Farewell 2019

I’ll not tell anyone off for treating this like it’s the end of the decade, but for me, I’ll be continuing to observe that the first year of a decade is year one, and the last is year ten; 2020 is the start of the 20s, but the last year of this decade. I will however, give a little more slack to myself regarding a prior New Year’s resolution; the one where I resolved not to have any more resolutions.

* Sorta-Kinda-Maybe Resolutions for 2020 *

1)  Be more wary of people presupposing their own compassion.

We all have bias blind spots – the gaps in our cognition that prevent us from seeing some of the other gaps in our cognition. These gaps tend to get worse regarding values that we strongly identify with.

If you see yourself as super-rational to the point of it being self-evident, you’re going to be both more motivated and enabled to dismiss evidence to the contrary out of hand. If things heat up and get polarized, this can accelerate to the point that you’re spouting word-salad like it’s the most rational thesis you’ve ever read.

The same is true, I think, for compassion, the bias-driven subversion of which is perhaps best exemplified by an ideation I saw on social media a few years back: “SHOW SOME EMPATHY YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”

I’ve seen subtle warning signs, in meme form, travelling among people who I know are a good deal more compassionate than most. I hate the idea of kind people being drawn down that path, if only because they’ll probably end up regretting it. But also because the mere thought of it delivers a big hit to my faith in humanity.

Now I just have to work out how to raise the matter without being a condescending jerk.

2) Maybe maintain a  writer’s journal. Maybe post it here.

I’ve been puzzling over and switching between formats for note-keeping on the book I’ve been trying to write. Recently I’ve realized I have big changes to make to the book, and that’s generated a bit of a crisis for me in the re-ordering department.

I’ve been using Scrivener, and other bibs and bobs, but as far as notetaking goes, none of it’s ever really stuck. Maybe I should just write mini-essays about my writing difficulties in blog form?

3)  Essays on the state of and need for Humanism, posted over at Medium.

I have a Medium account. I haven’t started using it yet. If I put the effort into writing something of half-decent essay quality, I’m thinking that I’ll need to post it somewhere where A) it has a better chance of being read, and B) where I’ve still got my hands on some of the publication controls.

I’ll not consider lit-journal submissions until 2021.

4) Unpacking some of the derailment of 2019, and then moving on.

Things happened. Curious things, if not exciting things.

5) Less tolerance for post-truth politics.

I’ve never been a big-T Truth type of person, and at various points I’ve to varying extents had an aversion to being tied down to anything approaching metaphysical certainty concerning realism vs nominalism or factionalism. That being said, confidence in empirical truth is another matter, and I’m confident that some bullshit is precisely that.

Humanists have been warning about false balance, a new dark age of pseudo-science, and so on for decades now, and for their efforts they’ve copped misplaced and uncomprehending accusations of certitude from people with all the epistemological prowess and unearned confidence of a Film Studies student who’s mainlined distillate of Freud. Sure, some of the philosophy backing the Humanists up in this fight has been sketchy, and some of the warnings have just been hot air and anti-Continental prejudice. But it is a bit galling seeing people who’ve been hand-waving sophists in the past, now pretending to be deeply aggrieved at the post-truth aspect of Donald Trump’s politics.

If you’ve generated credibility for Vandana Shiva’s nonsense about terminator genes, propped-up false balance in respect to the safety of anti-retroviral drugs, advocated teaching the “controversy” about vaccines, made equal time for moon landing conspiracy theorists or Flat-Earthers, or made space for the methodology of “evidence based” homeopathy studies, a series of outbursts levelled at climate change denialism isn’t going to get you out of the sin-bin. You’re a part of the post-truth context. You’re a small causal part of the environment that made it easier for the climate change denialists in the first place.

There may be limits to our ability to grasp at truths, but that doesn’t make it arrogant or in any way wrong to have some degree of confidence in our knowledge. If you can’t grok the maths, then maybe respect the labour that went into it?

I’ve been accused of intolerance in this respect, but really, I haven’t been nearly intolerant enough, and I’m a tad ashamed of it to be honest.

6) More environmental stuff?

I’d planted thousands upon thousands of trees by half-way though the ‘90s. I’d finished my science degree with a Environmental Systems major a decade ago.

You’d think I’d have more to say about the environment, wouldn’t you?

7) Book reviews?

Should I bother? I kinda want to get back on the wagon in this respect, but see “4” above.

I do have a backlog of books, but I don’t like committing to something only for it to be derailed for the umpteenth time. 2020 will be more organized, but I’m not sure of everything I’ll be able to fit in, or what you’ll be able to see of much of it.

I resolve to consider things.

***

In a few hours, 2019 will be in the past. There were distractions, but ultimately it feels as if it was an uneventful year. Maybe I’m handling stress better?

At any rate, I’ll not be drinking tonight, or watching fireworks. Quite boringly, I’m now going to bed.

Happy New Year!

~ Bruce

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