Cultural Traps, Part III

Observing your own culture with a detached eye helps one recognize the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. I’ve written about some of these traps before, those parts of American culture that we all take for granted but might not actually make sense.

In this third edition, I’m going to look at some things that might be emerging trends in America that are both really stupid and really dangerous, many culled from my own experiences and observations. 

Some of these might not be uniquely American. They may just be human nature. But when I see my countrymen and women (whatever the hell that means anymore) act like scary monsters, I can’t help but see these tendencies shaded in red, white, and blue. 

Opposing one thing automatically means liking the other.

Are you against the death penalty? Then you clearly want to open all the prisons and are super-soft on crime.  

…or maybe you’re just against the death penalty. 

Perhaps you oppose partial-birth abortion. You obviously want women at risk of death die from birth complications to die. 

…or maybe you’re just against partial-birth abortion. 

This might be more of a logical fallacy than a cognitive trap, but it is still (a) everywhere l, and (b) dumb.

Unintelligent people think like this, or liars. I’m sorry if that sounds mean, but it’s true. One is either incapable of seeing this trap, or is wielding it as a rhetorical club. 

If the former, you can learn. If the latter, its effective, sure, but it really doesn’t move the needle in any direction. It does something that could arguably be another entry on this list, which is assuming ill intent on the part of the other. Rhetorically, it’s a weapon. But it weakens your own position and makes you look silly. You risk losing credibility, which in a debate–akin to a trial–is the kiss of death.  

Disproportionality and overreaction, aka hysteria.

Debating is an art that requires practice and preparation. It also requires an understanding of the rules of a particular interaction, such as whether the relationship with your opponent will be ongoing, whether you’re trying to change the other’s mind, or whether you’re trying to illustrate a point to your observers. But either way, you want to make your points using reason, logic, and evidence.

Of course, what really changes hearts and minds is emotion. So use rhetoric where applicable. It’s very effective, and for some people, whether you call them midwits or IYIs (“intellectuals, yet idiots,” per Nassim Nicholas Taleb), that’s all they understand.

This trap dovetails nicely with the first, but it’s distinguished by what I call default nuclear. Continue reading “Cultural Traps, Part III”

Living for Dying: No One Said Life Has to Make Sense

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It’s can be frustrating, can’t it? The ambition inflation of a certain generation weaned on the belief that it could do anything, be anyone, all because you were you? Both being of and dealing with this generation.

The truth is, you can do nearly whatever you want in America. But it’s not because the world owes you anything. In fact, it owes you nothing (or, as my grandfather used to put it, “The world doesn’t owe you shit.”) You have to go out and grab it.

But if you were raised in a cage of safety, affluent, and never facing any hardship, you likely don’t have that drive. It’s a strange paradox.

So your life sucks and it’s entirely your fault. What are you going to do about it?

My life doesn’t suck, but it hasn’t worked out as I planned it. This is for two reasons:

  1.  Life rarely, if ever, works out how you plan it; and
  2. I failed to go all-in on the things I should have gone all-in on.

Things didn’t work out as planned–who cares?

I don’t! I enjoy challenges, and life is a challenge.

When you’re 18 or 20 and you’re making plans, it’s delusional to think they’ll pan out to the letter. Unforeseen things pop up. They always do.

With the right kind of plans–that is, overarching visions and systems to achieve them, as opposed to nothing more than concrete goals–one’s younger years can be better served achieving some level of fruition later on.

If you tell yourself “I have to be X by this date,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

Far better to tell yourself “I shall do X every day so that I’ll put myself in the best position to achieve Y.”

This requires being comfortable with ambiguity. Many of us aren’t comfortable with this when we’re younger, but the older you get and the more you experience, the more ambiguity becomes a puzzle to figure out than a scary monster to run from.

That said, ambiguity can have its drawbacks. And yet, aside from things like career and where you live and family composition, it can seep into other areas of your life. Things like:

I’m going to dive deep here, so hold on. You have been warned. Continue reading “Living for Dying: No One Said Life Has to Make Sense”

The Three Political Phases

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As a part of the attempt to tie everything in life together, from time to time one needs to focus on politics.

Politics is garbage. I understand this. But it pays attention to me, so I need to pay attention to it. Politics forces me to care, because I would like to have at least a little say in what’s going on.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed my own shift in my relationship to politics, moving from the emotional end of the spectrum towards the more pragmatic. Of course, emotion still plays a part, and it’s all on a sliding scale, but I have identified three distinct phases that can be seen as milestones on this journey.

But first, let’s talk about where this touchy relationship with politics stems from. I’m not going to talk about individual issues or policies, just politics as a concept.

Emotion Über Alles

The funny thing about politics is we like to pretend that it’s some sort of dispassionate battle of ideas, where we are hashing out the best way to govern ourselves, maximizing liberty and equality for all. This is a total fallacy.

Any view of politics that posits man as a rational being is destined to fail. Politics is emotionally charged, just like everything else us humans do. Here’s an example: You can take a Democrat’s positions, ask a bunch of self-described Republicans if they agree with them without telling them where they come from, and you will get a whole bunch of them agreeing that the positions are good. But when you tell them that those are actually the talking points of some Democrat politician, they’ll say no way and turn the ideas down.

See? Emotional.

And yet eventually, you do come to a point in life where all you wants is for what works to happen. For example, look at the refugee situation in Europe. It is clear that the European Union’s immigration and border policies are not working, and in fact are actively harming life in its member countries. In fact, they’re a catastrophe, leading to a spike in terrorist attacks and sex crimes, and generally destroying social cohesion and the European way of life. And yet what are many European leaders doing? Keeping on the same course while doing nothing to stop the harm to their own citizens. It’s no wonder that the people of Europe are so fed up with their elite’s refusal to do what actually would help Europe: control their borders.

See what I mean about politics paying attention to you?

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The same happens here in the United States too; don’t kid yourself. In addition to immigration, we have questions about taxation and regulation, foreign labor, military interventionism, healthcare, and just about everything else you can imagine. No leader likes to admit mistakes (this notwithstanding). Did George W. Bush ever admit that going to war in Iraq was maybe not his best idea? Has Barack Obama ever admitted that Obamacare, or getting involved in Libya didn’t quite work out as promised? Of course not. Admitting failure is anathema to a politician. It’s anathema to most of us, actually. Because we are not rational human beings.

From top to bottom, from the leader of the free world to the down-on-his-luck panhandler down the street, we all largely react on emotion. Which brings us to the three political phases, moving from the emotional and rigid to the more nuanced. And I’ve noticed this shift in most people my age.

Here are the political phases as I’ve identified them. Continue reading “The Three Political Phases”

Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life

I make fun of the legal profession a lot here, because let’s face it, it’s so easy.

In fact, I have a hypothesis about lawyers you that I’ll expand upon in a future post, but I’ll share it with you now. It’s called the LAWYERS RUIN EVERYTHING HYPOTHESIS OF CURRENT EVENTS, and it goes like this:

If something in American society seems so stupid, so counter-intuitive, so messed-up, and so unfair, the chances are incredibly high that at some point in time, lawyers were involved in making the decision.

Lessons from The Law

But I have not come to bury the legal profession, but to praise it.

That’s right! There are actually certain lessons one learns in law school and in the legal profession that can be transferred to your everyday life. Now, they’re not quite as bad-ass as Ed Latimore’s “Important Lessons From Fighting You Can Apply To Your Life,” but that’s why Ed’s Ed and I’m me.

While I don’t litigate anymore, trial practice taught me some skills that have helped me in all areas of my life.

So without further ado, here are Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life: Continue reading “Nine Lessons from the Law You Can Apply to Your Life”

My Imaginary Friend


It’s the 21st century. I’m an educated man, living in the modern world of scientific and technological marvels. It’s truly the greatest time to be alive

But I’m also still a Christian despite this. 

What gives? Aren’t I too smart for this?

I’m not here to convert anyone, or even get into the theological weeds. This is just an attempt to answer a lot of questions I’ve gotten throughout my life from atheist friends who just can’t understand why I stick with my faith. 

Instead of quoting chapter and verse, I’m going to present some logical arguments. 

Logic? And religion? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Hasnt religion outlived its usefulness anyway? It’s ultimately nothing more, the argument goes, than a fanciful delusion, an evolutionary survival mechanism designed to make us all feel safe and keep us in line. After all,  belief in some mythical sky fairy keeping tabs on us is a powerful psychological coping mechanism. 
But religion also turns its adherents into angry, power-hungry, murderous freaks who hate science, and sacrifice reason and logic on the altar of superstition.

Some “evolutionary survival mechanism.”

And we all know what Christians are really like: goofy at best, but typically theocratic, woman-hating nut-jobs who want nothing more than to ban all fun, freedom, and sex in the name of the all-holy Jeebus, amen!

Why are we like this? Well, because Christians are hypocritical assholes. Why else? You watch TV, don’t you?

I’m trolling here, but only a bit. These are actual arguments against religion. Here are some more:

  • Science has proven that the material world is all that there is. 
  • Any unexplained phenomena has a scientific basis that we just haven’t discovered yet. 
  • Evolution. 
  • Dinosaurs. 
  • You’re a racist. 

And so on.

I’m not here to refute all of these, since (a) they’re pretty much weak arguments on their face and (b) Eve Keneinan, Chris Landsdowne, and Dean Esmay do far better jobs of it than I do. But given the strong anti-Christian bent in the Western world lately, these are issues I’ve had to grapple with quite a bit. 

So why stick with religion? It’s really not that difficult an issue for me. 

There are two approaches I take to faith: the spiritual and the logical.

I’ll save the spiritual for another day except to say I tried the atheist hat on for a bit when I was in high school–you know, that time of life when we hate our parents and think we know everything about everything–but realized it just wasn’t for me.

But a logical argument for faith? Absolutely. Here I’ll throw out some more common anti-Christian arguments and how I deal them.  Continue reading “My Imaginary Friend”