Category Archives: Philosophy

HATING HATERS

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If you HATE a HATER, then you’re a Hater too, right?

But WAIT- Didn’t Jesus throw the “money changers” out of the temple in an act of righteous indignation?  Did he HATE them? Certainly, he loathed, detested and despised what they were doing.

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Maybe some type of HATRED is justified. Like, say, if you hated CRUELTY or IDIOCY or Three-eyed ABOMINATIONS or BANKERS.

Let’s face it: HATE is an ugly word. You can be convicted of Hate Crimes. Most people, don’t want to think they are a hater. So lets make it more acceptable. Maybe a kinder phrase…

For the really annoying people and situations in life, like traffic lights,  Rudi Giuliani and cold coffee, consider me a PASSIONATE DISLIKER.

 

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THE REAL THING

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We have been assured that Coke is the “real thing.”  Also Jesus is the “real thing” and Hillary WAS the real thing but actually, come to think about it, whatever you really believe in [ or are promoting ] could be construed as the real thing. In my experience, this is a dangerous proposition because it simultaneously implies that all other participants in the domain – Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Buddhism, Ted Cruz – are merely pretenders to to the throne, wanna-be’s. Because the REAL THING, for Christ’s sake, is the precious fragment of pure gold lying in a sea of impure alloys. It is our self-appointed mission as human beings to find this thing and forsake all others.  Like a soul mate or something.

Forget about it. You’ll be a lot happier.

 

LANGUAGE & REALITY

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Words matter.  Whether spoken aloud or self talk, words are the FABRIC that weaves together our perception of the way things are. It’s not that the words have magic, it’s more that we give them magic — they have the power to influence, magnify, focus and set the entire framework that we use to view the world.  In other words, language creates and maintains our psychological “reality.” Words and thoughts are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them. Can you have a thought without words?  Can you have words without thoughts? Shakespeare though it was possible but not a great idea:

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

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Clearly our choice of words influences, insults, and charms other people. But perhaps more importantly, if we say the right words to ourselves often enough, they can completely alter our attitude.  The good news is that the mind is very susceptible to positive programming. The bad news is that the programmer is often asleep or in some endless daydream of worry and anxiety.  Wake up and encourage yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

PROVE IT

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In one of the greatest Western movies ever made, the mysterious gunslinger Shane engages in a climactic showdown with the delightfully evil Jack Wilson.  Before they pull out the weapons, the obligatory ritualistic exchange takes place.  First the challenger delivers a vicious insult that cannot be ignored: “I’ve heard that you’re a low-down Yankee liar.”  The required response is: “prove it.”  As it turns out,  the fastest usually prove their point because the disputing party is unable to refute it, being dead.

GOGGLED SCIENTIST

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The scientific procedure for proving something is a variation on this Western theme. The scientific challenger issues a knowledge claim instead of an outright insult ( although certain claims about what is true can certainly be insulting to the intelligence, as in the case of Creationism).  The required response is the same as the gunfighters: “prove it.”

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The scientific method is not just about truth-seeking, it is very valuable for demonstrating what is not true.  When the gunsmoke clears, after the crucible of experimentation, only the most valid theory will be left standing.

 

THE FEAR OF DEATH

THE FEAR OF DEATH  by Dr. Michael Thweatt

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Seasons don’t fear the reaper, nor do the wind or the sun or the rain.  We can be like they are…

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As human beings, we fear a lot of things. If the fear becomes exaggerated and irrational, it is considered to be a phobia. Always high on the phobia list is fear of snakes, spiders, heights and crowded spaces.

 

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Ironically, FEAR OF DEATH (THANATOBIA), is often missing from the lists of most common phobias.  Death is so scary and so avoided it is not even considered a phobia by a lot of people.  Of course for the fear of death to be a true phobia, it must be irrational – so therein lies the issue: is it RATIONAL to fear death?  Can there be a “rational” fear of death, compared to a more obsessive “irrational” fear of death?

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WOODY ALLEN & DEATH

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WOODY ALLEN once observed that the fear of public speaking was the number one reported phobia, even ranking above the fear of death. He concluded that people must be more afraid of delivering the eulogy than being in the coffin.

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“When the music’s over, turn out the lights.”

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 It could be argued that people fear death above all else, because it is the end of all other projects. As JIM MORRISON bleakly but succinctly puts it:

This is the end, my only friend, the end.  Of our elaborate plans, the end.  Of everything that stands, the end.  No safety or surprise, the end.   I’ll never look into your eyes, again.”

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THE DENIAL OF DEATH

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In his astonishing masterpiece, the Denial of DeathErnest Becker argues that death-denial propels us to engage in activities, beliefs and “projects’ that affirm our immortality, despite strong evidence to the contrary: 100 Billion human beings are estimated to have lived and died since the emergence of homo sapiens. What makes you an exception to the rule? 

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Comedian STEPHEN WRIGHT declares his IMMORTALITY PROJECT with more simple honesty than most humans:  “I plan to live forever. So far, so good.”

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RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL RESPONSES TO DEATH

CHRISTIAN

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Christians believe in a Life after Death, in which the individual personality is preserved.  In other words, the body-less “soul” remains an individual and furthermore retains awareness of others so that they may be recognized in the “here-after,” thus enabling a reunion in heaven.

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EXISTENTIAL

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For Existentialists, the key problem is that people can’t conceive of non-existence and so we make the fundamental error of importing existence into the concept of death. To put it simply, people are terrified of being dead, but you can never BE dead, because when you die, you ARE NOT. So, we mistakenly project a continued consciousness past death and create the horrors of hell and wonders of heaven to fill the vastness of eternal time.

You experience dying, you don’t experience death. There is no blackness, void, loneliness, pain, burning in hell fire, glory in heaven, etc. There is not even nothing because nothingness is a concept. There are no concepts, no words, nada. To talk or think about death is self-defeating because you are imposing language and the dynamics of consciousness on that which is not.

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BUDDHIST

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Buddhist believe the “self” is not a permanent thing.  The self is a socially-constructed, temporarily convenient invention.  Useful, but it doesn’t have the inherent “realness” of the body.   So, grieve not, nor should you ask  for whom the bell tolls, because we are ephemeral as individuals. Attachment equals grief because all things must pass.

 

ANXIETY, TIME & LANGUAGE by Dr. Michael Thweatt

ANXIETY, TIME & LANGUAGE  by  Dr. Michael Thweatt

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ANXIETY is the mother of most psychological disorders and problems. Alcoholism, phobias, drug abuse, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, all stem from anxiety.  In fact, it’s fair to say that many psychological problems are merely symptoms of the fundamental disease – anxiety.

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Anxiety comes from dwelling on  the PAST or FUTURE.   Of course, it’s natural to “visit” past events and future scenarios – but if you start to dwell there, live there, establish your residence there, it can become a real problem.  if you start to import past regrets and future concerns into the present, then you lay the foundation for anxiety.

TIME JUMPING

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“Time jumping” into the past and future  is one of the legacies of acquiring language.  Awareness of it is the key to moderating anxiety.   It helps to develop a sensitivity for the trigger words that send us temporarily away from the present.

For Past Time Jumping, a key phrase is “if only.”  If you stop to think about “if only” is about the most useless and self-destructive mental exercises you can engage in.  “If only” is at the heart of all regrets.  If only I had done this other thing, instead of what I actually did, life would now be perfect.  Wrong.  But we obsess about it anyway.  Let’s consider some specific examples:

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IF  ONLY I HAD STAYED IN COLLEGE

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IF ONLY I HADN’T PUT THAT MESCALINE IN MY BEER.

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IF ONLY I HAD ASKED HER OUT ON A DATE.

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IF ONLY I HAD BOUGHT 100 SHARES OF MICROSOFT IN 1986

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WHAT’S THE POINT OF SAYING ‘IF ONLY” ??

It is completely ridiculous to cry about “if only.”  You can’t go back in time and re-write history, so why wonder about it?_____________________________________________________

For Future Time Jumping, a key phrase is “what if?”  Let’s consider some specific examples:

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WHAT IF I GET ATTACKED BY FIRE-PROOF ZOMBIES AND THERE’S NO WHERE TO HIDE?

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WHAT IF I FORGET TO SEND MY GIRLFRIEND A VALENTINE CARD?

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WHAT IF BATMAN HAD THE POWERS OF THOR & SUPERMAN?

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DON’T WASTE TIME WITH “WHAT IF”!

Most of the future “what ifs” we worry about will never come to pass.  So it is simply an anxiety project to speculate about them.   If you can slow down the inevitable human propensity to time jump and dwell in the simple present, you will be much calmer.

But WHAT IF you can’t slow down enough to BE HERE NOW?
IF ONLY you had studied Zen Buddhism at an earlier age….

the RELATIVITY OF TRUTH, part 2

continued from the RELATIVITY OF TRUTH

                                                                 THE MISINTERPRETATION OF TEXTS.

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Language by it’s very nature is ambiguous, whether spoken or written.  So its hard to get at the real truth of what the speaker or the author intended.   For example, there are many interpretations of Bible verses and these multiple meanings are the key factor in creating denominational schisms throughout the history of Christianity.

CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS

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American Baptist Association /  American Baptist Churches / Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America / Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists / Baptist Bible Fellowship International  /  Baptist General Conference / Baptist Missionary Association of America /Central Baptist Association  /  Christian Unity Baptist Association / Conservative Baptist Association of America / Continental Baptist Churches  / Cooperative Baptist Fellowship / Enterprise Association of Regular Baptists /Free Will Baptist /   Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship,  etc.

How does this happen when everyone in these divisions is a Christian?  The Bible is purported to be the final truth that should unite all Christians, but each of these denominations claims that their version of the truth is The Truth.  The process is simple: the  interpretation is reported as a self-evident fact ( not unlike many newscasts).  And if you see things differently, then go and start your own church.

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The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, have interpreted Revelation 13:15–18, which designates the number 666 as the  Mark of the Beast, as a reference to the Pope. Uriah Smith was the first to propose the interpretation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  In The United States in the Light of Prophecy, he wrote:

The pope wears upon his pontifical crown in jeweled letters, this title: "Vicarius Filii Dei," "Viceregent of the Son of God;" [sic] the numerical value of which title is just six hundred and sixty-six. The most plausible supposition we have ever seen on this point is that here we find the number in question. It is the number of the beast, the papacy; it is the number of his name, for he adopts it as his distinctive title; it is the number of a man, for he who bears it is the "man of sin."

Is this true? Millions of Adventists used to believe so, “for the Bible tells me so.”  I get the feeling they don’t like the Catholics very much, especially the leadership.   Scholars have raised the following issues with this claim:          (1) This phrase is not on the pope’s crown. No photos or evidence of it can be found.  (2)  the numerical value of vicarius filli die was calculated as 666 by adding up the Roman Numerals in the title and conveniently equating U with V  (3)  the King James Bible  is considered by many to be  the standard reference, the True Bible, but it is a translation of a translation of a translation –  The original Hebrew into Greek into the numerous English and International versions.  And some scholars, referring to the original Hebraic have suggested that  the number 666 is incorrect.

TEXT MESSAGE CONFUSION –  WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY TO ME?

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In today’s secular world, the text that matters the most is the text message. Somehow the latest status report from a friend about what they are eating for lunch  becomes a matter of utmost urgency that demands an immediate response. But things can go drastically wrong in trying to interpret some text messages especially since the tone, stress and nuances of spoken language are not available. Consider the video below, which illustrates this point quite well.

WARNING: UNCENSORED! 

IN SUMMARY –   Of course there is some truth out there and it is necessary to trust and believe some things.  Personal experience is probably the closest we come to an absolute truth for each of us.  It is TRUE that you had that subjective experience. This can’t really be denied or argued.  It may also be true that your experience is a universal experience shared by all humans, like love or grief.

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But in a world of conflicting claims of truth, how do you choose?  What makes the Free Will Baptists right and the Full Gospel Baptists wrong?  What makes FOX NEWS right and the NBC NEWS wrong?  What makes your interpretation of an ambiguous text right and my interpretation wrong?   Everyone is free to believe whatever Truth they want to, my objection is the exportation of these truths and their enthronement into the realm of unquestioning Fact.   At least Science, which does make some claims of nearly universal truth, invites and welcomes all valid criticism.

 

The Relativity of Truth

 

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I never lied to you. I’ve always told you some version of the truth.”                              

 This is the desperate line of Jack Nicholson’s character in Something’s Gotta Give.  Not surprisingly,  this awkward explanation of his relationship deceptions gets little sympathy from his distraught girlfriend.

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No one wants to hear some version of the truth. We want to hear the hand-on-the-Bible Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the so-help-me-God, may-the-Devil-snatch-me-to-hell, on-my-mother’s-grave, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die TRUTH. Unfortunately, this kind of ultimate truth is very difficult to find. Many people CLAIM to have found the real, complete truth and they may sincerely believe it and proclaim it. But sincerity is not a guarantee of validity and believing someone just based on their sincerity can be a recipe for disaster.  I want to examine several examples of how relative truth is promoted as absolute truth and the possible consequences.

                                                     TRUTH & the MEDIA

                             CBS EVENING NEWS with WALTER CRONKITE

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite reports that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Walter Cronkite  ended every newscast with his famous sign-off line: “And that’s the way it is…” .  At the time it sounded innocent enough, but now this statement seems presumptuous and preposterous. Only an omnipotent being could truly know and be justified in saying – ” that’s the way it is.”        A more accurate sign off for Cronkite would have been: ” that’s the way some things kinda are according to CBS NEWS.”  Admittedly, this lacks a lot of the bravado of his original line.

BRIAN WILLIAMS – ENTERTAINER & LIAR: WHAT’S MY OTHER NAME?( (click on Brian Williams name above to learn his other name)

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News Services, reporters, journalists, online newspapers,  news bloggers would all like to believe that they are providing facts that you need to know, like dutiful short-term historians.   But while each story or article may be more or less accurate within it’s limited confines, only certain stories can be  selected even in today’s 24/7 news cycle and the selection process is biased in many ways.   One example of this is cultural bias.

CULTURAL BIAS IN THE MEDIA

Sociological Images visually affirms the prevalence of this bias by comparison of international and American same-week editions of Time Magazine.   The story on Pakistan is not deemed politically appropriate or is considered to be less interesting than What Makes a School Great.  Once again, we are given some version of the Truth. 

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HUMAN IDENTITY: WHO AM I ?

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French philosopher, mathematician and generally acclaimed genius Rene Descartes (1596 – 1660) is most well-known for his attempt to clarify the nature of human identity. His tortuous  self-doubt led him to systematically strip away anything he considered superfluous and in the end, he was left with one simple conclusion that has become his signature line –

                                                                              “I think, therefore I am.”

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  Descartes equates identity with the mind. In short, our mind is our self.  it is very tempting to believe this.   Once we learn a language, it invades our mental world so completely that the constant self-talk we use to explain and rationalize and plan and worry seems as natural as the trees or the sunset.  But we think with words because were taught to, not because it is some inherent human condition.  

 

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 Identity – name, rank, social security number and personality –  is constructed by language and temporary.  The true search for human essence should be about existence or being.   In summary, I think it would be very advisable if we shortened Descartes’ adage to  “I am.”

 

 

 

BUZZ BOMB BRANDING

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V1-Flying-Bomb-TitleSTEREOTYPES are negative caricatures of a group that create and sustain the belief that all members are the same. One of the most insidious manifestations of stereotyping involves the use of emotionally tagged labels which I call “buzz bomb branding.” Historically, buzz bombs were the nick name for the the ominously buzzing German V-1 rockets whose primitive guidance system enabled them to hit somewhere in or around London during WW2. This type of broad, indiscreet targeting and the resultant fear and dread is exactly what occurs with buzz bomb branding. The negative characteristics of these labels are so culturally ingrained, so universally accepted as unconditional evil, so media-repeated and pulpit-pronounced that no one even thinks to question the monolithic and final judgments they dispense. Buzz bomb labels use moral outrage to create the false belief that all members of these notoriously evil groups must be equally depraved. In essence, the word itself has acquired so much negative momentum that the subtleties and subcategories are ignored and everyone given the label is effectively and often unfairly branded. 

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Why does this happen? It happens because we like to simplify things and this leads to over-generalization. When you have to make painstaking distinctions and articulate complex shades of gray and clarify ambiguity, it’s much more difficult and troublesome than living in the assurance of a black and white world, where America and freedom and apple pie are good and everything else is evil.

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IS IT REALLY THAT SIMPLE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

With stereotype labels, the activating word is like a button that is pushed and it brings up an image or a single concept of the worse case scenario. The problem is that there are usually a wide spectrum of people or concepts that have been put in the category that are unfairly judged by this image.

LET’S EXAMINE A PARTICULAR EXAMPLE of this emotional stereotyping: CHILD PORNOGRAPHERS

Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age). The legal definition of sexually explicit conduct does not require that an image depict a child engaging in sexual activity.  A picture of a naked child may constitute illegal child pornography if it is “sufficiently sexually suggestive.”

So child pornography RANGES from videos of very young prepubescent children who are forced or coerced  to engage in sexual activity, which is absolutely horrible  TO – at the other end of the spectrum – photos of sexually mature 17 year-olds who may willingly pose in sexually suggestive ways while intentionally lying about their age.  Not that there is anything good about this “older end” of the spectrum:  It is wrong, misguided, it is bad judgment and may be openly abusive BUT sexually suggestive photos of 17 year-olds ARE NOT THE MORAL EQUIVALENT of videos of prepubescent children having sex with adults.  Why do we lump them all together with no distinctions?

CONSEQUENCES OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

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 CHILD PORNOGRAPHY  SENTENCING

There is now a mandatory five year sentence for “possession with intent to distribute or sell child pornography” OR “production of child pornography”. Without any more details, the legal language is quite sufficient to push the outrage button and many would (understandably) say: Great, this sentence is not long enough! But like a lot of laws, especially drug laws, the language is vague and the real world application can only be seen in a case by case basis. Consider this case:

A 20 year-old man makes a home video of consensual sex with his 17 year-old girlfriend and downloads it to his computer, with his girlfriend’s knowledge and with no intent to share the video with others. CHARGE: child pornography production. SENTENCE: five years. Does this man deserve five years in prison? Why does he face this type of sentence? Because he is on the fringe of the hysteria and he has been caught up in the group and branded.

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 In addition to the legal consequences, there are the so-called “collateral consequences.”  For anyone accused of possessing child pornography, for anyone whose house was searched because of suspicions of child pornography, society’s verdict has already been reached: your career is destroyed and your reputation damaged beyond repair – regardless of eventually exoneration or the exact nature of the crimes.  Undoubtedly, many or the worst offenders deserve this, but not all, especially before any legal resolution.

I chose child pornography for this article as an extreme example of how buzz bomb branding works. The point is: there are distinctions to be made even here. It is always important to avoid emotional knee jerk reactions and look at details and understand how  over-generalization happens.  Let’s consider the cultural context that shapes child pornography.

SAUDI ARABIA DOES NOT HAVE A MINIMUM AGE FOR MARRIAGE

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One of the key problems for this “buzz bomb branding”of child pornographers is that our society can’t clearly define “childhood.”   When do you stop being a child?  Child marriages were common throughout history and even today 146 countries permit girls younger than 18 to marry with the consent of parents or other authorities; in 52 countries, girls under age 15 can marry with parental consent.  Of course, this is not the same as child pornography –  these child marriages are not, one would hope, being videotaped or photographed. But for a minor to have legally sanctioned sex is not unprecedented. Of course, the younger the girls, the more it becomes an unthinkable abomination to Western sensibilities

CREEPILY SEXUALIZED BEAUTY PAGEANT CONTESTANT

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Another problem with child pornography is double standards.  Our society acts with instant outrage at the mention of child pornography and at the same time openly engages in the sexualization of minors, in beauty pageants and in marketing teen divas like Britney Spears. In her autobiographical hit “Piece of Me,” Britney declares; ” I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17″ and the media still wants to “put pictures of my derriere in the magazine.”

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Yet another problem with child pornography is our society’s understanding of “pornography” in general.  Pornography, like fornication, is not a descriptive word –  it is a judgmental word.  Upper class people enjoy ‘EROTICA” and express their sexuality by MAKING LOVE.  Lower class people look at pornography and fornicate!!  What’s the difference? Why is “shit” a dirty word and “defecate” an acceptable word?  Most German/Anglo-Saxon curse words are considered obscene while the Latin equivalent is considered much more polite.  So the push-button outrage, the buzz bomb branding, comes from centuries of hate and resentment against the German / Anglo Saxon influence  on the (supposedly) previously clean language and culture. We have a deeply embedded linguistic program that initiates an immediate negative reaction to these words and then commands us to not think any further about nuances and distinctions. Of course, obsession and addiction to anything whether it is drugs, pornography or violence is very wrong, clinically problematic and self-destructive.  My point it that it is not “adult” pornography or drugs or guns per se that are the problem – it is their abuse. 

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CHILD PORNOGRAPHY is a very emotional topic, so let me be crystal clear on my position.   It is probably the deepest human instinct to protect our young from dangers and nothing is more horrifying than a child predator. I am ADVOCATING a more precise definition of child pornography that has a more narrow focus.  This is not to let anyone off the hook, but to deal appropriately with specific behaviors. In other words, a specific punishment should fit the specific crime. In the case of Child Pornography, I don’t think this will happen unless we rethink our understanding of childhood and pornography.


 

I want to examine one more simpler example of buzz bomb branding to illustrate the similarity of patterns across categories ( and to end this article on a less contentious note).This category is HORSE THIEF

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In the Old West a horse was often necessary for survival. If you stole a man’s horse, you were possibly condemning him to die. Just like child pornography today, it was simply not tolerated. And just like child pornography, distinctions were not made and all horse thieves were treated alike – they were hung. What distinctions could be made in the notorious category of such worthless varmints as horse thieves? I ask the reader to consider Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove to illustrate the answer.

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McMurtry distinguishes three types of horse thieves:

1. International Horse Thieves.

More precisely, stealing horses from Mexico. It’s okay for the Texas rangers to cross the border and steal Mexican horses because the Mexicans probably stole them from the US in the first place so they are just “retrieving them.” Consequence: No punishment. ( except the Mexicans might re-steal the stolen horses)

2. Outlaw Horse Thieves.

When the former Texas Ranger Jake Spoon teams up with despicable outlaws, he is hung for being a horse thief.

3. Starving Indian Horse Thieves.

When Captain McCall tracks down some more horse thieves later in the book, he discovers a small band of starving Native Americans who have already killed and cooked some of the horses. Consequence: no punishment.

So apparently there are different levels within this nefarious category. In conclusion – always question emotional responses and simplistic categorizations and watch out for the buzz bombs!