Monthly Archives: February 2015

Personhood for the Planet

 

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When I learned that the micro-organisms that populate the human skin and gut outnumber human cells by about 10 to 1, something clicked. This microbiome is essential to maintain the health of the host organism. We need them and they need us.

If we don’t maintain the health of our gracious host we won’t have an environment that is capable of sustaining our lives. If humans perish from the earth, we would be only one of millions of species to have done so, but humans have produced enough nuclear weapons to turn this planet into a dead rock.

Without life, Earth would be a barren rock spinning uselessly through space. Even if you don’t buy the Gaia hypothesis that the planet has its own consciousness, if we can conceive of a corporation as a “person” we can surely comprehend that the planet, with all its complex networks of flora and fauna, is a living organism. Who has a stronger right to exist: you, or an e-coli bacterium in your colon?

If murder is considered a heinous crime, how much worse is ecocide? Why isn’t this forbidden by law yet, as a crime against humanity? Could it be that pernicious institutions like patriarchy and capitalism are getting in the way? We need a revolution in the way we think about this planet and the roles we are playing.

Once you wake up yourself, will you see how important it is to spread these ideas?

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Stop Watching Porn

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A top judge in the UK, who has been dealing with horrific crimes, blames the wide availability and ease of access to violent porn. This story in the Telegraph makes the link between two brutal murders and the perpetrators’ morbid fascination with violent pornography that they accessed online. The psychological mechanism through which this unfolds is called desensitization. When you watch someone do something, we now know that the same neural pathways fire in the brain of the viewer. This neural mirroring process facilitates human learning. This is why learning about sex by watching porn is a bad idea.

Over time, things that you used to find shocking on a TV show become ordinary, so producers create scenarios which are increasingly horrific, just to get your attention. The same escalation has been happening in pornography. We all have free will to choose our  behaviour, so what evidence is there that exposure to violent images is harmful?  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) testimony before Congress:

Since the 1950s more than 3500 research studies in the United States and around the world using many investigative methods have examined whether there is an association between exposure to media violence and subsequent violence behavior. All but 18 have shown a positive correlation between media exposure and violent behavior.

That’s 99.5 % of studies in support of the theory that what kids watch affects their behaviour. My own anecdotal evidence supports this hypothesis. My son is far more likely to act like a jerk after spending a few hours playing combat-based video games. How many parents haven’t seen their sweet boy turn into a little monster when they tell him to shut down the box?

It is incomprehensible to me how society can keep on pretending that violent images don’t cause harm. If showing people images didn’t have a significant impact on human behaviour, nobody would pay $4,000,000.00 for 30 seconds of airtime on Superbowl Sunday. Here’s a fact for the first amendment blowhards who say what they watch has no impact on what they do: A study out of Stanford University shows that Budweiser’s return on investment for a Superbowl ad is 172%.

It is highly unlikely that men will stop watching porn just because someone points out its harmful effects, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point out those harmful effects. People are smoking less these days, despite the efforts of Big Tobacco. A wise man once told me he doesn’t watch films with violent or degrading images because “I don’t want that in my brain.” This why I have no interest in the 50 Shades franchise. Everyone can choose what they put in their brains. You have the right to watch torture porn if you want to, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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50 Shades of NOPE

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The raging social media debate around 50 Shades of Grey stems from a fundamental misperception.  Protesters are picketing screenings, charging the filmmakers with glamorizing domestic violence and women who read and enjoyed the books are feeling insulted and defensive.  The two sides are butting heads because they are coming at this from two very different perspectives.

A woman reading about being tied up and whipped is in no danger of physical harm; on the contrary, she’s in complete control of the experience and of course Ana is a fictional character. Fans who feel judged by the critics are saying “no harm, no foul” but if the criticism stings, you might ask yourself why. Denunciations of the franchise are not aimed at women who have the freedom to read or watch what they want and enjoy their own fantasies. I think we all understand that you don’t read romance novels in order to enter into the feminist discourse. The personal experience needs to be separated from the social aspect of this phenomenon.

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The valid criticism of the 50 shades franchise comes from thinking critically about the negative impact this franchise will likely have on our society as a whole. The sheer magnitude of the controversy speaks to how many people are thinking about this and connecting it to other important conversations our culture is having about women, sexism, freedom and consent. The problem is that there are lots of people who are too young or inexperienced in relationships to comprehend the significance of this cultural context or protect themselves in a real relationship that crosses the line and becomes abusive. Worse, they may view abusive behaviour is ‘normal’ or acceptable because it is portrayed that way in the media.

Is this just a tempest in a teapot, or has yet another battle been joined in an increasingly loud culture war?  I think we’re at a tipping point in the understanding of, and respect for, women’s autonomy and agency.  There was a time when white people used the N-word with impunity. An uncomfortable struggle preceded our recognition that people of other races, religions and sexual orientations should not be treated disrespectfully.  The incredibly ignorant recent comments from the mouths of Republican lawmakers are a clear indicator that we haven’t yet turned the corner with respect to our cultural recognition of the equality and dignity of women. On the contrary, there is a tiny but loud “mens’ rights movement” hell-bent on resisting any progress towards actual social equality. Sometimes these guys cross the line and engage in threats and hate speech that should be prosecuted. The problem with 50 Shades isn’t that so many women enjoy it, it’s that some men*  will use it as a textbook.

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*yeah, we know, “not all men”

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ps; If you enjoyed this blog, you might like this facebook page:

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End the Culture Wars

How we Can and Why we Should

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The quick, easy way to end the culture wars is to stop fighting straw men and turn our attention to the real threat. While we’ve been busy watching sports, talent shows, sitcoms and drama on tv, democracy has been stolen right from under our noses. While we’ve been horrified by what we see on the news, we failed to notice how and why the consolidation of media outlets under the ownership of a few corporations shapes the messages that are presented to us or how those messages shape public opinion.

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While we’ve been busy arguing about whether the left or the right has the best plan, we’ve failed to appreciate how the corporate elite use money to control both sides, set the agenda and limit the debate. It is useful to keep in mind that a corporation is NOT a democratic organization.

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While we’ve been busy arguing about whether this cop or that cop should be jailed, and the extent to which racism continues to thrive, are we neglecting to hammer home the necessity of transparency, accountability and fundamental justice? We should absolutely march in the streets to demand justice for the families of the slain, but let’s make sure we also register and vote for the restoration of real democracy. If we can be governed without our consent, the abuses will only grow worse.

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While we’ve been busy arguing about whether women or men have legitimate grievances against feminism or the patriarchy, our treasured and hard-won civil rights have been quietly dismantled by an increasingly powerful state security apparatus. If we fail to bring democracy back under the control of the voters, the consolidation of power at the very top will continue to harm those at the bottom.

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I’m not suggesting that we ignore sexism, racism, colonialism, increasing income inequality, or the clear and present danger of climate change, but its high time to turn our attention to the root cause of ALL of these problems so that we can solve them all. Your gender, orientation, race, creed, skin colour, social class or income level do not determine whether you want to live in a democracy or not. If you believe that your vote should make a difference, apathy is not your friend, so shake yourself awake and look at what is really going on and what needs to be done.

If we don’t put an end to unfair elections, we are all responsible for the inevitable, horrific results.

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Pay attention to the man behind the curtain. Connect all the dots. Restore democracy. Solve all the problems. It really is that simple.