Thursday, January 11, 2018

CULTUREPLACES SALON: A SYNOPSIS



DRAFT
Rather than tackle complex national and international issues and institutions that affect the entire U.S. , we concentrate on place based trends and academic research that more directly affect our everyday experiences in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, and other closer connections.

Though they will overlap with certain national and global phenomena, we seek to grapple with ideas that stem from and have immediate implications for our personal ties.  We deal with those grassroots issues where we--rather than advocates or interest groups, think tankers, or politicians--have some control and where we can make a difference if armed with the kind of insights that emerge from our discussions.

We start from the premise that changing the body politic is becoming increasingly difficult for citizens of the 21st century in the way that the power structure was able to do at the start of the 20th century, when American Progressivism was imbued with a strong reformist optimism.  “I propose that we lead” declared Edward Adams in the paper delivered at the organizational dinner of the Commonwealth Club in 1907. That determination has long since been replaced by apathy, cynicism and irony. Were it not otherwise, the Commonwealth Club would still be engaged in “public service” i.e. attempting through “Study Sections” to help shape laws and regulations. Now only specialists attached to policy institutes and politicians’ offices can comprehend such complicated issues, not to mention the power of money.
This more decentralized, small scale approach puts aside debates over broad public policy matters such as “the media”, health care, diplomacy, climate change, and immigration policies that require a level of expertise that defeats all but most determined policy wonk.  Or they happen in our everyday interactions but devolve into heated declarations.
That said, however, certain patterns of behavior associated with racial, gender, and employment relations, for instance, which have a universal dimension, affecting human activity well beyond our individual situations, obviously have strong influence over our own daily lives. Insofar as these human tendencies can be directed or “debugged”, in Steven Pinker’s word, by individuals and smaller groups, they deserve to be examined as they are manifested in particular contexts which we call CulturePlaces.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Selections for December CulturePlaces Salon



The following six posts of related articles deal with the fraught issue of group identity and control vs. individual identity and control (click on 'Read More' for the full article).  They are used as "homeplay" for our last Salon / PAIRINGS Meetup during which we will discuss these topics while rating and ranking 12 inexpensive Cabernets.  The articles are meant to give focus to our discussion.  They they will not be critiqued for their observations as such, but instead will act as a springboard or spark for our conversation

Our gathering was held at Split restaurant on December 29th.  For more info on the event
 

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

What is a Sexist



What kinds of statements about men and women constitute sexism? Is it sexist to say, for example, that on average, men are taller than women or that women live longer than men? Most people already accept the obvious truth that men and women differ in these physiological respects, and it would strain credulity to argue that such statements are blatantly sexist. Suggestions about psychological differences, however, can stoke controversy.
Pressing the issue further by claiming that psychological and cognitive differences might partly explain wage gaps, employment gaps, and the like, will certainly invite harsh rebuke and likely a charge of sexism. Like “racist”, the definition of “sexist” seems to have ballooned in such a way as to include any claim about average differences between males and females from the neck up. Some feminists, in particular, fear that assertions about differences between men and women threaten the social progress we’ve made over the past few centuries. Perhaps they have a point (as we discuss below). But we should consider whether such an expansive definition of sexism is helpful, or whether it actually represents a hindrance to moral progress.

What is a Racist? Why Moral Progress Hinges on Getting the Answer Right


The charge of “racist” represents a scalpel that has been substantially dulled in recent years. The result is an inability to cut cleanly around the cancerous tissue of racism. The term has been co-opted by well-meaning social justice advocates, and is no longer reserved for people who treat members of other groups as inherently inferior to members of their own group. Nor is it used to identify people who fail to treat members of other groups as the individuals that they are. Instead, “racist” is casually hurled at anyone who expresses ideas that have been emblazoned on an intellectual “no-fly list.”....

Friday, December 30, 2016

The End of Identity Liberalism






Photo

Credit

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.
But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.
One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.

Is Criticism of Identity Politics Racist or Long Overdue?



NOVEMBER 23, 2016

INTRODUCTION

rfdraceCritics said President-elect Donald J. Trump’s campaign slogan celebrated a time before racial discrimination, gender inequality and homophobia were matters of concern.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
A widely discussed op-ed by Mark Lilla in The New York Times (above) argued that the Democratic Party had gone astray by engaging in “identity politics” that were more concerned with a diversity of demands by women, African-Americans, immigrants and L.G.B.T. people, than in appealing to Americans as a whole. Some said that piece implied that liberals should ignore unique and real issues faced by anyone who isn’t a white man.
Is criticism of political correctness and identity politics a reaction that’s long overdue or just racist?
This is part of the Issues for Trump and America series.
READ THE DISCUSSION »

DEBATERS

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Is Wonder Woman being Forced into Early Retirement



As of Friday, Wonder Woman will no longer be an honorary U.N. ambassador. A petition protesting her appointment called her "a large-breasted, white woman of impossible proportions." Above, a display at Comic-Con International 2016 shows the evolution of her costume.
Matt Cowan/Getty Images
It's come to light this week that the comic superhero's controversial tenure as the United Nations' honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls will be coming to a close this Friday.
That's less than two months since the character was unveiled as the face of a U.N. social media campaign to promote women's rights via tweets and facebook callouts. The decision sparked protests both in and out of the organization, with nearly 45,000 people ultimately signing an online petition that called the choice of a fictional character with "an overtly sexualized image" to represent gender equality "alarming" and "extremely disappointing."
But in a phone interview with NPR today, Jeffrey Brez, a United Nations official in the same department, said that while the plan was for DC Comics to continue activities in the coming year, the U.N. piece was never intended to last as long.At the time, officials of both the UN and DC Comics — which owns the rights to the character of Wonder Woman — said the campaign would continue well into 2017. "As long as there's momentum in the campaign we'll move forward," Maher Nasser, the U.N. official who essentially brokered the collaboration between the United Nations and DC Comics, told NPR in late October. "They have committed to a year."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lynda Carter Deflects Critics of Wonder Woman






Is Wonder Woman a “pinup girl” or a feminist icon? The question dogged a United Nations campaign that featured the superhero as a symbol of self-empowerment for girls and women.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.
While some feminists may have felt triumphant when the United Nations announced the end of the Wonder Woman campaign this month (in an earlier New York Times article, a United Nations spokesman said that the campaign had merely run its course, and that the end had nothing to do with the uproar), one loyalist was not going to sit by as her cape was dragged through the mud: Lynda Carter, the actress who starred in the 1970s television show “Wonder Woman.”
Of the pushback that accompanied the campaign, Ms. Carter believes that some of it may be because “the U.N. didn’t put a woman in there.” The ambassadorship was announced just weeks after the United Nations passed over several women to be secretary-general.
Now 65, she is preparing to pass her golden lasso to Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who will appear in next spring’s film version of “Wonder Woman.” Ms. Carter took time from acting (including a role as the president on “Supergirl” and a governor in the coming film “Super Troopers 2”) and career as a singer (she just competed a four-city tour and is recording her third studio album) to discuss the complex legacy of her Amazon princess alter ego. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 EDGE QUESTION : WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?

Sex

[For the past 20 years, Edge.org has asked leading thinkers how they would answer a particular question.  Here is one of the more interesting responses to this year's question by Helena Cronin, Co-Director of the London School of Economics Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science; Author, The Ant and Peacock: Altruism and Sexual Selection from Darwin to Today.]

The poet Philip Larkin famously proclaimed that sex began in 1963. He was inaccurate by 800 million years. Moreover, what began in the 1960s was instead a campaign to oust sex—in particular sex differences—in favor of gender.
Why? Because biological differences were thought to spell genetic determinism, immutability, anti-feminism and, most egregiously, women's oppression. Gender, however, was the realm of societal forces; "male" and "female" were social constructs, the stuff of political struggle; so gender was safe sex.
The campaign triumphed. Sex now struggles to be heard over a clamor of misconceptions, fabrications and denunciations. And gender is ubiquitous, dominating thinking far beyond popular culture and spreading even to science—such that a respected neuroscience journal recently felt the need to devote an entire issue to urging that sex should be treated as a biological variable.
And, most profoundly, gender has distorted social policy. This is because the campaign has undergone baleful mission-creep. Its aim has morphed from ending discrimination against women into a deeply misguided quest for sameness of outcome for males and females in all fields—above all, 50:50 across the entire workplace. This stems from a fundamental error: the conflation of equality and sameness. And it's an error all too easily made if your starting point is that the sexes are "really" the same and that apparent differences are mere artifacts of sexist socialization.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Feminist activist women are masculinized in terms of digit-ratio and social dominance: a possible explanation for the feminist paradox


The feminist movement purports to improve conditions for women, and yet only a minority of women in modern societies self-identify as feminists. This is known as the feminist paradox. It has been suggested that feminists exhibit both physiological and psychological characteristics associated with heightened masculinization, which may predispose women for heightened competitiveness, sex-atypical behaviors, and belief in the interchangeability of sex roles. If feminist activists, i.e., those that manufacture the public image of feminism, are indeed masculinized relative to women in general, this might explain why the views and preferences of these two groups are at variance with each other. We measured the 2D:4D digit ratios (collected from both hands) and a personality trait known as dominance (measured with the Directiveness scale) in a sample of women attending a feminist conference. The sample exhibited significantly more masculine 2D:4D and higher dominance ratings than comparison samples representative of women in general, and these variables were furthermore positively correlated for both hands. The feminist paradox might thus to some extent be explained by biological differences between women in general and the activist women who formulate the feminist agenda.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Beginning pornography use associated with increase in probability of divorce


Beginning pornography use is associated with a substantial increase in the probability of divorce for married Americans, and this increase is especially large for women, finds a new study that will be presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).
"Beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one's likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent," said Samuel Perry, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma. "Our results suggest that viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability."

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Science and the Self


Advances in genetics, epigenetics, neuroscience, psychology, and computer science are giving us a better understanding of who we are and why we function as we do.
Science now enables us to associate specific characteristics in the brain or genetic traits with inclinations for particular kinds of behavior, such as violence. These findings may revolutionize how we see ourselves, or prompt us to oversimplify complex relationships among our genes, environment, and behavior. This information also presents challenges. Does this mean our behavior is predetermined? Should this change our notions of personal responsibility and our free will?
Additionally, various means of self-alteration have been used throughout history to change how we appear to others and to ourselves. Over the last few decades as our pressure for success has increased, so too have our arsenal of tools for self-enhancement. Each of these enhancers—including drugs to improve concentration and sexual function, cochlear implants, and robotic limbs — directly affects how we interact with each other in every facet of our lives. These alterations also beg us to question whether it is fair to enhance ourselves for a competitive edge. What about those who do not have access to enhancements? Are these enhancements more acceptable if they are used to promote societal good versus self-improvement?

Recent research suggests that new drugs such as oxytocin may enhance moral behaviors and that we may be less likely to harm others if we take a drug that modulates the neurotransmitter serotonin. While we have always aspired to make ourselves better, scientific and technological advances complicate our thinking on how we affect change—in ourselves and in others. The Hasting Center will continue to examine whether the ways that we achieve these goals matters and whether these actions diminish or enhance our humanity.

http://www.thehastingscenter.org/our-issues/science-and-the-self/