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Of Reactions to Reactions

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Can Newtown explain Ferguson? In reflecting on the physical world, Sir Isaac Newton wrote that “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. Born in 1642 and yet connected to the here-and-now. In Ferguson, Missouri protestors took to the streets in reaction to a grand jury’s decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. Reaction begot action begot action and reaction. Vicious cycle? Yes: for those who own the buildings and the businesses. From victimization came more victims and from suffering came more suffering.

Speaking in Chicago on the day after the protests, President Obama said: “I’ve never seen a civil rights law or a health care bill or an immigration bill result because a car got burned, it happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilized. It happened because people organized.”

The reactions characterized by Newton can be observed in every aspect of our world. From nature see the microcosm and our human turmoil in miniature. Reactions spindle forward as variables adjust. Are we little more than thunderstorms? Can no progress come from what we wrought?

And yet herein lies the critical value: progress. From what progress do our reactions serve? Perhaps this is the key question to ask: “What progress comes from our protest?” Are we building a better world by reacting as we do? One is cautioned to consider this, to ponder one’s emotion and consider a reaction. Destroying in reaction to destruction is a farce.

Maximum Justice

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment

What purpose does our criminal justice system serve? Is it a simple chore of “eye for an eye”. Or, do we use it to prevent crime by removing ne’er-do-wells from society? Then again we use it also to compensate victims- awarding dollar amounts even in crimes where money was not a direct factor. We place value to broken bones, to damaged reputations and even insulting speech.

William Geldhart defines our system as serving two distinct purposes: punishment and retribution. We use it to both remove criminals from society and award compensation for those who’ve been harmed. Two roles with very different ends.

At what point does a criminal’s conviction in criminal court become “not enough”? Indeed, as the severity of a crime increase so to do the demands of the victim. We often simplify things with phrases like an eye for an eye” to justify a tit-for-tat system. This is difficult though in cases of less severity or increasing complexity. No crime is as simple to warrant the tit-for-tat response. We need to consider the criminal’s state, intent and wealth of other factors in rendering a decision about punishment. The great hazard is committing a crime in seeking to punish crime.

When challenged with the task of punishing a criminal, we face a great challenge in meeting the demands of the victims and the rights of the convicted. No matter the horror of a crime a criminal does maintain some rights. Discarding these risks disposing our own respectability and ethical high ground. If one is to nominate themselves as judge of behavior and provider of punishment a clear understanding of ethics and morality must prevail. Punish too much and we dispose of our value but fail to provide victims with a reasonable right to compensation and we negate our purpose.

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No Major Needed

January 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Is there room for a major figure in democracy? Formulated on a bedrock of group-think and consensus, how might a lone figure distort the democratic process? We often view our leaders through a nostalgic prism of history- figures become larger than life and their ideas the stuff of legend. Films debut to buttress these claims and quickly the “common knowledge” becomes less fact and more fantasy.

With the recent release of a film on Lincoln we see this process of rewriting taking place. Some historians have highlighted these issues (see Bruce Levine) but no matter the number of statements refuting false history we still cherish created facts. Levine and others write to suggest that Lincoln’s greatness was the creation of the general public- a created narrative framed from the stories used to create our hero leader. While seemingly harmless, this false history hides a more insidious denial of honor as those who fought and died to achieve the accomplishments now linked solely to Lincoln. We simplify at the expense of the souls lost and blood spilled towards a goal.

In the end we have little to offer our knowledge of history given our common desire for great stories. We love our heroes and those who walk among us are even more attractive. The great man among us is both inspiration and trophy. Lincoln may not have been as great as we think we think we know- do we care? In the end we couldn’t care less because we build our heroes high and much prefer the man whose greatness defies collected fact. Let science damned if a story can be told.

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The Bigger Sorts of Gifts

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

Holidays cheapen our love by creating a single day where we can prove our claims of love. Instead of an expression spread the year round, the holiday becomes a love banquet, a virtual battle ground of emotion where big expressions mean real emotion and capital expenditure of effort translates to real love. Is it genuine? Perhaps, but for those whose remaining 364 days in the year are far less romantic or even void of expressions of love these days become cheap and sad.

Holidays provide us with opportunities for big expressions. We buy a huge gift and work tirelessly to express our appreciation for someone we love. Gifts and actions are designed to translate as “I love you” or “I appreciate you”, but what of the rest of the year? Do these holidays function as our cannonball of love where we express our love on one day and allow ourselves the other 364 days to remain inexpressive?

Holidays become inverted when expressions are so large they beg the question of sincerity. Often the biggest efforts come from those whose failures throughout the year seem to demand a big expression. In essence the holiday becomes for the callous or indifferent a one-stop shop for expressing an emotion. In this one-act play of love the actor takes the stage, plays the part and recedes back to indifference.

For many a holiday is a saving grace: play the part. Bad actors redeem themselves with big gifts and find a culturally acceptable arena where love is equal to expenditure and big efforts of purchases mean love. Distorted as it is we must remain cautious and aware of a gift giver’s intent. How real is the expression? To avoid a cheapening of the holiday we must filter both ourselves and those who give us gifts. Accepting an insincere gift is as much a crime as giving one. For no matter how bad or cynical the performance it only achieves its goal with an audience who accepts the message. Rejection is key and the insistent assertion of an expectation of genuine love during the entire year is the only way to make all holidays true and one’s daily existence worth dedicating to another.

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So False So Look Away

May 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Pundits speak in hyperbole. False claims, exaggerated facts and the convenient “error of fundamental attribution” make Sunday morning politi-shows less viable sources of info and more media circus. Watch closely and you’ll see pundits smashing pundits as their bumper car claims directly clash with each other. For some, it’s all too much. The tiny stage becomes so cluttered with fakery that the weaker panelists start to reveal their insincerity via physical ducks and dives.

Note the pundit who looks away, whose face can’t bear the stream of b.s. emanating from a proximal pundit. It’s a funny site to see: one individual grinning and chin diving as a statement is delivered. These moments are our tiny glimpses into the circus as it happens- pay close attention and your suspicions of the game are confirmed. These are critical moments: the only time when a viewer can cast away doubts that the show is “real reality” and not the swath of silliness that it is. With the break down of the pundit we find safe harbor for sanity.

Watch closely for the signs of truth disclosed: diving chins, rising grins, or, perhaps most common, a soft laughter and bobbing body as another pundit speaks. Delivered as reactions, these unintended moves communicate the true message: the hidden beliefs of the speaker and inherent sense of truth being felt by each and every viewer. Break character on Sunday pundit TV and help us understand how fake the show is. Break down and show me that its all a big game, that all of the words being sewn together are just as I suspect: a blanket of filth. I think the cloth is lousy but its hard to tell sometimes. The pundits want to sew the cloth together and try their best, but, for our sake, no matter how great the effort their physical existence cannot allow such insanity to exist. While the pundit’s mind may work to cobble together new realities, their physical existence refuses the act and breaks down. Let’s pause and be thankful for unintended movements and the gentle kiss of twitchy signs of truth.

Countable Chores: Quantitative v. Qualitative Jobs

November 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Employment is a formalized allotment of energy in which an employer expends energy for financial reward. These financial rewards vary significantly: variances in pay occur with all jobs and, perhaps most interestingly, rates of reward vary among employees doing the same exact chore. This inequality is beyond this post; though, instead I write to consider the events that make up that allotment of energy known as “job.” In these events of the day we can consider each job position and explore a clear distinction between all jobs.

All jobs are either quantitative or qualitative in nature. One classifies a position in this paradigm by considering the employee’s daily tasks. A worker who is expected to produce fifteen widgets per hour functions in a quantitative environment. He or she likely finds a similar day to day experience when he job market spoils a new position at the candy factory becomes primary employment. Now fifteen widgets are fifteen candy bars and the hourly expectation which defines the procedures of the day strikes him or her as common and comfortable.

This clear-cut expectation provides clarity for the worker and he or she may find the daily operations in the office above the candy store to be very confusing. In this office the marketing department does not have a common daily list of chores. The marketing department that simply arrives, produces fifteen posters and then leaves for home is failing at its responsibility. A day may have its countable expectations, for example the need call three executives for a meeting or a need for two new campaign ads but these quantitative components are only ingredients in a system of qualitative functioning.

I argue that all jobs can be categorized according to this paradigm or quantitative or qualitative means. A job’s daily list of chores defined by a numerical measurement of accomplishment is quantitative in nature. Employees who function in this environment have the potential to clearly define a successful a day and, if the expectation to produce fifteen candy met, a distinct sense of accomplishment. This sense is not present in the qualitative job. An employee working here cannot enjoy a sense of completion on a daily basis. In this job environment there are projects beyond completion and the overarching sense of “even more to do.” A qualitative job requires each employee to define his or her contribution and, via bittersweet empowerment leaves productivity in the hands of each worker.

While empowered, the employee functioning in the qualitative environment may rarely or never feel a sense of accomplishment. Each day may feel wasted as the employee simply inches forward on a project. This lack of clear lines of accomplishment may strike a worker more familiar with quantitative jobs as lacking or emotionally vacant. As our society moves away from quantitative labor due to technology’s ability to compete these chores more quickly and safely, our population becomes one of increasing qualitative employees. One wonders how this transition will take place within the emotions of these workers or if it may ever be known. I argue that this transition will be a difficult for quantitative-familiar workers and, though we may never explicitly hear of it, our culture may struggle deeply with the emotional variances at play in this distinction. Worker unhappiness may be less about pay and conditions and more about the psychological dynamics of each day and the inherent lack of success present in jobs qualitative in nature.

Essential Filters: Knowing When To Turn Off or Tune Out

August 14, 2011 Leave a comment

When violated, our norms undergo one of two processes: “explain & maintain” or “adjust and reform.” Such adjustments occur automatically when our sense of expectation has been altered, moments when even our most exaggerated notions fail to include an event. These are profound moments, events whose details are so violent, so stunning that we must adjust our sense of the world. Altering our norms is the powerful reactions to these moments and occur as a requirement of these moments. Tasked with tragedy we must assess and draw conclusions, working to change who we are in order to better meet potential events.

In this sense, major moments take on “major” status only after we undergo this procedure. Our outer shells are essential for our interpretation and as we consider and re-hash our notions we begin the gradual process of understanding. This may be obvious, but while the common perspective that experience develops instantaneously it is only our personal explanation of our experience that determines reactions.

These “personal” responses are only part of the process. We also are subject to the responses of others and tailor our perspectives to the responses of those around us. While earlier generations had limited outside influences, contemporary culture is defined by the plethora of perspectives available. One could absorb and consider different perspectives forever, creating a situation where a definitive position is impossible. Given that this option is available, do we exist in a culture where definitive perspectives must come at a point of selective ignorance? Must we decide that our absorption of information is suitable for our reaction? It is impossible to gather all perspectives and though they are available, we must choose to disregard certain pieces of information in order to make a decision.

This act of filtering is a new process that contemporary society has imposed on citizens. Largely at the hands of technology, this responsibility to look away from the information is a symptom of our incredible progress as a society. Paradoxically this need to disregard info comes from a cadre of tools that provide too much information at too fast a rate for our brains to consider. Our brains are far behind the capabilities of technology. Media often muses on technologies power over users but I would argue that the power struggle has long been handed to technology. In terms of information reception, gadgets are capable of doing far more faster than its humble users.

Though power has been lost, users have the ability to filter information. This is the saving grace for human kind: the ability to turn off or tune out is the key ability in the battle. Utilize a filter and make a decision. Though you don’t know every detail, rest confidence in your sense of knowing enough and the eternal possibility of revision. The info is always there and waiting for attention.

Tyrannical History

August 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Moments do not occur in bubbles. Though our memory is composed of blips of experience we sometimes lose sight of the ways in which we evaluate these experiences. Never do we have an experience without relation to our other experiences; instead, each experience occurs with an immediate reflection in which we compare the new experience with experiences of the past.

There are distinct benefits to these process: each moment occurs with background information that informs our response. If each day was filled with completely new experiences, life would be an exhaustive series of moments demanding response. Our experience gives us context, a wonderful gift that tells us how to respond to a situation. When we recognize a common feature between the moment and a memory we can apply what we have learned and act.

Despite these benefits we face significant challenges under such a system. New experiences are never truly “fresh” experiences and we easily fall into a trap of evaluation. How does this new experience compare to the past? Evolutionary benefits aside, we often use our experiences to make judgments. The gourmet industry exists because of these skills: now a cheese burger is an item of comparison in which we can evaluate it and expand our judgments outward. History gives us a the terms of comparing the now with the then and establishing expectations for the future.

The biggest pitfalls of this process of comparison comes in endeavors where history holds considerable sway. Perhaps politics is the largest domain for these dangers- often we see politicians whose actions are less tied with the demands of the moment and more invested in the actions of the past or possible reactions of the future. Though our brains are designed to respond to the moment, our society is a complicated system in which moments must be evaluated in multiple contexts. Today’s world is far too complicated to rest decision making on the historical record, the distant future or even the needs of the moment. One must consider each domain and make the best decision.

The greatest challenge our politicians face is the chore of making decisions that affect the past, the present and the future. Tasked with comparisons of what was and what might be, considerations of the present often lead to bad choices biased too heavily towards one domain. Balance is the key.

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Test Code

January 1, 2011 Leave a comment

8CJW6KAGCGX6

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The Role of “Expert”

June 6, 2010 1 comment

Human perceptions are inherently limited. We function only on the basis of what we know and what we can perceive. That which is new is framed in consideration of what is old and learning, occuring therein, is dependent on our ability to compile new information to our life’s archive of information.

If this is true, which of course is up for debate because it is a personal perspective, than what can be said of our terms of “genius” and “expert”?

Again, an exploration of my personal semantics. The perception of the “expert” or the individual whose knowledge or skills are superior to all others. This individual is perceived by an individual or group as possessing a stock of knowledge or skills that is more comprehensive than all other members of the group. If this is not the case than this person is not the expert.

But what about group think? We tend to seek out the individual who can provide everything we need. Such behavior is efficient both in terms of our own time and the time of the group. Is this not faulted though? Collaboration has been shown to inspire a greater level of understanding and learning by all involved. Here’s my proof.

Based on this foundation are we not better served to vanquish our notions of genius and expert? Are we not better prepared to tackle the problems we face not by seeking out an individual to answer questions/ complete tasks. The better behavioral choice is to gather the group together and focus on the problem. A group of minds that can drill down on a problem will not on work together to solve the issue, but also develop a frame of critical thinking from which future problems can be solved and perhaps prevented.

The need and focus for an expert is a dangerous precedent in human behavior. While efficient and logical this choice functions only for a fast fix and delays learning. A better choice is to focus on group function. Let us vanquish the term of expert and genius. Instead of running to them for answers let us demand they join the group and teach the skills to better understandings.

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