Friday, July 29, 2005

The Dog Poop Girl
Short version--her dog shat on the train, she wouldn't pick it up, someone posted her picture on the net.

There were a lot of comments on Schneier's site worried about public humiliation, and cultural norms. What came to mind is that what someone does, the degree to which they practice what they think is "proper" behavior, in many cases depends on who is looking. I think that there is a certain amount of intrinsic morality that a person has, and a certain amount of their behavioral standards are simply an effort to avoid disapproval. I would suppose, like everything else, the line between the two make a bell curve when you look at large populations.

One of the biggest impacts of the shift of populations to cities is the increase in anonymity. What does it matter if those people sitting across from me see me drop my candy wrapper on the floor of the bus. I'll never see them again, anyway. At first, there is a little fear. But then, as no one we know sees us do the little things we were ashamed of before, we lose our shame after a while.

And we come to a world where I can't just let my daughters go out and play with the neighborhood kids, because there are people who have lost their shame about abusing children.

Perhaps the internet and camera-phones can start to restore community standards.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Value and trust in relationships.

I recently had a conversation about someone's issues with his coworkers. The core issue was trust. Didn't seem anybody trusted him.

That caused me to want to pop out of my long hiatus from philosophizing. :)

I've operated off a principle of value in voluntary relationships, over the last few years. In a relationship, you give something to the other person, they give you something back. What you give and what you get can be anything tangible or intangible you can imagine. And, just like any commercial transaction, what you get is worth more to you than what you give, or you wouldn't give it, would you? Would you?

That's it in a nutshell. To go further would sound like a relationship counseling session. Of course, to leave it at that introduces filthy commerce into what should be pure. Pure of what, though. Does feeling better about yourself, does feeling loved, does feeling powerful, does feeling appreciated have value? Depending on the person, yes! Just satisfying one of your instincts is plenty of value. And if you want to build a strong relationship with someone, you have to take the time to find out what they really value.

So, back to my coworker. I've found myself asking on numerous occasions what value I get from him. He buys me lunch once in a while, and we talk about our kids sometimes. That's kind of nice, but it doesn't make me willing to take a bullet for him.

So, we haven't got much basis for a relationship. There is very little trade there. How about the trust? How could I recommend to him that he earn the trust of his coworkers? I saw a very cool blog a few days back, talking about the concept of a marker--in gambling parlance, a promise to pay. (If anybody can point me to the appropriate attribution, I would appreciate it.) Has he promised us anything beyond what is required from his job, and delivered on it. Before I can trust you where I have to do something, you have to show you can be trusted when I am just watching. Make a commitment, and demonstrably keep it. If you do it when it costs you something personally, that makes you that much more trustworthy.

So, how does this coworker earn my trust? He has to make commitments beyond what is required of him by his position, and they have to be commitments that he can be seen to be living up to.

And lest I forget, that commitment, of course, has to be to something that I consider of value. In other words, the commitments he makes have to reflect personal values and principles at least somewhat aligned with mine, or at least the ones I would like to have.

That's about all I have to say on it for now. That clarifies things for me a bit.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

How sad. Just saw the video segment that Jeff Jarvis was in. If not for having listened for a few minutes to Randi Rhodes on Air America, I would have taken it as an isolated incident. The heirs of Rush Limbaugh are everywhere, and liberals now figure prominently in their ranks. "How can you possibly compare these people to Rush Limbaugh?" you ask? There doesn't appear to be any reasoned discourse. Just vicious appeals to negative emotions. The lowest common denominator.

I can remember when I made a radical change in my perspective after hearing a good friend quoting Rush Limbaugh. My mom would listen to the 'conservative' conveyors of hate on the radio. It would make my skin crawl and my ears bleed, and it broke my heart to hear my mom quote that shit as fact.

And now it appears that some liberal commentators have decided that this approach works. It appears that reason. empathy, and civility are becoming increasingly scarce. Jeff Jarvis seems to be so caught up in his antipathy to Bernie Goldberg that he can't seem to see what that video segment would look like to someone who doesn't know any of the people on that show from Adam. Both sides seem to just be preaching to the choir, and have no interest in reasoned discourse, and never entertain the possibility that the other side, no matter how distasteful to them, might have an important contribution to make. No self-reflection. Decisions that get made by the loudest voice are rarely the best decisions, but no one can hear the quiet voices any more, because of the loud ones.

Reflection on yourself: the ability to step outside yourself for a moment, and see yourself as might look to an objective observer. If you can do that, you find yourself trying to minimize how petty you look to that observer. :)