the influential virus

May 6, 2009

M: So isn’t it good that people die?
J: No. Just people from other tribes, not mine.
M: And what’s your tribe?
J: We’re the Hygienoids from Paranoica.
M: Wow! Can I join?
J: Yes, but wash your hands first.


dare win

December 15, 2007

“Right now, we are engaged in the late 20th century version of the struggle between those who believe that the human species is so flexible, so potent, that even when we face great crises, as in the past, we will find the solutions, and so therefore we should go full speed ahead, not worry about it, concentrate on the science and technology; this is in dire opposition to the natural science viewpoint that we have genius but it is not so great as to allow us to separate ourselves that way from the environment in which the species evolved. I believe we need a thorough naturalistic worldview of the human condition, because we are now facing crises — particularly with reference to the environment — that will be better met through this view of ourselves as belonging to this planet, as a very biological species.”

Edward O. Wilson, in Darwin: The Legacy BBC video, 1998

u.s. ironies, inc.

August 26, 2007

Oh no, I’ve been caught!

In the US, breasts have gone from being a fixture to becoming a fixation. Women want to have fully portable deluxe erotic units and men want to gorge themselves over them in osculatory gratification. So for both, it’s an object of desire if there ever was one.

With that in mind, I find it extremely ironical that many Americans should object to breast-feeding in public. A woman breastfeeding her baby in, say, an airport lounge is all too often asked to take herself and her indecent bundle into the ladies’ room. The certainly unintended and unsconscious irony is twofold:

(1) the US is hailed by the Americans themselves, and very probably much more so by those same objectors, as the country where no one goes hungry and where you can get anything you desire, if you desire it strongly enough. It’s paradoxically and ironically seen as offensive that a woman should bare one breast (not both, mind you) in public so her kid does not feel hungry for the next two hours or so; and that perception can only be there because a public display of a breast might, just might, be construed (by perverts and prudes alike) as a titillating invitation to desire.

(2) a prohibition of public breast-feeding is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from Muslim countries, the very countries those same objectors probably feel most threatened by, the very countries where women not only throw veils over breasts and breast-feeding babies, but over whole women as beings unfit for public exposure.

Maybe ironies like those are inevitable in a multifarious democracy like the US – where every nonsensical, sick and crazy notion gets a fair chance to be vented in public. But I think there’s a real danger in “democracy” getting all too often confused with “common sense”. The two concepts are not even related. So why should the one [breast]feed on the other?

go johnny go

August 25, 2007

In chapter 2 of his On Liberty, John Stuart Mill wrote thus:

“The truth of an opinion is part of its utility.”

That was in the mid-19th century. Since then, I think enough scales have fallen from our eyes, so now we know better:

“The utility of an opinion is part of its truth.”

Oh. Is that cynical?