We Have to Stick Together

When any of us rise, we all rise.

I’m heartily sick of the income inequality that’s being experienced all over the world. People are suffering simply because corporate and individual greed has kept them down, and there’s no moral excuse for that. The poor are downtrodden, which is a fancy way of saying stepped on. They are oppressed, and of course that pressing comes from above.

Having grown up desperately poor, I know how many roadblocks are set in one’s path. People have been trained to assume that the economically disadvantaged got that way because of their own poor choices, laziness, criminality and/or drug abuse. Therefore, society is hesitant to give them a chance.

But those of us who grew up poor did not do so by choice. We were more likely to grow up in crime-ridden, gang-dominated areas, and are therefore presented with those paths as potential choices. If we have managed to keep our noses clean, so to speak, it’s because we have kept our heads down. Many poor people don’t present as self-confident because of this tendency to lie low, along with having borne the crushing weight of the biases of society. Who wants to hire someone who doesn’t seem self-confident? Lack of opportunities leads to even more poverty, and so the cycle continues.

Poverty means less access to health care, adequate housing, and advanced education. According to this article, poor males are twice as likely to be arrested, and poor females are five times as likely to bear children. Poor children are more likely to have divorced parents and come from homes full of family conflict.

According to Inequality.org, 55 percent of us on this planet hold just 1.3 percent of the global wealth. The richest 1 percent, those making more than a million dollars annually, hold 45.8 percent of the world’s wealth. The top 10 richest men (and yes, they’re all men, and yes, they’re all white) have more wealth than the country of Australia. And there are an additional 2745 billionaires in the world. What’s wrong with that picture?

Forget all the loopholes and tax laws. Forget sales tax and property tax and income tax. There should be only one type of tax- wealth tax. If your wealth is 354,000 times more than mine, then you should be paying 354,000 times more taxes than I do. By that philosophy, by my lazy calculations and lots of rounding, then Jeff Bezos owes this country $1,292,600,000 for the year 2020 alone. Cough it up, bro. You wouldn’t even feel it.

Most poverty could easily be fixed if the richest people in the world didn’t cling so tightly to money, and instead gave their employees a living wage. And yet none of them are going to voluntarily do so. Ever. That’s why unions are so important.

No human being on this planet needs a billion dollars in order to live a lifetime of comfort, health, and security. So why is it so important to these men to hold on to their wealth so tightly? It’s not a matter of necessity. They do so because they can.

We need to stop politically supporting the ultra-rich. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon. They control the narrative, so they control us. It’s horrifying how many poor people are duped into the support of the wealthy.

Did you think I was going to provide a solution here? I’m sorry. I am open to suggestions, though.

Meanwhile, we need to stick together. There’s strength in numbers, or the 1 percent wouldn’t be so hellbent on preventing our unity. We need to lift each other up, instead of trying to stand on those below us in order to participate in the illusion that we’re on top.

The things that I do to lift others up are mere drops in the thirsty bucket of desperation that is humanity. But at least I’m trying. According to this article, the rich give about 3 percent of their income to charity, whereas the poor give as much as 5 percent, and it’s safe to assume that they need it more. The greed of the wealthy is what kills us.

There are also ways to help people financially while hardly feeling it yourself. Since 2006, I have given 96 microloans through Kiva.org. Using the same $25 over and over and over again as the loan gets repaid, I have donated $2,525 dollars to women in 70 countries around the world. (I choose to focus on women because I believe that women tend to bear the brunt of poverty, and they also tend to invest more of their income into bettering their communities by providing increased education and health to their families.)

Twenty-five dollars may not seem like much to you or me, but consider what it would mean to a woman in Papua New Guinea, for example, where the average annual income is just US$2,400.

Here’s the story of Roselyn, the latest woman that I’ve given a loan to:

Roselyn is 45 years old and is from Kolipling village, Minj Jiwaka Province. She resides in Gerehu, Port Moresby, National Capital District.

She has been involved in rental rooms and the poultry business for more than 4 years. She is a very active woman and she also travels out of Port Moresby to do her sales at the mining sites.

Through the sale of matured birds, she will be able to make good income which supports her business. Thus, she is seeking fund assistance to expand her poultry business.

I wish Roselyn the best of luck in her endeavors, and hope my contribution makes an impact, because I truly believe that when any of us rise, we all rise. If you would like to make a Kiva microloan, check it out here. Tell ’em Barb sent you! And thanks in advance.

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Oh. My. Lard.

Certain foods bring with them a cultural bias.

I have long known that certain foods bring with them a cultural bias. For example, when I lived in the Netherlands back in the 80’s (no idea if this is still the case), people were shocked that I liked to eat corn. Consistently, they opined that corn is “pig food”, and they’d turn their nose up at it. I used to think, “Yay! More for me, then!”

I also read recently in this article that Italians have a love/hate relationship with garlic. Many of them consider it food for poor people, and avoid it as much as possible. Huh. Go figure. I love garlic. We grow it in our back yard every season.

But now I have to admit that I, too, have a cultural bias. Recently, a friend of mine (Hi, Herb!) told me that lard, made from pig fat, was ranked by scientists as the 8th healthiest food on the planet. I had an almost visceral reaction. It started with, “Have you lost your ever-loving mind?” to “You have got to be freakin’ kidding me.”

I never realized how strong my opinions about lard were. Frankly, the subject rarely comes up. But if I’m honest, I’ve always thought that lard was a disgusting, unhealthy ingredient that (I’m ashamed to admit) only poor people who were uneducated about nutrition would throw into their pie crusts, biscuits, and fry their chicken in. Just the mere word always made me feel like my arteries were hardening, and that a heart attack was imminent.

Well, shame on me. After talking to my friend, I went home and did a Google search on the subject, and several dozen articles popped up to confirm the healthy nature of lard. I’ll be darned.

An article entitled, “Lard is Healthy!” cited many reasons to bring lard back.

  • Lard is heat stable and doesn’t release free radicals into your body, as other products that are full of polyunsaturated fats do.

  • It seems that the idea that animal fats are bad for your heart is a myth. Saturated fats actually reduce the risk of heart disease.

  • It has a neutral flavor so it doesn’t change the taste of your recipes.

  • Lard is extremely inexpensive.

  • Only cod liver oil has more vitamin D than lard.

  • If you buy lard from your local farmer, it has a low carbon footprint.

  • The cholesterol in lard supports inflammation management and hormone production.

I admit that it will take me a long time to stop having a visceral reaction to lard. And I’m not the only one. It’s hard to find something labeled lard in your grocery store. If you can’t find it, look, instead, for Manteca. Same exact thing. But do look.

Manteca

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Tragedy Bias

This non-white tragedy barely caused a blip on anyone’s radar.

When Notre-Dame Cathedral burned, it seemed like the whole world cried. And rightly so. That beautiful, historic building held a special place in our hearts. Especially if you’ve had the opportunity to visit it in Paris, as I have.

Another beautiful, historic complex of buildings burned to the ground on October 31st (still October 30th here in the US). It was first built in 1429, and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And yet this tragedy barely caused a blip on anyone’s radar. I wouldn’t have even heard about it if a friend hadn’t told me. (Thanks, Mor!)

I’m talking about Shuri Castle in Okinawa. Shurijo was the palace of the Ryukyu Kingdom between 1429 and 1879. It was almost completely destroyed during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, but it was lovingly restored in 1992. Now 5 major buildings, comprising about 4,200 square meters, have been gutted by this blaze, which took 11 hours to put out.

Here is Wikipedia’s descriptions of the buildings that are now in ruins:

  • Bandokoro – located south of the Una, and paired with the Nanden, originally the main reception area, currently housing a museum. The two were built between 1621 and 1627.

  • Hokuden – the “North Hall”, located north of the Una, originally an judicial and administrative center where Sapposhi (Chinese envoys) were also received, currently housing a museum and gift-shop. Originally called the Nishi-no-udun or Giseiden, it was built around 1506–1521.

  • Nanden – the “South Hall”, formerly an entertainment area for Satsuma envoys, currently an exhibition space.

  • Seiden – the “Main Hall”, also called the State Palace, was situated to the east of the Una, but facing west towards China, and contains the throne room and royal living and ceremonial areas. The western facade includes two 4.1 meter high Dai-Ryu Chu (Great Dragon Pillars), crafted of sandstone from Yonaguni Island, and symbols of the king. The left dragon is called Ungyou, and the right is Agyou, and these motifs are replicated throughout the building including the roof. Other decorative elements include botan (peony flowers), shishi (golden dragons), and zuiun (clouds). The Shichagui (first floor) was where the king personally conducted affairs of state and ceremonies. The Usasuka was the lower area in front of where the king sat, with the Hira-usasuka (side-areas) flanking either side. The second floor included the Ufugui, the area for the queen and her attendants, and the Usasuku, the upper main throne room of the king. Behind it are the Osenmikocha, chambers where the king would pray daily. According to historical records, the Seiden was burned down and rebuilt four times (most recently in 1992), and was also used as the prayer hall for a Shinto shrine between 1923-1945.

This is heartbreaking. But I’m also struggling with a little bit of frustration, because it barely caused a ripple in the news cycle. Why is that?

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of the place. Obviously that doesn’t help. Okinawa is rather out of the way for your average tourist. And we Americans have an annoying tendency to overlook things that do not pertain to white culture.

We shortchange ourselves by having such a Eurocentric worldview. There are so many amazing places that, as UNESCO correctly points out, are part of our world heritage. When we lose one of these places, we are all the worse for it.

It’s as though non-white tragedies are somehow less significant than white ones are. I’ve written about this before. When the factory collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing 1,000 underpaid workers instantly, the story disappeared in days. If 1,000 Americans or Northern Europeans died like that, we’d be discussing it for months.

There’s something very wrong when so much history and beauty can collapse into a pile of ash, and so many people can be crushed in a factory, and no one even blinks. We can’t even be bothered to look up from our smart phones and have a moment of silence. Am I the only one who thinks this is the greatest tragedy of all?

Shuri Castle Burning

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QTIP

That’s the message you want to convey? Seriously?

Recently I got to watch a video of a conference that took place in honor of International Women’s Day. It counted as credit for a work requirement. I have to have a certain number of hours of Race and Social Justice training every year. But I was actually looking forward to seeing this video regardless of its mandatory nature. It’s refreshing to see feminist issues being addressed when you spend the bulk of your time in a male-dominated workplace.

The majority of this particular conference addressed that very concern: how does one cope in a job where women are often discounted or shunned? So, I settled back with a notepad and a pen and prepared to be enlightened.

A lot of the pearls of wisdom were things that I had already learned just out of pure survival. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Don’t try to change yourself into something you are not. It’s not only okay to be who you are, but it also brings value to your workplace. While this information was not new to me, it was comforting to have it validated.

I was also listening closely to what was being said because there was a short questionnaire that I had to fill out in order to get the training credit. They were questions you couldn’t answer unless you watched the entire conference. That makes sense. No cheating.

But of all the takeaways from this forum, I was a little befuddled by the one the training department really seemed to zero in on. The question was, “What is QTIP?”

It turned out that the subject was brought up by one of the last women to speak at the panel discussion toward the end of the video. Her main coping skill, she said, was QTIP: Quit Taking It Personally.

Sigh.

That’s their primary takeaway? The words of a woman who is propping up that male bias? Seriously?

How many times have we heard some version of QTIP?  “All you gals (and I hate the word gal, for what it’s worth) need to stop being so emotional.” “Don’t worry your pretty little heads.” “Stop being hysterical.”

Until people stop equating having emotions with weakness or a mental health issue, most women are going to be sidelined. Because most of us do have emotions. And when it comes to sexism in the workplace, we have a great deal to be pissed off and upset about.

How can you not take it personally when you’re being singled out because you’re the only woman in the room? That is personal. That’s highly freakin’ personal.

Now, I agree that how you express those feelings makes a difference. It’s never good to have your head explode during a staff meeting. But you have a right to be heard, and to speak your truth calmly and clearly.

No human should fly off the handle. It gets you nowhere. But take it personally? Heck yes. It’s personal. And anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying to you, gal. Make no mistake about that.

Ladder-of-Success

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You Are What You “Eat”

I totally get why this country is so divided. It is really easy to hang out in a news realm that confirms what you want to believe. For every Fox News, there’s a Huffington Post. For every Breitbart there’s a Natural News. If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, you might want to consider avoiding sources with such obvious agendas.

A longtime reader whom I now consider to be a friend (waving at Linda) pointed out to me that the term “You are what you eat” also applies to food of the mind. The information you take in, after all, can change who you are and the way you look at the world. If you are spoon-fed hate speech with your pablum, is it any wonder you grow up to become a skinhead?

This concept is known on a basic level by the majority of us. It’s why cults try to control their follower’s access to information. It’s why fundamentalists of every stripe want their children to only learn what they believe, regardless of whether it’s based on fact. It’s why the present Grand Poobah is trying to get us to distrust the press. Beware of those who try to prevent the spread of facts.

Our current political climate has overtaken us at a time when digital information flow is at its height. That’s a toxic intersection. It means that misinformation from both ends of the spectrum is also running rampant.

Be careful. Question everything. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Most of all, use your common sense.

Below is a handy chart that has been floating around Facebook that gives you an idea of some of the more popular media outlets and their individual biases. I am making a concerted effort to stick to that inner circle and its upper halo whenever I can. From here on out, I’m going to try to only share Facebook fodder from these sources as well. I encourage you to do the same.

That is, unless you enjoy being the human equivalent of a genetically modified organism…

news-quality

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All in a Huff over Vocabulary Reserved for Women

Recently I had a moral disagreement with someone, so I left. Later he told me that I “stomped out in a huff”. That kind of fascinated me. First of all, I would look rather silly, at the age of 51, if I “stomped” anywhere. And here I thought I was leaving out of respect for the other person. I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of 150 people, and I didn’t want there to be tension for either of us. So I took myself out of the equation.

But it did get me thinking about that phrase. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that a man stomped out in a huff. It even sounds weird. Men might retreat, or leave decisively, or take their exit or deescalate a situation, but they’re never accused of being prone to huffs.

That put me in mind of an article I read recently entitled If Women Wrote Men the Way Men Write Women, by Meg Elison. I highly recommend that you read it. It will really open your eyes to the stereotypes that we all just seem to take for granted. For example, you never hear of men gazing up adoringly at anyone. It just isn’t done.

Here are some more words or phrases that seem to only be applied to “the fairer sex.” (Ugh!)

  • Hysterical
  • Bitchy
  • Irritable
  • Brassy
  • Flaky
  • Airhead
  • Hormonal
  • Emotional
  • Tart
  • Shrill
  • Catty
  • Jail Bait
  • Blonde
  • Brunette
  • Neurotic
  • Not Bad for a Girl
  • Easy
  • Frigid
  • Asking for It
  • Moody
  • Headstrong
  • Plus Sized
  • Cat Fight
  • Gold Digger
  • Intense
  • Gossipy
  • Too Ambitious
  • Slutty
  • Little
  • Irrational
  • Touchy
  • Prude
  • Ball Buster
  • Tease
  • Sensitive
  • Loose
  • Diva
  • Shrew
  • High Strung
  • Ditsy
  • Nag
  • Fishwife
  • Bossy
  • High Maintenance
  • Nasty
  • Fretting
  • Abrasive
  • Breathless
  • Whiny
  • Pushy
  • Mousey
  • Bubbly
  • Illogical

Make no mistake. We live in a sexist society. This didn’t just happen after Trump was elected. The only difference this election made is that now there is no hiding from this fact. The people have spoken. They are okay with a leader who brags about grabbing pussies, and this has caused the scales to fall from our eyes. So now that we have a clear, unobstructed view of the disease, what are we going to do to cure it?

First of all, every woman out there should memorize the words above and strike them from her vocabulary. It’s bad enough when men use them, but it is inexcusable when we use them against each other. We have to stick together if we want to stay strong. And when anyone uses them, we all need to call that person out. We can’t move forward until this type of talk becomes socially unacceptable.

Go forth and conquer gender speech!

Ms._magazine_Cover_-_Spring-Summer_2012.jpg

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Consider the Source?

When I was young and my mother complained about being cold, I’d tell her to put on a hat because most of your body heat exits from the top of your head. Putting on a hat goes a long way toward warming you up. She would look at me funny, shake her head, and go get a jacket or drink something warm. That used to frustrate me. Did she think I was making this stuff up?

10 years later, she mentioned to my brother-in-law, who is an engineer, that she was cold. He told her to put on a hat, because… blah, blah, blah. She immediately put on a hat.

I said to her, “Now, why is it you believe him when I’ve been telling you the same thing, to no avail, for years?”

No explanation, no acknowledgment, no apology. But then my mother always did have an unquestioning faith in men, often to her downfall and everlasting regret. I tried to console myself that she was a product of her generation, but to this day when I’m not taken seriously it makes me want to screech.

Fast forward about 30 years, and I’m riding down the road with my boyfriend at the time, when he suddenly comes to a dead stop on a divided highway because he sees a school bus that is going the opposite direction come to a stop to let off some children. I hear tires skidding behind us, and horns blaring, and I say, “What are you doing?” (Actually, I was quite likely much less diplomatic than that.)

He simply says, “School bus.”

And I say, “Yeah, but it’s a divided highway! You’re not supposed to stop! You’re going to get us killed.”

Could he even hear me over the squealing of tires? Apparently so. He explained that Big John, his boss, told him he was supposed to stop. I closed my eyes and braced for impact. Fortunately everyone managed to swerve around us. (No one stopped, of course.)

Later that day, once the adrenaline had stopped pumping, I sent him a link to the Florida License Bureau rules of the road that pertains to busses stopping on divided highways.  I was right. Big John was wrong. But Big John had a body part that I did not, so apparently that gave him a certain level of legitimacy that I lacked.

Screech.

When I hear people dismiss women as silly or hysterical or emotional, or tell them not to worry their pretty little heads, it causes me to wear down my back molars. I mean, yes, it’s important to consider the source of your information before deciding if it’s worth taking seriously, but while you are doing that, you may also want to contemplate what criteria you are employing to make your decisions. Rule things out due to the source’s lack of expertise and/or biased agenda, but if you are discounting something solely due to the source’s gender or race or age, you are doing that person (and by extension, yourself), a great disservice.

confirmation-bias
[Image credit: pinterest.com]
 

“It’s Because I’m Black!”

One time I was at the front of the line at my grocery store, making my week’s purchases. Next in line was a lady with a small child, and she had a full cart as well. Behind her stood a lady with just two items. That lady said to me, “Excuse me, would you mind if I went ahead of you?

Normally I would say yes. No problem at all. I do that all the time. I even suggest it to people who don’t ask. But in this situation I would be speaking not only for myself, but for lady number two. For all I knew her child was sick or she was in a hurry, or a whole host of other possible scenarios. I tried to catch her eye to see if it was okay with her, but she would not look up. Awkward.

Before I could say even one word, lady number three sensed my hesitation and completely lost it. She started shouting in the middle of the store. “She’s only doing this because I’m black! There is no justice! It’s not right!” And she threw her two items on the ground and stormed out.

I was stunned. And I have to admit, overflowing with righteous indignation. Anyone who knows me at all would know that her race wasn’t even remotely a part of my hesitation. How dare she even think that? She didn’t even know me!

Since that day I’ve had several thoughts about that incident:

  • That was one of the few times in my life I’ve been on the receiving end of blatantly aggressive prejudice, and it did not feel good at all.
  • I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience that sort of foolishness on a daily basis throughout one’s life.
  • Because that woman had probably experienced that kind of prejudice herself all too frequently, perhaps I should cut her just the tiniest bit of slack.

But on my most colorblind days what I really think, to be honest, is that that lady had a rather severe personality disorder, and was rude and extremely hostile. So if I ever were to run into her under similar circumstances, I’m afraid my generous nature would probably take a holiday and I’d make her obnoxious butt wait her turn just like everyone else. Silly cow.

I’m quite sure her mother did not teach her to behave like that. And I’m even more sure that discourteous and aggressive behavior is not acceptable no matter who you are and what you’ve experienced in life.

Sorry, but sometimes having a genuine lack of bias can also be demonstrated by not bending over backwards for someone simply to avoid being viewed as a racist. True equality comes when the world expects you to suck it up and deal with the ugly bits of life just like the people who are standing with you in the very same line.

We are all in this together.

grocery line

(Photo credit: lehighvalleylive.com)

If I Disagree with You, It’s because You’re Wrong.

When my late sister wanted to push my buttons, she would say, “You have very strong opinions.” For decades, this put me in a place where I could not win. I wanted her approval so much that I’d try not to have strong opinions. I’d try not to have any opinions at all. I’d try to figure out exactly where I was wrong, or bad or crazy. I’d try to change who I was, and I’d fail, and therefore feel even worse about myself.

Then one day in my early 40’s it occurred to me that maybe the reason she felt that my opinions were so strong was that they weren’t being changed by her often contradictory ones. I realized that everyone is entitled to an opinion. I express my opinions, yes, but I never insist that the rest of the world agree with me. In fact, I find that in general I’m not particularly persuasive. I finally said to my sister, “Yeah, but as long as I’m not forcing those opinions on you, what difference does it make?” And just like that, after decades of what felt like pure torture to me, that particular button was never pushed again.

Opinions. Everybody’s got ‘em.

Just recently, in my internet wanderings, I was introduced to a concept called confirmation bias. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. For example, in reading about current political issues, people usually prefer sources that affirm their existing attitudes. They also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.”

I suppose I always knew that confirmation bias existed, but I never knew it had a name or that so many studies have been done about it. I’m willing to concede that every one of us is guilty of confirmation bias, but here’s where it gets dangerous: people in the throes of confirmation bias can make bad investments, poor choices, or break laws. Have you ever said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time…”

Economies have been destroyed and wars have been waged by people influenced by their own confirmation bias. It is why the concept of bloodletting persisted for 2,000 years, and why there are still people, even today, who think the world is flat, and that man has never walked on the moon. Confirmation bias is the bedrock of every cult and lunatic fringe militia on the face of the earth.

Unfortunately, it’s also a major factor in many forms of mental illness. Depressed? It will be so much easier to believe the negative things said about you, your circumstances, or the world in general, thanks to your old friend confirmation bias. Schizophrenic? It’s not that hard to find people who agree with the voices in your head. Hypochondriac? Someone will gladly confirm your diagnoses for a price, and since they agree with you, they must be more right than those doctors who are telling you that you’re fine. Paranoid? In this information age, when any nut case can have a platform to express his views (including me!), you’re bound to find “evidence” to support your conspiracy theories.

The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your confirmation bias.

  • Take the extra time to actually confirm facts. Two of my favorite websites for this are www.snopes.com, and www.factcheck.org.
  • Keep an open mind. Allow yourself to hear opposing opinions and ideas, and if they come with a boatload of documentation, you may want to take them seriously. This is called exploratory thought.
  • Take pride in being able to say, “I was wrong.” It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to do so.
  • Ask yourself if you are rejecting information simply because it doesn’t confirm your belief. Then ask yourself why it’s so important to you to maintain the belief you have.
  • Think critically and logically instead of emotionally and aggressively.
  • Continually ask yourself, “Is this information a fact, or is it an opinion or a rumor?”
  • Try to stay rational and remain calm. If you think there’s some evil international conspiracy at work, and you seem to be the only one privy to it, odds are you have a problem, because a) It’s nearly impossible for more than two people to keep a secret, and b) What are the odds that YOU are the one person on the entire planet to have been given this revelation? I mean, yeah, it could happen, but the odds are heavily stacked against you.
  • Apply the principle of Occam’s Razor. The simplest theory, the one that requires the least amount of assumptions, is often the correct one. For example, unless you live in Africa, if you see hoof prints, think horses, not zebras.
  • Think for yourself. If the evidence before you is that the emperor has no clothes, then he’s naked, regardless of what everyone around you is saying. Be careful about this, though. Make sure you’re drawing your conclusions from facts, not simply from a strong desire to see the emperor naked.

Of course, all of this is my opinion. Feel free to decide for yourself.