Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Jewish Life In Germany

I am reading excerpts from collected Jewish diaries in Germany in the 18th-20th Centuries.  I was struck forcibly with who it was who had the longstanding prejudices, versus who accepted them into German society as integral parts, or even equals. The university students and professors were the worst and most consistent excluders, decade after decade.  The peasants were usually prejudiced, though there were towns and regions where the peoples got along reasonably well for a century or more. Merchants, craftsmen, suppliers, builders, and especially the factory workers were the most accepting.  Prejudice ebbed and flowed, and increased fairly steadily after the economic volatility of the 1870's through 90's, and then thereafter.

The Nazis, remember, were drawn from the artists, philosophers, and university populations. They stirred up the others, and there was a longstanding simmer of antisemitism to draw on.  Eventually, it was nearly everyone, as we know. But the idea that the Holocaust happened because of some acute madness of the crowd, driven by the stupid and uneducated, is false.

Statistics As They Float By

Because I have been in doctors' offices recently, I have read many more magazines than I usually do. Wouldn't you think, BTW, that eye centers would have a few large-print magazines in their waiting rooms? Mine don't - not in three different offices.

I was reading the Sports Illustrated article about the college pitcher who was just coming to the end of his successful five-year probation for sexual abuse of his niece when he was in highschool, when the whole story came to light and now major league teams don't want to draft him because of the bad PR, and risk of worse problems down the road.

The case is interesting, because he pled guilty and likely is guilty, but also claims he only pled because he was assured it was the best way to keep everything quite and make it go away as quickly as possible. That last is true, and people do that all the time, so it raises questions.  I haven't got enough data to comment further on that, and that's not the point of the post anyway.

There was an outraged college administrator who was appalled that the university had let his arrival and playing for one of their teams happen.  In her quoted statement, she said that 75% of female drug and alcohol addicts had been sexually abused, and that 75% of women having gastric bypass surgery had been sexually abused. I have a little more than average experience with women who have had gastric bypass surgery than the average person, because they are overrepresented among psychiatric patients, but I don't know an enormous amount about it.  I know that obesity is much more common among sexually abused females* (and probably males). Yet I knew even as I was reading the sentence I knew that 75% was very likely to be too high. I was immediately irritated because if she is going to be paid a handsome salary to advocate on these sorts of matters, she has a responsibility to get these things right.  It's her job.

To me the interesting piece is how I instantly knew it was bogus.  First I will give a retrospective, but I warn you that I will go on to undermine my own reasoning, so don't get swept away.

There were two 75%'s back-to-back. Red flag. Just too convenient. Son #5 uses the phrase "Shit just comes out of her mouth." Next, the first statistic isn't really about the topic at hand.  Adult substance abusers are indeed victimised at a very high rate. That's not the same thing, but she talks as if it its. It doesn't say that 75% of women who were sexually abused as children will become substance abusers as adults, nor that 75% of adult substance abusers were sexually abused as children. Those would be relevant.  Her statistic is is shouting distance of the subject at hand, but no closer. I saw that because I did an immediate reread, because some of this is my profession and I reflexively double-check. Third, 75% of any two small, seemingly unrelated groups is a lot of people.  If someone says "75% of Mennonites..." (or mixed-race Canadians, or county employees, or members of the garden club) "...play a wind instrument" alarm bells should go off.  It's just too weird. BTW, the real number is 25-30% - a big number, but not crazy big.

So far, most people would agree with my reasoning, and noticing their own sizing up of situations on the fly, don't find this all that surprising.  Somehow we all have these amazing shortcuts, part of  Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Except sometimes these shortcuts are wrong, yet we are just as sure about them. This is where the post got away from me. Researching this, I came quickly back to Kahneman, and this short interview. But that of course (well, to me, anyway) led to CS Lewis's Meditation In a Toolshed. (PDF) It is excerpted and commented on here. I went back to browse in my own 2011 series May We Believe Our Thoughts, but I don't like reading that much of my own stuff. Hopefully I wrote smart things.  If any of you do browse, let me know.

*The two simplest theories are that the abuse creates a need to be unattractive, or that the emotional pain creates a need to self-soothe with food. I think those are true but more complicated things are true as well. Perpetrators have an ability to identify those who are less-capable of standing up to them and turning them in. In many cases both mother and daughter (there is the genetic-environment conundrum again) are willingly blind or too fearful to speak.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Our Universal Civilization

The recently-deceased VS Naipul was Indo-Carribean, whose grandparents had moved from India to Trinidad. He attended Oxford and became a great writer in English, but more interestingly for me, an observer of many cultures of the world, including the Anglosphere. He was from the margins of Anglospheric society, but not an outsider.  He could see both in and outside his culture, likely better than those of us who grow up in a place, who are like fish who do not know they are wet. In his essay Our Universal Civilization,  he gives one answer to what this culture is.
But I always recognized, in England in the 1950s, that as someone with a writing vocation, there was nowhere else for me to go. And if I have to describe the universal civilization, I would say that it is the civilization that both gave the prompting and the idea of the literary vocation; and also gave the means to fulfill that prompting; the civilization that enables me to make that journey from the periphery to the center; the civilization that links me not only to this audience but also that now not-so-young man in Java whose background was as ritualized as my own, and on whom—as on me—the outer world had worked, and given the ambition to write.
It is likely that City Journal reprinted this in response to the multicultural imperative taught in our schools, assumed among the majority of our journalists, and extolled by the entertainment industry (but I repeat myself). Naipul focuses in particular on his journeys in Muslim countries. He does not reject other cultures as valueless, with nothing to teach us, but neither does he think they are equal.

There is also a short essay on him by Theodore Dalrymple in this issue of City Journal.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Benedict Option

I will be co-teaching an adult Sunday School class on Rod Dreher's The Benedict Option this fall. As my co-leader is a philosophy professor at St Anselm College, I would very much like not to make a complete fool of myself.  If any of you know anything, or have thoughts, please share them.

Update:  In response to one comment I attempted to add Dreher to my sidebar. It seems it is impossible to link to only to Dreher's stuff, you have to go to the main page of The American Conservative. This has happened to me before on other sites, and it is frustrating.  I dislike the premises of a few of their writers and don't want to send them traffic. But AVI, you say, you don't agree with everything written by any of the group efforts on your sidebar.  Why single this one out? Perhaps it is only that I disagree with those far less often.

We will see how it works out.  I may pull the link.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just Sayin'

With all the discussion about the woman in Holland who committed professionally-assisted suicide, I would like to note that it is not always depression which motivates suicide. Anger, and desire to punish others can sometimes be the dominant motive. Sometimes it works. One such suicide did indeed succeed in punishing our hospital very badly, including some very competent and compassionate practitioners who were embroiled in the lawsuit brought by the deeply pathological family. I can give no more information, for obvious reasons.

I do not support assisted suicide in any way.  I have seen people so desperate, living painful lives that were forced upon them, that I did not fault their desire to end it all.  However, most of them do cause pain to someone when they go, and do not weigh that heavily enough.  One of our safety plan questions upon discharge is "What is your main reason to go on living?" We are currently unable to support the theory with data, but our sense is that getting people to answer this out loud makes it stronger. We may be fooling ourselves with that one. The most common answer is that people in calmer moments recognise how much this would hurt their parents, their children, their siblings, their friends.

Yet for some, hurting those people was their motive in the first place. The sad part is that the ones you wished to punish will blame you one more time and brush it off, while the ones you wished to spare will blame themselves forever.

I have not looked into the case in the Netherlands much, other than to notice that a predictable diagnosis was attached to the woman, one that explains everything to me but perhaps not to the popular culture.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Lewis and Literary Genres in Narnia

I have just started reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to my older granddaughters, so I am alert to finding deeper understandings that I missed the first dozen times. One find things reading aloud that are less visible when reading silently.

I came by a short chain of links to a medievalist's site A Clerk of Oxford. She has an excellent essay from a few years ago, C.S. Lewis the Medievalist: Baldr, Brunanburh, Athelstan, and Edmund the Just. 
This is true on another level too, because - rather like the Canterbury Tales - the Narnia books are a compendium of literary genres, a joyous introduction to all the different kinds of things literature can do. The Magician's Nephew plays in the world of E. Nesbit's children's stories, The Horse and His Boy in the world of the Arabian Nights; Prince Caspian offers the dynastic conflicts of Shakespeare's history plays, its hero a fine Tudor prince properly educated in the quadrivium (!); The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is all Mandevillian 'Travels in the East', complete with sea-serpents and monopods; The Silver Chair starts with Middle English romance (Sir Orfeo and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight) and gets progressively more Norse as the story goes north, until we end up in the Prose Edda; and The Last Battle takes us to apocalypse by way of Brave New World
I had not thought of the series in quite that way, yet it makes some sense.  I expect to explore the entire site.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Motte and Bailey

BsKing has put me on to a description of the Motte and Bailey Fallacy.  I have seen this many times, and it is infuriating to deal with.  We Christians use it on each other altogether too often. This suggest to me that it is not always a deception, but rather a sign of an emotional or experiential belief rather than a logical one.

Eyes surgery a success thus far.  Blurry, no discomfort.

Still Light Posting

I am back from a short vacation in time to get eye surgery today - a cataract removal in preparation for a macular hole repair four weeks from now.  So it will probably be another day or two before I post and comment again.  And in September I have to be face down for three days after surgery, so that will be an interruption as well.  I am otherwise well and in good spirits. Hmm.  As good as usual, anyway.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Nationalism Revisited

I have previously expressed the opinion that it was not nationalism that created WWII, but it was nationalism that won it.  The German attitude was more properly described as a tribalism or racialism, though they called it nationalism.  Jews, Slavs, or Roma who lived within the German nation were not considered part of Das Volk, but ethnic Germans who lived over the borders were considered part of the larger family.  Some nations, of Scandinavian, Frankish, or Anglo-Saxon descent were considered people to be ruled if they would not cooperate, but not exterminated. Hungarian and Romanian "nationalist" figures such as Antonescu were likewise protectors only of ethnic Romanians, not all within the borders. (This is unsurprising in Europe up until that time, because borders moved frequently, but language and ethnic heritage remained primary. It's just wrong to call it nationalism.)

In contrast, while the Allies had a lot of international cooperation, they ran largely on nationalist sentiment. Not only the Americans, who, as a mixed people had no choice except nationalism, but as the war progressed, the Soviet Union hunkered down into its constituent parts and Stalin made his appeals on behalf of Mother Russia, not the New Soviet Man. My thought has been that while nationalism has dangers and can be a false god, internationalism is a worse one. It might in theory be a better thing, and if we ever do become better humans I will change my vote. At the moment, however, I consider it an overreach. When we pretend to be better than we are we are in enormous danger, and those who are loyal to international enterprises smuggle in some much more primitive prejudices. They do not transcend nationalism, as they imagine, but replace it with something that aims higher but strikes lower.

That is an observation of the group mentality, not the individual.  I am fully prepared to accept that there are many people who do transcend nationalism on an individual basis. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, however, in the traditional concentric circles of loyalty humankind tends to use, they more often skip over ring rather than include.  There is more virtue to be signaled in loving those far away rather than neighbors. How much more noble to love illegal aliens at the expense of poor citizens!

I will have to revise my WWII picture however.  It still applies to Germans.  Yet my reading of Japanese history recently convinces me that nationalism was indeed their motive.  They did not find Koreans, Taiwanese, or Chinese racially inferior, but culturally so. Their attitude toward those in Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Pacific Islands was more tinged with a racialism.

I'm not sure how I incorporate this into the overall picture, but I have to start by wounding my old model. Any of you who have knowledge about Japanese and other Asian cultural and racial attitudes, please weigh in.

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz