Recently, I caught a brief glimpse of a BritBox show about Robin Hood. I don't even know the name of the series. But Porter likes to give me puzzles—and I enjoy them tremendously—so he called me in to ask me if I recognized a certain character. You see, before I knew what face blindness was, I used to be amazed by how he and our children could recognize an actor from one movie to another. Although I'm lousy at recognizing faces, I now know that I'm very good with voices, which is a compensatory strategy often used by the face blind. Consequently, I win at his game more often than not.

This puzzle could have been particularly difficult, because the movie was quite old, and the actor much younger than I had ever seen him before. But the voice—it didn't take more than a line or two of dialogue for me to recognize Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) from the popular Poirot series.

None of that is the point of this post, however.

In those few lines of dialogue, one character remarked that it doesn't seem fair that there are so many devils and only one God. That is, I've discovered, a very common heresy: that somehow Satan is an equal being, opposite to God. But devils are merely angels in rebellion—if I may be forgiven for using "mere" to describe such terrifying beings. As C. S. Lewis said in his introduction to The Screwtape Letters, "Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of [the archangel] Michael."

Once one is aware of this error, it's surprising to see how often it appears.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, October 24, 2022 at 8:10 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 104 times | Comments (0)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous]

Some people are fascinated by large numbers; others just tune out when they see them.

Many people don't trust the statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Me? I don't trust their proofreaders. How else to explain this, from one of their vaccine safety updates:

CDC has verified 131 myocarditis case reports to VAERS in people ages ≥5 years after 123,362,627 million mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccinations

In case you are one of those whose minds go on strike in the presence of large numbers, that's over 123 trillion vaccine boosters. More than 15,000 boosters for every person on the planet. Put another way, if, instead of getting a shot, each person boosted "according to the CDC" contributed twenty-five cents, a mere quarter, the entire national debt of the United States would be paid off.

Foolish speculations over an "obvious" error? I don't think so. If we don't pay attention to numbers, we will make mistakes, some of them fatal. Bridges will collapse. People will be killed by medications that should be life-saving. Bombs will land in the wrong places. Citizens will be misled. Disastrous policy decisions will be made.

If I can't trust the "123,362,627 million" part of the sentence, what makes me think I can trust the "131" part?

Numbers matter. Accuracy matters.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 6:03 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 113 times | Comments (1)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [newest]

I think we're being gaslighted.

How is it that we have come to a society where:

  • If you hold conservative views, you are not really black, no matter how dark your skin or how purely African your ethnic origin.
  • If you believe induced abortion is a procedure that takes the life of an innocent child and should be used only in the most extreme circumstances, you are not really a woman, no matter what your chromosomes might say. Indeed, you are less of a "woman" than a biological male who has had surgery and/or hormone treatments but professes the acceptable political beliefs.
  • If you acknowledge your sexual and/or gender differences and choose to live a celibate life in acceptance of the body and mind with which you were born, you are not really LBGTetc.
  • If you profess beliefs that were common among mainstream Democrats in the time of President Kennedy, you most definitely are not really a Democrat, no matter what it says on your voter registration card; you are more than likely to be considered a right-wing extremist.
  • You may have graduated at the top of your class from the best medical school and had decades of wide-ranging medical experience, but if you question the lines drawn by the CDC, the AMA, the FDA, and I don't know maybe even the FBI and the SEC, you are not a real doctor, and what's more you are a threat to society. You risk being ostracized, banned from social media, and having your career, your livelihood, and your medical licenses threatened.
  • If you are a scientist, no matter how many PhD's, Nobel Prizes and other awards, research grants, published papers, and other accomplishments you have accumulated, if at some point your work produces results not in line with the currently-fashionable scientific thoughts, you are ignorant, dangerous, and not a real scientist. You will find it difficult to impossible to get your work published in reputable, mainstream scientific publications, and will be in a similar position to the doctors who challenge the established canon. Of course, this is actually the way science and medicine commonly work, and true to history: real breakthroughs in understanding are often made by those whose life and work are rejected by the powers-that-be.
  • And the list goes on.

Welcome to the world of modern phrenology. Instead of believing we can know a person's character and mental abilities by examining the bumps on his head, we presume to do the same based on equally absurd characteristics.

That's crazy. Worse, it's rude.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 18, 2022 at 10:56 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 135 times | Comments (0)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I've written twice before about Jack Barsky, once in The Spy Who Stayed, and again when I reviewed his book, Deep Undercover. Barsky, once a brilliant East German student named Albert Dittrich, was recruited as a KGB spy, infiltrated American society, and ended up sending his daughter to the small, Christian school in upstate New York where my life-long friend had been principal for decades. That friend is the one who sent me this YouTube video, an interview with Barsky on the Lex Frieman Podcast.

Note that this interview is three and a half hours long. I don't have that kind of attention span for videos, not even for exciting movies. But we both wanted to watch ii, so we decided to make an event out of the process. We watched it together on the television, as if it were a movie, and spread it out over three days.

Actually, it was interesting enough to have done it over a shorter time period, but this turned out to be just about perfect for us. When we watch YouTube via Roku, we can't set it to 1.5x or 2x speed, which we prefer, but even though the pace was relaxed and unhurried, it was so interesting we never once missed the time compression.

This was my first experience with Lex Fridman's show, and I'm eager to see more. He and Barsky cover many topics as they explore Barsky's life, and it was a joy to see two such brilliant minds interacting. And in case you're wondering, my friend assures me that "It's definitely the real Jack" she knew.

Content warning for a couple of words, but I think our older grandchildren (who have heard much worse) might enjoy it. Or perhaps his book would be a better place to start. (See review link above.) 

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 9, 2022 at 8:00 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 140 times | Comments (0)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I didn't choose Google Chat.

I still have one friend with whom I communicate by what was once known as Instant Messaging. Over the years, we have periodically been forced to change IM clients, and we mostly just go with the flow. (It was one such change that required me to get a Gmail address, which I had been resisting.)

The most recent change came when Google announced that Hangouts was being phased out in favor of Google Chat. I didn't complain too much, because they clearly had not been supporting Hangouts for a while—it would routinely crash on me several times during a half-hour conversation.

But Google Chat is creepy. (Just one in a long line of new tech creepiness.) When my friend enters a line, Chat usually pops up suggested responses for me, clearly based on what my friend has just said—possibly even on an analysis of the whole conversation. And quite accurately, I might add. Perhaps worse than the eavesdropping itself is that on the recipient's end, there is no indication that I did not type the response myself.

Here's what it looks like. I added the "(Google's suggestion)" after clicking the "You, too!" button presented to me.

My friend's version of Chat (or maybe she's still on Hangouts) does not yet have this feature, but she says it happens on her phone when texting. In the future shall we stop thinking at all and just let the AI control the conversation? Perhaps if I were having this conversation on my phone I might appreciate these shortcuts more, since I loathe what passes for typing on the phone. But here on my computer I can type nearly as fast as I can speak, so I'd rather use my own words, thank you.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, August 3, 2022 at 9:21 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 201 times | Comments (1)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Computing: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I have too many Kindle books.

Granted, 280+ is a drop in the bucket compared with the physical books that crowd our bookshelves. Many of the ebooks are duplicates of physical books I already have, books I value so much I want them in both forms so I can easily search and highlight. But many are unique, since I find it very hard to resist when eReaderIQ alerts me that a book I'm interested in is on sale for $2.99 in Kindle form. While I really love the feel (and often smell) of physical books, I also appreciate what ebooks have to offer.

What concerns me, when I say I have too many Kindle books, is that I've bought and paid for them, but they're not really mine. Amazon has the ability—and sadly the right—to reach down into my Kindle and take them away from me at any time. True, they're supposed to refund the purchase price if they do so, but that's absolutely not the point. This was a concern I had at the very beginning of my relationship with Kindle, when I read the Terms & Conditions. I conveniently shelved the worry as the years went by with no problems. However, in these days of repeated attacks on First Amentment freedom of speech, social media posts and whole accounts being deleted for no reason other than that the platform objects to the (legal, protected) content, and people living in fear of offending algorithms—well, you can imagine why paranoia has returned.

I'm not certain what to do about it, other than what I just did: order a physical book that I don't actually want, just because I can imagine its very important content offending the Powers That Be enough for Amazon to make it disappear. I guess I can call it a donation to the author.

Maybe I should reread Fahrenheit 451. While I still can.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 at 8:29 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 141 times | Comments (2)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

I love Better World Books, and tend to spend a fair amount of money on their site. Why? Because they are without a doubt the least expensive way to ship books to our overseas grandchildren. I also appreciate that their prices are usually pretty good, if you're okay with used books. It's true they are a bit disingenuous with their "free shipping" policy, since the price of the same book rises considerably if you ship it overseas instead of within the U.S. I'm okay with that, but I don't call it free shipping when the cost is bundled into the price of the book. However, that cost is still a lot less than if I shipped the books myself, so I'm not complaining.

(Well, not about Better World Books, that is. I will complain about the United States Postal Service for its totally unreasonable charges for shipping overseas. They have skyrocketed in recent years, and the only thing that makes me stay with them is that other shipping agents are worse. It's why we never can pack light when we go to Switzerland, as it only makes sense to pack rather than ship.)

It also feels good that for every book I buy, Better World Books donates a book to one of the literacy and library charities that they support, and that's just one of the ways they promote reading. I'm sure they've done a lot of good.

But I'm quite glad that their corporate philanthropy is not the reason I buy from Better World Books. Otherwise I wouldn't know what to do with the discovery I just made.

You see, one of their major partners is a charity called Books for Africa. I learned that on this page. Here's an excerpt:

Better World Books donated 22,000 books to Books For Africa. This sea container went to Bangui and the Central African Republic. These books were part of a shipment of textbooks, part of an ambitious effort called “Million Books for Gambia (MB4G) Project.

“Thank you for your recent contribution to Books for Africa! Your donation towards sponsoring a container to the Central African Republic helps put books into the hands of African children who are eager to learn. We have well over one million books in our warehouse facilities just waiting for funds to ship them to Africa! Books for Africa remains the world’s largest shipper of donated text and library books to the African continent, shipping over 40 million books to 53 countries since since 1988. ” — Patrick Plonski, Executive Director, Books for Africa

I can ignore the fact that they have apparently conflated (or confused) the Gambia and the Central African Republic. What disturbs me is this photo from our visit to the University of the Gambia in 2016. It's taken through glass, looking into a storage closet, so it's not clear that there were boxes and boxes from Books for Africa piled in there, unopened. We were informed that they had been sitting there, untouched, for many months.

Will they ever do anyone any good? Are they still sitting there, in that closet? Are they sitting there because the university is falling down on the job, or because they know the books are likely to be useless First World castoffs? That happens more than we like to think. When Porter worked in Bangladesh, he noted that "charitable gifts" from Scandinavia often included winter coats and hats. For Bangladesh.

Could the money and effort that went into gathering these books and getting them to the Gambia's only university have been better spent? This is only one of the questions raised by our visit to the Gambia. Charitable giving is a much more complicated and nuanced affair than we want to believe.

Fortunately, in the case of Better World Books, that's not my problem. They can continue to work as they see fit to make the world better; undoubtedly there will be some hits among the misses. And I'll continue to thank them for making it possible—even reasonable—to send books to our family overseas.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 21, 2022 at 8:36 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 134 times | Comments (3)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Conservationist Living: [first] [previous]

Not many of my readers are familiar with the writings known as the Apocrypha. I find it a shame it took me so long to discover something so important in classical literature and art, but better late than never. Anyway, parts of it are fascinating, other parts less so. For me, wading through the books of the Maccabees is somewhat of a slog, as I'm not fond of endless recountings of wars and battles—not here, not in the Old Testament, not in the Iliad—but that's just me. True, it's interesting to read about the historical period between the Old and New Testaments; nonetheless I find the stories of Tobit, Judith, and Susannah more enjoyable.

There are some gems hidden amongst the tales of fighting, and here is one of them, found in the first chapter of Second Maccabees:

When our fathers were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to any one. But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it. And when the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and what was laid upon it. When this was done and some time had passed and the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled. ... Nehemiah and his associates called this “nephthar,” which means purification, but by most people it is called naphtha.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 1, 2022 at 6:39 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 149 times | Comments (0)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

When my economist husband tells me an modern article is both consistent with everything he learned about economics in college and in life, and has also taught him something new, I take notice. The article in question is Inflation Reaches Unicorns, by John Mauldin, and should be accessible at that link.

It truly is about economics: investments, venture capitalists, inflation, and yes, even unicorns ("large, well-known companies [which] are choosing to stay private long past the point where they would once have gone public"). It's a cogent and interesting analysis of how we got where we are and where we might be going.

However, what really made me perk up was some excerpts from a forthcoming book by Edward Chancellor, entitled, The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest. Here Chancellor is actually quoting "Bastiat"—probably French economist Frédéric Bastiat—and it's not clear to me where one ends and the other begins. It's the thought that counts.

In the sphere of economics, a habit, an institution, or a law engenders not just one effect but a series of effects. Of these effects only the first is immediate; it is revealed simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The others merely occur successively; they are not seen; we are lucky if we foresee them. The entire difference between a bad and a good Economist is apparent here. A bad one relies on the visible effect, while the good one takes account of both the effect one can see and of those one must foresee.

The bad economist, says Bastiat, pursues a small current benefit that is followed by a large disadvantage in the future, while the good economist pursues a large benefit in the future at the risk of suffering a small disadvantage in the near term. The American journalist Henry Hazlitt elaborated ... in his bestselling book Economics in One Lesson (1946). Like Bastiat, Hazlitt lamented the "… persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of any given policy, or its effects on only a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on the special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences."

As I read this, what struck me was its applicability to much more than economics. In particular, read the above paragraphs with an eye to the response of our leaders to the COVID-19 crisis, and you'll see a stunningly accurate description of "bad economics." A more obvious example can hardly be imagined of considering only the immediate effects of a policy, and its potential effects on only a special group, while not only neglecting, but actively suppressing, any thoughts about what might be the long-run effects of that policy on the community as a whole.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 5:25 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 199 times | Comments (0)
Category Health: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

[This post was originally entitled, "Camouflage"; I've now changed that to make it part of my "YouTube Channel Discoveries" series.]

Here's another YouTube channel we've been enjoying: Chris Cappy's Task and Purpose. How on earth could I enjoy videos about military tactics, strategy, history, and weapons? Here's a quote from the channel's About section:

Chris Cappy the host is a former us army infantryman and Iraq Veteran. This YouTube channel is a forum for all things military. From historical information to the latest news on weapons programs. We discuss all these details from the veteran's perspective. The first priority with our videos is to be entertaining.

I guess it's the last sentence. Chris Cappy is knowledgeable and entertaining. He may bill himself as "your average infantryman," but he's not your average military college professor droning on in the front of an auditorium filled with bored students.

The video that hooked me is the one below, How Camouflage Evolved (15 minutes). I'm certain we have grandchildren who would find it as enjoyable as I did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at 10:40 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 178 times | Comments (0)
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Just for Fun: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] YouTube Channel Discoveries: [first] [previous] [newest]

I have lived under three different American flags.

Flag Day, 2022

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 6:57 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 153 times | Comments (0)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

Back in April, we ran into an opinion piece by Gary Smith entitled, "Believe in Science? Bad Big-Data Studies May Shake Your Faith." (Yes, I do save up articles in my Blog Idea Bank. Sometimes they're too out of date by the time I get around to them, but often they are still relevant.) The link is to the original article at Bloomberg, but if you've run into your free three article limit, you should be able to find it in many other places, including the New York Times and our own Orlando Sentinel.

Smith's thesis is that the current availability of so much data that can be mined, refined, poked, prodded, and manipulated is making for bad science. There's some good science, too, but a lot that is simply nonsense—and we don't know which is which.

The short article is worth reading in its entirety, but here are some quotes to pique your interest.

The cornerstone of the scientific revolution is the insistence that claims be tested with data, ideally in a randomized controlled trial. ... Today, the problem is not the scarcity of data, but the opposite. We have too much data, and it is undermining the credibility of science.

Luck is inherent in random trials. ... Researchers consequently calculate the probability (the p-value) that the outcomes might happen by chance. A low p-value indicates that the results cannot easily be attributed to the luck of the draw. [This number was arbitrarily decided in the 1920's to be 5%.] ... The “statistically significant” certification needed for publication, funding and fame ... is not a difficult hurdle. Suppose that a hapless researcher calculates the correlations among hundreds of variables, blissfully unaware that the data are all, in fact, random numbers. On average, one out of 20 correlations will be statistically significant, even though every correlation is nothing more than coincidence.

All too often, [researchers] correlate what are essentially randomly chosen variables. This haphazard search for statistical significance even has a name: data mining. As with random numbers, the correlation between randomly chosen, unrelated variables has a 5% chance of being fortuitously statistically significant. Data mining can be augmented by manipulating, pruning and otherwise torturing the data to get low p-values. To find statistical significance, one need merely look sufficiently hard. Thus, the 5% hurdle has had the perverse effect of encouraging researchers to do more tests and report more meaningless results.

A team led by John Ioannidis looked at attempts to replicate 34 highly respected medical studies and found that only 20 were confirmed. The Reproducibility Project attempted to replicate 97 studies published in leading psychology journals and confirmed only 35. The Experimental Economics Replication Project attempted to replicate 18 experimental studies reported in leading economics journals and confirmed only 11.

It is tempting to believe that more data means more knowledge. However, the explosion in the number of things that are measured and recorded has magnified beyond belief the number of coincidental patterns and bogus statistical relationships waiting to deceive us.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 6:28 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 205 times | Comments (2)
Category Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

You heard it here first.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has always seemed dangerous, and somewhat demented, to Western eyes, and his invasion of the Ukraine seems to bear out that impression.

Commentators delight in explaining how deluded the Russians were at every level, expecting to find Nazis on every corner and a hero's welcome from the Ukrainian people. How is it that they had only pre-Chernobyl disaster maps and thus had no idea what they were walking into when they dug into highly radioactive soil? Why do the soldiers and officers so often act like poorly trained recruits? And why is their military equipment so old, sometimes almost half a century out of date?

Everyone knows by now that COVID isolation has driven mental health crises through the roof, and anyone who watched the Olympics knows that Putin has taken those recommendations to the extreme. Is it possible that the president of Russia has simply been driven batshit crazy?

Maybe. Probably.

On the other hand, there could be another explanation.

Suppose you're the president of a country with expansionist ambitions and a burning envy of Western military technology. What do you do?

  • You could pour a lot of money into developing and building modern equipment for your own military
  • You could ramp up your espionage network and steal the technology and then build your equipment
  • You could buy captured American military equipment from the Taliban

Maybe your economy won't stand up to a large increase in military spending. Maybe you don't have the resources to build what you need. Maybe you resent the time it would take to do the job well. So what do you do?

Maybe, just maybe, you invade a nearby, relatively defenseless country. And you do it very poorly. Like the Duchy of Grand Fenwick,* you aren't hoping to win. At least not yet.

You send in your greenest troops and your vehicles and guns otherwise destined for the scrap heap. You lose no opportunity to tweak the rest of the world with your arrogance, your obvious incompetence, and your crimes against civilians, thereby raising the hackles of countries with the greatest array of the most advanced military technology in the world. You allow the war to drag on and on, giving these countries plenty of time to pour billions and billions of dollars worth of advanced technology and powerful equipment into the land you have invaded but not yet captured.

And then?

Then you bring out your A team, your first string, your best and most experienced soldiers, along with the most modern equipment you can muster, all of which have been held back just for this moment. In one fell swoop, you crush the opposition and capture all that lovely best-in-the-world military might.

 You lost some inferior soldiers and a bunch of scrap-metal tanks. So what?

Well, okay, you didn't count on the damage a massive embargo would do to your economy. In the end it might have been cheaper to do the work yourselves.

Then again, with all that captured equipment and intellectual capital, the next invasion is going to go a lot more smoothly....

 


*No relation to Fenwick, Connecticut, as far as I know

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 7:42 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 198 times | Comments (1)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

We're suffering from an epidemic of corporate philanthropy.

Businesses, especially large corporations, are bragging loud and long about their so-called good deeds, whether political or environmental or social or anything else trending in pop culture.

I am not impressed.

If you are a local business (even if that business is a franchise of something larger), and you host fundraisers for your local high school crew team or church youth group, or if you offer goods and services to first responders and disaster victims in your community, go for it. I'm likely to think better of you. That's neighborliness.

But anything on a grander scale than that, no. When you donate funds to support political parties, or activist organizations, or the arts, or even the most benign of charities, whose money are you really spending? Unless you have no shareholders, no employees, no board of directors, and no customers, there's a case to be made that you are making them all unwitting—and in many cases unwilling—donors to your own favorite causes.

Here's what I suggest.

Do you have some extra profit you want to do good with? Consider any or all of the following:

  • Give all your employees an across-the-board raise. Or a one-time bonus, if you're afraid the profits won't be sustainable.
  • Increase the dividends you pay your stockholders.
  • Decrease your prices.

In this way you would help your workers/investors/customers—those who make your profit possible—in a tangible way, while at the same time increasing their ability to support the causes they believe in, instead of the pet causes of a small group of elite corporate decision-makers.

It's your choice. If you want to use company profits to support a particular presidential candidate, or to buy the CEO a new yacht, that's your business. Just don't expect the world to believe that your actions are virtuous.

Is there anything more hypocritical than being generous with other people's money?

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 6:09 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 186 times | Comments (0)
Category Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

The first step in taking control of a nation is the simplest. You find someone to hate. ... You will find that hate can unify people more quickly and more fervently than devotion ever could. — Brandon Sanderson (Elantris)

Hatred is not an emotion that is foreign to us. Its presence in the world does not surprise me. What I find shocking is how easy we are manipulated into hating.

No one has to convince me to root for the Ukraine in the current conflict with Russia. After all, I'm a child of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was always our number one enemy. In this case, they are obviously the invaders, perpetrating atrocities, and even threatening nuclear war. We remember Georgia, Crimea, Belarus, and ask, "Where will it stop if it doesn't stop here?"

But two thoughts give me pause.

First, the level of anger and hatred I see, directed against anything Russian (even harmless Ukrainians with Russian-themed businesses in the U.S.), exceeds reason—as I have seen increasingly on other issues in recent years. We are in grave danger of losing sight of the essential humanity of the Russian people, much as the people of Germany once lost sight of the essential humanity of their friends and neighbors.

Second, while the flame of anger arose naturally in our hearts, it has been and is still being unnaturally accelerated into this disastrous conflagration. Politicians, corporations, educational institutions, news organizations, social media, celebrities of all sorts, our own friends—the push is on to view the Ukraine as totally innocent victims and Russia as completely irrational, evil villains. Merely to suggest that Russia might have had legitimate fears and concerns that led to the move to "liberate" the Ukraine, or that the Ukraine might not be completely free of corruption and illegitimate actions, is to bring down the wrath of all who want to see (or who want us to see) this as a battle between absolutely good and absolute evil.

Even if that were true—and nothing in this world has that kind of clarity—it's bad policy. Unless you really want World War III.

But here's what's really concerning me: I am convinced that if "they"—used metaphorically, not specifically—wanted the completely opposite reaction, they could just as easily have engineered that instead. You don't need to posit a conspiracy behind the power of this behemoth conglomeration of government, media, academia, financial institutions, entertainment, big businesses, Big Tech, and ordinary peer pressure. Ideas themselves have power, and when all these very powerful entities align to push an idea, it becomes almost irresistible.

The beginning of resistance is to step back and ask, "Where did I get this idea? What is driving my response?"

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at 9:54 am | Edit
Permalink | Read 234 times | Comments (0)
Category Hurricanes and Such: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Politics: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Random Musings: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]
Go to page:
1 2 3 ... 36 37 38  Next»