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Virgil's Muse
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{Friday, July 11, 2003}

Please excuse the lack of new material on the site. A series of consecutive stressful events has been eating all my free time lately. I'm afraid my only indulgence lately is an inexplicable addiction to paradise hotel. I know it sucks. I know it's completely lame and nothing even remotely interesting ever happens. I never got into survivor or big brother or any of the other reality shows. It's disconcerting. So please bear with me as I attempt to wean myself from this ugly habit. In the mean time, feel free to reread my old posts and leave comments if you like. It will help me focus on something more productive.

allecto | 11:46 AM

{Monday, April 28, 2003}

dont ever get fat. if you are fat, dont be proud of it. especially if you are a post-menopausal woman. fat kills. exersize, eat less, liposuction, whatever it takes. its not just a statistic. lots of people die because they are fat.

allecto | 12:14 PM

{Thursday, April 17, 2003}

My spiritual development has been punctuated by encounters with people in my life who make me question my existing beliefs actions and feelings, as well as experiences which lead me to experience the mysterium in my life. I believe that these encounters did not happen by chance. If anything can be said to be governed by fate it is the meeting of two minds. In these kindred minds I found both connections and obstacles, harmony and discord. Although I still have many questions unresolved, I feel that I have progressed a little in my understanding of the mysterium in my life.

The fist mind with which I found this special bond was that of my mother. Although now I can only remember the specific events in their retelling, the experiences were real. This was the first time that I felt the thrill of seeing my own thoughts and feeling reflected in someone else's words. We talked every night before I went to sleep about anything and everything.

For as long as I can remember I have been a very logical person. I don't like accepting things unless they make sense. The variable has been what it means to "make sense." At age five one of Aesop's fables might have seemed a plausible etiology. Berger might define this as what could be explained by my plausibility structure.

As I grew my canopy also expanded. My mother has always been an important part of my growth. She always talked to me like we were on the same level, and I came to expect that treatment from others and also to treat others that way. Because of this trait I believe I am acutely sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others. I recognize people as fellow human beings before anything else. Although I value this trait in myself, it has also gotten me in trouble for not respecting authority as much as was expected. Because of this egalitarian standpoint and my insistence on substantiated claims, I was slow to take anything at face value.

I have always been able to argue from all sides of an issue. If I understand an issue I can posit what people might think about it. Along with making me very diplomatic, it also makes me indecisive, a trait that haunts me in my search to determine my beliefs. I agree with everyone and no one. I can see all sides, and yet I can find fault with any argument.

I was five and in kindergarten. We were sewing flowers onto burlap. As I was watching Mrs. Klockner cut each patch of cloth I was overcome by a curious conundrum - where does the cloth go which is right on the line being cut. Does it just disappear? The answer may seem clear to you, part goes on one side the rest on the other, simply divided down the middle. Think about it a little more. I had no knowledge of subatomic particles, all I knew was what I saw. That cloth was clearly connected before; something must have been connecting it because a bond, which had been there a minute ago, was now destroyed. Where did it go? I argued with my teacher for what felt like an hour over this, although it was probably more like five or ten minutes. I finally accepted the explanation that tiny pieces of the fabric had been thrown into the air when the cut was made.

All this to make two points. The first is that from the age of five I have been on a relentless pursuit of explanations. I want to know what is going on and how it works. I always have and I think I always will. The second point is that I have not always been open minded about things. I cannot accept answers that do not fit into my current way of understanding the world. That is to say that if I cannot wrap my mind around a concept and understand it completely, I cannot believe it. Faith has always been a hard thing for me to deal with.

I changed to an all-girls Catholic school in second grade. The children were cruel and I became more introverted. It was around this time when, faced with a lack of kindred minds, I turned inward and started my inner dialogues with myself. It was almost as if I had found a kindred mind in myself. I remember staying up nights thinking about all kinds of things. It was then that I started to really think about those big questions. Why are we here and what is the point? What is outside the universe? What came before it was all created? How was it created? Does it really exist? Am I the only one? Is this all a figment of my imagination? Am I just a figment of someone else's imagination? Ultimately these questions have no concrete answer. To me it was an incredible challenge. If I could understand those things, then I would be happy.

This was the beginning of my interest in science. A positivist at heart, I believed that science was the key to everything. They explained things in a logical manner and attempted to answer some of the big questions. In eighth grade I had a teacher who saw this spark and encouraged it. I devoured my science textbook, relishing every new revelation. It all made sense and fit very nicely into a structure made easy to digest. The experience of making a connection and understanding a concept made the mysterium present in my life.

All along I had also been getting religious education. But this, to me, seemed more like history or English than understanding the world or glimpsing mysterium. I knew that the Bible said that God created the universe and everything in it and before that time didn't exist. But who created God? That explanation was not very convincing. Science provided much more concrete answers as well as offering the suggestion that progress could be made to answer the as yet unresolved questions.

My freshman year of high school I read two books which solidified these feelings. The first was Einstein's theory of Relativity. This book opened up for me the range of things that science could reveal to me. I started reading about quantum physics and particle physics; I was addicted to the high of understanding and making connections. Each new question brought new levels of understanding. The second book was called The Holographic Universe. Looking back on it now, it was poorly written and a little hokey, but at the time I had never read anything like it. It was a book of stories about, among other things, near death experiences and psychic phenomena. The book showed me a whole new realm of questions to be asked. The paranormal seemed to me a perfect opportunity to test the boundaries of science. Alternative medicine and shamanic trances seemed fair game for the scientific method, so it frustrated me that there was such a disdain for the subject matter in the realm of "real science".

I met several kindred minds in my high school years. One was a classmate who I had known since second grade, and who turned out to think the same way I did about the world. We shared an interest in science and big questions and had many intense conversations over these topics. The best part was feeling overwhelmed and yet freed by the consideration of such huge possibilities. My belief in science gave me hope that someday I could answer those questions. There was also a sense of superiority in debating such issues as destiny and objective truth while other people were worrying about problem three on the math homework.

My grand theory at that point was basically that you can't know anything. You can't even be sure that you don't know anything. All experience is an internal phenomenon so nothing is objective. The only exception to this rule is that you can be reasonably sure that you yourself exist because if you didn't then that would be a terribly frustrating thing to think about. Almost like Descartes' "I think therefore I am" idea, I didn't think about that then, though; I wanted to be completely original.

On the other hand, I still wanted to know everything, and I hadn't given up hope on science yet. I even developed an evolutionary theory of religion based on the idea that the ability to be creative problem solvers involves entertaining several alternatives and deciding on the best one. This means having the ability to question and doubt. So it is inherently human to question our world. We will try to answer these questions, but question the answers because it is our nature to question. Therefore we can never find a satisfactory answer.

I had a very intense connection experience once while I was skiing. I was coming down a run, when I came out to a plateau with an amazing view. I was taking chemistry at that time and was learning about the subatomic basis of the periodic table. It just blew my mind at that point that the universe, every tree and bug and mountain and me could be made of the same basic stuff, combined with such precision and nuance, so as to be completely different. It is hard to put into words, but the experience made me rethink my agnostic tendency. At that moment of clarity I was positive that some sentient being must have had a hand in orchestrating such an elegantly simple yet extremely complex universe. It was pure exhilaration. The only other thing that makes me so sure of a God is the phenomenon of human language. It amazes me every time I think about it.

By my senior year of highschool I was delving into some more extracurricular reading of Nietzsche and Plato. I still loved science and I had decided that there was just too much out there for me to commit to one religion just then. Because I went to a Catholic school I had the advantage of a religious education, as opposed to public schools who could not even mention the word religion without an uproar. The disadvantage was that my religious education was very narrow. I felt the need to expose myself to new things.

In college I met a wonderfully kindred mind who was a Catholic. As opposed to the formulaic approach to Catholicism given me by the religious educators at my high school, this person had a completely different approach to it. I found I could discuss all of my big questions with him, but he showed me that sometimes religion, specifically Catholicism can have some answers which make a lot of sense.

Through my conversations with this person as well as the other people I met while at school and in some of my classes, I have abandoned my nihilistic point of view. Although I do acknowledge that I still cannot know anything for sure, I also have come to the realization that that line of reasoning is a dead end. If I really want to get closer to an understanding of the big questions, some things must be taken as givens.

The personal revelations I have come to in the past two years, while not as exciting as those I made in high school, feel closer to the truth. I have always been one for moderation. I think in high school I was going too far in both directions. In my philosophy I was going too big and in my religion I was going too small. Now I go to Catholic church every week, not so much for the ceremony or the theology, but for the chance to think and take time out to reflect. I like the basics of Catholicism as well as the tradition. I still do not know if I believe in absolute good. I don't think so. I think that motive is everything. If you are truly trying to do positive things and stop destructive things, it doesn't matter what the outcome is. If everyone's motives are good and everyone puts out 100% effort to understand what the likely outcome of their actions will be, then life will be better.

I still struggle with the question of "why". It would seem like a stupid joke to put us on this planet and then not tell us the rules of the game. Are we just supposed to sit here twiddling our thumbs until we leave? Put in this context, Jesus makes a whole lot of sense. He came to show us what to do. Hey, it's possible.

I want to believe in heaven and God and love, and to a great deal I do, but there are always doubts and I can always find flaws in the arguments. I can go around in circles forever trying to find the answer, but I always come back to the point that my experiences are all I have, so I might as well try to explain it.

The biggest conclusion I have come to is that it does not matter whether there is an absolute reality or not. What difference would it make if there were? None, because we have no way of knowing. What matters is the value that I place in things. If I value nothing and impute no meaning into my experiences, my life will have no meaning. If I love and value the love of others then I might have more meaning. So ultimately it is up to me to make the most of my experience. This reminds me of the Tillich quote, "All things are sacred to those who know how to see."

Sometimes I resign myself to the fact that I will never know what lies beyond the universe. Other times I harbor an irrational hope of finding out. My mysterium has been in the pursuit of understanding. I just want to wrap my mind around everything. I want to make it all fit into a nice concise explanation. I want it all to make sense.

allecto | 9:35 PM

{Wednesday, April 16, 2003}

I found another link-worthy site. Check it out.

allecto | 5:24 PM

{Monday, April 14, 2003}

It’s all about Israel. For the Arabs in the Middle East, Israel is the epitome of insults. The Israelis have no right to the land they occupy. For an Arab it is a matter of pride and duty to return that land to Arab control. Every incident that pits the U.S. and Britain against Arabs will be seen as directly related to the Israeli issue. As long as our government is friendly to the Jews and supports their Zionist occupation, we are participating in the humiliation of Arab people everywhere. That’s why some Arabs cheered when the WTC came down, that’s why they are disappointed that Saddam didn’t put up a better fight. They are tired of being stepped on by the rest of the world. They are tired of being controlled by outsiders. Ask an Arab what tyranny is, and they won’t tell you about censorship or torture chambers. They will tell you about how they are forced, by economic sanctions and threats of violence by the U.S., to tolerate the existence of an Israeli state and to play the game by Western rules.

We as Americans do not see it quite in this light. We know that our government is not run by Jews (not more than adequately represents them anyway). We know that we have good intentions. We know that this invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with Israel. From our perspective it seems delusional to even think that the current action is related to Israel some how. Sure we like Israel, but that’s because they are cooperative, democratic, and not a threat to us. If the rest of the Middle East would learn from their example, we’d love them too. We’re not telling them to roll over and play dead, we just want governments not to torture their people. But as long as we continue to support Israel, which I believe we should do, the Arabs will continue to hate us.

Finding nothing that seemed objective on this matter, I refer you to Pro-Arab and Pro-Israeli sites. It's all there.

allecto | 3:34 PM
There are a billion reasons why we went to war with Iraq and not with North Korea. They’re called China. We won’t talk to N.K. bilaterally because they are not our problem; we want China to deal with them first. If this thing with N.K. blows up both we and China will be forced to pick a side, and I’m afraid they won’t be the same. People who think that the U.S. is the only remaining superpower are fooling themselves. It will be the cold war all over again, only this time it might not be so cold. We attacked Iraq because we could get away with it. Russia and France weren’t going to fight us over it. But we aren’t willing to take that risk with China.

It occurs to me that several of my posts refer to China. While I didn’t do it consciously, the reason is that I really think that China is really underrated in terms of international politics. Maybe not by the administration, but certainly by the media.

allecto | 3:15 PM
The philosophy that everything happens for a reason is interesting. It is infinitely comforting in the face of adversity. It helps us to get past the imminent bad and look forward to the long-term good. It helps us to believe that we are all part of a larger pattern that is not immediately obvious. But I believe that there is an important difference between saying that everything happens for a reason and good can come out of even the worst situation. While they may seem to imply the same thing, I think one must not discount the existence of free will and the existence of malicious intent. I do not believe that people are inherently good or evil, although some people try very hard to disprove me. I think that intentions can be evil. Actions and outcomes are not as important.

For instance, if there was an earthquake that killed many people, that is not good or bad. It just happened. Neither do I believe that it happened for any grand reason, or that every single person who perished was serving their grand Purpose in dying at that moment. I do, however, believe that the situation need not be seen in an entirely negative light. It is true that, in the loss of those people and property, that those remaining may learn and become more complex people because of that event. If a person decides to commit and act of violence, in thought, or action, or words, intending to cause harm to another, then that person’s intentions are bad. However, because the outcome is neither good nor bad, people may be affected by it in a positive way or a negative way. If, on the other hand, there is not intention to cause harm, then the action that ensues is neither good, nor evil in itself.

In this sense, I suppose I don’t believe in absolute Good and absolute Evil, it is all in the intent. To say that everything happens for a reason would be to completely discount the intent involved in the actions of individuals, and to attribute intent to events that are random and unpredictable.

allecto | 9:53 AM

{Friday, April 11, 2003}

When I was younger the thing I wanted most in the world was a time machine. I wanted to go back to the time of the Romans and see the culture and feel the gestalt of the time. I wanted to experience what it would be like if I didn’t know what a television was or a telephone or even a toilet. We are told stories about worlds that we can never go to. We learn about people and events that directly affect our lives today, but that do not exist. History occupies this weird space in my head. It’s not fiction and it’s not observable fact. It is somewhere in between, and with every retelling, it becomes more fiction and less fact, but still always a little bit true.

Time is a funny thing in general, but the encapsulation and the recording of events after they have ceased to exist is almost mystical to me. The very process by which a person or thing goes from first person to second person to third person (in a grammatical sense) and gradually becomes something that is its own entity. This is the overlap of sociology and linguistics that I am most fascinated by. It makes the world seem so small. One person can affect the whole world, not just at the moment that they live, but forever on afterwards. The even that was the battle of Troy is forever lost. The event that was the writing of the Illiad or the Aeneid is lost as are the people that participated in those acts, but their influence is far reaching.
I don’t have a very good memory for events. I go fuzzy pretty quickly. I do better with stories and abstracts. My grandmother died when I was 12. I don’t really remember her. I have pictures and I remember the idea of her, but when it comes down to picturing any specific event or interaction we had, I can’t see it. Sure it was over a decade ago, but I get the feeling that other people remember things more vividly than I do.

allecto | 4:48 PM

{Thursday, April 10, 2003}

So it looks like we won the war. I still can’t help feeling weird about it though. I feel like it was too easy. All of the sudden they’re all gone. The regime just doesn’t show up for work one day. We look in their offices and it seems they’ve been gone for weeks. It’s creepy. Especially how the republican guard essentially led our troops into Baghdad. I think Saddam, faced with defeat, might just decide to nuke the whole city or dump whatever WMD he’s got on the place. If he had the opportunity to stick his shoe on the face of the U.S., I think he’d do it, even if it meant wiping out his biggest city. It probably won’t happen, but this “victory” just has a eerie feel to it. The happy Iraqis seemed like paid extras at a Super Bowl half-time concert.

allecto | 5:02 PM

{Tuesday, April 08, 2003}

Am I the only one who thinks the SARS virus is a Chinese government biological weapon that leaked?
-resistant to known antiboitics
-short-lived virulence
-Chinese not talking (that's nothing new, but still)

allecto | 4:47 PM
I hate it how everybody keeps telling me I have to support the troops. All the Americans in the armed services right now are there because they signed up for it. Some people may have done it out of patriotism or charity, but a lot signed up to get free tuition, a job, because they like to shoot people, blow things up, fly jets, etc. It was a personal choice they made. I am glad that they decided to do that, just as I am glad that someone decided to become a bus driver or a garbage man or a musician.

It's a completely different story when the government institutes a draft and people fight because they have to. Especially in a war on domestic soil where soldiers are fighting to protect civilians from invaders, then yes, thanks should be given and all that. But that isn't what's happening here. As much as the administration would like to characterize this as a preemptive defensive operation, it's not the same as responding to an actual offensive action, and we are certainly not fighting for American's lives right now. So don’t tell me that they are fighting for my freedom, the whole Nicholson schpiel. I know, but I also know that most people’s jobs are important to sustaining my current way of life, maybe not in such a dramatic way, but they are.

I just don't think that there are hundreds of thousands of self-sacrificing, altruistic people serving in the military. Call me cynical, but I can’t believe that there are all these unselfish 18-year olds running around. Maybe they’re just idealistic. Or brainwashed. Who knows, but I find it hard to believe they are consciously accepting that sort of risk without desire for compensation. Why is it then that they fight?

Do they know that when they fire that rifle, the heart they stop is human, just like theirs? Do they know that the people on the other side of the battlefield are only shooting at them because they are being shot at, just like them? How can you completely forget another’s humanity? It took propaganda up the wazoo to make the WWII soldiers hate their enemy. How is it that the soldiers of today don’t need that sort of hatred beat into them to make them take up arms?

I don’t mean to make a value judgment here (not that I’m against value judgments). I just don’t get it. Oh, and BTW, it's not that I'm against the war, I just hate it when the people the military brainwashes so that they can fight for us, turn around and try to brainwash the civilian population. Don't they get that the biggest thing they sacrificed by joining the military was their free thought, so that others might have that freedom? Oh, right, no. We brainwashed them. sorry.

allecto | 3:41 PM

{Monday, April 07, 2003}

I think about death a lot lately. I'm sure that's not good. I think I need to write about it. That and my theory of religion as it relates to natural selection. Not today, however.

allecto | 1:45 PM
I just finished Gabriel Garcia Marqez's book Love in the Time of Cholera. It was good. It wasn't quite as good as One Hundred Years of Solitude which is one of my favorite books. I did notice that some of the same themes run through both. At the risk of writing a middle school book report, I’m going to try to explore some of them. I haven't read any analyses of any of Marquez's work. I haven't even read the introduction or the foreword in either of the two books I've read, so my thoughts on the matter are just larval at this point.

Having now read two books by Marquez, I can see that time is the vein that runs through both novels. In Love in the Time of Cholera , he compares the progression of emotional time, physical time, societal time, and objective time to create a rich picture of love in all its forms. Or maybe he uses love to create a picture of time.

I love Marquez because he has an earthy, poetic, spiritual style of writing. But most of all, I love the way he puts human joy and tragedy in perspective, while not trivializing it. Especially in One Hundred Years of Solitude the fact that the same life is lived over and over again only makes the feelings and the relationships and the patterns that much stronger. As if it is ingrained in the family or the culture or human nature to play out the same comedies and dramas over and over. This may seem like a trite concept. However, this fatalistic theme is usually given a negative spin as the enemy of free will. But in Marquez's work, it is beautiful. In this sense, One Hundred Years of Solitude is truly epic. After finishing that book, I felt like a story had been told from start to finish. Like everything in life could be explained through the mythology set out there. In the same way, Love in the Time of Cholera is a story told from start to finish. All questions are answered; the story sits like one simple idea with a thousand repercussions. Reading a book by Marquez is like eating a perfect meal; it leaves you feeling satisfied, nourished, complete.

I haven’t said this quite how I’d like to, but I needed to get it out there. I’ll probably come back and edit this post.

allecto | 1:29 PM

{Thursday, April 03, 2003}

China argues that fundamental human rights demand that feeding, clothing and housing its 1.3 billion people comes first and foremost and individual rights take a back seat to the welfare of society as a whole.
Exactly. (well maybe their definition of "back seat" and mine are a little different)

allecto | 6:54 PM

allecto | 5:21 PM
I'm pretty lucky that I don't get addicted to substances very easily. Not alcohol, cigarettes, or coffee. I'm sure if I started shooting up I could probably develop an addiction, but in general things like that don't faze me. I can drink two cups of coffee everyday for a month, then stop cold turkey without even feeling groggy the next morning. But when it comes to mental addictions like TV or video games, I’m the complete opposite. I had this game called Civilization when I was in college, and I swear I could play it 24 hours a day. I would play it until 4 in the morning. I’d think about playing it while I was in class. The computer beckoned me. After a while it wasn’t even fun anymore, but I had no choice, I had to play it. TV is the same way. I have to turn it on when I get home. I have to know what’s going on, I have to watch reruns of the Simpsons until my eyes bleed. Why is this? I’m a rational person. I know that if I sit in front of the TV for four hours a night, my brain will rot and I’ll feel bad for not having accomplished anything. I know I have much better things to do with my life than waste it away in front of the tube. Why is it so hard to turn it off?

I think the answer to this question is not so much just lethargy. Its the attraction to the freedom that the TV offers. There is no risk. No risk of being wrong or unprepared. No expectations at all. It gives the viewer a sense of freedom that little else provides. It’s all the action without the interaction. Why do you think email and instant messenger are so popular? A phone call is quicker and more efficient, but it doesn’t provide that buffer zone. That extra minute to consider one’s response. To not be obliged to say anything. It almost eliminates uncomfortable silence.

Now that I’m on the topic, why is it that people shy away from interpersonal contact? Even people like my mother, who talks to random people in line at the grocery store, will zone out playing solitaire on the computer from time to time. Most people will tell you that the most meaningful moments in their lives come when they are interacting with others. The phenomenon of “zoning out” is almost like meditation. You become completely alone, so alone you are not even with yourself. I know that sounds paradoxical, but it’s true. Everyone who has lost track of time while doing something completely mindless knows the feeling. It’s like being drunk, only instead of not worrying about your problems, you don’t even know they’re there. It is almost as if you don’t have to be yourself anymore. Like an escape. I think this might be at the root of it.

People don’t like themselves. I think people do a lot of weird things to avoid being around themselves. It’s why the actors who seem so suave in the movies turn into blubbering blabbering idiots when they give their acceptance speeches at the Oscars. They’re uncomfortable in their own skin. The idea that you should “just be yourself” and that others should “accept you for who you are” is a load of crap. For a few reasons. If you are who you are, then you will never change, you will never improve yourself, and you will never strive to be a better person. Why can’t anyone see that this isn’t a good thing? Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has room for improvement. Wanting to change yourself, in your actions or in your thoughts should be a given. Yet all the time I hear people say things like, “some people think I’m a bitch, but that’s just how I am, so they’ll just have to deal with it.” No. No. No. If people think you are a bitch, then maybe you are, maybe you ought to try being nicer, not because they told you to, but because it’s the right thing to do. I think sometimes people take this you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude too far. Nobody has any humility anymore. It’s ugly. When we tried to improve kids’ self-esteem by telling them to not be afraid to express themselves, we forgot to tell them that they have to listen, too. When we said that you are just as important as anyone else, we did not mean that you were more important than everyone else. The thing that gets me is that it's all just for show. People make such a big deal about how important they are because inside they feel worthless. But they can't admit their weakness, so they talk over it, or watch tv, or play video games to tune it out.

So does that mean that because I get tranced by the tube, I hate myself? I don’t think so; I think it’s a very tempting place to go, though. Where you don’t have to think about your shortcomings or anything really at all.

allecto | 12:40 PM

{Wednesday, April 02, 2003}

Capital Punishment

I am a very sympathetic person. I can usually see multiple sides to any issue. I am a champion of the underdog, a certified devil’s advocate. This sometimes leads to problems of not being very decisive. I have a hard time saying that one particular position is unequivocally right or wrong. This is not the case, however, when it comes to capital punishment. I can’t see how anyone could find this practice humane, let alone just. My objection can be stated in very simple, amoral terms. Apart from being hypocritical and unproductive, killing someone for a crime they have committed is just not civilized. All of the arguments for capital punishment just seem petty to me.

Regarding the victims and all of the arguments revolving around the feelings of the victims’ families and so forth. Simply, law is not about the victim, it’s about determining whether the accused is guilty of the crime and assessing the appropriate punishment. Not to make the victim’s families feel better. Not to make it up to anybody. This whole deal with letting the victims’ family speak at the sentencing is just ludicrous. I feel bad for all those who have lost a loved one in a violent way, but creating another grieving mother or fatherless son is not the answer.

When Illinois governor, George Ryan, decided to empty death row, they showed all the victims’ families on TV saying how somebody needed to pay for the pain they were caused. They didn’t care who. They had made up their minds that the person that was first accused of the crime must have done it. You could see it in their eyes, they never even considered that the man that they blamed for their suffering could be innocent. In their rush for a human sacrifice, they never paused to consider that they could be committing the same crime. It really causes me heartache to see people so bloodthirsty. I can’t understand it. I have never had a loved one murdered, and I know that I might feel the same things if it ever happened to me. But that is the point of having a government and a trial instead of a lynch mob. Revenge is not a good reason.

Deterrence is also not a good reason. In civilized society we do not make examples of people randomly. This is just barbaric. Given that the justice system has been proven not to work consistently, let alone fairly, it boils down to the luck of the draw. Even if we did stoop to this level, scaring potential murderers is a weak deterrent at best, in many studies, it has been shown to not have any effect at all.

Justice? Personally, I believe that mercy is better than justice; that justice is another word for revenge. But speaking from a governmental perspective, I concede that a certain amount of consequence must be expected when actions are taken that threaten the safety of the community. The fact that this consequence is doled out in a less than consistent manner negates any justice that might have been achieved. Even if the punishment could be delivered fairly, I believe that there are much more effective ways to deal with those who break the law. Killing is just such an arrogant action, to assume that you have the right to relieve someone of life, of the only thing that really counts from a secular perspective.

I hate people who criticize, but don’t offer an alternative solution. This is my idea. It’s not perfect, but in theory it’s got potential. Essentially, if you can’t live by our rules, you must leave. You can go anywhere they’ll take you, but you can’t stay here. Inasmuch as punishment is imposed by a community on an individual to ensure the security of that community, the jurisdiction extends only to the physical boundaries of that community. (i.e. we aren’t talking war, just individuals). The community has the right to isolate itself from the threat of the criminal. I believe that, to that end, the government, as the agent for the community, only has the right to physically remove the criminal from the community. The government does not have the right to remove him from the world, i.e. death because the community’s jurisdictions end at its borders.

I believe in banishment and imprisonment within walls, not within cages. Expulsion to a place where the criminal is not bound by the rules of the society. Like excommunication. By committing the criminal act, the offender has renounced his contract and is no longer a citizen. He is no longer bound by the rules of the contract. He, on the instant of his conviction, is an illegal alien and should be deported to somewhere else. Because this is not always feasible, considering the limited amount of ungoverned land, the community will set aside land for this purpose. That is, for citizens born into citizenship, who then renounce their citizenship by committing a criminal act. Those parcels of ungoverned land might be dangerous; those sent there might seek to set up a government within the confines of the banishment, in which case it is conceivable that there might be banishment within banishment on infinitely. The banishment will be provided with food and necessities in the same manner as humanitarian aid is given to other countries. The details are a bit fuzzy. There may be instances where citizenship is regainable, but not in serious cases, such as those which would be eligible for the death penalty now. There might be a series of tests such as those that might be taken by any other seeking to obtain citizenship.

allecto | 11:31 AM

{Monday, March 31, 2003}

My job is so boring. It's not challenging at all, unless you count seeing how much tedium I can handle in one day. The things I'll put up with for a buck. I'm such a whore. You know, I wish I were a whore. I don't do it for the money. I do it because I'm too damn chickenshit and lazy to quit and find a job I like better. I'm so not detail oriented. I'm much more field dependent, which I think is an equally, if not more, desirable trait in an employee. big pictures and such.

allecto | 4:02 PM
I feel good today. I took a walk at lunch. I cleaned last night. Put away the humidifier for the season. Talked about the future with the S.O. All’s good. I feel like my life’s on track for the first time in a long time. I am so seasonally dysphoric. What’s up with that? All of the sudden, I don’t have to wear my winter coat anymore and I’m all optimistic and not depressed. Sometimes I swear I have no feelings. It’s all just chemicals. If I’m feeling frustrated or antsy or lethargic, I just blame it on hormones or the weather.

It took me a long time to get over the denial. When I was younger, first experiencing the joys of PMS, I would get all upset and paranoid. I would think that everyone was picking on me. Every little thing was a direct attack. It was awful. As my PMS got less random, I got used to apologizing for being so bitchy after I realized I had been unreasonable. But it is still horrible to feel things, real hurt, real anger, real pain, and know that those feelings are completely unfounded. It diminishes the value of every other emotion I have. My feelings have cried wolf.

Emotions can be seen as a byproduct of or a reaction to an actual real event. However, hormones and chemical imbalances produce phantom emotions that aren't realted to anything. It’s all just another manifestation of the fact that we live our entire lives in our brains. Reality exists nowhere else. This still doesn’t alleviate the incongruence caused by the phantom pheelings. It’s like going through the day without my contact lenses. Except it’s hard to tell when I’ve got the lenses on and when I don’t because the phantom emotions feel so much like the real thing. I guess this might explain why, in a surprisingly unfeminine way, I fall back on logic to make most of my arguments. I just don’t trust my emotions to tell me the truth. I don’t like being jerked around and made to feel like an idiot on top of the insanity itself.

I wonder how it must feel to have an enormous chemical imbalance like being bipolar. It's got to feel like you're watching a different movie than everybody else. Like everything you feel is wrong. like the only thing that's real is the fear and the confusion. because it is.

i guess anti-depressants can help in situations like that, but i feel that these days everybody takes zoloft or prozac or ritalin like they were vitamins. A few people I am quite close to have been off and on these sort of drugs for a long time. And it just seems to me that a lot of their problems are temporary. the normal stresses of life. I get stressed out. I have panic attacks. I get depressed. I also get happy and silly and intense and passionate. I think using chemicals to balance a system we don't fully understand is like amputation. It's a very broad brush. I have always thought that people who went to therapy were just fooling themselves. Paying someone to tell them everything's ok again. Overanalyzing the emotion will only distort it and turn it into some sterilized object of study, like a psychological Heisenberg principle.

Now I've gone and made myself depressed again. Bring on the full spectrum lamps!

allecto | 3:24 PM

{Friday, March 28, 2003}

so i was exploring the blogger community, and i happened upon the "recently updated" list of blogs on the blogger homepage. i clicked on catharsis cause it sounded cool. His blog is a personal journal, which i guess a lot of people's are, but i felt like i was seeing something i shouldn't. i read a little, but i still feeling like i was spying. what's the rule here? am i invading his privacy because i read something personal, or is there an understanding that once you offer your thoughts to the ether, it's there for everyone and anyone to see? im conflicted. he has little comment links (not a single post however). i want to write a comment, tell him i agree or disagree with his thoughts. tell him i think he's interesting reading. but what if the comment links are just for his friends and family. i dont want to invade, this weird stranger poking around in his rhetorical world. im not this painfully shy in real life. i thought most people got braver on the internet. i guess i just never learned my netiquette.

allecto | 3:09 PM
I was going to go on a big rant about how people don't think for themselves, but it's raining and I'm tired, and I just don't have the fire to write a clever piece today. I feel like cuddling by a fire with chocolate cake and bailey's.

allecto | 2:00 PM

{Thursday, March 27, 2003}

What the hell is up with this MSNBC: World Reax shit? Is that supposed to be a pun? Is it hip to spell things phonetically now? Or is it just cool to use lots of X's?

allecto | 4:03 PM
A word about Democracy.

I hate that we brainwash people into thinking that the only viable government type is democracy. I hate that people are willing to die for some abstract notion of “democracy.” I hate that we are willing to kill to protect said abstract notion. How can a system that encourages corruption, incompetency, and mass-manipulation be worth all that? I am familiar with the least-of-all-evils rebuttal, and while valid, I still refuse to accept that one form of government is appropriate for all situations and nations. Suffer my exposition.

So democracy is great because it allows all citizens to participate in the creation of the rules that govern them. This is, in theory, a fabulous idea. It strikes a nice balance between the alienation of a dictatorship and the uber-agency of anarchy. In other words, you don’t have people thinking they have no say in their lives, but you don’t have everyone running around doing their own thing, either. So yay for democracy. But it’s not that simple. The problem is that people are stupid. They’re also very easily influenced. So people don’t always make choices that are in their best interest. Even assuming that people will act in their own best interest, they will rarely make choices that are in the best interest of the community as a whole. People follow leaders blindly. They don’t like to make decisions. They don’t have the training, the information, or the vision to decide.

Not only that, but in a large community, such as a nation, it is virtually impossible to have every citizen vote on ever matter. So let’s elect representatives to make some decisions for us. Now we have a republic. Yay U.S. you’re a republic. (Which, incidentally, is the reason that Al Gore did not win the 2000 election. (I’m talking to you, Michael Moore.) But this only leads to the elected taking advantage of the fact that the public is not educated and easily convinced. Unions. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. FOX News. Everyone has an agenda, and it’s easy to use the voters as pawns in the game.

Is democracy always the least of all evils? I don’t think so. Take a large, diverse country like China. They have a billion people. They have several distinct ethnic groups. They have very little arable land compared to their population. I do not think that democracy would work in China. The human rights abuses by their current government are obviously a bad thing, but somewhere there has to be a compromise. Maybe you have to say that couples may only have one child, for the good of the nation, so as not to strain the limited resources. Maybe you have to make some rules that are stricter than those in other, more prosperous countries. Do I think that every Chinese citizen should have a say in their own government? No. Do I think they should be free to express their ideas and opinions and be free to leave the country if they wish? Yes.

I think that every citizen should have the opportunity to lead, no matter what their station, but I don’t think that the general public is qualified to judge who should lead and who shouldn’t. I certainly feel that some people are not qualified, either to lead or to vote. How many times have you looked at your ballot and not had a clue who some of the candidates were. Are you really making choices in your interest? How much does political party even tells us, now that everybody’s either a moderate or a looney? Most people are sheep. They do what the TV tells them to do, feel how the TV tells them to feel. Very few people have the maturity and education to really know what policies are best overall. I’m not arguing for any Platonic philosopher kings… But, well, maybe I am. Like a board of trustees for the country. People who have the country and its citizen’s best interests at heart, but who don’t have the fear of reelection to keep them from making the tough decisions.

Checks and balances are important, though. The citizens could impeach a trustee if they voted a super-majority to do so, or something like that. All trustee meeting minutes would be public domain. A constitution and bill of rights that could not be changed without a popular vote. Like little institutionalized coups. I don’t know the specifics, I'm just talking out of my ass at this point, but you get the gist. I just see all these idiot congressmen and I wonder what idiots continue to elect them year after year. All these people who can’t even point to the U.S. on a map being given the privilege to vote. Perhaps most poignantly, selfish people who don’t give a damn about anyone but themselves and their pocketbooks being entrusted with the well being of millions.

allecto | 2:29 PM

{Wednesday, March 26, 2003}

Welcome to my blog!

If you don't like philosophizing, you won't like my blog. I intend this to be not so much a journal or a diary, but a place where I organize my political and philosophical ideas. I don't purport to know anything. I don't think that my ideas are more valid than anyone else's. I will misspell things all over the place. I will use funky capitalization. I might contradict myself. I might change my mind. I might even say something profound. If you happen upon this spot, which apparently you have, feel free to shoutout, tell me what you think. I will probably respond by telling you why you are wrong and stupid. but maybe i'll learn something.

I was inspired to create a web log after reading Salam Pax's blog "Where is Raed?" A voice rising out of Baghdad amid the black smoke and AAAs. Salam is an Iraqi. Normal by western standards, maybe not by Iraqi standards. Unwittingly, he speaks honestly for a nation that has become associated only with lies and deception. A kid who could be any one of us in the way he thinks and feels and the way he expresses himself all of the sudden has something important to say. something that made the entire world find him. his message spread like Rumor, first among fellow bloggers, then to the mainstream media. He hasn't posted in a few days. But we just bombed the ministry of information that may well have held the servers that he dialed into. After the fighting subsides, there will be millions of Iraqi voices, nothing to distinguish his but timing, giving him the privilege of having talk shows all over the US fighting for the right to let him tell his story in person. I guess what I'm getting at is that there are billions of voices out there, who knows when yours may be the one with something important to say.

Do you know what an advertising agency would do to create the kind of stickiness that Salam has. He's got everything; he's edgy, current, interesting, and as of now, there's only one of him. I want a "Where's Raed" t-shirt.

allecto | 11:08 AM