Friday, December 28, 2018

Is the (Federal) Government a Useless Waste of Money?

 So now we have another government shut-down. It’s a stalemate between Trump and Congress about “the wall.”

I log onto my web portal/browser (Yahoo!) and I get the news story of the hour - This one about the government shutdown that started on December 22. The article of the hour is usually followed by many comments, sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands.

I often scroll down a few dozen of these comments, because I am a sociologist and I am keenly interested in public opinion. I understand that these comments are obviously not representative. Many of them are probably written by trolls with an agenda to grind, many of their authors may not even be Americans. Yet, these ARE voices. And when I scroll down the list, peruse a few dozen of them randomly, and find an OVERWHELMING majority of them writing more or less the same stupid and WRONG thing, I worry.

Today, the vast majority of these trolls, while using different iterations of it, agreed with this familiar imbecile meme:
That the present (federal) government shutdown hasn’t made a damn bit of difference in anyone’s life; and that this is proof that the (federal) government is an utterly useless and wasteful institution, which employs millions of pencil-pushers who enjoy fat paychecks while doing nothing of value; that the permanent shutdown of this bureaucracy would make no difference in our lives, and that it would be a blessing. Read more...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kando's Dogma - Part Two

 About a year ago, I posted a piece called. Kando’s Dogma. I now add some further beliefs which I hold to be true:

1. All people are created equal (Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson). There are no inherent differences in intellectual aptitude between the races and between the genders. The science of psychology has not discovered any. Differences in wealth are the result, to a small extent, of aptitude and effort, but much more the result of social class, family wealth and above all: luck.

2. There is no (anthropomorphic) deity, no super-brain which decided at some point in the past to create a world. The universe is a physical reality in which life and mental processes develop. In other words, the universe becomes aware of itself. It is a psycho-physical reality.

3. The nature and processes of the universe are best discovered and understood through science.

4. Science distinguishes between truth and error, and through it, knowledge increases. Humans progress by increasing their knowledge. The total amount of knowledge is infinite.

5. In addition to science, there is philosophy and there is religion (Auguste Comte’s three stages). Philosophy discusses metaphysical questions. These are questions beyond those pertaining to the physical world. Positivist science cannot answer them. Answers to such questions cannot be proved or disproved empirically. Read more...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Old Age


My long distance friend Rebecca came to visit this week. I don’t see her a lot, since she lives in Holland, on the other side of the big pond. She is old, like I am, but charming, sweet and terribly damaged by something that happened in her early twenties. That was when she found out her husband had been cheating on her with her sister from the day they were married. This happened 50 years ago. The husband is gone, the sister is gone, but the wound has never healed. Rebecca is not so much bitter as completely uninterested in her own future and even her present seems to take a backseat to her main preoccupation, scratching and unscabbing this old old wound.

I feel sorrow for her and a good deal of confusion. I also am prone to certain obsessions regarding my past. Who isn’t at my age? There is a drawer in every old person’s head, marked regrets, but I can keep it closed most of my waking hours. Rebecca on the other hand, has lost the key and her drawer is now permanently open, oozing its nasty contents into her otherwise very witty, interesting and intelligent mind.

‘She just needs a good dose of therapy’, I hear you say. But what will that do? Would it take away the hurt? Would it leave a void? Rebecca’s self image is now so fused with what happened all these years ago, that she might not survive the excision.

You see, growing old is a complicated affair. It creeps up on you like a black cat in the night and settles in comfortably. Before you know it, old age has taken over the reigns of your life. You are too caught up living you see. You don’t spend your days thinking: ‘Oh, my God! I am older than yesterday!’ Then, suddenly, you ARE old. Read more...

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Capitalist and the Greek Philosopher

Warning: this piece is meant to be light-hearted.

The world remains firmly stuck in the age of mass consumption and materialism.

America, Europe, and the developing world each contribute to humanity’s continuing plunder of the planet.

To be sure, ever since the 1960s, many people in the Western world have moved in a counter-cultural direction, becoming more “green.” A growing number of Americans are becoming aware that unfettered consumption is a dead end and that our voracious consumption habits need to be toned down. As to Europe, many people there have probably reached a somewhat more advanced stage of “green consciousness.”
However, all such progress is more than negated by an opposite worldwide trend, namely the all-out drive into consumerism by the emerging nations, including giants such as China and India. And of course, much of the growing green consciousness is more talk than action. America remains in the forefront of materialism.
And most telling is the continued worldwide consensus among all governments, all economists, all policy shapers, that economic growth will solve all our problems - poverty, hunger, inequality, war, crime, refugees... Read more...