“All Lives Matter”

“All lives matter” is a curious phrase; hardly ever uttered in the English language until relatively recently, and possibly unique in that it represents a benevolent and egalitarian truth, agreeable to all the best of us, but only ever spoken aloud by irredeemable assholes.

I'm With Stupid

<—I’m With Stupid—>

 

 

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Notes on Stupidity

From The Atlantic, I stumbled upon a great definition of science:

“Arguably, science is the gradual process by which the cognitive parts of our brains discover the profound inaccuracies in our deeper, evolutionarily built-in models of the world.”

Of course, this hardly capture the totality of what science is, the methods of accumulating, testing, verifying, and reproducing results; but it does address our fundamental inability to perceive the world with any reliable degree of accuracy.

Science does not deal in certainties, and contrary to popular usage of the term, a scientific theory is more than just a guess, it is a comprehensive explanation which accounts for the information known at the time.  As more information accumulates, as advances in technology allow us to see more deeply into the inner workings of the natural world, as more scientific minds rethink what is known; old theories have to give way to new ones.  Scientific worldviews are built to be replaced.

But human beings aren’t built for uncertainty.  Not only do we like to know things, we like to think that we already know things pretty well.  It’s one thing to try to convince someone that what they’re certain of is incorrect; it’s quite another to try to persuade them that, not only is their worldview wrong, but the very idea that they could legitimately possess a fixed worldview is invalid.

As any social critic or contrarian is aware, sometimes the validity of one’s argument will be judged on answers to non sequiturs like: “If that’s the problem, what’s your solution?” or, “How would you do it better?”  To the extent that people are willing to surrender their certainties, it is far more comfortable to trade them in for new ones. Skepticism and doubt can look like nihilism from afar, and most of us can concede that amongst the many hallways of the human mind, there are certain doors we may wish to keep shut, even if we disagree on which ones.

Which brings me to the next quote:

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This from an article entitled “How Facts Backfire” which uses the study cited above to argue that the foundational myths of democracy have been laid upon the swamp water of confirmation bias.  How can we have an informed citizenry, when the very act of getting informed runs so contrary to our evolutionary journey from single celled life forms to hairless weakling apes that occasionally vote for the red team or the blue team?

Is this not why evil always wins?  Marketers, populists, the ugly talking heads on cable whose punditry is molded out of appeals to emotion.  Maybe.  But the idea that evil does always win is an untested hypothesis founded on primitive binary thinking.  It’s reassuring to watch others succumb to their own fallacious logic; delusional to presume that our own selves have somehow risen above it.

 

 

 

Conservative Criticism of Foreign Policy Uninformed by News of Last Year’s Election

The Conservative Party of Canada, accustomed to being hated by many, if not most Canadians, is still reeling from the discovery that this widespread hatred can occasionally translate into electoral defeat, even in a democracy as flawed as ours.  Now, they are turning news that Canada will be excluded from a meeting of defense ministers from nations fighting ISIS into fodder for criticism, rather than accepting the news as the logical outcome of changes to Canadian foreign policy under a new government, who was elected only two months ago on a platform promising to pull Canadian bombers out of the war on ISIS.

We can expect this level of commentary from the Queen’s Loyal Opposition for years to come.  After the attack in Paris, the party renewed its calls for Trudeau to reverse his election promise as if the promise to pull out Canadian CF-18’s was premised on the belief that there would never again be another terrorist strike somewhere in the Western world.  In response to the latest news, the Conservative Defence Critic said on Twitter, “Due to the Liberal’s incoherent policy on #ISIS Canada is not back, we lost our seat at the table,” a sentiment echoed in his official statements.

James Bezan

Conservative MP James bEzan rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Monday February 2, 2015 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Adrian Wyld

Well, fine. There is indeed  incoherence in Trudeau’s foreign policy.  There are legitimate questions to ask; how much longer will the pullout be delayed; what role will our special forces continue to play in the conflict; is the government merely going to pretend to not participate in a war, even as it continues to do so, like the Liberal government under Jean Chrétien?  Skepticism is  healthy, and governments should never be trusted, but every now and then, once in a while, they do exactly what they said they’d do when stumping for votes, and that’s pretty much the most one could ever hope for from a government.  It still remains to be seen if the Trudeau will deliver on his promise, but the critique from the right seems to be premised on the outrageous notion that he will. But then, the CPC has long had a shaky grasp on the concept of democracy. Which is a shame, because as the official opposition the party could do the nation a service by holding the government to account for its actions.  To do so, however, they would need to be asking the right questions.

 

Update:

It would be unfair to not mention that the Liberal government’s own explanation for why they are not attending the meeting, is equally, if not more disingenuous than the Conservative critique:

http://www.cbc.ca/i/caffeine/syndicate/?mediaId=2682210494

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s statement that there are “lots of meetings” to the assembled scrum is a cheap dodge.  He may be right in trying to downplay the significance of Canada getting snubbed, but the question was why it had happened in the first place.  He could have at least paraphrased his statement in a less deceptive, but more honest way: “There are lots of answers to questions. Questions get answered all of the time.  I answered some questions last week, and I’m really looking forward to answering some question in the future.”

 

A Modest Proposal to Solve the Refugee Crisis in Europe

Give the refugees, as a token of compensation for the atrocities they have lived through and escaped, a piece of someone else’s land. Arm them with the latest in high tech military murder gadgetry until they are, by several orders of magnitude, the most powerful nation in the region. Stand idly by while they brutalize the people who they have displaced for decades, reducing some to desperate acts of savagery which will perpetually justify collective retribution upon the women, children, and men whose only crime was to live upon a patch of dirt somebody else decided to claim for themselves. Shield them from the consequences of the international laws they have broken. Give them nuclear weapons. Make criticism of them the equivalent of political suicide bombing for the politicians of all the major nations in the west. And any time someone should ask: “Should they have shot those unarmed protesters?” “Should they have carpet bombed those residential neighbourhoods?” “Should they have starved those helpless people?” invoke the horrors of the wars and the evil of the dictators they had to flee before transforming themselves into a reflection of their own darkest terrors.

And then, of course, shake our collective heads in disbelief when one of their soldiers gets stabbed.

Better Diction is Not “Political Correctness”

There are very few occasions, at least amongst English speakers, when one misspeaks, using a series of words which convey a meaning contrary to that which they intend, where the speaker can plead that the audience is just being too sensitive. Usually if someone says one thing but means another, they apologize or correct themselves for clarity, not complain about Political Correctness and the loss of Free Speech.

If I go to a restaurant and order the chicken and then complain to the waiter that they did not bring me steak, it would not be my right to accuse them of policing my language.

If I have to look over my shoulder before I speak because I want to make sure there are no people of colour around who may not be aware that I’m only being ironically racist, maybe I shouldn’t be talking.

If the words I use genuinely bother a group of people by evoking historical intolerance, hatred and oppression; or their own experiences with bigotry both casual and overt; then what does it matter if that wasn’t my intention.

If the word I’m using conveys what I mean, but also conveys some other meaning very different from what I intend, and I want to speak articulately, then I could I use another word. There are over one million of them available.

The backlash against so-called Political Correctness is, at worst, a defence of hatred and bigotry; and at best, it is advocacy for miscommunication and misunderstanding.