Pondering Differences

March 26, 2012

I do a lot of reading, trying to understand what makes people think and act as they do. What motivates us. Why we think this is moral and that is not. I also try very hard to limit my own bias in hopes of actually understanding, even if not accepting other points of view. These two articles were  thoughtful reads.

The first, a review of the book ‘The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt.

“To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.”

And, “The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. ”

The second post is brief, but pertinent: ” Why Republican Women Vote for Santorum

“I would hypothesize that women who have accommodated themselves to living an evangelical lifestyle have nothing to gain from questioning the premises of Christian patriarchy. Their lives are more comfortable, less fraught with domestic conflict, if they simply decide to be happy and make the most of their assigned roles.”

And, “How many of us want to challenge the social constructs within which we have created active lives that are reckoned as meaningful? ”

This is a puzzle I have been pondering, and discussing with others.  We cannot all be activists. And I have often wondered if people, as a rule, aren’t more comfortable with certainty – knowing their role, feeling they can predict and define in black and white. Security feels safe.

Uncertainty  and self-responsibility are hard taskmasters.

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Self vs. Selfish

October 27, 2011

There is a certain wry amusement to be had in that the moments I feel most blindingly insightful are almost inevitably followed by an awareness of blithering stupidity. Every flash of wisdom must be learned for myself, I know, but why on earth can’t I learn from others?

For a couple of days now I’ve been pondering the difference between being true to self and being selfish.

What hit me this morning (watering plants is a generative act) selfishness only arises when you act in a way that’s contrary to what others have a *right* to expect of you.

So then I ask, what rights over myself and my actions have I given to others, and why? Did I assign this power consciously? Is it built into my culture’s social contracts? Was it implicit in other agreements? Or am I seeing it as a right when it’s not?

The reverse is also to be considered. Why do others assume they have rights over me? And, for that matter, who do I hold rights over?

Okay. I should have thought of that one sooner. The only rights I have over others are that I expect to be treated with respect. To be acknowledged as a person with feelings, needs, and yes, duties — to a point.

Example time. If I have agreed to meet someone for a walk and I decide I don’t want to go, I have an obligation to contact them as soon as possible so they aren’t standing at the trail head waiting for me. If I don’t want to go, but keep the engagement anyways, I have an obligation to be an agreeable companion for the duration. But I do not have an obligation to go if I don’t want to.

However, my decision to go or not must also factor in what I know of their needs. Do I know that they are depending on me to show up, not just for company, but because they needed to talk about something? That they are afraid to walk alone? If I have agreed to join them, knowing this, then I have an obligation to honor that agreement, and mere whim must not keep me from that meeting.

Again, though, if my situation has altered such that meeting them would be a true hardship, then I have a right to cancel.

So, I can choose to not meet with my walking partner and not be selfish, as long as I have taken into account all those factors, and made a decision that is as rational as is (humanly) possible. It would not be hypocrisy to go for the walk even though I didn’t want to be there. I was honoring a prior agreement and respecting them enough to show up — and be pleasant about it.

Fine mutations, dependent upon so many subtle signals and assumptions.If I were expecting my companion to show up for a walk, and they called before hand to tell me they weren’t coming, I would not see them as selfish. So why do I tell myself I’m selfish if I do that to them? Again – if they knew I was depending on them, and they cancelled for no reason, or for a frivolous reason, then I would call them selfish. But if I knew that they were abandoning me because of real need — I would support their actions. Because I care about them.

If I want to be true to self, I have to be certain I am not deliberately using others, and that I act with thought and care, not whimsy.

Society does impose expectations. Why else are women who don’t want children or people who don’t want to be married told they’re selfish? It is true that they are more likely to become self-obsessed, but selfish? Not at all. People who have the courage to recognize who they are, what they need and want, even if it’s different from societal norms — especially if it’s different from the norm — should be respected. It takes courage to defy the oppressive weight of society.

So I conclude with my oft-repeated one certainty: never treat others as objects.

As long as you strive to recognize that different is not bad, that you have no rights to tell others what to do and how to live, that you do have an obligation to treat others with respect, then you are not selfish.

And now I just need to make myself believe that.

We all laugh when we read studies saying that most people rate themselves as above average in some category. Intelligence, thoughtfulness, honesty, and driving.

Driving home this morning I realized something. Most people *are*  good drivers. Maybe not super-courteous, or following speed limits, but they do stay in their lanes, they don’t cut out in front of you (except the twerp who did that to me last fall, drat her), and they stop at stop signs.

Think about it. We rely on people following the basic rules. When someone turns left in front of you and you have the right of way, why are you angry? Because that’s abnormal. Not just that it’s illegal, but that you expect them to follow the rules.

We assume that people will drive respectfully. Sure, we look both ways even when the light is green — we know we can’t trust everyone to be alert or rational. But we can assume they will be.

It doesn’t require any particular religion, or any religion at all. It has nothing to do with race, or age, or gender. Most people don’t steal. Most people don’t lie — excluding social lies, or course. Most people are kind most of the time.

We notice the exceptions.

We need to remind ourselves just why we notice bad behavior.

We notice it because most people are good drivers, of cars and in life.

And I thank you all.

Hypocrisy Reigns

June 24, 2011

This speaks for itself.

Moral values. Yeah, right. (click to enlarge)

http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/550.jpg

Calling It Like It Is

June 11, 2011

Let’s put the blame on the offenders – yes!

http://tumblinfeminist.tumblr.com/post/5532695085/fool-proof-sexual-assault-prevention-tips

Wonderful post.

Disheartening To Be #1

April 21, 2011

We live in a land of awe-inspiring natural beauty. We have incredible universities, fascinating cities, and wonderful people.

But let us never forget to look at all the facts, even the ones we aren’t proud of.

from graphjam:  http://graphjam.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/usano1.jpg

Mermaid Wisdom

April 14, 2011

This gave me a smile today. Touched with sorrow, but still a smile.

‘Rhymes With Orange’  http://www.arcamax.com/newspics/18/1829/182942.gif

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