Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Disorderly Conduct.

Yesterday, a housemate of mine lost his wallet. Two curse-filled hours later, he found it. Unfortunately, in his frustration, he'd left a wake of destruction of the magnitude generally reserved for natural disasters. Every time he loses his wallet, or his keys, or his cigarettes, he causes more property damage than the X-Men during a Sentinel fight. Once, a video game outsmarted him and he put his fist through the offending television. I'm still trying to figure out what the microwave did that upset him, but whatever it was, the result was identical. Maybe he thought the timer was some kind of odd counting game.

It was suggested to me by a new friend that perhaps this housemate has "an aggression disorder that needs treatment."

I know she meant well, but her response is just another example of the overmedication of society, something causing no end of troubles. Everything, it seems, is a "disease" or "disorder" now, necessitating expensive therapies, treatments, or medication. The list of conditions grows with every new day and behavioral problem.

Don't think, dear reader, that I don't acknowledge facts. There are a great many people who genuinely suffer from chemical and neurological imbalances that require a great deal of time, money, effort, and therapy to cope with. There are a great many people who live, daily, with conditions beyond their choosing or control, and these people deserve our sympathies and our aid as much as can be offered.

However, for ever one person who has a genuinely measurable chemical imbalance, there are many more that have simply been diagnosed, medicated, and charged for things that never required a doctor's hand in the first place.

Watching an episode of the animated television show King of the Hill a few nights ago that ties in wonderfully to this topic. Entitled "Junkie Business", it details Hank's inability to fire a drug addict because his lawyer states addiction is a disease, and therefore covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand how an addiction can be considered a disease. Typically, with a disease, doesn't one suffer a condition without having intentionally introduced that condition to themselves? Something one can't simply will to end? One cannot simply decide one morning that their cancer is gone, or will themselves free of an autoimmune disease, can they? Yet, with addiction, isn't the prescription a detoxification and rehabilitation regime that teaches one how to overcome these "diseases" with willpower? Furthermore, one cannot even diagnose alcoholism or narcotic addiction without first willingly inducing those symptoms by partaking in the substance being abused.

The biggest issue with the "disease" concept is that it relieves the patient of all responsibility for their actions. If alcoholism is a disease, the drunkard can't be blamed for imbibing the intoxicants. If obesity is a disease, the overweight can sit back snacking on chocolate, secure in the knowledge that nothing they do will prevent them from remaining in their current state; a state they could improve by instead consulting with their doctors to find a healthy, medically possible way to lose weight. If "aggression disorders" are a disease, my housemate will simply pass the buck instead of owning up to his actions and learning ways to cool his head.

Perhaps I just suffer from "LUD" -- Logic Use Disorder, the complete inability to buy into illogical psychobabble and predisposition to promote logical solutions to real problems.

=Further Reading=

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Things.

I'm finding it increasingly hard to get outraged on a M-W-F schedule, so I thought I would post a bit about recent and upcoming events.

A friend of mine got married. Super happy for him. His wedding was Epic with a side of Awesomesauce. There was a Beatles theme, and there may or may not have been a bout of karaoke wherein he sang "Baby Got Back" while his bride did a booty dance. Also, there was definitely some Bohemian Rhapsody.

It was a grand time.

Also, signed up for NaNoWriMo this year, after ducking it since its inception. People keep telling me to join in, assuming that since I call myself a writer that I actually write. What a load, eh?

That's all for today. I'll get back to sounding intelligent as soon as I can.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Through a glass, darkly...

Mirrors are windows to the soul. They reveal parts of us, snippets of personality, of which we may not consciously be aware. Mirrors reflect lines on our face, furrows in our brow, blemishes on our hearts that aren't physically noticable. Yet there they are, staring us in our own unbelieving faces.

I don't understand what has happened to my life, or where the last seventy years have gone. I feel as though I look more like my grandfather than myself, worn with years I've yet to live. I feel cool and calm, like an old bit of the ocean, with the whole of my fire removed from my spirit. Where has my passion gone? Where are the days of my youth, dangerous and full of intrigue? Where, then, are the uncertain nights, one hand on the body of a lover and another on the hilt of a knife? My body still keeps one eye open when I sleep in a needless vigil for enemies that no longer come.

I wish I understood why. My only hope in understanding lies in the scripture, reflected in a mirrored metaphor:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dungeons & Dimwits

You could say I like Dungeons & Dragons.

You could also say that Einstein was a bright guy, the Spartans enjoyed fistfights, and Napoleon liked cookies[1].

Thusly, when Wizards of the Coast announced it was ceasing production of my favorite version in favor of a new Fourth Edition, I was both intrigued and skeptical. The artwork was more beautiful than ever before, a feat in itself, but something about the way they said it would be "more accessible" stuck in my craw.

To fully understand why that bothered me, a bit of background is necessary. I am not a stupid man. Dumb sometimes, often ignorant, but not stupid. I hate being treated as though I am. I hate mollycoddling and condescending step-by-step instructions where they aren't necessary.

I have seen, over the course of my short life, the country I live in and the world around it cater to stupidity. Standards lower daily with little or no response from the public. Schools stopped teaching people how to learn and began teaching them how to pass standardized tests, completely defeating the purpose of the experience. Legislation is passed to keep people from endangering themselves in common sense situations in the form of helmet and seat belt laws. Warning labels prevent us from eating things common sense tells us are harmful, and there are directions printed on packages of Ivory soap. (Oddly, they say "Use as regular soap" the last time I checked.)

Technology is an active accomplice: calculators teach us it's okay not to learn the underlying theories of mathematics, while the proliferation of personal computers has caused us to all but completely eschew good penmanship. Cellular telephones and instant messengers have gone a step further, mutilating the English language into lol- and 1337-speak,something almost unrecognizable. The "small world" effect of global communication has encouraged us to forget about geographic spatial relations and cartography as a necessary skill. Who cares where Georgia or Tibet is if you can talk to people there on AIM instead of counting out postage? Who needs to be acquainted with Rand McNally when MapQuest or Tom Tom will tell you where to turn?

D&D was my safe spot. The complex mathematics involved, unique to the system in that they don't always coincide perfectly with what you'd see in a textbook, kept many at bay. The immense amount of variables and the ridiculous number of sourcebooks were prohibitive to anyone without at least a great desire to learn or a minimal intellect. I know people to this day who played AD&D and still don't understand how THAC0 works, just that they remember how to do it. When I picked up my dice (all of which but the d10 are Platonic solids) and my pencil, none of the silly stupidity of the world mattered anymore. I was free to use the full potential of my imagination in a world where creativity, quick thinking, and intelligence meant something.

You can see now, I hope, why a larger target audience would be great for WotC but bad for my play experience. A new edition with a bigger audience would cause their pocketbooks to swell, as they bring less-nerdy and less-geeky people into the fold. Capitalizing on the Massively Multiplayer popularity, they gained a greater audience. By making it "more accessible", they essentially turned it into a point-and-click MMO on paper. You have a certain set of powers to choose from, each with different cool-downs, and you just cycle through them until the enemies are dead. Is counting money too hard for you? No worries! No longer do you need to sell your findings for gold for new equipment. The rulebook even suggests that your Dungeon Master doesn't let you sell anything. The entire economy of 4e resembles that of Star Fleet: if you need it, it will be handed to you. In fact, the whole system reminds me of Enterprise: wonderful series, but you can't really consider it Star Trek.

WotC, I'm terribly glad you want to expand this wonderful game to a bright, new, inquisitive audience. Really, I am. It's getting harder and harder to find players and DM's for adventures and campaigns. Must you, though, treat them as though they are complete morons? Slighter changes could've made it appeal to a broader audience without giving the entire process a lobotomy. D&D != Everquest, so why do your best to make it seem like I should put down my pencil and pick up a mouse?

Wizards has proven that unless the public acts quickly we are doomed to a lifetime of decreasing standards. Speak up, or tomorrow your computers will make your decisions for you because we're all too dense to think.

4e D&D is a harbinger of the fall of western civilization. Don't believe me?



Hark, A Vagrant #135, Kate Beaton.

Monday, October 12, 2009

It's a Man's World?

James Brown says it's a man's, man's, man's world. That gem was obviously written before the feminist movement fully permeated American culture.

Don't get me wrong, I love women (many of them, and often as I can), and I fully believe the Women's Liberation movement which started so long ago (beginning with women's suffrage) was necessary to promote the idea of women as equals socially and politically.

The movement even began to liberate women from their own biology. Advancements in birth control gave women unprecedented choice in when to conceive. Legislation and court decisions allowed the inevitable "mistake" to be rectified after the fact.

Sometime after that, however, feminism went crazy.

The rebellion against their own bodies cemented more than ever the idea that women were in charge of reproduction. Where women utilized the pill, men were stuck with few options aside the old rubber standby. When women didn't want to carry the "accident" in their uterus, men had no recourse over the product of their genes, and weren't even required to be notified. If a woman carried to term through her own choice, or pressured by society, men who decided they weren't ready to be parents (the same choice granted to women) were labeled "deadbeat dads" and sidled with child support.

Men were no longer seen as "equals" in gender equality, but were painted as vile oppressors and animals wearing business suits. Nothing men said could be trusted, and our every action was subject to questions about motive. We went from equals-according-to-feminism to evil stereotypes: the rapist, the wife-beater, the deadbeat dad, the oppressive patriarch.

A animated cartoon joke has a college professor telling a classroom "Look to your left and to your right. Both of those men will rape you." I laughed when I saw this sketch not because of its absurdity, but because of its honest look at the reality of modern thought.

Media depictions of the abuse of men are humorized, frequently found in rape scenes or violence against males. Women's scenes, however, are given the dramatic solemnity the subject truly deserves. Fathers are slighted in court cases because the legal system sides with mothers in regards to children at every stage of development, fetus to age of majority. Women are free to jokingly sexualize men, but even the slightest compliment from men sets fingers to pepper spray triggers.

All of these advancements have taken their toll on the male experience. As Tyler Durden would say, ours is a generation of men raised by women. There is no one on the planet who knows less about what it's like to be a man than a woman, and yet for decades, women have been telling us how to live as men. Women's desires dictate how men must dress and groom to be desirable, women give conflicting messages on how men are to act, and we are generally left confused. In an age where women are more free than ever to be women, men have forgotten entirely how to be men.

Add to this the stress of a society which has completely negated men's traditional evolutionary roles in society, and it's no wonder men are so furious with society. John Deere and Kroger have severely limited the amount of work a man must do for his own food, so our hunter's instincts are left dulled. Factory robots build things men used to craft by hand and forklifts lift heavy objects. War is waged with longer and longer distance weapons, taking most of the physicality out of actual combat. Those losses have left men's basic evolutionary instincts--a strong, physical specimen responsible for protection and provision--completely unfulfilled. Men turn to violent video games, football and hockey, and extreme sports to fulfill our eternal necessity for adrenaline rushes. Modern society has made us all but useless.

I do not blame women for men's plight. I do, however, blame feminism for the reason no one takes men's concerns seriously. I believe that men and women are equally important in all aspects of society. However, it is very important that we are all allowed to be ourselves.

Men are people, too, ladies.

Treat us like it.

=Further Reading=

Friday, October 2, 2009

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad.

In modern Western society, few would challenge the notion of the Founding Fathers of the United States in their assertion that "all men are created equal." Most would even affirm a change to the gender-neutral "all people." The idea that everyone, every person of every gender and every culture and every religion and every level of ability are equal is a very powerful one. It is a fundamental truth that no one is more important than anyone else.

Why, then, are people so ignorant of the true nature of the equality they champion?

Equality is a lovely thing in theory. It means everyone, regardless of who they may be, is entitled to exactly the same as everyone else. The same opportunities, the same upbringing, the same life-choices; everyone free to choose the same as everyone else, with no attention paid to their differences.

In practice, however, equality isn't so grand. The first hurdle is the impossible nature of the statement given above. Indeed, all men are not created equal. Men and women, for example, are very psychologically and physiologically different. Many anthropological studies have asserted these differences are either the product of evolutionary necessity, or are themselves the cause for the differing gender roles of prehistoric humanity. Environment is also a factor, with localities greatly shaping the cultures of societies living within. It has even been postulated that racial differences are the result of similar locational variety.

In addition, cultural practices themselves do a great deal to shape the human mind and body. Hunting societies see an emphasis on physical fitness, while technological ones focus on intellect. The build of a gentleman from an agrarian village in the Alps is surely different than that of a young woman from a nomadic Middle Eastern tribe. Human beings are born into such varied physical forms and cultural beliefs that it quickly becomes impossible to say that they are equal in anything save importance.

"From the fact that people are very different," Friedrich Hayek said, "it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently." This line of thought gives rise to the notion that maybe we are only equal in importance. James F. Cooper is quick to point out, however, this isn't always the case either. "The very existence of government at all, infers inequality. The citizen who is preferred to office becomes the superior to those who are not, so long as he is the repository of power, and the child inherits the wealth of the parent as a controlling law of society.”

Even human emotion prevents true equality. Orwell's animals quickly learned that "all animals are equal--but some are more equal than others." Racism survives in vestiges of what began as a backlash against racism. Sexism lives on in certain streams of feminist rhetoric as well as in misogynistic male hearts. The tendency of the oppressed to become the oppressor is staggering in these bloodless culture wars.

Should we not, dear reader, treat each and every person as we would be treated? Should we not also revel in their differences as much as we enjoy our similarities? Let us put aside the bickering about equality and instead bring it about in truth. Otherwise, we're left with something far worse in the eyes of Aristotle:

“The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.”