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I am a deeply introverted man who, when not servicing clients, spends his days surrounded by a legion of very polished, very professional, very gregarious and outgoing individuals who have set themselves firmly on the road to becoming leaders in their chosen industry.
Their team leader and primary mentor is very much the embodiment of the type of person that these individuals wish to become. I know nothing of who or what he was before I met him, but I do know that he has invested a great deal of time and effort in personal development, and that he has made himself into the extrovert ideal: personable, gregarious, outgoing, instantly comfortable in any situation or circumstance he finds himself in, and possessed of the magical ability to know precisely what to say in any given situation.
Men and women like him, we are told, are the ones who become leaders. They’re the ones who guide us and mentor us and usher us into the future to come. We are told that they are the ones to emulate.
And while none of my associates have ever come out and said it, I can’t help but feel that they are inherently suspicious of anyone who works in their environment but shares neither their outgoing nature nor their dreams of wealth and privilege. I can’t help but be made to feel that perhaps not wanting to be their definition of a leader and not having their dreams of wealth and privilege somehow mean that there’s something wrong with me, that I may be more broken than I think I am.
Or maybe I’m just being paranoid and reading things that aren’t there.
Because, after all, who wouldn’t want to be one of these people?
I think that one of the things that extroverts find inherently wrong about introverts, especially in a sales environment, is that we don’t express excitement the same way that they do.
I was at a seminar last week with several hundred other members of our work community. It was a very intense, very high energy environment that left me both physically and emotionally drained, not to mention more than a little disturbed. (There is just something inherently wrong about having that many people in an enclosed space. There is also something inherently wrong with having to sit front and center in said enclosed space.)
As a unified whole we would stand an applaud, give our love, as Phil Collins would say, to each speaker as they took the stage, and again when they left. I was sitting at the end of one row of seats, and across the aisle from me was a young lady that I have come to know a little bit. (She’s always snacking, this one, and has a pronounced sweet tooth. And a fondness for Jelly Babies.) Whenever she stood to applaud she would come to attention and clap with vigor, shouting and cheering along with the most vocal of the crowd. The way she moved reminded me a lot of a cheerleader. I toyed with the notion of asking her if she ever was a cheerleader, but I have yet to do so.
Our team leader is an especially vocal fellow. In meetings when others are brought up to speak he will literally shout his encouragement to them. He reminds me of Stephen Fry as the Duke of Wellington in the third Blackadder series. “Nonsense! Shout, shout, and shout again!” He reminds me sometimes of a character from Team America World Police. “Sales! Fuck yeah!”
I sometimes wonder if he takes it personally when the crowd before him doesn’t match his boisterousness.
And then there is me.
I am nowhere near as vocal, nor am I anything like as demonstrative when it comes to showing excitement. I believe in the products and services that I sell. I believe that there are no better products, no better services, anywhere. And I am thankful that I have been granted access to them so I can make peoples lives better. I express this regard, this gratitude, this excitement, with my clients in words when I am making my sales pitches. Because jumping up on the table and screaming, “Sales! Fuck yeah!” somehow seems undignified.
There’s not a day goes by that I’m not encouraged to sit closer to the front in training and seminar sessions. There’s not a day goes by that I’m not encouraged to get into the spirit of things. “You won’t be successful if you can’t be excited.”
My associates and my mentors do it because they mean well. But they also do it because they don’t understand. Because introversion is, to them, something completely foreign and incomprehensible. And it goes against what they’re taught, which makes it wrong.
But it’s not.
Being an introvert means that I have different self-care needs than an extrovert.
Being an introvert means that I express excitement differently than an extrovert does.
Being an introvert means that I comport myself in public differently than an extrovert does.
Being an introvert means that I am on a different journey than my extroverted associates. But that journey is no less valid than theirs.
Introversion is not a disease. It is not a condition to be cured. It is a fact of life. It is a way of life. And, in its own way, is every bit as rewarding as the extrovert lifestyle.
But once, just once, could we please turn down the volume? Thanks.
Today’s missive is largely going to be about Omar Khadr, not because I have any desire to defend him (I’m not really all that sure that I do) but because there are elements of his case that require careful thought. And if there’s one thing I want people to do more of these days, it’s think.
* * *
It is believed in many circles than the only time someone confesses to a crime is when they are actually guilty of having committed said crime.
Sadly the world is far more complicated than that.
Context is everything, and so one must always be prepared to ask questions: how was the confession obtained? Was it coerced or freely given? If the confession was coerced, then was it coerced by manipulation or by torture?
And, for that matter, do we care?
Law enforcement interrogate prisoners all the time. And while it is not unheard of for police forces to try to manipulate prisoners into telling them what they want to hear, law enforcement is bound by law to refrain from torture of any kind. Under normal circumstances one would think that the military would be bound by such laws as well, and they generally are. The Geneva Conventions have the force of international law and, among other things, provide standards for the treatment of prisoners in a theater of war. But there is an oddity present in American law that allows the President of the United States to essentially contravene any law he chooses simply by publishing a finding that said law does not apply in a specific circumstance, or set of circumstances.
This is essentially what President Bush did when he authorized the use of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” on War on Terror detainees.
Traditionally, when someone confesses due to torture, the confession is regarded as being given under extreme duress, and is therefore unreliable. Not so in the military courts that were convened in the Guantanamo Bay facility. Confessions given as a result of torture were commonplace, and so they were treated as reliable.
Inasmuch as I understand the desire to see captured terrorists suffer as much as possible (I myself have questioned, on occasion, whether or not the Geneva Conventions actually apply to terrorists on the grounds that they are not soldiers fighting under the flag of a sovereign nation) the better angels of my nature (what few I have) generally tend to draw the line on gratuitous torture, or the application of torture for information.
Omar Khadr confessed after being subjected to numerous interrogation sessions, many of which involved the use of torture techniques. His confession was treated as reliable and was the key piece of evidence in his eventual judgment and sentencing.
So, the question then becomes: was his confession really valid? And do we care?
* * *
When criminal cases are tried in a traditional court of law the prosecution bears the burden of having to prove to a judge or a judge and jury that the evidence collected establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the accused did, in fact, commit the crime in question. Conversely, it is the defense bears the burden of having to prove to a judge or to a judge and jury that such reasonable doubt exists.
Neither judge nor judge and jury can convict if it has been demonstrated that there is reasonable doubt.
In a criminal case evidence is primarily given by testimony backed up by physical evidence gleaned through a forensic investigation. This is true in a military court as well, but a military court also has the added element of after-action reports and battlefield testimony.
The after-action reports and battlefield testimony concerning Khadr’s capture are interesting for two reasons: much of the recorded testimony is contradictory, and no one actually saw Omar Khadr lob the grenade that killed Mr. Speer, nor did anyone physically see him do much of anything else until the moment when he was shot by one of the soldiers on the scene.
The question then becomes: how do contradictory reports and a complete lack of an eyewitness constitute proof beyond any reasonable doubt? And do we care?
* * *
The most important question in all of this is, do we care? And for a great many people the answer is a resounding no.
There is so much hatred of terrorists and terrorism that people have stopped thinking and have taken to simply assuming that whatever their peer group tells them about the Khadr affair, and any other matter having to do with terrorism, is correct, regardless of the facts on the ground. The problem is that hatred does not beget truth. All hatred does is beget more hatred.
The exercise of freedom of speech and freedom of expression is not free. It comes with a price. The problem is that there are few in our self-absorbed, instant-gratification-seeking society who are willing to pay that price.
Life itself is wondrous and majestic, filled with infinite variety and infinite diversity. It is to be embraced in all its forms.
This means exactly what it says. Life is wonderous. Life is majestic. Life is filled with endless variety and infinite diversity.
There are those who believe that all life is sacred. I don’t know if I would go that far. I think that if our lives were really, truly sacred then we wouldn’t be so easy to kill. However, I do believe that all life deserves at least a threshold amount of respect.
In practice this means many things.
It means that, yes, Black lives do matter.
It also means that Muslim lives matter.
It means that indigenous lives matter.
It means that Asian lives matter.
It means that the lives of women matter.
It means that the lives of children matter, and that the lives of babies matter.
It means that the lives of the unborn, life in-potentia, matter.
It means that the lives of homosexual people matter, and that the lives of transgendered people matter.
You see where this is going, yes?
We humans are a judgmental lot. We believe, because we’ve been taught to believe, that some lives matter more than others. That some people matter more than others. We believe, because we’ve been taught to believe, that some groups of people are scum, while others are praiseworthy.
As with all such judgments there is an element of truth present.
As responsible citizens we should be praising those who live and work within the structures that our society has organized and built, and we should absolutely desire that those who live and work outside the boundaries of civilized society should recieve the justice that they so richly deserve.
But just because someone is a criminal and out outlaw does that mean that their life is worth less than someone who lives their whole life within the law?
There are those who would say yes, that is exactly the case. I am not one of them.
Understand, this does not mean that we should refrain from exacting our measure of justice from those who would flout our laws, from those who kill and rape without a second thought, from those who take advantage of vulnerable people and seize that which is not theirs. Absolutely those individuals should be on the receiving end of our good justice, and that justice should be tailored to suit the crime that has been committed. But what about after they’ve served their time? What happens then? Having served their time and paid their pennance do these people not have the right to rebuild their lives and to be once again treated as human beings? If not, then at what point are we able to regard these people as having served their time?
One of the greatest of all human attributes is the capacity for forgiveness. Sometimes that is easier than others, but it is a truism that forgiveness cleanses the soul. Carrying grudges and holding on to anger long past its useful life does nothing more than to corrupt and pollute our souls. While this can be useful in the short term as a motivating factor, the long term effects associated with this strategy make the whole thing highly questionable. And, really, in the 21st century we should be better than all that, yes?
* * *
The Black Lives Matter movement is prevalent throughout much of the United States, but it has also worked its way into Canada. Recently I’ve even heard tell of a Black Lives Matter presence in England. I do not support the Black Lives Matter movement, not because I think that black lives are worth less or because I do not believe that sometimes when people scream racism its because there is actual racism present. That is not the case at all.
I do not support Black Lives Matter because I have heard rhetoric from a number of people who claim to be part of the movement calling for open warfare on Law Enforcement in their communities. Black Lives Matter typically insists that these people don’t actually represent their intent, and I am going to be generous and choose to believe that they are telling the truth. In the end it doesn’t matter.
In the end there will be those who believe that by simply saying they’re a member of Black Lives Matter the individuals in question are simply parroting the expressed policy put forth by the movement itself. No amount of reason will sate such individuals. All the evidence they need is right in front of them. Thus relations that are already strained will be strained even further, and there’s no reaason for any of it.
By the same token, my views regarding Muslims are vastly different than the views of a great many who claim that they are conservatives.
The prevailing opinion on the right hand side of the scale seems to be that all Muslims are a threat, that no Muslims should be allowed in our country under any circumstances, ever, and that anything even remotely Muslim must be regarded as inherently evil and treated as such.
As much as I understand where these people are coming from, I find their point of view distasteful at best.
It is self-evident to me that there are generally two types of Muslim immigrants or refugees: those that want to kill us, and those that don’t.
Whether the ones that want to kill us can honestly be regarded as true Muslims or not is an argument that I will leave to better people than me. I do not have a definitive answer and I am not all that certain that I care. I’ve never had much use for religious labels of any sort. I find them to be little more than an excuse to foment division, as most such labels, religious or not, are. It doesn’t matter anyway. The point is that we know they’re out there, and we know that they want to kill us, so there is ample justification for keeping those that want to kill us, or those who have close ties to those that want to kill us, out of the country. It seems self-evident that our immigration and refugee policies can be safely crafted along these lines, and, indeed, they should be.
As for the ones that don’t want to kill us, again, I will leave the argument as to whether or not these people can be regarded as proper Muslims to better people than me. What I do is that these individuals are no different than a great many people who already call Canada their home. All they want to do is to live and work and be free to go about their merry as they see fit. I see no reason why they should not be allowed to.
But, some will say, all Muslims are a ticking time bomb. The Qu’Ran makes them so with its call to Jihad and its incitement to kill any and all non-believers unless they convert or agree to pay tribute.
I have several responses to that idea.
First of all, lets talk about Christians. It is a truism that some Christians are more devout than others. There are those who would tell you that this is a lie, that any individual who claims that he is a Christian but is not devout is no Christian at all. I call that splitting hairs.
The same is true of Catholics. Some Catholics are more devout than others.
My question then becomes, if it is possible amongst the community of Christians and Catholics for some individuals to be more devout than others, then is it also not possible for some Muslims to be more devout than others? Certainly it is not outside the realm of possibility.
Secondly, it is absolutely true that there are passages within the Qu’Ran which call for some pretty hefty punishments for various crimes. Amputations, beheadings, stonings, tossing someone from a high roof. The list goes on. In this regard the Christian bible is no different.
Now, for the sake of full disclosure I must confess that I am neither an expert on the bible nor am I an expert on the Qu’Ran. My bible study classes were a lot of years ago, as was my Catholic school upbringing, and I’ve not held on to many of those memories because they have little, if any, relevance to the person that I have since become.
Here endeth the disclaimer.
There are passages in the bible which describe devout individuals preparing to sacrifice their first born children because they believed that’s what God wanted them to do. There are passages which mete out some pretty hefty punishments for specific crimes. And yet, these things do not happen in the Christian world. Why would this be the case?
Because there are individuals within the Christian and Catholic communities who came to understand that there are ways in which you can hold on to your devout belief without resorting to shedding blood. These individuals watched the gradual progression of our societies and determined, quite rightly, that such practices would not be welcome. So, they fell by the wayside. And now, with a few notable exceptions, the Christian and Catholic communities of the Western World are generally quite peaceful. As for the exceptions, well, I find them to be more bewildering and annoying than anything else.
My question then becomes, is it such a stretch to believe that if there have been elements in the Christian and Catholic communities who came to understand that you cannot apply two thousand year old morality in its entirety in a twentieth and twenty-first century world, then there can also be elements of the Muslim community who came to the same conclusion? The Christians and Catholics got there first, is all.
On a daily basis we call upon ourselves to judge individuals for their actions, and not the communities that they belong to.
We judge the members of the Westborough Baptist Church for their protests of fallen soldiers funerals, not the entirety of the Christian community.
We judge those protestors who incite and participate in violence for their actions, not the entire protest movement.
We judge rapists and child molesters themselves for their actions, not the entire gender to which they belong.
If we are able to make such distinctions for these occurrances, then why is it such a stretch for us to make the same distinctions when it comes to Muslims?
Everything I write in this blog is a point of view.
It is not my intention to recruit anyone to my particular ideology or point of view. It is not my intention to tell people what they should and should not think, what they should and should not believe.
I am a writer, not a preacher.
All I really want is for people to think, and to recognize that religion, ideology, and philosophy are but the beginning of wisdom, not the end. There is no religion, ideology, or philosophy that renders inert the inherent responsibility to think and reason for yourself, and anyone who tells you there is is lying to you.
I want you to ask questions, and to not rest until you have the answers.
Please remember that when you read this blog.
* * *
I do not always recognize the world in which I live, and I sometimes question whether or not there is a place for me in such a world.
I will freely admit that at least some of this point of view is due to more than thirty years of depression. Sadly, a great deal of it is not.
It is a fact that there has been a startling regression not only in the affairs of the world in general but also in the political and social affairs of our nation.
Hyper-partisanship runs rampant. Our politicians seem more and more interested in insulting and belittling each other than they are in actually doing their fucking jobs.The conservatives openly hate the liberals and progressives. The liberals claim to be progressives but play from the conservative play-book as often as not. And the progressives wish that the liberals would grow up and that the conservatives would get on with the business of dying because it would really make the world a better place.
More than any other time during my almost 45 years of life we focus on things that divide us. We’re obsessed with people’s ethnic heritage, the color of their skin, their biological gender, their gender identity.
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I was growing up I was taught that such considerations were meaningless in that they had nothing whatsoever to do with a persons validity and overall worth. It’s a point of view that I still carry with me to this day. And while I freely admit that I am far from perfect, I do make a concerted effort on each and every day to remember that we’re all just folk.
I do not look at someone and automatically see the color of their skin. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I do not look at someone and automatically see their ethnic heritage. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I do not look at someone and automatically see their biological gender. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I do not look at someone and see their gender identity, or how they express that identity. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I do not look at someone and see their mental illness. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I do not look at someone and see the religion they practice. I see a person, and I try to treat them as such.
I am a moderate conservative with a libertarian bent.
I do not hate more devout conservatives. I have no reason to. We simply see the world through different eyes.
I do not hate liberals. I have no reason to. We simply see the world through different eyes.
I do not hate progressives. I have no reason to. We simply see the world through different eyes.
I do not hate more devout libertarians. I have no reason to. We simply see the world through different eyes.
This does not stop me from being critical of someone’s world view, or their opinions, or how they express those opinions. But when criticizing someone I attack that world view, or that opinion, or how that opinion is expressed.
I do not and will not attack the person. Ever. Under any circumstances. But I can and will disagree with them.
I do not and will not attack a person for their biological gender or their gender identity, or how they express that identity. Ever. Under any circumstances. But I can and will disagree with them.
Regardless of how I feel about a person I will always endeavor to speak to and interact with them in a manner that is polite and as respectful as I can manage at that given time.
None of this makes me a saint.
I am flawed.
I am imperfect.
I am fallible.
I am a product of the life I have lead and the experience that I have gained throughout that life. Sometimes that experience is positive. Sometimes, not so much.
I am folk.
All of us are folk.
And maybe, just maybe, instead of focusing on all of the things that divide us we should focus on all of the things that make us better human beings.
And maybe, just maybe, all of us could stop being dicks for one moment and see what happens as a result.
Religion, ideology, and philosophy are but the beginning of wisdom, not the end. There is no religion, ideology, or philosophy that renders inert the inherent responsibility to think and reason for yourself, and anyone who tells you there is is lying to you.
As conservatives we are inherently self-reliant. This self-reliance not only colors how we interact with the world, but it also informs how we think about the world around us. We don’t like to be told what to think. We don’t like to be told someone else’s idea of what the answer is. We want to see the information being presented, all the information being presented, and reach conclusions for ourselves. Sometimes those conclusions will be right, other times not so much. But they will be ours.
It is a rare occasion that we trust in things which are simply handed to us, because we know that There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and thus there is always a catch. Our natural caution and prudence in these matters cause us to always be on the lookout for the other shoe to drop.
This, incidentally, is a big part of the reason why we are inherently distrustful of government intervention on any level. With government intervention comes bureaucracy, and with bureaucracy comes the Iron Law. It’s the Iron Law that’s the real kick in the pants.
(For those who are unaware, Jerry Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that any given bureaucracy is populated by two types of individuals: those who are dedicated to the task that the bureaucracy was intended to carry out, and those who are dedicated to perpetuating the bureaucracy. Group one will always be outnumbered by group two.)
Thus, this inherent self-reliance calls upon us to think for ourselves, to reason for ourselves. It is not enough to think in party-approved talking points that have been carefully vetted and edited by people who are much smarter than we are. For starters, I doubt that those people are actually smarter than the people that they are trying to guide and manipulate. Even if that wasn’t the case, these individuals obviously have an agenda, and that agenda may not be yours.
Do you really want to invest yourself so completely in an agenda that is not yours?
Our inherent self-reliance calls upon us to ask questions, to never take anything at face value. Recall the words of the great philosopher Gregory House: Everybody lies. And even if they’re not outright lying then whatever point of view they’re trying to put forth is heavily colored by their own inherent beliefs and ideology. We forget that at our peril.
Nobody does our thinking for us. We think for ourselves, and we reason for ourselves.
But there’s a catch. There is always a catch.
The moment that we decide that we’re going to think for ourselves, that we’re going to always question and never take anything entirely at face value, is also the moment that we decide that we alone are responsible for our thoughts, ideas, philosophy, ideology. And because everything we say or think or do has consequences, then this means that we have to take responsibility for those consequences.
Our personal sense of honor requires this of us.
Honor requires that if our point of view or our beliefs offend someone, then we apologize for offending them. There is no need to apologize for having the beliefs in question, but apologizing for the fact that someone has been offended is, if nothing else, useful social lubrication and a means to not only promote but perpetuate something approximating reasonable, peaceful relations between people with wildly diverging opinions.
Honor requires that if our actions, which are fueled by our beliefs, have an adverse effect on our neighbors then we must make amends. If that means we have to sacrifice and bleed, then that means we have to sacrifice and bleed.
Note, our Honor does not require us to roll over and expose our belly when we have been wronged. Far from it. Under those circumstances not only our Honor but also our self respect would require us to defend ourselves with any and all means at our disposal in order to right the wrong that has been done to us.
However, in defending ourselves we must also remember that our actions should be fueled by an inherent respect not only for the lives, property, and well being of the people who have dishonored us, but also for the lives, property, and well being of those who are close to them. In the end we have to live side by side with these people. Sometimes we will have to work side by side with them. We need to be able to say that when honor has been satisfied then the matter is closed, never to be opened again.
It is one thing to remember what has been done to you, and to learn from the experience. It is another entirely to hold a grudge. The one and only thing that holding on to anger does is pollute your soul.
Thinking for yourself is the ultimate freedom. The responsibility that goes along with that freedom is the price we pay for having it.
There are those amongst the evangelical community who insist that this freedom to think for yourself is dangerous and harmful. They believe that doing do can only cause you to deviate from the path that God has placed in front of you, and that the one and only way to keep your feet firmly on the path is to surrender to God’s will. They will argue that everything you need to know is contained between the covers of the Bible, and that any work or thought not derived from the contents of this holy tome constitutes blasphemy of the highest order, that it is nothing more or less than sin.
From their point of view they’re absolutely right. But consider the source for a moment. These individuals are perfectly happy to meander their way through the world around them wearing blinders, willfully ignoring or ruthlessly attacking that which does not fit into their narrow world view.
If this way of life, if this way of thinking is appealing to you, then Moderate Conservatism is not for you. In that case I suggest you find your enlightenment elsewhere, perhaps within the confines of your own church or community.
Moderate Conservative With a Libertarian Bent
50,000 Monkeys at 50,000 Typewriters Can't Be Wrong
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the original blog of Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor