Alex! What did you do?

This question has been asked of me a few times lately, so I figured I’d dust off the old blog and explain. And it is a fair question – generally, when someone is involved in some kind of controversy and is on the receiving end of violent threats and verbal attacks, people tend to think “well, he must have done something.” Fortunately this all happened on the internet, and the entire spat is available for all to see. Here it is, without commentary, transcribed by me. I’ll mask out the names with a different colour for each commenter, and if you feel like playing a little game, try to guess the race of the person making that statement. (Spoiler alert: I’m the red one because this is my blog and I will afford myself this little bit of narcissism. Also, that way I can’t be accused of making anyone else seem angrier than they  really are.) I won’t edit anything besides the colour.

Indented comments are comment replies, a lack of indent means that it’s part of the main thread.

White Namibians. Where are your friends – other White Namibians – on days like Independence day when we are filling up stadiums and celebrating Independence? Or do you people join in on the celebrations but prefer to be home? Every time since 1990? And should we be OK with no seeing you guys at these events of National pride and celebration, every time, without miss? And why are your cultures not displayed at Independence day celebrations? And Who are we going to start blaming for such? I will start with you white Namibian, I will start with blaming you.
Because you white Namibian, you are a friend, but sometimes you are a bad friend. You don’t want to take ownership for your lack of interest in real assimilation and integration. But why would you have to when there is always Australia to fall back on. Its tog a shame, shame.

Because the way to forward racial integration is to single out and blame a race :/

The race singles itself out and seperates itself. I have heard White Namibians refer to Black Namibians as Africans. Goes to show. White Namibians don’t relate to the Independence struggle because domination and the power of oppression was taken from them. Sigh. Until White people everywhere acknowledge, confront and dismantle White priviledge, I don’t know if we are ever going to be ‘friends’.

‘The race’? I don’t know any white Namibians who deliberately seperate themselves from any other race, and I wouldn’t want to know anybody, regardless of colour, who would think like that. You are basing your opinion on what you have heard a minority of a minority say. I’m not saying there are no retarded, racist white people in this country, but you are tarring an entire race with the same brush. Which is racism.
Every white Namibian I know is very proud that Namibia is an independent country.
But it’s quite enlightening to know what a few individuals think of me based on the colour of my skin.

Racism is based on a system of oppression, white people are not and have not ever been oppressed. A minority cannot be a racist towards a white person because the minority is the oppressed person in the scenario. Makes no sense! In Namibia, I was considered white (which due to coloursim I had a lot more advantage and privilege than a black person..that was something I had to be conscious of and respect. However, coming back to Canada, surrounded by white people I am again a minority. I have already started experiencing prejudice and racism towards my skin colour and ethnic decent. My sister was not allowed to play with other peers in her school due to the colour of her skin.
It is not always what minorities are saying to other minorities, it is often what the minority is getting from the majority. Which for the most part we are met with discrimination and racial profiling. We are not met with compassion and validation. What white Spanish colonialist did to my indigenous Calima people was not okay. What german colonialist have done (and in some cases continue to do) to Namibians is truly tragic. We are frustrated because we have the right to be. You want to be a friend, be an ally. Have compassion and for once stop putting yourself as the victim. No, not all white people are bad, I have loved and continue to love white individuals. I have made love to white and dearly love my white best friend…but in my heart of hearts I know that they are allies. Just my opinion.

Racism means discrimination and prejudice based on race. It is perfectly possible for anyone to be racist towards white people. And even if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t mean that it’s neither wrong nor extremely hypocritical. Please don’t play the semanticsgame if you’re still going to be incorrect.
“It is not always what minorities are saying to other minorities, it is often what the minority is getting from the majority.”
I’m pretty sure we’re talking about Namibia. And in Namibia, whites constitute 7% of the country. I’ve never seen a white cop or a white successful politician. Please explain how whites are a majority here?

Please bear with me here, I’ll try to make this as short as possible without being mean, but there’s so much wrong with what you’re saying.
1. Racism is not “based on a system of oppression.” Please abandon the Newspeak.
2. White people haven’t been oppressed? You’ve heard of the Ottoman Empire, have you not?
3. “A minority cannot be racist towards a white person” – this is Africa. White people ARE the minority.
4. “… Because the minority is the oppressed.” Again, I reject your definition of racism but even then, white people – especially white men – ARE the oppressed. You have a much better chance of being promoted or getting a scholarship if you are a black woman. BEE is a law, and corporations follow suit. That’s the definition of systematic oppression.
5. Compassion and validation are what you get from your family and friends. In the real world, people care about what you can do. If you’re a better worker than your cishetero white male colleague, you will be more valuable to your company and they will care more about keeping you there. I hate to use this phrase but it is true that capitalism is the great equaliser – money doesn’t discriminate.
6. “Stop playing the victim.” I’m sorry, who are you talking to?
7. “Not all white people are bad.” Yeah, and not all women are stupid. See how bad that sounds?

I am not gonna get trapped into this bullshit again but ya’ll are making points disregarding history. white people are not allowed to be cops or politicians because when you were you fucked everyone over and enslaved people. You think people are gonnagive you any sort of power after that? Don’t be an idiot.
also yes I not all white people are bad. Not all white people are bad is based on history. According to history white people are murderers and colonizers but we the minority have to be the bigger people and find compassion within us to break that mentality. So please check yourself.
and women being stupid is not based on history is based on a sterotypes the patriarchy (men) created to put women down and to control them. The same as what white people did to every other fucking race.
Yes stop with your crocodile tears. Your ancestors fucked up and now you wanna play the victim.
The reason why minority individuals have more access to scholarships and jobs by law is because in society they are still seen as lesser than (even by themselves) . Pro blackness or pro brownness does not mean anti whiteness
Don’t worry we won’t go after you and murder your children and take away all you human rights and treat you like animals. Rape your women to eliminate your race or burn all your elders.
We just want a chance to be great and to be treated with such respect. Keith was making a point of the fact that he’d like to see the white Namibian population more represented out on independence day. He is frustrated because he wants unity and he wants supoort from his allies… but I guess peoples true colours come out when you speak truth. This is really scary and disheartening.

White people are certainly ‘allowed’ to be cops and politicians. I’m not so keen on replying to a comment that opens with a blatant lie, but I’ll humour you.
The topic of this post was not ancient history. It specifically only refers to events in the last 26 years. Besides which, why should anyone be held responsible for the actions of their forefathers? I would never condone a man being punished for the actions of his great-great-grandfather that he never met. If you believe otherwise however, it may be relevant to point out that my ancestors were enslaved by black people back when Europeans were throwing sticks at each other.
Nobody is ‘playing the victim’. We’re pointing out hypocrisy and bullshit. You don’t get to take the moral high ground by being racist, whoever you are.
You all do have a chance to be great. Nobody is getting in the way of that or trying to stop you. This is Africa, nobody is judging anyone for being black.
And once again, you don’t achieve unity by singling out a race. Making out that ‘all white people do this/that’, no matter what the ‘this/that’ may be, is racism no matter how much you want to redefine the English language until it doesn’t.
As someone who bridges the gap between these two people, a rare person who has actually experienced both sides of the matter, I would have thought that maybe you’d want to set an example. Be better than those you hate. Be the bigger person and rise above the blaming and the stereotypes. But no, you seem intent on pointing your finger at a broad cross-section of society and blaming them. Which is no different from when people like Trump point their fingers at Muslims or Mexicans. It’s racism and it’s wrong, no matter what. So kindly check YOURself. I checked myself already and it turns out I’m not the one being a racist.

Sometimes people like you are not even worth giving any time to. Too blinded. wow. again so scary and disheartening.

<redacted>, please don’t engage in any discussion if your resolve is to ignore everything that the other person says, and just keep steamrolling ahead with your own view. That is a waste of everyone’s time. If you actually care about this subject, take amoment and re-read what I (and <redacted>) have said. You’re more than capable of understanding it, if you only allow yourself to. The point of discussion is to hear a point of view different view from your own.
If and when you do that, I will respond to what you said in your second-last comment. Until then, there’s just no point.

Lol your views I have encountered too many times. you are both not very creative.

<in response to cyan’s comment above>
I have also never heard a white person refer to black people as “Africans,” however I’ve heard enough black people refer to themselves as such, the most racist of whom are those who spell it “Afrikan” (because apparently that’s how it was spelled before English came to Africa…)
If you don’t want to be my friend because of my race, then I don’t want to be your friend because of your racism. And I will fight and ridicule you everywhere I see you, because you are a plague to this country and this planet. Get together with your other racist friends and hate me for my skin color, I will gladly accept your hate; I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

“And I will fight and ridicule you everywhere I see you, because you are a plague to this country and this planet.”
Sounds like a colonial mind. Tah!
Enough said.

I’ve never encountered the phrase “colonial mind” before, but I’d say that taking an uninhibited stand against the prevalent racism perpetuated by the vocal majority and the establishment is the exact opposite of that.

Racism is a systematic oppression of a certain group of people based on one or other particular prejudice. Black people do not have a system of oppression in place and are not still inheriting from privilege like white people. Black people can certainly be prejudice. But not racist.
For argument’s sake, let it be clear now.

Well, no. Please abandon the Newspeak.
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Alright. I will rephrase: “the treatment of black people by white people, based on the inherent differences among various human races, through policies and systems of government which foster discrimination and, the result of which still pays out royalties to the superior white race who has the right to rule others”. Black people don’t have that.
They probably just don’t like white people because its a reminder of how mistreated they have been; not only their ancestors but black people TODAY!
Until you can just acknowledge that without becoming defensive, you will always seem to be the racist asshole guy complaining about blacks who don’t like him, and guess what? That just fuels the dislike even more.
No one is asking you to hand in your privilege. You are simpy being asked to be aware. And tolerant perhaps. And to just acknowledge that this version of truth, from a black persons point of view, could be just as real as from your vantage point. That is all.

Okay. Thanks for being constructive (an increasingly rare trait in such discussions.)
1. Black people DO have that (obviously with the words “black” and “white” reversed). I don’t want to cite examples because that would overshadow the point of this discussion.
2. “They probably just don’t like white people because…” First, most black people I know fortunately don’t feel this way. I still think that black racists are just an obnoxious minority. Second, what you’re doing here is excusing racism. I do acknowledge why a black person might hate white people, I just don’t CONDONE it. (I also understand why these reasons are fallacious, but that’s a separate discussion. Racism, like all forms of immorality, is based on a logical fallacy; whether it’s black-on-white or white-on-black or Arab-on-Slavic.)
3. I’m not being defensive; I refuse to play that game. I am deliberately being OFFENSIVE to racists, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t mind looking like an asshole to people who aren’t interested in finding out what my actual views are. I know this is a stupid strategy because these people are good at starting fires that are very difficult to put out, but even if I’m burned alive I’ll still have my dignity. You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
4. No one’s asking me to hand in my privilege? Good for them, because they’d be sorely disappointed. This is another game that I will not play. The validity of what I say is not contingent on who I am.
5. I am aware, but I’m not tolerant. I do not tolerate racism, nor should I. Tolerance is a term that has become increasingly distasteful to me over the past couple of years, as it is pretty much synonymous with the phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” This is an idea that, if applied to a race, is itself racist: If you say something like “you must tolerate black people’s hatred because they’ve suffered and they’re angry” then you are holding black people to a standard lower than that of a “normal” person. (The equivalent is true of women, Muslims, homosexuals, etc.” That is racism, and I refuse to take part in it.

When I read this earlier I went over the points and mentally addressed each. In time I realised this is extremely energy draining, and I just not willing to spend my energy on this anymore.
What I will say is, Alex, please realise that our current reality is not contained in a vacuum; the past constantly influences the present and at present, your position is only that because of a heap of injustices the world has conveniently labelled too painful to address. I watched a brief video this weekend of a white woman at a seminar asking the white people in audience to think of the treatment of black people in society and to stand up if they are willing to switch places. No one stood so she repeated, citing the audience did not understand the instruction. Again, no one stood. She ended with saying white people would not stand because they understand and are aware of the injustice black people face today and would not choose it for themselves.
You are complaining about injustice or unfair treatment towards you but are wholly unwilling to acknowledge that your lifestyle is as a direct result of the injustice inflicted by your ancestors. My father is white, so mine too, but the point is not to go around complaining about an eye for an eye. The point is first come first served. We need to heal this hurt inflicted upon previously discriminated people first. So, yes people will dislike you off the colour of your skin. Is it really so unfair if it’s just rebalancing the scales? I feel you and white people in general need to realise you forfeited your right to complain about unfair treatment when your ancestors grossly abused black people, and you still benefit from that. Say what you want, your people don’t live in Katutura. Your homes have not been uprooted nor have you been killed or assaulted for being in your own country after a certain hour.
I understand Your need to treated fairly, but realise your individual need to be treatly fairly as a white person is contingent upon the need of an entire race of people to be treated fairly. Why? White people systematically made it so. Until then, you are the pot calling the kettle black.
Rather than complaining about how black people ARE racist, help all people understand racism, intolerance, discimination, bigotry, etc are inappropriate doctrines in the world today. You can only do that by being compassionate and empathetic. Right now you are not. And finally, use this as an opportunity to educate the world that you as a white man don’t stand for any sort of racism, AND still promote the fair treatment of all people. And truth be told, some people deserve a little bit more help to be treated fairly; NOT IDENTICALLY.
That’s all from me 🙂
May Wisdom abundantly bless you*

I hope this will be the last comment; I’ll just correct a couple of misapprehensions above, and I’ll try not to make any new points because this has gone on overlong as it is. Unfortunately it takes many more words to explain that a statement is wrong than to state it.
“You are wholly unwilling to acknowledge that your lifestyle is as a direct result of the injustice inflicted by your ancestors.” This is a racist statement. I will not explain how wrong you are about me on this, because this discussion is not about me, and I WILL NOT play identity politics.
I’m not complaining about an eye for an eye, or injustice toward me. I’m not pretending to be any kind of victim. I’m sure most people on this thread are living a more comfortable lifestyle than me, but that’s irrelevant. I’m simply calling out injustice and hypocrisy that is not being addressed by anyone else. In their fight against racism, many black people and their allies have become racists themselves (as we’ve seen here). It’s just unfortunate that I’m a white person doing this because very few people will see past that. If you want to see a black person share my views (far more eloquently than I ever could) please look up any of the outstanding articles online by Gwen Ngwenya from SA.
“So, yes people will dislike you off the colour of your skin. Is it really so unfair if it’s just rebalancing the scales?” YES. Two wrongs do not make a right. And again, I’m not complaining about unfair treatment. I’m trying to thwart a malicious mindset.
Also, not that this matters but you do realize that not all white people are descended from ex-colonists, right?
I want everyone to be treated fairly. Some pro-black activists are doing this well, and more power to them. Some are doing it very badly, and those are the ones I have a problem with.
“Rather than complaining about how black people ARE racist, help all people understand racism, intolerance, discimination, bigotry, etc are inappropriate doctrines in the world today.” That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’ve white friends, who were racist in varying degrees. They’re not friends anymore. That’s not a coincidence. Same for some black friends I used to have.
“use this as an opportunity to educate the world that you as a white man don’t stand for any sort of racism, AND still promote the fair treatment of all people.” If I haven’t done that by now, then I must be speaking a foreign language.
May wisdom bless you too. (That’s a really good valediction.)

Right. So that’s about 3500 words, give yourself a pat on the back if you read all that. At some point during all these exchanges, someone (whose name I won’t mention though most people know who it is) had these things to say about me. (This, by the way, is not just some random person with a Facebook profile. His voice is one that people listen to; he has a weekly newspaper column and is a prominent public personality.)

1

I happened upon this and read it out to some friends I was with, and we were still laughing about it the next day over WhatsApp, and I shared this screenshot on Facebook, which seems to have been noticed by the original fallist. He had this to say about it.

3

So that, in so many words, is the answer to the question “What did you do?” Really, there’s nothing else. The only other interaction I had with this person (and I don’t mean to imply that that has anything to do with this) is I told him that I didn’t like something he created because it negatively had the opposite of its intended effect. Make of that what you will.

Yesterday I was approached by someone who thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to discuss this disagreement in a public space, in an informal dialogue. I have never taken part in a debate or anything of that kind, but I gladly accepted the offer because a conversation about this new trend needs to be had, and I seem to be the only one stupid enough to publicly challenge it. We’ll see what, if anything, comes of that.

Relax. The Big Bad White Man Did Not Steal The Matrix.

In reference to the story about Sophia Stewart, the black woman from whom the scripts for The Matrix and The Terminator were supposedly plagiarized by the Wachowski siblings and Warner Bros.
First of all, if we’re giving credit where it’s due, both The Terminator and The Matrix are adaptations of ideas put forth by the visionary (and heavily hallucinogen-influenced) author Philip K Dick, who deserves credit for pretty much all modern sci-fi with a philosophical bent.
The Terminator is based on Second Variety, a novel Dick wrote in 1953. The Matrix is a particularly interesting example, because apart from being based on Dick’s work, as any of your nerd friends will tell you it’s an adaptation of the Japanese anime Ghost In The Shell, and it’s been a staple of culture extending far beyond just fiction: Rene Descartes’ existentialism is one interpretation, and the oldest recorded example of this story is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which is older than Jesus. These are just the most famous examples, there are countless others but I think suffices for the point I’m making.
So, that’s that.
But it doesn’t even end there. The “original” author Sophia Stewart – far from winning 2.5 Carl-Sagan-Billion US dollars as this and this and this and countless other knee-jerk self-appointed truth-disseminators have claimed – did not even set foot in court on the appointed date. That was in 2004. The case was set to be dismissed (because courts don’t have the luxury of waiting around for authors who are too busy to win 2.5 billion dollars), and Miss Stewart has insisted that she wants to keep the case open, which it still is to this day, eleven years since.
In fairness, the articles I linked above do have footnotes that contain this “minor” factual error, however they all still retain the original lie in the articles’ titles, which is enough to spread the lie about the evil white man (and woman, in this case) on social media, because everybody reads the title and nobody reads the article, as these mutual mouth-spitters are surely well aware.
The problem with stories like this is they’re like wildfires: It just takes one idiot to strike a match, and by the time (if ever) the fire gets put out at immense cost, half the forest has burned down. (This is an modernized Winston Churchill quote, who as we all know was a black woman. See, I give credit where it’s due.)
Pictured here, wearing her signature two-piece swimsuit and looking sexy as ever.

Pictured here, wearing her signature two-piece swimsuit and looking sexy as ever.

There are genuine cultural white-on-black crimes committed throughout history (as we all know) but this is not one of them. And it tarnishes the severity of these crimes when bored morons on the internet try to have squabbles over nothing.

A useless post about useless memes

So, a few friends of mine have been making YouTube videos and I’ve been thinking “I could do better than this.” So that’s what I’ve been busy with these past couple of days, but because I can’t sing and I’m not quirky or cute my videos need some actual content, which takes a lot of time to edit because I don’t know what I’m doing. Therefore I’m not going to try to insert the obscure cultural references and callbacks and interestingly-worded sentences that I usually fail to insert in all my other posts.

This is unfortunate, because this post is about memes, which are all about that kind of stuff. Shame. But on the plus side, it has lots of pictures.

Yes, he actually said this.

But at least I have Kanye’s stamp of approval, so I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Oh and someone wrote a thing about me where she says I’m a nice guy. So, you know, read that.

I used to love memes. And I still do, but they really have become extremely lazy and stopped taking care of themselves. I mean, look at this. It pains me to see it, and even more to put it on here. But some moments require someone who will do the unpleasant thing. The necessary thing.

This is the first row of images that popped up when I searched “keep calm and.”

keep calm 1

This is what happens when you remove the “keep calm” part, and just let the messages stand on their own.

keep calm 2

They just look like the kind of worthless things that parents might congratulate their toddlers for saying. This is what the internet has created: toddlers with keyboards.

One of my favourite memes was this, originally called I Hate Sandcastles but quickly renamed Success Kid:

a37success-kid-fridayfunny-success-kid-music-parking-meme-picspocpi

Simple, funny and immensely relatable. The last one is an exception, but it has the benefit of being a true story.

Internet memes were born in 4chan, which is a chaotic primordial soup of mostly repulsive content, whence a thing of beauty may occasionally spring forth, like an infinite monkey typing a Shakespearean sonnet. You used to need some basic Photoshop skills to make a thing like this, and you needed to be slightly clever to make stuff like this. But then meme generators became commonplace, and people on Facebook started using them, and then we ended up with blasphemy like this:

enhanced-3797-1438822111-1p4nxb1

Please forgive them, for what they know not what they do. But also please make them stop doing it.

Richard Dawkins, inventor of memes. Really.

But despite the false memes, there are still many great Success Kid images out there. The same cannot be said for Kermit the Frog, which was pure shit right from the get-go.

kermit

The success of this meme confounds me. It’s not clever. It has nothing to do with anything! It’s just stupid insults being hurled at no-one in particular, with the words “but that’s none of my business” added at the end. It has nothing to do with Kermit the Frog. It has nothing to do with tea. Or business. It’s just arbitrary nonsense. It’s a way to get retweets for stupid jokes by adding a non sequitur at the end.

On the other hand, here are some memes that really should be more popular but aren’t.

Y U NO guy:download (6)

Yo dawg:

pp8dg

Successful black man:

Successful_917954_1773872

Successful black man’s son:ceaa224ab1df6668a21d3877b9cc8eae

And black science man:

I+like+it+paint+this+_db6e2639f4e71a37eba1334f48a787e8

Joseph Ducreux / Archaic rap

download (7)

And the one that I most identify with, Unpopular opinion puffin:

46143227

There are dozens more, but this is enough.

So, my next post will be about inadvertent mind control. Or witchdoctors. Or clicktivism. Or I’ll do a short post alongside the video that I’ve been splicing together.

Anyway, that’s it for this one. You can go away now.

PSA

So, I’ve decided to post a thing here every Sunday, but I have a show on Thursday so I skipped last weekend. Yes, comedians do actually write material and rehearse it, in front of a mirror at home like losers. But this weekend I’m publishing two posts to make up for lost time, and they’re both pretty awesome by my standards.

The show is Last Comic Standing, this Thursday at the Warehouse. Do come through and see me battle five other comics.

As you were.

Conversations about Consciousness with my Mother

Yesterday my mom called me with a grand philosophical idea. We’re always wondering, she said, whether the fundamental nature of reality is physical or conscious. But what if it’s a duality, sometimes more conscious than physical and sometimes the other way around, analogous to the electron? My response was that I’m reluctant to say it can ever be conscious at bottom, because as far as we know, consciousness cannot exist without matter. She was not impressed by my response, calling it “super-materialistic”.

In the same vein, I saw this article, called “Quantum Theory Proves That Consciousness Moves to Another Universe After Death,” shared on UNAM Radio’s Facebook page and immediately my baloney detector lit up like a Christmas tree. Two problems are apparent in the title alone:

Any sentence beginning with the words “quantum theory proves” is obviously written by someone who doesn’t know what “theory” means. Theories don’t prove anything, they explain things. The theory of heliocentrism explains why the sun rises and sets. The theory of gravity explains why things fall down. The theory of evolution explains all the fossils and biodiversity and pretty much everything else in biology. The idea of a multiverse is only a hypothesis. We’ve barely begun to define what 96% of our own universe consists of. The remaining 4% in which all detectable matter particles and energy in the entire electromagnetic spectrum reside, is only known to a very limited degree and is full of mysteries. So to simply assume the existence of another universe is completely ridiculous, let alone to make claims about consciousness (which is another vaguely defined concept at best) going into it. And on top of that, consciousness supposedly goes to this other universe after death: yet another arena that science has yet to begin exploring.

Side note: The reason why so many of these posts get away with posting all the bullshit is that it’s so easy for anyone to string a sentence of credible-looking sciencey words together, but so painstakingly tedious to explain why that sentence is unsubstantiated or meaningless or an outright fabrication. They’re also always peppered with some positive message that people want to hear. In this case, that message is “don’t be afraid of death, you’re immortal and will get transported to another, possibly more awesome universe when you die. Wait, that sounds vaguely familiar…

download (5)

That seems too coincidental. There are two possible explanations for this uncanny resemblance:

1. The article’s author is deliberately pandering to a readership that has already bought into the idea of an afterlife in Heaven, and is giving them a pseudo-scientific version of the same story so that they will connect the dots (and feel like geniuses for doing so, then subscribe to the site that makes them feel so good about themselves). OR,
2. The author like everyone else on Earth, has heard the afterlife-in-Heaven story a billion times, and simply created a similar story with a modern-science theme. Just like Avatar is Pocahontas in space.

People like such articles because just reading the title makes them feel superior to the rest of humanity, including especially scientists who spend years of research and testing to make one very small and painstakingly specialized conclusion. Here’s a small portion of an abstract from a recent real scientific paper, for contrast:

Using this strain, a yield greater than 100 mg/L recombinant Agkisacucetin in fed-batch fermentation was reached. The recombinant Agkisacucetin possessed extremely similar binding affinity to recombinant GPIb and human platelets in in vitroassays, and its ristocetin-induced platelet aggregation activity ex vivo was identical to that of the extracted native Agkisacucetin, demonstrating that the yeast-derived Agkisacucetin could be an effective alternative to native Agkisacucetin.

I can’t make heads nor tails of those sentences, but they do have a very different tone to the first paragraph of the quantum article:

A book has stirred up the Internet because of the notion that life does not end when the body dies and can last forever. The author of this publication has no doubts that this may be possible.

I promise I haven’t cherry-picked this article among less stupid ones.

The first sentence is just filler, and the second says “the author has no doubts that this may be possible.” That sounds like something definitive due to the phrase “no doubt”, until you realize that there are unborn infants who have no doubt that this may be a possibility. Everything that hasn’t been conclusively disproved may be a possibility.

I won’t go on with the debunking of this article, because I’d have to dedicate a lengthy paragraph to every single sentence if I’m to point out everything wrong. Basically it’s a relentless barrage of non-sequiturs, quote mines, self-contradictions, unsubstantiated claims, and outright fabrications.

If you’re reading this and you’re a fan of such articles, you might say “alright; maybe this article is filled with nonsense, but there are hundreds of others that make similar claims that are worth taking seriously.”

There aren’t. I’m reluctant to make generalizations like this but I think I’ve waded through enough of these to make a sizable bet that every such article is disconnected with reality. Why? Because if such a claim held any water at all, it would turn all of science on its head. The media would explode as reputable science journals tripped over each other to grace their front page with the new discovery that stars in other galaxies influence our personality, or the relative direction of a planet in our solar system puts us in a bad mood and makes things go wrong, or that gay people cause floods, or that there is a race of four-dimensional beings at Earth’s core, or that all celebrities are lizard aliens from the planet Sirius, etc. etc.

These things cannot be true because they contradict things we already know about the world. The immediate reaction to this is usually “Well, every major breakthrough disproves the theories before it.” No it doesn’t. When Einstein came up with relativity, no previous theories were thrown out. On the contrary, relativity demonstrated that the only way to make sense of everything we already know is to conclude that relativity exists. Electromagnetism didn’t overrule electricity and magnetism; it merely found that they are connected. Genetics didn’t overrule evolution by natural selection; it expanded it.

My point is this: As far as we know, a non-physical realm does not exist. So unless there is some reason to think that something (e.g. consciousness) is not part of the physical realm, then we treat it as part of it. There is (at least so far) no reason to think that consciousness resides outside the physical realm. Until new evidence emerges that contradicts this view, we treat everything as physical. My mom calls this super-materialistic. I call it rational.

Dear Black People: Be like Batman

I don’t like white people.

Wait – let me start over here. About two weeks ago, the German daily newspaper Allgemeine Zeitung printed this:

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By now, everybody and their dog has expressed their opinion about this scandal so instead of doing that, I’ll express my opinion about people’s opinions.

Before I started writing this post (which was two weeks ago), I was going to play Devil’s advocate and use the analogy that I plan to dress up as The Joker this Halloween but that doesn’t mean I condone his sense of morality. That seems banal now.

Many well-meaning non-racist white people have posted comments like “come now, it’s just a bit of fun” or “apartheid is over, just move on,” which only serves to fan the flames of this fiasco. They think they’re being the unbiased voice of reason mitigating a disaster, but in reality they seem to be trivializing a real issue.

Yes, these were only children and one of them was black and they possibly meant nothing by it. This is not about them. This is about the adults. These children’s parents should have stopped them getting those costumes. The carnival organizers should have told them that this is not acceptable. The journalists who photographed, captioned, published and printed the photos should have known better than to treat this as if they’re reporting on the weather.

If the Allgemeine Zeitung really is racist (which they probably are, considering a lot of their older publications that have recently been dug up), then they either did this as a publicity stunt, or more likely they just got so carried away in the fantasy of living in their little racist bubble that, in a moment of inattention, they forgot that this is a country where the majority of people of all races don’t take kindly to this sort of thing.

White people are not the only ones to blame here. Any white person who is interested in this has surely got that message by now.

But some black people have interpreted this scandal as their cue to be racist in return.

Take your bag and go to white mans world this is Africa for proud pitch black man.

Don’t do that. Nobody can out-racist a white racist. This fight is a lot less “David vs Goliath,” and a lot more “the Mountain vs the Viper”. Apart from fighting a losing battle, this shallow brand of activism is not anti-racist. It’s counter-racist.

Some friends of mine actually flat-out say “Black people cannot be racist.” I love this statement because it’s so beautifully self-refuting. The driving force behind such backlash is also what’s behind statements like this:

Those Chinese things better hope I don’t find out where they live or I will find him, string him up and skin him alive, they must go back to where they came from the Chinese shit. 

Horrible, yes? This was a comment on Facebook (translated from Afrikaans) on a story about a Chinese man who did what can only be described as torture to a dog, which was fortunately rescued by the SPCA. This happened on the same day that the controversial Lychee and Dog Meat Festival took place in Yulin, China. There’s the racist stereotype that all Chinese people eat dog meat, and Yulin is largely to blame. From a racist’s point of view, knowing this one piece of information about a town that constitutes 0.5% of China’s population is enough to lump every one of China’s 1.35 billion citizens. Nevermind that the Chinese government has outlawed this festival and the rest of the Chinese population has protested against it, and the Yulin has continuously denied its existence to anyone who asks. A racist only needs an excuse, and the last thing they would want to do is to learn new information that might render that excuse unusable. Racism thrives on ignorance.

That is first-order racism. Second-order racism is the retaliatory racism that is more typical for black people to succumb to. I hate to resort to this cliche, but this eye-for-an-eye mentality will make us all blind. To take the metaphor slightly further, when your vision is impaired it’s difficult to see that you’re only doing what you rightly claim should not have been done to you. It’s another form of ignorance – justified, maybe, but still counter-productive. I think there is a better way.

Consider Batman.

Beyond being an action hero, he represents a philosophy that denounces knee-jerk reactions to the forces of evil. He sticks to his (lack of) guns even when faced with the manifestation of values diametrically opposed to his own. The Joker, who has no moral code and uses anarchy in the already disordered setting of Gotham. He has all the advantage and his ultimate goal is to prove that everything is chaotic and everybody has the capacity for evil, given the right circumstances.

You see, their morals, their code; it’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. When the chips are down, these “civilized” people, they’ll eat each other. See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.

The Joker becomes somewhat obsessed with Batman because he’s the only one who defies this. Batman’s “no guns, no killing” rule isn’t just some gimmick; it’s his philosophy. From a utilitarian perspective, it’s clearly better to just kill The Joker. But that would mean Batman will have given up his moral code and let circumstances guide his actions rather than his moral character, which is exactly what The Joker is trying to prove.

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If Batman kills The Joker, The Joker wins.

This is why, despite my distaste for turning the other cheek, I applaud the Charleston community for their forgiveness to the man who terrorized them and killed nine of their friends and relatives. Their moral character did not waver despite being faced with one of the worst people on Earth. They decided how they are going to react to their victimizer, not the other way around. He wanted them to be violent, he wanted to spark a civil war just as Anders Breivik did in 2011, and in both cases the better angels of our nature prevailed.

They set an example not just to black people, but to any oppressed minority. As a white man, I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be discriminated against (although I’m far less privileged that everyone thinks, but that’s irrelevant). I do however know what it’s like to engage in a discussion about race or gender, and be the victim of a metaphorical honour-killing because of what my fellow men/whites/Westerners/liberals/atheists/communists/colonialists have done. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t done anything wrong, all that matters is that I’m “one of them”, which makes me fair game.

I’m not complaining; over my years of being a contrarian I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. I’m simply citing my experiences as an example of failings in the movement against oppression. You don’t fight racism with racism, and you don’t destroy a glass ceiling by making another glass ceiling. You simply do what’s right and encourage others to do the same. Like Batman.

What do we do

A friend of mine is trying to raise N$10 000 so that his friend’s nephew might go to a water polo tournament in Europe.

I’m going to be negative here. Why should some upper-class kid get N$10 000 that he didn’t work for to go somewhere and play in a swimming pool?

Someone whom I’m greatly honoured to call a friend (and whose name I won’t mention in case her association with me will be a blemish on her reputation) recently raised N$2 500 to build a shack for a family she knew. She succeeded. A family had a roof over their heads for a quarter of the cost of playing in a pool.

I don’t mean to come off as a moral crusader with any authority over what’s right and wrong. Although I’m not exactly a carefree vagrant, over the past few years I’ve probably wasted over ten grand on selfish, hedonistic things, many of which I likely didn’t even enjoy. I know I’ll continue to do so. I don’t buy into the lazy “let the one without sin cast the first stone” mentality; hypocrisy is a necessary deterrent to moral anarchy. The stupidity of denouncing a potentially (and arguably) good act by comparing it to a better act that can no longer be committed is also not lost on me.

It’s not always clear what the right thing to do is. Even when it is clear, all of us often choose not to do it. Nobody lives purely for the greater good – if you’ve ever bought a coke instead of drinking water and donating eight bucks to a good cause, you are among the sinners. And that cannot be washed away because what’s done cannot be undone. No matter how much good you do from now on, you cannot go back in time and do something different with your money.

This is where I give up. Perhaps on a more charitable and resilient day, I may pursue this train of thought further down its terrible path.

Things are what they are. They cannot be any other way. We are part of these things. We do what we do and don’t do what we don’t do. We cannot do better or worse.

(Mini-post) A special Pi Day and happy Born-day to Einstein.

Today is pi day. 3/14/15, 9:26:53.

This morning a friend on a WhatsApp group asked me why pi is so important and fun. This was my response.

You know how there are universal constants like the speed of light, Avogadro’s number, the gravitational constant, etc. These are set values that define the fundamental structure of our universe, and if they were different then they would describe a very different universe, e.g. one where atoms couldn’t exist or the four fundamental forces behave in very strange (at least to us) ways.

There are a few constants that were arrived at in a purely theoretical manner, like phi (AKA Fibonacci’s number), e (Euler’s number) and pi. It is impossible to even conceive of a world where the valid of these numbers are different than what they are. We can hypothesize about tweaking the physical constraints of the universe, but not its logical ones like the layer three numbers. Its mathematical properties are fundamental not just to our universe but to every possible universe in existence. So knowing the value of pi is a piece of information so fundamentally profound, that it is an unequivocal fact that is true not just throughout our own universe, but to every single possible universe, and probably most universes that are impossible too.

It is, in a very real sense, akin to being able to play around with one of the Lego bricks of God.

And that, my dear Sir, is why pi is important and fun.

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New Study Proves that Denying Abortions To Abuse Victims Prolongs Violence

I am not the most hardcore pro-choicer although I’m definitely on that side of the fence; and I’m not a fan of the word “proves” being used so casually, but I think this post is of utmost pertinence, especially in Namibia.

A groundbreaking new study has shed light on a horrific consequence of denying abortions to victims of domestic violence: It binds them to violent partners.

From 2008-2010, the Turnaway Study examined the effects of unwanted pregnancies on women’s lives and what happens to women who aren’t able to obtain the abortions they want. The findings, published in BMC Medicinereveal a strong correlation between abortion access and remaining in abusive relationships.

Researchers found that incidents of violence declined among women who were able to have an abortion, but not among women who carried their pregnancies to term.  When women are denied an abortion – often because they are over the legal gestational limit – the abusive men are likely to remain in their lives.

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Image credit: BMC Medicine

According to demographer and principal investigator Diana Green Foster, “being unable to have the abortion tethered women to violent men…

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Sex, part one: Lubricating the corpse

This post contains an unusual amount of honesty. If you suspect that this may be something you aren’t ready to read, I encourage you to read it, because it’s for you. This post is about sex.

But the story about this wonderful, joyous pastime, the story of its extraordinary implications, and the story of how these implications are inextricably intertwined with this unremarkable blog begins very grimly.

It begins with death.

Jeremy Bentham, founder of the utilitarian school of thought as an alternative to Immanuel Kant’s deontology, spent a fair amount of time trying to break the taboo of death so that people may conquer the fear of their own mortality and live happier lives. He encouraged people to decorate their yards with human corpses instead of trees so that, among other reasons, the constant reminder of death would render it a trivial matter (as trivial as homeless people are today, illustrated in this underrated stand-up bit by Louis CK). He also requested that his own body be preserved and put on display, which it still is at the University College London today.

Um... Spoiler alert?

You’re gonna have to die, John.

The garden corpses idea hasn’t exactly caught on since Bentham’s death in 1832, which isn’t surprising considering its apparent impracticality and the suppression of publication of Bentham’s paper detailing this idea. However the notion of trivializing a touchy topic through talking about it candidly and openly is one that I am very fond of.

The taboo of sex seems to run parallel to the taboo of death. This paragraph is supposed to segue into the subject of sex by way of the French euphemism for an orgasm, la petite mort, whose literal translation is “the little death”. But I couldn’t be arsed to figure out a way of doing it smoothly, so instead here’s an unlubricated fourth-wall-breaking paragraph that blatantly states my intention and thereby fails to fulfill it. Nobody pays me to write this shit, people. So: death → sex.

Unlike death, sex is an idea whose taboo can seriously inhibit, or wholly destroy, our chance to enjoy it in all its gory glory. Our generation doesn’t exactly fear sex (despite the best efforts of some holier-than-thou organisations, about which I have some quite inflammatory comments that I’ll reserve for Part 2 of this blog-post-arc). We’re also not too shy about discussing it – as long as the conversation remains out there and doesn’t concern us directly. We can talk about penis enlargement, Viagra and vibrators in hypothetical or gossipy terms, but not about whether or how these things are part of our personal lives.

This is not a confession nor is it intended for shock value, although shock may sadly be the only effect it’s going to have in the minds of some conservative readers. It’s my opinion that in an ideal world, what you’re about to read should be utterly boring.

I lost my virginity at 17. In the 7 years since then, I’ve had penetrative sex with 10 people, all of them female, probably somewhere between 50 and 100 times in total. One thing that many people find odd (and in some cases insulting) is that more often than not, I don’t orgasm during intercourse. I don’t consider it a problem because I find much deeper enjoyment in pleasing than being pleased. (I’m sure there’s some Freudian interpretation of that, which I’ll allow you to discern in your own time.) When this happens, I usually just masturbate the next morning while reflecting on the events of the night before, which is similar to reliving the experience like a highlight reel in my head.

This next paragraph had some more details about the genitals with which I’ve had the pleasure of acquainting myself, but I decided to delete it because it would be kinda pointless. Suffice it to say, vaginas come in many shapes, sizes and smells, some more pleasant than others. I can’t imagine as big a variety of dicks in existence as there are species of vagina; and it makes no sense to me that men seem to be more insecure about their genitals than women. I have seen one or two hideous vaginas in my time. Penises, the way I understand them, are extremely one-dimensional in comparison.

Governor Schwarzenegger explains why he will never run for office in Hammerfell.

So although girls may experience penis envy in their childhood, the yoke of men throughout adulthood is far more taxing. Not that I’m complaining; on the whole, evolution has fucked women over in far too many ways, so it’s good to see a hint of feminism on the part of Mother Nature. Still, I’d love to have a vagina that I can just press against the seat of my chair at work when I need to uplift my mood. But then I’d probably have to suffer through periods, which are a whole other huge issue and I’d rather not open that big can of unsavoury red liquid right now.

Before I get too side-tracked, let me end this post right here. I think I’ve made my point.

Part 2, if you’re wondering, will be about pornography.