EDITORIAL (17DEC2012): Given the recent shooting in Connecticut, reflexively, the usual crowd crows about “gun-control”. Is the fundamental issue, however, the possession of guns or something more basic?
B = f(x) under c. Behavior is a function of its consequences in a given context. It’s a law created by Nature not by politicians nor by theologians or philosophers.
Beneath the tragedy characterizing the shooting lurks the cultural context in which it occurred. Shooting innocent children is a behavior. Accordingly, the shooting is a function of context and consequences, an event too complex for a mere paragraph or two.
Perhaps, the fundamental issue lies not in our guns but in our cultural context and in the people whom we, as those who comprise that context, have become. Written prior to the shooting, this series of four postings questions the new culture to which so many Americans have become enamored.
Paradox: something with seemingly contradictory qualities or phases. -Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
Irony: an incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result. -Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary
“Violet. How well that name suits you. Violet . . . Violet Smith . . . formerly, Smythe, I believe.”
“You believe correctly. Jack Howard . . . formerly, Jacob Horowitz, I believe.”
“Yes, well, returning to you . . . good, sturdy, English-Anglican stock. . . both sides, I believe.”
“Again, you believe correctly. And you, Jack . . . hmm, how should I put it? Let’s say just, ‘from Russian-Jewish stock, perhaps with a bit of Cossack injected . . . involuntarily.’ Yes?”
“Yes. Consider our different heritages. Your forebears arrived in North America before the Revolution. Mine . . . during the great migration from Eastern and Southern Europe at the turn of the last century.”
“So, seemingly, a voting paradox . . . actually, a triple paradox. Firstly, here are you, the product of English-Anglican stock in North America for more than two centuries. What’s your political behavior? ‘Progressive’ now called ‘liberal’ although better termed ‘neo-liberal’ to distinguish it from ‘classical liberal’.”
“Different meanings to different people. Anyway, what’s your point?”
“My point is . . . a voting paradox, given your genealogy.”
“Really. Instead of defending your heritage symbolized by the American Revolution . . . a heritage founded upon Protestant-based Christianity combined with English law and custom . . . a heritage dedicated to individual liberty with individual responsibility, individual rights of property, sound currency, defense of the borders, and limited government, what do you do? You vote for politicians who essentially espouse the opposite. It would seem that, paradoxically, you’re attacking not only your own heritage but your own economic interests, considering the inheritance received from your late parents. Paradox number one.”
“And numbers two and three?”
“For number three, you’ll have to wait. Paradox two is represented by me. I, a relative pauper with no inheritance, defend your heritage and your interests even though Jews in America, for decades, were subjected to economic and social restrictions by people of your heritage. You might recall that it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself who promoted academic restrictions against Jews in private institutions. Shouldn’t I be the one voting to destroy the U.S. Constitution and American Tradition?”
“Like most of your Jewish brethren? Given your point of view, you must feel a bit isolated and alienated. I doubt you find many supporters among your own kind.”
“You’re right, to a point. Therein lies not a paradox but an irony. During our entire history, including the heady days of King David himself, we Jews never enjoyed such freedom and prosperity as offered by this great land, even with the previous restrictions . . . restrictions, by the way, that served to bond us as a group and to maintain our identity. Yet, many of my Jewish brethren, from the moment of their forebears’ arrival until today have wanted only to change the laws and customs of the land to which they fled with hope and in desperation . . . to change it in the name of so-called social justice, whatever that means.”
“I thought that you’d side with them. At least, you’re consistent in that regard.”
“Look, Jacob . . . sorry, Jack, we plainly see what you’re so blind to. We see the faults in religion, Christianity especially . . . the faults in Western culture with its history of colonialism, male chauvinism, racism, and brutal militarism. Do you know what’s the paradox with you?”
“I’m sure that you’ll tell me.”
“You bet I will. Given the persecuted history of your people by my people, paradoxically you personally long to be one of my people. Sigmund Freud called it ‘identification with the aggressor’. You’re living in the past, my dear. An era dead and gone. The last election pronounced it so, were you willing to notice. You need to resurrect yourself . . . to live in the present, the here and now, not rot in the past. There is no paradox on my part. For me, the scene merely has changed, that’s all. For you, however, I agree. There is a paradox.
“Given your heritage, Jack, you feel inferior. Your heritage screams against your voting as you do . . . right-wing reactionary; yet, you do it, anyway.”
“At least, you agree that, between the two of us, there might be one paradox.”
“Of course, I agree, and you represent it.”
“On that point, I agree.”
“Why, then, do you succumb to your neurosis?”
“Your amateurish psychology aside, don’t ask me, ‘Why?’ ‘Why’ is a theological question. Ask a clergyman.”
“I can’t. I’m a ‘secular relativist’.”
“Mazel tov! You have my sympathies. Anyways, ask not ‘why’, ask ‘how’. How do the ‘independent variables’, biology and environment, control what I think, how feel, what I do, and how my body responds?
“Biologically, Violet, I’m a man rarely at ease with himself. I never feel really good . . . maybe it’s a Jewish thing. Biologically, my temperament leads me to become a skeptic, if not a cynic. As did the Founding Fathers, I see the glaring imperfections in mankind, including in me.
“Environmentally, while in college, there was one professor, an older man, who preached that we should try to leave the world a better place than the one we found. I don’t believe that we . . . you and I . . . those in our generation . . . are doing so.
“Contrary to the popular, cultural myth in vogue at the moment . . . a culture characterized by lurid vulgarity promoting our basest, animalistic proclivities, we can achieve the optimal good by denying temptation not promoting it . . . by suppressing those base proclivities not facilitating them.”
“Oscar Wilde said that he could resist everything but temptation.”
“Yes, and you see where that attitude landed him. Better to attend to the Lord’s Prayer . . . lead us not into temptation. Remember Eve and the serpent.
“Like it or not, Violet, to survive and flourish, every society needs a set of cultural norms; the inescapable consequences of social anarchy are authoritarian rule and loss of liberty. Your false hero, Mr. Obama, knows well the truth of that which I’m saying. He represents those self-appointed elitists who would give the common folk licentiousness while denying them liberty.”
“Well, unlike you, I believe in allowing people to indulge themselves as they see fit . . . within the limits of reason, of course.”
“With each determining his own limits.”
“Or hers. Anyway, I gather that, politically, you’re not a member of the Libertarian Party.”
“Hardly. The rock upon which this nation was founded is a set of Judeo-Christian norms; the foundation sitting on that rock is a set of English law and customs. The further we’ve departed from that rock and that foundation, the more we’ve descended into a decline characterized by debt, degradation, desperation, and despair. Self-appointed elitists such as you rejoice in your own destruction, enthusiastically and cavalierly opening the gates to the barbarians . . . literally and figuratively, thereby, giving away that which your forbears fought and died to create then maintain.”
“Might I point out that the rock and foundation you admire promote Paternalism?”
“What would you promote? Maternalism. Has there ever been a successful, lasting, modern society based upon Maternalism? Besides, today, we don’t have just plain, old-fashioned Maternalism. We have Radical Maternalism . . . a combination of toxic Radical Feminism pathologically polluting normal, nurturing Maternalism. An example? In the Western world, a bunch of women envious of men is pretending to be men and, symbolically, have succeeded in giving all women little choice but to wear trousers with flies. ‘Phallusism’ without the phallus. What would Freud say about such a behavior? These raging wretches evangelically promote economic, political, and social policies that castrate males . . . figuratively . . . although, one day, it might become literally. The worst part is that they are succeeding. What will be the long-term consequences?”
“Given the history of aggressive, male domination? A better world.”
“We shall see. So far, since women obtained the vote, the fortunes of the West only have declined, especially once the economic anomaly following World War Two faded into history.”
“So, you favor ending the vote for women.”
“I didn’t say that I did. No, female suffrage is here and should remain; otherwise, the consequential social upheaval would be tumultuous. Operationally, there’s no practicable alternative.”
“I agree . . . ideologically and operationally, but why do you say it?”
“Tumult aside, there simply are too many people. Excessive human population is destroying the planetary ecology that maintains our survival . . . and I’m not referring to ‘global warming’. For several reasons, we need to reduce the human population not to increase it, especially not to increase it with people who cannot care for themselves. No, women, as a group, simply cannot remain in the home, rearing non-existent children. They must participate fully in all of society but, as with men, within a framework the consequences of which are optimal for everyone.”
“What, in your opinion, is that framework?”
“Firstly, a modified U.S. Constitution with changes to compensate for the flaws that the Founding Fathers either didn’t see or couldn’t have seen. Secondly, a return to Traditional American Ideals promoting individual liberty, individual responsibility, and limited government but with justice and fairness for all.”
“No, thirdly, a new component . . . Science. We must employ the scientific method in conducting our societal affairs and, hopefully, even our personal ones as well.”
“By ‘scientific method’, what are you talking about?”
“To begin, our following the scientific guidelines of specificity, objectivity, and accountability. Bringing our behavior under the control of consequences instead of antecedents. Managing properly contingencies that optimize the probabilities of fulfilling targeted goals.”
“Operationally, what are you talking about?”
“Two steps in dealing with problematic situations . . . both scientifically-based and scientifically-driven. The first, analysis. The second, resolution.”
“Operationally, what comprises the first?”
“Describing the problem in terms of the context in which the situation-in-question is occurring. Then, describing the behavior therein. Then, describing the antecedents . . . the events prompting the behavior. Finally, describing the consequences . . . the events following the behavior.”
“Operationally, what comprises the second?”
“Defining the problem in terms of the behavior involved . . . either a behavioral excess, such as too much governmental spending . . . or a behavioral deficit, such as too little educating of our youth.”
“Operationally, is there more?”
“Am I Jewish? Of course, there’s more. There are three more parts to the second, operational step. After defining the problem comes targeting attainable goals that would resolve the problem. Then, designing and implementing a practicable plan that would fulfill those goals. Finally, measuring the outcome, making corrections as needed. All four steps are accomplished with specificity and objectivity. Measurement provides accountability.”
“Even if you’re right, how many people have a scientific background? How many can understand what you’re advocating? How many even want to understand?”
“Ideally, many. Hopefully, some. Realistically, few.”
“Jack, you admit you’re spitting into the wind. Why keep trying?”
“What’s the alternative? Nihilism? Look, the particular science that I’m recommending is biobehavioral science (www.inescapableconsequences.com). Its basics aren’t complicated. The majority of voters can understand them, especially once they blow away the smoke and smash the mirrors that currently camouflage the actual political behavior of the people whom they’re now electing.”
“Your romantic idealism, Mr. Don Quixote, may sound good to you, but will it play in Peoria? People are easily led and readily follow. You yourself have said it. Feeling is reflexive. Thinking is laborious.”
“True, so most voters bring their behavior under the control of The Who and The What not The How . . . the most important. Therein lies the third paradox.”
“Consider the following: Since the dawn of human history, what has conferred upon us humans the benefits that so many of us take for granted? Science. Science! A product mainly, although not entirely, of Western civilization. Without those benefits, our lives, to paraphrase Hobbs, would have remained short, brutal, and nasty.
“Yet, paradoxically, most of us, most of the time, actively resist employing biobehavioral science to optimize the effectiveness of our own behavior in resolving problems . . . societal as well as personal. We’d rather follow charismatic charlatans making hollow promises than employ biobehavioral science to fulfill reasonable and appropriate goals targeted democratically. The inescapable consequence likely will be that we shall die trying to maintain mysticism and superstition rather than facing often-harsh Reality. In the end, Violet, Reality wins.”
“In the end, Jack, Death wins.”
“Even so, between birthing and dying comes living. I believe that God gave a purpose to humanity as a species and a meaning to individual human lives.” (See “Categories/Uncategorized/‘Science And Human Purpose And Meaning’”.)
“God . . . in whatever form that you choose to adopt . . . Fate, Mother Nature, Providence, etc. Look at the issue in the following way: If there’s no ultimate purpose and meaning, human behavior slips under the control of antecedents and short-term consequences . . . the latter, mainly social reinforcement. It becomes erratic and often self-defeating if not catastrophically self-destructive. Your voting behavior is an example.”
“Mine? Oh, really!”
“Yes, really! You vote against your own heritage and your own self-interests. Worse, you vote against the best interests of America. Your voting behavior is under the control of hollow promises from political charlatans and of positive social reinforcement from friends and neighbors, eliciting a short-lived, mental state of self-righteousness . . . not under the control of fundamental principles and long-term consequences guided by scientific methodology.”
“So you say.”
“Not just I. So says a study in1998 by Don Green and Alan Gerber at Yale University. From what you’ve told me in the past, Violet, your parents were neo-liberal Democrats who later became conservative Republicans. True?”
“Would you deny that, even though an only child, you felt rejected by your father and unprotected by your mother? When an adolescent, you punished their behavior by selecting a college that you yourself have labelled as ‘Commie pinko’? Then, compounding the punishment, you selected a major in so-called Political Science, an oxymoron, taught by the usual Marxist-oriented instructors?
“What’s your answer, Violet?
“All that I’m hearing is your silence. Fine. Moving forwards, would you deny that, since graduating, you’ve associated primarily with people who favor that which you were taught in college?
“Again, I ask, ‘What’s your answer, Violet?’
“All that I’m hearing is your continued silence. So, with your continued silence, I rest my case.”
“Finished beating on a woman? Look, I’ll admit that we’re all products of our genetics and our environments. You think you’re so different, Jack?”
“No, I don’t. In fact, I agree with you. Our cognition, emotion, behavior, and physiological responses are dependent variables. Yes, they modulate one another, but the independent variables are biology and environment with biology accounting for seventy percent of the variance.”
“So, how does that gobbledegook apply to you?”
“In my case, I try to modulate my behavior with cognition not emotion, and I try to bring my behavior under the control of principles consonant with Science, History, and long-term consequences.”
“Science? Applied to human behavior, it’s mechanistic and anti-humanistic.”
“Better to allow ideology and emotion be our guides?”
“Better than the cold, calculating application of so-called scientific principles to manipulate human behavior.”
“Well, you’re staring into the abyss to which our refusal to apply these ‘so-called principles’ has brought us.”
“Am I? Anyway, history? Meaning under the control of whatever you yourself perceive in the mists of the past.”
“You’re confirming that the one thing learned from history is that we learn nothing from history, so we are doomed to repeat it mindlessly and destructively.”
“Can’t you think of a more original response, Jack? Anyway, long-term consequences? Meaning whatever events you yourself predict for the future. Well, as I said, I prefer the present. Live for today, for tomorrow we may die.”
“Given your point of view, we probably shall. What of future generations? What is the context that you’re creating for them? Debt, disease, despair?”
“Equality, fraternity, and liberty.”
“More likely, Violet, the guillotine. As it has been said, equality is the enemy of liberty. Without liberty, there is no fraternity. Remember, the French Revolution to which you referred.”
“Under the banner of social democracy, we’re creating a better world for children . . . one governed by politicians who care about everyone and implemented by experts in economics, law, and sociology.”
“Then, may God help the children, and may God show you mercy for you know not what you do.”
“Spoken like a true believer, Jack. Given your paraphrasing of Christ, have you considered becoming a ‘Born Again’?”
“I’m a Jew not a Christian, but I respect Christianity. Many roads lead to the House of the Lord . . . atheism, however, isn’t one of them.”
“So you say. I say all roads, atheistic included, lead to the same destination . . . permanent and lasting death.”
“A belief that your name reflects.”
“What do you mean?”
“Violet. The violet is a flower for funerals. In this case, the funeral of Western civilization . . . maybe, all civilizations. It’s the inescapable consequence of your paradoxical voting behavior (www.inescapableconsequences.com ).