Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thought Experiments

Courtesy of Dennis Prager.

This week, we have a real treat- a double-Dippy-Dennis-Feature. First up, did you know excitement and happiness are mutually exclusive? I certainly didn't. In fact, if I'm honest, I guess I even thought they sort of went hand-in-hand, you know, "Oh my god, you got me a pony? Wow, I'm happy AND excited!"

But according to Dennis, people like me are dicks. Not only dicks, but we're also screwing up the kids of the future. Let's try and follow this burning wreck of a logic train:

If you want your children to be happy adults and even happy children – and what parent does not? – minimize the excitement in their lives. The more excitement, the less happy they are likely to be.

If you can, it's best not to even let them go outside. Did I mention I'm selling an exciting new brand of head-shaped plastic bags? Now in child-size!

Ok, so if having a million dollars is my goal, does that mean I can't pursue that goal and also have a simultaneous goal- say, wearing pants?

When we give our child a present, he experiences excitement, and we are delighted when we see how happy he is. When done occasionally – a holiday, a birthday – this is perfectly fine and even beneficial. Children should have those special moments and remember forever that wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah or birthday present.

Yeah, I know, I skipped Kwanzaa. Don't bother writing in, it was intentional- up yours, Ron Karenga. There, I said it. Also, I refuse to acknowledge that Muslims exchange gifts- and in fact, if Keith Ellison was any kind of American, he would dress up in a Santa outfit right now just to prove his loyalty. Sorry, what was I talking about?

But because we parents so delight in the excitement we see in our children at those moments – because they seem so happy then – we can easily fall into the trap of providing more and more exciting things to keep them seemingly happy at just about every moment. And they in turn come to rely on getting excited to keep them happy and to identify excitement with happiness.

Luckily, Dennis hit on a brilliant way to bridge the gap years ago: giving his children the same gifts over and over- "You're giving my puppy back? Thank you so much, Daddy?"

Even better, some years he gives them broken toys! Sort of a reverse-psychology excitement thing.

But beware, parents, if you think you can buy your children's happiness with mere excitement.

But excitement is not happiness. In fact, it is the ultimate drug.

Well, sort of. Actually there continues to be a range of discussion over exactly what constitutes the "ultimate drug." The hippies were pretty happy with LSD or shrooms, and of course Woody Harrelson likes hemp in all its forms. And you just can't beat cocaine if you're a washed up 80s hair band. Apparently when asked, James Brown still stood by his original answer that "God" is a great drug, but then he was asked to leave the focus group.

It is excitement that people seek when engaging in any destructive addictive behaviors. Excitement is a major part of what people seek in doing drugs, in having sex with multiple partners, in gambling (from slot machines to risky stock purchases) or in having an extra-marital affair. And even for many criminals, excitement is a major lure of criminal behavior.

Kind of, sort of, I guess? Maybe? But, like, aren't they also seeking excitement when they, say, learn a new talent (ballroom dancing?) or go on vacation (ohmigod I'm going to Hawaii!), or learn to skydive? Sorry, Dennis, but I'm finding it a little hard to condemn hangliding as "destructive."

Also, people are also seeking money when they steal, or gamble. Does this make money automatically bad? People doing drugs are also looking for a sense of euphoria. Does that make any instance of "feeling good" bad?

It is argued that we are programmed to desire excitement. But we are also programmed to be lazy, to be irresponsible and to eat unhealthy foods. And just as these other natural instincts do not lead us to happiness, neither does excitement.

Wait, WHAT? Whose ass did you pull that out of? Early man couldn't afford to be lazy or he starved to death, between bouts of running around to avoid getting stepped on by woolly mammoths. And I'd love you to point me towards this "attraction to French Fry gene." Help me out here, Dennis, pretend I'm stupid. Hell, just pretend I'm a fan of yours, that should do it.

Today's young people have the ability to experience excitement more than any generation in history. Outside of school, excitement is available almost 24/7. MTV is exciting (MTV has done far more damage to this generation than has the tobacco industry); video games are exciting; the nearly all-pervasive sexual stimuli are exciting; MySpace (largely a human cesspool) is exciting; getting tattooed is exciting; piercings are exciting; many pictures and videos on the Internet are exciting. The list of exciting things many children experience is as long as there are hours in the day.

Sons of bitches, I bet my kids are home getting excited right now! Hey, kids, get your asses in the box right now! Don't make me break out the Prager-bags!

But all this excitement is actually inhibiting our children's ability to enjoy life and therefore be happy. All this excitement renders young people jaded, not happy. To cite a simple example, many children today would refuse to watch a black and white film – "It's boring," they say. They would even refuse to watch many of the greatest color films if they lacked the amount of excitement – usually meaning violence but also frequently meaning foul language and sexual content – that they are now so used to seeing in films. Plot development is "boring"; blowing up people and buildings is exciting.

Dennis, yet again, you have demonstrated yourself to be a moron. Excitement is in the mind of the beholder. Kids being lazy and having short attention spans has to do with the fact that they've been exposed to dreck and find it attractive, not that excitement=dreck. If you raise a kid away from TV, he's going to think books are exciting. If you raised him without books, he'd think animals were exciting, or trees, or rocks. Someone finding something exciting is not an indication that this something is flawed. What crack have you been smoking? And how little confidence do you have in today's children to have the slightest bit of taste? From the way you talk, we could assume that the last best movie was made in the 70s. I've got news for you Dennis: not every black and white film is timeless. Some actually are boring, and some are simply overrated. That doesn't mean today's kids are Philistines or midget excitement junkies, it means, shock of shocks, that they have different tastes than you. This argument is like arguing that somebody that prefers red to blue has brain damage, or perhaps is under demonic possession from the color red. People have different preferences, Dennis. Deal with it.

That is why the frequent complaint of "I'm bored" is often a sign of a jaded child, i.e., a child addicted to excitement and therefore incapable of enjoying life when not being excited.

Dennis, get over yourself. Children have short attention spans. Somehow I doubt even you were so supposedly content as a child that you got through long car trips by reading your Weekly Reader version of the Wall Street Journal.

All this excitement in their lives bodes poorly for the future happiness of millions of American children. Real life, let alone daily life, will seem so boring to them that they will not be able to enjoy it. And more than a few of them will opt for lives of constant excitement, often in ways destructive to themselves and others.

My God! And instead of dealing with it like their parents, they just... won't! They'll be juggling flaming chainsaws while waiting on line at the DMV, and when they run into traffic jams, instead of just stewing in the car and slowly developing ulcers like good little boys and girls, they'll probably climb onto their roofs and start an Ultimate Frisbee tournament/pizza party! The Apocalypse is at hand!

The solutions are as simple to offer as they may be difficult to enforce. Limit the amount of excitement in your children's lives: the amount of video games, the amount of non-serious television,

So, does that mean only PBS? Or Fox News?
the amount of music whose only aim is to excite.

Could lead to dancing, you understand. Damn that Elvis and his seductive hips. Only funeral dirges and Gregorian chant CDs in this house, young lady!

If they are bored, they will have to remedy that boredom by playing with friends, finding a hobby, talking to a family member, walking the dog, doing chores, reading a book or magazine, learning a musical instrument or foreign language, memorizing state capitals, writing a story or just their thoughts, exercising or playing a sport, or just thinking.

Except what if they start getting excited from that, Dennis? What then??? What if they start engaging in unhealthy "x-treme" dog-poop related sports? It's a vicious, vicious cycle.

Next up, Dennis shows us just what a partisan, shit-for-brain hack he can be, as only he can. Inasmuch as Dennis has a point this week, it seems to be that the Democrats rely on various minority groups to be pissy in order to garner votes, totally unlike, say, any other party. Because, you know, the way to get evangelicals to vote for Republicans isn't to rattle them up with gay marriage, it's to remind them how nice America is. Yeah, let me know when they start that campaign.

Hey, give us some moronic examples, Dennis!

If African Americans come to believe that America is a land of opportunity in which racism has been largely conquered, it would be catastrophic for the Democrats. The day that most black Americans see America in positive terms will be the day Democrats lose any hope of winning a national election. Whatever one believes about the extent of racism in America, one cannot deny that the Democrats need black Americans to feel victimized by racism. Contented black Americans spell disaster for the Democratic Party.

Uh huh, what else?

If women marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party. Single women are an essential component of any Democratic victory. Unmarried women voted for Kerry by a 25-point margin (62 percent to 37 percent), while married women voted for President Bush by an 11-point margin (55 percent to 44 percent). According to a pro-Democrat website, The Emerging Democratic Majority, "the 25-point margin Kerry posted among unmarried women represented one of the high water marks for the senator among all demographic groups."

After women marry, they are more likely to abandon leftist views and to vote Republican. And if they then have children, they will vote Republican in even more lopsided numbers. The bottom line is that when Americans marry, it is bad for the Democratic Party; when they marry and make families, it is disastrous for the party.

Wow, that was pretty stupid. Surely you can't top that one.

If immigrants assimilate, it is not good for Democrats. The Democratic Party has invested in Latino separatism. The more that Hispanic immigrants come to feel fully American, the less likely they are to vote Democrat. The liberal notion of multiculturalism helps Democrats, while adoption of the American ideal of e pluribus unum (out of many, one) helps Republicans. That is one reason Democrats support bilingual education – it hurts Hispanic children, but it keeps them from full assimilation – and oppose making English America's official language.

Concerning the economy, the same rule applies. The better Americans feel they are doing, the worse it is for Democrats. By almost every economic measure (the current housing crisis excepted), Americans are doing well. The unemployment rate has been at historically low levels and inflation has been held in check, something that rarely accompanies low unemployment rates. Nevertheless, Democrats regularly appeal to class resentment, knowing that sowing seeds of economic resentment increases their chances of being elected.

The most obvious area in which this rule currently applies is the war in Iraq. The Democrats have put themselves in the position of needing failure in Iraq in order to win the next election. And again, perceptions matter more than reality. Even if America is doing better in the war, what matters most for the Democrats are Americans' perceptions of the war. The worse the stories from Iraq, the better for Democrats.

...The list is almost endless. Thus, when pro-American foreign leaders – such as Nicolas Sarkozy in France – are elected, even that is not good for the Democrats. The more the Democrats can show that America is hated, the more the Democrats can argue that we need them in order to be loved abroad.

Oh Dennis, you always manage to rise to the challenge. Any parting thoughts?

I am not saying that in their hearts all Democrats want black America to regard America as a racist society, or want Hispanics to remain unassimilated, or Americans to feel economically discontented, or fewer families to be formed, or America to lose in Iraq, or foreign nations to hate us.

But what most Democrats want in their hearts is not the issue. The issue is that if Democrats want to win, they can do so only if bad things happen to America.

Fascinating thesis, Dennis. Let me try one:

The only way Dennis Prager can get ideas for his column is to have some sort of severe brain tumor. I am not suggesting that Dennis' fans, or even Dennis himself want him to have a brain tumor that affects his mental capabilities along with his ability to construct simple logical arguments as well as basic sentence structure, but what he wants is not the issue. The issue is that if Dennis wants to have dipshit ideas by the time the press deadline runs around, he either has to be stoned out of his gourd, or poke his tumor with a pencil until it starts jiggling around in his brain and starts generating some "ideas." Good column = bad brain.

So I guess what I'm saying, Dennis is, I want you to get help. Medication, maybe some surgery. Hell, if we had socialized medicine, you wouldn't even have to pay for it.

But I understand why you wouldn't go for it. Got to make those house payments and all. Well, I, at least, appreciate your sacrifice.


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