Things that drive me nuts

  • “We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes. Please be patient. Your call is important to us.” [geez, where do I start?]
  • “This page intentionally left blank.” [If I were a robot in Star Trek, this would make me melt.]
  • Signing into my password manager so that I can sign into my credit card account so that they will send a code via text so that I can enter that and finally get into the website…only to see that I signed into the wrong credit card website.
  • Getting an apparently computer-generated email about how sorry my propane company feels after I complained in the obligatory follow-up survey about waiting over two weeks for propane. (Good thing it’s not my primary source of heat!) Should I be surprised it took two months for their response to be sent?
  • Robocalls spoofing real numbers.
  • Experts who forget the difficulties beginners face.
  • People who say they lost an hour when switching to Daylight Saving Time. [OK, time is a construct and yes, a hour was taken out arbitrarily, but…does the sun not come up and set in the same amount of time, more or less, as it did before the switch?]
  • Receiving mail for my father, deceased for over nine years, at my address where he never lived!
  • Companies which successfully lobby for a law or regulation, then tell their customers, “I’m sorry, but it’s required by the government.”
  • The prevalent use of complimentary for complementary. [In fact, I just searched to see if somehow the meaning had drifted over time. No, it hasn’t, but the top search result said “Complimentary rebooking | Singapore Airlines”]
  • Being able to find a typo or word misusage every day in the local TV news broadcast.
  • Being able to find a typo or word misusage almost every day in the New York Times.
  • Fanatics clinging to nonsensical word usage rules. [See typos/word misusage! Not every misusage is nonsensical!]
  • Circular logic.
  • The so-called smart side mirrors on my car which never return to the same position two consecutive times.
  • and…that this was just off the top of my head and I’ve likely forgotten twice as many in the moment!

Wokeness versus objective reality

You should use your one or two free articles per month from the New York Times to read Bret Stephens’s column “Why Wokeness Will Fail” (published Nov 9, 2021). Although Stephens dwells overmuch on matters associated with racism and the Black Lives Matter movement in particular—opening himself up to charges of “another white guy doing the defensive thing”—his points are well made, accurate, and most importantly, based in reality.

Stephens notes a particularly chilling example from the American Medical Association which apparently has urged redefining terms for patients such that they reflect the inherent racism that created their situation. As he notes, it is Orwellian. I am reminded of the clients I continually met who believed that they could change corporate culture if they just wrote better SOP’s. This is the ‘hall monitor’ approach: give me more rules and I will be empowered. One cannot redefine the world by redefining language. We cannot introduce matters of opinion into descriptive terms of objective reality. A person with little money is ‘poor’ not ‘the victim of economic inequality’. Terms which carry hateful, opinionated connotations do indeed need to be replaced. But projecting a theory onto every situation and redefining the terms? Ridiculous, inaccurate, group-think, the beginning of totalitarianism.

This recognition that Wokeness is a step toward totalitarianism is refreshing. Stephens’s assertion that it is doomed to fail because of the structure of American government and society? I’m not so sure. I would like it to be true, but I have lived too long through the simple—ketchup is a vegetable—and the complex—there were fine persons on both sides—to believe this constant assault on reality will diminish and ultimately fail. Our would-be emperors are often naked, and we must constantly point this out to the gullible.

True Facts and Crazy Facts

Idiocy is different than rational insanity. Maybe it’s just a continuum of wrongheadedness. Idiocy requires an emotional need to believe, a desire to believe, and an acquiescence to trust the veracity of something because it reinforces your True Beliefs. (True Beliefs. Core Beliefs. “People are almost always out to get me.” “There is a higher power.” “The Other is always bad.”)

The danger with idiocy lies in how it leads someone to believe their beliefs are no longer Beliefs but Facts. The most dangerous form of this idiocy happens when a person leaps from a perfectly acceptable Fact to a crazy-assed assertion loosely connected to it, and our susceptible Idiot links the True Fact to this New “Fact” (what we will now call a Crazy Fact) and from thence travels a circular path back to the Core Belief which made them susceptible to believe the Crazy Fact in the first place. 

I taught in junior high with a woman who worked as a teacher’s aide for a special education teacher dealing with learning disability students. This teacher’s classroom included students who have ‘legit’ disabilities like dyslexia, but it more commonly included kids with problems of self-perception that they were not good at math, reading, writing, or whatever. This woman and I shared a prep period wherein she actually prepped while I usually farted around with the nascent network system in the school, trying to make it work. (We were too cheap to actually have a true tech person on the staff of the entire district, let alone our little school.) The aide and I had a good conversational time. She was quite personable. She and her husband had moved to our rural location after he retired from being an urban cop in a large American city. A lot of them did that because selling a very modest house in that market could land a lovely home in our depressed market, cash on the barrelhead, and everything you worked at thereafter was financial gravy. Her gig paid a whopping $7/hr, but this was in the mid to late 80’s, when $250 a week was significant. (For comparison purposes, the $250/week equaled about $1000/month. A beginning teacher in our district earned between $1100 and $1200/month. An average teacher with a good combination of extra training and 5-8 years’ experience earned $2000-2500. The biggest difference was the teacher got paid regardless of holidays, and got paid during the summer months, whereas the aide only got paid when she worked.)

One day we’re talking about something, likely conservative politics, because one thing that drew police and firemen from urban cities to our area was that we were deeply conservative, borderline reactionary. The state we were located in–to be kept a bit anonymous unless you dig through this website–was NOT in the Deep South, far from it. And for the purpose of the big reveal coming up, it also wasn’t Montana or Colorado. But back to the conversation we were having. Somehow it led to a discussion of state governments, and I made a comment about Montana being relatively independent because although conservative overall, it often elected Democrats to Congress. (Look it up.) And this perfectly normal-looking, normal acting woman said:

“Well, but the state of Montana is governed by Colorado.” (And I guess everyone KNEW that Colorado was more liberal being that they have Denver and Boulder there and all.)

I was poleaxed, a battering ram of crazy delivered to me right between the eyes when I was totally relaxed and unsuspecting. I would recount the next few lines, but it’s a blur. All I remember is that I basically, politely said, “Uh, no it’s not,” and all I got was a strongly-convicted woman determined to let me in on the truth of which apparently very few people were aware. She firmly believed that, while the State of Montana had a legislature, it had to run all of its decisions past the government of Colorado.

This woman firmly believed (Core Belief) that We Are Being Lied To On A Regular Basis By EVERYONE (Media, Education Leaders, Politicians). A True Fact–I’m not doing any more Google searches on this, but I’ll accept that maybe somehow, someway in the past, Montana was part of a large territory run from Denver–plus a Core Belief left her open to accepting someone’s assertion that Montana was run by Colorado (a Crazy Fact).

This interchange from decades ago has been playing across my mind in 2021 when we in the United States of America have been living in a Kafkaesque landscape of two political realities. It’s as if two parallel realities suddenly found themselves cohabiting the same physical reality, as if the coordinates of space-time were suddenly coincident. Maybe it’s not as Kafkaesque as I think it is, but the ascendence of conspiracy crazies to positions of prominence in government, influential political groups, and voting blocs has left the rest of us going “what the fuck…?” in our spare moments of privacy spent reading about the latest news while taking a morning crap.

Contrast this woman’s opinion with that a friend of mine expressed in August 2020. He made a cogent argument for the Covid-19 disease accidentally escaping from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This person is a former member of our volunteer military (as opposed to the Army), who later worked with me in pharmaceutical manufacturing. He is world-traveled also, and he’s well-read. What he said, though I didn’t want to believe it, must be at least accepted for examination and consideration. His argument was:

  • No one outside of China is certain what is studied at the lab, but its focus on bat-sourced viruses was well-established. I’ve since read several pieces about its famous (or infamous) bat cave searcher for new viruses, Shi Zhengli. This assertion of his is a True Fact.
  • The lab had been cited frequently for deficient safety practices, many of them dealing with containment of pathogens and the environmental controls which assure safety to the world at large. This too is a True Fact. It’s a matter of public record by the Chinese government, which I have many doubts about, but when they say the lab had difficulties in this area, I’m a believer in it being true. I think the FDA also did so, but I am not sure it ever got access. Overall, this is not a True Fact, but quite likely it is a presumably True Fact.
  • And unfortunately I’ve forgotten a little bit of the detail of his next point. Basically it had to do with some of the lab workers becoming sick with very similar symptoms to the Covid-19 disease in November 2019 just before it was acknowledged to be a problem. I don’t know if this is true, but I think I’ve read about that elsewhere. It’s at least rationale unlike our fine teaching companion’s belief that Montana is in thrall to Colorado.

The “accepted” view in August 2020 was that his position was a crazy one, and dangerous: we had a sitting president with an itchy nuclear-launch button finger to retaliate against a rogue country who infected the world with a plague that ‘ruined’ his presidency. (And whaddaya know, there I go, imputing my beliefs in a way to make them sound true!) Yet we currently have quite a few questions as to where this disease’s viral vectors come from. I personally like Occam’s Razor: the most likely answer is the one which, in the presence of available facts, is the simplest. It is easier to believe that a region of the globe which routinely infects the rest of the world with diseases caused by this region’s combination of culinary predilections, health standards, graft, and preponderance of disease-carrying bats and several other incubators of pestilence, had once again allowed a virus to leap species and infect us to bad effect.

We–those of us who believe in True Facts and presumed to be True Facts–need to accept and meet people like my second friend. We need to argue Occam’s Razor-style with them. We need to accept the plausibility of their arguments, but we need to keep in mind the implications of accepting their points of view. (Accepting in August of 2020 that China’s lab let the disease out, and that China did a haphazard job in figuring that out, just would have fed a whole lot of crazy to no good effect.)

And short of considering deprogramming, we need to ignore and isolate the true crazies, the idiots from the rest of us. Give them short shrift. See extinction theory. They believe in Crazy Facts and those have no place in determining the course of action for any communal group of humans. This topic and thread will be continued.