Wednesday, November 14, 2012

on changing names to avoid stigma

This is a response to

When I was younger, I moved to a new city to take a job.  When I got there, I was told to avoid a particular apartment complex on the grounds that the units were substandard.  I ended up living in that complex, because the owner changed the name, so I did not recognize it.

I lived there for about a year and a half.  During that time, they changed their name again.  

I am persuaded that they changed the names, so that newcomers who had not been warned would not recognize that this was the complex they had been told to avoid.  

Ever since then I have been very suspicious whenever people change the names of a person, place or thing to avoid stigma.  The stigma does not come from the name.  The name acquires stigma, because of our feelings toward the thing described.  

The word "retarded" used to be regarded as kind, but acquired stigma.  Now people don't like the word and use "developmentally disabled," or some such thing instead.

I have particularly noticed this issue in reference to people of African descent in the US.  

In a song from the 19th century Stephen Foster referred to these people as "darkies."  Foster was later condemned as racist, though I don't think he really intended harm to the people so described.  His songs actually expressed affection for them.  He merely expressed attitudes of his era, not truly understanding that they were hurtful.  Nevertheless, the language he used was rejected as offensive, though, again, I do not think it was intended to be.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the word "colored" was considered polite in referring to these people.  At that era, the famous organization called NAACP, used the word "colored" in describing its own people.  That was considered good.  The word "black" was considered insulting.

Later on, the word "colored" became considered insulting, and the word "Negro" was adopted.  The United Negro College Fund used this word.  This word is the Spanish word for "black."  Despite the fact that "Negro" was at one time considered acceptable, the dread "n" word, which I dare not even type here, which was derived from "Negro," is considered obscene.

Nevertheless, people of African descent consider it acceptable to call each other by the dread "n" word, while becoming highly offended if a "white" person uses that word.  Moreover, the perfectly innocent word "niggardly," which means "stingy" sounds sufficiently similar to the "n" word that no one can use the perfectly innocent word without becoming a target of public harassment, which I find appalling.

The word, "Negro," was considered polite when I was a child, but then it became considered impolite by the time I was a teen -- after Martin Luther King, Jr., who used that word, was assassinated.

The next fashionable word was "black."  When my mom was in college, that was definitely a "faux pas" to say "black," but that attitude changed.

After "black" came "African American," which was considered more similar to "Italian American" or "Japanese American."  

The problem with "African American," was that many people are of mixed race and, moreover, it was cumbersome.

Then the term "people of color," was introduced.  This is quite similar to "colored," which was used in the first half of the twentieth century, so we have come almost full circle.

Nevertheless, I find "people of color" insulting, because it implies that people, like me, of European descent, lack color, which is not a nice thing to say.  I have color.  I am not "white."  I am beige and pink.  Moreover, I think I have a colorful personality.

I am also a member of the Religious Society of Friends.  We have a subgroup that used to be called "FLGC" (Friends for Lesbian and Gay Concerns).  After a while, some people got offended by this term, so they changed it to "FLGBTQC" (Friends for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer Concerns).  I found that odd, because the word "queer" used to be regarded as insulting, but now, apparently, some people like to be called that.

I really wish we would stop renaming things on the grounds of stigma.  The stigma does not come from the name.  The stigma comes from the thing named.  Changing the name does not remove the stigma.

This is similar to the situation in my house, where the lead paint soaks through into the latex paint.  They developed an encapsulant  paint to paint over lead paint, to try to avoid this problem, but I wonder how long the encapsulant paint really solves the problem.  The poison seeps into the new words , just as the lead seeps into the latex paint.

The problem is with the stigma itself, not the name.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

General Petraeus and the biology of alpha male primates

General Petraeus's extramarital affair is dominating the news today.

On the one hand, I don't like adultery; nor do I trust high government officials.

On the other hand, adultery is so very common that I fail to understand how it can be a public scandal -- or even news -- much less a court martial worthy crime.

The fact of the matter is that alpha male primates tend to be polygamous.  It's not clear to me that they truly have a voluntary choice in this.

To me, this is very similar to the issues surrounding same sex marriage.  People cannot choose whether they are straight or gay.  Similarly, I suspect that alpha males cannot choose whether or not to be polygamous.

Polygamous behavior by alpha males has been a great source of concern for females who have to share their attention -- and also for beta males who are unable to find mates, because alpha males dominate the field.  Monogamy has been a solution proposed for the benefit of females and beta males for thousands of years; but, clearly, it does not work.

The definition of insanity is doing something over and over and expecting different results.



Some afterthoughts on 11/14/12

Today I am looking at some of the other behavior of Bradley, namely bizarre anonymous e-mails to Kelley & bringing home large quantities of classified documents.

It appears that she does have some issues of judgment.  Having an affair with a married man is also a judgment issue.

We also have to look at Petraeus's judgment in consorting with such a person, but this is a stereotypical situation: sycophants clinging to the rich and powerful for dubious purposes.

This does raise questions with respect to national security.

On the other hand, his public appearances with his wife may raise issues of national security, since people wanting to get at him might get at him through her.  In China, the private lives of public officials are regarded as state secrets, for this reason.

Nevertheless, I continue to suspect that polygamous behavior is biological, and not susceptible to elimination by public shaming and discipline.

Moreover, I suspect that secrecy and shame make the polygamous behavior more dangerous from a security perspective, rather than eliminating it.

Rather than cloaking normal, biological behaviors in secrecy, let's out the sycophants.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On legalizing marijuana

Some people assume that when I advocate for legal marijuana that means that I use the stuff.

No, I do not.

I used it twice, when I was about 20.  Both times I had exactly the same reaction.  I went to bed & fell asleep.  It seemed like a very stupid waste of time to me -- and I never liked the stuff.  

Some people who love marijuana can't imagine that there are people who don't like it.  They didn't believe Bill Clinton when he said he didn't like it -- yet it was perfectly clear that Clinton's choice of intoxicant was of an entirely different sort, i.e. female.  There were even photos of Clinton pretending to drink at parties, because he didn't like to drink, which I also don't.  There are those of us out there who don't like intoxicants.

My father found that he hated morphine when he was dying of cancer, and needed pain relief.  That was a surprise.  Morphine is supposed to be addictive, but here he hated it and was always turning down his drip.  Well, that's an aside.

So, back to legalization.

Why do I favor it?

The money used for marijuana enforcement is poorly spent, because the drug is not truly dangerous.  Why should my tax dollars go to something useless like this?

The drug laws in general provide a pretext for the erosion of civil rights, as they enmesh the government in the business of spying on the private lives of otherwise inoffensive citizens.  There are laws allowing the government to take real property if there are illegal drugs on it, for instance.

The laws making marijuana illegal make it difficult to investigate medical benefits of marijuana, as well.

For instance, my mother suffered from glaucoma.  The medications she was given for this disease were ineffective.  We never knew if that was because of her forgetting to take them, due to onset of early stages of dementia.  

At one point, she was taking 4 different eye meeds, and was still unable to control her pressure.  Each med had a different timing, once a day, twice a day, three times a day, and four times a day.  Keeping track of them was enormously stressful for her, and took up much of her attention in the last useful year of her life, before Alzheimer's became her most prominent health problem.

My mother was always a very high stress person, and i always felt that that stress was a big contributing factor in the dementia.  If she had been able to take marijuana, it could have killed two birds with one stone: the eye issue and the stress issue.

In any case, she ended up having to have surgery.  The surgery resulted in her getting herpes in the eye, which in turn ultimately made her go blind in that eye.  

The other eye went with a cataract that could not be treated by surgery, because by that time her Alzheimer's had progressed too far for surgery.

In any case, I firmly believed that if my mother had been allowed to use marijuana to control her eye pressure it would have vastly improved her quality of life in those end years, which were otherwise hugely depressing due to the dementia.   You can't imagine how furious it makes me that the government acted to prevent us from trying this alternative.

The part below is now out of date, fortunately: 
I am appalled that the federal government continues to try to oppose medical marijuana and intervene in the internal affairs of states who want to legalize this drug.  We need to balance our federal budget, not waste money on undermining the sovereignty of our states.

Back off Obama.  I voted for you, but that doesn't mean I like all your policies.  You're dead wrong here.  Dead wrong.