Freedom

It’s complicated.

The dream – then, again and still, me walking the damned halls of damned Colonel White High School. Snap, I realized I was no longer IN high school and had NO reason whatsoever to be there. So I flew out the window and soared around until I woke up. It was a quality of freedom scarcely obtainable in the real world.

If demagogues speak of freedom, it is because the word has gravity, a pull . (Of course, those who trumpet about freedom are not necessarily talking about freedom.) The concept of freedom has an appeal to human beings that has moved some to believe it stems from ?god. That is a strong indication of its importance to people.

Freedom: a principle that facilitates human function: to hope, to plan, to move, to design, to release passion, to change, to create possibility, to invent, to play, to build, to be, to will1…. Speaking as a person, I say that freedom is profoundly important to people. Freedom is the water that passion swims in. It is complicated.

Freedom is situational, and in many damn situations there are a metric arseload of reasons against it: legal reasons, economic reasons, personal, social, reasons of custom, reasons based on the boundaries of other peoples’ freedom, good reasons, shitty reasons, safety, reasons of material reality…

Issues of freedom – and the host of reasons against it – are often complex and problematic, and rarely can we just fly out the window. Reasons against freedom do not belie its central importance, as a principle vital to our human being.2 May our human negotiations and choosings be intelligent and kind, with an awareness of freedom as a basic principle in shaping human choice.

Respecting people, may we respect freedom.

1 There has been some confusion in the discussion about free will. I want to be clear – I am speaking of “free will”, the human function, not “free will” the theological-or-anything-like-it thing. See http://chasens.ca/blog/2019/08/12/free-will/

2 .. I say, speaking as a person.

Free Will

Words may have more than one meaning. “Free will” the mundane concept and “free will” the theological concept are distinct, separate meanings of the term. Merriam-Webster1 lists the two definitions:
1.voluntary choice or decision, as in “I do this of my own free will”
2.freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention

I am motivated to write about this because I hear people saying that if human decision making depends on determinate physical processes, free will doesn’t exist. Note that definition 1, “voluntary choice or decision” does NOT involve determination by prior causes. The human process of exercising free will exists. It may be determinate, if quantum processes are not involved. If quantum processes are involved, that might introduce an element of random chance.

Question: does this “free will does not exist” stuff derive from a desire to reevaluate the concepts of guilt and punishment? That purpose could be achieved without it. Unless one chooses to believe in a blamey god, one can choose to reevaluate guilt and blame. Blame is a human choice, and often, in human terms, not the best choice, a choice we might do well to reevaluate. Suppose – just suppose without a shred of evidence – that the human mind were to extend beyond and outside the determinate or random quantum nature of the world. Even so, and notwithstanding the important concept of human responsibility for our actions, we can, if we choose, reevaluate our ideas of guilt, punishment, blame.

Suppose that some sort of deity made people’s “free will, definition 2” out of some sort of god-goop that is above and outside the processes of this world. And then, for some reason, the deity wants to punish people for decisions that don’t suit the deity, decisions, perhaps, that the people make because the deity cut costs and used a batch of inferior grade god-goop. People might claim that such a “free will” mandates punishment and guilt. Yeah, if you are going to define free will as that, you may well say it does not exist. But, free will, the common human experience of making choices, a process of human consciousness, does exist.. and it is complicated.

1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/freewill

Peculiar

Being peculiar gives one a peculiar perspective on people.

I want a word that describes my oddity. Perhaps, idea-creative: constantly and fermentatively getting ideas. (That is not a big deal. Most ideas – and I should know – are crap.)
I came into this world with my damn brain optimized for thinking stuff up. That, and and I had the damn stubbornness and passion to float it, so that the crap I think up is not necessarily the crap I am supposed to think up. I dance to my own heartbeat. A bit wildly, some say. (I am not ONLY speaking metaphorically) I find it very hard to understand (while respecting the different ways of others) why people want to do stuff like square dancing, yoga classes, situations where somebody tells one, now-move-this-way now-move-that-way.

As a child, I was confused by peoples’ reactions to me. Then, in tenth grade, a perceptive teacher said to me, “You are different; you are creative; that will bother a lot of people.” This too: Me a kid in highschool, in Dayton, Ohio, in current events class, in those cold war years that were pickled in the dread of nuclear holocaust. I said, if the Russian missiles were heading for us, I hoped that the person or people in charge on our side – even if they have to pretend in advance that they WILL fire the missiles – that if it were to come down to it, they would not actually fire the missiles and kill all those people. NO, said absolutely everybody without exception – If they hit us we should hit them. But, I said, the children, all the people who had nothing to do with the attack, the nuclear winter… No, they insisted unified-front-wise, if they nuke us, we should nuke them. The incident focused my awareness of difference. I do understand that neurotypical people are not necessarily buttheads, are profoundly, humanly, complex and varied. From my odd perspective, I have observed that normal people often think collectively.1 Surely some of those defined not-normal do too, or perhaps they would if there was a collective that would have them.

It is not just normal people and me, so I often wonder about other ways of being different. Doing this, I have wondered whether to some extent, schizophrenia, for instance, might be problematic because of human isolation. People who are only being heard as “this-is-your-problem” or as “you-are-nuts” will likely be isolated. I wonder, are people-who-hear-voices conferring together nowadays, working out how to deal with voices intelligently? (Selectivity, perhaps, and, pretend to be talking on a cellphone…what?) Also,I have been told that autism is associated with an aversion to eye contact. Again, the behavior of neurotypical folks may be part of the problem.

I wonder whether, at least in part, an aversion to eye contact may result at least in part from autistic people being a target for nasty stares, for yer-not-one-of-us stares and/or I-am-your-boss-look-me-in-the-eye-I-will-tell-you-who-to-be stares. Seen from a peculiar perspective: Those who attempt to understand and define the many various types of peculiar people are themselves in a complex position. It can’t be easy to diagnose disorders, given that human nature is not orderly. Some of this group would struggle to help people who genuinely need help. Some would be focused on doing a good job, however they define that. Some may be interested in the wild complexity of human being. Some are in the difficult position of dealing with those individuals who do nuts2 things that are bad for others. Some will have been attracted to a position of authority, for various reasons. Because power-over-others exists in these fields, bullying, and also unfortunate mistakes in help-giving will be problematic. This, of course is my speculation, valid3 in itself but absolutely no substitute for the voices of the people themselves who I am speculating about. Compare, an anthropologist, studying and attempting to describe a people they are not part of. Those people damn well better get a chance to speak for themselves. Compare also, a psychologist defining somebody. It is important that the voices of the people who are being defined by anthropologists, me or mental health professionals should themselves be heard.

People, normal people, abnormal people… we too often harm each other. I tend to favor the negotiated solution (is that normal?) but it is hard to be optimistic. Is it possible that, within a context of not-so-easy-to get-away-with-it, people will work out negotiated solutions around a social contract of not hurting people? Is everybody peculiar? Do those who face the world with a rabid normality hide a secret strangeness? How strange and complex are people? To what extent is normality a pretext, a way of establishing oneself as one-of-us4?

And – hey – folks who might be sort of maybe something like me – what do YOU think?

  1. http://chasens.ca/blog/2018/09/13/41/
  2. Conventional things that are bad for others are of course regarded differently. Freedom is an important human value, and restricting a person’s freedom may be one of those not-defined-as-nuts ways of hurting people.
  3. As humans, we struggle to understand people and express our understanding.
  4. http://chasens.ca/blog/2018/09/14/us/

Language?

This stuff is written in colloquial/idiosyncratic English.
I use standard (the English you would probably use for most business or academic purposes (often presumptuously called “correct”) where it suits me. I sometimes deliberately choose to use evolving forms; for
instance I like the singular generic “they”, and if some person
does not like it they can sit and stew.
Idiosyncratic: this means I am messing around as I please..
see “thunk 1
Standard is only one form of English among many. Those who have joined the grammar police are often simply wrong, when they attempt to correct others according to rules of standard English, when the vernacular being written or spoken is not standard.
Of course errors exist, and I do try to avoid them: The “its it’s”
thing for instance. If I slip its an error, if it’s not just me
jerking somebody’s chain.
I have speculated, what would I do if I were teaching English to students who spoke a form other than standard? Perhaps, teach standard and also encourage creative writing in the language they speak; there is a difference, but neither is in any absolute sense wrong. The notion that standard is in some absolute sense right is unkind, bigoted, and not logical.

1http://chasens.ca/blog/2018/09/13/41/

Vexination

Consider – a good1 person hears something from another good person, and takes it to be correct because, good person. And yet another good person hears it from the first good person, and takes it to be true … Suppose that, unfortunately,  what the good people are telling each other is mistaken, and has  unfortunate consequences. It is profoundly human to be influenced in forming ones opinions by who-is-saying-it, tempered by bonds of respect, friendship, liking. Unfortunately, people telling each other something, no matter how good the intentions, does not make-true.

Lookit.. it is an odd turn of history that vaccination has not been embraced as the most natural of natural medicine – enabling a person’s immune system to recognize and resist disease, wow. There is merit to using our bodies evolved ability to fight off disease.

Opposition to vaccines may have been inevitable.
For one thing, it would be fuelled by an  honest if mistaken human impulse to protect our children, when the diseases they would be vaccinated for no longer seem to be a threat because vaccination worked. Protecting children is a value that has the strength to unite people, in caring and loyalty. Perhaps also – I wonder from my peculiar point of view – perhaps there is some not-particularly-unconscious resistance at play, against our common experience of people in white coats doing stuff to our bodies, a resistance that finds inappropriate expression in this mess.

So.. as vaccine-preventable diseases begin romping around making people sick, there is bound to be a reaction. I would like to see it handled well.
It would be unfortunate if the issue were to be handled by compulsion, by a diminished respect for individual choice in treatment. One factor: people may be more inclined to vaccinate their children after they hear about cases of resurgent disease, causing the percentage of not-vaccinated to fall.
Could leadership arise within the community of good people who oppose vaccination, to turn or help turn the situation around? I consider: a good person hearing an opinion from a good person who has reconsidered in light of careful study and consideration of developing circumstances..
To work our way out of this mess, it might help to hear the voices of those who would speak only if they were convinced it were right and necessary to correct a mistake, who were not at all predisposed to support vaccination but had come to an honest conviction that it is necessary.

And then, how about some honest and constructive discussion of the process of scientific evaluation, seeking a consensus between honest and humane people on both sides.

1.Hey, what about the many not-so-good people on both sides of this polarized mess? And, yeah, “good” is fluid in its meanings. Continue reading “Vexination”

FFS

People have noticed that I use swear words. I like the strong emphasis, for fuck sake, and the fact that profanity sometimes carries an intimation of complexity, a “there is MUCH more to it” coloring. Well, for me, anyway.

Profanity derives oomph from the no-no factor, and limited usage. It would be unfortunate if, because of people like me who swear our arses off, a swear word came to mean only “mild emphasis”.

The swearing/women thing is complex. Speaking forcefully and/or expressing anger has been one of the many “ladies don’t” pieces of crap. Also, exclusion and group identity: Men and boys might at least sometimes be us-and-not-them group cohering and identifying, when they use swear words in males-only talk. Also again, many people like to live within the ornate frame of custom. And then, I consider a family that the father is in the habit of beating the crap out of. Daddy begins swearing, they would be terrified because he is working up to the hitting.  (I hope he doesn’t get away with it.) I remind myself that custom and teaching are not the only reasons that some people dislike swear words.

The threat in profanity depends on the individual swearer. When I swear there is no threat.

The use of “fuck” as a swear word is odd. Partly, I assume, its force would derive from its no-no status. Also, I assume there is a sad connection to rape and sexual abuse. So, I prefer a made-up explanation: There was a BC Ferries disaster in 2006.The Queen of the North sank after hitting rock near Gil Island in Wright Sound. It was widely – and possibly untruthfully – rumored, at the time, that the officers on the bridge were having sex.. One might say of that story that the fucking crew let the boat run aground.

Apropos “god damn”, uh, which ?god? I could imagine Ganesh damning the ivory trade… sorry.

Placebo?

I hope we can look at the placebo effect with wisdom and common sense.
Recent research1 supports the effectiveness and importance of placebos for palliative treatment, to help people access their own ability to feel better. Placebos work subjectively, and by very many people’s testimony can help people feel better and are generally best regarded as palliative not curative.

First, placebos are no substitute for vaccines, necessary surgery, necessary pharmaceutical treatments. They can of course be used in addition to these things. Conversely, there are strong objections to surgery as a placebo. This, even though in cases where a placebo is appropriate, surgery can be damned effective2. Antibiotics should only be given where they are needed. Pharmaceuticals with nasty side effects are shitty placebos.

I have wondered whether pharmaceuticals with very noticeable side effects are favoured in blind testing over gentler substances. The side effects might strengthen placebo effect by tipping off test subjects that they got the real thing and not a sugar pill. In a previous century,  I was a subject for the Salk polio vaccine trials on school children.  I guessed, correctly as it turns out, from the soreness deep in my arm where the needle had gone in, that I had gotten the real thing. (My experience is not proof, only grounds for speculation..) (I am not supposing that a tip-off effect skewed the results in this case- I would guess that polio diagnoses would be largely objective and unswayed by the subjective stuff.)

There may be circumstances in which palliative agents, including placebo, do have a real positive influence on healing and restoring health. For instance, an expectation of pain might lead to muscle spasms that could aggravate an injury. Or, relieving nausea might help someone keep food down. Or, helping someone to return to an appropriate level of activity ..

A placebo should be at least relatively harmless in appropriate use. Good-for-you is even better. Were somebody to eat Brussels sprouts to prevent growing-an-extra-head syndrome, well, in reasonable moderation Brussels sprouts are good for you.

Personally, I strongly dislike the use of deception, even though it may be a way of facilitating the placebo effect.
So.. how to use placebos honestly and effectively? I have speculated around the subjective experiences3.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601706/

2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-fake-surgery-exposes-useless-treatments/

3. http://chasens.ca/blog/2018/09/14/in-another-sense/

Petty

One notion—that I don’t have the time of day for, although I can’t disprove it — is the concept of ?god as a being who is petty. I could come up with a science‐fiction scenario in which some deity evolved in infinite multiverse to be the petty being some people imagine god to be, but, CRAP.
The ?god I don’t believe in is not petty.

From Molten Wood and Feral Ideas  chasens.ca/book

Disbelievers,

We can damn well respect other people, if they are honest and kind. (Note that this is about respect, not deference, which is a different thing.) I respect a person’s human process, although it may be rooted in a belief I don’t pretend to share. Many people express their human core in religious terms. If one were to say to these people, nayh nayh doesn’t exist, they would be likely to misunderstand, to think that we do not share their deepest human experience. They may conclude that we have god‐sized holes in our hearts. I would say, perhaps, that I hear you; I do not believe; this is how I experience the thing. When a belief causes harm, I would say, I do not like the harm that this belief causes. One can respect human culture, tradition, and experience.
Religion, belief, spiritual experience, etc. are human experience and can be respected as such, without any pretense of belief.
Leave aside the question, does any sort of ?god exist. God, in human experience, is EXPERIENCE, a range of human experience that we may perhaps share, although we probably call it something else. God‐the‐experience exists. People do have experience that they identify as god. We can respect human experience. Religion, belief are part of human culture. I hope we can respect human culture when it is honest and kind.
It is not written in the fabric of the universe that the hominids of Sol 3 must never be mistaken. It would be nice if we could be kind.

From Molten Wood and Feral Ideas  chasens.ca/book