The Agony Is Painful to Watch

People urgently need to catch up on their grade school science education* to avoid coming up with weird statements like these:

It is a curious scientific fact (explained in evolutionary biology by the Trivers-Willard hypothesis — Willard, notice) that high-status animals tend to have more male offspring than female offspring, which holds true across many species, from red deer to mink to Homo sap. The offspring of rich families are statistically biased in favor of sons — the children of the general population are 51 percent male and 49 percent female, but the children of the Forbes billionaire list are 60 percent male. Have a gander at that Romney family picture: five sons, zero daughters. Romney has 18 grandchildren, and they exceed a 2:1 ratio of grandsons to granddaughters (13:5). When they go to church at their summer-vacation home, the Romney clan makes up a third of the congregation. He is basically a tribal chieftain.

Professor Obama? Two daughters. May as well give the guy a cardigan. And fallopian tubes.

The suggestion that a high social standing or a huge amount of money somehow make a man’s sperm more likely to produce a male baby is so bizarre that it makes me wonder whether the author has been skipping his anti-psychotic medication. Coupled with the comments about women’s bodies being incapable of conception during rape, I’m starting to get worried about the future of this nation.

Of all the reasons to vote or not vote for a candidate, the gender of their children is among the most idiotic ones. I understand that many people are too dumb to develop opinions on politics and economy. This makes them look for more understandable ways of managing the complexities of our shared social reality. My question is: why do we, people who actually possess working brains, have to be exposed to the arrant idiocy of these losers? If they aren’t even smart enough to pick up a book on human reproduction for 3-year-olds (of the kind that say things like, “When Mommy and Daddy really like each other and want to make a baby. . .”), then they should just shut the fuck up and listen to people who are not complete idiots.

For shame, people. This is the XXI century. We can all read, there is an unprecedented access to all kinds of information. We should not be reading and discussing this kind of egregious ignorance in this day and age. Our Medieval ancestors are laughing at us from their graves. This election cycle is bringing out really weird things. And this is still August. I’m afraid to imagine what we will see and hear come October.

On the positive side, I once again want to remind you of my prediction that we are witnessing the agony of the ultra-conservative fanatically religious movement in this country. It is flailing and thrashing because its days are numbered and it is well aware of that. After it dies out, we fill finally see an intelligent, reasonable, logic-loving and educated Conservative movement. We will disagree with it but we will be able to respect it and listen to its views with interest. I know I said this before but I feel that this kind of reassurance is needed.

* Yes, I know there is no grade school science education. And that is precisely the problem.

Peaceful Turn

I’m trying to explain to my students (in Spanish) what “El turno pacifico” means*.

“Imagine, for example, that Obama and Romney get together and decide that, OK, to hell with the elections, we’ll just agree to hand the power over to each other every 4 years, and the votes can be falsified to make those results look legitimate. This is pretty much what happened with Spain’s “Peaceful Turn.”

“Ah! I knew this!” a student exclaims.

“What?” I ask.

“I knew the system in this country is completely corrupt! It makes no sense to go to the polls in November because the results are already predetermined.”

“No, no,” I say, horrified. “I was talking about Spain in the early XXth century. Not the US. You should definitely vote in November. The elections are real.”

“Yeah, right,” the student scoffs.

I think I should stop giving contemporary examples to avoid making students even more suspicious of the political process than they already are.

* “After almost a whole century of political instability and many civil wars, the aim of the Restoration was to ensure political stability in Spain. Under this plan, El Turno Pacífico (or “The Peaceful Turn”) was a system . . . whereby the two “official” parties . . . alternated in power. Its key features were that the government would first be chosen by the king and would then “make” the election, ensuring victory. After a period in office, it would then be the turn of the opposition. The Turno Pacifico excluded all other parties from the possibility of victory. This was achieved by electoral fraud: caciques in most constituencies would instruct their clients how to vote. . . It lacked a responsiveness to popular opinion as (until about 1914) the outcome was broadly decided in advance.”

Does Political Psychology Make Sense?

Voxcorvegis cites a very weird study in the field of political psychology that says the following:

Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical.

OK, let’s use me as a case in point. I don’t mind confessing (because everybody has noticed this already, I’m sure) that I’m inflexible to the point of rigidity, incapable of entertaining or appreciating ambiguity, endlessly moralizing, extremely judgmental, persistent like a bulldog, and thrive on order and routine. As much as I’d like to see myself as creative, flexible and tolerant, there is too much self-delusion that needs to happen for me to have this image of myself. Yet I’m a Liberal of the kind that condemns President Obama for being too conservative for my tastes.

But wait, there is more:

Evidence suggests that these personality differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age. A 20-year longitudinal study by Jack and Jeanne Block showed that those who grew up to be liberals were originally assessed by their preschool teachers as more emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive when compared to those who became conservatives, who were considered more inhibited, uncertain, and controlled.

We don’t have any of my childhood teachers reading the blog but we do have people who knew me at 4, 5, 6, etc. They will confirm for you that, as a child, I was painfully shy, extremely inhibited, and silent. The music teacher I had at the age of 6 told my mother that I would probably grow up to be a serial killer because my lack of affect was sociopathic. (The word “autism” was unknown at that time.)

At the same time, my sister, who is and always was gregarious, emotionally expressive, impulsive, creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences in a way I could never hope to be, consistently votes Conservative back in Canada.

Obviously, this is anecdotal evidence but the descriptions of the liberals and conservatives offered in the article make no sense to me. Is political psychology even a legitimate field?

Casual Sex

I don’t believe in casual sex. I mean I don’t believe it exists. We can tell ourselves as many times as we want, “Oh, this will be completely casual because this is precisely the kind of person I always said I’d never date and, besides, I’m moving into another country in 15 minutes.” And then you find yourself married to this person, living with him in Southern Illinois, and fantasizing about walking around the assisted living facility, holding hands with him 50 years from now. In the meanwhile, your friends are peeing themselves with laughter because of all the times you ranted about the impossibility of limiting yourself to a single person even for one year, let alone a lifetime.

While we try to control reality with our labels and categories, life happens.