A Personal Post

I debated with myself for quite awhile before I decided to post this; it’s on the edge of being a little too personal.  But it illustrates my own feelings on compromise.

Today I gave a donation to my Catholic high school.  Yes, I was raised Catholic, and attended Catholic schools through senior high (though that was more because our local public schools were so bad than because my parents were concerned about my religious education). My high school was/is for girls only.   But I haven’t darkened the door of that school since 1976.  I’m currently an atheist humanist, and my opinion of the Catholic Church as an institution is so low it can’t be adequately expressed in a family blog.   So why give money to a Catholic high school?

Feminism and social justice.

First of all, the school is training young women to be doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, artists, or anything they want to be; they encourage young women to reach as high as they possibly can in their personal goals for life.  Oh, they give adequate lip service to the Church’s teachings on limiting women’s reproductive rights, but I know high schoolers can and do make up their own minds on the validity of those teachings. So it may be Catholic feminism, but by golly it’s feminism.  By graduation every young woman has been taught that yes, she can do professionally whatever a man can do.  That’s a powerful message to take to college, to trade school, or anywhere in life.

Then, while the Church is fussing over abortion and birth control and other stuff they should keep their noses out of, the subversive nuns and their fellow instructors are teaching about how the poor need not only food but medical care, housing, child care, etc.   The school is educating future lawyers who will do pro-bono work, future doctors who will volunteer at low-cost inner-city clinics, and future workers of every stripe who will organize food drives for the local food bank, volunteer for their favorite local charities, and give what they can to make life a little better for those in need.

How do I know this?  How do I know the school hasn’t changed since I left?  Because I get their newsletter, and the number of charitable projects the students are doing is breathtaking, especially when you realize it’s a small school.  If anything, they’re getting a better education in social justice than I did.

But Catholic schools are expensive, and lots of promising young women couldn’t attend this one if there were no scholarship program. So, while we have some theological differences of opinion, I think supporting my old high school is a damned good investment in the future I want to see.

Stuff Comes from Somewhere

Back before I distracted by the shiny new car and purchasing of same, our own George W. had a post up that really forced some thinking.  And it’s all because he was up at 4 in the morning thinking about bolts:

Where’s the nickel (which plates the bolt) mined? What’s the state of mine-safety technology? Do mining companies pay lobbyists to keep the laws lax? Or more likely, does the manufacturer just buy the nickel salts for plating from some third-world country where the government doesn’t protect the workers or the rivers or the children who live along them? Is that why the bolts are so cheap? What’s the external cost of the carbon output from manufacturing the bolt? Maybe that’s the reason I saved the bolt that was left over from a project of years ago.  Or maybe I’m just really cheap.

Read the whole post.  It’ll make you think about bolts, politics, change and resources all in one go, which is damned impressive for a short post brought on by insomnia.  This is why I love George’s blog so: when I leave there, it’s not with the same eyes as when I arrived.

America: You Really Want Us to Love It or Leave It?

Cons have this cute little conversation-stopper they use when liberals and progressives are demanding improvements to America. “Love it or leave it!” they crow.

As if wanting to improve something means you don’t love it.

As if love means never questioning your country.

“Love it or leave it.”

All right.

What if we did?

What if we decided that, yes, the fact that America isn’t perfect means we shouldn’t live here anymore? What if every single liberal packed up and moved to a country with a saner political system tomorrow? What if we left America to the cons who “love” her?

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her blue skies and clean water. We progressives were the ones who ensured that those things were protected. The Republicons, with their big bidness buddies, will take all of the brakes off of pollution – Beijing’s air will start to look downright breathable compared to what will be left here. And it’s very hard to drink the water when it’s so polluted you can set it on fire, FYI.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her abundant wildlife, her hunting and fishing, her wilderness. Because the Republicons, with their big bidness buddies, want to fill that wilderness with coal mines and oil wells and leave nothing but toxic waste behind. They’ll be happy to blast mountains apart and chop down every tree. Last I checked, the salmon and trout and deer and bears don’t rent apartments in city centers. And the cons will learn soon enough that the caribou love of oil pipelines is nothing more than a myth. They’ll find out just how much the progressives protected for their shooting pleasure.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her opportunity. For every self-made man who becomes a multi-millionaire, there will be thousands toiling at thankless jobs, without the education or the assistance to have a shot at pulling themselves toward the upper middle. And those thankless jobs won’t include a minimum wage, so you’d best hope the corporate overlords will somehow find a heart and pay you enough to survive on. Don’t count on it, though – all of those whose compassion trumps their greed will have left. (That’s assuming all of the jobs haven’t been shipped overseas, mind you.)

I hope the cons didn’t love their Social Security, their health insurance, or any other program that the Republicons want to privatize. The progressives have tried to ensure that the government programs that keep us from starving or dying of preventable disease aren’t eviscerated. We won’t be here to save them.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her innovation. The Republicons have never been fond of either funding or teaching science. The progressives have ensured that science education maintains some reasonable standards, and that science has money to innovate. Without us here, creationism will rule the schools, science funding will dry up, and Americans won’t be able to compete globally against people who have the education and the science to invent.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her Constitution, or her freedoms, or her democracy. Without the progressives to protect those things, they won’t survive as anything more than a memory.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her preeminent place in the world. After a few years of unfettered Republicon rule, America will be nothing more than a has-been bully. And she does not have the military might to bomb every nation into submission.

If everyone who loves America enough to want to make her the best she can be leaves tomorrow, there soon won’t be much left of her for the cons to love. Where would your “love it or leave it” rhetoric be then?

You’d better be godsdamned grateful we love America enough to stay.

Midnight Musings: The I of id

Author’s note: At the time of this writing it is past the Witching Hour, and thus I am completely within my legal bounds to disregard all responsibility for the content and, more specifically, the coherency of the following. I don’t make a hell of a lot of sense on a handful of hours of sleep.

Academia has been put on hiatus, if that hasn’t been apparent from the distinct lack of entries in the last several weeks. On the off chance that those articles were actually of interest to any readers, I apologize for their absence, and can claim only a lack of subject material and motivation for its cause.

Today, though, I want to take a more introspective look. It’s what I’m best at – I’m severely introverted myself, and I spend far too much time thinking and reflecting and generally disregarding the world around and outside of me. En Tequila is advertised as a blog about, among other things, truth and skepticism and such fun things. So let’s take a break from our usual curb-stomping of modern politics or attempts to overturn the constructs that have been responsible for our evolution since we grew our own branch on the proverbial genetic tree, and talk about something a bit more abstract.

Who are you?

Classic question, is it not? Specifically, though, I wanted to examine, how our knowledge of ourself, how our awareness, changes us. How we change ourself. How knowing that we can change ourselves, changes ourselves. See the spiral?

But let me back up. I was reading through those fun little astrology horoscope books, that is supposed to tell you all about yourself according to your sign, or sometimes specifically your day of birth, even the time. Now, do I necessarily buy the accuracy of astrology? No. Do I read horoscopes for anything but laughs? Absolutely not. Still, there are only so many times when I can read a description of a Virgo and find myself so meticulously defined. However, how does reading these change your perception of yourself? Whether you believe them or not, and whatever source they might be, does realizing you possess a certain trait, quirk, or character “flaw” change you due to your knowledge of it? Maybe it’s not the stars – perhaps its a break-up, and learning that they’re leaving you because you’re a psychotic control freak, or maybe its having someone tell you what a great listener you are; when we are confronted with ourselves, presented with a mirror and are allowed to glimpse our reflection, does that in itself change what we see? While there are so many mirrors we encounter in life, we’ll continue along this astrological vein.

For example. Let’s say that I read about how “typical” Virgo’s are very deep thinkers, how they tend to plan out everything. Their exacting nature can rob them of spontaneity, as they prefer to plan things out, analyze and criticize them. Now I examine myself, having read this, and recall times as a young child when I would stand in the store toy aisle for almost the entire time my mother was shopping, trying to decide what toy I want to ask for. Weighing the pros and cons of this or that action figure – this one has voice buttons, but that one has flexible joints. The simplest of decisions have always been made difficult due to analysis paralysis. So, having read this as a common trait of Virgos, and perhaps in some desperate attempt to “break the system”, to be undefined, I decide (after much consideration) to try to be more spontaneous. So, next time, I grab a toy at random, without even looking at it until I put it in the cart.

So, was it only my knowledge of how I think and make decisions, that changed me? Does that make me a “different” person for it? However, doesn’t the fact that I chose to be spontaneous kind of defeat the purpose? That I grabbed the toy at random, only after I considered it, and even though I knew that I would, indeed, be choosing a toy? It chases itself in circles, really.

Enough about me and astrology, though. The point I’m trying to get to, is what do we gain by examining ourselves? What is the cost? Does it really change us? In what ways? Is that change something good, something desirable?

Let’s take a different case. Frank here has a hard time letting things go – he always stands up for himself, even when he knows he’s wrong. He’ll shove if you push, and he won’t hold his tongue over etiquette. Perhaps, then, he realizes this, or is told this by a friend, a co-worker, maybe his brother. So, does he choose, then, to try to be more considerate? Or does he accept it as “who he is” and goes with it, perhaps even emphasizing those traits? If he goes with it, perhaps it makes matters worse; now Frank not only stands up for himself in a confrontation, but will actively seek conflict in which he can defend himself. Or, he goes the other direction, and decides to hold his tongue even when he knows that he is actually in the right, but is too afraid that he’ll return to “that part” of him again.

Practice makes perfect, but no one is perfect, so why practice? If no one is perfect, should we accept our “flaws”, as we perceive them? Our shortcomings, or perhaps just traits, neither good or bad in and of themselves, that we don’t like? We just accept them as part of us, and we are powerless to change it, and should not even if we could. Or do we try to change? Do we try to move ourselves towards our individual “ideal” self, even if it goes against your nature?

Know thyself? How does one know itself? Does knowing thyself, change thyself? What kind of self would thy be if you didn’t try to change or know it?

What is the definition of yourself? To what extent are your personality traits a decision you make, or a decision made for you? Can people ever really, truly change of their own accord? Or must they force change upon them?

I know several things about myself, both good and bad. I know that I can be generous, nice, and understanding – to a fault. I know that I am modest, that much of my humor is self-deprecating in an attempt to avoid egotism and arrogance, as well as having the experience that everyone likes laughing with someone who can laugh at themselves. What do I decide to try to change, if anything? At what point do we become unhappy with a part of ourselves – where do we make ourselves a “better” person? Why should we even think that can be achieved?

Just some brain food to munch on while you all enjoy the more productive and coherent entries in this blog.

edit: Thank you, blake, for pointing out my little astronomy/astrology mix-up. I’m incoherent enough as it is without using improper terminology. Fixed that particular transgression.

Always question.
-Kaden