Groups vs systems

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

Here's the thing: there's a difference between a group of people and a system of people. The difference is that a system of people comprises not only the individuals, but also the social constructs that guide the behavior of those individuals... in other words, the system itself.

For example, a company isn't just a bunch of people who coincidentally happen to work on the same projects in distributed ways. A school system isn't a bunch of teachers and administrators who independently happen to work the same way. A police precinct isn't a bunch of officers who just happen to follow the same rules.

In each of these cases there are policies and guidelines and hierarchies and informal structures and so forth that shape behavior. There's a system.

And when we praise or condemn the public school system, or the police, or Microsoft, or etc. we mostly aren't praising or condemning a whole group because of some good or bad individuals. I mean, sure, those individuals exist, but they aren't the reason. We are praising/condemning a whole group because of the system that organizes it. And the larger the system we're talking about, the more true that is: when we say that democracies are more just than totalitarian states, or that capitalism is more efficient than communism, or that communism is more humane than capitalism, or various other claims along those lines, we're basically not saying anything at all about any individual.

Or at least, that's how it should be. I mean, sure, sometimes we praise or condemn a group of people just because we're applying aggregate-level stereotypes to all the individuals in that group. And in those cases the "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group." narrative makes sense: we really shouldn't! Or at least, we're overwhelmingly likely to be mistaken when we do; we can draw our own ethical conclusions from there.

(I am reminded now of a friendship I broke some time back by expressing both the idea that condemning individuals because of their group affiliations is bad, and the idea that analyzing the common behaviors of individuals is the only way we can identify pathological systems, in ways that struck them as infuriatingly and relationship-endingly hypocritical.)

And sure, sometimes we make analysis errors in this space. Sometimes there's a system operating we're unaware of. Sometimes we infer the presence of systems that don't actually operate, or aren't relevant to what we're talking about. It's easy to talk about the behavior of people while ignoring the systems that shape us, and it's easy to handwave about notional systems without actually making any concrete or testable claims about whether they exist.

I'm not saying I expect us to be perfectly accurate when we describe groups and systems. But I want us to be better about acknowledging that they are two different things.

When someone condemns racism as a systemic attribute of a society, for example, there are folks who reply that no, racism is a property of individuals, end-of-story.

And in principle that can be a legitimate disagreement; if someone wants to argue that there really aren't any social systems underlying/guiding/constraining/coordinating the racist behavior of individuals, for example, that's a totally relevant argument. (Mind you, I think it's obviously false, but that's another matter.)

But usually they aren't arguing that; rather, they are simply insisting that we can only talk about individuals, because when we say that racism is also demonstrated through the systems that essentially all white people in this country participate in, we're talking about a whole group, and (all together now) "we shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

And I don't know how to say all of this, or any of it, in ways that are at all useful within the conversation itself. And I watch other people trying to do it, and not getting very far either.

And I understand that often that's because other people just don't want to hear it, and in general I don't believe that there's a way to say everything that will be accepted by the person I'm talking to and that it's my job to find it. But still, I try to express myself clearly and compellingly.

So, anyway. I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
(A comment from another discussion)

I acknowledge, of course, that we are all imperfect humans, and what an individual officer does in a specfic situation is always the result of a million variables that are impossible to predict and often impossible to determine after the fact.

That's why I tend to focus more on training and evaluation protocols than on specific events. It's unjust to expect officers to do X in a sitution if they've been trained to do Y, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect officers to be trained to do X if we prefer that they do X in a situation.

I would prefer that police be trained and evaluated as peacekeepers rather than killers. So I would prefer, for example, they be trained and expected to identify situations that don't require a death, and to act so as to not create a death where none is required.

That said, how police are trained and evaluated is a collective decision, and if we collectively prefer police to choose deaths that aren't required -- for example, if we prefer to train and equip police as military officers who happen to deploy among civilian populations -- then that's how we should train and evaluate them, regardless of my preferences. That's part of the price I pay for living in a collective.

If police _are_ trained to choose unnecessary deaths, we should (individually and collectively) treat calling the police, permitting them into our homes, and otherwise making use of their services as a use of deadly force. Consequently, if we don't individually endorse the use of deadly force in those situations, we should not call the police, any more than we would fire a gun.

Those are individual decisions, not collective ones, and it's perfectly reasonable to hold one another as individuals accountable for them.

I acknowledge that this means that individuals who eschew deadly force in a situation may find themselves in conflict with any police who may arrive. I don't like this, and I don't endorse it, but I acknowledge it.

Word of the Day

Sep. 14th, 2017 08:26 am
mathhobbit: (Default)
[personal profile] mathhobbit

As opposed to a peacemup.

Word of the Day

Sep. 13th, 2017 08:07 am
mathhobbit: (Default)
[personal profile] mathhobbit

New nickname for the cat who sits by my desk.

Word of the Day

Sep. 12th, 2017 07:43 am
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[personal profile] mathhobbit
xiphmont: (Default)
[personal profile] xiphmont

Ovenbirds are my favorite of the warblers, so I was heartbroken earlier today when I heard a 'THUNK' against the window behind me, and looked outside to see an ovenbird stretched out on the ground on its back, not moving.

I went outside to check it, and it was still breathing erratically. After about ten minutes of twitching, it finally righted itself and looked around briefly, but was still too stunned to do anything. It did not object to me being next to it, so I figured I'd sit and guard it until it either regained its senses or finally succumbed. After another fifteen minutes or so, it clumsily staggered into a bush, where it hunkered down and curled up. This was the longest recovery I'd witnessed for a stunned songbird, and I didn't expect it to make it.

In late afternoon, about eight hours later, I checked it again and it had not moved. Breathing, yes, but still apparently 'asleep'. Cam agreed this did not bode well.

I wandered off to shoot a few targets (setting up a new bow! yay!) and once the sun was well behind the trees, was wheeling the portable target block back to the garage. I passed the bush where the ovenbird was holed up, and it popped out, looked startled, and flew off. It was clumsy getting into the air, but it managed. Perhaps a recent fledge?

Good luck little birb.

Newborn Monarchs!

Sep. 10th, 2017 07:03 pm
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[personal profile] xiphmont

Given their long-distance migrations to southern climates, I always thought of monarch butterflies as exotic creatures that bred elsewhere and only visited when passing through. Of course, that's not true. Still, most of my formative exposure to monarchs led me to believe that, around here, they only thrived in elementary school classroom monarch hatchery kits.

We have a decent amount of milkweed growing around the house in NH. George and Cam spotted quite a few monarch caterpillars a few weeks back, and we'd been watching the perfect green chrysalises. When we got in Friday, George excitedly pointed out a 'newborn monarch" pumping its wings open!

Another hatched a little later, and a few more of the chrysalises are starting to darken. So perfect and shiny...

...and the autofocus on my Nikon seems to be off... But just look at that face!

Foofy Scarf Thing

Sep. 10th, 2017 11:33 am
firstfrost: (knit)
[personal profile] firstfrost
 This was one of those projects where I was attracted by a sample project in a yarn store, and got the yarn without having a recipient in mind for the final object.    I think I was also intrigued by the yarn itself, which claimed to have mink in it.   In the intervening years, it was tested for fiber content and turned out to be angora / wool / rayon instead, and has been recalled.   (Apparently a particular yarn store had it tested originally because they were getting returns from people who were allergic to angora).    Anyway, angora or mink, it does have a lovely soft feel, and I finally got around to finishing the darned thing.

(This is folded up - there are eight of the gathered/cable sections)

  Dark blue soft scarf/shawl

Octopus making continues as an overall background process, but I did take a picture of these, which Mike requested.  There's a bit of needle felting - you can see the clouds on Earthopus, but also Jupitopus has a red spot, and Plutopus has a heart, which looks a lot like a cutie mark.  :) 

Nine planet-colored octopodes

Pluto, showing the heart    Flitterheart


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June 2015

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