Caption: You'll put your eye out.
The theme at Goat Rope lately is writing for social change or social conservation, whichever is appropriate at the time. There are also links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.
El Cabrero had an interesting dream a few weeks ago. No, it wasn't the recurring one about trains and tunnels. It was about writing.
In the dream, I was given something that looked like a rifle but could take pictures like a camera. Point and shoot, just like a firearm. Then I found out it could also function as a rifle if I flipped a switch.
My first thought was that this could be really dangerous and the results could be tragic if you didn't know exactly what you were doing at the time. As the gun safety folks say, one should assume every firearm to be loaded and presumably that goes for every dream camera/rifle too.
(Full disclosure: although there are a couple firesticks at Goat Rope Farm and I can shoot fairly straight, I'm not a big gun person. I don't bitterly cling to them anyway...Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.)
((OK, I know there are some smirking Freudians out there shouting "phallic symbol!" That's fine, since I'm an occasional Freudian smirker myself, but it really didn't seem to be about that. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes a dream camera/rifle is just a dream camera/rifle.))
When I woke up, I knew right away the dream was about writing. Here's why. Writing for positive change (or positive conservation) takes different forms. Sometimes it involves directly attacking injustices, making arguments, etc. That would be rifle.
At other times, it's important just to capture an image of what is going on,tell a story, state the facts, present credible research that would hold up to critical investigation, or just accurately convey information. That would be camera.
Of course, there's some overlap. A good argument (rifle) should be backed up with facts and clear reasoning (camera). And sometimes just presenting the facts (camera) can help improve an unjust situation. But the message I got from the dream was that I needed to know what I was doing when I picked that thingie up.
There have been plenty of times when I've attacked policies head on in print (rifle) and I'll probably do it again pretty soon. But that isn't always what the situation requires.
For example, El Cabrero's beloved state of West Virginia just overhauled a major public health care program and the changes are confusing to lots of people. Not jumping through the right hoops can mean not being able to get some important services. I've just about finished writing a consumer's guide to the new system. In it, I tried to just state the facts as clearly as possible, keeping my opinions out of it. Yep, camera.
Doing research about public policy should be mostly camera as well, even if you have strong beliefs about what should be done. You want the results to be as reliable as possible, meaning that other people looking at the information would find the same things, and you want it to be valid, meaning that the conclusions you draw follow from the data.
The main thing is to know what you're doing when you're doing it.
HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY? The latest snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute points out that
In a selection of 19 countries with comparable per capita income, the United States provides the fewest maternity leave benefits in both length of leave and paid time off (see chart). This is considered separate from any disability insurance for which one may qualify. In fact, the United States falls two weeks short of the International Labor Organization's basic minimum standard of at least 14 weeks general leave. It is also the only country not to guarantee some amount of leave with income.
LABOR'S REVIVAL? This article suggests it's closer than we may think.
URGENT DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS UPDATE. Their genes are weird too.
EVANGELICAL MANIFESTO. Here's yet another sign that the religious right doesn't have a lock on the opinions of evangelical Christians.
CONSUME THIS. In a National Geographic-sponsored survey of 14 countries, US consumers ranked last in terms of environmentally-aware buying habits.
MAGICAL THINKING. Ancient people sacrificed to appease the gods. We buy insurance.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED