Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Rationality of Tolerance

Even when I was little, I had a healthy skepticism for people's professed moral positions. Maybe I just didn't understand (and still don't) the nuances of morality well enough, but to me most people's moral codes seemed horribly inconsistent and regularly skewed to their own self-interest or to the care and benefit of those closest to them. Of course now we have social research cottage industry about the darkside or limitations of empathy. Also, it seems more obvious (at least to me) when there's been a regime change, and the same people who decried the dubious tactics of the previous ruling class adopt the same in order to augment and perpetuate their own power.

Religion, often the seedbed of social moral norms, often has some of the greatest hypocrisies, or at least religious people often act far from what they profess to be their moral obligation to others. I have most experience with Mormons and the LDS faith, so that is where most of my experience is with this as well, and it's such a stumbling block to the church's efforts and to members' experience with the church that they've been doing a social media campaign addressing differences and loving others unconditionally.

But the judgment and rejection that some experience in the LDS church, I believe, is just a reflection of broader societal problems -- writing entire groups of people off as being less worthy of care, being quick to disenfranchise others, judging people harshly based on one singled out aspect of their personality or one single event in their life, etc. None of it is really a rational way to behave, but I see otherwise perfectly rational people try to rationalize these feelings all the time, and even dig in when challenged about them. Mob mentality seems to reign much more powerfully now than I remember at any other point in my lifetime.

I know I've written about tolerance before, but I just see stuff like this and think that empathy seems so limited if it still allows this sort of behavior to happen (and often encourages or is the source of this sort of in/out group thinking). Whereas, think about how much better the world would actually be if people were able to withhold judgment and instead seek to understand and appreciate each others' differences or even just leave each other mostly alone, but try to allow a place for everyone to develop and express their unique talents somewhere in someway in this world. Just because that was not how we were evolved to think, in our tribe-first primitive social brain mentality, doesn't mean that it's not the best way to think now. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Playing a trump card

A reader recently explained why he bothers staying within the lines:

I find it strange, as I do not hide I am a sociopath. People ask why I am the way I am, and I tell them. I get the response aren't you afraid people will try ruining you?

My response is always the same. I am high functioning because it supports the lifestyle I have. If someone takes that life away from me I don't have to care anymore. Do you want to be the person I focus on first?

It makes me laugh a little to read that because there was this guy in the first couple years who found out who I was. I had found out who he was first, back when I wasn't deluged with emails every day (sorry for the late/nonexistent replies everyone!!!) I just googled his email and got a few hits for hacker forums, etc. So I mentioned it to him in my reply, not to freak him out, but just because I found his situation to be interesting and wanted to understand it better. Whatever his diagnosis was (I think he finally settled on schizoid), there was a bit of paranoia in there, and he made it his life's mission for the next 9 months to figure out who I was -- tit for tat. He was successful, not because of anything I did but because of a little slip-up that someone that I knew did in a comment on the blog. After that, he was about two steps away from blackmailing/extorting me. One of the smaller reasons for doing the book and trying to stay in a "glass closet", in which a lot more people would know my identity, was getting out from under this guy's thumb. And sure enough, this was his response after the book came out:

I see you have been outed. It was difficult at times, but I kept your identity a secret for a very long time. Please, return the favor by deleting all emails to/from me, if you would be so kind. If and when your new-found popularity causes problems for you, I would prefer to have as little involvement as possible.

I replied "I have no idea what you're afraid of. ;)" That's the problem with secrets and shaming as leverage -- people only take the hit once, and if they manage to make a comeback, you're in a very vulnerable position. 
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