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    • One element of philosophy is how you define your terms and what you mean when you use a certain word or term. This is also known as semantics. It’s sort of where linguistics meets logic and philosophy. If you were to take a philosophy of language class, semantics would probably be the first thing you really studied. 

      We are seeing semantics play a huge role in how people are talking about the police right now. Some are calling to “defund” the police. Others are being even more bold in their talk saying we should “abolish” the police. Others are saying we should take a more measured approach and “reform” the police. 

      Some in the “defund” the police camp are saying that what they really mean is to “reform” the police and that the word “defund” is being taken out of context; meaning that police shouldn’t have the same broad scope of responsibilities that they’ve had. This means giving more power to other branches of society. They embrace the term “defund”, but want others to know what they feel it means. Others in the “defund” the police camp are pushing back on that, saying that they are serious about not only defunding the police, but abolishing the police altogether. They’re giving the middle finger to the police as a whole and want them to be done away with as we know it. 

      Those in the “reform” camp are afraid that the terms “defund” and “abolish” are too radical and will push voters away from Joe Biden. That “defund” might really mean “reform”, but in that case, why not use “reform” because that’s what they really mean and it sounds less scary? And then there are those in the “reform” camp, who not only are afraid that “defund” and “abolish” appear radical, but they themselves actually believe those terms to be radical. They want to see changes in how police behave and hold them accountable, but they also believe we need to acknowledge the need for police and have a respectful tone towards the profession as a whole. 

      So that’s where we are at as a nation right now. We have people calling on defunding the police who really mean reforming the police. We have others calling to defund and abolish the police who really mean it and don’t want to placate to a middle ground. And then we have another group that wants to reform the police and want to use the term “reform” because “defund” and “abolish” sound too scary. 

      Semantics is having a huge effect on this conversation about the police and so long as people are disagreeing on their terms and how they should be used, it seems like we’re going to remain in gridlock. At times, I feel like people are talking over each other. What does the Cake community think about this issue? Do you care which term(s) we use when talking about the fate of the police? If so, which ones? If not, why not? 

      (Photo: Erik McGregor/Lightrocket/Getty Images)

    • An additional definition for “defund the police” that I have seen is to decrease significantly police budgets. Mariame Kaba in Friday’s New York Times op-ed:

      “Regardless of your view on police power — whether you want to get rid of the police or simply to make them less violent — here’s an immediate demand we can all make: Cut the number of police in half and cut their budget in half. Fewer police officers equals fewer opportunities for them to brutalize and kill people. The idea is gaining traction in Minneapolis, Dallas, Los Angeles and other cities.“

      Kaba also believes that the monies cut should go towards increases in housing, education and other social services. (Note: I feel at times uninformed, ill-informed or disinformed on this issue and therefore do not have any conclusions to share or opinions to express.)

      Further reading

      From Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer:

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    • My concern is that recent events have been hi-jacked by serial malcontents that exist simply to agitate, cause dissent, and anarchy. They are not particularly interested in the specific issue; it is just a good cover story by which to incite unrest.

      It is depressing how many people feel the need to "signal" their particular feelings whenever a social issue arises. One of the problems of social media is the ease with which people can drop a comment that connects with so many others. Note that the problem is not that we can reach many people - the problem is that it is too easy to do so. Given the laziness of people in general this gives rise to badly thought-out information (or misinformation) and comments widely dispersed.

      I am troubled by the rise of "virtue signalling" in general. In many cases the aim is not to cure the problem, but solely to burnish the social credentials of an individual. The signalling has no practical effect outside this. What difference does it make to race relations in the US to know that Tracy from Rochdale thinks it is bad? None. She is not suggesting solutions. But it makes Tracy feel better that she has shared her viewpoint with the world. How self-absorbed does that make the gesture?

      I am aware these are complex matters of cause and effect, and I cannot do them full justice in the space and time available. But I am sure I am not the only person wondering whether we are at all ready for the kind of communications that social media allows us.....

    • But I am sure I am not the only person wondering whether we are at all ready for the kind of communications that social media allows us.....

      Perhaps it's more of "ready to accept the reality of the communications brought to us by social media."

      Yet, there are many that either participate infrequently - or not at all. Imagine a world where we heard from them, as well.

    • Interesting perspective, and probably a better reflection of the reality we face.

      Nevertheless, I would rather modern communication was not like this. It does not bring out the best of the species...

    • There used to be in our society the attitude "I don't agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it" but that attitude has been jettisoned by many.

      It has been replaced with a "toe the line" and "conform" requirement by those who pile on to anyone who dares to voice a view that is contrary to the "major" voices in society. For example, the current hoopla over J. K. Rowling's posts and tweets.

      Whether one agrees with her that "sex" and "gender" should both exist and should both be allowed to have its own space or not, can we co-exist with those who hold views which differ from ours or are we determined to be bigots.

    • It seems to me that social media gives small people the means to feel bigger, and more powerful than they perceive themselves to be. The need to conform to the "groupthink" is based on feelings of inadequacy or alienation felt otherwise. It is why kids form gangs, so its not entirely without behavioural precedent.

      The feeling of "belonging" is so powerful it becomes all-consuming. Nothing can be allowed to threaten the attachment to the group. Not even common sense, the facts, or decency.

      One thing that emerges from this line of thought is that it must be the case that many people in the world have been living lives where they already felt small, unimportant and with no power. How did that come about?

    • One thing that emerges from this line of thought is that it must be the case that many people in the world have been living lives where they already felt small, unimportant and with no power. How did that come about?

      Oppression has been around for millennia. Many have been on the receiving end of this oppression...for a really long time.

    • I was thinking more along the lines that, as you increase a person's social "range" (for want of a better word), maybe you also diminish their sense of self.

      I am reminded of that part of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where hapless travellers go mad after being exposed to the Total Perspective Vortex. The idea being you see a vast map of the universe and, alongside a tiny arrow, pointing to an even smaller planet, there are the words "You Are Here".

      If I need the Twittersphere to validate and justify my thoughts and opinions, just how little self esteem do I have?

    • "Defund" and "De-militarize". The first step is to take away all the riot gear, the personnel carriers, the military-style rifles and grenade launchers. Tasers too. And bullet-proof vests.

      But we all know this will never happen.

    • In a great part, because people confuse numbers with success.

      I hope that @Chris won't mind my using him as an example of what I mean.

      Chris delivered a TED(x) talk that was apparently a success among those who heard it. But suppose a big name Hollywood actor had memorized that same speech and then using all the tricks of the trade had delivered the same speech to eveyone who came to hear that the actor was going to speak. Many people would think that it would be better to have the actor deliver the speech than Chris, but there is a major flaw in that way of thinking.

      That speech was a result of life experiences and lessons which Chris has learned and which the actor cannot grasp on the same subjective level which Chris possesses. After delivering such a speech if Chris interacted for many days among those who had heard the speech, he would be able to exercise and influence which the actor would not be able to do.

      One of the reasons that some antique furniture which has survived for centuries has survived is that it was not built at the fastest speed that the crafter could manage.

      There is a saying "Price, Time, Quality, Choose two."

      In relationships, there is no substitute for Time and persistence.

      The point of the movie "It's a wonderful life" is that although George had never done something that appeared spectacular yet his influence over time and persistent interaction had been invaluable to the people of the town in which he lived.

      Those who think that they can only be significant within a large group are those who don't understand what Capra, Goodrich, and Hackett were attempting to say.

      Yesterday, I wrote about a fundamental problem of communication which exists within the feminist movement.

      Let me describe another problem of communication because it ties into the idea that is something is not spectacular and does not involve a large number that it is worthless.

      There is a problem of communication between those women who are feminists because they want to make a mark on the world and those who are homeschooler women because they want to make a mark on the world.

      I've known women who had the home school attitude. I don't think I've ever known any family in which the driving force behind the decision to home school and continue home schooling for at least 8 years was not the mother's "dream."

      The woman who has the attitude "I could have stayed home and baked cookies" cannot comprehend the mindset of the woman who is fervently sold on homeschooling her children. And those women who home school tend to feel as if climbing the corporate ladder or becoming a successful professional such as a Lawyer or a Doctor would be the last thing in the world they would want to do.

      My mother and my youngest sister had the "home school" mentality. (Because most of my siblings and I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, Mom's enthusiasm for home schooling did not really manifest itself until she was able to work with her grandchildren.) Two of my sisters do not. One is an RN and one has been a caseworker for the State of Florida for decades. So I got to see up close and personal the difference between these two mind sets.

      The point is that the George Bailey approach to life is so subtle that many people like George don't realize how effective it is.

      In Stephen Covey's writings, this is referred to as the "Circle of Influence." Blaine Lee and Bob Berg have also written about this effect. Berg has a saying similar to "You can't push a rope very far." (That's not an exact quote as I'm writing from memory) What Berg means is that influence doesn't work in the way that intimidation works but that in the long run, influence is more effective.

      The reason that Chris could over a long period of time be more effective than a celebrity who has never experienced these things is that a celebrity's effect is like a pep rally. The effect wears off quickly. Influence builds slowly but it builds to last.

    • This was a brilliantly crafted response, James. Not saying I’m 100% on everything, but even on those parts where my views may diverge I appreciated the effort put into expressing yours. I always feel like I learn something from reading your responses.

      There’s a book called “Mastery” by George Leonard that talks about our self-destructive culture focused on instant success. Taking the time to become a master musician like Yoyo Ma or a literary craftsman like Stephen King can take decades to achieve. And yet I see articles on Medium and elsewhere on how you can achieve success as a writer in “Three Easy Steps” or similar shortcuts to success BS.

      Influence requires a similar long-term effort to become someone people will want to listen to. Think of how long Neil deGrasse Tyson’s journey was to become the voice of science that people actually listen to and trust, his stabbing poor Pluto in the back even forgiven.

      Further reading

      “He stood at the heart of the controversy over Pluto's demotion, and consequently Plutophiles have freely shared their opinions with him, including endless hate mail from third-graders.”

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    • @StephenL When I try to communicate the viewpoints of other people I'm not necessarily in agreement with either side of an issue I'm discussing.

      However, if you are addressing the topic of influence vs. intimidation, there I have a most definite position.

      One of the main reasons that I oppose many of the attempts by the so-called religious right to legislate religious beliefs is because I do not believe that the main purpose of Christ's crucifixion is external behavior modification. I believe that the main purpose of evangelism is internal mental transformation.

      One of the main conflicts between the rabbis and Jesus was often not a disagreement over what the law said but over what the overall purpose of the law was.

      For example, both Jesus and the Rabbis agreed that the law taught that the Israelite was not to engage in work on the seventh day of the week. They disagreed very strongly on the purpose of that law. Jesus was constantly demonstrating that they were inconsistent in their reasoning concerning that law.

      They circumcised male babies on that day.

      They untied their animals and led them to water on that day.

      Jesus told them that one of their main problems was that they were evaluating things based on the external appearance of something and not based on the righteous principle which was the foundation of the law in question.

      Moses has given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the <earlier> ancestors); and on the sabbath you circumcise a man. If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken; are you furious with me, because I made a man entirely whole on the sabbath? Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

      This idea that behavior modification is not the main goal also underlies what Paul wrote about the supremacy of love.

      And if I bestow all my goods to feed <the poor,> and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it is of no benefit to me.

      I said all that to make the following point: Intimidation does not change the heart, it only changes the conduct. Influence can change the hearts of some or all of those who are influenced.

    • Yeah, that’s an important part of it for sure. The idea that too much money is going towards the police and can be better used in other avenues.

    • A lot of people on social media are posting based on their emotional reaction/response to something rather than thinking things through in a rational way. That’s what makes it hard to have real dialogue.

    • I was thinking more along the lines that, as you increase a person's social "range" (for want of a better word), maybe you also diminish their sense of self.

      Fair enough.

      Yet, those of us with quite limited social "range" may also fully recognize that 'sense of self' is a lot more than just words on a screen.