Shimoniac Jones

I didn't lose my mind – it fled in terror.

Archive for the tag “thinking”

Heroes, not just sandwiches anymore!

A blogger I follow, recently published a post about an event that woke the demons that gnaw on his psyche. He was agitated and sorrowful, so I recycled some wisdom that I’d read somewhere else and clicked “reply”.

That was it.

A few hours later I found that he’d replied to my comment, as he replies to so many others, so I opened the dialogue box to see what he’d said. Usually, it’s a simple acknowledgement, sometimes it’s witty, occasionally it’s profound-ish.

Without any apparent irony or derision, he said that I was his hero. Now, it’s incredibly difficult to sense sarcasm in the written word, but I don’t think that there was any there. So I began thinking about this concept of “hero”.

A hero is a person known for courageous acts or nobility of character. A hero is also someone who has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.

I recently read about a man, who rescued a three year-old girl from being trampled by a runaway team of horses. He ran into harm’s way, knowing that he could get hurt, possibly killed; but unable to just stand there and watch an innocent child get mowed down. He refused the label “hero”, because, in his mind, he only did what was necessary. The fact that he was then run down by that team of horses, collecting bruises, stitches, and broken facial bones was, to him, nothing big.

So, for this blogger to call me his hero took me aback. Then I read the second definition of hero again. I didn’t do anything particularly courageous when I typed my reply to that blogger’s post, but perhaps he thought that I’d demonstrated a personal quality that he admired.

That led me to realize that we can all be heroes to someone else. It doesn’t necessarily mean getting run over by a team of horses, or a huge expenditure of time or money. It can, in fact, be nothing more than offering a kind word to someone having a bad day, or offering an ear to someone who needs someone to talk to.

Of course, if you do want to dash in front of a team of runaway horses to save my flabby ass, feel free.  😀

Auntie Vax

The genesis of this post occurred a few months ago, when I wanted very badly to drive over 900 kilometers to find a woman I’d never met and slap her sillier than she already was. I read an article about this woman who refused to get her newborn vaccinated.  Her pediatrician, family doctor, head of the medical association, the director of the CDC, and the Surgeon-General of the United States of America, have all advised, urged, entreated, recommended, and implored her to protect her baby against the possibility of getting mumps, measles, rubella, polio, etc.; while she was not deaf to their pleas, she just couldn’t comply with their entreaties.

Why did she refuse? Was it religious grounds?  No, it was basically stupidity.

Millions, perhaps even billions, of people have been inoculated against diseases ever since Edward Jenner made the connection between cowpox and smallpox. Arguably one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century was the final eradication of smallpox by the WHO.  Who, by the way, recommend vaccination as a safe, effective, and low-cost method of disease prevention.

The primary reason this woman refused to have her baby vaccinated, was because Jenny McCarthy thinks it’s a bad idea. The same Jenny McCarthy who is best known for taking her clothes off for Hugh Hefner and posing nude in his magazine.

On the one hand we have multiple medical professionals, with decades of medical education, research, and experience urging her to get the baby protected from potentially fatal diseases. On the other we have, a celebrity(?).  If Ms. McCarthy has a degree in medicine, virology, epidemiology, immunology, or any other related field it doesn’t show up on her Wikipedia page.

So many children in Canada and the U.S., have gone unvaccinated in recent years that our collective “herd immunity” is breaking down.  We’re seeing outbreaks of diseases like measles at rates unseen since, well, vaccination became common.  The side effects of these childhood diseases can be lethal.

This, I have to call her deranged, woman even admits that she thinks vaccinating her baby might be a good idea, but there are all those websites out there that claim vaccinations are responsible for everything from autism to demonic possession. So she can’t make up her mind what to do.

What I’d like her to do is: give the baby up to someone who can make an informed choice, go to a gynecologist and say `I want my tubes tied’, and stop being a bother. If she wants fact-based evidence that vaccinations work, all she has to do is look in a mirror.  She, and I, are of a generation that was all immunised against MMR, polio, etc., and we turned out okay.  Although I have to wonder if there is something to their fears after all; apparently after being vaccinated, she turned into an idiot.

Pedestrian

Like 99.9% of the car-driving population, I drive to work whenever possible.  I drive the same streets at the same times five, occasionally six, days a week.  I see many of the same vehicles day in and day out.  Also keep in mind I work the night shift, I drive in to work 2200-2230, and I drive home 0700-0730.  Other drivers drive me insane more than occasionally, less than often, usually frequently; but what I’m going to rant about today is pedestrians.

Pedestrians to me are self-propelled travelers.  I include in this category people who are: walking, jogging, running, cycling, in-line skating, skate boarding, cross-country skiing, or even bouncing along on a pogo stick.  I stipulate that legally under the Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are considered vehicles like cars; but this is my blog and if I want to lump them with pedestrians, I should be able to.  So there. 😛

The travelling public, which includes all of us who have to move off our own property at some point in our lives, has a real problem with distraction, and stupidity.  But mostly stupidity.  Let me tell you about a few, only a few of the Nimrods, morons, lemmings, negative examples, and future organ donors that I want to rant about.

First of all are walkers, more to the point jaywalkers.  A jaywalker is a person who crosses a street outside of legal cross walks.  It’s legal, and way safer, to cross the street at corners, lights, and painted cross walks.  As an experienced and successful jaywalker, I can tell you that crossing in the middle of the block need not necessarily be unsafe; so long as you keep your head up, look both ways, choose a sufficient gap in traffic, make your move, and cross quickly.  As an added bonus, making eye contact with oncoming drivers warns them of your intent and they can watch your progress so as not to unexpectedly accelerate, or change lanes, and turn you into road pizza.  You can even cross against the light at a cross walk if you follow those simple suggestions.

That’s not what we get around here.

What we get here are geniuses who dash across a busy road twenty maybe thirty feet from a signalized crossing; because that’s the direct line from the coffee shop on one side to the bus stop on the other. 😮

So let’s recap here, to save yourself maybe thirty yards of walking, you’re going to cross a street thirty feet from an intersection that has two lanes of traffic in both directions, a left-hand turn lane, cars turning left and right from an equally busy cross street, with those drivers looking out for other cars and pedestrians in the legal, and expected, cross walk.

I see.

Did you take just one stupid pill this morning, a couple, or the whole bottle? 😯

That’s bad enough, here’s worse.  If you’re out walking at night, it is generally considered to be a good idea to wear light-coloured clothing.  I wouldn’t consider reflective tape and a bright flashing light to be a bad idea either.  I would especially recommend not wearing black clothing devoid of any light colours or reflective tape, crossing the street just over the crest of a hill, next to a burned-out street light, under a mature tree, on a moonless night, when the identifier ‘African-’ shows up in your description.

Folks, if she hadn’t opened her mouth as her eyes widened, I would never have seen her.  It was lucky(?) that she was almost across the lane, and that I could do a quick ‘left-right’ of the steering wheel to avoid her.  If she had been more in the middle of the lane, she would have ruined my week, and I would have ruined her whole month. 😥

This lady, and I use the term sarcastically, must be on the Dean’s List at Dumb Skool.

I’m going for the Trifecta here, baby.  Worst of all.  Out on the local Golden Mile, we have a couple of discount, off-brand, no-tell motels located across and a little ways down a busy thoroughfare with two-lanes in both directions, with a centre left-turn lane, from a Beer Store.  This road is wide.

The nearest signalized cross walk is maybe a half a kilometre away, along a stretch of road that has no sidewalks.  It really would be faster and safer to just get back in the car and do some creative lane changes to get there, get the beer, and get back.  But no, we get idiots wearing dark clothing, dashing across a stretch of road that isn’t terribly well-lit, all while carrying two cases of beer.

More than once, me, or another driver, has had to brake hard and/or swerve to not turn these Nimrods into impromptu speed bumps. 😡

The topper is that in that same plaza are a couple of pub-type restaurants.  So now we have well-lubricated happy couples, with her in heels, doing the lemming dash across this road at closing time.  What we have here are the valedictorian and salutatorian for Dumb Skool.  What could possibly go wrong?

That was a rhetorical question.  I don’t want to find out.

I really don’t want to run over you pedestrians, but you’ve got to work with me here.  Please don’t do dumb things, don’t make bone-headed decisions, and most of all don’t run out in front of me.

The next category that I’m going to rant about is cyclists.

Donor Fatigue

I’m tired of natural and man-made disasters happening and someone coming on the radio, television, or whatever begging, pleading, or trying to guilt me out of my money. If that makes me sound uncaring, so be it. My sympathy gland has dried up.

What sparks this particular tirade is a local event that probably didn’t make the papers outside the area, but encapsulates the whole situation. A local family was burned out of their house, they had no content insurance on the house, and they are now being housed in a motel by a local charity until more permanent quarters can be arranged. They might be able to move back into their house, depends on what the fire investigators and the building inspector find. Hurry up and wait; now you’re in limbo.

The fact that they had no content insurance is only one of the things that stick in my throat. My mother, bless her, has always been a fanatic about making sure that you have insurance. She gave my sister a hard time until my sister got content insurance for her apartment. In fact, as I recall, my parents paid her first few premiums. My mother said, “Budget the insurance with the necessities, because insurance is a necessity.” Later Mom was proved correct as sis was burgled and had insurance to help replace the pilfered items.

A closer look at the family shows that the family doesn’t bear closer examination. It’s a single mother family; I read that with absolute neutrality, I’ve known single mothers where that’s the best choice. Mom is 34 years old, and her three sons are 17, 15, and 13; I raised an eyebrow at this. Of the four people living in that house, no two shared a last name. That final fact turned me off. I’m sorry, as shallow as that makes me, this woman’s lifestyle choices have succeeded in alienating me. The mother works part-time, as does her oldest; kudos to her and him, but too little, too late.

The kicker is that the embers from the fire were barely cool when some local philanthropist-type was bleating about helping this poor underprivileged, deserving woman. To that end he/she/it had already opened a trust account to defray expenses and pay for moving, cleaning, or whatever. I hardly dare to think of what ‘whatever’ might encompass.

All of this is in microcosm, what I rail against in macrocosm.

When I was younger, I was the most credulous kid you could imagine as far as helping the `less fortunate’. It was about the first time the Ethiopian famine got world-wide airplay and we had celebrities flogging their particular pet charities. I collected my pennies and believed with all my heart that I was making a difference, after all adults were telling me so; and adults would never lie to a child.

Then, two years later, there was another famine in Africa and I gave again with my whole heart remembering the warm satisfied feeling I had gotten before. By the time the fourth famine came around, I was older and jaded; I felt guilty and bigoted for wondering if famines were some sort of African tribal ritual. I later found out that mockery aside, it is. Famines, plagues, earthquakes, civil wars, and inter tribal rivalries decimate and devastate populations and the usual suspects come out crying for aid, for assistance, for more and more money to solve the problem. The peoples of Africa seem determined to follow the same path as their ancestors, no matter that the path leads right over a cliff to extinction. All they seem to know about is handouts, shifting for themselves is something they’ve apparently become unfamiliar with.

This is actually the West’s fault. For decades, the rich West has felt vaguely guilty over its wealth as compared to other parts of the world. Especially a part they exploited vigorously and with great abandon; read `slavery’ and `colonialism’. So, what do you do about that vague feeling of guilt? Simple; throw money at it, get a warm satisfied feeling and go on with your life uninterrupted.

What we have forgotten is that money is not wealth. Money is a concept inherited from the ancients as a method of disposing of a surplus now and gaining a want or need later. Wealth is potable water, food, and shelter. By throwing money at the problem, we’re actually making the problem worse because when more money is available for the same limited amount of goods, the price of those goods goes up. This is called inflation. When you print more and more money to chase the same limited amount of goods because the price has gone up, this is called hyper-inflation. See Zimbabwe as a recent example.

By forcing our solutions onto other peoples’ problems, we make the situation worse and the people we’re trying to help either helpless, or resentful, or both. How do we address the problem? We do that by acknowledging that there is a problem. How do we fix the problem? Can the problem even be fixed? I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t just keep on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. That’s the classic definition of insanity.

When you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got.

Atheist Churches

That’s right friends and neighbours. You read correctly. There is a small but growing movement afoot world-wide to create churches, or something, free from the tyranny of religion.

When I first heard about this brand spanking new phenomenon, all I could think was `everything old is new again’. Back in the nineteenth century there was a movement called the `Rationalist Church’, where atheist ‘preachers’ went from gathering to gathering denouncing God. It died out early in the twentieth century as atheism itself waned in Western society. This new movement seems to be a kinder, gentler version. Those involved simply gather together and socialize with those of their kind.

Humans are social animals. Atheists, denied the community of faith-based churches, need feedback and approval from those like themselves; so they have chosen to recreate a familiar and even comforting experience. Also, since life in heavily urbanized areas tends to be isolating, these gatherings provide what could be called face time with people who acknowledge your existence.

Proving the social nature of humans, many of these `churches’ have reached out to others like themselves, some have reached out to the broader ecumenical community, and a few have begun stirring the pot to see what kind of shit they can disturb.

They may be social clubs, but they’re not merely social clubs. Most examples that I’ve been able to research have a charitable and philanthropic bent. Some raise money for local charities, some for a national or international charity. They have speakers who talk about living ethically without religion, being kind to your neighbour, and that sort of thing.

There’s another fact about humans, we don’t like change. We prefer things to stay familiar. It’s all about evoking the familiar and comforting rhythm of ritual. The ritual, for want of a better word, of most of these groups seems to follow that of religious churches with a lecture, discussion, singing, and donating.

What I find highly amusing is the fact that these gatherings, which are for all intents and purposes social clubs, call themselves churches. It’s either an ironic misappropriation of nomenclature, a cynical thumb in the eye of the religionists, or an oblivious Pavlovian response; the last being that they call it a church because that’s what they’ve always called it.

To see some of these atheist churches in action, I have a couple of links to follow: here and here. I’m especially impressed by the fact that the Secular Church has Ten Commandments, just like the Christian Bible. On the other hand the Satanic Church managed to codify eleven.

So, since the motto of the militant agnostic is, “I don’t know, and neither do you.”, I’ll leave these fellow travellers to their mumbo jumbo and just wish them all the very best.

Tell me what you think.  Is this a good thing?  Is it a bad thing?  Or is it just some passing fad?

A New Pope, Same Old Story

So Pope Benedict the Whatever decided that he’d had enough of trying to save the Catholic Church, and pulled the pin on his career. He announced his resignation when declared his retirement. I note that he gave about two weeks notice, which is generally standard for professionals who resign, or quit, their jobs. As regards Pope Benny the Dick, I’m still waiting for the other red shoe to drop. What happened? Was it a financial fiasco, sexual impropriety, paternity suit, dealing in fake relics, did he exorcise the Holy Ghost? The possibilities are endless, and worrisome.

The conclave happened so quickly, that I barely got a chance to tell my favourite conclave joke. Yes, as a matter of fact, I do have a favourite conclave joke. If there’s black smoke, boo hoo, no new pope. If there’s white smoke, hooray, there’s a new pope. If there’s grey, greasy smoke, the cardinals are having steak. There it is, take it or leave it, I grant permission to use it next conclave. As a side note, my mother observed that the conclave occured during Lent, so steak probably wasn’t on the menu. Grilled salmon, on the other hand… 😀

The former Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, styled the first, got one hell of a promotion to Christ’s Vicar in Rome. Going into the first round of voting he was on the board, but as a 33 to 1 against long shot. Perhaps his papal motto should be Equus Tenebris Sanctis; that’s approximately Latin for Holy Dark Horse.

So, now we have Pope Frank. Wow. Of course, as an iconoclastic Militant Agnostic, I view all organized religions with a large helping of dubiousness. The more, and gaudier, trappings a religion has, the less I feel they have the welfare of anyone at heart; anyone but those at the top of the heap, that is. I tend to agree with Robert A. Heinlein in my view that religion is for the benefit of the priest-class rather than the congregation. The new supreme pontiff will have to put the church’s money, and a lot of it, where his mouth is, before I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don’t necessarily doubt Pope Frank’s honesty, honour, conviction, or anything else; but I do know about a phenomenon called bureaucratic inertia. It’s also called captured by the system. A reformer goes into a department to clean it up and make it efficient, but winds up embracing the established culture.

The Catholic Church is two thousand years old; they’ve had twenty centuries to become set in their ways. Assume an average human generation at twenty years. Boys and girls can sire and birth young sooner than that, but it’s a convenient rule of thumb to use. That means one hundred generations have passed since the founding of the Catholic Church. Another way to look at it is that the organization is more than twenty-five times the age of the guy leading it.

That sheer weight of numbers and the resultant ossification of procedure practically requires high explosives to shift.

My mother, who describes herself as a recovering Catholic, rather cynically opined that the reason the conclave elected such an obscure candidate was so that they (the bureaucracy) could pull the wool over his eyes and continue business as usual. Her version of business as usual was money-laundering in the Vatican bank, influence peddling, covering up for sexually deviant priests, and other similarly distasteful activities. Mom has what you might call a dim view of Mother Church.

If true, I think the PTB (Powers That Be) are in for an unpleasant surprise. Frank is a Jesuit, the Society of Jesus have a formidable reputation for scholarship, perseverance, and loyalty to the Pope.

So, as with so many other things, I wait and watch.

Religious vs. Agnostic

You may have noticed that I claim to be a militant agnostic.  There’s a quote saying that an agnostic is an atheist without the courage of his convictions.  That’s simplistic and offensive.  It’s simplistic because it doesn’t think deeply into what agnostic means.  It’s offensive because it assumes that an agnostic is a moral coward.

The dictionary has multiple definitions for `agnostic’.  For convenience’s I’ve entered some so that you don’t have to navigate away look them up and not get back to me.

Noun:

  1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
  2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
  3. a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic.

Adjective:

  1. of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism.
  2. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.
  3. holding neither of two opposing positions.

Synonyms: doubter, empiricist, secularist, skeptic; disbeliever, nonbeliever, unbeliever; pagan, heathen, heretic, infidel.

The best simple definition of agnostic is, as far as I’m concerned, doubter or skeptic.  A skeptic is only a person who questions the validity of things claimed to be fact.  On a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 is an absolute unwavering belief in a god, gods, goddesses, or any combination thereof and 0 is a similarly absolute unwavering belief in the absolute lack of a god, gods, goddesses, or any such combination, I fall squarely at 5.  I don’t believe in them, or unbelieve.

In my opinion, and to me my opinion is the only one that matters, there is no evidence that any omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, supernatural, metaphysical being exists now or has ever done so; having said that, lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

On an episode of Futurama, the character Bender is lost in space, and hosts a colony of intelligent beings who think of him as `God’, and no matter which path he followed, either direct intervention or absolute disregard, the beings are maimed and die off quicker than goldfish in a five-year-old’s room.  Later, as he drifts mourning the passing of his worshippers, he notices that the universe is blinking in a binary pattern.  He holds a conversation with an unseen being who, eventually, asserts that as a god to do it right, it has to look like you’re not doing anything at all.  That could be what whatever magical being is ordering the universe is doing.

How can we possibly know?  I can run a toaster, or a light switch, and I think I’ve even got doorknobs and dead-bolt locks figured out; an entire universe is just a little beyond me.  Watch the episode, it’s marginally worth it and I’ve over-simplified it to the point of being meaningless.  Besides, I may misremember key points.

I like the additional `militant’ tag because, to me, knowledge is based on objective proof or empirical evidence.  What people who believe have is faith.  While I have faith in the perversity of the universe, I also have proof of said perversity because I’ve seen it so often.  Besides, I’m pretty far from militant; people who have opinions just go around bothering each other.  I have views, outlooks, and things like that.  I try to be willing to change the way I think, or do things differently if someone comes up with a way that is better than mine.

If you keep an open mind, you never know what will drop in.

My sister and father attend, on a fairly regular basis a meeting of Free-Thinkers.  What are Free-Thinkers, you ask.  Well, Free-Thinkers are generally atheists who have banded together to oppose the rabidly religious among us who want to shove their way of doing things down every one’s throat, in opposition to the official separation of church and state.  One day, while at this gathering, a young man sat next to my sister and asked her how long she had been an atheist.  He was confused when she set him straight.  My sister’s not atheist, she’s a pagan; she worships differently from the mainstream, but she does worship.  Apparently he skipped the `thinking’ portion of the title.  That’s why I say they’re generally atheists, not all Free-Thinkers believe there are no gods.

My own view, which I state as seldom as possible, is believe, or not, what you want, but for the sake of sweet charity, keep it to yourself.

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