Friday, April 17, 2009

Crucial Conversations

Last night I participated in an interfaith dialog. It was an interesting experience. The group that organized the dialog insisted that my dialog partner and I have a meal together first. So like a week ago the organizer, my dialog partner, and I went to breakfast together. My dialog partner’s name is Humza. I had never met him and was excited to meet him; he is Muslim and I didn’t know anyone who was before I had met him.

The breakfast was cool. We all got along just fine. We agreed to the topics that we would discuss later. We agreed to talk about our different beliefs in the afterlife, how our beliefs were shaped, how society sees us, and things like that. We couldn’t do it that day; the organizer couldn’t get all of his camera equipment ready till later in the week.

When we met last night I discovered that we had quite a few differences in opinion, but we were able to find a lot of common ground. Islam is quite the polar opposite of Atheism. Humza is a cool guy. Something that we agreed on was that no matter how we believe and no matter how others believe we still have to live with people who don’t believe the same as us. We can ether fight them about their beliefs or you can just learn to accept their beliefs.

He and I really disagreed when it came to thoughts about the afterlife. Islam has a significantly different idea of heaven than I thought. He told me that after we die, Muslims believe that our body tells Allah about our sins. We don’t speak with our mouths, but things like our feet and hands speak to god and tell him about our sins. As an Atheist, I don’t believe that anything happens after we die. I believe that the rewards that we should receive for the good that we do in this world, come to us in this world. Seeing as this is the only chance that we get to live our life.

I really enjoyed the dialog. I found things out about my ideology. There was one question about the difference between speaking with someone to understand their faith and speaking with someone to convert them to your faith. We both agreed that when trying to learn about another’s faith, religion, or ideology you can’t have the end goal as a conversion. You must be able to have an open mind.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Come On Man, Not Funny

I have always thought that if something was done in good fun, there really is no way that people can take something offensive. But after the group presentation today, I really see jokes really aren’t funny all the time.

The jokes about women were really offensive. They were very juvenile. I know that I would have found them funny if I was still ten years old, but now, they are rude and inappropriate.

The thing that I found the most profound was that people in the UK are discriminated against because they are light skinned, red haired, and have freckles. I had no clue that this kid of discrimination occurred in the world. I have always thought that white persons were excluded from discrimination, at least on the base of their skin color. I mean while people discriminate against other races and even their own when it comes to political affiliation, religious views, and the like. But this is all new to me.

I don’t really get the “ginger” discrimination. I find red headed women to be very attractive. I don’t get it.

It must be that this type of discrimination is specific to the United Kingdom. I won’t deny that it may exist in the United States, but if it does, then it is not as pronounced as other types of discrimination.

The only thing that I could find about “ginger” discrimination here in the US was a South Park episode. Where Cartman wanted to unite the gingers and kill all the “normal” people. I don’t watch the show, so I don’t know what the episode really entails. There was no description.

But does humor really break down barriers to discrimination? Dave Chapell refused to continue his show on comedy central because he thought that he was just reinforcing negative stereotypes of the black community. I don’t have the answers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Political Despair

Everything that I seem to have to consume has been completely constructed for me. That just fills me with… despair. I have always thought that democracy was the best way to run our government. But from the looks of things, it is simply the worst. Huge multi-national corporations are now so large that they have the political and economic muscle to pass any legislation that they feel is in their interests, even if it is not in the good of the public. I have always thought that our legislative representatives were corrupt, but I could do something about it. I could run for office, or at least, campaign for someone who had some decency. But now I know that I don’t have enough money to do a damn thing!

Rather than listening to consumers, like years ago, corporations now only give us a single voice to listen to. They censor everything that we hear or see all in the name of capitalism. It is so disheartening.

I feel like I’m stuck in Plato’s allegory of the cave. All I ever see are the shadows on the wall. The media is the fire and the corporations chose what objects we see. I just can’t imagine what the world outside of the cave would look like. Is it a world where the acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives? Is it a world where those we chose to represent us look out for the public good, and not their wallets? Or does this world even exist?

There are two things you have to do to keep a civilization from an overthrow. First, create a disaster that requires something that you have to resolve the problem. Preferably something that is scarce. Next, while giving the people the solution, blame someone the whole civilization is afraid of. In a panic of fear, people give up rights in order to become safe again.

Congress lied to us and took our rights after September 11th 2001. People believe there is nothing that they can do about it. In the last midterm election less than twenty percent even voted. Political efficacy is at the lowest point that it has ever been at in America. The people are so in debt that they can’t even begin to see the sun, which only adds to the despair that the public feels.

And in America, people don’t react the same way to abuse of power by lawmakers and public officials. In France there was a riot when government officials tried to get rid of a social program that gave people without much money the option for cheap housing. There was a riot. If this happened in American, we wouldn’t even notice… Americans don’t have the will to fight the corporations of the world.

We don’t have the economic muscle to defeat the power of the corporations. We, as Americans, are supposed to have the most economic freedom in the world, but when corporations tell us what to buy and we don’t have another option. How free is that?

I feel so much political despair…

Friday, March 20, 2009


With all of the talking about conglomeration within media, I just keep thinking about anti-trust laws. Anti-trust laws prohibit groups from forming large scale monopolies. In 2001 Microsoft was accused of violating anti-trust laws when they started packaging the product “internet explorer” with the Microsoft office bundle for free.

Anti-trust laws are meant to protect consumers from price fixing and price gouging. But with media, the protection is different. Anti-trust laws that are written for media protect consumers from self mitigated censorship. When one message is the only one that is heard, then it is the only one believed, is the idea behind pushing all media ownership.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Now Things Are Getting Scary

The whole time that we were talking about media control in class, I kept thinking about a television show called “Bullshit”. The show airs on Showtime network and is hosted by Penn and Teller (well more by Penn). In its second season the show tackled the important issue of censorship and profanity. The discussed at length the legal, societal, and personal sides of the issue. The show is very well researched, but I would only recommend it if you are ok with heavy use of the “F” word. There was a part where the FCC was discussed and quoted as saying something to the effect of: When they [the FCC] get the go-ahead from congress they intend to start regulating cable and pay TV. They don’t have the ability to do so now.

Right now the FCC only regulates what you can pick up with an antenna. So this means they have no say about what happens on cable, the internet, or subscription service TV. They only have the ability to regulate basic channels and radio.

This is the single most horrifying thing that I think I have ever heard. I still can’t get it out of my head. Thomas Jefferson once said, “A government big enough to give you everything you need, is big enough to take everything you have.”

Think about that!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Contradiction

The way Gloria Watson (bell hooks is Gloria Watson’s pen name and I refuse to refer to her in as bell hooks; capitalize the letters, it’s grammar, not oppression) perceives the world is a way that I hope that I never see. She sees every action as a part of the problem. I would hate to be the one who has to break it to her that the world that she believes is so racist, she actively participates in. She works for an upstanding university in Kentucky, but the thing is that she probably buys wares and services from companies that have oppressed some social, ethnic, economic class in history.

It seems that she only cares about the color black. Now call me a racist if you think I am, but only one color matters to me: green. Money makes the world go round. She advocates a total removal of the current system, but I KNOW that the current system is the best way to do things, because millions of people would be killed and harmed in the transition. Anarchy leads to Despotism.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Alternative

I have really strong opinions about some things. I just happen to be very passionate about what I believe, and I consider that passion to be a source of great strength for me. But at times it can get in my way. While my group was trying to select a topic for our presentation I kept hammering for a specific discrimination that I have been the target of in my life, but the topic isn’t really one that could easily be accomplished for this project. So I thought that I would talk about it here in my blog for this week.

When I was eighteen I had a real crisis of faith. I thought that I had found a profession that I would enjoy a great deal. I was going to be helping people as an EMT. But about halfway through the training, I was on a ride along with the city’s Emergency Services and the ambulance responded to a multiple vehicle car crash. The driver of an SUV had tried to avoid an accident on the express way by swerving into the median, but that had just flipped her car right over and into oncoming traffic. Six cars were involved and seeing how we were the first ambulance on the scene, it became the jobs of the EMTs and I to evaluate the severity of the injuries of the people that were involved, called triage.

The first person that I came up to was a nine year old girl had been hit in the head. Her hair was once blond but because of the blood, it was now a dark crimson color. Because she had not been in a car seat, she had been thrown around the vehicle like a rag doll. Blood was everywhere. The girl wasn’t breathing, she had no pulse; she was dead and I had to put a black tag on her forehead, to indicate that she was dead. I started throwing up and I don’t really remember anything else about that day.

I went to see my pastor the next day. I explained what had happened and asked her, “Why would God do such a terrible thing to her, and her family? What higher purpose would this little girl’s death serve? What did she do to deserve such a painful death?” The answer that I got from my pastor was one that made me cringe. She told me that everything that god does have a purpose, but that we may not be able to know it. I asked for help with dealing with what I had seen, but all she wanted to do was pray. I told her I needed an explanation but she didn’t have one for me.

This chain of event is what lead to my religious conversion to Atheism.

I like being an atheist. I have a view of the world that suits me. But when people learn that I am an atheist, they then tend to feel that it is their responsibility to convert me back to Christianity. I tell people that my philosophy on god is that in a world where god allows children to die when murderers live, I would much rather believe that there is no god. But I have never met someone who lets me live with my philosophy.

The devout religious just can’t deal with the fact that I don’t believe in god any more. They take it as a personal attack on their faith. I don’t really care what religion someone is, but when they take it upon themselves to attack my beliefs, I take it personally. I attack back with some of the more obvious contradictions within the Bible. Then I get called godless and immoral. But I end up being the bad guy? Is that how atheists got such a bad reputation? By arguing against faith with logic?

I see signs and religious symbols and icons advertized everywhere, but if I were to buy a billboard and put up some sort of pro-atheism message on it, there would be an up cry by the religious community. I would be forced to take the sign down, and I would probably not be able to find a job. I never tell the people that I work with that I am an atheist. I am too afraid of what they would try to do to me.

I feel that these two clips (the first is from the Paula Zahn show, the second is a personal testimonial of a Christian) the hatred that the mainstream media has for atheists.

It just makes me feel… alone.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Condemning Fundamental Evil

Ok, am I the only one who had a hard time with class on Monday Friday? When Erin was talking about how we should try to understand and rationalize with the people who think that it is a good idea to cut men’s penises off, I just felt like she was rationalizing fundamentalism and, by proxy, terrorism. Am I the only person who still thinks that violence is NEVER justified until all other options are exhausted? I really don’t think that rationalizing with someone who wants to cut my dick off is going to change their minds, or mine for that matter. They hate who I am at a level that I can’t change. No matter what I do, they will still hate me. That’s discrimination and sexism. Isn’t that what they are fighting? My definition of a hero is someone who fights evil without succumbing to it. And while they are fighting for women’s rights, they started doing the same things as those they hated. They started thinking the same way as those who were trying to oppress them.

The women of the Society for Cutting Up Men (SCUM) are trying to motivate change by making men afraid of them. They hope that policies and opinions will be changed by men because of the threat of losing a part of their bodies. I will never allow myself to believe that the means justify the end (which is what terrorism is fundamentally about).

If that is the kind of person that Susan Douglas is, then I am going to just stop reading this book. I have a real problem with the justification of violence. I don’t know if Douglas is this overly radical, but it was insinuated in class. I think that Douglas is just an angry idealist, but that is where the process of fundamentalism starts.

Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, began her organization with great intentions, but when radical idealist got wind of her ideology, other groups with less virtuous members started their own political action groups. Such groups are the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This group firebombs animal testing faculties. They go into classrooms and teach kids how to make incendiary bombs. Their most notable public figure is former member Rodney Coronado, who was convicted of arson when he burned an animal testing facility at the University of Michigan to the ground. Douglas should, in her book, condone this type of activism. She should also be wary of people who don’t have such a moderate view who get a hold of her book. They could be motivated by her words (as confusing as they are) and commit an act of terrible violence towards men.

I’m not saying that Douglas’ book should be banned. What I am saying is that she should take proactive measures to keep her distance from violent feminists. Everyone has every right to say whatever they want, and let the free market place of ideas run its course and determine what is correct. But if she is not careful, she will be seen as a radical feminist who sees the road of change lined with blood.

Hating someone for a belief is a terrible thing to do. I mean, I don’t really like people who are overly religious, but you don’t see me trying to hurt them or burn down churches, mosques, and temples. And I don’t hate them; I hate the idea that they believe in, not them. Hate should be specific (if at all). Hate someone for something that they do, like “I hate Jim because he abuses kittens.”

This radical feminist ideology is something that I will never allow myself to rationalize, or sympathize with. The end never, ever justifies the means!

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Real Face to an Importain Issue

I have a criticism of the book Where the Girls Are and its author. The author, Susan Douglas, is so obvious that it makes me sick. Her bias is so apparent that I can hardly read the book. I find myself thinking that I should be ashamed of my penis after I do the reading. If this is her tactic for trying to invoke change, then she should try not humiliating the people who could help her the most. The people who would have to write, approve, vote on, and sign her favorable legislation are mostly men. It seems dumb to make them hate you when you need their help.

Another criticism of the book and of Douglas is that she has no understanding of what a rational choice is. On page 45, Douglas discuses how women joined the workforce with jobs in manufacturing and metal smelting, but when the war was over, the women left industry jobs behind and went to work at home. Douglas seems angry that her mother’s generation of women left the workforce, but can you really blame them. I don’t want to do those kinds of jobs. My father is in manufacturing, he has a degree in manufacturing engineering, and he doesn’t even want to that kind of job. I know that steel smelting is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Can you blame people for wanting to get out of it?

Douglas also has no understanding of psychology. When a war ends people just want to go back to the way everything was before war started. It is a basic want, familiarity. War requires a great deal of sacrifice, and living with the sacrifice of war, whether it is red meat or your husband or child, is difficult. And when the need for sacrifice is over, all that you want is a return to the way that you remember your life being. Is that such a terrible thing to want? Can you truly blame people for such a wanting such a basic thing?

But these criticisms are aimed at Douglas and not at feminism in the media. I see the way that women are represented in the media, and it’s embarrassing. In 2007 for nearly the whole year, I was forced to hear the question, “Does Brittney Spears wear panties?” or “Does Brittney Spears shave her private parts?” That kind of headline on a newsstand tabloid isn’t surprising, but it is vile and degrading. It is so common that it makes me sick. I still those kinds of things today. “Who’s had plastic surgery?” is a question that is on the front cover of three celebrity magazines. And it seems to be the topic of discussion on several celeb news shows. Although, is it really news worthy when Denise Richards has breast augmentation surgery?

But the biggest criticism that I have for Douglas, is she seems to think that everyone in the whole world has nearly the same experience with media. And while we are shown the same media, geographically, the way that we interact with it is so diverse. My father and I have several running jokes. We used to watch the show House, and now when the BBC television show Wooster and Jeves comes on we laugh a little bit (the main character for both shows is Hugh Laurie). Or when we see someone with a lot of people following him or her around, we say “looks like he’s got the Verizon network.” This book makes almost no sense to me. Perhaps if I had never had any experience with media, I might be influenced by it (the same way that people who watch late night TV are influenced by infomercials about the travesties of war off in some African countries).

I have related to a few things that she has discussed in the book, but for the most part my experience is opposite to what she says. When she talks about women having to clean the house, it’s not something that I have ever really dealt with. My father usually keeps the house clean, but he won’t pick up my mother’s crap. So when it piles up (which is often) and he gets tired of it (more often), my parents have a fight about how she is a slob, and then she picks up her mess. And my mother really doesn’t iron. She has for me in the past, but if my dad needs to have something ironed quickly, he comes and gets me. And my dad is by far a better and more frequent cook than my mother. The book isn’t influencing me in these ways.

The way that Douglas’ book is influencing me is not in positive direction. I am so tired of hearing her complain. It’s not that I don’t care about women’s rights, I do. But after reading some of this book, I don’t care anymore. I once did, but it was more I had other things to worry about than how women’s self image was affected by the media. I was way more worried about my own discrimination problems. I have diabetes, and I have been discriminated for it in the past. I also am an atheist, and been ridiculed for my beliefs in the past. I was far more worried about things that directly affected me.

But now, I am way more anti-women’s rights than I ever thought possible. Douglas is not someone to be emulated or looked up to. I see her no better for writing this book than those teenage girls that sued McDonalds. She was looking for an opportunity to make some money, and who can blame anyone for that, but don’t try to make me feel bad, that my mother asked if I wanted a cookie when she was grabbing one, and I said yes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Confused Reader

Boy I sure love reading this book (it is very hard to convey sarcasm in a blog). The book is confusing and difficult to read. Susan Douglas needs to word her examples better. For a nearly two pages she talked about the movie Imitation of Life. I couldn’t follow her train of thought for that whole time. The movie is from the late 50’s, so I didn’t have any prior knowledge of it. Having a quick synopsis was helpful, but if it had been understandable, that would have been much better.

What I could understand, sounded like she was complaining. Ok, the first thing that you have to realize with the media is that no matter what the information is, or who is giving the information to you: The media is always trying to sell us things. Whether it is a product or an idea, they are trying to sell you it. You, as a consumer of media, are responsible for filtering out the prejudice and the inappropriate.

When she wasn’t complaining, she was advocating a change. But it’s not the kind of change that you would expect. On page 27 she says, “Since I would be nothing without a man… I’d better learn how to be cute and popular, how to stand out from the herd.” I may have not completely understood her perspective, but it sounds like she is advocating that women become gold diggers. Isn’t that something that feminists would generally avoid? And isn’t her audience… feminists?

The whole time that she was discussing Disney, I felt as if she was personally angry at the company. I know that she has a personal interest in what they did, but I don’t think that Disney did it on purpose. They looked at what was popular in the 1950’s and created a product that reflected that. Like I said; use your own filter. If you found the material the Disney was selling offensive, do something about it. Stop buying Disney products or better yet, create your own product that is to your liking. And then let the free marketplace of ideas decide which is better.

If consumers like your product, then you know that people were forced to tolerate Disney’s prejudice. But if can’t sell your product to anyone, then we know that people don’t read into cartoons, and that they teach their kids what is right and wrong on their own.

Besides the stories of Disney are full of Jung’s archetypes which are arguably ingrained in us as a society. That it is part of who we are as a worldwide culture. Many different geographic regions have a similar mythology. Jung’s argument links archetypes to heredity. He began regarding them as human instincts. These are patterns that we are born with, and they structure the human imagination. They make us distinctly human.

If it’s in our instincts, then there is almost nothing that you can do about it. People will fight a change that tells them their instincts are wrong.

On page 31 Douglas discusses how women see the flaws in their beauty. “We learned… [to] identify our many imperfections, and to learn to eliminate or disguise them, otherwise no one would every love us.” I found this comment particularly interesting. Because when I chose someone to date, I prefer that person to have flaws. One of my favorite quotes is, “Look for the flaws in beauty, and see the beauty in flaws.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

Everything was Stereotypical about the Stereotypes

The biggest problem (for me) with what we discussed regarding sterotypes was that it made me very uncomfortable. I don’t really like to talk about race. I think that Stephen Colbert had the right approach when he said that he can’t even see color so people should tell him if they are something other than while.

But when we were discussing the stereotypes of “Fat people” I couldn’t really sympathize. For someone who is black or for the Italian when they get classified, I at least feel compassion; people don’t have a say what color their skin is or where they are born. But when you are fat, that is a conscious decision. If people don’t want to be made fun of for their weight, they should stop supersizing their combo meals and take the stairs once in a while.

Also, when did it become taboo to group people into a specific generalization? I mean, we classify people into categories all the time and no one thinks anything about it. Utah Valley University even uses the color code test to classify people according to a personality test, and that is ACCEPTABLE! I don’t see the distinction. The FBI uses a classification system to find and catch serial killers and terrorists. That just happens to be a stereotype and we NEED it.

You know that not all stereotypes favor white men. It happens to be that when the FBI has a serial killer, they immediately assume that it is a white man between the ages of 25 and 45.

I’m very sorry, but when someone’s feelings get hurt because of a blond or fat joke, they should stop taking themselves to serious. If someone cracks a joke about an atheist around me, if it’s funny, I laugh (I just happen to be an atheist). Nothing can be sacred. Even the most hateful, disgusting, Neo-Nazi speech must be protected. Otherwise when the time comes for good people to speak up about true injustice, they won’t have the right to do so. The government will have taken the right of freedom of speech along with everything else we hold dear and take for granted.