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burning_planetSee? I’m learning. Wanna get somebody’s attention? Mention sex in the title. Works every time. Just what does that crazy lady have to say about sex? Let’s see.

Nothing.

This is not about sex.

It’s about dumbing down the conversation in the hopes that a certain bunch of yahoos might actually recognize that that thing attached to their shoulders actually can be used for deciding more than whether to have the spaghetti Lean Cuisine for dinner or the Salisbury steak.

Okay, so I said that wrong, and all the knuckledraggers I got to read at the mention of sex, now vaguely think they’ve been insulted and have clicked this off.

No matter, what follows is way over their comprehension level anyway. Only the bright bulbs will continue.

There’s a conversation that seem to be in the offing here, yet it’s not a good idea to say it too loud. The conversation revolves around the question: Is democracy the best choice in a modern world?

It’s a hard question, since there is pretty good evidence that we don’t have anything remotely like democracy, have never had anything remotely like it, and probably won’t have anything like it, so how to compare? Let’s not forget that at the beginning of this great adventure, the real argument was between state’s rights and the central government, and that in most places religion was state ordained, and the people who voted were property holders. Women? They voted only by the power of persuasion.

Basically power in a democracy is wielded by the “eligible” voter (who is eligible becomes rather significant wouldn’t you say?), either directly or through elected representatives who enact laws that are applicable to everyone in a just, fair, and equal way. Greece started the whole thing in Athens, but of course women and slaves were not part of that “eligibility” requirement there either.

So how democratic one is starts with who gets to be part of “the people”. Thus my statement that we have never remotely been  a democracy from the start.

People of course, (mostly the one’s who have already dropped out of this conversation) get democracy all confused with socialism, and all confused on top of that with communism, and theocratic states, and oligarchies, and monarchies, to name the most prominent of the “forms of government”. But not all these are actually forms of government. Socialism and communism are more properly economic systems, akin to capitalism or free market economies.

That’s the problem in a nutshell. We claim that communism is “bad”, but communism as practiced by Lenin and Stalin the late ungreat Soviet Union had little to do with Marx and Engel’s ideal which was a marriage of a communist economic system married to a democratic political system. Similarly, American Democracy joins capitalism with a representative “democracy”. For a good while France and England and others married a theocratic/monarchical political system to a feudal system of economics.

Today, in the US we have an acknowledged mess. Our economic system seems to have led us to a new animal called a corptocracy for want of a better word. An increasingly smaller and smaller number of corporations “owned” by a very few men and even fewer women, control larger and larger portions of the national and increasingly international economies. They “buy” politicians and direct them as to what legislation they wish, and how to vote. They often, through groups like ALEC, even write the legislation themselves. By controlling economies they effectively control politics, and thus are the heads of the political system.

Although the trappings of “democracy” remain, through elections, more and more those votes don’t really count. The corporate interests choose the candidates, and fund their campaigns. As studies show, they have the greatest of influence on the introduction and passage of laws.

Perhaps it is time to at least begin the conversation as to whether or not capitalism or free markets are at all compatible with democracy as we might wish it to be? This is the question asked in This is Not What Democracy Looks Like: The Long Slow Death of Jefferson’s Dream.

The problem with posing the problem, is that it presupposes that the average American can (1) recognize the importance of the question, and (2) critically discern the arguments to be made and choose one that is both logical and right.

And there is much that suggests that this is not possible. In an seemingly endless list of studies done at different universities by respected scholars, the answer remains the same:  If your belief is a necessary part of the your world view, then NO evidence no matter how stellar, no matter how obvious, no matter how unchallenged by any contrary fact, is going to change your mind. You will continue to believe as you always have, because it’s necessary to your psychological well-being. Actual facts to the contrary become merely “conspiratorial” insertions. You don’t have to prove them to be a lie, (because of course you could not), but you can dismiss them out of hand.

This is sad news indeed. It means that much of what I do, is wasted. The people I can convince are already convinced more than likely. Those I need to convince will never be, no matter what proofs I bring to the table.

It seems the new studies need to focus on how one convinces a stone that is about to get crushed by the boulder, that it should roll on down out of the way.

Which all leads to another piece of sad news I’ve come across lately.

I’m reading a book entitled “How to Read a Book“. Now before you laugh and say, oh, for starters, take the cover and bend it to the left, and then look for words, continue to move pages to the left until you find some, then read them. Before you do that, listen a bit.

This book was written by a college professor in the early 1940’s and he updated it in the early mid-70’s, and he now dead. I heard about it in another very modern book I read, whose author suggested that it had impacted him like no other he has read since. It changed how he read. On that note, I purchased it.

So far it’s proving to be both provocative and enlightening. It’s could well be titled today, “How to Read a Book Critically” for that’s what it mostly is designed to do. The author, Mortimer Adler announces that there are four levels of reading. The first, is what passes for competence upon finishing high school. It is akin to being able to read the words and get a basic understanding from the sentences in fairly simple things, like a job application, or reading traffic signs.

Yes folks, that is the level of reading you acquired in high school. You were not taught to read anything beyond the level of basic comprehension. You were not taught to understand the deeper meaning of an author’s arguments, see their flaws or their merits. You were not taught anything about judging the value of what you have read. You read simply for information and not for understanding.

And the sad thing, is that the levels 2 and 3 and 4 are not mastered simply by attending college. Adler posits that some graduate students are still struggling after two years with mastering level four reading, the ability to properly analyze and compare works on the same topic with each other.

Critical thinking is still by and large not taught anywhere.

But you can learn.

If you buy the book and read it.

And it is hopeless to conclude that much will ever change in America until enough of our people can read and think critically. Certainly they cannot now, for if they could, there would not be a Tea Party, there would be no creationists, and there would be no climate deniers. Such people as these would remain hidden in their closets with their goofy ideas. They would certainly not have media access to spew their garbled thoughts across America.

So, you might as well think about sex instead.

 

 

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