Equal but Different is Discrimination

We need to ask ourselves as a society – when does the open expression of hatred, intolerance and dislike for a group of people – simply become proof enough for the need for minority rights protections?

How can anyone assert that civil rights are anything more than a legal fiction that is entirely dependent on not only what country you are in, but how much or little any given individual belongs to the mainstream majority?

Yes, people have a right to their opinions and to express them – but that right never prevented other people from responding – freedom of speech is not limited to first speech, nor is any speech free of consequences. Speech is not about merely expressing an idea, but it carries a burden of responsibility to make the speech meaningful and significant.
Too much of the speech online especially is verbal diarrhea at best and more often than not, falls into the hate speech or willful ignorance categories. with little thought or consideration that what is posted or said or proclaimed has a real world impact – often diminishing other people.

The obsession that many people have to assert their speech freedoms no matter what – and really – anyone who claims to be a “tell it like it is” is really only saying how they would like it to be – given the poverty of their intellect, the lack of compassion for others, and the ignorance of history, science and well, in a word: reality.

and why are people who are entirely unqualified in a subject area given any crediblity at all?
how does being a celebrity on a sitcom qualify a person as an expert on legal equality or science?

Freedom of Expression

In secular democratic countries, where the individual is the social unit of consequence – as opposed to theocratic nations where the family or tribe or some group designation is the social unit of consequence – the right to hold and express your views is an important right and entitlement in society.

Individuals do not matter in nations that hold the family or group as supreme, since individuals how fail to adhere to the social norms and expectations are often killed or sanctioned to restore collective honor to the family, to right the diminishment done to the collective by the individual.

One challenge is that the right to express yourself does not require you to do so responsibility or carry any consequences to how your words impact other people’s behaviours – although hate crime legislation tries to address this aspect.

The bigger challenge it would seem for people is that the right to express yourself does not obligate anyone to actually listen to you.

If what ideas you express are fairly mainstream, you are usually one voice in a chorus, and the more your ideas become fringe, your potential audience shrinks as well. Luckily, most people seek out information that confirms what they already believe – which is partly why people on opposite sides of an issue don’t communicate, they genuinely do not comprehend the opposing view because they don’t expose themselves to opposing views – often just enough to get the sound bytes to refute them, but not enough to actually understand what the opposing side is actually saying and meaning.

When you get far enough from the centre, the only people listening to what you say or post are people who are entirely like minded and depending on the fringe, possibility the police or other law enforcement.

So, I would imagine it’s anxious and lonely for people who are extreme fringe and too small in number to attract police notice, which they need to convince themselves of their rightness and of being a dangerous game changer ideologist.

I think that as there is no way to commit the perfect crime, since you’d go mad by never getting any credit for it – because to be perfect, you’d need to carry it off alone and leave no clues – we do many things to gain little more than bragging rights, so the perfect crime could only be carried out by an egoless person, for the sake of the crime itself, rather than achieving the perfect crime.

This thinking informs extremist thinkers – who know they stand apart from society, who must elevate themselves to a grand status – of being the only right or clear thinker, the only one capable to understand or even see What’s Really Going On That They Don’t Want You To Know.

To be heard, to gain followers but more, to be opposed, for being opposed is what gives conspiracy and extreme ideology meaning – it’s proof of being right! They Are Stopping You From Telling the Truth, the Real Truth, About Them. And no one but you, the ideologist/conspiracy theorist can handle the truth.

Except, that it’s not really the truth and it’s because the extremist can’t handle that the world is not that complex, convoluted, but not that complex, and that they are not the Lone Truth Handler who must enlighten others because the truth is out there and dangerous.

The extremist is a true believer – not skeptical but often cynical – the difference being that a skeptic doubts the claims while the cynic doubts the claimant. No lack of evidence nor evidence to the contrary will shake their belief – indeed, the lack of and contrary evidence is just more proof for the elaborate conspiracy, it’s all just part of the plan.

Conspiracy theories do not substantially differ from religion, except that religion tends to attract a wider audience, who then act as a social averaging, a leveling of behaviours and social norms to smooth out the lone extremists and keep people in the fold.

Except that many religions are not particular mainstream, they are doomsday cults, validating extremist small groups and often the group seeks to impose their religious norms on the population by force or block voting if they can attract enough people.

Charles Manson gained a following of a handful of people and sent them to murder wealthy people to start a civil ethnic war, which strategy repeated itself in Norway, only Anders Behring Breivik didn’t bother with followers, he just tapped into the right wing extremism generally in Europe and accessible on the internet – rather than connect with an actual social movement or begin one – that, after all, takes effort and draws police attention too soon.

Jim Jones took nearly a thousand with him and the Heaven’s Gate group had just over 20 members. Cults have mass murdered and suicide or selected targets to kill to achieve their poligious ends and attempt to gain power and status in society that has rejected them and their ideology as meaningful members – otherwise, they wouldn’t be fringe extremists.

But the solution is not that all views are equally valid, because they are not – most people do not hold extreme views because they are not valid, logical, rational, fair and balanced, extremist views are discriminatory, bigoted and distasteful more often than not.

The solution is education – to teach children to think critically, logically and equitably.

The solution is not shunting extremism to the fringe, but to focus attention upon it, why it’s wrong, but also to determine what attracts people to such views. Often it’s lack of economic opportunity – when people are able to participate in society, have autonomy and freedoms – and understand that everyone is entitled to the same access to opportunities, to the same rights and freedoms – people are more willing to include rather than exclude when they understand that there’s no limit to rights, they won’t run out before the line of people waiting for their share.

It seems what people most need to learn and understand is how big and small their sphere of influence is.

Gays being able to serve in the military does not deprived heterosexuals of being able to serve, anymore than black people getting to serve took anything away from white people serving.

That gays even want to serve in the military should speak volumes about how much we have in common with our fellow citizens – we want the rights and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Gays being able to marry does not diminish or prevent heterosexuals from marrying any more than interracial marriage diminished or made marriage unattractive to same ethnic couples.

It improves society to be inclusive of all members of the society.

It made little sense to me, growing up in Canada, where I could rely on rights and freedoms and have them all unavailable when I came out as a lesbian in 1992. I was legally fired from two jobs and almost not permitted to rent housing. Legally. I had lost my rights and didn’t get them all back until 2003 when gay marriage became law – for most of my adult life, living in Canada, I have not been able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms and legal protection from discrimination as other Canadians.

But gays and atheists – the two most reviled minority groups – have not turned to violence to claim our place in our secular societies. We use the courts, we educate and do outreach, hold conferences, we live as if and wait for the day that we too have all the rights and social standing as other people – for the day when being gay or being atheist is just another bit of information rather than the basis for determining how people treat you or react to you.

It is religion combined with extreme views that attempts to assert itself through violence or by justifying discrimination against those the religion doesn’t like – which is not only anyone outside of the given religion, but generally targets specific segments of society – like gays or atheists, ethnic groups or members of rival (aka closely related) religions. Religion is the basis and justification for excluding people as being equal to everyone else.

When religion says a particular group is immoral and beneath consideration, bigotry follows and if the religion gains sufficient social standing, systemic discrimination and even violence  in the form of hate crime often follows.

The most dangerous aspect of religion is the veneer of divinity – any person can claim a deity told them thus and so – and if they can make their story compelling enough, gather followers and form a new religion.

One person believing something without basis is delusional, but a large enough group, and it becomes religion, and large enough and over enough time, a mainstream and established religion with the expectation and history of being above reproach and unquestioned in authority and power and influence.

If we are to have a society – and society is global, no country stands alone, we are one planet, interconnected, what happens in one country can no longer be deemed an internal matter when we are connected by land, air and water – pollution and radiation travels, people migrate or flee and natural disasters know no such imaginary things as borders.

We need to be in a reality and evidence based world and not allow delusional or magical thinking to be pervasive or to continue to divide us and prevent everyone from sharing in the wealth of resources, equitable participation, rights and freedoms – because rights and freedoms are clearly not self evidence or inalienable when only a portion of the world enjoys them, when the rights and freedoms you have are dependent on where you live.

We need to stop allowing extremist views to be validated by moderate ones – we need to draw a line and say, this far is okay, but after that, you’re going to need to seriously talk with someone about your inability to work and play well with other people.

We will never be rid of extremists, but we can stop coddling the similar and mainstream related sensibilities and make a clear stand.

And, we must hold religions accountable for the harm they have and continue to cause – from direct harm such as the Vatican sex crimes against the children in all countries where they have their corporate offices and operations to the theocratic nations were women are held as barely second class, just above the children, but below the family dog in terms of value and participation.

People are entitled to hold extremist views, but there is no obligation for us to act as if they are valid views. All things are not equal and should not be considered as such.










Virtual Vancouver Hockey Riot is worse

In the wake of the Vancouver Canucks 2011 failure to capture the Stanley Cup, this Lotusland jewel of a city broke out in violent riots. Before the dust had even settled, the finger-pointing was well underway. It is disappointing, given how at the ready that the excuse and blame were, that there seems to have been little forethought and consideration to prevent riots and to disperse the crowd and whatever pent up emotions that were so obviously going to be vented no matter which way the game ended up.

The last run up to the cup was 1994 and fans mobbed some parts of the city so solidly that taxis would advise people to walk rather than attempt to drive into these areas. It certainly wasn’t a good night for me to have decided to meet a friend for a midnight showing of Caligula – or maybe it was fitting – the excess of emotions and the chaotic indulgence of baser instinct rampant on the street and the silver screen.

On the final play off day, my spouse who works 2 blocks from our parkade and near to the game site took almost 45 minutes to reach the lot, while I, coming from 8 blocks in the other direction, had no difficulty until the actual parkade block in reaching the car in a fairly timely 15 minutes. It’s a terrible thing when claustrophobia hits you in the open air.

The earlier games days saw the streets crammed with people milling around, but the final game day had the crowds milling by noon and chanting so loud by 2 that it was disruptive to office staffs – many offices and businesses simply caved in and closed. Very few actually put up plywood sheets to cover their windows, although, storefronts with bars behind the glass did tend to survive the building riot.

By 4:30, people were already deep into their liquor and alcohol was being openly consumed on the street and carried around. The police thought to close the liquor stores, but they would have closed anyway, given the run on morning sales. It was stressful to navigate our car out of the city, as we couldn’t relax until we were on the viaduct and beyond the stadiums line ups and mobs.

It was an ugly mood that we drove away from and we both hoped that the police and city had a plan to filter people leaving the bars and stadium and not let them build a critical mass that would result in an emotional venting and riot. With my own earlier experience in a mob fresh in mind because I had recently blogged it, I knew how seductive that group release could be. To just let go of yourself and not think about consequences, to just pound someone who is really begging for it.

Humans are not so far removed from our other primate cousins, and the display that a band of chimps will engage in to bluff an enemy band of chimps or other intruders, is not so different from a human mob riot. Emotions take over and cancel cognitive functions out. More than that, humans are included towards group herd and pack behaviors, we adapt to differing circumstances to conform to the current behavioral norms.

As if lemmings or schools of fish or flocks of birds, once the first lighter was lit, it was only going to take one tiny flame to ignite the mood into a citywide conflagration of primal behaviour to vent the collective displeasure at the loss or to vent the collective joy at having won. That there was going to be a riot was obvious.

So, the question remains, why did the city not have after game crowd controls to break up the mass of fans existing into more manageably sized groups filtering down streets and away from the core towards attractive sites for gather such as the city beaches or parks to contain the crowd and provide a focal point – like a fireworks show? Or have people remain in the stadium for an after game ice show? Anything to keep people acting within the social norms of being event participant spectators instead of having no focus and turning into the event spectacle?

Even a double line of buses to disperse people easily into containable units and away from each other and out of the city, at the very least a sobering reminder that it was time to go home to cry in their beer.

Being near a boisterous crowd, even a happy one, is enough to trigger fight or flight mechanism, and flight is less likely the option when you have the numbers of a crowd and a critical peak of emotion, hair trigger aching for release. The few people who managed to keep their wits and try to stop the crowd from either damaging property or looting or egging people onto those behaviors, ended up assaulted for their ability to retain their individual sense of morals and self. So, this would have been a trigger for anyone else who was holding back to either flee or join in, lest the same fate befall them.

I think that in many ways, work and school violence incidents are a microcosm of the riotous mob. When you are under on-going, escalating and unending pressure, with no relief or help or end in sight, your brain also kicks into survival fight or flight mode. After a time, your cognitive function decreases and your ability to reason, to make distinctions, to understand proportionality are all diminished. The world becomes reduced to a me or them, and with the numbers on the “their” side, it is understandable how a person can believe that the only way out is a final way out, but not alone, best to take your tormentors out with you – or as many as you can.

So while mobs of people will quickly ignite into violence, the sheer numbers work to compel mob members that the normal rules don’t apply, that might makes right, that the sheer numbers will mean any individual risk is spread across the group, and the resulting riot has an unreal feel to it, like you are watching yourself participate, because in a very real sense you are – you’ve put aside your individuality to be part of a stampeding herd or rampaging troop – knocking down and consuming any person foolish enough to resist or thing that happens to be in the way.

But individuals, once separated from the herd, return to their senses, much like the merchandise is slowly being returned to the stores, sheepish and apologetic.

What was different in the 2011 riot from the 1994 riot was the on-line social media – people are now so used to blogging, tweeting and otherwise taking it from the streets to the net, that the riot and it’s backlash in some ways are still virtually blazing. People are unwilling to let it go and move onto the next big thing or back to their lives.

I am more shocked by the on-line riot than the in-person one – what excuse does anyone have to post death threats against any other person for their participation – regardless of how outrageous their behavior was during the riot – there is no justification for individuals in the aftermath to be venting bigotry and threats against mob participants – the mob mentality is a mitigating factor to the riot behaviour in a way that sole indignation and self-righteousness is not a mitigating excuse for issuing death threats. Having a right to an opinion and the right to express it does not excuse the thug and criminal caliber of said opinion.

As a city, we need to pull together to get past this riot and learn from it and not have the matter worsened by armchair judge, jury and executioners who are continuing to behave as if they are in the middle of the riot and not back in normal rules apply society.

The city could have done a better job, the crowds could have better planned for the night to make a getaway post game to celebrate or console themselves, but the city hoped for the best and after the Olympics, they had reason to believe that the city was mature enough to handle a hockey event.

But there is no excuse for the reprehensible behavior of the on-line riot, which exceeds even the rude and rough n tumble norms that that internet anonymity usually affords individuals to behave in a manner that they would not to another person’s face.

On line behaviour is not ruled or driven by mob behaviour, so perhaps before they condemn what other people did en masse, they should consider what they are doing all on their own.



It takes religion…

When the violence that is done in the name of religion – shooting abortion doctors, suicide bombing, 9/11, crusades, witch trials, Spanish Inquisition, the Satanic Daycare scares, editorial cartoon riots and the like, Believers assert that that if everyone stopped believing in religion that humans would just find another reason to kill each other.

I disagree, at least with respect to war and hate crimes. Murder for profit and sexual kicks will continue on unhampered and tend not to be religiously motivated; but for the killing that has a religious component, for that to be gone, would take something pretty spectacular to replace as a justification.

Sure there’s bigotry and a lot of discriminatory isms – but the dislike and mistrust of a group is largely motivated, encouraged and justified by religious sentiment.

Believers of one faith are often quick to condemn the violence of other faiths, or worse, speak about said violence with a twinge of jealousy, we’re so put upon but we don’t riot like they do.

Religion’s primary fear is contamination as represented by in-breeding, out-breeding, social and attitude changes towards opening up the group to new and different people. The basis of religion is that the members are special, singled out for divine favour above all others who are not, because they have willful rejected the one truth god and faith for lesser or worse, none at all.

The religious are in a difficult situation, they want to be special, which means a smaller group – and the more people denied heaven, the sweeter and better it is to look down at all the immoral elitists who thought they were better and smarter than you and just lookie where that got’em, by golly.

But, being a minority themselves, they have to wonder, what if they picked the wrong god? So they set out to spread the truth by the word or the sword and get sheer numbers on their side, as if the true religion is determined by a first past the post vote by membership numbers.

So what does being a member of the one true god’s bestest flock? Well, heaven, duh. Okay, plus you’re special because you’re in the best group and all other groups are not only less than yours, but doomed besides. Stupid people rejecting the one true god and the group who worships correctly, they should be shown the error of their ways or pay the penalty now.

Makes it easy to force conversion by fear and violence, group by group or one by one, all the same to the true believer, who, luckily, has the one true god on their side who doesn’t like all the right people. Those would be the gay people, the non-believers, the wrong-believers, especially the wrong-believers who’s beliefs are kissing cousins but the believers themselves aren’t anyone you want to be seen with at the pub on Main St. USA town. You know, swarthy types who hate Godfearing Americans.

Aside: I never got how a loving god is a feared god, does god need a selfhelp book? Deities who love too much and worshippers who fear them? Scaring Worshippers for Dummies? Deities are from outside nature and believers are cosmic spittle unworthy of being stepped on?

It takes religion for a person to believe that they are actually better than any other person or groups of people. A person who is merely uncomfortable; up to a certain degree of xenophobia (fear of people who differ, not Xena warrior Princess, well, there’s plenty of reasons to fear Xena, but that’s a different blog) is natural and actually still serves the survival instinct. After xenophobia comes bigotry, where one’s discomfort with people who have different characteristics result in discrimination, perhaps an unwillingness to employ or promote a person or rent them property or do business with certain groups.

As illegal as all that is, it’s a far cry from outright slavery, genocide, internment camps and enshrining discrimination into law. For that degree of escalation, it takes religion to be the underlying motivation, the fuel source for the lesser hatred of mere bigotry – because religion provides a divine justification – it’s not just you who doesn’t like other people, you’re just following orders and going along with god’s dislike of Those People. Those lesser people. Those lesser than you people. Those undeserving, immoral, flaunting and ramming it down society’s faces people who need to be made an example of, and god’s gonna git them, right after you do.

After all, what does it matter that you do terrible things to people you believe are bound for hell anyway? You’re just helping them getting used to it, it’s not immoral to give immoral people their just deserves? God gives brownie points for those kinds of things, just showing them the error of their ways and the chance to call out to god and repent.

It take religion to convince a person that other people don’t matter in this life because they are doomed for eternity anyway, or maybe they are like animals, they just get this one life and there’s no animal afterlife.  Mere bigotry isn’t enough – you might not rent out a house or give a job to a person from a group you don’t like; but it take religion to justify tying them to the bumper of your truck and dragging them miles down a dirt road to their death or to shoot a doctor who performs abortions while they are sitting down to dinner with their family or strapping a bomb to your body and walking into a crowded market full of infidels. Fun times, doing god’s work.

Maybe dogs get a heaven, if they were good dogs.