Love your kids. Raise them well. End inequality. It is that pure, that loving, and that simple.

Frustrated Boys and Angry Women: Hash-tag Feminism

As the ashes settle, we need to discuss what to make of Elliot Rodger and where we should go from here.

#YesAllWomen is trending. You’re on tumblr, you know this. Millions of tags show us how misogyny has affect the lives of women. 

This tag is igniting a fierce debate for many, many reasons. For one, women are forced to deal with misogyny. Its a reality, and we need to accept this and talk about it if we’re going to move forward as a culture. But this issue isn’t misogyny alone. Its an issue of growth, compassion, and respect, from any person to another.

A whole bunch of men feel personally confronted by #YesAllWomen trend. These are men who have, I’m certain, never sexually harassed or assaulted a women, and wouldn’t dream of it. I certainly don’t. But #YesAllWomen, by its terms, is a generalizing sweep. It confronts all men, even the innocent.

#YesAllWomen makes this a men’s issue: All men have the potential to sexually assault a woman, so all men need to deal with it. This is the problem with hash-tag activism: With only 140 characters, it is generalizing, brutal, and polarizing. The issue of misogyny is a symptom of a rotten culture, brought about by both genders. But the hash-tag divides it into a men versus women problem, and the internet is debating it in kind. This breeds only hate and needs to stop, immediately.

Misogyny is a symptom of a culture that has stopped giving young people role models and virtues to grow up with. Elliot Rodger personifies this way too clearly: He grew up without a strong female role model, and he only admired his father for his ability to win sexual partners. Neither his father nor his mother ever had a conversation with him about what it means to respect a man or woman, about overcoming his childhood frustration, and how to grow into a respectable man himself. He was emotionally abandoned and let to rot.

If we’re going to finally win gender equality, we must begin a culture that has real virtues. We need mothers and fathers who actually raise children instead of carting them off to childcare. We need a media that doesn’t glorify wholesale slaughter (it is worth noting that Peter Rodger assistant directed the Hunger Games). We need a culture that, as both men and women, stops glorifying material goods and carnal pleasure.

I’m a white male, and I have plenty to add to the debate. I’ve been molested on public transit. I won’t go out around a city or college campus after dark. I won’t leave a drink unattended. I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at bars. I let my friends know when I’ve arrived somewhere safely. I want a world where even my sons, and especially my daughters, won’t ever need to realize sexual harassment. But this is way bigger than hash-tags and finger pointing.

Love your kids. Raise them well. End inequality. It is that pure, that loving, and that simple.

Frustrated Boys and Angry Women: A Perspective

First and foremost, Elliot Rodger’s rampage was just that: The desperate outburst of a spoiled and closed-minded child, crystallized into bullets that extinguished so many.

But this tragedy is more than just that; it is a single point through which we can view the great gender divide. The gender struggle faces every single one of us and lives in all of us. As a rational people, we need to talk about this without hashtags and trends.

First, let us discuss the heated topic itself: Elliot, and his horrible crime. I highly recommend reading his manifesto before seriously discussing him or his mindset.

In his own words, Elliot was a young man who was quite comfortable. Peter Rodger, his father, has been a part of the film industry since Elliot was young, allowing the boy a lucrative lifestyle. Elliot’s parents were separated when he was young, and he grew up being largely overlooked. If his writing is to be believed, his relationship with his father’s girlfriend, Soumaya Akaaboune, was not positive.

Growing up, Elliot was small and weak for his age, and bullied as a result. He turned to video games for comfort, and grew to hate both the “cool” boys that harassed him and the beautiful “blond goddesses” he desired. As he grew, this anger intensified. He only confided briefly in friends made online, and turned to himself for comfort. He began to think himself a god, and wished for a world in which all sex was outlawed. His carefully planned crime was the closest he could attain.

The internet community has been quick to point out Rodger’s darkest perspective: He believed that women existed to offer him carnal pleasure, and hated them for denying this to him. But misogyny wasn’t his only sin: Rodger’s hated virtually anyone who wasn’t ethnically Chinese or European like himself, any young people who seemed to be in love or may enjoy one another, and for the world at large. Elliot had a bitter, arrogant close-mindedness that I cannot do justice here.

We can, in his manifesto, track how this young man had become so embittered. We were all faced with bullying and teasing, body issues, and romantic rejection when we were young. What Elliot lacked was the ability to understand and grow out of these difficulties. The young man had literally no parental structure and little family whatsoever. He sites no life mentors, no parental guidance, no means for him to understand exactly why growing up was so very cruel.

And so, this boy grew up with all the frustrations of youth, intensified by an autism-spectrum disorder, with no help from a parent, mentor, or friend. The weight of youth embittered Elliot and broke him. Instead of growing, he remained an angry, vengeful, sexually frustrated child into his early adulthood.

Elliot exposes.a serious problem with our culture; however, it is not solely one of misogyny. Elliot is a child ignored and un-parented. Elliot was never shown a women he could admire. He admired his father, who was more interested in his film career than his son’s emotional well-being. Without a strong mother, and with a stepmother he despised, Elliot chased for the basest pleasure in women. Without a strong father, Elliot never learned to respect men. He hated their accomplishments and physical beauty. 

Any child ignored by their parents, teachers and friends could be Elliot. If we want the bloodshed to end, we need to love our children, teach them respect, and be a model that they can respect.

Returning to Tumblr!

With my college career complete, I’ve returned to social commendation and amateur philosophy! Expect more posts and perspectives from me in the near future.

Do you think Americans would not gladly donate to charity, and must be instead forced? Why then do Americans willingly pay an extra fifteen percent on even the most bland of restaurant meals?
Have a gun? Rob a bank. Have a bank? Rob the world. — Stefan Molyneux

Philosophy 6: The Place of Religion

Religion is a right unquestionably awarded and protected.

This is relatively unsurprising, as 85 of the American population are identified in the most recent ARIS report as having a religion. Of those remaining 15%, only .7% of the population describes itself as explicitly atheistic.

However, any casual trip around the internet reveals that the debate is much more fiercely contested. It is then the expectation that atheists not espouse their opinions on social forums, such as Facebook, and quietly practice their non-religion on their own.

Atheists are a marginalized and persecuted social minority. It is suicidal for a political candidate to not be religions (or, in the case of the presidency, Christian). It is generally unwise, in American society, for one to be openly atheistic. This could lead to cold ostracism, dinner table awkwardness, and inevitable fighting among friends and family.

But why is it seen as inappropriate for Americans to be openly non-religious? To answer this, we have to discuss the historic and current role of religion in western society.

Religion is far older than societies, and represents man’s earliest and most popular attempts at philosophy. Religions have similar goals: to discover and teach truths about the world and life. These, in truth, are just philosophies that occasionally rely on supernatural forces for answers.

Religion is born out of mankind’s desire for knowing. Before science, rocks and trees were the gift of pagan gods and the stars were their playground.

Man also questioned elements beyond knowing, such as the afterlife and the time before birth. Heavens were devised, reincarnation was considered, and religions began to offer these as cosmic rewards for faith.

Popular modern religions are no different. Christianity, and the far more popular Islam attempt to answer the unknown questions of the world and cosmos. They seek the source of unhappiness and suffering, and look to fix it with faith.

This is why atheism is so persecuted; to the pious man, an atheist has the desire to destroy their entire world view, to take away their cherished gods and beliefs.

However, as a good philosopher, I must oppose religions and religious behavior.

While I can commend the humanitarian feats and genuinely pure intention of the religious,  religion has one dangerous element in the modern world: Religious philosophy is not based on facts and evidence and logic. Religion is based on the authority of a religious text.

Elements of more ancient societies have given rise to gods and religions for clear reasons. Before the modern biology, sacrificing to a harvest goddess may have given a farmer the comforting thought that his crops may now succeed.

Now, modern farmers have the biology of growing beautifully mastered. Mankind has searched from the tiniest fractions of an atom to the wide cosmos, uncovering enough secrets of science that I can live more comfortably than the finest kings of France but a few centuries ago. We no longer need rain dances, we have the truths of crop growing.

Even in the realm of morals, we have such science and comfort. Like Issac Newton revolutionized mathematics, classical liberal philosophers like John Locke offered revolutionary ideas in philosophy. We have access to philosophy that rationally and logically proves that man best lives without theft or assault or murder. We no longer need commandments, we can prove theft is wrong without them.

The modern religious man faces an incredible contradiction. Religion teaches to defer questions of life in the modern world to religious texts and prayer. The scientific method teaches to answer questions using evidence and logic.

This is why modern morality is so stunted, compared to mankind’s fantastic technological advancement. People continue to use religion to decide how to live, and religious commandments tend to either contradict each other, or contradict the facts of the world.

Zealous religiosity can also cause so much disagreement and violence. This was painfully clear numerous times in history. When a question of science is debated, there is no war; only rigorous testing until one theory is proven most correct. However, religions claim to be beyond rational proof. When two opposing sides claim the will of God, they will in the least resent each other. In the worse, they will slaughter the other.

Practicing religion is not intrinsically immoral. I can build tiny shrines to Artemis without harming anyone. However, religion tends to oppose rationality, and this is why it is ultimately destructive to human growth.

I think mankind would be much better spending their time developing drought-resistant crops than praying for rain.

Personal 2: My Education

Although I am not done with my formal college education yet, I can say confidently that I have not learned a single thing of use in a decade and a half of schooling.

When I was very young, it was only by the loving attention of my parents that I learned to read so early and so well. I was always far ahead of my class in terms of “reading level.”

I took to mathematics fairly well, but I do not give my formal education any specific credit to this. Until I learned calculus, any haggard woman with a textbook could have taught me. With proper motivation, I could have likely taught myself. And if there was anything schooling provided me none of, it was motivation.

My natural curiosities in the sciences was sated only by tireless questioning of my parents, and television programming like Bill Nye. Even the best school teacher couldn’t have hoped to answer all of my individual questions, not to mention twenty or so of my peers.

I scored high for my class and advanced well into junior high school. There, I consumed and regurgitated information as well as I could. I had no particular love of grammar or mathematics. They were just tools, and while I was skilled at them, I was annoyed by their formal study. History was an exercise in reciting dates, which I hated. I even resolved myself not to form much of a formal opinion on what I was taught. Only science interested me, and most of my questions were sated far outside the classroom. In the sciences, I felt restricted by disinterested classmates and tired teachers.

In high school, I finally found teachers passionate enough to actually influence me. My band director worked tirelessly with us, with supportive and firm leadership, to make us the pride of the state. I found a history teacher with a love of showing us the absurdity of politics and history, a literature teacher who pressed Ayn Rand into the curriculum, and a physics teacher who gave me power over the mathematical sciences.

But my growth in high school was despite the education, not because of it. I still harbored a distinct hatred for the study of mathematics despite my skill at it. I saw it as superfluous and silly if not in the context of its practical application. The vast majority of literature I was forced to consume was modern and hopelessly useless. I did not enjoy spouting historical facts for the sake of it. To my horror, later, I learned that most of my education in American history was outright wrong. 

And, combined with this, I was caught between a variety of social groups, none of which I particularly liked. Many students abandoned any desire for growth and betterment, preferring romances in the backs of fast cars. I did not have any love of these students, but I did not dislike them; they simply existed.

One group that I consciously resented, and one I still do, are the would be intellectuals. I was a high scoring student, but resented the system of standardized testing and artificial barriers to entry. These students, the intellectuals, actively enjoyed these activities. They placed their entire existence into their resumes and scores. They reveled in doing as they were told, unquestioningly, and voraciously consumed the praise they received for it.

College has not proved far different. Studying engineering, my time is consumed with ceaselessly calculating the loads on bridges. I understand the necessity of studying these skills in some form, but I am certain that most of this will be irrelevant to a career. The internet and free literature have proved far more useful in pursuing the sciences than any classroom study.

In the absence of state mandates and licences, I would be free to spend all of my time studying the sciences relevant to my career.

All my education has done is prove that I have the tenacity to suffer a backward, slow, and redundant series of exams, and that I can emerge from them relatively unscratched. It has not formally taught me a single useful thing.

Philosophy 5: “Shalt Not” of Virtue

I’m going to begin this post with an assertion: A man in a coma can never be guilty of committing a moral wrong.

It is absurd to assert that a man who is stricken to take no action could be committing immoralities.

This notion has very important implications. Moral law is universal for all men in all circumstances. Thus, if a moral law would make a man in a coma immoral, it is not a true, universal moral law. Rather, it is a cultural preference.

Several obvious moral codes pass the test of the comatose man. For example:

- One must not kill another man. Do not kill.

- One must not coerce another through violent force, theft, or coercion. Do not assault, steal, or lie.

These “shalt not” codes pass the test of the comatose man. They also uphold man’s right to his own life and property. Thus, they are universal moral laws.

Empirically, almost every civilized religion and government has independently come to these conclusions. Although religions and governments tend to make exceptions for outsiders (one can kill an non-believer, a foreigner, and the like), they tend to ban killing, assault, theft, and rape of their own.

However, the test of the comatose man reveals a variety of “false virtues” in western society. For example, a man in a coma can never voluntariy:

-Donate to charity, or assist his fellow man in any way.

-Worship in a chapel, or act patriotic toward a country.

While it is worthy of praise for a man to donate to the downtrodden, it is not a virtue to do so. Examining the universality of moral law, and finding and debunking false virtues is an important step toward creating a more philosophical and free society.

Politics 9: What Your Sports Team and President Have in Common

Lets start this post with a story:

You’re a 17 year old boy living in a suburb just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Its the early afternoon of Sunday, February 5th, 2012; Superbowl Sunday. This year, its your family’s turn to host the annual football party. Your uncle, his wife and kids, and even grandpa are all set to come by some time during the day.

This is a big day. Your family’s favorite team, the New England Patriots, are about to play against the New York Giants for the Championship. Mom hurries about the kitchen preparing a massive plate of her special wings. Dad’s out picking up a few cases of beer. Big sister helps a little bit, but she doesn’t seem very excited. She’s an aspiring hopeful on her college’s track and field team, but she doesn’t really understand football.

Uncle shows up a little later in the day with his wife and two small boys, aged 4 and 6. They’re wearing cute little jerseys, but care more for the toy trucks they brought with them than the game itself. Grandpa came with them, and immediately sits down in his favorite reclining chair. He’d watched the sport grow over the decades. He doesn’t think much for the loud announcers and ads, but he loves the company of his kids and grand-kids.

The game starts, and the lot of you circle around the television on every couch and chair you can find. After a hearty helping of Mom’s wings, Uncle offers you a beer. You wince a little, but he pats your back, assuring you’re “man enough” for it. Sister is upstairs studying. She came home begrudgingly, and wishes she was back at school. This is the way it had always been, with your family cheering and jeering at every Patriots game they could. 

This year, your family watches in horror as the Giant’s Ahmad Bradshaw literally tumbles into the end zone, scoring the touchdown that would cost the Patriots the game. You’re disappointed, but uncle is genuinely angry, streaming colorful profanity, cursing the entire population of New York. In the end though, you all had fun, and hope that the Patriots will have an even better season next year.

I’m sure we can all find ourselves somewhere in that anecdote. I certainly can. Now, let me tell you another story.

It is late October of 2012. You’ve the same boy, have just turned 18, and are enjoying your first semester of college at the University of Massachusetts.

Its the end of election season, and you’re well used to Comedy Central being punctuated by political advertisements. You’re not the political type, and don’t pay these ads much mind. Some of the people around you certainly do, however.

At home, you’re used to heated political debates as long ago as you can remember. You were only six during the September 11th terrorist attacks, but you have a vague memory of those days. You remember a slightly younger uncle talking about people on the other side of the world and needing to set them straight. Grandpa wasn’t too happy about the war. It reminded him of Vietnam, but uncle convinced him it was for “freedom and good Christian values.”

You remember a lot of talk about president Busch in those days. Come 2008, you remember Dad and Uncle being really worried about “their” party as the Republicans had a hard time deciding who to run against Barak Obama. Uncle didn’t want a “terrorist” in the white house, which Mom assured him was a crazy thought. Sister spoke up against Uncle. She said that neither choice was very good, and that neither party makes any sense. Uncle told her she was un-American, and the two haven’t spoken about politics since. Dad didn’t like Obama’s economic stance, but wasn’t nearly as loud as Uncle.

You remember the disappointment the day after election day after your family’s favorite  McCain lost. You didn’t have too much of an opinion yourself though, you had better things to do.

Now, you’re getting ready to vote in your first presidential election ever. College brought a firestorm of new ideas. You thought that Mitt Romney may have been the better choice; he could run a massive company anyway.

People at the college disagreed with you though, they spoke long and passionately about Obama’s quest to help the poor, to give everyone health insurance, to even save the poor people in Syria against a tyrant. There were others; someone kept writing “Ron Paul 2012” on the sides of buildings in chalk, with a big peace sign instead of an “o.” He had to be crazy, Paul never had a chance.

They couldn’t sway you though, and you were set to vote for “your man.” The only one that worried you was Big Sister. You tried to talk to her once about politics. She said something about the system being wrong, about having no more taxes or wars. You told her you didn’t understand. The system has been around for so long and so many people like it, it couldn’t be wrong.

Now, do you notice the similarity between these stories?

While I don’t have any problems with sports as a leisure time activity, it is plainly clear that professional sports are a deep cultural icon. Teams are not chosen because they are best, they’re supported because they represent a home town or area. The sports teams compete with teams from other areas, giving their fans a chance to feel superior to other cities. This rivalry can breed so much anger, and transforms people from individuals into proud New Yorkers, New Englanders, and the like.

People will even refer to their teams as “us” or “we.” Phrasing like this is dangerous. It gives people a chance to feel accomplished where they have accomplished nothing, and to hate another people who have done nothing to deserve it.

This system is so ingrained in the culture because it is passed down through the generations without questioning. Supporting a team is a cultural norm, and to not care for professional sports is strange and unpatriotic.

And this is exactly how people tend to view the American political system.

I would argue that very, very few Americans take a principled approach to politics. How a person votes is strongly based on their upbringing and family rather than their personal values.

Christians will vote for Republicans because they are the apparent Christian party. People who want a “fair” society will vote for Democrats because they apparently help the poor, regardless of the true facts of these candidates’ stances. Much of this is influenced by thinking at home, and not by real historic facts.

It is also strange not to support these parties, in the same sense as it is strange not to like a popular sports team. There is no reason for this, it is just the cultural norm.

People need to understand this, and start taking a principled approach to politics, to start voting for candidates because of their platform, and not their party. To read economics and philosophy and history and decide to vote for who is best for the country.

Or, I think the inevitable; to not vote at all.

Americans shouldn’t worship Tom Brady. He’s no more than a man with a football. People living in New England gain nothing from his wins or losses other than a few hours of entertainment.

Americans shouldn’t worship Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. They’re men with checkered histories, with contradictions and inconsistencies and mistakes. If you’re going to support them, support them as men with using facts. I personally think the facts will teach you not support them at all.