I was a writing coach once upon a time. In a sense, I have been a writing coach all my career, but back in the ‘70s I was a writing coach for a writing lab at a Kansas university, and we even got featured as a human-interest story in Time magazine. True story. More specifically, I was A coach for academic and business writing, but I was THE coach for creative writing.
I have to say, the creative-writing part was not a success. On Tuesday nights a line of 18- to 22-year-old females would form, eagerly clutching pasteled and appliqued sheets of treasure for my review. They would hold such gems as “And I looked into the clouds, and I cried….” Then they would ask me to judge whether it was “publishable.”
I’m sorry if I offend somebody, but there is nowhere to go with this stuff. My common response was that good poetry should stand the test of time; if it’s publishable now it will be publishable in a year and they should put it in a shoe box in a closet and read it again in later. I never found a way to be both honest and supportive. That was when I learned I would never be a diplomat.
Like a youth following a night that was too long with too much cherry vodka, I lost my taste for written foolishness. I just can’t deal with it. Not everybody is a writer, and neither should they be. But I’m not a cabinetmaker or CNC programmer, and I don’t make an effort to pretend I’m one. As part of some unwritten contract between us, I don’t pretend I’m a wood manufacturer, and you don’t send me poetry. It’s a great relationship.
Society seems to have lost its sense of having had too much cherry vodka. It just wants more. I get it that we can disagree on politics, but we must be sober – or at least sober within some kind of limit. Burning buildings, killing children and commanding citizens to kneel and comply with a political agenda does not meet the test. It is not only wrong and evil. It is definably stupid.
I hate to use the word “stupid” to describe a group of people. To do so is a logical fallacy called ad hominem, or “at the man.” It is name-calling. That is, it’s name-calling unless it’s true.
Last week a gang invaded a restaurant chanting, “White silence is violence.” This is so much “not-poetry” it beggars description. Nobody will ever have a video of me or anybody I know standing around repeating idiot rhymes to a juvenile with a megaphone. To start with, as a definition of silence, white or otherwise, it is false. Silence is not violence. It is the fallacy of false equivalence, and no matter how many times it’s repeated, or how loudly, you cannot make it true. It is, however, a way to jack up a crowd. We knew that back in history. It may even be the heart of rock and roll. But it’s foolish. Uneducated. It does not stand the test of time.
Any kid in fifth grade can hook unrelated clauses. You can even go on YouTube for a writing coach. Here’s one, I assume from a 22-year-old published poet (Everybody is published now that the internet is here.): How to Rhyme: How to Find Rhymes Fast! (Songwriting 101).
But you don’t need Songwriting 101. As I said, a kid can do it. Here are a couple I made up between sips of coffee. Make a rhyme; cover a crime. Give offense; hide that you’re dense. These kids need a spanking; let’s get cranking.
My position is that our current social unrest comes from lack of understanding. Stupidity, if you will. But before I call somebody stupid, I need to be able to prove it. And I will. However, brace yourself. This is going to be controversial. I will take one of the most sacred of sacred cows, and I will gore it. The cow is abortion. But be fair. I am not talking about abortion. I am not arguing one side of abortion or another. I am taking a polemic as an example of argument. I could do the same with any other contemporary controversy. So can you, if you can think, and you can.
Let’s say the underlying argument in favor of abortion is “a woman’s right to choose.” We can say that, because it is. But “choose” what?
If we look at the popular movement leading up to Roe v. Wade in the 1960s, the “choice” was, “A woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body.”
Are we agreed? We should be. It’s a fact. That was the argument.
But science has come a long way since the ‘60s. Today, we can take a simple, tiny tissue sample from a fetus – the “mass of cells” alluded to in the early abortion arguments – and we can test the DNA. My sense is that DNA science is still in its infancy, and in another 50 years we will be able to know our entire ancestry by name from DNA. For now, however, we can tell much. We can tell some ancestry, sex, inclination toward hereditary conditions. Importantly, we can tell parentage if there is a question of who the father is.
Are you still with me? You should be, because these are facts. DNA says it’s human.
But here’s the sticker. You can also tell by DNA that the fetus is NOT the mother’s body. It is a different body with characteristics of both the mother and the father. It is not the mother’s body, but something else.
This, too, is a fact. However, it is fair to raise a question at this point, that question being, “OK, if it’s not the mother’s body, what is it?
In scientific terms, the fetus is the mother’s dependent. That is, it’s a separate organism that cannot exist in its own right, and it relies on a host for its survival.
So the argument for “own body” falls on its face in the presence of science. To repeat myself, this is not an argument against abortion, but an argument against the argument. There may be many reasons to support abortion. It’s just that this one falls on its face.
Interestingly, the idea of dependence raises other issues. For example, back in the ‘60s I was a teen (not writing poetry) in Sioux Falls, S. Dak. We were wild kids. No rule was too good to be broken. However, there were social rules (mores) and legal rules and familial rules that said to each of us, “if you get a girl pregnant, you’re married. If you want to act like a man, you can accept the duties of a man.”
Draconian? I suppose. But it was backed by law, and still is. The law maybe can’t force men to marry, but it both can and does force men to support their dependents – born and unborn. That is a fact.
So that’s how it works. The ideas of the children of the ‘60s don’t stand up to simple science, no matter how emotionally appealing. They have sat in the shoebox and they have moldered.
The same reasoning can be applied to any other current controversy. Using racism as a universal epithet comes to mind. Far from resolving concerns, this systemic appeal to irrationality is showing a need to hash these things out over a negotiating table, not a battle line. Negotiation and reason are what distinguish civilizations from savages.
For example, take boys. If you look scientifically through tagmemic analysis at the word, a boy is not a man. Scientifically, we know there is a transition from boyhood to manhood, but the boy does not decide when the transition occurs. He evolves. So why do educators take boys in transition – boys that don’t know what it means to be a man and not a boy – and teach him he may be a woman? The very idea is scientifically contraindicated. From here we can discuss endocrinology versus intellect, but let’s not.
Or how about hate speech? I can prove in about 30 seconds there is no such thing as hate speech in science or logic. It starts out with the message/medium/audience model and that “meaning” must be in the mind of the sender. If a receiver misconstrues the meaning, deliberately or not, that does not make the meaning the purview of the recipient. In order for a recipient to hear hate, it must be in her or his head already, while in the mind of the speaker, hate may not have had the slightest inkling of hatred.
From my perspective, we are suffering from the mis-education of malleable kids by remarkably unbrilliant educators that never followed the rest of us out of university, and society is suffering.
As is usual, some people are benefitting from the current wave of unrest. I read a brief description of George Soros recently. I had heard repeatedly that he is funding Antifa, BLM, Occupy and other groups of babies with gas bombs. The reason, the bio says, is that Soros has become a billionaire fostering chaos and investing in the outcome – a kind of social arson, if you will. Buy insurance on a restaurant, burn it to the ground and tearfully report matches and mice. “And I looked into the clouds, and I cried.”
For the most part, and unfortunately, the wood industry is benefitting. Housing starts are at record levels, as are building permits and renos. Supplies are short, so prices are up, both for raw materials, which is not so good, but also for finished products. As we always point out, just in case somebody didn’t learn, building permits and new construction are the heartbeat of our industry. Every foundation leads to a floor, a desk, a bedroom, a cabinet, a store fixture, millwork and so on.
It is hard to ask for draconian measures to fix society when our own pantries are full, our bills are paid and our roof is intact. However, as with the ‘60s, if we don’t take draconian measures, our own comfortable existence is in jeopardy.
We all know that taking harsh measures can have unintended consequences. I am amused that the media delights each day in second-guessing Trump on everything. Take Covid. The media says, “Dr. Anthony Fauci says…” or, “the WHO says…” or “Chuck Schumer says…” Yet each of them wants us to draw the inference that a c.e.o. has to obey his department managers. My guess is that Anthony Fauci, as good as he may be, would have counseled Eisenhower against D-Day.
Back up to the abortion exercise. By reason, it appears that any real feminist would want women to be equally dutiful to their dependents as are men, and they should enlist the courts to make certain they are.
We’ll see, but 18 years of child support is troublesome. Reason is not a valued commodity these days when it messes up fun. No hope without dope, I guess.
We have an election coming up. On one thing, Trump last week was right. There has never been a clearer choice. Well, one clear choice and one really murky, equivocating, rationalizing, misty-eyed emotional, crying-against-perceived-injustice-when-there-is-no-real-injustice to be found, stupid choice. The choice is not liberal/conservative or urban/rural or young/old. It’s between normal sensibilities and stupid. Arguably, bad judgement is definitive of stupidity. We are all aware that being glib with a high IQ does not equate to good judgment. Ted Bundy, they say, had an IQ of 136 – far above the normal IQ of an educator.
As Obama was fond of saying when bipartisanship didn’t suit him, “Elections have consequences.” That means you vote, or you accept the consequences. Cause and effect.
It is tough to call somebody stupid. One has to think a long time, and one has to offer a reason and a chance for rebuttal. If I have made an error in fact or logic, I deserve to know about it in a reasoned, reasonable way. The space is open.
But be careful. If we get poems, we will print them, publishable or not. Actions have consequences.