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People Are Stupid But Harmless

It is very embarrassing to share, but this incident changed my understanding of how the world works.  

When I was in high school, I was a member of the Disco Club.  I learned all the moves.  I wore elephant bell jeans: the cuffs slapped each other everywhere I walked, providing everyone a distant warning of my approach.  I wore silky polyester shirts with at least two buttons open.  

Then, suddenly, the disco era ended.  

In an instant, my wardrobe switched to cotton.  Mainly Izod.  My music allegiance immediately transferred from the BeeGees to the B-52s. From disco to punk.  My entire value system quickly shifted.  The world’s crazy suddenly stopped, and we bought button-down collar shirts.

Now I know that about myself, and it is a part of myself I don’t like.  But the most disturbing part is that it wasn’t only me.  EVERYONE I knew did the same thing.  Everyone in my world instantly changed what they believed to be true.  They followed fashion, not principles.

But ever since that incident, I have been less alarmed by weird movements.  Alarming political trends, demagogues, disturbing fashions, and outbreaks of mass hysteria don’t stress me.   I’ve been alive long enough to know that the world will eventually flip back.

Do you suffer from insomnia because of a politician or some moral trend? Don’t worry, stupid will soon be replaced by another type of stupid. Relax. People are fickle in their stupidity.

Reject the Spectrum

I don’t believe our country is “more divided than ever before.”  Remember the Cold War, when some of us collaborated with Stalin?  You’ve heard of the Civil War?  We aren’t shooting each other by the thousands yet. 

The problem is the political spectrum that professors still encourage us to use.  The spectrum might have been valid to describe the rift between Sir Edmund Burke and King George III.  It might have helped people understand the conflict between France’s Ancien Régime and Robespierre.  But it doesn’t fit the modern world.  It might have even become irrelevant by the time Bismarck invented modern social welfare. 

Some far superior models have been developed, mainly based on four-quadrant maps.  I like the triangle model.  I can’t remember the source, so I plagiarized it.

I see three ideological camps.

  1. Conservatives: this group sees the Great Conflict as a clash between barbarism and civilization.  When a foreign government sets up death camps, we should intervene (sometimes with military force).  Killing healthy babies after they are born is barbaric, so should be de-funded.  Pornography objectifies women and provides revenue for human trafficking, so should be regulated.
  2. Progressives: the Great Conflict is a clash between educated elites and ignorant masses.  People are stupid and lazy: they’re racist, they cheat on their taxes, they pollute the environment, and they eat Twinkies for breakfast.  Carefully-chosen elites, trained at the right schools, are necessary to check the ignorance of stupid people.  (You, dear reader, are not stupid like everyone else, even though you ate ice cream for lunch and threw the container on the ground).  The masses will never willingly choose to enact anti-pollution measures or civil rights legislation.
  3. Libertarians: the Great Conflict is between the oppressive state and the individual.  The state prevents us from smoking weed, takes our money to spend on military and social programs, and indoctrinates our children.  The definition of marriage (only between man and woman or between anyone with mutual attraction) is irrelevant, because the state should have never been in the business of regulating marriage. 

In the U.S., progressives have traditionally identified as Democrats, and Republicans have been a coalition of libertarians and conservatives. The coalition is showing fissures, as they don’t agree on some things (should children have open access to pornography?)

I believe the traditional bi-polar spectrum has some weaknesses:

  1. Because of social identity theory, we choose beliefs based on our social identity.  Here is one example. Traditionally, Republicans fought for immigration, and Democrats (due to union support) fought against it. Then, during the Obama era, immigrants became pawns in an ideological argument.  Now Democrats and Republicans have completely flip-flopped on the issue, and we all changed our beliefs because our tribes changed platforms.  We think we’re rational. We usually argue what “works,” based on historical experience or science.  But we actually pick and choose evidence to fit our belief systems.  You can probably perceive my biases in this post.
  • The number of issues is far greater.
  • The population is much more complex and diverse than it was in the past.  We’re no longer divided between serfs and nobility.  
  • I also believe conflict is good.  I’m a strong believer in ideological diversity. I think it’s as critical to a healthy society as biological diversity is to an ecosphere.  
  • We mis-label.  Hitler regarded Stalin as a mentor, and Mussolini was a career socialist until he built a coalition with Italian Fascists. But then they went to war in a classic power struggle competing for land, and followers of Stalin successfully convinced us that National Socialism should be placed on the right of the spectrum.  For propaganda, they differentiated from each other through nicknames.  Nazis called Soviets “Bolsheviks,” and Soviets called Nazis “Fascists.”  This allows us to call those on the right “Nazis,” and those on the left, “Communists.”  Both of those movements resulted in genocides from which the world has not healed, and are not related to our debates over funding for school lunch.   
  • Divide and Conquer:  certain people in power want us to be divided.  It is part of a strategy.  

Unfortunately, we’re probably stuck with bi-polar politics.  In order to amass enough power to accomplish anything, you need support from at least half of everyone. So we naturally gravitate to two-party systems. Three parties are never sustainable.  The Republican Party was a third party created to push for civil rights of enslaved African Americans.  By the time it gathered enough support, the Whig party had disappeared and we returned to a two-party system. 

In the meantime, I exercise my right to freely choose to not eat a Twinkie.  

How to Choose the Fastest Line

I have developed a scientific way of choosing the fastest line at the airport, grocery store, or DMV, which I will share here.

My tendency has always been to choose the shortest line.  At airport immigration, I look for the line with only two people, and quickly pull my luggage into that line.  Turns out, the first person in line has hidden in their luggage a birdcage containing an endangered species of bird.  The person would argue with lengthy narratives  about why smuggling the bird is justified, before eventually being handcuffed and taken into custody.  Immigration is always in a windowless basement, so I am not able to watch the sun travel across the sky while the bird poacher haggles for leniency.  The second person in line is usually someone seeking political asylum, so is asked to fill out forms while I wait.  The forms contain numerous pages for writing essays about “why I should live in your country” and “how persecution led me here: my life story.”  Two days later, my turn to have my passport stamped arrives. I need to be carefully studied, because apparently I resemble both (1) a certain Serbian military leader who is fugitive from The Hague War Crimes Tribunal, and (2) the #2 man in the Medellin Cartel. I probably resemble a lot of nefarious people after a 36-hour flight and a two-day wait in line. But I have so far been let into many countries.  Eventually.

Here is the secret for choosing the fastest line: look for me, and choose the line I don’t choose (see photo on this blog’s bio section).  Because I will choose lines with people who lose passports on the plane,  people who try to pay for groceries with poker chips, and people who begin deciding what to buy only after arriving at the front of the line.

Keep watching, because I sometimes get impatient and switch lines, which causes my new line to become slower than the one I just left.

You’re welcome.


:::  Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry.  :::

Learning Disabilities, Creativity, and Legacy

Through this forum I have written about creativity, self-improvement, and my learning disabilities.  I finally completed a three-year project to help others with learning challenges achieve lasting legacies.

It turns out that people with learning challenges such as ADHD and dyslexia (or who otherwise feel “glitchy”) have more creative potential than others.  A lot of helpful research on creativity is available, but they usually don’t enjoy reading research.  So I made it available here in a very unique format.  It’s available as an Amazon ebook (tablet/phone/kindle) for an accessible price (two Starbucks small coffees).

 

I’ve researched creativity since 1994.  Now I hope these useful tools will help those who are ready to move forward.


:::  Be fierce.  Be kind.  Be knowledge-hungry.  :::

Am I still a tourist ?

Visiting 50 countries is on my bucket list.  I’m still at 35.  Three more are planned for next Spring.

This picture shows the countries I’ve visited:countries

Some I’ve visited for hours, some for days, and some for years.

How do I define a visit?  

If I sprint through Heathrow airport during a connection to Paris, did I visit England?  Can I include that on my list?  (I did that, and I didn’t include it.)

This is my rule for inclusion on the list:  a conversation, a meal, and a pee.  In order to have visited a place, I need to meaningfully talk to someone, eat something, and use the restroom.


In my view, foreign exposure is a range: tourist –> visitor –> resident –> citizen.

I did some research on this topic.  One study I co-authored (unpublished) indicated that breadth is more important than depth for developing cultural intelligence (CQ).  Visiting multiple countries for a short time each affects CQ more than living in one new country for multiple years.

That is why I visit as many countries as I can.  But for each of these countries, I can’t claim cultural expertise after a short visit.

Many people mistakenly generalize.  Someone visits the countryside of Ireland for a few days, then tells us how all Europeans prefer darker coffee, or that the European climate is damp.  This is an error.  One Irish town doesn’t represent Dublin, much less Kiev and Athens.


To understand a place as much as possible in a short time, I engage in three activities:

  1. Visit a local grocery store, to see how locals sustain themselves.
  2. Walk around the city in early morning, before the crowds arrive,  as shopkeepers prepare for the day.
  3. Ride pubic transportation.  If the country has none, commute the way common people commute.

 

I challenge you to visit as may places as possible, and to learn as much as you can while there.


Side Note:

As you can see from the map, my exposure to Africa is lacking.  If you would like to finance a trip there, please contact me at brock@BrockStout.org.  Economy class flights are adequate.


::: Be fierce. Be kind. Be knowledge-hungry. :::

I’m Not That Famous

I built new shutters for my house last year.

My old ones were old shuttervinyl shutters with fake louvres, purchased from a hardware store.  (“Vinyl” sounds better than “plastic.”)

new shutter

I bought lumber and built new ones.   I painted them black.  The new shutters attach two boards, and feature a diamond shape in the middle.

Very cute, you must admit.

It shows I’m creative.  But cute shutters don’t qualify me as eminently creative.

 


Picasso changed the way we think about painting.  He never made cute shutters.  Picasso would have endured living in a home with vinyl shutters, rather than be distracted from his calling.

Eminent creatives are different from every-day creatives.  I discuss this in my upcoming book, Glitchy People Save the World.  But if you’re interested, you can check out research on the issue, such as Sylvia, et al. (2011) or Batey & Furnham (2006).  

If I need to replace shutters in the future,  I’ll outsource it to professionals.


 

Batey, M., & Furnham, A. (2006). Creativity, intelligence, and personality: A critical review of the scattered literature. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 132, 355–429

Silvia, P. J., Kaufman, J. C., Reiter-Palmon, R., & Wigert, B. (2011). Cantankerous creativity: Honesty–Humility, Agreeableness, and the HEXACO structure of creative achievement. Personality and Individual Differences, 51(5), 687-689. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.06.011

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