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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Perils of Positive Thinking, or Why I'd Rather Be a Curmudgeon

In the RSAnimate video Smile or Die, acclaimed journalist, author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the darker side of positive thinking. Obviously, this appealed to Curmudgeon-Lynne. While watching, all I could do was nod, wipe away an occasional tear, some of happiness knowing I'm not the only one who sees through the smoke-and-mirrors of "happy-happy-joy-joy" and others of sheer terror at how far we (the majority of the American people) have been led down the garden path with this happy-horseshit.

At one point in my life, I was a pretty optimistic person.

Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration. At one point, I was naive and even then, I was a realist and had pretty strong critical thinking skills that led me to question and analyze the world around me. It usually didn't stack up to the bill of goods being sold. When it did, it made me very happy. That hits the high points of my optimism.

The video focuses on happy culture in the corporate world, where being a team player and cheerleader trumps knowledge or skills. As I discovered when I went to work for the federal government, it's equally true there. Early on in my tenure as a fed, I was assigned a project overseeing a contractor's progress and ultimate product. It became apparent in short order that there was little (no) progress being made. So, I pointed that out. A few times. Until finally, some scraps of nothing-substantial were submitted. I could've done the same in 30-minutes. Only my work wouldn't have had the typos, poor grammar, or misused words. I pointed out the flaws.

For that, the contractor got more money (because obviously the reason for the shoddy work was their initial inadequate bid, so more $$ would fix it, right?), renewed contracts, and an apology for my tactlessness. I ended up doing the majority of the work (rework), and got sent to "Dale Carnegie," also known as "a total waste of time learning to be a peppy cheerleader for mediocrity". If you aren't familiar with him, Dale Carnegie (he of the "people with mental disorders just need to think positive, happy thoughts" philosophy - seriously, it's in the books they give you to read) was one of the robber barons who made his millions by taking brutal advantage of cheap and abundant labor, only to later be called a "philanthropist" when he used a small fraction of his wealth to build some libraries. The Dale Carnegie course consists of learning how to never say anything that might offend anyone. Ever. Even if they need it. Even if it will help overall productivity and morale to lay the cards on the table so everyone can get to work fixing what doesn't work.
God forbid we should do that. Someone (the idiots who everyone else has to work harder for to carry their weight) might be upset. Brings to mind Nero and Rome. Not a happy time for the Romans, but I'm sure Nero was enjoying the music.

I was one of the lucky ones, however. I've had a few supervisors who value substance more, or at least equally, to form. When I gave my honest assessment of what a waste of money the course was (want to improve my attitude for the same amount of money? Send me on a paid vacation), he stopped sending others.

Prior to and after my life as a fed, I'd worked in private industries both big and small, local government, nonprofits, and academia. I've seen that same "positive" model played out in all of those, all striving to keep an amicable, happy work environment, where top management can retreat to their boardroom meetings, hold hands, and sing Kumbyah because life is so good and isn't everything peachy-keen?

The one place where that brainwashing, tuck our problems away, don't air dirty laundry, don't even acknowledge it's in the hamper attitude isn't so prevalent is in small businesses, where workers become like families, so are willing to argue and fight and occasionally call one another a horse's ass when the situation warrants. That gives me hope that we aren't entirely doomed to a death spiral of happiness and positive thinking. There are still bastions of reality in the workplace. That is my happy thought, my positive thinking that I hold on to and that gives me hope that there are others like me out there. Enough of us to prevent a total meltdown due to sheer ignorant bliss.

I won't go into more detail on the video other than to say, if your inner-curmudgeon needs a reassuring pat that it's okay, there's nothing wrong with a dose of reality, watch this. If you worry about those who embrace misperception as reality because that's so much easier than acknowledging errors and then having to correct them, watch this. And, if you vehemently and violently oppose willful ignorance, watch this. It might not make you happy, but it could make you feel better knowing there are others out there who recognize the perils of positive thinking.

Remember, MIS-perception isn't reality. It's WRONG. Deal with it.

EAnd enjoy the video--but don't be happy about it.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Good Dads --- Bad Dads

John Grisham's 1989 novel A Time to Kill is the story of a man whose 10-year old daughter is brutally raped. Let's be clear here: All rape is brutal, that's why it's classified as a violent crime. It is NOT an act of passion, or lust, or love. It is an act of violence intended to dominate a victim, exert power over the victim, and suppress the victim through force. In the novel, the young girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey, kills the two rapists.
Most sane people, and certainly any good parents' response to that, was "good for him. I'd do that same."

He was a good dad. 
Indeed, in the story, that is just about everyone's response, including the deputy who was accidentally shot and lost a leg in the incident. Carl Lee Hailey was the champion of those who couldn't defend themselves against those with more power. Readers all cheered for him. THIS is what a good father does to protect his child, to ensure she doesn't have to live in a world where the monsters who did this to her run free, and where she would have to live in fear of seeing them over and over again.

Grisham got the idea for the story from a similar true-life event where the father didn't get such justice. He asked himself, "what would happen if the girl's father killed her assailants?" Last year, life imitated art when a Texas man beat to death the attacker of his 5-year old daughter. He was acquitted. There is a law on the books in Texas that allows use of deadly force when defending a victim against sexual assault.

Across the country the primary public reaction was that the incident, while unfortunate, was not murder but rather a justified defense of an underaged crime victim:
He was a good dad.

It goes without say that fathers want to protect their daughters, not only from rapists, but from horny teenage boys and the girl's own libido when they reach adolescence. Wait, let me clarify: that's what GOOD fathers want to do.

I can't fathom, anywhere, by any stretch of my considerable imagination, a good father wanting to embrace his daughter's (or wife's or mother's) attacker. I can't imagine what kind of father, husband, son would consider rape acceptable. And yet, there is an entire political party that has the support of about half the American people, who, through their words and deeds, have shown they support not the women in their lives, but the use of force and violence against them!

The Republican Party platform calls for a constitutional amendment that will make abortions illegal. (GOP Party Platform) - it does not make any exceptions or exemptions for cases of rape or incest.

Thirty-one states have laws protecting the rapist's right to visitation and even custody.

What message is being sent by proposing or showing support for the following statements? Let's look at the subtext and see.

When a husband or father says:

“... I’ve always adopted the idea that, the position that, the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life” (Paul Ryan, August 2012) i.e., rape is just another form of conception, what he's telling his wife is, "If you are raped, that's exactly the same thing as you and I having consensual sex for the sake of reproduction. No problem." And, in the 31 states that allow the rapist visitation, that husband, father, son is further saying, "...and I'll invite your attacker into our home, sit down and have a beer with him, share this child with him, maybe even pat him on the back and give him an "attaboy" for conceiving a child."

A good husband, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

When a son, husband, father says, "If a rape is inevitable, the woman should just lie back and enjoy it" (Clayton Williams, a candidate for governor of Texas running against Ann Richards made this statement), they are telling their mother, "It's okay for a man to force himself on you, you might as well have a good time with that...he is."

A good son, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

When a man makes the ignorant and erroneous statement that "a woman's body is capable of preventing pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape."" Rep-Todd Akin (R-Mo.) what he is telling your sons is that "it's okay to rape a woman. You won't get them pregnant, but if you do, it's a blessing because that's just another form of conception, and you'll get visitation rights to boot!"

A good son, a good brother, a good husband, a good dad, doesn't do that. That's a bad dad.

(While many on the right would never let something as simple as facts, figures, or scientific evidence get in the way of their beliefs, let me just interject here that "approximately 25,000 women become pregnant through rape each year." - Georgetown Law Review, 2009)

If a woman, whether she is someone's daughter, wife, mother, or sister, has a violent act committed against her, she will have to live with that for the rest of her life. So will the men in her life. Women are far stronger and more resilient than men. She may be strong enough to love that child unconditionally, but the facts show us that few men are (most acts of child abuse are committed by non-parental males living in a household with children.) All evidence indicates that nonparental males have a hard time accepting the child of another man (numerous studies, including one by the conservative Center for Marriage and Families of the Institute for American Values--the right's own think tank--shows that unrelated males in caretaker roles post a particular threat to children).

If a woman wants to and can have  and raise a child resulting from a rape, it should be her CHOICE. and only hers. The choice should not be removed, and she should not be mandated to have a child, to extend the trauma of that experience for 9 months or a lifetime if she doesn't feel she can do that and maintain her own health. She should be the one choosing if she can and will have that child, give it up for adoption or keep it, or abort it.

Please don't argue the "pro-life" position. Those who cheered for the Texas man when he beat his daughter's attacker to death, those who oppose stricter gun regulation, those who oppose welfare, health insurance, and education, and those who support rape as just another means of conception have loudly and clearly demonstrated that they are neither pro-life nor pro-choice. They are pro-sex, pro-conception and pro-gestation, but ANTI-child, and ANTI-LIFE.

These words and actions speak far louder than all their rhetoric about "pro-life." These words and actions support violence against women and male dominance over the women in their lives. They are actions that reward rapists, that reward incest, and that reward misogynists.
These are the actions, laws, policies, and positions of BAD DADS.

What these acts harken to is not the heroics of a father protecting his daughter as in A Time to Kill, but to the roles of males and females shown by Jean Auel in Clan of the Cave Bear, where neanderthal males were able to, and expected to freely rape women as a sign of their dominance over them. Ayla, the Cro Magnon female (those were the first line of modern humans, Homo sapiens), is raped by the neanderthal Broud as an act to show his dominance because he is threatened by Ayla's skill and ability, and because he could; that was the accepted and expected practice. She bore and raised and loved the child conceived of that violent act, but it was her choice. Even the neanderthal women knew which herbs to take to end an unwanted pregnancy.  
I hope all the very many good dads that are out there will support their wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters in the November elections and get rid of the monsters who endorse harm to women. Step up GOOD DADS!