Monday, March 30, 2015

Daylight saving time

I really can't understand why daylight saving time is still a thing. Study after study after study shows that its economic effect is negative. In other words, DST causes more overall economic losses than benefits, it increases overall electric consumption (which is highly ironic given that the idea with DST is primarily to decrease electric consumption), it affects negatively things like farming, and it has negative health effect on people (which is of course bad in itself, but it also has an economic impact).

Yet, no matter how many studies show the negative effects that DST has, the countries with DST still keep doing it. Why? I can't understand it. It would be for everybody's benefit if we got rid of this antiquated and detrimental practice. But no. Year after year the same thing, and not even so much as discussion in the government to have it removed.

This insanity needs to stop.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

R.I.P. play.com

play.com was for years by far the best online shop for video games as well as many other media products (such as movies, accessories, etc.) In most cases you could almost always get the video game you wanted cheaper on play.com than anywhere else.

The reason why is because play.com wasn't actually one single shop, but a centralized service for other vendors (mainly in the UK) to sell their products. This creates healthy competition, and you could always compare the prices of various vendors to get the best offer.

In addition to that, there was an absolutely marvelous feature to play.com: Free delivery to almost everywhere in Europe. That's right, no additional postal costs of any kind.

This was absolutely marvelous and absolutely crucial. When you are a big consumer of games that are on sale, like I am, free delivery is just paradise. In other online shops, especially when buying cheap games, delivery costs can easily double the total price you will be paying. But not so on play.com; if the game you were buying was being offered at 5€, then you paid 5€, period, and had it delivered at no additional cost. With other online shops, especially abroad, you end up easily paying double that, even when they would otherwise offer the game cheaper (which in itself was quite rare.)

But very sadly play.com is no more. It has ceased to exist.

Sure, it didn't disappear per se; it was simply merged into the larger "Rakuten" online shop. But this effectively killed it.

For some reason it doesn't show the prices on your own currency anymore (like was the case in play.com), only on British pounds, and no longer can you see the user reviews that vendors have got.

But these are only minor points. The hugely major drawback is that the free delivery system is gone. Bye bye. No more cheap games for you, sorry.

Currently buying a game from rakuten.co.uk has a delivery cost of 4€ to my country. This is an almost total killer for me. Now it has effectively stopped competing with other online shops closer to home, and pretty much stopped being my de-facto source for game purchases.

Goodbye play.com. It was good while it lasted. I will really, really miss you.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Why I'm not a feminist

Feminists like to claim that feminism is nothing more than a movement for equality; no more, no less. They often say things like "if you are for equal rights, you are a feminist" (ie. that "feminism" and "promoting equal rights" are completely synonymous and interchangeable). They might ask someone things like: "You are for equal rights, you oppose discrimination and oppression of women, how can you not be a feminist?"

But feminism is not only that, no matter what feminists say. They love to repeat that claim like a mantra, but when you listen to the other things they say, you get a rather different picture.

Watch this speech by Anita Sarkeesian on a panel named "how to be a feminist".

Her speech is just astounding. It's effectively conspiracy theory gospel preaching.

She starts by saying, effectively, "I used to be a reasonable person, with reasonable opinions, but then I read these books, saw the light and became converted." Then what follows is something that can't be called anything else than a conspiracy theory. Just watch the video.

What's worse and most egregious, she objectifies all women. She says that women who feel independent, empowered and who think are able to make their own life choices, are just delusional. She paints women like cattle, like property, whose opinions and life choices don't matter, who are self-deluded if they think that they are independent and have free will. If there's any woman who doesn't feel insulted by this, she should really check her values.

Just to demonstrate the spirit and the mentality of the things she's saying, let me quote something she says after the speech:

"When you start learning about systems, everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out to everyone all the time. So that was year of my life where I was the most obnoxious person to be around."

This almost sounds like a person who has been extremely bigoted and judgmental comes clean and describes how bad it was, as a warning to others... but no. She's not saying that she was being paranoid and bigoted. Instead, she continues by effectively saying that she had to learn that people were indoctrinated into these "systems" and thus she had to "understand" them and be more tactful.

In other words, she maintains that "everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic". Your approach to pointing out simply needs to be more tactful.

This is just a small sample; you have to hear her entire speech to get the full picture. This is paranoid delusion. This is effectively conspiracy theory talk. And her audience cheers her for it.

And this is not something unique to Sarkeesian. This is not something that only she thinks, or that she came up with. This is very common rhetoric among feminist academics.

So no, I'm not a feminist, and here's one reason why not (among many.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Boys are just defective girls

One very prevalent recent trend in neo-feminism is a strong push for the notion that boys need to be taught to be more like girls. Of course it's not phrased like that, and the chain of thought is more contrived.

Neo-feminism hates masculinity and anything that's typically masculine, and they adulate femininity. Basically everything that's typically masculine is the source of all problems that women and minorities have, and femininity is the ideal perfect state. Of course they won't say that directly (with very few exceptions), but that's exactly what they are quite directly implying.

The current neo-feminist discourse is that we should get rid of what they call "toxic masculinity", and we should teach boys to be more like girls. In other words, boys need to be taught to be more open about their emotions. This, in their minds, would eradicate the aggressiveness prevalent in men.

The notion underlying all this is another feminist concept: Namely, that there are no innate psychological differences between men and women, and that all such differences are caused solely by upbringing and the society. Thus if we change how boys are being taught, they will become like girls, ie. emotional, sensitive, empathetic, ideal and perfect. It's all about changing societal notions, upbringing and education.

Some critics of feminism have described this as, essentially, the notion that "boys are just defective girls".

There are many problems with these notions. They are based on assumptions, most of them unfounded. They are not based on actual science, studies or experiments. It's an ideology, a dogma, that exalts typical feminine traits and demonizes typical masculine traits. They consider the archetypal feminine traits to be the golden standard to aim for... based on nothing but opinions and feelings.

Firstly, psychological differences between men and women are demonstrably innate. Sexual dimorphism in humans goes beyond just physical characteristics; the brains of men and women are (on average) "wired" differently. Claiming otherwise is just denying facts.

Men being on average more stoic, and women being on average more emotional, is an inherited innate trait. It's not something that's learned. The human brain is not a blank slate at birth that gets filled with whatever the child learns. The human brain already has "hard-wired" characteristics to it from birth. This is just a scientific fact, no matter how much neo-feminists love to deny it.

Men being on average more aggressive, and more propense to taking risks (and many other similar traits), is also in large part biological, not cultural. The main culprit is testosterone, a hormone that has real demonstrable effect on behavior. (This doesn't mean that all men are equal, or that a man cannot learn to control his aggressive or risk-taking impulses. They definitely can. However, it does explain why men are more likely to be aggressive and impulsive than women, and why violent crimes are more prevalent in men.)

Secondly, who says that being more stoic is a negative trait? Who says that being more open and emotional is a positive and desired trait? These neo-feminists certainly love to believe that, but what exactly is this based on?

Why would being more stoic and reserved be a bad thing? Stoic and reserved people can remain more objective in stressing situations, and may be more capable of handling such situations, rather than being overwhelmed by emotions. A person who can assess a situation more calmly, in a more calculating and objective manner, may be a lot better at making good decisions than a person who is overwhelmed by feelings and emotions, which may cloud one's judgment.

If (and most probably given that) men are on average innately more stoic than women, there may well be an evolutionary reason for this. Being more objective and calculating may have been a survival advantage, which is why it has been naturally selected as an innate trait from when we were hunter-gatherers and earlier.

(It's difficult to hypothesize why females have likewise inherited more emotional characteristics without sounding patronizing and sexist, but objectively speaking it wouldn't be very far-fetched to guess that it has to do with caring for one's children and family, and communicating with the men about problems "at home" which may need attention, or other similar things.)

One can make the argument that we are not hunter-gatherers anymore, and thus such primitive instincts have no place in modern society. Putting aside the point that this explains why men are innately more stoic than women, the question becomes: Is it really so that it has no place in modern society? Says who?

The circumstances may be different, but not necessarily the need. Even in the modern civilized world stoicism may very well be advantageous in many practical situations. Being able to assess and calculate a situation objectively without being clouded by emotions can be very useful in modern day life, at work, when dealing with other people, and at home. After all, we do not live in a hippie paradise where everybody loves everybody else, everything is calm and relaxed, and there are no problems. We need to work, often in very stressful and even dangerous situations, we need to deal with other people, even when they are not cooperative, we need to lead and organize, we need to make decisions for our own and the society's benefit.

Teaching boys that they are, effectively, defective and that they should change their innate personality, may well be highly detrimental. Even when it's well-meaning, this kind of environment where they are pretty much shunned and punished for their normal innate behavior can raise unbalanced unhappy people, who somehow deep inside have this conviction that they are defective, broken and unfit, because they can't conform to the mold that they are told they should. They may become afraid to behave in a typically masculine stoic and calculating way because they have been taught (directly or indirectly) that acting like that is a bad thing. Effectively forcing them to be "more open with their emotions" when deep inside they feel uncomfortable with that may cause deeply-seated psychological distress. They may feel inadequate and defective because they can't behave like they are expected, as if there was something wrong with them.

Feminists should understand quite well how that feels via an analogy: If someone is not happy with the gender they are born with, but society pressures them into accepting their biological gender, instilling into them the notion that they are defective if they act differently, that will cause psychological distress and depression. If feminists understand and accept this, why cannot they understand and accept that men may be innately more stoic and introverted than women, and that trying to force them to be something they are not can be distressing in the long run?

Suicide is already significantly more prevalent among men than women. Guilt-tripping boys and trying to force them into societal molds they are not comfortable with is not going to help this. It's only going to make it worse. And without people who are calm, rational, objective and stoic, people who are driven by rationality rather than emotion, our society will not become better; it will become worse.

Masculinity is not a bad thing. Stop trying to make it to be. The concept of "toxic masculinity" is nothing but a conspiracy theory and a myth.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Color blindness and video games

Color blindness is an affliction that affects more people than we are aware of. It's estimated that between approximately 1 to 2% of men suffer from some sort of color blindness. When you think about it, that's a staggeringly large number.

Yet color blindness is almost never taken into account in video games, barring a few (very commendable) exceptions.

(Personally I'm not color-blind, but I do fully empathize.)

In most games it makes little difference because in them color is not a critical issue. In some cases it can be more of an issue (for example, in a mini-map different types of elements are depicted with symbols with different colors, such as enemies with red arrows and friendlies with green arrows.) In some games, especially some puzzle games, being able to distinguish between colors is completely crucial.

As a prominent example,  Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes is an absolutely wonderful game (which I have played through three times, even though I very rarely play games more than once.) This is, essentially, a color-matching game (a bit "bejewelled" type, but with a fantasy setting). Its biggest problem is that it does not take color-blind people into account at all, and this causes real problems. (For example, on its Steam page there are threads made by color-blind people who find it very difficult to play the game.)

The game looks normally like this:


In this game you have to match fighters by color, by making vertical groups of three fighters of the same type and color. In the example image above, you would move the green archer on the left to the column with the two green archers on the right.

However, to a certain kind of color-blind person, the game may look something like this:


You probably can understand the problem. (And this is a highly simplified scenario. It becomes a lot more confusing when the battlefield is more full of sprites.) The game offers no help to alleviate this problem.

Video games very rarely take into account this problem, which can be really bad in these types of games, where distinguishing colors is crucial. I think this is something that video game developers should be aware of and take into account.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The hypocrisy of the "n-word privilege"

This applies mostly to North America, but to some extent to many other countries as well (especially English-speaking countries). Suppose you hear someone speak but don't see them, and they use the word "nigger" casually. Many people will feel enraged and insulted by proxy, or personally if they are black. Then you look who said it... and see the color of their skin: It was a black person. Suddenly it's ok. Everything is fine; the anger subsides.

Martin Luther King Jr said in his most famous speech: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"
Yet you just judged someone by the color of their skin. And you think that's completely ok.

This dream has not yet been fulfilled. People are still being judged by the color of their skin. Such an inconsequential thing as skin pigmentation is used to determine whether using some particular word is objectionable or not, even to such an extent that if a person of the wrong pigmentation uses the word, they may face serious repercussions because of it. Because their skin is of the wrong color...

And this is, apparently, not racism.

It is. And it's hypocrisy.

To understand how absurd this is, suppose that one of that person's parents is black and the other white. Does the person still have "n-word privileges"? What if the person is 1/4 black? 1/8? Where is the line? So we have to go back to the 19th century southern states, where a person was considered black if he is 1/16th black? At what point does the use of the word become objectionable? Do we need to require DNA testing to measure the "blackness" of a person and thus their "n-word privilege" rights?

Or is it a sliding scale? Is the strength of the outrage directly proportional to their whiteness? If he's 1/4 white, then it only deserves a very slight feeling of discomfort, but if he's only 1/8th black, then it's mildly annoying, and if he's only 1/64th black, then it's already quite outrageous? This is just absurd.

If you say that it's not about ethnicity but about culture, then does a black person who has lived their entire lives in a rich family in a rich part of the country, gone to the most prestigious schools, and working on prestigious jobs, still have the "n-word privilege"? Or does he has slightly less of the privilege? What if a white person has lived all of his life surrounded by the black culture, does he have the "n-word privilege"? No? So it is about ethnicity after all?

Are you going to interview the person who used the word in order to attest how black they are, and what their cultural background is, before you pass judgment? Are you going to DNA-test them to make sure they are not lying? Or are you going to base your judgment based solely on the pigmentation of their skin?

I have a much simpler solution to this conundrum:

How about we start treating people equally regardless of their ethnicity?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Feminism poisons everything

When I was young, I hated politics. Of course I didn't know anything at all about politics, nor did I understand anything about it, but I was completely prejudiced against it in a rather childish manner. "Politics" to me, like to most children, was nothing but a bunch of people in business suits talking all day long about dry and boring stuff that went completely over my head, and that seemed completely inconsequential to my life. In a survey at the school I was in, about the subject of possible future careers, I ranked "politician" as the least desirable possible. (If you are curious, I ranked "scientist" as the most desirable. Not that I turned out to be a scientist at the end, unless you consider an MSc in computing science as "a scientist", but I do love science even today.)

As I have grown older, I have started to understand politics more. No more is it just a bunch of people in business suits talking dry and boring stuff. Instead, it has become ugly, nasty, sometimes irritating and even infuriating. It gets worse when politics are mixed with ideologies, and when these ideologies are artificially and forcefully shoved into things where they don't belong, ruining and marring everything.

I'm an avid consumer of video games. Video games are a fantastic and interactive voyage of the imagination. You can travel and interact with fantasy worlds, solve puzzles, drive cars, fly, fight evil monsters, even simulate the ugly real world in a safe fictitious environment, while still fighting evil. When the story of the game is well written, it can be immersive and engaging, the characters can be likeable, and you can feel empathy for them. You may need to sometimes make hard moral choices, still fully in a safe fictitious environment. In some ways, some games can be an engaging test of what your personal opinion on things are, when you are presented with moral choices. Othertimes video games are just a relaxing way to chill out, playing a calm slow-paced but engaging game, in a beautiful fantastical virtual environment. Video games are like a pause from the boring, ugly reality; a safe way to take a break, to forget about the ugliness and the stress of the real world.

But then enter the politics. Then enter the ideologies. Then enter the social justice warriors, the feminists. Because feminists just can't leave anything alone. They have to permeate and invade everything. They have to make everything to be about themselves and their ideology, and they just can't leave it be. They have to create problems where there are none, just so that they can ram themselves into it.

Feminists have done their hardest to make video games an ugly and disgusting world, and the people who play the games ugly and disgusting stereotypes. They want to use their power and influence to beat and mutilate the world of video games until it's nothing but a disgusting rotting corpse covered in vomit and feces. They do this by relentlessly attacking video games, their creators and their players with cherry-picking, straw men and outright lies. They take antiquated stereotypes (which weren't even all that popular to begin with) and blow them out of proportions and claim that they still apply today as strongly as always; they cherry-pick details of some individual games, isolate them from their context, and then present them in a way that implies that it applies to the majority of games (even when they don't apply even to the games they cherry-picked them from). They present as facts completely fabricated allegations about the influence games have on people. They fabricate problems that just aren't there.

But the feminists are not content on attacking the games themselves. No. They have to attack the players too. They stereotype gamers, they insult them, they depict them in all kinds of derogatory manners. They want to paint a picture where the "typical gamer" is nothing but a socially awkward, sexist, misogynist, racist, aggressive white man. They want to take the public image of video games and their players, which has slowly gained more general public acceptance, and change that public perception back to being a monster to be abhorred and despised. And when gamers protest being depicted in such insulting manner, they throw back even more insults and engage in coordinated public smearing and character assassination campaigns. And because they are feminists, the media and the public at large listens to them. They are a monster, and they are basically unstoppable. They ruin, divide and devastate, and the public and the media showers them with attention, money and awards for it...

The world of video games has been invaded by ravaging political ideologues, bigoted zealots, and they have made it into an ugly, disgusting mess. They are smug, they are pretentious, they are self-righteous. They have hijacked video games for their own agenda. They just couldn't leave it alone.

And if you think that video games are the only example, you would be quite wrong.

The so-called "metalheads" are a counter-culture that formed from and around metal music. Counter-cultures are rebellious and do not follow typical societal norms. While I'm not personally involved in anything that could be called a counter-culture, I can nevertheless understand them. Their ideals could, perhaps, be described as this:

"Fuck social norms. I'm and individual, and I won't be dictated how I should or shouldn't behave. Sure, I won't outright hurt other people, murder them, or steal, but I won't conform to social norms I don't agree with just because some morally high smug asshole tells me to. You are not the arbiter of my behavior, or what is and isn't 'normal' or 'acceptable'. You can go live the life you want, I'll live the life I want. I happen to like this subculture, and if you don't like it, then don't let the door hit you on your way out. Nobody forces you to participate."

However, whenever such a subculture becomes large enough, naturally feminism just can't leave it alone. They have to invade it, they have to poison it, they have to permeate it with their moral high values. And that's exactly what's happening currently with the "metalhead" culture. Feminists are invading it and causing division and unrest. Divide and conquer.

This ought to be difficult with a counter-culture that gives the middle finger to "normal" social values. But these are feminists. Feminism has an incredible power and influence in our society, even more than any counter-culture, no matter how rebellious and radical it might be. Feminism has an incredible power to poison the mind of even those who wouldn't otherwise care. And thus, of course, a war is forming within the subculture. Only time will tell which one will prevail.

Let's move to the sci-fi and fantasy fiction community. The Hugo Awards are a renowned and prestigious set of awards given annually to the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year, first awarded in 1953. These awards celebrate and promote the best works of fiction within these genres, for their merit as works of art.

Who the author of the work is should, rather obviously, have no effect on whether it's nominated and awarded. I do not know if judges have had any biases (in the past or nowadays) depending on the author (eg. giving awards more easily to known authors than unknown ones), but from what I gather, that's most probably not the case. Each work is judged on its own merits, and the judgment is pretty much agnostic to who has created it. Which is, of course, how it should be. The ideal situation would be if the judges had no idea who the author of the work is, so that they can judge it completely impartially and without bias. (This is of course pretty much impossible to achieve, but it's probably not even needed. The judges who decide the awards are probably not biased.)

Naturally feminists have a problem with this kind of impartiality, with this kind of treating everybody equally regardless of their gender or ethnicity, with judging a work by its own merits regardless of who its author might be. Of course. Because feminists can't leave anything alone, and must inject themselves into everything, and make everything into a feminist issue. So, naturally, feminists are complaining loudly that there are no quotas for Hugo Award nominations for women and minorities. In other words, feminists are seriously proposing for the Hugo Award committee to discriminate against people based on their gender or ethnicity, and nominate certain people over others based on those aspects, rather than their actual work. Of course.

Because when you are celebrating and awarding art, you have to make it into a political statement, and you have to promote lesser works over better ones just to promote a political agenda. Naturally.

There is no community that feminists will not co-opt and try to invade. Lately the social justice warriors have been trying to impose their totalitarian rules on open source programming forums and communities around the internet. For example, the Ruby community has been having a fierce battle between social justice warriors and coders who oppose their fascist ideas. (For example, one idea they vehemently oppose is a proposal by the social justice warriors that if any member of the community ever, anywhere, at any time, anywhere on the internet, makes a remark or expresses an opinion that the social justice warriors do not like, that person should be reported and permanently banned from the community. Excommunicated. For expressing the wrong opinions.) Social justice warriors have already divided-and-conquered many other open source programming communities, and the Ruby community is in the middle of a war right now.

But perhaps no other subculture has become more devastated, ravaged and divided than the world-wide atheist community. (Of course in the case of atheism, the concept of "community" is extremely loose, as there are no central core tenets or ideologies that would be universally agreed or followed. However, using the word isn't a complete misnomer either.) The chasm that feminism has created in the atheist community is astonishing.

Atheist feminists tend to be horrifyingly vicious, toxic, vile, divisive, caustic and vitriolic. They verbally attack relentlessly their critics, they organize coordinated smearing and character assassination campaigns, they use technological means (such as scripts and bots) to try to silence, ban and harass their critics... No critic, be it friend or foe, is safe; if you get on their bad side, you become a persona non grata, and you get "excommunicated", vilified and demonized. There's an entire vocabulary that the atheist feminist community has invented to verbally attack, belittle and insult their opposition (such as "tone-troll" and "enablist", besides the more typical "misogynist", "sexist", "bigot" and such, which are usually thrown at their opponents with complete disregard to their meaning or whether they really apply or not.) The amount of oozing vitriol in their blog posts and YouTube videos can sometimes be astonishing. Even the most moderate of atheist feminists, who are otherwise nice, rational and intelligent, succumb to incredible irrationality and vitriol when they turn their "feminist switch" on.

Feminism was once a great social movement that produced real change for the better. It greatly influenced the development of law and human rights, achieving milestones in equality. However, it has transformed into a monster. It has transformed into a bigoted ideology that wants to poison everything. It wants to make everything to be about itself; it wants to make everything a feminist issue. If there is a subculture that has not yet embraced it, it will attack, invade, divide and conquer, until nothing is left but smoldering ruins where once there was a beautiful world.

And then they wonder why people have grown to hate feminism.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Militarization of the police in the United States

The police in the United States (or at least many parts of it) being extremely trigger-happy isn't really any news anymore. However, if you dig deeper into it, it's actually quite frightening.

The police forces there being a paramilitary organization isn't just a figurative speech or an exaggeration. It's literally true. The police force at many places spends a total of billions of dollars in actual military equipment. And not just guns and vehicles, but the whole shebang. At many places, when the police does an operation, they look like a military group, even wearing camouflage. (There's zero reason for the police to wear military camouflage in the middle of a city, other than to intimidate. Or to boost their own ego, or something.)

It oftentimes gets ridiculously extreme. For example the police in the town of Doraville in the state of Georgia has a military-grade assault tank. And that wasn't a metaphor or an exaggeration; they literally have a military assault tank to move personnel. Doraville has a population of about 8400 people, and its police feels the need to have an assault tank, and police in full military gear. (This is a town of the size where you would think that there's like a sheriff and a couple of deputies, and the worst crime that ever happens is the town drunk or local teenagers causing trouble, or the occasional bar fight. But no, apparently there's a full-on war going on inside this small town of 8400 people.)

But the thing is, while the police at many places is pretty completely militarized, they do not have military training to speak of. For example, one of the core principles of the United States military is that you do not point your gun at someone unless you are ready to shoot them. This obviously isn't a principle of the police, who happily point their assault rifles at unarmed civilians who pose no danger whatsoever. (Although one could cynically say that hey, they are quite ready to shoot those unarmed civilians, so they are actually following the principle...)

And this has its repercussions. Probably not a week goes by without news about yet another police shooting, often of a completely innocent person. For example the police shoots a teen holding a Wii mote, or the police shoots a 12-years-old with a toy gun. The full list would be quite extensive.

And this isn't even going into the prevalent police brutality, which would be a subject all in itself.

The police in the United States has quite a track record of shooting unarmed civilians and police brutality, yet they seldom get any repercussions. Internal investigations seldom find any fault, and the United States government seldom intervenes or seeks for a reform. The government, however, seems quite happy to fund the military equipment of the police forces, and seldom intervenes in the abuses.

This is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of a police state. Sure, the United States might not yet be fully there, but they are quite far on that road.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Universities becoming totalitarian dictatoriships

Universities, especially after the so-called Age of Enlightenment, have always been bastions of academic freedom, discussion and free speech, where discussion about differing points of view has not only been protected but also encouraged, where both professors and students have been free to express their views and to raise issues and create discussion, without the fear of repercussions (like job loss or repression). The principle of academic freedom, of discussion of differing opinions, has been a core tenet of universities, the driving force behind progress and change.

For some reason this has been changing in recent years, especially in the United Kingdom and many parts of the United States.

Free speech has been replaced with such astonishing concepts as "right to be comfortable" and "no platform policy". These are terms that you would think you could find in some satirical publication like The Onion, but no, they are real.

In more and more universities, especially in the United Kingdom, more and more "progressive" students are demanding, and getting, harsher and harsher limitations on free speech. Anything that they find "uncomfortable" is being shut down, censored, and banned. And if the university does not comply, then such expressions of opinion they don't like are being shouted over via obnoxiously disrupting "protests". It doesn't matter how serious, peaceful and academic the discussion may be, if the subject is something they don't like, they will have it either banned, or will vandalize it via disrupting shouting. Even outright illegal actions (such as pulling fire alarms, which is illegal if there is no reason for it) are not uncommon.

Some studies have shown that at least 4 out of 5 universities in the United Kingdom have this kind of students, and universities are complying with their demands more and more as time passes. And it's this last part that's the most damning aspect of the whole situation. Universities are abandoning their core principles of academic freedom and free speech, and caving into the demands of the "progressive" and "liberal" feminist bullies (because, let's face it, 100% of these people are outspoken feminists and are doing it because of feminism, and they aren't even shy to state so.)

This mob mentality is also seen in seriously overblown reactions to rape accusations. There are infamous cases of false rape accusations in American universities causing days-long protests, with the protesters demanding such things as the castration of the accused... and then it has turned out that the accused were completely innocent and the rape accusations completely false. Even after that those feminists, and most feminists elsewhere, still consider the over-reaction justified, and do not feel any kind of empathy towards the people who were wrongly accused and harassed in this manner.

These feminists also lie quite a lot. For example, a common claim is that 1 female student in 5 has been sexually harassed in some American universities. When actual studies were performed, it turned out that the real number was closer to 0.03 in 5.

What happened to these universities? How did they change from bastions of academic freedom into totalitarian dictatorial churches with complete and absolute intolerance for any differing creed, belief or opinion, and where such "uncomfortable" opinions are censored, shunned, banned and punished?

Well, feminism happened. Social justice warriors happened. Feminism is an extremely toxic movement that poisons everything it touches. It's actually amazing the power it has to convert freedom into utter intolerance.

Think I'm exaggerating? Well, a feminist student at Harvard University recently published an article advocating for the ending of academic freedom, and replacing it with her brand of social justice. See here.

(It's amazing how feminism makes me agree with Fox News of all things. Feminism has this incredible power to make me feel dirty.)

Please also read this article by the New York Times. Read the entire article, because it's excellent. Especially read the last four paragraphs.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Are we sacrificing our progress to the altar of political correctness?

Let me describe a bit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It could perhaps be considered one of the most competitive and "cut-throat" universities in the world. Admission is extremely tough, and the schooling system is highly meritocratic. This means that if you don't show proficiency in your studies, if you don't advance, then you are kicked out. This university has some of the highest standards in the world.

MIT is also one of the most prestigious universities in the world. As of 2014, 81 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 38 MacArthur Fellows, and 2 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT. MIT has a strong entrepreneurial culture and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world.

The scientific and technological achievements produced directly within the university itself, not to talk about all such progress made directly by graduates of the university in their later career, can probably never be accurately measured, but is undeniably vast.

The elementary school system (and possibly to some extent the high school system) in the United States, however, is going more and more in the exact opposite direction.

Over the years any kind of competition has become more and more abhorred, and any activity that can be seen as competitive has been expunged from the schooling system. Standards have been lowered more and more over time.

Anything that's seen as competitive has been removed because they want to avoid students feeling bad. This includes lowering the standards for testing because, you know, if someone fails a test, they will feel bad. The important thing is not what they actually learn, or to test that they have learned it, but to not make them feel sad.

This abhorrence of anything competitive, anything where some students are shown to be "superior" and others as "inferior" encompasses everything, from the curriculum, to the tests, to school-sponsored activities... all the way to the interaction between students themselves within the school premises.

School bullying is a very bad problem that is in a desperate need for a solution. However, the "zero tolerance" policy adopted by many schools goes to utterly ridiculous levels.

Not a week goes by without news about some student having been suspended for some completely ridiculous reason. A girl was suspended because she had her hair completely cut, to emotionally support a friend going through chemotherapy. A boy was suspended because he ate a pop-tart in such a manner as to make the shape of a gun. Students have been suspended for simulating guns with their fingers. The list of such ridiculous suspensions is quite large.

In fact, and many have noticed this, most of these ridiculous "zero tolerance" suspensions happen to boys acting like typical young boys. Moreover, they often happen to girls acting like young boys.

This pattern has not gone unnoticed. The current "politically correct" elementary school system in the United States, with its zero tolerance policy and other such policies, punishes boys for their typical boyish behavior, and even girls who act in the same way, while typical girlish behavior is the standard.

The fact is that schoolboys (and schoolgirls) are required to act like girls, and anything that's typically boyish is shunned and punished.

In fact, a modern trend has been to remove recess from elementary school altogether (because, you know, it's harder to watch what students are doing in the schoolyard; they might engage in competitive play or even taunting each other, which may hurt feelings.)

I wouldn't be at all surprised if at some point someone will start suggesting getting rid of school grades altogether. Because, you know, students who get lower grades can feel bad about themselves.

In its quest to avoid bullying and students feeling bad about themselves, the schooling system is raising a generation of asocial flowers that have no experience about social interaction with the real world. A generation that has been risen in a societal bubble where, ideally, nobody is ever criticized of anything, nobody has ever engaged in any kind of competitive behavior and does not know what it feels to lose, or to be criticized, or to be verbally attacked, and where standards of learning have been lowered to ridiculous levels.

If students are "successfully" raised in such an environment, they will completely lack the experience with social interaction with the real world. They will be taken by surprise by the highly competitive nature of the workplace, higher education schools, and other aspects of society. They will not have the experience or knowledge to stand for themselves, or to simply ignore, when they get criticized, or bullied, or when they get into a highly competitive environment where only the best can succeed. In the worst case scenario, their education will have been so lax that they won't even have the basic knowledge to do their jobs properly.

A person who has grown in such a societal bubble (as these elementary schools envision) will have a very hard time adjusting to normal society, and it will take them years of struggle to "catch up" with what they didn't learn when they were young. Some may never catch up. Many may succumb into depression and desperation. Many of them needlessly so, if the schooling system had been more "traditional".

If this kind of non-competitive lowered-standards societal-bubble like schooling system gets prevalent, what does it mean for our scientific and technological progress? People will be more ignorant about science, will be less experienced in social interaction and competitive environments, and may be more easily demoralized by the real world, possibly up to a point where they will even stop trying to better themselves, to learn and to progress. Those with talent will have had their skills stifled during school because of lowered standards, rather than encouraged.

The problem with all this is that this kind of "politically correct" mentality tends to be very virulent. While currently mostly limited to the United States, it's exactly the kind of mentality that tends to spread to other countries as well.