Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

September 13, 2016

Dangerous Times

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:53 pm

I set out this morning to write a different column.

I was going to do a bit about the Hillary health issue and make a point about the dereliction of duty by the media in failing to cover the issue until they couldn’t ignore it any longer.

Then I had an exchange with a friend who is an aid worker in Sudan. She’s worried about security of foreign workers and local friends.

It seems armed men in uniforms occasionally go out seize women take them back to quarters and rape them. Including a few foreign aid workers. So far the women have been released afterwards.

My friend and I belong to a loose group of people interested in personal security issues and wanted some feedback. She was concerned about resisting, that it might escalate the situation fatally.

My first thought was, at this point the problem has gone beyond how not to get raped to how not to get dead.

My second was that I had nothing to offer her by way of advice. She’s there and I’m not.

Except for one thing I learned from Steven Vincent, a journalist who was murdered in Basra, Iraq 11 years ago.

I didn’t know Vincent well, but we exchanged a handful of emails over the course of a few months, the latest the weekend he was abducted and murdered. Some time later in Washington I met an Iraqi lady who knew him, and had begged him to live in her house rather than in the community.

I admired Vincent a lot, because he went on his own dime to make up his own mind. Unfortunately it got him killed.

The conclusion I reached, which I passed on to my friend, was that when you go to live in these appalling countries you get to love the people who are trying to live their lives as best they can.

To the point you forget they have a lot more experience surviving there than you do. Which can make to hesitate when you really ought to cut and run.

She thanked me, and mentioned a Serb security man had also warned her that she trusted her driver and some local co-workers way too much.

Maybe it’s not so far from what I set out to write.

The common thread that runs through a lot of our discourse these days seems to be the assumption that reality is optional.

News people that should have been following up on a story ignored it, hoping it would go away. They ignored it because they didn’t want it to be true. Until they were forced to acknowledge Hillary had a problem.

Another example.

I know a fair number of people with opinions about foreign affairs. People who have never lived outside the United States and appear to assume the rest of the world is like us.

It is not.

We are the outliers, a people so rich and secure, and so ignorant of history that we can maintain the happy illusion that the world will never intrude on our fat happy lives so long as we extend the hand of friendship to all.

The consequence of this is that when things go south we start looking for what we did wrong to offend our should-be friends.

Another example. We have two presidential candidates who have assured us they can deal with Vladimir Putin as a friend.

Perhaps they should have listened to Putin’s reply to a similarly clueless German reporter who asked if they could be friends.

“I am not your friend,” Putin replied. “I am president of Russia.”

Putin basically repeated what British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston said. “Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests.”

I’ve been told often that this archaic idea of mine, that the world should be approached with armed wariness is what’s wrong with the world. That lack of a benevolent and trusting attitude to all peoples is what causes conflict.

Putin and I think they’re idiots.

September 2, 2016

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world

Filed under: Op-eds,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:41 am

Has anybody else noticed that the lunatics have taken over the asylum?

No, seriously. That used to be a joke, “Ha, ha, the lunatics have taken over the asylum.” Not anymore.

I’ve just read a friend’s blog post about a situation at her job. It seems there is someone in her workplace with “anger management issues.”

Anger management issues are what we used to call “a temper.” Meaning that some people react to stress by getting angry, shouting, and in extreme cases perhaps throwing things. After which they’d calm down and apologize.

Now however it’s been medicalized, it’s an “issue.”

In the case of my friend’s coworker, he announces he has “ANGER MANGEMENT ISSUES” for which he gets some kind of therapy.

Oh goody, there’s certainly times I wish I could have had some help in managing my Irish temper.

Or not. Evidently this guy’s issues give him a free pass to indulge his temper, which everybody else is supposed to tolerate. Including a coworker who has social anxiety disorder and suffers in silence for days after each outburst. Which Mr. Anger Management Issues is totally oblivious to.

Coincidentally after reading her post I came across an article about how Princeton University is ordering their staff to avoid using the word “man” or gendered pronouns such as him or her, and substitute they and them. Because not everybody identifies as a him or a her.

“Gender binary is the traditional view on human gender, which does not take into consideration individuals who identify as otherwise, including and not limited to transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and/or intersex,’” says the staff directive of the elite institution of higher learning older than our nation.

Some have gone further and invented new pronouns such as ‘ze’ and ‘hir,’ which would be funny except the New York City Commission on Human Rights Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression: Local Law No. 3 (2002); N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-102(23) says if you run a public accommodation you can be fined for not using them with your tenants. Or not letting a guy use the lady’s room.

Like all roads headed in this direction, it started out with good intentions.

Long ago, there used to be something on TV called Public Service Announcements. (How long? Think black-and-white TV.) Before air time got hideously expensive TV stations would occasionally spend a few minutes on a message devoted solely to the public good. Hire an ex-con, give a man a second chance. Don’t leave your keys in your car. Beware of socialism. That kind of thing.

One I remember was a plea for compassion towards people who are a bit off.

“It’s not the way they want to be, it’s the way they have to be.”

Well that was nice, but along the way something happened. Compassion was replaced by tolerance. Then passive tolerance, basically minding your own business and live and let live, wasn’t good enough anymore. We needed “acceptance.” Then we had to embrace our differences. And if you still thought their craziness was weird and maybe kind of icky, then you were a bad person.

We knew things had gotten seriously weird when they invented a pretentious academic term “cisgendered” to mean what we used to call “normal.” And if you think guys who think they are guys and are attracted to women who think they are women is normal, then there’s a special insult for you, “heteronormative.”

There, doesn’t that make you feel special?

Has anybody noticed that this “acceptance” is not compassion but the very opposite of compassion?

Long ago during a brief period I worked as a psychiatric aid in a mental hospital we were given a very firm directive on dealing with patients. Don’t humor their delusions!

There is such a thing as normal. Yes, it covers a pretty broad continuum and is fuzzy around the edges. But it exists, it’s real.

Yes, a righteous man will take into account another’s infirmities and weaknesses. But it does him no favors to reward bad behavior or pretend he’s OK when he’s clearly not.

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