Saturday, June 15, 2019

Stop Limiting My Potential

From BBC news-
"A ban on adverts featuring "harmful gender stereotypes" or those which are likely to cause "serious or widespread offence" has come into force.
The ban covers scenarios such as a man with his feet up while a woman cleans, or a woman failing to park a car.

The UK's advertising watchdog introduced the ban because it found some portrayals could play a part in "limiting people's potential".

“Our evidence shows how harmful gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to inequality in society, with costs for all of us. Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential,” says Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority)."

At the risk of being stereotyped as an older, white, conservative male this seems to me to be just one more crazy attempt by progressives to brute force the round peg of equality into the square hole of reality.

People are different, genders are different. Why people are who they are is complicated and we still don’t fully understand it. But the scientific evidence for real differences between the sexes is undeniable. Gender matters. And there is substantial evidence that other factors matter, they matter a lot. Personality type matters. Where you grow up matters? Race matters. Money matters. Health matters. Education matters. Your decisions and the decisions of others matter. The weather matters. IQ matters. Physical appearance matters. Age matters. Like it or not, fair or not…differences matter.

To be clear, I am all for equal opportunity for everyone. But equal outcomes are not possible. Over the past 100 years most of the modern, industrialized world has made tremendous progress toward creating equal opportunity for all. Yet, we still see unequal outcomes among people of different genders, races, places of origin, etc.

Some of this will take time to work through. Ever since we started walking upright, discovered fire and began telling our stories on cave walls, human civilization hasn’t been all that big on equal opportunity. Rulers and subjects have been the norm. The fortunate few selected by the gods to run things. On the timeline of human history we are still new at this equal opportunity idea. We are very much a work in process. And, going forward things will get incrementally better for more people. But not for all and never the same for all. This is a hard pill to swallow for social scientists. So they spend their time and someone else’s grant money doing studies that show where and how society does these awful things to perpetuate inequality.

As I grow older, I resent the assumptions that many people have about aging and ability. I am still in good shape, the mind is sharp and I’m not all that different than I was 20 years ago. But, the reality is that I am different. My hearing isn’t as good as it used to be. I’m not as strong and don’t recover from a hard workout or heavy physical labor the way I used to. I tend to be more forgetful. I have to pee more frequently. I watch Blue Bloods and most of the music I listen to is from the last century. So I fit a lot of older adult stereotypes.

But I don’t want to watch catheter commercials. I don’t need a reverse mortgage. I’m not moving to an “active senior” community. I don’t much like seeing older people portrayed in movies and television as incompetent, sad and helpless.

All of this stereotyping could be limiting my potential. But, it’s not. If anything, it motivates me to keep going as well as I can for as long as I can. While I am not the man I used to be, in many ways that’s a good thing. I’m kinder and gentler and don’t take life as seriously. I have gained the perspective that comes with age. That is a difference and an advantage that I gladly embrace.

My potential is limited by many things. Now, most of all, by time. I don’t need a well-meaning social scientist to ban advertisements that I don’t like or want to watch. But, if they could come up with a Time Machine that actually worked, I’d take a spin.

"It would be interesting to find out what goes on in that moment when someone looks at you and draws all sorts of conclusions.”
― Malcolm Gladwell

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

What Was, What Is and What Will Be

If you want to know how someone is likely to vote ask them how they feel about the Past, the Present and the Future. If they are honest with their answers, you can predict with a fair degree of accuracy how they are likely to vote. There will always be special circumstances that override attitudes toward past, present and future. Race and gender perhaps being the most likely to override all other voter attitudes, opinions and interests.

But for the most part, how people vote depends on how they feel about the Past, the Present and the Future. Those who think the Past was better will pretty much tend toward voting conservatively; including those within a left-leaning party such as the Democrats. Those Democrats who like the “old Democratic Party” will tend toward someone more conservative or as they prefer to call in, centrist. (Joe Biden’s current status is a prime example). But clearly, most of the “past was better” crowd is going to vote Republican, even if it means voting for Trump again.

Those with a positive view about the Present are definitely more inclined to vote for the incumbent. But then it gets interesting. When it comes to those having a negative view of the Present, they tend to fall into two camps. One camp thinks The Present would be better IF it were more like the Past. The other has a Future vision of a new and improved way of life that will be much better than the Present. Those unhappy with the Present and looking for a return to the Past will tend toward conservatism and vote Republican. (This was a key factor in Trump’s win). The other unhappy camp is all about fixing those things that are broken and have been broken for a long-time and are likely to get worse if we don’t change and become more “progressive”.

And then lastly, how one feels about the Future will tend to impact ones vote. In 2008, even people who thought America was or had been a great place for them and their families, were scared and confused. The Future did not look all that great and a lot people went with Hope and Change because they didn’t know what else to do. So even people who pretty much wanted their good old familiar, reliable country back voted for a guy who had a much more progressive agenda which, under normal circumstances, would have made them very uncomfortable.

The problem Republicans are facing in 2020 is that a growing number of voters under the age of 35 have not lived in an America that made them long for the good old days. And a good number of them aren’t doing all that great in the here and now either. These folks will be inclined to vote Democrat (or not at all.) Some might even go for a far-left third party candidate if such an option were available. Most all of the “identity” politics crowd will vote Democrat because the Democrats have done a great job of appealing to that audience. They started doing it in 60’s, eventually forming the Rainbow coalition and other groups of progressive activists. It probably cost them a lot of elections over the past 40 years, but now it’s ready to bear fruit. Older white, males who pretty much loved the America they grew up in, are a dying breed…literally.

Increasingly we are now told that the Past was only great for certain people. The Present works great for The One Percent, but everyone else is worse off and losing ground. The Future looks like melting ice caps and rising sea levels, a bad moon rising. All of this resonates with millions of people in this country. So does the narrative shape the people or do the people shape the narrative? Or is it a bit of both? And “What Will Be” ultimately comes down to one question….who actually shows up and votes.

When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Protect This House and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

“The truth will set you free, but not until it is finished with you”- David Foster Wallace

Three years ago, Art Briles was removed from his position as head football coach of the Baylor University Bears. From a lawsuit filed on behalf of 17 women, it is alleged that over a period of five years 19 of Briles’ players committed sexual and/or physical assaults. The victims claim that Briles and his staff knew about most, if not all, of these attacks and did nothing. Took no action to report these complaints to the police or the university authorities and, for the most part, worked to protect the players and the program.

This whole terrible event is now back on the front page because Art Briles just got hired to coach a football team here in Texas. A nice Sunday drive to the southeast of where I live is the hometown of Don Meredith, Mount Vernon. Dandy Don the almost great and much beloved QB of the early days Dallas Cowboys; and the good ol’ boy star of Monday Night Football back when Monday Night Football was a thing. The fine folks of Mount Vernon and Franklin County, Texas are now the talk of the football world. A handful of their fellow citizens decided that Art Briles would be the right man to lead their Mount Vernon Tigers to football glory. They spoke to several of his references, most notably Grant Teaff, Baylor coaching legend and former head of the American Football Coaches Association. Grant Teaff is a devout Christian and a man of impeccable character. If he endorses someone, it’s like gold in the state of Texas. And he gave Briles his golden thumbs up.

Much has been written about the Baylor/Briles mess. Regardless of who knew what, when did they know and what did they do or not do about it; the big question is WHY? Why do people and institutions allow bad things, or even alleged bad things, to go on without being addressed and resolved, one way or the other?

What is behind the bad judgment and poor decision-making that goes on to create outcomes like the Baylor mess, or the Penn State/Paterno/Sandusky thing, or going to war over non-existent WMDs, or Watergate, or the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal…or, or, or….?

The core issue is one of morality. Either their moral compass is broken or they simply rationalize their decision to fit the situation. In most cases, including the ones mentioned above, people made decisions which they thought were “right”. So how does one see “right” in something that is so “wrong”. Or at least wrong when viewed objectively in the clear light that tends to shine after the damage has been done.

When ones first priority is “Protecting This House”, or position, or company, or reputation, or fortune…or anything we place great value upon…we simply lie to ourselves and then to others. We cast doubt on the “wrong” that has been done or will be done. Maybe it’s not that bad or it didn’t happen at all or nothing will happen. Maybe what we are doing is for the greater good and what has happened or will happen to innocent people is just collateral damage. Or maybe they aren’t all that innocent in the first place. Maybe we are doing what we really believe to be the right thing, but we take the easy way out and make up stories that sound better (if they actually turn out to be true…WMDs were there…yes they really were…no matter what the facts are.)

In the end, the truth and doing the right thing may get you nailed to a cross. But the truth and the doing the wrong thing leaves you hanging up there….or seeking redemption too late in a place like Mount Vernon.