Training that Pattern thinking

So, I have been quiet lately, but I think I can begin to get back into the swing of things since my life seems to be resuming some semblance of normalcy .   One of the ideas bumping around in my noggin, but also alluded to in some earlier blogs, is training pattern thinking in terms of logical thinking.  Logical minds are very good at connecting the dots and seeing correlations, but the inferences made and conclusions generated are still only as good as the quality of the data that has been retained.   With extremely logical minds, we see patterns, connections, and correlations in so many different ways, and it can become extremely hard to separate out the useful and trivial data.  I have the beginnings of a solution, and before I forget for any credential freaks out there, I do have my M.ed. so I am not clueless on topics related to pedagogy, that said, training the logical thinker to be able to sort through this data becomes a powerful tool for empowering the individual and helping calm the chaos of a world filled with beautiful patterns.

When I see bad pattern thinking, I often see issues of ideology or unreasonable correlations as the biggest issues.  In the form of ideology, rigid thinking patterns in regards to one’s belief in how the universe works results in the loss of pertinent data in favor of data that already fits their existing world view.  Harold Garfinkle might say this is part of the social creation and re-creation of shared realities.  Through social consensus we often agree on a reality that is highly subjective, based on anecdotes and belief as much as valid observation of objective reality.  When this ideology is challenged, because it based on a rigid and flawed data set, the individual can become hostile, feel threatened, shut up and move on, but they will most often dance around the subject in some way. The internalized notion of reality that is under threat defends itself, best described I think as feeling one’s sanity is at risk, when one challenges a pillar of a person’s identity, and that pillar becomes undermined, it is the perfect recipe for an existential crisis, and I do not think everyone makes it through that experience, so in a very real way, it is a threat to them to challenge these firmly held beliefs.  Yet, children taught to train their logical thinking will be able to better construct a worldview, and though their personality may still hold onto that worldview rigidly, it will be more informed and inherently more flexible.  Likewise, in the case of unreasonable correlations, properly trained logical thinking will help them vet the soundness and validity of their logic, helping to prevent the uptake and retention of bad correlations.

As it stands now, I see four primary things that need to be taught to logical thinkers, and are beneficial to everyone as a whole. First, we need to teach very basic logical syllogism, a simple logical equation that helps determine if an idea is sound, valid, neither, or both.  Secondly, we need to teach Occam’s Razor, not necessarily in that term, but simply reinforce the notion that the most likely answer is it, and that it is the starting point for getting to the real answer, jumping straight to “my teacher must be an alien” is how you end up with the stereotype at least of the “crazy conspiracy theorist”, often tremendously great logical minds, that are simply not weighing the probability of their correlations well.  Thirdly, we need to teach the scientific method, especially in regards to reinforcing that correlation is not causation.  Finally, we need to teach reflexive triangulation, and that is helping it become habit to test correlations against at least three scenarios or thought experiments to quickly determine if ones logic is at least sound. With these cognitive tools developed, the extremely logical mind and pattern thinker is better able to quickly determine the value and use of correlations they see.  It foster’s a healthy sense of skepticism towards rote understanding, and will greatly strengthen critical thinking skills that could translate into a real asset later in life as well.  It may seem like a lot, but many of these concepts can be taught outside of lesson plans and embedded within everyday class behavior, below are a few ideas for use in the classroom to help teach these things, and this is targeted towards the elementary aged students, as this would be the appropriate time to help focus those synapses.

Teaching logical syllogism is fairly easy given the numerous everyday examples of wrong correlations that younger concrete learners very naturally make.  So when a student exhibits correlations based on uninformed logic and a mix of magical thinking, the educator can break that down using logical syllogism and show the student the process while also helping shape their line of inquiry and correct erroneous correlations.  Likewise, you can even break their answer down in a way that shows they were using underlying logic well, that it simply had the wrong data, and thus the child can have the positive aspects of how they arrived at the conclusion reinforced, while still correcting the errors.

Occam’s Razor is already taught to a limited degree, every time an educator challenges a child’s guess as to why something happened with a “do you think that likely?” or a “did you consider this?”, the child is learning to look for the most common patterns, be they social or based in object reality.  Yet, reinforcing this concept verbally would be beneficial, ask questions along the lines of “what do you think is the MOST likely answer?”, and use this tool to engage the students in thinking about probability as part of following a line of inquiry to get to the right answer.

In regards to the scientific method, for the most part it is taught reasonably well, but we tend to keep it compartmentalized instead of using it as a thought tool that can be applied to any line of inquiry.  A hypothesis can be generated and tested in social settings, while playing games, etc.  For example, almost any game can be manipulated to give unfair advantage to some of the players, an educator could engage the children in rules changes and see how it affects the games, it also helps to reinforce why we play with standardized rules and agree as a group to follow them, a not uncommon lesson many children have to learn.

Finally, the seemingly hardest is to teach the habituation of triangulation, that is when one sees a connection between two things, they then learn to take that correlation and apply it to at least two other scenarios or different perspectives, this helps teach the mind to look for validation in the form of seeing if the correlation holds up to other scenarios. It does not guarantee a correct answer, but it helps quickly eliminate bad correlations when it becomes apparent that in other situations the perceived correlation does not hold up or apply well.  Teaching this can be done via line of questioning and teachable moments, but can also be incorporated into early testing and activities, by have children learn to seek out and make three good connections to their central idea.

As integrated learning methods, most of these need little modification to an existing pedagogy, instead it becomes an additional tool and approach to help students better understand how to think, check their thinking, and a bit more about themselves.  Trained to reflex you have a powerful tool to teach intuitive types and non-intuitives alike.  For the intuitive thinkers, it helps ensure the data they choose to incorporate, and thus influences their intuition.  For the non-intuitive, it teaches a method by which to build up understanding and arguments, to step outside just the here and now, but to thing expansively or in the long term.  Though like many of ideas, this one it but a nascent one, I believe that coupled with an educational system that puts emphasis on understanding one’s own self-identity along with the academic work, we will empower our descendants to think critically and have a broader perspective.

I did not wear blue today…

I did not wear blue today…because I feel the conversation is about us more than with us.

I did not wear blue today, because I do not wish to invite intrusion into my life.

I did not wear blue today because it is a color associated with sadness and pity, and I am neither sad nor pitiable.

I did not wear blue today, because I live with who I am everyday.

I did not wear blue today, because it seems more for them than us.

I am not represented by a color, an appeal to emotion over an appeal to reason, I am far from being blue.

Thoughts on Religion and Church from my psuedo-vacation

Been extra quiet this month as I had to go to Florida for 17 days for a family medical issue, and trying to get any real work done outside my personal space is really just not likely to happen.  I did go to church with my mother one day though, and that got the old gears going in many ways, so I figured I would share this bit, as it was a novel but also strangely familiar experience.

Going to church was every bit as stressful as I could have expected it to be, but not because of the content or message (the church is very very liberal, we are talking quips about Palm Sunday and Gay Pride Parade sort of liberal, actually was quite amusing), but the very nature of the use of space and expectations for socially sanctioned ritual.  In regards to that specific experience, I pretty much went into shutdown mode not long after entering the space.  The congregation was warm, friendly, and welcoming, which for me was extremely uncomfortable since there were tons of hand shakes, hugs, pats on the shoulder and back, way more physical contact than I was mentally prepared for actually, too touchy and that was just the beginning.  The space was acoustically a nightmare, this church was actually in a dance studio, so everything echo’d and amplified. Finally, an entire wall was mirrors and the Pastor stood in front of that, so I was able to see everyone every single time I looked up, I spent almost the entire time hunched over staring at my feet and desperately wanting to cover my ears to reduce the noise. To say it was a sensory nightmare, was an understatement, I wish I could have kept my sunglasses on too, anything would have been a small blessing to use some church parlance here.

The experience also had me thinking back to my youth, and how I am conditioned to not see a church as a sanctuary where all are welcome, but instead a place of ridicule, judgment, and suffering.  I can recall in childhood the stares when I could not hold still, how my feet would burn with pain having to stand up, how the noise was a cacophonous roar, all the time I was expected to make eye contact, because failing to do so consistently got me labeled as being untrustworthy.  Over the decades that tainted and damaged my view of Church, for a long time it led me down a road not too far off from the view of Richard Dawkin’s and Christopher Hitchen’s, angry anti-theism, attempting to place the ills of the world at the feet of the Church.  I was wrong in that, a person’s religious views do not inherently make them rigid and judgmental, it just happens to be a very common occurrence in my life experience and in the churches I attended over the years. As I have stated before, rigid ideology and belief is the underlying issue, religion does not have a monopoly on that, and not all religions are equally rigid in their worldview.

In turn this has had me thinking about autistic meltdowns and church, I had a few in church, many would label it as me being a spoiled brat, some went as far to claim I was or was at least at risk for possession.  And it is not just the meltdowns after all, the skeptic in me wants to question and challenge, to seek more data, and when the expectation is that one takes these things on faith, I became inherently flawed as well for not just doing so.  One thing I loathe about sermon’s is that the congregation must sit there and just listen to the sermon, it is horribly one sided, this social conformity that assumes a great deal about the person giving the sermon being an authority on the matter being discussed. Listening and absorbing, approaching a religious leader after with questions but never feeling able to actually challenge them for fear of retribution from them, the congregation, or my own family.

I wonder then, based not just on my own experiences, but the experiences of others on the spectrum in church, or parents who are now trying to advocate for their children to a congregation that sees them as a distraction, as individuals flawed and unworthy of being there, how many of us in the past have suffered at the hands of a church’s judgments and assumptions.  How many children on the spectrum who had meltdowns have been thought to be possessed? How much have we suffered at the hands of neurotypicals who in their honest ignorance could not and did not know any better, and thus applied their limited worldview in judgment upon us?  How many of us have suffered true religious trauma and still do so today? Ostracized, judged, pointed out and denigrated for things outside our control, especially when the very space, the very nature of how we congregate for worship is a horrendous sensory and cognitive nightmare for so many of us on the spectrum, and yet again the onus of our actions is upon us, the focus on the flaws in an individual vs the flaws of the socially accepted ritual and paradigm.

I fret and worry about non-neurotypical children in religious settings constantly, and the judgment faced there diffuses out into the communities as well. In a way, a church can be an epicenter, not just for a solid sense of community, but for the judgment and suffering of those who do not fit into the dominant paradigm, who through no inherent moral fault of their own, cannot thrive in that particular environment.  I then see a possible solution as well, through education, through combating ignorance, where the Pastor’s, Priests, and Clergy have the power to disseminate real knowledge and understanding on autism, real compassion, to expand the dominant paradigm’s understanding of who we are and how we unintentionally more often than not are made to suffer in those pews and outside the church doors.  And if they can welcome and embrace these children, find time to create a space for them to avoid overstimulation without fear of judgment or damage to their self-identity in the form of feeling they are wrong, unworthy, or even in my personal case, made to feel I was actually evil and flawed beyond words.  This would benefit not just the congregation, not just the people of faith, but the overall community as well, it could help address issues of bullying based on ignorance of the difference, it could help mitigate suffering within the community, if only they could see that it truly is not a flaw or fault to simply be different and unable to thrive in certain environments. To understand how both in the Church and in greater society as well, the very environment can be harmful and damaging to those of us on the spectrum.  And in doing so, find a bit of redemption as well for themselves, for the untold generations who have suffered for just being different and having difficulty coping, for being wired to not always take things on simple faith, but by their very wiring must question and try to understand.

For all the harm that has been done, that same mechanism could now be a powerful tool to expand the conversation and the dominant social paradigm, so help further tolerance and understanding more in line with the views of Jesus of Nazareth, the church could again help unite community instead of being used by some as a mouthpiece to spread intolerance out of fear of the erosion of their views of morality.  I do not understand how so many people of faith pick and choose intolerance, swear the Bible is infallible, yet consistently no longer practice or judge based on many Biblical references, how is it we manage to so blindly cherry-pick our ideology.  Homosexuality is an abomination to so many, because of the the Biblical references, but tattoo’s, divorce, slavery, and a host of other Biblical references are now view differently. Logically, if one admits to some of these being flawed, then it is only logical to view other one’s as being flawed, that whether or not it was divinely inspired, fallible humans wrote, edited, translated, and altered this work over time. I suppose this is a topic for another time, the myopia of religious institutions, that overshadow the words of Christ in favor of Leviticus or Paul.

My troubles with Intuition led to me defining it.

Ok, so I keep around a lot of my old blogs that part of me really wants to delete, see I don’t mind being wrong, I often am, but I don’t always like having a reminder around…but I keep them around for a purpose, so I will not forget about it and keep working at it.  So, in my Meyer’s-Brigg’s dissections and a few other points I argue that intuition is a function of logic, which if you read a great deal of science, math, and philosophy that often portrayed in opposition to each other.  Now, I still held onto this idea for a bit, knowing that is was contrary to established thought and have be chewing on it.  See, the problem for me is that my intuition is very logical, when I have to make an intuitive decision and then revisit it to break it down, I can see logic at the core.  So, it was  a bit of personal bias all jumbled up in it, but I have been trying to hammer it down.

So, like the word context, the definition of intuition itself is a royal pain in the arse.  First, it is all too often confused with instinct, or feelings, or belief, it becomes connotatively and denotatively muddled. Well, I dislike muddled and I dislike ambiguity, these things create barriers to communication and since intuition is a fairly important component of philosophy and human cognition, I am not willing to settle for some vague pseudo-definitions.  So like my definition of personal context, which I reduced down to an equation (Inherent epistemology+Socio-Cultural epistemology+Life Experience=Personal Context), I am going to hammer out a definition of intuition as well.

Ok, so the problem with intuition is that everyone has it and thus my earlier assertion of it being a function of logic cannot apply to everyone since not everyone has a mental make up that favors logical thinking, neither is everyone feeling, rational, empirical, judgmental, etc.  In short, intuition is a function of one’s personal context.  What is intuition then? Intuition is in my perspective a survival function for the conscious intelligence, what replaces a great deal of instinct in beings with conscious thought (interesting test there for a philosophical zombie I am sure, if one has no consciousness and I argue intuition requires consciousness then a philosophical zombie could not exist since it is supposed to be indistinguishable from a non-zombie human, and a lack of intuition would certainly make it different, unless it was replaced fully with instinct….hrmm something to think on).  Now Intuition is a subconscious (or preconscious if you like) process, it is reactionary but not a foreign and unknowable agent, we can with some effort trace back an intuitive decision provided we desire to do so.  In survival based situations, perceived existential threats, or when just busy and in a hurry and lacking the current mental power to direct out conscious mind towards a particular task, intuition plays an important role in making a decision.  Though as with many survival based developments in human cognition, we apply it more broadly than the likely naturally selective factors involved in it required.  So, when the proverbial crap hits the fan a decision must be reached quickly, this is the survival role of intuition, which is going to be based on our on individual personal context.  See, our conscious existence is not the totality of who we are, we like to think the frontal cortex is in the drivers seat, after all that gives us total self-determination and accountability, and who enjoys thinking they are mere meat puppets to basic neurology? Well, like it or not, and modern neuroscience agrees, we are more often than not just that, see we cannot hold all we know, which is just a tiny of sliver of all that can be known in our conscious minds, we would fail as social organisms and not be able to meaningfully interact with anything if we did, we essentially be something far other than human, and I quite like being human failings, foibles and all that.

Intuition is then a function of personal context, so if one understands their own context and has a decent approximation of another person’s personal context you can more readily grasp how that particular neurotype is going to utilize their intuition when it is required.  In this sense too, since intuition utilizes one’s epistemologies, aka knowledge, what we know, how we know, etc. (and a reminder here, it does not matter if what we “know” is right, wrong, or irrelevant) will be influenced in it’s accuracy vs fallibility based upon the individuals knowledge base.; this is why many scientific discoveries have come about via intuition and not just conscious application of logic and the scientific method. Likewise, careers that require frequent and rapid decision making often put individuals with experience in charge, because their intuition is better honed due to a more expansive knowledge base.

So intuition is a sub (or pre) conscious utilization of our knowledge when applicable or how we know things, i.e. epistemology as a survival mechanism.  It is suspect at all times, but in reality does not have to be completely accurate, it needs to be accurate enough often enough to mitigate a disaster, keep one safe, and probably was pretty easily selected for biologically since bad intuition can have potentially fatal results.  Since intuition is based on personal context, anyone who has a suspect knowledge base, a rigid ideology or worldview, pseudoscientific tendencies, well their intuition should be suspect as well.  From a survival perspective then when folks have multiple intuitive responses and no time to reach a consensus, go with the person with the largest or most applicable knowledge base to that situation, don’t let ego get in the way, especially when there is no time for it dealing with an immediate existential threat.  Trusting one’s intuition in situations where a quick decision is needed is an important part of human cognition, relying purely on intuition though over rational thought though is not likely to net a high enough long term reliability to be a desirable approach to one’s existence. Yet, since we often do rely on our intuition, it is a good idea to understand how one thinks, processes, interprets, and stores social and sensory data, to better understand how we come to these quick decisions, and remember that our ways of knowing influence what decisions we come to intuitively, so check your facts, vet you ideologies, metacognate, and understand who you are through a healthy sense of self identity and self understanding and not just rote learning, take some conscious control in directing how your subconscious processes work, and then you can eke out more self-determination instead of being an exceptionally predictable culturally programmed rote learning robot, which makes you a potential victim for pretty much any scam artist one can think of.

Relative Rituals

I am in a lot of pain these days, so my thoughts are more fragmented, winter is a rough spot for me and it makes it hard for me to focus on things and keep things straight when dry skin and painful joints and sinuses keep tugging at me, honestly I would really just like to hibernate and get past this season and get on with my life.  A warmer climate is sadly not an option, my wife’s work and my dislike of places where folks legally have the right to shoot me if I have an autistic meltdown kinda make me want to never visit most southern states again…ever.   But, I digress, before I even got started, one thing I have thought about a lot recently though is rituals.

Ok, so when talking to educators and other’s who pride themselves as being “in the know” on spectrum, one thing that comes up is what are my rituals.  First, based on the current social paradigm, one would think that question would be considered rather rude, as it is certainly prying into my personal life.  Frankly, I don’t care, but it is telling that strange repetitive behaviors I have are classified as rituals in a way that is abnormal.  Yet to me, societal rituals and religious rituals are nonsensical to me, and our society has many rituals we are expected to observe.  In my case, with functional mirror neurons so I can read people’s reactions, but the “socialization issues” of being on the spectrum, it is directly connect to my very logical and rational way of thinking, and I see so much ritualized behavior every single day, and yet folks are not challenged on those rituals.

The dominant paradigm sets the acceptable vs deviant notions of rituals, so when you do not fit the dominant paradigm, when you think so differently that you are honestly confused as to how folks accept and roll with certain socially expected behaviors, you are forced to try and understand the highly ritualized behavior of the culture you live in.  And the dominant society has so many, sometimes at odds with different worldviews and sometimes taken so for granted that it is assumed it is part of the natural human condition. When one is part of the dominant paradigm and the world makes sense, that position of cognitive privilege means you do not have to hone your assessment skills. An example of this is being a native English speaker in this day and age, though many choose to learn another language, most don’t and many even get offended that non-English speakers can’t seem to learn English well.  The dominant paradigm views the world through a cultural and personal lens that their privileged position allows them to never have to develop a cognitive toolkit to navigate the world, the world is expected to navigate around them.  Another example is general knowledge of the happenings in the US, in many ways folks in Europe and Asia know more about what is going on in our nation on a macro-scale than the residents in our nation, we take for granted how things function and because we do not perceive other’s as a potential threat we don’t have to take the time to understand them either.

So, when the dominant paradigm exists in an interesting position of privilege that allows them to wear rose colored glasses in regards to their own actions and demean those who are different or even against their worldview.  It is easy to label “the other” as flawed, backwards, or barbaric. Instead of understanding, that culturally, as well as inherently through neurology that folks value and prioritize things differently.  This comes back to the notion of rituals, societal mores and values, and the inability to see their own rituals whilst constantly pointing out perceived deviancy from these norms as somehow making an individually morally inferior.  I am not going to engage in small talk, I am not going to say something polite because it is expected, when I say something nice it is because I mean it, and I often do, I am quite a nice person, I hold no ill will towards people in general. Don’t get me wrong, I am often frustrated with people, and often feel like I want to defenstrate them for being obtuse, but this is a personality conflict stemming from different ways of thinking, not a inferiority/superiority issue. You see, in many ways, I have fewer rituals than society writ large, because I see irrational and illogical action constantly and choose to not take part in it, I disdain cultural detritus and archaic holdovers, even though I respect their origins and intent.  Add into it that I can read micro-expressions well, and I am often frustrated, I hate lying and I see lies constantly, little white lies, grey lies, or big whoppers of lies.  I don’t want someone who does not feel a certain way telling me they feel another way to spare my feelings, my feelings are hurt by deceit, never truth. Certainly if someone attacks me with micro-aggressive language I might get irritated myself, but it is honestly not that hard to be direct and honest without being insensitive, simple statements like “this is not meant to be an insult” or “hey, have you thought about it this way?” can go a long way in making speaking the truth an relatively painless task.   Likewise, we are conditioned to assert ourselves as always knowing what we are doing, the extrovert ideal for leading, a culture of everyone seeing being the alpha as more critical than any other role.  And when you have a society of alpha’s, you have a mess, you have in fighting and violence, when you demean the omega’s who are trying to create a social accord, perceive them as weak. In many ways, it is a warrior society, be it a physical battle or a business one, the take no prisoners approach to crushing the opposition and silencing it becomes the culture of the bully.  Ritualized warfare in the form of modern business practices is one way to look at things, one ritual society writ large takes for granted.

So politeness, competitiveness, ritualized warfare in business, the constant need to label things as sacred for one person or another and thus being angered or indignant when someone fails to observe your notion of the sacred, all these things are social rituals.  Standing when folks enter a room, giving someone who has no common interests your complete and undivided attention, rote learning of facts over thinking about them, more social rituals.  I could certainly go on and on about such things, the layers and layers of expected behaviors that when you do not think that way, makes every social interaction an exercise in walking on eggshells because you don’t want to offend.  In a lot of ways, I envy those who are wired to not care if they offend, to be so direct and blunt that they do not even consider the others, but for someone like me, I think of all the possibilities, social analysis paralysis on a large scale, granted it is what makes me a social scientist, scene violations, testing hypothesis, and breaking taboo. I try to not offend or manipulate folks over much with these, but honestly that does come naturally to me, everyone I meet informs me about the world and cognition, and thus by default become part of my massive social testing and experiments, nothing personal folks, just how I am wired, especially when I must understand the dominant paradigm in an attempt to navigate it.

So, I think everyone could benefit from thinking about their own rituals and societal rituals, what is the underlying purpose and function for them, they are not totally meaningless, they exist for a reason, but often they are bandaids based on a faulty understanding of human context and the extreme diversity of neuro-make up’s found in the world.  My rituals, may sometimes be bizarre, especially the ones connected to making sure my sensory functions are uninhibited, it may sometimes seem crude, but there is a logic behind it, even when not readily apparent to others.  And if I can take the time to follow some of societies rituals, then society should be able to understand some of my own as well, and that of many other people as well, for being just rituals, we all have them, and if they are not harming others, then there is no moral judgment to be had, no malignancy, nothing noteworthy at all, move on and let folks do what they will.

Generalizations, Words as Violence, the Culture of the Bully.

Generalizations, they are everywhere,an inescapable part of the human condition.  When individuals are inherently limited to taking in small amounts of object reality, we by our nature, must succumb to some level of generalization. This is seen in the form of stereotypes and conflict between in and out groups.  Generalizations are in a way, the means by which we paraphrase object reality so it makes more sense and is easier to navigate.  Yet, they are dangerous as well, generalizations can cause great harm when individuals are less aware consciously of the power of them.  I strive to avoid over-generalizing, but even with conscious knowledge, I often still fail to take the step back needed to understand the complexity within any given group.

The greatest threat of generalizations as I see it, is the threat of violence.  And I do not mean physical violence alone, words are easily weaponized, I have proved sadly adept at this myself, and wars or words can cause real harm.  When one talks about non-violent actions, advocacy, and protest, we often lose part of our message, when we attack with words we close minds and hearts, when we belittle someone for having an outdated or harmful world view, they become defensive.  Ad Hominem attacks are the norm in our culture, a culture that is becoming the culture of the bully.  We often discuss the vocal minority, how their harsh words and attacks get so much attention, and when we do this, we feed into the culture of bullying and give it more power.  Violence towards others has become normalized on our social and political stage, we take individual bad ideas and turn the individuals bad.  When this is done, we leave no room for growth, forgiveness, or change, we have passed judgment on the individual as some inherent flaw in their nature, we turn them into the unforgivable other, the enemy.

In our political system we often hear the politicians speak out against bullying in our schools, while they turn about in model the very same behavior on the campaign trail.  Not all of us notice this bit of hypocrisy, even the politicians themselves are not able to see it clearly, but they know appealing to fear and emotion is the way towards getting elected in this current political climate.  I am one of many who point this out, that the debate becomes about tearing the opponent down, attacking them on some moral podium, and thus making them seem to be the enemy to everything the politicians base holds dear.  As a result, populists and ideologues dominate the halls of government, sophists skilled in debate and words, but not in understanding and reason.  As they draw these lines in the sand and form their coalitions based on galvanizing their base to vote for the lesser of two evils, we see clearly the tactics of bullying, of demeaning the opponent. Vast amounts of wealth are spent attacking the individual, or manipulating statistics in a way that makes their bases feel under imminent threat.  Lost is the importance of discourse and reason, lost in this mess is the ability to compromise, and we end up being ruled by school yard ideologues. There has to be more to our discourse than this, and we must field individuals who can rise above the emotional and inflammatory attacks.  But it is hard, even those who say they want to reach across the isle are quickly attacked and demeaned, their motives questions, if they change their mind on something they are “wishy washy”, and we demand as a public promises that in all reality can never be kept, we want hard assurances in black and white.  We need to find a better way, we need to expand our dialogue and stop labeling everyone as evil, idiotic, or somehow less human and therefor less deserving of their thoughts than others, we need to challenge the ideas, not the individual.  And even if the politician fails to hear, their ideology and road map to being elected so firmly set, those that originally identify with that view may themselves be able to hear, be persuaded by solid arguments about the point of debate, when it is spoken with non-violent words. But when one side attacks the other, we galvanize their bases to stand behind their chosen political mouthpiece, and we become entrenched, rigid, and further intolerant and this applies to both conservatism and rote liberalism, neither has a monopoly on words of violence.

Here is a generalization in of itself, that most people view themselves as good people. Certainly there are those who are so damaged they believe themselves beyond forgiveness, or believe that social Darwinism is the natural state of the world. A world we have crafted with our own fallible hands. If a person believes at their core they are “good” and that they are honestly and earnestly doing what they think is right, attacking them makes the attacker on the side of “evil”, or at best an ignorant and damaged person.  We create our own monsters to fight, in our quest to affirm ourselves as “good”, trapped in false dichotomies, burning bridges, and creating the “other”.  And this feeds into the war of words and the culture of bullying, when we demean decent and earnest people for bad or outdated ideas.

When we attack with words and we attack the individual as flawed or faulty, we deny them a chance to hear and listen, we back them into an intellectual corner where their sense of self-identity and self-worth becomes tied to the very ideals they espouse, even if those ideals or tremendously damaging.  It comes down to the tremendous power inherent in the idea of attacking the argument, not the person.   I have held a few faulty ideologies in my life, for near a decade I was a vehement anti-theist, believing that the worlds ills somehow revolved around nothing more that a belief in something I have no context for.  As a result I generalized badly about individuals of faith, something I have struggled with and have never been able to fully understand, and when I saw harm from it, not just my personal experience, but the harm done to others, I attacked and denigrated it.   All this did, was alienate people and complicate my communication with family who are of deep faith, I help further that rift, my words of violence caused harm, the pen can have horrid and fatal results when wielded in anger.

Non-violent acts include understanding our difference in worldview and ideology, it is not being weak in one’s worldview to seek harmony, it is not a path of an idealist to embrace non-violent communication and to help facilitate dialogue between opposing viewpoints, for our survival as a species, it is an imperative that we learn to embrace difference, to educate instead of demeaning someone when their information, worldview, ideology, and difference of opinion is harmful based on our understanding of inherent difference in how we think.   When we look at enculturation and how it is hijacked by forces that are uncaring and amoral in an effort to push our economy forward, or how anger and hate is transferred generation to generation, be it through the mass dominant paradigm, the pulpit, or peer pressure, we can see how even as children we are set upon a road of hate, anger, and bullying.  Add in fear of the unknown, a general inability of many to properly vet sources and understand the motivations of the writer, because we have overly favored knowledge acquisition over critical thinking, we begin to see how we have created a cycle of bullying and violence.

Humanity needs to learn the basic triggers of intolerance and anger, diplomacy should not be about manipulating others to get your desired result, but a dialogue based on our similarity and differences.  The population of a Republic should be taught to look at the underlying motivations and not simply pass harsh judgment, yes generalizations cause harm, but that does not mean an individual who speaks out of ignorance is an inherently bad person hellbent on destroying the other, they are lashing out against perceived threats, and the only way to get rid of the monsters that lurk in the dark is to illuminate them with the truth, and to do so, we must extend a hand and offer an alternative that recognizes that individuals endeavor with the best interests of not just themselves, but friends, family, and a world that makes sense to them.  Times are changing, our technology has outstripped our ability to maintain perspective, many folks are scared and angry in this time of change and seek to impose their worldview upon others.  We cannot allow erroneous and ignorant ideology to dominate our civic dialogue, but we cannot have civil discourse if we continue to assume that the other side of the debate is evil, flawed, or bad….when they may simply just be wrong.  And the arbiter of this, is going to be properly peer reviewed science, and even that has it’s limits and should be challenged, but when science survives these challenges and consensus is reached, we have a guide that is as close to objective as humanity can be expected to achieve.  It may show that our hard held “truths” are flawed, that our ancestors made grave errors, but this does not reflect poorly at all on those who came before, we needed to build our understanding and discover, and the errors of the past and the ones we make today, will inform us for the future, for as long as we continue to truly strive for a better world, that allows difference to flourish without judgment and anger there is hope for us yet.

An Impossible plug…for a website

So, I tend to avoid sharing links to things that interest me, I am really not sure why, since I do not profit at all from this endeavor it is not like I have a bunch of ulterior motives.  So, for those who read this but are interested in lending a hand through their own endeavors, or getting some assistance with their endeavors, I wanted to point out a website founded by British Model and Actress Lily Cole called Impossible.  The reason for this is simple, it illustrates nicely one of the points I made in my exploration of the notion of an endeavorist approach to an economic system.  We cannot always quantify with financial exchanges the value of human endeavor, this site helps connect folks who value their endeavors and self-growth.  In particular, those of us who do not fit well into the dominant paradigm often have trouble showing our value, of fostering our own interests when we cannot sell ourselves to the HR hiring automaton, or when so many places rely on rigid standards of credentialing to determine someone’s value.  Impossible is a stepping stone for great ideas or folks who just want to help, it is a place one could test the waters for their ideas, and there is great individual and social value in this.  So I felt it worthy of sharing, I am enjoying playing around with it, have already found some great music, help discuss with someone how to forgive, but also touched on the topic of being safe and cautious when forgiving someone in a domestic violence scenario.  These things have meaning, even without a price tag attached to it, and I feel it is worth taking this bit of time to promote something that has vast potential.  Well, that is all, holy heck a short post, who would have imagined me capable of such a thing.