A funny thing happened on my way to the New Year.The responders to the Holiday Gift were  women and a youngster.ThomasS is also a woman DS.So  I am continuing the policy of having responses to the “gift” blogs carry the weight of posts. Interestingly 23 and SB called for compassion to be a determinant of actions taken by all of us.Maybe there is more to come from women as muscular talk  and murderous action cram the news.



  1. In my happiest dreams, what marvelous things would I want all in my family (of humanity) to possess? Susanna (Jan 18) lists the following and suggests that we call them “rights”: Safe air, food, water, shelter, health, education, equality regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, self-determinism.
    Some are needed more than others for basic survival (air, food, water) – others, depending on context could be basic or are needed to enhance the process (shelter, health, education), and some just seem like a good thing to believe (equality regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, self-determinism). Depending on which definition of “equality” is intended (opportunity or result), the consequences of its dominance will be very different and will impact on the availability of other items on this list.
    We can agree that most of these things are needed or desirable. The next issue has to do with how we can in this real world of nature’s diversity be most successful in their allocation.
    The act of making the distribution of these things a legal “right” requires also the making of a government that is (powerfully) capable of defining them and forcibly allocating them. This carries the risk of increased centralized corruption (In human activities power tends to corruption). To the degree that material resources are needed to provide these good things the central government is likely to be less efficient than a free market. That gets us to another possibility.
    The resources needed for the greatest spread of these good things may be more readily created and distributed in a relatively free market which is driven by millions of individual talents incentivized by profit. Talent is attracted quickly to where it is most needed (as defined by a price established by market bidding). But this leads to a conflict with several of the listed “rights” – those that depend on a definition of “equality” that wants an equal distribution not of opportunity, but of results. Equality of opportunity acknowledges that nature did not distribute aptitudes equally. The best are encouraged to use their exceptional abilities and will be more (unequally) successful than those less fortunate. But that success means that those of us who are less capable will benefit by a greater availability of more diverse products.
    So, the availability of some of these good things on Susanna’s list may become more available and better distributed by refusing to call them “rights”.

  2. I now listen differently and hear only a justification for a status quo ante! The issue that women are raising is that of the place of compassion. In human affairs.Tone deafness relative to this carries along an inability to conceive of a “there but for the grace of God go I.”acknowledgement of the transitory nature of dominance with a desperation to preserve it..Many translate this into ballot box manipulation and glorification of a past that can’t be repeated without totalitarian suppression of an emergent and other directed future.(the meaning of the many ” occupy”movements.)

    1. “… there but for the grace of God go I.”

      So very true. Thank you. I don’t think compassion and tenderness are gender-based emotions. Are they instinctive and/or can they be learned? The application of those characteristics are not a sign of weakness … after all, isn’t a spider silk thread stronger than steel! They can be very disarming … powerful … and, easily misunderstood. Machismo seems to scorn Penelope. But, wouldn’t the strength of Ulysses and Penelope make an interesting philosophical discussion. To be sure, one must exist.

      Someone used to frequently remind me that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar … careful not to mistaken sarcasm for honey … or respect.

      Have been watching a recording of PBS’s David Eagleman’s “The Brain.” Fascinating … especially for us lil’ ol’ laypeople. Oh, those neurons!

    2. Daedal2207 points out that the issue women are raising “is that of the place of compassion”. Yes, that does seem to be a generalized truth about the female gender, and it exists in contrast to the generalized observation that men tend to raise the “place” of physical power. I think that the issue most critical to the truth seeker is the avoidance of such subjective filters and is primarily that of understanding “appropriateness”. When the expression of what some call “compassion” actually causes greater suffering we should want to re-think the ingredients of that sentiment. When Charles Murray published “Losing Ground” (1984) congress was moved to rethink government’s role in welfare. Welfare costs were cut dramatically. As a consequence, many American citizens created for themselves meaningful, productive lives. It seems to follow that we should want to “hear clearly” when the expression of compassion is appropriate, and we should strive to be “tone deaf” when its expression is inappropriate.
      Daedal2207 writes about a “totalitarian suppression of an emergent and other directed future (the meaning of the many “occupy” movements”. All this in order to “desperately” preserve a status quo dominance.
      For the sake of clarity please provide the evidence (that “success” for the many “occupy” movements will provide a better future?), elaborate for us the nature of the “status quo”, and explain how our democracy will, or is now exercising “totalitarian” power.

      1. DS demands evidence perhaps not understanding that the occupiers cannot succeed.It is the shifting of the discontent from area to area that is meaningful. He also fails to comprehend the message of the women which shouts that society can be structured to accommodate apparent weakness without deterioration. The implication that strength lies in rigidly and pursuit of past and failed policies is also challenged. (Iran and Cuba)

        1. Ah, the battle of “truth seekers” armed with the charge of claimed superiority over those who are not on the same “truth” interpretation. However, these descriptions seem to travel both ways. Perhaps the more honest distinction is that there are those who enjoy the thrill of the gore … bloodletting … and those who prefer to avoid it, especially when pain may only bring a sadistic rush, deceiving oneself that that defines control … when in reality, it is lack of control. Terrorism … a technique. One man’s terrorism is another’s freedom cause. Just perspective. Of course, sadism is another story. And, as long as we accept/justify torture as a means of … what? … control? … we’re no better than any other society … unless the honesty of admitting our acceptance is meant to legitimize us onto a higher plane? How warped!

          Daedal2207: “It is the shifting of the discontent from area to area that is meaningful. … Pursuit of past and failed policies is also challenged. (Iran and Cuba)”

          To be sure, regardless of my gender, I couldn’t agree more. Truth seekers would be more believable if they acknowledged their truth for what it is … power which is economically driven. It’s not necessarily a criticism, but a fact. Globalization is making the whole world … everyone one of us … customers. No one can afford to shut out potential markets. China sneezes and the world catches a cold (just witness the latest repercussions in the financial sectors!). Iran and Cuba are anxious consumers … and, we’re equally hungry for them. With such powerful incentives, it appears that to remind the need to balance out-of-control selfishness with humanistic altruism is not altogether out of line. Certainly the down-trodden need all the humane concerns we can muster … and with RESPECT. Listen … without insulting disdain. When someone says “the water doesn’t taste right,” it’s immoral to dismiss them with a lie … “Trust us, it’s OK.” It might actually be poisoned with lead. Without highfaluting pomposity and in the simplest form possible, human rights: safe air, food, water, shelter … health. To those basic human rights, should we not include education, equality regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, self-determination? In the 21st century, this needs proof? The Big Bang is not enough? Where is the evidence of an eternal political/social order? In the eyes of the beholder? Shifting is natural … and, that’s constant.

        2. You are right in separating compassion from gender.On this blog women have spoken to it more than men.There is a neurohormone associated with compassion.Oxytocin is more available in women than men and is associated with loss as well as pregnancy.Jezebel and Ilse Koch remind us that women can be cruel and some dictators have had personal guards that are female.(Uganda,Venezuela?)Hippolyte is supposed to have sacrificed a breast for accuracy with the bow.(Remember her?… the Amazon queen)Those ancient Greeks were telling us that with the sacrifice of an essential component of womanhood a woman could be dominant without sexual guile.I think that we’ve outgrown the belief.Grandmothers over she bears!!

        3. SigmaXI reports yawning contagion research showing that yawning contagion is significantly statistically higher in women than in men.They associate it with empathic capability…Mama Grizzlies,Koch and Jezebel notwithstanding,(hippolyte hang on to your remasing breast)this tendency may be sorely needed as the future unfolds.

        4. daedal2207: “SigmaXI Reports yawning contagion research showing that yawning contagion is significantly statistically higher in women than in men”

          Thank you! That explains it all! I have been struggling with the control ability.

          “It’s easy to be seduced by the trappings of big science and to neglect the extraordinary in our midst.”

          As a follower of Hippolyte, I will hang on to my remaining breast!! Yes, women can be cruel … no doubt. But, can they be that boring? Talk about the fear of …

        5. Daedal2207;
          I “demand” evidence only in the sense that I operate on the premise that every idea is only as good as the logical and empirical evidence supporting it. Some of the ideas presented with your last blog were unclear and could not be intelligently addressed without more information. (Partially) to that end you have pointed out that there is much discontent. My effort (and I think yours too) is to understand the locus of that discontent. Sometimes people believe (and have feelings based in) things that are not true, and need to change their own outlook (look into and correct the self) and sometimes it is true that we need to alter the external environment.
          Daedal2207 tells us that “it is the shifting of the discontent from area to area that is meaningful.” I agree that having to maneuver among those who are discontent is one of the challenges facing our efforts to navigate most efficiently. I have said nothing that denies this and much that acknowledges it. We can acknowledge areas of societal discontent and at the same time recommend a different priority. We would be better served if our first effort was that of striving to clarify and establish REALISTIC goals that are healthy for the human community (positive goals) – all the while acknowledging that there will be those who negatively obstruct the process with various forms of dysfunction. We should want to diminish as much as possible the dysfunctions that rob our future of helpful talent.
          To that end, the “message of the women” is not ignored, it is addressed. On several occasions I have stated that I want every IQ point to be oriented to the goal of “bettering the human condition. This cannot be done if we avoid, or waste the potential talents of the “weaker” among us. When the expression of “compassion” frees up these talents this form of emotion is “appropriate”. I have provided evidence that “compassion” has sometimes been used inappropriately to the harm of those intended to be helped and thereby to the harm of all of us who are denied the productive skills of those enabled to be less than they could be. This understood, it is the meaning of “APPROPRIATE” that becomes the much greater concern. It is NOT the amorphous sentiment called “compassion”. Judging the meaning of “appropriate” is a matter of logic and measurement. Compassion is only a multi-faceted “feeling” that demonstrably has the interpretive potential to guide us well or poorly. We should prioritize knowing which of the two (well or poorly) will dominate when served to the future by the feelings we love to love.

        6. The point is that the demand that all action must clearly point to betterment is essentially inhuman and unfollowable.Who is the judge and where and when in human history has this been followed and acted upon?The future is the judge and actions that deprive us of a shot at getting there are likely to be peremptory and based on assumptions of determinant power acting in a short period of time.Our judgments are not laboratory defined and occur through a shroud of feelings.(Even if denied)Understanding those feelings and the certainty or uncertainty that they create requires discipline and skill in our elected officials but most importantly the ability to start over.This last is related to “truth telling”.

          who is the judge

  3. In pursuit of this blog’s encouragement to question … especially as to causation … and with the growing acknowledgement of white America killing itself … expectations … may I bring up the below:

    “Expectations surrounding education have spun out of control. On top of a seven-hour school day, our kids march through hours of nightly homework, daily sports practices and band rehearsals, and weekend-consuming assignments and tournaments. Each activity is seen as a step on the ladder to a top college, an enviable job and a successful life. Children living in poverty who aspire to college face the same daunting admissions arms race, as well as the burden of competing for scholarships, with less support than their privileged peers. Even those not bound for college are ground down by the constant measurement in schools under pressure to push through mountains of rote, impersonal material as early as preschool.”

    Is there a problem with expectations? Fareed Zakaria addressed this with his opening statement on the CNN weekly show, Global Public Square (GPS). His remarks were part of his opinion column as well:

    “The answer might lie in expectations. Princeton anthropologist Carolyn Rouse suggested, in an email exchange, that other groups might not expect that their income, standard of living and social status are destined to steadily improve. They don’t have the same confidence that if they work hard, they will surely get ahead. In fact, Rouse said that after hundreds of years of slavery, segregation and racism, blacks have developed ways to cope with disappointment and the unfairness of life: through family, art, protest speech and, above all, religion.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/americas-self-destructive-whites/2015/12/31/5017f958-afdc-11e5-9ab0-884d1cc4b33e_story.html

    Is this hype or is it real? I believe to be a recognized factor that most everyone has a love/hate reaction to their high school years … the years of defiance in search of one’s self (“Splendor in the Grass,” “East of Eden,” to name a few). Prior to that, in a “normal” setting, the desire to please … meet the expectations of … one’s parents is one of life’s developmental components. Certainly all that cannot be free of stress. Contrary to rigid accusations of lack of homogeneous values, responsibility/accountability is a part of child rearing and growing up. Therefore, are the measurements pointed in The NYTimes opinion column “just” newly-acknowledged awareness rather than a new development? The trauma of adjusting to rapid labor shifts is palpable and real. But, why is this occurring mostly in the U. S.? Are we the victims of an over-sold claim … EXPECTATION … of exceptionalism? In political terms, this surely lies at the feet of both sides of the political spectrum. I do not have the training to be objective on this matter. Needless to say, it’s another concern for the future … amongst lead poisoning! At least, the governor of Michigan has finally acknowledged it. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/01/06/michigan-governor-declares-state-of-emergency-over-lead-levels-in-water-in-flint-mich/

    With a New Year wish for greater understanding, I appreciate the opportunity to participate. Thank you, Professor Thomas.

    1. Many societal conflicts would be avoided if the following experience was more widely understood:
      It is a significant event! It occurs when the attitude, “They are responsible for what I am.” becomes, “I am responsible for what I become.”

      1. (Responding as softly as possible to the clear shouting) … how can one not agree on personal responsibility as part of the equation, but is John Donne’s sentiment (in contemporary prose, though transcending the ages) dismissible?

        “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

        If denying it and as humanists, are we that callous, indifferent? Do we raise our children under such rigid, impersonal structure? A recipe for damage. Obviously, a difference in perspective. Maybe the desired balance requires too much effort.

        Happy and Healthy New Year.

        1. Thank you Susanna for helping to illustrate the problem referred to above about “widely understood”. You are correct in your observation that we are dealing with a “balance” issue. In a sense, two truths are colliding. It is true that we are all affected and interconnected by forces out of our control (about which, as you demonstrate, great art abounds). And, it is also true that we can be a cause, altering the play of events in order to favor the human condition. Acknowledging the truth of each, our humanitarian challenge is that of determining which of these two truths should be prioritized. Are we better off thinking of ourselves as primarily effect or cause? “Responsibility” refers to our power to cause. “Victimhood” directs attention (and sympathy) to those who have been negatively affected. Strengthening the attitude that people are not responsible itself tends to become a cause resulting in more denying to themselves the power of responsibility. In a sense, a society that CHOOSES to focus on responsibility gives itself the gift of empowering our process of being. The individual, given by his society the gift of responsibility now has legitimate reason to pride himself for the measurably good exercise of this power. Not only does this inspire the kind of behavior that tends to cause a reduction in human suffering, it provides for us a concept of “dignity” that has substance.

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