Mindsets People

A few more thoughts about the circumcision debate

I have a few more thoughts about this debate and the arguments raised in the last few days. I am sufficiently cranky this morning and more than a little annoyed at some of the responses I have received to this practice which has become a central part of who Jews are and which has served us for millennia. And, yes, the longevity of an objectionable practice doesn’t legitimise it but it also doesn’t render it anachronistic.

Parents make decisions for their children all the time. It’s part of being a parent. These decisions range from where to live, what to wear, what to eat, which community to grow up in, which religion (or not) to observe and so on.

Making an argument that kids should be able to decide things for themselves is stupid. Trying to limit that argument to things like circumcisions is also stupid. That sort of argument leads to arguments that other decisions should be left to kids and the scope of the argument increases to the point of being absurd. Our son was also a little tongue tied so we took him to a surgeon who rectified the issue with a scalpel and local anaesthetic in about 5 minutes. I think I was more traumatised and yet it was a decision we took vey early on so he could express himself better as he grows up. We didn’t leave it till he was 18 to decide, at that point, whether he wanted it done. That little bit of extra skin/whatever that is could have impeded him as he grew up and unnecessarily so. We’re taught that a bris has certain spiritual and cultural benefits. If it can be done when he is so young he won’t remember it or even feel much pain, why leave him to go through his childhood singled out because he is different or denied whatever spiritual benefit he may have? Isn’t that a cruelty too?

The argument that kids should be left to decide to have a circumcision is overly simplistic, totally black and white and lacks an appreciation of where that argument leads and ignores some of the nuances of the practice. I’ve read, for example, that the process is far less painful (if at all) for 8 day old infants because the nerve endings are not fully developed at that age and therefore less experience of pain. I don’t know for a fact that this is true, I’m not a biology person, but if this is the case then doing a circumcision at this age is far better for the child than leaving it for later.

Yes, this assumes that a circumcision would happen anyway but that assumption is a fair one given the practice’s religious significance.

Another problem with the vocal opposition to a Jewish bris (I can only really talk about this although the stuff that goes on in local rural communities strikes me as crazy mainly because of how the practice is carried out and who does the circumcisions) is that the opponents of this practice are often speaking from a perspective outside the culture that has incorporated the practice and often base their arguments on dodgy references. Also, this is a faith-based practice. If you don’t share the faith, you don’t have the necessary conceptual and experiential framework to meaningfully argue against it. You are just railing against an alien practice using a largely irrelevant or incomplete basis for your argument.

Some of the arguments I have seen in the last few days are also somewhat self-righteous and hypocritical. I appreciate sincere concern for these kids’ wellbeing and the implication that Jewish parents callously disregard their sons’ wellbeing for the sake of an anachronistic practice (I can’t think of any other implication that argument makes) is offensive and patronising. It suggests that opponents to this practice know best and us yokels should stick to our fields and farms while the intellectual and moral superiors take over and mould our cultural heritage and evolution to fit their moral view of the world. What nonsense. Just because you don’t share a person’s faith or cultural practices doesn’t mean you have the right answers or the better model.

I keep thinking back to the Rowan Atkinson skit where he is the Devil and he points out to the Christians entering Hell that “the Jews were right”. You may believe your model of the world is the right one but you can’t possibly claim that you know it to be true as an absolute certainty. You are relying on a belief as a basis to dispute other beliefs.

Business and work Photography

The Great Office Photo Wall debate

My wife and I are having a debate about my planned photo wall in my new office which I move into later this month. The idea is to have one wall in my office and one in Nastassja‘s office which will have photos relevant to what we’re doing. My thinking behind the wall in my office is to have photos of people in the Web industry who inspire me (and some people I have met). Here are a couple photos I’ve picked so far:

Lawrence Lessig

Mark Zuckerberg

Jimmy Wales

and (you might recognise this inspiring person)

M in colour

Gina doesn’t agree with my choice and thinks the photos are a little random. Her thinking is that the photos on my office wall should be more artistic than random photos of people. Another idea which came to me when debating this with Gina is to put up some of my photos. Here are a couple options which I picked out quickly (I may go out and take more photos for the office but these give you an idea of the photos I could include):

Bean There-6

Bean There-1

Bean There-5

Nokia Lumia launch-9


Nokia Lumia launch-51

What do you think? If I go the great looking photos approach, I don’t even mind including some of the more awesome (and more artistic) work by other photographers I know, like Darren Smith and Jeanette Verster, if they make their photos available. I haven’t spoken to them so this is just an idea.

Update: It looks like just about everyone agrees with Gina (and I do like that idea too) so I’ll pick out some of my photos for my office wall. Jeanette is happy to contribute some of hers so I’ll chat to her further about including some of her photos too (if you haven’t seen her work, you really should: Jeanette Verster Photography). Disclosure: Jeanette is a client at Jacobson Attorneys.

Blogs and blogging Social Web

My not so great Tumblr versus Google+ debate

Never mind the Google+ vs Facebook vs Twitter debate, there are pretty strong similarities between Google+ and Tumblr and Posterous. I used to use Posterous and Tumblr depending on my mood and closed down my Posterous site when I realised I didn’t really have a need for it given my preference for Tumblr anyway. Besides, I have a long standing WordPress blog which seems to keep ticking along and I keep thinking that is a wasted resource I should be tapping.

And then along comes Google+ and I lost myself in it for a couple weeks before emerging with a new appreciation for Twitter and Facebook and their different roles in my social Web experience. I posted a couple more times to Tumblr, tempted to finally just migrate there fully but then I would be abandoning this blog which has a larger following and has a history to it. It is basically my first real blog which I created in December 2004 and took through various incarnations in the last 5 years. That said, I still wonder just how important a long form blog is where so much sharing is on a much smaller and more dynamic scale. I haven’t exactly blogged consistently so my blog’s value to my readers has somewhat diminished in comparison to Twitter, Facebook (for personal stuff) and Google+.

Anyway, back to Tumblr. Tumblr appeals to me pretty strongly. I follow a number of blogs which I enjoy and its really easy to share posts I come across and which appeal to me. I haven’t really felt motivated to work at my Tumblr blog because its been more of a hobby to me than a serious blogging tool. Its fun, creative, inspiring. When it comes to meaningful engagement, Tumblr is a metaphorical dusty street in an old Western town complete with tumbleweed.

Aside from the lack of the sort of formatting options that are available to blogging platforms like Tumblr, Google+ has proved to be almost as capable as Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook (combined) for sharing and engagement. Granted you are pretty much locked into the Google ecosystem unless you use 3rd party browser extensions to share beyond Google+, you can still share stuff pretty easily and enjoy pretty active engagements at the same time. What Google+ does do that you can’t really do with Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter is export your Google+ data using what appear to be open standards and theoretically import that data into a compatible system. In Tumblr’s context, that is a big deal for me. I never liked the virtual lock-in you have to accept with Tumblr (thank goodness for WooThemes’ tumblr2wp service which enables you export your Tumblr blog to WordPress very effectively).

So here I am having a relatively meaningless (in the grander scheme of things) and very 21st century debate about whether I should bother maintaining my better looking and relatively independent Tumblr blog? Or should I just use Tumblr purely to consume content and switch to Google+ for the non-personal/family oriented sharing (Facebook still has that side of my social experience locked down because all my friends and family are there, not on Google+)?

As I type this I am leaning more towards Google+ for that sort of sharing going forward but tomorrow is a new day and I tend to change my mind a lot when debating these sorts of things. What do you think?