Monday, February 18, 2013

You're stereotyping too, hippie

I have long hair and I am male.

While waiting for a ride after getting back to Chicago I was approached by someone with long hair.  He apologized for interrupting me, apparently noticing that I was very busy staring off into space.  He said that he was looking for some money for a ride or something and I looked like I was cool.  This was followed with a brief, yet not brief enough, complaint about all these yuppies with their suits and rushing off who can't give a person a second and who judge him just because of how he looks.

In his defense, he didn't look particularly dangerous or dirty.  On the other hand, he was complaining about people stereotyping him based on appearance in the same breath that he complained about the people in their suits who are in a rush.

I was a little bored, so I figured I'd entertain myself.  I pointed out the hypocrisy of his complaint.  I joked that I had no money because I couldn't afford my suit yet.  He suggested a store that sells cheap suits.  This guy didn't seem too swift.  He said how I seemed to think through what I was saying rather than just whatever comes to mind.  I refrained from pointing out the contrast between us.

Before he went away I lectured him more on psychology. I explained how many of those supposed yuppies are people looking for jobs, putting on the clothes and playing the part, because they need money like anyone else.  In other circumstances they'd be dressed down drinking with their buddies with all the time in the world.  People in a rush are less likely to help; they are, after all, in a rush.  It's not a measure of their kindness but of their situation.

It's a shame when people cannot see themselves mirrored in others.  Maybe the mirror is colored slightly or a little distorted, but the general reflection is still there.  I can see myself as one of those yuppies, rushing to an interview or meeting, my mind occupied by other problems, and I know that in those circumstances I'd be less likely to stop.  I try to give others that benefit as well, to recognize that not everyone who ignores me is a jerk.  Similarly, when I need to be the guy asking for a favor or directions, I try to consider how they'll see me.  How am I dressed?  How am I approaching them and talking to them?

It's like Gandhi said: "Be the guy asking for change that you want to see in the world.  And also, quit stereotyping people; just because you got stereotyped doesn't mean you're innocent."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Barack Obama is a person

The White House recently released a photo of Obama skeet shooting.  Along with it was a strange-sounding bit that it could only be used for news and not manipulated.  Clearly a blatant attack on free speech!  Or is it?

I don't see what legal weight the caption has.  Perhaps copywrite, in which case, the problem is the limits of copywrite and fair use, not that a tyrannical president is running a cult of personality.

On the other hand, he is a person.  I think people have rights on how their images are used.  Of course if he put, and enforced, that limit on every image of him then that would be a problem.  But surely a person is due some amount of deference, not as president, but as a person.  It is not merely his photo in terms of intellectual property, but his image.

Of course such an appeal to human decency and respect is nowhere in the Constitution.  Were we to follow the Constitution and nothing else we'd be left with little more than the lowest of human vulgarity and anarchy.  Murder isn't even banned and surely there is a precedent in that second amendment.  My point is that the Constitution is a floor.  Maybe a foundation as well.  We should stand on it and build up from there, not sit on the floor screaming at anyone who builds anything.  I don't think the Founding Fathers intended for us to sit on the floor.

We could all get up in arms, literally or figuratively.  We could make a fuss.  Or we could ask questions.  What does that caption actually mean?  Do they plan to enforce it?  Is it even there at Obama's request?  Is it boilerplate phrasing stamped on everything?  Who cares?

My theory is that it is there, that Obama put it there personally.  On his last day in office he will repost that image, edited, with the big letters "YOU GOT TROLLED" typed over it.  The mouseover text will be "wtf is wrong with you?"

The Church cannot lose

Canon City, Colorado (CNN) -- Life begins at conception, according to the Catholic Church, but in a wrongful death suit in Colorado, a Catholic health care company has argued just the opposite. A fetus is not legally a person until it is born, the hospital's lawyers have claimed in its defense. -CNN

 At first glance this may appear hypocritical.  However we should note that this is a lawsuit and therefore dictated by law.  By law, the fetus was not a person.  Once you catch the distinction between legal and moral definitions, then the hypocrisy vanished.

In fact, I think that's what makes this so clever for the organization.  This case highlights the difference between the moral and legal definitions of a person and gives them a platform; it calls attention to the gap.

Overall, I believe it will be a propaganda victory for the Catholic Church.  If they win, then they save a lot of money.  Then they get to go out and preach about the saddening immorality of the laws and judges that try to define life, though they'd want to leave out that they were the ones arguing for the more restrictive definition.  The real win is if they lose.  They'd be out a bit of money, but that's a small price to pay for a legal precedent that puts life at 7 months, or more importantly, in the general realm of before birth.

Or they could settle, let the whole thing blow over, and everything ends up terribly uninteresting.