Archives for posts with tag: choice

I find quite often people referring to seemingly justice-oriented events as karmic in origin. Bad things happening to bad people; good things happening to good people; mediocre things happening to the rest of us.That’s karma. If the alleged consequence is after only a brief amount of time, the karma becomes instant; like cosmic pudding, available in minutes.

Except… that’s not karma. Karma is a universal justice, spanning eternity. The tribulations or treats one endures in this lifetime are the result of the countless lifetimes one has existed in prior to their current incarnation. If you punched a granny and then slipped as you strutted away proudly, that retribution was thousands of years in the making. The consequences of our current deeds will be felt in our lifetimes to come, not immediately after the fact. THAT is karma.

This position is not unique to the western bastardization of Indian religions. Even within Christianity we lament that God works in mysterious ways when terrible things inexplicably happen to us, and we question how God could allow this injustice to occur. However, I’m pretty sure the Bible is clear about its distribution of justice: heaven for good folks and hell for the bad ones. That is not mysterious. That is the opposite of a mystery. Granted you could counter with the Providence doctrine where God has actually laid out a predetermined plan for us all, but then your acceptance into heaven and hell has already been preordained, and if that’s the case, who gives a fuck? You either got the Grace or you don’t, and worrying about it isn’t going to change anything. If you’ve got free will, then Providence is less relevant, and you’re stuck with the traditional cosmic justice of working for your golden ticket.

Why do people reject these firmly established religious tenets in favour of their own made up doctrine? Why do we purposefully misinterpret cosmic justice for the more immediate and personal substitute? I suppose it could be we’re just a lot less patient than we used to be, and waiting til we’re dead before we experience justice does seem a little bleak. However, I think the reason is that immediate justice is much more palatable to human beings, and being able to experience justice delivers a much more significant weight to it.

The thing is, the world is the human realm. Cosmic justice is important to the nature of reality, but existence itself is outside of our jurisdiction. Our justice is our justice. When we see bad things happening to good people, it is up to us to provide redress for that imbalance. Externalizing that justice only seeks to pass on the responsibility that we otherwise would need to sustain.

If you want to include karma in your spiritual choices, that’s fine, but building better lifetimes means building a better world, and a better world is the result of human effort and human diligence, not any interference from divine forces.

One of the common philosophical tropes is asking what makes us who we are. We all have a sense of Self; we all have a sense of Others, but what actually makes up that essence of Self? There are usually two answers that are given: either the body or the mind.

Let’s start by looking at the body because a lot of people who are trying really hard not to be superficial want to say the mind. The body actually has a great importance when it comes to identity. It’s how we recognize people. I look at you, and I see the way your eyes crinkle when you smile your crooked smile, I hear the sound of your voice, etc. If I see you walking down the street, it is because of the physical make-up of your body that I am able to say, “That is you.” The Christian tradition says that when we are resurrected after God finally gets bored letting us play around, it is our physical body that we inhabit within the heavenly realm. 2000 years of tradition is not easy to dismiss. Lastly, the absolute worst “Would you rather?” question makes us really ponder the essence of a person, be it body or mind, by asking us, “Would you rather have sex with your girlfriend’s body inhabited by the consciousness of your mother, or your mother’s body inhabited by the consciousness of your girlfriend?” If you prefer boyfriends or others, make whatever substitutions you need to until you realize that it’s gross either way. If body was unimportant towards identity, this question would be significantly easier to answer.

So, if body is important to identity, what happens if someone loses a leg and requires a prosthetic? And then an eye and needs a glass one? And then an arm and gets a chainsaw, Evil Dead-style? If the body represents identity, and the body is replaced, (keep in mind that the body has completely new cells every seven years), how can we say that it is still the same person? If I am A, and then later I am B, how is that consistent since A ≠ B? It doesn’t seem logically sound. When we see two clones fighting to the death in a movie, one is typically the normal version, and the other is usually evil. We accept them to be different despite their identical bodies, and it is their minds that separate them.

To those reading this, you know my identity through my mind. My body does not register for this one-sided conversation. If my body was destroyed through a lab experiment gone wrong, and my mind was transferred into a machine that could transmit my thoughts into text, those who know me best would likely be able to ascertain that it is in fact my mind within that machine. They would get my jokes, recognize my allegories, and know enough about my patterns of speech that they might eventually accept that this machine was now me. And of course everyone knows that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside!

But what about someone who suffers brain trauma and whose whole personality changes? Or someone suffering from PTSD and whose mind has been altered because of it? Are we a totally different person when under the influence of narcotics? Or when suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia? We might think, “oh, the real them is in there somewhere!” We reject that this new mind cannot be the real them, but we maintain their identity because we accept that the body gives a person the consistency of identity even when we have no other evidence outside the body to suggest this. For example, we continue to love our elderly with Alzheimer’s because we recognize a sense of identity beyond the mind.

So is identity some combination of the two? An amalgamation of body and mind? The astute observer might notice that these problems of identity that I have been going over all take place from the perspective of an observer, not the person themselves. It is the understanding of the identity of the Other that has so many flaws in it, and here is why.

The identity of the Other is not any sort of combination of body and mind, it is based on memory. We remember what someone looks like, sounds like, smells and maybe even tastes like, and that is how we define their body. We also remember how they behave, and how they interact with us, and that is how we define their mind. The only dilemma in identity becomes apparent when the memory of a person does not coincide with how we presently perceive them.

If the identity of the Other transcended memory, everyone would know that Batman is Bruce Wayne. No matter how much he hid his body through costumes, or his mind through his billionaire playboy persona, his identity would transcend these memories people had of Bruce Wayne, and Batman would instantly become recognizable due to the connection of identity that he would necessarily possess with others.

If identity is memory, what does this mean? The most glaring consequence of this revelation is that one can only love the memory of a person, as that is the only way we can ever know them. Before you dismiss this, keep in mind that those who are adopted young enough, who form childhood memories with their adopted siblings, will never love them “in that way” based on those early, developmental memories. In contrast, genetically related siblings, meeting for the first time as adults, frequently have sexual attraction towards one another, as the memories required to counteract this superemely gross encounter are nonexistent. Those with Alzheimer’s are notorious for not recognizing their loved ones in the present, but will recall them fondly within their memories of the past.

Is the love of an abstract idea created from memory as powerful as the traditional sense of love that romantics poetically describe to us? I would argue that it is. Created values will always have the strength that we assign to them.

This does also mean that if you lose a loved one, literally everything that you love about them is still with you, so long as you remember them. I can’t tell if this is consoling or not, but… maybe?

Anyway, I feel that I should probably outline the identity of the Self as viewed by the Self. The identity of the Self should presumably go beyond simple memory. Descartes’s cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) concludes that there must at least be a receptacle for thinking, or a receptacle for memory, in order for a being to exist. If memories are lost, the identity of the Self is not lost, as the receptacle has just been emptied, it has not disappeared.

Are we just unique cogitos running around? A thinking beacon? We are not necessarily our consciousness, as the being of consciousness is the consciousness of being (which means that we can only be conscious of something. If we self-reflect, we are conscious of our self; if we reflect on anything else, we are conscious of that thing). However, there must be something projecting that consciousness. There is also a neuroscientist named Raymond Tallis who points out that we know all about the input of sight: light enters into our eyeballs, hits a bunch of eyeball parts, and this information is transferred into our brain, but that doesn’t explain the output: what is looking out. The thing that projects sight in theory would be the same thing that projects consciousness.

Whatever it is projecting these aspects of Self, if you were to ask me, is our identity. I don’t want to use the term Soul because that implies a holiness and an eternal nature which I don’t believe necessarily follows from this theory. I like the term cogito though just because it sounds fancy, or the Subject is another way you could put it. Is it a dualistic ghost in the machine, or a creation of the physical brain? It’s hard to say. The nature of consciousness is another blog for another day.

Finally, for those that think that we are our DNA mixed with cultural and environmental factors, then we would have no identity at all. That would be materialistic determinism, and we would only be cogs, no different from all the other cogs mindlessly plugging through our predetermined roles. You’ve obliterated all meaning, freedom, identity, and value from the world. I hope you’re happy with yourselves. Also, quantum probability and the observer paradox have thrown a few wrenches into those deterministic gears, so you’re probably also wrong, but this blog is already long enough.

Post-Script: we can never access the Other’s Subject/cogito, that is why the connection between beings is based on memory.

People frequently puzzle over the age-old question about whether or not all men are secretly rapists. Scientists have done multiple studies, and the results have always come back inconclusive. Men can almost always be caught staring at a woman’s chest, catcalling her or telling her her scale out of 10, or even the mildest form of rape: telling her to smile.

Of course, not everybody considers these social interactions as offensive as others might, and people routinely defend them as harmless, or even complimentary. These people are men, and since we basically make the rules, the qualifications for what constitutes sexual harassment gets to be really, really fluid. If the intention isn’t to beat the shit out of her with your penis, then it’s probably okay, right?

So why are women being raped by pretty much everything that men do, and why are men being entirely oblivious to it?

Allow me, a straight, white male, to give you the answer.

The social conditioning that boys and girls go through are entirely different. I’m pretty sure most people know this. Typically, boys are conditioned to be tools (a tool as in a hammer or a screwdriver, not a tool as in a douchebag). We’re trained to go out and do shit; fight crime, solve mysteries, be astronauts, whatever. Women, on the other hand, are conditioned to be temples. They get to stand around and look pretty while men are out fighting crime and solving mysteries. I’m pretty sure most people refer to this as men being the actor and women being the acted-upon, but I’m using the tool/temple analogy because it makes more sense when I eventually get around to linking this to sex.

Society has gotten a smidgen better with its portrayal of women. Women are beginning to solve their own share of mysteries, and little girls are starting to get role models that are more than just incompetent princesses waiting around for some dude with a sword to fix all their problems with marriage. However, since most movies still fail the Bechdel test, we clearly have a long way to go.

Despite all the progress women have made in becoming tools in regards to their careers and livelihood, when it comes to sex, there is nothing. Nobody talks about it, or if they do, there is zero consensus about how women should be having it. Some think that women should be freely sexual beings, others think that sex implies patriarchal ownership, that it is degrading to women. There is a bit of a divide.

Men, we know how to have sex. We’re tools. We go out, we buy a girl a drink, and then she becomes obligated to have sex with us now that we’ve spent all of five dollars on her. Our sexual autonomy is that we go out and we do. Simple.

The temples, on the other hand, are still being acted upon. The sexual autonomy of a women is her ability to give out consent. Consent is basically a one-way street. When consent is discussed, it is almost always in the context of the female. She gets to decide whom she allows into her temple. She’s not going out to get laid, she’s going out to decide who she lets have sex with her. Her autonomy embodies the passive role, rather than the active.

I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Some people think that the body should be sacred, and sex should follow that logic, and that’s why I choose the temple metaphor. There could be an argument made that men should view their own sexuality in a more revered fashion, rather than just as slavering dogs.

Good or bad, this is the way it is. And so when assholes on the street catcall a girl, they are chipping away at her only form of sexual autonomy: her consent. If the only autonomy a girl has with regards to her sexuality is her ability to either allow or disallow sexual advances, and those advances are being thrust upon her, unasked, as she goes about her daily life, then it is understandable why “complimenting” a girl on her ass might piss her off. It’s basically verbally raping her, and she has no choice but to endure it because you can’t say “no” to a passing comment.

So why are men oblivious? Because we grew up as tools. Since we all know that empathy isn’t real, (or we should) then we know that men will naturally assume that women have the same outlook on sex as they do. I honestly can’t count the times I’ve been told, “well, just imagine a girl coming up to you and saying that” like it’s the same thing. It’s not, because men and women have different sexual autonomies based on our respective conditioning. But most guys don’t understand that, so they remain ignorant to the harm they are causing by something they might view as complimentary, because they imagine the reverse happening to them, without taking into consideration the conditioning towards sexuality that women go through in our society.

As easy as you might think it is to blame individual men for telling random women they’re hot, you have to remember that men aren’t being educated about the sexuality of women, either as temples or as tools, as men are exposed to even fewer female role models than women. And you can’t say, “teach men not to sexually harass women” because most men won’t understand what constitutes actual harassment based off of our own gendered biases.

So are all men rapists? Probably, but at least it’s not on purpose.

Post-script: There are a lot of generalities in here. Forgive me.