Thursday, March 9, 2017

Manners, thinking, good questions

We have had several nationally recognized incidents of hatred or violence lately, some resulting in bodily harm or death.  It can be very important to know some of the particulars before making too strong a judgment.  Was the perpetrator suffering mental or emotional problems?  Not a consideration for excusing such behavior but a question that can be helpful in understanding the launch of such actions.  

In those cases where it is well-understood that the attacker did not know the person attacked, often had never seen them before and knew nothing about them, it seems sensible to expect strong fear as a motivator.  I mention to many of my friends the book "Our Inner Ape" by Frans de Waal.  Of course we are not apes but we do share many of their characteristics.  The chimp genome is 99% the same as ours, I have read in several places.  

Male chimps form gangs or sometimes called raiding parties and invade each others' territories.  Why?  Something to do.  Something to rave and shout about.  Men and creatures like men can get into a war state by many pathways.  Fear is high on the list: those guys are going to attack us: let's attack them.  My mate(s) are wonderful and those guys want to steal her (them) I bet.  The kids are delightful.  Those perverts want to steal them, molest them, eat them.  I and my buddies will put a stop to that business!  Let's get them!

It can take a little calm assessment of the evidence and probabilities to evaluate thoughts of dangers.  It can help to go a step farther and get to actually know the "others".

Yesterday, the imaginative young data visualization specialist Mona Chalabi tweeted that she was lucky to be able to witness the TED talk by Megan Phelps-Roper.  I often get good stuff from Mona so I tuned right into that TED talk.  It really is excellent and I strongly recommend it to you.  Just put "TED" into Google and select TED talks.  Sure, you will be distracted for a little while but when you snap out of it, look for an earnest-looking young woman

TED talks have a transcript that follows what the speaker is saying.  Just look for the words View interactive transcript on the left below the speaker.  This speaker's grandfather was a famous hotheaded guy, at times a real lawyer and a real pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas.  I read the article about Fred Phelps in Wikipedia and I guess the man witnessed a man trying to lure his 5 year old grandson into some bushes.  That incident and a few others plus his temperament seem to have launched an energetic but hate-filled ministry.   The TED talk by Megan is a moving example of what good manners and good thinking and good talking can accomplish in the midst of infuriated shouting.

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