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Another Week, Another Mass Shooting

It just never ends. A Planned Parenthood was shot up last friday. Today, it’s a center for developmental disabilities in California. As of this writing: 14 dead, 14 injured. Soon, we will know the victims’ names, and forget them just as quickly. The name of the shooter (or possibly multiple shooters, in this case) will remain with us longer. Those responsible may be apprehended, or may die before being taken–either killed by police, or through self-inflicted wounds.

Daughter Dating Declarations Deconstructed

Note: This is another guest post by Emilia. Thanks, Emi! James is wholly responsible for the alliterative title; no blame should be placed on Emilia for such a travesty. “Funny” images like this get linked on social media all the time. You have probably seen one of these and if you have not, you have probably heard fathers talk about their “rules for dating my daughter.” It is kind of a cultural tradition and even Hollywood keeps showing us ever new variations of this old trope: The “dad talking to the daughter’s new boyfriend,” taking them aside to give them the stern talk and look, sometimes even threatening them, often including some comic relief.

Human Societies as Feedback Systems

One of the most important insights I’ve picked up over the years is the concept of constructivism–the idea that all human knowledge is generated from the interactions between our experiences and ideas which we’ve previously absorbed. Our current understanding is that all knowledge is built in this way, by taking basic concepts learned during early development and gradually building upon them into more complex thoughts and ideas. This also has the (sometimes uncomfortable) implication that all human knowledge is subjective: everything we know is derived from experience, therefore everything we know is also subjective.

The Necessity of Work

Why do I have a job? Why do you? Why does anyone? If you’re lucky, what you do for a living is something you enjoy, or at least don’t have any strong negative feelings about. Otherwise, you might feel indifferent about your source of income, or even hate it but feel stuck with it because it’s the only way you can survive. Maybe you need multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Mizzou and the Making of Heroes

Over the past few days, the University of Missouri (nicknamed “Mizzou”) made national headlines, first as its football team threatened not to play unless the university President stepped down, and then as, on Monday, both the President and Chancellor resigned. The seeming climax of the story is what made it national news. But how did all this happen? A thorough timeline and description of events can be found here, though it’s easy enough to find numerous other sources.

Rethinking Autism

The phrase “autism epidemic” is thrown around so much it’s taken for granted. Autism is widely seen as a terrible burden, a fate often said to “tear families apart.” Autistic children and even adults are described in terms that make them out to be liabilities, rather than human beings worthy of love, respect, and even personhood. Stories like these, earnest as they might be, reduce autistic people to forces of nature.

Things That Shape History... That Aren't White Men

This is a guest post by Emilia. Enjoy! James has visited one of America’s founding myths – the just war – already so why not take down another while we are at it? There is one that is rarely questioned because it gives us a convenient and simple narrative for… basically everything that has ever happened. There is one thing that (we think) explains who and what we are today: the actions of great men.

Being a Good Ally

Everyone has their own approach to being an ally. I’m not here to say who is right and wrong, just to share what I’ve learned in the course of trying to be a better ally, myself. Becoming better is, honestly, all there is: you will never be perfect, or at a point where you can stop improving. It’s a lifelong process. To stand still is to fall behind. It might help to start with a definition.

Halloween: Horror, Racism, and Appropriation

I didn’t think this was the sort of thing I’d still have a reason to write about in 2015, but here we are. Another Halloween, another parade of white people who think blackface is OK. That may be one of the worst choices out there, but there are plenty of ways be an insensitive jerk on Halloween without painting your face black or brown. Note: almost all the links in this post have photos that may be upsetting and/or NSFW.

The Roots of American Dysfunction

As a rule, systems fascinate me. Technical systems, political systems, cultural systems–you name it. The country in which I live–the United States–makes for a particularly puzzling, sometimes aggravating system. In this case, “dysfunction” doesn’t mean the system is bad, but it does point to a system that is not functioning as well as it could. To discuss the American system–by which I mean its interlocking social, political, economic, and religious components–requires some history.