Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Justice: A Loaded Term

The anthropologist in me cringes at the word Justice being casually thrown around with some sort of self important sense of cultural omnipotence. However my inner anthropologist also considers this a great subject to study, in particular the individuals who stand up and cry out for their brand of Justice.

So what's wrong with justice? Certainly my culture and many others capitalize on some generic sense that their way about justice is proper and makes others look subhuman. Well what isn't realized is that justice is relative to the culture you're in, or to some other outside influence (subcultural ideology, religious views, etc.). This is fine and to be expected, however it is also very problematic. Individual brands of "Justice" can be the cause more much controversy, and tedium then the loaded term is worth.

Humanity clings to abstract concepts such as this because we have a ideology camp mentality, that is we prefer being among like minded individuals or enjoy feeling connected to other individuals in a general area through belief systems, and concepts. This cannot be helped, however the closed mindedness of these regulatory ideals can be.

So lets look at the examples the world provides.

A bun of bread is stolen to feed a starving family: Theft in terms of Justice is almost a human universal, and some form of regulation to deal with it is present in almost all cultures. However the punishments, and cultural outlooks of theft differ blatantly. Stealing a bun of bread depending on the culture can land you in social isolation, prison, imponderable discharge from the family, lashings, hand(s) cut off, torture, or death.

Justice may carry a few universal ideals such as not stealing, but the outlooks and ways theft is punished vary so dramatically from culture to culture that the sense of there being an all mighty just way of things is quickly lost in diversity. Few individuals in the western world would consider petty theft of a bun of bread worthy of death, however in cultures with strict religious doctrine or in cultures where food is scarce individuals may feel completely justified in killing a thief for a variety of reasons backed by a sense of Justice being done.

If you can think of a war, rule, law, or regulation there is some form of justice implied by your culture being applied to it. Some may not be so direct, but the bottom line is every culture endorses their own form a justice and anyone within that culture with an independent view are typically viewed as the radical other. This view taken globally starts a ideology war when one country or region of the world claims that their system is much more just than another... and this is where the bias cycle regurgitates itself  among other loaded terms such as freedom, pride, and concepts which are so bias and abstract that they would make most post modernists blush.

Dominate culture sets the bias of the majority of people within it, justice causing some of the most harm historically speaking and still a major source of conflict throughout the world now.

This topic is so huge that I feel I'll probably speak on it again at great length, and showcase more examples and lead into discussion.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Proper Structure, Please.

I've been slow posting again haven't I, my apologies for that. It seems University has taken my brain hostage this past week, filling it with both the nonsensical and serious. It is from these teachings that this post is manifesting.

That said let me get to it.

I have found myself always pushing my boundaries in my field, I've been doing my utmost to put a cap on my bias mind (at least when I'm putting myself in the context of anthropology), last year I attended a course about strange religious rituals and by the end of the year I found myself more obedient to the discipline and no longer snickering and making atheistic jabs.

This year I attempted the same goal in taking an anthropology course which was supposed to focus on the environmentalism and how it effects society in an anthropological sense. Seemed pretty straight forward, but the problem for me is that the course forces an agenda. The agenda may be positive, but its taken to an extreme the course requires you to take notice of how the environment is being killed by you and everyone else in your life and tries to reinforce the point through guilt.

I'm all for being a contentious species, trying to maintain some sustainability in the would wouldn't hurt anyone. However I do not want to step into a classroom and have the vegan elite sneer when they find out you're a near carnivore. The bias and judgment for an anthropology class is intense, and I feel that the structure creates a cliquishness in which defeats the fundamentals of being in an anthropological type of course. The prof does not fall prey to this, at least not directly, she although an environmentalist nutcase has maintained a non-partial openness to me in my consumption of meat, cutting down of trees, and giant eco footprint.

I have tried to return to this kindness and being interested in her tree huggy, lets all be green philosophical choice.  However the resentment my peers are creating are causing me some displeasure being in the course, I absolutely refuse to drop it to cater to them but its causing me to withdraw my attitude of non-bias and intentionally be an oppositional figure. This opposition has caused me to argue against peers who wish to enforce a a fascist vegan only diet on the world, destroy all large industries, immediately cut off oil usage... the list goes on. Its kept me on my toes but I refuse to give into radicalism of this kind.

So I continue to combat this class through determination that I will be then counter argument. I'm displeased with the course structure, and I'm making plans to formally challenge the structure at a level that my peers and profs will have to listen and accept that the social sciences should be as non-partial to side as possible.

A slightly anecdotal post, had to get the frustration out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I've recently been struck down by fandom, not in the unhealthy sense of stalking and idle worship, but a characterization of utter fascination and  an inward wanting to model my own self after a person. I suppose its a necessary human emotional response to want to look up to someone else, or model yourself after someone for a particular set of traits. However, this process is quite foreign to me and I'm not quite sure how to react.

This strange new hero of mine isn't new, I've looked up to this individual since discovering his work a few years back, but only now has this fascination changed from looking up to a role model to accusing this particular individual to be a genius. I believe this is still in a healthy state, I don't adore every bit of this persons work, and I'm sure if we met we would argue and differ in opinion a lot but I am still inclined to believe that this person for what he inspires, evokes, and teaches is quite possibly an immortal historical figure in the making. I find it a but odd that I find myself absolutely swooning in affection for this man, and at one point before I understood this sort of behaviour better thought I may be bisexual and attracted to him.

Strange, no? It turned out to be that I'm so astounded on him at an intellectual level that I feel an odd mixture of emotions. I consider this the same reason some men find George Clooney so great to the point of attraction, but the attraction isn't sexual. From what I know about the man I adore in this way, is that he's such a "darling" from his country that he's literally considered a national treasure... and I couldn't agree more.

So who is this individual who has captured my mind... well it couldn't be any one other than Stephen Fry! You know Toast of Europe, Comedian, Author, Atheist, Intellectual, Tech Guru, and over all extremely awesome dude. Need I say more, those of you who have been influenced in anyway what so every by this man will quickly realist why I admire him so much.  I discovered him a few years ago his debate in conjunction with Christopher Hitchens against The Catholic Church as a force for good in humanity. These videos were posted online, and are still readily accessible. I was a big fan of Hitchens but never really heard of Fry. I immediately thought Fry was a prof or some sort of known Atheist icon, and I began to look for more lectures.

These lectures lead me to find many of Fry's videos about Atheism, Technology, and Life the Universe and Everything... The spectrum of his knowledge was boundless and he seemed to have his hand in everything. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I discovered that he was such a English icon for his Comedy, which I think is hilarious by the way. I came across some of his books, and actually didn't care for them but then I found his biography(s now) and they immediately made my admiration grow exponentially. His story is such a unique, and interesting one, that I would recommend it to anyone.

I to this day constantly search out content online of his lectures, and interviews of Fry to get both my fix and to learn new information and introduce myself to new ways of thinking,. He's such a great entertainer, teacher, and intellectual that I felt it was only proper that I inform all my minions of his greatness!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Culture of Fear

In my last post I used an anecdotal example from my time spent in the USA to establish the foreground which would eventually become this post. So consider this new entry a Part 2. If you need a link to the Part 1 you can find it here: 

As I eluded to in my previous posting, American culture is dominated by ideas of fear and it is that fear that spawns many of its more ridiculous factions. Doomsday Enthusiasts being the absolutely most moronic of the lot. Do I even have to mention those waiting for the biblical Armageddon or some other end times religious prophecy? Well I think I mentioned that enough in the last bit. If you're oh so concerned that I didn't pound out a 10 page rant about why I didn't elaborate complain in the comments. 

What was I talking about? Oh! Fear. So, fear is a compelling component of human nature. Its influence can be attributed to some of the most compelling and disastrous moments in our short history. Its evolved to be something quite dissimilar from what fear is attributed in the wild, and has lead to an obscene amount of behaviours and belief systems. 

The unknown factor is probably the awe inspiring factor which religious affiliation was born from, a way to explain which we did not have the complexity to understand. However its longevity even in our most enlightened years can be a direct result of the fears the mythology have taken hole on the psyche. But like I said I'm not here to bash religion; this time.

Although religion is a factor of all this, its foothold is the unknown and mankind has made monopoly on considering the unknown. This new wave of survivalism which is springing up across North America is just one example of this. Individuals who believe that some traumatic event at some unknown time and place is going to occur and either put humanity on its knees, or take us out completely. I think the history channel has probably broke the bank on producing television shows which show case fear in such a way that makes mankind want to consider the opinions. 

A common argument to all this nonsense is "Well, given the state of the world... its best to be prepared", and that's a sentiment I can get behind. The problem lies in peoples definition of prepared there are those individuals out there who horde supplies... in some cases enough to feed any random province of Africa, and others who stockpile so much guns and ammunition it would make the head of the NRA blush.

Ultimately to consider something traumatic going to occur is likely, we're just a little rock in space after all. There are lots of sudden dangers which could completely devastate us. We're all going to succumb to the sun ultimately, if we don't find away to get this pretty blue space marble.

To live in constant fear to prepare oneself for some ultimate struggle or death based on mythology or stories no science will stand behind with a straight face is quite laughable. However many would choose to do so, and the way that our society is arranged completely undermines any chance of living fear free. Media loves fear, in fact I'd say fear is a best seller everywhere. I can understand why its so hard for some to not live in fear when it completely envelopes our culture and pretty much every other culture on the planet.

Perhaps the evolution of fear is both a hope and hazard for our species. Something to consider.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Art of Conversion.

I'm finally home from my vacation and my time in airports, and on planes really allowed me sufficient time to brood on my time away. One of my major problems with traveling to the Midwest is the religiosity of the region. I found my self constantly bombarded with billboards featuring anti-abortion slogans featuring crying on a cross Jesus, commercial for Christian dating sites, bumper stickers of all faiths, jesus fish, and all sorts of other nonsense.

To those who live in these areas, most of these blatant eyesores are actually subliminal, and unnoticed unless they see something that goes against their convictions they barely turn an eye. The targets are typically those who don't believe, perhaps in an effort to convert through the power of annoyance. Even though I was subjected to these things for weeks it wasn't those that really bothered me, it was the religious people.

I encountered an individual which really was unique in their conversion methods, I sense have found out it is common but this was a first to me. They knew I was an atheist and on the way to a local ice cream parlor he said to me (very seriously) "You know, as an atheist if you're wrong you're going to hell. You should become a Christian to cover all your bases."

My reply was a sarcastic remark about how I should also give Buddha, Odin, and Zeus a go as well, just to better my chances in this hypothetical religious lottery I'm apparently in. Apparently to be a Christian these days all one has to do is say they believe and not really mean it and they are covered, which given the antics that come from some of the more insane religious zealots... doesn't surprise me.

I'm sure this was an honest attempt to make me consider the fact I may be wrong in my non belief, and question my loyalty to secularism, science and the other foundations which forum my basis of my opinions on the matter. I found it a rather crude construction, the same logic of a just in case scenario can be applied to anything really.

"You should consider living in a bomb shelter, since you never know when a bomb will land."

"You could consider rolling around in some nuclear waste, you know just in case comic books are right."

Both those examples to me hold about the same amount of weight as the religious one and are as equally laughable. These are examples of what I like to call a culture of fear, and I'll expand upon that in my next blog which I've already begun. I thought I would just be entertaining and fill you all in of this little run in, as it inspired the more serious blog that will follow this in a few days time.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Catalyst of Bias

I'll skip my usual pretentious speech welcoming myself back to the blogging world, because there isn't much to say about my absence; although I am sure I can stretch a lengthy blog post about it later this week. That is, if you are lucky.

As you may have guessed from the title, which is very self explanatory in this case, the following discourse is primarily going to surround bias. This was all inspired by a debate amongst some online acquaintances today; the full transcript and the topic of choice is rather irrelevant so I'll not bore you minions with the details. The bare essentials for the sake of this post is that the debate that took place was not in fact a debate, but a excruciating exercise of my patience followed by my brutal tongue lashing about the ill effects of their bias and the desperate state it placed their truly unfounded arguments in.

Sound familiar? I've faced this many times from religious zealots which simply ignore facts, reason, evidence and misconstrue some ill informed and completely bigoted opinion from their own self produced ignorance. This isn't a new tune by any means, but what struck me particularly off balance was the topic of choice for this ignorance, it wasn't political or religious but over something a simplistic as a rudimentary fandom over a piece of electronic culture.

A slight taste of tonight's events for your sake:

  People: "I like A"
Me: "I like B"
  People: "B is such a bad rip off of A."
Me: "What makes you say that."
  People: "Everyone I know who tried B went back to A because it was a cheap copy..."
Me: "Anything in particular push them away?"
  People: "Not sure, they just said... "
 Me: "Have you at least looked at B for yourself, read about it, made some of your own opinions about it? Even better have you read the statistics showing that B is better than A for *lists reasons and evidence*"
  People: "I don't have to, I trust the opinion of  *insert random name and numbers of peoples*"
Me: "So you're basing an opinion on someone's bias, rather than looking at B for yourself and making an informed decision, and ignoring the statistical facts because your own bias has given you a superiority complex about A and anything that contradicts that is going to be automatically wrong."
  People: "Yes, but... "
Me: "I've decided that I don't like any thing with the letter "L" in it, because my friends inform me Ls are for idiots... and I don't want to be an idiot"

It was at this point I lectured about bias, then gave more evidence to back up the claims that were discussed. My opposition in the debate quickly decided that I was an asshole, but a correct ass hole. That aside, being proper and correct is all that really matters... right?

To tie into my other posts, the human mind is malleable, and easily shaped to niche genres. It is within these niches that trouble begins to brew, because if the mind is molded to just one particular niche sometimes the ego, or bias creates a catalyst making the malleable mind far less flexible and perfectly comfortable sitting unchanged and decided upon parameters are so unchanging that the distilled mind cannot help to be ignorant. This mental inadequacy although simplistic and usually harmless when pared with larger abstract concepts like religion and philosophy can multiply into absolutely toxic abomination for society.

Today I felt as if I watched ignorance take seed in a mind, and a catalyst harden the soil.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Quote Examination.

I ended my last blog with a quote of mine:

Cut the restraint from an empty stomach and full mind, and you'll soon see the true nature of an individual.

I believe that this is an important quote in reference to many cultures, mainly because there is an underlying sinister truth that can be found. As a species we have the potential to do harm, to do good, or stand somewhere in the middle.  However the individual action doesn’t mean a lot when taking the broader sense into account.

Like I’ve discussed in other posts the nature of an individual typically is a splinter off of the nature of the individual’s culture. This is how a society functions so well, the collective opinions tend to gather into groups. Even if these groups oppose each other, as long as they are mainstream enough that their existence is accepted the functionality of a society continues normally.

I’ll make a note now that I’m not a Social Darwinist, I feel that Social Darwinism is very flawed and assumes that all societies function as human universals without variation. Academics in my field have sufficiently smacked the idea around enough that I know better not to fall into fallacy over ideas which are seemingly correct. Remember, the cultural perspective you’re looking an idea with matters….a lot.

My quote offers itself to many cultures, and ideas which are heavily ingrained into a society. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest this is a human universal, and perhaps it is in a way. In all societies there will be people who will so absolutely anything to get a head, and those who will do what they need to survive.

I originally planed to discuss how we humans are secretly barbarians who are naturally narcissistic. The deeper I thought about it the more and more I started to sound Freudian… scary right? However I hit a wall. I noticed that the feast or famine mentality typically comes from societies which place a huge emphasis on the individual. In my context I can use the United States and Canada as my primary examples where the individual is overly stressed upon.

 It is in these sorts of societies and those like it where one can see disastrous outcomes from this very mentality. This aside, it is the very type of ideology which keeps Capitalism going. I’m very pro capitalist, I’m also very pro individual but only to a point. I suppose this can be said about all ideas, extremes are dangerous.

The contrast I found when thinking about my quote is that there are distinct cultures which focus on group mentality. I’m not talking about communist cultures, because there is no true form of functioning communism. I’m talking about smaller factions of humanity, such as tribes and bushmen across the globe. Typically, but not always, these sort of societies are dependent on the group. This sort of dependence is goal orientated, and the goal being longevity of the group. The cultural influence promotes ideas which reflect the wellness of the group rather than the individual, no matter what the situation. It’s an effective mentality which as existed for far longer than the individual perspective. It is also points out a fundamental flaw in what I quoted… seemingly human universals are only universal in the cultural context they are presented in.