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.

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.

Science

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Today, people are marching in support of science. It is Earth Day. Being a scientist herself, Dr. Bossypants hastens to make her avid and complete support of scientific inquiry crystal clear. Of course, Dr. Bossypants’s branch of science is often called behavioral science, or more broadly, social science. There are complications to deal with in even the simplest science experiments. Was the beaker clean? Is the flame the same temperature this time? Did someone bump the petri dish? But then, step out of the nice, clean, laboratory, with conditions as controlled as possible. Step into the hustle/bustle, bazillion-facetted, multidimensional, wildly spinning natural world, and things get exponentially more difficult. Then, throw in humans, likely the most complex, loving/hating, honest/duplicitous, creative/doltish species yet known on earth, and one might be quite justified in saying, “OH MY.”

Humans fool other people every day. And admit it readers, you fool yourselves every day as well. After many years of study, Dr. Bossypants knows that humans are a posturing, phony, frightened bunch of loving, generous, often-well-intended creatures. A quick Google search tells us that science is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” To date, science is one of our proudest human accomplishments. It is the endeavor we undertake to STOP FOOLING OURSELVES. While we cannot guarantee absolute objectivity, we have become smart enough to admit it, and to bracket our values and beliefs in the service of discovery–discovery of replicable facts and truth.

People, listen up. This is important. Yes, scientific findings occasionally fall prey to politically-motivated interpretations. If you suspect this is the case, you must ask yourself what the motive might be for the false or skewed interpretation. Dr. Bossypants believes that the earth (and life on earth) is in terrible trouble, primarily from human failure to keep things clean and neat—human failure to pay attention to and learn from nature’s way of doing things. Why would someone be motivated to do false science, or question basic results about coal, oil, pesticides, and so on? Humans can be quite greedy and lazy. Is it more profitable to continue extractive industries? Is it easier? Profit and ease are powerful human motivators.

Are those nut-case tree-huggers, those Greenpeace radicals, those everyday environmentalist-composter-organic-buying-solar-panel extremists being made vastly richer by their actions and beliefs? Are their lives made easier? By their actions and beliefs, are they endangering your lungs? Increasing your chances of getting cancer? True, they might be messing with your pocketbook—but they are messing with their own as well. There are prices to be paid. Ultimately, we will not avoid a steep payback to earth. We can begin the payments now, and perhaps have something nice to hand down to the kids. Or we can let our children make the excruciating payments that will, by then, be so overdue it might be tragically impossible to pay, and earth herself will reluctantly have to foreclose on the human race.

Go Earth Day. Hang in there Science. Dr. Bossypants says this: Fellow humans, contain your greed and fear as best you can. Strive to be honest with yourselves and others. If you sense you are being played, as yourselves what the hidden motives might be. Have the courage to change allegiances when the facts line up. Denial feels great. It is our deadliest drug.

 

(Thanks to the internet for the image and the definition)