Finally done with Facebook

The writing has been on the wall for a while, but I didn’t use it a lot, and took some steps to limit the data they could gather on me, so that was my excuse, but at this point I can no longer justify complicity in perpetrating the popularly of such a broken platform and company. Maybe Amazon and Google will be soon to follow, and I have already been making steps in that direction, but those will be a little trickier from a practical standpoint. Blog posts will start to suplant what would have been Facebook statuses and tweets. Go go gadget RSS feed subscriptions. Time to curate my own news feed again

Zoo Membership

Just spitballing here. What if for places like Zoos, a sort of collective public resource (even if it is privately owned), you couldn’t buy a membership; instead you had to earn it. You volunteer, and if you do that enough, you earn your membership. If a well coordinated and thorough volunteer management system was in place I could see this reducing operating costs for the zoo significantly enough to impact ticket prices for non members.

In tandem also define membership at only individual level, but make membership mean unlimited entry not just for the member, but also for a guest. I think this could replace the increasingly hard to define family membership.

If such volunteer systems could help take care of not just schedule coordination, but certain levels of training I could see this being a really awesome way for people to become actually personally invested in these shared public resources, which is sort of a part of solving the tragedy of the commons issue. How much training does it take to learn to clean a tiger cage, or sort fish to feed penguins? neither really fun jobs to do repeatedly, but with a volunteer system that also handled a lot of the training? Could an approach like this harness the power of novelty?!

Christians with shitty beliefs hurting kids

We have been doing foster care for a few years now. We have come across kids with trauma. That was to be expected. What I didn’t expect was how much of that trauma was to be inflicted by other Christians also doing foster care who have stupid beliefs and shitty practices. Forcing kids to go to church services, rejecting or not allowing them to be placed in the home because they don’t believe in God, or because they use crude language, or because *gasp* they are sexually active. That junk is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of these kids have attachment issues, and many of them we have encountered have had those made worse by people who ‘just wanted to love them’, but apparently have a very poor idea of what that really should looks like. To be fair, I am still figuring that out too, but at least I am pretty sure loving troubled kids shouldn’t involve heaping even more rejection, detachment, and judgement on them, nor neglecting their needs for attention because of the prioritization of dumb church activities!

Social Media Commentary That Makes Me Cringe Isn’t All Bad

More refugees, another school shooting, errant drone strikes, and other such things where people are dying or suffering who should not. This is the news lately. But I could almost say this on any given day and it would be true it seems. Tragedy, and evil are nothing new, and yet it feels newly tragic each time. That must be the reason everyone, myself included, feels the compulsion to to make the poignant comment on Facebook or Twitter that is going to mean something. I have been wondering if the underlying desire driving the commentary is to help more often than not. Practically speaking what else can most of us really do except talk about it. Maybe it is just trying to not to feel completely helpless or powerless in the face of such things. Saying something – trying to frame the tragedy correctly, or enlighten about the hidden underlying causes, or to motivate to action in some fashion, or arguing to change things things so it doesn’t happen again, or even reacting against the proposed counter measures one supposes will have undesirable side effects – this is all we have! In this medium at least.

Okay, this is just me convincing myself I shouldn’t feel annoyed or so disturbed by peoples opinions or commentary. At least I should temper my reaction some if I don’t like or agree with what they say keeping in mind that it means people care in some fashion, and that is so much better than apathy!

Language Dialects and Culteral Prejudice

I saw this video today, and it got my mind going on a topic I have been rolling around in the back of my mind for a while.

As someone who has travelled and lived overseas, and who has friends from all over the world, I like to think I am fairly cultured. That I am good at having a healthy perspective, or it should be easy for me to be tolerant of and aware of things that are merely cultural differences. For example, to not judge people based on the language they speak, or the culture they have been influenced by. Yet, I notice that I feel less apt to take the step to actively do that with Americans who vary from me culturally than I am for non-Americans.

I have a friend who hates it when people say “I’m not racist, but [insert something he will automatically interpret as racist here]”, so I hesitate to use the phrase. But, I guess that he, along with many others who often cry ‘racist’, incorrectly confound racism with cultural prejudice. So I am going to say it that way anyway, and just stick with me to the end of what I have to say.

I would say that I am not racist, but that I think my cultural prejudices could be interpreted as judging people based on genetic heritage (race). In fact, I think I just have some issues with cultures that are distinct, while also sharing enough in common with my own culture that I have trouble as perceiving them as a distinct culture; one that I should be sensitive to and tolerant of. I mean this in the proper sense of tolerance. Which is to say, not that you dismiss all aspects of a culture as okay just because, “it’s cultural”, but that you use proper discernment to separate the parts that deserve to be judged by moral/ethical standards from the parts that don’t.

Language dialects probably don’t merit cultural prejudice any more than clothing or food differences do, but I miss that somehow. I suspect I am not the only one to make this mistake. It seems to me tolerance as a virtue is just easier in some ways when it is more obvious that you need to be exercising it. Language dialects are to close maybe. They just slip by without triggering in me whatever makes me switch on the anti prejudice portion of my mind.

While I can’t say I don’t cringe a little inside when someone uses ‘axe’ in place of ‘ask’, or odd (to me) double negatives like “don’t nobody …”, I have been trying to see this pattern of speech as cultural rather than one based out of ignorance of language or lack of intelligence. It does help to think about what the British or someone from two hundred years ago would have thought about the way I talk.

context and conspiracy

Was thinking about the 9/11 memorial stuff. Not to propose that it was a conspiracy, or wasn’t, I haven’t looked much into it honestly, but I remembered an article I read once about Pearl Harbor, so I went back and read it again http://mises.org/daily/6312/ .

Even if the shocking accusation of the administration being aware of the Japanese attack are false I think it is notable as an example that common perceptions of headline events are often out of context, and, at least sometimes, these misperceptions are sought, shaped, and manipulated intentionally by the powers that be.

Sidebar: Sometimes I am afraid I suspect to many conspiracies. However, while I don’t think it is healthy to look for hidden motivations behind everything, I have sort of consoled myself with the realization that it would actually be weirder if there weren’t conspiracies. So, of course there are conspiracies! People lie and manipulate all the time, and it only follows that some lies and manipulations involve the collusion of multiple parties. That is the definition of conspiracy, right. I should look it up. Yes, that’s pretty much spot on.

Back on topic, what does this imply about how we ought to think about the tragedy of 9/11 or about the war in Syria that we are on the cusp of jumping into? Some very loose conclusions I have: It seems quite likely to me that 9/11 was blow-back from excessive US interventions overseas and to few people talk about that. It seems pretty obvious that public opinion around it was manipulated towards questionable ends, though the details and motivations are still pretty cloudy to me. It seems scepticism towards the current propaganda on the Syria situation is reasonable.

Is love ever wasted?

About a year ago my wife and I got started doing foster care. For all sorts of prudent reasons it probably wasn’t a good decision for us to get into it at this time, but that is hindsight talking. Our hearts were in the right place though. We just wanted to love some kids who were intough spots. Maybe even help some parents out along the way if we could. If adoption was an option all the better, just get to love them longer or something like that.

A year later, after lots of stress and frustration, as the foster daughter who has been living with us for about the last seven months is set to leave within a few days, and my wife and I just had a big fight that I think came about because we are both having a really hard time processing the guilt we feel about choosing to have her placed in a different home, I have the lyrics from a Coldplay song on repeat in my head.

“When you love someone and it goes to waste”

We wonder if we have done any good at all. We don’t feel better off. This doesn’t appear to have been a beneficial for our two young boys. Have any of the kids who have stayed with us been impacted for the better in a lasting way by their time with us? As much as that idea is something I’d like to believe, there just isn’t much to grasp on to that helps me feel that such hope is realistic.

Maybe at the least some valuable lessons? Probably, but maybe now it’s too soon to be able to see any but the most cynical sounding ones. This is has to be the most effort I have ever put forth on something that felt like such a fruitless endeavor.

Not consciously so much, but I had this conception before that making effort to love people can’t really be wasted. That has been shaken. I find myself dancing between self flagellating and excusing myself from responsibility. It can’t be just a waste, can it? If I can pinpoint the exact matrix of the reasons it all went sour would it really make me feel better? Is that why I am writing this?

inconsistent empathy

If you have been grieved over what happened in Newtown please consider reading this article about drone strikes. I think it gives some interesting perspective. I have thoughts brewing around a possible underlying cause that I hope to get out sometime soon. They have to do with growing tendency for dehuminization. I wonder if an inability to empathize with the deaths going on in more remote parts of the world is only minorly related to the lack of reporting on it and the geographical distance. Factually those deaths are just as tragic, if not more so in some ways, but why do so few seem to care?