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Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005, 09:48 am
Chicken or the egg (or "Mr Wombat takes a temporary swing to the right")

After my daily power struggle with the old witch who keeps trying to shove in front of me when getting on the number ten this morning my mind somehow wondered onto the moral decline of western civilisation. Actually, first it occured to me that I might be shockingly racist since I had such an adverse mental reaction to the lady who hopped on a stop or so later - very much your typical "skanger" woman. It got me to thinking about how in a great many ways, Dublin's inner city population are like another race to me - they differ from me in the same way as most immigrants would in that they have very different clothing styles, accents or dialects of english, dietary habbits, musical tastes and so on and while I'm not inclined to make judgements on immigrants, I immediately assume that a good portion of our own population are little more than useless wastes of skin, and this is with a good many pieces of evidence to the contrary, I've seen compassion and charity from "scumbags" that I wouldn't be capable of while many of Dublin's finest turn a blind eye and walk on past. Your classic "good samaritan" scenario really [1]. So, if I'm going to have a go at folks for thinking they're better than someone else purely on the basis of the country of their birth I should probably get the splinter the hell out of my own eye first [2].

We seem to have entered an age of reason without restraint. In the past we always had Religon as a series of checks and balances for our behaviour but as is typical of humans when faced with decades, if not centuries of moral opression we've rebelled and struck out at all the values of christianity regardless of whether the values in question were for good or ill.
In a lot of ways, the church had the right ideas - no sex before marriage worked as a concept because frankly, far too many people couldn't be trusted to have the common sense to avoid pregnancy or the decency to do the right thing when it happened [3]. Masses and masses of guilt was all that kept us behaving ourselves, like a carpet bombing of morality - sure, you might end up guilt tripping a few sensible people who don't need to be preached at but the main thing is you get the ones who lack the moral fibre to be perfect. Of course, this raises the question as to whether or not society could have evolved into something better without this interference. But as is typical with humanity, someone had to go and abuse [4] the power and now all the "good" ideas are lumped in with the bad. In our haste to rebel against the church we've not stopped to pick out the ideas that were worthwhile on their own merit.

So now we have a society that doesn't feel the need to answer to a higher moral authority, and governments who are following suit. We're so obsessed with our own rights that we don't stop to think that we might not be ready for them ourselves - I'm pretty sure that when freedom of speech was developed as a concept they didn't imagine a day when it would involve pictures of simulated rape being made available on the internet to anyone who wanted to see them regardless of age. I'm not saying Freedom of Speech isn't a grand and noble thing, but I think we've demonstrated that we're just not ready to use it responsibility - I think thats the problem in general, we've shed the bindings of the church and granted ourselves all these freedoms we're just not able to handle.

The other thing that occured to me this morning is that I wish folks would stop trying to argue "Intelligent design" vs Evolution - a matter of *faith* [6] cannot be argued rationally people, faith isn't rational, stop having the goddamned debates, the religous right have deliberately made it an unwinnable point of faith and supporters of Evolution are being caught discussing it at that level instead of at the root, separation of church and state.

Oh, that and "America - God's chosen country". Folks, theres nowhere in the bible says a country that wasn't discovered at the time was going to be God's chosen country. So either you're just making it up or you're putting words in God's mouth and that seems more than a little presumptive to me. Besides, you guys are regularly stricken by earthquakes, tornados, floods, droughts and quite possibly locusts and rivers of blood. That says "God's chosen country" to me alright, though I think he chose it to kick the bejeezus out of it. Hell, Ireland never gets that crap, maybe we're chosen too?

[1] For those of you not up on your parables, the samaritans were disliked by the Jews at the time, which made it all the more remarkable that the Samaritan of the story stopped to help. [5]
[2] Of course, I often think I'm better than pretty much everyone, so this is less of a problem than it might seem in terms of scale.
[3] Not that I'm suggesting we all have to get married, I always figured it should read as "No sex before you're *older*"
[4] By "abuse" I mean "open the magdalene laundries, abuse children, embezel church funds, act like complete and total hypocrites and use their position of moral authority to get away with immoral acts"
[5] I'm not saying I buy into all this God and Jesus stuff, but as a set of checks and balances for the human psyche they weren't the worst ever.
[6] Faith in some passages in the Bible, not just plain old "I made this up and I believe it" faith. You gotta bear in mind that its in the bible.
(Deleted comment)

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 10:58 am (UTC)
mr_wombat

Its been an unusually introspective morning. It just occured to me that I have the preconception that I don't take things for granted, that I'm fairly open minded but there I was feeling hostile towards someone I'd never met and making assumptions based on her vacant expression and staring glassy eyes when I sat near the back of the bus with a vacant expression and staring glassy eyes. She seemed quite young and was taking a kid to school (hers I guess) while most of Dublin's 'finest' let theirs head in on the bus or drove them 100 yards down the road in their massive SUV.
Even in saying that I'm making a series of assumptions about whether or not the drivers of those cars chose them knowing how bad they were, or whether the drivers were physically capable of walking the kids to school, or whether the drivers were going to carpool further down the road.

It just seems to me that assuming a certain group of people are jackasses (of any stripe) based on my preconceptions about them, without getting to know them is tantamount to racism - just that it doesn't count as "racism" when they're socially or nationally close to you. That we're less tolerant to those that are different within our own race than we are of immigrants (though I phrase that carefully, I don't think we're *more* tolerant of immigrants, nor should we be, but just *less* tolerant of our own).

The same goes for religons, we'll happily watch christianity in general, and catholocism in particular be torn to shreds and held up for mockery because of the actions of a very few bad people even though the core ideas are solid and have helped a lot more people than have been hurt [1]. On the other hand we'll be "respectful" of islam or the like (again, not *more* respectful to Islam, just less respectful of christianity). Its for this reason I don't like that Paddy Power "last supper" advert. They wouldn't have the nerve to mock another religon in the same way but christianity is fair game to be hurtful and insulting towards.

Normal geekery has been resumed thankfully.

[1] I speak of christianity in general there rather than catholocism because that statement becomes difficult to gauge when you contrast the aid work the church does with the harm it causes by fighting the introduction of condoms to africa to combat the spread of HIV.

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 02:35 pm (UTC)
hkim

An exception: bike thieves. Bike theives are scum. I don't care if you're hungry and need to feed your children or you're a drug addict driven so by having been abused as a child. Go steal someones widescreen TV or their GHD or their car radio or something. Not their fucking bike, for fucks sake.

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 03:06 pm (UTC)
mr_wombat

A thief is a thief is a thief regardless of race, background or culture. I've not heard of a society yet that excuses that kind of theft (obviously there are significant debates about information wanting to be free, copyright theft [1], parody, inspiration and piracy of the complete CRAP hollywood pours forth). This does link back to my original point though, there isn't enough moral reinforcement to the idea that crime is bad (mmkay?). Without religon and the afterlife, the only reason not to commit a crime is fear of punishment in this plane of existence [2] and that is becoming more and more unlikely to manifest.

I could go out on friday night, beat the teeth out of someone and steal his money and if caught (unlikely) could reasonably expect to get away with it regardless. Or at worst have some kind of slap on the wrist to worry about. What actual incentive do I have not to do it? If I was in mortal fear of burning in hell for eternity then maybe I'd think twice.

I think what my point boils down to is that as a culture (if not a species), western civilisation is like a surly teenager who insists they can live their own lives and they know everything they need to know about life. We're not mature enough to do without a guiding hand, if not a firm moral authority [3].

[1] An ethical dilemma I've been struggling with for a while is my downloading and use of copyrighted 3D models. I'm not using them for profit, and will probably be using them for charity if I ever finish this project and don't end up buying them regardless. Furthermore, most of them are crap and I only use small parts of them for this charitable project.

[2] Granted, there are personal and ethical issues not to commit a crime but they amount to personal decisions, not reasons not to.

[3] Though I'd still go with a reasonably liberal firm moral authority. Something along the lines of "Do unto others" or "Do what you will so long as it harms no one". Obviously, since this is me saying it, I'm also not talking about church morality, so sexuality or what folks get up to in their own bedrooms wouldn't come into it.

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 12:43 pm (UTC)
wyvernfriend

Here here!

Out of my head now.

Been trying to figure a way of saying this recently without getting all ranty and such, but you've put it better than I ever could.

Christianity as a core concept is cool (a not-for-me coolness tho, my head isn't wired right for it) and I think throwing the baby and bathwater and bath out isn't the greatest of plans. 2000 odd years of survival have to indicate a certain degree of harmony with several people's psyches.

And yeah, rejecting christianity and all it's works and ignoring the fact that there are a lot of people who want some sort of checks and balances to guide them is a bit shortsighted. We don't even have good leaders or a police force that seems to care to help those who want to do good succeed. All we seem to have is a system that awards the rich, powerful skullduggers and tramples on those who care.

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 03:10 pm (UTC)
mr_wombat

To me, the folks that resist moral authority (christian or other) are the ones being most selfish, the ones who want to be able to act without restraint and often at the cost of others in search of their own gratification. Folks seem to forget (and this refers back to that Paddy Power ad for example) the saying "My right to swing my fist ends at the other guy's nose". Even Crowley had a nearly inviolable morality as his core tenet and he was considered a hedonist and a beast.

Mon, Oct. 17th, 2005 08:10 pm (UTC)
wyvernfriend

watching news and I have to ask if part of the problem isn't that the powers that be regard people as numbers and not individuals.

Killing that old man by bureocracy is just wrong.

Tue, Oct. 18th, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)
mr_wombat

Oh, I'll be getting to that one in my next deep and meaningful. I seem to need to do these every so often so I can go back to being glib and casually insulting the rest of the time.

Tue, Oct. 18th, 2005 12:17 am (UTC)
brucius

The way I see the church/state thing, is that the church is not keeping time with western cultural freedoms.

So, due to cultural freedoms it is kinda trendy to go against the majority of rules that are laid down.

Most churches teach a basic set of values, which conincidently happen to be the core values on which western culture exists, so no one really has a problem with the basic rules, I have a problem with the attitudes a person can take based on belief without questions.

So as far as I'm concerned it's ok to talk and argue about anything, the point isn't always to change the other persons mind, it is to see what the other person sees and if you can or cannot agree with it.

--

As for scumbags, it's the tracksuits and peaked caps that make me suspicious [leopards and spots, wasps and stripes kinda thing], it's the illbehavior and terrible social ettiquette that makes me want to be nowhere near them. That said, I know many fine people who like tracksuits and baseball caps, because they are designed to be rather comfortable. It does seem to be a little bit of a cultural law that if you don't own a track suit and you see someone that is wearing one, it's ok to think they are probably going to stab you as soon as look at you.