Archive for January, 2015

How should we react when a man says he molested his own daughter?

by David McElroy

Man behind bars

Is there any crime worse than molesting a child? How about if it’s your own child?

Just before 6:30 p.m. Thursday, a friend of mine posted a public confession on Facebook that he molested his own young daughter 11 years ago. His post said that he was going to find a police officer right after posting the confession. He’s decided it’s time to admit to his crime and face the punishment.

I was stunned and I’m still processing the news. I only know Brad Spangler casually and only as a Facebook friend. He’s one of hundreds of people with whom I’ve connected but never really gotten to know well. From his posts, I know him only as a brilliant left-leaning anarchist/libertarian who wrote well and seemed very thoughtful and well-meaning. I knew he had personal problems — including health issues — but nothing prepared me for this.

“During a particularly bad period in 2004, I molested my young daughter,” Spangler wrote. “I did not do so forcibly, but the betrayal of trust and resulting potential emotional fallout for her has weighed heavily on my conscience ever since, to the point of doubting my sanity and refusing to believe I had, or even could have, done such a thing.”

He assured his friends that he didn’t plan to harm himself or anyone else.

“I think what I’m going to do immediately after making this post, though, is see about peaceably turning myself in to the Kansas City Police Department, confirming this confession, refusing any potential bond and facing accountability in court,” he wrote. “While there are lots of impersonal topics I can rationally discuss, the truth is that I have not been emotionally well for a long time, if ever.”

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Without empathy and persistence, high IQ is just a cheap parlor trick

by David McElroy

Knowledge vs insight

When I was young, I believed that intelligence was more important than anything else. I saw it as a trump card that allowed a person to come out on top every time in life. And I was arrogant enough to almost always believe I was the smartest person in the room.

Nobody ever quite told me that intelligence was more important than anything, but the subtle message I got was that a high IQ was a golden ticket for life. I was praised for being smart and clever, so I wanted to be seen as intelligent. It became my identity.

As an adult, I’ve done pretty well on IQ tests. Most of the ones I’ve taken put me between 155 and 165. That’s not enough to get me into any record books, but it’s nice.

I’ve always questioned myself, though. What if I weren’t as smart as people said I was? What if I were nothing but a fraud who took tests well? And what if I suddenly quit doing well on the tests? Would I still have the same value?

Over the past 10 or 15 years, I’ve realized something scary — at least for someone who came to identify with intelligence as much as I did. Being smart — having a high IQ — is fairly meaningless. It might make someone clever. It might mean a person can figure things out — and have quick insights about other things — that other people struggle with.

But high intelligence doesn’t make someone successful. It doesn’t make him a decent person. And it definitely doesn’t make him happy.

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Would you secretly kill someone to get the things you want the most?

by David McElroy

Push the red button

Are you a good person? Or a bad person? Are you capable of theft? Deception? Murder? Is it a black-and-white question? Or is the answer a lot more gray — for all of us?

One of my favorite podcasts of 2014 was a spinoff of This American Life called Serial. In 12 episodes, the show explored a 15-year-old murder case, seeking to answer the question of whether the right man is in prison for the crime. (If you haven’t heard the show, I recommend it.)

In one of the final episodes of the season, the reporter spent a tremendous amount of time going over and over the question of whether the guy in prison seems like a killer or not. She seemed tormented by the need to know whether the man she had been interviewing could possibly have committed the murder.

She seemed obsessed with answering that question. Was this guy capable of murder?

I think she was asking the wrong question, so let me set it up in a different way. Let’s talk about you instead of the man sitting in prison for a murder which I suspect he didn’t commit.

Let’s say there’s something you want badly. I don’t just mean a new television or a boat or even a fancy house. I’m talking about something you’re emotionally committed to. Maybe it’s a woman who you’re in love with. (Or a man.) Maybe it’s some money that you think is rightfully yours. Maybe it’s some position of prestige or power that you believe should be yours.

With all of those things, let’s say that you want the person or thing, but there’s one other person standing in your way. Would you kill that person to get what you desperately want?

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I rarely have the time to respond. (Sorry.) Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”

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