Monday, November 1, 2010

Vol #1, Col #14: Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

I was raised Roman Catholic, so trust me, I, of all people understand the true meaning of hypocrisy. But let me clarify: it’s NOT that Catholicism (or any religious/spiritual doctrine) in itself is a flawed belief system. Rather, it’s what people do in the name of religion that has given it a bad rep; akin to that smart expression regarding guns and people and who’s truly responsible for killing. With that said however, I wonder what’s worse? Believing in something so strongly that it causes you to make lapses in judgment and be discriminatory towards others OR not believing in anything at all? To me, it’s the latter.

Coming from someone who was once engaged to a nihilist with sociopathic and anarchist tendencies, trust me when I say it’s scary what you can justify when you subscribe philosophically to nothing at all. After all, without religion, without spirituality, without some sort of moral foundation, what is there to keep you in check? Even Freud, the grandfather of the discipline of psychology, acknowledged that ‘the super-ego’ (our mind’s moral policing device) is derived from the internationalization of societal mores, and norms, of which religion plays a major role in establishing.

But since the Age of the Enlightenment, rationality has ruled supreme. While everyone is so quick to point the finger at God as the downfall of humanity, I’d like you to consider science as an equipotent force in causing self- and societal destruction. Allow me to elaborate:

Originally undertaken as a project intended to solve the energy crisis through the advent of nuclear, we all know what happened when the technology of the good old Atom Bomb got into the hands of the military. Then, of course, there are the countless atrocious experiments performed on twins and other “lucky” guinea pigs under the Nazi regime; the results of which contributed greatly to our modern knowledge of genetics and genetic manipulation (what a proud history we have there!). But, if we want to predate both of the aforementioned “brilliant” (and I use that term extremely facetiously) usages of science, society’s named “progressive” and “objective” force, we needn’t look far back to our history of colonialism which was largely informed by Social Darwinian and eugenics policies that justified the extermination, mistreatment, and forced sterilization of a ridiculous number of people - the so-called “inferiors” (ie: anyone who was not a member of the dominant white class and/or anyone who was insightful enough to challenge said class’ weak “survival of the fittest” validations).

The point is that while admittedly some pretty awful acts have been committed in the name of religion (The Crusades and Witch Hunts come to mind, among others), the VERY SAME THING can be said about science! But what makes science that much more dangerous in this capacity is that while religion is perceived as socially constructed, subjective, relying on faith and therefore NOT having all of the answers, as well as open to interpretation (mind you, unless we’re talking about the Fundamentalists, but they go into a category of their own), science, on the other hand, is given ULTIMATE UNQUESTIONED (moreover to use a religious pun, “infallible”) AUTHORITY in contemporary society. As explained in Bereska’s Deviance, Conformity & Social Control in Canada, “science is seen by many people as a purely objective discipline such that its claims to truth are frequently considered unaffected by political, religious, or commercial interests.”

Given that scientific pursuits are increasingly being funded by “big corporate”, I’d say this is particularly problematic. In fact a recent study, in Fast-tracking the Plague: Drugging America to Death, documented that, “96% of [scientific] authors with ties to pharmaceutical companies produced favourable results, while only 37% of independently funded studies of the SAME DRUGS showed favourable results.” I think I’ll let that quote speak for itself.

At the end of the day, it comes down to this – science AND religion are both merely belief systems. One is no more important, objective, free from partisanship, or truthful than the other (this, of course, opens the proverbial can of worms for an entire debate on exactly what is truth, but I guess you’ll all just have to wait ‘til next year for that dousy).

While science and its associated technologies undoubtedly has its merits, on its own, I question whether or not it is able to provide our citizens with the moral compasses we need and should be embracing when it comes to living our lives. You can call me old-fashioned but, I sincerely believe the world would be a much better place if we all learned to adopt the Ten Commandments as universal rules of how we should treat one another.

To that I add only one caveat: while I self-identify as a Christian, I would NEVER infringe my personal religious beliefs onto another person, and so while the first of the said Commandments suggest that there is only one God and that he/she/it is to be honoured solely, I suggest to all of you non-religious folk to read between the lines of this expression (ie: it’s about acknowledging the fact that there are forces over and above human nature, and that those forces, along with our fellow man and womankind deserve to be acknowledged and honoured even if we can’t always understand them. In sum, don’t lead a selfish solipsistic existence.) Amen to that.

Vol #1, Col #13: You Can’t Handle the Truth

I think things must have been easier in the Wild West. If you had a beef with someone, you called a duel, and whoever could pull their gun out of their holster with superior lightening speed well…problem resolved. But it wasn’t merely this method of “social control” that proved more effective (and straight to the point, I might add), but further the nature of the conflicts that emerged between people seemed to be largely based on more “tangible” concerns (ie: limited resources, whether in the form of food, water, territory and/or women).

In contrast, these days, and I propose it’s because we, as North Americans, have SO much (tell me when’s the last time you worried about whether or not you’d be able to find drinking water untouched by arsenic? Oh right, such a thing has never occurred in your lifetime!), we CREATE conflicts and social categories intended to enhance divisiveness (something I like to term “human-made drama”), that in reality don’t have very strong feet to stand on (sound familiar? 9/11 perhaps?).

A more down-to-earth example can be seen in the case of “internet flame wars.” I mean, honestly, can someone please explain to me the purpose of such juvenility, let alone the cause? As always, an instance from my very own life proves illustrative -- don’t you love it when real life serves as inspiration? I know I do! So here goes:

For absolutely no reason and without any provocation on my end, just the other day, some random chick posted up big and bold for the whole world to see, that she apparently hates me, in her Facebook headline (something I only learned about because it would seem we have some mutual acquaintances). Seeing as I’ve NEVER met NOR conversed with this individual in my entire life, I find it hard to believe that she could harbour such strong emotions toward me. I don’t know…maybe I’m crazy, but I am selective when I use said term, and you best believe that if/when I do employ “hate”, it’s for good (pardon my French) f-ing reason.

I guess I’m just of the belief that if someone has a grievance, they should have “the balls” to confront the other person to their face. (Talking trash behind peoples’ backs is underhanded and vicious. More importantly though, it also fails to solve anything! Oh yeah, and for those of you who think this is the more “polite” approach, I hate to break it to ya, quite the opposite is true.) Not only would this, I’m sure, prevent a whole hell of a lot of long drawn-out affairs that arise entirely from miscommunication (ie: it would give “the accused” an opportunity to explain him/herself), but further it is the respectful and mature way to broach said situations.

Perhaps my “flamer” was having an exceptionally bad day, but rather than host an introspective investigation into her own psyche in order to ascertain the underlying cause(s), she decided to project her negativity onto me to scapegoat any sense of personal responsibility. Or maybe…more simply, her actions were fuelled by jealously? In either scenario, I maintain that her animosity in my general direction was and remains unjustified.

There are a lot of individuals out there, in both the real world and cyberspace, with whom I don’t particularly mesh well (to put it lightly), but I don’t have the time nor do I wish to waste the emotion on creating hate postings. For what purpose? To put someone else down so that temporarily I can feel grandiose? I’d like to take this moment to send a personal message to my flamer: If the only vehicle through which you are able to develop a sense of confidence and self-worth is by putting others down, then my darling, you’ve got bigger problems than just me. But I digress…

To bring everything full circle, what this story so aptly demonstrates is contemporary humankind’s obsession with negativity (and yes it is an obsession, NOT a natural inclination - as they say, happiness is a CHOICE). Because we no longer have to direct the vast majority of our intellectual and physical faculties into acquiring the bare necessities of life, we have time for gossip, we have time for “flame wars”, we have time to bully – all instances of “human-made drama”.

We have forgotten that every word, every action, and even every thought that we put out there affects others. We have become so caught up in our own selfish individual existences that we tear each other down, without giving it a second thought, just to get ahead. We care about our lives now, instead of planning for the future. We externalize our desires, and blame everyone else for our failings. So, is money then the root of all evil? No, money is merely a medium of transaction. As for the aforementioned negative and obsessive line of thinking? Yeah, I’d say so. The truth hurts. Deal with it.

Modern society’s issues are indisputably human-made, but in the ever-so-slightly paraphrased words of Jason Mraz, “The remedy is [in] the experience.” We can AND should learn from our mistakes. And while I may be undertaking a “dangerous liaison” by pointing all of this out, “the truth” as another famous quote suggests, “will set you free.”