Saturday, June 30, 2018



I have been seeing videos of people behaving badly being shared "to shame the bad people".  The preacher who burst into a children's storytime to rail about transgender; the lawyer in the coffee shop yelling at someone not speaking English; the woman attacking a black teenager at the swimming pool.
These videos are a trick to keep thoughtful people inactive.  We feel like we have done something by posting a negative response to these.  What is really happening, is that images of these behaviors are being seen by more people.  The masses of individuals who don't think deeply just see the video. That's what sticks in people's minds.  The negative commentary doesn't.
You know this, if you think about it.  YouTube is full of idiots imitating stunts badly, and making their own versions of popular videos.
Sharing or commenting on hateful videos SPREADS THE HATE.
Don't post, share or comment on these videos.  Report them, flag them, take them down.
We're being tricked into promoting evil.

Stop now!

Friday, February 2, 2018


Why everyone should read Uncle Tom's Cabin.

I know, you think you know all about that book. It has been called racist, and Tom has been denounced as servile and weak.

That's not how it is. Those complaints apply to movies and plays based (loosely) on the book. The story that people are familiar with is only a small part of the book, and Uncle Tom is a strong character. Tom was debased for popular consumption in the plays and movies.

It's not racist, it's about racism. This book is nothing less than a top-to-bottom, wall-to-wall expose of the institution of slavery in the US.

To understand the motives behind this book, it's important to understand some things about the time. Citizens were not divided sharply into Pro-slavery and Abolitionist. Most people were ambivalent about it. Slavery had been a part of their lives since birth. It was the basis of large sections of the economy. It had the glaze of normalcy that familiarity brings.

Abolishing slavery was an intimidating prospect. Even some slaves were anxious about such a large change. There was a possibility that "freedom" meant starving to death, because there would be no work, and no place to live.

The closest thing in the US today to the slavery debate is animal rights. On one extreme, we have people who see animals only as a resource. On the other extreme, we have vegans, who think we should not use animals at all. Most people are somewhere in between, having varying views along the lines of, "At least we should treat them well."

This is similar to how many people felt about slavery at the time. There was much discussion about laws to protect the welfare of slaves. Many apologists insisted that the cruelties described by Abolitionists were rare exceptions, and most slaves were well treated.

Harriet Beecher Stowe got fed up with it, and wrote this book.

She starts with Uncle Tom, who is in the situation apologists consider "ideal" for a slave. His position is more that of "old family retainer", than "property". He has been treated well all his life, and has had religious teaching. (This is the Victorian Era, remember, and Ms. Stowe, as a Christian, is concerned about the soul) Tom has helped raise the family's children, and has fatherly feelings toward them. They return this familial affection. Even though they are grown now, they still go to Tom for advice, as though he really were their Uncle.

At one point, the master of the house sends Tom into town to conduct a business transaction. He gives Tom a large sum of cash, and a pass. Tom does the business and returns. Other slaves ask him why he didn't run away. Tom, while he is intelligent, is not given to deep introspection, so all he can reply is, "It wouldn't be right."

This scene is what detractors of the book use to make "Uncle Tom" an insult. They claim that Tom is saying that slavery is "right", and he knows his place. Stowe makes it quite clear that this is not the case. Tom is an honorable man. He was entrusted with a task, and did not betray this trust. Besides, running away would mean abandoning his lifelong home and his family, to go somewhere strange, where he may or may not be able to find a place. These strong emotional ties were important to him.

The trouble starts when Tom's master gets into a financial bind, and sells him. Oh, he has every intention of buying him back, once he has straightened things out, and has sold Tom to a friend who promises to take good care of him. But, the reader knows this is not going to happen.

This is the beginning of a spiritual journey for Tom, who, while a good man, has never been tried.

Stowe uses this journey to carry us through every aspect of the institution of slavery. She even touches, in a coded Victorian way, upon sexual abuses. Through many stories, she methodically demolishes each argument apologists used to say slavery could be made "ok" through protective laws. She points out that, no matter how much affection or respect there may be between people, the simple fact that one has a financial value to the other poisons the relationship.

Step by step, Stowe exposes all the hidden workings of the industry of slavery. The cruelties are more emotional and spiritual than physical, and there are plenty of them. She keeps the story interesting, but includes a lot of sentimental Victorian tropes, such as the "child too good to live". If you like Victorian writing, you'll love these parts.

She gets in a dig at Northern Abolitionists who are terribly racist, and makes some rather pointed feminist remarks along the way. She shoots down the idea that slaves are somehow less than human, and don't suffer the way "real people" do, with the story of Eliza stealing her son and escaping with her husband to Canada.

Eventually, Tom winds up in the deepest pits of slavery, a cotton plantation. Here slaves are literally worked to death. After all the hidden cruelties heaped upon each other, it's almost a relief to get to someplace where it's out in the open, and easy to see. Then Stowe slams her readers with the ultimate horror.

These poor souls have had no religious teaching at all. When they die, their suffering will not be over, because they will be condemned to Hell.
(I know most of you aren't Christian, but remember that, to Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her culture, this was all very real, and a genuine horror.)

I highly recommend reading this book. It became a best seller for good reasons.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Biologists have studied the Human body in incredible detail.  We have solved many puzzles of how our bodies work. Some things are still mysterious.  Nobody is sure quite how emotions, values, and faith are stored in the brain, or how they manifest in the body.  There is one thing, though, that has been well established.  Melanin content in the skin has no connection to emotions, values or faith. 

There has never been any case of someone's skin becoming lighter or darker because of changes in their personal values.  Nobody has ever changed color from getting religion.  Committing crimes does not change the color of anyone's skin.  Volunteering for charity work does not affect it.  Getting a tan will not make someone become violent.  Staying indoors and becoming very pale will not make someone smarter or kinder.  Insanity doesn't change one's complexion.  Skin color does not reflect ANYTHING about a person's intelligence, emotions, values or faith.

That is a fact.

In a culture that will not accept that, something does happen.  Someone with a different color of skin will have had a different experience in the culture.  So, they are likely to have a different outlook on life, perhaps even a sour one.  But, that's not because of melanin.  It's because of asshats. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Re:  Climate change, and Human response to it.

It's like my Dad. Doctors, friends, and even total strangers told him, "stop smoking, or it will kill you." He didn't. He said it was too hard to quit.  Finally, after a massive heart attack and triple bypass surgery, lying in a hospital bed, the surgeon standing over him said, "If you smoke any more, this will happen to you again, and I won't be able to save you." My Dad stopped smoking.   Evidently, it wasn't too hard to quit, after all. 

 I'm afraid it's going to be like that all the way. We know what we need to do. But, none of us really want to. Corporations think of the expense, individuals think of the inconvenience. We have the ability, but probably won't get serious about it until irreversible damage is done, and Nature smacks us down hard.  

Pseudoscience and antiscience are ways of ignoring the obvious.  I'm sure my Dad told himself that people were overreacting to bad press about the dangers of smoking.  He probably told himself that he was an exception, and would be fine.  Probably, with each pack of cigarettes, he thought, "I'll quit soon, before anything bad happens, but right now, I really need this."  He would got through the motions of quitting, without really quitting, and tell himself that at least he tried.

Humans.  For such an intelligent species, we can be awfully dumb.

Monday, October 16, 2017

I swear the Smith's I shop at is on the edge of another dimension or something. 

For instance,  I can always find a parking place near the door and a cart corral, even when they're busy.  They always have one or two marked down jars of gefilte fish on the clearance shelves, although I have never seen a new jar anywhere on the regular shelves.  Little things like that.

Today this happened.

I heard people talking in the next aisle.  Voice 1 sounded like an older woman.  Voice 2 sounded like a teen or twenty something guy.  Voice 3 sounded like a middle aged woman.

Voice1:  Oh, hello there!
Voice 2: Umh... hi...
Voice 3: Who was that?
Voice1: He's one of my pupils.
Voice3: *laughs* Is that where the scar came from?
Voice 1:  Yes, it is.

I decided I really wanted to see these people, and maybe talk to them.  By the time I got to the end of the aisle, there was nobody there but a man stocking cans of corned beef hash.  He looked too old to be Voice2, but who knows?  So, I asked him where the Gefilte fish is.  He told me they don't carry it.

He wasn't Voice 2. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I had a very good counselor who told me this about memories that aren't confirmed by other family members:
If we could wind back your memory like a film, we might not find a scene that exactly looks like what you remember. That's h
ow it is for everyone's memory about everything. BUT, we would find that your memory is consistent in emotional content. Your memory of the location or the date or other small details may be inaccurate, but casting will be correct. Who the abuser was, and what sort of abuse it was will be accurate.

Our memories are how we move through life, and we get the gist of people right, because it can be important to our survival. Whether it happened in the back yard or on your Grandmother's sofa is not relevant. 

False memories do happen, but they take a lot of work to create. The cases you may have heard of are made with hypnosis, heavy medication, and a bad shrink trying to force their patient to dig up supposedly repressed memories that may not even be there. They don't jive with other memories, and usually can't be made to fit into any reasonable time or space. 

Memories that you recover yourself, you can trust. They're not so much repressed, as you just don't think about them. When you are emotionally ready to deal with them, they surface on their own. Or, they don't. It's okay either way.
At least, this is what I remember her saying...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Here is why it is important to pay for certain types of personal interactions. Sex*, psychic readings, counseling, and other non-material exchanges.

We never do these things for free, really. When we do these things with friends, it is part of our ongoing exchanges of friendship. It's not tit-for-tat like a commercial exchange, but the recognition of value given and received is there.

When we do these things with strangers, the recognition of value given and received is represented by an exchange of money or other material goods. This closes the interaction, so that nothing else is owed. The provider and the client can go on their separate ways. They may never meet again, and that's okay.

You can probably guess what brings this up for me today. Someone tried to get a free reading, using the argument that, "It's a gift you should share with the world."


If I was a magical healer, then, yes, I would go around doing it "for free", because it would be making the world around me a better place to be in. But, giving that individual a free reading is not going to improve the world around me. Especially since they don't seem to appreciate the value of it, so will probably not heed the advice given anyway. It would be like healing someone's cirrhotic liver so they could keep drinking.

On top of that, I was not at all interested in being their friend.

*meaning one person doing sex for another person. Not a "one night stand" situation where someone does sex in exchange for sex.