June 11, 2009

SPEAKING TRUTH TO PREMISE

I may come off forceful and set-in-my-ways here on the blog, but I assure you that I'm not like that in real life.  I rarely speak my mind, especially not in polite company.  I never reveal my true opinions and values to strangers.  It's part of that dilemma I've been writing about for five years:

When we get emails like this, or when our co-workers praise Fahrencrap 9/11, what is the proper response? I can't help but think of a passage from The Demon-Haunted World:

Imagine that you enter a big-city taxicab and the moment you get settled in, the driver begins a harangue about the supposed inequities and inferiorities of another ethnic group. Is your best course to keep quiet, bearing in mind that silence conveys assent? Or is it your moral responsibility to argue with him, to express outrage, even to leave the cab -- because you know that every silent assent will encourage him next time, and every vigorous dissent will cause him next time to think twice?

Sagan ends this section with "Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom." I just don't know what to think anymore. On the one hand, I think that some people will never see what I see, no matter how articulately I might lay it out, and it's not worth my sanity to try to beat them over the head with Truth. On the other hand, people are going to be voting next month based on bullcrap like this email forward on the draft, and unless we make a serious effort to counter the media and the junk science, we run the risk of losing President Bush.

And I'm starting to wonder if maybe I oughtn't dip my toe into impolite waters.  If maybe I should start speaking my mind in public on occasion.  Because five years hence, I still feel as frustrated and impotent as I used to.  I still walk away incensed and wishing I had spoken truth to premise.

Yesterday I heard two separate diatribes against The Rich.  They were offhanded things, premise things, deemed uncontroversial by their speakers.  Both assumed that their listeners would chime in and agree that the world is economically unfair and somehow the scales need to be righted.  I never chimed in with anything, just tried to ignore both interlocutors and change the subject quickly.  But looking back, I wish I'd replied. 

No, as a point of fact, I do not believe that, since we are all created equal by God, it is a travesty that most of the world's wealth is held by so few.  Nor do I believe that our current economic crisis was solely caused by greedy CEOs.  I also don't believe that your boss should have to give up his Mercedes because you think he doesn't do as much work as you do.  Nor am I horrified at the thought of someone making a "three-digit salary" (It was obvious from context that this person meant "six-digit," which leads me to conclude that, really, you might want to rethink your argument that you deserve more money than your boss.)

Absent actual evidence, I am not inclined to automatically assert that The Rich don't deserve their money.  I will not side with you in thinking that life is unfair and you know how to fix it.  I do not share your delusion that you are a better arbiter of how much money people should make than the free market is.

I think next time I might cautiously speak out and see how that feels, because I remain dissatisfied with my long-standing policy of avoiding controversy and thus having to suffer through others' treatises on How The World Should Work.

What I really ought to start doing is following Sean Hannity's lead and wide-eyedly asking, "So what you're basically saying is 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' then?"

And point out that you, with your fancy cell phone and comfortable house, better watch out you don't reap what you sow, because I am sure there is someone else in town who thinks you don't deserve your five-digit salary.  Those who fall middle-class should tread lightly on the class envy issue, for they have more riches than the majority of the people on this planet.

I will update the first time I speak truth to premise.  Gulp.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:05 AM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 03, 2009

PRECIENT

One of my great pleasures of blogging is knowing that there are a few of you out there who read Atlas Shrugged because of me.  For those of you who haven't gotten around to it yet (and there's one in particular, and you know who you are...ahem), may you find your motivation here: Rand’s Atlas Is Shrugging With a Growing Load

The hard-money monologue of Rand’s copper king, Francisco d’Anconia, used to sound weird. Who even thought about gold in the early 1990s? Now, D’Anconia’s lecture on the unreliable dollar sounds like it could have been scripted by Zhou Xiaochuan, or some other furious Chinese central banker:

“Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when it bounces, marked, ‘Account overdrawn.’”

Posted by: Sarah at 11:30 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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June 02, 2009

PERSONHOOD

(via CG)  Megan McArdle wrote A Really Long Post About Abortion and Reasoning By Historical Analogy That is Going to Make Virtually All of My Readers Very Angry At Me.  But she was wrong: not only did it not make me angry, I thought it was the most interesting thing I've read about abortion in a long time.

Posted by: Sarah at 10:51 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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June 01, 2009

THE 15 ON THE BUS

I am very late in bringing this up, but I still wanted to say it.  During the last episode of 24, they finally catch the bad guy and realize that there is no evidence to charge him with and that he will probably get away with all of his bad deeds.  One FBI agent wants revenge and turns to Jack Bauer for advice.  He says the following, which I think the writers of 24 did a beautiful job with:

I can't tell you what to do.  I've been wrestling with this one my whole life.  I see fifteen people held hostage on a bus, and everything else goes out the window.  I will do whatever it takes to save them, and I mean whatever it takes.  I guess maybe I thought that if I save them, I could save myself.

FBI Agent: Do you regret anything that you did today?

No.  But then again, I don't work for the FBI.

Agent: I don't understand...

You took an oath, you made a promise to uphold the law.  When you cross that line, it always starts off with a small step.  Before you know it, you're running as fast as you can in the wrong direction, just to justify why you started in the first place.  These laws were written by much smarter men than me, and in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the fifteen people on the bus.  I know that's right, in my mind, I know that's right.  But I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with that.  I guess the only advice I can give you is: try and make choices you can live with.

I think that's a pretty good discussion of the gray area in the interrogation debate.

Posted by: Sarah at 08:31 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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