Tag Archives: punishment

Narrating War

It’s no secret that killing people is unpleasant. Even if there weren’t genetic blocks against bloodlust, we have all been conditioned to understand that causing death is bad. Other people deserve to live.

Unless they’re not people. Or they’re very, very, bad people.

"goons 'massacre' rebels" (screenshot from The Daily)

Name-calling is an effective argument. In logic-nerd circles (where arguments ad hominem are invalid) this is not true, but to the rest of us, calling someone a name often works wonders to undermine their credibility.

dislodging "Gadhafi's thugs" (clipped from The Daily)

It’s only natural that we be willing to bomb “goons” but not “fathers.” Of course, if you’re beating a war drum, “thugs” also seems perfectly appropriate (as opposed to “supporters of the current government”).

Now, before you call me a name to discredit me (Gadhafi lover!), let me say that I don’t think there’s a “right” side to this story.

Having said that, I believe we are entitled to reporting on events that doesn’t paint so clear a picture of desired outcomes. Populism is popular (notice the shared Latin root…), but invoking hatred, or very very stern dislike, is not the job of news media.

They should leave it to blog commenters…




I Am My Own Dauphin

I am opposed to spanking. I would be more open to it if a child, once spanked, never misbehaved again, but I’m pretty sure that never happens. Not-spanking doesn’t mean you let children do everything they please, but it does mean you have to be more creative wherever an action requires a manufactured consequence. If little Timmy chops off a finger while playing with the door (a “natural” consequence) you told him not to play with, manufacturing additional punishment seems excessive — although an “I told you so” may prove irresistible.

Like those intrepid parents who don’t wish to hit their children to punish them, governments and societies invest great amounts of treasure, time, and/or energy into developing disciplinary techniques.¬†French philosopher Michel Foucault offers his three cents in his¬†book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison; of special interest (i.e., class assignment) is the chapter titled “Panopticism.”


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Chimp’s Dilemma

No one laughs at me more than me, partially because I’m the only one who thinks I’m funny. Plus, I consider myself little more than a well-trained talking monkey (ape, for you purists). I often have moments where I visualize chimpanzee-me running my errands or doing my chores, a mental image which makes it difficult to take anything I do seriously.

98 percent Chimp

Chimpanzees (and bonobos, genetically as similar to humans as chimps) evolved from a common ancestor within social contexts similar to those experienced by humans. The prevalent Social Brain hypothesis proposes that the evolution of our “large” brains was driven largely by the complexities of functioning within these social environments. Continue reading