Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Idiots, Racists, and Sexists, Oh My!

Today, I have a topic ripe for the flaming. I am not a person to pick sides of an argument until I have sufficient data. To the surprise of many people, I believe racism and sexism to be such under-evidenced arguments. Perhaps it is there and I am merely ignorant of it, but I would expect better arguments during discussions and newscasts if that were the case. Do not confuse me with saying that racism or sexism is not bad, of course, or that it does not exist at all, but that I have not yet decided if they are hugely prevalent issues that we need to take a stand against--or, at least, in the way we are currently doing it. The media seems to portray these issues as being systemic and integrated into the very fabric of our modern lives. I am simply not yet convinced. Since it is widely discussed and proclaimed, I can honestly say I am intrigued, I am listening, and I am open to believing this is the case, but I need much more data than what is being presented.

When we talk about racism and sexism, I can almost assuredly state that the first thing that comes to your mind is whites hating blacks and men demeaning women. Does this not already indicate racism and sexism toward the white male though? The stigma is astounding and few seem to realize that racism and sexism goes both ways. In trying to discuss these issues, I am often immediately confronted with, "What do you know? You're a white male! I'm going to trust what the black female is saying!" Granted, the black female is going to have a lot more experience being treated unfairly by white male racists and sexists, but is this statement not glaringly obviously racist and sexist? In fact, it is downright infuriating that my opinions, logic, insights, ideas, and my person are so easily demeaned as useless simply because I am a white male. So I can say without a doubt, yes, sexism and racism exist. I feel it and know it every time I try to have a decent discussion regarding the topic. Even mentioning that the white male is discriminated against raises angst and hatred from non white-males. This is clearly discrimination.

Of course, I should get back to the discrimination against blacks and females, however, since they are the ones often touted as being held down in America and I am not an advocate against white male discrimination. I am an American by birth, but I am not the patriotic American that thinks we are the greatest country in the world and that we can do no wrong. We probably do some things alright, and there are many things we fail miserably at. I reserve judgement on whether or not racism and sexism is a problem in America. Obviously it exists to some extent in the same way idiots exist, but we do have a non-white president for goodness' sake and a female was a viable candidate as well. These things are not proof that such things are not a problem, of course, but they certainly are cause for an eyebrow raise or two when hearing that white men are keeping the blacks and women down. In fact, much of what is complained about is subconscious behaviors that we are supposedly not aware of.

For instance, there is a quiz one can take that will determine if we have a bias towards blacks or whites. In this test, we simply click one of two buttons if an image or word fits a particular category. One button will be for anything good or white and the other button will be for anything bad or black. Most everyone is very efficient at this including black people. As soon as we switch up the roles, however, and make one button white/bad and the other good/black, people have a much slower reaction time including blacks as well. This is to indicate that our brains are hardwired subconsciously to correlate blacks with bad and whites with good and this supposedly reveals our racist tendencies and how we even corrupt the minds of black people to see the same.

Apart from jumping straight to racism without considering other alternatives such as white being associated with happy things like weddings and black being associated with sad things like funerals, would this form of racism really tell us anything? If we say that it is true, that this is revelation of racism, does it change our day to day actions toward black people? I know for me, I have not recently defamed a black person, denied them a job, spit on them, or called them names. Whatever subconscious associations I have with the color black or black people, it has not caused me to do them any unjust harm. Perhaps there is harm being done that I am subconsciously unaware of, however. It is quite possible that whenever I see a black person I turn away and do not look at them. Or, perhaps, I stare too long. Maybe my eye twitches or I clear my throat funny. As simple as these things sound, if this happened to me every time I walked by someone of a different race, I would probably become fairly self-conscious. And yet, it may not be well known that the white male has been called racist for so many such things that I do sometimes fear what to do with my eyes when I am near a black person. Not because I am racist by any means, but because I am afraid someone will get the wrong impression if I do something characteristic of a racist white male. Racism thus affects me adversely, but racism against the white male rather than the black or female. I am not making an argument for coddling the white male, the poor little creatures, but rather to show contrast that is quite often ignored.

Despite the white male racism, I continue on with my life and I continue working with people of a multitude of ethnicities. I work with Chinese people, Mexicans, Germans, Indians, Vietnamese, French, and Russian people. I treat them all with respect, I welcome them heartily when they visit, I help them when I have the opportunity, I treat them fairly as if any other person, and I often take them out for dinners, movies, and games. If I have subconscious racist attitudes that I am not aware of, I have an extremely hard time believing that they are causing some undue harm. And the same goes toward women. I work with many women. Some of them I respect more than certain men. Some women I do not respect nearly as much as other men or other women. As far as I know, I base my opinions entirely on capability and personality. But what of personality do I prefer? Perhaps my preferences are an indication of sexism, right? I do not like overly pushy women which might mean that I prefer submissive women and this is a culturally-bred preference because white man has been trying to keep women down for ages. Perhaps, but then again I do not like pushy men either. For it to be a construct of sexism, it would have to apply only to women.

But now, when it comes to sex and lust, we really have a problem. I am not going to lie, I am just as turned on by a sexy lady as the next man. But is this due to sexism? Do I think women are inferior and this drives my sexual desire for them? Does my sexual desire and enjoyment of less raiment indication that I think they are nothing but sex objects? Well, let us contrast this with similar questions. Does my desire to whistle when I see a bird indicate that I think birds are nothing but whistles? Does my desire to give raspberries to my children indicate that I think they are nothing but bellies to be used? Of course not. I can certainly be turned on and enjoy the beauty of the female body without thinking they are worth nothing else. And because most men share in this enjoyment of the female body, it is no wonder that it is used to sell things. If men liked whistling as much as they liked sex, we would see birds doing a lot of whistling all over packaging and in video games. I do not particularly see these things as sexism. This is not, of course, to say that some men do not see women as anything but sex objects. I am positive that some men do. The question, of course, is whether this is a pervasive problem in the world that we must be up in arms about.

There are all kinds of jerks and idiots in the world. It would be intellectual suicide to think that some sexist or racist people do not exist just as we know that many people exist who suck at driving, cheat on taxes, steal from banks, and other such things. There are a lot of bad people. People sometimes flip me off as they drive and it is hugely more prevalent in certain areas. Should we band together to fight the finger? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Considering all the evils in the world, the question is whether or not racism and sexism deserve their own share of the spotlight here in America. And, of course, whether or not that spotlight should shine on blacks and females as opposed to whites and males or any other race or even transgender. I see racism just as much as I see unkindness, selfishness, and idiocy. These things will likely never disappear. I simply do not see my own personal burden as one worthy of fighting against with up-in-arms passion any more than I ought to fight against people who cut me off in traffic. As a whole, I do fight for politeness and kindness with passion but without the arms which are anything but polite and kind.

Perhaps there is a case for women and blacks, though, of which I continue to reserve judgement as to whether or not this is the case. I am not black nor female so I do not feel the personal sting that they feel but I do not see it occurring in my immediate vicinity which I would certainly be sensitive to. From my own experiences, I see white males as being more discriminated against than blacks and females in my area. This is not to say it does not exist and that it is not a problem, but that I cannot see it to know for whatever reason. Perhaps it happens more in back alleys or something. I simply need more data to know if this is true. The data that I do get, unfortunately, is riddled with interpretation. As of 2010, in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was shot by a white police officer, the population was 29.3% white and 67.4% black. And yet, people will point to the police force and express disdain for there being only 3 black officers among 50 white officers. This, of course, is interpreted as racism. Perhaps it is. I really do not know since the statistics do not speak for themselves even though many people do. It is quite possible that few black people apply to become police officers. Or, of those that do, perhaps they have ties with criminal activity when a background check is done. These kinds of statistics need to be researched before a conclusion can be made. Making the conclusion without it is itself racist and sexist against the white male. It is condemning all the white officers of racism without truly knowing. This is unfair and is damaging to their careers.

Also in Ferguson, it indicated that 86% of traffic stops were for black people. We might expect it to be only 67.4% to be representative of the population. Yet it further expresses that 93% of arrests due to traffic stops were for the black people. Is this racism, or does this indicate that truly more black people are found to have reason to be arrested? If 93% of arrests are for black people, then we would be out of our pattern-matching mind to focus equally on those rarely ever arrested. This might indicate profiling, but this must be seen in the light of a cost vs benefit analysis. If 90% of white drivers at midnight have warrants for murder, I see no problem with profiling and stopping someone for driving while white. The 10% will be inconvenienced, sure, but it does not cause them harm. Meanwhile, the 90% can be stopped from committing more atrocities. The statistics might very well indicate that the black culture is skewed toward violence, criminal activity, and disrespect for authority. If this is true, then it makes perfect sense why fewer black people would join the police force. They just might be ostracized by their friends and family for joining up with the "oppressive man." 

In truth, it could be that the black population is so racist against the white population that they are unwilling to work with the white police force and instead continue to do antisocial behavior and intimidate them. There is likely a reason that Ferguson police forces came in full riot gear and tanks when the black residence started assembling due to the killing of the black teen: the black community is notoriously violent and anti-cop. This is quite clear given the amount of looting that occurred and the fact that they started assembling, chanting, and hating before they even knew the specifics of the case and indicted the officer without a trial. The jury themselves did not indict Officer Darrel Wilson, but this is itself taken as racism. If we do not trust our system, then let us focus on fixing the system which would be more effective than looting the Ferguson's stores. If we do trust our system, then we should be ashamed of ourselves for accusing an innocent police officer.

All these stories, whether innocent or guilty, are anecdotal evidence which does not immediately equate to racism or that it is a prevalent issue. It is still very unclear from these facts and yet many people make a clear-cut decision on it. We must go further. Even if the black population is indeed criminally charged and even racist against whites, we must ask ourselves why they are this way. Is it because white men oppressed them? Is it because of their enslaved or segregated heritage? Most likely, yes, this is how it all started. But we must follow up these questions with whether or not it is continuing today. Even if they were affected by racism in years past which had repercussions up until today, this does not equate to racism today. White males may have put them into their predicament, but it may very well be that they are keeping themselves in it. Perhaps white males can help with that and perhaps they cannot. Perhaps what they need is a new Martin Luther King Jr to tell them to stop looting, thugging, and being so criminally active. Perhaps they need white men to come in and give them a hug. I have no idea what is needed or what the true problem really is. I am simply hesitant to say it is racism without more information. The data either points to black culture being notoriously violent or toward unfair charges based on race. It is impossible to know which is which and perhaps which came first if both are true.

In my discussions with people regarding these things, I am often ousted as racist or sexist for being so blind or unwilling to see the facts. Such emotional appeals are understandable when people are stressed, but the fact that I know first-hand that they are falsely accusing at least one person, myself, it makes for a case that perhaps many others are just as falsely accused due to emotion. I cannot imagine that a black person saying the things I say would be accused of racism and thus I must conclude it is because I am white that the accusations come. I must conclude that, yet again, I am experiencing racism myself. The same goes with sexism. I generally only speak about these things with proponents of the feminist movement who have already made up their mind that sexism is a big deal and thus, to them, my arguments are absurd and indicate I must be a misogynist. Looking back over the course of my life, however, I am quite certain that I treat women just as respectfully as I treat men and I have never tried to rule over them as inferior. I may find them attractive, and this is certainly due to my heterosexual nature, but that does not mean that I believe they are merely sex objects as explained previously.

When discussing misogyny, cat-calling often comes up. Women indicate that they cannot go for a walk or go anywhere without people cat-calling them. First, let me express my disdain for such behavior. It is childish, rude, and abhorrent. I am embarrassed that such men exist, and I think they need to be educated to stop such terrible behavior. But the question arises, is it sexism? Do the cat-calls originate from a feeling of superiority that men are better than women or that women are nothing but sex objects? While I may not see women as merely sex objects, for me indeed only women are potential sexual partners. There will be no chance of me cat-calling a man. By nature of this, if I were to take up the adolescent behavior of cat-calling, I would only do it toward women. This would look much like picking out one sex over another to be demeaning to and would thus look like sexism, but it really simply derives from what is sexually pleasing to me. If we want to relate it back to the birds, it would be like me chanting something stupid every time I heard birds whistle simply because I really like the sound of birds whistling. If a bird did not whistle or sounded like it was dying when it did, I would likely not utilize my stupid-chant any more than a man would cat-call a woman who was unattractive to them. So are they really cat-calling because women are nothing but sex objects, or are they calling because they like what they see? Or is there a difference? There is clearly a difference between liking what one sees and believing that that is all something or someone is good for. I see cat-calling as equivalent to giving someone the finger. It is rude, childish, demeans the person, and expresses disdain. But it is only for that one person getting the finger or the one person being cat-called.

Without further data, I cannot guarantee that cat-calling stems from misogyny. It might simply stem from idiocy and a culture of idiocy where men do not think far enough ahead to consider how their actions might make a person feel by vocally announcing their pleasure with a view. While I will not excuse their behavior and claim it is a woman's fault for the way she dresses, I can pretty much guarantee that the cat-calling will significantly decrease if they dress in moo-moos stuffed with pillows and they will significantly increase if they walk around in a leaf and pasties. Similarly, if you drive around cutting people off, one will receive more middle fingers. The amount of cat-calling is thus directly tied to the perceived beauty or sexiness by the idiot doing the calling and less about the social status of women in general. Again, seeing women in this way does not indicate that is all they are good for, but it is entirely biologically wired in to desire women for sex. Being natural or biological, of course, does not make it good, but it still will not stop. What we do with that desire is where the stupid meets the road. In order to know if this multitude of men who do the cat-calling are indeed sexist and not simply stupid, one would have to look at their interactions with other women and whether or not they are treated fairly. If they are merely sex objects, then they would likely hinder them from jobs, promotions, pay, etc.

And this is seemingly proven as well, right? I have heard many statistics of this being the case. Or, at least, that fewer women are in positions of power, fewer women are promoted, and fewer women are hired. As I mentioned with regard to racism, of course, this could have a lot to do with other things. Women happen to be the only ones capable of giving birth to children in our present day and age. And many women want and desire to be a caretaker of children and of a house like a happy fairy tale dream. That being the case, it may very well be that fewer women apply. We would need to see more statistics that clearly indicate a opportunities between men and a women where all qualifications are equal and the man is significantly chosen over the woman. Or, even more clear, would be that the women were slightly more qualified and still the men are chosen. But these statistics do not exists. All we see are statistics that indicate that men and women are not equally represented based upon the population which could have many reasons such as a significant portion of women desiring to stay at home with children. This non-representation of the population is true for many things that we do not question such as men being more likely to commit murder or rape. Just because more men are in jail for murder does not mean that misandry is prevalent and men are being falsely arrested. It simply means that men murder more. Likely, it is due to testosterone. That does not excuse it, but it gives an explanation and enables clarity that it is not sexism driving the misrepresentation of females in murder and rape accounts.

We cannot take the correlations of representation and draw conclusions about them as is so often done to fight the white male. The human mind and culture is far too complex to imagine that all things should be representative. These are merely data points in a much larger picture and we need far many more points of data before we draw a conclusion. I am sure that many women feel they are discriminated against. I, as a white male, feel very discriminated against as explained in this article. Women may feel it more, of course, but I currently have no data to support that theory. Without more evidence, I cannot believe it is true simply because many women feel it to be true. It is quite possible that women are experiencing their own culture of anti-man propaganda where they feel the need to fight against the man wherever they get a chance. I see this kind of behavior fairly regularly which makes me think it is more likely.

Again, I am not trying to make a sob-story case for the white male. I understand that we have been and potentially still are more privileged. I simply do not know the possible extent to it. If it is as huge an issue as the media is making it out to be and not simply trying to gain viewership by promoting controversial discussions, then the data needs to be a lot more clear and the arguments a lot better laid out. I am interested in knowing the truth of the matter and I will wait for it to arise while being conscious of the potential and logging it in the back of my mind. Meanwhile, I see many other issues as being more pressing: lack of education in society, superstitions overriding science causing harm to others, degraded feelings of belonging to the society causing anti-social and destructive behavior, income gap making it difficult for the poor of any race or sex to thrive, women being beaten, killed, stoned, hanged, and having their noses cut off in Muslim countries, and so on. There is some heavy stuff going on right now. Cat-calls and shootings of fleeing felons are the least of my worries unless more data surfaces to indicate the harm being done. We all suffer injustices at times. Some more than others. The question is whether or not the burden is too tough and whether or not it surpasses the burdens of others that we ought to focus on one over another. Racism, sexism, and idiocy certainly exist in all directions and in all cultures. I am most concerned with developing respect and kindness as a whole which will not be uplifted with bra-burning nor looting and will indeed encompass fairness for all sexes and races. If we focus our attention on love, the smaller issues will take care of themselves while we muster our forces to fight for the civil rights and liberty for the rest of human kind.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What if You're Wrong?


A common Christian argument along the lines of Pascal's Wager is "What if you're wrong?" If an atheist is wrong, then they are damned to hell for eternity. But if a Christian is wrong, no one is the wiser, right? They just die and get buried and no one suffers or knows. Thus, Pascal argued that one ought to wager on faith where they can gain all or lose nothing if right or wrong. But is this true? Let's really ask the question and consider the effects of Christianity if it is wrong. This is not an argument to say Christianity is indeed wrong, but it an exercise of understanding the "what if" scenario.

If Christianity is wrong....

... then uplifting faith as a way of life is harmful since it is not grounded in reality and can lead to faulty conclusions. There would be no spiritual leading toward certain things in life and having faith would be no better than a roll of the dice for guiding life. Further, by uplifting faith in this way, many people are already making even worse decisions such as literally letting Jesus take the wheel or driving without glasses to demonstrate faith that God will heal. It would allow and even encourage people to come to drastically stupid decisions such as these while producing no true benefit if God is not guiding people in this way.

... then morality is determined by humans rather than by a book. The amount of hatred that goes toward homosexuality would be unwarranted and yet many people are being ostracized for what would be no reason other than what would be a false book proclaiming it is bad. If wrong, Christianity would ultimately be fighting for rules given to them by something no more authoritative than Cinderella and it causes harm and distress to people who could otherwise live a life which harms nobody while performing acts that have nothing to do with us.

... then abortion becomes more kind. Without a concept of a soul to go to heaven or hell, then abortion becomes exceedingly kinder than bringing an unwanted person into the world. Most abortions are done by those who either do not want the child, cannot afford to take care of the child, will be set back in life due to the child, or might risk their life. Such children often become the next generation of thieves, killers, and drug addicts. The kind thing, then, is to prevent causing more probabilistic pain and suffering of the person pregnant, the child, and society. With no immortal soul and no commandment indicating that this is morally wrong, then an early-term abortion is no worse than squishing a spider and in many ways might be more moral than killing a spider who may be missed by its children and family and may have enjoyed its life. With abortion, there is no pain, no suffering, and the end result is the same as the first: non-existence. Christianity deems this immoral by Biblical decree and yet forcing the birth would indeed be far more immoral if it is false.

... then people suffer needlessly with painful terminal illnesses who will not be healed by God nor by medicine. Such people could be given death with dignity without holding out for a miraculous cure that will never come simply to demonstrate faith in God.

... then focusing on religious education and seminary would be a waste of time, money, and talent that could otherwise be used to better mankind in ways that are actually effective. Rather than praying, studying, praising, and gathering people to jointly partake of what is false, they could better spend their time researching how to cure diseases, improve technology, develop cleaner forms of travel and production methods, and help people to logically and rationally overcome harmful thinking habits.

... then uplifting supernatural ideas leads to the corruption of rational thought and guides people to consider other more harmful practices that are not based on facts. It gives rise to the idea that there is more than what we can see and measure which causes people to run after alternative concepts of medication which rely on spiritual concepts that do not exists. It causes undue harm and yet would yield no power of its own. Any perceived power would thus be a mere placebo effect and further supports harmful practices.

... then it opens the door for many scams of faith healers who do no healing yet steal life savings, prosperity doctrine teachings that also steal money yet have no effect of God blessing the giver, and even opens the doors to Nigerian scams where someone claims to be a wealthy individual in need of help from faithful people in exchange for sharing their wealth.

... then all the money you have ever donated to a church were wasted, fruitless, and supported the many problems listed above. Such money may have been more useful on children, better causes, food, clothing, education, and uplifting the spirits of others or oneself.

... then many people are born into propagating and uplifting all the above problems rather than fighting against them for a greater and more moral society.


All this being said, if Christianity is right (which, by default means God is a good God), then surely it is the better option to obey and trust God. If he says not to abort children, then we can trust him to make it work out for good. If he says he does not like homosexuality and will thus bless us greatly if we do not partake, then perhaps it is indeed worth the difficulty in overriding such desires for the greater good. If Christianity is right, then the scams may be worth the risk given the true benefits of faith. While it seems God is not blessing us in these ways either because we are not obeying or because he does not exist, it would still be better to fight for obedience than going the humanistic route since God might further punish us for avoiding the above rather than by obeying. Although, that almost seems to contradict the good God concept and I cannot personally see why a good God would not rather us live as if he did not exist to avoid all the above problems.

If indeed God is good, then I certainly argue that modern Christian is false and we should live as if he does not exist to avoid all the pitfalls of the above which are clearly prevalent today. Thus, when wagering against a good God versus any particular faith such as Christianity, then it is best to assume he doesn't exist with any benefit or reward and yet focus on morality and kindness which he will honor and respect even if we did not believe he existed. Otherwise, morality based on reward or fear is less morality and more compulsion which is not goodness itself. Thus, with a good God, we have more to gain from a humanistic atheism than a spiritualistic theism whether we win or lose. If such humanistic atheism is right, then it yields the bounty of uplifting truth and kindness. If it is wrong and a good God does exist, then such a God will love them and reward them bountifully. It is a win/win situation.

We can see, then, that there is a world-view difference of morality based upon the assumptions of Christianity being right or wrong and even of the existence of a good God. Thus, it is vitally important to do the research and to determine what truth is. For if we do not hold the proper worldview between Christianity and atheism, we will unknowingly propagate the worst possible outcomes for society. If God is real and Christianity is right, then by all means we ought to try our hardest to obey and reap the inconceivable benefits and rewards promised to us. But if it is wrong, then we had best ditch what are otherwise harmful behaviors that poison the world.

Pascal's Wager is not as clear as Christians oft make it out to be. We must not wager, but learn. And we must forever question our assumptions and continually verify that we still believe they are true and that we did not miss any data points. It is vital for the health of the world, our children, our community, and even ourselves. Ignorance is hell.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Failure Is An Option



When I was a child, I learned that I should do something right the first time or not at all. Except, not at all was generally not an option. Being prone to childish foolery, I often did not do the greatest job and I would soon learn the lesson that it would have been worth my while to do a better job the first time around. One example that comes to mind is stacking firewood. If I haphazardly threw the logs in a pile, it either resulted in falling over which caused me to undo and redo all the work I had done, or else I would be reprimanded for doing a shoddy job and being told to redo it. Either way, it was the same net effect.

For the most part, this is a good lesson. You ought to put effort into what you do and do not knowingly take shoddy shortcuts. What is strange, then, is that I have so much fear in doing something the right way. I take shortcuts whenever I think they are plausible and nearly nine times out of ten they are not. For example, I cannot count how many times I've tried to use my pocket knife as a screw driver to no avail rather than simply walking the few feet and getting a real screwdriver to begin with. And yet, if I have the cognitive powers to recognize the future futility of said shortcuts, I will often be left depressed before I even try. I know the knife will not unscrew this battery compartment and the batteries are so far away anyway, with the screw driver being in a different room it just seems utterly useless to even replace these dumb remote batteries. This has the advantage of being great at developing optimal software algorithms or unique solutions like finding a universal remote app on my phone, but I often freeze with analysis paralysis and do nothing at all. But why? Is it really that hard?

I find that I am often work-adverse today. It is not that I am particularly lazy or that I do not appreciate the rewards of a job well done. I simply have this foreboding feeling within me whenever I feel the requirement to do some kind of task no matter how small and especially if I do not know how to accomplish it perfectly the first time around. Stacking firewood might be the least of my worries today, except in cases where I have to devise where and how the stack should be placed and preserved. Pondering the options causes my brain to swim in fear of doing it wrong or sub-optimally and it causes insurmountable stress from not knowing what I do not know and thus lacking the ability to even research the proper technique. Couple this with various opinions and a variety of quality-to-cost potentials, when I finally get down to research I quickly become a wreck.

What is going on here? In short, I believe I must suffer from a fear of failure with a twist of negative emotions tied to menial tasks. My brain is so wired that small tasks are correlated with bad feelings, success is happy and golden, and failure is not only a failure to perform, but a failure of who I am as a person. I can only imagine that this wiring occurred from childhood where orders were shouted out to clean my room, finish the dishes, pick up my clothes and so on, and failures to perform properly the first time were met with indignation and lack of acceptance. My goal is not to push blame on any one person as my parents were the products of their parents and likewise my kids are becoming the product of myself. Hopefully by recognizing this weakness, I can break the trend and prevent the same miswiring of the brain in my own children. As little as I remember of my childhood, I recall a lot of frustration at my behaviors and little encouragement. This, I presume, caused me to hate myself for failure and strive only for success. If success seemed out of reach, too difficult, or riddled with confusion, I would fear doing it. Questioning and not understanding the responses to my questions often resulted in being yelled at with visible demonstration of frustration with me and my failures that it was often not worth the effort to ask.

But what is one to do with this knowledge? My lower-level thinking is already corrupt and this corruption causes me to corrupt others as well--even those I love the most. My failures are immediately equated with who I am and I have a hard time disassociated them. My kids failures are a lot like my own failures which further confounds the issue. I feel the stress of my own failure that I then lash out and teach them to behave in the same manner and solidify the same wiring mess in their brains. It is a downward spiral of self-abasement and fear that threatens to carry on for generations.

While there is clearly a problem with purposeful intent to do a poor job with full knowledge that you are doing it wrong, there should be no fear of simple misguided failure. Not knowing how to do something should not be riddled with fear and doubt. And yet, even in the workplace, there can be a significant stigma to asking questions and not knowing something. Likely, such people grew up in similar militaristic styles of "failure is not an option." But failure is an option and it is a viable option that says nothing about the individual. We all fail in many ways and it does not define us personally as a failure but rather as one who tries. And this is a good thing! The more we fail, the more we at least know we are trying.

I, like many people who suffer in this way, need to learn to accept failure as an outcome that is not negative and perhaps even positive depending on the circumstances. Still, while this is a good exercise for the high order of thinking, I am not yet entirely sure what to do with those low-level feelings of dread. Being asked to do the dishes overwhelms my senses with frustration, anger, dread, and who knows what else. I cannot remember enough of my childhood to remember what the links are in my brain, but I know they need to go. I am sure that recognition of the problem is the first step like so many other problems in the world, but what does one do with that?

A significant difficulty with this disease of sorts, is that it makes it difficult to speculate on different options of treatment. Pondering all the potentials arouses that very fear of the unknown and the surety of failure rendering any considerations nearly counterproductive. The first solution that comes to mind is meditation. Perhaps I need to meditate about doing dishes simultaneously with something I enjoy. Immediately, my brain floods with questions and concerns regarding the proper method of meditation, what I would think about, which things are more useful to ponder than others, how long I would meditate, maybe there is a better option, meditation makes me feel stupid and therefore might make matters even worse, and so on and so forth. With this ailment, it almost necessitates that someone else who knows better simply tells me what to do. I would have to implicitly trust such a person without suspecting they are a boob that cares only for their paycheck by following some checklist that undoubtedly will not work on someone as uniquely unqualified as myself. A difficult problem to be sure.

While it may be challenging to correct my own brain, hopefully I can at least work harder on protecting the brains of my children. Of course, it is still difficult to know the right way to go about it which again brings up all the fears and feelings of failure even in that regard. It is a difficult mess and a Catch 22 to be sure, but perhaps making them ever-so-slightly less neurotic than me is a win. As a first step, I think it is simply important to recognize that failure is indeed an option both for me and for others. Second, I ought to recognize that my feelings of dread are not legitimate nor useful and are probably best given a stern talking-to by my conscious voice. Or perhaps a softly-spoken talking-to. Or a compassionate and understanding talking-to. Well, shoot, who knows. I guess I have time to try them all and see where they get me. So long as I remember that failure is an option, I will just have to keep trying to see what rewires my brain. It feels like such a daunting task already that I feel like retreating and taking a nap even now.

I write all this not particularly for demonstrating my failure as a human being which is, of course, how my brain is predisposed to conclude, but rather to enlighten others regarding this type of brain failure along with providing insight into the cause. If there are others who feel this way, I hope this can be some encouragement that they are not failures for these things alone. There are probably many reasons as to why they are failures. I mean, wait, no, that did not come out right. In short, if more people are aware of this common brain malfunction, then more people can support those who suffer from it. And for those who are afflicted, hopefully they might find consolation in knowing they are not alone and find encouragement to fail with pride as it means they tried. Whoa, that is good. I am going to use that...

"Fail with pride as it means you've tried."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Day Is Too Late To Vote

Many Americans are proud of democracy and they encourage everyone to vote come election day. We are fed the concept that our voice matters and that we must vote in order to be heard. But I contend that election day is too late to vote. Come election day, your opinion no longer matters. Minds have been made up and people will vote not for candidates, but for the best political campaign. It has been an outstanding joke for decades that we vote for the lesser of two evils and yet our system has not improved. Everyone knows that it is the rich who get voted for because it is the rich who can bring about the best campaign. And the richest people, of course, are those in the pockets of big business who bring low the very people voting for them. We call this democracy? We call this good? I call it brainwashing and voting for the best brain-washers.

Any party who is not red or blue is an absolute joke. Write-ins are so useless that they are not even a funny joke. There is nothing to be proud of by going to a poll and voting. Not that we should not do it, of course, since votes are still needed, but if that is all we are doing then we are making a fool of democracy. By the time the polls are open, everything has already been set in motion. The previous years of media and the campaign ads have already had their full effect on the masses. The best campaign is already sure to win. If we think we are going to make a difference by putting our single vote toward what we think is best, we are absolutely fooling ourselves. No, we must vote before the elections and before the campaigns. We must vote with our values, our time, our effort, and especially our money.

The only way an individual vote counts is if it spreads to thousands of other people. This cannot occur without a true voice speaking out about what we value and why. We cannot hide in our houses and watch the world crumble then decide to vote and hope to make a change. The real change happens on a day to day basis. If we think that education in America is terrible, then we need to put effort into voicing this concept along with potential alternatives and hope it virally sweeps the nation so that big corporations wishing to make a buck by showing Americans what they want to see will pick up on it and advocate it all the more. You see, if we as Americans all want shows filled with fluffy bunnies and unicorns, the media will give that to us. If we want wars, fighting, killing, drama and suspense, they will give us that. But if we want values, love, fairness, equality, and well-being, our media will just as easily switch to that and give us what we truly desire.

Media panders to trends and makes trends more trendy. If we start a new trend of values, the media can and will make it all the more popular. When this happens, people will then vote based upon these new-found values. The party lines will then choose candidates that will best appeal to these trends and they will focus more on those values. Then, and only then, can we vote for someone worthwhile. Come election day, it is far too late to vote. We must vote daily and purposefully by rejecting trashy media, hearsay, false science, idiocy, rudeness, and the like. We must be vocal with such things while uplifting patience, education, kindness, intelligence, and other positive values. That is where the real power in voting exists. We vote with our time, our money, and our voices daily. Election day is too late. We must vote with our lives.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Wise The Fudge Up

People tend to avoid conflict as much as is possible and to join the crowd that seems most beneficial in avoiding their own suffering while emphasizing their own acceptance. Sure, there are outliers, and some people seek conflict for thrill, but the average person tends to reserve themselves in the face of adversity. This is, to some degree, a bad thing. People tend to allow bad things to continue simply to avoid a fight. But this can also work to our advantage in order to change the culture around us.

Deep down, people generally know if they are doing something that is wrong. This concept of wrong can come from culture, religion, law, or morality. When children do something wrong, the first they they do is look at the authority: teacher, parent, police officer, etc. They are extremely susceptible at that moment to soak up the response and forever gauge their future moves. If the authority does not notice, they learn they can get away with it and, if beneficial, they might do it again. If they see the authority noticed but did nothing in response, they might learn that this is acceptable behavior and do it all the more. If the authority responds in anger, they might learn to do such actions in secret. Depending on the age of the child and the cognitive powers of thought, if the authority explains the gravity of the behavior and the detrimental affects of the action, the child might instead feel ashamed and choose not to do it again.

This is a gross oversimplification of human behavior, of course, and old habits die hard. If a child has gotten away with something ten times in the past, it might take another hundred times of being called out before they recognize that it is not worth the risk. It also might simply take a hundred times for their brain to process the data and give forethought to their actions. It also may have a lot to do with whether or not the person calling them out is respected. A sibling, depending on the relationship, may not be as respected as a parent and thus the offending behavior might encourage it all the more. Such sour relationships are generally due to previous encounters of malevolence which can be difficult to mend. Mending, of course, requires extreme benevolence even in the face of adversity. No one can win an enemy over with rudeness or brute force. I have yet to hear of anyone respond to insult with, "You know, you are right, I am a bit of an expletive. Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. Let me just agree with you now and we can be friends." Or perhaps, "The collision of your fist with my face has shown me that I am wrong, please forgive me and let us be friends."

It is a fairly well-known fact, if often ignored, that violence begets violence. It is more unknown that refutation and argumentation further drives a person into their belief in a subconscious effort to save face. And yet, this is what is most commonly seen in forums and on Facebook. One person says left, the other person says the first person is a moron and that it is clearly right, the first person retorts who the true idiot is with a few facts, the second person ignores the facts and responds to the accusations equating him to body parts used for excreting wastes while supplying different facts which will also be ignored, ad infinitum. This clearly does not work and it amazes me that grown adults still function in this manner. What are you trying to do? What is your goal? Sincerely consider this. Do you simply get a high off bashing people or are you truly trying to make your point heard and understood? This behavior will not convince an opponent and it will encourage people of your point of view to exhibit the same behavior out of a subconscious drive for acceptance. The other people from the other point of view will do this as well and both sides will feel perfectly justified and accepted in their own little bubbles. This is clearly evidenced in the Democrats versus Republicans conflict which divides our nation quite nearly equally.

Both sides of the argument will thus become more solidified in their position, more angry toward the opposition, and both sides will become blind to reason and facts. Again, see politics. Is this what we want for our culture??

CUT IT OUT!!

Culture is in our own hands. We decide what is acceptable and what is not. If we continue in this behavior, we will continue to divide our people and nothing will get done. Through disagreement, we must remain courteous in order to come to agreement over time. It is possible, but only with the recognition that we are each responsible to rectify the situation even in small matters. We must learn to value open, honest, and friendly conversation. We must learn to demonstrate it ourselves and to call others out who do not. This is where the avoidance of adversity comes to play. Angry people will not avoid adversity but ashamed people and neutral people will. Politely (i.e. without insult) call out the bad behavior and perhaps explain the ill effects. There will likely be excuses or perhaps even a retort of accusation, but this is to be expected. It may warrant more thoughtful and kind communication, but often times it might be sufficient to have simply said something once. The person might come to ponder the concept and begin to change at his or her own pace once removed from the situation.

We cannot simply ignore people who name-call, threat, act racist or sexist, or otherwise behave belligerently and immorally. They must realize that it is not helpful, it is not acceptable, and it certainly does not put them in the category of cool people. It is not what we want for our culture. Other people who read or hear our words can also learn that there are people who do not find such behavior acceptable. Even if the person we called out does not respond or change, it will help subside the effects of others joining in to the poor behavior. They will naturally avoid the conflict and negative feelings they would derive from a person who appears to value politeness and friendly discussion. They might even learn to call others out themselves in a friendly way. The more we uplift kindness, compassion, and understanding, and merely explain that we do not value name-calling, threats, and the tactics of brute ape-men who never left their caves, the more we will shape our culture around us. Even the vastness of the internet can learn from our examples over time, but this will clearly have the greatest effect in our immediate circles.

We must press values and deride the valueless as opposed to merely ignoring it. People are terrible at taking hints. They need to hear simple phrases like, "I do not find insults to be very effective in coming toward agreement" or "until I hear both sides of a story, I do not like to make judgement against a person based upon one person's perspective." Sometimes it may even need to be more directed, "That kind of behavior toward others is repulsive to me. I do not take joy in it whatsoever" or "I do not find sexism entertaining or cool by any stretch of the imagination." Clearly, circumstances will dictate the necessary response, but we must do something rather than nothing. Human nature, as Margaret Heffernan points out in her book Willful Blindness, will have people engage and copy others in their poor behavior simply because nobody speaks up. They will join the crowd. They will do what is culturally acceptable even if it is normally outside their character. Over time, good people turn bad when surrounded by bad behavior. It is a common adage that bad company corrupts good judgement. We must make it clear that cavemen and cave-women do not have control over what is cool and what is culturally acceptable. Those with loving and kind values need to direct our culture and we need to show how it is done.

Speak up. Kindly. Even if it is a single sentence, our demonstrating a lack of acceptance of bad behavior will have a strong effect in the world around us making it safer and more tolerable for us all. Silence will continue our decline toward hate, intolerance, and a country divided.


~Comments in Facebook flitter and die, comment below to be heard for all time~

~Knowledge is good, sharing is better~

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Whom Shall I Trust?

Let's face it, most of us couldn't science our way out of a paper bag (it's considered cool to use science as a verb now if you didn't know). And for those of us who could, we're often left without the ability to do so. If we take the supposed controversy over vaccines, for example, I know the proper method to test them and verify them, and I know if my results are acceptable or not. That doesn't help me, however, unless I can actually perform the studies myself--which I can't. Instead, I must rely on the data presented to me. But what of conflicting data? What about lack of data? How do I know if the data was obtained properly? There's truly so little to go on sometimes that it turns into a gigantic spat of "nuh uh" and "uh huh". How can we possibly make sense of any of this whether we can science or not?

I would like to think that we can trust the official governmental sources. If we can't trust them, who can we trust? And yet, how can we trust them when they are clearly more moronic at times than my 9-year-old son? Even he knows that the temperature on Mars is vastly different than Earth and yet we get such gems as "I will simply point out that I think in academia, we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that." This was quipped by Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith. This is someone who has influence on the direction of the state of Kentucky and even in the United States. And yet he failed third grade astronomy?

It is possible to take Brandon's remark to mean that the temperature behaves the same as it does here and not that the temperature itself is the same value, but even that is quite the stretch and could not possibly be backed up scientifically. And yet, he appealed to academia as if everyone agrees with his position in order to strengthen his words in the eyes of those who will not question if indeed everyone agrees. We do not have such long-term data regarding temperature for Mars. We hardly have such data for Earth. There is no possible way to determine that they are the same in behavior. All we really know right now is that Mars is extremely cold compared to Earth. This, of course, due to its distance from the sun and lack of atmosphere.

Or do we even know that? I never personally went to Mars. In fact, I've never even seen it. As far as I truly know, Mars does not exist. I take it upon trust that people are not lying to me when they say it exists. I am told that Pluto is orbiting our sun and even Eris beyond that. I could not possibly know these things except by scientists telling me it is so. I take their word for it. And not even their word directly, but the word of others who claim on behalf of the scientists that they have evidence to prove its existence. The data and knowledge I receive are far too removed for me to make claims of absolute knowledge. And yet I am willing to claim these things as true simply because the majority of people have tended to agree and there seems few people willing to dispute the claims.

This removal from the words of the scientists may not be a huge deal when it comes to the physical existence of a dwarf planet circling our flaming ball of gas in the sky, but when it comes to vaccines, autism, and spurious correlations, it becomes an increasingly huge deal. A statement that there seems to be a link between ice cream consumption and drowning is often twisted by our media with the phrase, "ice cream might lead to drowning." This is nowhere near the truth. This is correlation and not causation. Summer months lead to hotter temperatures. Hotter temperatures lead to increases in both swimming and consumption of ice cream and thus they rise together. It is the weather that leads to more drownings since there are more people swimming when it warms up. Ice cream aside, this removal from the literal words of the scientists can have severely detrimental effects when it comes to things as important as vaccines and autism.

In the end, we tend to believe as the majority of people around us believes. But we need to rethink this principle. For important matters, we cannot simply trust those near to us without further thought. The chances are too great that they also simply trusted the people around them and they, too, trusted those around them, and so on. And yet, we can't trust our Senators to know that the temperature of Mars is colder than Earth, so who should we trust? Specialists. And not just any specialists. We need to trust the majority of specialists in their particular field. It's also important to trust the majority of specialists in their field who are not financially or egotistically motivated. That makes things rather difficult since we then need to trust the data we receive that tells us whether or not a person is financially or egotistically invested in an opinion. And to trust them, we need to know if they, too, are financially or egotistically compromised.

So how can we know? How can we really, really, know? Ultimately, we cannot know anything beyond our own existence from the mere fact that we think. This should be more comforting than it sounds. Clearly we are comfortable with the amount of knowing that we have for many things. We are comfortable with our perceptions of existence, the people around us, the sun, the grass, the moon. Sure, we could be in one intensely creative matrix being ruled by machines as we dream in a collective universe, but not many people are all that concerned with this potential. In a similar fashion, we probably shouldn't be so concerned with absolute knowledge of anything. No solution for whom to trust is going to be a perfect one, but it can be an effective one that is more likely to come up with good results than any other.

My personal trust mechanism works by asking the following questions and tallying up the pluses and minuses:

1. Is the person logically sound in their own right?
2. Is the person equally knowledgeable about the subject as his opposition?
3. Does the person lack financial ties to his position?
4. Does the person lack prestige for his position?
5. Do the majority of specialists in this field agree with him?
6. Is the science behind the opposition inconclusive, illogical, and/or irrational?
7. Has the person demonstrated himself as trustworthy and/or correctable?
8. Do the belief's benefits outweigh the risks?
9. Does the person's opposition respond with hate and emotion rather than logic?
10. Was the sample size of the data large enough to warrant significance?

Not one of these items are a standalone reason to believe a person or a position and some of them weigh heavier on the decision than others. If a person is not logically sound, they may still be right but not for the reasons they think they are. If they are logically sound, they may still be missing data or falsely attributing a value that makes it appear sound even though it is false. A person may not have equal knowledge about a subject, but if they are sound in their argumentation with what knowledge they have, and if it appears the argument is not soundly refuted by those more experienced, then it may be worthwhile to give it a listen. If people tend to get angry with someone's position rather than responding rationally, then there's a good chance there is little logical refutation to be had. There are probably many other factors that I use in determining the truth of what I hear, but these are the ones that come quickly to mind.

It's probably wise to also include a list of what NOT to heed for making a decision:

1. Anecdotes--a person's experience is not proof of anything on its own
2. Appeals to History--just because it's been perceived this way doesn't mean it should be.
3. Straw Men--is the argument really against what it claims to be against?
4. Power--a single person in a powerful position does not equate to knowledge and understanding
5. Faith--people lie about their faith all the time and many are deceived by their own faith
6. Hearsay--just because someone heard that a study showed something doesn't mean it happened or was accurate
7. Appeal--just because something is appealing doesn't mean it's true
7. Politicians--not just that they lie, but they're very skilled at being appealing and mangling words to deceive
8. Lawyers--they need to win their case and they'll misconstrue data or insert doubt to do so
9. Marketing--they know what makes you tick and spurs your brain to desire. Keep away!
10. Single-Source News--viewers make them money. They show and say what makes them money. You don't get the full story, you get entertainment.

These things should not even be part of an assessment. Not that we should ignore all politicians, but we should not believe them simply because they are. And just because someone advertised it on TV doesn't mean it's true by any stretch of the imagination and it should require that much more evidence since it is likely lining someone's pocket. Only the rich can advertise effectively and easily. And they're rich because they know how to make money off people. Do not ever listen to advertising. Do your own research. Advertisers lie, cheat, and steal. Politicians and lawyers do the same. They're out to make money or to obtain votes. They are highly compromised in what they say. Don't ever take anything for granted from them.

Lastly, keep in mind the ridiculousness of non-entities. Concepts like "Big Pharma" act as if doctors and scientists all benefit from lies. The people doing the studies on things like vaccines are often not the people who will benefit from the sales of vaccines. Or if there's some huge governmental conspiracy, the people doing the studies are generally not going to be the ones in on it. Putting a name on something that doesn't exist serves only to confuse. There might be a particular company that benefits from vaccines so it would be wise to look into whether or not that specific company is the one doing the research or if people independent of them are gathering the data. Every single doctor and researcher cannot be considered one giant entity that all benefits. Get specifics, and reject generalities.

That's my two cents, but... can you trust me?!

Monday, October 27, 2014

For Women's Sake, Keep the Tropes

Equality for women is an important and extremely touchy subject. Let's start off by defining the problem. The number one problem for women is being treated as inferior than men as a person. They are treated as objects to be owned or possessed as opposed to human beings with rights and value in and of themselves. I would like to clarify that we are talking about value or inferiority as a human being. Inferiority can come in many ways. I am an inferior cook to Alton Brown. I am an inferior chess player to Bobby Fischer. I am stupendously inferior in strength to Brian Shaw. When it comes to value, however, this is not how we rate people. I don't see Alton Brown, Bobby Fischer, or Brian Shaw as better people than others simply because they excel at a particular skill set. This is not (or at least should not be) how value is prescribed. Thus, the statement that women, in general as a collective, are weaker than men is not a value judgement. It's a fact. In our culture nowadays, however, my simply having stated this fact causes outrage and opposition from many people both men and women alike.  This demonstrates the ultimate failure of the movement in my eyes.

I am currently devoting my life toward improving equal treatment for all of humanity. This includes women, of course. I do not appreciate the belittling of women and their being treated as objects any more than the next feminist. But we need to recognize the root causes and ensure we are fighting the proper fight. Again, the problem is women being treated unfairly and being viewed as inferior. The problem is not that we recognize a weakness. Men, as a collective whole, have many weaknesses as well. They tend to be more prone to emotional displays of anger. They tend to be more susceptible to crime accounting for 90% of all homicides. This is neither sexist nor misandrist to mention. It's simply and neutrally true. Women tend to be weaker in strength and more prone to emotions that result in crying. This is not misogyny, these are facts and they may or may not be true for any one particular person. It's what we do with the facts that is important.

People can use any of these facts against men or women and proclaim superiority. Women can proclaim they are better than men because they are not going around getting so angry and killing each other. Men can proclaim their superiority because they can lift a microwave up three flights of stairs with ease. But our value is not defined by our skills nor by our majority group's propensities. I am not a murderer even if 90% of all homicides are conducted by men. My wife is not an unlovable weakling simply because the vast majority of women are not very strong. My wife is loving, caring, honest, and an overall good person. I do not care one iota if she is weaker than me. I do not define her value in this way. It's important that we recognize the problem against women as a problem of values. It's a problem of treatment. It's not a problem of depiction of skills. It may be a problem of stereotyping untrue facts, but this goes back to how we treat women based upon the stereotypes whether true or not.

Unfortunately, the current course of feminism focuses on many unimportant things in my opinion, and this is causing a pendulum swing so hard that it has negative consequences. I have found that merely mentioning differences between men and women is akin to an act of murder. People gasp, glare, point fingers and accuse me of misogyny. People are blinded to rationality because they fear offending someone with facts. It is my take, however, that we can only learn to live in harmony when people start looking squarely in the face of facts. We cannot be so emotionally charged or worried that it causes facts to be ignored. Looking at the facts can enable us to be all the more kind by covering for the weaknesses of another. Knowing that men are prone to anger, perhaps a woman can better diffuse the situation. This is an hypothesis, not a statement of fact. It's a potential example. Similarly, if a man sees a woman carrying something up a flight of stairs, he can use his knowledge of women to recognize that she might be struggling more than she is letting on and that it would be extremely kind to help her even if it seems she is handling it just fine. Due to the current fear of sexism, some people even take this as an insult. It's not a value judgement to help or to offer help to someone; it is called kindness. This is what we want more of in our society and we're making it go the other direction by reading into things that aren't there.

So what does this all have to do with tropes? Tropes are common or overly-used themes. Anita Sarkeesian focuses a lot of her attention on tropes in video games such as women being captured and having a man come to the rescue. This is indeed pretty common and Super Mario Brothers is a good example. King Koopa kidnaps Princess Peach as she helplessly flails in Koopa's grasp while Mario comes to the rescue time and time again. Prince of Persia is a game about a prince rescuing a princess. Star Fox Adventures is a game about Fox McCloud saving the helpless female Krystal who had been captured. Seemingly even worse is that the game was originally designed such that Krystal was the heroine of her own game, Dinosaur Planet, until Shigeru Miyamoto decided to turn it into a new form of Star Fox and made a male fox the star role.

There are many such games which is why it is called a trope. Anita, as well as many feminists, find this despicable. I would like to change the perception, however, and say that it is actually beneficial for women. Fighting such tropes is partially detrimental to their cause. I say partially because it at least opens a conversation and begins the healing process. However, I think it attacks the wrong problem which harms their cause in multiple ways. The first way it is harmful is by expending energy on something that is not the problem while the energy could be better utilized somewhere else that actually does address the problem. The second way this is harmful is that people who do not see this as a problem will be quick to judge the efforts as futile, petty, and even as an unwarranted attack against men. Allow me to explain further.

Star Fox Adventures, as Anita points out in one of her videos, was originally Dinosaur Planet and had a female Fox named Krystal as the main protagonist. Shigeru Miyamoto, upon seeing the game, made the decision to re-purpose it for a new Star Fox Adventures game. This gave Krystal a back seat stuck, ironically, in a crystal, and awaiting her male hero to arrive and rescue her. In expressing disdain for this decision as upholding a trope against women and giving women a back seat, this is clearly accusing Shigeru of foul play to some extent. Shigeru is an amazing producer who has produced such games as Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Mario Kart, Zelda, Kirby, Star Fox, and Metroid. These accomplishments are not to devoid him blame, of course, but these extremely popular and best-selling games indicate that Shigeru knows what is good for the business. Of course, what is good for the business is also not to remove them of responsibility. The point I'm making is that he may not have had any intention whatsoever to devalue women. It likely did not cross his mind that it's terrible for a woman to be the hero and we'd better nip that in the butt before women start getting ideas. I'm willing to bet on it. After all, Samus Aran is the heroine of Metroid which he also produced.

Likely, what was going through Shigeru's mind was that the game, Dinosaur Planet, would be greatly supported by running with the franchise of Star Fox. It was already similar and would probably sell hundreds of thousands more be leveraging an already successful game. This is business intelligence. In fact, I purchased Star Fox Adventures with enthusiasm in order to run around as Fox McCloud in third person beating up bad guys. I loved Star Fox as a kid and I was thrilled to continue my adventures with him. I was a college student with very little money. I would not have purchased a game called Dinosaur Planet because it would not have appealed to my familiarity and childhood experiences and would have been a larger gamble as to whether or not I would enjoy it. I would not have rejected it for the protagonist being female. It had nothing to do with women and yet Shigeru is now being accused of treating women poorly. There is a real problem with misogyny where women are beaten, mistreated, raped, threatened, and forced into submission. And here we're worried about Shigeru of all people? This is a slap in the face to Shigeru and is entirely unwarranted by this evidence alone. But what of the trope itself? Perhaps Shigeru is unwittingly a mere pawn in this game of misogyny and encourages misogynistic behavior even if he is not a misogynist himself?

At this point, we need to honestly ask the question, "Is the trope of capturing women and rescuing them good, bad, or neutral for women's rights?" I think this question deserves an honest look. On the surface, feminists seem to rally around it as a clear-cut obvious fact that this demeans women. But we need to really look at it and ask the followup question, "How?" It is an historical fact that women were and even are treated as property. Religions seem to propagate this concept extensively. A quick glance in the east shows no secret that women are treated unfairly. A quick reading of the book of Job in the Bible shows how Job underwent all kinds of property loss including his wife and children as a simple test, but since God gave him a new wife and kids this clearly made up for it. They were replaced and all was forgiven. On top of this, God often gave women (the unused ones) as prizes for his people as they won in battle. This isn't merely a trope, this is real life. Since the beginning of time, men have ruled over women. Do not mistake me for saying this is acceptable. It is not. This is a derivative of primal nature that the strongest survives and propagates. It no longer needs to be this way and we indeed need to combat this prevalence.

But is the depiction of such acts or treatment benefiting or harming the cause to eradicate it? This should clearly be answered with, "It depends." A woman being captured in a video game or movie does not itself benefit or harm the cause. It is a depiction of something bad that happens in real life but what does the game or movie uplift? Does it indicate that this is a good action or a bad action? Our media has the power to influence our perception of good and bad, right and wrong, moral and immoral. Most media tends to have the viewers or players relate themselves with the protagonist rather than the antagonist. This means that we are putting ourselves in the shoes of the good guy and we want the good guy to win. Unless the good guy, the protagonist, is doing the maligning of women, I believe it will have the effect of making us abhor the antagonist's actions more. There will be outliers, of course, but people aren't generally identifying with the actions of King Koopa and wishing to capture and demean women. In fact, quite the opposite.

Let's remember that depicting women as weaker or more susceptible to kidnappings does not immediately put a value on them. It's simply a fact as is demonstrated throughout history. So that in itself does not demean women. What is uplifted, however, is the rescuing of such women. When women are oppressed or captured, I have a strong desire to rescue them. The women in the east, for example, I wish to rescue. If my wife is ever captured, my years of playing Mario will put me on the offensive to go rescue her. This is a good thing and a positive thing. It recognizes the inherent susceptibility of women which is all too real and it uplifts protecting, saving, and cherishing them. If anything we need more games to depict this reality and engage a true feeling and motivation to do something. We should have games about overthrowing the men that are oppressing the women in the east so that we better identify with the real-world problem and wish to take more action. It would identify who the bad guys are and what the good guys do in response. This is a good thing.

If we hide the facts, we're simply lying to ourselves and causing more problems. We need to fight against oppression and that is what most video games do with their tropes. Games that uplift violence and misogyny are games where the main character is encouraged to do violent things against non-violent bystanders or to commit acts with women as if they are objects. These games are much fewer and far between. Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat are the only games that comes to mind for me. These are games which I refuse to play for the simple fact that they uplift unnecessary gore, violence, and criminal activity. If anything, these are more worth our efforts to discourage over Mario saving Princess Peach. The mere thought of focusing on Mario when there are literally women being beheaded or lit on fire because they drove a car, wrote poetry, or performed dental work is absolutely disgusting. Not only does it appear to be the wrong fight to worry about tropes involving (not against) women, it appears to be a detrimental fight while there are far more devastating things to focus on.

Our media has a lot of power in its hands. It has the ability to shape opinions and culture. And I think this is what the feminist movement tries to focus on for removing the devaluation of women in our culture. I believe this is likely an effective method, but it cannot be done by removing the conflicts revolving around women. More games that empower women can be good for women, and more games that have men treating women with due respect can be good for men. But fighting against a perfectly noble cause of defending the weak is just silly, useless, unwarranted, and detrimental to the true problems facing our world today. I would like to see our media focus intently on the upbringing of our culture into a more modern and moralistic perspective. I think some people do that wonderfully while others simply pander to the current culture rather than trying to improve it.

James Cameron, for example, used the trope of white man's oppression against a tribal nation with a white man falling in love with a tribal woman in his hugely successful movie Avatar. But did the movie uplift the oppression or did we wish to root out the evil, money-hungry business jerks? I presume most everyone felt the latter and were disgusted with people who wish to line their pockets at the expense of others. The trope was used but it didn't uplift the torment of native people. To say that it works just the opposite for the capturing of women and being rescued by men goes against the evidence. We could modify it slightly by having more women save a women, but we need to realize that this will help women stand up for women but have little effect on men standing up for women. Since men are generally the problem, we need more games where men are standing up for the rights of women. One such method is saving them from oppression as is the trope being fought against, but perhaps there are other tropes yet to be discovered such as standing up against abusive parents or other abusive men for the sake of a woman. We need to make the viewers identify with the protagonist doing heroic and moral things. So don't ditch the tropes and certainly don't fight them. The tropes are what will help us win the battle. I, like many people, spent years with the trope of rescuing women and it did not corrupt us to believe women are physical objects of inferiority. Religion and cultural examples of mistreatment do that--not games that uplift saving those in need and fighting against those who mistreat others.

For women's sake, keep the tropes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

An Appeal for Raif Badawi

Dear [insert official's name here],

I understand that trouble can occur from people insulting and blaspheming the ideas and beliefs of other people. Words can indeed harm others and encourage strife. But history has shown time and time again that suppression is worse overall and hinders the advancement of mankind. Enforced kindness is no kindness at all. Further, displays of anger and extreme torture of the kind that Raif Badawi is sentenced to will merely demonstrate a weak belief that must be strengthened with fear since words alone must not be sufficient. Thus, such acts weaken and cheapen a faith. A person who speaks what is true does not need to be angered when a fool speaks against him. Such a display may instill fear but when people are adequately fearful they will rise up and fight.

There are many of us across the world who are concerned with human rights and we oppose suffering. The sentence given to Raif is considered far too extreme even for a murderer. The most foul criminal may deserve death, but his suffering would gain nothing. In this case, Raif merely spoke an opinion. If he's a fool then let him be a fool. Fighting so harshly against a fool indicates there's something to hide. Making someone silent will raise suspicion and will further anger the world on top of the anger we feel from administering such torture. I ask, and even demand, that you reconsider this decision. The world will not stand for it. We are beyond torture and we seek for the rest of the world to grow beyond it as well. It serves no greater purpose but to defame the person committing the act. I will personally not stand for it and I will support human rights in any way I can and I will encourage others to do the same.


I request that Raif Badawi be released immediately and unconditionally and that you drop any charges against him regarding apostasy, blasphemy, or insulting Islam. Such things are protected by international human rights laws. To carry out the sentence will cause Saudi Arabia to be a lawbreaker as a country in the eyes of the world. I further request that you alter the laws to be compliant in this manner that you protect freedom of religion, belief, and expression. Anything less is unacceptable. Thank you for your time and I hope to see these things change quickly and prior to the administration of any lashes on Raif Badawi.


Sincerely,
A Concerned American.






King and Prime Minister


King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Office of His Majesty the King
Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: 011 966 1 403 3125


Minister of the Interior


His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125


Minister of Justice


Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Kareem Al-Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street, Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 401 1741 | +966 1 402 0311


Ambassador


His Excellency Adel A. Al-Jubeir
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Ave. NW Washington DC 20037
Fax: 1 202 944 5983
Email: info--at--saudiembassy.net

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Savorless Salt

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

"Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit."



Christianity has a history of torture and death. Not only as inflicted upon themselves, but committed by them as well. Christianity is responsible for the deaths and tortures of numerous people for the sole crimes of having differing opinions about the universe (and usually correct ones at that). Christianity was a force of evil much like the ISIS and Al Qaeda crowd of today--beheading American journalists and killing everyone who isn't Muslim. Even modern-day Christianity is not free from the evils of the past and is much known for its hatred toward unbelievers. Sure, most Christians don't commit such atrocities, but what do we do with a worldview that produces both good and bad people and good and bad fruit?

Jesus called his disciples the salt of the earth. But he warned that if they lose their savor they would be good for nothing at all but to be trampled on and rejected. He further said that you would know a tree by its fruit in that a good tree doesn't produce bad fruit and a bad tree does not produce good fruit. I believe these sayings apply more readily to worldviews that define a person moreso than to the people themselves. We all know that people are capable both of good and bad at any given point. I have yet to rid myself of all evils yet I don't believe Jesus indicated this meant I was worthless.

A worldview is much like logic and yields expected results. If a person's worldview is to never kill then it's easy enough to conclude that anyone killing is not of that particular worldview and that anyone of that worldview would indeed not kill. Or, if they did kill, the worldview itself was not to blame but the person failing to live it out. Let's take the "worldview" of modern-day Christianity, however. The core doctrinal beliefs are that the Bible is the authoritative word of God, that Jesus died for the penalty of one's sins, and that God is three persons as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Such beliefs are riddled with issues as a worldview since they don't mean much in and of themselves. There's nothing in them as clear as a worldview denouncing murder and in fact these beliefs were held with extensive amounts of murder simultaneously. The beliefs themselves did not prevent evil and atrocity and, in fact, intensified it. The belief that the Bible is the word of God has led to torture, it's led to peace, it's led to hatred, it's led to hindrance of science, it's led to destruction of knowledge, it's led to lending a helping hand, it's led to genocides of anyone not like-minded. Such ideas as a worldview, in essence, is worthless. It has no savor. It has no predictability. It's good for nothing. It's not a good tree, it's not a bad tree, it's no better than having a worldview that penguins are awesome.

The "worldview" of Christianity as well as that of Islam is entirely useless. They both commit the same crimes and they both perform the same benefits. It's not the books they follow that mean anything. It's not their perception of Jesus or Mohammad as a deity that leads to anything. Such things are worthless. They're unpredictable and lead both to good and bad alike. It's not these ideas that drive a person to act. It is a worldview within the beliefs that guides actions. It's the worldview that God hates and wishes dead all unbelievers that guides a person's actions. Such a view will indeed lead to murder. It's a worldview that God is a god of love and peace that wishes we harm no one for selfish gain or immaterial thoughts that leads to helping people. These two worldviews can and do exist in both Christianity and Islam simultaneously since they are not caused by either one. Its these ideals that truly identify who your God is. One can't rightly serve a God of love and peace while destroying all those around them. And one can't serve a God of love and peace while being the enemy of another who also serves a God of love and peace. Such people serve the same God despite their books or professed religion. The names and titles mean nothing. The books mean nothing. This is why Jesus said a house divided cannot stand in reference to casting out demons by the power of the devil. The devil cannot be known for doing good. Being good is the work of good and doing evil is the work of evil. Evil cannot do good to promote evil. Good cannot do evil to promote good.

Jesus warned that his teaching would become corrupted. He said to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and predicted that the leaven would work its way all throughout his followers over time. It has. A long long time ago. The principles need to be reworked. Jesus taught a worldview. Something that is guaranteed to produce good fruit. The ideas and beliefs of Christianity today are no better than that of Islam. It's not a worldview. It's a vain and empty set of beliefs that do not lead one way or another. Pick a real worldview. Pick something that actually drives your actions. Preferably, pick that of love and humanitarianism as did Jesus, Gandhi, and countless other wise people before them. The salt has lost its savor. It is good for nothing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Expectations

~Expectation is the mother of disappointment but it's also the breeder of joy. Don't kill the mother--discipline the child.~

When I was younger, as with all children, I faced many disappointments. These disappointments generally ranged from not being able to play video games, being required to do my homework, being stuck at a table until I finished my dinner, and so on. But there were also disappointments from unfulfilled expectations such as weather or sickness preventing a trip or a parent promising to do something and not following through. As an adult, my expectations often revolve around what I think someone else ought be doing and this leads to the greatest disappointments of all--especially when I'm foolish enough to expect my children to do something as simple as cleaning their room the first time I tell them.

While expectations often lead to a multitude of disappointments, anticipating something is often more rewarding than the outcome itself. Repetition is often fun for children because they learn to anticipate what will happen next. As adults, we tend to receive joy from expecting something in a new movie and finding out if we were right or wrong. We might anticipate a soccer goal and expect it to occur only to be immediately shocked that something went wrong. In these events, the failed expectation is often even more exciting since it was so contrary to what we believed. It's a sort of irony. In "Reality is Broken," Jane McGonigal explains how outlandish failure in video games is far more entertaining than when we succeed. It's the anticipation of success, the expectation it will succeed, and the abrupt failure exploding in our face that gets our blood flowing (and sometimes boiling).

You see, it's not that expectations themselves are bad. In fact, they are quite good! There are things we should learn to never expect and there are things that we may expect only to be let down, but it's how we deal with the expectations that matter. Children tend to cry and get angry when their expectations aren't met even in failing at a video game. Yet another response is to see it as a challenge. To recognize it as an unexpected event to overcome.

The disappointments in my life led me to shut out much of expectation all together. I have a hard time anticipating something to succeed which removes my motivation to try. I tend to expect little from anyone which makes me enjoy them less and mistrust them. My shutting out of expectations has led to a bland and boring life. It promises to remove disappointment, but it really only changes the expectation from a positive one to a negative one. I don't fall as far when my lack of expectation proves valid, but I rarely climb out of my pit of negativity. So don't neglect anticipation. Don't forget the excitement of expectation. Simply learn to deal with failed expectations in a positive way and let it fuel you to press on and expect something else. It is often quipped that expectation is the mother of disappointment. This may be true. But rather than killing the mother, one ought to discipline the child instead.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Minimum Wage Should Be Relative Wage

As with most great failures to solve problems, many people focus on all the wrong things for solving the economic crisis. We've got a dial for minimum wage so people tend to think it might be useful to tweak it. It's like having fuzzy reception on an old tube TV and turning the volume knob to solve the problem just because the knob is there. Raising minimum wage to $15 isn't going to solve anything. It may have some positive effects and likely some negative effects to boot, but it's not going to be a huge game-changer for closing the income gap.

The fact is, the rich enjoy being rich. In 2009, people started losing their jobs. Of the companies laying off workers, how many of the CEOs first took a wage cut so that they could sustain the jobs they "created" by their wealth? I don't know the answer but I'm willing to bet very few if any. The 1% doesn't make jobs with their wealth. Their money has extremely little to do with job creation. If it did, 2009 would not have yielded a reduction in jobs seeing as the rich were richer than ever before and yet still they canned people. The rich are not in it for job creation. They're in it for running their business as lean as possible to bring them the most money. Creating jobs is their last resort to demand that they can't fulfill--not their first resort because they have money laying around.

Now I won't say that minimum wage won't help at all. In some cases it very well might. Perhaps demand will be high enough that the CEOs can't fire people and they might be forced to reduce their own paycheck. I doubt many will experience that, but it's possible. In these cases, the workers might better be able to become participants of the economy and it will thrive a little better. But this is likely to be very limited successes. I might venture that many minimum wage workers are in smaller companies that truly can't afford higher minimum wages. So while raising the minimum wage on Walmart might be useful, raising it on a Mom and Pop shop might just doom them. So now we're taking from the poor and giving to the poor. Further, raising minimum wage often raises prices which then harms the middle-class as well. It more often than not distributes wealth among the poor and middle-class rather than affecting the 1% much at all.

The rich will not part with their personal wage so easily such that minimum wage alone will lower their paycheck. So instead of focusing on minimum wages which harm and perhaps help simultaneously, maybe we should focus on relative wages. I'm no economist so I won't suggest my own percentages or exact wording of laws, but imagine signing into law that within every company any one person cannot make X% more than Y% of others. Or perhaps X% above the next highest paid employee. Or X% above the average of the next highest Y% of employees. It's a law that requires the company to more fairly share the wealth while still rewarding talent and hard work. A lot of thought may need to go into it, but a more even distribution per company would yield much greater economic results than merely raising the minimum wage.

In the short term, companies may try to release workers in order to keep a larger percent, but those with significantly increased wages will begin increasing the demand such that they have no choice but to hire them back. Imagine all the poor and middle-class suddenly demanding twice as much and we'll note that the money going to them will simply come right back to the companies shelling out the higher wages. With higher wages, people can afford to go to college and become even more productive in companies to make even better products that the people with the greater wages can now demand. The whole concept of economy is that the money must fluctuate and go around from person to person so that everyone has everything they need. The goal is not for 1% of the people to shove all their money in a bank account and extort the poor by giving them loans with high interest rates just so they can store even more in their banks where it grows stagnant and moldy just because they earned it and "deserve" it. They need to spend it. And what better way to spend it than on their employees who can't seem to make ends meet?

I propose we stop tuning the minimum wage knob and start creating new dials of relative wages to close the gap. It will be better for everyone even if the 1% is reduced to only a few million dollars in their bank accounts. They may have less cash on hand, but their companies will show higher income and be that much more successful which is far more rewarding than an untouched number sitting in a bank account.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Impatience Is a Virtue Too

Last Saturday, I waited over and hour and a half in a line to play a video game for 2 minutes. While this may sound like an exercise in patience, the only reason I was there along with everyone else was, in essence, impatience. The game was new. This was the first time any of us could possibly play it. It's still not released and won't be for a few more months. Our impatience to wait those few months led us to a line in which we waited for the sole purpose of waiting significantly less time to play a game.

Like any sane adult, I could have simply avoided the line and waited a few months to buy the game and play it at home. But I chose not to. My son and I both went and we made a memory together. A memory that was significant because we DIDN'T wait. A memory that will last because we braved the line to be amongst the pioneers of Best Buy to play that new game which all the rest of the world would have to wait. We can proudly proclaim that we have already played Super Smash Bros for Wii U long before it has arrived.

I have other similar memories as well. My wife and I camped-out inside a Walmart back in layaway to purchase one of a few Nintendo Wii's that were being released at that time. Sure, we could have waited patiently for a release when there would be extras to go around, but then we would not have a solid memory about our purchase! We waited in line at midnight outside a GameStop for the release of The Lich King. We've braved the freezing weather of Black Friday and waited hours outside way earlier than we would ever deem worthy of awakening any other day. In fact, we did this multiple times. All for the sole purpose of getting a deal on an item that would likely be cheaper later anyway. But what did we really get out of it? Not just an item--we got a memory. Something fun. Something exciting. Something that will last longer than the items we purchased. We had an adventure.

While most of these acts of impatience led to even greater acts of patience, they are things that adults tend to forego as they get older. They become more patient as to await things to be easier. Laziness overcomes impatience. It may not be prudent to harbor resentment whilst awaiting in a line (i.e. the common construct of impatience), but I say we ought to embrace our impatience in order to create adventures and memories. Why wait to see a movie when you can camp out the night before? It's fun! Stop being so old! Get off your lazy rump and be impatient about something! At least then you'll have something more than your prudence to remember!