Tag Archives: laws

Let’s not be coy about protests.

5 Nov

Last week Canadian lawmakers approved a bill making it illegal to wear a mask while protesting. There are similar laws here in the US, especially against the use of gas masks during protests.

Why?

Because ultimately, when you take away all the niceties and formalities,  the government wants to ensure its ability to crush you. You can’t hide your face because the government wants to be able to identify you and punish you for protesting. You can’t wear a gas mask because the government wants to be able to disperse or incapacitate you with tear gas and other weapons.

You can protest, but only as long as they remain in control, able to pull the plug when they’ve decided that you’ve had enough free speech for the day.

Many aspects of life are like this. It’s like running along in a video game and suddenly hitting a glass wall. You have the illusion of being able to acting out and making a difference, but ultimately, really ultimately, the government will make sure it maintains control. Anything that jeopardizes this control will be made illegal and squashed.

Laws don’t determine what’s right and wrong.

30 Oct

This November 5th some members of anonymous are planning on marching on Washington DC, possibly armed, to arrest the government. As noble as this idea is, in reality they’re going to be arrested the moment they put their hands on any members of the government. If they bring guns, people will be shot because all government authority ultimately rests on the shoulders of someone with a gun. What they’re attempting to do, overthrow the government, is illegal but it isn’t inherently wrong.

However, I feel that if you asked the common Joe/Jane on the street, anything illegal is wrong. I imagine their reasoning would be something as terse as “Well of course it’s wrong! It’s illegal. Things that are illegal are bad!”

Unfortunately, I feel a lot of people in our society have this mentality when it comes to laws. It extends from a view of morality instilled in us from childhood:

Mother and father say something is wrong, therefore it is wrong. Mother and father say it is wrong to break the law, therefore anything illegal is wrong.

The problem is that the law is not some perfect measure of good and bad. It’s written by other human beings, human beings who often have ulterior motives. Governments are living organisms, hive minds, composed of a plethora of smaller beings. All living organisms have a survival instinct. As such, one of the first things made illegal by any government is the overthrowing of that government.

There was a legal academy where I went to high school. Basically, it was some extra-curricular courses students could enroll in if they were interested in going to law school after high school. The idea was to give them foundational knowledge of the American legal system to help better prepare them for law school. The types of people who joined this legal academy were the type of people who loved to watch crime dramas on television, to read about crime mysteries in books, and enjoyed crime fighter comics like Batman and Judge Dredd.

I’ve noticed that later in life these type of people tend to be more conservative and had an obsession with crime and punishment. Their black and white view of right and wrong and over eagerness to punish perceived rule breakers always irritated me. They’re like some annoying self-righteous asshole kid on the school playground that always has to run and taddle on you, desperate for praise and recognition from the authority figure.

The big problem then becomes: What if the people writing the laws write unjust and wrong laws to protect their own misdeeds? What if the right thing is made illegal? Of course this happens all the time in real life. Coercive governments the world over write laws that protect their own interests and attempt to sanction their own crimes. Businesses with enough means bribe governments to write laws to manipulate the market and protect their own interests. It’s common practice.

So how do these crime and punishment types deal with this reality? They don’t. The compartmentalize it, ignore it, or rationalize it away with the just world hypothesis. Such complexities are not within their limited and comfortable range of comprehension.

And so this coming Monday those members of anonymous that march on Washington will experience the government’s monopoly on violence and will be branded criminals by the very people they’re trying to help. Never mind that their crime was trying to do the right thing.

There is only us

1 Feb

This might seem like a no-brainer for many people, but it was something I slowly came to understand when I was a kid growing up.

My parents don’t really get the internet. My grandmother doesn’t even know how to turn a computer on. My father rarely uses the computer. Whenever he does it is just to check bank statements or e-mail. My mother also doesn’t understand the computer, much less the internet. She mainly uses the computer for typing up letters in word, for checking e-mail and facebook, and to play bejeweled. For both of them the computer is simply a tool, like a telephone. I can understand where they’re coming from; they spent the majority of their lives in a computerless world, even more of that time without the internet. The one thing they haven’t grasped about the internet is perhaps its greatest power: the ability to answer questions.

Both of my parents don’t understand how to use google to find the answer to a question they have. “What are some good chicken recipes?” “What movies are playing at the theatre tonight?” “How do I do fix X,Y,Z?” They’re both used to finding these answers elsewhere.

Where am I going with this? Well when talking to my grandmother, or my parents, I wondered how I would explain the internet. What IS the internet?

The first analogy that came to mind was a university, which leads me to the point of this post.

What is a university? The campus? The buildings? The books? A university is none of that, it’s the faculty and students that make up the university. If all the people left, the cold empty buildings would not be a university. If you get a degree from a university, what that degree signifies is that the people who make up that university deem you as having achieved a certain level of knowledge and ability. The buildings just serve as a meeting place.

The internet is the same way, only more pronounced because it lacks a physical location. It exists in the digital realm that we access through our computers. Or at least we create the notion of this digital realm by linking up millions of computers and servers where the actual content physically exists, just as the “university” realm exists through the connection and interaction of ideas and concepts that physically reside as chemical an neurological interactions within the brains of those who collectively are “the university.”

But what I’m trying to get is more than just this notion of creating realms of information through the transmission of ideas. What I slowly started to understand while growing up was that we are all there is. The lines on a map are not physical boundaries between countries, they exist purely because we created them. The system of calendars and years are setup by us. Only we mark the passing of time. Sure the earth completes one full rotation in about 24 hours, and one full orbit in 365 of those rotations, but it is we who arbitrarily picked a beginning and end to each year. On midnight of December 31st, the other animals on the planet have no idea that one year is ending and another beginning. For all they know, it’s just another night, and tomorrow is just another day.

I first came across this concept when I started studying history more in-depth. While we talk of “historical periods” like the Roman empire, or the middle ages, or the renaissance, there is no clear delineation between the start and end of these periods. Bells did not ring, the sun did not stop, and a voice from the heavens did not announce “You are now in a new historical era!” The only thing that separates us now from the middle ages are a lot of revolutions of the earth.

What is society? What are laws? If you are at a stoplight, in the middle of nowhere, and there is not a single person around, there is nothing inherently wrong about driving through that red light. It is only wrong because we say it is wrong. (Because doing it in a populated area could get someone killed) But if you drive through that light out in the middle of nowhere, nobody is going to make a mark by your name.

There is a saying “All knowledge is human knowledge.” For a while this bugged me. “Well that’s stupid, a squirrel has the knowledge of how to gather nuts for the winter,” but that’s not what it is addressing. It’s more of an existential statement. This whole post is about an existential realization I had growing up.

We are all there is. We make the rules, we alone are solely responsible for our actions and for creating meaning in our lives. There is no safety net or wall we can lean against. We’re completely vulnerable to error.

Which brings me full circle back to computers. I feel that more and more we are trying to make life like a computer program. If a computer were self-aware, it would not have the existential problem that humans do. A computer must obey laws (the coding of a program) in order to function. That coding is created by external entities, us. Our own version of coding that we attempt to enforce are social mores.

For me, one of the most stand out examples of this was when I went to Disney world with my now ex-girlfriend. We were going out to a late night fireworks show and it was a bit chilly. I wanted to pack one of the hotel blankets in my backpack to keep us warm. She protested. This made her very uncomfortable and she tried to explain to me that I can’t take the hotel blanket from the room. Why not? You just can’t. (coding) I explained to her that nobody was going to know, that I was going to return the blanket when I was done, and that if anything happened to it, that I would personally pay for its replacement. She grudgingly dropped the issue, I took the blanket, and we were warm. The whole incident really stuck with me. Why is it such a big deal to break the computer codes? We are the masters that wrote them in the first place. They exist because we say they exist.

Your religion doesn’t apply to me

20 May

In retrospect over the first annual “Draw Muhammad Day” it occurred to me that one of the fundamental problems with some people is that they expect their religion applies to other people. “I’m a muslim, therefore you cannot draw Muhammad.” “I’m a christian, therefore you cannot buy certain things before I get out of church.”

It’s ridiculous. Your religion applies to you and only you. It, and its laws, do not apply to anyone who does not subscribe to your set of beliefs. “Oh, GP, what about murder? My religion says “thou shall not kill* ”  is it alright then for you to go around killing people?

No, because I ascribe to a country which has laws prohibiting murder. (Not that I need a law to keep me from doing it)  A lot of countries have the same types of laws. However, just like in religions, one country’s laws do not apply in another country. It would be ridiculous for someone from Iran to come over to the US and try to enforce the ban on dancing. This is not their country, they have no right to try and enforce their laws here. The same is true of religious people trying to enforce their religious laws on other people. Everyone should see it for how ridiculous it is.

*except when I feel I’m doing god’s work

Republican hypocrisy on healthcare:Abortion

12 Mar

So I saw this comic yesterday and it really struck me:

Wow, come to think of it, that really makes sense. What constantly gets me is how republicans say they don’t want government in their lives, but then they turn around and demand that government intervene in other people’s lives to enforce their moral code.

Do you speak for god?

16 Feb

While conducting research on my senior thesis in history, I came across this speech given by Emperor Wilhelm to his troops in 1914:

“Remember that you are the chosen people! The spirit of the Lord has descended upon me, because I am Emperor of the Germans! I am the instrument of the Most High. I am His sword, His representative….May all the enemies of the German people perish! God demands their destruction, God, who through my mouth, commands you to execute His will!”

Why is it god always speaks through man, and never directly?

One of the milestones on my road to deconversion was when I realized that everything I had been told about religion, god, Jesus, etc, was told to me by another human being.

I thought to myself:  “Now wait a second….human beings are fallible. They make mistakes. They lie. They have agendas, sometimes hidden ones. They care about power. They are not perfect. So why would an all perfect god always use such biased, self interested agents as humans to spread his word? Those people claim to speak for god, and we have only their word. We just have to trust them. These people often lie and take advantage of that blind trust… What if they are not speaking for god? What if they are just claiming to speak for god? Or what if they think they are speaking for god but it is just all in their head? We have no way of knowing…. But why would someone pretend to be talking for god? Simple. Power, money, prestige….”

Look at these two big examples. Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. Both of them made millions of dollars claiming to speak for god. Both of them set up “schools” where they make even more money telling people they speak for god. Televangelists have been doing this for ages.

But ok, those are big examples. What about your average pastor/priest/imam/rabbi? Well, I would argue that most of them are just spouting the old stuff that someone else once claimed was god’s word. They read from the bible/koran/torah and say “this is god’s word!” They don’t have too much to gain (if their operation is still small) accept the prestige (among believers) of knowing the god’s will. The people who wrote what they’re saying, however, had a lot to gain.

These “holy texts” ordered entire cultures! The people who wrote them, claiming themselves (men) as the holy instruments of god crafted these texts to secure their power. “Women should be subservient” is an excellent example. If you read or watch “Misquoting Jesus” you can see how early Christian scribes altered the bible to secure contemporary power bases throughout the middle ages.

You can have a lot of power over someone who believes that you and you alone know the path to salvation. Just look around at modern and ancient cults! People commit suicide for their cult leaders! The only thing that is different between a cult and organized religion is size. The smaller it is, the more intense control you can exercise over your followers. (It’s easier to brainwash 30 people who you see every day than it is to brainwash 30 million that you speak to once a week, though there are those among the 30 million that will be fanatically devoted to you or the cause)

Imagine for a second there was a mad man on the corner claiming to know the will of the stop sign. Say he was shouting at people that they must live their lives according to a book written by those divinely inspired by the stop sign. Imagine he asked for contributions or a tithe to help fun the work of the holy stop sign. Imagine if he had millions of followers who likewise believed the will of the stop sign was known through a book. Imagine if he made lots of money and lived lavish lifestyles off of the contribution on stop sign believers.Now imagine if those millions of stop sign believers tried to change the laws in your country to favor those who accept the stop sign. They want to affect how you live your life and what freedoms you have based off of what somebody claims is the will of the stop sign, and you have only their word. There is no way to see if they are actually right. You just have to take it on faith.

I bed you’d be pretty pissed off. I bet you’d try and point out that the guy on the corner is mad, and he does not really speak for the stop sign. I bet you’d try to get proof that he spoke for the stop sign, or that the stop sign even had a will in the first place! I bet you’d fight to stop them from telling you how to live your life, what freedoms you had, all because of what they think a stop sign is telling them. Sounds pretty insane right?

That is how Atheists feel about you. (You being if you are in fact a believer in a higher power who also believes that the will of said power can be known, and that it is your duty to tell others how to live and enact laws if need be)

My worst nightmare

15 Feb

Palin elected president. The United States leaves the UN, invades Iran. Israel given blank check of US support in hopes that they spark a world ending holy war, as predicted in Revelations. The teaching of evolution in public schools is made a crime (again), Bible class substituted instead. Mandatory school prayer is reinstated. Roe v Wade overturned, women no longer masters of their own bodies. “Shoot on sight” orders issued to all law enforcement officials posted along US/Mexico border.

Corporations exempted from all taxes and restrictions. Internet, TV, newspaper, and radio censors put into place to “protect the moral integrity of America”. NPR and PBS shut down. Ownership of firearms made mandatory like in Texas. People are encouraged to bring guns into schools, churches, and places that serve alcohol. Healthcare reform blocked by insurance companies who do not want competition, while more and more people go bankrupt each year, unable to pay insurance bills.

Homosexuality made a crime, anti-gay laws passed and implemented. All gays kicked out of military, regardless if they can speak fluent Arabic or not.

Research into clean energy stopped at behest of oil companies. Environmental Protection Agency closed or budget seriously cut. Protective regulations of all kinds repealed under guise of “limiting government involvement”, at the same time amendments or measures re-writing history and recognizing US as a Christian nation under Jesus Christ are passed.

That’s as big of a nightmare as I’d like to imagine right now. I wonder how many of those things will come true in the next few years if religious republicans with a doomsday complex get elected again.