Friday, November 30, 2012

Hedonism Day (a date idea)

"Oscar, so far as I know, your culture is the only semicivilized one in which love is not recognized as the highest art and given the serious study it deserves."- 'Glory Road' Robert Heinlein

As per my mission statement, I mean to write about the problems that actually impact the people I care about. And one of the most important day to day issues that is the most devastatingly misunderstood in this culture of ours is sex (the verb). Calm, rational, and practical thinking about sex is almost never stated in public, which is an enormous shame. That being said I am occasionally going to write about sex in this vein because as someone who was raised without religion (and without any kind of secular guilt about sex) I have somewhat of an outsiders view on sex; a perspective I plan on sharing.

On to the idea. This is an idea for a date you can have with your lover. This is not a "get to know you" kind of date, this is an "enjoying each other" kind of date. It is very simple, here is what you need:

a) Picnic food that doesn't need to be prepared (think bread, cheese, fruit, finger food).
b) Intoxicants to flavor (again, picnic quality stuff is appropriate here, no one is supposed to get blasted).
c) Light entertainment. Nothing too engrossing, this is a time filler.
d) A domicile to yourselves.
e) No pants, at all, all day.

The plan is that you make out¹ all day, as much as you (can/want to) with enjoyable food and stuff to read or watch while everyone recovers from the intermittent make outs. None of this pretending "we're going to bed" stuff, this is a day set aside for sex with your person. As I have taken to saying recently, anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

This is the kind of idea that comes from a frank and unapologetic enjoyment of sex and your lover. It is not hard to come up with once you admit that sex is a fun and critical part of a romantic relationship. We need to think about sex as what it is, a joyful human necessity. Enough with the guilt and the recriminations and the shame, sex is fun and should be treated as such.

Like many pass times there are risks and the precautions that should be taken, but sex is not in a category of one. Sex is a number of things but one of them is recreation and one of them isn't a sin. This is the kind of conversation that we can have once we stop engaging with the religious conservatives and declare victory. We don't have to listen to them or their "moralizing" nonsense.

¹I generally use the phrase "make out" to mean anything sexy and naked. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Opportunity Cost (the general concept not the technical term)

~ $4000

Opportunity cost is the cost of any activity measured in terms of the value of the next best alternative forgone (that is not chosen). -Wikipedia 

So when you buy a vehicle for your police department that costs $33k when you could have bought one that costs $4k, the $29000 is your opportunity cost. It is not often thought about or talked about and not for no reason. It is not natural to look around yourself and wonder what the other options were and how much they cost. 

But I recently spend a week in Iceland and I saw more guns, more cops, and more security people in the time it took to get out of Logan than I did in a week in Iceland. Further more, every last customs agent had a side arm. These were not rough and ready men standing at the doors with hard eyes scanning the room for terrorists. These were folks looking at produce to make sure there weren't any invasive species getting into the country. And aside from the side arm itself think about the cost of training, certifying and insuring all those glorified bag inspectors. At every international airport in the country, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I'm not much in the way of a smaller government kind of guy, but for fucks sake, these guys look at incoming bratwurst for a living.  

I live in the 17th most densely populated incorporated place in the country and my police department saw fit to buy police interceptor SUV's. Not electric cars, or regular police cars or more bikes, but big shinny, Manly trucks. To what end? What is the benefit? Aside from the masculine pride of my local constabulary? How many kids could we feed, how many families could we put in shelters? 

And these are just the illustrations that point at the larger issues in this country. Eisenhower warned us of this in 1961 but our current media-political system can't tell if adultery or the longest war in our history is more important. So I can't say that I'm surprised that they cant figure out how to talk about the opportunity cost of our overblown military budget. 


**Watch this space for edits from my economist friends who will have to correct me on how I characterized the concept.**

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sex Scandals

I Do Not Want to hear about the sex lives of Generals or puppeteers. Our overreaction to rumors about sex scandals has, and causes, many problems. Not least of which is the loss of one of the best strategic minds of our generation. 

There was a time in our history when getting caught in unforced sexual deviation was a perversely reliable hallmark of mental instability, moral weakness, or general untrustworthiness. This was not for the reasons that people thought at the time, but none the less true. For most sexual deviation there were implacable biological and/or sociological repercussions. If you slept around in the 1890's you were going to get fatally sick and/or be involved in a pregnancy that would ruin families. And if you were homosexual the homophobia was so obviously fatal that anyone who took risks was showing poor judgment in the face of deadly bigotry. 

How this was understood in our Christian culture was very different of course. Such deviation was seen as "of the devil" and a true hallmark of evil. But none the less committing, or being seen to commit, sexual deviation from the norm was a pretty good sign that the person involved had bad judgment and should not be allowed into positions of power. At the time out-of-wedlock sex had similar moral implications to that of drunk driving, people were going to get hurt and you could not safely control who or when. 

But this is no longer the case. We have condoms, women are permitted to work and provide for themselves, violence driven by bigotry is illegal. If you go outside the norms of sexual behavior (if in fact there are any left) all it represents is a difference in preference, not of moral failing or even poor judgment. But our Christian moral tradition leaves us with the basic inference that sexual deviation is a sign of moral deviation.¹

We need to move beyond this bigotry against sex (the act) in the same way that we need to move beyond bigotries of all sorts. It is unfair, immoral and detrimental to punish or discriminate against people for being different. This goes for the color of their skin, the beliefs that they hold, the sex they were born with, the gender they present themselves as, And the sex that they have. 

This is bigotry plain and simple. It is people imposing their own standards of private, personal behavior onto other people, and it is frankly an outrage. 

¹This raises the point, that I will discuss at some later point, that sex has no special moral status. Sex is a behavior like any other, and what makes behavior moral or immoral does not change just because of changes in localized blood flow.