Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Collaboration


I'm still deeply torn on the idea of collaboration. For a variety of reasons, this is likely an argument against it, but it still haunts me.

Part of what intrigues me by own ambivalence is that it doesn't fit my impressions of the reasons most people have. The part where I cede autonomy over projects and let other ideas to become a completely different whole is exactly what I find so tempting.

The issue I have is that the larger a group, the more likely it is to find safety to be a virtue, even in a group that wouldn't in smaller parts. A safer choice is more likely to come up and a group tends toward finding merit in that. This happens no matter how one views safety. In terms of physical safety, this is very good. In most other, especially artistic, this is exactly what I'm trying avoid for myself and whatever I do going forward.

Like I said, I think I've mostly talked myself out of collaboration, although perhaps at some point I'll stumble into someone or some group and find a way to change that.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A generation of sociopaths


I just read A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney. I've read a number of these books with interesting theories about the things that have gone wrong in recent years. Even if none is wholly correct, most of them have interesting pieces of the puzzle, and I support them on that.

This is one of them. I have called the Baby Boomers "the Worst Generation" myself, and think the majority of the conclusions here, especially the most basic one that the Baby Boom generation as a whole has been vastly more destructive than constructive, are essentially true and need to be dealt with. I think the demonstration here of how the facts come together makes a very good case, including a number of places in which Baby Boomers have given themselves tremendous credit, and recent history, largely written by Boomers, has happily given them the credit they demanded.

The fact that any of this is controversial, as many reviews of the book show, has more to do with Boomers ability at public relations than anything the facts demonstrate.

There are a couple of nitpicks to be made here.

Gibney starts by trying to diagnose how the Boomers became sociopathic. Here he is less convincing than elsewhere. To start with, because it's a more difficult proposition, as it would be with an individual sociopath. There are factors that can play a role, and many of those his lists are valid, but he makes a less than convincing case in doing so, I felt. It makes sense, as this is essentially the same as diagnosing an individual. Concluding their sociopathy is relatively simple when compared with assessing which factors caused it. This is frustrating, though, if for no other reason, because he opens the book with it and occasionally uses these alleged factors to bolster later arguments.

One criticism I've seen is that he doesn't take into account the split values of the Baby Boom generation, between liberal and conservative members, as this is a key factor in the political duopoly we are all crippled by. I think he too strongly felt it was a given, or implicit in the message. As many of us who have been frustrated by our choices between Democrats and Republican candidates in many or most elections. The trouble being the issues on which the candidates openly agree or functionally have agreed in the form of supposed compromises that continually slant in one direction or inaction on the part of one to allow the other to win.

This is a major driver of current voter dissatisfaction and apathy, but goes largely unaddressed by either party. Once you are looking at it from that lens, however, it is interesting to note how exceedingly many of those issues are indeed ones that benefit Boomers alone, generally at the expense of other generations. This is a factor in which that is effectively all they can succeed at on a regular basis, because either side will against the other on the others actions, keeping them from reaching at least some level of success.

He does, however, note a number of major policies that were brought through by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that seem to cross party lines that but share a common effect of benefiting Boomers at the expense of other generations, so it is a factor he is able to cover, if not as head-on as he perhaps should have in order to provide a direct cover for that criticism.

What he does, however, is produce a convincing, well-reasoned and extensively backed argument that the effect of the Baby Boomers is the effect of being controlled, in most significant ways, by a sociopath.

Some have pointed out the many notable failings of preceding generations as a flaw in this logic. There are many valid criticisms to be made of preceding generations, but when you examine it, as Gibney does do, you can see how much faster progress on social issues under the guidance of the preceding generations than they have under Boomers. Frankly, between the early '70s, when Boomer power began its ascendancy and the '00s when Gen X finally began to get some toehold, it's nearly impossible to find any example of significant social progress. I think this one is a complete non-starter that depends entirely on our preconceptions of Boomers as a source for good, which we've learned almost entirely from Boomers telling the story.

In the end, while I think there are other factors at play in this, and I don't agree with all of Gibney's conclusions, I think it's helpful to view this perspective when considering how we've gotten to where we are and how we might possibly escape.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rebuild for the future


The problem with hoping for progress of any kind is that we, as a species, consider how our life was/is to be essentially correct and self-evident, or at the least "normal" and that to progress we need to make minor adjustments to work out the kinks in that. We never even consider that the entire framework that our life/education/government/society/business/artistic pursuits/interpersonal relationships are built on would be better if it was rebuilt completely. We even tend to dismiss such suggestions without serious examination.

I don't mean to say that all, or necessarily any, of these things need to completely rebuilt from scratch. I almost wrote that I don't mean to suggest that, but of course I mean to suggest that. That's not to say I think some more incremental solutions aren't better for some things, but I would feel much more comfortable with that kind of conclusion if it were based on the kind of examination that would come from looking at rebuilding as an option. It's an enormous blind spot in the way we think as a species. It requires a real effort for most of us to look there, but we should make that effort. We should make it a lot, rather than as seldom as we do, which is really, really close to never.

There are a lot of things that could seriously use that kind of serious examination, individually and collectively, and we are, I strongly suspect, holding ourselves back by limiting ourselves to relatively easy solutions that might mostly be short term solutions at best.

With no building that was as old as the US is, or even the educational system we have in it is, that the needs and use were as radically different as our needs of government or education, would it be even remotely responsible to not investigate being served without looking at building a new structure. New sports arenas are built for much more trivial reasons than filling the needs of a full hundred times the population, not to mention the many other, perhaps greater changes that have taken place. This isn't me endorsing any specific radical or complete change. It's me saying that it's madness that we don't even consider the possibility that we would be better off doing so.

Suggesting even the notion, as I do here, without a specific plan in any direction, will get anyone with a bigger audience than I have shouted down at best, dismissed with laughter at worst.

I'd rather given up on the idea and slipped to casual apathy most of the time until Conan was born, but it makes me really angry that he'll be dealing with the same bullshit 30 and 40 years from now because people aren't able to get their heads out of their asses long enough to think that maybe not everything about the way things were done in the time and place they were raised was basically the best way, or, to be kind, the best way to go forward in a world that is changing whether we adjust to it or not.

The colossal deep-seeded stupidity embedded in the way we do things, that thousands of years of progress hasn't yet shed us of. We still have these non-progressing brains.

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