Sometime between May 13th and May 25th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • George Takei Accuser Scott Brunton Changed His Story of Drugs, Assault: “A fabricated coffee meeting. Key facts withheld or walked back. A ‘great party story’ about a sexual assault—which the accuser now says may not have actually happened. What happens when an activist’s legacy is tarnished by the story of an old friend who later says it could have all been a misunderstanding? And how do we process such an anomaly in an era of overdue social justice?l
  • when i say ‘don’t make jokes about rednecks and hillbillies’, that doesn’t mean i think you’re being racist against white people: “i say that because you are perpetuating extremely toxic rhetoric about our region, you are promoting stigma, you are encouraging blatant classism, and you are furthering the idea that we somehow ‘deserve’ it because our elected officials vote republican. it’s not cute. stop acting like none of us have the right to call you out on your classist bullshit.“
  • Dear NRA, It’s Time to Take Away Everyone’s Gun: “I’m finished trying to reason with you. So now I, a guy who was ambivalent about guns just a few years ago, want to take your guns away. All of them. I want to take them all and melt them down and shape them into a giant sphere and then push it at you so you have to run away from it like Indiana Jones for the rest of your lives. I want Ted Nugent to roam the halls of his gunless house, sighing wearily until he dies. I want to end this thing once and for all, so that all of you who have prioritized the sale of guns over the lives of children have to sit quietly and think about what you’ve done. God help me, I want to take all of your guns out of your hands, by myself, right now.”
  • The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority: "In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of 'respect' when relating to and communicating with others. This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment."
  • How the 50-mm Camera Lens Became ‘Normal’: “The idea that a 50-mm best approximates human sight has more to do with the early history of lens production than any essential optical correspondence between the lens and the eye.”

Nothing terribly new here, I’ll admit, but I just stumbled across this, and I’ve had this rant (or variations upon the theme) many times over the past few years: Two Phrases That Destroyed American Culture:

The phrase ‘The Customer is Always Right’ is the single worst philosophy that has ever been adopted by American culture. It gave an entire generation of people the green light to be as impolite, unreasonable, and demanding as their little hearts desired because they were always going to be considered right. It destroyed the entire concept of courtesy and rendered manners obsolete. People began to treat their peers in the service industry like incompetent morons, lacking in feelings or human dignity, who deserved to be browbeaten and abused for no other reason than they had the audacity to run out of a particular brand of coffee. Furthermore, instead of suffering negative repercussions for their appallingly disrespectful behavior, they are awarded with free coupons and plenty of ass kissing. In reality, they should be shunned and humiliated for behaving like such self absorbed little children.

Speaking of respect, another idea that has ruined American culture is the one that states, ‘I don’t give respect freely. You have to earn my respect.’ This one is most often uttered by punk kids with bad attitudes and black fingernail polish.

Fucking gag me.

I mean, how egotistical does one have to be to automatically assume that their respect is so fucking important that one must jump through multiples hoops in order to earn it? How about we give people respect because they are humans with lives and feelings just as important as our own? Why not give people a default level of respect and more or less can either be won or lost based on the behavior of the individual? The loss of respect is something that should be based on actions. The idea that that one must win basic respect in the first place is incredibly belittling. How narcissistic can you be to embrace that ideology?

I missed this when it was first posted, but thanks to this (also excellent) post of Mike’s, I’ve just discovered a nicely concise explanation as to why I’m not posting about politics as much as I used to: Hatred Fatigue:

I also seem to be experiencing something that, for lack of a better word, I’ll call “hatred fatigue” — namely that, after over five years of abhorring almost every single action, day in and day out, the Bush Administration and neoconservative movement takes, there’s a part of my brain which is simply screaming “I can’t stand it anymore!” — it not being Bush and neocons, but instead the sheer weight of continued pessimism and fear.

Similarly to Mike, while my primary posts have lost much of their political content, my linklog is not exactly devoid of links tagged ‘politics‘. As frustrating as it is to see what I see going on in this country, it’s hard to bother trying to make my voice heard when discourse today never seems to be a rational, respectful discussion of differing points of view — instead, anything that isn’t what we believe is to be damned, vilified, cast out, and exorcised, by any means necessary.

What strikes me as particularly troublesome…is how this incident demonstrates the uncivil demeanor of this country and our relationships with our political opposites. And my definition of civility needs some clarification: I do not mean prudish stuffiness. I mean the treatment of another human being with simple, decent respect, even as you acknowledge with no rancor that your position differs significantly from theirs.

It’s a rather sad commentary on our current culture that as a whole, we’re so intolerant of other viewpoints. There’s nothing wrong with other viewpoints, and neither is there anything wrong with disagreeing with other viewpoints. When we stoop to destroying people in order to destroy their viewpoints, however, there is something seriously, seriously wrong.

Bonus thought experiment that Mike brings up, but that I don’t have time to poke at right now (other than to say that at first blush, I agree with where he’s going):

The Internet is a powerful tool, and it has wired us all up to each other in metamorphosing ways that I still believe our culture hasn’t fully assimilated yet, and perhaps won’t for generations to come.

The Internet allows that intrinsic incivility — that Hatred of the Other — to be both concatenated and ring-led with no lag time or delay. There’s no organizational time needed; all that’s needed is a charismatic figure and its followers.

[…]

The Internet has done such great harm to us as a political culture because, viewing it on the much larger scale of societal development (as opposed to human lives), we’ve suddenly become wired up to each other far more quickly than we ever were before.

[…]

As a species, I don’t think we were sociologically equipped to be hooked up to each other’s beliefs and to handle the combined weight of Internet-scale movements and politically biased memes. I simply don’t believe that as a species we’re going to get an okay handle on this situation, wherein we’ll somehow, someday resort to a situation where we find an easy peace with each other. I think that unless somehow such vitriol and rage falls out of vogue, a possibility I find so small as to be nearly non-existent, we’re going to be culture-warring and meme-warring with each other until the sheer massive neglect of society’s normal business causes something catastrophic to grind us to a halt.

What do we do if the only way to combat this culture of hate is to unplug?

What ever happened to concepts like tolerance and respect of others? Polite disagreement? Discussion as opposed to argument? Open minded acceptance of other people’s views, even if they differ from your own?

This may not be my most coherent or well-organized post, but a couple things popped up today that have been rumbling around in the back of my head, and I wanted to at least make a stab at getting some of them out.

Yesterday, I posted a link and excerpt from a story in the Seattle Times about a local Native American burial ground that has been uncovered due to construction on the Hood Canal bridge. The story caught my attention both for the archaeological significance of the find, and for the care and concern that the local tribes have for the spirituality of the site and their ancestors.

This morning, my post got a Trackback ping when Paul Myers of Pharyngula posted about the article. When I read his post, though, I was more than a little taken aback at what I felt to be the cavalier and rude tone he took in regard to the tribe’s religious beliefs.

There’s a fair bit of religious hokum in the article; goofy stuff such as the claim that pouring a concrete slab would trap the spirits forever (piling dirt and rocks on top of them doesn’t, apparently, nor does rotting into a smear), and spiritual advisors on site and ritual anointings to protect people from angry spirits. That’s all baloney….

The religious/spiritual crap cuts no ice with me….

It wasn’t that he didn’t agree with the spirituality of the tribe that bothered me (I don’t know Paul’s personal religious beliefs) — rather, it was the utter lack of respect in how he addressed it. It was the old stereotype of the scientist so convinced of the utter righteousness of the purely scientific world view that he’s utterly contemptuous of those fools who believe in any sort of higher power (see Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan’s Contact, for example).

That bothered me, but I wasn’t quite sure how to start expressing it, so I just filed it away on the back burner to percolate for a little bit.

A couple of days ago, I’d posted a link on my linklog to a Gallup poll which showed that only one third of Americans believe that evidence supports Darwin’s theory of evolution, and had added the comment, “how depressing.” This morning, I got a comment on that post from Swami Prem that raised my eyebrows:

What’s depressing about this? There is no evidence that supports Darwin’s theories. No scientist has ever shown that there exists a link between humans and apes. Darwin’s theories are theories afterall.

Suddenly, I found myself coming dangerously close to stepping right into Paul’s shoes, and had to wait a while before responding to Prem’s comment. My first impulse was surprise and, quite honestly, a little bit of, “oh, here we go again…” — Prem and I have had strong disagreements in the past, and while I don’t believe that he’s at all unintelligent, his earlier espousal of viewpoints that are so diametrically opposed to my own strongly colored my initial reaction to this new comment.

After taking some time to let that roll around in my brain I did respond, and Prem’s responded to that. As yet, I haven’t taken it any further, both because I want to do my best to respond intelligently and because I’m somewhat stumped as to just how to start (I probably need to take some time to do a little research [this site looks like a good place to start] — as I’ve never progressed beyond attaining my high school diploma, and I was never that good in the sciences to begin with, I’m not entirely comfortable with trying to engage in a full-on creationism-vs.-Darwinism debate without a little brushing up [and actually, Paul would probably be far more qualified than I to tackle Prem’s question, judging by his obvious interest in both biology and evolution — just check out the links in his sidebar!]).

Anyway, both of these items have been bouncing around my head all day.

I think a lot of what’s been bothering me about the exchanges is that I try hard to be polite and respectful in my discussions with people, even when (and sometimes especially when) I disagree with them, and that seems to be a trait that has gone by the wayside far too often these days. Sure, I don’t always succeed — I’ll fly off the handle and rant and rave from time to time — but I do make an effort to keep those instances to a minimum.

Unfortunately, it seems that we’re living in a world where differences are all anybody sees anymore: us vs. them, me vs. you, religion vs. science, liberal vs. conservative, democrat vs. republican, urban vs. rural, red vs. blue, etc. Nobody’s actually listening to what anyone else has to say — we’re all so sure that we’re right and everyone else is wrong, too busy banging our shoes on the table to really listen to anyone else.

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs, all told.

Bouncing back a bit, but touching on both of the incidents that started all this rambling, I think the thing that frustrates me the most about the science vs. religion debate — and creationism vs. Darwinism in particular — is that in my mind, there is absolutely nothing that says that the two theories are incompatible. It’s never seemed to me as if it was an either/or equation — coming back to Carl Sagan’s book, and most pointedly the end of it (and if you haven’t read or don’t want to read the book, feel free to watch the movie — it’s one of the single most intelligent science-fiction films I’ve seen in my lifetime), why is it so hard for people to wrap their heads around the concept that it’s entirely possible that both Ellie Arroway and Palmer Joss are “right”?

I’ve always found it interesting that the most commonly known of the two creation stories in Genesis fairly accurately parallels the scientific view of the formation of the universe, our planet, and the life upon it. First space, then stars, then the earth, then oceans, then plants, then fish, then animals, then man. Two different ways of telling the same story — one measured in days and one measured in millennia, but the same story. Of course, this does hinge on the ability to accept the Bible without taking it literally (which is probably another subject for another time, but it’s probably fairly obvious that I don’t subscribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible), which trips up a lot of people.

Meh. I don’t know…and I think I’m starting to run out of steam. As I warned at the beginning of this, probably not the most coherent or well-organized post I’ve ever made here.

Had to get some of this out of my head, though.

Questions? Comments? Words of wisdom? Bring ’em on….