Earning Human

There is a joke I THINK Terry Pratchett makes, but which we were making before we ever read him because my family used to make it (about me.)  When the kids were little, we used to say that they were most likely to get kicked out of the human race for shoving.

We don’t do it much anymore, because we achieved our goal, and now both legally adult, they are reasonably human.  Though I’ll point out one of them might be an alien.  (We just haven’t decided which yet. Right now I’m inclining to Robert because he’s sporting a beard and we all know beards mean you come from another and evil world.)

This brings me to the whole “what is human” which excited much discussion here a few days ago. No, for the record animals aren’t human, though they might be sentient to an extent and that might entitle them to some protections for the sake of OUR humanity.

What do I mean by that?  Well…  Humanity is earned.  Oh, not before the law, and not for others, but for ourselves. As individuals and as societies we must each earn “humanity.”

And what is this goal?  What is so wonderful about being human?

Well, nothing if you don’t make it so.  When I say we must earn human I mean we must attain the right to the protections due a human being – the right to be respected by other humans.

In some parts of the world and in some cultures, what you have to do for that are things that I would consider sub-human or inhuman.  But this is why each human and each society must earn it for themselves: the standard to aspire to is internal and so must the proof be.

Note that I’m not making moral or multi-culti equivalence.  As an heir to the great Western tradition and a student of history, I believe our cultural norms and what we consider “human” is better than what other people consider human (and yes, whoever asked in comments – not enough coffee yet – we should cover “the things they no longer teach in school.  Because.  Hey, would there be interest in you tube “courses” on great literature from a non deconstrutionist  perspective?  Ditto history?  I’m not an absolute expert, but I can do some of it and I know people who know the rest. I will not pretend to systematic knowledge, but it’s more than is being taught in schools – or even was thirty years ago, since I’ve had to acquire most of it myself, step by step.)

My idea of human is firmly based on Western tradition and therefore in the roots of Christianity and Judaism.  It includes such things as behaving decently to others; looking after yourself and those dependent on you; taking responsibility for your own actions; not hurting those who have done you no harm/are defenseless.

It also involves recognizing in other humans creatures like myself and respecting them for the sake of THAT if for no other reason.

This is what makes it so hard for me to even discuss whether those babies whom Gosnell dismembered were human.  If they’d been allowed to develop, they’d have been creatures like me.  Therefore a crime against them is a crime against me – against my own humanity and my idea of my own humanity, which is what keeps me from going around and killing everyone who gets on my nerves.  It is also a violation (of course) of the “do no harm to the helpless and harmless” and… too many violations to count.  I get sick when I think about it.

But here’s the thing, in my view the worst violence people like Gosnell – or the sainted Che whose favorite pastime was kill entire families personally, because he believed in artisanal murder – did was to himself.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as a soul – there might be.  I think there is, for various reasons for which I have no proof – but whether there is a soul or not, or whether it survives physical death or not, there is something integral to each individual, something unique and personal and that makes them what they are.  (In a character these are the internal, inviolable characteristics about which I go on at length in MGC today.)

Okay, so maybe Gosnell and Che were born broken.  I have no way of telling they weren’t.  We know some people are.  I can almost guarantee that just “they were abused” (or indulged) as children isn’t reason ENOUGH for what they became.  Ditto Stalin and of course Hitler and all the “large scale” monsters. I’ll leave the discussion of whether psychopaths are “real humans” for other people.  One thing I know is that we can’t decide psychopaths AREN’T real humans and treat them as things, because we CAN’T identify psychopaths.  There’s no measurable, scientific proof.

However, if they weren’t, somewhere back there  they were normal children, who, in growing, became people who do things that people shouldn’t DO.

They broke the fundamental laws of what makes them human and therefore cast themselves outside humanity.  (There’s that old story about a mark and stuff.  Might not be wholly stupid.)

So why can’t we decide people who do that aren’t human?

Because we have no way of telling for sure.  There are things that can make people act as non-people but which are recoverable from.  And no, I’m not going with “illness” theory of crime.  We’re all ill.  It’s called being human.  There are cracks in the design.  And I’m not going with the therapeutic approach to murder.  Sometimes, when someone is a clear and present danger to himself and others, removal from society by death is the best thing you can do for them and others.  It should of course be done with dignity owing a human, not for them, but for you.

(Of course there are all sorts of things to be discussed about giving the state power of death over any citizen.  But that’s another and more complex discussion.)

To remain human – to remain true to myself – all things that come in the shape of a human and present externally as a human need to be respected for the sake of myself and our common humanity.

Now that respect varies in kind, and different respect is owed to the helpless and harmless than to the hardened criminal who is threatening you.  Self defense is acceptable for humans AND for societies.  And let’s face it, if the person is really that far out of his/her mind, the best thing to do for the sake of whatever humanity remains conscious in them is to stop them doing more harm by putting it beyond their ability to do so.  If court systems and jails were secure enough, that would suffice.  But we know they aren’t.

(I find it particularly perverse when people advocate death to the unborn – particularly the viable unborn – or the newborn, or the disabled — who fit harmless and helpless but are against the death penalty for proven and unrepentant criminals.  I can’t even begin to imagine how one gets to that state of broken, though I believe it starts with good intentions and trying to be holier than our peers.)

However, in principle, unless I’m really mad, regardless of the people’s crimes, I do NOT advocate setting them on fire in the public square.  They might deserve it, but they’re human as I’m human.  And for me to respect my own humanity I must respect theirs.

The same applies to respecting the limited sentience of animals.  I should respect animals where possible and not torture them not because they have “rights’ but because I’m human and humans don’t/shouldn’t hurt the helpless.  This does not exclude killing them (as humanely as possible) for food, but it excludes abusing them.

And if vat meat becomes available at a decent price (yes, the recent hamburger thing was actually not that bad and the price will only fall) yes, I will give up on eating little bah lambs.  But not until then.

Pardon me the scattered post – there are a billion things needing done today and I can’t seem to settle.  But this should be enough to start a discussion and because I’ll be absent much of the day, I’d appreciate troll patrol from the regulars.

If it’s not clear what I’m saying is that you don’t make others earn being human.  You assume they’re human so you can earn YOUR OWN humanity.

There’s a somewhat related post by me at MGC.


252 thoughts on “Earning Human

          1. No. She’s probably keeping it in case the men in white coats take me away. She’s been afraid of it since I was a teen — hence the trip to the psychiatrist that resulted in the certificate to give to her — and my writing thing doesn’t reassure her.

  1. Staying human is a daily job. As is ferreting out the bits that aren’t human yet, and need to be. I am my own lifetime job at it – and there are many good stories there.

    Too many people I know seem to have given up on the job – they live with their prejudices without examining them – they claim they are what they are, and don’t need to change. I guess it’s their right, but I don’t like it. Every day you get a little bit better – or a little bit worse.

  2. Hm. This is very compatible with the notion that our original design was of much higher quality, and that we– to borrow a word– fell….. True humanity is something that we have to work to try to reach, and we’re unlikely to fully get there, but it’s an important destination.

    And now, off to civilizing the (adorable) barbarian hordes!

      1. I have always referred to my boys as “The Horde.”
        Civilizing, not so sure about. I’m feeling kind of outnumbered at the moment.

  3. It’s almost universal in folklore that one of the things that sets apart malevolent witches is that, knowing right and wrong, they choose the wrong and in some cases make great sacrifices and expend huge amounts of effort to do wrong. Among the Navajo, that is one of the things that gives skinwalkers so much power: they know the proper Way and they break it with malice aforethought.

    1. Adolescent vandalism shows perfectly well that it’s possible to do wrong for the pure love of doing wrong.

  4. Speaking of Che…

    My biggest kick- seeing upper middle class college students (especially grad students) wearing Che shirts. They look at me and wonder why i am smirking or giggling (the giggle usually comes after they espouse the virtues of Che)

    They just don’t seem to know- it seems to not be included in ‘the narrative’- about Che’s predilection for killing ‘the intelligentsia’- you know, educated people with money….

  5. I have to believe strictly from observation that babies and small children are at best feral human sociopaths with the potential to learn a measure of empathy and the social skills required to become civilized. Truly sad that so many of our current crop seem to never realize that potential.

  6. I never wanted to join the Human race. I still don’t.
    But I’m stuck with it because of a lack of viable alternatives.

    1. I will admit that there have been a fair number of members of the human race with whom I have had an urge to join …

  7. Reminds me of the gom jabbar “test” in Dune – (quoting from memory)
    “This one kills only animals.”
    “Do you suggest that a Duke’s son is an animal?”
    “Let us say, I suggest you may be human…”

    The problem is that for so many today, those who do not agree with them are automatically considered inhuman monsters. “Othering” people who don’t fit with the program and dehumanizing them is something that eventually leads to mass graves.

    1. I remember an online discussion about an interview by Sheri Tepper where she merrily stated that if you consistently hurt people, you aren’t human and should be isolated in a place where you get — limited medical attention was one, I remember. She explicitly said that she expected them to kill each other off.

    2. But here’s the thing about those that do monstrous acts: they are human, and they decide to do the acts. Any one of us could end up behaving as monstrously as them if we find enough excuses.

      The problem is that for so many today, those who do not agree with them are automatically considered inhuman monsters.

      This is what happens when government encroaches on all aspects of life. Everything becomes a political question, since there may be some government policy coming down the road to regulate or restrict it. And it will be championed as “social progress!” and “fairness!” and other nice-sounding words.

      1. I don’t know that this is a politics-specific question. Groups have been dehumanizing non-members since time immemorial. Maybe it’s more institutionalized now, but we do need to be aware that this is as much a part of human nature as anything else. If I implied that this was politics or gov’t specific, let me back away from that here and now.

        There is this struggle that goes on in each of us to become our best selves – or at least better than we were yesterday. The more we’re aware of it and striving to be better, the closer I think we get to being human, which implies things like volition, self-direction and self-control. But it’s also easy to take our hands off the tiller and float with the stream, which I think naturally tends to move us further from that goal.

        1. I don’t know that this is a politics-specific question…If I implied that this was politics or gov’t specific, let me back away from that here and now.

          Duly noted.

          There is this struggle that goes on in each of us to become our best selves – or at least better than we were yesterday. The more we’re aware of it and striving to be better, the closer I think we get to being human, which implies things like volition, self-direction and self-control. But it’s also easy to take our hands off the tiller and float with the stream, which I think naturally tends to move us further from that goal.

          It’s called the path of least resistance. Easiest thing in the world to do, and sometimes, people don’t even realize they’re doing it. Sometimes, they even want to be praised for it.

        2. “Maybe it’s more institutionalized now, but we do need to be aware that this is as much a part of human nature as anything else.”

          A common answer when a primitive tribe is asked what they call themselves is “the people”, and what they call that other tribe over there is “the enemy”.

          1. There’s lots of common answers that are wrong. One extra strong bout of dysentary or the flu and “the enemy” (yours or theirs) is gone.

        3. Feh, we are born human, good, bad, all of us. Its not an earned status and humanity isn’t the extension of any particular value set. Its a product of inherited D.N.A (and the rest) Heck even non humans like chimps and baboons destroy outside groups from time to time. Its a natural product of evolution and in fact given the more the occasional resource scarcity of their environment it makes perfect sense,

          Humans too are primates and as such those instincts and more advanced version of the reasoning the other primates used is part of us.

          We will baring induced genetic changes always act this way from time to time.

          That said, being a member of a given society not species needs to be a buy in. This can very a lot. Being say a cannibal head hunter might require me to catch and eat somebody, wrong for me and mine, probably counter productive (Kuru is nasty) but I really can’t say he or she failed to “be human”

          If we were to meet (or meat from his POV I guess ) there would be problems but its the same issue with me meeting a Wahhabist, We don’t like what the other guy does, good chance violence will ensue because our social buy in is too different.

          Where the idea of common humanity goes wrong is when you think you are helping someone with force,

          No, you aren’t You are taking way whats theirs (their identity and culture).

          Its better to be honest and say “I believe X, have a bigger boot and can make people do what I want” It doesn’t make people feel good but its a lot closer to the truth.

          Unfortunately few people are this honest.

          One exception Charles William Napier


          A story for which Napier is often noted involved Hindu priests complaining to him about the prohibition of Sati by British authorities. This was the custom of burning a widow alive on the funeral pyre of her husband. As first recounted by his brother William, he replied:

          “Be it so. This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive we hang them, and confiscate all their property. My carpenters shall therefore erect gibbets on which to hang all concerned when the widow is consumed. Let us all act according to national customs.”

          1. That can be interpreted as “no culture is better than another, some cultures just have bigger guns.” Which leads in short order to multi-culti goo. I think some cultures ARE better than others. To use the Wahhabi example you pointed at above, that culture allows, maybe even promotes, violence against women and non-believers. That culture is less good than one that prohibits and sanctions that kind of behavior.

            And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Napier thought his culture was a) superior and b) correct to end the Sati practice. Human Nature is what it is. Being Human to each other is what we aspire to and what I believe the post is trying to say. The language doesn’t really have clear terms (or at least non-religious ones) for the concept we’re trying to communicate here, so human gets used as a proxy for the idea that we should treat each other well.

            1. Boss Lady, I got your point. I just disagree with it.

              ZR, I’ll give you a donut of you are around when I have one thats rare alas I don’t eat donuts very often) Pretty much the entire British colonial experience was driven by this concept. I don’t subscribe the evil legacy of colonialism bushwa the Leftard love so much but the core idea “they think they are better” they are on about is correct

              And I think the entire concept of universal standards is multi cultural goo. Its understandable and deeply roted in our social fabric but its a bad idea since it doesn’t play well with other memes. Its not IMO a coincidence that cultures afflicted with Western values are hurting right now,

              Fro us in the “West” Catholicism was the original multi-cult after all and we’ve tried Enlightenment and Capitalism and a few other far more loathsome “ism’s too. They work materially to a degree but if they cause a loss of being rooted in a community they’ll end up a suicidal anti life ethos

              Personally I don’t even accept the idea that there is any one thing or anything that we as a species can all agree on or aspire too even the golden rule (though I’d like that) We in the West (me included) share a somewhat common value set (in theory) but I don’t expect someone who is not part of my people to live by it.

              Western values including Enlightenment ones are in some sense a faith, its a bit more inclusive than say Shinto but its not Universalistic like Catholicism I mentioned earlier maybe Judaism as an analogy? We’ll share our values with people who ask but its a lot of work to keep them.

              As for the various “best practices” the simplest “do not do to others which is abhorrent to you” or the big 5 (no sex with children, too close kin, animals, dead bodies and no eating people) all of them are ignored commonly in one culture or another. They aren’t really as universal as you’d think

              1. “Its not IMO a coincidence that cultures afflicted with Western values are hurting right now, ”

                You are reversing cause and effect. The reason that Western cultures are hurtinjg is that they allowed a minority of people such as yourself to decide those values were an “affliction” rather than requiring them to go elsewhere.

                  1. Gah! I had meant to respond to that yesterday and time got away from me. (Time is an elusive, slippery little rascal. I suspect him of being a cat. Or a shark. Or a cat-shark.)
                    And snelson134 has it right – the reason cultures “afflicted” with Western values are hurting right now is because they have in some degree abandoned Western values, the most obvious one that comes to mind is TANSTAAFL, followed by the obligatory reference to Kipling (Oh, come on, it’s been at least a week since someone referenced Gods of the Copybook Headings, hasn’t it? Come to think of it, I may have to acronym that – ORK – Obligatory Reference to Kipling).

                    1. Maybe if it was switched around a little, it wouldn’t sound so bad? How about OKR – Obligatory Kipling Reference?

                    2. I dunno, I kind of like the idea of an Obligatory Reference to Kipling as a giant green monster that’s about to hit you over the head with a battleax inscribed with “Copybook Headings” in the haft.
                      Isn’t that what the poem implies with “the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return”?

                    3. Sigh. Now I want to draw it. Let me finish the posts at PJM for the week (groans) and upload a couple of stories (groans louder) and if it’s not midnight by then, we’ll see what we can do. (N’est-ce pas?)

                    4. “but ORK sounds like you’re going to throw up a hairball”

                      Well it still sounds better than GOTCH (Gods of the Copybook Headings) which sounds like they have already thrown up the hairball and are making sure there isn’t any left in their throat.

                1. Afflicted is the right word for the CURRENT set of values. The old set pre modern really of “kindred, home church” with whatever passed for a state last ,if you’ll forgive a variation on a politically eschewed expression, makes sense. After all the extended family or group of them as a tribe is the basis for the entirety of human existence.

                  However its incompatible and a threat to both leftism and corporatism (US society has aspects of both) and as such a real and concerted effort was made to destroy it.

                  That destruction and replacement with people as individual consumer worker cogs has started to render civilizations that carry those memes non viable.

                  I think where we disagree is that you assume the old set is still the dominant one,. Its not. Its basically “legacy social capital” and as such unless it becomes the primary (and I think it will be default) the West is toast

            2. The language doesn’t really have clear terms (or at least non-religious ones) for the concept we’re trying to communicate here, so human gets used as a proxy for the idea that we should treat each other well.

              Eh, they exist. They just remind us all of all the duties that a rational being should perform. Like Honor and Duty.

      2. > Any one of us could end up behaving as monstrously as them if we find enough excuses.

        This is an excellent point.

        Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.

    3. ‘Othering’ is why I finally quit posting at Salon.com – I had a blog there, where I regularly posted, and where I did have fans and quite a good few ‘editors choice’ and front-page exposures for many of my posts. But the consistent and hateful ‘othering’ just got too much for me to bear… especially since the Salon community so prided themselves on their broadminded tolerance… I finally called them out and said I was going on a hiatus … and conveniently, I was offered the opportunity to post at chicagoboyz,net, although I was not from Chicago or a boyz.

  8. I incline toward grants of provisional humanity, revocable upon rejection of privilege (e.g., Hannibal Lecter deciding himself “above” humanity.) History strongly suggests that allowing humans to decide where to draw the line separating human from sub-human generally works out badly and often leaves an awful stench (yet one more reason to oppose burning in the public square.)

    SF writers have long grappled with the question of how we will define humanity if/when we encounter sentient sapient species. Based on prior demonstration, I suspect we will withhold privilege until forced to recognize status (i.e., some species is big enough and mean enough to rub our noses in their sentience.)

    As for animals, we should treat them kindly because we can, we are capable of moral decisions rather than reliance upon instincts. This is a quality which merits exercise.

    1. Exactly and we should respect everything that comes in the shape of a human, to earn our own humanity. They might need killing to prevent further harm — but if killing must happen it must happen with respect. Because WE are human.

      1. Which is one more reason why we’re supposed to train to shoot accurately: you might need to put a bullet in a human heart to prevent further harm, and it is disrespectful to that person’s humanness to do a bad job of that.

          1. Yes, but we don’t do that, because it’s cruel. Which is not to say we don’t put that bullet right through their skull. To put it in Pratchett terms, fear the good man, for he’ll kill you without gloating, if he believes it right.

            1. I like the Doc Smith version better, though it’s not really the same. I just can’t remember how it goes, exactly. But it’s basically: The most dangerous man is not the one who is violent on a regular basis, it’s the one who decides after deliberation that violence is necessary, and proceeds to go about it with the least expenditure of energy concomitant with low risk and good workmanship.

                1. Or don’t pick a fight with an old barbarian swordsman. A Barbarian swordsman doesn’t get *old* unless he’s very very good with a sword. [Stolen from Terry Pratchett, not actually said IMO but his old Barbarian character proves it).

          2. Some people do. I don’t care to see animals, even deserving animals in pain.

            It’s not their humanity I care about, that’s not my job. It’s my humanity I need to be able to get back to.

      2. I think you probably need to spend a little more time learning to kill people (for the record, as I write this I’m sitting in a bar finishing my vodka tonic and waiting for my martial arts instructor to show up), both the how and the why.

        You do not (often) kill people you respect. If you could respect them you probably could find a more cost effective method of resolving your dispute.

        When it’s time to kill you kill. Respect is not an issue, it’s not something you have time to worry about, and it occasionally (so I’m told) gets in the way.

        You kill for the survival of yourself or your tribe–depending on how you define “tribe” from minute to minute, or you might kill for ideology (which might be the morally correct thing to do, or it might fold back into killing for tribal survival).

        1. Sigh, I don’t mean that. I mean, we will kill the enemy, we won’t then eat it. There are things other cultures do to corpses — vid, corpse swarms — that we wouldn’t do, because we know those corpses were once human — it’s hard to explain. You kill swiftly and with minimal fuss (particularly in self defense) when absolutely needed, but afterwards you remember you’re human and they’re human.

    2. “…grants of provisional humanity, revocable upon rejection of privilege” — myself, I incline toward grants of provisional humanity, revocable upon rejection of responsibility; taking much of what we see as humanity as being the responsibility to at least act human. My respect for the humanity of those who don’t gets severely compromised. Still – even with no respect for their humanity at all, I don’t pull the wings off of flies.

  9. Being human involves the humane… and that requires seeing family, friends, and yes… even enemies as human.
    OTOH, self-defense is a natural right of all organisms when threatened.
    Society, if it reflects the humane, will kill only when threatened and then do so in a humane manner… as quickly as painlessly as possible.
    Even in primitive societies hunters, as they killed to eat, had as much respect for the animals that provided them food, as they had for their gods, spirits, and fellow tribesmen…

    1. Society, if it reflects the humane, will kill only when threatened and then do so in a humane manner… as quickly as painlessly as possible.

      This implies a corollary point: A humane human society (let’s optimistically call it “us”) must humanely and quickly destroy any outside association “society” that threatens to destroy us. This is the “not a suicide pact” clause. Just as I do not avoid eating food that was once alive in order to not starve to death, as a society we cannot aver from the destruction of other societies bent on our own destruction, with the proviso that we proceed as humanely as possible.

      This drives the limits we place on ourselves in the more energetic human interactions generally known as “war” – and to Sarah’s point, we choose to observe limits on what we do and how we do it more for the effect passing those boundaries would have on our humanity than on any other considerations.

      But the underlying drive for this is that of societal survival – and those limits can and do get discarded at need. We can always grieve and rebuild our humanity if we survive.

      1. This implies a corollary point: A humane human society (let’s optimistically call it “us”) must humanely and quickly destroy any outside association “society” that threatens to destroy us. This is the “not a suicide pact” clause. Just as I do not avoid eating food that was once alive in order to not starve to death, as a society we cannot aver from the destruction of other societies bent on our own destruction, with the proviso that we proceed as humanely as possible.

        And it seems to me that this may imply a need for people who voluntarily become less human so as to carry out the necessary tasks of dealing with others who have renounced their humanity in such a way as to disuade others from following them.

        It seems to me that the more primitive organisms require simpler blunter lessons (consider how we train puppies vs how we educate human children – or even how you educate a toddler vs educate a teenager) and if you are to humane then you will fail to give the required lesson to the baclsliders who have failed to earn their humanity. Hence the humane threat of “prison for life” may not sufficiently deter whereas the less humane threat of “prolonged painful death” may work rather better

        1. “It seems to me that the more primitive organisms require simpler blunter lessons (consider how we train puppies vs how we educate human children ”

          IMO if more people trained their children the same way they trained their dogs, we would have a lot more well-behaved children.

          Well on second thought maybe not, there are a lot of people out there incapable or unwilling to train their dogs. But what I mean is the best way to create a well-mannered dog is very similar to the best way to create a well-mannered human. It boils down to the proper application of both carrot and stick, and most importantly, consistency, consistency, consistency!

          1. Honestly, I agree with bearcat; training a toddler is very much like training a puppy. Judicious and consistent application of rewards and punishments, suitable for a small and impulse-driven mammal. The brighter they are, the quicker they catch on.

        2. imho toddler is around the same age as the puppy and needs about the same boundaries, affection, and discipline. When an adult animal or adult human is feral– it needs a different kind of training and in most cases the person (or creature) cannot be fully trained at all. 😉 IMHO the difference between child training and adult training (adolescence should be in the adult training) is in the size of brain and the ability of the child or adult to learn concepts. Some adults stay in the child area for one reason or another. This is how I see it…

          I know that people see a difference between wild animals and tame animals. I do too except I add humans into the wild and tame categories as well. BTW I am NOT saying animals are humans… although mammals do share some of the same characteristics– i.e. brain, neurological systems, other systems, etc.

        3. I’m HOPING Robert is wrong. He said a girl who volunteers at the hospital with him had to go to court ordered parenting classes for telling her child repeatedly no and putting him in time out within her neighbor’s hearing. I’m HOPING she’s lying and she held the little blighter down from the balcony or something. (Though I wonder no neighbor ever called the police on me when I (routinely) threatened to hang the boys upside down from the window by their feet. Maybe the fact they were 14 and I couldn’t lift them, much less hold them out the window made even the neighbors know I was just venting.)

            1. Given modern rifles, scopes and ballistic computers that’s a long way indeed.

  10. Having a beard means you are an Alien? Why THANK YOU! I’ve wanted to be an alien all my life, ever since I first discovered Mr. Spock. Now I know the secret, I shall endeavor to grow a beard by sheer force of will.

      1. You know, the funny thing is, aside from the beard, Mirror-universe-Spock was exactly the same “the greatest good for the greatest number” character as the Fed-universe-Spock – he was just interacting with the more ruthless Mirror universe human society, so instead of making accommodations from Vulcan pure logic to the soft Marxism/feel good emotionalism of the Federation, he was compromising his Vulcan societal reference frame with the pure-force/cutthroat emotionalism of the Mirror Earth Empire. It was the environment that led to Mirror-Spock doing bad things.

        The “Mirror-Mirror” ep was Roddenberry’s argument for nurture over nature, for victimhood over any innate character driver of the choices made.

        1. You know, I’ve got a story in progress about a moral mirror universe.

          It’s a deconstruction. they just don’t work, logically.

        1. So, in fact, Tim Morris does not always tell lies — sometimes he tells the truth — as in the second sentence.

          grumble grumble grouse The opposite of All X are Y is Some X are not Y, and the opposite of No X are Y is Some X are Y.

  11. First, I agree that animals do not have rights. Men (human is such a weak word in this regard, but I mean women too) have OBLIGATIONS to treat animals with respect. Men have rights endowed by their Creator, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You don’t earn those. Such distinctions are important for clear thinking. Otherwise tyrants and men of evil intent can play with semantics to trick the unwary. Most cultures have adulthood initiation rituals when you become fully part of the tribe and accept the obligations in addition to the protections of the community that you have enjoyed up to that point out of respect to your humanity. Jews have Bar Mitzvah (and Bat Mitzvah), Catholics have Confirmation. Other cultures, religions have other rituals. I wish America had citizen rituals for those of us lucky enough to be native born. Those babies Gosnell and his crew killed were indeed human, just as your children were before they were old enough to understand and accept the obligations of citizen. I propose using the word Citizen (in the Heinlein sense, not in the French Revolution sense).

    As to your Western Civ concept, I recommend Dennis Prager and Hugh Hewitt’s discussions about the classics.

    1. Yes, there is something profoundly awry with the “for the children” culture. Then they double down with the “everybody’s a winner”, “everybody gets a prize” mentality.

      1. For the sake of the children, please leave the children alone.

        Wonder how that’d go over if I said that to the “For the children” crowd? Most of them hardly even know any children, let alone live with children.

      2. “For the children” translates to “My policy proposal is so stupid and counter-productive that I can’t justify it in any way except via cheap emotional appeals and theatrics”.

    2. “Men (human is such a weak word in this regard, but I mean women too)” – off topic, but a button-push: As I understand, “man” is from a Saxon root – where it was only used with a gender-distinguishing prefix, i.e. approximately “wyvman” = “man who weaves” = females; “weopman” = “man who uses weapon” = males. If this is correct or nearly so, then all those with such angst over the lack of a gender-neutral common noun for our species are just ignorant of the language. It’s really the male of the species who lacks a special word, because “men”, first and foremost, means all of us.

          1. I came up with that ditty watching CSPAN and laughing at the PC contortions they went through in Congress: “the gentle lady from…” “That was no lady, that was my congressman!”


    3. Time was when the junior prom was a delightful chance to enjoy, briefly, the delights of adulthood you were still aspiring for.

      Nowadays — well, in certain refugee camps where young men could not start accumulating cows in their culture’s way of gaining status, they simply refused to go through the rites, so that the elders had to go on treating them as children. A precise depiction of what is de facto happening all about us, though these refusers also demand all the rights of adulthood as well.

      1. Maybe that’s the key. They demand the rights of an adult (human, man, use your own word here), but they refuse to accept the responsibilities of an adult.

      2. “… though these refusers also demand all the rights of adulthood as well.”

        Well, every parent hears that from their children, don’t they? And if the parent is a true adult, they laugh. Unfortunately our current culture has virtually nothing to make adulthood something to look forward to.

            1. “You can *get* one, but what are you planning on doing with it later?”

                    1. Lets see Charles Osgood? Not cool. Tucker Carlson? ROFL boy not cool. Roger Kimball? Oh, so not cool.

                      Buckaroo Banzai, now he was cool. But fictional.

                1. No, it’s name is George. George Amen. Very conscientious member of the parish!

        1. Eh, even in ancient and medieval times we had a category between childhood and full fledged adults. It’s the treatment that lets it not be a time of transition that matters.

          1. But you were expected to get through it as quickly as possible, not wallow in it for half your life.

            (Says the 40+ year-old who spends his evenings playing video games…)

            1. Don’t sweat the video games – I have a wife, three kids, three jobs, and a homestead, and I spend my evenings on computer games . When things become less chaotic, I’ll go back to spending them in Azeroth with my wife.

    4. American Catholics of the last forty-odd years have Confirmation as an adulthood ritual.

      Everybody else in the history of Catholicism was Confirmed as a baby, as a little kid, or right after getting Baptism as an old geezer about to die.

      Confirmation is supposed to be the second Sacrament of initiation, conducted either before Communion, or before Confession and Communion, depending on the Rite. And the fact that I have a hard time remembering this is just evidence of how messed up my Catholic religious education was. Bah. Phooey. Nothing like depriving kids of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, when kids are the ones who have to live through twelve years of school. (Not that I’m complaining, but… it was a long time to wait, and today kids end up waiting into high school or college, which is ridiculous.)

      I refer folks interested in the normal ways to do the Latin Rite to the excellent altarpiece of the Seven Sacraments by Rogier Van der Weyden, showing the bishop in the middle left Confirming somebody, with other little munchkins wearing little headbands to catch the anointing oil from their just-completed Confirmations. The dog represents faithfulness, as well as how dogs in many times have been allowed to wander into churches as long as they didn’t get up in the altar/sanctuary areas.

      1. I’ve often felt the same — that there is no adulthood ritual, which categorically defines the border between childhood and maturity. Confirmation – well, in the eyes of the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Getting a driver’s license – eh, maybe. Graduating high school? nah. College> double-nah. I think the last of the adult rituals in the West (or in the US) is finishing military basic training. Now, there is a rite which confers the privileges of adulthood on those who manage it.

        1. Mrs. Dave are working to put together our own adulthood rites for when we have some at the right age. Probably involve the presentation of a weapon, be it blade or firearm. Perhaps a night’s vigil, and official recognition with witnesses.

          1. You’re not the only ones planning something like that. I believe Christian author John Eldredge suggests something similar in his book Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul — and if my memory of the book is right (I read it close to a decade ago), he also bases his suggested coming-of-age ritual (for boys becoming men) on the old knighthood rituals. (Given the subject of the book, he doesn’t mention ideas for coming-of-age rituals for girls becoming women.)

            1. Yup. That’s where we got the idea. I don’t recall if the book he and his wife wrote for women mentions the same thing, but their argument is that women have natural ones related to menstruation that men lack. Really, I expect we’ll work to tailor the rites to the individual children. Assuming, of course, we have them in the first place. Working on that.

          2. I’ve thought about something like that for my sons – a graduation from minion to trusted lieutenant, as it were, though in seriousness rather than jest. My church has milestones that serve pretty well, but I want something else that is particular to our family/tribe. The conferring of a weapons seems very fitting.

            1. And would necessitate training in arms. As I have a source for swordsmanship, I’d like to make that happen. Presuming the writing pays off, of course. I figure a sword and a pistol/shotgun would be an appropriate way to say, “welcome to adulthood.” Power and responsibility (with a bit of panache) in one swell foop, more or less.

              1. Jumping a tangent here, how does one find martial sword instruction? I know a source for fencing in the area, and a couple for knife technique, but none for swords. Where would you suggest looking for info?

                1. A couple of places. A friend of mine runs a sword school, though it’s in Michigan. If you’re interested (and have the funds and time, natch, which is always tougher) getting him to put on an intensive sword camp isn’t that hard, provided we can gather enough students to make it worth his time. Otherwise, ARMA, the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts, is theone of the best sources for European martial arts instruction, and the most far-flung. I recall there used to be a study group in Ogden, though that’s a little far for you to be traveling for instruction on a regular basis. They keep a list of practicioners (I’m probably still on it, though my membership is years out of date) that may have some folks in your area, though.

                  1. There is a kendo dojo just up the road a mile or three that’s tempted me, though I was thinking more of European styles in this case. I hesitate to consider the SCA because there is so little room left in my life for anything else as it is, and I’m under the impression that it requires quite a lot of dedication.

                    1. Kendo and SCA are sports. They’ll teach you nothing of genuine swordsmanship. For that you need the comment of mine currently awaiting moderation. For two links. Bugger. ARMA is the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts, who go to the fechtbucher (fight manuals) written by armsmasters and do a lot of scholarship and figuring out how stuff was done.

                    2. And then there’s Aegis, a school run by a friend of mine with a family style passed down lo, these many umpteen generations. I have some experience with ARMA, and they’re solid. As I said, Aegis is run by a friend, and he’s both trustworthy and an excellent instructor. ARMA’s a little more accessible, as Aegis is in Ann Arbor, MI. But, if enough folks are interested, Sal runs sword camp, a week-long intensive course. Travel and tuition are usually the thing there, but we’re working on putting together one that doubles as a writing retreat. I think I mentioned it a while back.

      2. Suburbanbanshee, All you said indeed. I’m not a Church historian, so I was going from my own experience which was baptism shortly after birth, First Communion at the calculated age of reason (7 years old), followed by Confirmation somwhere between 9-12 years old.

      1. Yep, Dragons get to eat people who annoy them. [Very Big Dragon Grin]

      2. “Always be human. Unless you can be a dragon. Then always be a dragon.”?

      3. Do not meddle with the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.

              1. I beg your pardon, I have counted *all* of the Psalms, plus the Proverbs and the Epistles.

      4. I do totally enjoy dragon stories– 😉 I keep wanting to write about the black cat and the dragon. I sometimes dream of cats, owls, and snakes with a few people… I personally don’t have dominion over animals– We just have long chats and I learn things from them. I do let them know when they misbehave… I think that if children were expected to be socialized and disciplined like our pets, we would have better behaved children.

            1. Your dog sees what you do and thinks, “These must be gods!”

              Your cat sees what you do and thinks, “I must be a god!”

              Your goldfish looks out of its bowl and says, “Glorp!”

  12. Sarah, we are so often in agreement, that I hesitate to say it. You’re wrong. (Defining the term “humanity” might allow us to harmonize our positions at the expense of goofing up the language.) Whenever I tell a Conservative s/he is channelling Princeton ethicist, Peter Singer, s/he rightly bristles!

    I’ll premise my remarks by asserting that Humanity is not earned. It is an endowment of the Creator. (If not my Baptist Sunday School deity, then the Jeffersonian deity of his Declaration of Independence.) This endowment may be confirmed and reinforced by works of humanity. Or it may be treacherously betrayed by works of inhumanity.

    Specifically, the Western tradition via Christian and Jewish dogma asserts that mankind bears the image of deity. Mankind, by design is good, and the Creator summarizes his creative acts with “It is good.” Nevertheless, we see evil, not by design, but by our betrayal of diety’s design.

    When you lose this premise, you are in the soup with Peter Singer maintaining that immature, mentally disabled, and senile individuals are sub-human, and high-functioning animals are almost-human.

    All this said, I think you’ve built a reasonable structure atop a flawed foundation. Fully functioning humans owe it to our Creator to manifest our humanity through productive engagement with this world and compassionate charity toward those less capable. Like the Boy Scouts, we should leave things better than we found them.

    And if you’re ever in Grand Rapids, MI, I’ll buy a round of your favorite beverage so we can solve the rest of the problems in this world.

    1. “’ll premise my remarks by asserting that Humanity is not earned. It is an endowment of the Creator. (If not my Baptist Sunday School deity, then the Jeffersonian deity of his Declaration of Independence.) This endowment may be confirmed and reinforced by works of humanity. Or it may be treacherously betrayed by works of inhumanity.

      Specifically, the Western tradition via Christian and Jewish dogma asserts that mankind bears the image of deity. Mankind, by design is good, and the Creator summarizes his creative acts with “It is good.” Nevertheless, we see evil, not by design, but by our betrayal of diety’s design.”

      That is pretty much what I got out of Sarah’s post, just in different words. I might have misunderstood her (or you) but what I understood her to say is that we are all born human, flawed but human, we must work though to remain worthy of considering ourselves human. If not we betray ourselves and our humanity, much like a traitor who betrays and leaves America is no longer American a human who betrays their humanity by works of inhumanity becomes inhuman. Which I believe is what you are saying, if so I agree with you, if not you’ll have to explain it in smaller words for me 😉

      1. Bearcat, here’s the problem with using the word human in regards to one’s moral actions and inactions. People of evil intent like Peter Singer play with this concept and say, well babies and the severely disabled aren’t human because they can’t talk, or take care of themselves. Therefore they are mere property to be disposed with at the will of the one responsible for their care. When we call murderers inhuman instead of ones who choose evil, we fall into sloppy thinking that walls them off in our mind as never having been one of us. Yes they were and are human. They just choose evil.

        It’s not that Steve and I disagree with Sarah’s point, just that the right words are necessary for clear thinking here or they can be easily misunderstood and twisted.

                1. Apologies. I do not ignore, but have been accused by some to be so dense as to have my own event horizon.

          1. Sarah, perhaps you meant your ante-penultimate and penultimate sentences, “If it’s not clear what I’m saying is that you don’t make others earn being human. You assume they’re human so you can earn YOUR OWN humanity.”

            I think this contradicts the earlier sentence “What do I mean by that? Well… Humanity is earned. Oh, not before the law, and not for others, but for ourselves. As individuals and as societies we must each earn “humanity.””

            I am quite friendly to the notion of holding myself to a standard that is much higher than the demands I place upon others. I think doing so is mere Christian charity. You get the benefit of the doubt, whereas I know my heart and I own responsibilities I would never impose upon you.

            Nevertheless, the plain sense of the words, “Humanity is earned,” is a much more Singerian notion than it is a Judeo-Christian notion. As I said, I frequently agree with Sarah and modulo this one sentence I’d have little objection today.

            1. There is no contradiction — read it again. Not for others but for ourselves. And I point out explicitly that it depends on treating everything vaguely human as human, so you can respect yourself. I fail to see the source of your confusion.
              And I detest argument ad Bibliorum. If you’re preaching to the converted there’s nothing to preach. And if you’re not, then you don’t justify your position. Sorry, but that’s it.

              1. We are at an impasse, my dear, because the sense that I take from your words is contradictory, and you see no contradiction in what your intended meaning. I am denying the unqualified proposition, “Humanity is earned.” Do the qualifications you attach to that proposition deny it, too?

                1. Steve– you are driving me nutso– Yes, if you go through your Bible training, “Let us make man in our Image,” but if you continue ad biblium G-d is divine– I don’t remember anything in the Bible saying he was man until the incarnation of Jesus… and Jesus (in most Christian theology) is divine. So the spark is divine…which doesn’t contradict what Sarah said.

                  We have to earn humanity … unless you want to argue that G-d is “The Man.” Since ad biblium arguments make me nutso too, I apologize for using it.

                  1. You’ll note my Bible is closed as I say this:

                    When Tomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, or when the French Revolutionaries articulated the rights of man, they did not speak of rights being earned or bestowed by any government.

                    I’m completely on board with distinguishing citizens and humans then asserting that citizenship must be earned.

                    If you think humanity can be earned, then logically it can be somehow removed. Peter Singer thus denies the humanity of anyone who cannot function as he expects a human to function. This way lies madness.

                    1. I didn’t say anything about agreeing with Singer– and I find the subhuman theory, which is part of group/enemy thinking, as vile. Don’t put his words in my mouth or his evil inhumane meanings in what I say– I may think he has very little humanity (Singer), but he is still has the spark of divine.

                    2. Cyn — he’s interpreting me as agreeing with Singer, which I went to GREAT lengths to make clear I wasn’t. Singer is okay with Gosnell. Probably with Che too.

                    3. Mr. Poling, in many ways Sarah’s idea of “earning Human” is an ideal concerning humans growing to be more than “naked apes”.

                      To say her ideal is “bad” because people like Peter Singer have decided that some humans are less than human is somewhat silly IMO.

                      There is no ideal that can’t be twisted into evil and because people are imperfect any ideal will be twisted.

                      The “for the children” idea that is so abused by the Left is based on the ideal that society and its members must protect/care for the children of that society.

                      Is the answer to the problem (of people “abusing” ideals) to never have ideals?

                      Heck no, having ideals and trying to live up to the ideals is part of Humans being more than “naked apes”.

                    4. Steve, I don’t see any notion of “rights” here. Specifically, the idea is *not* to judge whether or not someone else is human.

                      If this Singer fellow denies the humanity of other humans, he’s actually acting in direct opposition to what I’m reading here. Deciding who is and is not human, and who gets to do the deciding, is not necessary.

                      Basically, does each individual person get to call themselves human? Perhaps that word is too controversial. Substitute something else if necessary, but the premise is the same.

                      If I, my own flawed and unprepossessing self, can say that I accept and meet my responsibilities, do no injury to those that haven’t threatened me and mine, and take care of the weak and helpless I get the self respect of that title, whatever it may be to me.

                      That’s up to each individual. I can’t call this guy over here sub-human or less than human for any odd reason I make up. That’s wrong, and pretty stupid. There’s no provision I see for calling anyone that.

                2. Sigh — Humanity is earned for ourselves by each of us. Inside your skull, you have to respect all humans (i.e. everything that MIGHT be human) to qualify as human. You have to respect yourself in other, iow.

                  1. The problem here is that we are using “human” to mean two different things, the biological fact and the manner of life worthy of the biology.

                    whenever that happens — as in the use of “noble” or “gentleman” — the word loses its first, descriptive meaning in favor of its moral, evaluative one. This can be awkward even with “noble” and “gentleman” and could be disastrous in case of “human.”

          2. I believe I understand the gist here. The point missed about murderers, terrorists, and people who talk in the movie theater is that, to consider ourselves human, we must treat *them* as human. Even though their actions be pond scummy, it doesn’t do to lower ourselves to that level.

            It’s like the concept of honor. How do you know you have honor? You extend it to others. How do you know you are human? You treat others with the respect due a human being. Even when they don’t deserve it.

            A comment was made today that drew my attention, something about the guy on death row that hung himself. A man made the statement that, even if the guards caused or enabled his death, no moral fault occurred. This is not consonant with treating others with the respect due a human being. The criminal had been tried and convicted, and the hour of his death was set. A human being worthy of his humanity would honor that schedule, and not cheat him of one second less than he was due- nor allow a moment more than that.

            None of this is inconsistent with the Bible as I understand it. We’ve all got the same basic building blocks within us. Most of us have two arms, two legs, two eyes, and so on. Endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. What’s next may be a philosophical point, but it is a strong one.

            To consider oneself worthy of the title, one must act like it. So behave yourself, hold yourself responsible for your own actions, protect the weak and helpless. Pretty simple stuff, but so is deadlifting an engine block. It can still be hard, though…

            “Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats…” -H.L. Mencken

            I make no mention of certain supposed humans I may work with when I say this of course. *grin*

          3. Sarah, as I said, I understand what you mean. And yes I’m being picky here, so feel free to ignore me, since I don’t disagree with your meaning, only the words you chose to express the meaning.

            I have a similar problem with the phrase “honor killings” although I know Webster reserves the definition of honor as “a keen sense of ethical conduct” for number 8, and the first definition is “a good name or public esteem” which fits with the “honor killing” phrase, I think the word should be translated as “reputation” because that word does not have any potentially wrong implication.

      2. Bearcat, implicit in my remarks are two presuppositions: 1) mankind is an image-bearer of God, and 2) Creation was created good and fell into evil. I left these things unsaid, since I wanted to make an argument that assumed nothing beyond that which is self-evident to the Declaration of Independence.

      3. Bearcat, the Jewish take on creation is different from the Christian one: Jewish tradition asserts that people were created with a good inclination and an evil inclination by design, and thus the necessity of moral choice is an inherent property of being made in the image of the Creator.

  13. On the issue of faith. Its a life hack of sorts and not necessarily always a good one. This from a religious (albeit poorly) person BTW

    My gut, at least for modern society is that among the middle class and affluent (or in small tribal societies within the tribe only) but not the super rich bad behavior happens less.

    This is tied to kinship in some societies and with reduced scarcity along with with good behavioral incentives built into societal patterns (c.f the general good behavior of the modern Western middle class) by the members (not imposed) in others. Faith has a place to pay in building that social capital

    The problem is these incentives will get destroyed by the upper classes for personal aggrandizement.

    What sets those classes apart from the common cut of humanity in my opinion is an overweening hunger for status (and to a lesser degree power) , almost like a drug addiction . That commodity will always be zero sum to them.

    This can lead to amazing good, charity and wealth creation on a grand scale but usually it ends up oligarchy and a manipulation of the system to increase that “hit” of status.

    The ur example in my opinion is the Kellogg Company 30 Hour Work Week

    The end of that had little to do with productivity and everything to do with the perceived diminished status in class,.

    Often as not we end up using the beneficial use moral systems to keep people in line and from asserting their own interests.It makes sense, assertion when it fails often ends up with force in scale and mass force will always end up in tragedy for someone but don’t like it and I think in scale its liable to to be tragic.

  14. Okay, so maybe Gosnell and Che were born broken. … We know some people are. I can almost guarantee that just “they were abused” (or indulged) as children isn’t reason ENOUGH for what they became. … One thing I know is that we can’t decide psychopaths AREN’T real humans and treat them as things, because we CAN’T identify psychopaths. There’s no measurable, scientific proof.

    I’m not so sure about that:

    String together a couple tests the right way–say the MMPI with an fMRI and you’re a long way to being able to sort the coral snakes from the milk snakes.

    1. I wouldn’t trust those people or any people t make that decision or to just stick with sociopaths, More than likely it would be “serial killers” today “Conservatives” tomorrow.

      Psychology and Psychiatry are almost always abused for political means. And before anyone asks, of course some people are mentally ill and can be helped with drugs, therapy and a other methods

      Its however unlikely that the numbers we see are anything but political

      I doubt 1 in 5 teen boys has ADHD or that 15% of them need mental health drugs (2/3 of diagnosed) or that all of the other or even a majority of the others on everything else are actually ill

      1. Your problem is not with the test, it’s with the testers. That’s a different issue.

        1. There is always mission creep, today violent offenders, tomorrow “wrong thinkers” thanks no.

          Anyway the testers are the people who create the tests as such the methodology often can’t be trusted.

          Also as someone with more than a bit of familiarity with the psychology field, (not my profession though) its an inherently political one. Read the DSM 2 or the current release for grim truth. Its a political manual as much as a diagnostic one.

          That said and to repeat here, there is such a thing as debilitating mental illness and e the work the psychiatrists and psychologists has value.

          Also d there are people who could use a little help from time to time though I am not sure clergy and friends or family might be a better call. When they aren’t th field has value.

      2. I was just looking this up: Using the leading screening test for diagnosing psychopathy, 0.33% (1 in 300) of adult women in the general population test positive; 1% of adult males test positive; 4% of corporate CEOs test positive; 20% of inmates in prison test positive, and 50% of violent offenders test positive.

        As a comparison data point, the total post-trail prison incarceration rate in the US is right on the order of 0.57% (total is .0.73%, but 22% of that is pretrial detention, so I’m leaving that out).

        I submit that identifying brain structural deviations from “normal” using any form of imaging scans would likely find very much similar results, basically that while many people who do bad things (note not a majority in any category, only approaching 50/50 ration in violent offenders) may be psychopaths, most psychopaths do not do bad things – they are functional enough to choose not to do them.

        Obviously not all brain functional deviations present as psychopathy, but the numbers make a general point – many bad people are broken, but not even close to all broken people are bad.

        But we better sort them out and lock them all up just in case.

        And to A.B.’s point – unless you are positing perfect machine intelligences or a magic hat to entrust with performing this sorting test, people will always be involved, and people are both fallible and corruptible.

        1. Like most defects, you can raise kids not to show it. Which is why locking them up on the basis of a physical something is bad. And keeping them alive because “they’re just ill” is bad too. An uncontrolled psychopath is not a safe creature in society, and once they’ve proven they’re uncontrolled by say a killing spree, well, the public health thing is to put them out of where they endanger other people.
          So knowing they’re psychopaths helps nothing, except as an explanation. And the new “children are born perfect, don’t discipline them” methods of raising kids are going to get us in a heap of trouble.

          1. Can I say I quite agree, locking up dangerous offenders till they aren’t dangerous is a good thing.

            That said its very hard to define (other than personal injury) what is a real long term danger and many things that get long terms of incarceration are well not a great social threat to anyone. We in our societies are just as ridden by Tapu (Tabo if you prefer) as people in less developed ones

            That stuff goes so deep its very hard to define what is causing actual harm sometimes

        2. “Using the leading screening test for diagnosing psychopathy, 0.33% (1 in 300) of adult women in the general population test positive”

          WAYYYY too low, IMHO.

        3. All of us are at far more risk from the establishment, especially the Left than the sociopaths themselves. Its easy enough to check the bad behavior a few but much harder to check the inevitable Soviet political psychology that will spring up.

    2. Do the math.

      Black Swans.

      By what metric do we judge?

      Acuracy of tests?

      How many false positives?

      How many slip through?

      People are not static —> event throughout your life change you.

      1. If you put your arm in an ex-ray machine and it there’s a crack in the ulna, you have a broken arm.

        If your A1C is abnormally high you most likely have diabetes.

        There is plenty of evidence that things like ADHD (the real shit, not the overactive boys bored out of their skulls in classes designed to teach girls), Autism, Schizophrenia and Sociopathy have genetic roots. This means that by and large it IS in fact objectively testable and verifiable, if only for the baseline tendency.

        The crap you folks are pointing to isn’t *testing*, it’s someone taking their kid to a doctor (or in some cases going by the assertions of the highly trained health care professionals called “teachers”) and getting a diagnosis that gets the family more help with a troubled kid, or gets the school more money, or makes mommy feel like less of a failure or whatever.

        The fact that there are crappy people out there doesn’t change whether something *can* be tested for.

        And no Mr. Kruschke, there are some things that cannot be changed. A carnivore can, with effort, become a vegan. Well, effort and lots of vitamin supplements. But they still have eyes in the front of their head, and stripes to help hid them in the grass and all it takes is one little taste and it’s back into the tall grass and terrifying the herd animals again.

        You are what you are. Johnathon Livingston Seagull is a fairy tale without the redeeming quality of scaring kids into staying out of the woods.

        A sociopath is a sociopath. They can be *good* neighbors if their parents raised them right, and when the drums of war go beating they’re *hella* handy to have around (http://bit.ly/14mxwmY), but in the end they’re sociopaths and we *can* sort them out.

        1. Oh, man, I hate that article. Sociopaths sometimes tend to get into the military, and some commanders and sergeants are able to deal with them. But in general, they’re a danger to their own side. Historically, a lot of sociopaths tend to have people around them have accidents, so a lot of soldiers give them accidents in turn. That doesn’t mean you want an army of sociopaths.

          The article also doesn’t call out the difference between sociopaths and people who’ve been trained or raised to hunt and fight seriously. Sgt. York had to struggle with his conscience about the validity of warfare and specifically the Great War, but he didn’t have any struggle with shooting people instead of shooting into the air. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t bother to shoot at all if he wasn’t going to shoot at a specific target.

          1. There’s also a big difference between “conscience” and “nerves.” Some people just don’t suffer much in the way of PTSD, because PTSD is caused by the brain being traumatized and sort of imprinting bad things. If the person is physiologically difficult to traumatize in a certain way, that’s not going to cause him PTSD.

            Then there’s the athletic types who really enjoy adrenaline and extreme sports, or who are in love with velocity. A lot of these folks tend to enjoy war even more than jumping off mountains and doing stupid stuff for no reason, because for once there’s a very good reason to do all sorts of things they’re good at, which they don’t fear and others do.

            Being calm and slow to react emotionally to things that happen to enemy people doesn’t mean you don’t have emotions. Being a good shot or an adrenaline junkie who sort of enjoys war doesn’t mean that you’re an aggressive psychopath. The article was obviously written by somebody who doesn’t get out much, even in the Army, because his head has spent a lot of time stuck up his butt.

            1. I was going to disagree with you, but so much depends on your definition of sociopath, and there are so many definitions floating around that it is hard to say any one is definitive. I usually view a sociopath as being a person who is overly logical, not using or possibly feeling emotions, and so not taking into account the emotions of others. Obviously there are many varying degrees of every condition in humans. Using my definition what I would consider borderline sociopaths are very useful in the military, in other words as you said, “being calm and slow to react emotionally to things that happen to enemy people.”
              Colonel Petersen uses some tells to identify sociopaths that I don’t agree with, and would say go more with psychopaths, which are a detriment in the military. Again there are too many differing definitions though, so I’ll state I view a psychopath as someone who enjoys inflicting pain on others and/or is utterly unpredictable; in other words, a loose cannon.

              To use an animal metaphor, sociopaths can be predictably trained, if they are dogs they may not be the wiggle all over happy to see you, lick your face to death puppy, but they react consistently and can be trained to be excellent guard dogs or attack dogs, or seeing eye dogs, it all depends on their training. Psychopaths are unpredictable and aggressive however, they are liable to act like a rabid dog and attack for no reason. An attempt can be made to train this out of them, and if it isn’t to prevalent it can even be successful, but they are not suitable for such tasks as seeing eye dogs or children’s pets, because the tendencies are still there, and in times of stress they will be unpredictable and very possibly aggressive.

        2. The fake tests is why I had to see actual hearing and sight tests done on my son before I bought the “sensory disability.” Because it’s a physical thing but a lot of people treat it like it’s psychological. Hell, the school did, which is why he got off their categorization as soon as he could. (And FYI a lot of boys diagnosed with HDHD or just “behavior problems” have this. Well, a lot relatively. I think less than one percent of people have this, but there’s only three centers in the country who even CAN test it — fortunately one in CO, though we’d have traveled. –) It hits boys a lot more than girls, and they DO “usually” as in 80% of them grow out of it by sixteen or so. I don’t think Marshall has or ever will fully — once the symptoms were attached to the issue I went “Oh, grandad. And my uncle Seraphim!” The rest of us, too, including girls, but to a much lesser degree and we grow out of it. For some reason the ones who don’t have GREAT mechanical ability. It’s probably one of them things — BUT by sixteen he’d grown out of it enough to cope with the rest and make it work “as though” he were normal. Takes him a lot of effort, but it can be done. And he’d rather do it than be “special.”

          1. Total digression– you have an uncle named Seraphim? This is really a thing? I love the name “Seraphima” but we try to avoid faddish names, let alone ones that we made up….

            1. Seraphina is a real name. It was common in the regency. And yes, it’s a thing in Portugal. Somewhat old fashioned now, but it was very common in my dad’s generation.

            2. Alternatively, if you wanted to conjugate the word according to the Hebrew origins, “Seraph” would be masculine singular and “Serapha” or “Serephet” would be feminine singular. “-im” is masculine plural…

        3. William,

          An interesting linked article from 1999(?).

          My point was that no current test 100% accurate, the brain limbic system is to complicated to reliable predict what’s going on in an individuals brain. That some will come up false positive and some will fall through the cracks. Even in your linked article states:

          “These men rarely distinguish themselves before the moment arrives to pull the trigger.”

          You’re not suggesting we have everyone shoot some one then observe how they deal with it? That whole article was correlation & conjecture based on none controlled observations.

          Also, it conflates sociopathy with this new made up term Natural Killer. There’s also a lot if qualifying adverbs: most likely…. Could be & the like. 

          Now to your claim that we ‘can’ figure out who is an who isn’t a sociopath or is that a violent psychopath…..





          We can’t even figure out what to call something let a lone figure out what causes violent behavior, or predict who will use it unjustly.

          1. You know, now I have this evil society where you have to kill someone and be observed before you can be an assassin or something.
            OTOH didn’t the Spartans do that, before you were a “warrior” — aka a man?

            1. That what Frank Miller said the Spartians had to do in 300. Not sure how accurate.


            2. That is a fairly common trope, and in all likelihood is actually somewhat true in the assassin’s profession. I mean really, who wants to hire an assassin that has never killed anybody?

              1. I would add a follow-up qualification: It has to be more than a year prior, with the killer not being caught.

                1. Hmmm… An interesting catch 22 how do you prove your qualifications without providing the proof that convicts you of the crime.

                  1. Obviously, the killing is witnessed by the individual Judging your worthiness for the job of assassin. [Wink]

        4. Rather, there are genetic things that are more common in folks who genuinely have some problems– cause/effect, or how many folks have the markers without the problem, isn’t established.

          Also, what SuburbanBanshee said about the “sociopaths are good for war.” It’s just warmed-over othering of military folks– you may as well claim that sociopaths are superior doctors, after all they’d be better able to cut folks up without flinching. That an officer swallowed it and thinks that “sociopath, antisocial personality type or undercontrolled personality type” all apply to the exact same phenomena shouldn’t be surprising to anybody who’s been enlisted. (Probably not to most officers, either, but you never can tell.)

  15. Would it be useful to introduce the Heinleinian notion of “citizen” here? One is a “human” by virtue of your 42 chromosomes, but you become a “citizen” only after you earn it, say through service in the Federation Mobile Infantry, or by completing some lesser rite of passage. The rights of man inhere to all humanity, but the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship are only for the worthy.

    1. Political pressure will eventually change it into universal suffrage. Remember that the US used to limit the franchise as well.

  16. “(I find it particularly perverse when people advocate death to the unborn – particularly the viable unborn – or the newborn, or the disabled — who fit harmless and helpless but are against the death penalty for proven and unrepentant criminals.  I can’t even begin to imagine how one gets to that state of broken, though I believe it starts with good intentions and trying to be holier than our peers.)”

    ‘Othering’ what is done to the other doesn’t count.

    Sarah you count the unborn as being human, the other side doesn’t. The other side sees the unborn either as an extension of the mother or as a parasite. (Not a separate human.) And a criminal is a broken human that need compassion & understanding……  Blah… blah… blah.

  17. Has anyone else noticed the more civalized we become, the less civil we treat each other?

    Used to be courtesy and respect was a mater of survival.

  18. As I write this, Discovery Channel is devoting an entire week to a celebration of Inhumanity — creatures which ascribes to Reese’s Law*:

    “It cannot be bargained with! It cannot be reasoned with! it doesn’t understand Fear, or Pity, or Mercy, or Remorse; and it *absolutely* *WILL* *NOT* *STOP* — *EVER* — until you are *dead*!”

    [*; from _The Terminator_]

    As to IDing them: “You don’t have to go to Chattanooga to see Rock City.”

      1. Except sharks often just ignore you – I was told a story by an acquaintance about her experience diving in the kelp beds off Santa Cruz, hearing a whoosh as a sea lion shot right by her at warp 12 or so, followed closely by a silently speeding very large Great White Shark passing within arms reach as she hovered there watching – it passed her by, just kept on chasing the sea lion. She proceeded to exit the ocean with haste.

        And apparently we taste bad too, as multiple surfers attacked by Great Whites along the Northern CA coast can testify as they were spit out as soon as the shark realized the thing floating on the surface was not in fact a tasty marine mammal at all. The danger, of course, is bleeding out before you can get to shore and first aid.

        Note despite being born and raised here, I don’t surf.

        1. Dad grew up in western Florida and tells of having sharks swim overhead while he was skin diving. They ignored him. These were not Makos or Great Whites, but even small sharks can make a good-sized hole.

          1. Yup, I swam around sharks, and even chased them around getting pictures (the joys of being young and dumb, you don’t think) in Florida. None of them over 8 or 9 feet though, and I was smart enough not to jump in where they were cleaning fish on the docks and the hammerheads were gathered so thickly in a feeding frenzy it looked like you could walk from one dock to the next on their backs.

      2. Nat Geo is running their own version of it as well …I guess to confuse and compete.

    1. I prefer the Jaws speech.

      “Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that’s all.”

      > >

Comments are closed.