Two Articles, One Perspective

January was an emotional roller-coaster. Around the middle of the month, our dog was diagnosed with an anomaly in his intestine – a blockage or a tumor discovered via x-ray to figure out why he was losing weight and not eating. A week later, I had to come to face the inevitable decision to say goodbye to a friend, protector, and muse of seven and a half years; being by his side was simultaneously the best and worst thing I have experienced in our time together.

Our time is limited and therefore never guaranteed… 25Jan2020 (Source: author)

Understandably, a personal disaster such as this one reinforced my stance on refraining from participating in controversial discussions. My patience was nonexistent and the fleeting satisfaction which would come from the brutal honesty that I knew would issue forth is never how I would like to present on social media.

Writing has always been a coping mechanism for me, however, and I did offer my perspective on one article when a friend requested input for a college course on critical thinking.

Trump’s white, male team is a bad look for America and bad for national security, too

Oh, this is such a fun idea that I had to open up a Word document to compile and compose my thoughts on it…

Critical thinking…

Opinion pieces, from what I have seen are just that: a collection of thoughts centered around a bias or position which rarely addresses the facts of the opposition; in other words, emotional rants which hope to come across as critical, but are more undemanding or convenient towards a central point.  

“The lack of diversity means Trump and his team aren’t getting the best advice available.”

So… what are the absolute necessities for becoming part of such a team? The writer implies that the major fault here isn’t that the folks on that team are qualified, vetted, and selected for their potential, but that they don’t fit an arbitrary definition of “diversity.” Such a statement indicates the potential for a very predictable slide down the “until the individual fits our predetermined ideas of a ‘qualified’ candidate” path. There could be the “proper” level of diversity, but if those individuals do not fit the party or the social cause, then they will be disparaged, discredited, and dismissed until… well, until people just tune the critics out.

“He stood amid top members of his national security team, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other military officers. All men and all white.”

See above. I am pretty sure that it is quite difficult to get to a position on the JCS or on the President’s national security team. Generals don’t spontaneously grow on trees and the various “Secretaries of…” isn’t a position advertised and filled from LinkedIn or Indeed. At the same time, past examples of JCS and NSC members which did diverge from the “all men and white” are instantly disregarded with the implication that there has never been anything different… despite two of the prior (Powell and Rice) falling under the “proper but not fitting” ideal espoused by those who focus on identity and affiliation rather than qualification and ability.

“Instead of setting an example for the rest of the world, the United States, under Trump, is sanctioning a worldview that excludes women and people of color from positions of power and influence.”

I get the intent of what the writer is advocating – that these positions and the paths necessary for achieving them have historically seen little in the way of diversity. So, let’s look at the foundations of what draws folks to these paths… what motivates people to achieve regardless of the challenges they face. Again, this goes to the power of identity and affiliation; unless these are proper, then the same folks who bemoan the lack of diversity will attack those who are diverse but different.

“Advocating for more diversity in national security decision-making is not about checking a box.”

Apparently, it is – much of this opinion piece indicates it. 12 mentions of “white” in reference to color, 9 uses of “diversity,” and NO mentions of the words “qualification,” “fit,” or “successful.”

“But consider the facts of your argument!”

Facts are disputable and disposal, these days. Especially in opinion pieces.

“Of course, this is just… like… my opinion, man.”

Today, another friend got me on a somewhat similar rant centered on the debacle that the 2020 Iowa caucus has turned into.

Delayed Results Lead to Confusion in Iowa

This whole thing is bordering between hilarity and lunacy.

I find it extremely ironic that the same technology that is so easily exploitable is so relied upon… to everyone’s complete surprise.

Want accurate results?

Don’t use fallible processes.

I would rant more, but it would become a profane exercise in rhetoric disdain.

[I lied – the two posts inspired more.]

You know I am politically Independent; I am also very critical of the processes and attitudes we see in use today.

That being said, you are VERY right – the DNC has become their own worst enemy for many reasons. The biggest, in my opinion, is the fact that they have undermined any and every chance they have of being sensible and rational… and they continue to do so every day. I found Tulsi’s interview on the Joe Rogan Experience very sane and rational… yet it would appear that “sane and rational” is not in vogue these days.

Preempting my own tangent… the Wall Street Journal had an interesting take on a key issue with the app used:

“The cybersecurity wing of the Department of Homeland Security recently offered to do some security testing on the app but the Iowa Democratic Party declined the outreach, according to people familiar with the matter. DHS declined to comment on the app, referring questions to the Iowa Democratic Party. After being sent multiple requests for comment, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party said that she was checking about this and would circle back.

The state party has defended its plan, with officials saying in January that they were confident in their security systems and that if there were errors, the party would be able to correct them because there would also be paper records of the votes.”

Go back to that last sentence: “…they were confident in their security systems…” Overconfidence equates to hubris – “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” I don’t give a rat’s ass about which side of issues folks are – overconfidence has been a deciding factor in politics, warfare, and organizational matters for as long as any of these things have been around. Human nature, I suppose… I just find it fascinating that, as you stated, it is 2020 and we are still surprised by inevitable and undeniable realities of our biases, actions, and the factor of hubris.

My prediction: the DNC will continue to spin itself to the point of failure. If they don’t get their crap together, they will cease to be politically relevant – not just in November of this year, but in 2024 as well… and that will become an issue – the great thing about two-party systems is that competition fosters results-oriented action. Once the competition is gone, then the other party may very well succumb to… you guessed it – overconfidence and complacency. The failure of one does NOT guarantee the success of the other; we will all lose if we don’t realize that together.

On the face of things, it would appear that both articles could not be more unrelated. The unifying theme – for the purpose of this post – is one of the erosion of balance and accountability in politics.

I later used two analogies regarding balance:

“…that is what is the unifying factor in pretty much everything we do.

We get an unbalanced load, we are all over the place; passengers in the momentum of shifts and inertia like a crazed and self-destructive washing machine […] either that or a Tilt-A-Whirl… maintained by anarchists and operated by nihilists.”

This is the problem that I see: that we are becoming so consumed with our identity and technology that we are rapidly losing focus on who we might become and what we may lose in the process of “progress.”

In this sense, “identity” can imply many facets of who we are as individuals – or how we are characterized as by others. Black or white… male or female… gay or straight… Democrat or Republican… there are so many adjective pairings that to continue would belabor my point. We are starting to entrench on this one idea that, in doing so, we place that label higher than anything else that might truly matter – cooperative… empathetic… considerate… patient… resilient… compassionate… effective. The former adjectives overrule the latter because the focus is more on the self rather than the collaborative ability; who we are becomes more vital than what we can contribute.

Binding this is technology. We have, in the palm of our hands or on our desks, devices which can summon information from Space Shuttle Main Engine startup sequences to the sound-reduction qualities of owls’ wings… we can have instant translation of complex ideas… we can communicate and form friendships over thousands of miles without ever physically meeting… we can share frustrations, joys, activities, and effort… all with the aid of the same technology which can be effectively and surreptitiously used against us… is becoming a medium for misinformation… and is becoming the crutch upon which we have become physically and intellectually dependent.

I love the idea of individual responsibility – long-time readers of this blog are undoubtedly familiar with this recurring theme. As a result, some of the writings of Sir Karl Popper resonate appropriately:

The point is that in a two-party system the defeated party is liable to take an electoral defeat seriously. So it may look for an internal reform of its aims, which is an ideological reform. If the party is defeated twice in succession, or even three times, the search for new ideas may become frantic, which obviously is a healthy development. This is likely to happen, even if the loss of votes was not very great.

Reform is only possible if the need is realized; however, reform cannot be enacted just for the sake of social progress or expediency. Opinion pieces, media analyses, blogs… none of these things are vital in true reform – it has to be the epiphany of the individual and a collective effort beyond identity.

As always, we have choices:

Continue on the current path of division, diversion, and derision of those who do not fit into the shifting definitions of “acceptable” while we continue to empower the technology and – indirectly – those who control it…

Realize our own hubris and make slow steps in understanding how to mitigate the impact of overconfidence, echo chambers, and the mechanisms/processes which can facilitate positive actions as easily as negative behaviors…

…Or continue to think and write about what this might mean for later generations…

4 thoughts on “Two Articles, One Perspective

  1. Pingback: milsurpwriter
  2. It took me an hour to get past your dog. I have had to rehome my two dogs in the last 7 years (Ben was allergic to Jack, and we had no place to keep Lola when we moved here).

    I was driving the truck yesterday and came to a house where a large dog was very excited to see me. The lady was very apologetic, but I reveled in the dog rushing up to me and letting me pet him. I had to explain to her that unlike most of the drivers, I am a ‘”dog guy.” It makes my day when I get a few moments to be friends with a dog.

    Anyway, the more technology turns us into idiots, the more we convince ourselves that we’re too smart to fail. And in a hundred years, historians will make fun of us for our idiotcy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s been over a week and it is still difficult to go past his “room.” Pretty amazing that we bond so strongly with creatures who can never directly tell us how appreciative they are…

      “…the more technology turns us into idiots, the more we convince ourselves that we’re too smart to fail.”

      Very true… though we don’t have to wait for future historians – we are making fun of our shortcomings as I write this…


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