Philosophical Friday: A Critique on Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism has a great deal of appeal, especially when you consider what most people boil it down to.  The phrase “the greatest benefit for the greatest amount of people” gets thrown around quite easily when the term “utilitarianism” is introduced.  While this may be an incredibly oversimplified version of Mill’s idea, it does have its root in the theory, even if his idea of utilitarianism does not translate directly to this common phrase.  This theory of morality leads individuals to very provocative questions.  Is the sacrifice of one to save the many a just sacrifice? Is one life worth just as much as another?  Utilitarianism, while an excellent basis for a workable moral theory, requires certain adjustments so that it does not endorse morally incorrect courses of action and so that it takes into account the value of one life against another.  Only after such considerations and adjustments can Mill’s theory of utilitarianism truly stand up against scrutiny.

In order to argue against utilitarianism, we must first understand what it stands for.  While the saying presented earlier gives us a vague idea, it does not reach the heart of Mill’s theory.  For Mill, utilitarianism is a code of ethics that seeks to produce the greatest amount of pleasure to the greatest amount of individuals while avoiding the greatest amount of pain for the greatest amount of people.  Mill states that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”[1]  It is a subtle balance between enhancing pleasure and avoiding pain for the largest amount of individuals.  Essentially, enhancing pleasure or reducing pain for one individual would result in a “+1” and reducing pleasure or enhancing pain would result in a “-1.”  Now, the number may vary, depending on the types of pleasure or pain that is being enhanced or avoided, but the general formula still stands; enhancing pleasure and avoiding pain results in a positive consequence and avoiding pleasure or enhancing pain results in a negative consequence.  By this formula, the greatest happiness does not mean for the individual, but for society as a whole.

I must again repeat what the assailants of utilitarianism seldom have the justice to acknowledge, that the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct is not the agent’s own happiness but that of all concerned.  As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator.[2]

This leads me to the first critique of utilitarianism.  The theory Mill presents does not address the issue of whether or not one individual is equal to another in terms of value.  For instance, can it be said that a homeless man’s life has as much value as that of a neurosurgeon?  If they were to both be rushed into an emergency room in need of a blood transfusion, and for some reason or another the hospital could only facilitate the needs of one, how would the attending doctor respond?  If he were a utilitarian, he would preserve the life of the one who is most likely to produce the larger amount of pleasure while avoiding the larger amount of pain.  But this distinction does not provide us with an answer.  The neurosurgeon is a known variable, during any given month he saves X amount of lives which produces pleasure in the families associated with his patients.  The homeless man, however, is an unknown variable.  Perhaps he too is producing pleasure in individuals; perhaps he is instructing youths that have fallen on hard times how to survive.  A more likely possibility is that he sees his brush with death as a turning point within his life.  The potential he has to produce pleasure and to prevent pain is unknown.  The issue is not that one life is worth more than another; the issue is that Mill’s theory does not present us with a workable set of criteria for discerning the value of one individual against another.

While this example may seem far-fetched, there are examples that hit a bit close to home that will illustrate the point just as well.  Consider the same neurosurgeon but replace the homeless man with that of a loved one.  “Individuals may be under more obligation to a special set of persons (family or close friends) than to society in general.”[3] Can a legitimate code of ethics endorse letting one’s own family die in sacrifice of another?  A strict utilitarian would save the lives of three unknown individuals over the lives of two close family members.  They would preserve the greater number because they would have a farther reaching network of pleasure and pain than what the lesser number would entail.  I, for one, cannot accept a code of ethics so rigid that it forces me to forsake those close to me merely because there are a greater number of those who are unknown to me that would benefit.

These examples also hold pieces of another objection to utilitarianism.  Utilitarianism is a consequential theory of ethics, meaning the correctness of any action is judged by its consequences.  In the emergency room cases there isn’t time to weigh the consequences of the decisions.  If the case hasn’t been considered prior to its emergence, the attending physician would be either moved by indecision, putting both lives at risk, or, and this is more likely the case, rushed into a decision that may or may not be morally correct, according to utilitarianism.  “However, discerning the consequences of every possible act could be a horrendous burden, that in many cases, could not be carried out with much certainty.”[4]

Yet another critique is that utilitarianism can be used to endorse unsavory courses of action in order to prevent courses of action much worse.  It can produce a “lesser of two evils” choice.  “The deontologist refuses to approve of committing one act, bad by his lights, to prevent the occurrence of more than one of the same bad acts. Consequentialist theories – whether they value only welfare or things in addition to welfare – do not face this paradox, and so they are, in this respect, attractive.”[5]  It is this “unfaced paradox” that causes many to question utilitarianism.  How great must the difference be?  What despicable things could be “morally just” if faced with the greatest amount of pain imaginable?

One final critique is that utilitarianism simply isn’t always possible, that its demands can be too high to realistically achieve.

As a result of its flawed and shallow moral psychology, the critics claim, utilitarianism makes demands on agents that are too high, and of the wrong kinds, with a range of damaging effects, not just to the well-being of agents, but also to their moral capacities and performance. This line of objection holds that people cannot, need not, or even ought not to try to do what utilitarians say people should do, for reasons that ultimately appeal to some notion of actual or potential human nature.[6]

A code of ethics that forces individuals into unachievable courses of action is not a very good code of ethics.  Another quote from Riette furthers illustrates the point: “Utilitarianism may be taken to be unrealistic in relation to our actual capacities – if we are not able to foresee the future well enough to perform the required calculations, for instance, the limitations on our knowledge, foresight and computational abilities may be psychological obstacles to our meeting the demands made by the principle of utility[7]” With these objections in place, the appeal of utilitarianism is diminished.  The supposed “value of an individual” that Mill fails to address leaves us with questions in desperate need of an answer.  The lack of consideration for ones loved ones leaves us with a theory that forces us to ignore familial and peer relationships.  The need to consider the consequences of an action before engaging in one means in immediate situations the theory may be altogether worthless.  When faced with two unsavory courses of action, utilitarians may be forced to choose the lesser of two evils, despite it still being evil.  Finally, the courses of action endorsed by utilitarianism can sometime be too high to be realistically achieved.

The solution to these objections is not to abandon utilitarianism, but to shift it away from a personal code of ethics.  A single utilitarian faces too many challenges for it to be a realistic code to guide their actions.  They simply don’t have the resources to take into consideration all of the variables that exist.  Nor can they maintain the objectivity needed to follow as a true utilitarian.  That’s not to say that utilitarianism is useless, it would serve its purpose, while maintaining its rigidness, in another sector.  Utilitarianism would provide governments with an excellent framework for taking action.

By shifting utilitarianism from the private sector to the public sector you immediately eliminate one of the objections.  Governments hold no family or peer relationships, while they may value the lives of their constituents over the lives of those out of their reach, those out of their reach have their own governments with their interests in mind.  They are not forced into weighing the value of one person against another because they rarely deal with one individual.  The choices and decisions they make are far reaching and are not limited to the individual.  This helps to combat the objection that one soul may be more “valuable” than another.  Simply by being widespread, governments eliminate two of the previous objections.  The fact that utilitarianism offers no way of measuring the potential pleasure or pain in a given individual becomes irrelevant because governments do not deal with people on an individual basis.  Also, the fact that governments hold no individual allegiances, only an allegiance to their constituents, eliminates the need for them to consider peer or family relationships.  Upon further consideration, more of the objections previously raised are eliminated.

Governments have the necessary resources needed to consider the consequences of the actions they may take.  By their very nature, they are slow and deliberate entities that weigh the pros and cons of the actions they may take.  Under the guidance of utilitarianism, governments would consider the consequences of their actions.  A consequentialist theory of ethics fits perfectly within the public sector.  It forces the powers at be to consider what would produce the greatest amount of pleasure while reducing or preventing the greatest amount of pain.

Governments are also more readily equipped to deal with the “lesser of two evils” types of situations.  Sometimes it becomes necessary for governments to commit acts that would otherwise be considered unethical.  Such a case would be WWII.  The United States went to war to stop the atrocities Nazi Germany was committing and to prevent further horrors of the holocaust.  While not readily accepted, under extreme circumstances, war can become an essential course of action.  Under the guidance of utilitarianism, the justness of such a course of action can be measured and the correct decision can be made.

Finally, the scope of influence of any individual government is much larger than that of an individual.  While not entirely impossible, the likelihood that a government would encounter a problem beyond their influence is greatly diminished.  This, while not eliminating it, helps to reduce the complaint that utilitarianism may endorse courses of action that are beyond the grasp of realistic options.  While not sufficiently dispelling the complaint that utilitarianism can endorse actions that are not realistically possible, shifting utilitarianism from an individual code of ethics to the public sector, along with the expulsion of the other objections raised, allows us to recategorize utilitarianism as a viable code of ethics.

Utilitarianism is an incredibly enticing code of ethics.  Producing pleasure and reducing pain is something everyone can be on board with.  When considering utilitarianism as an individual code of ethics, however, objections arise that not only make utilitarianism a complicated code of ethics to endorse, but a code that may be downright impossible.  By shifting the reach of utilitarianism from the individual to the collective, in this case the government, all but one of the objections raised in this essay can be dispelled, with the remaining objection being diminished to such a small complaint that it may be swept under the rug.

It is through this shift, the shift from the private sector to the public sector, that the objections raised can be eliminated.  The question of the “value of an individual” becomes irrelevant because governments do not deal with their constituents on an individual basis.  The question of relationships too becomes irrelevant because governments do not hold individual biases; they are loyal to those under their influence as a whole, not any single individual.  The question of consequences and their calculation is no longer relevant because governments, by their very nature, are slow and contemplative; they do not rush into courses of action before thoroughly considering the fallout of those actions.  The objection of choosing between two undesirable courses of action is eliminated due to the acceptance of governments engaging in activities “for the greater good” such as war.  The final objection that utilitarianism may demand courses of action beyond the realm of possibility can be reduced to such a small chance that it is realistically irrelevant.

The objections to utilitarianism do not call for it to be cast aside, but for it to be moved.  The objections that were brought to light in this essay show that utilitarianism is poorly suited for the individual, but that it fits perfectly in the public sector, particularly within government.  While individuals may be poorly equipped to follow utilitarianism, governments, with their far reaching hands and broad spanning influence, are much better prepared to follow the demanding, unbiased guidelines of utilitarianism.  They can do what no individual can.  They can adopt the harshest, most rigid theory of ethics, and they can thrive while doing so.

[1]John Stuart Mill, 1861 “Utilitarianism”

[2]John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism”

[3] Samuel Knapp. 1999, “Utilitarianism and the Ethics of Professional Psychologists.” Ethics And Behavior 9, no. 4: 383-392. Philosopher’s Index, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2012).

[4] Samuel Knapp, “Utilitarianism and the Ethics of Professional Psychologists.”

[5] Robert Shaver, 2004. “The Appeal of Utilitarianism.” Utilitas: A Journal Of Utilitarian Studies 16, no. 3: 235-250. Philosopher’s Index, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2012).

[6] Sophie Riette, 2009. “Utilitarianism and Psychological Realism.” Utilitas: A Journal Of Utilitarian Studies 21, no. 3: 347-367. Philosopher’s Index, EBSCOhost (accessed December 5, 2012).

[7] Sophie Riette, “Utilitarianism and Psychological Realism”


On Civil Disobedience

On Civil Disobedience

            Civil Disobedience has been the weapon of choice against social injustices for a fairly brief time, but its effectiveness is undeniable.  One major example would be Martin Luther King Jr. and his campaign of non-violence that helped reshape our countries civil rights laws and create the country that now exists.   “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?  Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them.”[1]Thoreau strikes at the heart of the problem with this quote.  Unjust laws are not actively oppressed, they are “tolerated” by those opposing them in hopes that someone else will take up the mantle of responsibility and that once that happens, the disagreeing masses will swoop in with their cheers of support.  Everyone wants to fight injustice, but very few are willing to throw the first stone.  While some may consider the opposition of the government as distasteful or undesirable, it is an effective way to oppose institutions in which we no longer believe.  As such, it should be seen as an acceptable course of action to enact change.  There are other ways to enact social change, and I shall address a few of them before continuing on to argue that civil disobedience should be the default philosophy when trying to oppose unjust laws.

When faced with an unjust law, there are two ways that we can react.  The first is endorsement, either by inaction or by following along with it.  This is where many men find themselves.  Thoreau states “They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret.”[2]  By not actively opposing unjust laws, we are giving them our blessing.  Another course of action would be active revolution.  By use of the word revolution I mean a course of civil disobedience that would include violence in any quantity and towards any entity.  While a case may be made for the acceptability for this type of action, that is not the goal of this essay.  Suffice to say, if violence were the go to form of social reform, we would live in a much more dangerous world, one that would operate on a “shoot first, aim second and ask questions never” type of mentality.  That leaves us with a non-violent type of opposition.  This leaves us with civil disobedience.  Thoreau provides us with an early example of how one might go about this.

In 1849, Henry Thoreau was jailed for not paying his taxes.  After one night in jail, a friend paid his debts and Thoreau was released.  Earlier in his essay, he describes some of his reasoning for refusing to pay.  He states “I did not see why the schoolmaster should be taxed to support the priest, and not the priest the schoolmaster.”[3]  Thoreau’s view of civil disobedience is more a personal idea, rather than one that sets out to enact change.  He sees simply unjust and refuses to follow it.  This stands in stark contrast to what Martin Luther King Jr. presents us with.

In order to consider civil disobedience as an acceptable course of action we must establish a general understanding of what civil disobedience is.  In order to do that, we must first consider what steps must be taken before arriving at a course of civil disobedience.  Martin Luther King Jr. set forth an excellent example and process for what civil disobedience should look like.  He set out four main steps for engaging in a campaign of civil disobedience.  Step 1: Collection of facts to determine whether injustices are alive; Step 2: negotiation; Step 3: self-purification; and Step 4: direct action.[4]  Step 1 is an obvious starting point.  Those wishing to fight injustice must ensure that the injustice they are fighting is present where they reside.  Injustice cannot be fought if it isn’t present in a particular area.  Step 2 focuses on a more systematic and more easily accepted way for bringing about change.  Repeated failures at this stage must be faced before the group wishing to enact change can move to the third stage, purification.  At this stage, the participants are forced to “make peace” with the consequences they may face.  They must accept the fact that they are breaking the law and they must be ready to accept any consequences that may follow.  This stage forces the participants to accept the fact that their actions will have consequences.  This stage was essential for King in that it forced those who were unsure of their actions out of the equation and only strengthened those who remained.  The fourth stage is where the rubber meets the road.  Direct action is the final stage in King’s plan, active demonstrations in which the participants remain civil but directly oppose the government.  King’s goal at this stage is to “…create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.  It seeks to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.”[5]  One addition I may put forth is a “call-to-arms” through social media.  Technology has made things possible that King would not have been able to consider, mainly the ease of which we can share and spread our ideas with any number of individuals throughout the world.  I believe a rallying cry through these avenues would further intensify the situation and may make the powers that be respond more quickly.

Now that we have a framework for arriving at civil disobedience, we must contemplate what it is exactly.  Hare and Madden give an excellent summary of what civil disobedience should consist of.

The concept of civil disobedience presupposes a system of laws enforced by governmental authorities from which an individual cannot dissociate himself except by change of citizenship. The individual may ultimately accept this governmental framework or he may accept it only conditionally as a temporary fact of life or a step in the direction of the framework he ultimately accepts. Civil disobedience consists in publicly announced defiance of specific laws, policies, or commands (or absence thereof) which an individual or group believes to be unjust and/or unconstitutional. The defiance may take the form of disobeying a just law if the protesting individual is not in a position to disobey the unjust law or laws, or if it is an absence of laws, policies, or commands that is being protested. In either case, the breaking of a specific just law must not itself be morally repugnant to the protester. The defiance involved in civil disobedience may take the form of doing what is prohibited or in failing to do what is required. The defiance must be a premeditated act, understood to be illegal by the perpetrator, and understood to carry prescribed penalties. Willingness to accept such penalties is part of that sort of civil disobedience which hopes to stir the conscience of the public and the government, while eagerness to escape punishment is compatible with that sort of civil disobedience which aims to pressure the public and the government. The defiance may be either non-violent or violent. If violent, the violence must be planned, minimized, and controlled for maximum effectiveness in focusing the public and governmental conscience on specific injustices and/or in pressuring the government and public to change specific laws, policies, or commands (or absence thereof).[6]

While this provides us with a good starting point, it is not the exact type of civil disobedience that I would say is worthy of respect as an avenue of change.  First I would argue that civil disobedience does not include violent types of revolution, but that violent protests exist in another form of social reform.  Second, I do not believe civil disobedience should be utilized in attempts to bring about new laws that would be just, it should only be used to bring about the end of unjust laws already in place.  I do agree that in order to engage in civil disobedience, the course of action must be premeditated and the consequences understood and accepted by those acting in accordance with civil disobedience.  Taking these things into consideration I would propose that civil disobedience is a premeditated course of action, in which all participants are aware of the consequences (both legal and otherwise) of their actions, that seeks to bring about the removal of a law that appears to be unjust.  This course of action is defined as the peaceful refusal to follow the law in question, or if that not be possible, a refusal to follow an enabling law that may be broken.

In April of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. and those who followed him went to Birmingham Alabama.  There, they demonstrated against racial segregation and were jailed for it.  Examples exist throughout history of peaceful demonstrators being unlawfully disbanded, jailed, or strong armed out of their demonstrations by military and police forces.  While their demonstrations were initially peaceful ones, they would be treated as hostile as they were opposing the government.  It is from this failure to respect civil disobedience as a legitimate course of action that protests often turn violent.  Demonstrations that would have otherwise remained peaceful are treated as hostile, and from this treatment are actually forced into hostility.  While King would argue that those not willing to peacefully accept the consequences of their actions have no business engaging in civil disobedience, I believe that it is from this unjust treatment that individuals can no longer be forced to accept these consequences because they are being doubly persecuted.  Once for breaking the initial law in question and again for being involved in a protest that is being perceived as hostile.  Protests are typically met with riot shields and batons before handcuffs and megaphones.  Both of these responses are incorrect.  They should be met with diplomacy and open ears.  Now I realize how absurd negotiating with every little protest may seem, but King’s approach formulates a framework that makes civil disobedience not only deliberate, but predictable.

By creating a four step process towards civil disobedience, King allows acts of civil disobedience to be slow moving, deliberate, and predictable.  By forcing multiple attempts at negotiation the government behind the law/laws in question would have been made well aware of the problems on the horizon.  If every campaign of civil disobedience followed such a framework, by refusing negotiations they would be empowering the potential protestors and enabling them to move forward.  By his cleansing stage, King allows time for those being opposed to formulate a response, and not just a militaristic or police based response, but one that would remain as civil as the protestors wish to remain.  It is through this type of response that the educated and the lay man alike could start to respect the need for civil disobedience instead of seeing it as a bunch of villagers with pitch forks or a bunch of hippies refusing to follow the rules.

Some objections arise from this endorsement of civil disobedience, mainly that governments have set in place measures that enable civil reform without drastic measures.  Thoreau directly addresses this issue by stating “As for adopting the ways which the State has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways.  They take too much time, and a man’s life will be gone.”[7]  Another essay, written by David Lefkowitz, entitled On a Moral Right to Civil Disobedience, also addresses this issue: “For instance, agents who commit acts of civil disobedience may rightly believe that the legal means for contesting inadequate or unjust laws or policies will take too long, say, because many citizens are unaware of, or presently unable to appreciate, certain relevant information.”[8]  From these two examples it becomes apparent that while avenues of change are in place, the types of changes that civil disobedience call for require much swifter action than the options set in place by the government can provide, they are much too slow and much too cumbersome for an unjust law that might call for civil disobedience.

While civil disobedience may leave a sour taste in the mouths of some, it is a fundamental avenue for change that should be respected.  It has served humanity well in the past, enacting change of unjust laws while providing a safer alternative to social revolutions and riots.  While most governments have laws that allow reform in place, in some instances these measures are simply too slow.  The negative stigma of civil disobedience must be shed, and it must be seen as a viable option for social and civil reform.

[1]Henry David Thoreau, 1849 “Civil Disobedience”

[2] Thoreau “Civil Disobedience”

[3] Thoreau “Civil Disobedience”

[4] Cahn, Steven M., and Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail.” Classics of political and moral philosophy. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 1212-1221. Print.

[5] Martin Luther King Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham City Jail” 1214

[6] Madden, Edward H. and Peter H. Hare. “Civil Disobedience in Health

Services,” Encyclopedia of Bioethics, vol. . Ed. Warren T. Reich (New York: Free

Press, 978), 9–62.

[7] Thoreau “Civil Disobedience”

[8] Lefkowitz, David. 2007. “On a Moral Right to Civil Disobedience.” Ethics: An International Journal Of Social, Political, And Legal Philosophy 117, no. 2: 202-233. Philosopher’s Index, EBSCOhost (accessed December 7, 2012).

Regular Entry 14: Oh My God Becky Look At Her Butt

Alright I said on Monday that I had big plans for today’s entry but this is just too amusing for me to pass up. Hopefully a song kicked off when you read this weeks title and if it didn’t you might be too young or too sheltered for this one. This week is gonna be a little different but hopefully just as entertaining. But that’s enough for an appetizer, let’s get to the entree.

The title is the opening line to Sir Mix A Lot’s classic hit “Baby Got Back.” If you haven’t seen it or only vaguely remember it here is the link: And before you ask, no I don’t know what’s with the alligators. While this song/video were edgy as hell at the time if you listen to anything but the chorus you might change your opinion. Before I actually payed attention to the lyrics, which I hadn’t done until today, this song just sounded like a black guy trying to get with girls with big… behinds. I would have continued to think this but I found the one Youtube comment that’s actually worth reading. “This is actually quite a good song for a lot of women to boost their self-esteem. Hear me out – he raps about Cosmo calling women with curves fat and how he is apparently not down with that.” courtesy of Jibriltz. Upon further exploration I find lyrics like “I’m tired of magazines, sayin’ flat butts are the thing” and “I ain’t talkin’ bout Playboy, ’cause silicone parts are made for toys” Wait wait wait… rap lyrics can actually have meaning?… So he’s saying that flat… rear ended… women aren’t his thing and that he likes a girl with a little, excuse me for using the obvious phrase, junk in the trunk? Huh? So… you mean my first impression was wrong?! How… how is this possible? So a black man rapping actually has socially related lyrics that have implications that endorse acceptance for all different types of people?! Is this man in Congress yet? No, he’s not. Assholes who shut down the government and then get together the next day to talk about the government shut down are in Congress. I’m not saying Sir Mix A Lot is the next incarnation of Shakespeare, I’m just saying he may not be as shallow as a lot of people believe.

Not of that generation!? Fear not, a new proponent of the posterior has arisen! His name is Flo Rida. His single is “Can’t Believe It.” Here’s the video: Listen and view at your own discretion. The chorus leaves the same taste in my mouth as “Baby Got Back” but the differences lie in the verses. Consider, for example, the poetic lines “Telling all the girls, all around the world, my last name must be Robin, ‘cause I’m basking in these asses, all thirty flavours keep calling,” or “Ustedes saben quien es quien; Mira salinga con toda esa…; Como tu sabes estoy loco.; pero que bueno que era poco,; Mami mueve los coco.” I don’t know what the hell that second one actually means but judging by the popularity of this song it must be a statement right up with the solution to cold fusion. Lyrics don’t get much better than that (at least not these days). Hold on just a second, I’ve saved the best for last. I’m about to reveal to you one of the closing segments of this song. Please try to contain your excitement, it may be difficult, but please try. “Babu I am bam, baram bam baram babu I am bam, baram bam baram babu I am bam, baram bam baram babu I am bam, baram bam baram.” Wow, if those lyrics don’t speak to you… I don’t know what will. It almost brings tears to my eyes. Please excuse me for a second… *cries uncontrollably*

Ok, *sniffle,* I seem to have collected myself enough to close out this entry. I hope you leave this entry a more educated and evaluative thinker. The first topic shows why we should be skeptical with first impressions and the second shows why we shouldn’t. “Grant, if you present me with conflicting ideas, which one do you truly believe? Why should I listen to your opinion if you don’t know what your opinion is?” I don’t know, and that’s the point. 😀 Basically, I hope this entry, as is my hope with every entry, has spurred you to think more and to behave automatically less. Thank you to everyone who has read my ramblings, which has recently surpassed 1000 views, and may you continue to be Granters. On a final not, I cannot express to you how grateful I am to have you view my works over 1000 times, honestly I started this thinking I’d receive 2 or 3 views on each entry, and that those views would come from family members. I thank each and every one of you and if I could I would deliver that thank you, in person, with a firm handshake and a solid 5 seconds of eye contact (that’s all I can really afford right now.) Thank you. I’m out.

Monday Mini-Rant: Discipline

I’ll dive right into it. I’ve long been disgusted by a lot of the ideas my field of study holds when it comes to discipline. Positive reinforcement. Time outs. Treat them like you would treat an adult. Go sit in the naughty corner. Put a dollar in the swear jar. First of all, swearing isn’t that big of a damn deal when you grow up. Studies have shown that subtle swearing actually makes speeches more persuasive and the use of swear words can reduce the amount of stress in certain situations. Swearing is not what I want to talk about though. Recently I was educated on the subject of discipline by an old school black woman who doesn’t mess around with formalities. A snotty little child cries and balls their eyes out at Kmart because mommy refused to buy a candy bar that the kid clearly didn’t need. A jump rope would have been more appropriate. “Damn kids these days, got no respect.” Alright, I’m not going to dispute that. “If that was my kid I’d lay a whoopin’ on them first chance I got.” Whoa, umm… ok. A whoopin’. Not sure I can endorse that but before I can interject “hold up though I don’t be beatin my kids I just lay the whoopin’ on them.” A thought pops into my head and someone else beats me to the question. “Now hold on, what exactly is the difference between a whoopin’ and a beatin’?” “You see a beatin’ you be hittin ’em and smackin ’em until yo arm tired and you kinda lose it but a whoopin’? You in control, you holdin back yo true feelings and it ain’t until your arm tired. You just be whoopin em and whoopin em and maybe you stop to take a smoke break or grab a sandwich then you come back and whoop on em some mo. It ain’t a beaten where you snap and hurt yo kid long term but they learn they lesson. That child ain’t goin be actin up again anytime soon, you know dat.” Wow, so there’s a lesson in either black culture or old school disciplinary techniques. And no I did not embellish the conversation, that’s how she actually talked, which makes that conversation that much more amazing. Now obviously I’ve expressed two very extreme examples of discipline. You don’t have to choose between a whoopin’ or a timeout. I’ve just given you an example of how things change. Whether or not this change is for the better or worse, well I’d have to say I haven’t been here long enough to know. Obviously I’m not going to be reaching for the belt whenever my future kids misbehave but you can be damn sure there won’t be a “naughty chair.” in my house. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you Wednesday.