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Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Sex Workers’ Rights Day (Friday the 13th)

Posted by Keen Observer on September 16, 2013

Sex work is work, as they say, and sex worker rights are human rights. Per the link below, I’m one who comes at this from the libertarian side, the equal-treatment-under-the-law side, the women-have-the-right-to-choose-how-their-bodies-are-used side, the not-seeing-sex-work-as-immoral side, and the not-treating-working-girls-like-pieces-of-shit side. For the record, I’ve never patronised a sex worker (heh…did you see what I did there?), but trying to make/keep this consensual activity criminal is beyond stupid.

(Her blog is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended, and some is NSFW.)

Read her stuff. Maggie McNeill–a retired escort–articulates things I could never find the words for and describes things far outside of my experience. But society treating sex workers as pariahs is why Robert Pickton got away with murdering women–people who were wives, sisters, daughters–for as long as he did, and why other murderers, abusers, and rapists continue to do. And this is in Canada, a country where prostitution is itself not illegal. I mean, listen to the news: recently, two women were killed in Vancouver almost next door to each other. “High-risk lifestyle” is media/police code for “she’s just a whore”, where missing or murdered women are concerned. More often than not, it even means “drug-addled whore.” That they were connected to sex work should never have made it into the news reports, because at this point in time, it’s fucking irrelevant–and perhaps never relevant. Treat murdered/missing women as murdered/missing women, in the press and elsewhere, and maybe violence against women will decrease. That they were escorts may be a relevant line of investigation, but why publicise it or change how you approach the case?

If you haven’t thought about things like this before, read her well-written blog (she is intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful, though I don’t always agree with her), and you will. However, you might end up feeling a bit gob-smacked from time to time at the things you’ll learn, especially about how whores in America are treated, and how they’re trying to export their misguided morality and control-freak tendencies worldwide, where it’s just not wanted. And you wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that goes on around the world.

I stole someone's picture.

“Nice pussy you have. Shame if something happened to it.”

You may be shocked at how most feminist groups, who should be staunch allies of fully-sexually-actualised, independent businesswomen, routinely fight against efforts to humanise (read, decriminalise) sex work/workers: a woman is allowed to choose, as long as it’s not choosing to take money for sex. Slut it up and fuck whomever you want, just don’t take cash money for it.

So, though this post is now going up a few days late, I don’t think it hurts to remind people that sex workers are people too. Porn stars have sex with multiple partners for money, and they don’t face nearly the same stigmatisation as someone doing a straight-up financial transaction for sex. They also don’t get arrested for their activities; some are lauded and some run for political office. And as Maggie has pointed out a time or two, cops aren’t smart enough to differentiate between hookers and non-hooker females. In some places just having more than a few condoms in your purse is enough to get you nicked, and that’s utterly ridiculous. Other stories are more harrowing, and all are because of demonisation of sex workers and the illegality of sex work in many jurisdictions. Strangely, however, most people can’t tell sex workers apart from “regular” women: they look just like everyone else. And they are just like everyone else: trying to make a living with their native skills.

Posted in American, Canadian, general, life, news & journalism, opinion, politics, religion, stupidity, Uncategorized, World | 1 Comment »

Deadly sins….

Posted by Keen Observer on July 21, 2012

[NOTE:  I started writing this in May, and I finished it in July.  The disconnect between what I thought I was writing about then versus now has gotten fairly significant. Hopefully, I will be able to remember what my point was before finish it.]

I was thinking about this a little over the past couple of weeks, but I’ve finally managed to get some time to put my thoughts down.  It really isn’t all the sins.  I was primarily reflecting on Envy.  (When you’re talking of the Seven Deadly Sins, they must be capitalised–so one does not mistake them for ordinary sins, I suppose.)

The Old Testament version of it would be “covetousness” or some such.  “Thou shalt not covet…” etc etc.  With greed or lust in your heart, it’s sinful to want what is not yours by right.  In modern usage, this has become somewhat diluted, I think.  What’s more, though:  Envy and Jealousy have become largely interchangeable.  In my view this is not correct:  I don’t think that these two words represent (in the modern sense) the same thing at all.

To me–and you may disagree–these are different things.  I’ll not go into much detail, but the primary difference is fear versus desire.  If you envy someone, you want what they have.  If you are jealous, you fear to lose what you have (if you do, in fact, have it, and it’s not some chimera of your imagination).  Jealousy is poison, whereas Envy need not be.  Being envious can simply mean that you wistfully wish things were different.  Being jealous is likely to turn you into a twat, if you aren’t already.  Jealousy is what leads to spousal battery, stalking, and other such social ills.  Envy can be negative, but I don’t think there’s anything positive about Jealousy–with the possible exception of being able to learn about your own reactions to it and making yourself into a better person as a result.  Envy is much more likely to result in self-improvement, if you decide that such improvements can result in obtaining that which you envy (e.g., being a better employee to get that bonus or raise or new position).

Perhaps the most insidious thing about Jealousy, in my opinion, is that people suffering from it as a rule do not understand either that they suffer from it or that it is damaging.  They are blind to it and its effects, both on them or on others.  And because of that, otherwise rational people become raving lunatics.  In my case the worst thing I generally do is say exceedingly stupid things, either verbally or on paper (virtual or otherwise), but I eventually come to my senses.  But I know that in my case the Jealousy is the fear-of-loss type, even when the loss is a foregone conclusion.  I don’t like myself when I get like that, but I have yet to be able to figure it out soon enough to stop it from happening.  However, because I can recognise it, I’ve also learned to stop spouting off a lot quicker than I have in past.  Unfortunately, that’s still after the damage has been done.

Given that it is now several months since I started writing this, I have to guess a little at what set me down this path.  I think it had something to do with a disagreement with the ex over what seemed fair in terms of post-sale arrangements with our soon-to-be-former house.  We had had an agreement that would have resulted in me gaining a slight edge in the equity percentage, but I found out that me having paid extra resulted in  me solely being poorer, since the mortgage penalties completely erased almost a year of equity in the house.  I tell you, I sure as fuck felt like a chump, since I had already been riding close to the edge financially as a result of needing to replace the basement floor and paying my half of it, and possibly a little more.  Her view on things seemed to be portraying her as a victim of something I perpetrated, as though I forced her into buying the house or to pay more because her income was 50% greater than mine.  Even writing about it now, it still gets my ire up.

At any rate, something in my kinda finally snapped, and I realised that the ex was a lot more selfish than I had thought she was, and that her world view was a bit divorced from reality.  I decided that the time wasn’t quite right to go into all of the things she apparently forgot, like me being a primary means of support for her during grad school (outside of her scholarship and TA fees), the amount of money I spent on her during that period, largely supporting her (exclusive of her savings and incidental expenses) for the eight months after she moved to Calgary prior to finding a job.  Still pulling my weight after I lost mine.  Reapportioning expenses to be more fair after my income decreased to the rate below hers, but keeping the mortgage sharing equal.  But she doesn’t seem to have understood the difference between “fair” and “equal”.

Now, this is relevant, because when she left me, I had an episode of Jealousy, writing her things that were probably best left unsaid.  I don’t know if I was just milder, or if she was a better person about it.  What the mortgage thing did was make me aware that I’m almost past her and her decision just to throw away blithely our fifteen years together.  Following on an earlier incident of selfishness on her part, it’s like this is the second stage of me finally getting past her.  Each time I get angry at her (few of those times as there are), more of what I’ve held inside me burns away in that heat.  It’s not all gone, and just looking at her can wash away all the pain and rekindle all the desire, but it’s getting easier.  Now that the sale is complete, and I don’t have to see or talk to her any more, maybe it will get easier still.

As well, since the sale completed and I have more time to think about this without the house sale getting in the way, it feels more and more like being jealous or having an attack of Jealousy related to her is just wasted effort, because it seems more and more like she just wasn’t worth the effort….or at least, that’s what I’m trying to convince myself of.  Certainly, “trying to keep” something I’d already lost turned into an exercise in futility that did neither of us any good.

As this is at least a second incident of me going off the deep end (sort of), and I’m learning the signs and the pitfalls, perhaps next time (if there is one), I can avoid it entirely.  Perhaps not, but I can hope, and maybe the sin next time won’t be so “deadly”, and I won’t make such a fool of myself over someone else who doesn’t deserve what I have to offer.

Posted in general, life, love, opinion, religion | Comments Off on Deadly sins….

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

Posted by Keen Observer on February 6, 2012

And so it continues…

At some point during this period following the attacks, I also found—I’ve no idea now how at this point—a left-wing blogger that I found interesting enough to read regularly. I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was likely in 2006, and I think it was after I moved to Calgary and was looking for connections to the city of my birth. This blogger, whose link is at the right side of my blog’s home page (grrrlmeetsworld), was a southern Baptist preacher’s daughter transplanted to Saskatoon for graduate school, who became an atheist and a Democrat/liberal. The conversion from Christian Republican to atheist Democrat seemed interesting to me at the time, and I even commented a few times, though I can no longer seem to find them. I read her posts and resisted some of what I read mentally, which told me I wasn’t a true leftist, but I didn’t know what I was for sure yet. I definitely did agree with her condemnation of southern religious practices as outlined in the documentary “Jesus Camp”, of which I have admittedly only seen a few scenes. What I did see scared the crap out of me and had me fearing for a generation of brainwashed children steeped in superstition. It did, I think, help with my transition away from religion.

 [Blogger’s Note: I had thought, when I started writing this (and have held as long as I can recall) that reading grrrlmeetsworld pointed me at a right-wing blog, described below. I’ll tell the story as I believed it, but after trying to create a timeline from Internet resources, I can no longer swear positively that this was the way it happened. It was similar in some way, but the connection would seem not to be as direct. I add this little note as my attempt at deflecting potential accusations of “making shit up” or “intellectual dishonesty”, but I would have sworn this to be true before starting to verify it.]

Reading this blog, however, pointed me in an unexpected direction. Said blogger decided to take issue with something she’d heard on the radio or read in the local paper and then followed up by linking to another site at right, smalldeadanimals. I think this was in 2006 still. The hostess of that blog had commented on the subject of welfare and single moms and drugs (or something like that), to the effect of “Why should we pay for people who can’t keep their legs closed?” I’m paraphrasing, but I believe that was the sentiment/subject. I went to this blog and read the statement, as I wanted to make sure I had the context correct, because I couldn’t believe something like that would get published/make the air. But that’s what it was. Somebody said something I knew to be unpopular, but with which I agreed. So I poked around the site and read more. And more. I initially read bits and pieces, feeling as though I was being naughty for doing so, but most of what I read resonated quite strongly with me, though I have—and still do—disagree with some things that get posted there, especially in the comments.

That was effectively the beginning of the end of my conversion to conservatism. The more I read, the more I realised what I was and why some things seemed wrong to me, and the more I realised that I was regularly being either lied to or fed half-truths in the name of a specific agenda. I learned about things I had not heard before. I learned about things I had heard about before, but with additional or different information. I clicked on links and found other blogs with even more information and links that exposed further lies and untruths. Some of what I learned put earlier experiences in my life in a different light.

Of course, the more I read of how I had been duped in the media and school, and more about things that make sense to me, the less I find I want to read left-leaning blogs, because I have trouble now reading them without wanting to pull out my hair in frustration. It frequently seems to me as though the left-leaners are wilfully blind to facts and logic. Until I was trying to put this together, I couldn’t have told you the last time I was at grrrlmeetsworld, or Daily Dose. I almost never go to places like the Huffington Post, unless someone provides a useful link. Watching how the “regular” press treated different candidates in elections differently, or treated one side of the parliamentary aisle with more respect than the other really helped turn me off, when the information is available by other means for you to draw your own conclusions, ones that frequently (if not mostly) disagree with the “accepted” view of things.  It doesn’t hurt that I moved to a province generally considered to be the most conservative in Canada, which certainly made it easier to accept that I wasn’t alone in my beliefs.

As time goes on I settle more into where I’m at politically and religiously. It’s a strange sort of comfort. Religiously, as should be obvious, I am barely agnostic, still a hand’s breadth from “committing” to atheism, teetering daily, when I have time to think about it. Some things—or people—make that seem to happen more frequently. Looking up on a clear night is one of those things, though there are fewer clear nights in Calgary than there were in Saskatoon. Sometimes, a friend makes you think, or a random experience. So, I remain agnostic, but for practical purposes I’m an atheist.

Politically, I usually describe myself as a libertarian-conservative, or centre-right, depending on my mood. I am not a social conservative, though I can understand and relate to some of the positions on that side. I do tend to agree that a nuclear family is better for society as a whole, but those who would espouse freedom should understand that you can’t force that on others, nor can you force them to share your religious tenets. I use “libertarian” in the sense of a minimum of social restrictions, but I’m not a true libertarian, in the sense that pure libertarians tend to anarchism, whether or not they acknowledge that. My political views are largely thus:

  • The role of government should be as small as is possible, given its responsibilities.
  • Governmental responsibilities should be as few as possible to enable society to function relatively smoothly, and new ones should not be sought to expand power, with the possible exception of national emergencies (at the federal level). The limits should be constitutionally set, where they are not already.
    • National Defence at the federal level, including border security and oceanic sovereignty.
    • Adjudicating disputes; jurisdiction depends on level.
    • A minor level of regulation for a very limited set of problems, and federal responsibilities should never be adopted by the provinces, or vice versa.
    • Regulation of international agreements/diplomacy/similar things.
  • Spending as little as possible as needed to fulfil the mandates required. This requires limiting the size of the public service and the amount of money paid to public servants in a way that does not reward sloth or failure. With this in mind, citizens need not pay for as much, so taxes may also be kept to a minimum.
  • Charity is not the business of government. Transfer payments are a form of charity.
  • Child care is not the business of government.
  • Religion is not the business of government, nor should it have any say in government. We are a secular country, but our people may sometimes hold religious beliefs. These are likely to inform decision-making, but this should be minimised where possible. A decision for one religious group may not be good for another, but it may be good on the whole.

Beyond this list, it’s largely up for negotiation, but the public sector should never be getting mixed up in the private sector. There is nothing so bad (in terms of business, at least) that government can’t make worse, and so the opportunities for such should be limited. This also should reduce any existence of—or potential for—corruption, and hopefully reduce the number of lifetime bureaucrats that produce nothing of value.

My positions sometimes shift slightly, depending on circumstances, but these are basically consistent for me right now. I also have views on other things, such as immigration, but those are perhaps topics for other days. I won’t bother to summarise my current religious status, since I think it’s been more or less covered, but the political journey I’ve taken so far does have parallels on the religious side of things.

And on that note, I’ll declare this odyssey at an end, though in much less dramatic fashion than the original. But it’s never really over.

Posted in Alberta, economics, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 5

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 4

Posted by Keen Observer on February 5, 2012

I’m getting closer to being finished, honest.

The shock of the attacks on 9/11 was still not quite enough to complete my conversion to the Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy…I don’t think. I remember understanding instinctively that this was an attack that could not go unanswered. I knew that someone would be made to pay, and that was as it should be. But I remember having less-than-positive thoughts about the Bush administration that would not correlate to conservatism. I know now that was partly due to biased coverage in the news media, which had less of an Internet presence than it does now, by far, but it also had to do with failure to prevent the threat from becoming real.

I believed also at the time that the Patriot Act would not be a good idea, that problems would be caused. I still hold that belief and have found that it is not a fringe position among conservatives. I also did not think creating Homeland Security would be a good idea (a thought which has been borne out, in my opinion, given recent excesses and “security theatre” of the TSA). It evoked in me at the time immediate comparisons with old rhetoric around fascist Germany and communist Russia—the Fatherland and the Motherland (or Mother Russia), respectively, though this time the “-land” in question was gender-neutral. This is the kind of rhetoric the modern world can live quite happily without. I saw it in some ways as supporting my belief that Americans as a whole think a little too highly of themselves, but I also saw that between these two governmental elements there was a large opportunity for abuse of power and related problems, especially when used with the phrase, “In the name of security.”

I also saw the attacks as fairly evident proof that Muslim extremists cannot be reasoned with or bargained with…ever. Radical (or extremist) religious views are not rational and are used to excuse any action—the “God told me to” defence. There is nothing a religious extremist cannot justify. I’ll not get off on a screed here, but I will say that since 9/11 I have not viewed Muslims or the Middle East in quite the same way. A minority may be responsible for the terrorism and violence, but they are tolerated and tacitly encouraged by the so-called silent majority. This type of view can generally be attributed more towards the conservative right than the liberal left, so that was another piece to the puzzle. It also, perhaps counter-intuitively, partially validated my disdain for and separation from my own former religion, in terms of the broad strokes of religious fervour and superstition.

Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan fighting also renewed my pride in my country and its Armed Forces, something that had been largely quiescent for years. I was always saddened to hear of the death of a CF member, but I was always proud that our military personnel were out there, doing Canada proud with honour and distinction, fighting against the evil present there at the time. Definitely not a liberal perspective.

During this period, around 2003-2004, I had a job doing “media monitoring”. That is to say, I got paid to watch TV news and listen to radio news, then upload summaries rife with names and keywords to a national database. I also did transcription of some stories/items on request. I had thought this would be a good job, as at the time I fancied myself a news junkie of sorts. How little did I know. That job cured me of that affliction for a time, but it also taught me one thing: the media outlets said almost exactly the same thing on each story that was broadcast. Some outlets had different foci than others, but the differences seemed largely minor. The reporters also had similar cadences, and the word I grew to hate was “still”, as it preceded too many sentences. The reports were (and still are to large extent) structured in the same way: start with a personal angle, describe the meat of the story, evaluate (usually with alarm) the apparent problems, bring it back to the personal. Story after story, channel after channel, night after night. It was at that time that I largely switched my personal news watching to Global, as their offences usually seemed less egregious, but I still couldn’t bring myself to switch to our local talk radio station, because the conservatism of their flagship hosts sounded far too sour-grapes for my liking. But I did occasionally hear through my job opinions from them that made far too much sense to me.

I learned at some point in 2005 of an American blogger, a resident of Minnesota, who had taken an interest in Canadian politics for some reason. He blogged at a place called Captain’s Quarters—now defunct—which I found out about due to his interest in the so-called Sponsorship Scandal, the inquiry for which had a publication ban on testimony, with punishments for Canadians that broke the ban. The Captain decided to expose the Gomery Inquiry and its participants, and I read regularly. I became disgusted with the apparently-corrupt antics of the federal party I supported, which helped push me (and many others, I expect) away from the Liberal Party of Canada. I even read other articles at his site, which pionted me in all sorts of new directions that were surprisingly sensible. And at some point he was persuaded to give up his personal blog and become a lead contributor at another blog on the right side of the page: HotAir. I read it regularly, especially when it comes to American politics, but they also have a few more fringe elements showing up. This blog also broadened (and broadens) my conservative experience.

Contemporaneously, I also continued to grow more at ease with being religiously agnostic. The longer I went without weekly harangues about my basic evilness and the need to beg forgiveness for it, the happier I was. I continued my internal debates on whether a supreme being of some sort actually existed, however, and if so, was deserving of worship. I also continued to see events around me and around the world as further confirmation that somebody was horribly, horribly wrong about the nature of god and evil. And I got closer and closer to thinking everybody was wrong.

More to come…

Posted in Alberta, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 4

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 3

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

So, presuming no one is bored at my rambling yet, I shall continue…

I spent some time adrift after leaving school sans degree.  This was in 1991, when I should have convocated as a teacher, as did many of my friends.  Instead, I was somewhat aimless.  Employment prospects poor, I didn’t quite know what to do.  I didn’t much care about other things, either.  I had my first brush with what might be called depression, though it was never diagnosed as such.  I scared my family by doing a very good impression of a rock for about eight hours uninterrupted one day.

I almost left university, I should say.  With nothing better to do, I went back in the fall to take classes towards a degree in English Literature.  That kept me occupied somewhat, and I was exposed to ideas further left than my usual ones, especially in the person of a poet I met in one of my classes, one with certain…issues, let’s say.  I absorbed some of these ideas and reflected them back to the world.  I learned a higher level of analytical reading and presentation.  I honed my writing skills.  I thought about doing graduate work, but it really didn’t appeal to me, and I had certain…limitations imposed because of my math/physics grades.  I stayed out of politics, mostly, but I voted every election.  One can argue that it is a citizen’s highest civic duty, but it was never something I let slide past me, even if all I did was spoil a ballot.

During this time also, I did spend some time with my poet friend and her circle.  Except for rare circumstances, I never really felt part of the group, though.  I didn’t really understand why, except that I knew at a recognisable level that they were not my people.  Different ideas.  Diff’rent strokes.  Different aims and beliefs.  At most levels, except for occasional literary discussions, I could not relate to them as a group.  The thought of “conservatism” still left me cold, believing as I did what the media and my acquaintances told me about it and the PC Party of Canada (or Saskatchewan). and I largely considered myself a centrist or centre-left kind of guy.  I had not yet realised that I was being fed news pablum, but I did have a sense that there were gaps of some sort (at least on a subconscious level).

I ultimately finished that degree in 1994, but again had no idea what to do with it.  No job, no prospects.  Unsure.  My cousin got married that year, and the wedding was in Sydney, NS.  I went, invited as relative and MC.  Did not distinguish myself, but it was somewhat life-changing.  I had taken geology as an elective, and I got to see out east some things discussed in class, and I began to understand the story the earth tells, if you know how to read it.  This intrigued me to the point that I wanted to learn more, and so I re-enrolled upon my return:  something finally excited me.

Something else excited me:  my sister’s best friend, freshly graduated from high school.  For some reason at that ceremony, something changed relative indifference to strong attraction, to the point that while far away from Saskatoon, I kept thinking about her at fairly regular intervals.  There’s much more detail, but for my purposes now, I had something else to occupy my mind.  We started dating that fall, despite some initial reluctance on my part, and she was central to my life for 16 years, and still currently has a peripheral–but significant–effect on it.

I had goals again; I was excited; I had things to do.  With new things to keep me engaged in my life, I again started following politics more closely.  I again kept being unsure of myself.  I questioned my agnosticism.  I kept thinking things the government did were a bit stupid; in my house, however, criticising the provincial NDP government was not generally wise.  Based on things I understood at the time, the federal government, Liberal-run, seemed to be going OK, so I had no complaints.  Quebec separatism frequently came up as a topic.  For that, I saw little reason in appeasement, even with my French-Canadian heritage, so in that regard I was on the opposite side of my supposed party.  I would be unhappy with the breaking of Confederation, but I just could not see how they could be so stupid about it.  How little did I know at the time, but the press seemed not interested in portraying the true nature of the complaints, as I have now come to understand them.

I finished my geology degree program, which is where I developed a grounding in the historical temperature record.  This (among other reasons that would take up other posts completely) informed my resistance to climate change as having any human-caused component, something that set me apart from most people for a long time.  I worked as a well-site geologist for about 4 years after that, which also let me to be exposed to a larger world of ideas, including those of surprisingly-educated rig workers.

During this time, I found a left-leaning blog, one of those at right on the main page of this blog:  grrlmeetsworld.  In it (I can’t remember how I found it) the writer recounted her own political journey from US Southern Christian right to a leftist doing grad work at my university.  It interested me, and it was interesting to read how she stopped adhering to the politics she had grown up around.  A lot of the change seemed to be propelled by the Christian part of the politicking, to which I could somewhat relate, but in the other direction.  I even commented there a few times, even after moving to Calgary.  But that’s getting ahead.  I learned a lot from her, some of which she might not appreciate, but some things continued to leave me confused.

The rigs were also the milieu in which I was when the attacks of 9/11 happened.  Clear as day are some of my memories around that time, though others from that time have deteriorated.  I was just coming on shift shortly after the first plane hit.  Oddly, it just seemed like a run-of-the-mill disaster to be watched with ghoulish interest.  And I was watching as the second plane hit.  My first reaction was, “Oh. My. God.” There was no mistaking that for an accident.  My second reaction was, “Those stupid, stupid fuckers.”  I had no doubt in my mind who was responsible, at least in broad form, and I knew they had just changed the world in an instant.  I also knew that hell was coming for them.

(to be continued…)

Posted in Alberta, American, Canadian, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion, science, World | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 3

A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2

Posted by Keen Observer on January 31, 2012

[Note:  rather a lot of this was written in early March 2011, but it sat for some time before I got back to it.  A new friend’s feedback encouraged me.]

I’m not entirely sure, but I think I might always have been a conservative, without really realising it.  I’m still trying to figure that out.  But I almost never voted Conservative.  I think, except maybe for once, I never voted NDP.  I was usually voting Liberal, both federally and provincially.  Largely, that was due to my family, my school, and my Church, but I could never bring myself to swing further left than that.

When I moved to Calgary, I joined a riding that was so deep blue, no vote of mine would make a difference.  So I voted Libertarian federally and Wild Rose Alliance provincially (in their first election).  I plan to vote WRA again.  With Prentice gone (what a jack-off), I voted CPC in the last election without feeling too sullied, but I doubt it made a difference.  There was no Libertarian candidate this time around, so no  worries there.

That’s where I stand now, but how did I get here?

I remember developing interest in news and politics somewhat in elementary school.  As something we did on a weekly basis, Fridays I think, we did posters or quizzes on “current events”.  That kind of opened up the world to me a little bit, which heretofore I hadn’t much cared about.  I don’t think I took sides then, or anything.  It was largely a regurgitation exercise, and I believed something that appeared in print or on TV.  They weren’t trying to teach us much in the way of critical thinking or analysis, just summary and repetition.

I vaguely remember from that time the Iranian hostage crisis, for example, and feeling proud that Canadians had a hand in getting some of the Americans out.    I remember reading crappy Canadian history books in class that ended with the Diefenbaker prime-ministership.  And I remember having a very strong interest in military history, partly due to a love of airplanes (the best planes were fighter planes).  Unfortunately, most of the military history available to me was American and European, rather than anything Canadian.  I forget how old I was when I learned who Laura Secord really is or that we burned the White House (assuming it was us and not just British forces stationed here).

My interest in news, history, and current events carried on through my high-school life (and, indeed, continues today).  My perception of it changed over the years, though.  In high school I spent a couple of years in Air Cadets.  I generally enjoyed the experience, and I probably would have gone forward with a career in the military, but all I was interested in at the time was flying, and when I realised in grade ten that I needed glasses, that killed that hope for me.  I didn’t re-join cadets the following year, either.  I still kind of regret that, even though my excuse at the time was that it was taking too much time away from my academics.  Purely a rationalisation, I think now, because I didn’t need to work at all hard in school.  I maintained, though, my interest in and support of our military.  I attended air shows and went to other military displays.  It was in elementary school where I developed a sense of nationalism, and I was always somewhat offended that promoting Canadian nationalism was seen as being “too American”.  It was in the vein of “all problems and wars are the result of being too nationalistic”, or some other simplistic bullshit.  To my shame I largely kept quiet on that subject, but I was also quietly proud.

My interest in firearms arose largely from Scouts, believe it or not.  At camp one year, it was the first time I fired a rifle (or firearm of any type).  It was a simple .22LR of some variety with open sights; I don’t remember if it had the usual 5-round magazine, but I expect it did.  I was able, on the camp range, to hit small targets at 50 yards or so (eg the plastic boxes the ammo came in) and see them fly up with fragments.  I found that exciting, but it was also a little scary to me, because I understood that these tools can be dangerous also.  I don’t recall if I ever had any position on gun control before then or not.  I doubt it.  Even after that, I kind of waffled somewhat, because I held the belief for some time that restricting access to firearms could be a good thing.  Eventually, however, I realised that “gun control” should only ever mean “tight groupings” and “hitting your target”.  Sure, require licenses and maybe background checks, but the licenses shouldn’t be overly restrictive or difficult to obtain.  Otherwise, there really shouldn’t be any restrictions, except perhaps for certain types of military-grade hardware.  And there should be more education about and promotion of firearms in the general population.  But going beyond this is another post.

[Tangent] Castle Doctrine:  enact one.  Enough said.  It’s just getting stupider out there. [Edit: the CPC has made some changes to current laws, but they’re not enough.]

Property rights:  enact them.  Enough said. [/Tangent]

In high school I was still surrounded by largely leftist politics.  Fortunately, it was mostly charity-based, but there was a lot that wasn’t.  At one point I was peer- and parent-pressured into getting a youth membership in the federal Liberal party to help push through an openly pro-life candidate’s nomination/election as party leader .  He didn’t win, but it wasn’t a surprise.  I got to join the others on a moral high horse that our consciences were salved by our actions, except I always felt a vague sense of unease about it.  At this remove, I’m not quite sure why, but I think I had some sort of sense that it wasn’t right.  At any rate, I always had a sense that I was out of step with those around me, but I really didn’t know why.

University provided a more-broad opportunity to interact with the world.  Living in a university city meant that I and most of the college-bound people from my high school ended up staying close to home and relatively intact as a group.  So their influence shadowed me, and my circle of friends didn’t expand much, as there was no need.  But again, there was exposure to new, and enhanced opportunities for independent research.  Universities tend to lean left, and ours was no exception, but if you looked, you could see alternate viewpoints.  They conflicted with “my” world-view, though, so I tended to ignore them.  I suspect, however, that some of what I was exposed to stuck with me, whether I willed it or not.

I attempted initially to become a teacher, but I chose a science-based curriculum (I had been somewhat inspired to become a physics teacher).  This is a general dichotomy, as teachers and their unions tend to frown on rational thought, but science requires it.  During my third year of study, I was on a practicum replacement in a rural high school at the same time that a province-wide strike vote was being held by the union.  This opened my eyes in a way nothing else had, as we student teachers were inside the teachers’ lounge and treated as colleagues.  I saw the profession’s warts and was disheartened.  Between this and the struggle get my science/math grades up (I, stupidly, chose the real curriculum, rather than the one intended for teachers, and lacking proper study skills and too stubborn to get help, could not deal with the more advanced courses), I did not enter the 4th and final year of the program, instead burning the remainder of my scholarship on classes I enjoyed (literature of various types).  I took the following year off to figure out what to do with myself, as the plans I had no longer worked for me.  This is, of course, all by-the-by, insofar as the thesis of this post goes, but it does help frame my experiences.

Around this time, I acquired a female friend from a rural area that resulted in several things: a more intimate exposure to ideas that were not the same as those with which I was raised; and forced acknowledgement that my friends had some flaws that from some perspectives might be viewed as problematic.  I make no claim to perfection myself, but these were the types of flaws that break friendships, either sooner or later.  Challenging ideas and removing blinkers were additional contributions to modifying what I believed politically; it also turned out that my problems with the Church became more crystalline-clear, and at the end of my 4th year of university,  I left both it and the Church.  Perhaps ironically, my female friend returned to the Church…an even exchange.  So, my voyage continued, ideas meshing, fighting, losing, and triumphing.

(more to come…)

Posted in Canadian, general, news & journalism, personal, politics, religion, science | Comments Off on A Religio-Political Odyssey, Part 2

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