I am a great person

I haven’t been to many concerts, but Throwcase’s delightful and measured reflection on the complex sub-text of audience distractions rekindled for a moment the suppressed rage of sitting in a cinema surrounded by people who do indeed seem to think that a distraction is only a distraction if someone other than they are causing it:

Schnuppleberry says she has perfected a way to free the cough drop from it’s crinkly plastic wrapping in the slowest way possible. “At first I did it extremely quickly, but then I realised nobody could tell how unobtrusive I was being. Now I take about five minutes to open each one so that if anyone hears me they know I am taking great care not to make any unnecessary noise. I am a great person.”

http://throwcase.com/2015/02/16/audience-makes-irritating-noises-carefully/

Still, I have determined that some people are simply more tuned-in to aural distractions than most.  I’ve discovered on numerous occasions that intense irritants such as a buzzing fluorescent light, a distant lawnmower, a ringing phone, or even less obtrusive sounds like a distant train or passing traffic seem to demand an equal share on my attention as the blissfully oblivious individual with whom I might happen to be conversing.  “Sorry, could you repeat that last point: a man in a car on the road outside your house just swore at someone, and they’re having an argument now.”

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Provocation is no defence for the Jihadi murderers

My latest article on MercatorNet looks at the issue of provocation and appeasement in relation to the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Inspired by Throwcase’s post:

Common sense, like bush-fire preparedness or avoiding dangerous wild animals, implies a kind of natural law or cause-and-effect sequence over which we are the master. To put Jihadists in the same category as dangerous animals and natural disasters is understandable, yet hardly an inspiring or reassuring response to such violence. These commentators are not quite saying, “Don’t like being murdered for insulting Mohammed? Don’t insult Mohammed!” but the logic plays dangerously close to such a conclusion; a conclusion for which the murderers themselves are striving.

http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/provocation_is_no_defence_for_the_jihadi_murderers

Blame and provocation

Throwcase in fully-serious mode has published a thoughtful and important reflection on the Charlie Hebdo massacre:

http://throwcase.com/2015/01/08/the-extremist-tail-wagging-the-whole-pig/

In some sense it is thoughtful where it shouldn’t have to be; ideally we wouldn’t have to think through exactly what is wrong with a situation where people are being murdered for drawing offensive cartoons – or more to the point, where murdered cartoonists are being blamed for bringing it on themselves.

The ‘blame the victim’ attitudes are indeed shameful. At the same time I can’t help but feel we’re missing the greater significance of this event. Or maybe I’m the only one who’s missing it?

From what I’ve seen of Charlie Hebdo satire, it was pretty crude and intentionally provocative. Islam aside, I think many Catholics would find the cartoon of Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom and uttering the words of consecration deeply offensive or simply puerile and contemptible.

Whether the publishers were trying to make a greater point about Islam through their satire, or simply carving out a niche and hoping to sell more issues (though this may be unlikely given the nature of the threat), the greater point is significant: when there exists a subset of Muslims who will respond to crude satire with murder, it is not enough to say “don’t provoke them”.

‘Provoke’ comes from the Latin provocare meaning ‘to challenge, to call forth’. In that sense it is true, their satire did call forth the violence; but more importantly I think their work was a challenge to the state and their compatriots to recognise that the existence of such a murderous ideology in the heart of a liberal nation is ultimately untenable.

In that sense “don’t provoke them” is a response that shamefully sees some measure of justice or natural law in these attacks, as though violent Islamic sects are just a part of life, like wild animals or bushfires.

Our focus should not be on the actions of the victims, but on the disturbing fact that the members of certain Islamic sects are willing to kill (and often to be killed) for the sake of offences that the vast majority of people would deem at most upsetting, and at least completely trivial.

Man Ready To Hate Pope Again This Christmas

A delightful early Christmas present from Throwcase:

Man was delighted last year when thousands of news sources earnestly reprinted some story about the Pope that sounded pretty true because it criticised him. “We need more criticism of our enemies,” he said. “At this stage, intellectual rigour will only distract from our cause. Down with mindless belief!” Meanwhile, Guy was quite pleased this year when a Twitter hashtag made it seem as if the Pope was happy to embrace people of any colour or creed, except for the dogmatic Catholics he obviously needs to repudiate. “When he goes all secular relativist I go all fuzzy inside,” said Guy, smiling.

http://throwcase.com/2014/12/22/man-ready-to-hate-pope-again-this-christmas/

The gift of satire

Sometimes it seems as though satire is the only reasonable response to frustrating levels of idiocy that are otherwise impervious to exposition. “Let me explain to you why you’re wrong” is unlikely to succeed when dealing with people whose degree of wrongness requires dramatic, interventive exposition in the first place.

Of course, satire is only funny when you agree with the perspective that informs it. I’ve never read satire I didn’t agree with…or maybe I did and didn’t realise it was satire? We’re all someone’s idiot after all.

Throwcase has put up another nice piece of satire, which is probably a little more poignant than usual because I think I might be a good teacher. I’ve been told by everyone who’s ever taught that I would slowly collapse in upon myself, crushed by the triple-burdens of pointless administrative tasks, corrosive children, and bellicose, bigoted parents. I hated school as a child – loathed it to the very depths of my being. That’s probably not a good sign.

There were one or two stand-out teachers, but looking back I suspect their good qualities were more a symptom of their own maladaptive tendencies than a sign of the school system at its best.

“I can’t wait to start my new class, which I call The History of the Individual,” he said. “It’s a 20-week course covering many iconoclastic figures of history who railed against the prevailing group-think of their time. My students will hopefully be inspired by the ones we all agree with now.”

http://throwcase.com/2014/12/15/man-thinks-he-wants-to-believe-in-independent-thinking/

“I’m confused. Does he have three houses or one?”

At risk of explaining satire, the following is the ‘Early Retirement Extreme‘ parallel universe take on how internet commenters might respond to a depiction of a typical working life. My personal favourite: “Well, the main problem I think is that he does not have any kind of shop at home, so he has to go to that office to be able to feed himself.”

Forum post: “I just read an article about a guy that has 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms in his house. Apparently he makes $40,000 a year, but then he has to go to a big office and spend 8 or 9 hours a day filling out forms and going to meetings all week long. He does that all year around. Apparently, he’s been doing it for 20 years or so. I admit it sounds a bit crazy, but it also seems intriguing.”

I’m not sure I could do it. It’s like .. I mean, it’s 8 hours a day! How long do you have to do this for?

I think he said twenty years. So when he’s done can he go back to his family?

By Jove, that’s like a prison sentence.

I don’t see how it is possible to do that and work in his own shop as well. How does he have time to take care of his home. What about friends?

There’s more: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/how-blog-comments-look-in-a-parallel-universe.html

 

Is it really satire though?

My wife-who-is-a-teacher laughed. That’s usually a good sign!

What we need is student-centred teacher-chauffeured information-friendly helpy happy time. In our model, no student will ever be presented with a fact they do not know, because studies have been done to suggest that a system without facts has some type of observable merit. We aim for creativity-focused classroom-independent sessions of mistake-based discoveries and Ipad-compatible group-insights, leading to objective-dependent funding-based eye-visible change.

http://throwcase.com/2014/11/10/man-in-charge-of-curriculum-says-some-stuff/

This lovely bit of satire from Throwcase reminded me of an earlier article by a local Professor of Philosophy, as he compared modern university teaching methods to ‘Sexpo’:

There is a time for private, even introspective, activity in education. That is when people, who initially have been instructed by an expert, practice or rehearse on their own, trying to apply and improve what they have learned. This requires a capacity for solitude and sustained attention, another casualty of the online environment. Instead, students are offered group work and discovery-based learning (sometimes both at once! OMG! WTF!) to ensure that not even a minimal level of basic understanding is ever entirely their own.

I posted workable links back in September:

https://zacalstin.com/2014/09/05/sexpo-and-university-open-days/

 

Not inspiring enough

While we’re on the topic of spinning one’s life story into an inspiring and significant journey worthy of book sales and talk-show appearances, this apposite piece by Throwcase hits the spot:

Though Man insisted he was just like any regular person, he was not deemed unique enough for this claim to sound self-effacing, humble, and inspirational. Instead, it came across as accurate, leaving reporters unable to spin his story into a short and emotionally wrenching video for lazy able-bodied slops to feel inspired and quote at parties as if they personally knew him.

http://throwcase.com/2014/09/08/disabled-kid-not-an-inspiration/

The Pope on evolution

Others before me have said: “when the media reports on the Catholic Church, deduct 50 IQ points.”

Unfortunately it’s a lot easier to interpret reality through the prism of hearsay and poorly bounded cliches than to go to the effort of finding evidence and applying reason. So when the media starts reporting that the Pope has finally embraced modern science and evolution, those of us with enough intellectual integrity to know that this is a non-story can only take refuge in hilarious, wonderful satire such as the following:

VATICAN––In a stunning break with centuries of Catholic teaching, Pope Francis announced today that the forces of Gravity and Electromagnetism are real, adding that “God is not a magician with a magic wand.” This is in stark contrast with the teaching of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, whose third Encyclical is entitled “God the Magician: Why Gravity Doesn’t Exist.”

http://www.eyeofthetiber.com/2014/10/28/pope-francis-says-forces-of-gravity-and-electromagnetism-are-real/