Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Ideological Idiot

(Since I am a bit new at this whole blog thing, I am digging out an observation I wrote in February of 2007. Here it goes...)

Early this year, an article by Jay Dixit was published in Psychology Today, entitled, “The Ideological Animal.” For the article, several people were interviewed, among whom was one of my favorite writers/commentators on politics today (Cinnamon Stillwell). In the article, Dixit ostensibly explores the “psychology” behind one’s political stance: “We think our political stance is the product of reason, but we're easily manipulated and surprisingly malleable. Our essential political self is more a stew of childhood temperament, education, and fear of death. Call it the 9/11 effect.”


He obviously didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to what Cinnamon had to say. He already seems to have had an axe to grind.

This article reminds my of a paper published in England early last year claiming a link between performing certain household chores (like doing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking) on a regular basis and a lower rate of breast cancer. In reality, there is an increased incidence of breast cancer among women who postpone childbearing until after the age of 30, or who bear one or two or no children at all. The CORRELATION is in fact tied to the periodic cessation of menses that happens during pregnancy, and how that effects hormone levels, which are at a different levels among younger (pre-30) women, than among older (post-30) women. Now, there is a general tendency among women who have more children at younger ages, to take on more "traditional" housewife roles and responsibilities—including laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. But the people responsible for the paper only looked at a general seeming correlation between A (traditional housewife chores) and B (breast cancer rate). I hope that they didn't include any sort of conclusion based on the seeming correlation…

…Unlike the Psychology Today article, which did.

Conclusions and generalities in the Psychology Today article only show correlations rather than causation. The correlations that it does mention mean practically bubkes, because there is absolutely no investigation into what lies beyond the correlations. And it is disingenuous to base ANY conclusions (as the clown, er, I mean author, does) on these SEEMING correlations.

That is to say, do conservative people like country music BECAUSE they are conservative? Or is it that people who like country music tend to be conservative? If so, why is there this tendency? Are people with cluttered homes that way BECAUSE they are liberal, or is that messy people TEND to be liberal? What would cause this correlation? (BTW, I am a messy person who is not fond of country music. And I am conservative.)

Something else of which the Psychology Today article reminds me is an article I read once about statistics… The writer used the example of the thesis "Children with big feet are smarter" in which a conclusion is drawn based on a false assumption after observing that some children with bigger feet are “smarter” than other children whose feet are smaller, without considering the AGES of the children: the feet of nine year old children are larger than the feet of four year old children, and nine year old children would perform better on tests than four year old would perform on the same test.

Or as Benjamin Disraeli would say, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Modest Gender-neutrification Proposal

Jennifer Roback Morse recently discussed the “Gender Jumble” that would result from the California Student Civil Rights Act at the National Review Online. And I thought I try to address some of the concerns she expressed in her recent column, and offer some modest proposals.To begin with, here is some proposed new terminology to replace the outmoded, outdated things like “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” “father,” etc.:
  • “Main Squeeze” for either person in the couple. When a person outside the “union” is referring to one or either party in the union, it can be done as follows: “I now pronounce you mutual Main Squeezes. You can mack to your hearts’ content.” “That’s Persephone and ky(*) Main Squeeze, Juanderlust.” (*--see pronouns below) “Yes, now that you mention it, Brandi and Taquila are mutual main squeezes.”
  • “Alpha Rent” for the parent-in-charge: the one whose voice really carries weight when it comes to punishment, etc. (Every kid knows this. The parents may not, but the kids do...) Obviously, the Alpha Rent can be male or female, or whatever gender with which they identify.
  • “Beta Rent” is for the parent next in line. Then there are grand-rents, and great-grand rents, etc.
  • “Rent-Sibling” for aunt or uncle.
(This terminology enables ease of transition once polygamy, uh, I mean plural marriage is legalized: “Gamma Rent,” “Delta Rent,” and so on for parental units. “Main Squeeze” can become just “Squeeze” in the case of multiples: “Mo Udall’s grand-rent had four squeezes.”)

A new pronoun will be introduced. It will replace the gendered third person pronouns: “he,” “she,” “him,” “her,” etc. It is based (loosely) on the pronoun developed in Ursula LeGuin’s “Left Hand of Darkness,” more so another sci-fi book that ripped her off in that regard (i.e., the gender neutral pronoun), and modeled on the existing English Language pronouns. It is: ke.

  • Nominative Singular: ke (rhymes with “he” or “she”)
  • Objective Singular: kerm
  • Possessive Singular: ke’s (rhymes with “keys”)
  • Reflexive Singular: keself (ke-self)
  • Possessive Adjectives: ky (rhymes with “my”)
Usage: Here is an example of the new terminology in use:
“The first grade child’s Alpha Rent, Wiki-wiki, was unable to come to the Parent-Teacher conference as ke was at the hospital. Ky sibling had been brought to the hospital earlier in the day, so ke was waiting there to hear news of ky health. So, the child’s Beta Rent, Mellifluous, came to the school. Unlike the parents of the other children in the class, ky rents were still married, so Mellifluous was Wiki-wiki’s Main squeeze, and vice-versa. Or in other words, they were mutual main squeezes.”

Yes, it seems awkward and confusing now--one starts to loose sight of the antecedents in the sentence--but after the new pronoun takes hold, and teachers no longer have to worry about getting in trouble for being politically incorrect when it comes to “genderification,” well, I am sure it will just take off, and people will look back on the use of “he” and “she” the way they currently do about hit, he and heo of Anglo-Saxon.

(Besides which, no one pays that much attention to anyone else any more, so who cares about the antecedents? The average person’s attention span dictates simple declarative sentences and pretty much precludes the use of any pronouns other than the first and second person.)

Admittedly, this may be poquito confusing for Spanish speakers, so while it is worth considering another consonant to replace the letter “k” for clarification, it should be noted that careful thought was given to the letter “K.” In working through the alphabet, too many other choices had the potential to “genderfy” the pronoun: Using a hard or soft “G” sound would harken too much to the Greek root for woman, gyn- not to mention the word, “girl.” Using an “F” or “D” is too reminiscent of “father” or “dad,” as would the letter “P”—because of the reference to the Latin root, pater, not too mention the more crude, and readily identifiable by children, reference to “pee-pee,” which would render that pronunciation too “masculine.” “T” is similarly problematic on the other side of the gender fence, (“ta-tas” and “tits”), as is “V” (too close to “vagina” and “vulva.”)

Plus, the letter “K was used in the Ursula LeGuin rip-off book.

A committee would need to carefully review other possible consonant choices.

As for homecoming queens, well...

One person will be elected to serve as the Homecoming Dictatron. (Stealing from the restaurant industry who tried out “waitron” as an alternative to “waiter” or “waitress” before settling on the still-sexist “server.”) All students of any gender or gender-identity would be eligible for the title and the throne. That student can then appoint any number (because one would posit the idea that a ruling set consists of two people only, alienating those children from families that practice plural marriage) of Sheikstrons of Fun to co-rule with kerm over the Homecoming Festivities.

Hope this helps with envisioning the future!