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Old 04-05-2006, 06:29 PM   #1
ET Warrior
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Why are my contrymen more important?

This is something that's bothered me for a pretty long time, and the recent debate over illegal immigration has really brought it back to the forefront of my mind, and I was wondering if perhaps somebody could shed some light for me, or at least prove to me that I'm not alone in this concern.

Why is it that in general for Americans, American citizens are more important than any other citizen? I'll assume this is somewhat universal, though potentially more prevalent here with our current attitude towards foreigners. An excellent example is illegal immigration. Why is it that an illegal immigrant whose family is starving is less worthy of our governmental aid than a poor family who was born in Kentucky? Just because of their parents geographic location they are inferior? Not one of us? Different?

If Mexico were devastated by some natural disaster tomorrow hundreds of thousands of Americans wouldn't hesitate to start giving money, blood, and food in an effort to help them out, but why only after a disaster? Why can't we help them out right now? They only need help if the damage is instant? I'm well aware that we can't help EVERYONE, but the immigrants we're giving money to are actually working here. It's not like illegal immigrants just show up, steal our homes, and start sucking money out of the system, they're here providing us a service that A)most people don't even want to do, and B)they're doing it for much less than any American citizen would even think of.

This isn't just limited to illegal immigrants though. over 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq since we invaded, and how often do you hear about it? 3000 American civilians were killed 5 years ago and you STILL hear about it. Why are Americans more than 10 times more important than Iraqis?

Why are we still locked into our outdated and archaic ideas of 'us' and 'them'?

Why should it matter if someone is American, Iraqi, Mexican, Irish, Canadian, Australian, British, or any other nationality? Why do we care?


Discuss.



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Old 04-05-2006, 11:00 PM   #2
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It's just the way the human mind is wired. You have to conciously think in a manner that's contrary to it.



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Old 04-05-2006, 11:10 PM   #3
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I don't buy that the human brain is wired to know the difference between an American and a Scotsman. Or that it's wired to automatically assume that someone who lives across an arbitrary geographic border is inferior or different from those who live in the same. That is a copout answser.

I can understand that evolutionarily humans are more likely to keep wealth within a community in order to survive and increase genetic fitness. That's basic sociobiology.

However we are a more highly evolved species and we have already expanded that way of life. Where it used to be a manner of tiny close-knit communities, we expanded to have cities, empires, nations. Why can't we follow this through to it's logical conclusion where as a species we work together?



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Old 04-05-2006, 11:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ETWarrior
I don't buy that the human brain is wired to know the difference between an American and a Scotsman. Or that it's wired to automatically assume that someone who lives across an arbitrary geographic border is inferior or different from those who live in the same. That is a copout answser.
It's not wired to know the difference between the country someone is from, it is wired to care more about those similar to us or close (emotionally and/or distance-wise) to us however.



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Old 04-05-2006, 11:24 PM   #5
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See, your mistake is in believing us to be a more evolved species, when if you think about it, we've been evolving for a time that, in terms of almost everything that has gone on around us, is an eyeblink. We are barely better than the typical herd beast, only with the ability to talk, and very occasionally the ability to think.

But that is another discussion. But maybe not, because my point returns to the herd, or its offshoot- the tribe.

We care about nationality. Why? Because that's our tribe. Inside each and every one of us is a beast, a monster. The reptilian side, the less evolved part of us, if you will. Inside that portion of our minds is the ability to recognize tribes, herds, packs. Somehow, we still make that deliniation, even in this era.

What this means is, we care deeply about our own and give not a fig for the troubles and plights of others. They are "outside the tribe". (The tribe being "Americans". But ask someone who exactly is "American" and the answers will vary. Some people still are locked in the image of the American tribe as white old guys. Some have managed to include black people. The really advanced among us might recognize other ethnicities, but still, they had to have come here legally and generally, we still don't include original immigrants in 'the tribe'.

The point is, that no matter how evolved we might think our species is, we're never quite as evolved as that. The second is, politics is a game that these days appeals to the lowest common denominator. And that denominator can get very low at times.

To answer your question viz a viz the disaster, If it's something we honestly have to think about, or if it's being charitable to someone suffering, yes, we can see past the tribe. However, if we don't see 'suffering' (defined as having a natural disaster, because we all know everyday life can't be that bad... *rolling of the eyes*) then we (as a species) tend to take sides with the tribal brain and try to rationalize it.


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Old 04-06-2006, 01:50 AM   #6
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But our ability to communicate ideas, especially complex ideas, so easily is really what DOES make us such a more advanced species, because it allows us to pass large quantities of information to, by now, practically ANYONE on the globe who is willing to listen.

Our behavior is controlled by instinct much less than other creatures. We are a rapidly learning species, so we have socially evolved, far past our darwinian evolution.

And again, why is it a national thing? A nation is an arbitrary method of dividing up sections of land. And why does our natural good-will just straight practically die off at the national level? I agree that it makes sense to care more about what is happening locally to you. I care more about what happens in my apartment, and then in my town, and then my state, and then at the country level. But why doesn't it extend? Why don't we care more about North Americans first, then perhaps the Western Hemisphere, followed by everyone? Instead we see a drop down to next-to-nothing once we cross a national border, and that doesn't make sense to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jmac7142
It's not wired to know the difference between the country someone is from, it is wired to care more about those similar to us or close (emotionally and/or distance-wise) to us however.
So shouldn't somebody from Maine be more likely to care about what happens to people in Quebec than people in say Los Angeles? They know the people in Quebec just as well as the people in Los Angeles, but they are much, MUCH closer.



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Old 04-06-2006, 09:11 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ET Warrior
But our ability to communicate ideas, especially complex ideas, so easily is really what DOES make us such a more advanced species, because it allows us to pass large quantities of information to, by now, practically ANYONE on the globe who is willing to listen.
First off, yes, we can communicate vast amounts of information- this does set us apart. But how many people listen? How many people only listen to one source of information? (The news: They decide what we hear about)

Secondly, How many people are actually willing to listen? No matter what we believe, there's plenty of people out there unwilling the listen, and in my opinion they outnumber the people who do want to keep learning and caring about the world around them.

But that's evolution- one small part of the population tries something new, and if it works, eventually the rest of the species will end up doing it.

Quote:
Our behavior is controlled by instinct much less than other creatures. We are a rapidly learning species, so we have socially evolved, far past our darwinian evolution.
I think you already know my rather Hobbes-esque thoughts on humanity in general and our state of evolution in particular. Some people are less controlled by instinct, but others still rely on it as a way of making through each day.

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And again, why is it a national thing? A nation is an arbitrary method of dividing up sections of land.
I think, in our semi-evolved state, that the concious, evolving mind and the not-evolving bits of the mind make a connection there, somehow tying the idea of a nation into the idea of a tribe. Don't ask me why, I'm just trying to explain the phenomenon.

I think we are not advanced as we might think, and that we have a lack of caring built into us. Besides, culture these days is still very much centered on the idea of "It's all about me!", lending itself to a certain self-centered view of the world for a large segment of the population. Maybe. Or perhaps I'm just blithering.


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Old 04-06-2006, 12:59 PM   #8
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In a way its nothing to do with nations - as the same applies to small groups. Locals vs outsiders. Goths vs Townies. I suspect that if someone came into these forums and started causing problems then people would band together as a group.

The main problem with it is that the media and politicians love to exploit the "us and them" dynamic to get people to follow them. Its not always at all healthy.



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Old 04-06-2006, 02:32 PM   #9
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I think that's a really good point toms, in that alot of the problem probably stems from the way we raise our kids and even treat our citizens.

Through almost all of school we were compelled to say the pledge of allegiance every morning before school started. We're taught from the beginning that we're American, they aren't American, and that does prey on our instinctual feelings of 'us' and 'them'.

I think that is the biggest problem, not really the wiring of our brains, so much as the way that we're taught to take advantage of our instincts. We do recognize us versus them, but we're not born knowing who 'us' is.



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Old 04-06-2006, 05:19 PM   #10
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It seems to me that the US in general teaches a fairly isolationist/"we are the best in the world" kind of atttude. I may be mistaken on that.. and it may just be that in the UK we are very reticent about teaching any sort of national pride... but its the impression that i get from the media etc...

I guess that is why a lot of the world percieves americans as arrogant.

We could possibly do with a bit more national pride in the UK, but any time anyone tries to bolster any national pride it is always AGAINST someone else (the french, immigrants, etc..) and feels to me like it is negative rather than positive.



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Old 04-06-2006, 08:40 PM   #11
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...Yeah, but that's the MEDIA. The odds of the media accurately portraying something are... slim at best.

As it stands, effectively every major and semi-major country is probably guilty of building up what is being spoken of here in more ways than one, including subtle ways that allow its citizens to believe (erroneously) that they are above such a 'fault' (I am not entirely convinced it is a true, clear-cut fault). They most likely are not.


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Old 04-06-2006, 11:46 PM   #12
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Human life is human life. I'm sure we all agree on this.

But this goes back to Kohlberg's idea of postconventional thought - which most people never reach.

You are placed in a scenario where you have a choice between saving 1 rich man, and 10 poor men, and you are allowed only 1 choice. Who would you save?

If you were a kid, you would more than likely answer "the rich man, because he'd give me money as a reward"

As an adult however, you may form postconventional reasoning based upon ethics and morals rather than reward, which is what the postconventional level of thought bases itself upon. You might argue that saving the one rich man in turn saves hundreds of people at his company, or something of the like.

In retrospect, the choice itself doesn't matter. It is the way in which you achieve your reasoning that matters.

The problem with America is... most people never reach postconventional reasoning.

I think that illegal immigration is a problem that should be limited of course, but for those already here, I agree that if they have proven themselves decent and have a clear intent to work, and have done good work in the community, etc (i.e. not criminals), then there's no reason to persecute them.

One wrong is not enough to condemn a man.

The problem with illegal immigration is that it honestly does take away from money that legal citizens can earn. And the government does nothing about it. Wal-Mart got a slap on the wrist with an 11 million dollar fine for it's some xx billion saved in illegal immigration. Wal-Mart makes 350 billion a year in general profit. 11 million is like a prick on the finger.




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Old 04-07-2006, 02:40 AM   #13
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The government cares what nationality the person is because it takes its power to improve lives from the people that agree to live under it. In order to perform its function, it has various rules, such as laws against murder, and may or may not levy taxes to support its activities.

If the person is *not* a citizen, the goverment gains nothing from the noncitizen. Citizenship is a sort of contract; the government provides services and protection in exchange for individual support, fiscal and/or other. In this case, the illegal person has not agreed to live under the nation's laws. The illegal has not agreed to pay taxes for the common good. They have not, in fact, agreed to anything required for living under the land that is controlled by the government in question. In this situation, the illegal may even prove to be a burden on legitimate citizens, and it may be the government's job is to get rid of them so that they no longer are.

It is not the government's job to help noncitizens unless that is the will of the people, expressed through law. If the all the citizens think that trying to support every single person in the world onehanded is something they want to do, fine. It's a laudable goal, no doubt. I just don't think it's feasible if there is no obligation on the part of those being helped to give back to the country that helped them. What kind of obligation? Maybe the kind that you agree to when you sign your citizenship papers would work.


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Old 04-07-2006, 03:10 AM   #14
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I'm not discussing government Samuel Dravis. I'm discussing people. This thread isn't even about immigration, I merely used it as an example. There are plenty others, civilian death in Iraq I listed, there's also the genocides in Africa, the starving children all over the world. The average American is likely to be more concerned with the unemployment rate in the United States than genocide happening in Africa. THAT is what I'm discussing. Go talk about how the government can't support those immigrants over in the immigration thread.



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Old 04-07-2006, 03:15 AM   #15
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Use it as an example and I might talk about it. Oh well.

People don't care because it's not in front of them. It's distant. It's 'not happening' because they don't feel the effects, if any, on them. If something doesn't affect you at all it's hard to get worked up about it. You can read about massacres in the paper and all you'd have is an intellectual understanding. You wouldn't feel the meaning like you would if someone was shot in front of you. Life goes on around you as if nothing had happened, and indeed for you nothing has. Aaaand...the government doesn't care because that's not its job, just as I said.


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Old 04-07-2006, 03:42 AM   #16
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Then why does somebody in California care more about the 2000 people who died in the September 11th attacks than the train bombings in London? They're both very distant. They feel the affects of New Yorker deaths but not Londoner deaths? Why is either of the two more 'in front of them'?

I dont care about governments here. It's not what I'm talking about. It has little to do with the topic at hand. It was the first thing I said in the post right above yours.
It seems fairly obvious to me that you have missed the point of my discussion entirely, so perhaps I have not made myself clear.

I want to know what it is that makes somebody born 5 feet north of the American-Mexican border 'more important' than somebody born 5 fees south of the border.

I'm not asking why people don't care about other people. Man's inhumanity to man is a different discussion for a different time. I care about why we still have such an outdated concept as nationalism, and why there seems to be little to no effort to move beyond it. I think this is more of an American problem, as I do see efforts being made in other countries. The European Union is an excellent example of people working to eliminate national boundaries, but even there people still maintain their national pride. It may even be slightly more extreme as people try desperately to hold onto their 'culture' and 'heritage' though I'm in no position to make any real commentary on that.

But in the United States it seems the very IDEA of opening borders with Canada and Central America, working out better trade, even developing a common system of currency, is completely and totally out of the question. We can't combine the United States with Canada and Mexico because they aren't Americans.

And THAT, I feel, is a problem.



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Old 04-07-2006, 03:55 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ET Warrior
Then why does somebody in California care more about the 2000 people who died in the September 11th attacks than the train bombings in London? They're both very distant. They feel the affects of New Yorker deaths but not Londoner deaths? Why is either of the two more 'in front of them'?
They're not distant culturally. Not at all.

Quote:
I dont care about governments here. It's not what I'm talking about. It has little to do with the topic at hand. It was the first thing I said in the post right above yours.
It seems fairly obvious to me that you have missed the point of my discussion entirely, so perhaps I have not made myself clear.
Mmm....people run governments. Governments reflect the will of the people. Therefore, if the government doesn't do anything, the people must not feel particularly strong about it.

Quote:
I want to know what it is that makes somebody born 5 feet north of the American-Mexican border 'more important' than somebody born 5 fees south of the border.
They're not, objectively. Subjectively, they are.

Quote:
I care about why we still have such an outdated concept as nationalism, and why there seems to be little to no effort to move beyond it. I think this is more of an American problem, as I do see efforts being made in other countries. The European Union is an excellent example of people working to eliminate national boundaries, but even there people still maintain their national pride. It may even be slightly more extreme as people try desperately to hold onto their 'culture' and 'heritage' though I'm in no position to make any real commentary on that.
In the EU, I think that because of WW2 much of national pride has been shot down and stomped on. Those nations are very wary of nationalism. The US has never had such an experience. It's not very suprising that our reactions would be different.

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But in the United States it seems the very IDEA of opening borders with Canada and Central America, working out better trade, even developing a common system of currency, is completely and totally out of the question. We can't combine the United States with Canada and Mexico because they aren't Americans.
I don't think many people oppose better trade. We've done NAFTA, which involves both Canada and Mexico. A common currency? LOL. In the first place, I think few people would want to base this common currency on the USD for the simple reason that it's value is going down and GW keeps printing money like there's no tomorrow. It's not a question of whether it will crash if it keeps going the same direction. It's a question of when.

Second, how are you supposed to regulate currencies that can be counterfeited easier than the USD, especially when the counterfeiters can just go somewhere else in our union to do their work, outside of our police jurisdiction? A place with less scrupulous police, or an overworked/ineffective police force? Even the EU has entry requirements. If a country cannot or will not enforce a minimum basic requirement like protecting the value of the collective currency, they just don't get in.

Few in the States would support a completely different currency, I think. As I said, we have different experiences than the EU.


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Old 04-07-2006, 06:38 AM   #18
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The reason people feel the 9/11 attacks, but not the London car bombings, is that it makes them vulnerable.

Let us go back to a small scale example: would you not feel more vulnerable if there was an attack in your specific neighborhood, rather than some neighborhood in a different city?

Isolated incidents often hold little to no meaning.




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Old 04-07-2006, 09:51 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
Even the EU has entry requirements. If a country cannot or will not enforce a minimum basic requirement like protecting the value of the collective currency, they just don't get in..
I'm pretty sure I didn't say "Let's just open our borders and **** all what happens! VIVA LA FREEDOM!" Of course it would take a long time, of course it would require the the surrounding countries to meet certain requirements. But it won't happen, it won't be considered, even just with our nothern neighbors. And it's not because they're poor, and it's not because they are an inhumane society. It's because they were born in Canada, not here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
They're not distant culturally. Not at all.
Have you been to both California and New York? The two places are not that close culturally. They're certainly closer than Californians are to Londoners, but I'll go ahead and use Canada again, because Canada is basically the USA only colder, bigger, and less intent on pissing off the entire world. I'll wager that Canadian culture is so close to ours that a Californian is just as close culturally to an Ontarian as a New Yorker. Yet I KNOW that Californian will care more about the deaths of New Yorkers than the deaths of any Canadians.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
Mmm....people run governments. Governments reflect the will of the people. Therefore, if the government doesn't do anything, the people must not feel particularly strong about it.
You just looooove debating the pointless **** or something?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
They're not, objectively. Subjectively, they are.
That's great. The one key point of my argument. The thing that I am REALLY trying to understand here. Why I even made the thread. And you give me a one line, nonsense argument that doesn't even mean anything. And certainly doesn't explain WHY they're different.
"Why are they different?"
"They're different subjectively".

Can you perhaps see where my frustration is coming from? You and Mike insist on discussing my examples, but are apparently either unable to understand the core concern, or really just don't want to talk/think about it. Either way, I'm just going to stop replying to what I'm not really talking about, since I've written several lengthy posts about what specifically I am on about.



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Old 04-07-2006, 01:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ET Warrior
I'm pretty sure I didn't say "Let's just open our borders and **** all what happens! VIVA LA FREEDOM!" Of course it would take a long time, of course it would require the the surrounding countries to meet certain requirements. But it won't happen, it won't be considered, even just with our nothern neighbors. And it's not because they're poor, and it's not because they are an inhumane society. It's because they were born in Canada, not here.
It won't be considered by whom? I'd be interested in it. The general public? Perhaps when the countries you're proposing demonstrate a willingness to become so connected with us, the, ah, unwashed masses may actually think about it.

Quote:
Have you been to both California and New York? The two places are not that close culturally. They're certainly closer than Californians are to Londoners, but I'll go ahead and use Canada again, because Canada is basically the USA only colder, bigger, and less intent on pissing off the entire world. I'll wager that Canadian culture is so close to ours that a Californian is just as close culturally to an Ontarian as a New Yorker. Yet I KNOW that Californian will care more about the deaths of New Yorkers than the deaths of any Canadians.
I haven't been to Cali or New York, but I have been to D.C., many of the southern states, and Toronto. Thing about the people in the US is that they all identify as Americans. Canadians do not, however much their culture feels the same. It is quite similar btw, with the exception of the use of French. Someone that I can identify with, and who identifies with me, we have common ground and I'll probably feel their plight more sharply than one with whom I cannot.

I seem to remember quite a few non-Americans in the WTC, but their deaths were felt as much as the others. I don't think it's where they were born that matters, so much as who they identify themselves with - and where they are. Being killed on American soil makes it an American problem, because we have claimed responsibility over that piece of land.

Quote:
You just looooove debating the pointless **** or something?
My point was that if the government didn't care, then the people didn't care. If the people didn't care, then obviously the government shouldn't be expected to do anything. It may do something, but unless people want it to, it's not likely to happen.
Quote:
That's great. The one key point of my argument. The thing that I am REALLY trying to understand here. Why I even made the thread. And you give me a one line, nonsense argument that doesn't even mean anything. And certainly doesn't explain WHY they're different.
"Why are they different?"
"They're different subjectively".
I can't give you a reason for everyone, because I don't know what they think. Why is a person in my family more important than that one in another family? Or, why not? A person from another country? It could be because they don't identify themselves as being within any of our social groups. AFAIK, Canada and Europe don't exactly try to associate themselves with us. I don't know. I imagine the answer would be different for every person you might talk to. One of the benefits of subjectivity.

Quote:
Can you perhaps see where my frustration is coming from? You and Mike insist on discussing my examples, but are apparently either unable to understand the core concern, or really just don't want to talk/think about it. Either way, I'm just going to stop replying to what I'm not really talking about, since I've written several lengthy posts about what specifically I am on about.
Examples are how people take problems down into manageable chunks. Sure, we'll use them, seeing as how it's not really possible to get a concrete answer to your question on a general level. BTW, you should cool down; being angry/annoyed all the time does not help the disposition.


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Old 04-07-2006, 01:18 PM   #21
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I'm almost never angry, and very rarely annoyed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
Examples are how people take problems down into manageable chunks.
But the explanations you are giving for the examples aren't even attempting to deal with the problem I am talking about. If you don't want to / don't think you can discuss the problem, then don't clutter up the thread and attempt to push it off on some tangent that you want to talk about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samuel Dravis
I can't give you a reason for everyone
I'm not asking for specific individual reasons. I'm not asking you to explain everyone's motivation. But it is something that appears to affect most everyone to some degree, so there has to be some overarching explanation. Both toms and Uber_saber took their turn in offering up explanations for the reasoning, perhaps you should read their posts and you'll see what kind of discussion I'm looking for here.



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