Groups vs systems

Sep. 20th, 2017 10:13 am
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

Here's the thing: there's a difference between a group of people and a system of people. The difference is that a system of people comprises not only the individuals, but also the social constructs that guide the behavior of those individuals... in other words, the system itself.

For example, a company isn't just a bunch of people who coincidentally happen to work on the same projects in distributed ways. A school system isn't a bunch of teachers and administrators who independently happen to work the same way. A police precinct isn't a bunch of officers who just happen to follow the same rules.

In each of these cases there are policies and guidelines and hierarchies and informal structures and so forth that shape behavior. There's a system.

And when we praise or condemn the public school system, or the police, or Microsoft, or etc. we mostly aren't praising or condemning a whole group because of some good or bad individuals. I mean, sure, those individuals exist, but they aren't the reason. We are praising/condemning a whole group because of the system that organizes it. And the larger the system we're talking about, the more true that is: when we say that democracies are more just than totalitarian states, or that capitalism is more efficient than communism, or that communism is more humane than capitalism, or various other claims along those lines, we're basically not saying anything at all about any individual.

Or at least, that's how it should be. I mean, sure, sometimes we praise or condemn a group of people just because we're applying aggregate-level stereotypes to all the individuals in that group. And in those cases the "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group." narrative makes sense: we really shouldn't! Or at least, we're overwhelmingly likely to be mistaken when we do; we can draw our own ethical conclusions from there.

(I am reminded now of a friendship I broke some time back by expressing both the idea that condemning individuals because of their group affiliations is bad, and the idea that analyzing the common behaviors of individuals is the only way we can identify pathological systems, in ways that struck them as infuriatingly and relationship-endingly hypocritical.)

And sure, sometimes we make analysis errors in this space. Sometimes there's a system operating we're unaware of. Sometimes we infer the presence of systems that don't actually operate, or aren't relevant to what we're talking about. It's easy to talk about the behavior of people while ignoring the systems that shape us, and it's easy to handwave about notional systems without actually making any concrete or testable claims about whether they exist.

I'm not saying I expect us to be perfectly accurate when we describe groups and systems. But I want us to be better about acknowledging that they are two different things.

When someone condemns racism as a systemic attribute of a society, for example, there are folks who reply that no, racism is a property of individuals, end-of-story.

And in principle that can be a legitimate disagreement; if someone wants to argue that there really aren't any social systems underlying/guiding/constraining/coordinating the racist behavior of individuals, for example, that's a totally relevant argument. (Mind you, I think it's obviously false, but that's another matter.)

But usually they aren't arguing that; rather, they are simply insisting that we can only talk about individuals, because when we say that racism is also demonstrated through the systems that essentially all white people in this country participate in, we're talking about a whole group, and (all together now) "we shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."

And I don't know how to say all of this, or any of it, in ways that are at all useful within the conversation itself. And I watch other people trying to do it, and not getting very far either.

And I understand that often that's because other people just don't want to hear it, and in general I don't believe that there's a way to say everything that will be accepted by the person I'm talking to and that it's my job to find it. But still, I try to express myself clearly and compellingly.

So, anyway. I am so very tired of the narrative of "We shouldn't condemn a whole group because of some bad individuals. There are good people and bad people in that group."
dpolicar: (Default)
[personal profile] dpolicar
(A comment from another discussion)

I acknowledge, of course, that we are all imperfect humans, and what an individual officer does in a specfic situation is always the result of a million variables that are impossible to predict and often impossible to determine after the fact.

That's why I tend to focus more on training and evaluation protocols than on specific events. It's unjust to expect officers to do X in a sitution if they've been trained to do Y, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect officers to be trained to do X if we prefer that they do X in a situation.

I would prefer that police be trained and evaluated as peacekeepers rather than killers. So I would prefer, for example, they be trained and expected to identify situations that don't require a death, and to act so as to not create a death where none is required.

That said, how police are trained and evaluated is a collective decision, and if we collectively prefer police to choose deaths that aren't required -- for example, if we prefer to train and equip police as military officers who happen to deploy among civilian populations -- then that's how we should train and evaluate them, regardless of my preferences. That's part of the price I pay for living in a collective.

If police _are_ trained to choose unnecessary deaths, we should (individually and collectively) treat calling the police, permitting them into our homes, and otherwise making use of their services as a use of deadly force. Consequently, if we don't individually endorse the use of deadly force in those situations, we should not call the police, any more than we would fire a gun.

Those are individual decisions, not collective ones, and it's perfectly reasonable to hold one another as individuals accountable for them.

I acknowledge that this means that individuals who eschew deadly force in a situation may find themselves in conflict with any police who may arrive. I don't like this, and I don't endorse it, but I acknowledge it.

My own restaurant week

Sep. 9th, 2017 11:28 pm
bex77: (Default)
[personal profile] bex77
I had my own version of restaurant week surrounding my birthday! 

I made the most of my birthday, stretching out the celebrations to several nights, with several friends and family!  I indulged my passion to explore new restaurants and cherish old favorites in six different cities and towns!   

1) Tango Argentinian Cuisine in Arlington

They're famous for meats - steaks, sausages, lamb and pork chops - but I was most impressed with the special cold soup - gazpacho - and the polenta with parmesan and malbec mushroom sauce!  I had the mile-high pork chop with a delightful side of mashed butternut squash and sweet potato.  

2) The Loading Dock in Belmont

We had Sunday brunch at this beautiful new Mediterranean bakery, deli and restaurant.  We ate well in a quiet corner of their dining room, and brought home prepared foods like curried cashew chicken salad and soups! 

3) Texas Road House in Everett

We went late evening and found a quiet corner table for their delicious chili, house salads, steak and ribs.  Basic American food with country music and dancing servers!  And fun non-alcoholic drinks!  I
 had the red raspberry lemonade. 

4) Lobsta Land in Gloucester

My favorite place on Cape Ann with a lovely view of the salt marsh just off Rte 128. I had lobster for lunch!  They make a delicious lobster chowder!  I was tempted by the lazy man lobster or paella but went with the combo appetizer of crab cakes, coconut shrimp and calamari.  

5) Nichols Candy House in Gloucester

This is the best old-fashioned candy shop! It's run by a cheery group of older ladies who walk around the displays while you point at your favorites and they fill a box of handmade chocolate.  You can pick up lobster lollipops, jelly beans, poppycock, Boston Baked beans, molasses puffs and more!  

6) S&S Deli in Cambridge

This deli in Inman Square is on my way home from work but we rarely stop.  I was starving so we ducked in for dinner.  They have a huge menu of deli favorites and basic American breakfast, lunch or dinner choices.  Choosing is tough!  I ended up with the gazpacho and the most delicious chicken pot pie!  Oh... and blueberry blintzes.  Mmmm.... they were good at breakfast the next day!

7) La Casa de Pedro in Watertown

We enjoyed the Venezuelan treats at this restaurant with the fanciful tropical interior.  I adore their tapas menu!  Another place where it's tough to choose.  I got to taste the shrimp ceviche, sweet plantains, "Pedro's Old Times with Vargas" - a spicy pork nuggets dish, fried cheese sticks and then the paella - an immense mixture of seafood, rice, and snap peas in a cast iron wok.  

8) Oleana in Cambridge

I was blown away by this place!  It's spectacular!  I can't believe this was my first time.  I tried to make a reservation a week ahead, but ended up on the wait list with little hope.  The universe smiled on me - they finally called at 2:30 pm the night I wanted to go saying they had a 6:30 pm table!  Perfect!  We got an outdoor table in a quiet, covered corner of their magical patio, next to an open plug where I could charge my almost-dead phone!  This is another "lots of tapas with a few entrees" place owned by award-winning chef Ana Sortun.  If she puts ingredients together, you know they will coordinate to delight your palate!  I got to taste several tapas:

Deviled eggs with tuna,
Sultan's Delight of tamarind beef short rib with smokey eggplant puree, 
Fatteh- Caramelized Onion, Romanesco, Crispy Mushrooms, Pinenuts, Yogurt; 
Swordfish special meze

Sister's Lemon Chicken with Za’atar, Turkish Cheese Pancake
Hubby's Beef Shish w/ Pepper Relish, Fried Green Tomato, Tomato Brown Butter, Yogurt
My Softshell Crab with Saffron-Almond Skordalia, Heirloom Tomato, Couza Fries w/ Olive tapenade

Pistachio Ma’amoul Cookie w/ Lemon Verbena Peaches, Olive Oil Ice Cream
Sweet Corn Ice Cream w/ Blueberry Spoon Sweets, Corn Puff, Sumac Kettle Corn
My first ever Baked Alaska - Coconut Ice Cream and Passion Fruit Caramel

My companions enjoyed their creative cocktails. I enjoyed the festive drinks without alcohol!  I adored the hibiscus iced tea.  And the rooibos hot tea with dessert.  

Our server was a friendly, efficient younger woman with a way of asking how things were going that encouraged us to gush compliments to the chef.  

It is pricey but worth it for a special occasion! 

I recommend all these spots to you for happy eating!  



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