August 17, 2013

Ban gay marriage, and straight marriage

Marriage: a legal contract between a man and a woman who are (practically always) in love and have been a couple for long enough that they have decided they want to live together for the rest of their lives, giving them special privileges in areas such as health care, insurance, immigration, income taxes, property taxes and more (depending on country), that are not granted to people who are single, or have just met someone, or haven't got a stable enough relationship that they want to make a lifelong commitment to their partner, or have gotten divorced and are not ready to move on yet, or just don't want to get married for whatever reason, or prefer to have romantic and sexual relations with people of the same gender as themselves, or prefer to be with multiple partners, or prefer any other form of relationship.

The LGBT movement is lobbying to remove from that definition "or prefer to have romantic and sexual relations with people of the same gender as themselves". They're fine with discriminating against people who are single, or have just met someone, or haven't got a stable enough relationship that they want to make a lifelong commitment to their partner, or have gotten divorced and are not ready to move on yet, or just don't want to get married for whatever reason, or prefer to be with multiple partners, or prefer any other form of relationship. No-one cares about those people. They either will get married eventually and thus are not complaining, or are extremist woman-hating jihadists who want 20 slave-wives, or are crazy sex-freaks who only live to stick their dicks inside as many different holes as possible (and being too promiscuous is just not okay because _________). What really matters is that we don't discriminate against couples for not containing equal amounts of penises and vaginas.

Marriage with legal benefits is essentially the government's way of saying "this is the best way to live your lives, and everyone who does so shall be elevated beyond mere citizens and receive special recognition and privileges". You might think that's an exaggeration, but there's really no other way to motivate it that holds up. Marriage leads to children and children cost money to raise? Then just give all the benefits to parents and people with child custody, who are the ones that actually need benefits. There's no reason to split them up and give some to parents and some to married people. So, since when is it okay for the state to tell people how to live? Take a vacation abroad at least every other year or pay the boring tax! Buy your kids a smartphone before they're 10 and be arrested for child spoiling!

The reason that this is seen as okay is, of course, because the symbolic values way overshadow the legal privileges. Marriage is seen as a declaration of lifelong love and dedication to your partner, not as a way to pay less tax. And that is exactly why these privileges are absolutely, 100% inefficient as a motivator for marriage. People don't try to get into relationships to get tax benefits, they don't decide they're ready to get married earlier for it, they don't stay married for it, and it's definitely not a motivator to "become straight" (if that were even possible) or give up their polyamorous lifestyle.

I don't think anyone even disputes this. The simple truth is, the monoamorous lifestyle of "find partner, eventually break up and repeat or get married" is the only one that's socially accepted for adults, and people who don't have marriage as their end goal are seen as either immature or "not ready for marriage yet" or abnormal, and that's why marriage benefits are a non-issue. Polyamorous people have no voice, and unlike gays it's okay to be prejudiced and bigoted against them. But that's not the entire truth.

The only logical solution is of course to abolish marriage as a legal (not social) institution and instead offer registered partnership - which can be much more flexible with, for example, polyamorous relationships, as the symbolic value is gone - for boring legal stuff like joint tax filing. Secular marriage would be an open market and therefore much more flexible as well. Gay marriage wouldn't be given official recognition, so the bigots would be happy as the state wouldn't force them to acknowledge that the ceremony that homosexuals have is the same as their proper religious marriage, but homosexuals wouldn't feel the need for it to be recognized either. Straight marriage would lose its official recognition, but who gives a shit? Religious people still have their god(s) in their marriage, so they don't need the state, and I just don't see atheists going anal about it.

The issues of gay marriage, polygamy, and unfair privileges to married people solved in one fell swoop. And this very obvious solution isn't being advocated even by Swedish feminists who base their careers on questioning and even damning any and all social norms (heteronormativity is the devil to them), and even then the issue of polyamory has been given some attention in Swedish media such as Dagens Nyheter, the biggest non-tabloid daily newspaper (all the big, mainstream media in Sweden are feminist, at least passively). Even they are not questioning the legal institution of marriage. I guess they're just not clever enough.

August 14, 2013

Random thoughts on stupid songs

These are some thoughts on annoying music I hear when going to the gym or getting drunk and dancing like an idiot to annoying music. Without further ado:

Flo Rida - Wild Ones ft. Sia

I don't generally have a problem with vocal sounds in music that aren't meant to convey any lyrical meaning, like "yeah", "hey", "ugh", "come on" and so on. That being said, there are ways of doing it very, very wrong. I'm talking about the part right at the beginning of the song:
Hey I heard you were a wild one
Not only does the OOO sound incredibly stupid, but the way she sings it, it's like she's saying it in mid-conversation, like it's part of the lyrics. It makes me imagine her walking up to some guy in a bar and going all "hey, I heard you're a wild one... OOooOOo". Allow me to illustrate:

[Credit goes to Cyanide & Happiness and Paint for the image]

I don't know how it goes from there, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't involve her "taking him home for a home run".

Sebastian Ingrosso - Reload
When everything starts to fade
You don’t have to be afraid
No you don’t have to be afraid
Take my hand and reload
This is free love
That’s what we are made of
Uh. When everything starts to fade - I'm guessing that means you're about to pass out, which means your control over your mind and body is slipping and it's not a good time to be fucking around with lethal weapons - the first thought that pops into your head is "hey, let's go on a shooting spree!". Or does 'reload' mean refill the stapler? I don't fucking think so. And what's next, we're made of "free love"? What does that even mean? This reminds me of how soothsayers and spiritual new-age hippie type fellas like to append some vague, meaningless adjective to the term 'energy', like positive, negative, creative, spiritual, because if they speak clearly and actually make sense it just sounds so much less mystical and wise. Are you referring to an abstract but measurable physical quantity that ties together mass, macroscopic motion, vibration, the position of a body within a force field (i.e. vector field), and a bunch of other quantities related to the ability of a system to perform mechanical work on a body? No? Then the term you're looking for is 'bullshit'.

I think seeing the songwriters as typical God-fearing redneck 'muricans might help us analyze the song. They love guns, freedom ("freedom") and the American way. Getting fat, shooting their guns, that sorta thing. Really, this song is an ode to rural American culture. Oh, and did I mention getting fat?
When you want to get off the ground
But gravity pulls you down
Gravity pulls you down
Yeah. When gravity pulls you down, causing you to have trouble getting off the ground. I hate it when that happens.

I like how the writers specified very clearly that the issue here is gravity. It's not like life is pulling you down, or you feel weak and powerless because you're going through some hard times. Nope, it's all gravity. That's what we're dealing with. Ok, so I think I might have a solution. How about you, oh I don't know, just get off the fucking ground? That might help!

I mean, do you realize how fucking fat you would have to be to have a hard time standing up because of gravity? You think Oprah's bad, well, these people eat Oprahs for breakfast. I'm beginning to think these people love America so much that they've devoured it, along with the rest of the universe. Don't get too close to them or you'll be pulled into their event horizons and sucked into the big blob of fat that is their bodies, except instead of fat cells they have billions of tiny singularities.

Some asshole (not N.R.G.) - I Need Your Lovin' (Like the Sunshine)

I'm pretty damn sure it was a guy singing this when I heard it, so it's probably a cover, but I didn't manage to find it online. Anyway, some guy sings about how he "needs your lovin' like the sunshine" and of course all the gullible girls in the hypothetical audience go "oh he's so sweet why can't I find a guy like that". But does he really need the sunshine? Not directly. We need the oxygen and glucose created by photosynthesis, and vitamin D is produced by the skin when exposed to sunlight. Not that the energy for those reactions necessarily needs to come from the sun - any other source of photons will do. So he doesn't need your love directly, but he needs a biproduct of your love. He needs to get laid. And he doesn't even need it from you - any source of vagina will do. Doesn't sound so sweet now, does it?

(Alternative interpretation: he needs your kidneys.)

Bruno Mars - Grenade

This song is so fucking stupid it makes the blood boil in my veins. The lyrics are in the video description, so go read them if you don't have blood pressure issues. Basically what we have is the last song, with some guy talking sweet talk about love to fool gullible teenage girls, except the lyrics are actually stupid on their own without requiring some asshole to overanalyze and misinterpret them. I mean, I guess just comparing love to sunshine without any sort of elaboration won't fool anyone with more than a handful of neurons firing in their brain that the lyrics are somehow "poetic", or "good" for that matter, but this is much worse. If the last song is a tea party supporter saying "we need to protect family values" in a short TV interview at a rally, then this song is a long, elaborative essay on the same subject from a professor at the Patriotic Christ University involving the terms 'abortion' (or 'anti-life'), 'homosexual propaganda', 'communism' (used interchangeably with 'liberalism' and 'socialism'), and 'heavy metal music'.

First off, how the hell do you know you'd catch a grenade and all that for this girl? Have you been in such a situation before and heroically taken a bullet by jumping in front of a gun to save your loved one? No? Didn't fucking think so, assface! People who haven't been there before have no idea of how they'd react, but judging from what I've seen from this guy he'd probably just wet himself and cry like a pussy.

But let's forget about that for a second. Let's pretend he would sacrifice himself to save her. Why is that a good thing? What reward could possibly be worth sacrificing yourself? You'd be dead. You wouldn't exist, and so nothing would at that point be of any value to you. That's not to say that I wouldn't selflessly sacrifice myself rather than have 99% of the world's population wiped out, but again, I can't say for sure whether or not I would until I had been in such a situation.

The point is, sacrificing your life means giving up absolutely everything you've ever had or will have, and in order to do so out of love for a single person that love would probably have to be so strong the vast majority of us will never comprehend, much less experience it. In fact, to the extent that such a selfless sacrifice happens in real life, I'd say it's roughly 100% of the time a combination of social ideals and guilt; for example, a man in love should sacrifice himself for his woman, parents should sacrifice themselves for their children, it's romanticized as such a strong and noble and brave thing to do, if you don't you're a coward and you can't live with yourself if you don't and what will people think etc.

As for this guy, he has apparently decided that if you love someone to the point of insane obsession and are willing to sacrifice yourself for them, that's a foolproof recipe to get them to love you back. If this guy loves you enough, he practically owns you. And if you don't "give him all your love", or you don't want to take a bullet for him, you're an evil bitch, a spawn of hell, and you deserve to suffer through eternity for it. Seriously, it's right there in the lyrics.

Ok, so that's not all there is to it. It's not like he just decided that he loves someone who didn't return the love. It seems to me like they did love each other, and then she stopped loving him (quite possibly because she realized how insane he was). Or maybe she just thought she loved him, and said so ("you said you loved me, you're a liar"), and then realized she didn't. Or maybe he suddenly broke out the L word and she responded without thinking much, or felt pressured into saying it back, and while that's not a good thing to do, it's a human thing to do, and doesn't really warrant an eternity of hellfire. Either way, nothing in these lyrics makes me think she's in any way a bad person.

So, she breaks up with him, or he breaks up with her because she's not prepared to catch a grenade for him, and he decides that she's a demon from hell. But still he'd die for her. Wait, what? That doesn't make any goddamn sense whatsoever. Why would he do that? It's simple: this entire song is constructed specifically to make him look like this sweet, emotional, sensitive dream prince by creating a completely unrealistic, inauthentic fairytale representation of love that anyone past their teens would (or rather, should) see right through. The purpose of this, of course, is to make every naive girl out there love him, and wish that he was with her instead of the girl in the song, and buy his shit.

Now, I'm not saying that realism is always good. Hollywood blockbuster action movies can pull off ridiculous and overblown and make it entertaining. But when you set out to invoke a feeling of melancholy and make us all weepy, and end up just making us roll our eyes instead, your efforts have fallen pitifully short of the mark. The real problem here, though, is that the unrealism is used to judge someone - if you don't hold up to these phony ideals, you're an awful human being. If your first kiss isn't fairytale perfect in every conceivable way ("had your eyes wide open, why were they open?"), the emotions are fake and you're just seeking to exploit the guy. If you wouldn't die a horrible, gruesome death for him, you're a treacherous harlot. That's the core of what's so disgusting and despicable about this song - it constructs a strawman and tells you to hate it for completely nonsensical reasons so that the artist will seem better, and everyone who listens to it comes out a little dumber. It pretends to be heartfelt and sorrowful, when in reality it's just dishonest and cynical. (Sidenote: the video had the potential to be awesome, but they fucked it up by cutting off just before he got hit by the train. And there was a lot of unnecessary stuff before that part.)

And that's a wrap. I could go on, but I plan to live past the age of 30 before my first cardiac arrest. Fuck the radio.

Domestic abuse is hilarious

When it comes to offensive humor, the debate seems to consist mostly of one side saying "that's not okay, it's racist/sexist/whatever", and the other saying "it's funny, get over it". The former side looks at a joke (or similarly a statement or an article) and thinks "can it be interpreted as sexist?" (for example), i.e. "is there any way I can attach the 'sexist' label to it?". If the answer is yes, the latter side might agree or remain neutral, but rarely protests just yet. The former side decides that it's the root of the world's problems and the true face of evil, and the one who made the joke should lose their livelihood and be shunned by society, no matter how much they beg and plead for forgiveness. Now the latter side does protest, but all it usually amounts to is "get a sense of humor".

But labels such as 'sexist' do in no way imply or justify any of that. In the case of a joke, it usually means that it involves a stereotype of the target demographic, or that a member of it finds themselves in an unfortunate situation (e.g. rape, domestic abuse). And to joke about such things is not okay because... you guessed it, it's sexist. And we come full circle. (Sidenote: when it comes to subjects such as rape and domestic abuse you should of course be cautious of who might hear, as it might be distressing for victims to be reminded of it. But I'll return to that shortly.)

The issue, then, is that the meaning of these labels don't reflect what you'd expect them to based on the definitions of the actual words. Let's take the definition of racism as an example: the belief in a racial hierarchy based on some inherent superiority of certain races to others, or the belief that it's ever appropriate to judge people or their actions based on their race, as well as actions motivated by said beliefs. Or something like that. With that in mind, I'd like you to take a look at the following jokes:
What's long and black?
The unemployment line.

What do black men do after sex?
15 years to life.

What do you call 100 niggers on the bottom of the sea?
A good start.
These would all probably be labeled as 'racist' by most people. The first one, however, merely jokes about the social situation of blacks, and if you're actually offended by it (unless presented in such a way that it signals contempt for blacks), you're probably an idiot. The second one is a joke about a very negative black stereotype: that they are more prone to rape than others, which I guess is statistically true to some extent because of social factors, but the joke obviously means to imply that their skin color is a factor. The third one jokes that blacks should be eradicated. Sounds pretty racist, huh? Well, imagine that some guy who we'll refer to as 蘋果醬 tells his friend 厄運鍋鏟 these jokes in private, and 厄運鍋鏟 finds them hilarious. They don't actually support black genocide or think that "black men are rapists", even though the jokes express those sentiments when taken at face value. 蘋果醬 tells them with the intention of making 厄運鍋鏟 laugh, and 厄運鍋鏟 laughs because he finds them funny (and "so wrong", which is of course part of what makes them funny). Has anyone committed a racist act? Did they do something that was motivated by their belief in one racial group's inferiority? No. Then the jokes were, in this context, not racist.

Of course, in the context that I found these jokes on a site displaying actual, honest racist beliefs, what they actually say is something like "niggers are lazy and incompetent, they rape our women, and we must wipe them off this planet to save the white race". They are racist. Their uploading was a racist action. Finding the site, reading the jokes, finding some of them mildly amusing and posting some of them on a blog would not be a racist action.

Let's talk about racial and sexual slurs, instead. Is the word 'nigger' racist? Yes, because it can't be separated from its historical context and it's been used as a pejorative in the past to suggest that the target is a lesser being and an uncivilized brute and blah blah blah. Bullshit. There's no historical context unless I say it in a historical context, whatever that means. It's presented in a neutral, analytical context in this article. I'm discussing the word. Not racist. Let's say a white person calls a black person a nigger. It's inappropriate, but what else is it? If it's said rebelliously, like "I can use any word I want and you're an idiot if you're offended", it's just kinda stupid and rude (even though there's some truth to that). If it's said by someone who doesn't know of its history and was just told "it's synonymous with 'black person'", it's not racist. If it's used by a racist to signal his contempt for blacks, it's racist.

With that in mind, I'd like to propose the following expressions: 'racial joke' (to replace 'racist joke') and 'gender joke' (to replace 'sexist joke'). Like 'gay joke', they tell you the subject matter of the joke without coming with an in-built accusation. Because when labels such as 'racist' and 'sexist' are used for something as trivial as jokes, it becomes so much easier to apply them to situations such as these:

  • An article called Sexual Economics: Sex as Female Resource for Social Exchange in Heterosexual Interactions, or at least that's the one I think it was. Then again, I remember reading it and I don't recall it being that goddamn long. In either case, it was an article analyzing heterosexual sex from an economic perspective, and some facebook friends of facebook friends of mine were calling it the most sexist thing ever, and both caused by and reinforcing sexual norms, misogyny, homophobia and all kinds of nasty stuff. It did no such things, of course. All it did was apply methods of one area of academic study to another, aspiring to analyze and explain social tendencies and phenomena. But that doesn't matter, because the article can be labeled as 'sexist', which means it's terrible.

  • This scrubs scene
    *JD and Turk hug*
    Ted: I need one of those.
    JD: A hug?
    Ted: No, a black friend. I think it would make me much cooler.
    Turk: I should be offended, but he's right.
    WHAT?! You should be offended? As a black male it is your duty to be offended because he had the audacity to suggest that black guys are cool? But... you're not offended. Because he's right. And that... should have been offensive. This is a crystal clear example of what I'm talking about: he says something completely inoffensive, but he's a white guy and the subject matter of what he says is black guys, which means you can apply the 'racist' label to it (the application of which is, in itself, actually racist), which makes it (or "should" make it) offensive.

  • This scrubs scene
    Turk: How long have you been awake?
    Patient: Long enough to know that [...] JD's imitation of a black guy is really racist.
    JD: He be trippin'.
    And here's the imitation in question. Turk's imitation of JD comes shortly after, but that's not racist because JD is white, and neither's imitation of Stacy is racist (though it may well be sexist because she's a woman). JD's imitation of Turk, however, is REALLY racist. No, wait, wasn't it his imitation of "a black guy"..? It seems like the fact that JD is just trying to imitate his friend, possibly by using mannerisms Turk himself used at the time, or possibly by trying to reconstruct what actually happened from memory, isn't important. What matters is that JD is white and Turk is black, and for the imitation he uses what could be considered black stereotypes. Bam, racist label. Never mind that everyone has stereotypes and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.

The basic formula goes like this: there's a joke or statement or whatever and you have some observations A about it, like "it's a statement made by a white-ass cracka honkey, and the subject matter is people of color". Then you have some conclusions B you would like to make about said statement, such as "it's offensive, evil, and reprehensible", but your observations A do not imply B. A and B are islands in an ocean, and you want to get from one to the other but you can't swim 'cause you're a dumbass. The solution? A label C, for example 'racist', that you can apply to the statement, acting as a bridge between A and B. A still does not imply B, but by using C you can make it seem like it does! The reason it works is because C means two things: C1, "the word C as a label can be applied to the situation because it has been rendered meaningless by popular use", and C2, "the situation can be described by C based on C's actual meaning". The common man's lack of critical thinking makes him think that C1 and C2 are equal, so while I look at the situation and think "A ⇒ C1, and C2 ⇒ B", Average Joe thinks "C1 = C2 = C, so A ⇒ C and C ⇒ B, so A ⇒ B".

This formula can be applied to situations that have nothing to do with race or gender issues. For example, if someone has a differing opinion in an internet argument, they're a troll, and thus they're intentionally trying to piss you off by taking a position they don't believe in, and thus their arguments can be disregarded. If someone makes an argument that you can put a fancy label on, such as 'straw man' or 'begging the question' or 'slippery slope', that's a proper counterargument and you don't need to address the specific points they made; rather, it's their job to further explain why their argument works or why the label couldn't be applied to it. Or in the reversed situation (A ⇒ C2 = C1 ⇒ B), if you can put a fancy label on a statement, literary work, art piece or person, such as 'nihilism', 'cubism', 'impressionism', or 'of the Nietzschean school of thought', it immediately becomes more sophisticated, artistic and thought-provoking. There are even words that essentially mean nothing but have several different meanings incorrectly attached to them by popular use and can be used as an "argument" on their own (A ⇒ C1 = C1' ⇒ B); "homosexuality is unnatural in the sense that it's not found in 'nature' which I guess means forests and shit because humans don't count, except it is found in nature, but heterosexuality is more prevalent and heterosexual mating leads to reproduction and I guess you have to reproduce in order to be natural unless you're asexual or sterile, and therefore it's unnatural in the sense that it's not how we're 'supposed' to be or it's immoral or something, and therefore it's bad (even though it doesn't make sense to conflate 'natural' with 'good' because even if we accept the bullshit premise of natural meaning non-human things found in Earth's ecosystems, we'd have to accept cancer and oppressive hierarchies and rape as natural)" (commonly shortened to "homosexuality is unnatural").

None of this really justifies the use of "offensive" humor, though, so let's talk about that. As I've said, subjects such as rape and domestic abuse should be approached with caution, but you're not gonna self-censor elevator jokes because someone's relative might have died in an elevator accident, are you? It's up to the individual to draw the line for when, where and how, as is it with other forms of off-color humor, because even if no-one is reminded of past horrors (in their own lives, that is), and even if no-one is offended (which is not necessarily something you're obligated to be concerned about because being offended is stupid), it might still be inappropriate and make people uncomfortable, and that's usually not the reaction you're going for when telling a joke. It's really no different from other social interaction: use your judgment.

Another issue, and perhaps the only really important one for people attempting to make a serious case against disparaging humor, is about whether or not it actually affects people's beliefs. I looked around the web, and all research I could find on the subject (relayed in this article, for instance) pointed toward the same conclusion: racial humor (for example) does not actually cause racism but does, if you already harbor racist beliefs, normalize them and release inhibitions against them. Esssentially you could say that for racists, race jokes place a temporary debuff on you that increases your racism for the duration. Long-term effects have not been confirmed by these studies, and while it seems likely that there might be to some degree, it may well be that they are too small to matter, or that the threshold of exposure to racial humor for these long-term effects to take root is rarely surpassed in everyday society (because it's not like this kind of humor is rampant). The actual damage of the short-term effects hasn't been documented either, but I think we can safely assume that people generally don't go directly from reading gay jokes to making budget cuts, like in the study in the article above.

In either case, we can conclude that disparaging humor does cause some increase of negative views against the subject group, and telling such jokes to people you don't know very well could, to some extent, be considered an "immoral act". But very few people actively strive to maximize the moral value of their actions in every area of their lives. For example, the meat industry apparently has a huge negative environmental impact, so the most ethical thing to do is be vegetarian, or at least minimize your meat consumption. It's more ethical to get a medical education and volunteer in some poor African country than to be an accountant or regional sales manager at Ikea. Do the people who complain about these jokes eat less meat than the people they complain about, or donate more money to charity? I'm guessing they don't tend to take the time to find out.

Again, it's up to the individual to draw the line, and just like when it comes to eating meat, it's up to society to make sure people know they're being annoying and preachy when they're condemning others for drawing their line differently. This is especially true when the real problem doesn't lie with you, but with people who hold discriminating beliefs to begin with.