Monday, 2 September 2019

The Underlying Cause

There has been yet another shooting in the United States that has left several people dead. Once again everyone is debating on how to deal with the aftermath and what to do in order to prevent a recurrence.  More than likely, nothing will change.

I've been asking myself the question: what is the real cause of these events? Most believe that it's a combination of several things.  The high availability of guns, lax regulations for possessing guns, not enough checks and balances that would prevent unsuitable people from owning them.

What if the reason goes deeper than that?  Some people have placed the blame on mental illness.  While it's true that a number of those who perpetrated mass shootings were mentally ill, not all were.  Violence in media and video games has been blamed as well.  While the media can negatively influence those who have some form of mental condition, it's not the sole factor.

One mass shooter posted on social media that he felt left out because he couldn't get a girlfriend.  Another wrote that he believed that white people were being destroyed by the influx of non-white immigrants.  The suspect in the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting had financial difficulties.  The most recent perpetrator had been fired from his job only hours before his rampage.

The common denominator here seems to be anger and hatred.  Anger toward a world that doesn't fulfill their needs or conform to their perceptions of what it should be.  Hatred toward certain people in the world and casting blame for their own failures upon them.  Not to mention the inability or unwillingness to adjust themselves to a world that is constantly changing.

Sadly, the only way they could deal with their emotions was to kill.

The anger is growing.  From political leaders who rile up their supporters with Mark Antony style rhetoric, to common people who believe that their ideals are being threatened by change.  If not dealt with soon, there will be an inevitable explosion that will threaten to tear us all apart.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Limitations to Acting Out

Many of us remember what's it's like to be a kid having "acting out" games, whether it was playing house or cops-and-robbers.  That play acting has translated into many types of games, from Dungeons and Dragons to The Sims. There's one subject however that is unacceptable in any game.

One of the Dungeons and Dragons forums of which I am a member recently contained a (now-deleted) thread about how many game masters should immediately ban any players who sought to act out sexual assault.  By convention, consensual scenes are usually done in the "fade to black" scenario; anything other than that has no place at a game table.

For the most part the comments were supportive but of course there were a few dissenters, predictably male players.

"All right, so if I'm ever stuck in one of your boring games, I know how to get out of it."

"Fifty percent of the players I know, including myself, have or are raping in Dungeons and Dragons.  It's cool and it's fun, okay, but the really funny part when we usually cry from laughing is when we torture with raw supreme fantasy.  Those are some of my best moments, when everyone finds out a new kind of sick torture."

"It's a fantasy role playing game. Why is killing okay but raping isn't?"

Most role-playing games are built on the trope of Good Versus Evil.  If the character you play is a good person, it's expected that you perform good acts.  Wipe out the squad of goblins that's terrorizing a village.  Hunt down the Black Knight who is trying to take over the kingdom.  That sort of thing.  In rare games where the players and the Game Master have agreed that their characters will be evil, the tone will change accordingly, but there are still rules that should be followed.

One person was quick to point out that people who fantasize about such things often end up doing so in reality. "One guy I knew was known for playing characters who would go out of their way to assault NPCs.  Five years later he was picked up by the police for, guess what."

I've heard the excuse many times about how men who role-play sexual assault in games are merely channeling their fantasies in a productive manner.  Wrong.  Like real-life bedroom role-play, such a thing requires the consent of all involved, from the Game Master on down.  Otherwise it makes players uncomfortable and might even dissuade them from further play in the future.

I'm no stranger to this myself.  In my very first role-playing game experience, my character was captured and assaulted.  To add insult to injury, the child she bore as a result of that assault turned evil despite her efforts to raise it properly, and became a recurring villain of the piece.  Eventually the game fell apart; the Game Master had too many work commitments at the time, and I was tired of having my character taken advantage of.  It was a relief.

A good Game Master builds drama within the campaign by having consequences for all of the characters' actions.  Wiping out the goblin squad might attract the attention of a larger force of goblins that is nearby.  Bringing down the Black Knight might cause an even worse evil to fill that void.  But there should be consequences to negative actions too.  The rules state that certain types of characters lose their powers if they commit acts that are against their code, for example.

Therefore there should also be rules that if a character commits an act beyond what is considered acceptable in game, that character is punished accordingly.  The player should be talked to, or even removed from the game entirely if applicable.  No exceptions.  Only then will players realize that they can't get away with it.

The following was suggested by a player who had attended a recent convention.

"The X/O Method. Each player gets a blank index card with an X on one side and an O on the other.  If someone gets really into character and gets upset they can flash the "O" to let everyone know that they are okay and it's all part of the character.  It a player gets uncomfortable for any reason at any time they can throw the "X" card. If they do, everything stops and gets retconned [reversed and replayed] immediately.  Anyone who doesn't abide by this is not welcome at our table."

Good call.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Corrupting the Punisher

The following post was written by the owner of Randomology, a web site dedicated to art and the world of geek.  He is a writer and teacher based in Laredo, Texas.  Shared with permission.

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Whenever I see military or law enforcement members using the Punisher logo, I immediately think one of two things about them. Either they lack critical analysis skills, or if they do have such, they are someone you want to avoid at all costs.

The Punisher, Frank Castle, in virtually every single version of the character, is a vigilante who works outside the law and hands out lethal justice. While some of his targets could hardly be empathized with, I'm thinking primarily of human traffickers and sadistic killers; the people who post this image as an emblem of how they see themselves are not Frank Castle.

These are the same people who will either say or have somewhere on their person or car a variation of the saying: it takes a wolf to guard the sheep.

No.

A wolf does not guard sheep. A sheep dog guards sheep. And the fact that you consider the people you are sworn to protect as nothing more than sheep goes to show how little you think of them and how powerfully you think of yourself. Because once the "bad" wolves are gone, we still have a wolf...

The Punisher is one of the iconic anti-heroes. In fact, his status as a hero is highly debatable. It's not a stretch to say that Frank Castle is a man consumed by war. Many versions even show that Frank Castle is a man incapable of moving on and lives in a constant state of warfare. As much as he grieves his family, he is more at peace in a war zone than he ever was as a family man. This is a truly Broken Man. And the only thing keeping him from being labeled a serial killer is... actually, there really isn't anything that differentiates Castle from a serial killer.

And for anyone about to tell me that I don't know what it's like to be on the streets with a target on my back like police officers, I'd like to remind you that law enforcement is not even the deadliest profession in the country. And if you are so trigger-happy that you can't help but pull your gun and shoot someone for the perception of a threat you're not even sure is real, you have no business wearing a badge. Same thing goes for lunatics who join up to fly across the world so they can justifiably shoot at other human beings.

Monday, 20 May 2019

The Scientific Method

The following is by Marc Proulx, a Montreal-based technical writer.

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Few things concern me more than the growing trend of ideology superseding established facts (which I largely trace back nearly 4 decades to the campaign strategy and resulting election of Ronald Reagan). I find it worrisome because it is the cause of, or prevents the solution to (or reduction of), many of the greatest threats facing humanity.

And I want to be clear that neither those leaning politically right or left have a monopoly on engaging in this. Each side of the aisle has beliefs they cling to in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (In my list below, I've tried to include an even number of traditionally left and right sacred cows.)

While few things can ever be absolutely proven in science, there does exist a scientific consensus on some questions that was achieved through decades of well-designed large-sample studies, replication of results, meta-analysis, field study, etc.

Some examples of questions for which a scientific consensus has been achieved are:

- Man-made climate change exists and is worsening.

- Vaccines do not cause autism (and are the single most effective tool ever invented in the fight against disease).

- Glyphosate is one of, if not the, safest herbicides.

- The earth is an oblate spheroid.

- GMO's are safe (far safer than the previous popular method of crop improvement, used since the 50's, of irradiating seeds and hoping some of the random mutations are beneficial). Among their many benefits for humanity will be a large reduction in the number of poor people (and especially children) suffering from blindness and death resulting from malnutrition (specifically Vitamin A deficiency) through the widespread distribution of Golden Rice. In 2012 the World Health Organization reported that about 250 million preschool children are affected by VAD, and that providing those children with vitamin A could prevent about a third of all under-five deaths, which amounts to up to 2.7 million children.

- All living things evolved from simpler lifeforms over billions of years.

Of course any and all questions in science are subject to change due to the discovery of new information (that is why science is the most effective tool we have for discovering truth, it is continuously self-correcting) however the way a greater and greater consensus is achieved is through many scientists attempting and failing to prove the consensus wrong, thus it has a greater and greater likelihood of being correct.

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Footnote: I disagree on his glyphosate statement but that's another issue entirely.

Friday, 17 May 2019

A Woman's Rant

 The following was written by Wendy White, an entrepreneur from British Columbia.

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I’m not even going to sit here and calmly try to explain why the (majority of the) female population is in an uproar. If you genuinely don’t understand at this point, you’re flat out stupid.

There is no discussion to be had. It’s not a debate. There’s no more acting stupid or pretending you don’t understand why women are angry.  If you’re silent on this, you’re complicit.

There is no neutral.  There is no comfortable medium. It’s all fun and games until it’s YOUR fundamental human rights that are being f***ed with.

Women’s rights are NOT optional.  Bodily autonomy is NOT optional.

Abortion is not the only thing being criminalized with these bills passing in Alabama, Ohio, and Georgia.

Birth control? Punishable by prison time.
Miscarriages? Punishable by prison time.
Traveling to another state where it is not a felony to have an abortion, to have a safe abortion? Punishable by prison time.
A 12 year old girl was raped, impregnated, and is now being FORCED to co-parent with her ATTACKER.

Are you f***ing kidding me?

How do people not see the price tag that old, white men have put on women? We are so insignificant that we are viewed as only being good for pregnancy. They believe we only take birth control to prevent pregnancy. They believe we can CONTROL miscarriages. They believe we are so useless and small that our rights aren’t as important as a man’s.

Nothing is more violating and dehumanizing than being told what you can and can’t do with your own body.

So how about this:

Men who wear condoms during sex will be sentenced 10 years minimum in prison with the possibility of the death penalty for conspiracy to commit murder for preventing semen from fertilizing an egg.
Oh, what’s that? You‘re outraged that you’re being punished for practicing safe sex?

How about mandatory vasectomies to prevent pregnancy and avoid abortions altogether, since a vasectomy can be reversed?
Oh, that violates your human rights and bodily autonomy? You’re a grown man and can make your own choices when it comes to your body?

Keep that same motherf***ing energy.

How twisted and corrupt do you have to be — not even exclusively as a politician, but — as a HUMAN BEING, to prioritize an UNBORN, or in recent bills, UNFERTILIZED “life” over the lives of REAL, LIVING, BREATHING, WOMEN?

Women’s rights who? Human rights who? Sorry, the United States government doesn’t know her.

The government would rather a TWELVE YEAR OLD CHILD carry her rapist’s spawn to term and GIVE BIRTH than allow her to have a safe abortion.

The government would rather a grown woman DIE carrying a parasitic pregnancy to term than allow her to have a safe abortion.

This is not about saving lives at all. This isn’t about safety. There’s no regard for women, their rights, or a fetus. This is about winning a political battle and retaining power over the oppressed. This is about possession. This is about patriarchy. This is about control.

The fact that anyone still believes this is a topic to argue over absolutely blows my f***ing top back. You don’t like abortions? Don’t have one. You don’t like birth control? Don’t use it.  But your personal opinion doesn’t give you authority over another person’s rights to their own body.

Oh and another thing, if you are pro-life (which is really just pro-birth because you don’t care for the lives of the women dying, or the life of the 12 year old rape victim, or the hundreds of thousands of children in the foster care system, or the lives of the people being shot down in schools and clubs and concerts), you are NOT a savior. You are NOT a “voice for the unborn”. You are as ignorant as it gets, f*** off with your holier-than-thou s**t. Nobody cares. You’re not impressing anyone. Especially not me.

All in all, ladies: speak the f*** up. stop allowing your fear of coming off as an angry, irrational woman stop you from vocalizing your stance. And if you’re a man and you’re not fighting in this battle alongside the women in your life, get your s**t together. Your mama raised you better than that.

These laws are a violation of our Constitutional rights and they’re dangerous. Women’s rights are human rights.

Educate yourself. Stand for women.