Monday, 11 December 2017

Mental Stability in an Insane World

Several months ago I was following the trial of a young man who walked into a grocery store in 2016 and killed a female clerk.  The defense had played the "mentally unstable" card, saying that the man had suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed that the girl and her friends were plotting to kill him.  When he entered the store he thought that the girl had a gun in her pocket, which prompted him to take a pre-emptive strike.

Most times it's the job of the defense to come up with a plausible scenario that fits the available evidence without directly incriminating the accused.  However I had a great deal of difficulty believing this particular story.  The man barely knew any of the girls involved; he only came up with his explanation after reading some anonymous messages on social media.  The truth of the matter is probably that he was enraged that she turned him down when he asked her out on a date a few days prior.

I have stated many times that I dislike the "mentally unfit" defense ploy in court.  When someone is declared as such they don't go to jail at first, but are usually detained in a medical facility where they are "treated".  When they are deemed to be "cured" - or rather, mentally fit to stand trial - then they face a court, and more often than not receive a lesser sentence than they otherwise might have had.  The fact remains that regardless of their mental state, they still committed a crime and should be punished appropriately.

Yes, I concede that mental illness can affect anyone and can drive people to actions that they wouldn't think about under normal circumstances.  But pointing at it as being the root cause of a heinous crime goes too far.  Most intelligent people should know right from wrong, unless they have been purposely taught otherwise or "brainwashed".

Social media should share the blame as well.  Many people and organizations use it to disseminate falsehoods and extremism that will be taken as truth by those who are mentally vulnerable.  All one needs to do to see this is to glance at any controversial topic and there will be comments from people whose viewpoints are so off base as to be ridiculous.

In recent months I've had so much to deal with in my personal life that I rarely watch the news or follow social media discussions unless something directly pertains to my situation.  There is just too much hypocrisy, stupidity, and violence in the world for one person to fathom.

It's little wonder that society is slowly going insane.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Lack of Communication

Dinner time at our home usually proceeds this way: I place the meal on the table and call out "Dinner!" and there's no response.  I often have to repeat the call, followed up by "It's getting cold!" in order to get people to tear themselves away from their devices and come to the table.  Conversation tends to be limited to which bosses have been beaten, their in-game accomplishments, or how other players have robbed them of opportunities.  Questions like "How was your day?" or "Did you learn anything new?" are met with "meh" or silence.  After the meal everyone rushes back to whatever game/video/activity they were involved in, leaving me to do the cleanup.

I'm certain this scenario is common in many households.

People hardly speak to each other these days.  I mean, actually talk.  Most communications now occur in the form of emails, status messages, and 140 character statements - all of which can be easily misinterpreted if the right words aren't used.

Compounding the issue, particularly in public, is the ugly spectre of harrassment.  Men are reluctant to say anything for fear of being misunderstood or thought of as creepy.  Women are careful about what they say for fear of saying something that a man might construe as her leading him on, or worse, insulting him.

Certain subjects are now taboo or thought of as "triggers" for those who have experienced trauma of some sort or have controversial opinions.  There were several people I knew who would become extremely loud, judgmental, and even racist during any conversation about politics or immigration.

It doesn't stop there.

Good communication goes hand in hand with learning.  To learn something one must be able to discuss ideas coherently.  Sadly there are those who refuse to do so because it conflicts with their own pre-conceived notions, and they resort to attacking anyone who tries to present them with a different point of view.

A comment on a recent David Gerrold rant about the views of the extreme right in the U.S. reads: "We are in the midst of a crisis, and the Constitution and our democratic system of government is under attack.  It's clear that day by day they become bolder and less concerned about hiding their perfidy, their treasonous acts against the American people.  They clothe themselves in religion and false doctrine, sow doubt and fear, attack the free press and the 1st and 4th Amendments, stack the courts, obstruct all progress."

Think about how much better the world would be if more people stopped hiding behind a screen (of any kind) and just talked to each other.  About anything.  Who knows, they might actually learn something.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Pitfalls of the Feminine

The province of Quebec just passed a ridiculous law that bans facial coverings in public settings.  The reasoning behind this was ostensibly prompted by masked protesters that caused trouble in various marches over the last year.  So, a citizen who wishes to receive government services of any type must have their face visible.  That's all well and good, but it also means that a bus driver can potentially refuse to allow someone to board if they're wearing a scarf or balaclava over their face during the winter.  How stupid does that look?

But let's call a spade a spade.  The real targets of this law are Muslim women who wear the niqab.

Recently in the U.S. there were attempts at legislation that would enable a company to fire a female employee based on her reproductive choices.  As if that weren't enough, many states have voted to defund Planned Parenthood and/or outlaw abortion.

See a common denominator here?

The Old Testament of the Bible states outright that a woman is considered unclean during her menstrual period, and anyone who touches her will also become unclean.  Some African and Asian tribes still adhere to the custom of banishing women to a separate building during their periods.

In some countries women are forbidden to have certain jobs, perform certain tasks, or even leave their homes without male supervision.  In other countries, a male child is preferred that he might inherit a family business or continue a legacy, so girls are sent to orphanages, abandoned, or even killed by their own families.

Women are constantly having to guard themselves against prejudice, harrassment, and violence.  It seems to be getting to the point that merely being female is a crime in itself.

Where does it end?

Ladies, we need to stand up for ourselves.  No man has the right to tell us what we are or are not capable of.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Becoming Routine

An armed young man with issues walks into a school...

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

A rural high school in Washington state is mourning the loss of one of its students after another student allegedly stole his father's guns out of a safe, marched into the school and opened fire.  The suspect was known to have had troubles with bullying, and earlier had passed around notes to some of his friends which read that he was about to "do something stupid" and that he wanted to "teach everyone a lesson about what happens when you bully others".

Former U.S. President Obama said in October 2015 after a massacre at an Oregon community college: "Somehow this has become routine.  The reporting is routine.  My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it ... We have become numb to this."

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Does anyone remember when a school shooting would be live breaking news and we all sat glued to our TVs?  Now it's like, "Oh, was there another one yesterday?"  Way to go, America, making shooting school children not a big deal.

A big part of the problem is that the United States now has a different mentality.  Kids having guns is no issue to the average American.  Programs exist to market firearms to teenagers.  To us Canadians this is unbelievably irresponsible.

A friend of a friend is desperately trying to get her American boyfriend to move up to Canada with her because she fears that either of them might be shot, particularly because the state where he currently lives supports open carry.  "Me being Canadian and always having the freedom to speak my mind will get me shot there," she wrote recently.  "There's irony in that, isn't it, in the land of the free."

Another friend of a friend died in 1989 because someone decided that he hated female engineers and went to their school to kill fourteen of them.  It was mainly because of that incident that Canada has some of the strictest gun laws of any country.  Those laws have been proven to work.

I do not plan to visit the U.S. any time soon.  I don't want to be having to constantly censor what I say or be suspicious of everyone because they just might be carrying a firearm and might use it at the slightest provocation.

And I don't think I would be surprised if, at some point in the future, the entirety of the adult population of the U.S. would be armed.  Someone shoots a gun for a stupid reason... then will come the inevitable carnage.  But who will care, right?  It's routine.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Perpetuation of Hatred

Thanks to Facebook's tendency to show posts that my friends like or comment upon, a page called Cold Dead Hands was brought to my attention.  It claims to be an educational website that supports free market capitalism, freedom of association, and limited government.
Most of the people on the site are stringent Second Amendment advocates as well.

That's all fine.

The first indication that all was not as it seemed was an ad for a bracelet that would "make all the liberals turn and run": the item in question was a leather bracelet with loops made to hold bullets.

However what really upset me was a post that displayed a photo of former First Lady Michelle Obama, with the caption "If I run for President, would you vote for me?" which touched off a sickening deluge of vitriol.  Comments ran from a simple "no way" to threats of grisly death, and all types of denigrating statements in between.  Thousands of them.

How could anyone generate so much hatred?

The first reasons that come to mind are sexism and racism.  Michelle Obama is a woman, and black.  Sadly in today's society, someone matching either of those conditions is suspect and must work twice as hard as everyone else to prove their worth.  Ironically, quite a few female commenters on the site wrote that they would not vote for a woman.

Let's throw in a political reason: her husband was a Democratic President and she supports the Democratic party.  That's more than enough for some people to dislike her.

Then there's the reverse body-shaming.  The former First Lady was always impeccably dressed, and had muscles from working out and being fit.  The "women don't belong in the gym" mentality was bad enough but it also fueled accusations from some that she was transgender, prompting even more jabs from the anti-LBGT crowd.

Next is guilt by association.  They hate her husband because he was black, or many of his policies were not to their liking.  Therefore they hate her.

The biggest reason of all, I believe, is ignorance.  Michelle Obama is a person who likes to inspire others.  She is educated, classy, and morally upright.  However people who do not understand (or who refuse to understand) these qualities attempt to cover their own shortfalls by creating so much negativity that anything else is drowned out.

This why I've stopped commenting on many types of posts, because invariably I get replies from people who insist on the opposite, or wrong, point of view and will not even consider anything different.  I only end up shouting in the dark, or worse, being insulted or threatened.

As for the aforementioned page, I blocked it.  Unfortunately there are three people on my friends list were shown to have "liked" the page, two of whom I have known for many years.  I don't like the thought of having to be careful of what I talk to them about from now on, but is anyone who can like a page like that someone that I would really want to associate with?

It's little wonder I'm losing faith in humanity.