Think Stoically on Election Day

A Daily Stoic email arrived in my inbox within the last week that stuck with me. You can browse the Daily Stoic website here, and even sign up for their daily emails if you might find joy and meaning in them. The one of which I’m speaking was a shortened version of the larger interview with Robert Greene, the author of The Laws of Human Nature among several other books you can find listed on that link.

In the short email that I received, it challenged me to look at the entire human species from a biological perspective at the beginning of our lives, and understand how we all started out the same. We all started with a clean slate, no experiences, and no memories. We all start out experiencing the world as we have been since our prehistoric ancestors.

So, what is it that makes some of us go into the voting booth today and select one way, and others select another way? What is it that brings that anger of the other side’s opinions and beliefs to the forefront? All of us have experienced life and have held onto memories of those experiences differently.

It is not because someone is stupid, irrational, or weak minded.  Their unique experiences have led them to this moment in their life much differently than yours have. Should we be angry at them for it?  A stoic would suggest not.

Think stoically on this election day.

My Six Month Vacation from Facebook

In November of 2016, I decided to quit Facebook. About 6 months later, I got back on. I made this decision based on a few different reasons. One of the reasons was that I was hugely influenced by the book Deep Work by Cal Newport.

In this book, Newport encourages you to think about what social media does to your mind and how easily it interrupts your train of thought.  He asks, “Is it adding value to your life?”

I decided that it was subtracting more value than adding, and decided to quit.  At the time, I believed it would be for good.  Alas, I am back on, and part of the Facebook community once again.

This post will offer my experiences and observations before quitting, while I was away, and my return.

Before Quitting

Prior to quitting, I used Facebook incorrectly, ostracizing myself from many family and friends. Believing I was doing some sort of good by including fact checks in comments, sharing different memes, and having very partisan posts both religiously and politically,

I felt that I was enlightening people, and would bring them over to the good side (which is the incorrect way of saying “my side”).

How many times have you been around someone who is beyond frustrated with somebody on Facebook, rolling their eyes as they vent to you about how insanely stupid that somebody is?  They may go as far as telling you what their comment to them was, giving them the feeling as if they had “set them straight.”

Is this healthy? Is this a good use of your time? Do you suppose this person set the other person straight?

Or, is it more likely they have pushed them farther away and exacerbated the situation?

Recognizing my behavior and having a desire to put the concepts inside Deep Work to practice led me to finally make the decision to quit.

While I Was Away

Quitting Facebook was difficult. They warn you at several points how much stuff will be lost, and repeatedly ask you “Are you Suuuuuure???”  Facebook will hold on to your page for a specific time, and will warn you that it will all go away if you don’t come back after that certain time.

Like a band-aid, I tore it off.  Then, I stayed gone so that I lost everything.  In a way, I wanted to lose everything (read the previous section).

It was bliss.

During this time, I engaged in conversation more. I was much less distracted (as I also quit all other social media including Instagram, Twitter, and Untappd).  The amount of work I was able to accomplish increased. I read more.

One important book that I read during this time was Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Haidt is a moral psychologist, and explains in his book 5-6 different “moral matrices” that each of us put different levels of weight in.  These different levels provide an answer to the subtitle.

It was a very enlightening read that I highly recommend to everyone.

The strawman fallacy was another important concept of which I became aware, and understood I was guilty of during my time on Facebook.  I feel this is the most common logical fallacy that people on Facebook commit. You can click the link to get a definition of strawman as well as other logical fallacies, but I will put it below for convenience.

By exaggerating, misrepresenting, or just completely fabricating someone’s argument, it’s much easier to present your own position as being reasonable, but this kind of dishonesty serves to undermine honest rational debate.

Example: After Will said that we should put more money into health and education, Warren responded by saying that he was surprised that Will hates our country so much that he wants to leave it defenseless by cutting military spending.

Source: http://www.yourlogicalfallacyis.com

Just about every single political meme that is somehow in response to the other side’s actions is going to be guilty of this fallacy. Once you are aware of the strawman fallacy, you will begin to notice it everywhere!!

My Return

As a member of several organizations around town, and as someone who was blogging a little bit more, I began to get drawn back in to the usefulness of Facebook.

Using the group function of Facebook, you can organize and get messages out to a lot of people very easily.  Events can be created, and events around your community that you are interested can get on your radar much more easily (there are several events I have attended in the Topeka area and enjoyed that I would not have otherwise known about).

It is also nice to get my blog posts out to a wider audience.

Thus, I returned.  Besides one of my posts that came a little too close to political (which I have to thank my friend Gerrit for pointing out), I feel like I have done a decent job of staying away from ostracizing myself from friends and family who have differing views than me.

I’ve tried to stay positive.

It probably isn’t necessary to take as long a break as I did from Facebook, but I do encourage all of you to really think about how you’re using it.  Think twice about posting something that you don’t care how your so-and-so family member is going to interpret it.

What is the purpose?  Do you just want to get the likes and shares of the people you already agree with?  Do you honestly need that validation, at the expense of pushing others away?

Just think about it, please.  And keep me in check, as I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

Understanding Net Neutrality

As avid users of the internet, many of us take for granted the idea that we can view anything and all things on the internet AND that it can all be viewed at the same speed.  You may not be able to take this idea for granted for much longer.  Net neutrality may disappear if Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon get there way.

Net Neutrality Explained

For a 48 second explanation of net neutrality, click on these words and watch this short video.

If you’d rather read something in comic form, which still gives a great explanation of what net neutrality is about as well as shed light on why some Republicans may be against it, read this comic by The Oatmeal (by clicking on these words).

So, Why Would Anyone Be Against It?

As of this writing there are 30 members of Congress and/or the Senate that own shares of Comcast (source: Center for Responsive Politics), 42 members that own shares in AT&T (source: Center for Responsive Politics), and 40 members who own shares in Verizon (source: Center for Responsive Politics).

According to my Business Finance professor this semester (yes, I’m taking a Business Finance class at Washburn), the only people who can legally participate in insider trading are our elected congressmen.

Put yourself in the shoes of an executive of Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon (or an employee or stock holder).  You provide internet and data services.  BUT, that isn’t all you do (because companies are very diverse now as they grow larger and larger and swallow up smaller companies).  Now, you are interested in diverting the attention of the consumers whom you are providing internet for to specific websites, streaming services, etc. that will earn you even more money.

Because after all, you are an extremely wealthy executive of a huge international corporation.  And you need more money.

Or, perhaps you aren’t an executive or an employee of Comcast, AT&T, or Verizon, but you receive campaign contributions from them.  Then you’ll want to convince the public that net neutrality is a bad idea.  In order to do this, you’ll need to give it a bad name.  Something that will stick.

How about Obamacare for the Internet?

That will pull the wool over ignorant people’s minds, and make them think net neutrality is a bad thing.  Perhaps they trusted one of these five Republicans running for president in 2016: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul. 

What’s the matter with America? Why do people continue to vote against their interests? Answers can be found reading Thomas Frank’s wonderful book, What’s the Matter with Kasas?

The Bigger Picture

This isn’t a partisan issue.  So how can the American public, which has around 76% support for net neutrality according to a Mozilla poll on June 6, 2017, get their way?

If you want to act now, start by informing yourself about the American Anti-Corruption Act and the movement behind it: Represent.US.

Let’s come together as both Republicans and Democrats and begin talking and compromising again, instead of blaming each other like our comfort media tells us to.

 

Thank you to the free image site Pixaby for the image used in this post.

Neophilia

Erin enjoying a margarita flight

What’s Happening?

This is my second day of summer break. With more time on my hands, I will probably be writing more often. I’m going to try a format similar to how I began each of my statistics classes during the Spring 2017 semester.

On Friday the 19th we fly to Atlanta, GA where we will be picked up by the newlyweds Dennis and Rachel Ho. They will drive us to Asheville, NC where we will meet our friends Gerrit and Kristi Scholten. Once together, we plan to paint the town and do all things fun. We may send you a postcard if you’re good. 

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Erin and I will be riding the Cottonwood 200. This is a 200 mile, 3-day bike ride that starts as Washburn University in Topeka on Saturday, May 27th and ends that evening about 75 miles away in Council Grove, KS.  On Sunday, the ride is an out-and-back that goes to Cottonwood Falls and returns to Council Grove, which is approximately 50 miles. On Monday, we ride back to Topeka.

Did You Know?

One of my 2017 resolutions is to bike 2017 miles. At the time of this writing, I have 1641 miles to go. This means I am 18.6% finished with my goal. Tuesday, May 16th is the 136th day of the year, which means that I am 37.3% finished with the year. Although behind, the summer rides are coming and will most likely get me ahead.

Number of the Day – 44

On Saturday, April 22nd, Erin and I met friends Jonathan and Sarah in Columbia, MO to participate in the March for Science. According to Pew Research, the 

percentage of U.S. adults who say the protests, marches and demonstrations about science held this April will Help/Make No Difference/Hurt public support for science

is divided evenly at 44% for both “Help” and “Make No Difference.” In fact, 7% believe it will hurt public support for science. This was one of FiveThirtyEight’s Significant Digits on Friday, May 12.

March for Science

Neophilia versus Neophobia

I’m currently reading what will probably be a contender for the most influential book I’ve read in 2017. On shelves in 2012, I’m five years behind. It is called The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. 
This has been such an influential book, that I expect to weave much of what was written in that book into several more blog posts. I will build a foundation with this post. 
Haidt first brings up neophilia while giving several moral foundations of politics in chapter 7. The six moral foundations are 
  • Care/Harm
  • Liberty/Opression (introduced in Ch. 8)
  • Fairness/Cheating
  • Loyalty/Betrayal
  • Authority/Subversion
  • Sanctity/Degradation 
If you think of a spectrum of very liberal on the left to very conservative on the right, imagine a graph of six lines that measure the importance of these moral foundations to individuals (use the picture below to get an idea, which is not to scale and slightly inaccurate). Starting on the left, the lines from top to bottom represent each of the moral foundations given above, respectively. 
Hence, the more liberal minded individual puts a lot more weight in the top three (and especially the top two) than the bottom three. While the more conservative minded puts about an equal weight to all six foundations with a near opposite ordering of priority. 

In the section on Sanctity and Degradation, he introduced the terms neophilia and neophobia. 

  • Neophilia is a desire to experience and try new things, along with a general distaste for routine and tradition.
  • Neophopia is a fear of new experiences, with a general comfort in what is “tried and true.”
In my search of a more positive word that describes a general desire for routine and tradition, I was unsuccessful.
Neophilia describes me very well. Haidt claims that liberals score higher on neophilia, being more open to experience “new foods, people, music, and ideas.”  Conservatives, on the flip side, scored higher on neophobia.

Why was this in the sanctity and degradation section? If one thinks in the specific terms of sex and the sanctity of marriage, consider the following bumper sticker.

This would be on the car of a neophile, and most probably, one that leans to the left.

The primary reason why I believe The Righteous Mind to be so influential is that it has helped me “trade in anger for understanding.” I encourage you to do the same, whether you read this particular book or not. 

Safe Spaces

After the election of Donald Trump as our next POTUS, safe spaces were organized nationwide on university campuses.  I heard very little about these safe spaces, and upon hearing about them, I didn’t read much more into them. There are reasons for this, I admint, and it is because I fall into three categories that already make me safe (pre- and especially post-election):  
  • White
  • Male
  • Heterosexual
Recently, I was exposed to someone that fell into all three of these categories who showed anger and disgust at the idea of these safe spaces forming, and that professors that had exams scheduled post-election day were giving some students a few days to recover before taking the exam. He went as far as to mock those who may desire such a space, and even brought his daughters into it, saying how they won’t be getting safe spaces, and how they’ll need to accept the world as it is. 
Anger. Disgust. Mocking. 
All over something that has absolutely no affect on his life as a white, male, heterosexual whatsoever. 
As a white person, I will never understand the psychological effect that racism has on a non-white person. No matter how much I educate myself about it, nor how much I try and empathize with the non-white community, I will never fully be able to empathize. It is impossible. 
This is my white privilege. 
As a male, I will never be able to truly understand the feeling of being preyed upon. I can only sympathize. I can only begin to imagine the fear that is felt when a non-male is all alone and there is an unknown, larger, stronger, male presence nearby. I can only begin to imagine what it is like to be disrespected constantly, gawked at, verbally assaulted, sexually assaulted, and put into a class where there are all of these expectations that I’m supposed to live up to. 
This is my male privilege. 
As a heterosexual, I will not fully comprehend the inherent attraction to the same sex, or the psychological effects that has being raised up in a community that looked upon such acts as taboo. When I go places, with my wife by my side, I will not be stared at or feel the discrimination and disgust from those who do not agree with my heterosexual lifestyle. 
This is my heterosexual privilege. 
With all of these privileges, I find it disgraceful that someone with the same privileges gets angry and disgusted when those without these privileges want to find someplace safe. It can only be the case that their manhood is being questioned, or perhaps their anger is compensating for something else that isn’t so pronounced.  
If I ever witnessed some males saying something like, “let’s grab her by the pussy” with regards to any number of females in the vicinity, I would interject and try my best to create a safe space. 
It doesn’t matter who the president is,what he behaves like, or what he does or does not condemn. I wouldn’t chalk behavior like that described above up to the “real world,” the “world we live in,” or simple “locker room talk,” because this isn’t the kind of America that I would want. The America that I want and would vote for is the kind where safe spaces would become a thing of the past.