All posts by mikeb

Socialism for Proletariats

Let’s start with a hunter-gatherer situation.  Everyone is born and receives nourishment from their family/society until they are old enough to fend for themselves.  At this time, they go out and either hunt or gather for sustenance for at least themselves, possibly for their families (already micro-socialism).  Now, perhaps they are very good at hunting, or they have a knack for gather the tastiest of berries, but they don’t need all that tasty meat or berries, so they use their surplus to trade with other people in this hunter-gatherer society for things they perhaps didn’t have the time or energy or desire to hunt or gather.  “I have a few extra rabbits, how about I trade you for a few of your extra fish?”.  These are the beginnings of capitalism.

If we continue on the capitalistic vein, we can assign value to certain goods/services, and trade accordingly.  For instance, perhaps it takes a whole day to catch even one octopus, but you can catch 200 trout in the same time.  We could say 200 fish = 1 octopus.  Therefore, if I devise a plan to catch 3 octopii per day, I could trade it for 600 trout, and those who only catch one octopus per day can only trade for 200.  Or I could catch 1 octopus per day, trade half for 100 trout.  Or I could teach my methods to other octopus fishers for the cost of 2 bushels of berries per day.  This is all well and good, because I am rewarded for my cunning and intellect.  However, if there are too many octopus fishers, then the value goes down because “anyone can catch 10 octopii per day using this one method”.  So perhaps after a while, the value of trout goes up.

But at this point, each person in this hunter-gatherer capitalistic society starts more or less the same, and acquires skills and makes smart trades to climb up the social ladder and acquire more wealth.  Perhaps one person purchases 1,000 trout at the time where trout are worthless, then sells them later at a time where the trout become more valuable.  Or perhaps a person catches ALL the trout, then lets the value rise a bit due to shortage, then trades them for as many octopii as one could eat.  We call these people “stock brokers” and “investment bankers”.  They may not do very much actual hunting and/or gathering, but they use their wits to manipulate the trade system so they can benefit from it.

Now let’s skip ahead a few generations.  One family has been paying people a basket of berries per day to use a method of catching 10 octopii per day for generations.  The 10 octopii have a value of 1,000 baskets of berries, but their method of catching so many octopii is a family secret, and a basket of berries per day is still more than other people get, so it’s OK for the workers.  But after a few generations, we have this huge rift between families who are born into a situation where they literally do nothing other than stand by as someone else catches octopii and someone else gathers berries and an intermediary handles the payment transactions (also in exchange for a basket of berries per day).  But nearly all the other children growing up will have to settle for working for a half-basket of berries and one fish per day, because they don’t know how to catch octopii, and if they even tried, the other families with the “rights” to the octopus fishing grounds will beat them up if they even try.

But of course these wealthy octopus-fishing families aren’t completely heartless – they’ll teach your their method and maybe even let you use some of their fishing grounds – for a price.  They will teach you their methods and let you fish on a portion of their grounds for FREE*, but you’ll have to pay half of your catch to them as tribute each day as a “thank you”.  So for the rest of your life, you receive 1.5 baskets of berries and 1/4 octopus per day, but you have to give the same amount to the über-family.  It’s not that bad – you earn more than most of your peers, but it still seems strange that only because people born into the other family don’t have to lift a single finger and earn 10 or even 100x more than you each day.  But it’s only like 10 people, and there are at least 10,000 in this now “thriving” society.

Enter socialism.  A socialist society would now realize that a few people have it really good due to generations of cunning, intellect, luck, and perhaps a bit of nefarious dealings (catching all the trout to raise the value is a bit dodgy…), and most have it only “OK”.  A better solution would be to look at how many berries/fish/rabbits a given person attains each day, how much they really need, and distribute a portion of the surplus to those who, for some reason or another, don’t have enough to really call themselves a member of our fictional society.  Perhaps all the trout are gone in their area, or perhaps they’re not intelligent enough to figure out new ways of picking berries, or perhaps they would really like to learn new methods of berry-gathering, but they don’t have enough fish to trade for the education required to learn said berry-picking techniques.  It’s not for lack of will, but, rather, for lack of equal starting conditions.  And socialism tries to even things out.

If we simply put all fish, rabbits, deer, berries and chickens in a big pot and divided them up evenly among all the townsfolk, that would be communism.  And of course then one would think, “hey, I could literally never go hunting or gathering and just leech off the others, as we all get the same in the end.”  But in socialism, portions of the food “earned” by those who do very little actual “work” are re-distributed to those who do a lot of work but aren’t able to hunt/gather as much (because trade can be more lucrative than actual hunting or gathering, but hunters and gatherers are the backbone of this society).  And if the hunters/gatherers are well-fed, educated in the most current hunting/gathering techniques, then they will be less likely to revolt and can produce more food for the traders at the top of our society.  So, in a way, EVERYONE benefits!

If you feel that people born into a family with 10,000x as many baskets of berries and 1,000x as many fishing boats as you but does 10x less actual “work” than you should maybe share his essentially non-earned fortune with you for the betterment of society, you might be a socialist.

Afterword

Of course this is a simple example, and world and domestic markets are very complex, but why is it that the people who “work” in those markets have six-figure salaries while highly-skilled workers have to take out a second mortgage just to be able to afford healthcare or higher education?  Why is it easier to make a million a year if you already have a 5 million-dollar trust fund to invest?  Is 45% instead of 38% taxes too much to ask if you’re earning > 2 million per year and the benefits include:

  • nobody goes hungry
  • everyone can afford higher education, no exceptions
  • nobody has to sleep on the streets if they don’t want
  • a happy, healthy, and well-educated work force

Why Catholicism is NOT Christianity

Christianity
krɪstɪˈanɪti/
noun
  1. the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, or its beliefs and practices.

If we look at the life of the figure called “Jesus Christ” as he is documented almost exclusively in the canon of the Bible, we can clearly see that Catholicism is a far cry from the life and teachings the man.  The evidence for my claims is largely “non-evidence”, meaning the Catholic church preaches things that are quite simply not in the Bible.  They may mention Jesus, the Holy Spirit or “God” (presumably Yahweh) in their incantations and ceremonies, but that’s about the extent of it.  Let’s dive right in, shall we?

Sainthood is not a thing.

In Catholicism there are strict guidelines to what makes a person a “Saint”.  According to orthodox canonization, you must go through several steps and meet several qualifications in order to attain sainthood.  What does the Bible say about being a saint?  Nothing.  Here is a list of all the verses in the King James Version of the Bible that even mention the word: Bible Verses About Saints.  We clearly see that the word “saint” was used exclusively by Paul and John to address Christians.  We are very clearly all saints if we are children of God or Christians or whatever you want to call a follower of the teachings and life of Jesus Christ.

Mary isn’t special.

This is a no-brainer.  You can read the story in Luke 11.  Basically someone was like, “blessed is the Mother of the Son of God!” to which the actual Son of God replied, “no way, man!  Blessed be the one who listens to what I say and practises what I preach!”.  As if that isn’t enough evidence, in Matthew 12 Jesus was teaching somewhere and someone came up to him and was like, “yo Jesus, your mother and brothers are here to see you.  Don’t you want to see them?” to which He replied, “no man, these people, my disciples, are my mother and my brothers and my sisters.  Anyone who follows me is my family.”

So when the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts Mary on such a high pedestal (and many people in a half-shell on their front lawn), it just raises red flags for me.  It very clearly goes against what Jesus Christ taught!

You shouldn’t pray to St. Anthony when you lost your keys.

Yes, you understood me correctly.  Catholics pray to a demi-god saint for help with lost items.  There’s even an official prayer that goes along with it.  If this doesn’t scream “remnants of ancient polytheistic religion re-packaged for a modern era”, then I don’t know what does.  Oh, and Jesus actually had a lot so say about prayer:

Matthew 6:5-8 – you shouldn’t pray long, illustrious prayers in public just so people can hear you, but, rather, you should pray to your father in private.  Some of his disciples were confused on what prayer actually should be, so he gave them kind of a template in the well-known Lord’s Prayer.  “Our father…”.  It mentions nothing about praying to saints or squirrels or Mary or Joseph.  Actually, it only says to pray to the father (some forms of Christianity practise praying to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but that’s not entirely Biblical, although one could argue that the Trinity is three parts and one at the same time, but that’s another story for another day).

The church is the collective term of Christ-followers, NOT an international political organisation.

The first time Jesus used the word “church” is when he declares that Peter has been divinely inspired to acknowledge that Jesus is the messiah and the Son of God, and therefore has an all-access pass to the Kingdom of Heaven and on “this” will he build his church.  It’s a bit unclear if He meant that his church would be built on this exact spot, or in the person of Peter, or maybe it was just a metaphor.  I mean, Christ used the word “synagogue” very often, and chose here to use the word “church” (actually, you’d have to look to the Aramaic he spoke to find truly what he said, but we won’t go there in this blog post).

The second (and last) time Jesus mentioned “the church”, he was giving some instructions on how to deal with sinners.  It was pretty clear: if someone sins, go to them and tell them so that they may confess and be forgiven.  If they don’t repent after a while, bring it up with “the church” so that he might be embarrassed into repenting (PS why do very few churches practise this these days?)

There’s nothing wrong in organisation and having some structure to facilitate the assembly of many like-minded individuals, but to claim your interpretation of sacred texts are the ONLY correct ones and you’re not allowed into heaven unless you follow them is plain crazy.  It almost sounds like a government in many ways: “if you don’t pay taxes and adhere to our laws, you get deported or you go to jail or we even kill you”.

Of course Paul took some time in the wake of Jesus’s alleged resurrection to write to a few groups of Christ-followers and encourage them to keep the faith, and to discuss how best to practise being a Christian.  Many modern Christians put Paul’s words right up there with Jesus’s, which might not be the absolute best thing in the world to do, as they are not Christ’s words, but, rather inspired by Christ. In any event, there is nothing that Paul said ever about reciting prayers in unison or waving smoke around or silly hand-motions.  Honestly, the firt time I attended a Catholic “mass”, I thought I had been transported to some ancient cult ritual.  Everyone is standing, sitting, kneeling in unison, then chanting some shit with question/response phrasing then doing gang-signs and eating cookies and drinking wine then they just leave.  It is really very weird.  It is so much different than the Christian church services I attended where we heard someone speak about what Christ said and how we can apply it to our modern lives.  Sure the singing thing exists in Christianity as well, but I won’t address that in this post.  But if anyone can show me where in the Bible any Christian performed an actual ritual, I’ll give them five denarii.

Conclusions

So, I hope you now agree with me that Catholicism is just paganism with a face-lift after some emperor decided Zeus was outdated and Jesus was the hip, new thing.  If not, leave a comment or write your own blog post.  For the record, though, even Christianity isn’t all that special if you really think about it.

Americanization of Film

The two largest film industries in the world (number of films produced and gross profit) are Hollywood (USA) and “Bollywood” (India). English is also the most widely-spoken language (it is also one of the three official languages of India), so it make sense that anyone producing a film to be released worldwide would want to at least make an English-dubbed version or even re-make it with English-speaking actors. This is a seemingly logical phenomenon, but it has its caveats as well. Let’s look at a few, shall we?

Harry Potter

The first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published in London in 1997. In 1998, an edition was published in the US. However, the US publishers thought the US readers wouldn’t know what a “philosopher’s stone” is, and thought perhaps that images of Socrates holding a rock would be conjured up instead of a mystical, magical object, although the term “Philosophers’ Stone” has been in English-speaking lure many centuries. Regardless, the change went through and nobody batted an eye.

hp-philosophers-stone

Fast-forward a few years, and we have Warner Bros. (Hollywood) in cooperation with UK film teams/actors unions starting the daunting task of filming J.K. Rowling’s epic book series, even before all the books have been written. And because Hollywood and the American-English-speaking community commands such a large portion of global viewership, every scene where the term “Philosopher’s Stone” was mentioned had to be recorded twice. Let that sink in. We have all these child actors and acclaimed UK actors and multi-million-dollar budgets, and the director is trying to capture the magic of a scene, and finally gets a good take. And then they do it again, reciting “Sorcerer’s Stone” instead of “Philosopher’s Stone.” This happened of course a lot in the first book/film, but the object was also mentioned in further books/films. This is the only example I can think of at the moment where US and UK versions of a film differ only in a few scenes, and only in the dialogue/dialog.

Oh yeah, and they made two version of the audio books, one UK-produced and the other US-produced, but both read by Englishmen.  Go figure.

Funny Games

Also in 1997, an Austrian filmmaker released a rather dark thriller called Funny Games.  It was filmed in German (the language of the Austrians, although with a distinct Austrian accent and some difference in vocabulary/vernacular [think British vs. American English]).  It won some awards at film festivals around the world, and 10 years later, the creator of the film convinced someone in Hollywood to re-film the entire thing in English using English-speaking actors.,but he insisted on zero screenplay changes.  The end result is a film filmed with the same cameras in the same locations using actors wearing the same clothes.  Even the pacing of the film and the special effects are very close.  But we have a seemingly Hollywood-produced American-English thriller.  You can really watch the two films side-by-side and the cuts are nearly in the same place.

funny-games

But the tale gets even funnier (if you’ll pardon the pun): Germans are notorious for dubbing all films into German using well-known German voice actors.  These voice actors take their jobs very seriously and study and portray their actor counterparts so well that they are essentially assigned to an actor for their whole life.  The German voice actor who portrays Bruce Willis in all his films, for example, commands a large salary and is very well-known in Germany for his voice-over work.  Many Germans also claim that the voice-actor’s voice is even better than that of the real deal, Bruce himself.

So what was the decision the Germans made when importing Funny Games?  You’d think they’d just have taken the original Austrian version, spoken in German, and maybe only have a few subtitles when the Austrian slang becomes less-than-understandable.  Of course that would have made too much sense.  Of course the Germans took the US Hollywood production and dubbed the voices over with German voice actors.  They didn’t even use the voices of the original Austrian actors.  I find this simply weird and unnecessary.

Films Done Right

It is, however, worth mentioning that some filmmakers successfully and, in my opinion, properly, bridge the English/international gap: the Indiana Jones series, The Mummy series, The Davinci Code series, Inglorious BasterdsThe Saint, to name a few. In each of these films, people of other nationalities speak their native tongue when speaking with each other, and resort to English only when addressing English-only speakers or when speaking with characters of many tongues.  I think it’s so great, for example, that in The Mummy, the ancient Egyptians speak an Arabic dialect thought to be used at that time.  Never once do the ancient Egyptians speak English, because they would never have learned it.  Even in the loosely-related The Scorpion King, the nomadic characters often speak in a desert-dialect believed to be used at that time (although much of the main dialog(u)e is in English).

The Saint is another classic that deserves a blog post in its own right, but I will mention that the main character, played by Val Kilmer, goes through a variety of foreign languages and accents quite convincingly.  We see the character practicing his Russian in order to bluff the guards to gain entry into the Kremlin, and we see him portraying a homosexual German in the Berlin airport who converses with the local staff with ease.  The film itself is very exciting, and it can also be inspiring for English-only-speakers to think that learning new languages can open a whole new world, even if (or perhaps especially if) that world is dangerous and full of excitement.

the-saint

 

What are your thoughts on American/English versioning of film?

[Insert Buzzword Here] – Racial/Gender Equality

It seems like the last year or so my newsfeeds have been cluttered with buzzwords about the latest racial or gender inequality “scandals”. I don’t need to name them; you all know them. I would like to address the phenomenon and offer my take on how to (in my opinion) learn from it and move forward.

Whenever one of these events happens (someone kills someone of another race or a person of one gender is bullied by that of another), every Tom, Dick and Harry weighs in on the issue with their opinion. Whichever “side” they choose, they often search for statistics to back it up. “Gender X receives more foodstamps than gender Y” or “race A has more inmates than race B”. While it is good for us to use these events to take a closer look at society, we make the fatal mistake of abusing statistics to quickly justify, or at least explain the phenomena. This is wrong. A statistic is a statistic, but it is not law. Any good statistician will tell you the inherent fallibility of collecting statistics (location, time, willing participants, agenda of the data collectors). So after some sample data is taken, the next step is to analyze the data. Some people have multiple PhDs in this area and would still consider themselves fallible when it comes to “properly” interpreting data. So why do we read articles on the internet written by some “professional blogger” with little more than an associate’s degree in “media”? The very idea is preposterous!

When one truly looks deeper into the local, national and global statistics, and compares them to the general feel they have BEFORE the event in question happened, then one can form a more even opinion. “I haven’t seen any people of race X kill anyone of race Y in my city. Or at least I never heard of it happening. And the statistics show this phenomena localized largely in communities where race has historically been an issue and there is a large social gap between the various races.” This doesn’t mean that racial violence doesn’t happen, but it also doesn’t mean that it happens all the time. However – violence (interracial or otherwise) happens too much. I think we can all agree on that.

So how do we continue? Well, I’d suggest we continue doing things we’ve always done: promote peace and understanding among every race, creed, colour, sexual orientation and species. This isn’t anything new. Prophets who are the cornerstones of many modern religions have been saying this for centuries. Activists have been saying it and in the modern world, we have many laws aimed at preventing undue prejudice. We’ve come a very long way from the time of slave-trade and gender-specific social roles. I dare say they have been all but obliterated! The very last step that remains, in my eyes, is to.

STOP TALKING ABOUT IT!

People may continue to kill other people and people may continue to bully or treat other people poorly, but as long as we continue bringing race, gender, creed, sexual orientation into it, WE are the racists/genderists/hatefuls. It may be inherent in human nature to look for someone to blame and to try and make sense of all the information that comes our way, but if we look at things as Mr. Ockham (see: Occam’s razor), we can see that often the simplest explanation is the “most correct”.  Now I’m not saying this is how everyone should live their lives, and we should be thankful the judicial system considers ALL evidence before making their verdicts, but the simplest truth or the core information we can garner from looking at all the hate in the world is and should be devoid of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender, etc.  It’s an unnecessary classification we try to impose on all the information we receive.  And while it is important to be able to differentiate between genders and races, and it is important to celebrate those differences, violence is violence is violence.

I will stop here and allow you to form your own opinion, but before I do, perhaps we can see what our cheeky little friends over in the small mountain town of South Park have to say about this (cannot be embedded due to international copyright laws):

Too Little, Too Late – or, Why You Shouldn’t Care About Companies Having Your Private Data

Every time facebook or Google or Apple updates their terms and conditions, the collective internet blows up with articles about how our privacy is slowly being lost and warning us to turn on privacy settings or cancel our memberships altogether. Without getting into the technical details, I will attempt to show you why you have no need to worry: this has been going on since the inception of the internet (and even before with your credit/debit card, employment forms, surveys, catalog subscriptions, invoices, ticket purchases and so on).

Internet-Privacy

Basically, every time you do anything via internet (read email on your desktop, get a push-notification from Twitter on your smart phone or stream a video on your tablet), nearly all your personal information is being sent around to different companies. That is because you or your household signed a contract with an internet service provider (ISP) who assigns you an internet protocol address (IP address) so they can monitor your traffic and connect you to the internet backbone. Whenever you send a request for a web page or an image or an email, this IP address, which is directly linked to your name/address/credit card/phone number, is sent all the way through your ISP to various companies who facilitate the core functionality of the internet, to the final destination, and back. Not only that, but the exact device you are using has a worldwide unique address that is also known by at least your ISP.

This means at the very least your ISP (or mobile service provider, if you are surfing on your mobile device; and the ISP of whoever’s WiFi you are using) knows who you are and where you are at all times. And they send parts of this information as part of every request for information on the internet. Usually only the IP address is sent, but that’s enough to locate you to within a town or even city block, due to the way IP address are assigned throughout the world (think: postal codes). And you simply cannot stop anyone whose website you open or mobile application you use from looking up your general location. They need your IP address in order to give you the content you want!

Now of course today we have many devices with GPS buit-in and even accelerators to measure our current speed (useful for navigation systems and games where you have to physically move the device around). Each company that develops websites or applications that want to use this very specific data, as well as other personal data like name, address, e-mail, credit card, password, has to explicitly ask you for your permissions. For example: for instagram to be able to post your activity to twitter, it needs your permission to do so. It’s pretty simple. If you don’t want it to do that, you can either turn off that feature or not use instagram.

So… if you’re worried that some company out there has too much information on you, try to turn off those features in the privacy settings. If they do not offer to turn off those features (meaning they need your GPS or e-mail in order to perform their most basic functions), then you can simply delete your account.

However: this does not mean that if you’re ever in trouble somewhere that your government cannot look through ALL your recent internet history and location data to see where the last time you accessed your device was. This also means that if you are on trial for a murder, your government can look through that same information to prove (or disprove) that you were at the scene of the crime. The only TRUE way to not let anybody see what you’re doing online, ever, is to not go online.

Does that make sense or did I go to fast?

Confessions of a Former Christian

So, I read this article: Gay Couples in Church: A Third Option? and started writing a reply in the comments, but it ended up turning into something else.  It’s worth the read – especially if you’re a self-professed Christian.  Enjoy!

I grew up in a conservative, Pentecostal mega church, and then in college attended a more lax “being a Christian is between you and God, and the church body is here to help you on your journey through relationships.” I have since rejected the idea of God’s plan laid out in the Bible to be 100% absolute truth and am no longer a self-proclaimed “Christian”.  I think this issue re-assures me that I made the right decision.  People these days are trying to decide what is right or wrong based on an English (or whatever language you speak) translation of an old-German translation of a Latin translation of what was decided at the Council of Nicea to be “the inspired Word of God” based on holy Jewish texts and collections of early Christian letters and diaries. The chance for error or something important to have been omitted or mis-translated is rather large.  So, I think the real question you should be asking yourself is “do I want to live my life to the letter of the NIV/KJV/whatever translation Bible, or do I want to allow the Spirit of God to speak directly to me through the Bible, friends, intuition and experience?”

At the Pentecostal mega-church it was pretty simple: do not lay with a man or animal as one does with a woman – don’t eat too much unclean food – don’t have sex when on your period – don’t rape – don’t kill – don’t covet – etc. etc.

Now…. It’s pretty hard to do all these things, which is why God allowed the Jews to make animal sacrifices for the atonement of sins.  Later, he sent his son to Earth to be the ultimate sacrifice – we would no longer have to sacrifice animals when we sin, but rather remember that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins: past, present and future.  So… technically…. we can just sin all the time and Jesus takes the fall, right?  Well, that’s where the New Testament comes into play.  Paul was the main author of the New Testament, and in his letters he urged the early church to not use Christ’s sacrifice as a “get out of jail free card” (his words, not mine), but rather strive to be the best we can and know that God’s grace through Jesus’s sacrifice is there for when we mess up.

That being said, let’s look at a few sins.  You murdered someone?  Shame on you.  Jesus died for that.  Repent and don’t do it again.  You did it again?  Repent again and don’t do it a third time.  You coveted your neighbour’s donkey?  Shame on you.  But Jesus died for that so repent and don’t do it again.  You had homosexual sex?  Shame on you.  But Jesus died for that so repent and do it again.  What’s that?  You WANT to do it again and again and again?  You can’t help it?  Oh! Maybe you have a demon or a stronghold that can be exorcised.  No?  Well then, what shall we do?

This is where logically following the current translation of the Bible to the letter falls apart.  What do we do if we disagree with one of the laws of the Old Testament, like the fact that we can’t do any work on the Sabbath?  Can we keep doing it and keep asking for forgiveness?  Well, maybe the laws set up are more just guidelines for a healthy life.  Taking a day off is good for ones mental, physical and spiritual health, so why not make it a law that everyone has to take at least one day off a week?  OK.  Don’t eat too much fatty food or shellfish?  Also healthy.  Don’t have gay sex?  Well, it certainly won’t make any babies, so if I want kids, I should have straight sex.  OK, that sounds reasonable. But if I want to eat fatty foods because it makes me feel good or work this weekend so I can get some extra cash for my upcoming vacation or I just really like having sex with the same gender and the planet isn’t really in danger of under-population, then I don’t have to follow the suggestion, right?.

This is basically where the idea of being a Christian broke down for me.  If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and I don’t agree with it and I change it in some places to fit my needs, then what is stopping me from changing the basic tenants of Christianity?  What are the basic tenants of modern Christianity?  Do I really need to confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead?  I know it says that, but I could also say that Paul wrote it as a suggestion to the Romans so they could keep their faith alive.  Maybe I don’t have to even go to church or meet with other Christians to keep my faith alive – I know Paul said we shouldn’t “forsake the gathering”, but again, they didn’t have internet back then and now I can just read a bunch of articles and it’s all good.  Right?

I know my views would seem black and white – either full Christian or no Christian – but what is the real purpose of being a Christian?  Is it just to get into heaven?  If so, I’d suggest following the Bible to the letter as best as you can.  Eternity in hell is unfathomably terrible and quite literally the worst thing ever.  What’s 60 years of half-way enjoying yourself compared to an ETERNITY in constant torture?

But what if being a Christian is about being the kind of person God made you to be?  Redeemed by Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit to help you on your quest for the perfect life?

But what if these are all just metaphors?  What if every religion, self-help group and cult had all these factors in common?  We are born unable to even fathom reality, eternity, or even morality.  We slowly learn as we grow older, and at a certain age we take responsibility for our own actions.  We quickly learn that in order to cope in this social world we need to be nice to everyone and treat everyone with respect and kindness and take care of ourselves and our loved ones and even the poor and helpless.  We learn that just doing good things means nothing unless we really want to do them (at least to us – the recipient of our good will usually won’t complain if we did it grudgingly).  Then we start to think about what this life truly is.  Does there exist other dimensions or a life before/after death?  Philosophers, religious leaders and even tyrants wanting to exploit the human race for their own gains have thought about these questions and written down sometimes elaborate stories to explain possible answers to these questions.  Let’s first take a look at Christianity.

God, the Father: created the whole universe, set up the laws of nature, time, life and death.  We can’t really see him, and technically we cannot even feel him or talk to him.  We have always needed a mediator to do so.  This was a priest back in the Old Testament, and it is now the Holy Spirit.

Christ, the Son: came to Earth to show us first-hand what this life is all about.  He is the example that the ancients believed would come to prove the existence of the Father and to show us how to truly live.  He, too, was 100% human, so he needed the Holy Spirit to communicate with the Father.  But he is also a part of the Trinity, so he technically is the Holy Spirit as well.

The Holy Ghost: is basically the same spirit that created all things and was in Jesus and is now in us.  He tells us what to do and what not to do – he is at one with everything – he exists outside of time – he exists simultaneously within all of us (at least those who let him in).

OK, sounds great.  Let’s look at some rudimentary new-age thoughts.  Reality (or existence) exists because it just does – it has always existed and will always exist, even when nothing exists to experience the existence.  Existence can also take infinite forms.  This could be “God” – Yahweh – “I am”.

Well then, what is Jesus?  You know how as an infant you cannot come to grips with reality, which is why you can’t remember anything?  Well, this is life before Christ.  Then Christ comes (the realization of the basic nature of reality, the laws of nature, our place in it, etc.) and we suddenly know that an apple is an apple and up is up and right is right and wrong is subjective and nothing is absolute (or is it?)

The Holy Spirit – the same one that was in Jesus and IS Jesus and IS God – is now in us.  This relates to the fact that we now have a mind and intuition and the ability to experience this life and to try to make our way in it and be the best we can.  Our intuition, mind, experience helps guide us.  “Don’t touch hot things!”  “Exercise to have a health body!”  “Don’t be mean to others and they most likely won’t be mean to me!”  Because this intuition/Holy-Spirit is also God and Jesus – that means our mind is one with our body, and those are both one with the universe/reality.  It may sound like a stretch, but read it again with an open mind.  There are DEFINITELY parallels.

I could move on to other cultures – religions where there were one or many gods who sent visitors to the earth to show us how to live, and those cultures worshiped both the gods and the messengers.  Some today might even say these are aliens who came to give us teach us about the nature of reality and the universe, or may have even created us.

What started out as my two cents about gay marriage turned into my confession and argument for why I no longer believe what I used to.  If you got this far, then you found this either super interesting or you just skipped to the end.  Well, I hope you enjoyed it and it made you think about your own life.  Feel free to discuss, but before you do, know this:  I, too, learned about “a man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.”  I’m not trying to argue anything here, I’m just telling my experience and the thoughts that brought me there.  I could also tell you about the experience I had on LSD and MDMA where everyone’s head turned into balloons and floated away, and you could try to convince me that it never happened and was just all “in my head” – but I experienced it.  Sorry, experiential reality is another topic for another time…

On Religion and Science

I saw this video today and had some thoughts about it I wanted to share with the world.  So first, here’s the video:

You can tell Dr. Dawkins is more of a theologist and less of a scientist.  While I believe his campaign to rid humanity of traditional religious belief in a god or gods good and just, he does indeed go about it the same way the religious go about instilling those beliefs in the first place.  If someone can be convinced that there are one or more gods out there who simply exist and have always existed and created our universe and so on, then they can be convinced that it is not true.

The natural sciences (the study of our perceivable reality) can only go so far in teaching us about ourselves, but as philosophers and mathematicians have told us, we are limited by the fact that we exist in our universe, and therefore cannot perceive reality as a whole, rather, can only see shadows and repercussions.  The classical example is to look at your own eye.  We need a mirror, an imperfect tool for reflecting light, in order to see our own eyes.  The light reflects off our eye, then into the mirror, then back into our eye.  Physicists have understood that much of the light information is lost along this path, and therefore we will never have a 100% complete picture of the truth; and philosophers have stated that this measurable effect begs the question, “is anything truly real?”

Without going too deep into that right now, I just wanted to say that belief in science is very similar to belief in a god/gods: once you believe in it, you can use its inherent methods to prove its existence and validity.

The ADHD Generation

Introduction

So, there was this huge deal with ADD/ADHD as I was growing up (let’s say early 90s until 2000), and I knew a few kids who were super hyperactive, and they took medication that calmed them down somewhat.  Later in life, they seemed to be fine, but nonetheless, there was much controversy about too many kids misdiagnosed as ADD/ADHD when they just genuinely required discipline.  Fast-forward fifteen years to 2013…

In an attempt to get in touch with the generation of kids ten to fifteen years younger than me, I became an active member of an online humour community.  I had already seen these “internet memes” become trend and receive publicity in the media, and even a South Park episode based on it.  But why is it so popular and what exactly is popular and why do they do this?  Without going into boring details, here’s what I found out about people born roughly between 1995 and 2005:

College Students Have the Right Idea

It would seem those born near 1995 (those entering college or already enrolled) seem to have a good grasp on social issues.  They know they are the next generation, and thirst for knowledge and wisdom.  They take notice of global socioeconomic and political issues and even start forming opinions other than those imposed on them by their parents and professors.  They also have held onto their childhood.  These guys grew up playing pokémon and Call of Duty and Halo and are used to phenomenal graphics, and missed the big internet boom of the late 90s, or, rather, were five or six years old when it happened, so they got the very best of the internet and learned how to properly make use of all the technology that the older generations were creating for them.

This makes them an effective work-force and their minds are sharp and they are keen on learning and on gathering information.  Perhaps the only downside is the slight generation gap they might be feeling.  They spent a lot of time on video games and internet in their youth, and that continues today.  I spent my fair share of course, but I didn’t have life-like graphics and online play to keep me glued to the TV/Computer for days at a time.  I had the feeling that at first meeting, they seemed very set in their ways and egoistic.  They had all the answers because they figured out how to use all that technology by themselves and didn’t need any new ideas from any older generations.  But after some intelligent chat, many of them opened up and some friendships even started to form.  The younger we get, the more these two opposites start to change places…

High School Students are Preoccupied and Unknowledgeable

My browser tells me that is not a word, but whatever.  High school kids are bombarded by the constant media, and have all the latest gadgets that their hard-working parents bought for them.  The high school teachers are much older and wiser, but often lack the necessary tools to get that wisdom and knowledge across to them.  It would seem that people in this age group are hyper-focused on their immediate surroundings/situation and unless something can appeal to them and keep them entertained for the next fifteen seconds, they’re going to ignore it.  I imagine most of them can sit in a 40-minute class period and tweet/check e-mail/facebook / play games on their smart-phones while still seeming to pay attention.  They might get engaged in some classroom participation for a few moments, but then trail off to whatever it is they are doing.

However, these bunch of “ADHD” kids are also hyper-productive.  They scour the internet for the latest buzz, and most often re-use all the “internet memes” (most often meaning pre-made images where they can enter their own text to give the reader a short chuckle) and post in various places.  These memes are often way over-used, and are making fun of something that has recently happened in the media.  Miley Cyrus did that “twerking” thing at the VMAs, and all of a sudden the internet was flooded with a bunch of posts making fun of her – in every way imaginable.  These ranged from incoherent “hey look, I also made something culturally relevant” to a short chuckle, at best.  But they seem to live for the instant gratification of getting a “like” or a comment on something they made.  Back in my day (now I sound old) we told jokes to each other in school, and waited until the next day in order to have the opportunity to talk again.  Of course good friends did sometimes call each other, but it wasn’t the norm.  Today’s high school students have had smart-phones and facebook and twitter since they were 10, so they’ve been utilising/over-using these technologies since then.

However, due to their mass use of all these social technologies, and the fact that these technologies haven’t really changed the last five years, these guys have basically migrated their social lives to completely online.  You wouldn’t believe the stories of people going out on dates, super socially awkward, and then the flood of posts in every conceivable online community about every single detail, utilising every available meme and method to make their online presence look as best/funny as possible.  A short example:

OMG MY DAD JUST PICKED ME UP FROM MY DATE WITH STEVE AND HE LOL’D SO HARD I THINK HE THINKS HES A GIRL BECAUSE HE HAS TITE JEENS AND GURLY FEATURES. #FML #YOLO #DADS

Yeah, that was pretty terrible.  And they really do just write run-on sentences in all-caps and hack up the English language.  But it’s SOOOO cool these days to convey how you are feeling by talking fast with no breaks and hash-tagging as “fuck my life” (FML) or make fun of your parents or whatever.  Like I said earlier, these guys are mega-ADHD and can’t even stop for one second.  And every generation of high-schoolers had their fair share of drama – they are still in their suburban plastic bubble and want to imitate what they see on TV, the movies, and in their parents’ lives.

But all this has made them generally unknowledgeable.  They don’t pay attention in class, and don’t have the patience to learn how to properly use the technology.  The just type away, hit “send”, and refresh the page until somebody comments or likes their post/content.  Before attempting to figure out how to use a new feature of a website they frequent, they either complain about it for a few weeks or write their more knowledgeable friends on how to do it.  It’s sad, but that’s what seems to be going on – and it gets worse as they get younger…

Twelve-Year-Olds Have Probably Seen More Porn than I Have…

That’s right.  You wouldn’t believe the amount of explicit pornographic material I’ve seen on some of these sites.  And the people who post them?  They’re twelve to fourteen years old.  There’s a huge masturbation culture – “fapping” it’s called (I assume due to the sound it makes).  In my day we all masturbated as well, but we sure as hell didn’t talk about it or share links to our favourite porn sites – what if our parents found out?  And at some point that was over and we started looking for relationships with real girls, and didn’t have to worry about what would be posted about us after we went on a date.  But ten to fourteen-year-olds should be holding hands and kissing, right?  Well that’s the funny thing – they would appear to have seen every kind of porn imaginable (I’ll get to that in a moment), and supposedly  jerk off all the time, leaving them little time for homework or outdoor activities, let alone any kind of pseudo-sexual advances toward real-life people.  This affects both boys and girls.

This might scare you, but there seems to be a huge trend toward really freaky sexual stuff – like boys fantasizing about sex with cartoon ponies rather than busty women.  The Japanese hentai and its sub-genres of weird octopus-sex, graphic nubile orgies and much, much more, seem to be commonplace.  People laugh about it online, and trade pics, and talk about which one they like to masturbate most often to.  I find this somewhat disturbing, but I have hopes that this early sexual peak might produce a less sexually-charged/fixated generation that might even turn out to be super-geniuses by the time they hit twenty.  Only time will tell…

Conclusion

What should we conclude?  Well, if you’ve ever talked to me or read a post I’ve written, you can gather that it will be some sort of Utopian hippie-bullshit answer.  Well, that’s exactly what it is!  I’ve already seen examples of teachers embracing this cringe-worthy culture in an attempt to gain their attention.  It seems to work somewhat – a lot of kids talk about how cool their teachers are and post pictures of their failed tests where the teacher has used memes like “Y U NO STUDY?” or “I don’t always fail my students, but when I do, I try to give them a second change (see me after class)”.  Will this work?  Maybe.  There has always been a rather large proportion of students who don’t succeed in school and go on to be the major work-force while their more diligent colleagues go on to earn big paychecks in science, engineering and business industries.

What can we do?  Talk to them – try to peak their interest.  Once in a while, one of the ADHD kids will post something about “wow!  have you ever put two mirrors face to face and looked inside?  #blewmymind #crazyshit #fuckingscience” and I reply with a long-winded and whimsical basic explanation of how light particles work, and how the human eye works, and at the end pose some deep philosophical questions about “is seeing really beliving?” and so on.  You wouldn’t belive the response!  A lot of them respond positively, saying things like, “wow, ur smart” or “yeah, my dad said something like that but I didn’t listen.  Very interesting….”  And I even get into some lengthier conversations about what they think about life thus far, and they ask questions about my life, and I try to encourage them to take time from their online lives and contemplate the universe (in a crafty way, of course).

Each person can find his/her way to accomplish this, but I think it very necessary.  These are the ones who will be going to Mars – not us.  Of course we’re not all gone, yet, and still need to pursue our individual goals and make the world a better place, but if we can get the younger ones to think about life at that age, then probably a lot of the current problems will start melting: the entertainment industry will be forced to make better, more socially and intellectually engaging films/albums, and every business can stop sinking billions of dollars and hours into social media shit and concentrate on producing great products for a better society.

DJs, Drum Circles and Dubstep

I read this article and then came up with this rant.  Enjoy…

http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-entertainment/dj-talks-about-his-work-as-if-it-has-artistic-merit-2013110780992

well, that is indeed disc jockeys have been doing since their inception during the radio boom. Of course personality played a huge role until radio’s decline in recent years (they still try, of course – god bless ’em). And of course these dudes who sit behind various devices for 6 hours while people spend way too much money on drugs and alcohol and “dance” and try to get laid can vary wildly. On one end, we have dudes with a WinAmp or iToons playlist and try to dance a round and pretend to do shit. On the other, we have true performance artists and musicians who combine live-played synthesizer, electronic drums and vocals with pre-recoreded bits. Of course key tools in the arsenal of any live disc jockey would be the mixing board and simple effects/filters. In order to keep a party going, the disk jockey or “master of ceremonies” (MC or emcee) has to make sure the transitions between songs doesn’t interrupt the flow of the evening. And they have to look for similarities in songs so that the vibe is kept up all night. Some play a bunch of genre songs with a “disco beat” over the top, while others select pre-recorded elements and combine them as they see fit. In any event, the live element of any disc jockey truly more in a directorial capacity when it is compared to something that any traditional “musician” would do on a stage. HOWEVER, I would like to think/assume that there exists decent disc jockeys out there who know their harmony: the circle of fifths, the overtone series, binaural vs. monaural, how certain frequencies affect human hearing at certain sound pressure levels. But there you have it! As long as there are people who enjoy dancing to mostly tonally monotonous, driving 4/4 beats for hours on end while plastered off their tits, we will have live disc jockeys. As long as those disc jockeys exist, we will have people producing electronic music for said mass consumption. And as long as we have that, we will continue to have musicians who will try (and most of them will fail) to write, record and perform their own tunes. Perhaps in the future there will be more electronic composers as traditional ones. Some keen minds have even alluded to this: Frank Zappa, John Cage, John Lennon, and I’m sure a host of others I’ve forgotten at this late hour.

If we look at the history and evolution of music, we can see a relatively clear picture. While some may argue that music came out of need for communication (evolving from verbal language/bodily communication and the predecessor of spoken language), others might argue that music evolved after spoken language, as a way for humans to relax, philosophise, and enjoy the world around them free from the bonds of theoretical structures such as language and mathematics. Regardless of which magazine you subscribe to, most agree that early music was very rhythmic and social. While many early musicians probably started practicing their instrument, rehearsing between performances and slowly creating rules and methodologies to be able to more effectively communicate through music, it wasn’t until WAY later that music first started becoming more personalised and egoistic. Fast-forward to the feudal ages, where a few wealthy intellectuals ruled over the masses of illiterate, sickly peasants. Here we see a clear-cut definition that still holds true today (although the lines become increasinly blurred). We have skillful minstrels hired to soothe royalty and stroke their egos. A sign of a cultured and wealthy lord was his ability to hire the best musicians as well as having an ear for what is to be considered “good” music. Then there were the peasants who used music as an both escape from peasant life and as a way to communicate through the generations. Actually, we saw some of this in the times of the ancient empires as well. However, the ancient Greek and Roman “peasants” had a considerably higher-quality life than that of the pre-renaissance peasants. Music, theatre, and indeed all artforms were considered important for society and for the human psyche/soul/spirit/animus. Of course the human ego took over in all aspects of life and led to the eventual downfall of this society.

So, we’re back in the dark ages. We have music as the ego-centric and cultured art-form for the aristocracy, as well as communication and escape for the masses. Perhaps the lines got blurred during the renaissance, and as a renewed interest in mathematics, physics and natural sciences sprouted up, so did the general interest in music and the arts. This cycle would continue for the next few centuries until the advent of recording technology. Once people started being able to move around more freely, the exchange of global knowledge became of the greatest importance. This time around, the aristocracy knew it would be best to play along, and close the gap between them and John Everyman. Governments started forming, and the people were treated to free or inexpensive concerts, operas, plays and soon, silent theatre. Literacy went up in the Western world, so the need for music as a communication tool went down. A few Western pioneers travelled the world recording the various musical traditions (as well as all forms of culture) and brought them back to the West.

For the sake of time, we’ll fast-forward to just after WWI. Hoardes of Europeans pour into the USA in search of the all-elusive “freedom” and the chance at becoming part of something great and new. Hollywood is born and thrives, the Jazz scene starts up, and we find ourselves back at the beginning of music history, perhaps. There are no longer government-sanctioned pieces written by sons of rich lords – we have a world music and art culture (albeit mostly Western) that have all found themselves being led by the Africans who now found their home in the US (and no longer as slaves!) The origins of man take the reigns and just play whatever, whenever. It doesn’t really matter why – they just get up on a stage in a smoky bar, play on the street, on their back porch, while riding a boxcar across the country. And the rest of the Western world followed suit. The industrial revolution brought on a small, albeit important renaissance that would revive 18th and 19th century philosophy and mathematics, and the “rules of music” started being broken, re-written, if you will. In essence, we have members of the new Western global tribe leading their fellow man, as well as the chieftains, in song and dance – for no other reason than “it just feels good.”

Fast-forward a few decades, and we now have radical new forms of popular music emerging: bebop, swing, rock ‘n roll, bluegrass, and soon acid, psychedelic, rock, singer-songwriter…. The powers that be took the lead of Hollywood and really got the Western music “business” up and running before 1970. Now all of a sudden we have schools to teach you how to play, write, perform, record, produce and sell music to the masses. Don McClean alluded to “the day the music died” as the day music no longer became “for the people, by the people” and started becoming a commodity in which the greatest nations of the eartch traded and compared themselves. We saw how that turned out in feudal times, but hey – at least we got the Beatles, Jimmi, Led Zep, Doors and a whole host of others from it.

Fast-forward to the 1990s – now the industry is “gettin’ me down” (Lordy sen’ ‘dat ‘ol chariot for cummin’ t’take me hooooome). While there is no longer any governing power or slave-driver against whom to protest, the new role of music is for the individual. We need to feel special, different, and need to have deep personal convictions. We also like to further this with a very niche musical taste. “I like modern rock, but the grunge scene is really picking up.” “Post-modern grunge is OK, but the neo-psychedelic elements just aren’t my thing.” “Track 10 is good, but #11 sounds too over-produced”

THis is all well and good, but we’ve strayed somehow from the earthy, “it feels good – let’s do it” humble beginnings of music. Or, rather, we have been divided into two camps again. We now have the music elitists who prefer musical analysis to “getting down with the funk” or “chasing the a-train and boogie-woogie-ing all night long”.

This is where it gets subjective. I personally believe that at the end of the 1990s, the two camps became so firmly defined, that there is no way back in the foreseeable future. On the one hand, the charts have been filled with easy-to-digest “people’s music” that incorporates everything we’ve learned about “good” music throughout the ages, and whose main purpose is to allow the listener to have a good time, move their body (shake your baaaahdaaay), and just let loose after a boring, blue-collar day. Then there are the few bands who survived from the 60s/70s super-creative heyday, and the various sub-genres and sound-a-like bands they produced. There are huge markets in both, and they both survive. It’s extremely difficult to get top-10 producers and writers to write and produce a pop-record featuring your vocals/dancing, as it is equally as hard to find some decent musicians with whom you can traverse the sonic landscapes of the innermost depths of human emotion. Micro-trends are seen, and genre popularity rises and falls quickly (from boy-band to diva in just three short years).

And then it happened.

The terrible electronic music of the 1980s combined with the groovy dance-driven funk, soul and disco of the 50s 60s and 70s combined into the future of music: techno/electro/minimal/DJ/club/euro/insertphrasehere/dubstep/whatever music. It seems to have single-handedly re-united people from all walks of life, niches, and genre-followers. Every band has to have some elecronic parts in it these days. Everyone is a “producer” (yeah, I can use FrootyLoops and ProTools on my FagBook) and even the hardest of hardcore fans goes to clubs and discoteques and shits themselves when the “bass drops” *throws up a little in mouth*

I guess it’s good… I mean – we’re back where we started all those years ago in Africa or wherever the hell we’re from. Is it OK for me to absolutely hate this shit? YES!!! Is it OK for the once hardcore punkers and skankers to fall head-over-heels for this shit? YES!!! But we can’t go pointing fingers or labeling people/genres. That is the next stage of human evolution: the true convergance of the self (id, ego) with the populous. It is totally OK to like/dislike something. Some feel best when they fit in, others like to be different – but we’re all in this wacky amusement park called “reality” together, so we’d better start enjoying ourselves while we can.

Moral of the Story? I dunno. I guess – just think before you criticise others’ musical “tastes”. And whenever things become unclear, just sit back, relax, throw on some Pink Floyd or Ke$ha or JBiebs or Skrilex or T.Rex, and just travel the universe in your mind, where it all begins and ends anyways.

The Politics of War

I just had a three-hour lesson about all the different wars that have been happening around the world since WWII. I was always under the impression that most of the wars and genocidal struggles were between extremist groups. However, there are many cases where one country’s military simply invades another country and simply says, “hey, this is now part of our country.” This might not be so bad, as long as the existing population is allowed to be a part of the new country, and still maintain their language and customs. However, it is often the case that the invading country tries to completely wipe out the existing population, or at least push them out to other countries.

Everyone would likely agree that this is wrong. So, when something is wrong, what do we do? Well, first we have to collectively decide what is “right” and what is “wrong”. After deciding that murder and genocide is wrong, we should then do everything in our power to stop said murder/genocide. However, should we also murder those who are murdering? Should we invade the invading nations? I do believe many wise men throughout the ages have warned against this “eye for an eye” method.

At this point I’d like to compare world politics to a family. It might be easier and make things less heated. We, collectively as the free world, are represented here as the parental units, and the warring nations will be our young children.

When one child takes the toy from the hand of the other, and then receives a slap on the face, then we see both of them in a petty, childish quabble. What do any good parents do? They first separate the two and send them to time-out. Then they ascertain the facts of the situation: child A took the property of child B, which caused child B to retaliate by slapping child A. So now both have done something wrong, and could both be punished – OR the property of child B could be returned to him, and both simply apologise to each other.

However – what if the property of child B wasn’t truly his in the first place? What if it was actually a present from Grandma to child A, who never played with it and it simply ended up in the hands of child B? Some parents might say, “hey child A: you never played with that toy anyways. Why not just let child B keep it?” But what if the toy in question is vital to child A’s health – an insulin kit or something? Or what if it has some sort of sentimental value to child A, even though it truly belongs to child B?

We see how things can get complicated real quick. However, in keeping with the family metaphor, the most important thing is for the family to live peacefully together in love and harmony. Therefore, everyone must be willing to make sacrifices and learn to play together. If just one member of the family makes up his or her own rules and ignores all the other rules, then the family can quickly dissolve.

The last problem that we face, which is also the first one, is: “what is right and what is wrong?” Perhaps the rules set forth by the parents in this family are “wrong”. Perhaps they utilise punishment methods that encourage misbehaviour in future generations, instead of ones that discourage it. That is why it is so very important that the family, similar to a person, stays a self-reprogrammable sentient being.

I would love to go on and say something to the effect of, “democracy is at the moment the only true way in which multiple parties can live together in harmony,” but I think that, for the moment at least, it would be dangerous to start making conclusions. I, like the parental units in our allegory, have to stay open-minded, aware, involved, loving, caring, and stay ever-evolving.

It still seems like every one of my political discussions ends up with “peace and love” at the end of it. Why can’t we just take everyone who isn’t peaceful and full of love out back and shoot them? [sarcasm, catch-22 reference]

peace and love!!!