Monday, August 29, 2016

"Expert" Opinions on the Flu

"But the flu is so over-diagnosed! I mean, we all sneeze from time to time. It's just part of the human condition!"

"But the flu is so over-diagnosed! Which means it's imaginary in all cases!"

"But the flu is so over-diagnosed! I'm basing this opinion on a popular phrase I hear and have no idea if it's true!"

"But the flu is so over-diagnosed! I'm basing this opinion on a popular phrase I hear and have no idea what it means!"

"Look, I'm sorry you have the flu, but that's only because your attitude stinks."

"Look, I'm sorry you have the flu, but it happens to all of us. Get over it."

"Look, I'm sorry you have the flu, but the flu is a human emotion that we all deal with."

"Well, of course you think you have the flu! Your [insert important individual in the person's life who died and who you probably shouldn't bring up right now here] died when you were little! You're just upset about that."

"Well, of course you think you have the flu! All intelligent people get a little flu-ey every now and then!"

"Oh, come on. Everyone says they have the flu. That's how doctors make their money."

"Oh, come on. Everyone says they have the flu. You're not sick; you're a hipster."

"Oh, come on. Everyone says they have the flu. You were fine last time we spoke, back in '92."

"I read an article once about the flu, and it said that people who take NyQuil have the same chances of feeling better as people who take placebos. I don't know when it was written or if the study included all flu medications or if it was even peer-reviewed, but I feel like that proves that the flu is all in your mind, so just stop puking."

"I read an article once about the flu, and while I don't know if you are on medication for it, I'm going to give my opinion on anti-flu medication every time I can."

"I read an article once about the flu. Well, I skimmed, really. Well, I read the headline, anyway. And that makes me more qualified to diagnose you than the multiple specialists you spoke to."

All sounds kinda ignorant, eh?

Pizza and Foxholes

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “there’s no Atheists in foxholes” lately. Besides the obvious “we hate Atheists” sentiment, there’s an inherent misunderstanding that phrase implies about atheism.

The phrase attempts to make the claim that all people go to God in a time of need, and therefore, Atheism is a luxury of the blessed (by or not by God), as opposed to a legitimate viewpoint. When life hands you lemons, you’re hardwired to ask God to make lemonade for you. So many questions begging, like “why do you assume this to be the case?” and “even if this is true, is this information even useful as a compelling argument in favor of as specific deity's existence and if so, why?” But a lot of those have been discussed. There are plenty of people who are atheists before, during and after they go through hard times, and no, it’s not compelling proof of anything, but it was never meant to prove God; it was meant to attack Atheists. But those things, in my mind, are only part of the problem with that expression. My biggest problem with it is that it clearly misunderstands what it means to be an Atheist on a very, very basic level.

Because one doesn’t really have to subscribe to a specific ideology to be an Atheist, there is no universally accepted view of whether-or-not having moments of thinking there may be a God makes you less of an Atheist, whatever the circumstance. From my experience, however, most Atheists don’t expect you to have unshakable lack-of-faith to identify the word. Are there people like that who exist? Yes, in every demographic. But the idea that Atheism has such specific connotations shows a misunderstanding of the difference between the approach of someone with a conservative religious outlook, who is likely to see the questioning of one’s beliefs as a moment of weakness, and an Atheist, who is just as likely to see it as normal as they are to see it as weakness.

The phrase also ignores a very, very obvious distinction between desire and belief. I have certainly been in situations where I wanted God to be real, but did not think He was, and I feel like this leans more towards the mentality that a lot of praying foxhole Atheists would have. Wanting to believe is not the same as believing.

Plenty of people convert during hard times, but that’s not an inherent flaw in disbelief. People have become Atheists during hard times, too. Hell, I’m more likely to buy pizza when I’m depressed, too. Does that mean there are no diets in foxholes? Because you’re essentially saying the same thing.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Trigger Warnings

AKA- Really, pseudo-anti-PC freedom fighter wannabes? Fighting this is the *best* usage of your time?

Kinda barking up the wrong tree, aren't you? A trigger is a psychiatric symptom, not a scream for political correctness. There are multiple mental illnesses that include triggers, but PTSD is the most well-known one. And we've known about PTSD triggers forever. That cartoon you saw as a kid with the "wacky" veteran\soldier jumping under the table when he heard a bang (Looney Toons did it, Hey Arnold did it, etc)? The character had a traumatic flashback as a result of an external event. That's one kind of trigger. The only difference is that now we realize how common PTSD is and we don't exclusively connect it with soldiers.

I do believe that there are a lot of places where triggers are hard to avoid, and I do agree with the argument that says that places like colleges are going to have to talk about such material as part of the education process. It's pretty hard to avoid, depending on the class. I've also been to college campuses recently, and am happy to report that they're still standing, fully functional. Most of them are still teaching Greek myths. Yeah, if Achebe couldn't get Heart of Darkness off the curriculum, you can sleep soundly with the knowledge that Zeus isn't going anywhere. You greatly underestimate the stubbornness of Lit professors. As for the speaker issue? That isn't new. People have always protested speakers at colleges. It is up to the college to determine whether or not the speaker is providing useful enough information to make it worth it.

To dismiss trigger warnings as some new obsession of the "PC police" is frankly just silly. That's like linking schizophrenic hallucinations to the Alt-Right movement. Which I find funny, considering that people were rallying behind the kid who refused to read Fun Home because OMG GAY, but asking that one's mental illness be acknowledged and respected is somehow a strange and bizarre thing.

If you really find the idea of writing trigger warnings on things to be crippling, then you need to look into the causes said trauma to begin with and start addressing those. I recognize that that's harder than whining about writing two words on an article, but it's still, you know, the right thing to do.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

On My Usage of the Phrase "Far-Left"

I've been (cordially) called out on this, so I figured I'd address it:

Yes, it's true that in American politics, the expression "far-left" has traditionally been used as another way of saying "communist." That's quite possibly still the technically correct definition. When I use the phrase "far-left" in my online content, I am using what I've experienced to be the more commonplace, colloquial definition, meaning people who support an ideology significantly more left-wing than mainstream liberal and progressive thinking. I intentionally avoid using the word "radical," because while technically correct, there are much stronger negative connotations associated with that word. Basically, I generally avoid that usage of the word "radical" because I'm trying to avoid sounding like I'm saying something I'm not.

Expressions do change in meaning, and political expressions change drastically with the times. The words "liberal" and "conservative" have changed tremendously in their usage over less than a century. For another example, in America, most people don't use the phrase "far-right" to exclusively refer to neo-NAZI's anymore and haven't in a long time. Likewise, common usage of the expression "far-left" only exclusively refers to communism in a few other countries (particularly France and Germany), from what I've seen, and Americans don't typically use the phrase that way anymore.

The person who pointed this out to me dislikes what that person sees as a commonplace but incorrect usage of the phrase. Hey, we all have our pet peeves in language; I hate it when people say "snuck" (I'm cool with moist, though). But for me, while I realize that colloquialisms are often technically incorrect, they are also a major form of communication in a casual setting. Were I a political theorist, I would probably avoid using that phrasing altogether. However, I'm an activist, and part of activism is attempting to get ideas across in an accessible way. In this situation, I personally find that using that definition avoids more confusion than it creates.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Politics and Social Media

There has been a flurry of articles lately about a study saying that talking about politics on social media doesn’t change most people’s minds. That’s probably true, although it’s happened with me before. But I think a lot of that has to do with presentation. People don’t change their minds when they feel attacked, and that’s a lot of social media arguing.

I also think people both underestimate and exaggerate social media. On one hand, a lot of people don’t go to social media to change their minds. In fact, social media is set up so that it’s very easy to surround yourself with only people you agree with. And the downfall of that has also been exaggerated. Yes, it's kind of rude to unfriend Grandma on Facebook because she posted in meme you don't like, but that's between you and Grandma. The idea that people who use social media to communicate with like-minded people are closed-minded is a little unfair. If you’re just using it to relax and you’re willing to get diverse views from other sources (which I recommend doing either way), there's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to use social media that way. On the other hand, I and many people I know have been introduced to issues we were less familiar with through social media, and have used that as a threshold to learn more.

It’s kind of silly to suggest that people aren’t changing their minds on social media because it’s social media. If someone has a strong conviction, it takes a lot to change their mind, no matter where you’re debating\arguing with them. That doesn’t make it less of a worthy endeavor to discuss and debate with them, unlike what a lot of these articles seem to suggest (the articles, not the study, to be clear). The idea that every argument on the internet must result in trolling is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In other words, I think all these articles are asking the wrong question. Am I going to change my mind because FluffyMarmet666 calls me a "libtard" on Twitter? No. But can social media get ideas across? Definitely. And that’s a good thing, as long as we teach people how to look further than a two sentence meme. And that’s not a social media issue; that’s an education issue.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Les Misérables the Musical: Cliff Notes (spoilers) (kind of)

Dude has been sentenced to hard labor for being too wonderful. He is released on parole, but he breaks it, and another dude becomes obsessed with chasing him down.

Meanwhile, some chick gets shunned because her ex is a douchebag. She dies of the "we need her daughter to be an orphan" disease. The daughter lives with an innkeeper who has bizarre ways of cutting corners. He and his wife are also douchebags.

Years later, a whole bunch of people fall in love.

Meanwhile, less than a dozen 20-somethings decide they want to overthrow the French government. And by that, I mean that at least two of them are really into it. This ends exactly as well as you think it would, but it does lead to my favorite song in the play.

Meanwhile, wonderful dude is still being stalked by obsessed guy.

Story goes Hamlet on us and everybody dies.

The end.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Moral Panic! ICP vs the FBI

Please note: This video contains somewhat graphic discussion of two murder cases, domestic violence and child abuse.

“We Are Free” by Zep Hurme (c) 2011 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike  (3.0) license. Ft: Snowflake