Wednesday, June 20, 2018

On Calibrating the Reality Tuner


The first idea to nail down is that human beings do not perceive "reality", a word which has all the substance of the neighborhood band of unicorns living under the crawlspace of my apartment. For our purposes, the idea that there is a uniform and stable reality is useful only as a yardstick we can use to measure the validity of our cognitive filters. Put another way, people are limited by the perceptual apparatuses they've evolved over the millennia, our sight, hearing, etc., and all of these are mitigated by our mental filters. Inevitably, I share this idea with my students at some point, that we don't really see with our eyes, or hear with our ears. Our brains do all of that, because the brain's function is to take all of that analog information and decode into something useful. Some information gets through, but most of it gets filtered out. The TV tuner chip in my television picks up the signals from the broadcast towers and filters out all the other signals swirling through the air. Brains do a lot of filtering, so it matters how one's tuner is configured, and the best tuners re-calibrate continually so that they are getting a better and better sense about "reality", and I'd argue that the calibration process has to involve the tuner's predictive power. 

President Trump provides us with a strong signal we can use to calibrate our tuners.  On the left-hand of the political spectrum, I've been seeing a steady rise in the use of Nazi imagery in social media, something that to this point I'd dismissed as purely rhetorical (and ill-conceived. The left has always been terrible with its rhetoric), until this week in response to the parent/child separation issue that has somehow just now become an important issue for the left (despite the fact that border jumping has been going on for years and years), a dear friend of mine whom I know to be an honest man started posting a steady stream of Nazi imagery to his social media.  This caused me to take it seriously, because my friend is honest, but his tuner is all out of whack. With this Nazi tuner activated, detention centers become concentration camps. Donald Trump becomes Adolph Hitler, and ICE border agents become jack-booted storm troopers. This movie is horrifying, and I'm glad it's not the movie I'm watching.

An old professor of mine once offered me coffee when I was in his office soliciting advice about my dissertation, and he had some organic half and half, and as I was pouring a little in my coffee he lectured me about how I should only buy the organic stuff because the cows were treated humanely. And sure, cows ought to be treated humanely, but if they aren't, I don't really care. I can pretend to care, but in truth, I can't give a damn about cows. I told him so. I've got a baby daughter at home, and I'm trying to earn a Ph.D., and cows are the last thing that can occupy my mental space. Leftists are always moralizing about things and telling other people they ought to give a damn about things over which they have no control. It's a bad way to live, a sure recipe for depression and angst.  I know. Believe me. I know. I used to be a leftist. I used to care about things about which I had no control. Not any more. Life becomes a lot more tolerable once I learned to let dairy farmers worry about the cows. 

All of the sudden, and I do mean all of the sudden, because two weeks ago kids and parents weren't being separated at all, and all the sudden, they are . . . and I'm supposed to care about this even though I have no control over it. These are people, sure, not cows, but the principle is the same. I have no control over it, yet I'm supposed to rend my garments in agony about the poor immigrants. No thanks. I've got two daughters now, and a tenure profile to put together, and bills to pay, and further, when I go outside, my tomato plants are coming along nicely but only if I regularly water them, and my daughter needed to get some new inoculations so I can register her for school, and she got them for a reasonable fee at the local health department which had all of them on hand, and my retirement account, which had been depleted when I suffered divorce, is rebuilding at a tremendous clip because the economy is doing so well under President Trump's put America first policies.

I'm neither liberal nor conservative, neither republican nor democrat, so I can say with some impartiality that republicans and democrats have been kicking the immigration can down the road for at least 30 years, and here's a President who is doing something about it, something different, and I know that this particular filter is working because it is in the news in a new way. The shit is hitting the fan. The shit needed to hit the fan. Shit hitting the fan is good, sometimes. The issue isn't kids being separated from parents, and it never was. The issue is a system of contradictory and sloppily constructed laws about how people become American. It is a congressional issue, and can only be fixed by congress, democrat and republican alike, who could fix it in a split second, and the President has called on them to do so, and has said that he will sign into law these fixes. Working within our system of checks and balances does not a Nazi make. Clinton, Bush, Obama, did nothing but kick the can down the road, and Donald Trump has stopped kicking it.

I read an article about how illegal immigrants are driving unlicensed and uninsured, so when they get into wrecks, your insurance company eats it, which means you eat, which means Americans eat it. I had a close and brilliant friend who had to be shipped back to her home country when her working visa ran out. I want lower insurance payments and I do not want to share the road with unlicensed drivers, nor do I want my daughters, when they become drivers, to bear such a risk. I want brilliant people who want to be productive Americans to find the red-tape easier to cut through. Right now, the backlog of immigrants and asylum seekers is so huge that it will take years to process them all. Congress can fix all of this. Republicans and democrats can fix it.

The president-as-Nazi filter doesn't fix anything, and doesn't lead to useful insights, and it doesn't make accurate predictions. President Trump has made it possible to remove nuclear weapons from North Korea, another can that was kicked down the road for decades. A pattern emerges, that this guy doesn't much care for can-kicking. What sort of self-respecting Nazi removes nukes? What president since Eisenhower has removed nukes? Applying the Nazi filter, I'd expect these immigrants to march straight to the gas chambers that are being secretly built, and if you find that idea even a little plausible, your filter is broken, and you need a new one. So, try this one: President Trump is the most liberal president I've seen in my lifetime. The President is attacking persistent problems in such a way that the political pressure to fix them has become unbearable.

That's a pretty good filter. No filter is perfect, but this one is far more predictive. Every president I've  seen in my lifetime spouts the politically correct jargon like someone had a gun to his head. President Trump just speaks, sans gun. It's remarkable, and if he continues to push, he is going to fix a great many problems, because he's an awful can-kicker.  So, using this filter, here's my prediction: At the latest, in 2024 when the president leaves office, immigration will be improved, and no gas chambers will exist.

And, by the way, if the left continues its poor rhetorical choice to employ Nazi imagery, it will almost certainly guarantee a second Trump term. That's because most people just want a good economy and decent insurance rates and a fair price for their half and half, and this unhinged rhetoric diverges from their perception of reality so much that no one can't take seriously the leftist who uses it. To my honest and well-meaning friend, I'd say again, calibrate your tuner, because the one you're using is working the for opposite of your stated intention.

4 comments:

  1. I think your compassion needs calibration. Read this paragraph to yourself:
    And now, all of the sudden, and I do mean all of the sudden, because two weeks ago, kids and parents weren't being separated at all, and all the sudden, they are . . . and I'm supposed to care about this even though I have no control over it. These are people, sure, not cows, but the principle is the same. I have no control over it, yet I'm supposed to rend my garments in agony about the poor immigrants. No thanks. I've got two daughters now, and a tenure profile to put together, and bills to pay, and further, when I go outside, my tomato plants are coming along nicely, and my daughter needed to get some new inoculations so I can register her for school, and she got them for a reasonable fee at the local health department, and my retirement account, which had been almost completely depleted when I suffered divorce, is rebuilding at a tremendous clip because the economy is doing so well under President Trump's put America first policies.

    First, your premise is bullshit: weeks ago, people weren't charged with a crime when they seek asylum, and they were not separated from their children. Of course, there were centers for children. Unaccompanied minors came over the border, and sometimes parents committed real crimes--felonies--that caused them to be separated. However, it was Jeff Sessions who announced the Zero-tolerance policy, and everyone coming over the border claiming asylum (Not a crime!) was separated from their parents.

    You talked about your daughters and your tenure and your tomatoes. What a perfect I-got-mine-so-screw-the-world attitude. I cannot see those kids on the news without remembering my own kids at that age. I know from history that silence is complicity. If you don't see the issues I see with Trump, then I am not sure how I can help you.

    So here is my idea: I'll think about how I make my points. You reflect a little on what kind of world you want your daughters to grow up in. And if we can't come together on things like whether or not children should be separated from families who haven't committed a crime and put into a system with no means of reuniting them, then I doubt we have a path forward. How's that for honesty?

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  2. You can absolutely help me, by explicating the issues you see, because I do not see them. If my filter is out of whack, I'd expect the same courtesy from you, that you'd call my attention to how it was out of whack; and I'd never abandon you, and it is hurtful to me that you imagine a pathway that leads to that outcome.

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    1. You need to adjust your filter to understand that the ends don't always justify the means. Empathy, man, empathy. Beneath all these words there is a bitterness coloring your thoughts. I love you, brother. Call me sometime.

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    2. https://ideas.ted.com/is-empathy-overrated/

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