Dear Religious People #10

OR: Cling to Religion and Guns

In the days following the Las Vegas shooting, I ran afoul of a pro-gun advocate who felt that ANY government oversight of gun ownership was a slippery slope (no exaggeration, exact choice of words). When informed there’s already government oversight prohibiting the sale of certain types of firearms, along with waiting periods and a few other restrictions, he said he had no problem with that.

In an upcoming piece about one of the parables of Jesus, I’ll be examining a YouTube comment for an animated version of the story. To summarize and not get ahead of ourselves, the viewer expressed a concern that people were not following the one exact meaning of the story to the letter. While I may not know this person, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he’s never killed anyone for the act of adultery, which is expressly asked for in the Bible.

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First Sale, First Blood

This was going to be a Facebook post linking to this Politifact article, but I decided to move it here due to the length.

So, once upon a time, it used to be illegal to rent videotapes out to people. Renters had to buy special “renters’ copies” of movies that were typically marked up something fierce. I actually saw one that had its price tag printed on the back of the box. Adjusting for inflation, I could get 2 whole PS4‘s and have enough left for a decent espresso machine.
If this all sounds bizarre and alien to you, that’s because this practice didn’t stick around for very long (surcharges for renters stuck around until the advent of DVD, but that had more to do with exclusivity and release dates than anything else). This is because of a little capitalist principle called The First Sale Doctrine. To put this in the right context, let’s explain copyright (don’t worry, this will be short). Copyright, as the name implies, is the right to make copies. What that means is once you’ve purchased a movie, so long as you don’t copy it and either sell or otherwise distribute it, there’s nothing stopping you from selling to someone else (welcome to every collectibles market ever). As for lending, a graphics program I bought in 2003 put it best in its EULA (yes, I do read those… well, that one anyway. If you’ve read one you’ve read them all. Page turners, they are not.) when they offered the analogy of a book. You give the book to someone, that means you don’t have it anymore.
On top of all this, there’s not much in the way of governing how you go about reselling or lending something you own/bought & paid for unless you’re making super duper amounts of coin on the appreciating value (and that’s really debatable).

For most of us, the biggest bundle of red tape you’ll have to deal with in regard to reselling something is if it’s a vehicle. I was so flustered by all the problems my last car gave me and so unwilling to deal with the paperwork that I felt like I was ordering a mob hit when I handed the keys off to a coworker, “Make it disappear. I don’t care what you have to do.” I legitimately refused money from the transaction.

All this, and yet there’s a legitimate loophole that allows someone to sell a gun to anybody with the right amount of Jacksons & Grants and nothing more, and that’s if they simply don’t want to just give it away.

Before anyone starts comparing vehicular manslaughter to murder by firearm, I’d like to point out what should be the most obvious difference between guns and cars: Guns do one thing and one thing only. Cars are fundamentally multipurpose in their utilitarianism. Whether or not you actually fire your weapon (i.e. use it as a deterrent) the intent and purpose is exactly the same, and the daylight between a threat to kill and actually carrying out the deed is far slimmer than that between grocery shopping and Death Race 2000. We’re talking full-on hours of difference, if that needs to be spelled out.

I’m a capitalist. I believe in property rights and the free market. I support the First Sale Doctrine as strongly as I do copyright. I am not, however, an anarcho-capitalist. I honestly hate those people. I hate their ideology because I understand the principle of strategic dominance. It’s “Speak softly AND carry a big stick” not “No talk, use stick”. When I see Christians bragging about their Second Amendment rights whenever someone cites the First Amendment to explain why schools cannot mandate prayer and are under literally no obligation to facilitate it in voluntary cases, I maintain that regulation of those “rights” related to guns are more than necessary, even if the threat is little more than a misunderstanding of word choice. If you’re using your big stick more than your soft talk, it’s because you suck at talking, and how long do you think it will be before someone with a bigger stick comes along and says something you don’t like?

So, what do you do? Get enough sticks to make a fence, keep a few behind it just in case, and keep talking.

I’ll leave you all to work out how that analogy translates to gun control laws moving forward.

Dear Religious People #9

OR: 
THE TOPICAL PARKLAND SPECIAL

A meme asking “What’s changed?” in regard to the increase in school shootings despite overall gun ownership figures staying fairly consistent (among a few other shakily-credible statistics) was answered by one individual with the statement, “Taking prayer out of schools.”

As much as I’m willing to give this person the benefit of the doubt it’s not as a threat, it’s hard not to hear such a remark as, “LET US PRAY AND NOBODY DIES!”

 

Dear Religious People #8

I was accused of dismissing the existence of the soul because I could not “see it, touch it, hold it,” and so forth, despite my repeated explanation that such a criteria was not the grounds for my skepticism (that I didn’t deny the possibility at all). Rather, if something being outside of our senses is proof positive for its literal existence, then when this same accuser denies the existence of chakras or enlightenment or astral projection for literally the same reason he believes in souls, all before finally repeating his original accusation, it can be said objectively that he hasn’t a leg to stand on… figuratively speaking, of course.

Dear Religious People #7

If you want me to accept your belief as being literally true, but that the only way it will hold up to any scrutiny or criticism is to view it figuratively, then either you have no idea what the difference between “literal” and “figurative” is, or you think that I’m the one who can’t tell the difference. Neither possibility is especially flattering, and I’d rather find a third possibility, namely you finding a better means of making your case.

Dear Religious People #6

There’s a fine line between sincere humility and abject denial, between giving credit where credit is due and impostor syndrome. Being grateful and appreciative for your station in life is all well and good, but doing so by diminishing your own efforts not only puts you down, but also everyone who ever invested the time and effort to teach you what you needed to learn to get where you are. We’re all fundamentally self-sufficient individuals with autonomy and agency, but in the words of John Donne, “No man is an island.” Furthermore, and to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton (who was himself paraphrasing Bernard of Chartes), “If I have seen farther than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Going Off The Grid, Girls

As someone all about body positivity, it’s admittedly disgusting that the entire profession of “Grid Girls” is being disbanded in one fell swoop (as opposed to, say, letting the individual teams decide for themselves whether or not the practice fits their brand image), and all under the banner of alleged “progressive” mindsets and outlooks inspired by the #metoo movement. Notice the linked article from The Independent’s rather condescending tone, calling the job “unskilled labor” to make it feel diminutive while complaining the job objectifies women. The irony of this situation has its head up its ass.

I seem to be out of touch with what feminism stands for, which is personal agency, liberty, and choices, all unhindered by arbitrary societal expectations and perceived norms. Want to wear sexy outfits and parade around in front of massive crowds? Go for it, break a leg. Want to go into a technology field like engineering or programming? Great, can’t wait to see what you can do. Want to stay home and focus on raising your kids? Awesome, have fun with the little scamps. Want to get married? Want to stay single… you get where I’m going with this. Additionally, it’s important to also point out in these matters that your job does not define you as a person. You are not your job. You may have skills and personality traits that make you especially adept at your job, but if anything that just says your work bows to you and not the other way around.

Then again, I am torn on this issue because we have to call a spade a spade. The use of showroom models or booth babes or grid girls in advertising/branding/marketing (which is what it is) is, at the end of the day, pandering. It’s titillation for the sake of titillation. That’s not saying it’s a bad thing, merely that it’s superficial at best and condescending to your audience at worst. It’s like when DC Comics insists that their books are for readers both male and female alike, then put Starfire in the mother of all plunging necklines and then wonder why people are asking why she can’t have an outfit closer to what she wears on the Teen Titans animated series. It’s like when the games industry insists on how inclusive and egalitarian it is, yet I’ve pretty much given up on the Soul Calibur series after the third installment because it’s to the point the only female character who isn’t given breasts bigger than her head and the physics of helium balloons is Talim, who is only spared this redesign because she’s 15 years old. I know these are extreme cases and in no way fully represetative of the comics or games industry, but regardless of the scope, the hypocrisy should be obvious. You can’t insist on wanting to appeal to a broader demographic if your entire marketing strategy makes Don Draper look like Mr. Rogers. Look, I like sexy characters in my games and comics, but there’s a world of difference (dare I say diversity) between Bayonetta and Negasonic Teenage Warhead in terms of keeps me invested in their respective stories. Moreover, sometimes I just want to play the game. I just want to read what happens to the team. I don’t need sex appeal to sell me on every single piece of media I may wish to consume and appreciate. Frankly, if that’s your biggest selling point, the selling point you want front and center, it likely means you don’t have much else to offer.

On the whole, I think this has less to do with any sort of pro-feminist mentality and more to do with the entirety of motorsport covering its ass. This point is hard to articulate because it sounds as though I’m victim-blaming, feeding into the systemic oppression that holds the wrong people accountable for the actions of others. I can only promise that’s not what I’m trying to do. This is pure speculation, simply me trying to look at a situation from the perspective of those who made this decision… poorly. In simplest terms, the fewer people you’ve got out there in sexy outfits interacting with fans (dare we say flirtatiously), the fewer possible lawsuits and litigations you may potentially have to worry about. I mean, how can you possibly be accused of spying on your models in their dressing room if there’s no dressing room? How can you be accused of extorting sexual favors out of your low-ranking female employees if the only ones you would have to worry about are the drivers and maybe some members of the pit crew and management? Of course, this all falls apart when we remember this is not a decision of the individual teams, but the venue hosting them.

In the grand scheme of things, the people being hurt worst by this are the models themselves. For many of them, this was a career, or a legitimate means of supporting endeavors towards a career. They’ve effectively had the rug pulled out from under them, literally told overnight that they don’t have jobs anymore. If this were left up to the individual teams to gradually phase out the position, reduce the number of models (some teams had dozens) with fair warning or grace period, maybe expand their positions to have more responsibilities (not that it’s an easy gig, but I’m sure they’ve got downtime they can afford to fill with something else), or retrain them for other duties beneficial to the team, this would have been a better way to handle the situation besides some knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric from on high. Granted, that last option is still available to the teams, but making this move mandatory puts an onus on the teams where they have to make a difficult choice and in a very short amount of time.