Thursday, September 15, 2011

Three Identity Links

Recently I have seen three things all worth reading, and all on a roughly similar topic.

A friend of mine has an excellent blog post. I cannot describe it well enough to do it justice, but it is a very thoughtful and inspiring note on self-confidence and identity.

A philosopher-economist cuts through health-care arguments with an incisive point:

A great many ill, collapsed, etc. folks in the world are largely left to die, at least if curing them costs like a US hospital stay. ... argues above for "decent" national care, not global care. And even libertarians wouldn't leave family members to die. So everyone agrees that we heroically help some, and leave others to die. We only disagree on who falls into which category.

and expands it into a good analysis of how people are defined by 'us and them' tribal identities.

And finally, here is a comic that mocks a certain tribe.

At first, I simply thought "This is a great comic. I have never seen a better take-down of Mensa." But then I started to wonder why I liked it so much. After all, Mensa is mostly harmless, and there are more appropriate targets for mockery. Why do I feel good when someone cracks jokes at their expense?

Humans have an instinct to 'put in their place' people who become too self-important. Mensa is a social club, with an odd entrance requirement. As long as people understand that, nobody has any problems. But a lot of people who score high on an IQ test think that the test score makes them special and superior. The comic fights that attitude. Still, it was probably wrong for me to instinctively like it so much; it shows that I am still infected with tribal thinking.

PS: I am fairly sure that I have a Mensa-level IQ, but I am too much of a lazy tightwad to spend the time and money on the 'proper' IQ test to find out. I could join based on my 99th percentile GMAT score but I have no desire to. I do not consider 'high IQ' to be an important part of my identity. I remember character in a book saying something like "Being clever is nothing to be proud of. It is just something you come by, like being tall." I am pretty sure that it was one of the witches in a Terry Pratchett book, but I could not find the quote to confirm this. Anyway, it is a good thing to remember.

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