Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why Pretty Lady Talks with Morons

Pretty Lady cannot help but notice that there has been a bit of Contentious Conversation on her blog, of late. She has been a bit snarly, herself; it seems as though Pretty Lady has a few buttons of whitherso she did not know existed, until someone came along and obligingly pressed them. So we learn, and so we grow. And so Pretty Lady has no right to Call People Out for their rudeness to one another, having disgracefully Lost Her Temper with an innocent, or mostly innocent, gentleman.

She is calling them out anyway.

For it strikes Pretty Lady that Manners are the last bastion of Civilization. All other tenets of such can and have been called into question; there is no common consensus as to Religion, Politics, Mores or Culture. There is none, and there shall be none; these differences are, in Pretty Lady's experienced observations, irreconcilable.

Nevertheless we may ALL grit our teeth and shake hands, except for those unfortunate African persons who have lost their hands to bandits, but Pretty Lady doesn't like to think about that. She stopped reading the New York Times for five years after they posted those pictures.

So, darlings, be grateful that you have hands, and shake them. And be aware that in Pretty Lady's worldview, there is almost No Such Thing as a Moron.

There may be people who disagree with her. There may be people who espouse strange and extremist world views. There may be people whose capacity for comprehending Socratic irony is nil. (There may be an awful lot of those, indeed.) There may be persons who develop Irrational Personal Vendettas against Pretty Lady, even. The depths of depravity to which human nature may sink knows no bottom.

But Pretty Lady, by and large, gives everyone a chance. She gives them several chances, in fact. Sometimes she stops giving them chances for a decade or so, then gives them another one. Something imprinted deep in Pretty Lady's psyche believes that each of these people is a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, and they have a right to be here. (This was imprinted on Pretty Little Girl while she was having her hair dried, in fact. The poem was framed on Mommy's dressing table. It is now framed in Pretty Lady's bathroom, next to the hair-dryer. Such predictable little robots are we.)

You see, darlings, we are all humans, but before that we are robots. We are creatures imprinted with reality-tunnels of our progenitors' devising. And since we all come of different progenitors, we all inhabit different realities. There is no shame in this; it is how we are.

Thus, a large portion of Human Opinion is not voluntary. It is programmed. And when two persons with different programming meet and discourse, each of them decides that the other one is a moron. That decision was programmed, too.

When persons with the same programming meet and agree, even more terrible things may happen. These groups of lockstep robots reinforce each other, and become dangerous. They may decide, for example, that a certain Third World Dictator possesses the capacity to blow up the world, and act accordingly, despite an overwhelming lack of concrete evidence to support their decision. For when all the Intelligent robots around you believe something, you believe it too. Thus are disasters made.

So, in Pretty Lady's view, the only way to prevent planetary annihilation by warring groups of robots is Manners. Manners are the simple act of suspending judgment and treating people as equals, whatever your opinion of them may happen to be. Manners allow a bit of breathing space, in order to assess one's programming before dropping the hammer. They do not require any form of ideological consensus, except upon Form itself; this neutral abstraction has the least chance of offending anyone's programming, no matter how arcane or bizarre that Form may appear to be.

32 comments:

k said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

prettylady said...

You're welcome! I suspect you have the 'Desiderata' posted somewhere in your home, as well...

k said...

Funny you should have mentioned it, because for several years I've been vaguely pondering how to replace the copy that my sister apparently scarfed...knowing el google could cough it up in an instant...and its phrases run through my head surprisingly often.

Especially in this today's world of extreme political and religious bitterness: *And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.*

Hmmm. Now here I've gone and googled it after all, just to make sure I had the wording right.

I shall paste it into my gmail drafts forthwith.

Hey!

Thank you!

starbuck said...

Meh Lady.. My humble apologies.

I 'twas only messin with you. I shall behave myself in the future.

Not to say I won't tease you from time to time though.

Crom said...

I do not believe that Manners = Consideration. One can be utterly polite while totally screwing someone over, or be courteous while committing murder. It's simply a matter of style. What I believe you are discussing is the application of Consideration, where you take into account the individuality of the other person as a matter of course, instead of inflicting your agenda on them without their consent.

Groupthink will not be stopped by manners, since manners depend on introspection and the resolve to have the courage of your convictions despite being in the minority. I understand your call to some form of innate humanity that would encourage us to not treat each other poorly, but I would offer that is merely Hope speaking, not experience. There is no desire in the average human heart to "grit our teeth and shake hands" with people who have an opposing worldview, unless forced to by circumstance or coercion.

In our new godless world we are not constrained by the idea that all men are equal, since it is scientifically provable that they are not. The idea that we are all somehow equal is a value statement not supported by any logic, or reason - only desire. In this case, why would anyone intelligent assume that they are equal to other, lesser people? What would motivate anyone to extend courtesy to lesser creatures? We are assured that the only difference between good and evil is a matter of individual perspective, so there is no motivation to display manners or consideration - in fact this could be construed as a weakness to be exploited.

I will not get preachy here, but for your idea to stop the masses from lockstepping in robot formation will not be accomplished with manners, only with a commitment and belief in a Higher Power and obedience to His command to love each other as you love yourself. No other solutions will be effective.

Chris Rywalt said...

Crom sez:
In our new godless world we are not constrained by the idea that all men are equal, since it is scientifically provable that they are not. The idea that we are all somehow equal is a value statement not supported by any logic, or reason - only desire.

You're confusing "equal" with "equivalent". People can be equal but different. That doesn't make them interchangeable. It means that one person cannot decide they're better than another based on some criteria, because there are always other criteria which could be used.

...only with a commitment and belief in a Higher Power and obedience to His command to love each other as you love yourself. No other solutions will be effective.

I read something a little while ago laying out the difference between the ideology of the right and left in America. What the author wrote (who I think was George Lakoff) was that the right believes in the Strict Father model of the national family, and the left believes in the Nurturant Parent model. You can read about it in more detail if you follow the link.

Clearly you're into the Strict Father model, not just in politics, but in life in general. I happen to disagree with this model in its entirety, partly because, I imagine, I had a strict father when I was growing up, and in many ways I don't think it was helpful.

I particularly disagree with this model when dealing with other grown humans. I don't believe in much, but I do have some faith in the inherent goodness of human beings. That's why I identify as a secular humanist: I don't think we need to invent and then obey some higher authority to enforce morality.

I think you make a basic mistake made by many religious conservatives, namely that pluralism somehow means "anything goes." That any concepts of good and evil are valid since the only difference is, as you wrote, "a matter of individual perspective."

I don't think this follows from pluralism. Pluralism admits that the world -- the universe -- is more complex than we can fully comprehend, and that therefore we can never know everything. From this it follows that we should keep an open mind, but it doesn't mean we should suspend judgement. Quite the opposite. It means we must carefully weigh and consider everything we possibly can before coming to judgement; unlike religious dogma, which states that we should make judgements entirely on the basis of a set of rules without considering new data.

Miss Manners is an extension of this pluralism: Assume the person you disagree with has their reasons, be civil to them, learn what you can about them and their ways, and if you still find you don't like them, leave them alone.

You can't be courteous while committing murder, since killing someone is extremely impolite.

Crom said...

"You can't be courteous while committing murder, since killing someone is extremely impolite."

To you, perhaps. Opinions vary. Remember, you don't have the right to make a moral judgement on my actions simply because my morality differs from yours. You can have an opinion, as I said - but you have no moral basis on which to make your statement.

"You're confusing "equal" with "equivalent". People can be equal but different."

Semantics. You hold yourself superior to those you deem "knuckle-draggers" and "holy rollers" by your condescending attitude and pejorative description. So for all your vaunted humanism you are guilty of precisely the same judgments that the religious conservatives do. The only difference is that the humanist definition varies by individual rather than a religious model which is specific for all believers.

"It means we must carefully weigh and consider everything we possibly can before coming to judgement"

Sorry, I had to chuckle at this. Very few people bother to do this, humanists or religionists - neither pay much attention before rushing to judgement. The big difference between the two groups is that the religionists at least have a concrete set of ground rules that they are supposed to follow, the humanists just make it up as they go along and change the rules when they become inconvenient.

"I do have some faith in the inherent goodness of human beings."

Rather than list an endless string of atrocities throughout recorded history from Biblical era slavery to Serbian death camps torturing people this very minute, or bore with you the things that I have witnessed, I will quote the leftist-minded musician Sting who aptly summed it up when he sang, "And history reeks/of the wrongs we have done."

oriane said...

I'm sure I will regret getting sucked into this kind of argument, but here goes.

Crom says:

"I will not get preachy here, but for your idea to stop the masses from lockstepping in robot formation will not be accomplished with manners, only with a commitment and belief in a Higher Power and obedience to His command to love each other as you love yourself. No other solutions will be effective."

You mean kind of like when people in Germany gave their commitment and belief to the Nazi party as their higher power?

I am sick of people asserting that atheists or agnostics don't have a strong moral grounding, a sense of right and wrong. As I think Chris is saying, each situation one encounters as a non-religious person requires digging into one's own soul for thought, judgment and action, rather than looking up the answers in some book. Looking up the answers in the book (whatever book it might be, the bible, Mao's little red book, Mein Kampf, Saddam Hussein's instructions, etc.) and blindly following the directions often leads to lockstep thinking and lockstep actions, including many atrocities and millions of deaths over the centuries. Religious people do NOT have a monopoly on morality.

prettylady said...

I understand your call to some form of innate humanity that would encourage us to not treat each other poorly, but I would offer that is merely Hope speaking, not experience.

No, you misunderstand. Pretty Lady is speaking from the Experience of feeling as though she would like to throttle the person who was forcing their version of a Higher Power, and all the necessary rituals attendant upon it, down Pretty Lady's throat, mumbo-jumbo syllables and all, even though in principle, she was in full agreement with this person.

For dictating what people ought to Believe is dead in the water, a priori. People's minds are their own, and a sordid lot of sewers they can frequently be. Pretty Lady is not concerned with controlling the contents of anyone else's mind, because this is not only impossible, but precisely the sort of thing that leads to the worst atrocities, historically speaking.

When Pretty Lady speaks of Manners, what she is really espousing is a system of Social Boundaries. Discussion is courteous; wholesale unprovoked insults are not. Spiritual practice is dandy, and in Pretty Lady's opinion, leads to all Things Grand; the practice of insisting that your seatmate on the bus practice along with you, not so much. It rather defeats the whole purpose, in fact.

prettylady said...

Groupthink will not be stopped by manners

No, of course not. But someone said something recently that got me thinking--'The Internet allows all the extremist weirdos to find one another and reinforce each other's ways of thinking.' Thus we get Extreme Polarization in public debate, more than a plurality of views being tested in a wider context.

When groups of extremists get together and reinforce each other, and other groups of extremists come along and start 'engaging,' the result is almost always a Festival of Flames, with no genuine debate taking place at all. People do not genuinely pay attention to one another, but merely do their best to shout each other down. The whole system of politics is based upon mobilizing the leverage to defeat the opposition, not figure out what aspects of the opposition's perspective bear some serious consideration.

Pretty Lady would like to point out that by diligent application of Manners in her own personal online presence, she has managed to invite persons from radically different areas of the sociopolitical spectrum into her home and engage in an informative discussion of mutual interest, spiced with a brand of acrimony that is, she hopes, largely jocular, and reasonably enjoyable for all. This is Pretty Lady's personal tool for starting to attempt to begin to think about solving the world's problems.

It is small, it is perhaps trivial, but it beats suicide bombs.

prettylady said...

One more thing--Pretty Lady has found you cannot have any real communication without affection. One simply has no compelling motive to attend to the words of a person one dislikes, or is indifferent to, minus the aspect of coercion. And coercion in public life is what we would ALL presumably like to avoid.

Furthermore, she has found that that hoary old cliché, 'fake it till you make it' is absolutely true. By addressing each and every one of her friends in frivolous terms of endearment, she finds herself coming to genuinely mean what she says. She is re-imprinting the part of her mind which was formerly filled with less-savory types of epithets.

And in coming to care for people, Pretty Lady finds herself caring about what they think, what they need, what motivates them, and is thus consumingly interested in what they have to say. And if her Site Meter statistics are anything to go by, the feeling appears to be mutual.

Chris Rywalt said...

Crom sez:
The big difference between the two groups is that the religionists at least have a concrete set of ground rules that they are supposed to follow, the humanists just make it up as they go along and change the rules when they become inconvenient.

You're right. The vast billions of deaths due to humanists revising their ways of thinking shows the stupidity of their views, while the followers of, just to raise one example, Jesus Christ have done nothing but enrich the Earth with their doctrines of peace and love.

So for all your vaunted humanism you are guilty of precisely the same judgments that the religious conservatives do.

Sort of. Except I can change my mind about any given particular knuckle-dragger and decide he is, in fact, a decent human being. Whereas no amount of getting to know me will cause a holy roller to change his mind and decide I get to go to Heaven, since I have not only not accepted Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, I have explicitly rejected him as such. No matter how nice I am on Earth, therefore, I'm going to Hell, at least as far as the True Believer is concerned.

I mean, this is a religious discussion and therefore won't go anywhere. But I'd like you to be clear on what I'm saying before you conclude I'm an idiot -- who is also going to Hell.

Desert Cat said...

Chris, I think you may be mistaking Crom changing Crom's mind, with Crom changing God's mind.

I can't change God's mind about you. I am perfectly free to change my mind about you. I can conclude that you're a perfectly decent human being and a nice man. Your destination however, is not within my scope, only yours.

So I think you're drawing a false comparison there.

Chris Rywalt said...

Desert Cat sez:
Your destination however, is not within my scope, only yours.

Assuming we're talking about the Christian Heaven and Hell, then your statement is true IF AND ONLY IF you believe in Christianity. So by your belief, you're condemning me to Hell.

Of course, if you're a Christian, you think Christ is like gravity: He happens whether or not you believe in him.

Christ, that sounds like a bumper sticker.

Anyway -- and this is the vibe I've gotten from any number of devout Christians -- I can be as nice as I want, but I'm still going to Hell. Not very nice or polite.

prettylady said...

I can't change God's mind about you. I am perfectly free to change my mind about you.

Desert Cat! Desert Cat! Yoo-hoo!

You have just summed up the Course In Miracles, with this statement--or at least you have summed up one of the basic tenets.

I shall not go too much farther with this angle, however, because the next CIM tenet has to do with God never changing His mind about anyone, and a whole lot of Christians don't tend to like that part.

prettylady said...

I don't think you're going to Hell, Chris.

Anonymous said...

I am sometimes treated w/ suspicion for being polite. Politesse! It can only mean stringent protocol or patronizing tolerance! Again and again, I am told that manners are nothing more than archaic duplicitous shackles which bind the free spirit. No. Manners are basic, social, nonjudgmental, nimble. I have observed "free" and it too often appears to mean 'amorphous blob of narcissism & misery'.

- Alix

prettylady said...

No kidding, Alix. I had people in high school tell me that I was making them uncomfortable by using proper table manners at lunchtime. Not that I was breaking out the six-piece silver place settings; I was merely chewing with my mouth closed.

Manners: The Art of Not Grossing People Out.

oriane said...

I'll meet you in hell, Chris. I hear there are many tasty virgins promised to us.* Or raisins. Oh, wait, is that some other belief system? I get them confused.

*Actually I prefer someone who knows his way around rather than a virgin. Maybe if go to purgatory instead of hell, I will get many tasty expert lovers intead of virgins?

Sorry, I'm just free-associating here.

Anonymous said...

Haha, yes! On the flipside, some friends of mine have gone so far as to believe that raucous belching is an act of self-possession & defiance. I still love them though.

-Alix

prettylady said...

Oriane, I'm with you and Steve Martin on the virgins.

Alix, I love the belchers, too, but not enough to emulate them. Somehow it bothers me more to BE disgusting than to tolerate disgustingness in others.

Crom said...

"So by your belief, you're condemning me to Hell."

No. By your belief, or lack thereof you are condemned. I condemn no one, I don't have this kind of power. By the same token, I cannot save you from condemnation either. If I could, I would - I do not relish the idea of people suffering - but I don't get to make that call. Desert Cat is correct, the only decisions I get to make are my own.

" I can be as nice as I want, but I'm still going to Hell. Not very nice or polite.

Who the hell said Christ's message was nice or polite? He was rude, He ate with outcasts, He said things that pissed off the Pharisee priests so badly that they wanted Him killed, and eventually convinced the Romans to do it for them. He drove people from the Temple with a whip, and kicked their asses. He was harsh, He told people things they did not want to hear. There is not much nice or polite in my faith, and I don't attend church services since they often are full of non-thinking conformists who think I am going to Hell if I drink bourbon after dinner. Those people are the modern day Pharisees and I am sure Christ would throw them out on their tails were He here, as well.

You can choose to hate a God who would condemn you for not believing. You can hate Him, and hate everyone who likes Him. You are totally free in this life to choose whatever you want.

The best metaphor for this choice is this: Posit for a moment that you are God, and humanity are your children. Let's get more specific and say that you are God to your daughter. She has free will, and may or may not do what you tell her to. If she directly defies you, there are consequences, aren't there? I don't know what form of punishment you practice in your home, but I assume it ranges from time-outs to spankings. Once she becomes an adult you may be saddened by her choices, but she will have to face the consequences for her actions. If she commits a crime you cannot go to jail for her, can you? No. If she kills someone and gets the death penalty you cannot die for her, can you? No.

Yet that is precisely what Jesus did. God agreed that if he died for you that you get a pass for your sins, and so He put himself out there for you. All you have to do is believe that it's true. That's it. Anyone who adds criteria outside of that is full of shit, and there are many Christians who are.

In answer to Oriane who is frustrated by religious folks claiming to have a lock on morality, I understand your frustration. I was not always a moral man, and I was not always a Christian. However, you cannot posit a moral law without positing a Law Giver. So atheists and agnostics gain their morals from their culture, which here in the West is Judeo-Christian. If you were raised in Iran I would expect your morality to be different from that of someone who was raised here, since the Christian values that are the foundation of 99% of our culture and morality are not common in Iran. The "innate moral system" described by many atheists as the foundation of their beliefs is simply their absorption of the beliefs of their culture. They will hotly deny this, but it's really just a desperate attempt to obscure the fact that they drew their morals from a supernatural source, by osmosis.

There are moral atheists. There are immoral Christians. No one intelligent denies this, the point of contention is the source of those morals.

oriane said...

I don't mind the idea of going to hell. I hear there are free tampons for all.

prettylady said...

And there you have it: Summation of the Paternalistic Moral Framework. Clear, concise and internally consistent.

Pretty Lady is left to do the jazz, which she will do, out of sympathy with St. John Coltrane, who is playing at the moment.

Crom, you left out the nature of the Law. "Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment; the second is like unto it; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Sincere secular humanists, in Pretty Lady's observation, are doing their darndest to observe the second of these commandments, as far as they are able. They may have acquired the impulse through social osmosis, but they are following it.

And, by the implication contained in these words of Jesus, they are also doing the former, whether they literally believe in a God or not. At the very least, theologians such as C.S. Lewis and religious novelists such as Graham Greene have speculated to this effect, and Pretty Lady is inclined to rest in their camp. At least she camps out there on Thursdays.

Pretty Lady believe, truly, that all Moral Law manifests externally, but it acts internally. Thus moral reasoning naturally evolves from the Exoteric to the Esoteric; for as you so correctly point out, Crom, we are only responsible for ourselves. It is in our own minds that the changes take place.

prettylady said...

Someone was lying to you, Oriane. Hell is when you have the flu, and cannot get to the grocery store, and have no money anyway, and nobody to run errands for you, so you chop up an old t-shirt and pin it to your drawers.

Chris Rywalt said...

Crom sez:
However, you cannot posit a moral law without positing a Law Giver.

I happen to disagree as strongly as possible with this statement. I'm pretty sure Kant has some good arguments for this.

Chris Rywalt said...

The Big O sez:
Actually I prefer someone who knows his way around rather than a virgin.

I'm with you on this one. When my wife and I were virgins (or near enough, anyway) we were totally incompetent.

I completely fail to understand the obsession some men (often from a couple of particular religious backgrounds) have with virgins. I'd much rather have sex with a professional, or at least an enthusiastic well-practiced amateur.

I hear theories that it has something to do with primate reproduction. When a male gorilla defeats the alpha male and takes over, he kills all the babies, just in case some of them aren't his. (So I've heard. But then so many stories like this have turned out to be Victorian falsehoods...) So a virgin wife is one way to be sure the kids are yours.

Personally I don't give a crap. I'm a lousy Darwinian. I think my kids would be better off being someone else's -- at least then I wouldn't have to deal with their ADHD, depression, and general insanity.

Chris Rywalt said...

Re: Steve Martin:
Virgin No. 19: Somewhere on my body I have hidden a buffalo nickel.

Virgin Number 19 sounds like fun.

ChaosFae said...

You guys really neeed to get laid.

Desert Cat said...

I shall not go too much farther with this angle, however, because the next CIM tenet has to do with God never changing His mind about anyone, and a whole lot of Christians don't tend to like that part.

Mind pointing me in a direction then? I am curious now.

Assuming we're talking about the Christian Heaven and Hell, then your statement is true IF AND ONLY IF you believe in Christianity. So by your belief, you're condemning me to Hell.

By my faith in Jesus I'm condemning you to hell? Astounding! I had no idea I possessed such godlike powers.

But if I have them, then you must have them too. Raise yourself back up to Eternal Life, or Nirvana, or Valhalla, or whatever your belief system promises you, by the power of your own belief!

No, actually I'm doing no such thing. If we are in fact talking about my belief system, I have nothing to do with it. But Chris, here's the clincher: if you don't believe in God, and the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell, then why should it matter to you in the slightest what I believe? At least so long as I'm not chasing you around with a ten-pound bible, whacking you on the head with it for doing whatever it is that people who thump with bibles don't like you doing.

I promise you this: I won't give a damn. Not unless I get to know you well enough personally and actually like you enough to feel like I'd be losing something.

Really. I'm too much of a misanthrope to make a very good evangelist.

But I certainly hope you don't intend that when the topic of spirituality or religion should come up, that I should sit in the corner and shut up, lest you feel condemned by my mere presence?

prettylady said...

Mind pointing me in a direction then? I am curious now.

'Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Therein lies the peace of God.'

--A Course in Miracles.

If you'd like to discuss this farther, please email me privately, or get a copy of the Course from your local bookstore and have a look at it. The online sources come across like Flake City.

Crom said...

"Raise yourself back up to Eternal Life, or Nirvana, or Valhalla..."

Were I not a Christian, Valhalla would clearly be my number one choice. Fight epic battles all day on the field of honor, then return to the Great Hall to drink mead and eat roasted meat all night long, and head back out to fight the next day.

When I stand before the Pearly Gates I will inquire if there is a section of Heaven that resembles that, and if so you know where I will be for eternity...