I should be kicking into survival mode right now with this essay, but I’m not. Not a good sign.
“In like manner we are told, that when [Julius Caesar] was in Spain, he bestowed some leisure hours on reading part of the history of Alexander, and was so much affected with it, that he sat pensive a long time, and at last burst into tears. As his friends were wondering what might be the reason, he said, “Do you think I have not sufficient cause for concern, when Alexander, at my age, reigned over so many conquered countries, and I have not one glorious achievement to boast?” — Plutarch’s Lives
Sometimes I see things on facebook, especially the political, and I think, “Wow, these kids are morons.” And then I quickly realize that shit, these kids are my age. Hopefully, the moronic ones are limited to the facebook vocal.
The genius contrarian strikes again. Christopher Hitchens with an absolutely brilliant piece on the VTech tragedy.
While I devour many opinion pieces a day (usually in the form of blog entry or op-ed), there is no other author who makes my eyes light up when I see his name next to a piece. I don’t know any other opinion-mongerer who writes with such verve and spirit. He is an excellent, ferocious writer.
I absolutely need to set aside some time to study his writing style.
Christian Scientists Show Climate Change Linked to Gay Marriage
(just thought this up, sounds like a good Chalkboard Manifesto)
Whenever we stare into an unfathomable abyss, the human mind instantly flicks to speculation. A void is intolerable. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, we try to impose reason.
Inevitably, we fail. Some problems are intractable not only because of human nature, but because of the way the world is.
Every time you step outside your home, you put your life at risk. In fact, even if you don’t leave the house, there’s still risk. It’s inevitable.
I remember many, many months ago, in the Bay Area, an unstable man used his car as a weapon, going on a rampage to run over people.
Why? I just can’t fathom how anyone could do this.
What we’ve learned is nothing about gun control or mental illness, or even our own culture.
I’ve read it all and none of it makes sense. They’re trying to impose order when there is none.
Someone will fall between the cracks. Always.
There’s a level of autonomy that all people maintain. You can’t control them. You drive your car as carefully as you can, but odds are, you’ll probably be in at least one accident. We can’t fix everyone; not all killers are psychopaths.
I don’t blame the pundits for their inane ramblings. It’s just human to ask why, and then provide reasons.
But why this happened has nothing to do with the incompetence of anybody or anything, except the killer himself.
People like this exist in the world. It is inevitable. And some of them will be successful in killing other people, even large amounts of others. It is inevitable. We can’t control everyone at all times. Someone will fall between the cracks. Always. No matter what you do, certain human minds will find creative ways to kill others. Bombs. Gas. Guns. Cars. We can’t confiscate everything that will harm people.
Perhaps we could learn something if this were a regular occurence. With repeated experience, we can find patterns and extrapolate. But here, there is no pattern.
If anything, we’ve learned that this is extremely rare. That humans like this are rare people. That the nearly universal response to this tragedy is that it is not only sorrow, but that this is almost unfathomable to most people. We’ve learned that 99.999% of people are not like this.
We always try to draw lessons because we are enraged, but sometimes there are no real lessons to learn. We want to find someone to blame. We want to find something — anything! — that will prevent this tragedy from occurring again. We try to find something that isn’t there.
This is the human condition. There will always be a certain amount of risk inherent in living as a human being among other human beings.
There’s nothing satisfying or comforting about this fact. I’m sorry, but I can’t just sugar coat the truth.
The solace one can find is in the rarety of these people. The solace one can find is the deeper rarety of these events. The solace one can find is that because this is so rare, we need not change our entire ways of life.
What lessons did we learn? Nothing.
At least, in terms of policy, there is nothing to be gleaned.
In this ever increasingly linked world, isolated tragedies become national events. Yet we’ve also reaffirmed the lesson that the interconnected world allows us to share our strength, as well.
So while the pundit-class and the news media are as crass as ever, I find the trade-off worth it, if the victims of a tragedy know that others stand in solidarity with them. Just as I find the trade-offs of the modern world worth it, despite the risks.
We’ll never know why. But at least when we are confronted by the unfathomable void, we stand together in the sorrow and mystery of it all.
What the hell are they teaching us? Apparently, Americans are more educated but getting stupider: (from this article)
The survey found that education was the best predictor of who would do well on the questions. â€œHowever,â€ it said, â€œdespite the fact that education levels have risen dramatically over the past 20 years, public knowledge has not increased accordingly.â€ About 27 percent of Americans are college graduates.
Look at what people couldn’t answer:
Only 69 percent of people in the latest survey could come up with Dick Cheney when asked to name the vice president; in 1989, 74 percent could name Dan Quayle. Fewer could name the governor of their state (66 percent now compared with 74 percent in 1989) and fewer could name the president of Russia (36 percent now compared with 47 percent before).
And you wonder why so many people don’t even believe in evolution! C’mon, the man shot someone in the face. The least you can do is remember his name.
We just turned another corner! Ministers Loyal to Iraqi Cleric to Quit Government Posts!
If I really want to go into politics some day, one of the hardest things to do will be to develop a thick skin. I’m just going to have to deal with people who will hate my guts, for no good reason. Or maybe even for good reason. That’s just the nature of the beast. There will be tons of people who know essentially nothing about me, only what they’ve heard second-hand from their self-selected filters, but they’ll still find time to hate me. They’ll write nasty things about me and my family. In the public eye, one is subject to intense scrutiny and will be the constant target of satire.
Lincoln was hated so much that the other side went to war when he was elected president. Talk about his bipartisan war-time leadership doesn’t change that.
Thomas Paine, a hero during the Revolution:
“Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred — his virtues denounced as vices — his services forgotten — his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death, Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend — the friend of the whole world — with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came — Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead — on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head — and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude — constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.” — Ingersoll (found link via Wikipedia).
… alright, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about being Thomas Paine…
Anyway, I’ll just have to learn to take certain criticisms in stride while also not being completely immune to all criticism.
Also, I fucking hate high-minded, self-righteous opponents. If I can’t disarm them with an initial charm attack, I’ll forceably knock them off that high horse. Okay, or I’ll just take it all in stride.
Perhaps that’s where my absurdist views come in handy. If everything is meaningless, then surely I can realize that little events are essentially meaningless, and I can take them in stride.
All I can do is live my life with as much integrity and civility as possible. In fact, the greatest victory would be for the general opinion of my detractors to be: “I hate him, but I don’t hate him. Do you know what I mean?”
Thought: The pivotal divide in race relations is actually not between any races. It’s between young and old people.
I wrote this down just so I can chew on it. I don’t think it’s right, but I do think younger people are much more enlightened about race issues — young people of all races.
We’ll be able to move forward regarding race when a new guard takes over. For now, we’ll have to deal with the essential silence on the question of race because of fear of the stigma of being a racist.
I don’t mean “move forward” in the way that liberals think of “progress,” just that we’ll reach the next stage when we realize that the next stage isn’t the old stage.
I wrote this opinion piece for the Johns Hopkins News-Letter: For conservatives, success will follow a return to roots. (Their title, not mine.)
How the British prisoners were treated via Washington Post:
The 26-year-old Royal Navy lieutenant said that when the 15 were brought to the Iranian shore, they were subjected to repeated interrogations. “The questions were aggressive and the handling rough, but it was no worse than that,” he said.
But after they were moved to a prison in Tehran the next day, “the atmosphere changed completely,” Carman said.
“We were blindfolded, our hands were bound, we were forced up against a wall,” he said. “Throughout our ordeal we faced constant psychological pressure.”
He said they were later stripped and given pajamas. “The next few nights were spent in stone cells approximately eight feet by six, sleeping on piles of blankets,” he said.
“All of us were kept in isolation,” Carman said. “We were interrogated most nights and presented with two options. If we admitted that we’d strayed, we’d be back on a plane to the U.K. pretty soon. If we didn’t, we faced up to seven years in prison. We all, at one time or another, made a conscious decision to make a controlled release of nonoperational information.”
Air said in response to a question that the worst moment for the group was probably the incident when they were lined up against a wall at the prison in Tehran. But he said it was not an actual mock execution.
“I think some of us feared the worst when we were in that situation, hearing weapons being cocked and not having any awareness, being blindfolded and our hands bound,” the 25-year-old Royal Marine captain said.
After reading this, I don’t think Iran has really done anything wrong. Let’s take the incident the soldier calls the “worst moment.” They were lined up against the wall, blindfolded, and the Iranians cocked their weapons. But this was only a threat. The Iranians only induced panic — and that’s all it was, there was no actual physical harm done.
Having shown that the worst moment isn’t that bad, it’s easy to debunk the notion that the British soldiers were tortured in any way. The Post notes that they faced “constant psychological pressure.” So the Iranians played some mind games. It’s not like they pulled out anyone’s fingernails.
Even though the handling was rough, I’m pretty sure Iran is still on solid legal ground. They did not engage in outright torture. Coercive interrogation was only used to get information. Torture is a pretty reliable way of getting information, judging from how well the War on Terror is going (no attacks in 5 years). Thus, I think although the British have recanted their stories, they are actually lying now. Their confessions were right and they were illegally in Iranian waters.
Besides, even if they were subjected to worse treatment, it’s not like Iran and Britain were at war. The British were not prisoners of war and hence are not subject to the Geneva Conventions. They were only detainees.
So I really don’t understand why the Washington Post is giving space to quotes from a bunch of dhimmis who simply surrendered. Nothing wrong went on here. And even if they did, the Iranians were justified in using more coercive techniques in order to get the proper information. It just goes to show that you can’t avoid liberal bias.
[Alright, time to shift from satire mode.]
Quote worthy of remembering:
Roper: “So now you’d give the devil the benefit of law?”
More: “Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the devil?”
Roper: “I’d cut down every law in England to do that.”
More: “Oh, and when the last law was down, and the devil turned on you, where would you hide, Roper, all the laws being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws not God’s, and if you cut them down — and you’re just the man to do it — do you really think that you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?
“Yes, I’d give the devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake.”
Neoconservatives, the devil has turned on you. Where are you going to hide?
I’ve discovered a new disparaging phrase to use against my political enemies: “2-d thinkers.”
Kind of like people who can’t think outside the box, but worse.
I just wanted to get this prediction on the table before events happened. We will revisit this after primary debates and the presidential debates.
I predict that YouTube will radically transform the way we view the debates.
I am extremely confident about this.
Note: I plan on utilizing YouTube to its fullest extent when any debates roll around. With any luck, I will be one of the persons helping along that transformational process.
Holy crap! This just in from the Washington Post: Republican Thompson Enters Race.
Oh wait, that Thompson. April Fool’s.