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Category Archives: Commentary

Work-Life Balance or Integration?

There seems to be a raging debate right now between work-life balance (WLB) and integration (WLI).

WLB means you have an active life outside of work that provides a source of gratification that is not work related.

WLI means you can work anywhere and anytime, but you are also not completely ignoring your life.

I say ignore all these categorizations. I suggest that the pundits who try to foist these categories on us are not qualified.

The idea of “work” and “life” being separate are relatively recent in human history. When we spent all our foraging for food, I don’t think we had the luxury of differentiating work from life. Genetically, we are hunters and gatherers, always looking for our next meal. Psychologically, there is no imperative to create work life balance or anything. Different strokes for different folks. Whatever gives your life meaning — go for it. Don’t let anyone hold you back from the life you want to lead.

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About Schmidt Indeed

A fantastic movie. Here is an interesting commentary on it — related to the pursuit of happiness.

Speaking of which: “the pursuit of happiness”. Isn’t that a strange phrase to put in a founding document for a government? So individual, and so disconnected from “duty”. More on this later.

My Proof That Adam Carolla is Mis-Guided Regarding “Families and Education”

Reference: Adam Carolla Show podcast 3/13

Let’s get one thing out of the way: just because Adam Carolla (AC) is wrong, does not mean the people he criticizes are correct.

AC suggests that societal ills are caused by a lack of emphasis on families and education, and then goes on to suggest that social ills (poverty, crime) that weigh on certain minority groups more than others is because those minority groups don’t emphasize family and education sufficiently.

Assuming the premise above is correct, let’s try to understand why this might be the case. Why is it that certain minority groups emphasize family and education less than other minority groups? AC will say: I don’t know, it just is! Either AC is stupid or a liar, because with a little thought, it’s easy to understand. And with understanding, one can develop effective counter strategies. With no understanding of root causes, the “families and education” (F&E)  mantra will continue to be ineffective.

Let’s think about one minority group that seems to be AC’s focus: African Americans. Why might it be that African American (AA) families as a group emphasize families and education (F&E) less than some other minority groups? Could it be related to the conditions of slavery that brought most of these individuals to the US? Let’s ask this question: are all peoples of the same race as AA similarly less focused (in aggregate) on families and education? If one were to go to an African country and focus on the upper classes in that country, who are nearly all black, might one find more emphasis on F&E within that upper class group?

In other words, the explanation for why certain minority groups focus less on F&E than other minority groups has to do with historical conditions associated with that group. In the case of AA, that history clearly involves a heavy dose of exploitation and subjugation. Let’s all agree to call slavery a social ill. Was that social ill (that of enslaving others) caused by a lack of family togetherness and poor education? Given that very educated people from wealthy intact families were pro-slavery, it’s hard to believe AC’s thesis that “all social ills would vanish were families to be intact and there would be a central focus on education”. I think I’ve effectively invalidated that point. (Another example might be Nazi Germany. Caused by lack of emphasis on families and education? Really?)

It’s not hard for me to believe that enslaving a group of people, denying them their rights, denying them education, and then “freeing” them to fend for themselves in a society that is hostile to them, would lead to a larger share of such people being parents who lack certain skills. (Larger compared to those who had basic civil rights). These poorly adapted parents beget children without good parenting skills, etc., and the cycle persists. Similarly, a group of people who were never enslaved, and who were part of a culture that values education, will be more likely to value education themselves. That creates a positive cycle.

The root cause of “lack of emphasis on families and education” is exploitation and subugation. Knowing this, what is the appropriate remedy?

 

Life is Hard

My thoughts after the US election, 2016, are: life is hard. Rich or poor, beautiful or plain, it’s hard to find a sense of fulfillment and purpose that makes you feel at peace with the world. We are constructed to survive in the wild. We are not built to be happy. It’s important to remember this message from science. It explains a lot.

Don’t expect to be happy, although you might well be. Happiness comes with hard work and a sense of humility. Happiness is not our “right”, but an accidental outcome that, if we are lucky, we will experience it. We are not here to be happy. We are here for entirely different reasons.

Gender

I devote this post to my sister, Valerie Mannucci.

Reference: A New Yorker article, August 4, 2014 issue, “What is a Woman?” by Michelle Goldberg

I am interested in the conflict between radical feminists and transgender activists. It is quite intense at times, as documented in the New Yorker article “What is a Woman” by Michelle Goldberg in the August 4, 2014 issue.

My sister Valerie is a feminist. She was the one who brought this conflict to my attention. Then, after reading the article, I developed a philosophy regarding this conflict, and feminism in general. This post is to explain that philosophy.

First, I’d like to describe some subjective interpretations of mine after reading about the radical feminist (RadFem) arguments. Radical feminists appear somewhat suspicious of the male-female sexual relationship, seeing it as a potential form of subjugation to men. From this I conclude than many RadFems lack a strong sex drive, at least towards men. Perhaps not being sexually attracted to men is an “enlightened” position? That idea is interesting, because such attraction is fundamental to the survival of our species. (Or at least it was, before modern medicine made it possible to reproduce without sexual encounters).

RadFems view transgender women (TW) as different than “women-born-women” (WBW, or rather “womyn-born-womyn”). Of course, the difference is accurate in a physical sense, but the physical aspect of this distinction is not what the debate is about. According to RadFems, male privilege, something that RadFems fight against, is bestowed upon transgender women more so than WBW. RadFems thus feel more solidarity with WBW than with transgender women.

Which brings me to analyze the idea of male privilege a little. What exactly is male privilege and why is it something to consider? In thinking about this topic, I have come to conclude that male privilege is derived from the superior physical strength (on average) of men compared to women. This is not really a debatable point, is it? Although physicality is just one dimension of life, we clearly live in a world where physical strength counts to some degree, particularly when one considers that personal violence is still a fact of our lives.

What are the consequences of this privilege? It is that men can more easily threaten women and subjugate them than the other way around. Being victims of subjugation would appear to be a claim made by RadFems. I am certain that not all men would agree that they are subjugating women. However, the structure of society and men’s place in it are evidence to the RadFems that women are victims of subjugation. Thus a struggle for liberation is born. That fight towards liberation could entail, for example, confronting men, forming gatherings or groups separate from men, and other political means.

Note what I said: that RadFems believe they are victims of male privilege. The concept of “privilege” connotes an injustice to some degree. The privileged get unfair and undeserved advantages. In this case, by virtue of genetics, men are “unfairly” stronger than women, thus leading to their “unfair” dominance of women. One should point out, however, that male privilege was bestowed on men without their explicit permission or desire. Men simply are privileged, by virtue of how the natural world is organized. That certainly can be perceived as unfair, but the lack of male complicity in creating the physical strength advantage is worth noting.

The relationship between RadFems and transgender women must include a sense of solidarity, in part created by a shared sense of victimhood. I would imagine there are many areas of agreement between RadFems and TW. For example, both are women, and thus lacking in full male privilege. Both groups must fight subjugation by men, etc. As I’ve learned, however, RadFems believe that TW share in some aspects of male privilege. Despite common aspects to their experience, RadFems and TW differ in substantial ways also.

Is there a solution to this conflict? In more concrete terms, the question could be: do WBW have a right to congregate amongst themselves and exclude TW from their gatherings of women? That is a difficult question that has broader aspects. It is a question that is treated at length in the New Yorker article with reference to a music festival in Michigan.

Allow me to digress to address a related question: do men have a right to gatherings that exclude women? The thinking may be that men do not, because men excluding women perpetuates and extends male privilege, of which women are victims. So gatherings of men excluding women is an indirect act of subjugation, whereas the same is not true of the reverse. When women gather excluding men, they are not victimizing or subjugating anyone. They are in fact trying to liberate themselves and free themselves of subjugation. So, women have a right to exclude men, but not the other way around, some may argue.

One may question the realism of fully liberating women. Male privilege is a fact that cannot be altered until the genetic make up of men is altered. The superior physical strength of men, which ultimately led to the reality of male privilege, is not changeable. The consequences of this strength is alterable, and that is part of the RadFem agenda. Certainly, in the United States, society has changed to create more opportunities for women and alter the degree of subjugation of women. However, it is unrealistic to believe that all traces of male privilege can be erased, unless one adopts a very radical approach of genetic alteration to, somehow, reduce the inherent strength advantages that men have.

It may be wiser to accept subjugation, to some degree, than to insist it be completely erased. This is likely not a popular opinion. We are taught to fight oppression in all it’s forms and work towards maximum fairness and maximum equality. However, nature is not cooperative with this goal. Creating a society where physical strength does not confer any advantages is hard to imagine. Some male privilege is likely to remain.

My conclusion then is to acknowledge that the world in inherently unfair, and that the subjugated and the subjugator both share in their own particular joys and sorrows. Life is not a walk in the park. Focusing on fairness and equality to an excessive degree does more harm than good. Rather, it is better to focus on working together towards a positive vision for society, while accepting that this society will not be completely fair or completely equal for everyone.

The damage done in history by trying to remove all traces of unfairness and inequality have been enormous, far more than what is gained. Just as the natural world has made men physically stronger than women, so has it created a world that is fundamentally unfair. Sic fiat.

I have not directly answered the question whether it is acceptable for WBW to gather and exclude TW. The answer to that question can perhaps be surmised from the message above.

Aquiring Knowledge

This thought occurs to me and it’s kind of disturbing: what if one engages in scientific study of a system so complex (e.g. Earth) that it takes decades to understand. Understanding accumulates so slowly that it does not really advance. The reason is that people forget what they knew 5 years ago as they learn new things today. So a synthesis of old and new knowledge does not really occur, because one does not keep all the relevant facts in one’s head at one time.

This is particularly troubling if past knowledge was tentative, and not conclusive. In that case, the past knowledge is never really confirmed or refuted. This is another hindrance to advancement.

Oh no!!!!

Absolute Power…

After seeing a headline about a Stalin-like purge in China, the following thought occurred to me.

Why does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

“Absolute power” means you have no boss. If you have a boss, you think one way. If you have no boss, you think another way. Why?

If I have a boss, I want to please my boss. Almost all of us operate that way. I mean “boss” in a general sense. Even if you own your own business, your “boss” is the market. If you can’t please the market, your business will expire. So the market is your boss.

With a boss, your path to enrichment and thriving is to please your boss.

Think of modern China. It is a communist, non-democratic state. Those in the highest levels of government have no boss, because there is no market. What happens when one has no boss?

There is no longer a need to please one’s boss. Without a boss, you can start plotting a different path to enrichment and thriving. Enrichment basically comes about by inventing rules that make you rich. You need “rules” because you get rich by taking from others. So, the rule is: give stuff to me. That makes you rich.

You also want to remove anyone who makes their own rules, and who does not like you. So, another path to enrichment is to remove those who interfere with your rule making.

I think I’ve just described “absolute corruption.”

I haven’t completely answered my question. Why do those who have a boss behave so differently than those who do not? I’ve left out one critical element: “the motor”. (Term borrowed from Adam Carolla).

Common through all of this is the desire for self-enrichment. There are those obsessed with self-enrichment (ambition), and those who just let things slide. Whether you are a top dog in the Communist party, or a captain of industry, you have a motor. A strong motor that pushes you. Your “boss”, or lack thereof, will determine your path to enrichment. That desire for self-enrichment (aka “ambition”) varies from individual to individual.

Now I think I understand why absolute power corrupts absolutely: one has no boss, and one is very ambitious.