Gongol.com Archives: September 2022

Brian Gongol


September 18, 2022

Broadcasting A little decency

A bloviator with a broadcast audience has been caught on record ranting against a sign in a child's classroom which said "The world is better because you are in it." His cantankerous rejection of the merit of that sign was merely that "What has any fifth-grader done to make the world better because he or she is in it?" ■ It is a misfortune that broadcasting outlets still prop up the reach of people who are so eager to dismiss the humanity in others. The remark itself was offhand and self-evidently not particularly well-developed, and it's not the first time a broadcaster has said something remarkably stupid because those were simply the first words to pop into their head while trying to stretch out the clock. ■ But it doesn't take much heavy-handed scrutiny to ask a basic question: If someone took a seat next to you in a public space -- a hotel bar, an airplane seat, or in a pew at church -- and offhandedly chuckled to himself, "What good is a ten-year-old girl?", would you not be alarmed by both their judgment and their fundamental decency? What kind of civic decay are the advertisers and program directors of the world encouraging when they deem a commentator of that sort to be worth propping up and placing before an audience five days a week, for three hours a day? ■ Putting aside the obvious objective rebuttals to the question of what good a fifth-grader has ever done for the world (Mozart had already performed solo concerts by that age and was about to write his first opera), there is a much simpler moral refutation. It is that every life has value, intrinsically, and without any regard to what they might have "done to make the world better". ■ Most people are inclined by nature to try to be good and to try to do well, at least for themselves and their families, but often for broader social circles and even for complete strangers. Fifth-graders have done great good: Saving everyone on a school bus from likely disaster, saving a choking classmate, and donating the profits from a home-based business to children's hospitals. But doing that sort of good isn't a prerequisite to their humanity. ■ An enlightened view of personal responsibility, of course, compels everyone to do his or her duty to try to create more good in the world than they extract. But creating some sort of measurable net good in the world neither confers humanity, nor does failing to do so detract from it. Wantedness isn't a precondition for intrinsic human value. And that human value does, indeed, make the world better. ■ A person who dismisses the fundamental worth of others' lives, whether in the midst of a carefully-scripted rant or in passing remarks meant only to fill the time, is not a person worth elevating for larger audiences to heed. When we grant blowhards a platform, we implicitly co-sign with their worst impulses. The First Amendment assures the right of Americans to hold and announce really bad ideas. It does not, however, require that those bad ideas be shamelessly elevated.

Threats and Hazards Freedom for Iran

Protests have broken out after a 22-year-old woman was killed by Iran's "morality" police over the mandatory use of a hijab

Weather and Disasters Typhoons to our left, hurricanes to our right

Alaska is dealing with a dying typhoon, while Puerto Rico is getting hammered by Hurricane Fiona

Science and Technology Electric unicycles

Self-propelled, self-balancing "micro mobility", say the proponents. Or just a really great way to cause more concussions.

Weather and Disasters An anxious evening

The Storm Prediction Center puts most of southern Iowa (including a substantial share of the state's population via the Des Moines and Iowa City metro areas) under advisement to watch out for supercell thunderstorms

The United States of America Historical context

George Washington was born in the same year (1732) that Benjamin Franklin began publishing "Poor Richard's Almanack"

Weather and Disasters Earthquake damage in Taiwan

Arresting images of a bridge that was toppled by the quake


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