Radical Honesty

A. J. Jacobs is a writer and journalist with a rather unusual method of getting his stories. He is not content just to research whatever subject he happens to be writing about. He immerses himself in the subject, actually living out his project to the point of obsession. As it turns out, while doubtless a lot of trouble to his wife and friends, this approach does lead to his writing books both interesting and humorous. His first such book, The Know-It-All chronicled his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, while his second book, The Year of Living Biblically, told of his attempt to live his life according to all of the rules of the Bible for a year.  These aren’t the only experiments that A. J. Jacobs has conducted upon himself. He has compiled some of his minor projects in a book titled The Guinea Pig Diaries.

Cover of "The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life...
Cover via Amazon

One of these projects, and the subject of this post, is a concept called “Radical Honesty“. Radical Honesty is a technique developed by a psychotherapist named Brad Blanton. Radical Honesty is just what the name might implies. Dr.Blanton teaches that we should always be completely honest with one another. This might not seem to be a particularly new or radical concept, sages and moral teachers have been telling for centuries that we ought not to tell lies. Dr. Blanton takes the idea further, however, by insisted that we should always be honest. We shouldn’t tell those little white lies that help to smooth our relationships with others. If your wife asks if the dress she is wearing makes her look fat, say, “yes”. If you don’t want to go out to dinner with a friend, say so and don’t make up, “other plans” or imaginary headaches. If you find yourself desiring your friend’s wife, say so. In fact, Dr. Blanton believes in simply removing the filter between what we think and what we say and do.

Is this a good idea? Well, we should be honest in our dealings with others. As a matter of justice and charity, we ought not to take advantage of people by deceiving them. Honesty, by itself, is not necessarily always necessary or desirable. Honesty is a virtue when it serves the greater virtues I mentioned. It is not necessary to be honest if being honest leads to an evil outcome. It is not necessary to tell the Nazis that you are hiding a family of Jews in the attic, or to tell the robber where you have hidden your money. Even Dr Blanton agrees with this. It is also not necessary to tell the truth if doing so will lead to hurt feelings.You do not have to tell your wife she looks fat and you probably shouldn’t tell your friend you desire his wife. No good can come of such confessions.

There is a subtle line here, though. A. J. Jacobs wrote of an old widower who sent him some poetry he had written and asked Jacobs for his opinion of his writing. Jacobs didn’t think the poems were very good, but wrote an encouraging reply. He could not bring himself to tell the man he though the poems were badly written. Ought he have told the truth about his Opinion. Dr. Brad Blanton thought he should have. He argued that he was not, in fact, doing the man a kindness by lying to him. If his poems weren’t much good, he ought to be told the truth so he wouldn’t waste his time trying to get them published. I sort of agree with Dr. Blanton. Back when Simon Cowell was on American Idol, he was generally disliked  for his cutting criticism of the contestants’ singing, especially during the tryouts. This seemed to be very cruel, yet perhaps he was doing them a kindness by showing them that they lacked the talent to sing professionally, and that they would be well advised to try something else. Perhaps the real cruelty would be to encourage someone to follow a path you know they have no ability to complete simply to spare your own feelings. Perhaps.

I cannot help but feel that what Dr. Blanton has really done is that he has discovered a way to be obnoxious to his neighbors and to have avoided the usual consequences by pleading that he was just being honest. In any event, I am not convinced that getting rid of the filter between the brain and the mouth is such a good idea.A. J. Jacobs was not convinced either, as he explained while describing his life as George Washington.

That was another one of his projects. Jacobs did not go about dressed in a colonial costume. Instead, he decided to try to live up to George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior. The thing that most impressed Jacobs while studying the life of Washington was the tremendous restraint the Founding Father displayed over his emotions. By nature, Washington was a passionate man with a fierce temper. In his youth, he was a rather arrogant, entitled aristocrat who flattered his superiors in person while undermining them behind their backs. Yet, Washington possessed the strength of will to remake himself into a model of decorum and decency. George Washington was supposed to be unable to tell a lie in the famous legend, but I somehow doubt he would think much of Radical Honesty. If Dr. Blanton advises us to remove the filter, Washington spent much of his life creating the filter and making it stronger.

I think the idea behind Radical Honesty is that we ought to be “authentic” or “natural”. Washington would disagree. If he had acted authentically and according to his basic nature, Washington would have remained just another Virginia planter and we would still be a colony of Great Britain. The simple truth is that civilization depends on people restraining their impulses and not doing and saying whatever comes naturally. I said civilization, but I shouldn’t have. The members of any society of human beings, no matter how primitive, must learn to restrain their more selfish feelings and work with the other members of their group. Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ideas about “noble savages” who lived entirely with nature were myths. If anything, a tribe of primitive hunter-gatherers would have to have even less tolerance for individual eccentricities than a modern society. I think we are losing this idea of restraint. Any impulse felt must be acted upon and someone else will clean up the mess. I wonder where it will lead us. Nowhere good, I imagine.

I guess the only thing I can say about Radical Honesty is that being honest is a good thing, being radically honest may not be.

DUI Marijuana

I read that a man has been charged with driving under the influence of marijuana after a fatal car crash in Vancouver, Washington. Here is the full story as reported by KPTV Fox News.

The Vancouver Police Department arrested a man on the charge of driving under the influence of marijuana in connection with a deadly crash in Vancouver.

Police believe this is the first deadly crash involving marijuana since it became legal in Washington.

Investigators said the driver hit and killed a pedestrian around 5:50 p.m. on East Mill Plain Boulevard and Andresen Road.

Police say the victim, a male in his 50’s, was believed to be walking back from Safeway and stepped out into the middle of traffic.

The driver, Scotty Rowles, was driving westbound on East Mill Plain Boulevard and could not stop his car in time, according to police.

Detectives says Rowles cooperated with the investigation, but after interviewing him they determined there was enough evidence to arrest him on suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana.

Police believe this is the first deadly crash involving the drug since it became legal in the state of Washington.

Police say the victim was close to two different lit and controlled intersections, but chose to step out into the middle of traffic, which would clearly put him at fault.

However, because Rowles was believed to be under the influence of marijuana, Washington State law says he is technically at fault, according to police.

While it may now be legal to smoke marijuana in the state of Washington, police say it is never legal to smoke it and then get behind the wheel.

The victim’s ID will be released after police notify his family.

Well, obviously we need to make marijuana illegal in order to keep irresponsible persons from smoking it and driving. Wait, marijuana is already illegal everywhere except Washington and Colorado, and somehow the laws prohibited the possession and use of marijuana did not stop people from possessing and using it. Well then, we need to ban the personal possession of cars. Just think of how many lives would be saved if we had responsible car control laws. Sure, it would be an inconvenience to all of us who would have to walk or rely on public transportation, but it only one life is saved from a reckless driver, it would all be worth it.


Some Thoughts on the Last Indiana Primary

First of all, Senator Richard Lugar does a good job explaining why I didn’t vote for him in his concession speech. Here’s the part I found especially revealing.

If Mr. Mourdock is elected, I want him to be a good Senator. But that will require him to revise his stated goal of bringing more partisanship to Washington. He and I share many positions, but his embrace of an unrelenting partisan mindset is irreconcilable with my philosophy of governance and my experience of what brings results for Hoosiers in the Senate. In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party. His answer to the inevitable roadblocks he will encounter in Congress is merely to campaign for more Republicans who embrace the same partisan outlook. He has pledged his support to groups whose prime mission is to cleanse the Republican party of those who stray from orthodoxy as they see it.

This is not conducive to problem solving and governance. And he will find that unless he modifies his approach, he will achieve little as a legislator. Worse, he will help delay solutions that are totally beyond the capacity of partisan majorities to achieve. The most consequential of these is stabilizing and reversing the Federal debt in an era when millions of baby boomers are retiring. There is little likelihood that either party will be able to impose their favored budget solutions on the other without some degree of compromise.

This is why Lugar is part of the problem. I do not want my representatives in Washington compromising with bad policies. I want them to fight for Conservative values and policies. It is no good to meet halfway, people who are leading the country off a cliff. I do not want to slow the progress of the US towards Socialism. I want us to change course and go back to limited, constitutional government. Lugar seems to want agreement for the sake of agreement. That won’t work anymore.

Mourdock’s victory is attributed to TEA Party activists and particularly Freedomworks. There is a lot of truth to that but there is more to it. The remarkable tumbling of incumbents all over the country is really the result of more people paying attention to politics and getting involved. The Internet and social media have lowered the barriers of entry, so to speak, and many of the old rules no longer apply. I think that American politics is going to become somewhat more volatile. I don’t think we are likely to see one party in control of Congress for thirty or forty years anymore, nor will either party have some sort of lock on Presidential elections

I hope that this is the end of the idea where a person gets elected to congress and then is automatically elected term after term until he holds that seat by some sort of divine right. It really doesn’t take long for politicians to become acclimated to the Washington culture, and if we can’t have term limits, then we need to pay close attention to what our representatives are actually doing and get rid of them when they get too comfortable.

I see that the mainstream media has wasted no time in portraying Mourdock as an extremist. Here are parts of the editorial in the Louisville Courier Journal.

More likely, though, is that Republicans like Mr. Lugar are becoming an endangered species in the radical, take-no-prisoners direction his party is headed.

No, forget “headed.” It has all but reached its destination of a my-way-or-the-highway road block. It is no coincidence that Mr. Mourdock was backed by what once would have been a triumvirate of the GOP fringe — Palin/Bachmann/Santorum — that’s taking over the party’s landscape.

So, exit Mr. Lugar, who was judged wrong by tea partiers and others on this election cycle’s hot-button issues:

He was pilloried for seeking bipartisan solutions to the nation’s challenges.

He was criticized for supporting the qualified Supreme Court nominees of President Obama — indeed, for not putting enough daylight between himself and the chief executive whose initiatives the GOP has made its mission to stonewall and all but shut down. He was thumped for supporting economic measures that saved the country from falling into the abyss of a depression.

Yes, I want the GOP to stonewall and shut down as much of Obama’s policies as possible. I believe that Obama’s policies, if successful, will do a lot of damage to the country. Why would I want my representatives to help him? This idea that Obama’s stimulus package saved the country from a depression can never be proved, as it is a hypothetical. What we do know is that the President spent a lot of money we don’t have, with no tangible results.

Also overlooked was Mr. Lugar’s longtime record of principled, conservative stewardship. But his steady-as-he-goes style and substance — “A gentle, thoughtful, persuasive, persistent but wise course of action is a winner,” he has said — clearly doesn’t play with a crowd that follows a leader that crows, “The message to the establishment is, ‘You’re our servants. We’re the masters. Do what you’re supposed to do, adhere to the Constitution or we’ll fire you” (Greg Fettig, founder of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, in politico.com).

Well, yes. I guess it must seem extreme and radical to the main stream media that our representatives should obey us and not the other way around. That is a concept called democracy. Maybe the editors of the Courier Journal have heard of it.

I think that it is odd that people as far to the left as Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi believe the TEA Party is too extreme. I think that the TEA Party could best be described as center-right. Most TEA Party organizations focus on economic issues and take positions that might be considered as common-sense conservative. They tend to avoid divisive social and culture war issues. The Left favors same-sex marriage, unrestricted taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, a government takeover of whole sectors of the economy, confiscatory taxation, and many other things considered anathema by the majority of the American people. Who are the crazed radicals then?

Apocalypse Averted For Now

I see that the deal to raise the debt ceiling has passed. I can’t comment on it because I don’t know the details. I’ve been working. I do know that this deal is far from perfect. I would have preferred not raising the debt ceiling at all. At some point we have got to realize that we cannot continue to borrow 5 billion dollars every business day.

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