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SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MID-TERMS

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So, the midterms are finally over. For months, those of us who like to watch American politics were expecting an epic to the death struggle that would vindicate the winner and devastate the loser.

But, as the Fates would have it, that is not what happened. At the time this article was written, the Democrats held 225 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the Republicans 197 seats (with thirteen seats still to be decided). And in the Senate, the Republicans held 51 seats to the Democrats 44 (with two seats being held by other parties and with four still undecided).

What we got was less an Alien versus Predator fight to the death and something more akin to two schoolboys getting into a schoolyard brawl with each claiming victory because they’d managed to bloody the other’s nose.

For months we’d been told that the Democrats would end up dominating both the House of Representatives and the Senate as the American people voiced their disapproval of the Trump Presidency. But that didn’t happen either. The Republicans may have lost their majority in the House of Representatives (and, indeed, many moderate Republicans did not do so well), they managed to gain a definitive majority in the Senate.

As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary put it: “anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight’s not going to get it.”

Several factors played a role in determining the outcome of the election.

The first thing to note is that the results of the election were not a signal of approval for far-left Democratic policies. It was moderate Democrats who won seats, not radically progressive ones. This would suggest that as many Americans reject radical identity politics as those who feel dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency. And it would suggest that the Democrat’s best strategy for winning the next Presidential election is to put forward a moderate candidate with a moderate platform.

The second thing to note is that the Republican’s triumph in the Senate had as much do with demographics as it did with politics. The electoral map made Democratic Senate seats more vulnerable than Republican ones. That said, however, it also turns out that the Democrats failed to take advantage of an advantageous news cycle. Had they nominated more moderate candidates rather than radically progressive ones they would have found themselves a lot more successful.

The third thing to note is that voter motivation played an enormous role in determining the outcome of the election. One of the reasons the Republicans lost the House of Representatives was because the Democrats were more motivated to vote than they were.

Actually, this was recognised early on. Bill Stepien, the political director for the White House, urged President Trump to motivate his base by making the election a referendum on his own performance. Clearly, Stepien recognised that President Trump has a special talent for rallying his supporters. And, as the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro noted, every district Trump visited ended up voting Republican.

The fourth things to note is that the Democrats managed to do better in the suburbs than the Republicans did. The Democrats managed to win suburbs all the way from the eastern seaboard to Nevada and even managed to expand into Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Richmond. As Liesl Hickey, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014, said “Republicans have lost the suburbs. I don’t know if they’ve lost them forever, but we’ve definitely lost them for now.”

That the outcome of the midterms will have political implications should be obvious to everyone. On the negative side, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will make it difficult for the Republicans to enact their legislative agenda over the next two years. It puts Trump’s immigration and economic policies in danger. It puts his administration’s goal to build a border wall, deregulate business, and cut taxes in jeopardy.

But, on the more positive side, however, the outcome of the midterms may inspire more transparency from the Executive as President Trump negotiates trade deals with Japan and the European Union. And as much a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives puts the Republican agenda in jeopardy, a Republican-controlled Senate creates a roadblock for the progressive agenda indicative in the Democrat’s more radical policies.

And there are the long-term implication, as well. The Republican’s control of the Senate will make it difficult for the Democrat’s to gain control over it in 2020. However, it also revealed the necessity for the Republican Party to expand its conservative base, especially in lieu of the 2020 Presidential election. In the 2000, 2004, and 2016 Presidential elections, a switch of only 150,000 votes would have nullified all of them.

The midterm election resulted in a victory for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It did not deliver the much-prophesied blue wave for the Democrats and it didn’t allow the Republicans to retain control of Congress. What the midterms produced was a balanced, moderate Congress. The manner in which people choose to interpret the results of this election will depend largely upon their political orientation. Both Democrats and Republicans have the choice to see the results as either a triumph or a defeat. And exactly how they react will determine how well their party does at the next Presidential election.

Who knows what will happen at the next Presidential election. Two years can be a lifetime in politics.

 

REFERENCES:

1. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/midterm-election-split-decision/
2. https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/11/republican-senate-control-frightens-democrats/
3. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/10/16/17951596/kavanaugh-trump-senate-impeachment-avenatti-democrats-2020-supreme-court
4. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/07/opinion/democrats-midterms-house-senate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fopinion&action=click&contentCollection=opinion&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=6&pgtype=sectionfront
5. https://www.nationalreview.com/news/republicans-win-senate-control-midterms/
6. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/trump-democrats-2018-elections-midterms-972254
7. https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/11/07/please-stop-saying-red-wave-inside-democrats-takeover-of-the-house-222228
8. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/midterm-elections-2018-top-takeaways-970328
9. https://www.politico.com/story/2018/11/07/trump-2020-elections-campaign-968942
10. https://spectator.org/a-much-much-better-gop-night-than-had-been-forecast/
11. https://spectator.org/gop-knocks-off-four-senate-democrats/
12. https://spectator.org/florida-survives-category-5-liberalism/
13. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/take-it-from-this-conservative-republicans-disappointed-in-the-midterm-elections
14. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/christian-voters-were-key-in-gops-midterm-victories
15. https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/editorials/blue-wave-turns-out-to-be-ordinary-election-rather-than-an-extraordinary-rebuke-to-trump
16. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38084/democrats-are-going-about-house-and-senate-popular-ashe-schow
17. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/liz-peek-midterm-elections-prove-trumps-critics-still-underestimate-him-as-blue-wave-becomes-a-ripple?cmpid=NL_opinion
18. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/midterm-elections-democrats-it-would-be-a-cataclysmic-error-to-make-pelosi-your-next-house-speaker?cmpid=NL_opinion
19. https://www.redstate.com/brandon_morse/2018/11/06/ted-cruz-defeats-beto-orourke-texas-stays-red/
20. https://hotair.com/archives/2018/11/07/midterm-result-push-2020
21. https://hotair.com/archives/2018/11/07/trump-dems-investigate-youll-find-works-ways/
22. https://finance.townhall.com/columnists/danieljmitchell/2018/11/07/five-takeaways-from-the-2018-elections-and-implications-for-liberty-n2535487?
23. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/polls-close-in-six-states-as-dems-look-for-telltale-signs-of-potential-blue-wave
24. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election/democrats-aim-to-restrain-trump-after-seizing-u-s-house-idUSKCN1NB1CW
25. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election/democrats-aim-to-restrain-trump-after-seizing-u-s-house-idUSKCN1NB1CW
26. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/07/donald-trump-defends-big-victory-for-republicans-in-midterm-elections/
27. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/06/live-updates-2018-midterm-election-results/
28. https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2018/11/07/republicans-make-senate-gains-as-america-rejects-gun-control-again/
29. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38075/klavan-democrat-voters-explain-were-stupid-and-andrew-klavan
30. https://www.dailywire.com/news/38089/8-big-takeaways-midterm-elections-ben-shapiro

THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVES

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This is our weekly theological article

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), is one of the most influential thinkers of the Enlightenment. His views on metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics have had a profound influence on virtually all philosophical movements that came after him. It was his views on ethics, however, that he is most remembered for.

Kant presented his works on ethics in two works. First, there was The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, published in 1785, in which Kant sought to find and establish “the supreme principle of reality.” Then there was The Critique of Practical Reason, published in 1787, which detailed his moral philosophy. (This was the sequel to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, published in 1781, in which Kant explored the foundations and limitations of human knowledge.)

Immanuel Kant is one of philosophy’s most ardent defenders of deontological ethics (think of this as the study of duty). Put simply, deontology asserts that it is the motivation behind an action that determines its morality, not its consequences. Kant believed that human freedom was based on the fact that human beings are endowed with a conscience that makes them aware of the power moral law has over them.

Immanuel Kant believed that human morality was based on an absolute and objective moral law that he referred to as the categorical imperative. There are essentially two kinds of imperatives: hypothetical imperatives and categorical imperatives. A hypothetical imperative refers to commands that are conditioned by your own desires. Attending medical school is only imperative if you wish to become a doctor, for example. By contrast, a categorical imperative refers to an unconditional command. You cannot refuse to pay your taxes, for example. Kant believed that moral imperatives were categorical because the individual cannot decide they don’t apply to them.

Kant split his categorical imperative into three maxims:

First: “Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.” Put simply, this means that you should not engage in a behaviour unless you are prepared to will that everybody else does it all the time.

Second: “Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.” In other words, it is immoral to manipulate others for any reason whatsoever.

Third: “Act as if you were through your maxim a law-making member of a kingdom of ends.” In other words, you must act as though you are the ultimate moral authority of the universe and that everyone was is duty-bound to emulate everything that you do.

Kant’s moral maxims, therefore, can be summarised in the following way: don’t do something unless you are prepared to tolerate everyone else doing it all the time, never manipulate people, and act as though others are duty-bound to emulate everything you do.

MEMENTO MORI

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This is our weekly theological article.

For most of my life I have had a great affinity for cemeteries and graveyards. A gentle stroll through the neat and peaceful rows of graves, pausing occasionally to read the inscription on the headstone of someone who lived and died long before I was born has been the source of great pleasure for me.

I believe cemeteries and graveyards are important for two reasons. First, they are incredibly artistic. One cannot help but notice the well-manicured lawns and beautiful gardens, the magnificent sculpting’s of the headstones, and the often-poetic rhetoric of the epitaphs. Second, I believe that cemeteries and graveyards provide people with a physical connection with their cultural heritage and allows them to tap into their ancestral past. As Doctor Celestina Sagazio, a historian working for Melbourne’s Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, observed, cemeteries and graveyards provide a clue into the daily lives of people throughout history.

Modern culture has little time for the contemplation of death. That would go against ‘positive thinking’ and the perpetual lie of ‘eternal youth.’ This, however, stands in stark contrast with the convictions of most of our forebears. From antiquity through to the early twentieth century, the consideration of death was considered a good motivator for leading a virtuous and meaningful life. Recent studies affirm this belief, finding that the contemplation of one’s own mortality acts as a motivator for assessing one’s values and goals and can greatly improve physical health.

The phrase, ‘Memento Mori’, is said to have originated with the Ancient Romans. Tradition in Ancient Rome dictated that a servant or slave should stand behind a triumphant General during his victory parade. This servant or slave would whisper in the General’s ear: “Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento Mori!” (“Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”).

Between the 14th and 17th centuries, the concept of ‘Memento Mori’ took on new motifs. The engraving, ‘The Triumph of Death’ (1539) by Georg Pencz (1500 – 1550) depicted a scythe-wielding skeleton commanding an oxen-driven chariot. Similarly, the dance of death – involving skeletal figures – lead everyone from the Pope to the humble ploughman in a final dance of death. During the 17th and 18th centuries, many New England graves were adorned with epitaphs like ‘Memento Mori’ and ‘Hora Fugit’ (‘the hour flees’) and were emblazoned with images of skulls, bones, winged death’s heads, hourglasses, and other symbols of death and the passage of time.

The Roman stoic philosopher, Seneca (4BC – AD65) advised: “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day… The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” The careful contemplation of mortality and the deliberate awareness of death has a profoundly positive effect on the health and vitality of the soul.

MEN BUILD CIVILISATIONS

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There is an alarming trend in media today. Type into google ‘men are useless’, ‘men are worthless’, or ‘society doesn’t need men and various articles, mostly by left wing and pro-feminist news organisations, will come up. These articles have the same basic message: men are, at best, a nuisance in the age of ‘girl power’.

Feminist philosophy is centred around the idea – a conspiracy theory in reality – that men have deliberately conspired to keep women down and take power for themselves. In reality, the differences in male and female achievements have been the result of the differing expectations thrust upon men and women and the different choices they make. As Camille Paglia wrote in her article It’s a Man’s World: “history must be seen clearly and fairly: obstructive traditions arose not from men’s hatred or enslavement of women but from the natural division of labour that had developed over thousands of years during the agrarian period and that once immensely benefited and protected women, permitting them to stay at hearth to care for helpless infants and children.” Civilisations were constructed not to keep women down, but for their benefit. The result of this natural division of labour is that men have dominated many tiers of achievement.

It could, therefore, be argued that much of feminism’s vitriol towards men is derived not from injustice, but from envy over male achievements. Second and third wave feminists have spent a great deal of time vilifying men and turning their shortcomings into symbols of pure evil. They have written a slew of anti-male books designed to erase men’s contribution to civilisation and devalue their achievements. Among the more infamous have been the End of Men by Hanna Rosin, Are Men Necessary by Maureen Dowd, and the Female Brain, in which author Louann Bridendine tells men they’ll be envious of the female brain. (Just imagine the reaction if an author wrote a book telling women they’d envious of male brains!).

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What these writers fail to understand is that men are the builders and protectors of civilisations. It has always been men, and not women, who have built the larger edifices of civilisation, who have constructed the institutions upon which civilisations are founded, who have been the pioneers in virtually every aspect of human endeavour, and who take up arms to protect civilisations (and as a natural extension, its women) from outside threats [1].

In philosophy, it is men who have given us Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, and Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea. In literature, men have given us Homer’s the Iliad, Shakespeare, Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Johannes Gutenberg gave us the printing press, Alexander Graham Bell gave us the telephone, Thomas Alva Edison gave us the lightbulb, and Karl Benz gave us the car. The modern world is an epic of male achievement.

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Needless to say, society views men and women differently. Drawing from mountains of data on gender stereotypes, psychologist Alice Eagly found the existence of a ‘women are wonderful’ sentiment held by both men and women.  Women are considered women purely by virtue of their existence. By contrast, manhood has to be earnt. Civilisation and culture set up the parameters upon which men ‘earn’ their masculinity.

Much of the ‘earnt manhood’ philosophy comes from the different roles men and women have occupied in civilisations. Men have always been expected to build and protect civilisation. Women, on the other hand, have always been valued as creators of life. This is derived from a symbiotic relationship between men and women which existed for civilisation’s benefit. Civilisation was organised so male strengths could offset female weaknesses, and vice-versa.

In reality, men are both better and worse than women, and the way society views its men depends on which men it chooses to focus on. If a society chooses to focus on men who are leaders, entrepreneurs, social reformers, and innovators, it will conclude that men are ‘better than women.’ But if it chooses to focus on men who are homeless, incarcerated, mentally ill, or suffering from intellectual disabilities, it will conclude that ‘women are better than men.’

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It is motivation, not ability, that explains the vast differences in achievements between men and women. Men and women are motivated by different incentives to attempt different tasks. Research by Jacquelynne Eccles suggests that the shortage of women in maths and science is not the result of women’s inability to perform well in these fields per se, but a reflection of their different motivational choices. In simpler terms, there are fewer women in the maths and sciences because women are less inclined to study those fields. Similarly, fewer men do housework or change dirty diapers because they are not inclined to do so.

And, of course, the way one chooses to spend one’s time will reap different rewards. This may explain the often-fabled gender pay-gap myth in which feminists argue that women are deliberately and systemically paid less than their male colleagues. In fact, economic study after economic study has found that the difference in earnings between men and women are the result of different lifestyle choices men and women make. Men, on average, are willing to work longer hours and take fewer holidays. (To be fair, women do take significant time off work to raise children). This explains why men not only earn more money over the course of their working lifetimes but also why men gain more promotions and climb the ladder of success better than women.

Society encourages men to attempt high-risk ventures for the benefit of society and gives them big rewards when they manage to pull them off. (Women are not encouraged to take big risks and therefore do not reap big rewards.) It is men who are sent off to die in war, it is men who are given the dirty and dangerous jobs, and it is men who comprise the vast majority of workplace deaths. Women have never been expected to sacrifice themselves in this way and society has never seen fit to reward them in the way it has rewarded men.

It is a well-known fact among economists that men are, on average, more willing to take risks than women. One explanation for this may be the historic differences between the reproductive success of men and women. DNA analysis suggests that today’s population is descended from twice as many women as men. It would be reasonable to assume that this disparity has produced some significant personality differences.

For women, the best strategy was to play it safe, be nice, and go along with the crowd. Sooner or later, a decent man would come along with whom she could have children. It is no wonder, then, that women are not known for exploring uncharted territories or conquering far off lands. As Roy F. Baumeister, social psychologist at the University of Queensland, puts it: “we’re descended from women who played it safe.”

For men, however, the outlook was radically different. The competition between males for available females was a lot tougher. A man can choose to sit at home and play it safe if he wants to, but he probably won’t reproduce. Men, therefore, had to distinguish themselves by becoming risk-takers and innovators. Men who took big risks and managed to pull them off reproduced, men who stayed at home didn’t.

The American psychologist B.F. Skinner once wrote: “Men build society and society builds men.” It is the result of the different expectations civilisation thrust upon men and women and the different choices they make. Men are expected to ‘earn’ their manhood and are motivated by different things than women. Feminists can ridicule masculinity and male achievements as much as they like, but female achievement is only possible in civilisations that have been modernised and protected by men. And when things go wrong, as they inevitably will, it will be men, and not women, who save the day.

[1] One should also note that it has been the social and technological advances achieved by men that have freed women from lives as homemakers and child-bearers.