November 24, 2008

League Approved Reading Lists

Filed under: Commentary,Opinion — Tags: — Obi Zen Folksinger @ 9:00 pm

Americans don’t read. Ask anyone. Educators and sociologists will tell you that Americans don’t read. We watch TV, we play video games; if we read anything it’s more likely to be someone’s opinion than documented facts. Who needs books when you have the Internet? Who needs to form an opinion when there is a smorgasbord of opinions to choose from online? Pick one that feels good and download the talking points to FWD to all your friends. It’s almost like having a conversation. When you all buy the same brand you can all sign up for the email alerts and always seem like you all know what is going on. It’s nice to hang out with people who think you’re smart.

   Or not.

The truth is out there. Cheap offset presses and pulp paper were a boon to the freedom of the press in the 19th Century. Internet bulletin boards were immensely popular. That popularity made it reasonable to develop chatrooms, group mail and (insert triumphant music) Blogs. No one could have predicted BartCop. (Snigger) The Businessmen’s Coup of 1934 gets more air every day. Lee Hamilton’s whitewashing of Iran/Contra starts to wear thin and there is no color on earth that will hide the truth. Not when the Federal Judge who helped him run the hearings into the ground just let out five long term Guantanamo detainees with an angry reprimand to the administration for the “thin reed” they were gonna hang these guys from.

   When long time GOP operator Roger Stone admitted to having real regrets about helping to make Dubya president you could be pretty sure that it wasn’t on Fox. All those well informed smart guys who subscribe to the email alerts must feel a little irked at being called on something this embarrassing by “lib-ruls”. The truth is just a “Google” away. (Try it for yourself. Open a new window and search “Roger Stone, regrets”) BartReaders should feel free to be the irk-some “lib-rul”. Its great sport; a firm return volley on a lame toss-out line. It’s surprisingly easy when you actually read things.

   The truth is a light. It is no more Good or Bad than any other unit of transmitted illumination. If you think of words as units comparable to photons it is easier to understand how to use the truth to show what you want it to. Using the proper angles it’s possible to turn something grotesque and dangerous in to the glowing silhouette of hearts desire. A glaring truth can cast Hope and Prosperity as a shadowy menace

How does one tell if what you see is really true truth?  Look for lots of complex detail and colors. Things that are simple black and white are just not whole pictures. It may be nice to look at but you know that it’s not real. Bold primary colors are great for a parade but that is not the color of the world. Just as complex natural systems are more stable than simple controlled systems so complex ideas have a greater likelihood for being true. When an idea is made up of simple words and is easy to understand completely in one quick skim you may want to take a closer look at this idea before you swallow it. You must be skeptical.

  Much is made of having enough faith. Faith is difficult when exercised in the absence of confirming facts. You have to have faith that the contradictory histories of your holy book are a true communication from the highest powers in the universe. For some it comes easy. For others it is the work of a lifetime. With years of practice and training from early childhood almost anyone can be taught to believe what they are told. The same is true of skepticism.

The progressive teaches her child to ask questions. “Why?” is the holy mantra of childhood. If you read to your child thirty minutes every night from the DAY OF THEIR BIRTH that child will have more comprehension than her peers by an average factor of 15. That factor alone can relieve major symptoms of puberty. (confusion, defiance, bad poetry) Talk to your child thirty minutes EVERY DAY and the child will be harder to lie to, cheat, kidnap, exploit or intimidate than her peers by a factor of thousands. That takes a lot of the stress out of parenting teens.

The adult skeptic is receptive to new ideas but critical by reflex. When someone trained to skepticism presents new ideas there is an expectation of rigorous questioning. This includes defending the idea with well thought out arguments but also keeping a greedy eye out for new aspects of the idea presented by the examination.

Skeptics, being intellectually lazy that way, will tell you it is easy to have faith in something when you have an expansive knowledge of the topic. It’s when people ask skeptics to have faith without evidence or even in contradiction of evidence that they fail the task. So it has been demonstrated this last election cycle. More people were skeptical the faithful.

   I might be wrong. I’m wrong a lot. Ask my ex-wife. Any of them can tell you that I’m often impetuous in my thinking. I just love to grab a new idea and run with it. “Oooh, shiny!”

Most of the stuff in today’s episode is well-cooked mash from the deep parts of my slow cooker. Diverse ingredients make the best Stewed Truth. Brain Science really fleshes out all those centuries of observer data. Mass Psyche must be leavened with that Tincture of Tenderness or it will rise up too much and can really get out of hand. Stuff I looked up melts into other stuff I’ve read in magazines in the doctors’ office. I’ve been skeptical of most of it but I think these things have some nice truth to them.

   For a reading list this one is notably short of links or titles. I meant to do that. There is some idea that you, Dear BartReader, have been chewing on for some time. There are some other opinions out there. Go ahead and look them up. Look boldly at what others think of this idea. Google up some supporting/ refuting data and see where these other opinions fit to it. Write it down and send it to a friend to read.

   You are the reading list, Dear Reader. If you hang out here then the reading is probably pretty good.

Cartoons, too, I’m sure.

 True Reflection ‘08





  1. My mother read to me every night when I was a baby and it probably was the main reason I learned to read before I started kindergarten.
    But it didn’t mitigate the emotional side effects of puberty one bit. In fact, it may have increased the amount of confusion, defiance, and bad poetry.
    When I argued with my parents there was a good chance I was right!

    Comment by bittershaman2 — November 25, 2008 @ 2:07 am

  2. Of course, you should be able to read just to float around the Inner Tubes but, as my Significant Other sagely points out, channeling the eternal wisdom of Yogi Berra: “Half the people who read are illiterate.”

    It’s tough to have an argument based on facts with someone who only understands every third word in a sentence and whose appreciation of the march of history goes back only as far as Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. There’s also this bit of truth to keep in mind, from John Stuart Mill: “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

    I would say ‘all stupid people are conservative’ but I guess I’m not as liberal as the late JSM. Still, I have years of evidence for my less tolerant claim accrued from the Information Superhighway that turned out to be a continous cloverleaf loop to the right in a clown car for many. Ah, well, as Mark Twain wrote: “Everything has its limit — iron ore cannot be educated into gold.” And it’s still true over a century later.

    Comment by RS Janes — November 25, 2008 @ 8:04 am

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