Tag Archives: dogs

The dumbness of single-bit binary logic: everything that is not this, is not necessarily that

My bro JT, one of the most unconventional thinkers I know, has long commented upon the problems with single-bit binary logic. I understood this, but I’m embarrassed at my failure to process it until very recently.

In binary notation, everything is a 0 or a 1. They is a this or a that, as the old umpire used to say. This is a base two system, and it is the basis for digital electronics. If you don’t know what base two means, that means there are two numbers before you have to start a new column. We count in base ten, logically since we have ten fingers.

Binary notation works fine as the basis for our electronics. In the world of humanity and issues, where things are rarely so clear and exclusive, it is an indicator of feeble-mindedness. Consider: “If you aren’t for us, you are against us.” “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Stop and think, as I believe in doing any time someone trots out a glib saying repeated so many times that people assume it wise. This is dumb. Just because I am not for you does not mean I am against you. If you’re dumb enough to construe me as your enemy because you can’t bully me into signing onto your cause, that’s your problem and mistake. And just because I am not participating in a solution does not automatically signify that I am part of the problem. I may be neither. I might be a little of both. I might be in the process of using my brain to make up my own mind without consulting you. And this attitude isn’t adding luster to your side, I might add.

The fundamental problem with single-bit binary reasoning: it allows only two categories, choices, alignments, what have you. When applied to a human issue, that’s feeble-minded. It oversimplifies the human condition down to a moronic level. It works only for those who yearn to be spared all nuance. Is Bill Gates an evil man or a good man? He made a fortune by monopolizing our computing environment with increasing mediocrity. Then he decided to retire and use his wealth for such good causes Warren Buffett said “here, take mine, too.” He left behind his company still doing all the same things, growing more mediocre by the year, but no less monopolistic. Hate or love? Respect or disrespect? It is not so easy. It confounds feeble thinking. It makes modern America’s brain hurt, so its members just apply selective amnesia. They derided him back when his software company was strangling every possible competitor, and he was an evil guy, but now that’s old hat and he is a good guy. Nuance is hard. Absolutes provide comfort of the shallowest kind.

Look at the United States’ political system, which embeds and defends single-bit binary logic. If you aren’t one of these, you are one of those. This is idiotic. There are lots of things to be other than those two. Single-bit binary logic works fairly well on life and death (it’s very rare to be neither dead nor alive, I’ll concede), sports events on the field (can’t really play for both teams at once, I’ll go along with that), and other such clear-cut situations. Most matters of opinion are not so.

Thus it is with public demonstrations. Not every failure to join in a public demonstration of homage amounts to disrespect. Only single-bit binary logic can conclude that it does. Suppose that my national anthem is on television before a hockey game. I could choose to stand, interrupt my activities, pay attention, even sing the song: that would be respectful. I could choose not to pay attention, but to avoid doing anything overtly self-indulgent or gross. I could talk with someone about the imminent game, look at a magazine article, or simply sit in silent passivity; that would be somewhere in between. Or I could choose to scratch my groin, flip off the TV, use bad language, drink cheap beer, chomp tortilla chips, and/or make a snide remark; that would be disrespectful. It’s feeble-minded to think that all non-respect is disrespect, just as it is feeble-minded to think that all the different forms of respect can be conflated into one term.

(One of these days I will go into depth on that. There is the respect born of fear (s/he can and might hurt me), that born of affectionate regard (s/he has done great deeds I admire), and that stemming from positive regard without affection (s/he may be a bastard, but in some ways I respect him or her). In some situations, more than one may apply in some proportion. Our error occurs when we fail to qualify what we mean by respect.)

Single-bit binary logic works fine for dogs. If you are a dog, I recommend it without reservation. In most cases, a dog not mistreated either likes you (you are best pal for life) or hates you (you are intruder, competitor for scarce affection, etc.). My friend Jim had a rather ratty little dog named Willie. Willie liked everyone. I mostly don’t like dogs, and I didn’t like Willie. Willie didn’t care; he liked me.

(And lest you think Willie had no importance, let me tell you, Willie was an impact player in one of the funniest pizza-related instances in the history of the faux-Italian menu. I think I’ve told that story on here. If I have not, I must. If I haven’t, you are permitted to rag on me until I do.)

Why are so many issues presented to us in single-bit binary logic? Because it’s easy–and because it makes us easier to manipulate.

Who’s a good boy? Good boy!

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Dealing with Liam

I’m going to try and convey something in as balanced a way as I can.

Imagine someone had a child, but not quite a normal child. Let’s name him Liam, since everyone else is.

Imagine Liam, aged about four, did the following:

  • Went about nude most times, urinating and defecating in full view–outdoors if possible, indoors if necessary.
  • Considered it fairly normal to step in his own feces.
  • Cleansed his posterior regions with his bare left hand, without washing afterward.
  • If not restrained, would leap on all adults, wiping his left hand on them with vigor.
  • Made a significant mess while eating or drinking.
  • Was prone to vomit what he ate or drank, with minimal preamble.
  • Stank, and left his odor on everyone and everything he touched, which was everywhere he could arrange.
  • Had a primitive enough understanding of sex that he attempted it with all other children, no matter how public the setting.
  • Had breath that could–if he got close enough–make an adult physically ill.
  • Consumed vomit and feces at times.
  • Carried a small spiked club in his right hand, knew how to use it, and threatened its use when frightened.
  • Demanded constant attention and companionship, acting out when he didn’t get it.
  • Could and would, without apology or thought, pump out astonishing clouds of intestinal gas.
  • At the slightest sense of excitement, began to yell full throat.
  • Spat upon people as a form of affection.
  • Destroyed random pieces of valuable property and considered it a fun game.
  • Was immune to physical discipline, as a child, by anyone but his parents, who would be moved to violence should anyone smack Liam.
  • Would not learn much from being smacked anyway, even if smacking a child weren’t on the ‘stuff we don’t do’ list.

Now, suppose that Liam’s parents:

  • Adored him, thought he was the cutest thing, and did not know what they would do without Liam.
  • Talked baby talk to him, quite frequently, whether he understood it or not, in the middle of otherwise normal conversations with other adults.
  • Considered Liam an excellent judge of character, and disliked anyone who recoiled from him.
  • Told those who recoiled from Liam: “He just wants to love you.”
  • Let him frolic at random in public, heedless of his effect on random strangers.
  • Knew that Liam would never hurt anyone, ever–even when threatening someone with the spiked club.
  • Could not grasp why some people did not adore and embrace their wonderful Liam as they did.
  • Expected these people to adjust their inner feelings and desires to correct this failure to adore and embrace.
  • Carried out almost missionary-like efforts to teach them how they could learn to enjoy Liam, invalidating the true inner feelings of Liam’s non-enthusiasts.
  • Were incapable of grasping, on any level, the reality that the best thing for Liam was that he and anyone who did not enjoy him should not be caused to mingle without urgent need.
  • Without knowing or caring how many Liam-like children an individual had helped or been kind to in the past (in spite of the ick factor), condemned that individual simply for trying to avoid Liam and his smells and secretions.

Liam is a typical dog. The above is how this particular dog-phobe experiences him. Thus:

  • I grasp that you love your dog, and perhaps all dogs.
  • I grasp that s/he is a family member. I do not understand it, but I do not expect you to justify the logic. I accept it without debate, partly because I know it’s how you feel, and partly because I hope you will not reiterate it to me one more time. You do not need to. It is understood, not questioned.
  • I grasp that, to you, your dog is not dangerous, but is loving.
  • I grasp that you find failure to love dogs inconceivable.
  • I grasp that you think your dog is the special exception whose pure love and goodness can convert me.
  • I grasp that you think the cure is for me to change.
  • I grasp that you wish to help me change, so that I too can adore dogs.

Thing is:

  • I do not want to change how I feel.
  • It has gotten more pronounced over my lifetime.
  • I do not ask you to change how you feel, either.
  • The #1 thing that made it worse was uncomprehending dog owners who pushed dogs on me, or treated me unkindly, as if somehow my standpoint were fundamentally wrong and bad.
  • If that had never happened, so many times, who knows what might have happened to my perspective. But it did, over and over, adding conditioning and accumulated frustration to a fundamental aversion. It was cumulative.
  • Yes, my wife has dogs. I treat them humanely and endure them in my home. If you are absorbing this, you probably grasp that this is a supreme manifestation of my adoration for her.
  • I do not want your dog to suffer. If someone were harming your dog for no reason, I would stop them. If your dog got loose, and wandered onto my property, and I recognized it as your dog, I would make sure it was safe, and you got it back safe and sound.
  • I do not blame your dog for being a dog.
  • I am only trying to put distance between me and the dog.
  • I accept that this is not 100% possible.
  • When it is not possible, I try very hard to maintain.
  • Considering how I feel, that requires enormous discipline on my part.
  • If I am visibly uncomfortable, I would be grateful for your understanding and patience.
  • If I can maintain when I feel like most people would feel if someone threw a used diaper at them, I hope that you look on the positive side and see me as trying very, very hard to meet the situation more than halfway.
  • I accept that my aversion does not constitute urgency or requirement on your part.
  • I would value your kindness and understanding.
  • If I can humanely avoid your dog, and you can accept that I wish to without deciding to hate me, then we have a good understanding.

That’s all I want: the right to back away, to gently detour the dog with a foot, to avoid the feeling of being grossed out. And not to be judged a bad person, or someone in need of dog immersion therapy, which is the attitude that got me to this stage.

One dog owner once told me she felt very sorry for me, because there was a wondrous love and joy I’d never know. Fair enough, from her perspective. I love Stilton cheese, but if the fact that it smells like slippers worn too often with bare feet revolts you, also fair enough. I won’t pressure you to eat it.

After all, it smells like slippers worn too often with bare feet.

Making the dog sick

This morning, Deb and I were having a discussion about dogs and logistics. It wandered, much like Fabius’s mind. Fabius is the elder of her two dogs (black Lab). Leonidas, the junior, is a miniature Schnauzer. I’m not a dog person, though I accept my obligation to assure that they have humane conditions and care as needed.

Anyway, the original understanding was that she would take care of all dog needs wherever humanly possible, and with her being laid off from work for some months, clearly this has been humanly possible. Unfortunately, Fabius has settled upon some very inconvenient latrine areas of late. One definition of an inconvenient latrine area is ‘anyplace I [J.K.] like to be in the yard.’

I decided that it was time to bring this issue up, especially after some unfortunate footwear events last week when I happened to be walking around in the yard. In fact, I was drawing something of a line in the grass, complaining about the issue and asking her to stop promising and start picking up. Fabius was farrowing on the floor (his favorite posture looks very much like that of a sow with new piglets, on his side, legs out), while Leonidas sat on a folded blanket, on the ottoman in front of Deb, following this dog-related discussion with interest.

Just as I articulated to her that I would determinedly resist any notion of getting any more dogs if the situation did not improve, Leonidas assumed the vomiting posture. Before I could complete my little rant, he indicated his dissent by throwing up on the blanket. The look on Deb’s face was priceless.

While the issue will not simply vanish in a small pile of slightly used dog food, that at least tabled it for the time being. For one thing, I couldn’t stop laughing.