Thursday, November 23, 2017

Who, Exactly, Is Obsessed?

Grim discusses whether Republicans should remain beholden to an "antiquated morality" or just drop some of it in the interests of electing some otherwise good candidates. Good comments.

I go to an evangelical church and talk often with a Catholic friend at work who is involved in youth ministries in her parish, and somewhat on a larger scale. Youth leaders make sure that something is covered about sexual behavior over the course of the year, but other than that, I don't hear anyone talking about it much.  Stray comments. I do recall that the subject came up more often at the Christian schools my children went to, but I'm not sure it was so prominent as children's impressions are, nor what they recall later. There would be a week with a video series, and Bible classes would veer that way pretty often, but I am guessing, based on observation, that it was the students themselves who kept those fires burning bright. Because teenagers. The tension between their school's views and the prevailing secular views was a large topic to them.  When they would bring it up to faculty I imagine it was sometimes hard for teachers at such schools to deflect back to other topics.  They knew what the expectation was in terms of advocating for standards.

Yet the amount of conversation that was school-initiated may not have been as great as is assumed.

I recall during the Clinton impeachment that the accusations were particularly common.  Yet it was my impression that the Republicans kept bringing up the lying, while the Democrats kept excusing the sex, insisting that this was the issue Republicans really cared about. I said then and I'll say now: I think that's completely backward. That is a cartoon. Liberals are obsessed with defending, excusing, or even touting sex outside of marriage. (Not all, and some Republicans now join them - I recognise that I am generalising.) Conservatives consider it one aspect of morality among many, and have a fair bit of complexity in their views in relating purely moral versus practical issues and reflections on mercy, kindness, judgement, accountability, and forgiveness.

I wish I had worked with the word "cartoon" when I reviewed and discussed True Patriot almost a decade ago. It's clearer and more accurate than what I did say then.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Mormon Genetics

Having had my Ancestry.com DNA done turned up a genetic group of Frontier Mormons. This only means a strong connection, not any descent. It reminded me that the original Mormons were largely from the Northeast, and having traced back their own connections for religious reasons are likely to be disproportionately represented among the descendants.

Those who join new religions and head off into the desert are likely to be among the eccentric or even fringe elements of the origin group, and frontier Mormons were certainly an unusual group in their behavior. As New England and New York had already produced the widespread Unitarian heresy, they were perhaps more disposed to believe unusual things.  One would expect a selection bias for unusual behavior as well. Which Mormons did display throughout their early history and well into the 20th C.  Yet in the 1930's there was an executive decision to switch direction: to shave off the long beards, stop fighting the government and the culture at larger about multiple wives, and become in some sense hyper-American.  No culture can manage an about-face like that neatly, and there were schisms and groups which persist to this day that hold deeply to the old Mormon distinctives, even including polygamy.

But the LDS church continues to move away from its distinctives and join a more standard Christianity.  Not there yet, but it's coming into view.  They can even seem hyper-Christian in areas that mainstream denominations have abandoned. They have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, not an annual SLC Hip-Hop festival.

I wonder if it is a reassertion of the respectability and conforming genes of Puritans and Dutch Calvinists which populated the Northeast for two centuries. The two generations of converts and pioneers had more eccentricity and adventure genes than the original population, but they were still largely drawn from it and regressed back to it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Depression

Singing out loud takes the edge off depression, at least a little bit.  Just about any activity does, actually, but singing is near the top of the list.  Merely listening to music is also good, but I don't think it is in the same league. It's not accidental that most worship involves singing, and even the quiet Eastern forms often involve chanting. Living in New England, we have had lots of people in the pews who come for the concert as non-participants. Eventually, that leads to very good musicians and empty churches, I think.

I approve of different groups singing as part of the worship.  Heaven seems to be a series of concerts, in which we are sometimes participants and sometimes the audience (I imagine we will be allowed to hum along.*  I hope so, because I seem to do that naturally.  We went to a musical last night and the accompanist noticed my humming the bass line.  Fortunately, she was pleased.  Not everyone is.)

When one is depressed, sometimes it is hard to get up and do even small things that will help, because the depressed mind, in Eeyorish fashion says "It won't fix everything.  So why bother?) Encouraging friends who are depressed to get up and do something is a great gift.  there are those encouragers and coaches who are very good at persuading those who don't want to to get going and do a little.  Thrice blessed are they.

Getting yourself to church to sing out loud does some good, even in the natural realm.  As today's sermon mentioned, explicitly mentioning gratitude also seems to help us, so worhsip music has some extra effect.

*In my next life, I hope to be a cello.

L!AS!

That will be my new shorthand for people who change the subject when the argument is going against them. Look! A Squirrel! There is a guy over at Maggie's who is masterful at it, because he changes the subject by only 10-15 degrees, so you don't notice, and think you are still in the same argument you started with. He eats up a lot of energy of conservatives who could use their time better. Including me, sometimes. I try to be one refutation and out with him.

I will also seem to change the subject in the face of difficult information at times.  Maybe it is more than seeming.  Maybe I do much the same thing.  Yet I do try to tie things back into the original topic with some explanation. When I notice it, anyway.  Some people use that change of topic as an intentional tactic, and I think there is something dishonest about that. I suspect that the people who do it best do it naturally, though.  When they just can't bear to even think a thing they've just been confronted with, their mind slides naturally to something more congenial they'd rather talk about.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Gaudete

A few years ago I put up Christmas music as done by regular folk.  I don't know what I'm going to do this year or when I'll start, but this seems a fun start, even if Advent is over two weeks away.  No one much remembers Steeleye Span anymore but a few eccentric Boomers and assorted fanatics, but they brought this song out from obscurity and it has been covered by many since. Piae Cantiones was first published in 16th C Finland, though "Gaudete" may be older.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

How Long Foreign?

I wrote "status quo" and "laissez-faire" in my previous post and defiantly decided to put neither in italics. They have been residents in the language long enough, and most of our words are no less foreign. I declare them citizens.

I suspect that single words get accepted much more quickly than phrases. Maybe there will be something about it over at Language Log.

I didn't find anything about it over there, but I did get a link to the Latin-O-Meter, which measures how Latinate (versus French, Germanic, other) one's writing is. They recommend writers stay around 30%, and further advise not exceeding 42%, ever.  I entered two samples, and got a 33% and a 42%.  So I am comfortable to stuffy, pretentious.  That is likely so.

They say nice things about Jane Austen's blend.

Distance From Power

There was a link over at Maggie's to a College Fix article about America's Outer Class. Colin Johnson, professor of Gender Studies at Indiana University, told an academic conference that Trump voters feel oppressed too. I think he gets something very right about this.
At a session titled “WTF Rural America? Geography. Culpability. Trump.,*”Johnson told his peers they should tinker with the traditional top-to-bottom social class structure that puts the wealthy at the highest point and poor at bottom. He argued the traditional model is poor at predicting voting patterns and doesn’t fully tease out the frustration currently felt by many Americans and exhibited in last year’s election.
“Specifically, I would suggest we need to stop thinking about class in terms of vertically oriented hierarchy and start thinking of it instead in terms of perceived proximity to or distance from centers of power, be they real or imagined,” he said.
Centering social class around one’s distance to power, the scholar says, better captures feelings of resentment and underrepresentation — two factors Johnson suggested played a major role in last year’s presidential election.
 Distance from power would explain why many Trump supporters remain angry with the GOPe. We no longer care whether we agree with you more than the Democrats on issues.  You won't fight for us.**  We're done with you. It also fits with the anger at protestors and victim groups. How can you say you're being "silenced?" You're on TV. People are giving you awards, and making concessions to you, and coming up with new programs so you get jobs, or inside tracks. You have access to power, and I don't, and you didn't do anything to earn it but complain and kick other people. 

I think Professor Johnson's idea is correct in general as well, not just about Trump voters, minorities, and women.  The larger and more intrusive government is, the greater the percentage of the people who feel they don't have a voice.  When power is dispersed throughout society (which it still is in America, though that ebbs a little each year) people see that there are many things they have influence over, and these are the most important things.

*Link leads only to the conference description, but that's pretty darn entertaining in itself. You can sign in if you're a member. Let's just say that Colin Johnson, for all his previous cred writing about Queer People in rural America, might have serious pushback from this crew.

**It used to be that Democrats said they would fight for you, and Republicans said they would work for you,  as I discussed here. Bonus: you get to read the early writings of Bethany as well. This has been changing over the years, and the change became very strong in the last election. It is related to my observation that angry liberals go on offense - usually against objects, though sometimes humans - while conservatives get back on defense; in the extreme, holing up with weapons and daring Obama/liberals/gun-grabbbers to come get them. Even in milder forms, though, conservatives in a society are more tied to the status quo, while liberals are looking to shake things up and create change.  The meanings become fluid because change and status quo can look very different in different centuries and on different continents. Gladstone was the height of 19th C liberalism, which included free trade and laissez-faire economics. The offense-defense distinction is breaking down, in bad directions in both cases.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tactics in 1998

In the discussion of sexual exploitation and political figures I recalled once again how different things would have been if Trent Lott had not made the impeachment of Bill Clinton dead on arrival when it reached the Senate. (I still don't know why. The only plausible explanation I have heard is that he knew of others who were going to be similarly exposed if it went forwarded and he thwarted justice to protect them. I have no evidence for that.) Al Gore would have become president, and the 2000 election would likely have been his by a good margin. Democrats would have doubled down on his behalf and kept all the Clinton scandals off the table as much as possible.  Republicans couldn't have been any angrier and might have been less determined.  Independents might have wanted to give Gore a chance, because he had taken over in a tough situation. Poor Al. The recession had barely started and dire warnings were going out, but most people still thought the economy was perking along nicely and a majority gave the credit for that to Democrats.

I used to wonder about that a lot.  The Republicans might have lost by winning, the Democrats won by losing.  Some Democrats, anyway.

9/11 and the recession would still have happened, and who knows whether that would have allowed the blame for that to fall on the Democrats, but that seems likely, though Gore would have been president already anyway. Jim Geraghty over at National Review has been remembering the same thing. Alt-history buffs like to take off from such points in history, telling us what they think would have happened after, but I never have confidence that events would have unfolded predictably for very long. I do think Hillary Clinton's career would have been over. Some value in that, I say.

Geraghty wonders would would have been different in the culture, and if the protection of powerful men would have been weakened sooner. Those of us who had mandatory sexual-harassment trainings at work can attest to the walkback that happened abruptly in 1998 and only gradually resumed its previous trajectory.  I can't imagine the protection of Harvey Weinstein or George Takei or a dozen other celebrities would have been strengthened by Clinton's removal from office, though I can't guess how much it would have been weakened. It solidified abortion's importance as the only non-negotiable feminist issue, relegating some types of exploitation and harassment to the back of the bus, but maybe the change there would have been slight. The feminism that emerged was merely liberalism with craft booths, crowding out other strains. Maybe that was destined to happen anyway.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Local Aristocracy and Nationalization of Culture.

A comment by "dearieme" over at Chicago Boyz put me in mind of a conversation that used to be common, but I, at least, don't run into anymore. The America of my youth was more local in its orientation. While the principle of being an American was more universally-held from sea to shining sea, we were still quite provincial. Americans were regional, or even narrower. As a consequence, the phrase "rich people" drew images of North Elm St, North River Rd for us, and only secondarily Rockerfellers, Newport RI cottages, or those people in Southern California. My mother's second marriage brought us into the fringes of that. My stepfather was wealthy and well-placed enough, but he had come from North Haven, CT, and his sons went to Tilton, not St Paul's. For her part, my mother brought in some older local aristocracy, as my grandfather was the first CPA in NH and had grown quietly respectable in the inner circle by the time I was aware of such things. (My grandmother, a social climber, resented that he did not exploit this socially or move her to the North End.) Again, the fringes of the local aristocracy.

High school graduates were discouraged from going to college out-of-state, and going out of New England was met with blank stares. My decision to go to William and Mary was sometimes met with blank stares - people didn't know where it was, and were surprised that one of the smart boys would go to such an obscure school. In my time at W&M there were only two of us from NH - and I knew her, of course, confirming the stereotype that everyone in VA had of NH. That lack of recognition was still true a few years later when I returned. My era was right at the inflection point of this. When my younger brother left college to go to California in 1977 it was no longer considered that unusual.

I suspect there was some regional variation in when this crossover occurred. I had the impression that the schoolmates of the kids from New Haven to DC were more widely dispersed. New Englanders had had their big move in the early 1600's or 1760's (a bunch then went to the Midwest in the mid-1800's), other Europeans came in later and stayed put as well, and that was about it.

The awareness of this in culture was a generation behind when it had actually started occurring. People were certainly heading to California or Florida well before 1971, but they hadn't yet become rich or famous or important enough to be national. When that new fashionable phenomenon McDonald's first came to South Willow St in 1965, no one remarked that the McDonald brothers were originally from Manchester. That only dawned on us much later. The awareness grew that Americans were starting to move all over after WWII, and everyone now understands this migration, especially to Southern California, as one of the great matters of the 20th C.  But that idea was not fully formed by 1970.  People were moving...everyone had a friend or relative out there...but each decision was seen as idiosyncratic. The reasons were still being assembled in our heads.


Interstate highways. More cars. Pacific Theater vets who had disembarked on the West Coast and loved it. Kids who wanted to get into the movies somehow. People who disliked their towns or their families and wanted out. People who wanted nicer weather. We all know those now, and I imagine the people in the receiving cities - Houston, LA, Phoenix, SF - figured out the patterns before those back home did, comparing stories.

Yet culture nationalised even for those who stayed home.  Television and network news became national, or NYC/DC/LA/Everywhere Else national anyway. Local radio has always hung on, because of the auto. Local TV, not so much. Local newspapers, dying. One of my favorite obscurer theories is that teenagers having spending money for the first time in history created a national generational culture, and we Boomers have been annoying the hell out of everyone else since.  Local aristocracies - barely recognised now.  Those of us over 60 can still see names on local business or charitable boards and think "Old Manchester," but it's not so tight now. Rich people move in, move out. They are more part of a national upper class than a local one now.

Thagomizer

This is simply awesome. Thagomizer has become its real name.