Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Question 5: "Why Can't We Just Put This Stupid Shit Aside And Treat Each Other Like Human Beings?"

"After all," you say, "I might be a white dude, but the one-room apartment I live in bears a lot closer resemblance to the ghetto than the mansion Flavor Flav lives in. If you don't want me judging people based on the color of their skin, why are you judging me on mine? To say I have 'white privilege' is a cruel joke, considering that for lunch I ate a 'hamburger' that was a wad of ramen noodles between two slices of bread."

All of that is technically correct. And I completely get why a low-income, lonely white dude is sick to death of hearing about how his movies, video games, and jokes are racist or sexist or homophobic. The logic is almost impossible to argue with: "If their problems as women are on the level of getting Hollywood to cast a plus-size Wonder Woman, and my problems involve not being able to afford heat in the winter, then it's downright evil to belittle my real problems while demanding I worry about that trivial SJW Tumblr bullshit."

In other words, why can't we start treating each other like individuals based on our position in life, and just drop all of this race/gender stuff that just clouds the issue? Wouldn't that be the fastest way to make things better for everyone?

Sure, and we could totally do that, if we were merely people. The problem is that we can't just collectively agree to make the context of history go away, any more than a bunch of leaves can get together and decide that there is no tree; the roots of history are still feeding us. Blacks are still stuck in neighborhoods with terrible schools and no job opportunities where they're being groomed for a lifetime in the corrections system. Women who want to get jobs as software engineers will find themselves in offices that are 84 percent male.

So, while race is a social construct as are lots of gender roles*, that doesn't mean they're not real -- the systems we're living under today were all built with them in mind.

And if you are a white male in America, you're among the winningest of the winning tribes -- again, even if your own life is a disaster. This is why people say you have "privilege." It doesn't really refer to anything you have, but what you don't have. You may still get shot by a cop some day, but you won't get shot because you're white. As a male, your boss might be less likely to flirt with you, but will be more likely to take your input seriously. And so on.

Changing that doesn't mean they're winning, and you're losing. This isn't about you. There is no "you" at all, outside of this larger context. It's about continuing this winning streak humanity has been on, and trying to build a world in which everybody -- from the poor white dude in the trailer park to the black trans woman in Russia -- has the best possible chance to make something with their lives. We can disagree about how exactly to do that, but as for those people talking about the "good old days" and getting back to "traditional" values? The best thing I can say about them is that they can't possibly know what they're asking for.

Original Article

Monday, November 16, 2015

Question 4: "Why Do I Get Blamed For Things My Grandparents Did?"

Here's another really simple thing that every one of us completely whiffs on every time it comes up.

There is a difference between being "to blame" for something and being "responsible" for it. It's easy to see the difference in some situations (i.e., you're not to blame for the snow, but you are responsible for shoveling your driveway), but not in others. For instance, if you tell one of my fellow white people that we're responsible for helping fix social justice issues, they'll say, "But I've never discriminated against anyone!" And they'll mean it.

This is confusing because, as kids, we were taught that you clean up your own messes, and it's easy to accidentally expand that to: "You only clean up your own messes." It then becomes natural to say things such as "Why are you talking to me about racism when I've never owned slaves?" or "Why are you yammering endlessly about sexism when every day at school I get laughed at, while cheerleaders are worshiped as idols?"

Now, we circle back to the idea I introduced at the start -- you, hypothetical white male reader, didn't own slaves or systematically shut black people out of the economy for 150 years after. But, you are part of a greater whole, and, thus, you reaped some of the benefits. In theory, we should all have learned this in history class -- not just that slavery happened, but that we were all born at a certain level because we were boosted there by a complicated set of systems developed to reserve the best jobs, schools, neighborhoods, and social systems for people who look like us.

If they try to teach this in the classroom, critics will scream that they're making white kids "feel guilty for being white." But, there's that confusion again -- telling those kids they're guilty (that is, "to blame") for being white would be wrong. Telling those kids that, as white people, they are responsible for fixing inequality is just a statement of fact. The entire concept of civilization is that things are supposed to always be getting better -- each link in the chain is hopefully a little smarter, richer, and healthier than the one before. That's why the average American today dies at about 79, but the average ancient Roman died in their late 40s (even excluding those who died in childhood). But, improving means fixing things that are broken. That is, things that other people broke.

A helpful way to look at it is to view all of human history as a Dude, Where's My Car? situation. You wake up one day and find that you did all sorts of shit -- good and bad -- that you have no memory of. And it doesn't matter because it was still you. And I'm saying, it was literally you -- if put in the same situation, you would have done the same thing your forefathers did. The only reason you've escaped guilt, and the only reason you're able to watch old Bugs Bunny cartoons and cringe at how racist they were, is because you were born in an era after other people had already done a lot of the hard work rooting out that shit. You know what your great-grandparents didn't.

 You have to keep doing that work because there are still all sorts of imbalances that need correcting. Right now, there's some toddler with a brain capable of curing cancer, and we're never going to know because he was born in inner-city Detroit, and he's going to go to a bullshit school and grow up with no positive role models. And the moment he commits a misdemeanor as a teenager, society is going to declare him a lost cause and flush him away. The process intended to discover his talent, cultivate it, and get him into a lab curing your cancer is still in shambles. Please note that it's just as tragic if, instead of curing cancer, his best-case scenario is to grow up to be a good friend and father while doing oil changes at Jiffy Lube.

Helping to rectify that situation is one of the many, many things you're tasked with due to having been born in a fairly high place in the world. It's not "fair," but that's a meaningless word when referencing things you have no control over. You didn't ask to be born half-way up a mountain, but you were, and I need you to look down and realize that mountain is really a pile of bones.

Original Article

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Question 3: "Why Do People Act Like Sexism/Racism/Etc. Are Rampant, When Even Mild Jokes About Those Things Will Ruin Your Career Now?"

One of the big reasons for that upward spike in humanity on the line graph of the previous question is we started to figure out how to get the most out of humans. For instance, 1,000 years ago, if you were a genius born on a farm, it didn't matter -- it just meant you were going to be a genius who shoveled shit. Two hundred years ago, if you were a genius who was born as an African-American, it didn't matter -- you were going to live your life as a genius slave. A hundred years ago, if you were a genius who was born a female, it didn't matter -- you were going to be a genius who stayed home and changed diapers.

The upward surge in humanity has coincided with us taking down more and more of those arbitrary barriers because humanity realized it badly needs all those geniuses out in the field doing genius things. I don't even mean "Einstein" type geniuses -- humanity needs people who are geniuses at teaching, plumbing, repairing air conditioners, rapping, etc. And for millennia, we were arbitrarily telling 80 or 90 percent of our talented people that they had to sweep floors or dig ditches, purely because they weren't also born white male heterosexual Christians. Progress came when we started pushing for things such as universal education and literacy, along with rights for minorities and women to pursue careers and advanced degrees.

Sure, we framed this as "equal rights" and a heroic triumph of empathy over bigotry, but the system always secretly had this other, selfish motive. It's no coincidence that desegregation started happening after World War II, when lots of white soldiers came home from having served alongside blacks and realized these guys were capable of greatness when given a chance. It's no coincidence women were only allowed to join the economy after that same war forced industries to turn to them in an absence of males -- and found they could do all sorts of shit that had nothing to do with raising babies or ironing shirts.

All they needed was a chance. The advancement of society has, in fact, largely been measured in how good it is at giving people chances to be all they can be. And you can see where we are in that process by looking at what kind of chances people still don't have. (Hint: If you get shot by the cops at age 16 while committing a misdemeanor, you never had your "chance" -- giving people room to make youthful mistakes without dying is part of it.)

That brings us to the problem, which is that even though these changes unquestionably made the world better, the world still had to be dragged along kicking and screaming. The big flaw in humanity is that we always cling to short-term comfort over long-term prosperity (because we see ourselves as individuals, instead of part of a whole), and certain classes of people were benefiting from doing things the old way, even if humanity as a whole was not.

This is why there are still barriers up all over the place -- only 14 percent of top business executives are women, only 20 percent of Congress. A white person is almost twice as likely to have a college degree than a black one of the same age. You weren't born in the aftermath of the battle, you were born somewhere in the middle of it.

And that is the confusing part for most people reading this. All of those numbers in the above paragraph are, after all, way better than they were a century ago. We've clearly improved. So, when some white kid on Facebook starts asking why there isn't a White History Month, it's because, in his lifetime, he's seen that minorities and other marginalized groups have made greater gains relative to his own, without realizing they're still not on his level. He's only seen the part of the game in which these groups have scored the last five touchdowns, but is missing the fact that the score was 64-0 when that streak started.

And once again, it's for the same reason: That guy (and all of us, really) instinctively thinks history began with his own birth.

Original Article

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Question 2: "Why Is Everything Always Getting Worse?"

Let's talk about that "story" for a moment, the one we're all a part of. Here's the first thing you need to know about it:

That shit has gotten weird.

If you don't believe me, let me show it to you on a simple line graph:

That's a world population graph dating back over the last 1,000 years. Just look at it! Around 200 years ago, a freaking switch got flipped, and shit exploded. There is no comparing humanity over the last couple of centuries with anything that came before. It's like if you were driving home one day and saw that while you were gone, your goldfish had grown large enough to flatten the entire neighborhood.

But make no mistake: What you're seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we're not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators -- humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey.

You and I were born right in the middle of this unprecedented and unfathomable winning streak, during a series of changes that are whipping by at light speed, rendering what we think of as a "normal human life" utterly unrecognizable to someone living just 200 years ago. And change is terrifying. Lots of the old rules have gone out the window -- they were written for a different time, with different problems in mind. Lots of the timeless advice you hear was spoken by people who never anticipated the world you're living in. If you find all of the shit grown-ups say to you to be contradictory and confusing, that would be why.

For instance, this is why you will endlessly hear people confusingly talk about how great things used to be, about how men used to be "real" men, how food used to be "real" food, and how people used to make honest paychecks doing "real" work. This is, of course, objectively wrong -- they're referring to a time when humans didn't live as long, didn't have as much, and lived lives with fewer options.

All that happened is these people were raised under one set of rules, only to find the next generation "breaking" them. So, you get a grizzled old guy who remembers when a hard day's work meant sweat, sore muscles, and danger. He remembers how that day ended with a meal cooked by a subservient stay-at-home wife. When civilization advanced to put that dangerous job in the hands of a machine that can do it 10 times faster and to give the stay-at-home wife the chance to pursue a career, the guy sees that old life as the "real" one and this new world full of cubicles and political correctness as the world having gone "soft."

But, listen closely -- when he boasts that kids these days "have it easy," he's accidentally complimenting the world on its success. Making things easier is, after all, the goal.

 Original Post

Six things to remember on the aftermath of the Paris 2015 attacks

#6. Ignore the Scoreboard

Allow me to quote that classic philosopher known as The Poster for Death Wish 2: "First his wife. Now his daughter. It's time to even the score!"

Well, in the wake of a terror attack, Step One is to forget about "the score" completely.

Even those of us who aren't Charles Bronson have this invisible scoreboard in our minds that tracks how many times we've been screwed over versus how many times we've done the screwing. Get into a nasty argument with somebody, and the scoreboard sets the agenda -- if Steve's girlfriend brings up the time he got drunk and shit in the top part of the toilet, he now has to bring up the time she selfishly got a tumor and ran up a bunch of medical bills. BOOM! Your ball, bitch!

But here's the ugly trick the world plays on you, and it's going to jack up your life every day from now to the grave:

In reality, the scoreboard is your opponent.

If that sounds like some Zen bullshit, let me give you an easy example:

Whenever some notorious rapist is caught, exactly 100 percent of the conversations or Internet comment sections about the subject will say, "I hope he gets raped in prison!"

See, because that would "even the score." But even five seconds' consideration demonstrates how monstrous that idea is: "rape is awesome, as long as it's targeted toward people who deserve it!" No, the cruel reality is that if that guy gets raped, the score isn't: Rapist 1, Society 1.

It's: Rape 2, Society 0.

See, because we've added to the sum total of rape in the world, and reinforced it as a thing that can/should happen, we have made it that much more common. Now think about the argument between the couple earlier -- with each new insult, was either side "winning" or "losing"? No -- the only loser was the relationship itself. Steve thinks the argument's Insult Scoreboard is showing Steve 22, Tilda 16* but the real score was Resentment 38, Relationship 0.

*I was imagining Steve Buscemi and Tilda Swinton as the couple, and I'm imagining the frantic make-up sex right now. This is not necessary to illustrate the point; I only offer this in the interest of full disclosure.

That scoreboard, it turns out, is nothing more than a manifestation of the most primitive, violent, reptilian part of your brain. Seeing someone wrong you and then letting it slide -- letting that "score" stay in their favor -- is almost physically painful. So, yeah, if SEAL Team Six had exploded bin Laden's skull on September 13th, 2001, we would absolutely have still gone to war. We'd have still been 3,000 deaths down on the scoreboard. No way we'd let that go.

So the next time you turn on the news and see that terrorists have blown up 10 children with a car bomb, that's the first step: Realize that the scoreboard lies. It will tell you that winning the game means dropping bombs that you know full well will splatter ten times as many children as collateral damage. The score -- the real score -- would then be:

Violence Against Children 110, Humanity 0

Now, here is the point in the article where I try to guess what you're saying in response to all this, and I'm pretty sure it's something like, "Oh, so we're just supposed to let the other side get away with it? We have to stand up for freedom and goodness, otherwise evil wins! This is a WAR!"

Actually, I agree! But ...

#5. Make Sure You're On the Right Team

Damn, that headline is making it sound like I'm about to suggest we should all consider joining ISIS. Don't do that! If anyone has already left to join ISIS in between having read the headline and this sentence, I apologize.

For the rest of you, ask yourself: When a bunch of terrorists blow up a school or shoot up an office full of cartoonists, do you think it's because they don't know we have guns and bombs and drones? You think they do what they do because they believe we're "too weak to strike back" and that we thus need to "show them how strong we are?"

Holy shit, dude, these people can read the damned news. They know exactly what we're going to do: We're going to overreact. We do it every time. That's why they do it. So stop, step back, and understand something that most of America doesn't:

They do what they do, because they know we're too weak to resist striking back.

Our knee-jerk, bomb-dropping reflex is our weakness. They are trying to exploit it, because retaliation bombings are how they recruit more terrorists to their side. And please note that when I talk about their "side," I'm not talking about Islam, or even Islamic terrorism. Their "side" is what I'm going to henceforth call Team Violence (and yes, I realize I've accidentally given them what would have been a badass name for a stable of evil wrestlers in the WWE). The bully doesn't fight because he wants to win; he fights because he wants a world in which everything is resolved by fighting (note: The bully himself doesn't realize this). It doesn't matter if he loses -- the moment you chose to fight, his side already won, and the world becomes more like the world he wants to live in.

It's the same here -- the terrorists aren't on the side of Islam. They're on the side of bombs.

What I have discovered, and what most of you will disagree with me about, is that it's irrelevant what banner they fight under -- if radical Islam went away tomorrow, Team Violence would just pop up again under some other name. Maybe this one doesn't justify it with the Quran; maybe they'll do it under the banner of eugenics, or racial purity, or environmentalism, or My Little Pony fandom.

So, in the wake of an attack, you constantly hear about how this is a clash of civilizations, a culture war between the primitive, savage religious fundamentalists and the more secular, Western societies. But the moment you buy into that idea, you've already joined their side. It's the side of tribalism -- the primitive instinct that says your "group" has to win at all costs, and I honestly don't care how you define your group (race, religion, country, way of life) because ultimately I think there are the only two sides:

A. Those who think their tribe has to dominate Earth;
B. Those who think tribes can coexist.

Hell, just look at how it happened last time: A group attacked us. We all agreed that we had to stop them, because they are intolerant of other cultures, do not respect human rights, and are violent.

We were told that we could only beat them by becoming more intolerant of other cultures ("building the mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks 'would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.'"), by no no longer respecting human rights ("Privacy rights for non-U.S. nationals are radical, and dangerous, even for allies"), and by becoming more violent ("There are a billion-plus Muslims currently active. If 1% are convinced fanatic Jihadis, that translates into somehting in the range of ten to twelve million. Which means that we need to kill a large portion of that ten to twelve million.").

In other words, "We can't beat them, unless we become more like them." It's like a doctor telling you he's going to get rid of your tumor by growing a bigger, meaner tumor next to it. Even if it works, Team Cancer wins, and you just fell for a scam that has been tripping up humanity for 200,000 years or so.

To avoid it ...

#4. Don't Scratch the Itch

Soon after the attack, commentators will appear on every screen in your home explaining in snide, sarcastic tones how the courageous choice is to hate Muslims -- like they're the lone, brave voice in a world afraid to hold such a controversial opinion.

The reality -- which you've known since you were too young to shit outside your pants -- is that your most automatic, unthinking reflex is always to hit back, and that growing up means resisting it. When you got frustrated with a toy, you broke it. When you feel the mosquito, you swat it. You get insulted by a YouTube commenter, so you call them an asshole. Each time it's that primitive, lizard part of your brain taking over. There's nothing courageous about it -- a dog can do it. Fucking plants do it.

It's the thinking part -- the human part -- that says to stop, resist the initial urge, and actually think about what action will make the world better. It's like resisting the urge to scratch an itch, and actually stopping to say, "Maybe instead of scratching the rash until it bleeds, I should go see a doctor about some dick ointment." And this is harder than anything on the list so far, because scratching the hatred itch feels so freaking good. It feels so good that we'll write entire books rationalizing it, to make it sound like the thoughtful, considered position. But you can never lose sight of this basic fact:

"Kill 'em all!" is the easy, lazy reaction. That's the animal reflex, the old tribal instincts lurching to the surface from that primal, caveman part of your brain. What's worse is that we are superstitious, irrational creatures, and this reflex quickly metastasizes into the oldest, most destructive superstition of all:

"This person wronged me, so in return I need to punish this person and everyone who resembles this person."

A thousand centuries later, that part hasn't changed -- it still feels good to think of everything in terms of a culture war. If the criminal is black, he isn't just an individual stealing a TV for weed money -- he's part of the Black Crime Problem. The obnoxious teenager in line next to me at Chipotle isn't an annoying individual; she's part of "This generation of entitled brats." Everyone who wrongs you becomes a foot soldier in an army that you must go to war with.

Resisting that idea takes hard, mental effort -- the equivalent of waiting for the skin cream to do its work while the itch prickles your groin like a swarm of scrotum ants. It means granting empathy and humanity to some absolute assholes who won't do the same for you. Remember, taking the high road isn't satisfying. Revenge is satisfying. Schadenfreude is satisfying. Taking the high road is like sitting perfectly still while a fly buzzes around your ear, forever.

This is where almost every morality tale you've ever heard -- from religious parables to prime time sitcoms -- gets it wrong. These stories always comes down to, "Doing the right thing feels great in the end!" The homeless man is grateful for the donation, the violent thug melts at the sign of kindness. That ain't how it plays out here in the real world. Out here, the bad guys see your empathy as a sign of weakness, and take advantage of it while taunting you. The homeless guy may take your donated blanket and wipe his ass with it. The friend you loaned money to might use it to get a naked mural airbrushed on his van. But you still have to take the high road.

Why? Because in reality, the only "culture war" is between the people who take the high road and the people who don't.

If it helps, you should ...

#3. Remember That Evil Is Rare, but Weakness Is Common

It's hard to find one person in 20 who agrees with the statement that "evil is rare," but it seems easy to prove. How many evil masterminds have you known in your life, versus people who were merely screwed up in some way? I've only known three or four diabolical masterminds in my entire life (other than Brockway), and one was a cat.

If you want a more factual example, let's look at, say, all of the murders committed in a particular year. The stats say that more than half of the victims were killed by someone they knew, or even a member of their own family (say, a husband killing his wife in a fit of jealousy). About 42 percent of all victims were killed in the heat of the moment during an argument, another 23 percent were killed in the course of some other crime (armed robbery, etc), and another 8 percent were killed in gang shootouts.

In other words, once you strip away:

* Everyone who killed while drunk/high/otherwise impaired;
* Everyone with a severe mental illness (Maybe 10 percent);
* Everyone who killed in a fit of rage;
* Everyone who killed while trying to commit some other crime (say, a burglary to get drug money goes awry);
* Everyone who believed they were protecting themselves or their friends ("We have to hit these dudes before they come after us");

... and keep going until you've got it down to just those cold, calculating criminals like you see in the movies, you don't have a whole lot of murders left. Oh, you'll have some -- crime bosses absolutely do order cold-blooded assassinations, and people do commit long, complex, premeditated murders for nothing more than a paycheck. But I think for every one cold, calculating mastermind, you have a dozen or a hundred mere knuckleheads.

That's the cop term (and I know my cop terms because before I worked at Cracked, I spent more than 15 years watching cop shows) for somebody who isn't a bad guy, but who just has poor impulse control, or is mentally unbalanced, or an addict, or just in general can't get his life together. They're lost, weak-willed people who fell in with the wrong crowd. Hell, we even interviewed an ex-Neo-Nazi who confessed that the Nazis were just the gang who approached him first. He actually fell in with a black gang later just because they were nicer to him during basketball games.

The problem is that, again, it's far more satisfying to imagine that everyone who wrongs you did it as an act of intentional evil or sociopathic selfishness. See, because if they're just sad screwups who spend most of their time victimizing themselves, well, then that would make it harder to fantasize about killing them. If their bad impulses, addictions, and irrational fears/hatreds hurt them even more than they hurt other people, then that means those impulses are the enemy. And what fun is that? Bad impulses can't be killed by any form of gun, missile, or kung fu known to man.

Hey, want to infuriate your Facebook friends? Show them how nice the prisons are in Norway. Want to infuriate a Christian? Don't tell them there's no God; tell them there's no Hell.

#2. Watch Out for Hitler

I can already hear it, from outside my window: "But what about Hitler?"

There is a particular form of bad argument everyone uses any time we're accused of having some kind of unproductive or destructive habit: we simply remember one perfect example of when that destructive thing worked, and then hammer that example over and over again like a club. It's our magical Staff of Shutting Down Criticism.

For example, your racist uncle will, with the slightest provocation, talk about the time he was suspicious of the new black family that moved into the neighborhood, and it turned out he was right! Their thug son broke into his car just a month later! This one, perfect example will be rolled out in response any time his racism is criticized. He says blacks are genetically predisposed to violence. You say there's no science to back that up. He pulls out that anecdote in response. He tells a racist joke, you tell him it's inappropriate, and he says, "You know what's in appropriate? BREAKING INTO MY CAR. Did I ever tell you about that time I caught that thug out in the driveway ..."

And when you suggest violence might not be the answer in any situation, Team Violence will always have the same answer:

"What about Hitler?"

Not just those three words -- they'll have crafted a perfect narrative that says A) Hitler was a perfect evil defeated by good; B) Hitler could only have been stopped by war; C) The "appeasers" who wanted to avoid war were the true villains of WWII; and D) Any discussion of what factors allowed Hitler to rise to power in the first place is irrelevant obfuscation. Therefore, if you protest the use of violence against any group, ever, you are effective pro-Hitler. ("If you'd made the same argument in 1941, we'd all be speaking Nazi right now!)

It should go without saying that even if I concede all of the above, that doesn't necessarily apply to any situation that has come along since, let alone all situations. So the more important question for that person is, why do you have a knee-jerk reflex to roll out the Hitler example any time the need for violence is questioned? Why is it that you even feel a touch of anger when doing it? Why do you feel the urge to be dismissive or snide in the process, implying the questioner is weak or naive? Why are you defending the use of violence as if it's sacred to you?

"Wait, so you're saying that the people suffering under brutal dictators and warlords today should just suck it up, because violence is wrong?" Nope! And again, look at how you immediately invented a perfect example to fall back to. If humanity progresses to the point that violence is used only by noble, oppressed populations against evil, totalitarian regimes in which no other options are available, we'll be in great shape.

Now, critics might even have a more irrational reaction, which is to say that the person questioning the need for violence is dishonoring "the troops" ("It's easy for you to sit here in your ivory tower and talk about 'peace' when those brave souls are out risking their lives for your sorry ass!"). But this also doesn't hold up to even the mildest application of logic: if you go up to a wounded war vet and say, "My man, I hope we create a world in which people like you never get shot and can instead live long, happy lives and raise grandchildren," I don't think he's going to take a swing at you.

But it was never about that specific young man anyway -- "Support our troops" and "What about Hitler" aren't invitations to actually discuss either subject. They're magic words intended to shut down further discussion, because the "Team Violence" part of our brain reacts to criticism in the exact same way that Muslim extremists react to cartoons mocking Mohammed.

Speaking of which ...

#1. Remember: We're Winning

Here's the final lie you'll hear, and it's one that I've railed against again and again and again. It's the assertion that violence always wins, because there is no match for it. This is why we're so scared of street crime -- even if you become a billionaire, some "thug" could stab you in an alley and none of your money would matter -- it's humanity's ultimate trump card. "What difference does it make that we have wealth and infrastructure and a thriving culture, if a bunch of violent extremists can just blow us up?"

The answer, of course, is that it makes all of the fucking difference.

This right here, this idea that ultimately violence is the only thing that works, is probably the most widely believed yet easily disproven lie in all of human history. The truth -- backed up by cold, hard facts, is that violence has been on an astonishing decline for thousands of years. Go back to the Middle Ages, and you find a murder rate 30 times higher than it is today.

In other words, Team Violence is losing. The only way they can win is if they can convince us that their way is the only way.

Think of it this way: If we go back to the Charlie Hebdo attack on the supposed anti-Muslim cartoonists, we can see how futile and self-defeating it is. After all, if your god is real, he/she/it doesn't mind being mocked. By definition, an all-powerful being isn't going to have those kind of insecurities. So that knee-jerk urge to smack down the critics is coming purely from the terrorists, from their own human fears and rage -- proving, in other words, that those violent men don't really have faith that their god is all-powerful.

But the key is to apply the same lesson to ourselves: if their god is real and all-powerful, then mere mockery cannot harm him. But also, if our society is right and strong and the best for mankind, then mere terrorism cannot harm it.

In both cases, escalating the violence is an act of weakness and fear. It's a crisis of faith -- the belief that your way of doing things is fragile -- a house of cards will tumble at the slightest tremor. That peaceful civilization just doesn't work.

Have faith in civilization. History says that they can't beat us -- we can only beat ourselves. Violence isn't on the rise; it's just in the news more often, because there's a lot of money to be made by pushing your Team Violence buttons.


Wise words

Friday, November 13, 2015

Question 1: "Why Do People Shit On Me Just Because I'm (White/Male/Straight/Etc.)?"

I'm going to tell you the weirdest and, yet, most obviously true thing you've ever heard:

You're not a person.

This is going to sound like some real Rust Cohle shit, but bear with me because deep down you already know all of this.

For instance, you already know that you are, to a certain degree, a product of your genes -- they go a long way toward determining if you would be physically imposing or weak, smart or stupid, calm or anxious, energetic or lazy, and fat or thin. What your genes left undecided, your upbringing mostly took care of -- how you were raised determined your values, your attitudes, and your religious beliefs. And what your genes and upbringing left undecided, your environment rounded into shape -- what culture you were raised in, where you went to school, and who you were friends with growing up. If you had been born and raised in Saudi Arabia, you would be a different person today. If the Nazis had won World War II, you would be a different person, still.

So, even when personal choices finally come into play, you're still choosing within that framework -- you can choose between becoming a poet or a software engineer, but only because you were raised in a world in which other people had already invented both poetry and computers. That means every single little part of your life -- every action, every choice, every thought, every emotion, every plan for the future, everything that you are and do and can potentially be -- is the result of things other people did in the past.

These mostly dead people shaped every little molecule of you and the world you inhabit. You are the product of what they did, just as they were the product of those who came before them. You are, therefore, not a person any more than a leaf is a tree. It makes far more sense to think of yourself as one part of a whole (the "whole" being every human who has ever lived) than as an individual -- you benefit from the whole's successes, and you pay for its mistakes as if they were your own -- whether you want to or not.

This is not abstract philosophy, this is not something you can choose to believe or not believe -- this is a statement of physical fact. Refusing to acknowledge it will only leave you endlessly confused and frustrated. For instance, when you show up at a job interview, or a trial, or the set of a porno, that whole context will walk in the door with you. Everyone in that room will be making certain assumptions about you and will hold certain expectations, based on the greater whole of which you are a part.

That means you can't think of your life as a story. You have to think of it as one sentence in a much longer story ... a sentence that doesn't make any sense out of context. But, understand the context, and you will understand your life.

Very few people are really able to do this.

Original here
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...