January 25th, 2006

New “change” post

It’s official: my next “change” post will appear here, either late tonight or by about noon tomorrow.

[disclaimer on]

Warning: it’s long. I may have undergone a lot of changes, but I can’t seem to change that aspect of myself.

Whenever I’m writing one of these things, I feel a bit like a boa constrictor who’s swallowed a rather large and unwieldy elephant (or donkey). It seems all but indigestible; impossible to assimilate. But then it’s done and I feel so much better, although I can’t really evaluate the worth of the project. I can only place it up here and hope for the best.

But one thing kept striking me again and again as I struggled with this particular portion of the story. It wasn’t easy to look back and admit my own previous (pre-9/11) lack of interest in things that were so important, my tendency to skim the surface of the events of our time, and my seemingly blind trust in just a few media sources. My interests lay elsewhere, as they do for so many of us.

And that’s probably not such a bad thing. After all, relationships and people, art and music and theater, fiction and movies, food and nature and work and play, all call to us with insistent voices that should not be denied. Who wants to spend so much time reading the fine print of newspapers, or trying to ferret out the elusive truth, when all those other important and life-affirming things beckon?

In that respect I was (and, to some extent, still am) typical of most people. I don’t want to spend my life in front of a computer screen, and I still don’t do so–although I spend a good deal more time there than I used to, and sometimes more than I want to. But only fanatics (on both sides) or experts become utterly obsessed with these things. I think I’ve managed to avoid becoming either, although some of my friends might disagree and rank me among the former.

It would be wonderful (perhaps) if we could all simply sit down with some sort of Krell learning machine and be able to instantaneously absorb reams of information. But we can’t.

My introspective nature combined with my training as a therapist might enable me to describe the process of political change better than some, it’s true. But if you find yourself reading my next “change” post and wondering at my previous (or present!) naivete and/or lack of expertise, just remember that I consider my story valuable for its relative ordinariness, not because I’m some sort of seer or savant.

[/disclaimer off]

But I stand by what I write. It’s a story I’ve been wanting to tell. And if you feel like the wedding guest stopped by Coleridge’s ancient mariner, I apologize.

But please understand that I feel at least partly responsible for the slaying of the albatross. Do you?

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns :
And till my ghastly tale is told,
This heart within me burns.

I pass, like night, from land to land ;
I have strange power of speech ;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me :
To him my tale I teach.

22 Responses to “New “change” post”

  1. Ymarsakar Says:

    I have a complaint about your New change post.

    It wasn’t long enough.

  2. Motor 1560 Says:

    You say that as if it was a bad thing. Of course I’m a Republican of the Ripon Society flavor sometimes called a Rockefeller Republican as a pejorative. Which means I’m approximately where Sen. Olivia Snow is on the spectrum.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    brad, the citations aren’t an appeal to authority. They’re the sources referenced in the paragraph I pasted, which is only an overview of the concept, not an argument. Cut and paste pointers to journals.

    motor, you fall right smack on the median of the Republican normal curve of distribution.

  4. Motor 1560 Says:

    Brad, respectfully, it wasn’t always like that in the social sciences. The problem arose when doing social science research began to require things like symbolic logic, statistics, programming; and, gasp, advanced mathematics along with research design and clean methodology. Those who had entered the social sciences because it was warm, fuzzy and “helped people” ditched the rigor involved in slippery data and started making it up as they went, using Derida and others as touchstones.

    A good deal of the debate about and variations of “how do we know and how do we measure it for replication either cross culturally or at this level of generality” happened simultaneously in all science. It was Kuhn’s revolution across the board. Statistics is the same for everyone and it doesn’t matter where you’re doing it or what data sets you’re using. The social sciences just had further to go to catch up and had different levels of precision than the physical sciences.

    It was this that academia threw out and now you’d be advised to get degrees in philosophy as well as computer science if you’re going to work in an applied field dealing with non-physical science.

  5. Brad Says:

    Anon,
    Unless your’e in the hard sciences (chem, biochem, physics, etc) the listing of refs is silly: the titles alone are enough to indicate what tendentious conclusions the authors were aiming to draw. Your arguements lack merit and the refs don’t confer validity; besides, an appeal to “authority” on such a topic is yet another logical falicy.

    “Racism, conservativism, affirmative action, and intellectual sophistication: a matter of principled conservativism or group dominance?”

    What a joke.

  6. Motor 1560 Says:

    Not at all. this is Neo’s house and it is disrespectful to hi-jack her comments section for a esoteric conversation between two people who are not about to change their minds. It is an unfruitful interaction a lot like onanism.

    Also the is cyber-disinhibition working. And, it is not conducive to dialog in comments.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Beep, beep! Cut and run.

  8. Motor 1560 Says:

    If I thought of you as a peer, I might submit some more material for your edification. But, since I classify you as an erudite troll with an agenda and spoiling for a dust up, I am under no obligation to do so. Google is your friend.

    I was not commenting on social theorizing but on methodological and intellectual rigor.

    When I post to comments, I usually use the license of a poet friend; who agrees that blog comments are to scholarship what a drive by shooting is to marksmanship.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Listen, let me make it easy for you without a lot of citations.

    Actually, citations would make it a lot easier. For instance, a citation here would be useful:

    SDO can be best described as what happens when Marxists derive theory.

    Is the Hubert Blalock or the Robert Altemeyer source the refutation? And are you recommending a challenge to SDO or to social theory in general?

    Also, why (aside from being more employable) would I do work on “Structural Equation Modeling”?

  10. Motor 1560 Says:

    Anonymous 10:01, Nice knuckle ball there, I almost swung before it got to the plate. SDO can be best described as what happens when Marxists derive theory. You are looking for Fascism and mirabile dictu, what do you find? Fascism.

    I’m kind of old fashioned. I think that science works best in a value neutral setting; even though I know that’s not post modern.

    Sidanius and Pratto’s work is what is passing for academic cutting edge these days. It’s also the reason I abandoned academia for it’s private sector’s many years ago. Methodological rigor and experimental design have gone out the window.

    Listen, let me make it easy for you without a lot of citations. Go get some sylabii out of the library archives; circa 1965; for testing, measuring and evaluating in the social sciences. Read them and their citations. then read everything that Hubert Blalock ever wrote, especially his thin little book on Causation. Believe me it reads harder that Talcott Parsons but in this case it is much more lucid. The scales should fall from your eyes or maybe you’ll fall on your ass on the road to Damascus.

    Deriving social theory these days is so easy. All you have to do is have one of those machines like they use to make cotton candy; all spun sugar.

    If you want it easier and are not really just looking for a theoretical pigs bladder with which you can belabor conservatives about the head and shoulders; read Robert Altemeyer’s book, The Authoritarian Specter, he analyzes both left-wing and right-wing authoritarians. Authoritarianism is a sort of value neutral formulation but can be used to nominally study social deviance. Also, do a little work on Structural Equation Modeling, esp re; tetrad constraints. You’ll be a much better person for it and you’ll actually be employable.

  11. maryatexitzero Says:

    SDO thus reflects an individual’s tendency to classify social groups along a superiority–inferiority dimension and to favour policies that maintain social inequality.

    That’s interesting. Here are a few quotes from extreme SDO sufferers:

    Americans “are possibly the dumbest people on the planet . . . in thrall to conniving, thieving, smug p—-s” ( Michael Moore, London Daily Mirror).

    “Should such an ignorant people lead the world?” (Michael Moore again, in open letter to the German People in Die Zeit).

    What a pathetic, posturing, blowhard country we’ve become. – (James Wolcott)

    “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for” – (Howard Dean)

    Of John Kerry’s slur against the Secret Service Agent who was charged with protecting his life.

    “While snowboarding in Ketchum, Idaho, Senator Kerry was knocked over by one of the Secret Service men assigned to protect him. According to The New York Times, “Mr. Kerry [was] taken out by one of the Secret Service men, who had inadvertently moved into his path, sending him into the snow.” A reporter and camera crew, who were following on skis, witnessed the collision but did not capture it on film.”

    “When asked about the crash, the Senator said, “I don’t fall down. That son-of-a-bitch ran into me.” Or “knocked me over,” depending on which version you heard.”

    I guess it’s true – the Left has become a bunch of hateful, knee-jerk reactionary SDO sufferers and the non-leftists are becoming more liberal.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    If your training as a therapist includes access to academic journals, you might want to read a few articles on the topic of “social dominance orientation” (SDO). I only suggest it in case you’re tempted to generalize from your own experience.

    An excerpt from Durieza (2002):

    Social dominance orientation (SDO) is considered to be ‘a general attitudinal orientation toward intergroup relations, reflecting whether one generally prefers such relations to be equal, versus hierarchical’ (Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle, 1994, p. 742). SDO thus reflects an individual’s tendency to classify social groups along a superiority–inferiority dimension and to favour policies that maintain social inequality. Researchers reported strong correlations between SDO and general conservative beliefs, such as ethnic prejudice, political and economic conservatism, and right-wing political party preferences (e.g. Pratto et al., 1994; Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996; Pratto, Stallworth, & Sidanius, 1997). Also strong correlations between SDO and other variables such as nationalism, patriotism, rejection of noblesse oblige, support of punitive policies and military programs were reported (Pratto, Stallworth, & Conway-Lanz, 1998; Sidanius & Liu, 1992; Sidanius, Liu, Shaw, & Pratto, 1994; for a recent overview, Pratto, 1999).

    Source:
    Bart Durieza, Alain Van H. (2002)
    The march of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritarianism. Personality and Individual Differences, 32, 1199–1213.

    Quoted sources:
    Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L. M., & Malle, B. F. (1994). Social Dominance Orientation: a personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741–763.

    Sidanius, J., Pratto, F., & Bobo, L. (1996). Racism, conservativism, affirmative action, and intellectual sophistication: a matter of principled conservativism or group dominance? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 476–490.

    Pratto, F., Stallworth, L. M., & Sidanius, J. (1997). The gender gap: differences in political attitudes and social dominance orientation. British Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 49–68.

    Pratto, F., Stallworth, L. M., & Conway-Lanz, S. (1998). Social Dominance orientation and the ideological legitimization of social policy. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 1853–1875.

    Sidanius, J., & Liu, J. H. (1992). Racism, support for the Persian gulf war, and the police beating of Rodney King: a social dominance perspective. Journal of Social Psychology, 132, 377–395.

    Sidanius, J., Liu, J. H., Shaw, J. S., & Pratto, F. (1994). Social dominance orientation, hierarchy attenuators and hierarchy enhancers: social dominance theory and the criminal justice system. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 338–366.

    Pratto, F. (1999). The puzzle of continuing group inequality: piecing together psychological, social, and cultural forces in social dominance theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology. (Vol. 31, pp. 191–263). San Diego: Academic Press.

  13. meander Says:

    Sincerely can’t wait…well, yeh, I know I have to but it makes me wish my computer had an out loud alarm bell that would alert me the minute your piece got posted. Many of us have been on the same journey and appreciate your gift of describing the process of the lightbulb going on.

  14. Goesh Says:

    freedom freedom everywhere and not a moments peace to be had
    for in my youth I knew it was the government that was only truly bad

  15. Andrew Zalotocky Says:

    A Krell learning machine wouldn’t be that wonderful. If it just dumped information into your head – names, dates, etc. – you’d still need to spend a lot of time working out what it all meant, so it wouldn’t give you instant understanding of a subject. If it also supplied the understanding, you’d be having someone else’s interpretation of a subject written directly into your mind. For non-controversial technical subjects, that might be OK. For anything involving value judgements, it would be a form of brain-washing.

    Somewhat OT, that reminds me of an old Doctor Who story called “Shada” in which the villain wanted to project his mind into every living being in the universe. That seems like a perfect metaphor for totalitarianism: the leader’s mind in every body.

  16. Giacomo Says:

    I’ve spent the last hour or so pouring through some of the past posts and links (this being my first visit to your blog) … very refreshing to find someone who is well-spoken/written and actually thinks before they engage their keyboard. Perhaps I’m jaded from my various forays into the Think Progress comments section, but kudos to you.

  17. Kalvan Says:

    It would be wonderful (perhaps) if we could all simply sit down with some sort of Krell learning machine and be able to instantaneously absorb reams of information.
    Didn’t that machine kill you if you were stupid? Perhaps there is a eugenics application. :)

  18. armchair pessimist Says:

    Off Subject: Anybody ever hear ofa group called United American COmmittee which is calling for demonstrations against Islamofascism on feb 1?
    http://www.unitedamericancommittee.org/

  19. Sissy Willis Says:

    You are a bellwether for whatever is crouching towards Bethlehem these days. ‘Love you so.

  20. gatorbait Says:

    Neo, take your time. Something like this is not easy, nor should it be rushed. When it gets here , it’ll be a great read.

  21. colagirl Says:

    That’s great news, neo-neocon! I can’t wait to read it. :)

  22. mdfay Says:

    I just enjoy reading your writing. You are wonderfully lucid. I find the writings on the left are generally harsh to read and footnoted no further back than 1965. Love the Ancient Mariner reference. I used to think that “silly buckets” would make a good name for a rock band.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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