Monday, December 12, 2016

A Sad Thing

Let's talk philosophy.

But only a little and only bouncing a bit on the surface.

Throughout most of human history, we have operated under this idea of "might makes right." We can talk about the concept from a number of angles, but they all come down to the ability of a person or group to silence his/their opponent(s). Often by death: combat, war, whatever. The stronger person/group then gets to set the rules, the "right."

Frequently, we (as a race) have used "God" as our justification. "I won because God was with me; therefore, I must be right." "God" wouldn't side with a loser, right?

Only, through the lens of history, something previous eras have not had to the extent we have today, we can see that that is, in fact, not true. Or, actually, we can see that "God" certainly wasn't on the side of the winners since they were clearly in the wrong (unless "God" is an immoral capricious bastard). These things we can see even today as the bully beats up the kid in the bathroom and stuffs his face in a toilet. He doesn't have any god on his side; he's just stronger and can, therefore, enforce his injustices on those weaker than himself. Or a group (the Republicans) can make it inordinately difficult for another group (African Americans/minorities) to vote thereby throwing an election in their favor.

And since this is a blog post, I'm not going to run through all of the historical examples of this faulty logic. Might doesn't make you right, but it might just make you an asshole.

As an aside, "might" is the root of racism.
But I digress...

Of course, in our "modern American society," we tend to frown on violence being used as a way to assert might (which is not necessarily so in other parts of the world). Instead, in the US, we tend to use wealth and, well, shouting. Shouting the loudest is our current iteration of beating someone up or challenging someone to a duel. It's this "yelling the loudest" thing I want to focus on.

Disclaimer: I'm writing this "off the cuff" from personal observations and what I already know about psychology (which is a lot considering I have a degree in it). I'm not citing sources, so, if you don't trust what I'm saying, do your own research. (Which is probably a good thing, all things considered.)

One thing that is known about people is that they tend to follow a show of force, which is why bullies tend to gather followers and why gangs attract people. There are too many reasons why to get into that, right now, but you can probably accept that as true. Another thing that is known is that what is true/factual is not of great importance to most people. People want more to follow someone who can "prove" they are right rather than working out what is right on their own. People, unfortunately, don't want to do that much thinking for themselves and most people are perfectly fine with being told what and how to think. Not that they even realize that that is what they are doing.
[The proliferation of fake news, right now, is a good example of people being willing to believe whatever is put in front of them and also an example of the type of people susceptible to it (those on the Right have been shown to be MUCH more susceptible to believing fabricated stories than those on the Left).]

What this comes down to is the person who can yell the loudest being declared the victor even if, maybe especially if, what the person is yelling is false. From experience, people with facts tend to be quieter people. They tend to be the thinkers. And they tend to erroneously believe "the facts will speak for themselves." The facts almost always speak too late or, rather, are listened to too late. Your opinion is only as strong as my fact until your opinion actually runs up against my fact and is crushed by it.

In fact, I think wrong people tend to yell all the more loudly because they know they know they have no facts or truth but want to assert themselves anyway. Having grown up in a household with a father exactly like this (to the point of yelling at me about text books being wrong because he was right because he said so godamnit!), I'm pretty good at recognizing this behavior, and Trump is exactly the same kind of personality.

So, yeah, thanks climate deniers. In four years when the climate is destroyed by Trump and his cronies, you'll know just exactly how strong your opinion was.

The one thing this election proved is that Trump is a blowhard. He relied upon bellowing loudly that he was right without ever having any facts to prove it and, the sad thing is, people swarmed to him. Yes, he proved that he has "might," that he can yell loudly. That he could yell more loudly than Clinton who mostly relied upon statistics and facts and experience, all concrete things that she believed would speak for her.

At this point, you might be saying, "But Clinton won the popular vote," which is true, she did, but she didn't win the EC because Trump cowed so many people into not voting by yelling so loudly about what a horrible person Clinton is. When half of the country doesn't bother to even make a showing, something is horribly wrong.

You know, we like to think we are all enlightened these days. That we are smarter than people of the past. But that is demonstrably not the case. Our technology and progress are not due to "people" but to select individuals who have been building on facts and truths over a long period of time. Quiet people. Thinkers. People who were, in their own times, frequently drowned out by people shouting over them.

"People" are a sad thing. Lemmings. Because Trump is certainly going to lead everyone off the edge of a cliff and, well, most people are not just going to follow willingly but delightfully. The problem is that the people who don't want to follow, people who see Trump for what he is, a bloated sack of flatulence, are going to get dragged off of the edge of the cliff, too. And, well, because it's America, we could actually drag the whole world with us.

[Yes, I know a lot of you are rolling your eyes, right now, and think I'm being "a bit extreme," but I will have another post soon on why this is not extreme but, actually, a clear and present danger.]


  1. I don't think you're extreme at all. I think you've nailed some of the impulses people had. One thing that you didn't elaborate on is why people line up behind the bullies. If you're not one of the people the bully has selected as on 'his' side, then you're at risk of being a target, so people align with a bully to avoid becoming a victim of the bullying themselves.

    They may also see opportunity in there. Trump's policies were so broad, and the establishment elite is so unwilling to work with him, that we see the Breitbarts of the world coming out, and getting a chance to shape Trump's presidency into something they want. So far, his cabinet seems made of people who want to burnish their careers with some government service -- CEOs who will do a term as a secretary and get to say they did it -- and washed-up or disgraced pols like Giuliani or Romney, or would-be pols like Petraeus.

    They are the equivalent of the skinny kid hanging over the bully's shoulder, whispering in his ear about the next target. They're even more reason why we should be worried. Lack of experience isn't the worst thing; but lack of direction and control by the president, and lack of a clear vision shaping a cabinet, is extremely worrisome.

    1. Briane: Yeah, there's a whole psychology thing that goes along with bullies, and I didn't really have "time" to get into that.
      I did listen to an interesting thing about bullies several months ago and how Russian culture actually elevates bullying as something desirable (because it shows power), which is why Putin is so popular despite what a waste of flesh he is. That report also talked about how Trump is very popular with Russians for all of the same reasons, despite what an ever big waste of flesh HE is.

  2. Spot on. Lies are so popular these days, and it doesn't seem to bother the Trumpites that their savior isn't following through on many of his intentions. When is he going to sue all the women who said he assaulted them? He said he would. I guess it's more fun to destroy the world.


    1. Janie: The one I'm having a hard time swallowing is how he just immediately backed off the locking up of Hilary and how there is no outcry over it. I mean, that was his rallying cry.

    2. They aren't chanting "lock her up" now. And Trump isn't doing anything about the women's allegations because he'd have to give evidence under oath.

    3. Janie: I don't think being under oath is any kind of issue for him. I've heard some of his testimony from other cases, and he always just acts as if he knows nothing about anything that's being talked about.

  3. That's really unfair. To lemmings. They don't normally go diving off cliffs. But yeah, us humans are either being dragged off the edge or willingly diving off head first.

    1. Jeanne: Well, not all the time, true, but when they do...

  4. This was a really interesting post. I read somewhere that most people never even bother to actually read a news article in its entirety. They simply look at the title and then skip to the comments, and form an opinion based on that. And, of course, since they don’t read the article in its entirety, they certainly don’t head out and do some independent research with a variety of sources to not only get differing views but also more details. Other individuals get their news from a friend or family member or co-worker or religious leader or neighbour, etc, and that becomes their truth. All of this is alarming and frightening. When my daughters were much younger, whenever they’d share information and a strong (and sometimes angry) opinion about some blown up story in the news, I’d throw questions at them like “Where did you find out about this?”, “Who is the source?”, “When did your friend tell you this”, “Have you looked up further information for more details”, “How do you know this is all true if you haven’t checked”, etc. Back in those days, my girls would get frustrated within seconds and abandon the topic because they had no facts, no concrete data. I wasn’t trying to frustrate them. I was trying to teach them to be critical and independent thinkers, and to check facts instead of accepting what someone told them and then jumping to conclusions. Fast forward years later and they can now discuss just about any topic calmly with data that they’ve gathered rather than getting aggressive. And if they are not sure about something, they’ll simply say that they don’t have enough information and we can talk about it another time after they’ve fact checked. If you’re going to debate a topic intelligently and calmly, you have to first gather your information. On your own!

    1. Martha: I agree. Mostly. You know, except for the "calmly" part, because I don't necessarily agree that debates have to be calm. But, then, maybe I spend too much time talking to people who use racial slurs and defend themselves by saying, "I don't see how that's racist." Or who claim that people who bring up race are the racist ones. It's difficult to have a conversation when one side is relying on stupidity as evidence.

      But, then, I had a very good teacher at just the right moment in my life who taught me to question everything, even text books. So I'm not big on the just accepting things because I see it somewhere. I rely on very few news sources, and those are all pretty objective sources. At objective as they get, at any rate.

      And, yes, you're right about the way people read articles. It's the reason that news stories are crafted the way they are. All of the important details are in the first paragraph because that's as far as most (something like 85-90%) people get. There's a recap in the last paragraph for the people who skip from there to the end. I suppose these days the comments substitute for the closing paragraph.