Dean Clough

August 4, 2021

Portico Darwin: I Melted Down

If you've been reading this blog and paying much attention, you might recall I am a big fan of a book by Dr. Adam Grant, "Think Again".  In a recent post, I highlighted the book's advocacy of the role of the inquisitive Scientist, vs. Preacher, Prosecutor, or Politician, especially when interacting with those whose opinions you don't share.

Today I am writing about how I recently failed miserably at being a Scientist.  OK, I often fail at it, and revert to being a preacher, prosecutor, and/or politician early and frequently in even typical discourse.  But this was worse.

I will not share the details, but we were with a friend, someone we know to lean to the political right.  This friend, while vaccinated herself, made some wildly (and objectively) incorrect assertions about the virus, the vaccine, Dr. Fauci, and pretty much everything else pandemic-related.  

Given how much I've read and studied this particular subject, this person's statements would have, at least in the past, nearly assured an explosive reaction by me.  But recently, I've improved to how I respond when I face absurdity.  I do indeed try to put on my Scientist hat, asking questions like, "Can you share with me how you arrived at that conclusion?", or "Have you been thinking about this subject a lot?".  Or my old favorite, "Do you think it's going to rain tomorrow?"

This time?  This subject?  I completely lost it.  Megaton bomb.  Being a Preacher or Politician would have been a major improvement, because here I was, screaming at my friend, in pure Prosecutor mode.  Some lowlights:


"WHAT ARE YOUR NEWS SOURCES FOR THIS NONSENSE?" (screamed while shoving some recent editions of The Economist in my friend's face)



Yes, we had been drinking.  Probably too much.  But this is a story of personal shortcoming, not of binge drinking.  I came up short in being a better person, while at the same time totally failing to convince my friend of the efficacy (and miraculous nature) of the vaccines.

I share this story for two reasons. 

One is to provide humble evidence of how hard it can be to improve oneself.  Especially since the summer of 2020, I've made a concerted effort to tamp down my more hysterical outbursts, at least on political matters.  I failed in an early test at the Murphy Manor last fall, but rebounded strongly this year, with Kissinger-level performances in some real conservative hotbeds and in the face of some pretty bad miss- and disinformation.  Not to mention weathering the election and The Big Lie that followed it. 

But despite reading Dr. Grant's book (and others), and sincerely wanting to not argue politics (much) any longer, I went 100% off the rails with my friend.  I must and will do better.  For the record, I've apologized to my friend and all is well.

The second reason for this story is in anticipation of your own interactions with "low-information" vaccine sceptics.  They're out there, and while perhaps some are now coming to their senses, there are plenty of folks, well- or mal-intentioned as they may be, that won't be getting a jab any time soon.  How will you handle it?

Will you melt down like I did?  Scream with total ineffectiveness?  Or will you ask questions and try to steer the conversation towards reality and actually persuade vs. offend?   

(I am frankly tired of fighting about climate change.  Wealth and racial justice inequality.  Guns.  1/6/21.  And now vaccines.  But my friend was wrongly the recipient of my exhaustion debating what I see as objective fact.

But I can't ask enough questions that will make me believe climate change isn't an existential crisis, wealth and racial justice inequality aren't corrosive, that guns shouldn't be regulated like cars, and that the insurrection was not an American tragedy to be transparently investigated. 

And that we shouldn't be celebrating the science-given miracle of the COVID vaccines.)

P.S.  If I put stuff in parenthesis, does it mean I'm not preaching?

News flash and this just in:  the esteemed conservative intellectual Raymond Michaels submitted a very thoughtful essay last night regarding my plea for our own Teddy Roosevelt.  There's a special edition coming where I will share this brilliant person's thoughts with you.  Much gratitude, Raymond.

Earlier this week, I mentioned the excellent Joan Jett & The Blackhearts show we attended at Stern Grove.  Dr. Doreen Downs, sounding almost tatted, rested, and ready for the mosh pit, expressed angst at not being there:

"Yikes! I missed the Joan Jett concert at Stern Grove."  

Not necessarily, Dr. Downs.  Here's the full concert - for those of you that aren't familiar Stern Grove, you may enjoy checking out a few minutes of the show, regardless of your Joan Jett fandom or lack thereof.

I often trumpet the global nature of this blog and damned straight if we didn't just yesterday get big, big news from London.  Longtime friend and the former future Mrs. Portico Darwin, Wigan's own Bo Nightingale, is finally - finally - going to walk the last mile and get married.  CONGRATS!  The date is 2 October in London.  I am working on the sales pitch now to Julie for us to attend in person.


Fun fact:  Julie herself has said for years that I get to marry Bo if anything were ever to happen to her.  Bo, I suppose that deal is off now, what with this other guy being around?

And wait, that's not all from around the world.  From Brisbane, Australia, specifically from the fairly pampered Damon Hemingway and Barry Bricks comes word of a major lockdown there, due to the Delta variant and low vaccination rates.  Pity them - we Americans would never be so foolish as to not get vaccinated, when it's so easy and so safe.  Oh, wait.   

Thank you to any one that is reading this blog.

Here is a band few know of, on a collection of B-sides, unreleased and live tracks.  But caution, there are many flat-out Killer and even Diamond Certified tracks here, so ignore at your own risk.  Here is the very much under-appreciated Sugar and their album "Besides". 

Sugar was a band and not simply a Bob Mould vehicle, although they only released two full albums, "Copper Blue" and "File Under:  Easy Listening" (both Killer).  Because there are so many top-notch unreleased songs on it, some consider "Besides" their third album.  Whatever, just know there are some real screamers on this record amongst the more melodic stuff.

Many songs on the album resonate strongly for me right now re:  America and the mess we're in, none more than the towering "Frustration".  But also several others - I hope you'll give it a listen.

About Dean Clough

Plans To Enjoy Life.