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Category: Humans

Truth Ache
The truth has been taking its lumps recently. As recently as the late 90s there seemed to be a consensus, at least in this country, about what was a fact, what was conjecture, and what was total bullshit. Those days are gone now, and made-up stuff competes in the same league with provable truth for believability. Maybe it was always a phantom, this consensus, but if it ever existed, that tacit agreement ended with the advent of the Information Age. How ironic.

Huntley, Brinkley, and Walter Cronkite, who used to dispense versions of reality that had been researched by people whose job depended on getting it right, are long gone. They have been replaced by anyone with a a computer. Some of those people are trustworthy (ahem) but many offer nothing more than suspicions of truth that are decorated with shiny objects spun from pure imagination. And yet, a lot of our fellow citizens choose to accept these fevered hypotheticals as gospel.

How do we explain why these people — many of them well-educated — come to believe assertions for which there is no good proof? Assertions, in fact, that are easily disproven? How did these folks find their ways into this alternate “reality?” Are they fated to be gullible or do they choose to be? What, exactly, is their trip?

People who live in the provable reality are understandably concerned about these questions. For one thing, people who inhabit that alternate universe actually vote in this one. Their decisions, in and out of politics, directly effect us — mostly for the worse.

There have been attempts to answer these questions. Last spring, there was a flurry of articles about the The Authoritarian Personality. Psychologists have been looking at this phenomenon for decades, but it has resurfaced as a popular topic over the last year. The mind in question there was not mind of the authoritarian himself, but of his followers. Among their attributes is a tendency to accept whatever they are told by their leaders. They don’t even look for proof. In fact, they prefer the simplicity offered by utter acceptance of authority. Often, they prefer superstition over observable fact because mystical explanations do not require proof.

This analysis rings true, but we are still left to ask, Why? What makes people be this way, in spite of the obvious danger to their own well-being? How did the poor schmucks of the People’s Temple or Heaven’s Gate ever get to the point of absolute, unquestioning obedience?

Another analysis that’s popped up over the last year points to distinctions between conservatives and liberals, not just as as matter of politics, but across the cultural board. On the right (so the theory goes) faith and intuition are given a standing above actual evidence. These “conclusions” are not mere errors of judgment, but illusions. Perception itself is influenced by a need for consistency and order. Anything that disturbs that state is rejected — not because it’s wrong, but because it’s upsetting to the status quo. And that would mean chaos.

That’s why it’s been such a hard road for truth. It can make a dent in the chaos, but it takes time and patience and work to pull it off. Make-believe, by comparison, has it easy.

Until the rent comes due, that is. And the rent has to be paid in this universe.
UsToo
Something big is happening with women right now, and it gives me hope. The #MeToo phenomenon, which started in Hollywood among the beautiful and famous, has now spilled out into the wider world. Three female U.S. senators shared their stories of harassment with the media yesterday. A cohort of Miss Americas have posted accounts of their experiences. More importantly, there appears to be a new willingness among the rest of us to talk about these things — with each other and with the world at large.

I’m still not sure where I fit into this movement, if that’s what it is. I can only say that these stories of abuse and humiliation and the leveraging of fear have had an effect on me. They make me feel uncomfortable. I presume they make others feel uncomfortable too, and I am beginning to think that this a time when we need to feel that way until the problem is solved.

What is heartening about these revelations is the mutual awareness, solidarity, righteousness, and resolve exhibited by these women. That is such an admirable and positive collection of human traits. Their response has its roots in the same fundamental tradition that undergirds all free societies: equality for all of us. To me, this unity represents one of the most promising forces for good at work in our society today. It opens a door that maybe, just maybe, might lead to a more enlightened society — something that this shrinking, increasingly afflicted planet so sorely needs.

That’s a lot of expectation to load on the back of a cause that’s just barely cleared the runway, but I can’t help myself. Tina Brown, a past editor of the New Yorker and other high-end publications, presented a compelling analysis of the phenomenon during an interview on Charlie Rose. She traced its genesis back through the Weinstein charges, to the worldwide Women’s March, and finally to the Access Hollywood tape. Brown thought that that incident, especially since it did not result in stopping Trump from being elected, was the proximate cause of the persistent outrage we are witnessing now. It goes back further than that, of course, including to the episodes around Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Bill Cosby, and Bill Clinton. By her reckoning, though, the “pussy-grab” video was the event that activated so many women to rise up and fight back together. But is this culmination of the history of the Women’s rights push strong enough to pull the rest of us along with it?

One reason that I am so hopeful about that possibility is that the women’s movement is the most purely egalitarian cause I can think of. I will dare to say that feminism itself is not just about equality for women, but for all of us. If anything can lift us up and transform us into a truly enlightened society, this is it.

So yes, I’d like to help, but what can a man do? We are certainly getting a clear picture now, for those who didn’t know already, of what we are not supposed to do. Ideally, men should already be there, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. But what else? Finn Wolfhard, the 14-year-old lead of Netflix’ Stranger Things, may have given grown men a clue by firing his agent. The man is alleged to have committed sexual assault against two young men, so Wolfhard cut him loose. The point I take here is that I need to be willing to act, just as Wolfhard did. If it is in my power, I need to stop the jerks, or at least try. That is what so many of the men (and yes, women) of Hollywood failed to do when they had the chance. Shame on them, shame on us.

It is important to recognize that whatever we set ourselves to do, it will not be easy to reverse a culture that his existed since history began. Dominance, control, abuse, and cruelty toward women has been going on a long time. Subjugation of human beings in general, no matter what their gender, has been with us from the beginning, and it will take a whole lot of solidarity and resolve to put even a small dent in that kind of tradition.

But that shouldn’t stop any of us. Maybe my hope and optimism are misplaced, but if humans are destined to continue as a viable species, we’ll need a more holistic concept of what it means to be human. Focussing on gender or ethnicity or any other minor differences we might use to divide ourselves will only undermine our humanity. Every person is different, but so what? We are all parts of the whole. Time to get it together, people, and take a cue from the women. MeToo? UsToo!
Our Hats, Ourselves
There is no clothing choice more challenging than a hat. If you are at all concerned about the opinions of others, the chance of attracting ridicule with your decision is enormous.

Complicating your choice is the expectation that your hat be an expression of your persona. A hat isn’t just for covering your head, then, it’s a messaging system for that special spark that you offer to the universe. If you choose the wrong message, the repercussions can be dire across a broad range of social categories. No choice of pants, shirts, or even shoes can ever be so consequential. Not only might you end up looking like an idiot, but you could project a brand of idiocy that is inconsistent with your true self.

Of course, these kinds of concerns are yours alone to contend with. I can only guess at what kind of person you really are (though the fact that you are reading this suggests that you are a truly fine human being indeed). I do, however, have some guidelines that can help you avoid the most egregious of chapeau-related faux pas.

First, some hats to avoid:

The green beret. I don’t wish to offend anyone who’s risking his life to save mine, but I am troubled by the way this hat is sometimes worn. Though it’s a critical part of the uniform (if only for its name), not every soldier wears it quite the same. It always tilts to the right side of the head, but in some cases the tilt seems to partly cover the right eye of the wearer. I have no direct experience with mortal combat, but I can’t help wondering whether unrestricted vision might be undesirable in this line of work. It’s okay as long as that drooping right side doesn’t blind you to incoming.

The Charlie Daniels cowboy hat. I know that Mr. Daniels is a respected member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, but he’ll never get into the Hat Hall with that topper. I’m sure the man has a neck, but it’s hard to be sure with that giant umbrella thing appearing to shove his head into his upper thorax.

The backward baseball cap. This one’s okay for young men, because young men are expected to make all kinds of mistakes. If you’re over 35, however (and old enough to be elected President), please don’t wear your cap any way but straight ahead. If you must declare your independence from The Man, use a non-adjustable model. At least you will avoid the humiliation of a sunburn rectangle on your forehead.

The hood. This hybrid of hat and sweater should be used with caution. When it’s down and loose around your neck, it’s really more of a scarf. When drawn over the skull, though, it sends out some pretty dark signals. “I am a moody loner,” it says, “a miscreant who doesn’t care about you or anyone else. Yes, I am capable of violence,” it goes on. “And maybe it would be better if the whole world would just end right now.” On the plus side, this hat will never blow off.

There are many bad hats beyond this list, including the raggedy, rolled-brim, feather-adorned cowboy hat, the goofy, New Age Mad Hatter, the bowler, and almost any period-specifc headgear. Most of them, I am glad to report, can be saved by the simple act of tilting. Setting your hat at an angle can provide a personality — even where none exists. To the left, to the right, it doesn’t matter. All of sudden, you have added flair, whimsy, insouciance, even daring in your persona’s resume — even though you are a total dud.

That is a tribute to the power of hats, and that kind of power should not be taken lightly. It is the most practical of garments, but it is also a fashion statement that speaks louder than any other. Go ahead, keep your head warm, protect it from the sun, cover up a bad haircut. But never forget that a hat is an avatar for your entire personality. And maybe your only personality — so choose carefully.
Gunzen Pipple
Gunz dunt
Gill pipple

Pipple
Gill
Pipple

Youzhly
Wit gunz
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee