August 31, 2012

The Skill of Finding Context: Spotting Straight vs. Satire

Ever seen an article from The Onion get linked to with a shocked, "Can you believe this???" caption from one of your friends attached to it?

No, I can't. And you shouldn't.

Not just because it's from The Onion. But because I expect you to be able to instantly recognize the context of a headline that says "Gay Marine Beaten to Bloody Pulp to Fire Up RNC Crowd."

You shouldn't have to know The Onion writes (amazing) satire. I expect you to be able to recognize the absurdity of absurd statements (even when they're perhaps all too close to potential truth.)

This is a problem I deal with on Facebook fairly often. I use satire (I lie), in the hopes of making people laugh. And to my continued shock, people seem to have a real problem with this. They can't seem to tell the difference - can't spot the context clues.

Now, these people have no context confusion when watching a comedian start off with a line, "So last night, I met this woman..." While this premise is very plausible, we assume it's not true. Comedians tell jokes. The context clues aren't in the wording itself, but in the fact that the speaker is a comedian.

Of course, that prevents a guy like Bill Murray from being able to answer any normal question with any sort of seriousness. If asked what he thinks about the Presidential election, no matter what he replies with, we're going to laugh. Because we have a built-in assumption that he's going to be funny. Bill Murray's existence creates a context clue of satire in our head.

But we need to be able to get past this. We need to be able to recognize satire no matter whom the speaker.

Is this a learnable skill? Because it seems like an incredibly valuable one to possess?

August 29, 2012

The Ethics and Temptations of Driving an Armored Car

An armored truck driver recently admitted to stealing $15,000 from his truck.

Upon his dismissal, the man's boss told reporters who had found humor in the story, "It happens all the time."

It's there every day. Sitting behind you. Bags and bags of cash. The opportunity is always there.

So does the profession of "armored truck driver" really attract a more malicious individual, or do the temptations of those job responsibilities simply bring out the criminal within you?

Or put differently, is Kobe Bryant innately immoral and an adulterous wretch - or might you eventually break to countless women perpetually begging to sleep with you every night?


Were the guys at Lehman brothers innately immoral - or did they just have an easier opportunity than most?

Ever pirated music? Are you immoral? Or was it just really easy to do?

Are we good because of our innate goodness or because of a lack of opportunity to be all that bad?

August 28, 2012

I Don't Care if You Vote for my Guy

I don't care if you vote for my guy.

But I refuse to let you think you're voting for a "slash-and-burn budget cutting extremist" when their most drastic budget actually increases our federal spending over the next 10 years.

I refuse to let you think that just cutting the "pork", the "waste", without touching social security, defense spending or medicare, does anything of real significance to solving our long-term budget problems.

You can vote for whoever you want. As long as you can separate your candidate's fiscal rhetoric from objective fiscal reality.

August 23, 2012

That's Just the Way You Are? Well, it Kind of Sucks.

I'm typically bothered when someone uses the phrase, "That's just the way I am."

Because typically, this is an excuse for one's lack of moral progress.

I'm just a little racist. I'm just a little lazy. I'm just a lot chauvinist.

Well, the "way you are" might suck. How dare you pretend you're stuck there.

August 15, 2012

The Ethics of Paying the Homeless to Be Signage

What if financial planning companies paid homeless people to wear custom-designed and branded t-shirts that said something like,

"If I had saved through Edward Jones, I wouldn't be here right now."

As a marketer, I loved this idea. As a human, I see it as borderline evil.

As a capitalist, I can see the win-win. The homeless guy has a job opportunity (despite it being demeaning, there aren't too many other viable options right now), and Edward Jones gets HUGE PR from it.

Plus, Edward Jones offers all of their new homeless workforce free job training/pre-professional education to mitigate the backlash.

I kind of think this should happen?

August 13, 2012

United By...Well, You Know

We instinctively recognize the power of unity. And so we call for it.

We ask individuals to unite together for the good of our country. Our church. Our workplace.

But, the "what" we are to be united behind is often left unsaid. Because it's so obvious?

And yet, I have absolutely no idea what it is.

An assumed foundation of what America is supposed to be? An assumed design for how the local church might best function? An assumed vision for what all our colleagues are working together toward?

The problem is - I think we have very distinct visions. Wholly and mutually exclusive.

And I'm not sure a call for unity can take place until it is determined what we can all get behind, believe in and be willing to fight for.

August 09, 2012

Why We Think the World is Getting Worse and Worse, and Why We're Wrong

There was a 50% drop in domestic violence from 1993 to 2008.*
There was a 50% drop in physical and sexual abuse against children from the early 90s to 2007.*
There has been an 85% drop in rape since 1991.*
Divorce rates have been falling for the past 25 years.*

Through information saturation and glossy screens, we now have an up-close and personal look at the depravity that exists - forgetting it has always existed.

The world is actually getting better. We just see the "worse" more clearly.

*Reason, April 2012 p. 46-47

August 03, 2012

If You Could PROMISE My Daughter a Future Gold Medal...

My daughter is 1.

And if you could PROMISE me that if we were to take her to the gym for early morning workouts 6 days a week for the next 14 years, that she would be absolutely guaranteed to win an Olympic gold medal...I still wouldn't do it.

I think these kids are crazy. I think their parents are crazy.

One person in the world gets their dream come true - and their life peak occurs at the ripe age of 15.

The rest are given the consolation prize of little to no freedom or fun throughout their childhood, and the resulting chronic depression that stems from getting beaten out by that one said person.

I don't get it.

But it sure is fun to watch, since in my head, they're not real people.