Moral high ground and other thoughts

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The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, 1996

It is also not attacking someone presenting fallacious ideas. It is not punching a Nazi.

There is a nearly infinite number of things, of current events that one could try to break down and discuss. The Muslim ban, alternative facts, Sally Yates, and whatever else is going on at the moment. A slight sense of dread rises every morning as I check the Guardian newsletter on my email. At least one of the headlines is always about Trump – and it’s never good. If it wasn’t crystal clear before, it sure is now, that his appointment has had and will continue to have global consequences to the lives of already disenfranchised people.

The reinstatement of the so called “global gag rule” takes away family planning resources from vulnerable women in economically unstable areas across the globe. US government dollars will no longer support family planning programs if those programs mention abortion as an option for their clients. The “pro-life” movement has always been a disgusting hate group in my eyes since they unambiguously value an unborn, unconscious, barely sentient foetus more highly than its actual living mother who may simply have been unlucky with contraception, or you know, raped. There are pregnancies that become life-threatening for the mother, and there are situations where the child is unwanted for other reasons. To force a woman to carry a child against her will is a vile act of oppression. And it’s not like making abortions inaccessible or even illegal will stop them – it will only make them more dangerous.

This was not supposed to be an abortion rant.

Let’s get back to punching Nazis.

Richard Spencer who is a nefarious and vile piece of human garbage, and an outspoken ethnic cleansing advocate, got smacked in the face during a TV interview after Trump’s inauguration. And the Internet loved it. Apparently that was the second time his face took a battering that day. I can’t say that I feel sorry for him as he really is as much of a Nazi as a human being can possibly be.

However, at a time when a nation that once represented the good guys, and rode the wave of freedom and democracy, is now being lead by a narcissistic orange 2-year-old, those of us on the side of universal human rights, religious freedom and free speech have to preserve the moral high-ground. It’s frustrating, I know.

As an isolated incident this isn’t interesting in any way. People get punched for saying disagreeable things all the time. Many European countries condemn the kind of hate speech that routinely pours out of Richard Spencer’s mouth, and perhaps that’s why it is easy to think that he got what he deserved. And honestly, if anyone deserves a beating for stupid shit they say, it is Richard Spencer.

But.

In the wake of the Trump presidency where facts are challenged by “alternative facts” issued by none other than the White House, and an Attorney General gets fired for following the constitution rather than the unrestrained temper tantrums of the President, the pillars of democracy have to stand their ground. One of those pillars is the criminal justice system whereby individuals are punished by the institution after they have been found guilty by the proper process – not by street vigilantism.

We must remember that in their eyes those abortion clinic burning dipshits (official term, trust me) think they are doing the right thing just as much as we think we are doing the right thing when we assault a Nazi. This is why civil societies have law enforcement that takes care of stopping and punishing for criminal acts. Needless to say that it is nowhere near a perfect system but if the alternative is that each person acts as a judge and deals justice as they see fit I will happily take the first option.

If we commend random beatings of well-known Nazis on the street, we are unwittingly commending suppression of any speech by violence. As a liberal, feeling victimised by the rise of the far right and the likes of Donald Trump, it is easy to feel entitled to going rogue and taking down the bad guys that have sneaked into our governments. But if we do that, then we are no better than our opponents. In a free society, all opinions can be voiced. It doesn’t mean that they are all equally valid, but a society based on principles of the enlightenment and democracy can withstand a multitude of voices without turning to censorship and propaganda.

Violence is but a short-term solution to silence harmful and discriminatory speech, and the better and only way to counteract it is speaking up against it. Debating and arguing with our antagonists lacks the excitement and sense of power that simply breaking their noses and as many teeth as possible provides, but it is the only viable way forward. Violence breeds martyrs, and martyrs can be powerful.

I could go round and round this topic for hours, but I just want to say this.
It is more important than ever, for those of us who oppose totalitarianism, austerity and theocracy; injustice and bigotry, to stand our ground and not let ourselves be dragged back centuries. We must not give in to our lizard brains’ impulses to simply rip our enemies to shreds, but to speak up and do our very best to spread factual information and promote equality.

Women’s March in London gave me a sliver of hope where I didn’t see it before. About 100 000 people gathered in London to display solidarity for women in America, and to show our own government that we are serious. As cheesy as this kind of talk sounds, I believe that bringing hope to people’s lives in any shape or form is invaluable. Millions of people across all continents came together to peacefully protest the values of those in power. If nothing else, it created a sense of unity. Things like this don’t necessarily effect immediate change in the world but they do have value for they prove to each of us that we are not alone, and that we are not mindless slaves merely following the whims of those in power. We can make a change, and we ought not to let ourselves be silenced.

Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. The grave will supply plenty of time for silence.

Christopher Hitchens

Trumpocalypse?

fuuuck

Rage over reason

So it happened. I don’t even know what to be most worried about because there are so many possibilities with the looming Trump presidency.

I’m not in hysterics over this like some of my fellow liberals but at the same time I wonder whether it isn’t so unreasonable to be concerned about the spread of misinformation and anti-intellectualism after all. Right-wing populism has been on the rise all over Europe for a few years now, and it seems that the US has finally taken the game to the next level by appointing this sketchy businessman boasting with his skills in tax evasion, as its head of state. And not only am I concerned about the state of the world that has allowed such a pseudo-political circus to take place across the pond, I’m also equal parts frustrated and disappointed with the Trump-apologists who have started popping out like daisies in the springtime. Trump may not be an actual evil incarnate but let’s not forget that he is terrifyingly unqualified for his new job.

The talk in social media seems to be circling the very real human rights concerns that especially Trump’s casual sexism and racism in the media during his campaign has sparked. We have all heard about the pussy-grabbing; the plans to prohibit abortions; the famous wall that will protect America from Mexico; and as if all of that wasn’t divisive enough, the new president-elect has also been openly endorsed by the KKK – a.k.a. racism personified. Make of that what you will.

And just before I get any further let us pause, and remember that I know as well as you do that nobody is perfect. But I would argue that the standard to which we hold ourselves and one another should always, always exceed the standard to which Donald J. Trump has been held throughout his campaign. Without even venturing to his policies, or what they might be compared to his opposition, I think we need to realise that his conduct in public has been absolutely subpar and disgusting. It is entirely possible that he only played the role of a loud all-round bigot to get the precious anti-establishment and anti political correctness votes that earned him his victory. But even if the hateful clown act was just that – an act, it has made the actual racists and sexists of the country feel even more entitled to overt bigotry.

So yes, my heart goes out to anyone in the States who is afraid of what living under Trump administration will do to human rights and equality.

And yet, there are bigger issues ahead.

Now, any of you who think that a glaringly unqualified president of the United States of America is solely the problem of Americans, listen up.
Trump is openly a climate change denier. Need I elaborate?
Cancelling millions of dollars worth of payments directed to U.N. climate change programs, lifting restrictions from the use of fossil fuels like oil and coal in the American soil and looking for a backdoor to get out of the environmentally crucial Paris agreement are all serious threats to our planet and all of its inhabitants. Surrounded by a number of fellow anti-science ignoramuses Trump does have an opportunity to do some real damage to the already precarious climate of Planet Earth. This will obviously not concern you, if you, like Trump, think that the whole global warming nonsense is only a Chinese hoax, and I mean it’s cold in New York so you’d actually welcome some climate change right about now ha ha ha … Not even remotely funny.

If a US size economy goes back to burning oil and coal like it’s the 1980’s it doesn’t matter where you live, it will effect you, your children and their children.

Someone with a clearly narcissistic personality is only ever interested in money, popularity and success right in the moment, and if you’re part of the elite of elites with so much money that nothing really matters there will always be a personal air conditioned, nitrogen – oxygen bubble for you and your offspring while 99% of the humanity burns, and in that case, you don’t really have to care. See, Trump and people like him are so grossly well established economically that they have never had to face real adversity. Of course, the Obamas are pretty well off as well, but no one is as privileged as a rich white man in this world.

And here I want to say a few words about Hillary Clinton. I honestly don’t care how much you dislike her as a person, or as a politician, or as Bill Clinton’s wife (in which case, repeat after me: A woman is not her husband’s accessory) – your disregard for the planet must be severe if you opted for Trump over her. I keep hearing that she is a cold-hearted, war-mongering, lying bitch who gives zero fucks about anything but money, but really – ask yourself, would you have voted for her if she was a man instead. And on the other side of that particular coin, if Trump was a woman, do not for a moment pretend that he would have got anywhere near the Oval Office.

Okay, so Clinton has lied – as opposed to Trump? Oh PLEASE.
Clinton likes money – as opposed to Trump? Yeah, right.

All I’m saying is double standards.

And it might come as a surprise to you, but when you work in politics in high-profile jobs, your hands can get dirty. There are many smart people who supported the Iraq war at first but changed their minds later, as humans tend to do. And anyway, as I recall, it was George W. Bush who started the war, not Hillary Clinton. When Obama got into the office he had a royal mess in his hands, and when Clinton became the Secretary of State, she also became partial to said mess. One could spend a lifetime and a half reading in on Clinton-related controversies but the truth is that we only know what happened, and not what could have happened if someone else had been in those shoes during that time.
You don’t have to like Clinton to see this.

All that said, I think Democrats made a huge mistake in nominating Clinton over Sanders, and I hope that in the course of the coming years they take a hard look in the mirror and come back as a united front in the midterm elections in 2018.

In the meantime, I highly recommend checking out Biden-Obama memes while drowning your sorrows in wine and death metal.

Trump’s First 100 Days – List of things that Trump is going to do
Cognitive Dissonance – Episode 325 – Tom and Cecil go through the aforementioned list of things while also making you laugh
The Most Powerful Clown – Listen to Sam Harris’ soothing voice as he tells you that we’re fucked
The Lesser Evil – Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan tell you why Hillary is better

And one final note: do not forget that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. So even when the vast majority of the American electorate didn’t care enough to actually go and vote, most of those who did, chose reason over rage.