Parallel Realities   Leave a comment

December 11, 2017 – Writing parallels – parallels between events and your writing, topic or genre.

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Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverI’m sure there probably are some parallels between Daermad Cycle and real life, but it’s very much hidden in the fantasy genre. Unless you want to be really preachy, it’s best to keep theme connections to the real world pretty light. For the record, really preachy tends to put off some people. By some, I mean a lot. You can certainly comment on historical events in fantasy, but you hurt yourself a lot and the book as well if you try to comment on modern society.

So, Daermad Cycle (The Willow Branch, Mirklin Wood and the upcoming Fount of Wraiths) draws parallels from feudal society and the discussion of racism and slavery, but it holds back from more modern topics simply because fantasy readers aren’t generally looking to be preached at.

There is a hiking scene in Mirklin Wood that is based upon a trail Brad and I take to get our salmon every summer. If you want a gander at what my world looks like, it’s a pretty good rendition of it.

But parallels do exist in Transformation Project because it’s an apocalyptic and that sort of preachiness is acceptable in that genre. My character live in a time that could be tomorrow. They’ve lived through the presidencies and events most of us remember. Their history is our history … except theirs took a sharp turn the day after tomorrow and they’re living in the aftermath.

Two Cover Montage

Transformation Project was born of Barack and Michelle Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America.” For the record, while I think they dealt a major blow to the culture of liberty in America, I don’t think they accomplished their goal. Of course, they’ve not been out of the White House for a year, so it’s hard to be sure. I suspect the current upheaval in the political realm is a rejection reaction to the transformation they tried to start … or really accelerate. Maybe the people who voted for Donald Trump are T-cells attacking a virus. Sometimes perfectly normal immune responses go too far. Maybe the Trump presidency is the psoriasis that develops after the body attacks some life-threatening plague before it can kill us. The good news is that psoriasis can get better when you remove what set it off in the first place.

A Threatening Fragility Front CoverBut let’s not chase that rabbit. The Obamas promised to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” and my daughter and I spent a long, Alaska car trip discussing how that might happen, creating a story that had elements of Transformation Project in it, but ultimately would have written itself into a corner had I pursued it.

Then I looked around our world and saw all sorts of economic and political woes. “Mirastan” in the books could be Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya … I combine elements of all of them because I didn’t want to have to research another country so that Shane’s statements about it would be correct, but also so I could say things about it that might be true of any of them. My readers can form their own conclusions.

Economically, I created a United States that is heavily in debt and beginning to face the consequences of that. I only really deal with the riots, rising prices and union difficulties  in Life As We Knew It because in subsequent books, I’ve blown up the cities and my small town is struggling to form its own disaster plan. You will find my characters in Emmaus still care about liberty — which they define as the ability to do what is necessary to survive. They will say what’s on their minds and do what they need to do. Not to let too many cats out of the bag, but the next book (Thanatosis) deals in part with what happens when the middle-sized cities begin to empty in search of resources that are no longer flowing in from the country side.

The characters who are outside of the town face the realities of martial law, because I’m aware of Executive Order 12919 (National Defense Resources Preparedness) which Obama signed in 2012.  This was by no means the first Executive Order signed by a president that could be used to grant him (or her) marital law in time of crisis, but that it exists at all in the form that it does created the premise for the third book of Transformation Project, A Threatening Fragility.

I hang out with people who pray for the end of government as we know it in the near-future because they believe it would give people the opportunity to fix a lot of what is wrong with American society, so naturally, I am drawn to exploring what would happen when/if the federal government collapses. I don’t think it will all be okay — that enough guns, faith and individualism would automatically result in functional local government to replace the overbearing federal government. As I move deeper into the series, I show local government struggling to adapt and sometimes failing miserably. The negligence of the City of Emmaus killed almost a hundred people in the second book, Objects in View.

Hullabaloo Tugawar Front CoverBy total contrast, the novelette Hullabaloo on Main Street is set in this world, November 9, 2016. In this political satire, libertarian Conor wakes up the day after the Presidential election to discover his small Midwestern town embroiled in controversy over the outcome of the election. The book was based on a Politico article “What If A Red State Moves to You?” which focused on a Wisconsin county that had voted Democratic for more than a half-century, but swung hard for President Trump in 2016. I added a twist to get away from the Politico writer’s clear bias in favor of Democrats. Conor is a libertarian anarchist who doesn’t vote. He doesn’t really care who won the election because he considers all elections just processes of picking our slavers for the next four years. That neutrality allows him to infiltrate both political bubbles during this highly charged times and hear what people have to say. It’s meant to make you laugh, but it’s also meant to wake you up and get you asking questions about why Donald Trump won and what is going on in our country that we have formed up in bubbles that have nothing to do with each other. Conor even muses that he sees a potential solution to the divide … not that anyone will listen because he’s not a member of any of the bubbles.

Conor is me on November 9, 2016, wondering why everybody is upset or ecstatic about a deeply flawed candidate winning an election when he was running against an equally deeply-flawed candidate when in reality, we the people were going to be stuck with whatever ludicrous policies either of these two dictators were going to put forward. I wanted to see liberty increase and more power flow to the people rather than government, but that’s not what I got. As I listened to my friends on both sides of the political spectrum freak out, Conor was born as a character who could explain my view of it. Laugh because it’s better than crying, but it’s still a crappy outcome for a great country that keeps, time and time again, selecting bad outcomes.

Parallels are all about finding that passion within ourselves to talk about what is important to us. As writers, we’re supposed to say what others cannot. The parallels in my fantasy are ones I discovered after I wrote them. The parallels in the apocalyptic are cautionary tales suggesting maybe we should try different things. Conor is my critique of the current political landscape. But I made him fun. He doesn’t hate anyone. He’s not angry. His wry (largely internal) comments are not meant to be hurtful. He just sees things from a different perspective because he’s outside of the bubbles … like I am.

 

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Biding His Time for Good   Leave a comment

Paul’s trip to Corinth had been delayed by sickness and storm, but Paul also believed it had been delayed by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Corinthian Christians.

Now I appeal to God as my witnessthat to spare you I did not come again to Corinth. 2 Corinthians 1:23

The delay had given Paul time to think, but more importantly, it had given the Corinthian Christians time to contemplate what Paul had written in his earlier letter and repent of their own volition.

I do not mean that we rule over your faithbut we are workers with you for your joybecause by faith you stand firm. So I made up my own mind not to pay you another painful visit. For if I make you sadwho would be left to make me  glad but the one I caused to be sad? And I wrote this very thing to you, so that when I came I would not have sadness from those who ought to make me   rejoicesince I am confident in you all that my joy would be yours. For out of great distress and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tearsnot to make you sadbut to let you know the love that I have especially for you. 2 Corinthians 1:24 – 2:4 

Image result for image of hair pin curvesThe Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters and verses. 2 Corinthians was a long-form letter. Why some monk at some time decided to put a chapter break where he did is unnknown, but it makes no sense. I’m focused on topics, so I’ve chosen to ignore the chapter break.

We all know the modern expression “being there for me.” The idea is, if another person really loves us, they will “be there for us” at our time of need. Love is therefore measured in terms of one’s presence. Absence is seen as a failure of love, caring and compassion. Paul challenged this mindset. He felt that love can best be expressed, at times, by being absent. This may not feel right to us, and it certainly isn’t always the case, but in Paul’s situation with the Corinthian church, his absence at their time of need was meant as a benefit to them.

Paul wasn’t a stranger to Corinth. He’d already been there twice. After his initial visit to Corinth, Paul felt compelled to make a hasty second visit. We know this because Paul wrote briefly of this “painful visit” and of his future visit as coming for the “third time” (2 Corinthians 2:1; 12:14; 13:1). Some ugly and painful things seem to have happened during that second visit. Paul had to deal severely with some of the saints. It seems a particular individual must have made some kind of personal attack on Paul, which brought a strong response from the church (2 Corinthians 2:1-11). Associated with this “painful visit” was a “painful letter,” which caused Paul, as well as the Corinthians, great sorrow (2:4). Now, in spite of Paul’s stated intentions to come for a more pleasant visit, he had not yet done so.

Paul wasn’t “there for them” at the time of their perceived need for him. This must mean, some were saying, that Paul really didn’t care about them. Others were “there for the Corinthians” in their time of need. These “false apostles” who were causing trouble for both Paul and the Corinthians (see 2 Corinthians 11). Paul asserted his absence was a purposeful decision motivated by his love.

Paul was very serious about this, so serious that he called God as his witness that his delay in coming to Corinth was for their benefit, to “spare them”,

If you’ve never had an overbearing pastor who thought he could dictate your life, you’ve been most blessed. Paul was not that sort of spiritual leader. He didn’t wish to “lord it over” their faith. He had confidence they would stand firm. Because of his confidence in God’s ability to keep them and bring about their growth and maturity, Paul didn’t feel the need to come, as though the church would get straightened out only by his being present. He had done his part by coming to them and by writing to them concerning needed corrections. They needed time to implement these corrective measures. Not enough time had passed for the Corinthians to fully demonstrate their commitment to obey Paul’s instructions. To come too soon would be painful for both Paul and the Corinthians. He would be obliged to point out what they had not yet done, and they would feel pressured to do them by his presence. A delay gave the Corinthians time to do the right thing and meant Paul’s next visit would be one of great joy.  Paul delayed to allow the Corinthians time to complete their obedience.

Do you have kids? Ever been away on a trip and leave an older teenager in charge? Ever get a phone call from a neighbor who dropped by and found the house in shambles or reported a wild party the night before? Would you cut short a trip and dash home to clean up or would you call your kid and instruct them to clean up before you got there so you didn’t have to yell at them? I would choose the second option mainly because it’s a long trip back from anywhere to Alaska, but also because I’d rather say “Thank you for cleaning up” rather than “This place is a mess. Why should I ever trust you again?” Which do you think the kids would learn more from?  I would opt for a warm welcome and a happy reunion in a meticulously clean house over a confrontation.

Paul was doing the same thing by delaying his visit to Corinth. Paul’s absence is out of love for these saints, knowing it is for their best interest and his. Sometimes love is better demonstrated by keeping our distance from those we love than by being with them. I know that’s hard to accept for some people, but helicopter parenting has proven that over-involvement in your children’s lives is not a healthy thing. Neither is pastoral over-involvement in the lives of church members a good thing. Christianity is not a second-hand faith. We all must learn from the Holy Spirit’s ministry within our own hearts. And sometimes that means our mentors must take a step backward in order for us to grow on our own.

Paul visited many places and founded many churches, but the longest he ever stayed in one place was three years. He sent Titus, Timothy, and others out on their own, rather than keeping them at his side. Paul left churches to struggle and to survive without his presence, not because of his lack of love for them, but because he wanted them to learn to depend upon God’s Word and Spirit. This was accomplished by his absence, as well as by his presence (Acts 20:32; 1 Corinthians 16:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). Plus we shouldn’t overlook that it is because of Paul’s physical absence that we have the inspired epistles he wrote to the churches.

There are times when we must demonstrate our love for others by our absence, even though this causes pain to us and to those we are not with. We must sometimes let others fail rather than rush in to rescue them. At times, we must step back and allow others to face the consequences of their folly rather than seek to cushion the blows they have brought upon themselves. This is true of our children, and it is true for others. Sometimes we must physically separate ourselves from others because of their sin — as both Jesus and Paul instructed as to church discipline (Matthew 18:15-201 Corinthians 5:1-13). Our society teaches us “unconditional acceptance,” which implies that we never draw back from those we love, even when they are doing things that are unacceptable. Our society does not know the Scriptures and doesn’t wish to obey them. Loving at a distance is painful, which is why most of us are unwilling to do it, but it is something we must do for the good of those we love as well as for our own good. Jesus is not physically present with us at this moment, but it isn’t because He has ceased to love us. He is not with us because that is better for us (John 16:7f.).

But if anyone has caused sadnesshe has not saddened me alonebut to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as wellThis punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you  should rather forgive and comfort him. This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For this reason also I wrote you:  to test you to see if you are obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone for anything, I also forgive him – for indeed what I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything) I did so for you in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes). Now when I arrived in Troas to proclaim the gospel of Christeven though the Lord had opened a door of opportunity for meI had no  relief in my spiritbecause I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and set out for Macedonia.  2 Corinhians 2:5-13

Some take Paul’s words in verses 5-11 to refer to the man who was “living with his father’s wife” from 1 Corinthians 5. I am inclined to believe that theory. It resonates with me. Is that the Holy Spirit or just a personal preference? I don’t know. The Bible study guide I’m using for this study doesn’t hold to that theory. The writer has reasons:

  1. Paul doesn’t specifically identify this person with the person mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5
  2. Paul’s reference seems deliberately vague; he seems to be purposefully avoiding naming names
  3. Nothing is really gained or lost by knowing exactly who Paul was referring to. The Corinthians knew who it was and what they should do.
  4. Paul spoke of the disciplinary measure to be taken against the man in 1 Corinthians 5 as though the outcome would be physical death. The writer thinks the Corinthians may already have attended that man’s funeral.
  5. It appears the person referred to committed some offense against Paul and the Corinthian church had taken up for Paul by censuring the person from their fellowship.

These are all valid reasons for believing these are two different individuals, although I really only feel resonance from #5. The others I think might be the study writer’s own reluctance to forgive sexual immorality after it has been repented. That’s just a personal observation. I’m not sure that it matters. Paul outlines how we should deal with those who repent of sin, regardless of which sins we’re talking about.

I’m going to suggest that Paul might have been practicing what he preached – not discussing the details of this man’s sin now that he had repented. We’re not supposed to bring up the repented sins … ever again. Discussing it in an open letter to the church sort of negates that principle.

Whatever the case here, it seems that during Paul’s second hasty and painful visit, he took an aggressive course of action which caused both him and the Corinthians great sorrow. Paul discussed it further later in this letter. We can surmise that some time during that visit, an individual reacted in an unseemly manner toward Paul and his apostolic authority. The church rushed to Paul’s defense and censured this man by excluding him from their fellowship. Regardless of what sin is being discussed here, the church exercised discipline on this man who had, at the time of the writing of this letter, repented, but the church had not yet forgiven him and received him back into their fellowship. Paul urged them to do so before he arrived to visit them again.

So, I still think it was the sexual sinner being discussed, but let’s ignore that and just look at what we know. Someone sinned against Paul. Maybe he said horrible things about Paul as the apostle was encouraging the church to discipline him for sleeping with his step-mother. The church took disciplinary action against that person at that point. They might have been reluctant before that, but perhaps his own words and actions condemned him, so they disfellowshipped him.

The man repented (presumably after Paul left town), but the church had not forgiven him and received him back into fellowship. Paul’desired to forgive this man and be reconciled to him, but Paul didn’t speak for the Corinthian church. The people comprising the church must first acknowledge the man’s repentance and reverse their disciplinary action. If Paul were to return before the church restored this man, Paul wouldn’t be free to fellowship with him because Paul would be bound by the church’s disciplinary actions against the man. When the church restored the man, Paul could be reconciled and find joy and comfort in his reunion with him.

The church’s failure to reinstate this man hindered Paul’s return, as it hindered the unity of the church,. It made the saints vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (2:11). Further, it placed an excessive burden of sorrow on this man, which is no longer necessary because of his repentance (see 2:6-7). Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), loves nothing more than to accuse, especially when he can do so through others, like the church.

Sometimes we do things which seem to be spiritual, but which in reality are counter-productive. The church disciplined this man to protect the purity of the church. Good for them. Then, they went too far by refusing to receive him back into fellowship. Not so good for them. They were actually endangering the church and this man. Going too far with a good thing can be bad. We see this also in 1 Corinthians 7, where Paul spoke to a husband and wife who decided to refrain from sexual relations. This may be beneficial for a short time, Paul told us, such as when a couple sexually “fasts” in order to devote themselves to prayer (see 1 Corinthians 7:1-5), but sexual abstinence should not be maintained for too long a period of time, lest “Satan tempt them for their lack of self-control” (verse 5).

Church discipline is necessary for so long a time as the sinning saint persists in rebellion against God, but once repentance has taken place, restoration should quickly follow. Failing to exercise discipline is dangerous to the whole church (1 Corinthians 5:6).  Failure to remove discipline upon repentence is also dangerous to the whole church (2 Corinthians 2:5-11).

Despite Paul’s physical absence from the Corinthians, he was deeply aware of the presence of God in his life and ministry. He practiced the presence of God.

10 But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10, emphasis mine).

Paul was absent from the Corinthians, but he was never absent from God. Paul sought to practice the presence of God by living in a conscious state of awareness of God’s presence.

The two letters of 1 and 2 Corinthinans serve to remind us that sin is dynamic rather than static. After Satan tempted our Lord without success, Luke’s Gospel tells us that after “the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Satan never gives up, and his temptations come in all sizes, shapes, and forms. We really should thank the Corinthians for their bumbling in dealing with sin because they gave Paul an opportunity to teach the whole history of the Christian church something we seem to forget every generation or two. As object lessons, the Corinthian saints are impressive poster-children.

In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul reminded these saints that he had previously written to them, instructing them not to associate with immoral people (5:9). The Corinthians misunderstood (or at least misapplied) this instruction. They sought to separate themselves from the unbelieving world, while they continued to embrace professing Christians who lived in ways even pagans would not accept. Paul instructed them to separate themselves from the man living with his father’s wife and to maintain some contact with the unsaved world, to whom they had the obligation to be witnesses.

Now in 2 Corinthians, we find the church had over-corrected their error. While they once failed to exercise church discipline where it was desperately needed, they were now reluctant to remove church discipline, when it was no longer necessary.

Living the Christian life is like walking along a path. You can stumble off on either side. Many times when we wander off the path in one direction, we over-correct so that we then depart from the path in the opposite direction. Let us beware of thinking that once we have dealt with a particular problem, we will no longer struggle with it again. The same problem may recur and, in our zeal to avoid falling into the same sin, we may venture to the opposite extreme.

We have our ups and our downs, our peaks and our troughs. We will struggle with sin as long as we live, just as the Corinthians did over the course of Paul’s ministry to them. Christian maturity and spirituality are not the cessation of sin, but the gradual reduction of the extremes to which we wander. The ideal in this case would be to walk a straight line. We won’t accomplish that in this life, but we can strive to avoid the hair-pin curves!

As Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthians continues, we see the dynamic nature of the spiritual life and the struggle with sin. We see some of the problems, still in embryonic form in 1 Corinthians, coming to full term and birthing before our eyes. We see other problems dealt with in such a way that new dangers arise. The struggle is life-long, and thus we suffer and groan, along with all creation, until sin is finally removed once for all.

Classical Liberalism Has Failed   Leave a comment

 

What do I mean by that?

It’s an acknowledgment that classical liberals failed in their attempt to limit the power of the state and our current mess in Washington DC is a prime example.

Their failure resides in their ideal allowing for the very thing that is poison to liberty. You see, classical liberals believed that at least a minimal state is necessary for a  functional civil society.  Unfortunately, once the state exists, it is impossible to limit its power.

Believe it or not, I didn’t believe that myself until fairly recently and I instinctively shy away from that realization, but it becomes increasingly obvious to me that even a minimal state will seek to acquire more power and grow far beyond what its original intention, no matter how we might try to limit it.

Image result for image of a public road with potholesOur Founders believed there was such a thing as “public good” – basically, the joint supply of services in such a way as to cease rivalry by a body with a monopoly on institutional coercion that obliges everyone to finance those goods.

Example?

Prior to the creation of the federal government in 1789, lighthouses in the United States were colonial- or state-owned and often privately managed.  Local entities collected “light-dues” based on the tonnage of vessels using the ports the lighthouse protected.

So, most people grew up with publicly managed lighthouses and assumes the state that stood behind them was necessary, even though England had an entire system of privately-managed and -financed lighthouses for centuries before the government took them over. Sailors associations, port fees, and spontaneous social monitoring offered an effective solution to any issues arising from private-ownership.

The “wild” west was indeed wild when first opened to settlement, but many of the problems of, for example, property rights of land and cattle had been worked out before the federal government finally got around to administering those territories. The now much-maligned entrepreneurial innovations like cattle branding, constant supervision by armed cowboys on horseback, and the introduction of barbed wire solved the majority of the issues there a long time before the government showed up.

Today, because the government controls the western states and puts forth a narrative that there would be chaos (just look at the Hollywood movies!) if the state weren’t there to protect the west from “anarchy”, people believe there is no alternative to the state controlling most of the lands in the American west.

People observe that today’s highways, hospitals, schools, police protection, etc., are almost entirely supplied by the state, and deeming these services to be necessary (which they are), they conclude without further analysis that the state must also be necessary.

Most people believe the state is also necessary to protect the defenseless, poor and “destitute”. Small depositors, ordinary consumers, and workers are all deemed too fragile and stupid to take care of themselves.

What if the above-mentioned resources could be produced to a much higher standard of quality more efficiently, economically and individually adaptable through entrepreneurial creativity, private property and spontaneous market order? For example, why am I stuck paying $80 a month for garbage collection on my city lot? I’m charged this regardless if I put out any trash. I might only put out one can every two weeks while my neighbor (who owns a daycare center) puts out a half-dozen cans every week … yet we pay the same amount. Why? Because a statist monopoly requires regimentation and prevents any sort of competition for our money. I could negotiate with a private company  to meet my actual needs and charge me for my actual needs rather than my government-perceived needs.

The hospital in my town is privately owned, though heavily regulated by the state. It never turns anyone away. It didn’t before the state got involved because it was owned by a church. Do those regulations assure that everyone is covered? It wasn’t the case in the past. Why would it be the case now? Have churches doing medical ministries changed their ministries substantially since government started regulating them? But we’re told these regulations are necessary because …????

But what about the roads?

What about them? My neighborhood roads currently look like a map of the moon with a few craters filled in. I live inside the City of Fairbanks where we see road maintenance rarely. Despite the fact that we get significant amounts of snowfall here, we expect to see the plows in March. Sometimes they might do a pass after a heavy dump, but they’ll inevitably leave a berm at the bottom of our driveway that requires quick and muscular action for about two hours after work to clear before the temperatures drop and turn it into immovable white concrete.

My brother lives outside the city in the borough (like a county) which technically does not have road powers. The roads around his house are maintained by a road commission that he pays fees to. The commission hires a contractor to take care of the road. These roads rarely have potholes and they’re fixed quickly if they occur. The snow is generally cleared by the time he gets home from work or when he gets up in the morning. Yes, it costs money, but less than what is collected from me in property taxes. Although the road service areas are administered through the borough, several of them existed before the borough took control of them and they would largely continue to be unaffected if the borough stopped collecting paperwork on them because people would still need to get to and from their homes if the borough stopped functioning in that capacity. My brother gets better road maintenance for less money from the private sector than I do from the public sector.

By the way, he can also now get trash collection from a private company for about the same amount as we pay in the city. I interviewed the owner of the company and he explained that if he had more customers, he could afford to charge less and provide more flexibility in service than he currently does.

Although the state insists its existence is necessary to defend property rights and coordinate social processes, the fact is that they are a body with a monopoly on violence (or its more subtle sister, coercion). The state invariably acts by trampling on numerous legitimate property titles, defending them very poorly, and corrupting the moral and legal behavior of individuals toward the property rights of others.

We shouldn’t be so wedded to the status quo that we refuse to see there might be other, better ways of doing things.

 

 

Taking the Red Pill   1 comment

Before college campuses were adrift in the current morass of anti-thought, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, a groundbreaking book that really ought to be read before wading into the tide of “trigger warnings”, “microaggressions”, and “safe spaces” that has become the dominate culture of college campuses. Haidt’s book is the most fascinating work on social science to come out in the last five years.  In 2012, our political landscape was already deeply polarized and that has been magnified by several times in a half decade, but Haidt offers hope and a way forward.

Image result for image of red pill blue pillHaidt starts by delving into the psychological causes behind our tribal politics. Drawing upon social psychology and 25 of original research on moral psychology, Haidt shows how evolution is responsible for shaping people’s morality that both binds and divides and how politics and religion create conflicting communities of shared morality.

According to Haidt, moral attitudes and judgments originate from intuition, not calculated logic. In his 1739 A Treatise of Human Nature, the philosopher David Hume remarked that, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” According to Haidt, the findings of modern social psychology research largely vindicate Hume.

To illustrate his point, Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider and an elephant. The rider represents the conscious mind with its rational functions and controlled processes. But the domineering elephant is everything else outside the rider’s control: automatic processes that include emotions and intuitions. Although the rider can do “several useful things” such as planning for the future and learning new skills, ultimately “the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.” As a result of this one-sided relationship, the rider mostly “fabricat[es] post hoc explanations for whatever the elephant has done, and becomes good at finding reasons to justify whatever the elephant wants to do next.” In short, “conscious reasoning functions like a lawyer or press secretary.”

How is this reflected in political discourse? When people are asked to believe something that conflicts with their intuitions, they instinctively seek an escape hatch – any reason to doubt the argument or conclusion that is vexing their deeply held beliefs.

Moral judgment is not a purely cerebral affair in which we weigh concerns about harm, rights, and justice. It’s a kind of rapid, automatic process more akin to the judgments animals make as they move through the world, feeling themselves drawn toward or away from various things. Moral judgment is mostly done by the elephant.

If you’re trying to change someone’s mind on a moral or political issue, you have to “talk to the elephant first.”  You can rarely approach someone from a reasoned stance until you have satisfied their emotional or moral foundation.

I’m not going to say I completely agree with Haidt, because my initial first step toward Christianity was actually from a book on reason – Francis Schaeffer’s “The God Who Is There”, but I found a lot of compelling information in Haidt’s book. Through his interdisciplinary research, Haidt and his colleagues uncovered six moral foundations that are shared across human cultures:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

6) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor. We report some preliminary work on this potential foundation in this paper, on the psychology of libertarianism and liberty.

Haidt found left-liberals and progressives recognize primarily the first two moral foundations, Care/harm and Fairness/Cheating, but tend to reject Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity, as proper morals. They feel these are base human traits responsible for patriarchy, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. The US/EU political left holds an outlier stand compared to most other parts of the world.

Haidt noted that in “Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) cultures,” the moral spectrum is “unusually narrow” and largely limited to the ethics of individual autonomy.

In contrast, many non-WEIRD societies and conservatives use all five moral foundations that include embracing the ethics of divinity and community. Libertarians are a truly unique political species and are not easily placed on the Left-Right political spectrum in that they prize the last moral foundation, Liberty, above all other values.

These are extraordinary differences and would explain the growing political polarization in the United States and why liberals can’t understand conservatives (and vice versa). In today’s political discourse, partisans often seem to argue not so much against each other, but past each other.

Given that human nature is tribal, people automatically form teams with those who share similar values and morals. While morality can “bind” people together through benefits such as group cohesion and unity, it also “blinds” them to the possibilities or even the existence of other legitimate perspectives. That’s the premise of The Matrix. This kind of “moral matrix” can be so strong that it “provides a complete, unified, and emotionally compelling worldview, easily justified by observable evidence and nearly impregnable to attack by arguments from outsiders.”

As challenging as it may be to see through one’s own ideological blinders, empathy is crucial for successful outreach, acts as an “antidote to righteousness,” and has the added benefit of expanding one’s own intellectual horizons.

Why Intellectual Diversity Matters

Human reason has inherent limits, so Haidt reminds us that “we should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play.”

However, under the right circumstances and conditions, people can use their reasoning powers to check the claims of others. That’s what Schaeffer’s book prompted me to do. It’s what I still do when I encounter reasoning that confounds me or makes me feel uncomfortable. When people “feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system.” It is especially “important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or a community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).”

Companies that wish to attract top talent in an effort to remain innovative have long embraced intellectual diversity as a paramount ideal. Universities, most of which are still committed to the mission to search for truth and push the boundaries of human knowledge, in particular must embrace complete freedom of speechopen inquiryepistemic humility, and tolerance for the most radical and eccentric. Championing viewpoint and philosophical diversity goes hand in hand with these fundamental principles that form the bedrock of a liberal education.

Haidt’s findings from moral psychology are consistent with research from other fields highlighting the value of those who “think different.”

Saras Sarasvathy at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business profiled some of the most successful entrepreneurs and found them to be spontaneous contrarians who have “confidence in their ability to recognize, respond to, and reshape opportunities as they develop” to the point that they “thrive on contingency.” Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurs relish bucking conventional wisdom whether it be following standard management practices or any other kind of defined linear process.

Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has extensively researched how “originals” move the world. Startups, which by their very nature are nonconformist, have a special obligation to hire originals who can seed a resilient culture, anticipate market movements under conditions of extreme uncertainty, and repurpose dissenting ideas in alternative ways. Grant emphasizes how originals can mitigate the risks every company faces:

Conformity is dangerous – especially for an entity in formation. If you don’t hire originals, you run the risk of people disagreeing but not voicing their dissent. You want people who choose to follow because they genuinely believe in ideas, not because they’re afraid to be punished if they don’t. For startups, there’s so much pivoting that’s required that if you have a bunch of sheep, you’re in bad shape.

Eric Weiner speculates that intellectual development is stimulated when one’s world is turned upside down:

Many immigrants possess what the psychologist Nigel Barber calls “oblique perspective.” Uprooted from the familiar, they see the world at an angle, and this fresh perspective enables them to surpass the merely talented. To paraphrase the philosopher Schopenhauer: Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Broadly liberal attitudes towards risk-taking, unorthodox thinking, and entrepreneurship are among the reasons why the United States is still the richest country in the world. In science writer Matt Ridley’s wide-reaching book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, the writer traced the origins and spread of economic prosperity. He credits voluntary exchange and specialization, specifically what happens when different ideas meet, mate, and recombine to create new ideas, for being the main drivers of human economic and social progress.

Innovations often happen when you combine two or more things in unexpected ways. When you have a diverse group of people working on something, magic often happens because each person brings a different perspective and experience to the table. John Daly, University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Authentic diversity must go beyond identity checkboxes to fully include diversity in ideas. Viewpoint diversity drives creative tension, cross-cultural understanding, and the ability to identify and solve problems from multiple perspectives. Creativity and innovation ultimately depend on people stepping outside of comfort zones and trying new things including exposure to radical and unorthodox ways of thinking.

 

Intellectual diversity creates awareness of our own blinders. While there are obvious economic benefits in that, a marketplace of ideas is one of the key underpinnings of a free society. Truth can emerge when views are freely exchanged, challenged, and refined. People’s individual reasoning have inherent limits but through our collective intelligence, we can achieve the impossible.

Even though our intuition-based morality divides our allegiances into different tribes that seemingly cannot coexist with others, accepting and encouraging intellectual diversity creates awareness of our own blinders and provides a possible escape path out of our moral matrices.

Coming Soon!   Leave a comment

I am a contributing author to the Agorist Writers Workshop 2017 anthology:

 

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I should be announcing its launch date in the next week or so.

Concealed Carry Works 7   Leave a comment

From 2015

http://www.foxcarolina.com/story/28998992/firefighter-cwps-likely-stopped-a-massacre-of-children-firefighters

NEW HOLLAND (WIS) –

Image result for image of concealed carryFirefighters said they may have stopped a massacre after a gunman surprised them at their station Tuesday.

The Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to the New Holland Fire Department’s Station 2 around 6:30 p.m. for a report of shots fired.

Firefighters said Chad Barker pulled up to the crowded fire station parking lot full of children and firefighters, got out of his car, and began firing in the air and at his vehicle. They say he also pointed the firearm at individual firefighters for lengthy periods of time.

“I came out of the office, saw the man with the gun, told everybody to leave out the back quickly that there was a man in the parking lot with a gun, and I was not kidding,” said Gary Knoll, a firefighter for New Holland.

Knoll said he and another firefighter who have concealed weapons permits pulled their guns on the gunman.

Knoll said Barker returned to his vehicle and firefighters carefully followed him with their weapons still drawn. After encouraging Barker to put the gun down, Knoll said Barker ultimately complied and Knoll grabbed the gun.

He said the group of firefighters detained Barker, who then began beating his head on the ground, until deputies arrived and locked him up. Barker has been charged with two counts of Pointing and Presenting a Firearm.

Knoll, meanwhile, hopes for additional charges and says he’s more disappointed with the $20,000 bond granted to Barker. Knoll was hoping for a larger amount.

“He’s a hazard to everyone here,” Knoll said. “We can’t possibly think about going to a fire call without having to worry about whether this guy’s standing in a tree stand somewhere with a high power rifle.”

Ultimately, though, Knoll is relieved no one was hurt and he is relieved he and other firefighters carry concealed weapons.

“It saved a life, if not multiple,” Knoll said.

The firefighter, who has been with New Holland for a little more than two years, says his hope is that Barker will get any help he needs.

Deputies are still investigating the incident and say the firefighter involved did not know Barker. They say additional charges are a possibility.

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