Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Root of the Problem

Jordan's Queen Rania is concerned that Islamic Extremists are painting the Arab World in violent colors. I agree. I have a caveat, though.

Dear Queen Rania,

Here's the root of the problem, your Highness: there is something wrong with your source text. It's the same problem the Christians have with theirs. The same text that hands down your morality is the same text that excuses ISIL's lack of it. Anyone can read the text and pick the verses that reflect his own tendencies, good or bad, and say that his actions have been given God's approval.

I don't expect you to acknowledge that what's good in every moral system comes from our common humanity. ("Do unto others" is simply "give and take," and that predates Christianity, predates religion, even.)  But I would hope that every reading of Christian or Islamic texts takes this humanity into account.

Would a wise, loving, merciful God really inflict infinite punishment for finite crimes? For simple ignorance? Would the same God really  prescribe monstrous behavior toward people who are obviously also his children? Would a just God really prescribe behavior that is so patently unfair?

The texts are broken. Fundamentally so.  Because their human writers--however inspired they were--  were flawed.

Until people realize that their texts are fundamentally broken, this is going to keep happening. Every sect or faction disenfranchised by the modern world will hold more tightly to their text, more specifically to the verses which justify their retaliation against the people who are conveniently labelled "agents of the Enemy." 

Your Highness, here is where we can both agree: education. The same education  that (in conjunction with your position) has allowed you to speak out for women's rights and the cause of international peace: this is what's going to keep us all from killing each other. The more we know about and embrace other peoples, the more we can see our own humanity peeking out from under the foreigner's clothes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hell No

How does something like this wind up in my mail?

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Dear Ms Rivers

I must be the most hypocritical Philosophical Naturalist on the planet. I keep writing open letters to dead people, as if doing so would cause them to send me a reply. (They wouldn't have had the time or the inclination to reply to me when they were alive, what makes me think they'd want to now that they're ...dead?) This seems to have become my go-to method  of dealing with their passing. What ever so slightly disturbs me is that I often don't know these people personally, but they've obviously affected my life enough for me to care about their passing.

Take one Joan Rivers. I've tried not to watch Ms Rivers' show, Fashion Police,  but it was something I couldn't avoid, since my sister's a big fan, and we were sharing one teevee. I know I'm her brother because I also feel the need to cackle evilly at the latest atrocity Ms Rivers's celebrity targets were wearing to their award shows. (Hey, you can't be Pinoy without being a little bakya.)

Despite her kitsch and tackiness in her crusade to mock kitsch and tackiness, there's something to admire about  Joan Rivers. She defied her parents, left home and town to chase her dreams and catch them, hold onto them tightly, with both hands. If this isn't the quintessential American dream story, I don't know what is.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not about parental defiance for its own sake, but if something calls out to you to take a less-trodden path of which your parents may not necessarily approve, it might be worth looking into. (Have I justified people who want careers in what the Sims games call the "Criminal Career Track?" I hope not.)

What she and Ricardo Montalban, Robin Williams, Carl Sagan, and all these other dead people have in common is that they were symbols of normality for me. A kind of safety. Bombs may go off, floods may claim lives and property, but knowing that Robin Williams was making a movie, or that Khan was still around selling stones embedded in rosaries (or that our Joan Rivers was still cackling on the teevee) would make me feel as if there'd be another day. I dread thinking about what I'd think the world would be like if Captain Ham himself suddenly died by way of a stroke or heart attack-- or because someone dropped a bridge on him.

Their passing shakes up my status quo and reminds me all the more that life is short and that my number may be up sooner than I would want.

(So please finish your comics and stories, Dex.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Where Have You Been?

Good question.

I've been keeping away from Facebook for the last couple of months because I wanted to get stuff done. This is another one of my Zero Backlog projects, which I indulge in on occasion. Long-time readers (yeah, all one of you) will remember that I'd be more or less antisocial until I'd finally crossed a batch of overdue projects off my to-do list.

I shouldn't even be blogging, but I've needed some release from the monotony of "work on project," "get stymied," "work on different project," "get annoyed by interruptions," "return to previous project," and "watch stuff on Youtube."

Digression: Yeah, I'm currently enamored of Xanadu-- which doesn't say good things about my age or musical taste. Then again, Kerry Butler is great at what she does (here, affectionately parodying Olivia Newton John), and she looks like Buffy and Darla, to boot. I'm... digging myself deeper, ain't I? Digression ends.
A good chunk of the stuff that's been coming out of late came out thanks to Zero Backlog. They've mostly been drafts that I'd started and had to abandon way back in 2012.

The point: I'm still neck-deep in Zero Backlog projects, even as new projects wind up in to-do queue. I don't know when I'll get back on Facebook, or if this compulsion to write will continue. I wish it would, though--  it's therapeutic, as long as I don't say reveal too much or say something stupid. Also: I've a lot of old drafts that need finishing.

Finally: my sister's getting married soon. Among other things I'll be doing for her: something I haven't done in a long time-- participate in a church ceremony.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oy Vey

Off the Youtube page:

"Published on Aug 15, 2014
We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don't," says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice."

Speaking Truth to ...Oops

Smith makes a case for speaking truth to power, though it's his statement that you just had to speak "your own truth" that's gotten me feeling pensive.  I wonder what would happen when you speak your truth and it is dead wrong-- no, not socially wrong, but objectively wrong. Flat Earth wrong; reiki wrong; Moon Landing Denialist wrong. 

Should one speak it anyway and risk the pain of conflict, of being corrected-- however unfairly oppressed you may feel about it-- for your ignorance?

There's a diagnostic function that obviously gets achieved. Other people get to know who's got the bad ideas, where the bad ideas wind up spreading, et cetera. Speaking your truth, even if it's a misapprehension, allows these misapprehensions to get cleared up sooner. Any damage that they are causing or might have caused ceases. The human race marches forward with fewer people losing step.

In the best of worlds, there's a dialogue that happens as these ideas get critiqued, analyzed from outside perspectives. The bad ideas get challenged, corrected, refined, or ultimately abandoned. In the best of worlds, everybody can separate their ideas from their identities and take criticism in stride. Of course, what with people being people-- overly sensitive, gullible, biased, superstitious, afraid-- that doesn't always happen.

This isn't the best of worlds.

This is why there are still people today who believe that the Earth is flat.

I want to say that even the most backward, most damaging ideas deserve a forum. Against what will you compare your most sacrosanct ideas if you're not exposed to their antitheses? How will you know that what you know isn't BS?

The assumption behind the marketplace of ideas is that good ideas--true ideas--  can withstand being challenged, and bad ideas will prove themselves defective by their very natures, as people discuss them and test them.  

Sadly, this is usually around the time advocates of bad ideas begin opening their mouths, and by that action, threaten to make me eat my words.