Kid Shaming: Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong

 Posted by on 14 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Children, Ethics, Justice, Parenting
Jan 142014
 

Dog shaming is funny: it’s a harmless way for dog owners to amuse themselves (or blow off steam) about the naughty behavior of their dogs. It’s harmless because the dogs don’t know that they’re being publicly shamed and mocked. (They can’t read, after all.)

Kid shaming is another matter entirely. Here’s one example and here’s another. Such public shaming teaches the worst possible moral lessons — particularly that you can’t trust people who claim to love you and that life will be good so long as you conceal your mistakes and wrongs from the authorities. It’s a betrayal of a child’s trust in a parent, not to mention an unconscionable abuse of parental authority. To see how and why, read this article: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time.

Just imagine if your boss publicly shamed you at the office — or the whole wide world — for your mistakes and wrongs. Really, just imagine that for a moment. Think of your last screw-up, whether large or small. I bet that you’d learn one of the following lessons from the article, just like kids do:

  • Bully your kids and they will learn to fear you. As in be afraid of you. Cringing in your presence and hiding their lives from you.
  • Publicly shame your kids and they will learn the only important character development is to be found in a good public persona and the fool’s gold of value based solely upon outward perception and public approval
  • Mock your children as they struggle and they will learn to never share their struggles with you.
  • Share their weaknesses with the world and they will find the world to be cruel and will put you in the role of the cruelest of all.
  • They will think they are a joke, not to be taken seriously. Their pain the only commodity to sell.
  • They will treat you as you have treated them.

Parents, you can do better!

The Power of Speaking Out

 Posted by on 10 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Bullying, Culture, Ethics, Racism
Jan 102014
 

Paul sent me this video, knowing that I’d like it. He was right!

Update: I just fixed the video, so that it works now!

I love to see people speaking out against such racist bullying, even when remaining silent would be the easier course. Bullies are cowards at heart. They’ll almost always back down in face of firm opposition, which is part of why it’s so important to say that they’re wrong, clearly and openly. Also, speaking out against a bully helps the victims: they don’t feel alone and under attack from all sides. That’s why I liked the first woman most of all: her immediate focus was to protect the victim from these vicious comments by letting her know that she rejected the bully’s racism.

Videos like this one give me hope for the future of American culture. Americans are concerned about justice — and many will not stand idly by while another person is unjustly victimized. We just need to figure out how to reach them with rational principles in ways that make sense to them.

Jan 092014
 

Lately, I’ve gotten a slew of hits to this video from Philosophy in Action: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? It’s now gotten nearly 5,000 views. Nice!

That’s awesome. Alas, awesome often comes paired with crazy, such as this comment:

Let’s think about this bit — “If a woman steals a mans seed without his consent, does she have a right to live?” — for a moment.

First, I’m pretty sure that a man voluntarily gives his “seed” to a woman in having sex with her. That’s rather the point, in fact.

Second, are we talking death penalty?!? Um, wow.

Finally, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t ever suggest up-front that your audience might think you a sociopath after reading your opinion. It might just prejudice them against you… just a bit.

Jan 072014
 

Recently, I ran across this list of 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. It’s not a great list in many ways, but some of the proposed rules are fine. Kids should learn to make polite requests, including saying “please” and “thank-you.” Obviously, that’s part of being a decent adult too.

However, I have a strong aversion to the rules designed just for kids, such as #3:

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Really? Adults interrupt each other all the time. Can’t kids be taught those mores — or how to do that politely? Surely, this rule seems to imply that any conversation among adults, no matter how trivial, is more important than any concern of the child, except life-and-death. That’s not good!

Also, #6:

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Dislikes are important! Knowing what you dislike is part of knowing what you like. A kid who can introspect and explain his dislikes is going to be better equipped to pursue his values, both as a kid and as an adult. He will be able to assert himself, including against bullies and exploiters. Yes, dislikes can be expressed in rude or otherwise inappropriate ways. However, merely expressing dislikes is far from rude in and of itself. That’s why adults express dislikes routinely. (Alas, part of the problem here is that parents often don’t take the likes and dislikes of their children seriously.)

Oh, and #13:

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

To that, I will only say: Speak for yourself, jerkwad!

Obviously, I’m not opposed to all rules designed for kids. Kids aren’t just small adults, so any rules should consider their ignorance, lack of self-control, clumsiness, weakness, and other relevant facts. So definitely don’t let the two-year-old run around the house with the kitchen knives.

However, when teaching social graces, kids need practice at polite methods of accomplishing their aims. Simply demanding that kids never interrupt, keep silent about what they dislike, and never curse doesn’t do that. Such bans leave kids without guidance and without practice — and likely with some resentment of their parents for being hypocritical and oppressive. Parents, you can do better than that!

 

I love this brave and thoughtful Salon essay by Caitlin Seida so very much: My embarrassing picture went viral. It begins:

I logged onto my Facebook one morning to find a message from a girlfriend. “You’re internet famous!” it read. She sent a link to a very public page whose sole purpose was posting images that mock people’s appearances. There I was in full glory — a picture of me dressed as my hero Lara Croft: Tomb Raider for Halloween — but written over the image were the words “Fridge Raider.”

Initially, she wasn’t angry, but then she saw some of the comments:

“What a waste of space,” read one. Another: “Heifers like her should be put down.” Yet another said I should just kill myself “and spare everyone’s eyes.” Hundreds of hateful messages, most of them saying that I was a worthless human being and shaming me for having the audacity to go in public dressed as a sexy video game character. How dare I dress up and have a good time!

We all know the awful humiliation of a person laughing at you. But that feeling increases tenfold when it seems like everyone is laughing at you. Scrolling through the comments, the world imploded — and took my heart with it.

In addition to issuing takedown requests to various web sites — which she was able to do because the photo was hers — she also confronted people directly about their nasty comments:

…Facebook made it easy to find people who had commented on the images. By now, the picture had metastasized through reposts on Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, 9Gag, FailBlog. But looking through the Facebook “like” function, I could track down the most offensive commenters.

Most of them were women. Shocked? I wasn’t. Anyone who’s survived high school can tell you how women slice each other up to make ourselves feel better. I sent several of those women a message.

“You’re being an asshole,” the note said. “Why don’t you just do the right thing and delete the post and stop sharing it?”

The most common response was not remorse or defensiveness but surprise. They were startled that I could hear what they’d been saying. Their Facebook pages were set to private, after all. Most didn’t realize that when you post to a public page through your Facebook account, it doesn’t matter that your own content is restricted: The whole world can read your words anyway.

And of course, they hadn’t really thought of me as a person. Why should they? These images are throwaways, little bursts of amusement to get through a long workday. You look, you chuckle, you get some ridicule off your chest and move on to the next source of distraction. No one thought about the possibility that I might read those words. Far less, that I would talk back.

Read that last paragraph again. Personally, I’m going to be more careful about the funny things I share. I don’t want to be even a small part of any social media wave that makes a decent person’s life miserable.

Of particular concern, I think, are seemingly hilarious commentaries on the supposedly bad behavior of other people, such as this one by Elan Gale: This Man Is Hilariously Live-Tweeting His Flight-and-Feud With The Woman in #7A. I thought it mildly funny until I read the other side of the story: Bullying at 35 thousand feet. Of course, I have no way to determine the veracity of either story: both might be inventions. Yet the incident is instructive, I think. As I posted to Facebook:

It seems high time for everyone (including me!) to be suspicious of reports of god-awful behavior by random strangers. Perhaps the story is fabricated or embellished — or perhaps the circumstances aren’t quite what they seem — or perhaps the person who “schooled” the jerk just enjoys feeling like a self-righteous, sanctimonious prick. Surely, any truly awful person isn’t going to reform due to being the laughingstock of the internet… and it’s too likely that a good person will be unjustly vilified instead.

I love laughter, I really do… but there’s plenty of funny in the world without being unjust or malicious.

The Beauty of Gratitude

 Posted by on 14 November 2013 at 11:00 am  Benevolence, Education, Ethics, Justice
Nov 142013
 

On November 7th, Letters of Note published this touching and beautiful letter from Albert Camus to Louis Germain, the teacher who helped him rise so far beyond the miserable circumstances of his birth and childhood. (See the post on Letters of Note for a few details about that.)

19 November 1957

Dear Monsieur Germain,

I let the commotion around me these days subside a bit before speaking to you from the bottom of my heart. I have just been given far too great an honour, one I neither sought nor solicited.

But when I heard the news, my first thought, after my mother, was of you. Without you, without the affectionate hand you extended to the small poor child that I was, without your teaching and example, none of all this would have happened.

I don’t make too much of this sort of honour. But at least it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart.

Albert Camus

Ah, what a perfection of gratitude that is!

Coming Out of Closets, Gay and Otherwise

 Posted by on 12 November 2013 at 10:00 am  Ethics, GLBT, Honesty, Secrets
Nov 122013
 

“At some point in our lives, we all live in closets and they may feel safe, or at least safer than what lies on the other side of that door. But I am here to tell you, no matter what your walls are made of, a closet is no place for a person to live.” Hear, hear!

There’s so much awesome in this TEDx talk by Ash Beckham. Don’t miss it!

 

I’m delighted to announce that my first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, is now available for purchase in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook.

The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel’s “problem of moral luck.” It’s an academic work but accessible to anyone with an interest in philosophy.

About Responsibility & Luck

Does the pervasive influence of luck in life mean that people cannot be held responsible for their choices? Do people lack the control required to justify moral praise and blame?

In his famous article “Moral Luck,” philosopher Thomas Nagel casts doubt on our ordinary moral judgments of persons. He claims that we intuitively accept that moral responsibility requires control, yet we praise and blame people for their actions, the outcomes of those actions, and their characters — even though shaped by forces beyond their control, i.e., by luck. This is the “problem of moral luck.”

Philosopher Diana Hsieh argues that this attack on moral judgment rests on a faulty view of control, as well as other errors. By developing Aristotle’s theory of moral responsibility, Hsieh explains the sources and limits of a person’s responsibility for what he does, what he produces, and who he is. Ultimately, she shows that moral judgments are not undermined by luck.

In addition, this book explores the nature of moral agency and free will, the purpose of moral judgment, causation in tort and criminal law, the process of character development, and more.

For more information, including two sample chapters and the detailed table of contents, visit the book’s web page.

Again, you can purchase Responsibility & Luck in paperback, as well as for Kindle and Nook.

Paperback Kindle Nook

Like every author, I depend on good reviews of the book on Amazon, social media, and elsewhere. So once you’ve read Responsibility & Luck, please review it!

The Illusion of Karma

 Posted by on 16 October 2013 at 10:00 am  Benevolence, Charity, Ethics, Metaphysics
Oct 162013
 

Many people imagine that the universe doles out good fortune or bad fortune to people via some mysterious and even mystical process. The truth is far simpler. Much of the time, people create their own future circumstances — for better or worse — via their own choices, including choices to associate with some people rather than others.

Often, people receive what they give to others — magnified — if their benevolence is well-placed. Yet it’s often difficult, if not impossible, to know precisely where to invest your generosity in advance. Many promising people turn out to be disappointments in the end, while gems are found in unexpected corners. Casting a wide net via small acts of generosity can be an effective and rewarding way to find those hidden gems.

This moving short video shows that phenomena in action:

Oct 102013
 

This excellent blog post on Kant’s various crazy views by UC Riverside philosophy professor Eric Schwitzgebel details some of the crazy views that I covered in my recent broadcast on Kant’s views on sex. It’s worth reading though for its tidbits on including on organ donation, women in politics, and more.

At the end of the post, Schwitzgebel draws two lessons, both worthy of consideration:

First, from our cultural distance, it is evident that Kant’s arguments against masturbation, for the return of wives to abusive husbands, etc., are gobbledy-gook. This should make us suspicious that there might be other parts of Kant, too, that are gobbledy-gook, for example, the stuff that transparently reads like gobbledy-gook, such as the transcendental deduction, and such as his claims that his various obviously non-equivalent formulations of the fundamental principle of morality are in fact “so many formulations of precisely the same law” (Groundwork, 4:436, Zweig trans.). I read Kant as a master at promising philosophers what they want and then effusing a haze of words with glimmers enough of hope that readers can convince themselves that there is something profound underneath.

Second, Kant’s philosophical moral reasoning appears mainly to have confirmed his prejudices and the ideas inherited from his culture. We should be nervous about expecting more from the philosophical moral reasoning of people less philosophically capable than Kant.

I added the bold, because I think that’s so damn true. Kant does not merely handwave on occasion. So many of Kant’s arguments are rationalistic, pie-in-the-sky handwaving, where mere associations between words are supposed to give the force of argument.

My only point of disagreement is that I strongly suspect that the various horrifying ethical claims surveyed in the blog post were significant worse than the prejudices of his culture. For example, children born out of wedlock might have been stigmatized, but I doubt that more than a few crazies thought they could be killed with impunity. Then again, maybe I’m overestimating the moral culture of Königsberg.

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