Archive for Ethics

Who’s The Culprit?

It is often said (mainly by apologetics, and in a way, that’s how they’re defined) that religion is not to blame for religious bigotry or for religiously-motivated violence. The garden variety argument is that even though evil people can be religious, it is not religion itself that is responsible for their crimes and evil deeds.

An interesting discussion has sprouted at Sisyphus Fragment, and most interestingly so, the line of defense was held not by religious apologetics, but simply by everyday rational, coherent, intelligent people. The crux of their argument is that religious people would be ignorant to simply use religion (or brainwashed, and the difference is tricky) as a means to do evil, and that religion is not the only thing that’s being used to promote evil causes. This is very much true, and since no one said that religion is the only cause for evil, quite irrelevant in the defense of religion as a culprit.

An interesting argument defending religion arose when someone said that religion itself is not evil, but can be manipulated by evil men, and those attacking religion is not only pointless, but can be counter-productive. I’m not going to say anything about it being counter-productive not because I can’t imagine it being productive, but because I much rather base such a claim on credible sources and not just scatter historical examples and thought experiments.

What I will say, however, is that it is an interesting reduction of human evil to say that no doctrine of its own is culprable, including religious doctrine, but that only human beings are. In that respect, Nazis aren’t culprable by their adherence to the party, but only by the fact that they gassed prisoners to death (well, it’s more complicated than that, but the example is clear enough).

Anyway, I can’t completely disagree with that, and in many respects, I sometimes get the feeling that religious people get too much heat merely by entitling themselves religious. Religious people, like everyone else, pick and choose what they think is right or wrong (and many of them will agree, even elusively, that their morals are not dictated by the bible. No surprise there). So, this definitely flies in the face of every graffitti that goes “Christians are shit”, and even though a lot of well-intending atheists might sympathize (especially former Christians) with that sentence, I don’t.

But is Christianity, itself, a culprit? Obviously, Judaism will share the same cell should Christianity gets thrown to the tanty, but is it guilty of the crimes people commit in its name?

My answer to that is “not exactly”. Evil people will find some other way of grinding their axes at other people’s expense even if the Abarahamic religions never existed. The flip-side of that is that good men or women, or good-intending ones, might wrong their fellow mortals simply because the bible tells them so. They might even feel a horrible pain while doing so, and will even hate themselves for not being committed enough. They will feel a two-layered guilt: sympathy to the oppressed and servile guilt to their Master, the one who decreed that they should do things they really don’t want to, and really think they shouldn’t.

So addressing religion as “guilty” is meaningful only in the respect of specific laws and decrees that plainly, in a non-open-to-interpretation-way (see Deuteronomy), state that evil should be done. This is not an indictment of all religious people and not even of all religious laws or canonized books. This is an indictment of very specific laws that were barbaric when they were written (by whoever) and they’re still barbaric today, and religious people and athiests who aren’t, well, insane, will agree on that.

Jeff, a charming soul who also happens to be a Christian, would probably never even dream of committing any crimes in the name of Christianity or Jesus Christ, and he would agree that killing homosexuals is an evil decree (he won’t agree that that’s what the bible says, but if he did, he would agree it’s an evil religious decree).

So the real culprit is between the lines, not on the cover of the bible. Religion does not go to prison, only the written text in its holy books that sends good men to do the work for evil ones.

The Power of Sign Language


This past few weeks have been tumultuous for me. I’m constantly reshaping my view on sign language and interpreting for the Deaf. When I started studying ISL, I was determined to acquire the skills and credentials of an ISL interpreter because of a combination of my love to Mother and my life-long infatuation with the Deaf, mainly as a result of reflecting the love I have for Mom and Dad on the entire Deaf community.

At the onset, Cocoon stated firmly that “wanting to help the Deaf” is a dangerous agenda for an interpreter. The Interpreters’ code states clearly that objectivity must be had in relation to both Hearing and Deaf. In every interpretation event, the Hearing are my clients too, and as a professional sign language interpreter, I must avoid any biases against the hearing just as much (and equivalently so) as I should avoid biases in favor of the Deaf.

So how do I do it?

At first, I thought that it is impossible for me to uphold the Code without turning against my own ideals as well, but I’ve come to reshape this thought in the past week:

The best thing I can do for the Deaf is to be as professional an interpreter as possible.

This is not to say that there aren’t any ethical issues to be had, but as a basic principle, it does absolve me of the self-torturous occupation with my agenda as an interpreter.

This week’s article was all about interpretation ethics. Besides from recapping the code as we’ve discussed it in class, it brings some real-world examples of collision between the Code and a person’s own ideals and moral principles.

I will use one such example to clarify the remaining dilemma I have with the ethical code:

An interpreter was sent to interpret for a deaf patient who was visiting a gynecologist about having her uterus removed. The interpreter notices that clearly, the doctor is not giving this patient all the care (he believes) she deserves, and it is easy to see that the deaf patient hasn’t a clue that she’s being mistreated.

What would I do?

Well, if it was Mom and Dad, I’d probably turn the table and use loud-volume complaints and admonition, as my agenda is clear: I’m here for Mom and Dad, and I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about the doctor’s interests so long as he takes care of them.

As soon as I do that, I’m no longer a sign language interpreter, end of story. I’m a “signer representing my deaf parents”. Cocoon firmly stated that anyone who’s ever signed to his family (or even his friends!) has never “interpreted”. Knowing how to sign does not perforce mean “being an interpreter”.

The article offers one interesting possibility of upholding the code without hurting the interpreter’s conscience: resigning the instant there’s a clash between ethical and personal principles.

The issue, however, remains for me unsettled. In my case, I would resign and then immediately become very, very subjective and particular about what happened. I would admonish the doctor for his malpractice, I would feverishly explain to and negotiate with the deaf patient, even to the point of arguing with her that going through this or that length of research and so on would be the best thing for her.

I would be making a stand, I would be appointing myself as an advocate and guardian without receiving this appointment from my deaf client.

My instinct would probably be to self-appoint myself as a guardian for the deaf without their consent, merely because it’s a life-long habit. I’ve yet to find a deaf person who didn’t happily accept that, by the way. I’m sure that a lot of deaf people would refuse to be belittled (although I don’t actually belittle, not consciously, anyhow), and I will immediately cease playing “Signman” at their expense if they ask me to, but still, this is what I would do by default, unless requested otherwise. I highly respect and revere the Deaf, and I only feel obliged to appoint myself as their “savior” because I’m horribly empathetic to them, not because I think they’re weak or incompetent.

So, in conclusion, I would still be breaking the code, or be improper by exploiting the information I received (the doctor being an ass) to promote my personal (and the deaf patient’s) agenda.

As of right now, I have no idea what I would do that aligns itself both with the Code and with my moral principles. And that, frankly, keeps me awake at night.

In class, Cocoon suggested that it is proper (and okay with the Code) to not so much as intervene in anyone’s favor in the interpretation-scene, but to simply supply the patient with some healthy advice that doesn’t assume any actual responsibility or, heavens forbid, requires contamination of spoken content with agenda-ridden signs.

She suggested, for example, to cordially ask the patient if she’s sure of what she’s going to do and humbly recommend her to consider her actions (such as signing the form that authorizes her surgery) well before anything potentially harmful happens.

This is a prudent and somewhat cunning alternative to breaking the code or letting a deaf person rot in the course of upholding it, but I still think it’s problematic. In a way, I AM breaking the code, or at least jabbing it hard enough to leave a crack. Personally? I’d do just what Cocoon suggested because I haven’t thought of a better idea. Perhaps I’d be a bit more adamant with my “cordial suggestions”, but I admit that I wouldn’t replace Mom and Dad with the deaf patient, I have to remain professional, for everyone’s sake.

Getting more intimate with sign language and the deaf is like a dream coming true for me, but I’m appalled as I wrestle with the horrible acknowledgment of the fact that sign language interpreters and the Deaf can never be friends and “work together” at the same time. The power to mediate between the hearing and the Deaf creates a chasm between Hearing and Deaf. The all-encompassing notion that one side is impaired and depended on the other makes the politics of this situation too cumbersome. I believe that although not impossible, being a professional sign language interpreter to a Deaf friend is highly unlikely.

I find this notion to be the most tragic conclusion from this course imaginable.

Why We Sign


The basis for the post’s title is the title of the 9th episode for the epic WWII drama by Stephen Spielberg: “Band of Brothers”. As it so happens, the episode answers the question one particular soldier asked himself throughout the war: why did he fight and why did his friends have to die for it. He got a heart-shattering answer when he and his company discovered and liberated a concentration camp. It was probably also one of the most shocking and intense parts of the mini-series.

ISL school is fascinating enough when we deal with the origin and structure of this fascinating language, and with the tenets of translating and interpreting. Not surprisingly, it’s turning out to be more complicated than I thought. For starters, being a signer, apparently, does not make you a sign-language interpreter. Also, being an interpreter does not make you a translator. What’s going on?

To begin with, everyone in the program knows how to sign. It’s about 70% CODAs, so us CODAs obviously know Sign. There’s teachers and social workers and the occasional Interested Individual (probably my best friend in the program to date). On the whole, the sign-language part comes in-built in every one of the students.

So why do we need a program? Why 2 years?

Even though the rationale for interpreting has been clear to me all these years, I’ve never put it under the microscope. To me, signing was never designed to “act as professional proxy”. To me, signing always meant: “Do as your parents tell you”. I developed a relationship with Mom and Dad and I signed so I could help them.

Apparently, sign language interpreting does not focus, at least professionally, on helping the deaf.

Obviously, signing helps the deaf tremendously. They’re practically helpless, sometimes, without it (at least the old deaf population, which is far from being techno-savvy and isn’t going anywhere for the coming decades. Also, I’ve personally interpreted for techno-savvy deaf students. They’re not independent and aren’t going to be anytime soon).

But, and this is important, Cocoon (this is how I’m going to call the program administrator, a CODA whose husband is deaf) heavily admonished me for saying that I’m in this business to help the deaf. Cocoon says that such an attitude towards interpreting is not professional. A professional translator has to be 100% objective, with no bias towards the deaf nor the hearing. How do I reconcile that? In short, I don’t.

One of most pivotal issues in the program is Translation Ethics. An issue I’ve never dealt with and, says Cocoon, is of enormous import and is probably one of the main reasons for the establishment of a professional ISL-interpreters’ program.

It seems that I’ve violated the ISL ethical code when I stayed after class and helped my student with her homework, it appears that I’ve violated the code when I got involved, personally, with my clients and became their friend, helped them better understand the material, answered their questions before tests, etc. At one time, (and this, I admit, was wrong on every level), I even signed an answer to a question in a test when my deaf student looked at me with puppy eyes and begged me to help her with the test.

Well, I don’t know if I’ll have the minerals to say “no” to a deaf student in distress, but apparently, this is part of my professional responsibility. I might even lose my license if I do that when I go pro.

And here comes to the main point of the post, which is not why “We” (the interpreters) sign, but why “I” sign. I sign to help the deaf. It’s the reason I got into the program and without that reason, I have no place there. I come to impart my childhood habit of helping my deaf parents upon non-parenting deaf individuals. I come to reflect the love I had for my parents, deaf or not, upon all deaf individuals. It’s practically barbaric, in a way, but without it, I simply don’t know how to be so fatally enamoured with the deaf community as much as I am.

So this is a secret I probably should keep hidden from Cocoon, and it’s also reason enough for me to risk my license. I come to the deaf community in order to help them.

This does not mean that I’m going to be biased for the deaf as far as the contents of the signs is concerned. I am going to sign to them EXACTLY what the hearing person said, and I’m going to voice exactly what the client signs. I am, however, going to get personal with my deaf clients, and give them advice as far as I can. Not during the interpreting session, but as a friend. The certificate is only a bridgehead into the deaf community.

I will follow the ethics and rules to the letter, but I will not remove myself from the Deaf community itself. I will come to sign for them as a professional, hopefully model translator: Impartial to either Deaf and Hearing – but after the session is complete, I will address them as a friend of the Deaf, their hearing child as I’ve always been, and the de facto parent I always felt I was to the Deaf community.

I sign because I want to help.

I sign because I need to help.

Freedom of Speech

Another pharyngulated blog, 2000 years of deception (hark at that), has brought to my attention a particularly obnoxious type of homeschooling, bigoted, hate-mongering, ignorant and odious individual. The bottom line is that miss God Hates Fags here says that homosexuality should be punishable by death and that with any luck some radical will blow up a “gay-friendly high-school”. She also said she doesn’t actually endorse this. Oh yeah, no sir!

Anyhow, since this is just another run-of-the-mill idiot with nothing to do but to spread tinfoil hat mouth-foaming belliigerence (and, tragically, inculcating it in her homeschooled children) – on itself it’s not big news and not particularly interesting. The only sympathizers clods like that have are other twerps with the same single-digit IQ.

However, being the comments prowler that I am, I sniffed the comments in 2000YOD (well, I’d obviously not look into the godbot’s blog for a balanced view, that despicable hag quickly deleted every comment from non-sycophants) and I ran into this jewel:

Anonymous said…
Flaging her blog is juvenile and close minded.

Hate Speech is still free speech. No matter how vulgar the message.

I’m sorry, all ye unfaithful – this anonymous chap is right. Freedom of speech logically entails freedom of dumb, hateful, poisonous speech. Freedom of speech enables Hitlers and Mussolinis, not just FDR’s and Churchills. If one accepts the right to free speech, one must also allow it for anyone with a dissenting and even disgusting view, and I fully endorse this woman’s right to display her revolting worldview to the world. At least that way more people can be made aware of this vile, sickening individual.

I’m using more expletives than usual precisely because I wish to make an example of my own free speech. See, I don’t think suppressing people’s view is a good long-term strategy for any purpose. It doesn’t even stand to reason even when we ignore the warm, fuzzy feelings liberal concepts like FOS give to us ( I’m not kidding, it’s given me warm fuzzy feelings ever since I heard of it in junior high. )

The thing is – if people have dissenting views, hushing them up won’t make them go away, and in any case, if there’s a personality or an upbringing that makes people susceptible to certain viewpoints, then shutting them up won’t make them change their minds, or change the fact that such viewpoints will survive. People always find a way, and writing about crap like said hag is just one of many methods of propagating disgusting ideas.

So my take on this is that freedom of speech does in fact and should cut both ways: it’s the right of useful, intelligent, modern human beings to express their views and to spread useful and egalitarian ideas and it’s also the right for bible-thumping yokels to dribble about how wonderful a world without people who are different than they are is going to be.

I also think that it’s solely the responsibility of sensible liberals to use that same right to vocalize their contempt, scorn, disdain, disapproval, disavowal and absolute flaming dejection at such putrid ideas.

In the end, it’s the winning ideas that win, not the most vocal ideas, though being overly vocal helps to propogate bullshit. But the end result is that people want power, and the way to power is in reason and in reason alone. If you convince enough people to use their heads and not the opinions of authoritative bigots, they will, in turn, use their heads to produce results better than they could before.

Then the tide will turn.

Speak out hard enough, and the truth will win: not because it’s warm and cuddly, but because it’s concordant with humanity’s biological reality: the truth is the best way to get to results, and only those who get to results get a say in anything.

Eventually, if enough people use their heads, the warm and fuzzy feelings (the truly important part of this whole “life” thing) will follow.

Cruelty to Animal Rights’ Activists

The only way to view my attitude towards non-humans non-hypocritically is by admitting that I am morally okay with killing non-humans and/or eating them/researching with them (as long as its not unnecessarily cruel). When I say “unnecessarily cruel”, I mean that any pain induced to a “higher species” is not induced haphazardly. I’m okay with AIDS viruses injected to mice if it’s meant to help find a cure or vaccine to the virus, I’m completely repulsed, however, at the idea of kicking a mouse and killing it for the sake of sadistic satisfaction.  I find this admission to be rather casual, but I suspect that most, or at least many, people would find it repugnant.

Animal rights activism is quite widespeard in Israel, and I can’t help but cringe when I see bumper-stickers that say “eating meat is murder”. To that, I say: nope, eating meat is lunch, a nourishing, tasty lunch. It’s a valuable source of protein and micro-nutrients and, if well-dieted, an important part of daily nutrition. Of course, you could replace it with other foods, but once you eliminate the moral issue, there’s no reason to.

Of course, I sympathise with the idea that unecessary cruelty to animals is mean, while mostly I admit that I’m rather impervious to said cruelty being acted upon animals. It’s not an admission of endorsing such cruelty, just of enough apathy towards it that allows for non-action, and for any hypocrite who scoffs at such indifference to violence, I’d say: “when’s the last time you adopted an orphan? Oh, you DID adopt an orphan? What about all the other orphans you left to starve because you picked the cute one?”.
At the same time, I find it personally okay to eat meat and I really, really don’t care what the animals have to say or what they feel about it. Most carnivores would devour me alive if they had the choice. Not that that “makes it okay” in any way, but it goes well to show that eating is not a moral issue unless you find the species you eat to be cuddly. I’m sure PETA protests very little against eating snakes, insects and molluscs, even though snakes and arthropods are just as “alive” (and in the case of some arthropods, quite clever) as amiable cows and ducks are. The whole premise of “animal rights” is pathetically childish and hypocritical: save the “animals” (meaning Metazoan species only), and at that, only the ones I like.

I can’t help but thinking of Poison Ivy and her pathological deference for plants, and how she’d probably flay people alive for eating corn (and if she wouldn’t, a person who would is no different than a terrorist animal rights activist who bombs researchers’ homes for conducting experiments on animals)/

Animal rights actvists are peurile pick-and-choosers, hypocritically defending the animals they like while abandoning the species they don’t care about: they’re simply okay with killing different kinds of species, making them just as “murderous” to “plant right activists” as meat-eaters are to them. Anyone aware enough of the biological reality knows that any heterotrophic animal has to “murder” (read kill) a different organism to survive. This isn’t a question of “right or wrong”, it’s merely a question of natural imperative. What you eat or what you’re okay eating is completely arbitrary, and in that respect, I find it completely reasonable to eat anything that’s not human (while also being aware of cannibalisms and frankly all for sending canniabals people to prison for being murderers).

At that, I wish to say that I completely endorse animal right activists who promote non-violence against animals that are, say, used for slaughter. Personally, I’d prefer that all animals being slaughtered would not suffer at all before being slaughtered. If it was up to me, I’d make sure their death is completely painless.

Simple Killings

This is the third “serious crime” proceeding I had to scribe, and the second “murder case”. In the previous instances, when I encountered serious crimes in my “line of work”, I was left shocked, amazed and pensive. This time, I must say that I am not too impressed or moved at all. Blah, blah, blah, can’t speak of what actually happened, fast forward.

This was a case of murder. The people killed were simple people, the people doing the killing were simple people, and most importantly (hence the perfection of this post’s title): the motive for the killing was simple.

The truth of the matter is that a person was killed, a real young man was killed, because of words he said, expletives he uttered. A simple man produced grade-school level profanity and as a result, was simply killed by a simple person.

Newspapers in Israel enjoy making fabulous headlines at their “pointless murder” column. I’m sure they won’t call it that, but there’s not a day that goes by without some “redundant violence article” published in the paper. I’m pretty sure it’s not a local phenomenon, too.

I find myself not only unimpressed by such stories, but also completely unsurprised. People who have nothing but their pathetic and miserable street credibility wouldn’t think twice before killing a man who destroys it or even merely undermines it. Honor, as “simple killers” refer to it, is probably all they have, and reckless violence the only tool for them to keep it. Without that, they reckon, they’re as good as dead anyway.

People who have been forged in a lawless fire where there’s nothing but the width of your shoulders and the peak decibels of your voice to show your prowess in are going to be violent and probably murderously so. It is only a big astonishment to self-righteous and arrogant bourgeosies who obviously have many other alternatives to violence when confronted who find hopeless ignorants to be murderously violent.

Anyone who thinks this is a patronizing argument has obviously not spent a day in his life with poor ignorant people. When I say “ignorant”, I do not mean morally inferior or even stupid – I simply mean that a lot of people who are of very limited means are also ignorant of the fact that there’s more than one way to screw a light bulb other than shooting the technician in the foot, getting him to screw the bulb, and then shooting him in the head. Um, figuratively speaking, of course.

There’s nothing I can learn here of human evil and very little I can study about human behavior: idiots with guns (yeah, idiots with guns, if anyone’s thought of me as patronizing so far, he can credit to himself the fact that he disagreed with me referring to murderous idiots with guns who kill for the dumbest reasons and chose to disagree with me when I refer to them as ignorant) – those idiots with guns use the only means possible for them to protect their well-being and their future, the same people who might have chosen to do otherwise were they aware of plausible, working alternatives. It’d certainly efface their “idiot” title, to begin with.

The only significant thing to learn from this incident is that it’s important to remember, no matter how fat, hedonistic, in excess of knowledge and means and secured we might get, a lot of people, not too far away, are living lives that are not too different than the lives animals in the wild: meaning that like animals in the wild, they have only two rules: what they can do, and what they can’t do. (Yep, I totally stole that from Pirates of the Caribbean)

A thing for Islam

In the past couple of days or so, I’ve been pursuing a debate that started rather casually in a blog called “My Islamic weblog”. All the comments are still there and the discussion is likely to ensue.

At first, my question was pertinent to the topic of the post, but knowing a biased little about Muslim approach to infidels and atheists like me, I was, at first, even afraid to post a comment. I was quite rattled when the writer of the blog, a rather warm and polite human being, eased my initial dread.

My first question was about the seemingly bizarre post-topic – dinosaurs in the Kuran and whether or not this actually says anything insightful about the Kuran, even if true. I didn’t bother commenting on this being an example of shoehorning in retrospect, since I deemed it would be rather pointless and besides, I had a bigger axe to grind, and that is: what is it, really, that Muslims, real, individual Muslims and not the pamphlet spewing, tinfoil-hat-garden-variety-war-mongering-fascist type think? By that I mean the kind that goes on TV and threatens to annihilate America and Israel in the name of Islam.

As anyone who follows the discussion can see, Muslims can also be completely impervious to other people’s belief or in my case, disbelief, so long as no one trespasses on their devotion to the Islamic way of life. I’m sure there’s much to talk about, and I’m just bound to run into things I don’t like, but since this is a completely new field, I’m actually quite looking forward to it, if they let me, of course.

At least the first shoe dropped – it is well supported from this debate that Muslims, on the whole, aren’t sitting up at night waiting for me to expire and adding some prayer to hasten the process. I don’t know any statistics, but it appears that at least some of them not only do not desire my death, but are seemingly also interested in co-existence.

I wish there were more people like that in Islamic leadership.

Pockets of Order

With much consideration to the tormented religious mind, I often contemplate what it means to think of our species, or life in general, as a pocket of order.

A lot of atheists who are into the evolution-creation debate probably know about the ancient and tired creationist argument about the second law of thermodynamics.

Now, I really can’t feel too comfortable talking about thermodynamics after I’ve interpreted and scribed for a deaf student who actually went to a TD course. There, I got a good glimpse of what thermodynamics actually is about and I wasn’t surprised to find out it doesn’t offer any evidence of any gods or creators.

But, I still have some idea of what this law is about, and I’ll put it out before this gets too messy:

the second law of thermodynamics talks about a quality or a physical entity called “entropy”. The thing really only makes sense physically if you take it into consideration with mechanical qualities in gases (although I bet the quality has some parallel in other phases as well). In short, entropy is just another variable in equations designed to predict the behavior of gases (that’s as far as I went in one semester, at least!).

The interesting part about the second law of TD is that it can be, in a not-entirely-figurative-way, a term used to denote a sense of disorder. That’s quite interesting, because it is actually a fact that in certain systems (ain’t going there), the amount of entropy always increases unless there’s some work/external energy or in English, “external factors” operating on the system. To put it in an example, if you take a low-entropy  gas and suddenly let it loose inside a large space/container, the atoms of the gas will, without interruption, aspire to become all messed up and pretty much evened-out throughout the space they’re situated in. The god of physics forgive me for the extremely loose and inaccurate description here. This can be called “disorder” because of a somewhat subjective definition for the word “order”, and in that case, I specifically remember what the professor said about “order”:

if you have a lot of ways of arranging a certain collection of atoms and, for some improbable reason (the improbable element plays a really important part here) – they tend to all arrange themselves in the same unlikely position – then the arrangement is considered ordered.

That said, order is nothing more than statistical euphamism designed to express improbable arrangements of matter in space.

The reason such arrangements, in the case of gases, for example, are improbable is because when there’s a large space for a collection of atoms to spread itself in, the energetic factors of each an every atom will always lead the atoms to be as evened out as possible as to minimize the amount of energy every atom has in accord to other atoms. This is just following a basic chemical and physical law: that atoms aspire to be in the lowest-energy conformation.  This is not some strange devil in nature that has strange whims – this is simply and observed and yet unrefuted reality – to be quickly discarded once refuted.

That puts even more subectivity to the term “order” – it means that the order we’re talking about follows from a definition of improbability based on our ignorance of situations in which matter does not follow the laws of physics that we know of. Order is nothing more than a convenient way of expressing a phenomenon in reality as we know it. There’s nothing about this term that means “special characteristics in life”. The “order” we have has nothing to do with the “order and discipline” that exists in, say, armies, goverment, police forces, etc. Even that “order” is nothing more than an abstraction to explain away certain obsreved patterns.

The reason I’m going through this whole caveat is because I’m fascinated with what this whole “order” thing really means: it means that us living creatures are doing something that is physically unlikely in a closed system. It is, of course, 100% likely in a non-closed system, in which tiny pockets of order are formed in an ocean of disorder.

My mind really starts sailing off when I try putting it into a more poetic use:

I think about the course of human history and the fact that even today, when there’s regulation books in the amazon river, civilization is still a tiny pocket of “order” in a messy sea of chaos. The order that exists in civilization is, of course, nothing like the order that exists in gas atoms. Actually, even though I didn’t go that far in the material, the TD professor said that things get really wobbly when you get the liquid and solid phases and eventually even to describe simple conditions, you need statistical physics to reach convenient approximations.

So it’s really stupid to actually draw evidence from thermodynamics to anything us humans do. Which is not what I’m doing in this post.

What I am doing is trying to make a poetic comparison between the two:

The order in our lives, expressed in the comfort that today and tomorrow are not going to be too drastically different from each other, the knowledge that it is quite unlikely for us to get killed or to lose a family member or a loved one, and that if something bad does happen to us, then someone’s going to pay for it.
Of course, even in the western world, it’s not like that. I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve had todays extremely different than their respective tomorrows, and sometimes life is indeed turbulent and unpredictable.

However, in many places in the world, even right now, people are whimpering in fear just like their animal counterparts in the wild. Women who are constantly raped know that it can happen again and no one’s going to help them. Men and children will be attacked, their family members will not be expected to survive – they live in a chaotic world with no rules or even a slight attempt to enforce them.

And I consider the kind of world I live in, with blogs and police forces and lawyers and imaginary lines in the sand that people actually do not cross to be as unlikely as a pocket of order. I consider it a rather striking simile that it is unlikely to have this kind of law and order anywhere in the world and it is much more likely to be utter chaos.

For the better part of human history, people have been obeying the laws of the jungle to survive. Of course, this has become much more refined in the modern world: people are not killed, they’re bought. People are not tortured into faith, they’re brainwashed or even simply tricked into faith – all for the personal gain of the leaders who perpetuate these faiths.

So the course of human history eventually bubbled enough steam and on the mountains of corpses of the past grew a world of smiling, fat, self-serving average folk who think they got the world by the balls and that everything’s going to be okay.

But this “okayness” is, again, something very unlikely. Like in TD, to perpetuate such “order”, you have to put in a lot of “work” into it. I consider the order that I enjoy so much to be the product of a lot of hard labor for a lot of people who want the same thing. It’s a win-win deal. In Israel, every person serves in the army for 3 years and that way we don’t get thrown into the ocean. In America, people pay taxes, obey the law, or are forced to obey the law by the hard work of the government and law enforcement agencies. The order is perpetuated by the muscle of those who desire it.

But the idea that this is a permanent situation is an illusion -we will always have to work to live in such a sheltering environment and we will always have to deal with the challenges the future brings to keep this “order” alive. This order could slip off our fingers any moment, any minute, and throw us into the dark ages. Our women raped, our men murdered, our children enslaved – the easiest way and the stupidest way to get personal gain out of other human beings is simply to steal them or remove them – and without working hard for a rational and moral humanity, that’s exactly what we’ll end up getting.

A human tragedy

Lady Justice in bronze

Lady Justice in bronze

Last night I was working on a transcript of a another serious crime. The Israeli court of law, probably like most courts of law, deals with various types of crimes and usually handles them differently. This particular crime is the second severe crime that I was to “witness” as a scribe.

The first time I worked on a serious offense left me digusted and shocked at the evil that humans are capable of, and the ability of lawyers to defend even the most vile criminals.

This second case intrigued me because of a much more depressing reason.

Like I said, I could lose my job and be prosecuted if I actually write about what happened, but fortunately, the actual event is of no consequence to the conclusion I drew out of it.

Firstly, I want to note that this particular crime is so heinous that I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with the soft-hearted anyway, and I ain’t sure about the “hard-hearted” either. The really bowel-churning thing about this case, however, is really not the actual crime.

Let’s put it like this:

Human beings are amalgams of emotion. Sometimes we find ourselves incapable of controlling our emotions, sometimes we find ourselves incapable of thinking straight because our emotions cloud our judgment, make us hesitate too long or in some cases, push us to make rash decisions and act recklessly.

This is only human. I can easily forgive a word said in anger but I will never forgive a cold-hearted sin. Human emotions are often good enough an excuse for me, especially when they cannot be controlled and are the result of external factors. If someone has a shitty day and takes it out on me a bit, I recoil, and completely ignore the unwarranted personal attack. People sometimes need our help the most when they’re being nasty to everyone.

That said, the tragedy I wish to write about in this post is the fact that it doesn’t, in fact, require people to be evil in order of them to do evil things. I see “evil” people, disregarding the somewhat subjective and complicated definition of the word, as people who perform evil deeds without a hint of guilt. With malice, with an utterly greedy and self-centered motive and with unhindered intent.

These are people who have, for some reason, made the decision long ago to take what’s not theirs from people who can’t defend themselves or what they own. These people do not see themselves as evil. They see themselves as smart enough to know how to get richer on the expense of those who can’t keep their wealth.

The case I painstakingly transcribed yesterday was not about such people. In fact, it doesn’t even matter which side was “right” on the subject, because in any case, the assailant was this particular brand of “evil-doer” that I’m lamenting about here. There was a crime that was committed not because a person was evil. In fact, the person committing the crime was probably a good person, by any definition of the word.

The truly tragic element in this whole wretched story is the fact that powerful, innate, and incontrollable emotions held the people involved hostage, and twisted their minds and eventually, their actions, in such catastrophic measures as to motivate them towards doing horrible things to each other.

Love, for example, is an emotion that is sometimes so powerful, it can backfire on either side of a loving relationship when things go awry, as they sometimes do. In cases like this, perfectly normal people are perpetrators of a crime.  (in this case, I will disclose that a large number of character witnesses were shocked at what happened and testified in court that the people involved are not the kind of people who’d they ever thought will be)

The truly amazing thing is that it is even a fact that in this particular case, the aggressor had no prior criminal record. This is a case of something that erupted with volcanic fervor simply because of bottled up, incontrollable, and most importantly, human emotions.

The conclusion from this case is that no matter how good you are, no matter how loving, caring, gentle, thoughtful and peaceful you may be, you are subject to the same emotional constraints that every human being is subjected to. Because of that, every man is a potential criminal. Every man can be shaken up so bad as to do horrible deeds he will later live his entire life to regret. I should know.

I remember constantly reminding and reiterating to myself throughout the script that I am NOT like this. That I will never inflict such violence on anyone, no matter what provocations I will have to endure or what kind of emotional torture will motivate me towards acts of anger and violence.

But at the end of this horrible case, I figured that I truly don’t know. When mom died last year, I did some horrible things to everyone I cared about (and some people I didn’t care about) simply because I was bottling up emotions and was suffering so bad from PTSD that I was completely powerless to stop my journey of self-destruction. My escape of self-destruction, actually, is still somewhat of a miracle. I might write a post about that some day.

At the end of this case I figured that no one can really tell what’s his breaking point. No one can really tell what kind of pressure can be applied in order of which to make a person like him or herself become violent, become a thief, become evil. There might be a certain emotional volume in every person that will deluge his senses with grief and anger in a way as to transform a perfectly sensible, good person into a thief or a killer, and this is a fact that I found truly troubling about this entire case.

That there are evil people and evil deeds happening in the world is not particularly new to me, and even though this crime was heinous, I’ve heard, read and witnesses evil enough to swallow the information without much emotional contusions. The truly heartsinking element to this story is that yes, for some given value of emotional torment: It could have been me doing the crime, it could have been everyone.

So the moral of this tragedy is that perhaps it is best to prepare for times that test us and specifically, test our limits. We must constantly remind ourselves that regardless of a possible turmoil – whether it is the infliction, even of death, of someone we love, be it betrayel and acts of aggression, physical or not, by someone who hold most precious – we must never reduce ourselves to violent beasts. Traitors are to be scorned and neglected. Killers are to be subdued and are to receive due trial.

But we must never let the beast take over, because once that wall breaks down, it all breaks down, and eventually we’re going to look at the mirror after we’ve turned into the unimaginable and see a monster staring back at us.

It’s Evolution, baby?

Okay, first of all, I’d like to say that this is one of the most disturbing music videos (the song’s disturbing on its own) that I’ve ever seen.

Also, there is some inherent proposition in this video: humanity’s going to destroy itself because of the naturally selected psychological trait of greed and the natural consequence of eternal biological competition, leading, further and further, into destruction, and with human ingenuity, will lead to the destruction of the entire earth, or maybe of even more than just the planet earth.

This is a somewhat intuitively easy-to-accept proposition, considering how many wars have been fought ever since human civilization rose, knowing the awesome power humans have for self destruction, and the fact that evil and greed are real-world characteristics that aren’t going away soon.

It’s got me thinking that this is also a slightly pessimistically naive video/song/proposition, owing to the fact that evil and greed are not the only two traits that have been demonstrably selected in biological history. It’s also co-operation, communal benefits, and self-preservation that are key traits that have been positively selected. This is why the cold war ended coldly, and this is also why the world is mostly afraid of what complete nutjobs like the Iranian president might do with nukes and a bit less scared of what hicks like GWB or oligarchs like Putin might do with them, even though these two have WAY more power and a lot more capability for greed. These guys flourish because of co-operation and peaceful measures for self-prosperity.

I’m not saying one way or the other, but this song does. My opinion is, humanity might suffer an ebb and flow of destruction (as it always does), but it will most likely always escape complete extinction because there’s always a human balance between destruction as a means of self-prosperity and peaceful means for the very same.

THAT’S proper Evolution. Umm, baby.

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