Posted: May 9th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, Opposing bigotry, Uncategorized | No Comments »
This in response to something posted on FB saying women should dress modestly if they want “real men” to respect them.
We do hope you women will all wear the burka
It only makes good common sense
Without it the men will all go bezurka
And a burka’s your only defense
Don’t wear tight clothing or show them an ankle
Forego the cosplay at TAM
A burka’s your only defense against menfolk
Don’t get yourself into a jam
It’s women who must take the lead to stop rapist
We all know that men can’t be blamed
For losing control at the sight of a woman
They’ve never been been taught or restrained
If you go out in clothing that reveals more than eye holes
It’s really your fault if you’re raped
You can’t blame the men ’cause it’s just in their nature
Just make sure you’re properly draped
And if men respect you when drunk or when naked
You must know for sure that they’re gay
No man who’s a real man can control his libido
No matter what women might say
You know freedoms not worth any effort or struggle
It would only bring sorrow and pain
So slip into that burka before you have trouble
We’re not going to tell you again.
Women, we beg you, get back in your burkas
If you don’t you’re a slut and a whore
You should send a message of proper behavior
And that’s what the burka is for.
Relax, Digital Cuttlefish. The doggerel muse strikes me very rarely, and I’ll never equal your delightful poetry.
Posted: May 4th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Spare the rod and spoil the child.
Where does that come from? Who was the asshole who made this a foundation of parenting?
Proverbs 13:24 (King James version) He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.
Well that figures. One more thing to hate about Christianity. Because this is very bad advice. Maybe not bad advice if you want your child to fear you and become an authoritarian follower who will blindly accepts whatever a bully decrees should be done. But who wants a child like that?
I was spanked as a child. Not with the bare hand. With a belt. That was the instrument of choice. Beating children was a family tradition and I didn’t have it nearly as bad as my father had it. If he had transgressed in some way, his mother would instruct him to cut a number of willow switches. The number corresponded to the severity of his punishment, and she used each one in turn until there was nothing but a stub in her hand, then reached for the next. He told me that he once was whipped for just looking like he would like another spoonful of ice cream while visiting a neighbour. Not actually asking for it, just looking like he would like it. Then when they got home it was, “Go and cut seven willow switches.”
Yet he spanked his children. With his belt.
My grandmother once gave me a spanking for taking pop bottles to the store on Sunday. Our parents were away. She was baby sitting. I had no idea that I wasn’t supposed to take pop bottles in for a refund on a Sunday. But ignorance of biblical prescription is no excuse, apparently. So I was given a spanking. And yet I spanked my children.
That is something I very much regret, the fact that I spanked my children. It was wrong. It was failure as a parent.
You have to recognize one important fact: spanking is violence. Spanking is violence.
Spanking can be effective in preventing children from doing things that are forbidden, at least when there is some expectation of being caught and punished. But spanking carries additional implicit lessons you don’t want to teach your child: 1. violence is okay if you are bigger and stronger, or just in a position of authority. 2. the child is helpless against superior physical force, so logic and reason and argument isn’t worth trying 3. losing your temper and inflicting violence is something adults do when they are frustrated, and something you will do when you are an adult.
There are always alternatives to spanking. Isolation. Confiscation of toys. Removal of privileges like favourite TV shows or music. Children always want something from the parents, and cancelling an outing or not giving desert can be an effective non-violent punishment. Such sanctions must be consistent, and must be adhered to once decreed, no mater how much you don’t want to punish the child. A child can learn that bad behaviour has consequences. But the consequences never need to be violence. We don’t allow violence against adults, and we shouldn’t allow violence against children.
“I’m sorry” should never mean “Please don’t hit me again.”
Posted: April 16th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, Opposing bigotry | No Comments »
Usually I just let the stupid roll by me, but every once in a while I can’t take it. This landed on my Facebook news feed today and I just couldn’t resist adding some comments.
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: Cicumcision debate, How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, sexuality, Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
I’ve often heard the argument from defenders of infant male circumcision, more correctly known as infant male genital mutilation, that it’s really best to do it while the child is an infant because he will never remember the pain (not that there is any pain of course, they claim) and it’s really terrible if a man needs to have his foreskin removed later in life. Which often happens. Very often. Often enough to justify removing a potentially troubling part of a boy’s body in a preemptive strike.
One man, who said he is a former military medic, cited the case of a shipmate under his care who required circumcision, causing him great discomfort. He stated as fact that ten percent of men who are intact will require an “emergency circumcision” at some point in their life. Ten percent? Really? Ten percent?
Needless to say, this is a claim that should be backed up with some evidence. Ten percent of intact men will require “emergency circumcision”? What on earth could this emergency possibly be? The foreskin is just that, skin. Okay, skin and a few other anatomical parts most people don’t even know about, like the frenulum and the ridged band, important parts not to be lightly discarded, but mostly skin. Skin is amazingly flexible and adaptive. I can imagine an infection causing a problem, but not a problem that requires surgery. We don’t usually perform surgeries for infection. And perhaps a sudden case of phimosis could leave a man in discomfort, but again it’s hard to imagine a surgical solution being necessary, at least not a surgical solution calling for the complete removal of the foreskin.
Yesterday I found myself in a meeting with several Chinese doctors, one of whom is a fertility expert at a maternity hospital in mainland China. I asked him if circumcision was a usual practice in China. He said no, it is very unusual, and only done in cases of a congenital defect or other serious problem. He told me that the Chinese believe that their body is a gift from their ancestors, and it would dishonour the ancestors to remove or reject a part of their body. Then I asked if he was aware of older men requiring circumcision later in life. He seemed surprised at the question. No, he said, if there is a problem we advise cleaning under the foreskin and might give medicine to cure an infection, but I’m not aware of any circumcisions being done because of a problem.
So there you have it. One more argument of the pro-circumcision lobby shot down in flames. In a country with a huge population of uncircumcised men, we are not seeing lineups at the clinic of men demanding circumcision. Nobody in China seems to see any problem with possessing a foreskin. The excuse that the operation should be done to an infant because it will be necessary, and much more painful, later simply isn’t true.
As if we didn’t know it.
By the way, I also asked what the Chinese doctors thought of the campaign in Africa to circumcise men as a measure to prevent transmission of HIV. They thought that idea is as crazy as the idea that all infants should be circumcised.
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: freedom of speech and rule of law, How Weird is our Culture, justice delayed or denied, Opposing bigotry, The Conviction That God is a Fiction, Uncategorized | No Comments »
I just re-watched the wonderful TED talk by Larry Brilliant wherein he talks about the case for pessimism and optimism. His story about how more than 30 countries of the world, people of all races and genders and religions, came together under the World Health Organization to eradicate smallpox, one of the horrors of history, is truly inspiring. It amazes me that people treat sports stars as heroes, yet don’t even know about this, one of the greatest accomplishments of humanity.
Much of the video is devoted to the situation in Bangladesh, particularly the part laying out the case for pessimism. It seems that Bangladesh has a very pressing problem. According to Larry Brilliant, even if we stopped all CO2 emissions right now, we are “baked in” to a situation that will see sea levels rise twenty to thirty inches, and possibly ten times that much. With the added snow pack melt coming down from the Himalayas, uninterrupted by the trees that are no longer on the deforested land, and the rising ocean, Bangladesh is going to be under water. There will be an estimated hundred million refugees fleeing into China and India.
So Bangladesh has problems. Big serious problems. One might expect demonstrations and protests in Bangladesh, and that’s what we’re seeing.
I would never have predicted what the protests are about. Are you ready for this. One hundred thousand protesters took to the streets to demand…. oh, this is serious business… the death penalty for the atheist bloggers who have been arrested by the police. They want strict enforcement of their anti-blasphemy laws. The most pressing thing on their mind is that their god has been insulted by people who say their god doesn’t exist.
It’s enough to swing my needle sharply toward pessimism.
Posted: March 30th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, Uncategorized | No Comments »
We went to see “Jack the Giant Slayer” on Friday. Another park your brain at the door and go along for the ride move. Great, beautiful and spectacular images. Good enough acting. A good ride. But please, can we put the “princess doesn’t want to marry the evil guy her father wants her to marry” trope to rest for a while. And then, please please please don’t write women out of your movie.
Jack the Giant killer passes the Bechdel Test in the opening scenes. Well, okay, only if you count a child as a woman. In that case you have two women talking to each other without talking about men. But it’s a mother talking to her daughter. And from then on… forget women. They don’t exist. There are no other visible women in the whole damn show. The giants are all ugly nose picking hairy dudebros with skin conditions, with no women giants anywhere to be seen. There may have been a few women in the early market scene when Jack takes his horse and cart in to sell it. If so, I hardly noticed them because they were so background. But scenes with women in them? Forget women talking to women, women doing anything at all, even women acting like men? Nada. Nothing. Nowhere.
We’ve come to expect the usual missing elements in these movies, like where the hell does everybody in this sterile barren landscape get his (I don’t have to write “his or her” because there is no “her” to be concerned about) food (thinking more “John Carver of Mars” here but there’s similar omissions in any movie), who does all the work, where is the supply train for the army. These things don’t help the story, and nobody misses them. But deleting the women? That’s going too far.
What gives with this? I’m aware that we live in a patriarchy. I’m aware that we see almost everything from the male point of view, from history to sex. But this is writing women out of the culture completely, except as symbols of the perceived latest feminist talking point , a sex object, a priceless object in need of rescue, a love interest. Don’t by any accident include a real woman or let one act like real women might act.
For me the biggest disappointment of the movie was when the giants all bow down and you just know that somebody has the magic crown that makes them all subservient, if resentful. Reveal the wearer of the crown. That was their chance to really say something about women, and the proper roll of a woman in a story. And they blew it. That crown should have been worn by the princess. That should have been the reveal. But no. It had to be the farm boy* wearing the crown. And sure he deserved it, but the princess deserved it just as much, maybe even more.
This has gone far enough. I like women. I want women in my movies. Something is missing when you write them out.
*Now, stop blubbering about me spoiling the ending. You really thought there might be something else at the ending? This is a faerie tale. The hero has to be the big winner. There is a great surprise in the plot line, in the way the main bad guy giant bites the dust, and I’m not going to give that one away. But don’t tell me that letting you know there’s a happy ending spoiled with the male hero coming out on top anything for you.
Posted: March 12th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, The Conviction That God is a Fiction | 2 Comments »
I was recently taken to task on FaceBook for stating that Christianity is the ultimate in arrogance. Not so, said my FB buddy. I know many humble Christians.
I think he missed my point. A Christian may appear humble, but the conceit at the core of the religion is anything but humble.
Would you call a person humble who held the following beliefs:
1. I was created in the image of divinity, of an all powerful and all knowing god. He made me just like him in appearance.
2. Everything in creation was created for me, for my benefit. I and my kind are the central purpose of creation. It matters not that the universe is vast beyond our comprehension, with billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, many with untold number of planets some of which statistically must be capable of sustaining life. It was all created for me.
3. I am not an animal. I am no kin to any other living thing. I am special. Separate. Made in the image of God (see number 1) and not connected to the great tree of life. Those Christians who have enough common sense to admit that evolution is true, and that we descended from earlier creatures, still somehow manage to hold on to the idea that this was only God’s method for creating us, in his image and special.
4. God gave us dominion over the beasts of the fields and the fish in the waters and the birds in the air, over every other creature on earth. They are ours to use, destroy, or ignore as we see fit.
5. In fact, I’m so special that God, the creator of everything, takes a personal interest in me. He loves me. He answers my prayers, even if sometimes the answer is “no”.
This is the basis of Christian dogma. How can anybody not call this arrogant. It is arrogance writ large indeed.
I think I know what Christians will respond to this. They will say, but we don’t believe this; No true Christian believes this, especially number 4, that thing about being separate from animals. And that simply isn’t true. That’s one more Christian lie. They do believe it. They believe it all. It’s what gives them comfort and prevents them from feeling lost and alone. It’s the big thing they are afraid of giving up, the feeling of being special and central and loved and cared for by their imaginary friend.
Arrogance. Unbelievable arrogance. And yet they have some people fooled.
Let me tell you, a Christian may look humble. But scratch that smooth surface and you find a person who believes he is the whole reason this universe was created, that she is so important that God himself pays attention to her.
*Graphic credit: big thanks to Atheist Meme Base
Posted: March 10th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, science and technology, Uncategorized | No Comments »
I went to see The Hobbit yesterday, in IMAX 3D. That reminded me of Bob Altemeyer’s book, The Authoritarians”, which you can download for free just by clicking here. If you haven’t read it yet you are in for a treat. Professor Altemeyer spent decades researching the questions about authoritarians, and more importantly, authoritarian followers. His book is engaging, entertaining, and full of insights that help explain why some people seem so willing to follow leaders no matter how obviously destructive those leaders may be. To repeat myself, it’s free. What do you have to lose by checking it out.
Why did seeing The Hobbit remind me of Altemeyer’s Book. Because the dwarfs in the movie are such perfect examples of authoritarian followers. Especially Balin with his line, “There’s a leader I can follow.” And even when he argues with Thorin, his chosen leader, against the wisdom of the quest, he goes along, the loyal supporter. Because he’s an authoritarian follower to the core.
The movie is the usual good versus evil nonsense, in which evil is always very ugly with bad teeth and complexion. I think deus ex machina occurred about five times before I lost count. It’s good fun if you can shut off your brain, and not wonder how all those creatures who live underground manage to feed themselves. It’s full to the brim with the usual tropes – collapsing rickety wooden structures over bottomless abyss, snarling beasts ridden by monsters with bad personal hygiene, extensive use of gravity with structures, stones, and characters falling constantly but never suffering any damage. It’s a lot more interesting after you’ve read the book, and I’m not referring to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Read “The Authoritarians“. Far more entertaining and you most likely will learn something.
Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: Darwin Harmless | Filed under: How Weird is our Culture, Personal issues, Uncategorized | No Comments »
I was reminded today of a breakthrough moment for me. I was about twelve years old and I went to see The House of Usher, an American International Pictures horror film starring Vincent Price, Myrna Fahey, and Mark Damon,
Thanks to Wikipedia, here’s the plot:
Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) travels to the House of Usher, a desolate mansion surrounded by a murky swamp, to meet his fiancée Madeline Usher (Myrna Fahey). Madeline’s brother Roderick (Vincent Price) opposes Philip’s intentions, telling the young man that the Usher family is afflicted by a cursed bloodline which has driven all their ancestors to madness. Roderick foresees the family evils being propagated into future generations with a marriage to Madeline and vehemently discourages the union. Philip becomes increasingly desperate to take Madeline away; she agrees to leave with him, desperate to get away from her brother.
During a heated argument with her brother, Madeline suddenly dies and is laid to rest in the family crypt beneath the house. As Philip is preparing to leave following the entombment, the butler, Bristol (Harry Ellerbe), lets slip that Madeline suffered from catalepsy, a condition which can make its sufferers appear dead.
Philip rips open Madeline’s coffin and finds it empty. He desperately searches for her in the winding passages of the crypt but she eludes him and confronts her brother. Now completely insane, Madeline avenges herself upon the brother who knowingly buried her alive. Both die as a fire breaks out. Philip escapes and watches the house sink into the swampy land surrounding it.
So there I was, twelve years old, and Madeline is in the family crypt, in her coffin, and the coffin lid is starting to bump. The music was intense. I was covering my face with my hand and watching the movie through my splayed fingers. And then… the bloody hand comes out between the coffin and the lid. The audience screamed. Oh, the horror.
But walking home after the movie, I got to thinking. Why was I afraid? She seemed like a nice woman. And she wasn’t dead. She’d been buried alive. I should WANT her to get out of that coffin. I should want to help her. She wasn’t dead. That’s terrible. How awful it would feel to wake up inside a coffin and not be dead. How desperate would you be to escape?
In those days, for those of you too young to remember a time so barren of entertainment options, there were no VCR’s or DVD’s or computers. Our television was still black and white. It showed movies, but mostly old westerns. The only way you could see a new movie was to go to a movie theatre. Fortunately it didn’t cost that much, and I could even afford to see a movie twice.
Two days later I want to the same movie again with some friends. This time the horror was gone. I wasn’t watching through splayed fingers. I was thinking about how strange it was to be made afraid of something that wasn’t frightening. I was noticing that it was just a movie, a contrivance. The final shot, with the hero riding away from the burning house of Usher, was a bad mat job. The horseman and the burning house were obviously not in the same location.
I say that was a turning point for me. But I wonder; are there people who never have that epiphany? Are there people who never question their emotions, and never wonder whether their emotions are appropriate to the circumstances. I suspect that such people exist. Maybe this is why so many people seem unable to overcome the ick factor when discussing sexuality, or why so many people seem unwilling to face a totally unreasonable fear, such as the fear of harmless creatures.
What do you think?