Guest post by Josh Spokes: To do work that only actual thinking can do

I’ve noticed something. I’ve complained before about the elevation of stock phrases to do work that only actual thinking can do (I’m not the only one). “Intent isn’t magic” is one of the biggest offenders. It’s like the proverbial “attractive nuisance,” the open swimming pool in the yard that begs toddlers to fall in and drown.

“Intent isn’t magic”, for too many people, has morphed into “intent is irrelevant and has no explanatory power for human interactions.” They don’t say that in those words, but that is the effect.

Except it doesn’t work. Intent matters a lot. A huge lot. We make all kinds of decisions based on what we believe other people are likely to do. Intent is the difference between a person who knocks you over on the bus and laughs, and the person who knocks you over on the bus then profusely apologizes and helps you pick up your groceries. [Read more…]

Dude knows best

The Independent has an article defending Amnesty International’s plan to make sex work a human right, written by a man.

Can denying people the choice to decide what they do with their own bodies – or specifically when they consent to sex – ever be an advancement of their human rights?

That’s what a sensationalist campaign led by radical feminists is claiming.

Um…I’m getting increasingly tired of seeing the constant use of “radical feminist” as an unquestioned pejorative. I’m getting increasingly disgusted by this nonstop campaign against radical feminism. Tepid feminism is useless – the problem isn’t small enough for that.

They are protesting against Amnesty’s leaked proposal that consenting sex work should be decriminalised, and, bizarrely, the Your Sister campaign has garnered the support of a number of Hollywood A-listers, including Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Lena Dunham and Meryl Streep.

Perhaps the latter’s experience of playing Fantine, a sex worker, in Les Miserables made her feel like she had a glimpse of the reality of life as a sex worker. As far as representations of sex work go, that film’s all-singing, all-dancing portrayal of early 19th century Paris is perhaps more accurate than the ludicrous distortion its star now finds herself attached to.

Well that’s remarkably condescending, coming from a young man. How much can he know about what sex work is like for a woman?

Sources of beauty and unity

This is from early June, but I missed it and it’s a beautiful idea.

Over several decades of political instability and strife, Karachi’s walls have become a battleground covered with bullet holes, slurs, threats, and various messages of hate.

There are photos of dirty grey walls covered in writing.

A group of Karachiites started a campaign called “I Am Karachi” to reclaim public spaces by promoting arts, sports, culture and dialogue. Their newest aim is to reclaim the city’s walls and bring back its positive general environment.

There are photos of bright colorful walls that will knock your socks off. [Read more…]

A proposal to recognize prostitution as a human right

We’ve heard enough about TERFs for one while, let’s move on to the shouts about SWERFs by way of refreshment. Human rights lawyer Jessica Neuwirth in the Guardian explains:

Has Amnesty International been hijacked by proponents of the global sex trade? When the human rights nonprofit convenes its International Council Meeting next week in Dublin, delegates from around the world will be asked to vote on a proposal to recognize prostitution as a human right.

Amnesty is arguing that prostitution is a matter of free choice, a stance heavily promoted by the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry. The group is putting forth the view that sex work is compatible with the principle of gender equality and nondiscrimination, as if it were a job like any other. [Read more…]

The lawnmower betrothal

A Republican Congressional representative from Iowa, Steve King, holds a strange belief.

Rep. Steve King, R-IA, told an audience while introducing GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee that the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling means that now people can marry lawnmowers, journalist Matt Taibbi reported.

Iowa Rep. Steve King, introducing Huckabee, said gay marriage ruling now means “you can marry my lawnmower.”

[Read more…]

Given what we know

Caroline Criado-Perez on Twitter:

Caroline CriadoPerez ‏@CCriadoPerez Jul 29
Given what we know about the women murdered by Jack the Ripper, it is absolutely ludicrous and actually offensive to call them “sex workers”

These were not “empowered” women exercising their “choices” who just loved expressing their sexual freedom. They were desperate and poor.

And they ended up disembowelled in the streets of East London. That was not because people didn’t respect their “agency”. It was because a misogynistic man murdered them.

Seems plausible to me.

Attribution

It never hurts to remind ourselves of the fundamental attribution error.

Wotcha mean “attribution”?

In social psychologyattribution is the process of inferring the causes of events or behaviors. In real life, attribution is something we all do every day, usually without any awareness of the underlying processes and biases that lead to our inferences.

For example, over the course of a typical day you probably make numerous attributions about your own behavior as well as that of the people around you.

And the dogs around you.

If you do something crappy, it’s because that person over there did something crappy x2 to you.

If that person over there does something crappy, it’s because that person is a crap.

See? You have reasons, they have bad natures.

The Fundamental Attribution Error

[Read more…]

The simple and the complicated

A friend remarked yesterday, in a conversation about the – what to call it – the Official Ostracism of Me, that we’re all learning and it might be quite a good idea to be patient and not-horrible while we’re learning. Not the exact words, but that’s the gist.

It made me realize that one of the things I like most about having a blog is that I can write about what I’m learning, as I’m learning it. I can think aloud about what I’m learning. It’s note-taking, and discussion, and sharing. That’s what I like in other people’s blogs, too.

But, weirdly, we’re not allowed to learn about this subject. We’re supposed to have accepted particular conclusions, which is quite different from learning something (even if your learning takes you to the same place). We’re supposed to utter particular formulas, and answer yes to abrupt simplistic yes-or-no questions. That’s antithetical to learning, and to thinking as well.

Mind you…as I spelled out last week, I am willing, and more than willing, to answer yes to moral and political questions, even some yes-or-no ones. “Will you treat people as they ask to be treated?” “Yes, of course.”

But questions about what we mean by identity, the self, experience, mental states, conformity, stereotypes, gender roles, gender expression, performance…those I want to discuss rather than affirm or deny.

Shakespeare and the second person singular

I wrote a column for the Freethinker a couple of days ago about Shakespeare and undermotivated evil, via Hamlet and then Iago, with an observation on one way Shakespeare violated the conventions of his time.

There’s one Shakespeare character, though, who stands out for the flimsiness of his stated reasons compared to the malice and cruelty of what he does. He’s pissed off that he didn’t get a promotion, maybe possibly his wife has the hots for Othello. Othello is a good guy and that makes Iago look bad – blah blah. He claims all these at different times, so they cancel each other out, and seem like rationalizations instead of reasons. Really he just does it because he wants to, and he can. Desdemona and Othello are happy, so he’ll make them not happy, and not alive either. [Read more…]

Der Narzißmus der kleinen Differenzen

It’s Sayre’s law.

Sayre’s law is named after Wallace Stanley Sayre (1905–1972), U.S. political scientist and professor at Columbia University.

On 20 December 1973, the Wall Street Journal quoted Sayre as: “Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low.” Political scientist Herbert Kaufman, a colleague and coauthor of Sayre, has attested to Fred R. Shapiro, editor of The Yale Book of Quotations, that Sayre usually stated his claim as “The politics of the university are so intense because the stakes are so low”, and that Sayre originated the quip by the early 1950s.

There’s also the narcissism of small differences.

The narcissism of small differences (der Narzißmus der kleinen Differenzen) is “the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with adjoining territories, and related to each other in other ways as well, who are engaged in constant feuds and ridiculing each other” – “such sensitiveness […] to just these details of differentiation”.[1]

How, exactly, do you pronounce shibboleth, again?