Professor Trompsky #2

Welcome back professor Trompsky, glad you took your time to talk about the controversial Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.
– Thank you. These are very serious matters yes. I think he is the least capable person in America today to become a Supreme Court Justice. Every which way you look at it, this nomination is a catastrophe for our country and should be aborted at all costs.
So you are calling for abortion of his nomination. Could you elaborate?
– If we carry this nomination to term, we will have bred a monster. Brett Kavanaugh is a religious fanatic of the sort that would put the church above the constitution. The High Court will turn into a Medusa whose sole purpose it is to protect the powers of the president.
When you say we must prevent Supreme Justice Kavanaugh from happening, what exactly do you have in mind? Polonium?
– This is not the time for flippancy. I personally think there are more civilized ways than radioactive chemicals.
Such as?
– We just keep repeating the sins he committed as a young adult. Did you know that FFFF means “Find ’em, finger ’em, fuck ’em, forget ’em”? And that boofing is anal ingestion of alcoholic beverages?
This is common knowledge, yes.
– I don’t see how this man still has time for serious legal scholarship, let alone the position of highest judge in the country.
I understand your point professor Trompsky. What do you suggest as a means of last resort, to avoid this twit to ascend to the throne of the American judiciary?
– [shrugs] I don’t know. Maybe burn down the court house.

Professor Trompsky #2 was originally published on Meandering home

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Professor Trompsky #1

Professor Trompsky, welcome to our studio. At 87, do you have any plans for retirement?

Listen, the burden of the world rests on my shoulders. I can’t just give up because the fragility that is slowly but certainly shutting down my body. My responsibilities are grand, and with grandure I shall go to the grave. Can we talk about something less morbid now, provided such a topic exists in the current state of the world? [chuckles]

Yes we can. How would you analyze the current state of political discourse?

It is the fundamental unwillingness to learn from the other side, as people refer to political opponents, that strikes me as dangerous. I don’t see a humorous and convivial back and forth of well-stated arguments, but a general retreat from eloquence and the joy of seeking out a worthy opponent. Believe me, there have been better times for political debate.

What do you suggest as a solution, professor?

Well, there is no panacea. We have to carefully prepare the public for more sophisticated discourse. Right now, they seem to accept very low intellectual standards. We should welcome contrarians at our institutions of higher learning. We should let no student graduate who takes one particular standpoint without seriously questioning it, before their third year in college. Universities should teach students how to be your own best critic, not how to be your own best proselytiser.

Thank you for your clear suggestion. Do you think it has any change of success?

Of course not. I am just saying these things because I owe it to my stature as an intellectual giant. I am playing the character people expect me to play.

Do you never lose hope?

What do you want me to say? Professor Trompsky never lose hope.

Professor Trompsky #1 was originally published on Meandering home

This image got me BANNED from Facebook

Last month I posted the above image as a commentary on a Facebook post. The image is a caricature of a campaign poster in the Dutch city of Rotterdam, on which a veiled Muslim woman and a Jew are kissing in front of the iconic Erasmus bridge.

Image Volkskrant.nl

I greatly dislike the puritanical culture that Facebook imposes on its users. Of course, it has every right to do so as an enterprise operating in a free market. But such ‘blocks’ that last 3 days after the first violation, 7 days after the second and ‘even longer’ after more offences, become a serious barrier for those of us who are used to slightly less puritanical limits to their free speech.

These bans convince me that we need a Commons Facebook that differs from the current commercial platform in three ways:
1) It has no central authority, hence no universal ‘community standards’. There can be several coexisting communities with slightly different standards;
2) It has no incentive of profit extraction. The platform shall be paid for by public funding (like the British National Health Service);
3) Since it is tax-funded, decisions about the platform will be made by a representative democracy.

Facebook has too much power. Its good intention to ban images it considers offensive are promoting a very specific and dominating puritanical culture at the expense of minority views. It makes these values appear as universalities, especially to young social media users, to whom a block from the platform is akin to ostracism. First, they are afraid of speaking up against the arbitrary morals of the all-powerful Facebook, then it becomes unthinkable to do so. There is no need for mind control. The new generation of users that Facebook is raising, will voluntarily censor themselves. They will incorporate the mores of the behemoth, and the fear of becoming an outcast will make them aggressive against those who violate the ‘community standards’.

You have been warned.

This image got me BANNED from Facebook was originally published on Meandering home

Laughing with Miru

There is nothing like humor to discover the signature of a human mind.

Tell me what you find funny, and I will tell you who you are. Okay, I may not be able to fathom the trenches of your soul, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have some sense of your political leaning, your raw intelligence and your general attitude towards life.

Interesting as such musings may be when they pertain to adults, things get really fascinating when we look at the humor of children. Every stage of the development of a child corresponds to a particular sense of humor. When my daughter Miru was an infant, so she was in Jean Piaget’s sensorimotor stage, she laughed at our funny faces. I believe that this first humor doesn’t yet distinguish between love and laughter: A gesture of care is laughable. Fun equals funny.

At age two, Miru laughed at unexpected things, developing a sense of Schadenfreude. This humor was not yet depending on grammar or abstract concepts, but directly related to the behavior of others. This corresponds to Piaget’s preoperational stage, that lasts from age 2 to 7. I would like to see a subdivision of this stage, because her humor became much more refined.

She is five years old today and I’ve found out that she really likes what I call deception jokes. In a restaurant celebrating her grandfather’s birthday, I told her that I turn her water into something else, like soda, and wield an imaginary magic wand. When she tastes the water and finds out the liquid hasn’t changed, she laughs out loud, multiple times. At this age, she knows that the world doesn’t always adhere to any and all description, but the fact that descriptions can be wrong, is still funny. There is a wonderful innocence in this particular sense of humor.

I’m looking forward to her next mental leap, into Piaget’s concrete and formal operational stages, and how it translates in yet another kind of humor.

Laughing with Miru was originally published on Meandering home

Evolutionary consolation

[Mommy puts son to bed]
Mommy, I’m so afraid.
– Why, darling?
Do you think I have bad genes?
– Why do you think that?
Girls don’t want to talk with me.
– But you got your genes from mommy and daddy.
So?
– Mommy and daddy talked to each other.
Did you?
– Yes.
But my genes could still be bad.
– How?
Maybe you two were forced to mate, or maybe you didn’t have a sufficiently long courtship period to discern each other’s evolutionarily advantageous traits, or mommy’s biological clock was ticking and you were her last resort for procreation.
– Those are profound questions, young man.
Yes [whines]
– Are you tired?
Yes.
– Then sleep. Why don’t you just behave as if your genes were good?
Just believe?
– Yes. Just believe that you are an integral part of our evolution’s absence of purpose. Just believe that you are not a cul-de-sac of evolution.
No! Don’t cull the sack!
– Goodnight son.

Evolutionary consolation was originally published on Meandering home