Category Archives: Wisdom

Ryan Lochte, Moral Panics, Dog Whistles, Oh My! | the Educating Gossip ™

RLotche“Moral panics” and “dog whistles” are used by capitalist power holders to distract citizens and scramble their thinking. The result is a loss of energy and focus that could be used to sustain demands for political equality.

The Ryan Lochte story is a power-wielding capitalist’s dream come true.  A story of white privilege played out by three Olympic medalists, filled with violence, racism and lies. This supposed moral panic (an instance of public anxiety or alarm in response to a problem regarded as threatening the moral standards of society) is another instance of distraction.  Learn to identify and ignore these stories.

Stay focused on moving the government (Executive branch, legislative branch (e.g. Congress), the courts, and the citizen lobbyists) to appoint a Supreme Court justice now (govern); enact polices that will overturn Citizen’s United, stop fracking (stop the poisoning of life sustaining water reserves in America), move from oil, gas and coal to solar and wind (reduce the production of life threatening ozone and carbon emissions), re-negotiate the federal subsidies to insurance companies (stop the corporate greed that profits by raising the cost of health insurance, creating the dual evils of bankrupting individuals while at at the same time denying them life sustaining wellness).

This is an incomplete list of where American attention needs to remain focused. Yet it is a place to start, were American fundamental values of fairness, freedom, equality, responsibility, integrity and security can be strengthened. Empathy and responsibility for oneself and others are core values of America. Healthcare, education, food on the table, and social systems are essential to the social-psychological well being of America.

Who’s got time for irrelevant moral panics and dog whistles? I don’t. Own it, Feel it, Live it, Love it!

Teachable Moment: Moral Panics, Anthony Weiner and Seal Team Six Insights

Can we separate political ethics and morality from personal ethics and morality?  This seems to be the question America has been struggling with for some time.   “Moral panics” are what George Lakoff refers to them in his book The Political Mind Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain.

America likes to gossip about the personal details of a public person’s life—the more outrageous, the more perplexing, and the more morally confounding the better. Such talk is considered “juicy” and America could talk about it all day long.

Representative Anthony Weiner is at the center of the current moral panic.  Should he resign?  Should his wife divorce him?  Can he be trusted as an official elected to represent the voters of New York?  Is he “true” to them?  And if he indeed walks his political talk, should his actions within his marriage matter?  Can we separate his morals and his ethics?

We can make a distinction between the two that I think is useful.  Ethics refers to a theory or system that describes what is good and, by extension, what is evil.  Morals refer to the rules that tell us what to do or not to do.  Morality divides actions in to right and wrong.

Ethics are more theoretically focused:  How do we judge white-collar crime versus violent crime?  How do we allocate health care when demand and costs out strips resources?  Mythology and theology are the oldest sources of ethics, though philosophical systems are often more discussed today.

Ethics are about theory, while morals are about practice.

Morales are the rules you live by; ethics are the systems that generate those rules.  Morals have to do with your personal life:  What is appropriate behavior on a first date? Is taking a ream of paper from your job home for personal use a crime?

Teachable Momemt: SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper author Howard Wasdin said to Jon Stewart on the 6/9/2011 Daily Show, that although he is a republican and did not vote for President Obama, Wasdin would consider doing so in the future because the President had it right on three accounts: keeping the mission operations secure, burying binLaden’s body at sea, and not releasing the pictures.  Wasdin admired the President’s political actions.

Should we really care about a politician’s personal actions?  Some say we should, for it gives insight into that person’s theory or system by which they judge good and evil and thereby decide what to do.

Stay tuned.  As we enter another presidential election cycle, the major weakness of ballot-box elections will once again become glaringly apparent:  the voters decide on a candidate by making an X rather than by exploring what it means to be the best candidate for the job.

The influence of smear campaigns, misleading political ads or the force of party-line habit voting, will make it a struggle for voters to possess a deep understanding and consensus on policy issues and thus elect the best candidate for the job.

Attack on Religion or a Call to Discovery?

 I have a friend, a learned scholar, who brought this engaging exchange to my attention posted at The Science Network.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson

It’s a talk by  Neil deGrasse Tyson basically saying that religion is what some early scientists turned to when they could not explain the unknown and was used to fuel their creative thought.  The talk is lively and fun.  Tyson tells us to keep in mind that some of the greatest minds that have preceded us expressed notions of  intelligent design  when faced with the limits of their knowledge. “Science is a philosophy of discovery, intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. “     He encourages us to acknowledge that people are feeling at the limits of their knowledge when they invoke the notion of intelligent design.  He also encourages us to be self-aware of when we are at the limits of our knowledge and not let our belief systems limit our creativity, our search for knowledge.   Fun, fun, fun.

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Michael Shermer

Dr. Tyson is joined on the panel by speakers including  Michael Shermer, author of “Why People Believe Weird Things.”  Michael Shermer takes a social scientist’s point of view, asking the question:  what are the different variables that go into a person’s belief system?   He states that smart people believe weird things “because they are better at rationalizing beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.   Which is to say that most of the beliefs that most of us hold we arrived at because we were raised that way, or we were influenced by peers or mentors.”   It’s human nature to want to find reasons to justify what we believe. 

Another panalist states that business interests understand that science and innovation is important for the economy but they don’t particularly care if there is a large number  of uneducated people.  However, from the public policy and government affairs  point of view, it is critically important that citizens are educated.  In the United States, elected officials are tasked to represent and put into law policies and practices that the voters want.  If the people are uneducated on the most basic of human affairs, bad policy and government will result.  Business and government need educated people–business may need a few, but good government requires many more.

I started this blog to encourage myself and others to challenge beliefs.  First, acknowledging and modifying beliefs in light of new discoveries (“Own It”).  Then, acknowledge how the updated beliefs make us feel (“Feel It”), put those new beliefs into daily practice (“Live It”), and then be happy with our lives (“Love It”). 

It’s worth the 75 minutes to view the program because it makes you think about religion and beliefs in a different way. For me, this program was a reminder that wisdom (religion, philosophy, psychological) is a means for people to seek a deeper human experience and be encouraged to press forward, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming confusion, doubt, and unknowns. I felt both hopeful that public policy will balance the teaching of science and intelligent design in schools and happy that there is a role for belief in play in people’s creative lives. Watch the program and let me know how it made you think about what you believe, if it made you modify what you believe and how that makes you feel as you deeply connect with people and the world around you.