The Whippet: Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants


Good morning Christmas beetles!

I've been thinking about another "there's two kinds of people" situation that causes conflicts. It's how about you handle having partial knowledge of a situation. Let's say you hear from a semi-credible source that a new policy will result in terrible consequences (I'm being vague because I don't want to distract with the content of the example).

Do you think:
A: That's terrible! But I'm not sure if it's true? I'll assume it's terrible for right now and change my view when I hear anything contradictory.
or
B: That's terrible! But I'm not sure if it's true? I don't want to judge too harshly when I don't have all the facts, so I'll take a more moderate position and assume the policy has problems, but it's not terrible.

(It's not the best example sorry).

The point is, some people have very strong opinions, but hold them very lightly, whereas some people moderate their opinions to account for uncertainty. Because Person B would never call something terrible and the worst unless they really, really had the facts, they tend to read way too much into the lightly held opinions of Person A. It looks really unfair to them, and like they're leaping to conclusions. But they haven't really concluded (Concluded - finished). It's just where they're standing for the moment.

But to Person A, Person B seems kind of cowardly, taking a false medium to avoid conflict. Or they think they don't care that much about how damaging this policy could be, they think it's not that bad. Maybe Person B thinks Person A is a coward, too, because they drop their supposedly strong opinion with the slightest bit of contradictory input.

I'm very much Person A, strong opinions held lightly, and it has the advantage that if I say "this policy is the worst!" it's strongly enough stated that if it's wrong, people will argue with you and you'll find out that you're wrong.

But it gets me into trouble because lots of people correlate the extremeness of a position with how much you believe in it and how hard you would be to budge. I think holding a moderate view makes no sense. A moderated view is always 50% wrong, which means it never risks being too far wrong, but it's never going to be correct, either. An extreme view is either definitely right or definitely wrong.

(much more broadly, 'neutral' means 'the status quo' which is never neutral, and 'somewhere in the middle' gets undue credit for being 'reasonable', when halfway between 'fine' and 'terrible' is not really a very reasonable idea at all).

I know this is coming across as biased but my point isn't really that people should be more like me - it's that both types of people should understand the other exists, so they quickly pick up on what's going on before the conflict escalates too much, and not get fake ideas (like that the moderater doesn't care, or that the extreme person is much more extreme than they actually are).

What does the suffix -stan mean in words like "Afghanistan" and "Pakistan?"

It means 'to stand' or 'stay' - i.e. homeland. So the country is named after the people, not vice versa. Place of Afghan people, place of Kazakh people, etc (see: Angle-land, England).

And then there's Pakistan "oh home of the Pak people i guess".

Nope. The word 'Pakistan' was coined in 1933 and is a clunky acronym. It's for Punjab, Afghan, Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan, with an i added for pronouncability. This seems really outrageous to me. It's the method governmental departments use to name their databases. It's undignified. I can't support it.

Martin Luther's lesser-known work, Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants

Published nine years after his more famous Ninety-five Theses, which sparked the Reformation (world's tiniest summary if you don't know this stuff: it's how Protestantism came about, a protest against aspects of Catholicism). He wrote Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants to show that just because he was against Papal corruption etc, he was absolutely not on the side of the common man, and he hadn't meant this to turn into a whole Thing.

Peasants were using his call for more religious freedom to mean they should also have political and economic freedom and he's basically like "Nonono none of that, aw jeez." Anyway it's a great title.

Wikipedia article, since it's obviously a bit more complicated than that.

B-52s in a sunken WW2 aeroplane graveyard

Photographer: Brandi Mueller. Full photoset

25 million of China's 'missing' girls have been found

You've probably heard about a demographic crisis in China: as a result of the one-child policy and preference for male babies, 118 male babies were being born for every 100 female, leading to a worrying gender imbalance. Except... researchers have found that if you look at that same birth cohort 20 years later, the gender balance is pretty equal again. Either a lot of men are dying in their teens, or the missing girls are re-appearing. It turns out to be the latter: People were choosing not to register the birth of their second child until they'd grown up, when it's a bit late to do much about it.

"Prof Kennedy, who began looking into this issue 20 years ago, said they found authorities, particularly in rural areas, would turn a blind eye to extra children as they had to work and live in the village where such policies were implemented.

One farmer he spoke at this time called his second daughter “the non-existent one”. In the 1980s rural Chinese were allowed to have a second child if their first was a girl. The farmer, from the northern Shaanxi province, had a third child, a boy, and registered his son instead as his second child." Details.

In some ways this is a very boring story of a bunch of people not doing some paperwork. But I also found it incredibly comforting - sometimes things are okay.

Sometimes things are okay


The Word

 Down near the bottom  of the crossed-out list  of things you have to do today,   between "green thread"  and "broccoli" you find  that you have penciled "sunlight."   Resting on the page, the word  is as beautiful, it touches you  as if you had a friend   and sunlight were a present  he had sent you from some place distant  as this morning -- to cheer you up,   and to remind you that,  among your duties, pleasure  is a thing,   that also needs accomplishing  Do you remember?  that time and light are kinds   of love, and love  is no less practical  than a coffee grinder   or a safe spare tire?  Tomorrow you may be utterly  without a clue   but today you get a telegram,  from the heart in exile  proclaiming that the kingdom   still exists,  the king and queen alive,  still speaking to their children,   - to any one among them  who can find the time,  to sit out in the sun and listen.  -- Tony Hoagland

Reindeer antlers sprayed with reflective paint to reduce traffic accidents in Finland

(It didn't work, but it looks magical)

Unsolicited Advice

Thoughts don't create actions. Thoughts create emotions, emotions create actions.


The point here is that sometimes you beat yourself like "ugghh I wasn't gonna have sugar and I bought and ate a whole tub salted caramel icecream, whyyyyy do I suck so much at this".

And then you say "I should be kinder to myself."

And then you say "well, no, I literally did eat a whole tub of icecream, that happened, I have to be honest about that."

You think that if you don't be a bit harsh with yourself when you genuinely fuck up then you'll let yourself get away with it in future, etc, etc.

Which makes sense, if thoughts create actions. "It's okay / I'm okay" would lead to no guilt and doing whatever you like. But they don't (or that's the theory I'm putting forward here).

The thought creates the emotion, "I'm shit", and that emotion makes you do whatever coping mechanism you do when you feel shitty - probably hide in bed or eat comfort food, probably not re-vamp your resume and get out there, whoo!

The thought, "I'm okay" creates a positive feeling, and feeling positive makes you way more likely to exercise, set healthy boundaries, and generally be sweet to yourself.

(This isn't made up, lots of evidence says that a distinguishing aspect of depression is the feeling that your actions do not particularly have any ability to influence results. If you feel like nothing you do has any effect, why bother trying to do something good? Why bother getting out of bed at all?)

So, don't fall for the trap of "I have to let myself be mean to myself or I'll never improve". Don't think that letting yourself talk that way is being a serious, responsible adult. It's not. It's unhelpful. The most serious, responsible thing is to do whatever lifts your mood enough to take positive steps.

Talking about general lack of discipline here, not grave ethical missteps obviously. Probably beat yourself up a little about those.

(also emotions create thoughts, no space to get into that here)

If you want solicited advice, send questions to thewhippet@mckinleyvalentine.com or just reply to this email.

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