I Am That Girl Now

Friday, September 09, 2005

And now we see why I didn't want to get into the political debate on a food & exercise blog

::blows whistle::

Okay, everybody: OUT OF THE POOL. Anyone else posts comments in either of my political posts and I will take them the righteous fuck down. Got it? If you have more to say, take out space on your own blog. I will not host it here anymore.

I may end up making a secondary blog for political purposes, but if I do, there are going to be some serious rules there. I firmly believe that there are no problems that cannot be solved, or at least dealt with in order to minimize the damage, but I also believe that over the past ten or fifteen years the concept of civilized debate has gone out the window and the entire concept of "debate" has started to be translated as an image of monkeys throwing poop at each other and shrieking incomprehensibly, each side trying to drown the other out. I'm not saying that's what has happened here, but I've seen it a lot, in a great many places, and communication doesn't happen. Nobody changes their minds, they just learn to hate each other more. It's awful.

If and when I make a new blog for political stuff, you guys will be the first to know, but I'm going to say even before I make up a name for it that everyone will be welcome. There are enough exclusionary political blogs out there, places where people of roughly the same views can congregate and congratulate themselves on how clever they are to have come up with the Right Way Of Thinking, and smite themselves on the head with despair on how the Other Side Just Doesn't Get It. Yeah, that's fun. It's so much fun, it's what every human pastime evolves into; taking sides, fighting until being right becomes more important than getting anything done, and then splintering into groups so that everyone can go on thinking they are right, until of course the inevitable further splintering of each group occurs. Think I'm wrong? Look at religion. Look at online fandoms. Look at political parties. Look at movements. Hell, look at friendships and marriages. Human beings have a definite talent for squabbling, and a definite preference for it. It's more comfortable for us to use our differences to smash each other over the head than to work to discover our similarities and deal with the uncomfortable process of having to look over our differences with the possibility that the other side might have a better thing going than our side.

I'm a realist, or I try to be. I adore being right as much as anyone else does, but what I like even better than that is the satisfaction of good construction. A plan is great, but when it doesn't work (and after I get over mourning the fact that it didn't work), it's time to take things apart, look at them, and figure out what went wrong. That requires the ability to divorce your self from your plan, and to not feel personally offended when someone points out the problems. It also requires the ability to see what parts worked and what didn't, and what two good things just didn't work well together (olives are great, and strawberry jelly is fantastic, but in no way shape or fashion should they ever live on a sandwich together). That's hard. All too often, the question of "what the hell happened?" is answered with "it's your fault, because you suck!" instead of "the plan went wrong here."

I watch a lot of Modern Marvels on the History Channel, and about half of their shows are on engineering disasters or disasters, period. There are two kinds of disasters, from what I can tell. One is the kind where people didn't know that something would be a risk, and didn't plan to deal with it. The other is the kind where people knew something would be a risk, but they had other priorities that made them more likely to see the risk as something they could deal with. The night before the Challenger explosion, there was a huge argument between NASA and the engineers from the company that had built the rocket boosters. The engineers firmly believed that if the shuttle launched, the cold temperatures would make the O-rings too cold and brittle to deal with the pressure of the liquid fuel. NASA was on a schedule, on a budget, and ultimately cared more about keeping the program moving than about a risk that couldn't be proven.

In the 1990s, a study was run on the risks to the shuttles, specifically regarding the heat-resistant tiles on the bottom. The studies showed that what was probably the greatest risk to the tiles was part of the frozen-solid foam breaking off the solid fuel container hooked to the bottom and striking the shuttle. NASA looked at the study and didn't bother doing anything about it. For ten years, the risk was ignored, and then Columbia proved that any risk was too high.

On another tangent, it's worth noting that one of the things that the Roman Emperor Claudius did right was to set up a bureacracy that worked like clockwork without much interference from the Emperor or ruling class, so that no matter who was in charge over the next few centuries, the aqueducts still got dredged out, the streets still got cleaned, the money still went to the correct places, and the army was still the best in the ancient world. Considering that the (very possibly) worst Emperor ever came right after him-- Nero-- that was a pretty good move on his part.

The problems given to us by living in the physical world are many. What continues to astonish me is how we manage to make those problems significantly worse by refusing to learn from our own mistakes. That's bad science, it's bad life practice, and it's bad government. When there is a crisis, put an independent investigation on it, and let the chips fall where they may. Whoever is at fault, then they are at fault. I don't give a rat's ass which party takes the most damage, because I'm a human being first, then a citizen of the world, then an American, then a Democrat. Party loyalty is a nice thing when you can afford it, but when it comes to saving lives, my humanity counts more, and as you can see that rates a few levels above party affiliation. When it comes to making sure our government works for, and takes care of, the people, instead of the other way around, that matters more to me than party affiliation.

No comments on this one, lest the political discussion continue. I'll set up a better forum for it, but in the meantime, we're done here.