Why We Do What We Do

A question far greater minds than my own have tried to answer, to be certain. Never-the-less, as the clock approaches midnight and I stay up futilely hoping that my internet connection will increase ten-fold so I can install Dragon Age tonight rather than tomorrow afternoon, I feel inclined to tackle it. A lot of people would probably say semi-random signals fired in our brain. However, I refuse to subscribe to that philosophy. The Humanists have part of it right, in that we do what we do because it makes us feel good, but that isn’t all of it. I’m inclined to think we do what we do because we can’t decide what we want, and so we spend our lives groping in the dark for what it is that we want, with how good it makes us feel sort of like a game of Hot & Cold, but never really getting even close to it. I’m certain some people have, but they’re few and far between, and often start religious movements trying to tell other people what they’ve found. In the long run, I think everyone’s form of self-realization is going to be different, as unique as people are. Now, I’m going to go to sleep, because I think it will make me feel good. And that’s about the best any of us can hope for.

A world with technology

I must start by offering my condolences to Jezza for the temporary loss of his Internet. Clearly the stresses of this event have warped his mind into the belief that a world without technology would be anything but a nightmare. Certainly, in this increasingly hectic modern world, it is worthwhile taking the time to contemplate one’s surroundings, and even occasionally vacate oneself from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but to eschew technology all together would be utter madness.

Meeting a friend in person is only a superior experience to contacting them technologically due to the comparative infancy of the technology and the sophistication of our senses. Given the current developments in processing power, eye-mounted displays, neural interfaces and associated technologies, it’s not unreasonable to expect that within 10 years one will be able too talk to a friend as if a very convincing facsimile of them were in the room, and within 20 the avatar representing them will be indistinguishable from the real thing.

It may be true that, in the event of a return to a primitive society, many of the larger problems facing the world would dissolve away, but this is only because they would be replaced by much more immediate personal perils. It is folly to suppose that a lack of technology would also remove social inequality- if anything, it would accentuate it. The physically strong would be able to rule over the defenseless weak, and tribal power structures would quickly emerge, with or without the existence of money. Money is merely a convenient fiction to facilitate easier bartering. The physical goods or labour that it represents will still exist (at least, the non-technological ones) and will still be able to be used to exert power over others.

As Jezza correctly states, there would be war and disease, but I suspect he underestimates the scale. Peace is largely predicated on economic interdependence- if I have goods that you want, and you have goods that I want, it’s far more efficient to trade them rather than fighting over the matter- but without the technological advancements that support that interdependence (ships, planes, the internet, etc), the largest societies possible would be small regional affairs and the lack of modern food production techniques would see billions starving to death. Without the spread of education that technology facilitates, future generations would swiftly become superstitious and fully embrace the tribal lifestyle, leading to widespread conflict. Those who were merely wounded in the tribal wars could look forward to a slow death from a minor wound infection, or from slowly bleeding internally. The ones lucky enough to not be wounded could expect to live to a ripe old age of 30, whereupon they would die from a kidney stone growing septic. I humbly posit that yes, this would be “so bad”.

It is a commonly used fallacy to assume that the rate of population increase necessarily means that the world is being destroyed. As we further master our technologies, we devise methods for feeding more people using less land and water, for generating power for our cities in a more efficient manner, and for spreading knowledge of these advances.

I’m not arguing, of course, that technology is perfect, but so far it has managed to solve far more problems than it has caused, and indeed allows us the opportunity to engage in these sort of idle metaphysical musings. Our new developments will doubtless bring more problems in the future, but I anticipate these to be, on the whole, less severe than the problems that the developments were designed to solve, and the new problems will almost certainly be amenable to further technological solutions.

Bob’s Educational Corner: Intro and Cabbages

Greetings and salutations, fair citizens, and welcome to the first installment of Bob’s Educational Corner! I’ll be giving you important and informative insight into whatever seems prudent, so put on your learning hats and let the adventure of learning begin!

Have you ever eaten a cabbage? Delicious, isn’t it? With its crunchy exterior and chewy candy center, cabbages are at the heart of America’s war on not-deliciousness. But did you know cabbages are filled with essential oils, and provide enough vitamin A to kill a full grown elephant? Today, we’re going to take a look at the humble cabbage, and find out why it’s America’s favorite breakfast cereal!

In the year 1492, Christopher Columbus and his best friend, Jesus Christ, discovered America. They were captivated by its vast plains, beautiful mountains, and promiscuous college students. But what they loved most were it’s native plants, especially a small green bush that smelled faintly of elderberries. They found that, when boiled or steamed, it gave them the energy to carve Mount Rushmore. Further, when pickled, it was an effective cure for hangovers and scurvy. The two decided to name the plant “cabbage”, an  ancient Egyptian word for “kind of looks like lettuce, but isn’t”, and a new era of culinary excellence began.

Cabbage was an instant success. In the first week of release in Europe, it sold over 1.2 million copies, becoming the first North American fruit ever to go platinum. It was highly sought by the nobility, who craved its decadent texture and rich baritone singing voice, and by the peasantry, who loved how you could boil it for a while and then not starve to death that week. Cabbage was so successful, in fact, that famed artist Leonardo DiCaprio featured it in his masterpiece “The Sistine Chapel”. It was a golden time for the cabbage, and for Europe.

By 1602, however, the cabbage furor had died down. While still popular as a cure for shingles, and for its uncanny resemblance to Rob Reiner, most people thought of cabbage as a kid’s food, or something only eaten on holidays. There was even a town, just outside Sicily, where no one had never even heard of cabbage. Of course, the entire populous had been killed by barbarians several decades earlier, but the fact was undeniable: cabbage just wasn’t as popular as it used to be.

It was almost 200 years before cabbage returned to the public eye.  In 1927,  the Wright brothers, Orville and Ellivro,  were attempting to invent the world’s first humorous answering machine message. They took a cabbage, hooked it up to their old Dodge Dart, and questioned it about foreign affairs. Much to their surprise, the cabbage was not only well versed in politics, but disintegrated Ellivro with its heat vision! Orville asked his other brother, Wilbur, to replace him, then replaced the car with a weasel he’d been saving for a special occasion. Sure enough, both brothers gained the power of flight, and the cabbage skyrocketed back into the spotlight. Demand was immense, and soon the Wrights sold the distribution rights to 20th Century Fox, who created several successful spin offs, including coleslaw, those little things on the end of shoe laces, and Jimmy Buffet.

Today, cabbage is used in everything from xylophones to brussels sprouts. Odds are good that, in the past hour, you’ve used products containing over 17,000 cabbages- more, if you own a television. So the next time you’re eating a big bowl of poached cabbage, take a moment to reflect about how much you owe to it. If I were you, I’d give it a little salute- thank you, cabbage, for all that you do- and thank you, America, for giving us the cabbage, and the freedom to eat it!

Metaphysical Munchies May Make Many Men Masturbate Mildly

I recently finished watching the show Odyssey 5, created by one Manny Coto. Remember that name. Do not watch this show. It is one of the most awesome shows ever, but the finale is non-existent. They never finished the show. Someone may tell you how awesome it is, and they would be right, but you could save yourself a whole lot of mental anguish by not watching it. This in itself would not be postworthy, except for the fact that Manny Coto is also responsible for the 4th season of Enterprise, with its notoriously bad finale. I have therefore come to a conclusion. The sonofabitch is out to ruin good tv for everyone. He’s like a vampire, only instead of blood he drinks lack of closure. I therefore propose a boycott of anything he works on in the future, until he learns how to do a real finale.

There’s a Shameful Train a-Boardin’

The Public Shame Glory Train is now departing.  First stop: Griekspoor & Border.

When you’re nine years old, $80 is a lot.  When it’s $80 for your birthday, that’s awesome!  One young Miss Marissa Holland received two gift cards for her birthday and went out shopping, probably thrilled to have her very own money.  Being a kid and possibly not thinking clearly in all the excitement (or at all, but she’s 9 and this stuff happens) she sat them on a store shelf.

Enter the swoopers: Tina Griekspoor and Evelyn Border, 35 and 56, respectively.  They saw these gift cards on the store shelf, with the child’s name on them, and did what they felt was right- paid for their shit.  How awesome is that?  Not very.  Worse, they went back and tried to purchase MORE things with the child’s gift.  Really?

It may not have been the smartest thing for the girl to do, putting the cards on the shelf and not in her pocket but we have no idea what prompted her to do that.  And remember, she’s nine.  I think, however, we can safely say what prompted these two ladies to snatch her gift cards, however, and in that we can see they had no shame.

Well, didn’t.  Thanks to some creative adjudication, Griekspoor and Border got to be the stars of the show and receive the shame they so desperately lacked.  The two of them, a mother and daughter sad-sack show, got to stand in front of their local courthouse in what is apparently the center of town holding signs which read “I stole from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday!  Don’t steal or this could happen to you!”  For 4.5 hours they held up these enormous signs with their six-inch-high letters, and Marissa’s mother drove her past so she could see not only the women who stole from her, but the price one pays when public shaming is at work.

Whatever happened to public shaming?  When did we become a society which is afraid to make people feel that they should be ashamed of themselves and what they’ve done?  Whenever public shaming happens it’s somehow seen as a big deal.  We can look at the Korean Train Dog Poop Girl or the more recent Rotten MySpace Mom cases and see where public shaming is as effective as or more effective than anything which can be done by law.  Do you think Griekspoor and Border would have changed their ways if they didn’t have to spend half a workday in the middle of town telling everyone they are heartless gift-snatchers?  I doubt it.

Some people are against public shaming.  In the case of Dog Poop Girl, people decried the release of her information into the public sphere.  No, it most certainly was not right to harass her family and tell everyone her business.  At the same time, however, the right of the public to bring shame to someone who doesn’t have it for themselves has long been upheld.  Dog Poop Girl gave less than a fuck about decorum or anyone’s health or even the right of her fellow riders not to slip in a pile of dog crap, and for her clear demonstration that she has no shame, the internet brought her some.  Lori Drew, who with not a drop of self-control precipitated and participated in a charade which sent a young girl to take her own life, was similarly exposed and shamed by the internet.  You may argue whether the young girl in question was already messed up or whatever.  That is hardly the point.  The point is that Lori Drew, a grown-ass woman, knew better.

Public shaming has had a long and storied history throughout the world as a way to punish without removing someone from society.  The idea is that if you can’t access your inner shame before you do something stupid, society will help.  It’s one thing to do your crime in secret and even to go to jail for it.  That’s a function of law and order, but unless you’re all over the papers nobody has to know what you’ve done.  In public shaming, however, your name and face become synonymous with whatever careless, antisocial act you have perpetrated and now everyone knows what you’ve done.  Worse, they all know you don’t know how to act.  They can avoid you.  They can talk about you.  They can mock you, point and laugh, they can choose to pity you or to avoid you altogether because now they know what kind of person you are.

There’s hardly any way of getting out of that.

A world without technology

Recently i spent a weekend without the internet (and therefore the laptop), or a phone. What a weekend it was, by far the most interesting, humurous, entertaining weekend i’ve had in a long time. While some didn’t know what to do, and sat around playing solitaire trying to beat their top scores for hours on end, most of us at UniResort enjoyed 3 long days of 25+ weather, out by the pool, kicking the footy, eating, enjoying a good laugh. In all my my 6 months here at UniResort, i’ve not once encountered so many people out of their rooms at one time. I met so many new people that had been living here for longer than i have. Of course, i myself don’t rely on the internet or phone much, most of the time i have better things to do, if it’s not 1am and i can’t sleep. In a place where students live, you’d think it’d happen quite often, it doesn’t, so it was quite amazing. Technology has such a grip on so many people, their lives are the complete opposite without access to something like the internet or a mobile phone. How many of you check your facebook every day, sometimes every hour, on your mobile phone, because you can’t sit back and appreciate how lucky we are. How many of you have sat for at least an hour, staring, thinking about the world, what life has to offer. No ipods, phones, internet, no distractions. Just listen to the birds, watch the clouds, see leaves and branches blowing in the wind.

This got me thinking, imagine a world without the technology we have today. Most people nowdays would probably hear that and think “wtf is wrong with you, go eat shit and die asshole”, but really think about it. How many of your friends do you contact on a regular basis on a phone or the internet? Ok yeah it’s convenient, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing it. Now think about this. How much more of an impact on your life does it have when you meet up with them face to face? How often does this happen? Not very. When people can’t be assed to walk down the road, knock on their friends front door, just to see if he/she is home and say hello, they need to find some appreciation for what we have, and not take it for granted so much.

So many of the worlds issues would not exist, we’d all hunt for our food. Build our own shelter. There’d be no “mines better than yours so i’m better than you too”. Without money, there’d be no power. Of course, it wouldn’t be a perfect world, otherwise we wouldn’t have evolved the way we have. There’d still be “war” between tribes, disease, hunger for the weak. However, would this be so bad? Our population has sky rocketed, and continues to. The world is being destroyed because of it. Just another issue that would not exist.

Unfortunately, the closest we will ever get to knowing what a world like that could be like, is camping in the middle of Australia without any phones, internet, toilets, 3-ply ultra soft touch patterened toilet paper, and the like.

Of course then i snapped back to reality, realised that all that wondering was pointless, jumped onto the laptop, opened my browser window, logged onto facebook and sat there for an hour playing tetris.