Monday, October 23, 2006

Escape Valve

Not much to write about lately. I wrote this post a week or so ago, posted it, unposted it, and am now reposting it in revised version. Not to disavow anything, but it strikes me that discretion is probably friendliest in the long term.

OK, I need to vent. I could probably assemble this post from selected paragraphs of other posts over the past year, but let's just rehash the same old material fresh, shall we?

The job of flying involves being stuffed with one or two other people into a broom-closet-sized space for prolonged periods, periods characterized by long stretches of silence and relative inactivity interrupted by periods of heavily-ritualized toil. This is a setting where little personality foibles and characteristics become grotesquely exaggerated, and where one inevitably learns much more about a coworker's personal life than in most jobs because there is just too much time to talk about stuff, too much silence to fill.

I have spent my whole working life (the last 12 years, anyway) surrounded by people whose global outlook is quite different from mine--not because my own views are so extraordinary but because this is a job which, for a couple reasons, attracts in unnatural proportion people of a certain psychological cast--and so it's no great strain for me to find myself paired for a couple months with someone whose views on religion or politics or whatever are different from my own. Indeed, I've become quite accustomed to this as a standard state of affairs by now. I'm not happy about never having sympathetic working companions, but I accept it (though my faith in humanity is always lifted a bit when I meet other people's coworkers and find that the knuckle-dragging bent of conservatism that characterizes my workplaces does not find easy acceptance in places where the jobs require more education).

But I'm not always able to view my situation with equanimity, most particularly when I'm confronted with a personality who is not inclined to show me the courtesy which I as a matter of course extend to others. More than this, I must come clean that I'm not always able to accept another's views as being simply elsewhere along the defensible spectrum of human perception. There are limits. And these two things together--an unwillingness to tread lightly among people whose stated views do not coincide with one's own, and a collection of especially odious personal views--coupled with the aforementioned broom-closet working environment, makes for, shall we say, an unattractive couple of working months.

All this by way of preface. What's on my mind is this recurring question: how is it possible for a person to avail themselves enthusiastically in life of all the things that science brings us--airplanes and cell phones and computers and DVDs and medicine and pasteurized food and television and radio and any of a buzillion things absolutely integral to modern life--and then thumb one's nose at that same science when it points to conclusions one doesn't like? (I'll answer my own question: this is possible when one is absolutely ignorant of the science itself and the role it has played in the things we enjoy.) More specifically, how is it OK for someone to hold firmly to a view which, like Hitler's murderous blanket indictment of Jewry, simply does not find support by any objective measure, and most particularly when that view is actively malevolent to a whole group of humanity?

Lastly, I would ask this: how does a guy who believes openly that women are second-class citizens ever get married? What woman signs up to be a servant in her primary life's relationship?

It's still maybe the most amazing job ever, but I'm rather brutally reminded occasionally that I love what I do very much in spite of, and not because of, some of the people I work with.

(I wish this venting made me feel better. Alas.)


Anonymous said...

"Lastly, I would ask this: how does a guy who believes openly that women are second-class citizens ever get married? What woman signs up to be a servant in her primary life's relationship?"

A fundamentalist religious woman. Take your pick: Muslim or Christian.


27:3 And thy estimation shall be of the male from twenty years old even unto sixty years old, even thy estimation shall be fifty shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary.

27:4 And if it be a female, then thy estimation shall be thirty shekels.

27:5 And if it be from five years old even unto twenty years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male twenty shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

27:6 And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver.

27:7 And if it be from sixty years old and above; if it be a male, then thy estimation shall be fifteen shekels, and for the female ten shekels.

And from the Quran:

The Cow:

2:282 ...And call two witness from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not at hand, then a man and two women,...

There you have it. The value of women in god's eyes.

-A. Random

Jeffy said...

It probably isn't much comfort, but you do need to keep in mind that probably less than 10% of the population sees the world like you do. It wouldn't matter what you were doing, you'd be spending much of your time with folks who would seem pretty similar to your current co-workers. Small-mindedness abounds everywhere. Unfortunately, at your place of work you just can't walk out of the the room to avoid it.

And don't get me started on all the ways in which people ignore what science can tell them and instead choose to believe mystical b.s.

It doesn't help that science goes to great lengths to avoid taking a stand on most areas of belief. For folks who are not familiar with science it is easy for them to get the impression that science is compatible with mystical thinking. Mix in the fact that logic is almost an entirely lost art and it is not too surprising that so many people have such a rudimentary acquaintance with science.