March 27, 2017

Motivating Activism Without Relying on Outrage: Raising Awareness

safe and clean drinking water
Child enjoying clean and safe drinking water from a newly built well (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I wrote a post here a little over a year ago about outrage fatigue and activism. The thesis of the post was that the strategy of deliberately provoking outrage in others in order to motivate them to engage in activism, while extremely effective when used occasionally, can be overused to the point where it can undermine activism. We are bombarded with near constant attempts to outrage us about something, and more of us are beginning to tune out as a result.

This is unfortunate because there are many problems that benefit from activism (e.g., obstacles to science education, violations of church-state separation). If efforts to provoke outrage become less effective - or even counterproductive - when used excessively, it would seem that the obvious solution would involve us becoming less reliant on them.

I concluded that post with the following:
We find ourselves in an interesting predicament here. An effective tactic for motivating activism (i.e., stimulating feelings of outrage) can make people less likely to participate in meaningful activism when it is overused. If only they would stop using it so it would be more effective when we want to use it! But since that is not going to happen, it seems to me that we are going to need to find some effective ways to motivate activism that are less reliant on outrage.
This leads to the question I'd like to consider for this post: if our goal is to motivate activism, what alternatives do we have to efforts aimed at provoking outrage?

March 26, 2017

Feminists Quiet on Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway by Gage Skidmore
By Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
I have observed surprisingly little outrage from liberal feminists directed at those making fun of Kellyanne Conway's physical appearance. Maybe I've just missed it. Still, the number of memes mocking Conway's appearance I have seen circulating on Facebook and Twitter leads me to believe that I would have come across at least a few liberal feminists condemning them by now.  I'm not sure I've seen a single one.

Could it be that liberal feminists do not consider Conway worth defending because she does not share their political views? Aside from her political views, it seems like she'd be appealing to feminists in many ways. She ran a successful presidential campaign and occupies a position of power we do not typically associate with women in Republican presidential administrations. Perhaps their brand of feminism intentionally excludes women who disagree with them on matters they consider important. If so, that seems unfortunate.

I do not agree with most of Conway's political views either, and I find her penchant for lying to members of the news media to be more than a little unsettling. And yet, you'll not find me promoting the memes denigrating her appearance. I do not find her appearance at all relevant to the things I do not like about her or that I believe are worth criticizing about her. It seems to me that her ideas and her behavior should be the focus of the criticism rather than her appearance. And yes, the same is true of her boss. I get that he's an odd looking fellow and all, but that is the least of my problems with him.

March 25, 2017

Vacuum Insulated Tumblers Really Work

Ozark Trail vacuum insulated stainless steel tumblerThere are many benefits to skepticism, including how being skeptical of product-related claims from advertisers can save us money. Of course, one can also take this too far, potentially missing out on products that really do deliver. Here's a quick example of where overcoming my skepticism turned out to be a good thing.

Chances are good that you have been seeing vacuum insulated stainless steel tumblers like the one pictured here in your local stores for at least several months. You may have wondered whether they are any good. I was skeptical about some of the claims I heard from my co-workers, but I picked up two of the Ozark Trail brand recently, one 30oz and one 20oz. I have to say that they are fantastic. I paid less than $10 for each of them, and it was money well spent.

The 20oz (pictured here) is the perfect size for coffee, which is why I went back for it after starting with the 30oz tumbler. I found that the 30oz was too big for coffee and that I ended up drinking more than I should have just because I had the extra space. On the other hand, the 30oz size is perfect for anything with ice. I use it mostly for water or iced tea.

March 23, 2017

The Key Health Care Question: Is It a Right or a Privilege?

Not everyone appreciated my recent bit of snark around how to do universal health care on the cheap. Perhaps health care is one of those issues that is just too important for weak attempts at humor. Even though that post was more about prayer than it was about health care, I recognize that tempers are running high right now around the health care topic, and I can certainly appreciate that. It feels like a great deal is now at stake when it comes to health care in the United States because...a great deal is now at stake. We're looking at the very real possibility of several million people losing their health insurance and devastating cuts to Medicare. I don't know about you, but I am not going to be able to afford to cover the health care costs of aging family members. When it comes to much of what is contained in the current version of the American Health Care Act, the picture is grim.

As far as health care is concerned, I believe that the key question over which we ought to be wrestling as a society right now is whether access to quality health care is a right or a privilege. And yes, I suppose that I should clarify that by "access," I mean access to affordable quality health care. I have access to a Lamborghini in the sense that someone would probably be willing to sell me one; however, this does me no good since I'll never be able to afford one.

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