Sunday, February 26, 2006

No Big Surprise: Emotions may drive politics

In 1992, Time magazine reported an amazing discovery: Women and men are different. Only adults were shocked at this stunning discovery. A syndicated Washington Post story carried in the Detroit News proposes another shocking hypothesis government will undoubtedly fund studies for with millions of taxpayer dollars: Emotions may drive politics.

Duh. How's that for emotion?

What they're planning to do won't come cheap.

"But social psychologists ... have begun to study political behavior using such specialized tools as sophisticated psychological tests and brain scans."

Emotions are great motivators which is why skillful speakers use them to manipulate the masses. When people succumb to emotions they stop thinking rationally. Wait.. that's too kind. When people succumb to emotions they stop thinking. Period. If people thought instead of felt Muslims wouldn't suicide-bomb themselves and everyone around them into the after life. If people thought instead of felt they wouldn't burn homes and loot shops whenever their favorite team won a championship, or lost a championship, or a referee's call or jury verdict didn't go their way. If people thought instead of felt they wouldn't be so easily herded into mobs and lead to slaughter. Moooo!

As valuable as emotions may be for getting things started that might not otherwise (like the American Revolution) there are some things better left un-started. Like suicide bombs, looting, burning, overturning police cars, or voting for Democrats (note to self: consider removing Democrats to avoid rousing emotions). Emotions eventually wear off (except in the Middle East) but after they lift us from our easy chairs into action logic and reasoning sustain us.

Already we know the majority of college students don't understand credit card offers and their cognitive skills are sinking. Is it any wonder many American's can't reason their way politically and must resort to feelings? All they have left to guide them through life is their feelings. We've substituted self-esteem for self discipline. Individual responsibility, once a hallmark of the American psyche, has been supplanted with entitlements and civil suits. And moral relativism is more appealing than accountability because everyone's OK when measured by relativism's individualized yardsticks. Do American's really want Dr. Phil and Oprah as political consultants or worse -- candidates?

Social psychologists should save their (read: our) money and time and study something that truly escapes logic: If everyone did it before and still does it, why is everyone upset at Britney Spears?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Civil Rights Leaders: "The first thing you got to do is get mad."

The Detroit News' article, Civil rights advocates organize for action, reported that 500 people gathered in Detroit's Northwest Activity Center to get mad -- and it wasn't over a cartoon. I suppose that's the good news. Mary Francis Berry, former chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, believes a key ingredient to combating discrimination is, I don't make this up, more discrimination. She used stunning logic to motivate the attendees, "The first thing you got to do is get mad." This must mean Muslims throughout the Middle East and Europe are on the verge of authoring some ground breaking anti-discrimination legislation of their own. According to Ms. Berry they've taken the first step.

All this over confusion about what the word /discrimination/ means. One of the definitions from states:
"Treatment or consideration based on class or category rather than individual merit; partiality or prejudice: racial discrimination; discrimination against foreigners."
"Treatment or consideration" is important language. The ballot proposal uses more specific language, exploiting the common pejorative use of 'discrimination' and making clear 'treatment or consideration' includes favoritism:
"The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.."
Ms. Berry is mad she may have to give up her hard fought-for "preferential treatment" for any group she may be a member of but is apparently oblivious the other side of the coin is "discrimination against" other groups. Instead of the coin having a single value, "no discrimination," she sees a black and white side. It's OK to give preferential treatment to blacks and we presume women, and it's OK to discriminate against non-blacks and men. When the referee flips the coin she wants "preferential treatment" for her group on both sides. Those mobilizing against the ballot initiative devalue individual merit and instead categorize our state's citizens by the color of their skin. Prejudice and discrimination is OK as long as it benefits Ms. Berry's groups. That's a prejudiced and xenophobic due process that doesn't exist in the US constitution. The Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment guarantee and protect individual rights, not group rights.

Or does it?

Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Conner, champion of progressive constitutional interpretation, seems to agree with Ms. Berry.
“We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today."
Here Justice O'Conner exceeds liberal expectations by interpreting the US Constitution not just for what it meant to say (apparently the framers made clear their real intentions to her with the help of Dionne Warwick's psychic friends) but discovered sections with expiration dates like the pizza coupons I find in my TV Guide insert. Of course, none of them are good for 25 years and usually expire minutes before I arrive to pick up my dinner.

In his dissenting opinion, the much older Chief Justice Rehnquist recognized the hypocrisy that escaped O'Conner, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer:
In practice, the Law School’s program bears little or no relation to its asserted goal of achieving “critical mass.” From 1995 through 2000, the Law School admitted between 1,130 and 1,310 students. Of those, between 13 and 19 were Native American, between 91 and 108 were African-Americans, and between 47 and 56 were Hispanic. If the Law School is admitting between 91 and 108 African-Americans in order to achieve “critical mass,” thereby preventing African-American students from feeling “isolated or like spokespersons for their race,” one would think that a number of the same order of magnitude would be necessary to accomplish the same purpose for Hispanics and Native Americans.
In a famous Abbot and Costello skit, Bud Abbot flips a coin and tells Lou, "Heads I win, tails you lose." Maybe that's where Mary Francis Berry found inspiration for her revivals. Come election day, Michigan citizens won't be so easily hoodwinked.

This fall, without any anger, I'll vote to approve the civil rights initiative.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Counterfeits and cults

During employee orientation at a bank I once worked for, I was told how bank tellers would be trained to recognize counterfeit money. It wasn't what I expected. Instead of spending time with Treasury Agents and learning the intricacies of counterfeits, ink recipes, border variations, and serialization, they studied the real thing. They were told to rub it, smell it, crumple it, feel it, and generally to awash all the senses with genuine green backs. I think they did just about everything short of licking it. The obvious point here is you can't recognize fakes by studying fakes. You can best recognize fakes by knowing what the real thing is.

I was reminded of this a couple years ago while listening to a radio interview with a deprogrammer. Deprogramming is a curious occupation. These are the folks that rescue people from cults and help them recover from the brain washing. The interviewer asked, "How can you recognize a cult?" The response was interesting. "You can't recognize cults except by being familiar with major world religions." Again, the best way to spot a fake is to know the real deal.

By this yardstick Scientology looks more like a cult than a major world religion. The Roman Catholic Church doesn't threaten lawsuits against anyone that says something bad about it. Not since the Spanish, Peruvian, and Mexican Inquisitions (1478-1571) have Roman Catholic representatives held people against their will or tortured them to convert them to Catholicism or dissuade them from leaving the church. Neither do they hold copyrights on the bible or criminalize its reproduction.

Another thing major world religions don't do is terrorism. Jews don't strap explosives to themselves to blow up marketplaces. Buddhists don't kidnap and decapitate. Hindus don't issue death threats against authors of uncomplimentary fiction. Sikhs don't encourage the killing of non-Sikhs and the elimination of entire cultures, and Christians don't treat women as property or discourage their education.

Only the followers of Khomeini, Bin Laden, and other radical Islamicists do these things. Recently an editorial cartoon published in a Danish newspaper has inspired all kinds of protests, threats, and vandalism against anyone responsible for publishing the cartoon, associated with publishing it, and apparently anyone or webpage that's Danish and more recently German (since Die Zeit republished the cartoon).

One of my favorite quotes is, "You can tell the size of a person by the size of what bothers them." That applies equally well to religions as it does individuals. If a cartoon, book, or movie upsets you so much, how strong is your faith? Jesus encouraged his followers to turn the other cheek and that they would be blessed whenever they were persecuted for His sake. Those are big words for a big religion. If your faith can't endure a cartoon then you've already caricatured it yourself without the Danish.