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Archive for March, 2011

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 1

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

I wasn’t always politically conservative.  Somewhat ironically, it was losing my religion that was a major part of the change.

I was born and raised in Saskatoon, where I lived up until about five years ago, when I moved to Calgary for work.  The household I grew up in was Catholic and fairly leftist.  My dad–retired now–was a staunch trade unionist.  My mother is in a union, but she doesn’t like it much.  She was moderately pro-union, I guess, or neutral for my formative years.  I went to Catholic schools through to university, and I was involved in my church, pretty much right up until I left it.

Except for pro-life stuff, I was in situations where the causes we supported were leftist causes, predominantly poverty- and service-organisation-related.  Gay marriage wasn’t an issue during the time-frame, so it never came up.  Gay issues were just revolving around equality under the law, and in the Church, it was all about loving the sinner and hating the sin: one was allowed to “be” gay, as long as one didn’t have gay sex.  [Hypocrisy number one.]  However, women priests and married priests were off-limits suggestions, despite repeated reports of how the priestly rolls were continuing to decline every year.  For the Church hierarchy, some people were still more equal than others. [Hypocrisy number two.]

Tangent:  I should probably explain that my natural alignment tends to be “lawful neutral”, although I’m sometimes “chaotic good”.

I would also see week after week how religion was largely lip service, even for the weekly attenders.  In many ways it was like “what happens outside here stays outside here, unless you bring it to the confessional”.  It was presumed that if you went through the motions, you were seen as a good, pious congregationist.  And then you see these people in other settings, and they act nothing the same.  And no celestial punishment befalls them, and they never get called out on their behaviour. [Hypocrisy number three.] The primary source material on which the religion is based is contradictory and unclear in many places; it’s so bad that scholars over tens of centuries have churned out volume after volume after volume of “explaining” what exactly the primary material meant.  It’s a pretty classic example (IMO) of what happens when a potentially good idea becomes bogged down in government and regulation.  As the source material would have it, the central teachings of the Christ figure are:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you; love the god with all your heart, soul, and strength.  “And, you know, I wouldn’t mind if you’d remember me at supper time.”  And from this, we have the monolithic Church, plus all the other churches, most of which have rigid hierarchies and labyrinthine rules and regulations about what is and is not “true” teaching. [all in all, hypocrisy number four.]

The presence of so much evil in the world and “God’s” reaction to it.  Ultimately, this is where religion broke on the rocks for me, because I have a hard time reconciling a so-called “loving God” with the events that occur in the world.  I was agnostic for a long time after leaving the Church, and recently, I think I’ve become full-on atheist.  Even now, I’m still not sure some days.  Some people say agnosticism is just laziness, as is atheism, but I think a lot of people mistake atheism or agnosticism for a belief in nothing.  They aren’t.  Atheists may not believe in a god, but I’m sure most of them have a pretty strong moral code.  Most would be law-abiding, productive citizens in their native lands.  Agnostics struggle constantly to understand their place in the cosmos.  Just because they haven’t decided whether or not there is a god does not preclude them from having other strong beliefs. Arguing against atheists and agnostics on these grounds is a losing proposition.  It becomes belief system versus belief system, which is no different than religious superiority complexes that have been plaguing civilization for thousands of years and causing millions of deaths.

For myself, I largely believe (and I’m not interested in unsolicited proselytizing, so just don’t) that a supreme being (as western Christians/Jews understand such, which is the tradition in which I was raised) must exist in one of four states, because of the state of the world:  it doesn’t care what goes on here (or it would be more obvious in its interference); it cares, but is entirely uninvolved (either can’t or won’t); it is actively interfering here in negative ways (i.e., evil); or it doesn’t exist.  In all four of these cases, organised religion is worse than useless, because it propagates a useless, false mythology and turns people into stupid sheep that expect an invisible super-hero to save them.  There’s a reason for the sheep/Shepherd metaphors.

  1. It doesn’t care:  if it doesn’t care, then nothing we do matters to it.  Praying, doing good works, etc have absolutely no soul-saving qualities, though good works are good for society, generally.
  2. Uninvolved caring:  again, if it cared, it would get involved in response to prayers from “good” people.  It clearly does not, at least not on any useful scale.  If it chooses not to be involved, that implies to me that he could help, but doesn’t; in which case why is this being deserving of any human respect?  If it can’t get involved (i.e. somehow actually prevented), that means that this is not a supreme being, and is again not what the religions have taught us; it also implies that there is something more powerful than “God”, and perhaps we should find out what that is.
  3. Direct involvement:  This would show that the “God” is itself evil or weak, because that means that it’s involved, but evil continues to increase, either in spite of or because of its involvement.  That means prayers etc are useless, from whichever perspective you use, and again implies forces stronger than the so-called “God”.  I mean, seriously, don’t you think a supreme being would be a little peeved at being misused as an excuse for slaughter, or that some group was slaughtering its “chosen people”?  I would be, or I wouldn’t be much of a protector.
  4. Does not exist:  this is the most likely case, and we’re stuck with physical, rather than metaphysical, laws.

So, the weight of hypocrisy and confusion chased me out of the Church.  I just couldn’t deal with it and be a believer anymore.  It’s been twenty years since I made that decision, and I don’t think I regretted it.  For the first ten years I used to refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic”, and I think there are several points of congruence with going through a twelve-step program.  I don’t generally think of myself that way any more.  I just used to be Catholic.  And over those twenty years, I largely remained agnostic, except perhaps in the last couple of years, wherein I’ve been effecting the change to atheism.  In that time I struggled on and off with figuring out whether there is a god or not, and some days it’s hard to believe that the beauty of nature and the cosmos is random.  But one of the reasons that has been helping convince me against that is that humans exist.  There is so much evil in the world and in men, that I don’t think the Christian conception of a god can exist.  If we are created in its own image, as the texts say, then all the evil in the world can be laid at the god’s feet.  Original Sin is a Catholic-only teaching, is it not?  Well, guess what…if the snake existed, it was a creation of god, as was the tree of knowledge.  All things in the heavens and the earth, remember.  If god exists and created us, and if we are evil, then god created evil.  Why should I worship such a being?  And if the “end times” are also true, then that means the world was created only to be destroyed, which would require the destruction of billions of innocent inhabitants, plus all the “lesser” species.  How is that not evil, especially since it was known in advance?  And just to make it interesting and capricious, say that only a certain number will be “saved”, but our loving “god” will condemn all others to eternal hellfire?  What loving “god” would issue that sort of condemnation to its “children”, even if the world weren’t ending?

So, in my view, “god” either doesn’t exist, or it exists and is either passively or actively evil, or it exists and is weak enough to be defeated by other forces.

Tangent:  one thing I find amusing is that the primary source basically states that there is more than just the Judeo-christian god.  It doesn’t say that there are no other gods, but that no other gods shall be worshiped before it.  How does that get reconciled?  And that leaves out all the murder, incest, rape, and mutilation that goes on, including that which takes place at the being’s behest.

Even if one allows the veracity of the source material, the modern expressions of religion certainly do not have that as the basis of their operations any more.  They all have their own views and interpretations and lists of transgressions and means of expiation thereof.  And then there are the religions and philosophies that are inimical to those of the West, but that’s a different blog.

Suffice it to say, I’m a long way away from where I was as a teenager, when I believed…or tried to maintain it, at least.

In “Part 2”, I will attempt to describe my political transformation over the years.

Posted in Canadian, personal, politics, religion, science | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 1

How Did I Get Here?

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

This would be my Facebook post.

I’m crotchety and “old”, but I’ve been involved with computers directly or indirectly since the early 80s, so it’s not like I’m a Luddite.  But the idea of joining Facebook always seemed to me akin to answering that poor Nigerian prince’s email.  Whenever I interact with anyone or anything online…unless I know them personally…I use the absolute minimum of information possible to successfully complete that interaction.  Where possible, I use fake phone numbers and addresses (I live at Parliament, for example, or a former place of work), and I have a Yahoo! address that I use as a spam drop.  I hide behind the firewall of my hardware router.  And so on.  Facebook seemed like a bad idea in that context.

However, I went to the wedding of one of my cousins back in October, and aside from getting so shit-faced drunk that I have a scar to remind me of it (I really needed to blow off some steam around family, thanks to my personal life having been destroyed), one of the main things that came away from that experience was learning exactly how many of my family was on FB.  Most of them, I actually wanted to keep in contact with, and with some of them I had kept in touch through email, but one or two had changed emails and forgotten to let me know…of course, some of that happened around the time I was invited to change jobs from the one I had.

As a side story, a former co-worker at my current job had previously invited me to look her up on FB when she left the company to pursue a better employment opportunity.  I had indicated that I wasn’t on it, nor was I likely to be.  How little did I know.  This little interaction was about three months previous to the wedding.  This becomes important later.

So, after I got home from the wedding (it was out of the city) and went to the doctor to get fixed up, I thought a bunch more about things and decided to join up.  And I was literally amazed at what I found.  I hadn’t realised how many of my family were actually there, despite what I had learned at the wedding.  So I set out certain details in my profile and started building my friend list.  I also sent a friend request to the aforementioned co-worker, with a brief note.  She accepted, and she also recommended me (or they saw on their own) to other people we worked with, and soon, I had quite a nice friend list building.  I have slightly more non-family than family on my list, but my second bit of amazement was seeing the invisible network among many of my co-workers that I hadn’t even realised was there.  And with that also came the lesson of learning to be careful what I post or comment.  Here, I mostly don’t care, but I’m still careful about names.

It’s been largely a good experience for me, but I do get frustrated with some of the technical aspects of FB, and the way they can get quite heavy-handed with their users.  (I hate the new profile view, by the way.)  I’ve been able to re-connect with old friends and some family with whom I’ve fallen out of touch.  It was by this method that I learned the marriage of a different one of my cousins had broken down.  But I’ve also found that it’s a new way to be ignored by people.  The irony in this post is that I started my blog (such as it is) long before I joined FB, despite hiding behind pseudonyms and whatnot, exposing myself (when I can be bothered) a lot more to the world at large.  So it would seem that I had a bit of an inconsistent set of messaging to myself. 🙂  I guess the trick (justification?) is in keeping the different sets of information separate, so that no one can make the connection that it’s all me.

But now I’m starting to ramble.  Off you go, then.

Posted in general, personal, technology | Comments Off on How Did I Get Here?

How I “Won” the Cat

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

Her father got a cat several years ago.  Being a not-terribly-responsible sort, he didn’t realise (I guess) that it would take some effort on his part to care for the cat.  And he was always driving it to his mother’s house, 90 minutes each way from his residence.  Eventually, he just left it there, at least in part to assuage some of his guilt, I think.  He was quite a mama’s boy in some ways, and a complete tool in others.  I don’t know if that’s connected.

At any rate her grandmother needed to get put into a care home.  Being an old-schooly farm girl, she decided that the cat would be put down, since no one anywhere would ever be able to care for the cat like she could.  It seemed almost a psychopathic response to her change in circumstance, but I may be being harsh.  She was certainly one of the more-delusional women I’d ever met.

Being told of the nature of the threat to an innocent cat, She decided we needed to rescue it.  I love cats–don’t get me wrong–but we were in a pet-free apartment building at the time 7 hours away by car.  But, we soon found ourselves with a very fat, DSH tabby cat.  After he adjusted to the change, he settled in quite nicely, and he became very affectionate to both of us.  Rather more so to me, however.  Her father also became more interested in things here; he would call more often, but he would barely be polite enough to talk to his daughter for a few minutes before veering off onto the subject of the cat.

Ironically, he came to visit one day (the cat, not the daughter), and the cat largely ignored him.  I enjoyed that.  It was petty, but I don’t care.  He was also largely ignored when we brought the cat back that way one vacation trip, even though he was minding the cat for us for a few days.

Anyhoo, long story short, the cat liked me more, to the point where he preferred to sleep cuddled tightly against me, with his paws wrapped around my arm; partly, that was because She didn’t let him do that to her.  As time went on, his affection for me grew more pronounced, and I think there was some jealousy involved.  She did much more to care for him (feeding, fur care, litter care), but he kept coming to me.  I kept telling him that he owed Her his life, but it always seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Ultimately, when She said She couldn’t stand to live with me any more, She also said that I should keep the cat, because “he likes [me] better anyway.”  It seemed to be true, but it was Her choice to rescue the cat, and I still don’t feel quite right about it.  She’s now given up on the cat, to the point where She doesn’t really even try to win him over, and he seems okay with that.  To him, it seems like She’s just another visitor (he gets excited about visitors).

I kind of blame him for making me feel like we needed to up the ante in our house search, so that we could have one before winter and not be trapped in our apartment with his litter box for six months.  But I’m glad I had him around to help keep me a little more focused outside myself during the Recent Unpleasantness; he’s soft and cuddly and has a magical purr.  But I still feel like I’ve stolen something from someone.

Posted in general, life, personal | Comments Off on How I “Won” the Cat

What’s the buzz?

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

Wow.  August 2009 was the last post, eh?  Been some time since I’ve been here to write.  It’s not that I don’t think about it, but I’m busy (sort of), and when it comes to anything political, many other blogs do it better (and more regularly) than I do.  But I’ve gone through a crap-load of upheaval since then, and it seemed like a good time to do some writing.  I expect to put out a cluster of related posts in short order.

Let’s see.  How my life turned to dog-shit for awhile…apparently, my ex wasn’t very happy living with me, but she didn’t really bother telling me that.  Until the day she told me she was moving out of the house we had just bought and moved into barely two months prior to that announcement.  I tell you, that was such a fantastic way to start 2010.  Literally.  It was early evening of January 1 when she kicked me in the nuts like that.  Without going into the details (it’s really none of your business), matters were very Chinese-interesting after that, because it took her about eight months to find suitable lodgings elsewhere.

I didn’t take things very well, but that’s just me.  It was the worst pain ever; only the last time I got fired came close, and that was because I also felt blind-sided and betrayed.  I was convinced for awhile that, while I knew I’d recover, it would take years and years for me to feel normal–knowing as I do that I take some things very, very personally and don’t have good coping mechanisms.  She made some noise about wanting to stay friends and leave before we descended to bitterness and recriminations.  To this day I still have no idea why she thought that would happen, since I hadn’t realised we were in danger of falling that way.  I spent most of the past year hoping she’d change her mind, but once she made it up, she was committed, and the thought of trying to save our 15-ish years together seemed not to occur to her.  I wasn’t given a choice or an option, really, and I think that apparent lack of interest in rescue was what hurt me the most.

We’re still sort of friends.  She initiates texts or emails to me occasionally…usually when she wants something.  I try to keep up my end and email her regularly, and occasionally text.  Most of those seem like phone conversations in which I keep talking, while she puts down the receiver and walks away to do other stuff, and me none the wiser.  It seems intensely ironic to me, given some of the conversations we’ve had over the years about hating being the ones who have to put in all the effort to keep friendships going.  Given that it seems like most of the effort is one-sided from me, I’m starting to think it would serve her right.  I’m trying.  I don’t think I can any more, but if she was serious about wanting to stay friends, she’s gotta put in the time.  I know she’s got some shit going on right now separate from me, but seriously…isn’t that the time to have friends? And I knew that I could either work hard to endure the pain, or figure out how to cauterize the emotional wounds she was giving me…past experience has led me to believe that doing so would kill pretty much all feeling for her, and given how much of my life she’s been central to, it seemed the wrong approach.  And now I wonder if it was worth it, and if the cauterizing happened anyway.

Anyway, she was over yesterday to pick up some stuff, and I almost had no reaction to her being here, other than feeling a little bit of awkwardness.  There was a different sort if irony at play, in that when we started dating over 16 years ago, she had a lot of trouble looking me in the eye, a problem she eventually overcame.  Now, it seems like it’s my turn.  I find it difficult to look her in the face.  I don’t know why.  I am, however, taking it as an indicator that my two-year estimate for recovery is going to be a little long, even if you assume that the breakup actually happened Jan 1.  I’m completely screwed up on how that makes me feel, or how I should feel.

We did some emergency repairs on our bathroom the weekend we moved in (leaking straight into the basement when I showered), and that resulted in the need to fix the bathroom properly before we could sell the house.  It took until last month to get that properly sorted.  If we’d had the money, we’d have done the kitchen, but our reno budget went to emergency car repairs and keeping the CMHC away from our mortgage.  At any rate, we’ll be listing the house probably this month sometime; we’ll probably take a loss on it, but at least our mortgage won’t be under water.  After that, I assume we’ll largely go our separate ways.

I get the cat, but that’s a different story.

And so is how I fell into Facebook, after years and years of resisting, due to a complete lack of desire to have personal information that exposed.  (I do my best to make sure that you have a high-irony diet reading here.  All three spam-bots of you.)

At least work is going reasonably well.  I keep bashing my head against the same type of stupidity over and over again, and I’m starting to develop issues with El Jefe, but that’s how things go.  Maybe the market will pick up, and I can find something that I actually trained for, but I worry I’ve been too long out.  Which is an amazing correlation to my future dating life, if such would exist.

It’s a dull ache, now, when I stop to think about it.  Or when I let myself dwell on the empty space in my bed.  But I’ve gotten past the worst of it, and I’ve survived.  There is Life After Her.  It’s just not the one I imagined two years ago.

Posted in general, personal | Comments Off on What’s the buzz?