Friday, July 03, 2020

Responsibility and The System

In the full embodiment of the idea of collective and historical responsibility, you bear some responsibility for slavery and oppression even if you and your ancestors had no direct connection to the purchase and ownership of any slave, because you are part of the system and have benefited from that system.

By that reasoning, if you peacefully protest against racial injustice, but other protestors on the other side of the crowd - or even on the other side of the country - engage in looting and violence, aren't you guilty as well, as part of the system? That second idea would sound strange and impossible to people, but I am not seeing a distinction.

Our church has taken up a study on racial justice, using a new book which I shall not name, but will mention that I loathe. There are plenty of difficulties right off the bat with trying to integrate Critical Race Theory, or any of the philosophical frameworks of the last two centuries which focus on group identities and  viewing human activities as systems with Christianity.

If systems were that important, we might expect that Jesus would have mentioned them more. The Roman Empire was an interlocking system that had good things and bad about it.  Neither Jesus, nor Paul, nor James, John, Peter, or Luke pay it much mind as a system per se. There is no advocacy that Christians should spend a moment of their time trying to change the system. We might ask ourselves why this is so. Just out of curiosity.

That systems were changed as a result of Christian belief is not at all the same thing as regarding attempts to "change the system" as Christian goals.  To bring things closer to the present day, William Wilberforce did not attempt to "change the system." His goal was to eliminate slavery in the British Commonwealth, which he saw as a great evil. That "the system" would change as a result was not something he wasted any ink or a single speech on. The downstream effects of our actions are always unknown, and often include unforeseen problems.  We are to estimate those as best we can and take them into consideration, certainly.

There is something about focus on the system to removes our focus from our own actions.  This happens on the credit as well as the debt side of the ledger as well.  When we take credit and think ourselves special and virtuous because of things our ancestors, countrymen, or coreligionists have done that is equally missing the point.  I have a couple of ancestors who fought for the Union to free slaves.  I don't believe I am owed any thanks for that.

If you are participating in an act, even in only a supportive or indirect role, I think that act does attach to you. At the end of Durrenmatt's The Visit it is clear that the entire town has participated in the killing and the actions of a single individual do not stand out. Writing in Switzerland after WWII, it is clear that his intent was to tell Germans they all bore responsibility.  I would agree.  But were all Germans equally guilty?  Does a telephone operator or a bartender carry the same weight of guilt as a guard who executed Jews and pried gold fillings from their teeth?  Did a Jew or Gypsy who beat his wife become innocent on the day Hitler came to power?

People who focus on changing, disrupting, or overthrowing one system lose the ability to see the faults of their own system. The system is a snare for the Christian. Well, I suppose for anyone.

400 Years of Oppression

No one is 400 years old.

Zoom Wedding

Our niece Meg scheduled her wedding a year ago for this May.  In the last few months she postponed it to July in hopes she could have it then. But she is a nurse in Massachusetts, and has no intention of putting friends and family in  danger.  We will be attending the wedding in about an hour, via Zoom.

"The important thing is to get married and start having a family" she said.  Good attitude.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

The Bible Project: Jonah

It's a great series.  A couple of family members tell me this is their favorite.


Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Advance Australia Fair

It seems like it would be a good thing to be an Australian.  I'm not in the market for switching, but I think they'd be my second choice.

Yes, ahead of the Canadians, even though my grandfather was Nova Scotian. Everyone likes Australians.

Another Academic Firing

I corresponded with Dr. Hsu twice when he was still at Oregon teaching physics, because he was associated with research through BGI where I was a participant. He is about as intelligent a person as you could hope to encounter.  But Michigan State has fired him for quoting research on IQ and ethnicity. He was defended by some big names, but in the end President Samuel Stanley used the same cowardly line they are all using these days
I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward...
Very little intellectual justification was even offered.  Here's the problem: reality itself, in the form of human biology, is racist and sexist by current definitions. It puts researchers in a bind, doesn't it? Thus it puts universities in a bind, because they dare not allow reality to be spoken, yet their job is to teach young people to think, and do accurate research.

Giving in to the mob is not their only choice, not by a long shot.  But they don't have that many students in these subjects, so if they have to let someone be fed to the sharks, it's not going to be Education, is it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Things We Have Gotten Better Since March

It's important to look at what we have been learning as we have been going.

Denunciation

I had seen sections of Taibbi's excellent takedown of White Fragility, but only read the whole essay today. Robin DiAngelo's only solution offered to white people is that they become less white.  I think she, and others, are pointing to a different consensus as to what must be done. You must denounce other white people, individually and collectively, in order to be saved. Notice that this doesn't cost you a cent. Redemption without sacrifice.

***

Reading my previous posts that touch on the subject, I once made the point that "fragility" is not the potential sin I would associate with white people, but it's opposite.  What seems to be happening is the formulation "See?  You are defending yourself, therefore you must feel defensive.  People feel defensive when they are actually weak, not strong.  Therefore you prove my accusation that you are fragile.  UH! UH! See?  There you are, doing it again!"

Rather convenient.

However, I think there is a place where this is subtly true.  They are attempting to motivate some white people to join in by using this tactic.  For those people, it might be true.  For the others, I don't see how they can have it both ways.

For myself, I long ago decided that black spokespeople have little or nothing to do with the black people I actually encounter in my life.  The people I encounter are human beings, and some are darker, some are lighter.  I am now told this is an impossible formulation that denies the reality of oppression.  However, I am told this by precisely those people who have an interest in maintaining division, because their jobs, their self-esteem, or their excuses why they ain't rich depend upon it. The black people I actually know are worried about their golf handicap, whether they have enough money to retire, whether their children are going to get a good education, whether they are going to keep this new job, whether their church will weather this CoVid storm, whether the young Christians they are teaching will actually learn the life lessons they need, whether their daughter's teacher will be willing to be strict with her...very much the same things my white and Asian acquaintances have.  They're just darker people saying these things.

The world has gone mad, and I'm just trying not to get dragged in its trail.

Redefining Words

I have mentioned many times that if you have to redefine common terms - patriot, racist, supremacist - in order to prove your point it is an admission you can't win on the merits. Cults do this with words like atonement, and especially love. I had thought of a humorous example about a year ago, but couldn't remember it this morning after waking too early, and eventually just got up. I finally brought it back to mind after two hours.  It's not as funny as I remembered, but it's not a bad example.  And even if it's terrible, I'm posting it anyway, in honor of this morning's frustration.

"So when I tell my patient she has outstanding charges, she should be happy about that?"

Monday, June 29, 2020

American Genetic Clusters


You have likely seen the upper map in the last couple of years.  It is based on all those Ancestry.com genetic samples that people send in.  The full paper was published in Nature in 2017. They looked for clusters, and what they found corresponds greatly to what we know from American history.  Especially if you have read and remember David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed. I haven't mentioned it in a while, but let me note again that it is the one essential book of American history. Enormous amounts of American settlement and regional culture will just click, and it will provide you with a framework for understanding it.

I draw your attention to the second map, which you may not have seen.  It shows smaller sample clusters they identified, and is also fascinating.  Mormons show up as part of the Northeast cluster because their founding population was largely from New York and New England, and their first areas of foreign missions were the British Isles and Scandinavia. Founding populations have an outsize genetic influence, which you can also see in how their effect dissipates East to West in the above maps.

There are other maps and much discussion at the link.  You could lose a whole morning there.  It is interesting that they were able to discern two Appalachian groups, which we usually just combine as Scots-Irish/English Borderers. There is also an interesting map of which states are genetically most eastern, western, northern, southern.  It's not shocking that New Hampshire's deeper genetics (3-9 generations) is the most northern, but it is surprising that Louisiana is the most eastern - until you remember the Arcadians getting kicked out of Nova Scotia and becoming Cajuns. Fun stuff.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Fedex

We had an envelope Fedexed to us Friday, to arrive Monday.  It went out from Lynn, MA, leaving the Peabody office in the evening. That is about 60 miles from here.  It went next to Memphis, TN, about 1300 miles from here, and then came back the 1300 miles, to Londonderry, about 20 miles from here.  So it has come about two-thirds of the way here so far, with a 2600-mile detour.

Presumably, it is all about the airport.  Peabody is 15 miles from Logan in Boston, and everything that is not supposed to get delivered from their office presumably just goes on a plane to Memphis, where it gets sorted and put on other planes. It's hard to accept that this is the most efficient way of doing things.

Tallis Canon

We become especial fans after reading the Madeline L'Engle books.




Drought

It's not my imagination.

With all the fun things weather sites can do, I have had a new source of frustration over the past few years: watching the radar tell me that rain is coming in 30-90 minutes, only to have it somehow pass us by.  This is IMPOSSIBLE! How can it rain in Bedford and rain in Dunbarton, but the clouds scatter and drop nothing on us AGAIN? Because I work in Concord, and note that it sometimes misses there as well, going above and below, I have suspected, and grudgingly conceded, that they might have it almost as bad.

The clouds generally come from W or WSW, so what is happening in Keene is often a moderately good indicator of what will be happening in Goffstown in an hour.  Albany, NY is about two hours ahead. (Funny how it is much more than twice as far as Keene culturally, with two state borders in between.) We are currently in a drought, so I am watching the weather anxiously and a bit obsessively the last few days.  We had 20 minutes of light rain yesterday, but the "heavy thunderstorms" that have been expected have consistently parted about fifty miles to the west and gone to the north of us and south of us. AGAIN!  Just like every year, it seems.

In the more rational parts of my brain I recognise that this is just my impression.  It can't really be the case that Nashua and Laconia get significantly more rain than Manchester and Concord.  It's just my bitter cynicism, aided by the confirmation bias of remembering those times when we had no rain, forgetting the downpours that drenched us and missed our neighbors.  Yet in my frustration, today I went looking for average precipitation of places in NH.

I was right.  Goffstown is in a narrow band of diminished precipitation. Twenty miles south and twenty miles north both get significantly more precipitation.  Also, because of the increased rainfall near the coast, that dry band I live in gradually moistens starting about 20 miles east as well. There is an even drier band Above The Notch (Usually Franconia, but also Pinkham) extending up into Quebec, but from Mount Washington to Nashua, there is a 30-mile swath of lower moisture, and I both live and work in it. Mount Washington has twice the precipitation everywhere else, but starting from the north, this is the yearly precipitation

Plymouth 44.68 in
Laconia 44.15 in
Concord 40.61 in
                  Goffstown is between the two, more on the Manchester side
Manchester 42.05in
Nashua 47.97 in
Just across the border in Mass, it's similar to Nashua - which is pretty much part of Massachusetts these days anyway. Worcester 47, Lowell 48.

As I was writing this, another storm dissipated around us, not a drop, and the projected storm for the evening has already disappeared. AGAIN.

Additional note:  Different sites give different numbers for annual rainfall - I don't know why, just different methods, I suppose - but all of them track comparably.

Reporting II

Such a takedown of the Atlantic's reporting should be devastating to its reputation.  But not these days, not anymore. To be devastating it would have to be widespread, and these things are just buried.

Reporting

I was interested in how things were playing out with the Swedish Somali community, which is less than 1% of the population but had 5% of the coronavirus cases as of May.  The reports I read then indicated that Somalis paid much less attention to quarantining, even after showing symptoms. They would go out and visit among each other and be out in public areas as well.  This seemed partly due to false beliefs about the virus, especially that Muslims could not get it, but also because many just seemed not to care very much.  If they wanted to go out, they went out.

I am not easily finding updates.  The reporting in Europe, when it mentions this at all, frames it that the increased rate of illness is a product of economic inequality and segregation, rather than risky behavior on the part of the Somalis.  There were a couple of articles that mentioned only "immigrant populations," so I have to wonder if there are other groups which are less cautious as well.  Even if so, likely not as bad, or it would have been mentioned by someone, somewhere.

I have to wonder what is going on in the newsrooms.  Do they slant things this way because they don't want to "hurt" the Somalis and the cause of immigration in general by encouraging others to think bad things about them? Do they really think such things are the result of poverty and segregation rather than stemming from similar causes? Are the few deaths regarded as unimportant because it provides an opportunity to "talk about larger issues," as if there were an abundance of issues that are larger than death?  I have to wonder if it goes so far as to mean "It would be better if this were true, so this is what shall go in the official record. We will force it to be true by erasing the counterevidence."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Missing People



As far as I can tell, two people were found and there was information about two more. What they got was a lot of was people wanting to join them.