Believing the lecturer (a rant)

listen and believe

So I had an interesting conversation with some of my classmates, wherein I talked about the contents of a previous lecture, in which the lecturer, attempting to explain the 50’s mystique, read from an article entitled “Only a Mad Woman would call the 50s a golden age”, which sort of implied that the nostalgic, rose-tinted view of the 50’s is a recent phenomenon attributable to the TV show Mad Men. That didn’t sound right at all. I know that’s bullshit, because I used to watch the 70’s sitcom Happy Days, a show that uncritically exonerates the 50’s is this golden decade in which nothing went wrong.

When I actually researched the article, I found out that this was lifted from The Daily Mail (I checked word for word, and it was the correct one), a tabloid newspaper with about as much credibility as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The article itself was written by Liz Hodgkinson, a noted feminist who writes for the Femail column (the UK equivalent of Jezebel that’s somehow part of a fervently right-wing paper).

In the same lecture, we were treated to the first episode of a 2002 BBC documentary entitled “Century of the Self”, which was made by Adam Curtis, a glorified conspiracy theorist who apparently has a reputation for manipulative film-making tactics designed to hand-hold you towards his conclusion. The central assertion is that modern consumer culture is essentially the product of Edward Bernays and the ideas of the Freud family. Even if it was largely factual, it was exquisite propaganda, and had the tendency to imply rather bold claims that could easily be debunked. For instance, one part of the film implied that Edward Bernays was responsible for getting women to smoke, which Curtis would be successful in having you believe if you’re a moron. A quick google search will yield several photos and/or illustrations that show women smoking (I found an image dating back to 1906).

Anyways, after I explained this (in greater detail, I just condensed it in this post so I could get to the point), one of my classmates apparently told me that I should just listen to whatever the lecturer has to say, with weak arguments such as “how many degrees do I have” or “how long have I been in art”. None of those questions were even fucking relevant. My argument is that you should take what a lecturer says with at least some scepticism. You should be critically analysing what you’ve been taught, but apparently he disagrees. He thought I should basically sponge up what the lecturer says without thinking about it. Effectively, he argued that I should accept academic dogma uncritically. Gee, where have I heard this before?

anita sarkeesian

There is a very good reason I don’t just sit there and accept what the lecturer has to say unless I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s factual. As I’ve written about several times on this site, you have crazy left-wing ideologues who constantly lie about sexism, racism, so-called Islamophobia, and they run rampant on the mainstream media. Such ideologues are also found in academia, in the form of far-left academics who preach Marxism and social justice as if it were gospel. As we have seen over the past few years, we know that Marxist lecturers have been using their position to indoctrinate young people into the cult of social justice, and if that’s true, how can I not be sceptical of what they’re saying?

Besides, people forget that this “listen and believe” attitude isn’t just limited to leftists. The conservative Christians also pulled this crap too when Bush Jr. was President, or did everyone forget? In fact, you get this mentality from any brand of authoritarian ideology. Given that you get at least some Marxism in every university, I have to be sceptical of what I’m taught. Failing to be sceptical would be a dereliction of every value I hold dear.

The other reason I can’t accept such a proposition is because if you apply that logic, it can become dangerous. If you just sponge up everything a lecturer says uncritically, then you can get tricked into believing outright falsehoods such as white privilege, the patriarchy, and so on. Besides, if you’re willing to just listen and believe in the case of lecturers, then why not apply this logic to priests, imams, newsmen and politicians? If you won’t, then you’re not being consistent in your values. If you do, then your naivety will be a con artist’s best friend. After all, a good old confidence trick can only work if you trust the con artist.

I’m not trying to say that all university lecturers are con artists. I’m sure most of them have standards, and I’m certainly not suspecting art teachers, but I’m saying that students should be sceptical of their lecturers, just as they should be sceptical of the media, the politicians, and organised religion. In that sense I’m applying my sceptical principles universally, and believe that everyone else should. Is that really such a bad thing?

Don’t just look for the usual suspects

us and them

It’s really starting to get old.

Back in the 20th century, society was essentially dominated by conservative ideology. Up until at least the 1990’s, the narrative of Western culture seemed to be based on a right-wing understanding of the world, which had become dogma. In that narrative, the conservatives were the good guys, and the liberals were painted as a threat to society. Flash forward to the 2010’s, and things are now quite different. Now, left-wing ideology forms the dominant narrative of society, so now liberals are the good guys, and anyone who shows even a slight leaning towards conservative ideology is painted as either evil or just stupid. That’s the narrative that my generation grew up on, and it’s getting old.

Political discourse now seems to be based on one side shaming the other, especially in America, where a number of violent incidents have been attributed to right-wing racists. It also doesn’t help that America’s conservative politicians have garnered a certain reputation for their bad temper, childish behaviour, contempt for the working class, and a slew of nonsensical laws. To the average man, these are reasons why conservatives are the bad guys, but a lot of the mainstream attitude towards politics in general has been based in hyperbole. Even though I’ve gone on record in my scorn for America’s conservatives, I worry that in the political arena, they’ve become the easy target, probably because it’s very hard to defend them (to be fair, even I won’t). In fact, it’s gotten so easy that political satirists have made it part of their normal routine, and even John Oliver does this when he talks about American politics. In a sense, conservatives have become easy scapegoats.

What about liberals? On top of being as idealistic as an after school special, left-wing politicians expect the state to handle everything. Recently the left-wingers have been focusing heavily on equality, bashing the rich, and protecting women (and themselves) from hateful speech online, but they have not given much thought about freedom. In fact, one thing I’ve noticed is that left-wing politicians only seem to care about freedom when it’s being threatened by their right-wing adversaries. When liberal politicians aren’t defending freedom to make the other side look bad, they threaten to undermine the liberties of the wealthy and of businesses, and sometimes, they threaten our online liberties in order to appeal to victim mentality (this is increasingly and depressingly truer in Britain), and yet when liberals threaten civil liberties, only the intelligent raise a finger and nobody cares, but when conservatives threaten civil liberties, everyone gangs up on them like their the evil monster who’s been killing all their livestock.

To be fair, some conservative politicians, such as Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz, have proven themselves to be genuinely despicable figures, but not all conservatives are like them. In fact, it’s this kind of blanket judgement that a lot of left-wing news outlets practice constantly. Okay, right-wingers do it a lot as well, but that’s the thing – there’s no difference in how liberals and conservatives conduct themselves. It doesn’t matter when both sides wants to tell you how to live, just that they’ll turn people against each other for a bit of entertainment, and how apt that would be, considering it’s all just a game. The only reason we elevate it above other games is that this particular game has very real consequences.

The ultimate problem, as I see it, is precisely the fact that we get too caught up in the game, and we take it for more than what it is. It’s simply a game where the prize is dominance. We forget that left and right are simply teams that demand the loyalty of players. Very few of those team members truly believe their own hype whatever side they’re playing, and even if they do, you shouldn’t trust them too much. In other words, don’t waste time picking on the easy targets when you can’t even trust the other side either. Yes, I still despise the right, but I can’t say I totally trust the left.

The red flowers of war

poppies

To most, this means remembrance of the war dead, but for people like me, it represents something much darker at hand.

One of the most depressing things about being a British citizen is that I’m constantly reminded of how little our culture values the individual, and for me, one of the worst examples of this is Remembrance Day. Every time I do anything on November 11th (which always seems to fall on a day when I’m in college nowadays), it’s always interrupted by the obligatory two minutes of silence, in which we all stop like drones on command, and that’s not even the worst part. In the days leading up to then, we have the poppy appeal, where public figures don poppies on their lapels in order to win public approval, and anyone not wearing the poppy is shamed by the common folk as soon as they find out.

This is a trend that Channel 4’s news anchor Jon Snow described as “poppy fascism”, the practice of compelling people to wear poppies because they supposedly ought to and shaming those who don’t, and this trend has been getting much worse this year than ever before. Newsreaders, politicians, celebrities, and even football managers could be seen wearing poppies as early as possible out of fear of being branded as disrespectful traitors by a zealous British public infected with sentimentalism. Whenever public figures fall foul of the poppy tradition, we act as though they’re supposed to be role models, and by not wearing a poppy they have supposedly failed. Why? Why is it impossible for public figures to make their own choices without swathes of morons kicking up a fuss about it on Twitter? Better yet, why do people care about what celebrities wear in tacky chat shows?

However poppy fascism manifests itself, we justify it by proclaiming that wearing the poppy is a sign of respect for the war dead. That’s fine, except for the fact that when we focus on the soldiers who died fighting for their country, we end up glossing over the reality of war. At the risk of sounding cold, I should point out that those who choose to fight in a war, past or present, have pretty much signed up for job in which they could get killed. Of course, one could argue that this is the sacrifice of the soldier, but one must one oneself what the soldiers are even fighting for. All modern wars are fought for startlingly ignoble reasons. For example, the current situation in the Middle East was mainly caused by America’s constant interloping in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and our soldiers are only involved because our government wants to be involved in anything America does. It’s not as though past wars fare much better.

Nowadays, war is only ever fought because it profits some higher powers, be they politicians or big corporations. Now that I think about, it’s no wonder the government loves Poppy Day, because it gives them the opportunity to make war sound romantic and glamorous. Of course, we aren’t as stupid as the government thinks we are. We should all know by now that there’s nothing glamorous about people killing each other, whatever the reason may be. Personally, I have a very big problem with the whole “poppy mania” because outside Remembrance Day, the general consensus of the public is that war is bad, but when it’s November, suddenly we’re all mindlessly chanting support for those who fight in wars. As someone who is firmly opposed to war, I find it disgusting that we in British society push what is ostensibly a symbol of the romantic view of war down our throats every year, and shame those who don’t.

selling poppies

It’s surprisingly easy for them to pluck people’s heartstrings.

All the more jarring is that the poppy-pushing trend is going on as the government is rallying for a new war in Syria, as though the previous war in Afghanistan never happened. We all know how the war in Afghanistan happened, and that it was ultimately pointless for Britain to get involved, but the fact that we hide behind the poppies and the sentimental waltz they inspire guarantees that the government can feel free to pursue future wars knowing that the British public will always support it. After all, to ensure unquestioning support of the military and warfare is the only goal of the poppy drive.

It’s perhaps because of this that the idea of Rememberance Day is losing all meaning. When we observed Remembrance Day a century ago, in the bleak, war-ravaged landscapes of the day, we wanted never again to experience the horrors of war. Those people witnessed the tragedy of a hideously futile war in full bloom. The very idea of glamorizing the Great War might have sounded abominable to those who actually survived the war (though sadly they are no longer with us), and yet that’s what we’re doing every November. I highly doubt that the soldiers of the Great War died so that we could continue to indulge in mindless bloodlust in the name of nationalism and industry, and that is what I feel the red poppy has come to represent, and I am not alone. There are many activists, war veterans, and even a few celebrities who oppose war, and detest the glamorization of war. In the dominant atmosphere of conformity, guilt and propaganda, they appear to be the only voices of reason that actually get heard when the poppy salesmen come around.

The Stepford age

Today, we live in a world where the lingering shadow of censorship is just around the corner. Today’s society doesn’t seem to want freedom, favouring comfort and conformity. Enforcing this new wave of conformist hostility towards freedom are the social justice warriors who lurk in the internet, and the Stepford students in universities who work to silence debate. And then there are politicians who want to censor anything that offends the norm (fetish porn, politically incorrect thoughts, swear words, etc.), and whatever they can’t censor, they’ll decide that they may as well just ban. All the while, the media continues to fog our minds with an ever-increasing volley of distractions, and social media websites like Facebook and Twitter allow for a vicious atmosphere of conformity to thrive.

stepford

Think of Stepford as a metaphor for what’s going on here.

Personally, I think we’re living in what I call a “Stepford age”, where society now has more power to make us conform than ever. However, the key difference between this and a real life version of Stepford is the values. In days gone by, we were all being made to accept conservative Christian dogma, along with the patriarchal concept of the nuclear family. Today’s fashion, however, seems to be a venomous combination of left-wing social justice, materialistic secularism, and guilt-based political correctness, with some remnants of conventional morality.

Another key thing to remember is that sex is still a major bogeyman for most people, but it’s gotten to a point that for boys to even have lustful thoughts is a social sin. Advertisers can rarely show the female body without provoking a wave of feminist tongue lashings. It’s as though the body has now become a source of shame being pincered in a two-pronged issue. On the one hand, the media is trying to force an ideal body onto the minds of impressionable young girls, but on other hand, silencing them means curtailing freedom of speech, and so the social justice warriors are wrong as well. Speaking of advertisements, censorship has gotten so paranoid that advertisements can be pulled if only thirteen people complain about them. Advertising is so heavily policed that every ad we get to see is extremely bland and boring.

It’s not just advertising that has taken on a fear-based self-censorship. In this country, you can get arrested just because something you said on Facebook or Twitter got taken out of context. Thus, people tend to censor themselves more online even with online anonymity. The long arm of the law isn’t the only fear facing today’s online Brits. There’s also the army of vindictive social justice warriors keen on striking lady liberty with their censorious daggers as they spend their energies punishing people just for speaking their minds. In universities, various student unions have silenced opinions that don’t match theirs, and banned anything that the majority of students find offensive.

For me, the greatest damage to liberty is a climate where we are engaged in relentless self-censorship. I should know this because, for a while, it happened with me. During my mid-late teens, I found myself having to watch my mouth until I arrived in college (thankfully I’m safe, because much of the self-censorship happens in English universities). I find it rather horrifying that much of the Tumblr generation’s students have turned their backs on the free-spirited open-mindedness that defines youth.

As we in Britain are becoming ever more inclined towards fear-based political correctness and self-censorship, what is to become of liberty? If we cannot say, do, or even think as we feel, then we can only pretend to be a modern, liberal society. In actuality, if things don’t change, we’ll be living in a Stepford nightmare – a nanny state run by a shadowy men’s association hell bent on making us into subservient drones for their convenience. We can either have that, or we can choose in favour of liberty, and overthrow the culture of fear that currently pollutes the air of a once-open forum. I think it’s time the people really thought about what they would rather have. Do we want liberty, and an environment where we can say what we really want, or do we want to continue living in a poisonous cage as we wallow in fear-based political correctness?

For the good of their souls?

For some reason, a lot of people seem to be having their babies christened, in spite of the fact that that the babies have no conception of religion, and are thus unable to decide what they believe in. For me, the mere concept of Christening an infant child is is totally unethical, mainly because you’re submitting your infant child to a religion that they know nothing about yet, while they lack even the senses to think for themselves. To me, it’s just the same as taking advantage of an infant’s vulnerability in the name of religion, and that’s simply unacceptable in my eyes.

christening

You’d think that there’s nothing wrong with this, but there is.

As an individualist, I believe that freedom of choice is the most important principle in human society. To deny this, therefore, is a grave crime against nature. I’ve heard that infant baptism is supposedly “for the good of their souls”, so that if anything bad happens to them “they won’t go to Hell”. For me, this has absolutely nothing to do with protecting an infant’s soul, and everything to do with conforming to archaic dogma that serves to do nothing other than impede social progress, and stifle free thought. I also find it silly that parents let their kids choose their religion when their older, but don’t let them decide for themselves when they’re younger. For me, freedom of religion should apply to everyone. After all, isn’t the soul a private matter?

The worst part is that a lot of people seem to have a “go with the flow” attitude. It’s the same “go with the flow” that allowed the church to rule Europe like a king during the Dark Ages, and people aren’t questioning that? I’m wondering if a lot of people who get their babies christened really believe in God at all, or if they’re just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

I have no problem with parents introducing religion to their children, but submitting your child to a religion before he or she can outwardly express their faith is crossing the line. If this is what it takes to preserve the outdated values of the church, then it’s clear to me that there’s simply no room in today’s world for a religion that hasn’t grasped the concept of free choice, and won’t for years to come.

Why grades mean nothing

grades

Throughout your childhood, you’ve probably had to deal with the looming spectre of grades. Grades are those things that the education system uses to try and coerce you into doing your work. Unfortunately, grades became so strongly associated with how well you did in school that people have linked school grades to actual intelligence.

The reality, of course, is that are grades not an indication of one’s intelligence, and to get better grades, you usually wind up having to suck up to the system and having no social life whatsoever.

Yes, I’m pretty much saying what some people may have already figured out by now. Grades may help you get a good job (if only because employers like suck-ups), but they are completely useless in terms of actual learning.

First of all, most kids aren’t really interested in the majority of school subjects, especially if they’re being pressured by teachers who reinforce the idea that their childhood grades will haunt them for the rest of their lives. Secondly, the earlier mentioned scare tactic prevents kids from focusing on learning because they’ll instead focus on getting good grades.

Of course, the grades are always issued by an invigilator, be it a teacher or an exam board, so a young person’s quest for grades is actually a quest to seek the approval of the system. Even the parents don’t know that by encouraging their kids to get good grades, they are encouraging them to surrender their will to a faceless, overarching bureaucracy, and that isn’t even the worst part.

Grades turn education into competition, in that we see neurotic kids competing for a teacher’s approval. In this sense, grades just give some kids their first reason to be smug, but they also give parents a reason to be smug to other parents.

The worst part about grades is that the kids feel like their work is being watched by an all-seeing eye. That’s exactly the feeling I had in A-level Art. I felt that I had to rush my work to be completed within only a few months, which left very little time for genuine inspiration.

Overall, I feel that grades are essentially meaningless, especially if you have to suck up to the system in order to get those grades. I hope that in time we’ll follow Finland’s example, which will mean that kids are actually learning things that they will actually use in the future.

There is no “meaning of life”

Various philosophies and philosophers have been trying for ages to answer what many have come to view as the biggest question of all – “what is the meaning of life?”. Of course, they all have different ways of finding the answer, but I think that they’re all wrong.

Why? Because to ask this very question is to imply that there is an objective answer to the universe, which there obviously isn’t. There is no answer to the question, which would of course mean that there is no meaning of life.

I’m trying to say that there is no meaning of life other than what we make for ourselves. In other words, the real meaning of life is in the eye of the beholder, which brings us to the real question – why are we looking for a grand overarching answer to the meaning of life?

I think I can answer this question very easily. I think we’re just looking for a dogmatic train of thought that can be applied scientifically. The only reason we’re looking for an answer to “the great question” is so that we can all conform to it. This effectively means that the goal of philosophy (which, supposedly, is to find the ultimate truth) is pretty much a farce that can be used to justify the removal of free will.

That’s right, I’m literally saying that the quest for the meaning of life is literally just a cover that certain people are using to find a foolproof way of taking free will away from society by using an absolute universal answer as though it were a new religion, or is it?

What if the men of science are actually trying to find the answer for themselves, so they can use it to discredit all religion as we know it? What if all the ideologues want to find it so that they can declare their ideology as the supreme, absolute truth?

In all cases, they are all deluding themselves by thinking there can be an answer to the “great question”. The only way you truly answer this question is when you realize that the only meaning of life is the meaning of your life, and not life itself. Maybe this is one of those questions where there is no answer? That would justify it being called “the ultimate question”.

In conclusion, I think we as a species can easily be led astray because we don’t value our own lives very highly, so we look for an answer to all of life in order to make ourselves feel like we’re above everything else, when really we’re not.