Monday, October 16, 2017

Trying to Empathize with My Enemies


The Hidden Brain podcast "Tribes and Traitors" has got me thinking about how to empathize with my  enemy, the angry white men who shoot people.

When I take angry white men as a group, I can kind of understand their view.  They are trying to defend themselves and their kind from what they regard as an invasion of dangerous aliens.  The impulse to protect is honorable.  Their reading of how to identify the dangerous people if grossly misplaced.

They err in taking every story of a non-white person doing a bad thing as typical of that group.  They treat similar stories of bad things done by white people as individual actions, not reflective of the group.

Their decision to act by shooting random non-white people draws in part on this sort-of-understandable-but-misplaced impulse to protect.  But it also draws on an impulse, which I think is buried in all of us, to wish to have a good reason to destroy things.

When I try to empathize with Dylann Roof, the Charleston church murderer, in particular, though, I have a harder time.  He is another of those angry white men.  But he did not just open fire on random black people.  He crossed state lines to go to a prominent church.  They welcomed him in to their Bible study.  He took part for an hour.  And then opened fire on these very non-random black people who were doing good.

Love your enemies is a commandment.  Empathize with your enemies is an empirical path to a better society.  But some particular individual enemies have, so far, defeated my attempts at empathy.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The project of the happy society

The project of the happy society is building trust among the members to protect and advance the collective sacred.

(Today's thought during the "Happy Society" class.  The new idea is what the project of the happy society is, not just its static conditions.)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Breaking Up Spain is Part of Putin's Plan to Destroy the West

The Barcelona independence vote is supported by many different groups, most of them motivated by local reasons.

But it is also true that Vladimir's Putin's strategy is to sew confusion in the West and break up our economic and political unity.

This is why the Russians actively supported Brexit, and Donald Trump, and Scottish independence, and every other separatist movement in Western Europe.

The same plan is also why he brutally suppresses every separatist movement within Russia.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Three Percent Gay, Half a Percent Trans


I have been looking for some reasonable estimates of the proportion of the population who are homosexual, and of those who are transgender.

Edward Laumann and his University of Chicago team established the now-standard estimate that 2 - 4% of men, and 1 - 3% of women have a same-sex orientation, which averages to about 3% of the population.

The first efforts are being made now to estimate the proportion who are transgender.  The first reports, based on state-wide surveys in California and Massachusetts, were .3%.  Are more recent study of 19 states found .52% said they were transgender, which the authors round up to .6%

The wheel is still in spin here, so these early estimates will likely be modified by later research.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hooking Up is a Dominance Game


Lisa Wade has a new book on campus hookup culture, which she discusses on the "Hidden Brain" podcast.

She found that the students who most enjoy and benefit from hookup culture are higher class white men and women who use it as a status game.  The men are competing with the other men, and the women are competing with the other women, to see who can hook up with the highest status member of the other sex.  (This whole game is for hets.)

The point of hooking up is that it is for sex without emotional connection.  If you get attached, you lose the game.  In this, as a group, men have an advantage, which they exploit.  This is also why hookups are conducted drunk, to provide plausible deniability that any real emotions were involved.  And noise, to prevent conversation.  While the actual sex is usually conducted in private, the point of the hookup - both the initial connection on the dance floor, and the gossip afterwards -- is so that others will know.

Wade confirms what I found at Centre -- people think there is much more hooking up than there actually is, and think it involves intercourse much more than it actually does.

Nonetheless, hookup culture creates a social expectation that goes way beyond the "winners" of that status game, and interferes with actual love and romance.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Merkel Takes a Huge Gamble on the Demographic Future - Still Mostly Winning.


Angela Merkel took a huge gamble in welcoming a large number of immigrants to Germany.  Her country has very low fertility - too low to replace itself.  The refugees will not only be a new workforce for Germany, but, more importantly, the parents of the future Germany.

Anyone who has been following the tide of resentful nationalisms all around the world could predict what would happen next:  an intense anti-immigrant backlash, openly racist and violent, would challenge her.

Merkel did win the German election, but the new fascist party came in third - the first time fascists have been in the parliament since the Nazis were driven out.

It cost Merkel much of her political capital to take this huge gamble, but, in a generation, I believe she will be honored as the demographic savior of Germany.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The False Choice Between Altruism and Social Conformity


Some think that altruism is not real if it has any mixture of self-interest, social pressure, or social conformity.

But we learn how to serve others, much the way we learn anything else.  Virtue is a practice which we try to get better at and make habitual.  When it becomes second nature, it can appear to be "pure".

Yet we learn how, exactly, to be altruistic from social models.  And we keep on trying to learn how to make virtue habitual because we have the support of social norms and of other people promoting those norms.

Moreover, when we do serve others, we also can reap the approbation of others - that is, enhance our status.

These are not impurities of altruistic service.  This is the very human and social way that we learn how to be altruistic servants.