Thursday’s Required Reading

1. 12 year old grandmaster. 

2. Ultra cycling’s underdog has no patience for haters. 

3. On infrastructure. Why does it cost so much to build things in America? 

4. The power dynamic between humans and Yosemite National Park.

5. On ‘small travel’. Making discovery, not distance, travel’s point.

 

A Hard Pass On Psychedelics

Ever pressed pause and asked yourself why LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs are trending?

Here are some explanations from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“Hallucinogenic and dissociative drugs have been used for a variety of reasons (Bogenschutz, 2012; Bonson, 2001). Historically, hallucinogenic plants have been used for religious rituals to induce states of detachment from reality and precipitate ‘visions’ thought to provide mystical insight or enable contact with a spirit world or ‘higher power.’ More recently, people report using hallucinogenic drugs for more social or recreational purposes, including to have fun, help them deal with stress, or enable them to enter into what they perceive as a more enlightened sense of thinking or being. Hallucinogens have also been investigated as therapeutic agents to treat diseases associated with perceptual distortions, such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and dementia. Anecdotal reports and small studies have suggested that ayahuasca may be a potential treatment for substance use disorders and other mental health issues, but no large-scale research has verified its efficacy (Barbosa, 2012).”

Apart from the potential to help with substance abuse disorders and other mental health issues, I don’t find any of the other rationales convincing. Their appeal seems to speak to people’s discontentment with having more of their needs met than any other people at any other time in world history. 

Maybe this is just another case of Okay Boomerism, but I never wake up wishing for more mystical insight. More Sea Salt Caramel gelato in the freezer yes (or dark Raspberry Chocolate), but not a more enlightened sense of thinking or being. I’ll be sitting this one out because I’m content with my current anemic level of insight, thinking, and being. 

Paragraph To Ponder—Vax Edition

John Gruber on Philadelphia’s Vax Sweepstakes:

“I really do love the idea of these lotteries and giveaway promotions. It’s innumeracy that leads some people to grossly miscalculate the risks vs. rewards of getting vaccinated, and it’s innumeracy that leads people to play lotteries. Sweepstakes for getting vaccinated put innumeracy to work.”

The Biebs Ditches His Dreads

Before and after pictures and the story here.

The Bieb’s experience highlights how the lines between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation can be blurry.

Here’s a helpful start in distinguishing between the two.

“Appreciation is when someone seeks to understand and learn about another culture in an effort to broaden their perspective and connect with others cross-culturally. Appropriation on the other hand, is simply taking one aspect of a culture that is not your own and using it for your own personal interest.”

The social media mob immediately decided Bieber was not broadening his perspective or connecting with others cross-culturally, instead he was using his dreads for his own personal interest.

However, even if that assumption was correct, a few minutes of research into the history of dreads would’ve muddied the water considerably:

“One account claims that dreadlocks originated in India (unlike most who cite Egypt as their birth place) with the dreadlocked diety Shiva and his followers. It is likely that this is the spirituality origin of dreadlocks in Indian culture. However, the first archeological proof of people wearing dreadlocks came from Egypt where mummies have been recovered with their dreadlocks still in tact.

Regardless of their origin, dreadlocks have been worn by nearly every culture at some point in time or another. Roman accounts stated that the Celts wore their hair ‘like snakes’. The Germanic tribes and Vikings were also known to wear their hair in dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have been worn by the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazarites of Judiasm, Qalandri’s Sufi’s, the Sadhu’s of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, and many more! There are even strong suggestions that many early Christians wore dreadlocks; most notably Sampson who was said to have seven locks of hair which gave him his inhuman strength.”  Source.

Which makes me wonder, why didn’t JB try to enlighten the mob with a similarly brief history lesson? It’s too bad he opted for hair clippers instead of the teachable moment.

Maybe I should take the baton and grow some dreads. I’ll report on my progress same time next decade.

Weekend Required Viewing and Reading

1. Viewing. American Insurrection. Dear righty friends who have made up your mind that political violence is the fault of radical lefties, in the interest of “equal time”, which counter-documentary do you want me to watch?

2. How the Super League fell apart. It’s too bad Europeans don’t take their football more seriously.

3. It’s not just young white liberals who are leaving religion.

4. Rethinking happiness during Covid.

5. In the wake of George Floyd, private schools brought in diversity consultants. Outrage ensued. Mark it up because if you sign up for my Multicultural Education course this fall, you’ll have to re-read it.

Thursday Required Reading

  1. Emerging From the Coronavirus. As someone with pandemic privilege—my state has done a very good job of limiting it and my circle of family and friends have been spared—I took my time with these personal stories on how profoundly Covid has changed millions of people’s lives.
  2. Diversity in Presidential Cabinets. As thorough and thoughtful a description and analysis as you will find. Should become a staple in political science courses.
  3. Lego enthusiast explains why the black market for the toy bricks is so lucrative. Fifty years too late for moi.
  4. The Robots Are Coming … to Mow Your Lawn. Yes please.
  5. How open and face to face will fall semester be? Sigh. Surprising how cynical the commenters are about higher education on this highly intellectual blog.

How Not To Care

If you look even a little bit, the growing population of homeless men, women, and children in Olympia, Washington are easily visible; mostly you’ll find them close to the social service agencies they depend upon, like the Salvation Army and the Thurston County Food Bank. An enormous tent and tarp community stretches all along the western edge of Capital Lake on Deschutes Parkway SW. It looks like a refugee camp you might find in Northeast Africa, but worse because there’s no UNHCR to create some semblance of order. More accurately, picture Miami post Hurricane Katrina. Many more live in tents and tarps among the trees that line the Woodland Trail and the I-5 freeway.  

The classic argument between the Individual Responsibility folks, “they have to take responsibility for their bad decisions” versus the Systemic Forces folks, “the growing numbers of homeless who succumb to combinations of poverty, addiction, and poor mental health are entirely predictable given our ‘winner-takes-all’ economic system coupled with our anemic social safety net” shows no signs of abating. Nearly all of the Individual Responsibility folks respond to  homeless men, women, and children with a mix of resentment and anger. At the same time, a gradually increasing percentage of the Systemic Forces folks are exasperated as some natural areas are lost and downtown grows less clean and safe.

So why, as the population of homeless men, women, and children rises; does it seem like our collective empathy decreases? Even among a lot of decent people who have demonstrated empathy in their past for others less fortunate than them?

Mired in resentment and anger, we leapfrog caring about our fellow citizens’ pain and suffering because we don’t know any homeless person’s story. We don’t know where they’re from, what their childhood was like, what hardships they’ve had to endure. Not knowing any of those things makes it much easier to assume they’ve made a series of bad decisions. And that until they start making good ones, they get what they deserve. 

Local papers don’t have the resources to tell their stories anymore. And even if alternative papers tried, would we read them when we don’t even really look at our homeless neighbors? As if they have leprosy, the best we can do, it seems, is a quick glance.

The secret to not caring about the homeless is not knowing anything about any one homeless person. Not learning their names and not looking at them helps too, but mostly, it’s avoiding learning how and why and where things went off the rails. 

Irrespective of one’s religious views or politics, it seems increasingly common to castigate “the homeless”. Because they remain an abstraction. 

This proven strategy works equally well in other contexts too. For example, the same approach to not caring works for the growing number of Central American immigrants gathering at our southern border. Many Fox News hosts are absolutely giddy over what the gathering numbers of desperate immigrants mean for Biden’s approval ratings and the midterm elections because they don’t know any of their stories. There are laws to be enforced and political gain to be made, nevermind their pain and suffering, their humanity.

Yesterday, I screwed up. And mistakenly read this story in the New York Times.

A Violent End to a Desperate Dream Leaves a Guatemalan Town Grieving

In doing so, I was introduced to Santa Cristina García Pérez, a 20 year old, one of twelve Comitecos who were massacred by Mexican police near the U.S. border. I learned Christina was one of 11 siblings who hoped to make enough money in the U.S. to. . . 

“. . . cover the cost of an operation for her one-year-old sister, Angela Idalia, who was born with a cleft lip. . . . 

She wanted to save Ángela Idalia from what she thought would be a life of ridicule, relatives said.”

I doubled down on my mistake by taking my time to truly see all of the Comitecos mourning their friends and family. Powerful images of profound loss, one after another. Including one of Ricardo García Pérez, Cristina’s dad, placing a bottle of water next to her casket. . .

“. . . so that Ms. García’s spirit did not suffer from thirst on its journey to the next life.”

I wasn’t the only one learning about the Comitecos. The Times explains:

“The killings have stunned the community, spurred a wave of international media attention on Comitancillo and an outpouring of financial support for the victim’s families. Among other acts of largess, donations from nearby communities in the region and from the Guatemalan diaspora have paid for Ángela Idalia’s first surgery to repair her cleft lip and have enabled the García family to build a new house.”

That’s one more vivid example that when most people see someone suffering, look into their eyes, learn their name, and something about their life journey; they can’t help but care. And help.

In contrast, the homeless in my community remain an abstraction. An abstraction most of us are determined to keep at a comfortable distance. Given our mounting resentment and anger at this abstraction, we keep asking, “When is someone going to do something?”