Sunday, October 19, 2014

3989 Recommended Reading

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."
 --Tallulah Bankhead--


More things I don't understand:  

I am hearing/reading more and often that two things are "one in the same".  What? "In?"  Huh?

And I have never understood why "up the creek without a paddle" is such a bad situation.  Seems like if you're up the creek, you can just float down with the current, no?  It would be worse if you were down the creek with no paddle, and no way to get up.


I read an article recently (no, I don't have the link right now) on functional MRIs done on conservative and liberal brains.  They showed people various disturbing pictures while they were in the MRI, and then looked to see what sections of the brain lit up.  The conclusion reached by the researchers is that the conservative brain operates more often on emotion, and in particular on fear, whereas the liberal brain shown the same situation went into problem solving mode.

This kind of research has been all over the place from many different sources for the past decade, at least, but I hadn't come across it before.  I found it fascinating.  It explains a lot of conservative political advertising - they seem to concentrate on arousing people by appealing to their fears.  I had noticed that, but hadn't made the connection.  It explains why conservatives and liberals can talk themselves blue to the other camp, and never make any headway in changing any minds.  It explains why so many people in lower economic groups will passionately defend conservative policies that are obviously inimical to their own advancement and welfare.

The article I read said that there was probably an evolutionary purpose to this divide - that a tribe or community needed BOTH kinds of processing to survive.  The conservatives kept the group safe in the face of a hostile world, and the liberals kept the group advancing socially and technologically.

Well, I just took a few minutes and searched for the article.  I didn't find the particular one I'd read, but if you search for "conservative liberal brain" you'll find a bunch (the top one is likely to be a synopsis of a 2014 paper from the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, in which they had used eye tracking instead of MRIs) and if you add "mri" to those arguments you'll find additional recent and highly regarded studies.  

I had however noticed a long time ago that the easiest way to control people is through fear.  Scare the Hell out of them (or in the case of religion, into them), convince them that only you can save them from this horrible danger, and you've got them by the proverbial short hairs.   


In books, I read about equal amounts of fiction and non-fiction. I recently finished Karen Elliott House's book On Saudi Arabia; Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines, and Future (2012, 108 pages, Knopf).

I had been sort of wondering why Saudi Arabia hadn't been taking a more active role in the political and religious problems in the Middle East.  Like, they have a bazillion dollars and enormous Islamic credibility, so why aren't they doing something about ISIS (or whatever it's being called this week), and the situations in central Africa, like the Boko Haram kidnappings, and pushing for serious Palestine talks, and so on.  Does their inaction mean they approve of what's going on?

This book answers those questions and more.   Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know, plus.

I get very impatient with nonfiction books that could have been a pamphlet, but have been expanded into a book by repeating the same things over and over.  And over.   I also get impatient with nonfiction writers who seem to think that if they make every sentence as convoluted as possible, they sound more erudite.  This book has neither fault.  I was interested the whole way through, and Ms. House writes as if she's having a conversation with her reader.  I like that.

I very highly recommend this book.

Oh, yeah, the reason the Saudi royal family is so insular?  It's because of the tightrope.  Read the book.

1 comment:

little red said...

Will put it on my reading list. Thank you!