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Since I Never Get the Last Word

Wednesday, December 7, 2005
I Suppose I Am

I find myself wondering this morning about the nature of evil. Had a fun few days a while back getting under the G-Quester’s thin skin refusing to concede there is such a thing as “truth.” Kept spouting the idea that any truth is idiosyncratic and entirely relative to the individual defining same. G-Quester finally gave up in disgust.

The problem this morning is that I have discovered that I really don’t trust the glibness of my original answer. I came across Staple’s First Law of the Universe which states that “evil and stupidity are randomly distributed.” I chuckled at the pithiness of this law but it sent me off wondering what evil is.

Glibness requires acknowledging evil – like truth – is probably defined relative to the individual. Okay, fine, but what is it the individual is defining? If each of us knows evil when we see it, what are we seeing?

I think the answer must reside in generalities. Whenever we reduce things to specifics then we immediately begin generating exceptions to the specific. For example, killing babies is evil. As soon as you say that, you immediately evoke arguments from folk like me who can define circumstances when it is the lesser of two evils and you must make the choice for the lesser. It is very much like governmental elections: since there are no saints, every election is a choice between imperfect people. Some are much more imperfect than others. So, something is evil but is less evil than something else. That doesn’t move it out of the evil column; it simply dismisses it from consideration at the moment. Every specific evil that can I think of can be so dismissed.

My working hypothesis, then, is that evil is anything we would not want to happen to ourselves. We would not want someone to kill us, so killing must be evil. We would not want someone to rape us, so rape must be evil. We would not wish to be robbed of our possessions or sold into slavery or forced to read books in which we have no interest. We would not want to be the ones arriving late at the airport and therefore out of our seats because the plane has already checked in full, this despite the fact we had reservations. We would not want to have local teenage sub-culters drive up and down our streets with the bass speaker on their boom box set to overload. We would not wish to be told that our taste in clothes sucks…big time.

It turns out then that evil can be defined by the Golden Rule. Anything violating that precept is …by definition…evil.

Thus, when I happen to express a humorously negative and uncharitable opinion about some book or story or blogor person, certain persons opine that I am an evil man, why they must believe I am engage in behavior that they would not wish addressed to themselves. This ought to be cautionary for me. Unfortunately, I must be evil because it just makes me grin. Guess I'd better not run for political office, eh?

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-12-07 09:23:26

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Another Unnecessary News Item

According to Reuters, British pop star Robbie Williams won his libel case against two British newspapers which I judge to be a good thing although it sets me to fretting – again – about this curious obsession we in the West seem to have with sex. It strikes me as sad that this non-story would carry enough interest to be run in the rags in the first place. Why does anyone give a damn what kind of sex Robbie Williams likes?

As far as I can tell, the source of this fuss is religion, at least those religions which have decided sex is a legitimate occasion of sin, whichincludes most of the religions in the West. This idea seems to stem from the notion that women and children are property that must be assigned legal protections so that men will not be forced to work at maintaining decent relationships. Otherwise, the women and children might actively seek better deals elsewhere. With the weight of law behind them, men need do more than strut about proclaiming the richness of their lives. If the unthinkable should happen, why then the man simply trots off to the nearest court and has the state restore the sanctity of his home.

“Honor thy father and mother,” it says but nowhere does it talk about parents’ responsibilities to their children. You must honor your parents because they brought you into this world. Even if they are morally and emotionally unfit, you must honor them. You are not required to maintain any other social relationship that is not mutually beneficial, so why this commandment that says you must honor your parents? Because you belong to them? After the first three, it occurs to me that the other seven commandments have to do with property rights.

That’s the easy part. The more difficult problem is why these religions fear homosexuality. Ignoring the debate over how it comes about, genetic predisposition or personal choice, what difference does it make if some are homosexual and some are not? How does it affect me and my life style? I don’t like bikers or punk rock or the current tastes in pop music. I don’t need a law to make them go away; I just don’t let them become a major part of my life. If their side decides to make a law that would compel me to entertain them as a central facet of my life, then I’d have to do something. Until then, live and let live.

I know folk who claim that same-sex marriage makes a mockery of their own marriages and, though I have listened as carefully as I am capable, the sole rationale for this stand seems to be biblical. Marriage is a holy state, ordained by god, and what god joins together, let no man rip asunder. Simultaneously, in the old days, women were compelled to obey their husbands. Men were only required to love their wives. I know folk who claim as soon as the requirement to obey was cleansed from the wedding vows, the divorce rate skyrocketed.

Oh, yeah, nowhere in the bible does god countenance same sex joining together. Since god didn’t officially countenance the state or the act, it must be sinful. It’s odd but I cannot remember a commandment that says go have sex, go make lots of babies, but only do that in prescribed and accepted ways and for god’s sake, don’t enjoy it. That language must have been excised from my copy.

If it’s sinful, then it appeals to us. If it didn’t appeal to us there would be no need to make it sinful; it would be a non-issue. This may be the whole point of these religions: to identify what is sinful and help us recognize that we must not engage in these things which are so attractive to us. These religions may not have begun that way but it didn’t take them too long to begin legislating behavior. Consequently, we can sell lots of scandal sheets talking about sex and how the ‘preverts’ are misusing it. After all, there are only four authorized positions and anything else is sinful. But, damn, we do want to read about the things we are forbidden from engaging in ourselves.

So, sex is bad and those who engage in it are bad and consequently we get to sell lots of scandal sheets identifying all the sinners in the world and how they are sinning. Must make us feel better to know that we haven’t been caught…….yet.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-12-06 10:08:14

Sunday, December 4, 2005
Comfort in Numbers

What is that makes a person write a blog? After 66 entries, I am finally asking myself what I think I’m doing. I’m playing, pure and simple. Ideas pop into my mind like virtual particles in the universe and if I don’t jot them down, I’ll forget I ever had them. I could, of course, keep a simple journal of my own and satisfy the preservation requirement but when a person thinks of himself as a writer, a wannabe, then the obvious choice is to put these ideas out there for other folk to see.

I tried sharing these ideas with family and friends and they soon tired of the inanity of some and the obscurity of others. Rolling eyes and heavy sighs are not the reaction a wannabe wants. Fortuntely, these blogs do not suffer a rating system so I can avoid the metaphorically rolled eyes and heavy sighs of a 1 ball out of five.

So, I put them out here where you read them and sometimes comment. The nicest thing Dag ever did was to put a counter on the blogs. Now some of these hits are accidental, I know, but as a wannabe in good standing, I can ignore the facts and deal with the fiction; that’s what writers do after all. I know for certain that more than 2400 people have stumbled onto my blogs, which makes for a an average of 36.36 hits per entry. For a wannabe, that’s very comforting.

It also makes we wonder what that .36 person looks like.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-12-04 09:39:49

Friday, December 2, 2005
Recalculating the Value of a Picture

The prevailing wisdom among those who write business proposals for a living is that you should never include photographs of the folk you are proposing to do a job. The rationale is that you do not know the team who will be evaluating your proposal, their likes and dislikes, biases and other personal quirks. You may propose CharlieLauren as your manager and Charlie may possess the world’s finest credentials. On paper, they don’t come any better than good old Charlie.

The evaluator may be quite impressed and willing to hire your company and Charlie in particular till he sees in Charlie’s photo that she is a slightly overweight Asian woman. The evaluator does not wish to work with a woman, definitely does not wish to work with an unattractive woman and cannot abide the thought of working with an unattractive Asian woman. Your company will not get the job.

These days, it’s all the rage to put author’s photos on the dust jackets. I wonder if this kind of marketing ploy can backfire. I’ve never seen C.J. Cherryh’s photo on a dust jacket but I have seen Anne McCaffrey’s grandmotherly countenance on her books. I know not seeing C.J.’s photo has never prevented me from buying her work and I don’t think McCaffrey’s picture stopped me buying her writing. I still buy Tepper’s books despite having seen her picture. I’ve never seen Moon’s picture but I still buy some of her stuff.

I saw Heinlein’s picture and Asimov’s and Resnick’s. I never saw Simmons; I have seen Donaldson in person. Knowing what these men looked like didn’t help me buy their books nor did it preclude me from buying them. I was surprised that Resnick wasn’t black; I’d built an image in my mind that he must be but he isn’t. I saw DeLint in person and have yet to buy any of his stuff.

So, the question is: does the fact some authors indulge in vanity help us to buy their work or does it have an opposite effect? I’m certain Katherine the Great or the G-Quester have definitive answers but I don’t.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-12-02 10:52:22

Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Trash Talking

There are many ways I drive her crazy. There’s all the usual things that men do that women cannot abide as well as a few peculiarities that are uniquely my own. Well, perhaps not uniquely my own, but adopted and nourished by me so that if others have these habits she would find them amusing but with me, they tend to send her eyes rolling towards the rear of her cranium.

For example, I talk to the TV. I don’t remember when I started doing this, perhaps since I’ve retired but more probably for a few years prior to that. Most especially, I answer commercials. If they ask me if I have trouble losing weight, I am apt to respond that no, I have no trouble losing weight as I never try. I could stand to lose a little but then, I’d have to exercise. Playing a round of golf seems enough exercise to me – and yes, there go those eyes rolling again. Everyone knows golf is not exercise.

There are the ones that ask if me if I’ve found Jesus and I generally respond that I didn’t know he was lost and, even if he is, he’s a big boy and can find himself..

There are the ones that tell me this is a special TV offer and the price is only $29.95 U.S. to which I respond that it is a scientifically proven fact that all the best products are priced at $19.95 U.S. (I estimate that some 92.76% of all special products offered on my TV are priced at $19.95, a therefore statistically relevant number that scientifically proves my point.)

But, last night, I reached a new low. Watching my new favorite heroine whose name I cannot remember but whose nom de guerre is Bones, I observed her stepping out of character to enjoy a liaison with her old college professor. I tried to warn her. I told her he was no good, that nothing good could come of this but she went blithely forward with the affair only to be bitten badly by the cad. It was an “I told you so” moment but the look on TLWSHLWM’s face told me I’d best keep the thought to myself.

Posted by Dan Bieger 2005-11-30 09:33:07

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