Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How Dare You Have an Opinion!

Hannity rhymes with Insanity

I was taken to task recently by some readers who asked, how dare I have an opinion different from theirs?

Bear in mind, they were not just trying to start a discussion or argue a point.  Their point was, you're not allowed to have opinions, but I am.

I am beginning to feel like Sean Hannity.   No, actually, not really.   But I do understand how he feels about New York taxes.   Here's a hint, John:  Property taxes and hurricane insurance in Florida are murder.   Try Texas.  The hill country is nice - although I doubt you'll find Austin to your liking.

But getting back to topic, why do some people feel threatened by opinions that are contrary to theirs?   The answer is, of course, that ideas are very dangerous - more dangerous than guns and bombs - and ideas that call into question someone's entire lifestyle are very dangerous indeed.

And as I noted in a recent posting, on the Internet, people tend to flock to discussion groups, social media, and other sites where their own pre-existing opinions are re-validated.  The Internet is not an open forum where ideas are debated anymore, but a series of cubbyholes where crackpots of every variety go to hunker down with their own pre-conceived notions.

Welcome to my cubbyhole.

But several postings have generated a lot of ire, as they call into question people's poor life choices.   For example, my postings on co-signing loans do not mince words:
"You're just fucked, period.  It is too late to say, "I'll never do THAT again!"  It is too late to stop playing the Hillbilly fucking financing game.  Your best friend just took you out, financially, and there is nothing, repeat nothing, you can do about it."
 And that about sums it up.   As I pointed out in that posting, every financial adviser in the country, even "You're approved to buy a jet ski" Sooozie Orman agrees with me on this one, and she and I don't agree on much (nor do Mr. Hannity and I).

In response to this posting, I got a "how DARE you!" message from someone who "had a very good reason why co-signing made sense, but not enough room here to discuss why" - and then went on for five pages flaming me and my ancestors.

Why all the anger and hostility?   Well, they-co-signed a loan and just realized how they screwed themselves.   But no one in our society wants to blame themselves for their troubles anymore.   So naturally, they defend a poor (in every sense of the word) practice, and take it out on me, the messenger.   That co-signed loan would have worked out OK, if not for my blog posting!  Right?  Sheesh.

It is, in a way, like how poor people are the first to defend the financial institutions in the ghetto that rip them off - the check cashing parlors and payday loan companies - along with the buy-here-pay-here used car lots, title pawn loan joints, and rent-to-own furniture places.   All of them are overpriced ripoffs, but the poor use them - and cherish their abusers.   Perhaps it is Stockholm syndrome.

Another "hot button" posting was my posting on Fibromaylgia,  where I pointed out that The Doctor who invented this disease, has now decided it isn't a disease at all:

"According to Frederick Wolfe, lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined the ACR fibromyalgia classification criteria, "the large majority of physicians, sociologists, and medical historians" are skeptical about the validity of fibromyalgia as a clinical entity. Some call fibromyalgia a “non-disease” and “an over-inclusive and ultimately meaningless label.” Wolfe now questions the validity of fibromyalgia as a disease. He considers fibromyalgia a physical response to stress, depression, and economic and social anxiety, and believes the associated symptoms are a normal part of everyday life."

Keep re-reading that paragraph until you "get it".   In response to this, I get messages like, "Well, you're not a doctor!" (hey lady, you ain't either).   The point is, the doctor who invented this nonsense said that basically (and I'm translating here) that fibromyalgia isn't an illness with a pathogen or condition that can be traced.  It's basically a bunch of hysterical middle-aged women who are depressed.   When the treatment is anti-depressants, that tells you all you need to know about the illness.

Yes, I have aches and pains in my joints and legs on occasion.  It's called getting old.  Get over it.  Stop making a hobby out of an illness.

But again, these sort of people spend all day on websites and discussion groups, validating their own feelings in the matter, and self-identifying as victims.   The radical idea that you can move on with your life and moreover that no one wants to hear you blather on about your fibromyalgia symptoms every time they see you, is just shouted down.

Another series of postings which generates ire, are my postings relating to the RV world.   As I noted in the discussion group posting, the RV industry does a good job of selling the idea of spending more on a vehicle than you spent on your house.   And they sell the idea that you should "see America" by traveling in a $200,000 rolling house, spending months at a time in a campground parked next to other rolling houses.

But maybe full-time RVing doesn't make sense - at least as a "cost-effective" way to live.    And maybe spending close to $100,000 on a leaky, easily dentable travel trailer, sprayed with clearcoat, doesn't make much sense, when a basic trailer can cost about $25,000, new.   But to the guy who just dropped $90,000 on a brand-new Airstream, this is heresy.

Maybe when gas was 89 cents a gallon during the Clinton era, this made sense.  And in fact, I drove our fifth wheel "across America" and saw Mt. Rushmore and all of that, in that era.   But when gas is $3 to $5 a gallon, and you're only getting 5-10 miles per gallon, this starts to make a lot less sense.   Living in trailer parks, for weeks at a time isn't "seeing America" but just living in trailer parks.

And the big issue is this:  If you blow all your money on a camper, at age 65, and by age 75 you are old and infirm and broke, was this such a swell idea?   It might be a better idea to buy less camper (that gets better gas mileage, costs less, and can go places a big camper can't) and really see America, and have enough money left over to fund your old age.

Just a crazy radical thought - being responsible with money and all.   But again, I get the how dare you response - usually from middle-income people who spent as much on a camper as they got from the sale of their primary residence (in many cases, their only asset).  They bought into this "lifestyle" and it scares the crap out of them that someone is even implying that it might be a huge financial mistake.

And again, it is not someone saying, "Well, you didn't take into consideration....." or something of that nature.  It is "You are not ALLOWED to have an opinion, but I am!"

And why they do this is simple:  They really don't have a persuasive argument going the other way, other than emotional arguments.  They want to believe that what they are doing is right, and shout down any contrary ideas.

And both sides of the political spectrum engage in this sort of group-think today, and what is really disturbing is that it is now part of our mainstream culture.   On the left, we have "Political Correctness" - the idea that certain ideas, words, or phrases cannot be expressed at all, lest they "offend" some class of persons.   This has done little to really change people's minds on issues, other than to drive some ideas underground (where arguably, they are more dangerous).

On the right, we have the "Don't tell me what to do!" crowd, who take every expression of an idea as another example of Socialist tyranny.   The First Lady adopts, as her "cause", the idea of eating right and getting exercise (something all of us need to do, right?) and people scream, "She's telling us what to do!   The socialist state begins!"   

Apparently, even suggestions about diet and exercise are not permitted.

The problem with this nonsense is that it does not encourage debate but stifles it.   If we all try to "play nice" and not offend anyone, our ideas get watered down to nothingness.  For example, in leasing postings (another area where I get "how dare you!" responses), people get upset, because they leased a car, and I tell them that people who lease cars are idiotically squandering their money.  And this hurts their feelings, as no one wants to think they squander money (we all do, on occasion) or moreover, think that their "smart lease deal!" was in fact, a crippling mistake.

"Some of my postings - most of them, in fact - may come across as mean-spirited or hard-hearted.  I am sorry for that, as it is not my intention to hurt anyone's feelings.  But if I say you are an idiot for leasing a car, and you have a leased car in your driveway, well, what should I say?  Should I say you are a nice idiot?  Or should I qualify things and waffle, and say, "well, maybe leasing isn't so bad after all!" and end up like Sooze Orman - just telling you what you want to hear and validating your bad choices?

And in the examples I use, if you self-identify with the hypothetical, am I really being mean, or are you merely projecting your own life into the fact scenario?  I can't help it if I say that Joe Blow is a fool for getting a payday loan, and you happen to think you are a lot like Joe Blow.

I would like to be "nice" - but going down that road only serves to take the edges off of ideas until they are watered down into bland platitudes.  Pretty soon, saying things like "Frequent Flyer Miles SUCK!" turns into, "Well, I guess they aren't all THAT bad, if you get lucky and all."

Pretty soon, you aren't saying anything at all - just mumbling to yourself and hoping not to offend anyone."

You see the problem.  Watering-down ideas so as "not to offend" ends up destroying the very ideas.   And instead of having ideas, we have nothing.

So I can't say, "Leasing might be a bad idea" as if I did, you'd immediately think, "Yea, those other people got suckered into bad lease deals - good thing I got a smart one!" - as we all want to think it was the other guy who got snookered, not us.

And I can't say, "selling your home for $200,000 and spending it on a $200,000 RV might not be a bad idea" for the same reason.   It is human nature of us to look for the exclusion, the loophole, the exception, that we are all sure we qualify for.

And so on down the line.   If you have decided to make a hobby out of Fibromyalgia - or mental illness (and I have seen people do both) it is a pretty sad way to spend the rest of your life - seeing yourself as put-upon or as a victim of circumstance, and boring everyone to death with your symptoms.   And yea, I've known a number of people like this, and their lives are sad - not because of the illness, but rather on how they perceive themselves with regard to it.   It is a form of learned helplessness.   And no, you don't have to live that way.

We all make decisions in life, and we have to live with them.   What distinguishes people from one another is how they own up to the decisions they make.   Today, it is all too easy to blame your misfortunes and woes on others - or to obsess about them as the centerpiece of your life.   We all want to complain about our "dysfunctional" childhood, as if it was a roadmap for our lives.  We all want to blame our misfortunes on Democrats or Republicans - or "rich people" or whatever.   It is easier this way - and more fun.   After all, we are blameless victims here, and other people should be called to task for our woes!

And on discussion groups and social media sites, a virtual lynch mob forms - blaming and castigating others for problems that are really self-inflicted.

The video below (I hope the link works) is from The Daily Show.   The Governor of New York, who is not too connected with the Mafia, recently was musing as to why there was a tea party in New York, and said "they didn't belong there."  It was likely a mis-statement, in that his real message was that he thought the ideas of the tea party were incompatible with New Yorkers' ideology.  (Of course, the Governor fails to realize that many people in New York STATE are getting staggering property tax bills which are forcing them out of their homes - in order to pay for some of the most extensive welfare benefits in the country.  Oh, right, you can't say that).

The sad joke is, on the far right, people like Sean Hannity take this "you can't have an opinion" type statement and morph it into a "how dare you say that!" kind of argument, and fail to perceive the irony.   The looney Left and the crackpot Right, both decrying the other's right to have opinions.   It it sort of stupid.

If you don't like my blog, don't read it.  No one is forcing you to.   And save the flames - they are deleted, unread.