Politics Is Complicated
"This Generation": Not As Bad as It Sounds

This story comes, again, from Facebook, although not from Tea Party Friend this time.  Those of you who spend time on that site and have friends under about age 60 know that there are several other websites out there devoted entirely to housing quotes that people can Like and share on Facebook.  The following is my reaction to one of those quotes, which one of my friends just posted.  It is (allegedly — you can never be sure of the sources of these pseudonymous posts) a 13-year-old girl ranting about the moral decay of the rest of her generation, specifically in regards to sex.

Now, I think most people who share this post react with a gut agreement with the author, but I saw this and immediately had a very different reaction.  As easy as it may seem to go “right on!” to the author of this (alleged) post and condemn “kids these days” as promiscuous and shameless, it’s worth taking some historical perspective.  It’s only about the last century or so that 13-year-olds having sex has been frowned upon, and even then only in certain countries, cultures, and contexts.  Sex between teenagers has been around as long as sex and teenagers have, and, of course, so have bad decisions about sex by teenagers.  I believe that we, on average, deal with those facts much better now than we used to.

Most human societies have associated sex with marriage of some sort, and have accordingly married off teenagers without a choice.  This comes with the expectation that they’ll start having sex and producing babies for the alleged Greater Good ASAP, whether it’s for God or for the Nation, or just to keep the farm running.  This still goes on in extremely conservative countries like Yemen or Saudi Arabia, where, regardless of the letter of the law it is customary for girls to be arranged to be married as young as 8.  The connection between marriage and sex is even higher, and the regard for individual rights (especially if the individuals are women) is even lower, in Afghanistan, where wives can be starved for refusing sex.  Holdovers from this more conservative time that, through nostalgia-tinted glasses, looks more moral, are everywhere in our laws.  My home state of New Hampshire allows boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 13 to get married with the permission of their parents.  I don’t know what rationale was given at the time that law was written, but I suspect it was a proposed “cure” to their own generation of morally degenerate teens daring to do exactly what their biology overwhelmingly commanded.  One need only look as far as other states to see that kind of law explicitly-written: there is an exception to the minimum age of marriage in Georgia for young parents.

Now, defenders of the doctrine of “puberty = marriage = sex = babies” may have had a practical point (if not necessarily a moral one) as recently as the 1700s, when infant mortality in such comparatively advanced societies as England was as high as one in three, but you can’t really make that kind of argument in the modern U.S. and claim that pragmatics should trump the right of the individual to choose how to live their life.  This means that, far from being in a state of sexual moral decay, our society today is better than those past ones because we don’t believe that relationships, and therefore sex, are obligatory.  But how should sex in adolescence work?

The issue of individual rights is, for me at least, a tricky one from a psychological standpoint.  An adolescent is definitely not fully thinking at an adult level, and should not be automatically be granted the rights of one, but they are, on the other hand, trying to integrate themselves into adult society, and they should!  Nobody becomes good at something, including maturity, immediately.  I would suggest, then, that the best strategy to allow healthy and happy psychological maturation in regards to sex would be for parents and culture at large to allow it, and the data backs me up.

Now, in case it seems like I’m swinging too far in the other direction and defending the alleged behavior of the author’s classmates, I don’t think it’s wise for 13-year-olds to be having sex.  I’ve been 13.  I know that I was not mature enough then to handle a sexual relationship, and luckily, through a combination of introspection and fear, I knew it then, too.  I’m saying that, given that some young teens do have sex, the best way to deal with it is not to condemn them.

And, getting back to the original complaint that set me off on this speech, the good news is, in fact, not very many 13-year-olds actually do have sex, so the author is likely talking to an unrepresentative sample of her classmates, or (and I suspect that this is more likely), they’re exaggerating what little experience they may have in a peer-pressure-driven contest to sound more “grown up”.  And that certainly doesn’t mean that this generation of somewhat-sexually-active, peer-pressure-driven teens is any worse than its predecessors, more likely that they’re just willing to admit it now, and by being open about sex, they’re setting themselves up for a future of responsible use of contraceptives and non-abusive relationships.  So the moral of the story: don’t get too caught up in complaining about moral decay or you might miss the moral growth that has happened.

Dumb Myths Die Hard

I have a Facebook friend who is extremely conservative.  He’s a member of the Tea Party of New Hampshire.  He is, however, typically a very well-informed and interesting person, and he actually became my friend because I argued with him on the comment thread of a mutual friend’s post.  However, today, he posted a joke aimed at his fellow ultra-conservatives that I felt (perhaps a little too harshly) needed to be argued with.  It went as follows: “A communist, a Muslim and an illegal alien walk into a bar. The bartender says, “What would you like to drink, Mr. President?”“  I can’t believe that this kind of thing is still going around.  Or, actually, I can believe it, but I am thoroughly sick of it.  So let’s break these myths down.

1. Is Obama a communist/socialist?

According to the 2008 Socialist candidate for President, he’s definitely not one. Yes, he’s for more regulation, but his policies are consistently capitalist in the sense that they prioritize profit. Look at the healthcare bill that he not only signed but actively promoted: it sets up universal access to for-profit health insurance. Where is the wokers’ control of the means of production or the prioritization of people over profit there? These insurance companies are hardly workers’ cooperatives, non-profit organizations, or government-run public services. As I mentioned in my previous post, how much in favor of a market economy you are and how capitalist you are are not the same thing.

2. Is Obama a Muslim?

Obama says he was raised agnostic and converted to Christianity. If he’s not a Christian, he’s doing a really good job of hiding it, since he has gone to various Christian churches for decades now. In particular, if he’s a Muslim, he’s not a very good one, since the Quran says only to lie about your religion to protect your life in the case of forced conversion and frankly nobody is forcing him to be a Christian. So I think it’s safe to assume he is one. Or, to put it another way, would you spend decades going to religious services you didn’t believe in? If not, then why assume that he would?

3. Is Obama a U.S. citizen?

The state of Hawaii says he was born there, as do newspapers from 1961 announcing his birth. Not only are the various Kenyan birth certificates people claim to have uncovered forgeries, they’re really obvious, sloppy forgeries that don’t even get major details like the name of the country right. And may I point out also that, even if the original announcement of birth or birth certificate were forgeries, he would still be a citizen by birthright: he still had one American parent, which qualifies him for U.S. citizenship no matter where he was born.




The Quran, Sura 16



Everything is Political

I’m in the process of changing banks. Actually, changing from a bank to a credit union. I have been, for the last four years, a customer of Bank of America out of sheer convenience. They had a booth on campus when I went in for freshman orientation at Syracuse, and a branch downtown, so I figured that would be really convenient. Since then, I’ve seen the bank do plenty of things I don’t approve of. They fund the coal industry, which adds plenty of pollution and danger we could easily do without. They just introduced a service fee for using a debit card (which I do for almost all purchases), a change I heard about on the news, not from my bank, and they refuse to say what states it’s going into effect in first so I have no idea if it will apply to me. But most egregiously of all, they’re currently under investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Understandably enough, Bank of America is trying to recover from losses suffered from loans that haven’t been paid backs, which measure in the tens of billions of dollars. They’re filing with HUD to claim the insurance the federal government provides for the financial industry in the event of exactly this kind of thing. The problem is, the bank’s records are… questionable. At best, they’re sloppy, at worst they’re lying, and either way they’re using inaccurate information to get way more money out of the government than they actually need. So I have no further interest in doing business with them.

But the thing is, even before this make it into the news, I was considering switching for a different reason: political ideology. I really think cooperatives, such as my credit union, are just an inherently better system of running a business. Why? Because they fit in with my general belief that we should strive for a more egalitarian and inclusive economy. A business model in which the business is collectively owned by its customers or employees just seems like a better idea to me than one like publicly-traded stock, in which ownership can go to people with no interest in the long-term success of the company.

My point in bringing all this up, in particular as a way to kick off a new blog, is to point out a major theme I hope to talk about more as this blog continues: motivation. We do things for many different reasons, sometimes ideological, sometimes practical. This is an example of both. On the practical side, I don’t want to be part of a bank that appears to be on the verge of collapse and is likely involved in some kind of criminal activity, especially since their involvement in insurance fraud may put the very existence of my money in jeopardy. On the ideological side, I consider myself a socialist, but one who also generally approves of market economies — yes, conservatives, people like that really do exist! — and so I support cooperatives on principle.

Source: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-10-05/bofa-may-face-hud-fraud-claims-for-soured-countrywide-loans.html