Years ago I had a roommate who wanted to be a pilot. I had my private SEL license and a subscription to Flying magazine. My roommate would read the issues as they came out. In every issue they have a feature called "Aftermath" where they analyze an NTSB report on a recent crash or incident to see what they can learn. One day my roommate said in disgust "It's always 'pilot error.' What are they saying, that pilots are stupid?"
I had a contrasting viewpoint. Anytime I heard of an incident I searched for what the pilot had done wrong. The last thing I wanted was to climb onboard a plane with the idea that "This plane is going to kill me and there's not one thing I can do about it." In my ideal world every single thing that went wrong would have a "pilot error" cause. Pilot error I can control.
Remember how we chatted about choices vs. what you're born with? This is a continuation of that. The mechanical aspects of the airplane are what you're born with. All the rest is under control of a pilot.
We talked about how everything is a syndrome, that way you don't have to take responsibility for your behavior. So if Clinton is banging an intern, it's not his fault—he has a syndrome.
But think about it—the best way to insult someone is to excuse someone for something because they can't control it. "Don't worry that you can't bench 250—not everyone has good genetics." That backhanded compliment is the worst insult you can level at a thinking person. Nothing rankles someone like me more than being given a pass because it's something I can't affect.
What's that? Why, yes, I am a control freak, why do you ask?
Best cartoon yet on the Obama job "plan"
Is that horse still dead?
I bring this up because, as you recall, we were just chatting about Bill Clinton and how he couldn't be held responsible for his behavior. Last week I was at my whacko right-winger grass-roots Constitution study class and the topic of Bill Clinton came up.
If I thought for a minute I could remember the context, 'cause it's probably somewhat relevant, but one good lady said "Well, I didn't like Bill Clinton because he was immoral."
I almost said something—I should have said something. It rankled me. There are a lot of reasons to hate Bill Clinton, and what he does with his boy parts is way way down the list.
Just in case you're new to Leany on Life, I'll clue you in. Monica Lewinsky was the best thing that ever happened to Bill Clinton because the event masked what a horrible choice he was to lead America. Monica Lewinsky was to Bill Clinton what the assassination was to JFK—it gives everyone the opening to say "Other than that, he could have been a great president."
There is no "Other than that." Had it not been for his failings as a human, Bill Clinton's failings as a leader would have been undeniably obvious.
Fences and pastures
You are on one side of a fence and can't see the fence on the other side of the next pasture—you don't know how far that next field extends. Maybe you're in a fog so you can't see, but for whatever reason you don't know how far the next pasture goes. That means you don't know how far anything on the other side of the fence might roam. There may be a fence just over the rise and your horses would be safe in there, even though it's not the pasture you're in.
Or that next field may continue into the woods and your horses could stray into mountain lions and rocks or cliffs or deep water. You just can't see. You do not know where the limits of the next field are.
Are you picturing that? Okay.
You don't drink. A person who does drink isn't necessarily a drunk, but that person and a drunk have something in common with each other that they don't have with you.
You aren't going to believe this, so it's safe to tell you. This blog is part of a secret government test to determine how long and circuitous an explanation has to be before you get lost. So help me screw up the government statistics and stick with me here . . .
You have the pasture metaphor. You have in your mind an image of a fence and then the next fence is unknown. Hold that in your head.
Now we're going to the gym. We're going to the gym where I'm working out, then I'm stopping to go to my gym bag to get out my headphones. I put in my earbuds and go back to working out. I don't have them plugged into my iPod, I just have them plugging my ears, because the crap they are playing on the overhead speakers is driving me crazy.
At the time I thought "Why would anyone actually choose to listen to that hideous noise? Why would someone intentionally subject themselves to that?"
I should have grabbed my iPod. I should have grabbed it just to record a scrap of the crap being played so you'd know what I'm talking about. It wasn't music. It had some things in common with music (the way a drinker has things in common with a drunk), but it wasn't music. It was noise. Not quite rap, but just random, meaningless words in rhythm. It was crap.
It seemed so clear to me. I could never have any respect for a person who chose to listen to that trash.
Why in the world would anyone intentionally subject himself to that noise?
Then, I thought I heard an echo in my head from that statement. I repeated it again, and listened more closely for the echo.
It was the echo of a statement my close personal friend's wife made.
My close personal friend used to enjoy watching The Simpsons. But his wife hated it. She said that it stained her soul. She wondered how anyone could choose to pollute their soul by watching that kind of trash.
My CPF didn't see that—he didn't feel like it was polluting his soul or damaging his spirituality. But, as a gift to his wife, my close personal friend swore off watching The Simpsons for his New Year's resolution in 2000. Yeah, he's a sweetheart.
Anyway . . . how are we doing with that secret government test? You lost and confused yet? The point is that my close personal friend didn't see anything wrong with it. His wife was standing in a different pasture, and to her the idea of laughing at someone engaged in bad behavior was in the same pasture as engaging in bad behavior. To my close personal friend the idea was ridiculous. He didn't feel like he was an immoral person.
To his wife looking in it had implications beyond the visible.
I have no idea what I'm trying to say here. It seems too easy to just visualize it as a continuum, where people are at different places. To one side of me is my close personal friend's wife, who thinks watching Simpsons (and Family Guy and about a hundred other shows (many of which I agree with her on)) is immoral. To the other side of me are people who . . . well, there's quite a crowd to that side of me.
The continuum doesn't seem exactly comprehensive to me, but the idea that "It ain't wrong, it's just differ'nt" doesn't cover it for me either.
This may tie into the concept of how one generation feels about the music of another . . . just warning you.
Either way, I'm making no progress on the concept, so we're going to leave it here.
Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet
I can't guarantee that I won't re-visit that topic sometime in the future.
I really like to sort things out in such a way that I can diagram them and be done with them.
That means that I spend my entire life in a state of divine discontent. I don't know that I've ever really figured anything out.
I should wait until I get things sorted out before I post them, but then I'd never post . . . oh, wait a minute . .
Dead horse warning
Back to my choices vs. what you're born with deal—yeah, I never really got straightened out on what I was trying to say on that one either . . .
Sometimes people do really bad things because they are mentally ill. I understand that. But it drives me completely batty to hear the words "Not guilty by reason of insanity."
Bull freaking crap. He's guilty. He's every bit as guilty, and he is insane. Makes no freaking difference on his guilt or innocence.
Oh, crap . . . I'm seeing a connecting strand developing to another topic here . . .
In my Thermodynamics textbook there was a statement about valid scientific laws yielding many equations from a few simple rules. There are three laws of thermodynamics. There are four semesters worth of very thick books that develop those three laws.
That may be why I'm always trying to sort things out . . . categorize and characterize and . . . . what? Why yes, as a matter of fact I probably am technically functionally insane, why do you ask?
To anyone else just knowing a billion rules like "Never trust a banker who drives an economy car" is good enough, but to me it seems like you should be able to categorize them and organize them and come up with a half dozen valid laws that all of those billion little nuggets fall under at some level . . .
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz . . .
Okay, let's get on to general people bashing, which I'm not too bad at.
I'm driving into the airport and a guy in a yellow vest kinda' steps out from the curb and moves his hands in a downward motion . . . "Oh, crap, yes, I am going a little fast." He holds up both hands, fingers extended, indicating that the speed limit is 10 mph. I give him a thumbs up signal while I'm slowing down, a little embarrassed that I had to be reminded.
I pull over and legally park at the curb with the other cars and watch the terminal doors for my wife who just called saying she was by the baggage claim.
A white Dodge truck pulls up, right in the traffic lanes, stops and shuts off its motor. Right in the middle of the traffic lanes.
It kind of occurred to me that behavior is typically controlled by social pressures, which is to say there's really not a lot you can do about ***holes who choose to behave badly unless you're willing to just bust some skulls or call the cops. Typically the social compact requires that you understand your responsibility (as I did when I was speeding) and feel some kind of responsibility toward others.
I had a class from George Pace once and he said that he had come to the conclusion that what we are ultimately judged on has a lot to do with how we feel about things. I understood it when he said it, but I've always struggled to explain it to others.
How we feel about things is who we are. It's often manifested in our behavior, but it's who we are. We can act in a way we don't feel, but how we feel is who we are. I gave the guy who corrected me at the airport a thumbs up—I felt embarrassed that he had to tell me I was inconveniencing and endangering other people. Someone else might have given him a different hand gesture. That's what I mean by how we feel about things.
That's why I'm not ready to abandon the continuum model of the pasture metaphor.
You know society is in trouble when there's a shift in how people feel; when people give the finger instead of the thumb to someone who's reminding them of their responsibility as a member of society.
We have problems when a person feels "Woo-hoo, I got away with not paying rent" instead of "Omigosh, I'm so embarrassed that I got behind on the rent."
So a lot of bad behavior there's not really much we can do about. This ties in to pasture metaphor—how far is the enforcement willing to go, how far is the violator willing to go? But if you had any interest in the idea you've already headed down that road.
Speaking of renters
My close personal friend was ripped off this summer by a pile of excrement in the vague shape of a renter. She considered it a personal triumph to achieve wrecking a house and getting away with staying there rent free for four months. I guess if you're going to have aspirations they might as well be some you can achieve.
My CPF is thrilled to have her gone. The money isn't going to make a difference one way or another to him, but he still got a judgment against her for the money she owes. He was wondering why he did that. Just looking across his pasture at that house without that pile of crap in it is worth ten times what she stole from him, but he still felt compelled to pursue the debt. And he wondered why.
It occurred to him that he cannot take an "oh well" attitude toward evil. If he wants any credibility with telling his kids not to tolerate evil, he can't very well take the attitude that "Oh, well, there will always be evil people, and not much I can do about it."
"Oh, hell no!" is more his attitude.
And you know what? I happen to feel exactly the way my close personal friend feels on that topic.
. . . then I promise I'll quit.
You know the deal, whenever a politician gets caught doing something wrong he has a choice. Do I plead evil or stupid? It happened with Weiner, it happened with Hillary, it happens all the time. Typically they choose "stupid." Omigosh I had no idea (I was supposed to pay taxes on that income). Ronald Reagan is the standout in that. He took the blame for the Iran-Contra affair partially to cover up the fact that he really didn't know what was going on in his organization. But that's a story for another boring session.
I wish I'd taken better notes when I thought of this, but knowledge opens you to judgment—to responsibility. It's the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Stupid insulates you from the higher judgment.
When you know, then you're responsible. See the strand that ties into the insanity defense? When you know you have to pay taxes, then you have moved to a higher realm.
Trust me, this made a lot more sense when I was trimming the overhanging branches on the east side of my house and the concept popped into my head. If only I had some small electronic device that I always carry that I could have used to immediately record my thoughts . . .
How stupid of me . . .
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