My Ignorance is just as good as your knowledge

[I haven't revisited my blog in a while. Just adding this edit here to say this was a post out of frustration during a difficult time. I'm not going to delete it for the sake of archiving, but this post comes out much more spiteful than I'd like]

I'd like to apologize for my disappearance for anyone who still might have read my previous posts. My dad had passed away unexpectedly a month and a half ago and it took me by shock. He died at 47, so you can see why that might be the case. Anyways, I made this rambling on my facebook - it's just a slur of ideas, but some people seemed to like it. - (And apparently I can't copy and paste it? I'll try to type it out manually). I'm sorry if my typing is a little more sour than normal. It's just my mood.

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I worry a lot when I talk to various people coming into the gas station (Where I work part-time). A lot of them tired and over-worked mill workers, and another large portion just moved from Milwaukee and Chicago and everywhere in-between. At first there was frustration towards the people themselves with over-simplified viewpoints, bigoted statements, and just plain ignorant bliss. I hear these viewpoints most when I listen to the BBC; hearing the headlines for the day.

My dread comes that these people are more sure about what should be done to/in the world than I think I'll ever be. And I hate it. It's not them, however, that I hate. I hate the feeling that society has failed them. There is little hope of turning around the product that is already well refined in it's ways. But honestly, what do you expect in a region (of many) where education is put on a back-burner? Even the simple art of critical thought and skepticism seems to be completely lost in the majority population - skills that should be taught at the very basic and fundamental levels of schools.

We live in a society where people think politics is about opinions instead of facts. Where the majority of voters vote based upon these notions, turning a blind eye to anything else because it is simply easier. I posted a quote earlier that rings truth, but in a nutshell it states people get the feeling that their ignorance is as good as anyone else's knowledge. Our society is breeding anti-intellectualism. Where intellectuals are seen as 'elitist', 'pompous', and most of all 'detached', from what people think is really the truth.

It makes me fear that this is how a democracy fails. When it's people can no longer know any better. And it's a vicious cycle, too. Those who do pay attention with critical thinking feel like their opinion is lost in a sea of ignorance.

When talking about this I feel like most of you think this doesn't apply to you, or that you are the exception. What I am talking about encapsulates almost all of us. There are just more extreme examples than us. To truly grasp what really needs to be done in this country/world and understand it to the most possible degree is most definitely held by a minority. To think you can have an educated opinion on any large topic based upon a single news article, talk show, podcast, documentary etc. is a totally misguided notion. If a society at it's core encouraged at least basic critical thought, skeptic, and analytical thinking a 'bit more I'd like to think we would at least be a little better off.

/end useless rambling.

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All We Need is Empathy

I'll go off topic at the end of the blog, but I just want to jump right into it now. Before you start, however, I recommend reading my first blog if you have the time :) I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. http://www.giantbomb.com/profile/zolkowski/battling-your-own-misconceptions-and-ignorance-to-yagami-you/30-89180/

If you read my other post, you would have seen I used empathy to describe what it means to connect and understand others on where they might be coming from. So what is empathy, exactly? I'll start by giving you the definition and how it actually applies.

Empathy - the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

It's the ability to analyze fully (to the best of your ability) the position from someone else. Not just what their standpoint means, but also how and why they might have reached those conclusions. It applies to how one may act, speak, feel, walk, do, and just about anything else behavioral. I feel like this can be best explained more through examples rather than explaining the concept. *Mystical fade*

You're born in a pretty secluded, low populated, town in Mississippi (United States, for those from far away). Every Sunday you are brought to church, you learn to be obedient to your parents, you are constantly told how much greater your country is, and there are no outside influences in your life to ever indicate any other 'truths'. This is what you've known and has become who you are. It's the identity of almost everyone from the small town you come from. This is YOUR culture.

Que for the first time in your life an interaction with someone from the city, going to college for astrophysics or something of the like. From as far as you know, your belief in God is a part of all of your friends and family. The astrophysicist starts to ask you some weird questions about your faith. Faith? How can these truths you been told be faith? They are truths! Just as it has been for everyone you ever loved. You start feeling offended because this man is questioning a very fundamental tenant that you've followed your entire life and held dear. It's attacking your identity. Of course you're going to react a little hostile. Wouldn't you if someone started questioning/criticizing your parents, friends?

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Now let's zoom away from that master-work of fiction to another. You are born in a very low income part of Chicago. You grow up with a dad you hardly ever see and a mother struggling to get by. Your situation seems to be pretty normal for the area, and you hang out with kids in other unfortunate living conditions. The police arrested your father several times, and it seems like your bigger brother and the people he hangs out with have troubles with the police too. You are wrapped in a culture that seems to idolize money, fancy cars, Women, and guns.

One day after school a group of kids your brother has warned you about jumps you, punches you, and steals your money. It's unsafe where you live, so as a way to have more protection you join the group your bigger brother hangs out with. You drive around town, every day, listening to music encouraging behavior to enjoy yourself and take revenge on those who do you wrong.

Your school is also set up for your failure. The drop out rate is so high where teachers aren't paid enough to give a damn. Funding for your school is absolutely piss-poor and the expectation of just dropping out as many of your friends already have is looming over your head. Why should you stay in a place that looks down on you and expects failure while your friends are out trying to make money and having a good time? And even if you do graduate, the standard of your high school is on a level where colleges will over look your application to more reputable schools.

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One more final zoom to get my point across. You live on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Your father has fought during the Soviet-Afghan war and is someone you've always looked up to. Your community and culture is completely based upon the religion. The rules to these religion are absolute truths, and it's all you know. The group your father associates with will stone people to death for adultery and many other brutal punishments for crimes. Of course, this is all you know. These executions are common place and even you are handed stones to throw at those who broke your community's, your culture's, your religion's law. How dare they go against everything you live for?

You are told of the evil's of western powers. How their success is from their greed and have a religion against yours. Where you are taught that if one does not convert you may kill them. And if you start to doubt your own religion, you also may be killed. You hear of how a western power is now in Afghanistan killing people who are part of the group your dad is Associated with. Your father asks you to fight this power and you do so willingly. These greedy people with their false god. Why would THEY try to enforce their beliefs on us? (In case people were getting confused here, the father was involved with the Taliban)

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One could argue exactly how much of our lives are affected by experience and how much is affected by our Genetics. What is causing that behavior, their experience or genetics? Which raises another very critical question. If you are completely empathetic, at what point to you draw a line? A perfect example would be the Oslo shootings. The man was declared insane, which could remove any criminal action against him. He was declared as someone who "...displayed blunted and inappropriate affect and a severe lack of empathy. He spoke incoherently using neologisms and acted compulsively based on a universe of bizarre, grandiose and delusional thoughts." After reading that and realizing what empathy is, what sort of experience would be required to reach that level? Can we even comprehend it?

So then it begs the question at which point do you draw a line on empathy and start to punish? If you draw the bar too low you start to dehumanize, too high and everyone gets a get-out-of-jail free card. That really isn't the point of this post though, I just thought something interesting to ponder on.

I would like to finish by bringing up the Oslo shooter's psychiatrist quote again, "...displayed... a severe lack of empathy." When we can't grasp empathy we lose our ability to try and actually perceive each other as humans. It leads to how you might be so easily call someone a racial slur, the road rage we have, why we are so quick to dismiss those to the death penalty, and calling one another names over the internet. It all leads hand in hand. This is why, to me, empathy is one of the strongest traits someone can hold.

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...annnnnd SCENE! To be honest I am pretty nervous about how the reaction is going to be on this one. Hopefully you've enjoyed it thoroughly enough to at least give it a read through. If you didn't find it interesting I'd greatly appreciate you telling me where I could improve(and preferably without the use of insults.).

For my book recommendation this time around isn't really going to be related, and is actually some hefty serious reading. So I would recommend holding this one off until you are finished with exams and are on break. :p It is called 'Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001.' The title is wonderfully self-explanatory, but in all seriousness this book has shed so much more light on Afghanistan and the cold war than I could have ever hoped for. Why would I recommend this book? Because there are such strong opinions on the war that I feel very few are actually well informed on the matter. It's just one more instrument in helping empathize and understand.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ghost-wars-steve-coll/1101369007

Thank you to everyone who followed me. The reception has been absolutely wonderful, and I am even happier on how well the discussion went on the first blog. No flaming and all good. :) Getting 26 followers already (or at all) was totally unexpected. I started this blog for me to exercise my thoughts and actually see them out in front of me. Even while writing these I learn and think about more on the subject than what I did before. So thank you for giving me the opportunity and motivation to continue!

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Battling your own misconceptions and ignorance. To: Yagami & You

There is no reference to gaming here as a word of caution. This is about improving yourself and I'd appreciate it greatly if you gave up 5 minutes of your time to read my thoughts :) (Edit: I changed this top headline to sound less dick-ish, as was mentioned)

I'm going to go on a whim here and assume that most of us here on GiantBomb.com are no older than 25. The reason I bring up age into question is because it relates with how much you have learned and experienced up onto this point in time. What is really startling to me (Though honestly not surprising), however, is the level of assurance and 'my opinion-is-fact' being thrown around. This is true for all of us here, on giant communities like Reddit, and almost everyone around the world.

There have been studies to suggest when viewing contradictory evidence, philosophical points, and ideas that we actually cling stronger to our own viewpoints. (See: http://www.skepdic.com/backfireeffect.html) One of the hardest things to do is to admit to ourselves, let alone anyone else, that our point or reason is wrong. Even when there is overwhelming conflicting reason to suggest otherwise we will cling to anything out there that will help reinforce our own ideals. This is frankly because it makes us comfortable. The unfortunate thing about that though is that it makes us unreasonable and irrational.

And this is the point I wanted to raise someone as my example. I'm sorry to use you as a scapegoat Yagami, but you are the inspiration for this blog post. As I am sure most of you blog readers know Yagami has posted some pretty controversial stuff. I'll put up a quick snippet I had posted in Yagami's latest "Honor" blog post.

...We are both young, but you and I need to realize we still know jack shit about the world. There's more to understanding it than regular visits to the Reddit front page (which seems to be almost a copy + paste of your ideals). Listen to lectures counter to your ideas, watch a debate, and a read a book to challenge who you are...

...I'm a proud atheist such as yourself, and I would like to think because of this you are a little more open to evidence and observation. If this is the case please reevaluate yourself and don't be so set-in-stone on such controversial view points like this. I'm not saying don't take a stand, but consider other ideas that have sound support.

I feel like like I make my point pretty clear here. If you get your source of information and ideas from one website or group of people, you will have your own biases that you'll have to deal with. It's going to affect all of us at some point and it already has in many ways. It's inevitable, but one thing you can do is make a conscious effort to consider other material that may make us uncomfortable - And let me note here: Not through the "backfire effect" lense. Consider and research the points that are raised. Don't simply ignore them and go back to your favorite website to read how wrong those other guys are.

As an Atheist I have both read 'The Holy Bible' and 'Qur'an/Koran' in their entirety. I've read research papers done by Christians on why creationism is true. And I've listened to lectures on how there is evidence for God. These are just a few examples. What does this help me do, even though they may not have convinced me? It allows me to have an intelligent discussion/debate with those on the other side of the spectrum of viewpoints. You gain an understanding as to why someone might think the way they do. Most importantly you can empathize and speak on a better level to which both of you can connect and relate.

Don't think this only applies to Religion, this was merely an example. This is true for all bearings in life. Your bad experience with 'x' company might leave a lasting impression in your head, but maybe it was just an accident or fluke? You believe the war in 'balugistan' is, or maybe is not, justified. Start reading on the history of the war, the countries involved. Listen to those who support/oppose the wars and consider what is being said. Also consider where your information is coming from. What biases will there be here? Are they trying to make a certain point?

And now I want to finish with a nice cheap book for some interesting reading. If I continue to do blogs I will try to suggest one everytime I do so. I'll try to make this one relevant so I'll suggest what I suggested to Yagami - "You Are Not So Smart", a book based on psychological studies of many, many misconceptions we have about eachother and ourselves. It's an eye opener and might help you on the path to being able to question yourself. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/you-are-not-so-smart-david-mcraney/1100483675?ean=9781101545355&itm=1&usri=you%2bare%2bnot%2bso%2bsmart

Since this is my first blog post I'd like to say hello to everyone that may read this. Firstly, thanks for taking the time to listen to my opinions. I'm never going to claim to be an expert in anything and I always love fresh ideas from you. So if you ever want to have a fun discussion, feel free to message me. As far as forum posts are concerned I try to make an effort to make engaging questions about gaming to ponder on. My first topic was about how understanding game mechanics and how it could ruin your immersion. If you ever get annoyed with my stupid ramblings please let me know!

Post if you wanted to participate: http://www.giantbomb.com/forums/general-discussion/30/does-understanding-mechanics-of-games-decay-immersion-for-you/528856/

It's been ages since I've written anything so I hope I get my blog-writin' skills up to par. Flaws I already know about - too many fucking comma's, I use "I" too much and it's really bothersome (it makes me sound self-absorbed), I tend to repeat words a lot after using them once it gets stuck in my head and not realize I reused them, and my grammar could be better.

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