41 thoughts on “Open Forum!

  1. No memes? How about whether it’s unethical or merely annoying to try and convey political messages through memes? If not, I have a couple thoughts on using the word they to refer to a singular person.

    • Just annoying in both cases. As for pronouns, I’m generally happy to use what anyone wants me to use, but “they” for a single individual is a bridge too far, because it makes communication incoherent in too many settings.

      • I would like to make a slight argument for the use of a singular “they”.

        Why do I think a singular they is possible, well, because we already use it.

        “Whomever parked that Prius across 4 parking spaces obviously doesn’t know how to park. I’m not even sure they know how to drive.”

        “Hey, the person who sat at this table before me left their hat. Can you find them to return it?”

        “Can you tell me what the person sitting to the left of you looked like? Well, they were around average height and skinny and they had long, not very clean hair.”

        We use they in a singular form often, when we don’t know the gender of a

        • It really bothers me that we go to such circumlocutions to avoid saying “he” when it might be a woman involved. The general rule has been, until we became so sensitive, is that “he” in an ambiguous context could refer to a man or a woman, but “she” always refers to a woman. It isn’t sexist, and it isn’t exclusionary or any of the other complaints people make. It is a rule that makes communication easier. If anything, it should be men who are upset about the “ambiguous he” because men have to share their pronoun, but women get their own exclusively.

          Now, languages do evolve, and we can see that happening especially in pre-literate societies. But once we have a written word, the language can standardize. Communication becomes far more effective. All these efforts to prioritize inclusiveness and wokeness over effectiveness are frustrating. So I guess that begs the questions: what priorities ought to trump standardizing a language, how malleable should a language be, and who should be the arbiters and caretakers of a language? Who gets the final word on the Oxford comma? Should there be a single space or a double space after a period?

        • I catch myself using “they” (and its derivatives) in those singular contexts often. I am trying to correct it to “he/she” or “she/he”. It’s more words, but I’m pretty sure it’s more grammatically correct.

          • I use “they” whenever the gender of the person is unknown as in the examples Sarah’s examples.

            But as for accommodating someone’s request that I use particular 3rd person pronouns when referring to them. Yeah no. Sorry, I’m not remembering everyone’s preference when I’m talking about them when they aren’t around and I’ve already used their name to establish context.

            • This, I agree with. I don’t like the singular they in conversation, as a requested pronoun, but was instead pointing out that it was in common usage.

              Frankly, if I’m talking to you, I use you. My pronouns are I, me, mine. If I am talking about you to someone else, well, you’ll get what I give you, which has, at best, a 50% chance of being right, transgender or otherwise. I call sirs ma’am’s and ma’am’s sirs all the time, and then usually turning red faced a moment later when I realize I screwed up.

              I assume most of us went through life being mis-named a lot. I’m an only child and though you would think that would make calling me the correct name simple, I was called both my mom’s name and my aunts’ names on regular occasions. It never hurt me. My children get called by their siblings names all the time. My mom was always called some combination of her siblings names (even the brothers), usually rattled off down the line until the correct one came up. None of us were injured or badly offended and that was our blasted name, not just a standard linguistic shortcut, the pronoun. I think really what needs to happen is we need to grow up and calm down. This whole pronoun thing is ridiculous.

                • They’re not trying to be offended. They’re playing power games. If they can force you to walk on eggshells for fear of triggering a meltdown, or being attacked by an online mob, or whatever, they have power over you. This pronoun nonsense is all about dominance.

                  • To be fair, I don’t think they consciously see it as power games. It’s pavlovian–they know subconsciously or not that when they play like they’ve been wronged by someone or something (i.e., playing the victim) then people listen to them, people give them attention and sympathy, and other people often hurt the people that they’re lashing out at.

                    So, of course that becomes the go-to behavior whenever they want something–they act like they’ve been hurt or victimized.

              • My father used to rattle through the list of his children’s names, then start yelling “Sassafras, Ichabod, you know which one of you I’m talking to!” when he wanted one of my siblings or I. He was right. In general, we did usually know which one of us he was actually attempting to summon. We would sometimes mock him for it, but I don’t recall any of us ever getting offended by it.

          • I also do this often, and I don’t know why. I don’t notice I’m using “they” or “them” to refer to a specific person until it annoys someone into pointing it out. If I had to guess, I probably picked up the habit from reading it used incorrectly in books as a child, but who knows. I am also trying to eradicate it from my speech, but since I don’t notice I’m saying it in the first place, I have no idea how successful my attempts are.

        • ““Can you tell me what the person sitting to the left of you looked like? Well, they were around average height and skinny and they had long, not very clean hair.”

          Fortunately, English is versatile and provides options.

          “Well, I couldn’t determine gender, but the person (or “but he or she”) was around average height, skinny and had long, not very clean, hair.”

    • Memes are neither ethical nor unethical. They are merely low involvement way to communicate a message which means people rarely invest any thought into secondary or tertiary interpretations. Language is designed to be specific and when used correctly misunderstandings should be rare. That leads into your second issue of the use of they. Imagine a situation in which a person uses “they” to describe an assailant and the police spin their wheels looking for multiple suspects. Poor language use is inefficient and will require more verbosity than necessary.

  2. https://groups.google.com/g/sci.med.cardiology/c/E-6aYm-_4R8/m/6h4koKjeAQAJ

    Ibram X. Kendi recently told his podcast listeners that the United
    States is still a “slave holding republic,” likening the “freedom to
    enslave” to those Americans today wanting to end COVID-19 restrictions.

    “When the right started pushing for the right and the freedom to open
    back up, I ended up writing this piece in the Atlantic that basically
    argued that we’re still in a slaveholders’ republic,” the Boston
    University professor said on a July 28 episode titled “Prison & Police
    Abolition: Finding True Safety.”

    He continued, “And what I argued is that the slaveholder, the
    individual, wanted the freedom to enslave there’s no difference between
    that and the individual saying ‘I should have the freedom to infect
    people. I should have the freedom to kill and exploit and harass and
    terrorize.”

    Kendi was referencing an article he wrote in May 2020 for The Atlantic.

    • Might he also add, “I should have the freedom to kill or destroy anything or anyone that’s inconvenient to me or the quality of my life, such as an unborn baby?”

      Pot, meet Kettle.

      The Left acts as if it doesn’t demand unlimited freedoms and rights that adversely affect others.

    • Kendi seems to be implying that traditional cause-and-effect – I move around, I might be ill, I might come in contact with another person, I might infect that person, that person might become ill – is actual, literal slavery, the abhorrent practice that existed in the South 175 years ago.

      If that’s the case, then me eating a doughnut is, at some level, a form of slavery. Kendi, talking on a podcast or writing for The Atlantic, is engaging in a form of slavery. All of these offer a potentially adverse result for someone else. Everything kind of becomes “slavery” to another person.

      But Kendi’s podcasts aren’t slavery, his writing isn’t slavery, and m eating a doughnut isn’t indicative of a slave-holding republic.

      Kendi is, however, a moron.

  3. Is this a harbinger, or just a one-off aberration?
    DANA CARVEY MOCKS JOE BIDEN while subbing for Jimmy Kimmel. Of course Carvey is from a time when SNL still seemed to consider actually being funny as part of its purpose.

    The question might be: Is it ethical to do this to a president, or does being in politics allow more leeway? If still “wrong”, is it arguably worse to overwhelmingly allow this sort of thing directed towards only one side of the political spectrum? Does that tend to make the public more poorly informed and less aware of actual facts and circumstances in the public debate?

    In a related issue, Biden has covid. Most opponents have expressed hopes for his quick recovery, but there are comments floating around tempering the well-wishes. People are noting that what’s hovering in the wings (Kamala) is worse than bumbling Joe. They’re noticing the discrepancies between some of what Joe has previously claimed and touted regarding vaxing, particularly its efficacy, and covid-related behavior, don’t match up with his current condition and recent actins.

    • I don’t see anything wrong with Carvey’s Biden impression. It’s light hearted ribbing at someone’s idiosyncrasies. If the jokes made about Trump had been of a similar nature, I don’t think there would be many people complaining.

  4. Aren’t memes mostly just a recently more popular form of metaphor? (Political cartoons have been around for a while; do they count?) We use metaphors all the time, and good ones can help convey ideas more succinctly and/or with more nuance than a poorly chosen string of words.
    I think there was and old Star Trek episode that involved the difficulties in understanding a race that communicated only in metaphors (a plot premise with obvious logical faults…you need an underlying “language” to construct a metaphor). If we become too reliant on memes, will we become less able to communicate with people whose cultures and backgrounds are not similar to our own?

    • Sure they are. Some are really clever, too. But I have seen them completely take over open comment sessions on other sites; they are like broken windows. I’ll use a meme myself from time to time, but most memes are political, not ethical, in content.

      • They can be a lazy substitute for actual discussion of an issue, which might be part of why they’re overused and proliferate in useless Twitter wars & such.

    • If true, why did they contact a lawyer and not the police?
      I’m not a lawyer but that sounds a lot more like a crime than a tort.

  5. Here’s one for ya’ll to chew on. I do IT work as an independent contractor, meeting IT needs for small businesses. I was recently contacted by one of the partners at a company I’ve worked for for years to help install monitoring software on her daughter’s computer. Not just a kiddie filter, but the kind of invasive software that tracks everything the user does. Apparently they are concerned about the kid’s behavior and online activity, and I truly believe the purpose is benign and safety-related. The kid is in her late teens, but still a minor.

    I’m personally a little conflicted, and can easily see both sides of the coin here. It feels like an invasion of privacy of the daughter, who is nearly an adult. At the same time, I don’t know how serious the potential concerns might be – obviously the calculus changes a bit if the problem is a boyfriend the parents don’t like vs. depression and suicidal thoughts. The parents are good people I’ve known (in a professional capacity) for years, so I have no reason to suspect there’s any ulterior motivation beyond a concern for safety. Another minor, but real, concern is that I don’t trust software like this at all, much as I don’t trust devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Ring doorbells. Once you put internet-connected surveillance equipment in place, it’s almost impossible to be sure it’s not being accessed by someone who you haven’t authorized.

    Thoughts? My biggest thought in all this is that I’m overjoyed that I am not raising children or teens in the current social and technological environment. What a minefield…

    • To the extent “keeping an eye on your children” is a parental responsibility, I’d say help the parents out. I know this is not a very hip view, but I’m fine with it, Jeff. Particularly if she’s still living under their roof.

    • Jeff
      Hammers, baseball bats, knives, and guns are all tools. Each can be used for good or evil purposes. Ultimately the user of a legally acquired tool is responsible for how the tool is used. No one else is responsible. Software is a tool.

  6. We recently began watching “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” in my house. I had reservations. Star Trek has always used its episodes as metaphors for current events. When it wanted to address racism, it painted Frank Gorshin half black and half white. No one would object to the assertion that Trek has been a vehicle for liberal political and social ideology since its inception unless that person simply doesn’t understand Trek.

    That being said, there’s a difference between pointing out the absurdities of judging someone by the color of his or her skin and making broad comparisons between events on a future alien planet and what is happening on Earth (read: America) right now. It’s one of the things that annoyed me about some of the recent season of “Star Trek: Picard”. As well-performed as the show was, it couldn’t help taking potshots at 21st century USA.

    So I haven’t watched “Star Trek: Discovery” which, I learned, has annoyed masses of fans because it’s sacrificing Boldly Going into the galaxy in order to fixate on the non-heterosexual romances of two different couples (Note, I’ve been told this…having not watched the show, this is not a first-hand description). And we know what happens to shows where the romance becomes the story (Either the fun ends and we get nothing but Amore to bore us out of our minds or we get episodes about Mr. Viola and Ms Dipesto on “Moonlighting” instead of the romantic mess that was Dave & Maddie).

    But I have also been told that Trek fans absolutely love “Strange New Worlds” with its emphasis on stand-alone episodes over season-long story arcs and its call back to the original’s trekking through the galaxy. So we started watching. It’s quite good, in fact. It is still, however, a show produced in 21st century Hollywood.

    Courtesy spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

    More spoiler alert.

    Seriously, I’m about to spoil things here.

    So, in the episode we saw last night, Captain Pike runs into an old flame who’s from a planet that he never learned much about. There’s been an attempt to capture the First Servant – a young boy who has purposely been raised for this purpose – by traitors to the home world. The home world is a paradise where people live in unpolluted surroundings in the sky and enjoy wonderful good health. Pike soon learns the terrible secret. The brilliant, kind and innocent young boy who will be ascending as the new First Servant is actually a sacrifice to a machine that will use his body and mind to produce the conditions necessary for everyone else to survive in the manner and lifestyle to which they are accustomed. The kid will suffer painfully until his body literally burns out. They’ve apparently tried over the centuries to find some other way, but have finally determined that the cost of one child every so often is sufficient to ensure the lives of everyone else are wonderful. And, after all, the kid consents (in a heartbreaking moment, the kid is suddenly hit with the reality of what he’s going to do so…the consent is clearly not informed). Pike refuses to be a part of this, but is unable to prevent it from happening. The traitors turn out to be dissidents in league with boy’s father trying to stop this ritual. The former flame points out that children in the Federation suffer from hunger and disease and don’t others benefit from that (Honesty, that argument has all the nuance of a Meme. To which, if I were Pike, I would point out that the Federation doesn’t raise a child to be a sacrifice to a machine to prevent the others from dying but the show is trying to send a pointed message criticizing 21st century Earth so it makes this intelligent, contemplative man suddenly unable to counter a ridiculous comparison)? In the Star Trek universe, the Prime Directive forbids the Federation and its military/exploration wing Starfleet from interfering in non-aligned worlds, especially developing ones so his hands are tied and there is nothing he can do to prevent this world from sacrificing another innocent child in the future.

    But, after all, isn’t one of Trek’s biggest philosophies Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations? Get it? All cultures and beliefs are equally valid. The planet can’t join the Federation, but that’s a small price to pay for a paradise in which everyone stays perfectly healthy.

    I read a review of the episode today that equated the message given as a reflection on 21st century Earth’s unwillingness to handle child hunger and disease on a global scale. I pointed out that, for the United States and other leading nations of the world to end child hunger and disease, we would have to force our will onto other countries and severely restrict the individual liberties of citizens in our own countries. We would become dictators.

    Is that what they want?

    Are all cultures equally valid on Earth? Weren’t we lectured by the future Prime Directive-wielders during the Gulf War and Iraq War about forcing our cultural values. like democracy, on others? The only way we can prevent all pollution, all war and all suffering by children everywhere is to dictate to others how everyone will live and back it up by force. Which is it? Are we a democracy or do we use our massive power to legislate for the entire world how life works based on our own cultural norms? (Did anyone ever notice how human-centric the Federation is, by the way? It’s as if everyone is supposed to be like the enlightened humans of the future. It was even commented on by a Klingon in “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” – ” ‘InALIENable’. If you could only hear yourselves. ‘HUMAN rights’. The very name is racist. The Federation is nothing more than a homo sapiens-only club.”)

    Is that how the Federation handles things on the Earth of the 23rd century? Is the Federation a democracy? This is where globalization leads us. Infinite diversity, indeed. The problem is that human beings are flawed and anyone who believes that every human being will willingly give up his or her own self-interest to install windmills everywhere (In the pilot, Pike rode his horse through a 23rd century Montana winter vista populated by giant wind turbines of the type I can see in Northern Indiana fields any day) and eat bugs or whatever the replicated food that comes out of the machine is made of is naive. This type of change on a global scale happens only by force and with penalties for non-compliance.

    I’m not sure that’s a future I want humanity to build.

  7. Last night my sons friend announce his transism. He declared his dead name and announced his new found happiness. He demanded no questions or inquiries. Those he will deem transphobic , hateful, etc etc. therefore it is verboten to speak that the source of his unhappiness could have been caused by the reality that he was abandoned by his father, sexually abused by a number of his mother’s friends, lived with an alcolic mother with severe agorophobia, who was hospitalized for self mutilation a number of times. But none of this is possibly the root of his unhappiness. To find happiness he will submit himself to pharmacological and surgical mutilation and distorted psychotherapy whose goal is to make him comfortable in his fantasy quest.

    • Yikes. Yet this seems like an instructive example of what may be going on in a significant number of cases. Start a new life! Solves everything! Yet as Buckaroo Bonzai memorably said, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

  8. Addendum- in the sixties I worked as a messenger throughout midtown Manhattan, then I manned an ambulance for st Vincent’s hospital in the village, drove a yellow cab, commuted o the nyc subways. In the 70’s I lived in San Francisco two blocks from a transvestite theater and roamed height ashbury, i now know of more transgendered people in 2022 than I ever met before. It’s a wonderments

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