Archive for the ‘Yin and Yang’ Category

Memo For File CVII

Monday, February 15th, 2010

I’ve decided the time has come to honor the advice of The Bastidge, and follow it. There is certainly a valid point to be made that the world, and therefore the populace that inhabits it, straddles a chasmatic divide separating two unacknowledged communities, and that each of these communities in perfect isolation would enjoy a harmony that must elude us as we co-exist with each other as a monolith. The divide has something to do with order versus chaos, clarity versus obfuscation, substance versus packaging, individual rights versus community obligations, opportunity versus security, pulling your weight versus fitting-in, logic versus emotion.

We’re seeing it right now with the health care debate. And it substantiates the point all the more when we observe that much of the controversy and dissention swirls around this ramshackle, oxymoronic thing called a “public option.”

I called this “Yin and Yang” out of a desire to get to the bottom of what causes people to pursue, throughout their entire lives, one way of thinking over another. The Yin work within boundaries; the Yang do not. The concept is centuries old, and dates back to periods in different world cultures in which femininity itself was a concept synonymous with the stewardship of quiet, contemplative female chores. In societies like this, it naturally follows that men think of things the way women do in ours, and women must think of things the way men do in ours. Here’s a litmus test: Friend of a friend buys a new car. Or, gets carjacked. It’s a great story to tell for sure, but who is to spend time talking about it?

In an agricultural setting, what happens to one has at least the likelihood of impacting everybody else. And so it makes good sense for people to get together somewhere and swap stories. But these are “Shut Your Girl Mouth Men Are Talking” societies. To whatever extent checking-this-out evolves to become a necessary household chore, it is a manly chore. A railroad’s coming to town, maybe (how does this change things?). Farmer Brown’s crops got wiped out by the cold weather (are ours next?). Who goes down to the saloon to find out about this stuff. It’s not the Mama; there are meals to be cooked, a floor to be swept.

Now, we have the automobile. The printing press. The Internet. Womens’ Lib. And when the time comes to swap tidbits of useful news, who does that? Here is what a lot of people are missing: This is a perfect reversal. We do not have mead halls where the men go to drink beer out of steins and compare prices of bushels of corn. It would be awesome if we did, for sure. But it’s not happening, because the gender roles in our society have flipped around in a perfect one-eighty. Men retreat into their own little worlds, not unlike the kitchens that enveloped their great-grandmothers. Their “kitchens” may be just about anything: A computer with a stubborn virus on it; a classic car that’s being rebuilt; a ham radio or a model train set down in the basement; but there is always a project, it always has a border around it, and that’s what men do.

This awesome Art of Manliness article offers a chronicling of what happened to our mead halls. It began, irony of ironies, with us guys being decent and kind enough to give the ladies the right to vote. Prohibition followed that, and…

For centuries, a man could visit a bar and be in the exclusive presence of other men. Because drinking was seen as a corrupting influence on the “purity and innocence” of women, bars were completely off limits to ladies (exceptions were made for prostitutes, of course). Out of the presence of women and children, men could open up more and revel in their masculinity over a mug of cold ale. However, the bar as a men’s only hangout would quickly see its demise during the dry years of Prohibition.

By banning alcohol, Prohibition forced drinking underground. Speakeasy owners, desperate to make a buck, accepted all drinkers into their establishments, regardless of gender. Moreover, the economic and political empowerment women experienced during the 1920s and 30s made drinking by women more acceptable. By the time Prohibition was repealed, the female presence at the local watering hole had become a common appearance.

World War II only further eroded the male exclusivity of bars and pubs. As more women entered the workforce, it became acceptable to socialize with their male co-workers in taverns and lounges after work.

Today, there aren’t many bars around that cater only to men (gay bars being an obvious exception). Instead, bars have become a place where the sexes come together to mingle and look for a special someone.

Note the article’s title: “The Decline of Male Space.” Men used to own the world. Now, we don’t. We have relinquished the privilege and obligation of socializing, turned it over to the gals, and toddled off to the basement to go play with our train sets. The women do what we used to do — they hold court and they compare their notes with each other, try to see if there’s some hidden meaning of everyday events that might affect the family.

This is precisely what their great-great-grandfathers did. The very same thing.

And so I grow weary of having to explain this. Yes, “Yin” is traditionally female, although I use it to describe a personality attribute that predominantly is to be found in our males. Yang, likewise, is traditionally male, although it describes things our women usually do and that our men, typically, don’t. The concept didn’t flip around, the gender roles did. And so, I have to concede that The Bastidge is accurate in his critique:

Your theory’s alright, if a bit vague and rambling. But Yin and Yang have a specific meaning, and you’re using them more or less backwards.

Yin is a concept roughly aligned with the female, but the concepts covered in your theory- group consciousness, socializing, consensus, softness, weakness, emotion, passivity, are all associated with it.

Yang is roughly male, but also strong, factual, direct, resolute, hard, aggresiive, etc.

In their crudest, most basic form, yin and yang refer to the female and male sexual organs.

My use of these names was arbitrary anyway, and that was on purpose. For the last five years I have seen these as placeholders for something more descriptive that would, and should, come later. After I’d given it another think. Well, with this morass of a health care “debate” that has been taking place, and will surely flare up again later this year, I’ve been forced to give it another think. Besides of which, I’ve met lots and lots of manly-male guys who do their thinking in a much “Yangy-er” way than a lot of the females…so the genders don’t fit well in any case.

And I think the terms are these:

Architects and Medicators.

The word “Architect” is chosen with care. Way back in our history, when written language was a novel idea, architects were “master builders” (which is the etymology of the term). These things they labored to construct, with every little piece of it not put in place properly, could very likely collapse and wipe out an entire family in a heartbeat. And so laws were passed condemning failed architects to a death by stoning (Code of Hammurabi, Law 229). That’s a little gruesome, but it had the effect of galvanizing their chosen profession into a noble discipline.

In their own little community, a “Climategate” e-mail scandal would not, could not, have been tolerated even for an instant. Things were the way they were — period. An angle was ninety degrees, or it wasn’t — period. Up was up and down was down — period. There was no room for bastardizing the peer review process into some mutation of what it was intended to be, to ostracize and excoriate colleagues who spoke measurable truth. The architect, hundreds of years before Christ, lived in an object-oriented world and thought about that world in an object-oriented way.

Okay, now let’s look at what I’ve set up as the polar opposite.

“Medicator,” similarly, is chosen with deliberate thought and intent. “Physician” doesn’t work because physicians are supposed to adhere to the Hypocratic Oath and First Do No Harm. The verb “medicate” is applied to addictions, primary among those being mind-altering substances. It speaks to a process of adjusting one’s emotional response to reality as a first priority, with recognizing that reality as a distinctly second-place priority. Medicators do not heal. Nor do they seek to do harm. The long-term welfare of the body is simply outside of their concern. It isn’t that they don’t care, it’s that there is an emotional well-being that they prize more highly.

To recognize reality as it really is, and to adjust one’s emotional profile in response to the reality so that it is unconditionally cheery, are two mutually-exclusive goals. It may not seem to be the case when reality happens to be pleasant. But when reality is unpleasant you can choose to wrestle with it to whatever extent is required to fix a problem, or you can choose to ignore it in order to keep your emotions on a high and even keel. The sacrifice of long-term satisfaction in order to achieve a short-term high is, of course, a defining hallmark of medicating.

One Revolution AwayNow, these people trying to shove this fustercluck of a health care bill down our throats: It’s no mystery at all where they come down. They are medicators. It is not a primary goal of theirs to actually treat illnesses, heal the sick, bring “healthcare” or “access to healthcare” to “the uninsured.” Nor are they trying — architect-style — to solve any kind of a problem, President Obama’s unceasing speechifying notwithstanding. Think on it: When is the last time you heard anyone in Washington use those phrases above? Been awhile, hasn’t it? No, lately it’s about “getting this done.” Beating the opposition. Winning. Make things the way they/we want them to be. But wait just a second…we’re half way through an election cycle, one that began with their decisive victory. They already beat the opposition. Their victory is forgotten, however, just like a druggie’s high, and they find themselves incomplete, hungry, after-buzzed, struck with a raging case of Delerium Tremens if they don’t score another victory. And after they get that done, of course, they’ll need another and another and another. They live out their lives on a hairpin turn, just like a druggie. Time loses all meaning for them. Bliss is constantly one hit away.

It’s not about health care, of course. It’s about how we think about the world around us. The medicator lives in a gilded cage, waiting passively for someone to come along and fix the latest problem. He does not solve real problems, he does not support anyone who would solve real problems, he does not live in reality. He considers reality itself to be an inimical force. This, ironically, provides a liberating effect. Of course it’s all about the way one does one’s thinking to perceive the world around him, and with someone else assuming the burden of actually fixing the problem, the thinker enjoys the luxury of thinking about things as a non-architect. In a non-object-oriented way. With every little thing on God’s creation, melted together into a sloppy mess. And this overly-medicated “thinker” does not think, in turn, about the resulting mess; instead, he picks up an emotional vibe from it, and shares it with other self-medicated thinkers. That’s the model of reality as perceived by the medicator: A great big ball of warm, gooey wax that’s all melted together, and is now giving off vibes. Hopefully good ones, but if they’re bad ones then someone else needs to fix something — or it’s time for another “hit” of something via one-more-revolution.

Disciplining a child provides a similar contrast. To the architect, everything is cause and effect: The child engaged in undesirable behavior, therefore something needs to be modified about what the child perceives as proper or improper. The solution is to teach the child a new taboo. This can be done through direct communication if the child shares the desire that his behavior should be proper, or through punishment if he does not. First of all the transgression has to be properly categorized — bad attitude, or simple misunderstanding? Then we assess what the child understands about etiquette and go from there. In the Architect’s world, that’s what we do.

In the Medicator’s world, the exercise really is one of medication! Concentrating on something is not a task that was, for one reason or another, failed in this case; it is an ability that has gone missing because the child’s “brain isn’t wired quite right.” Of course the solution is to put the child on a prescription for some goop that will alter his emotional state, and make the process “easier for him.” (It’s nearly always a him.)

Another acid test is when a complex system of any kind starts producing the wrong output, because some unit within it starts to go all wonky — with all the other units in good order. To the Architect and Medicator alike, this is a no-brainer, but they come up with polar-opposite solutions. The Medicator wants to chuck the whole thing and start from scratch, whereas the Architect sees a puzzle to be solved in separating what’s good from what’s busted. Think of Blondie and Dagwood getting in one of their matrimonial melees about whether to call the plumber.

I commented last month that I had finally expunged the malware from my HP Mini notebook. My victory announcement was premature, it turned out. The beastie lived on, downloading other crap onto my platform. It shames me to say it, but if I were to act purely on logic and reasonable cost-benefit analyses, I would have taken the “scorched earth” approach much, much earlier than I did, and lost a lot less time. It became an Ahab/whale thing; I lost sight of fixing the problem, and concentrated instead on figuring out entirely useless trivia about it. Where’d I pick up this thing? What exactly does it contaminate? How come these packages over here can detect it and fool themselves into thinking they’re cleaning it, when they’re not? How come that package over there seems to have “wounded” it (toward the end, it locked up the netbook instead of popping up an ad, which is what it was clearly trying to do)…but can’t quite get all of it?

See, neither Architects or Medicators enjoy a monopoly on always having the right idea. Medicators throw things away in bulk — they are much more inclined to announce “this entire thing is bolluxed!” That is often the right approach, and I have to make a confession…my second one, now…that I’ve often missed out on this advantage when it comes up. Medicators seem to think life has no puzzles in it, none whatsoever. And they probably think this because, in the world they construct around themselves by accepting some responsibilities and simply walking away from some other ones, they’re absolutely right. Choices confront them — choices in which the wrong answer results in some kind of personal suffering — and they become petulant, unpleasant, and then someone else swoops in and solves it for them.

In their world, the question of who gets the “rep” as a problem solver, is completely isolated from the record of who did or didn’t actually solve problems. At no time has this been more evident, than this first year of watching our new President struggle with the demands of His new job. He is a dedicated Medicator. He fixes nothing. The only responsibility He takes is to refine the emotional buzz that comes from this thing or that one…and having failed even at that, He has a ready finger-of-blame to point somewhere else so He can give Himself a good report card. Which He did, actually. That one single act speaks volumes not only to how He thinks about the world and the challenges within it; it is a tip-off to how medicators think as well. You’ll notice this about them if you know some really dedicated ones personally. They enter into conflict with others, because they tend to demand the final word about their own work. It was up to par, the other guy just has a mistaken interpretation of “par.” They followed the instructions they were given, it’s the other guy’s fault for not giving them the right ones.

Running a meeting is yet another good litmus test. Some meeting chairs do it right: Agenda item, question, answer, does anyone have any objections, next agenda item — boom, boom, boom. Others engage in this ludicrous and time-consuming practice of using the forum to adjust the emotional tenor of the participants, as if it’s a high school pep rally. Buying a car: Any salesman will tell you, some people turn their thoughts to the TCO with considerations such as gas mileage, service records, availability of parts. Others worry overly much about how they look when they’re tooling around in the car, what strangers will think of them.

Homeowners’ Association bylaws can be written to accommodate one of these halves of humanity, or the other, or both. This is a rather interesting situation, because the bylaws represent an attempt to “architect” a successful neighborhood, through the “medication” of the emotions of the people who observe it. Here and there, though, we see stories in the news surrounding HOA bylaws that are, to turn a rustic phrase, just plain stupid. They don’t do anything to make people feel good and it seems extravagant and far-fetched to suppose they could have anything to do with preserving the value of the property. Banning the American flag is the one example that springs immediately to mind, since those stories have a way of jumping onto the front page.

The last time we linked one of these, the story in question showcased a persistent trait among the Medicators: proxy offense.

[M]anagement told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community.

The controlling curmudgeon lays down the curmudgeonly rule, and the curmudgeon is silent on whether he or she personally finds the emblem, the e-mail, the cologne, the pin-up calendar, et al, offensive. It’s much more often proxy: Some third party is offended. Or some third party could be offended. The impossible-to-meet “Could Be Interpreted As” standard of cleanliness. It is conceivably possible, therefore the contraband has to go. The curmudgeon will oversee the removal. But it’s business and not personal, see? Just like something out of The Godfather: “Tell Michael I always liked him, it was business, not personal.” Some nameless faceless anonymous person complained, or could complain.

This dedicated Architect says — Medicators really shouldn’t be running anything. They don’t want to. They don’t want the responsibility. This is why these columns are now coming out, some serious and some satirical, that speculate openly that President Obama is perhaps bored and disenchanted with His own job. I no longer consider it to be commentary outside my sphere of knowledge, to proffer that President Obama had some serious misgivings the first time He made a decision about something that had little-or-nothing to do with winning an election, saw that His decision had a direct bearing upon the outcome, and emotionally recoiled. I have seen this happen too many times, up close. In the months since then, the country has been buried in this “awkward stage” in which He tries to confront each and every single challenge with a vision that, as this-or-that chapter reaches the final page, the emotional buzz of those watching has been fine-tuned and frothed up into a desirable state of bliss. This is, I’m sure, why we’ve seen so many speeches out of Him during His first year, and will doubtless see about that many out of Him during His second.

We live in a society in which our every want and need is met, with resistance or inconvenience that is at best negligible. It may not seem like that to us at the time because we’re spoiled; we tend to mistake a temporary slow-down, or wrong turn, or setback, for a real possibility of failure in acquiring what we’re trying to acquire. Deep down, we all know we’re not really being challenged by much of anything; we will get what we are trying to get, one way or the other, so long as some minimal quantity of our peers are also trying to get the same thing. If all else fails we’ll band together and our populist rage will force someone to give it to us. We’re supposed to be so worried about “the economy” but we have our beer, our coffee, our big teevee screens. The only things that are really in jeopardy are the self-respect and dignity that come from having a job, and the same for our children. All other things are guaranteed, in one way or another. They don’t face any real jeopardy.

This state of hyper-safe hyper-civilization has aggravated the divide between — whate’er you wanna callzem, Yin and Yang, or Architects and Medicators — as I’ve pointed out before. It creates a bigger divide on such fundamental questions as: What is a good speech, anyway? What is a convincing argument? Is it thinky-thinky or feelie-feelie? In other words, do you progress systematically among the first three pillars, basing your opinions/inferences upon available fact and things-to-do upong the opinions/inferences. Or, do you just stir up a whole lot of motivating emotions in your audience, get them all outraged against some straw-man Snidely Whiplash, anti-logical exuberance for your “ideas,” Obama-style?

And the fact is, Architects have a definite idea in mind about the answer to such rudimentary questions.

Another fact is, Medicators have a definite idea about the answer as well. These ideas are not the same. They are opposites.

Another fact is, neither side is willing to budge on such issues. If you have a pulse, and a brain, and you’ve been using your brain to solve problems that confront you here and there…each day you stay alive further enmeshes you in the answer you chose, way back, before you were five years old.

And the least inconvenient fact of all is that if we cannot agree on questions like those, we aren’t going to agree on anything else.

We are engaged in a discourse between people who understand how to make real decisions, and those who do not understand this and do not seek to understand this. They don’t see the need. But since they’ve “won,” for the time being it is their job…even if they continue to find ways to weasel out of it, and blame others when the job goes undone.

Not In It For The Attention, Mind You… XXXIV

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Last week Rogue Thinker found a favorite quote, one jotted down by a very smart guy. Rogue puts roman numerals at the ends of his post titles. What a screwball, huh?

Best Quote XIX

Some of us are willing to tolerate any sort of personal ridicule in order to avoid supporting the wrong decisions;

The rest of us are willing to support all kinds of wrong decisions, in order to escape any sort of ridicule.

Morgan Freeberg

An insightful comment on the difference between liberals and not-liberals. Freeberg calls it Yin and Yang, where Yin are the people who go out and build things, and Yang are the people who socialize and network.

The Yin theory is actually a very accurate description of my life. I’m a builder by nature; I spent my entire childhood playing with LEGOs or K’Nex. Yes, there was running around outside with the standard compliment of boy’s toys (GI Joes, Nerf guns, bat and ball), but I spent an equal amount of time making things. I didn’t bother developing social skills until I got to high school, and was well in to college before they were sufficiently advanced that I could deal with people normally.

What is critical to Freeberg’s theory is that for a Yin to make something, he has to understand how things actually work. If his knowledge of reality is wrong, what he makes won’t work. And he is forced by his experiences to modify his knowledge of reality. See engineers for further details.

The Yang, however, want to show that they have the right social connections. They have to show they are connected to the right people, and distinguish themselves from those who are not. But fashion and popularity aren’t really constrained by physics, so they can go in any bizarre direction.

Which brings us back to the quote at the top. Some people want the right answer, and some people want to belong. Very often we have to pick one or the other.

I’d rather be right than popular.

If documenting this theory means I could be hit by a bus tomorrow and the world will be left with a clear statement of what I mean, I’ve probably done a pretty lousy job of it. I don’t know for sure, of course; it depends on what people have managed to pick up. But I’d say this fellow’s pretty much got it.

I do think it’s important to note that liberals can be Yin and conservatives can be Yang. It can happen…although overall the conservative/liberal Yin/Yang correlation remains somewhat strong. What is important here though, is not the statistical outcome, but the concepts.

Conservative/liberal, of course, has to do with the opinions we form. Yin/Yang has to do with how we form them. Obviously, the latter is causative of the former.

One example of the upsetting of the clean pattern is the Palin Phenomenon. Sarah Palin herself might very well be a Yang; one indicator I’ve noticed of unusually high intellect, is that it becomes difficult to tell. Some of Palin’s followers, and I’ve noticed this because I’ve been among them, are hardcore Yang. They end up agreeing with me, but by means of a process I cannot understand. Some of them sound just like Obama people. You know…we’ve got to get ‘er in there, she’s the most charismatic person the world has ever known.

The Bastidge says I’m using the wrong terms with Yin and Yang, that these words have an ancient meaning — by using them with a mixture of correctness and incorrectness, I’m producing unhelpful noise. Well, he’s right. But the words come from an ancient world, one that predates the industrial revolution as well as feminism. If one side applies to males and is accustomed to giving orders, and the other side is female and accustomed to being meek and submissive…then, obviously, something is going to have to morph somewhere if the nomenclature is not to be retired altogether.

I’ve heard people object to these terms being used before, with the same sense of — how do I say it, what do I call it. It’s not anger and it’s not apprehension. But there’s something adrenalized about Bastidge’s objections, and I’ve seen it before. People who object in this way, with these points, tend to be Yang. And they call themselves that. I think what’s happened, is they’ve spent a great deal of passion being as male as possible…as outgoing and boisterous and jolly as possible…identifying themselves this way. And here comes my theory pointing out that Yang is chirpy and outgoing, true enough, but also in its own way rather disorganized and logically sloppy — and insecure. Can’t be! The Yin is supposed to be insecure. The Yang is supposed to be secure. And so they rankle at this because it is a challenge not to their worldview, but to their ego.

I’m not going to say this applies to Bastidge. That would be dolphin-logic. You know…”All fish swim in the sea, dolphins swim in the sea, therefore dolphins are fish.” Can’t make the call. I don’t know the man.

But he came up with a great alternative suggestion. It’s a Thomas Sowell product that somehow flew under my radar. Cranky Conservative quoted from it a year ago:

Peter Robinson discusses his interview with Thomas Sowell, where Sowell elaborates on his 1987 book, A Conflict of Visions. Robinson sums up the book’s major thesis:

:
Sowell calls one worldview the “constrained vision.” It sees human nature as flawed or fallen, seeking to make the best of the possibilities that exist within that constraint. The competing worldview, which Sowell terms the “unconstrained vision,” instead sees human nature as capable of continual improvement.

You can trace the constrained vision back to Aristotle; the unconstrained vision to Plato. But the neatest illustration of the two visions occurred during the great upheavals of the 18th century, the American and French revolutions.

The American Revolution embodied the constrained vision. “In the United States,” Sowell says, “it was assumed from the outset that what you needed to do above all was minimize [the damage that could be done by] the flaws in human nature.” The founders did so by composing a constitution of checks and balances. More than two centuries later, their work remains in place.

The French Revolution, by contrast, embodied the unconstrained vision. “In France,” Sowell says, “the idea was that if you put the right people in charge–if you had a political Messiah–then problems would just go away.” The result? The Terror, Napoleon and so many decades of instability that France finally sorted itself out only when Charles de Gaulle declared the Fifth Republic.

“If you had a political Messiah.” Hmmmm………..There’s a defining characteristic. Barack Obama doesn’t actually have superpowers. Nobody really thinks he’s better than anyone else; not really, not down deep inside.

I think what happens is this vibe, this “buzz” of “He Is The One,” becomes an overarching theme, one that is easily defined. As has been the case for the Yang all the way back to the elementary school playground, once you can fall in line behind something that has captured the passion and allegiance of some critical mass of your peers, the necessity of recognizing cause-and-effect just falls away. You don’t need to worry about how much current goes through this circuit with this much voltage and that much resistance. Similarly, you don’t need to worry about what happens to the unemployment rate if the minimum wage is raised by a buck fifty. You are now in a separate universe…on in which things…do not happen because of other things. Events just plain — happen. And their relevance is that they inspire you to “come together” in some forum in which “everybody” knows that this-or-that other thing is the next “Thing We Have To Do.”

Of course, people do not make all their decisions this way. Right now, people feel very much different from how they felt a year ago. That’s the conservative/liberal part of it. When conservatives win, it gives people a powerful incentive to start voting liberal — and vice-versa.

But the comfort zone remains static. People who are accustomed to Yang thinking, then forced to think according to hard logic like the Yin, can be prevailed upon to do that…but they feel mighty uncomfortable about it. Like they don’t know what they’re doing. Of course, when Yang decide things the Yang way they still don’t know what they’re doing. That’s part of the definition, you “feel” your way through a decision rather than think your way through it. So knowing what you’re doing is not related to comfort with the decision, or lack thereof.

It’s all got to do with the methods involved in getting the decision made. That’s the difference. The Yin has figured out the Thing To Do, Pillar III, based on the Opinions/Inferences he has formed, which are Pillar II. These are objects instantiated from defined classes, and he can sit down and draw circles and lines, connecting one to the other, effortlessly, because that is how they are stored in his mind.

The Opinions, Pillar II, in turn are similarly derived from the Facts, Pillar I. So the Yin knows what to do based on what he thinks he knows about what’s going on; and he thinks he knows what’s going on, based on what he has observed. These objects are derived from each other, methodically.

The Yang have formed, from early childhood, a way of neatly sidestepping that. But their method depends on other people being around. People who want to impress them, and who are willing to be impressed by them.

The Hard Yang

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

This is a story about not a vast multitude of women, but more than one. Let us call it a “plurality” of women. They have come to me, over a span of many years, asking for advice. Because they sought this advice in strictest confidence, it would be a betrayal to reveal the details about any individual chosen from among them, so I shall stick to those details they all have in common.

Women, I have noted on these pages that are broadcast to the innerwebs only on occasion, are different from men. If you are my age you were probably raised with a taboo against permitting yourself to think such a thing — but it’s true. Little girls can be mean to other little girls, displaying a hostility no boy will ever see. Not from them, and not from other boys. And so the women come to me hoping for some glimmer of knowledge about why their BFFs are showing signs of “breaking up,” ceasing to be their BFFs.

They’re discovering the Yin and Yang theory. In childhood, some of us build things and some of us spend that energy making friends. The parents make a common mistake in assuming that, since both of these activities are inherently positive, the details and events taking place within the activities must all be positive. But the truth is this is how children form personalities; Lord knows, once we grow up and start having to deal with each other, personalities are hazardous things.

The builders allow their social skills to wither on the vine, so they can work on their little projects.

The socializers allow their building skills to become atrophied, in like manner, so they don’t lose any precious time they could be spending on socializing with each other.

When the builder doesn’t get his way, he retreats back into his garage/laboratory and resumes work on his Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or Frankenstein Monster, or whatever.

When the socializer doesn’t get his way, he continues the ancient tradition of threatening excommunication against whoever offended.

The difference is, though, that unless the builder is a hardcore sociopath, he is ultimately forced to grow up. He is backed into a corner, throughout middle & high school, and eventually has to figure out sometimes he will not get his way. And so he begins to grapple with a daily routine, and then a weekly routine. The Frankenstein Monster will just have to lie there in pieces until Saturday morning.

The socializers, very often, don’t get corrected in this way. They become “Hard Yang.” Indeed, many of their excommunication threats are brandished, with no one seeing anything out of kilter in this scenario — against their parents! The ingredients are all there. Here is the “good” opinion all people should have, you aren’t sharing it with me, and so I have defined a differential between you and “everyone else.” You’re uncool, mom & dad. Better shape up or you’re going to be really uncool.

And so half of a generation learns to argue everything this way. Yellow lights and red lights — “Better get with it, or I will see to it you become a pariah” — and — “That’s it, you’ve had your shot, now me and my friends will just HATE you forEVER!!”

Tolerating this, particularly from our children, is our first mistake. But that’s a mistake that has been made for many generations now. The second mistake is more recent. We have begun to see the personalities we would like, and we have lately taken to identifying all personalities defined outside of this narrow scope…the builders…the Yin…as victims of something called “learning disabilities.”

Meanwhile, the Hard Yang cannot think. They cannot argue. When they monopolize decisions, the results are always disaster; we saw it last year with the election of Barack Obama. Again, all the ingredients were there. “Better get with it, or we’ll call you raaaaacists!” Left unexplored were two things: 1) Would an Obama Presidency, when all’s said and done, be good for America? and 2) If the answer to the previous is an affirmative, then how exactly?

Well, that is a bunny trail within a bunny trail.

The point is that a woman trying to get along with her friends, is subject to occasional abuses — let us call them “mid-course corrections” for that is precisely what they are, instructions about bearing and vector from a higher social authority — that nobody male will ever experience. God only knows why the women are coming to me for advice. The truth is, these women are being offered a choice: Continue to see reality the way you understand it…as the little boy building a Frankenstein Monster in his dad’s garage must do, for it is impossible to build things according to someone else’s reality…or, continue to be our friend. But you’ve been given a yellow light here, you face banishment, and the next light is a red one with no hope for you to ever redeem yourself.

The e-mails bring me more interesting things. An older relative is not amused by my spelling a French phrase “deja vous,” and is even less amused by my failure to confess to a mistake. Isn’t that what your blog is all about? Forcing people to admit their mistakes?

Good heavens, what an awful turn of events that would be. I know very little about how to interact with people, and what little I’ve learned about how to interact with them, I learned by watching them make mistakes. Why, if everyone were forced to admit their mistakes, who knows what would happen — they might stop making them. And then, with their armor all fitting together perfectly, no creases or holes in it anywhere, what could I learn about them? Perhaps, browsing over the 300+ Things I Know, it is more to the point to spot the mistakes and make a record of them.

Speaking of mistakes. Getting back to this learning-disability thing, in which we make the mistake of defining a personality type as being flawed, and using psychotherapy and medications to get rid of it, so that the entire upcoming generation is left chattering, bubbly, exuberant and unthinking. I sometimes dream of a world in which we make an opposite mistake of identifying all among our children who’d much rather play with other children than build things, and use our psychobabble to try to get rid of that. I am a biased judge here, but it seems to me that would be more sensible. We take steps to limit, after all, what our children do in solitude; but our tendency is to allow children to congregate and decide things in that round-table forum with no restraints whatsoever. Actually, we go far beyond not-restraining this. We send them to school to make sure they get a taste of this, and once they’re in school, we put them in group “problem-solving” activities in which they must learn to do this. Some among them reach maturity with negligible skills in deciding, on an individual, independent basis, what is truly so; or, even more importantly, reaching a decision about what to do in response to what is so. They do not produce patterns of decisions that speak well about the methods used to reach those decisions. They do not reach decisions that yield desirable results more often than random chance. They’d be better off drawing lots, or throwing darts.

Some among our children — and adults, for that matter — seem to have settled on a way of living life, that demands a certain number of familiar faces be around all of the time. In other words, they lack the capacity to deal with being alone. These kids are thought of as “normal”; in fact, some of us adults, tend to think of this as “leadership.” Because the little darlings are so forceful and assertive! Of course they are. They are dealing with an enviroment in which they’ve been ensconced since infancy. But they have become dependent on it.

That is what the Yin and Yang theory is all about, really; some among us, once finding themselves alone, experience something that isn’t limited to simple “loneliness,” but rather a devastating handicap in recognizing events around them according to the methods and tactics to which they have become accustomed. They perceive the world around them through a process that involves social interaction with other people. Their capacity for making good decisions, throughout their entire lives, has been evaluated and will continue to be evaluated according to the competence with which they engage in this social interaction…nevermind the outcome of the process, the decisions they make in the company of these others. And, the outcome of those decisions.

The Hard Yang live in a world in which, if “everyone” agrees two and two are five, then that is the correct answer. And there is never any need to look back on it. There is only a need to look back on those who arrived at a different answer, and force them to admit to their mistakes. If they do not, then offer them a yellow light, then a red one.

On So-Called “Conservatives” Who Think Palin’s a Dumbass

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

This was originally an update to a post from last night, but it evolved into a post of its own.

Here’s the situation as I see it. Republicans are fated to lose elections from time to time, even under the best of circumstances, because we conservatives are Yin, by definition. That means we’re concerned with:

• Building borders around the things we do, concentrating our efforts on what takes place within the borders, and adopting a healthy, libertarian, somewhat-isolationist attitude about what takes place outside;
• Methodically linking the things we do to the inferences we have drawn, by means of a reasoned, intellectual, cognitive process;
• Methodically linking the inferences we draw to the facts from which they are drawn, also by means of a reasoned, intellectual, cognitive process;
NOT showing off to prove what incredibly decent swell wonderful people we are, because we take the responsibility for self-assessing that as individuals.

Liberals, being Yang, are more concerned with socializing and communing…words derived from…guess what? <wink>

And so, people who live out their lives the way liberals do, tend to grow a sort of magical “antenna” that clues them in on what “everyone” thinks. They have to have this. It is their key to perceiving the world around them.

And so the temptation that arises for any conservative movement, Republican party included, is to sort of invade the enemy camp, steal the intelligence on what “everyone” is thinking, and make use of it. Presto! Palin’s a dumbass and isn’t qualified. A lot of folks who should know better, have caved in to this. From here I jump to Star, Buckley, Will, Krauthammer and Brooks.

Check ‘em out, see what they have to say, and keep this one thought in mind: Joe Biden ran for exactly the same position. Joe Biden won. And that guy doesn’t even know what the Vice President is supposed to do.

Which means, all these conservatives yielding to the steal-the-Yang-intelligence temptation, have been caught. They’re just echoing talking-points; talking-points that don’t make any sense at all.

Only Krauthammer is making a logical point. But his point is about politics, not about things as they really exist. His point is purely about arguments that have been made against the Obama campaign, arguments that could & would be defeated with Palin’s selection as running-mate. It is a point with some merit to it. But, historically, I don’t think it figured into the election very much at all. We ran Will Smith against the grumpy old guy who told us to get the hell off his lawn, and made the election about who’s cooler. Wanna blame the Hockey Mom for the way things turned out? Really?

There is another danger involved in invading-the-Yang-camp-to-steal-intelligence method that is worthy of comment here. It is the central catalyst to why this is a bad idea, I think. The Yang, liberals especially, do not process information the way more productive people do..the way people who build things, do. To them, cause-and-effect merge together into a sloppy hodge-podge, neither one having been separated from the other in the first place. What that means is, you have poll-results, minutes-of-meetings, summaries of what it has been found that “most” people think…and you have talking-points designed to be pushed “out there,” and influence what “most” people think. These are one and the same. They have to be. The Yang are the bubbly, precocious, talkative toddlers all grown up. Since preschool, they haven’t had to deal with any difference between their own ideas and the “consensus” ideas. They’ve spent their lives in complete lockstep with the majority viewpoint, as they’ve perceived it, and they’ve spent those lives becoming experts at perceiving it.

They don’t voice individual opinions except as trial-balloons. And if the trial-balloons don’t float, they can be counted-on to repudiate them. To not only shoot them down, not only disclaim them, but to disclaim any association history would record between their individual identities, and that trial-balloon idea.

They are consensus-builders. That’s why this stuff works so well. That’s why you had all this slobbering admiration for the Tina-Fey-as-Palin skits on Saturday Night Live. It wasn’t because Fey was amazingly talented at what she was doing…which she was, and is…it was because the skits had such effervescent potential for producing a “consensus” that Palin said things she didn’t really say…which they did, and do.

That’s consensus-building. Now, if you want to lay a Rearden Metal railroad track so that you can ride the very first train across it at record-setting speeds, and be extra, real, damn-sure it’s all going to work as you risk your life on it — these are not the folks you want. They’re good at building things that have to do with popular opinion. They’re not that good at building things that have to do with reality. That ain’t their bag, baby.

So stop stealing their ideas. It’s rather like using two-stroke engine lubricant in your four-stroke car engine. Their ideas don’t work in our world; not built for the environment we have in mind. And, really, who’s been paying attention to what’s been going on over the last twenty years, who can dispute the following: Every single conservative who is plunged into these reverberating memes that he/she is an adorable dimwit…is at the tippy-top of the profile ladder, popular, and effective. Think back. Ronald Reagan. Dan Quayle. George W. Bush. Sarah P. Who else? There’s probably hundreds of dumbass conservatives out there. But the meme has only grown around those four, not because they were deserving of them, but because they were at the center of national campaigns — and showed real potential for for influence how those campaigns would turn out, in a positive way.

So if they weren’t dumbasses, they’d be walking incarnations of evil, like Tom DeLay, Dick Cheney, Oliver North, Newt Gingrich or Jesse Helms. Whatever works.

Conservatives who tap into this wellspring of ideas that have evolved to fit what the consensus will accept, are not quite so much betraying a movement. They are doing that, but they’re doing something far worse. They’re betraying reality. This is why McCain lost, really. First time they say something everyone understands is not true, but that the phony “everyone” accepts as some kind of truthy gospel, they toss out the complete inventory of everything they have to sell. Everything. The sales pitch, then, becomes one of “see, we can tailor our reality to meet the expectations of the noisy majority, too.”

And that’s what the 2008 elections were all about. Real-fantasy-people, or phony-fantasy-people pretending to be real-fantasy-people. Nobody was peddling reality, reason, logic or common sense. So Obama got lots of cross-over votes, because the electorate was choosing as much reality as it could. They chose a genuine liberal over someone pretending to be one.

In 2012, sell what you really are. The message should be one of “our policies are based on what’s real, and if that loses the election for us, then like 2008 it’s an election we never deserved to win.” Might as well — we know what happens when you go the other way, when you say “we’ll change our reality if that’s what people demand…whatever it takes to win.” We know where that leads. It leads to sacrificing everything just for winning, and then getting your ass kicked and being left with nothing.

Why do I have to point this out? Republicans turned their backs on reality, and got clobbered. Then the nation as a whole turned its back on reality. Now it’s getting clobbered.

There comes a point where, even though it makes you feel good to do something and this has a Faustian tendency to deceive you into choices that don’t work out over the long term…after a time, ignorance is no longer a good excuse, you know?

Reality. In 2012, give it a try. We’re going to be as hungry for it. Hungry as hell.

Let’s Run a Rich White Guy

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Dumbass…stupid…idiotic…dumbass, dumbass, dumbass…

I need to update my list.

“Republican Party Activists” choose Mitt Romney as #1 contender for 2012. Did I mention this is stupid? Stupid as in — why even bother to have an election at all?

Conservative activists on Saturday named former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the winner of a poll for best 2012 GOP presidential candidate.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won 20 percent of the vote in straw poll for presidential favorites.

The poll marked the third consecutive year Romney came out on top.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal placed second in the annual poll, conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Romney received 20 percent of the vote and Jindal got 14 percent.

Close behind were Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who each received 13 percent of the vote.

Okay, you know I want Palin. And I know “most” of you “party activists,” thinking “independently,” are going to march in lockstep and tell me she doesn’t come off well when she’s interviewed by perky Katie. And of course that means everything.

Here, let’s not have this argument. Neither mind is going to be changed. Instead, just ponder my litmus test…

Interview asks Candidate X the following: “What is your position on torturing detainees by means of waterboarding?” Candidate X can reply…

1. I think it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, although we’ve never done it.
2. It’s just terrible, and on my watch it will never happen again.
3. I don’t have a personal opinion about it but the experts tell me that’s torture, and I believe them.
4. Mister Interviewer, what the f— is your idea for getting information out of these guys?
5. When you think about it, a “civilized” society will do whatever it takes to fight these a**holes, and a “savage” society will sit around doing nothing so it can fool itself into thinking it’s “civilized.”
6. I would like you to define “torture”; we can agree, can we not, that it’s a useless word if it applies to anything you personally wouldn’t want to have done to you…right?
7. Peace is possible if we can get other nations to like us, or at least stop hating us.
8. It’s unconstitutional!
9. That question is above my pay grade.
10. I’ll have to get back to you on that, I don’t have an opinion yet.

My litmus test: Huge plus points for the candidate that answers with 4, 5 or 6 (in fact, MEGA points for the candidate that answers with 5). Enormous minus points for a candidate who answers with any of the others.

And I don’t think Romney would pick 4, 5 or 6.

As God is my witness, if there is one single thing about 21st-century American politics I simply don’t understand and simply can’t figure out, it is: Why is this such a tall fucking order? Seriously. Pardon my french, but this has long ago gotten just a little bit on the aggravating side. I want a candidate that will — for the benefit of all Americans, conservative and liberal — keep the conversation fixated on whether conservative ideas are better than liberal ideas, or vice-versa. Isn’t that what we want our elections to be about? Isn’t that what they’re supposed to be about?

McCain did quite a few things right. But he did a lot of things wrong…and my confidence is sky-high that Mitt would repeat each mistake, faithfully, like he was painting-by-numbers. And those mistakes have to do with reassuring people, people who figure out what offends them before they’ve really noodled out what’s a good idea and what isn’t a good idea, that he won’t be responsible for such offense…even if, in pursuing such an implied pact, he’d be implementing a lot of bad ideas and forsaking a lot of good ones.

Granted, I don’t think Palin is going to pursue the intricacies of cause-and-effect in foreign policy, money supply, unemployment, interrogation techniques, et al, any better than Romney or McCain. But if there’s one thing the conservative movement needs right now, it is representation by someone who will not apologize for believing in it.

Example:

Tax cuts work. You can cut the tax rate and in so doing, raise more revenue. It can be done — logic says so, history says so, and when logic and history agree we need to be paying attention. And the reason logic agrees with history, is that when it’s cheaper for people to do things, they’re more likely to do ‘em.

You people who want to argue that point, no matter how many letters you have after your name, can piss off. And you people who want me to apologize for believing in it, you can piss off too.

There. Like that. Clean up the language for television and so forth…but there it is. See how easy it is?

I swear to God, it’s like ordering a chocolate milkshake in a burger joint, waiting twenty minutes for it, and then finding out they forgot the order.

What in the hell is so hard about this??

This male chauvinist pig says — let’s recognize strength, and likelihood of success, in a woman when it’s really there. And this time, it’s really there. We need fidelity to principles, and unwillingness to apologize for having them, before we need ability to ingratiate with the Manhattan blue-blood crowd. We already tried the ability to ingratiate. It doesn’t fly. So stop it already. Just. Knock. It. Off. Now.

Update 3/1/09: Okay once again we’re reminded, it all depends on whom you ask. I’m all calmed down now. Cheesy YouTube clip is linked behind the screen cap below…

Overcoming Atomization

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Good nutrition for thinking minds. Good writing to describe exactly what’s goin’ on.

I mean, the good things goin’ on. Not this Obama stuff, which we will, mark my words, survive just fine. The liberation of our culture from the monolith media –

In the age of mass media, the press was able to define the sphere of legitimate debate with relative ease because the people on the receiving end were atomized — connected “up” to Big Media but not across to each other. And now that authority is eroding…Take a sheet of paper and make a big circle in the middle. In the center of that circle draw a smaller one to create a doughnut shape. Label the doughnut hole “sphere of consensus.” Call the middle region “sphere of legitimate debate,” and the outer region “sphere of deviance.”…Now you have a way to understand why it’s so unproductive to argue with journalists about the deep politics of their work. They don’t know about this freakin’ diagram!

There’s a little bit of Yin-and-Yang stuff involved with this. When we’re all connected to a common intellectual hub but not to each other, like spokes on a bicycle wheel, it really doesn’t matter what the hub is or what the hub tells us to do. The communication arrangement strongly compels us to think with the OFC, the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, that part of the brain that is responsible for “rapping one’s own knuckles.” Think of it as your “don’t go outside the lines” cortex. There is no because when the OFC is at work. When you shout “No!” at a baby, you’re stimulating the baby’s OFC.

It’s a survival mechanism. If you touch a hot stove, and wait for pain to register then think about the prospect of removing your hand through conventional means, you will be much more badly burned. The OFC has its place; with that lobe telling you to remove your hand, you’ve got a decent shot at recoiling before you sustain any physical damage at all. That would not be possible otherwise. To preserve our ability to procreate and survive, we have to route some experiences through this special “because-free” zone.

Well, when people are communicating with a common nucleus but not with each other, they’re strongly motivated to think with the OFC. And when you introduce some limited means by which they can communicate with each other — just a few minutes over the fence that divides their lawns, or at the water cooler at work — they tend to persuade each other to do cognitive thinking with the OFC. No cause-and-effect, just don’t-do-that, like back in kindergarten. All protocol. No real weighing of costs vs. benefits of available options.

I found out about the article from Kate at Small Dead Animals, and Alice the Camel…they, in turn, make the point that this is probably why the press reacts so vituperatively to blogs. The blog is disorganized, and yet, strangely, at the same time organized. It provides a reliable and sustained means by which thinking consumers of news can talk to each other about what it is they have seen. It erodes the revenue base of advertising, to a certain extent, and that’s turning out to be damaging enough to the Old Guard. But it also erodes that spoke-hub atomization authority.

It gets people thinking with the cerebral cortex, the way the Good Lord intended when He built it. That part of the brain you use for cause-and-effect thinking, inferential thinking, process-of-elimination, all that good stuff. The traditional knuckle-rapping is demoted to just an occasional, meaningless staccato within a symphony of more honest deliberation.

Women Avoid IT

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Is it still sacrilege to discuss that the two sexes might be fundamentally different?

Only if you discuss male superiority. Find a way to make the girls look good, and you can jibber-jabber away about it to your heart’s content. So in that politically-charged climate, how do we investigate the continuing gender imbalance in Information Technology, and how to better direct all these resources that have been spent through the years, in vain, to even things out?

Ah…someone’s found a way. Even better, based on what I’ve seen, I agree.

Yes, we know. IT is much the poorer for having missed the gender-equality boat. But facts are facts.

According to a report in the Boston Globe: “One study of information-technology workers found that women’s own preferences are the single most important factor in that field’s dramatic gender imbalance. Another study followed 5,000 mathematically gifted students and found that qualified women are significantly more likely to avoid physics and the other ‘hard’ sciences in favor of work in medicine and biosciences.

“Another study found that women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don’t do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. Sure, they can become scientists, but they can also succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.”

What’s being discovered is the Yin and Yang theory. When men and women discover at an early age that they possess superior communication skills, it opens up pathways to them and they shy away from technological pursuits. Those who don’t have these skills, begin a life-long effort spent making things work, observing how parts interact with other parts, and building bigger, fancier things. This molds and shapes how thinking people think.

Yin and Yang then goes on to say…whatever people don’t do, whatever they do only under protest, when backed into a corner and deprived of all other options…their skills start to atrophy. Which, here, would indicate that even bright women might tend to possess inferior technical skills. Maybe that won’t happen, but it will logically follow that when people enjoy an abundance of options, the overwhelming tendency is going to be for them to choose the one with the most immediate reward.

And with all things technical, of course, you always have to wait. The server isn’t going to come up and start servicing client requests until you get it built, generate the OS, install it, configure it for your network, et cetera.

All of which is a round-about way of saying — since women are much brighter at, and more naturally inclined toward, the art and science of communication — they’re not likely to find optimal fulfillment in building things. To be a nerd right down to the core, you have to possess a lifelong history of finding greater fulfillment in saying “Hey Mom and Dad, look what I did” rather than “Hey Mom and Dad, look at me.” That’s the definition. And that isn’t likely to happen to a female; little girls are just too cute. And so even the ones who possess all the skills, aptitudes and passions of snapping Lego building blocks together, tend to gravitate more naturally toward other efforts that are more socially, and therefore immediately, rewarding. Because they can.

So since the problem is rooted in an abundance of options available to bright, flexible, capable and intelligent women — now what do we do? Deprive them of the options?

That would appear to be the only course of action available to us. Other than simply recognizing the gender imbalance in IT, and learning to live with it.

Jennifer Rubin Discovers the Yin and Yang Theory

Friday, October 31st, 2008

In a fascinating contribution of hers called The Palin Rorshach Test, Jennifer Rubin notes that Sarah Palin, the Alaska Governor currently running for the White House with some old guy, is far less interesting than the discourse and debate she has inspired. Rubin’s column explores the real differences between Palin supporters and Palin skeptics…then it delves into the skeptic side of that schism, and takes a look at what truly motivates those who so recoil from Caribou Barbie.

Sure, there’s a strong suspicion that many in the anti-Palin camp are posturing to ingratiate themselves with the Washington cocktail set. (One defender of Palin recently said to me of Palin opponents: “They want to be above the respectability bar, not below it.”) But I will accept for sake of argument that most advocates on both sides are sincere. And I’ll ignore for a moment that a number of Palin skeptics may have another candidate already in mind for 2012. So what’s the real difference between the sides?

I think it breaks down into “Players” and “Kibitzers.”

The Players are those who engage in politics not simply as an intellectual exercise but as a sport — a combat sport. They appreciate the need to sell and engage voters. They like the rough and tumble of campaigns. They understand the point of it all is to “win, baby, win.” And because they see politics as a group activity they are attuned to the audience — the voters. They watch the crowd, not because the crowd is “right,” but because without the crowd (voters), this is all an academic exercise. It is not hard to see why talk show hosts fall into this category. They, after all, make their living engaging the public and understand precisely what it takes to hold their interest.

That is not to say that the Players don’t care about ideas or the message. To the contrary, because they see the message of conservatism as a valuable and potentially winning vision they are extremely attuned to finding the right messenger. If you trust the message to the wrong candidate you get 1996, or worse.

On the other side are the Kibitzers, those who don’t hold office or run campaigns or much bother with real voters. They write books, tell us what is wrong with conservatism, and scold the poor slobs who run campaigns. They lack any visceral sense of actual conservative voters. Their bent is decidedly academic and their approach to politics is sterile. If you can simply come up with the ideal blueprint, go on Charlie Rose’s show, and write a column for the New York Times or Washington Post, the light will go on, the conservative movement will be saved, and they will earn the applause of their peers.

Now, some of the Kibitzers, truth be told, don’t care much about ideas: it is sentiment and word pictures that catch their attention. They’d rather toss around elegant phrases unmoored to any reasoned argument — slip the surly bonds of analysis, as it were — than mix it up in the hurly-burly of real electoral politics. [bold emphasis mine]

Yup, that’s Yin and Yang. The Yin allow their social skills to atrophy until a very seasoned age, so they can concentrate on making things work. The Yang allow their functional skills to atrophy indefinitely, so they can concentrate on socializing. This thing we call “The Right” in our country is predominantly Yin while The Left is predominantly Yang, but each side of the left-right divide is a composite of unlike parts.

In other words, there is a sprinkling of Yin in the left. Liberals do get things built. Al Gore’s a great example of this.

And there’s a sprinkling of Yang on the right. This is the phenomenon Rubin is noticing. Most conservatives are concerned with substance, and just a few are concerned with style. These are the folks who’d prefer to “toss around elegant phrases unmoored to any reasoned argument.” And they do not like Sarah Palin, not even a little bit. They liked John McCain way back when, in the olden days, when the New York Times liked him. Palin offends them, and not just a little.

It’s the stuff she does. She’s a “get it done” gal. When she fires someone, there’s a reason why — she wants ‘em gone. She doesn’t want to just go through the motions of firing them. And if you get in her way, she’ll fire your ass too.

The Yang are not so burdened by what causes what, and what’s a consequence of what. That isn’t their world. Being superior communicators, want to replicate themselves in others. These are the people who stop you from doing something “the wrong way,” but can’t tell you what awful consequences will be conjured up should you continue to do things that way. They are schooled in procedure, and not in cause-and-effect. Internal to any given culture, most of the social problems develop from Yin and Yang having contact with each other too quickly, too intimately, and without adequate…buffering. For better or for worse, this apparatus we call the “conservative wing” falls under “any given culture.” Hence the divide that has come to Ms. Rubin’s attention.

But the whole country is divided this way right now. It is reaching a tragic zenith.

Since no one but the Yin can make something work that previously did not, it’s up to them to build up a society. And no one but the Yang has any desire to replicate their own behavior in others, therefore, it’s natural that once things are comfortable and functional, the Yang take things over. With no challenges left to a mature and evolving society, eventually, they succeed at this…and then such a society becomes all about commisserating with one another, all about empathy. At such an event horizon of societal maturity, that society will forsake the values that were necessary to getting it built. Unfortunately, what’s needed to build something is identical to what’s needed to maintain it, so this high level of societal maturity will always turn out to be cancerous. The Yang, therefore, will always have it in their destiny to ride such a maturity back downward again, into the ground, as they seek to obliterate or convert anyone who isn’t like them.

The United States is at a very high level on this bell curve of societal maturity. Out here on the west coast, I can say that this spot of earth on which my fanny is sitting right now, when it was trod upon by (European) people for the very first time just a couple centuries ago, the paramount concern was starvation; after that, rattlesnakes. Here we are, just one or two clock-ticks later. Five generations, perhaps six or seven. And we’re worried that Starbucks might have put the wrong flavor of syrup in our lattes. It’s more common for schoolchildren to be held back a grade over concerns about their “social skills” than about their academic achievement.

Everywhere you look, someone’s calling someone else stupid.

But look what Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe had to say this late in the last presidential election…and if you think anything’s improved since then, I’ve got a bridge to sell you…

Gallup found in January 2000 that while 66 percent of the public could name the host of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” only 6 percent knew the name of the speaker of the House. Last year, a Polling Company survey found that 58 percent of Americans could not name a single federal Cabinet department.

The ignorant can be found in the highest reaches of academe. Of more than 3,100 Ivy League students polled for a University of Pennsylvania study in 1993, 11 percent couldn’t identify the author of the Declaration of Independence, half didn’t know the names of their US senators, and 75 percent were unaware that the classic description of democracy — “government of the people, by the people, and for the people” — is from the Gettysburg Address.

These tidbits are nothing new. Or old. They’ve been going on for awhile, and they’ve always been remarkable given this long-running crescendo of our political-argument din. It seems every single year we make just a little bit more noise about things compared to the year before. Can we really be that ignorant of the essentials of the subjects that so thoroughly capture and hold our passions?

Can you really have that much heat with so little light?

It would seem the answer is yes. But only in a society that has ripened to the point where the cells that make it up, are scrumptious…juicy…heaving and undulating…ripe to the point of rot. Ready for an unstoppable malignant spread. Near the apex, ready for a complete Yang-takover, and the subsequent ride downward into chaos, like in the closing chapters of Atlas Shrugged, like in the fall of Rome, like in the sinking of Atlantis.

Like a lawn dart, straight into the ground.

The natural consequence of forgetting, from sea to shining sea, what it takes to get a useful thing built and what it takes to keep it working.

Are we there. Are we approaching the apex, or past it.

That’s what this election is about.

Thing I Know #130. The noble savage gives us life. Then we outlaw his very existence. We call this process “civilization.” I don’t know why.

Reprehensible

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

The Yin and Yang series is about how there are two ways to think out every problem, and thinking people are divided into two camps whether they realize it or not because each individual selects one of those two ways of thinking and sticks to it for life. The ninth installment explores how this takes place inside the cranium.

I’ve written much about this, but to explore it at a high level it comes down to this: You can think like a Yin by traversing the first three pillars of persuasion in sequence — fact; opinion; thing to do. Or, you can think like a Yang, by anticipating what a group consensus will find to be reprehensible, and doing the opposite. The first of those two techniques works well when you are in solitude and don’t have to reckon with the opinions of others. The second works only in a group environment, which explains why some of us get lonely faster than others — they’re deprived not only of happiness when others aren’t around, but also of the fuel for what they have adopted as the convention for rational thinking.

Where do Republicans and democrats enter into this? Republicans recruit primarily from the Yin; democrats draw their support primarily from the Yang.

And this is why their talking points are different. The two issues I think illustrate this best, are 1) waterboarding, and 2) hate crime legislation.

To the left, waterboarding is simply awful. Don’t do it. What we don’t discuss too much is that on the right, a lot of people think it’s awful too. Except the right wing is home to the truly nuanced thinkers here. They’re the ones asking all these pain-in-the-ass questions. The first three pillars in sequence; cause-and-effect. IF THEN. So, IF we waterboard, THEN someone somewhere will think we’re bad. Who is that, exactly? Who thinks that? IF we stop waterboarding, THEN someone will think we’re better people than we’d otherwise be? What happens then? And when they ask those questions and await answers, they’re left sucking air. There are no answers. It’s just empty rhetoric. So they don’t take the argument seriously, because the argument isn’t there to be taken seriously.

Hate crimes, likewise, are simply awful. But hate crime legislation is only attractive to you if you neglect cause and effect. IF we enhance penalties based on motive, THEN the government has a compelling reason to examine motive that it didn’t have before. IF it examines motive, THEN it must necessarily examine thought…a personal attribute previously thought to be private and sacrosanct. This is a problem. The Yang are not properly equipped to care about any of this. There is only the group consensus, which is sort of a replacement-deity, to be considered. The crime is awful, therefore, any punishment of the crime must be good. Four legs good two legs bad.

In announcing that things are deplorable, the right does not communicate the messages very well. The left excels at this. Every little criticism against Barack Obama, now, is raaaaaaaacist whether it is legitimate or not. Simply repeating his own words, without comment, can be racist now. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is hung in effigy in front of some guy’s house and you have to count on the fringe kook right wing blogs, like this one, to see it treated as anything more remarkable than a routine news oddity tidbit, like a giant spider snacking on a bird.

It isn’t that the right wing sucks at broadcasting the “That’s Deplorable!!!” sound bite. The problem is with models of thought. That just isn’t how the right wing thinks about things. It’s better equipped to deal with real life, in a world filled with spiders eating birds, killer whales biting seals in half, lionesses stripping planks of bloody flesh off of captured antelopes while they’re still alive, and islamic militant fundamentalist jackholes shooting schoolgirls while they run out of burning buildings.

You cope in a world such as this, by reacting, logically, to such instances of barbarism. To find something to be repugant to your personal value system and then just go around announcing it loudly, to hopefully win recruits…really doesn’t accomplish very much. Especially when you’re doing it to bolster an argument that you shouldn’t be doing anything about anything — that’s when it becomes glaringly unhelpful.

Pretentious Snobbery Versus Common Sense

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Dr. Melissa Clouthier dares — dares! — to make a distinction between the two.

Sarah Palin inspires vitriol for many reasons among the smug knobby-headed class. The latest unguarded moment came courtesy David Brooks who called Sarah Palin a “cancer on the party” to a group of writers from The Atlantic. (As AllahPundit points out, this outburst is a lot like Peggy Noonan’s opinion, also caught in an unguarded moment. And, of course, it differs little from Barack Obama’s “gun clinging” comment.)

Why do they dislike her so?

1. Her state school education and path to power devalues the elite’s Harvard training.
2. She’s homespun. Intellectuals despise homespun. They prefer the calculated indifference they’ve worked so hard to master over the years.
Red Sonja Palin3. Sarah doesn’t seem to care what they think. Perhaps her most grievous error is that she just doesn’t give a moose turd what David Brooks thinks. Everyone should care what David Brooks thinks. And Peggy Noonan. And the rest of the obnoxious snobs.

Here’s the thing, for those in the elite class, who go to parties and hang in social circles, they spend their time telling themselves a story: the story is that middle America is consumed with the provincial and that the provincial is horrible. It doesn’t occur to them that middle Americans have the same concerns and often discuss some of the same things as the elites, but that middle Americans have what is called a life which gives them a context in which to put these fancy-pants ideals. Many theories sound good in theory, but the small business people, and white and blue collar blokes have to actually live with the consequences of these theories know how they affect life practically.

What she’s talking about is What Is A Liberal? Part One. It’s Yin and Yang stuff. Before I connect that all together, take a look at what Melissa has to say a bit further down…

When a person has spent his whole life living theoretically, a person who lives real makes him feel insecure. The DC elites are no different than the actors in Hollywood. No wonder they all pal around together. At a certain point, their lack of concrete contributions and endless pontifications sounds hollow and empty. They want their lives to have meaning so they inflate their contributions in their own minds. No one dissuades them of the notion because they hang around people just like them.

Here’s a great example.

The oil companies are gouging us. You can tell they’re gouging us because these two gas stations representing two completely different companies are across the street from each other; the same night one of them raises the price from 3.929 premium to 4.199 premium, the other one raises it from 3.939 to 4.189. The same amount, more-or-less, to the same new price, more-or-less, within the same hour, more-or-less. Obviously there’s a conspiracy at work.

So let’s raise their taxes through the freakin’ roof.

If you live in the real world, you live in a world of cause-and-effect. A world of “butterfly effects.” And so, as ticked off as you may be at the oil companies, and as much as you believe in that kind of conspiracy, you still can’t get behind this because it’s ridiculous to think we’ll make it artificially expensive to peddle some product, and as a result, the price of that product will come DOWN.

So if you’re Yin, you may feel anger like anybody else, but you get over it. You live in a world of IF…THEN. The Yang live in a world of protocol. “S’poseda.” You’re s’poseda cut your carbon emissions. You’re s’poseda behave humbly so the rest of the world likes us more.

The decision-making is always externalized to someone else. And that “someone else” is always some vague, non-corporeal, undefinable entity. “Them.” “The People.” “Everybody.” “Us.” “Out There.” You dare to make this distinction, after awhile you see this everywhere. I see it in this Charles Gibson interview with The Messiah — Gibson explicitly asks him “what will you do different from what the current administration is doing now” (or some such)…and here comes the reply. The People have lost confidence. It’s always someone else making the decision that matters.

People who populate this whole other world, have good reason to be jealous. Once they own a task, a task that depends on real decisions being made by an individual who’s directly responsible for how things turn out — they’re lost. And they know it. They’ve spent too much of their lives living theoretically…spooning out the right answers to please others. Ignoring cause and effect.

There are some social skills involved in this. It is a certain brand of “smarts.” In a way. But it’s not the right kind of smarts to build anything; at least, not anything new. It certainly isn’t the kind of smarts compatible with “Change We Can Believe In.”

I remember one of my less-inspiring old bosses who was opposed to my retaining the title of “Senior Network Systems Engineer.” His argument was that the title of “engineer” was something like the title of “doctor.” You should have a certificate from somewhere, with a serial number on it, and a licensing board ready to pull it if you screw something up.

I can certainly see the logic involved in that. But I see a problem with it as well, because this isn’t something that’s based on the IF…THEN that engineering is all about. Such a rule is based on convention and protocol. Technology, people forget often, is the direct opposite of protocol. It is directly antithetical to doing things the way you’re “s’poseda” do them. Because if you’re always doing something the way someone else has decided you’re supposed to do them, how are you ever going to build anything new?

And yeah, that’s why we have this rage at Sarah Palin. It isn’t the traipsing around out there hunting moose and field-dressing the carcass. It’s knowing how to do it — and to find your way back, using only a compass. Melissa hit the nail right on the head. These people have lived their entire lives “living theoretically.” S’poseda, s’poseda, s’poseda. Deep down, they know this is not how things are built. This isn’t how anything was invented or discovered or provided, that we have today, that we use. It’s how you go about copying something somebody else has said or done.

They understand this difference deep down, themselves, without anyone else pointing it out. And so they find Sarah Palin threatening. But Barack Obama doesn’t threaten them one little bit. He’s plugged into the same collective power-structure, so he’s guaranteed to never show that anything is flawed, wrong or weak about it.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Boortz on McCain’s Suspension

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Yup, I’m pretty much gonna have to go ahead and agree with every word.

This is what bugs me about McCain. As a person, I’m sure he’s an honest, truthful fellow. But in politics, he seems to suffer from the kind of tone-deafness that only burdens those who have neglected to think out their positions according to true principles. I see it in quite a few things he does…the global warming thing…the offshore drilling flip-flop…he simply doesn’t live in a world of cause and effect, except inside the beltway. His if-then thinking isn’t quite so much “IF we increase taxes over here, THEN people will stop spending money over there” — but rather — “IF my position changes over here, THEN that guy over there will support me.”

What that all boils down to is he’s pure-bred Yang; atrophied to true if/then thinking, compensating for it by honing his skills at figuring out where the crowd’s headed, and beating ‘em there. Not like just any politician. But using it as a substitute for true, critical thinking.

Well, even dedicated, energetic, intelligent Yang screw up pretty often in that department. It’s really something to watch, not unlike seeing a cat walk along the rim of a full bathtub and accidentally fall in. I think we just saw it happen. McCain’s plan is based on the notion that we’re all supposed to think a certain thing about him when we see him do this. It fails to take into account that it’s up to each man to make up his own mind in the confined space between his own ears. And, embarrassingly, it seems to fail to take into account that left-wingers will screech their talking points at us the entire time.

He really should know better.

Boortz’ comments follow…

“MCCAIN WANTS A TIME OUT”

At least that is what liberal websites like the Huffington Post are calling it. As of this morning, John McCain has suspended his presidential campaign in order to focus on the economy. Here’s a taste of the press release …

“I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me.

I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.

We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.”

Obama’s reaction? “The debate is on.”

The first response from the liberal media … McCain is doing this because he doesn’t like the way his campaign is going. The Politico says, “in terms of the timing of this move: The only thing that’s changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling.”

And just in case you give a flying Frisbee what I’m thinking … I think this is a campaign ploy that went wrong. McCain wanted to look presidential. He wanted to show the voters that he would put aside the frivolity of campaigning when there was honest-to-goodness work to be done in Washington. Trouble is, the Obama campaign and the media are all to eager to remind the voters that it was McCain who said that he wasn’t all that up-to-speed on matters economic. I can hear the leftist chattocracy now: “McCain knew that this debate would move into economic matters, and he didn’t feel prepared to address them.”

Sorry … but not a good move.

Individualism and Collectivism

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Thanks to JohnJ for pointing out this excellent series to me in an off-line.

Yin and Yang XII

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Fey and PoehlerLost amidst all the hubbub about what a perfect-ten skit opened last weekend’s Saturday Night Live — by the way, I’d characterize it as a “well above par nine,” but who’s counting — was a far more poignant commentary about forty-five minutes in (counting commercial breaks). It was during the Weekend Update segment, when Amy Poehler was interviewing “Alaska Pete,” a clumsy caricature of the slobbering Palin fan…like me.

Not to worry, I took it in good humor. I just thought this exchange was interesting. The Manhattan crowd, you’ll be pleased to know, has finally come up with a sound bite to answer this Fred Thompson thing about field-dressing a moose. It’s a rhetorical question.

Alaska Pete: Yeah, she’s gonna be the best Vice President in history. She’s a flip! That woman can field dress a moose!

Amy Poehler: What does that have to do with being Vice President?

Awesome! That’s what the election is all about. It cuts to the very heart of Sarah Palin’s weakness as a candidate. It highlights her irrelevancy. And best of all, it can’t be answered!

Actually, it can. Ms. Poehler, I’d like to field this one if you don’t mind. Nobody ever reads my blog, of course, but over here we’ve discussed this many-a-time — here, here, here, here, here, here and here. And before that we picked it to death here, here, here and here.

It is Yin and Yang. Which could be thought of as a derivative offshoot of Carl Jung’s introverts and extraverts. Except it’s not the same thing.

Recall that an introvert is someone who is quiet, reserved, thoughtful, and self-reliant whereas the term “extravert” is used to refer to people who are are often leaders, work well in groups, and prefer being with others to being alone.

Yin and Yang is slightly different from that. The best way to describe it is in term of effort; lifetime effort. Introversion and extraversion are states — Yin and Yang are activities. They refer to the wrinkles we carve in our brains, womb-to-tomb, as we take on life’s little challenges in the manner we have conditioned ourselves to think.

You can certainly be a Yin and at the same time be an extravert. Sarah Palin herself may very well be an excellent example of this. I can’t state that for certain without getting to know the lady and spending a great deal of time around her, something that isn’t likely to happen. One of the things I’ve noticed about these people is that the more intelligent they are, the harder it is to figure out whether they’re Yin or Yang, even if their inclinations are running very strong under the surface. But from what little I’ve seen, Palin seems to be strongly extraverted.

Extravert or not, however, Sarah Palin is definitely a Yin. And the nation is hungry for Yin in their leadership positions. Field dressing a moose, to answer Poehler’s question, exemplifies the very definition of Yin because you can’t do any field dressing until you have a body to dress.

This also explains why there is so much anger at Gov. Palin for coming as far as she has as quickly as she has. What she’s done is beat super-Yang Barack Obama at his very own game. This term “natural born leader” that is so often affixed to the Yang, is actually a myth. It’s really there only to make them feel good. Leaders decide things. They do not depend on others to decide things.

And here’s the definition of the Yin. It is an individual to whom it comes as second-nature to conduct this intellectual task of translating facts into opinions about what’s goin’ on, and opinions about what’s goin’ on into other opinions about what to do. The Yang, on the other hand, possess superior aptitudes that have to do with figuring out what a roomful of people are (is) thinking…and then articulating that consensus, eloquently and with confident command, before anybody else does.

They often end up in charge of things. That’s why groups of people don’t excel at making good decisions. Too often, they are commanded by someone whose lifelong pursuits involve running to the front of this or that parade…after they figure out where it’s going. It’s a rather glittery, gaudy and empty form of leadership.

The big elephant in the room is that the Yang don’t really want to run anything. They aren’t self-sufficient. The personality of a Yang is the culmination of a lifetime spent eluding Rumspringen — this is what leads to the extraverted behavior. It isn’t so much that in solitude they are lonely, although there may be some of that; instead, it’s that in solitude they lose their cognitive ability. Their methods of deciding what to do have to do with resonating emotionally with those around them. And that includes Barack Obama. They want the identity that comes from having one’s name in a box at the head of an org chart, but getting stuck with a decision that might turn out to be rotten later on, really puts ‘em off. A new “Dilbert” cartoon is born every time they figure out how to grab the credit for making one of these decisions, without being bogged down by the associated blame should it turn out to be wrong.

That, Ms. Poehler, is what field dressing a moose has to do with executive authority at the top of this nation’s government. I’m unacquainted with moose hunting myself, but it isn’t too hard to guess: Perceiving, molding, shaping and commanding a group consensus doesn’t do you an awful lot of good out there.

Palin!This is powerful, because it transcends liberal-versus-conservative. It’s even more powerful than that other issue of which party is going to elect the first woman President in our nation’s history. We need some real leadership; people who know right from wrong, not just talk a good game about it. We don’t need more “articulate” people, regardless of their skin color. We have a rich history, as it is, of confusing real leadership with gift-of-gab. Maybe, just maybe, we’re growing out of it now. Maybe we’re starting to realize that we don’t need better salesmen.

After all, a good salesman is something you need if the thing you’re trying to sell is a piece of junk.

A good thinker, on the other hand, is something you need when there are decisions to be made, and they’re important. Our ivory-tower blue-staters will go to quite a few lengths to avoid admitting this…but fishing and hunting takes real brains. Not just talk-a-good-game brains, laughey-talkey-jokey brains, but figger-out-what-to-do brains.

So with that in mind, the nation turns it’s lonely eyes to someone who’s clearly better practiced in making good decisions, than in ducking the blame after making poor ones.

Thing I Know #110. Everyone’s willing to bet an unlimited measure of resources from a company, corporation, committee, council, organization or club, that the “smartest guy in the room” really is the smartest guy in the room. Because of that, the smartest guy’s ideas usually go unopposed. I have noticed it’s extremely rare that anyone, anywhere, would bet one dime of their personal fortune that he’s really that smart. This may explain why some of the best decisions I’ve seen, were made outside of conference rooms.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Rumspringen

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Me, eleven months ago, trailing off on a new train of thought after pondering Barack Obama’s Social Security plan:

I’ve written probably tens of thousands of words, in this blog alone, about the Yin and Yang theory which says mature humans have exactly two fundamentally different ways of accumulating the aptitudes necessary to come to what passes for maturity, and end up spending their entire lives in two different villages, trying to communicate across a monstrous chasm with the other half. You know what inspired the Yin and Yang theory to begin with? Yeah, it had something to do with a string of Yang-y ex-girlfriends and ex-wives…that was the personal side of it. But the public-issue side of it was Social Security.

We can’t fix it, you see. Not to the satisfaction of everybody. It is viewed in two fundamentally different ways. When we talk about whether or not it was an experiment that we should have attempted in the first place, we discuss it in the terms under which it was marketed to the Yin: As a retirement vehicle. You get out of it what you pay into it, not one penny more. And supposedly, nobody’s scamming anybody else out of anything through this noble system, since they only recoup their “investments.”

And then when it comes time for us to make good on that promise we made to ourselves, we tend to get all Yang-y. Yes, people can get out of it what they put into it, plus a whole lot more…assuming they put anything in to begin with, which maybe they didn’t. And that’s perfectly alright. It’s all about the “social justice”…Comrade.

And that’s the whole point of this Yin and Yang wall. Most fractious episodes of the human condition seem to occur when the two halves come into contact with each other; when someone who believes in personal responsibility, comes into proximity with someone else who does not.

Over at Rick’s blog, Mommynator is having similar thoughts about the democrat national convention:

…somehow, my mind went to the Amish idea of Rumspringen – where they allow their 16-year-olds about a year of secret rebellion – dress like worldly teens, listen to the music, go out and get drunk or stoned, whatever, and at the end of that year, each young man or woman decides whether to stay in Amish society or leave. There was a reality show based on that a couple of years ago and it was very interesting.

We are in the television age of reality TV. Most of it is dreck, but there have been some interesting experiments. So let’s take it to the next level.

The synapses fired again and I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to take an assortment of these folks and drop them in the middle of nowhere with minimal resources and let them live out their dystopian dreams?

And I couldn’t resist entering the comment…

The ultimate irony to this is the denizens of the state of mind that is Rumspringen, in order to matter, have to take on a celebratory mood regarding their chosen lifestyle. And in celebrating their chosen lifestyle, what they’re really celebrating is that it is possible for them to be this way — that they have not been dropped in the middle of nowhere to face Darwin’s cleansing fire. And when they celebrate that, what they’re really celebrating is all the other folks; for their chosen lifestyle is parasitic.

That’s the real danger to our society. We have reached such a dizzyingly high level of comfort in our modern society, that our parasites are allowed to act, without consequence, like hosts; and they are allowed to treat, without consequence, the real hosts as if they’re the parasites.

The most disgusting, reprehensible, provable lie told in politics today, is that people on the ideological left are in favor of setting up systems and policies “for everybody.” That is not what they want; it is not even what they openly discuss. What they really want is to build a virtual Yin and Yang wall by getting rid of the Yin, and making everybody Yang. Absolutely everybody. Until nobody has a lifestyle or a livelihood that is not dependent on everybody else. Nor does anybody have an education that is not connected to and made possible by everybody else. Until every thought anybody has in their head, anywhere — except for the dictators in their ivory towers — is formed socially, by process of elimination, all the “bad thoughts” chiseled away by social stigma and political correctness.

Nobody has a gun, nobody is taught in childhood how to use one, nobody knows where the sustenance came from when they buy a shrink-wrapped package of food in the supermarket.

What they don’t want to discuss is that such a human condition would be conducive to — and made possible by — a complete and total loss of independence.

On the way down that road, our young people naturally experience pangs of pain as they come to a drunken, sluggard awareness of what natural aptitudes they’re forcefully ejecting from their psyches. And so we have freak shows like what’s going on in Denver right now, to help renew the anesthesia.

Mommynator’s word fits the situation. And it fits well. Except, of course, as she pointed out there is one gap…the real Rumspringen is designed to come to a close. The other frenzy she seeks to describe, is simply a prelude to something much bigger.

Yang Frustration

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

Every now and then, those who interact with the world by feel, learn that some among us interact with the world by thought. And man, does it ever honk them off something fierce. We’re all supposed to be touchy-feely, don’t we know that? What’s wrong with us?

If Obama Loses
By Jacob Weisberg

What with the Bush legacy of reckless war and economic mismanagement, 2008 is a year that favors the generic Democratic candidate over the generic Republican one. Yet Barack Obama, with every natural and structural advantage in the presidential race, is running only neck-and-neck against John McCain, a sub-par Republican nominee with a list of liabilities longer than a Joe Biden monologue. Obama has built a crack political operation, raised record sums, and inspired millions with his eloquence and vision. McCain has struggled with a fractious campaign team, lacks clarity and discipline, and remains a stranger to charisma. Yet at the moment, the two of them appear to be tied. What gives?

Charisma…pffft.

Wait, wait…Weisberg is not completely mystified about this. He does have an answer in mind. And it isn’t just “charisma.”

If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn’t ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters. He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.

I’m not going to directly deal with this.

I don’t have to.

Racism Still ExistsCold Fury already did such a good job, nobody else need bother.

Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. Couldn’t possibly be his extreme-Left position on, basically, everything; his insistence on comparing America unfavorably with various communist tyrannies; his obvious disdain for “bitter” Americans who still knavishly “cling” to guns and religion because they’re just too thick to grasp the inherent superiority of Eurolite socialism; his decades-long chumminess with unrepentant domestic terrorists and America-hating bigots, and his maladroit lies about those associations; his naive desire to hold diplomatic sit-downs with enemies such as Iran, who have repeatedly and unequivocally made their disinterest in same clearly known; his eagerness to return to the long-failed criminal-justice approach to thwarting global, state-sponsored Islamic terrorism; his complete lack of experience and accomplishment; his callow attempts at subverting the sitting president with wholly inappropriate missions to terrorist entities like Syria and Hamas, as if he were already president himself; his record of corruption during his tenure as an all-too-typical cog in the Chicago Dem machine; his misrepresentation of himself as an agent of some nebulous and phantasmagorical Change in Washington, when his meager record shows no such inclination; his ever-malleable and written-in-quicksand positions on too many topics to even bother listing; his total ignorance of how a free-market economy actually works; his determination to turn the American health care system into a government-run morass of inefficiency, ineptness, and inhumanity; in short, it couldn’t possibly be the direct result of exactly who and what he is being slowly revealed to an electorate that heretofore knew very little about him — and had no reason to, since those salient facts have been carefully concealed up till now by meaningless HopeyChangey platitudes and an establishment media cohort wholly complicit in obscuring them…lately by crying “racism” anytime McCain has the temerity to actually contest the election.

You know, some who work through their lives by feeling (the “Yang”) are a bit more inclined to vote Republican. Not many, but some. So when you market just that way, you’re bound to miss out on a few folks.

And some who live in the world by means of thinking (the “Yin”) could possibly be persuaded to vote for the Obiden ticket if given half a chance.

But left-wing moonbats don’t communicate by thinking because they don’t think it’s trendy. Everything is charisma, charisma, charisma…”real deal”…”hope”…”change.”

Perhaps that’s why, out of the last seven presidential elections, democrats have only won two of ‘em. Even if you hadn’t studied their ideas, you’d still have to wonder about them huh? How good can an idea be, when, after the time comes to start selling it, all you can do is talk about how good it makes people feel — knowing that some among your intended audience, are hungry for a better sales pitch than that?

H/T: Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

For the uninitiated, “Yin” and “Yang” have special meaning here. We’ve written about it many times, within this category here. It is the reason democrats lose elections; an unstated part of their platform is that everyone must be Yang, and the Yin need to go away. But darn us, we keep voting.

Feeling gets you in trouble with thinking. Weisberg just proved it. It’s Confirmation Bias in one of its purest forms. Just look at what we have going on here:

IF OBAMA WINS…it just goes to show his incredible awesomeness and his wonderfulness and proves how McCain sucks so much.
IF MCCAIN WINS…we’re just a bunch of goddamned racists. Which, in turn, proves how correct Obama is about how much we suck. Just before he reminds us we can’t question his love of the country.

Can’t lose!

As you might suspect, these pure-Yang people who support the Obamessiah, solve very few, or none, of their own problems in life.

H/T to Warner Todd Huston via Stop The ACLU, for the Chris Britt cartoon.

A Post of its Own…on English

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Wow. A post of its own, huh?

My rhetorical question, to BroKen, after babbling away generous quantities of my material at him in response to his question:

Help me with your last paragraph. What is the difference between “messing around with packaging” (not substance) and being shallow? I’m not saying that bi-lingual people are necessarily deep thinkers either. But knowing another language does give opportunities. The economic and social opportunities are obvious. But it does bring opportunities for deep thinking, too. If people don’t use them, well, as you say, it is easier to fake intelligence than to have it.

Said last paragraph being:

My point is not that multi-language students are shallow. I’m simply pointing out that these are different brands of intelligence. One type of intelligence concerns itself with substance, and one type messes around with packaging.

And my response was — deep breath now:

It gets into the Yin and Yang theory. These disappointments I had with the Esperanto kids, in which I was told (or it was implied to me) they were super-bright kids burning the candles at all ends…and then, when I queried them about pressing school problems, in solitude, I discovered they lacked comprehension. I offered the example of trig, because it is rich in conceptual challenge. Process & procedure will not get you all the way there with trig. The teacher can say “step one, measure the distance of the hypotenuse; step two, find the angle; step three, refer to your chart, the one that says “cosine”; find the angle; set up your division equation.” Once you are walked through those steps, in fact, once you show absolute mastery at those steps — how prepared are you to conquer trigonometric math? Not at all, right? Hence my shock at finding these kids didn’t understand the concepts.

Penguin LogicWhat they had been trained to do, was: Once an idea was formed by others, find a way to express it to maximum effect. Sen. Obama, in essence, is a product of this kind of education — the kind that presume[s] an expressive child must, out of necessity, be an intelligent child, and vice-versa. What keeps those systems functioning is a sort of penguin logic. Remember the penguin cartoon that shows [...I make reference to the cartoon to the right]…The logical construct might be shown as “bright kids are in Esperanto, therefore kids in Esperanto are bright” — the un[i]versality of giftedness in the ability to express, ends up being just the garnish that makes this appealing. But the teachers get what they want out of it, which is another radial joint in the vicious cycle of politics. The kids are thought to be intelligent, and so the teacher identifies with the kids and starts to mentor them; the kids do well (are able to answer the test questions); the teacher is lauded for teaching the kids. And it all has the appearance of an effective teaching job being done.

But there’s more than one way to trip up most of these kids. You needn’t rely on trig. In fact, the Mensa test is constructed for the purpose of passing only the kids who can both formulate and express ideas. So you get questions like “if all freeps are glorgs and all glorgs are nimps, what is the relationship between freeps and nimps?” The question is isolated from the field of expressive talent, because “freep” “glorg” and “nimp” are all nonsensical words — so any test subject whose conceptual acumen is interwoven with his ability to express, will be derailed. He’ll need to understand what those things are, before he can proceed (or else re-wire his thinking on the spot).

But, if I dare say so myself, I think my cup analogy is the Pièce de résistance.

I would compare it to washing a cup. Every idea, like a cup, has an inside and an outside. These are different surfaces; our folly in communication is that the merit, or lack thereof, of each idea is determined by the inside. How it is communicated, and this includes how it is taught & learned in the class, is determined by what is on the outside. Like sonofsheldon said, “Teachers aren’t trained to teach in the ways that some students learn.” Teachers are like dishwashers who wash dishes by hand, and in inspecting their own work, tend to only look at the outside. And so the whole foreign-language thing, to my way of thinking, tends to offer the outside-washers the idea they have achieved some teaching work that they haven’t really achieved. And that would be my explanation as to why so many of the second-language kids couldn’t do trig. If I polled them all, I’m sure I could’ve found some very bright ones who could. All I’m saying, really, is that it’s a little unsettling to see a plurality of kids thought of as “geniuses” who can’t do this basic work, because they can’t conceptually handle it, and I think that should be of concern to somebody before we start talking about the virtues of all kids being taught Spanish as a second language.

Best Sentence XXXII

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

Today’s Best Sentence I’ve Heard or Read Lately (BSIHORL) award goes to sonofsheldon, commenting on why we have so many kids in special ed lately…

Teachers aren’t trained to teach in the ways that some students learn.

It’s a Yin and Yang thing. When they’re at the elementary grade school levels, The Yang cram their heads so full of ways of achieving the desired level of collaboration with others — teachers, parents, peers, et al — that they don’t leave much room for retention of subject matter. Ask ‘em a week after the test to recite the times-table, usually they give you a blank stare. The Yin, on the other hand, cram their heads so full of whatever titillates the left-brain…which could be the subject matter being studied, but is usually some super-special personal project…that they don’t leave enough room for the social programming that is necessary for getting along with others.

A balance would be a good solution. The one we’ve picked, though, is the easiest one, and the furthest thing from a balance: We put the Yang in charge of everything, re-defined their ways of interacting with the reality as “normal,” and relegated the Yin to the dustbin of special ed. Everything we can possibly do the Yang way, we do that way. It’s so easy to do, and comes so naturally. You can’t shut ‘em up, so you might as well do what they want.

A kid who’s “ready” to skip a grade, rich in academic achievements but lacking in social skills, will be held back. But another kid who is altogether lacking in spelling-n-math ability, and at the same time a jibber-jabbering powerhouse of nonstop social interaction, has a much better chance.

I’m sorry. If you can’t see there’s something busted about that, yer just plain nuts.

Nice Guys Sleep Alone

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Via Karol, confirmation of what you already knew, although quite a few folks have been telling you the opposite, or something calculated to slow your absorption of reality’s lessons. Females especially…Karol included.

NICE guys knew it, now two studies have confirmed it: bad boys get the most girls. The finding may help explain why a nasty suite of antisocial personality traits known as the “dark triad” persists in the human population, despite their potentially grave cultural costs.

The traits are the self-obsession of narcissism; the impulsive, thrill-seeking and callous behaviour of psychopaths; and the deceitful and exploitative nature of Machiavellianism. At their extreme, these traits would be highly detrimental for life in traditional human societies. People with these personalities risk being shunned by others and shut out of relationships, leaving them without a mate, hungry and vulnerable to predators.

But being just slightly evil could have an upside: a prolific sex life, says Peter Jonason at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. “We have some evidence that the three traits are really the same thing and may represent a successful evolutionary strategy.”

When the article says “nice guys knew it,” I expect what it’s talking about is the same personal experience all us guys have had at one time or another. You give some attention to a cute girl and you think it’s reciprocated. Maybe you actually go out with her a time or two. Then you find out your rival for her affects gets more affection…then more…then more…and pretty soon, she isn’t returning your calls. Meanwhile, he’s treating her like dirt. He doesn’t know she exists, she doesn’t know you exist.

And then your momma and your sister and your ex-girlfriend and every single other female you know, comments knowingly on it as if it’s an isolate incident. But in the years that follow, you learn it isn’t. And all the other guys you know, seem to have the same story. Huh. It’s like reading the National Enquirer — everybody refuses to buy it, only glimpsing at the cover while waiting in line to pay for groceries, but someone must be buying the damn thing, right?

Jonason and his colleagues subjected 200 college students to personality tests designed to rank them for each of the dark triad traits. They also asked about their attitudes to sexual relationships and about their sex lives, including how many partners they’d had and whether they were seeking brief affairs.

The study found that those who scored higher on the dark triad personality traits tended to have more partners and more desire for short-term relationships, Jonason reported at the Human Behavior and Evolution Society meeting in Kyoto, Japan, earlier this month. But the correlation only held in males. [emphasis mine]

I have a few ideas about this. They all blame the ladies. But that’s fair, isn’t it? Someone’s making the decision about whether these guys do or do not get some.

First of all, women tire quickly from having to make all the decisions, and with only a moderate level of experience, that’s exactly what a well-mannered gentleman is going to force them to do. It’s quite a simple thing to offer the time-honored advice, “Take charge!” But then what? You take her out someplace, there’s a choice to be made, and then the fella makes the choice so that his lady doesn’t have to. That gives rise to the possibility that maybe she would have preferred something else. So he asks, right? Just to make sure?

How far does he take that? If he checks with her about every little thing, he’s essentially placing the burden on her to choose everything. Feminism or no, women find that exhausting. Partly because it customizes every single choice to be made, with the profile of the woman’s preferences; partly because it deprives every choice to be made of the emotional imprint of of the man.

Simply put, such a considerate gentleman removes his unique signature, incrementally, until there is nothing left. At that point, she might as well be with someone else.

So of course she’ll be more attracted to the guy who doesn’t check. His list of preferences may not be the one that she would have picked, but at least it’s there. This is a metaphor for what takes place inside, after the genes have been spliced. She has an evolutionary instinct to look for the patriarch who will leave the most indelible signature.

I have another theory, inspired by the comment about “the three traits are really the same thing.”

What Jonason has discovered, I think, is what we’ve been exploring in these pages under the Yin and Yang theory. The Yang enter into a two-directional pact with those around them, benevolently manipulating others and at the same time, being manipulated. The Yin abstain from this, usually because they’ve been discouraged from it during childhood development by a lack of success — they’re what you’d call “nerds.”

Because of this natural emotional resonance that can only be developed from an early age, the Yang are more approachable even though they may be so manipulative as to qualify for the first trait in this triad, the narcissism. You see this in all kinds of people, men and women alike, who tend to obsess over “feelings” — they obsess, without thinking too much about it, about their feelings. The feelings of others usually don’t factor into it too much, and at that point you’ve reached the very definition of narcissism, and you’ve fleshed out much of the definition of the second trait as well — the psychopathic behavior.

So that’s two strikes in favor of the Yang; you have the easygoing emotional resonance, and you have the drive to get What I Want. It’s an intoxicating combination for the woman who isn’t consciously trying to avoid it (which, giving Karol the benefit of the doubt, is probably her).

The article closes with an interesting dissent:

“They still have to explain why it hasn’t spread to everyone,” says Matthew Keller of the University of Colorado in Boulder. “There must be some cost of the traits.” One possibility, both Keller and Jonason suggest, is that the strategy is most successful when dark triad personalities are rare. Otherwise, others would become more wary and guarded.

Yes, that’s my thinking as well. If everyone possesses this triad in abundance, the social order breaks down.

Another thing to consider is that society itself can’t continue if everyone’s a narcissist, psychopath and Machiavellian genius. You’ve got to have your celibate Teslas, so that things get built. Sure, an advanced society builds great things when there’s an egotist around to build them; there are very few Federation Starships being constructed “for the common good.” That’s what the Yin are for — they’re the egotists. But egotism is a completely different thing from narcissism. Narcissism tends to pull the trick involving Tom Sawyer and the whitewashed fence, and trick others into doing the work. And over the long haul, nothing really gets built that way, therefore society can’t endure.

Like the doctors said in Jurassic Park: Life will find a way. And that, in my theory-notebook, is why we’re still here and why we still have both kinds. And always will.

Yin and Yang XI

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Last weekend, I had noted a very special morsel that had made it’s way into the editorial pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. Mark Morford had wondered if Barack Obama was an “enlightened being” and used a special term to describe him, a “lightworker”:

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment.

I had wondered if this Morford guy had been tapping into the Yin and Yang archives over here at the Blog That Nobody Reads. Well, it seems this was not the case. And I should have seen that coming, because Morford’s whole point is that it is exceedingly rare for a Lightworker to become a politician. Had he been talking about the Yang, as I thought, that observation probably would not have been made because politics is the most naturally Yang-y pastime or profession modern man has ever devised.

So Morford was clearly alluding to some way-of-communicating that had to do with giving off a “natural vibe,” some special quality that exists outside the purely verbal path of communication. Yet Morford himself does not seem to fully comprehend what it is. Which probably means he didn’t come up with this on his own…he comes out and says he didn’t. So where’d he get this? He says “many spiritually advanced people I know.” Who are those folks, and what do they have in mind?

A couple days later, via Ace, via DoublePlusUndead, we learned of Mrs. Peel who has figured out the genesis of this Lightworker stuff…or seems to have, anyway.

Mrs. Peel points to a fascinating fellow by the name of Steve Pavlina, self-help guru, motivational speaker, and former developer of shareware games. DP Undead later expounds on the idea with some additional research. Near as I can figure, the first epiphany goes to Peel…

[Pavlina] starts by asking if you are a lightworker or a darkworker. This post gives an explanation of “polarity.” Basically, you should choose either to serve others or to serve yourself, and dedicate yourself fully to your choice. Only thus will you attain the true heights to which you are destined, young Skywalker…er…

Anyway, a later article discusses lightworkers and defines them as cells in the body of Christ “Source.” (He doesn’t actually mention “Source” in this particular article, but it’s mentioned in other posts. It’s basically God, but Pavlina is much too enlightened to believe in God, so he has to call Him something else.) A lightworker is like a white blood cell. It seeks out sickness in the body of humanity and tries to heal it. A darkworker is like a cancer. It feeds off other cells to gain more power. In this article, Pavlina theorizes that because so many darkworkers are in power now (he doesn’t actually name President Bush, but it’s pretty obvious from this and other articles that that’s who he means), many people are feeling the call to become lightworkers. The body of humanity is diseased, and lightworkers must fight the disease.

Well if Morford did indeed copy his comments from this, he could not also have borrowed the concept from Yin and Yang; or if he did consolidate the two of them somehow, the concepts must have gone whistling over his head. What Pavlina describes isn’t even close to what originated on these pages…

Are You a Lightworker or a Darkworker?

Asking this question is like asking whether you’re a black belt in karate or jujitsu. Most likely you are neither, since most people never make such a commitment in their entire lives. Lightworkers and darkworkers combined probably account for less than 1% of the population. [emphasis mine]

Yin-and-Yang, contrasted with the above, maintains the opposite. Once the two extremes are defined, most of us are situated on one or the other. It is the no-man’s-land in between that is sparsely populated, and would account for a freakishly picayune sub-selection from amongst us. The rest of us are sitting on some extreme wingtip, or are headed in that direction. Yin-and-Yang, you might say, theorizes that we are “polarized” at birth or shortly afterward.

It would take a phenomenal expenditure of energy and concentration to avoid being a Yin or a Yang, because whenever you are met with a “complex” challenge you are forced to choose a method for solving it. And before you’ve labored toward the solution, you’ve begun to solidify further your allegiance toward one extreme or the other. Quoting myself in Installment Ten:

People are confronted by complex problems, and they solve those problems in a Yin way, or a Yang way. The mold they have cast for their personal development, since childhood, will determine which of these two methods they will use.

The “complex” problem is complex because…

1. The nature of it demands a multiple-step plan;
2. There is no pre-packaged solution available that can be implemented with the resources at hand;
3. It is determined that any proposed solution, will involve some level of uncertainty and risk.

And you can resolve this by drawing on the energy and consciousnesses of those in proximity, or relying on your internal cognitive resources. One or the other. So it’s intellectually non-feasible to maintain a middle ground here. You’d have to keep track…okay, last time I relied on others…this time I’ll figure it out for myself…now, last time I relied on myself so this time I’ll collaborate with others.

That’s not viable because we have an instinct to develop, maintain and augment the talents that are of greatest use to us. No, what Pavlina is describing is something different. It’s a bell curve. Ninety-nine percent of us hang around the middle, and the majority of them are in the center, the “Big Middle.” The one percent that remains…maybe less than that…”polarizes.”

What does it mean to polarize?

When you decide to polarize, you’re making a commitment to living a certain type of life. It is similar to making a commitment to a particular field that takes a long time to master, such as training for the Olympics, becoming a concert pianist, or becoming a grandmaster at chess. You aren’t just going to wake up one day to discover that…oh yeah…you’re a 10th degree black belt, nor will you suddenly wake up and realize you’re a lightworker or a darkworker. Polarizing as a lightworker or darkworker is a huge long-term commitment. It doesn’t just happen by itself in a flash of insight.

The decision to polarize is a decision you make with every fiber of your being. For some people it may be a natural choice, felt as a type of calling. Others have to spend a lot of time exploring both polarities to make the polarization commitment very consciously and deliberately. But most people never polarize.

If you polarize as a lightworker, you are dedicating your life to serving the greater good.

If you polarize as a darkworker, you are dedicating your life to serving yourself.

TooheySo Pavlina is sort of an Ellsworth M. Toohey, perhaps with more benevolent intentions, but with the same credo. Harmony and symbiosis with the common good, is good; selfishness is toxic and bad. The ego, therefore, becomes a cauldron of poison and evil.

I’m humbled and intrigued that Pavlina and I have come up with two theories so different, and yet, having so much in common. He used to write software; I used to write software (it seems his stuff was games, and my stuff was industrial-work automation type things, which is also interesting). I stopped and got into project management; he stopped and got into motivational speaking. He may still be writing software — I dunno — but I had my own reasons for finding different ways to earn a living, and they had a lot to do with the Yin and Yang theory. It’s credible to me that being a motivational speaker must be very different from developing software, although I’m experienced in one of those and am a complete stranger to the other. I suspect he had some kind of personal crisis similar to my own. Or it’s possible that he just appreciated the pay hike. But I strongly doubt that’s all there is to it.

Anyway, at this point in Pavlina’s theory about lightworkers and darkworkers, we run into some even more interesting things. Quoting DP Undead…

As I read this guy’s explanation of Lightworkers and Darkworkers, I realized, I’ve seen all this before! And in fact, video games may well have a role in this nonsense. I recognized this basic framework of this philosophy from a video game released for the X-BOX in 2005, called Jade Empire. I later came to the conclusion that he borrowed from a game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) which was made by the same development team before Jade Empire. Jade Empire was based heavily on KOTORs engine and gameplay.

Yes, this rings a bell. I have KOTOR — I never really could get too far into it. It’s a character development game, much like Sims. You define the attributes to your custom character and then you play. If the character customization doesn’t interest you overly much, you’ll find it a little boring. That’s why I couldn’t get into it.

DP Undead continues with Jade Empire…

In Jade Empire, you could either follow the philosophy of the Open Palm or the Closed Fist. Open Palm is a philosophy that argues one should always give aid to someone, be in tune with nature, and to know and accept one’s place in this world. Closed Fist is a philosophy that teaches self-reliance, to control one’s surroundings, and to try and be ambitious. Lightworker and Darkworker operate on similar principles. From Morford’s article,

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics.

Let me repeat Jade Empire’s Open Palm philosophy: Open Palm is a philosophy that argues one should always give aid to someone, be in tune with nature, and to know and accept one’s place in this world.

The reason you don’t see an Open Palm or Lightworker on the national stage is because philosophically speaking, they aren’t supposed to be ambitious. This is why Morford is so excited.
:
In theory, Lightworkers and Darkworkers operate on similar principles, but our guru [Pavlina] deviates and argues that true Lightworkers have no malevolent side, and Darkworkers are by their nature destructive, which as we learn is more like the concept of Jedi vs. Sith. Lightworkers work for the common good and to “raise consciousness”. Basically typical liberal hippie Marxist crap. Darkworkers are malevolent, in our guru’s world, and indeed Morford’s world, capitalist pigs, the Bushitler and Enron. He argues that both can get to the same place in terms of power, but that the Darkworker by his very nature leaves a trail of chaos and destruction in his wake, not unlike the Sith or Closed Fist. [emphasis in original]

There follows in Undead’s analysis, a procession of excerpts alternatively from Guru/Pavlina, and Morford. This is the evidence that Morford is recycling material from Pavlina, and speaking for myself I find it reasonably convincing. You be the judge.

But not before you get to the whoopass smackdown tidbit of evidence. And I promise…it is whoopass smackdown…

I thought it was a coincidence until I saw this. What is it I see? Look,

In your life story, you can choose to be the hero, the villain, or an NPC (i.e. non-player character, someone passive who watches the story unfold from the sidelines). Most people live like NPCs, but the hero and the villain have far more power to direct how the story unfolds. There are lots of heroes and lots of villains in this story, but there are orders of magnitude more NPCs.

All bold mine [DoublePlusUndead]. For those that don’t know, NPC is a term that is very common in role playing games (RPG), both of the tabletop and video game variety. If you’re not a gamer or D&Der, you’ve probably never heard these terms before. Upon seeing it, I think our guru based this stuff on KOTOR and Jade Empire! He’s selling dopey leftists like Morford a bunch of warmed over RPG themes! Talk about Darkworking!

I told you it was whoopass smackdown.

Priceless. There follows in Undead’s analysis a complete rundown of these role playing game features, complete with screenshots.

Let’s return to Yin and Yang for a second. One of the observations I made is that the Yang tend to have an instinctive compulsion to make all non-Yang more like them. They are recruiters. There can be advantages to this in certain situations, but it’s not a rational decision. Not a deeply rational one, anyway. They have the tendency to see “Yang-ness” as functionality; baseline functionality, the most elementary level required, to perform any task worth performing. Whoever doesn’t have the same PH balance is therefore defective.

In our information age this is especially tragic — because we rely on tools, indeed, multiple layers of tools, that can only be developed by the Yin. At least, with any reliability, and with any baseline threshold of quality.

I would imagine in the shareware game development field there would be, behind closed doors, some fierce culture conflicts between Yin and Yang. Games like these would involve an intensified and structured (deep but not broad) development of a capable and reliable engine — how pictures are displayed on the screen, how the players move around, how their location in a given instant is tracked, what’s absolute, what’s relative, how the hardware is interfaced to the software, etc. — an effort in which the Yin would enjoy an enormous functional advantage. This would be followed by a meandering and creative (broad but not deep) definition of the game itself. Placement of the objects which are the players, fields and obstacles. In this effort, the Yang could participate with a greater degree of influence and effect, with a favorable outcome. And then take over the lab culturally, as is their natural tendency. All non-Yang, convert or depart at once.

This is exactly the kind of thing that eventually drove me out. I found my software development skills were very much like a jet fighter with some powerful engines but with a bulky, non-aerodynamic shape. Headwind drag, you know…proportional to the square of the craft’s velocity. That’s basically what happened to me. I’d build something, it would work, I’d get promoted — and there arose a pressure to perform in a Yang capacity, a capacity in which I had never really brought too much to the table, and hadn’t pretended to have any capability for doing so.

I found myself contributing, with great effort, only marginally to some of these projects. I’d have been promoted because I had great success in some other area, an area in which I was no longer challenged. I remember vividly one example, in which a boss tasked me to figure out how to work some gizmo. And, very much like Dilbert’s boss, he’d manage step-by-step — come back in a few minutes and check up on me, with some pre-defined notion of what step I’d be on, what exactly I’d be doing, supplying mid-course corrections if that was not what I was doing. Well, waitaminnit…doesn’t “figure out how to do” something, imply an open-ended path? Unless he knew something already, that I was being paid good money to figure out, which I doubt was the case.

Nope, it’s the step-by-step approach. People like steps. I’ve learned, gradually, that people who have a habit of working according to step one step two step three, have a tendency to start looking at everything that way. They enforce it, in situations where it isn’t appropriate. Rather like assigning a taxicab driver to “find a way to get me to Brooklyn Bridge”…and then, four blocks into it…”hey, this isn’t the way!” You’ve outsourced the decision-making, or you haven’t. There are some jobs that fall into the “tying shoes” definition — they demand unshared authority. We’re sometimes slow to pick up on this. It’s just a simple human failing.

In this way, I began to find the new demands that were made of me, didn’t seem to have much to do with the actual success of the project. Challenges that were more my forte, on the other hand, were going unmet. Not only by me, but by the team as a whole. What was my major contribution? My specialties tended to be purely functional: Ordering hardware vendor interface toolkits, reading the technical documentation which was usually wrong, calling tech support, applying upgrades…getting the damn thing online. That’s what I did. There arose a prevailing viewpoint, and I never saw too much evidence to substantiate it, that this was unnecessary and my talents were in much greater need over here. Meanwhile, gizmos that we needed to be working, weren’t working, and I was isolated from any opportunity to continue my contributions to those.

It happened three times in six years, and I got out. I’ve since noticed this is a universal thing: People who engage the world through their personalities, their competence at collaborating with others, giving off & picking up “vibes” — and, executing those all-important steps according to pre-written scripts — want everybody else to do things that way too. This is, I think, why Pavlina is a motivational speaker. It’s like what they say sometimes about cops: If you get a thrill out of bossing people around and beating them up, a cop is a good thing for you to become, so a lot of cops & security guards are supposed to be bullies. Don’t know how much of a problem that is; I try not to spend too much time talking to cops in that kind of setting. But the principle is certainly a valid one.

And Pavlina does write like kind of a Yang-bully. Lightworker, good; Darkworker, bad.

My girlfriend and I watched The Fountainhead Saturday night. Gary Cooper, speaking as Howard Roark, covered the problems with Pavlina’s logic very well (although, according to legend, he confessed to Ayn Rand right afterward that he really didn’t understand what he was saying). It’s something Pavlina really needs to see. And you know, just on the off-chance he’s scanning these pages — you never know — it couldn’t hurt to excerpt the relevant passage. Ayn Rand, once again tapdancing on the boundary between what is real and what is silly…but this one’s an inch or two within bounds. All denialists will avoid, in abject fear, the object exercise of honestly sampling history to try to refute it.

Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received — hatred. The great creators — the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors — stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrwed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won.

No creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers, for his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives. His truth was his only motive. His own truth, and his own work to achieve it in his own way. A symphony, a book, an engine, a philosophy, an airplane or a building — that was his goal and his life. Not those who heard, read, operated, believed, flew or inhabited the thing he created. The creation, not its users. The creation, not the benefits others derived from it. The creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men.

His vision, his strength, his courage came from his own spirit. A man’s spirit, however, is his self. That entity which is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego.

The creators were not selfless. It is the whole secret of their power — that it was self-sufficient, self-motivated, self-generated. A first cause, a fount of energy, a life force, a Prime Mover. The creator served nothing and no one. He had lived for himself.

And only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind. Such is the nature of achievement.

Now, getting a scanner or optical jukebox driver to work with a document automation system, is a far distant cry from building motors or airplanes or power looms or anesthesia. But I’ve had twenty years to bear witness to such little skirmishes across the border of Yin and Yang, and it’s a constant that the Yang show this Pavlina-bullying. This gives rise to two mysteries to which I’ll try to offer some answers here: One, what motivates the Yang to try to rub out others who are not like them; and two, how do they ultimately succeed at this — even though, when they succeed, the rest of us lose things we in fact need.

Here are some ideas on how this comes about.

1. The Boundary

Picture Yin and Yang as two castles hundreds of miles apart, in two different valleys. From atop the keep of each castle, it is possible to see everything within the respective valley bowl, but of course, not one inch further than that. With binoculars, telescopes, whatever have you.

And so a person who lives in each castle, has three frontiers. Himself, the castle, the valley.

What makes the two castles different, is how the castle is cordoned off: There is a moat around the castle of Yin. In other words, when a Yin works on a project consistent with the makeup of his own character, whether it’s designing, inventing, implementing, cataloging…there’s always a boundary. It’s a closed system. And within any system, order must prevail or the system stops working. The Yin will place a great deal more priority on an object of disorder inside this “moat,” than a similar problem lying outside of it.

The Yang are missing this boundary around their castle. All things within line-of-sight, that are out of place, require adjustment. That means — the valley. You could say that the valley, to the Yang, performs exactly the same function as the moated castle does for the Yin.

This moves the Yang into a natural position to collaborate with others. People, universally, have a tendency to do what they’re told. The Yang police this valley, looking for trees and molehills and squirrels that aren’t adhering properly to some rule. They find something, and the conversion begins. That means a conversation begins. While this is going on, the Yin is not making himself visible. He’s toiling away on something, in his castle, behind the moat.

2. Myopia

With respect to the “castle/valley” analogy mentioned above — the Yang have to go beyond the boundaries of the castle, adjusting all things in the “valley,” or enclave demarcated by the line-of-sight, to some standard of orthodoxy. It’s sensible to presume this is an exhausting task. Sufficiently so, that even if there is a process of organizing whatever’s not-yet-complete against the available resources, much of the work will still have to be defered to a later time so as to not overtax the resources.

That is if there is a process of organizing the work against the resources. Even that, usually, is left undone.

No, it’s much more common for the Yang to just trip across this stuff as they wander around the valley, rap knuckles, and move on.

Diaper DetailI noticed this with old girlfriends. They’d behave as if the world was coming to an end so long as I did do, or didn’t do, X…usually “show your feelings” or “be more sociable.” We’d bicker. Somehow or another, she’d come to an understanding that, as Popeye says, I am what I am…and duly show her disgust.

Next time she caught me in my bad habits, we’d have the conversation all over again, with the same urgency involved in reforming me, no new points made on either side — as if it had never happened before.

I know I’m not alone, especially among the guys.

Behold — the myopia. The Yang seem to exist in a state of exhaustion from patrolling the valley. They work themselves into a state in which they can look at something right in front of them, and not see it.

So they run things; and they don’t have much appreciation for what the Yin do, even though they count on it.

3. Migration of Work

Things that we use across a vast expanse of time, tend to evolve into multi-layered tools. Generally, the Yin are responsible for developing the lower layers and the Yang contribute more productively to the higher layers. Your most helpful analogy here is a road, with one crew bringing in concrete and gravel, which they then scatter around evenly after preparing the bare land for the road; and another crew trucking in asphalt, being sure to spread it around smoothly.

The Yin lose the limelight rather naturally, being the bedrock people; their work is easily forgotten, covered with asphalt. Really — they never had the limelight. When that bedrock is laid down, nobody’s around to see it except the people who are directly responsible for putting it in. Recall the comments about the role playing game, with the graphics engine, and the mappings. After the engine is built, major upgrades notwithstanding, it is forgotten in the same way as the bedrock under the asphalt. That doesn’t mean the engine is not there, or that it is not needed. It just becomes a piece of history…as does the graphics engine. The ongoing challenge of creating new maps, and filling in potholes in the asphalt, makes it easy to forget this important contribution.

We do this with everything we use. Cell phones, for example. Yesterday’s exciting innovation is today’s comedy relief — unless you really need it, in which case it is what we could call a “staple.” Very complicated technologies, ones that were thought to border on the impossible not too long ago, become sort of like a pencil. The damn thing works, or it doesn’t.

It’s a natural evolution of working with emerging technologies that are stacked up on top of each other; they work, because they make use of other related things. Our attention is drawn to the highest layer, the one that is still under development. The point is that when we forget what went into the lower layers, we de-value the processes and styles of thinking that were needed for their development — unless those processes and styles of thinking happen to overlap completely with what’s needed for development of the higher ones. That usually isn’t the case. So we have a very sensible tendency, in my mind, to reform our thinking energies to better conform to the task at hand. Unfortunately, that means where we need to release ourselves from our legacies in order to do this, we will. And we evolve much more expertly, in this way, when the work we are about to do is that of a social nature.

4. Compartmentalization

This is a continuation of the above. As we migrate the work and the energy of our thinking as we confront it, we have a tendency to place the contributions of the Yin into a sort of a box. Think, here, of your personal computer at home. Here it is 2008, and it’s a…browser tool. With maybe some custom birthday card printing programs on it…Google Earth…and some other stuff.

That isn’t really how you thought of it ten years ago. Back then, browsing the Internet was just another application. You used Calculator, you used Notepad, and you browsed. Then you had the “real” programs. But the point is, a decade ago you thought of it as the wonderful bundling of amazing technology that it still is. What you take for granted now, was a bit of a challenge back then. Swapping virtual memory into the onboard memory so it could be accessed by multiple applications, without locking up and taking your work into the Phantom Zone. That isn’t much of a challenge now, hopefully. There are hundreds of other things your computer used to do, rather unreliably, that now it seems to do effortlessly. Back then, you had tolerance for the failures to drive your video card without locking up tight…tolerance you wouldn’t have today, because you take the technology for granted.

And that’s the way it is with the power loom and the airplanes. It was once a miracle that heavier-than-air craft could fly. Now it isn’t. That’s the nature of technology. As we adapt to it’s use, we tend to forget all the complicated pieces that go into it. The pity is, we get distracted by other ongoing chores that are, in fact, much simpler. Loading a web page? There are some advanced security features, Active-X controls, cryptographic handshakes for secure web resources, authentication protocols. There are Java applets. But by-and-large, it’s all pretty much the same stuff. It isn’t nearly as complicated as the stuff that used to be a challenge, and is no longer…like…finding a hardware-independent, stable way to swap shared components among multiple threads and applications, some of which might be poorly behaved or trying to access memory that isn’t available to them.

And that, I maintain, is true of all technology. We have a tendency to be distracted by new challenges that seem to be more demanding than yesterday’s, when in fact they really aren’t. Working on a higher level, yes. Demanding greater levels of cognitive skill in their implementation and troubleshooting…no. If that were not true, it would be a sign that yesterday’s job was not successfully completed, and is still in need of a re-do.

5. Ritual of Collaboration

If there’s one singular defining characteristic of the Yang, it is a need to conceal the point-of-decision. In other words, their way of making important decisions requires the projection of an illusion that the decision has already been made, when in fact it has not been. The illusion comes from their taking active steps, visible by design, to fixate their names next to the decision; to associate it with their reputations. I want Obama to win, we just went to a Barbra Streisand concert, I’m a Boston Red Sox fan.

One tell-tale sign that gives them away, irreversibly, is for them to seek emotional confirmation and support that the decision is the correct one after they have used their individual identities to confirm that it was.

People who navigate the First Triad in proper sequence (fact, opinion, thing-to-do) have no need to do this. They have the facts, which are things that are known; they have the opinions, which are like digital picture images made up from the pixels which are the facts; there are the things to do (or not do) in service of a stated goal, and those things make sense in some way because of the opinions derived from the facts. For those mature thinkers, the time to collaborate with others is in gathering the facts and forming the opinions. The thing to do is decided by whoever owns the goal.

Once it’s done…collaboration is not only useless, but a trifle silly.

So the Yang make the outsiders, the non-owners, feel better because their methodology of decision-making defeats ownership. And people like to feel like they’re part of things, even if they rightfully shouldn’t be owning the decision. And, even if the decision has already in fact been made.

This magnetic pull on the general public toward putting the Yang in charge, is most powerful with matters that are in fact “owned” by the general public, or some membership standard that approaches that level of universality. Rock concerts, sporting events, and elections. With “decisions” like these, it seems fitting and natural that everyone should have a part in deciding it, that no one should be excluded.

What people tend to miss out on is that the need for fellowship, motivating people’s actions after the decision is supposed to have been made — it gives away a truth that those responsible, would just as soon forget. Simply put, the decision has not yet been made; and the passion of the participants, depends on the decision having not yet been made. If you don’t behave according to the facts as you’ve gathered them, then you have to be behaving according to established rules, and if the decision were already made then it would be a rule.

But the Yang make their decisions first and then seek emotional support from their peers afterward, which makes them more approachable…or creates the illusion that they are more approachable. If anyone wishes to doubt the tremendous pull that has on the rest of us, let them explain the avalanche of “girl videos” in which we are buried in this election year of 2008. Hillary Girl, Obama Girl and McCain Girl — have made their decisions about who’s worth supporting, and now seek emotional confirmation from the rest of us in those decisions:

(Via Hot Air, via Locomotive Breath.)

They’ve made their decisions by declaring which “side” they’re on. Yet they still seek the participation of others. It isn’t for consultation, it’s for affirmation. This makes them more inviting, by nature.

The deceit that takes place here, only partially by intention, is that they appear to be laboring toward giving power away by allowing invitees to actually decide things. In fact, they seek to suck power up from those invitees, since the important decisions have already been decided. Invitees are therefore invited to “participate,” perhaps do some hard-labor work or recruiting work, but to do little-or-nothing in the realm of actually deciding anything. This is a filtering that leaves intact all the obligations and burdens of ownership, while adroitly stripping out any authority that would be naturally associated.

6. Jealousy

Note DP Undead’s observations about open palm and closed fist…let’s repeat them one more time.

Open Palm is a philosophy that argues one should always give aid to someone, be in tune with nature, and to know and accept one’s place in this world. Closed Fist is a philosophy that teaches self-reliance, to control one’s surroundings, and to try and be ambitious.

Now, if you’re like me you’re thinking, Why would anyone have a problem with self-reliance and ambition? In the final analysis, there really is no good answer to that question. If you’re polarized as “Open Palm” and you believe you “should always give aid to someone,” this contempt for self-reliance makes even less sense because if you and I are facing a common disaster, and neither one of us have taken steps to be self-reliant, we end up in a trample-fest competing for finite resources. We each attempt to survive, at the expense of the other. If you’ve taken the trouble to achieve some measure of self-reliance — stockpiling things like a life raft, a generator, a four-wheel drive truck — you could help me out. Non-self-reliant people are not in a position to offer aid…at least…they usually aren’t.

Ah, but in all the things I’ve learned about people, minus what I was told when I was a child, Item #16 is apropos here:

16. People who are overly concerned about their emotions, don’t want anyone else to be overly concerned with thinking.

…as are Items #24 and #25…

24. People who imagine themselves as part of a group, with no individual identity, don’t want anyone else to have an individual identity either.
25. People who can’t solve problems because they don’t think rationally, work pretty hard to avoid acknowledging that someone else solved a problem.

7. Audible Confidence

This is not VOLUME. This is the tone you have to your voice when you’ve spent a lifetime “having the floor,” upon your request.

There is a certain futility involved in the egalitarian ideal of “making sure everyone has some say.” People like to think that’s self-enforcing, like waiting in line in a doughnut shop: It’s 5 a.m., the shop is open, there’s one cashier and five customers. People just naturally arrange into a queue. It’s a refreshing reminder of civilization.

Not so with taking turns having input in a group environment. The floor is yielded, easily, to those who simply expect the courtesy. You can hear it in their voices, that they expect it.

We tend to think of this as leadership. If it were leadership, though, the content of what’s said would have primary relevance as this priority scheme is worked out. That is not the case. There are reverberations, natural frequencies, pitches. Barack Obama has this kind of phony, auditory leadership. He begins to emit dulcet tones, and people “feel” like hearing what he has to say, before they know what it is (and with a rich track record, on his part, of talking a whole lot and saying very little). In truth, what they “feel” is a futility involved in trying to instigate a real dialog with him. You can tell by listening to him that he simply isn’t accustomed to it.

Another aspect to audible confidence is promptness. You have to speak up early, in order to be heard. Trouble with that is — the guy who investigates before speaking, is going to lose out every time to the guy who speaks before investigating. This is not always a disaster, and it’s not always counterproductive. As George Patton used to say, a good plan today beats a perfect plan tomorrow.

But on the whole, we do tend to have an unfortunate sense of what “evidence” looks like, when we’re looking for evidence of leadership. Audible and quick, tends to describe what most of us want to find. This is antithetical to understand what’s going on prior to settling on a course of action. And understanding what’s going on before settling on a course of action, is the very first requirement to solving complex, challenging problems, for the very first time.

8. Resource Reward

The Yang are far more receptive to re-distribution of wealth. The exploration of reasons for that, could drone on in a bulky thesis devoted to that subject and nothing else. We’ll not explore it in great detail here, but we can skim across the top and identify some key motivators. For starters, Yang are more sympathetic to re-distribution of wealth because they can afford to be that way. Think back on Pavlina’s “Open Palm” model; their world is already open, and re-distribution of wealth has everything to do, on a cosmetic level at least, with openness. Also, what concentrations of wealth are needed to do, tend to be efforts toward which the Yang aren’t terribly sympathetic.

President Obama's OpinionThere is an irony to this, though, because the Yang aren’t truly open. They excel at forming fellowships with people, of course; but a “fellowship” is meaningless if it extends membership to the universe, so for the fellowship to exist, some people have to be left out of it. This is unavoidable.

There is a spirit of egalitarianism where they congregate, but it isn’t borne out in reality. There are concentric circles involved. You might say, the moat the Yin have dug around their castle, hasn’t been entirely forsaken by the Yang, but used for other purposes. You see this in elementary, middle and high schools. People are on the “ins” and on the “outs.” There are events and methods people can use to hop over the fences, and when this happens, it’s a fairly rare occasion. There is difficulty involved in the fence-hopping and most poeple never do it — in one direction or the other.

Birds of a feather flock together. Our evolutionary history has made it so that we are accustomed to living in tribes. Once we gain control of resources, and the resources are in demand by persons inside and outside of our circles, we have a tendency to parcel the resources out to people inside the circle.

Being accustomed to interacting this way, the Yang are especially reliable in this. So the irony is, the egalitarianism is more credibly exercised by the Yin…and they aren’t trying to do it. You send a dirty joke through the e-mail to a Yin whom you haven’t contacted in awhile, and his response is going to be pretty much the same regardless of whether you were inside his circle or not. That’s a great joke or that’s a stupid joke; wonderful to hear from you; how’s the wife and kids?

With a Yang, your membership in his circle is going to determine the reaction far more than the content of the joke. If you’re in the fellowship, it’s an opportunity to reconnect, and you will so reconnect. If not — it’s — great joke. Got a call coming in. Keep in touch. Bye.

And so, those who work according to these concentric circles of trust, pour vast reserves of energy into making sure that resources are allocated to those who are inside the circles. It gets bad enough, often, that membership inside a circle comes to be thought of as a substitute for getting work done. Yes, it does. That seems like such a bad idea that nobody would step up and articulate the thought that maybe this is what we should do…no one would say that out loud. But the tendency is for this to become the way we behave. And this, in turn, tends to exacerbate the differential by which the Yang become more receptive to wealth distribution.

They become hostile to the idea that an individual should earn wealth, by independently getting work done. They become hostile to independence — even while relying on the fruits of someone who made the most of it. This is exactly what Howard Roark was talking about.

This inspires an echoing of something, at which I’ve hinted lately, regarding the Obama campaign. It doesn’t have quite so much to do with electing our next President, or electing someone who will “end the war,” or electing a black guy so we know everyone can grow up to be President. It’s not about that at all. It’s about a fellowship.

And a fellowship is meaningless if it doesn’t exclude someone. The circle is defined just as much…perhaps more…by what lies outside of it as compared to what lies within.

So our Obama people — whether they realize it or not — are really all about excluding people. They have to do this in order to give their fellowship meaning. What exactly they want to do with people outside the fellowship once their guy is sworn in, they themselves don’t seem to know exactly. But they certainly don’t want to give everyone a voice in what is going on.

Yin and Yang X

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

This blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, and is not written-up by anyone with a degree in psychology, anthropology, or any field of science or for that matter in anything else — had the temerity a couple of years ago to advance the theory of Yin and Yang. The theory could be thought of as a proposed extension to the axes of Myers-Briggs, in which people are categorized as introverts/extraverts, intuiters/sensors, thinkers/feelers and perceivers/judges.

A good argument could be made that the proposed Yin/Yang axis is synonymous with the introvert/extravert axis…which it really isn’t…and that it’s synonymous with the thinker/feeler axis…which it really isn’t.

From working with grown-ups and children, I have found it is relatively safe to shoehorn the biographies of all intellectually matured people — people who have come up with some kind of method of addressing previously-unknown challenges in their lives — into two distinctly different models. Yin, and Yang. The paradox is that these are symbols from ancient China for male and female. But they’re flipped around, for the most part, because of this unpleasant truth we don’t like to confront — we don’t raise boys the same way that we raise girls.

The Yin is dark, contemplative, introspective, quiet…not so much quiet, but unconcerned with how much noise it makes. Yang is boisterous and outgoing. When the traditions of the Taoist religion were being defined, it was thought that men were Yang and women were Yin, and that’s probably exactly the way things were.

But the way we use it here, Yin and Yang doesn’t have quite so much to do with how much noise you make — it has to do with how you think about things. People are confronted by complex problems, and they solve those problems in a Yin way, or a Yang way. The mold they have cast for their personal development, since childhood, will determine which of these two methods they will use.

The “complex” problem is complex because…

1. The nature of it demands a multiple-step plan;
2. There is no pre-packaged solution available that can be implemented with the resources at hand;
3. It is determined that any proposed solution, will involve some level of uncertainty and risk.

And this is where the two biographies come in.

The Yang mature earlier — and, the ancient Tao symbols notwithstanding, they are predominantly girls (although by no means exclusively). By the time they’re two or three years old, and probably earlier than that, they show a proclivity for achieving an emotional equilibrium with other persons present, which are usually their parents, before doing much of anything. They get lonely when they can’t do this. The Yin, on the other hand, fail to achieve this level of connection with persons in the vicinity and so they end up building things. After they have done something in solitude, then they may try to achieve this emotional connection now that they have a “token” to present.

You might say the Yang child says “mommy and daddy, look at me” whereas the Yin child says “look at what I did.” If you watch children very closely, you’ll see it’s very rare for a child to step out of one of those roles and into the other; they all tend to stick to one or the other. And the Yin and Yang theory simply says — people grow up that way.

The Yin makes a lifetime pursuit out of cognitive thought. The Yang makes a lifetime pursuit out of directing, and channeling, the emotional energies of people in proximity. These are both demanding skills. They are open-ended in level and intensity…like Jedi training. In other words, you can work at refining them for as long as you care to, and you’ll never reach an aphelion or point of diminishing returns. Much To Learn You Still Have — is the state of your development, in both cases, everlastingly.

This last part simply means that both disciplines hold our attention. Forever. So we spend our entire lives toiling away at one or the other.

And we very seldom cross over in exercising our options for this personal growth. We do it out of necessity. An adult who is Yin will show some skill at collaborating with a group over and above what he possessed at age five — this is the sum total of what he developed through the years under protest, when backed into a corner. Ditto for the adult Yang showing some skill at solving complex and challenging puzzles by means of cognitive, independent, rational thought. He will show some talent at this he didn’t show in childhood…again, it’s the fruit of his cumulative labor put in when other options were not available. Left to their own devices, however, the Yin will work in a solitary environment and the Yang will work in a collaborative one. Because that’s what they prefer to do. That is how they do their best work.

This part is exactly like handedness. You write with your right hand or your left hand. Teacher makes you practice, you practice with whatever hand is “dominant” — because you produce better results. So you keep practicing that way, and the dominance becomes more and more clearly defined throughout the years. Of course, with handedness, there is programming wired right into the brain. It’s probably that way with Yin-and-Yang as well. It gets tricky, though, because the brain has the ability to re-wire itself as it works. That, too, certainly plays a part with the Yin and Yang definition.

That’s the end of what I’ve been noticing about it. On what we should do about it, other than continually learn as much as we can, I’ve only managed to figure out one thing that we aren’t already doing:

I would suggest we should strive for a balance, based on each half’s respect for how the other half works. We’re not there.

The Yin do this because they have no choice but to do it. The first step to problem-solving in solitude, is you have to create the solitude. After that, you define the scope of your work; that is one of the defining characteristics. When the Yin define a piece of work they are doing, there’s always some strongly-defined scope involved. This thing over here is out of whack — it must be fixed or the integrity of a much larger body of work has been thrown into unacceptable compromise. That thing over there is messed up — so what? It is outside of the boundary. For the Yin, all tasks of any complexity exist as a two-dimensional matrix. There is a finite list of tasks to be performed (across) upon a finite list of components within the project (down).

The Yang labor under an inherent contradiction in their view of how to do these things, and because of this, there is a limit to what they can do. Because they solve complex problems on a collaborative basis, they depend on harmony. If the group becomes dysfunctional, they become dysfunctional, because they can’t accomplish much beyond what the group, such as it is, can accomplish. So disharmony is toxic to their endeavors. But they have a tendency to generate it, because they’re just as draconian as the Yin in demanding compliance with a defined standard but they don’t recognize a limited scope. All things within their line of sight must conform, especially people.

A defining characteristic of the Yang is to make the statement “We are doing X” — when this is not the case, because quite to the contrary there’s some guy off in the corner who isn’t doing X and he is the problem that has to get solved.

So this is where I think we’re being unproductive. It is the nature of the Yin that they can allow — they must allow — all who are laboring on other things, to labor on them in whatever way those others deem fit. The Yang, on the other hand, have to make everybody within eyesight exactly like them. For, like the Yin, they are toiling away on a system of interconnected and interdependent parts, but unlike the Yin, the system has no boundary. It is universal.

Now I’m admittedly biased on this, but I can’t help noticing wherever the Yang try to make everyone into more Yang, it seems an inevitability that ability and capacity are about to be short-changed. There are reasons for this. For starters, you can’t gather “with everybody” around a piano singing tunes, and simultaneously…fix that broken towel rack in the kitchen. Or defrost the freezer. Some things are Yin tasks. They have to be done, they can only be done by one guy working in solitude. And when they are challenging things, they require the talents of someone who has spent a lifetime building an aptitude for solving problems through a structured cognitive thought process. A yangy-yangy gift-o-gabber, who has spent a lifetime building problem-solving skills only under protest and only when alternatives are unavailable — is simply not going to be strong enough to do the job.

Now what follows is not substantial foundation for what is speculated above. But boy howdee, it certainly is suggestive of a foundation, and I find it to be thought-provoking.

Today’s issue of You Can, with Beakman & Jax, by Jok Church. You find it in the kids’ comics section of your Sunday paper.

Dear Jax,

What are emotions?

Lynda Elsomes
Vancouver, British Columbia

Dear Lynda,

Emotions are messages we send to ourselves — messages from you to you, using a language that is yours alone. No one else can have your emotions. They’re just for you. There are two parts to emotions. The first is the feeling you have. The second is how you respond to that feeling. A big part of growing up is emotional intelligence. That’s you learning how to respond to your feelings in ways that are good for your life.

All very reasonable. What follows, threw me for a bit of a loop, though…

Once you’ve learned that, you have what people call wisdom.

Well…yeah, I’d still agree, provided that “respond[ing] to your feelings in ways that are good for your life” means to shut the spigot off and open the throttle on thinking instead.

Feelings simply don’t channel into things that are good for your life…not with any potential greater than random chance. I suppose there could be some exceptions to that. One that comes to mind — smiling during a job interview, I guess? But that doesn’t work at all, because does it happen very often that you really feel like smiling during a job interview?

But if that throws you for a loop, this next part will grab you by the ankles and shake you upside-down until all the change falls out of your pockets:

Mister SpockMr. Spock was born on the planet Vulcan in the year 2230. His people trained themselves to sit on their emotions, not feel them, not respond to them. It seems to have made all Vulcans kind of weird, with only a part of them showing — the rest locked up, hidden behind closed doors.

But in the years 2271 Spock found out even intense emotions should be felt. He learned by hooking up with a satellite named V’Ger. Don’t wait 40+ years to be like Spock. [emphasis mine]

There ya go. The Yang…very often…are caught trying to make the Yin — like them.

This is unhealthy. And I don’t think I have to explain why. It should be obvious to anyone who’s spent any amount of time, around people who are under forty, who’ve been making a point of getting those emotions shown.

It’s not as if we have any shortage of those types. They’re going to make Barack Obama our next president this year. Yeah sure, that’s supposed to fix all kinds of problems, and cause none. But nobody can explain how that’s going to work…

And it’s not lost on me that Spock was part of a television show produced during the nineteen sixties — a decade during which, like none other in recent memory, we were pressured to come up with emotionally charged solutions to our problems (and failed miserably, I would add). Furthermore, within this television show, it became a rugged and durable recurring trope that the Starship Enterprise, with hundreds of lives on board, faced certain doom and it was up to Mister Spock to save everybody…with his logic.

It took some balls to put out that message in the 1960′s. Balls, and no small quantity of truth behind the message. Of course, the real purpose to having Spock there was to put him in entertaining and interesting focused dialogs with almost-pure-Yang Dr. McCoy. Neither one of those two was designated Mr. Wrong or Mr. Right; the point of the exchange was to show how the latest problem confronting the Enterprise could be viewed rationally, and emotionally. It was fascinating stuff at the time, and in hindsight, a darn good idea for dramatic purposes.

But let’s keep that one thing straight, the thing where the fantasy of Star Trek happens to coincide so well with cold hard reality: Spock solved the problems.

Now I’m not going to sit here and type in some nonsense making the point Yang Suck, The Yin Have It Right, Hooray For Our Side, We’re Better. But I’ll definitely go so far as to say this: Complete Yang saturation, presuming it’s an attainable goal, cannot be a beneficial one. A lot of folks — like me for example — can’t contribute much that’s useful in such a world. We’re inherently boring, and we have dismal results in exciting people’s “feelings” into a desire to watch what we’re doing.

Such a world is bound to be brimming over with Obama-type solutions. You know, the kind of solutions that have lots of excitement generated around them and must therefore be the “correct” ones, and yet nobody can explain how they’re supposed to work or even if they’re likely to generate the results people are supposed to be wanting when they get so excited. That should concern everybody whether they’re Yin or Yang — because if you don’t know how a plan is supposed to work before you activate it, how can you possibly oversee it, to make sure it’s following the desired line of progress, when you’re in the middle of carrying it out?

Create A New Season

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Did this person really start a blog and configure it so no new users could register to leave comments?

That would be a shame. Looks like my kind of discussion — bitching about the lazy way people do their thinking nowadays, with the other person’s prejudices slanted in a direction opposite from my own. I guess the hidden moral to this parable is that simplistic thinking can be stifling, but echo chambers can be that way too.

Update: This is hilarious.

The topic of the page linked, is that there are people who seem to be just agreeing with everything Rush Limbaugh says because he’s the guy who said it. “As I listened to one person after another applaud Limbaugh’s latest discussions on topics from the ‘Bush Presidency’, ‘War in Iraq’, ‘Hillary Clinton’, etc. etc.; I wondered if the callers had really taken the time to really analyze what they were hearing…Our brains are wired to stretch and new connections can be made every day. However, this won’t happen until we actually use our own minds to understand, define and/or determine why we agree.”

A woman called Rush Limbaugh’s program, somewhere over the halfway point of the first hour, maybe twenty minutes ago. She said the exact opposite. That’s right. She goes to school, and she deliberately filters people out by a judicious use of Limbaugh’s name. She mentions his program in favorable tones, and if the person in question has an “emotional reaction” (in context, this decidedly meant toward the negative), she just refuses to engage them.

It goes without saying that this runs the risk of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” — but, in my own experience, not much. People who are emotional about Rush Limbaugh, with very few exceptions, tend to be emotional about everything else as well.

It seems we’re all talking about the Yin/Yang wall, a hypothetical, trans-continental, impenetrable barrier, dividing people who spend their entire lives on one side of it or another. On this side of the impenetrable wall, everyone thinks before they feel, and on that side, vice-versa. I would assume everyone engaged here, agrees with my fundamental premise that a great deal of the conflict we experience today, would be reduced. Where we disagree is how ideology would drive this; one side, or the other, would do all the listening to Rush Limbaugh. Which side? The Yin-thinkers, or the Yang-feelers?

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide for him- or herself. The phrase “I feel your pain” still reverberates in my ears all these years later — along with fresher sound bites, having to do with Obama being “the real deal” — and I’ve got a few ideas about it that I’ll just keep to myself for now…

Something We Learned When We Got Our Degrees

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

This blog, which nobody actually reads anyway, has from day one had a burr up it’s butt about the way people, as a whole, go about doing things. Our wish is not that everybody do things the same way; quite to the contrary, we fear this is what has already taken place. You might say we’re “pro-diversity” in this matter. We’ve been looking around, seeing that people tend to do everything the same way — more importantly, those who decide how things will be done, are more concerned that everything be done a certain way than that it be done at all — and we’re displeased.

There is irony in this. In opining about the problem for the last three years, we’ve found we’re not alone. And this is curious. The world wants to be consistent in how things are thought through, and how things are done; we say “this is not right, this is not good”; and everyone with an opinion worth expressing, minus a few disaffected individuals who’ve proven themselves inept at arguing their dissenting viewpoints, agrees with us.

Our gripe can be defined quite easily if one takes some time to watch young children working things through together. In school, at recess, it makes no never-mind. Adults have a tendency to do things the same way — this is the problem. We aren’t growing up. I expect everyone who’s learned a new computer application inside & out, and then had to teach it to someone else, will see where I’m going with this…the “nevermind how it works, just tell me what keys to press” thing. It’s become far too prevalent, and it has begun to interfere with the continuation of our society.

Grown-ups are encouraged to defer a self-education about how things work, until sometime later. Placed in a position where they must receive instructions in order to do a job, they insist on the bare minimum. What they end up demanding is instructions for children. Do this; don’t do that. Step one, step two, step three.

There is economic logic in this. It is far less expensive to train someone that X is good, Y is bad, step 1, step 2, step 3, than to provide instruction about how all the parts fit together — and how to straighten it all out when there’s gum in the gears. This should make complete sense to anyone who’s seen their order at MacDonald’s hopelessly screwed up.

This is our gripe. You go shopping, and over an extremely busy and expensive weekend you pass by ten cash registers. How many times would you expect to see a cashier ask her supervisor over to straighten something out? It should happen just once or twice. Nowadays, it happens more than half the time.

This is emblematic of what is happening everywhere, not just in retail.

We’re seeing ourselves. We know what keys to press. We don’t know why. Once something goes wrong, help must be summoned from somewhere else. This is considered normal…but it doesn’t take a cataclysmic event to put a hitch in the giddy-up. Handing over a five-spot and three pennies when your bill is $3.88, will do the trick just fine.

I’ve often been under the impression you can see this in your fellow motorists. My favorite maneuver to watch is a start from a dead stop; when people don’t understand how a car works and don’t care to learn, even though they depend on that twice a day through half their lives, you can see it. Pistons, gears, suspension — they don’t care about any of it, and you can tell they don’t. They want to go sixty miles an hour, they’re currently going zero, all they know is go and stop. Off they go.

Their cars are always newer, of course. If they have no respect for the laws of physics they’re just going through the motions of servicing the car properly, if indeed they’re doing that at all. Like any well-designed machine, the car will treat them the way they’ve treated it.

Fellow Webloggin contributor Bookworm has been noticing something like this, and she came up with a quote from Dennis Prager, who I guess says this on his radio program frequently. I hadn’t heard it before: I prefer clarity to agreement.

Wait’ll you see what leads up to that:

I attended a meeting at the school today for one of the management committees that sees parents and teachers working together to come up with specific details to implement long term strategic plans. All of the long term goals and the details are memorialized in a document that was remarkable for its generous use of passive voice and all education jargon. There is, of course, no reason why I should understand education jargon, because I’m not an educator. Nevertheless, to the extent I was supposed to vote on the document, it seemed to me that I had an obligation to try to understand what it was talking about.

So, I zeroed in on one phrase and asked “What does this mean?” There was a moment of complete silence. Then, one of the teachers said, “I’ve always understood it to mean…” and embarked on a laborious explanation that didn’t mean anything. Another teacher jumped to her aid with more words, less meaning. I thanked them.

Another phrase, another question: “What does this mean?” More silence. One of the teachers said, “Well, that’s something we learned when we got our degrees.” Oh. “Thank you,” I said, completely unelucidated.

And this gets back to what I was complaining about in Paragraph One. What we’re looking for is a little diversity — say, half of us have taken the time to understand how a thing works and therefore comprehend cause-and-effect, the other half of us follow processes and summon help when a gizmo doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.

Back in what was once called the “olden days,” that’s how things worked. And a “degree” was a thing you got when you’d taken the time to understand how things work, and wanted to get credit for it and therefore a higher standard of living. It worked well, because it gave people the freedom to engage life on the terms they chose. Followers of process are vital in their own way; we need them. We also need people who not only understand what’s going on in the car engine or the DVD player, but have nurtured a lifelong passion for figuring it out. So in our yesteryears “diversity” program, we gave both these halves the ability to function, and therefore to work together.

You must conform!No more. In the twenty-first century, we’ve started passing out degrees to people who follow processes. People who think like children. This is a way of insisting everybody should think that way — no exceptions.

The ultimate consequence is that people who understand how things work, or want to figure it out, have to be treated like freaks. Which, with a personal bias I’m ready to confess freely, it seems to me that we are. Also, it takes very little to foul up a relatively simple transaction or task, and an unnaturally high level of effort to fix it.

Update 11/17/07: Via the sidebar crawl on Van der Leun’s page, I stumble into this reminder that I’m not the first one to be complaining about this. Albert Jay Nock, delivering one of his lectures during a tumultuous time in American politics, academia, and intellectual achievement, 1931 at the University of Virginia:

As we have observed, very few people are educable. The great majority remain, we may say, in respect of mind and spirit, structurally immature; therefore no amount of exposure to the force of any kind of instruction or example can ever determine in them the views of life or establish in them the demands on life that are characteristic of maturity. You may recall the findings of the army tests; they created considerable comment when they were published. I dare say these tests are rough and superficial, but under any discount you think proper, the results in this case are significant. I do not remember the exact figures, but they are unimportant; the tests showed that an enormous number of persons of military age had no hope of ever getting beyond the average fourteen-year-old stage of development. When we consider what that average is, we are quite free to say that the vast majority of mankind cannot possibly be educated. They can, however, be trained; anybody can be trained. Practically any kind of mentality is capable of making some kind of response to some kind of training; and here was the salvation of our system’s theory. If all hands would simply agree to call training education, to regard a trained person as an educated person and a training school as an educational institution, we need not trouble ourselves about our theory; it was safe. …What we did, then, actually, was to make just this identification of training with education… [emphasis mine]

He then goes on to expound on this. At great length. The core subject of this lecture is the intermingling, and then the substitution, of training for education.

Could’ve easily been written today. I can listen to someone bloviate at length about how incredibly, breath-takingly, heart-stoppingly important it is that a certain person doing a certain thing must must must have such-and-such a degree. And not once will anybody think to stick in a remark about what such a person is able to DO, or what he would know, that he would not be able to do or would not know without that background.

All too often, it simply isn’t part of the agenda. The letters after the name have to do with conformity and compliance, not knowledge or capacity for absorbing same.

This breezy, casual replacement on the sly, presents us with a grave danger. The danger is that one is a study in excellence and the other is a study in mediocrity, which is the opposite of excellence. Left to our own sensibilities, most of us would probably probably think of such a replacement worthy of greater fanfare.

I mean, do you want your brain surgeon to achieve, or conform?

Accepting My Challenge

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Challenged to a DuelI have been challenged to, and accepted, a duel with JohnJ at RightLinx, whom I understand to be one and the same with Johnjrambo2000 at Bullwinkle Blog. At issue is the ninth installment of Yin and Yang, and the points of disagreement, as stated by my opponent, are these:

Freeberg’s basic point is that individualism is better than collectivism. This is, of course, a value judgment. Since not everyone has the same values, individualism cannot be better than collectivism for everyone. Some people will prefer collectivism because it corresponds to their values. What would Freeberg do with these people?

And…

Freeberg also claims that there is no middle ground between Yin and Yang. I have to disagree with that point as well. Yin, as he defines it, are those people who, basically, lack social sense, but who can often make up for it mechanically. Yin will never achieve the natural social sense that Yang has, though. It seems to me, though, that there’s no basis for assuming that people don’t have various levels of use of the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, a part of the brain that is used in socialization. I don’t see any reason to assume that it’s all or nothing. If anything, the assumption should be just the opposite. The vast majority of people should fall between the two extremes.

We’re still in the stages of defining the points of disagreement, but I’ll have to cut in at this point because there’s disagreement in this definition. If there is a value system to be promoted in recognizing the Yin and Yang bifurcation, I would hope it is limited to leaving well enough alone. To hold one of these halves above the other in a universality of situations, such that one is innately superior and one is innately inferior regardless of whatever challenges would come up, would not only be inaccurate but also unkind. Somewhere within the thousands of words I’ve written about this, that message may have been blunted or even lost. But the Yang, while largely a mystery to folks like myself, accomplishes things we need to get done. So what would I “do with these people?” The question answers itself. They are here; they are doing stuff; the stuff they do cannot be done by anybody else.

But if I get to decide what the Yang are going to do, I would scribble down one preference. I would like the Yang to leave others alone.

There’s something about the strongest Yang, and I gather it comes from the lifelong habit of viewing all challenging exercises to be social. They tend to be controlling. They tend to want others to resolve problems the way they resolve them. I touched on this somewhat in the Fourth installment, which was inspired by a story that mothers-of-brides in some Asian cultures force their daughters to cry at the wedding. There’s nothing inherently Asian about this, it’s universal. Yin think; Yang feel. The thinker is touchy about how he is allowed to do his thinking, nevermind what everybody else is doing — but the feeler must control the feelings of everyone in proximity.

This explains my many references to the construction of a giant wall. Imagine a room containing twenty people, a piano and a computer. If the piano and computer are both to be used, friction will inevitably result. A piano must be a social vehicle. A computer — notwithstanding YouTube clips and photo albums — is not. Whoever wants to use the piano is going to want to control the feelings of the other nineteen people in the room…that is what a piano does. A computer processes information. Or — it looks at porn. It is, mostly, a device to be used in solitude.

The point is, the guy using the computer will be likely oblivious to what others in the room are doing. They can do what they want as far as he’s concerned. He’s a Yin, and the first step to what he is doing is to draw a boundary around what he is doing. Working on a drawing, writing up a post on his blog, testing a computer program…all of these things work within a system. Even if the system is complex, it is a system of interrelated parts that function within a perimeter, and anything outside that perimeter will be disconnected.

Some will argue, with a kernel of truth to it, that the concept of disconnection is mythical — all things are connected. There is truth to this only if one regards trivial or irrelevant things to be somehow important. The computer is connected to other things because there is an Internet…and there is power. These things are true, but they’re ultimately meaningless. The program, or the drawing, or the blog, all these things are essentially isolated systems. A stimulus crosses the perimeter surrounding the system, and the system with it’s interrelated parts is supposed to provide a proper response. If the response is correct, a task is complete, and if it isn’t, more work needs to be done. This is how the Yin see the world. Not just the computer…but every little thing they do. And they’ve been looking at it that way since they were little kids.

Contrast this with the piano. There is no meaningful boundary that surrounds the piano. Someone plays it, and “we” are going to listen to it. “We” are going to feel whatever the song being played on the piano, tells us to feel. If one person starts singing along, everyone else will feel compelled to start singing too (unless the song is something like Ailein Duinn).

If these are both happening at the same time, there is going to be friction. Screwing around on the computer, after all, is not what “we” are doing. “We” are gathering around the piano, and you should not be doing what you are doing on the computer. Come over and join us.

Note — if the lone-wolf was watching a football game or wrestling match on television, this would make so much more sense. That would intrude on the piano-playing. But with goofing off on a computer, or doing work on a computer, this doesn’t apply. Yet anyone who’s been in such a situation, understands that the urgency involved in getting the computer-guy off the keyboard, to come join the crowd, is just as pushy as it would be if he had the TV cranked at full volume.

There is no explanation for this, other than the Yin and Yang theory. The Yang want all things in proximity to work in a uniform way. It has to be that way, because a mission to defeat all borders within visible proximity is what being social is all about. It isn’t disrespect or unfriendliness. It’s quite the opposite. When you’re socializing, you want to bring everybody into the fold.

And so John and I have a disagreement about what I said. I do not want to banish people or wish them away to the cornfield. But I do think building a wall would be educational. I’m convinced it’s part of the human nature to repeatedly stir up friction of the “piano and computer” variety, friction that has no real reason to be there, and in response to such friction, do anything but what would make the most sense. We tend to put up with it, we irritate each other, we schedule our daily activities in such a way as to stir up the same useless friction at the same time every day.

I do have the sense that the Yin tend to build things used by the Yang. That is our place. We are “systems builders.” We draw lines around things, we wait for the loud sociable people to leave us the hell alone, and then we get things within those perimeters to work the way they should. The Yang do exactly the same thing — except to them, the perimeter is whatever they happen to understand at a given moment. Within line-of-sight, everything has to work the way they want.

The Yin get stressed out if the perimeter or something within it, starts to slip out of their control. One sign that a person is a Yin, is if he curses his own bad memory. Yang seldom do this. God damn it, there’s something else I was supposed to get right…what was it? The Yang, to my long-standing envy, seem to be spared from this. You see this most definitely when you see them hosting a party. Good heavens, is there anything we can do that is more demanding of detail, achieving pre-defined tasks within a boundary, than hosting a party? It gives me a huge migraine. Nevermind that socializing-with-people thing you have to do.

But the strongest Yang pull it off effortlessly. If their definition is strong, they are extraverts, and that means as the party goes on they recharge their “batteries” while mustering up the energy to carry dirty dishes out to the kitchen and bring out new plates of food, coordinate the entertainment, switch the music around, etc. etc. etc. Yes, they need to do things a little bit out of their turf, but they’re up for it. All evening long, they are in the mode of being fully charged. People like me, see the “chore” of socializing with folks as an ancillary task, one we could barely manage — even if we like the people — without all these minute-to-minute cleanup details we have to do. But the Yang see it as the payoff.

Yet another reason why I wouldn’t banish them anywhere. We need them.

And some Yang don’t even mind the details. They are spared the Yin headache of remembering details, because they simply…don’t.

The Yin are spared headaches too, though, that plague the Yang. This is in the form of other individuals doing things in a way different from the way we would do them, if we were they. Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m a guy who types away on a computer. Now honestly, John & everybody else…how many people do you know who are the exact opposite of that? We’ve all had the acquaintance of some Yangy-type person who constantly has a problem — something that is easily seen by others as a great source of concern, giving her an upset stomach and sleepless nights — something to do with someone doing things the wrong way? This is their cross to bear. And I doubt it’s an act, I think it is an ongoing source of real tension.

Tolerance, John. That is my solution. Good old-fashioned tolerance, the kind our liberals say they support (although seldom do). Tolerance, respect, empathy. Let the Yin support the Yang in all the things that Yang labor day-to-day to get done…and vice-versa.

Now to your second point, that there is no middle ground. On this issue, you are half right in understanding where I’m coming from. But as I said in the ninth installment that inspired your challenge, we have to dispense with the latent skills that can be nurtured by highly intelligent and functional individuals in their more mature stages of life. If you’re sufficiently talented, obviously you can make up for what you left undeveloped in childhood. “Yin” can figure out how to socialize; “Yang” can figure out how to solve puzzles. And when they do this, they end up being what I believe you’re describing with this “middle ground.”

But we have to dispense with that when we consider how these people are going about these tasks upstairs, between their ears. And this is what we need to do when we talk about Yin and Yang, because that’s what the divide is all about. What kinds of pathways did you dig out in your brain tissue, in the “old-growth” parts. The thinking you learned how to do before you lost all your baby teeth.

That’s important because any other kinds of things you learned to do, much later, after your teenage years — functional as all that stuff may be, it’s still stilted and awkward. If you’re highly adaptable, the best you can do is to cover up the awkwardness. But it’s still like a right-handed person writing with the left hand. You’re attempting a task, perhaps completing it, perhaps netting satisfactory results, maybe even super-satisfactory results. But it’s not something that comes naturally to you.

The BlockLet me introduce a theory to help explain this. Let’s call it the “Big Gray Building” theory; we will take all of your formative years, stretching deep into adulthood in which, as your maturing personality develops skills to meet rising challenges in the business world, you do this crossing-over. This writing-with-the-other-hand.

Imagine this vast expanse of time, from birth to age forty or fifty or so, as a walk halfway around a block. You are born on one corner of the block — you pop out of your mother’s womb there, with no skills whatsoever. There is a “business convention” at the opposite corner, which I’ve represented here with a great big red X. When you get to the big red X, you’re going to have to show functionality in both Yin and Yang endeavors. That goes without saying. This is an important business conference, and we’ll need the participants to have social skills (Yang), as well as problem-solving skills (Yin).

Here’s the challenge: As any informed parent will agree, young children have an amazing talent for learning whatever it is they want to learn. Regardless of intelligence, the pace at which micro-toddlers learn their things, is amazing. If we could keep this pace up into adulthood, we’d all be geniuses. But we don’t.

And so, as this micro-toddler, you can “crawl” along these avenues toward the business convention, at a rocket-like pace.

But — you can’t turn corners.

And there’s this big gray building between you and the red X. It is a monolithic building. There is no alley. All entrances on the building (save for the one at the X) are locked shut tight.

And I think this is our real point of disagreement. I’m contradicting hundreds of years of dogma in the education of children in asserting this…but based on what I’ve seen, it’s true. Children crawl toward the business conference that demands a functional representation of all skill sets. They develop one half of the needed skill sets…or the other. They’ll neglect one of the other. There are two paths toward the X, from which each child can choose only one — neglecting the other.

Appearances notwithstanding, that’s the way things will stay. Until at least the teenage years, one path will lie neglected.

LibraryIf they lack the maturity to build a network involving peers or parents, they’ll have to be forced into it. But if that’s the situation, they won’t naturally take to it. They’ll do it when forced to do it. And meanwhile, if they have any intelligence at all, they will become adept at solving problems. This is simply path of least resistance. Being children, they will have to challenge themselves, and if the socializing presents too much of a challenge they’ll find a challenge that doesn’t involve socializing. They will crawl — more like shoot — due North along the street I’ve called “Rain Man Lane” — developing cognitive ability while neglecting, to some degree, social skills. And they can’t turn corners, so they’ll be stuck up there once they reach the end. They’ll become “nerds,” seeking out more and more challenges that don’t involve interacting with people. Let’s say there is a “library” up there. They will pop over to this virtual library at around age five, and stick around there. They’ll remain there until, roughly, the age they can start driving.

They’ll be “nerds.”

You don’t want to deny there is such a thing as a “nerd,” do you John? The nerd has become a staple in American culture, for good reason.

Social ClubNow, some children will have the maturity to build the above-mentioned parent-peer network. And at a very early age, on the light side of two years old, they’ll shoot off Eastward along “Valley Girl Street,” toward a “social club.” These sociable kids can’t turn a corner any better than their nerdy counterparts, even if they’re very mature and intelligent. This favored pastime of socializing people, just burns too brightly and is too tempting for them. Even with homework and exams and so forth, there is little point to nurturing problem-solving skill. The need just isn’t there.

But — I’m sure you want to ask this — these are the kids who tend to get the best grades. Surely you’re not suggesting they’re all “socializing” by cheating on their tests?

No, there’s a huge bundle of evidence here that the babies shooting off to this “Social Club” can indeed solve problems. They can do their homework, with little error, and they can get sky-high scores on pop quizzes.

But here’s the rub. Their advantage dissipates when there is re-interpretation involved. They excel at multiple-choice questions, but their impressive achievements start to taper off with essay questions. If they can complete an essay question, they aren’t often known to re-word the phraseology they’ve learned, to construct synonyms — to show true comprehension. And most impressive of all: I’ve noticed this in childhood as well as after I’ve come to maturity. They tend to lack the ability to retain.

This is a big hole in our educational system, in public schools as well as private. Testing a student’s ability to truly absorb concepts as well as text, is a highly difficult chore. Again, we’re at path of least resistance — this time with regard to the teacher instead of the student. And path of least resistance is, you test short-term retention. Study on the week that ends on the 10th, and we’ll have our test on the 15th.

So these Yangy kids, for the most part, are allowed to wind through the school system being tested only on their ability to memorize things; to mimic. True understanding of concepts, and problem-solving, is something tested only rarely. Far more often, the exercise at hand is repeating things back. When this is a prelude to socializing, the social-minded kids tackle it with gusto.

Many will disagree with this. Want proof? Go to your high school reunion, approach a dozen of the brightest, most socially-outgoing kids who got the best grades. Ask them a textbook question they could easily have nailed in the days-gone-by. At least ninety percent of the time, you’ll get a deer-in-the-headlights look back.

Memorize a concept, you’ll never forget it. Memorize text, you’ll forget it in a week. By and large, school tends to force kids to memorize text.

Complete BlockSo now our block is complete: You’re born at a corner, there is a library at one corner, a social club at another, and then there’s a business convention going on at the far corner where you won’t arrive, until you’ve become a mature adult. Not a twenty-something, but someone with the maturity to achieve functional command of the spectrum. Since kids lack the ability to round corners, and childhood itself runs light on challenges that make real demands to do such corner-rounding…each set of child is stuck in his respective corner. Adulthood, probably, will bring a fresh wave of challenges. These challenges will, at long last, demand this corner-rounding — accepting no substitute for it. The child who crawled East will have to crawl North, and vice-versa…the business convention is at that inconveniently-located corner after all.

And both kids will work hard at it. But now they’re nurturing talents in adulthood. They aren’t learning as quickly or as definitively as they did before.

So they both arrive at the business conference, which demands all this Yin-and-Yang skill from everyone present.

This is the part John missed: Yin and Yang is about the path they have taken, not where they end up. This determines how their brains are wired, and how, between the earlobes, they tackle each perplexing problem that comes up. At least, the problems that have no pre-fabricated solution. The route they have taken to the business conference, dictates the method they’ll use to solve these problems.

Paths TakenAnd as far as the path they have taken, there is no middle ground. At least, that’s the theory. Remember, the big gray building is monolithic. For a socially-exuberant child to develop real problem solving skills, is improbable because it’s unnatural. Children develop skills wherever need intersects with opportunity. They have to have both, or the development is highly unlikely to take place…and the socially-energetic kids don’t have need. As for the socially-interactive skills developing in the nerds, that’s a matter of opportunity. It’s absent, and so they go for the next best thing. They develop the ability to think out unorthodox challenges through a cognitive process, an ability their more friendly and outgoing counterparts invariably lack.

So I think those are the points of disagreement between John and myself. I don’t want to banish the Yang…and the divide between my kind and theirs, is clean and decisive. That doesn’t mean we can’t work together. In many ways, we have to work together.

But I do think I need to pick on them a little bit. They get in trouble with people like me, from time to time, because of this controlling behavior. Their superior skills in the realm of engaging their peers socially, gives them an unfortunate tendency to behave as if all problems can be solved this way. Not some — all. And this, in turn, saddles them with a weakness in the department of looking at reality as it objectively exists…along with an ego too fragile to acknolwedge that this might be the case.

And this brings me to Macmic, the deep-thinker with the .ca e-mail address who attached two impressively-sized epistles to the end of the Michael Moore post in the week just past. He, I am gathering, is exactly what I’m talking about. Now that I think about it, so is Michael Moore himself. As I wrote about Mr. Moore…

Why does Moore have anything to do with America? Every time he comes out with a movie he keeps returning to his “Bowling For Columbine” theme that there is something wrong with America, something rotten in its core — something that compels us to be afraid of things and shoot each other all the time. He makes his films in Canada. He claims to be from Flint, MI — not too much of a drive to go from there, into Canada, for good. I’m not saying it to be derisive or dismissive — watch his movies sometime. Any one. The dude really likes Canada, and I don’t know of a single good thing he’s had to say about the U.S. by comparison. What’s he doing here?

It’s a question I might as well have posed with regard to a lot of other folks besides Michael Moore.

Now take a good look at what’s going on here. Just take a long, hard look at the world. We have all these countries that are not America. Hundreds of them. They have all embraced socialism, in one way or another. First world, second world, third world. Oh sure, they have different rules, different programs in place that address different things, and they all allow “businesses” to operate in some crippled form. But America trails behind all of them in this path to socialism. America, alone, struggles along awkwardly as a half-breed society, kinda socialist, kinda not, with some semblance of longing for true individualism still trickling through it’s veins.

In all other places, the need comes up for the individual to sacrifice something for the “public good” — and it’s done. We have a social problem and we need a curfew — okay. There is violence at nighttime and we’ll have to ban alcohol after seven o’clock — done. Traffic is congested so we’re going to install round-abouts to force your errand to take longer than it should — we comply. We’re disarming, please present all your guns to the sheriff in the town square tomorrow at noon — alright.

Only in America is there some remnant of healthy, cantankerous protest on behalf of the individual. We waver a lot here & there, but we still have it.

And along come passionate, all-controlling collectivists like Michael Moore to stamp it out. Here. It is not a case of live-and-let-live. Michael Moore could live in Canada, which already manages healthcare exactly the way he wants it done. He could live anywhere. He could let America sink or swim.

But he has to mount a crusade to get one country on the face of the globe, to do things the way he wants them done, when all other countries already do it more-or-less the way he wants. He’s got to stamp out the last remnant of resistance. Why, if that isn’t controlling, I don’t know what is.

Macmic makes the same point about countries that John makes about people: I have neglected the middle-ground. China has socialism and capitalism, both. So does Japan. So do many, many other countries.

Macmic’s logical error, here, is to presume all these societies are at rest. That is untrue in all his examples, and it cannot be true anywhere. It simply can’t hold up, because in human history all efforts to control others are prolonged struggles. My point about the collectivists is that the desire will always be there. Remember what I said about the Yang — we are all gathered around the piano, gathering around the piano is what we are all doing. Individualists can live in harmony with collectivists, but collectivists cannot abide individualism.

And so, when Yin and Yang are placed in proximity, there will be an enthusiastic and energetic effort among Yang to convert the Yin. Yang, obviously, foster an environment friendly to collectivism, so this bleeds over into the interaction between individualists and collectivists; where they exist in proximity, there will always be a mission among the collectivists to eradicate all others.

And that’s why I referred to socialism as the Terminator robot of economic models. It really is. Michael Moore proves it — he’s got the entire world, sans America, and it isn’t enough. His physical obesity and obvious mode of gluttony, turn out to be convenient metaphors for his desire that socialism should cover a few more square miles, until it has gobbled the globe.

No, I don’t think the Yang are inherently unfeeling or evil. I don’t think they want to eradicate humanity. I don’t even think they want to kill Sarah Connor. I don’t think they’re all collectivists or socialists…all they do, to my mind, is create an environment that allows collectivism to spread. If someone must erect a breakwater so this attack on the individual can be stopped, or slowed down, it is up to the Yin to build it. But the collectivists must run everything, every square inch all over the globe, or else they are perpetually hungry for more. “Terminator” fits the collectivists very, very well. That’s why socialism always ends up being unimaginably hostile and dangerous, even though it is never designed to be that way.

Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Yin and Yang IX

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Blogger friend James Bostwick at Newsblog Central took note of a study done by a bunch of clipboard-carrying, white-coat-propeller-beanie-wearing egghead researchers out in Chicago. I will link now and tease later, because for now I want to talk not so much about the study itself, but the thoughts that came back to me while I was reading about it. Let’s just say for now the subject of the study is human interaction.

The egghead researchers have been nudged by their own research into concluding there are basically two types of people. It gets much more complicated than that, of course, but that is the gist of it. Well, bloggers can also notice there are basically two types of people…and here at the Blog That Nobody Reads, we’ve been doing exactly that. We’ve discussed it at length in a series called — arbitrarily — Yin and Yang. There is little inherent meaning involved in the name “Yin” and there is no more inherent meaning in the name “Yang”…except just this. In classic Taoist philosophy, “Yang” is used to describe energy that is boisterous, jovial, masculine and maybe slightly obnoxious. “Yin” is used to describe diametrically opposed but complimentary energies that are introspective, feminine and dark.

We’ve written eight installments about this. This is the ninth. The eight installments are as follows:

Yin and Yang was posted on February 12 of last year. It is inspired by the budget problems of Porter County, Indiana, which found itself in the red because a computer glitch allowed a home to be assessed at about 3400 times its real value. I made the observation that, since nothing had concretely deteriorated on the income side and nothing had concretely expanded on the disbursement side, you had to have a certain personality type to translate this hiccup into real financial gloom. You had to spend first and ask questions later. That’s what it takes to snowball a simple disappointment, into a disaster. This is not unique to Porter County by any means. But it does show that what county governments tend to do, which is to get all the money spent, can lead to serious problems. And yet they’re going to keep right on doing it this way, because when you reject someone’s expense request, they feel better knowing the money is all gone, than they would if you told them there’s a surplus available but you don’t think their idea merits dipping into it. It’s all about feelings. That’s the point of that installment.

Yin and Yang II was posted on April 9, inspired by a story in the Sacramento News and Review which I found to be highly deceptive. The subject of the story was Michael Morales, who was sentenced to death for beating a girl to death with a claw hammer; more specifically, Charles McGrath, the presiding judge at Morales’ trial. Now, going by the cover, the headline, the sub-headline, and the first couple of paragraphs of the story you are invited to come to the conclusion that Morales is innocent, or at least, that McGrath thinks this may be the case. That’s a virtual lie. McGrath’s objection to Morales’ path, as the killer tumbles through the workings of our legal system, is procedural. I made the observation that there is a certain personality type taken in by this deceptive form of journalism, and that actually, from the perspective of that personality type, the deceipt would probably be immaterial. Again, it’s all about feelings. Also, I hypothesized, in my role as an uneducated layman, about how childhood development might take place in each of us, so that the decision is made regarding which personality we’re going to form.

Yin and Yang III was posted on May 1, and it was inspired by the profile of Marissa Leigh, who is being carefully groomed, no expense spared, to become the next Britney Spears. Now it could very well be that Marissa Leigh is a nice, intelligent girl, and that her mother has the best of intentions. According to the information that has found its way to me, most of which is in the article linked, Marissa Leigh is an intolerable airhead and her mother is a pernicious bitch. It is a mystery to me why, and how, anyone would want to raise their daughter this way. There is a payoff to be realized from the years of what I see as nothing more than child abuse. The payoff makes sense to millions of people, whereas, to millions of other people who think more along the lines of the way I think, the payoff is for all purposes non-existent. I started to delve further into why I believe these two personality types are fundamentally incompatible. When contact is attempted, disharmony is the inevitable result. I have no interest in coming into social contact with people like Marissa Leigh; I know from experience, they have no interest in coming into social contact with people like me.

A week later, on May 8 I posted Yin and Yang IV, inspired by the story of young brides in certain Chinese provinces being forced to cry at their weddings. This highlights something about the “Yang” I’ve been noticing my entire life, albeit consciously only for the last decade or so, maybe less. There is something controlling about them. There has to be. When you want to think a certain thing, which is the paramount goal at any moment of the Yin, other people can think whatever they want to think. But when you want to feel a certain thing, which is what the Yang want to do, your goal is obstructed when someone else feels the opposite. And so you cannot permit this. You want laughing, everyone else must laugh; you want crying, there will be crying dammit. Also in this installment, I repudiated the notion that I was the inventor of the concept of splitting people up, and listed several articles of world literature showing that this is a well-established and ancient fantasy, probably as old as mankind itself.

On June 9, I had watched the “Grapple in the Apple” between Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway, MP, and noted in Yin and Yang V how similar this was to the match-up between Bill O’Reilly and David Letterman five months previous. Both exchanges were “debates” according to the rules of cosmetics, and cosmetics alone. In neither one of these couplings did the combatants address common arbiters, instead, what they did was take turns delivering monologues to chosen population segments. Galloway and Letterman made their pitches to The Yang, who like to feel good, and Hitchens and O’Reilly (with minor exceptions) played to The Yin, who like to think things through logically. The political situation in 21st-century America, in which The Yang barely lose out in one election after another, dictates that logically the two sides should be making arguments quite different from the arguments they are making. I noted that my theory explains this — nothing else does — and examined how the evolutionary forces have driven us to this point, where the two sides are in greater conflict with each other than they have been before.

I wrote up Installment VI on July 8th. It has to do with what we call “leadership,” and what exactly that is. To summarize, there are two kinds of leadership and they could be thought of as wartime leadership and democratic leadership. The former identifies ways to reduce the danger posed by a grave threat, and ultimately to defeat that threat. The latter has to do with synergizing widely-felt sentiments and translating them into actions that affect everybody, hopefully for the better. In the first of those two situations, the handicaps of the Yin mean very little to us, and the danger we face tends to elevate Yin people into positions of power. In the second, we are concerned about not being marginalized, making everything be the way we want them to be. We then tend to choose leaders who show prominent abilities to represent themselves as being like us. These “Yang” leaders, with their weaknesses in separating truth from fiction, come to be valued for their communicative abilities and, again, their handicaps mean very little to us. And so throughout history we see the people who run society, change in their personalities depending on the challenges those societies face at a given time.

By December 3rd, people had begun to write in expressing interest in following The Blog That Nobody Reads in general, and Yin and Yang in particular. I thought it was presumptuous to drag them through those six bloated chapters so I put up the seventh installment which is unofficially referred to as the “Foxworthy Chapter.” It just goes on and on about the things you might do if you are Yin, and the other things you might do if you’re Yang.

On February 24th, our new House Speaker sounded off against Vice President Cheney using a favored mantra of the Yang: “You cannot.” I wrote up the eighth chapter to highlight what her overly-simplistic statement proved, to me, beyond any doubt: Those who awaited the House leadership and the White House to come to some sort of compromise about things, were bound to be disappointed. The two sides cannot be reconciled. They come from different planets.

Before going further, I should note that I’m a blogger and not much more than that. I’m not a psychologist or a neurosurgeon or anthropologist or even a daycare provider. I’m just a 41-year-old guy who’s lived with and worked with people. And I’ve got certain weaknesses in doing that. Ironically, in the realm of dealing with people, weaknesses can be educational. Some folks don’t have weaknesses, and end up not learning anything because they don’t have to learn anything. That’s not me. So you could take what follows as stuff that comes from experience; stuff that, if a time machine were invented, I might be interested in zipping back twenty years and telling myself. That’s all it is.

And because I’ve had those weaknesses, I would think the twenty-year-old me would pay attention. At least, he should.

The thing about Yin and Yang is that it’s just one way of dividing people, out of many. Take a minute or two to think about these. Some of us are men and some of us are women; some are masculine and some are feminine. When you have a plurality of these divisions, and you start testing large numbers of people according to those axes, you run into large and small overlaps. You gather up a hundred men and a hundred women, and there will be a general tendency for men to be more masculine than women, and women to be more feminine. But you should expect to find errors, or more precisely, anomalies. Fifteen to twenty women, perhaps more, will be more masculine than some of the men.

And this goes for everything. Simply put, correlation is not causation. Gather a hundred left-handed people and a hundred right-handed people, and overall there will be a tendency for left-handed people to be more artistic. But it’s almost never an absolute. A hundred people who know how to fold shirts, coupled with a hundred people who do not — you won’t find a hundred men in the don’t-know-how group. Seventy-five, maybe. Probably more than that. But there will be some gals in there. Every trend has a couple of odd birds ducking it.

One additional thing you need to think about with regard to Yin and Yang, is the distinction between knowing how to do something, and having something come naturally to you. Yin and Yang has to do with social skills. Not just what you see when you start to meet large numbers of people, but how those people relate to you, and to each other. Some know how to communicate, some do not. Yin and Yang doesn’t have to do with whether people communicate effectively — it has to do with how. It’s got to do with brain activity.

Because it concerns how people see each other when they do their communicating, it has to do with how they program themselves to do this communicating as they go through life. Yin and Yang, therefore, is unique among these divisional axes. There is no middle-ground here. Divide people into left-handed versus right-handed, and you’ll have ambidextrous people in there. Divide people into masculine and feminine, and you’ll have some folks who are poorly-defined sexually. Divide them into intemperate and patient, and you’ll always have some “five-outta-ten” types.

There can be no middle ground with Yin and Yang. That’s because every year you communicate people in the manner of the Yin, it becomes progressively more difficult for you to ever do it as a Yang — and vice-versa. We become more and more entrenched into whichever half we have chosen for ourselves, just by living life.

To understand how this works, let’s inspect very young children in their formative years, but not the average kids — let’s concentrate on the very best and brightest among those. These kids have above-average intelligence, and behave casually and confidently. As a result of the way they behave, they are fun for adults to watch. The adults therefore watch them, and the kids pick up on this. My job, the kids say to themselves, is to give those grown-ups something to watch.

And this starts a vicious cycle of accelerated learning. The children already have, before the age of two, a kind of sense of responsibility. They understand that they have a direct effect on the outcome of things. That’s a heady sense of self to have at such a tender age. Before the age of three, this becomes second-nature. Grown-ups can be sad, grown-ups can be happy, and the child can decide this.

When you learn something that soon, it’s impossible to forget it. Ever.

Now, this doesn’t happen to everybody. There are other kids who have trouble relating to the adults and their peers. Age two comes and goes, then age three, then age four; these children have yet to take command of their environment, to find a way to impact the mood of those around them. As a result, they aren’t expected to do much of anything. Except, maybe, do some chores. They expect no more of themselves, in communicating with others, than others expect of them. They lack the confidence their more mature siblings and peers have, and wear day-to-day rather easily. They lack this confidence, and therefore they lack the ability to command the attention in a group setting. This continues for a great deal of time. They may be double, triple, quadruple the age their more outgoing peers were, upon easily attaining this commanding, communicative skill. And they have yet to grasp it. They go tumbling into adolescence this way.

But while all this is going on, a funny thing happens. These less-mature kids, who are quieter, more contemplative — less fun to watch — sooner or later, are left alone. And then they have to find something to do.

This pattern never seems to change: The highly-educated and highly-esteemed scientific professionals, fail to keep it in mind. Kids, young and old, smart and dumb…they all have to be occupied. If they tend to bore the grown-ups so that the grown-ups don’t give them anything to do, they will find something to do. They will make “projects” for themselves. And that is exactly what these not-so-mature, not-so-sociable kids do. They write, they draw, they paint.

They accumulate skills. Skills their more outgoing peers don’t develop…because there’s no need to. The more sociable kids have other skills, which the reading-drawing-painting kids are never going to have. Not naturally, anyway.

This is Yin and Yang. Yang kids become chatty, and demonstrate amazing aptitude in being that way, by the age of two or three. The socially immature Yin drift around for a few more years, wondering what to do, and then start developing cognitive problem-solving skills between the ages of five to eight. Yang expect to be watched, Yin expect not to be. Both become self-fulfilling prophecies. On a day-to-day basis. For life.

Now, let’s talk about brainwave activity. I’m no more a neurosurgeon than I am a shrink. But there exists a lobe called the Orbito-Frontal Cortex, and what’s cool about this particular lobe is that it remains a mystery to science. You don’t need to do too much homework about it before you know — painstaking details, useful only in a laboratory setting, aside — everything the scientists know. At least, all the stuff they know for sure. And that’s not much.

OFCThe Orbito-Frontal Cortex, or OFC, is one of the least understood regions of the brain. Part of the reason for this is that, for all the importance it seems to have, it defies conventional brainscan methodologies. It’s located too close to the sinus cavity to be mapped as effectively as other regions. All that air whooshing around in there, and what-not.

And so science has been working hard on figuring out how this piece of meat works. And it’s been able to nail down relatively little.

But science does know a thing or two at this point. And what they’ve been able to learn about the OFC, is — roughly — this: We process reward and punishment through this part of the brain. The way this isolated region takes charge of this chore, it can be said, is readily apparent to everyone who has one. You put your hand on a hot stove, and years later, you see another hot stove. You aren’t cataloguing facts, things you can learn from the facts, cataloguing things you don’t know, engaging in process of elimination, or anything of the kind…you just know you don’t want to touch it. Carrots and sticks. They cause a “short-circuiting” to occur upstairs. You don’t know what you do & don’t know…nor do you care. You haven’t a clue. On what you want to do and don’t want to do, you’re crystal-clear already, so something must have been engaged out-of-sequence. The OFC, it’s fairly well established, is the corridor through which that short-circuiting occurs.

The OFC also has to do with engaging us with each other socially. When we ingratiate ourselves with groups, cliques, subcultures, and the like, we engage the OFC. There are things that are “done” and there are other things that are “not done.” A great example of this is wearing white after Labor Day; rare is the fashion maven that can actually explain what’s wrong with doing this, but they all agree it’s something that simply isn’t done.

Reward and punishment. It goes through the OFC.

Well it turns out, when we aren’t paying attention to others and others are not paying attention to us, and we’re locked in our bedrooms designing our dream houses or fingerpainting or whatever, the OFC doesn’t have a lot of use for us. And so these Yin children who become accustomed to doodling throughout their childhood and teenage years, over time become sluggish engaging OFC-related intellectual exercises. Perhaps their OFCs shrivel up like raisins. Or perhaps the synapses that connect the OFC, become rusty and corroded. Whatever the physical cause, it remains a truism that the brain reprograms itself as it is engaged in everyday tasks. These Yin kids, once they’re placed in a more socially-interactive setting and thus given a cause to re-engage this atrophied OFC, they tend to adapt sluggishly.

Maybe the chubby ones who are used to stuffing their faces with Cheetos and chips while watching Beavis and Butthead, in the middle of asking a prom date to dance, will burp right in her face. More often, the examples will be subtle. Kids who are relatively inexperienced at relating to other kids, will be forced to learn how…and if they’re intelligent and flexible, they will. If they spend enough energy, they may even become almost as socially-outgoing as the more sociable kids, who did exactly the same thing at a far younger age.

But they won’t do it the same way. They communicate with their peers and start socializing, even if they enjoy the company — they still see the other party as kind of a puzzle. They see external entities in ways the Yang kids do not see them. They labor onward, Yin in Yang’s clothing, doing these Yang-things unnaturally but, with sufficient attention and energy, with some proficiency. Upstairs, they’re going through all these extra steps. I know this, I don’t know that…from that, I’m to conclude that…and therefore, I shall do this. Chances of her dancing with me if I burp in her face, 20%…chances if I don’t burp in her face, 45%…therefore, I shall not burp in her face. Like someone playing chess, or Master Mind.

The Yang-kids do exactly the same things. But they do it by engaging the OFC. It’s all one easy, fluid motion.

Yang kids are no different. If they’re very intelligent and mature, and keep that maturity into adulthood, and are greeted with disappointment and use their aptitudes to develop Yin-like skills to overcome those disappointments — they won’t do it the way natural-born Yin kids do it. It’s a case of “when you’ve got a shiny golden hammer, everything looks like a nail.” They may learn how to work with spreadsheets and engineering drawings, but every miniscule task that comes up, they’ll fire up the OFC in ways the Yin kids will not when doing the same thing.

In the years since I’ve become aware of this, I’ve found it’s difficult to categorize people this way when they are intelligent, flexible, talented and bright. You have to figure out where they’re coming from — if a brainscan appliance isn’t available — through their weaknesses. If they’re too smart, they become talented at covering this up. I’ll talk more on this further down.

But none of this means the Yin/Yang orientation is not there. It is brain-lobe routing. It is a distinction between ways of thinking, which become more and more prevalent each day we’re called-upon to solve problems. Everybody has it in one flavor or another.

This reads a lot, I’m sure, like introverts and extraverts. That isn’t really what’s going on, when you look into the details of the definitions. Introverts and extraverts run “on batteries” in certain situations. They may adapt to something outside their turf for a little while, but they consume energy in doing this. Introverts speak in public — their energy is depleted and they will restore it in solitude. They’ll look forward to Friday evening, and once the weekend is here they will grab some beer and go fishing. Alone. Extraverts may hole themselves up in their offices and fiddle around with spreadsheets and databases…when they’re forced to. In so doing they’ll deplete energy. They’ll rejuvenate by doing exactly the things that drain the energy of the introverts. They’ll hold court. With big smiles on their faces…smiles that were missing when they were fiddling around with the Godforsaken spreadsheets they didn’t really want to fiddle with.

Must a Yang be extraverted? No. An extravert loses energy in solitude and rejuvenates it in a large group; a Yang channels intellectual challenges through the OFC, that need not be channeled there. To be an introverted Yang, all you have to do is operate on a reward-and-punishment basis, and look forward to operating in solitude.

Perfectly possible. It would probably be difficult to implement such a combination and to be happy. But it’s definitely possible.

Must a Yin be introverted? Again, no. A Yin solves intellectual problems systematically. He is most comfortable making a catalogue of things he knows and things he doesn’t know, and proceeding from there to figuring out what’s going on. Being introverted means you deplete your energy in groups of people, whether you’re afraid of them or not — and you recoup that energy in solitude.

Now, groups of people tend to be distracting to the process of gathering evidence and arriving at inferences. But if you’re capable of focusing your attention, and juggling many tasks at once, it can be done. So an extraverted Yin would be someone who enjoys people and also enjoys solving problems.

Also this detail makes it tough to arrive at a razor-precise definition of what separates Yin from Yang. There are two tests, one to be implemented in childhood and one to be implemented after the subject has arrived at maturity.

The childhood test is this:

The Yang Child is stuck in an endless loop of approaching his parents, or parent-figures, and saying: “Look at me.” He feels uncomfortable if he isn’t being watched. Kids like this love to be photographed, but if you watch them later on you’ll notice they don’t have much interest in the photograph albums. They want to be watched in the here-and-now. They see the world as a stage, and they want to be actors.

The Yin Child, on the other hand, is stuck in a different endless loop. He gains attention and approval from his parents by saying — not “Look at me” — but “Look what I did.” He doesn’t care to be watched and if he is watched, he cares little about what people will see. He busies himself with manufacturing things, or designing things, and showing his wares after he is done with them.

This hasn’t got much to do with shyness, except to say shyness is a causative factor in becoming Yin. It’s highly difficult for a shy kid to go the other way. This arouses a popularly-held belief that when children behave in introverted ways, they must be shy. That’s bad logic at work; it’s like saying all fish must live in the water, therefore anything that lives in the water is a fish. One’s a superset of another, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the sets are identical.

The test to be applied after maturity is even more complicated. It works this way:

You can see the difference between Yin and Yang, in adults, most clearly when there is a new tool to be used. In our times, the best example of that is when Microsoft releases a new version of an operating system, or of a component in the Office Suite.

Some of us look forward to this. Others dread it.

Now if a new bit of technology comes out, and you’re tasked with educating the uninitiated about how to use it, after awhile you’ll be able to easily make this distinction yourself. You can see it in the way some of your students behave: The Edit menu in the old version, had nine sub-options, and now it has eleven…they have a great enthusiasm in learning about the other two. The other students are going to behave in a manner completely different: They’ll be frustrated. God damn it, I know what I want to do…I used to have a way of doing it and then they released this piece-o-crap program and now I have to do it all over again. In other words, they don’t see the benefit. And if you work with them for awhile, this becomes understandable — they don’t get a benefit out of it.

They exist to socialize, and every now and then there are tasks that have to be done. Tools are simply ways to achieve those tasks. A new tool comes out…so what? If the old tool accomplished the task just as efficiently, the upgrade is a futility.

I’ve been put in this position more than my share of times. And I know this for a fact: Anybody else, who has been put in the same position, understands what I’m saying. Some students are tool-oriented, and others aren’t.

What never seems to change, is this: The tool-oriented people are moderately, or sub-par, sociable. The non-tool-oriented people are social butterflies.

Really, adults can be tested with any challenge that is new. That is the operative concept here. Adults, once met with a challenge that they’ve already dealt with before, have a tendency to go with whatever plan they used the last go ’round whether it was successful or not. Force them to come up with a new one, and you’ll have a great test of Yin vs. Yang.

Probably the most generic of these, is to ask articulate, but unintelligible, questions. “Maybe I’m asking the wrong person, but can you tell me…” and, following that, hit ‘em with something containing at least one completely unfamiliar verb, and two completely unfamiliar nouns. Whatever the adult’s leanings, he will then have to busy himself with figuring out if he can help you, and then finding a way to do it.

The way the Yin see the world, everything worth doing involves a state of objects as they are, and a state of objects as desired — the work to be done lies in the difference between those two states. You are trying to do something; the subject of your test doesn’t yet know what it is. What he’s going to try to do, is find out what your mission is, and from that figure out if he’s able to help you. Perhaps you want to break the law, or perhaps you want to help his competition succeed. Step One is going to be to eliminate those as possibilities. Step Two is going to be to measure the magnitude of work. All tasks, to the Yin, occur within a perimeter. Replacing the exhaust manifold on a Chevy Malibu has to be done one time — that’s measurable. Printing up five thousand fliers has to be done 5,000 times — that’s measurable. This has a bearing on the method to be pursued getting these things done…for example, if you only want ten fliers instead of 5,000, you’ll be wanting to do that on your home printer most likely.

But the Yin, being entirely unfamiliar with what you want to do, will make these questions a priority.

And after the conversation is over, if your work is interesting the Yin will be hitting the Internet to find out more about it. You used acronyms and terms he didn’t know, and he doesn’t want to be blindsided again if someone else has a related question…that stuff’s interesting, after all.

The Yang react in a similar way, but they show different behaviors before the exercise is over. For starters — when you first asked the Yang your question, he, likewise, didn’t understand what you were talking about. The Yang find situations like these to be tinged with a residual hue of threat: If you talk about things they don’t understand, you may represent an entirely different kind of people.

You are going to labor under a time limit to make yourself understandable to the Yang. If you do not meet it, the conversation will be over. They’ll politely refer you to someone who might possibly know more about what you’re trying to do. There won’t be a lot of responsibility taken to make sure this is the case; about half the time, you’ll find it’s a bunny trail. What really happened was, you blindsided the Yang with something that was unfamiliar. He allocated a certain amount of time to venture in here with you, and you exhausted that quota. Think how you’d behave around a stranger who at first seemed to have all his mental faculties about him, and then as he proceeded to spew a lot of gibberish at you, demonstrated himself to be certifiably insane. That’s what happens with the Yang. You might be sane, but discussing something outside of their comfort zone — to them, that’s the same as being insane.

So you’ve got about forty-five seconds. If you explain what you’re trying to find, or what you’re trying to do, in a way that makes sense to him inside that limit, he’ll go down a different path. The first thing he’ll want to know is: What effect is this going to have? If it’s something that will benefit you personally, like replacing the exhaust manifold, he’ll see this as the beginning of a friendship and his questions will start to take on that tone: Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do? He’s trying to get on a little more solid footing with you, as a future friend. They’re sociable creatures. You have stories, he has stories, if you exchange stories you’re both four times as story-rich as you were before. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and all that.

With regard to printing up the fliers, he’ll ask a question the Yin forgot entirely to ask: What is going on them? If it’s a political slogan, the Yang’s enthusiasm for helping you will wax or wane depending on his sympathies with the message going on the fliers. If it’s political-neutral — for example, come to our church dinner, the cover charge goes toward feeding the hungry — this will have an immediate effect on his enthusiasm as well. And as you talk with him about it, you’ll see he doesn’t regard this as a mission for your church. He sees it as a way to feed a portion of the world’s hungry people.

Remember the perimeter that the Yin see surrounding all tasks? That’s a defining difference there. The Yang don’t see it. They see the world…as one object. The world’s got so many cars that need new exhaust manifolds, and it’s got so many kids that are so hungry. After the project is completed, there will be slightly fewer cars that need new manifolds, or slightly fewer hungry kids. A project did not get completed — a task is what got completed. The completion of an actual project is something the Yang very rarely knows, because as far as they’re concerned, it is the complete eradication of something. Dirt. Crime. Poverty. The things that are worth our time, involve noble, incremental baby-steps toward those kinds of great, wonderful goals.

From this, we see adulthood is merely an extension of what we have all done in childhood. Shut in to our offices, laboring in solitude over a meaningless spreadsheet…or possibly, a future cure for cancer…the way the Yin do things, makes a great deal of sense. You know some things, you don’t know other things. From this, some things may be, other things must not be. And if it makes someone somewhere feel bad, that matters not one bit.

But in groups, the way the Yang do things, is the more sensible way to go. They take these puzzles, which to a nice Yinny born-and-bred puzzle-solver might actually be quite simple…and they punt. They scrape it all into a bottomless manhole somewhere in the OFC. And from the OFC, it goes into some massive antennae — which the Yin, decidedly, lack — and they synchronize with a group to find the correct answer. In effect, they externalize the exercise. They put it to a vote. Does this make sense? Logically, no. But socially, yes. And it involves some measure of skill in it’s own way.

You can kind of start to see why one of these “sides” is friendly to individualism and the other “side” is friendly to socialism and collectivism.

That’s why there is so much friction any time Yin and Yang are forced to function in close proximity to each other. The things that need to be done, they don’t see them the same way. “Mission Accomplished” means a completely different thing to one side than it does to the other.

Now, these tests are imperfect. It can take some effort to apply them, get results back, and figure out what they mean. Persons of average intelligence, or slightly higher — this distinction jumps out at you and grabs you by the neck. It’s impossible to ignore. When you deal with people slightly more intelligent than that, like significantly over the average, bordering on genius levels, this becomes a much more subtle distinction.

The subtlety is a problem with highly intelligent, highly functional people. Experience has a bearing on this as well. Persons of lower intelligence, ten or fifteen I.Q. points over the average, can hang around and gradually accumulate methods and tactics for dealing with everyday problems. They start to learn when they’re creeping people out by not being talkative enough, or annoying others by being too talkative. And they solve everyday problems with familiar tools. Highly experienced people like this, it can be very difficult to figure out if they’re Yin or Yang. And your incentive for doing so will soften up as well — you’re not running into problems with the way they go about doing things, so why bother to figure it out?

But as to whether these people really are Yin or Yang within their cranial cavities — this changes nothing. They still are devoted to one side. A new challenge comes up — they’ll noodle it out according to what can be learned, verified, repudiated…or they’ll select an option they anticipate will be pleasing to their peer group. All of one & none of the other, or vice-versa.

There’s no middle ground here. None whatsoever.

Earlier this year, I had tracked down a management training exercise I had personally attended ten years previous. I found the management training exercise to be a problematic illustration of human nature at best, and an outright lie at worst.

There was a point to the exercise, and for the purpose of making this point, it was positioned in the Arctic tundra, miles from civilization. Choices had to be made about tools, supplies, things to be done…and to make these choices, the group was declared supreme, and the individual decidedly inferior. The exercise demonstrated that the group amounted to something greater than the sum of it’s parts. By sticking together, asserting themselves at the right time, deferring at the right time, the individuals contributed to a group that made the right decision all the time. Or more often than any one of its members, effectively saving the lives of all who participated.

I had a minor beef with this at thirty years of age. Past forty, I am weary, jaundiced, and…what can I say. I know better. I’ve watched individuals solve problems and I’ve watched groups solve problems.

Groups don’t really solve problems. If there’s a problem to be solved — “Should we put the sleeping bags on dry ground first, or gather firewood?” “Is it realistic to build a flat-six air-cooled engine?” “What is the square root of 841?” — groups don’t solve this. They delegate it to an individual. If the group solves the problem, they do it by swivelling all heads toward the guy who knows best, and then that guy comes up with an answer. As an individual.

The closest a group gets to doing something an individual can’t, is allocating money for things. Sub-groups don’t want to contribute to a cause, without representation…so you represent all of them. A group is born. With the money thus allocated, an individual comes from somewhere and does the real work. Then the group takes credit for it.

But groups do think. That is the problem. This is the most likely evolutionary purpose of the OFC. It provides us, as individuals, with the ability to quickly process punishment and reward…and therefore more cohesively integrate ourselves into a group. With our luminous and vibrant OFCs, we can understand some things are “good” and some things are “bad,” before we’ve wasted time trying to figure out (as individuals) what makes these things good or bad. I before E except after C…salad fork goes outside the dinner fork. Nevermind what actually is going to happen if you bring pork to a Jewish wedding, just don’t do it.

That’s what allows us to make up groups, and to function within them.

But the Schefferville exercise is…well, it’s crap. Groups don’t solve problems better than individuals. They don’t solve problems at all. What they do is generate instant credibility, without putting anyone in the situation of being held accountable. And they make it expedient to create compromises. Therefore, they can allocate money. But they don’t think. Thinking in the group is done with the OFCs, and that isn’t real thinking. It’s simple anticipation of reward and fear of punishment, nothing more.

With that lengthy exploration, we now come to James’ article…which I find fascinating. Here’s how it works.

The test is administered, and probably designed, by one Boaz Keysar. He teaches at the University of Chicago. His biography page says the following:

Professor Keysar’s research is about how people communicate, negotiate and make decisions. Many of his discoveries reveal systematic reasons for miscommunication and misunderstandings. For example, his research shows that people overestimate their ability to communicate accurately, and counter to what people tend to think, we miscommunicate even more with those who are more familiar to us.

So what about this test he designed. Well, let’s take a look.

Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples’ point of view, a new study suggests.

And in contrast, the researchers found that Chinese are more skilled at understanding other people’s perspectives, possibly because they live in a more “collectivist” society.
:
Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a “director,” sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.

When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director’s perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director’s seat, only one block was on the table.

Most of the 20 Chinese participants, however, were not confused by the hidden block and knew exactly which block the director was referring to. While following directions was relatively simple for the Chinese, it took Americans twice as long to move a block.

The test is explained in much greater detail in this article from last week in the New Scientist:

In a new psychological experiment, Chinese students outperformed their US counterparts when ask[ed] to infer another person’s perspective. The researchers say the findings help explain how misunderstandings can occur in cross-cultural communication.

The TestIn the experiment, psychologists Boaz Keysar and Shali Wu at the University of Chicago, Illinois, US, recruited 40 students. Half of the volunteers were non-Asians who had grown up in the US, and the other half were native Mandarin speakers who had very recently emigrated from various parts of China.

The volunteers played a game in which they had to follow the instructions of a person sitting across the table from them, an individual known as the ‘director’.

Researchers placed a grid structure between the two people consisting of small compartments, some of which contained objects such as wood blocks, toy bunnies and sunglasses (see image, right). Some of the individual compartments were covered on one side with cardboard so that they were blocked from the view of the director – only the study subjects could see the objects inside.

The volunteers had to follow the instructions of the director and move named objects from one compartment to another. But – as a sneaky trick – the researchers sometimes placed two objects of the same kind in the grid. In this case, the subjects would have to consider the director’s view to know which object she was referring to.

For example, the grid sometimes contained two wooden blocks, one of which sat in a compartment hidden to the director. The director would then ask the subject to “move the wooden block to a higher square in the grid”.

Chinese students would immediately understand which wooden block to move – the one visible to both them and the director. Their US counterparts, however, did not always catch on.

“They would ask ‘Which block?’ or ‘You mean the one on the right?”, explains Keysar. “For me it was really stunning because all of the information is there. You don’t need to ask,” he adds.

Now, for the purposes of figuring out what’s wrong with the test, it isn’t important to figure out if Dr. Keysar is oblivious to what he’s so obviously missed, or if he’s hoping his intended audience remains so oblivious. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that his test is flawed.

You have these two roles to play, the “participant” and the “director.” The “director” issues commands, the “participant” carries them out — but the “participant” understands all of the objects that are involved in what’s being done, whereas the “director” has knowledge only of some of them.

The shots, therefore, are called by the ignorant party.

This means the test is a test of ability of the participant to reject reality. To subordinate that which is known to be real, on a verifiable, individual level — to what has been dictated by an external entity, known to lack all of the information needed to make the correct decision.

Note how this test is titled and how it is described: “Self-centered cultures narrow your viewpoint.” “Study: Americans Don’t Understand Others.” You may understand reality — like the Yin — or you may understand others, like the Yang. Arbitrarily, from the way the headlines are written-up, the understanding of others is given priority. Those who are accustomed to using the OFC to do their “thinking,” want all others to do likewise. To abjure reality in favor of complying with the lessons of arbitrary, ignorant authority…with the lessons of reward and punishment.

But the OFC doesn’t understand math. It doesn’t understand fact, opinion, thing-to-do. It doesn’t understand process-of-elimination or rhetorical questions or cause-and-effect. The OFC only understands one thing: Do this, instead of that. X good, Y bad.

Dr. Keysar and associates’ critical error, was to either misunderstand this or to subordinate it. You can solve problems in such a manner as you, personally, can verify that you’ve correctly solved the problem…or you can follow instructions. Those are two distinctly different exercises. The researchers have found Americans have shifted their priorities away from following instructions, identifying with persons left ignorant by design…and toward arriving at the correct answer to the problem-at-hand.

There is a crucial distinction to be made here. The “participant” was being tested on his ability to denounce reality as he understood it, in favor of the instructions of a “director.” If this was a test about productive humility, the possibility would have been left open that perhaps “director” knew some things the “participant” did not. Perhaps there was a body of knowledge applicable to the test at hand, which could have been understood in total by a careful collaboration between “director” and “participant” so the two parties could pool their respective knowledge bases — a collaboration demanding more time than was immediately available. Or perhaps, although ignorant about some of the details, “director” may have had a prevailing command of more important items, denied to “participant” — things that would have lended greater weight to the integrity of chain-of-command. Or, yet another possibility could have been left open: “Director” knew all, but only pretended to be ignorant of some. Maybe the possibility existed that “participant” only thought he understood everything, but was kept in the dark about “surprises.”

None of these things seem to be applicable to the test as I understand it. From all the descriptions I’ve read — “participant” understood everything; “director” understood only some and misunderstood a great deal beyond that; “participant” was fully conscious of what he knew, how complete his understanding was, and what bits of detail were denied to “director.”

If I’m getting that right, I must suck at this test more than most. I don’t understand why you’d want a good score! It looks like a test in one’s ability to hallucinate. To pretend others are right, when you know they’re wrong.

Why was this test designed the way it was? And why was it publicized the way it was? The Chinese “understand peoples’ point of view” better than Americans. But the way they demonstrate this understanding in the experiment, has nothing whatsoever to do with “understanding.” What they have done is execute a move in a way they were expected to execute it…by a “director” who was kept deliberately ignorant about what was going on, as he issued his edicts.

I DisagreeYou know what? A wood chisel, positioned underneath a rubber mallet, accomplishes that just dandy. With no “understanding” of anything whatsoever.

No, I’m not trying to put down the Chinese. I’m just making a point: Doing what you’re told, no more no less, has nothing — nada, butkus, zilch — to do with “understanding” much of anything at all. That isn’t even science, it’s just common sense.

And I think the researchers can see that. So why proceed with this “test”?

This has been intriguing me for a long time. Tests like these, I think, are built to showcase the good side of collectivist societies, and the bad side of individualist societies. And this is the latest in a series. You don’t want to be holding your breath waiting for a scientific test to come out, that shows off how well individualist societies perform — although if such an endeavor were to be undertaken, there are all kinds of things that could be studied. But we don’t see research like that. We see research about people being better off when they live life for the sake of others. Recall the Schefferville exercise discussed above. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the way this “research” always goes.

Now, why is that? It isn’t “science.” Science doesn’t have a lot to do with this kind of mythology. Science hasn’t got much to do with socialism…not in theory, and not in practice. What’s with all these propeller-beanie eggheads trying to foist this socialism off on us? What’s in it for them?

I vote for human nature. For quite a few years now, I’ve noticed how many among the Yang seem to be highly motivated toward forcing the Yin to see things as they do…to live life the way the Yang live it. I think it’s simply in their nature. Yin can live-and-let-live; Yang seem to have a big problem with this. The Yang see the world as a single object, so to them, borders are meaningless. You don’t want people in the world to suffer, borders are just going to get in the way — they chop up the project at hand, into useless little bits. Keep the borders, and you’ve got to worry about ending suffering in Uganda, then in Chad, then in Somalia, and then in the United Kingdom…what’s the point? Besides, they make it easier to miss something.

So out they go, and since we’re doing away with international borders we have to get rid of other borders as well. The concept is the same. You want your house to appreciate in value, I want my house to appreciate in value…if we draw a boundary between our yards, we introduce a potential that one of us can realize the goal, while the other neighbor fails. It’s a fifty-fifty shot. Why not just do away with that, and then we can work together as a team?

Another thing that I think might motivate tests like this one, is plain old-fashioned jealousy. The goofy Yinny-headed “Americans” don’t do well on the test because they’re worried about giving the answer that reconciles against reality, rather than the answer that reconciles against the arbitrary notions of this ignorant “director.” You know, say what you want about that…but you know it’s correct. You don’t like to see someone else doing it, when you’ve pledged fidelity toward doing things the other way. Deep down, I think we all see the logic in this — make the decision that is correct, according to the world as it really is. Who cares what others say? If reality blesses you, all other blessings will follow. If you aren’t sure it’s the right answer, find out more. If you can’t find out more, then proceed according to what you know and not according to what somebody else knows. I think everyone understands, this just makes sense.

To pump out all this “research” nudging people toward the idea that you should do things the opposite way — it’s just jealousy. Since we all know that’s the right way to go, we don’t want someone else doing it after we’ve decided not to.

It’s like watching a woman get mugged, and making the choice not to get involved. You might feel kind of alright about it, if you’re enough of a creep and you manage to keep yourself detached. You might even look good to someone else who also chooses not to get involved…or who can’t get involved. But a complete stranger decides to jump in and helps her after you’ve taken a pass, you’re going to feel terrible about it, if there’s so much as a shred of decency left in you, and there’s no way you can come out of it looking good.

And so people who opt out of individualism, end up wanting to cleanse the entire planet of every tincture of it. It’ll happen that way every time. Individualists can live with non-individualists; but non-individualists cannot abide individualists. A collectivist society must span an island…then the adjoining continent…and eventually, the entire globe. This is how collectivism must work; it is monopolism. It’s gotta be that way. It was true eons before my parents met, and it will remain true long after my bones are dust.

Yin and Yang VIII

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

I see House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got very upset with Vice President Cheney when he made some public comments about her plans to pull the troops out of Iraq. She was so upset that she called up President Bush and told him to…

Well, that right there is the whole question I think. What did House Speaker Pelosi want the President to do.

She specifically asked him to distance himself from the remarks of the Vice President. No information has come to me about what it is she will do in the event he should fail to do this, or what undesirable consequences should follow from some other source if he fails to do this. She did say something about how he “can’t…” engage in what she perceives to be a contradiction, and on this point I’m having a little trouble following her logic.

“You cannot say as the president of the United States, ‘I welcome disagreement in a time of war,’ and then have the vice president of the United States go out of the country and mischaracterize a position of the speaker of the House and in a manner that says that person in that position of authority is acting against the national security of our country,” the speaker said.

Now, I happen to know from reading this and re-reading it, that when you diagram this sentence out it appears the “person in that position of authority” is a reference to herself, not to Vice President Cheney. Once you understand that, it’s a little easier to figure out her meaning.

But it’s a little tougher to take an assessment of her criticism and how valid it might be. She’s in a position of authority; therefore, when she says something ought to be done, you are not supposed to entertain any thoughts about how this thing might be deleterious to our national interests. Since, after all, the thing-to-do came from her.

Of, if you are to ponder such a thing, you are in logical contradiction with yourself after you have previously gone on record saying you “welcome disagreement in a time of war.”

Well, I’m having trouble with both aspects of this. I don’t think there is anything wrong with postulating how any plan on the table, might help the enemy, or cause injury to some things we have taken pains to accomplish, or cause some other unintended things to happen. This seems to me just like the basis of sound planning.

Nor do I see how it contradicts any previous statement about welcoming disagreement. You may declare your own strategies to be open to inspection and criticism…you may declare the alternatives of others, to be elevated above that scrutiny and therefore immune from it. Those are two different things.

Cheney PelosiAnd it impresses me that the chasmatic divide between those two things, is not something easily missed. Surely someone with the mental acumen needed to become the first woman Speaker of the House in 218 years, would be able to see it.

But of course, Nancy Pelosi is a politician just like Bush and Cheney. What she can see, doesn’t matter; what matters is the constituency she’s addressing, and what they can see.

But are they really this dense? Pelosi’s entire argument rests on two perceptions being identical. Not just similar, but identical. And in the discipline of puzzling things out and figuring out what they mean, it requires far more energy to penetrate the armor of her tangled grammatical construct, than to grasp this flaw that devastates the entire argument. Regardless of the wishes nurtured by whoever is doing the puzzling.

Pelosi has handed down a new rule. I, Speaker Nan, am in a position of authority. I can say we should do this thing, or not do that other thing…and don’t you dare say it’s bad for us to do what I want. The issue is not whether or not you’re correct, the issue is following rules. You’re not supposed to say such a thing. You’re not supposed to think it. Not s’poseda.

Pelosi represents millions of people who have been telling me, for years, that “dissent is patriotism.” Logic would say they conferred upon her some goddess-like status, in which patriotism is dissent against every authority figure except Speaker Nan, and it has something to do with blind obedience to everything she says. That, or else they’re going to start flooding her office with faxes and telephone calls complaining that she no longer speaks for them. One or the other.

Well. I don’t think there are too many of them who knew her name this time last year. And I don’t think they’re going to complain much.

Behold, we find yet another conundrum…an enigma which is exlained by my Yin and Yang theory, when nothing else does.

Yin and Yang solves this in the most effective way possible. By looking at the children.

Think about the very small ones; the very most emotionally mature among those. The two-year-olds with a grasp on the language that would rival that of dimmer children two, three times their age — they have the phonetics down cold, the syllable emphasis, the lilting, and all that. They’re usually girls, although there are exceptions to this. When they speak, they deliver the first two or three syllables in such a way that all the people in the room want to know what comes next.

Now, why is that exactly? The people in the room, themselves, do not know. They just want to know. People like me certainly can’t figure it out. I’m forty; the two-year-old child of which I speak, has forgotten more about how to get attention, every day, than I’ll ever learn in a lifetime. And I’m not alone. I’ve spent a lifetime telling people how to do things with their computers that they desperately want to get done, and I know this subject well if I don’t know anything else well. I could be describing how to get the data back from a carelessly erased file, which means everything to them and not a damn thing to me — hell, I could be describing to someone how to put out their pants when they’re on fire — and you’d be surprised how little it takes to put the conversation on hold. It’s absolutely astonishing. A dancing three-year-old yelling “hey, look at me!” A ringing cell phone. A fax machine clicking on. A Barry Manilow cut coming on the radio. Any ol’ bright flashing object will do the trick. Clearly, it’s not their problem, it’s mine.

It doesn’t have anything to do with not wanting to know what I have to say. These are often people who get ticked off at me for not telling them things…for which they can’t quite manage to make the time to be told what it is they want to know. The little-girls-grown-up who are so practiced at saying the right things in the right tone to hold everybody’s attention, I see they often arouse resentment and jealousy after they pass the age when they’re no longer cute. We saw this with those videos about MacKenzie, the girl who threw the big ol’ fit about her car being the wrong color. People get pissed. They see someone who knows nothing…who can’t do anything without asking someone else to do it for them…who, nevertheless, gives the appearance of carving through life like a sizzling hot knife through butter.

I suspect it is not that simple. These are people who want to be liked. I’ve seen them sacrifice meaningful things for this, things I would never dream of giving up. The first thing to go is the sense of individuality. Teacher asks the class to do something — poorly — and the entire class sits mystified, wondering what it is the teacher wants. One student might think she has an idea. But if she’s a gift-of-gab type, and has therefore taught herself to be that way practically from infancy, she’ll discard this thought as quickly as she found it. She’ll scan the room, like everybody else, waiting for that all-important consensus to emerge so she can follow it.

Now, I’m no neurologist. But I have a brain of my own, and I notice the same things about my brain I suspect everybody else notices about theirs whether they have some letters after their names or not. It works pretty much the way my muscles do; whatever I use becomes agile, and whatever I don’t becomes atrophied. This is where Yin and Yang comes in. It’s the mutual exclusivity between figuring out what the consensus is, or is going to be…and solving puzzles. Real life presents us with a never-ending panorama of vexing problems that demand some applied cognitive skills. But only if you lack the ability and resources to derive a group consensus so you can follow along. If you have that, you can solve the problem — at least socially — without any cognitive skills whatsoever. And in most situations, if you have the cognitive skills, you can marshall those to solve the problem at hand, thus rendering the group consensus practically meaningless.

Now, I see the neurologists are in a state of nascent understanding about the Orbitofrontal Cortex (OFC) and how exactly it works, and aren’t even in complete agreement about it’s purpose. But there are some things about this particular brain region that have come to be generally accepted, such as the direction of impulses into this region when the brain tries to anticipate reward and punishment. You might call the OFC the “not-s’poseda” part of the brain. You can feel it working. Just as Yang and Yin actions are mutually-exclusive by nature, impulses directed toward the OFC are directed away from the Cerebral Cortex (CC) and vice-versa. You see a hundred dollar bill. You postulate that if you take the hundred dollar bill, you will be able to buy things you currently cannot buy. That’s the CC talking, because you can’t comprehend the benefit of having the money without creating a strategy. However — if someone starts to give you electrical shocks every time you reach for the money, the OFC kicks in, and the strategic line of thought drains away. You’re simply not engaging it anymore; you’re no longer routing the impulses through that part of the brain. You’re working on reward-and-punishment, which more directly involves the OFC.

So is it as simple as the Yang “living in” the OFC and the Yin being similarly cemented into the CC? I dunno. When pressed into it, I notice people can “reach across” and do things that are not, shall we say, quite their cup of tea. But even among very bright individuals, if you get to know them well enough and study what they do on a day-to-day basis, you can see these things they do are a little bit like a right-handed person writing with their left hand. Very much like the people like me, when we address large crowds of people or present our agenda items during a teleconference. We may do a competent job fulfilling the task at hand, and if we do very well we may give an impression that we’re feeling at home, making it up as we’re going along.

But we’re not. We planned each step beforehand, because we had no choice but to do so.

And this is what Nancy Pelosi is trying to do; which, I suspect, may explain why her sentence structure comes out as some kind of a jumbled mess. She’s trying to argue about logical contradictions, saying “you cannot say (something) and then mischaracterize a position (etc.).” This is not her turf. Nancy Pelosi is a bright politician, who wouldn’t know a logical contradiction if it swam up and bit her in the ass. She’s done a dandy job of making her way in the world, but detecting such contradictions and calling them out, has very little to do with how she’s been doing it. She’s a pure-bred Yang, who works according to group consensus. She follows that consensus when it suits her purposes to do so, and she dictates what it is going to be when it suits her purposes to be doing that. And, of course, whenever she does the dictating it’s always according to what she thinks is going to be the most easily accepted. I think if you carved up her noggin, you’d find the ingress and egress from her OFC to be slicker than hog-snot on a doorknob…whereas the ductwork in her CC has a cobweb or two.

After all, she just made a grand show out of calling out the White House on a contradiction that doesn’t really exist.

Now, what makes Yin and Yang so important that we’re going to stop discussing the war in Iraq to talk about it for all these paragraphs? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Yang like Nancy Pelosi, thinking with their OFCs, “feel” that they are right about things. After all, that is one of the few functions of the OFC that science has been able to substantiate — it produces a course of action, and gives off a vibe that it’s correct. For that reason, the Yang are often observed to harbor animosity toward the Yin, that the Yin seldom reciprocate. The OFC has handed off to them this sense of “belonging,” and anybody who thinks in non-Yang-like ways, simply doesn’t belong. Anywhere. And I’m pretty sure with the Pelosi/Cheney melee, that’s exactly what we’re seeing play out. Cheney argues, Yin-like, from the standpoing of cause-and-effect…“I think if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we’ll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy.” Pelosi responds, with no small amount of righteous indignation, commanding the White House to do this thing and not do that other thing. With a generous side order of intellectual bullying, truly worthy of a pushy little girl telling her friends at the tea-party to extend their pinkies, or dishing out commands in her later years to her cohorts during an outing at the mall.

[White House Chief of Staff Josh] Bolten said he was certain no one was questioning her patriotism or commitment to national security, she told reporters.

“I said to him perhaps when he saw what the vice president said he might have another comment,” Pelosi said.

Bullying, plain and simple. I’ve seen what the Vice President said. I’m supposed to equate this with questioning-of-patriotism? Only if I’m really grasping at straws, trying like the dickens to resuscitate and re-invoke the tired left-wing litany.

But you see, that’s what I get for thinking things out with my goofy little Yin-head, running those thoughts through my Cerebral Cortex like a guy accustomed to coming up with the best plan for things, or trying to. This is not the way Nancy Pelosi wants me to think when she tells me things, and it isn’t the way she thinks herself.

It’s all about the things you say that can draw applause, versus boos, versus yuks and guffaws.

Another Liberal SpeechWell, I think we might have an explanation here for why our liberals say so much spirited stuff, without ever talking about how our side can win. And you know it really doesn’t have to do with them being unpatriotic, or having questionable patriotism. They just don’t plan for victory, or achievement. During the six years they just spent getting their asses kicked, their own voters and fans said as much. They’re too busy trying to ingratiate themselves — with each other, with illegal aliens, with people in Europe — to give a damn about coming up with things that achieve the desired outcome through cause-and-effect. It ain’t their bag, baby.

Note: This is the eighth installment of a continuing series. Previous installments are available behind the following links: VII VI V IV III II I.

Yin and Yang VII

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

Mike LaSalle, editor of Men’s News Daily, has taken note (as few others have) of the tedious six-chapter epistle called “Yin and Yang.” This is a theory I’ve been entertaining, and writing about, and refining from time to time, about why people behave the way they do — specifically, in regard to each other. Why does this co-worker annoy me so much, when this other co-worker can’t get enough of him. How come I get along so much better with my second wife than with my first wife. Yin and Yang explains ALL, although it’s not perfect. I should hasten to add that Mr. LaSalle has demonstrated no enthusiasm toward agreeing with me on each point; wouldn’t want to slander the poor fellow. Nor could he show such fidelity if he tried, since nothing is carved in stone. I’ve confessed from the very beginning that this is a nascent theory, and like all theories lacking maturity it must flex as new realizations reverberate through it. To put it another way, now that I’ve noticed something, I’m learning new things about this thing I’ve noticed all the time. The skin hasn’t formed on this pudding.

This nascency does two things. One, those who think there’s something to it, can only agree with the core realizations, as the marginal cognitions slither around like the tentacles of a wriggly octopus. Two, it makes it necessary to periodically jot down what’s been learned. And so I shall. This would be a nice thing to do for folks lacking time to read the preceding six windy chapters.

1. Central to the theory is that there is a fundamental bifurcation among mentally capable people in civilized societies. Generally speaking, there are those who make a point to continually refine their cognitive abilities but possess mediocre or deficient social skills, and see little point in doing anything to mitigate such weaknesses. Simply put, they work on socializing better when they’re forced to. Arbitrarily, we call these the Yin. The counterparts are the Yang whose cognitive abilities are lackluster at best, developed out of necessity, exercised when forced and to no personal enjoyment. But these people possess highly refined social skills, and excel in communicating ideas with other people.

2. A common trait among the Yin is that they can differentiate between what is certainly true, and what is almost certainly true. They are adept at keeping track of what has been proven, what has merely been supported, what has only been suggested, what speculation is suffering from a logical problem, and what has been logically refuted.

3. A common trait among the Yang is that from early on, they can communicate with a plurality of other people non-verbally. Also, they can capture and retain the attention of people who otherwise, just going by the substance of what the Yang have to say, would be disinterested. The Yang enjoy the exclusive ability to hold court; they are confident that they “hold the floor” at all times, because they simply do. They presume that whatever they say, people are interested in hearing what it is, because this has historically always been the case.

4. The Yin solve puzzles. The Yang rally large numbers of people around a common cause. There is difficulty involved in making use of the talents of a Yang when there is a thing to be built; the talents of Yin become an awkward fit at best, when that thing needs to be sold.

5. Very intelligent people, with a reasonable stretch of experience, can eventually achieve competence with both these sets of skills and these people tend to grey the boundary between Yin and Yang.

6. However, if you get to know these people well, you will find they’ve made a bastardization in the course of achieving competence in a field that doesn’t really hold their interest. For example, a Yang who learns to solve puzzles, has little interest in solving them if nobody knows that he’s solved them. A Yin who manages to achieve adequate communication skills, has done so by viewing people as just another puzzle to be solved, and usually doesn’t value the social activity as anything beyond a means to an end.

7. The dividing line between Yin and Yang is very clean when you look at how people use their energies on a daily basis, to work at acquiring more skills to complete tasks they have not yet completed. To build a rain-resistant woodshed when one does not yet know how, can be an inexpensive task if one is willing to learn to solve puzzles or an expensive one if it is to be pursued socially. On the other hand, to negotiate some kind of pact between large groups with different interests, and some animosity between them, can be difficult if viewed as a puzzle but very easy if viewed as a social exercise. Nevertheless, the personality of the person who owns the problem — his “Yin/Yang rating” you might say, is what determines how a given task is to be completed. The nature of the problem has far less to do with the chosen solution than what we would like to think. To bottom-line the point, when all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

8. A surplus of desperate problems, perhaps some of them life-threatening, tends to create a churning effect that causes the Yin to rise to the top. When such danger looms, the mediocre communication skills of such leaders and leader candidates don’t seem to injure them a whole lot. In such situations, successful leaders seem to have it in common that their strategies are well thought out, and in tactics, they are “blindsided” very rarely and with minimal damage.

9. A dearth of such crises or dangers, creates an environment in which the Yang rise to positions of leadership if too long a time goes without new challenges being recognized and pursued. Such an environment settles into “maintenance mode,” and when this happens leader candidates are valued for their abilities to communicate. At such turning points humanity has a demonstrated tendency to choose a wholly different class of leaders.

10. Animosity seems to be inevitable when commerce, synergy, administration or love must transcend the divide between Yin and Yang. One of the most reliable ways to see this coming is when people feel a reluctance to delegate critical tasks to each other, after they’ve come to the realization that everyone in the group doesn’t share a tendency to solve the same problems using the same methods.

11. There is a distinct tendency for men to be Yin and for women to be Yang, which is unfortunate since this seems to have had an effect on the divorce rate.

12. Some very young children seem to have been locked into a “Yang” way of interacting in the world, before the age of two. By the time they’ve settled into the “Yin” mold they’re usually much older, somewhere between four and seven. It seems this “Yang” identity is a reward for developing maturity very rapidly.

13. Both sets of skills work by means of a cycle of achievement and reward. A Yin is a quiet child who interacts with his parents very little; when he has something to show them, it’s usually something he drew or something he built. A Yang Child’s message is “Look At Me,” whereas a Yin Child’s message is “Look What I Made (or did).” This could explain the gender disparity: One-year-old girls are just more pleasing to the beholder, more captivating to the audience, and more assertive in seeking out that audience, than one-year-old boys.

14. Cause and Effect is mostly lost on the Yang. When they’re very young and at an age where they could form the ability to recognize such a thing, it’s useless to them in their daily lives. They live for the attention of their parents and peers, because they’ve not had problems getting it. Beyond stimulus/response exercises involving those around them, there is no cause and there is no effect, and so this skill atrophies.

15. Similarly, since the Yin fail to find incentive to interact with those around them in childhood, their ability to gauge the “vibe” of those in their presence, likewise atrophies. Their finger is not on the emotional pulse of their parents or their peers. As they mature, they go through life this way. They are handicapped when placed in situations where they are forced to anticipate the concerns of those around them.

16. The Yin are introverted socially but extroverted in vision. The things they want to do, have to do with things that other people have not yet done. They lose interest in taking on exercises that simply repeat what has been done by somebody else; they chafe at following rules they don’t understand, particularly when nobody else in proximity understands the rules either. The Yang are extroverted socially, but introverted in vision. When they have a vision, it is not so much to make things bigger, but cleaner. When they want to change things, it almost aways has to do with some contaminant agent, and the project they have identified is to sanitize an object of this contaminent. There is an attribute of universality in this object. It’s either “our office,” “my home,” “our town,” “society” or “the world.”

17. The Yin are builders of systems. They work by defining a perimeter to a mechanism, and controlling everything within that perimeter. Inside that perimeter, they behave very much the way the Yang do with the universe — they have to get it working “just so.” However, to the Yin the process of perfection is but a means to an end. Things have to run clean enough so that something else can happen. Once things are brought within those constraints, there is no point to making them any cleaner. The Yin are annoyed when being forced to recognize something outside that perimeter of the system to be managed. To the Yang, there is no perimeter; the system that has to be managed, is everything known.

18. The Yang are vulnerable to many frustrations from which the Yin have an easy escape. One of these is the Bathosplorative Crash. Since the Yang are enthusiastic about cleaning things rather than building things, after prolonged success they eventually run out of things they can do. The yearning for that sense of achievement only multiplies, and since the actual achievements must necessarily shrink as the ideal zero-point becomes closer and closer, this yearning eventually goes unfulfilled. The Yin always have another task to be pursued after something has been cleansed, since the dependent task is what made the cleansing necessary in the first place.

19. Another frustration for The Yang is that since their sphere of responsibility is infinite — or rather, extends as far as their sphere of knowledge — there is usually something happening that is going to upset them, outside of their control. When the Yin are engaged in removing an impurity from a system within a defined perimeter, and success eludes them indefinitely, they can always re-design the system and reduce the perimeter.

20. Which personality type is better prepared at dealing with life, depends on where life is. The Yin are self-engineered to deal with perplexing problems that can be solved only by a narrow band of elites, upon which important things depend. As a society matures, they have trouble finding a purpose. The Yang are self-engineered to hold court with large numbers of peers, who in turn, have little unsettled business to cause real concern. They have trouble getting the attention they crave, when the energy of those around them is focused on pressing problems which can only be resolved by someone with a different skill set.

The Yin/Yang “Foxworthy” Ruleset: These are guidelines, not rules. But they hold true, much more often than not.

1. You might be a YIN…if you like to fish.

2. You might be a YANG…if you like to talk.

3. You might be a YIN…if you solve puzzles.

4. You might be a YANG…if you “hold court.”

5. You might be a YIN…if you like computers because all your friends live inside them.

6. You might be a YANG…if you don’t like to frown.

7. You might be a YANG…if you’ve posed for a picture, smiling into the camera, with a cell phone pressed up to your ear.

8. You might be a YANG…if you have been known to ask non-rhetorical questions, with lackluster interest in finding the answer.

9. You might be a YIN…if the problems that resurface in your life, seem to spring from the wellspring that is your reluctance to draw attention.

10. You might be a YANG…if you find yourself frustrated, often, that other people don’t do things the way you would do them, if you were they.

11. You might be a YANG…if sitting in a meeting, watching someone else be the center of attention, is like having an itch you can’t scratch.

12. You might be a YIN…if sitting in a meeting, watching other people interrupt each other, when you’ve got work to do, is like having an itch you can’t scratch.

13. You might be a YANG…if, as a little kid, you ordered other kids around, or joined groups of other kids who were being ordered around.

14. You might be a YIN…if, as a little kid, you played with blocks, Lincoln Logs, Leggos or Erector Sets while the other kids ordered each other around.

15. You might be a YANG…if, liking something that almost nobody else knows about and nobody will understand, you feel an impulse to shroud this in secrecy.

16. You might be a YANG…if you’re waiting to find out where “we” are all going, and when people grumble about the lack of an actual plan, this disturbs you.

17. You might be a YIN…if you’re the guy grumbling about the lack of an actual plan, and the lack of that plan is disturbing to you.

18. You might be a YANG….if loneliness is painful to you.

19. You might be a YIN…if crowds give you hives.

20. You might be a YIN…if people often complain they don’t know “what’s going on in your head.”

21. You might be a YANG…if people often complain you don’t shut up long enough for them to answer your goddamn questions.

22. You might be a YIN…if a direct challenge to your opinion ticks you off, but you might get over it if the argument is well-thought out.

23. You might be a YANG…if a direct challenge to your opinion ticks you off, bur you might get over it if the argument makes you laugh.

24. You might be a YANG…if you have often indulged in the habit of making fun of people to get them to stop doing something.

25. You might be a YIN…if you have noticed people making fun of you for doing something, without having concrete reasons to offer for you to stop doing it.

26. You might be a YIN…if you are distracted often, misunderstand others often, forget things often.

27. You might be a YANG…if you rarely misunderstand things or forget things. Rarely…but NEVER quietly. Everything leads to a conversation.

28. You might be a YIN…if you are good at hitting deadlines, but have to write things down or else you forget them.

29. You might be a YANG…if you can remember things well but are often late.

30. You might be a YIN…if you have an insatiable desire for freedom and opportunity.

31. You might be a YANG…if you have an insatiable desire for security.

32. You might be a YIN…if, when you’re alone and bored, the first thought in your head is how to get something done.

33. You might be a YANG…if, when you’re alone and bored, the first thought in your head is where everybody went.

34. You might be a YIN…if, when spending time around people for business reasons, typically you’d much rather be somewhere else. You know this and everybody else knows it too. Good manners dictate that no one says this out loud.

35. You might be a YANG…if, when you do things, typically you aren’t very concerned about accomplishing anything and you’re much more concerned about being seen doing it. You know this and everybody else knows it too. Good manners dictate that no one says this out loud.

So there ya have it. There really isn’t too much that’s new about this theory. One timeless old joke goes, “There are two kinds of people, the ones who divide the world into two kinds of people and the ones who don’t.” And there are many ways you can divide people in half. This particular way, this “axis” if you will, this one slice across the big ol’ pizza pie — it seems to be more important than all the others. The laws of probability would determine that some of us are only affected mildly by the division, selecting as our place on the pie, some point very close to the knife. Thus it is with all the other dissections — we have liberal Republicans, effeminate males, outgoing introverts, bi-curious heterosexuals, silly-serious people.

Not so here. People seem to work, with every waking minute of every able-bodied day of their lives, to cement themselves further and further into the mold of “Yin” or “Yang” depending on which pattern they selected in toddlerhood. Nobody is close to the slice itself. If they try to get there through a mastery of both worlds, they fail at one or the other, and if they keep trying repeatedly they end up destroying themselves.

Yin and Yang VI

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Item!

Andrew Sullivan points out something interesting he’s come to realize, and it would benefit all of us to take a look at what he has to say. What he’s discovered is what I call, for reasons I’ve never discussed but will someday, “The Ninth Pillar of Persuasion.” And he makes the point that both conservatives and liberals are using it, the former with regard to WMDs, and the latter with regard to climate change.

Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine” means that if there’s a one percent chance that a terrorist could have access to a WMD, we must act as if it were a certainty – because the outcome, however unlikely, would be too disastrous to risk. On global warming, Gore expresses a not-too-dissimilar equation: if there’s a small chance that human behavior could lead to environmental catastrophe, we should act as if it were a certainty – because waiting too long is too big a risk to take.
:
What to do? A prudent attempt to rein in carbon dioxide emissions seems a no-brainer to me. A dollar rise in the gas tax would be the most effective way to achieve this. But Cheney also made an assumption Gore hasn’t: the American public will only sign up if they have no sacrifice to make, or if others do their sacrifices for them. The political health of America in the coming years will be measured by how hard politicians are prepared to challenge that atttitude.

The Ninth Pillar has to do with the presentation of an apocalyptic event, some consequence that is either harmful to all concerned, and by that I mean mortally so, or else so undesirable that it’s generally agreed any & all steps should be taken to prevent it. The pitch to sell, is that any customary cost-benefit analyses, including any analysis of likelihood for the cataclysmic event, should be tabled indefinitely.

In short, that priorities should, for the moment, be abandoned. You need a plurality to have priorities, and for all practical purposes we only have one thing that must be done, or kept undone.

The Ninth Pillar has an ancient history. Many more people besides our two distinguished Vice Presidents, have used it.

Item!

Bono asks the world what it takes to make poverty history. Well, that’s what Yahoo says he is going to do, but it really isn’t. He has no questions for us. What he has is a progress report of the things that have been done in Africa. As you watch the video, you have to be awestruck by the presence this musician has. It’s like what people used to say about President Clinton. From the very first split-second, your feelings are drawn toward seeing what this man has to say, and doing whatever he says. He just has that natural charm. It’s the culmination of a lifetime of development, you can tell.

And yet, other than “don’t rely on the politicians,” there is no strategy in the clip for fighting poverty. None. We aren’t told what we can do to make things better, how it is that we’re making this difference, where we’re screwing up — okay, we’re told how progress has been made. I’d just like to point this out, though. Bono has presented himself, here, as someone who 1) recognizes a status quo that contains something he finds dissatisfying, and 2) desires to change the status quo to make things satisfying.

What he wants to do, can be done. Our history has shown that people who start with those two simple impulses, get things done — in fact, all we have, we owe to people who had those two impulses. Here’s the rub. Those people who gave us so much, didn’t spend a lot of energy reacting to the way people felt, or trying to affect how people felt. Maybe a trail boss or the supervisor of a railroad construction crew, trying to prevent mutiny. Thomas Edison trying to keep his workers from striking. Other than that, peoples’ feelings have always been a marginal consideration in the larger picture of trying to get work done.

I guess it’s just my opinion, but we shouldn’t be seeing this video. Without some avenue for concerned people to supply the help, maybe an address where a check can be sent, it amounts to just so much stuff. Bono helping Bono. What he is doing is a wonderful thing, but I’m left wondering how fired-up Bono would be about this project, if there was a way for him to cure poverty overnight but with nobody ever finding out that he did it.

Bono’s hat flew first-class for $1,700 in 2003. His hat. My tax money is supposed to go to debt relief for the starving countries, and his hat is too good to fly coach.

Item!

In what some believe to be the finest Western movie ever made, Gary Cooper faces down Frank Miller in the streets of Hadleyville in High Noon (1952). The film is 85 minutes long, with just a short action sequence at the end as good confronts evil — the balance of footage is spent on that Ninth Pillar. What will Frank Miller do if you men don’t come down and help me face him…versus…reasons why we can’t join you. I’m young, I have a family, I’m not really here, my trigger finger is broken, you didn’t marry your wife in my church, my ass itches, blah blah blah.

Now, what do we realize from these three items.

Well what Sullivan has come to realize, is this certain universality in imploring people to forego the forensic deliberations of what is, what is not, what may be, what probably is and what probably isn’t…how this leads to what should be done. Since the human race was young, we have appealed to each other to stop thinking and start acting, with a some surplus urgency above what we would normally have, and maybe at a stage premature compared to that to which we are accustomed. Conservatives do this and liberals do this…and it turns out to be a good idea, and a bad idea. There’s really no ideology to it. It’s just something that simply is.

Always, there is some justification in making the request. It’s made when there is much at stake, and when indisputable facts are luxuries that, for the time being, cannot be afforded. Sometimes, in the absence of proven facts, you just have to assume. You have to do. You have to take action. Like Gen. George S. Patton said, a good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.

Sometimes, there is no consequence for taking action incorrectly. Other times…there is such a consequence, and you have to risk something. You have to take a gamble.

These are desperate times, and out of such times, a hero will rise.

That hero is not like Dick Cheney or Gary Cooper or Christopher Hitchens or Bill O’Reilly. That hero is like Bono, or Al Gore, or Bill Clinton, or David Letterman, or George Galloway. A rabble-rouser. Someone who speaks with his energetic smile or his appealing scottish burr, and suddenly, you don’t want to do any more thinking, you just want to find out what this fellow wants you to do and get it done.

A Bono. A man who says nothing of note, but whose voice just hypnotizes you.

A natural leader. He can read the phone book to you, page after page, and you’d much rather keep listening to him than sit in a bucket of water if your ass is on fire.

A Yang. Not a Yin, but a Yang. Someone with that built-in antenna, who just somehow seems to know from one split-second to the next, what “everybody” is thinking, and energizes us with an unstoppable momentum with a single syllable.

That is the hero who rises and figures out for the rest of us, what needs to be done…

when, that is, we can afford to follow him!

You see, I’ve been noticing something. It’s a theme you might have been picking up if you’ve read several pages of this blog. It’s something really disturbing…as we confront these dangers, and triumph over them, eventually shunting them aside, we gradually start to live in an environment more and more cloistered. Eventually, some among us come to be born in this cloister, and live out their entire lives sheltered from any real harm. Danger, to those green, sheltered individuals, is always something that rises up to threaten somebody else.

And because of this, they think differently.

Now, before the roads are all paved, and before the swamps are all drained, and before the snakes are all killed, we live in a different world. We live in a jungle. The Ninth Pillar has a place in the jungle just as it has a place over the asphalt, and you’ll see a hero rise out there too…but this is not a Bono. This is someone more like Gary Cooper’s Marshall Will Kane, a wholly different sort of man. A different hero, for what might as well be a different planet. This is Yin.

This hero doesn’t have the “aura,” he doesn’t have the voice inflection, he doesn’t change the emotional current charging through a room when he starts speaking. Bill Clinton forgets more about “charisma” in a single day, than this guy will ever learn in his life. On the other hand, the Jungle Hero is personally exposed to the danger that confronts us all; equally exposed compared to the rest of us, or moreso. And this is why people listen when he speaks. His words lack finesse, but they carry old-fashioned weight. He is George Washington or King Arthur or Ulysses Grant or Peter the Great or Douglas MacArthur or William the Conqueror or the aforementioned Patton.

People remember the Yin-Hero after his bones have withered into dust, and what do they say?

Nobody ever says “he opened his mouth, and right away changed the atmosphere in the room.” Nobody says that. Grant, in his own way, was pretty shy. He was a man of few words, not at all fond of public appearances. As far as General Patton, people who served under him say he lacked the theatrical baritone of George C. Scott, hesitated to address large crowds, and actually sounded kind of squeaky.

This was a completely different flavor of man. He just did stuff, period. The theme was set because the example was set. MacArthur wore his hat while addressing his troops, and everybody thought “well if the old man can wear his hat, I certainly can.”

What people remember about this kind of leader, is that bullets hit the dirt all around him, or on occasion one of them might even have found a mark, and he didn’t flinch. And…the hero said if you do this after I’m gone, there will be consequences, and we went ahead and did the thing, and there were consequences. The guy knew what he was talking about.

A lot of these guys come from the military. This, it appears, is an environment that works well for cultivating them. Danger is personal. When the sergeant faces it with the corporals and privates, that says so much more than a flashy inflection can ever say. With that big metal door getting ready to come down at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan, Bill Clinton himself would be just another soldier. Nobody would listen to a word he had to say. Maybe he’d earn a reputation as the Party Boy. But to do something, because Private Clinton said it was a good idea? Pfft.

So in that setting, we aren’t so wild for the “aura” we otherwise insist is all-important. We want calm, and we want courage. We also want smarts, although I hasten to add, not just raw I.Q. We want the leader to know what he knows, and to know what he doesn’t know. He says, “there is a Nazi machine gun nest over that sand dune,” and I don’t very much care whether he knows the nest is there or if he thinks it is there. But he himself should know, whether or not he knows. The very idea that my leader may have lost track of what is a fact versus what is an opinion, fills me with dread. In short, I want him to think just like Eratosthenes himself (FAQ, Questions #7 and 8), even if I’ve lost my ability to do so. He is, first and foremost, my anchor. And then he is my oracle. I have a head full of stuff I know, because he told me they were so, and I trust him.

But once the danger has passed, after the snakes are killed and the swamps are drained and the brush is cleared and the roads are paved, it’s all different. That mystifying inflection of the voice suddenly becomes important; not one moment before then, though. My need for an anchor — gone. My need for an oracle — gone. Suddenly, my leaders can tell me they didn’t have sex with such-and-such a woman, and it’s all okay. I don’t care about truth; I can afford to be mistaken. Nothing really matters anymore. A recurring theme here, in The Blog That Nobody Reads, is that as we lose our exposure to danger, we lose our intellectual capacity to ever confront it again. I hold that as a given, even more at the societal layer than at the individual layer, and it isn’t hard to see why. Our status in life, changes the way we choose our leaders.

Our biggest complaint today is that gas is above three dollars a gallon, yet, the people who complain the most bitterly drive something that gets eleven miles a gallon or less — and they have no plans to change. Our second biggest complaint is that our social security benefits aren’t waiting for us when we retire. But the people who complain most loudly about that, have shown little-to-no initiative in getting a private plan going and keeping it strong.

We don’t know what danger is. We haven’t a clue.

George Washington, today, would not be our President. He wouldn’t get anywhere close to it. I have strong doubts that he would even survive. He probably would be one of the few among us with a real shot at dying, forgotten and homeless, in a gutter. We simply have no use for him. Those who lead us when we are safely out of danger, follow others when we are in danger, and the leaders we have when we are in danger, are cast aside once we’re out of danger.

Thing I Know #16. A man’s determination to punish the guilty tends to wax and wane with his prospects for living amongst them.
Thing I Know #44. A little bit of fear once in awhile is a healthy thing.
Thing I Know #62. Throughout history, very little of note has been accomplished by people who made a paramount of concern out of what others thought.
Thing I Know #91. “Esteem” is something sought with the greatest urgency by those who struggle with doubts about whether they’ve earned it.
Thing I Know #130. The noble savage gives us life. Then we outlaw his very existence. We call this process “civilization.” I don’t know why.

Yin and Yang V

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Last month my blogger friend Buck Pennington, in response to my comments about “Scary Peace-People,” was kind enough to direct my attention to video footage of the debate between author, columnist and war-hawk Christopher Hitchens, and the Right Honorable MP George Galloway (transcript). It goes on and on, for nearly two hours, but this was not a problem for me in any way. I was fascinated. Not so much with the opinions that were being proferred by the two distinguished Brits, but with the way they were proferring them. It reminded me of something. Something…I was not sure what.

And two days later, it finally hit me. It was something I wrote about. Back in January, the famous Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly appeared on the set of famous late-night talk show host David Lettermen, and the two famous gentlemen proceeded to act like a news commentator and a late-night talk-show host, respectively (video).

FoursomeIn both debates, the two contestants spoke to two different cultures. O’Reilly and Letterman both won, depending on whom you ask. And exactly the same can be said about the “Grapple in the Apple” between Hitchens and Galloway.

How does the question of whom you ask, determine who won? Conventional wisdom says audience sympathy determines everything. It depends on which idea was previously embraced, at the beginning of the debate, by whoever was asked. Conventional wisdom is more-or-less correct. But oh, how much more there is to the story. Let’s examine it.

My point back in January, about Letterman, was this: To those of us who are looking for logical arguments in support of thinking a certain thing, Letterman’s “points” rang hollow and they were not designed to ring any other way. This is an observation, not a critique, and it pertains to the performance of Galloway as well. It pertains, furthermore, to Galloway’s previous “testimony” — read “performance” — in front of the United States Senate about documents purporting to prove his interest in the Oil For Food bribes.

Allow me to explain what I mean by “rang hollow.” I’m engaged in a process, a process in which I appreciate other people are not similarly engaged, to gauge the strength of support. I’m not looking for proof, just support, which is a different thing because absolute proof is possible with very few things in human affairs. But speaking for myself, what I try to do is start with what ostensibly is supposed to be supported, and work backwards to find out what’s supposed to support it.

Letterman and Galloway are the two gentlemen who do not want to talk to me, and by extension, their words are not for anyone who does what I do. This is significant. I’ve noted that there are many who don’t do what I do; but there are many others who do exactly what I do. Letterman says we should show more respect to Cindy Sheehan, and Galloway says the documents that incriminate him are supposed to be fakes. And we say, figuratively, “okay I have an open mind; why exactly am I supposed to think such a thing?”

And by the words of the Galloway/Letterman duo, and those who support them, we’re left sucking air.

Then, we are told over and over again, with no small amount of bullying undertone, that Galloway and Letterman “kicked ass” in their respective exchanges. Now, how does that work exactly? It turns out that Galloway and Letterman, engender good feelings among those who previously agreed with Galloway and Letterman; one is given little foundation for agreeing with what they have to say, unless one is inclined to agree with what they have to say in the first place. For their words to compel sympathy in an apathetic mind, or in a hostile mind, or any mind in which sympathy did not previously exist, is simply beyond the design of the comments they have made. It is out of their intended scope. This is not true of the substance of O’Reilly’s comments, or of Hitchens’ comments; those two, clearly, were directing the remarks toward opposition, endeavoring to demonstrate to such opposition why the opposition is a path to nonsense and oblivion, and the interests of those who labor under the opposition would be best served by some serious re-thinking.

This is not absolutely true across the board, of course. O’Reilly and Hitchens can be observed, in both dialogs, to throw a bone or two to their constituents, and make them feel good for agreeing with the O’Reilly/Hitchens viewpoint. My point is that the “hooray for our side” stuff represents an extreme and expendable appendage to the body of their arguing style, whereas with Letterman and Galloway, it is the skeleton and central nervous system. Letterman and Galloway, when you boil their comments down to their fundamentals, really have little else to say. Must, ought, should, and by the way, people who agree with us outnumber those who disagree; and if they don’t, they might as well, because look how loud they are. And there, the pitch ends.

Galloway did offer some meat — a little bit. One of his salient citations, is that Hitchens was once more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than he is today, and was once opposed to American opposition to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. This is fact-based, but not strongly so when you consider that Galloway had absolutely no other facts to offer. “My opponent tonight is a flip-flopper” was the extent of his logical argument. Hitchens’ deflection of this accusation, while perhaps driven more by emotion than by logic, was nevertheless brilliant. He simply admitted the inconsistency outright, and chalked it up to learning experiences. Hitchens thought one thing, learned something, and then thought a different thing. Happens to the best of us. But, interestingly, not to Galloway.

It’s fair to say, I think, that other than that one anomaly, all Galloway remarks were designed to galvanize the feeling amongst Galloway sympathizers, and all Hitchens remarks were designed to persuade those who were not Hitchens’ sympathizers. Galloway, consistently, spoke to allies, and Hitchens was pretty steadfast in outreach to foes.

What of the O’Reilly/Letterman debate? I already opined on this five months ago: Letterman conceded. This is absolute fact, endorsed by none other than Letterman himself, but is a matter of perspective. A large chunk of us simply don’t deal in fact. Unbelievably, they “feel” that Letterman “won” the exchange, even as he admitted he was too ignorant to debate “point by point” — because of the snarky snippet that came sailing out of Letterman’s mouth immediately afterward.

I have been instructed to believe, for four years now, that we are having some kind of a national “debate” about terrorism, security, privacy issues, Israel vs. Palestine, etc. Debate, my ass. A debate is a forum in which ideas are exchanged, and that hasn’t been happening for the last four years here. This is a shouting match between two distinctly separate cultures, speaking two distinctly separate languages.

Now, here’s where things start to get really interesting: It would make perfect sense to me if the side that was winning elections, sought to galvanize its base, and the side that was losing them, aspired to win converts. That would be perfectly logical. But what we see happening, is the direct opposite. Years go by, we have an election, public figures who support the war win the elections, and those who oppose wonder how so many of us “can be so dumb.” Then another election comes up and we go back, Jack, and do it again.

This is not meant to imply the elections are all landslides. Most of them are close. Extremely close. I have to believe just a little bit of persuasive, fact-based logic from the anti-war folks, given just a little bit of visibility, and presented with some old-fashioned respect to the pro-war voters, would turn everything around. Well, the anti-war folks can’t do this. If they could, obviously they would. But there is something about “peace” movements, ironically, that sends logic, respect and congeniality on an extended vacation. These are supposed to be things more effectively alienated by war than by peace.

Once again, behold: We have yet another mystery explained, soundly so, by my “Yin and Yang” theory — a mystery that can be explained by nothing else.

“Yin and Yang” holds that there is a fundamental bifurcation in human affairs, cleanly dividing half of us from the other half, by our own consent albeit without our conscious knowledge. Half of us behave as if we live in a world of cause-and-effect; we are always consumed with some kind of project, staking out a territory of things within our control and then getting a “system” to work throughout that territory in a specific way, to achieve objectives we have declared for ourselves. When we are not engaged in such a project, we think and perceive as though we still are. We see the world this way. These people are called “Yin,” and the way we go about interacting with the world around us is confusing and mysterious to many others. Those others don’t see as much of the world as it is, compared to the way they want it to be. Those people are the “Yang,” able to sustain an enviable mind-melding with the emotional state of others around them, ingenious and efficient at communicating their hopes, desires and complaints to others, able to energize a consensus. But not so keen on understanding how systems work, defining areas of influence or manipulating things within that area to achieve previously defined objectives. That just ain’t their bag, baby. Building better mousetraps is for the Yin, who as children, played with Erector Sets and Lincoln Logs. The Yang are better at cheering and booing, since as children, they participated in sing-a-longs while the “Leggoes” and blocks gathered dust in the closet.

You learn by doing. Those who have trouble figuring out which half they’re in, are hobbled by nothing but inexperience. Through the simple process of coping with life, in whatever form one defines that life to be, one entrenches himself more and more deeply in whatever half he has picked out for himself.

Some among the “Yin,” myself included, are blinded from communicating with the “Yang,” or even from understanding them, to the point of serious personal dysfunction. We just don’t get it. People like Letterman or Galloway deliver a “smackdown,” and the crowd goes wild, and we’re left sitting there thinking “what just happened here?” We ask the question that I asked in the “Scary Peace-People” commentary — what is the appeal of this guy? — and the answers we get back have to do with delivery, an elegant “Scottish burr” to the voice, gestures, etc. And we think, but wait a minute; that doesn’t convince me of a damn thing. How does it convince anybody else? What am I missing?

Strewn with Gaping DefectsI keep hearing about how my President has “terrible speaking skills.” Compared to his predecessor, I agree with this completely. The next thing I’m told, is that his policies are awful, and that there is some relationship between his awful policies and his terrible speaking skills — as if the latter somehow substantiates the former. Well, I think you can have wonderful speaking skills and some terrible policies, and vice-versa. But there is a heady school of thought that disagrees. No no, they say, the two go hand-in-hand. How’s that, I’m wondering? Logically there is no correlation between the two.

And indeed, logically there isn’t. Trouble is, logic is an option. A good half of us choose not to opt into it. Delivery is everything, substance is nothing. Of that half, I can ask “give me a thesis seeking to demonstrate why my President’s policies are terrible, and leave his atrocious speaking skills out of it.” And in reply, I’ll get back nothing except a bobbing Adams-apple, as I’ve deprived them of the one tool they could use in this enterprise. To them, delivery decides everything. To those of us who choose logic, of course, delivery decides very little, with the substance of what’s being delivered being far more important than how it’s delivered.

The split I have just described, against our best wishes, is socially all-important. Half of us, can’t productively live with the other half; when we try to do so, each and every point-of-contact across the chasm, produces all the aggravation and acrimony that an invasion would cause. The split, furthermore, to the best I can gather, is unprecedented in human history. In all the ages of humankind, as our species progresses, it progresses together. But not now. I don’t know for sure how we got here, but I got a good idea. It is an evolutionary process. It is tens of thousands of years in the making.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I believe in evolution. I’m one among many people who believe in God, and can’t see how that is mutually exclusive from believing in evolution. Evolution simply makes good sense. And to understand how it influences people, first you have to consider the forces that evolution place on humankind. To understand that, take a look at the jobs everyone must do. Let’s inspect this throughout the mural of recorded history.

Thousands of years ago, everyone had have some skills at siezing land by force, and preventing the siezure of land already held by other forces. This was a requisite skill for survival, both of each person, and of civilizations. At some point, at about the third millenium before Christ, civilizations began to establish and refine military forces so that this task would be delegated to specialists. By the time the Roman empire came along, some kind of specialist would be involved in invading land and defending against said invasions, while “everybody else” still had to worry about farming. This situation kept up throughout the Renaissance, and was cut short by the Industrial Revolution. At that point, agriculture was delegated to specialists, and “everybody else” still had to travel from one point to another, manage a home, transact business, and take care of assorted odds and ends. Building armor and horseshoes, baking bread, churning butter…all these things had to be done by “everyone” at one time, and throughout the centuries they have been delegated to “specialists.”

As time goes by, more and more essentials are delegated to “specialists.” This is significant, because evolution-related forces act on our species only with things that everyone has to do. But as time goes along, and technology has the effect of delegating these chores to specialists, the assortment of day-to-day work that the commoners must do to survive…steadily shrinks.

Now here’s my theory. In 2006 A.D., we’re at a loggerheads, because the body of chores that “everyone” must do, has been whittled down to — nothing. You don’t need to do a damn thing to stay alive. Of course homes still need to be built, and food must be acquired, but we have specialists to do that stuff. All of it. All that the common man has to do, is pay for it, and to do that all he need to is sit in a cubicle for forty hours a week hitting “MySpace,” moving the mouse around when he hears footsteps behind him so he looks busy. Even cashing the paycheck and buying groceries, can easily be automated, offloaded to a specialist, or both. And to take that final step toward personal obsolescence, in 2006, you don’t even have to be particularly well-off. A lower-middle-class livelihood will do just fine.

To stay alive, you don’t have to do anything. So what’s the next evolutionary step?

We have two choices, and this is why we have “Yin” and “Yang.” The lack of necessity has split us cleanly in two. You may take the “Yin” approach, and choose to exercise skills you no longer need, for the simple purpose of keeping them from rotting away. This is no different from the cubicle jockey who has no call, none whatsoever, to lift heavy objects but still has a set of dumbells and a bench in his garage. You may live down the street from a good, clean grocery store with USDA-inspected lean meat for a $1.99 a pound, and still choose to hunt throughout the season — just because.

Or, you may make the most of our modern Life of Liesure, and resolve to enjoy the good life. Do nothing, except whatever your job demands you do, and socialize endlessly; in so doing, celebrate the sacrifices made by our ancestors, and commune with one another, in ways they never could.

You have to pick one or the other. And you can’t pick both. To make one choice, is to reap the rewards of that choice, and in reaping the rewards of that choice you will be subtly estranged from the other. You live life for the sense of satisfaction of a job well done, or you live it for the sense of fulfillment you get from communing with your neighbors. Nobody, no one I’ve ever met, really does both. Some think they’re doing both. They aren’t.

I remember reading an article about how fewer people were going to school to get into engineering fields. There was a forum underneath the article, and a member of the fairer sex came on, obviously peeved about something. She opined that there was no point to becoming an engineer, or going into any discipline related to engineering. Essentially, her point was that everything worth inventing or discovering, had already been invented/discovered. She had some advice for the fellas: “Drop out of school, learn to rap, and do your crunches.”

Half of us don’t listen to this because we can’t listen to this. How do you turn off your brain, after a lifetime spent using it? In the pursuit of happiness, you can’t do it; if you were happy, but your brain was no longer working and therefore not to be trusted, you wouldn’t even know you were happy.

The peeved rap-crunch maiden is a mystery to me. What is so objectionable about someone choosing to educate himself, instead of learning how to rap? There is something about the “Yang,” I have noticed, that is awfully controlling. The Yin must declare a territory before they set to work on a project, but to the Yang, all things within line-of-site are part of the project, for the project is social.

I learned this when my son started going to school. It turns out that he is even more Yin than I am, and I’m so entrenched within this side of things that my ability to communicate with the other side has been uniquely disrupted. Being the next evolutionary step, of course, he’s even worse. When he was in Kindergarten, his teachers were convinced he was profoundly disabled. Now that he’s finished the second grade, the comments have toned down to the occasional observation that he could use some individual instruction, and oh by the way he’s really smart. But his Kindergarten career was way messed-up.

That’s when I found out about the prevailing viewpoint in the public education system, that education has less-and-less to do with learning as time goes on. Nowadays, “how to socialize with others” is the most important thing. It’s probably not too off the mark to say that nowadays, a child who socializes with his peers but can’t do the work, is a success, and a child who does the work and can’t socialize with his peers, is a failure. A generation ago when I was in school, the reverse was true. I think that was better.

But who is to say I’m right? We live in a time wherein the commoners, in order to survive, need to do nothing. Every vital chore, every activity needed for human survival, including earning that survival, has been off-loaded to professionals. Maybe the educators are right. Maybe the next “evolutionary step” is a bunch of people who can’t actually do anything, and therefore can’t actually think about anything; but they communicate amongst themselves really, really well.

This strikes me as the wrong way to go, but I have nothing I can stand on in arguing that, at all. Nothing except one thing.

From this point forward, it seems self-evident to me that we’re going to have to find ways to be happy together. And these “Yang” who are running around, laughing at the right jokes, getting the “feeling” that 60% of what O’Reilly says is crap just because David Letterman says this is the case, or that George Galloway speaks truth just because of his Scottish burr…all for the purpose of feeling good…they don’t seem to be happy. Quite to the contrary, they strike me as being angry. They’re angry so much of the time, over so little, that I end up wondering how they can function.

Attention WhoresI think conflict is inseparably attached to the way they see the world, although they can’t realize it, even as obsessed as they are with making everyone around them happy. Ironically, the Yin, being far less concerned about making people happy, avoid conflict because their paramount concern is simply to get things done. Look at it this way: A woman’s car battery has died, and a man who is Yin will lend her his cell phone so she can get the help she needs, and thus, get the hell out of his way so he can get his stuff done. He evaluates it the way a businessman would evaluate it: The sooner she gets a tow, the sooner I have my parking spot. A man who is Yang will do the same thing, but for the purpose of being seen lending her his cell phone. Or for getting a date. If her objectives are met, but he doesn’t get the credit he wants, the venture is a failure; whereas the man who is Yin, simply cares about the objectives. Hers must be met, because until then, his own objectives are stalled.

If there is a third-party involved who will also lend the lady a cell phone, the objectives of Yin are met more quickly, while those of the Yang are frustrated. And this is where conflict comes in. Wait a minute, she can’t borrow his cell phone, she’s supposed to borrow mine!

“Supposed to.” See, for the Yin, those two words never apply to the world-at-large. The world is what the world is. “Supposed to” is something that applies only within the perimeter of a given project, and there’s no need to express those words to anyone else unless you’re tutoring them in how to do the same thing. Look at Hitchens one more time. He doesn’t say people are “supposed to” do things a certain way, he simply cautions them against behaving a certain way because the C-SPAN cameras are rolling, and they may end up embarrassed. Consequences for actions, and that’s where the “supposing” ends. His note of caution duly disseminated, the ruffians are free to do what they will. This is not true of Galloway’s remarks. And Letterman, for sure, is not “cautioning” us about how to treat Cindy Sheehan. He’s extolling, exclaiming, imploring, commanding, instructing, and most of all, intoning. “Honest to Christ!” In the world of the Yang, there is no cause or effect, no logic, no thought. Everything is subject to either approval or disapproval. No reason need be given.

Nor will one be forthcoming. Why did Galloway win? Why did Letterman win? The only response that comes back, is how someone felt when he said such-and-such a thing. And oh, the deafening applause. That Scottish burr. Something about goosebummps, maybe. That’s all you get, there ain’t no more.

O’Reilly and Hitchens both made the point, in their respective contributions, about bad things happening when tyrants are appeased and when evil goes unpunished. This makes sense, to us Yin and to the Yin alone — and it seems, to me, to deserve a proper response. Speaking for myself, I’ve long ago given up waiting for one. The four solid years of what is supposed to have been a “debate,” and never ever was one, has netted nothing except for instructions that I should be looking at something else. Well, in my dysfunctional Yin-head, that leaves the issue unaddressed. And the results of our elections make it clear that there are millions of people similarly dissatisfied. Sucking air.

Yin and Yang IV

Monday, May 8th, 2006

One of the things I’ve learned about people that I didn’t have any clue about when I was a kid, is that there seems to be a little-talked-about but all-important division between them, all of them, such that we seem to have two distinct “villages” intermingled by mistake.

I did not invent this. This is a fantasy that is as old as mankind’s ability to write down stories. Adam and Eve were supposed to have been tempted by The Apple, and thus a distinction was made between what they became, and what they were intended to be. They, therefore, were then unfit to inhabit the environment in which they had been placed. The Myers-Briggs tests are based around the premise that there are three or four such divisions. In that exercise, each “piece” remains conceptually significant as each new “slice” is made, even though the slice itself may not be numerically important. Therefore there are sixteen personality types, each one worthy of equal comment although they represent vastly different quantities of membership. My own slice, INTP, is said by some experts to encompass about 1% of the total population.

Atlas Shrugged is about Men of Ability growing weary of living amongst Looters and Moochers, and traipsing off to a place called Galt’s Gulch whose location, nay very existence, they manage to keep everlastingly secret to escape further financial molestation by a dream-killing neo-socialist government. In Galt’s Gulch, goods and services are purchased with gold, so that even the banks of the “real” world must make do without commerce from the Men of the Mind. Team America: World Police has become an instant legend because of its long-winded epistle about all people in the world falling into “dicks, pussies and assholes.”

Even kid’s movies have this fantasy. In “Madagascar,” Alex the Lion attacks the desire of Marty the Zebra to return to the wild, and insists the island upon which they’ve been shipwrecked be divided into two halves. Melman the Giraffe wants to go over to “the fun side of the island” with Marty, and Alex bristles at this: “What– wait, no, THIS is the fun side of the island!”

We are surrounded by the not-so-subtle message that, no matter how great the temptation to separate, we must stick together. We must remember that all that’s needed for peace, love, and harmony is a little emulsifier. I must confess that I have come to doubt this is the case. There seems to be little reason to go on believing this axiom, that we’re intended to all live together. Other than a few half-hearted taboos against division, which nobody is even really stating outright anywhere, there’s little reason to doubt that we’re a tribal species, built to separate, everlastingly, by ideologies, loathe as we may be to admit it.

My approach to this differs from Myers-Briggs. I’m interested in cause-and-effect, therefore, numerically-insignificant slices like INTP are of little interest to me. Example: People may be divided as “extroverts” and “introverts,” and they may be divided as “thinkers” and “feelers.” What interests me, is the strong tendency of introverts to be thinkers and extroverts to be feelers. When we start talking about six billion people, of course you’ll find hundreds of millions who are introvert-feelers and extrovert-thinkers, but I don’t care…not until you find enough of those to make some BIG slices in the pie. Until then, I’m more concerned about the overall-lopsidedness. There is cause-and-effect, and that’s the focus of my interest. What makes an introvert a thinker and an extrovert a feeler? Does it go the other way? Do you have to be an introvert when you’re a thinker? Must you be an extrovert when you’re a feeler? Why is that?

What causes what, and what is impacted by what, could be a source of endless probing, so to keep the developing preponderances insulated from it I just use purely arbitrary names for the two halves: “Yin,” to describe those who think, and “Yang” to describe those who feel. The theory is that we’d be arguing about much more substantial and meaningful issues, and developing a lot less acrimony toward each other in doing so, if the two halves were separated — Garden-of-Eden style, or Galts-Gulch style. I have noticed people who are dedicated to one way-of-living, by their words and by their deeds, demonstrate very little desire to live with people indulging the other way-of-living. Or, to even acknowledge those other people exist.

I have noticed there are some people who, becoming aware there are other people who do things differently than they do, are immediately dissatisfied. Like the people from Lilliput and Blefescu in Gulliver’s Travels, they can’t stomach the notion that someone else somewhere wants to open eggs from the wrong end. I used to presume, childishly, that the “Yin” thinkers and “Yang” feelers were equally guilty of this. But then I observed some more. And more, and more, and more…you know what I saw?

We have some incredibly brave young men and women who have made a conscious decision to sign up for military service, with the express wish to end up in Afghanistan or Iraq. They have thought it out. Their critics, who feel we shouldn’t be there, are like the people of Lilliput. They want everybody to agree with them. They want everybody to think George W. Bush is stupid, and Stephen Colbert is funny. I have not heard of anyone in the military, or those “neo-conservatives” they’re called? — anybody who sympathizes with the people in the military, try to force other people to share their opinions. Oh yeah, I see them argue a lot. I’m in that camp too. But failing to persuade the other side, the “neo-cons” don’t scream or yell; all they do is roll their eyes with derision. That’s the very worst I’ve seen them do.

It would appear there is cause-and-effect taking place: If you’re a thinker, what I call a “Yin,” it is going to be very, very difficult for you to oppose the War on Terror — at least, it will be difficult to oppose it in concept. Because where strategy and policy are concerned, those who think must be concerned with which strategy nets the most and costs the least, whereupon the question must inevitably come up: What is the alternative? At this late date, no alternative has ever been offered, except for the status quo of passing paper after paper after paper, “deploring” this and “condemning” that and hoping against hope that the old Hussein regime would destroy weapons like it promised it would do. To anyone who thinks, and places importance on the objective of providing assurance that the old regime harbors no illegal weapons, this is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable by definition. Security is assurance. There is no such thing as guesswork-security.

To those who feel, on the other hand, it is absolutely out of the question to support the War on Terror, in any way. Just the name of it sounds bad. War? Terror? Ooh, so negative. And it costs X much dollars. And Y many Americans have been killed in it, along with Z many Iraqis. Those numbers are SO big!

Yeah, I’m being a little smarmy and sarcastic in describing the Yang here. I admit it; I have a lot of trouble understanding them.

The “root” definition seems to be how one goes about getting things done. Someone who is a “Yin,” like me, has a workspace going on. The first task is to define the workspace; anything outside the perimter of that workspace is outside of his responsibility, anything within it, he must maintain. If there is something within that boundary that eludes his efforts to control it, he will shrink the boundary to exclude that and then start over. Once some core objectives have been met, the workspace may be expanded…or not. The paramount concern is to get the system working the way it should.

To a “Yang,” everything within eyesight is automatically in the workspace. This is one of the reasons I think we won’t achieve peace until the two sides are separate. To a Yang, if you open your eggs from the wrong end, but you’re out-of-sight, all is good — disharmony ensues when they find out about you. They’re social creatures. “We aren’t listening to the radio right now,” they might say, “we’re gathering around the piano for a sing-along!” What you do, and how you feel, is their business.

They’re wonderful people, God bless’em. Because if they know anybody who’s unhappy, they’re unhappy, and they have an unfinished task so long as the acquaintance remains unhappy. The Yin like me, assholes that we are, would like you to kindly haul your crying, blubbering whiney asses out of our offices so that we can get something done.

But the flip-side of it is, if the Yang can’t control someone the way they want to, they themselves remain unhappy. And then, what I see them doing is spreading misery and unhappiness, even if they started out with the express intent of doing the exact opposite. The result: Bill O’Reilly has his fan club, but his fans will let the Bill O’Reilly bashers have whatever opinions they want to have. And on the other hand, as the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen found out, you had better not express your opinion that Stephen Colbert wasn’t funny.

I don’t think you can be too concerned with thoughts over feelings, and remain passionately interested in what other people are doing — sooner or later, you have to give it up and concentrate on your own workspace. Furthermore, I doubt you can long ignore what those around you are doing, if you’re concerned with feeling over thoughts. Feelings are contagious, after all. You have to control what everybody else is doing when you’re concerned about feelings, otherwise, there’s no point trying.

Here is a great example:

The Custom of Crying Marriage
:
According to elderly people, every bride [in the Sichuan Province in China] had to cry at the wedding prior to the liberation of the PRC in 1949. Otherwise, the bride’s neighbors would look down upon her as a poorly cultivated girl and she would become the laughingstock of the village. In fact, there were cases in which the bride was beaten by her mother for not crying at the wedding ceremony.

I must say I’m not sure how the cause-and-effect works. I suppose if you’re inclined to feel, and more prone to be crying yourself, you’re going to get pissed off when you see other people in the room laughing — so it’s natural to demand that everybody else laugh-on-cue and cry-on-cue.

I suspect in the American culture, even to the Yang who like to feel everything, beating someone about the head & shoulders for failing to cry might seem a little harsh.

Why are the Yin not equally controlling? Well, if you task yourself to get a system working correctly, you’re going to have to define what the system is. Concerning yourself with what is going on outside of it, will quickly become an unmaintainable and impractical chore. It will also be out-of-scope: The mood in the room is happy, the mood in the room is sad — why do I need to give a shit?

And yes, with what I see thus far, the Yin are Republicans and the Yang are Democrats. This is why Hollywood is so overwhelmingly liberal: It is in the business of delivering a specific mood to its patrons. That is what the movie industry does. When brave young people half my age start coming home to Dover in body bags, yes this makes George W. Bush look bad and they like that…but it also stimulates a debate about what our country should be doing. It stimulates a very Yin type of debate. Even habitual feelers, recognize there are people out there who want to kill us…they recognize these young people were done-in by crazy people, who simply want to make a political statement.

It makes people feel unsafe. And when people feel unsafe, they want to do some thinking. They’re no longer in the mood to go see a slapstick romantic comedy with Hugh Grant and Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts.

They’re also not in the mood to vote on fleecing thirty-something apartment rats to buy free medicine for rich old people with swimming pools and Winnebagos. Therein lies the urgency to bring the war to an end. Not to win, but just to get out, whatever the outcome. Just get that damn war off the front pages. It is incredibly hard to get people agitated and uppity, about cuts in Social Security that have, in fact, never actually happened.

I’ve visited Walter Reed, multiple times, in the thick of what’s going on now. When you share an elevator with a young man who still has acne scars, and he insists on pressing the button for his own floor even though he has hooks instead of hands, it changes your perspective a little. Suddenly, you don’t care if someone “feels” bad when you tell them so, but you’re ready for the rich old folks with the Winnebagos to buy their own damn Viagra. And that holds true no matter which tribe you’re in.

Yin and Yang III

Monday, May 1st, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOn an Internet forum, someone made the observation that Marissa Leigh’s parents appear to be trying to make her into a useless person. She got two cars, not one, for her Sweet 16. She wore three pink dresses, and had her poodles dyed to match. Her mom is her full-time…everything. Executive assistant, wardrobe manager, publicist — and daddy pays for it all. Marissa is the only girl, the baby of the family. Twelve people — yes, twelve — are employed full-time in making her into a star. This is a big operation. The family paid $50,000 to rent a house for the birthday party, and made sure it was carried on MTV My Super-Sweet 16″. “She’s spoiled,” her mother says, “but hopefully, it’s a grounded spoiled.” A grounded spoiled? Huh.

I’m most interested in that very first comment: Her parents are trying to make her useless. Now, Marissa is nothing new or unique here; I’d venture to say all of us, at sometime in our lives, have met someone carefully crafted from the minute the cord was cut, to perform, to upstage, to be a shameless attention whore — to grow up with zero skills. Why do parents do this to their kids? You can live in very close proximity to such parents, for years at a time, and fail to understand. What is it, a serious effort to make the kid useless, or an unconscious thing? Is it some kind of a joke? Do they perhaps want some magical “skills fairy” to come along and teach the child how to do things that actually matter, so the parents don’t have to worry about it? It is truly a modern mystery, one we seem to be observing with greater and greater frequency as time goes along.

Well, my Yin and Yang theory explains this, if nothing else does. It goes like this: Just as some of us are right-handed and some of us are southpaws, there is another split amongst us, dividing those who think from those who feel. There are perhaps hundreds of such conceptual splits within our populace, of varying social importance — this one carries a paramount level of social importance, because any social interaction transcending this figurative boundary comes at the cost of rancor, dissention, loathing and suffering, that in spite of the best intentions all around, is inevitable. People on each side of this split, although nobody will outwardly confess it, are deeply offended by the realization that people on the other side do things the way they do, and like the way they do those things. In fact, people on both sides of this split are deeply offended by the recognition that the folks on the other side even exist at all. Each side sees the other side as an insult to their own existence.

The False Consensus Effect is used to rationalize to ourselves, that “this guy I saw today” is one of very few on the planet who do things the way he does; 99% of “everyone,” are just like me. It isn’t so. This split is actually fairly even. Fifty percent of us live on one side, and fifty percent live on the other. That’s why we’re so contentious.

Sure, the “feelers” are jolly all the time. I say, if you’re a thinker, get married to a feeler for a little while, and if you’re a feeler, marry a thinker and see what happens. The trans-boundary interaction, particularly within marital bonds wherein it becomes a perpetual, never-ending thing, drives everyone freakin’ nuts, even the always-smiling, always-jolly, natural performers. It isn’t long before the experiment stands revealed, as something that would have left everyone involved a whole lot better off, had it never been tried.

Personally, I’ve been worn down by events in my life up until now that I no longer have the energy to look down with scorn or disapproval upon either “side.” What is the point of disapproving of someone? You can express your disapproval easily enough, but then you have to say what to do with the people of whom you disapprove. Convert them? You can’t. Get rid of them? Freeze them for some future generation to deal with? Deprive them of their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor? What would be the point?

But I will say this; even though my upbringing drills into my head that it’s a wonderful thing, in adulthood I find it hard to realize an upside from having everyone mixed together. There’s so much fighting going on. Each half of the schism seems to exist in utopian harmony, right up until everyday life insists upon communication or interaction with someone on the other side — then the harmony crumbles. Pronouncing which side is better than the other, is something that no longer interests me. I just think we’d all be better off if we were split up. As information travels faster and faster, and we are reminded more and more frequently how different we are and what kind of problem this makes, someday it’ll probably happen.

But I think that’s why Marissa is being raised the way she is. It’s easy to see, from reading the article, that mommy is exactly the same way. If she’s the same way, she’s probably offended that there are other people who’ve made their way in life, by actually developing some skills and using their intellect to get productive things done. I believe she finds that distasteful. I believe she’d like to avoid any exposure to that whole way-of-living. Can anyone else come up with a good explanation why anyone should do their parenting this way — other than some kind of intense loathing for the child, which doesn’t seem to be the case here? The quotes from the story, like the child being described, are priceless:

“I’m a princess.”

“I’m such a rock star that I can do this.”

“So many people are so jealous of me because my dad owns three car dealerships and we have a lot of money.”

And this:

“I always get exactly what I want.”

I will grant you, I have a lot of idle speculation about the mother and very little concrete evidence to support the things I’m saying about her. But I see no mention of her burying her face in her hands in embarrassment over comments like these from her offspring, or sucking in her breath with abject horror. This tells me a few things.

Read this same story with hundreds and hundreds of people, maybe thousands if you have the time, throughout a year or two. Get a good cross-section of people. You’ll see that my theory seems to hold up: People who vomit when they read this story, or feel an impulse to do so, get along with each other fairly well. The other people, who say something to the effect of “actually, I think that’s kind of precious!” get along with each other pretty well too.

It’s the mix of the two camps that is deadly. We aren’t all built to live in close proximity with each other. We’re raised to think that we are, but there’s no reason to think that’s really the case.

Put people like Marissa, and her Mom, on an island somewhere — if you’re sufficiently thorough about rounding everybody up, Marissa, on her island, will find most of her interested viewers are right there where she is. People of that flavor don’t really require too much, other than that all-important attention, so who would suffer? Food and shelter may be a minor issue for a little while, but I’m sure a lot of Hollywood millionaires would be on the island too. And before too long the whole place would be transformed into a socialist paradise, so that the bountiful Hollywood purses will belong to everybody there.