Justice

I got a touch-screen computer, so I’m trying a new thing whereby I use a mixture of “hand”-lettering (is it still by hand if I do it on a computer?) and drawing to make my points. I’ll transcribe all the writing underneath; I am under no misconceptions regarding the legibility of my handwriting.

justice-real-pt-1justice-pt-1

Why is anyone
allowed
to
suffer?

People travel for
thousands
of
miles

across
oceans

to be
safe
in America,
but still,

they are not safe.

If they are not
turned away,
they face
violence
from people
who have not suffered
nearly as much.

If your family was killed,
& you escaped on a boat,
a treacherous journey
across the sea,
& you finally, finally,
arrived somewhere
“safe,”
& then were sent back
to the place you escaped because
the “safe” people
are afraid
of you,

how would you feel?

Others
already live here,
but
they die
because they can’t get the things
that rich people like me
take for granted.

I have always had
more than I
need.

which means I am, in my view,
morally obligated
to help others get what they need
(except I haven’t figured out how.)

If you average all the wealth in the world,
everyone has enough.

But, as it stands now,
people still suffer.

We should not let them.

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“False News”

Why is the title in quotes? It’s because I’m directly quoting Betsy DeVos, who is Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of education. When asked about her involvement in preventing charter schools from facing consequences due to bad performance, she said that those reports were “false news.”

We’ve all been hearing about fake news for months. It might have swung the election. It’s a big problem. People are believing stories that are simply untrue. However, there is a point where politicians have to step back and realize that they are blaming fake news for their own shortcomings.

DeVos’s accusation of “false news” isn’t even applicable in this scenario: the question is a matter of speculation due to easily verifiable facts. This is especially demonstrative of the problem at hand, which is that it’s too easy to call every negative thing said about oneself a lie.

This comes from a common problem we have nowadays, and that problem is that many people, especially our new president-elect, tend to see things in terms of black and white. Everything is either true or a lie, and the “truth” usually fits in with what one believes of oneself, and the lies are everything else. I’m guilty of this myself (people are either bad or good, depending on what they last said to me), but it’s a bad habit that everyone has to work to break. When Betsy DeVos cries “false news,” what she really means is “speculation that I don’t like.” If she were truly committed to creating a better education system, she would be able to look at what she has done and think about whether or not it went wrong. This doesn’t mean that she has to agree that she’s done a bad job; it just means that she has to show signs of having thought twice about whether or not she’s done a bad job.

And in the end, it all boils down to this: Socrates was right. The unexamined life really isn’t worth living. Especially not if one person’s unexamined life is affecting the lives of millions of students around the country.

Sticks and Stones

We’ve all heard the phrase. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It’s true; words do not literally cut into your skin, break your bones, bruise your body. However, words can leave emotional wounds, and those wounds can give you something akin to pain.

To what extent do we as people have to desensitize ourselves to words? It makes sense, of course, that if one is laying out a thought or a story or something of that nature, they should be able to take valid criticism for it. On the other hand, there are words that are hurled at people with no basis in reason. These are slurs and insults that are based on prejudices and hatred.

The difference between these two things is that a valid, rational criticism is not indicative of an underlying hatred for a person or for the identities of a person. If someone says, “I disagree,” or, “Your story isn’t very good yet,” that doesn’t mean anything about the person themselves, or about how society sees them. However, a slur or an insult says something bigger and more sinister. Words cannot hurt you, but words may reflect things that can hurt you. If a person calls someone else a slur, that means that they may harbor violent feelings towards that someone else. In essence, words can lead to sticks and stones.

So how does limiting the words a person can use help society? Of course, if people harbor hurtful thoughts, they will continue to have those thoughts, regardless of whether or not they’re allowed to voice them. However, limiting hurtful words does mean that the hurtful thoughts are condemned, and it means that fewer people will hear the words and believe them. If a gay person hears the f-slur hurled at them constantly, they will begin to believe that they are worthless. If a straight person hears gay people referred to with that word, they will begin to believe that gay people are worthless.

A lot of people criticize political correctness, but, in the end, it’s worth it: words may never hurt me, but words only lead to actions, and people’s actions are what cause the sticks and stones to be thrown.

Parking Lot Ethics

Today is Black Friday, and I, among millions of other Americans, made the mistake of leaving the house. My friend was having a birthday party in a Rainforest Cafe in a mall, and I wound up spending a good two hours total in the mall parking lot. Which gave me a lot of time to think about how one should act in a parking lot.

For one thing, I noticed how much everyone protected their own interests. It was fascinating; people would wait for five, ten, fifteen minutes just to turn right because the people already on that road were determined to keep moving forwards. But then, if someone let one car through, a whole line would follow, everyone afraid to sit through another crawling parade.

I’m sure most people get through this without considering it an ethical quandary, but, well, I had a lot of time to think while I was sitting in that parking lot. It seems to me that the goal of most interactions, including those that happen under the anonymity of a vehicle, should be to maximize widespread happiness of everybody involved. In this case, happiness is caused by getting through the parking lot quickly.

To maximize widespread happiness, people who have a chance to let cars turn should do so, but only within reason. It does not make sense to let four cars turn ahead of you; that slows you up to such a degree that it does not seem fair. It does, however, make sense to let one car turn ahead of you, and, if everyone follows these same ethics, the next car would turn ahead of the car behind you.

It seems like this would still slow up the line, since now the four cars are still turning into the road, just at different times. But if the line is slow anyway, it’s not going to feel much slower because of this, and happiness is caused in part by your perception of events.

It’s far too easy to get angry at other drivers in a parking lot, but, really, everyone who goes to a mall on Black Friday knows what they’re getting into. They may be like me, and not have wanted to go to the mall in the first place, but I at least knew that I was descending into Hell. And it does not help with one’s own happiness or anybody else’s when one gets angry; one will often retaliate with honking or yelling, and that makes the people in the cars around them feel even more anxious than they already are. This is a situation where the rational brain needs to triumph over the emotional brain, since the rational brain is the one that will allow you to sit and find a parking spot with the smallest emotional sacrifice.

As you can tell, I spent far too much time thinking about these things today. But, hey, that’s what happens when you make the mistake of going to a mall on Black Friday.

What is Healthy Discussion?

The other day, I was trying to say something about the way I personally would handle an ethical situation in philosophy class, and one of my more talkative classmates immediately shut me down, saying, “That’s wrong,” and, “You can’t say that,” as I struggled to explain my point of view. The classmate in question has pre-established opinions about a lot of philosophy, and he will often spend an entire class period attacking a specific philosopher’s argument. It’s incredibly frustrating for the rest of the class; none of us have read much philosophy before this semester, and we kind of just want to talk about what we’re reading for the class.

This isn’t just a problem in my philosophy class. This is a problem throughout the world: people have “discussions” that aren’t discussions at all, because they haven’t bothered to try to understand the opinions of the other people involved. Yes, you might think that what I’m saying is ridiculous, but unless you’ve listened to why I’m saying that, you can’t know for sure. Everyone looks at things in a different way, and maybe all that they need is for you to show them an extra part of the issue, or maybe you need them to show you an extra part of the issue.

This is why I’ve made this blog. This is a space to explain what my thoughts are, and hopefully, readers will be able to explain their thoughts and why they agree or disagree with me. We can all learn from each other, but not if we talk over and attack each other.

So how does one approach a discussion? Ideally, one would approach it with an open mind. They would state their thoughts, and the other person would state theirs, and it would go from there. Each participant would let the other explain their thoughts thoroughly, and then point out the places where their thoughts differ, or the holes that their thoughts fill. A conclusion would be reached by the end, and it would hopefully be something that both participants could agree on. Even if it isn’t, though, everyone should come away having had a thought that they hadn’t had before.

Is this likely to happen worldwide? No. But it can happen more often, and in more places. And, you know, worldwide would be nice.

Theatre as a Safe Space

Today Donald Trump tweeted that “the Theater must always be a safe and special place” in response to a speech written by the cast and crew of Hamilton addressing vice president-elect Mike Pence. When I read this, I felt a cold anger seeping into me. Not because his words were wrong; no, he was entirely right. Theatre is a safe and special place. I was angry because he twisted that principle to mean that the cast and crew of Hamilton attacked Mike Pence.

Hamilton is a show comprised entirely of actors of color, many of whom must be fearing for their future right about now. In the speech, given by one of the actors, they addressed Mike Pence and shared their concerns about his policies: it began with, “We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.”

And that is exactly what “the Theater” is for. Theatre is a place for people to express themselves, their opinions, their worries, their fears, their joys, and anything else that might need expressing. Theatre is a place for people to come together and share ideas. Theatre is not a safe and special place for individual people; theatre is a safe and special place for the ideas and emotions of many. A show doesn’t get to the stage without a cast who wants to perform it and an audience who wants to see it.

And if a cast is in a show in part because the show itself is revolutionary, and someone in power comes to see the show, they should not expect to be ignored, especially if that someone is Mike Pence, who has shown himself to be actively harmful to minorities. Theatre is a safe space for ideas, but no one should ever expect to go to the theatre and expect to come away without having been challenged in some way. For Mike Pence, the challenge was just more overt than usual.

Overreaction Reactions

Just now, I witnessed a huge argument between my brothers, culminating in the younger one asking the older one to sit in a different chair so that he (the younger one) didn’t feel like he was being looked at. The older one yelled, calling his brother a “special snowflake” for being too “thin-skinned” to even be in the same room with him. The thing is, this was an exact example of why the older brother makes the younger one feel uncomfortable: the older one mocks him for having reactions that he deems to be more extreme than necessary to tiny things.

Of course, it’s never good to overreact. For one thing, it takes far too much energy on the part of the reactor; for another thing, it really does stress everyone else out. But if one does overreact to something, why is this met with insults and mocking and cries of crocodile tears? These things only make the reaction worse, and it seems that what one should do is make the person feel better. Anything else will only reinforce the idea that not only do barely-bad things lead to terrible things, but that one’s own emotions are bad.

This is a dangerous line of thinking for a person, since it’s pretty easy for that to lead to the person in question feeling broken, uncared for, or otherwise bad. And as far as I can tell, the only real tenant of the societal moral code is to make as few people feel bad as possible. Therefore, if someone punishes someone for overreacting, whether deliberately or accidentally, it is always bad.

This is just a collection of thoughts I’ve had in the past half hour as I’ve had to mediate the fight (and convince the older brother to stop mocking the younger one). I really wish that humanity as a whole were more caring and tolerant, and yet, it seems that it is not to be.