Saturday, May 26, 2012

Microaggression - not

  • First, I do not buy into 'microaggression'. For me it sounds as
    if the term was coined by an academic who was in dire needs for a
    research grant. He wanted to spice-up the need for it, by inventing a
    new term.
  • Second, I have lived for the past 20 years in Japan and I share
    many of the experiences they are described by Debito and the readers.
    But my attitude towards this 'microaggressive' small talk is not one of
    anger or frustration. I even refuse to call it 'microaggression'. If I
    wanted to give it a name, I would call it 'microannoyance'.
  • Third, I have been bullied in school a fair amount. But this 'microaggression' is not aggression or bullying. It is just a kind of misunderstood and clumsy attempt of small talk.
    I have learned since my school days, and I am determined not going to be the
    victim anymore. Being the victim is terrible, but there is something I can do, especially in cases of being the victim in non-violent situations. So, there must be a solution how to get out of those clumsy small talk attempts. If I want to change the situation, I
    need to be active. There is no need to be fatalistic and passive in a
    situation in which I might become the 'victim'.

Now, how do I deal with those instances in which someone tries to start
one of those boring conversations by uttering for the millionth time the chopstick/natto/nihongo thingy?

  • I am always free to say 'Listen, I am sorry, but
    I am tired and I don't want to talk right now'
    . Actually, I have
    never done this, but in a taxi, this might be appropriate.
  • I switch to autopilot and let the conversation go for one or two
    minutes. My opponent will soon lose interest.

  • But actually the best and most interesting way is to try to spin it in a way to make it sound funny, but at the same time without insulting my opposite.

    • You are good at using chopsticks!

    • Well, when I came to Japan it
      was a good diet tool. But now, since I am so good at it
      ..... (I
      point at my belly)

    • (he laughts)

    • (I point at his belly)...maybe
      you should use knife and fork!

    • As a result, maybe I made a friend!
      (Of course, you guys, neverever use this for a lady!)

    • You are good at using

    • Yeah, but the problem is
      makes me drunk so quickly!

    • Why?

    • Because I keep drinking using
      my left hand while eating with my right. Try that with knife and fork!

    • Maybe I made a friend again!  
  •  I have a similarly engaging/funny story to tell about being able to eat natto. Wanna hear it? Then we need to meet and you ask me directly.
  • I turn the situation around, so that I am the one who is asking
    the questions. That makes me being in charge. This is actually quite fun and interesting.

    • Where are you from?

    • Well, you guess!

    •  Hmmmm, Sweden?

    • What makes you think so?

    • (he might think of a reason) hmmmmm....dunno!

    • Have you ever met a Swede? Have you ever
      been in Sweden?

    • As a result, I am in charge and can steer the conversation.
Finally, something interesting happens to me more and more often. When
I am in a group of people who know me and there is the occasional
stranger who starts this 'microannoyance', my colleagues jump in to
help me. They know that I have heard those questions a million times.
They were the ones who asked those questions, too, in the past! So,
they jump in to rescue me. They answer those questions for me! They are
the ones who introduce me to others!

Why do they do this? Because I had answered their questions in the past in a
rude and abrasive manner? No, because I answered them appropriately/kindly/with wit/etc.
They see that I am struggling with it, and they feel sympathetic!

That feels so good!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The God Debate (Harris vs. Craig) on "Is Good from God"?

The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig

some preliminary thoughts about the debate between Dr. Harris, and Dr. Craig in April 2011
youtube video is here:

Dawkins has claimed, “As for religion … nobody wields a sharper bayonet than Sam Harris.”  and I was looking forward for a sharp debate, but I was disappointed.
Harris was not sharp at all.
For example, one hour into the debate, Harris says that God is cruel and unjust because he allows children to die (9 million children under the age of five per year to be exact).
I quote Harris verbatim:
"This is according to God's plan. Any God who would allow children by the millions to suffer and die in this way, and their parents to grieve in this way, either can do nothing to help them or doesn't care to. He is therefor either impotent or evil."

I was astonished that Craig did not reply to something so obviously wrong, but he decided to stay focused on the topic (Is Good from God?).
So, here is my rebuttal of Dr. Harris:

In a nut shell: it is not God's impotence or evilness that leads to the death of children, but man's pride, self-centeredness, greed, and laziness.
Harris did not say anything about the cause of death, and I am too lazy to research the exact numbers.
I would suggest the following numbers, which might be wrong, but by less than an order of magnitude:
30% die of malnutrition and no access to clean water
30% die of easily curable diseases
10% die of aids
10% die of neglect and domestic violence
10% die of complicated diseases that require highest grade medical care (e.g. congenital heart defects)
5% die of diseases and illnesses without a present cure, but a cure at hand (e.g. acute liver failure)
5% die of causes that are truly beyond hope and mankind is helpless

For which of those deaths is God responsible?
1. I am sure that if every tenth available dollar, yen and euro that floats around the world and is used to buy art for 100 million dollars for one painting (The Cry) would be used for improving infrastructure in developing countries, the first 30% could be saved. Why aren't more people giving money into humanitarian help? because they fear that their money will end up in shady channels of corrupt people. Can God being blamed for that?
2. Another tenth of uselessly horded money would be sufficient for the next 30%.
3. Why do kids die of aids? Because their parents gave it to them. I don't speculate on the reason (economic reason for women, sexual lust of men, etc), but for sure, God cannot be blamed for the bad economy in Africa and the lust of men.
4. The same here. Rage of parents, alcoholism, etc can have many reasons, but none of them is from God.
5. Building 100 top-notch hospitals and installing a helicopter network throughout those developing countries would solve most of this problem. One hospital and six helicopter hubs would cover an area of France to bring emergency top-notch help to everybody. It is prohibitively expensive, but we still have some money left. Who is stopping us? God? Or our own greed? Including my greed. I am not without guilt here!
6. If we would pour more money into medial research, many deadly illnesses could be cured. Artificial organs (grown from cell cultures), better mechanical hearts, etc need lots of money and time to develop. Why didn't we start 30 years ago? There is still money enough left over.

So, if mankind REALLY wanted to save those 9 million children under five that die every year, we could save most of them.
And I am sure that when God sees that we are doing all we can to save those children, I bet, that he would miraculously heal the remaining few percent of children with his supernatural power.

Dr. Harris, stop blaming God for something he is not responsible for.
For sure, you are in good company. Did not Adam blame God for the fall of man? "The woman YOU GAVE ME, made me eat the fruit...."
But please stop it. If you are a top-notch atheist thinker, please come up with better arguments.

It is humans who is responsible for human misery.
And I am a big part of it. I live in Japan, I enjoy my comfortable life. A life I did not do anything for. It was a gift from God. My wife, my children are a gift from God.
By the way, our oldest son died at age 10 of a congenital heart condition, I know what it means for a parent to grieve the death of a child.  I know that if better transplant techniques would have been developed that time, he might have survived. But I do not blame God for it.

Also, Dr. Harris needs to realize that there are countless Christian organizations and individuals who try their best to bring all this medical help into developing countries. They are not doing this because God is lazy, but because we humans are especially instructed by God to do so ("love your neighbor as yourself").

Interestingly, there is another group of children under five that is dying by the hundreds of thousands every year, but Dr. Harris did not mention them.
Every year hundreds of thousands of children are aborted.
This time it is not the neglect of selfish humans, but the active deeds of selfish humans that bring such a tragedy.
Also here, Christians are trying to help (finding adoption parents, giving aid to these pregnant woman, etc)

Even abortion was not a topic in the debate, during the question time (at 1h55min in the video) Sam Harris gave a very interesting statement that gives an interesting spin on abortion.
The atheist standpoint for an objective morality would be the maximization of well-being for the human race. That is the basis of an atheistic morality (please forgive me when I misrepresent here, but that was my understanding).
Dr Harris was asked if by killing people with miserable lives and in agony, wouldn't this increase the overall well-being of human kind.
Dr. Harris gives an interesting answer in which he, I quote the following, says:
Harris: killing someone eradicates suffering, but also nullifies all future happiness.

So, following the logic,  killing an embryo would eradicate the suffering of the mother and the child, but it would also deprive the unborn child of all future happiness.
Which is a pretty good argument against abortion. This argument is not dependent on the person-hood of the embryo (which is hotly debated), but on the future person-hood (on which we all agree. After we are born, we are a person).