Wednesday, November 16, 2011

the conventional wisdom

Socially and privately, it's interesting to note that the passage of time throws all "conventional wisdom" into question. It strikes me as quite "Buddhist" in the sense that any bias, judgment, love, distrust, elevation or diminution can enter a realm of doubt and, perhaps, reversal. It's enough to encourage any honest (wo)man to take assumptions and conclusions with a grain of salt.

If you believe it with your whole heart and mind, if everyone around you agrees whole-heartedly and you are all locked in some reassuring hug ... well, wait a while. Today's conventional wisdom has a way of shifting over time to what is currently called the unconventional wisdom ... which then turns into the new conventional wisdom. It's a habit worth noting, socially and privately. Certainty has a way of raising its own questions, chief among them, "is that so?" Failure to examine certainties can be painful so ... who's certainty is this and why does s/he keep inflicting this pain?

On the social front....

--  In my home state of Massachusetts, the longtime aversion to allowing casino gambling has been overcome in hard economic times. The state Senate is within spitting distance of sending a casino-gambling bill to the governor for approval. Jobs are more important than the principals (preying on people's desire to get something for nothing seems an empirically and morally poor economic tool), so let's create jobs and income even if nothing concrete is produced. The state has long since relied on lottery sales to create income ... so long that it seems to qualify as conventional wisdom.

-- In hard times, there is talk in Washington (truly apostate, based on the previous conventional wisdom of military might and the fear it creates both in other nations explicitly and the voting public implicitly) of cutting the Defense Department budget. The Defense Department, understandably, is waving the old conventional wisdom flags of danger and doom. So-called defense makes a lot of money, so imagining any significant cuts is difficult ... difficult, but not impossible.

-- Anyone who imagines the military option is wasteful and therefore dispensable might shine a new light on the subject in the wake of an announcement that the U.S. will send a 250-man contingent of Marines to Australia ... the better to be positioned if the Pacific rim nations get feisty. The contingent will eventually grow to 2,500.

-- Conventional wisdom may say that bonds are some of the safest investments around, but the European Central Bank has stepped in to stem the hemorrhage-selling of euro zone bonds. In the game of economic musical chairs, no one wants to be left without a chair and bonds, once the conventional darlings, are looking increasingly like a bad bet.

-- The British Medical Association is pressing the idea that people should not be allowed to smoke in their own cars. The conventional wisdom of 'caring' and short-circuiting potential medical costs that even non-smokers bear is likely the run into the even-more conventional assumption that people should be allowed to kill themselves as they wish if they wish. Naturally, the argument will be couched in terms of the detriment to others, but still ....

-- The Huffington Post, a source of increasingly dubious credibility in my mind, has an article about the fact that some reporters trying to cover the clearing out of the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York, were denied access and roughed up and arrested. Freedom of the press is one of those touchstones of conventional wisdom ... until anyone bothers to look into it.

-- The conventional wisdom of organ transplants received a wonderful bit of news when a baby with life-threatening liver disease was apparently cured after the implantation of cells that allowed the liver to repair itself. In the UK, where the procedure was carried out, about 100 people per year die while waiting for a liver transplant, according to one researcher.

-- In the ongoing revelations of the Penn State pedophile scandal, the central, but far from only, figure in the case, former Penn State football defensive coordinator Gerald Sandusky, has admitted to showering with young boys and to "horsing around" with them. This reminds me of a time when a shrink friend of mine (a former Jesuit priest) told me that the priests involved in the Catholic Church pedophile scandal viewed their own activities as "playing." The observation shocked me at the time since I was hip-deep in the conventional revulsion that accompanies the abuse of those who deserve to be defended. "Horsing around" and "playing" ... a part of the unconventional wisdom that is sometimes too repulsive to countenance.

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