I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
May 10, 2012 - 6:19 p.m.
I'm a bit squeezed for time, Let's see if I can finish this before class starts.
Why can't I remember any of the little daily details I wanted to write about? Oh right, because I'm an idiot. I keep forgetting that. You know why? Because I'm an idiot. You can keep that going as an endless loop if you like.
I was talking to another professor and come up with something new for motivating my students through grading next semester. Instead of counting attendance as a test I'm going to count doing homework. I won't collect or grade it, just a cursory glance to see that they did it. I might have to put in some sort of punishment if they try and pull a fast one on me and show something else. Something on the order of they lose credit for three homeworks if they try and yes, grades can be negative.
The big news story yesterday was Obama saying he supports same-sex marriage. As you know I'm a big supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage but that didn't make me jubilant as it did so many other people. It doesn't change the law. In fact he explicitly said that it should be left to the states when he is the head of the federal government so he is absolving himself for any future responsibility. But even that is not why it doesn't excite me. It's because it isn't the real story; it's the glittery cover, not the content of the book. The real story is that whatever he said wasn't going to make a big difference. Same sex marriage was not even an issue in the not too distant pass. It's become THE gay issue not so much for its substance, but for how it symbolizes society's attitudes towards gays. And that's where the story lies, not in what some politician says but what the general population feels. To me the big story was this: Support for Gay Marriage Outweighs Opposition at the Polls. This graph is the headline, the rest is details.
People's attitudes aren't just changing they are changing quickly. In a mere 16 years the unthinkable has become the opinion of the majority. No matter what Obama said same-sex marriage will accepted and the law in the not too distant future. The attitude of the nation has changed for the better. Sure there are setbacks as in North Carolina, but even that didn't change things much. Same-sex marriage wasn't legal before the referendum. As for the harsher side consequences towards domestic partnerships and such, hardly anyone understood them when they were voting so they don't reflect people's attitudes. As they might in fact affect straight domestic partnerships they'll just lead to a backlash.
But even that was not what I really wanted to write about. I wanted to write about the echo chamber. I've been planning on some variation of it for months. What's the echo chamber? That's when people surround themselves only with people and news sources that they agree with; all they hear is echoes.
It's always goes on to some degrees but with the advent or talk radio it got worse. Then along came the internet and now no matter how extreme someone's position is they can keep hearing people agreeing with them. That ends up hardening their positions. If all you hear is that Obama is a socialist, Muslim, Kenyan, you stop even questioning it. "Everybody believes that."
That isn't the only damage it does. It lets people vilify and dehumanize those that disagree with them. "Moral people are against gays getting married." To disagree is to be automatically classes as "the other" them not us.
I was being tricky I know that most of my Gentle Readers are liberals who don't believe in any of those things. The problem is that liberals go into the echo chamber too and true liberals know that you don't say something is bad if somebody else does it but not if you do. Liberals believe that everyone should play by the same rules.
When I first decided to write about this I was thinking of news sources. If you are my Facebook friend you know that I'm always linking to the Times and economic blogs. You might have noticed that I virtually never link to the Huffington Post or other left wing websites. There's a reason. I don't trust them. They might be entertaining. I will usually agree with them, but their purpose is political and for the most part what they release is propaganda. If they massage the facts nobody is going to complain because they are massaging the facts for a good cause. Yes Paul Krugman has strong political opinions but he also has a professional reputation to maintain. The Times has a reputation to maintain. They are read by people with all sorts of beliefs. They can't get away with playing fast and loose with the facts. Whenever I read a story from something that isn't a general purpose news source I check it out. If it only comes from something partisan I won't believe it. Now don't say, "But on such a such a time it turned out to be true." Yes and how did you find that out? You got independent verification. I'd rather be slow discovering something than believe rumors and lies.
I would write more about that except something happened the other day that highlighted another evil of the echo chamber. A friend suggested, not demanded, that anyone that was for the North Carolina anti-same sexy marriage amendment could unfriend (pedantic aside; it should be defriend, not unfriend) her on facebook. That's self defeating on many levels. What most concerns me is that it drives those people into the echo chamber. If you want people to change you should let them see that nice people, people they like, people like you, are in favor of letting gays marry each other. If they see that often enough they might start considering that it isn't an outrageous position. And of course that is exactly what is happening across the country. Our goal should be to speed up the process.
It also opens our own minds. Just because someone is against gay marriage it doesn't make them evil. It means they are wrong about something. They have prejudices and misconceptions. In other words they are people. If you don't have them you are a better person than I am. If you think you don't have them then the odds are that's one more prejudice and misconception that you have. Do you think that in 1996 70% of the people were irredeemable bigots and now less than half are? What do you think happened to all of them, they died? No people changed. They become more enlightened. I know that I have. I cringe at some of the things I used to feel. To divide the world simply into bigots and non-bigots is an act of bigotry. People are complicated. They are fallible. They can also improve. Even if it doesn't change anyone's mind knowing that people you respect disagree with you keeps the tone of the discussion more civil. That alone is worth the effort.
Now I have to run. It's is after class and later than I wanted to stay at school. I had to help students then I had to deal with people I didn't want to talk to in the office I share with the world. I want my office back. I won't get it for two more years.
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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