Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Archive for March 2011

Open Letter to the City and Mayor of Cologne

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Sehr geehrter Herr Roters,
Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren der Stadt Köln,

als ich heute von einem Einkauf zurückkehrte, habe ich zu meinem Entsetzen ein von Ihnen beauftragtes Werbeplakat gesehen, das sich auf sexistischer und mit Vorurteilen behaftete Art mit dem Thema häuslische Gewalt beschäftigt.

Häusliche Gewalt muss bekämpft werden. Dies muss aber zugleich auf eine gerechte und sachliche Art gemacht werden. Der Zusatz “gewaltfreie Männer Kölns” (o.ä., leider habe ich keine Gelegenheit zum Aufschreiben gehabt) ist diesen Bedingungen in keinster Weise gerecht.

Erstens wird hier impliziert, das Gewalt würde von Männern ausgehen. In der Wirklichkeit, wie wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen überwältigend belegen, ist das Problem entweder mehr von den Frauen ausgehend und gegen die Männer gerichtet oder eine 50–50-Angelegenheit. (Je nach Untersuchung. Vgl. hierzu z.B. http://www.csulb.edu/~mfiebert/assault.htme.) Hierzu muss noch hinzugefügt werden, dass Frauen in einem höheren Umfang Waffen (etwa Messer) benutzen und/oder Angriffe aus einem Hinterhalt durchführen. Beides erhöht die Gefährlichkeit der Gewaltaktionen bedeutend.

Hierbei ist zu beachten, dass viele ältere Untersuchungen, die teilweise das Gegenteil behauptet haben, entweder grobe methodische Probleme hatten (z.B. ein bloßes Zählen von Strafanzeigen oder Telefonanrufen bei Hotlines) oder durch ideologische, politische, oder wirtschaftliche Intressen befleckt gewesen sind. (Diese Intressen zu erläutern geht weit über dem Rahmen dieses Schreibens. Für einen schnellen Überblick würde ich jedoch das Lesen von z.B http://www.chronwatch-america.com/articles/4030/1/The-Domestic-Violence-Industry–Hateful/Page1.htmle, http://glennsacks.com/blog/?p=4165e, und http://wadvpress.org/?p=437e nahelegen.)

Zweitens entsteht durch diese Formulierung leicht den Eindruck, gewalttätige Männer wären gewöhnlich. Erneut ist die Wirklichkeit sehr unterschiedlich: Nur eine kleine Minorität der Männer sind gewalttätig. Diese Minorität wird noch kleiner, wenn externe Faktoren (etwa Drogenmissbrauch) herausgefiltert werden—wonach man sich auch eher diese externen Faktoren zuwenden sollte. Zudem, wie oben erläutert, ist die gewalttätige Minorität der Frauen größer.

In beiden Fällen handelt es sich um langstehende Vorurteile, die seit Jahrzehnten zu Ungunsten der Männer verbreitet werden—vorallem in Form unseriöser feministischer Propaganda. Dass sich die Stadt Köln für diese Verbreitung brauchen lässt, ist bemerkenswert, äußerst bedauerlich, und das Ihnen entgegengebrachte Vertrauen verratend.

Um die Sache noch zu verschlimmern behaupten Sie im Internet (http://www.stadt-koeln.de/2/frauen/gegen-gewalt/beratung/00402/e): “In der überwiegenden Zahl der Fälle wird diese Gewalt von Männern an Frauen und Kindern ausgeübt.” Diese Behauptung stellt eine sehr grobe Unwahrheit dar.

Eingedenk obiger Tatsachen muss Ich Sie auffordern, die Werbeaktion umgehend einzustellen, um statt dessen eine Entschuldigung und Richtigstellung zu schalten. Die Internetseite, sowie sonstige Quellen mit ähnlichen männerfeindlichen und grob irreführenden Behauptungen, ist umgehend zu korrigieren. Wegen der großen Sichtbarkeit der Schilder muss schnell agiert werden, wonach ich eine vollständige Korrektur bis spätestens Freitag, 01.04.2011, erwarte.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen,

Michael Eriksson

Abridged version for English readers: The above is an open letter concerning the City of Cologne spreading the prejudice that men are violent and women are victims. This while statistics (cf. the above links) show that women are the more violent (at least) when it comes to domestic violence. The recipients are oberbuergermeister@stadt-koeln.de (Mayor Jürgen Roters), gleichstellungsamt@stadt-koeln.de (“Department for equality”), and info@stadt-koeln.de.

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March 28, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Equal Pay Day (censored comment)

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Unfortunately, I have to re-publish yet another censored comment here. The censore is a feminist whose intellectually dishonest and destructive take on censorship has already lead to several entries on my blog, including [1] and [2]. (The more annoying because her lack of insight and her pseudo-knowledge makes her someone who would truly benefit from listening to others.)

The censored comment (dealing with the Equal Pay Day and the myth of unequal pay for equal work; non-German readers can just follow the link):

Wie erfreulich es auch ist, eine Feministin zu sehen, die sich kritisch mit dem Thema auseinandersetzt, bleibt dennoch das selbe Hauptprobleme: Die Annahme, es gäbe eine Benachteiligung von Frauen. In der Wirklichkeit haben Männer und Frauen schon gleiches Gehalt für gleiche Arbeit erreicht. (S. z.B. https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/the-%e2%80%9c77-cents-on-the-dollar%e2%80%9d-fraud/) In der Tat zeigen Untersuchungen, dass es mittlerweile einige Felder gibt, wo die Frauen im Durchschnitt mehr verdienen…

Lass uns also die irreführende Propaganda-aktion „Equal Pay Day“ in den Grab gehen.

Im Sonstigen: Die teilweise oben gemachten Generalisierungen über Verhalten der Männer und Frauen, samt die Einstellung „Verhalten der Frauen gut–Verhalten der Männer schlecht“ sind irreführend und eher sexistisch als konstruktiv.

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March 27, 2011 at 1:49 am

The myth of white male privilege

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I have had a post on the myth of white male privilege in the planning since January. The preliminary, late-running, product is now present on my website, having grown too long for the blog format.

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March 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Self-centered women (yet another censored comment)

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Today, I found a “freshly pressed” poste that had very narrow-minded and one-sided, not to say sexist, take on men and how they should approach women. This post was followed by a number of equally narrow-minded comments (and a few more intelligent). Having seen the same self-absorbed prejudices on a great number of occasions, I left the following (apparently censored due to dissent) comment:

You seem to make the major mistake of confusing what works (does not work) with what is graceful/appropriate/whatnot (graceless/inappropriate/…)

Asking directly for a number may not work, but there is nothing inherently wrong with doing so. On the contrary, simply asking is direct and honest. Notably, what the asker actually wants is usually clear from context and any actual claims made are likely to just be excuses or steps on the road to the goal.

Several commenters discuss signals and hints. What most women fail to understand is that:

1. Men prefer and expect direct communication over hints and it is wrong for women to blame this incompatibility on men. They are themselves just as guilty—indeed, arguably more so, because direct communication is inherently more efficient. (Note the similarity to the earlier parts of my comment.)

2. Not every woman uses the same signals to imply a particular meaning. There is no infallible universal language to stick to, and if a man fails to correctly interpret the signals of one particular woman, it is occasionally because he is used to another “dialect” (for want of a better word).

(Two typos corrected.)

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March 18, 2011 at 10:09 pm

The evils that men do: Follow-up

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Yesterday, I wrote a post about a censor-those-with-the-wrong-opinions poste.

In the mean time, the OP (Ulrich Kasparick) has:

  1. Blocked comments and track-backs on his post.

  2. Written a second poste where he proclaims himself a friend of free speech!

  3. Censored a comment of mine (and probably more than one by other commenters) on the new post…

In this, and his reasoning in other regards, he provides an excellent example of the sheer stupidity, hypocrisy, and lack of insight into evil that I have so often lamented on this blog. Truly, he should consider the Bible’s complaint:

Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

(Matthew 7:5e)

The censored comment that I left:

Obiges wirkt nicht sonderlich überzeugend im Lichte von Ihrem letzten Beitrag. Vorallem:

1.Scheinen Sie die Irrglaube zu unterliegen, dass das Legale (Illegale) auch automatisch das Richtige (Falsche) ist. (Wie ich schon gestern anführe.)

2. Ich glaube nicht, dass Sie tatsächlich hier ein abstraktes Interesse an juristische Fragen zeigen, noch aus einer wahren Liebe von dem Gesetz getrieben sind, sondern sich vielmehr über Ansichten empören, die nicht mit den Ihrigen kompatibel sind. (Eventuell sogar unter Vortäuschung von 1…)

Ich notiere mit Interesse, dass Sie die Kommentarfunktion auf den vorigen Beitrag abgestellt haben—was Ihre Glaubwürdigkeit in Bezug auf Redefreiheit noch mindert.

(The above is not particularly convincing, in the light of your last post. Above all:

1. You appear to underlie the misconception that the Legal (Illegal) is also automatically the Right (Wrong). (As I stated yesterday.)

2. I do not believe, that you actually have an abstract interest in legal questions, or that you are motivated by a love for the law, but rather bristle at opinions that are not compatible to your own. (Possibly, even with 1. as a mere pretense…)

I note with interest that you have deactivated comments on your last post—which reduces your believability concerning free speech further.)

(Kasparick’s argumentation/justification for his actions seems to be rooted in the excuse of the alleged, unconvincingly claimed illegality of Seehofer’s statements, which would then ipso facto be Wrong. That a German fails to see the difference is truly depressing, having both the Nazis and the GDR in such close historical proximity.)

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March 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm

The evils that men do—and the evils that they merely say…

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Today, I encountered a German blog entry by Ulrich Kasparicke (formerly a Social-Democrat MP) that provides an excellent example of how self-proclaimed “good guys” easily become the “bad guys” through the failure to understand that what matters is not what we believe, only rarely what we say, but almost always what we do: The “wrong” opinions are considered so wrong and so dangerous that they should be suppressed or forbidden. In some cases (as in Sweden last year), even saying the wrong thing or being a member of the wrong party can cause physical attacks.

That blog entry takes up some recent statements by Horst Seehoferw (Minister-President of Bavaria and a former German cabinet member), which the author strongly attacks (with more vitriol than factual arguments) and for which he intends to file charges for incitement of popular hatredw (on grounds that, so far, appear flimsy).

Now, I am not going to defend (or attack) Seehofer’s statements—I have not seen them in context and I am not familiar in detail with his opinions. However, I stand by his right of free speech, and I am going to attack some of the statements made in the blog post.

Most notably, Kasparick makes the following statement, in bold and as a separate paragraph:

Nun aber ist nach meiner Auffassung die rote Linie überschritten, die ein Demokrat niemals überschreiten darf.

(Now, in my opinion, is the red line crossed, that a democrat must never cross.)

This statement proves that Kasparick does not understand what democracy implies and that he himself is less than democratic. Democracy is not a “having the right opinion”, “being politically correct”, or any other meaning in which the left so often abuses it. On the contrary, it is a political system, based on the general idea that the people is in charge. A central tenant of (at least the modern Western) democracy is the freedom of speech: Anyone should have the right to express his opinions, bring forth his arguments, and so on. Limitations to this principle should be done with utmost caution. Yet, Kasparick’s claims amount to: Seehofer has the wrong opinion; ergo, the law must silence him.

Consider:

Ich kann nicht mehr länger zusehen und schweigen. Das Schreiben von Texten genügt nicht mehr.

(I can no longer look and remain silent. The writing of texts is no longer enough.)

I would counter with a Swedish saying for children: Where the brain ends, the fists begin. Instead of countering Seehofer’s statements with actual arguments, instead of pointing to flaws in facts, instead of showing aspects of the issue that Seehofer might have missed, …, Kasparick decides to involve the law. By all means, break your silence, but do so with words— not attempts to force others into silence!

Or take his conclusion:

Ich habe mich mein Leben lang immer wieder intensiv mit der Entstehungsgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus in Deutschland befasst. Ein zentraler Grund, weshalb die Volksverführer an die Macht kamen war der Umstand, dass das Bürgertum geschwiegen hat, als das kommende Unrecht schon zu erkennen war.
Es begann mit den Worten.
Es begann mit den Reden.
Deshalb: wehret den Anfängen! Denn aus den Worten werden Taten…

(I have been concerned [befasst] with the history of the origins of National-Socialism in Germany my whole life. A central reason why the demagogues came to power was that the middle-class remained silent, as the future injustice was already recognizable.
It started with words.
It started with speeches.
Therefore: defend against the beginnings! [German expression similar to “an ounce of prevention”] From words come deeds…

There are at least four things wrong with this:

Firstly, it cannot be concluded that deeds will follow words.

Secondly, the words he attacks are not comparable to what the Nazis said before their deeds.

Thirdly, the central point behind the political success of Hitler was not his words, but the suppression of the words of others.

Fourthly, Kasparick himself is already beyond words and is engaging in an attempt to cure (an alleged) evil by doing a greater evil.

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March 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Naive ideas about first impressions (censored comment)

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In November, I commented upon a post titled You Call That a Handshake?e, where the author expressed the opinion “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I can always rely on my first impression of a person within minutes of meeting them…and it starts with their handshake.”.

The comment I submitted (censored) was roughly that anyone who made that claim either had superhuman powers, lied, or was highly naive—and I stand by that comment. The censorship is a good example of the distortion of debate that I have discussed earlier.

To expound a little on why this opinion is naive (or a lie; I do not believe the author had superhuman powers):

  1. First impressions are often highly misleading, and anyone claiming to “always” being able to rely on them is wrong. Consider e.g. meeting someone for the first time after he had a good night’s sleep respectively was kept up all night by a crying baby, just received a promotion respectively was fired, is in top shape respectively suffers from a migraine, …

  2. Not everyone sends the same signals and there is no realistic way to reliably take such differences into consideration within a few minutes. Compare the baselines of an Italian and a Swede, an extravert and an introvert, an NT and an aspie, … Even variations in age and occupation can make a difference in appropriate interpretation. Indeed, I have myself often had the problem that people entirely misjudge who I am, what I want in a certain situation, or similar, because my baseline and my typical external reactions simply are different from most others’.

  3. There are many who have deliberately worked on the first impression they give, in order to mislead others about who they are: “Honest Harry” should not be taken at face value. Even among those who do not deliberately try to mislead, there is a strong correlation between experience with/knowledge of first impressions and the quality of the impression given.

Finally, in my experience, those who think that they are good at judging character are actually often poor at it… (Including being led astray by good actors; never bothering to check that the judgment was actually correct; and interpreting later events to fit the judgment, rather than letting the later events refine the it.)

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March 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

My favourite word

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I have repeatedly heard “cellar door”w called the most beautiful word of the English language. Few people would argue that there is any particular merit to its meaning; others would protest that it is, in fact, two words. Yet, others make the case that the pure sound and flow of the pronounced word would make it stand-out.

They have a point—with the right pronunciation. Obviously, among the countless dialects of English, not all yield the same result. In my ears, even using a too rhotic pronunciation would break the word.

Looking at my native Swedish, however, there is very similar word of excelling beauty: Pärlemor.

With a similar flow and many almost-matches in vowel and consonant sounds, it is equally pleasing phonetically. (As a rough pronunciation guide, join together “pair”, the “le” of “lemon”, and “moor”.) In a twist, it actually works quite well with the Swedish rhotic pronunciation.

When we go beyond the pure sound, however, there is no comparison: On the one hand, something boring and mundane, often even ugly. On the other … mother-of-pearl. (Both in part and as a whole: “Pearlsmother” would be the literal translation.)

Mother-of-pearl is a material of beauty in its own right and the source of even greater beauty; and that beauty is salient through the “pearl”/“pärle” part of the word. Even the way that it creates valuable pearls from an intruding irritant has something poetic and symbolic about it. Further, “pärla” (the base form of the noun) is also a verb, meaning to purl or to sparkle, “en pärlande bäck”—“a purling brook”, “ett pärlande vin”—“a sparkling wine”. In a way, the word it self flows from the lips in a way that makes me think of water flowing through a shallow bed, breaking over small rocks, and glittering with reflected sunlight. My associations to water are strengthened both by the aquatic nature of oysters and by the story “Bäckahästens pärlor”, which I encountered as a child. (I believe this story to be “The kelpie’s pearls” by Mollie Hunterw. “Bäckahäst” literally means “brook horse”, similar to the Scottish “water horse” each uisgew.)

Now, when I hear “pärlemor”, my mind is filled with images of pearls and mother-of-pearl, purling water, sparkling wine, … When I hear “cellar door”, well, in a best case scenario, I see a door—in a worst case, it may be the hatch to an earth cellar. Indeed, as “pärlemor” is my favourite word, “mother-of-pearl” may well be my favourite English word: It brings me many of the same associations as “pärlemor” and is not without “phonetic beauty” of its own.

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March 4, 2011 at 7:49 pm

My take on objective truth and subjectiveness of opinion

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Recently, I have been involved in several discussions where the topic of a search for a “truth” has surfaced—and where I (through misreadings by the other party or misformulations by me) have been misunderstood.

For easy future reference, I will here outline some of my opinions in a less ambiguous manner:

  1. There are many issues where taste and preferences, different circumstances and needs, or similar, can be so important that it makes no sense to speak of right or wrong in anything even resembling absolute terms.

  2. In many others, we have an arbitrariness on an abstract level, but a typical context which can make one or the other alternative superior within that context (and the context is sometimes sufficiently given that it need not be mentioned). This applies in particular to issues relating to humans. For instance, the colors of a webpage are arbitrary in principle, but when we factor in how the typical human perceives colors, what combinations lead to higher or lower readability, what combinations can cause a headache, whatnot, then clear statements can be made about the superiority (in context) of at least some combinations over some others.

  3. Preferences, while arbitrary in principle, can also be seen as better or worse, which can affect the rating of otherwise arbitrary evaluations. For instance, if someone feels that a webpage with a particular color combination is aesthetically pleasing, but that combination leads to text that is very hard to read, then a combination with higher readability should be chosen: Ensuring readability is a more rational goal than aesthetics when it comes to a medium with the purpose of spreading textual information, because it achieves the intended purpose better, is more user-friendly, is more likely to result in pleased and returning visitors, etc. (I make the contextual assumption that this is what is wanted—if someone merely uses the colors to surround images of art works, e.g., then the situation can be different.)

    Obviously, preferring rational preferences is in it self a preference of some arbitrariness. Going into that discussion, however, opens a far wider field. Other similar preferences may be present, but left unstated, in this post.

  4. In many cases, reasonably objective statements can be made based on reasonably objective criteria, and (while the subjective aspects should be kept in mind) it is usually better to do so than to speak of subjectiveness. Often a very high degree of objectivity and/or certainty can be reached (as is often the case in the “hard” sciences) and the mere fact that there is a theoretical possibility of something else on the very edge of probability is no excuse for claims like “Evolution is just a theory!” or many of the extremely relativistic positions of many post-modernists.

    (Notably, post-modernism is based on a few sound ideas, but these ideas are rarely truly understood and they are often applied in an ridiculous manner—to the point that some in the PC or feminist movement seem to consider truth something that, using post-modernist motivations, should be bent to fit their own ideals without regard for the real world. A lack of understanding of science is almost always present.)

  5. Even in those cases where there is no objective truth to be found, the search for an objective truth can be rewarding in that it forces the exposure to different perspectives, the critical investigation of claims and arguments, the weighing of pros and cons, … In this way, a richer and deeper understanding can still be found. Indeed, it even happens that an, as it eventually turned out, faulty scientific model or theory had benefits through e.g. predictions that were better than an even earlier model or no model at all.

  6. The wish to actually search for the truth of the matter (a better approximation of the truth, new or refined insights, …; as opposed to merely convincing others of a pre-formed opinion) is central to good debating.

  7. Objective truth is an ideal that I feel that we should strive for even when it cannot be reached: The more objective and less subjective we become the better—and rejecting this search because we can “only” reach better approximations is not constructive and will lead to less progress and more arbitrariness. A bowler may know that his chances of scoring a perfect game are next to nil, but he can still dream—and if he is a professional, he should also try to improve his game to increase the chance. In the same manner, the scientist, philosopher, debater, amateur thinker, …, should strive to gain deeper insight—even when he knows that he will never reach perfect insight.

    (Reading up for this post, I note that perfect bowling games, while still rare, are far more common today than a few decades ago, due to changes in materials, shape of pins, and similar. The analogy may be best seen with an eye on the “good old days”.)

  8. There is nothing wrong with claim “X, because Y” (unless a non sequitur). On the contrary, this is indirectly a challenge to others to investigate the argument, point to flaws or special cases, come with counter-arguments, …

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March 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm