Open thread – simple questions

I’m finding that a lot of our assumed shared vocabulary isn’t as shared as we think it is. Whether it’s “ISIS is not Islamic”, what is “combat” or “war”, or even what is “equality”, we fight an awful lot about issues that depend on terms that we haven’t defined well at all or have tribally defined them and assign our tribal definition of the term to somebody who holds a different definition.

Simple questions can clarify this sort of thing.
What is Islamic
What are the various categories of military action
How do you assess equality

So what simple questions have you found to be thought provoking or interesting? My current list will be in comments.

14 thoughts on “Open thread – simple questions”

  1. Stream of consciousness list as of right now

    Is anybody checking?

    What is government? How many do we have? What do they do?
    What is war/combat operations? How many are we fighting?
    How many states of emergency are declared right now and where?
    What does success look like for a government program (any government program)?
    What is the cost of justice?

    What does being poor mean?

  2. Islamic is the quality of making a big deal about being Muslim. And especially being a better Muslim than you are.

    War ? That is a situation where you meet new people. And kill them.

    How many states of emergency ? How many states are there ? That’s how many.

    Success for a government program means spending all the budget and increasing the number of employees.

    What is the cost of justice ? More than you can afford.

    What does being poor mean ? Not what it did when I was a kid. Now, it means having an EBT card, and a big screen TV. And air conditioning.

  3. What is Islamic – culture created by Muslims

    What are the various categories of military action – covert (guirrila) and overt. I guess overt can be categorized as being at different levels from all out war to 1 time strike.

    How do you assess equality – heh. Whatever a politician deems. Equalkity of what? Wealth? Looks? Intelligence?

    There will always be inequality

  4. You can’t hope to assess whether people are equal in the eyes of The Lord; you can hope to assess whether they are equal before the law.

  5. Is there any relationship between the official rate of inflation and rising prices? Is it true that “living” costs nothing and that food, shelter, water, heat are merely luxuries that are never counted to determine the cost of living? Indeed, what is “living” and is it a right or is it a gift from government? Is it true that only government can cause inflation? How much money does Obama save on Social Security COLAs by pegging the rate of inflation to 0%?

  6. I see all world conflicts as essentially tribal. Christian nations (okay, definitions are many, there) have been able to rise out of that somewhat, in that conflicts can be about ideas; though not very much, as the ideas are still often only a disguise for tribalism. Ideas also redraw the tribes, so there are many Americans and European elites who identify more with each other than with the proles in their own nations. Similarly, committed Islamist and committed pan-Arabists also identify across tribes and boundaries, though both remain in the context of deeply tribal societies. See, for example, Syria. Iraq. Chechnya. Libya. Hell, it only ends in a very few places trying to climb up out of that mess – UAE or Yemen, maybe. Previously Lebanon, though not any more. Therefore, I see less than half of the conflict with Islam as contending against that religion. Islamism ain’t nothing, but it’s not most of what we get stuck with in the Middle East. It’s mostly a rationalisation for guys who want their tribe to get the best jobs. Afghanistan, for example.

    Though oft-quoted parts of the Koran may indeed contribute to the enmity with the West (and the East, as those in China, India, and Indonesia can attest), Islam itself may actually have moderated tribalism somewhat, at least expanding people’s vision beyond crazy Uncle Tonoose up on the roof in Beirut as the fount of wisdom. (+1 for anyone old enough to get the reference.) So “Islamic” is one of those hot-button words which have more emotional than rational meaning. A word to conjure with, not to explain.

  7. I see all world conflicts as essentially tribal.

    I think there’s a lot to that idea. In Out of America, African American WaPo corespondent Keith Richburg discusses a very similar dynamic at work in Africa. And I also agree that in The West we’re broken along lines of cultural values and political ideology.

  8. Newrouter – this is sort of like the TV show jeapordy. I was looking for your answer in the form of a question. There are no wrong questions though. I think yours is either “what is Islam” or “who gets to say what is Islam”. I can’t tell though. Come back and clarify if I got it wrong, would you.

    MikeK – Here you are answering questions instead of asking them. You may very well be right about the definition of success in a government program but it’s highly unlikely that anyone in actual authority over one would admit to your definition as their own. It’s an Alinsky Rule 4 issue, making the enemy live up to his own rules. Nobody can say what their rules are but their own.

    Grey Eagle – Thank you for getting into the spirit of things with actual questions. This is exactly what I was hoping for. It’s food for thought.

    Assistant Village Idiot – I see a whole bunch of questions that could come out of what you wrote. What are yours?

  9. “it’s highly unlikely that anyone in actual authority over one would admit to your definition as their own. ”

    Of course.

    OK Questions.

    How long can this country ignore economics and print money to prop up a stock market distorted by crony capitalism ?

    How long can the irrational incentives of Obamacare persist without destroying the health care system we have had for 50 years, imperfect admittedly.

    When do local and state governments have to start dealing with infrastructure ? After the grid goes down ?

  10. Dearieme has the great equalities – of souls and before the law.

    Wikipedia: “Coke was instrumental in framing the Petition of Right . . . .During the debates on the matter, Coke famously sought to deny the King’s sovereign rights with the claim that “Magna Carta is such a fellow, that he will have no ‘sovereign'”; . . . the statutes (not the King) were absolute.[71] [Wikipedia] Calvinists like Williams (mentored by Coke) and Winthrop (an English judge who applied Coke) brought over both concepts.

    A student paper last week repeated again and again – all men are equal. He had little context – he seems to mean in all things. That is obvious, he implies. Not to his teacher.

    We (and later generations more so) don’t always consider words describing but rather (apparently our great leader more than most) creating reality. Certainly, they can describe the greatest reality to some (immature minds, perhaps; narcissistic ones, perhaps) – our subjective emotional reality. So a petition arises by a woman named “Isis” who wants the name of Isis changed. The association hurts her. I egotistically thought I was in control of my own identity – is hers the greater pride or mine, which can’t imagine caring, assuming the concept of each can be separated by anyone I’d care to know. So, what’s Islam, what’s workplace violence, what’s “fair”, what’s “equal”?

    It doesn’t take much clear thinking to ask equality in what way, before what judge? But to do so would mean that various statistics would come into play. Is “equality” the numbers convicted or the numbers guilty? Is “equality” the responsibility for a situation or is it considering the gender involved? Are athletic abilities, intelligent quotients, abilities to nurture, to lift dead weights equally distributed? Is “cuteness” or wit or wealth or health?

    I don’t find what is equality that complicated – but the words that no longer are connected to meaning have made us vulnerable to propagandists who don’t pretend any longer they mean anything. If Islam & equality mean nothing/everything, is that true of any word?

    The question is how do we create questions, let alone answer them, if words are fluid and capriciously & subjectively defined?

  11. I have always thought that most conflicts large or small can be traced to 4 questions: 1. Who gets to own it? 2. Who gets to use it or the benefit of it? 3. Who pays for it?, and 4. Who gets to decide things for it? “It” being the object of the conflict; like land, a natural resource, a body of water, and so on.

    Some other questions I have are:

    If we read the constitution and other founding documents and write out a list of items the government is supposed to take care of, how many actual duties would be on the list? What is on the current list of things the government does now?

    When did politicians and political parties become so completely self-serving? I find only the local ones seem to actually try to fix anything at all.

  12. My question has variations depending on the subject it’s aimed at—

    What will the next game-changing development be?

    As an example—very few people knew what fracking was back when the CW was all about our critically limited supply of oil, and how soon we would run out. Now the deposits we can reach have increased by multiple finds all over the world, and OPEC isn’t nearly as significant as it once appeared to be.

    At this very moment, there are people all over the world with access to knowledge via the Internet that wouldn’t even have had access to a decent grade school education a generation ago. They are thinking, wondering, imagining, inventing.

    Whether it’s health, or information technology, or energy, or a really compelling new book about how things could or should be, something’s coming.

    What will it be?

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