The Chathouse® Replies

Copyright © 2001 B. A. "Collie" Collier
This is a place for me to comment on things I've read that were posted on the Chathouse®. A good friend invited me to post there, but due to what I consider an unacceptable policy on copyright, I've decided to post my replies on Chathouse® as URLs to the actual commentary, which will be posted here on my own site.

To Pa Smog:

I may not think the woman-in-question's clothing is in the best of taste -- but if I don't like it, then I should not look. If I have children and am worried about what they might see, I should take them and leave. This is a public place, after all -- no one is being forced to stay and watch.

Does it degrade all women? No, of course not. Turn the issue around and examine it from several views, if you're not sure. Would a woman in lovely clothing upgrade all women? Would a man dressed in a thong degrade all men?

As far as outlawing such clothing, or anything similar... that's foolishness. Who gets to decide what's appropriate clothing? The State? That would be a mistake. I barely trust the State to run the nation's business. I sure don't want them determining my personal clothing choices.

Original posting which this replies to.

Actually that brings up another interesting subject, Pa Smog. Why does our society teach young women that their looks are more important than their brains? -and then, when they focus so entirely on their looks that they've become shallow caricatures of human beings, why does society turn around and label them as bad for doing so?

I guess I feel more sorry for the young woman that your mother saw, than anything else. As far as I can tell from the short description of the incident, the provocatively dressed young woman was just responding to the dictates of society. I wish there had been some way to encourage her to be her own person, rather than thinking she had to attract men to be a successful human being.

Return to the War Room

Um, I'm afraid I have to disagree with one major portion of your argument, Rantmaster -- I don't believe the media can be cleanly separated from society as a whole. The two are as intertwined as society and religion, or any other societally specific structure -- society creates and is created by the structures and individuals within it. Thus, as Celtic Girl quite rightly notes, beauty is indeed culturally defined, and we cannot assume evolutionary explanations for our society's current definition of beauty.

In fact, I consider biological determinism (which is implied by depending on evolutionary explanations for behavior) a rather reprehensible self-justification system. To my way of seeing it, saying that something is part of human behavior due to evolutionary pressures is a glorified form of avoidance of responsibility for one's own actions. Yes, we are biologically products of evolution... but we are no more helpless behavioral throwbacks than we are helplessly quadrupedal or helplessly covered in thick coats of fur.

*grin* Just some more food for thought. Enjoy, I hope! ;-)

Original posting which this replies to.

I suppose it's only fair I step forward here, since I'm one of the folks that Rantmaster mentioned in his previous 'I don't know why I bother' posting. I realize I'll probably be accused of intellectual elitism, but obviously doctored photos and poorly researched, over-emotional articles don't inspire me to debate... they inspire me to ignore them and go elsewhere.

I'm glad the new rule regarding discourse was put into place. Thank you, Rantmaster. ;-)

Original posting which this replies to.

Troll: to utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable responses or flames, or the post itself; to make inflammatory statements in order to elicit knee-jerk responses; someone who is 'trolling' for attention and responses, just as a fisherman trolls for fish.

I've been idly scanning the postings on Chathouse, on and off, since I joined. It's a shame to see that everything recently has been about the troll (who keeps re-naming himself as each nickname gets banned), instead of debate on interesting subjects.

I have a suggestion. Trolls thrive on attention. Very well then... ignore him. Utterly. Don't reply to any of his digs, don't bother clicking on the postings from his various handles. The Chatmaster will hopefully continue to delete any obscene or content-less postings from him, and given some time and patience on our part -- he'll go away.

In fact, IMNSHO, the sooner we begin discussing interesting topics in a thoughtful manner again, the better. ;-)

Good heavens, what a horrible thing to have happen! Those poor children.

As far as Ocey's questions, I have only a theoretical answer. To me, intent is very important in determining guilt or innocence. If you truly believe you are doing the right thing, then I personally am willing to cut you a little more slack. For example, if the woman in question truly believed this was the correct way to handle whatever issues were in her life at that time, she would have my pity and my deepest sympathies that things got so horribly messed up in her life.

However, this theoretical method of handling contentious issues falls down in real-life issues due to a few huge stumbling blocks. First and foremost, there are certain things that society really can't condone if it wishes to continue. Random slaughter of children is one of those things. It doesn't matter how well-intentioned the mother was -- or, in fact, how sure of themselves any parent might be -- if a society believes it is acceptable to murder children, then no child is truly safe. Furthermore, as caring parents leave any society which believes such a thing (in order to protect their children), the society risks running out of citizenry.

Even historically child murder has never been openly condoned. Unwanted children (or children born in time of famine) were abandoned, true, but research shows this was done with the (usually fulfilled) expectation that another, more prosperous family or person could and would raise them. Historically abortion was not considered murder, and in fact during the early medieval time period the Catholic church sometimes recommended abortion to abandonment (although not for the reason you might guess).

On the other hand, there is the problem of today's society itself, and what it does to its members. The concept of a family as one female, one male, and their offspring, is an extremely modern, and historically aberrant, creation. Up until about the 1950's in the US, children were usually raised in extended families, where a couple with newborns could turn to their own siblings, their nieces and nephews, or their parents for help with child-rearing -- and often all those family members lived within walking distance of each other.

Giving birth to, protecting, nurturing, teaching, and caring for children has to be one of the most exhausting, demanding, rewarding, important jobs in the world. To expect one poor woman to do all of that, and keep a part- or full-time job, AND nurture and care for her husband as well, AND maintain her mental equilibrium -- is simply insanely unreasonable. It has got to be one of the most vicious and cruel jokes this society has ever played on women.

A second problem with my above-mentioned theoretical method of handling contentious issues is that of determining accurately the true intent of another. If the murdering mother in the story is a convincing actress, able to sob convincingly on command, you might well believe any lie she told you. Until we have some way of knowing the truth of the murdering mother's feelings, only she herself can absolutely and unequivocally know what she really meant to do... and if she was on medication that effectively disrupted her body's chemical balance, she herself might not really understand what was going on either.

So in conclusion, I might feel deeply for the poor woman's plight, and wonder if she truly felt she was doing the right thing. I might consider her yet another victim of society, and fervently wish there were some way to change this "brave new world, That has such people in't.*" However, despite all my sympathy or anger... there is still the issue of the five tragically dead children.

Something must be done to show such behavior cannot and will not be condoned. The question becomes, then, one of both justice and mercy. She should be punished if she performed the act of murder... but the horror of her possibly confused mental condition deserves a proportionate quantity of mercy. In such situations we leave the administration of justice and mercy, wisely or no, to the courts. Perhaps Ocey is right, and it is time we questioned ourselves, not the mother, to determine culpability.

I'm sorry, Ocey... upon reflection I do not have a simple answer to your question. I'm not sure there is one.

* Miranda, from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," Act V.

Original posting which this replies to.

I recently read a fascinating article on-line, concerning ideological differences between conservatives and libertarians. While I loved some of his word choices (i.e. "[E]ven the greatest principles and loftiest ideals often clash with each other when manifest in the crooked timber of humanity"), I'm not sure I agree with all his conclusions.

If I understand correctly (not a given) the gentleman in question asserts that libertarians value ideology over reality. His example of the libertarian view was a young woman who refused to be coerced by his rather binary hypothetical example. I recommend reading the entire article to be sure all the ramifications of his argument are clear to you, but I'll quote a short bit here:

[S]he steadfastly insisted -- no matter how I changed the hypothetical -- that she would never use force to keep a friend or family member from committing suicide. She would try to persuade her hysterical, depressed, drunk friend, but she wouldn't dream of holding her down for a few hours.

I find this curious for a variety of reasons. The author seems to feel there are only two possible reactions to his hypothetical situation... but why is this necessarily so? Why does he assume that keeping someone busy talking can never be as effective as pinning them down physically? Why does he assume force must be used? Surely he doesn't consider simplistic solutions to complex issues to be part of conservatism?

He also intends his hypothetical problem to show that government should be allowed to use force, i.e. "if an individual is morally required to do something, it's odd to think that the government should automatically be proscribed from doing it. Government action, at its best, is a mixture of doing the right thing and representing the popular will at the same time." I find I cannot agree wholeheartedly with this statement. First, I happen to feel that there is a huge difference between concerned friends acting on behalf of someone who is temporarily out of their mind -- and disinterested individuals doing something because the law tells them they must.

Second, the above description may be government at its best... but what happens to our hypothetical individual when things are at their worst? In what way is it helpful, in the long run, for someone who is "hysterical, depressed, [and] drunk" to be slammed by the full effect of blind, uncaring regulation? I can easily see a momentarily upset person being tossed (possibly for weeks) into a hospital psychiatric ward or a prison, and having their deranged condition actually continue due to poor care -- because there was no flexibility of response dictated by law.

The author actually defines conservatism in the article: "Conservatism, rightly understood, requires making hard decisions about the inherent tradeoffs between liberty and community, altruism and economics, ideals and practicalities." This is a lovely statement... but I fail to see how it either defines conservatism, or makes it unique in any way from just about all other ideological philosophies. Aren't we all struggling with these issues, both in our personal lives and in the broader, governmental sense?

I would be interested in hearing what others thought regarding the issues raised by this article.