Posted by: readerjohn | November 23, 2015

Monday, 11/23/15

  1. Group, Grid
  2. Prooftexting gut reactions
  3. A limit of Natural Law
  4. This street runs two ways

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 21, 2015

Saturday, 11/21/15

  1. Vestigal tribalism
  2. Tasmanian mutant tolerance
  3. The Feature Story as Art
  4. The Tweet as Art
  5. Trump called out
  6. Function follows form
  7. The uses of duct tape
  8. The uses of gratitude

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 21, 2015

On arguing with integrity

Seth Godin’s Saturday blog was evocative for me:

Each of us understands that different people are swayed by different sorts of arguments, based on different ways of viewing the world. That seems sort of obvious. A toddler might want an orange juice because it’s sweet, not because she’s trying to avoid scurvy, which might be the argument that moves an intellectual but vitamin-starved sailor to take action.

So far, so good.

The difficult part is this: Even when people making an argument know this, they don’t like making an argument that appeals to the other person’s alternative worldview.

Worth a full stop here. Even when people have an argument about a political action they want someone else to adopt, or a product they want them to buy, they hesitate to make that argument with empathy. Instead, they default to talking about why they believe it.

To many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person’s point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in.

And that’s one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.

Godin links to his book that fleshes out this theme.

I think Natural Law arguments come, well, naturally to me because I’ve internalized some of the Natural Law. I don’t argue that way, rather than from “Thus saith the Lord in Hezekiah 12:14,” because even if Hezekiah tipped me off to what the Lord said, what the Lord said tipped me off to the way things really are, not just to some “do it this way or I’ll hurt you in the bye-and-bye (which you therefore won’t find sweet).”

By my lights, then, I’m not entering dishonestly or manipulatively into someone’s alternative worldview, but (like Hezekiah quoting the Lord to me) pointing out to them what they truly believe because that’s how things truly are. There’s a lot of things that people “can’t not know.”

I guess this means that I don’t accept Godin’s premise that, deep down, people have divergent worldviews about deep-down realities. They merely have really, really thick ideological defenses against admitting reality (“really thick” as in “I’m not all that persuasive”).

Or maybe I don’t see what I’m doing as marketing, but as something more important than that trying to sell soup, soap, or legal services.

Now flip it over. I find very annoying people who have abandoned or never seriously professed the Christian faith, but who try to put their ideas into what they fancy as “Christian” terms — who try to appeal to what they fancy my alternative worldview. This includes, notably, things like the Facebook mêmes on the themes “if you were really a Christian you’d …” or “look how hypocritical these ‘Christians’ are.”

  • It generally comes across as insincere or as a form of browbeating a putative intellectual inferior;
  • It is generally tone-deaf to how Christians (at least Christians like me) think and talk (what I’ve branded “pretexting”); and
  • It generally posits something that isn’t really that way — that is, it tries to say that I as a Christian should believe some way (despite my perception that it’s unreal) simply because that’s what they get out of flying over something Jesus said at 30,000 feet and 500 mph.

I suppose the same could be true of a Christian from one tradition trying to translate their beliefs into one of the significantly different Christian traditions, too.

If I’m right about this “flip it over,” then despite Godin’s theory that they don’t like making an argument that appeals to the other person’s alternative worldview, they make it anyway. Do they think that the thing of which they’re trying to persuade me is no more important and fundamental than soup, soap or legal services? Generally, when people whip out their faux Christian hectoring, they’re talking about some fairly important stuff.

* * * * *

I hadn’t intended to go here when I started writing, but yesterday brought news of a swarthy politician, who on the face of it, is appealing to people of faith to join him and his blond wife (“Heidi” is her name; how precious is that?!) in prayer, but who does so through a webpage that invites your public endorsement and won’t let you even sign up to pray with them unless you give him your e-mail address.

Since when does one sign up to pray in cyberspace? Does he really believe in prayer or is this a form of pretexting? Although he was targeting a different demographic than me, can I be offended anyway?

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.


Posted by: readerjohn | November 19, 2015

Thursday, 11/19/15

  1. Praise-song for meaningless togetherness
  2. 49 is the new 42
  3. Ho! Ho! Ho! One more damned stressor!
  4. Diversity. Harmony. Pick one.

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 18, 2015

Chronicles of Wasted Time

  1. Got a uterus to spare?
  2. Anniversary to make us all smile
  3. Europe’s future: 1.4/2 = 0.7
  4. Your mama must be so proud!
  5. Non-carnal political collapse of the decade

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 18, 2015

Wednesday, 11/18/15

  1. Principle: A Thing Unclean
  2. Is that all you’ve got to offer?
  3. Grateful they’re grappling

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 17, 2015

Tuesday, 11/17/15

  1. Thoughts on Paris
  2. More thoughts on Paris
  3. Insurance that is scandalously insurance-like
  4. Gut-check on just how bad it is
  5. Men have forgotten God

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 16, 2015

Monday, 11/16/15

  1. Re-imagined, newly invented
  2. A defect in our national character
  3. The “top-down” English Reformation
  4. Keeping Christmas out of Advent
  5. Remembering many a grievous deed

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Posted by: readerjohn | November 15, 2015

Sunday, 11/15/15

  1. Soul Stories
  2. Suggestions for the complicated
  3. Inventing God?
  4. What the dying man knows
  5. Learning how to suffer

Read More…

Posted by: readerjohn | November 13, 2015

Nice little state you’se got dere, Governor Pence

Had the only appreciable opposition to RFRA come from gay rights activists, RFRA would have been a smashing political success for Republicans. It would have made the right enemies while generating gratitude and energy in the base. They did not expect their usual friends in corporate America to join the opposition …

The decision by Apple, Walmart, Eli Lilly, Angie’s List, and so on was abusiness decision—even more, a marketing decision. Coming out in opposition to the Indiana RFRA law was one of the shrewdest marketing coups since E.T. followed a trail of Reese’s Pieces. The decision to #BoycottIndiana was not made because it was the politically courageous thing to do; it was made because it was the profitable thing to do. The establishment could express support for a fashionable social norm while exerting very little effort, incurring no actual cost, and making no sacrifice to secure the goal. It had the further advantage of distracting most people from the fact that corporations like Apple have no compunction doing business in places with outright oppression of gays, women, and Christians. Those real forms of repression and discrimination didn’t matter; Indiana’s purported oppression of gays did …

We saw fully unmasked just who runs America, and the kind of America that they are bringing more fully into reality every passing day. It will be an America where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the ­national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant. No limits reflected in political, social, or religious norms can be permitted: All are allowed except those who would claim the legitimacy of restraint.

(Patrick Deneen, The Power Elite)

Separate coalitions are forming to represent distinct interests — the newest being Indiana Competes, announced Wednesday, which will make the business case for adding civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers …

Like Freedom Indiana, Tech for Equality and powerful business interests such as Lilly, Columbus, Ind.-based diesel-engine maker Cummins and the NCAA, Indiana Competes wants the General Assembly to adopt what’s becoming known as “full protections” — the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations …

Last week, the influential Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which represents businesses statewide, announced its support for an expansion of LGBT protections …

“We prefer to speak for ourselves,” said Indiana Chamber president Kevin Brinegar. “We’ll advocate our position and do it parallel to any other organization’s.”

The Indiana Chamber’s reasons for supporting sexual orientation and gender identity protections align with the same economic argument as Indiana Competes — that the expansion of the civil rights law would be necessary to keep Indiana competitive in the recruitment, attraction and retention of talent.

(Indianapolis Star via Lafayette Journal & Courier, November 12; link probably wouldn’t work if I tried.)

I’m going to thrown down my hoary gauntlet once more: where is the evidence of systemic discrimination, crying out for legislative remediation, based on these sexual and gender ephemera, in employment, housing, public accommodations or education? In my Hoosier hometown, in 22-some years since addition of sexual orientation to our human relations ordinance, I don’t believe there has been a single violation found — though there have been allegations ranging from dubious to absurd (e.g., accusing our local Kinko’s of sexual orientation discrimination when it was famously crawling with LGBT stereotypes in that era).

Religious belief that sodomy (gay or generally) is sinful doesn’t count unless it enters the marketplace. Historically, the occasional oddball discriminator in the marketplace doesn’t even count; the only problems warranting anti-discrimination laws have been de jure (e.g., Jim Crow) or those so systemic, widely- and deeply-rooted as to have an adverse economic (not psychic) affect on those suffering discrimination.

The Chamber of Commerce argument, to be blunt, is circular: we want this because our kind of people want this. Freely paraphrasing Apple’s Tim Cook, “Nice little state you’se got dere, Governor Pence. It’d be a real shame if anything bad happened to it, like #BoycottIndiana. Capiche?”

The eventuality of this “full protection” against discrimination, based on vague laws tied to invisible and subjective traits, is the kind of kangaroo courts that now infamously privilege putative victims of microaggression in campus proceedings (this, for instance). Heck, as they say on the internet these days, “‘Gender Identity’ don’t real” (arguably). But Social Justice Warriors (this seems to be the current term) will use these laws with impunity to harass enough culture war dissenters to chill further dissent. And Corporate America will get a free pass on other sins (think “Bill Clinton’s immunity from feminist outrage for sexual predation because he favored abortion”).

Once more, Ayn Rand’s one moment of moral sanity (in a life otherwise full of self-absorbed dissipation) gets vindicated:

Did you really think that we want those laws observed? . . . We want them broken . . . . There’s no way to rule innocent men.  The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals.  Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them.  One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws.  Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens?  What’s there in that for anyone?  But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of lawbreakers — and then you cash in on guilt.

(Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, emphasis added)

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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