Duped

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Dr. Bossypants has an important fact to share with you. Life is complicated. Being human, and sometimes intellectually or physically lazy, people don’t especially like the work involved in deep thinking or right action. So we latch onto what appear to be simple answers and solutions, and we hang on for dear life. This is not wise. It sets us up to be fooled into making terrible, destructive choices.

For instance, those who vote solely on “moral” grounds, driven by the idea that one “evil” should be addressed by law, are so impassioned that they willingly vote against their own, and society’s, interests in most other domains. They vote for greedy, dishonest people, and they know they are doing this. They justify it because they have a single motive. Let’s take abortion as an example. Let’s say that above all else, they believe we have to make abortion illegal. So they vote as if this will happen.

But guess what? It won’t work. These greedy dishonest politicians aren’t stupid. They know who butters their toast. They KNOW how to trigger “moral” outrage. They know which issues to use to get voted in. Are they going to sew up the abortion issue and make all abortions illegal? Nope. They’ll fiddle with it, gaining some kind of weak restrictions, but they will not really push it. And, of course, they’ll blame the opposition. Why? Because they get a boatload of naïve voters to keep holding their noses and voting for them. If this cause, or similar single-issue causes, disappear, these voters might stop to think about…hmmm…the widowed, homeless, or needy? The disenfranchised? The horrifically lopsided gap between the rich and the poor? Unfair, unjust labor practices? Some very wealthy politician’s pride in not paying any taxes for the common good, while taking huge profits from shady businesses? Embarrassing racist comments? Attacking the free press, the foundation of our democracy? Public lands disappearing into private ownership? Failure to raise taxes so we can pay, together, for the health of our society? Insulting international behaviors? Science-denial?

It makes the brain ache, doesn’t it? Democracy is not a single-issue proposition. If morally-inclined people vote, one would assume they would vote for the broad common good, not their own selfish interests. And what keeps them from doing so?

One could choose among the seven deadly sins, as defined by ancient Christian thinkers: These are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth (as in the laziness Dr. Bossypants is decrying today), Wrath, Envy, and Pride!! Well, well. that’s quite a list. Worth another post or two sometime soon. And lest we seem to favor Christian thinkers, here’s another list of behaviors Mahatma Gandhi believed to be morally and spiritually deadly to human society.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Religion without Sacrifice

Such challenging ideas. Such long lists. And the sad thing is that Dr. Bossypants can’t simplify it very much for you. It just isn’t simple. But perhaps this will help: Forcing someone to stay pregnant who does not want to be is not compassionate. If you could ask a developing clump of cells if it wanted to raid the resources of an unwilling body, and then be born unwanted, it would likely say “No thanks.” It is a very bad single issue. Or here’s another: keeping taxes low is not generous. It is selfish. Refusing to pay your share for the benefits of being a safe, clean, caring, educated, factually-informed society is not moral. Taxes are not a necessary evil. They are a necessary good.

The truth is complicated, often difficult to discern and accept, and sometimes demands a challenging response, but ultimately, as a species, we are built to seek the truth. That’s just the way it is.

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Taxes and Such

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As many of her admirers know, Dr. Bossypants is an astute observer of the human species. The conclusions she reaches may not be shared by the masses, but she remains undaunted in her quest to offer what she sincerely believes are helpful insights and guidances. Her end-goal is the survival of the species, but unlike Ayn Rand, or most Republicans, she does not believe this will be achieved by squishing weak or disadvantaged people like unwanted bugs. Nor will things work out well by draining the poor of the little they have, denying them educational advantages, or keeping workers trapped by inadequate health care, unfair wages, and inferior housing. And of course, no one will ultimately be happy with a trashed planet. Even living under a fancy dome with other rich people will be at best an extension of a miserable end.

Yes, hatred, greed, and paranoia are excessively present in many human personalities. But Dr. Bossypants believes this is a mutation due to trauma—a destructive adaptation—either individually or culturally—that doesn’t work out very well. Greed and paranoia eat away at the fabric of community, are highly contagious, and result in shallow, frightened, hate-filled lives devoted to accumulation of weapons and goods that in the end will only impoverish and destroy. Greed and paranoia must be recognized as disabilities, not elevated as admirable ways to be.

This is why we must pay taxes for the common good, even though we don’t like to. We must pay more taxes and elect excellent leaders. We don’t need less government. We need better government. We need honest elected officials and skilled, caring inspectors who actually understand why you need to wire your microwave a little differently than mind-and-heartlessly-applied “code.” We need advocates for the ignorant, encouragers for the downtrodden, opportunities to advance for those who don’t know how to advance. We need graduated taxes that invite (okay, force) corporations to pay their full share for all the advantages of our infrastructures and resources. We need environmental regulations with big, firm teeth. We need common sense.

People, listen. It is immoral and unwise to pay workers unfairly and get super, super rich from other’s labors. It’s not okay to severely punish someone who steals little stuff from the big guys, but to let the big guys skate when they’ve stolen from all of us. We need a big-boy, big-girl government, empowered to rein in those big folks who run rampant over that which is essential to the long-term health and well-being of people and planets.

Government regulations that are designed to irritate the common person but are sidestepped with a wink and nod by the uncommon rich folks are sickening. They make Republicans out of those annoyed people who don’t have time to sit down and think it through. Countries with little to no government are not happy countries. Countries with robust, moral, transparent governments thrive. Humans need governments able to provide safety nets, limit cancerous growth, and provide equilibrium rather than rampant accumulation.

Bottom line for now: Stop acting like taxes are bad. Demand honesty from those we elect, but be willing to pay for what we need to thrive—which includes educated people not strapped with huge debt, opportunities to advance for all, living wages, adequate health care, limits to extractive, destructive actions that are endangering the planet, resources for scientists, inventors, artists, dancers, thinkers, and care-takers on par with the resources we give money-makers (or money-takers!).

And in the meantime, be careful with each other. We’re all we have.

The Psychology of Perpetual Youth

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One of the many troubling things about human consciousness is, well, consciousness. We have instincts, but like frosting on a cake, we overlay them with self-awareness that transcends time and space. Consciousness includes the ability to abstract and create. We are a story-telling species, easily frightened by imagined threats, tempted by imagined riches, angered by imagined insults, and thrilled by imagined victories. Witness: the gaming industry.

There are so many directions Dr. Bossypants could go with the astute observations in the previous paragraph, but for today, we’re going to focus on one pernicious outcome of consciousness—our abhorrence of aging and fear of death. The instinct to avoid death appears to be built into all living things (for some good reasons), but humans have taken this avoidance and run with it, far beyond those good reasons.

The longing to be young, healthy, happy, sexy, and rich has propelled medical science forward—we have organ transplants, face lifts, butt tucks, artificial limbs, chemo, pills to drive away sadness, pills to calm us down, rev us up, lower our blood pressure, and cause erections. No doubt we will continue to chip away at reducing or eliminating the effects of injury, disease, disability, and aging. By and large, this is quite laudable. But oh my, there are serious downsides to all this wonderment.

And one of these downsides is denial. Because we are wired to fear and avoid death, we’ve become worshipers of youth and deniers of mortality. We don’t like old people, even if the old people are us. We thus fail to age gracefully, fail to recognize or elevate the positive aspects of aging, and fail to prepare for our demise. We claim to be shocked at the passing of the years, even though we’re a species of historians. Aging and death catch us by surprise, and many of us complain vociferously, as if we are the first to face such indignation.

Dr. Bossypants is quite concerned about the costs of this denial, and the resulting inability to deal with death knowingly and humanely. She is concerned that as we first-worlders age, we tend to bitch and moan, wasting the precious time we have left in a narcissistic dither about how this or that shouldn’t happen to us. Thus, she has written a novel (cleverly entitled Boomers) which she envisions serving as an aid to those who might venture into these topics. Because she had good editors, it isn’t as preachy as she wanted it to be, but it still makes a few discussion-worthy points. And it would be a comfort to Dr. Bossypants if a few people bought this book and thought about the issues she raises. To that end, here’s the link to that evil empire, Amazon, wherein efforts such as these find a home.