Search This Blog

Friday, August 29, 2008

Everything Else Palin' by Comparison


I'm finding the buzz around McCain's VP pick astounding. I've seen more email and blog traffic on this subject than on anything other topic for months. I've gotten emails from left wing friends that I haven't heard from in eons (they hate her, of course). A fairly left wing egroup that I subscribe to (another group of friends) had dozens of posts regarding Palin (yes, they hate her too, but there was no way they were going to vote for McCain anyway). Compare this to the complete lack of interest in Joe Biden.

She's not my type (for example, she thinks Creationism should be taught in schools, which is a bit beyond the palin for me), but there's no doubt in my mind that McCain's campaign is getting huge publicity from his surprising pick, and as a result, I think it was an impressively good roll-of-the-dice. It may not work in the end, but hey, it's worth the shot.

Friday, August 01, 2008

The power of beliefs and ideas

Beliefs are a powerful motivator of human action. We are at the core moral believing animals. Our beliefs shape the culture and the culture shapes our beliefs. People will believe in something, sometimes anything. Bret Stephen offers us this :

None of this seems to trouble Mr. Gore. He thinks that simply by declaring an emergency he can help achieve Stakhanovite results. He might recall what the Stakhanovite myth (about the man who mined 14 times his quota of coal in six hours) actually did to the Soviet economy.

A more interesting question is why Mr. Gore remains believable. Perhaps people think that facts ought not to count against a man whose task is to raise our sights, or play Cassandra to unbelieving mortals.

Or maybe he is believed simply because people want something in which to believe. "The readiness for self-sacrifice," wrote Eric Hoffer in "The True Believer," "is contingent on an imperviousness to the realities of life. . . . All active mass movements strive, therefore, to interpose a fact-proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. They do this by claiming that the ultimate and absolute truth is already embodied in their doctrine and that there is no truth nor certitude outside it. . . . To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason. It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible."

Sometimes reconsidered ideas and notions allow us to adjust our beliefs as suggested in this :

Of the farm's whole New Age mission, Tim remarks: "The error was, I think, imagining that there was somewhere new to go, someone new to be. It became increasingly clear that a closed system of myth did not jibe with the world as it really was." Looking later at the outside world, Tim saw "a system formed less from malice than from a kind of natural order, less from inordinate greed than from longings much like our own for privacy, comfort, individual freedom, and one's familiar or chosen way of life."
A nice insight that would be helpful to many people!

Herb Meyer reminds us that sometimes the distortions provided by existing notions and beliefs totally disable our ability to perceive things realistically:
Now, imagine that half of you were looking at me through a prism - one of those long, triangular bars of glass. A prism refracts and disperses light, so everything you see through a prism is distorted. Those of you looking at me through a prism might see a tall man with purple skin. My sports jacket might look green instead of brown, and my shirt might look red instead of white. In short, if you're looking at me through a prism you'll get everything wrong.

Well, just as there are real prisms -- those long, triangular bars of glass - there are intellectual prisms, in our minds. And if you're looking at the world through an intellectual prism, you'll also get everything wrong.
He applies this idea to an observation:
Let me put this as starkly as I can: What's going on today in our country isn't normal politics. In normal politics honorable people will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how best to deal with the issues that confront us - national security, border control, healthcare, education, energy, the environment, and all the rest. What's going on today is a kind of domestic Cold War -- a seemingly endless standoff, with the occasional hard skirmish -- between those of us who see the US for what it really is, and those of us who are seeing the US through a prism. And remember, unlike real prisms these intellectual prisms -- or, if you prefer, these political prisms -- are invisible. If you're looking at the US through a political prism, you don't know you're seeing through a prism and you won't believe anyone who tries to tell you that you are.

This is why Americans who see our country and the world through a prism are impervious to facts.