Monday, June 29, 2009

The Politics of Attitude

You don't like it - you frown on it. Whenever it is mentioned, you have a visceral distaste. Many would say that you're unnecessarily critical of something that almost everyone finds useful, and that many people find essential. In fact, if it didn't exist, a lot of us wouldn't be here.

What am I talking about?



The answer is: both.

It seems that a lot of people have a very strong opposition to the idea of guns, or to the idea of sex, and tend to overlook situations where each could play a positive influence. There are a lot of people who take extreme positions against guns and against sex in both parties. It's time that we had a realistic, responsible, mature attitude about these things: as a country, we should realize that there are proper and safe ways to use and enjoy both items I have mentioned.

However, some folks are just doggedly determined to oppose both wherever they appear.

We don't need to abhor sex, or guns: we don't need to control them, we need to promote safe behaviors and encourage learning so that when people use these things, they'll know what they're doing.

For those who are reticent to approve of sex education: would you leave a loaded gun lying around your house, especially if you had children who knew nothing about firearms?

Of course not - that would be negligent.

Some people don't like guns - some people don't like sex very much, either. Fine. That's your personal preference, and you have the right as an American to have that preference. But don't impose your morality on me just because you are disgusted by other citizens' affinity for either quantity.

Our guiding principle should be that as long as the public safety and welfare is not infringed, individual liberty should be protected. That should be something to which everyone can consent.


Matt said...

Here's where I disagree: I don't think it's the government's job (or society's job, or the educational system's job) to "promote safe behaviors" or "encourage learning" with sex or guns. It should be the parents' job.

Families have wide differences on how they view sex and guns. Some parents are much more strict than than others. Some parents actually want to teach their children that abstinence is the only acceptable option. Some parents want to teach their children that they're never to fire a gun. Others might teach their children how to fire a gun at a very early age.

So how is it fair to parents for society/government to indoctrinate their children on these very sensitive issues?

For example, look at the "sexual revolution" of the 60's and 70's. This was a time when sex was tossed around casually and discussed openly. It was also a time when the abortion rate skyrocketed, the divorce rate doubled, and the porn industry hit its boom. Oh yeah, and children were finally given information on they could go out and try sex themselves. Look where that got us...

The realistic, responsible, and mature thing to do here is to step back and give parents a chance to raise their kids. Many parents today ignore this duty because they feel they can count on schools to do it for them. Again, look where that's gotten us.

Alex said...

I respect your valuation of the diversity of individual approaches to sex or guns. I agree that the individual is the best source of experience, but I disagree that it is the only valid source of education.

I do not intend for government to replace the family - not at all - but rather as a supplement.

Eh, in my opinion, the gov't shouldn't teach that much about either sex or guns, but if more people in society believed that these were important values, then I believe that we'd be better off.

Really, by society, I am mostly referring to the collection of individuals - families that are reticent to teach their children about guns or sex. I am advocating for more education on the individual, grassroots level, even though I also believe that government can have a role. Of course there are complications - the risk of indoctrination is an obvious one - but the benefits may outweigh those risks.

Oh, and as for the "sexual revolution":

Sex discussed openly? What's wrong with that? People might actually know the risks and benefits? People might actually be aware of it?

Also, it is better to stay in an abusive relationship than to divorce? If more women are empowered to leave abusive relationships, is it necessarily bad that divorce follows?

Furthermore, I believe that far too many people get married. I take marriage very seriously and I believe that only those who are absolutely committed and prepared for a lifelong relationship should marry. For too many, it was a burdensome expectation - by making marriage something for everyone, I believe that society cheapened marriage. So of course, a lot of people ill-suited for marriage, married. Now the divorce rate is higher. Soon, things should even out again.

This is a difficult issue - parents can be pretty bad at education on controversial things, and I agree that government can easily be even worse. Mostly, I write to encourage individual initiatives to increase education. We disagree whether government action is always disagreeable.

Matt said...

I agree with you that too many people marry for the wrong reasons. But I also think that the sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's did FAR more harm than good. In fact, I don't know that it did any good at all.

Between 1960 and 1980, the divorce rate in America more than doubled. People started waiting longer to get married, and large numbers began living together before actually getting married. Pre-marital sex became common and accepted. Studies have shown, of course, that couples who have sex and live together before getting married are much more likely to divorce.

I don't think the divorce rate doubled because women suddenly felt empowered to leave abusive relationships. I find it rather difficult to believe that half of the husbands in this country abuse their wives.

No, the true source of this problems is twofold.

1 - The traditional Christian roles of marriage, with the husband as the spiritual leader, were tossed out the window.

2 - Promiscuity was embraced. People stopped viewing sex as something sacred and private, and started viewing it as something open and recreational. This not only cheapened sex, but it caused a spike in STD's as people began to experiment with multiple partners outside of the bounds of marriage.

And that I think is what this boils down to. Government and society shouldn't be treating sex as something that we should all feel free to talk about openly and boundlessly. There's nothing mature about this at all. Rather, it inevitably leads to the view that sex is something casual...something all about enjoyment and empowerment and "personal identity". It ceases to be something sacred that should only be enjoyed properly within the confines of marriage.

The end result?

Broken families, single mothers, rampant abortion, and STD's.

The solution to these problems isn't government welfare or sex education or more condoms for our youth. The solution is to restore the traditional marriage and to leave the vast majority of sex-talk to parents.

K said...

Personally, I don't have an issue with sex being discussed openly, as long as it is done so in a mature manner. Sex is a part of life, a fact, so I don't understand why it must be hidden away like it's a bad thing. Sex is only a bad thing when it is not handled with maturity and respect.

The same with guns. A gun is only as good or bad as its wielder. It can be used for sport and recreation, or to provide food for oneself and one's family. It can be used to commit a myriad of crimes and sins, and it can be used to prevent crime and protect innocents from harm.

ananias said...

Precisely 18 years after abortion became legal in each region of our nation the crime rate fell dramatically. I think this is telling us that if you force someone into a world that doesn't want them they may just reflect the favor. The very geometry of our world has a way of turning misguided attempts at kindness into the ugliest of tragedies. Such is the case for religion.

What makes both guns and sex atypically dangerous is that they directly invoke, and most appeal to, our emotional brains. I believe our emotions are there to help us learn before we're capable of knowing anything (let alone something as abstract as the idea of knowledge.) Emotions are just the bootstrapping routines that bring each mind into operation. A reasoning mind can then form to take control.

We are moved by music because it is overstimulating the part of our brains designed to notice and decode language. It too has a seemingly supernatural power to touch us in ways that feel especially meaningful without actually communicating anything at all. What could be a bigger tipoff? Steven Pinker explains this conjecture and his work rings very true to me.

In some areas, like love and commitment, the mechanism of emotion leaves us in a very paradoxical predicament. We don't want our reasoning minds to know why we love someone because they'd then be capable of easily spotting an even better match. We surround our love with a sacredness, a mystique, or invent an imaginary firewall we call god to prevent us from ever understanding it. For most of us this works way too well. And we've allowed this evolutionary technology--a handful of memes--designed to help us form committed relationships to morph into arguably the most dysfunctional industry that has ever existed--practically a perfect distillation of everything that is antithetical to life. Religion is the poster child for the heuristic that things, most naturally, just tend to bring about their own opposite.

Unfortunately for all of the mates I've ever had, this internal subterfuge never worked better on me than the flimsiest of négligées. My mind just tears it off and discards it without a second thought to get at the goodies beneath. And maybe the truth too. (Although I have to admit another part of it seems to see this all going on but just sits there to ponder why the other dude is so brutally ruthless! It's like all my cowardice is concentrated into the emotional part of my mind--leaving the rational part way too foolishly arrogant. Which I think my writing reflects perhaps too well. Just an AS aside I know my wife will love.)

So I suppose my whole point in writing this was to convey the perspective I have on our emotions and the kinds of challenges I think they pose for us to overcome. I think trying to connect love and sex is a fools errand that can only leave us disadvantaged and deluded. Sex has such overwhelmingly powerful emotions it's bound to destroy the objectivity that's essential to recognize a good match. My advice is to marry someone only after you're basically sick of sex with them but would be willing to give it up just to have their lasting company.

Finally, if you know anyone personally that you wouldn't feel badly about shooting then you should probably have a gun. Because statistically, you're most likely to shoot someone you know.