Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Proposition for the Destruction of Minority Groups

We all long to be part of some kind of group and when we find that group we tend to think of ourselves as better than others in a powerful yet often subconscious way. We see our own groups as in-groups and others as out-groups which poses a very dangerous situation when it comes to human rights. In his book Subliminal, Leonard Mlodinow puts together a very good argument regarding such groups and how it affects the behavior of its constituents—often for the worse. We become more willing to overlook the faults of those within our group while being all the more strict with those without. We will hear the evidence within and mock the opinions of those without. It is not hard to see this in everyday life. There are opposing factions everywhere: liberal versus conservative, white versus black, man versus woman, democrat versus republican, Christian versus Muslim versus atheist. And yet it is entirely rare to see any two people of any group agree upon everything wholesale nor behave in the exact same manner as one another. Despite this obvious fact that no two people are alike, Leonard points out that our in-groups cause us to perceive other groups as more similarly-minded and less variable in their ideals and behaviors than ourselves and our groups. This is quite evidenced in the fact that each group always seems ready and willing to bad-mouth the other with the most sincere hatred or sarcasm oozing from every orifice.

My Facebook feed is daily filled with the rants of one group against another group subtly proclaiming superiority yet proving they have no such valid claim. I often see Christians taking joy in the suffering of Muslims while any and all atrocious acts are news-worthy if and only if the perpetrator is a majority while the victim is a minority. It is only a story if it is an in-group versus out-group conflict. It is quite appalling what conflict our groups cause. In hopes to reduce or even eradicate such group conflicts over time, I offer a suggestion that I believe is worth some sincere thought. The in-group versus out-group philosophy currently in place often hinders the suggestion from being taken seriously, but I urge you to hear me out.

What I suggest is to abolish social constructs based upon minority statuses. If you strive for equality then call yourself a human—for the moment you call yourself black, white, man, or woman, you have proclaimed a difference to the very ones with whom you aspire to be equal. If women continue advocating the rights of women as opposed to the rights of humanity of which they so obviously belong and share common ground with men, then they are setting themselves apart from half the population. They have created an in-group of people—mostly women of course—who focus entirely on women’s rights. But there is also a need to fight for the rights of black people, Muslims, Mexicans, and dare I say white men? Each one creates their own unique group and sets themselves apart rather than promoting the fact that they already belong to the same in-group of humanity.

These minority in-groups were constructed because the members felt discriminated against. Their entire existence is thus based solely on the fact that the out-group is their enemy of which they must rise up and fight against. Black people are held down by the white man and thus the white man is the enemy. Women are oppressed by men and thus men become the enemy. It is not seen as a particular individual who is the enemy but an entire group despite being made up of all kinds of different people. Every super group has its villains and heroes.

The KKK is a Christian white supremacist group which has murdered many innocent black people. There are black gangs that return the favor. ISIS is a Muslim group which has beheaded many journalists yet Catholics committed the most atrocious crimes of torture to any non-believer or heretic and slaughtered countless Muslims in the Crusades. Pol Pot was an atheist who committed genocide and yet Einstein was an atheist who is known for contributing to scientific progress more than any other human alive.

Being a Christian does not make someone holy. It also does not make one a hater. Many are willing to say this, but how many actually behave like it? Being an atheist or a Muslim does not make one humanitarian or terrorist. There are many great Christians, many great Muslims, and many great atheists that would never consider hurting another human being. Some from each group would even remain nonviolent at the expense of their own lives. There are similarly many men who treat women with the utmost respect and many women who would just as soon throw every man off a cliff. These groups are entirely meaningless when it comes to determining the quality of a person or judging character. And this is why we need to stop acting like it does. The only two groups that ought to exist and truly “separate the wheat from the chaff” to use a Biblical metaphor, is humanists versus oppressors. It is impossible for a humanist to go on a rampage and still be considered a humanist by the very definition of what a humanist is: one who cares for the rights of all humanity.

Any groups beyond these two will set up conflicts within the ranks and set us at odds with one another. What good is having a feminist group when the population contains both humanists and misandrists? What good is having a black rights group when the population contains both peaceful and murderous intentions? I cannot join hand in hand with the misandrists of the feminist movement. I cannot join hand in hand with a group containing murderous intentions and hatred for the very group of white men that I belong to. I can only join with fellow humanists who do not see me, the white man, as the enemy. Drawing the lines and continuing the constructs of race, religion, and sex is ultimately damning to the cause.

Having a Black Engineer of the Year award, for example is nothing but a reminder that blacks must overcome the oppressive whites. I agree that it is harder for a black person than a white person to succeed in much of the United States which may suggest that we ought to celebrate the achievement all the more, but reinforcing the existence of discriminatory in-groups and out-groups is counter-productive. When discrimination occurs, it is only natural to want to point it out and call shenanigans in hopes to rectify the situation, but I contend that it makes matters worse. This is, of course, a very sticky subject. And it is sticky mostly because of the groups we make.

Here I am a white man trying to discuss the troubles of the black man. What could I know, right? I am not in the in-group of the black struggles and thus I am inferior in understanding. My opinion is often diminished in this fashion. If someone cannot understand a point of view via discussion and evidence without being in the in-group, then that is a sure-fire sign of confirmation bias. If an opinion cannot be voiced be it ignorant or not without undue hateful poison spewed in retort, then this is clear-cut out-group discrimination. This reverse discrimination happens a lot except it is not politically correct to complain about it. How dare the white man complain about discrimination? How dare he because he is the enemy, right? He is the culprit and thus has no right, right? He is from the out-group. He is the villain. What happened to equality?

I truly hope this is not coming off the wrong way. I recognize inequality exists and it tears me to pieces. I daily contemplate how to rectify the situation. I recognize that the majority white man has it easier on average than the black or the female. I do not contest the white privilege but merely the method of removing it and the disdain that goes along with it—especially since much of the difficulty is now circumstances from past failures and not particularly the explicit acts of the majority today. There is no reason that I should be viewed as an enemy or part of an out-group simply because I am a white male. In all reality, I am a humanist through and through. I want equality for all humanity. I am an ally.

When the white man is continually labeled the villain, however, the white man will subconsciously create social norms around that fact and it will make it more difficult to remove the hatred. Further, when the white man is the villain, black people will view them this way and drive even more disdain toward themselves from their own discriminatory behavior and false accusations against well-meaning people. Drawing the lines will cause hatred in both directions. This is clearly my own opinion, but I believe my deduction to be based upon the studies of human psychology. We need to have a more inclusive group in which to belong. Minorities need to appeal to their humanity and not their race, religion, or sex.

It is not a tragedy that three Muslims were killed simply because they were Muslim and the attacker was a white man. It is a tragedy because one human took the life of three other humans before their time. Being Muslim, whether it was a hate crime or not, does not add to the sadness of the events. Hatred is brutal and sad no matter to whom it occurs.

If a black man deserved an award that was given to a white man, we do not need to cry racism. We simply need to call foul that a human was denied what was better suited to him for whatever the underlying reason. There is no reason to yet again say that white man is oppressing the black man and feed the fire of hatred and racism all over again.

If a woman is cat-called, mishandled, or raped, we need not say that man is oppressing women. A human who did not care for the rights of another human performed a terrible act. Those who are humanists can rally together and condemn the culprit. Why bring all of men into it as if they all did something evil? Men are not the bad guy from the acts of a single man. Even if 70% of men were rapists, it removes the 30% of men from the ranks of potential advocates to proclaim that men are evil. Instead, we ought to state that humans are being mistreated by other humans and proclaiming that we need humanists to vilify the offense. When it comes to the fight for rights, freedom, and social justice we need all the humanitarians we can get. It does not make sense to disclude anyone or to further segregate one type of human from another. As humanists, we need to shame actions as opposed to entire groups of people. The act of rape is shameful—not men. The act of murder and silencing of women is shameful—not Islam.

I propose an active movement of people to unite under the common banner of humanism and deconstruct the minority clubs. Calling oneself a mere feminist, for example, is a limited approach that focuses only on the rights of women with no concern for man or other minorities. I cannot imagine that is the intent, but I have certainly come across many feminists who have taken their in-group to a new level of hatred for men. And in response, I have seen many men entirely irate at the whole construct who then become the very misogynists that women were trying to stop. The boundaries need to be eradicated and humanity uplifted over any particular group. We must make our in-group that of humanity. We are all humans and are equally in need of equal rights. We must recognize only two groups and ignore the constructs of any other while maligning such use by others. There are humanitarian humans and inhumane humans. That is it. Us versus them. Those concerned with human rights must fight those who would oppress others and it must permeate all other constructs of groups as if they do not even exist.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Problem of Evil and its Solution

The KKK is a Christian group. ISIS is a Muslim group. Pol Pot was an atheist and Hitler was confirmed into the Catholic faith. Being a Christian does not make someone holy. It also does not make them a hater. Similarly, being an atheist or a Muslim does not make one humanitarian or terrorist. There are many great Christians, many great Muslims, and many great atheists that would never consider hurting another human being. Some from each group would even remain nonviolent at the expense of their own lives.

I die a little inside each time I see a Facebook meme from Christian pages taking joy in the suffering or abuse of a Muslim. I die a little inside when I hear of a beheading from ISIS. I die yet more when atheists go on a rant of hatred toward religions and demean a person for their faith. With all the dying going on within me, I am nearly a walking corpse. The pain continues to sting as I wish to find novel ways of making a difference. It is why I write and why I converse with people no matter how brutish they become. I hope to set an example for the world on how to discourse without anger and malice and yet I cannot help but wonder if I simply encourage all the more malice toward myself. My efforts often leave me condemned by all groups as I walk a rather lonely path. Such a path makes it hard to keep straight whether or not I am truly doing any good or if I merely fan the flames of the very hate I wish to eradicate.

It should be clear that hate is the problem and not so much the religion, race, or sex that a person identifies with. Blacks are not evil. Whites are not evil. Women are not evil and men are not evil. Even humans as a whole are not evil. There are simply individuals who perform evil and even they themselves are not evil as we might understand it. There are evil deeds--that is all. And we are all capable of them. Some people are more prone than others be it due to their genes, their culture, an accident, or learning. We all do evil and under the same circumstances we could be just as evil as anyone else. The trick, then, is to determine what causes us to act in evil ways rather than labeling broad groups of people as the problem.

There is spontaneous evil and there is premeditated evil. Both, I would argue, stem from what a person meditates on. Hate is a meditation. If a person hates long enough, it takes very little pressure and the slightest opportunity to produce an act of evil. On the contrary, a person who is constantly focused on positive things and gives no rise to hate, they are much less likely to commit an evil act even under extreme pressures and with multiple opportunities. Recognizing our own thoughts as the precursor to hate and evil, we can then find ways to reduce such meditations and thus reduce evil.

A quick disclaimer before I continue: I am not advocating that violence on TV or video games constitutes meditations of hate. Just throwing that out there. It could be that some programs and some games are indeed detrimental in the ways I will explain, but simply seeing a violent act does not match the criteria of meditation on hate. Seeing someone else hate from a screen does not have much effect in the way of transmitting hate. This changes, however, if the person doing the hating is a part of a group in which the individual watching identifies with.

When we identify with a group, we subconsciously become more like that group. It is how we learn. We pick up on the small things and begin to think and behave similarly. This is not a guarantee, of course, but rather an overall construct of humanity as a whole. Some people will remove themselves from a group rather than fit in with the crowd if they do not uplift their values, while other people will do whatever it takes to be appreciated. The majority of people, however, will slowly succumb like the frog in the pot who could not recognize the temperature rising to a boil and willingly allowed itself to be cooked. We are all susceptible to this. It is a common adage that bad company corrupts good character and it is entirely true. The company we keep are often those with whom we identify and those with whom we identify we often become more like.

As a blessing and a curse, I have never truly identified with any particular group. I believe this is because my mind enjoys a certain freedom from cognitive dissonance. When things do not make sense, I do not recall having ever shrugged it off whilst giving it no more thought. I would seek the answer and determine what I could to remove the conflicting ideas. This, of course, put me at odds with any group I wished to be a part of since they enjoyed a particular peace with their cognitive dissonance and had very little patience for anyone bringing it up. While this often left me lonely and feeling under-valued as a human, it has enabled me to pave my own path and to appreciate many walks of life and viewpoints. It puts me at odds with everyone I know but it simultaneously enables me to be an ally with everyone as well. I might disagree with everyone in one thing, but I can also agree with anyone another. I would say this is beneficial in being a mediator, but alas the response to cognitive dissonance is often a violent one and I might only find I have united two enemies together for the common goal of lambasting myself.

In full disclosure, I know that I am not perfect and I certainly have not figured everything out. I have been wrong far too many times to count, but the benefit is that I tend to be open to being proven wrong even in beliefs that many others would hold too dear to consider. I do not hold beliefs themselves as dear, but truth alone. By holding truth more dear than any belief I hold, I almost long to be proven wrong so that I may have a solid proof for the contrary stance of which I then take hold. Again, it is lonely and devoid of much praise, but it makes me an unlikely candidate to be consumed by the identity of those around me.

Identity, I believe, is where the problem and the solution reside. We love to categorize people and speak of categories as a broad concept while painting them all with the same brush. It is easy enough to do and it is even easier to believe. Atheists feel hated by Christians and vice versa. Christians feel hated by Muslims and vice versa. Blacks feel hate by whites, and lo and behold the opposite holds true as well. Of course, these statements are just as false as they are true. It is as remarkable as saying feminists eat food and misogynists poop and just as ridiculous as stating that humans do not eat meat while pointing at a vegetarian human as proof.

Labels are making things worse. Feminism cannot exist unless there is a battle between men and women. And at what point do the feminists proclaim they are no longer feminists? They never will. To proclaim one is no longer feminist is to say that one no longer cares about the fair treatment of women. To say one is feminist is to say women are being mistreated by men and a social club is necessary to combat it. Identifying with such a group is going to make a person more aware of the injustices. Or so it seems. It not only makes the person more aware of real injustices, but it also makes them more biased in their confirmation of injustices. Identifying with a group that believes women are mistreated (whether it is true or not) will yield more evidence than there really is. Again, I am not saying women are not mistreated by men. Some women are by some men, and some women are not by some men. Men, themselves, are not the problem. Perceiving they are, however, will make enemies of potential allies and add to the bias of confirmation even against well-meaning individuals. The problem escalates when categories are made.

Nobody likes being unfairly categorized. Recently, many Christians were outraged at President Obama's speech at a prayer breakfast when he reminded them that they, too, have a past of hatred and terrorism. They did not appreciate being equated with the hate groups of the past. Well, neither do the Muslims of today appreciate being categorized within the hate group ISIS which was exactly the point. Nobody wants to be lumped together with evil people within their category. This is especially true for a category that is innate and unchangeable like race and sex. I do not want to hear how hateful and misogynistic the white man is. I am not personally hateful and misogynistic and it is not the being white nor the being man that makes a person so. Labeling me as the enemy is the exact opposite of what a feminist needs to do. They need to recognize me as an ally since I am not like the others. But I cannot call myself a feminist because I am not anti-man. Nor am I pro-woman which gives the impression of a dichotomy between men and women. I am pro-equality. I am a humanist. I will not join women in the fight against man, but I will join humans in the fight against inequality. I will not fight beside those who believe me an enemy in order to unfairly dismantle the groups to which I belong.

Not only do these groups make enemies out of allies, but I believe they are also causing even more hatred. If black people believe and are continually reinforced in their belief that the white man is holding them down, will they not become angry, resentful, and hateful against the white man? Will it not come back and encourage violence against the white man? And what will such violence help? Will the white man as an entire group stand up together and apologize and change their ways? Of course not. Some white men are already good people who do not discriminate against blacks. And those who do are not those who are going to be won over by violent demonstrations and demonizing of their race. The solution is not to shout, "I am black, respect me." The solution is to shout, "I am human, respect me." I can shout that right along side you without being labeled the enemy in a false dichotomy.

What I am explaining is easily seen within recent events. What happened with the Black Lives Matter campaign? Did the police say, "Oh, sorry about that, I suppose we will stop killing you?" Of course not. They felt the dichotomy. It is blacks or police, right? They created the Police Lives Matter retort. Instead of Michael Brown being the bad guy, instead of Darren Wilson being the bad guy, instead of Eric Garner or Daniel Pantaleo being the bad guy, it was white police versus the black masses. It was not officer versus gangster and thief. It was not man against out of control man. No, it turned to race. It made white police the bad guy and black people the good guys or vice versa depending upon your persuasion. And what do we gain by this? Nothing.

Well, not nothing. We gain more awareness of the groups to which we belong and identify with. I am a white guy and I am being attacked and called a racist by black people. I am a black person and I am being picked on and attacked by the white guy. Categories are drawn, accusations are made, now let the battle commence. We need to instead look at the facts for what they are and leave race out of it. Even if it is true that 20% of all women are sexually harassed by men, that does not mean we should start a battle of the sexes. It means we need to uplift human rights more and punish the men that do it while putting them in a category of evildoers. Even if black people are more likely to be arrested and receive higher penalties for crimes, this does not mean we want to wage a war between blacks and whites since it is not whites as a group that are committing the problem. Unless it is a secret brotherhood of people who are united in their hatred for blacks as their defining characteristic such as the KKK, it is unfair to label a group to which a racist individual belongs.

We want to crush the boundaries, not build them up all the more. Instead of labels of color, we need to uplift fairness instead. If we see a person receive an unfair punishment or accusation, we need to speak up. We do not need to speak up because he is black, but because he is a person. There is no need to add "that is racist" on top of "that is unjust." We do not need to add "that is a hate crime" on top of "that is murder." Murder is bad, guys, whether it is against a black man, white man, woman, child, or transvestite. It is good to continually lift up the fact that we do not value racism and discrimination against any ethnicity, any sex, and any religion. We do this with a blanket statement and then fight individual injustices where they lie without further indicating that one group of people is predominantly at fault for injustice against another. As I explained, this will merely cause more identification with hate by belonging to a hateful group and increase tensions. It will further increase the confirmation bias of the minority who will then be more hateful themselves. Both sides will hate until they are blue in the face and snap with a semi-automatic weapon.

We must stop the segregating groups. We do not need feminist clubs, we need humanist clubs. We do not need black clubs, we need humanist clubs. We do not need religious rights clubs, we need humanist clubs. If you are human, you get rights. If you are human and you are not getting your rights, then speak with your local humanist club who will fight for your rights. Let us stop the hate by stopping the clubs and language which set us apart. We must band together has humans to fight hate. Separating ourselves will only cause more "us versus them" mentality and fuel more hate. The only two categories necessary are humanists and inhumanists. People who care about others versus people who atrociously persecute, rape, maim, kill, and withhold freedoms. The battle is between two groups and when we very vocally make two specific groups, people can identify with one or the other and they will find themselves meditating on and becoming more like whichever one they chose. And then the battle will be more clear.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The White Male Club

The other day I saw a man awarded with the Black Engineer of the Year award. It got me thinking how much hatred and vitriol would be poised if there were a White Engineer of the Year award. Such a racist concept could hardly be tolerated in the country of equality known as the United States and I could already perceive of the hatred spewing forth from all corners of the country if such an award were instantiated. While I in no way wish to create such an award, it did strike me as odd. Even I, the white man, would be appalled at such an award. But why?

It seems racist for a white man to uplift his skin color and yet entirely beautiful and poetic for a black person to take joy in the color of their skin. It is the story of the underdog raising up against the challenge that fate has bestowed upon him. The minority winning over the multitudes that were trying to keep him down. We love a good hero story and there certainly is not one to be found in the white skin. There is nothing admirable at all about taking joy in white skin. Such a person should be ashamed to even consider mentioning how thankful they are to be white. An odd double-standard to be sure.

Similarly, there are societies of women engineers and yet no society of male engineers. Again, I do not see the need to create one and I am certainly not the first to notice this difference, but it still brings me back to the question of why it is so god-awful to consider. The answer is obvious, of course. The white man should not uplift being a white man because it was the white man who oppressed the black and the female. They now have the right to declare their victory and to rise up in strength and honor while the white man watches and applauds. And indeed we applaud. It is great to see black men and women achieve things including becoming president of the United States or CEO of billion-dollar companies. They did it! And more power to them!

Yet I have this sneaking suspicion that this is not without cost. The white man cannot have a social club celebrating while maleness because everybody knows the white man is the bad guy that caused all the problems to begin with. And to celebrate being the white man is downright evil, dirty, and any terrible thing you can imagine calling a person based upon the mere fact that they are a white man. Is this not precisely what racism is? Now, I am not getting all teary-eyed and complaining woe is me for being a white man since I do not see myself as being withheld any privileges or rights, but I still do not think that makes racism a good thing. It should be noted that this likely has an equal and opposite reaction like any other force of physics.

Announcing ones own race or sex and uplifting it is likely to draw attention to race and sex. Go figure. And when attention is drawn to it, lines are drawn and people are categorized. People who are categorized and recognize their category will associate with their group and become more like it and less like others. Distinctions are made and people will define themselves by these distinctions. White males, having no permitted voice, will sit and watch it happen while women's activists will become more entrenched in their identities and promote even more "us versus them" mentality. And this is exactly what I see in the feminist movement. I do not call myself a feminist because I am a humanist. I want all humans to be equal. Being a feminist is to uplift the cause of women but I would sooner uplift the cause of equality for all humanity--not just women. But I, like many men, are lumped into a single category of women-haters if we do not blindly accept the view of a particular feminist advocate. I see much of the feminist movement as a hate-group against men as much as I see Christianity being a hate-group against atheists and Muslims. Of course, even this perception of mine is likely wrong, but it is the perception that matters and the perception I am talking about. The perception alone causes a problem.

Some men are not going to feel sympathetic toward the feminist movement when the feminist movement often demonizes and blames all men. This is sexism plain and simple. It further drives the gulf between men and women and perhaps even fulfills its own prophecy of misogynistic men. Men see women blaming all men, men then similarly blanket all women and the women claim rape since they are both under the same blanket and the man is first to be hung. I often try to keep reason in the loop and say we ought to blame those who actually committed the atrocity rather than an entire group, but then even I get the noose placed around my neck condemned as a closet misogynist pretending to be rational. It is a lose-lose situation.

Like Ralph put it in Wreck-It-Ralph, "I don't want to be the bad guy anymore. Is there a medal for being a white man? To that, I saw HA, and no, there isn't." Having societies devoted to one group or another will cause all the more racism and sexism. They themselves are, by definition, racist and sexist. They segregate, distinguish, and celebrate based upon a race or sex. We need to unify under a single category. We are all human. As humans, we can fight for any other humans for any rights. If we see a group being kept low, we can all fight against it as humans without creating a specific group made out of the hindered group. We do not need a women's group to fight against the injustices of women. We do not need a feminist group to do it either. We need a humanist group. A group that includes all humanity to stand beside women and not opposed to them. It only makes sense to include the people that we wish to stop discriminating or else how are they ever supposed to stop? We cannot stop discrimination by discriminating. This should be an obvious reality. The response to white man holding down the black man is not to discriminate against the white man by having a black-only club and demonizing the thought of a white-only club.

Now, I do understand where this came from. Black people regretted being black because of racism so the natural reaction was to help them celebrate their difference rather than to be ashamed of it. And to some degree, I believe this helped. I simply think it also hindered simultaneously. The proper response should not have been to celebrate the race, but to forget it entirely. It does not matter if you are black. Your skin color is unimportant. You want to be an artist? Go be an artist! You want to be president? Go be president! Do not worry about the color of your skin; get out there and do your best! There will be some people who are racist scum, but do not let that hold you back. They are the ones with the problem--not you. You are human and you have every right to do what any other human can do. Go do it!

Stop building walls and we can stop being segregated. Celebrate humanity. Stand together. United we stand and separated we fall into petty squabbles of color and sex where neither side is any less racist than the other. Equal rights exists today. Use them. Put away the race and sex cards and grab yourself a human card. Make some human groups that I can join and celebrate and fight alongside you. I am your ally. Keep your groups open to me and we can indeed be brothers and sisters. One humanity.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

To Speak or Not to Speak

Today I received some interesting comments regarding my personal character. It started with insinuations that I am vain and all about money and continued into calling me judgmental and even hateful. It is not the first time I have received such comments, but that does not make it any more enjoyable to hear. Such retorts indeed make me take pause and contemplate my motives and methods of communicating.

These accusations come from my position regarding vaccinations. There is nothing like a hot topic to get someone fired up into accusatory mode of another person's character. I try hard to remain civil and even for those who say we need to start shaming others I tend to disagree with them publicly. I understand from my own past that it is easy to be misled and fired-up for the wrong position and so I am cautious both with my own position and with firing off verbal darts at others. I could be passionately wrong and they could simply be misled with all the right intentions. Despite this, a simple disagreement with someone tends to incite anger and hatred that often manifests in the form of calling me the angry and hateful one even with every cautious word I write. It is a very strange thing to be sure, but I have seen it multiple times in my conversations. Is it me, or is it a fact of humanity?

It does get me thinking though. Like The Doctor, I sit and question, "Am I a good man?" All my life I have wished for nothing more than to impact the world in a positive way and to help humanity along toward the path of Utopian bliss. This is why I once focused heavily on converting heathens to Christianity followed by redefining Christianity, then switching to humanism coupled with science, logic, and reasoning. I have been wrong in many ways in the past, but I take delight in the fact that I have changed my mind about the many things I have found myself to be wrong in. Many people are not privileged enough to see these transformations of my mind, however, and tend to think that my stubbornness is a hard-fast position of argumentation that no one can penetrate. The fact is, however, that most of my positions are the result of such penetrations and extreme amounts of studying. I am not stubborn by opinion, but by logic, reasoning, science, facts, and research. Is this not admirable? I will hold my views and share them emphatically until I am proven wrong with proper logic and reason. I do not take feelings and opinions as an adequate position. If a person wishes to do so, that is fine, but they should not expect me to be fine with the decision itself especially if it harms more than just themselves.

But is it worth even speaking up? I am a nobody. My words hold no great power or sway over anyone. If they did, perhaps it would be more worthwhile to speak. As it is, I hold the power to upset those close to me and perhaps that is all. I am of the belief that culture is made up of the individuals within it speaking their mind on what they find acceptable and what they do not find acceptable. When one is told that their behavior is not appropriate, one can expect that in such an environment one will be slow to repeat the same offense. With that in mind, I attempt to act as a social guide of sorts by questioning abhorrent behavior and uplifting wisdom and science. The effectiveness, however, is unknown to me. Perhaps all I am managing to accomplish is to distance myself from everyone around me. If people continually perceive me as calling others out, they will not wish to associate with me. Then again, do I really want to associate with such people to begin with? Perhaps not, but if I associate with no one, then I have zero influence on the progression of society.

It is possible that the world will progress even without my input. There is enough input from celebrities and media that I could never hope to compete. I could encourage questioning it, but only for the few around me that hear me question it myself. The hope would be that they will likewise do the same and then reach those around them and thus spread through the masses. Yet maybe, just maybe, there are those in high places already working on such things that are better off doing it than I. Perhaps the best I can do is speak silently to myself in blogs while financially supporting others to do all the grunt-work of changing the world for me. Yet is this very admirable? Then again, why do I need to be admired?

The desire to be admirable brings up questions of my true motives. Should I care about being admirable? Is it vain to consider whether or not people will praise my life when I am gone? Then again, what should I care if I am vain? Why choose one over the other? A truly good person might wish to be noble for the benefit of others, yet is that truly my goal? Or do I simply wish to be noble so that others might praise my life? People might like me more if I am noble. Should I care? And what of the word "should" as if there is some universal rule or guideline? It is a fairly disturbing thought to me. Why do I wish to do great things for the world? I feel as if it is because I hate suffering. I hate it enough that if I could pull the plug on all life all together, I probably would. Without life, no one would suffer. No one would love or enjoy life either, but obviously nobody would be alive to care. I believe I fight against pain and that is a fight I wish to pursue no matter what the best course or most admirable course is. If it is an effective course, it is the one I want.

It is then unfortunate that I do not know the best course. To speak or not to speak... that is indeed the question.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Media Tricks: You Won't Believe What They're Doing To You!

Let's face it: media is a business. And businesses derive methods of getting money from point A (your pocket) to point B (their pocket). Some businesses may have a greater goal in mind like cleaner technologies, but for the most part their goal is to make a buck--your buck. The main reason most companies market something as better for the environment is because they know it will carry some weight in obtaining your money. Nearly all businesses are the furthest things from charities; they are not out to make the world a better place. Businesses will take every tax break they can find and use any loophole the can recognize to avoid paying more than they have to even at the harm of our cities, states, and country. This often results in the common man paying more taxes. The main goal is increasing income and decreasing cost. Sometimes, this comes in the way of spending some money on lobbying for laws that ultimately reduce their overall or long-term spending. Again, usually at the cost to us. And since the businesses have all the money, they get to decide what we poor people get to see. By doing this, it helps them make even more money through advertising or by encouraging the under-informed masses to vote for policies that help the business yet ultimately hurt themselves.

We have all seen the catch headlines hoping to engage our emotional responses. I hope most people recognize these as fishing for an audience, but given that it seems to work so well, I suppose most people are genuinely curious when they see such headlines. Xkcd made a great comic regarding these headlines as seen below.

Most of the time, I find the headlines to be misleading or the article quite under-developed. This appeal to our emotions is nothing new. The media knows that we are foolish human beings driven more by emotion than logic and so they deliver more emotion than anything else to spark a reaction and to promote them for free. And this is nothing new as we can see from a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from 1995.

In his book Trust Me I'm Lying, Ryan Holiday explains how he had fooled the public time and time again via outrage and emotion. Even bad publicity is good publicity since it gets the word out about something. The point is that emotion sells. And it sells really well in news which is then quite rapidly shared all throughout the internet via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever else that people find themselves inundated with a hideous headline. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, wrote in his own blog about the phenomenon and labeled it "outragism" while hoping to make it stink so that people cut this crap out. It is indeed truly disgusting but it seems few people recognize it and abstain from partaking of the behavior. Lucky Cow is currently running its own series of the stupidity and greed of America complete with foolish outragism over simply trying to make someone feel welcomed.

The tiniest acts are often blown out of proportion into a huge stinking pile of ridiculousness. Michael Moore made some comments that could be taken offensively to some who are more pro-war than he, and suddenly the nation erupts into a heinous beast trying to knock him down at every turn. Meanwhile, women are being subjugated and killed for driving or writing poetry in Saudi Arabia. That, of course, is not nearly as fun to be outraged about.

Similar to the lucky cow comic, a Florida school principal once told kids to go home who were wearing American flags on their shirts. Of course, the reasoning behind it was entirely lost because the media wanted to outrage Americans to make more money. The kids were bullying Mexican kids and being belligerent toward their culture and this is why they were asked to go home. It had nothing to do with American flags and everything to do with tolerance versus hatred, bigotry, and racism.

And yet, what does the media do after supporting racism? It denounces everything that is not racism as if it is. If a cop shoots a black man, this is suddenly racism and damn everyone else who says otherwise. The entire nation gets up in arms and creates slogans about this presumed racism and ignores the real evils occurring right before their faces. I do recognize, of course, that some people are racists and that there is a dynamic problem regarding race, but that does not make any of these individual account racist acts nor does it demonstrate the overall evil of an entire group of people known as the police. It is ridiculous to me how people were so easily indoctrinated into the political correctness of not indicting an entire race of people yet missing the point entirely that it should apply to any group.

Americans love to promote America as the best country in the world but I would love if they would learn an ounce of humility. Nobody likes people who constantly talk about how great they are. And if you belonged to some other social club like Mensa, no one is going to want to hear you gloating about how much smarter you are than everyone else. Such people are foolish and disgusting. And that is what America has become.

To paraphrase and re-purpose a quote from George Bernard Shaw, Americans have turned into "selfish clods of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making them happy." They simply want anger, rage, and self-recognition. They want to be fed a diet of pure emotion carrying them from one outrage to the next thinking that they are somehow belonging to something greater. Well, indeed they do belong to something greater: corporate greed. They buy into anything and everything the media sells as hype. It is even better if there is hype on both sides of an argument so that the emotional consumerism can provide a illusion of choice to the ever-washed brains of the masses. We get to choose between being outragist fool A or outragist fool B. This is not going to work in the long-run.

We need people to start standing up for logic and critical thinking as opposed to outragism. We ought to turn our emotions down eleven notches from ten and logically see the world for what it is. We need to see the real disgraces and do something about it rather than posting frantic hate for presumed haters and foolish non-offenses. If we hate haters so much, how about we just stop hating all together and tackle the social problems we face? Hate is not going to solve the problem of haters. It simply creates yet another group of haters to be hated by yet another new group of haters. Let's just look at the facts and make some sound decisions and stop being so outraged by all the outragist media crack we are fed. I am personally quite sick of it. Stop spreading it. And for those who we see spreading it, let's defuse the anger and hatred and have a rational conversation about it. Stop the bullying and stand up against it.

I will leave you with one more cartoonist who seems to recognize the stupidity of the American way: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.