Archive for the 'Culture' Category

18
Feb
09

Lessons of Life and Love

Today, I came across an interesting post from one of my favorite blogs, My [Confined] Space. It was a rather poignant post about love and lost opportunities:

A Bawl Story

Yeah… The kind of stuff blockbuster movie tragedies are made of. However what was interesting was the range and content of the comments that followed (you can click on the image or the link at the end of the post to see the original comments @ M[C]S ). To me, the posts all seemed to take either one extreme or another. There were some people categorically stating that being in love with your BBF is a fatal mistake, and that you should run as fast as your little legs can carry you in the other direction. Others were deeply moved by it while others chalked it all up as BS, and shucked the whole thing into their mental garbage bins.

However there were a few who did seem to come away with at least one lesson from it, and I thought there were some good points made. Me personally, I thought this chap handled the situation entirely wrong, but being the anal retentive sociocultural explorer that I am, I couldn’t help thinking about what the real lesson of all of this was, and what I would have done differently if I were in that situation. The results of my musings were rather unsatisfying, but I thought they might make for an interesting post… If you are the type that frequently posts “tl;dr” just go on ahead, leave now, and forever hold your peace. Other wise grab a cuppa, (or whatever your favorite poison happens to be today) and get comfortable…

The very first thing that ran through my head while reading this was that it seemed unfortunate that, despite being best friends with this girl, this guy decided to hide something as important as the fact that he was deeply in love, with her, from her. I can understand why he did it, however his logic for doing so seemed seriously flawed to me. Having never discussed it with her, how could he possibly know she didn’t think of him the same way? This, to me, seems to be one of the fundamental flaws with relationships these days. Lots of unfounded assumptions compounded by having none of the important communication required to clear it up.

That is not to say, however, that telling his female compadre that he was in love with her would be guaranteed make things any easier. But as I see it, there is only one possible problem with telling her. And that is that she might get weirded out by it. To be honest, it sounds stupidly stupid to me. Yep. After all, if she really is your best friend, even if she doesn’t love you romantically, she should still love you enough to understand what you are going through, and be there for you, probably help you find ways to deal with your feelings constructively. But that’s just my opinion. In real life people don’t act in particularly logical ways. Bottom line, if she actually did get weirded out, then he would  have potentially lost a best friend. However from my perspective, if your so called “BFF” bails on you for committing the oh, so heinous, cruel and unforgivable sin of falling in love with them, then they weren’t particularly good friends to begin with. C’est la vie. .

However this train of thought brought me to another interesting consideration. The reality of life is that some people aren’t really honest with themselves about who their friends are and what kinds of people they are.  I’ve noticed some rather illogical behavior with people towards those they consider “best friends”. When those “BFF”s do something wrong, they are quick to excuse the behavior, sometimes even when they themselves would never condone that behavior from anyone else. From my perspective, that is not what a good friend is supposed to do. A true friend should not be ones personal “yes” man. A true friend should always be honest, and should challenge any of behaviors that they know to be wrong. Again, just my take on what friendship means. But I digress.

The point is, when people want things bad enough, they can, and often will, lie to themselves, and tell themselves that someone is their best friend, even though the person is not. I imagine this could happen even easier with a person whom one might be romantically attracted to. They become “best friends” but do not realize that even that “Best Friend” relationship is really one way. You are doing all the befriending, in spite of the fact you have *nothing* in common, (apart from maybe wanting to get them in the sack) and they are just along for the ride. As a result you end up with a best friend who isn’t really your best friend, and isn’t even really the kind of person who you would be friends with if you weren’t sexually attracted to them. Bummer. Big bummer. Anyway, where was I…? Right. Self honesty.

Barring the possibility that the target of ones affections turns out to be a flaky pastry with no fluffy layers, there should be only one other question one should ask, should they find themselves in this situation. Will *my* feelings change if I tell my BFF I love them, and happen to get rejected? This is the scenario that been known to kill people dead (mostly metaphorically, but sometimes even literally). However from my perspective, this reaction makes no sense. If you don’t tell her, you will live the rest of your life secretly in love with your BFF. You will still have to continue to treat them like your BFF. And whatever torture you are putting yourself through will not cease.

If you do tell her, one of two things will happen. Either she will say “Aww that’s cuuute!! But can we just be friends?!?”, (BTW, welcome to the hell that is the “Friend” zone!), and you will still live your life in love with your BFF, except now she can be more sensitive to your feelings towards her, and you can try to move on. OR the she says “What took you so long, you dork!” And all will be will with the world. Well not quite, but at least you will have jumped one of the major hurdles. But you have to be honest with yourself. Be aware that just because your are BFF doesn’t mean you are automatically in like Flynn. And also realize that a rejection of romantic interest doesn’t inherently mean they weren’t really your friends to begin with. Most people who think are really just you pulling a juvenile “sour grapes” tantrum. But you won’t be able to tell the difference unless you are really being honest with yourself.

The thing is, assuming of course, the BFF isn’t a type of cardiologist that eschews surgery with the traditional and time honored scalpel in favor of a wooden spoons, you can not be any worse off than you were to begin with, UNLESS you weren’t being honest with yourself to begin with, OR the person whom you think is your BFF isn’t really your BFF. In which case I say, “To blazes with them!!” Yeah. Yes, I’m sure you probably won’t feel that way as you stand there, fully awake, spoon carving itself a ragged path around your heart, sans anaesthetic, but the reality of it is that all you will have lost is an illusion. Nothing of any real value. What you *will* have, at last, is a clear and unclouded vision of where you stand with respect to the friend in question.

If they reciprocate, then good. You still have a lifetime of relationship ups and downs to contend with. But even if they reject you, If they cared about you before, they will still care about you after. If they are the person you thought they were, you will care about them no less. (unless you were, or are lying to yourself about them, which would really be your fault, not theirs) But you will now be free to decide how to live the rest of your life, with no regrets, no questions, no “what ifs” lingering over your head. That’s what i think. But then again I do have this tendency to oversimplify things… 🙂

A Bawl Story – [My [Confined] Space]

09
Feb
09

Giving relevance to the irrelevant…

I will admit to not understanding the way most people think. On a daily basis I hear things from people that indicates a kind of logic that, to me, seems rather unusual. However I can respect that others have different ways of thinking. It’s what makes humans human.

But one thing that I find really confusing is that I also run into people who say things that should logically contradict their own way of thinking. A recent event regarding a nurse who got suspended for asking one of her patients if they would like her to pray for them got me thinking about it…

Supposedly, even asking was inappropriate, as it could offend someone. And that’s what I don’t understand. Why would an atheist (for instance) be offended by a theist asking to pray for them? She didn’t ask them to convert to Christianity/Islam/whatever. She didn’t even ask *them* to pray. I don’t get it.

There seems to be an unfathomable logical chasm between what people believe and how they behave. Lets say, for example. You believe in one, all powerful, omnipotent, omnipresent God. Then, as Captain Kirk once put it, “What does God need with a star ship?” If all God wants is to see his people at their best, would it really matter what everyone else believed, just so long as they loved their fellow man? I would submit that it doesn’t matter. At least not to any God worth his salt. It only matters to us. We are the ones who have made such a relatively trivial point one of ultimate importance.

Lets also consider the position of the atheist. The devout scientist, for instance, who believes there is no God. And yet wants to see theism of any kind removed from society as a whole. Why? Because religion is evil? If you truly believe there is no God, then what a person believes is also irrelevant, because there is no omnipotent power to back them up is there? And if there is no God, then all evil is the result of man, not religion. Following a religion is not what makes a man evil. It’s what they decide to believe and do that does. And for that reason, any atheist should be railing against men, not God.

People seem forget that it is we who decide to act the way we do. Any Christian will tell you that God has granted man free will. And any atheist should tell you that each mans actions is their own. So seeing as they both agree on the most important issue of all, why do Christians still blame atheism for the decline of our cultural morals, and why do atheists still blame theism for sociopolitical strife?

That makes no sense to me. Instead, why not prioritize a persons intentions, instead of their beliefs? If a person asks if they can pray for you, recognize that they mean you well, and they are doing everything they can possibly do to make it so. If you believe prayer is useless, fine. But is it so hard to accept the gesture for it’s intent, rather than take offense? If the patient didn’t believe in God, then the question should have been no more offensive than the nurse asking whether she could send the patient a “get well soon…” card. Or asking them if they wanted to see a Unicorn, or ask Santa Claus to pay them a visit early…

Or am I just talking crazy?

29
Jul
08

The Battle of Good and Evil…

Today I read (watched actually) the 666th post on the blog (or yolog) on the Blog of the Angry Aussie. For his 666th post, he decided to talk about the concepts of good and evil. Well worth listening to what he said if you have a few minutes, because he makes some excellent points.

If I understand what he is saying correctly, he feels that the ideas of Good and Evil are abstractions that have no real definable meaning, and that because of that, there is no such thing as absolute good, or absolute Evil. He raised some good points, with some compelling examples, such as the Nazis, and how none of them thought they were evil, and how evil actions are really a matter of perspective rather than any concrete idea.

But while I agree with a lot of what he said, I do disagree on some of the fundamental implications of his position. Hence this post. I do believe there is a universal definition of Good and a universal definition of Evil. And no, I’m not talking about universal good/evil in relation to, (for Instance) God, and the forces of good fighting against the devil and the forces of evil. I’m talking about how we define the basic earthbound humans daily battle with the moral and ethical questions that drive our actions.

There are a lot of things that are universal in this world. Laws of energy, nature, physics, etc. are inviolate. When we break one of those laws, it isn’t because we really broke it, but rather because we didn’t truly understand it to begin with. I think that universally applicable concepts of good and evil exist in the same way.

I believe that there must be some universally acceptable idea of good and evil, otherwise we would not be able to recognize the individual instances of one from the other, regardless of our individual beliefs. I think that this is a very important point. I think our problem is that we really do not understand the idea of what “Good” or “Evil” truly means at a universal level.

What this means to me, is that the biggest mistake people make with respect to defining good and evil is that they apply too specific a filter on what they consider good and what they consider evil. It is often a function of their cultural or religious belief system, or their cultural morals, or social normalcy, or any random thing they were brought up to believe.

None of these, from my perspective, are good ways to determine the benevolence or malevolence of a person or action, because they are all rooted in a human way of thinking that assumes the thinker understands the difference, or is the good guy. I believe that in order to truly define good and evil as universal concepts, we must learn to think outside of our petty differences, and in terms of a much, much broader picture, otherwise our definition of Good and Evil will, by definition, not be universal in any way, shape or form.

But then the question becomes, is it possible for a human to think in such broad terms? Well, I think so. After all, there are social laws that are universal. Laws that do exist, in one form or another, regardless of religion creed or belief system. A typical example is “The Golden Rule”. Do unto others and all that jazz.

Lets take Mr. A and the example of the Nazi’s. Sure, Nazi’s Germans never woke up every moring and said, “Today would be a great day to be evil.” No, they justified what they did using some altruistic sounding, though heinously misguided, rationalization.

Clearly, your average German walking the streets of Germany today would consider what the Nazis did evil. But why did the Germans of the time not think so? Was it because of a different perspective? And if it was, was that a reasonable perspective?

My answer to the first question is: because they were lying to themselves. And to the last two: No. No way in hell. Why? Because they violated the golden rule. Unless it makes sense to you that if another culture considers yours inferior, that they ought to take the initiative to wipe yours off the face of the earth, nobody can argue that it was a “good” thing.

It’s amazing how quickly peoples perspectives become irrelevant if you correctly apply the Golden Rule to the scenario. Things that people say makes sense suddenly contradict themselves under that paradigm, and the theoretical complications brought about by “differences in perspective” suddenly don’t mean much.

My point here is this. If a concept as simple, as straightforward and easy to apply (if you aren’t lying to yourself) as the Golden Rule, can be applied so universally, regardless of culture, creed and/or belief, then there must be some universal way to define actions that fall in line with the golden rule, and actions that violate it.

And if that exists, then, to my thinking, it follows that there must be some concrete definition to universal Good, and universal Evil… I think that most of us are usually just too egocentric to properly define it…

666-The nature of evil – [Angry Aussie]

03
Jul
08

Clues that your society may be going down the drain…

I’m sure you’ve all read about the numerous cases where folks have died in their homes not to ever be discovered until years later. I’ve always contended that the increasing frequency of this particular scenario in the United States was a sure fire indicator that our social and interpersonal humanitarian skills were no longer in rapid decline, but in all out free fall.

I will personally admit to not being the most social creature on the face of the planet, and were I to die in my sleep one day,  I would not be surprised if I were not found until a year later. That’s not to say I ignore every one else. I try to be friendly and neighborly on those occasions I do interact with others, though the (often illogical) habits of humans (in general) tend to frustrate and confuse me, so i keep such interactions to a minimun in order to preserve my sanity.

However if one of my neighbors, who I see regularly, should suddenly disappear, I would definitely start asking questions. Even more so if they are older or infirm. I’ll also help a person stranded on the roadside if  I can, though I’m finding out I am a minority in that regard, as apparently, this is not standard procedure for everyone else. To a degree, while still quite unsettling, I can understand where this attitude comes from.

We, as a society, have become so individualized and self absorbed in our ways that we often fail to even notice anything outside of what is immediately relevant to us, let alone consider how and where we can help. However there are some things I will never understand. Like how easy it is for many of us to ignore people who may need help that are right in front of us.

I just read an article today about a woman who keeled over in a New York emergency room, and was left to lie there, splayed on the floor, for an hour, before anyone lifted a finger to see if she was OK. Now heres the kicker. By the time anyone had come around to see if she was OK, she was… Dead. Yep. D. E. D. Dead.

Now having lived in New York, I must admit, I’m not entirely surprised. People keel over all the time in New York. Often from being physically compromised by sharp and/or pointy objects. Or by these little metal slugs, ejected from brass shell filled with a potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulphur concoction from a hand held firing contraption. Quite ingenious actually, though I’d much rather they be used differently.

But I digress. The point is, where it comes to total strangers, New Yorkers are the Kings of Apathy. If you live where there are a gazillion people, all in a small space, who all have so much going on, all at the same time, you learn to tune it all out. Or go nuts. I can understand this.

However if you are in the ER waiting room of a hospital and someone keels over, chances are, there may be something a whole lot worse going on than a momentary fit of narcolepsy. Now seeing as how your average adult human does not just keel over for no good reason, the obvious (to me anyway) humanitarian thing to do would be to check and make sure they are still with us.

But here’s the gotcha. In our society, you can actually be sued as a result of trying to help someone. That’s right. Should you, with no medical training, deign to wag a finger in the vicinity of the incapacitated person, you run the risk of being the target of massive litigation efforts for your trouble, should they be successfully revived.

Now ain’t that a kick in the cowbells? I’m beginning to think the US government should just make caring for and helping others a federal crime, so we can all be on the same page, and fewer greedy bastards get to benefit from the humanitarian nature of others… But then again that could just be me…

Woman Dies on ER Floor as staff watch – [P2P.net]

08
Jun
08

Irresponsible Youth or Irresponsible Parenting?

Yesterday I read an article about an underage girl, Alisha Dean who, at 13 years of age, decided to trawl the internet for some men with which to “get her groove on”, using a myspace page that depicted her as a 19 year old divorcee. The end result? Two men in jail for statutory rape.

Williams, 22, went to see Alisha Dean’s father, Jerry Dean, after several dates with Alisha. Alisha had told Morris Williams she was 18. Her Myspace (now edited and private) said she was 19 and divorced. But after having sex with Alisha, Williams got worried. Things she said and did tipped him off, and he went to see Jerry Dean, who told Williams that yeah, his daughter was only 13. Then Jerry Dean called the police to press charges. – [The Dreamin’ Demon]

The saddest part of all of this, in my mind, is that the latest victim of Alishas lies and deception, Morris Williams, tried to do the right thing when he discovered that she was underage. He went straight to her parents. Specifically, her father . Who promptly had him put in jail.

I looked at the various pictures floating around on the internet, (There is one on the site linked to below) and quite surprisingly, Alisha does not look like a 13 year old. And her (now corrected and private) myspace page, certainly comes across as a young (but legal) divorcee looking for a distraction. I bring this up because I asked the same question many others will ask: “Well how do you confuse a 13 year old with a 19 year old?” Well, call me gullible, but if you asked me how old Alisha was, based on her pic and her MySpace page, 13 would be somewhere out in left field…

Here’s what I think. Statutory rape laws exist for a good reason. Young men and women are more likely to have poor judgment, and are easier to take advantage of than adults. These laws are intended to protect them from themselves. However, I also think that, as with any law, there are always exceptions. To write laws in such a way that they deny that possibility, paves the way for frequent gross miscarriages of justice.

And in this case, there are a lot of things wrong with the way it’s written. In particular, they overlook several rather glaring problems. Like, for instance, legal adulthood does not automatically make a young adult wiser, smarter or any less prone to deception. The transition from 17 to 18 years of age, by itself, does little in the way of added life experiences.

And also, and more importantly, the fact remains that even older, more experienced people are not immune to deception and lies, and may end up in violation of these laws with no knowledge or intent to do so. And In my opinion, any law that can be accidentally broken by someone who had absolutely no intention of doing so, and had no way of avoiding the violation without employing unusual or unreasonable means (eg “card” every date), is a bad law.

But even more unfortunate, is that there is an rather serious side effect to laws that are written this way. They are very easy to abuse. They make the presumption that youth is an acceptable excuse for bad behavior. Newsflash people! IT IS NOT. Only in the mind of a parent who has failed to properly discipline and raise their kids does this make any kind of sense. But this allows underage people to act in a socially unacceptable manner with relative impunity. This, I beleive is perhaps the biggest flaw with this law.

But perhaps my biggest issue with this case in particular, is that Alishas parents, and her father in particular, have failed to acknowledge the error of their daughters ways. And, more to the point, he has not appeared to have taken ownership of the fact that he has a loose, mature looking daughter seducing men into underage sex. How can you have this happen twice, and yet still jump wholeheartedly onto the “He should go to jail for sleeping with my underage daughter” bandwagon? Wouldn’t a responsible parent be asking “What is wrong with this picture?”

At what point, seeing the great lengths that your daughter has gone to engage in an illegal activity, do you, as a parent, step in, and try to steer your child right? When she starts asking about the Kama Sutra? When she starts asking if the spare bedroom could be converted to a nursery? During the baby shower? When?

Having no insight into the Dean household I can only speculate, but the fact that Alisha’s Myspace page apparently seems to remain up, and Alisha has not been grounded, with no cell phone, no TV, no BlockBuster, and and no internet, for life, personally, I think Alishas parents need to be in the jail cell next to Morris Williams…

Alisha Dean Doesn’t Look – Or Act – 13 – [The Dreamin’ Demon]

07
Nov
07

Laaaaaaaw, is a many splendored thiiiiiing… Not.

OK, forgive my musical refrain. I ran across an article today that kinda illustrated how important it is that the laws be objective, not morally motivated, and constantly revised to stay current with the changing times:

Dying in parliament is an offence and is also by far the most absurd law in Britain, according to a survey of nearly 4,000 people by a television channel showing a legal drama series.

And though the lords were clad in their red and white ermine cloaks and ambassadors from around the world wore colourful national costumes, at least nobody turned up in a suit of armour. Illegal. – [Yahoo/AFP]

Obviously many of these laws probably had some practical logic to them when they were made, and merely suffered from being too broad or too specific in scope. However the same is true of many of the laws on the books today. They are based on historical or social standards that are either obsolete or irrelevant today.

On the other side of the coin, there are laws placed on the books, that are simply poorly thought out. Most often emotional the result of knee-jerk reactions by over zealous lawmakers. For instance banning baggy pants? No tag in school? No hugs?!? Seriously, how is banning baggy pants supposed to reduce the crime rate of a city? (see <Dumb Laws.com> for a big list of really wacky laws… Fair warning, you may laugh yourself into oblivion 🙂 )

But on a more serious note, the law has become a means for activists to push their own agendas, as opposed to protecting the society at large, and no, the two are not the same thing. An equitable legal system does not discriminate against anyone on the bases of race, color, creed, beliefs, etc, so it is absolutely ludicrous that any one should have to face prosecution simply because of their choice of clothes. What we are seeing is an abuse of the legal system. And it really needs to stop.

Die and you’re under arrest! Britain’s most stupid laws – [Yahoo/AFP]

07
Sep
07

The Southwest Airlines morality police…

You know it never ceases to amaze me how seem to think that immorality can be controlled by censorship. Censorship breeds ignorance. Nothing more. And if one day those who have been shielded from the  vices of life should come face to face with it,  do you think that their ignorance will provide them with the mental tools to deal with it correctly? I If were to hazard a guess, I’d say… no.

Americans are really quick to claim to our “individual freedoms”. However too often it seems like everybody thinks that the term “Individual Freedoms” extend no further than their own person. On an almost daily basis I see people trying to enforce their view of morality upon others, and in the process,  trample underfoot the very values they claim to hold dear, restricting what others can and cannot say, write or, for that matter, wear:

 23-year-old woman who boarded a Southwest Airlines plane in a short skirt for a flight to Arizona says she was led off the plane for wearing an outfit that was considered too skimpy.

“You’re dressed inappropriately. This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane,” she quoted the employee as saying.

The employee felt the outfit “revealed too much” but was placated after Ebbert made adjustments that included covering her stomach, Mainz said. – [Yahoo/AP]

Now this raises so many issues in my head that it’s almost mind boggling.  Like who determines what is considered too revealing? Too revealing for who? Is there wording in the airline contract that prohibits skimpy clothing? Did this employee have any legal right to even say anything to a passenger about this? Was this employee speaking for the company or was the employee using the airline to back up their own individual moral code?

Now these are all very important moral and legal questions. But what is not so obvious are the underlying assumptions that go into a statement like “This is a family airline. You’re too provocative to fly on this plane.” Are we to assume that family values prohibits the exposure of ones midriff on a plane? And whose values might those be?

And more importantly, shouldn’t the parents of said hypothetical “family” be able to explain to the youth of that family the right and wrong with any given attire? What I am asking, in a kind of round about way, is this: Why do people feel the need to shift the responsibility of parenting to everyone else but the parents? Why did this lady have to endure the humiliation she did?

Notwithstanding that fact that a persons dress code is not an accurate indicator of their morals, I believe that any responsible parent should have taught thier children what is considered appropriate clothing in that particular household, and so this should not have been an issue.

And I mean no offense, but it is only those parents who have not taught their kids what is right and wrong, and how to tell the difference, or who are afraid to openly discuss these topics when they come up (say, while buckling in for a short plane ride) that will have problems with this. And that will be because they are not parenting properly, not because of how someone is or isn’t dressed.

Others should not have to bear the burden of parents who don’t really understand what being a parent means. It is not easy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But no parent should have the right to impinge on anothers’ freedoms just to make the job easier. The end result will be ignorant children, living in a confusing world, without the tools to make the right decisions when faced with crises.

Airline tells woman her outfit won’t fly – [Yahoo/AP]




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