The light died without warning, and darkness covered Mara. It pressed against her, binding her joints, blocking her nose. She crouched with her arms guarding her face and forced herself to breathe. She counted. One, two… At one hundred, she started over again. Continue reading The Wold
The doorbell roused Craig from his bed, where he had been contentedly watching a rerun of Sienfeld. His girlfriend mumbled drowsily as he threw on a robe.
Craig opened the front door. “Scott!” he gasped. He took an involuntary step backwards.
“Hello Craig,” Scott said. “It’s been a long time.” Continue reading The Third Way
The question was put to me: If cops do not, in fact, disproportionately abuse blacks, then why don’t black people trust police?
A corollary question occurred to me: If cops are not disproportionately helpful to whites, then why do white people trust police?
Police really aren’t particularly trustworthy. Various forms of corruption are rampant in many departments, and this has historically always been a problem. Many police practices are really just “Sheriff of Nottingham”-style revenue collection, especially the egregiously abusive practice of civil asset forfeiture. Many of the laws police enforce are unjust, and police generally are not punished when they abuse their power.
This is not to bash cops as uniquely evil, but rather to point out that are not uniquely good. They’re people doing a job, just like all other people doing jobs. Sometime they are bad, and sometimes the job itself is bad. We have at least as much reason to be suspicious of a cop and his motives as we do any other person in any other profession.
But we don’t think of them as people doing a job. We ascribe to them unique qualities that we would not ascribe to other people. In black culture, they are ascribed evil qualities, malicious bullies looking to cause pain and loss, and they are assumed to be in the wrong in any conflict. In white culture, they are ascribed good qualities, heroic figures looking to serve and protect, and they are always given the benefit of the doubt.
Why? Why do we ascribe such strong moral qualities to members of this profession but not others?
My answer is that neither group is assigning qualities to police based on their actual experience with police, or by the application of any philosophy. It’s just a matter of which memes people are exposed to. In white culture, police are almost always portrayed positively, as noble, caring and competent. In black culture they are almost always portrayed negatively, as corrupt, callous, and foolish. People see these portrayals (generally as children) and assimilate them into their worldviews, then perpetuate them, so the portrayals become memes and self-reinforcing.
The influence of what you expect to see on what you think you see cannot be overstated.
What is racism?
Racism is defined in many ways by many people. Some say racism is about power, when one racial group has more power than another. Some say it is about injustice, when one racial group receives special treatment as compared to another. Some say it is about attitude, when individuals in one group regard themselves as superior. Some say it is about perspective, when people from one group do not understand people from another.
These are all wrong (or at least incomplete).
Racism is simply this: using appearance to segregate people into blocs.
Whenever it is assumed that people have common interests, common experience, common goals, common attributes, common attitudes, common problems–common anything–based merely on their bodily appearance, that is racism. It is always harmful, no matter what is being assumed, and no matter who is doing it.
Whenever any sort of discovery is made in space, it is always viewed through the lens of a search for life.
I wonder how these discoveries might have been received 50 years ago, back when America was actually working to put humans on other worlds. Would we have thrilled over Martian water because of the prospect of finding microbes? I wasn’t there, but I think we would have been more interested in water because of its usefulness to humans. Whether or not there were microbes would have been a secondary consideration, viewed through the lens of human exploration. Continue reading Life on […]
It’s a little-know fact (at least, I didn’t know it, so I assume it’s little-know) that hummingbirds are big jerks. Continue reading Boss Hummingbird
Technology today allows common people to do things that were once only possible for kings and emperors.
For example, in the past, only very powerful people could call for an item to be fetched from across the globe. Today, anyone can do this.
Or, in the past, only very powerful people could surround themselves with hundreds of yes-men to echo their own insane opinions, allowing them to slowly lose touch with external reality and spiral into sadistic madness while maintaining delusions of wisdom and benevolence. Today, anyone can do this.
Part of a series of pictures of a robin nest I took in the Summer of 2014. The parents were kind enough to build their nest in a place where I could walk right up to it and stick a camera in their faces. (They did not consider me kind for doing so, but…) Continue reading Eggs Fly Away
It is always dangerous to claim that something about yourself is unique, because it probably isn’t. There is almost always someone who is just as adjective as you are or has done just as much gerund as you have. Nonetheless, I suspect that I might actually be unique when I name Redwall as a formative influence on my philosophy.
Millions of people have read Redwall, and nearly all of them have liked it. I found it deeply horrifying. Twenty years later, there is still no other work that has affected me as intensely. I didn’t immediately understand why, but in time I figured it out: Redwall was horrifying because its characters were dishonest. I do not mean that the characters told lies–to the contrary, telling lies was something which they sternly frowned upon–I mean that their perception of their world and the facts of their world were virtually unrelated to each other. Continue reading Attempting Honesty
My car has an eighth-inch audio jack so I can listen to Rdio when I drive it, but the minivan is old; FM is its only option. The other day when I was on my way to pick up a van-load of children, I flipped on the radio and found myself listening to a top 40 pop song. Just from hearing the opening measures and noting what station it was playing on, I guessed what the lyrics would be. I went ahead and listened to the whole thing, mostly to see if my prediction was correct. It was. “There are no surprises on hit radio,” I thought. “I haven’t listened to this station for over a year, and I can still guess the lyrics of whatever comes on. Are pop songs really that predictable, that homogeneous?” Continue reading No One Ever Finds True Love
This is probably the most important article you will ever read: it will teach you how to conquer a democracy. Not in the traditional supervillainous sense–the people you conquer probably won’t even realize what you’ve done to them–but you will rule them nonetheless. The method is very simple; it has only two steps, and everyone already knows them. They are expressed in two famous aphorisms: Continue reading How to Win at Democracy
It is impossible to eliminate all risk in life, but we can do things to minimize it. For instance, you can minimize the risk of breathing toxic gas by staying on the surface of the Earth instead of digging beneath it. Staying on the surface does not guarantee good air, but it makes good air likely. Dig very deep, and the chances of the next breath being toxic increase with every foot. Continue reading Cook the Courageous
There is an episode of Dragons: Riders of Berk in which the town is plagued by lighting. The frequency of lightning strikes has suddenly increased, from being rare to being almost constant. The Berkians are Vikings; they attribute their problem to the wrath of Thor, and the story follows their blundering attempts to appease him. Eventually they realize that the iron dragon perches they had installed around town at the beginning of the episode are what is attracting the lightning. They remove these perches, and the lightning stops.
From this experience, the Berkians learn a valuable lesson: Thor disapproves of tall metal objects. Continue reading The Wrath of Thor
Every day we hear lamentation of the “wealth gap,” and condemnation of those on the higher side of it. Unequal wealth is a crisis, we are told, that may well lead to the collapse of civilization. But is it really true that unequal wealth is inherently harmful? Should this claim be accepted as an axiom? Or does it need to be proved? Continue reading One Percent