For whatever reason math, science, and pretty much any heavily quantitative study has become the metric on which intelligence is based. Someone who can do calculus mentally must be a genius and someone who struggles with fractions must be dumb. I’m not immune to this oddity–I met one particularly brilliant individual years ago and assumed he must be great at maths. (He’s not bad,  but also not significantly above average.) However, this sort of assumption is just toxic for many people. While some people let the cultural assumption roll off their backs, I have friends who insult themselves for being dumb simply because they’re not skilled with a particular mental skill or two.

I’m generally alright at math; I think it comes more easily to me than many others. I got a 3.8 on a math major and likely to have a coauthored paper published soon. But when I try my hand at writing a compelling story or poetry, I often fall flat on my face. Of course, with practice it improves, but if math abilities were an indicator of intelligence generally, I’d expect to be at least average at these things. Being able to craft a driving story, create art that inspires or comforts people, or say things that somehow improve life for people are themselves incredible intelligences to have. If I could trade my logic skills for those sorts, it’d be quite the tempting offer. Understanding people, feelings, aesthetics, etc. is hard. In my mind, far harder than crunching numbers and symbols.

Ultimately this is just a result of misdirected priorities. The pursuit of money and new technology (for the pursuit of money) has distracted us from the happiness and fulfillment those things were meant to serve in the first place. Certainly a lot of math and science is done for joy, knowledge, beauty, or some other virtuous thing, but the state of cultural supremacy they have taken seems to stem from these misdirected priorities. These misdirected priorities speak nothing of the art-oriented people. Quantitative skills have their place in good living, but it’s not the place that’s given them their current status.

As I can imagine certain complaints will come in, I’ll address them right now. I’m not saying everyone is smart. Some people are dumb. If nobody was, being smart wouldn’t really be anything. (I’m not saying just that it wouldn’t be valuable–it literally doesn’t make sense for there to only be smart people. Of course, there is a wide spectrum, but I don’t foresee anyone trying to make an object on the basis of apparent binaryism.) This isn’t to say they have less value as people. There’s a lot of very good things to be besides smart. Being smart is often only a useful trait in more valuable things. Nonetheless, for people who desire to have that trait but consistently fail because what they do is aimed at knowledge or some sort of mental skill but not one quantitative in nature, this attitude is harmful. (The underlying issue of priorities is an issue with a much larger scope. That there is a problem is simple enough to state, and all that is needed for my point here.)

I said some things two years ago when law enforcement and homicides and all those other fun things were constantly in the news. The ideas still hold now as much as they did then, and the problems haven’t really gone away; we just got a new topic for the news to talk about. I’ve been involved in some protesting and I also know a lot of LEOs. While some are acting nothing short of abhorrently, and many are just propping up a system that abuse the weak (see: Standing Rock), there are also quite a few good people under the uniform, and seeing fewer of them get killed would be nice.

The (largely waned for now, though likely to reemerge soon enough) protesting against police and prosecutor corruption is entirely legitimate. Grand juries are fed whatever the prosecutors say, and guess who’s buddied with the prosecutor. Could it be the officers giving them the evidence they need to do their job? People tend to act emotionally and protect their friends; that’s entirely reasonable. I wouldn’t put it past myself to sell out the good of the community for the sake of the people I care about. However, the general public does not gain from this system. Some outside entity needs to be involved to make sure everything proceeds fairly. If an officer can get off free when on camera shooting someone who’s not attacking anyone, we have an issue.

Some LEOs are corrupt or otherwise vicious people, yes, obviously, all kinds of people are. I wouldn’t be surprised if the power attracted some people who have no business being officers. Some extra hurdles to get the badge seems like a good idea. That said, indiscriminate murder of innocent officers is a stupid idea. It’s unethical on the one hand, and only likely to scare more people into encouraging the bad behavior.

Stepping back, though, I’d like to think most rational people ignore the hype and are in the “we need more oversight, we don’t want murder”, etc. category. It’s a pretty middle-of-the-road and easy conclusion. However, there’s a few points I don’t see very often in most discourse on the matter.

The main point that the following culminates to is I want less dead people, both cops and civilians. I don’t just mean the violent protests nor do I mean the racist cases we’ve seen recently, either. Of course, fixing racist cops is a moral obligation the government needs to fulfill, and I’m losing faith in the power of violent protests–at least first strikes. But in general there’s a few big issues that aren’t being addressed much in this context:

-Mike Brown (a divisive case at the time I originally wrote this point, and still a good example) was attacking the officer, yes, and use of deadly force was probably warranted, yes. However, we still have a dead kid’s blood on our societal hands. Most people do not charge officers, or anyone for that matter. Most people also don’t rob convenience stores. At least most people who are in a healthy situation. If we look to areas where things are not well, these become more common. These are symptoms of bigger issues. If a system spits on someone long enough without reprieve, why would we expect that person to cooperate? Poverty breeds resentment which leads to no remorse for crime against the people who didn’t give a damn. Lack of education leads to lack of opportunity which leads to a lack of real risk in committing crimes. Moreover, the aforementioned poverty also stresses parents and harms their ability to properly raise a member of society because they lose mental acumen and often simply lack the time from working bonus shifts. (This isn’t to say poverty elements==poor parents, but it certainly makes it harder to parent.) We have the resources to prevent things like this and we don’t. You want less crime? Get rid of the motivation.

-Our current youth generation doesn’t care much for authority figures, especially of the law. But why would we? Our first encounters are often negative. Most kids aren’t being saved from rapists and robbers. A lot of kids are speeding, drinking underage, and smoking pot. All of those lead to negative encounters with the police or at least fear of the police. The police aren’t widely considered friendly people who will help you when you’re in need; they’re considered the people who will screw you over when you’re not doing anything actually harmful. The other week a friend of mine told me she emergency services to send an ambulance to help her friend who was dangerously intoxicated. Instead the police came and hounded her about heroin (which she didn’t have. Never mind the bodily danger someone is in. We need to punish people with imaginary heroin!) Things like quotas and using traffic laws to fill city coffers sure only worsen the problem since they increase negative reactions to police. While many do have important roles and can’t be taken away from investigating a homicide, spending less time ticketing someone going 46 in a 45 (even though the speed clock is wrong and they were actually going 44) and more time being the most upstanding citizens of their communities would do a lot of good.

-This comes full circle to my “I want less dead cops” point. People breaking the law attack. People who have no reason to respect the law or law enforcement break the law and attack. While you can’t prevent all crime, we have data showing lowering bad stuff like poverty lowers crime and we already have the resources to get the job done. We just need to do it.

Why Metal Isn’t Really Right-Wing (And Why the Left isn’t Metal Either)

A couple weeks ago an article starting circling the metal communities claiming metal is right-wing. As a self-described hard leftist and metalhead, I was taken aback. However, after reading Hood’s article, I came to the conclusion that his description of metal as far from the left is correct, though it’s not necessarily on the right, either.

He claims at the outset that ” heavy metal music has done far more to advance authentic right wing aesthetics, values, and yes, even philosophy, than all the failed institutions of the Beltway Right put together.” His mentioning of the Beltway Right will show greater importance later in his article after he characterizes the left.

He claims both metal and the right-wing value “themes of conquest, self-overcoming, strength, and conflict.” The right stresses hierarchy while the left stresses egalitarianism. This is a bit of an overgeneralization considering MRAs are generally on the right and the very hierarchical education system is on the left. The leftist hierarchy does tend to ignore nation, creed, and class, however, while the right seeks to preserve them.

As far as aesthetics go, “strength, vitality, and self-glorification” do admittedly tend to come more from the patriotic and narcissistic right. At this point, though, the difference between the labour left and the Tumblr left becomes pretty apparent, though Hood doesn’t give the former a fair shot. Traditional labour movements are about standing up for the value of work done, as opposed to the corporatist right that focuses more on increasing wealth for those who don’t do so much. Last I checked, tanning at one’s mansion while being served by working people is neither strong nor vital. (And it’s the opposite of the type of glory metal is about.)

Hood continues awhile with some valid points, but he ultimately gives the right such a nice presentation that almost anyone would choose it over the left he presents: to Hood the right is the people who work hard to make themselves better while the left is only the people who seek to whine on the internet. Sure he accurately captures a subset of each. but he ignores the left that pushes for better conditions for working people and ignores the right that seeks only to feed those who make wealth from wealth instead of doing things. Corporate doublespeak is neither leftist nor metal.

His poor characterization of the left does show what the popular left has become though. It’s no longer fighting malevolent powers but instead pandering to the attention-seeking needs of the bored (upper) middle class. Meanwhile the right is still selling the story of the American Dream, even if the policies enacted do the exact opposite.

At this point actually placing value on strength, vitality, and self-glorification require abandoning the wealth-serving right and attention-serving left. I certainly disagree with the claim that metal denies all sort of working towards a common good (seriously, “stand united” is one of the most overused phrases in metal). Hood himself derides the popular right we have now, but handwaves it away as not a true Scotsman.

And if we’re giving metal a philosopher, why not Hobbes?

Why Metal Isn’t Really Right-Wing (And Why the Left isn’t Metal Either)

Why Dolezal is Black

Rachel Dolezal has been in the news lately because of her high profile position in the NAACP and as a professor while apparently lying about her race. This is Rachel:

She claims to be black. Her parents claim she is white. There’s already plenty of analysis out there on the situation, so I won’t dive any further into exposition. Instead I want to look at some details I found interesting.

Primarily that

1. Her siblings are black

2. Her childhood self portraits are black

So this is a long-game thing. People who say she’s trying to use a fake race to get ahead would appear to be discredited at this point. But my question after thinking about this for awhile is

1. She clearly thinks of herself as black (see link)

2. Other people think of her as black (otherwise this wouldn’t even be a thing)

3. Ergo by all perception she is black (from 1 and 2; her and everyone else comprise everyone)

4. Race is a social construct so only perception matters here (definition of race)

5. Ergo she is black (from 3 and 4)

I can’t think of a meaningful way she’s white. (Point 2 is a bit fucked up now since her parents decided to throw her into the middle of public controversy; out of this whole ordeal I think the clearest thing is that her parents are scumbags, but I digress).

Some people like to argue that she can change her appearance to look white, ergo taking advantage of white privilege, but plenty of people look white enough to do so despite not falling into the white box (even if primarily for failing point 1 on the very pale end.). Furthermore, anyone with significant enough wealth has access to plenty of resources to change their appearance however the hell they want. If they want to say Dolezal’s white because of potential whiteness, then so is any very rich black person.

Some people will say she didn’t have a black childhood and missed out on those formative experiences. Which experiences are those, though? Being a racial minority? Hardly a black experience in Africa. Much of the American cultural artifacts are contingent on poverty; a black child in a poor family in a poor neighborhood will have a very different childhood from one who grew up very wealthy.

The final issue is point 4. Some people want to say race is biological. The issue then is drawing lines as well as practicality. There are certainly genes that affect things like skin tone and facial structure. There’s many of them, so we’d end up with a large (though discrete) spectrum, and a more continuous spectrum of gene expression (which is the only thing that matters outside of medicine). The lines would be entirely arbitrary and pointless in actual usage. When I see a white person or black person I see that based on, generally, how they look. So does pretty much everyone else. Nobody is doing a gene test on everyone they label with a race, and the genetic argument against point 4 is clearly grasping for straws.

Thus, I have no real way to say Dolezal is white, even if at first my reaction was such. If you have a compelling argument, please feel free to comment.

Why Dolezal is Black