Collegiate Wristbands

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fairly recently, I commented upon the vacuous practice of seeking moral prestige by the wearing of colored rubber bands around one's wrists. Summing up the mindless second-handedness of the fad and its resulting aspect of intimidation, I said:

In an important sense, it makes no difference what ribbon someone chooses to wear when the culture is saturated enough with altruism that wearing a ribbon is commonly regarded as a sign of good moral character. The message to anyone who might beg to differ with the idea that he exists to serve others, is this: "You will have to fight everyone. Give up or be alone."
In higher education, the institutional equivalent of the wristband is the campus pledge, and it illustrates my point perfectly.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, animal rights activists are slowly getting small colleges that do not participate in animal research that might cause "severe" pain to laboratory animals to sign non-binding pledges ... not to do animal research that causes "severe" pain.
Amherst College, Fairfield University, Francis Marion University, and 10 other institutions, none of which are known for conducting animal experiments, recently signed a pledge not to subject any research animals to "severe" unrelieved pain or distress. The pledge was written by the Humane Society of the United States, which has sent it to a total of 301 presidents at similar institutions.


"I said to myself, How could I not sign this and have a conscience?" says John M. Carfora, director of the office of sponsored research at Amherst. He said he hoped his signature might influence researchers elsewhere to reflect anew on the necessity of unrelieved pain in their laboratory animals.


Officials of Francis Marion University, a public institution in South Carolina, view the pledge as "a humane gesture" that is "reasonable and symbolic," says Elizabeth I. Cooper, vice president for public and community affairs. Faculty members there have done some surgery on anesthetized animals, she adds.

However, she says, the pledge, which offers some examples of procedures likely to cause severe pain, is not "a legal document" that would prevent the university from one day expanding the scope of its research. [bold added]
This is curious. How can a non-binding pledge not to do something you're already not doing have any moral import? This seems about as upstanding and heroic as -- oh, I don't know -- wearing a rubber band around one's wrist.

But remember: The second-hander is a pack animal, and lives for the approval of others, and every pack is led by its more dominant members. Functionaries of college bureaucracies are no exception. Recall what I said about fighting alone? Conformity is the name of the game here, and past acts of domestic terrorism by animal "rights" activists provide an unspoken, threatening subtext to the friendly-seeming invitations to conform:

Signing the pledge was easy, said officials on some of those campuses, because no such research went on there. And that is just what the advocacy group is counting on: a wave of no-fuss pledge signings that will put pressure on larger universities, which do conduct extensive animal research, to follow suit.


The document attempts to strike a collegial approach -- for example, the society offers to discuss with signatory institutions any instances of noncompliance it learns about and not to publicize them. (!) That's a different approach from the picketing and vandalism that more-extreme activist groups have carried on at the University of California at Los Angeles and other campuses in a bid to end all animal testing. [bold added]
A "different" approach, eh? Oh, yeah. I forgot about fear of slander and legal harassment.... When you have those, who needs a bunch of stupid kids waving signs around or breaking things?

When you don't have a persuasive argument, you can either accept the fact that others will not agree with you and move on -- or you can try to force them to act the way you want. The animal "rights" movement proved long ago that it has chosen the second tack, and this is more of the same.

In answer to John "How could I not sign this and have a conscience?" Carfora of Amherst, I would say that having a conscience is a matter of honesty and independent judgement, not public perception, and that following one in the face of irrational opposition is not always easy or pleasant. Unless, that is, one realizes the importance of what is at stake: Namely, the freedom of the academy to follow observation and logic wherever it may lead. But when you don't have a conscience, selling out that which it is your job to foster is, as the article says, "easy".

Mr. Carfora is so proud of his little pledge, and yet, if he really knows what it means, he isn't letting on. And that is exactly what the Humane Society wants.

-- CAV


Nicholas Provenzo said...

And why is it that you never see these administrators sign an inverse pledge that states that they would never let an innocent human suffer from disease or other infirmary if that suffering could be alleviated by causing "severe" pain to an animal.

Oh, wait, that would be a principled statement in defense of human life that would draw the ire of the animal rights loons. What kind of college administrator wants that crap on their conscience?

Gus Van Horn said...

Yeah. Too bad that human beings are so passe!

Dismuke said...

"This is curious. How can a non-binding pledge not to do something you're already not doing have any moral import? This seems about as upstanding and heroic as -- oh, I don't know -- wearing a rubber band around one's wrist."

My favorite is the "rolling hunger strike." How it works is a bunch of Leftists decide to make a "statement" by going on a hunger strike - in shifts. The first Leftist refuses to eat for four hours - and then he passes the hunger strike on to the next Leftist who, in turn, refuses to eat for four hours. That way, the hunger strike can go on indefinitely. The fact that nobody actually starves - well, that's just an unimportant technicality that only a backward bumpkin would point out.

You see, it is not what one does in this world that counts - that only matters to simpletons who are obsessed with that alleged thing called reality. What matters is one's intentions. People should only be judged by their intentions - and, of course, their feelings.

The fact that one is already not doing what one pledges not to do is besides the point. The point of the pledge is to demonstrate the purity of one's intentions and feelings. And, of course, as you point out, it is important to demonstrate the purity of one's feelings and intentions in order to win the approval of others who are similarly pure. After all, if they approve and think that you are someone who actually matters in this world - then that means you do matter and are a worthy person. It means that you are not some stupid backward hick of the ilk that drinks the sort of coffee served in truck stops and gas stations.

Gus Van Horn said...

"My favorite is the 'rolling hunger strike.'"

Heh! That's so dangerously close to "rolling blackout" that you'd think they'd let the job of giving cute names "roll" on to someone else better-attuned to public perception...

... but you'd be wrong. And that's because we all know that deregulation and the morally impure power corporations -- who don't love Gaia -- are really to blame for any in convenience that might arise from the "rolling power fast" that California has been having since 2001.

The fact that there aren't any power plants being built is not the fault of the Greens, but it is certainly the problem for anyone who doesn't share their carbon-free sensibilities.

Dismuke said...

"And that's because we all know that deregulation and the morally impure power corporations -- who don't love Gaia -- are really to blame for any in convenience that might arise from the "rolling power fast" that California has been having since 2001."

Rolling blackouts are inconvenient only because they are unscheduled. One does not know for sure when the power will go out and thus people are not able to plan for them.

Once Iran and North Korea finally get nuclear weapons and the missile systems necessary to deliver them to the continental United States and are thus in a position to prove that we no longer rule the world and thereby able to knock the backward bumpkin consumers of truck stop and gas station coffee in this country down a peg in terms of their primative cheauvanistic belief in this country's alleged greatness, the rolling blackouts will not be inconvenient because consumers will be able to schedule the two hours per day they will be allowed to use electricity. People will have a choice as to whether it will be a solid two hour period in the evening or whether it will be a half hour in the morning plus an hour and a half in the evening. Consumer choice is the key to making rolling power blackouts convenient and accepted.

The other aspect of it, of course, will be for the price of electricity to rise to about $5 per kilowatt hour verses the 12 to 15 cents or so cents per kw hour it currently is. That will stop the bumpkins from using such energy hogging and carbon pumping devices as air conditioners, microwave ovens and hair dryers. At $5 per KW hour, all they will be able to afford is a compact florescent bulb or two for the children to do their homework by and to power a computer for a couple of hours which will enable them to pay bills and such without using evil paper.

And, in order to help them to pay for the $5 per KW hour electricity two hours per day, the government will pay them carbon credits for each hour that they do NOT use electricity which they then can apply to their bill to offset for the two hours they do use it. All those carbon credits that the truck stop and gas station coffee crowd will be given can also be sold on he open marketplace - and considering the state of what the overall economy will look like, they will need to sell their carbon credits in order to survive financially. The going rate for such carbon credits will be capped by the government at 15 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity that such people do NOT use. Thus the people who would NEVER drink truck stop and gas station coffee and actually need to use electricity more than two hours per day (people such as Algore, Barbara Streisand and the hard core crowd that supports Obama come to mind) will be able to purchase all the electricity they will need at current rates from the bumpkins who are NOT using the electricity. And the fact that the bumpkins will be able to sell their carbon credits in marketplaces such as ebay proves that being progressive does not mean that one is necessarily hostile to all aspects of free choice and capitalism. The sale of such carbon credits will be entirely voluntary.

Just as Iran and North Korea will put our morally backward country in its proper place, this new, progressive and green scheme for permanent but scheduled rolling blackouts will finally put the truck stop and gas station coffee crowd in this country in their proper place as the peasantry that they are and always have been. And it will allow their moral betters who don't drink truck stop and gas station coffee to live the superior lifestyle relative to them without constantly being surrounded by backward rubes who have enough money to go to the same stores and restaurants that they go to.

Gus Van Horn said...

"The other aspect of it, of course, will be for the price of electricity to rise to about $5 per kilowatt hour verses the 12 to 15 cents or so cents per kw hour it currently is. That will stop the bumpkins from using such energy hogging and carbon pumping devices as air conditioners, microwave ovens and hair dryers."

Swap out "gas" for "electricity" and "gallon" for kWH, and talk about driving, and you sound more or less like a few people I know personally who are actually happy about gas prices now.

And I can't find it, but I'm pretty sure that some lefties out there are drooling at the prospect of having to impose power rationing on the electrical grid.

Dismuke said...

Yes, that's the entire point of carbon credit and cap and trade schemes: to justify a right for those with political and social pull to continue to enjoy the benefits of industrial civilization while they are severely curtailed and rationed to everyone else.

The Algores and Barbra Streisands of the world will never go without their jet trips, huge houses, air conditioning, nice cars, etc. It is people like you and me who must significantly cut back or perhaps even give up such things. And in return for giving up such things, we will be given a pittance in the form of alms from some government mandated scheme where those with pull will be able to purchase the right to use the resources that you and I have NOT used.

Thus Algore can cool all of the rooms in his mansion to 72 degrees during the summer without guilt because an entire town's worth of bumpkin families in the trailer parks did NOT use that electricity and instead cooled themselves with nothing more than $15 box fans from Walmart. And Algore can convince himself that such a system is entirely fair because the people in the trailer parks were compensated for not using such electricity. And, of course, it will be voluntary - the trailer park people and other low lifes such as you and me always have the choice to use our full allotment of electricity instead of selling a portion of it in the form of carbon credits.

What Algore will evade is the fact that our full allotment will still not be enough to provide us with the standard of living that we currently enjoy even if we could afford to get by in such an economy without selling a portion of the allotment. You see, there are a LOT more truck stop and gas station coffee drinkers in this world than there are members of the beautiful people noblesse oblige crowd. Algore will be able to live his current lifestyle because an entire small town of bumpkins will have reduced their consumption. And the typical Obama voter can enjoy his current lifestyle because a dozen or so families living in a trailer park have reduced their consumption.

It is just like the people who demand that everyone else give up their cars and ride buses. They would be able to continue to drive around in their automobiles without feeling any guilt at all because the streets would then be relatively empty - and thus they are not contributing to congestion by driving around.

You see, the pollution generated and resources consumed by the "beautiful people" is relatively small when compared with the amount generated and used by bumpkins such as you and me. We are the problem, you see. You and I are too bloody affluent and wealthy. We don't cheerfully do what our betters tell us to do. And we are not grateful for their benevolence. Only the poorest of the poor, for example, line up for public housing. There is no demand by the middle class for the government to provide all of our housing needs and people like us do not support any efforts for it to do so because the taxes needed will make it harder for us to be selfish and buy or rent a house on the market. We are too stupid to voluntarily adopt the lifestyle and attitudes that our betters decide are in our own best interest. But cap and trade and carbon credits will enable the government to curb the excesses of people such as you and me while requiring us to make choices as to how we curb our excesses thus allowing us to preserve the illusion that we are acting voluntarily and in our own self-interest. And, of course, it will be voluntary and we will be acting selfishly when we make choices as to what sacrifices we will make because John McCain, an evil Republican, is all for cap and trade.

Gus Van Horn said...

"And the typical Obama voter can enjoy his current lifestyle because a dozen or so families living in a trailer park have reduced their consumption."

The typical Obama voter is young, and therefore clueless, naive, or both. That's what he THINKS he'll get "when" he grows up to be a Beautiful Person.

Dismuke said...

Yes, that's right. They typical Obama voter is a beautiful person wannabe. In his mind he IS a beautiful person because he WANTS to be a beautiful person.

Thus he cheerfully reduces his standard of living and lives in a cramped and tiny apartment with concrete floors because it is an "urban loft" that he pays twice as much for as what he would otherwise pay to get double the amount of space in neighborhoods filled with truck stop and gas station coffee drinkers. Oh, but his faucets and kitchen counter top cost an arm and a leg - just so that his self-esteem doesn't grasp the fact that his standard of living has been compromised. And he takes comfort in the fact that none of the other people in his building or neighborhood ever drinks truck stop/gas station coffee.

He happily pays double the price for special green-approved toilet paper and for virtually all of the food that he consumes because that is what the beautiful people approve of and the stores that sell such stuff cater to beautiful people. He is happy to pay the extra money because it makes him superior to some bumpkin who buys toilet paper and food of similar nutritional value at a lower price elsewhere.

It is sort of like Sweden verses Mississippi. If Sweden - the supposed proof that socialism can provide prosperity - were merely a state in the USA, it would rank about the same as Mississippi in terms of per capita income. But, there is a difference, you see. The Swedish population has a much higher percentage of "beautiful people" than does the population of Mississippi which probably doesn't even have any beautiful people. A stereotypical Swede with a certain amount of income does not live in poverty because he spends his money on the correct sort of lifestyle and has an approved mindset. A stereotypical person from Mississippi with the same or even more money lives in poverty because - well, just look at what they spend their money on and the backward attitudes that they have.

You see, to the beautiful people wannabes, material wealth is a value only to the degree it enables them to be superior to those they look down upon and important and virtuous in the eyes of the sort of people whose approval their pseduo self-esteem depends on. If they pay more in order to have a lower but more fashionable standard of living - well, that is just fine with them as it enables them to feel superior and earns them the social approval they desperately crave.

The actual reality of things means very little to such people - because reality is not real to them anyway. Indeed, those who are concerned about reality and bring it up all the time are oppressive and mean-spirited because if they would just stop talking about it then maybe it would go away. All that matters is one's feelings and where one stands with regard to the feelings of others. Thus they don't care about actually being affluent - they just want to feel affluent and for others to regard them as affluent. They would much rather have a lower material standard of living and be regarded as a member of an affluent and superior elite than being vastly more affluent but looked down upon as a bumpkin by that elite.

Thus having a spacious house filled with lots of neat material things that one could afford to purchase because they were bought at big box mass merchandiser chain stores in the suburbs is less virtuous and prestigious than living in a cramped and Spartan apartment with very little in the way of material possessions. Those living in the Spartan apartments are more virtuous because they paid through the nose for what material possessions they do have, buying them at chic, small, non-chain specialty stores that do not have parking lots and paying to have most of it delivered because they lack any means of transporting their purchases back home themselves.

You see, in their mind, less is more - just so long as what they do have is fashionable and what they give up is not. It wouldn't matter if a truck stop or gas station served coffee that was, by any objective measure, of the highest quality and best taste available anywhere. It would still be swill because it is sold in a truck stop or gas station and only a bumpkin would admit to even going in such a place to try it and find out. The actual quality of the coffee one drinks doesn't really matter - all that matters is that right sort of people approve of it.

Gus Van Horn said...

"[H]e takes comfort in the fact that none of the other people in his building or neighborhood ever drinks truck stop/gas station coffee."

Or stops (much less drives) a truck. Or purchases gas stolen from the earth.

"He happily pays double the price for special green-approved toilet paper...."

If (s)he -- I never use politically correct constructions like this, but this somehow seems like it is begging for it. -- even uses toilet paper....