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.

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The Human Condition

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The human condition defies simple analysis. The arc of our storyline includes both acceptance and defiance. We are consistently contradictory. Storefront “absolutes” fade in the sunshine of experience. Sure-things aren’t. The givens of life slip away as science, rationality, or whim take them apart. Sometimes, they reappear, refined. Sometimes they end up shelved in the great museum of human fallibility. Sometimes, we bury them in shame.

We continue to wrestle with powerful, apparently-biological urges to accumulate and reproduce. Thankfully, within our species, there are many examples of humans doing otherwise. Thus, we know that among our many capacities, we have the capacity to deny biological urges. We can say enough and mean it. We can get by with less than enough when motivated to do so. We do not always reproduce, and those who do often choose to limit the numbers of new beings they create.

But we also know that many humans dedicate their lives to unfettered reproduction and accumulation—whether that be money, homes, widgets, power, underwear, offspring, achievements, titles, friends, or enemies. It can be great fun. Some humans love to push the limits. Other humans love to watch—getting vicarious thrills from the courage, clucking their tongues at the foolishness. Some accumulations and extreme efforts appear to be harmless, but excess should always be examined and balanced. It is the rare accumulator who doesn’t need constraint. It is the rare achiever who doesn’t need the equilibrium provided by humility.

So, yes, we are complex beings, imbued with choice. Our destiny as a species appears to be dependent on the choices we make. Short-sighted greed, cruelty, and destructive accumulation are well within the repertoire of human choice. Denial has become a refined art form. Cruelty and falsehood are endorsed or tolerated in the service of far-fetched conspiracy theories, sometimes cloaked in a fetid version of a contorted God.

Suffering is suffering. Hunger is hunger. Death is death. And the earth, our home, is finite. If we had the will, we could alleviate hunger and reduce suffering. We could choose to live with more compassion, wisdom, and self-sacrifice. It is possible to set in motion systems that will heal and perhaps stabilize our little planet. But no matter what, we will die. No amount of accumulation will change that. No amount of denial.

Therefore, Dr. Bossypants offers this simple suggestion: How about we accept our mortality and plan for our deaths instead of run from them? And since we have a choice, how about we live lives filled with joy and meaning, generosity and connection? Just a suggestion. Up to you.

 

A Practical Guide to Eradicating Misogyny

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Tarana Burke opened the flood gates with two words, “Me too.” Bob Newhart famously said, “Stop it.” Misogyny will not go away until the human race decides it has outgrown this particular evolutionary misstep. Misogyny is a destructive mutation, a failed solution. It is sin. It is wrong-headed. It is unloving. It is dishonest. It is lazy. It is imbalanced, and ultimately, it is deadly.

Dr. Bossypants suggests we devote ourselves to getting rid of it, and provides a few starting points below:

Role-Models:

One of mine is pictured above. We need to create, find, feature, elevate, and support women in every possible undertaking known to humans. We need aspirational visions of women being 51% of all presidents and rulers, all pilots and police officers, all best-sellers, all superintendents, all congresspeople, all professors, all CEOs, CFOs, and UFOs. All directors, actors, janitors. All animated creatures, all muppets, all heroes, all villains, all commentators and editorial writers, all artists, all pastors, all rabbis, all poets, prophets, philosophers, priests—in other words, all people.

I said “aspirational” because we are a far cry from this balance, but we will never achieve it until we feature women in every possible endeavor we can, thus normalizing the vision for little girls and boys…thus creating something to live towards. Fake it until you make it.

Words that might need a make-over:

What does it mean to mother something?

What does it mean to father something?

What does seminal mean? Really?

“He” “Mankind” and “Guy” do not mean everyone.

Things, like God, that are beyond gender should either be nongendered, or be referred to with imaginative balanced inclusiveness.

Policies:

Birth control has got to be free and available for anyone engaging in acts that might result in pregnancy.

All sexual interactions have to be agreed upon by all parties at all times. Radically mutual.

All pregnancies are the business of the one who is pregnant. All medical care and procedures necessary to end the pregnancy or to proceed with the pregnancy must be free and available.

All parents must be equally responsible for the food, shelter, and relationships necessary for their offspring to grow into healthy adults.

Behaviors:

Do not invite more men than women. Do not read more men than women. Do not quote more men than women. Do not give men a break because they are men, or women a break because they are women. Do not listen to more men than women. Do not consult with more men than women. Do not value your sons over your daughters. Try to stop seeing the world through the white male lens. Give your undivided attention to as many women as you do men. Do not laugh at men’s jokes if they are not funny.

This is just the start of a massive list, dear ones. Feel free to share your own curative suggestions for ending this scourge. We are infected with misogyny at the cellular level, handed down from generation to generation. It’s not going away without some serious effort. Roll up those sleeves. Let’s get to it. When I’m as old as my tough, smart, feminist grandmother was when that picture was taken, I’m hoping to see some serious progress.

Dr. BP: Liberal Primary Process

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Dear Conservative:

I wish we could be friends and somehow save the world together. Naturally, I think I see the world accurately, and I wish you saw it my way, but frankly, I’m not even convinced you want to save the world…or anything. Here’s how I think you see the world:

You disbelieve in climate change, or believe human activities are not contributing to it—this belief is challenged by over 90% of reputable scientists. Why would liberals try to trick us into believing pollution is bad for us? Why would they spend their lives defending nature and the planet? Unlikely to be greed. I think their motives are relatively selfless, with an eye to the future……So what are your motives and beliefs? Do you think humans can do anything they feel like doing to the planet and somehow, the planet will recover? Do you think it is more important to provide jobs now, at the risk of destroying of vast parts of the earth? It is and will be painful to dismantle the oil and coal industries, but there are viable alternatives. Someday, if we manage to not blow ourselves up, we will make this transition. Why not save the forests and oceans and atmosphere, and do it now? There will be jobs–lots of jobs–in this transition. But those accustomed to being rich and in control due to extraction and exploitation will have a bit of a jolt to endure.

You don’t like to pay taxes. You think it is better to keep “your” money and not invest in roads, health, children, education, clean air, clean water, science, food safety, police, fire fighters, feeding/sheltering needy or elderly people, and creating new jobs aimed at a better world. But you’re okay with more military and bigger prisons. Higher wages for law-makers and billionaires. Do I have this right?

You believe in trickle-down economics. Make the rich richer, and they will then make everyone rich. Have you read even the basics in the Bible about human nature? Have you observed what the rich actually do with money? Have you noticed what you do when you have a little extra money? We need laws that equalize and elevate less-advantaged people. We all long to be rich. We all want a slave or ten answering to our every whim. These are longings that need forgiveness and redemption, not legal assistance.

You tolerate or endorse racism. This is totally beyond me. It is a form of hatred and ignorance fed by the worst of our human tendencies. Fear, selfishness, and a longing to be superior.

You don’t want immigrants to come to the US. Most likely, you are of immigrant lineage. The world is in tough shape, with millions dislocated, starving, futureless. To whom much is given, much is required. We can solve global distress, not by turning our backs and hunkering down over our good fortune, but by working interactively with global needs and trends. “America first” is selfish, short-sighted, dangerous, and doomed.

You don’t like gay, lesbian, transgendered or otherwise differently-created human beings. You are more tolerant of rapists, gropers, adulterers, and liars. What in the world is wrong with you? Has a gay person ever been a threat to you? You won’t admit that human greed needs to be tempered by collective laws, but you are willing to try and legislate what consenting adults do behind closed doors? Transgendered people are no more demonic than Galileo. The world isn’t flat. The sun does not revolve around the earth. God isn’t threatened by science, and quite obviously, loves diversity.

You believe no one should have the right to end a pregnancy. You believe in forcing a woman to use her body to allow an unwanted embryo to develop into a fetus, and then a baby, and be born. This will be a human unwanted by its mother. Ask yourself, would you really want to come into the world that way? Sometimes, even the mother’s health, well-being, or life is endangered. Would you willingly hurt or kill your mother to be born? You value a potential human over an existing human? How can this possibly be? Can’t we devote ourselves, together, to making unintended pregnancies a thing of the past?

A few of you honestly believe the Bible (or other Holy Writing) underscores your beliefs. It does not. As I hope you know, biblical phrases can be distorted to justify all sorts of hatred, cruelty, and limitations. God expects better of us.

Spoiler Alert: I’m a liberal psychologist who believes in a benevolent creator. This benevolent creator and I are rooting for the human race to get kinder, wiser, less afraid, more grateful, less judgmental, and more joyful. Go, humans, go. You can choose to be less selfish, less fearful, less short-sighted. You can choose to give, share, and rejoice in human potential. When you die (and we all die), you’ll feel so much better about the time you spent working to make it a better, happier, healthier, wiser place than the time you spent hoarding your goods into bigger barns. I’m sure of it.

Common Sense

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Common Sense: A Shapely Poem by Bossypants

This little planet is all we have. We should take care of it.

Every day, you have a chance to choose gratitude and kindness.

Violence is a byproduct of anger, laziness, and lack of imagination.

This one little life is all you’ve got, buddy. You are mortal. You will die.

We need to pay taxes and give generously. There’s no need to be greedy pigs.

We are here, individually, for a very short time. There’s not much point in hoarding.

Everyone needs food, shelter, companionship, meaningful work, and time for recreation.

We should not allow people to get rich by destroying the planet or making others sick.

We should not worship rich people. In fact, we should not worship people at all.

We do not need the rich to get richer. It does not make them better people.

We should not shame poor people. In fact, shame is quite destructive.

We should curb our appetite for energy, and support renewables.

We should eat fewer bananas if we live in cold climates.

It is okay to be confused. It is not okay to be cruel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fake News: Cancer

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Fake news is a primary food source for societal cancer. Cancer is not like an injury or a nasty bacterial invasion. Cancer cells are our own cells, gone rogue. As the saying goes, “We have met the enemy, and it is us.”

Cancer cells engage in two eerily familiar and maladaptive behaviors:

1) They replicate themselves over and over, failing to diversify.

2) They’re “immortal.”  They don’t a natural lifecycle and die when they should.

This is quite reminiscent of humankind—not at its finest, but at its most common, fearful, lazy, and arrogant. First, let’s consider diversity. Failure to appreciate and welcome diversity is deadly. If we could interview cancer cells and ask why they clone themselves rather than allowing the natural variations of creation to define the body, their noses would elevate and they would assure us they are superior.

When diversity is obviously nature’s way to a healthy, robust planet, why are humans so resistant?

Some argue it’s in our genes to prefer and protect those we’re related to, or those who look (and think) like us. Maybe, but ultimately, at the global level, this is not adaptive. Too much inbreeding isn’t good. Nonetheless, humans tend to divide into groups of us and them. The inner circle, the outer darkness, the ones who get it and the ones who don’t. The familiar and the foreign. The Self and the Other. It’s a pain to tolerate difference, and it’s comforting to have someone or something to blame for almost everything. Fake news helps us latch onto “the other” and have someone to hate.

And why are humans hateful, greedy, and aggressive? For most of us, way down deep, it is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of being cheated, fear of humiliation, fear of being alone. Many things in life frighten us, but ultimately, most fears can be traced to fear of death, the final unknown. Humans are notoriously unwilling to welcome aging and death thoughtfully and graciously.

Here’s where cancer’s other maladaptive attribute comes into play. Cancer cells don’t die a natural death. Of course, things come to an end when they’ve killed their host.

How is this related to Fake News? Denial of our ultimate fate (the decline and death of our bodies) makes us nervous and gullible. We want to distract ourselves, find a phony savior, and project our difficult emotions out on trumped up “enemies.” When we are busy fervently hating someone, we don’t have time to face or deal with life’s ultimate truths. Fake News is hateful, cathartic, simplistic, and seductive. The same hateful falsehoods stay alive indefinitely because we won’t examine them and let them go.

Humans would be far less susceptible to the cancer of fake news if we welcomed diversity and recognized that our hatred and greed is driven by fear. We’d be less willing to lie, or be lied to, if we nurtured our natural curiosity and life-affirming compassion instead of hunkering down over whatever possessions or hollow self-worth we’ve managed to hoard in this short but wonderful life.

Here’s Dr. Bossypants’s gentle advice.  Let go, you tight-fisted, gullible, lying scaredy-cats. Love a stranger. Hell, love an enemy. Go for broke. Be fantastically mortal… Or stay hateful, small, and frightened. Your choice.

Ethical Commandments

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Fans of Dr. Bossypants may remember that she blogged about ethics for a while before turning to trauma. Clever of her, because she firmly believes the infliction of trauma on others is unethical, so all her blogs are still relevant! And faithful readers also know she believes that trauma damages babies, children, and all people severely. Such damage may result in these same people then inflicting trauma on others later in life, perhaps not even realizing it as such. It is a vicious, potentially deadly cycle.

Philosopher Bernard Gert (1934-2011) created a list of ten moral commandments. Here they are:

  1. Do not kill other human beings.
  2. Do not cause unnecessary pain (this lets surgeons and dentists off the ethical hook).
  3. Do not disable another human being.
  4. Do not deprive another human being of freedom.
  5. Do not deprive another human being of pleasure.
  6. Do not deceive others.
  7. Keep your promises to others.
  8. Do not cheat.
  9. Obey the law.
  10. Do your duties—those required by social relationships, your job, your commitments, and so on.

Gert realized that there may be times when you are certain the deeply moral thing to do is to break one of the commandments. If so, he believed that you should only break it if you’d be willing to allow everyone else, in all times and in all places, to break the same commandment in the same situation.

It seems obvious that killing, hurting, disabling, or depriving people of freedom or pleasure causes some level of trauma in the hurt, disabled or deprived one. Being lied to and cheated isn’t much fun, and in some situations, can also be traumatic. And of course, at the social level, our culture would fall apart if everyone broke the law all the time, and/or failed to do their personal and civic duties. We’d have a broken culture.

But beyond this set of rather obvious conclusions, Dr. B would like readers to ponder another set of costs. We can easily see the cost of such actions on those acted against, or on society at large. But what are the costs of crossing those lines to the actor? The cost of breaking those profoundly basic moral edicts? The killer, the torturer, the liar, the cheat, the dictator–why are they willing or able to cross those lines, and what does it do to their psychological condition?

Dr. B believes in the long run, the actor is diminished in the process of acting unethically. But it is, perhaps, a habit-forming brutal cycle with enough shallow rewards to keep the unethical actor repeating the harmful actions.

Is there a way for society to help cheaters, liars, law-breakers, or brutal people to see the costs to themselves? Is there a way to peel back the “rewards” and help humans see that ill-gotten gains are ultimately malignant? Or could we at least stop tolerating or admiring such actions? Probably not, but Dr. Bossypants is going on record, with the wise Bernard Gert, as saying that killing, hurting, disabling, depriving, lying, cheating, breaking the law, and failing to do your basic duties—these are all unethical, psychological corrosive actions harming the victims, our community, and most likely harming the perpetrators as well.

Thank you for any thoughts you may wish to post. Also, someday soon, Dr. Bossypants promises to write something upbeat. And because of Number 7 above, you can bank on it.