhood contributed to his "Peter Pan Syndrome"--the voice, Neverland, even the accusations of molestation. My gut tells me that if those things happened (and I think they did) they weren't "power games" where an adult manipulates a child with understanding. I think that his self-image WAS a child, and that in his mind what was happening was equivilent to a cub-scout circle-jerk. No offense to cub scouts everywhere.

In fact, Li'l Weasel, if you read these words, call me.

2) Skewed sexuality. "Billy Jean" tells the story of a boy warned by his mother that girls would try to trap him with sex. I think that was exactly the truth. That he was poisoned against his own natural attractions by a family desperate to control their money machine. And if you can't express it toward women...well, it's comin' out somewhere. Why couldn't he just be gay, then? Hell if I know. Would have been much, much better all around.

3) Micheal Jackson wanted to be white. The obviousness of this is so huge, so glaring, that it boggles my mind that anyone doubts it. He says "Vitiligo" and everyone says: "wow! Celebrities always tell the truth. That must be it!" Even if it was, my nasty little mind suspects that he found a doctor who would deliberately trigger this immune deficiency syndrome, looking for the effect he got. And with his money, if anyone could, he could. Why? Some mention him not wanting to look like Joe Jackson. Maybe. But to me there is a much simpler answer: everything about Micheal Jackson says he was programmed internally and externally to be the biggest, greatest star in the world. I am quite certain that he heard variations on the following line a million times: "you are the most talented child I have ever seen. You will be huge. You'd be the biggest star in the world...if you were white. But as soon as you're a man, and a sexual threat, they will trim you back. Be satisfied with being the biggest Black star. That's enough, isn't it?"

No, it wasn't. So Micheal began a long, long process of trying to cross the color line. Just as Jackie Chan changed his eyes, black American women straighten their hair, and Asian women in conquered countries enlarged their bustlines and wore Western clothing, Micheal straightened his hair, thinned his lips and nose, and began lightening his skin. Acquiring white children and claiming they were biologically his. What? You think he bleached his sperm?

Most specifically, he wanted to be Elvis, creating his own Graceland and marrying Lisa Marie, becoming so talented, so eccentric, so dynamic that people stopped seeing him as black, and started just seeing him as Micheal. He transcended race, arguably the first American to do so. Maybe the first black man on the planet to really do so.

And every inch of the way, as he became more grotesque, he was enabled not just by the people who got paychecks from him (or the family who continually had "we'll tour again!" dangled in front of them, probably to keep them quiet about his myriad problems. Except LaToya, whom Tananarive interviewed once, and would say any goddam thing.) but by his millions of fans who were so in love with him that they couldn't let themselves see the pathology that was right in front of them. I can't count the number of times I heard black people protesting that those children might be his, must be his...because he said so. I've seen thousands of children who are the product of interracial relationships. None of them look like Micheal's supposed spawn. Some look kinda Italian, but...Swedes? I think not.

ᅠAnd the willingness to look beyond his child molestation troubles. You know what? I DON'T CARE if he did it or not. If he didn't have that terrible need, it's even worse: in the midst of the accusations, he refused to alter his behavior. Sleep-overs with children? A molester's dream. Christ, he was giving aid and comfort to perverts the world over, "norming" the tactics they would use to seduce the innocent. If I had a need to sleep platonically with children? I would hire a nurse who would look in on us with milk and cookies. I'd have a Webcam set up recording every damned moment, and all parents who lent me their children would be able to sign on at any time of the day or night to see what was going on, and the tapes would be kept in a safe, available to anyone who needed proof that this was, while strange, perfectly innocent.

BECAUSE I CARE ABOUT THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN. Because I would know that to have the most famous man in the world (arguably) behaving in such a way opens the door to massive amounts of pain and damage.

But that's if he's innocent. Like I said, you could simply look at the man and tell that his self-image was totally, tragically, almost uniquely distorted. I'm sorry, but someone could be 1/10 as strange as Jackson, and I wouldn't let Jason near him unless I was standing right there with eyes wide open at all moments. This was twenty years of a slow-motion train-wreck. Damn everyone around him for not speaking the obvious truth, for not throwing away all chances of ever working with him in exchange for a fingernail fragment's chance of saving his life and sanity. Damn them.

And us, his fans, for speaking in low voices, and extending the benefit of the doubt until it cracked under its own weight.

If you really love someone, you don't cheer while they destroy themselves, even if you lose their love in the process.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Making cinematic history with (arguably) the fewest IQ points per dollar spent on production, Micheal Bay's Transformers 2 comes loaded with critical and audience accusations of racism, mysogyny, and raping our childhood memories. Is it true? Well, yes and no. The truth is that in this tale of humans caught between warring tribes of robots, there is nothing remotely resembling a human heart. This is 2 1/2 hours of stereotypes and clanging metal. So when you hear that there are two hip-hop robots, one with gold teeth, and they look like monkeys, act clownish, speak in ghetto accents and have names like "Mudflap", you can rightly cringe. The entire audience, nice decent middle-class white folks, seemed a little amazed at the tastelessness of it all. I suspect some of them glanced at me to see if it was all right to laugh.

And yet...once you accept that everything in this world is a cartoon, and a nine-year-old white boy's wet dream, the rest is easy. In fact, it's really sort of fun if you let yourself go. Hell, I can find my inner nine-year-old white boy, and he had a great time. Truth is that there was a sprinkling of effective black soldiers to compensate for the Nigbots, and I haven't really ever asked for more than that.

Other than that, the effects are ILM perfect, the action scenes resolve visually better than the first film (or I've learned how to interpret them) and the stupidity is so consistent that it achieves a kind of evil genius. I really did have fun, but it really was a "leave your brain at home" type of experience.

Basically, Sam, the kid from the first movie (Shia LeBouf) and his preternatually sexy girlfriend Megan Fox (who at all times and in every frame is photographed with the kind of light and make up that makes you think that if you turned the page, you'd find a fold-out) are chased hither and yon by big metal thingies because this alien cube infected his mind with the whereabouts of a doodad that will kill the sun.

Some of the stupidest dialogue, lamest "comedy", and eyeball-peeling editing follows, with plenty of reasons for feminists, the racially sensitive or those who appreciate little things like characterization or originality to take issue with. But what the hell: if you go see a movie called 'Transformers 2: The Revenge of the Fallen" you kinda give up your right to criticize on any aesthetic or political grounds.

It's really a kind of staggering production, Megan Fox really is incredibly hot, Shia LeBouf is better than the film deserves, and I guess it's the best movie based on a Japanese toy in theaters this month. A "B-", unless you're a nine-year-old boy overdosed on sugar and speed, in which case it's an "A." If Jar Jar Binks bothered you, wait till you see Mudflaps and Skids. Your eyeballs will implode.

Thanks, Erich

Tobias Bucknell sent me the following email this morning about the health care debate:


By the way, the comment you got about scores of Canadians coming to the US is another anecdotal fantasy:

Turns out it's a small handful. Usually rich Canadians who don't want to wait.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans actually go to Mexico:


About half of the million Californians who flee to Mexico to seek medical care are Mexican immigrants, so it might be reasonable to halve the numbers. What remains still appears to be multiples of the number of Canadians who come to America. Here's the trick: I've been hearing the "Canadians fleeing to America because their health care system is so bad" argument for years. I've never heard anyone offer numbers, and the whole thing started to stink. No one. All anecdotal, and you can prove anything you want like that. The tobacco lobby used anecdotal and twisted stats for decades to try to convince people that smoking wasn't harmful.

It feels very much like arguing backwards from a premise: X is what I believe, and I'm going to find some way to twist the data to meet my needs. I have no ideological preference here at all--except for the belief that I want to live, and my children to live as long as possible. So far, arguments against using Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality rate revolve around lifestyle factors (which access to medical advice can influence) and differing definitions of "Infant Mortality" without accompanying stats to demonstrate how exactly we are different, and to what degree. To my knowledge, when the WHO began collecting these stats, they had nothing to do with a Universal Healthcare debate, and America ranked very high indeed. And we trumpeted the results as evidence we were superior, and American society rocked.

Now that those exact same stats no longer favor us, we're supposed to ignore them? That's suicide. And it's fascinating that the only people who seem to believe those stats have to be wrong are those ideologically inclined toward the Right. Just as I'd expect, were the stats evidence that America's LE and IM rates were superior, that those who wanted government to pay their bills would reject said stats--not on scientific, but ideological grounds.

The question of what kind of system best drives innovation is still of great interest. I suspect that there is no way to resolve it absolutely, but it seems clear that those on the Right believe that profit is the greatest driving motivation for human beings in this arena. I personally believe that fear, compassion, and scientific curiosity are sufficient--people will stop seeking ways to prolong their and their family's lives when they stop being afraid of dying. No time soon.

But I don't know how this could be answered. And I think that there are some who simply think "I won't pay for someone else's health care" the same way there are some who simply think "I want it for free." And neither of these groups will tell the truth. While I automatically assume that no one posting on THIS blog is in either group, trust me: they're out there. And since we so very rarely see anyone saying that, they must be hiding behind the legitimate Left and Right arguments, as bigots hide behind rational arguments against Affirmative Action, and recreational pot smokers hide behind Medical Marijuana arguments.

The liars make it very difficult to discuss these things rationally. They troll and distort and misquote...and at the base of it, I suspect more all the time, are simply differences in the way people see the world. Does good flow from the top down? Or the bottom up? Do we enter the world fully formed? Does the world shape us as we go? Are different racial or religious groups (always their own) notably superior to others? To me, this is why they say don't argue religion and politics--in essence, they are the same thing, played out in different arenas.

My guess is that the Right is going to lose this one. It isn't like the drug legalization debate, where there are a limited number of places where it has been tried, and stats are hard to come by. No--in this case, most of the rest of the industrialized world has gone this way, stats are pleniful, and countries that are out-competing us, where people report higher life satisfaction indices as well as IM and LE are plentiful, and trying to ignore those statistics creates torturous epicycles.

When the percentage people "satisfied with their health care" is larger than the percentage of people who have it, you know something is wrong. When the wealthiest nation in the world is worried UHC would break the bank, when it is clearly working in countries doing better than us as well as those poorer than us...something is wrong. None of this means UHC is the best option...just that the argument that it IS seems clearer and simpler than the arguments that it is not. Statistical as opposed to anecdotal. Real-world as opposed to hypothetical (research MAY deteriorate). But the debate is an important one. Vital, even. And once again I appreciate it being conducted in a civil fashion. Mostly.


And I wanted to thank Erich for pointing out that I wasn't requesting equal civility from both sides. My bad. I try very hard to remain conscious, but obviously, an insult that supports my side of the argument just doesn't sting me as much as one from the other side. But this is true about all arguments: whether about gender, race, class, whatever: we just don't react if the slight is in our favor, any more than we protest as loudly if a referee makes a bad call against the other team.

We just don't. This is why an all-white Senate was so horrible to me, and it was so irritating when whites pretended all was well. Why men who claimed an all-male executive staff could treat women as fairly as one where women were included at the table. Why a roomful of Christians debating whether Islam is inferior is such a joke. Might as well expect fair treatment for Republicans from a roomful of Democrats, or expect the truth of a Liberal argument from a Right-Wing talk show.

We can't help it. It's the way our minds and hearts are wired. And the only answer is to strive to remain conscious, and invite those we trust to slap us upside the head when we doze off.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Micheal Jackson, dead at 50

Micheal Jackon's body died today. He himself died years ago. Every time he was accused of another atrocity, he died a little. Every step he took trying to turn himself white he died a little more. I mourn the incredibly talented boy he was, but the man he became was painful beyond belief. People's unwillingness to see the obvious truth of his sickness disgusted me. I remember seeing him sitting alone in the CBS commissary while his brothers ripped and ran around the building. He looked so lost. I wish I'd sat with him and spoken. What an incredible talent. What an incredible waste. I thought I'd mourned all I could over the last years, but no, there were still a few tears left. Damn.

To all of his fans, and all of the people who loved his music, thank God we have the videos to remind us of what he was, once upon a time. Without them, it might be just too painful. Once upon a time he was just so beautiful, so bright.

His body is gone, but his talent is with us forever. And for a master showman (the best live performer I've ever seen) it's all about the show. By any definition at all, he was a Thriller.

Unfortunately Correct?

When emotions run high, it is obviously difficult to actually hear what someone is saying. This is why it is so vital to speak to the people with whom you are in opposition: playing "telephone" under stress is just silliness: the meaning always changes between lip and ear.

Marty, I questioned the value of medical research in this sentence:

"What difference does advanced medical discovery make?"

And followed it immediately with this one:

ᅠ"Only if it has an effect on the population does it make any difference at all."

Didn't you read that? What possible objection to that statement can you have?

That's a little like hearing someone say "bullets aren't useful if they don't work" and not paying attention to the last four words, isn't it?


Erich quotes and says:

"... people are more afraid of dying than they are of not getting rich."

"You're unfortunately correct: they are more afraid of immediate risk than of the long-term likelihood that, if innovation is choked off, they will die of things which might have been curable if innovation had continued."

Huh? You aren't discussing fear of death versus profit motive. You're discussing short as opposed to long-term planning. Very different things. Certainly, you aren't saying that it is unfortunate that people care more about their lives than money...which an uncharitable person might conclude from your first clause.


You also suggest that socialized medicine only makes sense if you think we have already reached the zenith of medicine. I know of no one who thinks that, and medical research goes on in countries with universal health care. Now, what you are really evidencing is a belief that medical research is most effective within a commercialized system. This is a good argument, and I would be interested in seeing it debated.


I have to say that your comment that Democrats wouldn't want a pill that extends life is just the kind of "we rule, you drool" thinking one hears on both sides of the aisle on talk radio. Not your best argument, dude.


Yes, I can see reasons why a sane person might want less top-down control of medicine. But there's been only one comment that even obliquely addresses my main point: that the value of medical research/medical support can be measured in life expectancy and infant mortality, and we're starting to suck there, in comparison to countries with Universal care. That one comment is the belief that under such systems, research will suffer, and down the line people will pay for it. That is, as I said, a good argument if speculative. I'm not sure how to prove it, but note that I am more interested in truth than winning arguments: I published statistics that would seem to reinforce YOUR point of view (I would need to look more deeply into them, and speak to experts on both sides, of course, but you can hardly say that I'm only representing one POV, or hiding statistical data behind anecdotal evidence.)


I can understand how you might think I'm being too limited by looking at those pesky life expectancy and infant mortality stats. They don't tell everything, but I think they are less vulnerable to twisting and distortion than anything else I hear. People on both sides with a political axe to grind employ epicyclular logic and quote anecdotal evidence, and end up screaming at each other.

It seems to me fairly simple that if you have better medical care, you're gonna be healthier. If you're healthier, you live longer and fewer of your children die in infancy. I would have been fully prepared to agree our system was better, even if we paid more for it, if we'd been better on these counts. But we're not. I'm sure that if we were, there would be people on the Left who would offer complicated reasons why those stats should be ignored. I wouldn't have believed them, either.

However...I am interested in that question about what motivates medical research. Note that any argument you give, I will assume that that reflects your personal values. Fair enough?


BC Monkey:

We die of the same things our parents and grandparents died of. A specific researcher may not know what he or she will die of, but fear of death, and concern for loved ones, still would produce a spectrum of research covering most of the things that kill us--enough to impact statistics. And your comment about blind researchers shows that you mentally deleted part of my comments. Researchers have blind children, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers. Are you saying that only if you, personally, have a disease that you care about it? I doubt that very much. Are you saying that money would be more motivation to you than the health of your own child, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle? I doubt that too. And if it isn't...why aren't you willing to extend that level of humanity and ethics to others?


"In a proft medical system, as a patient, I am a profit centre.

In a socialized medical system, as a patient, I am an expense"

BC Monkey. That's one way to look at it, and here's another. To an insurance company, you are a customer. They want to extract the most money from their customers, and give the least back. They also have an interest in keeping you healthy so that you don't get sick in the first place. To a socialized medical system, you aren't just an expense: you are part owner of the system. Your tax dollars support it. So they also have an interest in keeping you healthy, and once you are sick, to helping you heal so that you can work and continue to pay into the system. In many ways, both have the same basic needs and goals. But the socialized system is part of the overall educational and public recreation/health complex that can actually affect your attitudes toward taking care of your body and mind. Both want people to take as little back as possible, but the Universal system has economies of scale and lack of profit motive: I fail to see why stockholder profits, enormous executive salaries, advertising and so forth help me stay healthy.

And again, without addressing the fact that life expectancies and infant mortality are NOT better under our system, you're going to have a very difficult time convincing me. The fact that you, as an individual, have a horror story (for which I am sorry) is simply countered by any one person who gives me a horror story about their HMO, or how a relative died from lack of medical care.

Anecdotal evidence won't convince me. Saying that scores of Canadians come to America for their care won't convince me without both specific, hard numbers (exactly how many? For what kinds of procedures?) and a refutation of the Harvard Medical School study that said that the average Canadian has health care equivalent to the average INSURED American. Add the uninsured in, and obviously, if one is to believe HMS, the Canadians are better off.


"If Obama's idea of change is to reduce the pain on one group, the poor by inflicting pain on another group, the elderly then how is he different from anyone who discriminates between groups."

True! But that's a big "if." Again, we could answer this simply by looking at the question of who gets better care and has better survival rates for every age group between America and various countries with Universal health care. My guess? The wealthiest Americans have better care, but the average American does not. I am open to seeing contrary statistics.

Have you any?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ah may be wrong, but I is consistent

Mike Ralls commented:

"For what it's worth, my guess is that at least 90% of US President probably felt that interracial sex was wrong to some degree at some point in their life. Numerous states passed numerous laws against it throughout US history, reflecting that this was not an uncommon belief. This is sad, but morals change over time."

Morals have to do with actions. FEELINGS are different, and change much more slowly, as people become convinced that they are not in danger. Unless those "90%" went through a period of matching power and length when they actually APPROVED of interracial relationships (as opposed to merely tolerate them) then the net sum is disapproval, mitigation against. And if you are against interracial relationships, then you will grasp that integration leads inevitably to them. In which case you will look for every opportunity to slow down racial progress. Because you have to operate (to a degree) publicly, you have to hide your true intent, so you will always cloak your obstructionism in other terms.

Because it is hard to hurt others without opening the door to the same things being done to you (I'm against torture at least partially because I'm afraid it will be done to me) human beings have a wonderful capacity to have even fear, greed, and naked self-interest actually lead to decisions those motivated by love and charity might make. So these same human beings who, in a perfect world, would have no black men ever touch a white woman (while, of course, keeping black women sexually available to white men), will pass civil rights legislation because they have run out of legal, publicly-admittable reasons to oppose it. At which point they can say: Huzzah! See! Progress. Smiles all around. Ain't we Progressive?

I believe in humanity, but some of the things that have kept us alive through the centuries lead to real destruction. If men can be bigoted toward women despite every man having been given the gift of life by one, despite almost every man having aunts, sisters, and grammas that they love...that same tendency to want to control would run rampant when faced by an Other that is relatively unknown...who actually competes with you for reproductive space, and who might want to kill you in revenge for past wrongs. And whom you outnumber almost ten to one. And whom you can actually eradicate with minimal impact in your own life.

Frankly, the only President I believe doesn't object to interracial relationships is Obama--because he is the product of one. (And if he'd been "pure" black he'd probably have the exact same problem, in reverse) Every one of the others? The best of them wrestle with their instincts and conditioning, and come down on the side of the angels. But the twitch is still there.

This nearly universal "twitch" is why I don't believe that blacks will ever catch up. Too many disadvantages, no real advantages. Too many decisions about jobs, incarceration, health care that can be "explained away" as reasonable public policy, rule of law, when it is really an expression of a forbidden inner need. Too many decisions in the dark. That's just the way it is. But does that cause me despair?

Nope. Why not? Because I didn't say anything about how far behind they'll be. Could be no more than a fraction of a percent, and in the larger scheme of things, that ain't bad. And that means that anyone willing to put out 105% effort can get 100% of the results. Again, not bad considering the scope and sweep of human history. And let's not even get into the natural world: I would rather have been a black man in Selma in 1950 than a rabbit in the woods. Human beings are downright benevolent compared to the natural world. I don't see dogs and cats mourning road-kill.

Anyone who is angry and fearful for their community can do what I've done: mentor, sponsor, donate to their community. And most importantly, live by example. SHOW people how it's done. And while I won't tolerate whites pretending all is well and the playing field is level, I am also (regrettably, perhaps) inflexible toward black people: if you aren't working honestly, aren't physically healthy and fit, and don't corral your sexuality in the safety of relationship and/or family responsibility, you have no right to complain about poverty, health statistics, or boys and/or girls running wild in the streets. You know NOTHING about what it takes to make a healthy community, because your own dysfunction blinds you to the very causes that create social disaster. The Macro is in the Micro. Clean up your own back yard before you complain about your neighbor's.

It's o.k. not to care, but don't be hypocritical about it. It's all right to point the finger, if you can honestly hold yourself an an example of your own supposed values. Be the change you want to see in the world.

White folks are doing the best they can, just like you. Get real: children are dying out there. I don't ask you to get in the water with drowning swimmers, but get your damned feet on the dock and throw a life preserver, or shut the fuck up.


Is there anything ugly we do to each other that doesn't boil down to sex or survival? Power, maybe...but since power gives men access to sex, we come back to the same thing. Family? Genetic or memetic survival. That may be stretching a point, but I'm sincerely interested in the question.


Mike asked:

"Quick question on this, say America adopts a socialized health system; in that event, to what degree if any, do you think the following will be reduced;

% of Americans who smoke.
% of Americans who drink to excess
% of Americans who consume an excess of sugary foods or drinks, fried foods, fast foods, or too many processed foods.
% of Americans who eat large amounts of fresh fruits and vegetable
% of Americans who exercise 3 times a week, or more*"

Yes, I do. The reasons include the fact that when we're all in the pot together, there would be less social approval for self-destructive behavior, more programs to help people safely reduce or quit. Much more motivation for everyone to encourage everyone to behave in a healthy fashion--we have an actual stake in the health of our neighbors. A greater number of exercise opportunity in parks and public places, because tax dollars spent in prevention save money on the other end.

Preventive medicine is vastly less expensive than waiting for people to go to the emergency room. The actual amount of time necessary to achieve fitness is under an hour a week, and if people could actually consult experts who can customize programs, a little real information can go a long way.

Under NO circumstances can I see how such a system would make things worse, and since nothing has an absolutely zero effect, there you go.


I wondered about medical research, and how we might get some stats on different countries. I took a different tact, and decided to look for Nobel Winners in Medicine by country. Couldn't find a specific list, but Wikipedia has a list of all winners, and I'll list the top 5 or so:

United States: 309






Canada 17

85 of the United States awards were for medicine. I'll leave it to someone else to sort through this to see how many of the others were. How this graphs in terms of comparable GNP, population, and so forth. I don't know. But it would be dishonest not to publish what I found. What it means? What might the difference be if medicine was socialized? I don't know. I suspect that that will require analysis by better heads than mine...but there are the results to discuss rationally and politely: lives are at stake.


Part of the reason I'm not totally worried about the quality of research falling off if the personal profit potential is reduced is that people are more afraid of dying than they are of not getting rich. This is why people who suggest that doctors are deliberately holding back valid, cheap cancer cures make me shake my head. They think those doctors aren't afraid of getting cancer? That their mothers and fathers and children don't die of cancer? Remove pure profit from the equation, and you still have fear, love, and sheer intellectual curiosity remaining. And you'll remember that I consider fear of death to trump everything else (on average). So if power (and money) is chakra 3, survival is #1, compassion #4, and intellectual curiosity is #6--a pretty fair through-line. I'll take it.

Again, ah may be wrong, but I is consistent.