An Alaskan journalist's perspective on local and national issues

Posts tagged ‘TJ Kincaid’

The Question of Morality

There was a question that was posed by a public figure who isn’t known as a great intellectual, and yet he has some very poignant message about the way things are in the world.  His name is TJ Kincaid, also known on YouTube as The Amazing Atheist.  In a video on Bing, he posed a question –

If morality controls human behavior, then who, or what controls human morality?

While he furnishes his own answer, I thought that, while it is late and I am unable to sleep, I would write up what I believe to be the answer to that question.

The first thing that one has to accept when they are looking at this question is that morality is a human invention.  There will be those that argue for absolute morals.  If that is to be taken seriously, then the question comes – where did those morals come from?  Many will respond to this – God.  He created the world, and gave us this moral code.  However, this cannot be taken seriously.

There is no evidence for the existence of God, and if something cannot be proven to exist, saying that we must follow a code that is by it, and even more disturbingly, unchanging is absolutely false.  To do so is madness, in every sense of the word.

The reasons why are obvious.  What if the religious figure which you get your morals from is not the real deity?  What if it is something completely different?  If that is the case, then you are deliberately disobeying that absolute morals that you claim to cherish.

The next is that the fact is that the predominate source that Christians claim to be the source of their morality, the Christian God, has a holy book that is filled with inconsistencies and contradictions.  To obey such a text, absolutely to the letter, is not only impossible, but completely ridiculous.

The final reason is that to obey any set of principles, absolutely, without change or even the ability to discuss change, is nothing more than a way to be manipulated.  A moral code of any kind must be flexible, it must be open to change.  It must be willing to accept that there may be issues that one can take with it, and willing to change to accomodate that, along with changing social values.

According to the Bible, slavery was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.  God encouraged his various armies to take their slain enemies families and cities as their slaves.  He made rules about how much a master could punish their slaves.

The bible had a lenient punishment for rape, and virtually no punishment for murder.  While The Ten Commandments stated that murder was wrong, this didn’t stop those from murdering others in the name of God, did it?  Not only that, but God, on numerous incidents, commanded his followers to murder, telling his armies to kill the girls and women who were not virgins, and to tear open the bellies of pregnant women.

So, by that logic, the absolute moral code that is given to us by religion is a farce.  But if that is the case, then where can morality come from?  This brings us back to the question at hand, who controls morality?  Well, take a look at the previous statements about religion, and how it works.

Back before the days when literacy was high, the Bible was taught to the people by priests and preachers.  The growth of education and the growth of skepticism has led to the increas in the atheist population, because reading these books and judging them on their own merits naturally leads to questioning the absolute system they are taught.  However, these religious leaders are giving people the system as they believe it to be from their holy book.  These people have power over their congregations and give them the values that they have.

Next up, we have governmental systems.  The laws that we make are secular in nature, designed to be fair to all parties, while still using a metric that is within the purview of people’s understanding, such as how killing and rape is wrong, and should be severely punished.

There is a pattern that you are seeing with these systems, aren’t you?  The people in power.  The religious leaders have power over their congregations.  They are informing their congregations of the values of the book that they are teaching, since it has been shown that most Christians are unfamiliar with the bulk of what is in their Bible.  Likewise, the people in government have power over the entire nations.  This power gives them the ability to dictate the morality of a nation.

Take Sparta, for example.  In the ancient city-state, there was the belief that kindness was weakness, and to show any kindness took away some of your honor.  In the Hindu-guided states, if you were suffering, it was your fault, for what you did in a past life.  There are parts of culture, even here in America that encourage hate, seperation, bigotry and being divided.  This tactic has been used by the powerful to keep the lower-classes in line.

So, where do morals come from?  Well, the answer is simple – they are a tool that is used by the powerful to control those without power, or those who are ignorant of their power.  Moral systems are simply a device that is to keep order in a society.  But what of morality?  How do we know that things are right and wrong?  How do atheists like myself know that killing people is inherantly the wrong thing to do?

The answer is empathy.  Those have this knowledge within them based on their ability to empathize with other people.  Through that, the real natural morality is born.  Perhaps, when we abandon these systems that we are taught and embrace empathy, then real progress of acceptance and kindness between people can be born, away from the systems that drive us apart, and teach division, rather than working together.

Of course, given how gullible people are, probably not.

Peace out,

Lefty

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Alaska is Hope. America is Too

There was a brilliant allegory that was recently posted on YouTube.  This may just be the best piece of video footage that has graced the hallowed halls of YouTube’s library in some time.  It was done by a vlogger named TJ Kincaid.  He talks about a couple that we all are intimately familiar with in this country, and I bet people all over the world know this couple as well.  Their names are Wally and Hope.

Hope is an honest and hard working woman.  She busts her rear at a paper recycling plant every day, working as a secretary.  But she comes home to Wally.  He is a very rich man, whose income dwarfs her’s.  And what’s more, Wally takes all of her money too.  He only lets her have just enough to survive.  For years, Hope takes this.  She tries to stand up to him, but when she does, she is beaten, brutally.  For years, it goes on, until one day, she decides to really stand up, to make a stand for herself.  Wally is enraged beyond all reason.  Wally beats her as he has never beaten her before.  After it is done, Hope manages to crawl to the phone and call the police.  They come, but they like Wally, and Wally is their friend, so they take Hope to the hospital, and after that, she goes to jail.  When she gets home, she sees Wally with a smug look on his face, because he knows that she is powerless, and now, the question really becomes –

What can Hope do to survive against a powerful and corrupt beast, that wants nothing more than to subjugate and suppress her?  What can she do?

The big question is that very one.  As one views Alaska, America, and the industrialized world, and really the whole world, it is the question that people need to be asking with more and more skepticism as time goes on.  Hope is a brilliant allegory.  Not only does Hope symbolize us all, it shows the pure hopelessness of the people of this country.

There is an event that is going on today in Anchorage today.  It is the second of their version of Occupy Wall Street.  As one watches what is happening, it is easy to see why those who are following this event are kind of disheartened.  Time and time again, the law has been used as a weapon against the people.  These people who are doing this are trying to appeal to a group of people who, like Wally, have no sense of decency, no conscience to speak of.  They throw away the jobs of thousands, do whatever it takes to save money, and they don’t feel bad.  There is no conscience with these people.  They have proven, time and time again, how it is all about money.

There was an AMA on Reddit.com between TJ Kincaid and a Wall Street trader, and the trader says, flat-out, that he is in it for the money, that all he wants it to have it and power.  It is a tragic thing that shows so much of what our country has become.  Money, it is the golden rule that everybody has to obey.

There was a woman who recently asked, in a personal conversation, that if one was making $5 million dollars a year, would they want to give some of that up?  Would they want to help those who don’t have that money?  Such a heartless question, from an equally heartless person.  She asked believing that giving up money is just the worst thing.

If people want to believe that they are making a difference with these protests, that is good.  But when one examines history, it is hard to understand why people are so gung-ho to believe that peaceful protest is going to get them anything more than a beating in the street, because Wally is absolute, and Hope…well, what can she do?  Violence may be the only solution that Hope has left.

People shouldn’t be afraid of their government, governments should be afraid of their people.”

Alan Moore, or V, whichever you want to give that quote to, they had a very good point.

Peace out,

Lefty

Libertarianism is flawed to its core

It is impossible for a person to have anymore, a rational discussion with the Libertarian crowd.  It is becoming almost a little bit upsetting trying to talk with these people rationally.  Because if you go on YouTube, and there was a great video made about this (http://youtu.be/xYaujnR_8NE), you will see this huge group of cultish followers of the Libertarian philosophy.  There was a video that came out recently from a favorite political commentator, Sam Seder, about the YouTube Libertarians (http://youtu.be/0Htf0IgrJrs) and how these people are completley impossible to argue with them.

So, here I am, and I will try and talk rationally.  After my last post talking about how Ron Paul is not the God that they all seem to make him out to be, I didn’t get a single smart argument.  Instead, it was just angry lambasting from people who didn’t want to discuss things rationally.  So here we are, going to give this another shot.

Libertarianism is flawed to its core.  Sorry, but that is the truth.  That idea that little to no government is going to produce a better society is complete and utter nonsense.  One big one that they talk about is no regulation, that the market should take care of itself.  There are not enough hands to do enough facepalms for the idea.  Yes, if we do nothing, if we free up business’ hands, then things will be better.

First off, let’s take a look at the food industry.  A recent report from the CDC said that food-borth pathogens are on the rise here in the US.  Why are they on the rise?  Because we have a horribly underregulated food industry.  We have disease-ridden cattle that we feed to people in this country.  We have produce that carries diseases because there aren’t enough regulations, and those that are in place, the FDA and other groups don’t have enough people to look into them.  It’s the same with airlines industry.  Airline safety is another area that desperatley is underfinanced, and the Libertarians are just fine with looking the other way.

Rand Paul made a statement during an interview with George Stephanopoulos about the BP Gulf spill (forget the Deepwater Horizon BS, this is BP’s spill, just like the last one was called Exxon Valdez) –

 And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen.

You know, if there wasn’t a mountain of evidence as to the fact that the drilling that was going on in the Gulf was horribly underregulated…no, even then he wouldn’t have a point.  The problem with the Libertarian ideology is that it believes three things to be true

  1. That people will be able to keep informed about all markets, and that businesses will never withhold information about those markets.
  2. That all people are good and want to help everybody else at all times.
  3. That businesses work for the interests of the community, not for the bottom line.

All three of these things are not only ridiculous, but they are impossible to believe.  And when you try to show that the Randian philosophy (Ayn Rand) about free markets is nothing more than a greed-driven mentality designed to help the self is morally repugnant, they all just scream about how you hate their freedom.

This is what TJ Kincaid was talking about in his video.  Because the Libertarians have some ideas that people, those who like those ideas will put the other ones, the horribly socially and morallly corrosive ones out of their minds.  They will forget about the fact that Ron Paul may not have said that the man should just be left to die, but he did say that there should be no establishment effort to help.  He said that the church and the community should step up.  But they didn’t!  They did not step up!  So to tell them that these ideals are wrong, you are just wasting air.

And a lot of their heroes preaching is morally and socially corrosive.  Let’s get rid of the FDA, so people can test for E Coli themselves!  How about getting rid of the EPA?  Yeah, because they’ve never done any good for anybody…except how their regulations got rid of the smog that had infested LA.  How about throwing out the Department of Education?  Yeah, because inner-city kids are going to be able to afford private schools!  Oh wait, they won’t.  Or how about getting rid of the income tax!  Oh right, then this nation would completely collapse.  I keep forgetting that one.  Or let’s go all-out and get rid of the entire social safety net!  People forget that doing that would be tantamount to murder.

Now, it is easy to point out the flaws of one system, but if you have an established state, of any kind, you need a strict infrastructure to manage it.  Anarchy doesn’t work.  Anarcho-capitalism doesn’t work.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and with human nature, it’s a power vacuum.  So, you need an infrastructure that works.  And along with that infrastructure, you need people to manage it.  You need people to make it work.  Now, call it what you want, but a government by any other name is still government.  Regulation has been proven to work, and no regulation has been proven to bring things down.  The most recent financial collapse was a perfect example.  The government wasn’t watching the banks, and they did bad business practices because we also ignored the regulation to make sure they don’t get too big, hence the concept of “Too Big to Fail.”

But Libertarianism is a good thing for one reason – it allows us liberals and progessives to reevaluate why we believe what we believe, and why we will fight so hard to defend it.  But with the sudden and massive growth of this group, the question becomes, is it dangerous?  Is the ignorance that they display a genuine threat to this nation and its future.

Now that is something worth looking into.

Peace out,

Eli

The Weiner’s Weiner Debacle

If only we weren’t a nation of six year olds.  If only there could be a mature outlook on things.  But that would probably be asking too much from the American media.  After all, this is the country that spent months talking about Michael Jackson’s death.  We spent a week with the Reagan funeral.  Every time anybody who is well-known in this country dies, everybody has a minature freak-out, like death is just the worst thing.  Plus, we make a big deal out of everything.  It is only natural that the issue of Congressman Weiner’s weiner was destined to become a big deal.  And it was probably made a big deal because of the fact that we just want to combine words.  We say Weiner’s weiner and everybody gets a giggle.  Yeah, it is pathetic.

There was a very smart YouTuber named TJ Kincaid who made a brilliant point about this –

I think we only covered this because we all wanted to say WEINER!

I am of the same mindset.  This is all so pathetic!  So, Weiner decided to send a picture of his weiner to an attractive woman.  He admitted to the crime, and sure, it was not the smarted thing to do, but think about this – who cares?  There was an idea floating around about having Weiner go over to the GOP.  They could use a couple of straight guys on their team, since all they ever get busted with is guy’s getting caught with their Rent-Boy or tapping their feet under another man’s stall to signal that he is ready to go, sexually speaking.  But is this really the massive debacle that everybody is making it out to be?

The “family values” crowd (if only they actually knew what those are) are crying the blues about how Weiner has betrayed the voters of New York by sending pictures of his weiner to a girl.  Yeah, that’s just the worst thing that has ever happened.  The American people are consistently getting screwed by the White House.  We are consistently getting shafted by Congress.  At least with Weiner sending a picture of his weiner, there is a bit of honesty.

Of course, it was not a smart thing to do.  One unfortunate consequence of all of this has been that Breitbart, a bigot in the worst way (but like the Tea Party, don’t call him that!), has been legitimized by accusing Weiner of trying to hook up with a girl.  That is not a good thing.  Andrew Breitbart should never have a single person ever listen to him in a serious way, because after his little accusations that he made at Shirley Sharrod, he should have been shamed into obscurity by the American public for the bigot that he is.

Another problem is that this turns the eyes of everybody onto the Democrats, and is another attacking point that the Republicans can use.  Of course, when a Republican is caught with his pants down (so to speak), Fox News and the conservative blogosphere goes out of their way to make the story seem less like a big deal, but when a Democrat is caught sending a picture of his weiner to a woman, he is villified.  The nice little bits of hypocrisy that the Republicans and conservatives in this country have.

And the fact is that they are hypocrits.  Whenever some GOP Congressman is caught with his boyfriend, do the Democrats go absolutely crazy over it?  Does the liberal community just jump on the person’s bandwagon and scream about how they are an immoral monster and need to be taken away from society?  No!  They do not do that because the liberal and progressive parts of this country have a little something called “integrity.”

What’s more, it doesn’t focus on the problem.  People say that people like Anthony Weiner are the reason Congress looks bad.  That is a lie!  That is an outright lie!  Congress looks bad because they are clearly in bed with Wall Street.  They don’t even try and hide the face that they are slaves to the business interests of this country.  We can all look at Weiner and shake our heads, but we all know the truth – that Congress hasn’t been working for the American people in a VERY long time, and this major shift in the media’s attention to Weiner’s weiner is just sad.

Sam Seder, another very witty political commentator, had this to say about what is happening –

Bad new from Fukushima, in Japan, apparently, their Twitter is down and they can’t see the naked photos, or the chestless photos, of Anthony Weiner.”

This is so dumb.  There are things of real consequence happening in this world.  This comes back to the fact that the media just focuses all of its attention on absolute junk, while the stuff of real merit gets ignored.  Fukushima is in trouble.  Japan is a complete mess.  There is still a real problem in places like Joplin that were destroyed by tornadoes.  There is a lot that could be actually being talked about.  Instead, though, we have people who are just bored and don’t want to think too hard just reporting on something that they know will get people’s attention because there is a guy named Weiner sending pictures of his weiner.

Seder also made another good point – as long as he has broken no laws, what does this matter?  I mean, yeah, his wife will probably have a much different take on all of this, but that is between the two of them, is it not?  Is it not an issue between those two?  Why exactly does the American public need to know every minute detail of all of this?  Sure, Weiner is an idiot for doing this, and what he chooses to do next will be important.  If he resigns, that will be a blow to the liberal community.  But in the end, this is not the worse thing in the world, people!  There are a lot worse things than Weiner sending pictures of his weiner.

But saying that might upset the United States of Eight Year Olds.

Peace out,

Eli

The American Audience and Films

Well, with 2010 having passed, there is a very sincere question that people need to be asking- what is the next year of film going to be like?  2010 was a great year for intelligent cinema.  There were so many great movies.  Of course, greatness is a completely subjective term, but in my eyes, it was a great year for cinema.  All of the films that got big praises were loved by this particular critic.  There was The Social Network, which was one of the best-written films that I have ever seen.  There was Inception, which once again proves that Christopher Nolan is trule a great director.  In fact, let’s take this year apart piece by piece, because you don’t get many good years for intelligent big blockbuster cinema.  It is a true rarity, and we can make a point about this by dissecting the great elements in film.

Let’s start with Inception, which is tied for my favorite film of 2010.  It has proven what a truly fantastic director Christopher Nolan really is.  This is a guy who has proven beyond any form of doubt that it is possible to have an action movie be intellectually stimulating.  For crying out loud, this guy was able to make Batman intellectuallly stimulating!  I didn’t think that was possible!  The film Inception was an artful masterpiece combining rich characters with fantastical worlds and awesome fight scenes.  It was engaging, tragic, and beautiful, and like so many of Nolan’s movies, it left the audience with questions.  All great film should keep one thinking after the film is done.

The next film that was tied for the best of 2010 was The Social Network.  This film was another demonstration of Aaron Sorkin’s great talent for writing dialogue.  That was the best single part of this film- the dialogue.  Sorkin is second to one other great director when it comes to good dialogue- Quentin Tarantino.  Nobody can watch the film Reservoir Dogs and not credit Tarantino with being able to write great dialogue.  That whole film was telling a story through dialogue, and it was done well.  With The Social Network, this concept was put to use again.  It was well-acted, with some of the most compelling lines that have ever been.  Great film must have characters who compel you to remain interested, and great dialogue that never ceases to entertain.

A film that is an old concept that was shined up was Black Swan.  This film was a rather interesting take on the concept of questioning reality.  Of course, this is in no way a unique kind of film.  Films about the truth behind reality are very common.  This film distinguishes itself by having a compelling character, a unique life situation, and a fantastical element that makes itself known at the end of the film.  The dual-nature of innocence and corruption were explored very well, and it was a very powerful film.

2010 was just a great year for major blockbusters, and with the summer closing in on us, people must keep in mind that it is rare for so many big-name blockbusters to be so good.  There is a rather unpleasnat problem with big productions in this country- more often than not, they suck.  Look at the Transformers series.  How did Michael Bay screw this up?  It is the simplest concept on Earth.  You have two forces of robots who can become vehicle, and they are beating the snot out of one-another.  It’s a simple concept, and if Bay had kept it at that, it would have been a great movie.  But no, that wasnt’ what happened. 

The American audience has a very bad habit of being completely fine with accepting crappy film in this country.  The perfect example is with two films that came out in the same year.  The first was a Swedish film called Let the Right One In.  This film was a true masterpiece that showcased the rather unpleasant side of humanity.  It was about two young people (who were actually believably young, by the way) who find the ability to heal one-another’s wounds.  It is a story of teenage vampire romance.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but somehow, the Swedish were able to accomplish making one of the best films that this critic has ever seen.  It is one of those films that reminds us why we watch films.

The other film was the hackneyed piece of commercial garbage, Twilight.  There was a girl in one of my journalism classes who said that this film rewrote that “chick flick” genre.  There wasn’t a single intellectually stimulating moment in this entire film.  It was the most nullodramatic (I would like to thank TJ Kincaid with coining that term).  It was a piece of garbage.  Like the previous film, it was also about teenage vampire romance (although it was clear that neither of these characters was a teenager), but unlike the previously mentioned film, this piece of commercial crap wasn’t able to bring a single substantive message to the screen in any way.  It is easy to understand why teen girls loved it- a girl moves to a new town, and on her first day- every guy wants to do her, every girl wants to be her friend, and she meets the love of her life (who is a creep stalker that glitters in sunlight).  It is easy to get why the teen and tween girl market just loves that film, but the fact is that it is garbage.

These two films highlight a deeper question to society- why is it that when we are presented with something of artistic merit, we choose to shun that for pure crap?  Twilight, and all of the subsequent sequels, are nothing but T&A films for chicks.  That is all they are.  They are films so that girls can ogle cute guys and dream about being with them (even if the guy is a creepy pale stalker who openly admits to killing other people and wanting to kill her).  Guys have this problem too, of course, which is the reason that the Transformers series did so well.  Show Megan Fox’s breasts bouncing along in slow motion and you will have a film that gets you millions of dollars.  It is a sad but true fact about America’s current film industry.

And what’s more, it is pathetic.  Let the Right One In didn’t rake in nearly as much money as Twilight, and it was infinitely better than the other.  What is wrong with American audiences?  The film Avatar only did well because of the breathtaking special effects.  The plot was so hopelessly dry and cliche that it was beyond sad.  A film can have breathtaking special effects and be intellectually stimulating.  Case and point- Inception.  This film was a very great message, and most people probably don’t even notice.  It was kind of funny, when I went to see that movie, a bunch of girls exited when I did and were all confused, not understanding what happened at all.  I knew it was good then (like I didn’t know before). 

Film can be better, if people want it to be.  People have to start demanding something better.  That is just my opinion, anyway.

Peace out,

Eli

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