Category Archives: Other

My new Twitter account!

I’ve started a new Twitter account, Unsolicited Advice. It is a satirical account giving, well, unsolicited advice for all your personal, social or political issues. Have you tried… following it?

Undertale: conclusive proof that humans are social animals?

For those of you who don’t know it, Undertale is a great indie RPG which has a compelling and rich storyline and characters. But you need to get all the endings to really understand the whole story. And one of those endings is “genocide,” meaning that you need to kill everything you can, including almost all the main characters.

I’ve been watching people doing genocide runs of Undertale. I think this is really interesting because people are really not happy with it. They are sad, anxious, and will even cry if they kill a particularly beloved character. I find that interesting because, under the position that all humans are fundamentally selfish, it makes no sense at all for people to mar their enjoyment of a video game with sadness or anxiety. At least with movies you can say that seeing humans on screen explains it, and most video games involving human characters. But in this case, there are no human characters except yourself (and also *censored due to spoiler*), so empathy for another human being has nothing to do with it.

I think it’s a pretty conclusive demonstration that humans are basically social animals. As long as we identify with a story, our moral and emotional evaluations go along with that story.

Idiot of the Month: “Gender is a part of identity!”

I had a Hangout conversation with someone named Sam Parsons (which he initiated) on the subject of gender. I thought it was such a great illustration of liberal logic that it should be on this blog. He can’t answer the simple question: “what is the definition of gender?” Then again, it doesn’t seem like any of them can.

I removed the timestamps and identifiers for ease of reading. His lines are in bold. Enjoy.

***

I wanted to talk to you about your community.
what community
it was like anti-gender pro-androgeny i believe\
oh yea of course
what about it
I get the idea, but the thing is that gender exists. You can eliminate gender roles, but you can’t stop people from having genders
gender are gender roles. you can’t dissociate the two.
they just put importance on different aspects of the same thing
a gender is a place on a hierarchy, just like race is a place on a hierarchy
Gender Is part of your identity. Gender roles is giving people roles based on that identity.
for some people, gender is part of how they identify yes
but for many people it is not
you’re overgeneralizing
how is that overgeneralizing
because it is only true of some people
there are plenty of people who don’t identify with their assigned gender
And those people usually identify with another gender
again, that’s not true of all people
but what is your point anyway
that you don’t have to eliminate gender to have equality, and that doing so would be impossible anyways.
again, gender is a hierarchy
not really
by definition it is a system by which some people are superior and some people are inferior
so how can there be equality within that context
there can’t
right
but that isn’t the actual context
oh I suppose you know better?
then please enlighten me
that is only the case if people are raised to believe that one gender is better than another
what is gender then
I said earlier that gender is part of identity
again, an overgeneralization, but either way, that doesn’t explain what it *is*
it is a way of
expressing identity

so is a lot of other things
people identify by race, job, ethnicity, language, favourite hobby, etc
those are not all equal things
What is “gender” that is not “race” or “job” or “hobby” or “political ideology” or “religion”
Race is biological, hobby is something you like to do, political ideology is opinions, religion is what you believe, job is something you do to make money.
What is that that is gender

you haven’t answered my question
what is “gender” specifically as opposed to all those other things
I don’t understand why you want to tell me my definition is wrong when you can’t even give me a simple one
Gender is identity, based one’s true self, as opposed to their body, opinions, beliefs, careers or hobbies.
I have given the same simple answer three times

You already said gender is part of identity
So are all those other things
So you’re a grown man who’s gonna seriously tell me you can’t tell the difference between gender and race or religion?
i just explained how those things are different
Where? You told me what the other stuff was. You never told me what gender was.
i just did
You said gender was part of identity. You said that before. I’m asking you to differentiate gender from other parts of identity.
And so far you haven’t done that.
What is “gender” SPECIFICALLY, as opposed to all other forms of identification, such as race, religion, etc
I just did that too
Then copy it again
Because I have no idea where you did that
how many times do I have to give an answer before you accept it?
WHERE IS IT?
Stop saying you gave me the answer and just copy it from what you wrote earlier
If you really did give it earlier
Because *I haven’t seen it*
So far all you’ve said is that gender is part of identity
That was my answer
Okay. But what differentiates gender from all the other parts of identity?
Do you usually not listen when you have conversations with people?!?
I am listening to you very intently. You just said “gender is part of identity” was your answer.
But I am asking you a different question.
I am asking you: How do you tell the difference between “gender” and the OTHER parts of identity?
that you asked earlier
Like race, religion, ethnicity, political ideology, hobby, etc ?
and i answered earlier
yeah, that part

Yes, what is the answer?
Gender is identity, based one’s true self, as opposed to their body, opinions, beliefs, careers or hobbies.
Okay so basically you have no answer to the question. You can’t tell the difference between someone’s gender and their race, religion, political ideology, or hobbies.
Is that right?
Because all you’re doing is repeating over and over that gender is identity.
because that is my answer
I wouldn’t have to keep repeating myself if you actually listened to what I said the first time

Okay, so you have no answer. Thanks. You could have just said that and saved us a lot of time.
So you have no idea what gender is, but you want to tell me my conception is invalid. Cool.
Here’s the problem though
That is my answer. I have said what gender is. You could have just said you didn’t want to change your mind about anything and saved us a lit of time
If you can’t even identify what gender is, how the hell could you tell if my conception is wrong or not?
All you’ve said is that gender is identity.
I acknowledged that.
But that doesn’t answer my question.
Do you understand what a definition is?
It answers your question, just not the way you wanted me to
I asked you to define what gender is: to tell me what differentiates it from other things.
How we can tell what is gender, as opposed to other concepts.
and i did
you just ignored it because you don’t agree with me

No, you only said that gender is identity. That’s not a definition, because there are many other things that are part of identity.
and I told you what makes it different
No, you did not.
but you didn’t listen
Stop lying.
All you said was, “gender is identity.”
If you said something else, it was entirely in your mind.
I said a few other things to
Do those things include a definition of gender?
read the conversation
yes

Okay then, for the record, please state clearly what your definition of gender is.
you just didn’t see it that way
GENDER IS ______________
Gender is a part of one’s identity, based upon their self, not their body, opinions, career, or hobbies, but their spirit.

***

That’s when I gave up and told him I was gonna post this on my blog. He complained for a while that I was ignoring his answers (what answers?) because I didn’t like them. Eventually I blocked him.

Critical thinking about the media.

HOW TO BE A CRITICAL MEDIA VIEWER
1. Remember that all media images and messages are constructions. Ads and other media messages have been carefully crafted with the intent to send a very specific message.

2. Question why certain messages are consistently present in mainstream media and why others are absent.

3. Look closely at the appearance of media images: the colors, the editing, the camera angles, the appearance of the people (are they young and happy?), the location, and the sound or type of text.

4. Compare media images and portrayals of your surrounding environment with your reality. Make a list of the differences so that you are more aware of them.

5. Investigate the source of the media images you encounter. Who owns the network that your favorite television show is on? What else does that corporation own? How does the ownership structure of media affect the news and
entertainment we receive? (Media Ownership Chart http://www.thenation.com/special/bigten.html)

6. What other stories about the world exist than those you see in the media? (About relationships, health, peace & war, materialism, gender, finances, violence, globalization, sex, love, etc.)

Media Education Foundation 2005

I would add that you need to inform yourself from real sources of information (books written by knowledgeable people, specialized web sites, real-life knowledge). Being able to understand facts in context (something you very rarely, if ever, get if you watch the news or “experts” discussing issues) is your best way of acquiring a capacity for critical thinking about the messages propagated by the mass media.

“We’re all entitled to our opinion!”

There is a sort of liberal handwaving that happens when someone wants to dismiss your position but doesn’t have the ammunition to argue against it. It is expressed as: “we all have the right to our own opinions” or “we’re all entitled to think what we want” or “you have the freedom to say that” or something of the sort. The funny part is when they get all astonished that you dare to disagree with such a “reasonable” principle.

I say it’s liberal handwaving, but conservatives occasionally use it too, mostly when Christians are pressed against the wall and have run out of arguments. Then they’ll pop up with some kind of “well, we all have faith in something,” as if arguing against faith was a waste of time because we’re all entitled to have faith in something, anything, as long as it sounds religious enough.

My first problem with this tactic is that it’s often nothing more than a passive-aggressive way of expressing disagreement without actually addressing anything substantial. Like I said, they use it when they have nothing left to say but don’t want to acknowledge being wrong. Basically, they’re really saying “you’ve made some great points but I can’t acknowledge that fact because doing so would threaten my worldview, so I’ll just say a platitude in the hopes that you’ll just forget about it.” It’s a complete negation of reason.

Telling someone that they have the right to say what they’re saying is just a trivial response. If it’s true, then it necessarily applies to anything anyone might say, so why mention it in this particular situation and not others? We observe that people mostly invoke their right to speak when they are doing something particularly objectionable, such as pornography or corporate meddling in elections. They use the free speech argument because they have no other arguments left.

My second problem with this tactic, and perhaps the most important, is that it’s just plain false: you most certainly are not entitled, or have a right, to any opinion you want. Entitlement and right imply a need so great that going against it is a form of aggression (e.g. food, shelter, health, justice, equality, freedom, and so on). An opinion is not one of those things. No one has ever died for the inability to formulate a certain opinion. No one has failed to flourish because they were not entitled to an opinion.

Let’s be more specific here, because it’s not all opinions that are at issue. You can have opinions or beliefs all you want about things that are not statements of fact, and I will not begrudge you if you claim having a right to those opinions or beliefs. The problems begin when you make statements of fact. and these problems amplify quite a bit if those statements are purported to be about other people.

So for example a man may feel fulfilled by his masculine gender role. He would be entitled to feel that way and to believe that this is his way to flourish. But if that same man stated as a fact that masculinity was the ideal that all men should achieve, then I would certainly object to such an inanity whether he liked it or not. And if he judged me, or some other men, on the basis of that standard, then I would not recognize that he is entitled or has the right to believe this. I would correctly judge that he is hurting other people and should keep his beliefs to himself. No one is entitled to hold opinions that entail injury to others.

Nothing stops anyone from believing that opinions are just a harmless sort of thing that come and go without any impact on other people, just floating around in our brain disconnected from the outside world. The problem is that our beliefs are very much connected to our actions.

There can be a lot of misunderstanding about this. So for example someone may point out that the Bible says to love one another and to follow the Golden Rule, and that organized Christianity has never acted as if this mattered. But it would be an error to use this as an argument to prove that beliefs do not inform actions. For the most part, the beliefs that inform our actions are incentives innate to the structures we live within.

Keep in mind the difference between theoretical purposes and actual purposes, because I think that’s usually what trips people up. The theoretical purpose of Christianity does include charitable works and providing moral standards for a community. Its actual purpose is to keep people in line and promote its own idea of ultimate truths, and charitable works are just a means that religious organizations (and corporations, and cults, amongst others) use to polish their public image. It’s got nothing to do with “loving one another.”

Beliefs guide actions. What we believe about other people informs how we see them, and how we see people influences how we act towards them. This is simple logic. Beliefs have consequences; unethical beliefs usually have unethical consequences. They can entail real harm to real people.

My third, and final, problem with this tactic is that it’s an attempt at having one’s cake and eating it too: the person is making claims about reality while taking refuge behind the subjective.

So coming back to my first example, a Christian may argue that “well, we all have faith in something,” which is an attempt to reduce factual issues to the personal realm. But if the issue under discussion was, say, Creationism, then a lot of factual issues were probably involved (such as the fossil record, carbon dating, DNA, and so on) as well as beliefs about other people (such as the motivation of scientists or of people who believe in evolution). These beliefs are not a priori equal to any other belief, and they are not purely personal constructs.

Amnesty International officially supports decriminalization of johns and pimps.

I really feel like today is a day of mourning… Amnesty International, an organization which, to my knowledge, was one of the “good guys,” has joined the dark side. They have taken a strong stance today against all women of the world, especially Third World women who are trafficked by the millions…

I Don’t Think We’re Smart, by the filthy politicians

we think we’re so smart it’s funny
not much wisdom but damn we got money
we’re just animals like everybody else
but we’ve learned to like to destroy ourselves
so if i could i would trade it all
fuck science let the chips fall
where they may – control is an illusion
toaster ovens and nuclear fusion
don’t get us anywhere but further away
from livin life in a natural way
we’re relatively new to the forest
gotta learn from the ones here before us
we’re the younger brother of all the other species
but we quit listenin and now it’s easy
to see how far off the track we are
gotta get back there’s a map in the stars
so we’ll start by tearin down the street lights
let bright days turn into bright nights
take old wrongs make new rights
as we dance on the grave of the ways of our old life
cuz right now we take and we don’t give back
if you want to survive then you can’t do that
you can’t pollute, poison an plunder
cuz if you bring lightning you’re gonna get thunder
and right now we’re flailing, about to go under
alarms are wailing and it makes you wonder
how we don’t hear it?
maybe it’s cuz now it’s too loud
and the waves are crashing down all around
so we can’t decipher the sounds anymore
i don’t think we’re smart
because we found new ways now to tear the earth apart
it’s gettin bigger but it ain’t gettin better
the writing’s on the wall in bright red letters
big dump trucks, sky scrapers
chemical factories, all earth rapers
agriculture means fightin nature
imposin our will like a legislature
we’ve wiped out the ones who were content
to live with the earth the way that we were meant to
so we gotta look back if we wanna learn new
ways to relate to the earth that we’ve burned through
it’s time for restoration
of the earth and our human relations
cuz we ain’t happy here in hierarchy
we’re better as equals i ain’t lyin b
but we’ve been chasin a ghost
ignoring the things that we need the most
like clean air, water, and community
civilization has enjoyed immunity
while all these kings and queens
get off scott free as we eat the memes
that you better not resist this just go along
they got armies and guns they’re too strong
but fuck that i’m learning
can’t sit back, won’t be a good german
and watch this holocaust any longer
choose life and we’ll all be stronger
cuz right now we’re slaves diggin our own graves
the earth we need’s the earth we pave
so we gotta wake up, wake up, wake up
then we gotta take up, take up, take up
the war of our ancestors and end it
so we can save our descendants

Why do we make so much fuss about the Confederate flag?

Arguments about the Confederate flag are flaring up again, like a bad rash. People argue that it’s a flag that symbolizes hatred, bigotry, and racism. People argue that past history, or the people that the flag represents, does not represent a counter-argument to what it symbolizes.

And yet I’m not hearing people make the same argument about the American flag. Which also symbolizes hatred, bigotry, and racism. If you’re willing to make an argument against your opponents’ flag but not yours, you’re a hypocrite and no one should take you seriously.