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.

Cooking (and such)

Sep. 18th, 2017 12:10 am
dr_tectonic: (füd)
[personal profile] dr_tectonic
I'm working on a post about the wedding reception, but I did a bunch of cooking this weekend.

Yesterday, after some weapons training in the morning, I got over to the Westminster Farmer's Market (72nd & Sheridan) and discovered that they have a stand from a farm that will let you fill a big bag with whatever produce you want for $10. AND that they take cash, check, or credit card! Hooray for little credit card readers that plug into a smartphone! (I only wish I'd thought to ask before I spent 15 minutes looking for the phantom 7-11 across the street that supposedly one had a credit union ATM in it but no longer exists.) That plus regular grocery shopping netted me a bunch of things to cook.

I got a bunch of mini eggplants, which I roasted and turned into traditional Romanian eggplant salad (salata de vinete, I guess?). It's more of a puree or dip. Unusual flavor profile. Tasty, but not sure it's worth the substantial amount of work involved. It might want less flavorful olive oil than I used.

I also got a bunch of little cucumbers, which I did the Indian treatment of (since it's quick and easy) and we took them and the eggplant dip to Tim's birthday party this afternoon. We helped put together a table for their backyard, and spent a long time blowing bubbles for the dogs to chase and eat. (Their pitbull would have chased them until she keeled over. So cute!)

I was thinking about doing something with the tomatoes, but instead I've just been eating them sliced with salt.

I got a great big head of purple cabbage to make into quick sauerkraut to make the sauerkraut-and-bratwurst casserole thing. A bunch of little apples went in there, too. I only used half of it for kraut (and burned a little onto the bottom of the pan, boo), so tonight I used the rest of it for Indian slaw. More popping mustard seeds in hot oil, yay!

I thought there was something else, but maybe it was just cooking myself breakfast this weekend.

Other stuff: Games Night Thursday; we played a cooperative WWI survival game called "The Grizzled" and managed to not die. Also a super-fast new version of Race for the Galaxy, which I liked. (I can't play the regular game non-virtually anymore, because about 70% of the time on turn 2 I can tell I'm going to lose...)

Municipal board meeting Wednesday. I have concluded that what I can best contribute to the group is detail-oriented impetus to actually get shit done rather than just talking about things forever and ever. I remember back in grad school hanging out with folks at the Ranch, and we'd decide that, yeah, food should probably happen, and then an unbounded discussion about where to get dinner would begin until either Karen or I (or sometimes both of us) would yell "Everybody get up! We're going! We're going now! Stand up! We are leaving the house to get food!" to get everybody moving. So now I get to do the same thing but for forming committees.

Roleplaying-focused Unmunchkin last Sunday, followed by a big dinner with Chris & Todd & friends downtown at Sam's #3. (They were in town to celebrate their anniversary, yay!)

Also, I trimmed off the muttonchops, so now I just have an underlip tuft and a long, long mustache. Walgreen's started selling Pinaud mustache wax again, so I have been waxing it every day. We'll see how long it lasts before I get fed up with it. Monkey trimmed off the wizard beard and is back to just the friendly muttonchops.


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