Thursday, October 29, 2009

Indifference and the Perils of "I don't know"

The Perils of Indifference "I don't know"

A good speech ends in this.
bad speech ends in this.

Elie Wiesel’s speech about the
The Perils of Indifference(read the whole thing!) used to be one of my favourite speeches of all time. It really shook up my views the first time I read it. I used to think that he was right.

As time went on, I realized that indifference isn’t really that bad.

I’ve become a bit more indifferent about things over the years (most likely as a coping mechanism ) and it’s worked out well for me.

I don’t set myself up to be disappointed when I choose to be indifferent. However, I will admit that the trade-off is that with indifference comes the inhibition of feeling excitement for a lot of other things. Indifference works by cutting off both extremes of yes and no – leaving you with a "maybe" or "why not?".

I didn’t choose to become completely indifferent…but I DID choose to be MORE indifferent about trivial things. Less caring about useless things means that I can devote more attention to things that actually matter.

Now…back to Elie Wiesel. If I could change his speech, I would replace “indifference” with “ignorance” (except for when he defines indifference, to replace that would just be silly). Ignorance is the lack of knowledge, but it’s more commonly used in context to describe a refusal to gain knowledge, or a refusal to accept it.

If you want to talk about “evils” in the world…talk about ignorance. People in the holocaust couldn’t all have been indifferent. There were more than a couple of people who obviously weren’t (Schindler, Gies, Boom, Slavik, etc.) So what does it come down to, then? Sure, it’s about choosing to care…but moreso about not choosing to turn a blind eye.

So maybe the perils aren’t of “indifference” per se, but about saying “I don’t know.” Before we get further into this, I have to break down my 2 classifications of “I don’t knows:
• The legitimate “I don’t know”
• The “I don’t know” which implies “I don’t know, nor do I care to find out.”
Does the second one sound familiar? Yup…that’s exactly what people say when they’re too lazy to think (oh, the horror…)

When you say “I don’t know” (in the second context), you flick a giant middle finger to Knowledge (Insert cliché Hulk reference here). By doing that, you refuse to gain, learn, or become informed. At this point, I feel an obligation to ask: and it’s all for what?

Think about it.
Who’s more wrong: the person who doesn’t know what to do, or the person who doesn’t bother to find out?

Separate indifference from ignorance. Unfortunately, you’ll see that they’re commonly used side-by-side. They really shouldn’t be.

I can’t stand ignorance – it drives me nuts. But indifference, on the other hand…it’s a beautiful thing. Give it a try some time.


+ knowledge

p.s. I have my first mascot gig this weekend...I can't wait :D

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yes, Governor Arnie.


Real letter, straight from the Terminator.

If you don't get're just not thinking hard enough.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"To my Father" by Aaron J Mobley

A litle bit of background information on the author:

I believe he's a Philosophy, women's studies, ethics teacher at Florida State University (I asked once, but I forgot what he said).

This guy is one of the most concise debaters I've ever read in my life. I used to be a regular on a certain Philosophy forum and this guy would straight up shut down people and end threads right then and there (me included).

I learned a lot (in terms of argument skills and actual content) from discussing with him. He's managed to completely change my views on certain things. He's proved me wrong(or given a stronger counter-argument) more times than the few times where I was able to prove him wrong. He was also about as condescending as it gets...which was hilarious - anyone with a slight flaw in their argument would get ripped apart.

Check this thread: to see what I mean. Not only is what he's saying very valid, it's also hilarious how he says it (post #18 on page 1 is key!)

Anyways, dude disappeared off facebook...but here's an essay by him that I found when trying to get in contact with him for Essay help.

It's a great read. It's about fight club, abnormally-high testosterone levels, the lack of a father figure, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and the Marine Corps." It's a really good piece, please check it out.

"To my Father" by Aaron J Mobley

"What you see at fight club is a generation of men raised by women . . .. I'm a thirty-year-old boy, and I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer I need." These words are from Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club. Tyler Durden is the alter ego, and only known name of the fictional narrator of the novel. Tyler suffers from Dissociative Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Primary Insomnia, and probably a host of other disorders that I am not qualified to properly diagnose.

"Women have caused me nothing but trouble for twenty-one years. That's it, I'm swearing off women . . . at least for a little while." These words were spoken by me, about two months ago. I am Aaron Mobley, a very real former U.S. Marine. I suffer from Antisocial Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and abnormally high testosterone levels (yes, this was all medically verified).

So what do Tyler and I have in common besides similar views on relationships? Quite a bit, actually. Tyler was raised by his mother. His father abandoned them early in his life and only had sporadic contact with his son. I, too, was raised by my mother. She divorced my father early in my life, and he made little effort to further his involvement in my life from that point forward. " If you're male . . . your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?" Also from Fight Club. As you can see, I really connected with this novel.

Let's start with the most obvious similarity: antisocial personality disorder, or APD. APD is, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood (645). Those words are straight from the book, and I have them memorized. I am writing this at 5 a.m.

So neither Tyler nor I gives a shit (I hope I can say that in this paper) about other people or how they should be treated. And not only do we not care, but we also act on that lack of empathy. Pretty sad, huh? The difference between Tyler and me is that I know I have APD, and it bothers me. It sounds odd. Hurting other people doesn't bother me, but knowing that it doesn't bother me does bother me. It's hard to understand unless you've lived it.

Tyler is an insomniac. I sleep about twelve hours a day. Well, some days. Other nights (like tonight) I don't sleep at all. I'm not sure if that qualifies as a sleep disorder. On a week-by-week basis, I get as much sleep as anyone else does. I also eat this way. I'll eat two pizzas in a sitting, and then not eat for the next 36 hours. I'm pretty sure that's not a disorder, just a quirk of biology.

Tyler has two personalities. I have a labile affect and two moods. I'm manic, or I'm depressed. Whichever I happen to be, no one but me can tell because my affect (my observable expression) is often totally incongruent with my actual mood. This is what is known as a labile affect - it shifts rapidly and without reason. That's from the DSM-IV as well, although I learned it from my first psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen.

I have an abnormally high testosterone level. Tyler may, too - it's not really addressed in the novel. This accounts for my aggressive tendencies, and my bad skin. It's estimated that a sizable percentage of those with APD may have similarly high testosterone levels. I don't think it has much to do with it, myself.

That's me and Tyler, or it's Tyler and I - I never know which way is the correct way to say that. But this paper is supposed to be about family. When do I get to the family part? Right now.

As I mentioned, both Tyler and I were more or less abandoned by our fathers. His left. Mine was asked to leave, and never bothered to come back. Either way, our only male role models chose not to be part of our lives. We were left to be raised by our mothers. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back to the actual separation.

The book Children of Divorce cites a 1984 study by research scientists W. F. Hodges and B. L. Bloom determined that boys were hardest hit by divorce as demonstrated by a marked increase in behavior problems during the 6 months following the divorce (Twaite 147). This increase in behavioral problems was actually shown to continue for a good 12-18 months, and possibly even longer (data collection ended after 18 months). So it's reasonable to assume that the very act of divorce could account for the appearance of Conduct Disorder, one of the prerequisites for APD, in young males. Strike one for Tyler and I. Poor us.

Other studies have shown that having a same-sex parent is much more important for social development than an opposite-sex parent. Boys raised by fathers showed better social skills than girls raised by fathers. Similarly, girls raised by mothers were much more skilled socially than boys raised by their mothers. Children raised exclusively by an opposite-sex parent were shown to be less mature, sociable, and independent, and considerably more demanding than children of single parents of the same sex are (Twaite 45). Strike two. Tyler and I are behind in the count.

Of course, maturity, independence, and demandingness (is that even a word?) have nothing to do with APD. In fact, people with APD are often more mature and independent than others (DSM-IV 646). I definitely feel that I fall in with this group. I wasn't always this way, however, and developing APD may have been a coping mechanism for my relative lack of maturity and independence as a child. Still, it seems inconclusive. I'm going to retract my previous call of strike two, and call that one a ball, just to give Tyler and I some hope.

Do I hate my father? Dr. Cohen asked me that once. And of course I don't. He didn't hate me, after all. In fact, he didn't care about me one way or the other, until he was dying. "If you could choose to be God's worst enemy or nothing, which would you choose? . . . Which is worse, hell or nothing?" Good questions, Tyler. Most people would come right out with hell being worse. But at least if God hates you, that means he cares what happens to you. You have to care to hate. Indifference means you might as well not exist. So in my father's eyes, I didn't exist, and he didn't exist in mine . . . until he decided to go and die on me. The clock strikes 6.

Suddenly, faced with his own mortality, the man had a son. And suddenly, faced with my parent's death, I had a father. I had a God, and He was dying. Not just dying, but near death. My father died within a month of having his mother contact me. We talked three times, for about thirty minutes each time. Sixteen years, and the man gives me ninety minutes before saying good-bye forever. I may sound angry right here, but I'm not. I'm not even sad. It's that labile effect. Stunted emotions are all part and parcel with APD (DSM-IV 647). I'm just a little pissed, I guess. I'm about as pissed as I was when I came out to the parking garage to find someone had scratched the original paint on my 1968 Thunderbird. These things happen, and it still pisses me off to think about it, but what's done is done.

So my indifferent God is dead. Strike two. What's a young man to do? I did what anyone would do in that situation . . . I panicked. I was a man possessed. I had just witnessed the death of a man who accomplished nothing of more value than fathering a single child in all of his forty-two years of existence. And I was so much like him that it was scary. Maybe my father had APD. Some doctors believe that it may be genetic. I was not going to turn out like dear old dad - not even if it meant moving to Tibet to become a Buddhist monk. I went one step further, and enlisted.

This is where Tyler and I went our separate ways. This is why Tyler ends up institutionalized, and I end up writing this paper for my English class at FSU. Tyler started his own army, and I joined one. The U.S. Marine Corps is about the single most appropriate place in the world for someone like me. The Marine Corps promises you a life of danger, suffering, and sadness. It promises death and destruction. It promises hell. And hell was exactly where I needed to be. Tyler made his own hell. I had Uncle Sam send me there.

The Marine Corps is my family now. The Marine Corps diagnosed me with APD, and didn't judge me for it. In fact, they almost cherished it. The Marine Corps found out about those high testosterone levels, and let me know that it was no big deal. The Marine Corps may just be responsible for my odd sleeping and eating habits, but I don't hold that against them. I'm not on active duty anymore. I'm not even a reservist. I'm a civilian. But I will also always be a Marine. Every Marine is my brother, and every soldier, sailor, and airman is a distant cousin. The Marine Corps gave me a father. The Marine Corps resurrected my God. APD is a chronic disorder - no one is ever "cured" of APD. But the Corps helped me find out what it is, and the Corps helped teach me how to live with it. Grand Slam, baby! That 2-1 count had me worried for a second there.

This essay is entitled "To my Father." It should read "To my Fathers," because it's for all of them. It's for the one who didn't give a shit. It's for all the ones who would've cared if they'd known. It's for the one that made me what I am today. And most of all it's for me, the only man I've ever had around to fall back on when things got too rough. It is 6:30 in the morning, and my paper is done.

Source: (works cited are here as well)

I hope you found it as interesting as I did. MY regular posts/topics are on Thursdays (until further notice), but when I get inspired to write or see something I want to post, I might post before that as well.

On a side note: I've written a couple more pieces and blurbs. I really want to post them, but I'm debating whether or not I should (when writers' block hits me, it goes for days at a time). I'll get a feel for it all in the next couple of weeks and we'll go from there.


- knowledge

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why "Knowledge"?!

People ask me, "why knowledge, what's so great about it?"

It's simple: because it's what I hold as my highest ideal.

Almost any other virtue or ideal is useless without knowledge as a core. Logic is nothing without knowledge to deduce from. Reason is inductive knowledge. Truth is essentially “real” knowledge. Reflection is knowledge of self. Courage comes from knowing your cause: compassion comes from acting on your known cause. Love is... Okay, I’ve got nothing for that one, but you get where this is going...

I’ve always been interested in knowledge: from reading books; to learning; through trial and error; through conversation; through asking questions; and pretty much through any other medium or means. It's why I continue to learn. I've always been in pursuit of it, I've always loved to learn and know as much as I could, whenever I could.

Knowledge is why I bother arguing; it's why I debate or discuss; it’s why I speak out if someone makes a false statement; it’s why I point out faulty logic; it’s why I’m blunt; It's basically my reason for any intellectual pursuit.

I’ve always been intrigued by wisdom and knowledge, but I don’t believe that they should both be coined with the same definition. I believe that knowledge is perception through reasoning and learning, and that wisdom is the application of acquired knowledge. I hold knowledge higher because it's the very root of wisdom.

Philosophy has been my biggest tool to learning. Oddly enough, it's because it isn't just solid knowledge. It's also about the questions involved, not just the answers you get. It's about ideas you get from someone shedding a little insight. Whenever something interests me, I need to know more.

If knowledge isn't put to good use, it's pointless. It can be used to exploit others or used to make yourself better. To choose the latter, is my definition of wisdom. A part of philosophy is the study of ethics: moral values and rules. Philosophy allows you to morally interpret in depth what is considered right or wrong; good or bad; moral and immoral. In other words, it allows you to realize what you should and shouldn’t do. This is exactly where knowledge comes into play.

Part of the reason why I value knowledge so much is because I try not to take anything for granted. We live in a generation where it’s so accessible, yet isn't seen for the commodity that it is. Bridges only stand because of the knowledge behind that. An engine only functions because of the knowledge behind that. It'd be fair to say that knowledge is the backbone of society. The foundation for a strong society is determined by how informed its populace, and in turn, its government is.

Have you ever realized how easy it is to know something nowadays? Any time I have a question, I open up a window and search it on google (am I a nerd, or what?). I see the potential for knowledge, and it’s infinitesimal quantity and I can honestly say that it humbles me. It humbles me more than any supposed being in the sky probably ever will (but that’s another topic.).

If you think about it, knowledge is as idealistic as it is practical. To know more than someone about a certain thing puts you one step ahead of them, isn't that how the world works? The random facts I know probably won’t bring about world peace...but it sure as hell makes for a good conversation.

I think of how few absolutes must (if even any,) exist. The great thing about knowledge is that not only is it used as the process or tool to obtain truth, but it’s also the end-result of truth. To me, the journey is just as valuable as the destination is.

I gotta warn you that many of my topics do bring up knowledge, but remember that this is first and foremost: a critical thinking it's not always gonna be about knowledge (...unless you're the A.Gaelzz, of course.) But seriously, I'll try to keep it to a minimum (no promises though).

I don't mind putting myself in the category of a geek or a nerd, in fact, I embrace it. It's a small price to pay to be well-informed.

So there you have it. I just had to get this out of the way before the real topics start :D. I hope it all makes just a little bit more sense to you.

- Alvin

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