RANT: How To Tell A Feature From A Bug

I am sure all my readers are familiar with the phrase: “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

As noted in the title, this is going to be a rant, and mostly, it’s a rant directed at those who cannot tell human features, which will be with us as long as we are recognizably this species, and bugs, which can be fixed and eliminated by human effort. For those of you who have figured the difference, you can tune out now. For those of you who haven’t I’m about to stomp all over your sacred cows, and if that hurts, you can take this as my invitation to enter the big scary portal marked ALL HOPE ABANDON.

Here’s your first clue: if you are upset about a problem that confronts humanity (or a large part of it), and you feel the problem you are trying to solve is so huge that it can only be solved by everyone pulling together and putting their attention on THAT problem, then it is a feature of the human condition, not a bug.

If you think there is only one way to solve the problem, and anyone doing it any other way is, of necessity, making the problem worse by doing it their way and not yours, then it is a feature, and not a bug.

So let me just tell you this: I have damned well had it up to the limits of my tolerance, patience, and silence with people who spout a continuous line of bullshit about how the only reason they haven’t saved the human race yet is because all the rest of us are “complicit” in its evils. Which stripped down to plain English means that we aren’t as smart as or as good as they are, because they know everything and the only possible reason for disagreeing with them is that we don’t care. It means that they get to decide how to use our energy and time for the best good of all humanity, and if we don’t shut up and follow, then we are the bad guys.

I am damned tired of people like this, who will tell you that Dave Ramsey is really a horrible person because he tells people they can lift themselves out of debt and doesn’t acknowledge the “structural injustices” of the system. Or people like this who hate a beauty-pageant contestant because she dared suggest self-defense could be a good thing. Or people like this who can’t stand that a successful person will give ordinary folks tips on how to adjust themselves rather than “the system” for a more successful life.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but here goes: if you want to change the system, go ahead. Give it your best shot. Change it. But changing systems takes years of effort, and it takes a kind of patience that is ready to accept years or decades of failure and work before the system ever gets changed. If you don’t have that (and most of us don’t) and you still want to get better, then your only option — the only option that will make life better for you, no matter what any “system” looks like — is to change yourself. And that’s what most people have to hope in. That’s the change most people can make on a scale that will give them strength.

So work to change the system. It’s great. The NAACP did. Teach men not to rape. It’s part of a good and effective approach to ending sexual violence. Work for good economic laws. I’ll help. But don’t piss and moan because good people are showing women how to beat the shit out of an attacker. Don’t whine that the poverty of the world isn’t fixed because everyone won’t get on your Marxist dream-train.

Any system that depends on changing everybody everywhere by the efforts of everybody everywhere ignores the simple and basic fact that everybody everywhere never agreed on what to order for lunch. Any system that promises victory “if we all just pull together” is the moral and practical equivalent of promising that we will defeat the enemy after the enemy all drops dead. It’s opening the locked chest with the key you find inside of it. If we had that power, we would already be gods.

But we’re not. We’re just humans. And one of the strengths of humanity is that we try lots of things to solve our problems. That is one of the ways we move forward. So if you are teaching that everyone not on board with your method to solve a problem is part of the problem because they see value in a different solution? I’ve got news for you: THEY are not part of the problem. Because the problem is YOU! You are the one trying to remove an essential strength from humanity and call it good.

And we don’t need your kind in our midst. We need you to grow up and love humanity the way it is, and the way it always will be.

Come back when you’re ready.

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Employment Opportunity

Hey, here’s an awesome job opportunity I recently heard about, and I’d be happy to put you in contact with the relevant people if you’re interested, so here’s the information.

Position Requirements:

Education: none
Experience: none
Applicant must be a U.S. citizen and be at least 25 years of age.

However, it is EXPECTED that the successful applicant will also:

Demonstrate excellent public-relations skills
Display an unswerving dedication to customer service
Possess expert knowledge of sales techniques
Be willing to travel on short notice in response to customer-service and sales opportunities
Show the ability to satisfy wildly differing needs of diverse groups of clients simultaneously
Display an uncompromising pursuit of client satisfaction
Negotiate expertly as part of a decision-making process with several hundred co-workers

It is expected that the applicant will never contradict him or herself, say anything that would reflect poorly on him or herself, the client base, the company, or any group within said client base or company.

Application Process:

The application process varies greatly depending on the location the applicant wishes to work in; however, the company’s clients are generally looking for an individual willing to invest, on average, 1.6 million dollars in the company up front. This investment is expected to take place before the first round of the interview process, however, applicants are cautioned: NO AMOUNT OF INVESTMENT WILL GUARANTEE YOU A POSITION. The amount you invest is entirely voluntary, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES will the money be refunded.  While it is not unheard of for our clients to contribute to this investment for applicants they find attractive, it is expected that applicants will find their own means of securing this, or any other, financing. Applicants must convince the interviewers and clients to whom they report that they are the best candidate for the job in two consecutive rounds of interviews. Applicants should be aware that average expectations may vary massively between the two rounds of interviews, and that the final interviewers will have full access to the notes taken during the initial interview.
Once the final interview is passed, the new hire will be awarded the position under a two-year contract. The position must be reapplied for every two years.

Compensation:

Compensation is attractive, offering a salary of $174,000 per year, plus health, life, and retirement benefits.

Working conditions:

Employees will be required to commute regularly between national and regional headquarters, and be available for client interviews at any appropriate time. During times of high demand, employees should expect to be available at any hour of the day or night. It is recommended that employees maintain both a public and private telephone number, as the clientele is extremely demanding and apt to call at any time. Employees must expect to be under surveillance by any and all means at any time during the interview and (if applicable) contract period. Employees will be subject to an unofficial but extensive background check. Any unsatisfactory criminal or social history may be grounds for termination of the interview process or non-renewal of contract.

Code of Conduct (Employees)

Employees should be absolutely above reproach in financial, social, and legal matters. Employees are expected to treat the clientele and their supervisors with courtesy at all times, regardless of any provocation to the contrary.

Code of Conduct (Supervisors)

None. Supervisors are immune to termination except for the commission of felonious crime, and are guaranteed the right to express any opinion of any employee at any time and in any manner, without fear of recourse.

Responsibilities:

Set policies for a large nonprofit organization with multinational interests in cooperation with several hundred of your co-workers for the good of an approximately 300,000,000-member client base.
Regularly communicate the status of the organization to clientele and supervisors, with scrupulous regard for the truth.
Serve on various committees, to which you will be appointed by your co-workers, on basis of seniority.
Investigate claims brought by clients and co-workers regarding the status of the organizations.
Take part in regional and company-wide ceremonies on most holidays.

Organization:

You will directly report to many supervisors, all of whom have a say in whether your contract will be renewed for the next two-year period. Depending on the position for which you apply, you may report to as few as 190,000 to as many as 13,000,000 supervisors, most of whom have no working knowledge of what your job entails, and almost all of whom believe they would do it better. You will be given, on average, a $1.4 million budget to work with, and may hire a staff of no more than 18 people to assist you.

The review process is stringent, and as mentioned above, the position must be re-applied for every two years. The applicant must expect conflicting reviews from supervisors. Expect strong competition for this highly sought after position.

 

Popular UnWisdom #1: What the Good Man Doesn’t

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

John F. Kennedy Edmund Burke Charles F. Aked Every Activist on The Internet.

The above quote, which has no verified source, but seems to me most likely to have originally come from John Stuart Mill, has been driven at me so often and so hard that I am beginning to flinch every time I see it headed my way: the overloaded hitch-trailer of indignation pulled by the immaculately buffed car of self-righteousness. It tends to dangle from the end of pleas, or worse, demands, that I join the caravan of this champion of justice, or be an agent in the triumph of Evil.

Well, I really can’t afford either the Saville Row suits or the traditional black leather that comprise the current Agents of Evil dress code, so I’m not a fan of being relegated to their ranks. But the popular wisdom that has been misattributing this quote to Edmund Burke for the last hundred years is hard to refute, yes? I mean, Hitler could have been fought at the gates of Prague rather than at the gates of Moscow if Chamberlain and Daladier had just stood up to him, yes? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. You can find countless anecdotes throughout history in which this is true. If only the good men had stood up to the evil when it was small, how great the past would be.

And it’s all complete and utter balderdash.

Let’s look very carefully at what the users of this argument are asking us to accept without any examination on our part here. Firstly, they want us to accept that what they are fighting against is evil. Note that this is an entirely different proposition than the idea that what they themselves are doing is good. Good people want us to join them in building up what is good. The proponents of this aphorism want us to join them in a crusade against Evil. Do we remember that the Crusades themselves were launched more or less on this very principle? Do we remember what we think of the Crusaders, and the Popes who unleashed them against the “evil” of Saracen occupation of the Holy Land (land the Saracens and their predecessors did, of course, conquer themselves). For a more modern example, however, we can turn to something a bit less extreme, but damaging enough:

“The earliest known citation showing a strong similarity to the modern quote appeared in October of 1916. The researcher J. L. Bell found this important instance. The maxim appeared in a quotation from a speech by the Reverend Charles F. Aked who was calling for restrictions on the use of alcohol [SFCA]” (O’Toole).

And we all remember what a rousing success Prohibition was, right? How many lives were saved because “good men” stood up and fought the evils of drink, yes? Would it not be wise to remember that much evil, if not more, has been done by “good men” who stood up and acted without seriously considering what evils they themselves might be tempted to, driven to, or simply accidentally unleash in the name of their crusade?

But let us say that we have considered it, and the target of the cause is indeed evil. The warriors of righteousness are fighting Hitler, or his moral equivalent. Those people exist; I’m not a moral relativist. But now look at what they go on to say, and this is the real issue I have with those driving this particular load of guilt around. Their fight is so important, that they get to draft us into supporting their fight. We are either for them, or against them. We will either speak up every time they want us to, at the volume and pitch they want us to, or we are not their friend. We are not their ally. We are instead their oppressor and their enemy. Well, I think that’s sad, because many of these people I like, but the cost of that friendship is just too high.

Because the real statement here, and it’s fairly insulting if you think about it, is that they get to choose for me what my moral energy goes into fighting.   And that is one thing that no one should get to do besides God and me, in that order. The people making this statement do not want allies. Because allies have a voice in what you say, what you do, and how you say and do it. They have an interest in your success, and you have one in theirs. What these people want in you is not an ally. The word we’re looking for here is “subordinate.”

“But, Scott,” I hear you say in the comments (assuming you, like me, are the kind of jerk who throws Hitler into every argument), “Are you saying that there’s nothing everyone is obligated to fight? Wouldn’t every good person have been obligated to join the fight against Hitler?”

Leaving aside for the moment that there were many who considered themselves good who didn’t join that fight (I’m not a pacifist, either), I do agree that there are some extremes in which one must act, indeed must act instantly and violently, against evil (and if you’re waiting for an exhaustive catalogue of such things here, good luck to you), but they are for most of us, rare. I don’t know how I would act when presented with one of them. I hope I would act honorably, but I distrust those who are sure before they’ve been tested. Octavia Butler once said in my presence, “Hitlers are rare. That’s one of the reasons they are so popular.” But while I’ve heard a lot of people try to enlist me in their cause by claiming their opponents are fascists, I’ve yet to agree with that assessment.

Of course, some of you are seething by now, because you’re sitting here saying, “Sure, Scott, you can talk, but those ‘rare situations’ are my LIFE! I’m one of the victims of this injustice you say you don’t want to spend your precious ‘moral energy’ on.” Okay, let me slow down and answer that one with utter, dead seriousness and respect.

I’m sorry. Truly, I am. And if there’s a specific thing you want me to do for you, personally, you contact me and ask, and I’ll do what I can to help you. Your pain is not meaningless. Your pain is real. I’ve been the victim too (and if it’s ever relevant in this blog, I may even tell you of what) and it sucks. And I was fortunate enough to have people to help me.

But I’m not going to pick up your banner for you. I’m not going to devote my life to your cause because you threaten to disrespect me for that or call me names. I have my own causes that I champion, my own callings to help the less fortunate that I follow. And neither you nor anyone else has the right to override that and call on my aid for your cause to the exclusion of the others unless you can demonstrate a clear, immediate, and overriding threat. We live in a world overflowing with injustice. We’re up to our eyeballs in it, and the stink of it is in our nostrils to the point it’s sometimes hard to distinguish it anymore. I’ll fight the injustice with you, but understand it may not be the exact injustice you’re most committed to. And that’s for the simple reason that my pain is not your pain. And we should respect each other’s pain, not fight over whose is worse, and whose need is greatest. Someday, God willing, we’ll meet up on the same side.

From somewhere in orbit