Saturday, November 28, 2015

Religious Nationalists, East and West, are Spoiling for a Fight

Nationalism is the modern version of tribalism.

Religion is our most powerful cultural tool to transcend tribalism.

But tribalism is powerful, and crafty.  It finds ways to co-opt every form of religion and cosmopolitan sentiment.

Thus, religious nationalism uses the terms and forms of universal religions to, ironically, support tribal conflicts.

Religious nationalists are usually kept in check by two unlikely allies: secular realists who oppose the utopian and apocalyptic excesses of nationalist religion; and truly religious people who oppose the parochial and violent excesses of nationalist cooptations of universal faiths.

But there is a cycle to human affairs.  New nationalist generations arise who "knew not Joseph," who forget why the last great war was so terrible.

I believe we are entering such a phase now.  Muslim religious nationalists, on one side, and Christian and Jewish religious nationalists, on the other, are spoiling for a fight.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Class Taste Reflects Our Conception of Happiness

We are now interviewing college graduates to see the connection between their tastes and their social class fraction. We started asking about why our subjects chose particular things or chose particular services. We soon realized though, that the more important question, the prior question, is to ask which choices seem like just utilitarian selection, and which choices involve a moral element.

I have over the past few years also been studying happiness, looking for what makes for a happy society.

I now see a point of convergence between these two lines of inquiry:  to ask people which of their choices seem to involve a moral element is to ask them their conception of the happy life.  In these questions, as we add them up, we are discovering (together with our subjects) their vision of eudaemonia - of a flourishing life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gov. Beshear Restores the Voting Rights of 180,000+ Nonviolent Felons in Kentucky

Kentucky is one of the few states that does not automatically restore voting rights to felons after they have completed their sentence.

Outgoing Governor Beshear, in a fine act of statesmanship, signed an executive order to restore voting rights to more than 180,000 nonviolent felons.

This is a good day for democracy.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Positive Civility Requires a Thick Skin

Here is a good centrist idea:

To take a positive step toward creating civility in society, be relentlessly reasonable.

Have a thick skin.

Don't get upset over potential problems.

Cut other people some slack when they are insensitive or thoughtless. (You undoubtedly need the same slack cut for you sometimes.)

Too often we think of civility as consisting of what we do not do - not being extreme, not getting worked up over minor issues, not calling names.

I offer this idea as something that centrists (or anyone interested in civility) can do to actively promote the happy society.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Millennials are the Most Willing to Use Government Censorship in a Good Cause. This is Still Wrong, But Teachable.

It is alarming that 40% of Millennials would be willing to have government prevent people from saying things that are offensive to minority groups.

Still, I see this as a vice of their virtues.  They are trying to overcome America's long history of racism.  The tool they have chosen - government censorship - is a cure worse than the disease, but they are trying to cure a disease.  Millennials are young, and famously less informed about history, including the historical use of government suppression of free speech to oppress minority groups.

I think most Millennials are not far from supporting other, less oppressive means of helping denigrated minorities. The traditional mechanism for opposing outright racists - public shaming - is effective and not as dangerous as government suppression.

For most people, though, the problem is not so much outright racism as it is insensitivity to unexamined denigration.  The cure for insensitivity is gentle consciousness raising.  And that applies to educating Millennials who are insensitive to the dangers of government censorship.