Get High On Society

 

Society, Culture

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity
and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity
will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.

- John W Gardner
 

A society that thinks the choice between ways of living is just a choice between equally eligible "lifestyles"
turns universities into academic cafeterias offering junk food for the mind.

- George F Will
 

Poor and Poorer - Most of the units had an upstairs and a downstairs.  There wasn't any carpet, just hard quarry tile, like a warehouse; walls were white - dirty, old, crusted.  Roaches and rats roamed in the night - in your icebox, your closets, your beds; spider webs were in every corner.  We had heat, no air conditioning - on long, hot Texas nights we tossed, turned, sweated -  waiting for an occasional breeze...
The Social Market - Suppose a mother, instead of relying on the State, funds her offspring by issuing share capital in it.  To attract investors, she'll bring it up as best she can, keep it out of crime and not burden her portfolio with further potential loss makers.  lf she fails, the child's share price declines and it may be taken over by another mother or specialised institution which can manage better...
Public Policies - Health Insurance versus "passing the Buck," history of health insurance in the US and what insurance is like in other countries - better or worse?
Health Insurance in the United States - important factors including medical technology, hospitals and physicians, and government policy culminating in the development of Medicare and Medicaid that brought the situation to the untenable place it is currently.
Turn Out the Lights - Thousands of children in California's group and foster homes are given mood-altering medications, many never been tested on children.  The LA Times said children are being drugged in combinations and dosages that experts believe are risky and may cause irreparable harm.  The drugs are often given as "chemical straightjackets," to keep children obedient for overburdened caretakers...
Talk to Me Online - The Internet could be the ultimate isolating technology that further reduces our participation in communities even more than television did before it...
Schopenhauer says our will-to-life drives us toward people who'll raise our chances of producing beautiful intelligent offspring and repels us from those who lower our chances.  Happiness and producing healthy children are radically contrasting projects; love maliciously confuses us into thinking they're the same.  The will of the species is so powerful that lovers shut their eyes to all repugnant qualities...
The Plight of the High Status Woman - Highly educated daughters of educated Boomers are 20 - 35, living and working on their own.  They're longer in the mating market, face vicissitudes of love, multiple breakups, fears of sexually transmitted disease, anxieties of infertility.  It takes time to become schooled and experienced in a demanding job market; they may be laid off, downsized, fired.  Neither love nor work is settled or secure...
Modern Manhood - Marriage, construed as our parents and grandparents construed it, was both a source of personal fulfillment and the principal way in which one generation passed on its social and moral capital to the next.  It's different today...
Boasting and Regretting - Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess. - Samuel Johnson...
Neuter Your Mind For Pure Power - Are men and women equally bright or bright in the same way?  One school of thought claims feminine intuition is at least as valid as masculine logic and feminist sciences and maths should be set up to compete with the male varieties.  A crucial test: abolish testosterone from the male brain and see what changes...
Road Rage - One time in a Washington, DC traffic jam, two guys driving nice cars reached a point where their lanes were supposed to merge.  But neither would yield, so they very slowly - maybe one mile per hour - drove into each other.  It was the world's most avoidable accident, but these guys had no choice.  Testosterone made them do it...
Is Patriarchy Inevitable? - "Dominance tendency" means willingness to endure pain, frustration, tension, and defeat to satisfy a strong "need" to attain position.  Upper hierarchical positions are few in number, occupied by those most willing to give up other satisfactions in order to attain them - primarily men...
Gender Skills - To women, speech has a rhythm, a fluctuation.  When a thought is over, there's a pause.  That pause means an interjection by another party is appropriate.  Men view this as an "interruptive" speech pattern, because they tend to speak without great fluctuation, and a pause is used for breath or thought...
Capitalists and Crowds - Companies have an energy that animates them.  It can come mainly from one person or from several.  The intensity of this energy is directly proportional to the strength of belief in a "vision."  We all invest in those things we think are most likely to pay off.  Why waste your time on unproductive people, on unproductive activities?...
The Liberty to Be Civil - Americans can reset the nation's broken moral compass through actions as diverse as turning off their televisions and reforming the tax code, according to a report issued by a 24-member non-partisan panel.  [They] must find a way to agree on a public moral philosophy if democracy is to survive.  "If independent moral truth does not exist, all that is left is power," says the report.  "Such a view of reality is, among other things, antithetical to the western ideal of human freedom [and] is likely to prove fatal to the project of republican self-governance."...
Groups Can Be Therapeutic - The essence of humanity is the interactions between people in groups... Intelligence is a sophisticated creation of social interactions embedded in particular cultures, not the genetic endowment of any individual...
Forgive Us Our Press Passes - What will happen to investigative journalism when juries are against you and you can't count on your bosses to back you up?  There is a phrase much used in First Amendment litigation: "chilling effect"...
Give and Take - Native Hawaiians had a "sophisticated language, culture and religion" before the arrival of the Europeans, and economic and social changes have been "devastating to the health and well-being of the Hawaiian people..."
The Exclusion Principle - racism is actually an unfortunate by-product of another phenomenon - a tendency to assign people to "coalition groups", and to use whatever cues are available, be they clothing, accent or skin colour, to slot individuals into such groups (or "stereotype" them, as modern usage might term it).  The good news is that experiments done by the researchers suggest that such stereotypes are easily dissolved and replaced with others.  Racism, in other words, can be eliminated...
How Cultural Are Personal Values - The 6 societal values most valued by the East Asians were: orderly society, harmony, accountability of public officials, open to new ideas, free expression, respect for authority.  The 6 most important for Americans were: personal freedom, rights of the individual, open debate, thinking for oneself, accountability of public officials...
(also an article on why your tastes might matter to me...)
Virtue of Virtue - Why do people show their thoughts and feelings on their faces?  No doubt a human being could be designed with no facial expressions at all - but who would do business with him? Who would marry him?  Just as honesty is valuable in our associates, so is being a bad liar...
The Ethicist: Honing Moral Values - ...Not to sound too highfalutin, but this is not a matter of loyalty; it's a matter of honesty.  And if this episode became a court case and you were called to testify, you certainly don't want it to become a matter of perjury.  Judges can be so crotchety...
The Tipping Point - A study done at a seminary in the 1970s had seminarians prepare a religious paper and deliver it as a speech in a conference hall in a nearby building.  The architects of the experiment made sure that as the seminarians were walking to the conference hall they would pass near a man writhing on the ground in pain.  The question was: Who would stop to help?
Do Men and Women Think Differently about Ethics? - I'm afraid feminism could only be considered viable in a utopian world of unlimited energy freely available to all.  I think if feministic philosophy had always held sway in the real world, the life- and labour-saving devices we tend to take for granted wouldn't even exist.  But I've included an excerpt from Vaughan's lengthy essay because she does have some good points - like what an oxymoron it is to say "exchange gifts"...
Strategic Planning Session - "Stay with me here, people..."
What Do the Ends Mean? - A successful democracy requires a degree of ethical character in its citizenry and leadership.  And national character depends on private character...  Also What Do the Means End? - Two strangers who ripped off their clothes and indulged in sex acts during a trans-Atlantic flight were fined for "being drunk on a plane..."
Fair Game - The rational way to play the game, known in economics as the ultimatum game, is for the first player to offer as little as possible and for the second player to accept it - something is always better than nothing.  But when groups of university students play, the most common offer is 50% of the money, with a mean of about 40%.  Offers below 20% are almost always rejected - out of pure spite, as no one gains, but it is the only way of punishing the proposer for a mean offer...
What a Beauty! - If everyone were suddenly struck blind, then our concepts of beauty and probably even morality would change.  Presumably nudity would no longer warrant legislation, but zones for acceptable skin contact would suddenly become heavily legislated.  Only your intimate friends would know whether or not you needed a face lift or to lose 10 kilos...
But Is It a Jackson Pollock? - The painting was acquired 10 years ago by the woman truck driver who was just beginning to learn about art.  She picked up the drip-style canvas in Dot's Thrift Shop near San Bernardino, California, as a gag for a friend who was down on her luck.  She thought the large, colourful painting would help cheer up her friend.  If authentic, it could be worth as much as $11 million...
100 Drops of Water: An Obituary of Friedensreich Hundertwasser - Hundertwasser was a living testimony to the awkward fact that even the worst possible person I could ever meet - a right-wing God-fearing ecologist also into naturalism - could provide the world with some of the best art and architecture in the last decades of the 20th century.  It almost makes you hopeful for humanity...
Art, Emotion and Interpretation - The oak of Guernica, under which the diet of Vizcaya used to meet, was a symbol of the lost liberties of the Basques.  German planes, aiding insurgents in the Spanish Civil War, indiscriminately killed women and children, arousing world opinion.  The bombing became a symbol of fascist brutality and the event inspired Picasso's most celebrated painting...
The Works of Iv├ín Godoy Contreras - I was surprised to find that I liked his paintings quite well.  To me, they seemed a blend of Picasso and Salvadore Dali...
Unusual Media - Livio de Marchi, shown driving his wooden Beetle in Venice...
Ka-Sae-Luk is the art of food sculpting that originated in Thailand.  The sculptures can last as long as 5 days if kept moist...
Let There Be Light - A new generation of light fixtures provides little illumination, but lots of atmosphere.  The Mood Light is a wall lamp that constantly changes colour. A remote control adjusts the colour patterns and the rate at which they change.
Computer Art - Some things only a computer can do... (warning: this page contains some rather large animated gifs, making it roughly 8.5 meg in size)
Food of the Gods - 70 classes of children increased music lessons from 1 or 2 to 5 a week - resulting in shorter mathematics and languages classes; 35 classes continued the old syllabus.  After 3 years, despite reduction in teaching they had received in the subjects, the "musicians" were as good as the controls at maths, and better at languages; they were also more co-operative with each other...
 

The Sound of Music - Regarded as among the finest violins ever made, only about 600 Strads are thought to exist today.  Nagyvary thinks their fine sound results from the chemistry of the wood and varnish used.  Scanning electron micrographs he's taken of wood samples from 18th-century violins reveal remnants of fungi and bacteria that made the wood unusually permeable...

Music and Madness, Music and Art, Music and Science - ...dementia brings out artistic talents in people who never had them before.  In [one] study, it was observed that patients developed artistic talents, including music and drawing, which flourished while the dementia worsened...
Veiled Humour - Religion in history, performance, art, writing, soap (soap?!)
Fundamentalism - Promote it, tolerate it, or condemn it?  And should it matter to non-Christians whether or not Christians live what they preach?
The Future Looks Bright - children should hear themselves described not as "Christian children" but as "children of Christian parents".  This in itself would raise their consciousness, empower them to make up their own minds and choose which religion, if any, they favour, rather than just assume that religion means "same beliefs as parents"...
Establishing a Global Ethic - All truly human accomplishments are the result of our awareness of our own finitude.  The myth of the Fall is the story of the humanation of pre-human creatures who lived in the safe womb of immortality (unaware of their mortality) until they "ate of the tree of knowledge" - and discovered themselves as persons destined to die.  Self-consciousness brought with it the consciousness of death, and with awareness of death came the need and opportunity to plan for the future and create community that would endure.
 

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