Thursday, January 11, 2018

Rehabilitation

So. I just turned around and heard some republican lawmaker or other, but it doesn’t really matter who, saying that our criminal justice system is good at removing criminals from society but that we need to do a better job at making sure that when inmates are released from prison that they have been rehabilitated and can be reassimilated back into society. Well. Allow me to express an alternative opinion.

To begin, according to the United States Sentencing Commission in 2014 fully 36% of the federal prison population was made up of illegal aliens. Or, if I need to be more sensitive and tolerant, they were citizens of foreign countries who are in the United States illegally and have been convicted of violating our laws. These men and women don’t need to be rehabilitated so that they can be reassimilated back into society because they need to be biometrically identified and deported immediately upon the completion of their sentences. In fact, since they are to be deported back to their country of origin, there is no benefit for us to rehabilitate them at all as their reassimilation back into society is none of our concern. We don’t need to provide them with psychological or career counselling or educational services. We can apprehend them, try them, incarcerate them to extract the payment to our society prescribed by our laws and then hand them over to the civil authorities in their home countries to do with as they see fit.

Next is the term “rehabilitate”. As defined by the Cambridge dictionary the word means: to return someone to a good, healthy, or normal life or condition after they have been in prison, or been very ill. So to rehabilitate someone presumes that they were good, normal, and or healthy to begin with and just made a thoughtless mistake in a moment of haste. In the culture we live in today this is clearly not the case. Many, if not most of the men and women who currently inhabit our prisons were never good, or normal to begin with. And again, to exhibit at least a little compassion, I’m willing to admit that this may not be entirely their fault although it hardly matters whose fault it is.

Since it is well known that 40% of children are now raised in homes without father present it is logical to assume that the condition of having been raised by a single mother is at least as common in the prison population and is likely higher. It is also well established that the presence of a father in the home is where children learn to respect authority and to understand how men and women properly interact with one another. This familial socialization takes many years and is generally taught to children by those who have a genetic stake in their safety, and wellbeing, starting when an infant’s brain is not fully formed and connected and they know nothing. How is the prison system supposed to raise a child who comes to it as a disrespectful adult? How is the prison system supposed to make whole again that which was never whole to begin with?

Lastly, the words Criminal Justice System sort of hung in my mind. The phrase implies that society has laws, that if you determined to have violated one or more of those laws you are a criminal and that society has the right to mete out to you whatever justice is specified by the law. Now when a child violates some rule of family behavior they may be subject to a timeout or some other form of punishment. But this isn’t referred to as “unruly child justice”. Children who behave badly aren’t rehabilitated. It’s referred to as punishment, and it is employed as negative reinforcement. It is given out in order to reaffirm where the authority in the family unit lies, and to help a child to understand that if they violate family norms (laws) that there will be unpleasant consequences. The severity and nature of those negative consequences has changed over the years, some would say for the better, some would say for the worse, but the principle is still the same: bad behavior equals unpleasant consequences. But it does no good to send a child to his or her room if they enjoy being there alone.

One has to wonder if hard labor were put back into prison sentences, if prison were made to be a really uncomfortable place to be, if people wouldn’t be a little more careful to avoid the sorts of behavior that were likely to get them sent there.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks

Friday, December 29, 2017

Generations

If you think back far enough you can maybe remember a time when they sometimes talked about the “baby boom”. Of course that referred to the crop of children that resulted from the end of World War II and the patriarchal disregard for the reproductive rights of women held by most men returning from the various theaters of war after nearly, or actually, having their asses shot off saving the world from tyrannical domination. But those kids, those boomers, weren’t really referred to as belonging to the baby boom generation.

Then you started to hear about the “Beat” generation. Artists with a dark view of just about everything. They smoked all the time, drank lots of coffee and snapped their fingers as a rebellious substitute for bourgeois applause. They gifted us stream of consciousness poetry, citified folk music, the goatee beard, and Maynard G. Krebs, but of course hardly anyone alive today remembers any of it.

It seems that it was about then that things started to fracture. Men born before the war (again, always the men) started experimenting with drugs (one wonders if the Soviets may not have been behind it based on the affect they’ve had on our society) to expand human consciousness or for use as weapons, or whatever and then they crept into youth culture and we gave birth to the Hippy movement. At last, we were free to do our own thing. And what we did was disco.

During those years there were, of course, Yuppies. They were young, upwardly mobile professionals. In contrast to the hippies, yuppies kept their appearance neat. They wore nice clothes, drove nice cars, got MBA degrees and pretty much rule over us now, but then they were the object of attempted ridicule. No one was talking of generations yet.

Then we got glam rock in the eighties and people started talking about generational splits. Maybe it was the sociologists, but I’ve always suspected that the concept was cooked up by marketers as a way to better target product promotion. And so in the ‘80s we started to hear about “Generation X”. The Gen Xers. The slogan may have been “Aqua Net For All”. (which is a jab at big hair in case you weren’t around for it).

Next, of course, came the Nineties and Generation (you guessed it) “Y”. Generation Y is so cool that they get several nick names, sometimes being called “echo boomers” or the more plebeian “millennials”. But the hits just keep on coming. In a plot twist worthy of Tarantino, or Vonnegut, and not patient enough to continue waiting for the next generation, Tom Brokaw took a trip down memory lane, and wrote a book about the parents of the boomers and gave them the auspicious title of “The Greatest Generation”. Like the Stones going on after James Brown at the TAMI show, it’s a tough act to follow.

At the current end of this rather predictable progression is Generation (you guessed it again) “Z”. But are members of this crop of younglings that much different than those that came before, the echo booming millennials? And are they different in any substantial way (save age, as if age and the education, insight, and experience that come with it are trivial) from their older siblings?

And now, by some accounts, we’re already years into the as yet unnamed next generation. The fact that they’ve run out of letters so soon in this process doesn’t speak too well of thought processes of the people who thought the whole thing up. One has to wonder if all of this division and categorization is really helpful.

But, that’s just what an average guy thinks

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Echo

For centuries, to buy something took a combination of three things. First you had to have the desire to own whatever it was. Next, you had to have the funds available to buy it with, and lastly you had to have the time and the means with which to go get it and you had to have all three of those things simultaneously. It’s one of the reasons my hair has been so long at some times during my life. One day I might have the desire to get my hair cut, but not the time. Weeks later I might have the desire and the time, but not the cash. It’s one of the reasons I will often have no beer or fresh vegetables in the house during the winter months. It’s not that I don’t want them, or can’t afford them. It’s mostly that I don’t want to go out in the cold to get them.

But now, desire can be triggered by a television commercial much like the candy display at the grocery checkout, electronic banking has disconnected us from our money, electronic domestic assistants can order things for us at a mere vocal suggestion, and online delivery services will bring our goods to our doors for only a modest fee.

All that’s left to protect us from over indulgence and over-extension is our innate sense of self-restraint which has been under constant bombardment by the purveyors of everything for decades. “Buy it now”. “Enjoy it now”. “You deserve it” we are constantly told with nary a whisper of the payment that will later be required.

Echo. Order peperoni pizza, Sham Wow, and a valentine Snuggy.

We’re doomed.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks

I Know This Much Is True

I was reading an article recently that happened to mention Neil de Grasse Tyson (NDT). For those of you who may not know, he’s an astrophysicist, a real smart guy, a scientific bon vivant, and unlike Bill Nye, a real science guy.

Now, I will stipulate that NDT likely has a higher IQ than I do, even though I’m no slouch. But I suspect that, just like Barack Obama, he benefits rather than suffers from what George W. Bush referred to as the “soft bigotry of low expectations” because of his heritage. What I mean by that is what has already been said, that if Barack Obama had been white, he never would have been elected president. He was just another bright young graduate of the Harvard Law school. But he was the cool young black guy that young progressives and even establishment democrats couldn’t resist with Joe Biden referring to him as being “clean cut” and Harry Reid commenting that he was electable because he was “light skinned” and that he spoke without any “negro dialect unless he wanted to”. In short, it was his skin tone that made him a stand out. People were willing to overlook his black liberation theology, his intolerance toward the LGBT community, and the lack of any personal information about his education being available.

Similarly, is NDT the most gifted, glib, interesting, telegenic, or most accomplished member of the American Astronomical Society, or has his elevation to the status of cultural icon been based simply on his being an academic novelty?

Anyway, what caught my eye was something that he said on Bill Maher’s HBO program “Real Time with Bill Maher”. What he said was "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it." Now, of course, he was prattling on about global warming, extreme weather, and climate and environmental studies and you can argue that any way you like. But he and Bill were having a great time mocking catastrophe skeptics and the president as ignorant rubes and congratulating themselves for being members of the enlightened. It caught my eye because it always amazes me when someone who should (and quite probably does) know better, says something so profoundly misleading and stupid. The scientific method is a way of learning, a process of increasing knowledge, not something that is provably true or false. At one point not so long ago science said that heavier than air flight was impossible, and then that supersonic flight was impossible, something we know now not to be true. The molecule was the smallest particle, then the atom, then sub atomic particles. We were told that scientists couldn’t explain why bumble bees can fly. As an astrophysicist, Tyson knows well how Copernicus, Galeleio and others suffered at the hands of their contemporaries whose “truths” were rooted in the earth centric theory of the solar system which allowed Mars to mysteriously move backward in its celestial travels.

To imply that science says that something is true or false is to assert that our knowledge of the world and the universe is now complete, and that we are now masters of the universe instead of insignificant actors.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks