Wednesday, November 24, 2010
This Thanksgiving holiday will be a busy one for me, so this will be my last post until Monday. I'll likely be slow about getting to email and comments over that time, too.
What Political Correctness Achieves
There is an interesting article by Frank Furedi about standing up for what he calls "courage and conviction." I disagree with much of it, particularly his tendency to equate morality and altruism at the moral level -- and benevolence and altruism at the emotional. At the same time, I think he does make a valuable connection between politically-correct terminology and personal sovereignty (as well as between government-enforced "good" actions and personal sovereignty):
This displacement of public virtue happens in all sorts of ways. Just this morning, for instance, I heard yet another plea for volunteering -- I almost felt like throwing up, I've heard it so many times. Now call me old-fashioned, but when I was young you volunteered because you believed in something. You wanted to help people; you wanted, for instance, to give blood. You didn't do volunteering because it looked good on your CV. So, while volunteering certainly has a virtuous potential, it has been turned into a process that you adhere to much in the way that you clock on to a job.And, later:
... While she was in hospital, I used to go to visit her all the time. And the very first time I went to visit her, I introduced myself to the nurse: "I'm Frank Furedi, I'm Clara's son." The woman looked up at me and said, "You mean you're her 'carer.'" "No, her son," I responded. But she was insistent: "No, you are her carer."Of this, Furedi says that, "[V]ery elementary forms of compassion, of human interaction, have been pretty much blocked out altogether." Furthermore, he notes that, "[W]e need a change in cultural attitudes towards the public." In both respects, Furedi is on the right track, but the really important point is that there really is no such thing as a "public."
It was very interesting that she used the word carer. [And it was obscene that this "nurse" insisted on it. --ed] This kind of terminology displaces the idea that there's some kind of spontaneous and informal relationship with a bureaucratic typology. It reminds me of the way in which very elementary forms of compassion, of human interaction, have been pretty much blocked out altogether. [format edits]
We are all individuals, and this is what all the cultural and political pressure to help "others" -- or to concede even word choices to bureaucrats -- is meant to make us forget. And many people in the West have forgotten this on several levels. I wonder how many people would feel angry, or even indignant, about what the nurse said above, as opposed to summarily dismissing it as typical bureaucratic behavior. The fact that it's "typical" at all is cause for alarm.
Changes in cultural attitudes must necessarily start with individuals, who must once again come to regard their own lives as sacred.
I shall choose friends among men, but neither slaves nor masters. And I shall choose only such as please me, and them I shall love and respect, but neither command nor obey. And we shall join our hands when we wish, or walk alone when we so desire. For in the temple of his spirit, each man is alone. Let each man keep his temple untouched and undefiled. Then let him join hands with others if he wishes, but only beyond his holy threshold. -- Ayn Rand in AnthemWhen more people start thinking in such terms, the "public" will stop being kicked around, because the "public" will stop taking such treatment lying down.
Writers May Need to Aspire to More
On the one hand, I am happy to see a writer rise from the ranks of Internet punditry to find employment with a newspaper. On the other hand, this just reminds me that newspapers are getting killed. (I once had, thanks to a good friend, a brief, but interesting email exchange with a comedy writer who had his own column shortly before I contacted him.)
I find the following take on the plight of the papers interesting:
[Michael] Nielsen argues that newspapers are locked into their current business models because they have been so successful. Any small changes will make their businesses less profitable. I don't know enough about the newspaper industry to say whether Nielsen is right, though I find his argument plausible. (His article is entitled Is scientific publishing about to be disrupted? However, it is about much more than scientific publishing.)No bright ideas from me, but you don't get such ideas by not looking at a problem from as many angles as you can.
NFL Parity Visualized
With the holiday comes football. I'm scrambling to set fantasy team lineups for three teams, all of which have identical, barely-over-.500 records, and yet are in the thick of the playoff hunt. In the process of gathering information, I ran into the below graphic.
Basically, you can pick any NFL victory and find a daisy chain of other results "proving" indirectly that the losing team is better than the winning team.