Podcast - Adam Savage Project

Whataboutisms – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 2/7/17

Apologies for the weeks we took off, but we’re back in the cave this week as Adam, Norm, and Simone catch up on what’s been going on in their travels and projects. We talk about online discourse, bucket lists, and Adam’s upcoming Brain Candy touring show.

Comments (41)

41 thoughts on “Whataboutisms – Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – 2/7/17

  1. The Dutch word that Adam is talking about in the beginning (that warm feeling, being with family and friends) is “Gezellig”. A word that I have, unsuccessfully, tried to explain to my colleagues. Adam’s description is one of the best I’ve come across.

  2. i`m from The Papenburg area in Germany would have been so awesome to show you our Maklespace/Hackerspace/Fablab (we could not settle for on label) sadly i gues even if we could have invited you over in time your scedual sounds to packed to manage to visite something like ouer little corner. Also I`m looking forward for the videos off you seeing the Wattenmeer.

  3. but… but… but e-mails & benghazi!
    I think you are giving the other side too much credit Adam.
    potus is so far out there, it’s kinda hard to see supporters as ‘reasonable but different.’
    at some point there is just wrong.
    and right now wrong is living at the end of Pennsylvania ave.

  4. i think there’s a difference between the people who felt they had something to gain from voting for trump, and trump’s government. the former has as its root real people who, for reasons based in fact or not, felt left behind so much that voting for such a crass candidate was the only choice left. (this is troubling)

    the latter, i completely agree. there is no way to talk down any of the crap he’s been pulling. i know that playbook from history lessons. it’s written in my mother tongue. (german)

  5. that kind of talk is just adding to the divide. You have to recognize that people have different ideas and beliefs in how a country should be run just the same way as people choose different methods when it comes to make a shelf, prop, raising children, running a company, religion etc etc. Just the same way Adam mentioned in the podcast that he may not have agreed with everything Obama or any elected democrat did while in office, Conservatives or Trump supporters may not agree with everything the current administration is doing. But you have to understand that certain things that may not have been a deal breaker for you regarding the other candidates, may have been a deal breaker for others. Just the same some of the topics that the current administration may be a total deal breaker for you may not be for their supporters. Lastly, just as you feel strongly about the “wrongs” of our POTUS the other sides feel just as strongly about some of your sides “wrongs.” We have to find a common ground and work together which I know is possible because I have many friends/collaborators from both sides and we get along just fine.

  6. Adam,

    While the Glycol fog machines are cool and all but if you’re using projection on your gig you’ll want to make sure the projectors are in the back of the house ( front projection) . The glycol gets in the the projectors and does all kinds of damage.

  7. While I agree it would be good to work together and find common ground, it would have been nice if the Republicans had done that while Obama was in office, instead of working against him at every single opportunity. Now it’s the Democrat’s turn to do the same to Mr. Twitler, and all he will do is whine about it like the petulant, thin-skinned 5 year old baby he is.

  8. Trees are like batteries for the heat and light from the sun. When you burn wood you’re essentially releasing the heat and light that was required to produce it. so every camp fire is a tiny piece of the sun you recreate down here on earth.

  9. So I think it is fantastic that Adam referred to reading the posted comments and acknowledging that one expresses political comments is important. He is running a business for everyone, not just those who agree with his politics so it is good to make mild adjustments to how he presents his thoughts. It was thoughtful and appreciated.

  10. yes and some of those ideas are wrong.

    utterly wrong.

    enough with the false equivalency of my ignorance is equal to your fact based knowledge.

    no it isn’t.
    you know, just maybe ‘the left behind’ were left for a reason.

  11. n.b.: when i said people felt left behind, i wasn’t trying to put their point of view on equal footing.

    i said they *felt* left behind, for reasons that may or may not be based in fact. if you’re in manufacturing, for example, you do feel like you’re on your way out. because you are. but that doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility as a voting citizen: to be informed about how unrealistic the promises to ‘bring back our jobs’ are. as a white man, it’s easy to *feel* you’re being given less rights than people of colour and women, but that’s because of miscalibration as to what a truly neutral, equal-rights society is. when you believe an unequal society to be equal, every step towards actual equality feels like oppression.

    while the factual content may be flat out wrong, their feeling is still a real thing, with real consequences in their voting. the question is rather: how did this happen? when easily researched issues can be off someone’s radar so far that they’d rather vote for an openly corrupt racist, rape apologist, liar, and offensively unintelligent human being, that’s a troubling thing to have happened to a society.

    truck fump and everything he does and stands for, but let’s not miss analysing what went wrong on a human level.

  12. I know I still owe you a PM – I haven’t forgotten. However, on this thread, out of honest curiosity, can you explain, specifically, what an equal-rights society looks like? Is it where folks are treated equally under the law? If not, what/who is the determining factor to decide who gets treated how? Are the factors by which certain groups may be treated differently (either for better or for worse) static? If not static, how is the change in those factors determined and by what governing body?

  13. Shipmate, you have a little growing up to do. Statistics, alone, are against you. Unless you truly believe that 50% of the voting public is, as you would say, ignorant, you have to account for the fact that a very large number of folks supported Trump. I personally know doctors (both of the PhD and MD variety), pharmacists, engineers, programmers, high-ranking military folks, lawyers, and teachers who supported Trump. For you to pronounce a blanket condemnation of them as ignorant seems to me more than a little arrogant.

    If you can’t learn to appreciate the knowledge that other folks have, even those folks who disagree with you, you will grow little in this world. Even as a Christian I admire, respect, and listen to many atheists. As what I’m sure you’d label an “ultra-conservative”, I still read, listen to, and consider articles from neo-cons, from conservatives, from liberals, from feminists, and the like. I appreciate and admire Camille Paglia as well as Pat Buchannan. And I can do it all without stamping my little feet and yelling “racist, ignorant, evil-minded wrong-doers!”

    The world is a wild and wonderful and diverse place. If you insist on making it a narrow world of hate and ignorance, you’ll miss out on a lot.

  14. Just to put things in perspective, it was Republican politicians that approved 2 of Obama’s Supreme Court nominees, approved all of his cabinet, actually worked with him (against Democrats) to try to fast-track the TPP trade deal, approved funding for his refugee resettlement programs (against the wishes of most of their constituents), approved funding for Planned Parenthood (also against the wishes of their constituents), worked with Obama to pass Sequestration, actually approved the 2016 budget with spending levels ABOVE what Obama requested, and numerous other deals. Politics is politics. And, that being said, why would anyone expect the political opposition to not do some sort of opposing of its political opponents? If they agreed on everything, they wouldn’t be two different parties (although, I confess, there are times I have my doubts that they actually ARE two different parties).

    What Republicans did NOT do is riot in the streets during Obama’s 2 terms, violently protest liberal speakers in order to get them cancelled, or try to stonewall his cabinet nominees or other types of legislation right off the bat. Republicans did not get on Twitter and call for a military coup. No major Republican public figure that I know of talked nasty about Obama lusting after his own daughter or about dreaming of blowing up the White House. No Republicans, that I’m aware or, went out in groups to beat Obama supporters wherever they could find them. . . . etc.

    And I don’t even like Republicans. I’m an Independent that personally dislikes both political parties. But the way that Democrats have reacted to this last election is simply, objectively, and embarrassingly awful. The group that so claims to love tolerance and compassion has not hesitated at all to call folks Nazis and to wish them the most ill.

    Personally, I think dehumanizing one’s enemy is a sign of extreme cowardice, but that’s just my own opinion.

  15. hey 🙂 any PM in the last few days would’ve fallen on a somewhat mashed up brain anyway. i’ve been down with a monstrous cold.

    thinking of it, calling it an equal rights society is probably not inclusive enough a term. but in general, the goal is to decouple the accidentalia of your birth from your access to society’s goods. law is only one of them. but access to healthcare, education, etc. are just as important. as is one’s perceived ‘quality’ (integrity/reliability/trustability/…) in the eyes of society. no use if you got the same education but thanks to your gender or skin colour or accent, you’re still never getting the job because you’re perceived as less good.

    a big hurdle here is the idea of the opportunities being there for everyone, nominally, being enough. no one cares who your parents are, if your grades in elementary school are good enough, you can go to gymnasium (the type of school here in germany that prepares you for studying/college), right? well, turns out, not quite. the big battle during my youth was that when your parents only finished hauptschule (grades 5–9 with a focus on practical skills, getting you ready for a worker’s life), the limits of their education on your educational upbringing was too much to be outweighed by school, and you were much more likely to end up in hauptschule as well. now imagine the cumulative effect of that on class composition, and what that, in turn, does to quality of education. hauptschule education degraded to the degree of becoming an impediment even for the kinds of jobs it was meant to prepare for.

    so to put kids from lower-education backgrounds on actual equal footing, they need more support in certain things than kids who got it all by lucky circumstance. that could mean, for example, preferential access to support groups, because their parents can’t take up as much slack as those from higher education families. on the face of it, it’s not equal treatment because some kids get something others don’t. but it’s fair treatment because some need it while others don’t. fairness seems to be at odds with the commonly seen definition of ‘liberty’ in the states, which looks more akin to ‘if everyone gets a stick, whoever remains standing is the deserved winner.’ that’s too derived from puritanical morality for my taste. it presupposes choice where there is none, and justness in having or not having taken such a nonexistent choice.

    so as long as we don’t come up with a school that has access to materials and services and influence so plentiful that it truly can outweigh the head starts of some kids, fairness dictates that some need, and deserve, more help than others. they can’t be held accountable for what family they were born into, after all. (fwiw, i know of one person who managed to make that jump from hauptschule parents to graduating one of the most prestigious universities. to say her way was every bit as easy/hard as everyone else’s is the crassest lie of all times. it was a constant uphill struggle every step of the way, starting in elementary school. none of which i experienced even remotely, being born to parents with only slightly better educational background.)

    anyway, the matter of education (in the states: being born to high/low ed family, in an upperclass/coloured neighbourhood, to rich/poor parents, in a state with sane/absurd schooling regulations) applies equally to race, gender, and pretty much everything else. what is nominally given is irrelevant. as long as you don’t convict cops who arbitrarily kill black people, equal treatment under law doesn’t exist. as long as there is a wage gap or a glass ceiling, women aren’t treated equally. when people aren’t on equal footing, those at a disadvantage need a boost. or you never solve the problem.

  16. I’m no fan of the Democrats myself, but you can’t pretend Republicans all behaved nicely when Obama was elected, what with the overt racism and cries of “nigger!”, the hanging of nooses, the burning of crosses, Obama effigies, and churches in black communities, the baseless claims of his being born in Kenya, or that he was in fact a Muslim, and that having him as a President was a “sin”, or the murdering of non-black minorities because they were Obama supporters.

    And if I dehumanize Trump, it’s because I can find absolutely no redeeming qualities in his character, and that will be my feeling about him until my suspicion that he is in the early stages of dementia is confirmed by an actual doctor, or he does something that isn’t completely self-serving.

  17. anyone that voted trump is an idiot.
    simple as that.
    effectively the US is now run by bannon. a nazi
    trump just signs whatever is put in front of him without reading it (plenty evidence suggests he’s not very good at reading! – the president, cant read!)
    the senate is broken – so much for checks and balances
    the new AG was too racist to be a federal judge… in alabama!
    the new ed sec’s only qualification is that she gave a ton of money to the right people
    ben carson.. enough said.
    and NONE of this was a surprise
    so 48% of voters chose that, and you claim they are not idiots?

  18. I’m sorry you think you’re being rational. Reality simply doesn’t bear out your assumptions, and “everyone who disagrees with me is an idiot” is not a terribly deep philosophy to go through life with.

    I’m afraid there’s not much I can do for you. I will say that you’re going to have a very frustrating 4 to 8 years.

  19. My reply to you was, mostly, to directly address your statement that Republicans didn’t work with Obama while he was in office. They did. On a lot of things. They didn’t on a lot of other things. That’s politics. Trying to justify complete stonewalling by saying Republicans never worked with Obama simply isn’t factually/historically true.

    Were some Republicans insulting to Obama? Sure. And lots of people were insulting of George Bush. Folks called Hillary Clinton names. And folks called Ronald Reagan “Hitler.” Even Thomas Jefferson was called the anti-Christ by his political opponents. Again, that’s politics. The birther controversy was pretty stupid, but it actually started from a rumor that happened years before Obama even ran for President (see Obama’s literary biography from his first book). And calling him a Muslim was ignorant, but pretty weak sauce when you consider every Republican candidate is called Hitler no matter what they do (yes, even Liberal Mormon Mitt Romney was called Hitler as well as Liberal “Maverick” McCain).

    However, I think you’re exaggerating on the Obama stuff. Could you give some concrete examples of crosses being burned? Or black churches being burned? I have a hard time thinking that could have happened without getting national coverage. And what minorities were being murdered because they voted for Obama? Everything I said about folks denigrating Trump and his supporters has actually happened in the last three weeks (and they all made national headlines).

    Finally, to say it’s okay to Dehumanize someone because you think he’s horrible isn’t the best rebuttal. The problem, though, is that many Democrats are dehumanizing Trump supporters and conservatives (the “Deplorables”) – just look at Naughtyhorses comments. People are actually getting beaten bloody in the streets for wearing a Trump hat. That’s simply unacceptable. Even if your alleged actions against Obama were true (which I doubt in the absence of hard evidence), how does that justify bad behavior by Democrats? Surely it’s obvious that random Joe wearing a Trump hat at Berkley is not de facto guilty of burning a cross on somebody’s lawn. Any twisted attempt to justify such an action is the work of an irrational demagogue.

    Honestly, and I mean this sincerely, I fully support and hope the California secession movement succeeds. I think the differences have reached a point where folks truly cannot live together anymore. We are no longer a unified people, and I can’t see how a nation can be maintained out of this divisive mess. I can’t reason with or debate folks who think the world is going to end because their candidate wasn’t elected President. I can’t have discussions with people who think, “Hitlery-Hitlery-Hitlery – HitlerHitlerHitler” is an argument. Why should I take the time to try to reason someone who says I’m an idiot without knowing me, without talking to me, without spending one half a second to get to know me.

  20. I can see that this debate is going to continue for much longer than I have time for. I could spend an hour or so finding links to my claims, you could do the same for your claims (which I think is fair, if you are going to question my research and ask for sources, I’d have to do the same of you). I think it’s just time to say we disagree, move on, and enjoy Tested, no? Cheers.

  21. Sorry to hear you’re under the weather! Maybe you caught Kishore and Jeremy’s cold.

    I’ll try to PM you soon about some of your comments, but in general I’m not sure you’re not looking for something that can’t exist. I fully agree with you that liberty and equality can’t coexist, at least not from the standpoint of national doctrines. However, I don’t agree with your interpretation of liberty. More on that in a bit.

    Here’s the problem I have with equality. First, people aren’t all equal. We are equal in value in a metaphysical sense (if you’re Christian, this means of equal value before the eyes of God), and I think we should all be equal before the eyes of the law. However, in practically everything else we’re simply not equal. Some folks are book smart, and some couldn’t care less about school. Some folks are great at math, and others can’t stand it. Some folks are incredibly imaginative, and others are plodding but persistent. Some folks are very industrious, and others are lazy. Some folks are funny, and others have no sense of humor whatsoever. Some folks are compassionate. Some folks sing wonderfully, and others can’t carry a tune. But none of us have all of these traits in equal measure. Giving some folks all the time, money, and attention in the world may not make them half as good at math as someone who truly has a natural affinity for it. However, giving the kid who has a natural affinity for math extra attention might turn him into a brilliant engineer where he could really use his gift to the maximum. If your goal is to make all things equal, the inevitable result will be to push all things toward the lowest common denominator. That’s bad for everyone.

    Second problem with equality – who gets to be the judge? Who gets to make the calls that this person gets special treatment while this other person doesn’t? By what criteria are these decisions made? Who gets to interpret that criteria? Is it static? If not static, how is an adequate change determined to justify a change in the way the unequal treatment gets doled out? The answer is that humans would have to be put in charge of those types of decisions, and we humans have a TERRIBLE track record when it comes to making those types of decisions. Humans are often irrational, biased, greedy, self-serving, and small-minded. How can you guarantee that the humans making the decisions wouldn’t play favorites? In fact, I would guarantee you that they would in deed play favorites. Or be bribed. Or, as we call it in more civilized countries, meet with lobbyists.

    If you try to replace humans with robots, you’re actually no better off. Do you think the instant a robot said, “based on this objective criteria I have deemed that this group will no longer receive this extra treatment” protests wouldn’t immediately erupt? The human that designed that algorithm would need to fear for his life.

    This world never has, is not, and never will be perfect. Now while humans live in it. Every attempt to make it perfect is doomed. Even in the best of times, opportunities have never been equal to all people. Never. From class differences to educational differences to financial differences, it has never been the case that all people had the same opportunities. It never will be. Not only are people different, with different skills and gifts, but they always exist in systems created by people. Those systems are flawed, biased, and irrational, just like the people who made them. Rich people’s children ALWAYS get an advantage in EVERY system. At least in some of the older systems they also had to carry some responsibilities with those opportunities – now-a-days they get to be people like Paris Hilton. Even if you used extreme force to guarantee equal opportunities to everyone, it would be up to the one wielding that force to decide who got what opportunities. And guess what? The guy wielding the force will be sure to take care of his own children and friends. Do you then give everyone an opportunity to be the one wielding the force and making the decisions? Utter chaos would be the result. It becomes a tail chase in less than a generation.

    Now, getting back to liberty and the United States. That’s really the philosophy behind liberty over here. You took a negative view on it, but I think there’s a positive view, too. Liberty means everyone is free to claw, scratch, and scramble their way through this life with minimal intrusion from some distant government wielding irresistible force over your head. It leaves room for families, communities, and smaller, local governments to come up with ways of life that work for them. The odds of getting things right in a smaller group setting are much higher than on a national scale (at least when you’re looking at a country as absurdly large as the USA). The chances for someone to make an actual change to the way things are done is also much higher at the local vice national level. Would it be an “equal” society with “equal” opportunities for everyone? No. But I don’t think there is or can be such a thing. Why sacrifice liberty for nothing?

    That’s the idea behind what many Americans see as liberty. Freedom from the coercive force of government. I’ll admit, modern America has strayed a LOT from that vision, and our foreign policy since WWII has been incredibly hypocritical to that vision. However, it is a part of our heritage and culture, what little shreds of that may still be left laying around. Californians, with their talk of secession, are actually resurrecting many old American traditions, and I couldn’t be happier. They want a place where they can live as they want without having to follow the Federal Government’s decrees. I can only say a hearty “Amen” to that!

  22. Simone, your bed story reminds me of when I emigrated to Austria and bought a sofa bed from IKEA which arrived in about 6 large component parts. Assembly involved making two halves with the final step being to join the two, obviously not a task recommended to be accomplished alone. 9 years on I still remember lying on my back on the parquet floor holding up two pieces of sofa trying to join them with my arms shaking and the thought that if I drop it then it could be some time before I’m discovered.

  23. i think you misread me. the idea is *not* to ‘make everyone equal,’ as in trying to get someone with no knack for maths on the level of someone to whom it comes easily. the idea is to give someone with a knack for maths, born in adverse circumstances as much a chance to bring it to bear as someone born in better circumstances has. (because you claimed this to be a race for the lowest common denominator, i had a quick look at PISA data to see just how much the scandinavian countries and canada are mopping the floor with both the US and germany, and found out that equity in education is less of a problem in the states as it is with the many inherited flaws of our old school system. maybe that’s what made us talk at cross purposes.)

    that idea of liberty is a nice white lie, in so far as it gives a veneer of justness to everything: everyone fends for themselves, so everyone reaps the fruits of their own labour. when someone doesn’t reap as much fruit as someone else, it’s because they didn’t fend well enough. you are of course right, people aren’t equally skilled or come with equal knacks for things. but as long as reality doesn’t bear out a more or less equal distribution of realised excellences to factors invariant to it – social standing, race, etc – the assumption at the base of liberty isn’t true. and here’s where that veneer of justness comes in harmfully: if you instill a society with that idea, even empirical evidence for unfair treatment of some social strata can be handwaved away with ‘they must have not fought well enough for themselves, or they would have got it. these blacks/women/poor people, inherently lazy, and always looking for a handout.’

    and once we move away from education, even a lowest common denominator might be much-needed progress. being equal in front of the law is something your society does not provide for some. it even denies proper legal proceedings after the fact, because ‘i got pulled over once and didn’t get shot. therefore the black man must’ve done something wrong. these blacks. it’s always them with the violence against the police, and always trying to pin it on our patriotic policemen, too.’

    no matter how you decide to implement a solution, but it can’t be without considering the existing problem that the police kills black people for no reason, and keeps covering their people for it. not white people, not anyone else – the problem is one that concerns black people, and it won’t go away without adressing it as a problem concerning the treatment of black people. people can all-lives-matter this as much as they want, as long as specific action isn’t taken to ensure black lives start mattering as much as those of white people, it’s missing the point and indulging the fantasy of a demonstrably unjust society providing what it doesn’t.

    and that’s the big difference i guess. i think these issues are worth addressing, even if every rule has by its nature a way of tiptoeing it built into it. even if no general rule will cover every case it’ll need to, and not cover any case it wasn’t meant to. as far as my reading goes (nonbeliever, but theology was my subsidiary subject for my first MA), christianity specifically commands solidarity with society’s lowest rungs, and i believe your constitution’s guaranteed pursuit of happiness is incommensurable with some being able to live life on the lowest difficulty setting as well. (http://whatever.scalzi.com/2012/05/15/straight-white-male-the-lowest-difficulty-setting-there-is/)

  24. And to think multiple areas in the US now have better cannabis laws than The Netherlands ever had!

    And congrats to Simone for having great taste in films!

  25. Glad to have y’all back! I missed my weekly fix of Untitled! Phinneas and Ferb is one of the best kid’s shows out there. Fabulous building, great music! Teamwork, kindness, fun, ethnicity, minimal violence (any?)!… Got to get started on ‘The 3 Body Problem’! Sounds great! Hoping Brain Candy can come to Minneapolis, Fargo, or Sioux Falls!

  26. We’ll probably just have to get used to making allowances for linguistic and cultural differences. I did misread your post, so the first part of my reply to you is more or less non-applicable. However, I still think my point about the inherent corruptibility of any sort of “equality” measuring system holds water. I believe the questions “how do you measure equality?” and “who gets to do the measuring?” are realities that have to be considered in the concrete when looking at this issue.

    Take, for example, Affirmative Action here in the States. Most Asians I know (myself included) are very much against it because it has now reached the point where it directly hurts/restricts/penalizes Asians. It’s more difficult for Asians to get into high-ranking schools because, by and large, we score better on the tests and have aptitude for subjects that result in high test scores but we can’t get as many slots in the schools because they’re reserved for other ethnicities. Some folks argue that other minorities, like blacks and Hispanics, deserve a chance to get into these same schools even though their test scores are lower and they show less aptitude than an equivalent Asian applicant. My question would be “on what grounds?” In my own case, my Mom grew up in Korea pulling leaches off her legs while harvesting rice in the rice fields. One of her brothers died from malnutrition combined with parasite worms. My grandfather spent years in prison accused of a crime he was innocent of. Korea, about a generation and a half ago, really was a third world country, and the long-term history of Korea is not the happiest of stories. How does that compare with the plight of, let’s say, black family in America living at the same time period? By what grounds do blacks get preference over Koreans?

    And I make the obvious concessions – there are brilliant folks of African and Hispanic decent who are geniuses at math. There are Asians who are not the brightest bulb on the planet. Of course! However, I’m speaking in the context of racial quotas actually used by major universities over here, so I feel like a little leeway in ethnic generalizations is warranted.

    Honestly, from a personal perspective, I don’t care. I’m well (!!) out of my college years, and personally I’m one of the Asians that isn’t nearly as much a wizard at math as the stereotype suggests. However, I think the question is still valid. Most Korean families that I personally know came from similar backgrounds, and, since arriving in the States, have worked extremely hard. They don’t receive the benefit of Affirmative Action while others do. Why not?

    I’m not trying to get into a discussion about Affirmative Action itself. Just using it as a convenient example. If you create a system where you now start treating others “unequally” – how do you define the criteria by which such treatment gets justified? There are, in America, lots of middle-class to wealthy black families – do they get the same benefits as lower-class black families? What about hard working kids from black families vice not-hard working families in lower-class black families? While it’s not fair to classify entire races with any given traits, surely it’s obvious that within a given race you will have variations of personalities, skills, work ethics . . etc.? What about Hispanics? Are distinctions made between Mexican and other types of Hispanics? Folks from Venezuela, in general, have it harder than folks in Uruguay (especially right now). In the abstract, equality sounds nice. When you start trying to apply the idea to real world situations, it gets complicated rather quickly.

    The second part is, how do you keep the controllers of such a system from being corrupt? I think I said more than enough about that particular problem in my last post. I submit that it’s not possible.

    I think you give Justice and Liberty too short shrift. You still paint Liberty like a fictionalized version of the Wild West, but that’s not congruent with either actual American history or culture. The other vitally important Christian doctrine that must walk hand-in-hand with Solidarity is the Doctrine of Subsidiarity. Modern philosophy erroneously pushes forth the idea of the radical individual, but that idea is ahistorical and not based in reality. People have always, in every culture, in every age, existed within community. It’s literally impossible for people to exist completely outside of a community (i.e. newborn babies have a very low survival rate when left to their own devices). Subsidiarity dictates that whatever powers can be properly exercised as the lowest level of community should be exercised there and not usurped by a higher power. Families, then, would hold the primary power because they also hold the primary responsibility. If I am to raise my children (which is my duty and obligation) I must be empowered to do that task without outside interference. The next level goes to the extended family, to the community/neighborhood, then to the municipality, the region, the state, and only lastly the Federal government. It’s the principle that runs through the philosophy of the Founding Fathers and the Constitution like a backbone in a vertebrate.

    Liberty, then, in that context, is not “liberty for strong individuals to beat up or take advantage of weaker individuals” but for “communities and families to live their lives free from undue interference of a removed and inordinately strong power.” No system is perfect. With humans involved, no system can ever be perfect. However, Subsidiarity gives you a chance to 1.) have actual influence over local centers of power – communities/families/regions have a natural inclination to work for the good of all and respond to the needs/objections of those within the community/family/region and 2.) have stronger resistance against external powers.

    Look at the same situation from the other perspective. In a system of radical individuals “equalized” and “empowered” by an omnipotent Federal Government – what recourse is there if one disagrees? If one’s own “equality of opportunity” depends upon the good graces of the Federal Government, is one truly free? If the Federal Government acts in other areas contrary to your wishes, can you speak out against it? Do you not risk either your personal status within the group of folks receiving benefits or the status of the entire group in receiving benefits? Or perhaps both?

    I know I’ve rambled a bit – my apologies. I didn’t specifically address your comments on the “Black Lives Matter” issue because that’s really deserving of its own, separate post (perhaps the PM I still owe you). Suffice it to say, regardless of what you may have heard reported, I promise that police officers here in the states are not, by and large, roaming the streets looking for black people to shoot. But more on that later.

    Hope you’re feeling better. And a Happy St. Valentine’s Day to you. I’ve got to go hide the chocolates for the kids.

  27. given the limitations of our conversation (text-only, first language to 2nd/3rd language), i think we’re doing pretty damn well, don’t we?

    regarding the problem of corruptibility, i agree – that’s not a problem for equality concerns only, though. it’s rather an innate problem of having rules enforced by humans, and even more general: it’s in the setting down of any rule at all. every regulated activity suffers not only from requiring a neutral referee, but also that rules themselves formulate how to follow their letter and violate their spirit. i.e. as soon as you draw a line to effect a purpose, you also describe a way to tip-toe it. that didn’t keep us from regulating things we now consider essential to be regulated. (probably different things for each of us, but the point of the matter is that inevitable weaknesses can’t be made into an argument against some regulation when we accept it in others – as we must by necessity)

    re affirmative action in the US: i can’t speak to the quality of the implementation, of course. and what you say about people with lower grades getting a preferential treatment smells a bit like tackling the problem at the wrong place. if some ethnicities are underrepresented at high-class schools because their average grades are worse than others’, that sounds like the problem to tackle instead. (and probably look into whether ethnicity masks a different problem that happens to exist along mostly ethnic boundaries.)

    the common case over here is the attempt to get better quotas, say, in leadership positions. there’s a well-worn formula that turns up on pretty much every public job offer that mandates that in case of equal aptitude, women (or other underrepresented minorities) will get preferential treatment. that’s a rule for unequal treatment, and i totally get the personal-level frustration when you didn’t get a job because the stupid rule advocated hiring the woman. the important factor in such a rule, to me, is what it describes. describing a top university with an equal distribution of students, but at different aptitudes, doesn’t describe a fair society. like, what bias does this really counteract? a bias against less-qualified people in the picking of students for prestigious universities? that’s a bit absurd.

    on the other hand, giving equally-qualified women (etc) preference in a climate where there is a bias against them describes a hiring pattern where that bias didn’t exist. ultimately, the hope is that we won’t need such rules anymore in the future, because we wouldn’t think twice about hiring someone not whatever the currently favoured demographic is.

    as for the concept of community: that sure has a good ring to it, i admit. and a certain pragmatism would of course mandate that people directly affected have a better idea about what ails them than someone far away. the flip side is that it allows the corruption of individual low level cells, and that, in turn, requires oversight from a higher level again. look at, for example, the ways some states try to implement some fairly dire crap laws (teach the controversy! abortion/health care. abstinence sex ed. etc) under the guise of religious freedom. either you condone a fairly heavy amount of bending of the values you deem binding for everyone (hardly tolerable in the cases mentioned,and it abolishes the notion of binding common values anyway), or you require oversight that state governments won’t exceed their legitimate wiggling room, and then we’re back at big bad government/federal dictatorship/etc.

    re police/blm: just for the record, the problem isn’t that some cops do bad things or get caught on camera doing it. on the individual person level, being imperfect is a fact of life we won’t find our way around. what’s upsetting is that there seems to be enough individual-person level imperfectness coagulating into a failure of the institution. that can be police departments making sure things that require punishment don’t get punished, but also that one jury member who caused a mistrial because he couldn’t fully see cause for accusation in video evidence of an officer shooting an unarmed, complying citizen, and then planting a taser on him. when institutions become compromised, that’s when things become dangerous. it undermines the legitimacy of the state’s monopoly on violence.

    that police arrive at protests they perceive to be ‘against them’ with the intent to counter with violence, when they don’t at harmless-for-them protests (the women’s march wasn’t ‘less violent’ because women are less violent than blacks, or somesuch. it was because police didn’t feel antagonised, which is not an admissible course of action for a state organ. compare also the administration’s behaviour towards the press. just as inadmissible.), further vindicates the suspicion of illegitimacy.

  28. The Dutch word that Adam is talking about in the beginning (that warm feeling, being with family and friends) is “Gezellig”. A word that I have, unsuccessfully, tried to explain to my colleagues. Adam’s description is one of the best I’ve come across.

    Interesting! I thought the word he was looking for was “hygge.” In looking it up, it seems very closely related. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygge

  29. also, here’s me being an oaf.

    thanks for the wishes. i’m way better now, and enjoying valentine’s day with a lot of tea and cake and sleeping in and (later) drawing. hope you’re having a swell day with your family as well!

  30. That wiki-article is clearly not written by a Norwegian/Dane. The word has caught on in the UK amongst the blogosphere in particular and poor definitions are rampant. For some reason some people really like to exoticize other cultures by introducing the idea of some “special practice” that cannot be accurately communicated to outsiders, when in fact it is describing something fairly mundane.

    For example, hygge is definitely not “a state where all psychological needs are in balance”, it is quite a bit less complicated than that lofty ambition.

    “Hygge” is basically the enjoyment of something familiar and comfortable, like spending time with family or in familiar surroundings. For example, it is “hyggelig” to run into an old friend and have a quick catchup, no balance of psychological needs required. In 9/10 circumstances, “hygge” is 100% accurately communicated by saying “it was really nice” as long as context is provided.

    Also, “uhygge” does not really mean “scary”, but a lot more like a general “uncomfortable” feeling, or feeling light dread. For example, it is a bit “uhyggelig” to walk alone through a strange part of town at night. You’re not really scared, it just isn’t very comfortable so you’re slightly on edge.

  31. Worth noting that the Danes put a lot more stock into the word and concept of “hygge” than us Norwegians, but at its core it is far less mystical than the recent hype gives it credit for.

  32. Switzerland —

    If you’ve any time for a day trip, visit the Jean Tinguely museum in Basel.
    Wikipedia will tell you what you need to know… but I just got back from a trip there myself quite inspired. Have a lovely trip, whatever your plans!


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