I really do, and I don’t think that anyone who pays attention to me can doubt that when I say it. What I’m about to say may come across as exactly the opposite–as someone who doesn’t love science–yet it’s because of my respect for the scientific method that I write this in the first place.
Jokingly, I wrote on Facebook yesterday:
The only time anyone is absolutely wrong is when they assert something as absolutely true.
It’s funny because it’s true.
Now, there is one caveat to a statement like that, and it deals with perception. Yes, I’m talking about perception again. Anything that is dependent upon perception is contingent upon perception, and can only true if the perceptions involved are true. Let’s take Einstein’s General Relativity as an example. As a theory, it can only be true if my perceptions about the universe are correct–if there really is a moon orbiting an Earth orbiting a sun, and all the other things. Whether my perceptions are correct, however, can never be determined.
That’s not enough, though, and it’s not really what I’m discussing today. It’s interesting from a philosophical standpoint, but of no practical use.
A lot of people make fun of the Amish for their almost random decision to stop progressing technology around 1864, as though that level of technology was not too much and not too little. It seems silly to us, and, I would say, it is silly, but we do exactly the same thing with our science.
Every single scientific theory that we hold true today exists because it turned a previous scientific theory that we believed was true on its head. There are no exceptions to this, and probably the most glaring example is the Bohr Atomic Model, which people in chemistry classes throughout the nation still learn about (in fact, my college Chemistry classes taught us the Bohr Model), which presents the image of a nucleus, which consists of protons and neutrons, being orbited by electrons on several different layers. We now know, of course, that this is not true. “Electron cloud” is a more accurate description of what electrons do than “electron layers,” and there’s no such thing as a proton or a neutron–both are combinations of quarks. It’s similar to how we once, thousands of years ago, concluded that all rocks are made of compressed sand, only to learn much later that the sand itself is made of other things and that there’s no such thing as a “sand particle.”
This is not a new thing. Even Einstein observed it, and used the analogy that science is like walking around the path of a mountain, slowly ascending. When you look around at the terrain nearby, your conclusions are limited by what you see. But as you continue to climb, you see that the terrain you saw when you were lower on the mountain is actually less of “what there is” than you thought. We have a long history of believing that the horizon we currently see is the true edge of the world. We have the same problem when it comes to science, believing that whatever we happen to think at a given moment is the truth.
There is a reason that science as a field designates its highest certainty as the theory rather than the fact, and this is exactly why: a theory is only true if all the gathered evidence that went into producing that theory is actually the way it is perceived. Einstein’s General Relativity does a fantastic job of explaining what we’ve observed, but that doesn’t mean it’s correct or true–in fact, we could very easily find out one day that gravity exists because subatomic gremlins hold things together. That’s not likely, granted, but a theory is simply an explanation. There is no way of knowing if it is the correct explanation.
Take, for example, the statement “2 becomes 20.”
How did I get from 2 to twenty? One hypothesis would be that I multiplied 2 by 10. This makes a prediction: if I have 3, then, according to this hypothesis, my end result will be 30.
Suppose, though, that I give 3 = 15.
Uh-oh. You have more evidence and information now than you did when I said 2 = 20 and decided that I’m multiplying by 10. What is your explanation now? What will I do to 4? Would you guess “10”? Would you guess “40”? Would you guess some other number? What hypothesis would you suggest to explain how I got from 2 to 20, and from 3 to 15?
Suppose I give you 4 = 40. Things are starting to become clearer, aren’t they? And then I give you 5 = 25. Now you have enough to actually piece it together. I’m multiplying even numbers by 10, and multiplying odd numbers by 5.
But for a brief period during that, your hypothesis was that I’m multiplying by ten–and you undoubtedly would have believed that hypothesis to be true. Yet it was wrong. Further information revealed that the hypothesis wasn’t correct. This is why “theory” is the highest tier of certainty. Any hypothesis is 100% dependent on the amount of information available.
A scientific theory is not “the truth” or “a fact.” It’s a reasonable explanation that happens to fit the evidence that we have available. Even if that evidence we have is all-inclusive (which it isn’t, never has been, and probably never will be), this doesn’t imply or suggest that the explanation we have proposed is correct–it’s simply an explanation. It is an explanation that fits the evidence, but this in no way suggests that it is true. We have confused “could be true, based on the evidence” with “Yes, that’s absolutely true.”
My fear is that we seem to be moving toward a second Dark Age, one that is being brought about because of faith in “science.” Because people have mistaken “This could be true, based on the evidence” with “This is absolutely true,” they become no different from the dark age priests who asserted absolute truth and condemned as heretics any who dared oppose them. Right now, that innocuous post on Facebook, I’ve defended from two people already, one of whom continues to insist that “truth” can be obtained, despite how that flies directly in the face of the scientific method.
It seems to be leftist reactionism, in fact–a retaliation against the “anti-science” bent on the right. The further the right goes into “science isn’t credible,” the further the left goes into “Our religion is law, heretic, and our religion is science.” I’ve seen people post about GMOs, vaccines, and climate change in regard to the scientific predictions of today’s solar eclipse, as though “science” is as certain in regard to these prior things as it is with the latter. This… isn’t the case at all, firstly–solar eclipses are predicted mathematically. Thus far, the mathematical predictions regarding climate change have been… Well, let’s say “not correct.” Remember how the polar ice caps were supposed to have melted by like 2010 or something?
The most alarming thing, I think, are the tons of people who praise science and the assertion that “Vaccines are perfectly safe.” I’m neither pro nor anti-vaccine. I don’t have children. Vaccines don’t seem to have caused me any problems, so I really don’t give a shit. I’ve not researched it extensively because I don’t really give a shit.
However, I do know–because I have a scientific mind–that anyone who asserts that “vaccines are absolutely safe” is full of shit. It’s impossible to prove a positive claim. It’s impossible in both theory and in practice. These modern day adherents to the religion of science are professing absolute truth, are professing to know something that their very own religion confirms is impossible to know. It doesn’t particularly matter to me whether vaccines do or don’t have negative side effects. However, the statement “Vaccines do no harm” is pseudo-science. It’s magical woo. It’s bullshit.
And let us not forget that, for decades, “high fructose corn syrup” was “perfectly safe.” Oops. We turned the nation into obese diabetics. Moreover, “anti-biotics” were “perfectly safe.” Oops. We caused the evolution of viruses that have the Promiscuous Gene, which, because it’s promiscuous, is causing an alarming and terrifying spread of antibiotic-resistant viruses and bacteria. “Oops” indeed. Our “perfectly safe” antibiotics probably will have killed us all, in the end. Once upon a time, even smoking cigarettes was “perfectly safe.” Aspartame is now considered “perfectly safe,” though it was, 60 years ago, considered a poison. Fluoride in the water is considered “perfectly safe,” even though it’s the same crap dentists tell you “Don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes” after they put it in your mouth. So I think the phrase “perfectly safe” is not something that anyone should use if they wish to be taken seriously.
What is my point?
I don’t really have one, except to say that…
Nothing is known, because nothing can be known, except those very few things that transcend perception. Everything else can only be a possible explanation for what is observed, and will be entirely dependent upon “what is observed.” Since “what is observed” is never the totality of what can be observed, it’s inevitable that the explanation will be changed to fit observations made further down the road. And even then, even if we could gather all evidence, it would still be contingent upon the perceptions of the person observing the evidence, which cannot be demonstrated as valid.
And that’s among the truest statements that “science” could possibly say.
Absolute certainty doesn’t exist. Reasonable certainty is all there is.
The very word inspires fear and enmity from those who hear it, evoking emotional responses that leave rational discourse behind in ashes like those of the Reichstag Building. The “Nazi” is the Go To enemy for video games, movies, television shows, and literature, whenever an unambiguously evil enemy is needed, and no further justification for killing them or defeating them is necessary. They are Nazis, and so they deserve death. It’s that simple.
It would appear, based on widespread reactions from otherwise normal and rational people, that this mentality has carried over into the real world, and real people are reacting to the presence of Nazis in Charlottesville with the disgust and hatred typically reserved for cartoonishly evil supervillains, which is dismaying, because one look at any of the photos or videos circulating of these Nazis will reveal that they are just cartoonishly comical.
This is what happens when a word, a label, is demonized to this extent. Yesterday, I was repeatedly called a Nazi Sympathizer, and even blocked by one person in the liberty movement, for having the audacity to point out that it is required, if we are to have peace, to actually listen to these people and acknowledge their concerns. This is a foolish interpretation of my position—I’ve long been anti-authoritarian, and that will not change simply because many of my allies are demanding that I become authoritarian to forcefully stop the other authoritarians. And that is, in essence, what many libertarians are demanding.
After all, the libertarian idea is that the state is an institution of force and coercion, and they wish to use force and coercion to eliminate the Nazis, from suggestions of widespread murder of them to just beating them all unconscious. It is not in any way different from what the actual Nazis of Germany did to Jews—a comparison I made last night on The Call to Freedom—except that, as of right now, most of the anti-Nazis have not yet carried out their plans to round up and exterminate everyone who disagrees with them to that extent.
Co-host of the show Thom pointed out that the Nazis have chosen their ideology, while they targeted people who were born with a certain heritage. Ironic, isn’t it? Especially given that so many of these Nazis are flying Confederate Flags and throwing around that word “heritage” with reckless abandon. There is also the fact that Judaism is a religion, and that not all of the Jews killed by the Nazi Regime were Jews by heredity; some were converts to the religion, and were exterminated all the same.
It shows a remarkable disconnect, since the position is basically that the Neo-Nazis (the term I’m going to use to continue differentiating these people from, you know, actual Nazis who actually exterminated people) are basically told that they can have their heritage—as long as they aren’t proud of it, as long as they don’t expect any monuments to their heritage to remain standing, as long as they don’t try to protect it from being erased from history, as long as they don’t take pride in it, and as long as they roll over for the “progress” of society.
I spent most of Saturday sharing memes mocking these people. Because, absolutely, they are worthy of mockery. These poor, pathetic basement dwellers with pedo ‘staches and tiny dicks can’t get laid, and so they figured, “Well, fuck it. I guess I’ll become a Nazi.” They’re terrified of everything and everyone that isn’t exactly like them, and they’re so meek and afraid that they refuse to allow their cultural values to be stacked in fair competition against other cultural values—because they know they will lose, because they are losing. It wasn’t long ago that I wrote this critique of “traditional values,” and pointed out that the beauty of the United States is that we are a cultural buffet, where a person can take dishes from whatever culture they want, grabbing only the dishes they like and leaving the ones they don’t. The net result of this, over a period of time, is that the dishes that very few people like fade away, as we are seeing with homophobia, transphobia, and racism.
Racism is on the decline, of course, with even the KKK, despite its resurgence in the last few years, basically defunct, and the reason is simple: racism is stupid. A businessperson who refuses to hire anyone but white people will not hire the best except by sheer coincidence. It is entirely possible that the best person he could hire is a black man, but instead he would hire an inferior white man, and his business would suffer as a result. This is why diversity is a good thing, and why diversity quotas are a bad thing—merit should be the sole determining factor. Using skin color, gender, orientation, and other things as factors is fundamentally flawed, even if we have twisted it such that it’s a positive thing to have your black skin factored into the equation because the company will hire you to meet its quota. It’s bad for the company if you’re not the best person for the job, and this is what the “Google Memo” was all about: these other, unimportant considerations have supplanted merit, such that a woman who is less suitable for a position is more likely to be hired because of her sex than a man who is more suitable for the position. Just as it is not good or acceptable for a company to refuse to hire a person because she’s a woman, so is it not good or acceptable for a company to choose to hire a person because she’s a woman. This should not be a controversial statement.
Yet it is.
And so extensive is the demonization that pointing this out results in one being called anti-diversity, misogynistic, bigoted, and hateful.
And this is what so very many people are getting wrong about the current political climate.
I watched former vice presidential candidate, Muslim activist, libertarian activist, and all-around awesome guy Will Coley have his work repeatedly spit upon and rejected solely because he is white. I’ve seen people say to him, “No, you are not my brother. You are a white devil.”
Yet this vile vitriol is considered acceptable, and it is a sentiment that is echoed all over the United States. The Southern Baptist Convention can’t even come together and vote by an overwhelming majority to condemn racism without being called racists. That’s the position we’re in today, and nothing is going to change if we pretend like that isn’t true, or that it isn’t a problem. It is. In fact, it’s the root of what the Neo-Nazis complain about. As I said, the root of their grievances is legitimate. They have, in their desperation to wear the Victim Badge that everyone is welcome, taken those grievances and blown them to ridiculous degrees, but what American group has not done so? Hardly a week goes by that I don’t see a trans person crying foul because they couldn’t use the restroom of their choice, and they present this as though it’s just the height of discrimination, and as though it’s just one step removed from extermination of trans people. It’s hard to take these people seriously, and I don’t think they should be taken seriously. But, as with the Neo-Nazis, there is a legitimate core to the grievances expressed by these misguided trans people: there is resistance among institutional powers to restrict one’s gender identity and sexual identity to whatever it happened to be at the moment of birth.
During the course of discussions yesterday, someone assured me, “I’ve been observing these people before you even knew they existed!” The exclamation point, of course, was part of his emotional rant–a rant so emotionally charged that he ended up unfriending me, calling me “he/his” purposely and deliberately to try to elicit an emotional response from me, and finally blocked me when these efforts failed. The conversation was quite interesting, because I provided sources directly from these Neo-Nazis to back up what I was saying, and he repeatedly declined to do so, saying only “Stormfront!” and “Google it!”
It really shows a remarkably myopic viewpoint, though, to say something like that to me–the Anarchist Shemale, born and raised in rural Mississippi to fundamentalist Christians who are openly racist Trump supporters. My grandfather and uncle own a gun and confederacy store called “Confederate State Arms.” In fact, I’d speculate that some of the flags waved in Charlottesville were purchased from my grandfather and uncle. I was born to these people. I grew up around these people. When I was 11 or 12 years old, my family was training me to fight the Anti-Christ, and telling me things like, “When we’re patrolling, if you hear something, turn and shoot. Don’t hesitate, don’t call out. Turn and shoot.” We had actual compounds for when the Anti-Christ took over. It would be really hard for someone to be more exposed to these people than I have been.
I’ve written an entire book about the brainwashing and abuse these people inflicted upon me. They are solely the reason that it took me to my mid-20s to come to terms with being trans, even though, as early as three years old, I preferred wearing female clothes and preferred women. Don’t even get me started on the many, many ideological problems these people have, or the grotesque abuses of which they are capable. There is, naturally, no dispute: the majority of these Neo-Nazis are white southerners and cling to their Christianity-inspired “traditional values,” despite anything that Jesus actually said.
So during the course of saying all of this–I, the transsexual atheist anarchist with a long history of arguing against authoritarianism and identity politics–was told that I was a Nazi Sympathizer, virtue signaling to the alt-right, a boot-licker, and then, when those claims proved wildly inaccurate, I was told that I couldn’t possibly understand the people we’re talking about as well as Random Guy #13 who occasionally browsed Stormfront. After pointing out that I have been around these people literally my entire life, fully exposed to their ideology and reasoning, and firmly rejected their positions, and that these are the reasons (aside from being trans) that I lost my entire family and many of my friends, predictably the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” started getting thrown around.
Whatever it takes to discount what I’m saying, right?
Kangaroo done hung the juror with the guilty.
After spending Saturday laughing at and mocking these people, I spent yesterday attempting to build a bridge, because a bridge is necessary. We know how the alt-right and Neo-Nazis came into existence and prominence. They told us so. For years, they expressly stated their fears. They reluctantly accepted the social changes, but they routinely stated that the feared the changes would go too far. They reluctantly tolerated homosexual marriage, but stated the fear that churches would be forced to provide same sex marriage ceremonies. They stated they were worried that Christians would become oppressed by the state, forced to service people with whom they didn’t want to associate. They stated that they were worried that any random guy could claim to be trans in order to gain access to the women’s restroom. They stated that they were worried “LGBT Equality” would become “LET’S ALL RAVE NAKED IN THE STREETS AND BE DEGENERATES!” They stated that they were worried that Affirmative Action would become “Well, this person is a woman, and this person is a man, so… Hire the woman. Who cares that the man is more qualified?” and “Well, this person is Hispanic, and this person is white, so… Hire the Hispanic guy. Who cares that the white guy is more qualified?” They stated that they feared expressing their conservative positions would become demonized, and that their right to free speech would be trampled, that they would lose the right to say that they personally don’t approve of gay people–and they worried that they would lose the right to act in accordance with those beliefs. Because, whether we like it or not, the right to believe something necessarily includes the right to act in accordance with those beliefs.
Yes, Bob has the right to dislike homosexual people. He also has the right to act in accordance with that belief by refusing to associate with homosexual people. The two things are inextricably linked, because behavior, as we all know, is a function of beliefs and environment. A person’s behavior cannot be separated from their beliefs without threatening their right to belief.
Anyway, so that was what these people were saying in the mid-90s. Though they gritted their teeth and weren’t happy about it, they went along with it, for the most part, and didn’t do much to actively resist it, even here in the south. They did this because of their hope that it would be limited to tolerance, and “gritting one’s teeth and allowing the behavior in question” is literally what tolerance is. We’ve twisted it to mean “acceptance” these days, and have decided that Bob saying “I don’t like gay people” means that he is intolerant. However, he isn’t. In fact, “tolerance” strongly suggests disapproval. We don’t tolerate things that we like. We like them and embrace them. We tolerate things that we don’t particularly care for. I don’t enjoy having the cats sharpen their claws on the back of my furniture, but I tolerate it. It makes me grind my teeth, and it makes my skin crawl, but I tolerate it. When did we forget this? And why? Seeing “tolerance” twisted into “acceptance” put the writing on the wall–they were not going to be required to tolerate people whose behavior they didn’t approve of; they were going to be required to accept people whose behavior they didn’t approve of.
Meanwhile, the various identity politics groups allied together under the left’s banner repeatedly put on the Victim Badge, over any and every possible slight, no matter how trivial and inconsequential it was. This continues happening today. Trans people, of course, love crying about “oppression” and “discrimination” if they can’t use the restroom of their choice. In the grand scheme of things, that issue is wholly asinine, not to mention that it absolutely pales in comparison to the trans women who are placed in men’s prisons, where they are raped a reportedly 2,000 times in a handful of years. Additionally trans people pretend like they don’t have to tell romantic partners that they’re trans, and then they cry “I’m a victim!” when their romantic partner finds out and, quite understandably, rejects them. I know of one trans girl who purposely put herself in that position, where she was attacked, and used the excuse, “Why should I have to tell him I’m trans? It’s just normal to me, so I don’t think about it to tell people!”
Let’s look at this from a related angle.
In essence, you’re a woman who can never give your partner children. Imagine a woman who is sterile going out on dates. How many dates are required before the woman confesses to the man that she is incapable of giving him children? I’d say “Before they had sex, at least.” Before there was too much emotional attachment, certainly. Because, for whatever weird reason, most people do want kids, and being unable to provide those is very often a deal-breaker. It is certainly the woman’s responsibility to tell the man that she cannot bear children, because there’s a very high chance that he will one day want children. As a trans person, she was incapable of providing children, and should have told him that. This would have led him to ask why, at which point the only acceptable answer would be the truth: “Because I’m trans.”
But despite all of this, she and others wear the Victim Badge. It’s not their fault that a man expects to take off a woman’s pants and find a vagina, not a penis. They’re the victim here, not the man who was deceived by omission of important details.
Then, of course, there was the disastrous attempt last year for people on Twitter to use the hashtag “Straight Pride.” Goodness, what a fiasco that was! The single most common response that anyone received for using that hashtag was “Die” and “Kill yourself.” What is the message here? “You’re allowed to be proud of your sexuality, unless you’re straight. Then fuck you.”
I recently saw a Tumblr post from someone who said something. One person replied, “Or, you know, straight people exist?” To this, someone else replied, “Ugh. Don’t remind me.”
Such hateful, divisive rhetoric. What did people expect?
Now we see a good employee, and certainly a qualified employee, dismissed from Google because of his dissenting opinions. He went against the status quo, and the status quo is “LGBT Pride, Asian Pride, Hispanic Pride, Black Pride, Muslim Pride, and Female Pride are good. And it’s perfectly okay to hire a woman who isn’t qualified over a man who is, or a minority who isn’t qualified over a white who is.” That status quo is wrong and needs to be changed. We shouldn’t take pride in the fluke conditions of our births, and this is true whether one wants to take pride in being LGBT, being white, being 6 feet tall, being brunette, being black, being female, being male, or whatever.
That is egalitarianism: sexual orientation, race, and gender shouldn’t be determining factors in things. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated. He never said, “I dream of a world where black men are hired because they are black.” He explicitly and repeatedly said, “I dream of a world where a man is judged not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character.” And giving someone a job because of their skin color… is judging them by the color of their skin, even if you’re doing it to their advantage. Just as it was racist and messed up to give people jobs simply because they were white, because this actively harmed qualified people who weren’t white, so is it racist and messed up to give people jobs simply because they aren’t white, because this actively harms qualified people who are white. Skin color shouldn’t freaking matter to any of this. We should all be treated as individuals with our own merits, abilities, thoughts, and gifts, not as monolothic entities defined by arbitrary flukes of birth.
The alt-right saw this, too. They saw these changes. They saw how “skin color shouldn’t matter” became “this black person should be hired, because he’s black.” They saw how “gender shouldn’t matter” became “this person should be hired, because she’s a female.” All of this shit happened in plain sight for anyone with the intellectual honesty to look and see it.
Some small portion of them resisted, certainly, and clung to the past, to what they thought were the “glory days” of racism, sexism, and sexual orientationism. But these people were very small in number, and they continually waned over the last few decades. By and large, most of them came to tolerate the changes, even if they didn’t like it. But it doesn’t matter if they like it or not. That’s up for them to decide personally. It’s not up to us to tell them they have to like it, to make them like it. We can choose to disassociate from them if we don’t like the fact that they don’t like it, sure, but that’s not what we did. We went further than that, as they feared we would.
Their response to this has been to play the Identity Politics game themselves, and to clamor after the Victim Badge that everyone else is wearing. They want to be victims just like everyone else. They want to feel like martyrs, like they’re oppressed and treated like dirt because of relatively small and almost imperceptible slights. And, ironically, many on the left demand specific examples of this institutional assault on straight, white, normal, Christian men, which is an inevitable byproduct of shooting past equality and going straight to elevation of all non-straight, non-white, non-normal, non-Christian non-men, even though, if you ask them for specific examples of the “institutional racism” that they talk about, they scoff at the idea. Yet there they go, demanding that same thing of the right.
They were being called “Nazis” long before they really started looking and talking like Nazis. Do you remember when Hillary Clinton referred to Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables?” Do you remember how they responded to that? They adopted the moniker proudly, getting it emblazoned on hats, and happily called themselves deplorable. Since they disagree with the left, there is no greater honor for them than being called “deplorable” by the left. That, to them, means they’re on the right track. “If you’re a degenerate, disgusting maggot and you call me deplorable, then I guess I’m on the right track!” was their take on it, and this is why they consciously took on the label.
But they weren’t just called “deplorable.” Goodness, no. Through the last two years, it’s been almost non-stop attacks from the left, with increasingly hyperbolic and vicious insults thrown at them. Racist, misogynists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, bigots, fascists, xenophobes, Nazis… Again, what did people expect to happen? We didn’t listen to their relatively benign and genuine concerns that they expressed meekly twenty years ago, when they said they feared it would become a celebration of degeneracy, anti-white racism, anti-male sexism, anti-Christian hatred, and so on. We laughed at them and mocked them, saying, “Yeah, equality only feels like oppression when you’re privileged. Hurr dee hurr dee hurr!”
Even today, the overwhelming majority of Americans insist that we haven’t even reached equality–and we haven’t, in many places, but this isn’t a dichotomy–in any meaningful sense, and that straight, white, Christian men still have so much privilege that no amount of wrongdoing done to them because they’re straight, white, Christian men could possibly matter. “Fuck them. They’re privileged. Who cares that he didn’t get the job because someone less qualified had a vagina? Who cares that he didn’t get the job because someone less qualified is black?*”
I’ve been through it–twice, in fact. I was the only white person in the Pizza Hut that I worked at, and I faced minor slights regularly. The most egregious example was when I worked 10a to 6p one day, and other drivers began showing up at 4:00. There hadn’t been a delivery the entire day. The girl who came in and started dispatching assigned deliveries back-to-back-to-back to the other drivers, even though I was first in the queue to do a delivery, since I’d been there 6 hours before anyone else, and yet they took several deliveries. I didn’t get a delivery until I brought it up to her and pointed out that I had been there all day and she gave the deliveries to people who were behind me in line. The distinction? The other two drivers was black, and so was she.
I went through it even moreso when I worked at Sam’s Town in the hotel housekeeping department, because I was literally the only white person in the entire department. There, the most egregious example came about one New Year’s Eve. Everyone had to work on New Year’s Eve, that was the policy for the first year. By the time the second one rolled around for my employment there, I was second in seniority, and business had slowed down considerably–people were actually going to be allowed off. So even though New Year’s Eve fell on my regular day off, I was told to come in and work, while one of the newer guys was given the day off, even though it was, for him, a regular work day. There were countless smaller examples, like how I was always given a secondary set of keys instead of one of the primary sets, even though I had seniority, and I was always the one sent to the backdock to unload the truck. Always. What’s particularly odd about that is that one needs the primary set of keys to get into the backdock. Their argument for having me unload the truck every day that I worked was that I had seniority, of course, but the backdock required the primary keys. But that “seniority argument” didn’t matter then, and I routinely had to call someone who had been there a full year less than I had to come and open the back dock for me. It’s insulting to be treated that way, and so I have the greatest sympathy for anyone who has experienced racism. But if you think the fact that I’m white and experienced racism somehow discounts it, then you are the problem here. You are the racist.
All of these things are real, and they actually happen. It doesn’t mean that anti-black racism has ceased to exist. Certainly, it still exists, and it needs to stop. How do we stop it? By treating people as individuals, and by not having skin color as a factor. That’s how we stop using skin color as a factor, which is the definition of racism.
Now I’ve been demonized for having the audacity to treat the Neo-Nazis as anything other than detestable scum who need to be shot and killed. I’ve committed the groupthink heresy of daring to admit that the core of what they’re saying is a valid point, and it’s their solution that is wrong. Many of them are simply idiots who are throwing out Nazi salutes and flying swastikas for the same reason they wore t-shirts that said “Deplorable,” and have no interest in killing anyone, forcing anyone to leave, or any of that other shit that the more extreme ones–who do exist–want. But we’re not talking about those extreme fools who have always been white supremacist idiots. We’re talking about the ones who begrudgingly accepted diversity in the 90s, and who have since warped into Neo-Nazis.
Those types can be talked back from the edge, and they should be talked back from the edge. We’re not going to achieve anything by continuing to push them, by continuing to insult them, and by escalating it into violence against them, because they will perceive it as a violent attack against straight, white, normal men. They will. If you attack them, you will reinforce their position. What are you going to do? Kill them all? Kill everyone who has even the smallest seed of these ideas in their heads? If you’re proposing that, then I would suggest that you are the actual Nazi here.
Stop demonizing them and listen to them. Go back to the source of their arguments, put aside the hyperbole, and put aside the emotions. It didn’t have to come to this. It did not have to come to Neo-Nazis marching in the streets. It came to that because no one listened back when they reluctantly went along with the social changes. Instead, they were mocked and derided, and slowly pushed into a corner. Now they’re in that corner, and they’re beginning to lash out, as cornered animals do, and as terrified people do. We will achieve nothing by pushing them further.
If we’re to resolve this situation peacefully, it’s going to take doing something that apparently few people are wiling to do: listen to them. Already, though, that’s nearly impossible, because of that word–that demonized word that invokes so much emotion that people instantly and vehemently reject the idea that they could have anything worthwhile to say. But we can’t forget the critically important fact that, ten years ago, very, very few of these people were Neo-Nazis. They were pushed to that, because they embraced Identity Politics and Victimization–the left’s tactics–to use against the left. This is, of course, wrong.
They can be shown that.
But to show them that, we have to drop our own Identity Politics and Victim Complexes. We have to start advocating actual equality, not this shit that people call “equality” but is actually just a reversal of the power structures. We have to start advocating that skin color, sex, orientation, and religion should not matter, not that “they should matter, as long as historically disenfranchised groups are benefited by it.”
It’s not an easy road ahead, and it may already be too late, considering that I can’t even say this without being accused of being a Neo-Nazi, or being a Nazi sympathizer, of being on their side, licking their boots, and so on. Because when you’ve demonized people to that point, you split the world into Us and Them. You dehumanize Them into a homogeneous blob of pure evil. This has been going on for a long time. Just last week, I read someone on Quora who said, “I can’t for the life of me figure out why these otherwise moral people can still support Trump…” I couldn’t help but wonder, “Did you consider asking them why they still support Trump?”
No, of course not. Because Trump supporters are pure evil, and nothing they say matters. We don’t want to hear what they have to say, because they’re pure evil.
I once pointed out to a girl that the confederate flag does not represent racism to the people who fly it. It really does just represent an anti-government heritage for them. She disagreed. I asked whether she had actually asked some of these people what it means to them. Naturally, she said she had not, and that she wasn’t going to.
It’s a widespread refusal to given any credence whatsoever to the other side. We’ve seen how refusing to acknowledge the validity of someone’s grievances results in escalation. It’s what caused 9/11. If we had listened to Al Queda and others who told us for years and years and years that their issue was that we wouldn’t leave them the hell alone, 9/11 wouldn’t have happened. But instead, what happened? People booed Ron Paul when he got on-stage and pointed out that the United States was in the wrong.
“I’m in the wrong? INCONCEIVABLE! The people who are saying I’m wrong are evil and clearly in the wrong themselves!”
Refusal to listen.
We absolutely must start listening to the other side. And we must start now, before this shit escalates further.
* Obviously, qualifications are independent of skin color and sex. It’s sad that I have to say this, but a person is more or less qualified regardless of their skin color, and there are plenty of examples of women who are more qualified for jobs than men, and plenty of examples of black people who are more qualified for jobs than white people. This is a given, and there’s no reason I should have to say it to ward off cries of sexism and racism.
You ever do something that you know, beyond almost any doubt, is going to have severely negative consequences? Because I’m about to do that. And I’m really not sure what the fallout will be, but it’s going to be an interesting ride.
First, I was successfully voted into the Audacious Caucus of the Libertarian Party. In fact, I was voted in unanimously with 18-0, and am the second prison to have been voted in with no dissent (The other was Starchild). Even Arvin Vohra isn’t likely to be voted in unanimously.
Second, speaking of Arvin, he was chosen as the first inductee into The Call to Freedom’s “Libertarian Drama Hall of Fame.” It was decided that Arvin is basically the LeBron James of Libertarian Drama, and that’s true, although the drama around him has been pretty mild lately. It’s sort of like South Park–once upon a time, people were outraged, but not it’s just like, “Well, that’s just South Park being South Park…”
That’s the trick of being audacious. If you’re audacious all the time, it becomes almost passé. It’s like the left protesting constantly and marching all the time; eventually, people stop paying attention, because it’s just expected. It’s not exciting or interesting. Arvin seems aware of this (hence his place in the Hall of Fame), because he’s generated no controversy lately, but I’m positive that he will. He’s Arvin. It’s what he does.
In other interesting news, perpetual dickbag Augustus Invictus followed in Austin Petersen’s footsteps and left the Libertarian Party to join the Republican Party. As with Petersen, actual libertarians celebrated the development.
This seems to be the beginning of the exodus of the paleo-libertarians and alt-right fascitarians from the party, including the likes of terminal idiot Jared Howe, Molyneaux, Cantwell, and others who thought the Libertarian Party meant “liberty for me, not for thee.”
And, on that note, the stupid thing I’m about to do: I’m forming an affiliate for the county I live in. The first meeting is July 29th, but I don’t expect it to generate much buzz. The second meeting is when things will begin to get interesting, because by then word will have spread.
I’ve no intention of peddling being transsexual to any sort of advantage or as any tool for getting publicity, but I’ve been a resident of Mississippi long enough to know how this is going to play out. Once that ball gets rolling, it’s going to snowball to unknown degrees, but I expect that at least half the county will be buzzing about the transsexual atheist chair of the county party. This, of course, will motivate many of those people to learn about libertarian philosophy and, especially, how a transsexual person isn’t a Democrat and actually advocates for the right of free association (and has years of history doing it).
It will surely warrant a statement at some point, to which I’m looking forward, which will allow me to change a lot of people’s minds about trans people and liberty. I’d rather the transsexual matter never be brought up, but it will be–persistently. I will be the #1 thing people bring up when they discuss the Libertarian Party of the county, because the chair of the county party is a transsexual atheist.
This will create many problems. Many of my clients are old school, and needing to earn money to not die has left me in the awkward situation of having to continue working as a male, but it’s the elephant in the room. Everyone has noticed. Dudes don’t typically dye their hair vibrant red. Some employees at various clients have even discussed it with me or my colleague; it’s not exactly hard to notice for people who only see me once every few weeks.
I think that’s going to go better than other people expect, though, because the effect of rapport cannot be denied. I discussed this recently–relationships are the destroyers of bigotry, and I’ve got existing relationships with the clients and their employees. They like me. They already know that I’m strange (everyone knows I’m weird), and they don’t mind. The revelation for some of them will just be that I’m more weird than they knew.
Yet there is at least one client for whom it will present an irreconcilable problem, because the client is managed by a couple with a gay son, whose sexuality they are in denial about, and who pulled him out of school to shelter him from the corruptive agents of mainstream society. I could be reading that entire situation wrong, but that assessment is based on my conversations with the guy and with my own experiences with oppressive guardians. So I don’t think that I am.
The remaining two members of my family whose opinions somewhat matter to me will learn the truth, but that’s just as well. I sheltered them from it, but the bell is going to ring, and it really doesn’t matter to me any longer.
There is a real risk of danger and attack. I’ve been attacked before, both for being trans and for being an atheist. A year ago, someone was trying to find out where I lived so that they could pay me a visit. Oh, well. My shotgun stays loaded.
I fully expect the message of liberty to form a bridge between me and most people, because that’s what liberty is: a truce. From there, personal relationships will pick up the slack and allow people to at least rely on cognitive dissonance to not fire me as their I.T. contractor. Or I could be wrong, and they all fire me. I could very well be digging my own grave almost literally.
But I don’t think so. As I said, most of them already know. They can only make so many comments about how I remind them of their step-daughter before it gets to the point of, “Yeah, just go ahead and say it.” Like I said, in most cases it’s the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.
Let’s have some conversations about liberty, and let’s disabuse people of some incorrect ideas.
I’ll spare you all the details and give a brief summary. Arvin Vohra criticized Liberty Hangouts publicly, and members of Liberty Hangouts defended themselves. This led Arvin to apologize and correct himself, and on this thread of comments there appeared a discussion between Jason Weinman (with whom I’ve had disagreements with the past because, if I recall correctly, he went hard for Gary Johnson) and Michael William Miller of Liberty Hangouts about various things I don’t really care about. During the name-calling and pedantry, Michael said:
If you mean we support traditional values, yes, but we have never called once for legislation forcing anyone to do anything.
And, moments later:
[D]o you want to debate this on a livestream? [W]e’d be more than happy to host it on Liberty Hangout. 🙂
While, from what I can gather, the debate invitation was to discuss whether or not Liberty Hangout had called for legislation of traditional values, Jason Weinman declined the invitation. However, I would gladly debate anyone at Liberty Hangout on “traditional” values, and whether it’s a concern that they’re being eroded.
My Values Are My Values, and Therefore Correct
Everyone believes this to be true. It’s an application of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in fact. Just as we use our ability to play the guitar to understand how skilled another guitar player is, so do we use our own values to judge the values of other people. When we look at uncontacted tribes that segregate girls from their tribe when they hit puberty, we reject the idea as backward and immoral, because our values tell us that it’s wrong to treat people that way, it will have severe permanent damage on the girl’s self-esteem, and there’s nothing magical or mystical about periods. Yet this assessment itself is built on our values that it’s bad to cause severe permanent damage to people’s self-esteem, and our values that positive self-esteem is a good thing. I’ve discussed this countless times before and won’t go into it in full detail. Instead, just check out this article on the subject. Or check out this one.
More importantly, the reality of the situation isn’t just that “traditional values” are being eroded from within, although many right-wing figures would deny this and focus their efforts on controlling immigration, in full disregard of the fact that America influences the rest of the world, not the other way around, but also that we are seeing cultural competition, and it functions exactly the same way as economic competition. Worldviews compete in the market in exactly the same way that businesses do, and the one that proves to be most efficient wins out in the long-run. In terms of culture, efficiency appears to be measured primarily in inclusiveness. This also makes sense in economic terms, as exclusiveness reduces a business’s customer base.
For example, acceptance of black people as equals won out the culture war when the two sides pitted against one another: one side advocated continued open racism and segregation, and the other side advocated an end to these things. Motivated by self-interest, the majority of people would have put their personal feelings aside, in the event that they were racist, to advocate for equality, because this, in Mississippi for example, increased their customer reach by 37%. An openly racist business in Mississippi immediately loses 37% of all customers, and more, when it’s considered that many people who aren’t black would refuse to do business with such a company. Many others are motivated simply by empathy, which is also self-interest, since no one wants to be filled with negative emotions like guilt and sorrow.
I have no desire to argue whether one side is right or wrong, even when it comes to “traditional values” (one assumes this to mean heterosexuality, anti-transgenderism, etc.) versus contemporary values, because both sides are subjective. Each can be demonstrated as desirable by its own parameters, and each can demonstrate the other as undesirable by those same parameters. Someone who thinks that transsexualism is a mental illness will obviously think that the normalization of transsexualism is a bad idea, because it openly accepts what they consider to be a mental illness, and they find treating mental illnesses as normal to be a bad idea.
Cultural values change over time, and they clearly move in some direction that I won’t try to name. The arc of human history is pretty evident, though, in that we’ve moved toward secularization and acceptance, rather than toward heightened religiosity and bigotry. We’ve also moved from despotism toward liberty and individualism, at least until the rise of fascism in the 20th century that has set us back so drastically. I’d hazard the guess that there is a common thread that connects these things–the move away from bigotry, the move toward secularization, the move toward liberty–but it’s something to think about some other day. The fact remains: cultural values change over time. Whether they are improving or getting worse is up for argument.
It would seem obvious that a stagnant culture would self-destruct in very short order, but it’s equally obvious that there has never been such a thing as a stagnant culture. Today, our culture changes at a shocking speed and is incredibly robust–so robust that many people don’t consider the United States as having a culture. Compare that to the relatively defined culture of Venice, France, and Saudi Arabia. Here in the United States, we have a culture that includes hateful assholes like Steven Anderson (a pastor who openly says that he wishes more trans teens would kill themselves), wonderful nameless Christians who don’t give a shit if someone is trans, atheists like myself who take no part in religion, people who openly believe themselves to be witches, people who openly worship the devil, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even scientologists. The only description that will fit these many disparate beliefs and worldviews is that the United States’ culture as a whole values religious freedom.
In another sense, we have goth culture, emo culture, jock culture, snob culture, cheerleader culture, Christian culture, white culture, black culture, Japanese culture, Mexican culture, and so many others that it’s immaterial whether every single individual actively enjoys and embraces all of these different sub-cultures, because, again, on the whole the result is that the Unites States’ culture values cultural differences. This literally allows us to pick and choose what we like from each culture and incorporate it into our lives for personal fulfillment.
I think Michael and I both will agree that “cultural appropriation” is a positive thing, and that SJWs can fuck off.
This allows even the most ardent transphobic Christian to watch and enjoy Japanese anime, to eat burritos, and to have a goth son who listens to Megadeth (though the parent, because of the cultural conflict, won’t be happy about it, hopefully the parent realizes the futility and counterproductive nature of denying the teenager the ability to embrace their own preferences). The United States is basically a gigantic buffet of different cultural elements, and we are actively encouraged (nevermind the lunatic progressives) to take only the dishes that we like, while ignoring the dishes that we don’t like.
My wording in my willingness to accept a debate with Michael isn’t accidental. I have no desire to argue with him about the utility and value of “traditional values.” He has gone to the buffet and taken different dishes–that’s fine. I have absolutely no standing to tell him that the dishes he took are inferior, bigoted, hateful, or narrow-minded. They’re the dishes he likes, and that’s okay. My argument is that it’s not a problem that the Accepting Trans People Dish has been placed on the buffet. I’m not arguing that the “traditional” dishes should be removed from the buffet, and, evidently, Michael isn’t arguing that contemporary dishes should be removed from the buffet (so, really, there’s not much of a debate there).
However, it remains true that anyone who subscribes to traditional values will consider those traditional dishes to be superior to the contemporary ones–and that, in my estimation, is wrong. Not only is it a subjective assessment of different values that is based on the values that go into the assessment (it gets really hard to explain), but the closest we have to “objective” criteria (economic growth, prosperity, and peace) suggests that it’s a positive thing when culture shifts from “whatever it is” along the unnamed thread toward liberty, secularization, and acceptance. This becomes subjective because I value economic growth, prosperity, and peace, and I have absolutely no objective reason that I can point to in order to suggest that economic growth, prosperity, and peace are good things (see Darkside Philosophy for an idea of how deep that rabbit hole gets).
So the questions are ultimately:
Does the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet in any way decrease the value of traditional values?
The answer is “No,” but, to be fair, I don’t think Michael would make that argument in the first place. This is sort of counterintuitive. If we laid out a buffet of ten different currencies, all of them equal to 100 of whatever currency they are (one hundred dollars, one hundred pounds, one hundred euros, etc.), it would seem to cheapen the value of the 100USD if the USD customarily were the only option. However, given that monopolies are inherently wasteful and inefficient (whether cultural, currency, or business monopolies), the presence of competition would more likely increase the value of the USD.
Is the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet a negative detriment to the traditional values?
This is very similar to the first question. If a child of one of the traditional diners is intrigued by the look of some contemporary values dish, it could be argued that the mere presence of the dish piqued the child’s imagination, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. But here we have to point out: if the traditional dish is superior, then there is no harm in allowing the child to taste the contemporary dish. If we place a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and a bowl of sprinkle-covered shit on the buffet, it wouldn’t really be a problem, no matter how much one didn’t want one’s child to eat sprinkle-covered shit. If the chocolate ice cream is better, then even if the child does get the chance to taste the shit, the child will surely go running back to the ice cream at the first opportunity. This is the cowardice and weakness that underlies cultural protectionism: if their values were truly superior–as they profess to believe–it would be unnecessary to prevent others from being exposed to other values. I have no issue with my clients trying out other I.T. companies, because I know they’ll come running back to me in very short order.
Are traditional dishes likely to survive the diversity of the buffet in any noteworthy sense?
The answer here is “no,” just as the traditional dish of “divine right of kings” hasn’t survived the buffet. Sure, a few people every once in a while can be found eating that dish, but the total impact that dish has on the overall culture is negligible. Greek Mythology is another traditional dish that hasn’t been treated well by the buffet. Even though we can find people today who worship Zeus, Greek Mythology is widely considered mythology rather than a religion, and the total impact that Zeus worshipers have on wider society is negligible. As long as no one comes along and removes the dish from the buffet, it’s up to the people who like and prefer that dish to convince other people that it’s a dish worth having.
If one can’t do that, then I guess the dish isn’t that good after all. I don’t have to convince people to try my chicken enchiladas, because they’re freaking delicious, and smelling them while hearing everyone raving about them (no joke, my chicken enchiladas are amazing, but it’s not my recipe) will entice them to try them. I don’t have to convince people to not eat the beef burrito; I just have to convince them to give my own dish a shot. And if my dish is really as good as I say it is, after that it will speak for itself.
One of the most interesting things that came about because of Porcfest 2017 is that I realized just how ignorant I am of “average” Muslim behavior. Given that I’m an atheist and have no more interest in Islam than I do Wicca or Zoroastrianism, I’m okay with that. I’m also an individualist, so I also make it a point to treat each person as an individual, not a homogenized blob because they happen to have this or that characteristic. I knew intellectually that all Muslims couldn’t fulfill “the stereotype,” but what stereotype is that? Certainly, there’s the “OMG TERRORIST” stereotype, but everyone except the most idiotic conservative knows that not all Muslims are terrorists. However, some idiotic conservatives do think that. I quote a local writer who recently gave me a copy of his book (yes, the book is trash) (and yes, the motherfucker signed it):
“There are no Peace-Loving Muslims, no Moderate Muslims, no Indifferent Muslims. No Radical Muslims. Just Muslims. A Muslim is a Muslim. Period.”
Yes, someone not only wrote that, but got it published in a book.
While most people wouldn’t go that far, it remains true that familiarity is the destroyer of stereotypes–which is the primary reason that I’m currently considering staying in Mississippi*. But before we get into that, let’s talk about paleo-libertarianism. The question of free markets and discrimination is one that a lot of people would like the answer to, because “let the free market deal with it” is not a satisfying answer when discussing people like me who could end up in situations where they can’t shop at critical stores because everyone in the area is transphobic/racist/homophobic/etc.
They have a point.
It doesn’t really make a difference that 50s era segregation was enforced by the state, because many of the business owners of that day would have carried on that policy regardless–and did so well into the 70s in some places. It’s a nice cop-out to be able to say, “There was nothing ‘free market’ about American segregation; it was legislated and enforced by the state, not the market.” Such a statement is true in a limited sense, but we can’t pretend like segregation and discrimination magically disappear if there’s a free market in place, because they don’t.
Last night I spent a while thinking about a friend of mine who immediately identified someone else as Jewish by their last name. Until this “someone else” told me so, I had no idea that he was Jewish, and even afterward it was worthy of nothing but a mental note. When I asked him how he identified the guy as Jewish, he said it was the last name, and that he knew most/all of common Jewish last names. Then I thought of the many borderline anti-semitic things this friend has said in the past. While he doesn’t deny the Holocaust happened, he does take a position closer to mine, that the truth is lost to history and that wartime propaganda twisted the story until it bears unknown resemblance to the truth. It also occurred to me that, if asked, I would insist to people that this friend isn’t racist. Finally, I wondered whether that was true. Perhaps my own whiteness keeps me from being able to see his racism.
However, I was also repeatedly interrupted during every conversation at Porcfest a few weeks ago, and, when I mentioned this to someone, I was told that “Women traditionally didn’t have a voice at the politics table,” and that was why I was being interrupted. However, this was demonstrably false. It would have been all too easy to play the victim card and cry about sexism (it would also have been nonsense, given my voice), but instead I observed, and what I saw was everyone interrupting everyone else all the time, without regard to age, gender, or race. Seeing sexism in the interruptions would have been confirmation bias; if I went into it expecting to find that, that’s what I would have found, even though the issue is something larger and much more serious.
In fact, the idea that it was sexist struck me as odd from the start. Although hormones have certainly begun to affect my face and body, my hair still isn’t that long, and from some angles I don’t look very feminine at all. On top of that, my voice is certainly on the deeper end–an issue I haven’t yet worked out. Even wearing a dress, some people instinctively called me “he,” something else that I didn’t and don’t get worked up about (although, as I said to someone Friday night, there will come a time when calling me “he” must be intentional, but that’s after more physiological changes and, ideally, vocal surgery), and people tuning into Call to Freedom would have no idea that the person they were listening to identified as a chick. The idea behind the “They’re sexist” argument is that they’re sexist instinctively and without their conscious awareness, but that falls apart when instinctively they consider me a dude.
All that said, the entire reason my rant at Porcfest was so successful is that I’m transgender. How much power would my rant have lost if that wasn’t the case? Many people told me afterward that I broke through their stereotype of transgender people. One of the judges even said that he’d pre-judged me, and was surprised to have that prejudice shattered. I’m no stranger to stereotypes, and they aren’t really a problem; the only problem is when we cling to them and refuse to allow individuals to break them.
I’ve experienced this more than simply at Porcfest. A friend of mine has a grandmother who strongly disliked transgender people, and this friend handled it by showing her grandmother my posts on Facebook from a year ago about just wanting to live in peace. Stereotypes are built of straw people, and they very rarely apply fully, and sometimes they don’t apply at all. The reason they persist is due more to unfamiliarity than anything else. They imagine in their heads some amalgam of all the terrible things they’ve heard about this or that group, and various factors lead them to believe that their imagined person is representative of everyone in that group. It’s just human nature, and it’s not something to condemn people over.
I wouldn’t be able to fully explain my Straw Muslim. The Straw Muslim wasn’t a terrorist, but they were extremely devout–uncomfortably devout. Your Straw Southern Baptist is pretty much what my Straw Muslim looks like, and I’d go even further and suggest that your Straw Muslim also looks a lot like mine. And while the faith of the people involved with Muslims 4 Liberty cannot be doubted, they don’t fit the stereotype at all. Prior to meeting and spending a week with Will Coley et al., I had no idea how pervasive that perception of Islam was, but why else would I have been surprised by the generosity they showed during Ramadan? I’ve been equally surprised by some of the Christians I’ve met within libertarian circles, such as Thomas Knapp, and I’ve been surrounded by Christians most of my life. Prior to meeting some of these people, I probably would have said there’s no such thing as a moderate Christian. In fact, I’m sure I’ve said that in the past. And there’s no doubt: people like Thomas Knapp are entirely the reason I’ve eliminated anti-Christian rhetoric from my repertoire.
However, even as vehemently anti-Christian as I used to be (and I’m still anti-fundamentalist), I was more than willing to allow people their right to free association, and have been arguing in favor of that for years. I look back on an article I published about a year ago and badly want to remove it, because it’s so close to being anti-Muslim in its tone. And that came from myself; it came from within. There was no talk of individualism in that article. It was a lot of bullshit about social customs, integration, and assimilation. I’m positively embarrassed that I wrote that spiel, although that sentiment was present before I met people of Muslims 4 Liberty and goes back at least 7 months, to the first time I re-read the article.
Under no circumstances have I or would I ever deny service to someone because of their characteristics, it must be stated unequivocally, but most people aren’t like that. The same people who condemn Trump for his ban of Muslims also praise Canada for refusing to allow entry to members of the Westboro Baptist Church; the Westboro Baptist Church, on the other hand, would adamantly refuse to allow me into their building, and people like Steven Anderson (not with the WBC, but every bit as hateful and vile) whine and bitch when companies don’t want to do business with them, even as they explicitly refuse to do business with others.
We saw the same thing when Obama became president, and everyone who wanted to see his birth certificate was dismissed as a racist. The reality for most people, however, was something different: through their entire lives, an old white man had been in charge. Suddenly, a black, relatively young man was in charge. They were uncomfortable and afraid, not hateful. And while it’s true that fear often motivates horrific behavior, it didn’t on this occasion, and manifested primarily in cries that Obama was a Muslim or wasn’t from Kenya. It was a knee-jerk reaction to an unfamiliar situation, and one by one these people adapted and realized their world wasn’t coming to an end. Anyone still going on about Obama being a Muslim or a Kenyan is probably just racist and attempting to mask their racism with those allegations, but the birther movement died out because people adjusted and moved on, leaving behind only the racists.
It’s ultimately a matter of cognitive dissonance.
When Bob is told his entire life by his fundamentalist church that gay people are evil abominations, he’s going to experience cognitive dissonance when his best friend of 17 years, Jim, confesses to Bob that he is gay. At this point, Bob is presented with several choices for resolving the dissonance:
My church is wrong. All gay people cannot be evil abominations, because Jim is gay and isn’t an evil abomination.
Jim is wrong and isn’t really gay. He isn’t an evil abomination, and my church is right; ergo, Jim isn’t really gay.
My church is right. All gay people are evil abominations. Therefore, Jim has managed to hide his evil from me for the last 17 years.
On rarer occasions, Bob might craft a special exemption for Jim. “Jim is different… He isn’t like all the other gay people.”
Which of these Bob lands on is ultimately going to come down to trust and relationship importance. If his friendship with Jim is more important to him, then he will decide on #1. If both are equally important to him, he will decide on #2. If his relationship with his church and his religious beliefs are more important, he will go with #3. We can immediately see, then, that Jim has his work cut out for him; there aren’t many things that will be more important to Bob than his religious beliefs, because religious beliefs are “core beliefs” that form the foundation of other beliefs. Asking Bob to accept that his church/religious beliefs are wrong is a much greater thing than simply accepting that Jim is wrong, because Bob’s entire worldview stems from his religious beliefs. If we pull the foundation out from under his worldview, the entire thing collapses.
“Muslim call to prayer while hula-hoppers [sic] groove nearby.”
That’s a pretty awesome event to be at, if you ask me. People hula-hooping, people stoned, people drunk, people tripping, people dancing, people praying… Everyone getting along, everyone celebrating, and no one hating anyone else over squabbling differences… That sounds to me like a fucking utopia, not something that should be mocked or looked upon with disdain. Indeed, that’s how our entire society should be. I fail to see how anyone has a problem with “Everyone is doing their own thing, and everyone is friendly with everyone else. If they can’t get along, then they just leave each other be.”
In fact, Porcfest is proof that you can put Muslims, Jews, atheists, Christians, transgender people, straight people, gay people, black people, white people, Asian people, and all other people with various characteristics into a society together and end up with something that is really awesome. Yet this douchenozzle from CNN said this with disdain and contempt, and people who replied to the tweet made even more contemptuous remarks: “They don’t pay you enough to attend that crap.”
There are only three ways that liberty can work: homogeneity, diversity, and individualism.
Homogeneity is obviously broken as an idea–it’s simply impossible. There will always be differences between people, and those differences will always be highlighted. Hitler wanted to basically produce an all-white society, and what happened? The differences among white people were immediately targeted as points of divide: those with blond hair and blue eyes were considered superior to someone who had brown hair and brown eyes. By definition, a society can never be truly homogeneous. Even if Hitler had succeeded in eliminating everyone but white people with blond hair and blue eyes, the divisiveness wouldn’t have ended; instead, it would have become “tall people are superior to short people” or something else. I’d venture the statement that the more homogeneous a society is, the more petty are its points of division.
Diversity is flawed for other reasons. A homogeneous society of 99% white people (in addition to still being divided, as the previous paragraph contends) discriminating against the 1% black population can’t be fixed by “the free market” alone. However, what if the society is 75% white and 25% black, and the white population is uniformly racist? With these numbers, it’s true that the black population could simply shop at black-owned stores and work for black-owned businesses, but at this point we aren’t dealing with one society; we’re talking about two societies that just happen to reside in geographic proximity. This is still true if we add in an 80% straight population that doesn’t want to associate with the 20% LGBT population; we aren’t “uniting” society. We’re segregating it into many different societies.
It’s similarly true that diversity fails to take hold in homogeneous societies because of social pressures and economic concerns that often conspire to make it impossible for a person to “come out.” This is a problem that never magically vanishes, and there will always be one group or another who cannot openly admit to being in that group because of the adversity they will face upon doing so. Suppose our society was 99% Christian and 1% atheist, but no atheists were even allowed to speak out without being put to death (as was the case until about 300 years ago). Atheists would not be able to band together to create their atheist stores because coming out as an atheist resulted in death. Diversity requires openness, but there will always be disenfranchised people who simply aren’t allowed to be open about who they are.
Instead we could take the approach of individualism, that a person’s characteristics shouldn’t matter, and that a person should be judged by their actions and behavior rather than being judged over what characteristics they happen to have. This is precisely how Jim breaks through Bob’s anti-gay bigotry. Instead of being lumped into that foreign group that has been painted as a bogeyman by Bob’s church, Jim has an in-road directly to Bob’s heart by being his friend–someone he personally knows. When Bob accepts that Jim isn’t an evil abomination, it is because he isn’t lumping his friend into that group and therefore isn’t applying that group’s alleged qualities to his friend.
Often, we aren’t aware of what stereotypes we harbor, and we’re capable of harboring them regardless of how individualist we are. The destroyer of those stereotypes is the individualism that allows us to have a relationship with someone regardless of their characteristics. Only then can we see how wrong we were.
* As stated elsewhere, the state arresting me and extorting me for nearly $2,500 six months ago ravaged my bank account and basically put me back at square one, albeit with $250~ or so. If I pursue this avenue, all funds contributed to that campaign will be returned, either directly or via matching donations to donors’ campaigns.
I don’t know very much about Islam, but that’s okay, because I don’t claim to, and so I generally stay pretty quiet about Islam and what it teaches. I know enough about it to know that it’s very close in tone to the Old Testament of the Bible, and I know that, from the point of view of an atheist, it’s pretty much just a different flavor of Christianity. So I generally don’t have any conversations about sharia or what it is, because I don’t know (or particularly care) what it is, just as I don’t particularly care to know exactly what parameters food must meet in order to be considered kosher. All religious systems have codes, laws, and layers upon layers of teachings. It’s both ridiculous and unrealistic to expect someone who doesn’t believe in the religion to know every detail–or even many details–about the layered teachings. My knowledge of Christianity is a result of my upbringing in the south, and not out of any desire that I felt at any part of my life to explicitly find out what is in the Bible.
I want to quote the Bible for a moment, though, if you don’t mind; Mathew 5:38-40:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Now let’s get to the point.
Recently, an anti-Muslim bigot was hospitalized, and libertarian vice presidential candidate and Muslim Will Coley started a campaign to raise funds for the guy, quoting various teachings of the Quran and actions of Mohammad to show that this sort of behavior (turning the other cheek) is perfectly in accord with Islam and should be encouraged. At first, this went exactly as one would like: people saw the wisdom in the teaching. After all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, or so goes the saying. It’s similar to things I’ve talked about before, regarding being transgender in the south–it was not whining and screaming about victimization and bigotry that caused my landlord to change his mind about evicting me; it was my willingness to shrug and acknowledge that he was perfectly within his rights to do so. There are a few other people I know of who hated transgender people and the very idea of transgenderism until they came face-to-face with me, a real person who is simply trying to exist in peace and is very much against the idea of forcing anyone to do or be anything.
Then came the SJWs. And, oh man, did they come.
Suddenly Will was their enemy, despite having the approval of many prominent Islamic figures, and the reason that Will was their enemy?
Because he’s white.
I’m not even kidding. That’s what it all boils down to. It’s often said explicitly.
You cannot defeat sexual orientationism with sexual orientationism.
This is the mistake the alt-right makes. They’ve attempted to meet the left’s increasing racism, sexism, and orientationism with racism, sexism, and orientationism. I’ve directed this message at leftists and rightists. I don’t care who is being the racist–it’s never going to end racism.
That’s where I went after three prominent alt-right youtubers: Atheism is Unstoppable, The Non-Believer, and Autopsy87.
Here’s where I went after the left doing the same thing:
Now, this post is more than just a way for me to collect together various applicable things I’ve made on the subject.
The bottom line is that Will held up a mirror for Christians and Muslims alike to look into, and very few of them could stomach what they saw reflected back. When faced with this situation, they had no recourse but to either self-reflect (something most people are simply unwilling to do, because so few people are willing to acknowledge their flaws and mistakes) or to attack the messenger. Enter the cries of racism and the strange remarks that Will has no business teaching anyone about Islamic teachings… because he’s white.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and Mohammad would all be shaking their heads in sadness at what is going on, and I can only commend Will for staying on track. When I released my video about the Liberal Redneck, I faced similar criticism, though Will is obviously facing it on a larger scale (though, it’s worth mentioning, the scale of criticism that I faced for that absolutely dwarfed the attention that anything else I’ve created has received anyway), and I remember how difficult it was, when one comment after the next rolled in calling me an idiot, a traitor, a racist, a Biblethumper, and other similar things, to stay on point and not stoop to their level. In the end, I caved and pulled down the video. I really wish I hadn’t, but… c’est la vie.
I don’t think I’d cave today.
Maybe this is just meant to be a collection of other things I’ve said on the matter. Otherwise, I’d just be repeating myself. But it’s sad that podcasts that I released a year ago are equally applicable to things today because, if anything has changed at all, then it’s only been for the worse.
I recently wrote an article attacking the notion of LGBT Pride and Outright Libertarians. I’m going to repost it in the future, but not until the shit with Cantwell has died down. It’s rather similar to how I defended Gary Johnson with the “What is Aleppo?” thing. I’ll criticize someone “on my team” when no one else is, but if someone outside that team starts to criticize, I’ll have their back–assuming they’re right.
When they’re wrong, I’ll gladly tell them so. If they’re wrong and are rightly being attacked for being wrong, then I will at the very least hold off my attack until the attack from the outside is over (after all, you won’t find me defending Outright Libertarians from Cantwell and his people).
I find that I just can’t say much on this matter with Will. I’ve already said it all–and that, I think, is the sad thing, because I’m far from being the only person saying it. Jesus said it. Mohammad said it. Gandhi said it. MLK, Jr. said it. If people won’t listen to these esteemed leaders, why in the world would they listen to me or Will Coley? Christians, Muslims, Jews, and atheists alike have all had these wonderful ideas thrown at us from every corner for centuries and thousands of years. Yet we only pay them lipservice. Whether it’s Bill Hicks or Mohammad isn’t important.
Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.
Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.
It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.
Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.
So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.
Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?
My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.
Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”
My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.
Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”
With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.
This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.
My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.
I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.
I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.
Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.
That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.
And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.
The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.
Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.
So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.
My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.
I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.
A Look at My Father
I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.
But he is.
That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.
His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.
At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.
True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?
These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.
On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.
For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.
He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.
He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.
I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.
There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.
The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.
My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.
As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.
Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?
“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.
That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.
We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.
It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.
It was my heart.
My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.
It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.
Aunt May and Kay-Kay
For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.
It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.
I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.
However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.
I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”
Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.
One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.
She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.
Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.
Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.
Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.
“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.
“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”
Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.
The Rise of Tumult
There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.
I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.
Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.
Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.
We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.
As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.
The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.
We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.
The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.
Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.
My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.
For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.
Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.
On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.
I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?
We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.
Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.
It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.
Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.
I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.
To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.
Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”
There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.
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However, I’m only “anti-war” in the sense that “war” is not a distinctly existent thing, but is instead merely a label we assign to certain actions that fulfill a specific criteria. It’s not the “war” that I condemn but the actions that earn that label. I don’t condemn “war” because there is nothing there to condemn. In the real world, a “war” never happens. Instead, what happens is that one person fires a bullet or rockets at other people. I condemn this whether it’s a person with state authority at their back who is firing the gun or whether it’s a random psychopath without state authority who is firing the gun.
There’s no such thing as a “war” any more than there is such a thing as a “stamp collection.” War is merely a collectivist category, an umbrella term used to denote the nature of certain actions, and the “war” never occurs, though the actions do.
There’s also no such thing as this ubiquitous group of “veterans” who all share culpability for actions that have earned the label of “war.” There is no “LGBT people,” and no “black people.” Neither is there a “people who are veterans” group. There are only individuals with certain characteristics, and, regardless of what characteristics they may have in common (even if that characteristic is that they’ve all shared in one superficially identical choice, such as LGBT people and veterans who chose to join the military), it’s inaccurate to suggest that “all veterans are this” or “all veterans are that.”
Tonight, Sunday’s episode of “Call to Freedom” airs at 10p Central, and Will Coley will again relate the parable of the man who grew and sold grapes knowing that they’d be used to make wine. The point of the parable is that the man had knowledge of the inevitable outcome, and yet he took the action anyway, and therefore bore responsibility for the drunkenness and the actions of the drunk people. I like the parable, but there is one critical difference between the man who sold the grapes and “veterans.” The man who sold the grapes is an individual; “veterans” is a collection.
The question is most certainly not “whether veterans knew” what they were signing up for, or “whether veterans knew” when signing up what the consequences of that would be. The question is whether “this individual who took these actions” had full cognizance of what they were agreeing to, and whether they had reasonable knowledge of the consequences. It’s a topic I only touched upon briefly–due to a catnichal problem, I missed the first half of the show–and only mentioned in passing near the end of the episode, but I would certainly argue that the man who changes the tires on an F-15 has less responsibility for the bomb’s destruction than the person who actually pushed the button that dropped the bomb.
It reminds me a lot of World War 2 and the company that produced Zyklon-B in Germany, and whether the owner of the company bore any responsibility for the Jews murdered with the poisonous gas. The entire argument hinged upon one thing: whether he knew how the gas was being used. I would say that’s a limited argument, though, because it ignores the fact that the owner may very well not have had a choice–this is Hitler we’re talking about, and if the owner hadn’t continued selling them the Zyklon-B, he’d have found himself replaced and in one of the concentration camps alongside the Jews. Can we really condemn him for giving in to this blatant coercion and fear in the interest of self-preservation?
The owner wasn’t alone in his responsibility, though. What of all the chemists and engineers who surely had some idea of how their product was being used? Because there is much to be said for the idea that many of the people who joined the military did so because of the coercive nature of poverty and were essentially facing the same crisis of self-preservation as the owner of the manufacturer of Zyklon-B, and that the military was merely a provider of a job to them in a time and place where they had no better options. Even I once looked into joining the Navy, for exactly this reason. What of the factory workers (or however Zyklon-B is produced) who knew how the pellets were being used by the Nazis, and yet did not quit their jobs? Should they not be held as responsible for the gas’s usage as Hitler himself?
Why not just round up everyone involved with the company and try them for the Holocaust?
Because, while we accept the notion of individual responsibility, we also can’t deny that there is such a thing as diffused responsibility. While we must hold the soldier accountable for the bombs he actually drops with the press of a button, we cannot deny the diffused responsibility of conditions and causes that led him to be there in the first place. The pilot didn’t produce the bomb, or call for it to be dropped, and neither did Oppenheimer open the hatch to see the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Neither did Einstein start World War 2, a period of total war that we today have a hard time even grasping because we have not experienced total war since.
Is a person responsible for the conditions in which they have found themselves?
“To some degree,” perhaps, at least in some cases. Surely the man who robs the bank because he became addicted to heroin and couldn’t afford any more bears responsibility for robbing the bank because he made all of the choices that led to his situation, right? Wrong. If heroin was legal, then much of what he experienced wouldn’t have happened, and he certainly had no say-so in the legal status of heroin.
It’s ultimately a question of Nature versus Nurture, then. This is a question that people have been debating for centuries, and we’re no nearer to the answer. Is a person responsible for the choices that they make in the conditions they are in? Sometimes. But if Bob has lost everything from his home to his job because of a medical condition that he couldn’t afford or prevent, is Bob really responsible when he robs a convenient store to avoid starvation? How much conscious, deliberate effort to effect change is possible? Is it even possible that Bob could have found himself in different circumstances? Does Bob even have free will to change those circumstances?
“We don’t know” is the answer to all of these questions. We can only assume, and we can only assume that our assumptions are valid. And we can only assume that our assumption that are assumptions are valid is valid. So on and so on, ad infinitum.
I would agree that there is substantially increased likelihood that an individual with the characteristic of “having been a veteran” is also a murderer, but that is the farthest I will go toward absolutism, and that’s the farthest that anyone should be willing to go, because anywhere beyond that is where the assumptions start. After all, we have the logic and data that defines “war” as being undertaken by soldiers and as being a category of events that necessarily involve murder; by this criteria, it is obvious that we will find among soldiers an increased chance of “once took another human life.”
But we’re all murderers, every single one of us–the only escape from that is to include “human” in our definition of murder. We have all taken lives, plant or animal or human. It was Jesus Christ who said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I have to agree.
Let the first person who hasn’t ever taken another life criticize “veterans” as a group. Until then, let’s keep our assumptions under control.
I often feel like I must have missed something, as various issues come to the surface. Only two weeks ago, I found myself discussing free will and physics on Facebook, and only last week the same basic conversation played out over email, when someone asked me about the implications of the double slit experiment.
It’s always time for me to shine when someone starts bringing up Quantum Mechanics because they’ve watched a few Discovery specials, and they usually use these specials (less commonly: books by people like Brian Greene) to explain to others how we’re totally wrong and how we don’t have free will.
I studied physics in college, actually–majoring in GR Theory at what is, strangely enough, one of the best physics programs in the nation (University of Mississippi–yes, seriously. It’s highly regarded, and it’s acoustic physics program is, indisputably, the best in the United States… Go figure). Faced with several more years of grueling uphill fighting [my weakness is in math, since I dropped out of high school and never took trig (thanks to my high ACT score, I was able to jump right into calculus, and it’s borderline impossible for people who haven’t studied trig)], and advised to pursue another direction, I ultimately changed my major to the Management of Information Systems. So I’m no physicist, and I’m not saying that I am. However, I do sit between the layperson and the physicist, and I want to disabuse the incorrect notions that people have adopted in support of their predispositions.
The Double Slit Experiment
Commonly said to have the most far-reaching implications of any experiment ever undertaken, the general idea put forward here is that humans change the nature of reality through intention, a statement that has many variations. Some think our control over results is limited, while others have concluded that thought alone (making us classical gods, for all intents and purposes) can fundamentally alter nature.
One example often cited is the Higgs Boson or, for people who can appreciate the irony, the God Particle. Complex math produced more complex math that produced math of even greater complexity, and Higgs (his first name escapes me right now) built his theory from this math within math within math, predicting that there was a single particle that must be responsible for altering a particle’s movement through spacetime such that it acquired mass. It was way “out there,” but we recently discovered that the boson does, in fact, exist. Many have cited this as an example of mass expectations (no pun intended) producing the expected reality–because enough people expected to find it, we altered the fundamental features of nature so that it existed.
It reeks of Noetic Science, which has been routinely disavowed by the scientific community as being little more than a front for branches of Spirit Science. It’s quite clearly false: if mass expectations could affect the nature of reality, we’d find ourselves on a planet orbited by the sun and overseen by a clearly-present deity who often intervenes visibly in people’s lives.
That aside, it remains a fact that the technician’s intentions when setting up the experiment determine its outcome, but here we’ve made another fallacy–we’ve forgotten that “how the technician sets up the experiment” may actually be predetermined.
Imagine if I told you to select five pennies out of one hundred that I’ve laid out. We would typically conclude that you have free will in selecting the ones you select. However, what if there’s an overarching physical law that has determined not only which pennies you’ll select, but also which of my own five hundred pennies I’ll set down for you to choose from?
And here we run into the biggest free will hurdle: many, many people have confused it with omnipotence.
“You didn’t really have free will,” they’d tell you, “because you couldn’t choose any penny you wanted. You could choose only from the ones she presented. She curtailed your free will, and therefore you didn’t actually make a choice.”
It’s an argument easily discussed with a blank, “Wut.” It’s like saying that people who chose between Hillary and Trump didn’t actually make a choice, because other people had limited their ballot options. The number of choices available, and whether we control what options are possible, is irrelevant to the matter of free will, because free will doesn’t require omnipotence. You can’t fly, either–does that mean you don’t have free will? Obviously not. The argument is stupid, yet people make it.
Returning to the experiment, suppose the technician first tests for particle behavior, then wave behavior, then wave behavior, and finally particle behavior. It would seem, at a glance, that the technician has used free will to determine the parameters of the experiment, and this is why the experiment is remarkable: there has yet to be put forward any good explanation of how the wave-particle knows where it isn’t allowed to land.
Except… We don’t know whether we’re looking in the wrong place. Perhaps we should not be looking for how the particle knows where the interference would occur; instead, we should be asking whether physical laws have determined beforehand how the experiments will play out.
Let me explain. Imagine that we’re self-aware characters in a movie, and that the writer of the movie has written already how the experiment will be performed, and what the results will be. This leaves us flabbergasted upon seeing the experiment’s results, because, as far as we can tell, the wave-particle somehow knows whether the second slit is open or not. So we spend the next century trying to figure out how the wave function knows how it’s supposed to collapse without having any way of gaining information about the status of the second slit, an answer that we can never find, because it didn’t have to know–the status of the second slit was predetermined by something the technician doesn’t actually control.
Any and all implications of the double slit experiment hinge upon the idea that the technician has free will to determine the status of the second slit, rather than the technician’s own “decisions” being the result of physical laws that we don’t understand.
Either case is possible. We simply don’t know.
Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
Strangely, I’ve seen Quantum Mechanics used as an argument against free will. The argument goes that physical laws dictate the behavior of strings, quarks are composed of strings, atoms are composed of quarks, molecules are composed of atoms, and we’re composed of molecules. Why on Earth should “free will” suddenly enter into the equation? It all suggests that our behavior is determined by physical laws we haven’t discovered, because physical laws determine the behavior of the things that we’re composed of.
Except for the Uncertainty Principle, they’d have a point.
Whether “God plays dice with the universe” has not been ascertained and cannot be determined, even in theory. Suppose we have 50 grams of uranium. A “half-life” is a measurement of how long it takes for half of the atoms to decay, unleashing radiation. This raises so many fascinating questions already. How does the 50g of uranium know that it is 50g? Because over the course of its half-life, 25g will decay. What determines which atoms decay and which don’t? We don’t know the answer to either of these questions (and, at least in regards to the second, we can never know beyond making probability statements). And then, over the next half-life, how does the 25g of uranium know to decay 12.5g of uranium? What determines which 12.5g decay?
In fact, our inability to learn these answers, even in theory, means that there is plenty of room for free will, and that we can never determine whether we do or don’t have free will. There are far too many variables involved for anyone to identify them all, and attempting to figure out the value of some (thanks to Heisenberg) will inadvertently change the value of others. Measuring those will change ones we’ve already measured, making the task impossible in practice and in theory.
Physicists are searching for this M-Theory that would explain everything, from how planets orbit stars to why I came to the tanning salon early to why this atom decayed but that one didn’t. Whether or not this is a fool’s errand depends on whether or not we have free will. Basically, physicists are looking for a physical law that explains why the technician left both slits open (actually, they’re not, as free will seems presumed in that lexicon) and why the technician’s parents fell in love, and why the Earth formed the way it did. It’s called the “Mother Theory” for a reason–it would be the Mother of All Theories, supplanting and subsuming psychology, economics, biology, and everything else.
However, there’s a problem. If the universe is governed by an M-Theory, then why should that M-Theory dictate that we will one day discover it? If everything is governed by a master (and extraordinarily complex) set of laws, then our search for that theory is a result of that theory, and the results we discover are determined by that theory.
This is the sort of thing that Brian Greene and Discovery specials don’t get into. The lines between physics and metaphysics blur at the higher levels, creating a mess of confusing ideas that even the sharpest minds can’t navigate. It’s frequently said that no one understands quantum mechanics.
It reminds me of the quip, “If the brain were simple enough for us to understand it, then we’d be too stupid to understand it.”
Really Odd Argument From Scott Adams
Scott Adams (whose post I can’t link because I’m writing this from my phone in a parking lot, but will add it later) recently wrote that we don’t have free will, but that technology might allow us to one day. Honestly, I have no idea what he’s talking about; he seems to have misunderstood some concepts.
He argued that someone who wants to resist sweets while they’re on a diet giving in and eating the sweets is proof we don’t have free will, because more fundamental biological programming dictates our behavior. So inserting chips into our brains (another technology I’m wholly against) to help resist that biological programming could grant us free will.
Do you see the fallacy?
Inserting the chip is either proof that we have free will, or it’s a result of the same biological programming. If our behavior is dictated by biological programming, thus eliminating our ability to make choices, then this extends to the decision whether to install a chip in one’s brain. If biological programming forces me to eat the sweets and I can’t do anything about it, then biological programming compels me to install the chip, so I still don’t have free will. It’s not the sort of muddled thinking I expect from Scott Adams, to create a fallacy like that.
Notice again, though, that it’s more like he’s confused omnipotence with free will (If you look closely, you’ll find that most people do). The person in question still chose to eat the cake, when they could have resisted. We know this to be true because people have actually died from hunger strikes; they resisted the biological programming to the point of death. What this person lacks isn’t free will; it’s discipline and self-control.
The idea that we can’t resist biological programming is one that I adamantly deny. Futurama did an episode about this. If we can’t control our behavior, because of physics or biology, then we’re not responsible for anything that we do. While I admit that it’s possible that we live in such a reality, such a sweeping statement with such enormous implications must be supported by considerable evidence, and the only evidence it has is “You can’t prove otherwise.”
No, I can’t prove that humans have free will. I’m not even saying that we do. I’m saying that we must act like we have free will, because it certainly seems that we do, and acting like we don’t have free will shatters what little is left of personal responsibility. How can you punish the murderer if he doesn’t have free will? It’s literally not his fault that he’s a murderer if he lacks free will. What of rapists, motivated very much by biological impulses? Scott’s cake metaphor works just as well for the man who rapes a woman because he was overcome with horniness.
My point isn’t to say that we have free will or that we don’t. In fact, I don’t think we can ever know whether we have free will. If we do have free will, it could never be proven, for obvious reasons. If we don’t have free will, then whether or not we ever learn that is at the discretion of whatever universal laws prevent us from having free will. Moreover, because of the Uncertainty Principle, we can never make the determination in the first place, because we can never identify all the variables that go into a “choice” (because it would consist of all variables going back to the Big Bang and would produce an equation the size of the Milky Way Galaxy).
Free Will is, and will always be, a matter of belief, not knowledge. Anyone who claims to know has quite a burden of proof on their shoulders. And since the idea that we don’t have free will carries many major implications (the destruction of right and wrong, and the end of individual responsibility), it’s best that we err on the side of caution: “Yes, she chose to give in and eat the cake. Yes, he chose to give in and rape that woman. Yes, she chose to murder that old man.”
One of the more bizarre aspects of the United States’ attack against Syria is the fact that no one bombed us when we killed 230 civilians, a showcase of moral hypocrisy rooted firmly in the idea that might is right. We know that “coalition forces,” meaning the United States for all intents and purposes, killed 230 civilians in a single airstrike, and we know that the death toll doesn’t stop there: more than a thousand civilians were killed in Iraq and Syria by the United States through the month of March.
Here, a lot of significance is placed on the method of death, as though death by suffocation in toxic gas is inherently worse than death by conflagration. The reality is that I sincerely doubt that the dead people would agree–by almost all accounts, burns are worse than suffocation, being overwhelmingly more painful and causing deaths nightmarishly horrific. This isn’t to say that death by sarin gas is good–it certainly isn’t. However, it is the height of arbitrary moral hypocrisy that we proclaim civilian deaths in one type of attack as indisputably more evil than civilian deaths in another type of attack. This is all the more curious since a number of American bombs are explicitly designed to create vacuum pressure by consuming all nearby air–these were used to “great” effect in Operation Iraqi Freedom to suffocate Iraqi forces deeply entrenched in tunnels. Even with bombs not specifically designed to have this effect, death by smoke inhalation (surely a “death by chemical attack”) and heat suffocation (heat being a chemical product of fire, and all) are real threats.
Yet no one took it upon themselves to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at the United States for its wanton and careless murders of civilians throughout the Middle East. In Iraq alone, we have killed more than one hundred thousand civilians. Ignoring all of that, though, as recently as last month we killed more than a thousand in reckless drone strikes–more than ten times the number for which we’ve so gleefully punished Assad for allegedly having killed.
In a certain sense, we have to cling to the ridiculous idea that death by chemical agent is somehow worse than death by combustion agent, because, while we’re frivolously dropping combustion agents all across the world, and unleashed billions of tons of napalm in Korea and Vietnam, we’ve refrained, for the most part, from using what most people would call “chemical weapon strikes.” It’s rather inconsequential, though. Whatever doublethinking mental gymnastics we have to use in order to convince ourselves that what we are doing is okay, but what others are doing is not okay, we will successfully perform. If it wasn’t “Chemical attacks are a special kind of evil” it would be some other excuse.
The idea that someone probably should have fired 590 Tomahawk missiles at the United States (if 100 civilian deaths = 59 Tomahawk missiles, then 1,000 civilian deaths = 590 Tomahawk missiles) is met by two problems. Only the first of these is the moral problem, and the inability of Americans to grasp the idea that if it’s not okay for Assad to kill a hundred civilians, then it’s not okay for the United States to do it. This is rooted more in “Us and Them” than it is the addiction to power–whatever factors are involved, they cannot possibly be completely congruent between Our actions and Their actions, and any one of those factors will be seized as an excuse for why our actions were, like totes 4 real, not that bad. I think by the time we have people honestly arguing with a straight face that it’s better to be exploded into ludicrous gibs than it is to be suffocated by poisonous gas, we can say definitively that any differentiating variable between two actions will be latched onto and given moral significance aimed at justifying one while condemning the other.
The second problem the idea confronts is that it’s positively laughable: there isn’t anyone who could fire 590 Tomahawk missiles at the United States, at least not with impunity. It’s arguable, because of the Strategic Missile Defense System*, whether anyone could strike the United States, but only a few nations in the world even have the technological capabilities of doing it, and most of those are some sort of ally.
I’ve always found Christianity curious, particularly the Old Testament, because it contains some truly horrific acts attributed to its deity. Yet the very idea that, based on literal interpretations of the Old Testament, the Old Testament god is as guilty of mass murder as anyone, and should be punished accordingly, is met with sneering dismissal. “He who has the gold makes the rules,” quipped the genie at the beginning of Disney’s Aladdin. Today, of course, it’s “Whoever can’t be defeated makes the rules,” and that’s the same idea on display with the top-down Biblical morality and deity exemptions here. Typically, Yahweh can’t be punished for doing something wrong, because the fact that Yahweh did it in the first place means that Yahweh wasn’t wrong. Whatever Yahweh does is right, because he’s the one with the power, and therefore the one who determines what is wrong and what is right.
The United States has now sent carrier groups to the Korean Peninsula in a show of force against North Korea and in an attempt to dissuade Kim Jong Un from testing any nuclear weapons. How very curious. We have nuclear weapons. Of course, it’s true that we no longer test our nuclear weapons, but that’s only because we no longer need to–we’ve left the testing phase and remain the only nation in the world to have used them against people. It’s rather like how we condemn developing nations for high, Industrial Era level Carbon emissions–now that we’ve progressed beyond that and no longer really need to burn a bunch of coal, we sneer down our noses and condemn those who haven’t left that phase.
It’s really just a way of forcefully preventing their technological ascension, isn’t it? It’s a way of putting so many roadblocks in their way that they can never catch up to us. Meanwhile, we couldn’t have been condemned for the insane degrees of pollution of developing America because we were at the forefront of development, and no one knew when Ford invented the automobile that we were inadvertently pumping massive amounts of carcinogens into the atmosphere. And there’s nothing they can do tell us to fuck off and mind our own business, because we’re Yahweh. We have the gold; we have the power. We make the rules.
And the idea that anyone can challenge our rules is almost as laughable as the idea of shouting to an omnipotent deity that it did something morally wrong.
“The world’s only superpower,” people like saying, an idea that I’m delving into considerably in this week’s upcoming podcast. It’s absurd. We’re not the world’s only superpower, and we haven’t been since the 90s–we’re simply the only one of the world’s superpowers that uses that power without restraint in an attempt to dictate over the entire globe. It is still true that we’re the reigning champ and that we stand a good distance above everyone else along the world’s totem pole, but the notion that we’re on a special totem pole all by ourselves… It’s not only wrong, but I have to question the mentality of the people who think that and yet still advocate military action against other countries like Syria and Iraq. Isn’t that like arguing that Mike Tyson should beat an amateur high school boxer to death?
No one, not even China, questions the United States’ right to put a bunch of warships in the Korean Peninsula while making threats against a nation that hasn’t attacked anyone in at least 60 years. What if, right now, warships from nations throughout the world, orchestrated by the United Nations, were rallying off the coast of California and Virginia, threatening to “cut off the head” of the United States if we didn’t cease launching missiles at other nations? Such a strange world we live in. Merely from the threat that he might do it, and even though he hasn’t done it, we’re doing exactly that to Kim Jong Un and North Korea. Yet we, the same people doing this, bristle and become furious at the idea that the United Nations would dare coordinate an effort among the world’s nations to do the same to us.
But I suspect we’re on the brink of collapse. Donald Trump’s attack against Syria–failed though it was, by all accounts, since that airstrip was sending Assad’s forces into the air less than 24 hours later, and reportedly only about 35 of them hit the target (maybe we do need to do some further testing…)–has bolstered his confidence. It’s like the first time I smoked marijuana. Well, the second time, actually–the first time, I got so sick from friends shoving sweet food down my throat (an expectation that I played along with, “having the munches” even when I didn’t, because I was a stupid kid), that there was no enjoyment from it. There was about a 4 year gap between the first and second time anyway, and I’d spent most of my life hearing about how horrible marijuana was, how devastating it could be, how dangerous it was, and why no one should ever, ever do it. I successfully resisted peer pressure for years, and then gave in, for no reason in particular.
“Hey, that’s pretty good!” I thought.
Undoubtedly, Trump feels the same, now that he’s nodded and pressed a button, which immediately led to a missile strike against another nation. I have no doubt that the power rush, the adrenaline, of it was orgasmic. He probably had the best sex of his life just a few hours after giving the command, and I’m not trying to be grotesque or anything–I’m being sincere. Murderers notoriously get off by murdering people. And what we’re talking about here goes well beyond murder, and is simultaneously socially acceptable. No one will condemn Trump at a dinner party for being a mass murdering lunatic who fucks his wife after killing people.
I think that Trump is probably not reckless enough to really do anything rash, because the possible consequences are so high. I’m not suggesting that Trump will, chasing after that dragon, fire missiles at China if the Chinese President even squints at him funny. But not only is it in Trump’s blood now (and has been for a few months), but his use of force against Assad instantly earned him the respect of people who have been criticizing him for a year. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.
I’ve seen people suggest that if we attack North Korea, China won’t move to stop us. While the Chinese people are sick of Kim Jong Un’s antics and exerting pressure on the Chinese government to get Kim under control, that will change the moment we attack North Korea, because such an act will be taken as a direct challenge to China’s sovereignty and regional authority. Imagine how we would respond if Russia invaded Puerto Rico. If we attack North Korea, we will find ourselves at war with China. We might be able to get away with assassinating Kim Jong Un, but that isn’t the way the United States does things. Presumably.
I’m more concerned with the possibility of finding ourselves bogged down in a war against Syria, Russia, China, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries that we’ve either directly attacked, are presently at war with, or are likely to end up at war with them the moment one of the other two world superpowers has had enough of our bullshit. I honestly don’t think that Putin is going to let us have Syria and Assad, and that situation has the terrifying capacity to develop into a direct war between the United States and Russia. We’re already at war with them, for fuck’s sake–that’s what it’s called when one nation allies with another and supplies them with jets, bombs, AA guns, and other shit against another nation. It’s why claims of U.S. neutrality during World War 2 are such bullshit–everyone knows we weren’t neutral. We simply weren’t active combatants.
Anyway, that’s a rather long list of countries to be at war with, and the only one that doesn’t unequivocally belong on that list is China. We are still at war with North Korea, though we do have an armistice with them. We’re at war with Pakistan. That’s what it’s called when you drop bombs on them, and we dropped bombs on them last year.
Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-president-barack-obama-bomb-map-drone-wars-strikes-20000-pakistan-middle-east-afghanistan-a7534851.html
What an astounding coincidence that those happen to be the exact countries from which we don’t want to accept refugees! Amazing! What are the odds of that? What are the odds that these countries with refugees we don’t want to accept because they run a relatively high risk of wanting to kill us happen to correspond perfectly to the countries we’ve been dropping bombs in? If it was actually a coincidence, the odds would be extremely low. No one in Vegas would take that bet. But it’s not a coincidence, of course. We might as well have Americans saying, “You see these countries we dropped bombs in last year? Yeah, those are the ones we don’t want to accept refugees from.”
I don’t think China will allow us to attack North Korea.
If that statement caused you to bristle, please understand that your belief in American dominance and rightness in global hegemony is the problem.
I intended to call attention to the remarkable similarity between this and the idea that we must have a government that is ultimately in charge, because the same thread runs through both. We need police, we need judges, and we need laws–we need someone at the top who cannot be challenged, goes the argument. So yes, the global chaos we see today is again a direct result of statism. People say that we need some domestic authority figure, and they say that we need some international authority figure. This is why it’s okay for the police to tackle and beat the hell out of someone for jaywalking, and this is why it’s okay for the United States to launch missiles into a sovereign nation.
* I know that this was leaked as a failure, but seeing as we’ve since blown up a satellite in orbit from Earth (which operates on exactly the same principle) and apply the same principles in unarmored assault vehicles that utilize moving guns and camera coverage to shoot incoming bullets out of the way, no one should still believe the idea that we failed to do this. Why else would we have surrounded Russia with missile batteries? Hell, the official reason given is that we intend to shoot Russian missiles out of the sky!