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Showing posts from September, 2011

Positive Thinking, the Just World and Victim Shaming

So...something with a rather academic title from me this time. Guess all these papers I've been reading have had an effect and somehow managed to make me even more geeky.

Anyway, a lot of people extol the power of positive thinking. A lot. Some go so far as to say that positive thinking can alter reality itself (with, of course, the odd nod to quantum mechanics - which I doubt they understand). Others stick to more conventional grounds, such as optimism being linked to better health.

I'm not going to argue with what the evidence says. I am, however, going to argue that there is a very dangerous current in "positive thinking": namely, it blames victims for their own plight. Victims by definition are largely or completely blameless for the bad things that happen to them - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

How does positive thinking blame victims?
Well, it doesn't outright turn round and say "It's your damn fault if bad stuff happens to you" - oh wai…

On Islamophobia

...So Islamophobia really has passed the dinner-table test after all. Otherwise liberal, open-minded people universally denounce Islam as evil, out to corrupt Europe, inferior to the West, a terrorist organisation, paedophilic...you name it, they probably have an accusation out there. Even a recent campaign designed to get people to think "hey, maybe Islam isn't uniformly evil" instead met with accusations of Islamophilia and indignant comments about how morally wrong and hypocritical it is that Muslims should dare to ask for the respect we accord to other cultures.

The thing is, the Muslims they're denouncing - the ones who beat women and fly planes into buildings - are the extreme ones, not the moderates or the mild ones. This is not news. As anyone with even an iota of religious education knows, not all Muslims are sexist or uneducated. A great majority are not trying to take over Europe. How do I infer this? Because it's pretty idiotic, logically speaking, to…

This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of Stupidity

I am a teenager; I am a teenager under sixteen, to be slightly more precise and to give you some insight into my life. According to my elders and my supposed betters, this means that I am hormonal, boy-crazy and reckless. I am supposedly incapable of not being dramatic; any unhappiness I may feel is me making a mountain out of a molehill, ruled by my hormones and in need of a big, strong adult to show the whiny bitch her place. Anything I'm passionate about is just a passing phase, unworthy of discussion. I have nothing resembling logic, and even if I did, how could it compare to the long years of experience that wore my parents down from fired-up people into passive consumers?

In short, if I don't follow my parents' advice to the letter (and perhaps even if I do), I'm going to do something stupid, because a bint like me simply isn't capable of justified emotion, actually caring about something, or doing smart things.

I used to get really offended by this line of &…

The Unconference

So...the Royal Institute of Great Britain has held its first ever unconference, and I was there. According to the article linked, I'm apparently one of "the UK's top science students". Fat chance, but who passes up free compliments?

Anyway, it was absolutely amazing - in a very geeky kind of way, of course! Speakers were pretty good - first half was a bit slow, though - and breakout sessions were OK. We ended up having to condense it down to about 12 points, though, so I didn't really get all the details. Reading through the #riunconference tweets I gathered that while my talk (I was the spokesperson for the science and education breakout session) was well received by Alom Shaha (and certainly by whoever told me to run for president - I thank you, but I don't think I'll do it), other people were complaining that either 1) something was wrong with the proposals or 2) I wasn't saying anything they told me to say. Without getting huffy about this, becaus…

Why I Am A Liberal

I don't think my liberal credentials are in any doubt. I do, however, devote far too much time and energy to criticising my own side. I find this problematic for three reasons:

1) I really shouldn't feel the need to criticise them in the first place
2) It makes it very easy for other people to accuse me of Not Being A True Liberal
3) I should be focusing on rebutting conservative viewpoints rather than liberal ones

Putting all that aside, I'd like to focus on why exactly I chose liberalism - and then try and apply that to why I keep criticising other liberals.

If I'm absolutely honest with myself, I chose liberalism because I love freedom. I love freedom because of an emotional response to my lack of freedom - that's right, an emotional response, not based on logic at all. Since then I've been looking at everything from an unashamedly liberal and egalitarian viewpoint, based purely on my emotional responses to oppression and inequality, and a distinct feeling t…

Victoriana

This is shamelessly stolen from The Truth About Victoriana, which I highly suggest you check out if you have time - or even if you don't.

Common Rationalizations (i.e., excuses) used when applying SOCIALDARWINISM ...

• it is simply the rules of the economic market ... supply & demand!

• Business is business!

• Since when does Christianity apply to business? You cannot apply the Golden Rule to economics! You apply it to everyone and anything else, but NOT business!

• Of course it is okay to take over other businesses and cause owners to suffer! That's just plain business! (he/she wasn't a good business person anyway, they couldn't do ___________, etc.)

• Who cares how many unemployed may result from the decision to import those things that local farmers used to grow!? It makes more economic sense to go after a buck!

(these are only a few examples, there are TONS of them that were operating during the Victorian Age and, sad to say, these same types of excuses are still used…

On Israel

Yay! The not-so-obligatory Arab-Israeli Conflict post!

(Otherwise known as "I'm going to get a lot of flames".)

So there's this Twitter account, @UnifiedLeft. (Yeah, I'm a Twitter addict. You get used to it.) Now, I'm a crazy leftie and proud of it. I also believe that the Left should stop bickering and get its act together. So of course I ended up following it.

As with everything else, the Arab-Israeli Conflict gets divided along ideological lines, with conservatives being inclined to support Israel and liberals being inclined to support the Palestinians. Now, I'd be lying if I said I had no problem with that, but I can understand it. At least, I think I can understand it.

This is where things get complicated. I'm Israeli. So, according to liberals, I should be a racist, fascist Islamophobe who wants Israel to expand into the West Bank and gleefully kills Palestinian children before breakfast. The problem is that I'm not racist, I'm pretty mu…

Odi Et Amo

No, this isn't the Catullus poem, beautiful as that is. This is actually about the struggle between idealism and cynicism, told mainly from the idealist point of view.

I am very, very idealistic. Perhaps I should be ashamed to admit that - after all, idealists always walk around with their head in the clouds, don't they? Aren't they childish with their refusal to accept the harsh realities of life and their unrelenting stubbornness? An important part of being an adult is laying aside childish dreams; perhaps ideals are just another one of those. Besides, when have idealists ever gotten anything done? The world doesn't work that way. It will never work that way, because people are too stupid and cruel to make it work, because following your conscience would bring economic ruin, because idealists are somewhere between crazy and batshit insane...

...I'm not ashamed to admit it, strangely enough, since the only people who have ever gotten anything done have been those …

A little tidbit which I thought of recently

It's weird how sometimes you overlook the most obvious things, isn't it?

I'm an Israeli atheist raised in a vaguely Jewish family and I go to a Christian school in England. It's weird seeing those cultures mixed up...I knew very little about Jesus, or really about Christian teaching, before year 7, yet having sung in a choir I can relate to things which poke fun at churches and perhaps the Anglican tradition in general. I'm quite happy to poke fun at Jewish mothers, then immediately start laughing at the English stereotypes I can relate to (pretty much all of them, then, except I don't like tea).

It comes to mind that I wouldn't have been able to link all this were it not for the fact that I grew up in a multicultural society. If I'd never come to England, or if I'd rejected one set of traditions altogether, I'd never have understood some of the things I do today. It's a bit of a random argument for multiculturalism, I guess - opening your m…

How to piss me off...

...So yeah. Just a little something which most people overlook, but which gets to me.

I'm 15. That in itself doesn't piss me off, but a lot of what's associated with it does - namely, if I walk into a room full of anyone older than me, people pay no attention to me or patronise me. I'd be lying if I said words couldn't describe how I feel when people do that: I no longer feel like a human being, let alone a person. I feel like a number - a small, insignificant little number that barely matters, that is only acknowledged because it's polite to do so.

The worst thing is that a lot of people will agree with me. A lot of people would probably only pay attention to me out of politeness or trying to avoid hurting my feelings; a lot more perhaps wouldn't recognise me as a person. I think more or less everyone's forgotten how they felt when they were the youngest one in the room.

I'll admit that yes, anyone significantly younger than you is pretty much rock…

Open comment to The Activists

So, The Activists sent me a bunch of DMs on Twitter...which I can only find through e-mail. It concerns this post, I think. The general gist of them is that demonising billionaires draws in readers - something which is reflected by their rising number of readers and followers - and that you have to draw a line as to which side you're going to take. Anyway, since you can't send a DM to anyone who's not following you and since my response is just a little too long for Twitter, I'm going to post a reply here.

Firstly, I have to apologise. Actually, I have to do a lot of apologising. I have acted like a brat to people who have shown me kindness and courtesy, for a start. I still disagree with them about some practices, but I should have been more civil about it. I should have practised what I preached and tried to reach out to others. I have screwed up a lot and that is not cool.

Activists, I'm going to have to concede a point to you and say that yes, you are right. De…

More revolution-y stuff

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with The Activists these days. Still, I can't resist going on their blog sometimes, and...well...
...Most of the articles are the usual left-wing stuff I've come to know. Some is good. Some is tolerable. Some is the illogical crap which made me quit in the first place. But I didn't want to write about that - it's ground I've coveredbefore.
What I wanted to write about today is the comments section - or rather, the lack of activity in it.
I am of the opinion that a thriving comments section is a good thing. If your blog has 15,000 readers, as this tweet claims, it should have at least 1 comment on each article. I doubt whether there are 50 comments on all the articles combined.
Those comments that are published tend to be things like "yeah, I agree" and not much beyond that. Anything which is even slightly out of line is deleted during moderation. I know this from personal experience: I'm a left-winger myself, b…

On Doubt

The Activists now has its own tag. It's about time I got round to it.

Those of you who followed the blog (hi, Mum) probably know about my affair with it, from my initial starry-eyed swooning over its tweets to my growing doubts, then my cooling towards it...and finally our split.

This article was the last straw.

I'll wait while you read it - or attempt to. It's very short.

As well you know, doubt is a central part of my being. I cannot go a day, an hour, a minute without thinking and doubting and reflecting on things...and, if you'll pardon my language, I'm bloody proud of it. I'm bloody proud of having to think to justify my beliefs, of having enough intellectual fibre not to take things at face value.

Here is what the article says about doubt:
"Those who doubt the revolution are liars, deceivers, charlatans. Those who doubt the revolution are nothing more than addicts to comforts and material indulgences." I have a damn good reason to doubt your revol…

Time is of the Essence

Written for The Activists. As always, if they don't want it, I'll have it.

The time has come when we can no longer afford to run on empty rhetoric. The time has come when we cannot - indeed we must not - lash out blindly at people for disagreeing with us. The time has come when we have to stop thinking about moving people by any means necessary and start thinking about where we want to move them.

We have inflamed and inspired people's hearts, but that's not enough. Firstly, it has come at the cost of alienating others, particularly others who could be very useful to us - such as doubters and academics. Both of these groups are strong-minded and can think things through - essential for any successful movement - and now we've made potential opponents out of them. Secondly, we've moved people, but have we moved them to do things? Have there been any discussions of what we can or should do to further our goals? If not, we've stirred people up, but now they have…

A quick post about nothing in particular

All right. I'll take some time off from politics and revolution and wind everything down 'til October or so. I'm not going on hiatus, but updates will be less frequent and likely less political, though I can't promise anything.

Last night I went to see Crazy for You at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre...at least, I tried to see it. As anyone who was also there would know, they had to cancel the performance due to rain. A shame, in other words. Still, what I did get to see of it was sheer Gershwin fluff...right up my alley, in other words, though I'd never admit it. I might be going to try and see it again on Friday - keeping my fingers crossed!

Come Saturday I'm joining in with this Voce Sanctis event to sing Come ye sons of art by Purcell. It's quite a big thing for me, since apart from joining in with the Really Big Chorus one time (and doing a little thing with the Harrow Philharmonic Choir, though that was with some people from school) I haven'…

I couldn't resist this

All right. So #wordstodescribeme was trending on Twitter, I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and this is what came out.

#wordstodescribemecontrarian, rebellious, thoughtful, doubtful, misanthropic, cynical, weird, passionate, idealistic, contradictory, human.

This Is Important

Activists, left-wingers, revolutionaries and thinkers everywhere, I want you to read this. I don't care if you burn me up in a thousand flames, or if you decry me as being too soft. This is important - for you, for me, for all of us.

In fact, it might be one of the most important things I've said to this day.

Listen up. You, me, everyone who posts on websites like The Activists, we need to stop demonising everyone who doesn't agree with us - billionaires, Margaret Atwood, doubters, the powerful - basically, anyone Western and rich enough to not starve. I've done it myself, I admit. I'm not proud of that. I did it to score some cheap political points, to help drive my message home, and to help me get mysubmissionsaccepted. (Check them out if you have time. See what you think of them.)

I regret having done that. I regret even thinking I needed to do it.

And you know why I regretted it so much?

Because demonising out-groups (people "not like us") isn't a…

Anti-Intellectualism

Written for The Activists, hut I don't think I'll post it there; it's turned from a revolutionary speech into an examination of anti-intellectualism.

Our world is arguably pervaded by anti-intellectualism. Boys are taught to favour brawn over brains, while girls are raised from the cradle to be pretty and charming rather than intelligent. Politicians and the media push simple, populist views - apparently not thinking that the electorate is capable of understanding anything complex - while education has been steadily dumbed down over the years, to the point where some subjects are basically lessons in how to pass exams. Fewer young people read for pleasure, and even adults are worryingly poorly-read - a recent FDA report stated that most American adults read between seventh- and ninth-grade level. Intellectuals are portrayed as being out of touch with the world, their learning irrelevant.

What's worse is that the world of academia does indeed have many failings - for ex…

A Teenage Girl

Hi.

I'm a teenage girl; I don't claim to be ordinary or average, and some - perhaps many - would call me a freak, but I'd like to think that I'm recognisable as a human being and a member of Western society. I count on my fingers sometimes, but I'm also good at maths. I can go from normal to bitch in 0.5 seconds, but I try not to because I'd like to be a decent human being, thank you very much. I don't always act sentimental and weepy, nor do I act passive-aggressively. I've made stupid mistakes, but I've tried my damnedest to fix them and move on with my life. I don't go in for soppy stuff or cheesy pick-up lines, and I try to communicate my feelings rather than expecting everyone to be psychic. As long as my lungs are fine, I can breathe perfectly damn well without a guy, thank you very much, and I certainly don't need him to "complete me". I do want to be loved - I won't deny that - but it's pretty low down on my list co…

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Written for The Activists and can be found here. (They have also published the two other articles I wrote for them, which they titled "The Capitalist Media Manipulates Information to Serve the Interests of the Ruling Elites" and "The Revolution Will Come When Parents and Children Learn That There is More to Life Than Blind Consumerism". I titled them "Enter the Media" and "The Revolution".)

Every second of every hour of every day, we are bombarded by advertisements. We cannot click on a link without seeing advertisements for cheap loans; we cannot watch television without adverts telling us about the wonders of this shampoo or that drain cleaner - even our films and TV shows sneak in product placement! Listening to the radio, it sometimes seem as if there are more advertisements than there is music; it is increasingly difficult to tell the difference between the two. Newspapers and magazines are bulked out with adverts, and a worrying number loo…