Here, There Be Dragons!

Ship Garthsnaid, ca 1920s

Centuries ago, there probably really were people who believed that there were dragons and demons at the edges of the world. Judging by the widespread anti-science sentiment today, there probably were a great many people who believed these things.

But probably none of them sailed with Columbus or with any other intrepid explorer who set off for the edge of the world. None of them ever found a new world filled with treasures.

Some of those dragon believers may have eventually learned the truth:

Demonizing something is a good way to prevent people from going there.

It’s a great way to keep people locked into place.

And that means that sometimes it marks a place that is worth looking into.

Sometimes a warning is meant to prevent people from breaking laws or from hurting someone else. A warning like that is prudent to follow. Luckily those kinds of warnings are usually obvious. A stop sign on the road means stop! A high voltage warning means stay away or be zapped!

But sometimes the warning is an unsubstantiated demonization of a place or a process or people; if it clouds the mind with fear of it, if it’s meant to keep people from looking further, there may be another truth hidden behind it.

It might just be an attempt to lock you in place.

Image: Ship Garthsnaid, ca 1920s by National Library NZ on The Commons, on Flickr

Conformity Kills

dominos

Conformity Kills People

Bullies enforce it, suicides are driven by shame from it, hate crimes are committed for it, riots break out over it, war crimes are fueled by it.

Conformity Kills Ideas

No one ever achieved a break-through innovation by conforming or by letting a conformist kill it.

Conformity Kills Organizations

Companies cling to obsolete processes and products, keep trying to do the same things only more. Boards don’t recognize the need to change, executives fall into groupthink and make terrible decisions because no one steps out of line to point out flaws that should be obvious.

Conformity is dangerous when conditions change dramatically.

Conformity doubles down on losses again and again.

Conformity can be as comforting and as dangerous as falling asleep in the snow.

Image: dominos by greg westfall., on Flickr

This Action Is Not Easier Done Than Said

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They say that some things are just easier said than done. That was true when the first doubter thought it and it’s still true. It will always be true.

Easier said than done.

Because “said” represents the expression of an idea but “done” is about the behavior that it will take to make that idea happen. And in that sense, it is true and will always be true that everything that is or can be SAID is much less easily DONE.

Keep that in mind, Sayers.

Image: DSC00001 by Santacreu, on Flickr

Do employers hire for Narcissism?

Ruth St. Denis in The Peacock.

Narcissists can be very successful. Often tireless self promoters that excel at getting important people to notice and like them, they make friends everywhere and may effortlessly climb the hierarchal structure in any given organization. Their workplaces value them right up to the moment that their inflated ego and sense of entitlement brings them to commit an unforgivable act, like raping a hotel maid or toppling a company with an over large misplaced bet. Narcissists don’t concern themselves with ethics.

In a study of Facebook profiles by a researcher at Western Illinois University, a correlation was found between a narcissism measure called “grandiose exhibitionism” (GE) and Facebook self-promotional behaviors such as frequent changes of profile pictures and a high number of friends.

Researchers at Northern Illinois University found that Human Resource types could judge the hiring desirability of a candidate by looking at their Facebook profile. Among the features found attractive were frequent photo postings and a high number of friends.

Of course there’s more to narcissism than just self-promotional behaviors but the intersection of these two studies support the dangers of assessing character traits based on a superficially winning personality. Or as the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover.

Sources:
Facebook’s Dark Side Topic of Study by WIU Communication Professor – University Relations – Western Illinois University

Social Networking Websites, Personality Ratings, and the Organizational Context: More Than Meets the Eye? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1 Feb 2012

Image: “Ruth St. Denis in The Peacock.” by New York Public Library, on Flickr

Wisconsin Fight Club

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Governor Walker has a terrible problem that no one is talking about. He is an awful negotiator.

This goes to the core of his political problems. It is the one skill that is absolutely fundamental for a politician in a democracy. And he doesn’t know how to do it.

People who can’t negotiate often do one of two things, depending on the strength of their bargaining position. Either they walk all over the other party and create lasting ill-will and enmity that will become an obstacle to achieving future goals, or they give away the farm to anyone who makes them feel good enough about themselves.

I am astonished that the pro-business groups that supported Walker’s election didn’t and still don’t see this. Or it may be that they did see but considered themselves to be in the latter category, the soon-to-be recipients of the farm.

Unfortunately for them, Governor Walker had to walk all over some other interests in order to get rewards for his supporters, and the result has been a political firestorm.

Apparently forgetting about another business concept, “sunk costs,” they’ve decided that the only way to rescue their investment is to double-down and invest in his recall campaign too.

But surviving a recall won’t magically bestow negotiating skills upon Walker and his hold on the legislature has weakened, taking his bargaining strength with it. That means Wisconsin is increasingly likely to see the kind of inaction and stalemates that characterized Milwaukee County politics when Walker was the County Executive.

His stint as Executive ended in financial disaster for Milwaukee, a result that Walker blamed on some of the politicians that he had to work with, in other words, blamed on his inability to negotiate with them.

Walker has demonstrated this inability visibly and well. It’s right in front for all of Wisconsin’s citizens to see, if they would stop fighting about the issues long enough to notice.

This fatal flaw isn’t going to go away and it means that no one will get what they want, unless political conflict is its own reward.

Image: “Just Another Saturday in Wisconsin” by Flickr profile Jonbloy

Living for Babies

too many babies

It can get weird listening to liberals and conservatives talk past each other. Misunderstandings lead to frustrations and then the decibel levels rise.

Conservatives, who have been in full counterrevolution reactionary mode lately, have learned that ideas expressed in provocative language can trigger passions among their members.

Liberals struggle with the contradictions that they sense in the emotional terms used by conservatives.

Perhaps nowhere is the confusion more tangible than in the conflict between those who call themselves “pro-life” and those who call themselves “pro-choice.” Often, it seems to pro-choice advocates, the pro-life legalized abortion opponents are also in favor of death dealing in the form of the death penalty, of war, and of torture. Moreover, pro-lifers seem to show little concern for the life and health of women and children.

Liberals are further confused when they see that the people who most loudly profess anguish that unborn babies are being “murdered” are often the same people who are against provision of birth control and who want abstinence to be taught in schools in place of sex education, despite growing evidence linking abstinence focused education with higher pregnancy rates. If abortion is murder and the goal is to reduce abortions then these things are counter-productive since sex education and birth control reduce abortion rates.

Pro-choice advocates say they are actually seeking to reduce abortions through sex education and birth control and so they object when pro-lifers describe them as “pro-abortion.” Why would anyone be for abortion, they ask.

It doesn’t help when legislators then seek to define “personhood” as beginning at conception on the premise that life begins at conception. Biologically speaking, eggs and sperm are just as alive as zygotes and embryos; there is never a moment during the reproductive process when the components are not alive.

But all of these seeming contradictions dissolve if the goal of pro-lifers is instead described as birth rather than life. Opposition to sex education is pro-birth. Restriction of birth control and abortion is pro-birth. The death penalty, war, and torture become unrelated issues. Poverty and quality of life, physical and emotional health are irrelevant to a pro-birth position. Gay marriage becomes a relevant issue as a threat to birth because gays would no longer be forced into a traditional marriage where they would be more likely to reproduce.

As for soaring rates of single motherhood, a pontificating Rick Santorum or a ranting Rush Limbaugh see single mothers as being to blame for making themselves available to men without a publicly blessed commitment. Men are supposed to couple with every fertile female available to them, that is their job. The female’s job is to be fertile and to carry and care for the resulting babies. Making sure that she has sufficient resources is her problem to solve. The pro-birth position is unconcerned on her behalf.

In this sense, the members of the pro-life movement are nothing less than the modern guardians of fertility, a firmly entrenched and primeval instinct in the human psyche. Once upon a time virgin females were sacrificed to appease this instinct, a clear incentive for young females to couple-up, and fast.

For these reasons clarity will be enhanced if we recognize that the pro-life movement should instead be referred to as the pro-birth movement. Then people have a better chance of talking about the actual issues instead of feeling baffled by the other side’s positions. Neither side is primarily for or against abortion (or life) per-se because abortion is not the real issue. The real issue is birth.

In the end it may come down to this: Some of us want to be married. Some of us don’t. Some of us want to have babies. Some of us don’t want a baby right now, or maybe not ever. And some of us want to force everyone else to marry and produce babies, all other considerations be damned. Whatever side that we find ourselves on, let’s call it what it is and allow our arguments to stand on their own merits.

Because true freedom and liberty require and deserve honesty and clarity.

Image: “too many babies” by Djuliet, on Flickr

12 Ways To Tell If Your College Is An Indoctrination Mill.

Cult directions

Did Your College Indoctrinate You? Share Your Stories!

On Thursday, Rick Santorum warned us that colleges and universities are “indoctrination mills” that turn the faithful into the faithless. He cited a thought reformation rate of 62 percent.

With a rate this high, we must all know at least one person who lost their faith in college! The indoctrination techniques that are being used in this broad-based conspiracy must be serious psychological tactics, the kind of tactics used by cults.

Therefore, I’m looking for anecdotes of college/university indoctrination or attempts at indoctrination. As a helpful guide, I went to HowStuffWorks.com for some insight on what the cults do. If colleges and universities are using these same techniques, I think this could be a good place to find clues that may indicate that you or someone you know were indoctrinated while in college. I’ve adapted the following list from the HowStuffWorks.com article, staying as close to the article’s descriptions as I could.

12 WAYS THAT YOUR COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY MAY HAVE INDOCTRINATED YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW

1. If you (or someone you know) were tricked into going to college and committing to a lifestyle that you didn’t understand, were misled about the true expectations of the college, and had your consciousness altered by the college through meditation, chanting, or drug use, you may have been indoctrinated.

2. If the college cut you off from the outside world or did not allow you to have unsupervised contact with the outside world, kept you from talking to other new recruits, and told you that outsiders are dangerous and wrong, you may have been indoctrinated.

3. If the college demanded absolute, unquestioning devotion, loyalty and submission and systematically destroyed your sense of self, you may have been indoctrinated.

4. If the college controlled every minute of your waking time, allowing you no free time to think or analyze, you may have been indoctrinated.

5. If the college told you what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep and did not allow you to make any decisions, you may have been indoctrinated.

6. If the college devalued and criticized your special talents; if it punished doubts, assertiveness, or remaining ties to the outside world through criticism, guilt, and alienation; if it made you feel evil for asking questions; you may have been indoctrinated.

7. If the college kept you hungry, sleepy, off-balance and confused, you may have been indoctrinated.

8. If the college pressured you to publicly confess sins and then viciously ridiculed you for being evil but accepted you back when you acknowledged devotion to the college as the only path to salvation, you may have been indoctrinated.

9. If you feel like your only family is the college and you have nowhere else to go, you may have been indoctrinated.

10. If you can only access necessities through the college and you are denied food, water, social interaction, a toilet*, and protection from the outside world if you misbehave, you may have been indoctrinated.

11. If you believe you will face eternal damnation if you leave the college, you may have been indoctrinated.

12. If you thought you could leave the college but you never did because college is the only place that feels safe and leaving just feels wrong and you are still experiencing these indoctrinating tactics because indoctrination never ends but you’ve accepted this as normal – it’s too late, you’ve been indoctrinated.

I hope this list is helpful. Personally I have not experienced any of these things but perhaps I somehow escaped it!

If you have an indoctrination story, please share. If we are to save ourselves, our children and our country from indoctrination, we will need to have some idea of what the experience might be like.

*HowStuffWorks.com didn’t mention a toilet. I added that part because any college that would deny necessities like food and water would surely also deny a toilet. I think.

Image: Cult directions by kevin dooley, on Flickr