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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

When did bullshit become acceptable?

When did it become acceptable as a business practice to just spew nonsense with a straight face? I realize it's been acceptable in politics for some time, but I would like to know when the bald faced lie became a practice that businesses employed, convinced that doing so was a good idea and a good business practice. In short, when did bullshit become standard practice?

My wife and I were involved in a car accident just before Christmas, and one week later we were the proud owners of a new to us car that we just love. The dealer gave us a registration receipt they said was as good as a real one until the permanent registration came from the State. It isn't. Last week I went up to the dealer to check on the progress of the registration, and one of the people in the finance department told it takes six to eight weeks for the State to process registrations. I found that odd, because when we bought the now totaled car we transferred these very same plates and had the new registration very quickly. Still, I thought perhaps my post-concussion memory was a bit addled and so I smiled and thanked her for her help.

This morning, what should back up my driveway but a UPS truck! The nice UPS man delivered one of those UPS envelopes from a different branch of the same car dealer. Hmmm, I thought, as I opened the envelope to discover a temporary registration on the appropriate State form that (hopefully) the appropriate people in my life will find acceptable. Mind you, this form didn't come from the State, it came from the dealer. Where do you suppose the hold up was? Despite the very nice representative's claim that they transmitted the information to the State directly at the time of the sale of the vehicle, I smell a very familiar, musky stench usually whiffed while driving in farm country. Clearly the theory is to push the blame off on someone else and hope that by the time evidence to the contrary appears nobody will care. I believe that most people do, in fact, care. I believe that dishonest significantly impacts the likelihood of a customer returning to do business with the same company again, because trust is built on honesty and trust matters. Leave the bullshit to the politicians. 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Why Truth Matters

It seems that contemporary culture has lost its sense of the value of truth. Our politicians certainly have. I saw a quote attributed to extreme right journalist cum politician Steve Bannon that advocated flooding the media with lies until people can't tell the difference between lies and the truth - or, more cynically, until lies become truth. You might be thinking that lies can never be the truth, but if we lose sight of that then there is no difference between the two, and they are effectively the same.

There are a lot of old maxims that hang on the reality of truth. You have likely heard that two wrongs don't make a right. If there no longer is a meaningful distinction between the truth and a lie, then there is
no longer any means that are not justified by our end goal. If I want to be rich, I can steal with impunity as long as we agree that being rich is a good thing - and there are no shortage of people who believe that being rich is a good thing. What we do have a shortage of are people who have any chance at becoming rich. When one percent of the world control most of the wealth, they aren't likely to let new people into their very exclusive club. Most folks don't seem to learn that lesson, and so they look the other way when all kinds of transgressions occur, hoping against hope that they will be the one to get in the club.

Perhaps the biggest lie of all is that wealth brings happiness. It does not. What brings happiness is choosing to be content with what we have. More stuff brings with it the perceived need to protect that stuff, and to acquire more in case what we have wears out or disappears. In the end, truth matters because when we lose sight of it we are easily manipulated and tend to act against our own self-interest, all the while believing that what we are doing benefits us. That may be the biggest lie of all.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Porn, Sex, and What Gets Ignored

In an effort to be more open and patient with nonsense, which I will freely admit I struggle with, I have been listening to an episode of The Liturgists podcast.  This podcast is a very popular one for millennials who are former Evangelicals, perhaps the most guilt ridden population around these days. Sorry, Roman Catholics, you have lost your dominance in the guilt game. The episode I have been slogging through is entitled "Porn," but includes so much more, including discussion about what it may or may not be appropriate to think about while masturbating, how to process having genitals and why we cover them, and a host of other related issues. I have lost track of the number of times I have said aloud, "oh for God's sake!" and "are they serious?"

Look, there are tons of studies that have been done that suggests that consuming pornography impacts the brain and our sexuality. For me, the problem with these studies is that it is hard to control for all of the things that impact our sexuality. Apparently, among post-millennials*, viewing violent porn leads them to believe that violent sex is normal. I don't know how you determine that to be the case, because there is nothing that would (a) lead me to enjoy depictions of violent sex, or (b) believe that it was normal. While I may not be representative of all males, I find it hard to believe that if you showed enough porn involving having sex with a German Shepherd it would be profitable to start a German Shepherd dating service. I do know a guy who found a dating service for men seeking women who don't speak English, but that's another story.

Here is what these discussions seem to miss: as a people, westerners are fucked up about sexuality. Here's a perfect example, and one that discussions like the on in the podcast avoid like the plague: estimates are that fifteen to twenty percent of American marriages are sexless. There are also twenty-three thousand Google searches each month for the term "sexless marriage," making it the most frequently searched sex-related term on Google. I would hazard a guess that people lie about how much, or more accurately how little, sex they are having. I would hazard a guess that a segment of this population turns to pornography as an aide to masturbation, but we don't see discussions or studies about that possibility. I don't think that we would want those people to phone the German Shepherd dating service, but maybe I am wrong.

Human sexuality is a complex subject, and - with apologies to John Wayne Bobbit - we can't address a complex subject by cutting it into little pieces and addressing those pieces individually. We also need to be cognizant of the fact that whatever we are confronted with most often will tend to be what we view as the majority practice or belief in a particular situation. There are more than a few sexual assault nurse examiners who see a perpetrator behind every Y chromosome, more than a few arson investigators who see a crime behind every can of gasoline, and more than a few pickpockets who only see people's pockets. Despite that, we have a penchant for trying to make complex problems one dimensional, and that almost always distorts the issue.

We can say that pornography is a problem and it may well be, at least for some people. We can say that there are good reasons why some people struggle to be able to be sexual with their partners, and there are. We can also say that fidelity is important, and it is. Can we also admit that all human beings are sexual beings, whether they are able to act on their sexuality within or without a relationship or not? Can we see that if we are in a relationship where we cannot participate sexually, where our partners want to be sexual, and where neither of us wants to have an affair, that there needs to be an outlet for the sexuality of the functional partner? Can we further see that it is anything but reasonable to become upset if we discover our partner is masturbating - under any circumstances, but perhaps especially under these circumstances?

Approximately one in three women experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. Six out of seven college coeds have heard people joking about rape. This is one reason I find the statistics about sexless marriages to be rather unbelievable and likely under reported. The consequences of this violence are wide reaching - so why aren't we talking about them? Why do we seem obsessed about what is happening when Kyle cuffs his carrot but not about why his wife's sexuality has been disrupted? Many feminists focus on subjects like pornography and masturbation to the exclusion of the consequences of rape culture and developing an adequate treatment response to it. Why is that? Why do we feel perfectly fine talking about rape culture but balk at taking - and working - toward changing it?

In my more cynical moments, I believe the reason is that it's much easier to bitch about something than to do the hard work of changing that something. Protests and marches are dramatic, high energy, and offer the possibility of being seen on TV. Changing the culture is slow, difficult, and sometimes discouraging work. There is more romance in complaining than in working for change. Maybe that's the nature of romantic actions - they are flashy, easy, and offer their own (fleeting) reward. Change is difficult and takes time, but it is a much more meaningful, lasting work. Maybe it's time to re-examine what is truly meaningful. Maybe it's time to start telling the people who show up for every march but can't be found when the work comes around to put up or shut up. Maybe we need to be honest that more masturbation (of a sort) goes on in the name of social justice than while holding up a magazine with one hand.

*post-millenials are those who were between ages 6 and 21 in 2018, or who today would be between ages 8 and 23. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Changes

There have been a lot of changes around Blogger in the last year, and there were rumors of its demise, prompting me to post more on my other blog Craig Bergland. It turns out that much of the fuss was about the demise of Google+, which never caught on as a competitor to Facebook. That is really a shame, but not surprising since Google+ wasn't the most user friendly platform for interaction. Combine that with most people have a resistance to change, and failure was almost a forgone conclusion.

As odd as it may seem, I like this platform and now that it seems like it will stick around I intend to continue to blog here. I really believe that Interspirituality is the spirituality of the future, though perhaps not under that name. Whether we want to admit it or not, the truth is that institutional religion in all its forms has had a rough few decades, and the general opinion is that its representatives cannot be trusted. Across traditions spiritual leaders have used and abused those under their care. That fact, coupled with humanity's growing understanding that we don't need an intermediary to access the Divine, has led to a shift in our perceived need for often pants-less teachers and preachers. If our children are not safe among those claiming to be God's representatives, either something is very wrong with God or something is very wrong with how the institution chooses its representatives. I am going to go out on a limb and guess the problem lies with the latter choice.

Pope Emeritus Benadryl XVI recently coauthored a book in which he disagreed with Pope Francis' position that in areas of critical priest shortages married priests should be allowed. Francis is essentially saying that the needs of the people are more important than the rules of the Church. Benadryl disagrees, and I have to wonder if that disagreement isn't at least in part an attempt to avoid the transparency that inevitably grows when new faces move into new spaces. A club filled with Queens and Pedophiles seldom welcomes the introduction of married men, because they and their wives may not be subject to the same kinds of coercion necessary to maintain a toxic code of silence. The winds of change are blowing in the Catholic Church, and they are far healthier than the kinds of blowing that have been going on in that allegedly celibate institution for hundreds of years. Anyone with any access to the Catholic Church knows that celibacy is a requirement most often observed by avoiding it, whether with other clergy, a housekeeper, or the local bishop. Change is long overdue, and may be a significant step on the long path toward healing.