Factually Correct Distortions

Harry Drabik

I’ve become increasingly aware and at times alarmed by the way words and phrases can take on a lively significance that lifts them above truth. See what you make of this. - Returning face aglow from a tourist visit to a group of essentially barren ocean rocks covered in large numbers of marine mammals and seabirds the charmed devotee spoke of the diversity of life seen on the little islands. Do you see it? Using diversity to describe the scene of abundant animals describes the viewer’s attitudes or beliefs. As often employed expressions including diverse or far reaching attach a contemporary form of sacredness that was formerly done in religious terms. I can say so with reasonable conviction because it has to be faith or belief that causes one to see a miracle of diversity where there isn’t any. As a believer finds the holiest of all messages on a piece of toast new belief sees things that are not there. To more correctly represent animal diversity the rocky island requires more than I was shown. Where was a colony of foxes, alpine sheep, or gazelles we’d need for a diverse system? And yet a perfectly capable, sincere, and thinking observer looked at a scene of marine mammals with seabirds and was moved to crown the experience with the inspirational holiness of diversity. Who would not fail to be moved by a conviction based on that which the right-thinking hold as the very basis of true thinking and of our strength; diversity.

Does it seem something curious is going on when what appears to be a heartfelt belief stands in for a wildlife observation? How do some terms come to be elevated to unquestioned truths? Most days I see a pigeon flock decorating both actively and passively the roof of a building along my route. Is congregation of a single species diverse? As the case with seals and seabirds clumped in their own groups the concept of diversity applies when looking at a much larger environmental system. There can be diversity in a large system but that doesn’t mean seals will find the strength in diversity by seeking out killer whales or auks will find an advantage nesting along the route walrus take to sun bask. Groups in a diverse system keep distinct boundaries and distinctions. A diverse system may not overlap very well or at all with another system. Considering there has been in the neighborhood of 10,000 years for them to do so we see little evidence deer need and love diversity enough to become aquatic. From my experience living very near Lake Superior your native deer isn’t even fond of wading in the shallows.

Could an argument be made that as human groups shifted away from Supernatural Powers pulling the strings they went ahead and switched belief systems on pretty much the same plane as before. Those who balk, question, challenge, or deny (etc.) the prevailing view won’t be called heretics but that’s the way they are treated. Express so much as a doubt about a popularly held doctrine and see how quickly the scorn rises and the attack mode begins. Here’s a good tester; one that works well in two directions, but from  my experience gets quicker results if you stand as a doubter of global warming renamed to climate change. (My private position is belief in human activity making an impact. Take, as example, air traffic out of a major hub like Chicago. Over a thousand flights per day go up from that one location. These leave emissions high in our atmosphere where effects are less obvious than a cloud of diesel exhaust at ground level. This is bound to make a difference. The question is how much? It strikes me interesting that for all the attention given vehicle and power generation contributions to the carbon load very little gets said about the planes so many want to hop on for a quick, cheap getaway.) Back to global warming, the skeptic or questioner there is quickly cast into the role of enemy of all things living. Climate heresy has the appearance of its religious doctrine kin. To doubt or question is to be cast into the pits of hell where malignant evil belongs. There are other areas of skepticism that get similar hot response. Who’d want to question either of the two following conclusions? There’s no job harder than a single mother. The success of the US was built by immigrants. On the first assertion I’m more comfortable saying the role of a single parent is a difficult one. I think that a statement fair to both parenting roles. I also find it more neutral than the praise implied in the version featuring single m others. For the assertion about immigrants it’s only necessary to be a Native American to see another aspect of immigration.

Doing this piece I deliberately avoided use of the terminology political correctness because it has become a too handy designation that labels without necessarily adding to our understanding. In addition, some seemingly worthy goals might foster difficult or unwanted complications. Take the goal of gender equality. If a mother is given time off for a birth should gender equality not allow the same for a father? You might ask if gender equality is the goal then why not erase gender as an employment factor. Same job same pay, but how do we measure the value of experience or of dedication? In your own work are you comforted and encouraged if an inattentive employee gets the same take-home as a highly dedicated worker? It’s never as easy to accomplish well as it is to say glibly. But when there are ripping good ideas like gender equality around I like to give them exercise. Put the glorious idea to test. Try these out. Why not put on the equality of John Cleese playing Elizabeth I? If little limit is to be placed on such equality I’d like to see Oprah play Churchill, and wouldn’t Michelle O. make a wonderful version of either Reagan?