Showing posts with label Social Networks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Networks. Show all posts

Thursday, April 13, 2017

On Humor

 Another guest post to begin an essay I have been thinking about for a couple of years now.
 
Nyah Wynne
Somehow we have gotten this notion in the culture that humor is value-neutral. That something being a joke means it doesn't mean anything, it doesn't affect anything. But it's absurd. Humor has a powerful social function. Several in fact. It can help people bind over shared adversity. It can smooth over feelings of social discomfort around uncomfortable or uncertain events and ideas. In this last, a message about how to think about something is often included implicitly. But it also plays a very large role in social censure and definition of in/out group. As social censure it acts as an attack against people -doing- things that are culturally deemed unacceptable but not so bad that they warrant punishment(or where social systems don't exist to enact punishment). This can be very useful, as mocking those acting rudely or engaging in petty cruelty can help to correct those actions, or can be destructive if the taboos they enforce/reinforce are unjust.

But this same social censure can end up targeting whole groups of people along utterly arbitrary lines. And when they do they tend to create/reinforce and recreate in each new generation systems of social advantage/oppression. Humor is possibly The Strongest Inculcation Tool for teaching prejudice. Because it is a set of social cues we are primed to respond to without thinking. Because humor has such a strong group-bonding component, the social incentive to laugh along with the joke is high. And when you see others laugh with the joke, the incentive to tell similar jokes is high. And the group bonds over it, and the message sinks in without really ever being critically appraised. And eventually that message forms a baseline subconscious assumption about the world unless you run into a strong reason to actively work to weed it out.

It ends up playing a part in defining on a deep level who is and isn't fully worthy of empathy. Who 'deserves' abuse. Who should automatically be respected and who shouldn't. And these same things end up coloring how we see the world. How we respond to what people in various groups say and how they act. Who is given the benefit of the doubt and who is suspect. Who is assumed to be competent or worth listening to. What sorts of ideas are even worth consideration, because humor is extremely good at painting whole ideas as beneath contemplation and therefor dismissed -without ever being consciously evaluated-. Whose ideas are worthy of such thought.

Because the same mechanism involved in many of these sorts of jokes is the social tool we use to single out rude people, or liars, or people who cheat. It's never just a joke. It's a bit of prejudice you learned at some point that you never even noticed yourself learning, which you are passing on without realizing you are doing it. No one joke is going to just make a person prejudiced, but each little bit adds up. Because as rational and introspective as we might think we are, as humans we are all pretty impressionable, and worse we tend to be very blind to how we are being affected.

Think about your humor. What you laugh at. What jokes you pass along. And if you get called on a joke, instead of getting defensive, consider questioning the joke itself. Why you found it funny, but also what sort of messages it's conveying. You telling this kind of joke doesn't make you a bad person, you just picked up somewhere that it was funny. But it still has an effect, even if you don't see it.
Mel Brooks/Groucho Marks:

Tragedy is when I cut my finger.  Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.
 All humor is ultimately a pratfall, but most important the pratfall happens to "them" not "us."  Think of any ethnic joke.  OK you got one don't you?  Now name your most important in-group.  Your church, your school, your community.  Now tell the joke with the ethnic group replaced by the in-group name preferably aloud in the in-group.  Is it still comedy or does it become a tragic comment on the failing of the group, or worse it makes you rude to point it out.  

 The truth of the pratfall is irrelevant to the designation.  You may claim it is ironic, or if it is perceived to be on them, satire but the message is clear: This is what they are/do and we must be careful that it never happens to us.  

 One of my favorite religious jokes is the poem 
We are the world's sweet chosen few.
The rest of you be damned!
There is room enough in Hell for you,
We won't have Heaven crammed.
Note the open sewer there.  It may be simply a mud hole if you don't believe in Hell, but nevertheless if one of "us" fell into that mud hole all would rally around to rescue the victim, and the joke falls flat.  The message for apostates is unmistakable and the message for non-believers is that you deserve the open sewer preferably sooner rather later, and "we" will be glad to help. 

"It's a joke, son." is a way of defusing criticism of behavior that is not consistent with the mores of our tribe by associating it with another tribe, preferably one that is not too dissimilar but clearly not one of us.  Interstate jokes being the most benign as the neighboring state is clearly a lot like us and only the worst of them indulge as the butt of the joke. The sharp edge remains however to remind "son" that we don't do things like that.  If the cutting edge of the humor doesn't cause a bit of discomfort in the audience of the comic it probably was wasted and unsuccessful.  

Humans laugh because they are uncomfortable but either unsure of the source of the discomfort or because the source of the discomfort is a trusted figure of some sort.  Consider tickling.  Tickling is a serious invasion of personal space.  But only someone that has permission to invade personal space can be in a position to tickle.  It is a restrained aggressive act, but protest would be inappropriate so we express our discomfort with laughter. 

Da Capo. 
 
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-brain-can-distinguish-between-real-and-fake-laughter/?WT.mc_id=SA_FB_MB_FEAT
“Laughter is really interesting because we observe it across all human cultures and in other species,” says Carolyn McGettigan, a cognitive neuroscientist at Royal Holloway, University of London. “It's an incredibly important social signal.” ...
Subjects whose medial prefrontal cortex “lit up” more when hearing the posed laughter were better at detecting whether laughs were genuine or not in a subsequent test. (This brain region is involved in understanding the viewpoint of others.) “If you hear a laugh that seems ambiguous in terms of what the person means,” McGettigan explains, “it makes sense that you're going to try to work out why this person sounds like this.”

 There is a lesson in this for those who persist in telling jokes that are offensive to some.  They can tell that some are "laughing to be a part of the crowd" or to be polite.  How they deal with that knowledge is an important social signal that can in an extreme situation be a reason for calling them out as an asshole that does not belong in the social circle they pretend to be in. If it is yours, kick herm the hell out. No Platform the asshole.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Social Support for Deconverts.

beliefnet
The issue here between beliefs even buddhist and proper humanist will tell you.    It aint that a humanist is better then a buddhist or more logical then catholic or smarter then a bible thumper.  RCCan
A little too much projection there.  There is no humanist way.  Humanists aren't better than any other human, which is what the humanism is about.  At least conditional respect for all humans is part of humanism. Some humanists try to maintain radical respect for all.  Humanists are different however in that there is no belief, not even belief in humans that is required, and humanists are not a group. They do form social groups, that is a human trait, but the social groups are based on a common interest rather than a belief and generally are inclusive.

Many humanists have had a horrible experience in leaving a belief system and may for that reason condition their respect for others on not being a part of that particular belief system.  It is an non-rational condition, but humanists are human, and excommunication, disfellowshipping, shunning, and other denials of social support are the most painful experiences for any social animal, as it is frequently a death sentence, either by being incapable of self-support, depression or overt suicide.  This is especially true for GLBTs, etc. who are cast out as sinners. 

Humanists, in particular humanists who have left dogmatic religions can be especially helpful to the GLBTs who have been forced to leave friends and family over dogmatic differences.  Their inclusive interest based social groups provide major social support for those cast out.  Some are even non-dogmatic religious groups that provide a comfortable Sabbath ritual for former believers. 

Humanists generally separate themselves by not being able to believe any longer, but support groups are easier to find, sometimes within the faith, and the separation from the patriarchs while traumatic is not life threatening.  But trauma, even self-chosen trauma leaves scars, and avoiding additional scars by exposure to the shunning group is at least understandable. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Atheists and Social Media

beliefnet
YouTube  provider
I suggest old atheists here check out social media and other new forms of communication for the younger generation of atheists. They get off their ass and do stuff.

I have been on social media since it began and have seen many movements come and go.  New this and new that like the new Tide make a little bubble in the suds and disappears in the rinse water. 

As for getting off their asses the new generation of social mediaists seems to interpret that as thumbing a tweet or liking a post somewhere.  Even those who do get off their ass and create new media, thank you for doing so, are basically competing for views, likes and shares in a very tiny community. 

Effective use of social media is joining or forming coalitions with people going generally your way and doing what you can to help and perhaps influence where they are going.  As an atheist fighting religious oppression I have always found it more effective to join groups like the Christian Left on Facebook and support liberal Christian groups IRL that are in a position to create change.  Say what you really think about Pope Francis or Bishop Spong but do it among friends.  Support them publicly as they push hard and effectively in a good direction. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bonfires (or incindiaries) on Campus

AKA The World is on Fire Lets Piss on the Candle We Can Put Out.

Although I am disappointed that Cal Alpha failed in minor ways to live up to the ideals of the True Gentleman and the fraternity traditions, I am not at all surprised that they and other SAE chapters reflect the privileged male culture in the US that continue to openly assert that women are kitchen slaves at best and the property of men whether they are related to the man at all.  The military, the police, the right wing(?) media, some important churches and many prominent politicians create that culture.  Unfortunately none of the above are likely to appoint a Title IX administrator to clean up their culture.   

Universities and colleges have the same problems but properly take the stance that as community leaders they should deal with them.  My concern is that draconian sanctions for minor offenses sends the wrong message about free association and free speech to the Stanford Community.  To wit: Fraternities are the only fall guys we have that we can pick on so they have to go.  See Etchemendy's one strike and you are out pronouncement.  

I am not concerned with bailing out Cal Alpha or SAE, appropriate responses by Stanford and National have been taken and are in place.  But they cannot have any effect on the house if the house does not exist even for an academic year.  Stanford should be a leader in creating a responsible social environment on campus and the fraternities and sororities should be the safe houses and leaders rather than the fall guys for failures all over the campus.

Other comments roughly reverse time sequence.

If you are going to throw guilt by association in the pot the administrator came from Ohio, politically and socially one of the most sexist and violent states outside of the deep south and Wisconsin.  Boehner is their US Representative. 

Lets not throw the house under the bus just yet.  Minor lapses in judgement, I wouldn't call it hazing in any sense of the word.  We had brothers hurt being tossed in the fountain for lesser crimes.  Underage drinking? I remember a punch called the Red Death that more than a few underage people had trouble with.  We had to be a bit more circumspect in the house, but times have changed. 

From my conversation with Laird it seemed like the house handled everything well, and the University had to do something, anything, to make a Title IX statement.  Lets see what he has to say.

Yawn. Sexual Assault Exaggerations are news.  Where is the most likely place to be sexual assaulted today? At the festivities around professional sports events.  Why isn't that news? D'oh.  Where is another likely place to be sexually assaulted, a church social.  Why isn't that news? D'oh. Lets look at the Military.  Why isn't that news? D'oh. What's left? Colleges.  When are you most likely to be sexually asaulted on campus? Game Day! Why isn't that news? D'oh.

Hey, college fraternities throw parties that women attend.  Everybody hates fraternities because they weren't tapped.  Now we got news.

True Gentlemen,

I am not threatening anytthing at this point.  Just trying to get a reasonable conversation going with the appropriate people at Stanford.  I think the appropriate people will begin with President Hennessy as the issue is not the dehousing of SAE but an assault on free speech, free association, and traditional Stanford social life, the last having no legal standing but is why legal issues will be the primary assault weapons. 

The damage to a pledge's name, to the fraternity's continued existence on campus, and indeed the existence of fraternities on campus has already been established with the announcement of the dehousing as a fait accompli based in part on the remarks of a pledge.  All of that makes makes Corry a huge reason why Stanford and at least the Old Lions should sit down and talk about undoing the damage.  I am not a wealthy person and $1000 is not something I can easily afford to invest in protectiing all that is important to me about my Stanford experience but I have spent more than that for a SAE reunion party. 

I would much prefer to speak softly, but I need a big stick to deal with the Provost's threat to basic freedoms at Stanford.  It doesn't even have to be a real big stick at this point but it needs to be really big. 

Phi Alpha,  needed more than ever at this point.  Stretch your memories it is relevant.

A bit of background: I was a legacy ΣAE and grew up singing ΣAE songs in the car led by Charlie Black, Kansas Alpha '23, on our many long road trips including a respectful love song to the Sweetheart of ΣAE which was a serenade song from the 20's.  I rushed ΣAE only as a courtesy to dad as my older sisters had convinced me that fraternities were sexist hellholes that I should avoid at all costs.  They were wrong about Cal Alpha.

I attended  ΣAE Leadership School in Evanston and was impressed with the national values of respect in the fraternity not only for brothers but for all people, particularly including women.  The True Gentleman credo was evident in all we did at Leadership School.  It was at Leadership School I found out about the Little Sisters of Minerva for houses to demonstrate their respect and concern for campus women.

I was instrumental in the founding of the Little Sisters of Minerva at Cal Alpha when there were few women and no sororities at Stanford. The Saturday dances on the huge porch facing what is now White Plaza led by Little Sisters who invited friends to the party were a fixture of Fraternity Row.  Hat tip to The Lancers, the house band, for the music.

I was social chairman two years, and threw many parties some of questionable taste (including an annual Toga Party) but part of my job was to insure that the True Gentleman values of the house and ΣAE were maintained.  By and large they were. 

It is no accident that many of the cc’s here are from the early 60’s.  As I remember the class of ’61 threw a 25th reunion party including neighboring classes and the Little Sisters, a tradition that has been maintained since with the 5X reunion class hosting the others.  The reunions are always well attended including Little Sisters some of whom married brothers and are still happily married after all these years.  These reunions are a testimony of the strong bonds built in living, socializing, playing, and working together in a tight social environment including the Little Sisters of Minerva. 

In my visits to the ΣAE House, both before and after I moved near campus I have made it a point to notice how the women visitors were treated and it seemed to me that the Little Sister tradition of respect and concern has been maintained, including the 2013 pregame party invite for Alums.
 
My initial reaction to the SD article was that even the social suspension was a political overreaction by Stanford to real abuses on other campuses and nothing I have seen or heard since changes that opinion at all.  No one was physically hurt, bad taste including sexist atrocities passes for entertainment on Fox News, and a private, by invitation party implies an acceptance of the invitation.  Telling tales out of Vegas is rude in any society, and overreacting to tales told out of Vegas is just wrong.
 
From the information provided it appears that the house measures taken in response to the suspension are more than adequate to address the nonissue that caused it.  

Correspondence 

Dear Vice Provost:

I understand that Stanford is under considerable pressure due to Title IX, current events, and campus protests to do something – anything – to show that the University cares about women’s rights.  But a death penalty for one of the few vibrant, women friendly, social organizations in the Stanford social desert sends the wrong message, for the wrong reasons, at the wrong time. 
The wrong message:   Any voluntary gathering of men and women will be subject to “special scrutiny” under Title IX.  Have a mixed social gathering only at risk to the existence of your organization.  Essentially you are saying that social gender segregation is the policy of Stanford. 
The wrong reason: A hostile environment refers to an environment like a workplace or classroom where people are not able to avoid the offending material without severe consequences.  Being pelted with grapes for walking out is not a severe consequence in the case of the annual Roman Bath party apparently eagerly anticipated by both the men of SAE and the women of Pi Phi who knew that improv. stand-up, dark humor was going to be a feature of the party.
The wrong time:  Announcing a death penalty for a popular organization after most students have left campus to celebrate a busy, merry holiday with friends and family hoping that nobody would notice sends the message to the media, the student body, and the parties involved that the only reason for the death penalty was to have something to show Title IX snoops if they showed up at Stanford.  The burning match appeal the first week of classes is further evidence that Stanford is making a political statement, not a transparent, reasoned action for the benefit of the University community. 
As a 52 year alum who greatly benefited from my time in the SAE House on Lasuen Row and have viewed my SAE Reunions with my brothers and “Little Sisters of Minerva” as one of the main reasons to attend Stanford Class Reunions.  I strongly protest this unnecessary and disgraceful action.
Please note that the above is a personal opinion of a Stanford Alum, not associated in any way with the current Cal Alpha SAE Chapter.  It was, however, stimulated by the request for support in their appeal of the dehousing action taken by the University.  

Sincerely,

 
Vice Provost;

You should be aware that the announcement by the Title IX administrator in re. SAE and related announcements by Provost Etchemendy have effects far beyond the fate of the current house and will have major ramifications as to free speech on campus and indeed traditional social life at Stanford. 

A group of Cal Alpha alums as well as other interested parties have taken interest in some legal issues in the matter some of which might be germane to your decision.

At the very least the following case should be relevant.
 
Full text of opinion in Corry et al. v. Leland Stanford Junior University et al.  

Pertinent excerpt from Calif. Education Code sec. 94367
              "No private postsecondary educational institution shall make or enforce a rule subjecting a student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside the campus or facility of a private postsecondary institution, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or . . . the California Constitution."

Speech by President Gerhard Casper on Corry decision:

There also appear to be Title IX issues with applying group sanctions for behavior of individuals that may be relevant to this type of case. 

I am not an attorney so cannot comment on any of the above but I think you should be aware of our discussions.  


I am not representing anyone but myself as a Stanford Alum please pass the buck to President Hennessy.  It belongs on his desk.  

Sincerely,


Comments:

This is an open thread.  Anyone may comment anonymously or blog ID.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tribal Issues

king of the universe(s) - Beliefnet

The basic human social unit has been the tribe or clan. Certainly tribes and clans competed for space and resources, just as religions and nations do today. But within the tribe or clan social compliance, that is being nice to one another, was absolute. A serious social error got you expelled from the tribe, and until very recently a lone human was a dead human. Even today, disfellowshipping or shunning can be a devastating experience that frequently leads to suicide or in some cases being killed. The social contract between the individual and the social group is critical to the survival of both. Even at the nation level an individual who violates the social contract no matter how powerful can be brought down by the tribe abetted by modern communication channels. See Nixon and Mubarak. There will be more. You got to be nice to your fellow tribespeople no matter how big the guns at your back are. Those guns are operated by members of the tribe.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Internet as a Social Group

Nails in the Religious Coffin: Sex, Drugs, and Contraception - Beliefnet
Let´s use this day to remind us of the importance of  friendship, brotherhood and unity.
The ciber space  has become the perfect instrument to achieve such a thing, because here distance, gender, race, nationality, beliefs, are not what is important  but the feeling of togetherness.
Silverada
It will be interesting to see if internet resources like Facebook (The intelligent old fart's friend) will be able to take up the slack in putting together social groups of like minded people. For a while it was just keeping in touch with old friends that have been scattered around the country, but recently I have been searching out and finding local like minded people. Although occasional face to face or group meetups are fun and valuable, the internet takes the place of the Post Office or mall greeting or for that matter the church socials.

As for charity, there are plenty of opportunities to make a difference in the world, and I find the resources of the net valuable for vetting them. Many of the church charity events are more about making the church participants feel good about themselves and look good to the community than actually making a difference in other people's lives. In many religious charities I find very little 'teaching them to fish' and a lot of throwing them a fish with a verse attached.

I thought about throwing the internet into the title, but it didn't have the right ring. But it is there, along with smartphone networks, that are going to change the way societies form and maintain their ethos.

Looking at the current crop of young adults one wonders. I suspect texting and twitter are just a fad, but social networks, can be quite powerful and rewarding. I have never met several "friends" from beliefnet, but most of them are more important to my mental well being than most of my casual face to face contacts even those who get hugs. I will try to get the face-to-face and will go out of my way to do so, but even that meeting is more of a reunion with an old friend rather than making a new acquaintance. The reserve and hesitancy of meeting a new even highly recommended face friend, just isn't there. I have personally done this several times once meeting a friend for the first time in the car at the start of a 2 day 1500 mile road trip to a rock concert both of us wanted to see. I knew the lead singer, but he had never met any of the people that were going to be there except for a high school classmate, who was the unifying contact for us all.