Friday round-up

1. How to channel anger
This week, after the election, I have been disappointed and slightly angry.
I always become irritated and frustrated during election seasons as I realize that many of my fellow humans are perfectly capable of abandoning all efforts at fact-checking or critical thinking when it comes to voting for Their Guys. It became obvious in 2012, and it has been very bad this year.
After this election result, realizing that the USA might be about to morph into a place that is not what I thought it was when I moved here in 1998, I have been taking stock of a lot of things.
When I used to play tennis, my intolerance of my own personal errors and imperfections would irritate me and occasionally anger me. (Yes, when I watched John McEnroe playing tennis, I recognized a kindred spirit, not, as many people claimed, an asshole brat. If you wanted to watch an asshole brat, you could always watch Jimmy Connors, who was a devious little chickenshit when competing on-court. McEnroe struggled to control himself. Connors sought to control the referees, work the crowd and generally engage in any and all tactics that he thought he could get away with).
When you get angry on court you have two options. You can allow the anger to take over your thought patterns, which usually ensures that you lose. Or you can channel the anger productively into something that will help you.
I have been channeling my frustration and anger into life planning. At age 61, I have limited full-time working years left, a totally insecure work outlook, and I also want to move into book writing. So Mary and I are beginning to plan the future out. We are going to visit Belize in December, and we are considering possibly investing in property there. I am working to consolidate my financial future, improve the management of my investments, and prepare for life after working in I.T. All of this is more constructive than foaming at the mouth on Facebook. There are way too many people either thrashing around or being juvenile end-zone dancers there this week. Most of them don’t know it, but I already Hid them. Life is too short to read their nonsense.

2. How kill-or-be-killed approaches debase human behavior
This article from a primatologist explains how unregulated, amoral competition within organizations ultimately debases human behavior (but some of you probably knew that already).

3. Sci-Fi writers
Of all of the artistic creative people out there, Sci-Fi writers are some of the most deep-thinking about societal models. They mostly write about the future, so they are both futurists and story-tellers, imagining what life might be like in the near to distant future. They also tend to skew towards the libertarian end of the political spectrum.
John Scalzi opened a thread on his blog to discuss the aftermath of the election. Scalzi being Scalzi, he intervenes to prevent people from going down rabbit holes from time to time. I like the “cable package purchase” analogy that he deploys here in an attempt to explain how people voting for Trump could vote for a candidate who deployed misogyny, racism and other anti-social attitudes as part of his campaign approach.

3. The Othering of the media
This article in Slate magazine explains how Donald Trump used the media as a prop, a proxy for those damn “coastal elites” that the art and science of resentment politics created 40+ years ago as a punching-bag. Most of Trump’s audience, already invested in the idea that he was some sort of outsider, failed to spot the irony.
Some day, historians will write about how many established veteran political and business insiders were able to convince electors that they were in fact insurgents in order to get elected to public office.

4. The cry of “hear us and understand us!” cuts both ways
For a lot of this election cycle, we have been hearing all about “the heartland” of the USA, and how the people there are to varying degrees resentful of “coastal elites” who look down on them both literally and figuratively (there is a reason for the term “flyover country”). Quite clearly, resentment played a large part in a surge of voters to the polls to vote for Donald Trump.
As J.D. Vance and other insightful authors have pointed out, the attitudes of people in the depressed rural regions of the USA are a lot more multi-faceted than is sometimes portrayed, and they are not always blameless victims of outside forces beyond their control. However, the “Deliverance” portrayal of rural people as scary psychos, or ignorant hillbillies, definitely informs a lot of stereotypes. A lot of media visitors to rural areas often act like tourists, seeing a lot and understanding next to nothing, and media portrayals tend to pick out people who visually stand out. Toothless people waving guns make for better visuals than regular folks going about their daily business. For every insightful article from Vance, I have read a bunch of superficial portraits that usually end up saying something like “I went to Outer Podunk and met a bunch of white folks and boy, they are mad as hell and not gonna take it any more”. This is usually accompanied by a few examples of weird, or downright hair-raising utterances from the people the journalist met.
However, it takes two to make an argument, and the images and stereotypes that exist among rural people about urban and city dwellers are, in their own ways, no better. Rural dwellers tend to sneer contemptuously at city people with their “fancy talk” and “posh ways”, their perceived lack of community and faith, their lack of ability in fundamentals like physical work, hunting and working the land, and to wish them to tumble down a peg or two.
None of this is new. The urban-rural divide has existed for hundreds of years, and probably will continue to exist. However, the mutually expressed antagonisms have become toxic this election cycle.
As Patrick Thornton, himself an export from the Mid-West, explains in this article, it is probably time for the rural disaffected to start trying to understand urban people a lot better also:

If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man accused of violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent apartments to black people. If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man who called Mexicans rapists, drug dealers and criminals. If we pin this election on coastal elites, we are excusing white working-class and rural Americans for voting for a man who called for a complete ban on Muslim immigration.
I have friends and acquaintances who are Trump supporters. They genuinely do not understand today’s shock, particularly from minorities. These Trump supporters do not understand that many minorities believe the people who voted for Trump endorse his racism and bigotry — that those voters care more about sending a message to the political establishment than they do about the rights and welfare of human beings.

The last sentence is important. Whenever I read or hear somebody saying they are engaging in punitive action against a person or group to “send a message”, I know I am witnessing or about to witness an abusive action that is fundamentally unjustifiable. This is true in corporate governance, sport, politics or human conquest. (The Nazis in World War II used to regularly round up and execute local people in occupied countries to “send a message” about not collaborating with resistance groups).
When your stated objective is more about “sending a message” it invariably means that you are going to behave like an abusive asshole.


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