E-letter: Absolute grok

It’s beginning to look a lot like warfare…. Not bomb-and-gun warfare, to be sure, but warfare, nonetheless.

For example, we elected Justin Trudeau in our quaint, non-voting-for-Justin Trudeau way; the Americans elected Donald Trump. If there are any similarities between the two, they are either very minor or I am missing something. Big-League.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

Last month Natural Resource Canada (NRC) announced new building-code changes to accommodate man-made climate change. Last week, the new director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared carbon dioxide is not a major factor in climate change. I understand those two positions to be diametric.

Once in a while I speak with or exchange e-letters with a reader that is adamantly defensive of the “Yes, there is mankind-induced climate change.” My own position is that I’m agnostic on climate change. What I see is a whirl and a mess surrounding the debate, and I see the debate. I do not, so far, see a winner.

This is a critical fact, as far as I’m concerned, since if there is no winner, then our government is preparing to spend a lot of money to boost changes in building codes unilaterally without recourse. That means compliance costs for you.

Things that concern me about the “yes” school are the declaration that it is “settled science,” where I can look back at science as recently as 50 years ago and see clearly that nothing then about science was settled. At that time, scientists were still asking questions. Accompanying this is the position that all the opposing arguments have been addressed once, and, “it’s time to move on.”

If you talk to a lawyer, the idea that an argument has been defeated already is called resjudicata, which is Latin for “already adjudicated” and not subject to appeal. For those of you that have never been to court, this attitude is irksome in the extreme, depending on which side you were on. However, it keeps people from endlessly appealing divorces and sentences.


But there are big distinctions between a judge and a politician or scientist. For one, a judge can make his decision stick. For another, he is not always coming to taxpayers to top up his slush fund.

Note that I conflated politicians and scientists. It was not an error, which should horrify scientists. However, it is a fact that both scientists and politicians work off grants of public money. It may also be a fact that the pursuit of adequate funds causes what scientists might refer to as perceptual aberrations and politicians might refer to as “mine.”

Another argument I get from the “yes” school is that the results of the “data” (whatever that is) have been independently reviewed.

One of these days I need to look into the way people understand the word “independent.” If they think it means free from bias, incorruptible and full of truth, we need to talk. As with my colleagues in the journalism community, it seems independence, objectivity and impartiality are used synonymously with each other and point straight toward “fairness,” another elusive concept.

I could use some help finding the origins of this concept of godlike judgment by the privileged elite. Seriously.

It’s not as if I haven’t tried. If you once again go back 50 years, you can see that standards in science, law and journalism were different. There was an idea that justice did not belong to the victim, who can never be made whole in many cases. Neither did justice belong to the perpetrator, whose penitence and rehabilitation still prove to be an “inside job” and not subject to outside manipulation. Justice applied to society. That is, society needed a sense that justice was being done, with all its warts and defects. We no longer have that.


What I think happened is this, in part. In 1961, novelist Robert Heinlein published a science fiction story called Stranger in a Strange Land, which became a cult classic of the drug-infested ʼ60s. Note the adjectives “science” and “fiction.” Also, it involved Martians.

In the story, Heinlein introduced the concept of a citizen of the world known as a Fair Witness. Without going into boring length, a Fair Witness was empowered to provide objective legal testimony about events he or she witnessed. They were total objectivists, reporting only the hard facts, devoid of any modification or ambiguity.

Heinlein also introduced the mental capacity known as grok. According to Heinlein’s semantics expert in the book, Dr. “Stinky” Mahmoud, “‘grok’ means ‘to understand,’ but that it also means, ‘to drink’ and ‘a hundred other English words, words which we think of as antithetical concepts. ‘Grok’ means all of these. It means ‘fear,’ it means ‘love,’ it means ‘hate’—proper hate, for by the Martian ‘map’ you cannot hate anything unless you grok it, understand it so thoroughly that you merge with it and it merges with you—then you can hate it. By hating yourself. But this implies that you love it, too, and cherish it and would not have it otherwise. Then you can hate—and (I think) Martian hate is an emotion so black that the nearest human equivalent could only be called mild distaste.”

Seriously, what is in there for a stoner not to like? It all makes perfect nonsense.

In any event, I am not confident in politicians, publicly funded scientists or the judiciary to be in possession of Absolute Truth, and I am very uncomfortable when any of the three claims to own it. You cannot be on the payroll of a government entity and be right all the time.

Which brings me back to the beginning. It is hard to imagine any two politicians more diametric than Trudeau and Trump in the Free World. Yet both are taking actions that will affect small- and medium-sized entrepreneurships financially for years to come.

It remains my opinion that our industry needs associations that are more focused, more inclusive and more active in lobbying for our interests in an era when our interests are being demonized and penalized at an increasing rate on a yearly or even weekly basis.

The problem is not that “something has to change.” The problem is that everything will.

Can you grok that?


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