The Influence Of The Retrospectoscope

I have not referred to the “retrospectoscope” for a while.It has become clear that it has a powerful influence on how we respond to current events and on the ease or difficulty of intergenerational dialogue.The different response of older women and black women from younger women to Hillary, is a case in point.With no recollection of the actual nature of the primitive struggle of women on the one hand , and no experience of the commonplace nature of the backstairs family(the black experience… strengthened through slavery),a modern woman may only see weakness in the stick to your man behavior of a Hillary Clinton.Likewise , with little experience with the difficulty of imposing change from outside a system, many see Sanders as being capable of imposing such change.The same retrospectoscopic assessment of the Obama years would show the magnitude of his accomplishment when denied the priviliges of an insider.As for Trump, hopes that he could live up to his bombast are being shriveled by his visible pivot to being a member of the club.(Although still threatening revolt…not revolution…)

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10 Comments

    1. I’m just not savvy enough.Some of the responders to this blog have had hacker notations in their URL they might help.I doubt that a plug in can be the answer,but I don’t know.You do know that anything on the Internet is in public domain?

  1. An addendum to my last entry … I meant to add the following to “myths:”

    Now we are offered one of the greatest myths: “DS: (Those who are most talented will successfully deliver the most goods). That delivers for ALL a greater chance to acquire wealth and health.” Are we to interpret that lack of wealth and health … success … infer lack of talent and/or effort? Couldn’t disagree more. Furthermore, it is insulting, disparaging to suggest “failure” … that of lacking great wealth … as being the result of not “good or worked hard enough.” How about a word association game for the pursuit of success? Throughout my life, I have met/come across people whose financial wealth had nothing to do with their being “special.” Purely accidental … the right place at the right time. On the other hand, I found the observation extremely calculating when I was once told that it didn’t pay to go into the medical field … “You can’t make money anymore!” So much for the calling of healing/doing for your fellow human being. Yes, experience is a reference point.

    1. SB: “Are we to interpret that lack of wealth and health … success … infer lack of talent and/or effort? Couldn’t disagree more. Furthermore, it is insulting, disparaging to suggest “failure” … that of lacking great wealth … as being the result of not “good or worked hard enough.”
      The answer to your question is no. The inference is not justified. I had not written that ALL who are most talented will successfully deliver the most goods. I did not write that ONLY those who are most talented will successfully deliver the most goods. I did not write that ALL those with less or without talent will fail. Nowhere did I suggest that those with less talent were necessarily devoid of any “special” value.
      But I am presenting something here that is interestingly experienced as offensive by many who embrace today’s “progressive” mindset. For most possessed of this faith-like persuasion there is a passion to embrace a narrow interpretation of “equality” that leads even bright minds to deny (and be offended by) confrontations with some obvious truths. It should be easy to understand that relative to advancing mankind’s future, some people actually contribute more than others, some contribute less, and some people are downright destructive. WE ARE NOT OF EQUAL VALUE relative to many important life-enhancing activities. The concepts of “ability” and “talent” cannot exist without an understanding that there are LEVELS of success. This acknowledgment should make the following statement a self-evident, generalized truth: “Those who are most talented (most able) will successfully deliver the most goods. That delivers for ALL a greater chance to acquire wealth and health.”
      To be empathic with the downtrodden at the exclusion of an equal empathy with those who experience success is to create a harmful bias. For this one-sided mindset many of the qualities that create success are ignored, or worse, are blamed and condemned for the difficulties and suffering experienced by those who do less well or fail.
      There is a real danger that a government possessed by those with this “progressive” faith will use its powers to cause the best among us to do and be less – this for the sake of embracing and proselytizing an “equal” that isn’t.

      1. DS “those who are most talented(able) will successfully deliver the most goods” not so.Those who are capable and in sync with the tax laws and other access determinants will succeed in increasing their possessions.Talent is often wasted and/or not recognized because of ethnicity or gender or race etc,etc.Change the definition of success, move it away from “I consume therefore I exist”.( often becoming “I exist to consume”) and focus on human interrelationships and voila!, you have a different world.(“I exist to interchange and cooperate,and compete (non suicidally and non fratricidally)WITH OTHERS.”.Empathy becomes comprehensible as a definer of humanness and clearly becomes something spontaneous and not totally manipulable by frontocortical shenanigans. It will still be deniable when murderous acts are contemplated ,so have no fear, all who depend on a quantum of aggression to define our humanity.

        1. Daedal2207: Let’s look again at the sentence in dispute: “those who are most talented(able) will successfully deliver the most goods”. I intended “success” and “goods” to refer to their meaning in the broadest sense. Success is achieving whatever is worth achieving. It is not limited to owning and consuming “things”. As for talent and ability, don’t those who are more able, those who know more and better understand rational processes, literally have more options? How could the words have meaning if this is not the case? And is it reasonable to assume that those who have more choices will ignore the best among them? You point out accurately that tax laws and other access determinants are factors related to increasing possessions. Consider: Talent and ability to navigate these complexities leads to successes that those without such skills are denied. And, the fact that talent and ability are often wasted does not alter the fact that it is still those with the most ability and talent who deliver the most “goods”. Note too, I used the word “most” – not all goods. Also, I realize that serendipity is a factor. To some degree forces that are out of our control will help and harm, no matter our talent or ability. I am presenting a general rule, so it should be understood that there will be anecdotal exceptions.
          On the following I “almost” agree with you. But the difference is important:
          You write: “Empathy becomes comprehensible as a definer of humanness and clearly becomes something spontaneous and not totally manipulable by frontocortical shenanigans.”
          Consider: Without some degree of empathy it is impossible to identify with, to understand and work with others. But every person in every society tends to do these things! Therefore some degree of empathy is possessed by all but the most dysfunctional of people. We do this spontaneously but that does not mean that we do it with equal “appropriateness” as regards our embracing the most rewarding (in the full sense of its meaning) understandings. So, the issue is not that of having empathy (which we all tend to have), but it is that of having APPROPRIATE empathy. No one wants to be influenced by “shenanigans”, but we should want healthy identifications with what it means to be human in the fullest, life enhancing, sense. It seems that we can cultivate empathic understandings that aid our achieving that healthy goal. And yes, this also means that we can cultivate empathic understandings that hinder our progress. So, what forms of empathic focus perform the role of, as you say, “frontocortical shenanigans”? Is it those who advocate empathic understandings primarily with those who are suffering and downtrodden? Or is it those who advocate empathic identification primarily with Horacio Alger type “winners”? The advocates of each are likely to accuse the other of engaging in “manipulating shenanigans” when confronted with recommendations for something other than their preferred vision. Maybe the objective truth of best balance is more likely to be found by those who try to embrace an empathic understanding for ALL human life such that we are motivated to perform most appropriately as regards humanity’s ability to thrive. This seems to indicate that the better empathic understandings will involve an ability to identify with those souls who are guided by “good” VALUES – values that are prioritized over “harmful” values.
          It seems that, relative to making the best future, empathy is an important INGREDIENT, but it is less important than ACQUIRING KNOLEDGE OF, cultivating, and living (and empathically sharing) good VALUES.
          As an example, consider this as a good value worth striving for: In education and elsewhere, maximize to society’s benefit every skill and every IQ point – wherever they exist. Here is another general rule: A free market TENDS to sort and tap the full range of variables – automatically.

  2. daedal2207: “I have not referred to the ‘retrospectoscope’ for a while. It has become clear that it has a powerful influence on how we respond to current events and on the ease or difficulty of intergenerational dialogue.”

    True … reference is very powerful. But, while gender plays a roll in the very personal, is there not a commonality shared by both genders under the umbrella of humanity? Mothers and fathers impart subtle … and, not so subtle … influence on their offsprings … but, for the most part, it’s the shared cultural beliefs to which we tend to react. The direction might be different … affirming or rebelling. Of consideration is the positive aspect that we hope to be dominant … that of fairness and awareness over greed and callousness. Neglect and detachment scar for life.

    The discussions in this blog are thought-provoking in that they are filled with idealism, with opposing approaches claiming the reality and true-light factors. However, when reduced to absolutisms, they lose the very reality and light that is lived in the overwhelming grey areas of adjustment … not in the rigidity of black or white. How can we, as older guides to younger generations seeking understanding, share the reality of our experience? If “… sophistry can be seen as a relatively easy way to express anger, and/or a method by which unpleasant-to-confront ideas can be avoided.” (DS in response to Obama’s Confrontation With America’s Soft Imperialism” … 4/16/16), is sarcasm a better tennis racquet (I still have my old Jack Kramer!) for a forehand response to “But for many who wish to protect ‘sacred’ or ‘cherished’ beliefs, the following path is often selected: etc. … Beliefs that are most rooted in empirical evidence and good logic will have a higher probability of correlating strongly with objective truths (whatever they turn out to be) than do those rooted less well or in other sources.” (DS in response to T.V. and The Society’s Riveting Issues” … 4/20/16)? True opener, but to offer the premise in a one-way absolutism is to be blind of the two-way nature of those thoughts. Whose “sacred” or “cherished” thought/conclusion is more valid? Empirical evidence is fungible, not absolute. Merriam-Webster:

    Full Definition of EMPIRICAL

    1 : originating in or based on observation or experience

    2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory

    3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment

    On to myths …

    “The freedom to pursue profit creates a productive force that has provided something rare in human history – relatively widespread wealth and good health.” (DS in response to T.V. and The Society’s Riveting Issues” … 4/20/16)

    How do we convey this to the work force in … well, how about the ultimate luxury destination, Dubai! Dubai currently being built by slave labor, which, under the cruelest of trickeries, pays its way to slavery! Where’s the realism here of “widespread wealth and good health?”

    DS: “The power of profit is a driving force. The road forward needs clearly defined guard rails (laws with real deterrent value) to prevent the shortsighted from driving erratically and taking shortcuts that do others harm.”

    How? The above example is one of many, many conditions throughout the world, all the continents [perhaps not the Arctic and Antartica (smile)]. Within our own borders, do we punish/penalize those who lure? Employers of labor provided by the illegals who desperately look to improve? In the pursuit of profit, how do we incentivize altruism over greed? And, of course, empathy is mocked … it appears to stand for weakness (more of that doublespeak).

    Directly quoted from Merriam-Webster (to include antonyms) …

    Empathy: the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

    Full Definition
    1 : the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it
    2 : the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicitmanner; also : the capacity for this
    Antonyms: callous, cold-blooded, cold-hearted, hard, heartless, inhuman, inhumane, insensate …

    … to name a few.

    We are caught in a circuitous exchange that is beginning to take a “who’s-on-first” comedic routine. Every subject introduced relating to conditions, experiences, vigilance for equal opportunity is challenged with the clarion of “Give us empirical proof to justify your concern against the forces of historical imperial power pursuit!” expressed in the most abstract language … as if power needs such protection. Jackie Robinson was real … Anita Hill’s humiliation was real … Lin-Manuel Miranda’s plea on behalf of Puerto Rico is real! Are we addressing the specifics of a point directly, or talking on separate tracks just to “hear” our vocabulary? Yikes! Dull class for the youngins!

    As always, Professor Thomas, you offer introspection … and, it is much welcomed.

    P. S. I hope this time we opt for elitism over populism … though I welcome the true idealism. There’s a lot of exploited/nurtured hate in the alternative.

    1. Thank you SB for quoting me accurately. And, I do appreciate your questions. You have provided examples of linked-to-profit activities that seem to be “unfair”; they seem to generate attitudes that are not considered admirable. You ask, “In the pursuit of profit, how do we incentivize altruism over greed?”
      About Dubai – I think that associating its building work force with “slavery” dilutes the historic meaning of slavery. It is a sad truth that there are many in this world who come out of such poverty that the opportunities made available by developments such as Dubai are more attractive than other realistic options. Given that we do not have a magic wand, the effort to improve the entire human experience to approach the standards we take for granted will take some time. And that is central to our discussion: How do we best improve the human condition? For some (perhaps many – perhaps most) of the Dubai workers there will be an expanding range of healthy opportunities. Profit incentivizes these workers as well as their employers to be creative. To be creative often requires new hiring – which tends to be the same as giving more opportunities to those who are relatively poor.
      Altruism versus greed?
      Altruism, or wanting to do good for others, is an admirable motive. But this good feeling needs to be guided with caution. The motive can be good, but actions have variable impact. Sometimes the methods selected to employ this good emotion can do more harm than good. Unless used carefully, it is possible to enable others to be less than they could be. Consider too, in support of your favorite charity the giving of one’s own time or product of labor is admirably altruistic. Arranging for another person to be forced to support your favored cause with their time or product of labor is something other than altruism.
      Greed, by definition, is something bad. But some care should be taken not to confuse it with something that is good – enlightened self-interest. Ultimately it is always one’s idea of “self” that the mind is serving – even the self that considers its self to be altruistic. When the self that is being served engages in ACTIONS THAT ACTUALLY IMPROVE the opportunities of other “selves” to thrive, we are engaged in a process that “improves the human condition.” (See where it is actions and not feelings that have primacy in MAKING BETTER our place in this world.) There is massive statistical evidence that it is capitalism, or making it possible for more people to employ enlightened self-interest, that raises massive numbers of our fellow human beings out of poverty. (Interestingly, it is apparently offensive to the “progressive” mindset that this process does not benefit all “equally”, and therefore capitalism and its profit motive are often condemned as “unfair”.) The question remains: What system of economics other than capitalism can present such a well-measured, improvement of the human condition?

      1. DS: “About Dubai – I think that associating its building work force with “slavery” dilutes the historic meaning of slavery.”

        Really? How?

        Slaves in Dubai:

        Dubai Modern Slavery

        DS: “For some (perhaps many – perhaps most) of the Dubai workers there will be an expanding range of healthy opportunities. Profit incentivizes these workers as well as their employers to be creative.”

        (Assuming … tricky word … that you have viewed the above …) Really? How? Heartless? Inhumane?

        DS: “The question remains: What system of economics other than capitalism can present such a well-measured, improvement of the human condition?”

        China and Africa:

        Obviously China, with communism as its form of government, is practicing capitalism very well … to include not “interfering” with the corrupt governments with which they do business/plunder.

        Perhaps the more appropriate question is: What form of checks-and-balances can we effectively advocate to protect against untrammeled greed? DS proclaims that the “road forward needs clearly defined guard rails (laws with real deterrent value) to prevent the shortsighted from driving erratically and taking shortcuts that do others harm.” However, no endorsement is ever made towards any governmental attempt to provide such “guard rails.” It is always viewed as interference on the private sector. No compromise to be tolerated or considered. The desire to be rewarded and recognized for one’s efforts is very natural … but, like eating (a natural necessity), too much of a good thing can be harmful, if not deadly

        The difference in our opinions is that DS sees the majority of capitalism as being all good … and, I suggest, not so fast. Since when is 20% of 100% a majority? Not even close. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/opinion/campaign-stops/how-the-other-fifth-lives.html?login=email&src=me.

        The remaining/closing commentary continues to be too patronizing and circuitous to engage. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Res ipsa loquitur.

        1. Thank you SB for sharing the documentaries. About Dubai, Bonded labor is not the same as being forever “owned” by another. Bonded labor is a contract for a specific period of time and its binding forces are entered into by all willingly. Presenting this as identical to slavery is therefore a dilution of that truly abhorrent condition. The very real ills depicted in these documentaries are those of squalor, exploitation, and outright fraud. To not accurately diagnose the real sickness and thus improperly treat the disease is, if not heartless, it is tragically foolish.
          Within two decades China, when it decided to employ capitalistic principles to its economic policies managed to move a quarter of a billion people out of poverty into what we call the middle class. Even a dangerous, totalitarian- leaning government can make some good moves. Our original liberty-loving system can do similarly productive things if we the people remain smart enough to guide it with a focus on economic liberty. But don’t confuse liberty with anarchy. Some internal discipline and external law is needed to keep the play honest. Some law is needed to avoid the ills of monopolies and retain competition as an incentive to honesty and excellence (Anti-trust). The New York Times article reports on a socially-dividing trend that was more deeply and powerfully presented in Charles Murray’s recent book, “Coming Apart”. To what degree do government influences exacerbate the divide versus to what degree is economic freedom allowing those of similar values to isolate themselves – possibly to the detriment of all?
          SB chose to dismiss the last of my (April 29) comments with the following: “The remaining/closing commentary continues to be too patronizing and circuitous to engage. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Res ipsa loquitur”
          But my closing commentary ended with a question – the intention of which was to spur us to open our eyes! “The question remains: What system of economics other than capitalism can present such a well-measured, improvement of the human condition?”
          Unless that question can be honestly answered, it is reasonable to conclude that once
          aware of the dramatic gains in life quality brought about by capitalist policies it would be “heartless” to intentionally deny such benefits to future generations.

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