22 November 2011

Curiosities.

I'd be curious to know what's so nostalgic about an era where the teen birth rate is almost triple what it currently is.

But I'm a little more interested to see what's caused the decline. I would expect that broader understanding and use of birth control, especially the pill or various shot forms, and legal access to abortions help. Though not as much as the major cultural shifts associated with the pill and feminism. That's a huge drop-off starting in the 60s. Pre-Roe in other words. So it's not abortion that's causing it (which incidentally, abortion rates have been dropping anyway).

Also interesting why we're apparently not interested in decreasing it further (ie, by seeing fewer teens getting pregnant as in the Netherlands). I should think most Americans would be a little worried when they see a statistical comparison to Bulgaria coming up. It has been decreasing though. And that's presumably a good thing.

In a related topic, I've had a minor debate over feminism and gay rights, particularly relating to the military and the use there of. I'm quite happy to acknowledge that feminism has had a slow and steady contribution to the increasing pacific nature of the world and to egalitarian notions like tolerance and cooperation for which gay rights movements have much to owe. But I'm entirely unconvinced that it acts as a guarantee of tolerance and cooperation or as a measure granting pacific qualities to a society that lacks them. I think it can help. I don't think we'd live in an ever more peaceful world if it were run by women instead of men. Or that men and testosterone generally are a subsequent guarantee of violence and conflict and strife. Perhaps these conclusions are little more than assumptions. But there are contradictory pieces of evidence (Switzerland's FP since Napoleon for instance) that shoot these theories down to much weaker contributions than stronger claims that are often advanced in jest or by people misinterpreting theories and human biology. I'm equally unconvinced that feminism is alone in helping form broad and diverse cooperative societies. I think you'd have to also blame classical liberalism for both the ability to govern large and intellectually diverse populations, to provide legal protections leaning toward tolerance rather than hatred, and to both of these trends as means lessening violence in societies and between them. A generally pacific society that accepts division and differences, and debates them openly and freely, certainly seems like a healthy ideal. And I'm happy to accept anything that will help get us there.

I'm not so happy with arguments that we should have to somehow exclude men or women from the process. Or that arguments, however silly and hypocritical, relating to sexuality more broadly, are going to be won over by better abstract arguments. I see the average person as being very poor at "far" thinking, of the sort that governs broad diverse societies in codified laws. Especially those relating to tolerance. This is not necessarily their fault, but it is something that has to be contended with when attempting to advance arguments. Abstract "far" thinking isn't going to help very much in the long run. What will, it seems, is direct engagement. People who know a gay man or lesbian woman or a transgendered person, or someone who has had a sex change, or someone from an obscure faith/atheist, will tend to become more tolerant and accepting of such distinctions. Most people have the unfortunate tendency to construct complex schema based on personal experiences, and to protect those schema by isolating themselves from challenging experiences and discussions, or in particular by rejecting the ideas involved. I'm pretty sure this explains a large portion of religious belief and participation (social isolationism of a sort). I'm also pretty sure that this will be less and less possible in future. The rapid change of the world and interconnectedness means that hiding from uncomfortable notions and experiences will be less possible. Confrontation however need not be violent and unpleasant. It is not, strangely enough, the likelihood that merely meeting and talking with a gay man is going to turn a straight person gay. For example. The same logic behind confronting communism with capitalism, however flawed either were in practice, and coming away from discourse with outright socialists not converted to their cause, to tolerate the right of opinion and expression, is not quite analogous to private homosexual preferences. But I see no
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