I’ve been thinking about the quote from Montaigne excerpted in the film Experimenter: “We are, I know not how, double in ourselves, so that what we believe we disbelieve, and cannot rid ourselves of what we condemn.”
Twisty thing, the mind. Slippery thing, self-image.
The 65% of people who flipped the switch to administer supposedly harmful and possibly fatal shocks to a fellow human in Milgram’s experiments in the 1960s would not have believed themselves capable of acting against their individual moral code at the behest of an authority, apparently causing severe harm to another person at that authority’s insistence. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have been capable. That I won’t be capable, should I find myself in a similar situation. That I don’t have to be frightened of myself.
But I’ve bowed down to authorities. Found reasons to obey. To rationalize or to allow or to excuse or be meek. I know I can fail. And that sometimes I have good reason to be frightened of myself.
The subjects in Milgram’s experiment were told that “the experiment requires” them to comply. The authority in that case was the experimenter and, more generally, science.
Today, in 2017, many people who willfully ignore the authority of science, who mistrust education and the lessons of history, who reject out of hand any claims with which they disagree … these same people with no doubt good reasons to doubt authority now vehemently cede all authority to a man who defies all reason. A man who, with every passing day, shows by his actions that he will gleefully flip the switch on all of us just to make a buck or to inflate his self-image.
Shaky thing, that man’s finger.
Can we flip the script before he flips the switch?
“I’ve learned you have to be careful when you get lost in an idea. As an artist, you have to get a little lost. Otherwise you won’t discover anything interesting. But you have to avoid getting so lost that you’re unable to walk away and keep exploring.”
–Kyle McDonald. “When Art, Apple, and the Secret Service Collide: ‘People Staring at Computers.” Wired ThreatLevel blog. July 12, 2012. Web.
“By Monday, if you can’t read this online, those customer support lines will be your only solution.”
–Associated Press. “Thousands Could Lose Internet Monday after Malware Attack.” The Wall Street Journal. July 8, 2012. Web.
“We’re working with the US government to define regulations that allow commercial exploitation of asteroids. Unlike oil reserves or even the oceans, which are limited, resources in space are infinite. . . . Asteroids called carbonaceous chondrites, also known as dirty iceballs, are up to 20 percent water. You can use solar energy to break up water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which is rocket fuel, so you can create filling stations for deep space operations or oxygen and water for human consumption. Launching water beyond Earth orbit costs $20,000 per kilogram using the lowest-cost launch vehicle, so you save a lot by mining it in space. We’ll also be looking for what I call strategic metals. Another category of asteriod is rich in platinum-group metals such as palladium and osmium, which are used in medical devices, computer hard disks, LCD screens, and other electronics. They’re rare on Earth, but not in space.”
–Ted Greenwald. “The X Man.” Interview of Peter Diamandis. Wired July 2012: 88-96. Quote on page 96.
“With tuition looming, I didn’t dare spend a bent penny. I couldn’t buy candles, or ink, or paper. I had no jewelry to pawn, no allowance, no parents to write home to. No respectable moneylender would give me a thin shim. Hardly surprising, as I was a rootless, orphan Edema Ruh whose possessions would fit into a burlap sack. It wouldn’t have to be a large sack either.”
–Patrick Rothfuss. The Wise Man’s Fear: Kingkiller Chronicle: Day Two. Daw, 2011. Kindle edition. Quote in chapter five.
“This Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator would be a great addition to any kitchen. Includes deep crisper drawers, wonderful door storage, and plenty of shelves for all your food needs. The freezer compartment has a slide-out basket in addition to door storage, so that you can stock up on freezer items and save your family money. This Kenmore refrigerator would be a great addition to any home.”
–Product description. Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator. Sears. July 2012. Web.
“Today, in a special seminar held at CERN, the two collaborations operating large multipurpose detectors,CMS and ATLAS, presented new and convincing signals from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that could be coming from the Higgs boson.
This fundamental particle was predicted nearly fifty years ago in the framework of the Standard Model, the theoretical model that describes just about everything observed so far in the world of particle physics. Without the Higgs boson, this model however failed to explain how particles acquired their mass.”
–Pauline Gagnon. “New Baby Boson Is Born, Weighing in at about 126 GEV.” Quantum Diaries. July 4, 2012. Web.
” . . . state legislatures tend to move with the speed and agility of hobbled zombies; for instance, it remains entirely illegal for someone who has participated in a duel to hold public office in West Virginia. Which unfortunately means that the Mountain State will never be governed by an Immortal from Highlander.”
–Brendan L. Koerner.”Dear Mr. Know-It-All.” Wired July 2012: 26, 30. Quote on page 30.
“Once in a generation, the Blood Moon begins its fell cycle, bathing the realm in a pallid light. Compelled by its sinister presence, the restless dead rise from their graves, vampires hunt for unwary prey, and witches engage in nocturnal rituals. Worse yet, the horrifying Werewolf prowls the night, seeking heroes with whom to share his curse.”
–Product description on the back of the box containing The Blood Moon Expansion for Talisman, revised 4th edition, 2012.
“. . . Charles described an incident that had occurred in the bar when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were having a nightcap [at the Paris Ritz]. A beautiful young woman came in on the arm of an elderly gentlemen, and Scott sent a groom to fetch a box of orchids, which he then sent to the lady with his compliments. The young lady promptly sent the orchids back to Fitzgerald, who, in his moment of rejection, took one out and slowly ate it, petal by petal. Later that night, Fitzgerald returned to the bar, this time with the young beauty in tow. The bar regulars were very impressed and thereafter referrred to the maneuvers as ‘the orchid ploy’.”
–A. E. Hotchner. “A Legend as Big as the Ritz.” Vanity Fair July 2012: 132-146. Quote on page 141.