405: No, It’s Not Just a Piece of Cloth

November 9, 2020 by Joshua
in Podcast

Here are the notes I read from:

No, it’s not just a piece of cloth

• Context

◦ Mark Meadows and Ben Carson tested positive

◦ US is spreading virus maybe most in world. White House more infections than Vietnam

◦ In fact there are more people in Ben Carson with covid than in Vietnam.

◦ Masks halt spread.

◦ People say tragic that it’s become political, but even so, it’s just a piece of cloth. Just wear it.

◦ “A mask is not a political statement, but it is a good way to start bringing America back together,” Biden said on Monday. “The goal is to get back to normal as fast as possible.”

◦ From leadership perspective, couldn’t be more counterproductive or for that matter insensitive and insulting

◦ Leading people, influence, and persuasion depend on the person being led. You have to go where they are, not where you think they should be, where you are, where others are.

◦ Requires empathy, which saying just a piece of cloth shows none of. On the contrary, generally shows the opposite — you imposing your values on them despite not knowing theirs. Nobody likes their values misunderstood and then told what to do against those values.

◦ Let’s consider someone who views them as freedom issue. Have you considered their perspective?

• Science

◦ They know science works to some degree. They drive ICE cars and use computers.

◦ They also know scientists make mistakes, that scientists and their results have been used for nefarious purposes, and that people retract their results. Even when right, scientists change opinions and regret past decisions.

◦ Whatever your confidence in science, I have PhD in physics, several patents, I helped launch a satellite, and I work on sustainability. I like science.

◦ I also know its limits. It doesn’t give you answers. It gives you inputs that inform your decision-making process based on your values. Math and logic take you from your starting points, your axioms, to conclusions, but those starting points start outside science and math. Euclid started with a few axioms about points and lines. He can’t prove them. He only shows what they generate. In fact, when they thought to change one, they got non-Euclidean geometry, one of the great advances of math.

◦ My point is that you are using science as an input to your decision, but ultimately you’re acting on your values. So are they. If you act like it’s just science, you’re neglecting that you are trying to impose your values on them.

◦ Let’s look at some things science has gotten wrong. Again, you may think now is different, but the scientists at the time didn’t.

◦ There’s eugenics that supported racism, phrenology, thinking the earth was flat, thinking the earth was at the center of the universe. Even someone who rejects evolution knows that evolution evolved from Lamarck, which was wrong.

◦ Einstein regretted that his work helped create the atomic bomb. Many scientists regretted or at least had second thoughts about contributing to the Manhattan Project. Even fighting Hitler and Imperial Japan, they got swept up to do something beyond what they realized.

◦ This “beyond what they realized” is important. Many scientists and engineers don’t consider the consequences of their work.

◦ This neglecting to realize unintended side effect is a major thrust of my sustainability work. Most efforts at efficiency are net increasing pollution and waste.

• Their perspective

◦ I consider it a totally fair starting point, even if someone agrees with the science, to say “I see the science, but that’s not the final word. It’s an input to a decision-making process. Let’s see where it leads.”

◦ From that perspective, someone saying it’s just a piece of cloth sounds ignorant.

◦ Where could it lead? If I don’t empathize I get nowhere. If I empathize I see many concerns. One is that leftists want power. They don’t do themselves what they tell others to do, even on science, so they probably have ulterior motives. Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio fly and pollute more than almost anyone while telling me to sacrifice. They don’t believe it.

◦ They may not realize it, but they’re trying to concentrate power in the state and we’ve seen over and over where that leads — Stalinism and all it results in. The people who started communism and all we fought in the cold war thought they were creating a utopia. They were naive and didn’t see what they were creating.

◦ Individual freedom protects us from such outcomes.

• Your belief

◦ You may disagree. I disagree, but if you want to lead, you have to meet them where they are. You think, “but they’re wrong”? Do you want to influence them or not? They’re human like you. You say it’s just cloth, even if they disagree they should just wear it.

◦ Well, just going where they are is less material than a piece of cloth. If you believe them wearing the cloth will save lives, then you empathizing will save lives. Imagine their world.

◦ How do you address their concern that concentrating power, even if it saves lives, might result in a political outcome they fear?

◦ If you don’t, you’re dismissing their values. From their perspective, they’re considering more than you, not less. You sound ignorant.

◦ How do you know they’re wrong? Is it possible they’re right? Did Marx expect Stalin?

• How you sound

◦ From their perspective, to say it’s just a piece of cloth conjures up saying a yellow star or pink triangle was just a piece of cloth. They were just pieces of cloth.

◦ You don’t think you deserve comparison to Nazis? You don’t think they’ve been compared to Nazis from people who sound just like you? Have you compared people you disagree with to Nazis? Even if you haven’t, have you condemned people you agree with who did? If not, how is their comparison less warranted or less immune from condemnation — from their perspective?

◦ I’m not saying you have to agree with them, but if you want to influence them, show some empathy and compassion. Recognize that you may sound to them like an ignorant person who hasn’t learned from an abundance of history, a tool of powerful forces or just naivete but who may be right in this one part but could be wrong and even if right may be sleepwalking into an often repeated historical blunder.

◦ I don’t see it that way, but at least I understand it.

• You and science

◦ Now let’s look at you and your acting on science.

◦ The science is overwhelmingly clear that Americans pollute and emit greenhouse gases far beyond sustainable limits. You almost certainly are polluting more than sustainable and you almost certainly communicate that people should pollute less.

◦ Yet you aren’t, yet you want industries to stop that mean huge sacrifices to others’ lives but you aren’t sacrificing.

◦ From my perspective, your pollution is like not wearing a mask. What does it sound like to you if I say your flying for vacation is like not wearing a mask? You could go some place by train or even bicycle. When did you last order takeout or something from Amazon you knew would entail unnecessary packaging you paid for? When did you last buy a bottled beverage, yet humans lived on nothing but water (after mother’s milk) for hundreds of thousands of years.

◦ You probably push back and say things are necessary, a part of life.

◦ You consider those changes too big for you, the domain of government and corporations, yet your action still make a nonzero difference. You can save lives, but you haven’t acted.

◦ My core message also says that when you change you’ll find you like it more, but you don’t believe me, otherwise you’d fly less than I do and create less garbage than I do, or pick up more litter than I do.

◦ But you keep not wearing your mask and probably right now you’re justifying in your mind why not to act.

◦ For you to want to change your behavior, you first have to change your beliefs, your community because if you changed more than they did, you’d have to explain why you didn’t visit your mom on the west coast or decline coffee or whatever beverage someone offered you in disposable bottles or cups.

◦ I’m beyond saying it’s just a piece of cloth. I’m telling you from experience of myself and everyone who has acted that you will love the change but you don’t do it. You have your excuses that if I understood I would finally shut up about being so high and mighty, misunderstanding that it may be easy for me but it’s harder for you.

◦ Now you know what it feels like for them.

• Your choice

◦ Here’s your choice

◦ Option one: remain inconsistent. We all are in many ways. You can say they should follow your values when you want them to but you don’t follow your own values when you feel it’s too much burden.

◦ Option two: you can accept that putting a mask on one’s face is more than just a piece of cloth for them, just as reducing your environmental impact is more to you than what I say, and drop the pretense that science is all there is to it.

◦ Option three: you can apply the values you apply to them about saving lives and if you think they should believe you, that you should believe me. I just decided one day to try a year without flying when I thought my life required it just as much as you think yours does. Same with avoiding packaged food.

◦ You think you have it harder? You think it was any easier for me? Up yours! Acknowledge it’s not just a piece of cloth from their perspective or follow the science yourself, dropping your arguments keeping you from doing what I do

◦ Or keep telling others to do what you don’t and push away the people you’re trying to enlist to save lives. You’re a part of this pattern too. Want to save lives? Empathize with people you disagree with.

• The opportunity

◦ The opportunity is to achieve both: developing the skill of empathizing with people you disagree with and to change your behavior to increase sustainability

◦ Changing your beliefs is hard. You have to change a lot. When you do, regarding stewardship of nature, you’ll find you like the change. Our ancestors lived in nature, not jet planes and plastic factories or dumps.

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