28 June 2011


OH, FOR FOX SAKE. The Huffington Post reports on the latest salvos in the ongoing public feud between satirist Jon Stewart and conservative-bastion-of-reactionary-rhetoric-masquerading-as-journalism Faux News -- a debate which Stewart has dominated by any measure, be it factual accuracy, perceptual acuity, or humor. Specifically, Steward recently entered the lion's den by agreeing to be interviewed by Chris Wallace, and the ripple effects of that encounter continue to spread. Most recently, on his Daily Show, Stewart accurately observed that for Fox, "any editorial view that doesn't favor conservatism is elitist, but favoring conservatism is justified because it needs to be protected against liberal biases. If you question this logic, it only proves how right they are." To view the most recent hilarious video segment, simply click here.

SHYNESS. At the opposite end of the social spectrum, Susan Cain in the NYTimes poses the question -- Is Shyness an Evolutionary Tactic? Cain is careful to distinguish between introversion (a trait shown by at least 20 percent of the population) and social anxiety disorder, which is more severe and debilitating. Her analysis focuses on shyness and introversion, which is found in equal proportions in animal populations. By way of perspective, extroverts tend to be "relaxed and exploratory, make friends and take risks, both rewarding and dangerous ones .... extroverts are more likely than introverts to be hospitalized as a result of an injury, have affairs (men), and change relationships (women).

"In contrast, introverts are careful and astute, and tend to learn by observing rather than by acting .... Introverts, who tend to digest information thoroughly, stay on task, and work accurately, earn disproportionate numbers of National Merit Scholarship finalist positions and Phi Beta Kappa keys .... many of the most creative people in a range of fields are introverts who are comfortable working in solitary conditions in which they can focus attention inward .... Another advantage introverts bring to leadership is a willingness to listen to and implement other people's ideas .... The act of treating shyness as an illness obscures the value of that temperament. Ridding people of social unease need not involve pathologizing their fundamental nature, but rather urging them to use its gifts."

I would only take issue with the concept of "fundamental nature". To be sure, each of us is predisposed to a position in the continuum between extroversion and introversion. But that position is dynamic, changing over time depending on age, experience, choice, and circumstance. There are inherent advantages to either disposition. It seems to me that the best-adapted person is one who is able to shift from one to the other, as the situation and one's mood warrants.

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