To Be Informed ..

“One sticks to an opinion because he prides himself on having come to it on his own, and another because he has taken great pains to learn it and is proud to have grasped it: and so both do so out of vanity.” – Friedrich Neitzsche

This recording is more than 12 minutes long. It is an opinion piece. It has strong language unsuitable for small children. Enjoy!

I have an opinion to offer here about the welfare system. Let me start this piece by saying this. I can already tell that this will piss people off.

Before any of you continue to either read this or listen to it as it is recited in my dulcet tones, remember this. Everyone has the right to their own opinions. I will always welcome the honest discourse that can come from controversial issues. Emotions are likely to come into the mix. I have to accept that, as does everyone else.

But the one thing that I do NOT have to accept is that your version of events is the only one that matters. Aside from the fact that it isn’t true, the very idea that you can force your opinions down my throat is the epitome of rudeness. So do yourself a favor and don’t bring that assumption to any discussion that follows from this post. All I’m going to do is ignore you. I haven’t the time or the energy for your misplaced anger or your unproven rhetoric and propaganda.

That being said, I’ve got a bone to pick about a recent post on facebook.

This is an opinion I made the mistake of reposting on Facebook. But make no mistake. I can only say I agree with what I believe the sentiment behind the post is ..

This is the post. Link to it if you want to, but you’re going to have a reaction.

A bunch of users on Facebook did. I shouldn’t have been surprised seeing as it’s such a controversial issue.

But there were a couple of ways that this discussion could have gone. I am not happy with the direction that was chosen. Many words were exchanged. Many opinions were given. I’m going to be honest here and say that I don’t believe that any of the opinions, including mine, were completely informed.

Let me say that again for those who didn’t catch it the first time. None of the opinions that were offered, INCLUDING MY OWN were completely informed.

But allow me to give you my initial impression of the words in this post.

We are talking about the issue of drug testing for welfare recipients. The idea now exists that welfare recipients will need to be tested for the use of illegal substances in order to receive government assistance. The people who read and reposted this on facebook may have had any number of reasons for doing so. The only thing that I can tell you that they all had in common is that they supported the notion of doing it in all fifty states.

I reposted it. it sits on my timeline today. And guess what? I am NOT taking it down.

Perhaps I’ve drawn a line in the sand over this because of the discussion that followed. I’m not even sure that I can call it a discussion. I’m not going to say that the things that I expressed as part of the plethora of commentary were based on more than raw emotion and experience. But what I will say is that I am extremely sad that someone felt the need to question my friendship with them over the issue. A statement was made that anyone who reposted the post should just “unfriend” the person.

I refuse to do it.

To have a friendship be put at risk over an argument in which we can easily chose to agree to disagree doesn’t seem right to me. Perhaps emotions were running extremely high. I can attest to feeling more and more anger as I kept having to defend my own position in this matter. But this person laid their cards on the table for everyone to read.

I think it’s my turn to show my hand.

I will not lose a friend over an issue about which nobody has a complete understanding.

I was given so called “facts” about this issue that were based on some study in Florida. In my opinion, the results of studies that are simply spewed in the media are of no interest to me. There are two reasons for this. One of them is that I took behavioral statistics in college, and if there is one thing that has stuck with since I finished that class, it is that the data and results from such studies can be skewed according to the agendas of whomever presents the information or funds the studies in the first place. The sources of information matter here. Of course, any of you can fire back on this issue and wonder where I got the information to inform my opinions. Do yourselves a favor and take a course in behavioral statistics, or statistics of any kind before you choose to engage me in this issue. Form your own opinions after you’ve had to DO your own group research. Go ahead and formulate a hypothesis, gather the information, crunch the numbers, obtain a P-value, and then try to interpret the meaning of the p value in the most scientifically objective way possible. You may come to the same conclusion that I did.

The data are too easy to manipulate to fit your own mood.

A number is supposed to be a static value by its normal definition. But the means by which a P value is calculated vary slightly depending on how the data is gathered, how many test subjects there are, etc. If any of you have taken multi variate math, you are well aware that the math can become complicated fast. The more variables need to be accounted for in an experiment, the more complex the methods for gathering the data become. Results need to be interpreted in as objective a way as possible. But here’s the catch. Even after you gather the data, crunch the numbers and try to present your case, you’ve got to remember who funded the study, don’t you? Drug companies are notorious for making sure that the results of their studies are presented as though they are irrefutable proof of success. As far as I know, the way ensure that results of an experiment are sound is repetition. Simply put, the same exact experiment must be performed by different scientists who are exploring the same hypothesis.

Now, knowing the variability of the human condition, how easy do you all believe this is?

Forgive me, therefore, if I scoff at the notion that your certainty about the national effectiveness of such a policy can come from a single study from a single state. You can’ t tell me that the results from one study in Florida would be the same as they would be in New York, In New Jersey, Minnesota, or any other state in the union.  I would want to see the P values that were obtained, know the number of subjects who were included in the study, and I would simply want to know if the experiment was one that could be repeated. In other words, if this policy hasn’t been implemented in other states yet, you have no basis for knowing that it would not work in the rest of the country.  Therefore, you may need to reassess your assumption that it would be a national failure.

But in the end, this is part of my opinion.

The SECOND part of my problem with the Florida study has to do with personal experience. Simply put, I’ve been though much when it comes to government assistance programs, unemployment, partial employment, and the notion of welfare applicants who are willing to cheat the system. For those of you who mentioned it, you may be absolutely right to believe that the government has wasted far too much money, and that fat cat corporate asshats have abused the system to the tune of billions more dollars. What they’ve done is so far beyond my scope of experience that I can’t even begin to fathom the assbeating that I would give one of them if they were to show their snotty little faces in my direction.

But that will never happen, folks.

The truth is, as someone that has ALSO had to navigate the murky, shark infested waters of poverty in this country for nearly a decade, I have no sympathy for those who would chose to cheat the welfare system so callously when there are so many other poor, struggling individuals (including ex convicts) who are trying their damndest to make an honest living. What do we tell the ex convict who gets out of prison about the meaning of honesty when we can’t guarantee some sort of regulation of illegal drug use among welfare recipients? I’ve seen way too many assholes stroll through the Fred Meyer at which I used to work during the first of the month to get their hands on alcohol using their food stamps and SNAP cards. That’s just for LEGAL drugs! I’ve seen too many others who use the money to buy and sell drugs. I’ve worked with too many mental health patients in my time who are busy bucking the system to give a good God DAMN what some study in Florida says.

I’ve also had to accept government assistance while being both unemployed and partially employed. For those who don’t know, let me enlighten you. At least in Oregon, the system  doesn’t encourage you to work as hard as you might think. You will have to be careful who you talk to, you must keep careful records, and you are held under the thumb of some serious number crunching as you try to match the hours that you work (if you’re lucky enough to have a part time job) with the funds that the government will give you to you to help meet your weekly or monthly expenses. If you work past a set amount of hours, you will be cut off from government aid. Believe me, when someone like me wakes up in the morning as has to ask myself what the fucking point of working is, the system really IS broken.

I’ve lived with and seen these things for myself, and it has made me furious beyond belief. So yes, I am admitting right now that my opinion is based on emotion and experience.

But that’s what an opinion, is, isn’t it?

I think the real reason this may be getting under my skin is because it takes me back to my days at Macalester College where I was continually called out for my not wanting take place in campus wide protests regarding things like the World Trade Organization, global warming, recycling, and other such talk. There was even one protest that got confrontational when students organized a takeover of one of the campus buildings and essentially refused to allow the normal functioning of the administration if it could be helped.

My reaction to these events is the same as it was when people took over Wall Street in my own city. What the fuck do you know about any  of it? For that matter, what do I know about any  of it?

I literally asked ten students who were protesting the WTO all those years ago on campus. I desperately wanted to understand the furrowed brows, the rasied voices, the gritted teeth. I don’t even remember what the protest was about. Perhaps that’s because none  of the students I asked could give me a cogent explanation for their actions. They simply jumped on the bandwagon, but in the other direction. Neither bandwagon gets you anywhere, so why spew rhetoric and propaganda for either side?

How do these events affect you as an individual?

Anyone can tell me where they were during September the eleventh 2001. The event clearly had a pronounced affect on the American populous. But can anyone tell me why it happened? Can anyone please enlighten me as to why 3000 people had to die in front of my eyes that day? The answer is a resounding no, and we all know it!

Were any of the protestors on Wall Street bringing attention to an issue?  Of course they were. But they were also annoying the hell out of potential employers, many of whom I’d applied to work with. And I’m sorry to say it, but it seems to me that some of the ones who protest the loudest over certain issues are the ones who have the time and the resources to do it without real consequences. While you all were sitting and doing various things on Wall street, I was busy looking for a fucking job. That was my reality then, and this is my reality now.

This entire facebook discussion reached its peak during my lunch break from the only job I was able to land in fourteen months.

Please don’t tell me what to think. You will not like my response.

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2 Responses to “To Be Informed ..”

  1. I think your dog said it best. No response forthcoming. 😉

    E.

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