Tag Archives: war

Raising awareness is not the same as working to solve a problem.

5 Dec

So many campaigns nowadays focus on raising awareness. An awareness campaign can focus on anything from disease, legal/political injustice, environmental problems, and so on. As much as people who work to raise awareness like to think they’re helping, it doesn’t really do anything. It’s the equivalent of offering to pray for someone who’s in a bad spot. You get to feel like you’re helping without actually putting forth any constructive effort.

Why does awareness raising not have any real effect? At the heart of the awareness raising strategy is the idea that if we make enough people aware of a problem then hopefully some of them will actually get up and do something. The problem with this way of thinking is that this is seldom the case. All too often people fall victim to the bystander effect.

The bystander effect or Genovese syndrome is a social psychological phenomenon that refers to cases where individuals do not offer any means of help in an emergency situation to the victim when other people are present. The probability of help has in the past been thought to be inversely related to the number of bystanders; in other words, the greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. The mere presence of other bystanders greatly decreases intervention. This happens because as the number of bystanders increases, any given bystander is less likely to interpret the incident as a problem, and less likely to assume responsibility for taking action.

So in essence, say you have a huge concert to raise awareness about an issue. Are you actually going to do anything to solve the problem? No, nor is anyone else who goes to that concert. They’ll all be thinking the same thing you are “I paid my money, and I’m sure someone in this crowd will do something.” Very few, if any, will. You’re money is also going to pay for the cost of having the concert. If you really want your money to do some good, pick a charity with a low overhead.

A fund raising concert is one thing, but unfortunately “raising awareness” is nothing but a giant circle-jerk of people who are hoping others will actual get started on working to solve a problem.

The military and its relation to civilians

30 May

This is a really touchy subject. It’s one of the few subjects I feel uncomfortable discussing. I feel like there is an unspoken sentiment that if you have not served in the military, then you have no grounds to voice your opinion. But I do have grounds to voice my opinion. I am a citizen. I am paying the bill. I have a right to voice my opinion on how my money is spent.

What is the most fundamental reason for the existence of an army in a democratic nation? To protect civilians.

Growing up right next to the largest naval base in the world, and now living right next to a large army base, I’ve always felt a subtle tension between civilians and military personnel. The power dynamic between civilians and the military leads to an air of superiority on the part of the military.

“You depend on us for your protection, for your very lives, for the freedoms you enjoy…” While this is true, the military depends on civilians for their very existence, their purpose in life. What is a military without a civilian population to protect? If not to protect, what purpose do they have? To rove around like marauders, pillaging and conquering as their commanders wish? What kind of existence is that? What kind of society is that?

General and president Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who led us to victory in WWII, the man who saw first hand the dawn of the American Empire, left a dire warning about the military industrial complex.

In 2010, the United States spent $687,105,000,000 on defense. Our country’s infrastructure is falling apart, our education system is collapsing, our health system is a train wreck, we lost a major city in hurricane Katrina and yet we’re spending almost 5% of our GDP rebuilding other country’s infrastructures and cities after we carpet bombed them. Priorities? It’s clear that Eisenhower’s dire prediction came true and we’ve lost control to the military industrial complex.

But that’s not the focus of this post. Last night I had a small party at my house. Of the friends I invited, two of them were Iraq war veterans. It was interesting because they came from opposite sides of the political spectrum. (I was the mutual friend, they had never met before last night) My best friend’s boyfriend was the conservative vet, and my other friend was the liberal vet. They didn’t really discuss politics, but a large argument broke out after my liberal veteran friend left for the night.

This being one of the few subjects I’m uncomfortable with (as mentioned earlier), and the fact that I’ve given up on attempting rational discussion, led me to just sit there and try to ignore them.

The main point of contention revolved around how much a democratic civilian population has a right to know what their military is doing in their name, with their money. There was a lot of arguing about wikileaks and the press releasing the name of the seal team that killed Osama, along with pictures of the helicopter.

While there was a general consensus that the civilian population does not need to know in detail the location of the troops, the size of their fighting force, or their plans of attack, there was disagreement as to how much the population should know about the motives for a war.

What stood out the most was just how emotionally driven my friend’s arguments were as to why the civilian population should not need to know the causes for a war being fought in their name on their dime. It boiled down to “just trust us” that we with the ultimate power have your best interests in mind, and that telling civilians the motive for going to war would endanger the soldiers. The chief evidence being my best friend’s story about how her father (a high ranking marine core officer with security clearance) told her that there were ten good reasons why we were invading Iraq, but that he wasn’t allowed to tell her three of them; and that she could hold her head up high while she got teased at her very liberal school for supporting the decision to invade.

The problem is, “just trust us” has always been the response given by people who do not have your best interests in mind. The powerful have always abused their power. The US military is the most powerful fighting force this planet has ever seen, and yet we’re supposed to just trust out leaders that they are going to justly exercise this ultimate power without any oversight from the people that entrust them with that power. That is beyond absurd. This is not an issue I can discuss with my best friend because our priorities are fundamentally different.

I will get straight to the heart of the issue and put this very bluntly:

If knowing the cause of a war costs a few lives, so be it.

I understand and appreciate that I am talking about people’s family members, but you’re missing the forest for the trees and it’s rather selfish. When we go to war it affects the lives of millions of people, directly and indirectly. We have a duty to make damn sure that when we do decide to go to war, that it is for the right reasons and that the destruction and death are limited to only what is necessary to achieve those aims. If we try to hide the reasons for such grave an enterprise as war from the people who are ultimately responsible, for the sake of protecting a handful of lives, we invite disaster and death on a much grander scale.

To put it simply: risking the lives of your family members in order to make sure the reasons for war are know is the lesser of two evils. If we don’t risk it, then we almost guarantee that an exponentially greater number of people will die. What about their families?

The other thing that bothers me, though this didn’t come up between my two veteran friends, is the idea that the worst your experience in the war, the more qualified you are to talk about the war in general. My best friend’s boyfriend (the conservative one) had a worse time in the war than my liberal veteran friend. He got shot at numerous times and almost died on several occasions. Now he suffers from PTSD. My more liberal friend was in artillery. I never asked, but the sense I get is that he fired shells from a safe location to locations where my other vet friend was fighting.

Since when does suffering equate to being factually correct on an issue? It doesn’t.

Let me be clear, I am in no way trying to diminish the sacrifices made by my friend in Iraq. When he talks about his experiences, I sit and listen quietly. I would never try to devalue his experience with the war, but he has only his experience. A neighborhood electrician cannot run a nuclear power plant. There are plenty of other people who went through the same types of experiences, but who have different views on the issue. When discussing the war in general, my friend won’t hesitate to pull the “well I’m a veteran” card and stop the discussion. It was interesting to have another friend there who also had that card up his sleeve but with a different view point.

A few weeks ago my best friend said something that really scared me. She said that she feels the president of the United States needs to be military. This goes back to the whole, “what’s a military without a civilian populace?” issue. Their is a very good reason why the head of the military (the president) is a civilian. The military is fundamentally undemocratic. A democratic military wouldn’t survive. In order to fight it needs to act as one body with one mind. However, a country that has but one body and one mind, is the antithesis of democracy.

Religion is like sports

30 Dec

I can’t put it any better than Sam Harris:

Christian persecution

9 Aug

From time to time I hear somebody, either in person or on this blog, bring up the fact that the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. This is true. Whether you believe in the religion or not, it is a historical fact that the Romans did horrible things to Christians. Since the formation of the church Christians have used the persecution they suffered under the Romans to say “Look! Look what we went through for our lord and savior! We were butchered whole sale and fed to lions for the amusement of Pagans!” I remember going to vacation bible school where some of the camp counselors would dress up like Roman soldiers and roam the halls of the church. Sometimes they’d bust into our little activity and tell the children that they were all going to die for being Christians. We had to respond by saying that Jesus is the son of god and we’d gladly give our lives for him. (Remember, we were elementary school kids) At this the camp couns….. er, “scary Roman soldier” would be shocked by our courage and we would “save” him. (But I digress)

Yes the Christians initially suffered horribly under the Romans, but I have a problem with modern day Christians trying to use this as an excuse or proof that their claims are somehow valid because they suffered. Here’s the thing. according to the story, Jesus started teaching sometime between 24 and 26 CE, when he was in his early 30’s. The Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, along with the entire Roman empire with him, in 312 CE. If we go with the earliest date, 24 CE, that’s a period of 288 years that Christians were open to persecution.  Yes 288 years seems like a lot, but when compared to the length of time other people were persecuted, it’s nothing special. What Christians seem to fail to grasp is that while they were being persecuted, so were a handful of other people. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, after the Christians came onto the scene. It was not just Christians. In fact, the Roman empire was persecuting and killing people centuries before Christianity was invented. They did not build the great arena’s specially for Christians. They were there long before. Even the cross, a symbol of a horrific and slow death, was in use long before the Romans ever nailed Jesus to one. Doing that to him was not giving him special treatment. They did it to thousands of slaves in the Spartacus rebellion almost two hundred years earlier.

The thing that really upsets me is how Christians who like to point out their persecution under the Romans just stop there. They leave out the bit about Emperor Constantine converting to Christianity, about Christians taking over the Roman empire from within. They leave out the part about how they became the Roman empire! Once that happened, the persecution of Christians by Romans stopped. The part that they really love to leave out is how they then turned around and started persecuting their old persecutors. (I guess “turn the other cheek” applies only when you’re the under dog, other wise you’re doing god’s will) Once in power, the Christians went about defacing art work, destroying temples, and forcing conversions under pain of death.

They continued the grand old tradition of killing Jews and burning their temples. After all, they were the Christ killers. (Or at least until the Catholics changed their minds about that almost 2000 years after the fact) At the height of the church’s power (also the darkest period in the “dark ages”…coincidence?) the church encouraged the wholesale slaughter and persecution of Pagans. Teutonic knights, warriors for Christ, hunted down Pagans through Germany and slaughtered entire villages.

Since that wasn’t enough, they invaded the middle east so they could persecute Muslims. Contrary to their modern equivalent, medieval Muslims were a lot more tolerant. Christians could live and practice their faith in Muslim territory as long as they paid a tax. (Much more business savvy than slaughtering them) As if all this bloodshed was not enough, Christians then turned in on each other for new people to persecute. The waged entire crusades against people who were “the wrong type of Christian”. (Google Waldensian crusade for example) This in fighting and persecution went right on up through the 1700’s. Remember why the pilgrims left England? It wasn’t that England was an atheist country, far from it, they were just the wrong type of Christians. What many Christians don’t know is that the bloodiest war in human history, up until that machine gun was invented, was the 30 year’s war, fought between Catholics and Protestants. It depopulated Europe. The death toll couldn’t be matched for another 300 years until we figured out how to mow people down with automatic fire.

But enough of the history lesson. The point is Christians have persecuted a lot more people since their faith took hold than when they were the minority in Rome. The worst part is when the people who bring up the persecution of Christians by Romans try to imply that Christians are still being persecuted. Really? Try being an atheist for ONE day. Don’t just pretend quietly. Be as open about it as you are about your Christianity. Say it out loud like you’re proud. (God will know you’re pretending for the sake of an experiment so you won’t go to hell) Just try it, see how other react and treat you differently. By the way, atheists have been persecuted by everyone since man created god, so we’ve got a couple of millennia on Christians.

***As an end note I just want to make something clear. This is all just an observation. This post is not intended to be an excuse or evidence that Atheists are correct in not believing in a god. That would be doing the same thing I lament Christians for doing when they point out their suffering under the Romans. The problem with these types of arguments “who was persecuted more” “who killed more” etc is that they try and establish validity through a body count. I’m not sure how you can discuss the past without making it seem like you’re trying to keep score. Regardless, these things happened and they should be open to discussion.

Are Christian values really Christian?

5 Aug

What are “Christian values”? Well there are as many different answers as there are different Christians, so your personal views very well may be different from others’. I googled the term and two of the first pages that popped up were the wikipedia page on it, and this “Access-Jesus” page. According to them “Christian Values” are this:

  • Worship of god above all things, including family members and loved ones
  • Fidelity in marriage
  • Faith
  • Rejecting worldly goods
  • Rejecting violence
  • Forgiveness
  • Love
  • Righteousness

So now that we have this grocery list of values, what about them makes them “Christian”? Lets go down the list one by one.

Worship of god above all things: Well, lots of Christians do this, yes, but they by no means have a monopoly on it. Other faiths do the exact same thing, many of them have been around thousands of years before Christianity was ever invented.

Fidelity in marriage: Again, what makes this Christian? Billions of people around the world are married, the majority of them aren’t Christian. Marriage has existed for millenniums before Christianity ever came on the scene. Heck, if you look at divorce rates among religious groups in the US, Christians have the highest, non-theists have the lowest. It would seem that you’re more likely to be faithful to your marriage if you’re not a Christian. (Just look at the news, it’s as if every month a new conservative Christian leader is being flushed out as an adultery or a sodomite)

Faith: Mark Twain once said “Faith is believing in something you know ain’t so.” Since when is faith a value? Taking something “on faith” is an admission that there is no good evidence to believe something, but you’re going to believe it anyways. Faith is the last stand of the indefensible. It make people credulous and gullible, which makes them extremely vulnerable to getting scammed (as they all too often do) which leads us to our next “Christian value”…

Rejecting worldly goods: Still, nothing that makes this specifically Christian. Many religions around the world preach this, far fewer actually practice it. Instead most believers like to flaunt their wealth and piousness by building bigger and grander churches, wearing flashy religious jewelery. There are a lot of very wealthy religious leaders around the world, many who live off the donations of a poverty stricken flock. This has been a problem for religion since it was created. In the middle ages there was a cycle where the church would become too corrupt and oppulent whereby a monastic order bent on poverty would be founded. These new monks would try to live as beggars and try to reform the church until eventually they too became rich from donations and tithes; at which point a new corrective order would be founded. Greed is just in human nature.

Rejecting violence: This is a nice one that again every faith preaches, but few follow.

Forgiveness: This is an interesting one to me because growing up, I honestly thought Christians had invented this. I remember my mom telling me that in Japan they didn’t have the concept of forgiveness until the west introduced Christianity to them. (I know, sounds absurd, but it’s just a blip of a memory I have that influenced me as a child). I felt for the longest time that Jesus was a revolutionary in bringing this concept of forgiveness to the world. Now that I’m older I realize just how silly this is. Forgiveness is not solely a Christian Value, it wasn’t something divinely given to us by a god.

Love: Of all the values, I think this one is the least Christian. Even though this value is universal, Christians like to claim they have the market on love cornered. “God made us knowing we were going to sin and decided to send all sinners to be tortured for eternity, but then changed his mind and made a big gruesome show of killing his son in order to appease himself so he would let a select few escape eternal punishment, and this is because he loves us all so very deeply.”  No, Christians very seldom practice love, and when they do there are always strings attached. It could be helping the homeless only after they agree to sit through a sermon first, or bringing food over to a church member, solely because they’re a church member, or any kind of aid that is contingent on the person accepting some dogma or jumping through hoops of another kind to appease the religious. For the most part, many of them do good works because they feel it will earn them brownie points with god. It’s not that they really love, it’s that they want a reward for their generosity. You want to see how quickly the “Christian value” of love evaporates? Try leaving a church, the whiplash will snap your neck.

Righteousness: Again, other faiths practice the same thing. Feeling you and your actions are some how set-aside, better perhaps, than other people because you feel you have the “truth” is unfortunately not restricted to Christianity. Why is it that so many conservative Christian leaders in politics can commit horrible hypocrisies and get off scot-free while liberals go down in flames? Simple, they are “righteous” and many belong to “the family“. If you are a member of that family, you are seen personally chosen by god to carry out his work, and thus you can do no wrong. Think I’m kidding? Why is governor Mark Standford still the governor of South Carolina after leaving his post without telling anyone to go bang a woman, not his wife, in South America? His friends were the very same people who impeached president Clinton for having oral sex in the White House, yet they were silent when their friend did something much worse. Why? Because he’s righteous and can do no wrong.
That last one, righteousness, or self-righteousness, ties into the scary trend within the past half century of wedding “Christian values” with “Conservative values”. Today the two are pretty much synonymous.  Again, there are as many different definitions of “Conservative Christian Values” as there are conservative Christians but the majority, to me, seems to be as follows:

  • Dedication to dogma : Conservative Christians do one thing really well, and that is stick together. There is a party line that must always be towed, regardless of what happens in reality, there is an agreed upon narrative. Jesus is lord, America was founded by fundamentalist Christians for Christians, and Reagan was a prophet. No ifs, ands, or buts. There is a reason this group is such a strong, vocal, and cohesive voting block: their members swallow the dogma whole and fall in line.
  • The white male rules all. Don’t be fooled by the small handful of conservative public figures that are women or minorities, the white men still have the power in the party. This group has continually dug in there heels when it comes to leveling the playing field for women and minorities. (Here is a really interesting shift. Over the course of the 20th century, the religious completely switched sides on social issues. They once carried banners for women’s suffrage and for civil liberties for blacks, but in the 1970’s something drastically changed and I’m not exactly sure what it was. Perhaps it was the influx of people like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Ronald Reagan. Somehow the people of progressive change for the better became the people who fought to deny women rights to their own bodies, or equal pay in the work place. After fighting to help blacks get equal protection under the law, they threw down their banners when the LGBT community stepped up and asked for their turn. What happened? It’s as if hate became a value.
  • Fear and war. Again, in the last half century, these have increasingly become conservative Christian “values”. Fear of immigrants, fear or minorities, fear of your neighbor, fear of the government, fear of foreigners. Everywhere you look, fear, fear, fear! It’s the reactor that powers the modern conservative movement. 9/11 was a turbo boost to their fear reactor and they used it very effectively. A fearful people are quick to bite their tongues and fall in line with the dogma, which leads to wars. We’re scared of Iraq, we must invade. We’re scared of Iran, we must invade. We’re scared of North Korea, Venezuela, Somalia, China, you name it. As a conservative Christian and they’ll most likely tell you that we should steam roll these countries. Ann Coulter famously said after 9/11  “we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”  The peace talks in the middle east are a farce, why? Because peace in the middle east is the last thing conservative Christians want. They want the wars, the killing, the blood. Why? Because according to their “to do list”, in order for Jesus to return and take all his followers to heaven there has to be an apocalyptic religious war. Peace would only delay that. Don’t believe me?
  • Ignorance. (The brother of faith)  This is fast becoming a virtue in the fight against the teaching of science in schools. Religion was invented to explain the unexplainable: where did we come from? Why do my crops fail? What causes rain? What causes fertility in women? Why did my family die in a flood? Where does the sun go at night? Over the course of human history science has slowly discovered the natural explanations for things and vanquished the superstition that once filled the gap in understanding. In the past two-three hundred years, when society and science started to break free of the shackles of religious dogma, we’ve made tremendous advancements in everything. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and there are many in this country that see this advancement in knowledge as a threat to their deeply held beliefs. Thus they dig in their heels and demand that science not be taught in schools, that their iron age beliefs with only their faith for “evidence” should be taught. Meanwhile the rest of the world (and their economies that benefit from new products produced by science) are moving fast ahead of us, which brings us to our next value.
  • Greed. The stories of Jesus being generous to those in need must be liberal lies edited into the bible. I’m sure Jesus asked for proof of health insurance before healing the sick and the blind. Increasingly conservative Christians are turning against the poor. Just this week a $30bn unemployment benefits package was passed by congress, with almost every single republican voting NO. They had been shamelessly delaying the bill since early July, when the benefits ran out and real people ran out of options. At the same time they decry the $30bn addition to the deficit, they are gearing up to staunchly defend making Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans permanent. That add another $600bn to the deficit, but no, we can’t help the poor people. I’m sure Jesus was meant something else when talking about a rich man, a camel, and the eye of a needle.

So in conclusion, there are no values that are uniquely “Christian”, values are universal, regardless of your creed or politics.

We’re just entertaining ourselves

11 Jul

This is just an observation. We’re revolving around the sun, stuck on this planet, entertaining ourselves. What do I mean by that? Well sports are a prime example. Today is the world cup final. The winner will be decided until the next world cup final in four years. All sports are like this. Every season teams are put together and they battle it out to decide the champion, then they do it again. It’s like two prison inmates playing a game of checkers over and over again, each one declaring themselves the “world champion” at the end of every game. Ok, so that’s a crude example. Actual sports are a lot more complex with statistics, strategy, etc, but I hope you get what I mean. Basically we create drama as a way of keeping ourselves entertained. Sports are one way to create drama. One could say that sports are ultimately pointless (and as a nerd with no physical ability, I’m tempted to do this) but that would be misunderstanding the point of sports. It’s not to determine the champions, it’s to create artificial drama as a way of keeping us busy.

When we’re not busy with sports drama, we’re busy with war drama. Yes, wars are horrible things and they’re fought for a number of real reasons; but as bad as they are they keep us entertained. (And by “entertained” I don’t mean “oh wow, this is fun!”) War creates drama, something to do, something to struggle against with an end goal in mind. Then at the end of the war we make movies retelling the drama experienced by people in that situation. Every war gives writers, movie makers, and video game producers new material.

When real stories are not enough we invent new ones. We take elements of the real world, mix them up, alter them, and create new stories. The sci-fi genre comes to mind. How many video games/movies are there about saving the world, or saving the universe? They’re fun an all, but the themes start to get repetitive.  You, the lone hero, must battle against impossible odds to save the universe from some looming threat, yada yada yada.

So this is the perfect reason why we need to drastically increase the budget for NASA. We need to leave our solar system, meet other species, and kill them.

Just kidding, though space isn’t called the “last frontier” for nothing. It would certainly give us more material.

Well I can’t think of anything more to say on this topic, so I guess I’ll end here. Again, this was just an observation of the big picture, not a judgement. Please don’t misunderstand me, I love the stories we come up with. (Well, not Twilight) The human imagination is extremely powerful, and we create some great stuff. I guess I was just elaborating on that saying “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

All the more reason we should leave our solar system and conquer! For the emperor!!!

America is fucked

9 Dec

I have officially lost all hope in the United States. The worst part is that I feel helpless to do anything about it. Public healthcare is dead, much to the delight of the evil healthcare corporations and their bought and paid for republican supporters.

60 % of all bankruptcies in the US are because of healthcare bills!

Despite that alarming fact, nobody gives a shit! We just don’t! American’s have been so beaten over the head by their politicians since Watergate, that there is no such thing as a shocking scandal. We have been desensitized to corruption, greed, war, and hypocricy. Nothing is new! It’s like politicians can do the most insane shit that would never fly in other contries, and then they can look straight into the camera and DARE the American populace to do something about it. They have no problem doing this because they know we won’t lift a finger!

Sure, a small group of citizens will be outraged, make a few signs, and go shouting around out in the cold, but the majority of people will do NOTHING. The worst part is that the most active block of citizenry is the least informed!

That’s right, the Tea Baggers. They are the biggest group of clueless fucktards that I have EVER seen. I wish these idiots were politically dead, being so extreme, but they’re not. They’ve taken the republican party hostage and pushed out moderates. Facts don’t mean shit to them. The saddest part about this whole thing is how they’ve been duped by the evil corporations who are trying to screw them over, especially on healthcare!

My prediction for the future of America: Big corporations will become increasingly more and more powerful. Democrats will lose power to Teabaggers over an economic crisis that grew out of hand under Bush. Liberals will start to lose culture wars as the religious fanatics push back hard, spurred on by the election of “reality doesn’t matter” teabaggers. Nothing real will be done about global warming. The big businesses have that in their pockets with elaborate PR campaigns. Lowland countries will go underwater, but we won’t care until Florida starts going under due to the polar ice caps melting. Religious nuts will also manage to overturn Roe v. Wade and destroy a woman’s right to control her body. Science will be pushed out of the classroom along with abortion-reducing sex education. News agencies will fall even more into corporate hands than they have already. (Unbiased mass media already doesn’t exist)

I could go on, but I don’t want to. Basically everything that progressives have worked hard for is going to be for naught. The standard of living and opportunity will continue to plummet as America looses her place among rivals like China. I’m depressed and cynical. I feel there is no hope, and that resistance is futile. This was once a country with great potential founded by liberal deists, now it’s a joke, a hopeless corporate joke.