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Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Normally I do just one blog during a week. But this week there will be two, my normal Wednesday blog, and this one.

 

 

It seems that we have reached a critical mass, a critical mass that has been set ablaze by the Me Too movement. It seems that women, and some men, everywhere are speaking up about harassment from the rich and powerful.  Harvey Weinstein, of course.  Then also, after Harvey, Ed Westwick, Kevin Spacey, Ben Affleck, former President George H. W. Bush, Louis C. K. and many others.  And the list is growing – and I hope continues to grow.

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Doubtless some of those or those of others to come, will turn out to be honest mistakes in communication or memory. Others will turn out to be lies or half truths done out of maliciousness or even to score political points. However, I am not going to make the mistake of so many on the right who question whether hate crimes and hate speech are increasing at all and who point to a few hoaxes as reason to question the experiences and reality of thousands of people.  Most, in fact, the great majority, of these women’s claims will turn out to be true. Just as is true for those who have experienced hate crimes and speech.

 

I should note that although I mentioned the rich and powerful, as well as listed the names of such, this is by no means confined only to the rich and powerful.  Would that it were. But this issue crosses all areas of society, the rich and the poor.  The rich and powerful though can often get away with such behavior on a scale that those poor can only dream about, whether that dream be bliss or nightmare. And, that the rich and powerful are much more visible than the average person.

 

Also, before going further, let me state this is not a political issue. It is not a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican issue. Most of those coming out now are from the entertainment industry and heavily liberal.  However, a brief look at recent history shows that this is not only liberals and Democrats.  Need I remind people of Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Herman Cain, Dennis Hastert, Donald Trump and many others.

 

As I said, this is not a political issue, although it does have political ramifications.

 

Instead, this is a human and American societal issue and concerns all of us. Look at the names I mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. They range from one end of the political spectrum to the other. However, I am realistic enough to know that for many, and possibly most, they will see this as a problem mostly for liberals or mostly for conservatives. Of course, this could wind up working if the conservatives would take aim and take down the liberal sexual harassers and the liberals do the same for the conservative ones. But, again, my ability to see reality knows that this will not happen. It is too easy and too facile and the issue spread too widely and deeply for this ironic simplistic vignette to happen.

 

Let me start by briefly going over what I think are some of the causes of our societal addiction to sexual harassment. I think this is important because without understanding the root causes of a problem, not understanding how it came about and what supports it, all attempts to deal with it will work only by chance, with many being ineffective efforts and others actually creating greater harm. This is going to happen anyway, but knowledge and understanding will reduce the mistakes and increase the effectiveness of our actions moving forwards.

 

I do not intend to go into this in any sort of depth. For one, I am already going to bust my self imposed limit of keeping these to 1000 words or so. But, also, to do any sort of proper analysis would take much more knowledge and much more time than I have, and would take many thousands of words. I am, instead, just presenting some ideas of my own for consideration.

 

The first of these is that one of the main roots of sexual harassment lies in the idea of power coupled with the ideas of the proper roles of men and women in society.

 

Libby Ann, in her excellent blog “Child Brides, Teenage Sluts, and Roy Moore”, hits at some of this in discussing the views and attitudes of some conservative evangelical Christians.  Simplistically put (read her blog for a fuller discussion on this) the roots lie in this groups’ ideas of the proper role for men and women.

 

Men are meant to support and protect women. Women are meant to be submissive and obey men. To be supportive and able to protect their family, men need to be older and well established financially.  Women though need to know how to cook and clean house, bear and raise children, and be submissive; something a woman can do as a girl of 13.

 

What is interesting here is that this idea of the proper roles of men and women was at one time the dominant one in our society.  It has only been in recent times that a new ideal has taken hold and become the dominant view of most of society – that of a woman being the equal of a man, due the same rights, respect, and opportunities as a man.  Something that, even when disagreeing on particular situations, is usually given at least lip service by all sides.

 

However, it is important to note that first, this change of ideals is not uniform, and the understanding of how this new ideal works in specific situations varies considerably.

 

Second, although ideals may have changed, attitudes have lagged.  As is usual.

 

And third, that all progress also generates a push to not only stop but to go back to the way things were before, or at least as they were perceived as being.  Currently we have started living through such a dark period.

 

Which makes the light being shone by these women willing to speak up during our time of moral eclipse even more amazing.  During this time when, for whatever reason – ignorance, fear, denial, greed – we as a society are no longer concerned and working towards creating a more just society these women are speaking up, often at personal risk.

 

I only hope that even though mistakes will occur, tensions created, people hurt, and society roiled, that these and more women continue to speak up, because there are many more women as the Me Too movement showed.  Continue to shine not only to just limit the darkness but to reverse it.

 

This is a time for women when, like so many other issues such as racial discrimination, many point to laws passed and progress made and say no more needs to be done. And too many then go on to say too much has been done, and start darkening people’s lives.  In doing so they ignore that in actuality not enough has been done.  In fact, only the easy parts have been taken care of, and those imperfectly.

 

Shine on through the storm.

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Let’s face it, humans are usually shallow in their thinking and in their arguments.  It is something inherent in being human. This is especially evident when trying to defend a strongly held belief, position, or person.  And it is even more evident when that belief, position or person is wrong.

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One example of this shallowness is how often we only look at the form and not the content. We see some points of similarity and ignore the even more points of dissimilarity, the differences that make a difference.

One example of this is how often I have been told by Trump supporters to get over it.  That I sound just like they did when Obama was President and that now I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t like in the White House.

Now, on the surface, they are right.  I am complaining loudly and long about Trump and his actions.  Just as they did about President Obama.  We both complain and shout that Obama or Trump is going to ruin the country, do in our rights, and harm our standing. The form is the same.  However, the content is different.  In other words, the specifics of what was said matter and not just that they both are proclaiming doom and gloom.

President Obama did not confiscate all guns.

President Obama did not invade Texas under the guise of a war game.

President Obama did bring the country out of a recession and left it in much much better condition than we he started.

Trump has caused the US to lose the respect and trust of most of the world.

Trump has caused global tensions to rise.

Trump has rolled back civil rights protections for the gay and transgendered community.

Trump has cut back on environmental regulations that protect us and keep us from becoming what China is now trying to get away from.

Trump has worked to improve the wealth of the already rich.

Trump has shown himself to be just as much a liar as president as he was as candidate.

Now, I freely admit that some of the things I have said have not happened yet.  Emphasis on the  word yet.  I have said for most of these it would take one to two years before it would be obvious enough for all to agree.  Trump is not even one year in, so give it time.

Oh, and the investigation that I said was justified and which was blown off as so much nothing – well, it seems as if it was not nothing but very much something. And that too is only in its beginnings.

Now, I should mention that this form matching doesn’t have to be a point by point match as in my above example. Sometimes it can have just one point in common and it will be loudly proclaimed to be the same. Of course, this not only ignores the content, but also the many differences in form too.  And the space left from ignoring all of this – the content and the other aspects of the form – is then filled with baseless speculation and, often, lies – the stuff of conspiracy.

 

Saying that since Hillary had contact with the Russians for the dossier then that is the same as Trump’s staff contact with the Russians.  Never mind that the Russians came calling direct to the Trump campaign, Hillary’s was through the research of a firm paid to do research.  Which means that in Trump’s case the Russians controlled the information. In Clinton’s case, not so much.  And that is just one difference in the form and content.

emptyOr trying to equate Trump’s administration problems with the Russians to Hillary’s uranium scandal.  The only point in common is Russia.  However, Trump’s administration has been shown to be active with the Russians. In the Uranium one, not so much. They ignore the fact that this decision was made by a committee of which she was just one member. And the fact that most of the time, if not all, she had a representative attend and vote. And that Canada had to buy off on it too.

 

Don’t remember seeing all of those items in regards to Trump’s staff dealing with the Russians.  Which is why now you are getting those blanks in the form that I mentioned earlier filled in with a grand conspiracy theory.

So, the form may be very similar, but content matters more.

Something to remember the next time you have two people shouting outside your window at 2 am.  Before calling the police on both, listen to what each is shouting first. For the one shouting that the Ice Cream King will leaving his home on the moon and landing on your house – yeah, go ahead and call the cops. And check to make sure you windows and doors are locked.

For the one yelling, Fire, Fire, you may want to pause and consider their words. Especially if you smell smoke. Look beyond the simple, the superficial, the shallow.

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So often I hear people say to stand firm on your principles.  As I have gotten older and thought about this, and had my thinking influenced by several conversations with several people and by watching current events and reading of past events, I have come to the belief that principles are not for standing upon.  They are for pointing a direction.

Too often when a person takes a firm stand on principle they wind up building a wall instead. And the problem with walls is that they actually can keep you from going anywhere, especially forward. They fence you in.

 

In fact, I think most of the times, the great majority of the times, that standing firmly on your principles can be the worst thing that can be done; that there are instead many times when a compromise, even an evil one, can be the right thing to do.

 

For a grand example of this, let me use something from the history of the United States, the creation of our Constitution.  The compromise was called the three – fifths compromise. This compromise  not only allowed slavery to continue to exist, but gave the southern slave states more power in the House and in Presidential elections.

 

The three –fifths compromise came about due to a heated disagreement on who to count for the census. This was important because the population of a state determined how many representatives it would have, and also how many electors a state has for presidential elections.   The Southern States wanted to count their slaves as part of the census.  Those opposed to slavery, and the northern states, did not want to count the slaves as they felt that would make the slave states too powerful (and I note the irony here that those against slavery wanted to have slaves not even count as being a person).  The compromise that was agreed to was that slaves would count as three-fifths of a free citizen.  Which still gave the southern slave states a great deal of power within the federal government.  Because of this the southern slave states were dominant for most of the pre-Civil War United State.   Something that can be seen in the fact that ten of the first 16 Presidents (all the Presidents before Lincoln) were from Southern States.

 

Now consider the principle of “All men are created equal”. No one at our Constitutional Convention stood up firmly for that principle. In fact, they gave way and made what I would characterize as an evil compromise (I will note that those opposed to slavery argued for slaves not being counted for the census in order to reduce the power of the Southern states).  They agreed to continue the belief and practice of treating some people as nothing more than property and, even worse, gave those with the greatest interest in promoting this belief and practice the means to continue it.

 

 

Why did those who opposed slavery agree to this compromise?  They did so because they hoped that a United States would one day be able to resolve the issue of slavery, and end it.  In other words, they hoped that more good would result from a United States than from there not being one. Because without this compromise the United States would not have existed.

 

 

And I would say that history proved them right in making this compromise, in not standing firmly on principle.  Why?  Because if they had not, if they had not made this evil compromise, I do not think slavery would have been abolished in North America until the 20th century at best. And once abolished those states that did abolish it in the 20th century instead of the middle 19th would still be going through their version of Jim Crow or worse.

 

Before going further let me acknowledge the complexities and difficulties in predicting what might have been. Let me also say that I am giving a very simplified version of what could have happened in order to try to keep this blog as close to 1000 words as possible.  Just to give some of those complexities, the United States could have broken down into three, four or more separate countries each going their own way and pursuing their own interests, with all the resulting conflicts, alliances, rivalries and wars attached to doing so. Some may have even become part of the British Empire again.  That’s not even considering the effect of several individual countries trying to expand westward.

 

But, in order to keep this short, I am not going to try to cover all of those aspects. Instead, I want to focus on just one simple part of this that illustrates what I am saying  about principle and compromise.

 

Consider this: if the United States had not formed there would have been at least two separate countries formed – the Northern States that would have abolished slavery and the Southern States that had already made slavery an integral part of their society and economy.

 

Consider also that the Northern States and President Lincoln did not go to war with the Southern States to abolish slavery, but to preserve the Union.  If there were no union to preserve, there would have been no war.  There would have been no war that resulted in abolishing slavery in North America in the 1860s.

 

 

There are two reasons to make evil compromises.  One is because all the other options are even more evil.  The other is that that compromise has the potential to lead to a good, a potential that the other options do not have.   In this example, I think most of the founders who were strongly against slavery – such as Alexander Hamilton – made this compromise not only because they believed that a United States with slavery was better than numerous countries in conflict, many of which would also have slavery as an institution, but because they believed that a United States would be better poised to eventually eliminate slavery – although they did not know how.

 

So, they made their evil compromise instead of firmly standing on principles. And then they hoped, they prayed, and they worked to make that hope come true.  Something that would not have been as possible, or as quickly possible, had they stood firmly on principle.

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I have been told I do nothing. That while on Facebook I talk about changes and issues facing our nation, that all I do about them is blog. I write the write but don’t do the walk. Usually this is when someone is in heated disagreement with me on an issue and are looking for a way to put me down, and minimize what I do.  Which, along with my experiences during Hurricane Harvey, got me thinking, and so this blog.

For myself, my critic is partially right. I don’t do any big earth shaking , country roiling , state rattling deeds. My words and actions are not going to inspire any great movements, or even any memories that will outlast me by much.  Which makes me just like most people.

However, that does not mean that what we do does not make a difference, or that the difference we make is unimportant.  In fact, one way of viewing this makes what we are doing the most important thing possible.

I know that when I view the actions and policies and statements of those who can influence and change the state, the country, the world, the bottom line of my evaluation is how will it affect people. Not people as a massive group, not people as an idea, but people as individuals. As persons.

And it is at that level that everyday people can and do make a difference.

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Stopping to help a person with a flat. Seeing a person struggling with a load and offering to help carry some of it. Pausing to let another driver in during heavy traffic.

Small things, everyday things, but they make a difference to that person at that time. They set a tone for our neighborhood, our town and help create our society.  Some examples that I personally know about during our time in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

A neighbor with a well has run a hose from her house for everyone to use since our city water is currently contaminated.

When out scouting for food and water, and too often standing in long lines, people share information and suggestions. There is water to be found there, that street is flooded, avoid it, this store is open until then, that one is not, etc.

People using grocery carts to take their water and food to their car returning that cart to those waiting in line instead of putting them in the parking lot cart corrals since there are no carts at the doors.

A co-worker with a swimming pool letting people know if they need water they can come get some from his pool – this was when we had no water, contaminated or clean.

On the neighborhood website, people in our addition offering help- from going to help clear the fallen tree, to passing on info about where to get water. One guy’s house flooded and another neighbor went right over with heavy duty vacuums to help clean the mess.

One woman got caught away from home when her street flooded and she couldn’t get back in. There was a litter of puppies trapped in her yard.Another woman managed to get through the water to the pups and rescue them.

And of course, this does not include the many people with boats and jet skis who rescued people from flooded homes.

Small things really, overall. Things that will be not only be soon forgotten, but are often not even covered to begin with. But, they helped someone, and made a difference for individual people.  Such actions not only create the bonds of a society, bonds which are essential for the survival of any society,  but are also the result of those bonds.

And this happens everyday everywhere in the US (and the world). It is not limited to times of disaster. Other examples from my life, my wife’s life, and from friends.

Having a stranger stop to help fix a flat on a rental car during a wet night in the middle of nowhere.

Providing a place to stay not just once, but twice to those displaced by tragedy .this-beautiful-random-act-of-kindness-was-photographed-give-this-awesome-guy-a-like-for-caring

Providing first aid to those injured by a tornado that was still there.

When seeing a man who had enough money for a gallon of gas but not enough to pay for the gas can the gas station insisted he had to buy instead of borrow – buying the gas can and the gas.

Paying the difference for a person in the grocery costs at the store when they were short of money.

Helping a neighbor look for a lost pet.

Along with other drivers who stopped, pulling a young man out of a car that had flipped just before it caught on fire.

And the list goes on. Nothing that by itself will change a nation. But done by the tens and hundreds of millions each day, they help cement the bonds of society. In all of the above, there was no concern about the person’s race, religion, gender, employment, or politics. Just a person in need.  And a person willing to help.

So, while it is well worth the time and effort to try to influence the ones who can shape and shift the country, to join together with other like thinking people to advocate and to press for needed changes, you and I can still make a difference on that most fundamental level, the person.

And as for my blog.  Well, even if I can just influence a couple of people with one or two of my blogs, cause a couple of people to think, or maybe even act, that would be enough. Especially since from small beginnings such as this, things can grow and grow large enough to make the bigger differences that so impresses people. But, probably not. And if it does wind up making a larger difference through a chain of hundreds of people, I will probably never know. And that’s OK.   I am fine with the small.

So, no, no earth shaking differences. Just small ones. And usually not original either. In Just a Reminder 2fact, the ideas embedded within my words here are not new, and have been expressed many millions of times by others.  But, then, perhaps they need to be. Just as a reminder.

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I am an atheist. There are some atheists who get upset when someone says they will pray for them. Many others who would denounce prayers, and sometimes thoughts, as being worthless and empty nothings. Especially during times such as now.  I am an atheist who lives in Beaumont, which is about 90 miles east of Houston.

What that means is that, although we did not get whacked nearly as badly as Houston, we did experience severe flooding (still on-going in some areas as I write this), power outages, loss of water, and loss of lives. As I write this, there are no open roads leading out of the area I live in.

It is times such as these that you see many people calling for prayers for those of us in danger. Or passing on that we are in their thoughts. Or that they wish and hope for the best for us.

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Many atheists, and even some non-atheists sneer at such things as nothing.  Me, I don’t.

When something bad happens to me, my wife my will say she is sorry that it happened, and give me a hug. Those are not nothings, they are expressions of emotional support. They also build up and support the bonds of our family. The same happens when you expand this to friends.  Much of what we do and say to family and friends is nothing more, and nothing less, than expressions of emotional support meant to provide comfort.  These words ware not meant to solve the problem. Instead, they are meant to let you know that you are not alone.

Humans cannot live by bread and water alone, especially during times of trouble. We are a social species. In fact, a highly social species. Emotions are an important part of who and what we are.  To ignore that is to ignore a large part of what it means to be human. Relationships and society are an important part of what we are.

To me, when I see these expressions of support – our thoughts, our prayers are with you – I understand them as being these sorts of statements. If I gratefully accept it from friends and family, and find it comforting, then why not from the society I live within and am a part of? These sorts of words are part of our social fabric and part of the ties that bind us together.

Now, if there are actions that can be taken but these words are taking their place, then there is a problem. I have blogged about that before. But, that is not true for the vast majority of these.  Many of these people have offered us a place to stay if we need it. Others have contributed money or food to relief efforts. And others have actively participated in such relief efforts. For others, prayers and thoughts are the most that they can give.

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Finally, why should I take offense or get mad or make light of someone else wishing me well. To me, our society could stand to use more, not less of this.

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A favorite argument of the Confederate monument defenders is that those who are trying to take them down are destroying history. They we are whitewashing it. That we are making future generations ignorant of history by destroying them, and that they will be the poorer for it.

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My governor, Governor Abbot of Texas, just weighed in on this issue on Wednesday.

“But we must remember that our history isn’t perfect,” Abbott added. “If we do not learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat it. Instead of trying to bury our past, we must learn from it and ensure it doesn’t happen again. Tearing down monuments won’t erase our nation’s past, and it doesn’t advance our nation’s future.

What my governor, and all like him overlook, is that these monuments were never about history.  History is best taught in museums, in schools, in books, in articles, on historical tours, all of which can provide the context and details that will allow a person to understand the history.

A stone or metal statue can and does do none of that.  What they do instead though is show what values a society values   They provide a tangible form to intangible societal beliefs and ideals.

This is something that those who created and raised these monuments understood.  It is why they so often have inscriptions that make this very plain, such as that that once was on the Battle of Liberty Place monument (taken down in 2017).

McEnery and Penn, having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed bb this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant –Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the south and gave us our state.

Values, not history is what is being shown here.

The same holds true for the vast majority of other statues and monuments. When not explicitly inscribed in the monument, it is explicitly inscribed in the words of the newspapers and speeches of the time on why this or that confederate monument was raised.   A testament to white supremacy.  A testament to white superiority.

This should be something so obviously true that there should be no dispute. A monument to honor the Confederacy – an almost country created to preserve and protect the ideal that whites can own blacks as easily and as morally as they can own a dog and the ideal that whites are supreme race – can be nothing else.

These were not monuments to men and history. They were monuments to the ideals of white supremacy. Their primary intent was not to remind people of a historical person or event, but rather to remind both whites and blacks of their place.

These monuments were raised to promote the values of the Klu Klux Klan. They were raised to promote the values of Jim Crow.  They were raised to promote the values of white supremacy.

Those values are, or should be, our shame now.

 

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Many conservatives, especially the more conservative and extremists among conservatives, like to think of themselves as lone wolves.  They decry the “nanny state” and proudly state that they can stand on their own feet.  Often they claim that they do not need government or society or civilization since they know how to survive on their own.

So, I thought it might be enlightening to find out about lone wolves in real life, and then see if that sheds light on the more extreme claims of these conservatives.

A lone wolf in the American mythos is a noble beast, strong and capable of forging without others. However, the reality of the lone wolf is substantially different than the myth – just as is these conservatives’ claims.

Wolves are pack animals, social animals. It is part of how they survive. A lone wolf is typically one that is pushed out by the dominant wolves of the pack. Usually they are young, just reaching sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age. Often they are the runts, the sick ones.  Sometimes they are older wolves who can no longer fend with the pack and keep up with it.

Either way, this is not usually some noble decision on the part of the individual wolf, but a role forced upon it.  Not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

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Further, these lone wolves usually have a hard time surviving without the help and protection of the pack. They typically forage for hundreds of miles trying to avoid the other wolf packs’ territory, or try to haunt the edges of those boundaries. They limit their howling so as not to attract the attention of the wolf packs.

Again, not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

Lone wolves have more difficulties in finding and getting food, especially the larger game that the pack usually attacks together, a pack that is no longer his or hers. They have to move carefully for fear of attack. And, they have a harder time finding a mate. And, even when they do, isolated from the pack as they are, their lives are usually shorter and harder.

Which is why, sometimes, these lone wolves manage to find themselves a new pack to become a part of.

I find this difference between the myth and the reality of the lone wolf of interest because it so closely parallels the failure in thinking of these conservatives who espouse this ideal.  This idea that they can do it alone and stand tall and brave, and do not need government nor society nor civilization.

Of course, doing so involves driving off in a vehicle whose reliability and safety has been created by government and built by a factory, which involves a civilization.  That’s not even considering the gasoline used to fuel the vehicle, made by companies subsidized by government and whose interests are protected by government.  And the business that creates this gas does so through technology, much of which was created by government funded science, and all of it dependent up on civilization.

So, no driving off in the sunset then for these people if they truly wish to stand on their own.

And no walking on the roads or sidewalks since they too are the work of governments both large and small.

No groceries either, no food whose safety is protected by government agencies, and who had a role in the farmers growing of the food and the safe transport of their efforts to grocery stores across the US.  Hunt and fish and grow your own lone wolf.  Even in the depths of winter.

Oh, the gun that you are using – give it up. It was produced by factories, as was the gunpowder used in the bullets, and the bullets themselves.  Factories are civilization.  The ability of factories to safely produce this product is the courtesy of government. As is the safe transportation of all goods across state lines and from overseas to here.  Take up knapping if you really want to stand on your own without the help of society or civilization.

Oh again,, and speaking of safety, give up thinking you are a fierce lone wolf who can take on all people with the thirty or forty guns strapped to your waist and back and the dozen of knives strapped to your legs. Since you are now a lone wolf society no longer protects you and your family. Neither law enforcement nor the judicial system.

Yes, you may well be able take out a few. But consider this, once the word goes out that even if the police were standing next to you, they would do nothing to stop them from attacking, from raping, from robbing you and yours. No court will find them guilty, no jail time short or long for them.  Anyone can do anything to you and your family with no consequences to them from society and government, cause, you are, after all, the Lone Wolf.

And we haven’t even discussed medicine, and doctors.

Now this lovely myth no longer sounds so lovely.

The reality is that our species survived due to two things – our high intelligence, and our high socialization. Without either our species fails. We can argue about the best way to create a society, but to think that we can survive and thrive on our own without society is ignorant at best. And when used to promote policies, it a dangerous ignorance impacting all of society and our survival.

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