Advice

Having gone through chemotherapy (with very little support from my friends), I can say that the following article misses the point entirely:

What Not To Say When Someone Is Sick

While Novella’s conclusions are mostly correct, especially w.r.t. the Dunning-Kruger identification, he misses the point that all advice is like this. It’s especially obvious with unsolicited advice. But it’s true with all advice, including the advice you receive from your doctor.

A better way to go about translating what others find beneficial (including both scientific and anecdotal) is through stories and explanations. You do not want others’ advice on what you should do/be. You simply want others to tell you what they think and what they know. And the best way to do that is through stories. Tell me what happened to you. Don’t abstract and generalize into “rules about the way the world works”. Just tell me the story and let me take from it whatever I can.

So the next time you’re tempted to give advice, stop yourself and reformulate what you were going to say as a story.

One thing Novella is absolutely wrong about in the above post is “practical support”. And it’s one of the reasons I didn’t get much support from my friends. I didn’t need anyone to drive me to appointments or take my (non-existent) kids to school. But one thing I did need was stories … stories about how others handle chronic pain, stories about others’ experience with chemo, stories about how they think about looming death, do not resuscitate orders, etc. Few would tell me such stories because of the very bad advice Novella is giving in this article.

Trump, fascism, and authoritarianism

I’ve been tangentially following the Trump/fascist meme since it popped up. This article finally clicked it for me … but not until section VIII. What Authoritarians Want. (By the way, thanks to whoever put that text into HTML. Thanks for giving the section a named ANCHOR to link to.)

I’ve recently struggled in my professional career with some colleagues suggesting I should make more of an attempt to be an, to assert my, to establish my, authority. I’ve been doing what I do since my sub-discipline emerged, which not only means I’ve been engulfed and engaged by it for that whole time, but that I also helped invent/refine it. So, these colleagues of mine have a decent argument. I have and continue to resist, though, primarily because I’m anti-authoritarian. Further, that’s one of the reasons I chose this sub-discipline in the first place, because it is, as a discipline, anti-authoritarian. (Is that a contradiction? Can a “discipline” be “anti-authoritarian”?)

Given this discord within my professional life, which has been continual since way before Trump emerged as a politician, it’s been difficult for me to see Trump as someone who would be attractive to authoritarians. Trump has no governing experience, whatsoever. Hence, any thinking authoritarian would realize he has no authority, whatsoever. From this perspective, it would seem that Cruz, as a sitting Senator with a relatively (to Trump) long political career, who espouses the same (if not more) authoritarian rhetoric, would be the preferred choice of authoritarians. Cruz is an “outsider”, too, to some extent. Thinking authoritarians really have no choice but to admit that Cruz is much more credible than Trump.

But what VIII of the article above lays out (not very well) is Trump’s willingness to ignore any rules or traditions, checks, balances, social conventions, or any limitations whatsoever. If there is a limit somewhere, he’ll simply lie about that issue and pretend there is no limit. And, paradoxically, those lies make him more credible. Cruz, however much an outsider he is, admits and even takes pride in some traditions, some law, some social conventions, etc. Hence, while Cruz is more credible as far as actual governmental action, he is less credible in his willingness to toss the whole system and ignore potential consequences. Every time Trump says something “politically incorrect” (i.e. stupid, bigoted, or just obviously false), it is evidence that he doesn’t care about reality or being nice or anything else. That makes him more likely to act regardless of any traditions or rule of law or whatever, more credible as the “man of action” the authoritarians want.