Celtic Riverside – The Online Journal of James Keenan

Politics (Random Thoughts to Annoy the Internet)

Discriminating readers will want to know if a writer is worth following, so a little transparency is in order. Not only do I have biases as a human, philosophy is a focus of my writing and some issues, like gender equality, appear frequently. A good reader will determine the writer’s position from the work itself. What follows are not detailed arguments for positions or even a guarantee that future writings will adhere to given positions (new information changes things), but a summary of how I currently view key issues to provide some sense of things to come.

  • Logic/Science
    • Scientific illiteracy is one of the biggest problems we face as a society. One sees a tendency to embrace “studies” that support positions already held without regard for the validity of the study – consensus among the scientific community; peer review; appropriate sample sizes and populations; solid methodology; and so forth. One sees scientific terminology like “theory” misinterpreted by laypersons. These tendencies swelled into a full-fledged anti-intellectualism trend.
    • Science is not something one discovers. Rather, science is itself the process of discovery; of observing the natural world, posing a question about it, developing an educated idea of what might be happening, constructing an experiment that controls for the phenomenon observed, and analysing the results of that experiment. Others should be able to reproduce the experiment with the same results with such consistency that one reasonably expects the outcome any time the conditions are present.
    • Logic is the root of science – constructing a conclusion based on the truth of the premises (an argument). To be logical is not “to have a sequence of thoughts”. The relationship and causality of one thought on the next is critical. Treating one possible outcome as the expected outcome, ignoring some of the prerequisites for the outcome, and countless other fallacies and cognitive biases can derail a train of thought.
    • When it comes to public policy in particular, and any discussion of the social contract, we must have logic and science. Asking the greater society to adopt a policy based on belief alone is unacceptable. One may feel that humans are capable of unaided flight, but we positively know the effects of gravity and base policy on the idea that if one were to step off a roof one would fall like a stone.
    • “Question everything” does not mean “rebel against everything”. It means read/follow the instructions and critically examine each piece. If something about it does not make sense, ask the question instead of following it blindly. Following the crowd is okay.
    • Position: My logic has flaws and I am subject to the same cognitive biases as anyone – that said, belief has little place in my compositions. I expect readers to critique and challenge it as I expect the readers to abide science and logic.
  • Climate Change/Global Warming
    • Scientists observed a consistent increase in atmospheric and oceanic temperatures over time. The rise corresponded with a commensurate rise in carbon dioxide levels, causing scientists to question a link between the two. Experiments revealed a direct link – that carbon dioxide cause a greenhouse effect in which sunlight entered the atmosphere but could not escape. Further questions regarding the carbon dioxide revealed human sources as the most significant contributor beginning with the Industrial Revolution.
    • Believing that humans could affect the global environment is not the “height of hubris”. We have removed forests, built dams and canals, and caused desertification in areas over short periods. Sustained carbon dioxide emissions are more than capable of having an ever-increasing impact that forge a positive feedback loop in which natural processes (like the melting of permafrost) also begin to worsen the issue.
    • Global warming means that some places will get hotter but it also means that places will get colder as the warming disrupts the physical geography of our planet. Melting ice caps disrupt oceanic flows that carry warmer water to the poles, leaving places colder. It also means increased droughts in some regions, deluges in others, and worsening natural disasters as the conditions conducive to their formation increase.
    • Position: Global warming is real and a valid concern. The planet is not the actual concern. Earth will survive any amount of warming that humans cause. However, it will also become uninhabitable for humans in the process. That is the very selfish reason that addressing this issue must be a priority for us.
  • Feminism/Gender Equality
    • Sexual assault is not an issue for women. Continue teaching your daughters, sisters and friends how to be safe out there, but teach your sons and brothers and friends to stop being assholes, too. Learn what sexual assault is (most men – not even all – believe rape is never okay and then fail to understand that various acts are rape) and hold your fellow men accountable. “Boys will be boys” means sharing fart jokes, not assaulting another human being.
      • I have not developed a logical argument for or against this yet, but I do not understand the public breastfeeding debate. It is a breast. It is not her fault that society has collectively over-sexualized it. I do think there will come a day when people look back on this debate with the same mocking derision that we look back on “women showing their ankles”.
    • Pro-choice is not the same as pro-abortion. Pro-choice, at minimum, is the argument not to legislate that option off the table.
    • Contraception and gender-specific healthcare needs to be available, especially in an environment pushing so hard to criminalize abortion.
    • Some define marriage as between a man and a woman. The government never defined marriage that way, nor did millions of other people. The idea that homosexuality is any sort of abomination is primarily a religious construct, but marriage is not a purely religious institution. There is zero reason to deny gay marriage.
    • Men are vulnerable. There, everyone can stop pretending and holding men to archaic standards of masculinity. “Quick to anger and slow to reason” is not the nature of man; society has conditioned it into them. If they do pause for reason or compassion, society will question or tear asunder their masculinity and so they pause not. To the men in those positions, consider this: what actually takes more courage and strength? Submitting to that social pressure and lashing out, or standing firm against it? The toughest men know when to check their egos despite those pressures.
    • Position: Feminism is not, as Emma Watson so astutely put it, a stick with which to beat other women. The premise of feminism is not misandry. Quite the contrary, feminists seek equal rights for men as well, whom society fails in some areas. The difference between women’s rights and men’s rights is that women face a systemic, institutionalized bias that touches every aspect of their lives whereas men face instances of it.
  • Human Rights
    • Black Lives Matter does not mean the same thing as “Only black lives matter”. As with women’s rights, the issue here circles back to a larger issue of one dominant class and the systemic, institutionalized discrimination against members of all other groups. Movements such as BLM do not discredit notions of inequality or difficulty borne by members of other groups. What they do is call attention to the inequality and difficulty faced by groups whose struggles we do not hear.
    • This extends to the LQBTA+ community, Asians, Hispanic/Latinos, and any other subdivision of people. Those who raise the concern, “But what about these advantages that group has over me?” are missing the point. We do need to correct that advantage and make things equal – however, we first need to deal with the larger systemic and institutionalized nature of the inequity faced by the other group.
    • Position: White privilege is a thing. Yes, one’s life may suck – saddled with student loans, lost out on that promotion, and so forth. Sucks. This belies the point that one’s life would be worse if one were not a straight white CIS male. That is all that “privilege” means. Rich people do not experience things the same way poor people do. Minorities do not experience them the same way white people do. Women do not experience them the same way men do. LGBTA people do not experience them the same way straight people do. No one is suggesting life is all sunshine and rainbows for straight, wealthy, white men, just that there is a systemic advantage and we should maybe give other groups that same chance.
  • Gun Control
    • Most people with mental health issues are non-violent and are, in fact, more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than to perpetrate one. That said, anyone who uses a firearm to commit violent acts against others (that is, to be that socially maladjusted) has a mental health issue. However, …
    • Statistically, those who commit mass shootings are likely to be white and male by a sizeable margin. From this, we should conclude that the issue of gun violence is not a mental health issue. Not only is it uncommon to the population of people with mental health issues, even among those with a propensity for violence there is a bias.
      • Without the aid of reliable data on gun violence thanks to the Dickey Amendment, analysis remains largely speculative. Identifying gun violence as 1) a disproportionately American occurrence perpetrated by 2) men who are, at least in cases of mass shootings 3) white suggests toxic masculinity as a root cause. It seems we are regarding individuals raised with both a sense of entitlement and the notion that violence is an acceptable, even endorsed means of acquisition for men.
    • The issue disproportionately affects the United States where there are more guns than people (something like 1.01 guns per capita) – significantly higher gun ownership than any other country.
    • I personally draw the line at “get rid of all guns” because the United States, as a sovereign country, decided that gun ownership is part of its social contract. Citizens have a right to own firearms. I disagree with that because the notion of responsible gun ownership does not reconcile with any of the given reasons for gun ownership, but I respect that gun ownership is not one of the freedoms that this country collectively surrenders.
    • Position: Establishing tighter gun control and addressing the underlying cause (which to the best of my analysis to date is toxic masculinity) is an absolute necessity to improve public safety. Even with violent crime rates and gun-related incidents down, they are still far too common to take no action. Making it more difficult to obtain firearms would ideally help reduce the ability of those disenfranchised individuals to carry out the levels of violence we have seen.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse
    • Mental illness and addiction are illnesses like any physical ailment. Alcoholics are not blissfully immune to the effects of alcohol on their lives and those around them. Depressed people are not merely feeling bummed out all the time. Yes, they have the potential to take a very serious toll on those around them, but expecting them to stop their condition without therapy is ridiculous. One cannot merely decide to stop being anxious any more than one could simply decide to stop having the flu.
  • Social Services/Welfare
    • An alarming number of people are homeless or at risk of homelessness for reasons beyond their control. Many people in the welfare system are eager to return to work because, as nice as it might be to have housing provided, the housing is either unavailable (resulting in shelter stays) or under a number of restrictions in poorer neighborhoods, because no one wants to have affordable housing built in their area. Cases typically involve issues of availability rather than laziness. See the sections above on equal rights, because that systemic lack of availability tends to affect some groups more than others.
  • International Relations
    • Start solving problems at home first. We will never solve a problem like the conflict over Gaza until we can stop Dodgers fans from knifing Giants fans in the parking lot. If people cannot control their emotions over baseball teams that have been around for a century, why do you think we can appeal to anyone in a socio-political/religious conflict going back centuries?
    • That does not endorse policies of isolationism or nationalism. Like people, nations affect one another and no one is truly isolated regardless of policy. The world needs dialogue and real action at the national level to improve global life, and that means outside pressure on the sovereignty of nations at times. However, that pressure must come with international support (that is, never unilateral) and support the stability and safety of those within the pressured country.
    • Immigration is a necessary lifeblood of any nation. Debate where society draws the line for acceptable levels of immigration but know that shutting down entire avenues of immigration hurts the host nation in the end. In addition, one cannot claim to support human rights on the international stage while denying asylum to victims of violations.
    • Military action is not an appropriate response to fundamentalism or extremism. Violent acts, often involving civilian collateral damage, will never dissuade fundamentalists or extremists from taking further violent action themselves. Rather, it reaffirms their vision and acts as a recruiting tool for the newly disenfranchised members of society.
  • Religion
    • Religion is not logical. It contains internal logic in the form of rules, traditions, practices, and so forth, but the critical thing to remember is that it all comes from faith. This does not make religion a bad thing, and people should fully embrace the religion of their choice freely. Religion appears as an item at the end of this composition to pull everything together – the epitome of where human fallibility meets formal logic, where our resolute and unyielding beliefs come into conflict with contrary evidence.
    • Position: Arguments based on religious beliefs are only useful insofar as all of the members of the discussion belong to that religion. The moment an outside perspective enters the discussion, logic governs policy. There can be no progress without mutual premise, and logic rules that process.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: