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All right, then, I’ll go to hell July 30, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Ethics, Literature.
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In Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck faces a difficult dilemma when his companion, the runaway slave Jim, is betrayed and caught. Huck considers writing to Jim’s owner Miss Watson (“I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d got to be a slave”), but realizes that it wouldn’t turn out too well for Jim (“everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger”) — or for himself, either:

It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain’t no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn’t so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, “There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.”

It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from me, neither. I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. It was because my heart warn’t right; it was because I warn’t square; it was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger’s owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie — I found that out.

So Huck sits down and writes a letter to Miss Watson, telling her where to find Jim. At first he feels “good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life,” but then he gets to thinking about all the kindness Jim had shown him along their journey, and how he is the only friend Jim has.

It was a close place. I took [the letter] up, and held it in my hand. I was a-trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:

“All right, then, I’ll go to hell” — and tore it up.

So Huck decides to take up wickedness again — and steal Jim out of slavery…

A logician in hell (the prequel) July 23, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Logic.
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I was arrested for breaking the laws of logic — accused of poisoning a well (while also intending to drink from it). The trial was held in an old circus tent, before a random jury. The prosecutor delivered the following speech:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: let me begin by pointing out that the defendant is extremely ugly.

“You should also know that I have been chief prosecutor for over 100 years, and am well-respected as a leading authority on all criminal matters.

“Believe me, therefore, when I tell you that the defendant’s guilt in this case is quite certain: not only does he have no alibi for the time of the crime, he has offered no alternative suspect whatsoever — claiming that he ‘doesn’t know’ who did it! Surely, such a shameless admission of abject ignorance speaks for itself.

“As if that weren’t enough, there is solid statistical evidence against the defendant as well: meticulous studies performed over many years have consistently shown that a majority of those indicted for similar crimes were, in fact, guilty. Moreover, the last five suspects we arrested turned out to be innocent, so for this defendant to be innocent as well would be unlikely in the extreme.

“Finally, I ask you to consider the consequences of finding the defendant not guilty. First of all, such an outcome would imply that those responsible for upholding the law around these parts are incompetent — and who among you would want to live in such a society? Additionally: be assured that if this case does not end in conviction, very soon we will be unable to convict any criminals at all, so that murderers and rapists will walk our streets with impunity.

“In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: let me remind you that the defendant is really very ugly, and smells bad, too. Thank you for your attention.”

The jury applauded and the prosecutor took a bow. Just as I stood up to speak in my own defense, the jury left for lunch. Upon their return, it was announced that the jury had reached a decision: my guilt would be determined by the outcome of three sporting contests to be held between the prosecutor and myself.

In the first contest, each of us had to fight our way through an army of dummy soldiers. But while my dummies were made of iron, the prosecutor’s were made of straw. He finished first.

Next was an archery contest. I aimed carefully, and my arrow lodged only slightly below the center of the target. But when I looked over at my opponent’s attempt, I saw that he had shot at a blank wall — where a young boy was now quickly painting a target around his arrow.

For the final contest, we had to hit a ball between designated goalposts. The prosecutor succeeded with no trouble; but whenever I swung, the goalposts (which were actually flamingos) moved out of the ball’s way.

Back in court, I was asked if I had anything to say for myself; but all I could do was beg the question. Shortly thereafter, I was informed that I had been found guilty. I was sentenced to be hanged unexpectedly within the week

Have courage to use your own reason July 19, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Philosophy, Reason.
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In his 1784 essay “What is Enlightenment?”, Immanuel Kant urges us to throw off the self-imposed servility that holds us back:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself. I need not think, if I can only pay — others will easily undertake the irksome work for me.

What, then, is Enlightenment?

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. “Have courage to use your own reason!” — that is the motto of enlightenment.

If by whiskey July 17, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Logic, Religion.
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Richard Elliot Friedman and Shawna Dolansky have written a book called The Bible Now, reviewed by Adam Kirsch for The New Republic:

They have set out to explain “what the Bible has to say about the major issues of our time,” in particular “five current controversial matters: homosexuality, abortion, women’s status, capital punishment, and the earth.”

What, for instance, does the Bible have to say about homosexuality? Leviticus (20:13) seems pretty clear: “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them.” Well, that’s what it says, but what does it really mean?

Friedman and Dolansky use [other ancient Near Eastern texts] to establish “the wider cultural context” of Leviticus, from which it follows that “what the authors of Leviticus … may be prohibiting is not homosexuality as we would construe the category today but, rather, an act that they understood to rob another man of his social status by feminizing him.” Why, then, does Leviticus, uniquely among ancient Near Eastern law codes, prescribe death for both partners in homosexual acts? Friedman and Dolansky argue, quoting another Bible scholar, that it is because Leviticus “emphasizes the equality of all. It does not have the class distinctions that are in the other cultures’ laws.”

This is a remarkable performance. Before you know it, a law that unambiguously prescribes death for gay men has been turned into an example of latent egalitarianism. Friedman and Dolansky imply that it was not homosexuality the Bible wanted to condemn, but the humiliation of the passive partner. And since we no longer think of consensual sex acts as humiliating, surely the logic of the Bible itself means that homosexuality is no longer culpable: “The prohibition in the Bible applies only so long as male homosexual acts are perceived to be offensive.”

But of course, one of the main reasons why people still perceive male homosexual acts as offensive is because the Bible declares them an abomination. Though I’m sure that will now change, as soon as “the wider cultural context” is more widely known…

Speaking of controversial matters: in 1952, Mississippi lawmaker Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat gave a speech on the floor of his state legislature, explicating his position on the prohibition of alcoholic beverages:

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

(via Why Evolution is True)

Judges without hearing the other side July 14, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Freedom, Reason.
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Freedom of expression (which some people who should know better seem to be confused about) is the subject of the second chapter of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. Mill presents several different arguments against stifling the expression of opinion; the first being that

the opinion which it is attempted to suppress by authority may possibly be true. Those who desire to suppress it, of course deny its truth; but they are not infallible. They have no authority to decide the question for all mankind, and exclude every other person from the means of judging. To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility…

Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgment, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.

A possible objection to this argument might acknowledge human fallibility, but claim that since we have no choice but to let our best judgement guide our actions, in some cases we may legitimately deem it necessary to “forbid bad men to pervert society by the propagation of opinions which we regard as false and pernicious.” Mill rejects this equivalence, however:

There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.

Mill points out that all human accomplishment and progress can only be attributed to our ability to correct our mistakes — such that “wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument.” But in order for this process to work, we must always encourage discussion, on all subjects:

The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded. If the challenge is not accepted, or is accepted and the attempt fails, we are far enough from certainty still; but we have done the best that the existing state of human reason admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we may hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found when the human mind is capable of receiving it; and in the meantime we may rely on having attained such approach to truth, as is possible in our own day. This is the amount of certainty attainable by a fallible being, and this the sole way of attaining it.

Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being ‘pushed to an extreme’; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case. Strange that they should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain. To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side.

We have a method July 12, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Science.
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Carl Sagan begins his essay “Wonder and Skepticism” (published the year before he died) by describing the feelings of hope and awe that inspired him to study science as a child, leading to the joy and excitement of his career as a scientist and a popularizer of science. Sagan realizes, however, that scientific thinking remains foreign to many people, and he warns of the dangers inherent in a scientifically illiterate society:

There’s another reason I think popularizing science is important, why I try to do it. It’s a foreboding I have — maybe ill-placed — of an America in my children’s generation, or my grandchildren’s generation, when all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when we’re a service and information-processing economy; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest even grasps the issues; when the people (by “the people” I mean the broad population in a democracy) have lost the ability to set their own agendas, or even to knowledgeably question those who do set the agendas; when there is no practice in questioning those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline, unable to distinguish between what’s true and what feels good, we slide, almost without noticing, into superstition and darkness…

We have a civilization based on science and technology, and we’ve cleverly arranged things so that almost nobody understands science and technology. That is as clear a prescription for disaster as you can imagine. While we might get away with this combustible mixture of ignorance and power for a while, sooner or later it’s going to blow up in our faces. The powers of modern technology are so formidable that it’s insufficient just to say, “Well, those in charge, I’m sure, are doing a good job.” This is a democracy, and for us to make sure that the powers of science and technology are used properly and prudently, we ourselves must understand science and technology. We must be involved in the decision-making process.

Why is science so amazingly successful? How does it achieve such uncanny accuracy and predictive powers, despite our human fallibility? Sagan explains that the key to the scientific method is its “built-in error-correcting mechanisms”: arguments from authority are worthless; claims must be demonstrated; criticism is desirable; disproving previously accepted ideas is laudable.

It all comes down to experiment.

Scientists do not trust what is intuitively obvious, because intuitively obvious gets you nowhere. That the Earth is flat was once obvious. I mean, really obvious; obvious! Go out in a flat field and take a look: Is it round or flat? Don’t listen to me; go prove it to yourself. That heavier bodies fall faster than light ones was once obvious. That blood-sucking leeches cure disease was once obvious. That some people are naturally and by divine right slaves was once obvious. That the Earth is at the center of the universe was once obvious. You’re skeptical? Go out, take a look: Stars rise in the east, set in the west; here we are, stationary (do you feel the Earth whirling?); we see them going around us. We are at the center; they go around us.

The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key.

To avoid sliding into the “superstition and darkness” that Sagan feared, we must teach children to be skeptical and critical — while also preserving their willingness to evaluate new ideas with an open mind.

Science involves a seemingly self-contradictory mix of attitudes: On the one hand it requires an almost complete openness to all ideas, no matter how bizarre and weird they sound, a propensity to wonder. As I walk along, my time slows down; I shrink in the direction of motion, and I get more massive. That’s crazy! On the scale of the very small, the molecule can be in this position, in that position, but it is prohibited from being in any intermediate position. That’s wild! But the first is a statement of special relativity, and the second is a consequence of quantum mechanics. Like it or not, that’s the way the world is. If you insist that it’s ridiculous, you will be forever closed to the major findings of science. But at the same time, science requires the most vigorous and uncompromising skepticism, because the vast majority of ideas are simply wrong, and the only way you can distinguish the right from the wrong, the wheat from the chaff, is by critical experiment and analysis.

Religion has doomed Shmuley Boteach’s mind July 6, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Ethics, Religion.
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In the Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach claims that “Godlessness has doomed Britain”:

British influence in the world […] has gone off a cliff over the past century. I would argue that the new, militant atheism that is becoming characteristic of Britain is a key reason. Atheism is a philosophy of nihilism in which nothing is sacred and all is an accidental.

While it has some brief, flashy moments, life is purposeless and meaningless.

There is no soul to illuminate and no spirit to enliven — just decadent flesh. Human love is a prank played by our genes to ensure the propagation of the species, and poetry and faith are shallow distractions masking the inevitability of death. Men are insemination machines incapable of ever being truly faithful, and women are genetically programmed to seek out billionaire hedge-fund managers, the better to support their offspring.

Boteach’s ratio of stupidity to word count is so high, it’s hard to know where to begin. For starters, what exactly is “militant” about characteristic atheism? Atheists are not threatening anyone with violence or impinging upon anyone’s rights (which cannot be said of many religious activists). Why are atheist critiques of religion any more militant than Boteach’s critique of atheism?

Boteach’s screed is a textbook example of the straw man fallacy, with a generous sprinkling of non-sequiturs thrown in for good measure. Atheism is not a philosophy: it is merely the position that since there is no good evidence for the existence of any deities, there is no justification for believing in them. Apart from wishful thinking, does Boteach have any evidence for the existence of a god, or an immaterial soul that survives death, or purpose in nature? I don’t think so.

But of course, the fact that there is no god or soul or cosmic purpose does not entail that our lives are meaningless and not worth living; and I’m unfamiliar with any atheists who claim otherwise. I, for one, think that the opportunity to live in this amazing natural world and to understand it scientifically is quite precious and wonderful — in fact, I think life is far more wonderful for not being part of some cynical game set up by a dictator god. So who exactly are these nihilist atheists Boteach is talking about?

Boteach also commits the familiar fallacy of assuming that if we are the possessors of selfish genes evolved by natural selection (which is a fact), then we ought to respect our genes’ priorities and obey all our biological impulses. But we are clearly capable of making value judgements and taking actions that contravene the interests of our genes — has Boteach never heard of birth control, for instance?

After utterly misrepresenting atheistic worldviews, Boteach goes on to claim that religion is necessary for a moral society. For example, he tries to credit Christianity with abolishing slavery:

Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807 […] with Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce taking the lead against that abomination.

If slavery is such an abomination, why doesn’t the Bible condemn it instead of condoning it? Incidentally, William Wilberforce’s evangelical Christianity led him to support politically and socially repressive legislation, impinging upon free speech and workers’ rights; and here’s what he thought of women anti-slavery activists: “for ladies to meet, to publish, to go from house to house stirring up petitions — these appear to me proceedings unsuited to the female character as delineated in Scripture.”

Finally, Boteach asserts that the decline of religion in Britain is to blame for its contemporary social woes — “football hooliganism, the gratuitous degradation of women in its most-circulated publications, and one of the highest out-of-wedlock birthrates in the world.” Obviously, we would never see such horrors in a highly religious society, like the United States (where 92 percent of the population believe in God). Right?

True, America has many of these same problems, and a great deal more of its own. But the spiritual underpinnings of the American republic ensure that values are constantly debated, and that soul-searching is a never-ending element of the national discourse.

Never mind that the teenage birth rate in the U.S. is the highest in the developed world — about ten times that of predominantly secular Switzerland and the Netherlands; never mind that forty percent of Americans believe the ludicrous proposition that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”; at least America has “spiritual underpinnings”! Somehow, though, all that never-ending debating and soul-searching leads to completely warped positions on issues like gay marriage and stem-cell research and abortion…

By the way: even if it were true that religious societies are the healthiest (which it isn’t), that still wouldn’t give us any reason to think that God really exists or that any religious doctrines are actually true.

So, was any critical thinking at all employed in the writing of Boteach’s column? One might almost be forgiven for thinking that religion dooms its followers to a life of sloppy reasoning and bad argument.

Your existence offends me July 4, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Equality, Religion.

The Israeli National-Civilian Service is planning a festive event to honor its volunteers. In order to decide which singers should perform at the event, the Service conducted a survey among its men and women, and the most popular artist was Harel Skaat — so he was invited. Skaat is male, which is a necessary qualification for the job — because some of the volunteers are haredi men whose religious beliefs forbid them from hearing a woman sing (lest they be tempted to sin). However, some religious folk are still extremely upset about Skaat’s selection:

Information obtained by Ynet reveals that a group of National Service girls complained to the National-Civilian Service Administration in recent days that “an artist who does not fit the event’s nature” has been invited to the ceremony. […]

Kiryat Shmona Rabbi Zephaniah Drori, chairman of the Agudah Lehitnadvut (“The Association for Volunteering” — one of the biggest National Service contracting organizations) told religious culture magazine “Motzash”: “It’s clear that this isn’t a pleasant thing, and it’s certainly disrespectful to the National Service girls.” […]

Knesset Member Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) sent a letter on the matter to Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, whose office is in charge of the National-Civilian Service Administration. He noted that he was amazed to hear that Skaat was selected to sing.

According to Ben-Ari, religious and haredi girls serving in the National Service told him that “Harel Skaat’s personal lifestyle, which is expressed on every stage, contradicts their world of values, and inviting him to an event in their honor offends them.”

What did Skaat do to earn all this hatred?

He’s gay.

And therefore, his very existence is disrespectful and offensive to religious people. Well, you know what? I think religious bigotry is offensive. I think the protesters’ so-called “world of values” is shameful, and deserves derision, not respect. How is their behavior different from an antisemite objecting to a performer for being Jewish?


(via Religion and State in Israel)

The straw man July 2, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Belief.
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As I was walking through the emerald-green woodland one day, I came across a rather odd band of travelers. They all wore identical yellow overalls, and they marched along solemnly in a straight line, chanting melodiously as they went. The men at the head of the line chanted especially loudly, and they carried before them a shabby-looking straw man.

The procession came to a halt in front of me, and the men at the head of the line asked me if I’d like to join them.

“Where are you going?” said I.

“We’re following the Strongman!” they replied, nodding reverently towards the straw man they were holding aloft.

“What for?” I asked, rather skeptically.

They gave me a pitying look, and explained that (as everyone knows) the Strongman is great and powerful; he is the source of all good things; those who do not follow him will surely be lost; and he has promised immeasurable rewards to his loyal followers. “Why, just last week he gave courage to a coward and wisdom to a fool.”

I took another look at the ragged and limp straw man, and noticed that the people propping it up were busy stuffing straw up its sleeves and patching holes in its trousers. When I tried to move closer, I was sternly rebuffed: “Pay no attention to those men back there! Are you with us or not?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but your story doesn’t make much sense. It seems to me that your Strongman is just a straw man.”

This made the men at the head of the line very mad indeed, and they began yelling at me: “Who are you to criticize the great and powerful Strongman? What arrogance, presuming to know everything! You can go on wasting your time, wandering around with no purpose — we have important orders to follow. Get out of our way! Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Strongman!” Muttering something about a flying monkey, they raised their straw man high and marched on.

As I was about to be on my way, one of the men from farther down the line called me over. In a low whisper, he beseeched me not to judge all followers of the Strongman by those overzealous men at the front. He was certain that our whole disagreement was just a misunderstanding.

I told him that his group seemed to believe some rather strange things about this so-called Strongman, which looked like just a ragged straw man to me.

After checking that the head of the line was out of earshot, the whispering man laughed, and said that I mustn’t take what I’d heard about the Strongman literally. While he acknowledged that some of the less sophisticated members of the group might be a bit simpleminded about the subject, he claimed that many had a far more nuanced view: they understood that the Strongman was really just a metaphor. He also informed me that he and his fellow sophisticates completely opposed the war against the followers of the flying monkey.

Puzzled, I asked the whispering man why, if he thought the Strongman was just a metaphor, was he nevertheless marching behind the straw man together with the simpleminded folk? Why did he keep using the misleading term “Strongman” at all? And why was he wearing yellow overalls?

The man seemed insulted by my questions: he told me there was no need to be so rude and hostile. He would have me know that he chooses to wear yellow because it symbolizes warmth and light, and looks pretty; and at least he had a clear direction to follow, instead of wandering around aimlessly like I was. He turned away from me and fell back into line, picking up the chant of the great and powerful Strongman.

The straw-colored band marched off into the dark depths of the forest, never looking back; and I headed home.