Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is the Casual Sex of Today Like the Smoking of Yesterday?

Today we look back on the indifference to the effects of smoking in the '60s with amazement. Now we know better, mostly due to science.

I think future ages will look at us the same way when they think about the emotional effects of casual sex. And this change will also mostly be due to science.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I Don't Like to Travel, Dressed Up in Sociologese.

I don't really like to travel, though I do a fair amount.

I have been thinking about why, exactly, I do not. 

I do like to learn about other people and places; that is one of the reasons I am a sociologist. 

I do not much need to feel the aura of special places, to have an authentic experience of "being there."  On the other hand, I always notice things about the juxtaposition of places and cultures that I would not have seen from just reading about other places. 

Still, I would rather be in my house or campus or coffee house, talking to people and working.

I think this is the main reason I do not like to travel:

When I am home, I feel that I am building social capital.
When I travel, I am spending it.
Each trip, therefore, had better be worth the social expense.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Hopeful Sign: Egyptian President Gives Up Dictatorial Powers.

The Arab Spring is one of the most hopeful movements for a peaceful world.

The Islamic world has been so resistant to democracy that some have seen democratic government as un-Islamic.  This charge has not only come from opponents of Islamic nations, but from some Islamist theorists.  Many regimes, from merely authoritarian to brutally fascist, have been protected by the anti-democratic united front of Islamic states.

The Arab Spring looks like it will break that anti-democratic tradition.  If a group of stable democracies were established in the heart of the Islamic world, then the pressure for better government would ripple out all the way to Morocco and to Indonesia.  The "bloody borders" of the Islamic world that Samuel Huntington famously noted would turn to normal, peaceful, compromising, nation-upbuilding politics.

The most important nation trying to establish Islamic democracy is Egypt.  When an Islamist, Mohammed Morsi, was elected president after the overthrow of the dictator, many were worried. That he represents the Muslim Brotherhood, which had assassinated the previous president for making peace with Israel, was even scarier. However, I remain hopeful that having political responsibility will make the Muslim Brotherhood a more responsible and normal political party.

I was very distressed, therefore, when President Morsi proclaimed dictatorial powers.  The oppressed imitate their oppressors.

However, there was broad and sustained resistance in Egypt to Morsi's dictatorship.

Today, responding to the protests, Morsi annulled the decree giving him dictatorial power.

The conflict is far from over in Egypt, but this is a hopeful sign for a happier world.